Fort Richardson

Fort Richardson was an United States Army installation located one mile (1.6 km) south of Jacksboro, Texas. Named in honor of Union General Israel B. Richardson, who died in the Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War, it was active from 1867 to 1878.


As much as any frontier army installation, Fort Richardson was responsible for the Anglo settlement in north central Texas. It was one installation in a system of forts along the Texas frontier to protect and encourage settlement in north central and west Texas. Other forts in the frontier fort system were Forts Griffin, Concho, Belknap, Chadbourne, McKavett, Clark, and Phantom Hill in Texas, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

The original site selection was ordered for a location near Buffalo Springs in Clay County approximately 20 miles (32 km) north of Fort Richardson. The location proved untenable and unfit for the establishment of a semi-permanent installation. The area lacked timber, adequate water resources, and was still completely hostile territory, with Native Americans often wreaking havoc in the area. In 1862, the entire town of Henrietta, northwest of Buffalo Springs, was abandoned because of the lack of security. In short, the area was more than inhospitable. As a result, the Sixth United States Cavalry moved south to the present location of Fort Richardson.

In 1867, construction began on the 300-acre (120 ha) site along Lost Creek at a cost of $800,000. It became the anchor of the frontier fort system, and the last army outpost in north Texas along the military road to Fort Sill. In 1872, with a population of 666 officers and men, it was listed as the largest U.S. Army installation in the United States. The old-time cowboy author Frank H. Maynard spent time at Fort Richardson in 1872 while he had come to Jacksboro on a cattle drive.

Units that occupied the fort included the U.S. 6th Cavalry Regiment, U.S. 4th Cavalry Regiment, and the U.S. 11th Infantry Regiment, along with elements of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment and 24th Infantry Regiment (United States), both Buffalo Soldier regiments.

Life was hard for a soldier at Fort Richardson, and routine duties included long, arduous patrols along the Texas frontier from Clay and Jack counties west to Palo Duro Canyon near present-day Amarillo. Battles with Comanche and Kiowa Indians became commonplace as the cavalry and infantry units sought to prove their ability to repel Indian attacks and allow settlement.

In 1871 while on a tour of the frontier fort system, General William T. Sherman stayed at Fort Richardson and narrowly missed the Warren Wagon Train Raid. Once General Sherman arrived at Fort Sill, he arrested Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Tree and had them sent to Jacksboro to stand trial for their role in the massacre. In July 1871, they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life in prison. They were the first Indians tried and convicted in the Texas civil court system.

Following these events, General Sherman authorized the commander of the Fourth Cavalry, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, to begin offensive operations against Comanches and Kiowas in the Texas Panhandle. One of these scouting parties fought the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in September 1874, an absolute U.S victory that ended the Red River War with Quanah Parker's Comanches and Red Warbonnet's Kiowas. The cavalry captured so much of the tribes' provisions that they were forced to move back to the reservations in Oklahoma before winter. This battle and the total victory for MacKenzie's forces were largely responsible for the end to Comanche and Kiowa raiding along the Texas northern frontier.

Abandonment and Reuse

Following this decisive victory, the army no longer saw a need to maintain Fort Richardson and abandoned the post in May 1878. The 55 buildings, many made of stone and cottonwood lumber, fell into disrepair. Thanks to an intrepid group of Jacksboro residents, the fort was declared a state historic site in 1963 and came under the management of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 1968 extensive renovations began and in 1973, the fort reopened as the Fort Richardson State Historic Park.

Today the site is called Fort Richardson State Park, Historic Site & Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway. Visitors can tour seven restored original buildings, including the post hospital, officers' quarters, powder magazine, morgue, commissary, guardhouse and bakery. There are also two replica buildings of the enlisted men's barracks and the officer's barracks, which houses the Interpretive Center. Guided tours of the buildings are held daily.

Building Activity

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