Fort Belknap

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Fort Belknap (1851-1859)(1864-1867) - One of eight U.S. Army forts authorized by Bvt. Major General Persifor F. Smith in the 1850's. The fort was founded on 24 Jun 1851, at the site of present Newcastle by Bvt. Brigadier General William G. Belknap. Commanding officer, Captain C. L. Stephenson, 5th U.S. Infantry could find no water on the original site and he relocated the fort two miles south, where spring water was available. Abandoned by Federal troops in 1859 and reoccupied briefly in 1867. Also known as Camp Belknap (2).

Barracks #1 & Orderly Room
Fort Belknap Powder Magazine
Fort Belknap Barracks/Commissary Building now the Museum

Fort Belknap History

The post had no defensive works. Troops pursued raiding bands of Indians, and mounted expeditions from the fort and carried the war to the enemy on the plains as far north as Kansas. Fort Belknap became the center of a network of roads; the most notable was the Butterfield Overland Mail route from St. Louis to San Francisco.

Beginning in 1854 the fort provided protection for the Brazos Indian Reservation which was located 12 miles away along the Brazos River and the Comanche Reservation which was 40 mile further west. In 1859 the Government closed these two reservations and moved the tribes to the Oklahoma Indian Territory. The closure of the reservations eliminated the need for Fort Belknap and the fort was abandoned in 1859.

Fort Belknap was a four-company post and companies from the 5th U.S. Infantry, the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, the 7th U.S. Infantry, the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, and the 6th U.S. Cavalry stationed there at various times. Among the commanding officers were Colonel Gustavus Loomis, Major Enoch Steen, Captain Paul, Major George H. Thomas, Major Samuel Henry Starr, Lt. Colonel Samuel Davis Sturgis, and Captain Richard W. Johnson.

U.S. Civil War

Abandoned in 1859, before the start of the U.S. Civil War, the fort was occupied from time to time by Confederate troops of the Texas Frontier Regiment under Col. James M. Norris.

Post U.S. Civil War

The Texas Rangers occupied Fort Belknap from 1864 to 1867. It was reoccupied by U.S. troops on 28 Apr 1867 by Major Starr with troops of the 6th U.S. Cavalry. The fort was in a dilapidated state and reconstruction was begun but the fort was abandoned in September of 1867 when Fort Griffin was founded in Shackelford County.

Current Status

Now a Young County Park and a National Historic Landmark. The compound is only 20 acres of the original fort reservation and the main area is surrounded by a low stone wall and a road. The Powder Magazine is the only original building remaining although it has been re-roofed. Six replicas including 3 barracks buildings, a kitchen, a corn storage house and a commissary/museum were built in 1936 by the WPA to celebrate the Texas Centennial.


Location: Three miles south of Newcastle, Young County, Texas

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.15083 Long: -98.74056

Sources:

  • Roger N. Conger, et al., Frontier Forts of Texas, Waco: Texian Press, 1966
  • Carrie J. Crouch, Fort Belknap, Graham, Texas: Graham Leader, n.d
  • Barbara Neal Ledbetter, Fort Belknap Frontier Saga: Indians, Negroes and Anglo-Americans on the Texas Frontier, Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982
  • Kenneth F. Neighbours, Robert Simpson Neighbors and the Texas Frontier, 1836-1859, Waco: Texian Press, 1975
  • Robert B. Roberts, Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, New York: Macmillan, 1988
  • Bill Winsor, Texas in the Confederacy, Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1978

Links:

Visited: 11 Jul 2008

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