Fort Stockton was originally an adobe fort built in 1859 by the United States Army as a means of protecting travelers, freighters and the mail service. It was located near what was known as Comanche Springs, the source of Comanche Creek. It served as a way point on the Old San Antonio Road, the Butterfield Overland Stage route and the Comanche Trail to Chihuahua, Mexico.
The fort was named for Robert Field Stockton who was a Commodore in the United States Navy. Stockton was born in 1795 in New Jersey and served much of his working life in the Navy. He had entered as a midshipman in 1811 and saw action in the War of 1812. He later was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant while serving in various locations including Africa and the Mediterranean. He left the Navy for a decade or so and during the 1820s and 1830s was in private business, mining for gold in Virginia among other pursuits.
Stockton rejoined the Navy in the late 1830s, serving as a captain for about two years before leaving the service again briefly, only to rejoin in the 1840s. He was interested in modernizing the Navy fleet and commanded the USS Princeton, one of the first steam powered, propeller driven warships in the Navy. He was in command of the ship in February, 1844 when one of its two wrought iron guns exploded, resulting in the death of several individuals including two members of the cabinet of President John Tyler, who was also aboard but was uninjured by the explosion. The ship was taking part in a pleasure cruise for the dignitaries when one of her two big guns known as “the Peacemaker” exploded. Stockton was cleared of any responsibility for the accident.
Stockton later distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War in California, He took command of the Pacific fleet in the summer of 1846. Stockton was directly involved in several land battles, since the Navy personnel also included ground forces, perhaps Marines. His troops participated in the taking of Alta, California and seizing control of Pueblo de Los Angeles after the departure of the Mexican commander General Castro. His forces also supported the previously outnumbered General Stephen Kearny at the Battle of San Pasqual, possibly saving Kearny from defeat. His troops also participated in the battles of Rio San Gabriel, San Diego and La Mesa and remained in California until the end of the war. He succeeded John C. Freemont as military governor of California.
Afterward, Stockton once more resigned from the Navy to enter private business for about ten years, but rejoined around 1861 at the outset of the Civil War. His name appears again in 1863 as commander of the New Jersey militia. He died a few years later in 1866 and is buried in Princeton, New Jersey. In addition to the naming of Fort Stockton for him, four ships in the US Navy have been named for him, along with the towns of Stockton, Missouri and Stockton, California.
Constructed by troops of the 1st and 8th Infantry, Fort Stockton in Texas served as a US Army fort after construction was complete. It was occupied by Company H of the 1st Infantry until the outset of the Civil War, when these troops were deployed elsewhere. During the war, it was also briefly occupied by Confederate forces until they abandoned it as well. In the 1860s, the US Army again took command under Colonel Edward Hatch (for whom Hatch, New Mexico is named) of the 9th Cavalry, one of the two segregated regiments that were comprised of the Buffalo Soldiers. Under Hatch, the fort was expanded and new buildings were constructed of limestone and adobe.
(Image credit: historicfortstocktontx.com)
The town of Fort Stockton eventually developed around the fort, which served to house the 10th United States Cavalry during the Indian Wars. The fort was decommissioned in the summer of 1886. About four of the original three dozen buildings remain. More have been reconstructed based upon original blueprints. The fort, located in Pecos County, is owned by the City of Fort Stockton and managed by the Fort Stockton Historical Society. Tours are available and the site includes exhibits depicting the history of the fort and honoring the service of the Buffalo Soldiers. Each year, usually in the fall, the area hosts living history and tours of the old fort.
© 2017, all rights reserved.