Monday, March 9, 2015

Fort Richardson Expedition After Action Report

The hospital is the most commanding building remaining.
  • Yesterday (11/29/2014) we explored Fort Richardson State Park. It was a cavalry post during the Westward expansion. At its height it was home to about 700 soldiers and had 50 plus buildings. There are now 7 buildings and probably lots of ghosts but no actual soldiers.
  • One thing that stands out to most visitors I'm sure is the morgue directly behind the hospital building. Interestingly, of the 70 soldiers who died there (I think that number is right) only 3 were housed in the morgue. A particularly horrifying story became the impetus for the morgue. A soldier died, probably from syphilis, malaria, pox or a diarrhea disease (or a horrible combination of these) as people did frequently in those days and his corpse was placed upstairs away from the other patients while a grave was dug. How long this took I do not know but it was long enough for his mortal coil to be ripe enough to explode while it was being brought downstairs spilling blood, guts and corpse juice everywhere. The post doctor being the smartest guy in the room directed that a morgue be placed to the rear of the hospital. A tent was used until the nice little stone morgue was built.
    Patient's view from the the hospital- yep, its a morgue.

    Tony looking morgue to only ever house 3 dead guys.

    The bed for your 19th century dirt nap.

    Dead guy's view from the morgue.
  • The very capable interpreter told me the powder magazine was the only one on the post. That is difficult for me to buy as it was maybe [I forgot my laser measuring device] 12 X 12 ft on the interior. He thought it would have been sufficient as the troopers only had small arms. It would seem unlikely they never had a small cannon and/or explosives that would require separate storage techniques but also, it would have been understood to not put all your explodey things in one basket (maybe especially if all. you. had. were small arms ammunition) but yeah- he has studied that place for 20 years from original documents etc. so I wasn't going to argue.
    Probably pretty comfortable and serviceable for the time. If all you needed were some rest, food and water, you were probably good to go and would walk out at some point. Although yes- I'm assuming clean food and water and you didn't catch something even more awful than what you came in with from the dude in the next bed.

    A shave and a bath probably went a long way toward making a guy feel more human (if you didn't die of tetanus from a razor nick or catch a chill).
  • Physicians of the time had determined for optimal health a man needed 900 cubic feet of air space around him- so the ceilings soar to 14 and a half feet. This no doubt also helped on those 105 degree summer days. Patients would most often sleep on the porch when it was hot anyway.
  • On display are the sword and rifle of one soldier who served there who after discharge stayed on in the area. It was placed on permanent loan by his descendants. Also is the surgical kit of one of the post physicians.

  • There was a steward in the hospital who killed multiple soldiers to take their stuff and hock it for drinks. The time that got him busted he stole a watch from a soldier whom the steward assumed was dying. He got caught overdosing the patient after he realized the patient was recovering and would be asking for his watch back. The doctor vouched for the steward so he was just discharged out of the Army. He left and was then lost to history.
  • It cost 800,000 dollars to build that post in 1867, which seems ridiculous. I don't have my calculator handy but I'll make a wild guess that would be equal to about a gazillion dollars in today's adjusted money. 
  • The soldiers dumped their poo near the same creek they gathered water from further downstream. Consequently, many died of poo related diseases necessitating a detail of soldiers going out each day to retrieve water from a spring 2 miles away.
  • Poop played a prominent part in the story of the West.
  • A million ways to die...
    Speaking of poop- an indoor two holer; probably a novelty for most patients of the day.

    After you did your business if it was number 1 you scattered dirt from one of these boxes over it. If it was number 2 you grabbed charcoal from another box. Fresh.

  • The soldiers there faced Kiowa and Comanche Indians who are in my list of top 10 ten tribes in general and top 5 list of Plains Indians for their generalized coolness and/or fierceness.
  • Fort Richardon's bakery produced 600 loaves of bread a day.
  • W. T. Sherman (my least favorite Civil War general) once stayed on the post and became part of one of my favorite stories of the West- the story of Satanta, Satank Big Tree, White Horse et. al. and the Warren Wagon Train Raid which was also known as the Salt Creek Massacre.
  • Satanta killed himself in prison in Huntsville but his spirit died sometime between his arrest and the day he threw himself out a window of  the upper floor of the hospital.
  • In another life I owned a place on Salt Creek. I would psych myself  out while walking North as the sun set toward the sight of the fight although it was miles and miles away. 
  • The patrol route of the troops stationed there took them all the way to Caprock Canyon near Amarillo- or about a 6 hour air conditioned drive by car today. 

    From the TPWD site
  • If money were no object I would be an amateur historian to Texas parks and travel between them taking pics and writing an ultimate book of natural history and human lore.
  • When the fort was abandoned it was done so literally- the Army pulled up stakes and left the buildings to their fate without official protection. The locals disassembled most of the buildings and added on to their houses or built chicken coops or whatever. Thank God some people had the sense to save some of the buildings. I mean really thank God for them. When the oil and natural gas is gone all that area might have is it's history and recreational attractions.
  • Oh, and Herd's Burgers. Go get you one and tell 'em I sent you.


The Donald said...

Late in the last century, I was inspecting a property for a prospective borrower that was near a Salt Creek (not sure if it was the same one, and don't know if Carlos Santana ever gigged there).

Don't remember if it was a 5 or 10 acre parcel, but I wanted to get the approximate feel of the plot, so I walked near the fenceline into the scrub for a ways, and was surprised to happen upon this gravesite.

The location described in the article doesn't entirely agree with where I was, as the site was maybe 300-400 yds WNW of Indian Springs, near N Comanche Trl, but the stick-welded plaque is the one I saw. Possibly the marker has been moved, the article's author is concealing the exact location, or this was simply the way his host knew how to access it (actually it does say they crossed a pasture and the creek). The property was not inhabited when I visited as I recall, though it may have had MH hookups.

When I got home, I consulted my handy Wild and Wooly Encyclopedia of the Old West, and actually found this Irish-born Arkansaw Johnson (John Huckston) character - he was apparently a pretty brutal dude who was not well-liked by Sam Bass. His nickname came from leaving The Natural State with great dispatch after viciously bludgeoning a wealthy couple to death and multiple raping their daughter - an assault so traumatic and heinous that the girl never recovered and died several years later in an asylum. Texas Rangers appropriately extradited him to God on 12 June 1878.

el chupacabra said...

Arkansaw sounds like a vile reprobate. I am surprised I never read anything about him as I have plenty about sheriff Stevens

The Donald said...

The solitary dude in the soldier uniform looks like he used to work at Penney's or Sanger-Harris.