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Fort Yuma
Part of Department of the West
Department of Arizona
California
Type Outpost
Coordinates 32°43′54″N 114°36′56″W / 32.7317135°N 114.6155078°W / 32.7317135; -114.6155078Coordinates: 32°43′54″N 114°36′56″W / 32.7317135°N 114.6155078°W / 32.7317135; -114.6155078
Built 1851
Built by United States Army
Construction
materials
Adobe, Wood
In use 1851-1883
Current
condition
Restored
Current
owner
Federal government of the United States
Open to
the public
Yes
Controlled by Bureau of Indian Affairs
Garrison 1st Dragoons
2nd Infantry Regiment
6th Infantry Regiment
Quartermaster Corps
1st California Infantry
Commanders George Henry Thomas[1]
Occupants United States Army
Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation
Battles/wars Yuma Expedition
Civil War

Fort Yuma was a historic fort in California, located across the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona. Fort Yuma was on the Butterfield Overland Mail route from 1858 until 1861. The fort was abandoned May 16, 1883 and transferred to the Department of the Interior. The Fort Yuma Indian School and a mission now occupy the site.

Contents

History

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Pre-Civil War

First established after the end of the Mexican-American War (1848), the fort was originally located in the bottoms near the Colorado River, less than a mile below the mouth of the Gila River. It was constructed to defend the newly settled community of Yuma, Arizona, on the other side of the Colorado River and the nearby Mexican border. In March 1851 the post was moved to a small elevation on the Colorado's west bank, opposite the Yuma. This site had been occupied by Camp Calhoun, named for John C. Calhoun, established on October 2, 1849, by 1st Lieutenant Cave J. Couts, 1st Dragoons, for the boundary survey party led by 2nd Lieutenant Amiel W. Whipple, Corps of Topographical Engineers. A ferry service, maintained by the soldiers for the survey party's convenience, also accommodated emigrants. Fort Yuma was established to protect the southern emigrant travel route to California and to attempt control of the warlike Yuma Indians in the surrounding 100-mile (160 km) area. Established by Captain Samuel P. Heintzelman, 2nd Infantry Regiment, it was originally named Camp Independence.[2]

In March 1851, when the post was moved to its permanent site, its name was changed to Camp Yuma. A year later the post was designated Fort Yuma. In June 1851 the Army virtually abandoned the post because of the high costs incurred in maintaining it, and it was completely abandoned on December 6, 1851, when its commissary was practically empty of provisions. The post, however, was reoccupied by Captain Heintzelman on February 29, 1852.

It was difficult to supply the post during its early years. Food supplies and construction materials were shipped by water from San Diego to the mouth of the Colorado River in Mexico, but transferring the goods to wagons at that point and moving them to Yuma was backbreaking and time consuming. As a result, life at the post was hard and the military's resolve to maintain a garrison here vacillated. It was only two years later—in August 1852—that temporary Camp Yuma became permanent Fort Yuma, and the Army resolved to stay for good.

Civil War

During the American Civil War, the Union retained control of Fort Yuma when the First California Infantry replaced Regular Army soldiers sent East in December 1861.[3] Across the river the southern half of New Mexico Territory succeded, which became Arizona Territory until 1863 when the Union established their own Arizona Territory. There was no battle action at the fort since the western US was far removed from the Civil War. However, it served as the starting point for the California Column.[4]

Post-Civil War

Fort Yuma was closely associated with the Yuma Quartermaster Depot on the Arizona side of the river, which provided military supplies and personnel to posts throughout Arizona and New Mexico. The Quartermaster Depot operated between 1864 and 1891, though the Army terminated most operations there eight years earlier.

The depot was used by the Army to store and distribute supplies for all military posts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas during the Indian War period. A six month supply of clothing, food, ammunition, and other goods was stored at the depot at all times. Supplies were brought from California by ocean vessels traveling around the Baja Peninsula to Port Isabel near the mouth of the Colorado River. There, cargos were transferred to river steamers and brought upstream to Yuma.

Supplies were unloaded at the depot and hauled up a track running from the dock to a storehouse. The depot quartered up to 900 mules and crews of teamsters to handle them. The Southern Pacific Railroad reached Yuma in 1877 and heralded the end of the Quartermaster Depot and Fort Yuma, and it was abandoned on May 16, 1883. The reservation was transferred to the Interior Department on July 22, 1884.

Present Day

Fort Yuma is now part of the Quechan Indian Reservation. Numerous buildings remain from the military period and can easily be seen today. The Quartermaster Depot is an Arizona State Park, with several buildings preserved or reconstructed. Yuma Proving Grounds is the lineal Army descendent of these posts in the Yuma area.

References

  • U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground historical records maintained in the Public Affairs Office.
  1. ^ "POST RETURN of Fort Yuma, California for July 1854". George H. Thomas Chronology. ~dmercado. 1998-01-01. http://home.att.net/~dmercado/fort_yuma.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  
  2. ^ Hart, Herbert. "Historic California Posts: Fort Yuma". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. http://www.militarymuseum.org/FtYuma.html. Retrieved 18 August 2009.  
  3. ^ "Regiments of the California Volunteers in Federal Service, 1st Regiment of Infantry". The California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. http://www.militarymuseum.org/1stInfCV.html. Retrieved 30 July 2009.  
  4. ^ "The California Column". The California Military Museum. California State Military Department. http://www.militarymuseum.org/CaliforniaColumn2.html. Retrieved 30 July 2009.  

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