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Western Military Forts and Outposts

Fort BowieAs the frontier moved westward, the establishment of U.S. military forts moved with it, representing and maintaining federal sovereignty over new territories.  The military garrisons usually lacked defensible walls but were seldom attacked.

They served as bases for troops at or near strategic areas, particularly for counteracting the Indian presence.  For example, Fort Bowie protected Apache Pass in southern Arizona along the mail route between Tucson and El Paso and was used to launch attacks against Cochise and Geronimo.

Fort Bowie was established after the Battle of Apache Pass, one of several Civil War era engagements to occur in the Arizona frontier, it was a walled fort. Fort Laramie and Fort Kearny helped protect immigrants crossing the Great Plains and a series of posts in California protected miners.  Forts were constructed to launch attacks against the Sioux. As Indian reservations sprang up, the military set up forts to protect them.  Forts also guarded the Union Pacific and other rail lines.

Other important forts were Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, Fort Union Montana, Fort Worth, Texas, and Fort Walla Walla in Washington.  By the 1890s, with the threat from Indian nations eliminated, and with migrant populations increasing enough to provide their own law enforcement, most frontier forts were abandoned.

Fort Omaha, Nebraska was home to the Department of the Platte, and was responsible for outfitting most Western posts for more than 20 years after its founding in the late 1870s.  Fort Huachuca in Arizona was also originally a frontier post which is still in use by the United States Army.  During the Mexican Revolution, the United States was forced to build a new series of twelve forts for protection along the Mexican-American border.  Fort Naco in Naco, Arizona was one of these.  At this time in the southwest United States, towns were still being established and all wilderness was still considered frontier.

Western Forts

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Utah

More US History

History of the Old West
Frontier Begins
Settling the West
Before the Civil War
Civil War in the West
After the Civil War
Frontier Life
Frontier Warfare
People of the Old West

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