FORT INGE. Fort Inge (Camp Leona) is on the east bank of the Leona River a mile south of Uvalde in southern Uvalde County. The site is dominated by Mount Inge, a 140-foot volcanic plug of Uvalde phonolite basalt. Archeological evidence indicates the place has been intermittently occupied since the Pre-Archaic period, about 6,000 B.C. It is possible that ranching occurred there in the Spanish colonial and Mexican periods (see SPANISH TEXAS, MEXICAN TEXAS). On March 13, 1849, frontier artist Capt. Seth Eastman and fifty-six soldiers of companies D and I, First United States Infantry, established camp on the Leona, four miles above Woll's Crossing. In December 1849 the post was renamed Fort Inge in honor of Lt. Zebulon M. P. Inge, United States Second Dragoons, a West Point officer killed at the Mexican War battle of Resaca de la Palma.
Fort Inge was established as a part of the first federal line of frontier forts in Texas. It was to serve as a base of operations for army troops and Texas militia. The missions of the soldiers included security patrols for the construction of the San Antonio-El Paso military road, escorts for supply trains and mail, protection for frontier settlements from bandits and Indian raiders, and guarding the international boundary with Mexico. The fort was a typical one-company, fifty-man post for most of its history. For a brief period in 1854 it was the regimental headquarters for the United States Mounted Rifle Regiment with a garrison of 200. One staff inspector reported that Fort Inge "is justly regarded as one of the most important and desirable positions in Texas. No station of the line possesses so many advantages as this . . . in point of wood, water, and soil . . . It is pre-eminent as a military site. [It is in] a state of constant warfare and constant service."
Army units and officers of the post include the First Infantry Regiment (1849); Capt. William J. Hardee and Company C, Second Dragoons (1849–52); William A. A. (Bigfoot) Wallace's Texas Ranging Company (1850); the United States Mounted Rifle Regiment, under Col. William Wing Loring and captains Gordon Granger and John G. Walker (1852–55); and the Second United States Cavalry, with Capt. Edmund Kirby Smith and lieutenants Fitzhugh Lee, Zenas R. Bliss, and William B. (Wild Bill) Hazen (1856–61). During the Civil War the post was occupied by Confederate and state units including Walter P. Lane's rangers; Company A, C.S.A. Cavalry; and John J. Dix's company, Norris Frontier Regiment. The fort was reoccupied by federal troops in 1866, and its final garrisons included Company K, Fourth United States Cavalry (1866–68); Company L, Ninth United States Cavalry; and Lt. John L. Bullis and Company D, Forty-first Infantry (1868–69). The Ninth Cavalry and Forty-first Infantry were black units.
The dozen buildings of the post were arranged around the rectangular parade ground with an enclosed stable at the south end of the post. The most substantial building was constructed of cut limestone and was used as a hospital and later as a storehouse. Most structures were of jacal construction-upright log pickets plastered with mud and whitewashed. A low, dry-stacked stone wall was built around the fort during or after the Civil War.
The establishment of the post in 1849 immediately attracted a number of farmers to the area. In 1853 Reading Wood Black bought land a mile upstream and began the settlement of Encina in 1855. The community was renamed Uvalde in 1856. Fort Inge was closed for federal service on March 19, 1869, and the garrison transferred to Fort McKavett. In 1871 United States troops returned to tear down some of the buildings and recover the timber and stone to be used in construction at Fort Clark. The site was used as a camp by the Texas Rangers until 1884. It was farmland until 1961, when it became Fort Inge Historical Site County Park. From 1980 to 1982 the Uvalde County Historical Commission and local donors sponsored archival research and an archeological project to establish an accurate and detailed history of Fort Inge.
Arrie Barrett, Federal Military Outposts in Texas, 1846–1861 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1927). George Collins, "Fort Inge," Junior Historian, September 1950. George S. Nelson, Preliminary Archaeological Survey and Testing of Fort Inge, Texas (Uvalde, Texas: Uvalde County Historical Commission, 1981). Thomas Tyree Smith, Fort Inge (Austin: Eakin Press, 1993).