Fort Selden

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Fort Selden
Fort Selden is located in New Mexico
Fort Selden
Location Radium Springs, Doña Ana County, New Mexico, USA
Nearest city Las Cruces, NM
Coordinates 32°29′01″N 106°55′10″W / 32.48361°N 106.91944°W / 32.48361; -106.91944Coordinates: 32°29′01″N 106°55′10″W / 32.48361°N 106.91944°W / 32.48361; -106.91944
Built 1865
Architectural style No Style Listed
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 70000401 [1]
Added to NRHP July 09, 1970
RuinsofFortSelden.jpg

Fort Selden was a United States Army post, occupying the area in what is now Radium Springs, New Mexico. Established in 1865 for the purpose of protecting westward settlers from Native American raids, the post fell into disrepair after the American Civil War. It was ultimately abandoned in 1891, due in large part to the decision to expand Fort Bliss and the lack of any expenditures for repair of the facility.

History[edit]

The area near Las Cruces had developed a population base early on by travelers along El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, who valued the fertile land along the Rio Grande and were uneasy about moving further north on the Jornada del Muerto.

Fort Selden was established in 1865 in an effort to bring peace among the varied inhabitants in the south central region of present day New Mexico. Their primary intent was to protect settlers and travelers in the Mesilla Valley from desperados and Mescalero Apache Indians. Built near the banks of the Rio Grande, the adobe fort housed units of U.S. Army Infantry and Cavalry.

The first troops to occupy the fort were companies of the 125th US Colored Infantry Regiment, a group of African-American enlisted soldiers from Kentucky who had been mustered into the Union Army near the close of the American Civil War. Several of the units assigned later, including the 38th Infantry Regiment, 9th US Cavalry and 10th US Cavalry, all composed of black troopers, sometimes referred to as Buffalo Soldiers. As a testament to their bravery, nine Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor while serving in New Mexico Territory.

In 1884, Captain Arthur MacArthur, Jr., 13th Infantry, was assigned as post commander. With him was his wife and two young sons, Arthur MacArthur III, age 7, and Douglas MacArthur, age 4. In his memoirs, Douglas MacArthur wrote that it was at Fort Selden that he and his brother learned to ride and shoot, even before we learned to read and write. The MacArthurs spent two years at Fort Selden before Captain MacArthur was transferred to Fort Wingate.

By late 1886, the frontier had rapidly changed. Geronimo's surrender to Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona ended the nation's long Indian Wars.

As a result, Army commander-in-chief, Lt. General William Tecumseh Sherman, ordered a consolidation of six military posts in southern New Mexico and eastern Arizona. He favored a giant, one-square-mile installation large enough to accommodate six troops of cavalry and six companies of infantry. Sherman further ordered that the permanent post be located near the junction of the Santa Fe Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad in southern New Mexico. For a time, Fort Selden was the leading candidate for the site of the new post, but because the railroads had brought spectacular growth to the El Paso, Texas area, Fort Bliss, was selected.

By 1890, criminals and raiding parties were no longer considered a threat as hostilities eventually lessened and the fort was no longer needed. Like many small forts in the American Southwest, the government decommissioned the fort and it was abandoned for the last time in 1891. On 20 January 1891, Lt. James Brett, commanding a small caretaker force, filed the final post return, which reported:

"All public property from this post having been disposed of, it was abandoned on this date."

Fort Selden Historic Site[edit]

FortSeldenStateMonumentEntrance.jpg

For decades, the ruins of Fort Selden were consumed by the ravages of rain, snow and wind. Vandals, souvenir hunters and treasure-seekers added to its demise. In 1963, the land encompassing Fort Selden was donated to the state by Harry N. Bailey, a longtime resident of the area. In 1970, the fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1974, the fort was declared a New Mexico State Monument. It is overseen by the New Mexico Historic Sites (formerly State Monuments) Division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

The present day ruins are available for viewing via an interpretive trail. A visitor center offers exhibits on frontier and military life. Fort Selden Historic Site is located 13 miles (21 km) north of Las Cruces, New Mexico, off Exit 19 of Interstate 25, near Radium Springs, New Mexico.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 

External links[edit]