In recent weeks, we’ve been writing about the trials and tribulations of building and operating Fort Lewis in Pagosa Springs during the severe winter of 1878.
This week, as the weather improves, we notice this letter to the District of New Mexico headquarters at Fort Marcy in Santa Fe. Dated April 16, the letter recommended “the cavalry horses of Company ‘D’ Ninth Cavalry be returned to this post. The supply of hay necessary for their consumption can now be readily obtained at a comparatively moderate price and the grazing in the vicinity is good.
“I make the recommendation only because there now seems to be a favorable opportunity for drill, and as a majority of the men of ‘D’ Company are recruits they are greatly in need of it, especially if they are to be ordered into the field during the coming summer.”
On May 9, 17 men under the command of Lt. Hughes left Pagosa Springs to join Lt. Guilfoyle, commanding 10 men already at Fort Garland.
Capt. Dodge turned over command of Fort Lewis to Lt. Cornish and reported to Fort Garland July 21. His last duty at Fort Lewis was to conduct a Garrison Court Martial of Cpl. Walter T. Clyde, trumpery Joseph N. Reid, and Pvt. Alfred Alexander, Pvt. Henry C. Grant, Pvt. Henry Emory, Pvt. William Lewis and Pvt. Francis A. West, all of Company “D” Ninth Cavalry. The enlisted men were convicted of breaking up a “ball” given by invitation only to civilians. There was evidently a fight, for the Army paid damages. The men were fined and confined to the guardhouse. Later, when the civilian bringing the charges had “left the country owing money,” the troops were returned to their units.
Due to Ute unrest throughout Colorado, Company “D” Ninth Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers, were ordered into the field, maintaining a patrol through North Park. Now assigned to Fort Garland in the San Luis Basin, they would soon be involved in the so-called Meeker Massacre that took place on the Northern Ute Reservation and resulted in the deaths of Indian Agent Nathan Meeker, who had a wooden stake driven through his heart, and all of the other civilians working on that reservation.