Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1849: Major Ripley Arnold Speaks Up In Defense of the New Fort on the Trinity

It is 1849 on the Grand Prairie of Texas, just east of the Cross Timbers on a high bluff overlooking the the confluence of the Clear Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River. A new U.S. Army outpost has just been established by young Brevet Major Ripley Arnold as part of a defensive picket to protect new settlements.  The post which does not have a protective palisade, is named Fort Worth.

Construction work gets underway, scouts and patrols by the mounted 2nd Dragoon troops are begun. Contact is made with the few local settlers.  Local Indian tribes as well as itinerant hunting groups are received at the camp and trading is begun.

Dragoons in field dress ~ From Ft. McKavett & The 2nd Dragoons

Supplies come in via Fort Graham to the south which also includes the mails. Newspapers of which the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Galveston News are the most prominent, are eagerly awaited. The June 17, 1849 edition of the Times-Picayune arrived with this article:

Times-Picayune, June 17, 1849
This article, which contained no sources at all, was troubling. To most Americans of the time, Texas seemed as far away as Afghanistan is today. The newspapers of this era had found that the Indian wars were wildly popular with their readers and treated whatever news there was almost as a sporting event with the small US Army on one side and the native tribes on the other. As always happens in the media, if there is no current news, then there is sometimes a tendency by the less ethical to create some.

Times-Picayune ~ August 6, 1849
Much was riding on the effectiveness of this new chain of Forts and the protection it would offer to those who were coming into Texas. So Major Arnold, in the midst of setting up this forward post, took pen in hand and replied directly to the scurrilous article with good humor, precise information, a direct non-nonsense manner and a plea to come to Fort Worth to join the settlement. 

This will not be the last we will hear from and about Major Ripley Arnold.

Note: The news articles above were the earliest I have found that mention Fort Worth.

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