Historic Resource Study
The quartermaster and commissary departments were an integral part of the history of Fort Union and the frontier army in the Southwest. Fort Union, more than any other post in the area, was closely identified with military supply because of the establishment of the depot there. That was also true of the ordnance department (later arsenal) which was located at Fort Union from its founding in 1851 until the arsenal was closed in 1882. During most of that time Captain William R. Shoemaker, military storekeeper, was in command of the ordnance depot and arsenal, until his retirement in 1882. The story of the ordnance depot, which should be treated as "Shoemaker's Domain," was an essential part of Fort Union history.
The ordnance department was responsible for all arms, ammunition, and related equipment. The department selected and purchased or manufactured all types of weapons, including swords, muskets, rifles, revolvers, and cannon. Ordnance officers tested new firearms, or had them tested in the hands of troops, and made improvements when appropriate. An ordnance depot was primarily a storehouse for arms and ammunition to be issued to troops as required. The staff at an ordnance depot, usually a combination of enlisted men and civilian employees, repaired arms, loaded and reloaded ammunition, and fabricated ammunition boxes, slings, belts, and other items related to weapons. Because they had the equipment to work leather, the ordnance depot sometimes repaired and fabricated horse equipment, shoes, and boots. Although small in staff and personnel, the ordnance department was critical to the fighting effectiveness of troops in the field.
The ordnance depot of the Ninth Military Department, under command of Captain Shoemaker, was transferred from Santa Fe to Fort Union when the new post was established in 1851. Shoemaker had been appointed a military storekeeper of ordnance in the army in 1841 and continued in that position until his retirement. Shoemaker and his large family built a home on the Fort Union military reservation which he was permitted to keep after his retirement. He was popular among most Fort Union officers and their families as many of the officers' wives attested. He had the reputation of being one of the finest hunters at Fort Union. He looked after the ordnance depot and arsenal with reverence and determination. For the most part he kept his domain independent from the post at Fort Union, occasionally clashing with commanding officers who attempted to extend their jurisdiction over his operations. He and his staff kept the troops in New Mexico equipped with arms and ammunition.
Before Colonel Sumner arrived to take over the Ninth Military Department in the summer of 1851 Shoemaker had recommended to Captain William Maynadier, ordnance department, that the ordnance depot in New Mexico be located someplace besides Santa Fe, preferably on the Rio Grande. Within two weeks after Sumner arrived and ordered the relocation of the ordnance depot Shoemaker reported that one-half the ordnance stores, fifty wagon loads, were on the road to Fort Union. The remainder would have to await transportation. Shoemaker was not pleased with the location of the new depot and was especially miffed that there were no buildings at Fort Union to protect his stores. He feared the ordnance stores might end up with those of the quartermaster and declared "I shall endeavor to keep my Depot as separate & distinct from the other departments as possible."  On that promise Shoemaker made good.
|William Rawle Shoemaker, military store keeper and captain ordnance department, was at Fort Union most of the time from 1851 until his death in 1886. The ordnance depot and arsenal at Fort Union were truly "Shoemaker's Domain." Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument, courtesy Francis R. Shoemaker.|
Before he left Santa Fe Shoemaker issued arms and ammunition to the troops comprising Sumner's Navajo campaign. Shoemaker moved to Fort Union on August 24, 1851, where he placed the ordnance stores under tents. He and his ordnance detachment of twelve men, assisted by some troops from the post, began immediately to erect quarters and storehouses. The ordnance detachment was so busy with moving and construction that it was unable to prepare sufficient ammunition for the troops. Shoemaker ordered cartridges from the East to supply the department until his department had the time to load those required. He also ordered a supply of carbine cartridges because "the Dragoons are so dissatisfied with the Musketoon that they have in some cases adhered to the Carbine." The musketoon was unsatisfactory, in part, because the cartridges were "too small" and fell "out at the muzzle when [the weapon was] carried in the sling." Also, the musketoon needed another spring on the underside of the barrel "to keep the ramrod from falling out." Shoemaker also needed to know if he could obtain 1850 model officers' swords and a lower price on more Colt pistols. 
Shoemaker announced that the team of horses belonging to the ordnance depot had died, he thought because of "the climate," and he had obtained a team of mules which he considered to be "better adapted to this climate." It is not known what Shoemaker thought of his theory when one of his mules died. Early in November 1851 he reported the construction of quarters and storehouses for the ordnance department progressing well and expected to move into them in two weeks. The buildings were "very temporary ones" and the ordnance stores left in Santa Fe for want of transportation were going to remain in Santa Fe until needed or until a better location had been found to build an arsenal. The ordnance detachment was in quarters and loading ammunition early in 1852 when Shoemaker ordered 500 pounds of lead to mold balls. He also requisitioned a year's supply of paper, ink, pencils, steel pens, and quills for the ordnance office, noting that "the steel pens & quills sent last year were good for." 
Colonel Sumner directed Shoemaker to obtain, if possible, twenty Wesson Rifles, a heavyweight carbine with a range of 400 to 600 yards. Sumner wanted the long-range weapons "for a special purpose" which was not revealed. Although Shoemaker had hoped the ordnance depot might be relocated at Albuquerque, Sumner ordered him to erect more storehouses at Fort Union so the inventory left in Santa Fe could be moved there. Shoemaker needed a heavy wagon to haul materials for construction and spent $900 for a wagon, six mules, and six sets of harness. He paid close attention to details in everything he did. To protect the ordnance buildings, shoemaker ordered lightning rods and cables. He requested a bell to "call the men in the morning & to sound the work hours &c." 
|William R. Shoemaker's appointment as a military storekeeper, August 3, 1841, when John Tyler was president and William Wilkins was secretary of war. Shoemaker File, Fort Union National Monument Collection, New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe.|
The ordnance depot had been without an armorer for several months because the previous one had completed his term of enlistment. Because no one had been found to enlist, Shoemaker requested a civilian employee to serve as armorer. In the summer of 1852 a Mr. Burke, a citizen, was sent from St. Louis Arsenal to serve as the Fort Union armorer at a salary of $3.00 per day. Shoemaker thought that was excessive and urged that an enlisted armorer be sent as quickly as possible. None was found. Shoemaker found it virtually impossible to enlist men into the ordnance detachment in New Mexico. Burke remained for the two years he agreed to stay when hired and then hired on indefinitely. In addition to his salary he was permitted to purchase rations from the post commissary at cost. In August 1853 Shoemaker reported that his detachment of twelve enlisted men was engaged as follows: one was in charge of the garden, five were harvesting hay for the public animals, and six were engaged in building shops and performing the regular duties of the ordnance depot. Armorer Burke was the only civilian employed.  Shoemaker was reluctant to hire civilian workers because of the cost, but he later requested permission to hire laborers to manufacture and lay the adobe bricks for the ordnance magazine because his detachment did not have the time. 
|William Shoemaker's wallet, including a hand mirror and a lock of hair from his wife, Julia. Museum Collection, Fort Union National Monument.|
Because Captain Carleton wanted to take two twelve-pound mountain howitzers into the field when his dragoons were sent to patrol the Santa Fe Trail, Shoemaker ordered carriages for the weapons in the department. He wanted enough to provide each company of dragoons with two howitzers. He gathered up all the howitzers he could find in the territory, some of which had apparently been there since the Mexican War, to prepare them for field service as soon as the carriages arrived. Later more carriages were requisitioned for the artillery troops in the department.  In addition to fixing up artillery pieces, the ordnance depot was directed in 1853 to "cause the old cartridges now on hand to be at once worked over and made serviceable for the percussion musket."  In that way obsolete armaments were salvaged and utilized with technological improvements in ordnance.
After the ordnance buildings were completed Shoemaker requested permission to retain the wagon and mules to haul fuel and other supplies. The ordnance detachment had to supply its own firewood at that time. The quartermaster department was unable to provide fuel for the ordnance depot because it had so few employees, being dependent on the extra-duty labor of troops at the post for most tasks. Firewood was cut four to five miles from the fort. Shoemaker considered the wagon "indispensable." He did not consider the time his detachment spent obtaining fuel a waste, noting that it would cost much more if he had to hire civilians. Shoemaker was worried that he could not enlist enough men in his department to keep the detachment at its authorized strength of twelve. In 1854 he urgently requested the St. Louis Arsenal to enlist for him "a few good men" because, as enlistments expired, the detachment was reduced to eight. When he was told that the St. Louis Arsenal faced the same problem, Shoemaker requested authority from the ordnance department to transfer four recruits intended for one of the regiments in New Mexico to the ordnance depot, at least on a temporary basis.  Presumably that was done.
In 1855 the ordnance detachment was making repairs to the quarters and storehouses, including new roofs. Shoemaker noted that the buildings had been erected so hastily in 1851 that "they are very frail structures and require constant attention & repairs to make them answer until more permanent houses can be built." He again requested that funds be appropriated to construct new buildings. Shoemaker apparently had resigned himself to staying at Fort Union because he stated that "a site within a very short distance of our present location would answer every purpose for the Depot."  Within a few years he became so attached to the site that he spent the remainder of his life there.
The ordnance detachment was so busy with its duties that an additional armorer was required by late 1855. Burke was still there, and Shoemaker considered him to be the best mechanic in New Mexico and recommended an increase in his salary. Shoemaker had information that David Chapman, an armorer until recently employed at the St. Louis Arsenal, was willing to travel to Fort Union and work at the depot. He recommended that Chapman, if approved, be sent to New Mexico on the mail stage to save time. Chapman never arrived, however, and neither did anyone else. By the spring of 1856, when the repair of horse equipment had been transferred to the ordnance department, Shoemaker again requested more help to handle the "immense amount of work of all kinds" that had accumulated.  One of the duties performed at the arsenal was the reloading of ammunition cartridges. Because of a shortage of powder in 1856, Shoemaker was directed by the chief of ordnance to remove the powder from the large supply of pistol shells and use it with powder on hand to load rifle shells. Also, to save powder, the rifle shells were to be filled with only 50 grains of powder instead of the usual 60.  That situation was temporary until more powder arrived.
|A page from William Shoemaker's private letter book and a receipt for his purchase of a pair of mules. Museum Collection, Fort Union National Monument.|
It was not clear in the records if more workers were assigned to the ordnance depot before the arrival of another armorer (George Berg) in October 1856. Shoemaker's major concerns were the shortage of workers and the condition of the buildings. By the late summer of 1856 he was again requesting permission to erect new buildings. He wrote, "the deplorable state of our present houses leaves us at the mercy of the elements." Most, he thought, were beyond repair. The log foundations of the storehouses were "decayed & giving way." The buildings were "supported by props."  No relief was provided.
Captain William A. Thornton, chief of ordnance for the military department, advised Shoemaker not to approach Department Commander Garland on the subject of a new arsenal or even a new building. "The General has no particular good feeling for Fort Union, and its neighborhood" Thornton wrote, "and therefore he will not recommend the expenditure of a cent, until a site has been determined on." The problem was further complicated by the fact that much of the land was privately owned, making it difficult to find a site for an arsenal. Shoemaker was requested to bide his time and do his job until a decision could be made on the location for new facilities. 
Occasionally the ordnance depot was involved in the testing of new weapons. In 1856 the ordnance department sent sixty-four Sharps Carbines to New Mexico to be tested by troops in the field. The Sharps was being considered as a replacement for the musketoon. It was a sturdy breech-loading single-shot using a paper cartridge. The weapons were distributed among the mounted riflemen and Shoemaker was charged with gathering reports on the performance of the test weapons and communicating that information and suggestions for improvements to his superiors.  Shoemaker's final report on the Sharps was not located, but Colonel Bonneville later recalled that troops under his command, involved in testing the Sharps, found the carbines to be "greatly preferred as an arm for the Dragoon service." The weapon was adopted and was popular among mounted troops before and during the Civil War. Later the Sharps was superseded, temporarily, by the Spencer repeating carbine. Bonneville stated that an experimental "double breached Pistol" was tested at about the same time in New Mexico and found to be "of no account."  A few Colt revolving rifles were issued to some of the mounted riflemen in New Mexico in 1859. It was not recorded what the troops or their officers thought of the Colt weapons, but Department Commander Fauntleroy ordered them turned in to the ordnance depot and stated the weapons then in the hands of the mounted riflemen would not be changed.  In 1860 Shoemaker sent sixty new Colt revolving rifles into the field with the mounted riflemen for evaluation.  Again, the results were not found. Even if new weapons performed well, the army was slow to change because of the reluctance to change built into the highly bureaucratic system and, perhaps more important, because it cost money to switch, money that Congress was disinclined to disburse.
In 1857 Burke, who had served well as a civilian armorer at the ordnance depot since 1852, resigned. Shoemaker immediately requested that "another armorer may be sent out as soon as practicable." The amount of firearms to be repaired required the services of at least two armorers. Armorer Berg was still there. No record was found to indicate that a new armorer was sent in 1857. The following year Shoemaker had his detachment building new quarters for Berg's family because Berg threatened to leave unless provisions were made for his family at the depot. Shoemaker observed that it was cheaper to erect another log house than to try to hire another armorer. 
The tasks of the ordnance depot were increased in 1858 when it was assigned responsibility for storage and distribution of rope and picket pins for the army, products that had previously been handled by the quartermaster department. This was done because the ordnance department was handling and repairing most of the horse equipment by that time. In preparation for this Shoemaker requisitioned 2,500 pounds of rope and 2,000 pounds of 5/8-inch iron rod. The picket pins were fabricated at the ordnance depot. The ordnance detachment had designed and was manufacturing holsters and cartridge boxes for the "Navy pistol." This required a large supply of leather. During 1858 Shoemaker ordered 1,000 pairs of dragoon spurs and straps. The ordnance depot handled a variety of military items in addition to armaments. 
The ordnance depot acquired a sawmill in 1858, needed because of the large amount of lumber required to make constant repairs on the quarters and storehouses. Shoemaker purchased four mules to power the mill. Because his repeated requests for a new arsenal in the department (Shoemaker had decided the best location was on the Mora River at Tiptonville) had been ignored, he resigned himself to repairing the buildings at Fort Union. Department Commander Garland had opposed the site at Tiptonville and recommended that Fort Union be relocated. Until that was decided, Shoemaker understood that the ordnance depot would remain where it was. Shoemaker was confident that, with the sawmill, his force could make the depot last for "several years" if necessary.  It was necessary.
Shoemaker requested permission to visit the ordnance headquarters in Washington in 1858, hoping that he could explain in person what was difficult to communicate in writing about the conditions of the depot and the need for a new arsenal in New Mexico. Brigadier General Garland had to approve the request. For some reason, whether intentional or not, Garland treated Shoemaker's application for leave to visit Washington as a request for permanent transfer to Washington. On this assumption, Garland refused to let Shoemaker leave the department until a replacement had been appointed. Shoemaker was flabbergasted when he learned what Garland was doing and immediately let everyone know he had no intention of leaving his position in New Mexico. He had expected to visit Washington and "return immediately to the Depot that I have had charge of through so many difficulties." If going to Washington would cost him his position, he would not go. 
The ordnance depot received a shipment of 1,100 "new model rifled muskets" (.58 caliber, designed to be used with Maynard primers) in 1858. They were known to be defective and the hammers were to be altered by the ordnance detachment at Fort Union before they were issued. The detachment was shorthanded because one of the men from the ordnance depot had deserted along with two mounted riflemen from the garrison at Fort Union. They took two mules belonging to the ordnance depot which were later recovered by a "Mexican trader" on the plains. Shoemaker paid a reward of $50 for the return of the mules, which he apparently considered to be more valuable to the work of his department than the man who had deserted. Shoemaker requested approval of the reward, noting that the man who deserted had nearly that amount due him in back pay. 
The alterations on the hammers of the new rifled muskets began in October and went quickly, requiring only a little time on the lathe. While overhauling the weapons many of them were "found to be unfit for issue, and many completely coated with rust that cannot be removed without defacing the arm." The bayonets were also badly rusted. The weapons had been shipped from Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and some boxes had been damaged. Some of the problems were the result of flawed manufacturing. In nearly 10% of the muskets the screws fastening the rear sights were too long and caused a "bulge on the inside of the barrel" which prevented the ball from loading properly and the hammer head from passing that point. Such weapons were useless without further alterations, which were performed. Shoemaker feared some of them might still cause problems in the hands of soldiers and was displeased that his command had to remedy what should have been done correctly at the factory. Nevertheless he pledged that the new muskets would "go into the hands of the troops in good condition and as quickly as possible." They were completed by early December 1858. When the troops found that the Maynard primers frequently failed, Shoemaker issued regular caps in their place. 
In 1859 a new adobe magazine was constructed at the ordnance depot at Fort Union. Before it was completed Second Lieutenant Moses J. White, ordnance department, arrived to take command of the ordnance depot at Fort Union. This was done so Shoemaker could travel to Washington as he had requested the previous year. Shoemaker left Fort Union early in September 1859. He did not return until June 1860. Captain Robert A. Wainwright, chief of ordnance at department headquarters in Santa Fe, who had not been able to command Shoemaker, attempted to exert his authority of White. White fought back and Wainwright complained to ordnance headquarters in Washington, declaring that Shoemaker had "considered himself & Depot beyond the control of the chief officer of his Corps in the dept." Wainwright continued, "unfortunately Lt. White has imbibed some of his ideas and . . . denies my right to give him instructions or order supplies from the Depot." White had refused to send arms by direction of Wainwright because, White argued, he could only issue arms upon receipt of regulation requisition forms submitted by the officers receiving the arms. 
Wainwright declared that, if White were permitted to be so impudent, Wainwright would be "helpless in the conduct of ordnance matters and a mere cypher at Headquarters." Colonel Bonneville had been called upon to set White straight "in consideration of Lt. White's youth and inexperience." Wainwright observed that White was "not in good health, being subject to epileptic fits that do at times impair the action of his mind and in my opinion render him unfit for the duties devolving upon him." Bonneville ordered White to Santa Fe "to bring him if possible to a sense of his duty." Wainwright concluded, "should this fail other steps will be necessary." The results of Bonneville's efforts were unknown, but White requested a leave of absence on account of sickness a few weeks later. Colonel Fauntleroy (who returned to command of the department) appointed Lieutenant Dabney H. Maury, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, to take charge of the ordnance depot at Fort Union in January 1860. 
It may be assumed that Maury tendered adequate respect for the authority of Captain Wainwright. Maury took his responsibilities seriously at the ordnance depot and designed a new style cartridge box for infantrymen and a different style cartridge box for cavalrymen. He recommended that changes be made in the government-manufactured cartridges issued for Colt pistols, stating that "they contain too much powder and the Ball is slightly too great in diameter." The size made it difficult for troopers to reload Colt pistols "while mounted and in motion." Maury had the potential of a good ordnance officer, but he returned to his regiment and was appointed to serve as Fauntleroy's adjutant after Shoemaker resumed command of the depot in June 1860. 
Fauntleroy had hoped that Shoemaker would not return and, when he did, he attempted to keep him from resuming command of the ordnance depot. Fearing Shoemaker might just go to the depot and inform Maury he was relieved, Fauntleroy directed Maury to "retain command of the Ordnance Depot at Fort Union until relieved by orders from these Head quarters; and that you will not recognize any other authority except such orders as you may receive from the Head Quarters of the Army and the Secretary of War." It was not enough. Colonel William Craig, chief of ordnance for the army, sent instructions to Lieutenant Maury to turn over the depot to Shoemaker on his arrival. Fauntleroy, although defeated, filed his protest. "I desire to put on record my dissent from the course taken by the Chief of Ordnance, as contrary to the Regulations of the Army and detrimental in the highest degree to the public service." 
Shoemaker had personally overseen the shipment of ordnance stores from St. Louis before traveling to Fort Union. He was accompanied by two "master workmen" and two enlisted men to fill up the detachment at the ordnance depot. He hoped to receive approval for the construction of a new arsenal for the department at a point on the Mora River. Shoemaker and Wainwright clashed over the site for a new arsenal and almost everything else. Wainwright, most likely encouraged if not instigated by Department Commander Fauntleroy, was determined that Shoemaker would submit to his authority. Fauntleroy, who had named Lieutenant Maury the department adjutant, instructed Wainwright to "allow no steps to be taken with regard to the instructions on securing a site for the Ordnance Depot, or making any change in the present position of that Depot without authority from these Head Quarters." Further, he ordered Wainwright to "replace Military Storekeeper, W. R. Shoemaker in charge of the Ordnance Depot."  He could not overrule Chief of Ordnance Craig who kept Shoemaker in charge.
Wainwright harassed Shoemaker, perhaps hoping to force him to leave. He transferred a team of mules and a wagon from the depot to Fort Leavenworth, over Shoemaker's objections, so Shoemaker purchased another team and wagon. Shoemaker stated that Wainwright warned him he could "order all of the mules away." Wainwright, according to Shoemaker, was interfering with the "internal arrangements & opperations of the Depot." Shoemaker asked that ordnance headquarters "define the official relations of Capt. Wainwright & myself as to prevent the possibility of a collision, for under existing circumstances it will be impossible for me to continue to perform my duties advantageously to the public service, or with any peace, or satisfaction to myself."  The two strong-willed men tolerated each other until Wainwright left New Mexico early in the Civil War.
Shoemaker continued to hope for approval to erect a new depot and arsenal. In anticipation his detachment cut lumber to cure and experimented with the production of fired bricks. His command built a small kiln and a hired brick maker oversaw the production of 12,000 bricks. These were evaluated by "the best judges here, & pronounced good and durable." The bricks produced were used to repair chimneys and ovens at the depot, but production could be resumed whenever necessary for construction of new buildings. A carpenter was fabricating window frames and other items for a new depot. Clearly Shoemaker was going to be ready when and if new facilities were authorized. Any plans for a new depot, however, were held up pending the location and establishment of Fort Butler.  Then the Department of New Mexico was disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war Shoemaker's longstanding plans for a new arsenal were implemented at the site of the first Fort Union. 
Heavy demands were placed on the ordnance depot during the Civil War, and the detachment there was uncommonly occupied in keeping Union troops supplied with arms and ammunition. In 1861 a portion of a shipment of arms intended for New Mexico was stolen at Kansas City, Missouri. The losses were not critical. During the spring and summer of 1861 the ordnance depot outfitted the New Mexico Volunteers. Not all units received the same weapons, however, because they had to take what was available at the depot. Problems arose later in supplying the proper ammunition because several different calibers were represented among the issue (for example, some companies required .54 caliber ammunition, some .58 caliber, and others .69 caliber). Other items furnished the volunteers, such as belts, slings, and cartridge boxes, were something of a hodgepodge. An example of the contribution of the ordnance depot may be seen in its activities during the month of July 1861, when a total of twenty-three companies of volunteers were supplied from the depot and ten cannon were provided for Forts Union and Fillmore. Shoemaker was confident that the depot still contained sufficient arms and ammunition to meet the needs of the department for the next year. Shoemaker estimated the value of ordnance supplies in excess of $270,000.  Such a stockpile would have been extremely valuable to the Confederate troops.
After it was clear that Texas troops were invading New Mexico, Shoemaker provided fourteen pieces of artillery to protect the earthwork constructed at Fort Union. He expected to move all the ordnance stores into the earthwork when it was ready for occupancy. If the Texans arrived before that was accomplished, he was prepared "to destroy all the present buildings, and possibly, much property." He was determined that "nothing shall fall into the hands of the enemy."  Texas troops never reached Fort Union. The history of the Civil War in New Mexico was covered in chapter five.
Because of the need for powder and lead to supply ammunition to all the troops in the department, Colonel Canby authorized the purchase of those items from merchants. Ordnance officers or agents were sent throughout the territory to gather powder and lead, which was shipped to Shoemaker at Fort Union. Shoemaker was to pay for the supplies and have his detachment manufacture ammunition required for the weapons in use among the soldiers. At the same time the private sale of ammunition was prohibited.  The total amount purchased was not determined but it was invaluable to the army. Later in 1862, when the supply trains arrived from Fort Leavenworth, the ordnance depot was permitted to store some of its supplies in the old hospital building at the first post.  This was apparently done until the new magazine was completed inside the fieldwork.
In 1864 Shoemaker, always conscious of maintaining the independence of the ordnance depot from other departments and the post of Fort Union, noted that the quartermaster and commissary depot at Fort Union was being called Fort Union Depot. In order to avoid confusion he recommended that the ordnance depot be designated as "Union Arsenal, New Mexico." Shoemaker continued to refer to it as Union Arsenal and, eventually, his desires were made official when the ordnance depot became Fort Union Arsenal. 
Regardless of the name, the duties were the same: supply and repair arms and horse equipment. When Colonel Carson's column left on the campaign against the Kiowas and Comanches in the autumn of 1865, Shoemaker was directed to see that each company had "at least 5,000 rounds of ammunition . . . besides twenty rounds per man in Cartridge Boxes."  That amount of ammunition probably required special transportation, but the command had enough firepower to destroy all the Indians on the southern plains if used accurately. In addition the ordnance depot furnished the expedition with two mountain howitzers and necessary projectiles. 
Shoemaker continued to make improvements at the arsenal and to request funds for a new complex. He apparently erected an adobe storehouse and either rebuilt his own quarters or built new quarters for his family prior to 1866. On May 8, 1866, Fort Union Arsenal was established with a military reservation one mile long and one-half mile wide, including the site of the first Fort Union at the center, located within the larger military reservation of the post of Fort Union.  Shoemaker and the ordnance department had fought long to secure this, and they had been opposed by District Commander Carleton and Department Commander Pope.  Construction of the new arsenal also began in 1866. The first structures were two new magazines, completed in the summer of that year, to which the stores of powder were quickly moved from the damp, underground magazines at the earthwork. A large storehouse was completed before the end of the year to receive the stores held in the old ordnance depot storehouses. 
At the beginning of 1867 Shoemaker reported that the arsenal had a sufficient supply of stores on hand for the troops in the district. He noted that 1,200 Spencer Carbines (.50 caliber repeaters) were on order for the Third Cavalry. There was a large amount of horse equipment at the arsenal in need of repair. Shoemaker requested permission to employ additional workmen for that purpose. A new armorer arrived at the arsenal in January and proved to be incompetent. A mason was employed to construct two cisterns, each with a capacity of 15,000 gallons, to store water in case of fire. Precipitation was collected from the roofs of the buildings at the arsenal to fill the cisterns. The cost of the cisterns was estimated at $500 each. Once the cisterns were done, Shoemaker wanted pumps, fire engines, and hose to complete the fire-fighting equipment. 
The cisterns were completed in July 1867. Additional construction work at the arsenal continued during the year, with the completion of a new carpenter's shop and the laying of stone foundations for other buildings to be completed later.  Major Alexander inspected the new structures at the arsenal in 1867 and had praises for Shoemaker and the buildings. Shoemaker had supervised the construction of adobe buildings, which Alexander considered to be "the best constructed I have seen and cost a fraction less than two thirds as much as the same sized houses built by Captain Farnsworth for the Quartermasters Depot at Fort Union." Alexander continued, "the interior of the warehouses are models of neatness, the ventilation is perfect and the security against fire as great as can be effected with the materials." He recommended that Shoemaker, whose long career with the ordnance department had received no official appreciation for his "courage and steadfastness," be awarded the rank of brevet colonel.  No such honor was forthcoming, although Shoemaker had been appointed to the rank of captain and ordnance storekeeper on July 28, 1866 (previously he was a military storekeeper which carried no rank but was considered the equivalent of a captain in pay, and he was commonly known as Captain Shoemaker). 
During 1868 additional buildings were erected at the arsenal, including barracks for the enlisted men and employees. The regulations reducing the workday to eight hours was not enforced at the arsenal, as Shoemaker explained, because the workers feared a reduction of hours would be accompanied by a diminution of pay. By their choice the employees continued to work ten hours per day. Several years later several of those employees petitioned to receive overtime pay for the hours they had worked beyond eight per day. All were denied because they had elected to work a ten-hour day. In 1869 construction work was planned on the adobe wall surrounding the arsenal and quarters for married employees, a civilian armorer, and an employed foreman. Not much was done, however, for lack of funds. Shoemaker ordered a new office clock in 1869, pointing out that the old clock, in use at the depot for eighteen years, was "completely worn out and irreparable." A new clock was soon received. In 1873 a sundial was made and set on the grounds of the arsenal. 
In 1869 the Third Cavalry exchanged the Spencer Carbines it had been issued two years before for remodeled Sharps Carbines. The Sharps, although a single-shot instead of repeater like the Spencer, had been altered to use a .50-caliber metallic cartridge. Shoemaker, echoing the cavalry officers, declared the Sharps to be "infinitely superior to 'Spencers.'"  Some of the enlisted men held a different opinion. The following year the Eighth Cavalry received the Sharps. Private Matthews, Company L, observed: "We have turned in our Spencer Carbines and have drawn in place the Sharps improved. Don't like them half so well as the seven shooters. The Sharps are more dangerous than the Spencer. They are much easyer cleaned though." 
The used Spencer Carbines joined a growing inventory of old equipment and arms that were no longer needed in the department. Shoemaker sought ways to sell some of those items to citizens in New Mexico and in Chihuahua. He also complained that the arsenal had become a dumping ground for old and useless equipment in the hands of regimental and post commanders. Shoemaker persuaded Colonel Getty, district commander, to issue orders that no ordnance or ordnance stores could be sent to Union Arsenal without the permission of district headquarters except for items in need of repairs that could not be made by the troops. 
On September 8, 1869, the arsenal offered many obsolete items at public auction, including arms (muskets, rifles, carbines, pistols, swords, and sabers), parts and repairs for arms, horse equipment, ammunition of "every kind and calibre to suit the above arms, metalic cartridges, percussion caps &c.," tools, and a fire engine. The sale was advertised in newspapers, but almost no one showed up to bid. Most items were not sold, and the amount received from what was sold amounted to $1,075. The sale was disappointing. Of 6,942 firearms offered only 139 were sold. Thousands of items received no bids. A few items of horse equipment (saddles, bridles, halters, curry combs, brushes, lariats, picket pins, saddle bags, saddle blankets, and spurs) were sold, but most were not. Small quantities of ammunition and tools were delivered to bidders. In all, however, less than one percent of the inventory was disposed of by the sale. Shoemaker concluded that "there are no parties in New Mexico that are possessed of funds that they can apply to the purchase of arms."  An inventory of .58-caliber rifled muskets at the arsenal on September 21, 1869, showed a total of 734 new and 967 used pieces. Some of the used rifled muskets had been repaired but most were unserviceable.  Shoemaker was at a loss of what to do to market obsolete equipment. Clearly it would have to be sold someplace besides New Mexico.
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