Fort Ewell (1852-1854) - Established 18 May 1852 by Ltc. William W. Loring, and six companies of the U.S. Mounted Riflemen, and named for Capt. Richard S. Ewell, a veteran of the Mexican-American War who was then 1st lieutenant of the 1st U.S. Dragoons. The fort was commanded by Captain and Brevet Major John Smith Simonson and occupied by a two-man medical department and three companies of the U.S. Mounted Riflemen, E, G, and I. Abandoned 3 Oct 1854.
History of Fort Ewell
Fort Ewell was located on the south bank of the Nueces River where it crossed the old road from San Antonio to Laredo. The fort was mainly put there to protect travelers on the old road; even so, the location was poorly chosen because of frequent flooding and a lack of proper building materials and forage for the animals. The entire area, known as the Nueces Strip, was teeming with bands of hostile Native Americans, desperadoes, and gunfighters. Even so, the soldiers were rather more enthusiastic when they were called to make their scouting missions throughout the area than building and maintaining the fort, as they viewed this a violation of their contract with the Army. The fort was constructed of soft adobe walled buildings most with canvas roofs. All the soldiers, however, slept in tents. Every soldier had a rifle but only 40 revolvers were provided for each regiment which did not account for every man. The rifle used was reported to have been "cumbersome" and was tolerably difficult to use on horseback. Sergeants and Buglers additionally carried a saber. Scurvy, dysentery, and diarrhea were common. At least one soldier is known to have been buried in a whiskey barrel. The poor conditions, lack of food and timber, and the incidences of disease caused the fort to be ordered abandoned in December 1853 and by October 1854 the order was carried out. The soldiers were either transferred to Fort Merrill and Fort Inge or deserted the military. The settlement that formed around the fort was named county seat of La Salle County on its establishment in 1880. The town remained until the mid-1880's when it was hit by an outbreak of smallpox. The town and the surrounding area were quarantined. Confederates occupied the site in 1864, using it as a supply depot. William Sydney Porter, later known as O. Henry, rode to Fort Ewell to get his mail while he worked at the Dull Ranch, 15 miles away.
The site is on private property and is not open to the public. No physical remains are left of any buildings, as 150 years of wind and rain will wear down anything made of adobe if not managed. In 1871, a report was made in which was said all that was left of Fort Ewell was a few crumbling walls and some graves. The site is dominated by mesquite trees and other thick brush.