Fort Duncan was founded on March 27, 1849 by Army Captain Sidney Burbank. Transferred there were three companies of the 1st United States Infantry. It was situated on the Rio Grande River. Later in the year 1849, he post was named Fort Duncan, after Col. James Duncan, a hero of the Mexican–American War.
Col. Duncan was born September 29, 1811 in New York State. He is called a hero of the Mexican-American war for his actions while commanding an artillery battalion. Like many officers whose careers were enhanced during the war with Mexico, Col. Duncan was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in the 1830s. He also served during the Seminole Wars in Florida. Col. Duncan died not as a result of combat. Duncan had been named Inspector General of the Army and contracted yellow fever while on duty in Mobile, Alabama in 1849. Col. Duncan succumbed to the disease just short of the age of thirty-eight. He was originally buried close to his home town of Cornwall, New York, but at some later point, he was reinterred in the historic cemetery at West Point.
Fort Duncan was one of the chain of frontier forts established by the United States Army to stabilize the area, protect settlers and provide security for travelers in the west. During the frontier days, it was the base of some operations in pursuit of the Lipan Apaches. Because of its rather remote location on the frontier, its supplies and stores of weapons and ammunition were said to be an attractive target for the area tribes.
(Image credit: Library of Congress)
As the Civil War approached, the post was briefly abandoned by Union troops in 1859, but reoccupied in support of military actions during the clashes between United States troops and followers of Juan Cortina in a series of conflicts known as the Cortina War. By the time the Civil War began, it was abandoned again by Federal forces and was occupied around 1863 by Confederate troops, who referred to it as the Red River Station. During the war, it was challenged by area “unionists” (as opposed to the Union Army) and some skirmishes unionist irregulars occurred in the immediate area. Nearby is the location where the last remaining Confederate Army unit is said to have disbanded while other elements of the outfit under CSA General Joseph Shelby proceeded on into Mexico. The fort was reclaimed by the United States Army in 1868.
During the post Civil War years, the post was sometimes involved in border clashes when there was unrest in Mexico. Across the river from Piedras Negras, fighting in Mexico such as during the rebellion against Mexican President Porfirio Diaz sometimes spilled over into the area defended by Fort Duncan. It also was involved in defending the area against the various tribes including the Kickapoo. In 1870, the first Black Seminole scouts were housed and trained there before being permanently relocated in 1874 to Fort Clark, near Bracketville, Texas.
As the perceived need for it decreased, it was downgraded to Camp Eagle Pass before being abandoned by the United States Army for a few years in 1900. It was briefly regarrisoned prior to World War I in connection with border clashes between the United States and Mexico. Located just outside the community of Eagle Pass, it was in use until 1916.
The city of Eagle Pass took over the location in 1935. Today some of the remaining buildings have been converted to other municipal uses including a hospital that would built where the old post hospital had been located. The former Headquarters building now houses a museum.
The museum is located at 400 Bliss St, Eagle Pass, TX 78852. Normal museum hours are 11 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Saturday, but the museum hours and current open/closed status us subject to change due to the coronavirus pandemic. We recommend calling before considering to make a trip to the area.
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