Owen Visits Ft. Union, NM

Owen enjoys riding in the Prius, and he’s on the job — watching for other dogs and for pedestrians who are in his sense of territory, and growling and woofing at them. He instinctively knows that his job is security.

We set out to explore the Fort Union National Monument in northeast New Mexico. The fort served as the major supply depot for the United States Army posts in the Southwest from 1851 to 1891. Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner (later commander of the II Corps in the Army of the Potomac until he died following the Battle at Fredericksburg) supervised the construction of the first of three forts at the site. Supplies for the army in the Southwest came by wagon from Missouri, following the Santa Fe Trail. Ruts of Santa Fe Trail wagons score the fragile high prairie around the fort.

Sumner sited the fort near where the Cimarron Cutoff branch of the Santa Fe Trail rejoined the Raton branch a few miles north of Las Vegas, NM, and near the Mora River. The livestock grazed the lush prairie grasses in the area.

Most of the fort buildings were constructed of adobe bricks, although some buildings were built of logs cut in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Some masonry was used where appropriate — such as to line the latrines.

The fort comprised barracks for the rank and file, officer quarters, and a vast array of workshops needed to repair wagons, harness, and shoe horses and mules. Warehouses stored the supplies that were distributed to forts to the south and southwest. The munitions were stored apart from the operations and residential areas.

As befitting his role as head of security, Owen kept a keen eye on the fierce antelope he spotted far way on the grounds of the National Monument.

Metro-complex at Mesa Verde

In the mid-13th century, Native American corn growers and their families fled their drought stricken farms  south and west of their cultural center at Chaco in what is now New Mexico.

Image Credit: National Park Service: Pueblo Bonito, Chaco National Park

These ancestral pueblo peoples had endured year after year of drought. The religion and agronomy promoted by the Chaco elite had failed to induce the rain gods to nurture their crops. Famine destroyed their faith and led them to seek territory with more rain. Some fled north to the higher altitudes of southwestern Colorado and southern Utah. They built many pueblos on the mesas drained by McElmo’s Creek and farmed the mesa tops and stream bottoms. Canyons of the Ancients.

The crops thrived with more rain, but at the higher altitudes, the growing season was shorter and variable. A late planting or an early frost severely cut into the yields of corn, beans, and squash. Moreover, they competed for arable land with peoples who had been farming in the region for centuries.

Facing starvation, the men of a stricken pueblo would attack a town that had more ample food. The warfare destroyed vulnerable pueblos and led others to settle in defensible sites. For example, the Hovenweep settlement.

Perhaps, most dramatically, were the many defensive pueblos built below the southern rim of Mesa Verde.

Ancestral pueblo peoples had lived on top of the mesa for about three centuries. The arrival of immigrants from the south along with  drought led to conflict. For safety, they built the spectacular pueblos below the mesa top that are now preserved at Mesa Verde National Park.

 

 

However, the drought and the social chaos it generated forced the peoples to abandon the metro-complex that they had built at Mesa Verde and the Canyon lands. Most of them re-settled in the upper Rio Grande Valley and developed the various Pueblo societies and cultures that now reside there. Link