Fort Bayard very near Silver City, New Mexico was one of many forts established by the U.S. Army to subdue the Apaches who threatened both Anglo-American and Mexican-American settlers, their crops and their herds. To be more specific, Fort Bayard was created by Company B of the 125th U.S. Colored Infantry … the Buffalo Soldiers; among them several Medal of Honor recipients and one William Cathay (aka Cathy Williams), the only known lady Buffalo Soldier.
General George Crook served at Fort Bayard. Crook was credited with realizing that no white soldier could catch an Apache if the Apache didn’t want to be caught. Thus Crook employed hundreds of Apache scouts to track down renegades from the Apache reservations.
Crook fought the Sioux, then waged war against the Apaches off and on from 1871 to 1886.
Later, General John “Black Jack” Pershing served at Bayard. Pershing acquired his nickname because, following West Point graduation, he was a white officer in charge of the 10th Cavalry, an all Black regiment, fighting the Sioux.
The moniker stuck even as he was promoted through the ranks to eventually become General of the Armies. During WW-I and afterward, Pershing mentored several of the outstanding generals of the next big war: Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, MacArthur, and Marshall.
All of these forts, such as Fort Bowie and Fort Lowell, lost their purpose when the last of the hostiles under Geronimo and Chief Naiche surrendered in September 1886. Unlike all the other forts, in 1899 Fort Bayard did not fall into ruin but was taken over by the Surgeon General of the Army for the purpose of treating officers and enlisted men suffering from tuberculosis. Later, Fort Bayard was a VA hospital.
When we visited Fort Bayard in May 2016, buildings were being demolished. Nothing remained of the original fort built to fight the Apaches. Fort Bayard‘s Museum and Tours are currently Saturdays 11am – 3pm. Please check in advance.