Fort Mason (1)
Fort Mason (1) (1851-1871) - Bvt. Major Hamilton W. Merrill and companies A and B of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons established the post at a location chosen by Lt. Colonel William J. Hardee (Cullum 966), on July 6, 1851. The post was most likely named either for Lt. George T. Mason (Cullum 1153), who was killed at Brownsville during the Mexican War, or for General Richard Barnes Mason, who died a year before the fort was established.
After the fort was established, settlers stayed close to the fort but new settlers located further and further from the post. The Indians were driven further away and began making fewer raids on the settlements. The fort was closed several times during that decade, first in Jan 1854. It was reoccupied by Company A, 1st U.S. Dragoons, from March to May and was occupied by various companies of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry from 14 Jan 1856 to 29 Mar 1861, when it passed into the hands of the secessionists.
The fort reached its maximum population in Jan 1856, when the headquarters and companies B, C, D, G, H, and I of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry were all stationed there, with Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston in command. Twenty officers stationed at Fort Mason before the U.S. Civil War became generals. Twelve fought for the Confederacy, eight for the Union. Among these generals were Earl Van Dorn, Fitzhugh Lee, E. Kirby Smith, George H. Thomas, Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, William J. Hardee, and Philip St. George Cooke. Fort Mason was designated regimental headquarters for the 2nd U.S. Cavalry several times. It was Colonel Robert E. Lee's last command in the U.S. Army before the Civil War.
U.S. Civil War
The fort was abandoned from 1861 to 1866. For a short period during 1862, the Confederate Army held 215 men prisoner, mostly civilians accused of being Union sympathizers. Indian depredations during the war and immediately afterward were worse than they had ever been. The area was terrorized by killings, thefts, and nuisance raids. Texas state troops and minutemen were unable to cope with the problem.
Post U.S. Civil War
On 24 Dec 1866 the United States Army with the Headquarters Company, regimental band and Company F of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, reoccupied the fort. General John Porter Hatch was the commanding officer. The fort was repaired and improved.
The Cavalry was replaced with soldiers from the 35th U.S. Infantry over a period of time. The last inspection of the fort occurred on January 13, 1869. The report listed twenty-five buildings, mostly vacant and in need of repair; only sixty-nine men were present. The order to close the fort was carried out on 23 Mar 1869.
Fort Mason was reopened in September 1870 as headquarters for Companies A and B, Frontier Forces. Capt. James M. Hunter was in command for most of that year. During 1871 the forces were disbanded or moved, and for the last time, the fort was closed.
Now in ruins, but the officers quarters were reconstructed. Several homes in town were built with the stone from the fort. The museum in town on Moody Street was once a schoolhouse that was built from the fort's materials.
Visited: 17 Nov 2011