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Park Pick: The Lost Battalion

Fort Richardson’s rich history includes being home to a famous WWII force.

By Tony Lyle

“What’s your favorite state park and historic site?” As an archeologist for Texas state parks, I am frequently asked this question. Although I certainly value each one in the area, lately my answer has often been: “Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site.”

Perhaps the more difficult question to answer is: “Which historical feature or period of history of Fort Richardson is your favorite?” Just as our parks and historic sites offer tremendous diversity and opportunity, Fort Richardson has many features and chapters to choose from.

As a U.S. Army installation from 1867 to 1878, the site has plenty of buildings and features to help visitors experience a post-Civil War fort firsthand. The impressive hospital, officers’ quarters, guardhouse and powder magazine still stand from the 19th century, while replica quarters and barracks help delineate the expansive parade grounds.

Since the post was established northwest of Fort Worth to make it safe for settlers to travel west without fear of American Indian attack, I am equally enthralled by the stories and evidence of prehistoric Native American lifestyles —another of my favorite eras to consider.

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But these are just the beginning. When you visit this U.S. Army garrison, the largest of its kind in 1872, you’ll walk the same paths as famous Army officers such as Col. Ranald Mackenzie and Gen. William T. Sherman. Imagine the now-controversial trials of Kiowa chiefs Big Tree and Satanta, which took place here in 1871, and imagine the buildings’ use as an Indian school after 1878.

Fortunately, the city of Jacksboro helped to preserve the buildings throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1940, the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, 36th Division of the Texas National Guard mobilized at the fort and used the hospital as its barracks. The 2nd Battalion became known as the “Lost Battalion,” whose experiences during World War II were among those that are said to have inspired the film The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

You can ponder which episode in the fort’s rich history is your favorite while trekking the 10-mile Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway.

Fort Richardson was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1963. Five years later, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assumed management of the historic site; historic buildings were rehabilitated, and recreational facilities were added.

For more information call (940) 567-3506 or visit tpwd.texas.gov/fortrichardson.

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