an important U.S. Army post that was active from 1865 until 1889.
Originally located five miles south of present day Walker, Kansas,
and called Fort Fletcher, the fort became operational in the fall
Troop duty was to protect
the stage and freight wagons of the Butterfield Overland Despatch
(BOD) traveling along the Smoky Hill Trail to Denver. But Southern
Cheyenne and Sourthern Arapaho Indians continued to attack traffic
which they felt intruded upon their homeland. The BOD went backrupt
and the fort closed in spring 1866.
But in fall 1866 the fort
reopened. Troops were needed to protect workers on the Union Pacific
Railway, Easter Division, who were building rail lines westward.
The fort moved closer to the rail lines and was renamed Fort Hays.
Hays City soon grew up nearby the fort.
Additional troops were
needed and Buffalo soldiers (black Infantry and Cavalry soldiers)
were sent to the fort. Indians continued to object to the movement
of the rail lines into prime buffalo country. Captain Geroge Armes
encountered Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa Indians under the leadership
of the Kiowa chief Santanta during the battles of the Saline River
and Prairie Dog Creek. Although the soldiers were vastly outnumbered
in both battles, they inflicted heavy losses on the Indian forces
while sustaining few casualities. Thus the fort played an important
role in ensuring that the rail lines were completed.
George Armstrong Custer
was assigned to Fort Hays at one time. He was accompanied to the
fort by his wife. Their stay at Fort Hays helped to build reputations
of both Custers.