Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The journey followed part of the military overland route between San Antonio and El Paso that was established in 1855. Four forts along this road were an important piece in the westward expansion toward California. The army presence provided escorts to wagon trains, stagecoaches, mail carriers and other travelers as well as keeping communication links open.
Fort Lancaster State Historic Site, located on a short but very scenic loop off of interstate 10, between Ozona and Sheffield, was built on about 80 acres near the Pecos river. The site contains the ruins of 25 stone and adobe buildings that were completed in 1860. One of these was the foundation for the "Sutler" store. This was the stage coach stop, mail relay station, and store which was owned and operated by a civilian merchant.
The most interesting fact about Fort Lancaster was its experiment with using camels for military transport. Seventy four camels were brought here and were used to carry extremely heavy loads over long distances, using very little water, and eating only desert scrub plants. The experiment was deemed a great success by the military men leading the program. However, the soldiers who were required to care for and lead the camels, were in sharp disagreement with that assessment. The Calvary troopers felt camel duty was a demotion, the camels spooked horses, and they were difficult to work with.
When the Civil War began and the fort was abandoned by the Union troops, the camels were left to fend for themselves. The great experiment was never repeated. Perhaps we could still have camels roaming west Texas today, but according to the Fort docent, they had all been neutered before coming to Texas so they could not reproduce and just died out.
Because of their exemplary service during the Civil War, in 1866 the U.S. Army enlisted African American men into peacetime service. The Ninth Calvary, made up of "buffalo soldiers", was sent to an abandoned Fort Davis where they not only had to deal with Indian raids but had to rebuild the entire fort as well. According to legend, the term buffalo soldiers came from the Native Americans, who thought the black men looked like buffalo.
Facing harsh living conditions, difficult duty and racial prejudice, the African American troops gained a reputation for dedication and bravery and were an important piece in the settlement of the west
That night we had a few visitors in our campsite
Posted by cooktravelogue2007-8.blogspot.com at 9:24 PM