Heading back from Dodge City, we decided to swing past Fort Larned which was marked in our road atlas quite simply, but turned out to be a real National Park. We weren't there 10 minutes before we wished we had more than just an hour to spare for it. Not enough time for the kids to earn their National Park badges!
Anyway, Fort Larned was built as part of the effort to protect the travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Regular patrols went out to discourage Indian attacks and outlaws from taking advantage of wagon trains. Since wood is scarce in this part of Kansas, there was no stockade. Of course, you can see just about anything coming for miles. The fort consisted mostly of long buildings around a central square. Below are the officers' quarters. The larger buildings housed 2 Lieutenants on one side and a Captain on the other, along with their families and servants, if they had them. Lieutenants rated one room, and Captains two adjoining, and the three would share a kitchen and main hallway. Some bachelor Lts. would combine their rooms to have one bedroom and one sitting room for junior officer gatherings.
The fort never housed more than a few dozen cavalry and infantry soldiers at a time unless units were passing through, then it could accommodate a couple hundred easily.
Men bunked 4 to a bed typically- head to foot so you could fit 2 on top and 2 on the bottom. And my kids thought they had it crowded.
Adjoining the enlisted barracks was the hospital. The doctor had his own office, plus his own room.
Amazingly, in the 103 degree heat, the blacksmith was working his shop. As the kids watched, he made a chain link. After it cooled, he gave it to them and suggested as they visited blacksmiths at other national parks or museums that they try to get more links and make a chain.
Graffiti was carved into almost every brick, and I just assumed it was from the "national park craze" ushered in by the automobile. I'd seen lots of that before in places like Mammoth Cave. But then I looked closer...
This was a re-creation of a hot-box used for punishment, mostly in dereliction of duty. Imagine a day in there in a wool uniform- yikes!
You can see Patrick holding the ring from the blacksmith.
A school house on the post sought to educate both the children of soldiers and servants as well as the soldiers themselves. They maintained a library full of classic works of history.
The quartermaster's storehouse:
I just wish we had had more time. And a little less heat.