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Fort Washita


Fort Washita was established in 1842 in the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, as the southwestern-most military post of the United States. The Chickasaw Indian Agency was built early on as a one-story log building with four rooms in a group of trees on the edge of the prairie 600 yards west of Fort Washita near the springs. The mission of the soldiers was to protect the recently immigrated Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The Southern Plains Indians to the west and non-Indian intruders posed threats to the peace and stability of the region. Construction was carried out mostly by Companies A and F of the Second Dragoons, with a temporary log barracks in 1842. There were supply difficulties, since the fort was located so far on the frontier. Most materials had to be taken from the area, with a few supplies being shipped from Fort Towson.
   Troops stationed at Fort Washita on a rotational basis during the 1840s included men belonging to companies from the 2nd Dragoons, U.S. Regiment of Riflemen, and the 6th, 7th, and 5th Infantry Regiments. In the 1850s, soldiers from one battery each of the 2nd and 3rd Artillery were at the fort on frontier duty. From 1858 to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, elements of the 1st Cavalry and 7th Infantry garrisoned the post.
   Troops from Fort Washita were ordered to protect Texas frontier from Indian attacks in 1842 so Texans could muster against a supposed invasion from Mexico.
   Fort Washita was almost abandoned in 1843 before it was fully occupied. General Taylor learned in March 1843 that the War Department was considering abandoning it. After Taylor testified to the fort's valuable location the War Department approved the plans to occupy the fort, and the United States Army occupied the post on April 23, 1843.
   In 1845 Fort Washita was the only frontier fort not accessible by steamboat and had to rely on the interior for its supply.
   Major Daniel Ruggles commanded the Fort after the Mexican-American War. He was popular, and the small settlement west of the fort was named Rugglesville after him. It was sometimes called Rucklesville and later Hatsboro.
   Shortly after the Mexican-American War the 2nd Artillery Regiment, commanded by Colonel Braxton Bragg and made famous at the Battle of Buena Vista, was assigned to the fort. Bragg was later a General in the Confederate Army.
   Fort Washita's importance as a military post waned as the frontier moved westward. The Chickasaw and Choctaw nations grew more settled and incursions by the plains Indians lessened. As the frontier moved westward new military posts were established farther west to protect the new frontier. The Army established Fort Cobb in October 1859.
   The Fort closed on February 17, 1858 but was reoccupied later that year on December 29 after increased Comanche activity.
   On May 1, 1861, the fort was abandoned by U.S. forces and occupied the next day by Confederate troops from Texas. Southern soldiers used the post as a headquarters during the remainder of the Civil War. After the war the Chickasaw Nation received the old post grounds and buildings from the federal government. The Colbert family, prominent Chickasaws, owned the property until it was acquired in 1962 by the Oklahoma Historical Society.


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