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Fort Davis National Historic Site


Fort Davis National Historic Site contains the most impressive remains of any Indian Wars frontier fort. The installation has also earned a significant spot in history as the first military fort in western Texas and one of the first such posts where African-American soldiers served.

Fort Davis National Historic Site
©National Park Service
Fort Davis, built in 1854, was the first military fort in western Texas.

On the eve of the Mexican War, Texas joined the Union. In this new state, nearly 600 miles of wilderness stretched between San Antonio and El Paso, where wagon trains, gold seekers, and mail coaches were prey to Indian attacks. In 1854, a pine fort, named for Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, was built in a canyon near Limpia Creek to protect travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso road. By 1856, six stone barracks were added to house enlisted men, who spent much of their time escorting mail and freight trains through West Texas.

Texas seceded from the Union early in 1861, and Fort Davis was abandoned. Apaches wrecked the deserted fort, and by 1867, when federal troops returned to Fort Davis, little of value remained. Substantial rock and adobe buildings were eventually constructed to house up to 12 companies of cavalry and infantry, including black soldiers.

From 1867 to 1885, black regiments stationed at Fort Davis participated in the Indian Wars. The soldiers, most of whom were former slaves from southern plantations, worked long, hard hours for little pay and marginal living conditions, yet they had excellent morale. The black regiments had fewer problems with alcoholism and desertion than the army did overall. They took part in most of the major military expeditions on the Texas frontier and earned a reputation as good soldiers among whites and Native Americans. The Apaches and Comanches called them "Buffalo Soldiers" because of their skin color. Despite their notable military accomplishments on the Texas frontier, black soldiers didn't serve alongside white soldiers again until the Second World War.

Of the fort's original 50 buildings, more than 20 have been restored, including officers' quarters, a small kitchen, a furnished commissary, and a hospital. Foundations outline the buildings that did not survive.

Fort Davis National Historic Site Information

Address: Fort Davis, TX 79734
Telephone: 432/426-3224
Hours of Operation: Open daily 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. except Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
Admission: $3; free for visitors 15 or younger

Learn more about these other national historic sites:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic SiteClara Barton National Historic Site
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Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
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Boston African -American National Historic Site Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic SiteFort Vancouver National Historic SiteHome of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic SiteManzanar National Historic Site

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.