A day at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Fort Sill was the home base for the 7th Cavalry as it fought the Native Americans after the Civil War. It served as a jail for Comanche, Kiowas, and Kiowa-Apaches who got into trouble with the law.

It was the base for the Indian agent who oversaw distribution of the food (usually spoiled), tools (poorly made), and clothing rations mandated by various treaties (many times ignored) when the Native Americans moved onto the reservation.

And its cemetaries contain many famous people from the 1800s and 1900s.

Eventually, it transformed into an artillery training facility and site of two wonderful museums. We were very happy we had military identification, because the line at the visitor center to get on base (for those without military ID) was out of the door.

First we stopped at the Artillery museum. It laboriously explained the differences between a howitzer, a gun, and a cannon, but the distinction is still lost on me.

Here are the things I found interesting.

A piece of the South Tower that fell on 9/11/01.

A piece of the Berlin Wall that fell in 1989.

The large pipe on top was to make climbing over very difficult.

Just some random facts I picked up:

Boys as young as 12 enlisted in World War I. Some historians have estimated 15% of recruits were younger than 18, especially towards the end of the war.

The British and the French lost more than 600,000 horses by the end of WWI.

The Battalion of Death was an all-women battalion (Russian) that served on the eastern front in WWI.

Glow worms were used to read messages in the dark WWI trenches.

Pigeons were equipped with cameras and horses were sometimes issued gas masks.

The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was developed to figure the trajectory missiles and mortars should take to hit their targets. They called them Ballistics Firing Tables. In Feb. 4, 1946, it was the world’s first all electronic computer.

They even had some lights running! The placard said the vacuum tubes were used in a binary fashion. On or off equalled 0 or 1.

What took a human 12 hours to calculate, ENIAC could do in 30 seconds.

The really cool thing was six women mathematicians programmed ENIAC to do the calculations. Someone should do a movie on those women, as they did for the women who calculated re-entry angles and speeds for NASA in its early years. (The movie is Hidden Figures.)

Based in Aberdeen, MD, ENIAC also helped predict weather patterns, assist in wind tunnel design, and atomic energy research.

On Oct. 2, 1955 it was declared obsolete, turned off, and eventually given to Ross Perot’s Computer History Exhibit in Plano, Texas in 2006. I don’t know when the Artillery museum received it.

Next we drove to the cemetary containing Geronimo’s remains and those of his wife, daughter, and other relatives.

Next we drove to the Post cemetary where Quanah Parker was buried alongside his mother and sister Prairie Flower.

Cynthia Ann was taken from her grandfather’s settlement in East Texas when she was 9 years old, by the Comanches. She quickly adopted the Comanches’ way and eventually wed a chief in one of the bands. Many novels were written sensationalizing her life. I remember reading one as a tween.

Quanah’s sister, Prairie Flower, died at the age of 4 after she and her mother were captured by whites in 1861, and forcibly returned to family in East Texas. Prairie Flower died of some disease (typhus or small pox, probably) and Cynthia Ann died of a broken heart.

Many other great chiefs were buried in this cemetary:

Chief Satanta (Kiowa)

Chief Kicking Bird (Kiowa)

Chief Pacer (Kiowa-Apache)

Chief Sitting Bear (Kiowa)

It’s incredible to see the grave sites of people you read about in American history books. And sad to realize the terrible pain and hardships foisted on these proud, self-sufficient peoples.

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