Author Topic: "Bomb-proofs?"  (Read 355 times)

Offline LongWalker

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"Bomb-proofs?"
« on: April 24, 2021, 01:28:24 PM »
Currently reading Custer's First Sergeant John Ryan.  This is a bio of John Ryan, based in part on Ryan's own writings of his time in the 7th. 

Talking about the 1867 campaign under Hancock, at a stage station called "Lookout Station" on the Smoky Hill road west of Fort Hays, Ryan wrote, "We found the stable burned to the ground, and the men of the station burned and charred.  The Indians must have taken them by surprise. . . " 

Ryan also wrote that the stations relied on "bomb-proofs" as a defense.  These were connected to the main building by "underground passages".  In describing the "bomb-proofs" Ryan wrote, "There they were perfectly safe, as the Indians could neither attack them by assault or burn them out.  In the bomb-proofs were plenty of provisions and water in case of prolonged attack."

I've not encountered mention or descriptions of this before.  I thought at first he was talking about storm or root cellars, but I can only recall a couple of them being connected to the main building by what could be described as "underground passages".  On the other hand, I've run across accounts of hiding in root cellars, but these were from homesteader accounts.

I'm unsure how--or even if--such a defense would work.  If people are holed up safe from attack, they are unable to actively defend their position.  All an attacker would have to do in this situation is smoke them out.  This wouldn't have come as something new to Plains Indians: it was one of the standard attacks to get people out of earth lodges. 

Has anyone run across mention of these "bomb-proofs" elsewhere?

Thanks,
Jim
In my book a pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.  Charles M. Russell

Offline Cap'n Redneck

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2021, 06:32:05 PM »
I've only heard of them during the WBTS.  For instance at the siege of Vicksburg.

I could see a bomb-proof being more easily defended than, say a block-house.  You would only have to cover the one entry, and any attackers would have to come charging one-at-a-time.  If the bomb-proof had no chimney and was dug deeper than the entry passage, wouldn't the smoke just rise up from the underground passage...?
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Offline LongWalker

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2021, 01:58:41 PM »
I've not seen mention of the use of "bomb-proofs" in the west anywhere else, only in Ryan's account.  that makes me wonder if he was trying to describe something by comparing it to what he was familiar with (like bomb-proofs as seen during his time serving in the Civil War).  But what?  A well-stock cellar connected to the main building?

In either case (cellar or bomb-proof), it is probably going to be vented to keep the humidity down.  A springhouse might not be vented, but those are usually separate buildings and completely underground.)  If it (bomb-proof or cellar) isn't vented, you can stuff the doorway/entry with tumbleweeds and sticks, and set it on fire.  Enough smoke is going to be drawn into the cellar/bomb-proof to drive out the occupants.  If the smoke doesn't go in, they'll be driven out due to lack of air soon enough.  I just can't see it working.

The homesteader accounts (4 or 5 of them) mention sending the children to hide in the cellar if Indians came.  the thought was the Indians might overlook the cellar, and the children survive.  I don't know if it worked, but that was their plan. 
In my book a pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.  Charles M. Russell

Offline 1961MJS

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2021, 12:46:54 PM »
Hi

The Dalton Gang hideout in Meade Kansas has a tunnel to the barn.

http://www.oldmeadecounty.com/hideout.htm

This says it was period, but seems awfully well built for a bunch of crooks. 

Later

Mike
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2021, 02:05:48 PM »
I think that the use of the word 'bombproof' is intended more as slang toward any thick-walled structure that may be used for defensive purposes.  This structure almost sounds like a dugout with gun ports aiming out in every direction. I don't knot how common they were but the logic seems to make sense. 

Here is one example of 'bombproof being used in the vernacular of being an improvised defensive position. It comes from Horace Bell's 1881 book "Reminiscences of a Ranger" where he speaks of an incident where the Los Angeles Rangers (early Southern California militia) and some Vaqueros decided to prank the Mayor by staging a mock revolution in the middle of the night (ca. 1850s).

He describes the structure as follows.

"Intermediate between the plaza and Arcadia street, stood at that day the first monument of gringo enterprise, a brick culvert, which ran diagonally across the street and was about forty feet long, four feet wide at the base, and forming an arch, which was just high enough to admit a person in a low, stooping posture. Now that old culvert was a most infernal nuisance, being frequented by vagabond Indians as a place of convenience, which rendered the interior thereof unpleasantly odorous." (In other words, it was a place where drifters and vagabonds would go relieve themselves)

The Rangers put the Mayor into such a panic that he took shelter within this foul place as the Rangers stood outside of his refuge while laying down some covering fire.

"His honor (the Mayor) was safe, and the phalanx, dividing itself, took position at either end of the Mayor's bomb-proof, and opened a defiant fire on the exultant rebels, who now charged them on all sides."

In this case, the 'bomb proof' was a masonry-lined drainage tunnel.

-Dave

 
Guns don't kill people; fathers with pretty daughters do.

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #5 on: Today at 07:32:10 PM »

Offline Story

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2021, 03:58:55 PM »
A journalist recorded these "prairie monitors" in 1868 -

"The process of building one of these ingenious little defensive works was first to dig a hole ten feet square or more according to the number of men to be accommodated, and about breast deep. The soil, being very compact, made excellent walls. Upon the surface a sod breast, about eighteen inches thick and a foot high, was build on each face of the square, and overhead a plank roof was thrown, covered with a thick mass of earth, rendering the top bullet-proof. In the sod walls and angles a number of loop-holes were cut, allowing free scope of firing in every direction. These works were reached by a subterranean passage, with the entrance as much as thirty feet distant."

See
Regular Army O!: Soldiering on the Western Frontier, 1865–1891
https://books.google.com/books?id=EDPBDgAAQBAJ&pg=PT396&lpg=PT396&dq=%22fort+hays%22+%22Bomb+proofs%22&source=bl&ots=id-9eMfYPI&sig=ACfU3U0ihKg8i5eX5nn94kVHAWU6DAR5bw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjB5pSwubjwAhXFiuAKHYf4CcIQ6AEwA3oECAsQAw#v=onepage&q=%22fort%20hays%22%20%22Bomb%20proofs%22&f=false

Offline LongWalker

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2021, 12:24:59 PM »
Story, I think you've got it--thank you!  I've moved McChristian's book up a few in the "to read" list but it will be a while before I get a copy, so this really helped. 

I followed up on Googlebooks on your quote, and felt much better when I read the words "Unique to the Smoky Hill trail on the high plains of western Kansas was a type of bunker dubbed the 'prairie monitor'. . . "  About 15 years ago I hit every local historical museum I could find in KS, but hadn't seen mention of this before. 

Thanks again, guys! 
In my book a pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.  Charles M. Russell

Offline Story

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Re: "Bomb-proofs?"
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2021, 03:32:23 PM »
Story, I think you've got it--thank you!  I've moved McChristian's book up a few in the "to read" list but it will be a while before I get a copy, so this really helped. 

I followed up on Googlebooks on your quote, and felt much better when I read the words "Unique to the Smoky Hill trail on the high plains of western Kansas was a type of bunker dubbed the 'prairie monitor'. . . "  About 15 years ago I hit every local historical museum I could find in KS, but hadn't seen mention of this before. 
 

1) You're welcome
and
2) Of course it was specific to your quest - note the 'Fort Hays' in the URL as part of the search terms.  8)

 

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