Lt. Love’s 1843 Journal

by Will Gorenfeld on June 28, 2014


Journal of an Expedition on the Great Western Prairies; in which, the 1st Regt. of Dragoons Marched 375 Miles West of Ft. Leavenworth, to the Crossing of the Santa Fe Road, over the Great Arkansas: which Expedition had for its Objective, the Protection of Santa Fe Traders. By Lt. John Love [i]

May 27, 1843 the day fixed for our departure. Of course there was a great deal of bustle & confusion preparatory to so long a march: here you could see an officer sending after his tobacco & segars, which he had nearly forgotten, & without which, the march from being a pleasure, would have become a bore;[ii] another just stuffing his last shirt in his saddle bags; a third packing up needles, buttons, thread &c, but as one may expect without a doubt of veracity, that “all things have an end”, so had the packing, &c about 9 O’clock the bugles call us, not to “war”, but to the parade ground where the companies were drawn up in line in front of their quarters.

In casting the eye down the line of Officers’ Quarters could be seen through the half closed door the distressed wives, no doubt offering up a prayer for the safety & return of their Husbands. What a beautiful sight as the long line of horsemen march down the parade, each one as he passed some friend[,] waiving him an adieu.[iii] The Officers of the Command were [iv]

Capt. P. St. G Cooke  [Co. K]                       2d Lieut. D.H. Rucker

“      B. D. Moore     [Co. C]                        “      “         J. Love

1st Lieut. W. Bowman [Co. F]                   “      “         G. F. Mason

Asst. Surgeon. R. Simpson

At twelve O’Clock, found ourselves [at] Nine Miles [Creek] when it commenced raining for an hour, rained in torrents & from every point of the companies. The waggons did not get up till nearly night & as it still continued raining, we camped: every one wet to the skin & thoroughly disgusted; what added to our disgust were some of the horses, with a desire to warm themselves, breaking their “lariats” & racing through camp, gaining recruits at each jump, until nearly half were loose. Took an early supper & went to bed, praying that morrow might bring a little sunshine.[v]


28th The first thing on waking, was to look out & see the prospect for fair weather, but was doomed to disappointment, for it was still raining & looked as if it intended doing so all day. Packed up & started for [the] Kansas River over which two Companies were crossed. One of our officers was notorious for his dislike to rainy weather now on awakening he found his mortal enemy (rain) not only in, but his celebrated horse Sir Charles Piebald, out in the field, that is to say, Sir Charles had absented himself from camp without permission. After a fruitless search he was reported a deserter. Fortunately for the owner, in passing through the Kansas timber, two officers feeling thirsty, left the column a quarter of a mile; in returning they saw among a thick patch of grape vines & in a herd of Indian ponies, a horse they felt certain was Sir Charles; but he looked so innocent, & was much at home , they began to doubt; on considering, however, that there could not be another horse living, like him, they concluded to drive him to the column, where on arriving their first suspicions were confirmed: he was captured, & returned to the longing arms of,  or rather legs, of his attached, but slighted, master. Distance from Leavenworth to the K. River 23 miles.[vi]

29th How delightful to feel once more the warmth of the sun & to see countenances beaming with smiles & good nature looking as if with the rain had departed, their only enemy on Earth. About 12 O’Clock arrived at junction of Santa Fe & Military roads. Glad top find ourselves on the wished for road but for myself must confess that a feeling of melancholy came over me as I thought that some of us were perhaps leaving our homes & friends to be buried on the desolate prairie. For on leaving the Military road it seemed as if the last link that bound us to our homes was broken. With me, every thing was new. I had no conception of the country over which we would pass nor of the character of the Indians we would meet nor of what we would have to encounter from sickness &c, but on marching a few miles I soon relieved my usual spirits as I saw the beautiful extent of country before me was with such green grass & myriads of flowers looking for all the world like some neglected garden. I know of no other way of conveying my first impression of the prairie than by a remark one soldier made to another[,] “we are getting pretty well out to sea”–in rear & on each side could be seen the dim outline of timber while in front nothing but a vast plain the grass waiving with the wind, scarcely distinguishable from water. How natural the Wild Indians should prefer his native prairies on them[;] he feels as fine as our living in conformity with that part of the bible which says “sufficient for the day is the evil thereof[“ Matthew 6:34], for an Indian never lays up for tomorrow.  He goes out & killing enough Buffalo to satisfy his wants is perfectly happy—letting the morrow care for itself. At about 12 reached a creek on which was a cold spring where we eat our first lunch, the creek was called Bear Creek for this reason. An officer thinking it time we were coming to game & seeing a distinct black object & two smaller ones following was certain it was a bear & cubs, off he started at full speed with the hope of killing the first game. The bear finding itself pursued ran for his life. For it was then the pursuer increased his gait, compromised his life & braced himself for the deadly combat, an occasional smile appears over his face as he finds he is gaining ground, at last the object a enters a hollow, the pursuer rushing to the edge. Raises in his stirrups, looks over & with horror he finds he has been chasing a sow & pigs. Camped about 5 miles from Bear Creek on a little stream from which we caught a mess of fish. Very little timber[;] distance to Kansas River about 15 miles.

30th Before starting was overtaken by a man with a small waggon & yoke of oxen, said he was on his way to Oregon was merely going out to see the county, if he did not like it would return next spring[,] talked as if he were about taking a journey of a few miles. He expected to overtake the Oregon Company who were a day’s journey ahead & consisted of nearly 1500 [people]. [vii]  After traveling about 2 miles came to Independence Santa Fe Road which looked like a road leading into some large town, a person getting on it in ignorance would feel badly to find it after traveling 10-12 days growing smaller what made it so large & dusty. Was the Oregon Company passing over it, in addition to the Santa Fe waggons—a mile &c half further came to Elm Grove, might have been a grove once certainly is no longer, only the remnant of its ancient greatness being a single tree, the top of that cut off for fire wood. Very monotonous road for 15 miles, not a stick of timber on the road, but occasional groves varying from 2 to five miles to the right & left. Water very bade, day hot & not only stagnant pools to quench out thirst. The howitzer horses no doubt with a desire to afford variety &c to their faults towards varying the monotony of the march, by some means got their driver [thrown] from the [limber wagon] box & commenced kicking, running, jumping &c. Here you would see their running straight to the column—every man giving way of course, then running on the road, then turning and coming back to the column, the command scattered about, each one on his own preservation, making in all quite an amusing scene. About 4 reached Black Jack Grove, a most inviting place—after a ride of 5 hours in hot sun[;] most especially as there was a stream of water running through it. Passed waggon road three miles before reaching Blk Jack, a plain dusty road with a finger [pointing] just at the forks & the word Oregon. Distance to last camp 18 miles.[viii]

31st Timber & water for five miles on the right of the road. A horse was reported as lame. A Board of Officers was ordered who decided that he was unable to proceed—poor fellow his halter was taken off & he [was] left alone to take his chances for life or death–he looked sorrowfully as we all marched off but was unable to follow. The eight miles from Blk Jack a fine spring (except in very dry weather) a few yards to the left of the road; another 4 miles west in a little grove 2 hundred yds from road. Traveled 12 miles to water & a little timber 2 miles north of road & camped. No timber or water between the two places. Near having a stampede—horses got frightened  at night & commenced neighing & running to the end of lariats & , all of the men were turned out & soon quieted. Distance to last camp 25 miles.

June 1st   Arrived at 110 Mile Creek early (so called) because “110” miles from Independence) plenty of timber & water, distance from camp yesterday 7 miles. Switzlers Creek (6 miles west of “110”, camped at Beaver Creek (6 miles west of Switzlers) a most beautiful camping place, fine running water & good timber. We called it Beaver Creek from the fact that there was opposite to our camp a large basin of water, supposed to have been a Beaver home. Never enjoyed fishing more than while sitting on the edge of the basin under a nice shade of seeing many anxious fisherman on each side trying to catch enough for their evening meal. One fishes with different feelings under such circumstances than when fishing for pure sport, here you catch fish for the fish themselves you see a man watching a bite with the greatest anxiety & if after getting him to the top of the water should drop him[,] can read his thoughts—there is one fish less for supper—how nice he would have looked in the frying pan covered with flour. No variety in the appearance of the country as yet no game, & no birds except an occasional “Old Field Lark”, which is said to be the only bird common to all parts of the U.S. We found them as we went. Traveled to-day 20 miles.

June 2nd Met some traders from the mountains, bringing down their skins &c had several Buffalo [calves] with them, a sight of which gratified very much those who had never seen one. They told us that we would meet Buffalo in five days, which news raised our spirits as we anticipated our greatest pleasure in chasing them. They had had bad luck, ten of their men having been killed by the Indians. Fine country to march plenty of wood & water every four or five miles. Camped by a cold spring, Distance from Beaver Creek 21 miles.

June 3rd Got the first sight to-day of the people we were to escort. Not very prepossessing either in person or equipments. The men (Spaniards) the distinct, darkest and worst countenances for white people I have ever saw. Their mules like themselves, only half horrified.[ix] They usually worked ten mules in a waggon & would have five new sets of “gear” which would be drawn into ten sets by the addition of old pieces of rope, chain &c like putting “new wine in old bottles”. Most Creek. Pleasant Valley Creek (7 miles from Flint [Hills]), like all timbered creeks, running through the prairies, looking more beautiful than you could suppose it. Without exception the coldest spring water I ever tasted. Impossible to tell you how much we enjoyed the water after a ride in the hot sun for two or three hours—being about 12 took a lunch afterwards a smoke & proceeded to Council Grove (8 miles further) which was considered the 1st promised land. Council Grove is on the “Neosho” & is the largest body of timber on the road between Kansas River & Red River in Mexico. Here the Traders always stop to lay in an extra axle trees & tongues in case they break down on the Prairie. Found most all the Traders on the west side of the river camped in the usual order the waggons forming a salient angle making a place of safety for their animals in case of attack. We also found a load of corn which our provident quarter master had sent before as & very acceptable it was, as the grass was a month more backward than usual.

June 4th Nothing for us to do but await the file of the Traders. Took a Carbine & tried to find a deer, but came no nearer than seeing plenty of tracks, saw nothing, not even an xxxxx. Set then to pass time went fishing but no better luck than hunting, went to my tent and slept off the remainder of the day.[x]

June 5th Still at Council Grove. The Traders all here & promise to start tomorrow. Went to their camp found some making axle trees, some tongues, some sleeping, some eating, some cursing, presenting altogether the latest scene of confusion imaginable. Capt. Tenett arrived with his Compy from Fort Scott enlivening us all as an arrival is sure to do; our spirits were now very high: we had a throves[?] and questions to ask about all our friends at Fort Scott & he about his at Leavenworth, then told him how near Buffalo had been seen & then each one descanted on the qualities of the horse he intended for running some wondering about if his horse would be scared at them & himself if he would not also.[xi] Made the acquaintance of Old Nick Gentry one of the most noted men on the frontier, a perfect man of the prairies, has been going years to Santa Fe for 20 years.[xii] He amused us very much by his manner of expressing himself, if he wishes to describe any thing, he will do so, by drawing a comparison between it, & something else. To see him riding over the prairie on all alone, without any protection for his face than his long bushy hair, which looks as if he had seldom been acquainted with scissors. He would think nothing of mounting his favorite mule (“Grey Dove”) & coming home by himself from Santa Fe a distance of 800 miles probably not a human form unless that of an enemy.

June 6th All glad to resume the march. Nothing more disagreeable than to remain idle in camp for two or three days, gives one an opportunity of contrasting Camp fare with that of a garrison: it is impossible whilst idle to get an appetite sufficient to relish bacon & beans alone. Good water 6 miles west of C[amp] & wood also, plenty of water all day. Made our early encampment at Diamond Spring, which like the stone from which it is named is of the first quality. Saw a lot of antelope. Traveled 15 miles.

June 7th Wood & water 3 miles west of Diamond Spring. A lot more wood between it and Cotton Wood fork a distance of 27 miles.  Fine spring called Lost Spring 12 miles from Diamond; next water at Cotton Wood. On the whole a march on a hot day, horses suffered for water & so would we, had we not continued the longest days march since leaving the garrison. When in sight of Cotton Wood Fork ever eye was strained to get a glimpse of Buffalo, as from reports we expected to find them here—but we were doomed to disappointment, no Buffalo nor sign of any. We contented ourselves by thinking we would be among them tomorrow.

Traveled 30 miles.

June 8th Expedition at its height, every one scanning the Prairie with his eye in hopes of detecting some struggling But, but alas no! Today’s march brought not a single one in sight. Very cold all day, enough so for a fire; but unfortunately had to camp at Turkey Creek where there was not a stick of timber. Can best  state some one’s suggestion of the origin of its name, by a conundrum, Why is a partridge like a brick-bat? Because it can’t climb a tree. Why was it called Turkey Creek? because a Turkey can’t never have been seen on it. Distance to C.W. 16 mi.[xiii]

June 9th Struck our tents in a cold north east rain. So cold that we suffered from cold feet & hands; but obliged to keep marching until we search which we did after traveling 25 miles. Would be very little water between the creeks & Little Arkansas. When about five miles from Little Arkansas saw to the left the Sand Hills of Great Arkansas, looking so much like a City as to consider it almost impossible to imagine yourself 200 miles from any house unlike sand hills generally, these just mentioned have groves of stunted timber amongst them which obscures a greater part of the hill exposing to view in one place a single spot the of a house which you could imagine a neat dwelling in the suburbs of the city then another long ridge like the front of a square of brick buildings, taken all together a very handsome sight. Still another day, but none killed yet. Soon after securing camp the axes began to sound & then blazing fires were made in front of the tents, each one forgotten the discomforts of the day, as he sat dozing & warming himself by a cheerful fire.

June 10th A note was found at the ford from (Capt. Boone) fastened to a tree, informing our Comdy Officer that he Capt. B—had crossed the Great Arkansas for Buffalos. Too provoking to come so near seeing our friends & then to miss them by only one day.[xiv] They left Little Arks. The morning of the day we arrived. Capt. Boone had been sent out with a Detachment of 2 Compys, namely to examine the country in the vicinity of the Salt Plains. We hoped to meet them before returning.[xv] Never was more so excited as I when I learned that I had been detailed to head a party of men to hunt Buffalo. The Comdy Officer being certain that there must be Buffalo within a few miles of Little Arkans., Now I thought of my cherished dreams of hunting were about to be realized & as I charged my cartridges & put my pistols in my holsters & mounted my trim built little horse felt as if not one of a herd could escape certain death. Off we started & after going a mile halted & ordered 2 men to go to the left of the road—2 to the middle of it, & with the remaining two we went to the right, by this means commanding an extent of the country of 8 to 10 miles, with instructions to those on the left to make a signal when they saw game & had not separated long before the signal was made. I thought it very good luck to get in sight so soon so started off & joined the men, but was disappointed for they only saw an antelope. I was compensated in a measure for my disappointment by getting a good view of the antelope the first one I been near enough to form an idea of their appearance & as it ran off I thought I had never seen a more beautiful or exotic animal in my life. They are the size of deer of a light color & have a white stripe on each side adding very much to their beauty. They said to be swiftest animal on the Prairie, & as they run from you in a kind of pacing gait, their tails appear about the size & shape of the crown of a hat & of a milk white color—but on near inspection their tails are the size of a Deer’s & their coat on each side of it is white giving the sound appearance before mentioned. Saw a mountain hare, tried to catch it but it ran too fast. They are somewhat like our Hares, but much larger and swifter. We started out again on each side of the road & right on till 1 O’Clock when we all met at a creek 10 miles west of where we left the command; no one had seen Buffalo decided to make another effort & took off to the right side of the road & after going some distance without success decided to turn left. When near the road some one pointed to the right & there sure enough I saw about 2 miles off a small hill covered with objects running to & fro. Now thinks I we will surely get some fresh meat & have some xxxxx sport.[xvi] We quicken our gait to get the [down?] wind of them & when a great many formed a line & rushed straight for us. Now I had made many inquiries about the ways of Buffalo & had it in my head the regular rule for approaching & running them but when I saw them approaching & running them but when I saw them approaching me instead of my approaching it nullified all the rules & completely staggered me. I thought it very strange my informers had not told me what to do under these circumstances. So not thinking of any system of tactics by which to turn the xeah in my favor I adopted the better plan that is did nothing but halt & see what were their intentions. I did not wait long, for presently a yell was heard as if a thousand devils were let loose. I then saw that these were Indians. On they came whipping, spurring & galloping, numbering I thought 150, the whole Prairie seemed alive with them; they were naked from the waist up; had neither bridle nor saddle; but a piece of Buffalo hide in their horses mouths. (A more alarming sight I never saw, to one unaccustomed to Indians as I.) The change from Buffalos to a Band of Indians was so sudden & unexpected as to throw me completely in confusion; after nearing a little I ordered my men to face them, see to their arms & a white handkerchief to be raised to indicate how much we were in favor of peace. I drew my pistols [,] put one my belt & held the other cocked in my hand determined to sell out all my interest in the world as dearly as possible. How much relieved I was when they came to hailing distance to hear them all saying [,] how! how! (or how do you do) & then shaking hands all around. I hear them say [they] were our neighbors the Kansa Indians. [xvii] I ordered the men to be on the look out being distrustful that they were Comanches. They invited me to go to their Camp but I declined the honor but invited them to come to our Camp in the evening, after exchanging a few more civilities, we separated. I took the back track to meet the command which I did just as they were coming to the creek on which we camped. Towards sundown a large party of Indians came in bringing a quantity of Buffalo meat; a great part they presented to our big Kilchi (Chief) Capt. Cooke, the remainder they gave to me thinking I suppose was next to him in rank. He gave them some tobacco & fat port, an advantageous trade to both parties. We then found out they were Kansa & had been Buffalo hunting were returning home & that they numbered about 50. So we saw treble when they were approaching us. I asked all the men of their number in order to report to Capt. Cooke & they agreed with me there were from 150 to 200. Learned a great deal namely with 6 men could have kept off 500 Indians as they never approach within gun shot. By their notions deeming it a greater victory to kill one man & loose none in return that to kill fifty & lose one of their men which system would of course prevent their coming to close quarters.[xviii] Soon after dark Capt. Cooke sent up 2 rockets to inform Capt. Moore of our whereabouts. [xix]

At the first flash the whole camp was lighted up & every horse started to & made a spring and would all have gotten loose had the precaution not been taken to make each man stand to his horse. Were continually vigilant to night for fear the Indians would attempt to steal our horses. Made to day 10 miles.

June 11th The Compy to which I belong was ordered to take the back road & keep in advance of the Indians (who were returning home) until we met the traders. Capt. Cooke being fearful that the Indian might murder them if they had no escort. Started early and got to the camp of the 10th about 11 O’Clock.[xx] On the way saw an antelope & rode towards him as soon as he saw me come up at a trot to see what I was when about 50 steps his curiosity was satisfied so he ran past me. I raised my carbine took good aim & would have killed him had it not snuffed.[xxi] Some one remarked that antelope had as much curiosity as a Lady. I think they have more for I have never heard Ladies allowing their curiosity to take them into imminent danger admitting they have much curiosity which I don’t pretend to assert—but Antelope will satisfy their curiosity let the consequences be what they may & the consequences are often so serious as to affect their lives for the only way of killing them is to get on some hill, stand up & waive a white handkerchief; as soon as you attract their attention then to lie close to the ground. They immediately come to you (frequently at full speed) to see what you are; you can shoot them then without difficulty. After pitching our tent (my Capt. & I) we thought it was rather warm we would take a drink of peach & honey & to carry out our laudable intentions [,] opened our box, when, how shall I say it: we found the cork out of the jug & the liquor gone save 2 drinks. Our feelings were too deep for immediate utterance, we gazed at each for some seconds in silent agony when the Capt. after relieving himself by a deep drawn sigh said who was the last one at the jug oh: if I could find him out, I would trash him so he would be ever after this afraid even to look at a peach to say nothing of the brandy.[xxii]

The Indians came up about 3 O’Clock & after hobbling their ponies came over to camp to smoke with us to which would not object as they know better how to mix Kinnikinnick better than any one else.[xxiii] Was struck with the Chiefs always making a speech before smoking, was told it was to the Great Spirit & was for good luck. Were vigilant for fear that they would make a demonstration on our horses.[xxiv]


Second in command of Dragoon Company C was John Love. He was a graduate of the West Point Class of 1841, and on his first expedition on the Santa Fe Trail. Born in Culpepper County, Virginia and raised in Tennessee, the son of Richard H. Love and of Eliza Matilda Lee, she the granddaughter of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and father of General Robert E. Lee. Sister Cecilia Lee Love married Lewis Armistead, later a Confederate general who died in Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.

John Love (1820-1881) was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, the son of Richard H. Love and of Eliza Matilda Lee, daughter of Ludwell Lee and the granddaughter of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was raised in Tennessee. Two older brothers, Ludwell and Thomas, died in infancy; and a third, Richard, served in the U.S. Navy until his death in 1855. Sister Cecilia Lee Love married Lewis Armistead, a regular officer in the Sixth Infantry and later a Confederate general. She died in 1850. His sister Flora married Reverend William Johnson of Missouri.[xxv]

Cadet Love attended West Point from 1837 to 1841 Graduating 14th in a class of 52, this intrepid horseman accepted a brevet lieutenant’s commission in the First Dragoons. In 1841-1842, he was stationed at the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was then assigned to serve with Company A, stationed at Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, and then to Forts Scott and Leavenworth in Missouri Territory. Prior to the War with Mexico, he participated in three expeditions out onto the Great Plains, his first being the 1843 expedition to the crossing of the Arkansas River. During the war, the army assigned Love to Company B, of which he took field command following the bloodless conquest of Santa Fe. In 1848, he received the brevet rank of captain for his heroic part in the assault on Santa Cruz de Los Rosales. In 1849-1850, Love was Quartermaster of the First Dragoons.

In 1849, Love married Mary Smith, the daughter of a prominent lawyer and Whig politician. In1851-1852, he was again serving at Carlisle. Here, tensions arose between him and his commanding officer, Lt. Col. P. St. Geo. Cooke and both officers attempted to initiate court martials against the other. Only the intervention of Commanding General Winfield Scott blocked the proceedings. In 1852, Love resigned from the army, and moved to Indianapolis. Love entered the real estate and investment businesses, with his father-in-law, financing the construction of railroads. During the Civil War, Love served in West Virginia under Brigadier General Morris. After having to indentify the dead body of Robert Garnett, his West Point roommate and good friend, he resigned from field service.[xxvi] Thereafter, Love gained a commission as Major General of Indiana Volunteers and commanded the Indiana Legion. Report of Major General of the Indiana Legion (Indianapolis: Joseph Bingham State Publisher 1863). When John Morgan raided Indiana in July 1863, Love return to active duty and led militia forces which assisted in the capture of Morgan’s forces. During the war, Love began his long association with the manufacturer of the Gatling machine gun and became the company’s agent in Europe. Until his death in 1881, Love remained active in a number of business and civic affairs in Indiana.[xxvii]


[i] John Love (1820-1881) was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, the son of Richard H. Love and of Eliza Matilda Lee, daughter of Ludwell Lee and the granddaughter of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was raised in Tennessee. Two older brothers, Ludwell and Thomas, died in their infancy; and a third, Richard, served in the U.S. Navy until his death in 1855. His sister Cecilia Lee Love married Lewis Armistead, a regular officer in the Sixth Infantry and later a Confederate general. She died in 1850. His sister Flora married Reverend William Johnson of Missouri. Tenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, June 12, 1879 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1879) 33; Patricia Duncan, Genealogical Abstract from the Democratic Mirror and the Mirror, 1857-1879, Loudoun County, Virginia (Westminister: Herritage Books, 2008) 202.

Cadet Love attended West Point from 1837 to 1841 Graduating 14th in a class of 52, this intrepid horseman accepted a brevet lieutenant’s commission in the First Dragoons. In 1841-1842, he was stationed at the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to Company A, stationed at Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, and then to Forts Scott and Leavenworth in Missouri Territory. Prior to the War with Mexico, he participated in several expeditions out onto the Great Plains, his first being the 1843 expedition to the crossing of the Arkansas River. During the war, the army assigned Love to Company B, of which he took field command. In 1848, he received the brevet rank of captain for his heroic part in the assault on Santa Cruz de Los Rosales. In 1849-1850, Love was Quartermaster of the First Dragoons.

In 1849, Love married Mary Smith, the daughter of a prominent lawyer and Whig politician. In1851-1852, he was again serving at Carlisle. Here, tensions arose between him and his commanding officer, Lt. Col. P. St. Geo. Cooke and both officers attempted to initiate court martials against the other. Only the intervention of Commanding GeneralWinfield Scott blocked the proceedings. In 1852, Love resigned, and moved to Indianapolis. George Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from its Establishment, March 16, 1802 to Army Reorganization of 1866-67 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868) 2 vols, “John Love” 2:14.

Moving to Indianapolis, Love entered the real estate and investment businesses. with his father-in-law, financing the construction of railroads. During the Civil War, Love served in West Virginia under Brigadier General Morris. After having to indentify the dead body of Robert Garnett, his West Point roommate and good friend, he resigned from field service. W. Hunter Lesser, Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided (Naperville, Sourcebooks 2004) 115. Thereafter, Love gained a commission as Major General of Indiana Volunteers and commanded the Indiana Legion. Report of Major General of the Indiana Legion (Indianapolis: Joseph Bingham State Publisher 1863). When John Morgan raided Indiana in July 1863, Love return to active duty and led militia forces which assisted in the capture of Morgan’s forces. During the war, Love began his long association with the manufacturer of the Gatling machine gun and became the company’s agent in Europe. Until his death in 1881, Love remained active in a number of business and civic affairs in Indiana.

[ii] Creature comforts have always been appreciated by soldiers on a patrol. See infra, footnote 22.

[iii] Although not nearly as precise and detailed as the scholarly journal composed by Cooke, Love’s excitement over making his first trip on the Santa Fe Trail is manifest in nearly every paragraph. In 1844, Lieutenant James Carleton, 1st Dragoons, a frustrated novelist who at one time attempted to befriend Charles Dickens, published his first Prairie Logbook in a New York journal entitled, “Spirit of the Times.” When one compares these passages to Love’s opening in this journal, it becomes apparent that some of Carleton’s phraseology closely resembles what John Love wrote in 1843. “You are on the parade under those grand old trees. . . . Don’t you see . . . men in military garb moving hither and thither—some packing effects—some arming themselves—some shaking hands with, and apparently bidding good bye to comrades who are to remain behind!” James Carleton, The Prairie Logbooks: Dragoon Campaigns to the Pawnee Villages in 1844 and to the Rock Mountains in 1845, edited by Louis Pelzer (Chicago: The Caxton Club 1943 ) 5. A coincidence?

[iv] Philip St. George Cooke graduated from the Military Academy in 1827. Upon graduation he became a second lieutenant in the Sixth Infantry. Cooke made his first trip on the Santa Fe Trail in 1829 when four companies of the 6th Infantry escorted a caravan of merchant goods heading for Santa Fe. George Cullum, Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. from March 16, 1802, to January 1, 1850 (New York: J.F. Trow, 1850) “Philip Cooke”, 143; Philip Cooke, Scenes and Adventures in The Army or, Romance of Military Life (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blankiston 1859) 41. With the formation of the First Dragoons, Cooke became a First Lieut.; on May 31. 1835, was promoted to the rank of captain. Cullum, Id.

Before becoming a dragoon, Benjamin Moore served as a midshipman and then a First Lieutenant in the Mounted Rangers. He transferred to the Dragoons in 1833 and gained the rank of Captain on June 15, 1837. Capt. Moore led his company with General Kearny to California and was killed at the Battle of San Pasqual in December of 1846. Francis Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army from its Organization, September 29, 179 to March 2, 1903 (Washington: Government Printing Office 1903), 2 Vols. “Benjamin Moore” 1:721.

A veteran of the War of 1812, William Bowman later served as an enlisted man in the 1st Dragoons, eventually gaining the rank of Sergeant Major. In 1837, he gained an appointment as Second Lieutenant in the dragoons. On June 27, 1842, he secured the rank of First Lieutenant. Heitman, Id., “William Bowman”, 1:235.

In 1837, Second Lieutenant Daniel H. Rucker of Michigan gained a presidential appointment to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the First Dragoons. Heitman, Id., “Daniel Rucker”, 1:849.

George Mason was graduated from the Military Academy in 1842, gaining a brevet Second Lieutenancy in the Second Dragoons on July 1, 1842. The son of Richard Mason, Lieutenant Colonel of the 1st Dragoons, Mason was transferred to that regiment shortly prior to Capt. Cooke’s 1843 expedition on the Santa Fe Trail. He would be killed in the initial skirmish of the Mexican War at La Rosalia, Texas, on April 26, 1846. Cullum, Biographical Register, “George Mason”, 2:64.

Assistant Surgeon Richard Simpson gained his appointment in August of 1840. He served at western outpost prior to and during the Mexican War. Participating in the capture of Santa Cruz de Rosales on March 17, 1848, was commended by General Sterling Price in his battle report, “The attention and ability displayed by Assistant Surgeon Simpson to our wounded on the field as well as to those of the enemy after the action has won for him admiration and esteem from both armies.” Dr. Simpson continued to act as a medical officer until his death from disease at Key West Barracks, Florida on July 4, 1861. Guy Henry, Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army (New York: D. Van Nostrand 1873) 2 vols, “Richard Simpson”, 2:188; Official Account of Forces which were Engaged in the Action at the Town of Rosales against the American Forces, 17 March 1848, Price to Adj. Gen. Jones, ff. 234–42, r. 388, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series), 1822–1860, Microcopy 567A (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780–1917, Record Group 94, National Archives.

Assist. Surg. Simpson appears to have started out with Captain Nathan Boone’s column at Fort Gibson, and then transferred to Cooke’s detachment. Louis Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons in the Mississippi Valley (New York: Arno Press 1975) 183.

[v] The year 1843 brought forth reports to army command that the infant Republic of Texas planned to attack wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail. With the coming of spring, Colonel Stephen Kearny initiated a plan dispatching columns of dragoons to protect traders on the Santa Fe Trail and to intercept any Texian land pirates attempting to prey on commercial traffic. Francis Purcha, S.J., The Sword of the Republic: The United States Army on the Frontier 1786-1846 (New York: MacMillan Co. 1969) 376.

Indeed, on February 16, 1843, Governor M.C. Hamilton, President of the Republic of Texas, presented a colonel’s commission to Jacob Snively and instructed him to lead his “Batallion of Invincibles” composed of 176 Texas partisans to raid Mexican commerce on the Santa Fe Trail. The stated purpose of this detachment was to “retaliate and make reclamation for injuries sustained by Texas citizens.” Thus, the merchandise seized would be deemed a lawful prize, to be equally divided between the Republic of Texas and the raiders. Snively’s instructions ordered him “to be careful not to infringe upon“ the territory of the United States. Snively’s ill-disciplined detachment began its march on April 25th and would soon find itself on a collision course with Cooke’s dragoons. Philip St. George Cooke, edited by William Connelley, “A Journal of the Santa Fe Trail”, Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly, vol. XXII, No. 2 (SXept. 1929) 227, 228 (hereinafter referred to as Journal II.); Louise Barry, The Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West (Topeka, Kansas State Historical Society 1972) 478.

In the spring of 1843, Texas irregular forces under the command of “Colonel” Charles Warfield, were also on the march toward New Mexico. Meanwhile, on April 10, 1843, at creek crossing, about 240 miles west of Independence, Missouri, a group of fifteen Texas partisans under the command of John McDonald, attacked two eastbound wagons owned by Don Antonio Chaves. The Texians murdered Chaves and plundered the train. On June 8, 1843, Captain Nathan Boone and two companies D and H of 1st Dragoons from Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, arrived at the scene of the crime. His efforts to find the remains of Chavez and his killers were fruitless. Boone’s squadron continued westward to link up with Cooke’s command. Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons, 185. Missourians eventually captured McDonald and some of his party, tried them and hung McDonald along with one of his associates.

Capt. Cooke reported, the heavy rain caused the troops to require a second set of bootees and the commanding officer, hearing of the plight of the troops, sent out an additional pair for each man. Philip St. George Cooke, edited by William Connelley, “A Journal of the Santa Fe Trail”, Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly, vol. XXI, No. 1 (1925) 72, 74 (hereinafter referred to as Journal I.)

[vi] Cooke reported how at this stage of expedition, the combined effects of mud and untrained mules slowed the movement of wagons accompanying the expedition as “required much labor of men to start them.” Id, 75. Even without the rain, the  encampment of a mounted force on the march, even in peace time, required soldiers, although weary from travel, to tend to horses, unload wagons, pitch tents, cook, gather fire wood and water. Philip Cooke, Scenes and Adventures in the Army or Romance of Military Life (Philadelphia & Blakiston, 1859), 245. In hostile territory it was necessary to post pickets and sentries as well as guard the horses and miules.

[vii] The year 1843 witnessed the so-called “Great Migration” of citizenry westward to Oregon Territory: 800 persons in 110 wagons. Small numbers compared to what would follow in the wake of the wake of the Mexican War. These travelers began their journey around the beginning of May and are described by Love in his journal. Barry, The Beginning of the West, 476

[viii] Elm Grove, the famous camping site was described by Peter Burnett, a civilian traveler and later, California’s first governor.  as being located on “a wide, gently undulating prairie . . . There are only two trees . . . both elms . . . The small elm was most beautiful . . . and the large one had been so,, but its branches been cut off for fuel. Barry, Beginning of the West, 476.

[ix] The fact of the matter is that few American travelers on the Santa Fe Trail after a few days, were equally unattractive. Explorer George Ruxton wrote in 1847 of army retained teamsters at Bent’s Fort, due to their “want of fresh provisions and neglect of personal cleanliness, together with the effects of rigorous climate, and the intemperance and indolent habits of the men, rendered them proper subjects” to disease. George Ruxton, Wild Life in the Rocky Mountains (NewYork: The Macmillan Co. 1924) 239. Ruxton later while approaching Ft. Leavenworth, espied a departing troop of Dragoons, commanded by Lt. Love, and described them as “soldiefrlike neither in dress nor appearance.” Id, 268.

[x] While Love was off on his hunt, Cooke spent the afternoon drilling his men on the use of his two mountain howitzers. Each company of the 1st Dragoons had a 12 pound mountain howitzer assigned to it. This light piece of artillery could either be carried, disassembled, in packs by three pack animals, attached to a single animal, or attached to a wagon or artillery limber. The crew for a gun typically required six men.

At 5:00, Captain Burdette Terrett arrived from Fort Gibson with 23 men and two wagons from Company A. Terrett, a Virginian and former Mounted Ranger, had been with the 1st Dragoons since 1833. On February 21, 1842, he only recently had become a captain and taken command of A Company. Terrett would suffer an accidental death on March 17, 1845, while serving at Ft. Scott, Missouri Territory. “He had taken a loaded pistol from his [pommel] holster with his right hand and passed it to his bridle hand … the horse jumped to the right, the pistol was discharged and Capt. T fell to the ground.” Cooke, “Journal”, 78; Heitman, Historical Register, “Burdette Terrett”, 1:951.

[xi] Possibly anticipating a battle with the Texas partisans, Cooke ordered another artillery drill on this day. Cooke, “Journal”, 79.

[xii] Nick Gentry was a noted mountain man, guide and Santa Fe trader who had traveled to Santa Fe in 1829 with Charles Bent and a load of contraband tobacco. In order to sell the tobacco, Gentry and Bent were required to bribe the Governor. He was known thereafter as “Old Contraband” Gentry. James Webb, edited by Ralph Beiber, introduction by Mark Gardner Adventures in the Santa Fé Trade, 1844-1847 (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press 1995) 8. Historian David Lavender described Gentry as “[p]rofane, lawless, hardheaded, and soft hearted.” David Lavender, Bent’s Fort (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1972) 249.

[xiii] Love is undoubtedly referring to Bishop Edward Partridge of the Latter Day Saints. In 1832, bigoted non-Mormon residents of Independence, Missouri, commenced to throw rocks, or brick bats, at buildings occupied by Mormons. In the summer of 1833, matters heated up as mob began to destroy several of these buildings. On July 20, 1833, they forcibly took the Bishop from his home, took him to the public square where they tarred and feathered him. Violence ended, somewhat, when the Mormons agreed to leave town by January 1, 1834. Latter Day Saints, Millennial Star, vol. XVI (Liverpool: Franklin Richards, 1854) 586. Interestingly, during the war with Mexico, dragoons, Captain Cooke, Lieutenants James Allen and George Stoneman trained and led the Mormon Battalion on its expedition from Illinois to California. Otis Young, The West of Philip St. George Cooke, 1809-1895 (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1955) 184.

[xiv] Captain Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, served as a captain in the short-lived Mounted Rangers and, in 1833, accepted a captaincy in the 1st Dragoons. Highly respected by his comrades in arms for his knowledge of survival in the frontier, Boone eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring from the service at the age of 71. Heitman, Historical Register, “Nathan Boone”, 230.

[xv] Cooke reported that Captain Nathan Boone and his two companies from Fort Atkinson had crossed the Arkansas River on the previous day and were moving to the range of the Buffalo. Cooke, “Journal”, 81.

[xvi] “There are two methods of hunting buffalo—one on horseback, buy chasing them at full speed, and shooting when alongside; the other by ‘still hunting,’ that is, approaching, or stalking, by taking advantage of the wind and any cover the ground affords, and crawling to within distance of the feeding herd. . . . If the wind be against the hunter he can approach with little caution.” Ruxton, Wild Life, 252.

[xvii] Around 1500, the Kansa or Kaw tribe migrated from the Ohio valley and settled onto the Eastern Great Plains. Frequently engaged in commerce with French, American as well as the pains tribes. In 1825, the Kansa ceded their lands for a reservation in present day Kansas. Easily mistaken by their dress for the more warlike plains tribes, Kansa men typically removed most of their hair. At the time Love encountered the Kansas, the Indian Office estimated tribal population to be 1,583. Barry M. Pritzker, A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples (Oxford University Press 2000) 324; John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of North America (Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institute Press 1952) 293. Dragoon trooper James Bennett encountered Kansa tribesmen and described them as “a half civilized tribe of strong, athletic men but their heads are all shaven close with the exception of a ridge or tuft two inches in breadth, extending from forehead to neck and sticking up like the comb of a cock. They were painted red but seemed friendly to and begging us for whatever we could spare. When they had gone out our laughter turned to rage for it was found they had stolen anything they could take.” James A. Bennett, Edited by Clinton Brooks and Frank Reeve, Forward by Jerry Thompson, Forts and Forays: A Dragoon in New Mexico, 1850-1856 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press 1996) 11. The Kansa people, forced to on reservations located close to white settlements were frequently exposed to deadly epidemics, such as Cholera, and by 1920, the United States Indian Office reported there to be 420 members of this once powerful and far-ranging tribe. Swanton, Id, 294.

[xviii] Love is expressing the commonly held notion that Native Americans were intimidated by the appearance of well-armed and well-trained dragoons. Cooke wrote in his journal that the warlike Comanches “Have a mortal dread of Dragoons and will not come near.” (“Journal I”, 238.) The was a sense of truth to this belief. The dragoons patrolled the Great Plains for thirteen years without having to battle the warlike tribes living there. This would all change with the occupation of New Mexico in 1846, when elements of the regiment engaged in battle with the Navajoes, Jicarillas, Utes, and Comanches.

[xix] Love told Cooke that the tribesmen showed a marked interest in the approaching wagon trains and the latter decided to dispatch Captain Moore and Company C to escort the wagons. Cooke also reported that the firing of signal rockets  alarmed the horses and they “scarcely could be restrained.” Cooke, “Journal”, 82.

[xx] Cooke wrote he was alarmed by the Kanzas’ interest in the caravan and on June 11th sent Love’s Company C back along the trail to escort the train. Cooke, Journal I, 82.

[xxi] Love’s description of placing one of his horse pistols, likely cocked or half cocked, in his belt was a potentially deadly, albeit common, practice. (See supra, fn. 6, death of Capt. Terrett.)

Accounts of dragoons on patrol are replete with self-inflicted deaths and wounding. On June 13, 1843, Lieutenant Abraham Johnston, commanding Company D, part of Capt. Boone’s detachment, severely wounded himself in the foot when a weapon slung to his saddle accidently discharged. Johnston, a graduate of the Military Academy’s class of 1835, would survive this wound only to be killed at the battle of San Pasqual on December 6, 1846. Louis Pelzer, Marches of the Dragoons, 209; Cullum, Register, “Abraham Johnston” 200.

In June of 1845, while out on an expedition near the Rocky Mountains, a trooper named Smith carelessly seized his Hall carbine by the muzzle, the weapon discharged its buck and ball contents into Smith’s right arm. The surgeon was required to amputate the shattered arm. Carleton, Prairie Logbooks, 255.

While out on a picnic in March of 1857, the horse ridden by Brevet Second Lieutenant George Jackson became restive and started to shake itself. Jackson, who was dismounted at the time, attempted to calm his mount. Suddenly, the Colt revolver carried in the pommel holster, discharged and seriously wounded Jackson in the arm and knee. Los Aneles Star, March-July 1857; George Stammerjohan, “Sir, My Horse Shot Me”, “Fort Tejon Sesquicentennial” (Ventura: Historic Fort Tejon Foundation, 2004). In 1860, an excited dragoon while charging two suspected hostile Paiutes, accidently shot the man riding next to him. Will & John Gorenfeld, “Carleton at Bitter Creek: Punishing the Paiutes”, Wild West, December 2001, 48. On the same campaign, trooper John Hand’s horse playfully bumped him, causing his Sharp’s carbine to discharge and wounded him in the chest. Stammerjohan, Id.

[xxii] Soldiers have always appreciated a few drops of the spirits along with other luxuries. The incident of the leaking jug of brandy is reminiscent of a story told by General Arthur Lee. While served as a lieutenant in the Second Seminole War. Capitan Benjamin Beall, his commanding officer, was a jolly, hail well-met fellow if there ever was one in the army. On the eve of a patrol Beall, inspected the lieutenant’s pack and discovered inside there to be but four three-gallon demijohns and one string of red onions. When asked by the captain why there were no provisions in the pack came this reply: “Why, they are not provisions . . . [but] refreshments. Now, Captain, I have been in a good many camps and always found plenty to eat; but confound me if in any one of them I ever found plenty to drink.” To this Beall remarked, “[T]hat officer, if he lives, will be an honor to the service; why he has more consideration to-day for the comfort of others than an army sutler, and more brains than the “ commissary sergeant. Theophilus Rodenbough, forward by Edward Longacre, From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry (Originally published: New York: D. Van Norstrand 1875; republished Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000) 59.

[xxiii] Kinnikinnick or Bearberry is a sacred blend of tobacco, bark and other leaves used by Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition 2004) “Kinnikinnick”, 688.

[xxiv] On June 13, 1843, Capt. Cooke’s command, encamped “in a pretty savannah” upon the north side of the Arkansas River. He reported that about 100 Kanza tribesmen entered the dragoon camp and traded dried Buffalo meat for tobacco. Capt. Boone made visual contact with Cooke and, thereafter, the two forces communicated by means of sending men across the swollen river; they were, however, unable to unite their detachments. Pelzer, Marches, 203; Cooke, “Journal I”, 82.

[xxv] Tenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, June 12, 1879 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1879) 33; Patricia Duncan, Genealogical Abstract from the Democratic Mirror and the Mirror, 1857-1879, Loudoun County, Virginia (Westminster: Heritage Books, 2008) 202.

[xxvi] W. Hunter Lesser, Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided (Naperville, Sourcebooks 2004) 115.

[xxvii] George Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from its Establishment, March 16, 1802 to Army Reorganization of 1866-67 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868) 2 vols, “John Love” 2:14.

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During his term in office, 1853-1857, Jefferson Davis, the former dragoon adjutant, now Secretary of War, tried hard to improve the weaponry of soldiers. Confronting a conservative Ordnance Department and a penny-pinching congress, he was only modestly successful. It would take the continued shedding of dragoon blood, partly attributed to their inferior weapons that ultimately resulted in the furnishing of modern weapons to the troops.

One of Davis’ first projects was to get the army to adopt a pistol carbine for the mounted regiments. He wrote of the advantages of such a weapon, one size fits all. “No difference will be needed between the arms and equipment dragoons and those of light cavalry; but the whole, armed with this weapon, will be rendered in celerity of movements equal to light cavalry, and in combat to heavy dragoons.”

The new weapon, resembling a horse pistol with a removable shoulder stock, was designed to fire the .58 caliber, 500-grain, minie bullet and used a charge of 60 grains of powder. Akin to the Model 1855 rifled musket, the pistol carbine employed the cranky and defective Maynard taped-primer system. Similar to the .44 Colt Dragoon pistol, it came with a readily attachable shoulder-stock. When fired as a carbine, with the shoulder stock attached, this weapon proved to be reasonably accurate and hard-hitting. But as a pistol, it fared less well. When used without the stock, the heavy, 12-inch barrel rendered the pistol-carbine unbalanced.

The Springfield Arsenal went into production of these arms and by 1857, had produced 4021 of these novel weapons.[i] On 12 September 1859, Inspector General Joe Johnston observed Lt. Richard Lord’s Company D, 1st Dragoons, on duty at Fort Fillmore, New Mexico Territory: “The dragoon company is not well armed. All of the men have sabres & Colt’s Navy revolvers–a majority, the pistol carbine–some Sharps & a few, rifles of the cal. 54 of inch [Yeager Model 1841].” On the 4th of October, General Johnston visited Ft. Buchanan and had this to say of the arms of Captain Richard Ewell’s Dragoon Company G: “There is, however, a great variety of fire arms, Sharp’s, Hall’s & the pistol carbine, the rifle (cal. 54) & musketoon–Colt’s revolver of both sizes [.44 Dragoon and .36 Navy], & the old [Aston M1842] Dragoon pistol. Capt. Ewell advocates Sharp’s [sic] Carbine, in comparison with the musketoon, for he has had no opportunity to compare it with others of the same kind. The Capt. has made two requisitions for carbines annually for several years. His sabres are of the old pattern [1833].” Captain Ewell also pointed out to Johnston that the shoulder stocks did not always fasten firmly to the pistol and this would adversely affect its accuracy.[ii]

By 1855, Colt revolvers and Sharps carbines had won the praise of most dragoon officers. Thus, the pistol carbine was already obsolete when issued. For the period of the 1850’s the army was going to have to look elsewhere for a trustworthy weapon to replace the musketoon.

A. Another Near Tragedy in Big Meadows

Captain Thomas Cram of the Topographical Engineers wrote in 1859, “The discovery of gold in the Rogue River valley attracted . . . many of the most unprincipled and ungovernable white men from all countries; with few exceptions, it is believed that the Indians of Oregon would have been the most peaceable, friendly, and easiest managed, with proper care, of any uncivilized tribes within the bounds of the United States.”[iii] The view of William Colvig, an old settler of the region, was directly the opposite. “The only honest acquisition of the Rogue River Indians was their name. On account of the thieving and treacherous habits of the people of that tribe, the river which flows through the valley was called by the early French trappers “Riviere aux Coquin,” the river of rogues.” [iv]

In 1851, the Mounted Rifles suffered numerous desertions due to the discovery of gold in California. Most of its officers and non commissioned officers of the regiment headed east to rebuild the regiment. The privates of the Rifles were to be transferred to other regiments stationed in California and Oregon.

By 1848, one-armed Captain Major Philip Kearny sufficiently recovered from his painful wounds suffered in the Mexican War and the army placed him on recruiting duty. Kearny learned to ride with one arm and it wasn’t long before he again yearned for glory. The army accommodated its young hero, ordering him to sail to Benicia, California to and thence to Sonoma Barracks to take over command of Company A. There he occasioned “a great deal of military parade, guard mounting  .  .  . dress foot parade at retreat, with trumpets sounding, sometimes with full band .  .  . from day break until nine at night tattoo.”[v]

Thus, on June 12, 1851, found Kearny back in the field leading a detachment of 65 Mounted Rifles, Dragoons and surveyors leisurely riding through and mapping the trail from Fort Vancouver to Benicia, California. Accompanying this expedition were Mounted Rifles Lieutenants James Stuart, John Walker and Caleb Irvine. They were en route to San Francisco, once there to take a ship East where they were to obtain new recruits to rebuild their regiment–one that had been decimated by desertions.

Before long, the troops found themselves in the middle of a war. As the detachment was approaching the base of Umpqua Canyon, near present day Medford, it was met by a group of miners pleading for protection from the nearby Takelma tribe. Never one to shy away from a fight or a chance at glory, Kearny agreed to chastise the menacing band. Hoping to surprise the natives camped on the banks of Rogue River, Kearny left the trail to California. After conducting a round about march for five days, he placed his troops behind the suspected tribe’s campsite.

Kearny had not counted on his maneuver being discovered. Tribal scouts watched Kearny very move and the Takelmas were alerted to the attack. Kearny charged, “A charge brilliant in itself, but most costly to us” as it resulted in the death of Lt. Stuart, who received an arrow wound. His last words were, “Boys, it is awful to have passed through all the battles of the Mexican war, and then be killed by an Indian in this wild country.” The ensuing skirmish cost, in addition to Stuart, three men who were wounded. Tribal forces rallied, forcing Kearny to retreat. He estimated that his troops had killed eleven Takelmas. [vi]

To continue with the campaign, Kearny called for civilian volunteers. Joseph Lane, a veteran of the Battle of Buena Vista and former territorial governor of Oregon, arrived on June 24, with reinforcements from Yreka, California, joining forces with Kearny near the tribal stronghold near Lower Table Rock. In the resultant campaign, Lane bragged that the tribe lost at least 50 warriors and was “completely whipped.” As events would prove, this was not the case and the so-called Rogue River wars intensified.[vii]

Kearny continued to fret from the army’s never having giving him proper recognition for his charge in Mexico. He was still young, 36 years of age, and now one of the richest men in the United States. Shortly after his return from Oregon, he tendered his resignation from the army in October of 1851. The army accepted his resignation and on November 15, 1851, he departed San Diego for his beloved France by way of Hawaii and India. While in France he volunteered in the French Army. With the Civil War, Kearny returned home and served during the war, rising to the rank of Major General of volunteers. During the Battle of Chantilly, Virginia, on September 1, 1862, he blundered into a Rebel scouting party, did not respond to a demand for surrender, spurred his horse and was promptly shot from the saddle while attempting to escape.

As the fighting in the Northwest intensified, federal troops began to pour into the region. In 1852, Captain Andrew Smith’s Company C was shifted from California to Port Orford, Oregon.  The company was immediately involved in a series of battles: Long’s Ferry on the Illinois River, Hungry Hill, and Big Meadows.

Deep in the wilds of Big Meadows in southwestern Oregon Territory, Captain Andrew Jackson Smith’s detachment of 50 First Dragoons from Company C and 30 doughfoots from the Fourth Infantry shivered in the pre-dawn chill of May 28, 1856.  Few had slept that night. Two hundred hostile warriors surrounded them and ammunition was running dangerously low. The firefight of the previous day had failed to drive away the attackers. Only a mountain howitzer and a few rifled muskets kept the foe from overwhelming their position.

The dragoons’ Model 1847 musketoons — smoothbore weapons inaccurate at a range beyond 50 yards—had been nearly useless in repelling the attackers who possessed longer-range weapons. A third of Smith’s command had been killed or wounded. Fearful at what the next day might bring, during the night the Captain dispatched a galloper to request reinforcements.

At sunrise, the enemy emerged from the shadows and advanced steadily toward the entrenched soldiers.  As the besiegers gathered for the deadly finishing strike, Captain Christopher Augur, leading a column of 4th U.S. infantry appeared on the field of battle. Trapped between the gleaming bayonets of the fast charging foot soldiers and the entrenched dragoons, the warriors fled.  Smith’s command survived to fight another day.[viii] Despite the availability of effective Sharps’ rifled carbines, the troops continued to carry the musketoon.

As was the case at Cieneguilla, the musketoon contributed to another defeat. The oft-reviled musketoon had a staunch defender and he held an important position. Back in 1851, Colonel Henry K. Craig, chief of the Ordnance Department, pointed out that breechloaders (which he referred to as “broken back guns”) were inferior to the musketoon because they were prone to accidental discharge and related hazards.  He concluded that if the musketoon “is not a suitable arm for cavalry, I do not know where to look for one that will answer.”

As it turned out, Colonel Craig did not have to look far for a replacement weapon. Christian Sharps, who had worked on the Hall carbine while employed at the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal, by 1848, had patented a breech-loading rifled carbine. The design was relatively simple. Pulling down a lever located as part of the trigger guard lowered the slide, a paper or linen cartridge was then placed into the breech. When the slide was forced back upward, it sheered off the rear of the linen cartridge and exposed the powder to ignition. The Sharps rifled carbine fired at the revolutionary rate of 8 to 10 rounds per minute, and with accuracy.

The Ordnance Board tested Sharps carbine and was favorably impressed. In 1852, it ordered 150 carbines for field tests by Dragoons stationed in New Mexico Territory and Southern California. Because it was an experimental weapon, Ordnance issued only ten to fifteen Sharps were issued to each company. Secretary Davis continued to press for congressional funds with which to purchase experimental weapons. Consequently, on July 28, 1854, the Army ordered two hundred carbines to be sent to New Mexico Territory for field-testing. The results were immediately promising.

Out in New Mexico territory, Captain Richard “Old Baldy” Ewell raved that the 15 Sharps carbines supplied to his Company G were the best firearms available for the mounted service, whether used on horse or on foot. From dreary Fort Defiance, Captain H. L. Kendrick of the Second Artillery, on April 10, 1854, came his endorsement of the Sharps to the assistant adjutant general, as being  “incomparably superior to the musketoon in every aspect, except in its balance; its gauge and accuracy are greater than those of Hall’s Carbine. While it is certainly more liable to get out of order; it holds up its ball much better than the service rifle does. Its accuracy is superior to the latter (especially at long distance) while it loads far more rapidly.”

Captain John Davidson, stationed at Fort Buchanan in New Mexico Territory, wrote: “I am satisfied from trial and experience, that the Sharps’ carbine is the best weapon yet known in our country for a cavalry soldier.  Its range and accuracy are greater than those of the musketoon.  It is a stronger arm; the soldier can make it last longer.  The swivels and muzzles of the musketoon are constantly getting broken and battered.” Having been mauled while leading musketoon-armed troops at Cieneguilla, he knew well the need for troops to be armed with a firearm having superior accuracy and range. “One argument I had almost omitted to mention, he wrote, “in favor of the Sharps’ carbine is, that dragoon soldiers have more confidence in it than any other weapon I have ever seen put into their hands; and I have seen them use the musketoon, carbine pistol and Minie rifle. Give your soldiers but confidence in the effectiveness of their weapons, and they will give a better account of themselves than with those they can not trust.”[ix]

In the meantime, troops on the West Coast soldiered on with their unreliable Musketoons. It didn’t take very long for another military fiasco to occur.

B. “[T]wo of the companies had musketoons, which were utterly worthless.”

On May 6, 1858, a detachment of three companies of First Dragoons (C, E and H) with 25 men of the Ninth Infantry and two howitzers, under the command of Lt. Col. Edward Steptoe, departed from Fort Walla Walla and headed for Eastern Washington Territory. Steptoe was not expecting a battle and had the men leave their sabres behind and took just forty rounds of ammunition per soldier.

The tribes of the region were unhappy upon hearing that their homeland had been recently been opened to white settlement. Steptoe’s mission was, in the time-tested fashion of the dragoon diplomacy on the plains: use his 175 men and two howitzers to show the flag and awe the Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Palouse tribes into submission. On this occasion the tribes were not about to be intimidated.[x]

After crossing the Snake River Steptoe encountered a party of angry warriors. Steptoe stated to them, “we were friends to all who were friendly and did not wish to fight if it could be avoided.” As he cautiously proceeded though the pine forest toward the villages, the number of alarmed warriors in his path steadily grew. The lieutenant colonel realized the tribesmen wouldn’t allow him to travel any further and on he decided to retreat. The warriors began to harass his withdrawal and attack his flanks.

In his report, Steptoe told of his “disadvantage of having to defend the pack train while in motion and in rolling country peculiarly favorable to the Indian mode of warfare” and his force “chiefly composed of troops who had never before been under fire.” Detaching two companies of dragoons (C and E)—both companies armed principally with musketoons and single shot pistols—to act as a rear guard. In order to fend off assaults, these two companies repeatedly charged and scattered the attackers. Despite these efforts by the two troops, the warriors commenced to attack the entire column came.[xi]

As the expedition clawed its way to a defensible position on the top of a small hill, Lieutenant Gaston and Captain Oliver Hazard Taylor, directing their men from the eye of the storm, became the targets of sharpshooters and both were hit by rifle fire. Warriors attempting to seize Taylor’s body were beaten back by troopers LeMoy (DeMoy), Kerse and Poisell. LeMoy, a veteran of French cavalry, was heard to cry out, “My God, for a sabre!”[xii]

The loss of the two officers “began to tell upon the spirit of the soldiers, that they were becoming discouraged, and not to be relied upon with confidence . . . Some of them were recruits but recently joined, two of the companies had musketoons, which were utterly worthless in our present condition; and, what was most alarming, only two or three rounds of cartridges remained to some men.”[xiii]

Steptoe dug in his troops on a hilltop and deployed the two mountain howitzers. The assailants formed a ring around the hill and content to snipe at the beleaguered force with their longer ranged and powerful trade rifles. With men dying steadily and ammunition nearly gone, Steptoe came to the realization that his troops would be unable to withstand an assault upon his position. Suffering the humiliation of having to abandon his two howitzers, he buried them, kept campfires burning while slipping away during the night, retreating to Fort Walla Walla. In the battle, Steptoe lost six killed and twelve wounded. Sergeant Edward Ball, one of the wounded, remained behind with the fatally wounded Sergeant W. C. Williams to tend to the campfires. Sgt. Ball was again badly wounded during his attempt to escape. Steptoe reported him as missing in action, but Ball limped into Fort Walla Walla six days after the arrival of the main body of troops.[xiv]

C. A Suitable Arm for the Dragoons

In 1857, four hundred model 1855 Sharps carbines were purchased by the War Department and shipped west. Ten carbines were issued to each of several Dragoon companies stationed out on the West Coast. Ordnance kept the remaining weapons neatly stored in their tin lined boxes waiting for the distant date of distribution.

In the wake of Steptoe’s debacle Congress wanted to know why dragoons were still using the outmoded musketoon when it had appropriated sums to purchase the Sharps carbine. Secretary of War John Floyd sent orders to the Ordnance Department to immediately fill all orders for Sharps carbines. The effects were immediate.

[i] Robert Ball, Springfield Armory: Shoulder Weapons 1795-1968 (Norfolk: Antique Trader, 1997) 66

[ii] Jerry Thompson, Texas & New Mexico on the Eve of the Civil War: The Mansfield & Johnston Inspections, 1859-1861 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001) 58, 63.

[iii] Thomas Cram, Topographical Memoir and Report, Relative to the Territory of Oregon and Washington, in the Military Department of the Pacific, in Letter from The Secretary of War, March 3, 1859, 35th Congress, 2d Sess. Ex. Doc. 114, 40.

[iv] William Colvig, “Indian Wars of Southern Oregon”, Oregon Historical Society Quarterly  (1903) vol. IV, No. 3, 227.

[v] John DePeyster, Personal and Military History of Philip Kearny, Major General United States Volunteers (New York: Palmer & Co. 1870) 159.

[vi] Colvig, “Indian Wars” 227.

[vii] Peyster, Philip Kearny, 156; E. A. Schwartz, The Rogue River Indian War and Its Aftermath, 1850-1890 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 36.

[viii] Cram, Topographical Memoir, 51.

[ix] Richard Ewell to Major W. A. Nichols, Asst. Adj. Gen., Headquarters Department of New Mexico, Fort Union, NARA RG 393, M1102, R3, F714-15; April 22, 1854, Kendrick to Major W. A. Nichols, roll 3, 1125.

[x] Utley, Frontiersmen, 201; private letter of Lt. Col. Steptoe, published in the New York Times, July 21, 1858.

[xi] “The Steptoe Battle, the reports of Lieutenant John Mullan and Lt. Colonel Steptoe”, Washington Historical Quarterly, XVIII (October, 1927) 59; New York Times, July 21, 1858.

[xii] Randall Johnson, “May 17, 1858″ The Ordeal of the Steptoe Command”, The Pacific Northwesterner, Vol. 17, No.1 (Winter 1973).

[xiii] “The Steptoe Battle”, 59.  Johnson wrote the privates were not carrying their sabres and were pending primarily on their musketoons. “This was a short barreled smooth-bore piece that fired a large ball and three buckshot from the same load. It didn’t fire them very far nor straight.”

[xiv] George Fuller, “The Steptoe Disaster,” The Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest (Spokane: H.G. Linderman, 1928) Vol III, 1. It was also reported in the article that Sergeant Ball assisted Steptoe in destroying the ample stock of alcohol the officers had brought with them. Longtime Spokane Historian Randall Johnson noted, “Some poolroom stories have been passed down suggesting that Chief Packer Tom Beall, pronounced Bell, had removed ammunition boxes to make room for plenty of whiskey in the mule packs. This could be true since Beall, like the others, was expecting a peaceful outing. We do not know whether Steptoe approved this change or even knew of it but, in any case, the responsibility was his. Beall, the son of an army colonel [Benjamin Beall], lived in the Inland Empire to a ripe old age. He was considered a competent frontiersman and a good man to have on your side.” “The Ordeal of the Steptoe Command.”


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