Fort Piute – Fort Beale (Mojave National Preserve)

Fort Piute - The reconstructed walls of the large building at Fort Piute.

Fort Piute – The reconstructed walls of the large building at Fort Piute.

 

Fort Piute was established in 1859, by Captain James H. Carleton, of the 1st Dragoons. The fort was originally given the name Fort Beale, after Lieutenant Edward F. Beale of the U.S. Navy. Beale had explored this region of the desert from 1857-1859, with a caravan of camels, to establish the route as a wagon road, and to open up this portion of the west for miners and settlers, making their way west.

Fort Beale, as well as a number of additional military posts and camps had been established by Carleton, these outposts are strung along the Mojave Road, which at the time was the only established route through this portion of the Mojave Desert. The outposts had been created to give settlers safe passage from the “hostile” native people who had lived on these lands for hundreds of years prior.

The fort was built out of local rock; at least three buildings had been built as part of Fort Beale, the largest (60 feet by 25 feet) of which consisted of three rooms. They included a storehouse, corral and quarters. Riffle ports had been built into the walls, and deflecting shields in front of the buildings doors to prevent direct fire through the opening.

Fort Piute - The stone horse corral

Fort Piute – The stone horse corral

 

This fort along with many other posts along the new travel route were abandoned by the military at the start of the Civil War. A group of volunteer soldiers, the California Volunteers, manned the outposts as often as possible after the U.S. military had pulled out. For travelers along this route, this made it a dangerous place to be. The Piute Creek Indians, considered this their land, and regularly attacked or stole livestock from those passing through.

In 1866, after the completion of the Civil War, due to protest by local settlers, and the fact that the Mojave Road had become a U.S. Mail route, Fort Beale was reopened, and renamed Fort Piute. The fort remained occupied until 1868, when it was abandoned for good.

Today, the stone walls of two buildings remain. The walls of these buildings have been reconstructed by the HistoriCorps, a group that is dedicated to the preservation of historic places. They used the original stones from the building, and earthen mortars, from the site to hold the stone walls together. Well worn hiking trails lead through the historic fort, and the surrounding area.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.