From their vantage point overlooking the Marmaton River, soldiers at Fort Scott kept watch over wagon trains headed west from 1842 to 1853. But the real story of Fort Scott National Historic Site begins after the military left.
Settlers quickly converted the structures at Fort Scott to civilian use. But in the late 1850s, Fort Scott, Kansas, was hardly civilized.
Kansas had become a focal point in the national debate over slavery. Many in Fort Scott wanted Kansas to enter the Union as a slave state, but some such as James Montgomery were determined to keep Kansas free.
In the years prior to the Civil War, Fort Scott witnessed many deadly clashes between pro-slavery, abolitionist, and free-state forces. Horace Greeley, a New York reporter, called the intense, localized violence across the territory “Bleeding Kansas.”
Some of the bloodshed may have been planned in Fort Scott’s two hotels, which were converted from officers’ quarters. For several years, the “Free State Hotel,” which housed only slavery foes, stood directly across from the pro-slavery “Western.”
At Fort Scott National Historic Site, you can tour many of the buildings that stood during this period. The Post Hospital is now the visitor center. The Infantry Barracks and Dragoon Barracks are museums. The site also includes a restored tallgrass prairie.