In this, the second volume in the Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series, historian Robert Wooster covers life at the forts from reveille to taps, detailing the soldiers’ uniforms, weapons, and duties, along with the activities of the local civilian inhabitants.
As the numerous anecdotes of post residents show, military life on the Texas frontier was not one long battle against Indians or invaders. Many of the daily battles waged were against roaches, cholera, inappropriate government-issue items, harsh weather, and personalities. The presence of women in the forts was considered a healthy and civilizing influence by some; others doubted the morals of the fort’s laundresses among lonely enlisted men. Despite the popularity of gambling and drinking, family environments did flourish at many posts: school was taught, dramatic entertainments were performed, religious services were held, and dances were organized to celebrate almost any occasion.
A variety of troops manned the army’s Texas posts. Blacks and whites, immigrants and Easterners, West Pointers and illiterates all contributed to garrison life. Their presence in Texas until the building of the railroads and defeat of the Indians prompted the closing of the forts affected the state dramatically, often in more subtle ways than fighting. As Sgt. H. H. McConnell explained in the 1880s, “if we didn’t actually kill many Indians, who shall say…[the army] was not a potent factor in ‘settling up the country.’”
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Published by Texas A&M University Press