Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Ruins of Fort Union

Some things we sense lack an obvious scientific explanation. Many cottage industries and what skeptics term as junk or psuedo-sciences are hinged on déjà vu, the feeling of having lived past lives, dreams, apparitions and second sight. So much unexplained phenomena involves old military posts and battlefields. There is Fort Sheridan's "Woman in Orange", the still-heard rallying cries of the Irish Brigade at Antietam, and the ghost of Lt. Benjamin H. Hodgson of Co. B, 7th Cavalry, of Little Bighorn.

Fort Union, New Mexico, is one of those places ghost hunters visit. The adobe, brick and limestone ruins rise up like Stonehenge from the windswept blue grama. Miles of ruts, carved by countless freight wagons between the 1820s and 1870s, still lead to and from the fort.

Disney World it's not. Lt. Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, the post's first commander, picked the site of Fort Union in part because it was far from Santa Fe, "that sink of vice and extravagance." Even though it's not far from Interstate 25, Fort Union is still isolated. There's no doubt why the 10th Infantry sang "There's a Land that is Fairer than This" in 1891 when marching out at last.

It was a stunningly quiet fall afternoon when I visited. I heard little beyond the geese honking and the Stars and Stripes flapping overhead at first. As the gnomon's shadow marched across the relic sundial on the parade ground, it seemed nonsensical to think of time as flowing onward from now toward the future. Albert Einstein wrote, People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

If you've heard regimental band music or have seen a troop of cavalry ride into dust at a place like Fort Union, I'm not going to question your sanity. I'm not certain why I sensed what I did on those flagstone paths laid down so long ago. The energy will remain long after the adobe bricks have all turned back to dust.


Brigid said...

Haunting recollection. Makes me want to visit again.

Sleep well with your loved ones around, with thanks from those from which your words, comfort.

Somerled said...

I was there in 2003. The old St. James Hotel up the road in Cimarron is another place where people see ghosts. With all the bullet holes in the bar room ceiling, it reminds me of some of the finest drinking establishments around here.

You're never alone even if it seems you are. That's one of the things I see when walking.