FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER NINE:
MILITARY SUPPLY & THE ECONOMY: QUARTERMASTER, COMMISSARY, AND ORDNANCE DEPARTMENTS (continued)

     Opportunities for employment at Fort Union increased when construction of the new department depot began in 1862 and continued until the third fort was completed in 1868. When more workers were needed in the spring of 1863, after a winter break in construction, the quartermaster department advertised for a dozen carpenters (at $50 per month) and fifty laborers (at $25 per month). [60] By April 1864 the quartermaster in charge of the project reported there were at work twenty carpenters (at $65 per month) and a hundred laborers (at $30 per month). In addition to construction workers, an increasing number of civilians were hired to handle the large volume of equipment and supplies flowing through the depot as well as the many other tasks connected with the quartermaster and commissary departments. In February 1863 there were 209 citizen workers with a total monthly payroll of $6,310. Civilians were also employed at the military post. In December 1863 the total number of hired workers at the post and depot was 389. In April 1864 the count at the depot was 419 civilian employees with a payroll of 15,570. [61]

Eliza St. Clair Sloan Mahoney
Eliza St. Clair Sloan Mahoney, mother of Marion Sloan Russell, cooked for an officers' mess at Fort Union in 1864. She requested the use of a stove from the quartermaster depot, but no record was found to Indicate if she received it.

     Among the employees there was a printer. Sometime during the Civil War, the quartermaster depot at Fort Union acquired a printing press. It was used to print forms and letter heads, and to publish circulars, orders, tables of distances, pamphlets, and other items. Carleton thought the press might be better used at department headquarters in Santa Fe, and suggested to the chief quartermaster that the press and paper be moved. [62] Colonel Enos must not have agreed with Carleton, for the press was still operating at the Fort Union depot several years later.

     The quartermaster department occasionally received requests from civilians to obtain equipment from the storehouse. In 1864 Eliza Mahoney, mother of Marion Sloan and the cook for an officers' mess at Fort Union, wrote to Chief Quartermaster McFerran about borrowing a stove from the department. She promised to use it "expressly for the use of the Officers Mess, my mess is large and I have but a very small Stove to cook by, which makes it very hard work and very inconvenient every way." She explained that Samuel Price, the storekeeper at the quartermaster warehouse, had told her "there are a great many stoves in the store room, and I thought I would take the liberty to write to the Col. to see if you were willing for me to borrow one for my mess during my stay here." She assured McFerran that she would return it "in as good condition as I would receive it." Price had offered to "go my security" if she could borrow the stove. [63] No record was found to indicate whether or not she received the stove, but her solicitation was worthy. McFerran did have more serious problems to occupy his time.

     In the spring of 1865 Chief Quartermaster McFerran was unable to hire the necessary skilled workers within the military department to fill the jobs available on the buildings being erected at the Fort Union Depot. He requested that a number of craftsmen, including carpenters, tinners, and plasterers, be sent from Fort Leavenworth to do the job, with the army providing transportation and an attractive salary ($85 per month, compared to the $65 paid to artisans already on the job). In addition, enlisted men who possessed the necessary skills were released from military duty and employed to work on the depot. While so engaged they received the same wages as civilian employees instead of their military pay. Soon after the craftsmen arrived from Fort Leavenworth, in September 1865, the employees already on the job objected to the gap between their pay and that of the new workers. The issue was resolved by raising their pay to the same level. [64]

     The number of civilians employed at the Fort Union Depot remained at a high level until construction of the third fort was completed. The following table shows the number and classification of the 596 civilian employees authorized for the depot in 1867.

Table 9
Civilian Employees Authorized at Fort Union Depot, 1867
[65]

PositionNumber PositionNumber
Clerks9Chief Carpenter1
Storekeeper1Carpenters34
Assistant Storekeeper1Blacksmiths10
Forage Master1Blacksmith's Strikers8
Master of Transportation1Wheelwrights5
Superintendent1Quarrymen6
Engineer1Stone Masons10
Wagon Masters10Bricklayers3
Assistant Wagon Masters12Chief Mason1
Tin Smiths4Masons24
Painters4Plasterers4
Saddlers3Brick Molders4
Yard Masters2Printer1
Watch men6Sail Maker1
Messenger1Foremen of Laborers3
Cooks20Chief Herder1
Packers3Assistant Chief Herder1
Expressmen3Herders15
Cooper1Hostlers5
Laborers155Teamsters220

     The number of civilians employed at the depot peaked in 1867 and declined as construction neared completion. In January 1868 there were 407 citizens on the payroll. The following month there were 396 receiving pay as follows: clerks, always the highest-paying position, received from $100 to $150 per month; skilled workers (carpenters, masons, tinners, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and saddlers) received $75 per month; and unskilled laborers (teamsters, herders, cooks, and manual laborers) received $35 per month. By June of that year, after the post was finished, the quantity of civilians employed had decreased to 265, apparently the number required for the many duties connected with the depot. [66] The need for civilian employees continued to decrease and by 1881, when the depot performed few functions, only eighteen workers remained, as shown in the following table.

Table 10
Civilian Employees & Salaries at Fort Union Depot, 1881
[67]

PositionNumberMonthly Salary
Clerk1$100.00
Storekeeper1100.00
Watch man130.00
Wagon Master160.00
Teamsters630.00
Herder130.00
Cook125.00
Machinist172.00
Blacksmith172.00
Assistant Blacksmith140.00
Wheelwright172.00
Saddler172.00
Painter172.00

     The amount of military funds paid to workers in the department had declined markedly since the bustling days of the Civil War era.

     The enlarged number of troops in New Mexico during the Civil War had, in addition to requiring more citizen workers, increased the amount of government funds expended in the department. The quartermaster department spent almost two million dollars per year by 1864, almost half of which went for livestock feed and forage. The subsistence department spent over one million dollars a year for foodstuffs, most of which went for beef and flour. Those amounts did not include the items imported over the Santa Fe Trail to Fort Union. With combined budgets in excess of three million dollars, the quartermaster and commissary departments produced far-reaching economic effects in New Mexican society. Darlis Miller found that military expenditures were "widely dispersed, further conditioning residents to the government's patronage and strengthening their economic ties to the military." [68] The amount expended for subsistence increased markedly during the period from 1864 to 1868 when the Navajos were held on their reservation at Bosque Redondo, administered by Fort Sumner. Over $400,000 was required to feed the defeated tribe in 1864. [69]

     During the Civil War, when there were shortages of cattle, the commissary department purchased sheep and replaced beef with mutton in some army rations. Juan Perea, wealthy Hispanic rancher near Bernalillo, supplied more than 3,000 sheep during 1863 and 1864. [70] Shortages of many other materials in the department were covered by importing from the East. At the same time, the army encouraged New Mexicans to increase the production of their farms and ranches. With a ready military market available, agricultural production was expanded during and after the Civil War. The army continued to provide the primary market for most commodities, and military contracts remained a significant component in the economy of the region.

     The importance of contracts for fresh beef and flour used by the army has been thoroughly documented. The army was also in the business of feeding Indians in New Mexico, and the contracts let for those provisions provided additional funds for the private sector. The Moache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches at Cimarron Agency were fed by contracts issued by the quartermaster and commissary departments of the army, rather than by arrangements of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Troops from Fort Union were stationed at Cimarron to oversee the issue of rations there and help maintain peace. The Indians and the troops were living on the extensive holdings of Lucien B. Maxwell who, in 1866-1867, held the contract to supply fresh beef and wheatmeal (ground at Maxwell's mill at Cimarron) for the Indians and fresh beef for the company of cavalry stationed there. [71] That contract, signed for the army by Captain Howard J. Farnsworth (Fort Union Depot quartermaster), had been awarded without public advertising or competitive bids. It provided for the issue of one-half pound of fresh beef and one-half pound wheatmeal per day for each Indian. The soldiers received twenty ounces of fresh beef per day. When Captain Charles McClure became chief commissary of subsistence officer in the department, he tabulated what his department had spent under that contract. His recommendations were to increase the daily ration to the Indians. Maxwell's contract was undoubtedly important to his enterprise. The actual amount he received is shown in the following table. [72]

Table 11
Amount Paid to L. B. Maxwell, 1866-1867,
for Contracted Provisions at Cimarron
[73]

DateNo. of
Indians
Fed
Beef
Issued
Lbs.
Wheatmeal
Issued
Lbs.
Cost to
U.S. for
Indians
Cost for
Beef for
Cav. Co
Total Amt
Paid to
Maxwell
Sept 18666509,750 9,750$1,560.00$115.36 $1,675.36
Oct 18666009,300 9,3001,488.00196.98 1,684.98
Nov 18661,40021,000 21,0003,360.0083.50 3,443.50
Dec 18661,20018,600 18,6002,976.00215.80 3,191.80
Jan 18671,20018,600 18,6002,976.00226.80 3,202.80
Feb 18671,30018,200 18,2002,872.00195.00 3,067.00
Mar 18671,30020,150 20,1503,184.00182.12 3,366.12
Apr 18671,35020,250 20,2503,240.00154.60 3,394.60
May 18671,35020,925 20,9252,929.50144.50 3,074.00
June 18671,35020,250 20,2502,835.00138.00 2,973.00
July 18671,35020,925 20,9252,929.50249.72 3,179.22
Aug 18671,39821,669 21,6693,033.66blank 3,033.66
Total Paid to L. B. Maxwell to date $33,383.66 $1,902.38 $35,286.04
Average amount paid L. B. Maxwell monthly $2,940.50

     Maxwell furnished approximately 600 head of cattle to fill that contract. The expansion of the cattle industry in New Mexico, the direct result of the stimulus provided by military purchases, was dramatic after 1870. There were few cattle left in New Mexico when the Civil War ended because the army had acquired all it possibly could while also importing cattle from other regions. In 1870 there were only 21,343 cattle in New Mexico Territory. The army was supplementing its purchases of local cattle with herds driven from Texas. In 1880, the year that the railroad reached Santa Fe, there were 137,314 cattle in the territory. By 1885 the number had increased to 543,705 head. [74] The large herds near Fort Union were encroaching on the post reservation by 1880, when livestock were found grazing on reserved grasslands, destroying fences at the post, and polluting the spring which supplied some of the water for the garrison. Post Commander Dudley faced the problem by having all stray cattle impounded and charging a fee for owners to reclaim them. [75]

     During and after the Civil War the army continued the practice of contracting for the herding and grazing of cattle and horses and for the care and feeding of livestock during winter months. The contractors provided herders, made sure the animals had access to water and good grass during the growing season, and provided forage during the cold season. William Krönig held the contract at Fort Union in 1866-1867 to care for cattle and horses on his large ranch along the Mora and Sapello rivers near the post. He was equipped to handle large numbers of livestock, with two flowing streams for water, excellent grasses, and four stone corrals. [76] He provided corn (at rate of $4.75 per hundred pounds) and hay (at $40.00 per ton) for the government animals. During the month of March he received approximately $8,900 from his contract, and the number of animals he cared for was not specified. [77] Lucien Maxwell at Cimarron and Vicente Romero at La Cueva also contracted to care for public animals. During the winter of 1867-1868 Romero provided feed and care for 400 to 700 head of livestock, receiving $1.78 per hundred for corn and $20.00 a ton for hay. [78]

     There were only a few contractors who cared for large government herds, thereby marketing some of the forage products of New Mexico. A larger number of individuals benefited from the army's need for forage and livestock care by serving as forage agents, who also provided fuel. These agents, appointed annually by the quartermaster department, were usually located along the major routes of travel. They provided hay for government draft animals and the horses of cavalrymen, officers, scouts, and couriers. The army depended on them to feed the animals of traveling parties so that forage would not have to be carried along or provided by government-operated supply stations along the way. In New Mexico the practice began before the Civil War and continued until 1882, although the number of agents decreased dramatically with the arrival of the railroads. Military leaders in the department considered the forage agencies essential to the service in New Mexico where long distances had to be traveled and a ready supply of livestock feed was rare. Because these agents were found throughout the military department, Darlis Miller concluded that "forage agencies symbolized the military's symbiotic relationship with the local populace." [79]

Lucien B. Maxwell
Lucien B. Maxwell.

     Forage agents were required to supply forage for livestock and wood for fuel at rates set by the quartermaster department. In 1875 the rates in the "Fort Union District" were $4.75 per hundred for corn, $35.00 per ton for hay, and $6.00 a cord for wood. The firewood was provided without remuneration for teamsters hauling army freight and military escorts up to a certain size (ten unmounted soldiers or twenty mounted troops).

     In addition they provided corrals for public animals at no charge. Army express riders received free meals. Quarters and meals were required for officers at "reasonable charges" to the individual, and similar accommodations could be made available to enlisted men and employees if they chose to pay for them. Otherwise soldiers and teamsters were provided a place to camp and cook. Agents were paid for such services as stabling horses for express riders, repairing wagons and other equipment, shoeing horses and mules, and storing public property. The agents also guarded government property, cared for ailing men and impaired animals, helped recover lost or stolen livestock and other public property, circulated advertisements for the quartermaster department, and whatever other assistance the army might require. [80]

     Agents were advised not to issue forage to any "unauthorized persons" or "to any enlisted man, wagon master or teamster, except upon a written or printed order signed or countersigned by a commissioned officer." Payment would not be made without properly-signed receipts and vouchers. The amount of government money an agent received depended entirely upon military traffic at a particular location, which varied from season to season. Some of them used the same facilities to provide stations for the stage and mail lines and to accommodate private travelers and freighters. Most agents supplemented their income by selling supplies and whisky to patrons. Several had ranching operations. It must have paid well to be appointed a forage agent because there was intense competition to receive the appointments. In order to secure or keep such a position some agents built fine corrals for livestock and quarters for travelers, harvested and stored quality hay and other forage, and assured a supply of clean water. Some agents were veterans who may have been rewarded by the quartermaster department's policy of employing former soldiers when possible. Several agents were women. There were few records of how any particular individual agent fared, but some concept of the total funds dispensed to agencies was revealed in the request of the chief quartermaster for the District of New Mexico for $49,000 to purchase forage and fuel from agents during the period from December 1, 1875, to June 30, 1876. [81]

     A number of agents were located in the area of Fort Union. William Krönig was the agent at Sapello. There is reason to believe that the large stone corral located beside the route of the Santa Fe Trail near the Sapello River southwest of present Watrous, New Mexico, commonly known as the "Fort Union Corral," was probably the site of Krönig's forage agency. He reportedly had four stone corrals when he held the contract to care for cattle and horses, 1866-1867. [82] The following table lists the agents in the region in the 1875.

Table 12
Forage Agents in Fort Union District, 1875
[83]

Forage AgentLocation
Francisco LopezStone Ranch, New Mexico
W. G. RifenbergTrinidad, Colorado Territory
Jas. E. WhitmoreGallinas Springs, New Mexico
A. J. CalhounOcate, New Mexico
Wm. KrönigSapello, New Mexico
Jno. L TaylorApache Springs, New Mexico
R. L WoottonRaton Pass, Colorado Territory
Roman LopezSan Jose, New Mexico
M. HeckSweetwater, New Mexico
J. O. DimmockDimmock's Ranche, Colorado Territory
J. A. FosterApishapa, Colorado Territory
Fred WalsenWalsenberg, Colorado Territory
John OdamConchas Station, New Mexico
H. E. BlattmanLas Garces, New Mexico
W. R. MorleyCimarron, New Mexico
Chas. IlfeldTecolote, New Mexico
T. F. ChapmanLas Vegas, New Mexico
Jno. G. SelfCucharas, Colorado Territory
T. MelocheVermejo, New Mexico
E. T. MezickRed River, New Mexico
Chas G. BurbankChico Springs, New Mexico
C. H. BartlettWillow Springs, New Mexico
Tracy McCleavyLa Garita, New Mexico
A. W. JohnsonButte Valley, Colorado Territory
Geo. W. GreggOlgin Hill & Alamacita, New Mexico
B. ChandlerRock Crossing Red River, New Mexico
O. K. ChittendenChittenden's Ranch, New Mexico
Benson & SlateBent's Cañon, Colorado Territory
Thos. L. JohnsonJohnson's Ranche, New Mexico
Jas. T. Johnson & Bro.Cherry Valley & Canon Largo, New Mexico

     Forage agents and other government contractors and employees benefited from the military expenditures in New Mexico. The army was a key factor in the economy of the region from the late 1840s to the 1880s. There were, however, hazards for an economy that was largely dependent upon a single customer. When the number of troops in New Mexico was reduced after the Civil War, the military budget decreased and, with that, the demand for what New Mexicans produced declined. For example, the total budget for the army in New Mexico was $4,433,884 for fiscal 1865, and it declined to $2,779,294 for fiscal 1867. [84] The result, naturally, was a reduction of prices for items in ample supply. Competition became rigorous and some contractors suffered losses. For instance, in 1876 Joseph B. Collier, who farmed in Mora County, offered to deliver more than a million pounds of corn to the Fort Union Depot for only seventy-nine cents per hundredweight. That was less than half the price of any corn contract in the preceding three years. Collier won the contract but was unable to fulfill the terms at that price. He delivered almost 90% of the corn promised, apparently at considerable financial loss, and was released from responsibility for the remainder because of his losses and the fact that Fort Union had a sufficient stock of corn to last until new contracts were negotiated. [85]

Quarters and offices of Quartermaster and Commissary Depot
Quarters and offices of Quartermaster and Commissary Depot at Fort Union, 1876. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     The bidding for the hay contract at Fort Union became so competitive in 1874 that the leading producers and contractors combined to fix prices and refused to sell hay to anyone who underbid them. The contract for hay went to H. V. Harris for $18.50 per ton, but the "combination" (including John Dent, John Pendaries, M. Rudolph, J. B. Watrous, W. B. Tipton, Charles Williams, Charles Fraker, F. J. Ames, S. Valdez, and Fernando Nolan) had agreed to sell no hay for less than $19.50 per ton. Harris was forced to request release from the agreement because he was unable to find hay at the price he had bid. The quartermaster department opposed the "combination" but refused to release Harris from his contract because it might destroy the system of competitive bidding. Harris, unable to find the hay he had promised, let a subcontract for $18.50 per ton to Samuel Kayser of Las Vegas (who apparently had hay and was not a party of the "combination"). The army contracted with Kayser for additional hay, frustrating the plans of the "combination." Competition defeated those trying to fix prices, and in 1875 Trinidad Romero contracted to furnish hay at $13.90 per ton. J. B. Watrous, a member of the "combination" the previous year, offered 100 tons for only $12.00 per ton. [86] Competitive bidding continued to be the primary method of obtaining supplies in New Mexico.

     The variety of commodities furnished the Fort Union Depot may be seen in the following table of contracts let in 1875.

Table 13
Contracts at Fort Union Depot, 1875
[87]

ContractorProduct QuantityPrice
J. B. WassonCharcoal1,000 bushels$0.175 per bushel
G. W. GreggCharcoal1,000 bushels0.175 per bushel
R. RomeroFirewood1,300 cords5.625 per cord
Trinidad RomeroHay900 tons13.90 per ton
Joseph B. WatrousHay100 tons12.00 per ton
R. RomeroBran50,000 pounds0.95 per hundredweight
Trinidad RomeroCorn740,000 pounds1.83 per hundredweight
Willi SpiegelbergCorn300,000 pounds1.79 per hundredweight
Willi SpiegelbergCorn200,000 pounds1.83 per hundredweight
Charles IlfeldCorn200,000 pounds1.71 per hundredweight
May HaysCorn200,000 pounds1.75 per hundredweight
G. W. GreggCorn250,000 pounds1.82 per hundredweight
May HaysOats50,000 pounds2.25 per hundredweight
Joseph B. WatrousOats60,000 pounds2.50 per hundredweight

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