Weapons of War at Fort Spokane

This powder magazine once held the latest weapons of war, along with tons of gunpowder.

Soldiers need weapons, and in the era of combustible black powder, a safe place to store weapons and ammunition was especially important. Powder magazines like this one were present on every military base.

Black powder is inherently dangerous and accidents were common in 19th century America. To avoid disaster, the black powder was isolated in fireproof buildings away from the living quarters.

Soldiers of Fort Spokane were typically issued one of two kinds of rifles during their service. Before 1894 they were issued the Model 1873 .45 Springfield rifle. This was a breech loaded single shot rifle that used the black powder stored in the forts powder magazine. There was a shorter, easier to handle carbine variant of the rifle used by cavalry troops. After 1894 the Army began to adopt the Danish Krag-Jorgensen rifle. This rifle featured a bolt-action mechanism and its own internal magazine storage for ammunition. Soldiers could fire faster, reload quicker, and also benefited from the smokeless powder the ammunition used.

Along with their rifles, soldiers at Fort Spokane were supported with a few different field guns. The fort had two to four of these field guns, There is a good chance that they were old artillery pieces from the Civil War, known as 12-pounder Napoleons. They fired 12 pound projectiles with black powder stored from the powder magazine. Even though the fort saw no military action with Native Americans, there’s a good chance that at least one of the field guns was used to sound reveille in the mornings. In addition to these field guns, the Fort was also assigned a Hotchkiss gun.

In 1898, the 16th Infantry of Fort Spokane was deployed to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War, bringing with them their Hotchkiss gun and other weapons that had been stored here. The Army would never return.