Texas Forts Trail

James N.

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Part I- The First Line of Forts
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U. S. Cavalry reenactors practicing mounted drill on the parade ground at Fort Richardson near Jacksboro.

With the end of the U. S. - Mexican War and the signing of the Treaty of Guadaloupe-Hidalgo in 1848, the still-young United States assumed new responsibilities begun in 1845 with the Annexation of Texas. Now not only must the frontier be protected from hostile Indian raiders, there was a built-in obligation to Mexico to contain those same raiders. Further complicating the issue was the discovery of gold in far-off California resulting in the great Gold Rush of 1849; the southern trail to the gold fields crossed the wastes of West Texas into the New Mexico Territory and likewise needed protection from Indians.

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Map adapted from one by E. M. Schiwetz in the 1958 Texas Sketchbook.

The government's answer was the creation of a line of forts, camps, and cantonments along what was then the Texas frontier, indicated on the map above by the dotted line at the right. As will be shown, this remedy was to prove temporary at best, soon to be replaced in the 1850's by a second line of posts indicated by the line to the left. Almost nothing remains today of the forts along the first line; I propose to concentrate therefore in this series on those both antebellum and post-war along that second line and which are indicated in red.

Post of San Antonio
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The United States Army early established a presence in the town of San Antonio but built no permanent fort there until well after the Civil War. However, that didn't stop it from becoming the center of the Department of Texas, serving as both headquarters and a major supply center for posts farther west. In 1849 the army acquired a tumble-down ruin that had been built originally by Spanish friars as the chapel of Mission San Antonio de Valero. The unfinished and roofless church had been part of the "fort" used by both Mexican troops in 1835 and Tejanos in 1836 and is now familiar worldwide as the Alamo. The U. S. Army essentially preserved it for posterity by remodeling it for use as a supply warehouse; soldier graffiti from that period of its history may still be seen in out-of-the-way places inside. Indeed the famous "hump" on the facade as well as the vaulted barrel roof both date from the improvements made by army engineers!

Fort Martin Scott, 1848-61; 1865-66
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The first of the new posts to be established was Fort Martin Scott, named in honor of a major of the 5th Infantry who had been killed in the Battle of Molino del Rey outside Mexico City. It was located on Barton's Creek about two miles east of the new settlement of Fredericksburg which had only recently been founded by German immigrants. According to Robert Frazier in Forts of the West, "the post was frequently occupied by a very small garrison and served more as a forage depot than a defense post." It wasn't abandoned by the army until the beginning of the Civil War but was reoccupied only very briefly afterwards. During the war it saw intermittent use by Texas Confederate troops. Only the buildings and historical marker shown here have been restored and remain today, but that is more than survives of most of the forts in the first tier.

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Fort Worth, 1849-53
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One of the first forts established was Fort Worth, named for General William Jenkins Worth, commanding the department. Originally it was built as Camp Worth on the floodplain of the Trinity River which proved to be a bad idea, remedied by relocating it to the high bluff overlooking the river. The spot was so desirable that once the army left, the remaining buildings became home to a growing community that gave birth to the city of today. The impressive Tarrant County Courthouse now occupies the area once home to the fort, nothing of which now remains other than the bronze plaque seen here. The artist seems to have portrayed the log fort as a pioneer settlement rather than the more typical military outpost it likely was.

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Among the officers of the Old Army who had perhaps the greatest influence over the Texas forts considered here were the men pictured above, left to right: Lt. Col. William W. Belknap of the 5th Infantry who selected the site for the fort later named in his honor and who died while on campaign Nov. 1, 1851; Col. William Jenkins Worth of the 8th Infantry (pictured here as a general during the Mexican War) who was commanding the department when he died on May 7, 1849, and for whom Fort Worth was named; Capt. William H. C. Whiting (seen here later as a Confederate general); and Capt. Joseph K. F. Mansfield. It is largely due to the latter gentlemen of the U. S. Corps of Engineers that so much is known about the early Texas posts, due to their reports based on inspection tours. Whiting foresaw as early as 1849 the need for more forts with heavier garrisons, recommending the use of a powerful and mobile cavalry force which could range far and fast, instead of slow infantry. Mansfield's tour of the western forts, including those in Texas, was made in 1853 - 54 and provides a great deal of information about them, including detailed descriptions, maps, and plats.

Fort Graham, 1849-53
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Another of the early Texas forts was Fort Graham, located in 1849 northwest of what became the town of Hillsboro. Graham was established by Capt. Ripley A. Arnold of the 2d Dragoons and named for Lt. Col. William Graham of the 11th Infantry who had also been killed in the battle of Molino del Rey. Graham was only in service until it was abandoned in 1853 when, like most of the others in the first tier it was seen to have been bypassed by frontier settlement and outlived its usefulness. As with Fort Worth, nothing remains but the stone marker seen above; the actual site of the fort now lies beneath Lake Whitney, like almost all lakes in Texas, an artificial reservoir.

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The soldiers who largely built and manned these early outposts on the Texas frontier were occasionally dressed somewhat like their counterparts in uniform plates like these by famous military artist and historian Henry C. Ogden. At left are the campaign and fatigue uniforms of infantry and dragoons of the era of the Mexican War in the 1840's into the early 1850's. These were slowly replaced in the 1850's by those shown at center and at right which depict dragoons, cavalry, infantry, and artillery. These are dress uniforms which were supplemented by more practical wear for campaign. Even so, all soldiery was at least theoretically to have this order of dress for the evening and Sunday parades that were a normal part of army life, even at remote posts on the frontier like these.

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All of the forts that will be featured here are accessible and open to the public, and though some are state, county, or community parks; others are owned by various organizations or even individuals. Most of those along the second tier of frontier forts are connected by the Texas Forts Trail, one of the markers for which is seen above near Fort Chadbourne south of Abilene, Texas.

Next, Part II - Fort Phantom Hill
 
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James N.

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Part II - The Second Tier Forts - Fort Phantom Hill, 1851-54; 1871-2, Part I
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The official name for this post, begun Nov. 14, 1851, was Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos, after the river near which it was located a dozen miles north of what is now the city of Abilene, Texas. But it is more commonly known as Phantom Hill, supposedly after a topographic anomaly that makes the rise it is located upon "disappear" - like a phantom! - as one approaches it. I visited here on an appropriately gloomy, foggy spring morning that gave my photos the somewhat ghostly effect seen here.

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When I first visited here in the 1960's, this was all private land; only the powder magazine beside the road was anything like accessible; now a fairly recent trail has been cleared through the forbidding cactus and brush, and the ruins are all marked and keyed to a map at the information shelter pictured above. Like so many of its contemporaries, Phantom Hill was built as a temporary post using mainly log uprights in what was known as picket-post construction. What now remains are the very substantial foundations and chimneys interspersed with a few larger structures. Had the fort become a permanent one, occupied over many years like forts Concho, Sam Houston, etc. no doubt the wooden buildings would have been replaced with stone.

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The historical marker above is placed beside the road that divides the fort from the powder magazine, a normal procedure to protect the former from the volatile contents of the latter!

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The trail leading from the exhibits leads first to the stone remnants of the Guardhouse, above, and along officer's row. The chimney is all that now remains of the Commanding Officer's Quarters, below. It is worth noting that the Guardhouse was originally attached to a wooden building where the Sergeant-of-the-Guard maintained an office and soldiers on the guard detail waited for the changing of the guard; the little square stone building that remains contain individual cells for incarceration of offenders.

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Unlike most forts on the Texas frontier, most of the officers' quarters like that of the post adjutant and librarian above include cellars, likely for storage of perishables in the harsh climate.

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Above and below, the ghostly chimneys of additional officers' quarters loom out of the fog.
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Next, Phantom Hill Quartermaster's Warehouse and Post Hospital.
 
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James N. -

Just when I thought you had already posted the best of threads, you have the audacity to go and do this...?

Excellent work, sir!!!

While there is a bit of overlap, my love for the ACW (outside of Texas/New Mexico) absolutely pales in comparison to this very subject.

This is (and always has been) my #1 focus area of study.

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James N.

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Fort Phantom Hill, Part II
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Like the Guardhouse in the previous thread, this ruin isn't the whole structure of the Bakery; this is merely the bake oven, which was originally encased inside a wooden picket-post building like the rest of the fort.

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The most substantial ruin here is the foundation of what was originally a three-story Quartermaster's Warehouse, seen above and its inside below. Warehouses were often the first structures built or completed because of their necessity in protecting all sorts of materials from the elements.

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Below, view from inside the foundations toward Officer's Row. Following its abandonment by the army, Phantom Hill served a variety of civilian purposes, providing shelter for buffalo hunters, a stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail, and eventually settlers who built a small town here among the ruins.

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Chimneys above and below are all that remain of the Hospital, which like the barracks and officers' quarters was built of upright logs. (Which method of construction will be shown here in a later post.) Despite its appearance the hospital was in reality a rather small building that was divided into three rooms, one of which was a ward for only a few patients.

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When the army marched away in 1854 a supposedly disgruntled soldier set a fire within one of the wooden buildings that raged unchecked, consuming most of the fort. When following the Civil War troops returned to this part of Texas they found the remains unsuitable for shelter; as a sub-post of Fort Griffin tents were erected rather than restoring the original buildings which had largely been taken over by other frontier dwellers.

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The Post Surgeon's Quarters stand nearby, now "home" to a large Spanish Dagger cactus; indeed, the whole surrounding landscape is a forbidding one filled with all sorts of thorns and cacti as seen below behind the powder magazine!

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James N.

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James N. -

Just when I thought you had already posted the best of threads, you have the audacity to go and do this...?

Excellent work, sir!!!

While there is a bit of overlap, my love for the ACW (outside of Texas/New Mexico) absolutely pales in comparison to this very subject.

This is (and always has been) my #1 focus area of study.

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Thank you for your enthusiastic comment! I presume the fellow in your post is none other than the H. H. McConnell who authored Five Years a Cavalryman, detailing his experiences as a postwar trooper in the 6th U. S. Cavalry out of Fort Richardson? (More about Ft. Richardson to come!) Oddly enough, I don't remember ever seeing a photo of him before.
 
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James N.

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Fort Belknap, 1851-59; 1867
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Anchoring the line of Texas forts in the north was Fort Belknap, named for Lt. Col. William W. Belknap who had only recently died while on an inspection tour of forts under his command and been temporarily buried at Fort Washita in Indian Territory where his original tombstone may be seen today. Fort Belknap was another post built largely of wood that has mostly disappeared; the map below of the county park that preserves it fails to show the rectangle of officers' quarters surrounding a parade ground that is now pasture land to the north of the modern park and which would more than double its size.

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Painting by Bud Breen
Initial relations with the tribes were friendly at Fort Belknap and two reservations had been established for the "friendlies" but after repeated complaints from local settlers they largely dispersed or were removed to Fort Washita in Indian Territory in July, 1859. Following this, Indian Agent Robert S. Neighbors was murdered by local Texan "rangers" in the nearby settlement of Newcastle.


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Surviving structures other than the two 1850's barracks are mainly support buildings like the commissary, powder magazine, and a storage building known today as the Corn House. Like many of its neighbors, Belknap suffered from a shortage of water, especially during summer droughts common in this arid region, and was ordered abandoned on Feb. 23, 1859 by Brig. Gen. David Twiggs who then commanded the Department of Texas. During the Civil War only three families remained here despite occasional use by Confederate soldiers of the Texas Frontier Regiment, Texas Rangers, and other forces.

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The Texas Centennial Historical Marker above marks the route between Belknap and its neighbor Fort Phantom Hill, along with which the fort was built to protect emigrant trains traveling from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Santa Fe, N. M. Terr., the southern way to the California gold fields. The photo shows most of the surviving structures within the small park; from left to right above, the corn house, a kitchen, and commissary store. Until the state began reconstruction of the fort for the 1936 Texas Centennial, the only surviving buildings were the powder magazine and part of the corn house. For some reason the Commissary has been graced with a pair of WWI or WWII-era naval deck guns that definitely have absolutely nothing to do with the location as a frontier fort!

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Notable officers serving at Ft. Belknap included, from left to right above: Capt. Carter L. Stevenson of the 5th Artillery, later a Confederate general, who led the first troops to encamp on the site; another future Confederate commander, Capt. Earl Van Dorn of the Dragoons who led the major offensive involving Belknap troops, the 1858 - 59 Wichita Expedition; and Captain Randolph B. Marcy and his soon-to-be son-in-law, Lt. George B. McClellan, who in 1852 used the post as a base for exploring Texas and the Indian Territory that resulted in their discovery of the headwaters of the Red River and Palo Duro Canyon.

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Author Herbert M. Hart writing in his Old Forts of the Southwest quotes a sergeant (unnamed, but it was H. H. McConnell pictured in the post above) who was a member of a detail in 1867 visiting Belknap in a misguided effort at restoring the buildings for further use by the military:

"The quarters and hospital were roofless and most of the woodwork had been removed. The village adjacent to the fort had been a station of the Overland Mail Route, and when it was occupied by settlers and the fort filled with troops I have no doubt it was, as I was informed it had been, the prettiest frontier post in Texas.

But now desolation reigned supreme. Sand, sand everywhere; dead buffalo lying on the parade ground; a few ancient rats and bats looked on us with an evil eye for disturbing their repose, and my first night's rest in the old commissary was broken by visions of infantry sentinels stalking ghost-like on their beats, and the wind howling through the broken roof."


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The powder magazine inevitably survives at places like this due to sound construction of stone or occasionally packed earth sunk into the ground. Here at Belknap is no different, as seen in these photos above and below, looking out towards the kitchen.

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Despite the postwar effort to reoccupy Fort Belknap, the army bowed once more to the old problems with the water supply, abandoning the post for good after a mere five months in favor of the new Fort Griffin. Once the army evacuated posts like this along the frontier, settlers inevitably moved in, either taking over the buildings completely or scavenging them for building materials. These old buildings in nearby Newcastle no doubt contain stones from the fort.

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James N.

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Fort Chadbourne, 1852-61; 1867, Part I
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Fort Chadbourne was established Oct. 28, 1852 by Capt. John Beardsley of the 8th U. S. Infantry and named in honor of 2d Lt. Theodore L. Chadbourne who had been killed in 1846 at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. It was placed atop the bluff seen above with a fine view of the surrounding countryside and built as were all the others in this line of forts to protect the route between Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and Santa Fe, N. M. Territory. Until recently inaccessible on private land, the fort's ruins, some of which have been restored or partially restored, are now open to the public with an adjacent visitor center and museum.

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The officer's quarters remain in ruins, home now only to cacti. In the background above stand two stone barracks, one restored. Chadbourne profited somewhat from the fact its buildings were erected not only by members of the garrison but also professional stonecutters imported from the German colony at Fredericksburg, Texas, which had largely been built of native stone by them. Remains of many of these sandstone barracks, officers' quarters, and other buildings are onsite.

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Ruins of the post Adjutant's Quarters seen below stand beside that of the commanding officer above.

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An imposing ruin is that of the post hospital which stands at the western edge of the rectangular parade ground.

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Below, view from the hospital. As at Belknap and other posts, water supply proved to be a problem here although Chadbourne was located on Oak Creek three miles above its junction with the Colorado River. The fort was ordered abandoned by Brig. Gen. David Twiggs and was surrendered to Texas Confederates on March 23, 1861.

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Next, Fort Chadbourne Part II
 
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I presume the fellow in your post is none other than the McConnell who authored Five Years a Cavalryman, detailing his experiences as a postwar trooper in the 6th U. S. Cavalry out of Fort Richardson? (More about Ft. Richardson to come!) Oddly enough, I don't remember ever seeing a photo of him before.

One of my all time favorite historical accounts, right up there with Percival Lowe and his.

As for the image, I believe it is him - but we should allow a small margin of error.

I am torn - in the forward for 'Five Years...' William Leckie states that McConnell "served for three years with Union volunteer units" - a CWSS search leaves much to be desired as ~5 names attached to Pennsylvania volunteer outfits could be interpreted as him.

It's a work in progress, to say the least.
 
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James N.

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Fort Chadbourne, Part II
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Virtually all U. S. military forts followed the same general pattern, despite what Hollywood has shown over the years: note at all of these a complete lack of any wall surrounding them. This is not due to the effects of time, but the conscious decision to leave them open; very seldom were active military cantonments or forts attacked, despite the occasional presence nearby of hostile warriors. Buildings generally bordered a large open parade ground; very large forts often had an area like this that was divided into more than one parade, usually with the flagpole in the center. Officer's row stood on one side across from barrack buildings on the other; the ends usually had the largest buildings such as the commanding officer's quarters, hospital, or commissary storehouses. Smaller service buildings like a bakery, kitchens, blacksmith, guardhouse, etc. were usually at a slight distance to the rear of these. These views look across the parade ground from the barracks toward two reconstructed officers' quarters that stand where a line of them originally stood.

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The parade ground featured in one of the notable events at Fort Chadbourne, as recounted in Herbert Hart's Old Forts of the Southwest: During a period of unrest, "two soldier mail carriers were waylaid, tied to a tree and burned to death...

Major Seth Eastman summoned the tribal leaders, estimated at between 13 and 40 in number... While the post commander parlayed with the Indians, an infantry company drilled on the parade ground, rifles loaded. As the conference continued, the various wheels and turns of the company gradually brought it closer.

The Indians volubly denied anything to do with the killings. Eastman noticed, though, that a blanket on one partly hid a gun lately owned by one of the soldiers... By this time the "drilling" soldiers were close at hand and Eastman told the Indians they were under arrest. They turned, saw the line of determined troopers, and made a break for liberty. Nine were shot in their tracks..."


Another "chief" took refuge in Eastman's own quarters, firing at the soldiers on the outside until the door was broken in with a ladder and he was shot dead.

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This small building has been completely rebuilt; it was originally only a half of a pair like that shown next; notice the door on the side that would have originally opened out onto a small "dogtrot" porch.

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This pair of officers quarters was designed for each side to be occupied by a single officer or even include his family. The one that stood on this spot was home to the family of rancher Thomas Lawson Odom following the final abandonment of the fort by the military in 1867. It burned in 1919 but was restored in 2007 and is furnished with Odom family furnishings.

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The root cellar behind the house served for a time as the local U. S. Post Office!

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The east barracks building survived in reasonable condition though a roofless ruin; it served for years as the Odom family cattle barn. It was also completely restored to its original condition.

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Next, Fort Chadbourne Part III and the Butterfield Stage Station
 
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James N.

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Fort Chadbourne, Part III
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The restored east barracks at right above provide a contrast with the west barracks that remain in ruins. Note the cactus on the parade ground that would not have been allowed during the period this was a fort; for many years cattle grazed here before the fort was restored and opened to the public in 2007.

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Above and below, two views of the facade of the West Barracks; note the chimney on an interior wall that separates the open dorm-like barracks room for the enlisted men from a smaller one on the end reserved for the company sergeants. Barracks like these were usually intended to each hold the members of a single company of infantry or cavalry.

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Above, interior of the roofless West Barracks building.

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At least two examples of "soldier graffiti" remain on the exterior walls of the west barracks: above, that of Albert Haneman, Oct. 19 1858, Co. B 2 Cav. ; and below one C. HiLL. In recent years descendants of Albert Haneman paid a visit here to see their ancestor's handiwork!

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Butterfield Overland Stage Station, 1858 - 61
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Painting by Bud Breen

From 1857 until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 the famous Overland Mail and passenger service operated by John W. Butterfield and his associates operated between the Eastern United States and far-flung California. The Butterfield stage coaches followed a southern route across Texas and New Mexico Territory (including what is now the states of New Mexico and Arizona); in Texas it went from U. S. Army post to post, including all those pictured here. According to the Wikipedia entry, This route was 600 miles (970 km) longer than the central and northern routes through Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, but was snow free. The bid and route was awarded to Butterfield and his associates, for semi-weekly mail at $600,000 per year. At that time it was the largest land-mail contract ever awarded in the US.

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In 2009, restoration was completed on what is said to be the only fully restored Butterfield Stage Stop in the State of Texas here at Fort Chadbourne. This building stands behind the twin barracks as seen in the photo below with the stage stop at left.

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A nearby historical marker below on U. S. 277 between San Angelo and Abilene records another stop on the Butterfield Mail route.

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Next, Fort McKavett
 
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James N.

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Great post. I would love to see these old forts but I'm sure this is a long, long drive.
...I appear to have followed in your very footsteps, just several years later!
Have been lucky to visit most of these sites west of the first line of forts on your map.

Visiting all these has quite literally been the project of a lifetime, beginning when I first went to Fort Richardson at Jacksboro with my family in the 1950's. Since then I have visited various sites sporadically, often in the course of reenacting or participating in Living History events. But just this month I finally completed the second line of forts with first-time visits to Fort Concho at San Angelo and the until-recently inaccessible Fort Chadbourne on private ranch land. I haven't as yet had any opportunity or excuses to visit those border forts in the Rio Grande Valley or far West Texas.
 
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Visiting all these has quite literally been the project of a lifetime, beginning when I first went to Fort Richardson at Jacksboro with my family in the 1950's. Since then, I have visited various sites sporadically, often in the course of reenacting or participating in Living History events. But just this month I finally completed the second line of forts with first-time visits to Fort Concho at San Angelo and the until-recently inaccessible Fort Chadbourne on private ranch land. I haven't as yet had any opportunity or excuses to visit those border forts in the Rio Grande Valley or far West Texas.


Very nice, James.

Glad to hear that you were able to tick Chadbourne and Concho off your list recently!

I'm pretty certain that the first time i ever saw a living history event was on the parade grounds at Fort Concho.

My last visit to Chadbourne got me some strange looks as I peered at the B-O Coach taking extensive notes for a future project I'd like to start one day... Not that I particularly cared as it is an easy day trip and much closer than the examples at both Fort Lancaster and up in Bridgeport!

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I'm looking forward to seeing your photographic capturing of the 'Prettiest Post In Texas'.

Nearby to McKavett is the Toe Nail Trail... And with access to private property you can sink your heels on a few of the often-utilized cavalry bivouac sites (and their associated debris fields) :wink:

I'm not sure how far back your interest carries you - but also nearby (as i am sure you are well aware) the Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas ('Presidio San Saba', ugh!) in Menard has come a long way since the initial restoration in 1936 and its subsequent toppling. I was fortunate in my high school years to have been present for a fair deal of the archaeological study with Texas Tech during the 2003 TAS field school. The newest rendition of the Presidio is of good intentions, but there is a bit too much crushed granite spread about (as an interpretive trail) for my liking. I preferred when the 1936 ruins had the 200+ year old Burr Oaks still standing nearby.

I also remember as a youngster watching Martin Scott slowly evolve into its current representation. Back when Tech used the site as a range management study tract and the closest thing nearby was pretty much just the wastewater reservoir... Now she is somewhat nestled in amongst the Texas Tech satellite campus and the still-in-development Texas Ranger Heritage Center (which sounds promising!)

For what it is worth - I hold a pretty cluttered schedule between work and my own historical adventures - but perhaps with an adequate heads up and an interest on your part if you'd ever like to actually stand on some of the actual sites of some of the lesser known forts/camps (Terret, Inge, Prison Canyon, Merrill, Gates, etc.) I'd be happy to try and accommodate you (and your traveling companion?)

I've networked pretty well.:wink:

You know how it goes - our Texas military sites range from 'nothing left but the scenery' to lime kilns & ruins - but perhaps one day we can send you home with a keepsake in your pocket and some memories.

Keep up the great work!
 
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Fort McKavett, 1852-59; 1868-83
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Scout Paul Putty, center, with horse and limber drawing a mountain howitzer, a familiar artillery piece at frontier posts.

Fort McKavett was established March 14, 1852 by Maj. Pitcairn Morrison of the 8th Infantry and named in honor of Capt. Henry McKavett of the 8th who had been killed in Mexico at the Battle of Monterrey. Unlike Belknap, McKavett profited from being located on a bluff above the San Saba River so suffered somewhat less for water than some of the army posts detailed here. The first period of occupation ended suddenly in 1859 when its garrison was withdrawn by order of Brig. Gen. David Twiggs, commanding the department, and sent to Camp Cooper. Only three years earlier Col. Joseph K. F. Mansfield had described in his official inspection report that quarters for the troops were in order, officers well housed, the hospital in good condition and well-stocked, concluding the fort "undoubtedly an important post in the chain and should be maintained for many years to come."

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Unlike the majority of the forts profiled here, McKavett was more or less constantly occupied by either the army or civilians well into the Twentieth Century when it was acquired by the State of Texas as a State Historic Site. When it became a unit of the State Park System it was necessary only to remove additions from historic structures that had become the town of Fort McKavett and clean up the grounds of the old post. I was fortunate to attend the very first Living History event staged here back around 1980 or so, the first of many since; the photographs here are from that event.

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Also unlike many of the other forts, McKavett was largely built of whitewashed stone, owing to a shortage of wood in the vicinity. Above, the mountain howitzer crosses the parade ground with a row of officer's quarters in the background. Below, a group of officer's wives and other ladies of the fort gather on the porch out of the midday sun. Among the officers who served here were Col. Charles May of the Dragoons; Lt. Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Col. Robert E. Lee; Lt. Henry Lawton, later a Confederate general; Col. Abner Doubleday; and Lt. Col. William Shafter, later commander of all U. S. troops in Cuba in 1898.

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Of course, breakfast, lunch, and dinner were highlights of every day on the frontier: Above, the post commander and his adjutant relax beside ruins of an 1850's barracks; below, enlisted men que up outside the mess hall or kitchen. Surgeon Redford Sharpe reported in 1870 that McKavett was the healthiest post on the Texas frontier: "I have served at no post since I have been on duty in Texas, since December, 1865, where more attention is paid to cleanliness of quarters, and where sanitary and hygienic rules are more thoroughly enforced."

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Below, Retreat ceremony sees the lowering of the garrison flag at the end of the day. The fort was reoccupied following the Civil War and rehabilitated, largely under the direction of veteran of the war Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie - more of whom later - of the all-black 41st Infantry, for another fifteen years' use until it was finally abandoned June 30, 1883 when Co. D of the 16th Infantry marched away.

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Next, Fort Clark
 
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James N.

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Fort Clark, 1852-61; 1866-1946
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This and the other paintings by Bud Breen in this post depict scenes in Old Fort Clark during its heyday as a cavalry post.

Fort Clark anchored the southern end of the second line of Texas forts in much the same way Fort Belknap did the northern end. Unlike the others, however it had the longest life of any here considered; founded June 20, 1852 by Capt. William Prince of the 1st Infantry, other than during and right after the Civil War, Clark was maintained as a garrison until after the Second World War. On July 16, 1852, it was officially named in honor of Major John B. Clark of the 1st U. S. who had died during the Mexican War.

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Clark's original buildings were of the usual picket-post construction like that above, of which an officer's wife wrote about an 1855 stay, "Fort Clark was a pleasant post... It was very agreeable to us all, the garrison being a large one with a number of officers and ladies." As for her quarters, it was, she wrote,

"...a funny little house... built of green logs with the bark left on them, and they were set up end on end, not like the usual log-cabin... All being green at first, they dried during the intensely hot summer, and very soon the floor and walls were far apart, so that the rats and mice came and went without ceremony."

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The fort was laid out in the usual rectilinear pattern with most buildings placed around the parade ground; the map above is one of the dude ranch property I modified during my brief stay to indicate the period of construction of the remaining buildings. Note especially its position on spring-fed Las Mores (The Chestnuts) Creek and just across it the town of Brackettville; also that the parade ground was then home to not one but two putting greens!

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Following WWII, Fort Clark reverted to civilian use, becoming Fort Clark Springs Dude Ranch, and in that capacity it remains today. It has been home and headquarters to many Hollywood productions working "on location" at nearby Brackettville and James T. "Happy" Shahan's ranch, beginning in 1959 with John Wayne's The Alamo. I stayed there briefly in June, 1987 while working in Alamo - The Price of Freedom, which was also filmed on Wayne's old set. Due to the fort's current status, getting "correct" period-looking photos is difficult, so I have relied here in part by using paintings by Texas artist Bud Breen (1927-2005) who has imagined the fort during the latter period of the Indian Wars. Above, troopers pass one of the officers' quarters; below, another of those quarters now serves as guest lodging for the dude ranch.

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One of the most substantial and photogenic of the old fort buildings is the post commissary, pictured above by Breen and below in my 1987 photograph. Fort Clark was surrendered to Texas State Troops by order of Gen. David Twiggs on March 19, 1861, and briefly garrisoned on and off by Confederates until the end of the war. December 10, 1866 it was reoccupied by U. S. troops of the 4th Cavalry under the command of Capt. John A. Wilcox.

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Above, left to right, Ranald S. Mackenzie. Phillip H. Sheridan, William G. Belknap, and Wesley Merritt, all ca. 1870-1880's. According to onetime Chaplain Cephas Bateman it was supposedly during a tour of inspection of army posts which included Fort Clark that Sheridan made his famous statement, "If I owned both Texas and H*ll, I'd rent out Texas and live in H*ll,"

One of the most notable events in the history of Fort Clark occurred following its reoccupation by Federal troops when it was visited clandestinely in 1873 by the commander of the Western Department, Maj. Gen. Phillip Sheridan and Secretary of War William G. Belknap. They had come to confer with Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie, commanding the 4th Cavalry and fort commander Col. Wesley Merritt of the 9th Cavalry. These high government officials had come to verbally authorize Mackenzie to cross the border between the U. S.and Mexico while in active pursuit of hostile Indian bands, particularly the Kickapoo and Lipan Apaches who were at the time terrorizing the region. This led to a notorious international incident when Mexico loudly protested that her territory had been violated after Mackenzie followed his verbal orders on May 17, 1873, leading to the destruction of a Kickapoo village deep in Mexico fifty miles from the international border. Other sorties soon followed, with Mexico's eventual approval of reciprocal action on the part of both governments.

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Above, former cavalry barracks now provide motel-like housing for Fort Clark guests. Another feature the post is noted for was the use by the army of what are known as the Seminole - Negro Indian Scouts. As recounted by F. T. Fields in Texas Sketchbook,

The Indians themselves had been transferred after the Seminole War from Florida to a reservation in Oklahoma. With them were transferred Seminole Negroes, originally runaway slaves who had joined the Indians in Florida. Their relationship with the Seminoles has been described as a "vassals and allies" relationship, rather than master-and-slave...

Neither the Seminole Indians nor the Seminole Negroes, who had become intermixed with them, were happy on the Oklahoma reservation. Many of the latter were kidnapped into slavery. In 1850, a large number of them moved to Mexico... From Mexico, a number of Seminoles and Seminole Negroes enlisted as scouts... The scouts did a good job; by the time the railroads came to begin a new era... marauding Indians had practically disappeared.


Indeed, the Seminole Scouts did a very good job: Under Lt. John Bullis they accompanied and guided Mackenzie on his "raids" from Fort Clark and other expeditions, in the course of which no fewer than four of them were awarded the Medal of Honor for their services and today rest in the post cemetery.

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Two additional special-purpose buildings depicted in their original use by artist Breen were the guardhouse, pictured above and the blacksmith shop below.

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Fort Clark remained an active duty post for both infantry and also as a cavalry training center during WWII until it was finally deactivated in 1946, coinciding with the end of horse cavalry in the U. S. Army. During its later years prior to the war it witnessed commanders such as future generals Jonathan Wainwright and George S. Patton. Below, a monument commemorating that unsung hero, the U. S. Cavalry mount.

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Next, Robert E. Lee and Seccession
 
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