Historic Structure Report
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Special Collections and Interviews

Fort Union National Monument, Fort Union, New Mexico, Fort Union Fact File.

This fact file, assembled by the park staff through the years, includes well-documented file cards arranged topically on everything from the first fort to army strategy. Most of the sources cited in the fact file are primary sources—out of the National Archives directly, out of the National Archives by way of the Arrott Collection, or out of site observations. The main contributor was National Park Service historian Nick Bleser. Other contributors include former Superintendent Homer Hastings.

Fort Union National Monument, Fort Union, New Mexico, Private Letter Book, William Rawle Shoemaker.

This collection of Shoemaker's letters primarily date from the late 1870s and 1880s. Most deal with losing valuable livestock to the railroad from the locomotives that ripped through his ranch in Cherry Valley. Some of the letters discuss his breeding operations (superior saddle horses and race horses), and his design of a gun that he was ordering from Remington Arms that was about to be adopted for field use by the army. Some of the letters are illegible.

Interview with Robert M. Lister conducted by the author, February, 1989.

Las Vegas, New Mexico, Highlands University, Donnelly Library, Arrott Collection.

James W. Arrott was a local rancher who funded researchers in the National Archives and other places to provide typewritten copies of primary documents dealing with Fort Union history. Arrott's researchers covered most of the principal record groups. Arrott also was able to obtain from family member Gwladys Bowen copies of the letters that Katie Bowen wrote home to their family during the early days at Fort Union. Other copies in the Arrott collection include the Eveline Alexander diary of her journey across the plains to Fort Union with the dragoons, and "Boldly They Rode: A History of the Second Colorado....."

Federal Documents

Abel, Annie, compiler. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun While Indian Agent at Santa Fe and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New Mexico. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1915.

Alexandria, Virginia, National Archives and Records Service, Cartographic and Architectural Branch.

Fort Union National Monument has copies of all of the documents available here which, by the way, are a very measly assortment. This branch also holds all of the scouts' books and maps, but none pertained to Fort Union.

Clary, David A. These Relics of Barbarism: A History of Furniture in Barracks and Guardhouses of the United States Army, 1800-1880. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia: National Park Service, 1981.

This fascinating history of furnishings of army barracks also touches on other subjects including army building. Most importantly, Clary gives a good context on the entire army—its size and social history from the revolutionary war through the late 19th century. This volume helps in understanding the processes of army building, general orders, the organization of the Quartermaster Corps, and successful and failed experiments in army life.

Schackel, Sandra. Historic Vegetation at Fort Union National Monument. Santa Fe: National Park Service, 1983.

The author analyzes changes to vegetation at Fort Union from the 19th century (overuse/overgrazing) to the present (recovery to climax grassland) and makes recommendations about vegetative management.

United States Army. The Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army. Third Edition, Entered in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1861.

How to run your very own arsenal in ten easy lessons. This volume includes descriptions of various types of ordnance, and how to care for them including storage and architectural requirements.

Utley, Robert M. Fort Union and the Santa Fe Trail: A Special Study of Santa Fe Trail Remains At and Near Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico. National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. Santa Fe: National Park Service, 1959.

This volume puts Fort Union into perspective in its relationship with the Santa Fe trail.

Utley, Robert M. Fort Union National Monument. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1962.

This interpretive publication is another classic piece of work by Utley. He presents concisely information about the development and significance of Fort Union. He takes a well-rounded approach because he includes information on the everyday life at Fort Union as well as on the major campaigns conducted from there. Also, he has in an appendix a handy list of the commanding officers of the fort and their tenures, and a list of the units stationed there. A copy of this is available at Fort Union National Monument.

Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Service.

National Archives Microfilm Microcopy 617: Returns from U.S. Military Posts 1800-1916, Roll 1305, Fort Union, July 1851-December, 1865.

The Fort Union portion of this microfilm contains a chronology of the Fort. The Chronology was put together by the War Department Adjutant General's office in September, 1929. It seems to be very accurate. Additional post returns in this microfilm contain little helpful information for this type of research.

National Archives Microfilm 1609 and 1610, Returns of Fort Union Arsenal through 1882.

National Archives Microfilm Microcopy 661: Historical Information Relating to Military Posts and Other Installations ca. 1700-1900, Roll 8, Volumes U-Z.

This contains only a very general description of Fort Union probably written during the 1880s.

Record Group 92, Entry 225, Records of the Quartermaster General, Consolidated Correspondence File, 1794-1915.

This group is a gold mine on Fort Union. The group contains a linen drawing of the water system plan for the third fort in Box 1166. Also it includes requisition for materials to work on the arsenal barracks in 1889—which must refer to the small arsenal connected with the Quartermaster Depot. The file also contains considerable information on the water system at the Third Fort and how it was used to power the sawmill, etc. Even through the Fort Union correspondence file is primarily for Third Fort things of the later years, the box does contain correspondence from the 1850s and 1860s. Also, Box 1168 contains a wonderful description of the Second Fort. Excellent collection of correspondence.

Record Group 156, Entry 20, Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Register of Letters Received, 1851-1874.

This register has a listing of the letters that Shoemaker and others sent to the Ordnance Department in Washington. The early ones are organized alphabetically (by the name of the author of the letter) and then numerically (by the order in which the Ordnance Office received it). In subsequent years, they are listed alphabetically by the area (Fort Union) and the order received. The later years are listed only in the order received, so they are extremely time-consuming to go through.

Record Group 156, Entry 21, Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Letters Received, 1851-1874, 1882.

These are the actual letters from the listing above. The letters contain lots of information about the buildings and about Shoemaker himself and his meticulous approach to construction. The information that I was turning up in the 1870s was of such an ordinary nature and possessing such little relevant data that I skipped the years between 1874 and 1882 to save time to get on to other files at the archives.

Record Group 159, Entry 3, Records of the Office of the Inspector General, Extracts of Inspection Reports, War Department, Inspector General's Office, Washington, D.C., April 1864, Monthly Reports. Volume I, 1864-65. Volume II, 1865-68.

The First volume has several reports on Fort Union, including a proposal to acquire Loma Parda to stop the vice going on there, an inspection of the Union Arsenal and comments on the McClellan saddle, and a report on construction at the Fort (probably 1865—Third Fort) saying that foundation stones will only be rough-dressed, and that they need a 25 horsepower steam engine to run a saw mill, grist mill, and planing machine. The second volume does not seem to contain anything on Fort Union at all.

Still Pictures Branch

Woods, Henry, "Fort Union: The History of New Mexico's Most Famous Military Post." Fort Union National Monument, 1939.

Simple, early study about the history of Fort Union.

Woodward, A.W., "Fort Union, New Mexico—Guardian of the Santa Fe Trail." National Park Service, Santa Fe, 1958.

Good background and anecdotal information on the development of the Santa Fe trade and trail and Fort Union.


Barry, Louise. The Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West, 1540-1854. Topeka, Kansas: Kansas State Historical Society, 1972.

Louise Barry was an employee of the Kansas State Historical Society for years. In this volume, she combined the best of the primary sources in the holdings of the society, arranged the chronologically, and indexed the document. This background was extremely helpful on Santa Fe Trail information.

Billings, John D. Hardtack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1960.

This document contains great description of Army life during the 19th century from the soldier's point of view. It also includes a wealth of information about the types of temporary shelters afforded to the common soldier.

Boyd, Mrs. Orsemus (Introduction by Darlis Miller). Cavalry Life in Tent and Field. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Mrs. Boyd, the wife of a West Point graduate provides this account of life at various army posts throughout the west. She travelled there as a bride with her new husband. Because she visited or lived at so many posts, this book does provide good comparative data: living conditions were bad throughout the west.

Davis, William W. H., El Gringo; or New Mexico and Her People. New York: Harper, 1857.

Emmett, Chris. Fort Union and the Winning of the Southwest. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.

This book gives a fair amount of context about Fort Union and how it fit into the larger scheme of things in the west, but it tends to be somewhat lopsided and expounds a great deal in certain areas and avoids discussions of other areas. Also, the system of footnotes is erratic. Some of the items that really need citations lack them.

Emory, W.H., Brevet Major, Corps of Topographical Engineers. Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth in Missouri to San Diego in California Including Parts of the Arkansas, Del Norte, and Gila Rivers. Washington, D.C.: Wendell and Van Benthuysen, Printers, 1848. Located in the National Park Service, Southwest Regional Office Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This document is a fascinating one that provides information on the environs of Fort Union (Santa Fe and Ocate).

Foote, Cheryl. Women of the New Mexico Frontier 1846-1912. Niwot, Colorado: The University Press of Colorado, 1990.

Foote includes portions of the letters of Katie Bowen, and she looks at life in general for frontier wives of various professions.

Frazer, Robert W. Forts and Supplies: The Role of the Army in the Economy of the Southwest, 1846-1861. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

In this book Frazer studies the interaction between the Army and the civilian communities in the southwest, particularly in regard to crops and subsistence.

Frazer, Robert W. Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts West of the Mississippi River to 1898. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

Excellent background summary on Fort Union from start to finish.

Frazer, Robert W., ed. Mansfield on the Condition of the Western Forts 1853-54. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma press, 1963.

This document contains nearly the complete text of Mansfield's description of the Department of New Mexico in 1853 including his summary and map of Fort Union, which he visited between August 1 and August 6, 1853.

La Farge, Oliver. Santa Fe: The Autobiography of a Southwestern Town. Norman, Oklahoma: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.

La Farge compiled a series of articles from the New Mexican—the newspaper of Santa Fe—which show life in the New Mexico Territory from the civilians' point of view.

Lamar, Howard Roberts. The Far Southwest 1846-1912: A Territorial History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966.

Excellent broad history of the southwestern territories. Included in the book is a bibliographical essay that summarizes and evaluates the quality of all of his principal references; and they were legion.

Mahan, D.H. A Treatise on Field Fortifications, Containing Introductions on the Methods of Laying Out, Constructing, Defending, and Attacking Entrenchments, With the General Outlines Also of the Arrangement, The Attack and Defense of Permanent Fortifications. New York: John Wiley, 1852.

1852 summary of fortification construction with an explanation of terms.

Miller, Francis Trevelyan, ed. The Photographic History of the Civil War. New York: Castle Books, 1957. Available at the Fort Union National Monument library.

This volume has good narrative and graphic explanations of ordnance, ammunition, and fort construction techniques.

Oliva, Leo. Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail. Norman, Oklahoma: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.

Oliva write about the trail, and the eventual involvement of the U.S. Army along the trail. He concentrates on the time from 1829 through the 1880s, when the trail became obsolete. Good general background on the military.

Rittenhouse, Jack D. The Santa Fe Trail: A Historical Bibliography. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1971.

Rittenhouse wrote a fine introduction to this good source book, and provides a solid bibliography on the Santa Fe Trail.

Robinson, Willard B. American Forts: Architectural Form and Function. Chicago: University of Illinois Press for the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1977.

Robinson studies the architectural background of forts and their construction, including engineering and material.


Bender, A.V., "Frontier Defense in the Territory of New Mexico, 1846-1853," New Mexico Historical Review, 9:3 (July, 1934), 264.

This article discusses the subsistence experiment in Army life on the frontier.

Bender, A.V., "Government Explorations in the Territory of New Mexico, 1846-1859," New Mexico Historical Review, 9:1 (January, 1934), 242.

The article explains the military organization of New Mexico from 1846 through the Civil War.

"Death of an Old Army Officer," Las Vegas Optic, Friday Evening, September 17, 1886, 4.

Obituary of Captain William Rawle Shoemaker.

Krakow, Jere, "Hispanic Influence on the Santa Fe Trail", Wagon Tracks: Santa Fe Trail Association Quarterly, 6:2 (February, 1992), 16-17.

La Tourette, Genevieve, "Fort Union Memories," New Mexico Historical Review, 26:4 (October, 1951), 277-286.

This article, with its wonderfully Victorian bent, discusses primarily the social aspects of life at Fort Union—especially marriages. The author, daughter of the fort's chaplain, also talks about Captain Shoemaker in his later years, and she mentions the star fort.

Utley, Robert M., "Fort Union and the Santa Fe Trail," New Mexico Historical Review, 36:1 (January, 1961), 36-48.

A fine summary of Fort Union in its context of the Santa Fe Trail.

Wilson, Rex, "Archeology and Everyday Life at Fort Union," New Mexico Historical Review, 40:1 (January, 1965), 55-64.

This article contains some good leads.

Unpublished Materials

Arrott, James W. "Arrott's Brief History of Fort Union," 1962. On file at Fort Union National Monument.

This short pamphlet was prepared from a tape recording of a speech that James Arrott, the founding father of Fort Union, presented at the Fort in 1957.

Cleveland, Alice Ann. "Bricks in New Mexico," April, 1965. Manuscript donated to the Fort Union National Monument library by the author.

This document discusses early brick-making in New Mexico.

Geise, Dale Frederick. "Social Life at Fort Union, New Mexico in the 1880s." Master's Thesis, New Mexico Highlands University, 1964. Available at Fort Union National Monument.

This document presents only a few items of interest in this report, but it does discuss the water supply for the fort.

Reiter, Robert Louis. "The History of Fort Union, New Mexico." Master's Thesis, University of California, 1963. Available at Fort Union National Monument.

This thesis presents considerable background information on the fort, complete with stories and anecdotes for local color. Some of the information is, however, presented in an extremely biased manner.

Townsend, Steve. "The Earthwork Complex at Fort Union: An Interim Report." Report prepared for the Fort Union National Monument by park volunteer, January, 1988.

The report analyzes some of the background information on the earthwork and includes field-checking of the fortification. The report concludes that Nick Bleser's work on the fortification during the 1960s was basically correct.

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006