Establishing a Better Route for the Military
Shortly after Fort Union was established in New Mexico in 1851, Lt. Colonel Edwin Vose Sumner, commander of the Ninth Military Department at Fort Union, ordered the young Lt. John Pope to scout a better route along the Santa Fe Trail for military freight.
For years, the route Pope discovered was a little used trail. When the Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe Railroad reached Granada, Colorado in 1873, the 200-mile segment between Granada and Ft. Union, New Mexico became the major supply route for military and civilian goods heading southwest to New Mexico and Arizona.
After the first steam engine reached Trinidad, Colorado in 1878 and Santa Fe two years later, the Granada - Ft. Union military road fell into disuse. Today a 6-mile segment of the route is preserved on the Comanche National Grassland.