Fort Garland (1858–83) was established to protect Hispanic and white settlers in the San Luis Valley from Ute raids, and Union troops stationed here marched in a campaign against confederates in Texas during the Civil War. For a short time the outpost was under the direction of famed frontier scout Kit Carson. Though Carson successfully negotiated a period of peace with Utes, all hell broke loose after the Meeker Massacre in 1879. After that, the fort became a major base of operations in the forcible removal of Utes from the area.
Today Fort Garland – all five square blocks of it – is the first town encountered by westbound travelers in the San Luis Valley. The town's worthwhile museum is located in the original fort and contains five of the original 22 buildings.