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

     In 1870 Brigadier General Pope, commanding the Department of the Missouri, recommended that the Fort Union Depot be closed and that military supplies be shipped directly to their ultimate destination. Not only would that be more convenient, it would save money. [120] Pope had earlier communicated the same suggestions to District of New Mexico Commander Getty, who wrote a detailed justification of the depot. The following excerpts from Getty's defense provide insight into the functions of the depot as well as his reasons for keeping it open.

     "In regard to the advisability of breaking up the Depot at Fort Union, I believe, that aside from the necessity for it in case of emergency, its being abolished would result in a great additional expense to the United States. The principal objection to shipping supplies direct to posts, is the want of facilities at most posts for the proper storage of such large amounts as would of necessity have to be brought to each post in order to meet all possible demands. At the Depot there are excellent Storehouses, where supplies can be kept for years if need be, without danger of loss by exposure, deterioration or otherwise, and I am assured that the expense of maintaining the Depot is far below the probable losses which would be incurred from want of proper care of stores at the different posts."

     "The cost of reshipping stores at Depot, is I think, more than covered by the difference in price of freight. Freight within the Territory, at present, is six cents less, per hundred pounds per hundred miles, than from the terminus of the Rail-Road to the Depot. It is necessary to have in the District a herd of mules, and there is no post where they can be kept as safely and cheaply as at the Depot. . . ."

     "Unserviceable stores of all kinds are sent to the Depot and exchanged for serviceable. The former are for the most part sold, and bring better prices at Fort Union than at any other point in the District."

     "The advantage of the Depot, indeed its absolute necessity, where cooperation or independent action in the field on the part of the troops is called for, (as quite recently in Colonel Evans expedition on the Canadian River [Winter Campaign, 1868-18691) - is so obvious that I deem it unnecessary to further ask your attention to it."

     "In this Territory where Indian hostilities are frequent, and occur in different quarters, at different times, it is difficult to make any garrison a permanent one. A post with Infantry today may need Cavalry tomorrow, and that at a time when, without a Depot, the Cavalry would find a years supply of Infantry equipments on hand at its new station. Supplies can now be drawn from Depot whenever wanted, involving little inconvenience or expense."

     "If the Depot at Fort Union is not kept up, many more animals must be kept at the posts, as it would be long before they could be got out from the States to supply losses, and make up for those temporarily disabled."

     "There are fine cellars at Union Depot where many articles of perishable Subsistence Stores can be kept, and nothing of the kind at other posts. Few, or none of the posts have sufficient Storeroom for a years supply. If the Depot is broken up, Storerooms must be built at considerable expense, which are not necessary under the present system."

     "A large proportion of the Stores are sent from Depot to the several posts by Government teams, and the number of these teams cannot be reduced much, as they are required for emergencies. They can frequently, while at Depot be used for delivery of supplies which, were the Depot broken up, must all be delivered by contract teams."

     "At many of the posts, particularly the southern ones, supplies deteriorate so rapidly, that if the system of annual instead of semi-annual supply is adopted, the loss would be far greater than it is now, as these same things can be kept without deterioration in the cooler climate at the Depot." [121]

     Getty invited Pope to come and see the Depot for himself. Getty's pleas may have induced Pope not to break up the depot immediately, but it was only a matter of time until the railroad would make it obsolete.

     The contractor for delivery of freight from the railroad to the District of New Mexico in 1871 was Eugene B. Allen of Leavenworth City, Kansas. He delivered most supplies directly to posts in the district and, in addition, roved supplies remaining at Fort Union to other posts. Some items were stored at Fort Union Depot because the storehouses at some of the posts were inadequate for large shipments. The depot also received the supplies used by the post at Fort Union. Slowly, however, the depot fell into disuse. [122] In 1876 Major Edward R. Platt, assistant adjutant general in the Department of the Missouri, declared that "Fort Union is now nearly valueless as a depot of supply for the District of New Mexico, almost all the stores for the District being shipped hence direct to the New Mexican posts." [123]

     For some unknown reason, beginning later in 1876, the quartermaster department reverted to its former ways and shipped all supplies to Fort Union Depot from where they were distributed to the other posts. A year later, in 1877, the shipments from the railroad were again sent directly to the posts in the district and the depot was virtually phased out by the time the railroad reached Watrous. From 1871 until the railroad was completed to Watrous and Las Vegas in 1879, most freighting contracts were awarded to freighters in Kansas, including Allen, Henry C. Lovell, and Edward Fenlon. In 1875-1876 Jacob Gross of Granada, Colorado Territory, received the contract to freight military supplies from the railroad to various posts in New Mexico. In 1876-1877 Gross held the contract for freight from El Moro to Fort Union. In 1878 F. F. Struby of Garland, Colorado, received the contract to deliver directly to the various posts. [124] Throughout the 1870s most freight wagons were drawn by oxen. Captain Charles P. Eagan, chief commissary officer in the district in 1875, observed that 90% of the subsistence stores were brought to the posts in New Mexico by ox trains. [125]

Chick, Browne & Co.
Chick, Browne & Co., Las Vegas, New Mexico, early 1880s. This was a major forwarding and commission business that helped direct and deliver military freight to Fort Union and other posts. Courtesy University of New Mexico Library, Albuquerque.

     The various contractors engaged the services of forwarding and commission houses to supervise their arrangements at the places where freight was transferred from the railroad to wagon trains. The major enterprises providing those services were Otero, Sellar and Company and Chick, Browne and Company. Marcus Brunswick and Eugenio Romero of Las Vegas also served as agents for some contractors. Each commission house required the services of many clerks. Sometimes they had an agent at Fort Union and other posts to oversee the proper distribution of freight. When necessary, they hired the services of local freighters to help transport government stores. Brunswick and Romero were also engaged in freighting in New Mexico. [126]

     In 1874 Eugenio Romero and his brother, Trinidad, contracted with the quartermaster department to provide a train of twenty-four six-mule wagons at the rate of $10 per wagon per day to carry the supplies for the troops sent from New Mexico under Major William R. Price, Eighth Cavalry, to participate in the Red River War. The fee of $10 per wagon each day seemed reasonable. The only other offer, by a Mr. Baca, was for $12 per wagon per day. The Romero brothers had to pay and supply their teamsters, herders, and other employees, plus the fact there was considerable wear and tear on the wagons and mules. By the time the campaign ended, the wagon train had been in the field from August 27 to December 15, 1874, more than 100 days, and the army owed the Romero brothers $25,730. Although several officers praised the services of their wagon train (Lieutenant John H. Mahnken testified that it "was the most efficient of any in the campaign" and Captain Gilbert C. Smith, quartermaster department, stated that no other "equal amount of transportation could at that time be had for less money"), other officers considered the fee to be excessive and pointed out the army could have bought a wagon train for the amount due. After an investigation the Romero brothers were paid. During 1876-1877, when military supplies were again concentrated at Fort Union Depot for distribution, Trinidad Romero received the contract to deliver stores to the other posts. He was paid a fixed rate per hundred pounds to each post, depending on the distance from Fort Union. [127]

Post trader's store
Post trader's store at Fort Union, probably late 1860s. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87966, courtesy National Archives.

     When it became clear that the railroad would soon build into New Mexico, plans were made to close the Fort Union Depot. In February 1878 Captain Amos W. Kimball, depot quartermaster, was informed that District Commander Hatch had been "directed to as rapidly as possible reduce the Q.M. Depot at Union to a mere place where repairing which cannot be done readily at posts, may be made to transportation and where good grazing may be had to recuperate animals." Any "goods in depot" were "to be shipped to posts as will need them." The "balance, if any, may be retained for issue at Union." Civilian employees "not absolutely required" were "to be at once discharged, and expenses kept down to as low a point as possible." [128] By 1879 the railroad superseded the army in the amount of business conducted in New Mexico. Within a few years most posts in New Mexico were within twelve miles of a railroad (Fort Stanton was an exception, 118 miles from a railroad). Contractors transported commodities from the railroads to the posts. In 1885-1886 Ferdinand Schmidt of Mora County hauled supplies between Watrous and Fort Union for eleven cents per hundred pounds. Almost all military supplies were imported and only a few items, mainly beef, were purchased within the district. [129] The contractors continued to make money from the army but not much of it benefited the rest of the people in New Mexico.

     Even after the quartermaster depot ceased to operate as a warehouse and transportation center for the region, the post at Fort Union still had to be supplied. The quartermaster continued to contract for fuel and forage even though most of these products were imported by rail. In 1888 the following contracts were awarded:

Table 14
Contracts at Fort Union, 1888
[130]

ContractorProduct QuantityPrice
Conger & WoodburyFirewood2,000 cords$2.38 per cord
Conger & WoodburyCoal550 tons6.10 per ton
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.18 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.23 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.28 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyOats50,000 pounds1.20 per hundredweight
Ferdinand SchmidtOats75,000 pounds1.30 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyBran10,000 pounds1.18 per hundredweight
R. P. StrongBran10,000 pounds$1.15 per hundredweight
W. P. StrongMeadow Hay1,000 tons$8.40 per ton
W. P. StrongBaled Hay1,000 tons$10.80 per ton
Ferdinand SchmidtBottom Hay250 tons$8.80 per ton
Ferdinand SchmidtBaled Hay250 tons$11.00 per ton
H. D. ReinkenStraw100 tons$7.20 per ton
H. D. ReinkenCharcoal180 bushels$0.40 per bushel

     The quartermaster depot continued to perform other functions. A vital part of the quartermaster department at Fort Union Depot was a collection of repair shops, including blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, saddlers, and laborers who repaired all types of equipment, especially transportation equipment, for the entire military department or district (some horse equipment was also repaired at the ordnance depot and arsenal). Wagons and other conveyances could be completely rebuilt at the shops, if necessary, and harnesses, ox bows, chains, saddles, pack frames, and all other gear connected with transportation were repaired. [131] The shops also made repairs for buildings, stables, and corrals, manufactured furnishings for quarters and offices as well as storehouses and shops, fabricated windows and doors, and kept all types of machinery in running order. Draft animals and, sometimes, cavalry horses were shod at the repair shops even though cavalry regiments typically had their own farriers. The shops usually employed a number of civilians. Even after the supply depot was closed, except for storage of provisions for Fort Union, the repair shops continued to operate until a short time before Fort Union was abandoned.

Fort Union post trader's store
Fort Union post trader's store operated by Conger and Woodbury, 1880s. Photo Collection, Fort Union, courtesy Museum of New Mexico.

     Fort Union, unlike most other military posts, had a unique situation with the presence of quartermaster and subsistence departments (and also the ordnance department) for the larger department or district located on the same reservation. The depot quartermaster and commissary officers were not under the jurisdiction of the post commander, except when they also served as post quartermaster or commissary officer simultaneously (during most years the depot and post quartermaster were the same person; that was also true of the depot and post subsistence officers) but were directly under the department or district commander and the chief quartermaster and commissary of subsistence at the department or district headquarters in Santa Fe. When the same person held the department and post position, the post commander's authority was limited to only the post duty.

     Because the duties of the quartermaster and subsistence officers were similar, they were able to substitute for each other temporarily without difficulty. There were times, especially at the post rather than the depot, when the quartermaster and subsistence offices were assigned jointly to one officer. Much of the work in the post quartermaster and subsistence offices was performed under the direction of a quartermaster sergeant and commissary sergeant (office created in 1873). From 1875 on, the offices of depot quartermaster and commissary officer were combined into one. During the summer of 1875 Lieutenant John Lafferty, depot commissary officer, vacated that position and the depot quartermaster, Captain Amos S. Kimball, added subsistence duties to his responsibilities. Kimball was also the post quartermaster and subsistence officer. Given the variety of arrangements, it was probable that confusion and, periodically, conflict would result.

     It was natural that post commanders and other officers at the garrison expected the depot to provide for the post because of proximity. The department commanders and chief quartermaster and commissary officers held the position that the depot was no more under the authority of the post at Fort Union than any other military post in the department. It was equally natural that depot officers felt independent from the garrison command. Problems arose over such issues as enforcing post orders at the depot, assigning depot officers to post duties such as boards of survey and courts-martial (as noted above), assigning garrison soldiers to guard duty at the depot, storing post property in depot facilities, determining how quartermaster mules and wagons were to be allocated between the post and depot, and a host of other things. Most of the time, however, relationships were friendly and cooperative.

Fort Union Post Traders token
Fort Union Post Traders token, probably from late 1860s or early 1870s. McNitt Collection, No. 6981, New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe.

     In 1853 Fort Union Commander Nathaniel C. Macrae was reprimanded by Department Commander John Garland for assigning the depot and post quartermaster, Captain L. C. Easton, and the depot and post subsistence officer, Captain Isaac Bowen, to serve on a board of survey at the post. Garland declared, "these officers are the chiefs of their respective departments in New Mexico." Macrae was further notified, "they are not subject to detail in matters relating to the post of Fort Union—their duties pertain to the Department—and their station being at the principal depot does not subject them to duty at that post." Macrae inquired if the two officers were permitted to perform the duties of quartermaster and subsistence officers at the post. Garland sent word that he "did not intend that these officers should be relieved from duty at the post of Fort Union, connected with their own department." On the other hand, he continued, "they should not be subject to detail in matters relating to the post of Fort Union, and not connected with their department, such as Garrison Courts, Boards of Survey &c. &c." [132]

     When Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke succeeded Macrae in 1853, he was also uncertain how the system worked. Even though the quartermaster and subsistence depots were being transferred to Albuquerque, the depot quartermaster and commissary officers were still at Fort Union and continued to serve as post quartermaster and commissary officers, too. Cooke asked Garland for some clarification about his relationship to those officers. They were his subordinates at the post, yet they were not under his control as depot officers. Cooke worried primarily about the chain of command and whether the two officers could bypass him by appealing directly to the department commander for services to be provided by the troops at Fort Union. He did not appreciate having his authority circumvented. Garland informed Cooke that he was not being bypassed but simply had no place in the chain of command between the department commander and the depot officers. [133] The problem was resolved a short time later when the two depot officers transferred to Albuquerque.

     Another difficulty arose in 1856 when Captain John C. McFerran was appointed to serve as depot quartermaster and post quartermaster at Fort Union. Technically, Fort Union was a subdepot to Albuquerque, but it had been found more practical to receive and distribute military freight from Fort Leavenworth there than at Albuquerque. McFerran discovered that the temporary post commander was Lieutenant William T. Magruder, First Dragoons. McFerran was incensed, after Magruder assigned him to a board of survey at the post, that his actions were "subject to be approved or disapproved by my junior." He had complied, however, "for the sake of harmony." He requested that he not be subject to orders, except for strictly post quartermaster business, from the lieutenant post commander. Magruder was uncertain about his responsibilities and agreed not to exercise any authority over McFerran until the department commander informed him differently. [134] This issue died when Colonel Fauntleroy resumed command of the post about two weeks later. He clearly outranked McFerran.

     In 1859 Captain William K. Van Bokkelen, subdepot and post quartermaster, requested Post Commander John Walker to detail three additional extra-duty soldiers to serve as carpenters and a blacksmith. Walker refused because he did not have the manpower to spare. Walker was willing to permit extra-duty men to perform quartermaster duties for "post purposes" but not "for Depot work." He further observed that he thought it was "injudicious, to allow the depot, which happens to be here, to absorb so large a number of Soldiers, and thus injure the efficiency of the command for Military purposes." [135] It was not an uncommon complaint. A few weeks later Post Commander Robert M. Morris recalled six extra-duty soldiers from the subdepot because they were needed for guard duty at the post. Two weeks later Morris explained that, if he were required to send more troops into the field, he would have to withdraw all extra-duty men from the subdepot. He was concerned that the quartermaster and subsistence officers would be left shorthanded "as trains of stores are arriving, and reshipments of stores are occuring daily." Morris urged department headquarters to approve more civilian employees for the subdepot. [136] It was not determined if more civilians were employed.

     In 1866 District Commander Carleton issued orders to prevent "misunderstanding between the Commanding and Depot Officers at, and on, the Fort Union Reservation, and on the Ordnance Reservation, with regard to their respective prerogatives and authority." The depots were "under the exclusive control of their respective Depot Officers, and independent of the post commander." The commanding officers of the depots and the post were each "responsible for the proper conduct of the men and control of the animals, within their several commands." The depot quartermaster was given control of grazing and the camping of wagon trains on the military reservation. [137] Lines had been drawn but confusion and conflict arose in specific situations. Many post commanders resented their lack of authority over the quartermaster depot. In 1877, when Lieutenant Colonel Dudley was post commander and Captain Kimball was depot and post quartermaster, the petty feuding over who was in control of such things as inspecting buildings, authorizing repairs of buildings, and assigning jobs to extra-duty soldiers, resulted in charges being filed against Dudley and his trial by court-martial. [138]

     The problems of jurisdiction were frequently humorous, but sometimes they were deadly serious. During an outbreak of smallpox in the area around Fort Union in 1877, including Las Vegas and La Junta, Post Surgeon Carlos Carvallo requested authority to place the post, depot, and arsenal under quarantine. Post Commander Dudley approved the request and authorized Carvallo and his associate, Dr. Joseph S. Martin, to set up the quarantine. Martin was appointed "Quarantine Surgeon" and issued the notice of quarantine for the post and depot (no mention of arsenal because Captain Shoemaker had long insisted the post had no control over the arsenal, which had its own reservation within the post reservation), prohibiting the admission of all persons without being first examined by a medical officer. "All vendors of eggs, chickens and other merchandise and pedlers of every description are forbidden to enter the Post or Depo. until further notice." Two soldiers from the garrison were assigned to assist Dr. Martin in enforcing the quarantine. [139]

     The following day the district commander notified Lieutenant Colonel Dudley that neither he nor the post surgeon could establish a quarantine that included the depot or arsenal over which they had no authority. The post quarantine could, of course, prohibit communications with both the depot and arsenal. The result was absurd from a medical viewpoint but necessary from an administrative point of view. One day later Captain Kimball, depot quartermaster, requested that Post Surgeon Carvallo extend the quarantine to include the depot. Carvallo, unsure of the line of authority, asked Post Commander Dudley for a clarification of the surgeon's duties (specifically, could he use the two soldiers from the post to enforce the quarantine at the depot?). The post surgeons had been providing medical service to soldiers and civilians serving at both the depot and arsenal, admitting them to the post hospital when necessary, and Carvallo wanted to know what should be done. Dudley sidestepped the issue by explaining he had no jurisdiction over the depot and arsenal and, therefore, could not authorize the use of men from the post garrison to enforce a quarantine at the depot. Kimball informed Carvallo that a quarantine of the post without a quarantine of the depot was "useless" and requested Carvallo and Martin to enforce it at the depot. Carvallo replied to Kimball that he would not establish a quarantine at the depot "unless you place at my disposal men of your command for that object, having received orders not to use men of the Post for Depot quarantine." [140] Apparently the problem was resolved when Kimball agreed to provide men to enforce the quarantine. Because of or in spite of the quarantine, an outbreak of smallpox was avoided at Fort Union. The problem of jurisdiction remained. It should be noted, too, that the confusion was compounded by the fact that Kimball served as post quartermaster as well as depot quartermaster. [141]

     As the duties of the quartermaster and commissary depots were reduced in the 1870s, some of the buildings were used for other purposes. In 1875 one of the officer's quarters at the depot became vacant when Lieutenant Lafferty, subsistence officer, turned over his department to the depot quartermaster, Captain Kimball, and left the post. Jane W. Brent, widow of Captain Thomas Lee Brent, was serving as the postmaster at the Fort Union post office at the time. She considered her quarters at the building which housed the post office to be inadequate to her needs and requested permission to occupy the quarters vacated by Lafferty. The post office was located in a building owned by Edward Shoemaker, son of Captain William Shoemaker, which was located "on the main road passing Fort Union . . . between the hotel, on the one side, and the store of the Post Trader on the other." Captain Kimball permitted Mrs. Brent to move into the former commissary officer's quarters until an officer should require the space. She was still there in 1884. In 1877 an additional two sets of vacant officers' quarters at the depot were opened to officers at the post. [142] On November 28, 1877, the day before Thanksgiving, the post and depot quartermaster office of Captain Kimball was destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was not known. [143] No records were located to indicate where the office was located after the fire. The burned office was not renovated until April 1879. [144]

     The post cemetery was the responsibility of the quartermaster department. No references to the cemetery were found until after the Civil War. In 1866 Lieutenant Harry Mumford, post quartermaster, reported that the cemetery, in use since 1851, was located approximately one and one-half miles west of the third post. Mumford did not know that the first person to be buried at Fort Union cemetery in 1851 was Private William Davidson, Company F, First Dragoons, who was struck by lightning on August 18. He was joined one day later by Private James Newell, Company G, First Dragoons, who succumbed to acute dysentery. [145]

     Mumford reported that the cemetery was an area approximately 50 by 300 yards and had no fence around it. The number of graves was estimated at 155, most of which were unidentified. Headboards existed at approximately one-fifth of the grave sites and no cemetery records could be found at the post. Mumford recommended that the cemetery be fenced. [146] The quartermaster general's office directed that the cemetery be fenced and headboards placed on all graves. Unidentified grave sites were to be marked as "U.S. Soldier, name unknown." A list of all names that could be identified was to be sent to the quartermaster general. The work was done by the depot quartermaster. The fence was constructed of boards and painted. [147] Periodically fatigue details were sent to work at the cemetery. On April 17, 1869, for example, Corporal Philip Werner, Company G, Third Cavalry, and nine privates selected from various companies at the post were "detailed on daily duty for the purpose of putting the Cemetery at this Post in proper order." They were relieved from that duty on May 11, 1869. [148]

     In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, reported that while serving on guard duty at Fort Union he "was sent in charge of six prisoners over to the Cemetery to dig a grave for a poor soldier who accidentally shot himself while on duty." While the prisoners were at work, Matthews looked at a number of graves and read information on the headboards. He noticed that more than 40 graves were marked "unknown," which he found distressful. He implied that the army might at least have identified the men who died in the service of their country. [149]

     In 1873 Captain Andrew J. McGonnigle, quartermaster department, submitted a summary report on the post cemetery to the quartermaster general's office. The cemetery was described as located about one mile northwest of the post, encompassing an area 150 feet by 700 feet, and enclosed by a picket fence. A total of 223 interments were listed. Of those, 103 were counted as unknown soldiers. Of the soldiers listed by name, two were officers and the remainder were enlisted men. Several civilians and a few children were noted. In 1877 Chaplain Simpson requested that an adobe wall be constructed around the cemetery, but it was rejected as too expensive. [150] The cemetery was used until the post was abandoned, and the last burial was that of Private Richard van Schranendyk, Company H, Tenth Infantry, who died of pneumonia on May 9, 1891, just six days before the troops marched away from Fort Union forever. The remains of those buried at the post cemetery were later disinterred and moved to Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Of a total of 286 removed, 146 were unknown and the remaining 140 were identified. [151]

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