Lt. Oliver Taylor's Proposed Transfer to the Infantry

The following was an informal note accompanying an official letter sent by Dragoon Lt. Oliver H. Taylor to Dickerson, who was serving as A.A.A.Genl to Bvt. Lt. Col. Washington, Commander of the 9th Military Department in Santa Fe.  Taylor and Dickerson had been one class apart at West Point, and Taylor often included such notes as separate pages in his official correspondence. These personal notes between officers seemingly relieved some of the tedium attendant while stationed at a frontier post.

Jan. 3, 1849 [Albuquerque]

Dear Dick:

I received your of the 25th Dec yesterday & hasten to inform you that I deem it very important that we should have a Genl Court Martial.  One or two of you at least will come down from Santa Fe & perhaps some of our Taos friends.  Have not time to write much as I am busy with my quarterly papers, compy, Qtr Mstrs & Compy &c.  got a letter from [2nd Lt. William W.] Burns [USMA —˜47, assigned to 5TH Infantry, Ft. Gibson] the other day, wishes me to change in the Infantry with [2nd Lt. Richard H.] Long [USMA —47, also Ft. Gibson] , but as the Mexicans say —quando?—[sic, —Cuando?— (—When?—)]  I think a new lot of —œniggers will be hung.— I put the letter of transfer, directed to the Adjt Genl, in the fire & could not help applying the thumb of my dexter hand to my nose & causing the fingers to execute sundry gyrations at the ashes as I thought how easy that little business had been settled & almost felt like sending a challenge to Burns for his impudence in supposing that a Dragoon would transfer with a —Doughboy.— Try & keep yourself alive & hearty.  Remember me to all hands—”In haste, Yours Truly O. H. P. Taylor [Bvt. 1st Lt, Commanding G Company, 1st Dragoons]

P. S. I have also other Genl prisoners.  Do send a Genl Ct. martial.

Note: This banter between classmates, joking about their branches and hoping for some social contact—”a General Court Martial required at least five officers, and everyone was spread thin in 1849 New Mexico.  Tragically, Long died at Fort Gibson, January 30, 1849, of apparent illness, probably before Burns got any reply from Taylor.  Taylor himself would be killed at To-kota-mine-me, Washington Tty, May 17, 1858, gallantly leading the rear guard against the united and outraged Spokane, Palouse, Coeur d’ Alene, and Yakama tribes.

Spokane Expedition:

One account of the battle states:—On Monday, May 17, 1858, the  soldiers’ journey back immediately turned into a running flight for their lives. With the first sound of shots, Lieutenant William Gaston found an opening and led the entire expedition towards a small hill by Pine Creek. The running battle was brutal, as the tribes were skillfull at running their horses up to the troops to attack them. While the men had guns, they were mostly Yager rifles, not meant for firing from horseback, The soldiers’ revolvers were rapidly running out of ammunition. And the sabers, which would have helped the soldiers defend themselves, were left useless back at Fort Walla Walla.

As Steptoe’s expedition floundered toward the small hill, Lieutenant Gaston, along with Captain Oliver Hazard Taylor, guarded the flanks. Their skill was also their death sentence, for upon noticing the effectiveness of these two officers, the tribal leaders ordered their sharpshooters to focus on felling these two men, and soon Steptoe heard the news that these two officers had been killed, and Gaston’s body taken.

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