Fort Sill remains the only active Army installation of all the forts on the South Plains built during the Indian Wars. The post has seen its share of the Indian Wars and every war that has followed.
The first official U.S. visit to this area came in 1834 when the First Dragoon Expedition out of Fort Gibson, in eastern Oklahoma, visited an extensive Comanche village camped beneath the Medicine Bluffs. Gen. Henry Leavenworth led the peace mission to the west and traveling artist George Catlin traveled with the column. Leavenworth died during the march, and Col. Henry Dodge replaced him in command.
Catlin's paintings were among the first to capture the Indians of the southern plains. Among the officers of the regiment was 1st Lt. Jefferson Davis, who would become a statesman and President of the Confederate States of America.
The visit of the U.S. Dragoon regiment was not the first European dealings with the tribes in this area. The Spanish in New Mexico were trading with the Comanche, Kiowa and Wichita tribes for many years before any significant U.S. presence was established here - through traders called Comancheros. The Comancheros were so named because the Comanche were considered their best customers. The term, unknown in Spanish documents, was popularized during the 1840s by Josiah Gregg and used by U.S. Army officers who were familiar with Gregg's accounts.
Fort Sill was staked out Jan. 8, 1869 by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan during a massive winter campaign against the Indians. An earlier fort in the area, Fort Cobb, was in a poor location, whereas all the tribes considered the Medicine Bluffs a religious and cultural attraction. Camp Wichita was established near those bluffs (which lie near the center of Fort Sill today). At the time, Sheridan and the War Department wanted to force the Indians onto reservations in Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma). Sheridan's campaign involved six cavalry regiments. The units that originally camped at Camp Wichita included the 7th Cavalry (under the command of brevet Brig. Gen. George A. Custer), the 19th Kansas Volunteers and the 10th Cavalry (a unit of African-Americans who would become known as the famous "buffalo soldiers" commanded by Brevet Maj. Gen. Benjamin H. Grierson). The first post commander was Grierson and the first Indian agent was Col. Albert Gallatin Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone.
Sheridan later changed the post name to honor his West Point classmate and friend, Brigadier General Joshua W. Sill, who was killed during the Civil War.
Frontier Fort Sill was an island of civilisation on the prairie, its small military staff and their families surrounded by resentful Indian nations ... Its infantry and cavalry soldiers patrolled the area to keep Indians from raiding into Texas, or were sent in small detachments to keep the nearby Indian agents safe and keep wary eyes on nearby Indians. Because of its isolation, strange relationships sometimes happened here - such as a segregated post graveyard where, to this day, Indians lie buried beside whites and "buffalo soldiers". While most posts of those days had a town outside the gate which offered soldiers liquor and temporary female company, Indian Territory was dry and local tribes would not support prostitution. There was no town near post until Lawton, Okla., was established in 1901 after a lottery opening of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservations.
Fort Sill also helped federal officials, such as Roy "Hanging Judge" Parker from Fort Smith, Ark., maintain law and order in the Indian Territory - which never had a territorial government. Troopers ensured that Texas cattlemen paid local tribes $1 per head for grazing cattle on this side of the Red River ... while they ensured that the Comanche and Kiowa didn't raid the nearby Chickasaw - one of the five civilized tribes relocated from the Eastern U.S. Troopers from Fort Sill were present at many of the lands runs that opened Oklahoma to white settlement and eventual statehood - and patrolled the areas being opened to prevent incursions by "Sooners."
Fort Sill is proud of its museum - established in the 1930s - and its status as a National Landmark, but it's prouder still of the contributions of our soldiers and officers in every war since the Phillipine Insurrection of the 1880s. Fort Sill is proud to be the original home of tactical combat aviation and the Army's original airfield. But pride doesn't end there. When the family of Staff Sgt. Jared Monti received the Medal of Honor for his bravery while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2006, Fort Sill was proud of the young artilleryman who trained here. At Fort Sill, our Soldiers make history every day.