Historic Resource Study
The third Fort Union, despite efforts to diminish or phase out its missions, remained active over two more decades. The recommendations of General Sheridan and Adjutant General Townsend did not go unchallenged. District Commander Getty held a different view of the situation. In his report on the District of New Mexico in October 1869, Getty (who, unlike Sheridan, had seen the post), provided a brief overview of the facilities at Fort Union. In addition to the supply depots and arsenal, he noted that Fort Union's "commodious buildings, stables &c, and the good quality and cheapness of forage renders it a good cavalry post, and one where cavalry can be schooled and drilled, the horses well cared for and yet be available in cases of emergency." The potential for emergencies in the district was considerable. Getty observed that, "with 30,000 Indians in or near the District and a native population very hostile to them, and continually giving rise to quarrels, it is obvious, that a permanent military force is necessary in the Territory." He also declared that, "in case of a general outbreak among the Indians in northern New Mexico," Fort Union "would be of great importance."  Whatever its importance, or lack thereof, Fort Union had not yet reached the half-way point of its years as an active post. Thus, recommendations for improvements, such as those offered by Lieutenant Colonel Davis, were important to its future.
Before a system of water distribution was installed, a fire in the family quarters of the depot commissary (designated as No. 2 Depot), Captain Andrew Kennedy Long, on November 15, 1871, damaged three of the eight rooms, a portion of the hall, and the veranda. The cause of the fire could not be determined but arson was suspected. The damage was estimated at $1,100.  This was not a major loss, but it likely spurred responsible officers to proceed with plans for a water system at the post, which was installed a few years later.
By 1870 the practicality of tin roofs was seriously in question. Post Surgeon Peters observed that tin roofs, "in this climate, do not answer for the reason that where artillery is used, the firing springs the nails and solder, and severs the attachments." In addition, "the adobe settles and causes the tin also to loosen. The tin rusts; the high winds detach it, and in every respect it is more expensive and less serviceable than shingles."  The post commander, Colonel John Irvin Gregg, Eighth Cavalry, explained the situation to the depot quartermaster, Captain Andrew Jackson McGonnigle, as follows: "Some of the roofs have been painted, but the paint blisters, and owing to the settling of the walls of the buildings, the soldering is broken in places on the roofs." Gregg concluded, "the consequence is that all the roofs leak more or less, and the plastering scales off from the ceilings, and to such an extent, as to render the occupation of Quarters unsafe." 
McGonnigle immediately requested permission from the district quartermaster at Santa Fe, Captain Augustus Gilman Robinson, to purchase some Tascott's enamel paint "for trial on the roofs of the public buildings at this Depot and Post." This paint was advertised to form "a perfectly Water-proof Covering," be "unaffected by changes in temperature," be "superior" for "roof paint," and "will not crack, peel, blister or chalk off." The paint could be purchased for $1.80 per gallon.  Despite the claims, the paint did not solve the problems of leaking roofs at Fort Union, which became more of a problem each year. A tinsmith was required almost constantly to repair the solder joints of the tin roofs. The penetration of moisture caused the plaster to crack and fall, requiring frequent repairs by a plasterer. 
In 1869 and 1870 the garrison at Fort Union was reduced during the spring and summer months when troops were sent to other places where they were needed to deal with Indians. For example, some of the cavalrymen were sent to Fort Bascom, where field duty was frequent during the warm months, and returned to Fort Union, where provisions for men and horses were more abundant, during the cold season. The small command at Fort Union was kept busy with routine duties and occasional escorts. The outpost was continued at Cimarron, where Lieutenant Ennis, Third Cavalry, died on August 12, 1869, "from injuries received by being thrown from his horse." He was buried at the Fort Union cemetery.  Accidents and diseases always claimed more lives of the troops than did warfare.
Among the changes at Fort Union was the transfer of Chaplain Woart to Dakota Territory in August 1869. Post Commander Grier requested that Rev. James Armour Moore La Tourrette be appointed as the new chaplain, "provided the Secretary of War should think it proper to appoint any Chaplain to this Post." Although Grier apparently preferred La Tourrette (since he asked for him), he reported that a majority of the officers at the post preferred Rev. William Vaux. Neither was appointed at the time. Chaplain David W. Eakins arrived at Fort Union on September 5, 1870. He served until granted sick leave on January 17, 1876. Chaplain Eakins died on March 5, 1876, at Philadelphia, Penn. He was followed by Chaplain George Washington Simpson, August 15, 1876, to August 4, 1877, when he was granted sick leave. On September 20, 1877, Rev. La Tourrette arrived. He served as post chaplain until he retired on March 23, 1890, being the chaplain with the longest tenure at Fort Union. John S. Seibold was the last chaplain to serve at the post, arriving August 26, 1890, and departing April 20, 1891. 
The westward expansion of the railroad after the Civil War affected the way things were done at Fort Union. Before the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, built westward in Kansas, the annual supply of recruits for the companies in the District of New Mexico were marched from Fort Leavenworth over the Santa Fe Trail each fall, under command of officers who were assigned to or were returning to duty in the territory. In 1869 Post Commander Grier was directed to send two officers from his garrison to the railroad at Sheridan, Kansas, to meet 110 recruits for the Third Cavalry and conduct them back to Fort Union.  From that time on, recruits arrived in small numbers throughout the year, since it was no longer necessary to wait for a large number to make the overland trip from Fort Leavenworth feasible.
The railroads also facilitated the shipment of horses to the district. Late in September 1870, Captain Augustus W. Starr, Eight Cavalry, led a detachment of 56 enlisted men, a veterinary surgeon, and a hospital steward, with four army wagons and two ambulances, from Fort Union to the railroad at Kit Carson, Colorado Territory, to receive and return with 200 horses. They encountered bad weather and two horses became sick and unable to travel. They returned to Fort Union with 198 horses on October 20. The horses were turned over to the quartermaster depot.  Another 200 horses were received at Kit Carson in September 1871.  As the railroads built closer and closer to Fort Union, reaching the nearby community of Watrous (formerly La Junta) in 1879, the transportation of personnel and supplies became faster, cheaper, safer, and more reliable. The coming of the railroad and all that went with it (including expansion of settlements, founding of new towns, economic enterprise, tourism, and the final solution to Indian interference) eventually made the military occupation of New Mexico unnecessary and the third Fort Union a non-essential appendage.
Until that happened, Fort Union continued to contribute to the keeping of the peace in New Mexico. In December 1869 the Moache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches at the Cimarron Agency at Maxwell's Ranch became "unsettled and hostile." This was the result of the department of Indian affairs decision to withhold annuities from these people and plans to place them on a reservation in Colorado Territory. Colonel Grier was directed to send at least 100 cavalrymen to reinforce the outpost at the Cimarron Agency. The troops were instructed "to avoid, if possible, a collision with the Indians." They were to be there, "in the event of hostilities, to be prepared to drive them west of the mountains, and to follow them up promptly." The troops were supplied from Fort Union. Surgeon Longwill was sent from Fort Union to serve as medical officer at Cimarron.  Trouble was averted when the annuities were delivered to the Utes and Jicarillas, and they were permitted to remain at the Cimarron Agency. The troops sent from Fort Union returned to the post.
The Third Cavalry was transferred from New Mexico in the spring of 1870. Some companies were sent to Arizona Territory and Nevada, and the others went to Wyoming Territory. The regiment was replaced in New Mexico by the Eighth Cavalry. In May Captain Charles Hobart, Eighth Cavalry, succeeded Colonel Grier as post commander, and the garrison was comprised of two companies of the same regiment. In June Colonel Gregg, Eighth Cavalry, again became post commander. Private Eddie Matthews, Company L, Eighth Cavalry, had recently arrived at Fort Union. He noted that Gregg, "from all accounts is a very fine man to soldier under, he is about seven feet tall."  By the end of the year, the garrison included four companies of Eighth Cavalry and one of Fifteenth Infantry. Except for changes in the office of post commander and seasonal variations in the number of troops at the fort, the garrison of Eighth Cavalry and Fifteenth Infantry remained fairly stable for more than five years. 
It was typical of most new commanding officers to make changes and correct conditions that had apparently been neglected by their predecessors. Problems that older residents had learned to live with stood out to the newcomer, demanding that something be done. Captain Hobart had not been at Fort Union one week when he reported that the officers' quarters and enlisted mens' barracks were "greatly in need of whitewashing and that the plastering also requires repairing." He was determined to improve conditions but had "no soldiers in my command competent to perform the duties." He therefore requested that the depot quartermaster be directed by the district commander to have the work done by depot employees.  The response was not located.
Hobart apparently thought that Fort Union had gone to the dogs and issued an order declaring "no dogs will be allowed to run at large at this Post." The method of enforcement was direct and uncomplicated. "All dogs found loose about the garrison will be killed at once." The sergeant of the guard was responsible for seeing that the order was "strictly enforced."  Surely someone at the post mused about who was supposed to inform the dogs. A few weeks later, Surgeon Peters discovered a good reason to enforce the order. A rabid dog was killed at the quartermaster depot. Peters, apparently unaware of Hobart's earlier orders, recommended "that all loose dogs found on the Reservation be killed and orders be given to keep any dog of value chained." 
Hobart was not the only commanding officer wanting to make changes. General Pope again became commander of the Department of the Missouri in 1870, and he (in a view similar to that of General Sheridan) recommended, among many other suggested changes in New Mexico, that Fort Union be abandoned and supplies be shipped directly to the posts for which they were intended. That did not set well with District Commander Getty, who wrote a splendid defense of the depots and the post at Fort Union, pointing out that closing them would necessitate a much greater expense in supplying the district.  Whether Pope was convinced by Getty's economic arguments or some other reason, Fort Union and the depots survived another proposal to shut them down.
During the summer of 1870 there were reports of attacks by Indians, believed to be Cheyennes and Arapahos, near Fort Bascom. Company F, Eight Cavalry, commanded by Captain Dudley Seward, was sent from Fort Union to strengthen the garrison at Bascom for several months. The mission of these soldiers was "to prevent hostile incursions into this District." The commanding officer at Fort Bascom was directed to keep cavalry scouts "constantly in the field" watching for Indian signs. Pickets were also to be located along the Fort Smith Road, giving protection to travelers if required.  Later in the summer, when it was feared there might be trouble with the Utes at the Cimarron Agency, Company D, Eighth Cavalry, commanded by Captain Starr, was transferred from Fort Bascom to Fort Union to increase the garrison there in case of an "emergency" with the Utes. 
On August 28, 1870, a scouting party comprised of troops of Company L, Eighth Cavalry, were sent from Fort Union to the Cimarron Agency, where they found, according to Private Matthews, a member of the detachment, "everything quiet." A portion of the company was sent from Cimarron to search for livestock thieves northeast of Cimarron into Colorado Territory. They went to the infamous Stone Ranch, where Samuel Coe had been arrested a few years earlier, expecting to find a new gang of thieves led by a man named Arbuckle. Private Matthews reported that the 30 troopers rode hard to reach Stone Ranch and charged the supposed hideout at dawn "as fast as our horses could carry us." He continued, "Saw the Ranch and made a gallant charge with carbines drawn and loaded. Surrounded and took the Ranch without firing a shot or loosing a man, but on entering the building found it full of emptyness. Not a living thing could we see. . . . So we had to return as empty handed as we come."  Matthews was pleased that the troops had not had to fight either Indians or horse thieves and returned safely to Fort Union.
A few weeks later, after additional rumors of troubles between the Utes and Jicarilla Apaches near Cimarron, Company L, Eighth Cavalry, commanded by Captain Hobart, was sent to encamp at the Cimarron Agency until the crisis was resolved.  Captain Hobart reported the situation "quiet" when he arrived at Cimarron, and attributed most of the trouble to a few drunken Indians. He suggested that, if the whiskey traders were "caught and punished," there would probably not "be the slightest trouble with the Indians."  Private Matthews reported that the log quarters at Cimarron were "in a bad condition" and there was little to do except "to drill twice a day." He noted that a party of recruits arrived at Cimarron on their way to Fort Union, and that one of the new soldiers died of starvation and was buried at Cimarron. Matthews lamented, "It don't sound very well for a Regular U. S. Soldier to die of starvation in a country where there are plenty, but it is actually the truth." Because the log quarters were dilapidated, the soldiers moved into tents for the remainder of their month's stay at Cimarron. 
On Saturday, October 15, 1870, some of the soldiers at the camp attended a New Mexican fandango in the community of Cimarron. There a fight broke out and one of the soldiers was stabbed in the back with a knife, but the wound was not serious. A New Mexican was shot and killed by another trooper named Ford, who claimed the New Mexican threatened him with a knife. This soldier was arrested by the local sheriff. Additional troops, including Private Matthews, were marched quickly from the camp to the town to restore order and return all the soldiers safely to camp. This was done, except for the soldier confined by the sheriff. That soldier was released to his commanding officer the following day but deserted a short time later, assisted by some of his fellow soldiers. Matthews denounced the violence that frequently occurred in civilian communities and declared, "For my part I stay away from those places. There's plenty of fighting to do with Indians without going to these dances to be shot, or cut up with Knifes." A few days later, on November 1, the company returned to Fort Union. The company stationed at Fort Bascom rejoined the Fort Union garrison a couple of days later. 
The service at Fort Bascom and Cimarron Agency provided an opportunity for troops from Fort Union to participate in field duty, almost always a welcome relief from the tedium of garrison life. These troops encountered no Indian troubles, but their presence may have prevented Indian resistance. When the troops returned to Fort Union in the fall, they discovered further improvements in progress.
Colonel Gregg, in the interest of sanitation and appearance of the post, ordered that "all hogs found running loose within and around this Post will be taken up by the Guard." The hogs, unlike loose dogs, were not to be destroyed (they, of course, were not rabid either). The owners who claimed the hogs were to be charged a fee, the amount to be set by the post council of administration.  Later, when eight hogs captured by the guard remained unclaimed, Gregg ordered them to be sold at public auction a few days later, unless claimed before that time.  When it was discovered that cows were also "running loose," they were also directed to be confined. 
Another reform came with directions that "smoking (except on the porches in front of the Officers' Quarters) within the limits of the parade ground, and in the corrals and stables, and around the storehouses of this Post, is strictly forbidden." This was not the result of concern about the health of those who used tobacco but part of a fire prevention program. The commanders of troops were to have the smoking regulations "read at different times to the men" at the post. 
Additional improvement at the post was achieved with orders that neither officers nor enlisted men were to walk across the parade ground except on one of the established "walks." This may have been a sort of keep-off-the-grass policy, but there may have been little or no grass growing on most of the parade. Decorum was to be further enhanced with the requirement that all officers and enlisted men were, when crossing the parade and "in the vicinity of the guard," required to "have their blouses or coats buttoned." The officer of the day was charged with enforcing these orders. There was one exception. "Enlisted men on extra duty in the Qr. Mr. Dept. whose duties require them to pass and repass the Guard are exempted from compliance with Par. 4," which required that blouses or coats be buttoned. 
Colonel Gregg was a stickler for convention. When it was reported to him that some laundresses had used "violent and abusive language," Gregg "announced that if the parties so offending are again reported they will be sent beyond the limits of this Military Reservation and deprived of the ration now allowed them."  Gregg also decided that Sunday was to be a day of rest at Fort Union. Following a Sunday morning dress parade and inspection, the officers and enlisted men were to be free from duties so they could "repair to their quarters, reading room or Chapel as their inclination may prompt them." In addition, "all places of business and amusement in the vicinity of this Garrison will be closed on the Sabbath Day." He did concede that "reasonable amusements within the limits of the Garrison are not prohibited." He never defined what he meant by "reasonable." Gregg also directed that a "reading room" be set aside in each company quarters. The room was to be furnished with tables and benches constructed by the soldiers.  Later Gregg directed that those who wished to attend church would be excused from regular Sunday morning inspections.  The fact that commissioned and non-commissioned officers devoted time to controlling loose pigs and cows, preventing smoking, enforcing sidewalk rules, seeing that blouses were properly buttoned, punishing laundresses who cursed, and keeping the Sabbath was indicative that they were not much occupied with serious military decisions. Other than routine garrison duty and assistance to the supply depots, there was not much demand on the soldiers at Fort Union after 1870.
The need for other posts declined as the Indians were settled onto reservations. Fort Bascom was abandoned in the fall of 1870, and the garrison and all supplies at Bascom were transferred to Union. A small guard was left to protect the vacant post. The guard was considered to be part of the garrison at Fort Union, "absent on detached service."  About the same time, the outpost at the Cimarron Agency was closed and those troops returned to Fort Union.  Before the troops left Cimarron, a detachment of 21 men was sent under command of Second Lieutenant Edmund M. Cobb, Third Cavalry, from that outpost to assist civil authorities at Elizabethtown in "quelling a disturbance among the citizens of that place." 
In December 1870 a special guard detail was organized at Fort Union, comprised of 20 men (five from each company of Eighth Cavalry at the post) including Private Eddie Matthews, to be held in readiness for service when needed. Each man was issued 50 rounds of carbine ammunition and 18 rounds of pistol ammunition. The assignment for this detail was not revealed, and Matthews noted that "considerable curriossity is manifested by every body to know where we are going." Among the speculations were special assignment in Santa Fe, a search for horse thieves, and escort duty for Brigadier General John Pope, department commander. Everyone was surprised when, on December 23, the detail was assigned to guard a shipment of six million dollars being transported to the U. S. Bank at Santa Fe. 
Matthews enjoyed the assignment and wrote to his family about it. "Talk of your Rich men," he declared, "none of them ever slept on a more costly bed than I have. I spread my blankets down on the boxes of money and slept as sound as would were I in my bed at home." Because they were on the road on Christmas day, the men of the detail missed out on turkey dinner served at the post. Matthews reported that the detachment "dined on sow bacon and hard tack." Matthews was not impressed with Santa Fe, a "dull and miserable place," where his party arrived the day after Christmas. They were back at Fort Union on January 4, 1871. Matthews was pleased to rejoin the garrison and return to his quarters. 
The quarters at Fort Union were filled beyond capacity when the troops arrived from Fort Bascom in the autumn of 1870. Some of the troops from Fort Bascom were quartered "in the Forage Room, Blacksmith Shop, Coal Room and small rooms used for saddlers Shops by the cavalry companies." Some of these rooms had only dirt floors and "the roofs leak badly." Some windows were broken out of the blacksmith shop. Plans were immediately made to repair the windows and roofs and install wooden flooring where required. There was also need for more laundresses' quarters than were available. A total of 20 rooms were made available to the laundresses of four companies and the regimental band, and troop commanders were responsible for the specific assignments. 
By 1870 the buildings at the third fort, although some were only four years old, were in constant need of repairs. Colonel Gregg was concerned about the plaster ceilings which kept cracking and falling down. He directed Lieutenant George F. Foote, post quartermaster, to prepare an estimate for lumber to install board ceilings in all the quarters and offices at the post. Foote calculated the cost to be approximately $2,350 for materials. The expense was denied and the improvements were not made.  Until the leaking roofs could be sealed, the ceilings would continue to be exposed to moisture.
The ceilings were not the only problem. In November Colonel Gregg reported to district headquarters that "the walls of the public buildings at this Post, in consequence of not being plastered outside, are liable to fall." The walls of many of the buildings had "a tendency to settle outwards, and the constant action of the mud and rain on the soft and pliable adobe will increase this tendency." Gregg did not know what should be done, but he recommended that "a competent mechanic or architect" examine the buildings recommend what repairs were needed. Gregg reported that the mason who had been making repairs to the buildings believed that many of the buildings at the post might fall down within "a year or two."  The plight of the structures was overstated, but it was clear that preventative steps were required soon. Adobe buildings required periodic plastering of the exterior if they were to be protected from erosion.
The chief quartermaster for the district, Major Joseph Adams Potter, traveled to Fort Union from Santa Fe to investigate the conditions of the buildings. He concluded, "after a careful examination," that there was "no evidence of a tendency to fall." He found a few places where the adobes had eroded, causing "a slight bulging out." These he considered to be minor problems and declared "in all other particulars the buildings are perfect." They all were in need of replastering on the exterior and some needed to be replastered on the interior. He recommended that the plastering be done as early as possible the following spring. Colonel Getty approved the recommendation and ordered that enlisted men would do the plastering "as early next spring as the season will permit." 
Colonel Gregg replaced Colonel Getty as district commander on February 1, 1871. Gregg served until the arrival of Colonel Gordon Granger, Fifteenth Infantry, who assumed the duties on April 30, 1871.  Gregg was relieved as commandant of Fort Union on January 31 by Captain Horace Jewett, Fifteenth Infantry. Jewett and Major David Ramsay Clendenin, Eight Cavalry, rotated irregularly as post commander during much of the following year, and Colonel Gregg returned to head the post for brief periods in 1871 and most of the first quarter of 1872. Throughout that time the garrison was comprised of four companies of Eighth Cavalry and one of Fifteenth Infantry. 
There was some thought of reoccupying the outpost at the Cimarron Agency in the spring of 1871, but Colonel Gregg decided against it. The primary need for troops at the agency was to oversee the distribution of provisions on issue day. He decided it would be less expensive to send a detachment of one officer and 15 enlisted men from Fort Union "to arrive at the agency on the evening previous to the issue day and . . . return on the day following."  Gregg believed that certain interests wanted the troops at Cimarron so they could profit from the soldiers. He was not going to accommodate them. He noted that troops from Fort Union could be on the scene in 12 hours, if needed, and that most of the troubles at the agency resulted from illegal sales of whiskey. He urged that the whiskey traders be controlled by civil authorities.  There was even more concern about controlling the New Mexican Comancheros who traded with the plains Indians.
The abandonment of Fort Bascom encouraged many New Mexicans to attempt to reopen the old trading relationships with the Comanches. By late winter 1871, the small guard left to protect the buildings at Fort Bascom reported that "considerable numbers" of New Mexicans were going to Indian Territory.  In response, two companies of Eighth Cavalry (D and F) from Fort Union, under command of Captain James F. Randlett (later under Major Clendenin), were assigned to patrol the area between Fort Union and old Fort Bascom and between that point and old Fort Sumner during the spring and summer of 1871. They used old Fort Bascom as their base of supply (supplies sent there by wagon trains from Fort Union) and operations. Their primary mission was to stop any New Mexicans "engaged in illegal trade with the Indians" and to confiscate the property of such traders. They were also to watch for and attempt to prevent any Indians coming from the east into New Mexico Territory. Farther east, two companies from Camp Supply, Indian Territory, were assigned to similar duty in the region between Camp Supply and Round Mound near the Santa Fe Trail in northeastern New Mexico Territory.  These patrols saw few plains Indians but were able to catch more than 30 Comancheros. Their presence probably deterred others from going to Indian Territory. It was a good year for the troops from Fort Union. It was the beginning of the end of the Comanchero trade.
Randlett reported early in May that "no trails of Indians have yet been found and no reports of depredations commited by them have been reported by citizens."  That situation remained true through the summer season. A few days later, on May 9, Lieutenant Andrew P. Caraher, Eighth Cavalry, and 28 men captured 22 Comancheros (mostly Pueblo Indians from Isleta) and confiscated approximately 700 head of cattle, 10 ponies, and a pack train of 57 burros loaded with trade goods. Many of the cattle were lost because the small detachment had its hands full looking after the prisoners and other property, but they held onto some 300 head until they reached Fort Bascom. The prisoners and their property were taken to Fort Union, during which time another 100 head of cattle were lost, and then to Santa Fe where they were turned over to the superintendent of Indian affairs.  On June 12, 1871, Superintendent of Indian Affairs Nathaniel Pope at Santa Fe received 21 prisoners, 198 head of cattle, 46 burros, and 11 horses. The brands on the livestock were recorded so they could be returned to their owners if possible. 
On May 28 Captain Randlett and his detachment, guided by Frank DeLisle, captured 11 Comancheros, a Comanche woman who was guiding them, and a pack train of 23 burros carrying ammunition, cloth, bread, trinkets, whiskey, and other trade items. The trade items were destroyed and the burros were killed. The Comancheros claimed to be residents of Santa Fe, San Miguel, and Mora. The following day Randlett's party captured a herd of some 500 cattle, which may have been stolen in Texas by the Comanches to trade to the New Mexicans. Only one of the New Mexican herders with the cattle was captured, the rest escaped. There were also 26 burros with the cattle herd which were captured; 14 of these burros were killed. The cattle, remaining burros, and prisoners were taken to Fort Bascom, then the prisoners and some of the cattle were sent to Fort Union. The prisoners were held until civil authorities could prosecute them for violation of laws prohibiting trade with the plains Indians. The livestock and other property were held by the army, to be claimed by the legal owners if such ownership could be substantiated. 
The commissary officer at Fort Union was authorized to slaughter any of the captured cattle that were "fit for issue to the troops." He was to keep a record of brands and weights so legal claimants could be compensated.  The captured cattle that were kept at Fort Bascom were also slaughtered and issued to troops under the same orders.  In November 1871 some 400 captured cattle, which had not been claimed or slaughtered, were sold at public auction at Fort Union. 
The prisoners were turned over to civil authorities at Santa Fe in July so a grand jury could consider the charges against them. They were indicted for "carrying whiskey into Indian Country." The cases were all dismissed because of the ineptitude of U.S. District Attorney S. M. Ashenfelter.  The remaining property held at Fort Union and Fort Bascom was turned over to the U.S. Marshal for the territory, John Pratt. 
The capture and punishment of Comancheros were applauded by a Santa Fe newspaper:
"We trust that the good work may go on until this nefarious trade is most thoroughly broken up. It has long been a disgrace to our Territory, and the cause of untold loss and suffering to the frontier settlers of Texas. Let the troops be kept in the field, and summary justice be meted out to all traders found in the Indian Country, and in a short time they will find out that the profits attending such unlawful expeditions will not compensate for the risk incurred." 
A week later the same newspaper reported more favorable results:
"The vigorous campaign opened by the military authorities upon the Comanche Traders is already showing its effect. We learn from Las Vegas that a number of parties who left the settlements to trade with the Comanches have returned without effecting their object, hearing of the recent captures . . . they made all haste back to their homes with a firm resolve to make a living in some other and more lawful manner than trading with Indian thieves, as long as the scouts were kept in the field and their illgotten booty liable to be taken from them every minute, and they themselves made amenable to law. Let the troops be kept moving, and let every trader caught be made to suffer the extremest penalty of the law." 
An additional company of Eighth Cavalry was sent from Fort Union to join the two companies operating out of old Fort Bascom in August.  The patrols along the eastern portion of the territory were increased because of rumors that many Comancheros had evaded the troops in the field and gone into Indian Territory. There was also fear that the Kiowas and Comanches might attempt to raid some of the eastern settlements in New Mexico. In addition, the troops were to escort a railroad survey party when it arrived in the area in September. With the approach of the winter season, the troops operating out of Fort Bascom were directed to return to Fort Union by November 15. Although they had continued to patrol the region after the capture of Comancheros in May, no more traders were encountered by the troops. They arrived at Fort Union on November 18. A small detachment, one officer and fifteen men, was left to guard Fort Bascom.  The Comanchero trade was virtually destroyed the following year by troops and citizens in Texas, the main victims of the Indians who stole their livestock to trade to the New Mexican traders.
During the summer of 1871, while many of the troops from Fort Union were away on field duty, another bathhouse was authorized. The adobes were to be made by prisoners, the lumber and other materials were to be purchased by the quartermaster department, and the depot quartermaster was to be in charge of construction.  The size and location of this bathhouse were not determined, and it may not have been built at all. Almost a year later the new post surgeon, Blencowe Eardley Fryer, requested that a suitable building be erected at Fort Union "to be used as a bath house for the enlisted men." Until that bathhouse was completed, he recommended that the men be "marched to the spring creek [Wolf Creek] below the Post at least twice a week & there be made to wash their bodies thoroughly."  In 1871 lumber was also purchased to build covers over the cisterns at the post hospital. The protective platforms on the cisterns may have been a safety measure decided upon following the death of a prisoner, Private John Mitchell, who fell into a well in the post quartermaster's corral and died on July 29. Other improvements included the construction of partitions for the stalls in one of the cavalry stables. 
For the most part, the troops at Fort Union enjoyed a quiet winter, 1871-1872. On February 2, Captain Hobart and a detachment of Eighth Cavalry were sent to Trinidad, Colorado Territory, at the request of the sheriff, to aid in the enforcement of law and order. The cause of the problem was not explained, but the troops were directed to remain until they were no longer needed. The detachment returned to Fort Union on February 17.
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