Fort Ringgold (1899)
Fort Ringgold (Starr County, Texas)
Fresh from triumph in Cuba during the Spanish American War, black American soldiers of Troop D, U.S. Army Ninth Cavalry were assigned to Fort Ringgold. Yet, the ethnic Mexican residents of Rio Grande City were not welcoming, and racial tensions between soldiers and civilians escalated quickly following the October 16, 1899 shooting of two black soldiers after a gambling dispute. The two injured soldiers were charged, tried, and fined for inciting the crime against them.
Subsequently, Troop D was increasingly harrassed and violence was threatened against them on Nov. 20, 1899. Presuming an assault on the garrison that evening, Post Commander 2d Lt. E. H. Rubottom ordered extra guards and scouts as gunfire erupted between residents and soldiers. When the gunfire exchange escalated, Rubottom ordered a Gatling gun to be shot to quell the violence, resulting in one minor injury.
Official federal and state investigations and proceedings failed to assign blame to the citizens of Rio Grande City. Instead, a Starr County Grand Jury found the soldiers acted without provocation and the US Army stated Rubottom had acted unwisely.
The Ninth Cavalry was organized in 1866 as the first regiment of black enlisted soldiers. Together with the Tenth Cavalry, they became known as "Buffalo Soldiers," who served with distinction in the West. According to 1st Cavalry Division Association website, "The 9th Cavalry Troopers earned fifteen Medals of Honor during the Indian Wars. Most of these medals were earned by noncommissioned officers leading small detachments of Soldiers. The regiment participated in campaigns against the Comanche, Utes, Sioux, and Apaches."
Black & White
Newspaper headlines represented differing and competing perspectives among Americans: Black versus White, north versus south, civilian versus military. The "trouble" at Fort Ringgold foreshadowed another racially motivated episode at Fort Brown in 1906.
- "The Fort Ringgold Trouble," Brownsville Herald, 1899 Dec 22. Newspaper clipping from The Brownsville Herald describes the results of the Starr County Grand Jury investigation into the racially motivated assault on Fort Ringgold by citizens of Rio Grande City. The jurists vindicate the citizens while laying blame to the Post Commander, Black soldiers, and lack of discipline in the US Army for the "trouble".
- Eyewitness account of the "Trouble at Fort Ringgold", The Colored American 1899 Dec 9. Newspaper clipping from The Colored American (Washington, D.C.), December 9, 1899 describing the events leading up to the assault on Fort Ringgold, including an eyewitness account of events on Nov. 20.