Fort Davis National Historic Site: Frontier Military Post

A key post in the defense system of western Texas, Fort Davis played a major role in the history of the Southwest

Set in the rugged beauty of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, Fort Davis is the best surviving example of an Indian Wars frontier military post and one of the best preserved Buffalo Soldier forts in the Southwest. Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Chihuahua Trail, and to control activities on the southern stem of the Great Comanche and Mescalero Apache war trails.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis is important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military; the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry and the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry, all-black regiments established after the Civil War, were stationed at the post. When not chasing renegade bands of Apache or bandits, the soldiers helped build roads and telegraph lines.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The soldiers, most of whom were former slaves from southern plantations, worked long, hard hours for little pay and marginal living conditions, yet they had excellent morale. The black regiments had fewer problems with alcoholism and desertion than the army did overall. They took part in most of the major military expeditions on the Texas frontier and earned a reputation as good soldiers among whites and Native Americans.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Apaches and Comanches called them Buffalo Soldiers because of their skin color. Despite their notable military accomplishments on the Texas frontier, black soldiers didn’t serve alongside white soldiers again until the Second World War. 

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis doesn’t look like the Western forts depicted in Western movies. Instead of log walls, it was surrounded by the cliffs of a box canyon on three sides. Fort Davis National Historic Site on the edge of Fort Davis looks pretty impressive from the heights of the Scenic Overlook Trail. From this advantage, you can hear the recorded bugle call from the visitor center in the valley below while Sleeping Lion Mountain stands guard on the horizon.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soldiers occupied the fort from 1854 to 1891. From 1867 to 1885, Fort Davis was Regimental Head­quar­ters for the four Buffalo Soldier regiments serving in the West. After the military left, civilians moved into many of the buildings. The new occupants helped preserve the officers’ quarters, hospital, and enlisted men’s barracks.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

President Lyndon Johnson turned Fort Davis into a 460-acre national historic site administered by the National Park Service in 1963.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, twenty-four roofed buildings and over 100 ruins and foundations are part of Fort Davis National Historic Site. The site is well maintained and thoughtfully restored with interpretive and historical displays, an excellent book shop, and a museum. Five of the historic buildings have been refurnished to the 1880s, making it easy for visitors to envision themselves being at the fort at the height of its development. 

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Three hiking trails climb from the Fort, with two links to the hiking trail at Davis Mountains State Park. Small plaques explain natural features and their value to the Fort when it was active.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis National Historic Site symbolizes the era of westward migration and the essence of the late 19th century U. S. Army. It is a vivid reminder of the significant role played by the military in the settlement and development of the western frontier.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis National Historic Site is situated at the eastern side of the rugged Davis Mountains at an elevation that ranges from approximately 4,880 feet at the fort to approximately 5,220 feet in the Davis Mountains. Annual rainfall averages 19 inches.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Davis National Historic Site is on the northern edge of the town of Fort Davis. The site opens daily from 8am to 5pm. The $10 per person (or $20 per vehicle) admission fee helps maintain the interpretative programs and four miles of hiking trails.

Fort Davis National Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Served Their Country

Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions

Each May, America commemorates those who have died while serving in the armed forces by organizing parades, picnics, and visits to cemeteries and national memorials across the country.

This Memorial Day, honor those brave men and women by exploring the country’s national parks, many of which are home to preserved historic sites, monuments, and memorials dedicated to celebrating military history.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In an earlier post we commemorated the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea by exploring some of the significant landmarks that witnessed the beginning of the new nation.

In today’s post we’ll dig a little deeper into American history and find a wealth of other national parks and programs throughout the U. S. that are equally exciting. This Memorial Day, take a moment to learn more about the incredible men and women who have fought for and supported America throughout its history.

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From the soldiers that fought in the Civil War to the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Cold War, Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their life for freedom and remember the significance of their actions. 

The American Civil War

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

From 1861 to 1865, the American union was broken in a Civil War that remains a defining moment in America’s history. Its causes and consequences, including the continuing struggle for civil rights for all Americans, reverberate to this day. From the war’s outbreak at Fort Sumter, to the largest battle fought at Gettysburg, to the closing chapter at Appomattox Court House, more than 40 Civil War battlefields are preserved by the National Park Service.

Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The bloodiest battle of the civil war, which served as inspiration for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, was fought on the beautiful grassy knolls of this Pennsylvania battlefield.

Start at the National Park Service Museum and walk the trails on foot or experience them on horseback. Complete your visit with a stop at Soldiers National Cemetery, the resting place for many Union soldiers as well as those who perished in all American wars since 1865.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia and Tennessee

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought for control of Chattanooga, known as the “Gateway to the Deep South.” The Confederates were victorious at nearby Chickamauga in September. However, renewed fighting in Chattanooga that November provided Union troops victory and control of the city.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865. Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The American Indian Wars

During the late 19th century, as the United States sought to expand its territory further west, a policy of removing the American Indians from tribal lands was adopted. The resulting distrust and broken promises ultimately led to violence, and more than 1,500 armed conflicts were fought during the Indian wars. Today, the National Park Service preserves several of the battlefield sites of the Indian War and interprets its effect on native peoples and their cultures.

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Set in the rugged beauty of the Davis Mountains of West Texas, Fort Davis is the best surviving example of an Indian Wars frontier military post and one of the best preserved Buffalo Soldier forts in the Southwest. Fort Davis is important in understanding the presence of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military.

Fort Davis National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Cold War

The nearly 50-year period of political and military tension between the Western world and communist countries known as the Cold War led to the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by both sides. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tells the story of these weapons that not only held the power to destroy civilization, but also served as a nuclear deterrent which maintained peace and prevented war.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota

Minuteman Missile National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve


During the Cold War, a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles were placed in the Great Plains. Hidden in plain sight, for thirty years 1,000 missiles were kept on constant alert; hundreds remain today. The Minuteman Missile remains an iconic weapon in the American nuclear arsenal. It holds the power to destroy civilization, but is meant as a deterrent to maintain peace and prevent war.

This Memorial Day weekend take time to thank those who have served and protected America.

Worth Pondering…

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

—John F. Kennedy