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Title: Old Fort Garland
Author: Slack, Rosamund, Forrest, James T.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Fort Garland" ***

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                           _Old_ FORT GARLAND

                    [Illustration: Old Fort Garland]

                       [Illustration: Army bugle]

                               IN MEMORY
                           EDGAR C. McMECHEN

                          [Illustration: Map]

                          Copyright, 1954, by
                        State Historical Society
                              of Colorado
                            Denver, Colorado
                          All Rights Reserved

                 Artwork for this booklet by Paul Rossi

                        _A Soldier’s Journal of_
                        Life at Old Fort Garland

                          By James T. Forrest

(Author’s note: This is a brief history of Fort Garland, Colorado, as it
might have been told by a soldier present during most of the fort’s
active years. The soldier and his journal never existed, but the facts
contained in the journal are basically true. The information in this
story is a product of research through most of the available documents
concerning Fort Garland. In places, fiction has been introduced to give
the journal color, but all important events or facts occurred as
described.) J.T.F.

           [Illustration: Banner with decorative letter “F”]

Fort Garland, July 29th, 1860. Arrived here yesterday with my company,
Company F of the U. S. 10th Infantry. Our outfit just limped in from a
640 mile march from Camp Floyd, Utah Territory. Took us most a month.
Our commander’s name is Major (E.R.S.) Canby. It’s good to bunk down
some place indoors for a change and to wash some of the dust out of my
throat and off my trail-weary feet. Too tired to look around new post

Fort Garland, August 10th, 1860. Getting settled. Guess my company will
be here awhile. Major Canby and Company A left a few days ago to quiet
some outlaw Indians (Navajos) somewhere southwest of here. Companies F
and H of the 10th remained.

Looked into the past of this fort. Named for Brevet Brigadier General
John Garland, commanding the Department of New Mexico. It was built in
1858 by Captain Tom Duncan and his Mounted Riflemen, with a company
(Company A) of the 3rd Infantry. Seems Fort Massachusetts, north of here
some six miles, was built in 1852 to protect this area from the Indians.
After a few years on this frontier with bands of Ute Indians all around
they decided the old fort was too close under the mountains to be safe
against surprise attack, so the command was moved down here on the open
plain. Guess if the wind doesn’t blow us all away, the post will stick
it out here until the last Indian is dead or put off somewhere on the
desert to eat sand and yucca.

September 12, 1860. Got a promotion today. We all fell out for first
call at 5 a.m. and lined up to be read off. “Here,” we called out,
hardly more’n awake. “All present or accounted for,” said the sergeant
to the Lieutenant, “All except those on wood pile or water detail in
Company F will fall out for company drill immediately after morning
mess.” The sergeant paused and looked down the line until he spotted me.
“Special order,” he continued. “Private O’Connor, Timothy, will report
to the orderly room to serve as chief clerk. O’Connor!” “Yo,” I
answered. “O’Connor, you’re now a corporal. Get those stripes sewed on.”

September 14, 1860. Discovered why I was made clerk. Seems I’m one of
the few in my company who can write so’s anybody can read what’s been
writ. That schooling back in Indiana might have been some good after
all. Thing about being clerk is that I get to know most of what’s going
to happen afore it happens. Company H clerk told me yesterday that he
put himself in for a promotion last week.

The post is getting to seem like home to most of us by now. Pretty fair
place. The buildings are made of mud, or what people around here call
adobe. The adobes are made of brown clay and baked in the sun, then
stuck together with the same mud after they’re baked hard. The two
barracks face the parade ground from the east and from the west. They
are both about 119 feet long and 33 feet wide; the roofs are nearly
flat, with a slight slope toward the parade. The inside of each barrack
is divided into several rooms, including: company office, store room,
two squad-rooms and a kitchen. The latter is used also for mess. The
walls are the same adobe, white-washed. Each barrack was built to house
one company. The squad rooms are heated by open fireplaces—looks like
we’ll freeze come winter, except when we’re backed up to the fire
burning our pants.

The officer’s quarters are also of adobe, as is everything around these
parts, and are built along the north end of the parade. There are
quarters for seven officers and their families, but a man’d have to be
pretty brave to bring his family out here. The officer’s rooms are
ceiled with boards and plastered with mud, then whitewashed. Even have
board floor in these quarters, with bear skin and Indian blankets
scattered here and there. Some of the quarters have furniture brought
from the East, but most of the things are like the benches and tables
and bunks we soldiers have—made right here at the fort of cottonwood or

On the south end of the parade are two long buildings used for offices
and store rooms. The guard house is in one of these two, but I don’t
care to learn of the interior of that place. I’m told that it’s poorly
ventilated, having no windows. In winter there’s no heat in the cells.
The guards have a fireplace in their area, but the men in the cells have
to wear their blankets like Indians from morning ’til night to keep
warm. At night there’s no sleeping, it’s that cold. Not many men getting
in trouble during the cold months, I’m told.

      [Illustration: Evening Muster. Cavalry troop in formation.]

                    [Illustration: Old Fort Garland
           From an early drawing in _Harper’s New Monthly_.]

The stables are located some 120 paces due east of the east barrack and
are strong smelling quarters, consisting of three long corrals built of
the same old adobe. The corrals contain sheds for the common horses and
enclosed stables for the officers’ mounts.

The post gets its water from the Ute Creek and water from this stream
flows in a ditch completely around the parade. The water is cold and
fresh the entire year, maybe because it comes from the snows of Mount
Blanca to the north.

The post has a garden of about six acres, in which all of us must take a
tour of duty. In this plot the men try to grow about everything, but
only those vegetables or grains which will ripen or mature in our short
season are successful.

I discovered only today that this fort is on a reservation covering
about six square miles, with the post buildings smack in the center.
Back in Indiana that would be a considerable piece of land, but out here
that’s no more’n enough to feed one good-sized jack rabbit.

December 26, 1860. Christmas come and gone for another year. I’ve never
seen such a feast as we had here yesterday. The weather was tough
outside, with wind and snow, but inside there was nothing but cheer. The
dinner consisted of every kind of meat that can be had in this part of
the Territory. We had smoked bear, roast deer, elk and antelope; we had
trout, wild duck, and every breed of bird that walks or flys within
fifty miles of this place. One of the favorite pastimes of men at our
post is hunting—everything from bear to wild cats and coyotes. Our
Indian friends tell us we’re driving off the game, but that seems
unlikely, at least not for the next hundred years. Christmas was not all
eating; those who didn’t get sick from eating too much got into even
worse shape from too much whiskey. We all figured we might as well
celebrate, seeing that we’re soon to have a new president, Abe Lincoln.
Some say that the South is so opposed to Abe and the North in general
that they’ll pack up and leave the Union. Some say they won’t. I figure
we got enough troubles out here just trying to keep these Indians from
running loose.

May 3, 1861. Whole series of Indian uprisings in Territory. A number of
chiefs, including Chief Uray[1] of the Tabequache Utes, stopped off here
to pow wow with our commander. Indians not happy with rations issued by
Indian Agent at Conejos. A band of them left here and marched toward
Denver City.

June 1, 1861. Word just reached Garland that Lincoln has called for
75,000 volunteers to serve three months until trouble with the South can
be settled. Southerners here say it won’t be over that soon, unless the
South wins. Some of the boys from the Southern States have
deserted—struck out for Texas.

            [Illustration: Horseman with cavalry standard.]

August 4, 1861. Back East it seems the North and South had a big battle
at a place called “Bull Run.” Most of the two outfits here at Garland
are preparing to leave for New Mexico, some say Fort Craig. We’ve been
getting squad and company drill every day since the war started. Last
month we had two sham battles. Seems us Indian fighters have got to
learn all over again how to fight Rebs. All the non-coms and the
officers have been staying up nights studying _Hardee’s Tactics_ and the
book of _Army Regulations_. Somehow or other I got promoted to sergeant.

                      [Illustration: John Garland]

              [Illustration: Major General E. R. S. Canby]

October 20, 1861. Most of F and H Companies have left for Fort Craig to
join Major Canby. Re-enforcements, in the form of volunteers, are
expected soon. The old soldiers left here don’t think much of the idea
of fighting with a bunch of recruits, but Governor Gilpin is looking
under every stone for troops. Most of Colorado’s too busy looking for
gold to worry about the war.

                         [Illustration: Bugle]

December 29, 1861. Captain (T. R.) Dodd and Captain (J. H.) Ford arrived
with troops this month. Dodd’s company left Canon City on December 7th
and marched to Fort Garland by way of the Sangre de Cristo Pass. His
company was provisionally designated Company A of the Second Colorado
Infantry. Ford’s group came struggling into camp on December 21st,
having also marched from Canon City. This latter unit was provisionally
designated Company B of the Second Colorado Infantry. Captain Dodd and
his “foot Volunteers” didn’t stay long, moving on to Santa Fe,
eventually bound for Fort Craig. Rumor has come north that a Major (H.
H.) Sibley, late of the United States Army, has come out to New Mexico
to win that territory for the South. He’s got quite a crew assembled at
Fort Bliss; the last report listed “Sibley’s Brigade” at over 3000
strong. There’s not that many fighting men in the whole Colorado

The volunteers are roosting around this fort like chickens. And sad
birds they are too. There’s not a complete uniform in the whole lot and
not a man knows his right foot from his left. But they don’t
complain—and that’s something for soldiers, citizen or old army. The
other evening Company A had their men on guard duty around the buildings
and in one cold and windy spot the guard had on an old grey overcoat.
The overcoat was the only one the company had and every night it was
given to the guard at this post. The company commander was making his
rounds as usual when he spotted the familiar coat. He turned to his
orderly and said, “Sergeant Ford, is the same man in that same d—— coat
always on guard here?” “No, be jabers,” said Pat Ford, “but the same
coat kivers the whole company now.”[2]

March 17, 1862. Word received here that Garland is to be destroyed if it
is menaced by the enemy. Fort Union is to be defended at all cost.
Another detachment moves out of here tomorrow. I have asked to go. The
big battle seems to be shaping up in the south. Canby has been made a

                       [Illustration: Kit Carson
                        Painting by Waldo Love.]

                  [Illustration: Ronald S. Mackenzie]

La Glorieta Pass, New Mexico, March 27, 1862. Arrived here about time
shooting was over. The Rebs have been turned back, some 280 killed in
two battles here. Our side was luckier. The heroes of this battle are
many, but Major (J. M.) Chivington and the Colorado Volunteers deserve a
big chunk of the credit. I guess we start the long march back, now that
Sibley’s on the run.

                    [Illustration: Cavalry standard]

Fort Garland, October 5, 1862. Was sent with a small detachment back to
Garland. Fort about the same. Commander now is Colonel Sam Tappan.
Pretty good man. More people coming into the San Luis Valley every day.
Either they’re looking for gold or they’re getting away from the
war—maybe both.

September 2, 1863. Been some nasty killings going on around here and not
by Indians either. Two brothers, Felie Nerio and Vivian Espinosa, from
San Rafael, a little town at the edge of the mountains, have sworn to
kill every American they meet. Been doing a pretty good job too, so far.
Seems they even tried to kill Governor (John) Evans when he was down
this way. Didn’t kill the Governor but killed two others. The Governor
had offered a reward for these two and they didn’t like the thought of
having their heads turned in for gold, I guess. Like to collect that
reward myself. Reports are that the Espinosas have killed near thirty
people in the valley during the past few months.

September 11, 1863. Tom Tobin did it. I guess Tobin had heard enough
about the Espinosas, so when Colonel Tappan asked him if he’d head a
party to go find the murderers and bring them in, he accepted. Tobin and
Lieutenant Baldwin and fifteen soldiers from the fort set out on
September 7th. Tobin trailed Espinosa like he’d trail a deer or an
Indian and after several days found him along La Veta Creek. Espinosa
was with his cousin and fellow maniac in thick brush when Tobin came on
them. Tobin fired and wounded one, while three soldiers fired at once
and brought down the other. Tobin then beheaded the two and took the
heads to Colonel Tappan. He rolled the heads from the sack and said,
“Here Colonel, I have accomplished what you wished. This head is
Espinosa’s. This other is his companion’s head and there’s no mistake
made.”[3] Since the other Espinosa brother was killed some weeks ago, I
guess that ends that little fracas. Tobin didn’t even know about the
reward, he says. Some of the local citizens are thinking of giving Tom a
Hawkins rifle, like he’s wanted for a long time now, in appreciation for
what he’s done.

                       [Illustration: Chief Ouray
                      Painting by Robert Lindneux]

May 4, 1864. Transferred last month to the 1st Colorado Cavalry, which
means I’ll be hitting the dust trail for summer encampment in a few
days. Well, it’ll beat pushing a pen around in that stuffy orderly room
or being stable nurse to a bunch of horses.

May 6, 1864. Bunch of the boys went over to Posthoff’s last evening for
a last blow before leaving the post for the summer. The sutler’s store
may have about all a soldier needs in the way of underwear, boots,
saddle soap, and the rest, but it stocks no whiskey. Posthoff’s store,
being off the reservation proper, takes care of this shortage for us.
Posthoff stocks about everything needed in these parts by the civilians
too, of course. But last night we tried to drink old Posthoff out of
liquor—and almost did. About every man in the 1st Cavalry was there,
with pretty Mexican and Indian girls bringing in food and filling our
cups. All day long a company of horse soldiers have been sorry they kept
such late hours. The smell of dust and saddle leather has done a lot for
our thirst, but little for our appetites. It’s days like this that make
me wonder if the $17 a sergeant gets each month is worth it.

          [Illustration: Sunday Morning Barrack’s Inspection.]

In Camp, June 2, 1864. Spending a little time now camped in Antelope
Park. Camp life isn’t bad; just as many bugles blown during the day as
at the fort and just as much work, but a tent’s easier to keep clean
than a barrack. Indians here about seem restless. Patrols sent out
regularly to keep a check on them.

          [Illustration: Cavalry Troops Preparing for March.]

        [Illustration: A Scouting Detail Returning to the Fort.]

Fort Garland, November 21, 1864. Back at the fort life goes on about as
before. Nights are getting cold. We sit inside evenings now next to
fires of piñon logs. Some spend the hours playing cards, others read or
study, and some form small groups and sing. The inside of the quarters
look good after months in the open. The white walls and blue furniture
and woodwork have come to mean home to me. The wooden beds, designed to
sleep two, may be covered only with a straw tick, but it’s a lot softer
than the ground. The food is better at the fort than in the field, of
course. The hardtack and provisions carried on march leave something to
be desired. The hardtack we’re getting must have been made by the Rebs.
Even the hot coffee won’t soften it. Corporal White said the other night
that once he found something soft inside a hardtack biscuit and when he
looked to see what it was, he found that it was an old rifle ball.
“Looked like the kind used during the War of 1812,” cracked White.

            [Illustration: Horseman with cavalry standard.]

December 5, 1864. Just heard the news of Colonel Chivington wiping out a
whole tribe of Indians at Sand Creek. If word gets back to any friends
of those poor devils I’m thinking we’d better all start cleaning our
carbines and looking for a hole to crawl into.

News from the East is that Lincoln has been re-elected. War seems about
won by the Union forces. Things been going bad for Lee since Gettysburg.

May 4, 1865. Lee gives up at a place called Appomattox. Even the Texans
have decided to quit. The boys here are looking to be sent home, since
most are volunteers. Only a handfull of regulars like myself have been
at the fort during these war years. Might take a leave myself or just
give up being a soldier.

April 2, 1866. Back from leave. Brought a wife with me. Never thought of
getting married, but while in Denver last winter I met Molly and first
thing I knew she had me. We moved into the married quarters for non-coms
over northeast of the general inclosure. Molly don’t seem to mind life
at the fort, in spite of the fact that she, like all the other non-com
wives, has to spend considerable time every week washing shirts and
socks in the post laundry.

Being married throws a new light on life in the fort. People get
together for parties and talk. The wives are more ambitious for the men
than the men are for themselves. “When are _you_ going to be promoted?”
they all ask their husbands. What’s the difference if you’re making $13
as a private or $17 as a sergeant?

              [Illustration: Ground Plan of Fort Garland.
Copy of the ground plan of Fort Garland, Colo., by 1st. Lt. J. W. Bean,
              15th. Infantry, A.A.GM., November 17, 1877.]

                1 to 7     Officers’ Qrs.
                     8     Cavalry Barracks
                     9     Infantry Barracks
                    10     Post Hospital
                    11     Inf. Co. Kitchen
                    12     Inf. Laundress Qrs.
                    13     Cav. Laundress Qrs.
                    14     Guard Room
                    15     Prisoners’ Room
                    16     Prisoners’ Cells
                    17     Grain Room
                    18     Shoemaker’s & Tailor’s Shop
                    19     Post Bakery
                    20     Stove Room
                    21     Lumber & Coal Room
                    22     Adjutant’s Office
                    23     Commanding Officer’s Office
                    24     Ordnance Store Room
                    25     Chapel & Lodge Room
                    26     Telegraph Office
                    27     Condemned Store Rm.
                    28     Cavalry Kitchen
                    29     Cav. Dining Room
                    30     Carpenter Shop
                    31     Blacksmith Shop
                    32     Qm. & Comsy. Off.
                    33     Subsistence Stores
                    34     Subsist. Issue Rm.
                    35     Clothing Room
                    36     Q.M. Store Room
                    37     Q.M. Corral
                    38     Cav. Stables
                    39     Ice House
                    40     Ice Pond
                    41     Parade Ground
                    42     Acequia
                    43     Water Boxes
                    44     Post Trader’s Store

May 7, 1866. Colonel (and Brevet Brigadier General) Kit Carson is our
new commander. He commanded a regiment of New Mexico Volunteers during
the war and was sent on here with some of his old men. Good thing they
sent a man like Colonel Carson to old Garland—those cantankerous Utes
have been raising cane around the settlements for several months and
seem to be getting worse. About the only reason they haven’t declared
war on all of us is that one of their chiefs, called Uray or Ulay,[4]
has been keeping them in harness.

June 28, 1866. Started building hospital northeast of parade. Adobes not
baked properly—rain all the time. Building won’t stand for many seasons.

July 18, 1866. Our commander is a man to be respected. He’s keeping this
Indian Pot from boiling in these parts by his will alone. The Utes are
short on rations, some of them starving. They come to the fort and beg
food almost every day. Maybe they’re not as hungry as they act, but they
are hungry enough to be dangerous. Colonel Carson sends them away with
what he can spare and has written to the Indian Agent for rations for
the nearby tribes. The guard in the crow’s nest on the flag pole keeps a
wary eye on the valley these nights. This fort has never been attacked,
but the settlements about have been molested on several occasions.

September 12, 1866. Molly let me know that I’m to be a father come next
spring. An old blue coat like myself a father! Good news comes in
bunches; I was made Sergeant Major today, with a salary increase to $23.
That should keep a family of five!

    [Illustration: Army Escort Wagon. From diorama in Fort Museum.]

              [Illustration: “The Guard is Mounted, Sir.”]

Sat watching Kit Carson, our commander, this evening. He stood alone on
the parade grounds after retreat; the last soft sound of the bugle had
died away and the troops had been dismissed. Carson stood looking up at
that towering flag staff for about five minutes before he turned away.
He looked uncomfortable in his uniform, as he always does. A more
unmilitary man I’ve never known—and yet a better commander none of us
would ever want. He makes up for his lack of book-learning with his
knowledge of everything there is to know of hunting, trapping, Indian
fighting and woods lore. He’s a short man, about five feet four, with
legs so bowed he looks astride a horse even when he’s walking. Here at
Garland, Colonel Carson has kept open house—open to all passersby
(Indian and White) and even to soldiers and their wives. The wild tribe
of children he brought with him are as untamed as the beasts of the
mountains. One thing about it, though, when a dispute arises between
Indians and settlers, the first to be called in is our “Kitty,” as the
Utes call him. I’ve seen him sitting in the middle of them, laughing and
joking in Spanish or Ute tongue, making hand movements for each word he
speaks. Maybe it helps him to be understood.

September 23, 1866. We’ve had big doings round here. Lieutenant General
W. T. Sherman, Governor (A.) Cumming, a whole patch of Ute chiefs and
Kit Carson met to try to work out a treaty. This was to be a preliminary
council afore the big one to be held on the banks of the Rio Grande,
some thirty miles from here. On one side of the council room squatted
the chiefs and on the other side sat Sherman, smoking a long cigar, with
Kit on one side of him and the Governor on the other. Carson talked to
the chiefs, he being the only one who could speak any language they
could all understand. Kit urged the Utes to take to a reservation, as
Sherman wanted them to do, but they didn’t like the idea. Chief Uray
told Kit he knew he spoke for the Indian’s good, but that they couldn’t
live so confined. Sherman gave up, finally, remarking that they’d have
to freeze and starve a little bit more afore they’d listen to reason.
The next council meeting gained only a little more. Governor Cumming did
get the Tabequaches to agree to a treaty which permitted roads to be
built through their lands. Chief Uray had signed another treaty in 1864.
Uray even took a trip to Washington by stage and train and talked with
President Lincoln. They say he came back and told his people that the
Indians could never keep the white men out of their lands; that there
were too many of them. Mighty smart Indian.

            [Illustration: Horseman with cavalry standard.]

            [Illustration: “Cups High! Tomorrow We March.”]

                       [Illustration: Army bugle]

October 10, 1866. Some of the Ute tribes have been on the warpath again.
Chief Cuneatch[5] is angry with Uray for dealing with the Whites and has
stirred up some of the other chiefs. A few settlers and some Indians
have been killed. The post stands as a strong point in the Valley these
days, but our commander, Colonel Carson, and his friend Chief Uray are
our real strength. Carson has told all the Indians to camp near the fort
and not go north for their presents this year. He has promised them food
and presents if they stay and remain peaceful. Some of the young bucks
will go to war, but Carson and Uray will keep the remainder of the Utes
hobbled and staked.

October 28, 1866. Captain (A. J.) Alexander of the 3rd Cavalry and some
of his men took care of Cuneatch’s band of trouble-makers. They rounded
up most of them and brought them into the fort; had to kill a few of
them, however, before they could get old Cuneatch to come. Colonel
Carson wants to get some kind of agreement or treaty signed with this
bunch of Utes before real trouble sets in.

April 25, 1868. Kit Carson is dead. He died on the 23rd, after his
return from Washington. He and several Ute chiefs, including Chief Uray,
went to Washington to confer on a treaty for the Ute or Utah Indians.
The treaty was drawn-up, but hasn’t been ratified by Congress. But old
Kit is dead! His last official act was to try to keep the peace.

July 17, 1868. My outfit is leaving Garland and this time I’ll be going
along. I wonder when or if I’ll see the fort again? Meyer and Posthoff
entertained the whole detachment last night with a farewell blow. Molly
and our two little ones will have to follow me to the new post at a
later date.

(The Valley was fairly peaceful during the years of Sgt. O’Connor’s
absence. Life at the fort changed but little, as new companies of
Infantry and Cavalry came and went.)

September 10, 1879. Back home again. Returned to Fort Garland last week
after more’n ten years here, there and everywhere, with first one outfit
and then another. A soldier’s life is a weary one. But it’s good to be
back here where I really began soldiering. Let’s see now, been 19 years
since I first came to Garland. The place has changed since the early
days. Even got a railroad running by the fort—came in ’78. Two years
earlier Colorado Territory was made the 38th State. New buildings have
been added; all made of the same old adobe, of course. The parade is a
little greener and the cottonwood trees have grown tall enough to make
good shade. The barrack rooms are now heated with stoves as well as
fireplaces and they’ve built a kitchen and mess to the southwest of the
Infantry barrack. The soldiers’ quarters have a little more furniture
and the officers’ quarters are a little more spick and span. More
females about the place, too, now that the Valley is more civilized. The
soldiers here are a lot younger than they used to be; lot of pink-faced
boys who’ve never heard an Indian whoop.

[Illustration: The Fort’s West Barracks. Mount Blanca in the background.
                              About 1900.]

     [Illustration: The Fort Abandoned. Officer’s Row, about 1900.]

   [Illustration: Fort Buildings in Ruins—just prior to restoration.]

                         [Illustration: Bugler]

October 10, 1879. We just got news of the Indian uprising in Western
Colorado. An Indian agent by the name of N. C. Meeker at the White River
Agency was killed and some of his people killed or carried off. Major T.
T. Thornburgh and his troops from Fort Steele, Wyoming, had been sent
for before the affair began, but they didn’t arrive in time to save
Meeker. Battle began on September 29th and took place somewhere between
Beaver Creek and Milk River between Thornburgh’s men and a whole parcel
of Utes under a chief named Jack. It’s said that Thornburgh had less
than 150 men, mostly Cavalry, while the Utes numbered 300-400. A
detachment of colored troops from Garland in on the affair, we’re told.
Thornburgh made a defense and held off the Utes for several days, but
the situation was pretty bad. By the 1st of October they got word to
Rawlings, Wyoming and a General Merritt set out with about 350 men. On
the morning of the 5th, after a 170 mile forced march, Merritt’s men
arrived at the burned-over circle of wagons which marked the defender’s
position. I know how Thornburgh’s men yelled when they saw that relief
column that morning. I’ve set-up considerable howl myself on similar
occasions. In cases like that you don’t care if the men coming to rescue
you are Infantry or Cavalry, you’re that glad.

June 4, 1880. More troops coming into the fort every day. The fracas out
at the White River Agency last year has caused considerable excitement,
although the Indians around here have been fairly quiet. Chief Uray has
done a lot to keep things peaceful in the valley. If he’d had his way
about it, the Thornburgh affair wouldn’t have happened. The post and the
town are bustling—they even got a hotel here now. It may not be much for
comfort, but it’s something for these parts. If they don’t stop sending
in new units and new men, some of us may be sleeping in worse places
than the hotel.

September 1, 1880. Bad news came this week. Chief Uray or Ouray, as some
call him, died on August 24. He’d been made big chief of the Utes and
had held them pretty well in tow; hard to say what will happen now. More
men coming into Garland. Most of the new-comers are living in tents.

                  [Illustration: “Only a Memory....”]

June 1, 1881. Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General) R. S. Mackenzie, in
command of the troops stationed here at the fort, has set out for the
Uncompahgre valley to prepare to move the Utes into Utah. Old Ouray is
dead and the thing he never wanted to see is going to happen—his people
will be moved to a reservation. Maybe it’s best for them.

October 1, 1881. The Utes had to be threatened by Mackenzie before
they’d start the long hike into Utah, but when they found they had no
choice they went quietly and mighty pronto. The Whites thereabout were,
of course, happy to see them leave. Everyone realizes that this puts an
end to any Indian menace in the State.

March 16, 1882. With the Indians gone, the old fort is back to normal
and maybe short of normal. Last year we had as many as 1500 men here—now
we’re down to a couple of companies. My boys are growing up, but by the
time they’re soldier age it appears there won’t be any place for them to

July 4, 1882. Had a big Independence Day celebration here today. Not
much else to celebrate. Inspection team came to the fort again this week
and it looks as if they’re going to close up all the old forts and
kick-out all the old soldiers. The company commander, a young buck, had
the brass to tell me I was getting too old to soldier. This fort’s
getting old too. They haven’t been keeping the adobe walls plastered
with mud like they used to and the rains have been making little rivers
down the sides of the buildings.

February 5, 1883. At the end of this enlistment—which comes up in
December this year—they say I’ve got to retire. I’m not an old man, but
several old wounds have been bothering me and the doctor turned in a bad
report on me. Why! I won’t know what to do away from the Army and this
old fort. They might as well shoot me like they do a horse that’s broken
his leg.

October 10, 1883. Major General John Pope, commanding the Department of
the Missouri, has recommended to the War Department that they close
several Indian forts and Garland is one of them. Well, the old fort and
the old soldier can go together.

November 29, 1883. Tomorrow the fort closes—likely forever. Company A,
22nd United States Infantry, under the command of Captain Javan Irvine,
will leave here for Fort Lewis, Colorado, and no new company will come
to replace it—as has happened for these past twenty-odd years. Somehow
it won’t seem so bad to leave the Army now, knowing that Garland and I
close our gates together. Family and I are going to stay on in the
valley and try doing a little ranching. Got a whole flock of kids to

     [Illustration: Cavalry and Infantry Sergeants in Full Dress.]

                  Fort Garland Becomes A State Museum

                           By Rosamund Slack

            [Illustration: Bugle with decorative letter “I”]

In 1883 Fort Garland was abandoned and the equipment belonging to the
fort was sent to the new Fort Lewis, while the fort lands reverted to
the Trinchera Estate. For many years stock wandered across the parade to
nibble of the grass once trod by drilling soldiers—rats and other small
animals inhabited the barracks and officer’s quarters. Decay and erosion
set to work in earnest in an effort to destroy the old fort. It appeared
that the once proud adobe walls would become a part of the soil again
and that Fort Garland would be only a memory in the minds of a few old
soldiers who had made the garrison their home.

In 1915 W. H. Meyer, a State senator, bought the property and used the
commandant’s house for his home. One of the barracks became a barn. The
Meyer home was altered soon afterwards, a gable roof and additional
windows being added. Fortunately, Meyer was interested in history and in
the fort. He tried to keep the remaining buildings in some kind of
repair and never deliberately changed the appearance of any building to
any extent other than the commandant’s quarters.

Senator Meyer died in 1925 and a group of interested citizens of the San
Luis Valley formed the Fort Garland Historical Fair Association and
purchased the fort, with the idea of preserving what remained and
someday establishing a museum. Over 600 persons in the surrounding area
supported this project. A small museum was begun in the commandant’s
house and once again the fort heard the sound of many voices, and felt
the tread of many feet.

After several years of vain effort to maintain the fort buildings, the
Fort Garland Historical Fair Association decided the job was one that
should be done by a larger institution. In 1945 the fort and its land
were deeded to the State Historical Society of Colorado, for restoration
and development as a State historical monument. For two years Curator
Edgar C. McMechen and his staff at the Denver museum worked and planned
for the restoration of the five remaining buildings at the fort. In 1947
the actual restoration was begun.

     [Illustration: Fort Garland, After Restoration by the State.]

            [Illustration: Fort Garland, After Restoration]

Mr. McMechen, a meticulous scholar, sought to reconstruct the fort as
nearly as possible to its original appearance. He wished to use every
original stone, every brick, every timber that was sound in the
reconstructed buildings. The first step in the restoration was the
removal of the old roofs which had, for the most part, collapsed or
become unsound. The five buildings under construction were the west
barracks, sometimes referred to as the Infantry barracks, the east, or
Cavalry barracks, and three of the original five officer’s quarters
along the north of the parade. The east barracks had suffered the most
from lack of repair and deterioration. One wall had crumbled and fallen
away and nothing remained of the roof but the cross beams. The buildings
to the south had long since disappeared and while the Society planned to
rebuild these two long structures, it found it impossible to undertake
the task at that time. The two officers’ quarters located immediately to
the right and left of the commandant’s building had also vanished and
were not to be rebuilt.

The reconstruction work on the fort buildings required careful
supervision. The adobe bricks were made as they were made in 1858—the
mud being molded in forms and placed in the sun to bake. After the
adobes were set in place, the walls were plastered inside and out with a
coat of the same adobe material. Mexican women were employed to work the
mud into the crevices and give the walls a smooth surface. This they did
with their hands, alone, just as it has been done in the Southwest
United States for centuries.

Plans for the fort museum called for the following: the commanding
officers’ quarters, where Colonel Kit Carson commanded in 1866-67, to be
restored as nearly as possible as it was when the famous scout resided
there, with deer and antelope heads on the walls and the skins of
animals covering the floor; one of the officer’s quarters to be used for
a resident curator and not to be open to the public; the Cavalry
barracks to be utilized as a period museum, to represent the history of
the San Luis Valley from the days of the Spanish Conquest to pioneer
settlement; the Infantry barracks to contain a typical squad room and
the old soldier’s theatre. The painted backdrop on the wall of the
theatre was still visible prior to restoration and the simple mural was
to be restored. At some later date the two buildings to the south of the
parade, on either side of the port sally, were to be rebuilt and would
include the commandant’s and adjutant’s offices, the guard room,
prisoners’ cells, post blacksmith shop, the post bakery and the post
chapel. These rooms would all be furnished and equipped in the manner of
the fort’s original service buildings.

      [Illustration: Ute Indian Village. Diorama in Fort Museum.]

  [Illustration: Interior of One of the Reconstructed Fort Buildings.]

The Fort Garland Museum is an attempt to preserve in all its many
aspects, military life at a frontier post in the 1860’s-70’s. The museum
is also a store-house for the history of the southern portion of the
State of Colorado. Many methods have been utilized to depict and present
the colorful and exciting history of this area. In the west barrack,
several dioramas illustrate in miniature scenes of: the Spanish
Conquest, a Ute Indian camp, fur trading, a Mexican village, an Army
escort wagon, a mule pack train and ambulance, and a stage coach
robbery. Glass cases house a large collection of both military and
pioneer materials. Period rooms, using life size manikins dressed in
authentic costumes, will be placed in appropriate room settings, i.e.,
Kit Carson in conference with his aides and Chief Ouray.

In September of 1950 the reconstructed Fort Garland was dedicated with
an impressive ceremony. Dr. James Grafton Rogers, president of the
Society, gave the dedicatory address. Hundreds of persons from the
surrounding area were on hand to see a long time dream of the region
come to fruition.

The State of Colorado is indebted to a great number of people in the San
Luis Valley, in particular, for their aid in bringing Fort Garland into
being as a State monument, but the list would be too long to enter here.
The State Historical Society is especially appreciative of the aid given
and interest show by members of the Fort Garland Historical Fair
Association, the Territorial Daughters and the Regional Committee on
Fort Garland.

Mrs. Rosamund Slack assumed curatorship of Fort Garland in 1950, after
the death of her husband, James Slack, who had been the curator.


                         [Illustration: Bugler]

The exhibits for the Fort Garland buildings were prepared by members of
the State Historical Society’s staff, which included: Roy Hunt, H. R.
Antle, Paul Rossi, Juan Menchaca, Mervin King, the late Curator Edgar C.
McMechen and James T. Forrest, who became Deputy Curator in charge of
the Colorado State Museums in 1953.


[1]Chief Ouray’s name was often spelled Uray or Ulay.

[2]Willians, Ellen, _History of the Second Colorados_, 1885.

[3]Tobin, Thomas T., “The Capture of the Espinosas,” _Colorado
    Magazine_, Vol. IX, pp. 59-66.

[4]Chief Ouray of the Tabequache tribe of the Utes.

[5]This is Chief Kaneache of the Muache tribe of the Utes.

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--Generated an original cover image, released for free and unrestricted
  use with this Distributed-Proofreaders-Canada eBook.

--Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

--Retained copyright notice from the printed edition (which is now
  public-domain in the country of publication.)

--In the text versions only, delimited italicized text in _underscores_.

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