FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER SEVEN:
THE THIRD FORT UNION: CONSTRUCTION AND MILITARY OPERATIONS, PART TWO (1869-1891) (continued)

     In the spring of 1872 Colonel Gregg and three companies of the Eighth Cavalry were ordered to march from Fort Union to the vicinity of Fort Bascom at "a suitable place on the Canadian River" to perform patrol duties, as were done in 1871, during the warm season. If possible, they were to bring to an end the centuries-old trade between New Mexico and the Comanches. A guide and packer were employed to assist the troops. The troops were supplied from Fort Union. Colonel Gregg planned to take his command into Texas and stop the illicit trade. [67] Eddie Matthews, Company L, Eighth Cavalry, was among the troops encamped near old Fort Bascom during the summer of 1872. There he served as a clerk and, in letters to his family, described the encampment and activities of the troops stationed at that outpost. [68]

     During the spring of 1872 there were outbreaks among the Utes in northwestern New Mexico and among Apaches in southwestern New Mexico, but troops from Fort Union were not involved. [69] While Gregg's command was in the field, he received orders to send one of the companies to the area of old Fort Sumner to try to capture "the horse and cattle thieves now supposed to be there." [70] Eddie Matthews was a member of the scouting expedition and kept a detailed journal. He pronounced the campaign a "failure" and concluded: "We accomplished nothing, and the cost of the expedition will greatly add to the 'National Debt'." [71]

     In June an officer and 15 men were sent from Fort Union to establish an outpost at Cimarron for two months. They were to watch for horse thieves and outlaws and assist civil officers as requested. Lieutenant Edmund Luff, Eighth Cavalry, was in command. The supplies came from Fort Union. [72] The results of their efforts were not found. A month after they were sent to Cimarron, Luff's detachment was directed to leave that outpost and join Gregg's brigade on the Canadian River. [73] Company M, Sixth Cavalry, under command of Captain William Augustus Rafferty, was transferred to New Mexico and assigned to occupy the outpost at Cimarron to assist civil authorities in catching "desperados." These troops were under the command of the post commander at Fort Union and were supplied from Fort Union depot. In August the troops at Cimarron were sent to help search for cattle thieves south of old Fort Sumner. [74]

     In the summer of 1872 a party of approximately 90 Texan citizens, led by rancher John Hittson, headed for New Mexico, determined to recover as many cattle as possible that had been stolen in Texas by Indians, traded to the Comancheros, and disposed of in New Mexico. Colonel Granger encouraged their efforts, provided them a letter of introduction to Colonel Gregg, urged Gregg to loan the Texans weapons if needed (or make arrangements for Captain Shoemaker at the Fort Union Arsenal to loan weapons), and directed that the troops "co-operate with these gentlemen in securing such of their cattle as may be found." [75] For several weeks, Hittson's company traveled in New Mexico and claimed approximately 6,000 head of cattle. They violated the civil and property rights of citizens, with the apparent approval of the army, and took cattle without benefit of legal authority or due process of law. On August 1 District Commander Granger changed his views on the Texans and directed the troops at Fort Bascom "take no part in the matter . . . except to prevent bloodshed if possible." [76]

     Many New Mexicans protested the loss of their livestock, and the citizens of Loma Parda near Fort Union resisted the Texans when they attempted to inspect cattle in the area. On September 10, 1872, about 60 Texans attacked the village of Loma Parda, killed two citizens (Edward Seaman, who was chief of police and postmaster at Loma Parda, and Toribio Garcia), wounded several others (including the alcalde), and took any cattle they believed to have come from Texas. The New Mexicans then turned to the courts for relief and stopped the invaders, some of whom were arrested for the murders at Loma Parda. The accused killers escaped from jail and were not brought to justice. [77]

     The Hittson raids, focusing on the receivers of cattle acquired by the Comancheros, helped to end the trade. The presence of Gregg's command also contributed. The troops found neither Comancheros nor stolen cattle during 1872, indicating that the trade had either been repressed or the New Mexican traders had been able to avoid detection. Gregg did lead his troops far into Texas, in the area of Palo Duro Canyon, where they were attacked by a party of Kiowas. The troops suffered one man injured, three horses killed, and lost the cattle herd they brought with them for food. The Kiowas reportedly had four killed and eight wounded. Gregg found no evidence of New Mexican traders on the plains during his expedition. [78] The troops at Fort Bascom returned to Fort Union in October, and one non-commissioned officer and three privates were left to guard the vacant post on the Canadian. [79] The Comancheros continued to decline and were of little significance after 1872. The illegal trade ended with the defeat of the Comanches in the Red River War, 1874-1875. The troops from Fort Union were a significant factor in the termination of traditional relations between New Mexicans and the Indians of the southern plains.

     Colonel Gregg was to send one company of Eighth Cavalry troops from Fort Union to Fort Bascom early in March 1873 because the Kiowas and Comanches were reportedly raiding ranches in the area. Another company was to be kept "ready to move at a moment's notice." [80] Second Lieutenant Alfred Hibbard Rogers, Eighth Cavalry, was assigned command at Fort Bascom and ordered to keep scouts out in search of Indians. Lieutenant Luff arrived and assumed command a few days later and another company of cavalrymen followed. Captain Samuel Baldwin Marks Young, Eighth Cavalry, took command at Fort Bascom in May. The soldiers, assisted by a guide and civilian packers, were kept in the field to help protect the herds of ranchers in the region. The troops at Bascom were supplied from Fort Union. This required transportation for 250,000 pounds of freight. [81]

     There was at least one engagement between troops and Kiowas. A small detachment of Eighth Cavalry and several citizens pursued a party of 17 Kiowas that had raided a ranch near Fort Bascom. They overtook the Indians encamped in a small canyon and attacked, killed five, wounded several more, and captured considerable property. According to Eddie Matthews, this was "the first time for years that any of these marauding parties have been caught and chastized." [82] That engagement and the continued presence of the troops at Fort Bascom, and in the vast area which they examined through a system of constant scouting, apparently caused the Indians to leave the area. It was frustrating work for the soldiers, but the resulting peace was rewarding. The troops from the "summer camp" returned to Fort Union in October. A small guard was left at Fort Bascom. [83]

     Major Andrew J. Alexander, Eighth Cavalry, served as commanding officer at Fort Union during the winter of 1873-1874. He was absent from the post between March 23 and April 13, 1874, because of the death of his mother at St. Louis. When Alexander received a telegram on March 23 that his mother was dying and requesting him to come immediately, the eastbound stage had been gone from Fort Union only about 10 minutes. The major set out in an ambulance a short time later and caught the stage about 10 miles from the post. The stage carried him to the railroad in Colorado Territory, and he quickly crossed the plains. It was not determined if he reached his mother before her death. He was back at Fort Union within three weeks. [84]

     Major Alexander organized a school of instruction for signaling at Fort Union, selecting three men from each company stationed at the post to learn the skills of communication developed by the Signal Corps. [85] Soldiers from other posts in New Mexico were also sent to Fort Union for signal training. It was not possible to determine from available records how effective signaling was in field operations, but it may have assisted the troops in dealing with Indian adversaries. Indian resistence to the loss of their homelands continued.

     In March 1874 there were rumors that the Kiowas were "hostile and would be troublesome." This information came from some Comanches who proclaimed that "they were friendly & were not going to war this summer." [86] Early in May Major Alexander and three companies of the Eighth Cavalry were sent from Fort Union to establish a summer camp at or near old Fort Bascom, as had been done in previous years. They were to watch for any Indians off the reservations and were authorized to attack such Indians and force them back to their assigned reserve. These troops received supplies from Fort Union. [87] In June two of the companies were recalled to Fort Union from Fort Bascom. [88] It was anticipated that Indians might leave their reservations and strike at settlements during the summer of 1874, but it was not known where such attacks might occur. Most of the raids occurred on the plains of Kansas and Texas, but a few extended into New Mexico Territory.

     The first report to reach Fort Union in 1874 indicated that Indians had struck settlers along Vermejo Creek several miles east of the village of Cimarron on July 5, killing two men and stealing about 20 horses. It was thought they were Cheyennes, perhaps a party of 60 men. Major Alexander led a detachment from Fort Union to pursue those Indians and capture them if possible. On July 7 it was reported that Indians had killed three "Americans" and run off about 200 horses near the Canadian River. A few days later a civilian traveler arrived at Fort Union and reported that a party of about 60 Cheyennes and Arapahos had escaped down the Cañon of the Dry Cimarron with considerable amount of stock a day or two ahead of Alexander's command." Alexander returned to Fort Union on July 13, having seen no Indians. [89]

     Major Alexander had gathered information along the way and reported that there were an estimated 400 Indians, including Cheyennes, Arapahos, Kiowas, and Comanches, who had attacked settlers on the Vermejo, Canadian, and Dry Cimarron about the same time, killing altogether 23 men, capturing one "Mexican woman," and stealing an undetermined amount of livestock. He had pushed his command on their trail toward Rabbit Ear Creek but returned when it became clear that the troops could not overtake the Indians. Colonel Gregg directed Major Alexander to send two companies of the Eighth Cavalry to patrol the region between Fort Union and C. O. Emery's Ranch on the Dry Cimarron River, along the road to Kit Carson, Colorado Territory, that passed through Trinchera Pass (also known as Emery Gap), and to the east of that road toward Rabbit Ear Creek. Alexander sent Second Lieutenant Richard Algernon Williams and 37 men of Company B, Eighth Cavalry, toward Emery's Ranch on July 17. Company M, Eighth Cavalry, was held at Fort Union until some of its members, who had been sent to watch along the Cimarron and Canadian rivers, returned. Alexander was directed to take command of the troops in the field himself and see that "frontier settlements" were protected. [90] These troops contributed to the safety of the region, but raids were reported outside the areas patrolled.

     On July 8, at Stone's Ranch southeast of Las Vegas, an estimated 12 Indians drove off the horse herd of the ranch. Captain Louis Thompson Morris, Eighth Cavalry, who was at Fort Bascom, was sent with a detachment of cavalrymen in pursuit of that raiding party. [91] These Indians were not found. To assist the troops, Colonel Gregg authorized the recruitment of 25 to 30 Indian scouts among the Jicarillas and Utes at the Cimarron Agency. The number of scouts, by orders from department headquarters, was reduced to 10. As soon as these Indians were outfitted with arms and ammunition at Fort Union, they were sent, on July 28, to Emery's Ranch to join the troops in that area. [92]

     On July 22, the same day Major Alexander left Fort Union to lead his command toward Rabbit Ear Creek, word arrived that some 400 to 500 Comanches had been seen near a ranch on the Dry Cimarron where they were "driving off stock of the settlers." A courier was sent to inform Alexander. [93] A company of Eighth Cavalry stationed at Fort Garland was sent to report to Alexander and to patrol along the road between Emery's Ranch and Granada in Colorado Territory. [94] Alexander and his troops found no evidence of Indians, and Alexander believed the recent reports of Comanches on the Dry Cimarron were false. [95]

     In case they were not false, Major William Redwood Price, Eighth Cavalry, commanding at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, was ordered to bring "all available Cavalry at your Post to Fort Union." From Fort Union they could be dispatched quickly to scenes of trouble. [96] Still no Indians were found by the troops in the field. Their presence in northeastern New Mexico Territory may have caused the Indians to seek plunder elsewhere.

     The outbreak of Indian warfare developed into what became known as the Red River War, 1874-1875, the final series of conflicts in the wars of the southern plains. The offensive was orchestrated by Generals Sheridan, Pope, and Christopher C. Augur. Similar to the winter expeditions of 1868-1869, the Red River campaign was a multi-pronged attack against tribes in Indian Territory, including columns from Fort Union, New Mexico (commanded by Major Price), Fort Dodge, Kansas (led by Colonel Nelson A. Miles, Fifth Infantry), two units from Texas (commanded by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, Fourth Cavalry, and Lieutenant Colonel George P. Buell, Eleventh Infantry), and a column from Fort Sill, Indian Territory (Lieutenant Colonel John W. Davidson, Tenth Cavalry, who had served at Fort Union in the 1850s).[97]

     Major Price and the four companies of Eighth Cavalry (a total of 225 officers and men, plus six Indian scouts and two guides) he led from Fort Union on August 20, 1874, to old Fort Bascom and down the Canadian River played only a small role in the Red River War but, as part of the "surround" of the Indians, that part was important. These troops were not involved in any major engagements, yet their presence prevented the Indians from having a route to escape from some of the other, larger columns. Fort Union also contributed to the effort by sending supply trains to the troops in the field. There were not enough army wagons to carry the required commodities, and a private wagon train was contracted to haul the excess freight. [98] Price also drew provisions from Camp Supply, Indian Territory, when in that area. The Fort Union Arsenal contributed arms, ammunition, and a mountain howitzer. [99] Price's column returned to Las Vegas on January 25, 1875, from which point the companies were sent to join post garrisons (one to Fort Union, two to Fort Wingate, and one to Fort Stanton).[100] After the Red River War, there was no further need for soldiers at Fort Union to be called out to face plains warriors. The railroads and overland routes to New Mexico were no longer threatened, the first time since Fort Union was established in 1851.

     Because of Colonel Gregg's poor health, he was temporarily replaced as department commander by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Devin, Eighth Cavalry, on October 22, 1874. On October 26 Captain Young returned to Fort Union from his station at Emery's Ranch and assumed command of Fort Union. Lieutenant John Wesley Eckles, Fifteenth Infantry, who had been commanding the post since Major Alexander left on May 5, questioned Young's authority to usurp the position. An appeal to Lieutenant Colonel Devin at Santa Fe elicited an immediate response that Young was officially assigned to duty at Emery's Ranch and could not take command of Fort Union. Young then claimed he had brought the Ute scouts in to be mustered out of the service and would return to Emery's Ranch. Eckles remained as commanding officer until Major Alexander returned on November 22, 1874. [101]

     Alexander noted the "wretched condition" of quarters, barracks, and stables at Fort Union, which were deteriorating badly. He appointed a board of officers to examine and report on the situation. The board confirmed the seriousness of the state of the structures and urged "the necessity of immediate action." Alexander emphasized that "a year or more delay in repairing will place most of the quarters past repair." He was convinced that, if repairs were not made soon, the rear wall of the commanding officer's quarters would fall down. Also, "the ceilings in all quarters are continually falling endangering lives and property." He believed it was "a hopeless task to attempt to get any money" for improvements, Alexander felt obligated to "represent the facts" of the problem. [102]

     His feeling of hopelessness was borne out when his request for funds was not approved. He renewed a plea for repairs a few months later, pointing out that "there is not a house in the Post that does not leak and I do not think there is one that has not some sickness in it in consequence." [103] A few weeks later, more frustrated that nothing was done, Alexander requested that district headquarters send an inspector to look at the condition of the buildings. He reiterated the urgency of doing something. "If it is the intention to maintain the Post some prompt measures should be taken to repair it. The buildings are washing away. The roofs worthless, fences & gates rotting away, and the whole place out of repair." [104] In less than a decade after most of the buildings of the third post was built, the evaluations of their condition sounded remarkably similar to the analyses of the buildings at the first post during the late 1850s.

     While the post was badly in need of repairs, the quartermaster depot was constructing a "new corral, stables, shops &c." [105] That was necessary because a fire at the depot on June 27, 1874, had destroyed a large portion of the transportation corral along with the corn house, mule sheds, buildings where oats and bran were stored, wagons, ambulances, and teamsters' quarters. No animals had been lost. The loss of forage was extensive, including 604,195 pounds of corn, 57,318 pounds of bran, and 15,244 pounds of oats. Transportation equipment destroyed included five ambulances, three escort wagons, four army wagons, one traveling forge, and "a number of other articles." The fire apparently started in the corn house or a privy beside the corn house about noon and spread quickly, engulfing an area some 600 feet long and 300 feet wide. It took twenty minutes to get the fire engine working, and the fire was finally checked about 2:30 p.m. from spreading into other parts of the depot while the area on fire burned itself out. Captain Gilbert C. Smith, depot quartermaster, planned to rebuild with adobe. [106] The replacement, the "new corral, stables, shops &c.," were what Alexander noted.

diagram
Sketch showing (scored area) portion of transportation corral and buildings at Fort Union Depot destroyed by fire on June 27, 1874. Misc. Fortifications File, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.

     Soon after his return in the fall of 1874, Major Alexander was assigned to inspect that work and report to district headquarters. [107] Given the condition of the buildings at the post, which received no attention while the quartermaster corral was being built, Alexander must have thought about the criticism of the quartermaster department that had been popular since the Civil War, "the quartermaster department thinks the army exists for its benefit rather than vice versa." He asked Captain Shoemaker, who "has had great experience in this kind of work," to assist with the inspection. Alexander found the work to be "the most economical work I have seen in this country," and stated that the adobe wall of the new corral "will last as long as any adobe wall at this Post." [108]

     There were still occasional calls to investigate Indian depredations. Following the theft of some 5,000 sheep along the Pecos River near Anton Chico by unidentified Indians, Captain Young and 35 cavalrymen were dispatched from Fort Union on December 20, 1874, to attempt to capture the Indians and recover the sheep. Young returned to Fort Union on December 29, having lost the trail of the Indians and sheep because of deep snow. [109]

     The raiders were believed to be Mescalero Apaches. The troops from Fort Stanton were in the field and more were needed. Captain Young was assigned to command a detachment of 35 cavalrymen, outfitted for field duty and sent from Fort Union to proceed down the Pecos Valley, help search for Mescaleros, and "clean out all Indians you find off reservations." [110] The troops from Fort Union were not involved in any of the engagements with the Mescaleros which resulted in most of them returning to their reservation by early April. [111]

     While some soldiers were chasing Indians, others were requested to deal with civil disturbances. Because of the presence of a large lawless element at Cimarron and the inability of local authorities to keep the peace, the attorney general of New Mexico Territory, under directions from Governor Marsh Giddings, requested troops from Fort Union to help Sheriff Isaiah Rinehart restore order at Cimarron. Lieutenant Colonel Devin requested instructions from department headquarters and was informed that troops could be used in civil affairs only by a request from a U.S. Marshall or by orders from the president. [112] No troops were sent at that time, but troubles continued at Cimarron that eventually required military intervention.

     There was a brief Indian scare in the spring of 1875 when a group of Cheyennes left the reservation in Indian Territory and headed north. It was feared they might raid in northeastern New Mexico, as they had done the previous year, and 50 mounted troops were sent from Fort Union under command of Captain McCleave to the Dry Cimarron to keep watch. They were to leave a detachment at Emery's Ranch and proceed to Willow Spring Creek some 50 miles farther east. From there, the troops were to scout the area as far north as the Arkansas River. When it was later learned that the Cheyennes had crossed the Arkansas in Kansas on their way northward, the troops were called back to Fort Union. [113] There would be other false alarms.

     An incident at the St. James Hotel in Cimarron in early June 1875 resulted in the death of one soldier and the wounding of two others, heightening tensions that were already intense, as will be shown later. The fight occurred during a monte game, in which Francisco "Pancho" Griego was dealing for several soldiers of the Sixth Cavalry. Difficulty arose over the betting, and one of the soldiers grabbed part of the money on the table. Griego quickly gathered the rest of the money, and some soldiers attempted to take it from him. Griego drew a pistol and a Bowie knife and the troopers fled. Griego fired after them, killing Private Shien (first name unknown) and wounding two other privates. The men who were shot had not been involved in the fracas. Some soldiers went to their camp and got their weapons, but Griego escaped. [114] Griego was soon to be a victim in the Colfax County War.

     Meanwhile, on June 7, 1875, Colonel Gregg returned from sick leave and resumed command of the District of New Mexico. A few days later Gregg was notified that his regiment, Eighth Cavalry, would soon be sent to Texas and the Ninth Cavalry (a regiment of black soldiers commanded by white officers), then in Texas, would be assigned to New Mexico. The transfer occurred in stages, a few companies at a time, over a period of several months. During the same time, the Fifth Cavalry traveled across New Mexico from Arizona to Kansas and the Sixth Cavalry was sent from Kansas to Arizona. Most of those troops stopped briefly at Fort Union; some of them exchanged horses and transportation at the post. General Pope and his staff visited Fort Union on the way to Santa Fe in July. At the beginning of November Colonel Granger returned to Santa Fe and replaced Colonel Gregg as district commander. The first troops of the Ninth Cavalry arrived at Fort Union on December 20, and Major James Wade of that regiment assumed command of the post. [115]

     The next demand for troops at Fort Union resulted from developments at the Maxwell Land Grant, the breakdown of law and order in the community of Cimarron, and the precarious situation of Moache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches who resided on the grant. An overview of the complex circumstances is necessary to understand the participation of the soldiers in events that should have been resolved by civil authorities and the department of Indian affairs. [116] The Jicarilla Apaches and Moache Utes had been permitted to remain on the Maxwell Land Grant and had not been assigned a reservation. They considered the area their homeland and drew rations at the Cimarron Agency. They supplemented those provisions by hunting, but game became scarce in the area as the numbers of ranchers, farmers, and miners increased on the grant.

     The Indians' situation on the Maxwell land was changed for the worse with the discovery of gold on the grant at Elizabethtown in the late 1860s and the sale of the grant by Maxwell to the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company (a corporation backed by British and Dutch capital) in 1870. The new owners wanted the Indians moved off their property and they wanted all settlers, except those who purchased land from the company, to remove themselves or be forced off the grant. The settlers wanted title to the land they had claimed, and they also wanted the Indians moved someplace else. The turmoil created by the struggle between the managers of the company and the people they considered to be squatters added to the frustrations of the Indians, who wanted nothing more than to remain where they were.

     Some of the directors of the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company were territorial officials, including Governor William A. Pile (until he left New Mexico in 1871), T. Rush Spencer (surveyor general for the territory), and Stephen B. Elkins (territorial delegate to Congress and the company's attorney). Also connected with the company were John S. Watts (former territorial chief justice) and U.S. District Attorney Thomas B. Catron. These and others came to be known in New Mexico as the Santa Fe Ring, and their power was influential in much of the territory. Governor Samuel B. Axtell (1875-1878) was accused of collaborating with the Ring. The vigorous attempts of some of those officials (who, with their supporters, were known as the Grant party) to eject ranchers, farmers, and miners, as well as Indians, from the Maxwell Grant created a vocal opposition (known as the Anti-Grant party), including two former employees of the company (William R. Morley and Frank W. Springer) who published a newspaper in Cimarron and a circuit-riding Methodist preacher (Rev. Thomas J. Tolby). Tolby was a correspondent for the New York Sun, a reformist newspaper. He referred to the Santa Fe Ring, in an article published in the Sun on July 5, 1875, as "a many-headed monster." Tolby even went so far as to claim that the Maxwell land really belonged to the Utes and Jicarillas. Tolby was warned by New Mexico Chief Justice Joseph G. Palen (considered to be a part of the Santa Fe Ring) to stop writing such objectionable articles. Tolby declared he would continue. The civil authorities in Colfax County, including Sheriff Rinehart, were considered Grant men, and a number of well-armed Anti-Grant supporters converged on Cimarron. The scene was set for violence.

     On September 14, 1875, Rev. Tolby was found murdered on the road between Cimarron and Elizabethtown. His Anti-Grant friends assumed the Grant party (the Ring) was responsible although the case was never solved. It was rumored that he was killed by a hired gunman. Governor Axtell offered a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer. Rev. Oscar P. McMains, a Cimarron preacher and friend of Tolby, led efforts to find Tolby's killer and provided leadership for the Anti-Grant forces. He suspected that a Cimarron constable, Cruz Vega, was involved in Tolby's murder. Some of McMains's partisans captured Vega, tortured him, and hanged him from a telegraph pole outside of Cimarron on October 30, 1875. [117]

     Pancho Griego, involved in the fight with soldiers at Cimarron in early June and a friend of the slain Vega, declared he would avenge Vega's murder. Griego was in the St. James Hotel bar in Cimarron on November 1, making threats against several people. Griego believed that R. C. (Clay) Allison, who was present, had been involved. Griego provoked a fight with Allison, who shot and killed Griego. [118] Allison was not charged with any crime since he was defending himself. Before Vega had been killed he implicated Manuel Cardenas of Taos, Dr. Longwill (former contract surgeon for the army and Indian agent at Cimarron, was the probate judge at Cimarron and considered by some to be the leader of the Santa Fe Ring in Colfax County), W. M. Mills of Cimarron (member of the territorial legislature), and Florence Donahue (mail contractor for the route between Cimarron and Elizabethtown, described as "an old and respected citizen") in the murder of Tolby. [119] Later, Rev. McMains was tried for the murder of Vega, found guilty of fifth-degree murder by a jury, and fined $300. His conviction was set aside on a technicality. Another trial was scheduled for McMains but the judge dismissed the charges for inadequate evidence.

     Following the murder of Vega, troops were called from Fort Union to investigate and help restore order in Cimarron. Second Lieutenant George Anthony Cornish, Fifteenth Infantry, was sent from Fort Union with 20 men. Upon arrival at Cimarron, he reported that feelings were "very bitter" and "a large number of Texans" were there, "all armed." He placed his detachment under the direction of the U.S. Marshal, who wanted to arrest the four men whom Vega had named as participants in the murder of Rev. Tolby before the mob could get them, find those responsible for Vega's death, and stop the conflict before more people were destroyed. [120] He was partly successful.

     Longwill escaped to Fort Union and Santa Fe, after informing Cornish that he was afraid to go to Cimarron where "they would hang him." Whether he had any connection to the death of Tolby was not determined. Mills and Donahue either surrendered to authorities or were arrested. Their preliminary hearing before the justice of the peace at Cimarron on November 10 resulted in the clearing and release of Mills and the holding of Donahue until he could raise $20,000 bail. Cardenas, an escaped convict who had been found guilty of murder at Taos in 1864, was arrested and confessed to the murder of Tolby. He was killed by an armed mob of some 15 to 20 gunmen on the evening of November 10 while being taken to the jail in Cimarron. Lieutenant Cornish reported that he had his soldiers at the scene within five minutes "but everybody had disappeared." [121]

     After Cardenas was killed, the situation at Cimarron quieted down. Cornish reported that "the Texans have almost all left town apparently satisfied." It appeared that the civil officials were again in control. "I think," Cornish telegraphed to district headquarters, "there is very little use of my staying any longer." Cornish was ordered to leave Cimarron on November 13. [122] The Maxwell Land Grant feud was far from over, but the soldiers returned to Fort Union. Troops were soon called back to Cimarron because the Jicarillas at the Cimarron Agency became belligerent.

     The Utes and Jicarillas at the Cimarron Agency had resisted all efforts to place them on a reservation in some other location. As noted above, troops had to be sent to Cimarron in the winter of 1869-1870 when these Indians became "hostile" because the superintendent of Indian affairs had withheld their annuities and tried to force them to go to a reservation in Colorado Territory. Peace was bought by permitting them to remain. During the winter of 1871-1872 New Mexico Superintendent of Indian Affairs Nathaniel Pope tried to persuade the Moache Utes to move to a reservation in northwestern New Mexico where other bands of Utes were settled and the Jicarillas to move to the Mescalero Apache reservation in southeastern New Mexico. The Indians refused to go.

     Superintendent Pope understood that almost everyone on or near the Maxwell Grant, except the Indians, wanted the Utes and Jicarillas removed because their "presence was and is a constant source of trouble, and a cause for a general feeling of insecurity among the people of the neighborhood." Because of the growing tensions in the area, Pope was convinced that Cimarron is not a suitable place for these Indians, and that they are surrounded by influences that render their proper control almost an impossibility." They had become "overbearing" and "unruly." Pope hired Dr. R. H. Longwill, former contract surgeon for the troops stationed at the Cimarron outpost in the late 1860s, to serve as a temporary agent for the Jicarillas and Utes, "for the purpose of feeding and otherwise caring for them until they can be moved." [123]

     The Indians were poor and the government rations were insufficient. The Jicarillas and Utes had always hunted game for a part of their food supply, but the increasing settlements in the region and the slaughter of the buffalo on the plains made it more and more difficult for them to supplement their government rations with game. A combination of hunger and pressure to abandon their traditional lands resulted in frustrated resistance in the autumn of 1875. Some of the Indians went to hunt buffalo, but there were no buffalo. On November 16, 1875, when Indian Agent Alexander G. Irvine was distributing beef rations, some of the Jicarillas claimed the meat was spoiled and threw it at the agent. It was not clear how the protest was elevated to violence, but pistol shots were exchanged. Agent Irvine was wounded in the hand and at least two Indians were wounded. The Jicarillas threatened to make war and burn the town of Cimarron. Irvine immediately requested troops from Fort Union. [124]

     Lieutenant John Lafferty, Eighth Cavalry, was sent with a detachment and arrived at Cimarron on November 18. Because the Eighth Cavalry was preparing to leave the district and the Ninth Cavalry from Texas had not arrived yet, there were not many cavalrymen available for service at Cimarron. Lafferty had only 15 enlisted men in his outfit. He reported that Agent Irvine wanted the troops to arrest three of the Indians that had been involved in the shooting and to disarm one band that had "become insubordinate." The following day Lafferty demanded the surrender of the three Indians, but he speculated there was "a fair prospect that they will resist the demand." He hoped his troops could "check any hostile demonstration" and declared "things are red hot here." The Jicarillas came into the town of Cimarron, carrying their arms, and presented "a defiant and a determined manner." Agent Irvine understood they had sent for some of the Utes to come to Cimarron from their camps. Somehow one of the three Indians wanted had been taken into custody. The leaders told Irvine that, if the soldiers wanted the other two men requested, they could "go and take them." Irvine requested more troops. [125]

     Irvine also informed district headquarters that the Jicarillas had taken their women and children into the safety of mountains, indicating to him that they were prepared to fight. He estimated that the Jicarillas had approximately 250 "warriors" at Cimarron and that the Utes could increase that to 450. [126] Colonel Granger ordered Captain McCleave to take all available cavalrymen from Fort Union to Cimarron to try and preserve the peace. McCleave was instructed: "Actual hostilities will be avoided if possible." McCleave and the 14 remaining men of the Eighth Cavalry, plus Second Lieutenant Cornish and 16 men of the Fifteenth Infantry and a hospital steward, Peter Cornell, reached Cimarron on November 21. [126] William R. Morley (a former employee of the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company, the army forage agent at Cimarron, and partner in the publication of a newspaper at Cimarron) raised a party of volunteers among the citizens at Las Vegas and requested 10 guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition from Fort Union. The request was approved by Colonel Granger. General Pope, when he learned of this, directed that no more arms were to be provided to citizens. The citizens could, however, purchase arms from the Fort Union Arsenal. He declared, "if they will quit selling whisky to Indians it is not believed they will need arms". [128]

     The Jicarillas moved away from Cimarron into the mountains when McCleave arrived. McCleave knew the Indians would have to do something to obtain food since they were not receiving their government rations. General Pope started two companies of cavalry from Fort Lyon to Trinidad to be available if needed at Cimarron, and he directed Colonel Granger to get himself to Cimarron and "settle this Indian trouble." The new chief medical director of the district, Surgeon McParlin who had been the first post surgeon at Fort Union in 1851, reported that Granger had suffered a stroke on November 19 and was incapacitated by paralysis of his left arm and leg. Granger was not able to go to Cimarron. [129]

     Pope did not believe "that violence" was "at all necessary" but recommended that a Gatling Gun be sent from the Fort Union Arsenal to Captain McCleave at Cimarron, in case it should be needed. This apparently was done. More provisions were also sent from Fort Union for the troops at Cimarron. Because Granger was not available, General Pope sent Colonel Miles, who had performed so well during the Red River War, to Cimarron to take command of all troops and resolve the troubles with the Indians. [130] Miles arrived at Cimarron on December 11, 1875, and saw the deplorable condition of the Indians. They were in no condition to fight and needed food. He immediately ordered an issue of rations to them, including the best beef that was available. He informed the Indians they would not be harmed if they settled into their camps near Cimarron for the winter, where they would be fed. He also promised they would not be moved to a reservation before the following spring or summer. Actually, they were not removed for more than two years. By then the Indians realized the hopelessness of their situation and complied. [131] Captain McCleave and his cavalrymen arrived back at Fort Union on December 20. One of his men, Hospital Steward Cornell, had deserted while the troops were at Cimarron.

Edward Hatch
Edward Hatch, Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     Lieutenant Cornish was left at Cimarron with a detachment of Fifteenth Infantry to keep watch over the Indians and supervise the distribution of rations. Cornish was also designated as the temporary Indian agent for the Jicarillas and Utes at Cimarron Agency. The commanding officer at Fort Union was in structed to watch the situation at Cimarron, make periodic inspections there, "see that peace is preserved with the Indians," and do whatever "the best interest of the Government and of the Indians may require." The Fort Union commander was also directed to begin estimates of the cost and preparations for the removal of those Indians the following year. [132] Meanwhile Lieutenant Cornish and his detachment settled into the building rented by the Indian department at Cimarron to keep their watch over the Indians. On December 30, 1875, the Ninth Cavalry began arriving at Fort Union. [133]

     Colonel Granger suffered another stroke and died on January 10, 1876, at Santa Fe. His body was taken to Fort Union, where it was embalmed by Post Surgeon William H. Gardner, and then shipped to his wife at Lexington, Kentucky. Major James Franklin Wade, Ninth Cavalry, commanding at Fort Union, was transferred to Santa Fe to serve as district commander until Colonel Edward Hatch, Ninth Cavalry, arrived to take permanent command of the troops in New Mexico on February 8. Hatch spent the night of February 4 at Fort Union. Captain Francis Moore, Ninth Cavalry, served as the commander of Fort Union until Major Wade returned on February 10. The garrison at Fort Union was small, comprised of one company of Ninth Cavalry and one of Fifteenth Infantry. [134]

     Lieutenant Cornish was having problems at Cimarron, not with the Indians but with those who were to provide provisions for them. The contractor of provisions for the Indians had not sent a representative to Cimarron to issue supplies. Cornish notified Major Wade that, if a contractor's agent did not arrive by January 19, 1876, supplies would have to be purchased in the open market to feed the Indians. In addition, the clerk that had been left in charge of the former agent's store was "on the verge of Delirium Tremens." The clerk was leaving for Trinidad, and Cornish had no choice but to close the store and place it under military guard until someone was authorized to take charge of it. [135]

     Cornish was undoubtedly gratified when the new Indian agent, J. E. Pyle, arrived at Cimarron on January 21 and relieved Cornish of his extra assignment. Wade directed Cornish to "remove all the troops from there except such as may be absolutely necessary for his [Pyle's] protection." [136] Lieutenant Cornish concluded that seven soldiers, including a non-commissioned officer, were sufficient at the agency and returned to Fort Union with the rest of his detachment on January 25. While those troops were on the road, Governor Axtell requested Major Wade to leave troops at Cimarron to assist Sheriff Rinehart of Colfax County "to protect the lives and property of citizens in that county, and aid and assist the civil authorities in preserving order and enforcing the laws." The governor's request was prompted by the destruction of the newspaper office and press of the Cimarron News and Press (an anti-Grant and anti-vigilante paper published by Morley, Frank Springer, and Will Dawson). [137] Major Wade responded that he could not authorize the use of troops in civil affairs without authorization of higher authorities. [138]

     Governor Axtell then appealed to President Ulysses S. Grant who authorized the use of troops. Early in February General Pope directed that a detachment of cavalry from Fort Union be sent to Cimarron "to aid the civil officers of Colfax County New Mexico, in arresting outlaws and criminals, or executing process of the courts as are directed against such offenders." [139] Because of the inability of civil officials in Colfax County to handle the situation, the territorial legislature passed a law that attached Colfax County to Taos County for judicial purposes, so that all court actions would take place at Taos. Warrants for the arrest of some of the men suspected of participating in the murder of Vega and Cardenas (including, among others, Rev. McMains and Clay Allison) were issued by Judge Henry L. Waldo. District Attorney Benjamin Stevens was sent from Taos to make the arrests. Stevens was promised the aid of soldiers from Fort Union.

     The troops were not sent from Fort Union for several weeks because orders were not issued from district headquarters, whether by oversight or design cannot be determined. Colonel Hatch recommended that, because of the troubles at Cimarron and the need for large guard details at Fort Union to keep watch over the supply depots as well as the post, the garrison at the fort be increased to full capacity, with two companies of Fifteenth Infantry and two of Ninth Cavalry. This was accomplished with the arrival of a second company of Fifteenth Infantry on April 9 and another troop of Ninth Cavalry on May 5. [140] During 1876 remodeling was done to some of the rooms connected with the cavalry corrals, making them into suitable barracks to accommodate two additional companies at the post. Although Carleton had requested and received permission to expand the third fort, at the time of construction, from a four- to six-company post, that had not been done. In 1875 Brigadier General Pope directed the expansion because he planned to abandoned Forts Craig and Selden and wanted to transfer some of the troops from those posts to Fort Union. [141] Sometimes there were five and occasionally six companies stationed at Fort Union, but most of the time the new facilities were not needed. Even when there were six companies assigned to the garrison, a considerable number of men were often absent from the post on detached duty.

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