Fort Gibson - A brief history
There were several small cemeteries around Fort Gibson in which the dead were buried from the earliest days of the fort. The number of interments was increased to such an extent during the Civil War that more space was required, and in 1869 the National Cemetery was established on land that was originally part of the military reservation of Fort Gibson. After the abandonment of the fort, the reservation was transferred to the Department of the Interior on February 11, 1891, a parcel of seven acres being reserved for cemeterial purposes.
On August 6, 1872, William W. Belknap, Secretary of War, gave instructions to have the remains of his father, General William Goldsmith Belknap, removed from Fort Washita, where they were interred in 1851, to the cemetery at Keokuk, Iowa, the home of the Secretary. At the same time he directed the quartermaster general to arrange for the removal of the remains of other soldiers and their families found at Fort Washita, Fort Towson and Fort Arbuckle to the National Cemetery at Fort Gibson. Bids were advertised for, and a contract was let to P. J. Byrne of Fort Gibson, who succeeded in removing the remains of forty-six persons in 1872; only two of them, however, were definitely known to be soldiers. Owing to the careless manner in which the men who served at these remote posts had been buried, and the fact that fires had been permitted to run through the cemeteries and burn off all wooden headboards, and the difficulty of finding other marks of identification in the graves, or indeed, of finding the remains and the boxes containing them in such condition that they could be removed at all, instructions were given to abandon further removal. However, information was later acquired of forty-six additional graves at Fort Washita, fifty-four at Fort Arbuckle, and eighteen at Bin Sandy Creek on the Fort Smith and Fort Arbuckle road. Efforts were then renewed, and another contractor undertook to remove the remains to the Fort Gibson National Cemetery but this effort proved abortive also.
In 1873 it was reported to the office of the Adjutant General at Washington that the bodies of one hundred and twenty-five soldiers killed in the Battle of the Washita were buried on that battlefield. This again stimulated interest in the subject of removal, and the visitor will see in the Officers' Circle in the National Cemetery the grave of Major Joel H. Elliott of the Seventh Infantry, killed on November 27, 1868, at the Battle of the Washita.
The removal of remains from all these burial places was attended with much difficulty because of the lack of identifying marks. It was impossible to determine whether they were removing soldiers or civilians, and the whole undertaking was attended with much confusion. It appeared that during the Civil War a large number of Confederates died and were buried near Fort Washita. The correspondence relating to the subject would indicate that removal of the dead from this cemetery was limited to those known to have been in the service of the Union Army, and the Confederate dead were probably not disturbed.
The result was summarized in a report of December 31, 1893, which accounted for graves in the National Cemetery at Fort Gibson, of 231 known to be soldiers and 2,212 whose identity and service were unknown. Of the comparatively few who are identified by inscriptions on monuments, the greatest number are to be seen within what is known as the Officers' Circle. Among these is Flora, the young Cherokee wife of Lieutenant Daniel H. Rucker, who died at Fort Gibson June 26, 1845. Her husband survived her to become in later years Quartermaster General of the United States Army. John Decatur, brother of Stephen Decatur, died on November 12, 1832, while a sutler at Fort Gibson. Lieutenant John W. Murray of the West Point Class of 1830, of the Seventh Infantry, was killed on February 14, 1831, by being thrown from his horse. Murray's classmate, Lieutenant James West, died at Fort Gibson on September 28, 1834.
On May 27, 1831, Lieutenant Frederick Thomas of the Seventh Infantry, a West Point graduate of 1825, was drowned in the Arkansas River. His classmate, Lieutenant Benjamin W. Kinsman, also of the Seventh Infantry, died May 14, 1832. Lieutenant Thomas C. Brockway, a graduate of West Point of the class of 1828, died at Fort Gibson, September 28, 1831. Among those removed from Fort Towson were West Point graduates of the class of 1826, Lieutenants Charles L. C. Minor and Alexander G. Baldwin, both of the Fifth Infantry, who died at Fort Towson in 1833 and 1835 respectively, and Lieutenant James H. Taylor of the Third Infantry, who was drowned near Fort Towson in the Cositot River, in 1835. Also in the Officers' Circle is the monument of Captain Billy Bowlegs, the celebrated Seminole warrior, who served in the Union Army and died during the Civil War, and who is buried in another part of the cemetery.
General John Nicks (also buried in this cemetery) acquired his title from the appointment, by the Governor of Arkansas Territory, as commanding general of the Arkansas militia. He was later sutler at Fort Gibson, where he died December 31, 1831. He was survived by his widow, Sallie Nicks, who continued to "sutle" at the post. Sallie was a popular young widow whose charms were enhanced by the fact that the estate left by the General was valued at $20,000. When Washington Irving visited the post in 1832, he recorded in his notebook that several of the officers at the post paid court to her, and the quartermaster serenaded her so often and so vigorously that he disturbed the sleep of others, and made himself a good deal of a nuisance in the post. According to Irving, General William Clark and Colonel Arbuckle were both fascinated by the young widow, and a civilian named Lewis paid such ardent court that all of the officers united against him.
Sutlers were licensed to do business in the post, and there was considerable rivalry for the privilege, as the profits were tempting. At one time Sam Houston was an aspirant for the position of sutler at Fort Gibson. During his absence in the East on a political mission, he heard that General Nicks was to be removed from his post as sutler, and on his way back to Fort Gibson he wrote a letter to the Secretary of War, making application for the post. Houston was returning with a keelboat load of supplies for Wigwam Neosho, his little store northwest of Fort Gibson. They included nine barrels of whiskey brandy, gin, rum, wine and other goods with which he meant to stock the sutler's store he intended to take over if Nick's removal should pave the way for his appointment. However, after arriving at Fort Gibson and learning of the gossip said to have emanated from Washington concerning him, he indignantly withdrew his application with an excoriating letter to the Secretary of War, obviously written while he was drunk.
To one who wonders what care the soldiers at Fort Gibson took of their personal appearance, a long inventory of merchandise in the sutler's store at Fort Gibson in 1845 will be illuminating. The following is about one-sixth of the total list. It was submitted to the commandant for the purpose of establishing the prices at which these articles might be sold to the soldiers:
Cigars, shaving boxes, round shaving soap, transparent soap, flotant soap, crystalline wash balls, whisker pomatum, spontaneous compound, oleophane, bear's oil, philocome, fancy soap, perfume boxes, fancy cologne water, round cologne water, farina cologne water, prevost cologne water, red and white powder, sweeping brush, clamp brush, horse brush, shoe brush, counter brush, hat brush, hair brush, wall brush, cloth brush, shaving brush, teeth brush, ivory brush, nail brush, violin strings, razor strops, mirrors, shirt butts, cotton purses, silk purses, pencil cases, whalebone, suspenders, snuff boxes, necklaces, fishing lines, guard chains, flasks, thimbles, court plaisters, hooks and eyes, silk guards, pocket combs, English combs, dressing combs.
List of officers who commanded at Fort Gibson, with beginning date of service; graduates of United States Military Academy, West Point, are indicated by year of graduation following name. Names of temporary commanding officers are indented.
From To Colonel Matthew Arbuckle 7th Infantry Apr. 1824 Feb. 6, 1839 Major Alex Cummings 7th Infantry Apr. 24, 1825 Aug. 1825 Lieutenant Colonel James B. Many 7th Infantry Aug. 1825 Sept. 6, 1825 Captain John Philbrick 7th Infantry Sept. 1825 Oct. 1825 Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville 7th Infantry, 1815 Apr. 1828 May 1828 Captain N. G. Wilkinson 7th infantry Feb. 6, 1829 Apr. 20, 1829 Captain N. G. Wilkinson 7th Infantry Mar. 26, 1830 Apr. 23, 1830 Captain N. G. Wilkinson 7th Infantry Oct. 14, 1830 Nov. 1830 Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Many 7th Infantry Feb. 1, 1832 July 7, 1832 Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Many 7th Infantry May 15, 1834 Sept. 30, 1834 Major Sullivan Burbank 7th Infantry Oct. 1, 1834 Nov. 4, 1834 Lieutenant Colonel William Whistler 7th Infantry Aug. 6, 1835 Sept. 10, 1835 Lieutenant Colonel William Whistler 7th Infantry Apr. 20, 1836 May 5, 1836 Lieutenant Colonel William Whistler 7th Infantry May 11, 1837 Sept. 13, 1837 Major C. Wharton 1st Dragoons Sept. 14, 1837 Oct. 23, 1837 Major J. S. McIntosh 7th Infantry June 15, 1838 Aug. 1838 Captain E. S. Hawkins 7th Infantry, 1820 Aug. 1838 Sept. 1838 Major J. S. McIntosh 7th Infantry Sept. 1838 Jan. 28, 1839 Lieutenant Colonel William Whistler 7th Infantry Jan. 29, 1839 Feb. 6, 1839 Major Bennett Riley 4th Infantry Feb. 7, 1839 Apr. 1839 Colonel Enos Cutler 4th Infantry Apr. 1839 Jan. 1840 Major B. Riley 4th Infantry June 21, 1839 Jan. 17, 1840 Colonel & Brevet Brigadier General M. Arbuckle 7th Infantry Jan. 18, 1840 Feb. 4, 1840 Colonel Alexander Cummings 4th Infantry Jan. 1840 Aug. 1841 Major Clifton Wharton 1st Dragoons Feb. 6, 1840 Feb. 16, 1840 Lieutenant Colonel Riley 2nd Infantry Feb. 17, 1840 Feb. 24, 1840 Major C. Wharton Feb. 25, 1840 Mar. 3, 1840 Colonel & Brevet Brigadier General Arbuckle Apr. 10, 1841 May 27, 1841 Lieutenant Colonel J. Garland 4th Infantry May 27, 1841 June 19, 1841 Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason 1st Dragoons June 20, 1841 Aug. 1841 Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason 1st Dragoons Aug. 1841 Apr. 28, 1842 Colonel S. W. Kearney 1st Dragoons Apr. 29, 1842 July 3, 1842 Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason 1st Dragoons July 4, 1842 Oct. 7, 1842 Captain Jacob Brown 6th Infantry Oct. 8, 1842 Jan. 16, 1843 Major Clifton Wharton 1st Dragoons Jan. 17, 1843 Jan. 31, 1843 Colonel William Davenport 6th Infantry Feb. 1, 1843 Sept. 17, 1843 Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason 1st Dragoons Sept. 18, 1843 Dec. 17, 1843 Captain W. S. Ketchum 6th Infantry Sept. 20, 1843 Sept. 26, 1843 Captain N. Boone 1st Dragoons Sept. 27, 1843 Dec. 17, 1843 Lieutenant Colonel Gustavus Loomis 6th Infantry, 1811 Dec. 18, 1843 June 19, 1844 Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mason 1st Dragoons June 20, 1844 Feb. 27, 1846 Captain Nathan Boone 1st Dragoons May 30, 1845 Aug. 13, 1845 Captain Albemarle Cady 6th Infantry, 1829 Feb. 26, 1846 Mar. 27, 1846 Lieutenant Colonel Gustavus Loomis 6th Infantry, 1811 Mar. 28, 1846 Feb. 24, 1848 Captain A. Cady 1829 Apr. 30, 1846 May 26, 1846 Major B. L. E. Bonneville 6th Infantry Feb. 26, 1848 Nov. 4, 1848 Captain E. Steen 1st Dragoons June 16, 1848 July 25, 1848 Captain William 5. Ketchum 6th Infantry July 26, 1848 Nov. 4, 1848 Major Dixon S. Miles 5th Infantry, 1824 Nov. 5, 1848 Dec. 18, 1848 Captain C. L Stevenson 5th Infantry, 1838 Dec. 1, 1848 Dec. 18, 1848 Lieutenant Colonel & Brevet Brigadier General William G. Belknap 5th Infantry Dec. 19, 1848 May 14, 1851 Captain Isaac Lynde 5th Infantry, 1827 Dec. 8, 1849 Jan. 6, 1850 Captain Isaac Lynde 5th Infantry, 1827 Feb. 22, 1850 Mar. 17, 1850 Captain Isaac Lynde 5th Infantry, 1827 May 12, 1850 June 8, 1850 Captain William Chapman 5th Infantry, 1831 June 9, 1850 July 16, 1850 Major Henry Bainbridge 7th Infantry, 1821 May 15, 1851 July 26, 1851 Captain Henry Little 7th Infantry July 5, 1851 July 26, 1851 Major George Andrews 7th Infantry July 27, 1851 Oct. 5, 1852 Captain Henry Little 7th Infantry Oct. 6, 1852 Oct. 30, 1853 Captain Charles H. Humber 7th Infantry, 1840 Jan. 15, 1853 July 27, 1853 Captain Braxton Bragg 3rd Artillery, 1837 Oct. 31, 1853 Dec. 1, 1853 Lieutenant Colonel Pitcairn Morrison 7th Infantry Dec. 2, 1853 May 7, 1855 Colonel Henry Wilson 7th Infantry May 8, 1855 June 22, 1857 Captain Henry Little 7th Infantry Feb. 16, 1856 Apr. 2, 1856 Lieutenant Colonel P. Morrison 7th Infantry Apr. 3, 1856 June 21, 1856 Captain Henry Little 7th Infantry May 21, 1857 June 22, 1857 Lieutenant W. L Cabell 7th Infantry, A. Q. M., 1850 June 23, 1857 Sept. 1857 Colonel William A. Phillips 3rd Indian Home Guards Apr. 14, 1863 June 1863 Major General Jones G. Blunt Volunteers July 1863 Colonel Wm. A. Phillips 3rd Indian Home Guards Nov. 1863 July 1864 Colonel Stephen H. Wattles Hq. Indian Brigade Aug. 1864 Colonel James M. Williams Frontier Div. (Hq. 2d 8rig.) 7th Army Corps Sept. 1864 Colonel Wattles Sept. 1864 Nov. 1864 Colonel Phillips Dec. 1864 Mar. 1865 Major General James G. Blunt May 1865 Brevet Brigadier General John Ritchie 3rd Indian Home Guards May 1865 Major General Blunt May 11, 1865 June 15, 1865 Colonel John A. Garrett 40th Iowa Volunteers June 15, 1865 Aug. 3, 1865 Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. True 62nd Illinois Volunteers Aug. 4, 1865 Nov. 1865 Captain E. M. Jordan 62nd Illinois Volunteers Nov. 1865 Dec. 1865 Lieutenant Colonel Lewis C. True 62nd Illinois Volunteers Jan. 1866 Feb. 17, 1866 Captain James B. Mulligan 18th Infantry Feb. 18, 1866 Mar. 1, 1866 Major Pinkney Lugenbeel 18th Infantry, 1840 Mar. 1, 1866 May 1867 Captain Robert Ayres 19th Infantry May 1867 June 19, 1867 Captain M. Bryant 6th Infantry June 20, 1867 Nov. 3, 1867 Colonel DeL. Floyd-Jones 6th Infantry, 1846 Nov. 4, 1867 May 1868 Captain M. Bryant 6th Infantry Jan. 20, 1868 May 1,1868 Captain M. Bryant 6th Infantry May 1868 Feb. 26, 1869 Colonel DeL. Floyd-Jones 6th Infantry, 1846 Feb. 27, 1869 Apr. 1869 Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Huston, Jr. 6th Infantry, 1848 Apr. 24, 1869 Jan. 29, 1871 Captain Jeremiah P. Schindel 6th Infantry Aug. 8, 1869 Sept. 25, 1869 Captain Jeremiah P. Schindel 6th Infantry Oct. 27, 1869 Nov. 20, 1869 Lieutenant Jacob F. Munson 6th Infantry Aug. 22, 1870 Sept. 4, 1870 Colonel William B. Hazen 6th Infantry, 1855 Jan. 30, 1871 Sept. 30, 1871 Captain Jeremiah P Schindel July 26, 1871 Aug. 29,1871 Captain William W. Sanders 6th Infantry Aug. 30, 1871 Sept. 3, 1871