Ft. Davis

 Restored Western Cavalry Fort

Ft. Davis, Texas

March, 2005


We visited Ft. Davis while we were staying in a nearby RV Park called "The Prude Ranch". We saw the Fort as we drove through the small town in route to our campground. Unfortunately much of the Fort had been razed but the foundations of many of the buildings remained. Also, there were a number of placards and many of the buildings had been rebuilt and had much information on the history of the area.

Set in the rugged beauty of the Davis Mountains of west Texas, Fort Davis is one of America's best surviving examples of an Indian Wars' frontier military post in the Southwest. Fort Davis is important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military because the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry and the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, all-black regiments established after the Civil War, were stationed at the post.
Today, Fort Davis can boast what is considered the finest restored western cavalry post in the United States. 

A key post in the defense system of western Texas, Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest. From 1854 until 1891, troops stationed at the post protected immigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. It is a vivid reminder of the significant role played by the military in the settlement and development of the western frontier.
Named for Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the fort was first garrisoned by Lieutenant Colonel Washington Seawell and six companies of the Eighth U.S. Infantry. The post was located in a box canyon near Limpia Creek on the eastern side of the Davis Mountains--where wood, water, and grass were plentiful. From 1854 to 1861 , troops of the Eighth Infantry spent much of their time in the field pursuing Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches who terrorized travelers and attacked mail stations. With the outbreak of the Civil War and Texasís secession from the Union, the federal government evacuated Fort Davis. The fort was occupied by Confederate troops from theLaura with Buffalo Soldier spring of 1861 until the summer of 1862, when Union forces again took possession. They quickly abandoned the post and Fort Davis lay deserted for the next five years.
The original post consisted of primitive structures. (It was located west of the present day Officersí Row. The foundations of several buildings from this earlier fort can still be seen today.) Not many of the fortís structures remained in June 1867, when Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt and four companies of the
recently-organized Ninth U.S. Cavalry reoccupied Fort Davis. The building of a new post, just east of the original site, began immediately. By the end of 1869, a number of officersí quarters, two enlisted menís barracks, a guardhouse, temporary hospital, and storehouses had been erected. Construction continued through the 1880s. By then, Fort Davis had become a major installation with more than 100 structures, and quarters for more than 400 soldiers.
Fort Davisís primary role of safeguarding the west Texas frontier against the Comanches and Apaches continued until 1881. Although the Comanches were defeated in the mid-1870s, the Apaches continued to make travel on the San Antonio-El Paso road dangerous. Soldiers from the post regularly patrolled the road and provided protection for wagon trains and mail coaches. The last major military campaign involving troops from Fort Davis occurred in 1880. In a series of engagements, units from Fort Davis and other posts, under the command of Colonel Benjamin Grierson, forced the Apaches and their leader Victorio into Mexico. There, Victorio and most of his followers were killed by Mexican soldiers.
With the end of the Indian Wars in west Texas, garrison life at Fort Davis became more routine. Soldiers occasionally escorted railroad survey parties, repaired roads and telegraph lines, and pursued bandits. In June 1891, as a result of the armyís efforts to consolidate its frontier garrisons, Fort Davis was ordered abandoned, having "outlived its usefulness. "Seventy years later, in 1961, the fort was authorized as a national historic site, a unit of the National Park Service.

Today, twenty-four roofed buildings and over 100 ruins and
foundations are part of Fort Davis National Historic Site. Five of the historic buildings have been refurnished to the 1880s, making it easy for visitors to envision themselves being at the fort at the height of its development.
The Fort has reenactments on a daily schedule, which include firing off their canons. Fort Davis National Historic Site is open everyday, seven days a week from 8-5 in the winter and 8-6 during the summer.
The Historic Site is only a beginning of what a visitor can enjoy in Fort Davis. The town has numerous places to stay including a historic hotel, motels, bed and breakfasts, an RV park with camp grounds, restaurants and several very nice gift shops.
Nearby is the Davis Mountains State Park with both accommodations and a restaurant. Fort Davis is the gateway to the spectacular Big Bend country, which lies south and southeast. This is the wonderland of Texas, and anyone visiting it should be sure to experience Fort Davis.



Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!

Laura

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