First established in 1851 in the Mora Valley in northeastern New Mexico, Fort Union was the main guardian of the Santa Fe Trail, one of the most important overland trade routes serving North America since the early 1820s.
Fort Union’s role of protecting commerce along the Santé Fe Tail continued until the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in 1879, which slowly put an end to the Santa Fe Trail. Once traffic dwindled on the trail, the fort continued its policy of “pacifying” and relocating local American Indian peoples onto designated reservations.
At Fort Union, between 1876- 1881, and then again from 1886-1887, this military duty fell upon the Ninth Cavalry. Comprised of African-American soldiers and commonly referred to as “Buffalo Soldiers”, the members of the Ninth Cavalry distinguished themselves in service at Fort Union and throughout other military outposts in the Southwest.
Finally, in 1891, a year after the traditional closing of the frontier and conclusion of the Indian Wars, the military officially abandoned Fort Union.
Fort Union became a National Monument in 1954.