Welcome back to this continuing series of posts from the Southwest of the United States. Today we visit the Ft. Davis National Historic Site located in the small west Texas town of, you guessed it, Ft. Davis. The Davis Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to this frontier fort built to protect the arriving immigrants as well mail and freight haulers along the east/west trails.
Ft. Davis was established in 1854 and was named after the sitting Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, yes that Davis, who in a few years would become the President of the Confederacy.
This fort was in US hands until 1861 when the fort was abandoned at the start of the War Between the States. A small garrison of Confederate States troops occupied Fort Davis for about a year when this post was evacuated due to the war. In 1867, this fort as well as others in the Southwest were reoccupied and rebuilt by the US Army.
After the Civil War, regiments of all-black soldiers were formed and deployed to Army posts such as Ft. Davis. These “buffalo soldiers” (their hair was compared to that of the buffalo) were said to be fierce fighters by the Native Americans that they often pursued on foot and horseback. The first African-American graduate of the West Point, 2nd Lieutenant Henry Flipper, served here at Ft. Davis. Flipper was tried in a controversial court martial and discharged from the Army. After a review of his case in the 1970’s, he was posthumously given a honorable discharge and received a full presidential pardon.
All the soldiers at this fort conducted practice drills in the event of an attack by the Comanches or Apaches. During the 1870’s and 1880’s, the troops from Ft. Davis had several engagements with the Apaches led by Victorio ultimately driving them into Mexico where they were subsequently killed by Mexican soldiers. When they weren’t on patrol, the soldiers tended to the livestock, gardens, and the maintenance of the buildings.
Ft. Davis became part of the National Park Service in 1961. There are 24 restored historic buildings and 100’s of ruins that are part of this National Historic Site. Our visit started at the pleasant Visitor’s Center with a chat with the volunteer ranger followed by viewing a film about the site. We then began to explore the grounds on the beautiful, sunny, windless day with the mountains as a backdrop. Our first stop was at the restored Enlisted Barracks that showed how life was like for soldiers during this time period.
As we walked around the grounds, we came across many of the ruins and foundations of the former buildings.
Officer’s Row was one of the best preserved parts of the Fort. A few of them were open for viewing as were the servants quarters and kitchens that were behind almost every house.
Near Officers’ Row was an example of a Two-story Officers’ Quarters. Note the beautiful backdrop of the mountains.
The hospital continues to undergo restoration but we learned that it was a very important part of the Fort, serving soldiers, civilians and injured foes alike. Medicine at the time was pretty crude with patients often lucky to survive the valiant attempts to heal them!
After spending about 2 1/2 hours our visit came to an end. It was a pleasant stop on our long Southwest journey. Here’ s my parting photo.
Next up, the Guadeloupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks.
Until next week, travel safe.