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Forts of Texas

The Forts of Texas include a number of historical and operational military installations. For over two hundred years, various groups fought over access to or control over the region that is now Texas. Possession of the region was claimed and disputed by the European powers of Spain and France, and the continental countries of Mexico, the United States, the Republic of Texas, and the Confederate States of America. Ownership of specific lands was claimed and disputed by different ethnic groups, including numerous Native American tribes, Mexican residents, Anglo- and African-American settlers, and European immigrants. Access to and control of resources were claimed and disputed by various economic groups, including indigenous hunter/gatherers, farmers, herders, ranchers, colonists, settlers, buffalo hunters, traders, bandits, smugglers, pirates, and revolutionaries. Over the centuries, claims and disputes were enforced by Native American warriors, Spanish conquistadors, French cavaliers, Texas Rangers, local militias, and uniformed regular army regiments of Spain, Mexico, Texas, the United States, and the Confederacy.

Many military camps, barracks, fortified trading posts, palisades, stockades, blockhouses, strongholds, and fortifications were built to establish, defend, or dispute claims to the area.

Early history and pre-history

The southwestern region of North America has been inhabited for many centuries. San Marcos Springs in Central Texas is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas of North America. There is evidence of migrations and displacements of peoples in the prehistoric era. However, no evidence has been found of fortifications built by early Native Americans. Texas derives its name from that of a Native American tribe noted for its friendliness. The Texas state motto is "Friendship".


The region of Texas was claimed by both royal France and imperial Spain. Both European powers mounted expeditions to explore the region of Texas. The Spanish established many missions while the French built and moved Fort St. Louis many times. A small number of simple fortifications were established in this era to protect both French and Spanish claims from each other, and to protect expeditionary operations from unwelcoming local inhabitants. Forts in this area at the time include:

  • Fort Saint Louis (near Inez)
  • Fort St. Louis de Charlotte – originally built by the French, but later rebuilt, garrisoned, and defended by Native Americans (near Spanish Fort)


In the 17th and 18th centuries, the primary mechanism for colonization was the Spanish mission. Many such missions included defensive structures to protect their operations and communities. Key missions were supported by nearby Spanish army forts, called Presidios.

Missions of this period with historical connections to fortifications or military operations include:

Presidios and forts of this period include:

Texas Revolution

In the period leading up to the Texas Revolution, Mexico established some new forts in Texas to control or limit Anglo-American immigration into the region. During and shortly following the Revolution, the Texians established a number of forts to defend Texas towns and cities.

Forts of this period include:

Mexican–American War

Following the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the United States, the US and Mexico did not have a mutual agreement as to the border between Mexico and the new State of Texas. The United States Army established a number of new forts along the border, and military disputes in this area eventually led to the Mexican–American War.

Forts of this period include:

Defense from Indians

Interference or resistance from local inhabitants was a concern going back to the first explorations by France and Spain. This was especially of concern to Anglo-American settlers in the 19th century as they pushed the frontier ever westward. While Native Americans of coastal regions and East Texas were relatively easily assimilated, displaced, or eliminated, some Native American tribes were more actively resistant. This was most famously true for the Comanche and Apache tribes.

In the 19th century, one of the key organizations for protecting Anglo American settlements was the Texas Rangers. The Rangers operated a number of posts in Texas that were traditionally referred to as forts, though they lacked the kinds of heavy defenses associated with traditional military fortifications.

There were essentially three periods of concern. In the mid 19th century, the US Army was concerned with protecting settlements and towns in eastern, central, and south Texas from Indian interference. During the Civil War, local Texas militias, law enforcement, and civilians were concerned with protecting the entire settled portion of the state from interference from both Indians and Mexican bandits. In the late 19th century, the US Army was concerned with protecting settlements and towns in west Texas from Indians. In the latter period, several Texas forts were garrisoned with units of the US Army's famed Buffalo Soldiers.

Forts of these periods include:

Several of the most famous generals from both sides of the American Civil War were stationed at Texas forts while serving in the US Army during this period. Robert E. Lee was stationed at the Alamo and Fort Mason. Albert Sidney Johnston, George Henry Thomas and Earl Van Dorn were also stationed at Fort Mason.

Civil War

Texas forts garrisoned by the US Army were abandoned or surrendered at the start of the American Civil War. Some were re-garrisoned by local Texas forces in order to maintain defenses against Indian incursions. Several camps were opened by the Confederate States Army for recruiting or training.

Only a few forts were specifically garrisoned to be prepared for conflicts between the Confederates and the Union army and navy. These included:

Additionally, there were extensive earthwork fortifications and batteries defending Galveston, which changed hands several times during the war.

World War I

Prior to World War I, revolutions in Mexico led to unrest along the US border, including Mexican raids on towns in the Southwest United States. This led to garrisoning by the US Army of camps and forts all along the Rio Grande, Texas' border with Mexico.

Forts of this period include:

Additionally, unfortified coastal artillery stations were established at key points on the Texas coast to prevent U-boats or commerce raiders from approaching Texas ports. This included Freeport, Sabine Pass and San Luis Pass.

World War II

Camp Travis (postcard, circa 1917-1922)

During World War II, the US Army opened or expanded a number of bases and airfields for training. Extensive U-boat activity in the Gulf of Mexico led to concern about naval raids on Texas ports and coastal cities by ships and submarines of the Axis powers.

Forts of this period include:

Additionally, unfortified coastal artillery stations were established at key points on the Texas coast to prevent U-boats or aircraft from approaching Texas ports. This included Sabine Pass, Port Arthur, Baytown, Freeport, Port Aransas, Port Isabel, and San Luis Pass. Also, a number of camps for prisoners of war were established.

Camp Travis (previously Camp Wilson) on the northeastern boundary of Fort Sam Houston (five miles northeast of downtown San Antonio). Camp Wilson was renamed Camp Travis after it was chosen as the training site for the Ninetieth Division of the army (Texas-Oklahoma). The Camp Travis training facility covered 18,290 acres (7,400 ha).

Cold War

The emergence of nuclear weapons and a period of comparative tranquility among Texas' inhabitants and neighbors saw the end of conventional fortifications in Texas. However, forts in Texas served as home bases for major US Army units, and also served as important training areas for the US military and her various allies during the Cold War.

Forts of this period include:

21st century

Fort Bliss and Fort Hood remain the headquarters for major American army units, and both reservations remain important training areas for US and allied forces. Fort Sam Houston remains the home for the Army Medical Department. The US Navy retains two naval air stations as major flying training centers at Corpus Christi and Kingsville and a third naval air station (formerly a major air force base) as a joint reserve base in Fort Worth, and the US Air Force has retained several bases as either active duty installations or via transfer to the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. Defense cutbacks have closed a large number of other forts, stations, bases and camps.

Due to the continuing interest in the colorful history of Texas and her people, archaeological exploration of known and recently discovered historic forts continues.


  1. ^ Johns, Edward Bradford (1919). Camp Travis and Its Part in the World War. E.B. Johns. OCLC 2636498.

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