Historic Resource Study
The third Fort Union, constructed near the site of the earthwork during and after the Civil War, was designed as a permanent installation, including the post proper and facilities for the department (later district) quartermaster and commissary depots. In addition, the site of the first fort was assigned to the ordnance depot which became an arsenal. All three institutions, the military post, supply depot, and arsenal, functioned independently. Because of their close proximity, they shared some services, including surgeon and hospital, bakery, fire-fighting equipment, sutler's store, post office, telegraph office, chapel, cemetery, fraternal organizations, and, sometimes, labor force. There were occasional disputes among the commanding officers of those installations, although they usually cooperated for the good of the service.
For purposes of summary and evaluation, the story of the three institutions may be considered separately. The construction of the third post and the supply depot was done virtually as one complex, over a considerable period of time, and is so considered here. The building of the arsenal is included in chapter nine. The post-Civil War military operations of the garrison at Fort Union were part of the continuing role of the army in the Southwest to pacify the region. As that mission was accomplished, the military significance of the post decreased and garrison life became more routine until the troops were no longer needed in the area and the fort was abandoned. During the era following the Civil War, Fort Union was more important to the District of New Mexico as a giant stockpile of provisions and other supplies and a transportation hub than it was as a military stronghold for defense or even a base of operations for a powerful striking force. The troops continued to protect the routes of travel, especially the Santa Fe Trail, and they were frequently dispatched to other theaters to join in campaigns against belligerent Indians and sometimes help settle civilian disputes, but there was virtually no fighting near the post. Throughout most of the postwar era the garrison enjoyed the comforts of a new Fort Union.
The first building of the third post, erected before the earthwork was completed, was a quartermaster storehouse built of adobe bricks in 1862.  Although the adobe brick (mud mixed with straw, shaped in a rectangular mold, and dried in the sun) had been used successfully for more than 200 years in the Southwest and was the predominant building material of the Hispanic population of New Mexico, Anglo-American officers who grew up and were trained in the East were slow to adapt its use to military architecture. The officers who designed the first and second posts at Fort Union were certainly aware of adobe construction, but they chose to use other materials, out of ignorance or disdain for foreign customs, with fateful results.
When Captain John C. McFerran, quartermaster department, designed plans for the third Fort Union, as directed by Brigadier General Canby, he specified adobe construction on stone foundations. McFerran's blueprint also called for gable roofs with wooden shingles, a specification later changed to the flat-style roofs typical of the region with the addition of sheet metal covering. That alteration proved to be a fateful decision because the flat roofs failed to protect the fragile adobe walls from precipitation that eventually destroyed them.  The territorial style of New Mexican architecture, including cornices of fired bricks atop adobe walls, was also adopted for the structures of the third post. This was a fairly recent practice, begun in Santa Fe and other New Mexico towns during the 1850s, and the new Fort Union was a premier example, but not the originator, of the style.  The source of the fired bricks at Fort Union remains unknown. The quartermaster depot established a brick kiln in August 1868.  Captain Shoemaker at the ordnance depot had built a kiln in 1860 and produced high quality bricks. 
In addition to the new storehouse, a set of quartermaster corrals located northeast of the earthwork were also completed in 1862. The timetable for the new post apparently called for the completion of the supply depot first, during which time the troops could occupy the earthwork, and then the construction of new quarters for officers and troops. Thus, during 1862, work continued on the defenses and the quarters at the earthwork. A new magazine inside the earthwork, to replace the one near the original post, was begun late in 1862. It was partially underground, with plank flooring, and covered with heavy timbers and a mound of earth to make it "bombproof." All labor on the earthwork was provided by troops of the garrison. At the close of 1862, Fort Union was home to 440 troops, 323 of whom were present for duty and extra duty. 
|Construction scene at the third Fort Union and depot, date and particular building unknown. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87995, courtesy National Archives.|
When Canby approved McFerran's designs for the third Fort Union in August 1862, he also approved McFerran's estimate of funds required to build the post and depot. McFerran calculated that the post would require $25,380 and the supply depot, including storehouses, officers' quarters, offices, shops, and corrals, would take $43,820, making a total for the entire complex of $69,200.  McFerran's projections proved far off the mark. Additions to the original plan, including the post hospital, increased the sum needed to complete the project. It was later estimated that the cost of the hospital, completed in the spring of 1865, was $57,000. 
In 1867 Captain Henry Inman, depot quartermaster, submitted an estimate for the buildings still under construction or not yet begun to complete the plans for the third fort, including four more sets of officers' quarters ($14,122 each), commanding officer's quarters ($16,900), post quartermaster's office and adjutants office ($14,122 each), a double set of company quarters ($12,113), guard house and cells ($21,912), and corrals, stables, and laundresses' quarters ($163,323), for a total of $298,980.  In all, even though an accurate accounting was not given, the third fort and supply depot must have cost at least a half-million dollars.
Despite the disruption of the Civil War, orders were issued to proceed with the new post in the spring of 1863. Captain Nicholas S. Davis, First California Volunteers, who had been appointed to the quartermaster department, was assigned to duty under Captain William Craig, in charge of the quartermaster depot at Fort Union, to oversee "the completion of the New Depot and Post of Fort Union, in accordance with the Approved Plans now in the office of Captain Craig." Captain McFerran, department quartermaster, made it clear to Davis "that this work should be finished as soon as possible." Davis was instructed that "the strictest economy, consistent with a rapid completion of the work, must be observed." 
Davis was instructed to use the windows, doors, and "all other material . . . that can be used" from the quarters and storehouses in the fieldwork and the demilunes of the second fort in the construction of the new fort. The buildings at the earthwork were "to be torn down, as the material in them is required in the construction of the new Post." Captain Craig was directed to furnish to Davis "all the necessary mechanics, laborers, tools, transportation, and material, to carry on the work." The fieldwork was not demolished immediately because the depot was erected first, but as the construction of the third fort proceeded portions of the second post were dismantled. Captain Davis was also directed to keep careful accounts of all expenditures, make regular reports through Captain Craig to McFerran, and prepare estimates for funds required for each stage of construction. Finally, Davis was to forward "as soon as possible, an estimate of the zinc or tin, that will be necessary to roof the officers and soldiers quarters and the store-houses." 
The plan required several years to complete, but it was steadily pursued throughout that time. In less than three weeks after being assigned to the task, Captain Davis had compiled estimates for the roofs. Brigadier General Carleton immediately forward the projections (amounts not located) to Quartermaster General Meigs, urging approval of tin roofs. Carleton preferred "zinc, but the difference in cost of transportation, as compared with that of tin, is greatly against it." McFerran and Carleton had convinced themselves that "earth roofs want frequent and expensive repairs, and are not secure against the heavy rains." Tin, on the other hand, "will last for a great many years, is secure against water and against fire."  The request was approved. The officers were to learn, however, that the joints of tin roofs were difficult to seal, leaked when it rained, caused numerous problems, and required almost constant maintenance by a skilled tinsmith in the long run. The tin may not have been any worse than other types of roofing, but neither was it significantly better. Pitched roofs with wood shingles would have been superior.
The initial design of the new post and depot did not include specifications for a hospital. On June 18, 1863, Carleton appointed a board of officers to select the best site and draft a plan for the new post hospital that would be "the most favorable for the comfort of the patients, and the sanitary condition of the troops." The board, comprised of Surgeons John C. C. Downing, Orlando M. Bryan, and James M. McNulty, and Captains John C. McFerran, P. W. L. Plympton, and Nicholas S. Davis, picked the location and designed the structure that, when completed, was the finest medical facility between Kansas and California. 
By the spring of 1864 Captain Davis was serving as depot quartermaster as well as overseeing construction. In May Captain Enos was appointed depot quartermaster, and Davis remained "in charge of the buildings now in course of construction at Depot Fort Union."  A short time later, Captain Davis, a member of the California Volunteers, requested release from his construction duties at Fort Union so he could return to his regiment. Carleton praised Davis for his services and granted his desire. 
Davis had superintended the erection of three large storehouses for the supply depot. Brigadier General Carleton had planned that the middle building would be assigned to the subsistence department and the other two would house quartermaster stores. When he discovered in June 1864 that quartermaster and commissary supplies were being stored together, he recommended that Department Quartermaster McFerran allot space. "It will be well," Carleton wrote, "so that no cause for collisions, or conflict of opinions arise, to set apart for the exclusive use of the Subsistence Department (which must always have a large supply of stores in depot) a certain share of the rooms which have been made for the public stores."  Later, one of the storehouses was assigned to the commissary department. In 1867, according to the depot commissary, two more storehouses were completed. One, farthest north, was designed for the commissary department and included a large cellar under a portion of the building for storing bacon. 
It was difficult to hire enough laborers to make adobe bricks for the construction project. At Carleton's suggestion, all civilian prisoners held at Fort Union were detailed, under a guard sufficient to prevent their escape, "to work making adobies for the Public works."  Civilian employees were hired to work on construction and to perform many other duties at the supply depot, including herders, teamsters, clerks, and laborers who unloaded, stored, repacked, and loaded out commodities for the department. The total number of civilians employed at the depot at the end of July 1864 was 425 and a month later it was 420.  The number of these engaged in construction work cannot be deduced from available sources. At the same time, the post garrison exceeded 700, with approximately 500 available for duty. Some of those troops, exact number unknown, were assigned to work on the new buildings when they were not engaged in other duties.
The Indians of the plains were expected to continue their raids on wagon trains in 1865. During much of that year the garrison at Fort Union provided regular escorts for the mail coaches and, twice each month, for all parties crossing the plains. On the first and fifteenth of each month, beginning March 1, 1865, a company of troops left Fort Union to escort all travelers who desired protection as far as Fort Larned, following the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail on the first and the Cimarron Route on the fifteenth. They were to escort westbound wagon trains on their return march. Brigadier General Carleton provided detailed instructions for these escorts. Every soldier was to have 120 rounds of ammunition, two blankets, and a limited amount of extra clothing. Each escort was admonished to maintain a secure guard for the animals and property under their care. The men "will not only be ready to fight, but will fight any number of hostile Indians they may meet, or who may attack or menace the company or the train by night or by day, in storm or in fair weather." They were warned not to "be off their guard, idle away their time, but will attend to the business for which the Government pays them." Every soldier was required to carry his weapon "all the time." 
The Southwestern Defense System After
the Civil War. Source: Robert M. Utley, Fort Union National
(click on image for an enlargement)
Carleton's instructions were repeated, almost verbatim, in the directions issued to each escort at Fort Union.  Most of the detachments assigned to escort duty went through without difficulty. On April 17, Captain Henry W. Lauer, First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, reported that his command, which left Fort Union on March 15 and followed the Cimarron Route, had arrived safely at Fort Larned after being on the trail for 32 days. His company had accompanied 93 wagons, pulled by both mule and ox teams, and had no trouble along the way, had not even seen an Indian. Except for a snowstorm while they were on the Cimarron River, the weather was "pretty fair." The men were reported to be "in good spirits." 
By May 1865 so many troops from Fort Union were absent on escort duty that it would be necessary to suspend escorts, after the departure of the one on May 15, until enough troops returned.  Along the Mountain Route, Forts Lyon, Aubry, and Dodge could provide assistance to travelers between Forts Union and Larned. On the Cimarron Route, however, there were no installations between Fort Union and Fort Dodge. To provide some assistance, Carleton assigned Colonel Carson and three companies (Companies C  and L of his regiment of First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry and Company F of the First California Volunteer Cavalry) to take supplies from Fort Union and establish the temporary Camp Nichols near Cedar Spring or Cedar Bluffs in the present Oklahoma panhandle.  Later, Company H, First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, was relieved from escort duty to join the troops at Camp Nichols.  These troops could "give assistance to trains en route to and from the States." In addition, Carson would be in a position to "talk with some of the chiefs of the Cheyennes, Kioways and Comanches, and impress them with the folly of continuing this bad course." Carleton also suggested to Carson that he have the regimental sutler, Solomon Beuthner, send some supplies to the camp, including "canned fruit which would keep them healthy," to "sell to your soldiers." 
Carleton wanted these troops to be well supplied. He directed the commander at Fort Union to see that the horses and equipment, as well as the men, were "put in perfect order." The troops were to be provided with scythes and rakes so they could cut hay for their horses. Each company was to have a large picket line to secure their horses at the camp. A traveling forge was to be provided so a small blacksmith shop could be set up at Camp Nichols. Each company was to have plenty of horse shoes, saddler's tools, extra leather, thread, wax, spades, axes, pickaxes, hatchets, and other equipment they might need to care for their horses and provide shelter for themselves. If possible, Carleton wanted the garrison of Camp Nichols to erect a temporary storehouse, hospital, and ovens. In case they were needed, four mountain howitzers were to be prepared to send to Camp Nichols. 
Carleton assured Carson, "I have full faith and confidence in your judgment and in your energy." He then provided a long list of instructions, quoted here to show both the meticulous thoroughness with which Carleton oversaw his department and to provide a better understanding of the story of Camp Nichols, which was basically an outpost of Fort Union.
"To have a fine camp, with ovens, a comfortable place for sick; good store rooms; some defences thrown up to prevent surprise; pickets established at good points for observations; hay cut and hauled to feed nights; or in case the Indians crowd you; large and well armed guards under an officer with the public animals when herding; promptness in getting into the saddle and in moving to help the trains; a disposition to move quickeach man with his little bag of flour, a little salt and sugar and coffee, and not hampered by packs; arms and equipments always in order; Tattoo and Reveille roll calls invariably under arms, so that men shall have their arms on the last thing at night and in their hands the first thing in the morning; to have an inspection by the officers at Tattoo and at Reveille of the arms, and to see that the men are ready to fight; never to let this be omitted; to have, if possible, all detachments commanded by an officer, to report progress and events from time to time. These seem to be some of the essential points which of course you will keep in view." 
Carleton also reminded Carson of his views on dealing with the Indians. "If the Indians behave themselves, that is all the peace we want; and we shall not molest them." On the other hand, "if they do not we will fight them on sight and to the bitter end." With the end of the Civil War, Carleton believed enough troops could be transferred to the plains to defeat all the Indians in short order if necessary. He wanted Carson to give that message to the Indians. "You know," he declared, "I don't believe much in smoking with Indians. When they fear us, they behave. They must be made to fear us or we can have no lasting peace." Carleton wanted the Indians to understand that they would not be permitted "to stop the commerce of the plains." Carleton, of course, had much confidence in Carson, who had carried out the department commander's plans against other tribes so effectively. 
In June Colonel Carson was called to Santa Fe to testify before a congressional committee investigating Indian affairs. Camp Nichols was left in charge of Major Albert H. Pfeiffer, First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry, when Carson departed.  Second Lieutenant Richard D. Russell, who had come to New Mexico as a member of the California Volunteers and later joined the First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, and his bride, Marion Sloan Russell, were stationed at Camp Nichols. Mrs. Russell, in her memoirs, had fond memories of Carson and of Camp Nichols. She left one of the few descriptions of the camp.
"It was surrounded by rock walls and a deep ditch or moat.  Inside the rock walls the houses were half-dugouts four feet under ground and four foot rock walls above ground. The only two-roomed house was used as a hospital. Mounted howitzers were placed along the walls. There were stone rooms outside the rock walls along the south side for the officers. A flag pole was placed near the entrance." 
Marion Russell recalled that the soldiers lived in tents at Camp Nichols until the quarters were finished. During a thunderstorm, Colonel Carson's tent blew down upon him. She remembered Carson's "roar of rage" and how her husband "had to call out the Corporal of the guards to get the Colonel extricated." She noted that Carson's health seemed impaired at the time and believed he was then suffering from the disease that claimed his life three years later. She also remembered Carson's devotion to duty and his vigilance at the camp. He sent ten scouts out each morning to watch for Indians, and they returned each evening. Some days Carson rode with them. Pickets were placed away from the post each day, to warn the camp if Indians approached, and "sentinels were placed at strategic places along the trail." If necessary, escorts were provided for wagon trains. Guards protected the post day and night. Marion Russell apparently felt quite safe. 
Her affection for Kit Carson, whom she had known since she was a child (he had ever since called her his "Little Maid Marian"), was expressed in her recollection of his departure from Camp Nichols.
"One morning the Colonel came leading his big black horse by the bridle. "Little Maid Marian," he said, "I have come to say Good-bye." His last words to me as he rode away were, "Now remember the Injuns will git ye if you don't watch out." I watched him as he rode away. The picket on the western lookout arose as he passed and saluted. The black horse mingled with mirage on the horizon and thus it was that Kit Carson rode out of my life forever. I was destined never to see his face again." 
When Carson died two years later, Marion felt a great loss and her bond to the famous frontiersman persisted to the end of her days. "I have never been able to think of Colonel Carson as dead," she recounted. "Kit Carson, the Happy Warrior, gone to his rest? Along the old Santa Fe Trail there are stone walls his hands had built. In the forest are chips left by his axe. I never think of Colonel Carson as a bundle of dust in Taos cemetery." In her ethereal conception, "he is hawk wings against a western sky; a living soul launched out upon a sea of light." 
Mrs. Russell also enjoyed Major Pfeiffer, who succeeded Carson as commanding officer at Camp Nichols. He had been injured and his wife had been killed by Indians a few years before. He gave Marion riding lessons while husband Richard was away on escort duty. Richard Russell was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant while he served at Camp Nichols.  By late summer 1865, when plans were formulated to seek peace agreements with the plains tribes, orders were issued to abandon Camp Nichols on November 1 and return the troops and supplies to Fort Union. Major Pfeiffer was directed, "Do not let your camp be destroyed. It may be reoccupied next spring."  A few days later, Carleton concluded there was no need to keep troops at Camp Nichols until November 1 and ordered them to return to Fort Union "at once."  When the garrison rode away, Marion Russell reminisced, "inside the stockade we left a great stack of hay and another one outside. The flag of the Union we left flying from the tall flag pole. On its base we posted a notice warning all persons against destroying Federal property. This was the official end of Camp Nickols."  There was apparently only one death (cause unknown) among the troops at Camp Nichols, Private A. Baranca, First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry. 
In July 1865, when Brigadier General James H. Ford, Second Colorado Volunteers and commander of the District of Upper Arkansas, headquarters at Fort Larned, Kansas, requested cooperation from troops in New Mexico in a campaign against plains Indians who were harassing travelers on the Santa Fe Trail, Carleton refused. Carleton believed the best use of troops through the summer would be direct protection of the wagon trains. The campaign against the tribes, in his opinion, should wait until winter, when "the Indians being then in known haunts with their families can be more readily attacked; and without the danger, as now, of their dodging the troops, and, while the latter are off the road, of their pouncing upon the trains left unguarded." 
In addition to providing protection for the routes across the plains, Fort Union troops were occasionally called out to investigate reports of Indian raids on livestock herds. On June 2, 1865, two herders were killed and livestock belonging to Alexander Valle and Donaciano Vigil was stolen somewhere between Tecolote and the Pecos River by a party believed to be Jicarilla Apaches led by Jose Largo. Troops were dispatched from Fort Union the following day to pursue the Indians and, if possible, recover the stock. The initial instructions specified that cavalry troops were to comprise part of the detachment, but all the cavalrymen were engaged in escort duty on the Santa Fe Trail and infantrymen were sent after the Jicarillas.  Troops from Fort Union were also alerted to keep watch for Navajos who escaped from their reservation near Fort Sumner in June. Most of the Navajos returned to Bosque Redondo on their own.
Lieutenant H. C. Harrison, First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, led the detachment sent after Jose Largo and his Jicarillas. They captured the chief and 90 members of his band (who apparently surrendered without resistance), recovered some of the stolen livestock, and brought the Indians to Fort Union. These Jicarillas were given rations for three days and sent to report to their agent at Maxwell's Ranch on the Cimarron River. Jose Largo was instructed that he and the other chief of the band would be required to return to Fort Union "whenever the General Commanding desired to see them." 
Troops from Fort Union were also assigned to work on roads after the Civil War. On July 4, 1865, Company E, First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, was "detailed to repair the road from Fort Union, N.M. to the Summit of the Raton Mountains, now in bad condition." They were to receive necessary tools and equipment from the quartermaster depot, carry rations for 30 days, and be well armed and supplied with plenty of ammunition. While they were working on the road, these soldiers were to "receive one gill of whiskey per diem." They were to return to Fort Union and report to department headquarters what they had done at the end of 30 days. 
In September a company of New Mexico volunteers was sent from Fort Union, with 40 days' rations, to repair the road between Fort Union and Santa Fe. The quartermaster depot was directed to furnish the necessary equipment. The soldiers assigned to this duty were informed by the department commander that "the work that is to be done will be well done." No one was to be permitted to be absent from duty on this project unless they were "sick or confined." 
Troops from Fort Union were occasionally called upon to assist civil authorities with keeping the peace. On September 11, 1865, a detachment of 40 officers and men of the First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry were sent under command of Captain P. Healy from Fort Union "for the protection of the Moro jail from a threatened mob." The troops were sent immediately, and their rations followed by wagon. They were to remain at Mora until their "services are no longer needed." Captain Healy was directed to "be careful and keep your men well together and enforce discipline."  The mission was apparently accomplished without incident.
When Captain Healy returned to Fort Union, he and his company of First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, were sent to repair a portion of the road between Fort Union and Fort Bascom (the section between Hamilton's Ranch and Bascom), after which they were to join the garrison at Bascom. They were to be well armed and supplied with plenty of ammunition. They carried rations for 20 days, at the end of which time it was expected they would arrive at their new duty station. 
Carleton directed that two companies (one of First California Volunteer Cavalry and one of First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry), as soon as they returned to Fort Union from escort duty on the Santa Fe Trail, be "completely fitted out with clothing, serviceable arms, a supply of ammunition, &c" and proceed to take post at Fort Bascom. The troops that had been at Fort Bascom, engaged in building the post there when they were not on other assignments, were sent to other posts (some to Fort Union and some to Fort Stanton). Carleton was preparing to send five companies (some to be drawn from Fort Union) for a campaign against the Mimbres Apaches in southwestern New Mexico Territory.  Lieutenant Colonel Edward B. Willis, commanding at Fort Union, was chosen to command the campaign.  Thus troops from Fort Union were sent far away from the post to join soldiers from other posts and contribute to the defeat of Indians considered hostile and force them onto reservations. Indirectly, those campaigns were part of the military actions of troops stationed at Fort Union. The details of such campaigns are beyond the scope of this study.
Indian Campaigns of Fort Union. Source: Robert M. Utley, Fort Union National Monument, 43.
(click on image for an enlargement)
When Lieutenant Colonel Willis left Fort Union in December, he was succeeded by Colonel Carson, who had returned from his special service on the plains and the treaty negotiations in Kansas. Carson, promoted to the rank brigadier general of volunteers during his tenure, served as the commanding officer of Fort Union from December 24, 1865, to April 24, 1866.  Carson was, undoubtedly, the most famous personage, a legend in his own time, to serve during the 40 years of Fort Union's active existence. Carson remained in the military service until November 22, 1867, and died six months later from an aneurysm at Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory, on May 23, 1868. Although he is best known as a mountain man and guide for John C. Fremont, Carson's most important contributions to the history of the Southwest were performed as an Indian agent and a soldier.
While road-building and military activities were performed by troops from Fort Union, construction proceeded on the depot and post at Fort Union. The officers of the post and depot continued to occupy the temporary facilities at the earthwork. Following a complaint about the officers' quarters in July 1865, Colonel Abreu, commanding the post, investigated and reported "that the Quarters inhabited by the Officers at this Post are not in a very good condition, or sufficiently ventilated to make them healthy."  Apparently the enlisted men were still housed in the bleak quarters at the earthwork. Construction of new quarters would later alleviate conditions at the post. Unfortunately, it was taking much longer than originally planned to erect the new buildings.
The fieldwork was still occupied in April 1866 when Major Nelson H. Davis, acting inspector general, wrote what remains one of the best descriptions of that facility and of the conditions it presented after less than five years of occupation:
"Fort Union is a square bastion "field work," with demilunes in front of the curtains, the parapets of which contain the quarters of officers and men, which are partially excavated in the ground, and are of very indifferent quality. The magazines are inside the main work and constructed for bomb proof quarters in time of an attack. No other quarters are embraced within this area. The slopes and scarps are somewhat washed by rains, and the ditches which were never entirely completed, are in places partially filled by loose earth. This work is of little value for defence, and as a protection of the Depot and Post buildings now being erected outside." 
There was a shortage of skilled labor to proceed on schedule with construction work on the third post. The new chief quartermaster in New Mexico, Colonel Enos, who was still in charge of the depot at Fort Union, reported that the public buildings at the depot were being damaged by rain because the tin roofs were not yet installed because of the want of skilled workers. In response, at least two skilled soldiers, one of whom was a tinsmith, were transferred to Fort Union, given furloughs from military duty, and employed as mechanics by the quartermaster department. 
The ovens of the post bakery at Fort Union were reported, by new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Willis, First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry, as being "almost useless, and new ones will have to be built." Willis requested permission from Captain W. H. Bell, chief commissary officer in the department, to have the post commissary officer build or have built a new bakery for the garrison.  A new bakery was erected, but the date of its completion has not been found. This was only one of many changes that occurred at Fort Union and within the department.
An administrative reorganization occurred on September 12, 1865, when the Department of New Mexico was reclassified as the District of New Mexico.  This district was initially under the Department of California but was later (late October 1865) assigned to the Department of the Missouri.  The major change, for the officers in New Mexico, was the route which reports and orders followed up and down the chain of command. Troops at Fort Union saw no differences as a result of the new name.
Brigadier General Carleton, in his initial report on the state of the district to the adjutant of the Department of California, provided a summary description of Fort Union as it existed in September 1865, including the state of construction of the third fort and new depot and Carleton's views on the arsenal.
"Fort Union is near the western limits of the great plains which extend uninterruptedly from Fort Leavenworth to the Rocky Mountains. Here there is a defensive earthwork with temporary quarters in the demi-lunes for some eight companies. There are but five companies of infantry at present at Fort Union."
"The depot for quartermaster stores and the depot of subsistence stores are building by order of the War Department at Fort Union; and new and permanent quarters for four companies are also in process of erection at that post. When the latter are completed, the temporary quarters in the demi-lunes will be abandoned, and the materials of which they are constructed will be used for other purposes."
"At Fort Union, also, is the ordnance depot for New Mexico. At present all the ordnance and ordnance stores are kept in a confused group of log and adobe buildings which have been erected from time to time since 1851, as temporary shelter, until a proper arsenal should be constructed. . . . In my opinion the site for such arsenal should be near the junction of the Mora and Sapello rivers seven miles south of Fort Union. There water power for driving machinery, &c, can be had and stone for building, or for foundations and walls is very convenient, and fuel is abundant and quite near." 
Carleton also mentioned a couple of other items relevant to Fort Union. "There is a temporary camp called Camp Nichols," he wrote, "on the Cimarron Route to Missouri, at present garrisoned by three companies." Also, "two other companies are escorting trains on the states roads." Soon, Carleton explained, Camp Nichols would be abandoned, and the companies stationed there and the two companies on escort duty would return to their base in the district. 
Because the department, now district, of New Mexico had been chronically short of serviceable cavalry horses, which had forced some of the cavalry units to become foot soldiers, Carleton took advantage of his assignment to the Department of California to request more horses. He noted that the horses in the district were "worn out in hard and continuous service." Although he had requisitioned 600 cavalry horses for the troops in New Mexico in 1865, "not one was sent." He hoped something better could be done. A few weeks later, Carleton requested additional troops and mentioned he still had received no horses. "This matter," he concluded, "is one of very grave importance and should meet with immediate attention." Later, when the district was part of the Department of the Missouri, Carleton tried to secure horses through those headquarters. 
The need for more horses was exemplified when Carleton needed to mount some troops at Fort Union for service along the route to Fort Sumner during November 1865. These soldiers were sent to Giddings's Ranch and other points to catch, and return if possible, any Navajos or Mescalero Apaches who were found off their reservation without a pass. Approximately 35 or 40 horses "doubtless fit as remounts" were rounded up from the quartermaster depot, shod, and assigned to the appropriate troops. When the troops left the jurisdiction of Fort Union, they served under the direction of the commanding officer at Fort Sumner.  Some of the troops in the district were ordered to walk and lead their horses while changing stations, in order that the animals "may be fresh on their arrival." 
The depot quartermaster was in need of more than horses. The construction of the new depot and post at Fort Union were behind schedule because of a shortage of labor and materials. During the winter months, with fewer troops in the field, the garrison could provide more workers. A request to tear down the old commanding officer's quarters at the first Fort Union was met by opposition from Captain Shoemaker at the arsenal. Because the structure was near the ordnance depot, Shoemaker requested that the building be assigned to him for the needs of the arsenal. Carleton was asked to decide who got the building. He ruled that Shoemaker could have it, provided he furnished an equivalent amount of materials for the depot (the amount to be determined by a board of officers).  The final resolution of this was not documented, but it appeared that Shoemaker acquired the old quarters.
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