Fort Towson (1824-1829, 1830-1854, 1863-1865) - A U.S.Army post established as Cantonment Towson in 1824 by Major Alexander Cummings, 7th U.S. Infantry in Choctaw County, Oklahoma. Named for General Nathan Towson, a hero of the War of 1812 and then army paymaster general. Abandoned in 1829. Reestablished in 1830 as Camp Phoenix (1) but later renamed Fort Towson in 1831. Abandoned again in 1854 but re-established in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War. Abandoned at the end of the war in 1865.
The original location of this post was on the east bank of Gates Creek about six miles above the Red River. In 1824 the Red River was the Mexican border. The post was abandoned in June 1829 and the buildings were burned down after the troops left.
The post was reestablished by Major Stephen Watts Kearny, 3rd U.S. Infantry on 26 Apr 1831. The new location was two miles northeast of the present-day town of Fort Towson and was originally known as Camp Phoenix (1). The name was changed on 8 Feb 1832 to Fort Towson. The post was again abandoned on 8 Jun 1854 and turned over to the Choctaw Nation to serve as their capital.
During the U.S. Civil War Confederate forces occupied the post as the headquarters of their Indian Territory Department. Confederate Cherokee General Stand Watie surrendered at Fort Towson on 23 Jun 1865, the last Confederate General to surrender. The fort was finally abandoned in 1865.
Stone ruins on a State Historic Site, Choctaw County, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Historical Society acquired the property in 1967 and operates a Visitor Center, Museum, gift shop, and a replica sutler's store on site.
The centerpiece of the museum is the remains of an 1832 paddlewheel steamboat that was sunk in 1838 while delivering supplies to Fort Towson. The vessel was named the Heroine and it was the first steamboat to navigate the upper Red River, traveling from Cincinnati Ohio to military posts along the Mississippi and Red Rivers. This route had been opened up earlier in 1838 after Henry Shreve cleared the "Great Raft" a 165-mile long tangle of logs and debris that had blocked the Red River for centuries. Artifacts, reconstructions of the paddlewheel and rudder as well as models of the Heroine make a great display.
The replica sutler's store is undergoing some repairs and was not open to the public during our visit. We did take some pictures through the window.
Two roadside markers about Fort Towson are located along U.S. Hwy 70 near the turnoff to the Historic Site.
Visited: 19 Sep 2019