Fort Lowell played a pivotal role during the Apache providing additional protection for the Tucson area. Far too large and well-manned to be attacked directly, Fort Lowell provided supplies and manpower for outlying military installations. During its eighteen years of operation, the fort averaged thirteen officers and 239 enlisted men. Among the units present during this period were the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Cavalry Regiments, as well as the 1st, 8th, and 12th Infantry Regiments.
The orientation of the post was set according to magnetic north. It featured a large parade grounds, officers’ quarters, quartermaster and commissary storehouses, corrals, quarters for enlisted men as well as for married non-commissioned officers. The most prominent building on post was the hospital, the adobe remnants of which still stand under a protective structure. A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, graced the area in front of the officers’ houses.
Among the more well-known officers to have served at Fort Lowell were the young Walter Reed, the Army physician famous for his yellow fever research, and Charles Bendire, the amateur ornithologist after whom Bendire’s Thrasher is named.
After the Army decommissioned the post in 1891, Mexican families from Sonora soon moved north to take advantage of the free housing. This occupation has become known as the El Fuerte Period.