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The Story of Fort Garland

1858 - 1883


Built in 1858, Fort Garland replaced Fort Massachusetts just six miles to the north. Fort Massachusetts proved vulnerable to attack and to extreme winter weather.

Standing Guard Outside Old Fort GarlandFort Garland was build of adobe in a plaza format as was typical of the surrounding villages.  It was named for Brevet Brigadier General John Garland, then in command of the Department of New Mexico.  Built on land that was part of the Sangre de Cristo Grant, leased by the United States government, the fort was established primarily to protect settlers from Indian resistance.  It had accommodations for two companies of an approximate strength of two officers and one hundred enlisted men.

During the Civil War, troops from Fort Garland marched south to bolster Union forces against the Texan Confederates, who were attempting to capture the West.  With the defeat of the Texans near Santa Fe at Glorieta Pass in 1862, the West was saved for the Union.

After the Civil War, several of the volunteer regiments which had been stationed at Fort Garland were returned in the federal service pending the return of the regular army to garrisons the frontier posts.

Kit CarsonHeading these units of the mostly Hispano New Mexico volunteers was the famous frontier scout Christopher “Kit” Carson, who took command of Fort Garland in 1866.  In his year as post commandant Carson successfully negotiated with the Utes – and relative peace reigned in the San Luis Valley.

The Ninth Cavalry of the famed Buffalo Soldiers was stationed here between 1876 and 1879 after having served in Texas.  In 1876, troops marched to the La Plata region to prevent conflict between the Utes and white prospectors.  The following year, they helped remove white settlers from Ute reservation lands.

From 1867, when Carson left Fort Garland, until the Meeker Massacre in northwestern Colorado in 1879, life at Fort Garland was calm and peaceful.  After the Utes killed agent Nathan Meeker and his employees at the White River Agency in 1879, the garrison at Fort Garland was considerably enlarged, and the fort served as a base of operations against Indians.  With the end of the uprising and the removal of the Utes to Utah, the number of troops was reduced, and Fort Garland was officially abandoned in 1883.

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