On 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 observe 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 Quartermaster 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 that 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 was 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.
Fort Reno was built in July 1875, named for Major General Jesse L. Reno who was killed during the Civil War. The US Army Post was home to the Buffalo Soldiers of the the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25 Infantry - regiments who were stationed at the Post.
After the Congressional authorization to establish the US Army's Remount Service in 1909, it became a re-mount depot for the US Army until 1949. One of the last Quartermaster horses that came from Fort Reno's remount depot was the famed "Blackjack" - the caparisioned horse that appeared in many final honors at Arlington National Cemetery including President John F. Kennedy's. Blackjack was one of the horses among those that the Old Guard - 3d Infantry Regiment of the US Army had among its "herd" to conduct ceremonial missions within the Washington DC area. In the book "Images of America - Fort Myer" there are photos of these ceremonies among the over 200 historical photographs from the 1860s until the 1960s.