Historic Resource Study
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The soldiers in the frontier army could be effective only if properly supplied with food, clothing, shelter, medical care, arms and other equipment, ammunition, and transportation. The quartermaster department was responsible for all those components, except food (which was procured and distributed by the commissary of subsistence department), medical supplies (handled by the medical department), and arms and ammunition (furnished by the ordnance department). The major portion of the military budget went to those subsistence and maintenance departments. Each purchased huge quantities of material and took care of vast amounts of property. Civilian employees were hired to assist all three, most of whom worked in the quartermaster service. [1]

When Major Andrew W. Evans, Third Cavalry, wrote in his inspection report in 1868 that "the Quartermaster Depot of Fort Union is an extensive establishment," it was almost an understatement. Some comprehension of what he intended may be found by reading the reports in appendices L, M, N, and O. The huge complex (covering approximately 400 acres of land) of quarters, offices, storehouses, granaries, repair shops, corrals, stables, hay stacks, and wood piles, which included the commissary department and the department of clothing, camp, and garrison equipage (a division of the quartermaster department), required the shipping of thousands of tons of supplies into and out of Fort Union and the labor of many people. For a time Fort Union, including these operations, was the largest economic establishment in New Mexico Territory.

In fact, throughout most of the era Fort Union was active, the army was the major business enterprise and the primary employer in New Mexico. Economic development of the region was thoroughly affected by military purchases of commodities, services, and labor. [2] Because Fort Union was the supply depot for the region during much of its occupation, and a subdepot during a portion of the 1850s, it was at the center of storing and distributing equipment and provisions, as well as military transportation, for a large territory. It was also predominant in contracting for products and services and hiring civilians for numerous tasks. The construction of the first, second, and third posts at Fort Union and the supply depot (covered in chapters 2, 5, 6, and 7) was done under the direction of the quartermaster department, and keeping buildings repaired was a constant task. The Fort Union ordnance depot (later arsenal) served the military department (later district) from 1851 to 1882. Its services were vital to the field operations of the army, but its economic influence was markedly less than the quartermaster and commissary departments because it spent few funds in the territory beyond a small labor force and minor purchases of forage and other supplies.

The expansion of the United States and the military occupation of the American West during the late 1840s increased transportation costs of the army more than fifteen times. The total transport expenditures of the army in 1846 was $130,000. In 1851, the year Fort Union was established, transportation costs exceeded $2,000,000. The cost of shipping supplies to the troops in the West was far greater than the value of the supplies. The cost of maintaining draft animals in New Mexico was almost seven times greater than feeding them at Fort Leavenworth. While it cost less than $50 a year to keep a horse or mule at Leavenworth, it required about $330 in New Mexico. [3]

Transportation had become the largest single item in the military budget, accounting for almost one-half of the entire army appropriation by the early 1850s. [4] That remained true until the Civil War. Military freight sent to New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail accounted for a considerable part of the total. That important overland route, which had been utilized primarily by merchant-traders from 1821 to 1846, became flooded with military freight thereafter. As Frazer noted, "the army had no choice but to import because New Mexico afforded so few of the goods that it required." [5] The transportation of military equipment and supplies comprised the greater part of traffic on the Santa Fe Trail from the time of the Mexican War until the railroad superseded the historic wagon route more than three decades later.

Soon after the close of the Mexican War the quartermaster department phased out its freighting operations and began to contract with civilian firms for the transportation of supplies from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico. The rates were reduced but still costly. The quartermaster department estimated that it was spending an average of $14.75 per hundred pounds of stores carried from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe in 1848. That same year James Brown of Independence, Missouri, agreed to carry freight from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe for $11.75 per hundred pounds. The following year Brown formed a partnership with William H. Russell, and they contracted to freight supplies from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe for $9.88 per hundred, with an additional 5% for the transport of bacon. In 1850 two contractors (David Waldo and the firm of Brown, Russell and Company) agreed to move 750,000 pounds of freight from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe at the rate of $14.333 per hundred (total value of those contracts was over one million dollars). [6]

In 1851, the year Fort Union was established, the army sent 452 wagons loaded with supplies to New Mexico. The rate was $8.59 per hundred to Santa Fe and $7.875 to Fort Union. The rates changed little until 1853, after Garland took command of the department. Distressed by the deficiency of supplies in department storehouses, Garland, despite the lateness of the season, urgently appealed for the shipment of more provisions from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Union as quickly as possible. Contracts were signed in September 1853 with three freighters (Alexander Majors, James B. Yager, and the firm of Russell, Waddell & Co.). Because of the hazards of crossing the plains at a time when grass was dormant and freezing temperatures and snowstorms were possible, the rates were more than double those most recently obtained, $16 per hundred pounds. [7]

The following year, when contractors were able to depart from Fort Leavenworth in the spring, rates returned to about what they had been before 1853. In 1854 the rate to Fort Union was $7.96 per hundred pounds. In 1855 the army contracted with the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell to transport supplies to New Mexico from Fort Leavenworth for two years, with rates set at so much per hundred pounds per hundred miles and adjusted to the season of the year. The rates ranged from a low of $1.14 for goods shipped from May 1 to July 31 to a high of $3.60 for supplies sent between December 1 and February 28. The distance between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Union was determined to be 728 miles, so rates to the post were calculated at 7.28 times the established rate per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Thus the rate per hundred pounds from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Union at the low end of the scale was $8.30 and at the high end it was $26.20. This method of setting rates was retained in subsequent contracts, each of which had a slightly lower rate through 1860. In 1860 Russell, Majors and Waddell sent 837 wagons with over five million pounds of freight to New Mexico. [8]

Not only was it costly to transport supplies to New Mexico, there was the additional problem of distribution among the posts in the department. Colonel Sumner, in his economy drive in New Mexico in 1851-1852, attempted to have only quartermaster wagon trains handle transportation within his department. He soon found it necessary, however, to employ civilian teamsters and to contract with civilian freighters to accomplish the distribution. By the spring of 1852 Sumner admitted failure to achieve his goal of military freight being moved only by the army in New Mexico, and he declared the department was "very much pressed for transportation." [9] He purchased draft animals where he could find them, employed civilian teamsters, and hired a civilian wagon master to oversee transportation at the Fort Union depot. [10] Even so, the posts throughout the department were inadequately supplied so long as Sumner commanded the department.

Soon after Brigadier General John Garland took command of the department, the general depot (for quartermaster and commissary departments) was moved from Fort Union to Albuquerque. Fort Union retained the ordnance depot and remained a quartermaster and commissary subdepot until the Civil War. The costs of distribution within the department were reduced, although not significantly, and the cost of transportation from Fort Leavenworth increased because of the added distance from Fort Union to Albuquerque. Garland, unlike Sumner, ordered adequate supplies for the posts of New Mexico and paid the costs incurred. He also directed that supplies coming over the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Leavenworth be distributed from the subdepot at Fort Union.

In 1857 Lieutenant William B. Lane, subsistence officer at the subdepot, wrote that, "in view of the anticipated arrival of the annual supplies for this Department," he needed a detail of troops from the post "to overhaul and ship these supplies." Post Commander Llewellyn Jones was shorthanded and recommended that civilians be employed for the duty. A clerk and six laborers were authorized for the subdepot. [11] After the provisions were sorted and repacked they were shipped to other military installations throughout the department. This required many wagons, draft animals, and teamsters. Transportation costs remained a major part of the military budget in New Mexico. Some funds were utilized to open new roads and improve old ones, benefiting both military and civilian traffic. Sometimes civilians were employed to work on the roads.

Wages paid to civilian employees, however, formed only a small portion of total military expenditures in the department. Colonel Sumner had reduced the number of civilian employees in the department (1851-1853) as part of his economy measures, much to the detriment of the troops stationed in New Mexico. When Sumner left the New Mexico, the entire department had only 29 civilian employees. Sumner's successor, Garland, increased the number during his administration (1853-1858) to approximately 250. The wages paid also increased during Garland's tenure as the following tables show. In both time periods most of the employees were teamsters. [12]

Table 4
Wages Paid Civilian Employees in the Department of New Mexico, 1853

PositionMonthly Salary
Clerks$65.00 to 75.00
Wagon Master58.25
Assistant Wagon Master30.00

Table 5
Wages Paid Civilian Employees in the Department of New Mexico, 1858

PositionMonthly Salary
Wagon Masters50 to 60
Wheelwrights50 to 55
Millwrights50 to 85
Blacksmiths50 to 55
Ambulance Driver25
Labor Superintendent40
Laborers20 to 30
Herders10 to 25
Ferrymen10 to 45

Most civilian employees also received one ration of food per day, although the ration was occasionally exchanged for cash at the rate of twenty cents. Other positions were also filled by civilians. In December 1854, for example, the quarters at Fort Union "being in need of repairs and there being no lumber at the Post," the post quartermaster was directed to "employ a man capable of running the sawmill & have lumber sawed out as soon as practicable." [15] New Mexicans were hired to serve as packers when pack mules were used to carry supplies in the field. In June 1855 Fort Union Commander Whittlesey directed Post Quartermaster George Sykes: "In consequence of the necessity of having the benefit of the peculiar knowledge of the use of the lasso and the art of packing possessed only by Mexican packers, you will please employ two temporarily to accompany the train of 12 pack mules required for the scout of ten or twelve days directed to be made by Co. 'H' 1st Drags." [16]

It should be noted that New Mexicans were not actively recruited for enlistment in the regular army during the early 1850s, although they were encouraged to enlist in short-term militia units and volunteers. There was no known policy against their recruitment, but there was a concern about their ability to speak and understand English. A captain in the Third Cavalry felt it necessary to request permission from department headquarters to enlist "Mexicans" in his company before doing so. Brigadier General Garland replied that he could "see no objection to their enlistment, to the extent of four or five to a company, and for special duties." [17] Few Hispanos served in the regular army in New Mexico before the Civil War. It was easier for them to secure employment as civilians than as soldiers.

The army employed civilian guides, spies, and interpreters as needed. The pay for these services was usually $1.50 to $2.00 per day ($3.00 for a principal guide) plus rations, with the employee providing his own horse and arms. These temporary positions were often filled by New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians. Indian auxiliaries, as noted in chapters three, five, six, and seven, were often employed to assist troops in the field. Sometimes they were paid and other times they were permitted to retain captured booty in lieu of payment. [18] As a result of the increasing numbers of civilians and the rise in wages, by 1860 the monthly army payroll to non-military employees in the department was almost $8,000. [19]

Altogether, however, wages paid to civilians were small when compared to funds expended by the army in New Mexico for payment of troops (more than $750,000 during fiscal 1860-1861), [20] transportation, and the purchase of food, forage, livestock, and fuel. Of all the materials required by the army in the department, only a few could be supplied by the people of New Mexico. That was the major reason the costs of transportation, as previously noted, consumed such a large portion of army appropriations. The items that could be procured in New Mexico during the 1850s were usually higher in price than at Fort Leavenworth, but they were considerably less expensive than the cost of shipment from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico. Thus, until the coming of the railroad reduced overland transportation to only a fraction of what it was by wagon train, the army purchased whatever was available within the department.

During the 1850s only a few items of the soldiers' rations were sufficient in quantity among New Mexicans to provide even a portion of the army's demands. Beans, flour, and beef on the hoof could be bought, although not always in quantities required. Military purchases stimulated the growth of wheat production, flour milling, and ranching in the territory. By 1853 most of the flour utilized by troops was produced in New Mexico. Beef, on the other hand, was still principally driven to the territory from Missouri. Salt, abundant in New Mexico, was usually bought from citizens and occasionally gathered by soldiers. Corn, mostly utilized to feed draft animals rather than human consumption, was also bought in large amounts, thereby encouraging increased production. Hay and other forage (mostly corn stalks and wheat straw and occasionally oats) for livestock were usually obtained by contract with civilians after Colonel Sumner's farming operations failed. Apparently the first contract issued for hay at Fort Union was authorized by Garland in October 1854. Other livestock besides beef cattle were purchased, including sheep, oxen, mules, and horses when they could be obtained in the area. Sheep were always in ample supply, but the army only substituted mutton for beef in its rations on a limited basis. Mules were also abundant in New Mexico, and the army bought many of them to use for draft animals and, in some cases, to ride in place of horses. [21] Firewood was provided by troop labor and, increasingly as time passed, by contract. Other items purchased from New Mexicans included vinegar, candles, charcoal, lime, lumber, [22] and buckskins.

Corn and flour comprised the major New Mexican agricultural products purchased under contracts. Most of the contractors were Anglos, but they purchased corn and wheat from uncounted New Mexican farmers. The quantities and prices of these items are summarized in the following tables.

Table 6
Corn Contracts at Fort Union, 1851-1859

Year of Delivery Fanegas [24] Price Per Fenega
1852-18534,500 (shelled)3.85
18555,000 (shelled)1.80-2.40
1855-185610,000 (shelled)3.00
1856-18575,300 (shelled)3.10-3.28

1,500 (cob com)3.00-3.15
1857-18589,600 (shelled)2.31-2.82

Table 7
Flour Contracts in Department of New Mexico, 1853-1859

Price Per 100 Lbs. [26]

Because of the investment required in flour milling, the number of contractors in New Mexico was limited to a few enterprises. During the 1850s four millers filled almost all contracts for flour produced in the department: Ceran St. Vrain, with mills at Talpa and Mora; Simeon Hart's mill at present El Paso, Texas; Antonio José at Peralta; and Joseph Hersch at Santa Fe. Corn and hay contracts included a wider variety of firms. Frazer found that, between 1851 and 1860, thirty-two distinct individuals or partnerships received contracts for corn and twenty-eight had hay contracts. Most hay was harvested from native grasses. [27] Corn and hay were used to feed cavalry mounts, quartermaster draft animals, and commissary cattle herds.

The number of cattle in New Mexico at the time Fort Union was established was inadequate to supply the needs of the army. The commissary department paid a good price for what beef was available, thereby stimulating an expansion of cattle ranching. The presence of the troops also provided protection for the extension of the industry into the rich grasslands of eastern New Mexico. Even so, for some time cattle were imported. In 1852, for example, a herd of 1,340 cattle were driven from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Union for issue to the troops in the department. Civilians were hired to herd the cattle nearby at a cost of forty cents per head per month. The cattle were distributed to other posts by contract as needed. [28]

Throughout the 1850s the army kept most of its cattle herds near Fort Union, where grazing was good, and drove them to other posts as they were needed. From 1854 to 1858 the contract to herd the beef cattle was held by Moore and Rees of Tecolote. During 1854 and 1855 they received thirty-two cents per head per month. In 1854 Michael Gleason contracted to drive the cattle from Fort Union to other posts in the department for $3.00 per head. The following year, Moore and Rees agreed to deliver cattle to any post as needed for $1.50 per head. In 1857 their contract reduced the rate of herding to ten cents per head per month while the delivery price remained $1.50. In 1858 the herding contract, at a slightly higher rate, was awarded to Dr. John M. Whitlock of Las Vegas. The following year Whitlock and John L. Taylor, who had a ranch near Anton Chico, held the contract. [29]

By the late 1850s the army was able to purchase more cattle in New Mexico, mostly from expanding ranches east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along several streams, including the Cimarron, Mora, Canadian, and Pecos rivers. Generally the cattle purchased in New Mexico were in better condition than those driven from Fort Leavenworth or Texas. Because the army did not have facilities to weigh cattle, they were bought at so much per head (ranging from $25 to $40). By 1861 cattle were priced per pound on the hoof or per pound on the block (butchered carcass, also called fresh beef). [30]

In addition to livestock, New Mexican farmers also sold vegetables, fruits, milk, butter, eggs, and other products to officers and enlisted men. It was not possible to document the economic effects of purchases made by military personnel in the territory because most transactions were not recorded, but the army and its soldiers slowly changed the system of exchange in rural New Mexico from barter to cash transactions.

Colonel Sumner, a myopic Anglophile and mercantilist to the core, condemned the dependence of New Mexicans on the army, which he failed to understand had been caused by the military establishment, and saw no hope for economic development in New Mexico. He had no concept of the traditional, somewhat feudalistic Hispanic way of life that originated during the colonial era. "The truth is," Sumner declared, "the only resource in this country is the government money. All classes depend upon it." He believed there could "never be any profitable agriculture" in New Mexico because there was no market except for the local economy and the army. "No agricultural product," he concluded, "would ever pay transportation from this remote country." [31] Without a railroad, Sumner was correct on that point. Ironically, when the railroad reached New Mexico, it became cheaper to import agricultural products into the territory and the army's demand for New Mexican production declined.

Sumner's views were supported by the opinions of other officers and confirmed by events during the 1850s. Captain L. C. Easton, department quartermaster in 1854, informed Quartermaster General T. S. Jesup: "With the exception of forage, building materials, and a few minor articles, your Department here will have to look to the United States for all its supplies, and judging from the character of the country this will forever be the case." [32] The army was, as Frazer demonstrated, an important "economic impetus." It was "an essentially nonproductive element for which goods, services, and facilities of many kinds were required." Moreover, "it injected comparatively large sums of money into what had been primarily a barter economy." The effects were far reaching. "The money was widely, if unevenly, distributed, reaching all segments of the population, including the Pueblo Indians." [33] At the same time, because army requirements frequently exceeded New Mexican supplies, inflation resulted and reduced the purchasing power of New Mexicans who were being forced into a market economy. Sometimes there was an inadequate supply of specie in the territory, creating further hardships for citizens. [34] All factors combined to make prices high in New Mexico, in comparison to the eastern states, and most Anglos who came to the territory (military and civilian) complained about the exorbitant cost of everything. [35] Frazer found that the expenditures incurred in sustaining troops in New Mexico "was proportionately higher than in any other department of the United States, and surprisingly high considering the small number of troops in New Mexico and their relative lack of success in controlling the Indians." [36] Protecting settlers and the routes of transportation from Indians was the primary reason the army was there.

When the troops at Fort Union furnished escorts for the mail coaches, the quartermaster department was responsible for the transportation. In 1858 the escort troops were provided mules and wagons to accompany the mail parties to the Arkansas River. The mails usually traveled at a fast pace, making it difficult for the escorts to keep up and resulting in damage and destruction to the soldiers' transportation. Captain McFerran, in charge of the subdepot at Fort Union and responsible for escort transportation, reported to Department Commander Loring the problems encountered.

The first escort left Fort Union on January 4 with five wagons and thirty mules, two of which died, two were lost, and many of the remainder were unfit for duty. The second escort left on January 17 with five wagons and thirty mules, none of which were lost but returned in poor shape. The third escort left February 4 with the same number of wagons and mules, and two mules died and most of the others were broken down. The fourth escort, February 17 with the same number of wagons and mules, had one mule die and had to leave two teams behind with two wagons and part of the escort to recover before they were able to return by slow marches. The fifth escort, March 3, lost one mule the first day and sent back for another. At that point, McFerran reported, the quartermaster department had lost eight mules, at $150 each, and had thirty-five to forty mules unfit for service. He had sent from 5,500 to 6,000 pounds of corn with each escort. The army mules could not keep up with the mails. McFerran recommended that the escorts be stopped because he was about out of mules. [37] The request was sent to the department commander and the escorts were discontinued in May. [38]

Because of a severe drought on the plains and in the Southwest during 1859 and 1860, the cost of many supplies increased because of scarcity. The army paid twice as much for corn in 1860 as the previous year, and the costs of hay and flour went up but not as much. [39] Military purchases from the reduced supplies affected the citizens of New Mexico, many of whom could not obtain adequate provisions because they were not available or were priced beyond their means. Just as the army stimulated the standard of living when crops were abundant, it contributed to scarcity when conditions were adverse. Because the army had more purchasing power than most civilians, it sometimes deprived them of subsistence items. Fortunately, the army could also import provisions from Fort Leavenworth and provide relief to destitute citizens during such times. On the eve of the Civil War, as Frazer succinctly stated, "the great bulk of the stores required by the army were still freighted to New Mexico." [40] That remained true as long as Fort Union was occupied.

The ultimate consequence of military occupation and growing Anglo dominance in New Mexico was a transformation of Hispanic society from primarily subsistence farming to a combination of the production of some products for a cash market and the increase of wage labor. The few wealthy Hispanic landowners adapted and endured, often profiting from the new structure. [41] Some even contracted to supply the army. [42] Many small farmers, on the other hand, could not generate sufficient cash income and were unable to survive in the expanding capitalistic system. Many New Mexicans lost their traditional way of life as well as their land. Some retained their land by supplementing their farming with employment for wages. The army and army contractors offered a considerable portion of such job opportunities.

The trend, however, was for land ownership to become more consolidated, frequently in the hands of recent immigrants into New Mexico (mostly Anglos), [43] and the dispossessed Hispanos who could not find employment formed the nucleus of a new class of unemployed who lived in poverty. Some of those, as noted, found jobs, frequently only temporary positions, with the quartermaster and commissary departments or contractors who supplied those departments. Others provided a reservoir of cheap labor for the economic development of the territory which came with the building of railroads, growth of towns, expansion of ranching and mining activities, increase of logging and lumber mills, and other changes. The Anglo leadership in New Mexico and in the eastern states considered the alteration, which some called the "Americanization" of the region, including the frequent exploitation of available workers, to be a sign of progress. The army was not the only factor in that transformation, but it was the catalyst and major contributor.

Robert Frazer found that the army annually expended more than $1,750,000 in the Department of New Mexico by 1860-1861. In contrast, the treasury department of New Mexico Territory spent only $10,000 per year. Frazer's superb study of the army and the economy in the Southwest, 1846-1861, demonstrated clearly that, as he wrote, "the army was the single most significant factor in the economic development of the Southwest." From the Anglo viewpoint, Frazer concluded that "the money spent by the army per se and by military personnel stimulated the growth of the economy and directly or indirectly benefited all segments of the settled population." Also, military protection provided "a climate more conducive to economic expansion." [44] Fort Union was a factor in the changes that occurred prior to the Civil War. Its influence increased dramatically following the outbreak of the Civil War, when in July 1861 it again became the supply depot and procurement center for the army in New Mexico. [45]

The outbreak of the Civil War was accompanied by many changes in New Mexico, including a switch in contractors carrying military supplies from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Union and the rest of New Mexico. The firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell was bankrupt and unable to meet the terms of its contract. The firm of Irwin, Jackman and Co., headquartered at Leavenworth City, Kansas, had been retained in anticipation of the failure of Russell, Majors and Waddell. Irwin, Jackman and Co. delivered the goods to New Mexico during and after 1861. [46] From May to December 1861 the new contractor successfully shipped fifteen trains of military supplies, each with an average of twenty-five wagons and cargo in excess of 140,000 pounds, to Fort Union. They began arriving at Fort Union on August 17. The rates ranged from $1.30 to $1.50 per hundred pounds per hundred miles, depending on the time of year. [47] With most of those supplies at the Fort Union depot, the Confederate design to capture Fort Union promised tremendous rewards.

Also during 1861 quartermaster and commissary supplies at the old depot in Albuquerque were moved to Fort Union and other posts in the department. When the depot quartermaster, Captain John C. McFerran, arrived at Fort Union from Albuquerque, he found the new depot in disarray. The storehouses were inadequate and supplies were piled at various points around the old post and the new earthwork. Some items were damaged from exposure and others were stolen because it was impossible to guard everything all the time. Shipments from Fort Leavenworth had been mixed up with those from Albuquerque. An accurate inventory was impossible. Efforts to complete more storehouses were frustrated by other demands on soldiers' time. In addition, orders had to be packed for shipment to other posts in the department. [48] Understandably, McFerran was perplexed by his responsibilities. He was, also, one of the most competent officers in New Mexico and soon brought order out of chaos.

In 1861 the quartermaster department obtained few commodities in New Mexico. The commissary department, on the other hand, contracted for more provisions within the territory than any time previous, summarized in the following table. In all cases, except beans, prices were lower than during the previous year of drought.

Table 8
Commissary Contracts in New Mexico, 1861

Product Quantity No. of
Price Range During Year
Flour1,499,000 pounds7$8.00-14.00 per hundredweight
Vinegar5,000 gallons50.6875-1.50 per gallon
Beans1,400 bushels83.50 to 6.00 per bushel
Beef Cattle1,098 head66.74-11.00 per hundredweight
Sauerkrautunspecified41.12-3.00 per gallon
Picklesunspecified22.00-3.00 per gallon
Corn Mealunspecified65.50-9.50 per hundredweight
Onionsunspecified45.50-1 0.50 per hundredweight
Saltunspecified32.00-4.00 per bushel

In addition to the above, the commissary department and the quartermaster department each contracted for delivery of 100 tons of hay at Fort Union in 1861. The commissary paid $35.00 per ton while the quartermaster paid $45.00. The depot quartermaster also contracted for firewood (hardwood at $7.50 per cord and pinon at $3.75) and horses (1,400 head at $90 to $150 per head). [50]

The army was expending more money than ever before in the department. During fiscal 1860-1861 the commissary department dispersed over $265,000 and the quartermaster department over $580,000. Supplies continued to flow from Fort Leavenworth and proved to be adequate in New Mexico to provide the needs of a much enlarged military force in the department during the Civil War. The economic relationships established between the military and civilian sectors before 1861 contributed to the effectiveness of the Department of New Mexico during the crisis of the Confederate invasion.

A major problem for the army in New Mexico during the early days of the Civil War was a shortage of specie. Many people who sold items to the commissary and quartermaster departments, as well as civilian employees, would not accept government certificates of indebtedness and insisted on being paid with silver or gold. Captain McFerran, depot quartermaster, used some of his own money to pay employees and requested the loan of gold and silver from sutlers, merchants, and wealthy New Mexicans. William H. Moore, Fort Union sutler and contractor for military supplies, accepted certificates of indebtedness for all the specie he could raise, including what he received in his own business and what he could borrow on his personal note. McFerran later praised Moore for making possible the victory over the Confederate invaders of the territory, declaring that Moore "furnished us with every dollar we used at the time." McFerran also borrowed thousands of dollars in specie from affluent Hispanos. [51]

By the time McFerran replaced Colonel James L. Donaldson as chief quartermaster in New Mexico in the fall of 1862, the quartermaster department in the territory was in debt over $800,000. McFerran sent Captain William H. Rossell, Tenth Infantry, to Washington to plead with Quartermaster General Meigs for funds and pointed out that if something was not done quickly the army might have to abandon New Mexico. Captain Rossell returned with funds, amount unknown, which McFerran reported were exhausted by April 1863. McFerran explained that government certificates of indebtedness were practically worthless in New Mexico because people refused to accept them. He requested that no more certificates be sent to him and implored Meigs to send money. [52]

After the Texans were turned back in the spring of 1862, the department was strapped by a shortage of numerous supplies. McFerran virtually begged for additional funds as well as shipments of commodities from Fort Leavenworth. The limited amounts of grain and forage in New Mexico had mostly been consumed. Privately-owned wagons and draft animals were impressed into government service to assist with transportation of supplies throughout the department. Clothing, horses, and other needs were obtained wherever they could be found. [53] It is interesting to note that somehow a camel came into the possession of the depot quartermaster at Fort Union in 1862. This was one of a number of camels brought to the Southwest several years before to test as a possibility for transporting military supplies. The camels were not deemed satisfactory and were mostly turned loose. Someone apparently found one and turned it into the quartermaster department. Captain McFerran did not attempt to use it to alleviate the transportation problems in the department. The animal was sold to William Krönig who did try to utilize it for transportation, with what success was unknown. [54]

The critical supply situation in New Mexico was relieved with the arrival at Fort Union of four wagon trains (three quartermaster trains and one owned by Irwin, Jackman and Co.) from Fort Leavenworth in June 1862. There were twenty-five wagons in each train. Altogether they delivered over a half-million pounds of equipment, clothing, and subsistence. Soon more trains arrived at Fort Union. Before the end of summer 1862 the quartermaster department sent two additional trains of twenty-five wagons and Irwin, Jackman and Co. sent another eighteen. The troops in the department then had an abundance of most items. [55] Large numbers of civilian employees were required to unpack, store, and repack materials for distribution to other posts.

Because of the shortage of flour and beef within New Mexico, Captain Amos F. Garrison, department commissary of subsistence, requested that more than a million pounds of flour and 4,000 cattle be imported to keep the troops fed. [56] Fort Union was one of three posts designated to receive flour and beef. In July 1862 Garrison awarded contracts to supply Fort Union with 200,000 pounds of flour, 500 head of cattle, and an unspecified quantity of fresh beef. Other contracts were let for beans, corn meal, pickles, and sauerkraut. [57]

Captain McFerran imported 1,668,000 pounds of corn for the quartermaster department in the summer of 1862 and purchased as much within New Mexico as possible. In December 1862 McFerran contracted for the delivery of an additional 530,000 pounds of corn from the East. He found hay within the department, much of which was purchased in small quantities from individual farmers. He did contract with four suppliers to deliver 135 tons of hay to Fort Union at $45 per ton. [58] Many necessities had to be imported into New Mexico for the duration of the Civil War because demands exceeded local supplies.

Everything was in short supply in New Mexico in 1862, including laborers. In December Brigadier General Carleton requested that citizens work for twenty days without pay to strengthen the defense of Forts Union and Craig. Ceran St. Vrain brought 100 residents of Taos to Fort Union to help with the fieldwork, apparently the only favorable response to Carleton's plea. [59] The increased number of troops and subsequent growth in demand for supplies led to additional employment opportunities. Many New Mexicans obtained jobs with military contractors, especially with those who supplied forage, fire wood, and salt.

Opportunities for employment at Fort Union increased when construction of the new department depot began in 1862 and continued until the third fort was completed in 1868. When more workers were needed in the spring of 1863, after a winter break in construction, the quartermaster department advertised for a dozen carpenters (at $50 per month) and fifty laborers (at $25 per month). [60] By April 1864 the quartermaster in charge of the project reported there were at work twenty carpenters (at $65 per month) and a hundred laborers (at $30 per month). In addition to construction workers, an increasing number of civilians were hired to handle the large volume of equipment and supplies flowing through the depot as well as the many other tasks connected with the quartermaster and commissary departments. In February 1863 there were 209 citizen workers with a total monthly payroll of $6,310. Civilians were also employed at the military post. In December 1863 the total number of hired workers at the post and depot was 389. In April 1864 the count at the depot was 419 civilian employees with a payroll of 15,570. [61]

Eliza St. Clair Sloan Mahoney
Eliza St. Clair Sloan Mahoney, mother of Marion Sloan Russell, cooked for an officers' mess at Fort Union in 1864. She requested the use of a stove from the quartermaster depot, but no record was found to Indicate if she received it.

Among the employees there was a printer. Sometime during the Civil War, the quartermaster depot at Fort Union acquired a printing press. It was used to print forms and letter heads, and to publish circulars, orders, tables of distances, pamphlets, and other items. Carleton thought the press might be better used at department headquarters in Santa Fe, and suggested to the chief quartermaster that the press and paper be moved. [62] Colonel Enos must not have agreed with Carleton, for the press was still operating at the Fort Union depot several years later.

The quartermaster department occasionally received requests from civilians to obtain equipment from the storehouse. In 1864 Eliza Mahoney, mother of Marion Sloan and the cook for an officers' mess at Fort Union, wrote to Chief Quartermaster McFerran about borrowing a stove from the department. She promised to use it "expressly for the use of the Officers Mess, my mess is large and I have but a very small Stove to cook by, which makes it very hard work and very inconvenient every way." She explained that Samuel Price, the storekeeper at the quartermaster warehouse, had told her "there are a great many stoves in the store room, and I thought I would take the liberty to write to the Col. to see if you were willing for me to borrow one for my mess during my stay here." She assured McFerran that she would return it "in as good condition as I would receive it." Price had offered to "go my security" if she could borrow the stove. [63] No record was found to indicate whether or not she received the stove, but her solicitation was worthy. McFerran did have more serious problems to occupy his time.

In the spring of 1865 Chief Quartermaster McFerran was unable to hire the necessary skilled workers within the military department to fill the jobs available on the buildings being erected at the Fort Union Depot. He requested that a number of craftsmen, including carpenters, tinners, and plasterers, be sent from Fort Leavenworth to do the job, with the army providing transportation and an attractive salary ($85 per month, compared to the $65 paid to artisans already on the job). In addition, enlisted men who possessed the necessary skills were released from military duty and employed to work on the depot. While so engaged they received the same wages as civilian employees instead of their military pay. Soon after the craftsmen arrived from Fort Leavenworth, in September 1865, the employees already on the job objected to the gap between their pay and that of the new workers. The issue was resolved by raising their pay to the same level. [64]

The number of civilians employed at the Fort Union Depot remained at a high level until construction of the third fort was completed. The following table shows the number and classification of the 596 civilian employees authorized for the depot in 1867.

Table 9
Civilian Employees Authorized at Fort Union Depot, 1867

PositionNumber PositionNumber
Clerks9Chief Carpenter1
Assistant Storekeeper1Blacksmiths10
Forage Master1Blacksmith's Strikers8
Master of Transportation1Wheelwrights5
Engineer1Stone Masons10
Wagon Masters10Bricklayers3
Assistant Wagon Masters12Chief Mason1
Tin Smiths4Masons24
Saddlers3Brick Molders4
Yard Masters2Printer1
Watch men6Sail Maker1
Messenger1Foremen of Laborers3
Cooks20Chief Herder1
Packers3Assistant Chief Herder1

The number of civilians employed at the depot peaked in 1867 and declined as construction neared completion. In January 1868 there were 407 citizens on the payroll. The following month there were 396 receiving pay as follows: clerks, always the highest-paying position, received from $100 to $150 per month; skilled workers (carpenters, masons, tinners, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and saddlers) received $75 per month; and unskilled laborers (teamsters, herders, cooks, and manual laborers) received $35 per month. By June of that year, after the post was finished, the quantity of civilians employed had decreased to 265, apparently the number required for the many duties connected with the depot. [66] The need for civilian employees continued to decrease and by 1881, when the depot performed few functions, only eighteen workers remained, as shown in the following table.

Table 10
Civilian Employees & Salaries at Fort Union Depot, 1881

PositionNumberMonthly Salary
Watch man130.00
Wagon Master160.00
Assistant Blacksmith140.00

The amount of military funds paid to workers in the department had declined markedly since the bustling days of the Civil War era.

The enlarged number of troops in New Mexico during the Civil War had, in addition to requiring more citizen workers, increased the amount of government funds expended in the department. The quartermaster department spent almost two million dollars per year by 1864, almost half of which went for livestock feed and forage. The subsistence department spent over one million dollars a year for foodstuffs, most of which went for beef and flour. Those amounts did not include the items imported over the Santa Fe Trail to Fort Union. With combined budgets in excess of three million dollars, the quartermaster and commissary departments produced far-reaching economic effects in New Mexican society. Darlis Miller found that military expenditures were "widely dispersed, further conditioning residents to the government's patronage and strengthening their economic ties to the military." [68] The amount expended for subsistence increased markedly during the period from 1864 to 1868 when the Navajos were held on their reservation at Bosque Redondo, administered by Fort Sumner. Over $400,000 was required to feed the defeated tribe in 1864. [69]

During the Civil War, when there were shortages of cattle, the commissary department purchased sheep and replaced beef with mutton in some army rations. Juan Perea, wealthy Hispanic rancher near Bernalillo, supplied more than 3,000 sheep during 1863 and 1864. [70] Shortages of many other materials in the department were covered by importing from the East. At the same time, the army encouraged New Mexicans to increase the production of their farms and ranches. With a ready military market available, agricultural production was expanded during and after the Civil War. The army continued to provide the primary market for most commodities, and military contracts remained a significant component in the economy of the region.

The importance of contracts for fresh beef and flour used by the army has been thoroughly documented. The army was also in the business of feeding Indians in New Mexico, and the contracts let for those provisions provided additional funds for the private sector. The Moache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches at Cimarron Agency were fed by contracts issued by the quartermaster and commissary departments of the army, rather than by arrangements of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Troops from Fort Union were stationed at Cimarron to oversee the issue of rations there and help maintain peace. The Indians and the troops were living on the extensive holdings of Lucien B. Maxwell who, in 1866-1867, held the contract to supply fresh beef and wheatmeal (ground at Maxwell's mill at Cimarron) for the Indians and fresh beef for the company of cavalry stationed there. [71] That contract, signed for the army by Captain Howard J. Farnsworth (Fort Union Depot quartermaster), had been awarded without public advertising or competitive bids. It provided for the issue of one-half pound of fresh beef and one-half pound wheatmeal per day for each Indian. The soldiers received twenty ounces of fresh beef per day. When Captain Charles McClure became chief commissary of subsistence officer in the department, he tabulated what his department had spent under that contract. His recommendations were to increase the daily ration to the Indians. Maxwell's contract was undoubtedly important to his enterprise. The actual amount he received is shown in the following table. [72]

Table 11
Amount Paid to L. B. Maxwell, 1866-1867,
for Contracted Provisions at Cimarron

DateNo. of
Cost to
U.S. for
Cost for
Beef for
Cav. Co
Total Amt
Paid to
Sept 18666509,750 9,750$1,560.00$115.36 $1,675.36
Oct 18666009,300 9,3001,488.00196.98 1,684.98
Nov 18661,40021,000 21,0003,360.0083.50 3,443.50
Dec 18661,20018,600 18,6002,976.00215.80 3,191.80
Jan 18671,20018,600 18,6002,976.00226.80 3,202.80
Feb 18671,30018,200 18,2002,872.00195.00 3,067.00
Mar 18671,30020,150 20,1503,184.00182.12 3,366.12
Apr 18671,35020,250 20,2503,240.00154.60 3,394.60
May 18671,35020,925 20,9252,929.50144.50 3,074.00
June 18671,35020,250 20,2502,835.00138.00 2,973.00
July 18671,35020,925 20,9252,929.50249.72 3,179.22
Aug 18671,39821,669 21,6693,033.66blank 3,033.66
Total Paid to L. B. Maxwell to date $33,383.66 $1,902.38 $35,286.04
Average amount paid L. B. Maxwell monthly $2,940.50

Maxwell furnished approximately 600 head of cattle to fill that contract. The expansion of the cattle industry in New Mexico, the direct result of the stimulus provided by military purchases, was dramatic after 1870. There were few cattle left in New Mexico when the Civil War ended because the army had acquired all it possibly could while also importing cattle from other regions. In 1870 there were only 21,343 cattle in New Mexico Territory. The army was supplementing its purchases of local cattle with herds driven from Texas. In 1880, the year that the railroad reached Santa Fe, there were 137,314 cattle in the territory. By 1885 the number had increased to 543,705 head. [74] The large herds near Fort Union were encroaching on the post reservation by 1880, when livestock were found grazing on reserved grasslands, destroying fences at the post, and polluting the spring which supplied some of the water for the garrison. Post Commander Dudley faced the problem by having all stray cattle impounded and charging a fee for owners to reclaim them. [75]

During and after the Civil War the army continued the practice of contracting for the herding and grazing of cattle and horses and for the care and feeding of livestock during winter months. The contractors provided herders, made sure the animals had access to water and good grass during the growing season, and provided forage during the cold season. William Krönig held the contract at Fort Union in 1866-1867 to care for cattle and horses on his large ranch along the Mora and Sapello rivers near the post. He was equipped to handle large numbers of livestock, with two flowing streams for water, excellent grasses, and four stone corrals. [76] He provided corn (at rate of $4.75 per hundred pounds) and hay (at $40.00 per ton) for the government animals. During the month of March he received approximately $8,900 from his contract, and the number of animals he cared for was not specified. [77] Lucien Maxwell at Cimarron and Vicente Romero at La Cueva also contracted to care for public animals. During the winter of 1867-1868 Romero provided feed and care for 400 to 700 head of livestock, receiving $1.78 per hundred for corn and $20.00 a ton for hay. [78]

There were only a few contractors who cared for large government herds, thereby marketing some of the forage products of New Mexico. A larger number of individuals benefited from the army's need for forage and livestock care by serving as forage agents, who also provided fuel. These agents, appointed annually by the quartermaster department, were usually located along the major routes of travel. They provided hay for government draft animals and the horses of cavalrymen, officers, scouts, and couriers. The army depended on them to feed the animals of traveling parties so that forage would not have to be carried along or provided by government-operated supply stations along the way. In New Mexico the practice began before the Civil War and continued until 1882, although the number of agents decreased dramatically with the arrival of the railroads. Military leaders in the department considered the forage agencies essential to the service in New Mexico where long distances had to be traveled and a ready supply of livestock feed was rare. Because these agents were found throughout the military department, Darlis Miller concluded that "forage agencies symbolized the military's symbiotic relationship with the local populace." [79]

Lucien B. Maxwell
Lucien B. Maxwell.

Forage agents were required to supply forage for livestock and wood for fuel at rates set by the quartermaster department. In 1875 the rates in the "Fort Union District" were $4.75 per hundred for corn, $35.00 per ton for hay, and $6.00 a cord for wood. The firewood was provided without remuneration for teamsters hauling army freight and military escorts up to a certain size (ten unmounted soldiers or twenty mounted troops).

In addition they provided corrals for public animals at no charge. Army express riders received free meals. Quarters and meals were required for officers at "reasonable charges" to the individual, and similar accommodations could be made available to enlisted men and employees if they chose to pay for them. Otherwise soldiers and teamsters were provided a place to camp and cook. Agents were paid for such services as stabling horses for express riders, repairing wagons and other equipment, shoeing horses and mules, and storing public property. The agents also guarded government property, cared for ailing men and impaired animals, helped recover lost or stolen livestock and other public property, circulated advertisements for the quartermaster department, and whatever other assistance the army might require. [80]

Agents were advised not to issue forage to any "unauthorized persons" or "to any enlisted man, wagon master or teamster, except upon a written or printed order signed or countersigned by a commissioned officer." Payment would not be made without properly-signed receipts and vouchers. The amount of government money an agent received depended entirely upon military traffic at a particular location, which varied from season to season. Some of them used the same facilities to provide stations for the stage and mail lines and to accommodate private travelers and freighters. Most agents supplemented their income by selling supplies and whisky to patrons. Several had ranching operations. It must have paid well to be appointed a forage agent because there was intense competition to receive the appointments. In order to secure or keep such a position some agents built fine corrals for livestock and quarters for travelers, harvested and stored quality hay and other forage, and assured a supply of clean water. Some agents were veterans who may have been rewarded by the quartermaster department's policy of employing former soldiers when possible. Several agents were women. There were few records of how any particular individual agent fared, but some concept of the total funds dispensed to agencies was revealed in the request of the chief quartermaster for the District of New Mexico for $49,000 to purchase forage and fuel from agents during the period from December 1, 1875, to June 30, 1876. [81]

A number of agents were located in the area of Fort Union. William Krönig was the agent at Sapello. There is reason to believe that the large stone corral located beside the route of the Santa Fe Trail near the Sapello River southwest of present Watrous, New Mexico, commonly known as the "Fort Union Corral," was probably the site of Krönig's forage agency. He reportedly had four stone corrals when he held the contract to care for cattle and horses, 1866-1867. [82] The following table lists the agents in the region in the 1875.

Table 12
Forage Agents in Fort Union District, 1875

Forage AgentLocation
Francisco LopezStone Ranch, New Mexico
W. G. RifenbergTrinidad, Colorado Territory
Jas. E. WhitmoreGallinas Springs, New Mexico
A. J. CalhounOcate, New Mexico
Wm. KrönigSapello, New Mexico
Jno. L TaylorApache Springs, New Mexico
R. L WoottonRaton Pass, Colorado Territory
Roman LopezSan Jose, New Mexico
M. HeckSweetwater, New Mexico
J. O. DimmockDimmock's Ranche, Colorado Territory
J. A. FosterApishapa, Colorado Territory
Fred WalsenWalsenberg, Colorado Territory
John OdamConchas Station, New Mexico
H. E. BlattmanLas Garces, New Mexico
W. R. MorleyCimarron, New Mexico
Chas. IlfeldTecolote, New Mexico
T. F. ChapmanLas Vegas, New Mexico
Jno. G. SelfCucharas, Colorado Territory
T. MelocheVermejo, New Mexico
E. T. MezickRed River, New Mexico
Chas G. BurbankChico Springs, New Mexico
C. H. BartlettWillow Springs, New Mexico
Tracy McCleavyLa Garita, New Mexico
A. W. JohnsonButte Valley, Colorado Territory
Geo. W. GreggOlgin Hill & Alamacita, New Mexico
B. ChandlerRock Crossing Red River, New Mexico
O. K. ChittendenChittenden's Ranch, New Mexico
Benson & SlateBent's Cañon, Colorado Territory
Thos. L. JohnsonJohnson's Ranche, New Mexico
Jas. T. Johnson & Bro.Cherry Valley & Canon Largo, New Mexico

Forage agents and other government contractors and employees benefited from the military expenditures in New Mexico. The army was a key factor in the economy of the region from the late 1840s to the 1880s. There were, however, hazards for an economy that was largely dependent upon a single customer. When the number of troops in New Mexico was reduced after the Civil War, the military budget decreased and, with that, the demand for what New Mexicans produced declined. For example, the total budget for the army in New Mexico was $4,433,884 for fiscal 1865, and it declined to $2,779,294 for fiscal 1867. [84] The result, naturally, was a reduction of prices for items in ample supply. Competition became rigorous and some contractors suffered losses. For instance, in 1876 Joseph B. Collier, who farmed in Mora County, offered to deliver more than a million pounds of corn to the Fort Union Depot for only seventy-nine cents per hundredweight. That was less than half the price of any corn contract in the preceding three years. Collier won the contract but was unable to fulfill the terms at that price. He delivered almost 90% of the corn promised, apparently at considerable financial loss, and was released from responsibility for the remainder because of his losses and the fact that Fort Union had a sufficient stock of corn to last until new contracts were negotiated. [85]

Quarters and offices of Quartermaster and Commissary Depot
Quarters and offices of Quartermaster and Commissary Depot at Fort Union, 1876. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

The bidding for the hay contract at Fort Union became so competitive in 1874 that the leading producers and contractors combined to fix prices and refused to sell hay to anyone who underbid them. The contract for hay went to H. V. Harris for $18.50 per ton, but the "combination" (including John Dent, John Pendaries, M. Rudolph, J. B. Watrous, W. B. Tipton, Charles Williams, Charles Fraker, F. J. Ames, S. Valdez, and Fernando Nolan) had agreed to sell no hay for less than $19.50 per ton. Harris was forced to request release from the agreement because he was unable to find hay at the price he had bid. The quartermaster department opposed the "combination" but refused to release Harris from his contract because it might destroy the system of competitive bidding. Harris, unable to find the hay he had promised, let a subcontract for $18.50 per ton to Samuel Kayser of Las Vegas (who apparently had hay and was not a party of the "combination"). The army contracted with Kayser for additional hay, frustrating the plans of the "combination." Competition defeated those trying to fix prices, and in 1875 Trinidad Romero contracted to furnish hay at $13.90 per ton. J. B. Watrous, a member of the "combination" the previous year, offered 100 tons for only $12.00 per ton. [86] Competitive bidding continued to be the primary method of obtaining supplies in New Mexico.

The variety of commodities furnished the Fort Union Depot may be seen in the following table of contracts let in 1875.

Table 13
Contracts at Fort Union Depot, 1875

ContractorProduct QuantityPrice
J. B. WassonCharcoal1,000 bushels$0.175 per bushel
G. W. GreggCharcoal1,000 bushels0.175 per bushel
R. RomeroFirewood1,300 cords5.625 per cord
Trinidad RomeroHay900 tons13.90 per ton
Joseph B. WatrousHay100 tons12.00 per ton
R. RomeroBran50,000 pounds0.95 per hundredweight
Trinidad RomeroCorn740,000 pounds1.83 per hundredweight
Willi SpiegelbergCorn300,000 pounds1.79 per hundredweight
Willi SpiegelbergCorn200,000 pounds1.83 per hundredweight
Charles IlfeldCorn200,000 pounds1.71 per hundredweight
May HaysCorn200,000 pounds1.75 per hundredweight
G. W. GreggCorn250,000 pounds1.82 per hundredweight
May HaysOats50,000 pounds2.25 per hundredweight
Joseph B. WatrousOats60,000 pounds2.50 per hundredweight

After the railroad (treated below with transportation developments in New Mexico) built into Colorado in the 1870s, and especially after it reached New Mexico in 1879, the army found that it was usually less expensive to import quartermaster and subsistence stores, mostly from Kansas but also other places for some items, than to purchase them in New Mexico. The result was a dramatic reduction in contracts for New Mexican products, including flour, [88] forage, beans, fuel, and salt. The railroad, it should be noted, brought positive changes to the New Mexican economy, too. The decrease in transportation costs reduced the prices of imported commodities to all consumers. The railroad also provided cheap transportation for New Mexican products shipped to distant markets. A major beneficiary was the cattle industry. The importance of the military market continued to decline in New Mexico and virtually ceased to exist when all military posts in the territory except one were closed by the early 1890s. Until that time, however, the army continued to be a factor, for good or ill, in the territorial economy. It affected workers as well as contractors of supplies.

The number of civilian employees also declined after the Civil War, as noted above, but the army remained the major employer in the territory well into the 1870s. Darlis Miller concluded: "For many western men the military must have provided a certain amount of psychological security. If no better offer came along, they could always find a job driving teams or mixing adobe at an isolated military fort." [89] After the Civil War the army gave preference to former soldiers when it hired citizens. The availability of civilian jobs, however, continued to decrease as Congress, as it had before the war, curtailed the military budget during almost constant campaigns to economize.

Depot quartermaster office
Depot quartermaster office, Fort Union, 1866. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88008, courtesy National Archives.

On July 1, 1869, the total number of civilian employees in the nation's quartermaster department was slashed by more than half, from 10,494 to 4,000. Of those 4,000 the District of New Mexico was allotted 153, of whom 96 were assigned to the Fort Union Depot (35% of the 265 positions at the depot just one year before). Employees in the subsistence department were reduced at the same time. The commissary department in the district was permitted a total of fourteen civilian workers after July 1, 1869, of whom twelve were allocated to the Fort Union Depot. [90] Congress also reduced the wages of civilians employed by the army. Skilled workers were paid $2.20 per day; unskilled workers were paid $24 per month; and teamsters were paid according to where they were employed ($25 per month with wagon trains and $30 at the depot). Congress had also established an eight-hour day for citizen workers. [91]

Although the pay for civilian employees was still considered good in comparison to other available jobs in the region, the security of those positions remained tenuous. In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, stationed at Fort Union, noted that about 200 laborers and mechanics were employed at the depot. He was concerned when, as he stated, "for some cause about fifty or seventy five are to be discharged today." The young soldier expressed rare compassion for their situation, declaring he did not "know what they will do, there is nothing else around here for them to do." He doubted that many of them had "money enough to take them to the Rail Road." In comparison to the lot of such unemployed citizens, Matthews declared, "a Soldier's life at the most is a very rough one, but is much preferable to me. . . . Those employed by the Government do very well, as long as they can keep their situation, but when they loose that, they have it very rough." [92]

Interior street at Fort Union Depot
Interior street at Fort Union Depot, no date, with teamster and employee quarters on the left and storehouses on the right. The depot corrals are left of the quarters. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87999, courtesy National Archives.

In February 1874 the entire quartermaster department had to make drastic reductions of civilian employees to keep within its budget. Lieutenant Colonel Fred Myers, chief quartermaster in the District of New Mexico, was forced to reduce the monthly payroll for civilians in the district from $5,789 to $1,455 until the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, 1874. That meant nearly three-fourths of the 109 employees in the district, most of whom were at the Fort Union Depot, had to be discharged. [93] In April 1874 Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, explained that all the civilian employees had been discharged at Fort Union and, in their place, all the infantrymen stationed at the post were on extra-duty in the quartermasters department. [94] Presumably many of the civilian positions were filled again after July 1. The transportation corral at the depot was destroyed by fire on June 27, 1874. Because employees were not available to build a replacement a contract was let to William Hoberg of Cherry Valley in October 1874 to make adobe bricks and build the new corral and associated buildings. A total of $3,000 that had been appropriated to repair quarters at Fort Union was diverted to the corral project. Hoberg employed "about fifty men" who turned out "nearly ten thousand adobes per day." [95]

Fort Union Depot storehouses
View between two Fort Union Depot storehouses, probably in 1866, with the depot quartermaster office In background. The storehouse on the right was nearing completion; note scaffold, bucket, and trowel. It was the only large storehouse with a gable-style, shingled roof. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87992, courtesy National Archives.

More than 50,000 bricks had been laid when the work was interrupted by winter weather. Hoberg was financially strapped and requested to be paid for what he had done so he could hire workers to complete the job the following spring. The quartermaster department refused to pay until the contract was fulfilled and requested that Hoberg post bond to cover the project. Hoberg refused but promised he would finish the job. The post sutler, J. C. Dent, loaned Hoberg sufficient funds in 1875 to complete the corral wall and buildings. Dent also offered to post bond and oversee the completion of the project. The contract was transferred to Dent and extended to September 30, 1875, but was not completed by that date. Dent received another extension to complete the work in the spring of 1876. The adobe structures were finished in 1876, but Hobert and Dent both lost money on the contract. [96]

In 1877, as the military budget was squeezed ever tighter, the quartermaster department again reduced the number of civilian employees. Some men who had been employed by the army in New Mexico for many years were terminated. In March 1878 Samuel Price, a watchman at Fort Union Depot, was discharged. Price, age 62, had enlisted in the army in 1836 and served more than twenty years as a soldier. From 1862 to 1878 he was employed at the depot where he filled a variety of positions, including storekeeper, superintendent of the wood yard, and watchman. Colonel Edward Hatch, district commander, requested permission to keep Price on the job because of his "long and faithful service." The request was denied because the district would not be permitted to exceed its appropriation. [97]

Fort Union Depot storehouses
Another view between storehouses, with the gable-roof building under construction on the left, about 1866. Note the scaffold, small area to which exterior plaster has been applied, office in background, and freight wagons in the distance at left of office. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87989, courtesy National Archives.

Many officers in addition to Hatch objected to the cuts in hired labor because, as always, enlisted men had to be assigned to the vacated positions. Soldiers with needed skills were not always available and extra-duty assignments took them away from military assignments. Using enlisted men as laborers rather than soldiers undermined morale and contributed to desertion. Brigadier General John Pope stated the problem succinctly in 1877 when he declared that the nation's military posts were "garrisoned by enlisted laborers rather than soldiers." [98] Such complaints, however, were negated because extra-duty pay was cheaper than hiring civilians. Soldiers who performed skilled labor received thirty-five cents a day (if assigned to the task for more than ten days) until 1884 and fifty cents a day thereafter. Soldiers who performed unskilled labor received twenty cents per day until 1884 and thirty-five cents per day afterward. [99]

Fort Union Depot transportation corral
Fort Union Depot transportation corral during construction, about 1888, including sheds, corn cribs, stables, and hay yard in left background. U.S. Signal Corps Photo, courtesy National Archives

A few times, in efforts to economize, the military budget was so deficient that the number of soldiers assigned to extra-duty labor in the quartermaster department was reduced. In 1874 the entire quartermaster department, in order to keep from exceeding the funds appropriated and in addition to reducing the number of civilian employees as noted above, released all enlisted men from extra-duty assignments except for a few critical positions (mostly clerks). In 1876 and 1883 the District of New Mexico was again compelled to discharge, temporarily, enlisted men from extra-duty except for a few clerks. [100] The system of extra-duty pay was sometimes abused because of the rule requiring an enlisted man to be assigned to an extra-duty task for ten or more days to receive the pay. When soldiers were assigned to extra-duty for less than ten days they were not paid for the labor. That saved the army money but increased soldiers' grievances. The necessary reforms and appropriations to resolve the problem were not enacted until after Fort Union was abandoned. Civilian employees were utilized until the end.

Darlis Miller thoroughly studied the employment of civilians by the army in the Southwest during and after the Civil War. She found that employees with lengthy tenure, such as Samuel Price, were the exception rather than the rule and that there was generally a "rapid turnover." In 1870, at the Fort Union Depot, for example, twenty-four of the thirty-seven teamsters employed had been on the job less than six months and only five had been there more than two years. Most of the employees of the quartermaster department in the District of New Mexico in 1870 were Anglos, with less than 20% being Hispanos. There were seventeen Hispanos employed at the depot: one cook, one laborer, two herders, and thirteen teamsters. They received the same wages as their Anglo counterparts. All the skilled positions, however, were held by Anglos. Only a few black workers were identified. [101]

Fort Union Depot transportation corral
Another section of transportation corrals at the depot, late 1880s. U.S. Signal Corps Photo, courtesy National Archives.

All civilian employees were expected to abide by military standards of behavior and were subject to discharge if they disobeyed army regulations. Miller found that "the major cause for dismissal was drunkenness, but other causes included theft, disobedience of orders, general worthlessness, mistreatment of animals, and contributing to riots." While the army was "quick to discipline," it was generally slow in paying civilian workers. Some workers "often waited months for their pay." In December 1872 the teamsters at Fort Union, who had not been paid for "several months," had to beg for financial aid to purchase clothing for the winter months. [102]

After Congress established an eight-hour day in 1868, there was confusion at Fort Union over the implementation of the new rule. In October 1868 the employees at the quartermaster depot were working eight hours a day while the employees at the nearby arsenal were working ten hours each day, and the workers at both places received the same daily pay. [103] After a rumor circulated that the depot employees would be paid less for working only eight hours, they petitioned to work ten hours to avoid a cut in wages. [104] Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs did not approve, stating that the eight-hour day was "fixed by law." He instructed the depot quartermaster to "pay no more wages for a day's work than may be necessary to secure the services of good workmen. . . . If at Fort Union men can be hired at lower rates it is the duty of the officer to take advantage of these lower rates." At the same time, however, he refused to approve a reduction in pay for those who had converted from a ten- to an eight-hour workday. "It is not for the officers of the U.S.," Meigs concluded, "to so apply it as to convert a gift into a punishment." [105]

Depot transportation corral
Depot transportation corral, 1876. Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

A general reduction in pay for quartermaster employees was effected the following year, based on the eight-hour day, and employees who were required to work overtime were to receive additional compensation. Effective April 1, 1869, throughout the Department of the Missouri, which included the District of New Mexico, all "workshops and places of labor" were to "be open ten (10) hours each day, except Sundays. All civil employees who choose may work that number of hours, and will be paid for over-work at the same rate as for the legal day's labor of eight hours." Despite the eight-hour law, most civilian employees usually worked ten hours per day. In addition, the army never applied the eight-hour law to citizens employed by the month, such as clerks, herders, and teamsters. [106]

The army had effectively circumvented the intention of Congress to establish an eight-hour day for government employees. Most employees were opposed to it, too, if it meant a reduction in pay. Periodically Congress or the president attempted to bring the army into compliance, without success until 1872-1873. On September 11, 1872, all shops in the Department of the Missouri were ordered to be open only eight hours per day with no extra time or additional pay available. The workers still feared a reduction in pay, since they had been working ten hours each day. To allay their concerns, in March 1873 all civilian workers in the department were to receive the same pay for an eight-hour day as they had previously received for a ten-hour day, plus additional compensation for overtime. [107] Basically the change amounted to a raise in pay. The amount of overtime available was unknown. The situation changed and confusion returned in 1877 after the Supreme Court ruled that the eight-hour law did not prevent the army from making contracts with workers which established a workday longer than eight hours. Within a few months the quartermaster department set the official workday at ten hours at the same wages employees had been receiving for working eight hours (a pay reduction). There the matter stood so long as the Fort Union depot remained active. [108]

Depot machine shop
Depot machine shop, at right, and lumber yard, no date. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88011, courtesy National Archives.

The operation of the Fort Union Depot and the supply of troops throughout New Mexico was closely connected with and affected by developments in transportation. The bulk of equipment and supplies continued to come over the Santa Fe Trail, which was slowly replaced by the railroad, and were then distributed to other posts from the depot. As noted above, contract freighting had replaced most army freighting by the time of the Civil War. During and after the war the quartermaster department provided some transportation, keeping wagons and draft animals at the depot and military posts to haul some supplies and local items (fuel, water, forage, and camp equipage). Troops on field duty were usually accompanied by army wagons, although contract freighters were frequently required for lengthy campaigns. The depot used its transportation to augment freight contractors in distributing materials in the district.

After the Civil War much of the traffic on the Santa Fe Trail, including the shipment of military supplies and the movement of troops and quartermaster wagons, followed the Raton Pass Route (later known as the Mountain Route). Wagon traffic over the difficult Raton Pass became easier after Richens Lacy (Uncle Dick) Wootton completed a toll road there in 1865. In addition to cutting grades, Wootton had constructed bridges in the narrow valley on each side of the pass in which wagons had to shift from one side to the other of the rock-strewn streams. Eveline Alexander traveled Wootton's toll road in 1867 and reported that it crossed the streams a total of fifty-seven times. [109] The quartermaster department agreed to pay Wootton quarterly for military uses of his toll road. As was frequently the case with all its contractors, the quartermaster department was slow in making payments. In the spring of 1875 Wootton notified the Fort Union Depot quartermaster that, if overdue payments were not made by May 1, he would require cash payment before military personnel or wagons could use his road. [110] The railroad later built over Raton Pass. The quartermaster department continued to distribute supplies.

Mechanic repair shops
Mechanic repair shops at Fort Union Depot under construction, about 1866. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88000, courtesy National Archives.

The depot at Fort Union had approximately 250 six-mule teams and wagons in 1867. The number of wagons and mules decreased at the depot as more and more freight was consigned to civilian contractors. Periodically the quartermaster department sold surplus equipment and livestock at public auction, usually at moderate prices to civilians in the area. A soldier in the Fort Union garrison, Private Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, noted in the summer of 1870 that "there is quite a large Sale here today, selling off two or three hundred mules, wagons &c. Some very nice Stock among them." [111] In 1872 the depot had about 130 wagons and just over 300 mules. [112] The primary goal of the army was to reduce the costs of transportation, something that was achieved with the building of the railroads. As the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (later the Kansas Pacific Railroad) built westward across Kansas after the Civil War, the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail moved closer to New Mexico. In 1866 wagon trains departed from Junction City, Kansas, and the following year they loaded at Hays, Kansas. The farther military supplies could be carried by rail, the cheaper the remaining wagon trip to New Mexico became. In 1868 the wagons loaded at Sheridan, Kansas, and the following year at Kit Carson, Colorado Territory. The Kansas Pacific reached Denver in 1870. In 1872 the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad connected Denver with Pueblo, Colorado Territory. Wagons were loaded at Pueblo for shipment to New Mexico. Later the Denver and Rio Grande reached El Moro, five miles north of Trinidad, Colorado Territory. In the 1870s the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built along the old Santa Fe Trail, shortening the wagon road with the completion of each section. In succession, wagons were loaded at Granada, West Las Animas, La Junta, and Trinidad. In 1879 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe was completed over Raton Pass and reached Watrous (formerly La Junta, the closest railroad station to Fort Union) and Las Vegas. In 1880 it reached Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Trail ceased to function as an overland route of supply. Wagon trains were still required for the distribution of military supplies into areas not served by rail.

Mechanic repair shops
Interior area of mechanic repair shops, commonly known as the mechanics' corral, about 1870. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 88010, courtesy National Archives.

Throughout the years of Civil War and the time the railroads were building toward and into New Mexico, contract freighters carried military supplies in wagon trains to Fort Union Depot and other posts. Irwin, Jackman and Co., which replaced Russell, Majors and Waddell as the contractor for freight shipped from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico on the eve of the Civil War, dominated that route during most of the war. Other contractors who entered the business included Andrew Stewart of Steubenville, Ohio, in 1864 (rate of $1.97 per hundred pounds per hundred miles) and William S. Shewsbury of Council Grove, Kansas, in 1865 (rate of $2.05 per hundred pounds per hundred miles). In the fiscal year ending June 30, 1865, Quartermaster General Meigs reported that his department paid $1,439,578 to contractors transporting supplies to and within New Mexico Territory. [113]

Depot mechanics' corral
Depot mechanics' corral, 1876. The steam engine was housed in the building at the right. Note fire-fighting equipment in center of photo. U.S. Signals Corps Photo No. 88018, courtesy National Archives.

Freight costs decreased in 1866, partly because the railroad shortened the distance wagons had to travel to reach Fort Union, and partly because competitive bidding reduced the rates. George W. Howe of Atchison, Kansas, held the contract in 1866 at the rate of $1.38 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Other savings were made by reducing waste of commissary provisions through better packing and reducing theft along the route. Freight rates also continued to decrease. In 1867 John E. Reeside of Maryland was awarded the contract to carry freight from the railroad in Kansas to Fort Union for $1.28 per hundred pounds per hundred miles between April and September and for $2.34 during the remainder of the year. Reeside failed to fulfill his contract, however, and Richard Kitchen of Leavenworth County, Kansas, received a special contract to carry some of the freight for $1.45 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Later in 1867 Kitchen and a partner, Henry S. Bulkley, agreed to deliver additional freight to Fort Union at a rate of $2.165. Rates varied only slightly in the next few years. Percival G. Lowe, who had earlier been at Fort Union as a soldier, held the contract in 1868. [114]

While the contracts to ship military freight to New Mexico were usually awarded to residents living in the states, the contracts for distributing supplies within New Mexico were awarded to people in the territory. In 1864, for example, Epifanio Aguirre received a contract to deliver five million pounds within the department at $2.00 per hundred pounds per hundred miles during spring and summer months and $2.25 during other times of the year. [115] A Santa Fe newspaper declared that Aguirre was "the first large Mexican contractor" in New Mexico. [116] Darlis Miller explained that Aguirre was "a good example of the Hispanic capitalist who tapped into the military's reservoir of federal dollars." [117] In 1865 the contract to distribute supplies from Fort Union Depot was awarded to the Fort Union post sutler, William H. Moore. Another New Mexican who carried freight for the quartermaster department during the late 1860s was Vicente Romero of La Cueva. [118]

Alexander Grzelachowski, the Polish priest who helped guide Chivington's battalion at Glorieta Pass in 1862 and had later become a merchant at Las Vegas, received the contract to distribute supplies from Fort Union Depot in 1870 at the rate of $1.235 per hundred pounds per hundred miles. Grzelachowski subcontracted most of the hauling to Hispanos. Moore secured the contract in 1871 at a rate of $1.00 during spring and summer and $1.25 during fall and winter. [119] The amount of freight distributed from Fort Union decreased after 1870 because most supplies were often transported directly from the railroad to the posts for which they were intended.

In 1870 Brigadier General Pope, commanding the Department of the Missouri, recommended that the Fort Union Depot be closed and that military supplies be shipped directly to their ultimate destination. Not only would that be more convenient, it would save money. [120] Pope had earlier communicated the same suggestions to District of New Mexico Commander Getty, who wrote a detailed justification of the depot. The following excerpts from Getty's defense provide insight into the functions of the depot as well as his reasons for keeping it open.

In regard to the advisability of breaking up the Depot at Fort Union, I believe, that aside from the necessity for it in case of emergency, its being abolished would result in a great additional expense to the United States. The principal objection to shipping supplies direct to posts, is the want of facilities at most posts for the proper storage of such large amounts as would of necessity have to be brought to each post in order to meet all possible demands. At the Depot there are excellent Storehouses, where supplies can be kept for years if need be, without danger of loss by exposure, deterioration or otherwise, and I am assured that the expense of maintaining the Depot is far below the probable losses which would be incurred from want of proper care of stores at the different posts.

The cost of reshipping stores at Depot, is I think, more than covered by the difference in price of freight. Freight within the Territory, at present, is six cents less, per hundred pounds per hundred miles, than from the terminus of the Rail-Road to the Depot. It is necessary to have in the District a herd of mules, and there is no post where they can be kept as safely and cheaply as at the Depot. . . .

Unserviceable stores of all kinds are sent to the Depot and exchanged for serviceable. The former are for the most part sold, and bring better prices at Fort Union than at any other point in the District.

The advantage of the Depot, indeed its absolute necessity, where cooperation or independent action in the field on the part of the troops is called for, (as quite recently in Colonel Evans expedition on the Canadian River [Winter Campaign, 1868-18691) - is so obvious that I deem it unnecessary to further ask your attention to it.

In this Territory where Indian hostilities are frequent, and occur in different quarters, at different times, it is difficult to make any garrison a permanent one. A post with Infantry today may need Cavalry tomorrow, and that at a time when, without a Depot, the Cavalry would find a years supply of Infantry equipments on hand at its new station. Supplies can now be drawn from Depot whenever wanted, involving little inconvenience or expense.

If the Depot at Fort Union is not kept up, many more animals must be kept at the posts, as it would be long before they could be got out from the States to supply losses, and make up for those temporarily disabled.

There are fine cellars at Union Depot where many articles of perishable Subsistence Stores can be kept, and nothing of the kind at other posts. Few, or none of the posts have sufficient Storeroom for a years supply. If the Depot is broken up, Storerooms must be built at considerable expense, which are not necessary under the present system.

A large proportion of the Stores are sent from Depot to the several posts by Government teams, and the number of these teams cannot be reduced much, as they are required for emergencies. They can frequently, while at Depot be used for delivery of supplies which, were the Depot broken up, must all be delivered by contract teams.

At many of the posts, particularly the southern ones, supplies deteriorate so rapidly, that if the system of annual instead of semi-annual supply is adopted, the loss would be far greater than it is now, as these same things can be kept without deterioration in the cooler climate at the Depot. [121]

Getty invited Pope to come and see the Depot for himself. Getty's pleas may have induced Pope not to break up the depot immediately, but it was only a matter of time until the railroad would make it obsolete.

The contractor for delivery of freight from the railroad to the District of New Mexico in 1871 was Eugene B. Allen of Leavenworth City, Kansas. He delivered most supplies directly to posts in the district and, in addition, roved supplies remaining at Fort Union to other posts. Some items were stored at Fort Union Depot because the storehouses at some of the posts were inadequate for large shipments. The depot also received the supplies used by the post at Fort Union. Slowly, however, the depot fell into disuse. [122] In 1876 Major Edward R. Platt, assistant adjutant general in the Department of the Missouri, declared that "Fort Union is now nearly valueless as a depot of supply for the District of New Mexico, almost all the stores for the District being shipped hence direct to the New Mexican posts." [123]

For some unknown reason, beginning later in 1876, the quartermaster department reverted to its former ways and shipped all supplies to Fort Union Depot from where they were distributed to the other posts. A year later, in 1877, the shipments from the railroad were again sent directly to the posts in the district and the depot was virtually phased out by the time the railroad reached Watrous. From 1871 until the railroad was completed to Watrous and Las Vegas in 1879, most freighting contracts were awarded to freighters in Kansas, including Allen, Henry C. Lovell, and Edward Fenlon. In 1875-1876 Jacob Gross of Granada, Colorado Territory, received the contract to freight military supplies from the railroad to various posts in New Mexico. In 1876-1877 Gross held the contract for freight from El Moro to Fort Union. In 1878 F. F. Struby of Garland, Colorado, received the contract to deliver directly to the various posts. [124] Throughout the 1870s most freight wagons were drawn by oxen. Captain Charles P. Eagan, chief commissary officer in the district in 1875, observed that 90% of the subsistence stores were brought to the posts in New Mexico by ox trains. [125]

Chick, Browne & Co.
Chick, Browne & Co., Las Vegas, New Mexico, early 1880s. This was a major forwarding and commission business that helped direct and deliver military freight to Fort Union and other posts. Courtesy University of New Mexico Library, Albuquerque.

The various contractors engaged the services of forwarding and commission houses to supervise their arrangements at the places where freight was transferred from the railroad to wagon trains. The major enterprises providing those services were Otero, Sellar and Company and Chick, Browne and Company. Marcus Brunswick and Eugenio Romero of Las Vegas also served as agents for some contractors. Each commission house required the services of many clerks. Sometimes they had an agent at Fort Union and other posts to oversee the proper distribution of freight. When necessary, they hired the services of local freighters to help transport government stores. Brunswick and Romero were also engaged in freighting in New Mexico. [126]

In 1874 Eugenio Romero and his brother, Trinidad, contracted with the quartermaster department to provide a train of twenty-four six-mule wagons at the rate of $10 per wagon per day to carry the supplies for the troops sent from New Mexico under Major William R. Price, Eighth Cavalry, to participate in the Red River War. The fee of $10 per wagon each day seemed reasonable. The only other offer, by a Mr. Baca, was for $12 per wagon per day. The Romero brothers had to pay and supply their teamsters, herders, and other employees, plus the fact there was considerable wear and tear on the wagons and mules. By the time the campaign ended, the wagon train had been in the field from August 27 to December 15, 1874, more than 100 days, and the army owed the Romero brothers $25,730. Although several officers praised the services of their wagon train (Lieutenant John H. Mahnken testified that it "was the most efficient of any in the campaign" and Captain Gilbert C. Smith, quartermaster department, stated that no other "equal amount of transportation could at that time be had for less money"), other officers considered the fee to be excessive and pointed out the army could have bought a wagon train for the amount due. After an investigation the Romero brothers were paid. During 1876-1877, when military supplies were again concentrated at Fort Union Depot for distribution, Trinidad Romero received the contract to deliver stores to the other posts. He was paid a fixed rate per hundred pounds to each post, depending on the distance from Fort Union. [127]

Post trader's store
Post trader's store at Fort Union, probably late 1860s. U.S. Signal Corps Photo No. 87966, courtesy National Archives.

When it became clear that the railroad would soon build into New Mexico, plans were made to close the Fort Union Depot. In February 1878 Captain Amos W. Kimball, depot quartermaster, was informed that District Commander Hatch had been "directed to as rapidly as possible reduce the Q.M. Depot at Union to a mere place where repairing which cannot be done readily at posts, may be made to transportation and where good grazing may be had to recuperate animals." Any "goods in depot" were "to be shipped to posts as will need them." The "balance, if any, may be retained for issue at Union." Civilian employees "not absolutely required" were "to be at once discharged, and expenses kept down to as low a point as possible." [128] By 1879 the railroad superseded the army in the amount of business conducted in New Mexico. Within a few years most posts in New Mexico were within twelve miles of a railroad (Fort Stanton was an exception, 118 miles from a railroad). Contractors transported commodities from the railroads to the posts. In 1885-1886 Ferdinand Schmidt of Mora County hauled supplies between Watrous and Fort Union for eleven cents per hundred pounds. Almost all military supplies were imported and only a few items, mainly beef, were purchased within the district. [129] The contractors continued to make money from the army but not much of it benefited the rest of the people in New Mexico.

Even after the quartermaster depot ceased to operate as a warehouse and transportation center for the region, the post at Fort Union still had to be supplied. The quartermaster continued to contract for fuel and forage even though most of these products were imported by rail. In 1888 the following contracts were awarded:

Table 14
Contracts at Fort Union, 1888

ContractorProduct QuantityPrice
Conger & WoodburyFirewood2,000 cords$2.38 per cord
Conger & WoodburyCoal550 tons6.10 per ton
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.18 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.23 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyCorn100,000 pounds1.28 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyOats50,000 pounds1.20 per hundredweight
Ferdinand SchmidtOats75,000 pounds1.30 per hundredweight
Conger & WoodburyBran10,000 pounds1.18 per hundredweight
R. P. StrongBran10,000 pounds$1.15 per hundredweight
W. P. StrongMeadow Hay1,000 tons$8.40 per ton
W. P. StrongBaled Hay1,000 tons$10.80 per ton
Ferdinand SchmidtBottom Hay250 tons$8.80 per ton
Ferdinand SchmidtBaled Hay250 tons$11.00 per ton
H. D. ReinkenStraw100 tons$7.20 per ton
H. D. ReinkenCharcoal180 bushels$0.40 per bushel

The quartermaster depot continued to perform other functions. A vital part of the quartermaster department at Fort Union Depot was a collection of repair shops, including blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, saddlers, and laborers who repaired all types of equipment, especially transportation equipment, for the entire military department or district (some horse equipment was also repaired at the ordnance depot and arsenal). Wagons and other conveyances could be completely rebuilt at the shops, if necessary, and harnesses, ox bows, chains, saddles, pack frames, and all other gear connected with transportation were repaired. [131] The shops also made repairs for buildings, stables, and corrals, manufactured furnishings for quarters and offices as well as storehouses and shops, fabricated windows and doors, and kept all types of machinery in running order. Draft animals and, sometimes, cavalry horses were shod at the repair shops even though cavalry regiments typically had their own farriers. The shops usually employed a number of civilians. Even after the supply depot was closed, except for storage of provisions for Fort Union, the repair shops continued to operate until a short time before Fort Union was abandoned.

Fort Union post trader's store
Fort Union post trader's store operated by Conger and Woodbury, 1880s. Photo Collection, Fort Union, courtesy Museum of New Mexico.

Fort Union, unlike most other military posts, had a unique situation with the presence of quartermaster and subsistence departments (and also the ordnance department) for the larger department or district located on the same reservation. The depot quartermaster and commissary officers were not under the jurisdiction of the post commander, except when they also served as post quartermaster or commissary officer simultaneously (during most years the depot and post quartermaster were the same person; that was also true of the depot and post subsistence officers) but were directly under the department or district commander and the chief quartermaster and commissary of subsistence at the department or district headquarters in Santa Fe. When the same person held the department and post position, the post commander's authority was limited to only the post duty.

Because the duties of the quartermaster and subsistence officers were similar, they were able to substitute for each other temporarily without difficulty. There were times, especially at the post rather than the depot, when the quartermaster and subsistence offices were assigned jointly to one officer. Much of the work in the post quartermaster and subsistence offices was performed under the direction of a quartermaster sergeant and commissary sergeant (office created in 1873). From 1875 on, the offices of depot quartermaster and commissary officer were combined into one. During the summer of 1875 Lieutenant John Lafferty, depot commissary officer, vacated that position and the depot quartermaster, Captain Amos S. Kimball, added subsistence duties to his responsibilities. Kimball was also the post quartermaster and subsistence officer. Given the variety of arrangements, it was probable that confusion and, periodically, conflict would result.

It was natural that post commanders and other officers at the garrison expected the depot to provide for the post because of proximity. The department commanders and chief quartermaster and commissary officers held the position that the depot was no more under the authority of the post at Fort Union than any other military post in the department. It was equally natural that depot officers felt independent from the garrison command. Problems arose over such issues as enforcing post orders at the depot, assigning depot officers to post duties such as boards of survey and courts-martial (as noted above), assigning garrison soldiers to guard duty at the depot, storing post property in depot facilities, determining how quartermaster mules and wagons were to be allocated between the post and depot, and a host of other things. Most of the time, however, relationships were friendly and cooperative.

Fort Union Post Traders token
Fort Union Post Traders token, probably from late 1860s or early 1870s. McNitt Collection, No. 6981, New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe.

In 1853 Fort Union Commander Nathaniel C. Macrae was reprimanded by Department Commander John Garland for assigning the depot and post quartermaster, Captain L. C. Easton, and the depot and post subsistence officer, Captain Isaac Bowen, to serve on a board of survey at the post. Garland declared, "these officers are the chiefs of their respective departments in New Mexico." Macrae was further notified, "they are not subject to detail in matters relating to the post of Fort Union—their duties pertain to the Department—and their station being at the principal depot does not subject them to duty at that post." Macrae inquired if the two officers were permitted to perform the duties of quartermaster and subsistence officers at the post. Garland sent word that he "did not intend that these officers should be relieved from duty at the post of Fort Union, connected with their own department." On the other hand, he continued, "they should not be subject to detail in matters relating to the post of Fort Union, and not connected with their department, such as Garrison Courts, Boards of Survey &c. &c." [132]

When Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke succeeded Macrae in 1853, he was also uncertain how the system worked. Even though the quartermaster and subsistence depots were being transferred to Albuquerque, the depot quartermaster and commissary officers were still at Fort Union and continued to serve as post quartermaster and commissary officers, too. Cooke asked Garland for some clarification about his relationship to those officers. They were his subordinates at the post, yet they were not under his control as depot officers. Cooke worried primarily about the chain of command and whether the two officers could bypass him by appealing directly to the department commander for services to be provided by the troops at Fort Union. He did not appreciate having his authority circumvented. Garland informed Cooke that he was not being bypassed but simply had no place in the chain of command between the department commander and the depot officers. [133] The problem was resolved a short time later when the two depot officers transferred to Albuquerque.

Another difficulty arose in 1856 when Captain John C. McFerran was appointed to serve as depot quartermaster and post quartermaster at Fort Union. Technically, Fort Union was a subdepot to Albuquerque, but it had been found more practical to receive and distribute military freight from Fort Leavenworth there than at Albuquerque. McFerran discovered that the temporary post commander was Lieutenant William T. Magruder, First Dragoons. McFerran was incensed, after Magruder assigned him to a board of survey at the post, that his actions were "subject to be approved or disapproved by my junior." He had complied, however, "for the sake of harmony." He requested that he not be subject to orders, except for strictly post quartermaster business, from the lieutenant post commander. Magruder was uncertain about his responsibilities and agreed not to exercise any authority over McFerran until the department commander informed him differently. [134] This issue died when Colonel Fauntleroy resumed command of the post about two weeks later. He clearly outranked McFerran.

In 1859 Captain William K. Van Bokkelen, subdepot and post quartermaster, requested Post Commander John Walker to detail three additional extra-duty soldiers to serve as carpenters and a blacksmith. Walker refused because he did not have the manpower to spare. Walker was willing to permit extra-duty men to perform quartermaster duties for "post purposes" but not "for Depot work." He further observed that he thought it was "injudicious, to allow the depot, which happens to be here, to absorb so large a number of Soldiers, and thus injure the efficiency of the command for Military purposes." [135] It was not an uncommon complaint. A few weeks later Post Commander Robert M. Morris recalled six extra-duty soldiers from the subdepot because they were needed for guard duty at the post. Two weeks later Morris explained that, if he were required to send more troops into the field, he would have to withdraw all extra-duty men from the subdepot. He was concerned that the quartermaster and subsistence officers would be left shorthanded "as trains of stores are arriving, and reshipments of stores are occuring daily." Morris urged department headquarters to approve more civilian employees for the subdepot. [136] It was not determined if more civilians were employed.

In 1866 District Commander Carleton issued orders to prevent "misunderstanding between the Commanding and Depot Officers at, and on, the Fort Union Reservation, and on the Ordnance Reservation, with regard to their respective prerogatives and authority." The depots were "under the exclusive control of their respective Depot Officers, and independent of the post commander." The commanding officers of the depots and the post were each "responsible for the proper conduct of the men and control of the animals, within their several commands." The depot quartermaster was given control of grazing and the camping of wagon trains on the military reservation. [137] Lines had been drawn but confusion and conflict arose in specific situations. Many post commanders resented their lack of authority over the quartermaster depot. In 1877, when Lieutenant Colonel Dudley was post commander and Captain Kimball was depot and post quartermaster, the petty feuding over who was in control of such things as inspecting buildings, authorizing repairs of buildings, and assigning jobs to extra-duty soldiers, resulted in charges being filed against Dudley and his trial by court-martial. [138]

The problems of jurisdiction were frequently humorous, but sometimes they were deadly serious. During an outbreak of smallpox in the area around Fort Union in 1877, including Las Vegas and La Junta, Post Surgeon Carlos Carvallo requested authority to place the post, depot, and arsenal under quarantine. Post Commander Dudley approved the request and authorized Carvallo and his associate, Dr. Joseph S. Martin, to set up the quarantine. Martin was appointed "Quarantine Surgeon" and issued the notice of quarantine for the post and depot (no mention of arsenal because Captain Shoemaker had long insisted the post had no control over the arsenal, which had its own reservation within the post reservation), prohibiting the admission of all persons without being first examined by a medical officer. "All vendors of eggs, chickens and other merchandise and pedlers of every description are forbidden to enter the Post or Depo. until further notice." Two soldiers from the garrison were assigned to assist Dr. Martin in enforcing the quarantine. [139]

The following day the district commander notified Lieutenant Colonel Dudley that neither he nor the post surgeon could establish a quarantine that included the depot or arsenal over which they had no authority. The post quarantine could, of course, prohibit communications with both the depot and arsenal. The result was absurd from a medical viewpoint but necessary from an administrative point of view. One day later Captain Kimball, depot quartermaster, requested that Post Surgeon Carvallo extend the quarantine to include the depot. Carvallo, unsure of the line of authority, asked Post Commander Dudley for a clarification of the surgeon's duties (specifically, could he use the two soldiers from the post to enforce the quarantine at the depot?). The post surgeons had been providing medical service to soldiers and civilians serving at both the depot and arsenal, admitting them to the post hospital when necessary, and Carvallo wanted to know what should be done. Dudley sidestepped the issue by explaining he had no jurisdiction over the depot and arsenal and, therefore, could not authorize the use of men from the post garrison to enforce a quarantine at the depot. Kimball informed Carvallo that a quarantine of the post without a quarantine of the depot was "useless" and requested Carvallo and Martin to enforce it at the depot. Carvallo replied to Kimball that he would not establish a quarantine at the depot "unless you place at my disposal men of your command for that object, having received orders not to use men of the Post for Depot quarantine." [140] Apparently the problem was resolved when Kimball agreed to provide men to enforce the quarantine. Because of or in spite of the quarantine, an outbreak of smallpox was avoided at Fort Union. The problem of jurisdiction remained. It should be noted, too, that the confusion was compounded by the fact that Kimball served as post quartermaster as well as depot quartermaster. [141]

As the duties of the quartermaster and commissary depots were reduced in the 1870s, some of the buildings were used for other purposes. In 1875 one of the officer's quarters at the depot became vacant when Lieutenant Lafferty, subsistence officer, turned over his department to the depot quartermaster, Captain Kimball, and left the post. Jane W. Brent, widow of Captain Thomas Lee Brent, was serving as the postmaster at the Fort Union post office at the time. She considered her quarters at the building which housed the post office to be inadequate to her needs and requested permission to occupy the quarters vacated by Lafferty. The post office was located in a building owned by Edward Shoemaker, son of Captain William Shoemaker, which was located "on the main road passing Fort Union . . . between the hotel, on the one side, and the store of the Post Trader on the other." Captain Kimball permitted Mrs. Brent to move into the former commissary officer's quarters until an officer should require the space. She was still there in 1884. In 1877 an additional two sets of vacant officers' quarters at the depot were opened to officers at the post. [142] On November 28, 1877, the day before Thanksgiving, the post and depot quartermaster office of Captain Kimball was destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was not known. [143] No records were located to indicate where the office was located after the fire. The burned office was not renovated until April 1879. [144]

The post cemetery was the responsibility of the quartermaster department. No references to the cemetery were found until after the Civil War. In 1866 Lieutenant Harry Mumford, post quartermaster, reported that the cemetery, in use since 1851, was located approximately one and one-half miles west of the third post. Mumford did not know that the first person to be buried at Fort Union cemetery in 1851 was Private William Davidson, Company F, First Dragoons, who was struck by lightning on August 18. He was joined one day later by Private James Newell, Company G, First Dragoons, who succumbed to acute dysentery. [145]

Mumford reported that the cemetery was an area approximately 50 by 300 yards and had no fence around it. The number of graves was estimated at 155, most of which were unidentified. Headboards existed at approximately one-fifth of the grave sites and no cemetery records could be found at the post. Mumford recommended that the cemetery be fenced. [146] The quartermaster general's office directed that the cemetery be fenced and headboards placed on all graves. Unidentified grave sites were to be marked as "U.S. Soldier, name unknown." A list of all names that could be identified was to be sent to the quartermaster general. The work was done by the depot quartermaster. The fence was constructed of boards and painted. [147] Periodically fatigue details were sent to work at the cemetery. On April 17, 1869, for example, Corporal Philip Werner, Company G, Third Cavalry, and nine privates selected from various companies at the post were "detailed on daily duty for the purpose of putting the Cemetery at this Post in proper order." They were relieved from that duty on May 11, 1869. [148]

In 1870 Private Eddie Matthews, Eighth Cavalry, reported that while serving on guard duty at Fort Union he "was sent in charge of six prisoners over to the Cemetery to dig a grave for a poor soldier who accidentally shot himself while on duty." While the prisoners were at work, Matthews looked at a number of graves and read information on the headboards. He noticed that more than 40 graves were marked "unknown," which he found distressful. He implied that the army might at least have identified the men who died in the service of their country. [149]

In 1873 Captain Andrew J. McGonnigle, quartermaster department, submitted a summary report on the post cemetery to the quartermaster general's office. The cemetery was described as located about one mile northwest of the post, encompassing an area 150 feet by 700 feet, and enclosed by a picket fence. A total of 223 interments were listed. Of those, 103 were counted as unknown soldiers. Of the soldiers listed by name, two were officers and the remainder were enlisted men. Several civilians and a few children were noted. In 1877 Chaplain Simpson requested that an adobe wall be constructed around the cemetery, but it was rejected as too expensive. [150] The cemetery was used until the post was abandoned, and the last burial was that of Private Richard van Schranendyk, Company H, Tenth Infantry, who died of pneumonia on May 9, 1891, just six days before the troops marched away from Fort Union forever. The remains of those buried at the post cemetery were later disinterred and moved to Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Of a total of 286 removed, 146 were unknown and the remaining 140 were identified. [151]

The quartermaster and commissary departments were an integral part of the history of Fort Union and the frontier army in the Southwest. Fort Union, more than any other post in the area, was closely identified with military supply because of the establishment of the depot there. That was also true of the ordnance department (later arsenal) which was located at Fort Union from its founding in 1851 until the arsenal was closed in 1882. During most of that time Captain William R. Shoemaker, military storekeeper, was in command of the ordnance depot and arsenal, until his retirement in 1882. The story of the ordnance depot, which should be treated as "Shoemaker's Domain," was an essential part of Fort Union history.

The ordnance department was responsible for all arms, ammunition, and related equipment. The department selected and purchased or manufactured all types of weapons, including swords, muskets, rifles, revolvers, and cannon. Ordnance officers tested new firearms, or had them tested in the hands of troops, and made improvements when appropriate. An ordnance depot was primarily a storehouse for arms and ammunition to be issued to troops as required. The staff at an ordnance depot, usually a combination of enlisted men and civilian employees, repaired arms, loaded and reloaded ammunition, and fabricated ammunition boxes, slings, belts, and other items related to weapons. Because they had the equipment to work leather, the ordnance depot sometimes repaired and fabricated horse equipment, shoes, and boots. Although small in staff and personnel, the ordnance department was critical to the fighting effectiveness of troops in the field.

The ordnance depot of the Ninth Military Department, under command of Captain Shoemaker, was transferred from Santa Fe to Fort Union when the new post was established in 1851. Shoemaker had been appointed a military storekeeper of ordnance in the army in 1841 and continued in that position until his retirement. Shoemaker and his large family built a home on the Fort Union military reservation which he was permitted to keep after his retirement. He was popular among most Fort Union officers and their families as many of the officers' wives attested. He had the reputation of being one of the finest hunters at Fort Union. He looked after the ordnance depot and arsenal with reverence and determination. For the most part he kept his domain independent from the post at Fort Union, occasionally clashing with commanding officers who attempted to extend their jurisdiction over his operations. He and his staff kept the troops in New Mexico equipped with arms and ammunition.

Before Colonel Sumner arrived to take over the Ninth Military Department in the summer of 1851 Shoemaker had recommended to Captain William Maynadier, ordnance department, that the ordnance depot in New Mexico be located someplace besides Santa Fe, preferably on the Rio Grande. Within two weeks after Sumner arrived and ordered the relocation of the ordnance depot Shoemaker reported that one-half the ordnance stores, fifty wagon loads, were on the road to Fort Union. The remainder would have to await transportation. Shoemaker was not pleased with the location of the new depot and was especially miffed that there were no buildings at Fort Union to protect his stores. He feared the ordnance stores might end up with those of the quartermaster and declared "I shall endeavor to keep my Depot as separate & distinct from the other departments as possible." [152] On that promise Shoemaker made good.

William Rawle Shoemaker
William Rawle Shoemaker, military store keeper and captain ordnance department, was at Fort Union most of the time from 1851 until his death in 1886. The ordnance depot and arsenal at Fort Union were truly "Shoemaker's Domain." Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument, courtesy Francis R. Shoemaker.

Before he left Santa Fe Shoemaker issued arms and ammunition to the troops comprising Sumner's Navajo campaign. Shoemaker moved to Fort Union on August 24, 1851, where he placed the ordnance stores under tents. He and his ordnance detachment of twelve men, assisted by some troops from the post, began immediately to erect quarters and storehouses. The ordnance detachment was so busy with moving and construction that it was unable to prepare sufficient ammunition for the troops. Shoemaker ordered cartridges from the East to supply the department until his department had the time to load those required. He also ordered a supply of carbine cartridges because "the Dragoons are so dissatisfied with the Musketoon that they have in some cases adhered to the Carbine." The musketoon was unsatisfactory, in part, because the cartridges were "too small" and fell "out at the muzzle when [the weapon was] carried in the sling." Also, the musketoon needed another spring on the underside of the barrel "to keep the ramrod from falling out." Shoemaker also needed to know if he could obtain 1850 model officers' swords and a lower price on more Colt pistols. [153]

Shoemaker announced that the team of horses belonging to the ordnance depot had died, he thought because of "the climate," and he had obtained a team of mules which he considered to be "better adapted to this climate." It is not known what Shoemaker thought of his theory when one of his mules died. Early in November 1851 he reported the construction of quarters and storehouses for the ordnance department progressing well and expected to move into them in two weeks. The buildings were "very temporary ones" and the ordnance stores left in Santa Fe for want of transportation were going to remain in Santa Fe until needed or until a better location had been found to build an arsenal. The ordnance detachment was in quarters and loading ammunition early in 1852 when Shoemaker ordered 500 pounds of lead to mold balls. He also requisitioned a year's supply of paper, ink, pencils, steel pens, and quills for the ordnance office, noting that "the steel pens & quills sent last year were good for." [154]

Colonel Sumner directed Shoemaker to obtain, if possible, twenty Wesson Rifles, a heavyweight carbine with a range of 400 to 600 yards. Sumner wanted the long-range weapons "for a special purpose" which was not revealed. Although Shoemaker had hoped the ordnance depot might be relocated at Albuquerque, Sumner ordered him to erect more storehouses at Fort Union so the inventory left in Santa Fe could be moved there. Shoemaker needed a heavy wagon to haul materials for construction and spent $900 for a wagon, six mules, and six sets of harness. He paid close attention to details in everything he did. To protect the ordnance buildings, Shoemaker ordered lightning rods and cables. He requested a bell to "call the men in the morning & to sound the work hours &c." [155]

William R. Shoemaker
William R. Shoemaker's appointment as a military storekeeper, August 3, 1841, when John Tyler was president and William Wilkins was secretary of war. Shoemaker File, Fort Union National Monument Collection, New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe.

The ordnance depot had been without an armorer for several months because the previous one had completed his term of enlistment. Because no one had been found to enlist, Shoemaker requested a civilian employee to serve as armorer. In the summer of 1852 a Mr. Burke, a citizen, was sent from St. Louis Arsenal to serve as the Fort Union armorer at a salary of $3.00 per day. Shoemaker thought that was excessive and urged that an enlisted armorer be sent as quickly as possible. None was found. Shoemaker found it virtually impossible to enlist men into the ordnance detachment in New Mexico. Burke remained for the two years he agreed to stay when hired and then hired on indefinitely. In addition to his salary he was permitted to purchase rations from the post commissary at cost. In August 1853 Shoemaker reported that his detachment of twelve enlisted men was engaged as follows: one was in charge of the garden, five were harvesting hay for the public animals, and six were engaged in building shops and performing the regular duties of the ordnance depot. Armorer Burke was the only civilian employed. [156] Shoemaker was reluctant to hire civilian workers because of the cost, but he later requested permission to hire laborers to manufacture and lay the adobe bricks for the ordnance magazine because his detachment did not have the time. [157]

William Shoemaker's wallet
William Shoemaker's wallet, including a hand mirror and a lock of hair from his wife, Julia. Museum Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

Because Captain Carleton wanted to take two twelve-pound mountain howitzers into the field when his dragoons were sent to patrol the Santa Fe Trail, Shoemaker ordered carriages for the weapons in the department. He wanted enough to provide each company of dragoons with two howitzers. He gathered up all the howitzers he could find in the territory, some of which had apparently been there since the Mexican War, to prepare them for field service as soon as the carriages arrived. Later more carriages were requisitioned for the artillery troops in the department. [158] In addition to fixing up artillery pieces, the ordnance depot was directed in 1853 to "cause the old cartridges now on hand to be at once worked over and made serviceable for the percussion musket." [159] In that way obsolete armaments were salvaged and utilized with technological improvements in ordnance.

After the ordnance buildings were completed Shoemaker requested permission to retain the wagon and mules to haul fuel and other supplies. The ordnance detachment had to supply its own firewood at that time. The quartermaster department was unable to provide fuel for the ordnance depot because it had so few employees, being dependent on the extra-duty labor of troops at the post for most tasks. Firewood was cut four to five miles from the fort. Shoemaker considered the wagon "indispensable." He did not consider the time his detachment spent obtaining fuel a waste, noting that it would cost much more if he had to hire civilians. Shoemaker was worried that he could not enlist enough men in his department to keep the detachment at its authorized strength of twelve. In 1854 he urgently requested the St. Louis Arsenal to enlist for him "a few good men" because, as enlistments expired, the detachment was reduced to eight. When he was told that the St. Louis Arsenal faced the same problem, Shoemaker requested authority from the ordnance department to transfer four recruits intended for one of the regiments in New Mexico to the ordnance depot, at least on a temporary basis. [160] Presumably that was done.

In 1855 the ordnance detachment was making repairs to the quarters and storehouses, including new roofs. Shoemaker noted that the buildings had been erected so hastily in 1851 that "they are very frail structures and require constant attention & repairs to make them answer until more permanent houses can be built." He again requested that funds be appropriated to construct new buildings. Shoemaker apparently had resigned himself to staying at Fort Union because he stated that "a site within a very short distance of our present location would answer every purpose for the Depot." [161] Within a few years he became so attached to the site that he spent the remainder of his life there.

The ordnance detachment was so busy with its duties that an additional armorer was required by late 1855. Burke was still there, and Shoemaker considered him to be the best mechanic in New Mexico and recommended an increase in his salary. Shoemaker had information that David Chapman, an armorer until recently employed at the St. Louis Arsenal, was willing to travel to Fort Union and work at the depot. He recommended that Chapman, if approved, be sent to New Mexico on the mail stage to save time. Chapman never arrived, however, and neither did anyone else. By the spring of 1856, when the repair of horse equipment had been transferred to the ordnance department, Shoemaker again requested more help to handle the "immense amount of work of all kinds" that had accumulated. [162] One of the duties performed at the arsenal was the reloading of ammunition cartridges. Because of a shortage of powder in 1856, Shoemaker was directed by the chief of ordnance to remove the powder from the large supply of pistol shells and use it with powder on hand to load rifle shells. Also, to save powder, the rifle shells were to be filled with only 50 grains of powder instead of the usual 60. [163] That situation was temporary until more powder arrived.

William Shoemaker's private letter book with receipt
A page from William Shoemaker's private letter book and a receipt for his purchase of a pair of mules. Museum Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

It was not clear in the records if more workers were assigned to the ordnance depot before the arrival of another armorer (George Berg) in October 1856. Shoemaker's major concerns were the shortage of workers and the condition of the buildings. By the late summer of 1856 he was again requesting permission to erect new buildings. He wrote, "the deplorable state of our present houses leaves us at the mercy of the elements." Most, he thought, were beyond repair. The log foundations of the storehouses were "decayed & giving way." The buildings were "supported by props." [164] No relief was provided.

Captain William A. Thornton, chief of ordnance for the military department, advised Shoemaker not to approach Department Commander Garland on the subject of a new arsenal or even a new building. "The General has no particular good feeling for Fort Union, and its neighborhood" Thornton wrote, "and therefore he will not recommend the expenditure of a cent, until a site has been determined on." The problem was further complicated by the fact that much of the land was privately owned, making it difficult to find a site for an arsenal. Shoemaker was requested to bide his time and do his job until a decision could be made on the location for new facilities. [165]

Occasionally the ordnance depot was involved in the testing of new weapons. In 1856 the ordnance department sent sixty-four Sharps Carbines to New Mexico to be tested by troops in the field. The Sharps was being considered as a replacement for the musketoon. It was a sturdy breech-loading single-shot using a paper cartridge. The weapons were distributed among the mounted riflemen and Shoemaker was charged with gathering reports on the performance of the test weapons and communicating that information and suggestions for improvements to his superiors. [166] Shoemaker's final report on the Sharps was not located, but Colonel Bonneville later recalled that troops under his command, involved in testing the Sharps, found the carbines to be "greatly preferred as an arm for the Dragoon service." The weapon was adopted and was popular among mounted troops before and during the Civil War. Later the Sharps was superseded, temporarily, by the Spencer repeating carbine. Bonneville stated that an experimental "double breached Pistol" was tested at about the same time in New Mexico and found to be "of no account." [167] A few Colt revolving rifles were issued to some of the mounted riflemen in New Mexico in 1859. It was not recorded what the troops or their officers thought of the Colt weapons, but Department Commander Fauntleroy ordered them turned in to the ordnance depot and stated the weapons then in the hands of the mounted riflemen would not be changed. [168] In 1860 Shoemaker sent sixty new Colt revolving rifles into the field with the mounted riflemen for evaluation. [169] Again, the results were not found. Even if new weapons performed well, the army was slow to change because of the reluctance to change built into the highly bureaucratic system and, perhaps more important, because it cost money to switch, money that Congress was disinclined to disburse.

In 1857 Burke, who had served well as a civilian armorer at the ordnance depot since 1852, resigned. Shoemaker immediately requested that "another armorer may be sent out as soon as practicable." The amount of firearms to be repaired required the services of at least two armorers. Armorer Berg was still there. No record was found to indicate that a new armorer was sent in 1857. The following year Shoemaker had his detachment building new quarters for Berg's family because Berg threatened to leave unless provisions were made for his family at the depot. Shoemaker observed that it was cheaper to erect another log house than to try to hire another armorer. [170]

The tasks of the ordnance depot were increased in 1858 when it was assigned responsibility for storage and distribution of rope and picket pins for the army, products that had previously been handled by the quartermaster department. This was done because the ordnance department was handling and repairing most of the horse equipment by that time. In preparation for this Shoemaker requisitioned 2,500 pounds of rope and 2,000 pounds of 5/8-inch iron rod. The picket pins were fabricated at the ordnance depot. The ordnance detachment had designed and was manufacturing holsters and cartridge boxes for the "Navy pistol." This required a large supply of leather. During 1858 Shoemaker ordered 1,000 pairs of dragoon spurs and straps. The ordnance depot handled a variety of military items in addition to armaments. [171]

The ordnance depot acquired a sawmill in 1858, needed because of the large amount of lumber required to make constant repairs on the quarters and storehouses. Shoemaker purchased four mules to power the mill. Because his repeated requests for a new arsenal in the department (Shoemaker had decided the best location was on the Mora River at Tiptonville) had been ignored, he resigned himself to repairing the buildings at Fort Union. Department Commander Garland had opposed the site at Tiptonville and recommended that Fort Union be relocated. Until that was decided, Shoemaker understood that the ordnance depot would remain where it was. Shoemaker was confident that, with the sawmill, his force could make the depot last for "several years" if necessary. [172] It was necessary.

Shoemaker requested permission to visit the ordnance headquarters in Washington in 1858, hoping that he could explain in person what was difficult to communicate in writing about the conditions of the depot and the need for a new arsenal in New Mexico. Brigadier General Garland had to approve the request. For some reason, whether intentional or not, Garland treated Shoemaker's application for leave to visit Washington as a request for permanent transfer to Washington. On this assumption, Garland refused to let Shoemaker leave the department until a replacement had been appointed. Shoemaker was flabbergasted when he learned what Garland was doing and immediately let everyone know he had no intention of leaving his position in New Mexico. He had expected to visit Washington and "return immediately to the Depot that I have had charge of through so many difficulties." If going to Washington would cost him his position, he would not go. [173]

The ordnance depot received a shipment of 1,100 "new model rifled muskets" (.58 caliber, designed to be used with Maynard primers) in 1858. They were known to be defective and the hammers were to be altered by the ordnance detachment at Fort Union before they were issued. The detachment was shorthanded because one of the men from the ordnance depot had deserted along with two mounted riflemen from the garrison at Fort Union. They took two mules belonging to the ordnance depot which were later recovered by a "Mexican trader" on the plains. Shoemaker paid a reward of $50 for the return of the mules, which he apparently considered to be more valuable to the work of his department than the man who had deserted. Shoemaker requested approval of the reward, noting that the man who deserted had nearly that amount due him in back pay. [174]

The alterations on the hammers of the new rifled muskets began in October and went quickly, requiring only a little time on the lathe. While overhauling the weapons many of them were "found to be unfit for issue, and many completely coated with rust that cannot be removed without defacing the arm." The bayonets were also badly rusted. The weapons had been shipped from Harper's Ferry, Virginia, and some boxes had been damaged. Some of the problems were the result of flawed manufacturing. In nearly 10% of the muskets the screws fastening the rear sights were too long and caused a "bulge on the inside of the barrel" which prevented the ball from loading properly and the hammer head from passing that point. Such weapons were useless without further alterations, which were performed. Shoemaker feared some of them might still cause problems in the hands of soldiers and was displeased that his command had to remedy what should have been done correctly at the factory. Nevertheless he pledged that the new muskets would "go into the hands of the troops in good condition and as quickly as possible." They were completed by early December 1858. When the troops found that the Maynard primers frequently failed, Shoemaker issued regular caps in their place. [175]

In 1859 a new adobe magazine was constructed at the ordnance depot at Fort Union. Before it was completed Second Lieutenant Moses J. White, ordnance department, arrived to take command of the ordnance depot at Fort Union. This was done so Shoemaker could travel to Washington as he had requested the previous year. Shoemaker left Fort Union early in September 1859. He did not return until June 1860. Captain Robert A. Wainwright, chief of ordnance at department headquarters in Santa Fe, who had not been able to command Shoemaker, attempted to exert his authority of White. White fought back and Wainwright complained to ordnance headquarters in Washington, declaring that Shoemaker had "considered himself & Depot beyond the control of the chief officer of his Corps in the dept." Wainwright continued, "unfortunately Lt. White has imbibed some of his ideas and . . . denies my right to give him instructions or order supplies from the Depot." White had refused to send arms by direction of Wainwright because, White argued, he could only issue arms upon receipt of regulation requisition forms submitted by the officers receiving the arms. [176]

Wainwright declared that, if White were permitted to be so impudent, Wainwright would be "helpless in the conduct of ordnance matters and a mere cypher at Headquarters." Colonel Bonneville had been called upon to set White straight "in consideration of Lt. White's youth and inexperience." Wainwright observed that White was "not in good health, being subject to epileptic fits that do at times impair the action of his mind and in my opinion render him unfit for the duties devolving upon him." Bonneville ordered White to Santa Fe "to bring him if possible to a sense of his duty." Wainwright concluded, "should this fail other steps will be necessary." The results of Bonneville's efforts were unknown, but White requested a leave of absence on account of sickness a few weeks later. Colonel Fauntleroy (who returned to command of the department) appointed Lieutenant Dabney H. Maury, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, to take charge of the ordnance depot at Fort Union in January 1860. [177]

It may be assumed that Maury tendered adequate respect for the authority of Captain Wainwright. Maury took his responsibilities seriously at the ordnance depot and designed a new style cartridge box for infantrymen and a different style cartridge box for cavalrymen. He recommended that changes be made in the government-manufactured cartridges issued for Colt pistols, stating that "they contain too much powder and the Ball is slightly too great in diameter." The size made it difficult for troopers to reload Colt pistols "while mounted and in motion." Maury had the potential of a good ordnance officer, but he returned to his regiment and was appointed to serve as Fauntleroy's adjutant after Shoemaker resumed command of the depot in June 1860. [178]

Fauntleroy had hoped that Shoemaker would not return and, when he did, he attempted to keep him from resuming command of the ordnance depot. Fearing Shoemaker might just go to the depot and inform Maury he was relieved, Fauntleroy directed Maury to "retain command of the Ordnance Depot at Fort Union until relieved by orders from these Head quarters; and that you will not recognize any other authority except such orders as you may receive from the Head Quarters of the Army and the Secretary of War." It was not enough. Colonel William Craig, chief of ordnance for the army, sent instructions to Lieutenant Maury to turn over the depot to Shoemaker on his arrival. Fauntleroy, although defeated, filed his protest. "I desire to put on record my dissent from the course taken by the Chief of Ordnance, as contrary to the Regulations of the Army and detrimental in the highest degree to the public service." [179]

Shoemaker had personally overseen the shipment of ordnance stores from St. Louis before traveling to Fort Union. He was accompanied by two "master workmen" and two enlisted men to fill up the detachment at the ordnance depot. He hoped to receive approval for the construction of a new arsenal for the department at a point on the Mora River. Shoemaker and Wainwright clashed over the site for a new arsenal and almost everything else. Wainwright, most likely encouraged if not instigated by Department Commander Fauntleroy, was determined that Shoemaker would submit to his authority. Fauntleroy, who had named Lieutenant Maury the department adjutant, instructed Wainwright to "allow no steps to be taken with regard to the instructions on securing a site for the Ordnance Depot, or making any change in the present position of that Depot without authority from these Head Quarters." Further, he ordered Wainwright to "replace Military Storekeeper, W. R. Shoemaker in charge of the Ordnance Depot." [180] He could not overrule Chief of Ordnance Craig who kept Shoemaker in charge.

Wainwright harassed Shoemaker, perhaps hoping to force him to leave. He transferred a team of mules and a wagon from the depot to Fort Leavenworth, over Shoemaker's objections, so Shoemaker purchased another team and wagon. Shoemaker stated that Wainwright warned him he could "order all of the mules away." Wainwright, according to Shoemaker, was interfering with the "internal arrangements & opperations of the Depot." Shoemaker asked that ordnance headquarters "define the official relations of Capt. Wainwright & myself as to prevent the possibility of a collision, for under existing circumstances it will be impossible for me to continue to perform my duties advantageously to the public service, or with any peace, or satisfaction to myself." [181] The two strong-willed men tolerated each other until Wainwright left New Mexico early in the Civil War.

Shoemaker continued to hope for approval to erect a new depot and arsenal. In anticipation his detachment cut lumber to cure and experimented with the production of fired bricks. His command built a small kiln and a hired brick maker oversaw the production of 12,000 bricks. These were evaluated by "the best judges here, & pronounced good and durable." The bricks produced were used to repair chimneys and ovens at the depot, but production could be resumed whenever necessary for construction of new buildings. A carpenter was fabricating window frames and other items for a new depot. Clearly Shoemaker was going to be ready when and if new facilities were authorized. Any plans for a new depot, however, were held up pending the location and establishment of Fort Butler. [182] Then the Department of New Mexico was disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war Shoemaker's longstanding plans for a new arsenal were implemented at the site of the first Fort Union. [183]

Heavy demands were placed on the ordnance depot during the Civil War, and the detachment there was uncommonly occupied in keeping Union troops supplied with arms and ammunition. In 1861 a portion of a shipment of arms intended for New Mexico was stolen at Kansas City, Missouri. The losses were not critical. During the spring and summer of 1861 the ordnance depot outfitted the New Mexico Volunteers. Not all units received the same weapons, however, because they had to take what was available at the depot. Problems arose later in supplying the proper ammunition because several different calibers were represented among the issue (for example, some companies required .54 caliber ammunition, some .58 caliber, and others .69 caliber). Other items furnished the volunteers, such as belts, slings, and cartridge boxes, were something of a hodgepodge. An example of the contribution of the ordnance depot may be seen in its activities during the month of July 1861, when a total of twenty-three companies of volunteers were supplied from the depot and ten cannon were provided for Forts Union and Fillmore. Shoemaker was confident that the depot still contained sufficient arms and ammunition to meet the needs of the department for the next year. Shoemaker estimated the value of ordnance supplies in excess of $270,000. [184] Such a stockpile would have been extremely valuable to the Confederate troops.

After it was clear that Texas troops were invading New Mexico, Shoemaker provided fourteen pieces of artillery to protect the earthwork constructed at Fort Union. He expected to move all the ordnance stores into the earthwork when it was ready for occupancy. If the Texans arrived before that was accomplished, he was prepared "to destroy all the present buildings, and possibly, much property." He was determined that "nothing shall fall into the hands of the enemy." [185] Texas troops never reached Fort Union. The history of the Civil War in New Mexico was covered in chapter five.

Because of the need for powder and lead to supply ammunition to all the troops in the department, Colonel Canby authorized the purchase of those items from merchants. Ordnance officers or agents were sent throughout the territory to gather powder and lead, which was shipped to Shoemaker at Fort Union. Shoemaker was to pay for the supplies and have his detachment manufacture ammunition required for the weapons in use among the soldiers. At the same time the private sale of ammunition was prohibited. [186] The total amount purchased was not determined but it was invaluable to the army. Later in 1862, when the supply trains arrived from Fort Leavenworth, the ordnance depot was permitted to store some of its supplies in the old hospital building at the first post. [187] This was apparently done until the new magazine was completed inside the fieldwork.

In 1864 Shoemaker, always conscious of maintaining the independence of the ordnance depot from other departments and the post of Fort Union, noted that the quartermaster and commissary depot at Fort Union was being called Fort Union Depot. In order to avoid confusion he recommended that the ordnance depot be designated as "Union Arsenal, New Mexico." Shoemaker continued to refer to it as Union Arsenal and, eventually, his desires were made official when the ordnance depot became Fort Union Arsenal. [188]

Regardless of the name, the duties were the same: supply and repair arms and horse equipment. When Colonel Carson's column left on the campaign against the Kiowas and Comanches in the autumn of 1865, Shoemaker was directed to see that each company had "at least 5,000 rounds of ammunition . . . besides twenty rounds per man in Cartridge Boxes." [189] That amount of ammunition probably required special transportation, but the command had enough firepower to destroy all the Indians on the southern plains if used accurately. In addition the ordnance depot furnished the expedition with two mountain howitzers and necessary projectiles. [190]

Shoemaker continued to make improvements at the arsenal and to request funds for a new complex. He apparently erected an adobe storehouse and either rebuilt his own quarters or built new quarters for his family prior to 1866. On May 8, 1866, Fort Union Arsenal was established with a military reservation one mile long and one-half mile wide, including the site of the first Fort Union at the center, located within the larger military reservation of the post of Fort Union. [191] Shoemaker and the ordnance department had fought long to secure this, and they had been opposed by District Commander Carleton and Department Commander Pope. [192] Construction of the new arsenal also began in 1866. The first structures were two new magazines, completed in the summer of that year, to which the stores of powder were quickly moved from the damp, underground magazines at the earthwork. A large storehouse was completed before the end of the year to receive the stores held in the old ordnance depot storehouses. [193]

At the beginning of 1867 Shoemaker reported that the arsenal had a sufficient supply of stores on hand for the troops in the district. He noted that 1,200 Spencer Carbines (.50 caliber repeaters) were on order for the Third Cavalry. There was a large amount of horse equipment at the arsenal in need of repair. Shoemaker requested permission to employ additional workmen for that purpose. A new armorer arrived at the arsenal in January and proved to be incompetent. A mason was employed to construct two cisterns, each with a capacity of 15,000 gallons, to store water in case of fire. Precipitation was collected from the roofs of the buildings at the arsenal to fill the cisterns. The cost of the cisterns was estimated at $500 each. Once the cisterns were done, Shoemaker wanted pumps, fire engines, and hose to complete the fire-fighting equipment. [194]

The cisterns were completed in July 1867. Additional construction work at the arsenal continued during the year, with the completion of a new carpenter's shop and the laying of stone foundations for other buildings to be completed later. [195] Major Alexander inspected the new structures at the arsenal in 1867 and had praises for Shoemaker and the buildings. Shoemaker had supervised the construction of adobe buildings, which Alexander considered to be "the best constructed I have seen and cost a fraction less than two thirds as much as the same sized houses built by Captain Farnsworth for the Quartermasters Depot at Fort Union." Alexander continued, "the interior of the warehouses are models of neatness, the ventilation is perfect and the security against fire as great as can be effected with the materials." He recommended that Shoemaker, whose long career with the ordnance department had received no official appreciation for his "courage and steadfastness," be awarded the rank of brevet colonel. [196] No such honor was forthcoming, although Shoemaker had been appointed to the rank of captain and ordnance storekeeper on July 28, 1866 (previously he was a military storekeeper which carried no rank but was considered the equivalent of a captain in pay, and he was commonly known as Captain Shoemaker). [197]

During 1868 additional buildings were erected at the arsenal, including barracks for the enlisted men and employees. The regulations reducing the workday to eight hours was not enforced at the arsenal, as Shoemaker explained, because the workers feared a reduction of hours would be accompanied by a diminution of pay. By their choice the employees continued to work ten hours per day. Several years later several of those employees petitioned to receive overtime pay for the hours they had worked beyond eight per day. All were denied because they had elected to work a ten-hour day. In 1869 construction work was planned on the adobe wall surrounding the arsenal and quarters for married employees, a civilian armorer, and an employed foreman. Not much was done, however, for lack of funds. Shoemaker ordered a new office clock in 1869, pointing out that the old clock, in use at the depot for eighteen years, was "completely worn out and irreparable." A new clock was soon received. In 1873 a sundial was made and set on the grounds of the arsenal. [198]

In 1869 the Third Cavalry exchanged the Spencer Carbines it had been issued two years before for remodeled Sharps Carbines. The Sharps, although a single-shot instead of repeater like the Spencer, had been altered to use a .50-caliber metallic cartridge. Shoemaker, echoing the cavalry officers, declared the Sharps to be "infinitely superior to 'Spencers.'" [199] Some of the enlisted men held a different opinion. The following year the Eighth Cavalry received the Sharps. Private Matthews, Company L, observed: "We have turned in our Spencer Carbines and have drawn in place the Sharps improved. Don't like them half so well as the seven shooters. The Sharps are more dangerous than the Spencer. They are much easyer cleaned though." [200]

The used Spencer Carbines joined a growing inventory of old equipment and arms that were no longer needed in the department. Shoemaker sought ways to sell some of those items to citizens in New Mexico and in Chihuahua. He also complained that the arsenal had become a dumping ground for old and useless equipment in the hands of regimental and post commanders. Shoemaker persuaded Colonel Getty, district commander, to issue orders that no ordnance or ordnance stores could be sent to Union Arsenal without the permission of district headquarters except for items in need of repairs that could not be made by the troops. [201]

On September 8, 1869, the arsenal offered many obsolete items at public auction, including arms (muskets, rifles, carbines, pistols, swords, and sabers), parts and repairs for arms, horse equipment, ammunition of "every kind and calibre to suit the above arms, metalic cartridges, percussion caps &c.," tools, and a fire engine. The sale was advertised in newspapers, but almost no one showed up to bid. Most items were not sold, and the amount received from what was sold amounted to $1,075. The sale was disappointing. Of 6,942 firearms offered only 139 were sold. Thousands of items received no bids. A few items of horse equipment (saddles, bridles, halters, curry combs, brushes, lariats, picket pins, saddle bags, saddle blankets, and spurs) were sold, but most were not. Small quantities of ammunition and tools were delivered to bidders. In all, however, less than one percent of the inventory was disposed of by the sale. Shoemaker concluded that "there are no parties in New Mexico that are possessed of funds that they can apply to the purchase of arms." [202] An inventory of .58-caliber rifled muskets at the arsenal on September 21, 1869, showed a total of 734 new and 967 used pieces. Some of the used rifled muskets had been repaired but most were unserviceable. [203] Shoemaker was at a loss of what to do to market obsolete equipment. Clearly it would have to be sold someplace besides New Mexico.

Shoemaker requested funds to complete the construction of the enclosing wall and quarters at the arsenal in 1870. This was approved and construction was completed on the quarters and the wall was partially done. During that year the arsenal received fire extinguishers, adding to the protection of the buildings and stores. Shoemaker continued to take an interest in horse equipment and designed an improvement of the McClellan curb bit which was patented and became known as the Shoemaker bit, which was widely used. A summary of operations at the arsenal during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1870, included the fabrication of 128 Sharps Carbine cartridge boxes and the repair of artillery pieces, small arms, and other equipment. Shoemaker had developed a method of repairing rawhide cavalry saddles wherein a leather cover was placed on top of the rawhide, making a superior saddle. A total 366 saddles had been repaired and covered during the year. [204] One of the recipients at Fort Union, Private Matthews, Company L, Eighth Cavalry, declared that the leather-covered saddles were "very nice." [205]

In September Shoemaker received notice that, because of insufficient funds, all hired employees at the arsenal were to be released immediately. Since the enlisted detachment was practically non-existent, most workers were hired citizens. Shoemaker's requests to keep some of what he considered to be the best workmen in New Mexico were not approved. Not one to be easily confounded, Shoemaker requested by telegraph that he be permitted to open a recruiting station at the arsenal to fill the ranks of the detachment. When that was approved he enlisted most of the recent employees, thereby keeping his work force. His detachment was filled to the authorized capacity of thirteen and the work at the arsenal continued. The only position Shoemaker was unable to fill was that of sergeant of ordnance. He remedied that the following year with the enlistment of former Sergeant Joseph Horn. [206]

The construction work at the arsenal was continued in 1871 on the commander's office, clerk's office, outhouses, and the remainder of the enclosing wall. Another weapon improvement reached New Mexico the same year, affecting both infantry and cavalry regiments stationed there. The 1868 model Springfield breech-loading .50-caliber musket, considered the standard weapon at the time for infantrymen, was sent to the Fort Union Arsenal from the Fort Leavenworth Arsenal. A total of 1,000 of the modified muskets were issued to the Fifteenth Infantry in the district, replacing the 1866 models with which they were armed. The 1866 models which were turned in were sent to the Fort Leavenworth Arsenal. For the Eighth Cavalry in the district, 1,000 altered Sharps Carbines (.50-caliber) were sent. They arrived at the arsenal without swivel bars, without which they were "useless for Cavalry." The cost of repairing them at Fort Union Arsenal was considered prohibitive and, besides, there was no armorer there at the time. Shoemaker requested that the faulty weapons be replaced with complete ones. [207] No record was found to indicate when the Eighth Cavalry received the new weapons.

In 1872 construction work at the arsenal was completed and a well was drilled to supply water for the facility. Until that time all water had been hauled by wagon from the spring approximately one-half mile away. Good water was found at a depth of seventy feet. A horsepower force pump was installed. The detachment at the arsenal continued to perform the usual duties and repaired and covered several hundred saddles. [208] Several years later, at the request of Stephen B. Elkins, New Mexico Territory delegate to the House of Representatives, the cost of the buildings at Fort Union Arsenal was reported to be $46,500. Colonel Daniel W. Flagler, in an inspection report in 1880, gave the cost as $47,000. [209]

Tragedy struck at the arsenal when one of the enlisted men was murdered while performing his duties. Corporal James Tarpy, who had served there for several years as a messenger between the arsenal and Fort Union and had carried the mail for the arsenal, was shot in the back by a deserter on the afternoon of November 13, 1872, while returning from the post to the arsenal. It was Shoemaker's opinion that the assassin wanted Tarpy's horse, but the wounded man managed to ride to the arsenal before he fell off and died. Tarpy's remains were buried in the post cemetery. The guilty party and an accomplice were captured and placed in the guardhouse at Fort Union. Shoemaker stated it was the only casualty suffered in his department during his twenty-one years at Fort Union. A few days later the prisoners were turned over to the sheriff of Mora County. Soon after they left the military reservation a mob overwhelmed the sheriff's posse and lynched the prisoners. [210]

The work of the arsenal continued without interruption during the next several years. A major activity remained the repair and covering of saddles. Repairs to facilities were made as required and the operations of the facility functioned smoothly. The enlisted detachment was fixed at fourteen men (one sergeant, two corporals, six first class privates, and five second class privates) and the number of civilian employees averaged three to four. As the railroads built toward New Mexico transportation costs for the arsenal and the time of delivery were reduced, just as for the other supply departments. Another change of weapons occurred in 1874 when the Eighth Cavalry was supplied with Colt Pistols altered for .45-caliber metallic cartridges and 1873 Springfield Carbines (.45-caliber). [211] The infantry regiments serving in New Mexico were soon supplied with 1873 Springfield Rifles (also .45-caliber) and the same pistols. These remained the standard weapons so long as Fort Union was an active post.

In 1875 the duty of supplying horse equipment to cavalry regiments was transferred from the ordnance to the quartermaster department, where it had been prior to 1856. The ordnance department had been assigned the handling of cavalry horse equipment because it had responsibility for artillery horse equipment. The reasons for transferring it back to the quartermaster department were economy and convenience. Each post had a quartermaster whereas there were few ordnance depots or arsenals. It was less expensive to supply cavalrymen at the post where they were stationed than to secure those items from a distant arsenal. The cavalry horse equipment at Fort Union Arsenal was transferred to the quartermaster at the Fort Union Depot in 1877. [212]

The economic effects of the ordnance depot and arsenal were, as noted above, considerably less that those of the quartermaster and commissary departments. Nevertheless the ordnance department did employ a few civilian laborers and contract for a few supplies. In 1877 there were three civilian employees: clerk ($4.37 per day), blacksmith ($4.25 per day), and saddler ($3.00). In 1878 the arsenal let four contracts: William B. Tipton of Tiptonville held the contract for hay and corn; John Pendaries, Rincon, pine lumber; Abe Berg, La Junta, lime; and Elafio Duran, La Cueva, charcoal. The total expenditures were approximately $4,000 per year. [213]

Conflicts of jurisdiction occasionally flared up between Shoemaker and another department or the post commander. Shoemaker never hesitated to administer the ordnance depot as though it were independent from the post. He was not always successful. In 1856 Colonel Fauntleroy, commanding the post, discovered that the ordnance detachment had taken "a number of the logs 'intended for the erection of a Dragon stable at this Post' . . . without his consent or authority." Shoemaker was directed to "have these logs returned to the place from whence they were taken without delay." Shoemaker argued that he had received permission from Lieutenant John T. Mercer, First Dragoons, who was in charge of building the dragoon stable. Fauntleroy angrily informed Shoemaker, through his adjutant, that excuse was "by no means satisfactory" and declared he would not "acknowledge the right, for you to pull and carry off considerable portions of the stable already built." Shoemaker was warned that Fauntleroy "will expect that the logs be returned and the building put in the same shape it was before the trespass was committed upon it without further correspondence." [214] The logs were returned. Why they were taken in the first place was never explained. One possibility was that Captain McFerran, new commander at the quartermaster subdepot at Fort Union, stopped supplying firewood for the ordnance depot. The ordnance detachment, forced to find its own supply, may have appropriated the logs for that purpose.

Shoemaker preferred to have the last word in any exchange, however, and several days later he requested that Fauntleroy return to the ordnance department the two pieces of artillery that stood by the flag staff at the post. Fauntleroy immediately complied and dampened Shoemaker's victory with his reply. The post adjutant conveyed his commander's message: "he directs me to say in reply, that you are at liberty to remove whenever you may see fit, the two guns near the flag-staff, which were found in that position on his assuming command of this post." [215] That was not the end of their conflicts, however. Both men were stubborn and continued to butt heads.

In June 1856 Fauntleroy returned to Fort Union from a temporary absence for court-martial duty to discover that Shoemaker had achieved another triumph in the growing battle of jurisdictional disputes. For some time past the quartermaster department had been hauling by wagon the daily water supply from the spring near Wolf Creek to the ordnance depot. Captain McFerran, subdepot and post quartermaster, informed Shoemaker that he did not have sufficient employees to continue that practice. Shoemaker requested, without consulting the post commander, approval of Brigadier General Garland to have the extra-duty men at the post who hauled water for the garrison also to haul water for the ordnance depot. Garland had approved. Fauntleroy was incensed that Shoemaker had not made the request to him, but Shoemaker, of course, considered himself independent of the post commander and directly under the department commander. [216]

Fauntleroy declared there was no military precedent which would require the soldiers of one post to haul water for another post. Shoemaker should not be permitted to have it both ways; that is, be independent from the post at Fort Union in all ways except for delivery of water. Fauntleroy was annoyed that the ordnance detachment never furnished any men for fatigue or police details, never furnished any hospital attendants although they used the post hospital, and were exempt from all such duties at Fort Union. He argued that, if the two places were distinct as Shoemaker and the department commander maintained, the garrison at the post should not be required to haul the water. Fauntleroy requested that the dispute be submitted to the commanding general of the army for settlement. [217] There was no evidence that Garland considered changing the order or forwarded the appeal. The soldiers at the post hauled water to the ordnance depot.

Fauntleroy, determined to retaliate, decided that, since the ordnance depot was considered to be separate from the post and the new post chaplain and schoolteacher (Rev. William Stoddert who arrived at Fort Union on June 12, 1856) was required to serve only the post to which he was appointed, Shoemaker's children and any other children at the ordnance depot would not be permitted to attend the post school. This was the first time a school was established at the fort. Shoemaker, naturally, refused to accept Fauntleroy's decision and appealed directly to Department Commander Garland for permission to send children from the ordnance depot to Rev. Stoddert's school. Garland again approved Shoemaker's request, noting that the Fort Union post council of administration, rather than Fauntleroy, should supervise the post school. Fauntleroy pointed out that the post council "had the power to make regulations touching the point in controversy, but did not." He protested Garland's judgment on the issue, as best he could, and again requested that the matter be sent to the commanding general of the army. [218]

As a parting shot, Fauntleroy pointed out what he considered to be the absurdity of the situation.

But is it just at any rate that the school should be thus subjected, as the Ordnance does not contribute in any manner to the support of the post fund, by which the expenses of the school are to a considerable extent met and paid. The Mil. Storekeeper does not allow his flour to be baked at the post bakery, nor are the enlisted men at the Ordnance taken into consideration in taxing the Sutler as the Depot is separate. [219]

The children from the ordnance depot attended the post school. Fauntleroy was undoubtedly relieved to relinquish command of Fort Union on June 29, 1856, leaving Shoemaker to be the thorn in the side of his successors. The two would clash again when Fauntleroy was department commander, 1859-1861.

Despite Shoemaker's general popularity with most of the officers who served at Fort Union, there had to be a few who despised him. Fauntleroy was undoubtedly one of them. The feeling was probably mutual. It was, perhaps, understandable why Shoemaker extended his leave of absence from the department (the only one in his long tenure in New Mexico) during 1859 and 1860 while Fauntleroy was department commander. Fauntleroy, for his part, tried to prevent Shoemaker's resumption of command at the ordnance depot and then rejected Shoemaker's proposals for a new arsenal. They may well have been each other's greatest nemesis, to the credit of neither. Shoemaker did not always win his engagements but seldom was he totally defeated in "Shoemaker's domain." Sometimes he lost.

Fort Union Arsenal, depot, third post, earthwork
Fort Union Arsenal in foreground, about 1879, with depot (left), third post (center), and remains of earthwork (right) in background. The arsenal occupied the site of the first Fort Union. Courtesy Arizona Pioneers Historical Society.

In January 1857 Shoemaker permitted his son, Edward Shoemaker, to set up a store at the ordnance depot to trade with enlisted men. The new post sutler, George M. Alexander, immediately complained to Post Commander W. W. Loring that this violated his rights as a sutler. Loring, perhaps learning from Fauntleroy's experiences, sent the complaint to Brigadier General Garland for decision, with a brief statement: "It is important, situated as we are that we should have a sutler and that he should be supported in his just rights." On the other hand, he noted, "the ordnance are few in number and cannot require much." Loring went out of his way to get along with Shoemaker, declaring "I have not interfered so far with the Ordnance, and shall not if I can help it, but will leave the matter to the Commanding Officer of the Department." [220] Department Commander Garland ruled in favor of the sutler and issued directions "that the unauthorized sutler's store be immediately closed." Even though the ordnance depot was not a part of the post, Garland declared, "the Ordnance depot at Fort Union is embraced within the limits of that post, and is considered separate only as regards its interior management." [221] Clearly, the line between the post and ordnance depot, just as between the post and quartermaster depot, was fuzzy. Edward Shoemaker attempted similar efforts under later department commanders, but always with the same result.

Captain Shoemaker was usually successful when defending the independence of the arsenal. In 1866 he successfully fended off an effort by District Commander Carleton to exert control over the arsenal. Carleton directed that all contracts made and funds expended at the arsenal were to be approved by him. Shoemaker argued that he was responsible only to the chief of ordnance in Washington, D.C., and appealed to Chief of Ordnance Alexander B. Dyer to seek an opinion from the commanding general of the army. He did and Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant upheld Shoemaker, declaring that the commander of the arsenal "will not be interfered with by district commander in the proper discharge of his duties." [222] Shoemaker never accepted being "interfered with."

In 1879 Colonel James Belger, quartermaster department, became commander of the Fort Union Depot. Although it had been the practice for years for the depot to deliver firewood to the arsenal, Belger decided that the men from the arsenal should come to the depot and haul their own firewood from the wood yard to the arsenal. Never one to back down, Shoemaker protested. When Belger refused to budge, Shoemaker appealed to the secretary of war to settle the dispute. His request was forwarded through the ordnance department and the quartermaster department. Quartermaster General Meigs determined that the quartermaster department "should deliver the wood at the barracks of the detachment." The secretary of war concurred and the quartermaster department was compelled to accede to Shoemaker's request. The firewood was delivered to the arsenal. Belger escaped further confrontation with Shoemaker by retiring during the time of the appeal. [223]

Shoemaker found it impossible to recruit men for the arsenal detachment in New Mexico in 1879. He requested that one of the arsenals in the East enlist two men (one with rough carpentry skills and the other a laborer) to serve at the Fort Union Arsenal. The Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois enlisted one carpenter and one laborer and sent them to New Mexico. They arrived on October 10, Shoemaker reported, "presenting a good appearance." In this way the authorized strength of the ordnance detachment at Fort Union was kept filled. [224]

The Hotchkiss magazine gun, a 2-pounder, 1.65-caliber, rapid-fire steel rifle, was a technological step in the development of more mobile artillery weapons with swift-firing capabilities and long range. The only reference to this weapon in the records of the Fort Union Arsenal was a request (accompanied by a check for $20) from Captain George Shorkley, Fifteenth Infantry, in 1880 to purchase a Hotchkiss gun. Shoemaker sent the request to the ordnance department to inquire if the weapon could be sold to an individual and, if so, at what price. The chief of ordnance declared "the Hotchkiss magazine arm will not be sold to officers for their personal use." Shoemaker informed Shorkley and returned his check. That did not end the matter. Shorkley informed Shoemaker that he already had a Hotchkiss gun which he had modified so it could be used by a left-handed man and had made other changes "disqualifying it for service use." He simply wanted to pay for what he already had. The chief of ordnance reiterated that the gun could not be sold to an individual and ordered that it "be returned to the custody of the United States." [225] Whether a Hotchkiss gun was ever sent to the Fort Union Arsenal was not determined.

The routine life at the arsenal continued with only minor changes. Shoemaker reported that the arsenal had a library of some thirty technical publications relating to ordnance information. In July 1880 the arsenal and post were cut off from all railroad and mail communications for a week because of floods which destroyed railroad bridges and embankments. In 1881 the civilian saddler was relieved from duty because the stockpile of repaired and covered saddles was sufficient for the department for some time. In his place Shoemaker hired a storekeeper and packer to assist with the ordnance stores because the enlisted man who had done that work had been discharged. In 1881 another development in ordnance technology arrived at Fort Union in the form of the Gatling gun, forerunner of the machine gun. The first Gatling guns had been sent to the arsenal in the mid-1870s, but they were soon sent to the northern plains following George A. Custer's defeat in 1876. Apparently only one Gatling gun was ever issued to troops from the arsenal, and that was to troops operating in Colorado. At least one was kept at the post after the depot was closed. In 1885 Lieutenant Thomas J. Clay, Tenth Infantry, acting ordnance officer at Fort Union, received approval for the use of 546 rounds of ammunition "in experimental firing with the Gatling gun in the fourth quarter 1884." Another invention, more useful to individual soldiers, was the woven cartridge belt which replaced the cumbersome cartridge boxes. [226]

By 1880 Shoemaker again found that the loss of enlisted men in the ordnance detachment could not be filled by his own recruitment efforts. He lamented the loss of almost half his force, some of whom had "lived here with me for ten & fifteen years." He appealed to Colonel Daniel W. Flagler, commandant of the Rock Island Arsenal and who had recruited men for Shoemaker's command before, to enlist for service at Fort Union "as many as four first rate men suitable for the place." Flagler agreed to do as asked, after securing approval of the ordnance department, and promised the "men will be sent as soon as they can be enlisted." The chief of ordnance, when granting the request, directed Flagler to make an inspection of Fort Union Arsenal. [227]

Colonel Flagler immediately traveled to New Mexico, conducted a thorough inspection, and filed a fairly detailed report on the arsenal (unfortunately his plat of the arsenal filed with the report has not been located). Excerpts from Flagler's report, the only known description of the entire complex at the peak of its occupation, are printed in Appendix O. He found the entire complex "in excellent order and condition" and praised Shoemaker "for the great ability, economy and efficiency exercised by him in the construction and care of the Arsenal, and in its administration, and in supplying of troops and the administration of the affairs of the Ordnance Department in the Territory of New Mexico during the past 30 years." At the same time, from the perspective of military needs in the Southwest and the efficient operation of the ordnance department, Flagler recognized that the necessity of maintaining an arsenal in New Mexico was limited and the time was near when Fort Union Arsenal would be obsolete. The fact that the arsenal was several miles from a railroad was deleterious. The constant expansion of railroads, he understood clearly, foreshadowed the demise of posts and arsenals such as Fort Union. He recommended waiting a year or two, during which time the railroad network would continue to expand, before making any decision on the future of the arsenal. [228]

Flagler recommended the disposal of large quantities of obsolete and unserviceable materials at the arsenal. Those that could be broken up and used in the manufacture of new items should be shipped to Rock Island Arsenal. Stores that were "worthless," not worth the cost of transportation, were to be used or destroyed at the arsenal. The inventory at Fort Union Arsenal should continue with an abundant quantity of items required by troops in the region. The chief of ordnance approved Flagler's suggestions. Shoemaker and his command shipped 373,109 pounds of obsolete items, seventeen rail carloads, to Rock Island before the end of the year (at an estimated cost of $13,000). While cleaning out the storehouses, Shoemaker noted, they found "a very large bulk of old stores that have been accumulating for many years, some of them since the close of the Mexican War, as I issued them to the troops under the late Genl. S. W. Kearny for the conquest of this Territory in 1846." [229]

Company G, Sixth Cavalry
Company G, Sixth Cavalry, occupied the former arsenal in 1888. Some of the men of that troop are shown with part of the old arsenal. Neils Larsen is seventh from left, with white tie. Larsen Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

Shoemaker, who had been in New Mexico since before Fort Union was founded, also realized that the need for the arsenal would soon expire. With more than forty years in the service, he chose to retire on June 30, 1882, at the age of seventy-three. He was succeeded in command by Lieutenant William F. Rice, Twenty-Third Infantry, who served temporarily until Lieutenant Andrew H. Russell, ordnance department, arrived to oversee the closing of the arsenal. [230] One of Shoemaker's last acts was to provide the use of a field gun from the arsenal for the town of Las Vegas to fire a national salute during its July 4 celebration. It was an indication of how far things had come during his tenure at Fort Union. Instead of sending weapons to defend citizens in the area, he was helping them celebrate the freedom that the army had brought to the nation as well as the region. [231] Shoemaker was permitted to live in the house he had occupied at Fort Union, serving as caretaker of the abandoned arsenal, where he survived until 1886. [232]

The Fort Union Arsenal was closed shortly after Shoemaker retired. In fact, just three days after he stepped down, orders were issued closing the arsenal and establishing a new depot at Fort Lowell, Arizona. That was warranted because most of the shipments of arms and ammunition during the previous year had gone to Arizona Territory. The ordnance and ordnance stores at Fort Union were distributed between the Lowell Ordnance Depot and the Rock Island Arsenal. The buildings and grounds of the Fort Union Arsenal were turned over to the quartermaster department for the use of the army. It took several months for Lieutenant Russell to transfer the stores and close the arsenal. A public auction was conducted to dispose of some items and some (including a large safe weighing 3,500 pounds and built into the house where it stood) were transferred to the quartermaster department at Fort Union. The employees and detachment of soldiers at Fort Union Arsenal were transferred to the new ordnance depot in Arizona, except for a blacksmith who chose not to go, one soldier who was transferred to the Rock Island Arsenal, and four soldiers who were discharged. Russell followed the stores to Fort Lowell where he was to establish the new ordnance depot. The facilities at Fort Lowell were grossly inadequate, however, and the depot was canceled. On March 27, 1883, the order establishing the ordnance depot at Fort Lowell was revoked and all the stores remaining at Fort Union Arsenal were ordered sent to Rock Island Arsenal. [233] The transportation to haul everything from the arsenal to the railroad was provided by Dr. William Sparks. [234]

Lieutenant Russell, in one of his letters from Fort Union to Colonel James M. Whittemore (on staff at the ordnance department at Washington, D.C., and the brother of Captain Edward W. Whittemore, who was commanding officer at Fort Union on several occasions during the late 1870s and early 1880s and in 1890-1891), relayed information about the former commander of the arsenal:

Captain Shoemaker is active as ever, but it is a sad thing for him to see all his precious stores pass from under his eyes, and the idea of having Ordnance buildings turned over to the Q. M. Dept. and the line of the army goes quite against his grain. He is very much pleased, however, at having his house left to him; and he is very grateful to the Chief of Ordnance for his kind action. [235]

Shoemaker died at his home at Fort Union on September 16, 1886. He had arrived at Fort Union in 1851 and was present during thirty-five of its forty-year history. It was an uncommon record of tenure at one location (one the longest known of any military officer or enlisted man in the entire history of the army) in an era when the post commanders served an average of only a few months. [236] Shoemaker experienced more of what happened at Fort Union than any other being and had been friends with most of the officers and their families stationed at the post. During all that time, except for one extended leave of absence, he was in charge, truly in charge, of the ordnance depot and arsenal, "Shoemaker's domain." His professional career and remarkable life, so interwoven with the story of Fort Union, deserve more attention.

By the time of his death Shoemaker had been a resident of the area so long that he was widely known. A Las Vegas newspaper announced the passing of Shoemaker and paid him tribute.

He was well known to many of our older citizens, but the increasing infirmity of deafness prevented his making many acquaintances in the last few years. He was a great hunter, and passionately fond of dogs and fine horses. Of the latter he always kept the best the country could afford. As a man he was courteous and affable, as an officer firm and faithful. Upright in all his dealings, never was a breath of slander upon his name. He will be buried at Fort Union tomorrow, the funeral taking place from his late residence. [237]

The death of Shoemaker was the end of an era, and the post at Fort Union soon followed him and the arsenal as part of history. The ordnance depot and arsenal, along with the commissary and quartermaster departments and depot, provided the essential supplies to permit the army at Fort Union and in the region to accomplish its missions. Those departments had fulfilled their responsibilities to the soldiers and, at the same time, had produced far-reaching and immeasurable effects on the economy and society of New Mexico. From the perspective of a century later it was impossible to determine whether the army performed its most enduring contribution as the protector of travelers and settlers or as the precursor of Anglo-American development of the region. In either case the outcome, whether interpreted to be admirable or adverse, was overpowering and irreversible. The story of military supply and the economy was unquestionably an important chapter in the history of the Southwest, the frontier army, and Fort Union. Not everything done by and for the army produced such ramifications outside the military structure. The soldiers at the post were affected by other military departments and rules and regulations. The contributions and significance of the medical department and the story of military discipline and justice will complete the study of Fort Union and the frontier army in the Southwest.

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Last Updated: 09-Jul-2005