Guardhouse - Cell Types
LIGHT AND DARK CELLS
Each guardhouse had an area set aside for light and dark cells, which were reserved for the worst offenders - soldiers who refused to obey orders, had delirium tremens, were riotous, or perhaps were mentally disturbed. The light cells had small openings in or above the doors admitting some light and air. Dark cells had solid doors, and ventilation was provided by openings in the rear wall or by shafts. Cells were unheated and without sanitary facilities. Buckets served the latter purpose. Since many guardhouses were built of stone, like Fort Scott's, the cell areas were cold and damp. Although the foul air was of concern to the surgeons at the garrisons around the country, it was not until years after the Civil War that conditions improved for those in confinement.
Prisoners with light sentences were placed in the prison room. This usually was a large room with adequate ventilation but unheated. There seems to have been no furnishings in the room. The men brought their blankets and slept on the floor. Only rarely was a platform bed permitted. Meyers, during his one stay in the guardhouse, indicated he preferred the cells to sleeping in the prison room with the other inmates.
Historic Furnishing Report for The Guardhouse at Fort Scott NHS, by Sally Johnson Ketcham.
Did You Know?
Captain Thomas Swords, the quartermaster in charge of building Fort Scott, said that the other officers were of no assistance in planning and designing the fort and that "none of them can draw a straight line even with the assistance of a ruler".