FORT UNION
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CHAPTER FIVE:
FORT UNION AND THE ARMY IN NEW MEXICO DURING THE CIVIL WAR (continued)

     The condition of Fort Union was evaluated at the end of June 1862 by the post quartermaster, Lieutenant Alexander W. Robb, Second Colorado Volunteers. He found neither the old nor the new post satisfactory for housing soldiers or commodities. His report to Major Henry Davies Wallen, Seventh Infantry, a native of the South who chose the Union cause and was the current post commander, included a detailed description of the fieldwork.

     "First. The old post built in 1851 is in a state of dilapidation having been reported some years ago unfit for occupancy: there are a few buildings which have been repaired and are now temporarily used as Quarters and Storehouses."

     "Second. The new post which is being built according to plans of Capt. C. Grover was commenced in 1861 and is not completed as orders were received from Dept. Head Qrs. to discontinue the work. The four angles [demilunes] designed for Storehouses and Company Quarters are completed, each wing is 200 feet in length and 26 feet in depth which is subdivided into a storehouse 100 feet in length and 6 rooms [approximately 16 x 26 feet] designed for the use of one Company. The condition of these houses are good, being just completed, but being partly underground when heavy rains occur the roofs leak badly and the water collects and runs in at the doors."

     "According to the plan there should be eight sets of Officers Quarters two of which are occupied, the rest not being completed each set forms an angle and is composed of eight rooms."

     "One side of the angle is composed of 3 rooms, two of which are 16 feet by 18 feet and one 12 feet by 16 feet, the other side is composed of five rooms, two of which are 14 feet by 16 feet, one 12 by 16 feet, one 16 by 16 feet, and one 8 by 16 feet. They are built partly underground, and during heavy rains the rooms are subject to inundation."

     "The parapet forming the breast work is fast washing away and filling up the ditch around the works, this cannot be prevented unless the slopes are sodded. There are two sets of Company Quarters and one set of Officers' Quarters of four rooms, inside the work which are put up temporarily, which to render substantial buildings would have to be rebuilt: the only board floors in the Garrison are in the two set of officers outside the field works, all the rest are dirt floors. I would respectfully state that the buildings forming the officers Quarters, Company Quarters & Storehouses, cover the curtain of the field work to such an extent as to weaken the defense of the place, and as stated before all being under ground and without ventilation are unhealthy to men, and subject all the Stores placed in them to damage." [233]

     Major Wallen added the following endorsement to the report, leaving no doubt about the state of the recent construction and recommending the construction of new facilities.

     "I have carefully examined the buildings at the post and find their condition as expressed in the above communication. The log huts at the old post are very much decayed and not susceptible of being repaired - the Quarters and Storehouses inside the field works are damp, badly ventilated and not fit to be occupied except in an emergency. I have recently moved two companies from the work and encamped them, have increased the allowance of Quarters for those remaining as a precaution against diseases."

     "I would respectfully urge the necessity of erecting Quarters & Storehouses at this point, or in this vicinity, as those now in use are in every respect wholly unfit for the purposes for which they were designed." [234]

     Wallen's proposal to build new facilities later resulted in a decision to begin work on the third Fort Union. From Robb's report, it was not clear how the officers and men of the six companies comprising the garrison were quartered, but apparently some were at the old post, some at the field work, and some in tents. It was not a satisfactory arrangement. The post hospital was located in one of the buildings at the old post. The post surgeon, James Thomas Ghiselin, reported "that the building used for a Hospital at this post is old and so badly out of repair the sick are made very uncomfortable after every rain storm by the excessive dampness of the walls and flooring." Dr. Ghiselin believed it would be "less expensive to the Government, and more comfortable for the sick - to erect an entirely new building than repair the old one." [235]

     Major Wallen endorsed the surgeon's recommendation and forwarded it to Colonel Canby, noting that he had "carefully examined the building now in use & find that it is very much decayed and not susceptible of being made comfortable for the sick." After noting that "there are so many men constantly at the Hospital, some of them with Small Pox," Wallen requested that the depot quartermaster "be instructed to erect a suitable building for a hospital with a room or ward somewhat removed for patients with contagious diseases." [236] Some of the patients at Fort Union and other posts in the department had been sent to a new general hospital established at the hot springs near Las Vegas. [237] Everything at Fort Union, as Wallen had stated, was "wholly unfit."

     The criticism of the fieldwork and other buildings at the post was not confined to military reports. Soon after Captain Plympton completed his experiment with artillery, which exposed the vulnerability of the fieldwork, and filed his critical evaluation of the new structures on June 20, 1862, [238] Second Lieutenant Gerald Russell, Third Cavalry, an acting assistant adjutant general in the department, leaked the report to the Santa Fe Republican. Additional information was apparently pried from one or more soldiers. The July 5, 1862, issue of the Republican carried an acerbic article titled "Fort Building in New Mexico."

     With feigned praise for the "model" fortification at Fort Union, "truly a beautiful structure" where "the ditch is on the right side," all "the angles are skillfully placed, and the interior arrangement is more than could be desired," the article scathingly declared that "Ungenerous Captain" Plympton's artillery demonstration had revealed "humiliating facts." Plympton had shown the "seventy thousand dollars" spent there had been wasted on "fine feats of engineering skill" proven to be "worse than worthless." The post, which had recently been "the only fort in New Mexico held by United States troops," had given false security to the people of the territory.

     The article speculated that "the skillful engineer who planned and constructed" the earthwork had "elicited the admiration" of the war department and "led to the promotion which we are informed he has received." Then, in biting commentary, observed: "The invention of an underground tunnel several thousand feet to the spring, which having been finished caved in, when water was found within the fort a few feet below the surface by digging wells, denoted singular foresight." That was the kind of foresight that placed the "seventy thousand dollar earthworks" within artillery range of the bluffs.

     Colonel Canby was furious and immediately used his authority to stop public criticism of the army. Lieutenant Russell was reprimanded. The editor (former territorial secretary, James H. Holmes) and publisher (Putnam O'Brien) of the Republican were arrested and held for trial because they refused to reveal the source of information in the article. Under martial law, they had no right to publish military information that might aid the enemy. They were apparently found guilty and given a suspended sentence. When Putnam was released was not determined, but Holmes was "discharged from custody" on July 24. [239] Canby had made it clear that military records revealing conditions at Fort Union were not for publication.

     Despite or because of the controversy over the location and condition of Fort Union, Colonel Canby requested that the defects in the fieldwork be corrected, that a redoubt be placed on the mesa above the old fort to prevent enemy artillery from being planted there, and that adequate quarters and storehouses be erected beyond the fieldwork ("beyond the range of any but rifled cannon"). He believed Fort Union was the best location in the department for the general supply depot and appealed for authority to begin construction of necessary buildings. [240] Canby started Captain McFerran working on the plans for a third Fort Union, which was to be built of adobes set on stone foundations and have pitched roofs covered with shingles. The first building, a large storehouse, and some new quartermaster corrals were begun before Canby left the department in September. [241]

     On September 18, 1862, Brigadier General Carleton replaced Canby as the commander of the Department of New Mexico, and Canby soon accompanied many of the regular troops from Fort Union to Fort Leavenworth for service in other parts of the country. Most of the companies of the First, Second, and Third Cavalry and the Seventh and Tenth Infantry in the department, which had been permitted to remain in New Mexico until volunteers were raised and the Confederate challenge was crushed, were leaving for other theaters. [242]

James H. Carleton
James H. Carleton, courtesy Museum of New Mexico.

     Carleton, like Canby, was satisfied with the location of Fort Union and the general depot for the department. He had no objection to building new quarters and barracks near the fieldwork. He was concerned, however, about the "gradual disappearance of neighboring pools [Los Pozos]," and "the drying up of springs in the vicinity." In order to be fair, Carleton requested that a board be appointed to select the best site for a depot, declaring that the issue had been up in the air for a dozen years and "the result is we have no depot - and have spent money enough to make two or three." At the same time, he held a certain affection for the post where he had served a decade before. A few weeks after assuming command of the department, Carleton requested Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs to evaluate and approve the plans for the third post. [243] The construction of the third Fort Union is described in chapters six and seven.

     Meanwhile, Carleton selected a company of infantry from the post garrison to serve as an artillery battery, commanded by Lieutenant George S. Hollister, Seventh Infantry, to be in charge of the defense of Fort Union. [244] A few weeks later, when renewed rumors of another Texan invasion were rife, Carleton directed that abattis for the demilunes be cut in the Turkey Mountains, the limbs to be pointed after they were hauled to the post. [245]

     Carleton, because of his earlier experience in New Mexico and his attention to duty, also understood the department and its people better than most other department commanders. He was committed to making the lives of citizens secure and expanding the areas of settlement in the territory. He was determined to deal with Indian problems as quickly as possible, settling the Indians on reservations, by force if necessary, where they could be fed and closely watched. He considered Colonel Carson, First New Mexico Volunteers, capable of leading successful expeditions against bands that refused to submit peaceably. [246]

     There had been few reports of Indian troubles in the region of Fort Union during the time of Confederate invasion and retreat. By September 1862, however, there was increasing evidence of Indian assaults. Several New Mexicans were reported killed, some captured, and large numbers of cattle stolen near Wagon Mound. Indians were believed responsible for the theft of more than 100 mules and horses from a merchant's wagon train near Rabbit Ear Mountain on the Cimarron Route. Indians or "guerrilla parties composed in part of Mexicans" were presumed to have raided near Anton Chico. Troops were dispatched to investigate, provide protection, recover stolen livestock, and punish the guilty parties if possible. [247] Second Lieutenant George L. Shoup, Second Colorado Volunteers, led a detachment of 45 men from Fort Union to attempt to recover the animals stolen from the wagon train near Rabbit Ear. They were gone 41 days and recovered 92 of the stolen animals. The Indians, tribe not identified, who had perpetrated the theft promised to stop raiding supply trains. [248] Other tribesmen, however, continued to make forays against wagon trains and livestock herds.

     Carleton believed the Mescalero Apaches were perpetrators of many foul deeds in southeastern New Mexico, and he sent Colonel Carson with five companies of the First New Mexico Volunteers to reoccupy Fort Stanton and turn it into a base of operations against the Mescaleros. Carleton directed his old friend, Captain Shoemaker at the ordnance depot at Fort Union, to outfit Carson's command with arms, ammunition, and equipment needed for a campaign. Carleton sent four companies of the First New Mexico Volunteers, under Lieutenant Colonel Chavez, to establish Fort Wingate in Navajo country. To keep a watch for Indians and Texans along the Pecos River, Carleton placed one company of the Second Colorado Volunteers in camp at Bosque Redondo. [249] For similar duty on the Canadian route, he sent one company of the Second Colorado Volunteers to establish and occupy a temporary camp near the mouth of Ute Creek on the Canadian "until spring." This was named Camp Easton, which later became Fort Bascom. [250] Fort Union was to protect the Santa Fe Trail and handle the distribution of supplies. Other units were stationed along the Rio Grande valley. In short order, Carleton effected a redistribution of the troops in the department to place them in position to deal with Indians as well as Texans, should they attempt another invasion. [251]

     Carleton did not approve of a general hospital at the hot springs near Las Vegas, far from any military post. He ordered that it be discontinued and the patients, medicines, and hospital supplies be transferred to Fort Union. The quartermaster at the post was instructed to "prepare a building for the reception of these sick and wounded . . . in case the capacity of the present Hospital at that post is not sufficient for their accommodation." [252] Given the condition of facilities at Fort Union, it was doubtful that these additional patients could be easily sheltered. Their presence would magnify the need for a new hospital at the post.

     As Colonel Carson prepared to lead his battalion from Fort Union to reoccupy Fort Stanton and deal with the Mescalero Apaches, Carleton issued broad orders: "You will attack the Mescaleros and Navajos wherever you find them until further orders." [253] Carleton sent two other columns, each independent commands comprised of two companies of California Volunteers (one led by Captain William McCleave [254] and the other by Captain Nathaniel J. Pishon), into Mescalero country to assist in their defeat. These troops were also supplied from Fort Union. Carleton believed that winter was the best time to campaign against the belligerent Indians. All troops sent against the Mescaleros were ordered to kill all men and take women and children prisoners until the tribe had surrendered to Carleton. There were to be no negotiations and no peace until the Mescaleros were soundly defeated. [255]

     At the end of October Brigadier General Carleton, a decade after his first expedition to Bosque Redondo and observation that it was a good location for a military post, ordered the establishment of Fort Sumner, to honor Edwin V. Sumner, at that place. This new post on the Pecos would encourage settlers to locate in the area and block the Pecos route against Kiowas, Comanches, Mescalero Apaches, and Texan invaders. [256] Later, Fort Sumner watched over an Indian reservation for the Mescaleros and Navajos. The post was founded by Captain Joseph Updegraff, Fifth Infantry, on November 30, 1862, and was active until August 30, 1869. During all that time, it was supplied from Fort Union. [257]

     Colonel Carson's campaign against the Mescaleros began to bring favorable results in November 1862. All the Mescaleros who agreed to surrender to Brigadier General Carleton were directed to the Bosque Redondo, where they would be fed and protected by the troops at Fort Sumner. Carson was directed to continue his expedition and send all Mescaleros who wanted peace to go to Bosque Redondo. Carleton believed that, "eventually, we shall have the whole tribe at Bosque Redondo, and there we can conclude a definite treaty with them." [258] Rumors of a renewed Texan invasion, which proved untrue, caused an interruption of the campaign against the Mescaleros late in 1862.

     The same rumors caused a flurry at Fort Union to make additional repairs to the defense of the earthwork in case it should be attacked by a Confederate army. Abattis were cut for the exposed sides of the demilunes, as noted above. Additional work, the nature of which was not revealed, was to be done by the troops, "having one whole company - officers and all - detailed on fatigue one day, and another company the next day, and so on, until the work is done, commencing at once." [259] The depot quartermaster, Captain William Craig, was assigned the added duties of post quartermaster and placed in charge of the work. He was directed by Carleton to use any of the materials gathered for the building of the new depot that might be needed to strengthen the defense of the post. Craig was authorized to hire 30 citizen laborers to complete the magazine inside the fieldwork and, after that, perform other "necessary labor." [260] Ceran St. Vrain brought 100 volunteer workers from Taos to Fort Union, where they worked 20 days "with pickaxes and spades, free of pay, the Government feeding them." [261] While beefing up the defense of military installations throughout the territory, Carleton also gave attention to possible dangers among the populace.

     254. McCleave was an unusual solder. A native of Ireland, he had served ten years (much of that time as a sergeant) in the First Dragoons before joining the California Volunteers. He had been captured by Confederates while scouting in the spring of 1862 and was held prisoner for four months before he was exchanged. After he returned to duty, he refused to accept pay for the time he had been a prisoner, declaring "I am not here for pecuniary purposes, and respectfully ask that the amount [$582.50] revert to the Federal Government, whose servant I am." Carleton to Halleck, Nov. 14, 1862, ibid.; and Boyd, Cavalry Life in Tent and Field, 146-147. Mrs. Boyd considered him to be "a hero in the truest sense of the word." Ibid., 146.

     Because several federal officials in New Mexico had fled from the territory during the Texan invasion in the spring of 1862, Brigadier General Carleton took steps to prevent further defections in case the anticipated infiltration occurred. Captain Plympton at Fort Union was directed by Carleton to detain any citizens attempting to flee "to the States . . . unless they have passports signed by myself." [262] If they slipped past Fort Union, the commander at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, was requested to send them back. [263] Carleton had no use for people he considered cowards or, even worse, disloyal to the Union cause. He forbade purchases by procurement officers from merchants whom he considered "indifferent . . . to . . . efforts to maintain the Union." [264] Carleton was alert to untrustworthy citizens within as well as enemy attacks from without New Mexico.

     The expected Confederate attack never materialized, but a party of southerners from the Colorado gold fields were captured, while making their way along the Canadian River to Fort Smith, by the troops at Camp Easton and brought to Fort Union. Second Lieutenant Shoup led the detachment of Second Colorado Volunteers that caught the party of 24 led by Green Russell from Georgia, the man credited with discovering gold in western Kansas Territory (Colorado Territory after 1861) in 1858 and setting off the Pike's Peak rush of 1859. There were six orphan children in the group, and at least three cases of smallpox among the prisoners were under the care of Dr. Levi J. Russell, a member of the party. They were leaving Colorado Territory where their Confederate sympathies were not appreciated. Shoup, who had enlisted some Comanche allies to capture what he suspected was a party of Confederate guerrillas, was surprised when he discovered who his captives were. He took them to Fort Union to let higher authority decide what should be done. Three of the prisoners died from smallpox on the way to Fort Union and others, including all the children, contracted the disease. Carleton wrote to Adjutant General Thomas for instructions for handling such cases. Over $20,000 worth of gold was taken from the party but later restored to them. The Green party received medical aid and was released to return to Georgia in February 1863. While the party remained at Fort Union, the citizens of Santa Fe and soldiers in the department contributed several hundred dollars for the "comfort and support" of the children. [265]

     By the end of January 1863 Carleton, who had visited the troops from Santa Fe to Franklin in Texas, was confident that an imminent invasion was not going to happen. He informed Governor John Evans, Colorado Territory, "I do not believe any considerable force from that state [Texas] will attempt to invade this country again, at least for the present." Unless the Confederacy should win the war in the East, Carleton considered the chances of another attempt to expand westward to be remote. If the Confederate States of America established their independence, however, he considered such a move to be "more than probable." [266] Carleton's views proved to be correct.

     Carleton informed Adjutant General Thomas that the probability of another Texas invasion was "so remote as to justify me in employing the troops under my command in chastising the hostile tribes of Indians" in the department. Carleton believed the Mescalero Apaches were already "subdued," and over 350 members of that tribe were at or soon to be at Fort Sumner. Carleton planned to place the Mescaleros on a reservation and have them plant crops in the spring. An expedition against the Mimbres Apaches in southwestern New Mexico had resulted in the death of Mangus Colorado and many of his followers, and Carleton hoped to have the Mimbres Apaches on a reservation soon. In the spring of 1863 he planned to send a major expedition against the Navajos and force them onto a reservation. [267] In all these efforts, Carleton relied on supplies shipped through Fort Union.

     Captain Plympton, post commander, and Captain Craig, depot quartermaster, apparently came to a disagreement over the allocation of storehouses at Fort Union between the depot and the post. Carleton urged them to make peace in the interest of the public service. To settle the situation, Carleton directed Captain McFerran, chief quartermaster in the department, while McFerran was at Fort Union on other business, to oversee the arrangements of "rooms for public stores arriving from the States." Carleton believed there were sufficient buildings at the post to accommodate the present needs of the depot and the fort. He did not want the enmity between the two officers at Fort Union to disrupt the operation of either facility. He urged them to "shake hands over the matter and let it pass by." [268] A few days later Carleton requested authorization from Quartermaster General Meigs to continue with construction of the new depot at Fort Union in the spring. [269]

     Perhaps, in part, to placate Captain Plympton, Carleton ordered the construction of a new commanding officer's quarters near the fieldwork. This was to be a temporary structure, to serve until the third fort was built, located where Captain Plympton desired. Captain Craig was instructed to "tear down the old house on the hill, known as Col. Sumner's house - which was formerly used as a Hospital at Fort Union" to obtain "the lumber and doors and windows now in it to make a set of officers quarters, say four rooms and a Kitchen, with a yard &c, complete and comfortable." The quarters were to be "built of logs, and will be plastered on the inside, with blinds to the windows and a gallery running along its front, say ten feet broad." The roof was to be made of the materials comprising the roof of the old house. The chimneys were to be of stone. Craig was to assign as many workers to this task as "you can spare to complete the building." [270] The exact location of these quarters in relation to the fieldwork is unknown.

     The need for more secure storehouses at Fort Union was emphasized on the night of March 29, 1863, when "some person or persons" broke into the commissary depot and stole three sacks of flour and four barrels of whiskey. A board of inquiry decided that the storehouse was "a very insecure building" and absolved Captain Carey, depot commissary officer, of any "neglect" in the loss of provisions. [271] The provisions were needed throughout the department. When the commander at Camp Easton, Captain E. H. Bergmann, First New Mexico Volunteers, was authorized to begin construction of permanent quarters, he was directed to obtain equipment and supplies from the depot at Fort Union. [272] Later, Captain Plympton was transferred from Fort Union to command the post and oversee the construction at Camp Easton. [273]

     Fort Union was not only the source of supplies for most of the troops in the department, but it became the supply center for defeated Indians as well. By March 1863 Carleton was satisfied that the Mescalero Apaches were sufficiently subjugated to proceed with the establishment of a reservation for them at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner. Carleton, Superintendent of Indian Affairs James L. Collins, and Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy of Santa Fe went to meet with the Mescaleros and work out the details for their reservation. Provisions for these Indians were secured from Fort Union until the Bureau of Indian Affairs could provide subsistence. Colonel Carson and his battalion of First New Mexico Volunteers were directed to begin preparations to move to Navajo country and undertake a campaign designed to bring that tribe to reservation status as well. [274] When Carson led his troops out of Mescalero country, they were replaced by troops from Fort Union who continued to pressure the remaining Mescaleros to move to the reservation. [275]

     The new commanding officer's quarters at Fort Union were ready for occupancy on April 10. At the same time Captain Plympton moved from the old post to these quarters, all enlisted men and laundresses belonging to the garrison were moved into quarters in the demilunes of the fieldwork. If there were not sufficient rooms in those quarters, the overflow was to be quartered in tents near the fieldwork. Only the post surgeon and general staff officers were permitted to remain in quarters at the old post. The unoccupied structures at the original post were assigned to the quartermaster and commissary depots to be used until the new storehouses were erected. [276] Permission was later granted to permit the hospital matron to continue in quarters she occupied at the old post. [277] Captain Shoemaker and the ordnance depot were apparently still located at the old post, although some of the ordnance supplies were stored in the magazine inside the fieldwork. Shoemaker was charged with outfitting Carson's expedition against the Navajos.

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