FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER EIGHT:
LIFE AT THE THIRD FORT UNION (continued)

     Such institutions were usually encouraged by officers as beneficial to the enrichment of civilization. The army practice of providing chaplains, schools, and libraries at military posts embodied the most visible attestation of government sponsorship of improvement of spiritual and intellectual life of military personnel. The efforts were somewhat sporadic, as shown by the intermittent presence of chaplains at Fort Union, and the results difficult to measure objectively.

     Rickey concluded from his interviews with veterans that "Post Chaplains seem to have exercised little influence on the soldiers, and some of them were not respected by officers or soldiers." Even where "church services were conducted regularly . . . and . . . enlisted men were welcome to participate," he noted, "the services were held mainly for the benefit of the officers and their families." Even though some enlisted men were religious and participated in chapel liturgies, Rickey concluded that "formal religion was apparently not a very significant factor in the lives of rank and file regulars." [237] In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, noted soon after his arrival at Fort Union that the post had a chapel but no chaplain. He observed that it was "strange not to have a minister at such a Post as this one." [238] Matthews's interest was apparently academic, for he made no mention when a new chaplain arrived at Fort Union a few months later and subsequently stated that he had not attended church since his enlistment. Near the end of his term of service Matthews informed his family that he had "not attended divine service since August 1869 [in Cincinnati], except on three funeral occasions when heard the Episcopal burial service read and nothing more." [239] Of the last chaplain at Fort Union, Rev. G. S. Seibold, a soldier declared in 1891 just prior to the abandonment of the post: "He preaches some fine sermons, but possibly pours theology into unwilling ears." [240] Chaplains were usually in charge of post schools, where they may have exerted more influence for transformation than in chapel.

     The army encouraged the establishment of schools at military posts to provide basic education for enlisted men and for the children who resided there. At Fort Union it was usually the responsibility of the post chaplain to oversee the operation of the school. As noted in chapter four, the first post chaplain, Reverend William Stoddert, started a post school in 1856. [241] Thereafter the school was discontinued and reestablished several times, depending on the presence of sufficient numbers of students and teachers, the whims of the many post commanders, and the availability of a place for classes to be conducted. The post school apparently was neglected during the chaotic era of the Civil War.

     After the war, with the arrival of Chaplain John Woart in 1866, the post school was resumed. Woart thought the requirement that he teach the post school interfered with his ministerial duties. He was not pleased when the adjutant general's office sent word that post chaplains were required "to perform the duty of school masters." The same communication clarified some other questions about the status of chaplains. They were to have a captain's allowance of quarters and were ineligible for assignment to courts-martial, boards of survey, and other military responsibilities. Woart reluctantly accepted the decision that he teach school. [242] A little over a year later a private soldier, Henry Edgar, Third Cavalry, was designated as a schoolteacher at Fort Union, so, perhaps, Rev. Woart's prayers were answered. [243]

     Soon after Chaplain David W. Eakins arrived at Fort Union in September 1870, the post school was established under his supervision. The post chapel was to serve as the school room. The children at the post were taught basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Enlisted men who wished to learn to read and write were instructed at other times, usually in the evenings. The prisoners at the post were assigned the task of custodial work at the school, "under the charge of the guard at such hours as will not interfere with the school." [244]

     Major Andrew J. Alexander, Eighth Cavalry, served as commanding officer at Fort Union during the winter of 1873-1874. In February, on behalf of the post council of administration, he contacted the adjutant general's office in Washington, D.C., to inquire if it was permissible to pay a schoolteacher at a post that had a chaplain. Rev. Eakins was "physically unable" to serve as a teacher as well as post chaplain. Major Alexander reported that there were "a great many children and enlisted men at this Post who are much in need of instruction." Army regulations specified that a post chaplain was to "perform the duties of Schoolmaster." If possible, they wanted to hire a teacher. [245] The response was not located. Because enlisted men had been detailed to serve as a schoolteacher before at Fort Union and were so designated later, it was likely that such an arrangement was again permissible. [246] In 1878 the war department issued orders that enlisted men detailed as teachers were to receive extra-duty pay of thirty-five cents per day. The same decree stipulated that the enrollment of enlisted men was voluntary, but children were required to attend. [247] At the beginning of September 1884, Private Robert L. Farr, Company B, Tenth Infantry, was relieved from extra duty as the post schoolteacher and Private James O'Hara, same company, was appointed to take his place. [248] The extra-duty pay for teachers was increased to fifty cents a day in 1885. Congress was reluctant to provide adequate funds for schools. [249]

     The major inadequacy of the post schools, according to a recent study, was "the lack of competent teachers." [250] Another problem was the paucity of materials. The availability of books and school supplies was difficult to determine from the records. There undoubtedly were educational materials, some provided by the families of students and some by the post council of administration. For example, in December 1878, the post council of administration authorized the expenditure of $12.61 for school books and supplies (including six slates, twenty slate pencils, ten copy books, and Franklin's Reader—twelve first readers and six each of the second and third readers). These items were ordered from "the States." The order for the slates was canceled because "they could not be shipped by mail, without breaking." The books were received and "exceeded the price estimated by Council." A few weeks after the books arrived, the post school was closed in May 1879 because there were so few troops at the post that it was not feasible. [251]

     When Lieutenant Colonel Nathan A. M. Dudley, Ninth Cavalry, assumed command of Fort Union the following year, he directed Chaplain James LaTourrette to conform to orders issued by the headquarters of the army in 1878 relating to post schools. That directive, Dudley explained, "makes it the duty of the Post Chaplain to instruct the enlisted men in the English Branches." The commanding officer did not know if there were "sufficient enlisted men, at the Post, to warrant the establishment of a class," but he enjoined the chaplain to "ascertain" that information. Dudley also "believed that there are some twenty children who reside at or near the Post, who should be required to attend School." He requested a report from LaTourrette on the subject of a post school "with as little delay as practicable." [252]

     Chaplain LaTourrette confirmed the need to reopen the post school, and Dudley directed the post quartermaster, Captain Thomas Hunt, to have built in the quartermaster shop at Fort Union, within ten days, the necessary furniture for two school rooms, one for children and the other for enlisted men. The children's room was to receive eighteen chairs (built at three different heights for children of different ages) and three ten-foot-long desks (also at different heights), with the desk tops "slightly inclined towards seats" and with shelves underneath for books and supplies. The furnishings for the enlisted men's room included one table, eight chairs, one blackboard and one-half pound of chalk, two water buckets, one tin cup, one broom, and one sponge. [253]

     The school began on April 26, 1880, in the center set of officers' quarters at the quartermaster depot. Chaplain LaTourrette was the superintendent (charged with visiting the school "daily"), and an enlisted man, Private Arthur Brus, Company F, Fifteenth Infantry, was detailed as teacher with extra-duty pay. The children at the post attended classes Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The enlisted men presumably attended classes at other times, not specified but probably in the evening, and they had a separate room. The children were "required to be neatly and cleanly dressed." The "School Call" was sounded fifteen minutes before classes began each day. To prevent truancy, absentees were reported to the post adjutant, who informed the parents. [254]

     Lieutenant Colonel Dudley established rules for the teacher. For example, "no favoritism will be shown towards officers' children." Regarding discipline, "rewards and punishments of a mild character will be allowed but no whippings." The commanding officer also made it clear that the school would continue only so long as the parents sent their children "promptly and regularly" and the enlisted men attended. Regarding the latter, Dudley declared that the school offered "every enlisted man at the Post an opportunity to learn to write a good hand in a short season, a chance that may not again occur in the lifetime of a soldier." [255] Because many of the enlisted men were illiterate and a number of them were foreigners who had difficulty with the English language, the school was, indeed, an opportunity.

     The records do not show how successful the school was. In December 1881 Colonel Haller directed Chaplain LaTourrette to "assume general charge and control of the Post School." At the same time Haller detailed Private George M. Mason, Company B, Twenty-Third Infantry, on extra duty to teach the enlisted men and children of the post and to "report for duty to the Post Chaplain." [256] In 1882 a new post commander, Captain Thomas Smith, Twenty-Third Infantry, requested that a schoolteacher be assigned to Fort Union because no soldiers at the post were qualified for that duty. [257] A similar request was made by Post Commander Henry Mizner in 1886, when he noted there were six companies stationed at Fort Union and "no soldier in the command to perform the duty of school teacher." [258] Mizner must have found a teacher, for on December 13, 1886, he issued an order proclaiming that school would meet daily, Monday through Friday, with the children of the post attending from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and enlisted men attending "immediately after retreat." [259]

     The post school continued, off and on, through 1889, when the war department decided to require the attendance of enlisted men in need of basic education as part of their military duty. [260] Lieutenant Colonel Albert P. Morrow, Sixth Cavalry, commanding Fort Union in 1889, directed the "Superintendent of Post Schools" (who was Chaplain LaTourrette) to inaugurate a new school session "at once" and to recommend "a competent enlisted man" to serve as the teacher. Morrow noted that Private W. H. H. Pope, Company H, Tenth Infantry, "has been highly spoken of as a School teacher." The superintendent was also directed to take an inventory of school equipment and supplies and to requisition anything additional "needed to properly furnish the school." [261] Private Pope was detailed on extra duty as the schoolteacher. He was relieved of that duty in December 1889. He was replaced briefly by Private John Walton, Company H, Tenth Infantry, who was succeeded by Private Fletcher R. Tilton, Company C, Tenth Infantry. Tilton was replaced by Private Charles Buckles, Company C, Tenth Infantry, as the schoolteacher in January 1890. Buckles had earlier served as the telegraph operator at the post. He served as the schoolteacher until July 9, 1890. He was relieved because he was found intoxicated on that date. Private Alonzo Plumb, Company C, Tenth Infantry, was detailed to extra duty as the schoolteacher on July 11. Private Tilton returned to that assignment in November 1890, replacing Plumb. [262]

     There were few reports about the school during the final years. The annual inspection report of the post in March 1890 indicated that there were eight soldiers and five children attending at that time. [263] No statistics on enrollment after that time have been located.

     Private Tilton continued to serve as schoolteacher until February 20, 1891. [264] The quality of education dispensed at the intermittent post schools from the 1850s through 1890 cannot be verified but undoubtedly varied from time to time. Overall, according to Bruce White, "a considerable number of soldiers learned to read and write." [265] The opportunity for basic education was probably important in the lives of countless enlisted men and children at the post. Aubrey Lippincott, son of Surgeon Henry Lippincott, attended school at Fort Union during the final years. He recalled some eighty years later that one of his teachers (an enlisted man), among other things, spent much of his time smoking a big pipe. He remembered that there were about fifteen children enrolled and that they learned little or nothing. The young Lippincott's education must have been adequate, in spite of or because of the school, for he rose to rank of colonel in the army before he retired. [266]

     In addition to schools, the post library enhanced the quality of life at Fort Union. [267] Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, made good use of the library during his service at Fort Union and periodically commented to his family about the books he had been reading. [268] There a sizable collection of newspapers, periodical magazines, and books (fiction and non-fiction) available to those who could read, providing news, information, and entertainment, as well as a diversion from the monotonous routines of garrison life. Most library holdings were purchased by the post council of administration with some of the tariffs collected from the post sutler, but company funds and individual contributions were occasionally used. Some books were donated. Several lists of library holdings appeared in the post records, including over 300 volumes (mostly history, biography, and popular fiction). [269] Table 3 on the following page lists the newspapers and periodicals, with annual subscription rates, received at Fort Union in 1883.

Table 3
Newspapers and Periodicals Received at Fort Union Post Library, 1883
[272]

Newspapers & PeriodicalsAnnual Cost
Army and Navy Journal, weekly$6.00
Army and Navy Register, weekly3.00
Atlantic Monthly2.00
Boston Globe, weekly1.00
The Century, monthly4.00
Chicago Times, daily13.00
Detroit Free Press, weekly2.00
Forest and Stream, weekly4.00
Frank Leslies Illustrated, weekly4.00
Frank Leslies Popular Monthly3.00
Harper's Monthly4.00
Harper's Weekly4.00
Journal of the Military Service Institutions of the U.S.2.00
Leavenworth Times, daily5.00
New Mexican, daily10.00
New York Graphic, daily12.00
New York Herald, daily10.00
New York Ledger, weekly3.00
New York Times, semiweekly2.50
Philadelphia Times, weekly2.00
Puck, weekly5.00
San Francisco Chronicle, weekly2.00
United Service Monthly3.00
Washington Sunday Herald, army & navy edition1.50

    The post librarian, usually an enlisted man selected for the duty, was responsible for keeping the collection in good order and making it available to patrons. The location of the library changed from time to time. In 1873 it was moved from an unidentified location into "quarters No. 4," probably in one room in that set of officers' quarters. It was unusual to place a post library on officers' row. At that time Private Charles Bugbee, Troop H, Eighth Cavalry, was assigned to serve as librarian and to catalogue the collection. A short time later Corporal William H. Andy, Company C, Fifteenth Infantry, was appointed librarian. He was relieved of that duty on April 15, 1873. [270] Since no records were found to indicate the utilization of the library, it was not possible to assess the effects it had. Like the post school, however, it was a commendable service provided by an army which otherwise showed little interest in the leisure activities of its soldiers. Rickey found in his interviews with veterans from the era that "library facilities were appreciated and used by some of the men." [271] That undoubtedly was true at Fort Union.

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