Not all of us can readily absorb military history without getting bogged down in the technicalities. Thankfully, Kansas Forts and Bases: Sentinels on the Prairie by Debra Goodrich Bisel and Michelle M. Martin is supremely readable, providing an era-by-era overview of Kansas forts as reflective of the broader picture of Kansas history overall.
The four eras described in Kansas Forts and Bases are:
- Policing the Indian frontier and guarding Kansas Territory (1744–1861).
- The Civil War (1861–1865).
- The Indian Wars and Westward Expansion (1866–1899).
- War: hot, cold, and beyond (1900–present).
A chapter is devoted to each era and is made up of concise profiles of each of the forts. The profiles contain a variety of useful and interesting information:
- The events that necessitated the establishment of the fort.
- The construction and naming of the fort.
- A description of the fort itself and of life there.
- The abandonment of the fort, where applicable.
- Markers, ruins, and/or buildings that can still be viewed today.
Through the tales of the individuals forts, Kansas Forts and Bases provides a good overview of Kansas military history and how the role of forts and armed forces in the state shifted over time to adapt to changing needs. The scene changes from French fur traders to Union and Confederate soldiers in the Civil War to Indian fighters like Custer to those defending the nation during the Cold War, along with much more.
For those who are interested in Kansas forts, Kansas Forts and Bases is a highly readable introduction that plants the topic squarely in context.