Fort Ruby By: Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
June 28, 2013
In their early stages, most military outposts were desolate places, some worse than others. Fort Ruby, also known as Camp Ruby, was built in 1862, during the American Civil War, in the “wilderness of eastern Nevada”. Most Army outposts of this time were built in remote areas, but this post was classified by the Army as “the Worst Post in the West”. During the seven years it existed, this post in particular was considered by all to be the epitome of the frontier station at its worst. Located midway between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Carson City, Nevada, it was built in 862 to protect the Overland Mail route from Paiute raiders. The nearest settlement was 120 miles away. The setting of the Fort was grim. Colonel P. Edward Connor, the posts first commanding officer called Ruby Valley “a bleak inhospitable place – no forage or lumber to build with. No lumber for anything grander than log cabins, while horses had to be grazed over a wide area for lack of forage. Morale at Fort Ruby from the outset was bad, as evidenced by the garrison’s desperate offer to forgo a total of $30,000 back pay if only Washington would order the regiment east to fight in the Civil War. Washington refused. Two years later, there was a tiny ray of sunshine which graced Ruby when a distillery was built nearby, marketing a fiery product called “Old Commissary”. However much that beverage lifted morale in the ranks, it was simply not enough. When Captain George Walker was given command of Fort Ruby in 1867, his first act was to take six months’ furlough. Upon his return to the command of Fort Ruby, he died of apoplexy. After 1865, Indian raids became infrequent, and in 1869, the Army determined that Fort Ruby was no longer necessary. On instruction of headquarters, Fort Ruby was ordered to be abandoned. and all of its men and supplies were transferred to Camp Halleck, some seventy miles to the north. Most of the abandoned buildings were sold to nearby ranchers. This happy action however did not come soon enough to avoid a final scandal, the court martial of Ruby’s last commandant, Captain Timothy Connelly for having embezzled company funds. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961, with four remaining landmark buildings. Two of those, an enlisted men’s barracks, and officers quarters, were both lost to history when destroyed by fire.
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