At Fort Dodge and other U.S. Army posts these features were hubs of activity for the enlisted and officers alike.
Merriam-Webster defines parade grounds as "a place where troops assemble regularly for parade: a place where parades begin."
Fort Dodge had no stockade or walls to defend the outpost. The U.S. Army constructed the buildings at Fort Dodge around a parade ground which was surrounded by barracks, officers' quarters and storehouses on three sides. Further out were service buildings and corrals.
The parade ground opened to the Arkansas River on the south.
With no defensive walls, Fort Dodge's location was subject to criticism from military experts. To the north were 75 foot limestone bluffs with ravines which left the Fort vulnerable to sneak attacks. Being along a river, the land suffered from poor drainage and was marshy.
Depending upon relations with the Plains Indians, the number of troops at Fort Dodge varied greatly. It was as high as 301 in 1867 and as low as 110 in 1877. In addition to troops, civilians living at the post included officers' wives, laundresses, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, herders, teamsters and scouts.
The parade ground at Fort Dodge provided a place for troop inspections, training and ceremonies. Among the ceremonies were the daily raising and lowering of the U.S. flag.
Military parades and drills were, and still are, an important part of life for soldiers stationed at outposts; both small and big, and both isolated and in urban areas.
The military parade is a throwback to the days when opposing troops fought each other in close order formations. Those able to maintain the tightest and most organized formation held a significant advantage. The invention of firearms rendered this type of battle obsolete. But parades live on as ceremonies and they encourage discipline.
Drilling at Fort Dodge taught soldiers to practice fighting as a unit rather than as individuals. In drilling soldiers memorize actions repeatedly until they become instinctive. Under leadership of a drill master, troops break down complex tasks into smaller steps. Unless overdone to the point of inflexibility, drilling helps a unit perform at their maximum during battle.
Though Fort Dodge no longer serves as an Army fort, an open area just east of the Kansas Soldiers Home nursing home serves as a modern-day parade ground for special events and provides a place for residents, employees and guests to enjoy an open area.