Historic Fort Garland

Fort Garland is a restored Union fort located in the town of Fort Garland in south-central Colorado. Fort Garland, which opened in June 1858, consisted of adobe buildings built in a square around a central parade ground. There were quarters for nine officers on the north side of the parade ground, a barracks for a company of cavalry on the east and a barracks for a company of infantry on the west. Two long buildings on the south side of the parade ground included administrative offices and store rooms. Additional buildings included a hospital, sutler's store, and stables.

With the advent of the Civil War in 1861 the companies of the 10th Infantry stationed at Fort Garland moved to Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory, and the fort served as an enlistment and assembly center for Colorado volunteeers. In 1862 two companies of Colorado Volunteer Infantry left Fort Garland to join Union troops in the Battle of Glorieta Pass against Confederate Texans. In 1866, Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson and troops from the 1st New Mexico Infantry and Cavalry Battalion garrisoned Fort Garland. Carson was instrumental in keeping peace between settlers and local Ute Indians in the San Luis Valley. Carson and the New Mexico Volunteers were replaced by Regular Army troops in November of 1867. The Ninth Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) was stationed at the fort between 1876 and 1879 and were instrumental in keeping peace between the Utes and white settlers. In 1879 peace with the Utes ended abruptly when angry Utes killed Indian Agent Natan Meeker and 8 others (refer to the White River Museum photoessay). Fort Garland served as a base of operations during the Ute Wars that ended in 1880 when the Utes were forced onto reservations. The Army abandoned Fort Garland in November 1883.

The Colorado Historical Society restored the fort and opened the Fort Garland Museum in 1950 which is currently operated by History Colorado as one of its regional museums.

Fort Garland Museum Sign

Gift Shop
formerly Officers Quarters

Book Store
formerly Officers Quarters

Book Store

Parade Ground (May 1995)

Parade Ground (Sept 2020)

Cavalry Barracks

Cavalry and infantry units had separate barracks, kitchens, and latrines. The "Soldiers Theater" picured below was most likely really a barracks. The military crib was a bunk bed sleeping two men to a bunk (4 men per crib). This practice was stopped by the surgeon general in 1875 and the crib replaced with single beds.

Soldiers Theater

The Cavalry Trooper



The Original Water Cooler

Military Crib

Guard House

The Guard House was situated next to the original sally port (main entrance) of the fort. This guard house was heated by a single fireplace in the main room. Soldiers served 24 hours shifts on guard duty. The Guard House also contained 3 prison cells. Each prisoner was given a blanket, daily meal, chamber pot, and apparently nothing else.

Guard Room

Guard Room

Prison Cell

Civil War in the West

The Civil War in the West consisted of one incursion by Confederate Texas cavalry and several companies of Arizona militia into New Mexico Teritory in 1862. The first engagement between Union and Confederate forces occured at Valverde ford on the Rio Grande near Fort Craig. Soldiers of the 10th Infantry sent to Fort Craig from Fort Garland participated in this battle. The Battle of Valverde was a victory for the Confederates, who continued north to capture the capital of Santa Fe. Union forces met the Confederates at Glorieta Pass southeast of Santa Fe for the second and final engagement of the New Mexico Campaign, the Battle of Glorieta Pass. This was a decisive Union victory that ended the New Mexico Campaign, with the Confederates retreating back to Texas. Several companies of Colorado Volunteer Infantry from Fort Garland played a significant role in the battle.

Confederate Artillerymen firing
a 12-Pound Brass Howitzer

Confederate 12-Pound Howitzer

Civil War Display

Battle of Glorieta Pass Diorama

Civil War Exhibit

Buffalo Soldiers

The Ninth Cavalry, a unit of African Americans known as Buffalo Soldiers, was stationed at Fort Garland from 1876 to 1879 (refer to Oklahoma Fort Reno photoessay). These soldiers were tasked with keeping peace between the Utes and white settlers and prospectors, and saw significant action during the Ute War.

Buffalo Soldiers Exhibit

Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldiers, 24th Infantry
Yosemite National Park, 1899

"Did his duty under the flag,"

"whether that flag protected him or not."

Educational Opportunities and Everyday Items

Infantry Barracks

Fort Garland could accommodate two infantry companies of 100 men each. The enlisted men lived in the barracks and sergeants occupied small adjoining rooms. The barracks contain many artifacts and dioramas depicting various subjects from the middle to late 1800s.

Small Artillery Piece

Part of the Spaniards Diorama

Old Spanish Trail Diorama

Ute Indian Village Diorama


Army Escort Wagon Diorama

Stage Holdup Diorama

Sergeant's Room

Officers Quarters

The Officers Quarters lined the north side of the fort. Officers quarters were very upscale compared to the soldiers barracks. Officers could bring their families to the fort, and the commandant had his own private house. The Officers Quarters currently house museum offices, gift shop, bookstore, and exhibits on contruction techniques, conservation and restoration efforts, Kit Carson, and other subjects.

West Officers Quarters

Fort Massachusetts model

Conservation and Restoration Efforts

Adobe Construction

Parade Ground and Flag

Cavalry Barracks
View from across the Parade Ground

Background information obatined from Fort Garland Museum brochures, Wikipedia, historycolorado.org, and armyhistory.org
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