Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fort Bliss: from frontier outpost to missile test site

Replica of old fort Bliss
From humble beginnings as a frontier outpost, staffed by infantry, Fort Bliss has grown to be the Army’s the second largest military installation.

The El Paso base can trace its roots back to 18488 when it was established as a temporary outpost on the Smith Ranch, which today is downtown El Paso. The post moved several times over the next few decades until, in 1894, it reached its present location on La Noria Mesa. The base is named after Lt. Col. William Wallace Smith Bliss, who distinguished himself during the Mexican War.

It has also grown from a small base to one encompassing 1,700 square miles in Texas and New Mexico. It also has the largest contiguous tract of airspace in this country the airspace is used for military training and missile testing. It is a city unto itself, with 39,000 soldiers and approximately 40,000 family members.

The fort was occupied by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, but was taken back by the United States a year following the war’s end.

Exhibit at post store at Fort Bliss replica
A replica of the first Fort Bliss on the present site is open to the public. The replica sits on a large open block surrounded by military housing. The replica consists of a few adobe buildings that contain a post store, quarters, a blacksmith shop and a stable. It also hosts a children’s education section that includes exhibits adults also will enjoy.

The replica is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no admission charge for the self-guided tours. Visitors wanting to see the replica need to pass through a military checkpoint at entrances. There, they can get directions on how to find the replica from that particular entrance.



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