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.