Freeway Free in Texas – The Civil War’s Westernmost Outpost
Ft. Davis National Historic Site preserves an outpost in the Back of Beyond which actually saw some action in the Civil War. The Federal troops at Fort Davis fled the advance of CSA General Henry Hopkins Sibley, who dreamed of conquering New Mexico and establishing the Confederacy all the way to the Pacific. Sibley’s forces were beaten back at Glorieta Pass, ending Sibley’s dream.
After the Civil War ended, the fort was re-manned mostly by black soldiers, with the mission of keeping wagon caravans safe from Indian attack as they headed toward El Paso and the gold fields of California. There is some evidence that officers with a black mark on their record were sent to command the black troops, although in general Ft. Davis was considered to be a very comfortable posting, tucked into a stream-fed canyon, with reasonably decent weather most of the year and relatively little actual fighting required.
An informative short video sets the stage at the Visitor’s Center, which also offers a very good museum dealing very fairly with the black soldiers and the racism they encountered, and their medal-worthy battles with the mostly Kiowa and Commanche Indians. The Kiowa, Apache, and Commanche tribes are also given a fair presentation, and the museum reminds us not to judge the behavior of the soldiers by our current gauge of how native peoples should be treated. And a full shoutout is also given to the roles of the officer’s wives and children in providing structure and keeping up society’s standards in this remote outpost
It’s hard to be politically correct in so many directions! But where are the Latinos? Maybe there weren’t many, as this part of what is nowTexas was not part of the disputed territory which became the Republic of Texas before the Mexican-American War. W says that there were outposts of Spanish rule all along the Rio Grande, (Presidio, El Paso) but maybe not above in the desert.
The fort is in process of being restored to its 1860’s appearance. Some homes and hospital rooms and barracks are already fully restored and furnished, others not, so you can see what has been done and is still to do. Lots of walking is required, as the Parade Ground needed room for cavalry manoevres. In the restored sections, you are likely to find a docent in period costume eager to tell you all about life in the fort back in the day. It is a peaceful place for a National Historic Site, with less than 50,000 visitors a year.
It is located just up the street from the courthouse square, with its requisite ornate detailing, historic marker, pictures of stern mustachioed judges from time out of mind, morphing into smiling, nicely coiffed modern ones , and of course a carved cowboy statue. It’s a nice stroll to settle your soup and sandwich.