Fort Kearny (2)

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Fort Kearny (2) (1848-1871) - Established in the spring of 1848 "near the head of the Grand Island" along the Platte River by Lt. Daniel P. Woodbury (Cullum 847). Lt. Woodbury had given the name Fort Childs, in honor of Col. Thomas Childs (Cullum 97) of Mexican War fame (and Woodbury's father-in-law), to the new post and headed his reports accordingly. But a general order from the War Department under date of 30 Dec 1848 stipulated that "the new post established at Grand Island, Platte River, will be known as Fort Kearny" in honor of General Stephen Watts Kearny. Abandoned in 1871.

Fort Kearny Entrance Sign
Fort Kearny Blacksmith Shop and Wagon
Fort Kearny Stockade
Fort Kearny Earth Covered Powder Magazine


Fort Kearny was designed as an open plan western fort with few defensive fortifications for the express purpose of protecting and assisting westward-bound travelers and traders. The post served as a way station, sentinel post, supply depot, and message center for 49'ers bound for California, home seekers traveling the Oregon Trail and Mormons bound for Utah. By the 1860s the fort had become a significant freighting station and home station of the short-lived Pony Express. The completion of the transcontinental telegraph on 26 Oct 1861 signaled the end of the Pony Express but the western bound travelers still relied on the fort for critical support.

During the Indian Wars of 1864-1865, a small stockade with four bastions was built on an earth embankment. Although never under attack, the post did serve as an outfitting depot for several Indian campaigns. As the hostile Indians moved further north and west the need to protect traffic on the overland trails diminished and the fort assumed more of a communications and support role.

One of the fort's final duties was the protection of workers building the Union Pacific. Once the railroad was completed and fully operational, the wagon trains and freight wagons were reduced to a trickle. Two years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the fort was abandoned as a military post 17 May 1871. The 10-mile square reservation was returned to the Department of Interior on 2 Dec 1876. The buildings were sold and the property was opened up to homesteaders.

Fort Kearny (2) Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1866-06-12 1866-10-27 •Lt. Col. Wessells, Henry W. 735
1866-12-01 1867-05 •Col. Gibbon, John 1350
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Fort Kearny Garrison Howitzer on the Parade

Part of Fort Kearny State Historical Park. This site has been entered on the National Register of Historic Places.

Three buildings have been reconstructed, the stockade, the powder magazine, and the blacksmith shop. The stockade is a replica of the stockade built in 1864 to protect against Indian attacks that never materialized. The replica powder magazine has a number of period ammunition boxes, barrels, tins, and things you might expect in a magazine. The Blacksmith shop contains all sorts of blacksmith tools wagons and weapons.

The parade ground is outlined with paths and the foundations of the buildings that surrounded it are marked with short posts in the ground. Each outlined building has a brief explanation of the site on a placard.

Location: Fort Kearny State Historical Park, 2 miles South, 4 miles East of Kearney, Kearney County, Nebraska.

Maps & Images

Lat: 40.6420 Long: -99.0000

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 2118'



Visited: 12 Jun 2010

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