Front Royal – US Army Remount Depot

With the remount depots already established in Montana - Fort Keogh and Oklahoma - Fort Reno, the US Army cast its eyes to the East and sought out a place for the third remount depot authorized by Congress. The choice was Virginia, but rather than on an established military installation, the  depot was built from the ground up.

Front Royal Remount DepotOn August 30, 1911 in Front Royal, Virginia, the East Coast remount depot of the US Army opened for operation.  The Army had acquired 5,000 acres near the Appalachian / Blue Ridge Mountains combining several farms and erecting a complex of buildings.  The third remount depot of the US Army's Remount Service was the only one constructed as a depot.  Others had been carved out of existing US Army Posts across the country (Fort Keogh, Montana - Fort Reno, Oklahoma - Fort Robinson, Nebraska.) and one established in the 1940s was donated - Pomona, California.

As the Army's Remount Service evolved and matured, other sub-depots would be set up around the country to accommodate the ranches, universities and other locations which would join in to contribute to the operations. In a series of field trips to the location, it was great to walk among the acres and Front Royal Stallion Barnobserve the complex of buildings nestled among the acres imagining the fields full of horses.   Heading to the ridge where once was a track where races were held on the weekends, a wonderful building known as the stallion barn was to the east.   The Army acquired a select collection of stallions to begin the process of improving the available horses to provision the cavalry and field artillery. Reaching the ridge and heading to the north-side of the track, the horse cemetery that I had been informed about was near a stone wall.   The headstones looked very familiar, but something was not completely clicking.    Then I realized that they were Front Royal - Horse CemeteryQuartermaster issued stones... the same ones that are used in Arlington National Cemetery and all the rest of the National Cemeteries across the US.   The only difference was instead of burying them half-way as they do in ANC, these were up on pedestals. It was pointed out to me that the open space between the stones is where Kidron & Jeff - General John "Blackjack" Pershing's horses were buried.   Their headstones were removed and are somewhere among the acres General Wainwriht's (sic) Chargerthat was Fort Robinson in Nebraska. When the remount depot at  Fort Keogh in Montana was closed, Fort Robinson was established as its replacement and became the largest of the remount depots within the US Army Remount Service.  No further information wasA confederate quatermaster headstone ? available why they ended up there.  Of peculiar interest is one headstone - it peaks just like the stones that surround the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. The remount depot at Front Royal, Virginia was near the railroad that would eventually transport the horses to Fort Myer via Alexandria providing fresh mounts for the cavalry and the field artillery caissons.  Additionally, the remount service also provided fresh mules and especially during WW II, dogs. When the remount service was deactivated in 1948,  all the remount depots reverted to the US Department of Agriculture.    The Smithsonian later acquired the Front Royal remount depot's main acreage of 4,200 acres.   It became The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) which facilitates and promotes conservation biology programs at the National Zoo.   Currently closed to the public, the facility does open one weekend a year - the first weekend in October.   For more information you can go to the Smithsonian's website and SCBI's page. The book "Images of America - Fort Myer"  contains over 200 historical photographs which include the US Army's Remount Service along with a historical chronology in photographs of the first one hundred years of this unique US Army Post with origins during the US Civil War when it was known as Fort Whipple.

Post Author: John Michael

1 thought on “Front Royal – US Army Remount Depot

    Lt. Col.(ret) Timothy N. Hoon

    (January 24, 2017 - 9:24 pm)

    Excellent information on a fascinating subject. I a a retired Army office & for 50 yrs have been both a horse owner & rider. Being very interested in history of horses & the Army I would like to visit this facility someday. Thank you.

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