Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail Association Fort Douglas Military Cemetery



Location: Between Ft. Douglas and the U of U Research Park
Address: Chiapeta Way
Owner: U. S. Government
Burial Plots: 1,570
Burials: 1,354
Size: 4.05 acres
Established: 1863
First Burial: 1863
Comments: Fort Carson Mortuary Services administers the cemetery.

In October 1862, General Connor and his troops established Camp Douglas, or what was later known as Fort Douglas, in the foothills east of Salt Lake City. The southeast corner was reserved for the cemetery. The first grave of which there was record was placed there in January 1863. A large monument was erected to the memory of the officers and soldiers of the California Volunteers who lost their lives at Bear River January 29, 1863. (Porter Rockwell was the Army scout. About 350 Indians were killed, the largest slaughter of Indians in one day in the history of the U.S. For a detailed account, see Brigham Madsen's book, The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre.)

Early on the morning of April 15, 1863, two companies of soldiers with a small cannon marched into Spanish Fork Canyon and surprised a band of marauding Indians about a mile above the mouth of the canyon. In the fight that followed, three Indians were killed and two were wounded. Three soldiers were also wounded, and one later died in Springville of his wounds. First Lieutenant Russel F. Day was one of those killed. Their names are also on the large monument.

A huge rock marks the resting place of General Connor, on which has been carved a bust of the general. Under it is a bronze plaque with a short biography.

The 24th Infantry and the Black Soldier
(Excerpts from Michael J. Clark, "Improbable Ambassadors: Black Soldiers at Fort Douglas, 1896-99," Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 46, Number 3, pp. 282-301, Summer, 1978.)

In the Revolutionary War there were plenty of colored men fighting against the English; in the War of 1812 also; and in the Civil War, after the fiercest possible opposition and in the midst of the doubts of all parties, the Negro was at last permitted to enlist and to take part in the conflict of which he was the innocent cause. There were 178,975 Negro soldiers in the Federal Army, of whom 36,847 were killed, wounded or missing. One hundred and fifty thousand laborers, in addition, lent their willing hands to the quartermaster and engineering departments. Once they were allowed to enlist, there was hardly a battle in which the Negroes were not placed in the very front to make the advance. It did not take their officers long to learn that these men were to be relied upon wholly, that they fought with stubborn bravery and under perfect discipline.

Shortly after the Civil War, Congress in 1866 established the U.S. Army's 24th Infantry Regiment in honor of the sacrifices of nearly a quarter of a million blacks who fought for the Union. It was to be a unit of all black soldiers, led by white officers (for the most part incompetent and prejudiced). The Buffalo Soldiers of the 24th fought Indians and outlaws on the Texas frontier in the 1870s and 1880s.

The arrival of the U.S. Army's 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Douglas, in October 1896, brought approximately 600 African-American men, women, and children to the city. One may speculate that Utah's total Black population, civilian and military, exceeded eighteen hundred in the fall of 1896 and reached twenty-three hundred in 1898 after the Twenty-fourth returned from the Spanish-American War. Only three other African-American units existed in the U.S. Army, the Twenty-fifth Infantry, Ninth Cavalry, and Tenth Cavalry. Black Army units usually served in remote areas of the west, like Fort Duchesne in eastern Utah (called the "American Siberia"), which was garrisoned by the black 9th Cavalry from 1886 to 1900, or to other "hell holes" far removed from big cities. The 24th Infantry Regiment was the last of all U.S. Army units to be stationed in a large city.

The 24th's assignment to pleasant, urban Fort Douglas was meant as a reward for its years on the frontier. The move was opposed by some of the city's white citizens, while others defended the 24th.The 24th's soldiers quickly proved their supporters correct. They joined existing fraternal organizations or formed their own. Their chaplain, Allen Allensworth, one of only two African- American chaplains in the Army, became a favorite speaker at local churches and social events. The unit's regimental band and baseball teams drew enthusiastic crowds. He was told by Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff, 21 Dec 1896, that he was welcoming the Black members of the regiment as well as its white officers.

When the regiment was ordered to Cuba during the Spanish-American War, local residents, both black and white, saw them off at the railroad station, April 20, 1898.

Passing a wavering New York regiment of white soldiers, the 24th Regiment kept going until San Juan hill was captured. It was the men of the Twenty-fourth who first raised the American flag on top of the hill, then occupied the trenches from 1 o'clock on July 1st until 8 o'clock on the night of July 2nd, 1898, when they were relieved for a short time, only to resume their places on the firing line again when the attack was made that night.

William Thornton, corporal of Company G, was one of ten who volunteered to silence a Spanish battery after the hill of San Juan had been taken. At the first fire three of the ten volunteers and their officer fell. But the battery was silenced.

Later the men of the 24th proved to have a higher quality than physical prowess. The 24th was the command to march to the yellow-fever hospital at Siboney, there to serve as nurses. It was the only regiment detailed to do this nursing service. The regiment policed the camp and tried to make it sanitary. Some 150 of them, in answer to a call, volunteered without a murmur, to assist the nurses in the hospital, and this after they were told of the danger of infection and it was explained that it would cost the lives of many, as it did. They waited on thousands. The 24th saw more men die at Siboney than fell on the hill of San Juan. As usual, they did their work uncomplainingly; the old instinct of service was strong upon them. At times there were not enough of them left for camp duty. So many had died from fever and wounds that the ranks were sadly thinned and the men who remained, stoop-shouldered, thin and weak, were not the fine strapping fellows who had gone out to fight. "The men were scarcely able to stand," remarked one of the non-commissioned officers. Out of the 456 men who marched to Siboney, only 24 escaped sickness . . . and of this number, only 198 were able to march out.

September 2, 1898, the 24th returned to Fort Douglas to recuperate amid cheers of their countrymen, and by December the war was officially over. Many were discharged for physical disability and would never recover their buoyant health again. Few of the soldiers made Utah their home, and not many of their descendants live in the Beehive State today.

New additions to the regiment increased its size to 958 men. Beginning in 1899, the men soon took up new assignments in San Francisco, Alaska, Montana, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Two detachments of twenty-five men each were sent to Sequoia and Yosemite parks in California "for the benefit of the health of the colored men, many of whom are nearly broken down from the effects of Cuban fever." In July 1899, four companies arrived in the Philippines for a three-year tour of duty. In all, more than 2,000 "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 24th spent some time at Fort Douglas.

President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 [Truman's anti-discrimination order] in 1948, desegregating all military units. Desegregation didn't occur in the Army until well after the Korean War broke out. The 24th, stationed in Japan after World War II, was sent early to Korea and fought as a unit until October, 1951, when it was replaced on the front line by the 14th Infantry regiment. For a time, some thought had been given to the possibility that the 24th might remain in Korea as an integrated unit. In that case, it would merely have exchanged groups of personnel with the all-white 34th Infantry regiment, then training in Japan. In the end, however, the Far East Command rejected the plan because it would have violated the act of 1868, which created the unit in the first place. When integration finally took place, other all-black units - the 3d Battalion of the 9th Infantry, for example, and the 64th Tank Battalion - remained in existence; the asterisk that designated them as segregated units was dropped from their names and their personnel were exchanged with other regiments in the Eighth Army. Only the 24th Infantry, because of its peculiar legal status, ceased to exist.

Graves of 24th Infantry:

Name; Company; Burial Location

Carmichael, J. G. (or C.?); I; (Not in cemetery data base.)
Shipman, Lee; A
Thomas, Samuel (1897); Band; K - 1
Ham, James (Sgt, 6/21/97); C ; K - 2
Compton, Elisha 1871-7/28/97; B; K - 4
Hubbard, Fletcher (Cpl) 11/4/1897; E; K - 6
Perry, William (W.M.) 1/10/1898; A; K - 7
Hunter, Jerry 2/4/1898; D; K - 8
Burke, Louis (Wyoming) 1/17/1899; K; K - 10
Roberts, George E. 1/26/99; M; K - 11
Grant, John (Jno.) 4/1/1899; M; K - 16
Francis, Donzel 4/6/1899; M; K - 17
Hicks, Edmond 7/17/1999; A; K - 18
Carter, William H. 8/8/1899; A or C; K - 19
Jackson, John (Jno.) (9th Cav.) 8/8/1899; C; K - 20
Roberts, Eugene M. (stone?) 8/2/1903; B; K - 30
Buford, Parker (Sgt, age 62) 2/20/1911; B; K - 31
Williams, Alexander (age 53) 2/16/1909; B; K - 36

(See THE HISTORY BLAZER a publication of the Utah State Historical Society and web sites for more details. See Ronald G. Coleman, "Blacks in Utah History: An Unknown Legacy," in Helen Z. Papaniko las, ed., The Peoples of Utah, Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1976, for more information on African-American life in Utah.)

Internees and Prisoners of War

There is also an impressive monument to the German prisoners of World Wars I and II that died or were killed here. One of the deceased German soldiers was identified simply as "Herman German."

During WWI, the U.S. Department of Justice had locked up several hundred German civilians it suspected might be dangerous. The war prison sprawled across the present site of the University of Utah's Special Events Center parking lot. Two barbed wire fences enclosed rows of mustard-colored barracks. Corner towers equipped with guards, machine guns, and searchlights stood sentry over several hundred "enemy aliens."

Most of the Germans were never given a reason for their arrest. Their only crime was to be living in this country when the United States declared war on Germany. "We aim to intern them before and not after they have done something wrong," explained U.S. Attorney General T. W. Gregory. In this spirit, a newspaper of the time urged citizens to "report the man who spreads pessimistic stories, divulges confidential military information, cries for peace or belittles our efforts to win the war."

At the time, a hysterically anti-German mood was roiling the country, and Germans who questioned the war could be beaten or killed. Citizen "vigilance corps" took it upon themselves to classify their neighbors as loyal, disloyal, doubtful or unknown. German immigrants were placed under surveillance. U.S. marshals made indiscriminate arrests based on rumors and whims.

The inhabitants of "Little Germany" were a motley group. Leftist radicals were thrown in with conservatives. Businessmen and professionals mixed with laborers and intellectuals. One was even a U.S. military veteran. Probably only three internees were actual German spies.

Brandeis wrote that it was difficult to live among men who had so little in common, and he compared the camp to an isolated village, with its gossip and monotony. Not everyone accepted the monotony, however; some tried repeatedly to escape by digging tunnels. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, two men tried a different tack, fashioning some wire cutters from bedposts and making gunnysack clothing for camouflage. Early in the morning on Christmas Eve 1918, as the smoke from the bathhouse boilers hung low to the ground, they crawled to the fence, cut it and escaped.

The camp commander, Col. George Byram, could be harsh in his rule, and executive officer Maj. Emory West was cruel and capricious. The guards themselves regarded all of the Germans as radicals and spies, and they often swore at and threatened them. The number of grievances piled up. In January 1918, for example, West asked for volunteers to dig post holes. Those who didn't "volunteer," he marched into the snow. They stood there in a blizzard, poorly clothed, for three hours.

The prisoners were not all blameless. Several factions had formed within the complex mixture of humanity. Fights and stabbings sometimes erupted among the prisoners, and the Industrial Workers of the World members in camp hated both their captors and their fellow captives. In fact, the venom of the "Wobblies" probably colored the public's attitude toward the camp.

The Spanish Influenza epidemic swept through the camp, during the winter of 1919-20, killing several inmates. In March, Utah Sen. Reed Smoot toured the camp, looking it over with a jaundiced eye. He reported that the Germans were a "bunch of criminals of the worst kind, men who would bring misery, disaster and troubles wherever they went." He opposed "turning them loose upon the country."

Some prisoners did not wait to be released or deported. Instead, they dug. They started one tunnel in a cookhouse and worked in relays for a month, flushing untold pounds of dirt down toilets and sinks. On Sept. 14, with a tunnel finally completed, 17 prisoners crawled to freedom. Only five were recaptured. Another internee, despondent over his incarceration, hanged himself with a bedsheet.

Of 870 enemy aliens interned at Fort Douglas, 21 never left; they are buried at the Fort Douglas Cemetery.

Fort Douglas Cemetery - Observation Notes

Military Markers; standard height (½ in and ½ out with 3.5 inch cement collar); lettering improved.
Lots of unknown and civilian graves, wives and children.
Captains Leavitt and Coffman, marines, died same day in Viet Nam, buried together.
Rows of 13th Infantry (11 Jun 1870 - 10 Oct 1874).
Rows of 16th Infantry (8 - 10 companies between 1882 and 1896).
Frank Bear-Heal (Pvt., 16th Inf., bur. 8/28/93, G-6).
First Lt. Russel F. Day, 7/12/43 - 18 Oct 1882, Ft. Thornburg (Maj. Thornburg & 10 others killed by Indians; @ same time as Meeker Massacre - Colorado), later called Ft. Duchesne.
Large monument by Samuel Lane Jones & J. Contell. Distinctive punctuation style; 21 dead, listed by company. 7 killed on vedette (Spanish for "watch"), John W Wall (chisel mistake as John H Hall); soldiers, with cannon, caught Indians a mile up Spanish Fork Canyon (few killed).
Other Jones markers in cemetery. How many? 16 (incl. J. King Robinson) + 2? 4 in a row (date on bronze marker incorrect).
Much death in 1863 (4 markers in row, plus 3 "Hardy" children on row to west).
J. King Robinson, 7/12/1836 - 10/22/1886 (68?) - shot, 3rd Calif., Civil War, doctor, E-9.
Duane James Doty, Ter. Gov., 1795 - 6/13/65 (Age 65 - mistake somewhere); diagonal layers in top shaft.
Tree line and gate mark old north boundary.
Squire Williams (outside, nw corner), K-66, Black from Kentucky, 2/14/1914, approx. 38, heart disease.
William Sigismund (inside, nw corner), K-60, born 1844 (Germany), death 9/24/1919, buried 10/26/1910.
Patrick Connor (3/17/1820 - 12/17/1891); Buried next day, (K - Sep 1.

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