The view from the Salt Lake Valley up to the Wasatch foothills won't change if Fort Douglas is closed. But maybe the legend will finally die.
Rumor has it that Fort Douglas, named for Sen. Stephen Douglas at the suggestion of President Abraham Lincoln, was set up to protect the settlers from Indians and protect the stagecoach.And as nice as that may sound, it isn't so.
Fort Douglas was founded in 1862 after Camp Floyd was closed in 1859. Floyd was one of the largest posts in the nation until the Civil War but was in ruins by the time Col. Patrick Connor entered the Salt Lake Valley.
Connor, who later made brigadier general, led about 800 soldiers from California into the Salt Lake Valley in October 1862.
The 2nd and 3rd units of the California Infantry Volunteers were assigned to Utah to protect the Overland Mail route, according to the official history of the fort.
But Connor took on some additional duties once in Utah. A gold shipment from California back to the Union was raided in Arizona, and the Army wanted to keep the gold coming.
Also, the Army, after declaring a truce with Brigham Young, wanted to keep an eye on the Mormons, who Connor contended were way too friendly with the Indians.
"Bellicose Colonel Connor, officially assigned to protect the Overland mail, an easy matter, assumed the undelegated function of combatting Mormonism," according to one historian.
Additionally, the Indians were cutting down telegraph wire for the copper to use for jewelry and to harass the Army, said Maj. Bill Auer, public affairs officer for the 96th Army Reserve Command at the fort.
The volunteers, who numbered 1,500 at the start of the 800-mile journey, were treated with "contemptuous respect" when they marched into the valley. People lined the streets, silently watching the soldiers who marched to the governor's mansion where President Young welcomed them and urged the newcomers to behave like gentlemen, according to historians.
The 2,560-acre site gave Connor a commanding view of the valley, which he said was a "community of traitors, murderers, fanatics and whores" in a letter four days after arriving in Utah.
Connor had barely settled in on the post at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon when the Battle of Bear River between the Indians and the Army was fought near Preston, Idaho, in January 1863. In the summer of 1864, Connor's volunteers fought the Indians in the Battle of Tongue River.
The fort also was site of the first non-Mormon newspaper in the territory which had a large audience in the Mountain West. The Daily Vedette and Connor are credited with bringing "Gentiles" to Utah, and extolling the area's riches to outsiders.
But the fort was never assigned to guard the stagecoach, which has been its lasting, albeit inaccurate, legend, Auer said.
The fort's mission changed over the years after it was founded. Conner continued to make non-Mormons a stronger force in the state and helped establish Corrine, Box Elder County, as a Gentile capital to rival Salt Lake City.
As the end of the 19th century neared, the Utah Light Artillery trained at Fort Douglas for the Spanish-American War.
Things were fairly quiet at the fort until 1917, when the United States entered World War I. The 38th Infantry, the last battalion to arrive in France, was stationed at Fort Douglas.
Fort Douglas was home to 6,000 enrollees in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.
It also contained a prisoner of war camp during World War II, when thousands of military and civilian personnel were at the fort, which was where GIs made their last stop on the way back from the war.
About 640 full-time civilian and military employees now work at Fort Douglas, which has been pared down to about 119 acres on the foothills east of the University of Utah.
The fort is headquarters for Navy, Army, Marine and Coast Guard recruiting for the region and handles $24 million in payroll for reservists in 14 states and provides logistics and administrative support mostly to reserve units in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho.
But the myth persists. An Associated Press story Wednesday said the fort "was built during the Civil War to protect stagecoaches and gold shipments."