"The site selected is a ridge seventy or eighty feet high projecting like a wedge into a dry timbered bottom....A fine stream of water flows at its base....We designated [the site] Camp Scott, and would respectfully suggest that the post...be named in honor of the gallant General Commanding in Chief."
B.D. Moore, Captain, 1st Dragoons, April 14, 1842, describing his selection of the site that would become Fort Scott, and the suggestion to name it to honor General Winfield Scott.
Fort Scott's history reflects the development of the United States in the mid-1800s.
From 1842 to 1873, Fort Scott played a significant part in events that were shaping a young America into a transcontinental power. Fort Scott National Historic Site was established in 1978 to commemorate Fort Scott's role in four distinct eras of American history.
In 1842 the U.S. Army established Fort Scott as a link in a chain of forts that stretched from Minnesota to Louisiana. The forts were intended to guard the "Permanent Indian Frontier." From 1842 until 1853 soldiers from Fort Scott patrolled the plains, policed overland trails, and contacted Indian tribes. In 1846 the army sent troops from Fort Scott to the Mexican War.
Eastern Kansas witnessed violent clashes between pro- and anti-slavery forces in the late 1850s. Fort Scott (no longer a fort but now a town) was not spared. Frequent turmoil prompted the army's periodic return to restore order. Resolution of the slavery issue finally came when Kansas entered the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861.
With the onset of the Civil War, the Union Army selected the Fort Scott area for a supply base and training ground. Extensive Union facilities here supported operations in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
Railroads opened the West; four lines reached the Pacific by 1885. Many other lines connected through towns like Fort Scott, but not without dispute. The army operated the "Post of Southeast Kansas" in Fort Scott from 1869 to 1873 to protect the railroads. Soldiers guarded construction workers from attack by landholders trying to stop the rails from crossing their property.
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This photo of open prairie dropping down to a timber-lined drainage might resemble the scene viewed here by Captain Moore in 1842, when he chose the site for Fort Scott. The photo was taken at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, about 100 miles west of here.