Such is a Dragoon's Life (State Historical Society of Missouri, July 2011, vol 105, no. 4)

Such is a Dragoon’s Life: Corporal Mathais Baker, Company B, 1st Dragoons, 1845-1849[1]

By Will Gorenfeld and Tim Kimball
The year 1845 found Mathias L. Baker, a twenty eight year old clerk from Middlesex County, New Jersey, residing in a reasonably comfortable neighborhood in St Louis. On October 17, 1845, he enlisted in the United States Army.  His enlistment papers indicate that blue eyed, dark haired, fair skinned Mathias stood six feet tall.  Assistant Surgeon William Hammond certified that he was free of all bodily defects and mental infirmities.   Recruiting officer 1st Lieutenant Henry S. Turner certified that Baker was entirely sober when he enlisted and of lawful age (twenty one). [2]

After a short stay in the recruit depot at nearby Jefferson Barracks, on November 13, 1845, Private Baker and seven other recruits were escorted up the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Territory, by the 1st Dragoons Regimental Sergeant Major.  From that river port the recruit party traveled another forty eight miles west, arriving at castle-like Fort Atkinson, Iowa Territory on November 25, 1845.  The fort and its stone buildings, on the heights above the Turkey River, had been home to Company B of the First Dragoons since June 1842.  Company B and its long-time Captain, Edwin Vose Sumner, had just returned from a late summer’s typical campaign, marching northwest almost to the Canadian border, showing the flag, and encouraging peace among the Natives. [3]

There is no detailed record of Baker’s winter at Fort Atkinson, but likely it was spent learning the rudiments of Dragoon skills—the School of the Soldier and School of the Company.  It would have included dismounted and mounted drill and use of the dragoon weapons: pistol, carbine, and sabre.  Baker’s other winter duties would have been caring for his assigned horse, occasional guard duty, and fatigue details.  More experienced men from the company would undertake a series of assignments during the hard winter, including removing Winnebago Indians from the Neutral Ground, testifying at a murder trial, chasing deserters, and maintaining the peace during payment of annuities by Indian Agents.  Baker probably had little time or inclination to visit the adjacent off post drinking sites known as “Sodom and Gomorrah,” or “Whiskey Creek,” nor spend time with the dissolute Winnebago and Minominee women found there.  No indications of disciplinary problems or extended illness involving Baker are found in company records.  Baker also would have learned—if he did not already know—that in the army, even in the dragoons, many of the men were chronic drunkards and shirkers.[4]

Less than five months after his enlistment, probably as a tribute to his discipline, reliability, and perhaps the legible hand of this former civilian clerk, Sumner selected Baker to be 4th corporal, the most junior of the core of eight non-commissioned officers authorized for each company. This gave Baker a raise from eight to ten dollars a month, a substantial increase in responsibility, and a set of a Non Commissioned Officers as peers who would stay with him through the duration of his life: Sergeants Frederick Muller, Benjamin Bishop, Corporals Jacob Martin, Michael Albert, Israel Haff, as well as Bugler Langford Peel.[5]
By May 11, 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico. On June 20, Baker and his comrades of Company B were ordered from Fort Atkinson, leaving it to be garrisoned by a volunteer force during the war. Reaching Prairie du Chien on June 22, they joined forces with 1st Dragoons Captain Philip St. George Cooke’s Company K from nearby Fort Crawford, with Sumner serving as commander of the two company squadron.  They and their mounts embarked on the Steamboat Cecelia and a pair of towed barges for St. Louis, traveling 370 miles downstream on the Mississippi River and arriving June 28, 1846.[6]

The original orders for Companies B and K had directed them to San Antonio, Texas, join the forces of Major General Zachary Taylor.  But Dragoon Colonel and commander of the Army of the West, Stephen Watts Kearny insisted that Sumner, Cooke, and their companies (“among the very best”) were indispensable to his assignment: the conquest of Mexican-held New Mexico and California.  In St. Louis, they were redirected to Fort Leavenworth, assembly and starting point for Kearny’s Army of the West.  On July 3 they loaded on to the Steamboat Amaranth, traveling the length of the Missouri to that post, over 300 miles west.  On July 6 they disembarked at Fort Leavenworth and, and began their march to Santa Fe on the same day, becoming the last of Kearny’s initial force to leave for the Conquest of New Mexico.  Company B headed overland with a total of 63 dragoons in the ranks, having left a trail of seven deserters in its wake.[7]

Sumner’s squadron made up for lost time, traveling across the picked-over prairie. On July 31 they rendezvoused with the 1600-man balance of Kearny’s troops camped around Bent’s Fort, on the north bank of the Arkansas River.  Kearny turned over command of the five dragoon companies (B, C, G, I, and K) and a St. Louis mounted volunteer company (the Laclede Rangers, equipped for dragoon service) to Sumner, the senior Captain.  Crossing the Arkansas River, the border between the now-warring United States and Mexico, on August 2 Kearny (and Private Baker) began the 250-mile balance of the march down the Mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail, through Raton Pass to Santa Fe, capital of the Mexican Department of New Mexico. This portion of the march was hard on man and beast–with scanty forage for the animals and half rations for the men.[8]

The Army of the West entered an undefended and partially deserted Santa Fe on August 18, 1846. Kearny took formal possession of New Mexico late that afternoon with a flag rising and the firing of a national salute. Baker and his dragoon comrades fared well enough on the march—Missouri volunteer private John Hughes complained that Kearny favored them unfairly—but even the regulars would soon turn in their already worn out, starving horses and resort to mules or even shoe leather.[9]

Soon after arrival in Santa Fe, Kearny began planning and organizing for his California trek. Although plans were constantly changing with the circumstances, his next mission was to head to California by marching south along the Camino Real, west to the basin of the Gila River, across to the Colorado River, and enter California from the south.  Kearny’s force would include his  “three hundred wilderness-worn Dragoons, in shabby and patched clothing,” and a like number of emigrating Mormons recruited as infantry volunteers for California (the Mormon Battalion), which had left Fort Leavenworth in mid-August but not yet arrived in Santa Fe.  In California this force was to be increased by a regiment of New York volunteers and a regular army artillery battery sent by sea.[10]

By the time Kearny returned to Santa Fe from a show-the-flag march south to Tomé, he realized that most of the Army of the West’s original horses were too worn down to make a march to California. The general ordered the dragoon horses replaced with the best mules the Quartermaster could find, directing the return of the surviving dragoon mounts to Fort Leavenworth.  The dragoons had first established a grazing camp in the Galisteo Basin, south of Santa Fe.  By the time of Baker’s first letter, they had moved to the village of La Cienega, in the valley of the Santa Fe River.  Neither venue had enough grass to even begin to restore their mounts.[11]

First Letter:

Baker’s observations about New Mexico were fairly standard for an American who had recently arrived in the region.  As with so many others, he was consciously (or unconsciously) repeating negative observation found in two very popular works about New Mexico: Josiah Gregg’s 1844, Commerce of the Prairies, and George Wilkins Kendall’s 1843 Narrative of the Santa Fé Expedition, both of which expressed a substantially jingoistic and ethnocentric view of New Mexico and New Mexicans. Baker had seen little of populated New Mexico, passing through Las Vegas and the few villages between there and Santa Fe, with a single day or two in the capital, starting south later on the march to Tomé, but being turned back to the grazing camp he wrote from shortly after that journey began.[12]

On Sept. 13, 1846, Baker wrote his sister, Mrs. Hugh Martin (1 Hudson Street in Manhattan) from the dragoon grazing camp.  He described New Mexico as bare and mountainous, with only a few valleys capable of cultivation.  Its homes of sun-dried bricks he found to be limited to a single story and devoid of windows, dark during day time when the door is shut, but warm in winter and cool in summer.  Some of the ladies were “extraordinarily fine,” though generally the population was of “mixed” Indian blood.  All this from a man who had arrived less than a month before and spent most of his time on isolated duty in the grazing camps!  Baker urged his sister to write him back AND to send the latest copies of the New York Herald.  He did not expect any fighting, as “the Mexican Army will not fight.”  He asked about the family’s health and assured them that HE was healthy (“This is the most healthy country in the world.”) and “burnt to the colour of Mahogany and wear immense Moustachios.”  He expected to be marching to Monterey, California, soon, via “Chuwauwau” (Chihuahua).[13]

Second letter:

On September 27, Kearny set off for California with all his Dragoons, a topographic engineer party, and his staff.  His plans changed significantly when on October 6, he encountered eastbound Christopher Kit Carson south of Socorro.  Carson carried dispatches announcing that American naval forces, Fremont’s topographical engineer party, and local American residents had seized control of California.  Relying upon this information and Carson‘s assessment of the extremely limited resources available on the coming march, Kearny reduced his force to a small staff, the Topographic Engineer party, and a 100-man Dragoon escort composed of only Companies C and K.  Baker’s Company B, along with Companies G and I, each stripped of their of the best of their mules, were ordered by Kearny to return to Albuquerque and winter under the overall command of Captain Sumner.[14]

On October 13, the Kearny party was below Fra Cristobal, last camp before entering the Jornado del Muerte from the north.  Kearny now had learned that wheeled vehicles would be more of a hindrance than an asset on the Gila route, and sent back for pack saddles and men to collect all the rolling stock except for two small mountain howitzers and their limbers.  When a last mail arrived, Kearny received notice of a series of promotions that set several final changes into motion for the stay-behind Dragoons.  Sumner had been promoted to Major in the Second Dragoon regiment and ordered to join his regiment in Mexico. Kearny directed that Sumner’s Company B, already returning north with companies G and I, be broken up. Its privates were distributed among the other two companies, and recently promoted 1st Lt. John Love was to return east with the balance of company B’s non-commissioned staff and recruit the company full again.[15]

Baker would be included in Sumner’s party of seventeen Dragoons and discharged volunteers returning to Fort Leavenworth.  Beginning on October 18, from Sabinal, north of Socorro, his party traveled the more direct  “Dry” route of the Santa Fe Trail, bypassing Bent’s Fort. Included in the Sumner group were Love, 1st Lt. Henry Stanton, 2nd Lt. Bezaleel Armstrong (also newly promoted and headed for the Second Dragoons), the 1st Dragoons’ non-commissioned regimental staff, and Baker’s cadre of fellow non-commissioned officers of Company B: Sergeants Muller, Martin, the newly promoted Sgt. Albert, Corporals. Haff, Baker, Nickerson, and Bugler Peel.  Sgt. Bishop and Corporal McFeters—the balance of  Company B’s non-commissioned staff—had headed east with earlier returning parties.  Baker by now had become a solid member of this core leadership group, and would continue so for the balance of the Mexican War.[16]

Sumner passed through Santa Fe on their way out.  Love secured wheat and corn as forage for the party’s mules in San Miguel, Tecolote and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, they exchanged five unserviceable mules for five fit ones, paying the standard premium of $20 each, $100 total. This party made a well managed late Fall trip, the main group arriving at Fort Leavenworth on November 20, 1846. [17]

Sumner and Armstrong continued on to join the 2nd Dragoons in Mexico, where Sumner won Brevets of Lt. Colonel at Cerro Gordo and Colonel at Molina del Rey. Baker, Martin, Albert, Haff and Peel remained in the Dragoon detachment at Fort Leavenworth while Lt. Love and Sgt. Muller journeyed to Ohio and Indiana to seek recruits; Bishop was assigned to the regimental depot at Jefferson Barracks with 2nd Lt. Leonidas Jenkins  [18]

Three weeks after the arrival of the Sumner return party at Fort Leavenworth, on Dec. 15, 1846, Baker began penning a letter to his namesake nephew, Matthais Lee Baker Martin, son of his sister, Mrs. Hugh Martin, to whom he had addressed the first of this series of letters.  It seems young Martin had written his uncle, telling him that he “hoped” that he was NOT in the army!  Baker shot back with pride in his service, his role in the occupation of New Mexico and his achievement of non-commissioned rank.  Corporal Baker described the Sumner party’s return trip:  two wagons and a carriage (probably a spring wagon) with most of the men mounted on mules and living largely off game.  They had a single brush with the increasingly aggressive Indians, at what Baker called “Rocky Point,” probably Point of Rocks, the beginning of that dangerous middle portion of the Santa Fe Trail in which native raiders often held the upper hand.  Towards evening Baker and his comrades encountered a single native lurking outside their camp and chased him off with carbine fire.   The Corporal speculated that the fugitive was a “Camanche” who would now recognize and avoid Dragoons.   Ten of the party’s mules died on the journey, leaving most of the men to walk the last one hundred and fifty miles.[19]

Third Letter:

Lt. Love sought to recruit a full company of men quickly, return to the war, and actually TASTE gunpowder before the war was over. On December 20, 1846, he wrote to Roger Jones, the Army’s grandfatherly Adjutant General, expressing how “extremely anxious” he was “to fill the Company which fortune has given me the command” and that he expected to take the field by April 1, 1847. Finding recruits in a hurry was not going to be an easy task. One of Love’s West Point classmates, also on recruiting duty, complained to him in February of 1847 that, after “pegging away since some time last summer and [he had] done any thing but a ‘land office’ business” finding Hoosier recruits for his regiment.[20]

February of 1847 found Lt. Love in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his recruiting flag draped from a balcony of the Drake Hotel. He placed the army’s prepared advertisement in the Indianapolis  State Journal, requesting the wartime services of men of good character, between the ages of 18 and 35.  “None need apply to enter the service but those who are determined to serve the period of their enlistment honestly and faithfully.”  The advertisement optimistically promised each mounted recruit eight dollars a month, good quarters, the best of medical attention, as well as a “large supply of comfortable and genteel clothing.”  The recruiting laws, now having been changed by Congress, made service in the regulars somewhat more attractive. A recruit was now allowed to opt for a shorter enlistment, the “duration of the war,” instead of only a five year term with no alternative.[21]

The 1st Dragoons were a mounted regiment; the five Mexican War volunteer regiments from Indiana, were all infantry.   Lt. Love knew that he had an ace in the hole and he was quick to play it–pointing out to the Hoosier farm boys the glory of their becoming splendidly clothed and mounted “bold dragoons”–whose military status, pay, uniform, weapons, and bearing were unquestionably superior to that of the humble and often ill-clad “doughboys” of the volunteers or regular infantry, stumbling along with their “fence rails” (a derogatory term for the long, heavy musket with which they were perpetually burdened). When Love’s bright-eyed recruits arrived at Newport Barracks, Kentucky, however, they found there were no horses available and, worse, infantry officers were daily putting them through the wearisome close order drill of the foot soldier. Many of Love’s recruits were not happy with their training at Newport Barracks, and wrote to tell him so.[22]

Due to the immediate need for a completed company, recruits would be limited in their training to the basics: mounted and dismounted drill, care of their mounts and equipment, and use and care of their carbines, sabres, and pistols.   Many recruits would have less than two months to develop adequate skills, a time frame far better than volunteer received and typical of the other two 1st Dragoon companies reorganized during the Mexican War.  It was incumbent upon Stanton, Jenkins and the non-commissioned cadre of company B at Fort Leavenworth and Jefferson Barracks to use the available time to train the recruits on hand with the skills necessary for them to be competent soldiers. [23]

At Jefferson Barracks Lt. Leonadis Jenkins had been seeking men, horses and equipage for B Company around the St. Louis area.  On February 17, 1847, Jenkins marched his accumulation of twenty five recruits and their mounts more than 300 miles overland across Missouri to Fort Leavenworth in sixteen days.  There they would undergo further mounted training under the tutelage of Albert, Baker, and Peel.  On return to Jefferson Barracks, Jenkins wrote a March 20, 1847, letter to Love boasting of his completed trip, the quality of his recruits, the status of equipping the company, and army gossip.  Jenkins promised that if more mounts could be furnished, he could advance the training of the next group of Company B recruits at the Depot.[24]

By April, the Company B non-commissioned officers available for training the initial recruits at Fort Leavenworth were down to Baker, Sgt. Albert, and Bugler Peel, under the command of Stanton.  Bishop was at Jefferson Barracks and Haff had joined Love at the recruiting rendezvous in Indiana.[25]

The third letter was also written by Baker for his namesake nephew.  Dated April 28, 1847, it reflected on his daily duties, the training of the recruit party left by Jenkins on March 4, the prospects and schedule for Company B as it completed its reorganization and returned to service.  Baker was hoping to dissuade his nephew from the common notion that all soldiers’ lived an easy life in garrison—perhaps an additional response to the nephew’s apparent negative opinion of the army mentioned before.  Baker wrote that while an infantryman’s life might be easy, a Dragoon’s life was filled from Reveille (at sunup) to final Tatoo (long after dark), and must always be prepared to ride out.  “Such is a Dragoon’s life…”  Baker wrote of how difficult it was training 25 recruits with only three non-commissioned officers, “especially when they are sometimes so Dutch as to not understand or be understood.”   And he figured that the company was likely to be full enough to be officially reorganized “in about three weeks” (actually two and a half weeks, May 15), and would either be sent south to join Scott in his assault on Mexico City or returned to Santa Fe.  Baker wrote that he preferred the latter, as the “climate is the most healthy” in the world.  As for the future, perhaps Baker would stay in the army if “inducements” were held forth, but in such a case he surely would take a furlough and visit his nephew.[26]

Fourth Letter:

Love would bring twenty five men he had recruited in the East with him to Jefferson Barracks on April 25, 1847. There they joined with the on-hand recruits and recycled veterans—sick returned to health, confined men returned to duty—to make a contingent of fifty eight men when Company B was officially reorganized on May 15, 1847.  The company marched for Fort Leavenworth that same day. [27]

The Missouri Republican was quite impressed with what they saw in a public drill of the company in St. Louis on May 11:

“[Lt. Love] has with him a very fine company of men and they are probably the best fitted and prepared for service of any company which has ever left this city.  They are all mounted on horses which in appearance, for strength and beauty, cannot be surpassed in or out of the service, and their military trappings correspond.  When the company is full, as it will be upon its arrival at Fort Leavenworth, they will of themselves constitute a body in appointments, command and stamina, almost sufficient to overrun a large portion of New Mexico.”[28]

George Ruxton, an English officer touring Mexico and the West in mufti, observed this same group of fifty Company B recruits and Lt. Love as they were finishing their march from St. Louis to Fort Leavenworth in late May. Ruxton was less than impressed with what he saw and wrote that while the group was “superbly mounted” on beautiful horses “fifteen hands high, in excellent condition,” the raw recruits were “soldierlike neither in dress nor appearance.” [29]

The reorganized company arrived at Fort Leavenworth on May 31, joining with the on-hand group of thirty four NCOs and men already on hand.  With B Company recruited up to full strength and well mounted—albeit neither men nor horses fully trained— and present at Fort Leavenworth, the army considered it ready to march to Santa Fe. The troops stationed in newly conquered New Mexico and the locals provisioning them had not been paid for several months.  Now Company B would escort Paymaster Major Charles Bodine and $350,000 in specie on his trip to Santa Fe, and do the same for slower moving quartermaster trains and beef herds already en route as they were overtaken.[30]

A week after arrival of the reorganized Company B at Fort Leavenworth, Lt. Love, the only officer, with Corporal Baker and an eighty three man strong Company B, paymaster Bodine, and various supernumeraries, paraded out of the fort on June 7, 1847 in a column of fours.  Each dragoon was astride his government sorrel, the column trailed by the nine mule-drawn wagons of the paymaster and three more of Company B.  Following the custom of the time it is likely they were played out of the Fort by First Dragoon Principal Musician John Schnell and the 1st Dragoon Regimental band, with a selection of songs that included “The Girl I Left Behind.”  This time the company left six deserters behind—including Privates Isaac Cameron (who also had deserted in St. Louis the year before) and John Stein, recaptured the next day across the Missouri in Weston.[31]

Prior to the commencement of the Mexican War, Native Americans living near the Santa Fe Trail controlled their outrage at the invasion and destruction of their range by raiding only the smaller trading caravans, confining themselves to horse stealing, pilferage, and simple begging.  Experienced traders traveled in large numbers, heavily armed, and were rarely attacked. By 1847 the Santa Fe Trail became the highway of conquest as a vast stream of troops, animals and supplies headed west along the 873-mile path that crossed the Great Plains from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe. As troop movements and supply trains proliferated during the war, the travelers not only polluted the streams and spread contagion, but consumed the sparse grasses, fuel, and water along the trail, and butchered or chased off the game.  Drought put further pressure on the Plains tribes, as did the necessary hunting of many once-eastern tribes, Cherokee, Delaware, Osage, and others, forced to migrate and subsist on the fringes.   Starvation and disease were becoming progressively more widespread among the Plains tribes, even more so after 1845. The boldest and most desperate of them began to assault nearly every one of the caravans and quartermaster trains—even those accompanied by troops—that traveled on the route.   It was reported that the raiding was encouraged or participated in by Mexicans, fugitive slaves, and American renegades.  During the summer of 1847, 47 Americans would be killed, 330 wagons destroyed, and 6,500 head of stock plundered. [32]

Although Lt. Love, in his six years of military service, had never commanded a troop in the field and most of his men had limited training, his experience suggested that tribesmen would not be so foolish as to attack this large force of armed Dragoons.   In 1843, while on an expedition on the Plains, he wrote, “6 men could have kept off 500 Indians as they never approach within gun shot.” Corp. Baker observed the carnage caused by the tribesmen.   Baker was confident that his company would soon give battle with the Comanches and Pawnees and avenge the deaths of travelers recently murdered on the Santa Fe Trail. [33]

On June 14, 1847, a day Company B spent at Council Grove, the usual rendezvous site on edge of contested portion of the Santa Fe trail, Baker responded to his nephew’s letter brought with the previous day’s express in our fourth letter.  He described the party as including over one hundred men, twelve wagons, the paymaster and his specie, and another one hundred and twenty wagons moving slowly ahead of them, to be added to those already escorted as the faster moving Company B caught up with them.  Baker wrote that eight hundred lodges of Comanche and Pawnees were within 200 miles and that he hoped that Company B would get a chance to give them the “severe punishment” they “deserved.”  He told of the suffering of men in a returning quartermaster train the Company had encountered and claimed that Native’s attacks had been encouraged by the Mexicans.  Baker speculated that Company B might be returning to guard the threatened central portion of the trail after delivering Bodine and the specie to Santa Fe.  He advised his namesake to obey his parents and study, and hoped to see him someday.[34]

Fifth and Final Letter:

Newly appointed Indian Agent, but old time mountain man Thomas “Brokenhand” Fitzpatrick, making his way to his assignment at Bent’s Fort, overtook the Dragoon column at Council Grove and traveled on with it and our bold corporal. Fitzpatrick, a trapper, guide, scout, and Indian agent, had ranged the frontier since 1823. Fitzpatrick would later write that the Dragoons and paymaster’s wagon train “traveled along happily and with much expedition, until we arrived at Pawnee Fork, a tributary of the Arkansas River, three hundred miles from Fort Leavenworth.” It was at this point that, on the early evening of June 23, they came upon the encampment of three large government commissary wagon trains (two outbound and one homebound). These wagons had been attacked two days prior by a large body of Native Americans Indians, who left three men wounded. The eastbound train had lost most of its oxen to the marauding raiders. Left without the means of hauling several of its wagons any further, the wagon master destroyed the badly needed wagons.[35]

Seeking the dragoons’ protection, the three trains traveled along with the dragoons at a brisk pace, making 27-miles on the 25th and, camped on a plain in about a mile from the Arkansas River. The dragoons made their camp on the north bank of the Arkansas River, at a site known as Pawnee Fork.  Two of the trains made camp nearby. The third, headed by Hayden, a wagon master reluctant to take orders from young Lt. Love, camped almost out of sight.   Although the plain was sandy and nearly barren of grasses, the river bottoms provided good grazing for the animals. The treeless prairie was bisected by two washes that flowed into the Arkansas, known as Little Coon Creek and Big Coon Creek.[36]

In the pre-dawn hours of June 26, 1847, Lieutenant Love mounted and rode to the top of a slight hill. The sky was clear and a slight breeze blew up from the south. This young officer knew that horses and mules should not be allowed to freely graze until it was safe to do so—i.e., when no raiders lurked in high grasses of the nearby washes. For the moment, all horses and mules remained tethered to the picket lines. Looking to the west he noticed that Hayden had turned his oxen out of his evening’s corral  (formed of wagons circled, wheel to axel) to graze. Love opened his spyglass for a better view of the early morning countryside. He saw well over one hundred Comanches spilling out of the Big Coon Creek wash. Lt. Love could see the teamsters frantically grabbing what few clumsy weapons they possessed and firing wildly at the raiders. The Comanches fought back, wounding three teamsters; within minutes they had stampeded Hayden’s oxen and seized control of the herd.[37]

The next day Baker began the final one of our known letters to his nephew from the Pawnee Fork campsite, as Company B lay by to allow its seriously wounded a chance to recover before moving on.  He told how they had encountered the quartermaster trains and incorporated them loosely into their party, after the homebound train had been attacked, stock stolen, and men wounded.  Baker wrote of how Hayden’s stock was carelessly turned out that morning and quickly being driven off.  All of Company B saddled up, Baker being one of the first.  Only a party of twenty one dragoons and Sergt. Bishop, according to Baker, were allowed out to halt the stock theft, the rest being held back to protect the camp from a large party of threatening hostiles on the opposite side of the Arkansas.  Baker wrote when he saw the Bishop group get cut off by at least two hundred warriors, he begged for a party of twenty dragoons to intercede, but was refused by Love.  The teamsters from the train whose stock was being run off had themselves fallen back and left Bishop and his party helpless and surrounded.  Bishop’s dragoons retreated as quickly as they could, but five men were unable to reach the camp, and were later found dead.  Of those getting back, Bishop and four others were badly wounded—Baker himself leaving the camp to bring in the wounded Farrier, John Lovelace, holding him on his horse until safe inside.  After roll was called, Baker was part of the group that went out to recover their comrades’ bodies.  That day they found four bodies, badly mutilated, the next morning they recovered the last one.[38]

Baker was not sure what would happen if the Comanches would attack again, or they would be able to move on before being hit again.  “Fort” Mann, a small and adobe and cottonwood
palisade erected by quartermaster teamsters, the strongest point on the central trail, just had been abandoned under repeated attacks.  Baker told his nephew that if he should perish in coming assaults, he wanted him to have whatever the government owned him and anything else of value, and “if you see me no more, spare a moment to think of your uncle.”[39]
We have not, as yet, found any later letters from Mathias Baker. From military records, we know that he and his fellows did NOT return to guard the Santa Fe Trail nor to Fort Leavenworth until after the end of the war.  Six weeks after he wrote his last letter Baker was with Love’s battered command when it reached the end of the Trail in Santa Fe on August 6, 1847.  Though bloodied and reduced in numbers, these dragoons had accomplished their primary mission of protecting the paymaster funds and quartermaster trains.  Now they stayed on to reinforce New Mexico. At this time the twelve month enlistments of Price’s Missouri volunteer 1846 force had been completed and the companies had marched back to Fort Leavenworth to be paid off and discharged. This left the occupation to companies G and I, and now B, of the 1st Dragoons, four volunteer companies being reenlisted in Santa Fe to create the Santa Fe Battalion, and the last hand full of Price’s original force.  Soon though, New Mexico would be crowded once again with newly recruited “for the war” volunteers, including both a mounted regiment and infantry battalion from Missouri and an infantry regiment from Illinois.[40]

On August 19, 1847, Love turned in the wagons, mules and gear Company B had used in conveying Bodine and his specie.  They left Santa Fe at the end of the month, spending four days in Albuquerque, and formed a grazing camp near the mountain village of San Antonio.  On October 15, they returned to Albuquerque and its Dragoon garrison. In December, Company B received all the mules, guns, and ordnance it would use as a scratch light artillery battery in Price’s hoped-for expedition against Chihuahua—including two 24-pound howitzers, two of the captured Mexican 5-pounder guns, the recaptured “Texian” 6-pounder, and one of the dragoons’ on-hand 12-pound Mountain Howitzers.  During December, three privates died of illness.[41]
The company’s captured deserter, Pvt. John Stein, had been released from confinement and sent on by Acting Regimental Commander, Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton as part of the escort party for the returning Sterling Price, now promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers.  Price, his staff, and the escort arrived in Santa Fe on December 9, 1847.  Stein immediately disappeared again, to be recaptured on the 16th.  Twelve days later an Albuquerque general court martial composed of Dragoon officers found him guilty of both desertions as well as selling his army great coat. He was sentenced to forfeit all pay, have his head shaved, be stripped of all badges, receive 50 lashes “well laid on, with a raw hide ,” and be drummed out, in front of the assembled Dragoon command. Other Company B Dragoon miscreants were tried before the same court along with Dragoons from companies G and I.  Stein was convicted as were all others charged.   His horrible sentence approved and carried out.[42]
The month of January was filled with preparation for a possible march south by Price, his volunteers stationed below Albuquerque, and the three Dragoon companies.   On February 11, Company B marched, the last to do so.  An alarm had been sent up by Missouri volunteers from occupied El Paso, announcing the approach of General Urea and 3,000 Mexican troops. The company made a difficult crossing of the swollen and ice-choked Rio Grande above Fra Cristobal.  On February 28, Company B reached El Paso, a 280 mile journey from Albuquerque.  Price left that city the next day with his advance units, leaving the slower artillery and infantry to catch up.   Price’s immediate command reached Chihuahua on March 7, to find their prey—Governor Angel Trias, with a few Mexican regulars and several hundred recently enrolled militia—had fled south.  Price again set off at a fast pace, following the wheel ruts of Trias’ cannon. At 9 a. m. the morning of March 9, the American advance group brought Trias and his 900 man force to ground in the town of Santa Cruz de Rosales, which Price immediately besieged.[43]
Price had sent back an express, reaching the slower parties on March 12 and hurrying them forward. Love and Company B immediately left their baggage wagons behind and began a fast march, covering 150 miles. They reached Chihuahua on the 15th, pressed (confiscated) fresh mules for the guns, and hurried the last 60 miles at a pace that put them in front of the enemy town at 5 a. m. on March 16.  As Company B wheeled its six guns into position, it was reported that the volunteers heard the defenders cry “Estos dos carajos!” “Here come two monsters!”  Company B immediately began firing shell and canister against fortified Mexican positions in the city center. Company B’s Dragoons-as-light-artillery played a major role in the victory at Santa Cruz de Rosales that day—the last of the already-concluded Mexican War.[44]
General Price’s report declared: “The distinguished conduct of Lieutenant Love–in the highly efficient manner in which his battery was served; in the rapidity of movement which characterized his conduct, when ordered to reinforce me, traveling night and day, going into battery four hours after his arrival, and his unceasing efforts during the entire day in working his battery–deserves especial notice…”  Love apportioned plenty of praise to the men who did the fighting, singling out section commanders Sergeants Muller and Bishop (still weak from his Coon Creek wounds), gun commander Corp. Haff, and all of the privates. The company suffered two men severely wounded and five slightly, one of the heavier tolls among the American units engaged.[45]
Company B was ordered to serve as part of the occupation force in or near the beautiful city of Chihuahua for the following four months of peace.  There some Dragoons fell in love and everyone enjoyed the city life, bullfights and horse races. When the peace finally was approved, army command ordered Chihuahua to be evacuated.  On July 17, Company B began its return march to Santa Fe.  On August 19, 1848, the ordnance was turned in there and the “for the war” enlistees discharged. On August 21, Company B once again was broken up, with the few remaining privates distributed to Dragoon Companies G and I, again remaining in New Mexico.  And again, Corporal Baker would form part of the core of a rebuilt Company B.  With Love, Muller, Bishop, Haff, and Peel, much of the same party as Baker had traveled the length of the Santa Fe Trail with three times in two years, he left Santa Fe on September 2, 1848, arriving at Fort Leavenworth twenty six days later.[46]
Baker was shown on the October 1848 return as a Sergeant for the first time, promoted up as Muller took the position of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.  Captain Robert H. Chilton, the designated commanding officer of Company B, arrived at Jefferson Barracks to take command at that post on November 9.  Recruits began filling out the reforming company the same month.  Lt. Love left on leave.[47]
Once again, on December 19, 1848, a Company B recruit group was mounted at Jefferson Barracks and marched out for Fort Leavenworth where Sgt. Baker and his non-com friends awaited them.  The newly organized company arrived on Dec. 31, 1848.  In January, Baker’s first company commander, Sumner, now promoted to Brevet Colonel and line Lt. Colonel, arrived at the post as the new regimental commander.  That same month Baker, Sumner’s one time clerk recruit from Fort Atkinson days, was designated as Acting Sergeant Major of the First Dragoons.  On February 8, 1849, the promotion was made permanent, and with it Baker became the senior non-commissioned officer of the regiment.  When the reorganized Company B left to reoccupy Fort Kearny on May 11 (nine of these recent recruits deserted on the three days before the company marched—some things never change), Baker stayed  at Fort Leavenworth with his new regimental duties, along with Sumner, Lt. Love (now Regimental Quarter Master), and Quarter Master Sergeant Muller.  The history and traditions of the company would travel with Bishop, Martin, Haff, and Peel, and several of the once new recruits who had fought Comanche and Mexicans, now part of a new Non Commissioned core.[48]
Some four months later, on June 7, 1849, Sergeant Major Baker suddenly sickened and died of Cholera (then epidemic in the West) at Fort Leavenworth.  As did so many unheralded antebellum regulars in dirty shirt blue, Baker stood ready to pour his life-blood freely pro bono publico and died in the quest of manifest destiny, four and one half years after he began his dragoon adventure. That his death was from sickness rather than in battle was hardly exceptional; in the war and on the frontier deaths of soldiers from disease far outnumbered those in combat.  One hopes that his friends Sumner, Love, and Muller were able to be part of their comrade’s Dragoon funeral.[49]
No marker for our bold Dragoon was found twelve years later when the graves from the “Soldiers Burying Ground” were moved to what became Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Baker’s remains likely lie there among some two hundred mostly anonymous dead of those earlier decades, far away from family and childhood friends.  Such was a Dragoon’s death.[50]




The Baker Letters of letters Sept. 13, 1846, Santa Fe; Dec. 13, 1846, Fort Leavenworth; and April 28, 1847, Fort Leavenworth, were found as photocopies of originals in the Beinecke Rare Book and Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-502, B175.  Extracts of these same letters were found, with two additional complete letters  (June 14, 1847, Council Grove; and June 27, 1847, Pawnee Fork), all in typescript form, in the Missouri Historical Society Archives, Mexican War Collection 1846-1940, Mathias Baker Folder, RSN: 01/A1037.   Subsequent references to these five feature letters will only be as Baker Letters, referring to the first three from the Beinecke, the last two from the Missouri Historical Society.


[1] A Dragoon, in the United States Army, was a utility soldier, intended generally to served mounted, armed with a sabre, pistols, and carbine.  The regulations provided for his service on foot as required, at which time his pay was reduced.  Baker served in the First Dragoon Regiment, established 1833.  In 1836 a second dragoon regiment was formed; both consisting of ten companies, designated A-K, with no J (a duplicate of the cursive I, too easily confused).  At the beginning of the Mexican War dragoon company size limits were expanded to a minimum of sixty four and maximum of one hundred privates, plus three officers, eight non-commissioned officers, and four specialists  (Captain) Abner Riviere Hetzel, Military Laws of the United States, Third Edition (Washington City: G. Templeman, 1846), 232. 275-278, 282.  There are two excellent and extensive memoirs of enlisted dragoon life by men who, like Baker, served  as members of Company B.  Private James A. Hildreth was in the original Company B and described its first year, 1833-34, in Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains (New York: Wiley & Long, 1836); Sergeant Percival Green Lowe described his enlistment during 1849-1854, including mentions of many of Baker’s one time comrades, in Five Years a Dragoon (’49 to ’54) (Kansas City, Mo.: The F. Hudson Publishing Co., 1906).  Private (later Brevet Brigadier General) Samuel E. Chamberlain penned a rollicking, somewhat exaggerated story of his Mexican War adventures in Company E, My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue  (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956). Sergeant Major Frank Clarke succeeded Baker as Regimental Sergeant Major; he also served in Company F in New Mexico; his letters have been collected and edited by Darlis Miller as Above a Common Solidier: Frank and Mary Clarke in the American West and Civil War, 1847-1872 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,1997).  Private, sometimes Sergeant, James A. Bennett (who enlisted and served as James Bronson) served in New Mexico variously with Companies I, G, and B; his occasionally truth-stretching diary of two 1st Dragoon enlistments and a desertion was edited by Clinton E. Brooks & Frank D. Reeve, as Forts and Forays: A Dragoon in New Mexico, 1850-1856 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press: 1996).  The memoir, “Personal Recollections—A Trumpeter’s Notes (‘52-’58),” of Bugler (Later Chief Bugler) William Drown, which includes his time in Company H, 1st Dragoons, also in New Mexico, is contained in Brevet Brigadier General Theophilus F. Rodenbough’s From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000).  While focused on the 2nd Dragoons, the work is filled with memoirs from men of both dragoon regiments.  The composited articles and journals of 1st Dragoon Captain, later Brevet Major General, Philip St. George Cooke, are in Scenes and Adventures in the Army (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakeston, 1856), and The Conquest of New Mexico and California: An Historical and Personal Narrative (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1878).  Cooke’s Company K, served with Baker and Company B from June-October 1846, the beginning months of the Mexican War, covered on pages 10-86 in the later work.

[2]Enlistment papers, Mathais L. Baker (Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780-1917, Record Group 94, 1845, volume 44, entry 271).   “Baker Matthias M, ns Myrtle e of 2nd.” Green’s St. Louis City Directory, 1845, 15. Baker’s first name is found with both a single and a double “t;” we use the form found on the Dragoon rolls (his own signature was “M. L. Baker”).  William Hammond, SR., assistant surgeon 1 June 1834, Maryland, promoted to surgeon 7 Aug. 1847, died at Benicia, California, 13 Feb. 1851.  Heitman, Register, 74; “Hammond W, M.D., U.S.A., ns Washington Av w of 3rd,” Green’s  St. Louis City Directory 1845,  76.

Henry Smith Turner, was born in Virginia, 1811, attended West Point, graduating 1834, and assigned to the Dragoons.  At the time of Baker’s enlistment Turner was a 1st Lt.; in April 1846 he was promoted to Captain and soon made Acting Assistant Adjutant General to the Army of the West; Dwight L. Clarke, “Introduction,” in The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) 9-15, also George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy [3rd. Edition], 2 vols.,  (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company: 1891), #770.  All U.S.M.A. graduates are assigned a unique Cullum number, ordered by chronology, then class rank.  ANY set of Cullum’s Register will show graduates’ biographies sequentially by number, regardless of volume, publisher, or date, and hence, graduate’s information from Cullum is cited by number, i.e. Cullum, Register, #770 (no pages numbers).

[3]National Archives and Records Adminstration (hereafter, NARA), Returns from Regular Cavalry Regiments, 1833-1916; First Cavalry; 1845-1847 (Microfilm Publication M744, Roll 2), First Cavalry; 1848-1850  (Roll ), Records of U.S. Regular Army Mobile Units, Record Group 393  (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1972); hereafter NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847 and NARA, 1st  Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850.   Company B, 4th Quarter 1845, Regiment, Nov. 1845, and Regimental History, 1845; also C. Stanley Stevenson, “Expeditions in Dakota,” South Dakota Historical Collections, Volume IX (1918), 347-375.  Edwin Vose Sumner, born in Boston 1797, was commissioned directly as a 2nd Lt. in 1819, became commanding officer Company B, (1st) Dragoons on creation of the Regiment in 1833, and was promoted Major, 2nd Dragoons, June 30, 1846. Heitman, Register, 836.

[4]“Fort Atkinson, 1840-46,” Jeffery T. Carr and William E. Whittaker, Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians, Traders, and Soldiers, 1682-1862, edited by William E. Whittaker,  (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009), 145-160; Francis P. Prucha, Broadax & Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army In the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860  (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995) 36-37, 129-130; NARA, 1st Dragoon returns 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment, January-May 1845.

[5] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, April, 1846; Adjutant General and Brigadier General Rodger Jones, General Order #2, January 8, 1847,  as published by directive in (St. Louis) Missouri Republican, January 28, 1847.

[6]Justin Smith, The War With Mexico, 2 volumes  (New York, McMillan & Co. 1919) 1:181-183; NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron (Co.s B & K), June 1846; Company K commanding officer Captain Philip St. George Cooke, was born in Virginia and graduated from West Point in 1827.  He too was an original officer of the Dragoon regiment, becoming a Captain in 1835. Cooke would serve as a volunteer Lt. Colonel commanding the Mormon Battalion after arrival in New Mexico.  Cullum, Register, #492

[7]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron, June, July 1846; Louise Barry, The Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West 1540-1854 (Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society, 1972), 623; Stephen Watts Kearny, Winning the West: General Stephen Watts Kearny’s Letter Book 1846-1847, edited by Hans von Sachsen-Altenburg and Laura Gabiger (Boonville, MO: Pekitanoui Publications: 1998), 134 (Kearny to Brooke, May 31, 1846). Colonel, later Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny entered the Army as a young man from New Jersey in 1812 to fight the British; he was made Lt. Col. of the newly created Dragoons in 1833 and in 1836 became the regiment’s commander.  His vast experience on the western plains, the Santa Fe Trail, and his presence at Fort Leavenworth made him a natural choice as commander of the Army of the West in May of 1846; Dwight L. Clarke. Stephen Watts Kearny: Soldier of the West  (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) 101-115; Heitman, Register, 380.

[8] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron, June, July 1846; Barry, The Beginning of the West, 623; National Archives, Orders issued by Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny and Brig. Gen. Sterling Price to the Army of the West, 1846-1848 (Microfilm Publication T1115), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, ND) Orders No. 11, July 31, 1846, hereafter  NARA, Orders, Army of the West; Abraham Robinson Johnston, Journal, in Marching with the Army of the West, Volume IV, The Southwest Historical Series, edited by Ralph P. Bieber (Philadelphia:  Porcupine Press, 1974), 92

[9]2nd Lieutenant George Rutledge Gibson, Journal of a Soldier Under Kearny and Doniphan 1846-1847,

edited by Ralph P. Bieber,  (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1935) 203-206; 1st Lt.Christian Kribben, letter of Aug. 19, 1846 in (St Louis) Täglich Anzeiger des Westens Sept. 28, 1846 (all items from Anzeiger and (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne translated by Kimball); James McGoffin, letter of August 22, 1846, in, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails: Edward James Glasgow and William Henry Glasgow 1846-1848, edited by Mark L. Gardner (Nitwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1993), 87; Private Marcellus Bell Edwards, Journal, in Marching with the Army of the West, 139-140, 158-159; Lieut. Col., W. H. Emory,  Congressional Serial 517, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, from Fort Leavenworth in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, Ex. Doc. No. 41, 30th Congress, First Session (1848), 32-33, 36, hereafter Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance; Cooke, Conquest, 70-71.

[10] Letter of Sept. 24, 1846, to Adj. Gen. Jones, in Kearny, Letterbook, 168-169; also see Army of the West Orders No.s 18 (Aug. 27, 1846) and 22 (Sept. 18, 1846), Special Order No. 8 (Sept. 20, 1846), in NARA, Orders, Army of the West, 1846-1848; Cooke, Conquest, 69-70.  Actual count of Dragoons present for service on the September 30, 1846 return is 317.

[11] Cooke, Conquest,51-71.

[12] See: Josiah Gregg , Commerce of the prairies: or, The journal of a Santa Fe trader, during eight expeditions across the great western prairies, and a residence of nearly nine years in northern Mexico, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J. W. Moore, 185); and George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 2 vols. (New York:  Harper and Brothers, 1844); John Taylor Hughes, Doniphan’s expedition and the conquest of New Mexico and California, edited by William Elsey Connelley  (Topeka, KS: Published by the editor, 1907) 207-217; George Rutledge Gibson, Journal of a Soldier,  209-245; see also Auguste deMarle’s letters of August 31, 1846 and September 16, 1846 in (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne, October 10 and 25, 1846.

[13] Baker to “Dear Sister” (Mrs. Hugh Martin), 1 Hudson Street (Manhattan), New York, from Santa Fe, Mexico, Sept. 13, 1846. An extract of this Baker letter was published in, Chronicles of the Gringos: the U. S. Army in the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Accounts of Eyewitnesses & Combatant, edited by George Winston Smith and Charles Judah (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1868) 123-124. Baker is incorrectly identified in the editors’ comments as “a traveler en route to Mexico.”

[14] NARA, Letters received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series); Papers relating to the activities of Maj. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny and to the Army of the West 1846-1847  (Microfilm Publication M567, Roll 319), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1965), Kearny letters of Oct. 6 and 11, 1846 (both to  Adj. Gen. Jones), and Oct. 9, 1846 (to Sumner); a published but unsigned letter from “commander of companies C and K” (Benjamin Moore) to “relative” (probably Moore’s father-in-law, Judge Mathew Hughes) of Oct. 6, 1846, from “Camp on the Rio Grande Del Norte,” in Jefferson [Mo.] Inquirer, December 1, 1846.

[15]NARA Orders, Army of the West, Kearny, Order No. 35, Oct. 10, 1846; Turner, Original Journals, 80-83. Emory, Notes of a Reconnaissance, 55-56.  Just-promoted 1st Lieutenant John Love was to become a central character in Baker’s life as the new commander of Company B.  Born in Virginia, a resident of Tennessee when appointed to West Point, Love graduated and was assigned to the First Dragoons in 1841. Since then he had garnered typically extensive experience on the plains and Rockies.  As 2nd Lt. of Moore’s Company C, Love had been on recruiting duty in Dayton Ohio, from 1845 until the outbreak of the war. Companies C (without Love) and G had left Fort Leavenworth on June 5, 1846, being the first departing detachment of the Army of the West.  Love traveled as a supernumerary on Kearny’s staff, leaving June 30, 1846, returning to Company C at Bent’s Fort the end of July; Cullum, Register, #1072, Barry, Beginning of the West, 591, 620.  Love had been the officer who acted as negotiator for Cooke as the Dragoons disarmed the Texian partisan “Battalion of Invincibles” lurking on the Santa Fe Trail at Jackson’s Grove June 30, 1843.  Philip St. George Cooke, edited by William E. Connelley, “A Journal of the Santa Fe Trail,” in Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII. No. 2(June, 1925), 227-236.

[16]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Companies B, G, & I, Oct. 1846;  2nd Lt. Henry W. Stanton, from New York, had graduated from the Military Academy in 1842 and been assigned to the 1st Dragoons.  He had accompanied Capt. Moore to New Mexico, where his Company was broken up. Upon his return to Fort Leavenworth, he would serve a dual role, as Acting Assistant Adjutant General for the 1st Dragoons and commander of the detachment of 1st Dragoons (progressively composed more and more of the rebuilding Company B) accumulating at the post; Cullum, Register, #1155; National Archives, Returns from U. S. Military Posts, 1800-1916; [Fort] Leavenworth, KS; Aug 1827-Dec.1850 (Microfilm Publication M617, Roll 610), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1968) Nov. 1846-May 1847; hereafter  NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns.  Ohioan 2nd Lt. Bezaleel W. Anderson graduated from the Military Academy in 1845 and been assigned to Company G, 1st Dragoons.  He had marched west on June 5 as a Brevet 2nd Lt. and was now promoted and assigned to the 2nd Dragoons.  Like Sumner, Anderson was returning to the States with the intention of traveling on and joining his new regiment in Mexico. Cullum, Register, #1253; NARA 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Regiment, June 1846; NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, June, 1846.

[17] Cooke, “Journal of the March of the Mormon Battalion,” entries for Oct. 19 and 23, 1846, in NARA, Letters, Army of the WestNARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, Dec.1846; Love, “Abstract of Purchases made during the Quarter ending December 31 46.” (Will Gorenfeld Personal Collection);

[18] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, Nov. 1846; Heitman, Register, 625.  A “Brevet” was an honorary promotion rewarding valor or service.  West Point graduates were initially only Brevet Second Lieutenants (as had been Armstrong); Hetzel, Military Laws, 24, 116, 155.  Baker and the detachment at Fort Leavenworth never seemed to have been idle; his second letter described duties that seem like those detailed by Sergt. Percival Lowe when in similar small detachments; Five Years a Dragoon.

[19] Baker to “Dear Nephew,” Fort Leavenworth, Dec. 10, 1846.  The public has generally thought poorly of enlisted regular soldiers.  See for instance, Bennett (who enlisted under an alias), glad NOT to be recognized by his mother the first time he ventured on to the streets of his home town in uniform; Forts and Forays, 4.  Drown thought it best not to tell any of his Chicago friends when he reenlisted, “Trumpter’s Notes,” in Rodenbough, Everglade to Canyon, 203-204. Ulysses Grant wrote in his wonderful memoir that in the summer of 1843 he returned to his parents’ home in Bethel, Ohio, as a Brevet 2nd Lieutenant on graduation furlough.  While riding out in his new uniform (hoping to impress the neighbors, particularly the young ladies) he was accosted on the street by an urchin with the chant of “Soldier! Will you work? No, sir—ee; I’ll sell my shirt first!” Personal Memoirs (New York: Random House, 1999), 18.  Percival Lowe, alone, never seemed ashamed of his uniform or his service during his enlistment (nor did anything of which to be ashamed), Five Years a Dragoon.  Rocky Point was most often the sight of theft and raiding by Jicarilla Apaches.s

[20] 2nd Lt. Anderson O. Nelson to John Love, Terre Haute February 12, 1847, Will Gorenfeld Collection.  Nelson would soon return to duty with his regiment, the 6th Infantry, and be in combat by May 14, as Scott’s army fought its way to Mexico City (Cullum #1101).

[21] Indiana State Journal, February 8, 1847.

[22] Wm. Hugh Robarts, Mexican War Veterans: A Complete Roster (Washington, D. C.: Brentano’s, 1887) 47-50.   Letter of (Pvts.) John W. George, Jeptha Powell, and George W. Gibson to “Liet [Love] Dear Sir,” from Newport Barracks, April 2, 1847, in John Love Papers, 1837–1886, Collection #M 0653 OM 0320, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis; hereafter John Love Papers, Indiana Historical Society.  Will Gorenfeld wishes to express his thanks to Mrs. Betsy Caldwell for access to this and related documents.  Lt. Love did not regard the letter as a slight to his rank and station. In June of 1847, he promoted George Gibson, one of the signatories, to the rank of corporal. All three of these men would serve honorably in Company B.

[23] Such accelerated and abbreviated training was typical in the army, particularly during the Mexican War. The Missouri volunteers who had marched with Kearny in June 1846 had less than two weeks between muster and departure for New Mexico, some units, less than a week—Murphy’s Platte County Volunteer Infantry Company actually marched for New Mexico two days after mustering into service.  Missouri Secretary of State, On-Line Archives, Soldiers’ Records (for muster dates); Barry, Beginning of the West, 594-596 (for departure dates).  1st Dragoons, Company F, reorganized on August 31, 1846, shipped out for Mexico Oct 6, 1846 (37 days); Company K reorganized August 15, 1847 and left for Mexico September 15, 1847 (31 days).  Company B had thirty-six days from its reorganization  (and only seven days with the forty-two man detachment at Fort Leavenworth consolidated with the St. Louis party—less desertions, of course) until its departure. NARA, Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Annual Reports, 1846, 1847.  In 1849, dragoon recruit Bennett seems to have received only infantry and musician training as he began his 1849 enlistment with six months of time wasted on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. (Bennett, Forts and Forays, 4-8)Enlisted a month earlier, Lowe went to Carlisle Barracks for two months of initial instruction under the then-Brevet Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, proceeding to Company B before Christmas 1849; Lowe. Five Years a Dragoon, 5-11.

[24] Jenkins to “Dear Love,” March 20, 1847, from Jefferson Barracks; Will Gorenfeld Personal Collection; 2nd Lt. Leonidas Jenkins, 1st Dragoons, had been on recruiting duty at Jefferson Barracks and nearby St. Louis since Oct. 1845.  He had graduated from USMA 1841 and been with the 1st Dragoons since then. Jenkins would soon reorganize Company K at Jefferson Barracks, lead it to Vera Cruz, and die there of the vomito, Oct. 18, 1847; (Cullum #1071; NARA, 1st Dragoons Retuns, 1845-1847, Annual Report 1847;    NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns , March, 1847.

[25] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, April, 1847.  Stanton was serving as Regimental and Post Adjutant AND commander of the Dragoon detachment.

[26] Baker to “My Dear Boy,” Fort Leavenworth, April 28, 1847. Peel was a Bugler, not technically an NCO, but apparently quite competent.   Of the twenty five recruits and their mounts marched by Jenkins from Jefferson Barracks and undergoing training at Fort Leavenworth after march 4, 1847, twelve were listed as born in “Germany.”  Five more had distinctive German names (i.e. Fosbenner, Schoele, etc.) and may have been German born as well; see Gorenfeld’s “German Born Men of Company B,” on line at   St. Louis, host city to Jefferson Barracks and source of many of the 1st Dragoons’ recruits, had a substantial and growing population of German immigrants—largely military-age men.  Robyn Burnett, Ken Luebbering, German settlement in Missouri: new land, old ways (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996), 20-22.

[27] NARA, Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916; Jefferson Barracks, MO; Jan. 1826-Dec. 1851  (Microfilm Publication M617, Roll 546), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1968), April and May, 1847. NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, May 1847.

[28] Missouri Republican, May 11, 1847.  In perspective though, such superlatives were tossed about rather carelessly.

[29] George F. Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (New York: Harpers & Brothers: 1848), 294.  Ruxton continued on to Fort Leavenworth and there came in contact with a deserter from his British regiment in Canada, the 89th Regiment of Foot, Pvt. Thomas Crosby, a reenlisted regular of Company B. “Memoir of Lieut. G. A. F. Ruxton,” The Daguerreotype, Volume 3, 1849, 238-239; NARA  Discharge papers, Crosby.  While traveling through New Mexico and enjoying the hospitality of the Burgwin Dragoon Squadron in Albuquerque on December 17, 1846, Ruxton had an encounter with another deserter from the 89th  Foot, 1st Dragoon Pvt. Henry Herbert, of Company G.  Ruxton, Adventure, 186.

[30] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, May, 1847; Love to Adj. Gen. R. Jones, June 27, 1847, from Camp on the Arkansas, in Niles National Register 72 (1847), 343-344; hereafter Love to Jones, NNR, June 27, 1847.  On June 20, 1847, Fort Leavenworth Acting Commissary of Subsistence 1st Lt. William Prince wrote from Fort Leavenworth to his superior, Major R. B. Lee, that “the determination of the Indians” would prevent the successful transit of any unescorted trains that season.  William Prince Letterbooks, 1845-48, Beinecke Rare Book and Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-551, 343-344.

[31] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, June 1847; see (then-Major) Clifton Wharton, on the Band playing out a departing force, in “Expedition,” in Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. XVI (1925): 272.

[32] William Y. Chalfant, Dangerous Passage: the Santa Fe Trail and the Mexican War (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 165-185; Kevin Sweeney, “Thirsting for War, Hungering for Peace: Drought, Bison Migrations, and native peoples on the Southern Plains, 1845-1859,” Journal of the West, Vol. 41,

No. 2 (Summer 2002): 70-78. Lt. Col. William Gilpin to Adj. Gen. R. Jones, August 1, 1848, from Fort Mann, in Congressional Set 537, Report of the Secretary of War, Executive Document No. 1, 30th Congress, 2nd Session, 1848, 136-140; hereafter Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West.  The earlier Prince letter (supra, Fn 30) and that of March 3, 1847 from Adj. Gen. Jones to Missouri Governor Edwards (Niles National Register72 (1847), 206 make clear that the danger to transportation trains from Native raiding along the Santa Fe Trail during 1847was understood by the military and that all trains were intended to be escorted between Council Grove and Las Vegas, New Mexico.

[33] Will Gorenfeld and George R. Stammerjohan., “Love’s Defeat: Dragoons vs. Comanches,” Wild West, v.17, no.1 (June 2004), 38-45. Baker to “My Dear Nephew,” Council Grove, June 14, 1847.

[34] Ibid.

[35] LeRoy R. Hafen, Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick, Mountain Man, Guide and Indian Agent (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 1981) 245-246; Thomas Fitzpatrick to Thomas H. Harvey (Superintendent Indians Affairs, St. Louis), Sept. 18, 1847, Bend’s Ford [sic, Bent’s Fort], in Congressional Set 503, Appendix to the Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Executive Document No. 8, 30th Congress, 1st Session, 1847, 238-240.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Baker to “My dear Nephew,” Arkansas River, June 27 1847.

[39]Ibid.  Love himself called attention to the courage and sacrifice of his men and called for better planning and logistics to prevent recurrences of what became known as “Love’s Defeat.” Love to Jones, NNR, June 27, 1847.  Sgt. Ben Bishop, leader of the badly mauled detachment, paid tribute to Lt. Love.  Like Fitzpatrick, Bishop  insisted that Love had acted “prudently and wisely;” see Bishop’s July 1, 1847 letter from “Camp Battleground” reprinted in James Madison Cutts, The Conquest of California and New Mexico by the forces of the United States in the Years 1846 &1847 (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1847), 240-243.

[40] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment, August 1847;  Santa Fe Republican, September 10, 1847; 1st Lt. A. B. Dyer wrote that all of the replacement volunteer regiments and battalions had arrived in Santa Fe by Sept. 6, 1847, though Company B, 1st Dragoons, was clearly the first new unit to arrive in 1847.  A. B. Dyer, typescript Mexican War Diary, entry for September 6, 1847, in Alexander Brydie Dyer Papers, Collection AC 070-P, Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM; hereafter Dyer Diary, Chavez Library.

[41] John Love Papers, IHS: “Received Santa Fe New Mexico, August 16, 1847, of Lieutenant John Love… Wm. McKissack, Capt., AQM,” with a list of turned in items, and (same source) “Invoice of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores… August, 1848;” NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment,  Sept. -Dec. 1847; Dyer Diary, Chavez Library, Dec. 2-19, 1847.

[42]NARA, Returns From U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916, Albuquerque, NM: Oct 1846-July 1867 (Microfilm M617 Roll 13), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94, (Washington, D.C: National Archives, 1968), Nov. 1847; Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton, directly commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in 1818, became a Captain of the original Dragoons in 1833.  He was serving as Acting Commander of the 1st Dragoons and Post Commander of Fort Leavenworth in 1847 (Heitman, Register, 686; NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, 1847.   Dyer Journal, Dec. 9, 1847; NARA, Orders, AOW, Record of General Court Martial, Albuquerque, Dec. 24-28, (Report, Santa Fe, Jan. 1, 1848).

[43]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Company B, Jan. and Feb., 1848; Lt. Col. R. H. Lane  from El Paso, to 1st Lt. W. E. Prince, Jan 30, 1848 , in Missouri Republican, May 2, 1848.  Shepard, Autobiography of Elihu H. Shepard (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., 1869), describes the extremely challenging crossing of Easton’s Infantry and Walker’s Santa Fe battalions on the evening of Feb. 6, 1848.  The Rio Grande was likely to have still been in flood when Love crossed, 151-154. Unsigned (author “our correspondent,” Pvt. Philip Gooch Ferguson) letter of April 6, 1848 from Chihuahua, in Missouri Republican, May 15, 1848;

[44] Missouri Republican, May 2, 1848; (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne, June 7, 1848, letter of March 20, 1848, from Santa Cruz de Rosales, signed “Der Rekrut von Santa Cruz” (probably Orderly Sergt. Herman Weber); Brig. Gen. Sterling Price to Adj. Gen. Jones, from Chihuahua, March 31, 1848, Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West, 113-119.

[45]Report of 1st Lt. John Love, March 22, 1844, 124-126; Report of Major B. L. Beall, March 23, 1848, 122-124; both in Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West.

[46] Deutsche Tribüne, June 7, 1848; Shepard, Autobiography, 170-174; Dyer Diary, Chavez Library, March 16-July 18, 1848; NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Company B and Regiment, March-August 1848.  Considering this the end of their Mexican War era journeys, the cadre of Company B had completed marches totaling over 5,036 overland miles since leaving Fort Atkinson at the beginning of the war (not counting the additional 670 steamboat miles); Love, Muller, and others had actually covered more in their 1846-1847 recruiting journey and return.

[47] NARA, 1st Dragoons Returns, 1848-1850, Company B and Regiment, Oct. and Nov. 1848.

[48] Ibid, Company B and Regimental Returns, Dec. 1848 through May, 1849, NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, January 1849.

[49] NARA 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Regiment, June, 1849; Death Notice, Boston Evening Transcript, June 29, 1849.  Thanks to John Maurath for contributing this and for his wonderful tour and perspective on Jefferson Barracks, which he and his friends are actively preserving and promoting.

[50]Ebenezer T. Carr, “Addenda,” in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12 (1912), xv-xvi, described the 1861 removal of all bodies from every distinguishable grave in Fort Leavenworth’s  “old soldiers burying ground,” including any associated markers.  No record of Baker’s grave remained; confirm,, and telephone conversation with Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery staff member, Sept. 24, 2009.

From the Wide Missouri to the Pacific Shore: Rufus Ingall's Report of the Steptoe Expedition

In 1854-55, an expedition of dragoon and artillery recruits, under the command of Major Steptoe, left Fort Leavenworth for the Pacific Coast. Steptoe carried with him orders to spend the winter in Salt Lake City and, while there, investigate the murder of Captain John Gunnison and his party. Capt. and Assistant Quartermaster Rufus Ingalls, a former 1st Dragoon, submitted a following report of the expedition.

Report of the Secretary of War- Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First (1st) Session of the Thirty Fourth Congress, Senate Ex. Do. No. 1, December 31, 1855 (Beverly Tucker, Washington, 1855) Vol. 2, 153

Washington City, D. C,

November 22, 1855.

General: I have the honor to submit the following summary of the principal events and useful information contained in my communication* to you in relation to the march of Colonel Steptoe’s command into the Great Basin of Utah, last year, and referred to in the second paragraph of my report of the 25th of last August. I beg this may be substituted for the letters, as they contain many repetitions almost necessarily, and touch on various business matters which do not belong to a report of the march.
Continue reading “From the Wide Missouri to the Pacific Shore: Rufus Ingall's Report of the Steptoe Expedition”

Report of Company G at Taos and Embudo

Don Fernando De Taos, N. Mex., February 16, 1847.

Colonel: I have the honor herewith to transmit the monthly return of the late Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin’s company (G, First Dragoons) for the month of January, 1847.

I have signed the return myself, and in order to explain it beg leave to submit the following statement:

On January 23 Captain Burgwin marched with his company from Albuquerque, a town on the Rio Grande, 70 miles distant from Santa Fe, to join Colonel Price. He reached the latter place on January 26. On 28th he joined Colonel Price with his company at a town on the Rio Arriba, 35 miles from Santa Fe in the direction of Taos.

On the 29th he was sent forward in command of a detachment, made up of his own company and about 100 volunteers, to drive the enemy from a stronghold in a mountain pass near a town called Embudo. Early in the day Captain Burgwin found the enemy posted on the heights, in the ravines, and behind all trees and rocks where shelter could be found. The enemy numbered about 500, consisting of Mexicans and Pueblo Indians. Captain Burgwin at once engaged the enemy by ordering Captain St. Train’s company of citizens and mountain men to dismount and skirmish on the left of the road.

At the same time I was ordered to throw out the dragoons on the right and left. The action lasted about two and one-half hours. The enemy was put to flight with considerable loss and was pursued more than 2 miles from hill to hill through the ravines, and was completely routed and driven beyond the town of Embudo, of which Captain Burgwin took possession and in which his command camped on the night of 29th. In this engagement Captain Burgwin lost 1 man killed and 1 wounded. The enemy lost, so far as could be ascertained, about 20 killed and 60 wounded.

On January 30 Captain Burgwin joined Colonel Price at a town called Trampas, 15 miles from Embudo. On 31st the march was continued toward Taos Valley, which Colonel Price reached on the evening of February 2 with his command. On the evening of 3d a march of 6 miles was made to the Pueblo de Taos.

After an attempt to reduce the place by a bombardment it was found impracticable, and Colonel Price returned to Don Fernando de Taos for the night. Early on the morning of 4th the town of Pueblo de Taos, in which the enemy to the number of 1,000 was fortified, was attacked at different points by the artillery and musketeers.

At about 11 o’clock a. m. Captain Burgwin, in command of his own company and a part of Captain McMillins’s company, Missouri Volunteers, charged the town from the front and carried by storm all the outward defenses up to the walls of the church. A simultaneous charge was to have been made on the left flank by a portion of the large force of volunteers stationed there beyond effective rifle range, but from some mistake the dragoons were first in the charging, and for some time were exposed to the galling fire of the enemy through loopholes in the church and main buildings. It was during this period that Captain Burgwin received a mortal wound. The main force, however, coming up soon, carried the church and put many of the enemy to flight. The town was carried and the battle closed near night, having killed about 150 of the enemy.

I assumed command of the dragoons, being the next officer in rank and having served with them in all the engagements.

Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin died on the morning of February 7. In the action of the 4th Company G, First Dragoons, lost 7 killed and 16 wounded, exclusive of the captain. I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

Rufus Ingalls, Second Lieutenant, First Dragoons


Headquarters, Fort Leavenworth,

April 1, 1847. Sir: It is with more than ordinary grief that I herewith inclose an official report of the death of Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin, of the First Regiment Dragoons, who was mortally wounded in the battle of Pueblo de Taos on the 4th of February last.

Having known long and intimately the late captain, I can not forbear observing that for personal worth and professional excellence in his particular arm of service the deceased has left no superior behind him. The announcement of his death—”this morning learned—”has cast a gloom over the hearts of all at this post who ever knew him professionally or personally.

I transmit also a copy of a letter this morning received from Lieutenant Ingalls, now in command of the late Captain Burgwin’s company, which furnishes a brief account of the affair of the 29th of January near Embudo and of that of the 4th of February at Pueblo de Taos.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. Wharton, Lieutenant-Colonel First Dragoons, Commanding. Brig. Gen. R. Jones,

Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C.

P. S.—”I have just obtained and send you a printed sheet from the Government printing office at Santa Fe, giving details of the several affairs between our forces and the Mexicans up to the 15th of February last.

C. W.


Missouri Republican, April 9, 1847

Tim Kimball’s extract of letter from a member of the late Capt. J. H. K. Burgwin, company (G) 1st U.S.  Dragoons, to a member of the same company [Pvt. John J. O’Meally is the only G Company man so shown, left sick June 7, 1846, in April assigned to Daily duty in the commissary department], at Fort Leavenworth, Mo., the letter was dated at San Fernado de Taos, N. M., 13th February, 1847: In consequence of the massacre that had taken place at Taos, we received orders to repair to Santa Fe immediately, and next morning the 23rd January, we commenced our march on foot, every member in the company being in the best spirits.  We arrived in Santa Fe the 26th; next day we pushed on and overtook.  Col. Price—™s command, he having marched out of Santa Fe some time before our arrival.  On the 29th our company, with our once favorite Captain at its head, and two companies of Col. Price—™s volunteers, had a skirmish with the enemy near El Emboda [Embudo], killing eight, and wounding upwards of twenty of them.  But one on our side (a volunteer) was killed, none wounded.  But the cause of this expedition I must more full explain.

The Indians near Taos, and some Spaniards in that valley, numbering some 2000, headed by a fellow named Pablo Montoya, who called himself the —œSanta Anna of the North, rose in revolt, and murdered Gov. Bent and ten other Americans who lived in Taos.  They then marched for Santa Fe.  They were met by Col. Price at Canada, where he obliged them to retreat.  Col. Price—™s command was but two hundred men.  The second meeting, I have mentioned above.  Capt. Burgwin was in command.  On the road, we heard that they were fortifying themselves in a village beyond San Fernando, about three miles.

On the 3rd of February we arrived at this place, and after resting less than an hour, resumed our march to El pueblo, a large Indian village, in which the enemy were fortified.  About 2 P. M. the command was drawn up in front of the village; Capt. Burgwin and his dragoons on the right extended as skirmishers.  The battalion of Missouri volunteer infantry in the centre, and the mounted company of volunteers from Santa Fe—”storekeepers, trader, &c., and dismounted companies of Col. Price’s regiment, on the left—”in all about four hundred men.  The village consists of two large edifices, or piles, of houses, built one over the other, and so formed as to make each an almost impregnable fortress in itself.  Each occupied an area of at least one acre of ground, and in the centre was nearly sixty feet in height.  Almost immediately in front of these stood the church, and few scattering houses and fodder stacks.  In front of the church ran a wall six feet high, and fifty or sixty yards long; this was their breastwork.  All the buildings were pierced with loopholes, for the convenience of their marksmen.

Our artillery, consisting of four 12 pound howitzers, and one 6-pounder field piece, was placed at the distance of six hundred yards from the church, and commenced a fire in the direction of an opening between the church and the building on the right and rear of it.  In this direction the Indians slowed themselves in great numbers, yelling defiance at us.  The ammunition was soon expended as the wagons containing supplies for the guns had been left in the mountains, having broken down.  But I must go back a little in my tale.  When we arrived in front of the village, were still in a lose order, the Indians opened fire upon us with rifles from a breastwork.  All their balls went over us except one, which struck Serg’t Vanroe’s left pocket of his pantaloons, cutting through it, and lodging in a piece of tobacco which he had that morning providently put there.  The tobacco saved his life sirus doute [intended as,—without a doubt—?].

At 4 P. M. we formed in close order and marched back to this place, when we got quarters.  As we marched off the Indians set up a yell of defiance (thinking that we were alarmed at their hostile appearance and the strength of the village,) jumped over their breastwork and danced in their peculiar manner, while the Spaniards who were leagued with them, halloed in Spanish, —Venaci, tu tiene miedo de nosotros. (Come here, you are afraid of us.) On the following morning, our ammunition wagons having arrived, we marched fully determined to take the village.  On our arrival there the command was placed as follows:  Capt. Burgwin’s Dragoons extended to the right and front of the church, the remainder opposite the left of the village, two of the howitzers on the right and front, 500 yards distant; the other two and the field piece, on the left and front, 600 yards from the church.  The fire of the artillery commenced about 8 and continued until 11 a. m., doing but little damage besides knocking off the corners of the houses.

Col. Price then saw that the only way to obtain possession of the place would be by a desperate charge up the breast work and church and the endeavor to take the latter.  He gave orders to Capt. Burgwin to that effect, who was to lead the charge with his dragoons as soon as a company of infantry would join us.  The other dismounted troops were to charge at the same time from the left.

The companies joined us and Capt. Burgwin moved forward at the signal he had sounded by our bugler.  At the very word”Charge,” every one ran for the breastwork.  I was the first to reach it and saw the Indians compressed into the church.  I shot one between the shoulders and killed him dead; the enemy fled but kept up the incessant fire from the houses and [log palisade?] near the side of the church.  The outer work gained, a shout of success arose from every man, but it was soon slightly damped by the news of the death of our first sergeant, Geo. R. Ross, and three privates of dragoons under him.  The check was however only momentarily felt by the others; the axes were used to cut holes in the wall of the church, the body of which was supposed to contain 80 or 100 of the enemy, who kept up a continual fire of rifles and arrows from the ledge near the roof.  At this time Capt. Burgwin took a part of his dragoons, and ran around the left wall of the church and gained the door, which they intended to break open, but it was soon found to be a dangerous position, as they were still more exposed to the fire of the enemy from the house.

Capt Burgwin and four men were dangerously wounded and but two or three of the party escaped unharmed.  The Capt. and wounded men were taken off to the surgeons as quick as possible, as those who carried them were exposed to a deadly fire from the largest of the two houses.  The fire on our side was kept up with spirit; as soon as an Indian or Mexican was seen crossing the street, two dozen carbines were fired and always with effect.

The enemy were constantly on the watch, as soon as one of our men showed himself, he was fired at by a dozen rifles, but mostly without effect.  The greatest execution on the side of the enemy was done by a rifle, said to have been done by a white man [most often reported to be the Delaware, “Big Nigger,” who did survive], who was subsequently shot.  He killed five of our men and wounded ten others.  Private Stewart of our company (a Scotchman), with the boldness of his countrymen, climbed to the roof of the church, set fire to the projecting timbers, and descended to the ground in safety, notwithstanding the manner in which he was exposed.

The infantry on the left, covered by the large wall of the church, did at this time but little service, and although they tried to effect an entrance into the church by means of axes, their progress was slow and after we had kept our dangerous position for more than three hours, they had not been able to accomplish their object.  The field piece was then brought to bear upon the church, at the distance of 100 yards, and about twenty shots fired from it which made a breach in the wall large enough to admit two men abreast.  A lighted bomb was then thrown in by Lieut. Wilson and his example was soon followed by others.  Sergeant Koch of our company, privates [Joseph L.] Nixon*, and Holcomb entered the breach, but were by a few minutes forced to retreat by the smoke, the result of the bursting of the bombs and the fire in the roof, which had accumulated.  They, however, remained long enough to discover that the place was deserted by all but the dead, of which a goodly number were lying on the floor.  The artillery meantime had been playing upon the building to the left and soon after we obtained possession of the church it was discovered that few, if any, Indians remained in it.

The building was taken by the troops and a good shelter achieved.  At the same time a number of the enemy made a sortie to gain the mountain.  Capt. St. Vrain—™s company (mounted), which had hitherto done nothing, now charged upon the, killing fifty-two; the remnant, owing to the lateness of the day, escaped in the bushes and it was supposed, crawled back to the village.  About that time a white flag was raised upon the houses on the right, but had scarcely appeared before a dozen muskets [that is, voluteers—”Dragoons carrying carbines]were levelled[sic] at the bearer and he and his flag were literally shot to pieces.  This was a shameful act but an excuse can be offered as the men were exasperated by the death of their comrades and had no thought but that of revenge.  The firing on our side was then ordered to cease, as the enemy had not fired a gun for twenty minutes.  At dark the men proposed to seek repose after their hard day—™s work; a guard of 100 men was set around the town.

At day light the following morning, a flag of truce was sent to the Colonel which was accepted on condition that the survivors should conduct themselves peaceably, and also surrender the goods which they had stolen from the traders and others in the valley of Taos.  The day was spent by the troops in searching for the stolen goods and about 4 P. M.  we left the village to its owners and quartered in this town.  For the detail of the storming of that village you are partly indebted to Sergeant Koch, as of the occurrences had not been noticed by me.

This action should be reckoned as among the most severe that has occurred in modern days.  The buildings in which the enemy were, are built of mud one house over the other, a score of them forming the basement and the wall of each being at least four feet thick.  Numerous loop holes were cut to these walls from which a fire was kept up on our exposed company, and would have proved most destructive had the marksmen been good —“our possession of the church disheartened the.  They thought that their saint (St. Jerome), and image of whom stood in the church had deserted them and their efforts after that were feeble and fruitless.  To their superstition we chiefly owe the victory.  A Victory, indeed, dearly purchased by the single death of our brave, our dauntless and our ever good Captain.  But his own Co. G proved itself and has won laurels and as far as was in our power, revenged his death, and our other comrades and fellow soldiers who fell with him.  Had two hundred American possession of those buildings ten time their number could not have dislodged them.  Heavy artillery could do it—”but nothing else. It was said that at one time it was besieged by 2,500 Spaniards for ten day, and at another by 3,000 Comanche and Apache Indians for three months; in both cases the besiegers were obliged to withdraw with the loss of two-thirds of their number, and without doing any injury to the besieged.  But it did not prove invincible to American soldiers.  In one day we gained possession of it.

The loss of the enemy is supposed to have been 200.  We lost on the 4th Sergeant  [George B.] Ross, privates [Eldridge] Brooks, [Nelson] Beebe, and [Michael] Seviey; next morning [Jacob] Hunsaker died of wounds, and on the 7th, Capt [John H. K.] Burgwin and private [Isaac] Truax died of wounds; and on the 10th, private [Frederick] Schneider.  Those of the dragoons wounded and now in hospital of our company are: Sert. Vanroe, Corporals Engleman and Linneman, privates Anderson, Blodget, Crain, [Zenas] Beach*, Deetz, Hagenback, [William] Hillerman*, [John] Mear*, Sinkenberg, Shay, and [William?] Walker, 1st—”the two last are only slightly wounded, none are dangerous.  On the 6th, Montoya, the leader of the Spanish rebels was hung in the presence of the troops in this town.  The command with the exception of our company (that it, all that is left of it.) and the battalion of infantry, under Capt. Angney, have gone to Santa Fe.  The loss of the volunteers was one officer, one sergeant, and five privates killed, and ten wounded.  Sergeant [Eldridge G.] Towle, Corporal [John J.] Price, and four privates, of company I, first dragoons, volunteered and came with us, attached to our company from Santa Fe.  They were all in the action.

[*indicates men redistributed from or still held on rolls of Co. B.]

SANTA FE, Feb. 17, 1847

P.S.—”We arrived here yesterday.  As soon as our men recover, we will again march to our former station at Albuquerque.  It is rumored here that the lower Pueblo Indians with the Navajos will rise against the Mexicans and as we are bound to protect the latter, we shall have plenty to do-—”so look out for more victories.  If we should have any more engagements and my skull not cracked, I shall give you minute details on everything that occurs.  In all probability we shall be ordered to California.

Captain Burgwin, Governor Bent and District Attorney Leal were buried at the fort on the hill on the 13th instant with the honors of war and a salute of fifteen cannon.  The funeral procession was joined by all the Spaniards of note for fifty miles around Santa Fe.

Carleton at Bitter Spring

Originally from Wild West (with John Gorenfeld)

James Henry Carleton is generally remembered as the fanatically loyal Union officer who saved New Mexico Territory from the Confederates. Hell-bent on keeping the territory safe against an invasion from Confederate Texas, Carleton called on the men in his California Column to crack down on suspected Southern sympathizers. Property was confiscated. Travelers were ordered to carry identification cards stating their destinations and were stopped at checkpoints. New Mexicans called Carleton a tyrant but, in the end, it was his iron grip that kept the Southwest in Union hands.

Carleton’s obsession with total victory turned brutal in his dealings with Native Americans. During his stay as departmental commander of New Mexico Territory, he was determined to crush the Navajo and Mescalero Apache, telling his officers: “There will be no council held with the Indians . . . The men will be slain whenever and wherever they can be found.”

Carleton’s men systematically destroyed the homes of the Navajo, burned their crops, and slaughtered their livestock. And in the infamous Long Walk, Navajo captives were forced to march over three-hundred miles of desert to the Bosque Redondo Reservation, a diseased and barren piece of land near the Pecos River. More than two thousand died from the effects of malnutrition and sickness.

His mismanagement of the reservation cost him the command of New Mexico Territory in 1866. But a few years earlier, there was a campaign that, when considered in conjunction with Carleton’s odd behavior, should have made his superiors uncomfortable placing him in command of New Mexico Territory: the Bitter Spring Expedition of 1860. It heralded Carleton’s ever-growing malevolence toward Native Americans. Certainly, a man with this attitude should not have been allowed to govern a vast region that was inhabited by a large population of Navajo, Apache, and other native peoples.

To punish killers who had struck on the road between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Carleton sent his men on a long chase through the desert after a group of native people who were unlikely culprits. Obsessively pursuing the enemy like a landlocked Captain Ahab, he posted the severed heads of slain Paiutes on stakes.

What kind of man was this? One not easily understood. On the one hand, James Carleton was a rigid martinet who, when it suited him, did not always obey the rules of military conduct. Carleton was court martialed in 1843 for aiding a fellow officer, who was facing murder charges to escape from custody. Carleton was later court-martialed for his mistreatment, and the resulting death of, a drunken enlisted man. Captain Thomas Swords, in 1845, wrote from Fort Scott, “We are to be cursed here with Carleton. I shall give him a pretty wide berth.”

But James Carleton was also a sentimental 19th century gentleman who loved to study nature and who wrote books about his travels. In fact, before Carleton became a soldier, what he really had wanted to be was a famous author in the mold of Charles Dickens.

Born December 27, 1814, in the state of Maine, Carleton was left fatherless at the age of 15. He briefly served in the Maine militia during a non-shooting border dispute with Great Britain know as the Aroostock disturbance. When the —œwar— ended, Carleton wrote a letter to Dickens in 1839 in which he didn—™t stop short of asking Dickens for tips on becoming a writer and asked whether Dickens would be his friend, if Carleton were to move to London.

Dickens replied, writing that he was a little embarrassed by the letter. For him to call a complete stranger like Carleton his friend, he said, âwould be to prostitute the term. Besides, he said, it would be next to impossible for Carleton to achieve success as a British writer. Instead, Carleton would be far better off looking for stories out in the West.

I cannot but think that good tales especially such as you describe, connected with the customs and history of [America] original inhabitants who every day become more interesting as their numbers diminish —“—“ would surely find some patrons and readers in her great cities, Dickens wrote.

So, instead of going overseas, Carleton went West. He obtained an officer’s commission with the 1st Regiment of Dragoons. From army posts out on the Great Plains, he would write about animals, plants, geology, the stars, archaeology and the weather. In 1843, he befriended the naturalist John J. Audubon, another man fascinated with the uncharted landscapes of the West. Carleton mailed poet Henry Longfellow seeds that he had found on an expedition. Longfellow planted the seeds, and wrote a poem about the Western Compass Plant that sprouted: “This is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has planted/Here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveler journey.

In 1844, Lieutenant Carleton published The Prairie Logbooks, telling the story of two Dragoon expeditions. One was of a trip to Nebraska, mapping out the Platte River and meeting the Pawnee residents. Carleton said the Pawnee were thieves, even more wily than the street urchins of his favorite author’s book, Oliver Twist. A Pawnee, he wrote, would have stolen Fagin’s shirt off his back, and cheated such common fellows as the Artful Dodger.

Installments of The Prairie Logbook were printed in the New York Spirit of the Times, allowing newspaper readers to picture the romantic West. Carleton calls for Easterners to imagine themselves at Fort Gibson, in present-day Oklahoma, lining up with the rest of the Dragoons under the oaks, and preparing for a grand adventure.

Time: 10 o’clock. You are on the parade under those grand old trees. On three sides of the great square that surrounds you, are the quarters of officers and men. Men in military garb moving hither and thither, some packing effects, some arming themselves, some shaking hands with, and apparently bidding good-bye to comrades who are to remain behind!

¦Did you hear that bugle! — it blew what is called a signal, “boots and saddles.” Now look at the different quarters, see the men pouring from them like bees from so many hives. Don’t you hear the “clang, clang”clang of heavy sabres as they descend the steps, they are all completely armed and equipped.

Carleton also reckoned himself a keen observer of human nature. When an Indian dandy tries to put on a calico shirt, and finally puts it on backwards, Carleton cannot suppress a smile, for all the airs of an empty-headed exquisite, he strutted off with his new garment, occasionally looking slyly to the right and left. Human nature is the same everywhere.

The Indians fascinated Carleton, as much as the compass-flower. In his writings he admires the Pawnees as noble, if deceitful, adversaries: splendid specimens of the Prairie Indians with eyes like Eagles, he writes. They were not of that dingy brown color, but of that red, so peculiar to all the full-blooded savages of the West.

In 1860, Captain James Henry Carleton, hints of gray in his thick mutton chops, stood with fine posture, proudly watching his Dragoons assemble on the parade ground at Fort Tejon, California. His pale eyes now glimmered with a new wrath. A few years later, the editor of a Santa Fe paper would later sneer at this pose:

Behold him! His martial cloak thrown gracefully around him like a Roman toga, his military cap worn precisely six inches from the extreme tip of his nose, his chin drawn gracefully in, his teeth set firm, his Jove-like front, his eyes like Mars, that threaten and command with slow and measured tread, each step exactly twenty-eight inches, he rules the land.

The long years of campaigning out West had hardened his heart. In 1857, a hundred and twenty unarmed travelers had been slain by the Mormons and their Paiute allies at Mountain Meadows, Utah. Carleton, in May of 1859, had escorted the paymaster up the Salt Lake Road and, while encamped at Mountain Meadows, conducted an investigation of the slaughter, where he discovered the bleached bones of victims projecting from shallow graves.

His once-romantic vision of the West had now been stained by the sight of a women’s hair in detached locks and in masses, [p]arts of children’s dresses, the skulls and bones of those who suffered . . . a sight which can never be forgotten.— Carleton had written that the Mormons were an —œulcer upon the body politic . . . an ulcer which needs more than cautery to cure. It must have excision; complete and thorough extirpation before we can ever hope for safety or tranquillity.” The impression upon Carleton that day at Mountain Meadows, and the rage it surely awakened within him, would not pass.

The Paiutes allegedly were attacking travelers and stealing stock along the road between Los Angeles and Salt Lake. In January of 1860, a cattleman had been killed at Bitter Spring, reportedly by Paiutes; a couple of months later, two teamsters had been felled near the same spot.

The Southern Paiutes of the Mojave were not one tribe, but rather several small scattered groups that spoke in the Shoshonean language. They called themselves the Nuwu, Shoshone for —œThe People—. For centuries, the Nuwu struggled to survive in the desert that lay between Utah and California. They sustained themselves on a diet of desert plants–pnon pine nuts, roots, and msquite seed–and fresh game (rabbits, mountain sheep, reptiles, and kangaroo rats.)

The Vanyumes, an impoversihed tribelet, lived in the vicinity of the Bitter Creek. Their population was small. Father Garaces, who visited the region in 1776, mentioned villages ranging in size from 25-40 souls.

For decades, tribesmen from as far away as southern Utah would cross Cajon Pass to plunder the vast herds grazing near the pueblo of Los Angeles. Major Lewis Armistead, writing from Fort Mojave, remarked:

My opinion as to the treatment of the Whalupi and Paiyte [sic] is to shoot them whenever you can, as I believe it impossible to keep them from stealing horses, mules, or anything else, when a good opportunity offers. These Indians, the Payutes [sic] especially, are generally in a half-starved state—”they steal to eat—”sometimes to live—”They will always be troublesome and difficult to manage, not from their numbers, but from the character of the country they inhabit.

There were now wild rumors that the Mormons—”-still smarting from the invasion and occupation of their homeland by federal troops in the Mormon War of 1857—”-had encouraged Paiutes, their Indian allies, to attack settlers. The April 12, 1860 issue of the Los Angeles Star echoed the feeling of many Californians:

The murders [at Bitter Spring] were perpetrated by Indians we have no doubt. Yet there are Danites, who can paint, talk, and act Indian as well as any red-skin in the Territory–and the late murders, as at Mountain Meadows, if not actually perpetrated by such, were directed by them and executed for them.

A group of prominent citizens and businessmen from Los Angeles petitioned the government to chastise the Paiutes in order to make the Salt Lake road once again safe for the flow of commerce into their town.

There were voices of moderation in the army protesting that these people were more often blamed than blameworthy. In 1859, Captain John Davidson, assigned to hunt Paiutes accused of stealing cattle from ranches in the San Fernando and Santa Clara vallies, led a troop of Dragoons from Fort Tejon into the upper reaches of the Owens Valley. He found no evidence that the Paiutes had stolen livestock. After holding several meetings with them, Davidson concluded that —œthese Indians are not only not Horse thieves . . . their true character is that of an interesting, peaceful industrious people, deserving the protection and watchful care of the Government.—

Lt. Colonel Benjamin Beall was Carleton’s immediate commanding officer. “Old Ben”, a hard-drinking 24-year veteran of numerous campaigns, believed that those responsible for the recent attacks likely came from Utah and had left the area. He thought it unjust for the army to chastise those persons who, by pure chance, lived in the vicinity of Bitter Spring.

Brevet General Newman Clarke was not to be deterred by the opinions of Beall and Davidson. The general sent an order, dated April 5, 1860, to Carleton to —œproceed to Bitter Springs [sic] and chastise the Indians you find in the vicinity.— Since the killers—™ identity was unknown, any nearby people must pay the price for the crimes of their race. Clarke specifically instructed Carleton that —œthe punishment must fall on those dwelling nearest to the place of the murder or frequenting the water course in its vicinity.— Not pleasant orders. Nonetheless, Carleton, thinking of Mountain Meadows and of the chance for retribution against allies of the Mormons, might have felt a quickening in his blood. He now had orders to punish the Paiute, and intended to unleash punishment worthy of a god of war.

* * *

Ten minutes more—“—“another bugle; that was the signal—“—“-‘to horse.’ Now they come out—“—“what a crowd! Each man has his hand near the bit leading his charger. They form in two ranks on foot, each company on its own parade in front of its stables—”at the same time, the officers mounted, come dashing along from their quarters to the several companies. The commands are given: the men are in the saddle at once, and the ranks are closed and dressed. Another bugle, still—“—“that was the ‘assembly’—“—“the fine brass band of the regiment, also mounted, commences a lively march. . . The adjutant now forms the parade, after which the commanding officer proceeds to make a final inspection of men, arms, horses, and equipage—“—“all found to be in excellent order. The inspection over, the command is given, and in a moment the long line is broken into column and on its way —¦”

(The Prairie Logbooks)

And so the regimental band struck up the traditional Irish aire, —œThe Girl I Left Behind Me— (—œThe hope of final victory within my bosom burning/Is mingling with sweet thoughts of thee and of my fine returning—¦—) as three officers and eighty-one enlisted men, surgeon Jonathan Letterman, two civilian guides, an interpreter, and a rumbling train of four army wagons departed the post. The column took the salutes of Lt. Colonel Beall, splashed across the Grapevine Creek, and then turned south onto the dusty Los Angeles Road.

Carleton rightly took considerable pride in the men of K Troop of the First United States Dragoons. Since his return to the West in 1858, he had drilled, drilled, and again drilled this unwieldy group–many of them recent immigrants from Ireland and Germany–such that they were skilled at riding, shooting, care of their mounts, and skirmishing.

In early 1859, Inspector General Mansfield witnessed a firing exercise by Carleton’s company K at Fort Tejon. He reported that half of Company K’s shots hit a 6′ x 22″ target at 100 yards. For the antebellum army, this was excellent marksmanship.

Carleton had written adulatingly of Dragoons on the march with —œtheir arms and equipments sparkling in the sun, their sabres clanging against their heavy spurs and stirrups, their horses neighing and prancing.— How smartly his troopers sat in their Grimsley saddles, their Sharps carbines slung over the right hip and Colt’s Navy revolvers tucked into the pommel holster—“—“ready for whatever struggle or hardship that might lie ahead. Carleton rode at the head of the column, exulting in the flourishing of whips that cracked on the behinds of mules, in the bugle calls and shouts of the officers to halt or move forward, in the clatter of hundreds of hooves.

After a week’s casual march of 170 miles, Carleton—™s troops reached a site just to the east of the junction of the Mojave Road and the Salt Lake Trail. It was here, just slightly northeast of the present-day town of Barstow, the cool waters of the fickle Mojave River bubbled to the surface. Carleton set his men to work building a base camp which he called Camp Cady, after his friend Major Albemarle Cady, the commander of Fort Yuma. From this encampment he sent out his patrols to locate the Paiutes. It did not take long to find one of them.

On the morning of the 19th of April, 2d Lieutenant B. F. —œGrimes— Davis took a portion of K Troop out on a patrol. Davis, a graduate of the West Point Class of 1854, was a promising officer in the mounted arm. In June of 1863, this capable officer would lose his life while leading a federal brigade of cavalry at the Battle of Beverly Ford.

At about twelve miles to the southwest of Camp Cady, at a place near the Fish Ponds on the Mojave River, Davis came across two Native Americans who were hunting for game. These men, being “in the vicinity of Bitter Spring— were to be chastised. Davis rose in his stirrups and ordered K troop to “draw pistols and forward into line as skirmishers.”

The Dragoons smartly wheeled into line, advancing at a fast trot, firing as they came. One of the hunters, though outnumbered, outgunned, and facing certain death, was not to be cowed. His arrows found their mark and two troopers were seriously wounded. During the attack, a trooper wounded a comrade with a .36 caliber ball from his pistol.

The soldiers, charged with adrenaline, were not about to be deprived of the chance to exact revenge. —œThe men all seemed to vie with each other who should kill the rascal and all were perfectly fearless,— later wrote Surgeon Letterman. When the dust had finally settled, the hunter was dead and his companion taken prisoner. Subsequently —“—“ military reports do not record exactly when—”-the captive was killed when he reportedly attempted to escape. The body of the dead men were taken back to Camp Cady.

As Davis’ detachment marched slowly back to Camp Cady with its three wounded men, they heard a distant echo of gunfire. The command of Lt. Milton Carr had come upon another band of hunters. In the second clash of the day, two tribesmen were killed and one Dragoon was wounded.

On April 22nd, the bodies of the two men slain by Lt. Davis’ detachment were taken by the Dragoons to the crossing of the Salt Lake Road at Bitter Spring—“—“the site of the attacks upon travelers. It was at this spot that the bodies were hung from an improvised scaffold.

Although having twice chastised the local inhabitants, Carleton was hardly finished with his duty. On April 30th, he sent out three patrols. Taking command of a patrol, Carleton soon discovered a recently abandoned native encampment located at about twenty miles to the south of Camp Cady. As the natives ineffectively shot at the troopers from rocky terrain afar, Carleton’s men destroyed the camp.

Meanwhile, 16 troopers under Lt. Carr scouted the Mojave Road. On May 2nd, Carr encountered a band of seven natives who were busily gathering lizards, roots, and worms at the base of Old Dad Mountain. He sent a detachment consisting of a sergeant and four men to cut off any possible retreat and then ordered his remaining men to —œunsling carbines, dismount, forward as skirmishers.— Taking advantage of the fact that their powerful, breach-loading, .52 calibre Sharps carbines outranged any of the weapons carried by the Native Americans, the Dragoons opened fire.

It was a one-sided affair. Carr would report, —œ. . . owing to a high wind, their arrows did no damage.— Within the space of a half-hour, three of the natives were slain, one wounded, and an elderly woman taken prisoner. The Dragoons suffered no casualties.

After taking the evening’s supper, Lt. Carr, likely acting upon orders from Carleton, had the heads cut off of the three dead natives and placed them into a sack. A few days later, these grisly items were mounted for display upon the gibbet at Bitter Creek.

Carleton released the captive woman and instructed her to tell her people that they would be hunted down unless they agreed to cease hostilities. By this time, as one might imagine, most of the terrified native inhabitants had fled the area.

Still itching to fight the Paiutes, Carleton believed that he might be able to lure them into attacking if he were to send out a decoy of three supply wagons. Dragoons were hidden inside of these wagons. Carleton followed within supporting distance with a troop of twenty-five men. Owing to the broken terrain, two of the wagons soon broke down. Neither command discovered any fresh signs of Native Americans.

Carleton was now convinced that —œthe Pah-Utes driven from the south had gone northward to the impenetrable fastness about Mountain Spring, and there joining numerous Indians in that region.— Intent upon finding these elusive warriors and bringing them to a battle, he continued his trek ever and deeper into the vastness of the Mojave.

Carleton continued to pursue his prey without regard to the obstacles nature had lain before him. Marching at the rate of thirty miles a day across hot desert wasteland, his weary command, many of its troopers on foot, arrived at a remote desert oasis located in present-day Nevada that was known to travelers as the Vegas. While his men would occasionally see a few fleeing natives in the distance and come across several recently abandoned rancherias, the natives refused to meet with Carleton. On May 28th, the troops, having covered over three-hundred miles of desert landscape, returned to Camp Cady.

During the ensuing weeks, several more patrols were sent out in all directions. Carleton came to believe that his prey had fled into the distant Panamint Mountains. On June 9th, he sent a detachment of thirty-five Dragoons under the capable command of Lt. Davis to pursue these natives.

The company was guided by an incompetent scout named Joel Brooks, who at the time was being sought by the authorities in Los Angeles on charges of murder. During the 1850’s, Brooks had participated in a number of massacres inf Indian villages in the western foothills of the Sierras. It was said that this Arkansan ruffian had been run out of every town in the Tulare Valley.

With Brooks leading the way, the detachment blundered into the blistering wastelands of Death Valley. Over the next few days, the command nearly perished in its futile search for water and Indians. In his report for the 12th of June, Davis wrote, —œ[t]he day was intensely hot and the men began to suffer for water. Brooks returned at 2 O’clock but without success.— Having used up most of the rations, with horses spent, and being virtually out of water, on June 14th, Davis wisely decided to return to Camp Cady.

A perturbed General Clarke, at headquarters in San Francisco, had read Carleton’s dispatch which proudly touted the display of severed heads at Bitter Spring. The San Francisco newspapers also reported this incident. In an order dated May 28th, Clarke firmly instructed Carleton to cease mutilation of the dead and to —œremove all evidences of such mutilation from public gaze.—

By the latter part of June, Carleton was convinced that his campaign had made Salt Lake Trail again safe for travelers. This view was confirmed when, just prior to his departure for Fort Tejon, a delegation of Native Americans arrived in camp. After being repeatedly threatened by Carleton, they promised never again to take up arms against the settlers.

On July 3, 1860, the Dragoons—“—“their dusty clothes in rags and their mounts jaded from the months of harsh campaigning in the unforgiving Mojave Desert—“—“abandoned their base at Camp Cady and began the long return march to Fort Tejon. “I have lost no man, nor a horse on the whole campaign” proudly wrote Carleton in his report to General Clarke.

During their three-month absence from Fort Tejon, the Pony Express had initiated the carrying of mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento. Meanwhile, back in the East, the infant Republican party had nominated as its candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln, a relatively unknown attorney from Springfield, Illinois. That November, Lincoln would be elected as the sixteenth President and, by April of 1861, the nation would be engaged in civil war.

In the fall of 1861, Confederate troops boldly invaded New Mexico Territory. To counter this threat, volunteer troops were raised in California and placed under the command of Carleton. In the spring of 1862, Colonel Carleton and his California Column would boldly march eastward from Los Angeles, across the Mojave Desert, and into the annals of history.

* * *

For an extremely well-researched account of the Pah-Ute War of 1860, the authors recommend Dennis Casebier’s monograph: Carleton’s Pah-Ute Campaign (King’s Press 1972); although her book suffers from an overly ideal view of Carleton’s life, Aurora Hunt’s Major General James Henry Carleton, Frontier Dragoon (Arthur Clarke Co. 1958) albeit flawed is worth reading.

The Other Pah-Ute War of 1860

At the time of Carleton’s Bitter Spring expedition, a much greater conflict with the Paiutes was taking place in western Utah Territory. This struggle resulted when two Northern Paiute women were kidnapped and raped by agents of the Pony Express. On May 7, 1860, Paiute warriors destroyed the Pony Express depot at Williams Station, killed five whites, and rescued the women.

A force of 105 boisterous volunteers boldly marched to attack the Paiute villages. On May 12th, the Paiutes, under the able leadership of Numaga (Young Winnemucca) ambushed the column at the Big Bend of the Truckee River, killing over 40 of the volunteers.

Suffice it to say, this military disaster produced intense agitation. Federal troops (144 men of the 3d Artillery and 6th Infantry) and 550 California volunteers (soon placed under the command of former Texas Ranger John Coffee Hays) were rushed over the Sierra Nevada mountains to the seat of war. On June 3d, these troops clashed with and defeated the Paiutes at the battle of Pinnacle Mountain. The next day, Hayes’ men occupied the site of the Paiute village on the shores of Pyramid Lake.

During the summer of 1860, Lt. Stephen Weed of the 4th Artillery met with Numaga and other members of his band. Weed reported that they all “expressed a strong desire for peace.” Weed reported that they all tribesmen “expressed a strong desire for peace.” He was right–peace had been restored to the region.

The 1848 March of Company H

Santa Fe Republican, September 12, 1848, reported:

-Co. (H,) 1st Dragoons, commanded by Lt. Buford, from Fort Gibson, reached this place on Saturday, the 9th inst., all in fine health and spirits.  It seems that Lieut. Buford came direct from Fort Gibson almost a new and untravelled route, which he considers much the best and shortest to the United States.


Arrival of Co. H. 1st U. S. Dragoons.

Co. H., 1st U.S. Dragoons, under Lieut. R. Buford, accompanied by Lieut D. B. Sackett, arrived in this city on the 9th inst. [September], from Ft. Gibson, having left that place on the 17th of July last.

We are under many obligations to Lieutenant Buford for the following information relative to his trip and the new route taken by him across the plains.  The Lieutenant and his force on leaving Ft. Gibson, marched up the Arkansas River to the mouth of the big Red Fork, or [illegible] river, and then following up that [illegible] to the Salt Rock, a great salt plain which [illegible] is about three hundred miles from Fort Gibson.  On the 17th of August, they left the Salt rock and proceeded south, and struck the waters of the Cimaron and main Canadian—”then continuing their march in a westward direction between these two streams until august the 20th, when they altered their course to the north and crossed the waters of the north fork of the Canadian, (which is not near as large a stream as represented on many of our maps) and on the 31st [?] of August, struck the Santa Fe road, near the middle Cimaron spring, which point is about five hundred miles distant from Ft. Gibson by this route, the actual distance of which would not5 be over four hundred miles from the middle Cimaron spring to Fort Gibson; he also states that a route and good road could be laid out from Santa Fe New Mexico, via the Salt Rock, following partly the route taken by him, the distance of which from Santa Fe to Fort Gibson would not be over six, to six hundred and fifty miles by this route—”good camping ground, with a large abundance of wood and water every night, and fine grazing beside, innumerable buffalo could always be found.

The Salt rock, as spoke of in this report as a particular point, we believe some day will become a valuable and important place.

The salt taken from this rock is a white and nice as any table salt, and it can be procured with but little or no labor.  Lieut. B. has in his possession some specimens of this salt, which in fact are worthy of public notice.  According to report, this rock must be one of the greatest curiosities in the world by its structure and location.  [Note that Salt Rock and Salt Fork were site of commercial salt works and had been for a couple of decades; routes to there were well traveled from the southeast.  Gregg mentions them.]

[H left Fort Gibson in July en route for New Mexico arrived at Santa Fe 8 Sept.  Left Santa Fe on the 18th and arrived at Socorro Sept 29.  Stationed their [sic] the remainder of the year.]

Kearny’s March to California

StL Weekly Republican August 10, 1846

LETTER FROM CAPTAIN MOORE July 10, 1846 Pawnee Fork

We have received from a friend in Jefferson City, for which he has our thanks, a private letter received from Capt. Moore, commander of the advance guard of U. S. Dragoons now en route for Santa Fe, from which we make the following extract:



July 10, 1846}

Dear Friend:—”Your   kind letters have been received by an express, and I embrace this, the first opportunity that has appeared to write to the United States.  You know I was ordered , with a squadron of dragoons (with only eight hours notice,) to proceed in pursuit of Speyers, the Santa Fe trader, who had some wagons loaded with arms and ammunition for New Mexico; but from his having too much the start, I was unable to overtake him.  When I left my camp at Kansas river, on the 7th ult. and up to the time of my arrival at the crossing of the Arkansas rive, I could not perceive that I had gained much on him, judging from the age of the sign he made, although I followed in a forced march, reaching the crossing in eleven and a half days.  Our march was the most disagreeable out of many that I have experienced, in consequence of the drought, no rain having fallen since last spring.  The roads were exceedingly dry and dust, and for several days we marched twenty-five miles without water.

On our arrival at the crossing, finding no Mexicans, nor sign of any, and the grass scare and insufficient, I fell back, with my command to this point, about eighty miles from the crossing, in tolerable grass, where I have remained since; but to-morrow I shall take up the line of march for Bent—™s Fort, on the Arkansas, with five companies under my command, three of dragoons and two of mounted volunteer riflemen—”the latter companies, Captains Waldo and Reed, having joined me yesterday.  The volunteer officers are clever fellows, and have a fine-looking set of men, who, although ignorant of military matters, evince a disposition to learn highly creditable to them.

We have no news worthy of credit from Santa Fe, but it is rumored that Gen. Urrea, from the Passo Del Norte, has marched to Santa Fe, with an army or three to four thousand troops; if so, we may meet with a warm reception.  Well, it is not usual for us to be rivalled in cordiality.  We will reciprocate their politeness—”the American eagle will vie with the Mexican in a hearty grip.

Lieut. Colonel Ruff, of the Missouri mounted volunteers, was about two days in rear of Captains Waldo and Reed—™s corps; he will overtake up at Bent—™s Fort.  The traders (all of whom I have detained at this place as they arrived) have concluded to go by Bent—™s Fort, instead of the Semarone, as they originally intended.  Among the traders, and those accompanying them, I have found some polite and courteous gentlemen; amateurs; come traveling for the sake of locomotion, some for pleasure, and some in the pursuit of health.  Among the latter I have met an old friend, George R. Clark, of St. Louis.  I am glad to say, his health is much improved.  I have taken him into my mess, and by the time he reaches the base of the mountains, and enjoys the bracing air, so celebrated for its efficacious influence in pulmonary and dyspeptic affections, I hope to see him perfectly well, and able to kill and butcher two buffalos, instead of one, (he mastered one a few days ago, on a hunt with me.)

We are all well, and in fine spirits, in contemplation of —œbusiness on hand.—  As opportunities of communication with the United States will now be frequent, I shall write often, and hope, in future, to have something more interesting to impart.

Yours, truly,

Benjamin D. Moore, U.S.D.

Below are the orders of the Army of the West concerning the break up of the command and the re-organization of General Stephen W. Kearny’s troops on its march to California in the Fall of 1846. (Courtesy of Tim Kimball)


Headquarters Army of the West

Order No. 18 Santa Fe, N. Mexico, August 27, 1846

I—¦ Companies —œK— and —œC— 1st Dragoons commanded by Captains Cooke and Moore, are hereby selected to accompany the General on his expedition to upper California, and will be held in readiness to leave here by the 15th proximo.

II—¦ Major Sumner will cause Companies —œB— and —œI— 1st Dragoons to be broken up and the men distributed to Companies —œC,— —œG,— and —œK— of the same Regt. raising —œC— and —œK— to the full complement authorized by law and as these Companies have a long and arduous march before the, selections will be made for them of the most efficient men and horses now in the Companies to be broken up.  This arrangement will be made on the 1st proximo.

III—¦ Should it be found by the 1st proximo, that the are horses and mules in Companies —œC— and —œK— unfitted to commence a long march, Major Sumner will cause them to be changed for others in his command that will answer.

IV—¦ Major Sumner, after the departure of the General, will remain in this Territory, until further orders in command of Company —œG— 1st Dragoons and Capt. Hudson—™s Company (Leclede rangers) serving under him.

By order of Brig. Genl. S. W. Kearny

H. S. Turner

Capt. AAAGnrl.


    Headquarters Army of the West

Order No. 22 Santa Fe, N. Mexico, Sept. 18, 1846

I—¦Orders Nr. 18 of the 27th ult. Are hereby revoked.  Major Sumner will restore the Dragoon command to the organization which it held in the 1st instant, reinstating and increasing the Companies to respond with their strength at that date.

II—¦Major Sumner will prepare the five Companies of Dragoons, under his command, to march for California on the 28th inst.

III—¦The following members of the Staff will accompany the command to California: viz,

Major Swords, QM & to perform the duties of Comms,

Captain Turner, A.A.A. General,

—œ Johnston, A. D. C.,

Lieut. Emory, Top. Engineers

—œ      Warner, —œ     —œ

Surgeon De Camp, Capt. McKissack, A.Q.M., & Lieut Grier, A. A. C. Sub. Will remain on duty at this station.

In addition to his other duties, Surgeon De Camp will remain in charge of the General Hospital.

By order of Brig. Gen. S. W. Kearny,

H. S. Turner

Capt. AAAGrnl.


    Head Qrs. Army of the West

Special Order No. 8 Santa Fe, N. Mexico, Sept. 20, 1846

Any men belonging to the Dragoon command, who, on the 25th inst. May be too sick to commence the march to California, will be left in charge of Surgeon De Camp, in this City.

Those who may have sufficiently recovered after the departure of Capt. Allen—™s command for California, will accompany it, to join their respective Companies.  The remainder will be ordered back to Fort Leavenworth, as they recover, and as opportunities may be presented.  A full description of each of these men, with a statement of their clothing and other accounts with the Government, will be left with surgeon De Camp.

By order of Brig. Genl S. W. Kearny

H. S. Turner



Head Qts Army the West

Camp on the Del Norte near Socorro

Oct. 6th 1846


I this morning met an Express from Upper California to Washington city, sent by Lieut. Col. Frémont, reporting that the Americans had taken possession of that department, in consequence of which I have re-organized the Party to accompany me to that country as will be seen by Order No. 34, herewith enclosed.

I take of the Staff, Maj. Swords (Q.M.) , As. Surg. Griffin, Capts.  Turner (A.A.A.A.G.) & Johnston (A.D. Camp), Lieuts. Emorny and Warner (Top. Engr). and of the line, Capt. Moore in command of Cos. C & K (100 total) 1st Dragoons, & leave Maj. Sumner here with Cos. B, G & I.

We are now 160 miles below Santa Fé & from this time expect less interruption from our Baggage train, which has hither to much retarded us.

I have nothing new to report.

Very Respectfully

Your Ob. Servt.

Brig. Genl. R. Jones  S. W. Kearny

AdjGeneral  Brig. Genl

U. S. A.   U. S. A.
Head Quarters Army of the West

Camp on the Del Norte Camp [sic] below Fray Christobal [sic, Cristobal]

October 13th 1846


No. 35.

  1. Maj. E. V. Sumner having been promoted to the 2nd Regt. Dragoons, will be relieved in the command of the three companies 1st Dragoons now under him, by Capt. Burgwin of the latter Regt.  When Maj. S. will be at liberty—”to comply with such orders as he may have received.
  2. Lt. H. W. Stanton 1st Dragoons having acted as Regt. Adgt. Since the 18th August will proceed to Fort Leavenworth without delay, taking with him the books & papers pertaining to the Hd Qrs of the Regt. which he will deliver to the Colonel or other officer in command thereof.
  3. Capt. Burgwin will break up Co B, 1st Dragoons & distribute the privates between G & I compys. & will assign Buglr Hawkins to Co. K & order him to report to Capt. Cooke.1 He will then order Lt. Love to conduct the N. C. officers & the other Bugler of the Co. to Fort Leavenworth there to report to the Colonel or other officer in command of the Regt, for Recruiting service or such other duty as he may think proper to assign him to.
  4. Maj. M. L. Clark & Adgt. L . Walker of the Battalion of Horse Artillery from Mo. having reported for duty at fort Leavenworth on the 1st July 1846, are entitled to and will receive pay from that date.
  5. Private Wm. I. Johnson of Capt. Waldo—™s Co. 1st Regt, Mo. Mounted volunteers having been elected a member of the legislature of the state of Mo. is hereby honorably discharged from the service of the U. States, and is at liberty to return home that he may attend to the interests of his constituents.
  6. The attention of commanders of Regiments and Battalions of volunteers is directed to the requirements of the 15th & 19th articles of the rules and articles of war, & to the —œRegulations for the Army— under the head of —œMusters—”Returns—”Reports— vide paragraphs 809 to 817, 824, &c.
    The importance of rendering correct Returns and Rolls, in good season must be apparent to all, and Commanders & Adjutants of Regiments & Battalions are required to give special attention to the subject and see that the regulations are strictly complied with.  The information which their Rolls and Returns should contain is necessary for the records of the war dept as well as to do justice to the volunteers themselves in the settlements of their accounts &c.
  1. Commanders of Regiments and Battalions of volunteers will see that in every case where advances of money have been made by the state government to their men for which they pledged payment that the proportion to be charges against each individual is duly entered on the muster & pay rolls, as so much —œdue the State of—”,—œ that it may be deducted at the first subsequent payment.
  2. The commanding General has no official or certain intelligence, but has learned by rumor and report that a volunteer Regt. of infantry from Missouri is now marching from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fé to report to him.  Should [the] report prove true, the commander of the regiment must on his arrival at Santa Fé decide whether to winter it in New Mexico, or march it to Chihuahua to report to Brig. Genl. Wool and must make such decision upon a full & careful consideration of all circumstances therewith.
        • By order of Brig. Genl. S. W. Kearny
        • H. S. Turner
        • Capt. AdjGenl

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.)

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.

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


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.


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.

A LETTER FROM HEADQUARTERS: New Horse Equipage and Seeing the Elephant, 1846

On August 18, 1846, Company B of the 1st United States Dragoons participated in the bloodless conquest of Santa Fe.  Brig. General Stephen W. Kearny, with orders to proceed to California, broke up Company B and transferred most of its enlisted men and mounts to the other four companies of Dragoons and headed west.  Lt. John Love, now in field command of Company B, was ordered to return East to gather recruits.

While Lt. Love was slowly gaining recruits for Company B in Ohio and Indiana, he received the following letter from Lt. Henry Stanton, the regimental adjutant.    The letter is significant in two regards.  First, it reveals that the new Grimsley horse equipage was being widely issued, prior to its official adoption by the Army board in 1848.   Second, the letter tells of a November 12, 1846, running battle between elements of the 1st Dragoons and the Navajo.  Although the Dragoons had patrolled the plains since 1833, this encounter was the first reported skirmish between the Dragoons and Native Americans and occurred nearly a month prior to the bloody clash between Company C and Californio militia near the village of San Pascual, California.


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 receipted 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 [sic] 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 [out from] under him. The Dragoons under Burgwin  have been ordered to the Passo [El Paso] 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 [Generals] Scott or Taylor that he will [have] 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 [sic] let you know.
Yours Truly


An account of Lt. Grier’s battle with the Navajos appears in Lt. Col. W.H.

Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, Ex. Doc. Mo. 41, Washington

Military Reconnaissance, Ex. Doc. No. 41, 1848, Report of Lt. J. W. Abert, 498.

“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 [Hall’s] 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


Thanks to the efforts of Tim Kimball,here is more on Burgwin from Stanton via the Missouri Republican, December 29, 1846

stanton (presumably) to editor, missouri republican:

Fort Leavenworth December 21, 1846.

Dear Sirs: I send you for your disposal the following items of intelligence, this day received by express from Santa Fe. An officer of the medical department [[either De Camp or Simpson]] of the army writes to this effect, under date of the 9 th of Nov., from Santa Fe:
“Capt. Grier and Lieut. Wilson, with two soldiers , (of the first dragoons,) pursued and overtook a large party of Navajos and killed two of them, recapturing at the same time a flock of sheep. The rest of the company being mounted on poor mules, could not overtake the Indians. The captain’s horse was wounded – no other damage done.”
An officer of the 1st dragoons [[clearly Burgwin]], writing from Albuquerque, under date of the 25 th of October, says to his correspondent [[who HAS to be Stanton]]:
“tomorrow I start on an expedition to the south. I have (at Albuquerque) a solitary [[garbled–best guess]] squadron of 175 men. I would feel perfectly satisfied with my situation, were not my command so truly ineffectual [[this is a complaint about the squadron being mounted on the worst of the dragoons’ mules, not about the quality of his dragoons– and soon this, the squadron was completely dismounted]]. All our horses, you know, have been sent to Missouri, under the belief that they could not sustain the fatigues, and no forage, of the march to California. When the detachment for the march was finally made up at Socorro, all of the really serviceable mules were selected for it, out of the companies that were to remain in this country – so that now I have not only for my mounts, but for my teams, the sorriest lot of animals that were ever seen. I had the greatest difficulty in performing the march back to this place, and now find myself with scarce the ability to move from it. I received today a call upon me, which demands prompt attention, and which requires the exertions of my utmost ability. After pacification of the country, the Chihuahua traders continued their journey towards the south, in order that they might avail themselves of the operations of General Wool’s army, for the entrance of their goods into California.
“It seems that some had trusted too far to the peaceful professions of the Mexicans. They have all halted about one hundred and fifty miles from here, and having good reasons, they say, to believe that the Mexicans from the settlements of El Passo, design making the attack on them, for plunder, have written up for troops to protect them. The value of their property is estimated at a half million of dollars. Although these traders have by their own imprudence placed themselves in this danger, yet the protection of so many American lives, and of so large an amount of American property, is a matter of great importance; and I feel it incumbent on me, feeble and small as is my force, to make an effort to accomplish it. What would I not give to have with me a squadron of dragoons! [[again, a complaint about mounts, not soldiers]] Since receiving the letter from the traders, I have received letters from Gov. Bent, the intelligence communicated in which tends to confirm the impression that there is a very general feeling of discontent existing among the people of the province, and that efforts have been made to get up an opposition towards us, the first development of which is to be an attack on the traders below. It is said that a force of one thousand men has been assembled at El Passo del Norte, to act in concert with the people above in this business. If this should be, or could out approach for the protection of the traders by unknown to them, we may yet have the satisfaction and enjoyment of a battle with these people. Of the fatigues and hardships of a quasi war the 1st dragoons have had enough, but we cannot boast the honor of having been in a stricken field.
“Gen. Kearney, in making his arrangements for his expedition to California, under the impression that troops enough for the maintenance of the American supremacy in this country were on their way here and would soon arrive, gave orders that Col. Doniphn’s regiment should proceed by El Passo to join Gen. Wool’s army en route to Chihuahua. I have just learned that Doniphan left Santa Fe yesterday en route to El Passo. We are much concerned at the prospect of starvation amongst us before spring. The supply of provisions is far short of the demand and that to be drawn from the country is far short of the supposed deficiency.”


Henry Stanton would serve as regimental adjutant at Fort Leavenworth and Jefferson Barracks until 1851.  Gaining a Captain’s commission in 1854, he was placed in command of John Love’s old Company B.   In January of 1855, Company B took part in an expedition against the Mescalero Apache, south of Sierra Blanca in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico Territory.    Captain Stanton forgot all about Captain Grier’s near fatal mistake of riding too far in advance of his support.  While rashly leading a small detachment in pursuit of a fleeing band of Mescaleros, Captain Stanton and three troopers were ambushed and killed.

For further information on the refitting of Company B, see Gorenfeld, Jefferson Barracks, 1847: I’m Disgusted with the Duty, Military Collector & Historian, Winter 2003-2004, Vol. 55, No. 4, 211.  John Love graduated from the Military Academy in 1841 and was promoted to the rank of 2d Lieut. in the 1st Dragoons in 1842, and 1st Lieut. on June 30, 1846. (George W. Cullum. Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy (New York, J. F. Trow, 1850) 241 (hereafter cited as Cullum)
Born in New York, Henry W. Stanton graduated from the Military Academy in 1842 and became a 2d lieut. in the 1st Dragoons on October 8, 1844.  In 1846, he was serving at Fort Leavenworth as regimental adjutant. (Cullum, 253.)
In 1846, the Ringgold saddle was the official saddle for the mounted arm.  It was not until March 7, 1848, that an Army board approved the Grimsley saddle as the official pattern. (Stephen Dorsey & Kenneth McPheeters, The American Military Saddle 1776-1945 (Collectors—™ Library, Eugene, Ore. 1999), 20.
The original of this letter may be found at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis.  The author wises to express his deep appreciation to Mrs. Besty Caldwell for making a copy of this letter available.
German-born First Sergeant Frederick Muller had been with the Dragoons since 1834.  He was thirty-five years of age and was six foot-one inch in height.  Lt. Love wrote of Muller that, —œwhether in battle, in camp, or on the march, he is energetic and soldierly; never in one instance have I known him to neglect his duty.— Sergeant Muller donned the scarlet trimmed jacket of an Ordnance Sergeant. He served in this capacity until his death in 1861 at Fort Wood in New York harbor. (Report of John Love, House Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 sess., No. 1, 120.; (War Department Files, National Archives, Lt. John Love’s Company B, Muster Roll Records, 28 February to 30 April, 1847. (Hereafter, Muster Roll)..
Trooper John F. Nickerson enlisted in the 1st Dragoons in 1841.  Promoted to the rank of corporal in June of 1847, on February 6, 1848, he received a surgeon—™s discharge.  (Muster Roll, Company B, 1 January to 28 February, 1848.).
2d Lt. Eugene Eckel McLean, 1st Infantry, graduated from the Military Academy in 1842.  During the Mexican War he served as Aide de Camp to General John Wool. (Cullum, 253)
Sergeant Benjamin Bishop had served with the Dragoons since 1834. Sergeant Bishop was discharged in 1849 and gained employment at Fort Leavenworth as a civilian forage master for the army. (Percival Lowe. Five Years a Dragoon (Norman, Okla. Univ. Oklahoma Press), 82-83, 242; Muster Roll, Company B,  29 February to 30 April, 1847.)
Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton. 1st Dragoons (Heitman, 1022).
Capt. William N. Grier, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1835, was promoted to Captain on August 23, 1846 and commanded Company I. (Cullum, 205.)
A detailed account appears in Lt. Col. W.H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, Ex. Doc. No. 41, Washington, 1848, Report of Lt. J. W. Abert, 498. —œSo 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 [Hall—™s] 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.”

2d Lt. Clarendon J. L. Wilson, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1846 and was serving as a brevet 2d Lt at the time of the battle. (Cullum, 271.)
Capt. John Henry K. Burgwin, 1st Dragoons. Graduated from the Military Academy in 1830 and was promoted to Captain on July 31, 1837, and commanded Company G.  Captain Burgwin was mortally wounded during the Taos insurrection and died of wounds on February 7, 1847. (Cullum, 163.)
During the most of Mexican War, there was lively trade between American merchants in Santa Fe and Mexican merchants in Chihuahua. (See generally, Edward James Glasgow and William Henry Glasgow, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails, edited by Mark L. Gardner (Niwest, Colo, Univ. Colorado Press 1993).
Francis Heitman, Historical Register of the United States Army (Washington D.C. GPO 1903) 1:916; LTC Miles to General Garland November 18, 1854 (National Archives Microfilm Publication, Washington, D.C.) M1120, roll 3,
Capt. Richard Ewell to Lt. William Nichols, 10 February 1855, Letters Received, Department of New Mexico, Record Group 393, Microfilm 1120, Roll 4, National Archives.
; James A. Bennett, Fort & Forays, edited by Clinton E. Brooks & Frank Reeve (Univ. New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1996), xxviii-xxix.  James Bennett, a sergeant with Company I, described the battle and Stanton—™s death as follows: —œThe main body of troops moved up the stream and small parties of Dragoons kept charging out after parties of Indians.  A running fight was kept up until 4 o—™clock, when we encamped.  Captain Stanton with 12 men rushed up a deep ravine.  The Indians in ambush fired upon him, a ball passed through his forehead.— (Bennett, 60.)  In Captain Richard Ewell—™s official account of the battle, he states: —œAbout 3 PM on the 18th of Jan [1855], I came to the first of their abandoned camps where my 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.— (Ewell to Nicolls, Letters Received, Dept of NM.)

6th November, 1846, Santa Fe

And from Gilmer Lenoir, a member of the Missouri Volunteers, is this letter concerning the same event:

My Dear Welcker [Gilmer’s cousin George, a Captain in Washington at the Fortification Engineers Bureau],

—œThe small body of Regulars, about 200 strong, that are stationed near Albuquerque, 120 [sic, 65– tho Gilmer is giving the distance to Lemitar, where the following event took place] miles south of this, marched down the Rio Grande some three weeks ago towards the Paso del Norte, for the purpose of protecting the  traders going from Santa Fé to Chihuahua.  It is almost impossible to subsist horses in this country so late in the season and for this reason the Reglrs were mounted on mules—”not a very fierce animal, by the bye, on a charge.  When they had arrived in the vicinity of Tomé [pronounced Toma] a body of Navajo Indians were discovered in the act of driving off a large flock of sheep belonging to the Spaniards—”the latter in pursuit, but afraid to approach with the range of the Indian arrows.  Capt. Burgwin detached 60 men and Capt. Grier in pursuit, but spurs, whips, kicks, and curses could bring nothing more than a high trot out of the war studs on which they were mounted—”the sheep and the Indians were about to distance the mules, when Capt. G., Lieut. Wilson, a sergeant and one private who were mounted on horses, dashed ahead and charged in the midst of about fifty Indians.  Grier and Wilson—™s pistols missed fire, having been loaded for  several days.  The Sergeant and private each killed his man, to which the enemy took fright and scampered off like so many wild turkies [sic], leaving their booty in the possession of Capt. Grier and his men.  The Sheep were driven back and delivered to the Spaniards who owned them.  After this affair, Capt. Burgwin continued his march to the south.  From the best intelligence which we have been able to obtain from that directions since, it is more than probable that Capt. B. will find no enemy north of El Paso, beyond which he will not advance; but, in the course of 12 or 15 days, he will return to his station near Albuquerque.—

Lenoir Family Papers, #2262, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Courtesy of Tim Kimball.

Letters Home: Mathias Baker

Mathias Baker ran off from his prosperous New York home and joined the 1st Dragoons in 1845. He accompanied Stephen W. Kearny to Santa Fe in 1846. Returning to Ft. Leavenworth with Lt. John Love to rebuild the company, he writes of the trek back to the states. Baker accompanied Love to New Mexico in 1847, and in 1848, he fought with Company B at Santa Cruz de Rosales. Having superior writing skills, Baker was made Sergeant Major of the regiment On June 7, 1849, Baker died during the Cholera epidemic while at Ft. Leavenworth.

The letters were written by Baker while serving with Company B in the years 1846-1847. The first three are found in the Yale University archives. The last two letters are from the Missouri Historical Society. A more complete account of the adventures of Mathias Baker may be found infra under the heading of “Love’s Defeat”.

Continue reading “Letters Home: Mathias Baker”

Overawing the Indians: Major Steen’s Futile Pursuit of the Apaches in 1850

The editor of Santa Fe Gazette of 5 March 1853, pondered, “How can a Dragoon who, with his arms and accoutrements weighing 250 pounds, mounted on a half starved browken down horse be expected to catch an Indian mounted upon his fleet little pony, sooner than an Infantryman loaded down with his musket, knapsack, his haversack?” To prove his point on the 19th of the month he printed a report filed by Brevet Major Enoch Steen from Dona Ana, New Mexico Territory, February 5, 1850. [Bvt. Maj. Steen, from Missouri, had been a 2d Lt. in the Battalion of Mounted Rangers. On 19 Sept. 1833, he was commissioned as a 2d lt. in the 1st Dragoons. In 1847 he was brevetted as a major for his conduct at the 1847 Battle of Buena Vista, a battle in which he fell wounded. Send to New Mexico Territory, Bvt. Major Steen , on 16 August 1849, he was wounded in a fight with the Apaches near the Copper Mines. This talented officer would eventually rise to the rank of Lt. Col. of the 2d Dragoons, retiring in 1863. 1 Heitman, Army Register 919.]

On Saturday the 2d inst., about 8 o—™clock A.M., a report was brought to my quarters that the Apaches had made a descent upon the herds grazing in the rear of the town, and driven off the stock after wounding four Mexican herders—”one of them is since dead, and carrying away one boy. On inquiry I found the facts as stated, and that the Indians had come within a mile of the town—”so near that they were seen by the men from their quarters. I immediately ordered out company [H], 1st Dragoons, and started in pursuit, accompanied by L. W. O—™Bannon, 3d Infantry; before, however,
we could get started, the Indians had gained some six miles.

My first impression was they were the Apaches from the Gila, and thought that by going up the river, I could intercept them at the crossing; but Mexicans all saying that they had gone in the direction of San Diego, I was induced to follow directly in their trail.

Some six or seven miles from the garrison we found the bueyada [stolen herd of cattle], which the Indians, seeing themselves closely pursued, had left. After spurring the animals, going on fifteen miles further, we were evidently gaining on the Indians. I ascertained that my first impressions were correct, and the Indians were endeavoring to reach the river. Here I divided my command, and, sending about twenty-five of the men who were best mounted with Lieutenant O—™Bannon to follow on their trail of the Indians, and cut them off from the mountains, I took a more southerly route to come in between them and the river, and thus drive them upon the level plain of the Jornada, where I thought we could easily succeed in running them down.

The result was, however, contrary to my expectations, and the Indians proved to be better mounted than we were; for, after riding more than forty miles at our best speed, we were obliged to give up the chase—”our horses being completely broken down, and the command so scattered that, at last, I had but six men left with me. Abandoning the chase, we espied two men standing by their horses, half way up a little rise, some half mile distant, and a herd of cattle grazing near. Supposing them to be Mexicans, we approached to within a few hundred yards, when to our surprise, they proved to be Indians, who jumped opon their horses and galloped up the hill, beckoning us to follow. WE did so as fast as our wearied animals would permit; but, arriving at the top of th rise, we saw . . . some thirty or forty warriors, all mounted on their horses, and cursing us in bad Spanish, call us to come over and fight them. As I did not chose to do this with the few men I had, I dismounted my party and made arrangements to defend myself if attacked; at the same time building a fire, in the hope that the smoke might bring Lieutenant O—™Bannon—™s party to my assistance, when we would be able to give them a fight. Remaining here an hour and a half, [resting] my horses, I then returned to this place, which I reached at 9 o—™clock P.M., having ridden eighty miles.

Lieutenant O—™Bannon, with his party, following directly in the trail of the Indians, gained upon them rapidly; but coming to a canon above the San Diego, he was obliged to dismount his men, to lead their horses down the rocky pass in single file: here the men mounted as they passed through it, and continued the chase; four of the first though, who were best mounted, were close upon the heels of the Indians, and one man, private Teagardin, company H, 1st Dragoons, came up with a party of eight who were thrown out as a rear guard. Wounding one of them with his [Hall carbine], three of the others turned upon him and attacked him with theirlances: he, however, succeeded in parrying them with his saber—”receiving only a slight scratch in his back; when, perceiving the command closing upon them, two fired on him,–one shooting him through the thigh, severely fracturing the bone. I must take this opportunity to urge upon the commanding officer of this department the necessity of arming Company H with Colt—™s revolvers. Had this man had one of these weapons, he would probably have killed several of these Indians. I should have mentioned that before the Indians turned, the other three dragoons had closed in and exchanged fire, wounding two other Indians.

The whole command had now passed through the canon, and here ensued a most exciting scene. The Indians in full sight, not more than a mile and a half in advance, on a level plain, and the dragoons in hot pursuit,–both parties at the top of their speed; and thus the chase was continued for thirty miles, until the horses were completely broken down.—”Towards the last, the Indians were to be seen throwing away blankets, provisions, and everything but their arms, rendering themselves as light as possible.

Lieutenant O—™Bannon, in returning, fell in with another small party of Indians, mounted on fresh horses and driving more with them. From the fatigued condition of his animals, they easily escaped him.

Three of my best horses were left dead in the road. I can only say, the company, without exception, behaved admirably; and every possible effort, was made to overtake the Indians; and it was owing to our having run our horses over the first and most difficult part of the country, that we were unable to come up with them after getting upon the plain.

On my return I was informed that, at about the time we started in pursuit another party of Indians came in at the lower side of town, near the river and driven off stock from there.—”This was probably the party I saw after watering. In connexion [sic] I would state that, on the 27th ult a party came in about sundown and stole two Mexican boys who were working in a field not a mile from the quarters and drove off some stock. At the same time another party came in, some four miles south west of us, and drove off twenty three head of oxen, the property of Mr. Beck.

I cannot close this report without urging upon the commanding officerof the department the necessity of a campaign against these Indians as speedy as possible.

When Indians become so bold that they will come in broad daylight within a mile of a United States garrison, where dragoons are stationed, and drive off stock and murder defenceless herders, I think it becomes necessary to chastise them; this can only be done by a regularly organized campaign against them.

When these Indians start on a marauding expedition they come mounted on their best horses, (which are equal to any of ours,) and at the same time have relays waiting for them at twenty-five or thirty miles—™ distance. They do their mischief and get off with several miles the start, come up with their relays and thus are mounted on fresh animals, and can snap their fingers at us, whose horses are broken down by the long chase. Thus; it is next to impossible for any dragoons to overtake them; and for this, I would suggest that a depot be selected at or near the Copper Mines; and that that point be established as the base of operations.

All of which I most respectfully submit.

E. Steen
Bvt. Maj. 1st Dragoons, Com—™d—™g

Lt. L. McLaws
AA Adj—™t Gen.
Santa Fe