The Early Years
Fort Sheridan’s first real military activity began after the 1890 Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota when a group of the defeated Lakota tribe were impounded at the Fort.
In 1894, the Fort played a role in the Pullman Company Strike in Chicago when disagreements between union officials and management of that giant railroad car company erupted in violence. In another situation President Grover Cleveland ordered troops from the Fort to deter confrontations in Chicago’s Union Stock Yards where troops helped restore peace and order. Such responses to local order keeping situations fulfilled one of the Fort’s original charter missions.
When the Spanish American War started in 1898, Fort Sheridan served as a temporary transit center for troops headed to battle zones. Shortly thereafter civil disturbances in Mexico occurred and again troops were brought from the Fort to the disturbance sites. During these times, Fort Sheridan became known as a cavalry post and cavalry pursuits dominated life at the Fort.
The emerging world war conflagration in Europe caused the War Department to increase the emphasis on training and preparedness for deployment. At that time General Leonard Wood initiated increased levels of reserve training, with Fort Sheridan serving as the nation’s first Reserve Officers Training Center.
The War Years
The reserve training camps provided a logical expansion into active duty training centers following the declaration of war in April, 1917. Fort Sheridan became an induction center and Midwest training center for men entering the army from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. During these years, temporary wooden facilities were constructed to accommodate these expanded needs.
When World War II became a reality with its peacetime draft, Fort Sheridan became one of four Recruit Reception Centers in the country, processing large numbers of recruits. During the War the Fort was the administrative control headquarters for prisoner of war camps in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. A total of 15,000 prisoners fell under that responsibility, including many who were actually incarcerated at the Fort.
Post World War II Years
During both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts Fort Sheridan again served as a reception and processing center for military personnel . The post was also the logistical support for 33 Nike-Hercules missile sites throughout the country. By 1975, the post had the largest military and civilian contingent in its history. Nevertheless, in the 1980’s, the personnel dwindled to 1,400 military personnel, down from a peak of 5,000. By the 1980’s, no regular combat troops were stationed at the Fort and its main functions had evolved into supervision of reserve activities around the Midwest.
Although the post was among the first to be closed during the initial round of military base closures in 1990, training and administrative activities continued until the end. Significantly, Fort Sheridan did serve to actively support the Desert Shield and Desert Storm programs by mobilizing active, reserve and National Guard units for these conflicts.
The Fort was officially closed by the Army on May 28, 1993.