Portable barracks

Farm Forum

Army Quartermaster Capt. P. T. Turnley didn’t like the cold winds blowing through his tent at the army post where he was stationed in the late 1840.

So he devised a portable, prefabricated barracks that he felt would afford Army troops on the frontier suitable and comfortable housing.

Unfortunately, he was deep in the heart of Texas when the idea hit him, and his experiences with cold weather hadn’t ever included spending a winter in the howling winds of Dakota Territory.

For reasons only the army’s generals knew, a test of Capt. Turnley’s Texas-designed, prototype barracks ended up at Ft. Pierre one Dakota winter.

It was a winter the shivering troopers assigned to stay in them as part of the test would long remember. The early-day GIs suffered and sniffled through the miserable winter of 1855-56.

It was one of the worst in several decades.

Capt. Turnley’s ingenious portable barracks proved to be a bust out here where it gets downright cold in the winter, compared with the namby-pamby, pretend winters they had and still have in Texas.

The thirty troopers assigned to each of the 18 barracks at Ft. Pierre found them to be drafty and cold.

In fact, hoar frost built up on the inside walls and a wind came up one night and blew the roofs off many of them.

Needless to say, the flimsy barracks with no insulation didn’t pass muster on the high plains.

Capt. Turnley went back to the drawing board.