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Fort Stanton - Rounding Up the Apache
Fort Stanton, named for Captain Henry W.
Stanton, who was killed in a skirmish with
on May 4, 1855. The fortís primary objective was to protect the
settlements along the Rio Bonito River 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.
However, 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
Apaches fled the fort and began to raid central
courtesy University of New Mexico.
A year later, in
Kit Carson and Union troops returned to the fort, using it as a
campaign base against the
Indians. For the next two years,
New Mexico Volunteers, captured the vast majority of the Mescalero
Apache as well
as most of the
Indians who were
their plan, the
soldiers destroyed the
Indian's fields, orchards,
houses, and livestock. Before the
Indians were even defeated, Congress authorized the establishment
New Mexico at Bosque Redondo on
October 31, 1862.
In 1862-63 Carson placed 400 Mescaleros
on the newly established Bosque Redondo Reservation, guarded by
Sumner, and in 1864, escorted another 8,000
Navajos 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
Navajos 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 continued against the
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
Fort Stanton Parade Grounds and buildings
Kathy Weiser, February, 2008.
During World War II, the
Fort became German internee camp.
In 1953, Fort Stanton and
some 27,000 acres were transferred to the State of
New Mexico. By 1966,
the declining tuberculosis patient load caused the facility to close as a
hospital. It then became a branch of Los Lunas Hospital and Training
School for the mentally handicapped, operating under the
Department of Health. That program ended in 1995,
In 1996, the fort was turned over to the
State Corrections Facility, which utilized it to house minimum security
prisoners until 1999.
fort was then leased to Amity, Intl. who currently operates a drug
rehabilitation center for state prisoners
recovering from substance abuse.
Over the years, the original buildings were replaced, remodeled, and added
to, as they were utilized as residences, wards and offices. Today, the old
fort grounds display a number of buildings; however, most are in serious
disrepair. Much of the area is off-limits to the public and there are no
buildings that can be toured. There is; however, a museum and visitor's
center, but the hours are irregular.
Fort Stanton is located about five miles
southeast of Capitan,
of America, updated November, 2012.
Fort Stanton Museum and Visitor's Center,
Kathy Weiser, February, 2008.
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