Fort Richardson (Texas)

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Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson.JPG
Looking across Fort Richardson's parade ground toward the hospital. The bakery, guardhouse and magazine are visible in the background.
Fort Richardson is located in Texas
Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson is located in the US
Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson
Nearest city Jacksboro, Texas
Coordinates 33°12′29″N 98°9′53″W / 33.20806°N 98.16472°W / 33.20806; -98.16472Coordinates: 33°12′29″N 98°9′53″W / 33.20806°N 98.16472°W / 33.20806; -98.16472
Area 42 acres (17 ha)
Built 1867 (1867)
NRHP reference # 66000816[1]
TSAL # 8200000387
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHL November 27, 1963[3]
Designated TSHS 1968[2]
Designated TSAL January 1, 1983

Fort Richardson was a United States Army installation located in present-day Jacksboro, Texas. Named in honor of Union General Israel B. Richardson, who died in the Battle of Antietam[4] during the American Civil War, it was active from 1867 to 1878. Today, the site, with a few surviving buildings, is called Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site and Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963 for its role in securing the state's northern frontier in the post-Civil War era.[5]


As much as any frontier army installation, Fort Richardson was responsible for the Anglo settlement in north-central Texas. It was one installation in a system of forts along the Texas frontier to protect and encourage settlement in north-central and West Texas. Other forts in the frontier fort system were Forts Griffin, Concho, Belknap, Chadbourne, Stockton, Davis, McKavett, Clark, McIntosh, Inge, and Phantom Hill in Texas, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.[4] Some "subposts or intermediate stations" include Bothwick's Station on Salt Creek between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap, Camp Wichita near Buffalo Springs between Fort Richardson and Red River Station, and Mountain Pass between Fort Concho and Fort Griffin.[6]

The original site selection was ordered for a location near Buffalo Springs in Clay County about 20 miles (32 km) north of Fort Richardson. The location proved untenable and unfit for the establishment of a semipermanent installation. The area lacked timber and adequate water resources, and was still completely hostile territory, with Native Americans often wreaking havoc in the area. In 1862, the entire town of Henrietta, northwest of Buffalo Springs, was abandoned because of the lack of security. In short, the area was more than inhospitable. As a result, the U.S. 6th Cavalry Regiment moved south to the present location of Fort Richardson.

In 1867, construction began by the 6th Cavalry on the 300-acre (120 ha) site along "Lost Creek, a small tributary of the West Fork of the Trinity River",[4] at a cost of $800,000, and occupied on 26 November. It became the anchor of the frontier fort system, and the last army outpost in north Texas along the military road to Fort Sill. "Originally a five-company post, it was accommodate ten or more companies"[4] so that in 1872, with a population of 666 officers and men, it was listed as the largest U.S. Army installation in the United States.[7] The old-time cowboy author Frank H. Maynard spent time at Fort Richardson in 1872 while he had come to Jacksboro on a cattle drive.[8]

Units that occupied the fort included the 6th Cavalry Regiment, the 4th Cavalry Regiment, and the U.S. 11th Infantry Regiment, along with elements of the 10th Cavalry Regiment and 24th Infantry Regiment (United States), both Buffalo Soldier regiments.[7]

Life was hard for a soldier at Fort Richardson, and routine duties included long, arduous patrols along the Texas frontier from Clay and Jack Counties west to Palo Duro Canyon near present-day Amarillo. Battles with Comanche and Kiowa Indians became commonplace as the cavalry and infantry units sought to prove their ability to repel Indian attacks and allow settlement.

In 1871 while on a tour of the frontier fort system, General William T. Sherman stayed at Fort Richardson and narrowly missed the Warren Wagon Train Raid. Once General Sherman arrived at Fort Sill, he arrested Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Tree and had them sent to Jacksboro to stand trial for their role in the massacre. In July 1871, they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life in prison. They were the first Indians tried and convicted in the Texas civil court system.

Following these events, General Sherman authorized the commander of the 4th Cavalry, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, to begin offensive operations against Comanches and Kiowas in the Texas Panhandle. One of these scouting parties fought the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in September 1874, an absolute U.S victory that ended the Red River War with Quanah Parker's Comanches and Red Warbonnet's Kiowas. The cavalry captured so much of the tribes' provisions that they were forced to move back to the reservations in Oklahoma before winter. This battle and the total victory for MacKenzie's forces were largely responsible for the end to Comanche and Kiowa raiding along the Texas northern frontier.

Abandonment and Reuse[edit]

Following this decisive victory, the army no longer saw a need to maintain Fort Richardson and abandoned the post on May 23, 1878.[4] "It was used as an Indian school for a short time afterwards".[4] The 55 buildings, many made of stone and cottonwood lumber, fell into disrepair. Thanks to an intrepid group of Jacksboro residents, the fort was declared a state historic site in 1963 and came under the management of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 1968, extensive renovations began, and in 1973, the fort reopened as the Fort Richardson State Historic Park.

Today the site is called Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site and Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway.[9] Visitors can tour seven restored original buildings, including the post hospital, officers' quarters, powder magazine, morgue, commissary, guardhouse, and bakery. Two replica buildings of the enlisted men's barracks and the officer's barracks house the Interpretive Center. Guided tours of the buildings are held daily.[10]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "History, Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site and Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway". Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Retrieved December 17, 2017. 
  3. ^ Staff (June 2011). "National Historic Landmarks Survey: List of National Historic Landmarks by State (Texas)" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 17, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Carter, R.G., On the Border with Mackenzie, 1935, Washington D.C.: Enyon Printing Co., p. 48
  5. ^ "NHL nomination for Fort Richardson". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-01-05. 
  6. ^ Carter, R.G., On the Border with Mackenzie, 1935, Washington D.C.: Enyon Printing Co., p. 49
  7. ^ a b "Handbook of Texas Online - Fort Richardson". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ Frank H. Maynard, Cowboy's Lament: A Life on the Open Range (Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 2010), p. 5, ISBN 978-0-89672-705-2
  9. ^ "TPWD:Ft. Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  10. ^ "TPWD:Ft. Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway". Retrieved 2009-02-08. 

External links[edit]