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Fort Davis


Fort Davis (1861-62) - Established to serve as a Confederate headquarters in Indian Territory and named in honor of Jefferson Davis, the post was located on the south bank of the Arkansas River 2 ½ miles northeast of present-day Muskogee, Oklahoma. Under the direction of Brigadier General Albert Pike, the fort's construction began in November, 1861 and its purpose was to aid in the struggle to keep Indian Territory loyal to the south and prevent Union invasions into Texas from the north. When complete, the post included 13 wooden buildings, including barracks, a commissary, stables, and other out buildings. Garrisoned by troops from the Five Civilized Tribes, Texas, and Arkansas, it was officially named Cantonment Davis, though was always more commonly known as Fort Davis.
   General Pike was placed in command of Confederate troops in the Territory in November, 1861. His first official act was to establish elaborate headquarters, and construct a fort just one mile north of Bacone College, on the banks of the Arkansas near Muskogee. This he named Cantonment Davis in honor of the president of the Confederacy. Pike was always something of a visionary, and while the preliminary estimate of the cost of this plant was moderate, it is said that nearly a million dollars was expended on buildings and defences before they were completed.
   From the very first, Pike was at variance with his military superiors, charging them with an entire disregard of the treaties with the Indians, made by Pike the previous summer. According to these treaties, the Indian Territory was to be defended against invasion, his Indian allies furnished with weapons arid supplies by the Confederacy, and the Indian troops not to be taken out of the Territory for military service. However, either through lack of ability to furnish the supplies, or through a disregard for the claims of the Indians - or probably both - the Confederate authorities paid little attention to Pike's complaints or to the terms of the treaties. With the advance of the Federals into Arkansas in the early spring of 1862, Pike was ordered to send all his forces into that state to the support of Van Dorn. He left Cantonment Davis, on which he had expended so much money and labor, never to return. His Indian troops fought well at the important battle of Pea Ridge in northwest Arkansas, but discouraged by the Confederate defeat and the lack of interest on the part of his superiors, General Pike at once returned to the Territory, placed Colonel D. H. Cooper in charge of Cantonment Davis, and decided to make an entire change in his military plans by practically leaving the northern part of the Territory to its fate, and to establish a new line of defense on the Blue river in what is now Bryan County. It is said that Pike's superior, General Van Dorn, while telling him not to expect any help from the Arkansas army, charged him to maintain himself as best he could in the Territory, but not to march southward except in case of absolute necessity. These orders Pike evidently violated. One of his critics of that time states, "He came 250 miles to the southward only halting at the Little Blue, an unknown thread of a stream twenty miles from Red River, where he constructed fortifications in the open prairie, erected a saw-mill remote from any timber, and devoted himself to gastronomy and poetic meditation with elegant accompaniments."
   On December 27, 1862, the fort was burned by Union troops led by Colonel William A. Phillips.


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