Fort Selden

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Picture of Fort Selden
Fort Selden State Monument
Post Office Box 58
Radium Springs, New Mexico 88054
Phone: 505-526-8911
Fax: 505-526-8911
Nathan Stone - Manager
Elva Melendrez - State Monument Ranger

Fort Selden is located along the Rio Grande approximately 13 miles north of Las Cruces, in southern New Mexico. Take I-25 north to the Radium Springs exit. Go west about two miles to the Fort Selden State Monument. Food and gas are available locally, and camping is permitted at Leasburg State Park, next to the monument.

Hours

Open 8:30 - 4:30
May 1 - Sept. 15 9:30 - 5:30

Admission

$2 for adults
16 and younger free
New Mexico residents half price on Sundays
New Mexico seniors free on Wednesdays

Picture of New Mexico TerritoryNew Mexico Territory
8 May 1865 - April 1889

Fort Selden is a territorial fort established on the Rio Grande at the present site of Radium Springs, New Mexico. The location was an ancient Indian campground and a crossing point for Spanish caravans headed across the Jornada del Muerto ("Journey of Death"). General Douglas McArthur spent several years at Fort Selden during his childhood, during the period his father was the Commanding Officer. The fort's ruins and museum offer an intriguing glimpse of the area's settlement.

In April, 1865, troops were ordered from Albuquerque to the site of Fort Selden to begin construction on the post. Quarters for one company of infantry and one company of cavalry, with sixty horses, were constructed. Troopers of the garrison did the construction, along with some civilian workers and military prisoners.

The entire post was constructed of adobe, with flat, dirt-roofed, one-story buildings, with the exception of the Administration Building. Water was hauled by wagon from the Rio Grande, and stored in large water barrels.

The nearest town was a rough place called Leasburg (still existing) which had saloons, friendly ladies, and a bad reputation for violence -- it was soon placed off limits to the soldiers. Dona Ana was twelve miles south, and Las Cruces several miles further.

During the Civil War, up to 1870, privates received $16 a month, corporals $20, up to the ordinance sergeants, who received nearly $40. The pay scale was lowered by about $3 after 1870, which is reported to have caused wholesale desertions.

3rd Cavalry 1866-1870 Companies B, K
4th Cavalry 1883 Troop B
8th Cavalry 1870-1874 Companies C, G, I, K
9th Cavalry 1876-1877,1881 Companies F, M
10th Infantry 1886-1888 Company D
13th Infantry 1881-1886 Companies B, D, K
15th Infantry 1870,1873-1876,1881 Companies D, F, H, I, K
24th Infantry 1888-1891 Det. of Companies A, D, F, H
38th Infantry 1867-1869 Company K
125th Infantry 1866-1867 Companies A, E, F, I
Volunteers 1865-1866

After the Civil War, Congress created four regiments of Black soldiers -- two of cavalry and two of infantry. The first regular army troops to garrison Fort Selden were four companies of the 125th Infantry.

The 9th Cavalry and the 21st, 38th and 125th Infantry were Buffalo Soldiers-units made up of Black soldiers. The Indians referred to them as Buffalo Soldiers because of their short, curly hair and fighting spirit - two attributes shared with the buffalo.

Desertion was always a problem at Fort Selden. Post chores were monotonous and sometimes demeaning, and there was very little to do except gamble, go to the Post Trader's bar, or the ladies and saloons of Leasburg.

However, desertion usually decreased when Black soldiers garrisoned the fort.

To protect the citizens of the Mesilla Valley from the Mescalero Apaches, the commander of Fort Selden established several picket posts. Ten privates of the Third Cavalry were stationed at Aleman Station, a halfway point on the Jornada del Muerto, which served as a stage station, post office, and later a telegraph office.
The other picket post was at San Augustine Pass, a gap in the San Andres Mountains between Las Cruces and White Sands. Livestock from nearby ranches were constantly stolen by Indians around the pass, and several civilians killed. In 1869, the post commander wrote that:

The San Augustine Pass is regarded by all as the most dangerous place in this section of New Mexico.

By 1882, El Paso had grown into a major railroad center. Fort Bliss in El Paso was chosen for expansion, and Fort Selden was doomed to be abandoned. In 1887, no expenditure for repairs was authorized, and in 1888, the last full company of troops left. The military reservation of Fort Selden was turned over to the Interior Department in February of 1890. A small detachment of troopers from Fort Bayard remained until January 20, 1891, when Lieutenant James E. Brett filed the last post return:

Fort Selden was declared a New Mexico state monument in 1974.

The Fort Selden Visitor's Center displays exhibits depicting life at the fort -- nineteenth-century military weapons, uniforms, archaeological artifacts, and rare photographs of the U.S. Army in the West.

Communities and Related Links
Las Cruces Community
Fort Selden Web Site

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