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History of Fort McKavett

 

Past History

In the decade following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that established the US/Mexico border, the US military installed a defensive line of forts lying just ahead of the western limits of settlement in Texas . Opened in 1852, Fort McKavett is one in a series of these remote western forts established to protect frontier settlers and traffic on the Upper El Paso Road .

The Fort closed for the first time in 1859 when activity on the frontier quieted. Throughout its second operation from 1868 to 1883, both black and white infantry and cavalry troops and their families were stationed at Fort McKavett . The fort hosted all four regiments of the famed Buffalo Soldiers.

While stationed at the fort, First Sergeant Emanuel Stance became the first post-Civil War African-American to receive the Medal of Honor for valor in battle. Many more soldiers at Fort McKavett received this top honor including six from Company A 4th Cavalry.

Many of the Fort’s officers continued to serve their country after the Indian Wars including Major General William R. Shafter, the Commanding General of all troops sent to Cuba during the Spanish American War.

The town of Fort McKavett grew from the settlers, contractors, laundresses, and red light district surrounding the fort. After the fort was abandoned for the final time, residents of the town moved into the fort structures.  A few town structures still exist on the park grounds.

Today’s silent walls are a reminder of a violent part of American history when cultures clashed, and when the nation grew from the ashes of a Civil War to become a world power.

Today's History

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department opened Fort McKavett SHS to the public in 1968. On January 1, 2008, Fort McKavett State Historic Park was transferred to the Texas Historical Commission. General William T. Sherman once called the fort “the prettiest post in Texas .” Looking out across the rolling hills from the high ground at Fort McKavett , the visitor today sees the same landscape that soldiers scanned 150 years ago. The site totals 79.5 acres and is located 23 miles west of Menard at the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Visitors can explore restored buildings including the 1874 hospital which currently houses the interpretive center; officers' quarters dating from the 1850s to the 1880s; an 1870s barracks; the post headquarters; bakery; dead house; and sinks or latrines.  Apart from the post hospital and current furnishing projects, the buildings are empty.