Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation
efferson Barracks Heritage Foundation
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Jefferson Barracks, Established 1826

Nearly one hundred and seventy five years of American history are woven deeply into the story of Jefferson Barracks. Named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Barracks is located approximately ten miles south of St. Louis, Missouri. Its place in history represents a focal point for the westward expansion of the nation. Originally intended as an infantry school of practice, to complement the theory taught at West Point, Jefferson Barracks became a staging center from which troops could deal with trouble throughout the Missouri-Mississippi River basins. In the words of historian Marc Kollbaum, “it was the job of the army, not only to protect the settlers from the indians, but also to protect the Indians from the settlers and from each other.” The new lands opened for settlement by the Louisiana Purchase provided the impetus and requirement for establishment of the first permanent U.S. military base west of the Mississippi River. During the summer of 1826, at the cost of a $5 gold piece, the 1702 acre common lands of the former French village of Carondelet became a U.S. Army post. By 1833, the western frontier extended to New Mexico and the Pacific, beyond the reach of marching infantry. Congress answered the request of the U.S. Army for increased mobility by creating the U.S. Regiment of Dragoons, the predecessor of the First U.S. Cavalry, headquartered at Jefferson Barracks. Among its first officers were Henry Dodge, William J. Hardee, Nathaniel Boone and Jefferson Davis. Subsequently organized cavalry units at Jefferson Barracks became the parent organizations of armored units in today’s modern army. Jefferson Barracks achieved such prominence that, at one point, it was suggested that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point be transferred here. By the 1840’s, Jefferson Barracks had become the largest military post in the United States.

Over time, Jefferson Barracks has become more than just a base camp for infantry and cavalry. Throughout its history, it has served as an ordnance depot, engineer base, cavalry post, general hospital, induction and separation center, and a basic training center.

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Numerous major military figures in American history have, at one time or another, passed through Jefferson Barracks. Before the Civil War, they included Henry Dodge, Zachary Taylor and Henry Leavenworth. Over one hundred Civil War general officers served at Jefferson Barracks at one time or another, including Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, William Tecumseh Sherman, James Longstreet, Joseph Johnston and Braxton Bragg, to name only a few. More recently, two noted WW II officers were also associated with Jefferson Barracks, Generals Walter Krueger and Walter Short. Even General Dwight D. Eisenhower began his military career at Jefferson Barracks in 1911, leaving his post as a cadet for West Point.

Military campaigns that originated from Jefferson Barracks included the Black Hawk War (1832), and the Mexican Punitive Expedition (in pursuit of Pancho Villa) commanded by General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing (1916-1917). Additional deployments occurred in support of the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II. In 1946, the Federal Government transferred the core assets of the historic military post to the State of Missouri for use by the Missouri National Guard. In recent years, Jefferson Barracks has become an important Reserve Component installation. On September 12, 2008, ground was broken for a new $24.8 million Joint Armed Forces Center, adjoining the historic Jefferson Barracks campus.

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