Josh Judy does woodworking at the barracks at Fort Stanton during the Lantern Tours, Saturday evening. (Mark Wilson Photo)
“Halt, who comes there?” asks a guard with a rifle resting on his shoulder.
Tony Davis, a volunteer guide at Fort Stanton, explains to the guard that he is bringing a tour group through the premises.
Though the year is 2013 in the rest of the world, at Fort Stanton’s Lantern Tours on Saturday evening it was still the 19th century.
The tours have been an annual tradition for the past half-decade. Fort manager Larry Pope said this was the first year when visitors could enter buildings as part of the tour.
The tour included six vignettes spanning the beginning of the Civil War and progressing into the American Indian Wars of the 1880s. Skits change every year, but always convey a piece of fort history.
The fort was built in 1855. It was first used as a base of operations against the Mescalero Apache Indians. Since then, it has functioned as a tuberculosis hospital, internment site for German soldiers during World War II and other purposes.
Pope said the timing of the tour only incidentally falls around Halloween, but that the proximity of the holiday is still appropriate.
“We’re kind of like showing ghosts,” Pope said.
He described how the actors speak to each other as though no one is watching, much as ghosts would.
Davis insists that the group is “mule skinners and teamsters, all.” He leads them by candle light into the barracks.
The next stop after the barracks is the officer’s quarters, where a mother discusses finishing school with her 13-year-old daughter. In the 19th century, wealthy families frequently sent their teenage daughters to finishing school to prepare them for marriage. The actresses are Pope’s wife and daughter.
Pope’s daughter Emily complains that she won’t be able to ride horses when she is shipped off to Atlanta, Georgia.
“There’s just some things young ladies have to give up and riding your horses is one of them,” mother Sena says.
The Pope family has been involved in reenactment for decades, as have many other volunteers on set Saturday.
After the officer’s quarters comes the home of the commanding officer. The officer and his wife receive news of the outbreak of the Civil War.
A buffalo soldier is stationed at the penultimate stop on the tour. The term “buffalo solider” originally refers to members of the all-black U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment established in 1866, which fought against American Indian tribes.
In early-1880s the scene, Linus Hinton of Tucson, Ariz., portrays a soldier who must go in search of Apache Indian Chief Victorio. The chief has left the Apache reservation without permission from the U.S. government.
“Saddle up Goldy, here. We’re gonna go out and bring him in,” says Hinton.
Hinton said he’s performed in reenactments as a hobby for 22 years. His friend Shifra Boehelje of Concho, Arizona, who portrayed the soldier’s wife, said she’s been performing more than 40 years.
The last stop on the tour is the artillery, where cavalry and infantry soldiers perform a drill.
Pat Pillar of Ruidoso participated in a tour Saturday with her husband. She said she and her spouse make frequent visits to the fort and that they attended the first annual lantern tour about five years ago.
“It was so incredible the first time,” Pillar said. “We just love what they’re doing to the fort and how they’re rebuilding it.”