As any Texan will tell you,Texas may have come into the Union, but she did it in a grander style than did the other states. There were some things that Texas and Texans just weren’t willing to give up, and land was chief among these.
On the flip side, there were problems that these same Texans did not want, and these problems came mostly in the form of the Indians who roamed the state at will. In fact, according to estimates, there were approximately thirty thousand Indians either living in or roaming through Texas at this time. In an extremely condensed version, here’s what happened:
In 1845, Texas agreed to annex itself to the United States; however, by the terms of the annexation, she retained her public lands. It was also understood that if Texas became a part of the Union, it would be the responsibility of the United States to put troops on the frontier and provide Texans protection from the Indians.
Of course it would be much longer than anyone had anticipated before the U.S. troops would appear in Texas because within the year, they were sent to fight the Mexicans in what we today call the Mexican War, (1846-1848).
Unfortunately, when the first troops did arrive in Texas after the war, they were hardly prepared to take on those Warriors of the Plains who were completely unaware of the rules of battle. Most of these soldiers (many of whom were West Point graduates) knew nothing of the Indians’ habits or their way of life.
Soldiers often came to the frontier equipped with six-pounders and bayonets, and those who had mounts often rode a heavier breed of horse than what was needed to be able to follow a band of marauders for days at a time.
One of the first things the soldiers were authorized to do in the late 1840s was to build a string of forts spread out along the frontier line, from the Red River to theRio Grande. Believe it or not, most of these forts were actually manned by infantrymen who had no way to pursue warring Indians even if they wanted to do so!
Another thing that no one seemed to understand at the time was that when Texas was annexed to the U.S., the frontier line that demanded protection grew immensely overnight. To put it into 21st century terms, it would seem that the U. S. might have “bit off more than it could chew.” It did not take long for the Texans to become disgusted with the government’s idea of defense.
There was much rhetoric across this country as well as across the world during the years that the idea of annexing Texas was debated. Because of this, the name Texas was constantly in the news. Then, with the hostilities between theUnited States and Mexico escalating into war almost before the ink on the annexation agreement was dry, Texas, with its close proximity to Mexico, found itself once again on the lips of the world.
A recruitment poster could not have been better advertisement, and floods of immigrants began to pour into the state. This, of course, was seen as an invitation for war by those Red Men who had considered Texas land their open range for as long as anyone could remember. It was not long before it was obvious that something had to give.
Then, coupled with all of the other problems confronting the frontier settlers, gold was discovered in Californiain 1849. Overnight, caravans of fortune seekers heading west through Indian land infuriated Native Americans who considered that land unobtrusively theirs.
Again, people cried out for the government to do something, something that would get the Indians out of the way. What the government did was to build another generation of forts about 100 miles west of the first set. For a deeper comprehension, it is necessary to understand the location of this second string of frontier forts.
June 1851-Fort Belknap in Young County, near springs of theBrazos River
November 1851- Fort Phantom Hill about fifty miles southwest of Fort Belknap (near Abilene)
October 28, 1852-Fort Chadbourne in Coke County, about sixty miles southwest of Fort Phantom Hill
1852-Fort Mason, about ninety miles southeast of Fort Chadbourne.
1852-Fort McKavett, about thirty-five miles west of Fort Mason
There would be other forts built, of course. However, in 1854 these were the protection provided to the Texas settlers by the Federal Government. I suppose it was better than nothing, but, of course, it did not work. The forts were too far apart, and remember, they were usually manned with infantry…now what do you suppose the government was thinking?…Citations can be found in The View From the Old Oak Tree, Fredda Davis Jones.