Historic Resource Study
After the railroad (treated below with transportation developments in New Mexico) built into Colorado in the 1870s, and especially after it reached New Mexico in 1879, the army found that it was usually less expensive to import quartermaster and subsistence stores, mostly from Kansas but also other places for some items, than to purchase them in New Mexico. The result was a dramatic reduction in contracts for New Mexican products, including flour,  forage, beans, fuel, and salt. The railroad, it should be noted, brought positive changes to the New Mexican economy, too. The decrease in transportation costs reduced the prices of imported commodities to all consumers. The railroad also provided cheap transportation for New Mexican products shipped to distant markets. A major beneficiary was the cattle industry. The importance of the military market continued to decline in New Mexico and virtually ceased to exist when all military posts in the territory except one were closed by the early 1890s. Until that time, however, the army continued to be a factor, for good or ill, in the territorial economy. It affected workers as well as contractors of supplies.
The number of civilian employees also declined after the Civil War, as noted above, but the army remained the major employer in the territory well into the 1870s. Darlis Miller concluded: "For many western men the military must have provided a certain amount of psychological security. If no better offer came along, they could always find a job driving teams or mixing adobe at an isolated military fort."  After the Civil War the army gave preference to former soldiers when it hired citizens. The availability of civilian jobs, however, continued to decrease as Congress, as it had before the war, curtailed the military budget during almost constant campaigns to economize.
|Depot quartermaster office, Fort Union, 1866. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88008, courtesy National Archives.|
On July 1, 1869, the total number of civilian employees in the nation's quartermaster department was slashed by more than half, from 10,494 to 4,000. Of those 4,000 the District of New Mexico was allotted 153, of whom 96 were assigned to the Fort Union Depot (35% of the 265 positions at the depot just one year before). Employees in the subsistence department were reduced at the same time. The commissary department in the district was permitted a total of fourteen civilian workers after July 1, 1869, of whom twelve were allocated to the Fort Union Depot.  Congress also reduced the wages of civilians employed by the army. Skilled workers were paid $2.20 per day; unskilled workers were paid $24 per month; and teamsters were paid according to where they were employed ($25 per month with wagon trains and $30 at the depot). Congress had also established an eight-hour day for citizen workers. 
Although the pay for civilian employees was still considered good in comparison to other available jobs in the region, the security of those positions remained tenuous. In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, stationed at Fort Union, noted that about 200 laborers and mechanics were employed at the depot. He was concerned when, as he stated, "for some cause about fifty or seventy five are to be discharged today." The young soldier expressed rare compassion for their situation, declaring he did not "know what they will do, there is nothing else around here for them to do." He doubted that many of them had "money enough to take them to the Rail Road." In comparison to the lot of such unemployed citizens, Matthews declared, "a Soldier's life at the most is a very rough one, but is much preferable to me. . . . Those employed by the Government do very well, as long as they can keep their situation, but when they loose that, they have it very rough." 
|Interior street at Fort Union Depot, no date, with teamster and employee quarters on the left and storehouses on the right. The depot corrals are left of the quarters. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87999, courtesy National Archives.|
In February 1874 the entire quartermaster department had to make drastic reductions of civilian employees to keep within its budget. Lieutenant Colonel Fred Myers, chief quartermaster in the District of New Mexico, was forced to reduce the monthly payroll for civilians in the district from $5,789 to $1,455 until the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, 1874. That meant nearly three-fourths of the 109 employees in the district, most of whom were at the Fort Union Depot, had to be discharged.  In April 1874 Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, explained that all the civilian employees had been discharged at Fort Union and, in their place, all the infantrymen stationed at the post were on extra-duty in the quartermasters department.  Presumably many of the civilian positions were filled again after July 1. The transportation corral at the depot was destroyed by fire on June 27, 1874. Because employees were not available to build a replacement a contract was let to William Hoberg of Cherry Valley in October 1874 to make adobe bricks and build the new corral and associated buildings. A total of $3,000 that had been appropriated to repair quarters at Fort Union was diverted to the corral project. Hoberg employed "about fifty men" who turned out "nearly ten thousand adobes per day." 
|View between two Fort Union Depot storehouses, probably in 1866, with the depot quartermaster office In background. The storehouse on the right was nearing completion; note scaffold, bucket, and trowel. It was the only large storehouse with a gable-style, shingled roof. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87992, courtesy National Archives.|
More than 50,000 bricks had been laid when the work was interrupted by winter weather. Hoberg was financially strapped and requested to be paid for what he had done so he could hire workers to complete the job the following spring. The quartermaster department refused to pay until the contract was fulfilled and requested that Hoberg post bond to cover the project. Hoberg refused but promised he would finish the job. The post sutler, J. C. Dent, loaned Hoberg sufficient funds in 1875 to complete the corral wall and buildings. Dent also offered to post bond and oversee the completion of the project. The contract was transferred to Dent and extended to September 30, 1875, but was not completed by that date. Dent received another extension to complete the work in the spring of 1876. The adobe structures were finished in 1876, but Hobert and Dent both lost money on the contract. 
In 1877, as the military budget was squeezed ever tighter, the quartermaster department again reduced the number of civilian employees. Some men who had been employed by the army in New Mexico for many years were terminated. In March 1878 Samuel Price, a watchman at Fort Union Depot, was discharged. Price, age 62, had enlisted in the army in 1836 and served more than twenty years as a soldier. From 1862 to 1878 he was employed at the depot where he filled a variety of positions, including storekeeper, superintendent of the wood yard, and watchman. Colonel Edward Hatch, district commander, requested permission to keep Price on the job because of his "long and faithful service." The request was denied because the district would not be permitted to exceed its appropriation. 
|Another view between storehouses, with the gable-roof building under construction on the left, about 1866. Note the scaffold, small area to which exterior plaster has been applied, office in background, and freight wagons in the distance at left of office. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87989, courtesy National Archives.|
Many officers in addition to Hatch objected to the cuts in hired labor because, as always, enlisted men had to be assigned to the vacated positions. Soldiers with needed skills were not always available and extra-duty assignments took them away from military assignments. Using enlisted men as laborers rather than soldiers undermined morale and contributed to desertion. Brigadier General John Pope stated the problem succinctly in 1877 when he declared that the nation's military posts were "garrisoned by enlisted laborers rather than soldiers."  Such complaints, however, were negated because extra-duty pay was cheaper than hiring civilians. Soldiers who performed skilled labor received thirty-five cents a day (if assigned to the task for more than ten days) until 1884 and fifty cents a day thereafter. Soldiers who performed unskilled labor received twenty cents per day until 1884 and thirty-five cents per day afterward. 
|Fort Union Depot transportation corral during construction, about 1888, including sheds, corn cribs, stables, and hay yard in left background. U.S. Signal Corps Photo, courtesy National Archives|
A few times, in efforts to economize, the military budget was so deficient that the number of soldiers assigned to extra-duty labor in the quartermaster department was reduced. In 1874 the entire quartermaster department, in order to keep from exceeding the funds appropriated and in addition to reducing the number of civilian employees as noted above, released all enlisted men from extra-duty assignments except for a few critical positions (mostly clerks). In 1876 and 1883 the District of New Mexico was again compelled to discharge, temporarily, enlisted men from extra-duty except for a few clerks.  The system of extra-duty pay was sometimes abused because of the rule requiring an enlisted man to be assigned to an extra-duty task for ten or more days to receive the pay. When soldiers were assigned to extra-duty for less than ten days they were not paid for the labor. That saved the army money but increased soldiers' grievances. The necessary reforms and appropriations to resolve the problem were not enacted until after Fort Union was abandoned. Civilian employees were utilized until the end.
Darlis Miller thoroughly studied the employment of civilians by the army in the Southwest during and after the Civil War. She found that employees with lengthy tenure, such as Samuel Price, were the exception rather than the rule and that there was generally a "rapid turnover." In 1870, at the Fort Union Depot, for example, twenty-four of the thirty-seven teamsters employed had been on the job less than six months and only five had been there more than two years. Most of the employees of the quartermaster department in the District of New Mexico in 1870 were Anglos, with less than 20% being Hispanos. There were seventeen Hispanos employed at the depot: one cook, one laborer, two herders, and thirteen teamsters. They received the same wages as their Anglo counterparts. All the skilled positions, however, were held by Anglos. Only a few black workers were identified. 
|Another section of transportation corrals at the depot, late 1880s. U.S. Signal Corps Photo, courtesy National Archives.|
All civilian employees were expected to abide by military standards of behavior and were subject to discharge if they disobeyed army regulations. Miller found that "the major cause for dismissal was drunkenness, but other causes included theft, disobedience of orders, general worthlessness, mistreatment of animals, and contributing to riots." While the army was "quick to discipline," it was generally slow in paying civilian workers. Some workers "often waited months for their pay." In December 1872 the teamsters at Fort Union, who had not been paid for "several months," had to beg for financial aid to purchase clothing for the winter months. 
After Congress established an eight-hour day in 1868, there was confusion at Fort Union over the implementation of the new rule. In October 1868 the employees at the quartermaster depot were working eight hours a day while the employees at the nearby arsenal were working ten hours each day, and the workers at both places received the same daily pay.  After a rumor circulated that the depot employees would be paid less for working only eight hours, they petitioned to work ten hours to avoid a cut in wages.  Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs did not approve, stating that the eight-hour day was "fixed by law." He instructed the depot quartermaster to "pay no more wages for a day's work than may be necessary to secure the services of good workmen. . . . If at Fort Union men can be hired at lower rates it is the duty of the officer to take advantage of these lower rates." At the same time, however, he refused to approve a reduction in pay for those who had converted from a ten- to an eight-hour workday. "It is not for the officers of the U.S.," Meigs concluded, "to so apply it as to convert a gift into a punishment." 
|Depot transportation corral, 1876. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.|
A general reduction in pay for quartermaster employees was effected the following year, based on the eight-hour day, and employees who were required to work overtime were to receive additional compensation. Effective April 1, 1869, throughout the Department of the Missouri, which included the District of New Mexico, all "workshops and places of labor" were to "be open ten (10) hours each day, except Sundays. All civil employees who choose may work that number of hours, and will be paid for over-work at the same rate as for the legal day's labor of eight hours." Despite the eight-hour law, most civilian employees usually worked ten hours per day. In addition, the army never applied the eight-hour law to citizens employed by the month, such as clerks, herders, and teamsters. 
The army had effectively circumvented the intention of Congress to establish an eight-hour day for government employees. Most employees were opposed to it, too, if it meant a reduction in pay. Periodically Congress or the president attempted to bring the army into compliance, without success until 1872-1873. On September 11, 1872, all shops in the Department of the Missouri were ordered to be open only eight hours per day with no extra time or additional pay available. The workers still feared a reduction in pay, since they had been working ten hours each day. To allay their concerns, in March 1873 all civilian workers in the department were to receive the same pay for an eight-hour day as they had previously received for a ten-hour day, plus additional compensation for overtime.  Basically the change amounted to a raise in pay. The amount of overtime available was unknown. The situation changed and confusion returned in 1877 after the Supreme Court ruled that the eight-hour law did not prevent the army from making contracts with workers which established a workday longer than eight hours. Within a few months the quartermaster department set the official workday at ten hours at the same wages employees had been receiving for working eight hours (a pay reduction). There the matter stood so long as the Fort Union depot remained active. 
|Depot machine shop, at right, and lumber yard, no date. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88011, courtesy National Archives.|
The operation of the Fort Union Depot and the supply of troops throughout New Mexico was closely connected with and affected by developments in transportation. The bulk of equipment and supplies continued to come over the Santa Fe Trail, which was slowly replaced by the railroad, and were then distributed to other posts from the depot. As noted above, contract freighting had replaced most army freighting by the time of the Civil War. During and after the war the quartermaster department provided some transportation, keeping wagons and draft animals at the depot and military posts to haul some supplies and local items (fuel, water, forage, and camp equipage). Troops on field duty were usually accompanied by army wagons, although contract freighters were frequently required for lengthy campaigns. The depot used its transportation to augment freight contractors in distributing materials in the district.
After the Civil War much of the traffic on the Santa Fe Trail, including the shipment of military supplies and the movement of troops and quartermaster wagons, followed the Raton Pass Route (later known as the Mountain Route). Wagon traffic over the difficult Raton Pass became easier after Richens Lacy (Uncle Dick) Wootton completed a toll road there in 1865. In addition to cutting grades, Wootton had constructed bridges in the narrow valley on each side of the pass in which wagons had to shift from one side to the other of the rock-strewn streams. Eveline Alexander traveled Wootton's toll road in 1867 and reported that it crossed the streams a total of fifty-seven times.  The quartermaster department agreed to pay Wootton quarterly for military uses of his toll road. As was frequently the case with all its contractors, the quartermaster department was slow in making payments. In the spring of 1875 Wootton notified the Fort Union Depot quartermaster that, if overdue payments were not made by May 1, he would require cash payment before military personnel or wagons could use his road.  The railroad later built over Raton Pass. The quartermaster department continued to distribute supplies.
|Mechanic repair shops at Fort Union Depot under construction, about 1866. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88000, courtesy National Archives.|
The depot at Fort Union had approximately 250 six-mule teams and wagons in 1867. The number of wagons and mules decreased at the depot as more and more freight was consigned to civilian contractors. Periodically the quartermaster department sold surplus equipment and livestock at public auction, usually at moderate prices to civilians in the area. A soldier in the Fort Union garrison, Private Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, noted in the summer of 1870 that "there is quite a large Sale here today, selling off two or three hundred mules, wagons &c. Some very nice Stock among them."  In 1872 the depot had about 130 wagons and just over 300 mules.  The primary goal of the army was to reduce the costs of transportation, something that was achieved with the building of the railroads. As the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (later the Kansas Pacific Railroad) built westward across Kansas after the Civil War, the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail moved closer to New Mexico. In 1866 wagon trains departed from Junction City, Kansas, and the following year they loaded at Hays, Kansas. The farther military supplies could be carried by rail, the cheaper the remaining wagon trip to New Mexico became. In 1868 the wagons loaded at Sheridan, Kansas, and the following year at Kit Carson, Colorado Territory. The Kansas Pacific reached Denver in 1870. In 1872 the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad connected Denver with Pueblo, Colorado Territory. Wagons were loaded at Pueblo for shipment to New Mexico. Later the Denver and Rio Grande reached El Moro, five miles north of Trinidad, Colorado Territory. In the 1870s the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built along the old Santa Fe Trail, shortening the wagon road with the completion of each section. In succession, wagons were loaded at Granada, West Las Animas, La Junta, and Trinidad. In 1879 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe was completed over Raton Pass and reached Watrous (formerly La Junta, the closest railroad station to Fort Union) and Las Vegas. In 1880 it reached Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Trail ceased to function as an overland route of supply. Wagon trains were still required for the distribution of military supplies into areas not served by rail.
|Interior area of mechanic repair shops, commonly known as the mechanics' corral, about 1870. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88010, courtesy National Archives.|
Throughout the years of Civil War and the time the railroads were building toward and into New Mexico, contract freighters carried military supplies in wagon trains to Fort Union Depot and other posts. Irwin, Jackman and Co., which replaced Russell, Majors and Waddell as the contractor for freight shipped from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico on the eve of the Civil War, dominated that route during most of the war. Other contractors who entered the business included Andrew Stewart of Steubenville, Ohio, in 1864 (rate of $1.97 per hundred pounds per hundred miles) and William S. Shewsbury of Council Grove, Kansas, in 1865 (rate of $2.05 per hundred pounds per hundred miles). In the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865, Quartermaster General Meigs reported that his department paid $1,439,578 to contractors transporting supplies to and within New Mexico Territory. 
|Depot mechanics' corral, 1876. The steam engine was housed in the building at the right. Note fire-fighting equipment in center of photo. U.S. Signals Corps Photo No. 88018, courtesy National Archives.|
Freight costs decreased in 1866, partly because the railroad shortened the distance wagons had to travel to reach Fort Union, and partly because competitive bidding reduced the rates. George W. Howe of Atchison, Kansas, held the contract in 1866 at the rate of $1.38 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Other savings were made by reducing waste of commissary provisions through better packing and reducing theft along the route. Freight rates also continued to decrease. In 1867 John E. Reeside of Maryland was awarded the contract to carry freight from the railroad in Kansas to Fort Union for $1.28 per hundred pounds per hundred miles between April and September and for $2.34 during the remainder of the year. Reeside failed to fulfill his contract, however, and Richard Kitchen of Leavenworth County, Kansas, received a special contract to carry some of the freight for $1.45 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Later in 1867 Kitchen and a partner, Henry S. Bulkley, agreed to deliver additional freight to Fort Union at a rate of $2.165. Rates varied only slightly in the next few years. Percival G. Lowe, who had earlier been at Fort Union as a soldier, held the contract in 1868. 
While the contracts to ship military freight to New Mexico were usually awarded to residents living in the states, the contracts for distributing supplies within New Mexico were awarded to people in the territory. In 1864, for example, Epifanio Aguirre received a contract to deliver five million pounds within the department at $2.00 per hundred pounds per hundred miles during spring and summer months and $2.25 during other times of the year.  A Santa Fe newspaper declared that Aguirre was "the first large Mexican contractor" in New Mexico.  Darlis Miller explained that Aguirre was "a good example of the Hispanic capitalist who tapped into the military's reservoir of federal dollars."  In 1865 the contract to distribute supplies from Fort Union Depot was awarded to the Fort Union post sutler, William H. Moore. Another New Mexican who carried freight for the quartermaster department during the late 1860s was Vicente Romero of La Cueva. 
Alexander Grzelachowski, the Polish priest who helped guide Chivington's battalion at Glorieta Pass in 1862 and had later become a merchant at Las Vegas, received the contract to distribute supplies from Fort Union Depot in 1870 at the rate of $1.235 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Grzelachowski subcontracted most of the hauling to Hispanos. Moore secured the contract in 1871 at a rate of $1.00 during spring and summer and $1.25 during fall and winter.  The amount of freight distributed from Fort Union decreased after 1870 because most supplies were often transported directly from the railroad to the posts for which they were intended.
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