Frontier Forts

  • American West
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

When America “went West” (following the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny), many of the far-flung territories were hundreds of miles from any type of civilization. Hostile Native American Tribes occupied most of these Regions. In addition, supplies and water were equally “out of reach”. As Settlers began to migrate towards California, The US Government needed to establish a presence in these locations. Enter the “Frontier Fortification”. Most of these structures were constructed by military Engineers. The most expedient form of construction material used, was wood. Large wooden Stockades or Palisades were constructed in the Western Territories.


Often, walls needed to be high (20 to 25 feet). Although Guard Posts were built on the walls – artillery platforms were not. The military held to the doctrine that it would be a waste to use artillery against local “hostile forces”. They tended to rely (at first) on Infantry support (stationed at the Garrison of the Fort). Additionally, Dragoons (Mounted Infantry), were used next. Finally, permanent Cavalry Troops were stationed at most far West Fortifications (for their speed and ability to move over varied and difficult terrain). Many Forts also featured Trading Posts (which attracted many Settlers moving through the area). Coupled with barracks, supply and warehouses (and other structures and business needed in a Fort) – these Western “Citadels” were an important part of Frontier life.

 


Frontier Forts (with designs going back to 1615 in America), could be small or large. Often built near (or overlooking) rivers and important passes, a “normal” garrison consisted of 250 to 300 men. Often, soldier wives were allowed to stay with them (again depending on the “severity” of the Region). Larger Forts could house from several Battalions to a whole Brigade. These larger Posts also held ammunition, powder and the “elusive” artillery. Rarely did Frontier Forts feature permanent brick or mortar structures. No “permanency” was seen in their construction. In most cases (although constantly repaired)m a Fort was seldom seen as “effective” past 20 years.



With a resurgence in Fort building after The American Civil War (1865), this was in response to the “reawakening” of Native American resentment towards “White” Settlers in their Country. The “start” of The Great Plains War Period (1866-1880), saw hundreds of Frontier Forts built to accommodate the large amounts of soldiers being deployed. Many of these fortifications have long since fallen to time (with many sites completely reclaimed by Nature and unrecognizable). Still, others continued and flourished (some even still in use by The US Army – albeit now more “Modern” in construction).