If you were a child of the 1950’s or 60’s, you would be familiar with the above phrase. In western movies and television, when things got really rough, the U.S. cavalry would ride in, trumpets blaring, and save anyone who might be in peril. I noticed in historical western romance, though, most of the heroes were ranchers, cowboys, assorted lawmen, Texas rangers, and even the occasional bounty hunter. What has happened to the heroic soldier in blue with gold buttons and epaulets, charging into battle?
That’s when I decided my next historical romance series would focus on that particularly western branch of the U.S. Army, the cavalry. I decided to focus on west Texas forts, since I grew up only a few miles from Fort Clark. Unlike many other forts prominent in the Indian Wars, Fort Clark remained an active post for almost one hundred years. It was founded in 1852 and deactivated in the mid-1940’s. It was bought by a private company, and over several decades was partially reconstructed and all the buildings were renovated. Fort Clark, where I danced in the community hall as a teenager, has become a unique retirement community.
I thought, like most people who’ve lived in west Texas, I knew a lot about the cavalry and fort life. But when I began researching the backgrounds for my series of cavalry books, called: A West Texas Frontier Trilogy, I soon found I had lots to learn.
Here are some of the more interesting facts I uncovered: frontier forts in the Southwest, unlike back East, were seldom built with walls. It was believed the firepower of the soldiers was more than adequate for overcoming the hostiles. At first, still mired in an Army culture caught up in the methods of the late eighteenth century, infantry troops were marched over hundreds of miles, under extreme conditions, to garrison the western forts. These infantry troops were ineffective in battling the Native American tribes. The Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Kickapoo, and other tribes of Texas had long since adopted the horse as an effective means of quick raids and dare-devil escapes. The infantry would would pursue the marauding hostiles on foot, and the Native Americans would ride circles around them.
Next, in the cavalry’s life came the strange blend of soldier, known as the dragoon. A dragoon was a cavalryman who rode on horseback, but he dismounted to fight and shoot his single-balled, musket-loading weapon. This interesting mix of fighting didn’t last long—the Civil War changed the cavalry’s tactics overnight and when the west Texas forts were redeployed after the war, they were made up of primarily cavalry soldiers—men who fought on horseback.
Some of the more interesting facts I ran across about daily fort living were: the soldiers usually built their own living quarters, at first surviving in tents or quasi-log huts with tented roofs. This was common, even for officers who’d brought their families with them. Enlisted men were expected to live in barracks, and they couldn’t marry without special approval. As a necessary fire prevention method, most kitchens, unlike in our familiar films, were detached structures, built behind the living quarters. And the the most interesting fact I learned was that rank in the Army, when it came to officers’ quarters, reigned supreme. A mere Captain with a family of four could be turned out into smaller quarters by the arrival of a bachelor Major, who would be given the larger structure. Not very democratic by today’s standards, but the nineteenth century U.S. Army was organized along strict lines of rank and seniority.
Mallory: The Mail Order Bride is the third book in my West Texas Frontier Trilogy. It’s set in scenic Fort Davis, Texas. The fort, which is now a National Historic Site and run by Park Rangers, nestles at the foot of dramatic mountains in a box canyon. When I revisited the fort, a few weeks ago, I learned all of the structures are original, except for their porches and roofs. I’ve included several pictures I took of the fort’s buildings.
Hebby is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and digital copies of her three West Texas Frontier Trilogy books. To win, comment and guess the function of the four buildings pictured A, B, C, and D. The winner will picked at random from those who comment. Good luck!
Hebby Roman is a New York traditionally published, small-press published, and Indie published #1 Amazon best-selling author of historical and contemporary romances. Her WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS TRILOGY is an Amazon Bestselling and Award-Winning series. SUMMER DREAMS, was #1 in Amazon fiction and romance. Her medieval historical romance, THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR, was selected for the Amazon Encore program and was #1 in medieval fiction. She won a national Harlequin contest. Her book, BORDER HEAT, was a Los Angeles Times Book Festival selection. She has been a RONE Finalist three times and in three different categories.