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In recent columns, we have described the difficulty the army had in obtaining food and forage for their horses during the winter of 1878, their first in Pagosa Springs.
This week, we finish the letter we started last week by the Pagosa commander to his commanding officer at Fort Garland describing his difficulties and his reason for sending most of the horses to Animas City, where forage was available for purchase.
“This is a new country and the great trouble to contend with in obtaining supplies of this character is the want of transportation and the bad character of the roads. There is plenty of grain and hay in the country, but the great difficulty is to get it hauled to the points where it is wanted for use and like Mohammed, as the mountain would not go to him he had to go to the mountain, so as with us, the forage will not come to us, we, will have to go to the forage unless the restriction as to price is removed and I am allowed to offer larger figures to insure delivery. The snow here is about 14 inches deep on the level, and at points in the vicinity higher up in the mountains it is much deeper, and from the present appearance of the clouds we anticipate an additional fall, in fact, light flakes are falling now.”
Capt. Francis F. Dodge, commander of Company “D” 9th Cavalry, assumed command of Camp Lewis Jan. 18, 1879. The post, designated Camp Lewis Oct. 26, 1878, was elevated to the higher designation of Fort Lewis Dec. 30, 1878.On Nov. 6, 1878, Lt. Gustavis Valoris, Company “K” 9th Cavalry, arrived at the post. Lt. John F. Guilfoyle, Company “D” 9th Cavalry, arrived Nov. 10, 1878. The 9th Cavalry was a black outfit that had seen much action in west Texas on the Mexican/American border and more recently had served as escort for a survey of the Colorado/Utah border.
Lt. George M. Cornish arrived Dec. 5, 1878, in charge of a detachment of Company “I” 15th Infantry. Fort Lewis was garrisoned with two companies of infantry and one company of cavalry. The 9th Cavalry lived through the winter in tents staked out on the northeast bank of the San Juan River in the general area of the current county courthouse.
Post returns for October 1878 show 22 enlisted men and one officer present for duty. November returns show 28 men and officers from Company “I” 15th Infantry, and 36 men and officers from Company “D” 9th Cavalry. By February 1879, 106 men were reported for the 15th Infantry and 107 men from the 9th Cavalry.
Acting Assistant Surgeon J.S. Martin arrived to be the post doctor Dec. 30, 1878. He was a veteran of service in New Mexico and probably the first doctor in Pagosa Springs. He ministered to civilian as well as military patients.