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Coordinates: 34°42′15″N 98°30′30″W / 34.70417°N 98.50833°W / 34.70417; -98.50833

Fort Sill
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
Old infantry barracks at Fort Sill.
Location: Lawton, Oklahoma
Architect: US Army
Governing body: Department of the Army
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL: December 19, 1960[2]
NRHP Reference#: 66000629

Fort Sill is a United States Army post near Lawton, Oklahoma, about 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Today, Fort Sill remains the only active Army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian Wars. [3] It is designated as a National Historic Landmark[2] and serves as home of the United States Army Field Artillery School and well as the Marine Corps' site for Field Artillery MOS school, United States Army Air Defense Artillery School, the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the 75th Fires Brigade and the 214th Fires Brigade. Fort Sill is also one of the five locations for Army Basic Combat Training.

As of December 2009, Maj. Gen. David D. Halverson is the current commanding general of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill.

Contents

History

The site of Fort Sill was staked out on January 8, 1869 by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan who led a campaign into Indian Territory to stop hostile tribes from raiding border settlements in Texas and Kansas.

Sheridan's massive winter campaign involved six cavalry regiments accompanied by frontier scouts such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Clark and Jack Stilwell. Troops camped at the location of the new fort included the 7th Cavalry, the 19th Kansas Volunteers and the 10th Cavalry, a distinguished group of black "buffalo soldiers" who constructed many of the stone buildings still surrounding the old post quadrangle.

At first the garrison was called "Camp Wichita" and referred to by the Indians as "the Soldier House at Medicine Bluffs." Sheridan later named it in honor of his West Point classmate and friend, Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, who was killed during the American Civil War. The first post commander was Brevet Maj. Gen. Benjamin Grierson and the first Indian agent was Colonel Albert Gallatin Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone.

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Peace policy

Water tower at Fort Sill.

Several months after the establishment of Fort Sill, President Ulysses Grant approved a peace policy placing responsibility for the Southwest tribes under Quaker Indian agents. Fort Sill soldiers were restricted from taking punitive action against the Indians who interpreted this as a sign of weakness. They resumed raiding the Texas frontier and used Fort Sill as a sanctuary. In 1871 General of the Army William Tecumseh Sherman arrived at Fort Sill to find several Kiowa chiefs boasting about a wagon train massacre. When Sherman ordered their arrest during a meeting on Grierson's porch two of the Indians attempted to assassinate him. In memory of the event, the Commanding General's quarters were dubbed Sherman House.

Red River War

In June 1874 the Comanches, Kiowas and Southern Cheyennes went to war, and the South Plains shook with the hoofbeats of Indian raiders. The resulting Red River War, which lasted a year, was a war of attrition involving relentless pursuit by converging military columns.

Without a chance to graze their livestock and faced with a disappearance of the great buffalo herds, the tribes eventually surrendered. Quanah Parker and his Kwahadi Comanches were the last to abandon the struggle and their arrival at Fort Sill in June 1875 marked the end of Indian warfare on the south Plains.

Until the territory opened for settlement, Fort Sill's mission was one of law enforcement and soldiers protected the Indians from outlaws, squatters and cattle rustlers.

Geronimo

In 1894 Geronimo and 341 other Chiricahua Apache prisoners of war were brought to Fort Sill where they lived in villages on the range. Geronimo was granted permission to travel for a while with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show and he visited President Theodore Roosevelt before dying of pneumonia in 1909. The rest of the Apaches remained on Fort Sill until 1913. The Chiricahua had been promised the lands surrounding the fort by the US government; however local non-Indians resisted their settlement. In 1914 two-thirds of the tribe moved onto the Mescalero Apache Reservation and the remaining third settled on allotments around Fletcher and Apache, Oklahoma.[4] They became what is known today as the Fort Sill Apache Tribe.

Lt. Hugh L. Scott commanded Troop L of the 7th Cavalry, a unit comprised entirely of Indians and considered one of the best in the west. Indian scout I-See-O and other members of the troop are credited with helping tribes on the South Plains to avert the Bloody Ghost Dance uprising of the 1890s in which many died on the North Plains.

The frontier disappears

Old and captured artillery at Fort Sill.

The Last Indian lands in Oklahoma opened for settlement in 1901 and 29,000 homesteaders registered at Fort Sill during July for the land lottery. On August 6 the town of Lawton sprang up and quickly grew to become the third largest city in Oklahoma.

With the disappearance of the frontier, the mission of Fort Sill gradually changed from cavalry to field artillery. The first artillery battery arrived at Fort Sill in 1902 and the last cavalry regiment departed in May 1907.

The School of Fire for the Field Artillery was founded at Fort Sill in 1911 and continues to operate today as the world renowned U.S. Army Field Artillery School. At various times Fort Sill has also served as home to the Infantry School of Musketry, the School for Aerial Observers, the Artillery Officers Candidate School (Robinson Barracks), the Air Service Flying School, and the Army Aviation School.

Historic recognition

Fort Sill was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.[2]

Cemeteries

There are various cemeteries on Fort Sill, where many Indians are buried. Geronimo, Kiowa Chief Satanta, and Comanche Chief Quanah Parker are among the famous Native American leaders buried there.

Prison for war resisters

Several soldiers who deserted and were later convicted of various charges (including disobeying orders and desertion) have been imprisoned at the Regional Confinement Center (military prison) at Ft. Sill including Camilo Mejia[5], Blake LeMoine, Dale Bartell, Neil Quentin Lucas, and Tony Anderson.

The Fort Sill RCF is scheduled to close in 2010 due to the BRAC (base realignment and closing) process. Any remaining prisoners will be sent to the new Midwest Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth.

Marine Corps presence

A Battery of US Marines is stationed at Fort Sill.

References

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. http://www.nr.nps.gov/.  
  2. ^ a b c "Fort Sill". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=462&ResourceType=District. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  3. ^ "The History of Old Fort Sill, U.S. Army"
  4. ^ Coppersmith, Clifford P. "Apache Fort Sill." Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. (retrieved 1 Feb 09)
  5. ^ "Camilo Mejia freed from Oklahoma Army prison, Iraq CO and family honored by Oklahoma peace activists"

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