There is a sub-genre in western stories, in both movies and fiction, that features the American soldiers and cavalrymen who were stationed in the frontier forts in the late 1800’s. These usually focus on tense action against stalking Apaches or warring Sioux but the soldiers sometime mix it up with Mexican bandits or outlaws. I always like reading these stories and enjoy the movies such as Duel at Diablo and Fort Apache.
In my military career I had the good fortune to have been stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona–one of the remaining forts still in active service. There were several others nearby that have long turned to ruin–Fort Buchanan, Fort Crittenden, and Fort Bowie (now a national park). I learned that service out west was very difficult for the soldiers with long periods of dull patrolling, spending endless hours killing time in the fort and fighting the elements. Rarely did they fight Indians on any large scale after the last battle against Geronimo in 1886 and Wounded Knee in 1890. Fort Buchanan was shut down and the soldiers relocated as it was built in an swampy area infested with malaria carrying mosquitoes. Some of the forts didn’t even have walls erected because of the low threat from Indian attacks.
Whatever the history books tell us about the military service in the west–it’s always more exciting in fiction and film. There are many miniatures available for playing both Indians and cavalry in both 1:72 scale and 25/28mm. Some of the comic book factoids might be helpful fleshing out a campaign or quick meeting engagement.