Post Construction - Labor Used in Building The Post

Thomas Swords

The officer who was responsible for the design and construction of Fort Scott was the Post Quartermaster. The main quartermaster at Fort Scott was Captain Thomas Swords who was stationed at Fort Scott for four years from 1842-1846. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1829 and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth from 1834-1842. He was considered to be one of the best Quartermasters in the US Army and was responsible for the construction of all of the buildings at Fort Leavenworth while he was stationed there.

Preparing the Ground for Building

Some of the enlisted soldiers were skilled craftsmen of trades that they practiced as civilians (carpenters, stone masons, glaziers, turners, etc.), but the majority of the soldiers were unskilled.

The unskilled soldiers worked as common laborers, wood cutters, wagon drivers, etc. Most soldiers did not appreciate the Army using them as a cheap labor force. One complaint that was heard among the soldiers was that they spent more time learning to use an ax and a shovel than they did their muskets.

Periodically, when he had the money, Captain Swords was able and had to hire skilled tradesmen to complete special jobs or tasks because skilled soldiers were not available to complete the jobs.

Types of these tradesmen included plasterers to finish interior walls, glaziers to install glass windows, turners to operate wood lathes or a millwright to supervise the operation of the sawmill.

While soldiers provided most of the labor, the heavy work was performed by draft animals, the majority of which were oxen and mules. The oxen were used to drag the heavy logs and stoneboats (sled loaded with building stone). The mules and some draft horses were used to pull smaller logs, various wagons and carts. The quartermaster was responsible for the work animals and housed them in a separate stable which was separate from the Dragoon Stables and horses.

Labor Terms

  • Mason - a tradesman who constructed objects of bricks or stone.
  • Glazier - a tradesman who cuts glass and sets it in windows.
  • Turner - a specialist who works with wood making columns or other cylindrical objects with a manual or water powered lathe.
  • Carpenter - a general tradesman who makes things from wood.
  • Millwright - an individual who supervises the operation of a sawmill.
  • Stoneboat - a wooden sled used to haul stones.
  • Yoke of oxen - two oxen which work together.
Hewing a Log
Next Page

Last updated: July 30, 2016

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 918
Fort Scott, KS 66701


(620) 223-0310

Contact Us