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Action heats up at Camp Lewis

Starting a new military post in an unsettled, remote area such as Pagosa Springs was in 1878 was not an easy task as we will learn over the next few weeks while we study the first records from Camp, later Fort Lewis.

Special Order No. 1 issued at Camp Lewis in Pagosa Springs read,

“I. ‘2nd Lt. A.R. Paxton. 15th Infantry, will in addition to his other duties, perform the duties as Post Adjutant.

“II. Sergeant William Jackson, ‘I Co., 15th Infantry,’ is hereby detailed on duty as acting Post Sergeant Major.

“III.. Private John V. Wolsey ‘I Co., 15th Infantry,’ is hereby detailed in extra duty as laborer in Subsistence Department.

“Ordered by Capt. Hartz

“Nov. 8, 1878.”

Reading the Special Orders over the next few days reveals that the following officers were in camp: 2nd Lt. A.R. Paxton, 15th Infantry; 1st Lt. G. Valois, 9th Cavalry; 2nd Lt. C.A. W. MacCauley, 3rd Cavalry; 2nd Lt. J.F. Guilfoyle, 9th Cavalry; Capt. Hartz, 15th Infantry, and 1st Lt. Geo. A. Cornish, 15th Infantry.

Special Order No. 5 dated Dec. 4, 1878, orders 1st Lt. Cornish to proceed without further delay to Animas City, Colo., for the purpose of making arrangements for the immediate delivery of hay purchased for the use of public animals “at this place.” He will be governed in the duty assigned him by the instructions received from the post commander. The duty being performed, he will return to this post without delay. The Quarter Master Dept. will furnish the necessary transportation.

As the reader might guess, getting hay in an area where there were no ranchers was a serious problem. Animas City was located about 60 miles to the west in what today is the northern part of Durango. There was no Durango in 1878. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad had not yet crossed the Continental Divide at Cumbres Pass. Durango was a creation of Gen. Palmer’s railroad.

By Dec. 12, 1878, we read Special Order No. 7.

“I. Owing to the heavy fall of snow and the impossibility of procuring a sufficient supply of forage for the public animals at this place, 1st Lt. John F. Guilfoyle, 9th Cavalry, will proceed tomorrow morning to Animas City, Colo. With a detachment from ‘D’ Co., 9th Cav. of one non-commissioned officer and seven men, all the cavalry horses and such other public animals as are not required for immediate use. He will obtain the necessary stabling and corral accommodations, and the allowance of hay for public animals not in field service from the U.S. forage agency at that place, also the food allowance for the detachment under his command. The allowance of grain for animals not in field service will be fed from the grain belonging to the Q.M Dept. now in store at that place. He will hold himself, the Detachment, and animals under his charge in readiness to return to this place at an hour’s notice. The detachment will be rationed for 30 days from and inclusive of the 13th inst.”