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Fort Yuma (1850-1883) - First established as Camp Independence in 1850 during the California Gold Rush near the Colorado river bottoms below the mouth of the Gila River in Imperial County, California. Protected the southern emigrant route to California. Moved in March 1851 to the former site of Camp Calhoun and named Camp Yuma. Renamed Fort Yuma in 1852. Permanently abandoned in 1883.
Fort Yuma History
First established to protected the southern emigrant route to California and to control the Yuma Indians. One estimate of emigrant traffic at the Colorado River crossing in 1851 had 60,000 emigrants crossing. The post was established by Bvt. Major Samuel P. Heintzelman, 2nd U.S. Infantry, in 1850 as the government exerted control over the new California territory acquired as a result of the Mexican-American War. The post was moved to higher ground in March 1851 to the former site of Camp Calhoun and named Camp Yuma, it was renamed Fort Yuma in 1852. Difficulties in supplying the post caused its temporary abandonment in 1851, it was re-garrisoned in 1852 after a battle with the Yuma Indians.
Colonel Joseph K.F. Mansfield inspected the post 4-7 Jun 1854 and found it with an available force of 5 officers and 106 enlisted men including the commander, Maj. Heintzelman. He found the quarters to be made of willows and worthless. Subsequent plans were drawn up and approved for good temporary quarters for two companies. Two supply routes were now in place, one by small steamer up from the mouth of the Colorado River and one by a land route from the New San Diego Depot. Both routes were expensive in terms of cost and time. Col. Mansfield noted that it seldom rained and that sand storms could shut out the rays of the sun. In a final note, he recorded the subsequent departure of Maj Heintzelman and the arrival of his replacement, Bvt. Major George H. Thomas, and elements of the 3rd U.S. Artillery.
Fort Yuma became known as the hottest post in the U.S. Army with 110+ degree temperatures in the summer time. The post was also dangerous, as evidenced by a large graveyard.
The post became a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route (1857-1861) and the El Paso-Fort Yuma Stage Line.
U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)
In 1861, at the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, California Volunteers (Union) replaced the regular troops who were ordered back east. The new garrison was ordered to examine every person who tried to pass the post. Rumors of possible attacks from Confederate forces and sympathizers caused the garrison to build a series of earthworks and trenches to help defend the fort against attack. The attacks never came and Fort Yuma became a supply and personnel depot and established Yuma Quartermaster Depot in 1863, on the other side of the river. After the war, a small garrison provided security for the supply depot and occasionally fought hostile Indians. The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Yuma in 1877. The Yuma Quartermaster Depot was abandoned in 1880 and Fort Yuma was abandoned on 16 May 1883, the reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on 22 Jul 1884.
Location: Across the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona, in Imperial County, California.
Maps & Images
Lat: 32.7317135 Long: -114.6155078
- Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 100
- Frazer, Robert W., Forts of the West, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK, 1965, ISBN 0-8061-1250-6, page 34-35
- Hart, Herbert M., Tour Guide to Old Western Forts, Pruett Publishing Co., Boulder CO, 1980, ISBN 0-87108-568-2, page 38
- Frazer, Robert W. (editor), Mansfield on the conditions of The Western Forts, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK, 1963, ISBN 0-8061-1083-X, page 146-147
Fort Yuma Picture Gallery
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