Well we just finished the annual frontier day here at Fort Selden last Saturday, and between the firing of several artillery pieces’ including a Mountain Howitzer and a Gatling Gun (my personal favorites), and the living history demonstration of Fort Selden’s Friends group as well as various volunteers we were able to acknowledge the 150th year of Fort Selden’s existence since being established in 1865. We hope that those who attended and took part in the day’s activities enjoyed themselves as much as we the staff did and with that we say thank you for attending, and if you were one of the volunteers thank you for your time to make this a wonderful event. We will be posting video and photos from the day directly to our Facebook page, Fort Selden Historic Site make sure to check us out there to view those.
The great World War II General Douglas MacArthur once called Fort Selden home, for a time during his early childhood. His father Arthur MacArthur was post commander during the 1880’s when the Fort was reopened.
It was a busy month here at Fort Selden our Friends group hosted the annual Mother’s Day Tea which like always was a big hit and you can read more about and see some of the pictures from the event on our Facebook page Fort Selden Historic Site.
We also got to meet with 80+ third graders from Alameda Elementary School that toured the museum and fort. The classes asked many awesome questions of the rangers here. Their tour ended with an Indian Wars uniform and equipment demonstration from one of the staff. You may see more photos from there tour on the Facebook Page.
On June 14th from ten AM tell one PM join us for live music performed by the Anslovers (Country, Bluegrass, Celtic, and Folk Fiddle) and a presentation on the Buffalo Soldiers’ by Chatauqua speaker, Fred Hampton. Don’t forget Father’s day breakfast on June 21st at nine AM come early as campfire biscuits & gravy go fast.
If you’re looking for something fun to do on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year come visit us and our friends for the annual Mother’s Day Tea and Father’s Day Breakfast. Admission for all Mothers on Mother’s day and all Fathers on Father’s Day is free of charge. Hope to see you there if you have any questions feel free to call Fort Selden Historic Site at (575)526-8911.
A little known fact about soldiering at Fort Selden is the extreme danger it could present. Five soldiers were awarded the highest honor available to the armed forces, the Congressional Medal of Honor. The action involved a battle against the Apache. These men were members of the 8th Cavalry Company C. The engagement took place between July 9 – 14, 1873 according to the post report; however the official citation has the battle taking place between July 8 – 11, 1873. The men were:
*Corporal Frank Bratling
*Sargent Leonidas S. Lytle
* First Sargent James L. Morris
* Company Blacksmith John Sheerin
*Private Henry Wills
Little information is known about the action as the actual citation only reads “Services against hostile Indians,” however the post report gives a little more detail. Captain George W. Chilson of Troop C 8th Calvary had this to say in his patrol report from the 17 of July 1873 (taken from Allan J. Holmes book, Fort Selden 1865 – 1891; The Birth, Life, and Death of a Frontier Fort in New Mexico):
Left post with ten mounted men on 9 Jul ultimo chasing Indians who had stolen horses from Shedd’s ranch…. After following them for 4 ½ days… caught them west of Cañada Alamosa. I report the loss of Corporal Frank Brautling (Bratling). Three Indians killed. The stock recovered. Distance covered 350 miles.
Corporal Bratling was the only one of the five to be killed in this battle and therefore the medal was awarded posthumously. It wasn’t until two years later on August 12, 1875 when these five were finally award their Medals’ of Honor.
Over the next couple of months we will highlight each of these men by providing you a little more history and background of their lives.
Today Aldo Leopold High School from Silver City, NM made their yearly trip to visit us here at Fort Selden. The students seemed to enjoy their visit and learn a little bit about how life was here at the fort. A big thanks to John Smith of the Friends of Fort Selden group for giving up a piece of his Sunday morning to give a blue suit demonstration to the students.
The following excerpt is found on pages 14 and 15 of General Douglas MacArthur’s memoirs: ‘Reminiscences’ McGraw- Hill Book Company, 1964.
The passage is reflective of a young lad moving to and living in an exciting and exotic land that most boys only dream of.
“We numbered but four in our little family when orders came in 1884 for “K” Company to march overland 300 miles from Fort Wingate to tiny Fort Selden, some 60 miles above El Paso, to guard the fords of the Rio Grande River from the ever-present danger of Geronimo’s marauding Indians. My first memories are of that march.
How well I recall veteran First Sergeant Peter Ripley as I trudged with him at the head of the column. At each halt a big Irish recruit named Moriarity would come complaining of sore feet and ask to ride in the ambulance. Each time the sergeant would refuse. At last the Irishman insisted on speaking to the captain, and Ripley brought him to my father. The recruit was a glib talker with his Irish wit and blarney, and seemed to me to have a good case until my father closed the matter decisively. “Moriarity,” he said, “growl you may, but march you must.”
And there was the native rancher of whom we asked, “How far to the next water hole?” “About ten miles,” he replied. On we labored for nearly three long, hot, dusty hours when we met another homesteader. “How far,” asked Ripley again, “to the next water hole?” And again the reply, “About ten miles.” And Ripley, turning to the sweating men listening anxiously on the rough trail, sad, “It’s all right, boys. Thank God, we’re holding our own.”
The little outpost at Fort Selden became our home for the next three years. Company “K,” with its two officers, its assistant surgeon, and forty-six enlisted men comprised the lonely garrison, sheltered in single-story, flat-roofed adobe buildings. It was here I learned to ride and shoot even before I could read or write-indeed, almost before I could walk and talk. My mother, with some help from my father, began the education of her two boys. Our teaching included not only the simple rudiments, but above all else, a sense of obligation. We were to do what was right no matter what the personal sacrifice might be. Our country was always to come first. Two things we must never do: never lie, never tattle.
As you travel north up the El Camino Real from Mexico you come to a part of the trail that is Known as the Jornada del Muerto which means Journey of Death. For nearly a hundred miles the El Camino Real leaves the banks and safety of the Rio Grande making water hard to come by and exposing travelers on the dry open landscape to various bands of outlaws, apaches, and other renegades looking for an easy target. Fort Selden marks the location were this section of trail began for those traveling north and were the long dry trail came back to the banks of the Rio Grande for those headed south. When the United States opened Fort Selden at this location the soldiers stationed here found themselves escorting various parties along this treacherous stretch of road on a regular basis.