Fort Clark Springs History
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Clark was a U.S. Military fort in operation for almost 100 years, from 1852 to shortly after WWII. Many buildings contribute to this designation, both Association and privately owned, as well as remnants and ruins from the Fort's nineteenth century frontier days to the twentieth century days of World War II.
Fort Clark 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 trip 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.
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 serve the Army as scouts. The Indian Scouts served at Fort Clark from 1872 until 1914. Lt. John L. Bullis, later a general, served 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 an end the Indian depredations in Texas.
Comanche's on horseback swept down from north on moonlit nights, raiding, killing, taking horses, mules and cattle, escaping across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Lipan's 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, led troops of the 4th U.S. Cavalry into Mexico on a punitive expedition against the Lipan's. Other sorties followed. Again in 1878, Mackenzie was recalled to Fort Clark to stop the Kickapoos was 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.
World War II
In 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.
Closing of the Fort
By 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.
Fort Clark is truly a fort closure that became a success story and is "Living History Today".