The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Notes and Documents
The Texas Frontier in 185o: Dr. Ebenezer Swift
and the View From Fort Martin Scott
CALEB COKER AND JANET G. HUMPHREY*
T HE TEXAS FRONTIER IN 1850 WAS GUARDED BY A LINE OF ARMY FORTS
ranging from Fort Worth to Fort Duncan near Eagle Pass. With
the end of the Mexican War, settlers had begun pushing toward the
Texas interior, and troops became available to furnish new towns some
measure of protection from raiding bands of Indians.' Fort Martin
Scott, established between the towns of Fredericksburg and Zodiac in
December 1848, was one such military post. The letter reproduced
here, from the fort's physician, provides a marvelous glimpse of fron-
tier Texas in 1850. It includes candid descriptions of a farm in Austin,
life at the fort, and relationships with the local Indians.
Native Americans living in the vicinity of Fort Martin Scott belonged
to a number of tribes. The least predictable and most feared, however,
were the Comanches. White settlements disrupted their wide-ranging
lifestyle and threatened the abundant supply of game. In the mid-
184os their primary tactic was to attack settlers in small raiding parties
and then vanish, often taking with them horses and other livestock.
These hit-and-run assaults terrorized those on the frontier for
decades.2
The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas had
purchased 1o,ooo acres of forested land just north of the Pedernales
*Caleb Coker, a great-great-grandson of the Icclpient of this letter, is a lawyer living in
Jac kson\ ille, Florida I-He is the author of The News floa Bownsvlle. Helen Chapman's Lettet flior
the Texas Mdiltary F'ontiet, 1848-r852 ,Janet G Humphrcy is a flcclance write and historian
living in Austin She is the author of A TIexas Suffagist I)ates and Wititgs of Jane Y McCallum
' Rupert N Richardson, Ernest Wallace, and Adi ian Anderson, Texas The Lone Stal State
(5th ed , Englcwood Cliffs, N.J Prentice Hall, 1988), 171
" Robert M Utley, F'ottlten mein it Blue The United States ARtty and the Indian, r848-1865 (New
York. Macm nllan Co , 19(i7), 59-60, 1 R l'c'hrenba h, Lone Star A listo, of Texas attd the
Te7anm (Ne\s Yoi k: Ma( mn1lla1 Publlslhng Co., 1968), 469-170, 477

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed July 30, 2014.