One of our stops was an Apache Battleground near the area where Captain Stanton was killed. This drives my husband nuts but I LOVE stopping and reading the historical markers around New Mexico. I usually try to photograph them and the area. As luck would have it after I took a picture of the marker I jumped back into the FJ Cruiser and realized I forgot to take a picture of the area.
This marker can be found on US-82 and NM-130 IN Mayhill, NM. If you get the chance to go please stop to the Mayhill Cafe. SSSOOOO GOOODDD!!!!!
APACHE BATTLEGROUND: In this immediate vicinity, Captain Henry W. Stanton of the U.S. Army, for whom Fort Stanton was named, lost his life in 1855 in a skirmish with the Mescalero Apaches. For several weeks, soldiers commanded by Stanton and Captain Richard E. Ewell, were in pursuit of Indians who had stolen livestock from the Pecos River area south of Anton Chiro. In the final confrontation lives were lost on both sides.
TRAIL TALES: The Legend of Capt. Stanton
By Ollie Reed Jr.MAYHILL - There's just one sentence on the sign, less than 40 words. Unless you're looking for it, you might not even notice the marker, and on this day, a tranquil, golden Sunday morning earlier this month, it's all but hidden by the tractor-trailer rig nosed up to within a few feet of it.
Albuquerque Tribune Reporter
In this immediate vicinity, Captain Henry W. Stanton of the U.S. Army, for whom Fort Stanton was named, lost his life in 1855 in a skirmish with the Mescalero Apaches.
The immediate vicinity referred to in the sign is the area around Mayhill, a tiny farming and ranching community and outdoor recreation center center 28 miles east of Alamogordo. Mayhill was settled in the 1880s and is in the lap of the thickly wooded Sacramento Mountains.
The sign, one of those historic
One sign, one sentence, less than 40 words, just a roadside footnote.
And yet the event snared between those few lines is as action-packed, heart-pounding and blood-curdling, as violent, courageous and frightening as any scene director
Capt. Stanton must have been surprised to see Indians bolt from the lodges as he and his men trotted their horses into the Sacramento Mountain ravine on the afternoon of Jan. 19, 1855.
For several weeks, 24 dragoons, or mounted soldiers, and 50 infantrymen commanded by Stanton and another 80 men commanded by Capt. Richard S. Ewell, had been after Indians, presumably Mescalero Apaches, who had stolen livestock from the Pecos River area south of Anton Chico.
Ewell, who would later gain fame and lose a leg as a Confederate general during the Civil War, set off on his pursuit of the Indians from Anton Chico, located in the northwest corner of what is now Guadalupe County. Stanton's force moved out from Fort Fillmore, which was six miles south of Las Cruces. The two columns met on Jan. 13, 1855, at Sierra Blanca, also known as Old Baldy, the snow-topped peak seven miles northwest of Ruidoso.
From there, the combined force followed its quarry's trail south toward the Sacramento Mountains. The chasing was tough through that rugged, winter-cold mountain country. But the catching up was worse as indicated by this diary entry, written by James A. Bennett, a soldier in Capt. Ewell's G Company.
Jan. 18 - Camped in a ravine. High rocks are upon both sides. 11 o'clock at
At dawn on Jan. 19, the soldiers found 100 Mescalero warriors taunting them from the side of a mountain. The dragoons mounted up and a running fight lasted throughout the day.
That afternoon, several Mescalero lodges were seen 500 yards up a valley. Stanton and a squad of his men set off to investigate.
Despite the brazen behavior displayed by the Indians up to that point, Stanton probably didn't expect to find any of them lounging around inside dwellings so close to the fighting.
But when several Mescaleros darted from the lodges and plunged into the pi§on, juniper and ponderosa pine along the ravine, Stanton put the spurs to his horse and went lickety brindle after the Indians.
Better mounted than his men, Stanton soon outdistanced them and had to wait for his squad to catch up. By that time the trail was cold, so Stanton ordered his men back to camp. They walked, leading their lathered horses through a narrow valley now known as James Canyon.
A bullet from the first volley hit one of Stanton's men in the head, killing him instantly. The soldiers had walked into an ambush at a place where trees lined both sides of the valley.
At first, Stanton told his men to take cover behind the timber, but when he realized the Mescaleros had the advantage in number and position, he ordered the soldiers to ride for camp, which was only three-quarters of a mile away.
The brave Stanton and an equally courageous private stayed behind to cover the retreat. Stanton was reloading his carbine when he was killed by a shot through the head. The private was surrounded by the Mescaleros and killed by their lances.
Meanwhile, Ewell, alerted by the shooting, sent a squad of men racing to the scene. There, after a fierce 20-minute firefight, the soldiers drove off the Mescaleros.
Three months later, a Mexican boy, who had been a prisoner of the Apaches during this fight, told Bennett a chief and 11 or 12 other Indians had been killed during the skirmishing in the Sacramentos.
But the soldiers were unsure of how much damage they had inflicted on the enemy when they brought the bodies of Stanton and his two men back to camp on Jan. 19.
That evening, Bennett, on guard alone on the camp's perimeter, could hear the spades and pickaxes hitting stone as other soldiers dug graves. It was a long, nervous night for Bennett, as he records in his journal.
Jan. 19 - I was lying alone upon a blanket, waiting and watching anxiously the approach of the foe. I heard the noise of something coming very stealthily through the bushes. The dry leaves rattled. My nerves were at their utmost tension, when I was pleased to discover the intruder to be a large, white mountain wolf, easily frightened off. No Indians were to be seen in the morning.
The troops burned fires over the graves in an effort to conceal them from the Apaches, intending to come back for the bodies later.
After several days of fruitlessly pursuing the Mescaleros through the snow and ice-encrusted mountains, the soldiers, short on provisions, most of which had been lost while crossing a stream, turned back.
On Jan. 23, they reached the spot where they had buried Stanton and his two men. Indians had discovered the graves, dug up the bodies and made off with the blankets that had been wrapped around the corpses. Wolves, ravens and buzzards had been feeding on the men's remains.
"Revolting sight," Bennett noted at the time.
The soldiers built a fire and put the men's bodies on it. When what was left of flesh and sinew had been burned away, they packed up the charred bones and retreated from the mountains. On Feb. 2, 1855, they reached Fort Fillmore.
Facing the Mescaleros and enduring the harshness of the frigid mountains had been easy compared to telling Stanton's wife what had happened. For an hour after the troops returned to the fort, she stood at her front door, waiting for her husband until a soldier finally found the courage to inform her of his death.
On Feb. 3, the bones of Stanton and the two slain privates were buried at the fort with full military honors.
By the summer of 1855, construction of a fort named in Stanton's memory was underway. Henry Whiting Stanton was born into the military life in 1823. His father, a Vermont native also named Henry, served in the artillery during the War of 1812, and the elder Stanton's work in the quartermaster department during the Mexican War earned him promotion to brigadier general.
Gen. John Garland, who commanded the military in New Mexico in 1855, also was a Vermont native and a veteran of the War of 1812. He knew both Henry Stanton, the father, and Henry Stanton, the son.
When Garland determined to build a fort in the heart of Mescalero country, he suggested that it be named Fort Stanton, in honor of the dead son and - no doubt - in sympathy for the father, who was still living.
Several sites were considered before a location four miles southeast of Capitan was settled on in the spring of 1855. Bennett marked the occasion in his diary.
March 19 - General John Garland selected the site for the fort today. The officers all got drunk.
The fort has proven to be a colorful, useful and long-lasting monument to a soldier whose name would have otherwise been lost to history.
With the exception of a brief period during the Civil War, when it was abandoned by Union troops and occupied by Confederate soldiers, Fort Stanton served as a U.S. Army post from its founding in 1855 until 1896.
Col. Christopher "Kit" Carson of the New Mexico Volunteers operated his campaign against the Mescaleros out of Fort Stanton in 1862 and 1863.
New Mexico Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace is said to have written part of his famous historical novel "Ben Hur" while visiting the fort.
Col. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, who would later fight in the Spanish-American War, lead U.S. troops into Mexico after Pancho Villa and command American forces in Europe during World War I, was assigned to Fort Stanton on Aug. 26, 1887, the year after he graduated from West Point.
Even after the fort was closed in 1896, it did not remain idle long. In 1899, it became the first U.S. Public Health Service Hospital of its kind, a facility devoted to the treatment of merchant seamen suffering from tuberculosis. It continued in this function until 1952 when drugs that could more effectively deal with tuberculosis became available.
In 1939, before the United States even entered World War II, Fort Stanton became this country's first prisoner of war camp. The British shelled a German luxury liner off Cuba in December of that year. The ship sank, and its crew, rescued by Americans, became the "guests" of the United States at Fort Stanton for the rest of the war.
From 1953 to 1995, the fort served as a New Mexico state hospital for the developmentally disabled. It was a women's prison from 1996 to 1999, and since the summer of 2000 it has been the site of a drug- and alcohol-treatment program for ex-convicts.
"The program has been very successful," Gerges Scott, spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Corrections said.
So, more than 146 years after he was killed, Capt. Henry W. Stanton's name lives on in the facility built in tribute to him.
But his story is summed up on roadside marker in Mayhill. One sign, one sentence, less than 40 words, just a footnote to history, just one man's life.
Ollie Reed Jr.'s Trail Tales is a collection of stories rooted in the rich history and legends of New Mexico and the Southwest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 823-3619.
TRAIL GUIDE For more information about Fort Stanton and Army engagements with Indian tribes on the New Mexico frontier, look for:
"Forts and Forays: A Dragoon in New Mexico, 1850-1856," by James A. Bennett, edited by Clinton E. Brooks and Frank D. Reeve; University of New Mexico press, 1948, republished 1996.
"Fort Stanton, New Mexico," by F. Stanley, 1964.
"Fort Stanton and Its Community: 1855-1896," by John P. Ryan, Yucca Free Press, 1998.
"Fort Stanton, New Mexico: The Military Years, 1855-1896," by Lee Myers, Lincoln County Historical Society Publications, 1988.
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