In 1848, New Mexico formally became a United States territory. With the new government came more settlers further encroaching into the traditional homelands of the Apache leading to a worsening of hostilities that had been increasing throughout the 19th century. In an effort to bring peace to the region, the U.S. government established Fort Selden in April 1865. The New Mexico Volunteers and troops from California constructed the adobe buildings. For 25 years, about 1800 soldiers were stationed there protecting settlers from Native American raiding and general lawlessness. They also escorted travelers throughout the New Mexico Territory.
Several of the units that served here were African American only regiments referred to as Buffalo Soldiers. Their tenacity in a fight gained the fear and respect of the Apache from which their name originates. Buffalo Soldiers performed many vital roles at Fort Selden including escort duty, scouting local terrain, and tracking reported raiders.
In the late 1880s, Arthur MacArthur, a Civil War veteran and recipient of the nation’s highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor, was post commander. His young son Douglas, who lived at Fort Selden with his father and family, later came to fame as a general in World War II, also receiving the Medal of Honor. Fort Selden was abandoned in 1891 as hostilities lessened and the needs of the military changed.