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.
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Fort Mason was established and vacated before the Civil War. It was set up by Brevet Lt. Col. W. H. Harvey in the summer of 1851 and housed the Second Dragoons. It was named for Second Lt. George T. Mason of the Second Dragoons, killed during the early days of the Mexican-American War in South Texas in 1846. It has also been suggested that the fort could have been named for General Richard Barnes Mason who had died more recently, but most sources favor George T. Mason, a West Point graduate and native of Virginia.
Fort Fisher, as it was known, was set up for a short time on the west bank of the Brazos river near the settlements that would give rise to Waco. It was established by the Texas Rangers to provide security for settlers in 1837 and to the best of our knowledge, it was also abandoned the same year. The outpost was named for William S. Fisher, Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas at the time. Fisher was a long time member of the Texas Army. He would later become a participant in the ill fated Meir Expedition after which he would be captured and imprisoned in Mexico. Fisher passed away around two years after being released from his confinement in Mexico.
Fort McKavett is located near Menard in Menard County, Texas. It was one in a line of Texas frontier forts built during the era to protect settlers who were moving into the area. The forts were situated roughly in a diagonal line connecting the Red River to the Rio Grande and about one hundred miles west of the currently occupied land at the time. United States Army infantry colonel Thomas Staniford was given orders to build a military post at the headwaters of the San Saba River and he arrived with his regiment on March 14, 1852. The headwaters were a natural spring and Staniford decided to move the location about two miles down from it where the spring formed a small lagoon, favoring the water supply there.
Fort Davis was one of the group of Texas frontier forts. Also located on the short-lived Overland Trail, it provided protection for the travelers and settlers as well as the U. S. Mail in this contested area. It was situated roughly equidistant between Fort Clark to the southeast and Fort Bliss to the northwest in what is now known as the Davis Mountains. We would think of it today as being the northern point of a triangle with the points of the southern base being Marfa to the west and Alpine to the east.
The military reservation that would become Fort Bliss was initially established on the Rio Grande in the late 1840s shortly after the end of the Mexican-American War and was active from 1848 to 1851. At this time, it did not have an official name, and was referred to as the “Post Opposite El Paso del Norte.” There was already a sizeable civilian settlement on either side of the Rio Grande: American El Paso and Cuidad Juarez on the Mexican side. The fort was comprised of the Third Infantry and was commanded by Jefferson Van Horne. After this short period of two to three years, its troops were mostly removed to Fort Fillmore, New Mexico Territory.
Fort Phantom Hill was located southwest of Fort Griffin and northeast of Fort Chadbourne. The orders to create such a fort were issued by General William Belknap as he was beginning construction at the fort that would later be named for him, although the General died before he could complete either outpost. Construction began in 1851 under the leadership of Lt. Col. J. J. Abercrombie pursuant to the orders of General Persifor F. Smith, Belknap’s successor. Belknap’s plan had been for the outpost to be located in Coleman County, but Smith changed the orders to the current location. A few buildings were built of local stone, but others were built of wood or were even more temporary, such as pole huts. In retrospect, it would have been difficult to find a worse location from a physical standpoint, as it was poorly situated near dry or brackish river branches. Water had to be hauled several miles and there were no nearby wood sources for fires. Wood for construction was at least forty miles away.
(Image credit: Texas Co op Power Magazine)