Fort Selden State Monument
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.
Open 8:30 - 4:30
May 1 - Sept. 15 9:30 - 5:30
$2 for adults
16 and younger free
New Mexico residents half price on Sundays
New Mexico seniors free on Wednesdays
For more information, contact:
Fort Selden State Monument
Post Office Box 58
Radium Springs, New Mexico 88054
Nathan Stone - Manager
Elva Melendrez - State Monument Ranger
New 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
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
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
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
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.
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