Jefferson Barracks was established in 1826, and it remains America’s oldest military installation west of the Mississippi River. Located 11 miles from St. Louis, it was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, whose Louisiana Purchase included the site. As a frontier post, troops from Jefferson Barracks played an important role in America’s westward expansion. Many times they were called upon to keep the peace between Native American tribes and white settlers. The army’s first permanent cavalry regiment, the 1st U.S. Dragoons were stationed there after its organization in 1832. Troopers in this elite regiment were trained to fight both mounted and dismounted. During the Mexican War from 1846 to 1848, Jefferson Barracks served as a major supply center for soldiers fighting in America’s first foreign war.
The mission of Jefferson Barracks changed during the Civil War. Although regiments were still trained and equipped onsite, it was primarily a military hospital with a capacity of 3,000 patients. A charitable organization that cared for sick and wounded soldiers, the Western Sanitary Commission also had a large wartime presence there. Many prominent Civil War generals, including Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, passed through Jefferson Barracks at some point during their career. In 1866, Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery was established on the property.
During World War I and World War II, Jefferson Barracks served as an important induction and basic training center for the army. The Army Air Corps established its first training site at the base during World War II. The post was deactivated in 1946 and sold for various purposes including housing and Bishop DuBourg High School. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property is a public park and home to several museums. Jefferson Barracks also retains its original military mission as a portion of the grounds is used by the Missouri National Guard.
Categories: War & Conflict
Subject: Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society
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County: St. Louis
Region: St. Louis Metro