Fort Leavenworth is a United States Army facility located in Leavenworth County, Kansas (just north of the city of Leavenworth) in the upper northeast portion of the state. It is the oldest active U.S. Army post west of the Mississippi River, in operation for over 170 years. Fort Leavenworth has been historically known as the "Intellectual Center of the Army.
During the country's westward expansion, Fort Leavenworth was a forward destination for thousands of soldiers, surveyors, immigrants, American Indians, preachers and settlers who passed through. The garrison supports the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) by managing and maintaining the home of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center (CAC). CAC's mission involves leader development, collective training, Army doctrine and battle command (current and future).
Fort Leavenworth also accommodates the Department of Defense's only maximum security prison, the United States Disciplinary Barracks. In addition, the Fort Leavenworth Garrison supports numerous tenant organizations that directly and indirectly relate to the functions of the CAC, including the Command and General Staff College and the Foreign Military Studies Office.
The fort occupies 5,600 acres (23 km²) and 7,000,000 ft² (650,000 m²) of space in 1,000 buildings and 1,500 quarters.
The French abandoned the fort after ceding its territory to Louisiana (New Spain) at the conclusion of the French and Indian War.
The fort location had been chosen then because of its proximity to a large Kansa tribe village.
Colonel Henry Leavenworth, with the officers and men of the 3rd Infantry Regiment from Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis, Missouri, established Fort Leavenworth in 1827 to be a forward base protect the Santa Fe Trail.
Leavenworth's instructions had been:
Leavenworth was to report that spot around the confluence on the east side of the Missouri River (near present day Farley, Missouri) would be prone to flooding and on May 8, 1827 recommended the location 20 miles upstream on the west bank in the bluffs above the river.
The first army installation in Cantonment Leavenworth (its original name) was located on Scott Avenue, south of the Post Chapel with initial strength of 14 officers and 174 enlisted men.
The Cantonment almost immediately increased in importance as it became the eastern terminus for the Santa Fe Trail and Oregon Trail. After Indian Removal Act of 1830 attempted to remove all Indians west of the Missouri-Kansas border, the fort which is west of the border assumed even more importance. In 1832 it was renamed "Fort Leavenworth."
Between 1832 and 1834 the Rookery was built as bachelor officer quarters. The Rookery is the oldest building in Kansas and would be the office of the first territorial governor and thus the first capitol in Kansas from 1854 to 1855 when the capitol was moved to Pawnee, Kansas.
In 1836 William Clark at the fort presided over the transfer of Indian land directly across the Missouri River from the fort to the U.S. government in the Platte Purchase which involved the entire northwest corner of Missouri.
In 1839, Col. Stephen W. Kearny marched against the Cherokees with 20 companies of dragoons, the largest U.S. mounted force ever assembled. Throughout the Mexican-American War, Fort Leavenworth was the outfitting post for the Army of the West.
During the 1850s, troops from Ft. Leavenworth were mobilized to control the "Mormon Problem" in what became known as the Utah War.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Camp Lincoln was established on post as a reception and training station for Kansas volunteers. News of the approach of Confederate General Sterling Price prompted construction of Fort Sully, a series of earthworks for artillery emplacements on Hancock Hill, overlooking what is now the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. However, Price's forces never reached Fort Leavenworth, having met defeat at Westport, which is now part of Kansas City. During its long history, the post was never subject to enemy attack.
For three decades following the war, the Army's chief mission was control of the American Indian tribes on the Western plains. Between 1865 and 1891, the Army had more than 1,000 combat engagements with Apache, Modoc, Cheyenne, Ute, Nez Perce, Comanche, Kiowa, Kickapoo and other tribes.
The Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery is one of the first 12 national cemeteries established by Abraham Lincoln on July 17, 1862. Veterans since the War of 1812 have been laid to rest in the cemetery. One veteran of the War of 1812 is the cemetery's most famous occupant, Col. Henry Leavenworth, who gave his name to the fort, the cemetery, and the town and county they are located in. Others buried in the cemetery include 10 Medal of Honor recipients, seven Confederate prisoners of war and two soldiers killed in Operation Desert Storm and one from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although there is no longer space for new burial sites, burials frequently take place for those who already have family members interred in the cemetery.
In 1866, the U.S. Congress authorized the formation of four black regiments, the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments and the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments. The 10th Cavalry Regiment was formed at Fort Leavenworth under the command of Col. Benjamin H. Grierson. Today, a monument stands at Fort Leavenworth in tribute to the "Buffalo Soldier" of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments
The fort's first Catholic Church was built in 1871, and was later replaced by St. Ignatius Chapel in 1889. St. Ignatius Chapel was destroyed by fire in December 2001. The first Protestant chapel, Memorial Chapel, was built by prison labor in 1878 of stone quarried on post. The round window behind the chapel's front altar was intentionally installed slightly askew by an inmate who was angry at his work boss. This chapel has brass cannon imbedded in the walls at the sides of the church, and photos of many of the officers involved in the early history of the fort, including some of the Custer family.
In the years between the World Wars, graduates included such officers as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton. During World War II, some 19,000 officers completed various courses at Fort Leavenworth. By the end of 1943, commanders and staffs of 26 infantry, airborne and cavalry divisions had trained as teams at the school.
In 1946, the school was given its current name. In 1959, the college moved to the newly built J. Franklin Bell Hall on Arsenal Hill. In 1985, the Harold K. Johnson wing was added to house the Combined Arms and Services Staff School. Eisenhower Hall was dedicated in 1994. Classes for the School of Advanced Military Studies and the School for Command Preparation, as well as the Combined Arms Research Library, are located in Eisenhower Hall.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Until the early 1970s a battery of four Nike-Hercules Missiles were deployed at Bell Point on a hill on the north side of the fort.
The base is served by the Sherman Army Airfield which has a runway and operates under a joint agreement with the city of Leavenworth, Kansas that permits civilian aircraft to use it all hours. The airfield was inundated by the Missouri River in levee breaches during the Great Flood of 1951 and Great Flood of 1993
A number of historic preservation investigations have been conducted over the past few decades at Fort Leavenworth. In 1970, for example, two historic sites were listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP): the Main Parade Ground and the Santa Fe Trail Ruts.
During 2006, this historic military site became part of a new Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.