The Fort was established in 1852, at the site of one of the biggest springs in Texas, Las Moras Springs (today, 2 hours west of San Antonio). Its initial role was to protect the Military Road (San Antonio-El Paso/Chihuahua), now U.S. Hwy 90. Ft. Clark played a leading role during the entire period of the Indian Wars, a claim shared only by Ft. Davis. The second most famous engagement with Indians (after Custer’s Last Stand) was the Mackenzie Raid into Mexico which was launched from Ft. Clark in 1873 by 400 troopers of the 4th Cavalry; this incident spawned, among other things, a 1950′s TV series, Mackenzie’s Raiders. The last combat with Indians by Texas soldiers was from Ft. Clark (May 3, 1881; Lt. Bullis and 30 Seminole-Negro Scouts against Lipan Apaches).
Ft. Clark was the most significant post in America for the various units of the Buffalo Soldiers. In addition, uniquely, Ft. Clark was home for the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts and their families, an extraordinary fighting group with a fascinating cultural history as well. Buried in their community cemetery, adjacent to the Fort, are four recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor (and nearby in a Brackettville cemetery is another Medal of Honor recipient, a sheriff who killed one of the Scout recipients). Throughout its history Ft. Clark was home to some of the Army’s finest officers; looking only at the pre-Civil War period, more than three dozen went on to become generals.
Post for All Wars
From the latter part of the 19th Century and halfway into the 20th, Ft. Clark oscillated from being a sleepy backwater to a beehive of activity as a training base for all of America’s wars, from the Spanish-American to World War II. For example, thousands of WWI medics were prepared for France here. George Patton developed his concepts for armored warfare here. Near 10,000 black soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Div., perhaps the largest African-American fighting force ever assembled, trained for WWII combat here. During your stay at the Patton House, you can watch early footage of these training activities and see mock-Nazi pillboxes used to prepare soldiers for the Normandy invasion. Also during WWII Ft. Clark contained a POW camp for Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
Ft. Clark…is the real thing. John Wayne 1959, during filming of The Alamo
You can also learn about other aspects of Ft. Clark’s history. The Fort was home to at least two icons of baseball, Abner Doubleday and Jackie Robinson. Joe Louis fought here. Football and polo were played here. You can still “take the waters” of Las Moras, said to wash away your sins, by swimming in the enormous, spring fed pool which was refurbished into the Army’s largest by order of Jonathan Wainwright shortly before he left Ft. Clark headed to the Phillipines.
Brown & Root
When Ft. Clark was deactivated and sold to a Brown & Root subsidiary, Texas Railway Equipment Co., in 1946, a new era began. “Ft. Clark Ranch” was operated by Brown & Root as a dude ranch and vacation destination. Future generations of Texans are indebted especially to Margarett Brown for ensuring that the 19th Century and most of the early 20th Century buildings were saved. As the renowned preservation architect Killis Almond said, “Fort Clark Historic District remains one of the most remarkably intact districts entered into the National Register of Historic Places. The historic integrity of the buildings and site is strong.”
Since the Army’s departure, Ft. Clark and nearby Alamo Village have been the location for countless movies, e.g. Arrowhead, The Alamo, Bandolero — actually movie-making began at Ft. Clark in 1915 with some Vitagraph Co. silent movies.
The Patton House is filled with memorabilia pertaining to all these historical periods, and a short stroll away is the Ft. Clark Historical Society’s Old Guardhouse Museum, which contains as fine a collection of Old Army material as can be seen anywhere. And a county museum is also walking distance away in Brackettville, just across Las Moras Creek.