Fort Duchesne

Fort Duchesne

Major Frederick Benteen, riding at the head of black Troops B and E of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, raised his hand and called, “Halt!” at a pre-selected fort site in eastern Utah Territory, near the confluence of the Duchesne and Uinta rivers.

It was August 23, 1886. Benteen and the troops had traveled a total of 650 miles, part of the distance by train, the rest on horseback, from Fort McKinney, Wyoming Territory, to help build and garrison a new Army post to be called Fort Duchesne.

The United States Army Post of Fort Duchesne was established in August 1886 on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Construction of the fort began in 1887 close to where the established Indian Agency had been. The Fort was officially closed in 1912. The Uintah band of Utes were removed to the area in 1865, later in 1881 the White River and Uncompahgre Utes were removed from Colorado and forced to the Uintah Reservation. A year later the Ouray Reservation was established. The Uintah and Ouray Reservation is the second largest Indian Reservation in the United States.

The Buffalo Soldiers of the United States 9th Cavalry were a strong presence at Fort Duchesne. There were Buffalo Soldiers at the Fort for 17 years, from 1886 to 1903 when the Cavalry was sent to the Philippines in the Spanish-American War and the Buffalo Soldiers were heroes at the battle of San Juan Hill. In 1900, the men of the 9th Cavalry were called to Cuba, but the people in the area petitioned the government to keep them at Fort Duchesne, fearing their absence from the Fort would be disastrous for the area and community. From 1890 to 1894, the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry were the only soldiers at Fort Duchesne. While at Fort Duchesne, Buffalo Soldiers played baseball, competed in target shooting contests, had boxing tournaments, went to community fairs, and participated in other various activities during their time in the area.

Today, there are no remnants of Fort Duchesne in the area. All the buildings have been torn down. Because the Fort was built on tribal land, the direct area of the history of Fort Duchesne remains on tribal land. The town of Fort Duchesne is on the Uintah and Ouray reservation and is the headquarters for the Ute Nation.