"Fort Union #2 - Star Fort"
USGS Aerial Photograph

The Second Fort Union or the Star Fort

     One of the few discriptions of the field work, the second Fort Union, was provided by a Confederate reporter. The writer was not identified but must have received informaiton from someone who had seen the fieldwork. The report was published in the Mesilla Times, December 12, 1861. Because this was the most comprehensive narration found, even though it overrated the defensibility of the post and made it seem quite formidable, it follows as originally printed:

     New Fort Union situated one mile due east of the old fort, is considering its position and the material at hand, one of the best pieces of engineering ever done in America. It is an octagon, situated on an open ridge, two miles on each slope, to the valley. The walls are double rows of large pine logs en palisade, 12 feet between the rows, and filled with sod. The ditch is 20 feet wide at the top, 16 feet at the bottom, and 12 feet deep.

     The abattis is firmly studded with dwarf cedar trees, the branches trimmed short, case hardened with fire and sharpened to a point. These are firmly driven in, and present a bristling array upon which it would be impossible to force cavalry. The cannon enfilade the ditch at all points, and there is no cover for the approach of an attacking party within cannon shot. The magazine, quarters and all the garrison buildings are half basement, bomb-proof buildings. Some of these are entirely under ground. Four large bomb-proof warehouses have been built fronting the salient angles of the fort, and in the shape of a wedge. There are in this post two years supplies of all kinds for two regiments. Ten 12 pounders are mounted, and several guns of larger calibre were being mounted. Kit Carson's volunteer regiment, and about a regiment of regulars are stationed at that point.

     A description of the fieldwork was provided by an observer from the other side when Ovando J. Hollister, First Colorado Volunteers, arrived in March 1862:

     A simple field-work of moderate size, with bastioned corners surrounded by dirt parapet and ditch, with a slight abattis at exposed points. The armament is poor, consisting mostly of howitzers, but the supply of ammunition is deemed sufficient for any emergency. It has bomb-proof quarters in and surrounding it forming part of the works, sufficiently large to accommodate 500 men besides the necessary room for stores.

     It may have been significant that such reports claimed the fieldwork could not be easily breached. Apparently both Union and Confederate officers believed that to be true. This probably gave the garrison at the post a feeling of security, while enemy troops were led to believe that the best way to deal with the situation was to lure the command away from the post for engagement. Because the troops left Fort Union and defeated the Confederates before they could reach the post, the defensive capacity of the fieldwork was not tested in battle.

The Second Fort Union or the Star Fort

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