Fort Garland (1858-1883) - A U.S. Army post first established in 1858 by Captain Thomas Duncan, 3rd U.S. Infantry, with men from Company E, U.S. Mounted Riflemen and civilian laborers in Costilla County, Colorado. Named after Brigadier General John Garland, Commander of the Ninth Military District. Abandoned in 1883.
Fort Garland came to be because nearby Fort Massachusetts proved to be unhealthy and poorly situated. Moving the post six miles to the south into the San Luis Valley from the base of Blanca Peak would make a big difference in the health of the troops and reduced the vulnerability of the post to surprise attack. A 25-year lease was negotiated by the U.S. Government for land in the valley on 17 July 1857 and construction began on the new fort. The adobe construction was accomplished by men from Company E, U.S. Mounted Riflemen and civilian laborers experienced in the method. On 24 Jun 1858 Fort Massachusetts was abandoned and the garrison moved to the almost complete Fort Garland.
The post was built as an open plan adobe post with the majority of buildings grouped around a central parade. On the north side was the officer's quarters, with quarters for nine officers including medical officers. On the east side was the cavalry barracks and on the west side was the infantry barracks. The south side contained the administrative and functional spaces. Additional outlying buildings housed the commissary, blacksmith, and stables. The original construction provided for a garrison of seven officers and two 100 man companies. The adobe construction provided a degree of comfort from the heat in summer and some protection from the severe winters but the quarters were spartan and the weather took a toll on the men.
During the U.S. Civil War Fort Garland served as an enlistment and rendezvous center for Colorado Union Volunteer troops. Several volunteer companies were formed and participated in the Battle of Glorieta Pass that thwarted Confederate General Henry H. Sibley's attempt to bring the war to the far west.
In1866 the legendary Kit Carson was assigned to Fort Garland as commander. His assignment was made in the hope that he could control the Ute Indians and prevent a war. Kit Carson's friendship with the Indians and his personal influence went a long way to calm tensions but Kit Carson fell ill and was forced to resign in October 1867. Kit Carson died on 23 May 1868 in the surgeon's quarters at Fort Lyon (2).
Peace with the Ute Indians lasted until 1879 when they killed an Indian agent and eleven others. The Utes were then removed to reservations in Utah and southern Colorado. Fort Garland expanded to fifteen companies during the Indian troubles and many were housed in tents.
Fort Garland was abandoned in 1883.
Part of the Fort Garland Museum operated by the Colorado Historical Society in Fort Garland, Costilla County, Colorado.
Visited: 25 Sep 2011