A Brief History of the Fort Ord National Monument
The Presidio of Monterey was the primary U.S. Army facility in the Monterey Bay region after the Mexican-American war in 1848. American troops and cavalry began to ride up from the Presidio to bivouac and conduct training exercises in the dunes and backcountry of Fort Ord during the late 1800s. At this time the lands which would become the National Monument were referred to in the original Spanish and Mexican land grants: El Toro, El Chamisal, and Monterey City Tracts No.1 and No.2.
People had already settled onto these city 'public lands' as early as the 1850s and were working as cattle or sheep ranchers, engaged in firewood collection for sale in the cities like Monterey or Carmel, or operated small-scale sand mines. One such family, the Hennekens, lived near present-day Henneken Lake for over 20 years during the 1880s until 1901 and maintained a ranch operation at the site until the 1930s.
Henneken Ranch Ruins
Kaspar Henneken, patriarch of the family, was a Civil War veteran who made a homestead claim around 1887 but was ultimately denied the claim after David Jacks proved ownership of the City Lands tracts in 1901. David Jacks was a powerful attorney and land owner in the Monterey area who also operated various dairying operations - creating the popular variety Jack cheese.
In 1917, the U.S. Army purchased 'Gigling Reservation' which comprised over 15,000 acres of land within the Monterey City Land tracts. The Reservation was created to accomodate the training of soldiers coming up from the Presidio of Monterey.
As war was looming in the Pacific during the late 1930s, the U. S. Army purchased more lands in the region and established Camp Pacific. Soon to follow were Camp Clayton and Camp Ord. In 1940 on the eve of World War II, the camps were consolidated to create Fort Ord. The post was named to honor General Edward Otho Cresap Ord, hero of the Civil War.
"Army Day" Howitzer Display at Camp Ord, April 1940
Following World War II in 1945, Fort Ord began to expand its role as a soldier training center, pressed into service during the Cold War era. Fort Ord trained tens of thousands of soldiers to fight in the Korean War during the 1950s and then for the VietNam War during the 1960s to 1970s.
Map Reading Class held outdoors at Fort Ord
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Fort Ord created the Lightfighters: a brand of light infantry designed for rapid deployment on short notice to any military theater as needed. The 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions had their primary 'home' at Fort Ord although these Divisions have history at other posts and countries.
The Henneken Ranch site is also the final resting place of the U.S. Army parade horse "Comanche." Comanche was the mount for Sgt. Allen McDonald (U.S. Army ret.) who is one of the last surviving soldiers that joined the U.S. Cavalry when horses were primary mode of transportation. In 1950 however the U.S. Army reorganized their materiel and placed Cavalry units into Armor units, ultimately creating Armored Cavalry units and Air Cavalry units during the mid-1960s - replacing horses with helicopters on the conventional battlefield. Horses and mules are still used by the U.S. Army today but on a limited basis.