Fort Fillmore was a fortification established by Col Edwin Vose Sumner in September 1851 near Mesilla in what is now New Mexico, primarily to protect settlers and traders traveling to California. Travelers in the Westward Migration were under constant threat from Indian attack, and a network of forts was created by the US Government to protect and encourage westward expansion. Fort Fillmore was intended to protect a corridor plagued by Apache attacks where several migration routes converged between El Paso and Tucson to take advantage of Apache Pass.
Fort Fillmore would serve as an operating base for units of the 1st Dragoons, briefly the 2d Dragoons, Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and the 3d and briefly the 8th Infantry Regiments. It was for a time headquarters of the 3d Infantry Regiment. The troops were active in the Gila Expedition of 1857 and in operations against the Apaches in the Sacramento Mountains. In one foray Captain Henry Stanton, namesake of Fort Stanton NM, was killed near the Rio Penasco River. His grave was one of the few to be identified when the abandoned post was inspected in 1869. Most of the soldiers and civilians interred in the post cemetery are still buried there on a sand ridge south east of the remains of the post. A fence and flagpole now are located on the cemetery’s site.
Possibly the most famous soldier who served at Fort Fillmore was Captain George Pickett. Pickett is best remembered for leading the fateful charge on July 3, 1863 at the battle of Gettysburg. Later Union General Ambrose Burnside used the fort as a supply point when he drilled geo-thermal wells about fifteen miles west of the post in 1855.
After the First Battle of Mesilla on July 25, 1861, Fort Fillmore was set afire and abandoned by the Union army on July 27, 1861 after their unsuccessful attack on Confederate soldiers under the command of Lt Col John Baylor at nearby Mesilla, the proclaimed capital of the Arizona Territory of the Confederate States of America. As the Union army was retreating back to Fort Stanton they became desperately thirsty and exhausted. When the Confederates approached the 500 retreating Union soldiers their Commander, Major Lynde, surrendered his demoralized troops to the 300 Confederate soldiers without firing a shot.