Great Plains Studies, Center for

 

Date of this Version

1989

Comments

Published in Great Plains Quarterly SUMMER 1989 .Copyright 1989 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska—Lincoln.

Abstract

Slightly more than a century ag9 the dreaded "Comanche Moon" of each month virtually assured devastating Indian raids upon the isolated ranches of Texas' northwestern frontier. No issue raised more ire in the state legislature or produced more animosity between state and federal officials than did this. To protect these exposed settlements, the War Department established a thin line of military posts from the Red River to the Rio Grande. Anchoring the northern zone was Fort Richardson, established in 1866 with a garrison to patrol the upper Brazos River country and to tum back raiding parties of Comanches and Kiowas from the Fort Sill Agency in southwestern Indian Territory. Initial plans for the construction of a well-ordered stone compound gave way to the economic realities of the moment. Instead of emerging from the prairie soil as an invincible fortress, the military post "was a collection of stone, picket, and lumber buildings, scattered over a rectangular area almost a mile long and one-quarter mile wide, that more resembled a small village than a fort" (p. 28). Initial desertion rates averaged 12 percent, a figure that edged even higher during the 1870s as harsh discipline, low pay, and monotony of duty drove soldiers to desperate measures.