Monday, February 4, 2008
Fort Smith - The Old Barracks
Continuing our look at Fort Smith National Historic Site, this brick structure is the highly altered barracks building of the old fort. Located inside the five-sided walls of the fort, the barracks were used by both Confederate and Union troops during the Civil War.
The U.S. garrison of the fort abandoned the post in the spring of 1861 after receiving word that an overwhelming force of state militia was coming to seize the works. State troops then occupied the barracks briefly. When Arkansas joined the Confederacy, Fort Smith became a Confederate post and the barracks were occupied by Confederate troops. Southern soldiers remained here until 1863 when the post was abandoned ahead of a Union advance. The barracks were then used by Federal troops until the end of the war.
Fort Smith remained a military post until 1871, when it was abandoned. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas then made use of the barracks structure, adding a second floor and attaching a new wing, visible here in the left of the photograph, containing a much improved Federal jail.
The structure now contains the visitor center of the national historic site, along with the restored courtroom of "Hanging Judge" Isaac C. Parker. Among the exhibits are displays on the fort's Civil War history.
We will continue our look at Fort Smith over the next few days and you can also learn more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com (just scroll down to the Index and look for the links under the Arkansas section).