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As a result of Manifest Destiny, military installations were quickly established in New Mexico to protect settlers. Numerous forts emerged to help integrate this new territory into the expanding United States.

James H. Carleton was a bright, aggressive officer and a young protegé of General Edwin Vose Sumner. Carleton was summoned along with his highly trained California Column to counter the Confederate invasion in New Mexico. While he arrived too late to complete that mission, he quickly set his sights on putting his stamp on the Indian problem in New Mexico. He would soon be promoted to General and the Commander of the Military in New Mexico. Highly connected politically in the East Coast, in 1862 Carleton swiftly obtained President Abraham Lincoln’s approval to esablish a fort, which would be named after his mentor, “Fort Sumner.” He initially justified the fort as offering protection to settlers in the Pecos River Valley from the Mescalero Apache, Kiowa and Comanche. He soon had other plans in mind and felt the site of the fort on the Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River would be a good site for an Indian reservation.

The U.S. government believed that subduing the native population and settling these lands was their duty, their mission and their destiny. It was with this understanding that Carleton and the U.S. Army established Fort Sumner.

It is ironic that while President Lincoln decreed freedom for all slaves through his Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1862 during the Civil War, he was setting the stage for another period of slavery of the Mecalero Apache and Navajo people.

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“(Bosque Redondo) is a most excellent point for the establishment of a strong calvary post... offering an unlimited supply of timber for building purposes...a large number of settlers would immediately flock in, the produce of whose farms brought in competition one with the other, would be sold very low indeed.”

—Major Carleton to General Sumner

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