The occupation of Fort Phantom, north of Abilene, only lasted two years and five months. Yet, on some days, it must have felt like a lifetime.
Rattlesnakes are a fact of life in Texas. As the soldiers traveled to this location, a Texas Blue Norther struck. Temperatures dropped quickly and the wind blew fiercely. One teamster, twenty-seven oxen and mules froze to death in the sudden cold.
In the beginning, there were few problems from the Comanches. But by 1853, travelers were attacked, some killed and scalped and others kidnapped. After Indian Agent Jesse Stern was slain, the mood changed. A new commander did not change the situation and the fort was abandoned. As they left, he ordered that the fort be burned.
Hardships included scorching hot summers, freezing winters with ice and snow, and the ever present wind. And, then, there were snakes, spiders, insects, ants, and other vermin. There was rarely enough food and illnesses resulted.
Across the present day highway, the Magazine still stands. It was designed with a tall ceiling and vents to keep the gunpowder and shot dry. The fort had muskets, rifles, and two brass cannons for protection.
Anyone want to go back to the good old days? Not me.
“I cannot imagine that God ever intended white man to occupy such a barren waste land.” Lt. Clinton W. Lear, Nov. 19, 1851
“Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn.” Berta Hart Nance