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New Mexico Forts - Page 2

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Fort Marcy, New Mexico, 1868Fort Marcy (1846-1868) - The first United States Army post established in the Southwest, it was built at the outbreak of the Mexican War, when General Stephen W. Kearny and some 1,700 troops marched over the Santa Fe Trail, seizing Santa Fe on August 18, 1846. The next day Kearny ordered two of his chief engineers, Lieutenants William Emory and Jeremy Gilmer, to stake out a good site for a defensive fort, a crucial decision to prevent an uprising by Santa Fe citizens. Lieutenant Emory soon reported an ideal spot for the post atop a flat top hill, 650 yards northeast of Santa Fes plaza, describing it as "the only point which commands the entire town."


Kearny agreed and within no time, soldiers and hired workmen began to build five foot thick adobe walls, which were nine feet high in an irregular hexagonal polygon. The fortress was surrounded by a deep ditch. Within the compound an adobe blockhouse and powder magazine were built to store artillery and weapons.


Though the plan originally intended the compound to house some 280 men, no quarters were ever built. Instead, a few limited quarters were built outside the post, but the majority of both men and horses were lodged and corralled in and around the old Spanish military barracks next to the Governors' Palace. Kearny named the new fort after William L. Marcy, then Secretary of War.


The fort was never required to defend Santa Fe during the Mexican-American War, but it remained through the Civil War. During this time, the post saw little action and when the war was over, it was officially abandoned in August, 1868. The walls soon began to deteriorate and what was left was later destroyed when a local citizen discovered a treasure trove of Spanish coins hidden at the old post. The find was reported in newspapers and soon the hill was filled with treasure hunters, digging up the entire area and ultimately destroying any remaining standing walls. 


The government sold the Fort Marcy location at an auction in 1891. Later, the city of Santa Fe acquired the site in 1961 and established a scenic overlook of the city. Today, the site is located at Old Fort Marcy Park, 617 Paseo de Peralta.


Fort Seldon (1865-1890) - Established on the Rio Grande River at what is now Radium Springs, New Mexico, the post was established to protect settlers and travelers in the Mesilla Valley from outlaws and Apache Indians. Troops were ordered from Albuquerque to the site to begin construction in April, 1865. Soldiers, along with some civilian workers soon began construction of adobe, flat-roofed, one-story buildings that would serve as barracks for one company of infantry and another company of cavalry. An Administration Building was also constructed. Water was hauled by wagon from the Rio Grande, and stored in large water barrels. Fort Selden's commander also established several picket posts. Ten troops of the Third Cavalry were stationed at Aleman Station, a halfway point on the Jornada del Muerto route between Las Cruces and San Marcial. This small post also served as a stage station, post office, and later, a telegraph office.


Another picket post was established at San Augustine Pass, a gap in the San Andres Mountains between Las Cruces and White Sands. Considered a dangerous place where livestock was often stolen and several civilians were killed, the commander wrote in 1869: The San Augustine Pass is regarded by all as the most dangerous place in this section of New Mexico.


The nearest town of Leasburg, then filled with saloons, brothels, and violence was placed off limits to the soldiers. Desertion was always a problem at Fort Selden, especially after their pay was cut in 1870. Post chores were monotonous and sometimes demeaning, and there was very little to do.




During its duration, the post was inhabited by Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and the 21st, 38th and 125th Infantry. These African-American troops were seen as fierce by the Indians and were not as apt to desert as were their white counterparts.


In 1882, Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas was expanded and Fort Selden began to decline. By 1888, the last full company of troops left the post. Two years later, it was turned over to the Interior Department in February, 1890. A small detachment remained at the post as caretakers until January, 1891, at which time, they too, were pulled out and the property was sold.


The site was declared a New Mexico State Monument in 1974 and is open to visitors today. Numerous ruins of the post's buildings continue to stand and the Visitor's Center displays exhibits depicting life at the fort, including 19th Century military weapons, uniforms, archaeological artifacts, and rare photographs of the U.S. Army in the West. Living history demonstrations are occasionally offered on summer weekends.


Fort Stanton - See full article HERE.


Fort Sumner - See full article HERE.

  Fort Union - See full article HERE.


Fort Wingate - See full article HERE.




Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.


Fort Seldon, New Mexico, 1875

Fort Seldon in 1875.

Fort Seldon, New Mexico today

Fort Seldon today, photo by Galen R. Frysinger,

 courtesy People and Places


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