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Fort Davis National Historic Site
National Park Service photo

Fort Davis National Historic Site:
Fort Davis, Texas

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.

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 Ninth and 10th US Cavalry, all-black regiments established after the Civil War known as "Buffalo Soldiers," were stationed at the post. Although this term was first used in the early 1870s in reference to black cavalry troopers, in recent years the term Buffalo Solider has become synonymous with all troops of African-Americans that served in the frontier Indian Wars Army. Following the Civil War, Congress passed legislation increasing the size of the Regular Army, with stipulations that of the new regiments created, two cavalry and four infantry "shall be composed of colored men." In compliance with the new law, the Ninth and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41 U. S. Infantry Regiments were composed of white officers with black enlisted men. In November of 1869, the 38th and 41st regiments were combined to form the new 24 U. S. Infantry, while the 39th and 40th were combined into the new 25th U. S. Infantry. From 1867 until 1885 units of the Ninth and 10th Cavalry Regiments, and the 41st, 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments, served at Fort Davis.

Ninth Cavalry at Fort Davis, Texas, 1875
National Park Service photo from Fort Davis National Historic Site
In the history of Fort Davis, the Buffalo Soldiers amassed a notable record of accomplishments. They arrived at the post when western Texas was still open to attack by raiding Apaches and Comanches. By the time they left in 1885, peaceful travel and settlement prevailed in much of the region. One of their major responsibilities was to protect travelers and the mail on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. All soldiers stationed at Fort Davis provided an invaluable service by scouting, guarding water holes, escorting government wagon trains, survey parties and freight and mail coaches, and at times controlling Indian movements. They also were responsible for constructing new roads and 91 miles of telegraph line.

Today, 24 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.

For more information on the history of Fort Davis and the Buffalo Soldiers, visit the park's website.

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