Frontier Crossroads: Fort Davis and the West

By Robert Wooster | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
CRISIS OF EMPIRE

The recent problems at Fort Davis were soon overshadowed by the growing storm clouds of secession. From the moment of their incorporation into the Union, Texans had criticized the federal government’s failure to prevent Indian attacks. Not surprisingly, the state’s secession convention would list this as one of their justifications for leaving the Union in 1861. The ensuing Civil War thus not only forced garrison members to examine their loyalties but also tested the ability of state officials to raise, equip, and train replacements for the regulars in blue. The state of Texas, rather than the federal government, would now assume responsibility for guarding the Davis Mountains outpost. Shorn of the money and troops that had once come from Washington, Texans were now on their own.

The dilemma of secession sorely challenged the fidelities of the frontier regulars. Two officers destined to serve at Fort Davis had ruminated about the potential division as early as the 1856 presidential election. Each rejected extremists from both North and South in favor of the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan. “If he [Buchanan] is elected & our machinery does not work smooth the only thing to be done is to put Massachusetts & South Carolina in ruins,” wrote Assistant Surgeon DeWitt C. Peters, a native of New York. Similarly, the Pennsylvania-born Lt. Edward L. Hartz damned both the Republican Party’s “accursed fanatical interference in slavery” as well as “the fanatic portion” of the South. Four years later, as news of South Carolina’s secession swept through Texas, U.S. Army officers voiced mixed reactions. Rhode Island’s Zenas R. Bliss still dismissed talk of secession as more of the bluster that had characterized recent national politics. On the other hand, Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee wrote from Fort Mason: “I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union.” Yet Lee, a native Virginian who had faithfully served his country for thirty

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Frontier Crossroads: Fort Davis and the West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Frontier Crossroads i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One - Crossroads of Empire 3
  • Chapter Two - Agent of Empire 15
  • Chapter Three - Frontier Outpost 30
  • Chapter Four - Implementation of Empire 43
  • Chapter Five - Crisis of Empire 58
  • Chapter Six - Return to the Frontier 70
  • Chapter Seven - Frontier Duties 88
  • Chapter Eight - Frontier Empire 108
  • Chapter Nine - The Close of the Military Frontier 123
  • Epilogue 140
  • Appendix 1 143
  • Appendix 2 144
  • Notes 145
  • Bibliography 179
  • Index 201
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