FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER TWO:
THE FIRST FORT UNION (continued)

     Secretary of War Conrad had issued orders designed to turn soldiers into farmers before Sumner was appointed commander of the Ninth Military Department. In order to save money, the primary objective, and promote the health of troops, all garrisons were required to plant post gardens to supply vegetables for the rations. Frontier posts were also required to establish post farms, cultivated by troops, to raise grains and forage. The expenses of the farm were to be paid by the sale of the produce to the quartermaster and commissary departments. To get the farms started, the order authorized "all necessary expenditures." To provide incentive, any profit was to be distributed among the enlisted men at the post. [135] Major Munroe may have misunderstood the order or did not believe it applied to New Mexico. He did nothing to implement farming in the department before he was replaced by Colonel Sumner in July. By then it was too late in the season to plant crops in New Mexico.

sketch of first Fort Union
Sketch of the first Fort Union by Joseph Heger, 1859, looking east from the bluffs over the fort and Wolf Creek valley, with the Turkey Mountains in the background. Courtesy of Arizona Pioneers Historical Society.

     A large farming operation had been quite successful at Fort Leavenworth in the Missouri Valley, [136] but it was not feasible in arid New Mexico by people who knew little or nothing about agriculture in that land. Post gardens were sometimes successful where irrigated, but post farms were not cost-effective even with irrigation. If New Mexicans had been placed in charge of these experiments, the results might have been better. Colonel Sumner, however, directed that, except for irrigation practices, New Mexican farming methods were to be ignored. [137] Sumner was totally committed to the experiment and declared that no post commander would remain in that position who did not "manifest zeal and ability" in carrying out the orders. [138]

     Sumner expected Fort Union to provide leadership in the farming operation. The post farm was located on Ocate Creek, approximately 23 miles north of the fort, on land leased from Manuel Alvarez. [139] According to Colonel Mansfield, it was 20 miles from Fort Union to Ocate Creek, "and three miles further still in a 'Cañon' of the mountain is the farm attached to this post." [140] Sergeant Thomas Pollack was placed in charge of the farm. It was too late in the season to plant crops in 1851, but hay was cut from the native grass at the farm. The following year Colonel Sumner appointed his brother, M. Robbins Sumner, to oversee the farm on the Ocate for a salary of $65.00 per month and one daily ration. A party of ten soldiers were assigned from the post to work on the farm, presumably receiving extra-duty pay (15 cents per day), and these men were seemingly rotated occasionally. [141]

map
This map, not to scale, accompanied Colonel J. K. F. Mansfield's inspection report on Fort Union, August 1853, to show the location of Fort Union to the farm on Ocate Creek. This copy courtesy New Mexico Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe.

     H. H. Green, who looked after the Ocate property for Alvarez, later recalled that everything possible was done to make the farm successful. He stated that "large quantities of assorted seed, grains, and vegetables, farming tools, plows, mowers, and thresher, stallions and brood mares, hogs and thorough-bred cows and bulls" were sent from Fort Leavenworth to the farm. [142] A total of $12,699.13 was spent on the farm in 1851. The value of the hay harvested was $465.98, leaving the farm with a debt of $12,233.15 for the first year. The debt was owed to the subsistence department which was responsible for farm expenses until or if the agricultural experiment became profitable (the Fort Union shortfall in 1851 constituted more than 80% of the total loss to the subsistence department, $15,080.585, for the operation of 14 farms begun under the new program that year). Expenditures for the Fort Union farm in 1851 had been for farm implements, seed, livestock, labor, and the cost of freighting supplies and herding livestock from Fort Leavenworth. Livestock included twenty-four oxen, fifty cows, fifty heifers, five bulls, twelve ewes and rams, and eighty hogs. Approximately one-fourth of the expenses were for labor. A total of $2,380.32 was paid for teamsters and herders on the trail from Fort Leavenworth to the Ocate farm, and $812.87 was spent for farm laborers and herders at the farm. Colonel Sumner had purchased equipment and supplies from the firm of Emory & Co. of Albany, New York, on April 11, 1851, amounting to $3,551.95. That bill was not itemized, nor was the cost of transporting those items to New Mexico specified. Apparently the other military farms established in New Mexico in 1851 (including the post at Albuquerque and Forts Fillmore, Conrad, and Defiance) obtained equipment and seed from Fort Union (thus some of the items charged to Fort Union were actually utilized at other farms). [143]

     Following a establishment of department headquarters at Albuquerque early in 1852, Colonel Sumner requested that some of the hogs be sent from Fort Union to Albuquerque. He probably wanted them for the post farm he had planned there. Major Alexander, commanding at Fort Union, directed the chief commissary officer, Isaac Bowen, to select "upwards of 30 of the best hogs" and have them driven to Albuquerque. Lieutenant Joseph Edward Maxwell and his company of Third Artillery, being transferred from Fort Union to Albuquerque, were given charge of the hog brigade. Corn was carried in the company baggage wagon for the hogs. Maxwell left the porkers at Anton Chico, for what reason is not clear (perhaps they were too difficult to drive). Bowen later asked Sumner what he should do with the hogs because the expense of keeping them at Anton Chico was costly, corn to feed them being sold at $5.00 per fanega. [144] The fate of the hogs remains unknown.

     In the spring of 1852 Major Alexander informed Sumner: "Your brother is here & tells me he is getting along quite well. I shall visit the farm now . . . & will give you a full account of all that is doing there. I have told your brother that great exertions are expected of him." [145]

     "Great exertions" were apparently made at the Fort Union farm. Besides the livestock, several crops were planted, including corn, barley, oats, wheat, and beans. Cornstalks and straw could be used as fodder for the animals. The soldiers assigned to the farm, by Sumner's orders, were to receive extra-duty pay during the spring and summer months. Because none of the men sent to the farm could handle the stallion, Captain Carleton was directed to find a soldier at the post who could do that job and exchange him for one of the other men at the farm. [146] Carleton sent Private Morris of his own company of dragoons "to take charge of the stallion. If he cannot do it there is no man here who can." [147]

     The Ocate farm was used to maintain the public horses of the department which were not in use, horses that were recuperating from weak conditions or extra horses for the quartermaster department and dragoon regiments. In addition there was a breeding program, the size of which cannot be determined from available records, to raise "American" horses in New Mexico. Many New Mexican horses were considered too small for military service, and horses were brought from the states, particularly Missouri, for the army. It was not feasible, however, for the army to attempt to breed and raise its own stock as was tried at the post farm.

     In November 1852 Captain Carleton informed Colonel Sumner that a recent severe snow storm had probably taken a heavy toll on the dragoon horses, "my best horses," sent on escort duty to Fort Atkinson with Paymaster Cunningham. Carleton requested that Sumner consider replacing the unsound horses with some of the good horses at the farm. Within two weeks Carleton informed Sumner that "the weather has been severe and the snow deep" and he doubted "if half of the horses which went to Fort Atkinson in October ever return." He asked for enough horses from the farm "to mount my whole." [148]

     It is not clear if Carleton got the horses he wanted, but in mid-December he directed the farm superintendent, Robbins Sumner, to "have the public horses driven up and well fed . . . and send everyone you have at the farm except the stallion to this post by the Mexican herders tomorrow." The superintendent was to accompany the horses to Fort Union "to count them over to the Quarter Master here." Carleton firmly informed Robbins Sumner to be prompt, "let there be no mistake or delay about this on any account whatever." Some of the horses were to be sent to the quartermaster department at Albuquerque, and some were to be distributed to the dragoon companies. Fort Union Quartermaster Sibley was awaiting a clarification of orders regarding that distribution. Carleton reminded department headquarters that his company was greatly in need of some of the horses. [149] How long public horses were kept at the farm cannot be determined.

     In addition to the horses and mules grazed at the farm, other livestock were part of the operation. In December 1852 there were forty-seven oxen, five milk cows, the breeding stallion, and approximately forty hogs. Carleton recommended that the hogs be sold or even given away "to improve the breed of hogs in this country." In his opinion the hogs were too expensive to keep in a land where grain prices were so high, and they were not yet ready for slaughter. He also recommended that the number of oxen be reduced at the farm. The keeping of more livestock than was needed at the farm was adding to the expenses of the operation. [150]

     The main purpose of the farm was grain and forage production. Colonel Sumner and his brother, Robbins, learned that hard work and high hopes did not make a farm productive in New Mexico. In 1852 approximately 1,000 bushels of corn was grown at Ocate, of which about 600 bushels had been used by December. Part of that corn may have gone into the hogs which Carleton wished to sell or give away. Forage production in 1852 included an estimated 40 tons of cornstalk fodder and 40 tons of hay. E. V. Sumner expressed his disappointment in the results in the autumn harvest of 1852. Crop production was insufficient to feed the public animals at the post and depot during the coming winter, and the farm had lost money. He was still confident that "the scheme is unquestionably practicable and advantageous to the troops as well as the government." It just needed more time to become profitable. [151] He had apparently caught the "next-year" optimism that kept farmers going throughout the West, the belief that conditions and production would be better next year.

     E. V. Sumner was gone from the department, replaced by Brigadier General John Garland, before the 1853 crops were harvested. The results, again, were disappointing. Robbins Sumner requested two additional soldiers to work on the farm in the spring of 1853, but Carleton sent word they were not necessary: "When the Farm was first Established ten men were deemed all that were necessary to cultivate and now that the land is broken the buildings completed and most of the manual labor of a trifling character the Major does not think that an additional force of two men will add to the Efficiency of the cultivation in your charge." [152] Colonel Sumner, before he was replaced, authorized his brother to hire two New Mexicans as laborers at the farm for $9.00 per month and one ration per day. [153]

     In the summer of 1853 Inspector General Mansfield reported that 50 acres of corn had been planted and "looked well." Approximately 75 tons of hay had been "cut off the natural meadow." Although he found the post farms in the department to be almost $14,000 in debt, Mansfield recommended that the Ocate farm be kept but that the civilian superintendent, Robbins Sumner, be dismissed. The farm was "well irrigated" and could be operated by a detachment of extra-duty soldiers under direction of the quartermaster. Mansfield had no illusions about the cultivated crops paying their own way but saw the farm "more as a convenient locality" to maintain public horses, keep the beef herd, and harvest hay. He was basically opposed to soldier farming because it interfered with military duties and discipline. [154]

     The farmers at the Ocate had to deal with the weather, weeds, and insects, and they were not immune from Indian raids. In September 1853 a party of Ute Indians stole 22 of the best mules at the farm, leaving 34 mules that were of no value. Troops from Fort Union were sent to recover the lost mules but failed to find them. [155]

     Robbins Sumner apparently proved to be a poor manager of the farm, and the corn harvest was delayed in the fall of 1853. Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, new commanding officer at Fort Union, sent two additional soldiers to the farm to assist with the harvest and informed Sumner that his services would be terminated at the end of the month. When Sumner claimed he had been promised employment longer than that by Captain Macrae, Cooke checked with Macrae who declared, "I have no recollection of making any verbal or written agreement with M. R. Sumner at any time." Cooke so informed Robbins Sumner and ordered him to have the corn harvested and his accounts settled with the commissary department by the end of November. With his brother no longer in command of the department, Robbins Sumner found himself unemployed. Although all the corn was not harvested by November 29, Sumner requested permission to be relieved so he could take passage on the stage to the states. Cooke told him to go and sent a sergeant to oversee the completion of harvest. [156]

     The corn produced at the farm inn 1853 was of poor quality, testing only 43.5 pounds per bushel (the standard test weight of corn is 56 pounds per bushel). Cooke was not pleased when he discovered that the production of corn on the post farm had cost more than four times as much as corn purchased in the territory (a cost in labor alone of $12.85 per fanega, compared to the market price of $3.00 in the open market). [157] The Fort Union farm showed a loss of almost $14,000. Garland, new department commander, declared that the farming experiment in New Mexico "has failed entirely." He recommended that "all further farming operations in this department be discontinued and that the implements and other property purchased for these operations be sold and applied to the debts already incurred. There will even then remain a balance of several thousand dollars to be provided for, in some way or other." [158] Adjutant General Samuel Cooper agreed, as did the new Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, and the farming experiment was ended. [159] General in Chief Winfield Scott had never supported the farming experiment because it kept troops from performing their other (more important) duties, interfered with army discipline, and competed with civilians who might settle near posts and produce the needed commodities. [160] Green recalled that the attempt to turn soldiers into farmers at Ocate Creek "was a failure, and all its livestock and machinery were sold at public auction at a ruinous discount." [161] As Mansfield had recommended, the lease on the Ocate farm was continued to graze livestock and cut hay for a few years. In 1856, however, the army discontinued the lease and Alvarez rented the land to Captain Shoemaker, military storekeeper at the department ordnance depot at Fort Union. [162]

     The post garden was more successful at Fort Union and was continued. No garden was planted in 1851 because of the lateness of the season when the post was founded. By the following spring an irrigation system had been devised to raise water from one of the natural ponds to use for the post garden, located near Wolf Creek. A pump had been tried but delivered an insufficient amount of water. A device was constructed by which water was lifted from the pond with a series of buckets on an endless chain revolving upon a drum, powered by six mules and capable of raising up to ten barrels a minute. It provided, wrote Carleton, "an abundance of water for a large garden." He noted that "the pond falls some four inches a day when the wheel is in operation; but it soon fills up again." [163] Katie Bowen observed that the "pumps work well and we will have a fine garden at least. The farming operations are rather cumbersome, but time will tell." [164]

     Before the end of April the ground had been plowed, a seedbed prepared, and some vegetables planted. It was still too cold, however, for the seeds to germinate. By mid-May it was still freezing hard at nights and the garden was "very backward." A week later a couple of rains came and the prospects for the garden improved. [165] Katie Bowen reported at the end of May that "the public garden is doing very well. Located by the side of a pond with a six horse power pump to irrigate. Peas are ready to pick and cabbages are looking very well." She noted that she was going to plant an herb garden in her yard. [166] By mid-summer Mrs. Bowen declared that "we have plenty of vegetables from the public garden." [167]

     When Governor William Carr Lane was at Fort Union, August 26 to September 6, 1852, recuperating from illness on his way to assume his office at Santa Fe, he found the garden had "produced an abundant supply of well-grown and delicious vegetables." Lane recorded what he found growing in the post garden, the only such list available, including asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, okra, onions, parsnips, peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, turnips, and a variety of unidentified berries. A few crops had failed, including tomatoes, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and melons. Lane also visited Captain Shoemaker's garden located a little over one mile north of the post at a large spring which was used for irrigation. There Lane saw the "indigenous potato" which did well but produced small tubers "the size of musket balls." [168] When Colonel Garland directed that the farm at Ocate be closed, he also urged that the post garden be continued. [169] In most years there was a post garden but in 1856, according to Surgeon Letterman, "no gardens could be cultivated . . . in consequence of the want of water for irrigation . . . and on account of the great abundance of grasshoppers." [170]

     The post garden at Fort Union and other posts in the department provided a variety of vegetables that had previously been unavailable or of limited supply. The garden provided fresh vegetables during the summer months, and some crops could be stored for use during the winter. Vegetables were important as part of the diet, providing some variety to a generally monotonous ration. More important, they supplied vitamin C which was essential to combat scurvy, a disease that was often a problem for the frontier army. The significance of garden crops in New Mexico was shown by a considerable reduction in scurvy among the soldiers in the department. There were 113 cases of scurvy reported during 1851, but only 19 in 1853. [171]

     During the years that the farm was founded and failed and post gardens provided needed vegetables, many other activities involved the first Fort Union. With the coming of spring in 1852, troops at Fort Union and throughout the department turned their attention to the Indians. The depot quartermaster at Fort Union was responsible for outfitting and providing transportation for field operations. Captain Carleton replaced Major Alexander as post commander at Fort Union on April 22, 1852. During April 1852 two companies of First Dragoons and one company of Third Infantry, under command of Major George Alexander Hamilton Blake, First Dragoons, were sent to establish Fort Massachusetts in the land of the Ute Indians." [172] The new post was located on Ute Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande, near the San Luis Valley on June 22, 1852. Later that year the horses belonging to the company of First Dragoons at Fort Massachusetts were sent, except for ten head kept there, to Fort Union for the winter months because of a shortage of feed at the new post. [173] Fort Massachusetts was occupied until June 24, 1858, when the garrison was moved to a nearby site and Fort Garland was established. [174]

     In March 1852, following reports of Indian raids near San Antonio, New Mexico, Governor Calhoun requested 100 muskets and ammunition from Sumner to issue to a militia unit at San Antonio. Sumner directed Captain Horace Brooks, Second Artillery, commanding Fort Marcy at Santa Fe, to turn over the requested weapons, 5,000 cap and ball cartridges, and 300 flints to the governor to be used by citizens at San Antonio led by Estanislas Montoya. Calhoun asked Brooks to deliver the items to San Antonio. Brooks was unable to fulfill the order because he did not have the muskets at Santa Fe, and he informed Calhoun that he did not have available transportation to deliver the weapons if he had them. Calhoun, so ill that he was unable to fulfill his duties, appealed to Sumner, who ordered Brooks to obtain the necessary arms and ammunition from Captain Shoemaker at the ordnance depot at Fort Union. [175]

     The health of Governor Calhoun soon became more important than the securing of arms. Calhoun suffered from scurvy and, perhaps, other complications. [176] He informed Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea at the end of March 1852 that he was "just recovering from a severe attack of the scurvy which came near laying me in my grave." A week later Calhoun sent notice to Lea that "I have been lying at the point of death and forbidden by my physicians to attend to my public duties and even now have to be propped up in my bed in order to sign my name," and announced that he had appointed Indian Agent John Greiner to serve as superintendent of Indian affairs in the territory during his illness. New Mexico, Calhoun declared, was in need of more government protection because "the lives of the citizens . . . are in eminent danger" from Indians and possible revolution by New Mexicans. [177]

     Greiner was an alarmist who had little affection for the people of New Mexico and whose own fears, perhaps communicated to Calhoun, increased the governor's anxiety about the security of the territory. Greiner's nervous perceptions of the situation were expressed in a letter to a friend in the East, October 1, 1851:

     "Here I am in the Palace of Santa Fe sitting along side of Governor Calhoun, writing letters to my old friends in the "States," far, far away. If I succeed in getting safely back again among my friends under Providence I shall consider myself a highly favored man. Between the savage Indians, the treacherous Mexicans and the outlawed Americans a man has to run the gauntlet in this country. Three governors within twelve years have lost their heads and there are men here at present who talk so flippantly of taking Governor Calhoun's head as though it were of no consequence at all. Everybody and everything in this. . . country appears at cross purposes. In the first place the civil and military authorities are at war. . . . The American residents are at war with the Governor, while the Mexican population side with him. Even the missionaries are at logger-heads. . . . The American troops are at war with the Indians. . . . I have been residing at Taos lately, among the Eutahs and Apaches, who get drunk whenever they get a chance and boast of how many whites they have killed, and talk very glibly of the scalps they intend to take. There is a great and deep gulf between the American and Mexican yet. . . . There is hardly an American here that stirs abroad without being armed to the teeth, and under his pillow pistols and bowie knives may always be found." [178]

     In another letter, written from Santa Fe on March 31, 1852, Greiner expressed his opinion of the army in New Mexico:

     "Our troops are of no earthly account. They cannot catch a single Indian. A dragoon mounted will weigh 255 pounds. Their horses are all as poor as carrion. The Indians have nothing but their bows and arrows and their ponies are as fleet as deer. Heavy dragoons on poor horses, who know nothing of the country, sent after Indians who are at home anywhere, and who always have some hours of start, how long will it take to catch them? So far, although several expeditions have started after them, not a single Indian has been caught!" [179]

     At the same time, Greiner noted that the civil government of the territory was disintegrating into ineptitude, increasing the insecurity of everyone.

     "The Governor goes into the States in a few weeks, if able to travel. The Secretary goes to see his family by the mail tomorrow. . . . The Attorney-general resigns to-day. The Prefect has just come here stating that he would have to let the prisoners out of jail because there is nothing to feed them on. The Chief Justice of the Territory, [Grafton] Baker, has been absent all winter at Washington. . . . He is by far the best of the Judges on the bench. Although the Associates are steady, sober, moral men, but nothing else, no one has any confidence in their decisions. . . . If traveling on the road, you meet an American, you put your hand on your pistol for fear of accidents." [180]

     Governor Calhoun, like Greiner, was fearful for the safety of the citizens of New Mexico. "Our Territory is in a more critical condition than it has ever been before, a combination of wild Indians who surround us is threatened and . . . after the first of May or June the road to the States will become so infested with Indians that it will be unsafe to travel except with large and well provided escorts." [181] His predictions did not come true, in part, because of the troops at Fort Union who helped protect the Santa Fe Trail. [182] Colonel Sumner reported in September that "all things continue quiet in this department. . . . The new posts in the Indian country have had the happiest effect; indeed, it is plain that this is the only certain way of controlling Indians." [183]

     On April 7, 1852, Calhoun informed Colonel Sumner of his "weak, feeble, and almost hopeless condition—and I feel that I am speaking almost as a dying man." He had been bedfast for four weeks. Even so, he was more concerned about military protection of the settlements than his own well-being. "I feel," he wrote, "desirous of doing all in my power to promote the public weal." Sumner tended to discount many of the rumors of Indian uprisings and revolutionary plots and assured the governor that the army was prepared for any emergency, declaring "that whoever expects to find me unprepared, will find himself mistaken." [184]

     Governor Calhoun expressed fear of "the dreadful horrors of a civil war," [185] and on April 18 appealed to Colonel Sumner "to assist the civil authorities in maintaining peace & good order" in Santa Fe. [186] Sumner had just come from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, after hearing from Calhoun that the civil authority appeared to be threatened. [187] "On my arrival in this town," Sumner later wrote, "I was surprised to find it in a state of anarchy. All prisoners had been released for want of means to subsist them, and all law seemed to be set at naught. At the same time, there was a constant dread of revolution." [188] Katie Bowen offered her sarcastic interpretation of the threat of revolution: "There is some talk of revolution among the Mexicans in Santa Fe but I recken that it is all humbug, for we are quiet enough here." She held no affection for the department commander, declaring that "Col Sumner must keep his troops moving continually if for no other purpose than to render them uncomfortable, so if you hear of troops changing post, rest assured that my version of the story is correct." [189]

     Nevertheless, Sumner promised Calhoun that he would give military aid if asked and responded favorably to the governor's April 18 request, established a military police in the capital, placed a guard at the Palace of the Governors, and increased the garrison at Fort Marcy. On April 21 Calhoun and Sumner issued a joint proclamation "to the public," declaring that, if the governor should "leave for the States before the arrival of the Hon. Secretary of the Territory [William S. Allen], the Military authority of this Department will so far take charge of the Executive Office as to make the preservation of law and order, absolutely certain." [190]

     With this assurance that civil order would be preserved and reportedly on the road to recovery from his illness, Governor Calhoun, encouraged by his physicians to return to the States, determined to travel to his home in Georgia. Calhoun's "rapid state of recovery" proved to be temporary, however, and John Greiner reported at the end of April that the governor "is yet lying seriously ill." [191] Sumner recommended that the governor travel to Fort Union and rest a few days in Sumner's home there before departing for the long trip over the Santa Fe Trail. [192] A dragoon escort, led by Second Lieutenant Robert Johnston, was directed to accompany the governor as far as Fort Atkinson on the Arkansas River (Johnston was authorized to send a detachment of the escort as far as Pawnee Fork if Governor Calhoun so desired). [193] Governor Calhoun requested military supplies and equipment for his trip over the Santa Fe Trail, but Sumner stated no commissary stores could be spared. He did authorize Carleton at Fort Union to supply two wall tents, two water tanks, and harness for eight mules, all to be turned in at Fort Leavenworth at the end of the trip. [194]

     Meanwhile there was fear among the Anglo-Americans at Mora that some of the Mexicans were planning an uprising. William Bransford, resident at Mora in charge of Ceran St. Vrain's mill, and Alexander Barclay, also residing at Mora at the time, had notified Captain Carleton at Fort Union of the possible threat and requested arms for protection. The extent of the rumored uprising could not be determined, but Carleton secretly sent arms to Bransford for the Americans who gathered each night for safety at Bransford's house. [195] There were also rumors in Las Vegas of a possible uprising against Anglos, and Sumner directed Carleton to take 15 or 20 men and go there to see what he could find out. If there appeared to be just reason for the apprehension, Carleton was to leave 15 men there under his best sergeant for a short time. [196] A few days later Carleton reported that he would go to Las Vegas to learn of the disturbances but assured Sumner it was "not necessary" to leave any soldiers at the town. [197]

     At Las Vegas Carleton was told that it was the absence of the territorial secretary and the planned departure of Governor Calhoun, the two principal civil authorities, that alarmed the Hispanic population, who feared the results of administration of territorial affairs by Sumner. Sumner was, by most accounts (newspaper and private correspondence), extremely unpopular with the New Mexicans. Kate Bowen had written a few months earlier that Sumner "is very unpopular in his command and throughout the country. . . . If I could get hold of a few numbers of Santa fe papers you might read in full the contempt the inhabitants have for him." Carleton still belittled the potential for trouble. The news that William Carr Lane was appointed to be the new governor and would arrive late in the summer months quieted whatever fear actually existed. By the time Lane arrived in New Mexico, Sumner reported that any signs of "insurrectionary spirit had entirely subsided." [198]

     When Sumner learned in May that Carleton had loaned arms from Fort Union to the Americans at Mora, he immediately notified Carleton of his "regret that you issued those arms." Sumner believed the furnishing of weapons would tend to "keep up excitement." Also, he was concerned that, if people knew they could borrow arms from the army, there would "be no end to the applications." He directed that no more arms be furnished except to volunteer troops serving under the authority of the regular army. Sumner also expressed his opinion that the rumored uprising was not serious and, if any "Mexicans" openly rebelled against U.S. authority, they could be quickly crushed by the army. [199]

     Governor Calhoun, with Sumner's assurances of maintaining civil order, left Santa Fe on May 6, accompanied by his personal secretary David V. Whiting, William Love (his son-in-law who was postmaster at Santa Fe), Deputy United States Marshall R. M. Stephens, and Army Surgeon John Byrne, and the party arrived at Fort Union May 11. There Captain Carleton described Calhoun as "in a feeble state of health" and expressed doubt that he would be "able to proceed further." [200] Carleton stated a few days later that the governor's "health has been gradually declining ever since he has been here." Dr. Byrne said "the probabilities are that he will die before he will be able to reach the States." In anticipation that Calhoun would not survive the trip, a coffin was made at Fort Union to be carried on the trail. [201]

     Calhoun was determined to begin the long journey and left Fort Union with an escort of 25 dragoons under Second Lieutenant Johnston, one mountain howitzer, and Post Surgeon Thomas A. McParlin on May 26. [202] Army Surgeon Byrne, who had been one of the physicians treating Governor Calhoun at Santa Fe and accompanied the governor to Fort Union, became the new post surgeon at Fort Union. [203] For the trip across the plains, the governor was confined to his bed in an ambulance. [204] On June 30, 1852, Calhoun died on the Santa Fe Trail between Council Grove and Missouri. His remains were buried at present Kansas City, Missouri. [205]

     Colonel Sumner, who had hurried the troops out of Santa Fe to Fort Union the previous year and had moved the department headquarters first to Fort Union and then to Albuquerque, temporarily reestablished his headquarters in Santa Fe on May 5, 1852. There he oversaw both military and civil authority in New Mexico until Calhoun's replacement, William Carr Lane, arrived on September 9, 1852. Sumner then returned to Albuquerque. [206] Samuel Ellison described Governor Lane as "a man of superior intellect, & was highly esteemed by the people of the territory, both natives & Americans." [207] He was not, however, always esteemed by Sumner. The two men seldom agreed on public policy, and they clashed over several issues.

     Although Sumner maintained that the removal of troops from Santa Fe to Fort Union also removed them from the detractions of saloons, gambling, and prostitutes, the enterprising purveyors of what Sumner had called demoralizing "evils" and "vice" simply followed the troops to their new station. In April 1852, just nine months after Fort Union was established, Captain Carleton, who replaced Captain Alexander as post commander on April 22, reported that the post was surrounded by whiskey establishments and "these places without a doubt are the receptacles of the property and many of the stores stolen from this depot and are the places where the thieves congregate to lay schemes for carrying on further depredations." [208]

     Captain Bowen later compiled an extensive list of losses suffered by the commissary department at Fort Union in 1852 (shown in Table 2 on the following page) and stated his belief "that the greater proportion of the above articles were stolen by the enlisted men of the command stationed at Fort Union, and sold at the grog shops and bawdy houses in the neighborhood." Post Surgeon John Byrne compiled a list of property stolen from the medical department, including a large quantity of medications, surgical instruments, hospital stores (comprising, among other items, 28 bottles of brandy and 132 bottles of wine), bedding (58 blankets, 16 pillow cases, and 6 sheets), furniture, and other supplies (such as paper, ink, scissors, tape, silverware, a frying pan, and a chamber pot). [209]

Table 2
Subsistence Stores Dropped from Inventory at Fort Union, New Mexico, 1852, for Wastage and Theft
[210]

ItemAmount Lost
Bacon9,379 pounds
Ham1,191 pounds
Flour3,400 pounds
Beans70.6 bushels
Coffee4,003 pounds
Sugar7,124 pounds
Candles1,313 pounds
Dried Peaches20 bushels
Pickles70 gallons
Salt37 bushels

     Carleton wanted to see "these dens of drunkennes and thieving to be broken up at once." The solution, he suggested, was "to burn every one of these houses to the ground and destroy all the property found in them." [211] Carleton, in cooperation with civil authorities in New Mexico, was authorized to close the dram shops and Sumner enlarged the military reservation at Fort Union to help force the undesirable businesses to operate farther from the post. Both actions resulted in legal entanglements for the army.

     Deputy United States Marshal R. M. Stephens accompanied Governor Calhoun to Fort Union on May 11, carrying a warrant issued by the governor for the arrest of ten men charged with "selling liquor in the Indian Country, and for having purchased and concealed stolen property." With the assistance of troops from the post, Stephens arrested Morris Miller, Hugh G. Hutchinson, John Woland, Calvin D. Scofield, Arthur Morrison, Samuel Sease, William Reynolds, Samuel Morey, Jacob Meador, and William Haisted. As provided in the warrant, Stephens and the soldiers, under direction of Captain Carleton, confiscated the property of those men (which was turned over to the quartermaster at the fort) and burned five or six "shanties" where they operated. Those arrested were taken to Santa Fe for trial. United States Marshall John Jones later submitted a bill to Territorial Governor Lane for $338.00 for the cost of his department in making the arrests and moving the prisoners to Santa Fe. [212]

     Katie Bowen gave an account of these events:

     "All the shanties and grogeries around this post kept by miserable Americans have by order of the chief of Santa Fe been burned down and the keepers put in irons and sent to that town for trial. Now we are enclosed in a line eight miles square. A great deal of quartemaster and commissary property was found in the search and some gentlemen who were out on horseback when the places were set fire to said that mexican women scattered like sheep from all the places and hid in the rocks on the mountain. The Mexicans are very bitter toward Maj. Carleton for informing the Sheriff and requesting him to destroy those places." [213]

     On May 11, by Sumner's order, "the military reservation at Fort Union is hereby extended to eight miles square. The Fort to be the central point. Posts will be erected at the corners, and all citizens now living within those limits will be removed from the reserve without destroying their property." [214]

     Captain Bowen, chief commissary officer for the department, was ordered to survey the reservation, but he reported no instruments on hand to perform that assignment and requested that Lieutenant Pope, chief engineer for the department, be sent to conduct the survey. [215] Before Pope had laid out the boundaries of the new reservation, Alexander Barclay protested that the enlarged reserve encroached upon his lands and he would defend his title. [216] On May 28, 1852, Barclay delivered a formal protest against the enlarged reservation to Captain Carleton at Fort Union and declared he was going to start plowing his own property within one mile of the post. Carleton threatened to remove him by force if he did, and Barclay stated that is what he wanted the army to do so he could file a suit to protect his land grant from military encroachment. [217]

     Barclay and his partner J. B. Doyle were also involved in the whiskey trade which was shut down and lost some liquor that was destroyed. According to Carleton they became so bold as to operate a portable liquor store in a wagon which they could bring onto the military reservation to make sales but escape with the illegal goods when threatened with discovery and confiscation. This wagon was apparently captured while on the reservation at night, "peddling to the men on the reserve," and 25 gallons of their whiskey was destroyed by Carleton's orders. Barclay and Doyle filed suit against Carleton, claiming they were on their own property. [218]

     In October 1852 a deputy sheriff from Taos County served a summons on Captain Carleton to appear before the district court at Don Fernandez de Taos on the fourth Monday in November to answer a petition for trial made by Barclay and Doyle for an alleged trespass. As Carleton related it to his superiors, "for trespass for destroying a quantity of whiskey which they persisted in bringing upon the Military reserve after I had sent to them a copy of Department orders 'No 30' establishing the Military reserve and after I had sent them word that if they brought any more liquor to sell to troops on the reserve, it would be destroyed." [219] Carleton asked Governor Lane if he should appear in court or claim that Taos County had no jurisdiction over the military reservation. "Would not obedience to this summons," queried Carleton, "imply that I consider this as being within the jurisdiction of Taos County[?]" In a cover letter, Carleton begged the governor to "please ask the judge about this." [220]

     Lane, however, refused to become involved in this case, informing Colonel Sumner (with whom he had already clashed regarding the lines of authority in the territory between civil and military officials) that "any interference in this case, on my part, under present circumstances, might be construed into an unwarranted interference with your appropriate duties." [221] Carleton engaged Hugh N. Smith, former territorial delegate to Congress, to represent him at Taos. Carleton feared that any jury in Taos County would find in favor of the owners of the land grant on which the fort was located. Thus the title to the land on which the fort stood was as much a part of the case as the authority to prohibit the sale of liquor. [222]

     Carleton had been told by someone he did not identify that the grant which Barclay & Doyle occupied may not be valid because the Mexican government had never ratified it. If they had title, however, the question became one of military authority on lands surrounding Fort Union. He also suggested that a change of venue from Taos to Santa Fe would bring the case before a more favorable judge, Grafton Baker. [223] There was also the consideration that Carleton was acting under government orders when he led the troops which confiscated the liquor, meaning the government rather than he personally was responsible for what had been done.

     The case of Barclay and Doyle against Carleton was not transferred from Taos County, but it was delayed until March of 1853. At that time the suit was decided in favor of Barclay and Doyle, and Carleton was required to pay $144 "for trespass and breaking & destroying a barrel of whiskey." A similar suit against Sumner was postponed. Also, because of conflicting evidence over the rightful owner of the land grant on which Fort Union and the military reservation were located, a decision on the part of Barclay's suit to require the ejectment of the military from the land grant was postponed so more evidence could be gathered. Captain Gouverneur Morris, new commanding officer at Fort Union, hoped to compile sufficient testimony to prove that the post was located on the Mora Grant. [224]

     The suit charging trespass against Sumner came to trial in Taos in September 1853, and a jury of 12 men found in favor of Barclay and Doyle, requiring the defendant to pay damages of $100.00 and costs of the trial. [225] The suit for ejectment of the U.S. government from possession of lands belonging to Barclay and Doyle was heard later, and the army's representatives failed to appear. The court found in favor of Barclay and Doyle and issued a writ of possession to them. A jury was asked to assess damages in the case and awarded Barclay and Doyle another $100.00. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs then returned $99.99, keeping only one cent as token payment. [226]

     The court having decided that Barclay and Doyle were rightful owners of the site of Fort Union, they signed a lease with the government, represented by Major Rucker, on March 22, 1854, for an area of 16 square miles (10,240 acres) centering on the flagstaff of the post, at an annual fee of $1,200.00 to be paid quarterly from September 7, 1853. Witnesses were W. H. Moore and W J. Martin. The army received the privilege of "cutting and using on said premises, such wood, timber, grass and water, et cetera, as may be necessary for the use of the post of Fort Union." [227]

     Another civil suit was brought against Carleton in Santa Fe County by some of the men who had lost whiskey in the raids. Because the territorial attorney was absent, Governor Lane did represent Carleton before the court in this instance. According to Lane, the case was eventually dismissed but Carleton was assessed the court costs, which Governor Lane paid for him. [228] This was not the last problem with whiskey vendors, [229] but the army had succeeded in stopping some of the traders. More important it appeared that a solution had been found for the lease of land on which the post stood. Meanwhile, the troops at Fort Union continued with their various assignments and a new territorial governor arrived in New Mexico.

Page Four




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