Fort Riley was established in 1852 along the Santa Fe Trail to protect settlers and travelers as they moved westward. Fort Riley was named for Major General Bennett C. Riley, who died before the fort was built. Riley was the last military governor of California territory and served during the Mexican-American War. In 1865 Brevet Major General Custer and his troops were stationed at Fort Riley to help protect the building of the Union Pacific Railway. General Custer and his troops left the following spring. As more American Indian tribes were being pushed into Indian Territory many of the frontier forts were closed and abandoned. Fort Riley, however, became a training facility. In 1918 members of the military stationed at Fort Riley were the first infected in the flu epidemic of 1918, and although the flu did not originate at the fort, scientists consider it ground zero for the Spanish influenza. Fort Riley became home of the First Infantry Division of the Army, also known as the Big Red One, in 1955.
Entry: Fort Riley
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: February 2013
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