The fort has a short but distinguished history as it helped control the Kiowa, Comanche, and other tribes inhabiting the Red and Canadian River region; watched over the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail, as well as the Santa Fe Trail; and policed the activities of the “Comancheros,” American and Mexican renegades who traded illegally with the Indians. The fort fielded several expeditions against the southern Plains tribes. Colonel Kit Carson led one of them, dispatched in 1864 by General Carleton, because of harassment of the Santa Fe Trail. Carson clashed with a village of Kiowa in the Battle of Adobe Walls, Texas.
Located on the Canadian River just west of the Texas border in San Miguel County, it was one of a series of forts established by General James Henry Carleton, then acting commander of the Military Department of New Mexico, to control the Comanche and Kiowa Indians who frequented the Staked Plains of Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. It was built on land leased from the owners of old Pablo Montoya Grant and named for Captain George Bascom, who died heroically at the Battle of Valverde in February 1862. Though the post played an important role, it never was very large, consisting of sandstone officers’ quarters and a few adobe buildings.
Fort Bascom was also the base of one of the three columns deployed by General Philip Sheridan in his 1868-69 Indian campaign. In November and December 1868, troops moved down the Canadian River before turning northward to win a resounding victory in the Battle of Soldier Spring, Oklahoma on Christmas Day.
The post was abandoned by the military in 1870 and the land reverted back to the owner, John S. Watts, from whom the government had leased the site. The soldiers were then moved to Fort Union, New Mexico. The poorly constructed post was never fully finished and today, no remains have survived. The site is located on private land in a horseshoe bend on the south side of the Canadian River, 12 miles north of Tucumcari. Though it is accessible via unimproved roads from Logan and New Mexico Highway 39, permission must be obtained from the ranch owner to visit the site.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.