A building at Fort Duncan
|Location||Eagle Pass, Texas; Bounded by Monroe and Garrison Sts,. city limits on the S, and the Rio Grande on the W|
|NRHP Reference #||71000954|
|Added to NRHP||December 9, 1971|
A line of seven army posts were established in 1848-49 after the Mexican War to protect the settlers of West Texas and included Fort Worth, Fort Graham, Fort Gates, Fort Croghan, Fort Martin Scott, Fort Lincoln and Fort Duncan. Fort Duncan was established on March 27, 1849, when Captain Sidney Burbank occupied the site with companies A, B, and F of the First United States Infantry. On November 14, 1849, the post was named Fort Duncan, after James Duncan, a hero of the Mexican-American War. The post consisted of a storehouse, two magazines, four officers' quarters, and a stone hospital, in addition to quarters for enlisted men. Construction was done half by the troops and half by hired workers. There was ample stone but no timber for building, and the men suffered from exposure. Company C, 1st Regiment of Artillery, asked permission to construct quarters at its own expense. During the 1850s, Fort Duncan provided merchants and traders protection from border frontier outlaws and Native Americans. The fort also served as a post for scouting Native Americans.
Fort Duncan became involved in the Callahan expedition of 1855, when James H. Callahan led an effort to repel attacks of Lipan Apaches and to capture runaway slaves. Callahan seized and set Piedras Negras on fire, and the commanders at the fort ultimately refused to help him recross the Rio Grande into the United States. Secretary of War John B. Floyd ordered the post abandoned in May 1859. Robert E. Lee ordered the fort regarrisoned in March 1860. With the outbreak of the American Civil War the post was again abandoned when the Federal troops evacuated on March 20, 1861. It was also an important customs point for Confederate cotton and munitions trade with Mexico.
Federal troops reoccupied Fort Duncan on March 23, 1868. During the 1870s, the Seminole Indians became members of the command and were used as guides in the area. Buffalo soldiers were also stationed at Fort Duncan, including George B. Jackson, later a businessman in San Angelo called "the wealthiest black man in Texas" during the second half of the 19th century.
The post was abandoned once again in 1883. From 1890 to 1916, when disturbances in Mexico took national guard units to the river, the fort had a skeleton caretaking detachment. Troop activity continued throughout World War I, when the fort served as a training facility, but by 1920 only a small detail remained.
In 1933, the City of Eagle Pass began maintaining the old fort as a public park. The city formally acquired the property in 1935 and converted it into Fort Duncan Park. In 1942 the mayor offered the fort to the military for use during World War II. The government used the Fort Duncan Country Club as an officers' club and the swimming pool for commissioned personnel stationed at Eagle Pass Army Air Field. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Seven of the original buildings still stand today. In the early 1980s, the Fort Duncan Country Club caught fire and only the outer walls remain.
The Commander's Headquarters building has been converted into the Fort Duncan Museum, with exhibits of local and fort history and artifacts.
- Crimmins, M.L., 1943, The First Line of Army Posts Established in West Texas in 1849, Abilene: West Texas Historical Association, Vol. XIX, pp. 121-127
- Suzanne Campbell of Angelo State University, San Angelo, "George B. Jackson, Black (or African-American) Businessman, Rancher, and Entrepreneur," West Texas Historical Association, annual meeting, Lubbock, Texas, April 2, 2011
- Timeline of Eagle Pass History: Fort Duncan
- Fort Duncan Museum
- Fort Duncan from the Handbook of Texas Online