Military Forts Kept Miners Safe

By Ascarza, William | AZ Daily Star, May 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

Military Forts Kept Miners Safe


Ascarza, William, AZ Daily Star


Frontier military outposts in Arizona began with several early presidios established along the Santa Cruz River.

Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac was founded in June 1752 after a Pima uprising that threatened Spanish silver mining interests around Arivaca and the Santa Rita Mountains, including the Alto, Salero, Montosa and Wandering Jew mines worked by Jesuit missionaries from Tumacacori in 1688.

Presidio San Augustin del Tucson was founded in 1775 as Spaniards broadened the need to protect their mining interests in the Santa Catalina Mountains, including the Iron Door Mine and La Esmeralda Mine.

That same year, Presidio Santa Cruz de Terranate (1775-80), with a perimeter of 100 square meters, was established by Spanish troops along the San Pedro River in a failed effort to expand Spanish holdings and broaden their quest for metals. Spanish influence in the region evaporated with Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821.

The outcome of the Mexican War (1846-48) and subsequent Gadsden Purchase of 1853 affirmed the United States' commitment of protecting its citizenry and fulfilling the country's "Manifest Destiny" in the Southwest.

During the latter half of the 19th century, the U.S. military was obliged to protect mining and ranching interests in Arizona territory from the Native Americans.

After the Civil War, the U.S. Army considered Arizona its most dangerous assignment because of the high rate of casualties among military personnel and civilians in the territory.

More than 46 camps and forts were established within the territory. Many of them were established for strategic purposes. Thousands of miners passed through Arizona on their way to the California Gold Rush of 1849, initiating the creation of Fort Yuma to control the raiding parties of Yuma Indians.

Additional forts followed: Fort Defiance (1851-61), established in the Four Corners area, tracked the activities of the Navajo. …

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