Fort Washita History
The dramatic story of Indian fights and endless patrols, as well as fort construction and camp life, is preserved at the Oklahoma Historical Societys Fort Washita, located near Madill and Durant.
After thoroughly exploring the wooded region, "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor selected a site eighteen miles north of the Red River on the Washita River, a mile and a half east of the stream. The new fort, occupied in April of 1842, was named Fort Washita.
Construction was started by Captain George Blake using Companies A and F of the 2nd Dragoons. Because of worn equipment and supply problems, construction was slow. Temporary log barracks were built in 1842 and served until the large south barracks were built in 1850. The supply problem slowed permanent construction and forced the troops to use temporary log structures years beyond the normal period.
The fort ultimately covered an extensive area. The parade ground was enclosed on the south by the South Barracks, enlisted mens quarters now restored. On the west were the West Barracks (now in ruins), used for enlisted men. To the north was the Commanding Officers Quarters, and to the east were the Bachelors Officers Quarters. Behind and north of the Commanding Officers Quarters were the Married Officers Quarters and the new Hospital. South of the South Barracks was the Commissary, the old Hospital, and the Guard House.
Many prominent men served at Fort Washita during its heyday. Among them were General Zachary Taylor, Captains Randolph B. Marcy and George B. McClellan, and General William G. Belknap. In 1854 Colonel Braxton Bragg, later a Confederate general, commanded the 2nd Artillery Regiment stationed at the fort.
Fort Washita was abandoned by federal forces in 1861, soon after the capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Confederate forces from Texas occupied the fort, and it became a major supply depot for Confederate troops in Indian Territory. General Douglas Cooper commanded the fort briefly after the Battle of Honey Springs, the largest battle fought in Indian Territory. He is buried at the fort. General Albert Pike served at the fort for a short period, and commanded near-by Fort McCulloch, named for Confederate General Ben McCulloch. Stand Watie, a Cherokee who was a Confederate brigadier general, was one of the officers commanding the southern occupation forces. The fort was also a regional headquarters and hospital facility for southern troops operating in the area.
From the Department of the Interior the land was turned over to the Chickasaw family of Abbie Davis Colbert and her son. The remaining structures of the fort served as farm buildings well into the 20th century. The Colbert family also utilized the cemetery as a family burial ground.
For ninety years the buildings and grounds of Fort Washita collapsed in disrepair. Then, in 1962, Ward S. Merrick, Sr., of Ardmore, contributed money to the Oklahoma Historical Society for the forts purchase. Five years later the state legislature appropriated money for restoration which continues to this day under the guidance of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
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