Fort Clark, located on US Hwy 90 on the east side of Brackettville,
was established June 20, 1852 at Las Moras Springs by two companies
of the First Infantry under the command of Major Joseph H. LaMotte along
with an advance and rear guard of U.S. Mounted Rifles (later the 3rd
Cavalry). Located at the headwaters of Las Moras Creek, the spring,
named "The Mulberries" by Spanish explorers was a site long
favored as camp grounds for Comanche, Mescalero, Lipan, and other Indians.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the big spring
was a stopping place on the eastern branch of the great Comanche War
Trail into Mexico. The original site was a strip of 1 to 2 miles in
width extending from Las Moras Springs downstream about eight miles.
In 1849 Lieutenant W.H.C. Whiting, during his reconnaissance for a
practicable route between San Antonio and El Paso, recognized its military
potential and recommended the location as a site for a fort. The land
was leased from S.A. Maverick. Two Companies (C and E) of the First
Infantry encamped near the Springs. Later, the garrison was moved up
the hill from the Spring. By 1853 quarters for the soldiers were nearly
completed and in 1854 three grass-covered officers' quarters were built.
In 1855 a stone hospital and a two-story storehouse were erected.
The Post was originally named Fort Riley in honor of the commanding
officer of the First Infantry, but on July 15, 1852, at Riley's request,
it was renamed in honor of Major John B. Clark, a deceased officer who
had served in the Mexican War. A formal military lease for Fort Clark
was made on July 30, 1852, by Lt. Col. D.C. Tompkins.
This engraving, published in the June 15, 1861, edition of Harper's Weekly, provided a rare glimpse of the military presence along the Texas frontier. The scene depicts Confederate roops with stolen wagons at Las Moras Creek, Fort Clark (present Brackettville.)
Texas Historical Commission
With the onset of the Civil War and the secession of Texas, the Federal
soldiers left Fort Clark March 19, 1861, and returned December 12, 1866.
Until August 1862 the Fort was occupied by the Second Texas Mounted
Rifles. It later served as a supply depot and a hospital for Confederate
troops and civilians in surrounding areas.
With the establishment of Fort Clark, a neighboring settlement of Las
Moras came into existence when Oscar B. Brackett established a supply
village for the Fort. The town's name was changed to Brackett in 1856,
and later to Brackettville. The stage ran through the settlement and
for almost a century the town and the Fort remained closely identified.
Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts
Fort Clark is perhaps most famous as the home for the Seminole-Negro
Indian Scouts. After twenty years of protecting Mexico's northern
states from hostile Indians for the Mexican Army, they came to Fort
Duncan in 1872 and to Fort Clark to server the Army as scouts. The Indian
Scouts served at Fort Clark from 1872 until 1914. Lt. John L. Bullis,
later a general, was to server as their commander from 1873-1881. Fort
Clark is also noted as the headquarters for Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie's
raiders. He led raids into Mexico to punish renegade Indians, playing
a decisive role in bringing to and end the Indian depredations in Texas.
Comanches on horseback swept down from the north on moonlit nights,
raiding, killing, taking horses, mules, and cattle, and escaping across
the Rio Grande into Mexico. Lipans and Kickapoos from Mexico slipped
across the border into Texas, destroying, stealing, murdering, and returning
quickly to safety. Outlaws of every nationality fled from one side of
the border to safety on the other side. Hundreds of pioneers were forced
to abandon their homesteads.
On May 17, 1873 Mackenzie, accompanied by Lt. Bullis and the Seminole-Negro
Indian Scouts, let troops of the 4th U.S. Cavalry into Mexico on a punitive
expedition against the Lipans. Other sorties followed. Again in 1878,
Mackenzie was recalled to Fort Clark to stop the Kickapoo's war on Texas.
Mackenzie with Bullis and Seminole Scouts and a large peace-time army
crossed the border to effectively stop the Mexican Army and end the
Mexican-Indian hostilities forever. The last Indian depredation in the
Military District of the Nueces was in 1881.
Many infantry units and virtually all cavalry units, including the
9th and 10th black "Buffalo Soldiers", were stationed at Fort
Clark at various times. During the Spanish-American War, Fort Clark
was garrisoned by the Third Texas Infantry. With the Indian Wars at
an end, the Fort was threatened with closure, but turmoil along the
border due to the Mexican Revolution revitalized the military need for
the Fort, as did the First World War, which soon followed.
Some famous officers who served at Fort Clark were:
General Wesley Merritt, Commander of the Philippine Expedition
General William R. Shafter, Commander of the Cuba Expedition
George C. Marshall, U.S. Chief of Staff in WW II
Jonathan M. Wainwright, hero of Bataan and Corregidor and
George S. Patton, Jr., famous for his mighty mobile armored operations
in North Africa, Sicily, and from France through Germany. Many combat
decorations and honors were awarded to Fort Clark veterans, including
four Congressional Medals of Honor awarded to the Seminole Scouts.
I n 1941, the 5th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Bliss and Fort Clark
was then manned by the 112th Cavalry, Texas National Guard Unit, until
their deployment for combat duties in the Pacific. Later, more than
12,000 troops of the second Cavalry Division trained at Fort Clark until
their deployment in February, 1944. The war also added another feature
to the history of Fort Clark, that of having a German POW sub camp on
the 4,000 acre reservation.
B y the end of World War I, the technological advancement of modern
arms signaled the obsolescence of the horse cavalry. Yet it was not
until June, 1944, that full mechanization of the cavalry caused the
government to close Fort Clark, one of the last horse-cavalry posts
in the country. The Fort was officially deactivated in early 1946, and
later that year was sold to Brown and Root Company for salvage and later
used as a guest ranch.
I n 1971, the Fort was purchased by a private corporation and developed
into a private recreation community. Today Fort Clark encompasses about
2700 acres. The spring feeds Las Moras Creek and a dam also feeds the
water into a very large swimming pool with a year-round temperature
of 68 degrees. Below the dam, fishermen, bird watchers, hikers, picnickers,
and campers enjoy the beautifully wooded Las Moras Creek banks. The
Historic District of the Fort remains much as it was planned and built
in the 1800's. The history is displayed by six dioramas created by members
of the Fort Clark Arts for the Old Fort Clark Guardhouse Museum maintained
by the Fort Clark Historical Society. Visitors at the museum are welcomed
by volunteer hosts and hostesses. In 1979, Fort Clark was entered on
the National Register of Historic Places. The museum has local and pioneer
history exhibits. Saturday, Sunday 14.
F ort Clark is truly a fort closure that became a success story, and
is "Living History Today".
Fort Clark Troops Battle Kiowa-Comanche War Party, 1873
In November of 1873, thirty Kiowa and Comanche warriors crossed the
Rio Grande west of Laredo and killed fourteen Mexicans before turning
home with two boy captives and 150 horses and mules. As they pushed
their stolen herd north they killed two Americans. The two Mexican boys
managed to escape and took the story of their capture to Fort Clark.
On December 7 a forty-one man scouting party under Lieutenant Charles
L. Hudson intercepted the Indians. In a running fight the soldiers killed
nine members of the war party. Among the dead were the favorite son
of Lone Wolf and a nephew. From this point on, Lone Wolf knew only hatred
for the whites.
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