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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Column: Ties connecting Fort Leavenworth, Civil War

  • Today is another “exact” date in U.S. military history, according to some sources. In researching a topic for today's column, I began my often frustrating search of military-related calendars.
    I don't expect them to all be the same, but I do expect that a very important date in history would be on all of them.
    Not so.
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  • Today is another “exact” date in U.S. military history, according to some sources. In researching a topic for today’s column, I began my often frustrating search of military-related calendars.
    I don’t expect them to all be the same, but I do expect that a very important date in history would be on all of them.
    Not so.
    The Veterans of Foreign Wars calendar had no entry for April 12. The National Museum of the U.S. Army calendar had the entry, “Rebel forces fire on Fort Sumter.”
    That leaves the researcher to know who "rebel forces" were and what or where Fort Sumter is.
    But, a brand new calendar to me this year, the Civil War Trust calendar, had the entry “The Civil War begins when Confederate forces bombed Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, after U.S. refuses to surrender.”
    Hard to get more succinct and specific than that. Ergo, 153 years ago today the American Civil War began.
    Got it.
    Got a column topic.
    Off we go.
    Here’s a trivia question: Since the Civil War began 153 years ago today, from what Army post did U.S. soldiers venture forth to capture the first Confederate flag of the brand new war?
    If you guessed Fort Leavenworth, Kan., you would be correct. According to an old magazine article, a farmer across the wide Missouri had been flying the Confederate flag for several months to show his allegiance.
    Since until April 12, 1861, that flag was just an innocent piece of cloth that represented a confederation of 13 states that wanted to, but had not yet, seceded from the Union, all was OK.
    But the day war was declared, that flag became the enemy’s flag, and a cavalry officer at Fort Leavenworth dispatched a squad of cavalrymen to capture it. They did, and brought it back to the fort.
    Where is that historic flag today? Absolutely nobody knows.
    There was no fort museum in 1861, and by the time today’s Frontier Army Museum was founded in the 1960s as the post museum, that historic flag was nowhere to be found.
    But, there are ties between Fort Leavenworth and the Civil War. There are many graves in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery of Civil War veterans, including a few Medal of Honor recipients and those of seven Confederate soldiers.
    There is even the grave of a U.S. Army bandsman who was stationed at Fort Sumter 153 years ago. He survived the war, came to Kansas to farm, lived to a ripe old age, and is in one of the hallowed graves in the fort cemetery.
    Page 2 of 2 - Sorry, his name escapes me, but with modern technology you can surely find it in minutes.
    My favorite quote about Fort Leavenworth and the Civil War is from the 1983 booklet, "A Brief History of Fort Leavenworth." At the end of the brief chapter about the fort during the Civil War years is the sentence, “The part played by Fort Leavenworth in the Civil War was important but generally unexciting.”
    Sums things up nicely there in my opinion.
    Even today there are relics from the Civil War at the fort, including a few buildings that survived the devastating fires at the end of the 19th century, and some items in the Frontier Army Museum, including two relating to President Abraham Lincoln’s visit to this area in December 1859, and other items from 1861-65.
    If you read this column this weekend, and the weather cooperates, perhaps a walk through the national cemetery and a visit to the post museum would be good ways to reflect on this date in U.S. history so many years ago.

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