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

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
Fort Union

By David Sedivy

The New Fort Union - Captain Grover
In the fall 1861, Captain Grover ordered the construction of a new fort. Shortly after, women and children were removed and sent to Las Vegas. This fort would be located just east of the original post. The army anticipated an attack from Texas troops, who at the time were moving to seize and hold New Mexico for the confederacy. Fort Union was the main supply depot for the territory. Control of the fort ment command of all its arms and materiel as well as command of the Santa Fe Trail and communication with the states.

The first fort was in an indefensible position because of the higher ground in the rear and both flanks. The idea was to move the post out of range of field pieces and small arms. Earth fortifications and entrenchments had well known advantages. The main advantage was defense. It was said that good troops inside an earthwork could withstand an attack of three to four times as many equally good troops.19

By January of 1862, nearly all of the quartermasters property, ordnance stores, and provisions had been moved into the star fort. An article in Denver's Rocky Mountain News in February 1862, described the star shaped fort as:

One of the strongest forts in the Western frontier. Its size is seven hundred and fifty feet square, parapets (an earth embankment to intercept enemy fire) seven feet high. From the level of the ground on the inside with a ditch on the outside eight feet deep and fifteen feet wide. Quarters for two companies built on the insides with a large magazine, and quarters are built outside the fort in an acute angular form from the sides of the fort, one each of the four sides with officers quarters intervening. The ordinance will be put in position early in May. Also other necessary buildings will be erected as soon as weather permits. The force at this fort is six companies numbering about three hundred men.20

Even during the late 1800s the news media gave away military secrets. However, the confederate troops, had been spying on the fort since August, 1861.

Confederate Threat
In March of 1862, the threat of the confederate troops became a reality. Confederate troops in search of supplies and control of the southwest threatened to invade Fort Union. Union forces stopped the confederate army at the battle of Glorieta Pass. The battle of Glorieta pass was the turning point of the Civil War in the far west. Fort Union was in little danger for the rest of the Civil War. The importance of Fort Union during that time period still remained high not only because it was the main supply and munitions depot in the southwest but also because of the need to keep the Santa Fe Trail open despite Apache and Navajo uprisings.

Civil War Union Indians
A Union recruiter swears in new Indian recruits.

The strategic vulnerability of the star fort was disclosed in June 1862, when the post commander gave a test consisting of a six-pound and a twelve-pound howitzer pointed at the fort. The six-pounder was placed at the foot of the hills, and the twelve-pounder was placed at the crest of the hills above the first fort. Both guns were loaded with normal charges and shot off. Both guns had the fort in range. Then in a separate test, a six-pounder was set off from the inside the star fort, its range only carried half way to the hills.21

The conditions in the first fort and also the star fort (both of which were still being occupied) were so bad that construction began in 1863 on the third fort.

The Star Fort
The star fort being built mostly underground had poor ventilation, lighting and was constantly damp. In addition the pools of water next to first fort were disappearing and the local springs were drying up. On October 16, 1866, a huge rainstorm flooded the star fort with eight to twelve inches of water. A report written by the post surgeon the following day said all the men were damp. The dampness coupled with the intermittent storms convinced the surgeon that the incidence of disease including, fever, rheumatism, and heart complications were "due in great part to the casemated barracks occupied by the troops at this post". He told the post commander that the only way to fix this situation was to repair the old barracks, move into tents, or move early into the new quarters at third fort.22 After that last flood, the troops moved into tents because nothing at the third Fort Union had been finished at that time except one new officers quarters.

By March, 1867, the orders came through to demolish the remaining buildings known as "Old Post of Fort Union" except those necessary for housing authorized laundresses and stabling horses and mules. Any woodwork that could be salvaged from the demolition would be turned in to the depot quartermaster. The orders stated the "Old Post" but failed to mention the buildings around the "Old Post." A report recountered that a number of people still living in the out lying structures are causing problems. The inspection stated:

"There are always a lot of Mexicans and unknown Americans harbored around these buildings, Gambling, Drinking, and Prostitution, seem to be the principle use to which many of these rooms are appropriated, and soldiers of the Garrison are enticed and harbored there to carouse all night."23

The Third Fort
In April 1867, these buildings were demolished. Like much of the first fort, the army salvaged building materials from the fortification, for re-use in the third fort.

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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