The peacetime United States Army of 1851 consisted of eight regiments of infantry, four of artillery, two of dragoons, and one of mounted riflemen.
Each infantry regiment had 10 companies. In November of 1851, the left wing of the 5th Infantry – five companies (fully six percent of the entire United States Infantry) were sent to establish a post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River “at a place known as Phantom Hill.”
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Nothing was easy for the soldiers assigned to build a new military post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. Days of marching started the U.S. Army soldiers’ term of duty in Texas. Five companies of the 5th Infantry had marched from the forts as far away as Fort Smith in Arkansas and Fort Gibson in Indian Territory to get to the gathering place at Fort Belknap, Texas. Led by Col. John J. Abercrombie, the soldiers began marching southwest from Fort Belknap on November 6, 1851, to a place known as Phantom Hill.[/one_half]
The Infantry soldiers carried their equipment followed by wagons driven by “teamsters” carrying supplies, construction tools and materials, and the goods needed to build a fort to survive at the remote location. Several days in the march a “Texas Blue Norther” struck the line of soldiers. The temperature dropped quickly and the wind howled through the low trees. The quartermaster’s wagons became separated from the soldiers, and one teamster died from the extreme cold. Twenty-seven mules and oxen also froze to death in the sudden cold.
This story is available in printed form with a diagram of the fort from the Fort Phantom Foundation.