Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
Established in 1824, the old
fort was the end destination
for thousands during the Trail
Barracks of Fort Gibson
The second post consisted of
larger and more comfortable
structures like the barracks
for enlisted men.
Fort Gibson Historic Site - Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
Fort Gibson Historic Site - Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
|Fort Gibson Historic Site
The log buildings and walls of the early Oklahoma
fort have been reconstructed at the site.
End Point of the Trail of Tears
Established in 1824, Fort Gibson served as a
vital military post on the western frontier for
nearly 70 years. Over its history it was rebuilt
The original stockade was built near the
confluence of the Arkansas and Grand (or
Neosho) Rivers after U.S. authorities decided
that Fort Smith, in Arkansas, was too far east
to effectively maintain peace between the
newly arrived Western Cherokee and the
more established Osage. The two tribes had
been on the verge of open warfare virtually
since the Cherokee began to arrive in the
Leading a force of men from the 7th Infantry
Regiment up the Arkansas River from Fort
Smith, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Arbuckle
supervised the construction of a rectangular
complex of log buildings on level ground
three miles up from the mouth of the Grand
River. A strong log stockade connected the
buildings and the soldiers also built two-
story blockhouses in diagonal corners to
allow soldiers to sweep the walls with small
arms fire in the event of attack.
During its history, Fort Gibson became a vital
point in U.S. relations with the so-called Five
Civilized Tribes as they were forced west on
the Trail of Tears. A final stop on the Trial of
Tears for thousands of Cherokee, Creek and
Seminole families, Fort Gibson served as a
supply point and source of protection for the
newly arrived and often starving victims of
Among those who reached the stockade
during one of the brutal winters of the Trial of
Tears was Milly Francis, the daughter of the
Creek Prophet Josiah Francis and the
woman labeled the "Creek Pocahontas" by
white soldiers. She settled in a crude cabin
nearby on the present site of Bacone College
The log stockade remained a vital installation
on the frontier until around 1840, when a
military map showed plans for the building of
a new post on a nearby ridge known today as
Work at the new site would eventually lead to
the construction of a "new" Fort Gibson, this
one built more along the plan of a modern
military post. It served as an important base
for troops marching south to Texas and
Mexico during the Mexican-American War and
was also an important "jumping off" point for
wealth-seekers and supply parties heading
west during the California Gold Rush.
Confederate troops took possession of the
fort in 1861 and held it until the following
year. The evacuated the post ahead of an
advance by Union troops.
The Union Army of the Frontier occupied the
fort in late 1862. It was renamed Fort Blunt
after General James G. Blunt of Kansas.
Aware that the Confederates would try to
retake the post, Federal engineers designed
and supervised the construction of earthwork
fortifications that completely enclosed the
large fort. Powerfully constructed, these
works provided a strong deterrent to any
attempt by Southern forces to storm the fort.
An important base for operations in the
Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw Nations, Fort
Blunt was the launching point for the short
campaign ended successfully at the Battle of
Honey Springs in 1863. Sometimes called
the "Gettysburg of the West," that fight forced
the retreat of the Confederate army forming to
challenge Blunt's command.
After Honey Springs, the Union army returned
to Fort Blunt to recuperate and refit. This
accomplished, General Blunt launched the
campaign that ended with the 1863 capture
of Fort Smith and Battle of Devil's Backbone
(or Backbone Mountain), Arkansas.
U.S. troops continued to occupy and improve
the fort after the Civil War. The name of the
post was changed back to Fort Gibson, new
buildings were constructed and the military
presence remained important. By 1890,
however, the need for the fort had ended and
the U.S. Army declared it to be obsolete. After
nearly 70 years of history, Fort Gibson was
abandoned that year.
The sites of both the original log stockade
and the later second post are now part of Fort
Gibson Historic Site. Maintained by the
Oklahoma Historical Society, the park is a
major destination for heritage tourism.
The original log stockade and buildings were
reconstructed during the Great Depression
by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
The structures are furnished much as they
were during the days of the Trail of Tears.
Surviving or reconstructed structures from the
second post include barracks, the magazine,
hospital and bakehouse. A museum helps
orient visitors to the different parts of the
large historic site.
A small section of the earthworks built during
the Civil War when the post was called Fort
Blunt still survive. They are among the points
of interest on the self-guided walking tour of
The nearby Fort Gibson National Cemetery
preserves the graves of many men who
served at Fort Gibson and in later wars.
The old fort is located at 907 N. Garrison, Fort
Gibson, Oklahoma. Admission is free and it
is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5
p.m. (Closed Mondays).
Please click here to learn more about historic
Structures at Fort Gibson
A row of structures from the
second post can be explored
at Oklahoma's Fort Gibson
Civil War in Indian Territory
Ruins and earthworks tell the
story of the fort's role as an
important objective of fighting
during the Civil War.
Commanding Officer's Home
The original Commanding
Officer's quarters of the
second post is among the
surviving structures now in
|Copyright 2011 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 13, 2014
Historic Sites in Oklahoma