Fort Marcy

Quick Facts
1846 illustration of Fort Marcy and the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. Digital image © Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. [source](

1846 illustration of Fort Marcy and the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. Digital image © Fray Angélico Chávez History Library. source

Fort Marcy was built at the start of the Mexican American War (1846) and served to solidify American rule over the New Mexico Region. It offered protection and shelter to the people of Santa Fe, to the troops that were stationed there, and to the travelers on the Santa Fe trail. Fort Marcy’s has played a role in many important aspects of American history, including the Mexican American War, the American Civil War, and westward migration.

Construction of Fort Marcy

Fort Marcy was an adobe fortification built by General, Stephen W. Kearny dring the Mexican American War (1846-1848). On August 19, 1846, New Mexico was annexed and Mexican Governor, Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid peaceful surrendered New Mexico to the United States. Soon after, United States General, Stephen W. Kearny was sent to occupy Santa Fe and ordered the construct of Fort Marcy on August 26, 1846 1. General Kearny named the Fort after the U.S. Secretary of War, William L. Marcy. Lieutenant William H. Emory and Jeremy F. Gilmer, the subordinates of General Kearly at the time, determined that the best place for the fort to be built was on top of a large hill that over looked Santa Fe and that was just 600 yards north from the Santa Fe Plaza 2.This was Ideal for General Kearly as he needed to both secure the U.S. possession of New Mexico and to guard against an uprising from the people. Lieutenant William H. Emory stating that the position on top of the hill was “the only point which commands the entire town and which itself is commanded by no other”. 3

Fort Marcy would play its role in guarding American rule over the newly acquired land as in, January 19, 1847, Colonel Sterling Price, the commander of Fort Marcy at the time would receive word that Charles Bent, the Governor of New Mexico had been killed in the Taos Revolt. In response to this Colonel Price had sent the 1st Dragoons from fort Marcy to quell the rebellion and was successful in doing so. 4

An American symbole

1880, Santa Fe from the perspective of Fort Marcy. This picture showing how Fort Marcy was seen as a symbol of American rule. [source](

1880, Santa Fe from the perspective of Fort Marcy. This picture showing how Fort Marcy was seen as a symbol of American rule. source

General Kearly wrote a 1846 report to the Adjutant General of the Army at Washington that stated: “A large number of the troops are daily employed under the direction of Lieutenant Gilmer of the Engineers in erecting a fort for the defense and protection of the city, and as this is the capital of the Territory, a new acquisition to the United States, the fort will be an important and permanent one, and I have this day named it Fort Marcy, and now ask for a confirmation of it.” General Kearly and Lieutenant Emory’s statements illustrate that the main importance of this fortification was that Fort Marcy was the key to the newly acquired land and was the most important building in the area as it served as a symbol of American rule over the territory. 5

Fort Marcy and its role on the Santa Fe Trail

Fort Marcy like many of the other fortifications in area were there in part to protect commerce and travel on the Santa Fe and the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro trail, from Native American raids. Fort Craig being just south of Socorro was the “base for Indian operations” and served this purpose during the later end of the 19th century, sending out armed escorts with traders going along the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro trail 6. Fort Marcy would serve a similar function as it was a combat post at the cross section of two major trails, Santa Fe and the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro trail. 7

Though Fort Marcys usage as a defensive fortification would end up being neglected, Fort Marcy had enable the transition of New Mexico from a Mexican territory to an American Territory. With this change came a new found importance in Fort Marcy and Santa Fe, as trade along the Santa Fe Trail increased significantly, with much of the trade along the trail consisting of military supplies for the occupied region. The United States military occupation of New Mexico being a major factor in the future economic development of Santa Fe due to international trade and New Mexico later becoming a United States territory in 1850.

Description Past and Present

Fort Marcys crumbling walls in 1992. [source](

Fort Marcys crumbling walls in 1992. source

At the time of Fort Macy finished construction it stood with adobe walls that where nine feet tall and five feet thick which made up the forts irregular shaped star outlining. The fort also had an eight feet deep moat that ran along its wall and a log building that served as a powder house that stored explosive gun powder 8. The fort made up an area of about 270 feet by 80 feet and could of hold up to one thousand soldiers. 9

Sense the time of Fort Marcy’s finished construction in 1847 most of the fort has eroded. The walls that made up the fort are now only several feet tall mounds of earth and the moat that ran along walls is barely visible 10. The erosion of the fort was due to the lack maintenance after the U.S. took complete control of New Mexico. 11

Travel Guide

From the Santa Fe plaza, the Old Fort Marcy Park is a half mile walk. Some other interesting places of note in the area include the Palace of the Govenernors, the New Mexico Museum of Art, and the Loretto Chapel.


Above Hillside Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 617 Paseo de Peralta Santa Fe NM USA Santa Fe.



Deborah Lawrence. Wagon Tracks. Santa Fe Trail Association. Vol. 30, no. 2 (February, 201

Gary, Grice K. History of Weather Observing at Fort Marcy, New Mexico 1849 - 1892. Texas: Climate Database Modernization Program, 2005

Inventory of the Governor Miguel A. Otero Papers, 1897-1906. Rocky Mountain Online Archive. University of New Mexico. Accessed November 28, 2018.

Inventory of the Joseph K. F. Mansfield Report, 1853. Rocky Mountain Online Archive. University of New Mexico. Accessed November 28, 2018.

Matthew Barbour J. Wagon Tracks. Santa Fe Trail Association. Vol. 29, no. 1 (November, 2014)

Mary, Piper J. f The History and Archaeology ofthe Historic Fort Marcy Earthworks, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe: City of Santa Fe Planning and Land Use Department, 1996.

Miller, Darlis A. Captain Jack Crawford–buckskin Poet, Scout, and Showman. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993. Prudy, James H. Fort Marcy Ruins. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. State Records Center and Archives, Santa Fe, March 1, 1973.

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  2. Purdy, 3 

  3. Bradford, 4 

  4. Matthew, 22 

  5. Bradford, 4 

  6. Miller, 86-94 

  7. Matthew, 23 

  8. Purdy, 2 

  9. Bradford, 5 

  10. Purdy, 2 

  11. Mary, 13