Newport Barracks

After almost 100 years of usefulness to the government as a post for regular army recruits, the old Newport barracks will, within a few weeks, pass to the control of the City of Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky, to be used as a public park.  In less than 30 days it will be abandoned by the soldiers now there.  The old grounds, where thousands of volunteers have been drilled in times of peace, will see the bluecoats no more.  The bright eyes of happy children will take the place of the glitter of steel, and the merry prattle of tots will supplant the rattle and clash of musketry and the hoarse voice of the commanding officer.  Newport Barracks is one of the most-noted in the country, and its abandonment, after so long a period of usefulness, is an event that will excite general interest.  Virtually, the old barracks has outlived its own history.  The records re all gone, and there is no official data to be had of the early history of this interesting place.  This loss of records was occasioned by the abandonment of the place in 1879, when the barracks of Columbus, Ohio, was given the command. The records at that time were sent to Washington.  Many of the old documents, however, were misplaced.  Lieutenant P. E. Pierce, who is stationed at the barracks, has gone over all the records he could find and has from other sources obtained all of the information possible.  The barracks were originally founded in 1803.  There were but four acrs in the original tract, which was bought from the old Colonel Taylor estate for the minimal price if $1.  Immediately, there was erected upon the ground a barracks, which is now used as a commissary building, in front of which the big flagstaff towers, bearing the Stars and Stripes.  In 1806, two additional acres were bought for $47.  There is no record to show who made the transfer, but an old paper among the few remaining records found contains an excuse for the payment of so “large a sum” for the land.  From this it seems that there had been accusations of a job, in the payment of the sum of $47 for two acres of land in what is now the very heart of Newport.  Soon after this came the War of 1812, and the old barracks was called upon to furnish her share of soldiers to go to the front in the second war with Great Britain.  At the close of the war the Newport Barracks was made the headquarters of the Western superintendency of the United States Regular Army.  The main, or Eastern headquarters was in New York City.  All the country west of Pennsylvania, then the great West, was made tributary to the Newport Barracks, and hundred of recruits were daily brought here from all over the South and West.  In 1848 the city of Newport gave to the government all the land lying between the barracks and the Ohio and Licking rivers.  These waterfronts included several acres and were given free to the government, with the stipulation that in case the barracks was ever abandoned the property would revert to the city.  Then came the War of the Union and with its close came a return of the old scenes at the barracks, and recruiting was resumed.  Many of the soldiers enlisted in regular service and a few years later were sent to the Western country, called there by the Indian troubles.  Then came the dissolution of the barracks and a short time afterward the re-establishment and the return of the bluecoats.  The floods of 1883-1884 came and submerged the entire barracks. The buildings were filled with water to their second floors, and the barracks had to be abandoned for a time.  Then it was that a movement was set on foot to move the barracks back to the hilltops, and Fort Thomas is the result.  For this, colonel Al Berry, Congressman from the district, is to be thanked for the subsequent at of Congress giving the old site to the city of Newport for park purposes.  There is now in the barracks one company under command of Captain Thomas G. Townsend.  Colonel William M. Wherry is in command of the barracks.  Everything will probably be moved to Fort Thomas.


from the Kentucky Post, 1894