Thursday, January 18, 2018
Several weeks ago, I received the latest edition of The Chronicles of Oklahoma and was pleased to see an article about "Fort Blunt Civil War Fortifications" by Robert Cole who is described as "an avocational historian and archaeology enthusiast." I've long been curious about fortifications built at Fort Gibson (renamed Fort Blunt in 1863) during the War. Cole's twenty-nine page study is based on an extensive on-ground survey coupled with an examination of a wartime map drawn by Captain William Hoelcke, military manuals, the Official Records, and various other primary sources. Although ultimately concluding that the Hoelcke map was probably a preconstruction plan, the map still proved useful in locating some fortification remains in a residential area as well as some near the Neosho River. Why weren't more remains discovered? Cole noted "that shallow, not easily penetrated bedrock hindered the main earthworks construction almost from its inception and effectively placed the project on hold until the spring of 1864. Concurrent with the earthworks construction stoppage in late April and early May 1863 was the building of interim lines of defense, presumably along the same route as the eventually erected earthworks. The nature of interim fortifications is not known, but there is some suggestion these defenses may have been of earthen construction, utilizing soil overburden above the shallow bedrock in the northeast arm of the fort" (327). The article is a well-illustrated piece of detective work and certainly the most detailed examination of Fort Blunt's fortifications that I've read.