Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Colorado History -
The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union
By David Sedivy
The Santa Fe Trail
The Santa Fe Trail was responsible for a growing new nation. The trail
began as a Native American route as well for Spanish exploration across
the plains of America. It became a link between two countries - the
United States and Mexico. The trail evolved into a vital trade route
for settlers and the military. Passage over the trail was full of
danger and misery.
the map above for an enlargement, or click HERE
to view another more detailed map.
Develpment of Fort Union
The development of Fort Union was linked to a long series of events,
and its history is inseparable from that of the Santa Fe Trail. Mexico
declared its independence from Spain in 1821.This established free
trade. The following year large caravans began crossing the plains
from Missouri to Taos and Santa Fe.
Ox teams first pulled the wagons on the Santa Fe Trail
in 1829 because the cost less, had more endurance than mules, and
weren't as appealing to the Indians.
The federal government recognized the importance of the Santa Fe
Trail, and by 1825 the United States Congress passed a bill to survey
the trail. This was the first road surveyed west of the Mississippi
River. The trade route was essential for the development of both countries.
Manifest Destiny, the expansionist creed in the US,
is depicted as a spirit stringing telegraph wire.
Western expansion of the United States was on. Tourists began to
appear on the trail along with the traders and settlers. By 1831 normal
trade goods were common in Santa Fe. To maintain profit levels, traders
usually had more than one wagon.When Mexico levied taxes on the number
of wagons, the size of wagons increased.1
During this time improvements in transportation took place, including
the development of stagecoach and mail lines. As trade increased along
the trail the wagon trains became targets for the Indians, protection
of the caravans became necessary.
Wagon Circles. They interlocked the wagon wheels together
to make a strong
corral to hold the livestock in case of Indian attack.
In 1833, President Andrew Jackson organized the dragoons as the
first full-time cavalry branch of the United States.2
Jackson realized that foot soldiers were of little help in the frontier.
In 1834, the dragoons escorted a wagon train along the Santa Fe Trail.
This was just the start of increasing United States military involvement
along the trail.
Wagon Train. Most trips were made in late Spring, using
rainfall as their water source.
Each wagon carried its own water barrel.
New Mexico, a US Territory
The Mexican government tended to view the trail going to Santa Fe
as a military highway leading straight to its northern border. These
fears became a reality in 1846, when General Kearny peaceably conquered
New Mexico and made it United States territory.
General Stephen Watts Kearny was made commander of
the Army of the West
at the outbreak of the Mexican War.
The United States military established a handful of garrisons throughout
the new territory. The cost of supplying the army in New Mexico was
of great concern in Washington D.C.
Sumner and the First Dragoons
On April 1, 1851, Secretary of War Charles Conrad wrote to Colonel
Edwin Sumner of the First Dragoons. First, Conrad announced in his
letter that Sumner was to take command of the Ninth Military Department
(New Mexico). Conrad stated that he wanted to see changes of more
efficient protection of the country with a "diminution of expense."
Conrad told Sumner to make changes wherever he deemed necessary. The
order went on to say that Sumner could choose new locations for garrisons
The protection of New Mexico.
The defense of the Mexican Territory, which we are bound to protect
against the Indians within our borders.
Economy and facility in supporting the troops, particularly in regard
to forage, fuel, and adaptation of surrounding country to cultivation.3
These orders were the foundation for Fort Union, New Mexico. The
first two items were based on traditional military strategy: presence,
defense, and when necessary, offence. The third item is key to understanding
how and why the buildings of Fort Union were constructed.
| 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
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- Colorado History In Depth
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:
| The Cheyenne Migration
to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie
The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge
| 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
| 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
| 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
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence |
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo
More Colorado History
| 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 |
Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
| Lead Gives Alferd
Packer's Story More Weight |
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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