From the CDRI I continued to the Fort Davis National Historic Site. Late in the afternoon, I went to the very pretty Davis Mountains State Park to spend the night. My campsite was on the bank of a creek.
Fort Davis was a key post in the defense system of western Texas. From 1854 until 1891, troops stationed at the post protected immigrants, freighters, mail coaches and travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. It is considered one of the best remaining examples of a frontier military post in the American Southwest. Named for Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the fort was first garrisoned by Lieutenant Colonel Washington Seawell and six companies of the Eighth U.S. Infantry. The post was located in a box canyon near Limpia Creek on the eastern side of the Davis Mountains where wood, water and grass were plentiful.
With the outbreak of the Civil War and Texas’ secession from the Union, the federal government evacuated Fort Davis. The fort was occupied by Confederate troops from 1861 until 1862, when Union forces again took possession. They quickly abandoned the post and Fort Davis lay deserted for the next five years.
The original post consisted of primitive structures. The foundations of several buildings from this earlier fort can still be seen today. Not many of the fort’s structures remained in June 1867, when Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt and four companies of the recently-organized Ninth U.S. Cavalry reoccupied Fort Davis. The building of a new post, just east of the original site, began immediately. By the end of 1869, a number of officers’ quarters, two enlisted men’s barracks, a guardhouse, temporary hospital and storehouses had been erected. Construction continued through the 1880s. By then, Fort Davis had become a major installation with more than 100 structures, and quarters for more than 400 soldiers.
Fort Davis’s primary role of safeguarding the west Texas frontier against the Comanches and Apaches continued until 1881. With the end of the Indian Wars in west Texas, garrison life at Fort Davis became more routine. Soldiers occasionally escorted railroad survey parties, repaired roads and telegraph lines, and pursued bandits. Fort Davis was abandoned at the end of June 1891, deemed by the army to have "outlived its usefulness." Seventy years later, in 1961, the fort was authorized as a national historic site, a unit of the National Park Service.