Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo


     Officers, as shown above, were also charged and tried for violations of military regulations. In March 1857 Captain George McLane, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was placed in arrest at Fort Union by Post Commander Loring and charged with "disrespect and contempt towards his commanding officer" and "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline." A general court-martial was conducted at Santa Fe to try the case. McLane was incensed because he thought Colonel Loring was going to send him on a scouting expedition so he could not be present when the post council of administration (on which McLane served) voted on the sutler's tax. Apparently, McLane wanted to reduce the tax and Loring did not. Loring denied in writing that he had planned anything to prevent McLane from meeting with the council. McLane returned the letter, stating "this communication is offensive and insulting. I therefore decline to receive it." Also, McLane had threatened Loring in the presence of other officers, stating that if Loring tried to prevent him from sitting on the council he would prefer charges against Loring. [171]

     McLane pleaded "not guilty" but the court found the captain guilty of all charges. McLane was reprimanded by the department commander, suspended from command for four months, and confined to the limits of Fort Union for the duration of his suspension. Colonel Bonneville, department commander, declared he was "surprised that Captain McLane, possessing so many qualities to command, should so far forget himself as to deserve the severe reproof given him by the court." [172] McLane served his sentence and returned to duty with his regiment. He was killed in action with Navajo Indians on October 13, 1860. [173]

     The decisions of a garrison court-martial were subject to review by the post commander, who occasionally disapproved all or a part of the court's actions. On June 27, 1858, Sergeant Archibald E. Evans, Company H, Regiment of Mounted Rifles, was arrested while serving as sergeant of the guard at Fort Union and charged with falsely reporting that two prisoners who had been sentenced to "walk the ring" as punishment were too drunk to perform that task. Evans was also charged with failure to salute and of speaking disrespectfully to an officer. The court, presided over by Surgeon Letterman, found Evans guilty on all counts. His sentence was reduction to the rank of private. Captain Andrew J. Lindsay, post commander, reviewed the case and found that the testimony given supported the contention that the two prisoners had, indeed, been intoxicated. He disapproved the verdict on those counts, and approved the charge of disrespect for an officer. Lindsay reduced the sentence to a week's confinement to quarters without reduction in rank. [174]

     Sergeant Evans was in court again a few days later, charged by Captain Thomas G. Rhett with conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline by entering the post adjutant's office without saluting or removing his cap and speaking to Acting Sergeant Major Thomas Thompson, thereby interrupting the conversation in progress between Rhett and Thompson. Although Evans pleaded not guilty, the court found him guilty as charged and sentenced him to reduction to the rank of private. Captain Lindsay reviewed the case, approved the verdict, and reduced the sentence to "one months confinement to the Garrison . . . and attending to all his duties during that time." [175] Evans surely considered himself lucky to retain his sergeant's stripes.

     In December 1858 Privates James Bruce, Edward Cullivan, James M. Waddell, William Hardin, John J. Spann, John O'Donald, George Stickney, and William B. Sheets, all of Company K, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, were tried by court-martial under charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. They were all found guilty of entering the company kitchen after taps on the night of December 1 and cooking and eating "fresh pork not obtained from the rations" of the company. Private Bruce was assigned to duty as a cook at the time and was also charged with permitting the use of the kitchen after hours. Bruce, Cullivan, and Spann were sentenced to forfeit $8.00 of their pay for one month and be confined at hard labor for two weeks. Private O'Donald pleaded guilty and was sentenced to hard labor cutting wood for two weeks, with no loss of pay. Private Waddell was found guilty only of being present and not of "cooking and eating." His sentence was to "perform three extra tours of stable duty." Private Hardin, who was determined to be the main cook of the after-hours feast, and Privates Stickney and Sheets, who were charged with but not found guilty of obtaining and killing the pig in addition to the other charges, each received a sentence of loss of $8.00 pay for one month and hard labor cutting wood for the post for thirty days. [176]

     The owner of the pig which furnished what proved to be an expensive meal for eight troopers was not identified. The incident, undoubtedly, was the cause of a post order issued by Colonel Loring, post commander, a few days later: "All enlisted men, camp women, & Government employes at the post are hereby positively prohibited from owning or having hogs in their possession." [177] That order gave the appearance of blaming the hog rather than the men for the fresh pork dinner. As everyone knew, only those who were caught in violation of military regulations were tried and punished. The ban on hogs may have been only temporary. Less than a year later another order was issued at the post prohibiting hogs "from running loose through the garrison." Any hogs found running loose were to be destroyed. [178]

     Private Sheets found himself in more trouble before he had completed his sentence for eating the pig. He was absent without leave at roll call on the evening of December 12 and morning of December 13, 1858. In addition he was charged with the theft of a great coat from a fellow private in his company and the sale of that garment to a member of the band on December 25. Sheets again escaped from the guard on January 1 and was absent from the post until the following day. He was found guilty of conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and of all accusations except being absent on January 1-2, 1859. His sentence was to be confined at hard labor with a ball and chain for one month, "to be drummed round the garrison after guard mounting every Sunday during his confinement, wearing a placard with 'thief' printed on it," and to forfeit ten dollars of his pay. [179] Sheets's offenses were minor but chronic. There were many repeat offenders in the records.

     No matter what the system or how it was arranged, someone usually figured a way to beat it. There were a few men, usually of foreign birth, who developed a scam, the purpose of which was not clear. They would enlist in the army, serve a short time, then receive an advertisement placed in a newspaper by someone in their native land seeking the person in question. The newspaper urged the person to return home to look after a family business, secure an inheritance, care for a sick parent, or some other crisis that demanded the presence of the soldier. This information would be sent to the consul from that country with a request to intercede with the war department to secure the discharge of the named soldier. Often the soldier would claim he had been forced to enlist because of poverty, had been induced to enlist while intoxicated, or had in some way ended up in the service without his consent. The consul would intervene and the soldier would be discharged. Some of them did it again and again, using a different name each time. [180]

     Fort Union apparently had one of these cases in the person of Christian Bartholomus, private in the band, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen. He was discharged by Major Simonson at the post on June 30, 1860, after serving about one year. He claimed to be a native of Saxe Weimar and appealed to the consul of that country in St. Louis for his discharge. He had received a furlough for sixty days before his request for discharge was processed, and he had left the post on furlough on May 6. Simonson explained that Bartholomus had seduced the wife of a fellow bandsman, Private Henry Ebert, before he left. Several days after Bartholomus departed on furlough, Mrs. Ebert robbed her husband and ran away to join Bartholomus, leaving behind two small children. Simonson condemned the "swindle" but could do nothing about it. [181] Most cases of desertion were considered criminal, however, and the deserter was punished if caught.

     An unusual case of desertion arose during the Confederate invasion. A hospital attendant at Albuquerque deserted and took a supply of hospital stores to the enemy. He joined the troops of the Confederacy and was captured at the engagement at Apache Cañon on March 26, 1862, and taken to Fort Union with other prisoners. When it was discovered he was a deserter from the Union army, he was confined to the guardhouse and charged with desertion. [182] The record of Jackson's trial was not found.

     As Union victory in the Civil War became clear an attitude of leniency pervaded the army. In celebration many prisoners were released. On April 28, 1865, at Fort Union, Post Commander Abreu directed, in accordance with directions from department headquarters, that "all noncommissioned officers and privates in arrest or confinement at this post are hereby released." These men were to rejoin "their respective companies at the earliest practicable opportunity." [183] The guardhouse did not remain empty long. By May 13 four soldiers had been arrested and held for trial. They were found guilty as charged and confined in the post guardhouse as part of their punishment. [184]

     Later in 1865 one of the soldiers assigned to the garrison at Camp Nichols was tried by court-martial at Fort Union for being absent without leave and the loss of his pistol. Private José-de-los-Angelos Aragon, Company C, First New Mexico Cavalry Volunteers, while serving on escort duty from Camp Nichols to Fort Union, "did absent himself from his escort without proper permission," and remain absent until after said escort had left Fort Union for Camp Nichols. Aragon pleaded guilty to that charge and to the loss of his Colt's army pistol. He was fined ten dollars and "confined at hard labor in charge of the guard for the period of thirty days." Private Antonio Sanchez, of the same company, faced the same two charges plus being charged with selling his great coat. He also pleaded guilty and received the same sentence as Private Aragon. When Fort Union Commander Willis reviewed the cases, he remitted the period of confinement for Private Aragon. [185]

     Occasionally the soldiers assigned to guard prisoners violated military regulations and ended up facing charges. In September 1866 Sergeant David W Smith, Company I, Fifth Infantry, while in charge of the guard detail, left the guardhouse without any guard and permitted a prisoner charged with desertion to escape. Smith admitted his guilt and was reduced to the rank of private and forfeited ten dollars of his pay. Lance Corporal John Russell, of the same company, was charged with neglect of duty while serving on guard detail by playing cards with a citizen prisoner, A. L. Stanley, on September 1, and permitting Stanley to escape on September 2. He pleaded guilty to playing cards and not guilty to allowing Stanley to escape. The court agreed with his pleas and sentenced him to reduction in rank to private, to forfeit twelve dollars of his pay, and be confined at hard labor for fifteen days. [186]

     Given the findings of the court, it appeared that playing cards with a prisoner was a more serious violation of regulations than permitting a prisoner to escape. That was not necessarily so, however. Private Walter Akins, same company, was also on guard duty when Stanley escaped, and he was charged with and pleaded guilty to permitting that to happen. The court agreed with his plea and sentenced Akins to forfeit twelve dollars of his pay and be confined at hard labor for thirty days. [187] Because Akins was already a private, he could not be reduced in rank as had Smith and Russell.

     Soldiers convicted of selling government property were given harsh punishment on the assumption that making an example of them would discourage other soldiers from committing the same offense. Privates Jesus M. Trujillo, Geronimo Romero, Juan Lopez, Pedro Ignacio Trujillo, José de Jesus Papia, and José Jaramillo, Company A, First New Mexico Volunteers, were all charged with selling the Remington pistol issued to them. All were found guilty. For an unexplained reason, the sentences were not the same. Privates Jesus Trujillo, Romero, and Papia were sentenced to pay the value of the pistol, be confined in the guardhouse for ten days, and walk a ring fifty feet in diameter near the guardhouse (carrying a log weighing forty pounds every alternate two hours from reveille to retreat) for the period of their confinement. Private Lopez was sentenced to pay the value of the pistol, be confined for thirty days during which time he was to wear a ball weighing twenty-four pounds attached to his left leg by a chain four feet long. The sentences given Privates Pedro Trujillo and Jaramillo were the same as that of Lopez, except their chains were only three feet long. [188]

     Military regulations applied to civilians who were present at any fort. Civilians who were employed by the army or were servants for officers were permitted to live on the post. Those who had no military connection were not authorized to be there without special permission. Because of problems, including criminal activities, unauthorized citizens were periodically removed from the military reservation. Late in 1866 Post Commander Marshall directed that all civilian employees who left their job or were discharged from their duties were to leave the reserve "immediately." He asked the commanders at the quartermaster depot and the arsenal to enforce similar rules. [189]

     Marshall directed the removal of two unauthorized women a few days later. "Annie McGee, for being a vagrant, and a notoriously drunken and bad character, prowling around the garrison and entering officer's quarters" was to be "immediately sent from the reserve." The other was Cruz Benner, "a Mexican woman, late a Laundress" for Company G, Third Cavalry, who had been discharged "for being a woman of bad repute." [190] A few months later, Daniel Gillon, a discharged sergeant of Company I, Fifth Infantry, who had remained at the post to seek employment, was ordered off the reserve because of "improper conduct, and abuse of officers." [191] Periodically other citizens were removed from the reservation. In 1878, for example, Mrs. Maria Mason was ordered "to leave the Reservation at once and under no circumstances return to the same." [192] It was the responsibility of the officer of the day and the guard detail to see that unauthorized citizens were kept away. Unlike the soldiers, such citizens had no right to a hearing.

     Some soldiers were innocent of charges filed against them. Occasionally a court-martial trial was unable to convict the accused because the key witness was not secured or was not called upon to testify. Two members of the guard detail at Fort Union on March 21, 1867, were charged with permitting one of the prisoners to obtain "spiritous liquors" and become intoxicated while under their responsibility. Private George Smith, Company I, Fifth Infantry, and Private Charles Bryan, Company D, Third Cavalry, were acquitted of the charges because Private Daniel J. Sheehan was not called by the court. Sheehan was the prisoner who had obtained the whiskey and become "drunk." His testimony could have convicted them. Post Commander Lane was not pleased with the result, but he approved the decision of the court. [193]

     Sheehan must have been a troublemaker. A few weeks later another sentinel, Private Ernest Snyder, Company I, Fifth Infantry, was charged with permitting Sheehan, while on a prison work detail, "to force open the door, and enter the chicken coop of an officer and did permit or fail to prevent him (Sheehan) killing a number of chickens belonging to said officer." The court found Snyder guilty and sentenced him to forfeit ten dollars of his pay. [194] No record was found to indicate that Sheehan was punished for destroying the chickens. Neither was it clear if Sheehan was sober or had again obtained some whiskey.

     The availability of liquor was an incessant problem at the post, as noted numerous times. Two citizens, John Smith and Andrew Cameron, were caught selling whiskey on the reservation in October 1867. They, along with a friend, William McGuire who happened to be at their establishment, were arrested and their supply of whiskey, mules, pony, burro, wagon, and harness were confiscated. [195] Cameron claimed that he was "a commissioned pedler of the second class which permits me to sell throughout this Territory all kinds of merchandize except jewelry." He also claimed that he had received permission from Post Commander Brooke to sell to quartermaster employees and soldiers at the post. Brooke, he declared, had told him he could "sell whatever and to whom you please." Cameron protested the arrest, stating "I do not know what we were arrested for," and the loss of his property (which he valued at $1,500). [196] McGuire was released a short time later he having no connection to the business. Cameron and Smith were held for over a month, at which time their property was returned and they were ordered "off the reservation never to return." [197]

     Numerous attempts were made to control the consumption of alcohol, as noted in previous chapters. In 1878 Post Commander Edward Whittemore attempted to reduce drunkenness by prohibiting "the sale of intoxicating liquors, by the bottle, by the Post trader to any person on the Reservation on paydays and for four (4) days thereafter." Several weeks later this was extended to cover every day, with liquor available only by the glass (except to civilian travelers passing through the post) throughout the month. At the request of Captain Shoemaker the rule was expanded to include the ordnance detail at the arsenal (a rare occurrence of cooperative action between the post and the arsenal). [198]

     None of the rules was effective. In the summer of 1886 Post Commander Henry Douglass made yet another effort to resolve the problem. His order was comprehensive:

     "Enlisted men of this Command are prohibited from bringing spirituous liquors of any kind upon this reservation or of purchasing or otherwise obtaining the same at this post from any party, except by prescription of Post Surgeon, any enlisted man who solicits the Post Trader or any other party to sell or give him whiskey, or other spirituous liquors, will be considered as violating the spirit of this order and punished accordingly."

     Like all earlier attempts, this one failed. Drinking to excess remained a problem as the garrison and general court-martial records revealed.

     Private Thomas Mason, Company D, Third Cavalry, was charged with being intoxicated on duty and tried by a general court-martial because his offense occurred while on field duty in September 1867. The charges filed against him included being "so drunk as to be totally unable to perform his duty as a soldier while on a scout after Indians." He was also charged with "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline" because, while disobeying orders on the scout, he "did say, 'from the Lieutenant down, may kiss my ass' or words to that effect." Mason was tried only for drunkenness while on duty, the other charge being considered loose and vague. He was found guilty and sentenced to be confined at hard labor for four months and to forfeit ten dollars a month from his pay during the same period. [199] A garrison court-martial, as noted above, could not have inflicted a penalty for the same offense that was greater than one month at hard labor and the loss of pay for one month.

     In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, reported that a garrison court had recently tried 11 soldiers at Fort Union, several cases of which involved being intoxicated. After summarizing the results, Matthews declared: "If these officers would only Court Martial themselves for being drunk, it would consume all their time sitting on each others cases." A teetotaler active in the Good Templars, Matthews was especially estranged by the conduct of inebriated officers. "A more drunken set I never saw," he continued. "The more I see of their drunkenness the more I become disgusted with liquor and stronger my resolutions are to abstain from using it." [200] However, many of his fellow soldiers, like the officers he described, continued to abuse strong drink and suffer the consequences.

     During the late 1860s and the 1870s the trial records showed that soldiers were predominantly charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline and with being absent without leave (both frequently connected with the consumption of alcohol). Soldiers left the post to obtain alcohol when it was not readily available, and while they were under the influence they were prone to misconduct. In 1873 Post Commander John I. Gregg, obviously weary of frequent trials of soldiers who had been absent without leave and the apparent ineffectiveness of the loss of pay or a portion of pay for one month and confinement at hard labor and other punishment of brief duration (less than one month), declared that "hereafter any enlisted man found beyond the limits of the Military Reservation without proper authority will if arrested be considered a deserter and tried as such." [201] A deserter could be tried by a general court-martial and a more severe punishment inflicted. There was no apparent reduction in the number of soldiers who were absent without leave at Fort Union as a result of that order. General court-martial records for the district during that time were not located. Desertion, as noted elsewhere, was also a perennial problem.

     Colonel Gregg tried another approach to the problem of soldiers taking leave without permission a few weeks later. He issued an order which stated that "the enlisted men of this garrison are hereby cautioned against the violation of the following Articles of War, viz. 21, 41, 42 & 43." These all concerned absence without leave. Soldiers were commanded to obtain permission from their commanding officers before being absent from the garrison. Gregg also directed that company commanders were to read those articles to the troops at retreat, so all would know the rules. [202] The effects appeared to be negligible. Perhaps the men were bored, with few duties to perform and insufficient leisure activities to keep them occupied. With time on their hands, many soldiers sought pleasures where they were available and flaunted regulations. The number of cases of soldiers being temporarily absent without leave decreased in the spring, especially after field duties provided a welcome break from the monotony of garrison life for some of the troops. Desertions, however continued.

     On April 28, 1873, Captain H. A. Ellis, Fifteenth Infantry, with one non-commissioned officer and three privates, left Fort Union to go to Trinidad, Colorado Territory, to conduct three deserters who had been captured at Trinidad back to the post. This party was also charged with searching for two other deserters and for stolen government mules while on the road. They were rationed for fifteen days and carried additional rations for the prisoners. Captain Ellis was directed to take a "sufficient supply" of handcuffs and leg shackles for the deserters. [203] The deserters would be tried later by a general court-martial.

     Officers at Fort Union must have spent much of their time in hearing cases. When they were not sitting on a general court-martial, which frequently took them away from the post, they were repeatedly serving on a garrison court. The number of cases was staggering, and it would be interesting to know how many manhours were spent in court each year by officers, soldiers charged with violation of military regulations, and soldiers called as witnesses. The post orders at Fort Union for 1876, a typical year for which complete documentation was available, contained the records of thirty-eight sessions of garrison courts-martial, in which were tried a total of 129 cases. The monthly average aggregate garrison at the post during 1876 was 268 officers and men, of whom an average of 108 were absent on detached service, leaving 160 present. Even though a number of cases involved repeat offenders, a good portion of the garrison was in court at one time or another during the year. [204]

     The numerous cases of enlisted men tried by courts-martial revealed little that was new to what has been related above. The occasional case of an officer however, was illuminating. One of the most disputatious officers who commanded Fort Union (during portions of 1876, 1877, and 1880) was Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Augustus Monroe Dudley, Ninth Cavalry, whose long military career (1855-1889) was studded with controversy and trials by courts-martial. Dudley was true to form while serving at Fort Union, and his conduct there resulted in a series of charges and a court-martial trial which disclosed substantial information about conditions at the post. The trial was especially important for the testimony regarding the relationship between the military post and the quartermaster depot and operation of the latter. [205]

     Dudley was particularly troubled by the fact that the depot quartermaster Captain Amos H. Kimball, was not under Dudley's direct command (except when Kimball was acting as post quartermaster) but was under the district commander Colonel Edward Hatch. There had been bad blood between Dudley and Hatch over an incident that had occurred in Texas in 1869. Dudley was determined to gain control over the depot, if possible, but Hatch would have none of it. [206]

     General Pope, commander of the Department of the Missouri, which included the District of New Mexico, filed charges against Dudley, accusing him of disobedience of lawful commands of his superior officer (Colonel Hatch and General Pope), conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, disrespect toward his commanding officer and drunkenness on duty. The specifications accused Dudley of preventing Captain Kimball from making repairs on buildings at Fort Union that had been ordered by Hatch, of refusing to submit a report on an inspection of the buildings at Fort Union as ordered by General Pope, of complaining that he had no authority over the post quartermaster (Captain Kimball) to assist with an inspection of the buildings because the department commander had placed Kimball outside Dudley's orders, of malicious intent to vilify and prejudice Captain Kimball in the estimation of his fellow officers by falsely accusing Kimball of fraudulent practices, of defamatory statements about Kimball that he had falsified his records at the depot, of charging Colonel Hatch with covering up Kimball's fraudulent activities, of charging that Hatch and Kimball had conspired to prevent Dudley from having any authority over the post quartermaster of making defamatory and untrue statements about Post Surgeon Carvallo, of "unlawfully and riotously" threatening William B. Tipton (a civilian medical doctor residing at Tiptonville) at his home in Tiptonville and at the home of Enoch Tipton at Boon Valley, of asserting that Colonel Hatch had conducted the affairs of the department "in a loose and irregular manner" of using disrespectful language against Colonel Hatch, and of being intoxicated while on duty on April 27 and May 12, 1877. [207]

     The testimony in the case, which lasted from November 29 to December 18, 1877, was extensive and included more than sixty witnesses. Much of it related to the confusion regarding the relationship of the quartermaster depot and the post. Dudley had attempted, without success, to establish his authority over the depot quartermaster, Captain Kimball who, as noted, also served as post quartermaster. Dudley employed the services of two well-known attorneys in New Mexico, Thomas B. Catron and W. T. Thornton, to serve as his counsel. The statements made by various witnesses confirmed some of the charges made against Dudley, who had apparently made accusations he could not prove. Officers who held some loyalty to Dudley downplayed the significance of some of the accusations directed at the post commander. Thus, some witnesses testified that Dudley had been intoxicated on several occasions and others stated they saw no signs of intoxication on those same occasions. [208]

     Considerable time was spent during the trial collecting testimony over what Dudley had actually said about other people, such as Hatch and Kimball. Much of what Dudley had said was petty and, generally, harmless. The threats that had been made against Dr. Tipton concerned charges by Lizzie Simpson, daughter of the post chaplain, that Tipton had seduced her. Other testimony, however, indicated that she had been promiscuous and may have contrived the charges to retaliate against Dr. Tipton or to force him to marry her. Dudley, who apparently believed Miss Simpson's sworn statement that she had been raped by Tipton and had threatened suicide, determined to confront Tipton and see that he either married the girl or was punished, although it was not his affair. Some witnesses believed that Dudley had implicated Dr. Tipton so as to cover up similar charges by Lizzie Simpson against Second Lieutenant Ballard S. Humphrey of Dudley's regiment. Humphrey had served as Dudley's post adjutant. The truth of the matter concerning Miss Simpson was not determined. [209]

     In all, the testimony and documents assembled for the court-martial provide a mine of information about Fort Union and the quartermaster depot (which was actually being phased out at the time). The resentful, inane, and spiteful images of several of the people who testified, as well as of Dudley himself, did not reflect favorably on the military establishment of that era. Perhaps, more than anything, the evidence produced during that trial indicated strongly that the army was in serious need of reform. The court found Dudley not guilty of most accusations, including drunkenness while on duty, and guilty of the following charges and specifications: (1) conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen for false statements made about Captain A. S. Kimball; (2) conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman for false statements made about Colonel Edward Hatch, (3) conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, and (4) disrespect toward his commanding officer for remarks made at the time of his arrest. Dudley was suspended from his rank and command with half pay for three months, after which he was transferred to command Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, where he played a role in the infamous Lincoln County War 1879, resulting in another court-martial, and he returned to command Fort Union during a portion of 1880. His somewhat hapless military career continued until his retirement in 1889. [210] Robert Utley provided an incisive portrait of Dudley, describing him as

     "a man whose genuine professional dedication consistently fell victim to a small intellect and a huge vanity. He suffered from muddled thought and bad judgment, the result of mediocre endowments impaired by years of dissipation. He got drunk often, and whiskey more or less influenced most of his actions. He compensated for his deficiencies with pomposity, bellicosity, petty despotism, and an extraordinary aptitude for contention. Quick to resent a slight, whether real or imagined, and quick to criticize, whether justly or not, Dudley rocked from one controversy to another throughout his career." [211]

     During the last years of the occupation of Fort Union, when there were few diversions from routine garrison duties, the cases tried by courts-martial included mainly the same charges as before: absence without leave, conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, and disobedience of or disrespect for a superior. The abuse of alcohol remained a contributing factor. For example, in November 1886, Private Jacob Morris, Company H, Ninth Infantry, was tried and found guilty of being intoxicated and disobeying orders. According to the court-martial record, Private Morris, who had been "detailed as room-orderly, did become much under the influence of intoxicating liquor, as to be unable to properly perform his duties and having been found by a Non-Commissioned Officer of his Company at the Post Trader's store and having been ordered to return to his quarters, did fail to comply with said orders." He was sentenced to forfeit all his pay for one month and to be confined in the guardhouse and perform "hard labor" for one month. [212]

     The same court found Private Charles Dussell, Company I, Ninth Infantry guilty of "drunkeness and unsoldierly and disrespectful language in his Company Quarters, refusal to keep quiet, when ordered to do so by a Non-Commissioned Officer of his Company, with a clenched fist." He received the same punishment as Private Morris, but the remainder of his period of confinement was "remitted" after he had served ten days. Another case decided at the same time was that of Private James Murry, Company I, Tenth Infantry, who was convicted of being absent without leave from company drill on the afternoon of November 9, 1886, and of being intoxicated. The specification of his charge for drunkenness stated, "that having been refused, by his Company Commander permission to [be] absent from drill, did become drunk, with the avowed purpose of being placed in the Guard house." He achieved his purpose. Private Murry was sentenced to forfeit ten dollars of his pay and spend ten days in confinement at hard labor. [213]

     Some cases of intoxication were especially ill-timed and unbefitting the occasion. In July 1887 Corporal David Davis, Company F, Tenth Infantry, was assigned to conduct the "firing party" which was detailed to fire the appropriate salute at the funeral of Private John R. Rickley, Company G, Tenth Infantry. Davis "was found drunk while in command of said firing party and utterly unable to perform that duty." He was found guilty of drunkenness by court-martial. His punishment was reduction to the rank of private. [214]

     Occasionally malicious actions or attitudes were exhibited by soldiers against Hispanos and other ethnic groups. Sometimes that behavior resulted in trial and punishment. In 1888, as noted in chapter eight, a soldier was convicted of assaulting a Chinese servant at Fort Union. In 1889 Private John Lydon, Company H, Tenth Infantry, was found guilty of "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline" for making disparaging remarks about Hispanos. Private Lydon was "a sentinel in charge of two prisoners, who had been duly directed to unload certain wagons, driven by Mexicans, and containing Quartermasters stores." He was charged with stating, in the presence of the prisoners and of Sergeant John W. Lambert, Company C, Tenth Infantry, "The damn Mexicans should be made to unload their wagons. If I were a prisoner I would try to make them delay a half a day." Lydon's punishment was to forfeit ten dollars of his pay for one month and to be confined at hard labor for ten days. [215]

Officers' row
Officers' row, Fort Union, in the 1870s. The nine quarters were numbered from right to left. The commanding officer's quarters were No. 5 in the center. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88020, courtesy National Archives.

     Acts of violence and bigotry rarely showed up in the court records of Fort Union, but they were not uncommon. There were also a considerable number of assaults by soldiers against their comrades in arms. One of the last cases tried at Fort Union involved an attack on an "assistant to the canteen steward" at the new post canteen. It was an unusual case in that there was no mention of alcohol or intoxication in the court record (beer was available at the canteen). Private James Boyd, Troop G, Sixth Cavalry, was the perpetrator according to the court. Boyd "did without just provocation strike Private Edward Moran Troop G 6th Cavalry on the head with a billiard cue, thereby inflicting a severe wound." Boyd was sentenced to forfeit ten dollars of his pay. Moran was relieved of his duties as canteen steward and treated by the post surgeon. [216] Such fighting was the only combat soldiers at Fort Union had seen in years. Various types of misbehavior continued to keep the officers busy serving on courts-martial.

     There were over 120 cases tried by court-martial at Fort Union during 1890, a year during which the aggregate garrison averaged 160 men. Most of the cases involved charges of drunkenness. There were also a number of instances of absence without leave, insubordination, and brawling. The last court-martial of record occurred on December 9, 1890, when Private Thomas Fitzgerald, Company H, Tenth Infantry, was convicted of being absent from duty without leave on December 6 and "conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline" in that he was "drunk and disorderly" and "insubordinate" on that same day. His sentence was to forfeit seven dollars of his pay for one month. If all the courts-martial trials during the active years of Fort Union history were placed in perspective, it would be clear that Colonel Sumner's design to remove the troops from the influences of sin and vice in 1851 had failed, and failed consistently.

depot storehouses, mechanics repair shops, company barracks
This portion of an undated photo of Fort Union shows, left to right, the depot storehouses, mechanics repair shops, company barracks, and the small building at right is believed to be the Good Templars hail which was also used as the post chapel. U.S Signal Corps Photo No. 88005, courtesy National Archives.

     While much about the army appeared the same during those final years as in the past, the army was beginning to change. During the 1880s and after, the national government and military commanders made stronger efforts to provide enlisted men with better training and living conditions, instill an esprit de corps, and develop a more professional army. Less time was devoted to manual labor and assigning soldiers to extra-duty chores ad infinitum; more time was spent on drill, field practice, and mastery of specialized tasks. Education, rewards, competitive skills (such as marksmanship, signaling, and litter bearing), and worthy leisure activities began to replace harsh punishment and neglect. [217] Even so, the practice of strict discipline and punishment by courts-martial continued to be central to the enforcement of military regulations.

     The army reform movement continued through the war with Spain in 1898, into World War I, and beyond. The results of those changes were felt by the garrison at Fort Union during its last years. Clearly, the representatives of the United States Army who marched away from Fort Union when it was closed in 1891 were a far different set of soldiers than those who had established the post forty years before. Throughout that entire period, as the records of Fort Union verify, health care and military discipline had contributed to the fulfillment of missions assigned to the troops at Fort Union and throughout the region. By the 1890s the Anglo-American frontier of expansion and conquest of the land was ended and the need for a frontier army had disappeared in the process.

     Within two generations the Southwest had been acquired and firmly attached to the nation, Indian resistance had been subdued, Anglo-American institutions had been planted in the region, railroads had replaced the thread-like connections of the Santa Fe Trail and other overland routes with strong bands of steel, and Anglo-American migration and power foretold the eventual consolidation of the Hispanic Southwest into the larger nation. The rich blend of Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures gave the region its distinctive identity and heritage. Fort Union had been a vital part of the history of that expansionist era, but it had no further objectives to perform. Like the Anglo-American frontier cycle it represented, the military post at Los Pozos on Wolf Creek, once the knot on the thread that had tied the Southwest to the nation and for a time the largest military installation in the region, was closed.

Fort Union Index

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
© "Forever"