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

     About the time the Longs left Fort Union, Frances Anne Boyd (wife of Lieutenant Orsemus Bronson Boyd, Eighth Cavalry) arrived with her husband who was assigned to duty there for a few months in 1872. Mrs. Boyd's memoirs, Cavalry Life in Tent and Field (published in 1894), covered the years from 1867 until her husband's death in the Apache campaign in 1885. She confirmed much of what other officers' wives experienced and added her unique perspective to army life and Fort Union. She was a native of New York City who, like many others of her background, adapted well to conditions of the frontier. After a few years in New Mexico, she proclaimed, "I love the West." Unlike Lydia Lane, Frances Boyd (according to Darlis A. Miller, the editor of her memoirs) "disliked the frequent moves and uncertainties of army life." But she appreciated the land and portrayed Indians and Hispanos "in a positive light." She "found happiness" in the West and "reserved her highest praise for the men and women of the frontier army." [357]

     Frances Boyd noted that most officers' wives wanted to be with their husbands, regardless of the conditions and hardships they had to endure. She lamented the fact that wives had no status in the view of the army. "It is notorious," she declared, "that no provision is made for women in the army. Many indignation meetings were held at which we discussed the matter, and rebelled at being considered mere camp followers." She saw a serious contradiction between military regulations, on the one hand, and, on the other, the "recognized fact that woman's presence—as wife—alone prevents demoralization, and army officers are always encouraged to marry for that reason." [358] If the army had made "provisions" for officers' wives, their living conditions might have been more desirable.

     Another point of view on officer's wives was expressed by Duane M. Greene, a former lieutenant in the frontier army who wrote a book about military social life in 1880, in which he was less than complimentary to women who married officers:

     "In our Army the enlisted men are restrained, but the officers marry at their option. However agreeable may be the presence of ladies, it is a noticeable fact that the lack of discipline is most conspicuous at stations where the number of ladies is greatest. They monopolize the time of the bachelors as well as the time of their husbands, and, consequently, those little attentions which are indispensable to the welfare and comfort of the enlisted men are neglected. The married officer is more prone to shirk duty than the unmarried." [359]

     Greene also argued that officers' wives used their influence with superior officials to advance and protect the careers of their husbands.

     "The morale of the Army is seriously depreciated by the influence of women. A lady of fine social qualities, whose husband may be an irredeemable drunkard, a disgrace to the Army, and a fraud on mankind, insures his commission by the adroit manipulation of her admirers. If he stands condemned before a court-martial, she may be the means of his salvation. Her artfully-planned supplications seldom fail to excite sympathy for herself, and to restore her profligate lord to all the dignity of his former rank and position. Thus the Nation, as well as the Army, feels her power." [360]

     Many observers noted the importance of post surgeons at the remote outposts in the Southwest, and most officers' wives expressed admiration for them. Frances Boyd declared she had "the greatest regard for physicians." The surgeon's "constant presence in cases of emergency gives one a feeling of comfort and security nothing else can afford." She was also impressed that the army doctors "displayed so warm an interest in my children." In fact, she believed that children "thrive so much better" on the frontier than in large cities. [361]

     Mrs. Boyd passed through Fort Union in the autumn of 1871, on her way from Fort Stanton to Denver (her husband accompanied her that far) to travel home for a visit and to deliver her second child. She said little about the post but commented on the land and people, giving a more favorable view of both than had most officers' wives who were in New Mexico prior to the Civil War. Frances declared that "the country between Forts Stanton and Union was simply superb in its wild grandeur and beauty." The one thing which gave her "so much trouble" was the cactus plant, for which she had no good words. Of the New Mexicans, she recalled, "We stopped every night with Mexican families, who in their simple kindness were most truly hospitable. They made us welcome, and yet exacted no reward for the time and attention bestowed." [362]

     Lieutenant Boyd joined his family in New York after the baby was born and accompanied them back to New Mexico in 1872. Frances declared that the expenses of a visit back home were so excessive (almost $1,300 in their case) that it was almost impossible for army officers to visit "home and relatives in the East." Lieutenant Boyd did so by going into debt, a debt that "involved him for years afterward in difficulties." As a result, the Boyds did not "again come East until compelled to do so on account of our children's education." [363]

     Frances Boyd had what was almost a universal experience with a female servant (apparently her first, having utilized enlisted men for servants previously). While in New York she "found a servant willing to return West with us, which seemed desirable, as a nurse would be needed on that long journey." Like others who feared the quick loss of a female servant who might "desert us for matrimony," Frances rationalized, "we congratulated ourselves on the servant's appearance, which was so far from pleasing it seemed safe to take her." Perhaps feeling compelled to justify the risk, Mrs. Boyd provided further details. "The girl," she continued, "was almost a grenadier in looks and manners; and although not absolutely hideous, was so far from pleasing that we were confident of retaining her services, so made a contract for one year." [364]

     The results, however, were too familiar. The family and servant traveled by rail to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then by ambulance to Fort Union, where Lieutenant Boyd was assigned. Their trunks were delayed, and when they finally arrived it was found they had been left in the rain and the "contents were saturated with water and had mildewed." The servant wept and mourned and could not be comforted because "all her finery was ruined." Frances found everything "delightful in every respect . . . but for the sour face of our nurse." While Mrs. Boyd viewed Fort Union as "a pleasant home," the girl "preferred New York." [365] The conclusion to the story was best told by Mrs. Boyd.

     "Having known the pangs of homesickness, I sympathized with her deeply; but she kept up so continuously her wail of despair over the discomforts of our life generally, and it became so tiresome, that when, five months afterward, she married a soldier, I was rather glad than otherwise, and returned with a sense of relief to the faithful men for service."

     "We had soon discovered the fallacy of our belief that her plainness would prevent the possibility of a lover. Women were so scarce, and men so plenty, that no matter how old or ugly, a woman was not neglected, and our unprepossessing nurse had scores of suitors for her hand." [366]

     Unlike her servant, Frances Boyd was pleased with Fort Union. Although aware that "many ladies greatly dislike Fort Union," Mrs. Boyd considered it a beautiful place. "Every eye is said to form its own beauty. Mine was disposed to see much in Fort Union, for I had a home there." "We had," she wrote, "clean, sweet, fresh quarters, which to me seemed perfect." She called their quarters "a dear little house" and went on about "new carpets and curtains, and the absolute freshness of all." Still, some things did trouble her. In addition to "the discontent of our servant," two other things disquieted Frances during the summer of 1872 at Fort Union: the absence of her husband on field duty and "the load of debt that was constantly worrying me." The worry took its toll. "Before the summer was over," Mrs. Boyd remembered, "I had lost twenty-five pounds." [367]

     Except for the debt, things looked up in the autumn. The servant got married and Lieutenant Boyd returned from the field. "We were always delighted to welcome back the troops from their Indian reconnoitering," she exclaimed, because "life was so dull without them." She noted the garrison was much reduced in size (the number of troops available for duty at Fort Union averaged 75 from June to October 1872, and it averaged 225 from October to December that year), with only a small group of officers present, including "of course a doctor, who was our mainstay, and to whom we rushed if only a finger ached." During the summer of 1872, "even the band was in the field, so we had no music to cheer us." [368]

     The return of the troops and the band was cause for celebration, and "we inaugurated a series of hops that were delightful." The wide hallways in the officers' quarters at Fort Union were "superb for dancing." According to Mrs. Boyd, "we had only to notify the quartermaster that a hop was to be given, when our barren hallway would immediately be transferred into a beautiful ballroom, with canvas stretched tightly over the floor, flags decorating the sides, and ceiling so charmingly draped as to make us feel doubly patriotic." [369] The band provided the music and the officers' wives served refreshments. Dancing was one of the most popular leisure activities at the post.

     Frances Boyd was contented with life at the post. "We were so happily situated that I hoped to remain at Fort Union, but as usual springtime saw us on the wing." She recalled, "we were looking forward to a long stay at our pleasant post, when an unexpected order came." Lieutenant Boyd was sent to Fort Bayard, New Mexico, to oversee the construction of officers' quarters. Frances remembered that her husband did not tell her of his new orders when they arrived because she "was deeply engrossed in preparations for a hop to be given at our house that evening, and he did not wish to spoil my pleasure." Unfortunately, "the first guest who arrived effectually dampened my spirits" by expressing his sorrow that the Boyds were leaving Fort Union. "I was too unhappy," Mrs. Boyd recollected, "to enjoy a single moment of the festivities which followed." Later she "packed our household belongings with a heavy heart." [370] Frances Boyd visited Fort Union again in 1886, the year after her husband died in Arizona, and in 1894, when her memoirs were published, she still held fond memories of life at the post. Presumably she cherished those remembrances until her own death in 1926.

     Not all memories of Fort Union were pleasant, of course, especially those of problems with the conditions of living quarters. In 1877 Post Surgeon Carlos Carvallo and his family had an encounter falling plaster, showing that the hazard faced by the Lanes a decade earlier was not unique. Dr. Carvallo reported the incident on July 11, 1877:

     ". . . A portion of the plastering of the ceiling in one of the front rooms of my quarters fell down yesterday afternoon, it having been previously loosened by the severe concussion daily produced by the morning and evening gun. The rain of the last three days probably moistened the loosened portions to such a degree as to cause them to fall. My child providentially escaped serious injury as he stood, at the time, scarcely two feet from the spot where the plastering fell; the remainder of the ceiling is eminently dangerous, and to avoid any catastrophe resulting either by the morning or evening gun or the rain knocking it down, I urgently request that it be taken down without delay." [371]

     Officers' wives and officers were important sources of information about life at Fort Union. Occasionally the children of officers recorded their recollections of the post. Genevieve LaTourrette, daughter of Chaplain James A. M. LaTourrette (who served at Fort Union from 1877 to 1890), later wrote about the things she remembered. Genevieve came to Fort Union with her parents and a brother and a sister (two older sisters had previously married). She described their trip from Chaplain LaTourrette's previous station, Fort Lyon, Colorado, as "one long picnic." [372]

Fort Union quarters of Post Chaplain
The Fort Union quarters of Post Chaplain James A. M. LaTourrette and his family, 1884, with an assemblage of men, women, and children from the post included. Rev. LaTourrette is standing at the left of the open door. Mrs. LaTourrette is seated, the fourth person left of her husband. The post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Henry R. Mizner, Tenth Infantry, is standing at left side of lamp post (fourth person right of Rev. LaTourrette). Genevieve LaTourrette Collins is the last person seated on the right, in front of a standing woman. The other people have not been identified, although a granddaughter of Lieutenant Edward Plummer, Tenth infantry, believes Lieutenant Plummer may be the sixth person from the left, seated by the porch column. If so, it is possible that Mrs. Plummer and their two children are also in this photograph. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas.

     The LaTourrettes received a "hearty welcome" at Fort Union. According to Genevieve, "a new arrival in a garrison in those days was an eventful occasion." Her family had the good fortune to arrive at the time the post trader, John Dent (brother of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant), and his family were "leaving for the East." As was customary, the Dents were selling their household goods so they would not have to pay transportation charges. Chaplain LaTourrette purchased much of what the Dents had for sale, including "quite a good deal of their furniture—among it a bedroom set, the four poster of which they said Gen. Grant had often slept on." [373]

     In 1882 Genevieve married Dr. Joseph H. Collins, Fort Union post surgeon, which made her an officer's wife as well as an officer's daughter. Dr. Collins died there a few months later, on January 30, 1883, leaving a young widow and a daughter who apparently remained at Fort Union, living with Genevieve's parents. Late in her life (which ended in 1930), Genevieve penned her brief memoirs. Despite the tragic loss of her husband at Fort Union, she held pleasant views of the land and people at the post. [374]

LaTourrette family quarters
Interior view of LaTourrette family quarters at Fort Union, about 1885. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas.

     She described the family quarters as "most comfortable both in winter and summer owing to the very thick walls and spacious rooms." She declared "the climate is most bracing and healthful, so conducive to health and comfort." She thought the post was "the safest place in the world to bring up children." From the perspective of the era after World War I, Genevieve held a nostalgic feeling for her days at Fort Union during its last decade. "The social atmosphere in a frontier post, such as Fort Union, in those days, and the happy freedom of all out-of-door life, as well as in, presented an altogether different view with that of the present day." Like many other residents of the commodious officers' quarters, she found them "well adapted for entertaining—with halls extending from the front door to the back, with large rooms on either side." [375]

     Chaplain LaTourrette, the only clergyman in the vicinity, was often called upon to perform weddings for civilians as well as soldiers. Genevieve recalled, however, that during his thirteen-year tenure at Fort Union there were only five weddings of members of officers' families at the post, and two of those were her sister's and her own. The wedding ceremonies of the daughters of Chaplain LaTourrette were not presided over by their father but by the Episcopal bishop who resided at Las Vegas. According to Genevieve, "a military wedding is a brilliant affair." [376]

LaTourrette family quarters
Another view of the LaTourrette family quarters at Fort Union, about 1885. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas.

     Recalling her own and her sister's wedding (February 11, 1885), Genevieve noted that the wedding ceremony took place in the decorated central hall of the family quarters. The post band provided music, "playing both wedding marches and gay music." All guests were dressed in their finest for the occasion. Her sister, Mary, and her husband, Lieutenant J. M. Stotsenburg, Sixth Cavalry, "left for the East immediately after their wedding amid the playing of the band, shoes and plenty of rice being thrown after them." When Genevieve married Dr. Collins, they spent their two-week honeymoon at the famous Montezuma Hotel at the hot springs near Las Vegas. When they returned to Fort Union, "the hop room had been beautifully decorated with flags and greens for a reception by the whole garrison—the usual custom on such occasions." [377]

Genevieve LaTourrette Collins
Genevieve LaTourrette Collins in the chaplain's quarters at Fort Union, about 1885. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas.

     Despite his position at the post and the chance for association with the families of the officers stationed there, Chaplain LaTourrette "led a very lonely life" because there was not another "clergyman nearer than Las Vegas." His daughter recalled that "he enjoyed anyone he could find to talk to." He delighted in "getting into conversation with Mexicans and Indians who came around selling vegetables, blankets, etc." The chaplain spoke only a little Spanish, but the vendors "seemed to enjoy him and always made it a point to see him, and he always bought something from them whether he needed it or not." [378]

Officers' row
Officers' row at Fort Union, about 1887. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     Genevieve documented that, during "the latter years at Fort Union, the quarters needed renovating badly." She explained how perennial requests for funds to make needed repairs were not forthcoming until an officer came to inspect the post during "one of the worst rain storms we ever experienced at the post." Genevieve had to put the top up on the carriage in which her infant daughter was placed in order to keep the child dry. After witnessing the leaking roofs and the occupants using umbrellas inside the quarters to keep dry, the inspector had "a better idea of the condition of the quarters. It was not long before an appropriation was forthcoming and all put in perfect condition." [379]

     Joseph and Genevieve Collins had the same experiences with servants as many of their colleagues. After trying to keep young women servants brought from Kansas City or Denver, only to see them married to soldiers "as soon as possible," most of the officers' families at Fort Union secured "Chinamen for cooks and general housework." This was a satisfactory arrangement for the officers and their families, but the enlisted men protested the change because there were not enough young women left at the post "to continue their weekly dances" and the supply of potential wives was gone. Thus, according to Genevieve, the enlisted men "threatened to get rid of these chinese servants by frightening the poor things almost to death." They chased the servants at night, threatening to kill them if they did not leave. [380]

     In 1888 one of the enlisted men of Company H, Tenth Infantry, was convicted by court-martial of attacking a Chinese servant employed by Lieutenant J. R. Cranston, Tenth Infantry. The specific charge against John McCormick was that he "did without provocation assault & strike, kick and otherwise maltreat Loui Way Yang, a Chinaman." [381] According to Genevieve Collins, the retaliation against the Chinese servants was effective, and "it was not long before every one of them was gone, and one by one each family returned to their women servants, and the band played on with their dances." [382]

Officers' row
Unidentified people in front of one of the officer's quarters at Fort Union, about 1887. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas.

     The bachelor officers also had difficulty finding dependable servants, and many utilized enlisted men as strikers as noted above. Second Lieutenant Duncan, stationed at Fort Union in 1886, recalled that "two other second lieutenants and I lived together. We kept house with the wives of two soldiers as domestics, their husbands as strikers." They found the arrangement to be "expensive" and complained that "both women bossed their husbands and us and gave a small party to their friends nearly every night." The two women wanted a milk cow and found one for the officers to buy. They "corralled" the cow in the "back yard," but found she was "excited and refused to eat." They had great difficulty milking because the cow was so "wild." After a few days they discovered the reason. The cow belonged to another officer, who thought she was lost, and he had the cow's "young calf in his stable yard." The cow was turned loose to "go home." [383] Perhaps the cow had been sold to them as a practical joke.

     The general popularity of practical jokes was confirmed by Aubrey Lippincott, another officer's child whose recollections of life at Fort Union have been recorded. The young Lippincott and George Douglass, son of Post Commander Henry Douglass, once disrupted a band concert. In 1887 the band gave an outdoor concert at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week. [384] The boys, Lippincott recalled, tied tin cans to the tails of two burros to make them run so they could have a race. They rode the burros with cans clanging across the parade ground during the performance. [385] He and George were "troublemakers." They once got into Colonel Douglass's cigars and smoked until they were sick. Lippincott declared his punishment was the only whipping he ever received. He recalled playing at the site of the abandoned earthwork, which had all caved in by the late 1880s, and the abandoned arsenal where Indian prisoners were sometimes kept. He remembered visiting the Apache prisoners and noted they suffered from the cold during the winter months. Looking back some 80 years later, he considered the Indian policy of the United States to have been "outrageous." [386]

quarters of Lieutenant Edward Plummer
Interior view of quarters of Lieutenant Edward Plummer, Tenth infantry, Fort Union, 1885, showing his wife, Georgia, and their daughter, Bessie, and son, Edward, neither of whom was able to sit still long enough for the exposure and are blurred. Courtesy Arrott Collection, New Mexico Highlands University, Las Vegas. According to a granddaughter of Edward and Georgia Plummer, their daughter, Bessie, enjoyed her childhood at the post. She recalled going to the post bakery to pick up fresh bread, visiting the hospital where the post surgeon gave her licorice, and catching the train at Watrous. The Plummers' son, Edward, died when he was 12 years old.

     Lippincott reminisced that the trumpeter at Fort Union, an Englishman, was "very talented" and played the various calls, such as reveille, tattoo, and taps, with admirable skills. He was especially impressed that the trumpeter could run while playing fire call when the post trader's store burned on December 1, 1889. The store, operated by Edward P. Woodbury (the last post trader of record), was remembered by Lippincott as a big "general store" with counters on both sides of the main store room and a saloon attached. He also testified to the drunkenness that occurred after pay day, to the deficiency of recreational facilities, to the boredom and monotony of garrison life, to the popularity of dances, and to the fact that soldiers visited nearby communities for drinking, gambling, and prostitutes. [387]

infantry and cavalry officers
Unidentified infantry and cavalry officers, a regimental sergeant major, a regimental quartermaster sergeant, and one man in civilian dress in front of the post headquarters at Fort Union, late 1880s. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument, courtesy Dogie Jones.

     Lippincott remembered some things about his home life at the post. The family had a "Mexican" woman for a cook. They purchased fresh vegetables from "Mexicans" in the area. His mother had a piano and he liked to lie on the couch and listen to her play. He remembered that Christmas was celebrated at the post with decorations in quarters, a tree, and a big meal. [388] There was a big celebration on July 4, including races and other competition. [389] Aubrey enjoyed the dramatic presentations of the soldiers and appeared in some of their plays when they needed a boy character. All in all, he held fond memories of the four years his family lived at Fort Union. [390]

ompany G, Sixth Cavalry
Troopers of Company G, Sixth Cavalry, lounging on rocks at the base of the bluffs west of Fort Union, 1888. Larsen Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     Almost everyone who recalled life at the post noted the need for recreation and entertainment. Sometimes pleasure was combined with benevolent endeavors. While Rev. LaTourrette was chaplain at Fort Union, some of the women at the post undertook to raise funds to purchase an organ for the chapel in 1884. Cornelia Black, daughter of Post Commander Henry M. Black, arranged a Japanese tea party as the primary fundraising project. She headed a committee that decorated the room at the post used for hops with Japanese ornaments and invited all officers and enlisted men to attend one of three evening programs where refreshments were served, donated items were sold, and contributions were solicited. The series of tea parties netted about $400 to assist with the acquisition of the organ. [391] Later in 1884 Cornelia Black married Lieutenant John Rosier Claggett, Twenty-Third Infantry, in ceremonies at the post conducted by Rev. LaTourrette. [392]

     Weddings, tea parties, dances, band concerts, and other leisure activities helped to allay the tedium of garrison life and to enrich the lives of everyone at the fort. Second Lieutenant Duncan provided a favorable, and somewhat idyllic, summary of existence at Fort Union:

     "The life of the garrison at Fort Union was typical of all our western posts. Officers and wives were simple in taste and dress, satisfied with their homes, entertaining their friends in wholesome ways, frugal in expenditures, trying to save something for the education of children, loyal to the traditions of the service, its honor and good name. In such an intimate life squabbles would occur over the neighbors' dogs or children or chickens, but withal life was an open page. . . . Young girl relatives were usually guests in the post; they seemed to arrive about the time a bachelor lieutenant reported. Propinquities and opportunities took a hand and soon settled the affairs of the heart for the young officer and the relative soon joined the circle of army wives. Due to the isolation and life, such marriages were usually happy and contented. Such a thing as a divorce or a domestic triangle was unheard of." [393]

     The congenial social atmosphere among the officers and their families lasted as long as Fort Union was active. Despite the absence of any military mission for the troops, beyond occasional training exercises, the enlisted men continued the daily routine of garrison duties (including guard duty) [394] and sought entertainment wherever they could find it. In February 1888, Troop G, Sixth Cavalry, stationed at the old arsenal, gave a "brilliant ball." The Tenth Infantry band provided music and there were plenty of young women for partners. A correspondent at the post informed a nearby newspaper that the dance lasted until 6:00 a.m. and a good time was had by all. In another issue of the same paper he jokingly commented that not all the women who came to the post were as young as they pretended to be, describing one of the "belles" as having "a beautiful crop of hair, [and] a perfect sunshine of glory purchased at a high cost from a tonsorial artist in Las Vegas." Of her age, he surmised, "I feel certain her certificate of birth would show the four figures which represent two girls alongside of two dudes: 1818." [395] The same correspondent wrote a series of humorous fictional accounts about life at Fort Union, in which he always referred to the post as "Fort Windy." He probably entertained some residents of the area as well as some of the soldiers. [396]

     Even so, for the most part, post life for enlisted men continued to be humdrum and dreary according to Private Richard F. King, serving in the hospital corps at Fort Union, in a series of letters to his niece, Gabriella King, written from late 1888 to early 1890. Many of his letters expressed a feeling of lonesome isolation, and he constantly indicated his thanks for letters he received from family and friends. He apparently saw few single women and often revealed his desire to find a wife, even enlisting the aid of his niece and other relatives in the search. [397] In addition to yearning for a mate, King revealed a few things about life at Fort Union. He probably spoke for many of his fellow soldiers when he wrote, "you do not know how lonsom I am out hear." He explained, "it was not so bad a few weeks ago, but now it is horible[,] 2 company's left hear the other day with the Band and Head Quarters." He made similar statements frequently, including the following: "You know it is so lonsom out hear that I almost go mad once and [in] a while, and probley you would not believe me but then it is so all the same. I did not see one woman for a year and 2 months except the oficers wifes." He was especially pleased when he was sent to Santa Fe to work temporarily in the hospital at Fort Marcy during the last week of 1888 and the first week of 1889. Another time he informed Gabriella that, if she and other family members "were to stop writing to me, I should go crazy out hear, which I sometimes think I will any way." [398]

     Private King frequently requested photographs of family members, and he had his picture taken by a photographer at the post in the spring of 1889. He promised to send prints as soon as he received them, warning it might be awhile because the photographer sent everything to Topeka, Kansas, to be printed. [399] In addition to thanking Gabriella for sending pictures of herself and family, King expressed gratitude to her for sending flower seeds which he planted in a window box in his quarters. In May 1889 he informed her that the "flowers are in bloom now and look awfull nice. I have my window full." [400]

     In earlier years itinerant photographers periodically came to the post to take pictures of those wanting the service. In 1888 and 1889, perhaps earlier and later too, a photographer set up a studio at the site of the old arsenal along with a couple of other businesses. They occupied the former residence of Captain Shoemaker, which a reporter at the post described for a newspaper at Wagon Mound as follows: "The exterior of this house has a dilapidated and worn out appearance, but the interior is properly decorated and would suit any business man in civil life." With a jocular pun, declaring there were " no shoemakers in it," the correspondent reported that the old house was home to three businesses, a photographer, a barber, and a tailor. [401] King undoubtedly patronized that photographer.

     Periodically King reported about other things that broke the monotony of his life at Fort Union. He was overjoyed when his lottery ticket won $1,000. [402] There must have been some excitement when the post trader's stored burned in the early hours of December 1, 1889, but King only mentioned it in passing when he informed Gabriella that he had planned to get her something for Christmas "but the Trader-Store was burnt down the other night, and I can't get any thing." [403] The store, including the post office, was completely destroyed, and the loss was estimated at $10,000 to $12,000. The trader had insurance to the amount of $9,000. Although the destruction of the store was a good excuse for King's failure to send a Christmas present, Woodbury reportedly was open for business in another building within two weeks. [404]

     King's greatest delight while at Fort Union, according to his letters, was the 1890 New Year's dance. "I had a splendid time," he proclaimed. "I danced all night. We Soldiers gave a Ball, and it was just grand." He explained how the hall was adorned with evergreen boughs, decorations for each branch of the service represented at the post (infantry, cavalry, and hospital corps), "all the flags in the Post up on the walls," and "arms at diferent points about the hall." He did not say how many women were present but implied there were dancing partners. He noted that "the 'Grand March' was lead by us Soldiers in full-dress." The party did, indeed, last all night, with supper at midnight, lunch at 4:00 a.m., and the end of the dance at 5:00 a.m. [405] King affirmed that dances were an important leisure activity as long as the post was active.

     King occasionally mentioned his duties at the post hospital, where he served under Surgeon Henry Lippincott. In December 1888 he reported, "we got a new Steward hear today and I have been relieved and sent to a ward for duty. I like it much better than putting up prescriptions all day I can lay down on my bunck and read novels to my hearts content." The following month he wrote that he helped Surgeon Lippincott with the hospital records, spending about an hour each day in the office while "the rest of the time I have to myself." He was not happy that Lippincott had made him quit smoking his pipe but disclosed that he managed to sneak occasional puffs without getting caught. [406]

     King never complained about the condition of quarters, the food he received, nor the amount of pay. He was delighted that the army provided his medical care, especially after he was sick for three months during the previous year and "had no doctor bill to pay or I would of been paying it yet." [407] King was appointed to the hospital corps in October 1887, when he was a private in Company H, Tenth Infantry. [408] For the most part he enjoyed the assignment. His least favorite task was working in the dispensary because, as he explained, "I have nothing to do, and I must set in the office the live long day - that is all I do." [409]

     King was busy at other times, for example when many soldiers of the garrison were sick and the hospital corps was reduced to himself. "I have all the patients to look after," he wrote, "and I assure you that they keep me busy." The long hours were unpleasant, and he declared, "I am so sleepy that I can hardly keep my eyes open. I am up part of ever night and all day but once and [in] a while I catch a snooze in the rocking chair when no one is looking at me." [410] Another time King noted that the hospital steward was gone and he "had his duty to do along with mine [and] it has given me plenty to do." [411] His own health must not have been good, for he wrote in the spring of 1890 that he had again "been sick for a long time." [412]

     Early in 1890 King mentioned that smallpox was in the area and Lippincott feared that it might strike the garrison. He wrote about the serious threat with a degree of humor, rather typical of the way many people discuss life-threatening topics.

     "We are expecting to have some fun here pretty soon with the Small-Pox. They are all around the Post and the Doctor is running around like an old woman, one would think the whole world was going to have it from the way he acts. And what makes me so out of sorts is that the old man wants me for his Orderly and I would rather have any other job then that, but he always takes me for any thing that comes along." [413]

     King, like everyone else who wrote from or about Fort Union, commented on the weather. In January 1889 he related that it was "very cold . . . so cold that I haft to stay in by the fire to keep warm, and the snow is 2 feet deep and has been for some time, and it wont get any warmer like it should." He was relieved two weeks later when he observed that "the snow is melting now and it is quite warm to day." [414] In March 1890 Private King, along with Corporal David Davis, Company H, Tenth Infantry, escorted Private Henry Courtney, Troop G, Sixth Cavalry, to the military hospital for the insane at Washington, D.C. King and Davis returned to Fort Union. [415] The last letter in the King collection was written in April 1890, one year before Fort Union was abandoned. In it King mentioned that he had requested a transfer to Fort Reno, Indian Territory. [416] Perhaps his request was granted, which would explain why he wrote no more from the post.

     Unfortunately only a few such records remained from the final years of Fort Union, possibly because so little happened that inspired journals or memoirs, but the information in this chapter elucidates the essence of social life among enlisted men and the officer class at the third Fort Union. During all the time that Fort Union was an active post, there were other important aspects to life and duty there. Several auxiliary departments (including the quartermaster and subsistence depots, the ordnance depot and arsenal, medical services, and judicial system) made possible the military activities and the way of life of the garrison. The purposes and records of those departments round out the essential history of Fort Union.


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