Field, Ron. Forts of the American Frontier, 1820-91: Central and Northern Plains.

(Fortress series, 28) London: Osprey Publishing, 2005.

I’m an historian and archivist by training and I come from an army family, so it’s not surprising I have a long involvement with military history. And I’ve always made a point, when I travel, of trying to visit any nearby posts with an early history, especially those now managed as parks or historic sites.

In the early 19th century, the U.S. Army established a growing string of fortified posts to lend support to the expanding line of frontier settlement. Most of these were temporary in intent, but some, like Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth, became permanent installations. Fort Snelling opened in 1825 and was still operating as a recruit training center through 1945. (This shift to permanent status was more common in the Southwest, but the present volume is concerned with the northern plains.) The author is a public school teacher but he’s done a pretty good job here of tracing and explaining the gradual development of the post system, the types of fortifications constructed (and the reasons behind certain types of architecture), what day-to-day life was like there (boring, mostly), and how they functioned in wartime, which meant the Indian Wars. In a departure from Osprey’s usual design, this series scatters the color plates through the volume instead of putting them all in a single signature (newer printing technology), so the reader needn’t flip back and forth. Also, from the 1850s on, there’s a pretty good photographic record available of army posts, and the story is further enhanced by photos of modern reenactors, mostly at Ft. Larned, Kansas. Now if they would just publish the companion volume for the rest of the country!

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Published in: on 18 August 2012 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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