Fort Webster (2)

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Fort Webster (2) (1804-1852) - A fortification first established as a Spanish Presidio in 1804 near the Santa Rita Copper Mine in present day Grant County, New Mexico. Used by the US-Mexican Boundary Commission as Cantonment Dawson in 1851. Named Fort Webster in Department Order #44, 23 Jan 1852, after Daniel Webster, U.S. Secretary of State (1841-1843, 1850-1852), U.S. Senator (1845-1850, 1827-1841)) and U.S. Representative (1813-1817, 1823-1827). Abandoned in 1852.

Santa Rita del Cobre Presidio (1804-184?, 1850-1851, 1852)

The rich copper deposits at what became the Santa Rita del Cobre copper mine were first discovered by Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Jose Manuel Carrasco in 1799. The mines were developed and furnished the Spanish in Mexico with high grade copper ore that was used for coinage and many other uses. Relations with the local Apache Indians soured and attacks on the miners and settlers began. The Spanish responded by building the Santa Rita del Cobre Presidio to provide protection.

The Presidio at the Santa Rita Copper Mines was built in 1804 by Francisco Manuel Elguea to protect the mine from the increasingly hostile Apache Indians. The Presidio fortification was built as a triangle with a round towers at each of the three angles, all connected by high walls.

Santa Rita del Cobre Fort HABS Drawing - Location
Santa Rita del Cobre Fort HABS Drawing - Tower

The Presidio remained in use after the Mexican Revolution (1810-1821) and the mines continued to operate intermittently up to the Mexican War (1846-1848) under a constant threat from hostile Apache Indians. The Presidio was occupied at times by Mexican Troops and was also known as Fort Santa Rita and Fort Santa Rita del Cobre.

The end of the Mexican War came with the signing of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on 2 Feb 1848. The treaty recognized the U.S. annexation of Texas and Mexico ceded California and parts of present day Arizona and New Mexico to the U.S. A boundary commission was set up to establish the boundaries.


Boundary Commission (1850-1854)

File:Gadsden Purchase Cities ZP.svg
The yellow area is the Gadsden Purchase with the initial boundary along the top and the final boundary at the bottom

The old Presidio at Santa Rita was chosen as a base camp for the Boundary Commission because it was just about the only habitable place along the boundary line in present day New Mexico and the mines themselves were at issue. The boundary drawn by the commission placed the mines in the U.S. although Mexico claimed that they were in Mexican territory. All of the efforts to draw this initial border line were later made moot by the Gadsden Purchase, ratified in 1854, which established the modern day boundaries of New Mexico and Arizona. The Boundary Commission finished its surveying on 15 Oct 1855.


Cantonment Dawson (1850-1851)

United States Boundary Commission occupied the old Presidio and mine buildings in April 1851 while determining the boundary between the United States and Mexico. The Commission was escorted by Captain Louis S. Craig, 3rd U.S. Infantry and a company of troops. Commissioner John R. Bartlett found the old Presidio in an excellent state of preservation. The structures were converted into quarters for the Commission and the military escort. Many of the more than 50 outlying buildings were also in good condition except for their roofs. The temporary post was named Cantonment Dawson. The Boundary Commission completed its work at the camp and left in October 1851.

Fort Webster at Santa Rita (1852)

On 28 Dec 1851 Bvt Major Israel B. Richardson (Cullum 1096) and Company K, 3rd U.S. Infantry, left Fort Fillmore arriving at the old Presidio on 23 Jan 1852 and established Fort Webster on the old site. The garrison was small, 77 officers and men, and fearful of the hostile Apache. Major Gouverneur Morris arrived on 10 Feb 1852 with Company E, 2nd U.S. Dragoons, as reinforcements bringing the assigned garrison to about 126. The fort proved to be difficult to defend and did not have sufficient forage for the additional animals. A decision was taken to move the fort to a better location close by.

Fort Webster at Mimbres River (1852-1853)

A site was selected on the Mimbres River about twelve miles east of Santa Rita del Cobre. On 9 Sep 1852, Fort Webster was moved to this new site retaining the name. The new Fort Webster also proved difficult to supply and defend and was abandoned on 20 Dec 1853.

Current Status

The site of the presidio, Cantonment Dawson and Fort Webster (2) is now a part of Chino Copper Mine in Grant County, New Mexico.


Location: Near Bayard, Grant County, New Mexico. The map point is the mine location not the fort location.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.7936868 Long: -108.0719859

Sources:


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