Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


This thesis is an analysis of the military activities of the federal government at Fort Hays, Kansas, 1865-1889, and demonstrates that the army played a significant role in the settlement of the West. Major sources used in this study were memoirs of army officers and the various microfilmed records available from the National Archives; special attention was given to the post returns, medical records, and official correspondence. Fort Hays (first called Fort Fletcher, 1865-1866) provided protection from Indians for travelers and stage lines along the central portion of the Smoky Hill Trail du ring the early years. Later, the advance of the Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division, across Kansas changed the activities conducted by the military at Fort Hays. The railroad was guarded during and after construction. The rail road assisted the army with both the supply of military forts and the movement of troops to areas where trouble had occurred. The aid given to the provisioning of outposts was especially shown at Fort Hays when it became the major point of supply for the Winter Campaign of 1868-1869. The presence of the fort attracted businesses and persons who supplied the wants of the military establishment as well as the desires of individual soldiers. Civilian laborers moved into the area to supply the manpower needed to construct post buildings and move the tons of supplies used yearly by the military. The development of Hays City was affected directly and indirectly by the presence of the troops. Relations were not always harmonious between Fort Hays and the community of Hays City, and fighting between fort and city elements was not unknown. The guardhouse at Fort Hays protected many lives, both civilian and military, from unruly mobs. However, the presence of a jail was not always enough to prevent violence; three Negro soldiers were lynched for the alleged murder of a government employee. Health was a vital issue in the understaffed frontier army. Disease was a more serious enemy than the Indian. Outbreaks of contagious diseases limited the strength of the military. The medical officers stationed at Fort Hays had to fight epidemics (such as the cholera outbreak in 1867), venereal disease, and influenza. They did an effective job and kept the post personnel in condition to fulfill their duties. Although the post could have been abandoned in the mid-1870's, when the Indian problem was settled in Kansas, it remained open until 1889. The federal army at Fort Hays, a partner of the pioneer, had assisted with the protection and settlement of the region.


Leo E. Oliva

Date of Award

Summer 1972

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1972 Jerry B. Ramsey


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