The Choctaw and Chickasaw were two of five Indian tribes that colonial settlers regarded as ‘civilised’ because they were open to adopting elements of the culture of the settlers. This view continued after the USA was formed but it did not stop the US government from casting envious eyes over the lands that the five tribes owned in what is now Mississippi and Alabama. In 1830 the US government signed the Indian Removal Act which gave them the authority to negotiate the relocation of the southern Indians. The Choctaw were the first of the ‘civilised tribes’ to sign a treaty under the Act in September 1830. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek gave the Choctaw lands in the Indian Territory in return for their land in Mississippi but allowed those Choctaw who chose to stay to become US citizens. In 1832 the Chickasaw signed the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek which ceded their lands in Mississippi in return for land in the Indian Territory. Plains Indians lived in the lands given to the Choctaw and Chickasaw, so the US Government needed to provide protection to them in their new lands. Fort Washita was established in 1842 by General (later President) Zachary Taylor in the lands given to the Choctaw and Chickasaw. It was at the time the southwestern-most military post in the US. The fort was used to protect the tribes right up to the beginning of the Civil War.
D H Cooper Cabin
Prior to the Civil War the office of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian Agencies was located at the fort, and one of the people who held the post of US Agent was Douglas H Cooper. This two room log cabin was his home. In 1861 after the outbreak of the Civil War, Cooper became Commander of Choctaw-Chickasaw Mounted Riflemen. In recognition of his success in battle for the Confederates, he was promoted to Commander of Indian Territory Military District. Fort Washita saw no Civil War action but Brigadier General Douglas Cooper used it as his headquarters and the Confederate Army also used it as a supply base and military hospital. Douglas H Cooper died at Fort Washita in 1879.
Fort Washita was named after the Washita River, although the high ground on which it was built is about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the river. It was the only Frontier Fort that was not accessible by riverboat and hence needed to be supplied overland. Apart from protecting the Choctaw and Chickasaw, in 1846 the fort became a key staging post for troops and supplies during Mexican-American War. The Civil War was the beginning of the end for Fort Washita. On May 1, 1861, US forces abandoned the fort and the next day Confederate troops from Texas moved in. They stayed for the duration but at the end of the Civil War the US military did not reoccupy it. The abandoned fort became the property of a Chickasaw family, the Colberts. The East Barracks were turned into a home and other buildings were used for farming purposes. In 1962 to Colbert family sold Fort Washita to the Oklahoma Historical Society. They reconstructed the South Barracks and opened the fort to the public as Fort Washita Historic Site. Sadly the South Barracks destroyed by fire in 2010. Other Barracks, such as the West Barracks are still standing as empty shells.
This is not an original building from Fort Washita, but it is very similar to cabins that once served as officers quarters. The Bohanan cabin was built near Durant soon after the end of the Civil War by Edward Bohanan. He was a teamster (someone who drove teams of animals) prior to the war and he later served in the Confederate Indian Brigade commanded by Douglas.H Cooper. The cabin was moved to the fort in the 1990's.
Click on Minimap to navigate
To move forwards or backwards through the Oklahoma trail click the arrows above, or select your next destination on the Minimap.