The Real Stories of Fort Clark’s Cavalry Troopers

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History Programs

By William McWhorter, Military Sites Program Coordinator

Since 2008, the Kinney County Historical Commission (CHC) has been of tremendous support to the Military Sites Program with historic documentation on Fort Clark during World War II, in addition to providing valuable info about other periods of the fort’s history. From 2008–11, on three occasions former Kinney CHC Chair Bill Haenn and fellow commission members lent their time and expertise to provide THC staff with guided tours of the World War II remains of the former U.S. Army post near Brackettville.

One truly memorable visit took place in September 2008, when THC staff was asked to join the Kinney CHC and the Friends of Historic Fort Clark for a special event called “The Last Tattoo of the Buffalo Solider.” Former U.S. Army veterans of the last all-African American cavalry division (the 2nd Cavalry) were invited back to Fort Clark and treated to several days of celebration of their military service. The event’s coordinators, retired U.S. Army veterans living at Fort Clark, had a simple concept in mind when they planned the event: to salute these very special soldiers on the site of their service. The event was called “The Last Tattoo” because, due to the age of the veterans, the reunion was conceived as likely that last time the elderly veterans would be able to assemble for a military-themed ceremony (i.e., a tattoo) honoring their service.

The 2nd Cavalry Division was activated on February 25, 1943, with headquarters at Fort Clark. During January 1944, the 2nd Cavalry Division was dismounted and deployed abroad, arriving at Oran, North Africa, on March 9, 1944. The next day, the division was inactivated. Although the 2nd Cavalry Division’s service was short-lived, it remains the only all-African American cavalry division in U.S. Army history and the largest mounted formation ever to serve in Texas.

Continuing its efforts to tell the story of the 2nd Cavalry Division at Fort Clark, the Kinney CHC dedicated an Official Texas Historical Marker in 2011 titled, 2nd Cavalry Division at Fort Clark. It was paid for through the THC Historical Marker Program’s Undertold Marker Fund. Our Texas Historic Sites Atlas contains the full marker inscription.

While his knowledge of Fort Clark’s World War II history is extensive, Haenn’s expertise also covers other parts of Texas military history, including the fort’s post-Civil War history into the first half of the 20th century. Haenn had a very intriguing article published this month in the Army Historical Foundation’s ON POINT: the Journal of Army History, (Summer 2013 Vol. 19 No.1). Titled “Bullis’s Medal of Honor Fight at the Pecos River,” the article tells the story of First Lieutenant John L. Bullis and his small force of Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts’ April 25, 1875 fight with Comanche Indians along the Pecos River in Val Verde County. This skirmish resulted in all three Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts receiving the Medal of Honor.

Haenn’s article references the THC’s 2006 historical marker, Medal of Honor Fight, 1875. He said the marker provided the impetus for his article, and it is prominently pictured in the layout. While the article is not posted online, if you’d like to read it in its entirety, consider subscribing to ON POINT by joining the Army Historical Foundation.

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Comments

My late father was second in command of the 9th Cavalry Medical Department at Fort Clark from July 1942-February 1944. Doctor Westen learned to ride a horse while he was in Brackettville. I grew up listening to his stories of the 2nd Cavalry Division.I am a Life member of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Association. We Can! We Will! Sincerely,Greg Westen