Fort Clark was one of the longest forts to be in service in Texas. It was founded in 1852 and not finally closed or abandoned until 1946. It was considered a favorable location due to having a plentiful water supply from the Las Moras River and its close proximity to Las Moras Mountain. It served two major purposes, to protect the area against Indian raids and to protect its portion of the military road from San Antonio to El Paso. Companies C and E of the the First United States Infantry were posted there. It was named for Major John B. Clark who died in 1847 during the Mexican-American War.
Conditions there were typical of a western fort. Relatively mild winters gave way to intense summer heat. Supplies had to be transported from San Antonio, roughly 135 miles away but the fort served its purpose until the Civil War. It was occupied by confederate forces from mid 1861 until it was abandoned by them near the end of the war. United States forces returned in 1866.
Around 1870, the Black Seminole Scouts were transferred from their initial posting at Fort Duncan to Fort Clark out of which they served until they were disbanded in 1914. The fort saw a lot of activity during the Indian Wars, particularly in campaigns led by Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie and proved troops and supplies for them. Mackenzie and General Rufus Shafter also led raids against the Indians down into Mexico at the direction of President Ulysees S. Grant. Though the United States felt that the Mexican government was not doing enough to assist in protecting its border citizens from raiders crossing the border from Mexico, these raids ran the risk of possibly provoking reprisals from Mexico. However, despite protests, the Mexican government stepped up its own response to the tribes and the border issues seem to have died down.
Not much is written about the use of the fort during World War I but it saw a lot of activity in World War II during which troops would be housed prior to their deployment in Europe. It was finally deactivated in 1946 and most of the property was sold to public companies.
Many notable people passed through Fort Clark over the years, including John Bullis (commander of the Seminole Scouts), Col. Mackenzie, Gen. Shafter, future generals Jonathan Wainwright, George Patton and others.
The guardhouse was named a Texas Historic Landmark in 1962. The fort was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The officers quarters building was named a Texas Historic Landmark in 1982. The Fort Clark Historical Society maintains The Old Guardhouse Museum on the former grounds. It appears to be open in the afternoons for a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays. It would be advisable to contact them and confirm before visiting.
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3 thoughts on “Fort Clark”
It’s been a long time since I’ve been out that direction (that far southwest), but I love it down there. And I’m not surprise it was one of the last forts; that area still seems to be on the edge of the frontier.
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There’s a picture of it here: https://gov.texas.gov/film/trail/fort-clark-springs-commissary
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Thanks, Ernie. Looks like this building was built between WWI and WWII. I sure didn’t realize that it had been in a film!