Scott Schermer, portraying a soldier from Battery A, 3rd United States Artillery, points out the specifications of an Army 3-inch ordnance rifle to tourists visiting Fort Stanton Live!, Saturday. Mark Wilson Photo
Hundreds of folks with an appetite for Old West action gathered to celebrate the rich history of Fort Stanton, Saturday, including history buffs, authors, artists and a host of costumed re-enactors to partake in the annual Fort Stanton Live!
Located between Lincoln and Capitan in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Blanca Mountains, New Mexico’s storied state monument offers a glimpse into the Civil War and Indian Wars eras that have captivated the imaginations of Americans for more than a century.
Jack Shuster, public relations coordinator, said this year’s event brought more than 70 re-enactors to the fort, a record number who helped to transform the 119-acre fort into eras gone but not forgotten. “We have cavalry, mounted rifles, artillery, two batteries of cannon, the infantry. … We have fort settlers, traders — it’s very similar to the way it was back in the early days of the fort.”
Shuster said the long history of Fort Stanton, one of the few frontier forts still intact, provides an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to understand where they came from.
“This is a great value not only to the people of this area but to people from all over,” Shuster said. “We have folks coming from many different states who attend Fort Stanton Live! every year.
“I would say the most important part of remembering history is that if you don’t remember it, you’re going to have to repeat it someday.”
Clinton Smith, Fort Stanton Inc. president, added, “If you don’t show the history of what we have, people aren’t going to know what a wonderful place they live in. They need to know the background of why they’re here today.”
Key’s Battery, out of Cleburne, Texas, fired cannons during the opening ceremony Saturday morning, and also provided artillery demonstrations of battalion fire. Key’s Battery re-enactor Wesley Neeley said his group travels all over the Southwest to do living history, relishing events like Fort Stanton Live! for its impact on younger generations.
“The history of this area up here is so vivid,” Neeley said. “… If we can bring this out with the children and just give them an inkling to go back and see if what we told them is true, we’ve done our job.
“The main thing is to go back and read a little history, and find out what really did happen in our country. It helps them be more proud of it, and maybe to not make some of the mistakes that we did growing up.”
Ron Keyworth and Rick Criswell participated as riflemen of the 5th Texas Cavalry with about 20 other re-enactors, offering exhibitions of horseback riding and various cavalry drills.
Keyworth, from Tijeras, said that the most important part of Fort Stanton Live! to him was keeping the memory of fallen soldiers alive. “To not keep this going would be a disservice to the men and women buried on the hill. … It’s huge. This fort has been here for all these years, and it’s been used right up until recently.”
Criswell, from Lubbock, said Fort Stanton Live! is always a memorable experience. “I enjoy the whole thing: the artillery, the marching, the cavalry, the Indian dancing — I enjoy it all.
“… It’s just amazing — the history that’s out here, involved in this one particular fort. I still don’t know it all. That’s why I enjoy coming back every year, because I learn more and more each time I come back.”
Today’s activities kick off at 9 a.m. with a brass band on the Parade Grounds, followed by a mid-1800s church service in the chapel at 10 a.m. The Fort Stanton Museum opens at 11 a.m.
For more information, visit fortstanton.org/fort-stanton-live.