One of the first places we visited on our recent trip west was Fort Smith National Historic Site in Arkansas. During our visit we were fortunate to be able to hear a presentation by a park ranger on the history of Fort Smith. The ranger was supported by the re-enactors wearing the uniforms of soldiers during the different periods of the fort’s history.
Fort Smith was established in December, 1817, by a company of the U. S. Rifle Regiment (the soldier on the extreme left in the photo above). The fort was established to maintain peace between the Osage and Cherokee Indians. The original fort was abandoned in 1824.
In the 1830s Fort Smith became a supply depot for Indians and soldiers (next two soldiers in white) moving westward along “The Trail of Tears”. In 1838 a new Fort Smith was constructed near the site of the first. This was a masonry fort, but it was also used primarily as a supply depot.
Confederates (the soldier in butternut in the middle of the group above) took possession of Fort Smith when Arkansas seceded in April, 1861, but was recaptured by Union troops (next two soldiers) on September 1, 1863.
In 1872 the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas took over the fort. The barracks were modified to serve as a courthouse and jail. During this time the fort was a base for U. S. Marshals (the man on the extreme right).
The re-enactors described the uniforms they were wearing and gave a firing demonstration of their weapons. The early muskets certainly made for an interesting show.