In August of 1855 it was reported that Capt. John Pope’s comand (Company I, 7th Infantry) out on the Staked Plains near the Texas/New Mexico border, had been attacked by Comanche Indians and had lost 7 men. John Davidson’s B Company, stationed at Fort Stanton, was dispatched to rescue Pope. A patrol, under Sgt. James Bennett, left Ft. Stanton on 21 August. The remainder of the company departed from Ft. Stanton on 28 August. Two men were drowned at the crossing of Blue Water. After traveling across the harsh desert terrain with temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, Pope’s camp was reached on 1 September. Company B discovered that the reported Indian attack turned out to be false. It returned to Fort Stanton and arrived there on 16 September.
Here are two reports of the patrol graciously provided by Gary Cozzens and the Fort Stanton history group.
Head Quarters Fort Stanton
N. M. September 10th 1855
Desirous of sending the whole force of Captain Davidson—™s Company to Delaware Creek, he deferred his departure until 28th August for the return of about 10 men absent escorting to Fort Bliss. These not returning by the time he departed with all the strength of his Company here (thirty five men) and 20 pack mules with a howitzer with the Dept. order and the Genl—™s letter of instructions of 2nd August for his guidance, to open communication with Capt. Pope, T. E. He returned within 20 miles of them last night and reported to me. I directed him to come to the Post. I enclose a copy of his report, the original being in pencil. It was my design to allow his animals about 10 days to recruit and send him again with the whole strength of his company now increased by eleven recruits and six men who will by that time return from escorting Dr. Henry to Fort Fillmore on his way as a witness to Fort Bliss as it is believe he could go securely by Dog Canyon and south of the Guadalupe Mountains. Flores the guide (bearer of this) wishes to go to Santa Fe, on important business to him, and I have thought it best to enclose to the Cmdg General Captain Davidson—™s report and a sketch of the country transversed for his information, and further particulars he can get from Flores and through him I can be informed of the General—™s wishes by the time the animals are sufficiently rested for another expedition. A map will be furnished as soon as complete.
Captain Davidson speaks very highly of Flores; of his perfect knowledge of the county, and of of the Indians their bands, habits, numbers and mountains. It is deemed very important that he be returned here for a year as to acquire a knowledge of the country, now unknown to the officers serving here. Col. [Daniel] Chandler has written to me to send Flores to Fort Craig, but it seems to me that the services of him or of El Cojo of Manzanos or some equally good are very material here, and Flores is considered best, and is most desired. I believe he would be glad to be so employed at $1.50 per diem.
It is his opinion and Capt. Davidson that no reliance can be placed on the friendship of the Mescaleros and that as soon as their fruits and other resources on the Rio Grande are exhausted, we may expect them (perhaps with others), to make attempts at driving off our animals.
Capt. Davidson estimates the distance to Capt Pope at considerably over 200 miles and that he has reached within about 80 miles of him. The Pecos was very high and he considered it very dangerous if not impractible then to cross it. The grass below is excellent and his horses are in better condition than when he started, but the mules much exhausted.
The [ ] Mill works pretty well. We have made yokes and yoked up some of our beef cattle to haul logs.
I am Sir
Your Obt. Svt.
Bvt. Major N. A. Nichols J. Van Horne
Asst Adjt General USA B. Maj. Comdg
(National Archives microfilm, RG 393, M1120, [V-8].)
Camp on Ruidoso near —œSanta de los Rios—
September 7, 1855
I have the honor to report briefly to the Commanding Officer from this point that in pursuance to his orders I left the post on the 1st ulto. with 1 sergeant, 1 bugler, platoon of sixteen files of my Company, and a mountain howitzer to open communication with Capt. Pope, Topo Engineer.
Below the junction of the Ruidoso and Bonito the road became so impracticable that I left my gun it being impossible to carry it further without great labor and detentioin.
On the 2nd of September in the afternoon I observed signal smokes about 12 miles below me on the Pecos having been on this river two days and striking the river an hour later I came upon a large Indian Camp located a day or two from the signs of my guide (Flores) judged there to be a band of Auga Nueva Apaches joined by a renegade band of Mescaleros under Chino [?] (likely as not is at the treaty) and that from this [?] has obsereved [?] camped about [?] below on the River, where some [?] from the Mesa to the Pecos and which are termed Los Luganitas. There Indians must have with them some 200 head of horses among which is a shod one recently stolen from the Settlements as the traders are cut clear showing the newness of the shoe. There could have been no friendly Mescaleros among them or there was no sign of corn in the camp or any of the supplies down under the treaty but to the contrary they are subsisting scantly on game, the roots of the field and the fruit of the cactus. I counted 32 lodges which have been put up one fine camped without lodges.
From the direction from which these Indians came, my Guide thinks them to be the same, apart of whom committed the depredations near Fort Bliss probably attacked and killed the wagon escort on the river and are about 90 strong. These things gave me matter of reflection during the night and on the morning of the 3rd then signal smokes being answered from the Guadalupe. Showing another band to be in concert with them. I therefore in consideration of the known hostility of these Auga Nuevas, the size of the band and the smallness of my own force, there being no means of transporting wounded men (not a pole for stretchers to be cut on the river) and no particular routes on the eastern slopes of the Guadalupe by going down the Pecos and my order not being for a Campaign, determined not to jeopardize my party without necessity but returned to this point, Report and await further orders which I have done. Accordingly with exceeding regret not that I doubt the prosperity of this step but that I have not sufficient force to prosecute my march whiter I choose to go.
The pack mules of my party are unsuited for such an expedition having done much work this year with scanty forage and little rest and have been giving out daily so as to delay my marches going and returning back to this point slowly. On the 4th I had one shot unable to go further.
I am Sir
Your Obdt Servt
J. N. Davidson
Capt 1st Dragoons
Lt. R. M Bonneou
Fort Stanton, N. M.
National Archives, RG 393, M-1120, [V 8/1]