First Encounter

The first shots fired in battle by the 1st Dragoons took place on 12 November 1846 when a patrol from Company I. led by Captain William Grier, came into contact with Navajo tribesmen who had stolen some stock. Grier and Lt. Wilson were well-mounted and the enlisted men were riding mules. Consequently, they foolishly rode far in advance of their support–and into an ambush. The event is reported by Lt. J. W. Abert and found in Ex Doc. No. 41, (Washington 1848) pp. 497-498.

November 12 –
In the evening we saw, on the opposite side of the river, the
companies of Captains Burgwin and Grier, on their return to
Albuquerque. Lieutenant McIlvane came across the river, and from him
I learned that Captain Grier, with Lieutenant Wilson and two men, had
a fight with a party of Navajoe Indians. It appears that while the
companies were on their march down the river, some Mexicans rushed
hurriedly up to them, crying out that the Navajoes had just been into
the village, murdering the people and carrying off their flocks and
herds. Captain Grier immediately set off in pursuit, and soon came in
sight of the bold marauders. In a little while the Indians began to
abandon the cattle they were driving off, until at last 400 head had
been left along the route. So warm and exciting was the chase, that
the officers, who were well mounted, heeded not the want of their men
who were unable to keep pace with them, but they pressed on, anxious
to recover the immense “cavalgada” of sheep the Indians were yet driving. Suddenly they saw
they had rushed into an ambuscade, for the Indians rising up from
their concealment surrounded Captain Grier and his three brave
companions. With horrid cries and shouts of “Navajoe,” the Indians
sprang forward to the combat; they were dressed for war, being
ornamented with paints and plumes, and mounted on good horses, and
armed with bows and arrows, and lances; but, fortunately, they were so
crowded that they feared lest they shoot each other. At length, one
of the chiefs came alongside of Lieutenant Wilson; their horses were
on the gallop, each one waiting until the horses should jump together,
when, at the same moment, Lieutenant Wilson and the Indian fired; the officer’s pistol did not
go off, and the arrow of the chief only cut off a coat button, and
lodged in the saddle blanket of Captain Grier. As the Indian turned
his horse, a Mexican, who had started at full speed, came in contact
with him, and rolled horse and rider in the dust; the Indian was
immediately upon his feet, and rushed up to a dragoon soldier, who
had a patent carbine, such as loaded at the breach, and had, unseen by
the Indian, reloaded it, and the Indian coming up within two or three
feet, the soldier shot him dead. One other Indian was killed, when Captain
Grier ordered a retreat, and the four, drawing their sabres, cut their
way out and rejoined their company, while the Navajoes succeeded in
carrying off 3,000 head of sheep.”

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Ft. Leavenworth December 24, 1846

Dear Love

I send you herewith a Regimental and General Orders, and an extract from the clothing receipt roll of Sergt. Muller and Corpl. Nickerson, clothing issued by Lieut. McLean. I also send you Duplicate Receipts for Ordnance and Horse Equipage which I have directed Sergt. Bishop to leave behind as I do not think you would want to be troubled with old equipage and ordnance at Jefferson Barracks, when you will probably get an entire New Equipment for your Company.
If you should want any horse equipage I have appective for a good deal of New Equipage that was sent on for the different Dragoon Companies, and which has never been used, and if you are not able to equip you Company entirely at St. Louis, I may be able to help you. Colonel Wharton has at last indirectly applied to join the Army in the field, he will probably get an answer before the middle of next month. We got a mail from Santa Fe a day or two ago. Grier had a fight with the Indians, it seems they have runned off some cattle, Grier followed them, but owing to the bad condition of the mules of his party, only himself, Lieut. Wilson and two men were able to come up with the Indians; they killed two of the Indians and Grier’s horse or mule whatever it was, shot under him. The Dragoons under Burgwin have been ordered to the Passo to protect the traders. He writes very despondently, says, if his men were only Dragoons he might do something. I hope that Colonel Wharton joins Scott or Taylor that he will [take] some more Companies of the 1st Dragoons down with him. If he could get four or five Companies it would be a very pretty command. How are you getting along at Dayton. Did the Girls give you a warm welcome? I was not able to send you a copy of your estimate for clothing because by some mistake it was sent off without a copy being attached. If there should by any possibility be any thing new here, I will let you know.
Yours Truly
Stanton

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