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Editorial Note on Fort Reno, Oklahoma, Duty
January 1903-June 1905
On January 24, 1903, Marshall’s company moved from Infantry Garrison Hospital No. 3 in Manila to Santa Mesa Garrison, three miles east of the center of town. There it remained until September 21, when it was sent for six weeks of garrison duty at the Malahi Island Military Prison, a post Marshall disliked intensely. This ordeal completed, Company G joined the regiment in boarding the U.S.A.T. Sheridan for the United States. Following brief stopovers at Nagasaki, Japan, and Honolulu, Hawaii, the ship reached San Francisco on December 15, 1903. There the regiment divided; Marshall and his company entrained for Fort Reno in Oklahoma Territory.
At Fort Reno the new enemies were neither ladrons nor cholera, but routine and boredom. The army was still dominated by its frontier Indian-fighting heritage. The regiment was dispersed to three widely separated posts. Garrison duties—drill, inspection, administration—required perhaps half an officer’s day. There was an intense concern with “spit and polish,” appearance and orderliness. Marshall had plenty of time for riding, an activity he took up seriously only after joining the army, and for hunting. The hunting was superb, he recalled. “We went shooting almost every day of the year for something or other." (Marshall Interviews, p. 144.)
There was some attempt at education during the winter months. Secretary of War Elihu Root believed that “other things being equal, the officer who keeps his mind alert by intellectual exercise, and who systematically studies the reasons of action and the materials and conditions and difficulties with which he may have to deal, will be the stronger practical man and the better soldier." (Report of the Secretary of War, 1901, p. 21.) Marshall remembered the new garrison schools as the beginning of his formal military education, although “the schools didn’t amount to very much." (Marshall Interviews, p. 144.)
Marshall’s routine assignment at Fort Reno was interrupted in the summer of 1905 by detached service. The army had taken up again the enormous task of making a detailed, confidential map of the country’s strategic border regions: the Progressive Military Map. Teams composed of one officer and a few selected enlisted men were sent into the field with instructions to fill in, on a scale of one inch equals two miles, details on the skeleton maps they had been issued. In early June, Marshall journeyed to Fort Clark, Texas, to make preparations to map nearly two thousand square miles of dry, largely uninhabited land.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 28-29.