Fort Chadbourne was established October 28, 1852 by companies A and
K of the Eighth United States Infantry. The fort was named for 2nd Lt.
Theodore Lincoln Chadbourne who fought and was killed in the Mexican
War in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. Fort Chadbourne is one of the
frontier forts established to protect the settlers moving west.
The Fort Chadbourne Foundation was established February 1, 1999 as
a 501(c) 3 non profit charitable organization to preserve, stabilize,
and partially restore the historic site of Fort Chadbourne and present
it to the public. The fort site is open to the public for self guided
tours during daylight hours, seven days a week and there is no charge
for touring the site but donations are gladly accepted.
The fort site has several ruins and is currently under a stabilization
project. We have a temporary visitor's center/museum that houses many
artifacts found at the fort and is located in the rock office, just
east of the fence line from the barrack buildings. This office is open
from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. during the week unless we are attending
meetings, giving programs, etc. We also offer weekend and holiday appointments
by contacting the foundation at 915-743-2555 or 915-473-5311.
Twelve miles northeast of present day Bronte on US 277.
Various military units occupied Fort Chadbourne between 1852 and 1867,
including elements of the Eighth United States Infantry, the Second
United States Dragoons, The Texas Mounted Volunteers (portions of which
were mustered at the post in March, 1855) the First United States Infantry,
the Second United States Cavalry, and the Fourth United States Cavalry.
(Bitner 1933, 8)
Among the more notable figures who served at the post prior to the
Civil War were Lts. James Longstreet, Arthur Pendleton Bagley, and George
E. Pickett, each of whom became distinguished Confederate generals during
the War of Rebellion. Miles W. Keogh was also posted to Fort Chadbourne
during its brief re-occupation in 1867. He, as captain in the Seventh
United States Cavalry, was destined to fall at the Battle of Little
Big Horn some nine years later on June 25, 1876. (Crimmins 1950, 444-445;
Bitner 1933, 7-8)
Fort Chadbourne was in the heart of Peneteka Comanche country. Though
the tribe was officially at peace, Chiefs Sanaco and Buffalo Hump led
bands of this tribe on raids. Occasionally bands of Indians would make
a friendly visit to the fort.
In his book, Our Wild Indians, Col. Richard M. Dodge, who knew the
Old West from experience attaches to Fort Chadbourne a tale told throughout
the Great Plains frontier.
Indians were fond of both horse racing and gambling and not infrequently
officers and troops stationed at the various frontier posts would
engage in some competition with them. On one particular occasion a
band of Comanches under Mu-la-que-top camped near Fort Chadbourne.
During the course of their stay some officers from the post challenged
the Indians to a bit of horse racing. The Indians accepted the challenge
with the result that their somewhat inferior and often pathetic looking
entry bested a magnificent Kentucky mare owned by one of the soldiers.
The Comanche rider added insult to financial injury by riding the
last fifty yards of the race mounted face to tail, beckoning the rider
of the mare to come on.
In August of 1853, Co. W. G. Freeman, conducting an inspection of the
post noted in his report that even though a direct road connected Fort
Chadbourne with Fort Mason, one hundred twenty miles to the southeast,
no communications had existed with Fort Phantom Hill to the north. At
the time of Freeman's inspection the two forts, situated only fifty-nine
miles from one another, had coexisted in the region for eleven months.
In fact, the trail connecting the two posts was so indistinct and difficult
to follow that Freeman's guide to Fort Phantom Hill, an original explorer
of the route, became temporarily lost on the journey. (Crimmins 1950,
Col. J. K. F. Mansfield noted in his inspection report of 1856:
"The country about here is not particularly inviting to settlers
and I should think on account of the generally poor land and dry seasons,
it will not soon be occupied. There are no settlements unconnected
with the garrison directly on indirectly. "(Crimmins 1939, 369)
In 1854, Indians killed Capt. Van Buren near the fort. Later that year,
Comanches caught two military mail carriers, tied them to a tree and
burned them. One soldier returned to camp with fourteen arrows protruding
from him. Future general David M. Stanley commented that he looked like
a porcupine. Miraculously, he recovered within a few weeks.