Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Union (NM)

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Fort Union, located in Mora County, New Mexico is a ruined adobe and brick fortification along with a seperate earthwork fortification. Originally begun as a post in 1851 the post was established by Lt Col Edwin Sumner who would go on to serve as a general for the Union Army during the American Civil War. The post, located on the Santa Fe Trail, was to serve as headquarters for troops stationed in the New Mexico Territory as well as the main supply depot. The original post was constructed mostly of timber and mud.
fort union 3.jpg

At the outset of the American Civil War Fort Union was garrisoned by Federal troops however because of the open nature of the post Union commanders in the territory under the command of Col. Edward Canby immediately began preparing for hostilities by beginning construction on a second earthern fort near the first Fort Union. This fort would be completed for the most part within that same year. This massive 8-point star fort housed new barracks and officers quarters as well as supply warehouses and other structures necessary to the troops.
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When Confederate Brig. General Henry Sibley began his New Mexico Campaign in early 1862 troops at Fort Union were put on high alert. Following the Battle of Valverde and the capture of Santa Fe by Confederate troops the majority of Federal troops at Fort Union were redeployed to stop the Confederate advance. Following the Battle of Glorieta Pass in late March of 1862 and due to Sibley losing the bulk of his supplies Fort Union was no longer in danger.
fort union 2.jpg

The earthern fort would continue to be garrisoned through 1862 and most of 1863 however it did suffer from multiple design flaws. Like the first Fort Union the timber used to construct buildings quickly rotted. During the rainy season the buildings leaked and the floors quickly turned to mud. The fort also became its own worst enemy when dealing with the terrain. If enemy artillery had been placed on the nearby ridges surrounding the fort located in the valley they could have simply shelled the fort into submission by using the elevation and terrain to shoot into the fort with the forts guns not having the range to return fire. Because of these flaws yet another Fort Union was planned and construction began in 1863.
fort union 5.jpg

The third Fort Union was mostly constructed of stones, brick, and adobe. This post consisted of multiple structures and took on the open post look as there was no longer a threat of Confederate attack. The post was constructed near the earthern fort and featured many buildings including new barracks for the troops, officers quarters, a hospital and multiple other structures. The earthern fort was to be occupied in time of an attack with the 1st and original Fort Union being transformed into a supply and ordinance depot. The third Fort Union would continue service through the end of the war with none of the 3 forts having ever been subjected to enemy attack during the American Civil War.
fort union 4.jpg

The fort would continue service following the war with it being downsized greatly in the 1880s with the advancement of railroads in the region and the demise of the Santa Fe Trail. In early 1891 the fort was abandoned and because the post was actually built on private land it was taken over by private owners. It would not be until 1956 that the third Fort Union would become Fort Union National Monument with the earthern Civil War-era fort being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. There is no longer any trace of the original Fort Union.

Today the site, ran by the NPS, is open to visitors all year for a $3.00 fee. There is over a mile trail that weaves between different ruined structures identifying each with various signs and monuments. Visitors can also tour the old earthern fort as well. The Glorieta Pass Battlefield is also nearby if you want to make around an hour trip to it.

Also remember to check out all other "Forgotten Forts" in the Series Index (Link Below)
http://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-index.80901/
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
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Dec 31, 2009
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
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Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
This is a cool picture.

Isn't it? I will say this entire thing has made me very, very homesick for Colfax County. I had a part-time job in the 1970's counting range caterpillars in the area. My best friend was in charge of the program, and we'd go out after school and on Saturdays, take a picnic, see the antelope, and count caterpillars for the federal government. One of my favorite spots was near Point of Rocks, and another was south of Springer, on a piece of property with ruts still visible. Betsy's family had been there since forever, so she knew all the cool historical details. Nice memories.
 

phil1861

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 6, 2011
Location
Albuquerque, NM
Union is the only really well preserved pre Civil War fort left. Fort Craig is nothing but holes in the ground and a few mounds for walls left and other forts have been bulldozed over like Filmore in the Messilla valley where the 7th US companies surrendered the fort to Major Baylor's advance from El Paso, went on a drunken spree through the commissary, and then tried to march out into the desert with little water with them. It's a park now.

I recently walked through a report from 1863 to 1864 by the 1st California Volunteers and was surprised at how many different forts in NM that I'd never heard of before because they no longer exist save for a marker somewhere.
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Union is the only really well preserved pre Civil War fort left. Fort Craig is nothing but holes in the ground and a few mounds for walls left and other forts have been bulldozed over like Filmore in the Messilla valley where the 7th US companies surrendered the fort to Major Baylor's advance from El Paso, went on a drunken spree through the commissary, and then tried to march out into the desert with little water with them. It's a park now.

I recently walked through a report from 1863 to 1864 by the 1st California Volunteers and was surprised at how many different forts in NM that I'd never heard of before because they no longer exist save for a marker somewhere.

It's just about the same with anything in NM from the past. When I came off active duty and headed home from Camp Pendleton I took a more scenic route through Califorinia, Arizona, and New Mexico. It's crazy how much stuff is gone and forgotten especially along old Route 66 where towns virtually turned into ghost towns overnight with the coming of the Interstate Highway System.
 
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