Infantry Soldier-Daily Life

Infantry Soldiers in Camp
The life of the soldiers at Fort Scott was one of isolation, although occasional contact occurred with travelers on the military road, missionaries and traders on the Indian reservations, and settlers in nearby Missouri. Indians themselves also came to trade at the sutler store at Fort Scott. There was no town in the vicinity and, for the most part, social contacts were confined to the post with officers associating with fellow officers and enlisted men with their own kind. Garrison duties were generally monotonous and living conditions were not comfortable until permanent quarters were completed.

Life at Fort Scott, as at all military posts was organized under a rigid structure of time and work, guard duty, roll calls, inspections, and strict discipline. Orders came from the top down. The post commander was in charge, assisted by his staff, which included an adjutant, quartermaster, commissary of subsistence, medical officers and company officers. The privates were led in their daily routine by noncommissioned officers: sergeants and corporals.

The daily schedule varied from year to year and season to season, depending in part on the post commandant. A typical day was organized as follows, with commands for each activity being communicated by a bugle call.

  • Reveille or the wake up call sounded at daybreak.
  • Assembly or roll call sounded a few minutes later.
  • For mounted troops, stable call came immediately after reveille, forty minutes before noon and again immediately after retreat at sunset. The men cleaned the stables and fed and watered the horses. Infantry jokingly referred to the dragoons as "nursemaids".
  • Sick call also came before breakfast at 7:10, and any who were ailing were sent to the post surgeon for examination and treatment, if needed.
  • Mess call for breakfast sounded at 7:30 am. Lunch was at noon and evening mess was scheduled at the company level and was governed by the completion of routine work or fatigue duties.
  • Fatigue call was sounded after breakfast, and the men were detailed from each company for such jobs as working on a construction site, cutting timber, hauling wood, working at the sawmill, cleaning the post, loading and unloading supplies, building a road, tending the post gardens, and numerous other duties.
  • Those assigned guard duty, which was done on a rotating basis, were not assigned to work details. The changing of the guard, or guard mounting, was held mid morning and accompanied by another bugle call. Guards were on duty for twenty-four hours and were usually divided into three reliefs. Each relief stood guard for two hours and was off for four hours on a rotating basis.
  • Drill instruction, which occured only one or two days a week was called at 10:00 am and occasionally after lunch at 1:00, after which the soldiers returned to fatigue duties.
  • The daily retreat ceremony (lowering of the flag) occurred at sunset, was preceded by the fourth roll call of the day, and could include an evening dress parade.
  • In the 1840s, the last bugle call of the day was tattoo, which required all soldiers to be at their quarters unless they were on special leave or guard duty. The fifth and final roll call was conducted immediately after the sounding of tattoo before the soldiers entered their quarters for the night.

The routine on Sunday was different, except for those on guard duty, for there were no fatigue or drill calls. A weekly inspection of the troops at dress parade was at 10:00 am on Sunday, after which the men were free.

Those who followed the prescribed routine, reported for duty, and performed their assignments - and this would include most of the troops - had free time for diversion and entertainment.

Life at Fort Scott was never dangerous, no one stationed there was killed in battle while at Fort Scott (although there were some that died in the Mexican War after leaving Fort Scott). The work was rigorous during the years of construction, but after the post was built little was demanded of the garrison except general maintenance. As frontier forts went, Fort Scott had relatively good food, comfortable quarters, and was located in a healthy location.

This information was taken from Fort Scott: Courage and Conflict on the Border by Leo Oliva.

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Last updated: July 24, 2016

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