Fort Huachuca History, 1877 to 1945

In March 1877, Captain Samuel M. Whiteside and two companies of the 6th United States Cavalry established a camp at the mouth of Huachuca Canyon. This isolated camp had two missions, protect the settlers in the area and prevent Apache raiding parties from escaping into Mexico. With clean running water, wood for fuel and construction and, above all, excellent observation into the San Pedro and San Rafael valleys, the side was ideal for the mission.

In 1882, the Army made the camp permanent and designated it "Fort Huachuca.” The soldiers began construction of buildings using wood, stone, and adobe. By early 1886 Fort Huachuca became the advanced headquarters of General Nelson A. Miles` campaign against Geronimo. Following Geronimo’s surrender in August 1886, the threat of Apache depredations in the area subsided and many of the frontier posts, camps, and stations were closed. Because of its strategic location near the Mexican Borders, Fort Huachuca remained open and active, in the decades that followed, troops from the post were used in operations against other renegade Indians, Mexican bandits, and American outlaws.

In l913, the black troopers of the 10th United States Cavalry, the “Buffalo Soldiers." arrived at Fort Huachuca and remained for almost twenty years. During this time, they participated in the 1916 punitive expedition into Mexico led by Brigadier General John J. Pershing. During World War-I, the troops of the 10th Cavalry were used to guard the United States-Mexico border.

During World WarII, the post population soared to more that 30,000 as two black infantry divisions, the 92nd and 93rd trained here. With the departure of these units to the war zone, little activity remained and at the end of the war the post was declared surplus.

Following a period under the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, during which time a Bison (Buffalo) here was established, the post returned to military control. Shortly after the onset of the Korean War, Fort Huachuca was designated the training site for Engineer troops specializing in the construction of military airfields.

In 1954, the Chief Signal Officer, United States Army, discovered that southeastern Arizona was an ideal area and climate for the testing of electronic and communications equipment. As a result, the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) reopened Fort Huachuca as an active Army post and from that time on it has steadily increased as a vital contributor to the national defense.

The Huachuca Mountain Range has provided the backdrop for much exciting history of the Old West. Fort Huachuca has been the stage for the enactment of much of the drama associated with the development of southeastern Arizona.

The area has been inhabited at least since 11,000 B.C. The evidence that fixes man’s earliest existence in the Southwestern United States is owing to the archeological excavation at the Lehner Ranch, a mile and one-half southwest of Hereford, Arizona. It was here that large projectile points were found in conjunction with several mammoth remains, indicating that spears were used to bayonet the giant animals, probably after they had become mired in the marshy bank of the San Pedro River.

Exploratory excavation of the canyons formed by the Huachuca Mountains has established that a thriving Indian community existed until about the year 1400 on what is now the military reservation. Artifacts uncovered near the surface of their abandoned village show the influence of Hohokam culture.

The word “Huachuca” comes from a later Indian tribe, the Sobaipuri, who used it in describing their village at the base of the mountains. It is usually translated as “Place of thunder,” a notable feature of summer month in the area. Some scholars maintain, however, that Huachuca can also be translated as “place of wind and rain,” two other typical characteristics of the area at different periods of the years.

Father Kino, the famous traveling Padre of the Southwest, passed through this area, as did Coronado’s reconnaissance parties and elements of the Mormon Battalion in support of General Stephen Watts Kearny’s advance to California during the war with Mexico.

But even before Arizona Territory became a part of the United States, the Apaches, recoiling from the Comanche pressure to the east, exterminated or drove away the less warlike tribes to the west.

Fort Huachuca itself was a product of the Indian wars of the 1870’s-80. In February1877, Colonel August V. Kautz, who had recently succeeded General George Crook as Commander of the department of Arizona, ordered Canadian-born. Captain Samuel Marmaduke Whiteside with two companies of the 6th cavalry to establish a temporary camp in the Huachuca Mountains. Whiteside’s mission was to protect settlers and travel routes in southeastern Arizona while simultaneously blocking the traditional Apache escape routes through the San Pedro and Santa Cruz valleys to sanctuary in Mexico.

After reconnoitering several sites, Captain Whiteside selected a location in one of the canyons on March 3, 1877. From his own official report, it can be deduced that he selected the location because it contained fresh running water, an abundance of trees, excellent observation in three directions and protective high ground, so essential for security against Apache tactical methods.

In 1886, General Nelson A. Miles chose Captain Henry W. Lawton, Fort Huachuca’s former post commander, to lead the expedition in pursuit of Geronimo. General Miles came to the fort in the spring of 1886 to review final plans for the coming chase. At that time he designated Fort Huachuca as his advance headquarters and forward supply base for the Geronimo campaign. Fort Bowie, with more efficient rail, road and telegraph communication severed as the general’s rear base. General miles made one other significant decision; he approved the appointment of the young surgeon, Leonard Wood, as the young medical officer to accompany Captain Lawton. Leonard Wood’s personal account of the Geronimo campaign remains one of the more interesting and revealing documents of that expedition. Geronimo’s surrender in August 1986 practically ended the Apache danger in Southeast Arizona. The Army closed more Than 50 camps and forts in the Territory, but Fort Huachuca was retained because of continuing border troubles involving renegade Indians, Mexican bandits and American Outlaws and freebooters.

In 1913, the 10th Cavalry, “Buffalo Soldiers,” arrived and remained almost 20 Years, the longest assignment of any unit in The fort’s history. The first commander of the 10th Cavalry was Colonel Benjamin H, Grierson, selected by General Grant for this Position. The 10th Cavalry joined General Pershing in the 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico. During World War I, it was assigned the mission of guarding the United States—Mexico border.

By 1933, the 25th Infantry Regiment had replaced the 10th Cavalry as the main combat unit at the fort. The 25th in turn was absorbed by the 93d Infantry Division during World War II. When the 93d Infantry Division departed for the Pacific in 1943, the 92d Infantry Division arrived at the fort for training and subsequent assignment to the European Theater. Records of the war years show that the troop strength reached 30,000 men at the fort, which in the 1930’s had been described as suitable for a brigade ---sized unit of about 10,000 men.

Fort Huachuca received the colors of the now inactive 93d Infantry, Division on April 28, 1972. The famed jungle fighters received battle credits for the New Guinea and Northern Solomon campaigns. Inactivated at Camp Stoneman, California, in 1946, the Division’s flags are on display at the Post Museum.

At war’s end the fort was declared surplus and transferred to the state of Arizona. It was reactivated during the Korean War by the Army Engineers.

A new era began in 1954, when control passed to the Chief Signal Officer who found the area and climate ideal for testing electronic and communications equipment. The importance of the fort in the national defense picture grew steadily from that moment. In 1967, Fort Huachuca became the headquarters of the Army Communications Command (USACC).

Then in 1971, the post became the home of the Army Intelligence Center and School, bringing with it the School Brigade.

The arrival of USACC and the Intelligence School in recent years makes Fort Huachuca the major military installation in Arizona and one of prominence throughout the Southwest.

Many contribution to the tradition of Fort Huachuca were made by such major figures as Adna R. Chaffee, Commander of the American Relief Expedition to peeking in 1900 and Army Chief of Staff, 1904-06; Leonard Wood. Participant in the Geronimo campaign and Army Chief of Staff, 1910-14; Colonel Grierson who organized and commanded the 10th Cavalry, 1866-88, and Colonel Grierson’s son, who served in 10th Cavalry from 1879-1915.

Watching their fathers participating in the parades in the 1880’s and 90’s were two youngsters: Malin Craig, who as Army Chief of Staff, 1935-39, had the mission of preparing the United States for World War II; and Fiorello LaGuardia, famous Mayor of New York City, 1933-45.

Today Fort Huachuca no longer scans the San Pedro Valley for raiding Apaches. The ghosts of Cochise and Geronimo may occasionally haunt the canyons high in the Huachuca’s and remind us of the land’s defiant past, but the challenge of the future is the new theme at this dynamic military post. It is a world of communications and electronics – the bywords of modern warfare – which are vital to survival on today’s battlefield.

Follow SWABS

Support SWABS