Fort Names

The current controversy over the names attached to various military posts (a week ago, how many Americans knew or cared who Braxton Bragg, John Bell Hood or Henry Benning were?) got me thinking about the names of various 19th Century forts in the Southwest. Would their patrons pass muster in today’s retrospective reputational revaluation?

Most would seem non-controversial, like Major Benjamin Wingate, mortally wounded at the Battle of Valverde on the Rio Grande in 1862 in New Mexico’s only Civil War campaign. Brigadier General George Bayard (pictured) was another Civil War hero who died of wounds received back east at the Battle of Fredericksburg that same year.

Louis S. Craig (not to be confused with Louis A. Craig, a general in WW2) was a regular Army captain murdered by deserters in California in 1852.

Fort Bowie in Arizona Territory was named not for the hero of the Alamo but for G.W. Bowie, colonel of the 5th California Volunteers, who established the post in 1862 and immodestly named it after himself — a not uncommon practice among officers in the West until after the Civil War.

Henry Selden was a regular officer serving in New Mexico Territory who switched to the volunteers at the onset of the Civil War to become Colonel of the 1st New Mexico Volunteers. Fort Stanton was named not for the noted abolitionist of that same name but for Henry W. Stanton, a Captain of Dragoons killed fighting Mescaleros in New Mexico in 1855.

W. W. Bliss was a West Pointer and a gifted mathematician as well as being fluent in 13 languages and a student of ethnology. He not only served as Gen. Zachary Taylor’s chief of staff in the Mexican War but took the opportunity to woo Old Rough and Ready’s daughter.



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