History & Culture
Defender of the Southwest
When New Mexico became United States territory after the U.S.- Mexican War, the army established garrisons in towns scattered along the Rio Grande to protect the area's inhabitants and travel routes. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory for a number of reasons, and in April 1851, Lt. Col. Edwin V. Sumner, commanding Military Department No. 9 (which included New Mexico Territory), was ordered "to revise the whole system of defense" for the entire territory. Among his first acts was to break up the scattered garrisons and relocate them in posts closer to the Indians. He also moved his headquarters and supply depot from Santa Fe, "that sink of vice and extravagance," to a site near the Mountain and Cimarron branches of the Santa Fe Trail, where he established Fort Union.
Did You Know?
Freemasons were among the first to advocate for the preservation of Fort Union, the site where two Masonic lodges had been founded. On January 23, 1929, the members of Chapman Lodge No. 2 at Las Vegas (one of the lodges which had its origins at Fort Union in 1862) selected a committee to "have Fort Union declared a national monument."