Fort Stanton, named for Captain Henry W.
Stanton, who was killed in a skirmish with Apache
Indians, was established on May 4, 1855. The fortís primary objective was to protect the settlements along the Rio Bonito from Mescalero Apache raids. It was
also tasked with serving as the Indian Agency for those
Apache that the soldiers rounded up. Originally, the fort consisted of two blockhouses
surrounded by an adobe wall.
In 1861, the Union Army abandoned the fort to Confederate
soldiers, the retreating troops setting fire to the buildings. However,
rain extinguished the fire and the Confederates took it over. In the
meantime, the Mescalero Apache fled the fort and began to raid central
A year later, in
Kit Carson and Union troops returned to the fort, using it as a
campaign base against the Apache Indians. For the next two years,
Carsonís New Mexico Volunteers, captured the vast majority of the Mescalero
Apache as well
as most of the
Navajo Indians who were
their plan, the soldiers destroyed the Indian's
houses, and livestock. Before the Indians were even defeated, Congress authorized the establishment
Fort Sumner, New Mexico at Bosque Redondo.
In 1862-63 Carson placed 400 Mescaleros
on the newly established Bosque Redondo Reservation, guarded by
Fort Sumner, and in 1864, escorted another 8,000 Navajo to the
reservation, in what has become known as the
Long Walk of the Navajo.
However, at the Bosque Redondo
Reservation, the Mescalero Apache resented the Navajo and in 1865
fled back to their homelands in the mountains of Sierra Blanca. By
this time, Fort Stanton was occupied by the
Buffalo Soldiers, who were
sent to round up the Apache once again.
By 1871, the Mescalero Apache were once
again "under controlĒ and reestablished on the Fort Stanton
When the infamous
Lincoln County War
broke out in 1878, the soldiers at Fort Stanton went into
New Mexico to stop the raging gunfights and battles between the two
Billy the Kid would spend time in the Fort Stanton
guardhouse, awaiting a hanging that would never happen.
Efforts also continued against the Indians
as many of the Apache continued to flee, joining up with Victorio's and
By 1890, the
Wars were ending and personnel at the Fort were reduced to just 15
soldiers by 1893. In August of 1896, the post was officially
But, for Fort Stanton, life would go on.
Three years after it closed, the U.S. Public Health Service acquired
it for use as a Merchant Marine hospital, exclusively for the
treatment of tuberculosis. The name was later changed to Public Health
During World War II, the
Fort became a German internee camp.