Fort Riley is a United States Army installation located in Northeast Kansas, on the Kansas River, between Junction City and Manhattan. The Fort Riley Military Reservation covers 100,656 acres (407 km²) in Geary and Riley counties and includes two census-designated places: Fort Riley North and Fort Riley-Camp Whiteside. The fort has a daytime population of nearly 25,000.
Fort Riley is named in honor of Major General Bennett C. Riley who led the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was established in 1853 as a military post to protect the movement of people and trade over the Oregon-California and Santa Fe trails. In the years after the Civil War, Fort Riley a major United States Cavalry post and school for cavalry tactics and practice. The post was a base for skirmishes with Native Americans after the Civil War ended in 1865, during which time George Custer was stationed at the fort.
Later, Fort Riley became the site of the United States Cavalry School in 1887. The famous all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, the soldiers of which were called "Buffalo Soldiers," were stationed at Fort Riley at various times in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During World War I, the fort was home to 50,000 soldiers, and it is sometimes identified as ground zero for the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which its soldiers were said to have spread all over the world. Since the end of World War II, various infantry divisions have been assigned there. Most notably, the post was home to the famed Big Red One from 1955-1996 Between 1999 and 2006, the post was headquarters to the 24th Infantry Division and known as "America's Warfighting Center". In August 2006, the Big Red One relocated its headquarters to Fort Riley from Leighton Barracks, Germany.
Museums on post include the US Cavalry Museum which houses an extensive collection detailing the history of the horse soldier from the Revolutionary War to 1950 when the branch was deactivated. The 1st Infantry Division Museum tells the history of the 1st Infantry Division from 1917 to the present. The Custer House is furnished with period pieces from the 19th century and relates the history of Army families from this period. Ironically George Armstrong Custer did not live in this house, but in another, up the street. These facilities are part of the US Army's Museum system.
The post is home to the First Capitol of the Kansas Territory (1855), which has been converted into a museum dealing with Territorial Kansas. This facility is operated by a Friends group under the auspices of the Kansas State Historical Society.
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