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

     One of these was Lydia Lane, who with her husband William had been stationed at the first Fort Union in the 1850s (see chapter four) and returned in 1866 and 1867. After crossing the plains from Fort Leavenworth on the Santa Fe Trail in 1866, the Lanes spent several weeks at Fort Union "camping in a house, and awaiting assignment to a station." While there they called on Andrew and Eveline Alexander, during the Alexanders' brief stay at the post. [310] After a few months as commander of Fort Marcy at Santa Fe, Major Lane, Third Cavalry, returned to command Fort Union from February to October of that year. Mrs. Lane, apparently similar to Katie Bowen, Marion Russell, and Eveline Alexander in temperament, was also a spunky woman with strong opinions and whose writing was both fascinating and revealing. [311]

     While the Lanes were waiting at Fort Union in 1866 for William's assignment, Mrs. Lane recalled with some delight a gathering of several officers' wives in the same situation at her quarters when General Pope arrived. Many of the other wives inquired of the department commander where their husbands were to be stationed in the District of New Mexico, and Pope asked each one where she would prefer to be located. Each, naturally, selected a post that she had heard would be a good place. Lydia Lane, however, "knowing how useless it was to make a choice," refused to choose and declared it made no difference where her husband was stationed. When Major Lane was assigned to command Fort Marcy at Santa Fe, the other wives, "mad with envy," believed that was Lydia's reward for not selecting a post. Lydia, however, dismissed such claims, explaining that "the likes and dislikes of the wives were not taken into consideration, or even remembered, when their husbands were assigned for duty at a post." evertheless she was pleased to live at Santa Fe, despite the inadequate quarters, until her husband was assigned to Fort Union. [312]

     Mrs. Lane suffered a loss common to many officers' wives who accompanied their husbands to western military posts. One of her female servants was quickly lost through marriage to a man in a society where there was a disparate ratio of eligible women to men. Mrs. Lane, like many of her counterparts, was also amazed that her cook was claimed at all, let alone almost immediately following her arrival at Fort Union in 1866. Only Mrs. Lane's words do justice to the situation, and she clearly had no comprehension of the law of supply and demand where the sexes were concerned.

     "The cook, ugly as she was, won the hand—I cannot say the heart—of a stone-mason at Fort Union, almost immediately,—how, I never understood. She was old as well as ugly, and not at all pleasant-tempered, and, to crown all, a wretched cook. When she was disagreeable, she always showed it by reading her Bible,—always a sure sign of ill temper with her. The man must have needed a housekeeper badly to marry old Martin." [313]

     Lydia, adapted to the situation and found domestic help less likely to be claimed by marriage, including a young New Mexican man when she returned to Fort Union.

     Eddie Matthews, who served at Fort Union in the early 1870s, presented his views on nearly every subject, so it was not surprising that he commented on this topic. Matthews may not have understood the reasons any more than Mrs. Lane, but he succinctly stated the fact that all women, including the unattractive and unpleasant, were acceptable candidates for a hasty marriage in the hinterland: "The frontier is the best place in the world for Old Maids or fat women to migrate, they can always get a husband, and will always be admired by the rough frontiersman and boys belonging to Uncle Sams outfit, whether they are pretty or not." [314] Undoubtedly, Lydia Lane would have agreed.

Lydia Spencer Lane and her children
Lydia Spencer Lane and her children in front of the commanding officer's quarters at Fort Union, where they lived with their husband and father, Major William B. Lane, in 1867. Courtesy United States Army Military History institute, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

     In February 1867 the Lanes, with three children, were early (perhaps the first) occupants of the new commanding officer's quarters at the post (the house which had been rejected as unfit for habitation by Major Marshall in December 1866 and which he may or may not have inhabited before the Lanes arrived). Mrs. Lane recalled, "we proceeded to Fort Union, where we found new quarters awaiting us. Their appearance was imposing, but there was no comfort in them." [315]

     The Lanes may have been the only family that had lived in the officers quarters at both the first and third posts, and Lydia was the only one known to compare the two. Despite all the accounts of the inadequacies of the quarters at the first post during the 1850s, Mrs. Lane strongly stated her preference. "We liked the old log quarters, up towards the hills, much better than the new adobe houses, planted right down on the plain, which was swept by the winds all summer long." [316] Perhaps she had forgotten that the wind blew at the first post, as many residents had verified, but Lydia cared little for the new quarters.

     "The house we occupied, built for the commanding officer, consisted of eight rooms, four on each side of an unnecessarily wide hall for that dusty, windy country. They were built of adobe, and plastered inside and out, and one story high, with a deep porch in front of the house. There was not a closet nor a shelf in the house, and, until some were put up in the diningroom and kitchen, the china, as it was unpacked, was placed on the floor. After great exertion and delay the quartermaster managed to have some plain pine shelves made for us, which, though not ornamental, answered the purpose." [317]

     Because William Lane's military career meant frequent moves and adapting to all sorts of dwellings and conditions at various military posts, the Lanes, Lydia recalled, "were quite at home in a short time." [318] Additional problems with the new quarters soon developed. "As the plaster dried in our new quarters the ceilings fell one by one." This created several unpleasant experiences. "At least a bushel came down one night on my maid as she slept, and she nearly roused the garrison with her wild shrieks, although she was not hurt the least bit." [319] The servant was a woman from England who remained in New Mexico when the Lanes left the territory late in 1867 because of the captain's health.

     A more disastrous episode with the ceiling plaster occurred in the dining room. As Lydia explained, she often fed large numbers of guests because her husband, "as commanding officer, seemed to feel obliged to entertain everybody who came to the post." This, for Mrs. Lane, was not always an easy task, especially since the cook she brought to New Mexico had almost immediately been claimed as a wife by "a stone-mason at Fort Union." The nurse was drafted for cooking duty. According to Lydia, "I had to teach her everything. . . . We managed not to starve." It turned out the nurse was not much help in the kitchen because she "was useless half the time with rheumatism." With the aid of a young New Mexican man, identified only as Jose, who "helped me in many ways, washing dishes, preparing vegetables for cooking, etc.," Lydia did the cooking herself. She doubted the results, recalling that "as our servants were inefficient and there was no market at hand, it was very difficult to have things always to please us, and, I fear, to the satisfaction of our guests." [320]

     Mrs. Lane fed the many guests because it was her duty as a commanding officer's wife, but she resented that some guests were ungrateful. She felt somewhat handicapped because "house-keeping on the frontier had its drawbacks." Her memories were bittersweet. "We had plenty to eat, such as it was, but we thought it not always dainty enough to set before our visitors." On the other hand, in her opinion, some guests did not deserve anything better than she had to offer. "Our friends appreciated our efforts in their behalf; but we entertained many people we never had seen before and never met again." Some of their guests, Lydia commented, "were so situated that they could have returned our hospitality later, but they never did, nor did they even seem aware of our existence." With a note of sarcasm, Lydia remarked: "We are told to take in the stranger, as by so doing we 'may entertain an angel unawares.' I do not think that class of guests often travelled in Texas and New Mexico, at least while I was out there; if they did, their visits were few and far between, and their disguise was complete." [321]

     With this insight into Mrs. Lane's attitudes, it is difficult to assess what must have been her somewhat mixed emotions when the dining-room disaster struck. Only her words can effectively portray the occasion.

     "One day I had cooked a dinner for a family of seventeen, including children. It was on the table, and I was putting the last touches to it preparatory to retiring to the kitchen. I could not sit down with my guests and attend to matters there at the same time. I was stooping over to straighten something when I heard an ominous crack above my head, and, before I could move, down fell half the ceiling on my back and the table, filling every dish with plaster to the top. The guests had just reached the dining-room door in time to see the catastrophe and finding I was unhurt they retired until the debris was cleared away and a second dinner prepared. Fortunately, I had plenty of food in reserve, and it was soon on the table and disposed of by my friends with apparent relish. I, in the solitude of my kitchen, could not do justice to the subject, so kept quiet." [322]

     The demands on Mrs. Lane to cook for a constant succession of visitors eventually affected her wellbeing. "My efforts to entertain an old friend at Fort Union cost me dear," she asserted. "I became overheated in the kitchen and had an attack of pleurisy, which left me with a cough and so weak the doctor advised me to go to Santa Fe for a rest and change." With maid and children, Lydia traveled with an escort of "tried and trusty soldiers in whose care we were perfectly safe, and who would have stood by us in any emergency." After a few weeks of rest and relaxation in Santa Fe, Lydia reported, "I was quite well, and we returned to Fort Union." [323]

     Mrs. Lane made several trips between Fort Union and Santa Fe, and while traveling back to the post from one of her visits to the territorial capital she found among her traveling companions "no less a person than Kit Carson—then having the rank of general." Her recollections about this military leader and legendary frontiersman, whom she "never saw . . . again after we reached Fort Union," help to provide additional insight into his character and humanity.

     "To see the quiet, reticent man, you never would dream that he was the hero of so many romances. I believe he would rather have faced a whole tribe of hostile Indians than one woman, he was so diffident. But had she required assistance, he would have shed his last drop of blood in her defence."

     "We travelled and ate at the same table together for three or four days, and I never met a plainer, more unpretentious man in my life." [324]

     Back at the post, Mrs. Lane declared, "we had a pleasant garrison at Fort Union in the summer of 1867." Despite her domestic servant difficulties, Lydia (who considered many of the natives to be savages) appreciated the New Mexicans the family employed. José "brought wood and water, scrubbed floors, etc., besides telling the children the most marvelous tales ever invented. When a little boy he had been captured by the Indians, and, if he could have spoken English better, would have had many a blood-curdling story to relate. The children understood his jargon better than I did, and adored him." Lydia's maid, "being English, called him 'Osay. She was an endless source of amusement to him, and he tormented her beyond endurance." A New Mexican girl helped look after the Lane children. "The Mexican child, Haney, was a fine playmate for the children; she was good-natured, and suffered in consequence, and when the play became too rough she ran to 'Mama,' as she called me, to complain." Lydia was amused at the way her children and the girl communicated. "Their language was a wonderful mixture of Spanish, English, signs, and nods, but each understood it perfectly." [325]

     Lydia was witness to a small part of the ethnic amalgamation that the army in the Southwest fostered in the region. By a matter of some degree, impossible to fix precisely, Mrs. Lane at the third Fort Union in the late 1860s was less prejudiced and more tolerant of New Mexicans than Mrs. Bowen had been at the first post in the early 1850s. If each could be considered representative of their class in the two eras, a combination of close social contacts, economic relationships, and the overall "Americanization" of cultures in New Mexico (especially during the Civil War) had resulted in a blurring of rigid distinctions in less than two decades. The differences would remain until the end of the twentieth century, but an atmosphere of increasing accommodation of counterparts by both Anglo and Hispanic peoples was apparent over time at Fort Union. The post was a vehicle of Anglo intrusion and eventual domination of the territory.

     Lydia Lane was unaware that she was documenting the social evolution of southwestern cultures, and most of her writing was concerned with more mundane matters, such as finding capable servants and obtaining clothing for the family. Like Katie Bowen, who ordered cloth from the East to make her families' garments in the early 1850s, Lydia purchased cloth and ready-made clothing from the states in the late 1860s. Both complained about the high costs of transportation to New Mexico in those pre-railroad days. According to Mrs. Lane, "while on the frontier we received a great deal of our clothing through the mails, as express charges were very high, often amounting to more than the cost of the article received." [326]

     Like Katie Bowen, who kept a close eye on the family budget, Lydia did what she could to protect family finances and secure provisions for her own household. While at Fort Union, Lydia recalled, "I spent much time making pickles and plum-jam of the wild fruit that grew abundantly in New Mexico." Like Mrs. Bowen, Mrs. Lane also took pride in her homemaking skills and described the results as "delicious." The Lanes kept cows for milk, cream, and butter. They apparently had a vegetable garden and probably kept chickens for eggs. [327] Like many officers' wives, Mrs. Lane also had interests beyond domestic labors and family.

     Lydia enjoyed music and ordered a melodeon (a small keyboard organ, similar to a harmonium, in which tones are produced by pedal-operated bellows forcing air through metal reeds) from Philadelphia while she was at Fort Union. "There was not then a piano at the post," she recalled, "and, although a melodeon is a mournful, grunty, wheezy instrument, a cross between an accordion and an indifferent organ, it was much better than nothing." She also remembered that the cost to ship the melodeon was more than the price of the instrument. "The box was marked distinctly, 'to be sent by first wagon-train from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Fort Union, New Mexico.' By some blunder it was sent out on the stage as express matter, and the charges were 'fifty-three dollars.' The melodeon cost fifty." [328]

     Mrs. Lane avowed that "the pleasure it gave me more than compensated for the large amount paid for getting it out." While she was at Fort Union the melodeon was used to accompany singing at Sunday chapel. She "and several ladies" comprised a choir. She remembered that they "made the music, which perhaps was not the finest, but was not bad." Sometimes, as during the Easter service in 1867, the singers forgot the correct words but improvised the "sweetest music." Lydia did "not believe the congregation knew" of the mixup. When the Lanes left New Mexico a few years later, Lydia sold the melodeon "for one hundred dollars, to be used in a Protestant church in Santa Fe." [329]

     It was common practice for officers and their families to sell many household items when transferred in order to reduce the expenses of moving. Officers were responsible for their own relocation expenditures. Because of high transportation charges to move bulky objects in the Southwest prior to the coming of the railroad, after the Civil War the quartermaster depot shops at Fort Union manufactured furniture which was allocated to officers' quarters and remained there to serve whomever the occupants were. Even so families still had many articles of necessity which were easier to sell at one station and replace at the next military post than to transport. Public auction became the almost universal practice.

     Lydia was experienced with the system and lamented that "it required a great deal [of money] to travel to and from a country as far away as New Mexico." The Lanes had not recovered from the burden of the move to New Mexico in 1866 when Major Lane, whose health was not good, was told by the Fort Union surgeon in 1867 that "he must apply for a leave and go East." Mrs. Lane noted that to move again so soon "was a serious drain on our finances." She prepared to sell at auction "such things as we did not require for the road." [330]

     Lydia made careful preparations for the sale and declared, "I was well aware how all the articles would be examined by my army sisters for spots and specks, and I was determined they should find neither." She "hired a man to come daily to scrub and scour until everything shone." She was "quite indignant," as she remembered, "when one of the ladies called to see me and take notes . . . [and] whispered to me to remember how much better things sold 'when clean!'" Despite the putdown, most items sold well. "In several instances things brought far more than they were worth." A short time later the Lanes departed from the post. "We had not been particularly comfortable at Fort Union," Lydia remembered, "but we were sorry to leave." [331] In less than two years they were back in New Mexico. They sold more items at auction whenever they were transferred.

     Mrs. Lane was one of the few participants in frontier army life who provided details about the prevalent auctions associated with almost every transfer of station. In 1869, while stationed at Fort Selden in New Mexico, Major Lane's health again deteriorated and he was directed to move once more. The family sold almost everything that was not "absolutely necessary" to keep. Because of their financial condition, the result of frequent transfers, Lydia was pleased when the sale "made money." She had mixed emotions about the results. "The high prices realized at our sale were absurd, and I was actually ashamed when articles were bid up far beyond their value. Our cook-stove, which cost us about forty-five dollars, sold for eighty. My sewing-machine, for which I paid less than forty, brought one hundred dollars, and everything went at the same rate." [332] The Lanes lived at Santa Fe for a time before leaving New Mexico. At Santa Fe Mrs. Lane conducted her last sale in the territory, disposing of her melodeon as noted.

     In the autumn of 1869 the Lanes moved to Fort Union to prepare for their seventh trip across the plains. Lydia remembered, "we remained at Fort Union some days. Before we left we were serenaded by the band of the Third Cavalry. . . . After the music was over the soldiers drank to the health of their old officer and, as they expressed it, 'his lady.'" It was the end of their service in New Mexico. Because of health problems, Major Lane retired in December 1870, to Lydia's "great grief." She enjoyed military life, declaring "I liked it," including "nine moves in eighteen months in New Mexico." William and Lydia Lane visited New Mexico after the railroads were built and always held a special affection for the area and Fort Union. [333]

     Looking back on her military life in New Mexico from the perspective of the 1890s, Lydia, who had by her calculation traveled more than 8,000 miles in army ambulances, asked and answered her own question: "Army quarters are better, distance is annihilated by steam, transportation is excellent, even to remote stations; but yet, with all these advantages and so-called modern improvements, are army officers and their families happier than those of thirty or more years ago? I tell you, nay!" [334] In the 1890s William Lane published some of his recollections of life at Fort Union in the 1850s. [335] He died in 1898 and she in 1914. Lydia Lane may not have been a typical officer's wife because of her obvious love for military life, but she was one of a rare few (and a good storyteller too) who provided valuable information and understanding of society at Fort Union and other posts in the Southwest.

     Before the Lanes left Fort Union in 1869, Captain Andrew K. Long, commissary department, arrived there. He was soon joined by his wife, Elizabeth Foster Long, and year-old daughter, Mary. Mrs. Long dictated her memoirs in the 1920s. [336] She and Mary traveled to Fort Union by rail to Sheridan, Kansas, and by stagecoach the rest of the way. Elizabeth was the only woman passenger, and there were nine men. She remembered, "as I was the only woman on the coach and the baby was a great pet, the men took turns in holding her in order that I might have a rest, which kindness I appreciated very much." Several of the men got off at Trinidad, Colorado, and more men and an elderly woman who talked continuously got on there. The woman was not nearly as pleasant company as the men. "After passing a day and night shut up with a creature like that," Elizabeth divulged, "I was utterly exhausted." [337]

     Mrs. Long witnessed the issue of rations to the Indians at Cimarron while the coach stopped there. She testified that "the beef was issued in a herd alive and the Indians would kill them and eat their flesh while it was still warm, entrails and all." To her it was "a sickening and repulsive sight." She was somewhat taken aback when some of the Indians offered to trade some of their possessions for baby Mary. Elizabeth was glad to get beyond Cimarron, and she arrived at Fort Union the following night. The Longs resided in the depot commissary quarters, which she described as "delightful" and "quite large," with a big hall, spacious rooms, and wide porch. Elizabeth, like many other officers' wives, thought the "climate was simply perfect" except for the wind and "sand storms." "The skies," she remembered, "were the most beautiful blue I have ever seen." She also loved the nearby mountains, wild flowers, shrubs, and trees which "lent enchantment to these mountains." [338]

     The Longs went to Las Vegas "to do some shopping, as it was the only place near where there were any stores." [339] Las Vegas had, indeed, become one of the most important mercantile centers in the territory since it was founded on the Santa Fe Trail in 1835. Private Matthews affirmed that in 1870 after he was sent there with a small detail to recover three government horses that had been stolen by deserters. He declared, "Las Vegas has about two thousand inhabitants, principally all Mexicans. Some Jews and Americans. There are some very fine stores there. It is a kind of supply depot, for Country Merchants. They can buy what they want there cheaper than could have it brought from St. Louis." [340]

     Elizabeth Long, like some other officers' wives, was fascinated with the New Mexican people, and she described the Penitentes of the region with some understanding. When the Longs found it was difficult to obtain reliable servants at Fort Union, they sent for the young black servant, Albert, they had when stationed at Fort Harker, Kansas, and he traveled to New Mexico with a company of soldiers. Albert was "a good cook, waiter and nurse." The child, Mary, had a tendency to run off, so they "kept her tied to the front porch when she was alone." [341]

     Elizabeth recollected a frightening experience that occurred with Mary. An employ in the commissary department, "in whom we had the greatest confidence," offered to take Mary and the daughter of the depot quartermaster, Bella McGonnigle, same age as Mary (two or three years at the time) for a ride in the Longs' buggy.

     "I consented [said Elizabeth] and told him not to go far. They left about one o'clock p.m. and as the day wore on and they did not come back we became alarmed, and after retreat we were almost distracted, the post commander sent out men in all directions to look for them, and as nine, ten and eleven o'clock came and no news of them, another set of men were sent out. About midnight one of them discovered a buggy standing in the middle of a creek, the man drunk and asleep in it with these two little girls asleep also. They turned the man out in the road and brought the children home safely, but it was almost morning when they arrived as they were about 15 miles from the fort." [342]

     Andrew and Elizabeth Long practiced the customary hospitality at frontier posts and took fellow officers and their families into their home as guests when the visitors were passing through or awaiting the availability of quarters. In the spring of 1870 Captain William P. Wilson, who was at the time attached to no regiment but had been specially assigned to oversee the distribution of rations to the Utes and Jicarillas at Cimarron, [343] along with his wife and baby son, Alan, requested permission to live at Fort Union because the quarters at Cimarron were inadequate. Captain Wilson's brother, Frank, a captain in the Third Cavalry, was stationed at the post at the time. When permission was received, Frank went to Cimarron with an ambulance and carried his brother and family to the fort. [344]

     Mrs. Wilson, who had experienced a difficult trip to New Mexico with an infant son and a black servant, Rachel, and had briefly endured the one-room cabin at Cimarron, was ecstatic when they were taken in by the Longs. She reminisced:

     "I shall never forget the blessed sight of that big regular parade ground at Union with the flag flying and the band playing and, most beautiful of all, such a welcome from perfect strangers. Colonel and Mrs. Long's quarters to which we were invited seem to me as I look back to have been the airiest, neatest, prettiest house I was ever in. . . . I remember the guest room where I was put had Mexican rugs and a great bed with fluted pillow shams, and, most wonderful of all, an ice pitcher on a stand with ice in it which clinked and tinkled as I walked across the floor." [345]

     The Wilsons remained with the Longs until quarters were available, and they were entertained by the other officers and their families. As Mrs. Wilson remembered, "every one was very good to us and called and gave dinners for us and made up riding parties and made us feel generally as if our presence was the one thing necessary to complete the Post life." In addition to her praises for the Longs and others, Mrs. Wilson left some brief vignettes about a few individuals at the post.

     Colonel William N. Grier, Third Cavalry, was post commander when the Wilsons arrived. Mrs. Wilson described the 58-year-old Grier as "a fine, courtly man with a good deal of rather pompous humor." She delighted in his response to her query if he were related to Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Grier: "'Very distantly, very distantly indeed, Madam,' he replied, drawing himself up and expanding his chest. 'Judge Grier was the eldest and I the youngest of eleven children.'" [346] Colonel Grier left Fort Union a few weeks after the Wilsons arrived, and he retired from active duty later in 1870. [347]

     Like many other officer's wives, Mrs. Wilson found Captain Shoemaker of the Fort Union Arsenal to be "a perfectly delightful officer." She noted that the story was told of Shoemaker, who had been at the post since it was founded in 1851, that he had been at Fort Union so long that "the Government had forgotten him." Her recollections of Shoemaker add to an understanding of that popular officer:

     "He was a widower and very deaf, yet one of the most delightful hosts I ever met. His dinners were very choice affairs and his quarters were the finest at the Fort; partly because he had been there so long and partly because he was lucky enough to have a spring on his grounds. He irrigated the place and made a superb garden. . . . He had a beautiful Arabian horse that he used to ride himself and a dapple sorrel named Julieka that he lent me. I suppose we rode with him nearly every day, the Colonel [Captain Wilson] and I. He had been terribly in love with his wife and yet he never spoke of her, though the garden, indeed all that he did, was more or less a kind of going over the things she loved. He showed me her miniature once, a thing he had never done to anybody else out there, then. . . . He never came East again. Perhaps it was true that the War Department had forgotten him." [348]

     Mrs. Wilson enjoyed visiting with many officers' wives but gave only brief descriptions of them. It is difficult to determine how long the Wilsons stayed with the Longs, but they were there until after Colonel Grier left the post on May 22, 1870, and had moved into other quarters before Colonel J. Irvin Gregg, Eighth Cavalry, arrived to command Fort Union on June 16 of that year. [349] As Mrs. Wilson remembered, as "kind and hospitable as the Longs were, we could not just stay with them indefinitely." Colonel Gregg and William Wilson were cousins and friends, and Gregg was a bachelor. When the Wilsons learned that Gregg was coming to command the post, the spunky Mrs. Wilson disclosed, "we did the very cheekiest thing that can be done in the army. We moved into his quarters . . . and put down carpets and tacked up curtains and arranged furniture and started housekeeping." [350]

     Fearing what Gregg might think on his arrival, she recalled, "I must say my heart was in my mouth at the audacity of the thing." Had Gregg chosen to do so, he "could have ranked us out the minute he crossed the threshold." The Wilsons went to meet Colonel Gregg when he arrived and rode with him to the post. Gregg inquired where they were quartered and, Captain Wilson, without revealing the whole story, invited the new commander to "come stop with us for the night, Irvin." The colonel replied, "Indeed I will gladly, if you will have me." He confessed that he dreaded "starting up a makeshift of a home in my lonely barracks of a Commandant's quarters." And, as Mrs. Wilson concluded, "nothing could have been pleasanter than to escort him into his own house." Their gamble paid off and Gregg permitted the Wilsons to remain. [351] He probably welcomed their company but may have felt obligated, too.

     Mrs. Wilson and Alan sometimes accompanied Captain Wilson to Cimarron on issue days, and she provided a synopsis of what she considered to be a deplorable event. After explaining that the region where the Moache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches lived was "too poor either for cultivation or hunting to support life," Mrs. Wilson reported that "the Government had to feed them." She continued, with more details than Elizabeth Long had provided from her glimpse of issue day:

     "Every ten days they came to the station at Cimarron and got their rations. Each living soul was entitled to considerably more than even a U. S. soldier got. The flour, meal etc. were dealt out by the pound and the meat, beef generally, was given on the hoof, as they termed it. That is, the live animals were driven into the enclosure, one animal being apportioned to so many persons. Within an hour the cattle would be killed, generally with arrows, cut and hacked apart and eaten raw, down to the very innards. Indeed most of the rations meant for a fortnight were eaten on the spot within 24 hours, after which the tribe would generally sleep for another forty-eight hours, then disappear until the next date came around." [352]

     On the return trip to Fort Union after one issue day, the Wilsons were confronted by a party of Indians who demanded at gunpoint that the captain issue tobacco and whiskey to them. Their threatening disposition frightened Mrs. Wilson, who tried the best she could to promise the Indians whatever they wanted. She never forgot that, "after the very fiercest talk in which our lives plainly hung in the balance, they lowered their guns and let us drive on." The Wilsons were unharmed, but she and William decided that she and Alan would no longer accompany him to Cimarron. He usually found other officers at the post who were willing to make the trip, for "the general fun of the thing," so he did not have to go alone. [353]

     The Wilsons enjoyed their opportunity to host guests, and visitors were always welcome. Mrs. Wilson remembered that one of "the most amusing and altogether memorable" visitors were Captain and Mrs. Augustus G. Robinson. Captain Robinson had been district quartermaster, and he and Mrs. Robinson were at Fort Union for about a week, preparing for their trip to the States. They stayed with the Wilsons. Mrs. Wilson explained that "the whole colony entertained them from morning until night, indeed far into the night." What impressed and amused Mrs. Wilson were the disparate personalities of the Robinsons, as she perceived them. She described their characteristics in her own inimitable way. Captain Robinson "was big and easy-going and delighted to be visiting about." His wife "was a nervous much-wrought-up-over-small-things woman." Mrs. Wilson also described some of the quarrels the Robinsons got into over silly little things. [354] In many ways, Mrs. Wilson exhibited some of the same delightful traits as distinguished Katie Bowen, Marion Sloan Russell, and Lydia Lane. It was too bad that Mrs. Wilson did not record more of her memories of Fort Union. Captain William Wilson resigned from the service in October 1870, and the family, after living in New Mexico for approximately six months, returned to the East. Mrs. Wilson never forgot the generosity of Andrew and Elizabeth Long when they arrived at Fort Union.

     The Longs had another daughter, Emily, born at Fort Union in 1871. When Emily was one month old, Elizabeth took the girls back to her family home in Pennsylvania. Captain Long accompanied them to the railroad at Kit Carson, Colorado, and returned to his duties. A few months later, in November 1871, Elizabeth and her daughters rejoined Andrew at Fort Union. They traveled from Kit Carson in an army ambulance with a detachment of troops from Fort Lyon, and they were caught in a severe snowstorm. It took them over two weeks to reach Fort Union. The day after they arrived, the Longs' quarters caught fire. They lost most of their belongings (except for some baggage that had not yet arrived) and the interior of the house was mostly destroyed. [355]

     The other officers' families at the post shared clothing and household items until replacements could be ordered from the States. The Longs moved into the quarters adjoining their old ones and borrowed beds from the post hospital and obtained "what odds and ends of furniture we could get from the Quartermaster." Despite their losses, Elizabeth recollected, "we passed a charming winter at the post. . . . I had never seen such beautiful weather, and such blue sky, and we had many ways of making the time pass pleasantly." The bachelor officers visited often and frequently brought food for "midnight suppers." On June 15, 1872, the Longs left Fort Union for service at the commissary depot in Wyoming. Elizabeth found the quarters there to be considerably inferior to what they had enjoyed at Fort Union and was happy when they were "ranked out" and had to move to Fort D. A. Russell. The Longs had two more children in Wyoming, where they lived until 1876. Captain Long was assigned to duty in Washington, D. C., at that time and died in January 1878. Mrs. Long held fond memories of their time at Fort Union. [356]

Page Eight




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