Fort RichardsonIn 1866 a small detachment of the Sixth Cavalry, led by Samuel H. "Paddy" Starr, marched into Jacksboro, established a post and began preparations to build a new fort to the north at Buffalo Springs, just across the Clay County line. The appearance of a large Comanche war party caused the army to relocate its building efforts back to the south, in Jacksboro. A trusted local scout, like Dozier, would have been quick to remind Colonel Paddy of the widespread devastation through Southern Jack and Palo Pinto counties caused by Nocona's Comanches 1860 raid.
Eventually the army built its new line of Texas forts, Concho, Griffin, Richardson and Sill in Indian Territory, providing a sense of security that lured settlers back onto the frontier. Still, hundreds, if not thousands, of Comanches and Kiowas would occasionally sweep through the settlements.
General Sherman passed through Fort Richardson in 1871. Soon after his arrival he learned his convoy just missed being attacked by a large force of Kiowas, who instead hit Warren's Wagon Train, killing seven of its twelve teamsters.
Mackenzie was ordered to lead his cavalry in pursuit of the Indians; across the Red River, if necessary. A few days later, Sherman arrived at Fort Sill and personally saw to the arrest of the leaders, Satank, Big Tree and Satanta. The chiefs were loaded into a wagon bound for trial in Texas. Satank told a Caddo scout that his body would be lying by a tree a few miles down the road and to send his relatives to pick it up. He proceeded to cover himself with his blanket and chew off part of his hand to free himself of his manacles. He attacked his guards, facilitating an honorable suicide. The soldiers tossed his body on the side of the road where it was found by his relatives as he had instructed.
The remaining two Kiowas were delivered to Jacksboro where they were tried and found guilty of murder. National sentiment brought pressure on Governor Davis, causing him to let the chiefs avoid the noose and eventually be paroled. Sherman sent word to Austin that he believed he had risked his life while visiting Texas and he hoped the next scalp these Indians took was the governor's.
Sheridan saw to it that Mackenzie forces were well reinforced and soon his headquarters at Fort Richardson was the largest military installation in the United States. Acres of tents supplemented drafty cross timber and mud barracks. The most elaborate housed the growing family of adjutant R. G. Carter. His recollections of life at Fort Richardson included his necessity to station soldiers around the tent to hold down the stakes during a violent norther, which struck the night that his wife went into labor. He also fondly mentions his soldier's baby gift, a bear cub.
A good portion of Carter's time was devoted to hunting down deserters. The lure of the west and the harsh conditions of the fort tempted many a soldier to risk Mackenzie's brutal punishment to abandon their post, usually with an army horse and carbine. The exceptions were his black troops, commonly referred to as "Buffalo Soldiers", who were willing to endure extreme misery and danger for their meager pay and the pride of being a soldier.
During the trials of the Kiowa chiefs, the town filled with journalists, curiosity seekers, gamblers, con artists and such. Many stayed, becoming regular customers of the dozens of saloons and dance halls that lined the road from Fort Richardson to Jacksboro. On soldier's payday, the town became a riot. An oldtimer wrote that on these days it was possible to walk from downtown Jacksboro to the middle of Fort Richardson without your feet touching the ground as passed out soldiers so tightly lined the road beneath you. Doc Holliday spent enough time in Jacksboro to hang his dentist shingle, though it seems he spent all his time in the gambling halls. Reportedly it was in such a place that he had his southern feathers ruffled by some Buffalo Soldiers, on whom he opened fire, possibly killing one or two, but certainly giving him significant cause to move his operations to Fort Griffin. It was there he made a lasting friendship with Wyatt Earp. Their legendary saga climaxed at the historic gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
Fort Richardson is well preserved and lovingly restored and Jacksboro retains it's late 19th century facade. The Green Frog Cafe that Jerry Jeff Walker sings about still serves good meals and coffee. Across the street, Herds turns out the best hamburgers in the world as they've done for over half a century.
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