|Fort Union National Monument|
Fort Union Ruins
|Location||Mora County, New Mexico, U.S.|
|Nearest city||Watrous, New Mexico|
|Area||720.6 acres (291.6 ha)|
|Established||June 28, 1954|
|Visitors||9,575 (in 2011)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Fort Union National Monument|
Fort Union National Monument
|NRHP reference No.||66000044|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NMSRCP||May 23, 1969|
Fort Union National Monument is a unit of the National Park Service of the United States, and is located north of Watrous in Mora County, New Mexico. The national monument was founded on June 28, 1954.
The site preserves the second of three forts constructed on the site beginning in 1851, as well as the ruins of the third. Also visible is a network of ruts from the Mountain and Cimarron Branches of the old Santa Fe Trail.
There is a visitor center with exhibits about the fort and a film about the Santa Fe Trail. The altitude of the Visitor Center is 6760 feet (2060 m). A 1.2-mile (1.9-kilometre) trail winds through the fort's adobe ruins.
Santa Fe trader and author William Davis gave his first impression of the fort in the year 1857:
Fort Union, a hundred and ten miles from Santa Fé, is situated in the pleasant valley of the Moro. It is an open post, without either stockades or breastworks of any kind, and, barring the officers and soldiers who are seen about, it has much more the appearance of a quiet frontier village than that of a military station. It is laid out with broad and straight streets crossing each other at right angles. The huts are built of pine logs, obtained from the neighboring mountains, and the quarters of both officers and men wore a neat and comfortable appearance.
This section needs expansion with: some actual history, such as why it was established, what units were garrisoned there, what conflicts it was involved in, etc. You can help by adding to it. (January 2018)
The fort was established in the New Mexico Territory, on the Santa Fe Trail. It was provisioned in large part by farmers and ranchers of what is now Mora County (formally created in 1860), including the town of Mora, where the grist mill established by Ceran St. Vrain in 1855 produced most of the flour used at the fort.
F. Stanley wrote and published a book titled Fort Union New Mexico in 1953, giving a colorful history of this fort and individuals such as Davey Crockett.
In its forty years (1851-1891) as a frontier post, Fort Union had to defend itself in the courtroom as well as on the battlefield. When the United States Army built Fort Union in the Mora Valley in 1851, the soldiers were unaware that they had encroached on private property, which was part of the Mora Grant. The following year Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner expanded the fort to an area of eight square miles by claiming the site as a military reservation. In 1868, President Andrew Johnson declared a timber reservation, encompassing the entire range of the Turkey Mountains (part of the Sangre de Cristo range) and comprising an area of fifty-three square miles, as part of the fort.
The claimants of the Mora Grant immediately challenged the government squatters and took the case to court. By the mid-1850s, the case reached Congress. In the next two decades, the government did not give any favorable decision to the claimants, until 1876 when the Surveyor-General of New Mexico reported that Fort Union was "no doubt" located in the Mora Grant. But the army was unwilling to move to another place or to compensate the claimants because of the cost. The Secretary of War took "a prudential measure", protesting the decision of the acting commissioner of the General Land Office. He argued that the military had improved the area and should not give it up without compensation. This stalling tactic worked; the army stayed at the fort until its demise in 1891, not paying a single penny to legitimate owners.