Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ft. McKavett living history

Yesterday I made the trip to historic Ft. McKavett, Texas. This is a frontier fort that was established by the U.S. Army in 1852, then abandoned during the Civil War and reoccupied in 1868, and then finally abandoned in 1883. The purpose of the fort was to protect the settlers from Indian attack. This area of the state (as with most of Texas) was primarily subject to attack from the Comanche and their allied tribes.

The fort is on a beautiful site. It is an open hill top with wide views in all directions. It is quite well preserved since many of the buildings were occupied by local residents from the time the fort was abandoned until the State of Texas acquired the property in the 1970's.

The event yesterday was a living history. There were soldiers of all types, along with demonstrations of frontier living during the mid-19th century. The demonstrations of artillery operations and the Gatling gun were quite impressive. Also, in attendance was the Texas Camel Corps. (There was an experiment by the U.S. Army beginning in 1855 to use the camel as transport in the arid western U.S. The Texas Camel Corps was established to preserve the memory of this.)

Many of the soldiers based at Ft. McKavett, and several of the other western Texas frontier forts, were "buffalo soldiers". The buffalo soldiers were black infantry regiments sent west after the Civil War. Obviously in the vastness of west Texas, infantry was not a very effective force, they became mounted infantry. The origin of the term buffalo soldier is credited to the Indian foe, and I have heard at least two credible explanations for the term. The most common is that the soldiers curly hair was reminiscent of the hair on a buffalo hump. The second is that the first encounter between the Indian and the black soldier occurred in winter, and the soldiers were all wearing buffalo robes for warmth.

The fort hosts living history events a couple of times a year. Also of interests are the star parties hosted there. Since the fort is isolated there is little light pollution and the sky view is very wide. It is an ideal location for astronomical observation. Many amateur astronomers come to these events and set up telescopes. The public is invited to attend and view celestial objects. The next star party will be Saturday, April 5 and begins at, you guessed it, dark.

Photos: Credit to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
For more information on Ft. McKavett visit the Texas Historical Commission

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