FORT UNION
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CHAPTER SIX:
THE THIRD FORT UNION: CONSTRUCTION AND MILITARY OPERATIONS, PART ONE (TO 1869) (continued)

     During the summer of 1868 a major Indian war erupted on the plains, threatening the railroad construction crews and wagon roads. Fort Union was too far from the scene of action to be involved until plans were formed by General Philip H. Sheridan to launch a winter campaign against the southern plains tribes in the autumn. Sheridan planned a three-pronged invasion of the Indians' winter camps in present Oklahoma, with one force marching south from Fort Dodge in Kansas, a second force marching southeast from Fort Lyon in Colorado Territory, and the third marching east from Fort Bascom in New Mexico Territory. Three companies of the Third Cavalry and one company of the Thirty-Seventh Infantry were sent from Fort Union to Bascom to participate in that campaign. [200]

     The effectiveness of winter campaigns had been demonstrated in New Mexico by Carleton and Carson, and the tactic was also successful on the plains. Major Andrew Wallace Evans, Third Cavalry, commanded the column of 563 men with four mountain howitzers which left Fort Bascom on November 18. Major Eugene Asa Carr, Fifth Cavalry, led the column of approximately 650 men from Fort Lyon on December 2. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, Seventh Cavalry, was given command of the column from Fort Dodge, which established Camp Supply in present Oklahoma and marched on to attack the Cheyennes at the Washita on November 27. The other two columns had no similar engagement, but their presence helped force many of the plains Indians to settle on their reservations. Because the Comancheros were believed to encourage the Comanches and others to raid in order to have livestock to trade to the New Mexicans, General Sheridan directed that any New Mexican traders found east of the eastern border of New Mexico Territory would have their goods destroyed and their stock killed. [201] Some of the plains Indians still refused to abandon their old way of life on the plains, where they returned from their assigned reservations in 1869 to face defeat at the hands of soldiers on several occasions. The end of Indian resistance was in sight, although there were occasional outbreaks from the reservations during the 1870s. [202] Notwithstanding the fact that they were situated on the periphery of plains warfare, troops from Fort Union participated in the campaigns which brought down the tribes of the southern plains as well as the belligerent Apaches in New Mexico.

     Those who remained behind during those campaigns continued to face the realities of garrison life. Late in 1868 Lieutenant Joseph J. Ennis, Third Cavalry, found the quarters occupied by his family at Fort Union, which had been completed a little over a year previous, "in a deplorable condition, the greater portion of the ceilings being down, the roof in several places leaking to such an extent as to render it unhealthy to live in some of the rooms and the doors front and rear, without fastenings." He claimed to have "applied several times" to the quartermaster to have repairs made but nothing had been done. He therefore directed his complaint to the post adjutant, Lieutenant John Charles Thompson. Thompson sent the request to Captain George W. Bradley, depot and post quartermaster, and Bradley replied that the roof had been repaired and locks were ordered to be installed. The plaster could not be repaired because no one was available who could do the work. [203]

     Captain Bradley reported early in December 1868 that the logs which had been used to construct the old post corral were "all rotten and liable to break down at any time." The corral was not worth repairing, and Bradley recommended that it be torn down and the wood used as fuel at the post. [204] That corral may have been one of those old log structures that, as the district inspector had noted a few months earlier, "disfigured" the appearance of the post. Colonel Grier approved the request, directing that the wood from the old corral be issued to the troops for fuel and "that such action be taken at once." [205] It was not clear if a new corral was constructed to replace it.

     The troops sent from Fort Union to participate in the winter campaign returned to the post in February 1869. Some companies were assigned to different stations, and the Fort Union garrison at the end of February was comprised of Companies D, G, and I, Third Cavalry, and Companies B, H, and K, Thirty-Seventh Infantry. Company K, Thirty-Seventh Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Oliver Phelps, was sent to occupy the outpost at the Cimarron Agency (Maxwell's Ranch) on February 20, relieving Company A, Third Cavalry, which was sent to Fort Sumner. The aggregate garrison at Fort Union at the end of February was 467, of whom 299 were available for duty. [206] The duties were routine at the post, with occasional opportunities for escort assignments and investigating reports of Indians.

     In March 1869 a small party of five Comanche and two Kiowa chiefs (one of whom was reportedly the brother of Satanta) and two women came to Santa Fe to seek a peace agreement. They agreed to go to the reservation at Fort Cobb in present Oklahoma, but the superintendent of Indian affairs in New Mexico asked them to remain until he could telegraph the commissioner of Indian affairs for instructions. The Indians, however, departed, leaving their horses, and were believed to be going to Chaparita. A detachment of troops was sent from Fort Union to Chaparita to take them prisoners. While the soldiers were on that mission, the Indians came to Fort Union on their own accord. It was believed they may have been responsible for the murder of eight citizens some 60 miles east of Fort Bascom some 10 days earlier. Therefore, they were held at Fort Union as prisoners of war and, later, sent under guard to Fort Leavenworth. [207]

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Plan of Fort Union In 1869, at the time Captain George W. Bradley and Lieutenant Colonel Neison H. Davis reported on the structures there. Some facilities were not shown on the plan, including a hay and wood yard located east (above) the quartermaster corrals, machine shop and lumberyard, and the post trader's store. Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.
(click on image for an enlargement)

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Source: Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.

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Source: Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.

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Source: Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives

     In May 1869 the buildings at Fort Union, some of which were already in need of repair, were described by Captain Bradley, depot quartermaster. He stated that "all buildings at the post are completed and no others are anticipated." All the quarters and barracks, shops, and storerooms were built of adobes on stone foundations, with brick copings and tin roofs. The stables were built of wood on stone foundations, with shingled roofs. The hospital was adobe on a stone foundation, with a shingled roof. The depot quartermaster believed "All are in a very good state of repair." [208] Some of the residents of the buildings would have disagreed about the condition. [209] Bradley provided the first summary of the facilities at the third post since the original plan of construction was completed.

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This plan was the same as that of the commanding officer at the garrison, it was accompanied by the following statement of Captain H. J. Farnsworth, depot quartermaster in charge of construction, Feb. 1, 1866: "The Building represented by drawing . . . is one of three which are In course of construction at this Depot for use of Depot Officers. The Building is one story high, Adobe wails, 18 inches thick, stone foundation, tin roof, a battlement or cornice of brick (to protect adobes from action of water) 18 inches in height, 18 inches thick. Portal of wood in front. The building was commenced in July 1865 and completed February 1st 1866, the remaining two were commenced in August last, and will be completed March 1st 1886. The whole three are to be enclosed in rear by an Adobe wall 8 feet high, and 18 inches thick, built upon stone foundation. Each building will have cost when completed, including Adobe wall in rear, outbuildings, and cost of transportation upon building materials $9,324.00. After the adobe walls of the houses were laid, work upon them was discontinued for some months in order that the adobes might settle, which will account for the seeming long time which elapsed between their commencement, and completion." Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, National Archives.

     There were eight officers' quarters (each 56 x 54 x 15 feet with six rooms), a commanding officer's quarters (76 x 54 x 15 feet with eight rooms), two infantry barracks (64 x 76 x 15 feet), two cavalry barracks (same dimensions), and a post bakery (no dimensions given). There were two corrals, each of which had buildings attached which served a variety of occupants. The post corral (410 x 291.5 x 15 feet), contained stables for 100 mules, quarters for 40 teamsters and laborers, one blacksmith shop, one carpenter shop, one wheelwright shop, six laundresses quarters, one guardhouse, one library, one quartermaster storeroom (30 x 40 x 15 feet) being used as the post chapel, two commissary storerooms (30 x 50 feet), one commissary storeroom (15 x 25 x 14 feet), one quartermaster storeroom (30 x 75 x 14 feet), an office for post commissary (two rooms, each 12 x 15 feet), an office for post quartermaster (two rooms, each 12 x 15 feet). The cavalry corral (410 x 291.5 x 15 feet), contained stables for 200 horses, [210] offices for the post adjutant and regimental adjutant, a sergeant major's room, a quartermaster sergeant's room, a saddler sergeant's room, the band leader's room, three rooms for the band, a kitchen for non-commissioned officers and the band, the stone prison, two rooms occupied by cavalry company quartermaster sergeants & company saddlers, the cavalry companies' grain room (capacity of 5,000 bushels), company blacksmith shops, and a room for the corral guard. The hospital measured 58 x 80 x 15 feet and had accommodations for 100 patients. [211]

     The supply depot buildings were described by Lieutenant Colonel Nelson H. Davis, inspector general's department, in September 1869. [212] There were three depot officers' quarters and three depot office buildings, adobe on stone foundations with brick coping and tin roofs, "in good condition and repair." These were approximately the same size as the officers' quarters at the post (the quarters for the depot quartermaster and depot commissary officers may have been similar to the commanding officer's quarters at the post). There were three quartermaster storehouses, one 20 x 200 feet and two 40 x 200 feet, each built of adobe on stone foundations with brick coping and tin roofs. The small storehouse was divided into several rooms, and the others were divided into two large rooms with a passageway across the center of the building 20 feet in width. One of the large storehouses was damaged because of "the large amount of stores necessarily placed therein." The west end had bulged out several inches, there was some settling in the walls, the floor had settled in places, and, because of the settling, the roof was not level and the tin had buckled in places, letting water leak into the storehouse when it rained.

     There were two commissary storehouses, each 40 x 200 feet, one of which had a cellar 36 x 107 feet under the west half. The grain storehouses, number and size not given, were "ample, and in good condition." The several shops, number and size not given, were "capacious, convenient, and in good condition." The steam engine and machine shop was located about 500 yards east of the other depot buildings. The engine, 15.5 horsepower from the Fulton Works, St. Louis, had been installed in 1866. It pumped water and operated a number of woodworking machines. A lumber yard, enclosed by a board fence, adjoined this shop. The quartermaster corrals were "large and commodious." The stables were sheds built of lumber. There were "rows of quarters for employes constructed of slabs, pickets, etc., covered with dirt, which are in a dilapidated state, and without repairs can hardly be expected to be of service much longer." There was a "large wagon yard enclosed with pickets, recently constructed by Capt. Bradley for parking trains."

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Captain H. J. Farnsworth submitted the following explanation with this plan on Feb. 1, 1866: "The Building and Lumberyard . . . was commenced January 25th and will be completed by the 28th of February 1866. The Building will be used for Planing, Morticing, and Framing Machine, & Saw Mill, it is 1-1/2 stories high, and constructed entirely of wood, with cellar for shafting as shown by plan. The Lumberyard for storing Lumber. The Building has been removed some 400 yards from the main Depot Buildings, as a measure of safety from fire. It will cost completed (building & fence) $2,870.00." Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.

     Davis was concerned that there was insufficient protection from fire at the post and depot and noted that a steam-powered fire engine was to be ordered from Philadelphia. He recommended, however, that the fire engine at Fort Harker, Kansas, where it was not needed, be shipped to Fort Union. Davis found only one cistern in good repair at the post, located between the depot quarters and storehouses with a capacity of 16,000 gallons of water. He strongly urged that several additional cisterns, authorized in the spring of 1869 but not begun because of a shortage of laborers and masons, be completed as soon as possible. The plans called for three at the depot and five at the post, each with a capacity of 10,000 gallons. These cisterns would provide a reservoir for fighting fires. In September, perhaps while Davis was at Fort Union, Colonel Getty authorized the employment of two masons and six laborers "for a sufficient time to complete the construction of the cisterns at Fort Union." [213]

     The main water supply for the depot came from one well situated in the enclosure formed by the quartermaster workshops, 85 feet deep with 30 feet of water in it, which had a force pump operated by two mules. A similar well was located near the post company barracks. Neither well could be pumped dry with the available equipment. Davis recommended that wooden water towers be constructed at each of the wells, to provide a pressure system for the post and depot, and that water then be piped in iron pipes throughout the complex to hydrants which, with hoses, could be used to fight fires wherever they should occur. [214] Most of Davis's recommendations for improvements at Fort Union were approved by Inspector General Jas. A. Hardie, Assistant Quartermaster General Daniel H. Rucker, and Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan, commander of the Military Division of the Missouri. [215] General Sheridan was not of the opinion, however, that Fort Union was a necessary or desirable post.

     "My own opinion of Fort Union, [he wrote,] without having seen it, is that it has grown into proportions which never at any time were warranted by the wants of the public service. Quartemasters and Commanding Officers have gone on increasing and building up an unnecessary post, until it has become, by the unnecessary waste of public money, an eye-sore. I do not accord with the opinion of any one as to its military bearings for protection as field operations, nor do I see any necessity for it as a Depot. I only approve the recommendations of General Rucker, thinking it may save perishable Government property stored there." [216]

     As a result of Sheridan's disparaging assessment, Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend ordered that further construction at Fort Union be suspended. [217] This proved to be only a lull in the history of the third Fort Union.

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