Friday, September 27, 2013

The Other Las Vegas and a Visit to Historic Fort Union

We moved on to historic Las Vegas, (NM not NV) a small city that grew as an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail.  The city is where the high plains that you see looking East meet the mountains to the West.  Las Vegas has more than 900 buildings that are registered as National Historical Landmarks.  Las Vegas is also the spot where US General Kearney claimed the territory for the United States during the Mexican American War.  Because the city is so well preserved it has been the site of many movies from Tom Mix's in the early 1900's, to Easy Rider in 1968 and True Grit in 2010.  More the fifty films have been shot here. 
The Plaza Hotel, which was built in 1882, is a fine example of the towns architecture that is more Victorian, Queen Anne and Renaissance Revival than Southwestern.  The hotel has hosted many famous and infamous, from Doc Holiday and Billy the Kid to a reunion for Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. 
There are many well preserved old buildings around the beautiful town square.
Looking down the street from the square, the old storefronts are all in great shape.
These three old cars parked on the square would have fit in at any time in the last 75 years.  If you want to step back in time, Las Vegas is a great stop. 
Give me a home where ...... the antelope roam.  We really know we are "out West" when we begin to see antelope along the highway.
We did a short road trip to Fort Union National Monument and the Santa Fe National Historical Trail.  After this area became part of the United States in 1846 there was a need to build a fort to protect the Santa Fe Trail.  The trail was the only route of commerce to the new US territory.  The fort was built where the longer but safer Mountain Route met the shorter but more dangerous Cimarron Branch of the trail.  
The first of three forts was built in 1851.  We were lucky to be there on one of only two days a year when the remains of the original fort are open to the public because the site is surrounded by private land.  This fort was typical of other western army forts that we have visited.  It was a small community where soldiers were stationed, but not built as a fortification that needed to have walls to protect it from an attack.
With the start of the Civil War in 1861 most regular troops from Fort Union were sent East.  With New Mexico volunteers the base commander built the second fort, a more defensible star shaped earthen fortification.  The fort never saw action because soldiers from here stopped the Confederate invasion at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.  After the defeat, the Confederates withdrew to Texas ending all Civil War action in the Southwest.  The star shaped fort was then abandoned. 
A few artifacts from the soldiers life at Fort Union.  The background shows the wagon ruts of the Santa Fe Trail.
A typical encampment of the frontiers soldiers when they were in the field.
A third and final Fort Union was built starting in 1863.  This is the remains of the hospital that was the largest medical facility within 500 miles.  The hospital served both military and civilians.
Looking across the plains at the remains of the last Fort Union.  This is what a traveler would have seen as they were approaching the fort after traveling across miles of plains.
The remains of the officers' row.  The homes were much larger than those for enlisted troops' families and the barracks for the other soldiers. 
The parade ground of the fort.  The grass is much greener than usual because of all the flooding rain they have gotten lately.
The few standing walls are being saved with a special adobe compound.
Remains of the Mechanic Corral where repairs were made to travelers' wagons. 
The only stone building was the military prison.  Of all the frontier forts we have visited, Fort Union is the only one that does not have any restored buildings that would give you a better look at the life on the frontier. 
On our last evening in Las Vegas we were sure we were seeing one of those New Mexico UFO's (Roswell like) when we saw this huge glow in the sky.  Very cool!!  When we put the binoculars on it we saw that it was another New Mexico phenomenon, a big gas balloon.  If you are into old, historic towns, make sure you put Las Vegas, NM on your list.  We really enjoyed the visit.

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Another place for the list. Fort Union looks really neat!