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

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union

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.

Santa Fe Trail Map
Click 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.

Wagons drawn by oxen
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
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 Circle
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
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 Kearny
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 based on:

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.

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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