Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
This site on the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle, where William Bent had built an adobe trading post in the 1840's but soon abandoned it because of Indian hostility, was twice a battleground. The first engagement between Col. Christopher ("Kit") Carson's command and a force of Kiowas, occurred late in November 1864. Carson, fresh from victories over the Apaches and Navajos of New Mexico, was leading an expedition sent out by Brig. Gen. James H. Carleton, Federal commander at Santa Fe, to punish the Kiowas and Comanches for raiding the Santa Fe Trail. Carson's 336 California and New Mexico Volunteers and 75 Ute and Jicarilla Apache auxiliaries discovered Chief Little Mountain's village of Kiowas at the Adobe Walls site. A conflict ensued with 1,000 warriors. The attackers became the besieged, however, when Kiowas and Comanches from other camps joined in the fight. The battle raged on, but Carson's two mountain howitzers saved the day. At dusk the troops burned one of the camps and retreated to their base at Fort Bascom, N. Mex. Three of Carson's men died and 15 received wounds. Indian casualties totaled 60.
The second battle at the site, late in June 1874, was one of the causes of the Red River War (1874-75). The Kiowas and Comanches, prodded by some Southern Cheyennes, were attempting to rid the Texas Panhandle of white buffalo hunters. A large group attacked 28 hunters, camped about a mile from the scene of the Carson fight at a trading center established earlier the same year by Dodge City merchants. The hunters took refuge in two stores and a saloon. They withstood the assault for several days with remarkably accurate fire until reinforcements arrived from other hunting parties in the area and helped rout the Indians.
The site is owned by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society of Canyon (Tex.), which has erected a marker. The remains of the buildings, however, have disappeared.
A collection of tents and makeshift buildings of mud, stone, and wood, this short-lived camp (1856-61) protected settlers and controlled the 400 or so Comanches living on the nearby Comanche Indian Reservation. Robert E. Lee served at the camp as a junior officer in 1856-57. It was the base of numerous expeditions and patrols against the Indians until the Civil War began and the commander surrendered to Texas troops. During the post-Civil War period, State militia and Texas Rangers occasionally used the camp.
A building dating from the early 1850's, probably constructed with fragments of post structures, stands in the vicinity of the southern edge of the parade ground. The present ranchhouse, a mile to the east, contains stones and glass from the camp. Permission to visit the site, which involves wading across the hip-deep Clear Fork of the Brazos River, should be obtained from the ranch owners.
Camp Hudson (1857-68), located in the wild and remote Devil's River region of western Texas, guarded the lower San Antonio-El Paso Road. In 1859 its troops participated in the Army's camel experiment by accompanying a caravan on a 75-day patrol through the area. The following year another caravan passed by the camp on its way to Fort Stockton, Tex. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Federal troops evacuated Camp Hudson, and the Texas Mounted Rifles occupied it until U.S. soldiers returned after the war.
The site is located in a desolate rock-strewn field. A State marker and a small gravestone are the only memorials.
This camp (1856-69) was one of a chain of forts protecting Texas settlers and did its share of Comanche fighting, but it won its major distinction as headquarters of the Army's camel experiment. This project was the brainchild of Edward F. Beale, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, who persuaded Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to test camels in transporting personnel and freight in arid country. At his urging, Congress in 1855 appropriated $30,000 to conduct the experiment. More than 70 camels, acquired by the War Department in the Mediterranean area, and a few herders arrived on Navy ships at Indianola, Tex., in 1856-57 and were then herded to Camp Verde. A specially erected caravansary, or khan, modeled after one in North Africa, accommodated them. In 1857 Beale took about 25 of them to Fort Tejon, Calif., while surveying a proposed road across the Southwest.
Those based at Camp Verde were tested under field conditions in various parts of western Texas. Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee was in charge of the experiment. The Confederates acquired the camels when they took over Camp Verde in 1861 and they were still on hand when Federal troops reoccupied it in 1866. Three years later the Army relinquished Camp Verde and sold the herd to a private entrepreneur in San Antonio. Although the camels had demonstrated their superiority over mules, after the war any project associated with Confederate President Jefferson Davis was discredited. This and other factors brought about the end of the program.
The site is marked. Remaining are only two stucco buildings, much altered and probably dating from the 1850's, used today by the ranch owners as guesthouses. One of these is a linear barracks building, a composite of three original structures. The other building, the officers' quarters, has a rear wing. Mounds of earth reveal the site of the caravansary. The parade ground is distinguishable.
Since its creation in 1848 this post has been located at five different places, all in the city limits of El Paso except the present one, and sometimes its garrison was billeted in the city. Over the years the post has had almost as many variant names as sites: Post of El Paso and Post at Smith's Ranch, at Smith's Ranch (1849-51); Fort Bliss, at Magoffinsville (1854-68), including Confederate occupation in 1861-62); Camp Concordia and Fort Bliss, at Concordia Ranch (1868-77); and Fort Bliss, at Hart's Mill and the current location (1878-present).
The fort was founded across the Rio Grande from El Paso del Norte (Ciudad Juarez), Mexico, to establish and maintain U.S. authority in the area acquired in the War with Mexico (1846-48), to defend the El Paso area from Indian depredations, and to protect the Southern Transcontinental Trail to California. The fort logistically supported and its garrison participated in various Apache campaigns in Texas and New Mexico, in 1857 and in the 1870's and 1880's. But the troops spent even more time controlling local lawless elements and arbitrating border conflicts. Activities at the fort peaked in World Wars I and II, and it is now the Army Air Defense Center.
Nothing has survived of the first three posts (Smith's Ranch, Magoffinsville, and Concordia Ranch). At the Hart's Mill site (1878-93), on the western edge of El Paso at the intersection of U.S. 80 (Alternate) overpass and Doniphan Street, are several officers' quarters, now used as apartments, and an adobe barracks. At modern Fort Bliss (1893-present), on the northeastern edge of the city, is an adobe replica of the Magoffinsville fort, donated by the El Paso Chamber of Commerce. It now serves as a chapel and museum. Other buildings of interest at the modern post include the old brick messhall, remodeled and serving as the post exchange; 14 sets of officers' quarters, still in use; and 2 original barracks buildings, on either side of the old messhall, housing administrative offices.
Fort Chadbourne (1852-67) was one of the outer ring of posts founded in the early 1850's to protect the Texas frontier from plundering Kiowas and Comanches. Other forts in the ring were Belknap, Phantom Hill, McKavett, and Clark. From 1858 until 1861 Fort Chadbourne was division headquarters for the Butterfield Overland Mail. During the Civil War, Confederate troops periodically occupied the fort. Union troops returned in May 1867 but remained only until December, when Fort Concho was established not far to the south. Fort Chadbourne, however, continued to serve as a station on the San Antonio-El Paso stageline and the Army sometimes used it as a subpost.
A State marker indicates the privately owned site, which is not open to the public. The ruins are part of the headquarters of a cattle ranch, and the parade ground is a grazing area. The walls of four limestone buildings, two barracks and two officers' quarters, stand in their entirety, as well as several partial walls. Piles of stone rubble outline other structures. One of the barracks has been reroofed and is used as a cattle barn.
Unlike many other forts prominent in the Indian wars, this fort in south-central Texas remained an active post through World War II. It was founded in 1852 and inactivated in the mid-1940's. Southern anchor of the Texas defense line in the 1850's, it guarded the San Antonio-El Paso Road and policed the Mexican border. In 1861 the Confederates moved in, but Union troops returned 5 years later. The fort was the headquarters of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie in 1873 when he created an international incident by crossing the border and attacking Kickapoo and Lipan Apache raiders who were using Mexico as a sanctuary. Troops from the fort played a small role in the Red River War (1874-75). After the 1880's, the Indians in the region subdued, the fort remained active as an infantry and cavalry post and was a cavalry training center during World War II.
Approximately 25 to 30 buildings dating from the 19th century have survived amid later military construction. At least three of them, two sets of officers' quarters and one other building, all of vertical log construction, probably date from the early 1850's. The remainder, of stone construction, were constructed in the later 1850's or the 1880's. They include officers' quarters, barracks, commanding officer's house, quartermaster storehouse, and guard house. Most of the buildings have been altered, and are used by the privately owned guest ranch that occupies the site.
Fort Duncan (1849-83), commanding strategic Eagle Pass, was located on the east bank of the Rio Grande. Like Fort McIntosh and other posts along the river, it guarded the international boundary, scrutinized the traders crossing it, and protected settlers and emigrants. It was evacuated in 1859, reoccupied the following year, abandoned again in 1861, and occupied by the Confederates in 1862-64. In 1864 Union troops attacked it and Fort McIntosh. (Eagle Pass was a Confederate center for trade with Europe by way of Mexico.) The fort was occupied by Federal troops in 1868. Another military post, known as Camp at Eagle Pass (1886-1927), succeeded Fort Duncan on its site.
The dozen buildings from the old fort remaining in Fort Duncan Park, a city recreational park, include a stone magazine (1849), in excellent condition; stone stables; and an adobe officers' quarters.
During the years 1867-81 this fort, which helped assume the mission of the inactivated Fort Belknap, protected settlers from Comanche and Kiowa hostilities; escorted mail riders, surveyors, and cattle drovers; served as a communication link on the Fort Concho-Fort Richardson Military Road; and, as Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's main supply depot, played a major part in the Red River War (1874-75). The wild town of Fort Griffin, or The Flat, which grew up at the bottom of the hill north of the fort, was a supply and shipping center for buffalo hide hunters and a major stop on the Western Cattle Trail. As the buffalo hunters completed their slaughter and the troops from the fort pacified the Plains, the cattlemen pushed their holdings and their drives north west from the town which declined.
Fort Griffin State Park, on a flat hilltop overlooking the valley of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, preserves the stone remains of several buildings. Included are those of the powder magazine, bakery, administration building, and sutler's store. The sites of some other buildings are marked. A 40-ton granite shaft, erected by the State, stands in the center of the parade ground. One false-front building is located at the privately owned site of The Flat.
For the 6 years (1855-61) Fort Lancaster was active, its garrison pursued Comanches and Mescalero Apaches and guarded the Pecos crossing of the San Antonio-El Paso Road. Federal troops abandoned it in 1861, never to return permanently. The Confederates sporadically occupied it. After the war it was frequently a subpost and remained a stopping off place for travelers, attracted by the water supply.
The extensive stone ruins of the fort, visible from the State marker on U.S. 290, reveal the location of practically every building. The vegetation-covered ruins, of which those of the barracks stand out, consist of foundations; partial stone walls, some rising 6 to 8 feet; chimneys and fireplaces; and piles of rubble. In 1965 the owners donated the 39-acre site to the county for preservation as a historic site.
This was one of the few frontier forts whose history extended into the modern period, until 1946. Founded on the banks of the Rio Grande at Laredo in 1849, right after the Mexican War, it policed the international boundary and defended settlers from hostile Apaches and Comanches. During the Civil War, Confederates garrisoned the post, a star fort of earth and stone, and withstood an 1864 Union raid. In 1865 reoccupying U.S. forces relocated the fort a half mile down the river and erected a more conventional frontier post.
The fort's complex of stone, brick, and frame buildings, modern and old, is used by Laredo Junior College and various Government agencies. The newer buildings and the parade ground are near the entrance. Brick and frame officers' quarters line two sides of the parade ground, and two-story brick barracks a third. The older buildings are north of the parade ground. The guard house is now a warehouse, and the U.S. Border Patrol occupies the headquarters building. All that remains of the first fort, in the northwestern corner of the Fort McIntosh Reservation, are mounds of earth.
Fort McKavett (1852-83), perched atop a high bluff overlooking the San Saba River, was part of a system of forts established in the 1850's to guard the Texas frontier. It was evacuated in 1859 and not reoccupied until 1868, though the Confederates used it intermittently during the Civil War. In the intervening years the stone post had fallen into ruins, and only one building was habitable. In 1869 Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie made it his headquarters and launched a major repair and expansion program. The garrison participated in the Red River War (1874-75) and the Victorio campaign (1879-80).
Impressive stone remains stand today in Fort McKavett State Historic Park. Most of the original structures have survived, and many of them are residences or business places. Scattered among the inhabited buildings are stone walls and vacant, crumbling buildings, overgrown with weeds.
A hardship post frequently harassed by Indians, Fort Phantom Hill (1851-54) existed for just a few years. Located on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, it served as a link in the Texas defense system and watched over the Fort Smith-Santa Fe emigrant road. Between 1858 and 1861 the site of Fort Phantom Hill was a stage station on the Butterfield Overland Mail, and after 1867 was sometimes utilized by patrols operating out of Forts Griffin and Richardson.
The privately owned site is commemorated by a State marker, but is heavily covered with underbrush. The magazine and guard house, two of the few stone buildings at the fort, remain intact. A large number of stone chimneys of the log buildings are extant.
Part of the frontier defenses of western Texas, Fort Stockton (1858-86) was established at Comanche Springs, a strategic watering place on the Great Comanche War Trail. Its mission was protection of local and transcontinental traffic on the San Antonio-El Paso Road, which passed by the springs. U.S. troops evacuated the fort at the beginning of the Civil War and did not return until 1867. They took part in the Victorio campaign (1879-80). The subsequent bypassing of the fort by the railroad, which ended the requirement to protect the mail, emigrants, and stages, caused its inactivation.
The site, indicated by a State marker on the courthouse grounds of the town, borders James Rooney Park, surrounding Comanche Springs. Four buildings remain: a stone guardhouse, unoccupied; and three adobe officers' quarters, remodeled and used as residences. The Chamber of Commerce has marked these buildings, as well as other historic structures in the town.
One of the less important Texas forts and active only in the years 1852-54, this hardship post was surrounded by numerous others. Its infantrymen guarded settlements along the old San Antonio Road from Comanche attacks. Reasons for abandonment, beyond its limited strategic significance were the sickness rate and low morale.
A privately owned ranch occupies the site, marked by the State. Remaining are two remodeled stone buildings: a barracks, used as a garage; and the commanding officer's home, now a residence. Foundations trace other buildings, and the parade ground is ascertainable.
In this colorful and jagged canyon on the Staked Plains of the Texas Panhandle, Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's 4th Cavalry, operating out of Fort Concho, Tex., dealt a severe blow to the Comanches and hastened the end of the Red River War (1874-75). On September 27, 1874, Mackenzie discovered a sizable camp in the canyon, a favorite Comanche campsite and refuge. He descended and attacked. The Indians scattered in the rough terrain and fought so fiercely from shelters along the canyon slopes that the troops had to retreat. The Indians suffered few casualties, but Mackenzie captured and destroyed their pony herd, numbering 1,400 head. This deprived them of sustenance, hampered their mobility and morale, and contributed significantly to their ultimate surrender.
Part of Palo Duro Canyon, formed by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, is now a State park. The battle site, however, is down the canyon from the park. It is inaccessible by wheeled vehicle but may be viewed from the south rim of the canyon at a point about 10 miles northwest of the village of Wayside. At this overlook a trail, the only one on the south rim for miles and the one used by Mackenzie, leads into the canyon.
The defeat inflicted by Col. Benjamin H. Grierson's black troops on the Warm Springs Apache Victorio and his followers at this site climaxed the Army's 1879-80 campaign against them and ended their forays in the Southwest. In the summer of 1880 Grierson, anticipating another raid by the group across the Rio Grande into Texas and New Mexico, established his headquarters at Fort Davis and intensified defensive measures. On July 29, while on an inspection trip with eight men, he was near the Eagle Mountains when he learned Victorio had crossed the Rio Grande in the vicinity. Sending for reinforcements from nearby Eagle Springs and Fort Quitman, Grierson supervised the erection of two small stone barricades along narrow Devil Ridge, which overlooked a waterhole west of the Eagle Mountains known as Tinaja de las Palmas. It was the only source of water in the arid valley that Victorio had to follow to pass around the mountains.
Engaging Victorio and his party the next morning when they arrived at the waterhole, Grierson and his handful of men held them off until reinforcements arrived. Seven of Victorio's men died and many more suffered wounds. The soldiers counted only one dead and two wounded. Victorio retreated to Mexico. A few days later, on August 6, to the northeast of Tinaja de las Palmas near Rattlesnake Springs, on the east side of the Sierra Diablo, Grierson's command once again repulsed him. Thwarted in reaching New Mexico, he had to move back across the Rio Grande, where 2 months later Mexican soldiers killed him and many of his followers.
No marker is located at the site, on the east side of the road, but the State has erected one in front of the courthouse at the nearby town of Van Horn. Permission must be obtained from the rancher who owns the Tinaja de las Palmas site before it may be visited. The natural scene is almost completely unimpaired. On the southern end of Devil Ridge are the remains of the two stone barricades. A linear indention marking the route of the San Antonio-El Paso Road is visible across the valley for miles.
Last Updated: 19-Aug-2005