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Fort Davis (1854-1862)(1867-1891) - Established on the order of General Persifor F Smith on 23 Oct 1854 and named after the then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. The fort provided protection for the San Antonio-El Paso Road which was a major link on the southern route to California. Also known as Painted Camp on the Limpia.
The First Fort Davis (1854-1862)
The first Fort Davis was initially commanded by Ltc. Washington Seawell and manned by 6 companies of the 8th U.S. Infantry. Ltc. Seawell commanded the first Fort Davis for most of the years between 1854 and 1860. The fort was a large and important post in the southwest and often contained more than 400 officers and enlisted men. In 1861 the fort was abandoned by Union forces and occupied by units of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles. In Aug 1862 Union forces regained control of the fort but did not occupy it until 1867, well after the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War.
The Second Fort Davis (1867-1891)
The fort was reoccupied in Jun 1867 by four troops of the 9th U.S. Cavalry under Ltc. Wesley Merritt. At that point in time the 9th U.S. Cavalry was composed of white officers and Negro enlisted men. Col. Merritt began the construction of a new stone fort on a plan that envisioned a row of 19 officers quarters facing a row of 6 barracks across a 500 foot long parade ground with supply and administrative buildings on either end. The new fort was located closer to the mouth of the canyon that had contained the original fort.
Construction on the new fort was halted in March of 1869 and only 2 barracks and 10 sets of officers quarters were built and occupied. Few stone buildings were constructed. Additional facilities were built during the 1880's to house increasing troop levels and by 1890 more than 60 buildings and such amenities as an ice plant, gas street lamps and a water system were in place.
Between 1867 and 1881 fort personnel were engaged in operations against hostile Indians in West Texas. During these years the fort was garrisoned by four regiments consisting of Negro soldiers and white officers. These units distinguished themselves in these operations and became known as "Buffalo Soldiers" to the Indians they fought. With the end of Indian hostilities in 1881 Fort Davis settled into a routine of drill and instruction. Operational duties included patrolling, road building and protection of railroad construction crews. Both the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railroad bypassed Fort Davis and the importance of the post declined and the inevitable closure order came in Jun 1891. Company F, 5th U.S. Infantry turned the post over to a caretaker and marched to Marfa to catch the train to San Antonio.
Civilians occupied the quarters on Fort Davis for a number of years after the post closed and maintained the properties in reasonable condition thus saving it from the fate of most abandoned posts. In the 1930's the property was purchased by D.A. Simmons who performed additional maintenance and repair preserving it in the family until the 1960's. The property was acquired from his heirs in the 1960's and Fort Davis National Historic Site was established on July 14, 1963 and is administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Fort Davis Commanders¹
Location: Located just north of the town of Fort Davis in west Texas off Hwy 17 and 118.
Maps & Images Lat: 30.598616 Long: -103.892233
- Frazer, Robert W., Forts of the West, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK, 1965, ISBN 0-8061-1250-6, page 148
- Hart, Herbert M., Tour Guide to Old Western Forts, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder CO, 1980, ISBN 0-87108-568-2, page 159
- Utley, Robert M., Fort Davis: National Historic Site Texas, National Park Service Historical Handbook Series 38, Washington, D.C. 1965
Visited: 23 May 1986
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