Three Dragoons on Trial

Much of all I know about U.S. Army historical research I learned from the late George Stammerjohan during our twenty-year-friendship. George had spent most of his adult life as a historian for the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Among the unique research skills George developed during his lifetime, researching enlisted personnel of the antebellum U.S. Army was his forte. The task was not easy for these men were barely educated, left only a few journals and letters, and were seldom mentioned in official reports. Yet muster rolls and Army court-martial records are often overlooked troves for military historians as they provide a solid view of the enlisted soldier’s life. For instance, Pvt. John Fullmer, a man who served in the U.S. Dragoons between 1848 and 1859. Fullmer’s court-martial, or, should I say, series of court cases, was one of George’s favorite stories.

John Fullmer (or Follmer or Fulton or Fullmore) began his military career innocently enough. In 1845, the under-aged Pennsylvania native enlisted at Pittsburgh in Company B of the 4th Infantry. His recruiting document lists his birthplace as in Germany and he was a laborer, standing 5 feet and 6 inches. Follmer had gray eyes, light colored hair, and a fair complexion. He served with the 4th at the Battle of Monterrey in 1846. The regiment, caught in a deadly cross-fire, suffered serious casualties in that battle, as a third of its troops were killed or wounded during an ill-advised charge. Although he may have not have been wounded in this battle, the private was left behind as sick in hospital as the regiment moved on. Follmer shortly returned to duty and was detailed to serve in the quartermaster department in Monterrey where he stayed until the Army evacuated the city at war’s end.

Upon reaching the Brazos Landing, Texas, Follmer apparently presented himself to Gen. John Wool and applied to be transferred to Company E of the 2d Dragoons, then about to march west. He arrived with this regiment in Los Angeles, California, from where he was transferred to Company A, 1st Dragoons, under the command of Lt. Cave Couts. The private participated in the international boundary expedition and was honorably discharged in May 1850 near El Centro, California.

An 1859 Ft. Tejon regimental court-martial panel composed of Lt. Col. Benjamin Beall, Capt. James Carleton, and Lt. Charles Ogle tried his case in 1859. They knew Fullmer, using the name Jacob Fillmore, enlisted in the newly formed 1st Cavalry in 1855, and was assigned to Company H, then stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. From this post he deserted and headed west. Reaching San Francisco, he enlisted as John A. Fulton in K Company, 1st Dragoons, stationed at Ft. Tejon. Shortly after his arrival at Tejon he confessed to Captain Carleton he had deserted from the 1st Cavalry and was tried by court-martial in January 1859.

Fullmer admitted he was a deserter but pled for leniency. His defense was he was not supplied a horse and consequently was assigned but menial fatigue duty. He alleged he “left because the men of the Company were stealing clothing all of the time and selling it for Whiskey. I lost two overcoats and two Blankets.” The court-martial panel found him guilty of desertion and sentenced him to be drummed out of the service. It spared trooper Fullmer the usual punishment for desertion in the form of fifty lashes well laid on the following grounds:

John A. Fullmer of Co. H., U.S. 1st Cavalry, who has been tried before this Court, so much of the sentence in his case as relates to the infliction of stripes, be remitted, and more particularly for the reason that the undersigned are of the opinion that Fullmer is so stupid a man as hardly to know the magnitude of his offense.

The panel, serving three thousand miles from Army headquarters in Washington and New York, and not having access to their Army records, could not have been aware of his two previous desertions from the 1st Dragoons, or he had not served with the 2d Dragoons at the Battles of Palo Alto and Buena Vista.

A perusal of Army records now held by the National Archives reveals in May 1851, Fullmer enlisted (as Jacob Fullmore) in 1st Dragoons at Philadelphia. His given age was listed as 21, gray eyes, fair hair and skin. Six years older than his initial enlistment he gained an inch and one-half, standing 5′ 7 1/2″. Private Fullmore claimed to be born in Pennsylvania, and gave his occupation as a farmer in Chester County. The Army at this time assigned him to Company F, stationed at Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory. In July 1852, Fullmer deserted and was arrested in St. Louis on 5 May 1853. He was confined in Jefferson Barracks, but escaped custody on 18 May 1853, and headed west.

Army documents reveal one year later Fullmer showed up in San Francisco where he was enlisted by Capt. John Lendrum (this time as Johann August Fulmer) on 22 July 1854. The Army sent him to serve with Company A, 1st Dragoons, at Fort Miller, California. He immediately went on sick leave. It was soon discovered at the time of his enlistment there was an arrest warrant pending in San Francisco. Fullmer was detained in the post guardhouse, but twice escaped. He was captured, tried, and dishonorably discharged on 19 December 1854 by Standing Order no. 110, Headquarters Department of the Pacific. Returning to the East he would twice more enlist under bogus names.

In short, Fullmer might not have been “so stupid a man as hardly to know the magnitude of his offense.” Early in his soldiering career he learned to acquire the skill to avoid the dangers of combat his regiment faced throughout the war in Monterrey. He later escaped from imprisonment at Jefferson Barracks and then at Fort Miller. Fullmer’s frequent enlistments allowed him to crisscross the continent at a time when few people traveled more than fifty miles from where they were born. Finally, he cleverly spun a false tale of woe, which pulled at the heartstrings and hoodwinked the court martial panel at Tejon, all tough career officers who were not easily deceived by enlisted personnel.

Fullmer was hardly an honorable man, but he was not stupid in the way he worked the antebellum Army to his advantage: running about the county, deserting the Army on at least three occasions while avoiding serious punishment the antebellum Army was perfectly capable of imposing, and commonly did, to deserters. My mentor George, a former enlisted man, must been especially fascinated as he unearthed the exploits of this long forgotten soldier.

Another of George’s favorite cases was the court-martial of Farrier Morris Hurley of K Company, 1st Dragoons. He was recruited in Boston on 8 September 1857, by Lt. Arthur MacArthur and assigned to the 1st Dragoons. Hurley had been born in Cork, Ireland, and stood 5 feet 8 inches, with grey eyes, brown hair, and a fair completion. His civilian training as a blacksmith made him a perfect candidate to be made a farrier.

With the commencement of the Civil War, Companies B and K of the 1st Dragoons were moved from Ft. Tejon and stationed in Los Angeles at an encampment outside of town, known as Camp Fitzgerald. It seems on the morning of 23 May 1861, Lt. Benjamin Davis found Farrier Hurley drunk. Hurley got into an altercation with Davis who had a sergeant arrest him. While in the guard tent, Hurley became loud and ill mannered, telling the other prisoners to leave the tent. Hearing the commotion Lieutenant Davis entered the tent and told Hurley to stop making noise. Hurley called the lieutenant a “damn son of a bitch,” ordering him out of the guard tent and threatening his life. Davis testified the drunken farrier began to shove him, first with his hands and then threatening death by pointing the muzzle of a Sharps carbine at Davis.

Hurley denied aiming the muzzle at Davis or threatening to kill him. He admitted to using the butt of the carbine to strike the lieutenant and produced witnesses to give his side of the fight. Unfortunately, most of the disturbance occurred inside of the guard tent and the prisoner’s witnesses did not observe what took place.

The lieutenant claimed he left the tent and ordered a sergeant of the guard to take a file of men to the tent and secure Hurley, but they did not do so as they were afraid of the belligerent Hurley. A frustrated Davis stormed back into the guard tent and attempted to seize the carbine. He was not successful. The sergeant and his men were again ordered by Davis to secure Hurley. The prisoner once again threaten the guard, fought them, lost the struggle, was retrained, and then tied up and taken to the city jail.
The Army charged Hurley with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. Possibly, because it needed men to fight in the Civil War, Hurley wasn’t charged with a violation of Articles 7 and 9 of the Articles of War with mutiny and striking a superior officer, each of which allow for the imposition of the death penalty. On 5 July 1861, the general court-martial panel, headed by Capt. John Davidson, 1st Dragoons, found Hurley guilty of the specifications and charge. It ordered him to suffer a forfeiture of pay and to be confined under guard for six months. During his confinement the farrier was to carry each day in prison a pack weighing fifty pounds.

It is unlikely that Hurley served the entire sentence. Skilled farriers were difficult to come by, all the more so during wartime. Consequently, Maj. James Carleton testified Hurley, when sober, was a valuable soldier in his company. In the fall, Company K sailed for the East Coast and the war. Army records reveal Hurley served his full five year term enlistment and was honorably discharged in Mechanicsville, Virginia on September 8, 1862.

Ruination by drink is an unfortunate but common tale, and here is the story of a dragoon officer with a promising career ruined by alcohol. This problem oft repeated in all ranks of all the other regiments of the antebellum army or, for that matter, among any other army in history. Serving with the army out west was dangerous, living in a distant and hardscrabble land—far from friends and relatives; promotion it was slow, and living in close quarters with hard-drinking officers and enlisted men. Thus, it was not surprising that many a soldier would find solace in a bottle of whiskey. An officer on the frontier stated, “the soldier who will have whiskey can procure it,” and Ulysses Grant concurred stating, “soldiers are a class of people who will drink.”

Indeed, Felix Legit, a member of Co. K, 1st Dragoons, who got drunk while on occupation duty in Mexico City in 1847. He walked into a room, cursed, killed for no apparent reason, a Mexican stable hand, and then passed out dead drunk. Felix’s defense was that, while sober, he was a kindly fellow, a good soldier and because he was drunk, had no memory of the event. The Court martial panel convicted him of the murder and sentenced him to be strung up. Leggit was executed on January 5, 1848, becoming the only regular soldier to be executed for an atrocity committed against a civilian during the war. Or to quote Lt. Col. Benet,

“[e]xperience teaches us that drunkenness is the prolific source of most serious offenses committed in the military state, and the only way of eradicating the evil is not overlooking the cause in punishing the crime”

My interest in the matter originated when, after viewing an ambrotype of Second Lieutenant Charles H. Ogle and an unidentified first sergeant, him sharing a drink at a small table. This is not to say that antebellum officers never drank with non commissioned officers. They often did. But this image fed my suspicion of Ogle’s alcoholism. I thought it odd that a West Point-educated officer would have preserved this image recorded for posterity in which he is depicted sharing a drink with a non-commissioned officer.

I recalled hearing rumors of Ogle’s alcoholism during his service in the 1st Dragoons and decided to dig into his service record. The first hints of this officer’s alcoholism did not surface until late in his career. If anything, the first eleven years of his military service appear to be unblemished.
The only known written account of his addiction to spirits appeared in a book published long after the end of the Civil War. The author, former Lieutenant William Beach, who served with Ogle in the 1st New York Volunteer Cavalry, tersely noted that the Ogle was “a West Point graduate, a trained and competent soldier, but given to drinking habits.” Lt. Beach mentions but a single incident of possible intoxication in which Major Ogle, while in command of the 1st New York Cavalry, approached a campground. Suffice it to say, Ogle was in no condition to be civil and lost all control.

As the companies had arrived the sergeant had directed each to its place, and had received a respectful “Thank you,” especially from the German officers. But Major Ogle was in no condition to be civil. In response to his question as to where his companies were to go, the sergeant, referring to his plan of the camp, pointed to a tree and some stakes that marked the place for his companies. With a perfect torrent of oaths and abuse, and with a violent motion of his arm that indicated the way in which he would have liked to take off the sergeant’s head if he had had his sabre in his hand, said, “I don’t want anything of your — paper! Mount your horse and show me where to go !” The sergeant mounted his horse, and rode to the head of one of the lines and called to the major that there was the line of his first company.

Charles Ogle, the son of Alexander and Charlotte Ogle, was born in 1826, and grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania. His father, who had served in Congress as a representative of Pennsylvania, died at age 32 when Charles was but six years of age. The lad, upon graduation from West Point in 1848, 29th in his class, received a temporary 2nd lieutenant’s brevet in the 1st Dragoons and, on August 3, 1848, gained a full promotion to 2nd lieutenant.

On the 22nd of October, within slightly more than a year of his promotion and in command of a Company B patrol of twenty men out of Fort Kearney, Ogle became engaged in combat in western Missouri Territory. The troop came into contact with an estimated one hundred Pawnee warriors at the Little Blue River. Ogle ordered his men to draw their sabres and charge. In the ensuing charge two dragoons fell, mortally wounded and four others were injured. The Pawnees fled into a deep ravine. The lieutenant, although wounded by an arrow that grazed his mouth, managed to rescue one of his fallen men who was about to be scalped.

The Army in 1852 transferred Ogle to Company A where he served at West Coast posts at San Diego, Benicia, Fort Redding and Fort Lane. While serving in Oregon, on October 23, 1853, Ogle fought at the Battle of the Illinois River, a desperate struggle in which Company A was nearly overwhelmed by the Rogue River people.

This proficient officer, on January 7, 1855, this proficient officer became the regimental adjutant of the 1st Dragoons, and in the same month, gained a promotion to 1st Lieutenant. This promotion required his transfer to dragoon headquarters at Fort Union, New Mexico Territory. In the winter of 1856, Ogle led dragoon headquarters to its new post at Ft. Tejon, California. A bright future seemingly awaited him.

In the antebellum army, a regimental adjutant, a prized staff officer position, usually a 1st lieutenant, served at headquarters directly under a field grade officer and was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the regiment. General August Kautz described the position as follows:
The Adjutant is the official organ of the Regimental Commander through whom he communicates with the subordinates in the Regiment. He has charge of the books, records, and papers pertaining to the Regiment. He superintends the machinery and workings of the Regiment. He communicates the orders of the commander, and sees that they are obeyed, and that the regular returns and reports are made. He keeps the roster of the officers, makes the details that are called for from the Regiment, and forms and marches on the guard at guard mounting.
It was hardly a position that can be maintained by an irresponsible alcoholic. Ogle held this important position for five years.

After serving a year as a dutiful adjutant Ogle was granted leave to return to visit his home in Pennsylvania. To secure passage for the return trip to his post, Ogle, as did most other officers of the period, secured orders to attach him to a westward bound column. While serving in this capacity the lieutenant again ran into armed combat—this time against an enlisted man in his detachment, whom Ogle shot and killed. Following this tragedy, Army provided Ogle with a court of inquiry. The following facts were adduced at the hearing.

On June of 1856, Lt. Ogle was returning to Santa Fe following his leave in Pennsylvania. He was serving with a detachment under the command of Major Enoch Steen traveling on the Santa Fe Trail. In this detachment was James Flood, an infantry private. Flood was a troubled individual who had previously tried to kill another soldier. The post surgeon at Ft. Leavenworth had warned Major Steen of Flood’s dangerous and erratic behavior.

On the night of June 3, 1856, the detachment encamped at Big Cow Creek, 250 miles from Ft. Leavenworth. It seems that, on the day before, Corporal William McBride had mistakenly taken Flood’s blanket to own his tent. Flood went to McBride’s tent, found his blanket, and took it back. McBride later testified that initially Flood did not appear to be angry. All so far appeared to be calm.

Co. F, 1st Dragoons at Churubusco

Company F, 1st Dragoons was commanded by Captain Phil Thompson, but recruited, trained and led in the field by Lieutenant Phil Kearny. Shortly before the war with Mexico, Phil Kearny wrote to his friend John Love from New York. June 7, 1846, to Lt. John Love of the 1st U.S. Dragoons. “I hope to heaven that you have not been as sorely persecuted…(thanks to Captain Cooke); poor me I am suffering under a spring’s renewal of it, on my asking a recall of my resignation they reappointed me rather against my express wishes, would have been [appointed] in the Rifles. It was a disgraceful affair for all concerned in it as war had come and [I] have, thank God, some feeling of pride in my regiment, if none for my country. I [would] gladly go through the strife [and] most willingly pledge my life for it’s glory, if we have but half a chance we will win it. A charger is pretty essential for a Dragoon as you and I may have to stem the battle’s tide together. I apply to you for your sympathies in obtaining a remount. If there is [one] within reach uncommon[ly], fine, powerful, fleet, and active beauty of a charger please purchase [it] for me. Get him for me as cheaply as you can. I only limit you to 200 dollars. If you succeed in obtaining for me a charger send him by a safe means, to Major Stewart, St. Louis. If you can arrange it make the draft payable in N. York sixty days after…or else thirty days as money is very scarce. I find that money due comes in very slowly, although due from rich houses. Remember me to Ewell if in your neighborhood. PS: a good horse is always of a good color, although I am rather more partial to grey, black, or chestnut. A roan is also a favorite color.”

Lieutenant Eugene McLean, 1st Infantry, described the unit as “a fine company of young men raised principally by Kearny who exerted himself in every way to fill the company.” It served as General Winfield Scott’s body guard during his invasion of the Valley of Mexico. (This is the same company, with different personnel, which would riot in Taos in 1855.) At Churubusco, on 20 Aug. 1847, the company was assigned by Gen. Scott to Col. David Harney. Following the defeat of Mexican infantry, the colonel ordered the troop to charge one of the fortified gates and the company, led by Capt. Philip Kearny boldly charged down the causeway towards on of the gates. Harney decided to call off the advance and had his bugler sound “recall.”

A company of dragoons were allotted two buglers. One to ride at the head of the column and the second bugler rode at the rear of the column, the latter’s role to relay orders sent from the rear. Unfortunately,  Company F had no bugler (its only bugler had been discharged due to illness in May of 1847) and, consequently, many of his men did not hear Harney’s bugle call sounding recall and continued in pursuit of fleeing Mexican soldiers. Reaching the gate, the company dismounted and attempted to carry a battery guarding the gate and, would have done so, had Col. Harney reinforced Kearny’s squadron and not have ordered a retreat.

On Nov 4, 1848, Keary wrote the following to fellow 1st Dragoon, Lt. John Love.

I understand that there are whispered rumors of rashness on my part to detract from what our troop did at Churubusco. My answer is, that those who investigate the matter will find far sooner cowardice, (of, at least, a moral nature), and stupid doltish incapacity on the part of Col. Harney, who interfered with our columns which he was too far in the rear to comprehend the position of. I hold Harney, who took the command out of my hands, responsible for sounding the “Recall” at all, or too late, [as when the head of it being committed, the foremost were left in the lurch.] From the first moment of seeing the “El Pinon,” and understanding the enemy’s double line of defences, I had determined, when opportunity offerred, to win distinction for ourselves, by ___?___ into the second line of defences, protected by their own fugitives. It was on the eve of accomplishing this, when I found the rear part of the column had been withdrawn. withdrawn.  The ordeal of [re]-calling a squadron of ho[rse] on a hard gravelled [zsic] avenue [[with?]] cries, in the [[turn]] around & confusion to boot!!! Lt. [Julian] May recalled the men from his rear.   Neither Ewell nor myself, nor Sergt. Reid ever saw or heard him. Thank God we are all young.  I may have another chance yet.  You would be surprised to find how little the loss of an arm incommodes me.  I heard from Ewell yesterday. He is at “Buckland, Prince William County, Virginia.”  See him if
you can. We old men of the First must rally warmly to each other. We are all getting  (young though we be) too old & form new friendships and god knows our late [ranks?] & [dearest?] ones have been decimated. I was very glad that Mrs. Stewert has seen you. Believe me, very Truly Yours
P. Kearny

War correspondent George Kendall of the New Orleans Picayune reported:

Captain Kearny’s Charge—”The charge of Kearny’s dragoons upon the flying masses of the Mexicans in the battle of Churubusco, is one of the most brilliant and decisive feats which has occurred in the war. As soon as our troops had carried the formidable tete de pont by which the avenue leading to the city was laid open to cavalry, Capt. Kearny’s dragoons rushed upon the yielding masses of Mexicans with an impetuosity and fury which made amends for the scantiness of their numbers, and bore them back in confusion upon the town. The enemy had upon the causeway a force in cavalry four-fold of ours, but the narrowness of the avenue prevented him from availing himself of this superiority, and reduced the conflict to those single-handed issues which the Mexicans must ever yield to our prowess. The audacity of the onset of Kearny’s troops struck dismay to the hosts which fled before them. The retreat became a confused rout, and the causeway was blocked by the entrangled masses of the enemy. But even through this obstacle the triumphant dragoons forced their way, trampling down those who escaped their relentless sabres. Scattering the foe before them, the dragoons came at last within reach of the formidable batteries which defended the gates of the city, and a murderous fire was opened upon them, which was even more terrible to the fugitive Mexicans than the dragoons. The latter continued their pursuit up to the gates of the city, and were shot downmade prisoners upon the very parapets of its defences. This was the moment, if ever, that Gen. Scott might have entered the city, had the instant possession of it conformed to his preconceived design. Already had the inhabitants of the town set up the cry that the Americans were upon them, and the whole population was stricken defenceless by panic terrors. But the dragoons were recalled from the pursuit, and the survivors of that desperate charge withdrew covered with wounds and with honors.

In every narration of the events of Churubusco, we have seen the charge and pursuit by Kearny’s dragoons, commemorated and applauded; but it appears to have impressed the Mexicans far more than the popular mind of our own countrymen. In various letters we have seen written by them from the capital, they speak of the audacity of the dragoons as terrible and almost supernatural. New Orleans Picayune, Nov. 21, 1847

Kendall later wrote that if Kearny “had ben supported by a hundred resolute men , the garita of San Antonio Abad might have been held. A single infantry regiment, supported by a light battery, might even had entered the capital and taken possession of the grand plaza and National Palace, for Santa Ana could not have rallied a formation sufficiently strong to resist such a force. (Kendall, History of Mexican War, 723.)

Killed:
1. Pvt. Patrick Mart, Co. F, 1st Dragoons.
2. Pvt. McBrophy, Co. F, 1st Dragoons.
3. Pvt. James McDonald, Co. F, 1st Dragoons.
4. Pvt. John Ritter, Co. F, 1st Dragoons.
5. Capt. Seth B. Thornton, Co. F, 2d Dragoons.
6. Pvt. Edward Curtis, Co. G, 3d Dragoons.
7. Pvt. Augustus Delsol, Co. G, 3d Dragoons.
8. Pvt. George DeDuve, Co. G, 3d Dragoons.

Wounded:
1. Capt. Philip Kearny, Co. F, 1st Dragoons, se-verely, lost left arm.
2. Lieut. Lorimer Graham, 10th Infantry attached to 1st Dragoons, severely.
3. Capt. A. T. McReynolds, Co. K, 3d Dragoons, severely.
4. Private Cowden, Co. K, 3d Dragoons,.

At Puebla, Capt. Kearny wrote to General Scott and requested that thirty men and two buglers be added to his depleted squadron.

Puebla July 2nd 1847

Dear Sir:

I have the honour to request that on the arrival of any detachment of recruits that my company be filled to the full number allowed by the Law.  My troop is at present 80 men strong, of whom 74 are present.

I have the honour to make this request on the grounds of my Company having been filled 111 men, that they had been recruited by extra exertions on my part, and that I was reduced to the number of 81 by order of the Adjutant General, & that now there being authority to fill the dragoon companies to the full limit of the Law, in justice the same number of men should be restored to my that were formerly taken from my command.

My troop is an isolated one from the regiment.  The full company makes a complete squadron and I am most probably one of the squadron (or first five) captains in my own Regiment, although ranked by all but one of the 2nd Drag. Captains present, although older in service than Capt Hardee, Merrill, of Sibley, three of the 2nd Drag. Captains serving with the army.

If these men are granted to me, not a moment shall be lost in rendering them as efficient as possible.  My present troop is well drilled.  I will not feel the effects of this number [of recruits] being thrown in with them.

I am, Sir, Very Truly Yr. Obdt. Servt.

P. Kearny Jr., Capt. 1st Drgs, F Compy

[To:] Capt. H. L. Scott, A. A. Adjt. Genl.

P.S. I would respectfully [illegible] to my previous request for Trumpeters for my troop.  I have none at present.  Respectfully, P. Kearny, Capt. 1st Drgs, Compy F

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Kearny lost the use of his left arm due to his wounds and bitterly wrote to his friend, Lt. John Love, of his anger at Harney.

In the ensuing months, I shall be posting material on this charge. The first item is a summary of the company’s muster roll written just over two months after the battle. Note that the company was primarily composed of recent enlistees.

Lt. Richard Ewell rode with Kearny that fateful day. Here is a portion of a letter he wrote to his brother describing the charge.

Vera Cruz,

November 25, 1847

Captain Kearny was ordered at the close of the fight [at Churubusco] to follow the Mexicans down the the avenue along which thousands of them were retreating. We overtook them about a seventh of a mile from the city gates and I rather think they suffered somewhat. The gate was a good deal obstructed and we pushed them so rapidly that they got into the water on each side of the road. They began firing upon us, and to some effect, too, When we approached the gate, I saw the crowd before us open as if by one movement and I sa a piece of artillery frowning over the works. Captain Kearny had given orders to dismount in such a case and carry the works, but when I looked around, to my horror, I found the Dragoons retiring some distance in the rear. There were three companies in all. Captain Kearny’s leading. Colornel Harney had ordered the recall to be sounded in the rear. AS it took some time for the information to get to the head of the column, they had not being able to hear in all the noise and confusion, we were engaged while the rear was retreating. Colonel Harney had refused to lead the charge and, of course, should not have interferred as it was out of his power to control after we passed him. Only a miracle saved Captain Kearny and myself. He lost his arm by a grape shot after (so great was the confusion) getting in and out of the works. I had two horse shot, one by a musket by the side of the road, the other by a canister shot through the neck. The second was able to bring me back at a walk. Captain Kearny and I came back from the presence of the Mexican four or five hundred yards without further molestation of our troops.

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August 24, 1847

Sir: As I was not wounded until the last of the action of the 20th, I have the honor to report of the movements of my squadron (Ftroop of the 1st, and K of the 3d regiments, dragoons.) Twenty-five men under Lieutenant Ewell, myself attending, accompanied the general-in-chief to the redoubt at Contreras, captured a short time previously. At Cayoacan, coming up to the head of our pursuing column, I was sent with my dragoons and some twenty riflemen under Lieutenant Gibbs, mounted on horses taken from the enemy, to cover Captain Lee, of the engineers, on a reconnaissance towards San Antonio. This place was found to be in possession of General Worth and, his comumns rapidly following up the victory.

Returning without delay to the general-in-chief, I was joined by the rest of the squadron, which had been rapidly and efficiently brought up by Captain McReynolds of the 3d dragoons, and received orders to report to General Pillow, and to join in the attack going on on the right; the ground immediately in front was found to be impracticable for cavalry action. During the carrying of the village and redoubt of Churubusco, I moved to the right, hoping to make a diversion and get on the road to the rear, but, finding this impossible, returned to my former position.

After the enemy’s works were carried, I was ordered to charge down the road towards the city, after the rereating enemy. On the route I was joined by Colonel Harney with several companies of the 2d dragoons; he assumed command, and directed me with my three troops of dragoons, to place myself and command at the head of the cavalry column; the Mexicans were overtaken soon after we entered on the causeway, bout three-fourths of a mile from the city, and suffered a severe slaughter up to the very gates.

Understanding that a battery was on the end of the causeway next [to] the town, I communicated through Lieutenant Steele, A.A.A. General, to Colonel Harney my firm intention to charge it, trusting to their panic to enter with the fugitives. Myself, Lieutenant Steele, and Lieutenant Ewell, together with some dragoons whose horses were over excited, were considerably ahead of the main body, coming full on the redoubt, when the enemy opened a fire of grape upon us, amongst the fugitives, and I gave the command to the men around me to dismount and carry it, presuming that the movement would be observed and followed by the rest of the column. This movement not being understood by our men, and the recall which had been sounded and imperfectly heard from the rear, caused them to halt and retire, but in creditable order.

On having been sent to combine with the attack on the right, I was joined by Captain Duperu, with his company of the 3d dragoons, who accompanied me throughout the rest of day, and behaved very handsomely under such fire as we had passed through.

Company F, of the 1st dragoons, was the leading one on the causeway, and which explains its severe loss.

I have particularly to mention the gallant conduct of Lieutenant Steele, who was constantly at the head of the column, and of Lieutenant Ewell, who had two horses shot under him, immediately at the barricade, and whose conduct in our previous affair of the squadron on the 18th instant, was most conspicuous; also Lieutenant L. Graham, who was wounded, deserves my thanks for his efficiency on this day, as well as the handsome manner of heading a detachment of the company against superior odds on the 12th instant.

Captain McReynolds, acting as second captain of the squadron. was throughout the day every way active, and active, and suffered by  a severe wound in his arm.

But it is to the non-commissioned officers and privates that credit is more particularly due for their conduct here and elsewhere.

Statement of loss on the 20th instant.

Captain Kearny, loss of arm.

Captain McReynolds, wounded severely.

Lieutenant L. Graham, wounded slightly.

Five privates, company F, 1st dragoons, killed.

Fuve horses, company F, 1st dragoons, killed.

I am sir, very respectively your obedient servant.

P. Kearny, Jr.

Capt. 1st Drag, Com’g. 1st Squad, 2d Bat., Cav. Brig.. Lt. Col. Moore, 3d Reg Drag., Com’g 2d Bat. Cav. Brig.


Muster Roll of Company F of the First Dragoons, Mexico City, October 31, 1847
Capt. Philip Kearny, Jr.    Sick
1st Lt. A. Buford                 Absent. Never Joined. Place and duty not known.
1st Lt. Richard Ewell         Commanding Company.
2d Lt. Oren Chapman       Joined from duty 2d Drags. 5 Sept.
1st Sgt. David Reed            9 Jan. 46, Ft. Leavenworth
Sgt. Henry Hence         23 Nov. 46,  —œ            —œ                          Sick
Sgt. Fleming Megan       8 Aug. —™46, Terre Haute    Sick, Pueblo, Mexico, since 8 Aug.
Corp. James Clark          7 Sept. 46, St Louis
Corp. John Perkins        8 Aug. 46, Shelbyville
Corp. Wm Anderson    28 Aug. 46, St Louis
Bugler Joe Hodgson     25 Sept. 47, Joined City of Mexico
Farrier George Thompson 12 Jan. 44, Ft. Scott,  $2.00 stoppage garrison ct martial
Daniel Alaways              21 Aug 46, Chilicotte
John Alaways                   ”     ”    ”               ”                Sick, Pueblo, Mexico, since 8 Aug.
Joseph Aleut                  21 July 46. St Louis
John Askins                     8 Aug. 46, Shelbyville     Detached service, since 31 Oct.
Allen Bullard                  13 Aug. 46, Terre Harte
Michael Brophy     20 Apr. 46, Rayado,         Joined company prisoner exch. Sept. 3
Thomas Bryant             5 Aug 46, St Louis,     Sick, Pueblo, Mexico since 8 Aug.
Morris Kane                  18 Sept. 46,  ”    ”
Hugh Call                       16 Oct. 46, near St Louis
Peter Christman          6 Dec. 43,  St Louis,     Sick; stoppage for wool infy coat, $2.28
Alonzo Clark              16 May 47, Jalapa, Mexico,     joined during march.
James Curley              18 July, 46, St Louis
Eleazor Dort                10 Aug. 46, Terre Haute
William Donovan       29 Aug., St Louis                           Daily duty
David Dunton           9 Dec. 46, Saltillo, Mex.                 Daily Duty
Samuel Flint             14 July, 46, Chilicotte
Philip Frankenberg  6 Aug. 46, Ft. Leavenworth            Sick, Puebla, Mex., since 8 Aug.
Charles Graman       10 Aug. 46, Terre Haute            Sick
David Giesler               21 July 46, Chillicothe
Andrew Gillespie       26    ”      ”       ”
James Grace                 16 June 46, Ft. Leavenworth
Jacob Grant                  5 July 46, Jefferson Barracks       Sick Puebla, Mex. Since 25 May
Augustus Gruber       6 July 46, Fort Leavenworth           Sick, Puebla, Mex., since 8 Aug.
Thomas Hall                5 July 46, Jefferson Barracks       Sgt. until 29 October.
John Harper               28 July 46, Chillicote                        Stoppage pistol $7.50.
Patrick Hart               4 August 46, St Louis; Joined Tabacayo 5 Sept. prisoner exch.
Michael Henry         12 Sept. 46, Philadelphia; Joined from desertion 16 Feb 47.
Thomas Hewitt       27 Aug. 46, Terre Haute                    Sick, Puebla, Mex., since 8 Aug.
Henry Hoffman       14 Jan. 46, Dayton                  Sick
Martin Howard       11 Aug. 46, Terre Haute                   Sick, Puebla, Mex., since 8 Aug.
John Howell                6 Feb. 46, Ft. Leavenworth; Stoppage flannel shirt and pistol
William Jeffers         19 Oct. 46, New Orleans
John Kaler                   4 June 46, St. Louis
John Keckler             17 Aug. 46, Chillicote
Levi Kimball               1 June 46, Sackett’s Harbor       Detached Service since 31st Oct.
Antone Lange              14 Aug. 46, StLouis                     Daily duty.
William Martin          8 Aug. 46, Terre Haute
Persaruis Maypelle 25  July 46, St. Louis
John Moore               10 Aug, 46, Terre Haute
Wm McAllister          17 Aug. 46, Covington, Ind.  Stoppage for 1 blanket $2.22.
Wm McCrea               19 Aug. 46, Roseau, Ind.         Daily duty.
John McDonald        19 Aug. 46, Chillicote   Stoppage for pistol $7.50.
Anthony Pulver           7 Dec. 46, Corpus Christi; Detached service since 31 October.
Charles Prother         10 Aug. 46, Terre Haute
Christian Ranner      10 Aug. 46, Terre Haute
John Roberts               1 April 47. Vera Cruz    Sick at Puebla since 8 August.
Frederick Rodewald 16 Aug 46, St Louis                   Sick at Puebla since 8 August.
William See                15 Aug. 46, Terre Haute    Detached service since 31 Oct.
John Smith                 10 Aug. 46,   ”         ”
John W Smith             ”     ”       ”     ”          ”                  Stoppage flannel shirt $1.30.
Robert Stewart            8    ”       ”     ”          ”
James H Stevens         1 Apr.  46, Vera Cruz.
Daniel Suter                 6 Aug. 46, Ft. Leavenworth; Daily duty.
Clinton Thompson     14 Aug. 46, Terre Haute              Sick at Puebla since 8 August.
Harvey Thompson      4 Aug. 46, Shelbyville; Daily duty.
James Thompson       8 Aug. 46,    ”   ; Sick at Puebla since 8 August.
John Walkes                 24 Aug. 46, St. Louis; Sick
Joseph Westgenes       17 Aug. 46,  ”      ”          ”   ; Sick, Puebla since 8 August.
Robert Whitener         27 Jan. 41, Ft. Crawford; Sick Perote, since 25 May.
Andrew Whitley          31 July 46, Geldon, Ind.
William Wilson           25 Sept. 46, Jefferson Bks.
Robert Wright              8 Aug. 46, Terre Haute.

Lt. David Bell's Letter

Lt. David Bell, of the 2d Dragoons had engaged in several skirmishes with the Utes and Jicarilla Apaches. When he heard of the attempts to cover up Lt. John Davidson’s defeat at Cieneguilla in 1854, Bell could not contain himself  and wrote the following letter to a West Point classmate condemning Davidson’s action.

In 1855, a furious Davidson asked for and received a Court of Inquiry which whitewashed his defeat. Recent archaeological studies performed by David Johnson of the US Forest Service have much vindicated many of Lt. Bell’s claims.

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas Territory
December 27th, 1854

Dear William [Lt. Robert Williams]:

The mail from N.M. arrived here two days since and I was truly gratified to hear from you. The mail was delayed several days, as the contractors have succeeded in disproving one of the received axioms of geometry, namely that —œa straight line is the shortest distance between two points,— and consequently instead of bringing our mail direct from Independence, they cross the river at Liberty to go to Weston and proceed to this place. As the ice has been running in the river for some days, they were unable to do this and I finally sent a sergeant for the mail and got it after being made annoyed by a delay of several days.

You speak of Lieut. J.W. Davidson of your Regt. and his course and situation to his fight &c. Now as Davidson is an officer of your Regiment, I am perfectly willing that he should see anything I write about him and if you think proper, I am perfectly willing you should show him any letter, for I would scorn to say behind his back that I would not report to himself, and indicate in the proper manner, as this is a subject affecting a member of your Regiment. I will give you my opinion in full, which however you will find to be that of officers at your own post.

On the evening of the 21st of March, Lieut. Davidson at Fort Union from Taos (?) where he had left his Company and reported to Col. Cooke for instructions. I was present when he arrived, and afterwards during several conversations between him and Col. Cooke in relation to the Indians, their mode of and ability for war &c. Col. Cooke and myself occupied the same house, and Lieut. D was our guest. He stated that on his way from Cantonment Burgwin to Fort Union, where he had been ordered by Col. Cooke, he met the Apaches in a canyon between the former place and Moro, that he had halted his command and, with Col. Brooks, had a talk with them; he described them as being overwhelmed with fear and protesting that they desired peace, stating also that he had made advantageous dispositions for battle in case they exhibited any signs of insolence or hostility. He also commented upon the miserable quality of their arms, and their mean, shrinking deportment, at the same time averring that he was sorry they did not show some signs of hostility, for that if they had, he would have —œwiped them out—. In the same conversation, he stated that the number of warriors counted at the time amounted to one hundred and seven. When informed that these same Indians had, two weeks previously, when attacked by a command of Dragoons, evinced anything but a cowardly spirit; he reiterated his assertion, for rather brash, as to what he could do with them. On the 22nd instant, I went on a scout down the Canadian and across to Anton Chico, and returned to Fort Union on the 29th. Lieuts. Sturgis and Moore, who left Ft. U. on the 21st and kept further to the east, returned on the 30th. On the 31st an express arrived at Ft. U. from Cant. Burgwin, with a communication from Maj. Blake giving an exaggerated account of the fight at Cieneguilla. In justice to Maj. Blake, however, I will state that the exaggerated account of the affair was founded upon data furnished by Lieut. D. himself. In a few hours, we were en route for Cant. Burgwin, where we arrived on the 1st of April.
Davidson met our command near his quarters, and in reply to some question from Col. Cooke, which was met with much apparent concern as to the result of the affair of the preceding day, he said, in a self-confident and positive tone, that he had —œkilled fifty or sixty Indians.— This was asserted as a fact. I was present. Lt. D. left Cant. B. on the 2nd instant under orders from Major Blake, to follow and watch the movement of the Apaches, but to avoid if possible bringing on an action— He marched a portion of the night and on the morning of the 30th sent a guide with two men, to ford on the Rio Grande below Cieneguilla, to ascertain if the Indians had crossed the river.

A trail was afterwards discovered leading up a hill, the advance guard was sent to reconnoiter the position of the Indians, and some returned saying that when they arrived at the camp which was on the top of a hill, the Indians had leveled their rifles upon them. Upon being thus informed, Lt. D. says he cursed the corporal and demanded to know of him why he had not fired upon them with his revolver. The corporal also reported that the Indians told him (in Spanish) to —œcome on.— Lt. D. now dismounted his command in a canyon, divided it into two platoons, and advanced upon the Indian camp which contained the families and now was to fulfill the prediction about —œwiping them out—.
It is at least doubtful who fired first, but what matters it? Was not the advance upon the Camp in a hostile attitude a bona fide attack? Nobody would doubt it particularly if his position was that of the Indians and Lt. D. would have been one of the last to do so. If he had been under the command of almost any officer other than Maj. Blake he would have been tried for disobedience of orders. Again let me look at the manner in which the affair was conducted.

The command advanced in two platoons as nearly in line as the nature of the ground and other circumstances would admit. This was the most unmilitary as well as the most exposed order possible–it could not be expected that a display of numbers would intimidate the Indians while a large mark was thus presented to their concentrated fire. This is no labored scientific delusion—”a non-commissioned officer who would not have appreciated it upon this ground should have been reduced for incapacity. But if exception is taken to this mode of approaching a crouching and concealed [enemy] for what are we to think of the second attempt to go up a steep hill each man leading his horse. The horses alarmed by the noises and confusion of the fight would refuse to advance and the men would struggle with them unwilling to abandon them and thus instead of using their weapons would fall victims to the fire of a concealed enemy.

An attack could not be made mounted and to attempt to lead the horses would expose the men. What was then to be done? To abandon the horses of course. This ill-advised and unfortunate attack arrived at the top of the hill, leaving behind it those who are killed or wounded, and now the command is given —œMount men a save yourselves.— This Lt. does not or did not deny. This order was calculated to strike terror to heart of the bravest soldier, for he would know that nothing but the utmost exertion could prevent his falling a prey to the merciless savage. This order was alone was sufficient to panic a command. The consequence was a disorderly flight over ground of the difficulties of which the Indians well knew how to take advantage. Every other consideration was forgotten in that of personal safety and hence the entire abandonment of arms & etc. Every man expended his energies to save his own life while he abandoned his wounded comrades to be butchered. I have conversed with Major Blake, Maj. Thompson and Mr. Quinn all of whom visited Cieneguilla the next day and the result of their stories is this that 5 men only were found dead upon the side of the hill up which Davidson advanced, and it is by no means certain they were dead when the retreat was ordered, while 14 men formed on the hill side down which the flight took place, and two other dead in the ravine below. This cannot be denied, and it proves that a command of 57 Dragoons retreated without an attempt to preserve order, when they had lost 5 of their number. Davidson says in his official report which I read there were nearly 250 or 300 Apaches and Utah warriors in the fight he fought for three hours and had every reason to believe he killed a large number of Indians. In the first place there were no Utahs & secondly there were not more than 130 warriors (Apaches) in it, as Carson or any person who followed them will tell you. If 50 or 60 of them been killed the rest must have been wounded if any amt of usual proportion between killed and wounded obtained. As to fighting [for] 3 hours that is the most ridiculously absurd assertion in the whole report. A cartridge box (cavalry) holds some 30 to 50 cartridges. How long would it take a man to fire this number assuming that he fired all of them? But in the excitement of action most men will lose a large portion of their ammunition. I think that any reasonable man will agree that Davidson—™s fight have lasted 30 minutes, his assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. In regard to the probable number of killed I forgot to say that it is a probable fact that the number of lodges after the flight was the same as before and we were informed in every Mexican settlement through which we passed in the pursuit, that the Indians said they had lost only two men in the battle. I could pass over most of the things and sincerely sympathize with
Davidson in his misfortune, but when an attempt is made to transform an unskillful attack, a feeble resistance, a disastrous flight, the combined consequences of which entailed upon others days of toil and night of suffering and present that to the world as a glorious triumph. I do not consider it my duty longer to be silent for I am one of those who suffered from these misguided monuments. However, others may regard the matter I cannot but think remaining silent is very near akin to countenancing tacitly a gross imposture. The correspondence recently published in the Santa Fe Gazette, between Lieut. D and Mr. Davis, should silence all who are cognizant of the facts any feeling of forbearance towards the former he attempts to make capital out of what he knows to be an error and wishes to force upon the public what he did not himself believe. There is one other circumstance of which you are probably not aware. Last winter Davidson preferred charges against Major Blake—”they were of a very grave nature. A few days after the affair at Cieneguilla the major made some remark to the effect that D. had done as could be expected, when D. instantly offered to withdraw the charges although if xxx Maj. B. had signed a false certificate etc. All of which I was prepared to prove. I am also acknowledge himself that Maj. could have presented him —œwith a single word— —“hence the spirit of martial concession. If D. had sustained no feat why did he offer gratuitously to withdraw these charges? But there is another fact where Davidson—™s conduct was assailed and he talked so loudly about asking for a Court of Inquiry why did he change his tone so suddenly when he found it very easy to get the Court and he was even recommended from persons whom he pretended to seek advise. In conclusion I will again say that you are entirely free to show my letter to Davidson or any of his friends for it contains not only my convictions also drawn from unmitigated facts.

We have no news of importance except that there now seems a strong probability that some new regiments will be raised this winter. How many we have no idea but if Congress acts upon the suggestions of the President and Secty. of War it would be very natural to suppose they would raise the force recommended as indispensable. I hope they will for without we have no prospect keeping our [red?] buttons within any reasonable bounds. I have applied for promotion in a new regiment but without much hope of getting it. I will however use what little political influence I can muster for that purpose. I applied to Col. Cooke a few days since for a statement in reference to my standing in my regiment, services, capabilities, etc. And when I received what was willingly handed me an hour or two afterwards, I was almost at a loss to make out my own identity. I had no idea I was half as alone as the Col. made me out and my modesty would hardly allow me to make use of a description by which perhaps I might more afterwards be recognized. The [appropriation?] Bill is expected to pass–it is thought that the new phase under which it will be presented will be of advantage to it. I speak in pay and to the limitation of time. The pay Bill will too come up and as it appears as a fixed fact that Members of Congress are going to raise their own pay [, so] I don—™t see how they can get over giving us a little more.

The Sioux War now seems determined upon. We have it from Genl Scott himself. It is still doubtful what troops will be sent out. The 2d Inftry and our companies of Drags, with one or two companies will go of course and if there is an addition to the Army it is expected that the whole 2d Drags will be ordered out in which case we will have a lively time of it. The Indians are reported as being very hostile and confident in their numbers. I think however with a Battery or two and a regiment of Drags we will rather worst them in a pitched battle. We have not received any more recruits, a detachment was ordered here but the order came so late that navigation had closed. It is probable however that they will reach us from St. Louis. Our Hd. Qts. has not yet arrived but we expect them soon. There is very little pretension to gaiety or even sociability here. No parties or amusement. Besides I have been sick ever since I came here and am so badly broken up by Rheumatism that I can scarcely hobble about.

Robertson received your letter addressed to him at Jefferson Bks. and will write you. He, Polk, Haight & etc. send their love.

You must have had quite a lonely time during the absence of the ladies on a visit to Ft. Filmore. I would give anything to be a Ft. Union for a few days. This place is intolerably stupid. My time principally spent in reading. I have been duly engaged for the last two months in the study of some French military works from which I have derived much pleasure and I think some useful knowledge too. I have poured over them for whole nights when my rheumatism would not let me sleep.

I have now three or four other letters to write to Fort Union. It is now late and I must get them in the post office tomorrow morning. So I will have to conclude. My love to Byrne, McCook & Magruder. Remember me to all my friends at your post and don—™t forget to write by every mail.

Yours very truly,

D. Bell

P.S. Buford has been ordered to his company and Oakes and Garnett detailed on duty at the Cavalry depot. B. has not arrived here yet.

D.B.