Fort Wrangell (1868-1870, 1874-1878, 1898-1900) - A U.S. Army fort established in 1868 after the purchase of Alaska in 1867 in present day Wrangell, Wrangell Borough, Alaska. Named for Baron Von Wrangel, governor/general of Russian America 1830-1835. Abandoned in 1870 and reestablished 1874-1878 and again during the Alaska Gold Rush 1898-1900. Also known as Fort Wrangel.
Fort Wrangell History
Company E, 2nd U.S. Artillery evacuated Fort Steilacoom on 22 Apr 1868 aboard the steamship Oriflamme leaving behind an ordnance sergeant caretaker. On board were five officers, 112 enlisted men, fourteen serviceable mules, four unserviceable mules, two working oxen, two 6-pounder field guns and four mountain howitzers. Also on board were two citizen physicians, two citizen carpenters and two citizen stone masons. The company was under the command of Captain Charles H. Peirce who had instructions to establish two posts, Fort Tongass and Fort Wrangell, contained in S.O. 26, 1868, HQ Military Division of the Pacific. Each post was to be manned by a detachment of about 1/2 of the company and equal numbers of the civilians.
The Oriflamme landed first at the site of Fort Tongass on 29 Apr 1868 and the post was established that same day. On 2 May 1868 Captain Peirce departed Fort Tongass on the Oriflamme with 1st Lt. John H. Smith, 1st Lt. Franklin M. Ring, 52 enlisted men, 1 citizen surgeon, 1 carpenter and 1 stonemason. This detachment landed at the site of Fort Wrangell on 5 May 1868 and established Fort Wrangell that day. Captain Peirce then rejoined the detachment back at Fort Tongass leaving 1st Lt. (Bvt. Captain) John H. Smith in command of the detachment at Fort Wrangell. Captain Peirce then technically established both forts and he supervised the construction at Fort Tongass while 1st Lt. Smith supervised the construction at Fort Wrangell.
The post was built out with a stockade and included a hospital, officer's quarters, barracks, and guardhouse. Some $26,000 was spent on the complex. On 27 Sep 1870 the army abandoned Fort Wrangell and the garrison departed aboard the steamship Newbern for Sitka . In 1871 the post was sold to local trader William King Lear for about $500.
Fort Wrangell was reestablished on 13 Aug 1874 by 2nd Lt. Alexander B. Dyer and a small detachment of the 4th U.S. Artillery totaling 1 officer and 11 enlisted personnel. The purpose of the detachment was to suppress the illicit liquor trade with the local Indians and they immediately arrested 5 civilians and held them for transport to Sitka. The post was again abandoned on 15 Jun 1877 and the garrison departed aboard the steamer California.
The post was reestablished in 1898 during the Alaska Gold Rush to provide a government presence in the region. The garrison arrived at 8:00am on 24 May 1898 led by Captain Bogardus Eldridge, Company H, 14th U.S. Infantry, with a total of 5 officers and 60 enlisted personnel. Fort Wrangell was abandoned for the last time on 12 May 1900 when the garrison departed aboard the steamship Humboldt.