Fort Smith, Arkansas
The commissary storehouse,
seen here, was built of native
stone and once stood in the
northwest bastion of the fort.
Fort Smith National Historic Site - Fort Smith, Arkansas - Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas - Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas
Fort Smith National Historic Site
The barracks of the second fort still stand today. The
structure is known locally as "Judge Parker's
Courthouse" due to its later association with the
"Hanging Judge" of the Old West.
The Second Fort, 1838-1871
Two years after Arkansas became a state,
the U.S. Congress authorized the building of
a new Fort Smith. The original log fort was
deteriorating and a reactivation of the post
would require a new and more modern

As has often been the case in American
history, the U.S. Army did not really want or
need a new fort,. The fronter was rapidly
moving westward and the Indian Nations of
present-day Oklahoma were peaceful, but
since Congress had approved the money,
the army built a new fort.

Work on the second fort began in 1838. The
site selected was the high ground of Belle
Point, within view of the original stockade.
The design featured barracks and officers'
quarters made of brick, other buildings of
native stone, and an impressive stone wall to
surround the entire complex. The wall was to
be built in the shape of a pentagon, with
bastions (defensive projections) on each

Work continued for 8 years, but the elegant
post was never actually completed to the
original plans. Since the need for a massive
defensive structure at Fort Smith was no
longer thought to be necessary, the design of
the fort was adapted to better suit its new
function as a supply depot. The walls and
interior buildings were completed, but
artillery batteries and other defensive
elements were never added.

Even so, the new fort was impressive. From
its crowning height atop the bluff, it was the
first thing most visitors and new arrivals saw
when they reached the growing settlement of
Fort Smith. The barracks and officers'
quarters were among the finest structures on
the Western frontier.

The second fort served an important role as
a supply depot for what the whites called the
"Five Civilized Tribes." The Choctaw, Creek
(Muskogee), Seminole, Chickasaw and
Cherokee people had been forced from their
homes east of the Mississippi and were now
trying to adapt to new lands in the West. The
supply facilities at Fort Smith provided them
with blankets, food, seed, tools and other
necessities for life in the wilderness of
eastern Oklahoma. Even so, many of these
unfortunate people died in their effort to adapt
to the new land and its climate.
The fort was also a supply depot for the U.S.
Army as it extended its reach across the
plains. Many forts and camps along the
western frontier depended on Fort Smith for
provisions and other necessities.

The fort played a minor role during the
Mexican War, where a former commandant of
the post named Zachary Taylor achieved
fame that would lead him to the Presidency.
A stone chimney thought to have been part of
his quarters can still be seen near the old fort

Fort Smith was an important objective during
the Civil War, being seized by state forces in
1861 and then held by the Confederacy until
1863. Union troops occupied the fort that year
and retained possession of the post until the
end of the war. Please click here to learn
more about Fort Smith's role in the Civil War.

The grounds of Fort Smith National Historic
Site are open to the public daily.
Wall of Fort Smith
A section of the original stone
wall that surrounded the fort
has been restored.
Supply Depot of the Old West
The second Fort Smith was a
vital supply depot during the
Western expansion of the
United States.
Cannon at Fort Smith
The fort came under fire in
1864 during the Battle of Fort
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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