MHK News

Posted on: March 18, 2013

Visit Historic Fort Riley

Fort Riley is a United States Army installation located on the Kansas River, between Junction City and Manhattan. The Fort Riley Military Reservation covers 100,656 acres in Geary and Riley and has a daytime population of nearly 25,000.

The fort was established in 1853 as a military post to protect the movement of people and trade over the Oregon-California and Santa Fe trails, and is named in honor of Major General Bennett C. Riley who led the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail. In the years after the Civil War, Fort Riley served as a major United States Cavalry post and school for cavalry tactics and practice. The Post was a base for skirmishes with Native Americans after the Civil War ended in 1865, during which time George Custer was stationed at the fort.

Later, in 1887, Fort Riley became the site of the United States Cavalry School. The famous all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, the soldiers of which were called "Buffalo Soldiers," were stationed at Fort Riley at various times in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During World War I, the fort was home to 50,000 soldiers, and it is sometimes identified as ground zero for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which its soldiers were said to have spread all over the world. Since the end of World War II, various infantry divisions have been assigned to the Fort. Most notably, the Post was home to the famed Big Red One from 1955-1996, and between 1999 and 2006 the Post was headquarters to the 24th Infantry Division and known as "America's Warfighting Center". In August 2006, the Big Red One relocated its headquarters to Fort Riley from Leighton Barracks, Germany.

Museums on Post include the U. S. Cavalry Museum which houses an extensive collection detailing the history of the horse soldier from the Revolutionary War to 1950 when the branch was deactivated. The 1st Infantry Division Museum tells the history of that Division from 1917 to the present. The Custer House is furnished with period pieces from the 19th century and relates the history of Army families from this period. Ironically George Armstrong Custer did not live in this house, but in another, up the street.

Fort Riley is also home to the First Capital of the Kansas Territory (1855), which has been converted into a museum focused on the history of Territorial Kansas.

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