Friday, February 6, 2015

Jefferson Davis connection and Driving Around

Location: Davis Mountains State Park (elev 5,067 ft); Fort Davis, Texas

(click pictures to enlarge)

Fort Davis was built in 1854 and was taken out of service in 1891. It was named in honor of the Secretary of War at the time of it's construction. That Secretary was Jefferson Davis. Yep, same Jefferson Davis that later became the President of the Confederacy. He was a West Point graduate, Congressman and Senator from Mississippi. He resigned from congress to go fight in the Mexican/American War. After the war, he was appointed as Senator from Mississippi. After that appointment ran out, he was then elected to the Senate seat. This of course was decades before the 17th amendment changed the way Senators were elected, so in Davis's case, he was elected by the Mississippi State Legislature. Regardless as to every person's individual feelings as to the Confederacy, Davis's record prior to the Civil War warranted the honor of having a fort named after him.

The fort was built along the road between New Orleans and California, which is generally the route of Interstate 10 now-a-days. There was a dramatic increase in traffic on the road as a result of the California gold strike in 1849. As a result of this increase in traffic there was also an increase in the activity of bandits and Indians, thus the need for a series of Army forts scattered along the way, of which Fort Davis was one. Soldiers from these forts would escort people, mail and freight along the road. Most of the time, during the early days of the fort, the soldiers doing the escorting were infantry, not calvary like in the movies. Soldiers could walk as fast as the mules or oxen could pull the wagons. Infantry was also much cheaper than having to maintain a stock of horses. At various times, there were about 400 soldiers stationed at the fort. 

The main Indian tribes around this area were the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches. Mostly they lived north of here in New Mexico, northern Texas and parts of western Oklahoma but they would travel through this area on their way to raid the more populated areas in Old Mexico. With the increase in traffic along the road, this meant the Indians didn't have to travel as far to conduct their raids since they could raid the people and freight using the road. This led to the Indian wars in this part of the country. The Kiowas and Comanches were defeated in the 1870's but the Apaches continued to fight until 1880. There were several sub-tribes of the Apaches and around here it was the Chiricahua Apaches led by their chief, Victorio. After a life of fighting, surrendering and then returning to fight some more, Victorio and his men were killed by Mexican soldiers in 1880 after being chased there by the U.S. Army. This essentially ended the Indian War in this part of west Texas. 

Part of the fort has been re-built and it was designated a National Historical Site in 1961. I toured the site and found it moderately interesting. I think I may be a little jaded in sites like this after visiting so many of them in the past. I wandered through the buildings that were opened and again, as usual, I was the only one on the tour. I was able to sit on the porches and benches while trying to think of 400 men working and living in this area. Surprisingly, it was rather peaceful. 

The first batch of pictures are from the fort while the others are from a drive I took around the area. The road tour was nice, but desolate. I checked the mileage and for 41 miles, I never saw another car or human being. I could have stopped and ate a picnic lunch in the center of the road and not been bothered. 

Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading to El Paso.

Some of the reconstructed buildings. It would have made a better picture if the wind was blowing the flag.

The inside of the Enlisted Man's barracks. 

On the way up the hill to the Infirmary (hospital). It sat in the back of, and away from the fort.This location may have been intentional since several soldiers died from what was called "consumption", which we know today was tuberculosis. 

The view out the back of the Infirmary. The round structure on the lower left is called a cistern (it held water).

Front view of the house of the Commanding Officer. Notice you can see all the way through the house, similar to the "shotgun" or "dogtrot" houses of the south. Also on the lower left are water fountains, one disguised as a barrel for human use and the other a modern water fountain for dogs.

This is the view from the front porch of the Commanding Officer's house.
That ends the pictures from the fort. The remaining are an assortment from driving around and from around the campground.

Even with not seeing other humans for miles and miles, there were signs of humans. This is the entrance to one of the many ranches along the road. The ranch house may sit miles away from the road, since most of them you couldn't see. This one is proudly flying the U.S. flag, Texas flag and an unknown white flag with faded symbols on it.

A sign not only of litter control but a sign of humility. Notice they didn't include their last name. I guess everyone around here knows who Pete and Kate are.

A contradiction to most of the smoother mountains. These jumbled rocks were just some of the ones scattered along the road. Up in the northern states, this would have been evidence of previous glacier activity that had moved the boulders to this spot.

More rocks on the side of the road but this time they are laying on their side. Obviously, there used to be something in between them that eroded away. Dang, I should have studied Geology more.

This is on top of the mountain that you can drive to from inside the campground. The structure is a shelter built during the old Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) days. 

This is the view from inside the structure while sitting on a stone bench. Nice, uh?

This is a testament to life. The tree is clinging to the rocky outcrop for life. 

Last picture of Freedom and Liberty. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 


  1. Infantry not cavalry like the movies showed? I never would have even thought of that but it makes sense... all that walking would be a tough way to spend a few years.

    There was a sign in Terlingua that talked about the west Texas frontier opening with the defeat of Victorio....

    1. Hello Rob. Yeah, Victorio was an interesting character. I had to resist writing a lot more about him on the blog. He was one of the great chiefs of the Apaches, along with Geronimo, Cochise and Nana. After fighting for a few years, Victorio surrendered and was sent to a reservation in Arizona. After after being lied to and having treaties broken, he left and went on the "war path", where he eventually was killed by the Mexican soldiers.