History

Establishing a fort

Soldiers arrived in Jacksboro in 1866 to establish a fort at Buffalo Springs, 20 miles north of Jacksboro. But due to the unhealthy conditions at Buffalo Springs, they soon abandoned that fort.

The soldiers returned to Jacksboro and eventually received orders to establish a fort on the east bank of Lost Creek.

Small building clad in rock with chimney
Bakery building

The Army established Fort Richardson at the new location in November 1867. It was the northern-most point on a line of forts along the Texas frontier. It was named for General Israel B. Richardson, a veteran of the Seminole Indian and Mexican Wars. Richardson died in the Civil War in 1862.

These frontier forts were critical in expanding settlement into north Texas. Troops stationed there worked to subdue the plains Native Americans and force them onto reservations north of the Red River.

Frontier clashes

Relocated tribes were frustrated by confinement on the reservation, inadequate supplies and failed treaty promises. Warriors crossed the Red River into Texas and terrorized frontier settlements. The Army responded.

Occasionally, these raids and patrols became bloody, as in the battle at the Little Wichita River in July 1870 and the Warren Wagon Train Raid in 1871. This raid led to the arrests of Satanta, Satank and Big Tree. Satanta and Big Tree were later convicted in civil courts and sentenced to hang; their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.

Three years later, in 1874, the conflict between U.S. Army troops and the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne ended in the Battle of Palo Duro. Led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, the 4th Cavalry from Fort Richardson dealt a decisive blow to the tribes and forced them onto reservations.

Life at the fort

Bunk beds lined up in a large hall with storage chests at the foot of some beds.Life was hard for men at this frontier fort. They made long difficult patrols along the frontier, sometimes going as far as modern-day New Mexico and Colorado. They guarded the military road connecting them with forts to the southwest. They also helped local law officers keep the peace in Jacksboro.

The post hospital was one of the most modern buildings between Fort Worth and El Paso. Even so, more men died from diseases than from battle wounds. Medical problems included alcoholism and venereal diseases.

After the Battle of Palo Duro, the frontier became safer. The Army issued orders to abandon Fort Richardson in 1878.

The 55 buildings, including a morgue, bakery, magazine, commissary and commanding officer’s quarters, were soon sold, scavenged, and fell into disrepair.

World War II

During World War II, the Texas National Guard set up an installation at Fort Richardson for Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment, 36th Division.

In February 1942, the battalion fought alongside Dutch and Australians against Japanese forces on the island of Java. The Japanese captured the unit and 368 soldiers from the USS Houston. Their whereabouts were unknown until the end of the war; they were known as the Lost Battalion. The survivors were freed on Aug. 15, 1945.

The Texas National Guard remained at Fort Richardson until 1954.

Preservation

 Antique cookstove with assorted pots sitting on it.In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission purchased the surviving fort buildings and surrounding 41 acres. The site became a National Historic Landmark in 1964. TPWD acquired the fort in 1968. Since then, the park has expanded to over 450 acres.

TPWD continues to share the story of this site with Texans.

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