The Diverse Roles of Fort Douglas
Fort Douglas, originally named Camp Douglas after the recently deceased Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas, was established in 1862 at the onset of the Civil War. Its primary concern was the protection of the Overland Mail Route, which was left unattended as most of Abraham Lincoln’s frontier troops went to fight against the South. Led by Colonel Patrick E. Connor, volunteers from California and Nevada guarded the Overland Mail Route from Indian attacks and also kept a wary eye on the Mormons, a wild card in the fight between the North and the secessionist South, and a potentially dangerous group with radical ideas.
After the war, the volunteers were replaced by army regulars as Camp Douglas turned into Fort Douglas, a supply center for Western military cavalries and Regimental Headquarters that trained soldiers for service elsewhere. One of the most prominent units to go through Fort Douglas was the 24th Infantry, a unit of black soldiers and white officers, that fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
During the First World War, Fort Douglas was used as a German internment camp, holding an estimated 900 prisoners. During the Second World War, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it became the headquarters of the Ninth Service Command, because it was more landlocked than the previous location (San Francisco) which would provide more protection against foreign attacks. It once again served as an internment camp, and also as a finance center for the military. After World War II, Fort Douglas gave parcels of its land away to the nearby University of Utah. In 1974 it became an official US Army Museum and in 1988 it was turned over entirely to the University of Utah, which continues to run it under the sponsorship of the Utah National Guard