Robert E. Howard’s ‘The Ghost of Camp Colorado,’ a compelling article written for the Texaco Star Company’s magazine, is preserved as a titled draft and an incomplete start of its first page. However, the April 1931 edition of the Texaco Star, which is utilized for the current collection, offers a more comprehensive version with slightly more information than the draft. Appearing on pages 13-15 and accompanied by five photographs, this piece is a poignant tribute to the American frontier’s lost era. Howard, who was compensated $28.26 for this work, masterfully captures the essence, history, conflicts, and transformation of this bygone epoch.

From the letters

On January 29th Howard got a letter from Wilfred B. Talman saying:

About a week ago I learned that an article from you had come into this office.

The article was of course “The Ghost of Camp Colorado”.

In a letter (#154) to Tevis Clyde Smith circa mid to late-January 1931 Howard writes:

I got a letter from Talman of the Texas Company saying that he hadn’t seen my Camp Colorado article, but had an idea that the moguls had approved of it. I hope so.

And in a letter (#157) from February 1931 to Talman we learn:

I hope your company can use the article I sent them, as I think the readers would find the subject matter interesting, at least. It deals, as of course you know if you’ve seen the article, with old Camp Colorado, which is situated some twenty-five miles southwest of this town and was one of a string of army posts which was literally the Southwestern frontier in the 1850s. I have some more articles in mind which I hope will find a place in your publication.

Again in a letter (#165) to Tevis Clyde Smith:

The address of the Texaco Star is The Texas Company 135 East 42nd Street, New York. Hope you sell them a flock of stuff, and I’m sure you will. Wish you’d get me a Frontier Times and keep it till I see you; I want to see my reprint, also the review they gave your book.

The reprint mentioned was of “The Ghost of Camp Colorado”. It was reprinted in Frontier Times, in June 1931.

In June 1931, Howard thanked Lovecraft in a letter (#169):

And by the way, I want to thank you again for suggesting my name to Mr. Talman as a possible contributor to The Texaco Star. I’m sending you a copy of the publication, containing my article on old Camp Colorado,4 which Mr. Talman tells me received quite a bit of favorable comment from the moguls of the company. I’ve had time only to work up the one article, but hope to be able to place more of them soon. And I have you to thank, for had you not suggested me to Mr. Talman I’d never have placed the article.

The essay

“The Ghost of Camp Colorado,” an essay by Robert E. Howard, delves into the history of a now-phantom military post in Coleman County, central West Texas. This post, known as Camp Colorado, was established in the 1850s as part of a line of forts to protect settlers from Native American raids.

The essay begins with a poetic reference to the fallen soldiers and then describes the post’s location on the banks of the Jim Ned River. It details how Henry Sackett, a prominent figure in frontier history, came to the deserted post in 1870 and constructed a home from its ruins, which still stands robustly to this day. The house, built on the foundations of the old army commissary, incorporates materials from the original military buildings, including doors scarred by bullets and arrows – silent testimonies to the post’s violent past.

Howard narrates the history of Camp Colorado, highlighting its role in the Indian Wars and its connection to notable military figures such as Major Van Dorn, General James B. Hood, and General Fitzhugh Lee. The post was a pivotal site for military expeditions against the Comanches, including the campaign that led to the capture of Cynthia Ann Parker.

The essay also touches on the Civil War period, noting that Union troops abandoned the post in 1861. However, the site continued to play a role in the region’s history, as evidenced by Henry Sackett’s involvement in Ranger expeditions against Native American raiders in the 1870s.

Of the original buildings, only the guardhouse remains, which now serves as a storeroom in the Sackett house. Howard recounts an incident of a deadly duel near this guardhouse and the vain escape attempt by military prisoners, whose marks are still visible on the walls.

The essay concludes with a reflection on the changes in the West, symbolized by the monument to Breeze, one of the first registered short-horn cows in central West Texas, marking the transition from the era of longhorns to modern ranching.

People involved

  • Henry Sackett: A key historical figure who built his home from the ruins of Camp Colorado.
  • Major Van Dorn, General James B. Hood, General Kirby Smith, General Fitzhugh Lee: Notable military figures associated with the post.
  • Captain Sol Ross: Later Governor of Texas, participated in the expedition against the Comanches.
  • Cynthia Ann Parker: Captured by the Comanches, her story is a classic of the Southwest.
  • Big Foot and Jape the Comanche: Native American raiders confronted by the Rangers.

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