On January 18, 1855, Captain Henry W. Stanton was ambushed and killed by Apache warriors. Details of the life of Captain Stanton are found elsewhere in this blog. Here is the official report filed by Captain Richard Ewell, 1st Dragoons, of Stanton’s death and the engagement. Ewell’s report was graciously provided to this site by Gary Cozzens of the Fort Stanton, Inc.
Los Lunas, N. M. (1)
Maj. W. A. Nichols, U. S. Army Feb 10 1855
A.A.G. Dept. of N. M.
—œSir: I have the honor to report my return from the scout ordered from your office December 21. On the 7th I proceeded to Anton Chico (60 miles S. E. of Santa Fe) with 61 men, Company —œG—, 20 of —œK—, and Lieutenant Isaiah N. Moore and H. B. Davidson, 1st Dragoons. Dr. Kennon was the acting surgeon of the command; and his services proved to be highly important and were cheerfully rendered.
—œAt Anton Chico I learned from your office of the cooperating force from Fort Fillmore to meet me on the Bonito [near the present site of Fort Stanton] and also that the predators were Mescalero Apaches. I accordingly proceeded down the Pecos River and up the Bonito River to the vicinity of Sierra Capitan where on the 13th of January, as previously arranged by Gen. John Garland, I met Capt. Henry W. Stanton, 1st Dragoons, Lieuts. Junius Daniel and Henry W. Walker, 3rd Infantry, and 50 Infantrymen and 29 Dragoons.
On my route down the Pecos I was overtaken at Bosque Redondo by J. Gittings, (2) Esq., who with four Mexicans proved my only reliable guides, and whom Mr. Gittings, at the instance of General Garland, had been active in hunting up he, with great public spirit, mounting them on his own horses. Fatigue and exposure brought on an attack of sickness, which, to his regret, prevented Mr. Gittings from going further.
—œI made two night marches on a small Indian trail on the Pecos, which we then abandoned because it was older than we thought, then continued my march to meet the troops from Fort Fillmore.
After combining the two commands I moved south toward the Guadalupe and Sacramento Mountains and then on January 17th, 1855, encamped on the Penasco, a fine stream running from these chains toward the Pecos. Up to this time we had seen no Indians or signs, though constantly on the trail of the cattle, now six weeks old and few in number, which had been stolen by the Indians. This night the camp was attacked by the Indians with arrows and firearms and at the same time they tried to burn us out.
Next morning the Indians seemed in force with every mark of defiance and during the whole day opposed our march, disputing every ravine at times under cover within arrow shot.
A body of skirmishers, first of Infantry, under charge, at different times, of Lieutenant Danels and Walker, and then of mounted and dismounted dragoons, under Lieutenant Moore, was engaged the whole day in clearing the line of March. The country was broken into high hills, with deep ravines crossing the line of march. Lieut. Moore, with some of the best horses, gave chase to some Indians on the open ground but a winter march of 450 miles had reduced the horses too much to catch the Indians on their fresh animals. The Indians gave the impression from their boldness that they were trying to keep us from their families.
Hoping to bring on a close fight, we kept up the march as rapidly as possible. During the day some 15 of them were shot from their horses and carried off by their comrades, leaving the ground marked with blood and at one time, after the fall of the boldest, they collected on a high hill and set up a lamentation, afterwards becoming even bolder in their attacks. None of my guides had ever seen the country I passed through after reaching the Penasco.
About 3 PM on the 18th of Jan, I came to the first of their abandoned camps where thy command was halted for the night and Captain Stanton was directed to take his company, with some additional men and examine a small open valley to the right where were some more abandoned lodges, about 500 yards distant, and endeavor to find the direction taken by the Indians when they left.
This officer, after reaching the place designated, charged after some Indians he saw in front and in following up the steep hillside in the ardor of the chase, became separated from some of his men, badly mounted, who were unable to join him when he sounded the rally. After rallying about a dozen men he proceeded up the valley until he became satisfied that the Indians had not retreated in that direction, then he started back, leading his horses. About three-fourths of a mile form the camp the valley narrowed with trees, and here he was ambushed and fired into, the first fire killing one of his men. He ordered his party to take to the trees, but the Indians being in too great force, he mounted and ordered his party to retreat, remaining in the rear himself, firing his Sharps carbine, when he received a shot in the head and was instantly killed.
One of the men when he first charged, Private Duger, (4) Company B, 1st Dragoons, was dismounted, surrounded and lanced after killing an Indian. As soon as I ascertained that Capt. Stanton was engaged, I ordered Lieut. Moore with a strong party on foot, whose approach dispersed the Indians. Lieut. Moore brought in the bodies of Capt. Stanton and the two men killed, and the Horse and rifle of the Indian killed by Duger. After the Indians had dispersed my guides were utterly incapable of tracking them, and on the 20th, having passed the source of the Penasco, I stated back with my horses so worn out that I was forced to lead them to the post. Within five miles of my camp the day of the fight were over 300 newly abandoned lodges.
The infantry were of invaluable service and towards the last were able to out-march the dragoons. The Indians were not aware of musket range until they paid for their experience. M. Gleason, Esq., gave me important assistance not only in the fight, but in keeping in advance with Mexicans when trailing. I had the hearty cooperation of Officers and men. Enclosed is a map of my route, drawn by Lieutenant Moore.
The signal smokes of the Indians, on my return, satisfied me that they retreated towards the lower rang of the Guadalupe Mountains.—
R. S. Ewell,
Captain, 1st Dragoons
1. National Archives, Letters Received, Department of New Mexico, Record Group 393, Microcopy 1120, Roll 4.
2. Probably James M. Giddings. James Giddings had a ranch at the junction of Auga Negra Creek (Pinata Creek) and the Pecos River about two miles north of Puerta de Luna.
3. Private John Hennings, Company B, 1st Dragoons
4. Private Thomas Dwyer