Fort defiance
New Mexico (1851)

When Congress commissioned Eastman to paint military installations, Fort Defiance had already been abandoned for some time. The Army had first used the site as a base of operations in 1851. By 1852 the fort boasted a number of pine log and adobe structures built around a parade ground. For ten years the post housed elements of several regiments while they engaged in campaigns against the local Indians. In 1860 Companies B, C, and E of the 3d Infantry successfully defended the fort against a Navajo attack. The onset of the Civil War in 1861 caused the Army to abandon the installation, although it saw a flurry of activity when Kit Carson briefly occupied the fort in 1863.

No record exists of Eastman's ever having spent and time at Fort Defiance. He was assigned to frontier duty with the 5th Infantry, however, when it had elements occupying the fort, and it is certainly possible that his duties took him to the post. Since Eastman virtually always carried materials for sketching during his travels, he may well have captured an image of Fort Defiance before its evacuation.
The title of the painting places the fort in New Mexico, and during the fort's active service it was in New Mexico Territory. In 1863, however, with the creation of Arizona Territory in what had been the western part of New Mexico, the site became part of Arizona.