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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
Fort Union

By David Sedivy


Early Arrivals to Fort Union
Captain Isaac Bowen and his wife Katherine were among the early arrivals to Fort Union. Katie and Isaac wrote home frequently to her family. In one of Katie Bowen's letters she noted that the winds at Fort Union were very strong. According to her, they blew hard for a week from the north, then quieted down, and then they blew hard from the south.

She had trouble keeping the dirt out of her new house, and she wrote home that the dirt drifted in like snow in every unprotected crevice. Occasionally she even had to shovel out her house because it was so deep. She wrote to her parents:
"How I would like that you could look in and see how primitive we are in our log houses, white-washed logs overhead, chinked and covered with earth to shed snow and rain."12


Land Ownership
Fort Union was located on the Mora land grant. The United States government was supposed to pay rent for the use of the land.13 Although the secretary of the interior tried to amend the Mora land grant so that the improvements would belong to the United States, it turned out that such an amendment was not legal. The grantees, however could not compel the government to abandon the post. So, the government concluded that it owned the buildings and improvements, and could not be forced to leave the post. Thus, the federal government had no land ownership at Fort Union.14

Daily Life at Fort Union
The barter system was a big part of daily life at Fort Union. Families traded for vegetables, butter, eggs and herbs. Their reliance on supplementing army rations had an impact on the physical appearance of the post. The troops became creative in providing for extra food. They had small gardens and raised stock. In September, 1859, the post commander issued an order stating that from that time forward, hogs were prohibited from running loose through the garrison. The hogs ate anything they found and the troops in turn ate them.15

Buffalo Chips
A settler woman gathers buffalo chips. Buffalo chips were easily secured
and gave a steady hot fire, so they were often used for cooking.

An 1853 inspection of the fort by Joseph Mansfield noted some points about Fort Union. He criticized the location of the fort, saying that it was to close to the mesa for adequate defense. Mansfield found the post "in a high rate of discipline and every department of it in good order," especially when the troops had to do everything from building quarters, gathering timber and hay, farming, escorting trains, and pursuing Indians.16


Condition of the Buildings
The buildings at the first fort were deteriorating at a rapid rate. They were not constructed as permanent buildings. In late 1856 Assistant Surgeon Jonathan Letterman did an inspection report at Fort Union. He wrote, when the rains came, the run-off drained down the mesa sometimes which such force that the buildings were flooded. As far as the quarters were concerned, he descibed them as made of unseasoned, unhewn, and unbarked pine logs, placed upright in some and horizontal in other houses. The logs were decaying fast. The unbarked logs afford excellent hiding places for that annoying and disgusting insect, the cimex lectularius (bedbug). By 1856, one barracks had been torn down, and others were in imminent danger of collapse.17

The multiple functions at Fort Union-army post, supply depot, and arsenal-led to some animosity between various units. The quartermaster, the fort, and the arsenal all employed civilian employees. The depot quartermaster often outranked the post commander. The military storekeeper who ran the arsenal reported directly to the chief of ordnance in Washington instead of to the post commander. Although the fort was known as one large unit, it was really three units whose leaders reported to three separate superiors.18


Fort Union
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker, End of Fort Union |
Bibliography is available by email request.

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- Colorado History In Depth -
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:

| The Cheyenne Migration to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie Treaty |

The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner |
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred Stories |
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge Ceremony |
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics |
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances |

Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase |
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush |

Colorado's Role in the US Civil War
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon |
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R. | Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde, Fort Union |

Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes
| The Western Federation of Miners / State Militia |
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District / End of the Strike |
Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek |
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek District:
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence
|
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo |

More Colorado History Information
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans, and More |

| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort? |
| Colorado Trivia, Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More
|

| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads |
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
| Project Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
|
Lead Gives Alferd Packer's Story More Weight |
| Legendary Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More |
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers |
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April Fools' Day |

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Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
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