The West Point of the West
“This is the West Point of the West and the post will be located here,” said the later General Philip Sheridan [Wikipedia] as he stood on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Ohio river, where the military post of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, is now located and saw for the first time the magnificent view that greets the eye for miles both up and down the “Big Muddy.” Properly did Sheridan name the place “The West Point of the West,” for the view from the high bluff where the Commanding Officers' quarters stand closely resemble that celebrated view up the Hudson from Trophy Point at the Military Academy of West Point [there's a picture of that view, here ]. Standing on the bluff, one looks down upon the Ohio four hundred feet below, and as far as the eye can reach this river is plainly discernable winding its way like a huge brown serpent through the hills which seem to be striving to make its course s winding as possible. Directly across the post and nestled at the foot of green-clad hills is the village of California, Ohio, which in the days of steamboat travel was “quite a place.” The post of Fort Thomas is situated in the beautiful Highlands of Kentucky about three miles back of the City of Newport, which faces Cincinnati. In the City of Newport, at the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, is the old “Newport Barracks” which, from 1806 till last September, was a military station and at one period a very important station. The spring rising of these two rivers almost invariably caused a flooding of “The Barracks” leaving the reservation in an exceedingly unhealthy condition when the waters receded. This fact caused the War Department to seek a new post back of the city and upon ground not subject to overflow. A board of Army Officers was ordered in 1887 to select a site. General Sheridan was at its head. Several sites were visited and when he walked out upon the bluff he made the remark which opens this sketch.
The original plan was to build a post for two companies of infantry. Work was begun in 1888, but the new policy of the Government to concentrate large bodies of troops in or near our large cities, cause a change in the original plans so as to accommodate four companies. This plan was again changed and a regimental post decided upon. In the fall of 1890, the necessary buildings to accommodate two companies of infantry were completed and Colonel M. A. Cochrane, with the headquarters and two companies of the 6th Infantry arrived at the post. As rapidly as other quarters were completed, additional companies were sent, and today the entire regiment is united at the post; the last company to arrive was the one which for several years had been stationed beneath the torch of Liberty on Bedloe's Island, New York harbor. The reservation contains over one hundred acres, but surrounded as it is by suburban residences and farms, the necessary range for rifle practice could not be had in the vicinity, so another reservation, consisting of one hundred and sixty-nine acres on the picturesque Licking River, about twelve miles from the post, was purchased, and here the annual rifle practice is held. [It was located at the end of what is now Rifle Range Road, off Route 9.]
The formation of the land necessarily caused the plan of the post to be different from any other in the service. The post is built on the edges of and around many ravines. There are not over four buildings that are upon a straight line, and in the irregular arrangement lies the beauty of the post. The buildings are of brick with slate or tin roofs. They are heated with steam and lighted with gas. The men eat in the general mess hall, which is capable of seating five hundred. A pretty little hop room decorated with flags and military emblems is located on the third floor of the Administration building, while the second floor is used as an officers club. From the top of the water tower, a hundred and fifty feet above the ground, the stars and stripes float, and on clear days “Old Glory” is visible to a portion of the populations of three states: Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The gallant Sixth Infantry, which is now united at Fort Thomas, has always been a well-known regiment in our army, and its roster of officers contains the names of many men who have been celebrated in the military history of this country. Among these are Zachary Taylor, A. S. Johnston, Hancock, A. McD. McCook, P. St. G. Cooke, Montgomery Z. Pike, B. L. E. Bouniville, and S. B. Buckner. Colonel Melville A. Cochran, the present commanding officer of Fort Thomas, and the Colonel of the Sixth Infantry, entered the service from Maine, in 1861, and has served continuously since that date. B. W. Atkinson, US Army.
From The Illustrated American, December 7, 1895