Monday, June 11, 2012

Fort Supply - 2

I'm starting to get into that panic feeling where I'm using up posting material at a steady rate, but not getting out to do any new paddling adventures.  The Plains weather patterns have been in full swing.  We went a full week with severe thunderstorms and a full spectrum of hail stones from pea to tennisball size, even a few baseballs.  Now we've been in a full week of high winds, although the winds certainly haven't been unheard-of for here.  We were in the 40 mph. gusting range yesterday, and have consistently been well in the thirties. However, there is that proverbial silver lining---the thunderstorms brought us a lot of much needed rain, and I'm certainly glad I wasn't in a tent in a heavy hail storm.  The best news of all is that it has been a quiet spring and the incidence of tornadoes has been way down.  Anyhow, back to Fort Supply.

For security reasons, the Guardhouse of 1892 was the only building built by the Army of brick. The brick foundation was topped with a 1”-thick slate moisture barrier before the rest of the structure was completed, and then topped with a metal shingle roof and three chimneys with flues for six heating stoves. The construction was so sound that it is still in excellent condition.  It served two functions: housing the guard detail on duty and serving as a holding lock-up. Prisoners were held here since it was the only continuously occupied building. The guards were responsible for fire watch, the security of all facilities, and of course, preventing prisoner escape. They were also on watch to guard against attack, such as the June 11, 1870, attack by 200 Kiowas and Comanches. The battle continued over five miles before the attackers were put to flight.

The interior of the guardhouse is divided into a bathroom, office for the Officer of the Guard and Sergeant of the Guard, two solitary confinement cells, two prison rooms (one visible through the open door), and the quarters for the guardsmen(shown in the foreground).

The Commanding Officer’s Quarters (COQ), as the name implies, housed the base commander and his family. Gen. Philip Sheridan was the base commander, and it was under his direction that the fort was built. When the order was issued for the abandonment of Fort Supply, General Sheridan’s refusal was quick and emphatic. Well, even generals can be overruled, and he was. The quarters provided relative comfort for his family, with ten rooms, including a servant’s room and attached bathroom. It was built on cedar pilings, and originally had a plank fence and wood boardwalk that ran the length of Officers’ Row. Work is underway to restore it to its original appearance of 1880, including the original color scheme of a dark red with light tan trim. Superintendents of the mental hospital also resided here for over forty years.

The Officers’ Quarters is a 1 ½-story frame building. There were eight of these buildings, six on Officer’s Row and two across the parade ground. Each side of each duplex served as the residence for an officer and his family. The interior provided for a parlor, sitting room, dining room, and kitchen on the ground level. Upstairs there were three bedrooms and a bath. The side and back yards were fenced with plank fencing for privacy. An interesting story about Custer is that when he was at the fort, rather than stay in the officers’ quarters, he preferred to set his own tent and camp along the banks of the Beaver River to the north of the fort.

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