After you cross this bridge over the Pawnee Fork River, you will be able to walk directly into an 1860s Army post. Today no wall of sharpened upright logs surrounds Fort Larned because the Army never put such a wall or other type of stockade here 150 years ago. In most forts found on the Great Plains, Army commanders ordered no stockade walls to be built.
Experience in plains warfare showed that Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Apaches, and Lakotas preferred to make surprise attacks on smaller groups of soldiers. Direct assaults on places where the frontier Army was strongest were rare. And here on the vast treeless plains, finding enough large logs to completely surround an Army post the size of Fort Larned would have been very difficult.
Here at Fort Larned, the bend of the Pawnee Fork and its owbox- [sic - oxbow-]shaped dry (former) riverbed effectively blocked attacks from any direction except the south. Rifle ports in the south buildings and the blockhouse helped protect the weakest spot.
In 1864 Kiowas raided the corrals and pastures on the south side of the post. They captured over 170 horses and mules. After this raid, the Army dug earthworks to link the dry oxbow with the blockhouse and around to the Pawnee River. Later these were leveled, when officers decided that the works gave cover for attackers.
At Fort Atkinson, 60 miles southwest [of] here, there were usually fewer than 80 soldiers. Here, the Army did build surrounding low walls made out of adobe. But Comanches or Kiowas, who sometimes camped nearby in large numbers, could have easily overrun this adobe defense.