Historic Structure Report
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The history of the study of the buildings of First Fort Union is as long as the history of the park. After the establishment of Fort Union National Monument in 1956, the archeologist George Cattanach began excavation and stabilization of the Third Fort buildings, and had little time for the First Fort; not until the late 1950s was his successor Rex Wilson able to relocate some of the buildings of First Fort by excavation. Based on his fieldwork and research, Wohlbrandt, Marsh, and Cotten attempted to draw a map of First Fort in the early 1960s. Nick Bleser of the Fort Union staff carried the research and field work further in the second half of the 1960s, and Wayne Ruwet, working with Bleser, carried out an initial identification of the buildings on the ground and first description of their history in the late 1960s. Using these earlier attempts and his own original research, Richard Sellars began research on the Historic Structure Report for First, Second, and Third Fort in the mid-1970s. When Sellars ran out of time that could be spared for the project, Dwight Pitcaithley carried it further, with an emphasis on Third Fort. Finally, Pitcaithley and Jerome Greene finalized the material for Third Fort and published it in 1982 as Historic Structure Report: Historical Data Section, The Third Fort Union, 1863-1891, Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico. The lack of a Base Map derived from an archeological survey left many of the First Fort buildings unlocated or unidentifiable, and the absence of detailed documentation about the construction of Second Fort made it very difficult to compile a structural history of this fortification. These crippling gaps in the accessible information made it impossible for Sellars, Pitcaithley and Greene to finalize the reports for First Fort and Second Fort.

The present Historical Base Map is the most recent in a series of attempts to map the First Fort, Second (or Star) Fort, and Third Fort of Fort Union. In addition, Sutler's Row is given a first, rough evaluation here, based on available sources. Third Fort, sheets 4, 5, 8 and 9, has preserved the plan of its buildings clearly enough that the correspondence between historical maps and the existing structures was fairly clear. Only the less substantial outlying buildings and structures overlaid by more recent buildings remained somewhat elusive. This Historical Base Map has attempted to plot a clear location and outline for these structures, and the Historic Building number series has been extended to include the new additions.

In some cases, original Third Fort numbers have had additional information included about the history of the buildings they cover. This usually consists of further detail about the changes in plan over the life of Third Fort and the relationship of earlier buildings to later ones, and are further clarifications or addenda to Pitcaithley and Greene, rather than intended to stand alone.

In the First Fort, Second Fort, and Arsenal sections, considerable reference is made to Leo Oliva's study, Fort Union and the Frontier Army in the Southwest. Unfortunately, Oliva's work was available only in draft form at the time the Historic Structure Report and Historical Base Map had to go to press; all references to Oliva are to the page number of the draft, the short title of which will be "Frontier Army," not to the final published version. [1] Where specific details of Laura Soulliére Harrison's discussion in Part I are referred to in Part II, the location of the details is given by a reference such as "Part I, p. 10."

The First Fort and Arsenal, sheets 2 and 3, have proven to be a difficult problem for those who wished to draw an accurate plan of the buildings. For one thing, the multiple additions, changes, and overlaying of structures makes an overall plan exceptionally complex, as can be seen by looking at the Base Map. Secondly, only one historical map of First Fort is available, and it is a schematic, rather than an accurate plan; it was drawn early in the life of the fort, and does not show the many later changes and additions. Two army plans for the Arsenal during its life have been available, but research has shown that one of these was a proposal plan, not an as-built. Attempts to map the area in the 1960s resulted in faulty or incomplete maps of the First Fort/Arsenal group, because most of the First Fort buildings and a number of Arsenal buildings were not of substantial construction and were difficult to see on the ground.

The earliest National Park Service map of the area was prepared by Wohlbrandt, Marsh and Cotten (first names unknown) in August, 1960, and July, 1961, following an initial archeological relocation of some structures by Rex Wilson in 1959-1961. [2] Although it looks like a good start, this plan is seriously flawed by a series of errors in plotting the structures. The east-west locations of the buildings are far too close together, as though the map had several vertical strips of empty space cut out of it between rows of structures. This is not apparent, however, until the Wohlbrandt plan is compared with a more accurate map, such as the base contour map prepared for the National Park Service by Thomas Mann Aerial Mapping in 1989, using aerial photography flown in November, 1988, for this project.

Many of the First Fort and Arsenal structures plotted on this Base Map were located and identified during 1963-66 by Nicholas Bleser, Administrative Assistant at Fort Union in the 1960s. The Base Map owes a great debt to him for his efforts. A further debt is owed to Wayne Ruwet, who, building on Bleser's field work, in 1969 wrote a report for Fort Union National Monument on the structural history of First Fort and the Arsenal. [3] In 1970 Ruwet prepared an expanded version of this report for his Master's Thesis for the University of California at Los Angeles, and was kind enough to send a copy to the park. [4] Ruwet's work supplied this study with a great deal of useful information about the plan and changes to the buildings of First Fort and the Arsenal, and schematic maps based on intensive examination of the available nineteenth century drawings of the area. When reference is made to Ruwet's work, it is cited as, for example, Ruwet, "Fort Union," p. 10. Had they had the help of an archeologist and the contour maps prepared for this report, Bleser and Ruwet would have done this job in 1969 and left us little further work.

Most plans of the Second Fort, sheet 8, have been drawn by topographic surveyors, using stereographic aerial photographs, with no attempt to interpret the visible outlines in terms of structures or their possible uses. The original plan of the fort made by its designers is mentioned several times in army correspondence, but has disappeared. A portion of the Second Fort appears on a plan dated January, 1867, prepared by John Lambert under the direction of Captain Henry Inman; this plan is fairly accurate and gives a clear location and use of several parts of the eastern third of the Star Fort. An early effort to interpret the Star Fort was begun by Nicholas Bleser. In the set of 5" x 8" information cards in the collection of Fort Union appears a sketch plan of the Star Fort by Bleser, dated October 25, 1965. This contains virtually all the significant information to be seen on the plan of the fort in this Base Map set. Bleser's work made this formal analysis fairly simple; most of the difficulty centered around the effort to reconstruct a true outline of the fort's structures without archeology; excavations would have considerably aided this effort, but will have to wait for future projects with specific research goals requiring such excavation. This Base Map was intended to go as far as possible using only evidence visible on aerial photographs and contour maps, on the surface, or detectable by probe. I hope that the information presented here will help those who conduct future archeological investigations as much as Bleser's investigations helped us.

Field Methodology

The Base Map is based on one month of field investigation and surveying by a crew under James Ivey, Division of History, Southwest Region, in May, 1989, and a number of later one-day visits by James Ivey and Will Ivey to confirm measurements, to clear up confusion, to check further probable structural locations, or to add details. The crew mapped the buildings of the First Fort and Arsenal, the Second Fort, Sutler's Row, and a number of previously unmapped buildings of the Third Fort. They worked entirely from surface indications, artifact scatters, visible foundations and chimney bases, and foundations detected by probe; no excavations were conducted. They were guided to the specific sites by using general locations and outlines gained from aerial photography and nineteenth-century maps and drawings, and the fieldwork of earlier researchers such as Rex Wilson, Nicholas Bleser, and Wayne Ruwet. Once structural traces and building outlines were determined by these methods, the crew measured the precise locations of the corners and wall segments by the use of field tape measurement, theodolite, and electronic distance measurement. The locations in general are probably accurate to within two feet.

The Historic Structures Listing

A critical component of the Base Map in this report is a detailed Historical Structures Listing. Structures are discussed in the order of their Historical Structure (HS) numbers; except that the 300-series, assigned to additional structures in the Third Fort area, will be discussed immediately after the other Third Fort buildings, rather than after the Second Fort 200-series. The most prominent Third Fort buildings use the numbers up to 100, and First Fort uses the 100-series numbers. The descriptions of Third Fort structures will in most cases consist only of a page reference to the Historic Structure Report by Greene and Pitcaithley, called Third Fort Union in these references. Where changes or additions to the description by Pitcaithley and Greene are necessary, or where new structures are being added, the details are included here. The peculiarities of numbering are the result of keeping the original Park Service numbering system and expanding on it. This was done to avoid forcing the Park to renumber all their records dealing with individual structures, but resulted in preserving inconsistencies in the method of assigning numbers to structures. For example, in Third Fort the Park Service had assigned the number 36 to the entire Mechanics' Corral, containing a number of blacksmithing, forging, machine shop, kitchen and messhall activities contained in specific rooms, while at the same time in First Fort assigning the numbers 104, 105 and 106 to individual rooms of one structure because they had separate functions: the oil house, armory, and tinner and blacksmith shop. This can be annoying at times, but will suffice.

One guiding principle used throughout the building descriptions should be pointed out to those using this Base Map. Where possible, the descriptions of individual structures attempt to keep track of the movement of function. The U. S. Army had a set of functions that must be carried out at each post. They constructed buildings to house those functions. A Base Map of an army post does its job best when it traces the movement of a given function from one structure to another through time, and this method frequently allows a suggestion to be made for the function of a building when no other evidence is available.

Some of the historical buildings of Fort Union were not included within the boundaries of the two components of the National Monument when the park was established in 1956. These structures are indicated with an asterisk (*) before their HS number. They are on the private property of Fort Union Ranch, and are not available for public visits without specific written permission from the owners. The First Fort component, although part of the National Monument, is not open for public visits except during one day a year. Special visits are sometimes possible, but must be arranged with both the National Monument and Fort Union Ranch, through which the visitor must travel.

Where critical details are included in original documents but not discussed by any of these authors, the original document is cited. Finally, the First Fort and Arsenal have a set of cross-references to the numbers or letters assigned to the individual buildings by previous researchers, to aid future investigators in understanding exactly which structure in one or another of the early reports is being discussed in this Historic Structures Listing.

Post and Depot Corrals
Figure 17. Early and later versions of the Post Corral and Depot Corral.

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Last Updated: 13-Feb-2006