Quake That Shook The Army’s Adobe

The army established Fort Tejon, California, in 1854. In January of 1857, the post was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes. These quakes were, possibly, the worst earthquakes to take place in California in the past 200 years. Inspector General Edward Mansfield noted in his 1859 inspection report that the post, built almost entirely out of adobe bricks “is particularly exposed to earthquakes , and every building is cracked by them; and on one occasion the gabled ends of two buildings were thrown down by earthquakes: in a few miles off, I saw an immense crack and crevice in the earth extending for many miles, caused recently by them.”

Lt Col. Benjamin L. Beall commanded the regiment and post. He was sound asleep when the quake struck and awoke to find his bedroom wall to have fallen away from the building. That evening he issued this preliminary report to headquaters.

Continue reading “Quake That Shook The Army’s Adobe”

Lt. David Bell's Letter

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

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

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas Territory
December 27th, 1854

Dear William [Lt. Robert Williams]:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours very truly,

D. Bell

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


Get a Look at the Mighty Pacific: Thomas Swords Dragoon Quartermaster

Get a look at the mighty Pacific: Lt. Col. Thomas Swords in Antebellum San Francisco

By William Gorenfeld (c) October 9, 2007

In 1825, Thomas Swords, a nineteen-year-old student at Columbia College, New York, gained entry into the United States Military Academy. Upon graduation in 1829, the Army placed him with the 4th Infantry and he served with the regiment in Alabama and Florida. In 1833, he became a 1st lieutenant in the newly formed 1st Dragoons. In 1846, the Army commissioned Swords as an assistant quartermaster. He was attached to Brig. Gen. Stephen Kearney—™s Army of the West and followed the command out to New Mexico and then California. Swords returned to the East but in 1857, now in the position of deputy quartermaster, he was sent by Quartermaster General Thomas Jesup out to San Francisco to take control over the disorganized state of the affairs existing at the quartermaster—™s department in the Department of the Pacific.
In 1973, a packet of personal letters written in 1842-1846 by Swords to Lt. Abraham Johnson, written while he was stationed at Ft. Scott, were discovered at the United States Military Academy and published by the Kansas Historical Society. Recently, the author acquired four more letters. Lt. Col. Swords wrote these letters to his friend William A. Gordon, personal secretary to Gen. Jesup in the late 1850—™s. This unfiltered correspondence of a senior officer, feeling his career to be at a dead-end and yearning to return to the States, offers insight into the state of military affairs in Antebellum California. Swords—™ spelling and grammatical errors have not been corrected.

Also included is an 1850 letter written to Lt. John Love concerning the efforts of Lt. Richard Schaumburg, who had resigned in 1835, to gain a captaincy and how this effort temporarily blocked Richard Ewell’s promotion to captain. (For a good discussion of this see Donald Pfanz’s biography of Richard Ewell.)

As is evident in all of his letters, Swords did not suffer fools and had little use for many fellow officers in the quartermaster department. Of particular interest in these letters are references to the nefarious actions of Capt. Thomas Jordan. This enterprising officer soon would be court martialed in 1861 upon allegations that he fraudulently discounted vouchers to contractors in connection with the construction of lavishly overbuilt Fort Dalles in Oregon. The colorful and personally charming Jordan managed to escape punishment by resigning his commission and joining the Confederate Army where he acted as a valuable adjutant for Generals Pierre Beauregard and Albert S. Johnston. He would eventually rise to the rank of general and have a successful post war career as a writer and participant in the Cuba Libre movement.
Colonel Swords had a much less exciting career. He remained loyal to the Union during the war and in 1861, would replace Col. Charles Thomas as the Army—™s Assistant Quartermaster, earning a major general—™s brevet in 1865. On 22 February 1869, he retired to live in New York.

Washington City. March 8, 1850

My Dear Love,

I had hoped that before that I should be able to tell you something definite in relation to this detestable matter about Schumburg, but it appears this subject is not yet settled. The Senate in acting on the nomination of Ewell, refused to confirm it and called the attention of the President to a former resolution brought by them. I have understood that the President replied that he was aware of the resolution, and the Secy of War had investigated and made a report on the case—”here the subject rests for the present. The President says he will never nominate Schumburg, so the vacancy may remain open, at least until another occurs either among the Captaincies or First Lieutenancies, as if S. is not placed on the Register as 1st Lt. [,] the Senate may refuse the confirmation [of] the next nomination of 1st Lieut.

Everybody here is in quite good spirits to-day from the effect of Mr. Webster—™s speech delivered yesterday and the disunion stock is getting quite below par, if they table the question over a few weeks longer, the probability—”is, it will result like a lover—™s quarrel and all parties will be more loving from the temporary estrangement. I might perhaps to except the abolitionist as I consider them beyond the influence of common sense views which operate in sensible beings. As to the Freesoilers, they may be considered among the things that were, at least as far as their influence is felt in Congress. No notice is taken of them by either of the other parties.

We have nothing new in the way of Army movements, no assignment has yet been made in our Dept. towards scattering some of us in the spring. What will my fate I don—™t know, neither do I much care. Would have no objection to remaining here, if I could be permanent, which is not the case, as every little while I get a scare about going somewhere, I know I could make myself contended in almost any place which Mrs. S[words] could go with me.

We have had a very gay winter of it—”at a party almost every night go at 10 or a 1/2 before and come away at about 1 or 2 , but it makes no difference as to our hour of getting up, which is always in time for breakfast. Ewell has been over occasionally with some ladies from Balt. and if don—™t take care, I think, from what we hear, he will get fixed before he leaves here. I have been locking for him since the action by the Senate, but if he has been [passed] over he has not shown himself to me. 17 member of the Senate were absent when the nomination was acted on, and the resolution of passed by only one majority. Clay voted against Ewell—™s nomination.

I have had a very pleasing reception of Mrs. Love and think you have been fortunate—”as well as myself in your selection. I could wish you no better wish, than that you may continue to be as happy as we have been in our married life.

Give my love to Mrs. Love and say that I hope at some day to have the pleasure of being at the same station with her and that she and Mrs. S. may become friends. I know they would be, if they could be together.

Yours most truly

Thos. Swords

Other dragoon officers wrote to block Schaumburg’s promotion. In 1848, Captain Henry Turner sent the following letter to the Senate:

Washington, D.C.

January 31, 1848

Hon. Lewis Cass

Chairman of the Mil. Com.

Of the Senate


I am informed that the Mil. Com. of the Senate, has under consideration, a measure, the effect of which would be to restore J. W. Schuamburg to the 1st Regt. of Dragoons in the Army. As I consider it would be an act of great injustice, and as I am, an officer of the Reg—™t, which would suffer by it, I ask leave to make you a statement on the subject, and through you to the Com.

In the first place, I respectfully represent to you that the case has been decided over, and over again—”in every form of adjudication, by which such cases ought to be, and can be settled and quieted—”by Secretaries of War—”by Presidents, and by the Senates of the U.S. and by all them after carefeul investigation. If it is not now an adjudicated case, it is difficult to conceive how this case can be a settlement, or any security in decisions involving the rights and commissions of Officers of thr Army.

2 . . . If it were an open case, it is a bad case. Mr. S has no claim to restoration. He resigned from the Army, and has been out of the Army for 12 years. To present the facts of his case officially, I herewith submit a report of Genl. Scott, and, a decision of Mr. Secretary Spencer upon it. They show how entirely groundless is his claims to be reinstated. I ask your attention specifically to one or two points.

Mr. S. has given different reasons, at different times, for his resignation, any one of which (and which one of them is the real motive) will be sufficient to show, that his resignation was perfect and he had has no claims to be restored.

First, He resigned —œto get away from his Reg—™t to attend to a sacred duty devolved on him by the death of his father, and being unable to get a leave of absence he tendered his resignation(See Genl Scott—™s report—”Mr. S Letter March 25, 1842.) Second. In his letter to Gen—™l Jackson Sept. 25, 1836. He says he resigned in order to get an appointment in the 2d Reg—™t of Drags, having learned from his friends, Dr. Linn, Gov. Dodge, and others that Pres—™t Jackson would not appoint to the 2nd Reg—™t by transfer from the 1st. (see Gen—™t S—™s report.)

Third He says in his letter to Mr. John Bell, Secretary of War in 1841 that he resigned out of disgust at the injustice practiced toward Officers of the Army. The whole of his letter is herewith submitted to you and shows his meaning to be that the injustice he complains of, and in consequence of which he resigned was the treatment of the Army under Gen—™l Jackson—™s administration.

Now, whichever of these was the cause of his resignation, it was a voluntary, perfect resignation, accepted by the Gov’t, and not now to be revoked, and, annulled. In point, of fact, I was an, Officer of the Reg’t, and serving with him, at, the same post, at the time, he resigned under charges, and, in arrest.

I shall not consider the grounds and, arguments, on, which he was claiming restoration heretofore. They have all been successfully refuted in the Official discussions rejecting his claim. I, am informed he has now, a new argument Vis—”his resignation, a Commission of 2d Lieut. whereas the resignation accepted was of the Commission of 1st Lieut. because between the date the date of his resignation, and, acceptance of it, he was promoted. The answer to it, appears very obvious, he had and could have but one Commission to resign. He resigned his Commission, and when he resigned it he surrendered, all the right and incidents belonging to it, the right of promotion—”the actual promotion, If his argument prevails, how many resignations (bonafide made and accepted) may it not vitiate.

The 1st Reg—™t of Drag—™s will suffer great injustice if this act is done. I believe more Officers of this Reg—™t have fallen in battle in this War than any other Reg—™t of the service, but without pleading the services of the Reg—™t. and the claim they may give to the favor of the Govmt. I am sure you will consider that it ought not to appeal in vain to the justice of the Govmnt. My own personal concern in the matter is slight. My interest in it is that Officers of the Reg—™t may not suffer the injustice and humiliation of having Mr. S placed over them in the Reg—™t from which he resigned near 12 years ago while they have served, without other reward for faithful services, than such promotions as the survivors have attained from the death of those who have died in service or fallen in battle.

I am Sir.

Very Respectfully.

Your Obdt Servt

H. L. Turner

Capt. Drag—™s

April 8th 1857.
My Dear [William A.] Gordon
Although I am nearly written out having been hard at it since 5 o—™clock this morning, giving instructions ruefully to carry out the orders for the march of the 4th Inf. which I did not receive in detail until last night, I cannot let another mail go, without having a little chat with you. Our trip out was a very pleasant one. Though quite enjoyable I sure would have no objection to making it right over to his return to New York that is if the Dept. should think proper to send me there, which both [Maj. Osborne] Cross and myself have some people say [should] be done. He [Cross] is seen in San Francisco, wrote me word he would be up last night if he was well enough, having been suffering for sometime with intermittent fever. I do not know whether he will defer his departure for Oregon, wait until after the time he has permission to delay or will wait in San Francisco after his return.
I wish assignment could be made so that I might go up in his stead and then return to Washington after having completed my duty. I think his long service here would enable him to make arrangement for the march of the 4th Inf. much better than I can–though I will do my very best and go up to Walla Walla before they leave.
Since I have been here I have been down to San Diego with our distinguished commission and the result of the trip is the breaking up of the seaport there and the removal of the troops from the old fortification. The depot had ceased to be of any use since the post in this section is supplied by the Colorado and was only a unnecessary expense to the Dept. All the stores, etc., will be brought to the seaport here. The number not required in California will be sent from all the ports to Walla Walla and these will number 400 or upwards. So we will get rid of a heavy expense on this account.
I very much fear we will lose [Capt. Ralph] Kirkham, he is an excellent officer and would really be a great Col. I wish the Gen—™l [Thomas Jesup] had assigned the officer that is to go with the 4th. [Capt. Robert] Allen is much excited for fear he away go and [Capt. Thomas] Jordan, I suppose would not like it any better. When I submitted my letter to our Col. [Charles Thomas] he did not like to endorse it, in consequence of the illusion I made to Kirkham—™s resigning. I thought it necessary that our chief Thomas would be advised of what might probably be the result but told him he might strike it out, or make any remarks on it he thought preferable. So he finally concluded to put his name on it. He and myself have so far got along most harmoniously and I anticipate no difficulty, this thing of submitting to him everything I may write to the Head of the Dept. will necessarily make my correspondence very brief and confined only to the most necessary subjects.
We are residing in a very nice family house, but as soon as it is decided that senior q[uarter]masters are to remain here and that I am to serve out my duty years, will make ourselves more comfortable at housekeeping.
Am much obliged to you for the copy of the correspondence, which does neither of the parties any credit and will do the late Sec—™try [of War Jefferson Davis] much harm. I think he may consider himself as no longer one of the prominent candidates for the board of the White House.
Let me know where all the officers of our Dept. are stationed, and what is the prospect of [Capt. William] Chapman or any body coming out–but without I can have discreet, reliable officers, would rather have some. There is one here, who is spending a great deal of money who I would be pleased to get rid of. How is old friend [Maj. Michael] Clark. When you see him tell him to please drop me a line and give me all the gossip, although he may not go out of the house. I know he knows everything that is going on. Is it time that [Maj. Ebenezer] Sibley is to take Col, Thomas—™ place. If so, I think our little Col. had better come out to get a look at the mighty Pacific.
Let me have all the news of the office.
Yours truly,
Tho. Swords

_____________________________________________________________Oct. 19th 1857
My Dear [Wm A.] Gordon—”
The Eastern mail is not yet in. So we are in ignorance of what has occurred in the great world for the past month and there has not much been done here that would interest you.
I have been down to Monterey and made an inspection of our old buildings there & which are of little value and probably will not likely ever be again required. So I discharged the agent after the end of this month and made arrangements to have the premises occupied and taken charge of without expense. I am trying to hunt up something in regard to our title to the premises, but fear, like most things other things in this country, no record has been kept of it. Will make a report on the subject by the next mail.
Lieut. [Ralph] Kirkham is here. I want him to go up to Walla Walla & Gen—™l [Newman] Clarke to the Dalles, how it will terminate I don—I know, he is a past favorite with the Genl. as he belonged to his Regt. He bought a place over the Bay in Oakland, where his family will remain. So, I suppose does not wish to go further off there [if] he can help. The Genl. talks of ordering [Capt. Thomas] Jordan to report to the Q M Genl [Thomas Jessup] when relieved. If [Capt. William] Chapman does not arrive by the Isthmus he may find he will have to go to Walla Walla. I want to get Jordan away from the Dalles, and would send him to Humboldt, if I had my way.
I now come to the old [illegible] I have not one cent on loan and if a remittance is not sent by the mail—”will have to draw for the October disbursements.
Yours truly,
TM Swords
What has become of [Col. Charles] Thomas? Was the proud army of QMs with the Utah Expedition but a flash in the pan? I understood [Capt. Stewart] Van Vilet was in New York at last accounts.


San Francisco Cal. June 19th ’60

Mr. W.A. Gordon

My Dear Gordon:

I have not a word of news that will interest you, and merely write to let you know that you are not forgotten, as it is some time since I last wrote. We are pretty much over the excitement caused by he outbreak of the [Paiute] Indians in Carson Valley. The Regulars [6th Infantry] have procured arms at Pyramid Lake where I suppose they will wait until something is is determine about the establishment of a post. And the Indians have all fled to the mountains, where they will be beyond the reach of our troops, without the right sort of men properly equipped against them. The Regulars, it appears, got along first rate with Jack Hay’s volunteers. No quarreling, and each speaks well of the other.

[Captain and assistant quartermaster Tredwell] Moore, they say, is very popular, which may perhaps be attributed in part to the liberal use of Uncle Sam’s money and supplies, but I ought not to judge him until his acts come in. He has written for more funds and I have had to tell him until his acts. come in. He has writen for more funds and I have had to tell that I was entirely out. [Moore estimated Fort Churchill would cost $193,000; Swords ordered to Utah Territory October 13, cut off $14,000.] Last mail I got your notification of a remittance of $80,000 for Oregon but none for California. The draft did no come, so [Quartermaster Rufus] Ingalls will have to wait another two weeks. His debts at the end of the month were $65,000 for Fort Vancouver. What they are at Wall Walla and other posts the Lord only knows.

I fear you surmise as to our friend Charlie S. [Lovell] will turn out but too well formed. After he heard of his escape from his last scrape, he got drunk again and has been in arrest ever since, though [Major Albermarle] Cady [6th Inf. commanding Fort Yuma] has not preferred charges and will not do so, if he can help it. He must resign or be disciplined sooner or later, and then what will become of him.

[Brevet Major Robert] Allen [Assistant Quartermaster, Department of Pacific] report about the “Massachusetts” came in a few minutes since. I have not read it, and cannot get Gen’l [Newman S.] Clarke [Commanding the Department] to act on it in time for this mail.

Gen’l Joe Lane was been [politically] killed in Oregon and the Republicans have almost carried the state [and in October, would elect E.D. Baker as U.S. Senatr]. Did the Democrats anticipate this when the state was admitted? We are anxious to hear the result of the Baltimore Convention [for June 16]. Hope they will nominate somebody at least as credible to their party as Lincoln to the Repubicans.

The next time I may be more in the humor of writing or there may be something more interesting to write about.

Yours, truly,


Letter courtesy of Dr. Robert Chandler


San Francisco
July 31, —˜60

My Dear Gordon,

I have not had the heart to write since hearing of the death of our dear Gen— [Thomas Jesup], though an event to be at any time expected at his time of life, I could hardly accept it. So sudden, without any indication of previous illness. The good man has gone to his rest—”a gain to him, but an impossible loss to us—”particularly to you and myself. Would be to God that he had been granted a few months longer, as I do not think another administration could be found to such injustice to Thomas, or cause such odium on old officers of the Dept. I have heard but one opinion in relation to the appointment of the successor [Joseph Johnston]—”all of decided condemnation. To be sure we have not much to expect from the present corrupt administration, but might have hoped to have found protectors in the Senate, to which we have always looked for in protection in our rights. Well the deed is consummated now and I suppose we have but to submit. Johnston and I were classmates but what kind of QM Gen— he will make I have no idea—”that you may find your aspiration with him agreeable, and continue to occupy your old desk for many years, I firmly hope—”
As to myself, my military ambition is at an end—”and I never again expect to take that interest in the service which I have heretofore felt. I hope I may continue to perform my duty conscientiously but certainly shall not make myself unhappy if things do not go as I should wish.
Thomas has reaped the reward of overzeal and the Executive and Senate have decided that too quick regard for the interests of the Treasury is cause for being unfit for advancement. Well let it be so—”I shall act on this principle. The only cause now to be pursued is to make myself popular by yielding to the demands of all.
It is perhaps fortunate for the Gen—™l that he did not live a few months longer to witness the disgrace of Charles [Thomas] whose resignation I suppose has been accepted before this. The accounts of him from you are most culpable—”and additional charges have been preferred. These I have had withheld until the War Dept. could take action on his resignation. I wrote to [Capt. Lorenzo] Sitgreaves all about him—”and we will probably have him in a short time again disgracing himself in Washington. He wanted to leave at once, but I thought it better to keep him out of the way as long as possible.
If the vote on the nomination [of Johnston] has been made public, or proposed to, let me have it. I have heard that [Charles] Thomas thought of resigning—“were I he, I would see this done first.
Yours truly,
Thos. Swords

Washington City. March 8, 1850

My Dear Love,

I had hoped that before that I should be able to tell you something definite in relation to this detestable matter about Schumburg, but it appears this subject is not yet settled. The Senate in acting on the nomination of Ewell, refused to confirm it and called the attention of the President to a former resolution brought by them.  I have understood that the President replied that he was aware of the resolution, and the Secy of War had investigated and made a report on the case–here the subject rests for the present. The President says he will never nominate Schumburg, so the vacancy may remain open, at least until another occurs either among the Captaincies or First Lieutenancies, as if S. is not placed on the Register as 1st Lt. [,] the Senate may refuse the confirmation [of] the next nomination of 1st Lieut.

Everybody here is in quite good spirits to-day from the effect of Mr. Webster’s speech delivered yesterday and the disunion stock is getting quite below par, if they table the question over a few weeks longer, the probability–is, it will result like a lover’s quarrel and all parties will be more loving from the temporary estrangement. I might perhaps to except the abolitionist as I consider them beyond the influence of common sense views which operate in sensible beings. As to the Freesoilers, they may be considered among the things that were, at least as far as their influence is felt in Congress. No notice is taken of them by either of the other parties.

We have nothing new in the way of Army movements, no assignment has yet been made in our Dept. towards scattering some of us in the spring. What will my fate I don’t know, neither do I much care. Would have no objection to remaining here, if I could be permanent, which is not the case, as every little while I get a scare about going somewhere, I know I could make myself contended in almost any place which Mrs. S[words] could go with me.

We have had a very gay winter of it–at a party almost every night go at 10 or a  1/2 before and come away at about 1 or 2 , but it makes no difference as to our hour of getting up, which is always in time for breakfast. Ewell has been over occasionally with some ladies from Balt. and if don’t take care, I think, from what we hear, he will get fixed before he leaves here. I have been locking for him since the action by the Senate, but if he has been [passed] over he has not shown himself to me. 17 member of the Senate were absent when the nomination was acted on, and the resolution of passed by only one majority. Clay voted against Ewell’s nomination.

I have had a very pleasing reception of Mrs. Love and think you have been fortunate–as well as myself in your selection. I could wish you no better wish, than that you may continue to be as happy as we have been in our married life.

Give my love to Mrs. Love and say that I hope at some day to have the pleasure of being at the same station with her and that she and Mrs. S. may become friends. I know they would be, if they could be together.

Yours most truly

Thos. Swords



Francis R. Heitman, Historical Register of the Army of the United States Army, from its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 —œ Thomas Swords— (Washington, Government Printing Office 1903) 2 volumes, vol. I, 941; George W. Cullum, Register of Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. from March 16, 1802 to January 1, 1850 (N.Y. J.F. Trow, Printer 1850), 155.
Harry C. Myers, From —˜The Crack Post of the Frontier—™: Letters of Thomas and Charlotte Swords— 5 Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains (Autumn 1982 Kansas Historical Society) No. 3.
General Order No. 1 War Dep—™t, Adjutant General—™s Office, Washington D.C., January 18, 1861, General Orders of War Department Embracing the Years 1861, 1862 & 1863 by Thos. O—™Brien & Oliver Diefendorf (New York, Derby & Miller 1864) 2 volumes, vol. 1, 1.
Ezra Warner, Generals in Gray, (Baton Rouge: LSU Press 2000) 167.
The 4th Infantry arrived in California in 1852 after a disease-ridden trip across the Isthmus of Panama. By 1861, elements of this regiment were stationed from Fort Yuma to Puget Sound. Thomas Rodenbough, editor, The Army of the United States, Historical Sketches of the Staff and Line with Portraits of the Generals-in-Chief (reprinted New York, Argonaut Press 1966), 463; Will Gorenfeld and George Stammerjohan, Infantry in Antebellum California, Military Collector & Historian. vol. 58, no. 4 (Winter 2006), 241.
Major Osborne Cross graduated from the Military Academy in 1825 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st Infantry. In 1836, he was commissioned as an assistant quartermaster and, in 1847, became a major in the quartermaster department. Cullum, 129.
In 1856, tensions arising from the Yakima War resulted in the construction of an army post at Walla Walla, Washington Territory. Robert Utley, Frontiersmen in Blue (New York: The Macmillan Company 1967) 200-201.
Captain Ralph Kirkham graduated from the Military Academy in 1842. He gained second lieutenant—™s commission in the 6th Infantry He fought in the Mexican War, earning brevets for heroism at the Battles of Contreras, Churubusco and Chapultepec. In 1856 he was made an assistant quartermaster and transferred from Ft. Tejon to the quartermaster—™s depot in San Francisco. Heitman, —œRalph Kirkham—, vol. 1, 604; see also Robert Miller, editor, The Mexican War Journal & Letters of Ralph W. Kirkham (College Station: Texas A&M Press 1991).
In 1808, Thomas Jesup was commissioned a 2d Lt. in the 7th Infantry. Rising in rank during the War of 1812, he became Quartermaster General on 8 May 1819. Heitman —œThomas Jesup, vol. I, 573.
Robert Allen graduated from the Military Academy in 1836 and entered service with the 2nd Artillery. Lt. Allen received a brevet for his actions at the Battle of Cerro Gordo and, on 19 October 1847, he gained a commission as assistant quartermaster. Heitman, —œRobert Allen—, vol. 1, 159.
Charles Thomas entered the army in 1819. On 7 July 1838 he was promoted to the rank of Major in the Quartermaster—™s Department. On 1 August 1856, Thomas became the assistant quartermaster general. Heitman, —œCharles Thomas—, vol. 1, 953.
Swords brought his wife Charlotte with him to California.
William Chapman graduated from the Military Academy in 1837 and received a 2d lieutenant—™s commission in the 2d Artillery. He was promoted to Captain in the Quartermaster—™s Department on 11 Mat 1846. Chapman received a brevet to the rank of major for his actions at the Battle of Buena Vista, February 23, 1847. He died on 27 September 1859. Heitman, —œWilliam Chapman—, vol. I, 296.
Michael Clark of Virginia graduated from the Military Academy in 1826, and gained a 2d lieutenant—™s commission in the 2d Artillery. On 18 June 1848 he became an assistant quartermaster and was promoted to major on 1 August 1856. Heitman, —œMichael Clark—, vol. I, 305.
Ebenezer Sibley graduated at the top of his class at the Military Academy in 1827 and gained a 2d lieutenant—™s commission with the 1st Artillery. He became a captain in the quartermaster—™s department on 7 July 1838. Brevetted for gallant conduct at the Battle of Buena Vista, Sibley was, on 22 December 1856, promoted to the rank of major in the quartermaster—™s department. Heitman, —œEbenezer Sibley—, vol. I, 885.
Closing the facility in Monterey was in accord with the recommendation made by Inspector General Joseph Mansfield in his 1854 inspection report. See Joseph Mansfield, Robert W. Frazer, editor, Mansfield on the Condition of the Western Forts 1853-54 (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press 1963), 120-121.
In May of 1857, the War Department placed brevet Brigadier General Newman Clarke in command of the Department of the Pacific. Utley, 200. Clarke had entered the military as an ensign during the War of 1812 and rose to the rank of colonel of the 6rh Infantry on 29 June 1846. Heitman, —œNewman Clarke—, vol. I, 307.
Captain Kirkham would end up stationed at Fort Walla Walla and participated in the 1858 campaign against the Palouse and Spokane tribes. Lawrence Kip, Indian War in the Pacific Northwest (reprinted Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 1999) 24. He would remain in Oakland for the remainder of his life, becoming one of the town—™s founding fathers in the post Civil War era. Miller, 115-116.
Lieutenant Colonel Swords was obviously receiving information at this time that Capt. Jordan was committing a series of unauthorized actions rebuilding Fort Dalles and sought to have him transferred. Carl Schlicke, General George Wright: Guardian of the Pacific Coast (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press 1988) 130; see also infra, footnote 2. Jordan’s actions resulted in his being court martialed.
At the time of the writing of this letter, the Utah Expedition of the so-called Mormon War had, on 18 July 1857, left Fort Leavenworth bound for Salt Lake City. As it entered into Utah Territory, the expedition, harassed by Mormon rangers and physically weakened by cold weather, the vanguard retreated to winter quarters at Fort Bridger. Durwood Ball, Army Regulars on the Western Frontier, 1848-1861, 162.
Captain Stewart Van Vilet graduated from the Military Academy in 1840. After rising to a captaincy with the 3d Artillery, in 1847 he became a captain in the Quartermaster—™s Department. In 1857, Captain Van Vilet In 1857, Van Vilet was in Utah unsuccessfully attempting to secure provisions for the oncoming expedition. He also tried, with slight success, to mediate the dispute between the Mormons and the federal government. Heitman, —Stewart Van Vilet, vol. I, 984, Ball, 161.
Thomas S. Jessup had been in the Army since 1808. Rising to the rank of Colonel of Infantry during the War of 1812, he was made Quartermaster General in 1818. He served at this post until his death on 10 June 1860.
Swords is obviously angered by what he suspects to be a Southern cabal, led by Secretary of War John Floyd, who are fast taking control over the military. Joseph Johnston, a Virginian, graduated from the Military Academy in 1829. Initially posted as a 2d lieutenant with the 4th Artillery, he transferred to the Topographical Engineers in 1838. During the Mexican War, Johnston became Lt. Col. of the Voltigiers. When, in 1855 Congress approved the creation of the 1st Cavalry, Johnston, a close friend of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, gained a commission as the regiment—™s Lt. Colonel. On 28 June 1860, he succeeded Jesup as Quartermaster General, resigning his post on 22 April 1861, to become a general officer in the Confederate army.

Swords is referring to Col. Charles Thomas, who had been serving Assistant Quartermaster General since 1856 and, in Swords—™ opinion, as well as in the opinion of many others, Thomas should have been made Quartermaster General and would resign in protest. The New York Times for 30 June 1860, reported that Johnston “[w]ith his experience, it is believed that he will make an excellent administrative officer. The friends of Col. Thomas, who was entitled by rule of promotion to the appointment, are exceedingly indiginant at what they denounce as a positive injustice in the appointment of Col. Johnson [sic]. The President had decided to send to the Senate the name of Col. Thomas until a few moments before the nomination, when he yeilded to the wishes of Secretary [of War] Floyd, and nominated Col. Johnson [sic]. Col. Thomas, I understand, will contest the legality of the appointment.”

Thomas would continue to perform in the Quartermaster Department until his death on 1 February 1878.

Lorenzo Sitgreaves graduated from the Military Academy in 1832, and was commissioned as a brevet 2d lieutenant in the 1st Artillery. In 1838, he transferred to the Topographical Engineers where he was serving as a captain at the time of this letter.

LOVE'S DEFEAT (Coon Creeks 1847)

LOVE’S DEFEAT: The Battle of the Coon Creeks
By Will Gorenfeld and George Stammerjohan
ed December 8, 2003

First Lieutenant John Love, commanding Company B, 1st United States Dragoons, felt he was in a rut that winter of 1846-47. The year before, as a 2d Lieutenant, he was on recruiting duty in Dayton, Ohio. Hearing that the war with Mexico had begun, in May of 1846, the young officer sent off a flurry of letters to his superiors requesting permission to close down the recruiting station and join my Company should my Regiment be ordered into the field.—In due course, authorization was granted and, on July 29, 1846, the hard-riding Lt. Love caught up with Colonel Steven W. Kearney’s Army of West near Bent’s Fort. A few days later, he marched with Kearney—™s column into Santa Fe, New Mexico. The bloodless conquest of New Mexico had been accomplished, and Lieutenant John Love was ordered back to Dayton to again seek dragoon recruits.

Lt. Love desperately sought to recruit a full company of men so that he might return to New Mexico before the fighting was over. On December 20, 1846, the Lieutenant 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. Lt. Anderson Nelson of the regular Sixth Infantry, one of Love’s West Point classmates, 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.

By 1847, much of the nation was fast growing weary of a war that seemed to have no end in sight. Nearly a dozen volunteer regiments had already been raised in the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, stripping the landscape of those young men willing to fight a war in a distant land. The volunteer regiments offered cash bounties and short terms of enlistments. Equally valuable as an inducement was the regulation that permitted company officers of the volunteer regiments be selected by a democratic vote of the men. In contrast, officers of the regular regiments gained their commissions by way of a presidential appointment.

In February of 1847, Lt. Love was in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his recruiting flag draped from a balcony of the Drake Hotel. He placed an advertisement in the local Indiana State Journal there requesting the wartime services of men of good character, between the ages of 18 and 35, in the elite United States Dragoons. “Only those who are determined to serve the period of their enlistment, honestly and faithfully” need apply. The advertisement promised each recruit eight dollars a month, good quarters, the best of medical attention, as well as a “large supply of comfortable and genteel clothing investigate this site.” The recruiting laws, now having been changed by Congress, made service in the regulars somewhat more attractive. Upon enlistment, the regular recruit would be paid a bonus of six dollars and receive another six dollars when he joined his regiment for duty. A recruit was now allowed to opt for a shorter term of enlistment: “duration of the war.”

The 1st Dragoons were a mounted regiment; the volunteer regiments, for the most part, were 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, uniform and bearing was unquestionably superior to that of the humble and often ill-clad “dough foot” of the volunteer regiments. 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. Included in the John Love collection at the Indiana Historical Society is a letter from three recruits from Indianapolis expressing their “not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us.” The trio complained that, “[w]e are here drilled in the infantry squads [by Infantry officers], and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted of.”

Meanwhile, a detachment of 25 Company B recruits who had been recruited by Lt. Leonidas Jenkins in St. Louis were doing much better than their Indiana and Ohio counterparts. These men had been sent to nearby Jefferson Barracks and there drilled by Lt. Jenkins of the 1st Dragoons. He wrote to Lt. Love that the recruits from Missouri were “as good men as ever were enlisted.” In early March of 1847, the Lt. Jenkins scared up some horses and new model Grimsley saddles for these troops and marched them westward to Fort Leavenworth.

Of all of the branches of the service, the mounted arm of the nineteenth century military was the hardest to train. It is one thing to teach a soldier how to march and fight while on foot and quite another to instruct him how to march, attack, and rally while mounted. In addition, the mounted trooper must learn how to care for, feed, groom, and saddle his mount.

The 1841 manual for the training of dragoons contemplated that the typical recruit would spend his first six weeks in dismounted drill; the next twelve weeks learning to ride; and five weeks learning to ride in military formation. But due to the immediate need for reinforcements in Santa Fe, this regimen would be ignored for Company B. Most B Company recruits would be expected to learn in less than two months’ time the skills that a dragoon usually learned in six.

Although the troops were untrained and horses scarce, two seasoned non- commissioned officers would drill the recruits once they reached Fort Leavenworth. German-born First Sergeant Frederick Muller had been with the Dragoons since 1834. Thirty-five years of age and standing six foot-one inch, Sgt. Muller commanded the respect of his commanding officer. Lt. Love would write of Sgt. Muller, “whether 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.” Pennsylvanian Benjamin Bishop also had joined the Dragoons in 1834. At five foot ten inches, tough and literate, he was a born leader of men and a skilled horseman.

Company B was also fortunate to have Bugler Langford Peel in its ranks. The son of a career soldier, Peel was “practically raised in the army” and at seventeen years of age he enlisted in the Dragoons. Percival Lowe, who served with Peel from 1849-1854, described him as being “naturally bright, clear headed, cheerful and helpful always . . . a perfect horseman, possessing unlimited courage and endurance, he was a man to be relied on and trusted in every emergency.”

The recruits had barely settled into its quarters in the two-story brick barracks at Fort Leavenworth when the troop received orders to escort the paymaster and $350,000 in gold coin to New Mexico. Also joining the expedition would be Navy Lieutenant John K. Duer, who was carrying important dispatches for the Pacific Squadron in California. On June 7, 1847, B Company took the salutes of Colonel Clifton Wharton, paraded out of the fort and headed west. George Ruxton, an English cavalry officer and adventurer, observed Company B on its march. He was less than impressed with what he saw and wrote that although “superbly mounted” ‘on full-blooded sorrels, these men were “soldier like neither in dress nor appearance.”

Although Lt. Love, in his six years of military service, had never commanded a troop in the field and his men were untrained, he was certain that the Comanche 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, —œ6 men could have kept off 500 Indians as they never approach within gun shot.— He would be soon proven wrong.

Prior to the commencement of the Mexican War, Native Americans living near the Santa Fe Trail raided only the smaller trading caravans. Experienced traders traveled in large numbers and heavily armed. These trains were rarely attacked. But this all changed during the years 1846-1848, as the Santa Fe Trail became the highway of conquest as a vast stream of troops and supplies headed west along the 873-mile road that coursed the Plains from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe. As the number of expeditions proliferated during the war, the travelers not only polluted the streams and spread contagion, but consumed the sparse grasses, wood, water, and game along the trail. Starvation and disease became more widespread among the tribes and they began to assault nearly every caravan, supply train, and body of troops that traveled on the Santa Fe Trail. By year—™s end, 47 travelers would be killed, 330 wagons destroyed, and 6,500 head of stock plundered.

A few days out of the fort, Indian Agent Thomas “Badhand” Fitzpatrick, making his way back to his post at Bent’s Fort, overtook the Dragoon column and traveled with it. Fitzpatrick, a trapper, guide, scout, and Indian agent, had ranged the frontier since 1823. The late historian David Lavender credits Fitzpatrick as being “one of the openers of the West.”

Indian Agent Fitzpatrick later wrote 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 23d, they came upon the encampment of three large government commissary wagon trains (two westbound and one eastbound). These wagons had been attacked two days prior by a large body of Indians, who left three men wounded. The eastbound train had lost most of its oxen to the marauding Indians and was thereby left without the means of hauling several of its wagons any further. These wagons were burned in order to prevent their contents from falling into the hands of the Indians. Lieutenant Love promised the dejected wagon boss that he would avenge the attack on the train.

Lieutenant Love directed that henceforth, the westbound trains would travel and encamp with the Dragoons for the duration of the trip. Charles Hayden, the 22-year-old captain of one of the government trains chafed at being told what to do by a shave-tail lieutenant. Hayden claimed to have received detailed instructions from the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth and would take whatever course of action he thought to be prudent.

It took all of the next day for the wagon trains to descend the steep banks, cross the swollen waters of Pawnee Creek, and climb the opposite bank. The next morning, the wagons of Hayden, along with two wagons belonging to civilian trader Henry Miller, were out on the trail at dawn’s light and making good time. Hayden was determined to travel without the interference of a military escort and would beat them into Santa Fe.

The wagon trains traveled along at a brisk pace, making 27-miles that day and, camped on a plain in about a mile from the Arkansas River (what is today about nine and one-half miles west on US 56 near Garfield, Kansas). The dragoons made their camp on the north bank of the Arkansas River. 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.

Lieutenant Love was not pleased by the fact that Hayden and Miller, in attempting to shake off the army and its wagons, had placed their wagon trains about 500 yards to the west of the Dragoon camp. In the event of a raid, Love’s soldiers and their short-ranged weapons could not effectively protect these wagons and stock. He planned to speak to Hayden tomorrow about the need to camp within supporting distance of the other wagon trains and troops.

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, when no raiders lurked in high grasses of the nearby washes. For the moment, all horses and mules remained tethered to the picket lines.

With the first emergence of dawn, the young officer heard the distant sound of reveille. He saw his troopers slowly forming for the morning roll call and inspection. Looking to the west he noticed that Hayden had turned his oxen out of the corral to graze. Love opened his spyglass for a better view of the countryside. His jaw dropped when he saw well over one hundred Comanche spilling out of Big Coon Creek. Lt. Love could see the teamsters frantically grabbing what few clumsy weapons they possessed and firing wildly at the raiders. The Comanche fought back, wounding three teamsters; within minutes they had stampeded Hayden’s oxen and seized control of the herd.

Spurring his horse down the rise, Lt. Love galloped back to the Dragoon camp and ordered Bugler Peel to sound “Boots and Saddles”. The non commissioned officers barked orders to their sleepy men; horses were saddled; the men were soon smartly standing to horse, under arms, awaiting further orders. It was Lt. Love’s intention to recapture the oxen so he ordered his detachment to mount. Just then he saw about 150 Comanche splashing across the Arkansas River with the intent of attacking his camp. Faced with this new danger, Love ordered his men to dismount and fight as skirmishers.

A ragged volley from the massed Hall carbines drove most of the Comanche out of range. Sgt. Benjamin Bishop, the veteran trooper, fired his Hall carbine and killed the horse of one warrior. A pull on the Hall’s fishtail lever opened the breech of his carbine. Tearing open a paper cartridge and spilling its powder and ball into the chamber, Bishop slammed the breech shut, and capped his weapon. Before he was able to take aim, two riders gracefully swooped down; each grabbing an arm of the fallen warrior, and carried him away to safety.

Lieutenant Love placed Sergeant Benjamin Bishop in command of 25 Dragoons and ordered him to retrieve the stolen oxen. Bishop, who had been with the Dragoons since 1834, must have had a sense of apprehension. Taking a small detachment of green troops, mounted on unseasoned horses, with orders to pitch into over one hundred of the world—™s finest horseman, was pure folly, to say the least. But orders were orders.

Bishop dutifully trotted his men out of camp and brought them to within one hundred and fifty yards of the raiders. There he halted and formed his small detachment into line. The sergeant was about to order an advance when he noticed a large body of well-mounted Comanche fast approaching to his rear. Armed with lances, bows and firearms, these warriors had crossed the Arkansas River and cut off the Dragoons’ avenue of retreat.

Outnumbered twenty to one, Bishop realized that his only real chance for survival was to keep his formation intact. In this manner, the massed volley fire from 25 carbines and pistols might sufficiently rattle the enemy just long enough to allow his detachment to charge to the rear. Sgt. Bishop ordered, “Left about, march!” Wheeling a line of 25 horses 180 degrees on a parade ground is not an easy task for a detachment of unskilled horsemen. Attempting this tricky maneuver while on restive mounts and under attack was near impossible.

The army-issued curb bit of the 1840’s was designed so that a Dragoon need only to gently tug at the reins in order to gain control of his mount. The curb bit had the opposite effect should an untrained rider, attempting to turn or stop a horse, pull too hard upon the reins. It is fair to assume that many of the novice troopers frantically tugged at the reins, causing their horses to run wildly out of control.

The Comanche waved blankets, blew on bone whistles and yelled to further panic the horses. Several of the Dragoon horses, being new to the service and unaccustomed to the pandemonium of combat, soon became wholly unmanageable and bolted. Given the chaos that followed, all manner of military formation was lost and it was now every man for himself.

Sergeant Bishop fired his carbine and then discharged his horse pistol. There was not time to reload and so he drew his saber. Finding himself beset by several warriors and struck in the side by a musket ball, Bishop pointed his saber forward in “tierce point,” spurred his mount, and rushed headlong into his foes. Later he would recall that he “made his saber . . . drink blood”; the lanky sergeant hacked and parried lance thrusts, fended off blows from buffalo hide shields, somehow fighting his way back to the safety of the Dragoon encampment. Five members of the detachment were not as fortunate. Troopers Jonathon Arledge, John Dickhart, Moses Short, George Gaskill, and Henry Blake were killed. (Gaskill, having enlisted at Edinburgh, Indiana, on April 17, 1847, had been in the army for just over two months.) Five other troopers, Henry Vancaster, John Lovelace, Thomas Ward, James Bush, and Willis Wilson, although badly wounded, were able to cheat death and escaped. Fourteen Dragoons somehow managed to reach the camp without suffering any serious wounds.

Although Bugler Peel later boasted that he killed three warriors during the fray, the Comanche seem to have endured only a few casualties in the half-hour fray. They were content to take all of Hayden’s oxen and before departing, mutilated three of the dead Dragoons and absconded with their clothing, equipment, arms, and horses.

The Dragoons were forced to remain encamped at the Coon Creeks to tend to the wounds suffered by six troopers and because of the lack of sufficient teams of oxen to pull all wagons. On the day after the battle, a train of eight wagons was seen approaching from the east. Lt. Love and Fitzpatrick rode out to this train and asked the wagon boss for assistance. Fortunately, this train had a number of spare mules that were for sale and Henry Miller was able to obtain mules to pull his two wagons.

On July 2, 1847, Lt. Love deemed it to be safe to move his wounded. The remaining oxen were redistributed between the two government wagon trains and, in this manner; Hayden obtained enough oxen to pull 13 of his wagons. The caravan, making five to eight miles a day, limped its way towards the small government outpost of Fort Mann. Finding the fort to be abandoned, Love left Hayden and his train behind with instructions that he remain there until a relief party could be sent. The weary and battered Dragoon detachment reached Santa Fe on August 6, 1847.

When word of the battle reached “the states”, newspapers were quick to call the battle “Love’s Defeat” Indeed, for recklessly ordering Sgt. Bishop to attack overwhelming numbers of Comanches with untrained troops, Lt. John Love had displayed the same arrogance that would later spell the doom of the commands of John Grattan, William Fetterman, and George Custer. Agent Fitzpatrick and Sgt. Bishop, nonetheless, wrote accounts in which they commended the manner in which he handled his troops during the battle with the Comanche. Fitzpatrick was quick to fault the wagon captain for not following Love’s order to place his camp next to that of the two other wagon trains. He was “very certain that, if Hayden had obeyed the order of Lieutenant Love, no such misfortune would have happened.”

In his report, a wiser and chasten Lt. Love wrote that the Comanche were “the most expert horsemen in the world, they are enabled to make an attack, alarm the animals, and be out of sight in an incredibly short time.” He concluded that, “in an attack, it is nearly as much as a company of dragoons can do to prevent their horses from taking a “stampede.”

Seven months later, Lt. Love would redeem himself at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales in Mexico, where Company B, converted into a battery of artillery, performed gallantly in the battle. Sergeants Muller and Sergeant Bishop (the latter still recovering from the wound he had suffered at Coon Creek) each ably commanded a section of artillery. The war ended, but Company B garrisoned the town of Chihuahua, Mexico until July 16, 1848. After thirty-four days of marching, they entered Santa Fe, wheeled their horses smartly into line on the town plaza, and dismounted. Between August 19th and 24th the —œwartime service— men received their discharges and went home. In a period of fifteen months, these Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri farm boys had marched across two thousand miles of harsh terrain and fought in two battles. In the finest tradition of the United States Dragoons, they could now proudly claim to be veterans.

Company B was broken up and its few remaining enlisted men transferred to Company G. Lieut. Love and the non-commissioned officers headed east in search of a new batch of recruits. In 1849, 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. Sergeant Bishop was discharged in 1849 and gained employment at Fort Leavenworth as a civilian forage master for the army. Bishop later became a successful cattleman in the town of Weston, Missouri.

John Love was brevetted to the rank of captain for his heroism at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales. He resigned his commission in 1853. Returning to Indianapolis, Love embarked upon a career as a railroad construction contractor. During the Civil War, he was briefly commissioned as a Major General of Indiana volunteers. After the war he spent most of his remaining years as the European agent for the Gatling Arms Company.

To read more on the post war exploits of B Company, the reader might wish to consult Percival Lowe’s Five Years a Dragoon.For information on the Santa Fe Trail during the Mexican War, the authors recommend “Dangerous Passage” by William Chalfant, published by the University of Oklahoma in 1994. The authors wish to express their deep appreciation to Betsy Caldwell (Collections Assistant) at the Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, for supplying them with previously unpublished letters that are quoted extensively in this article.

WILL GORENFELD, an attorney for the State of California and member of the Company of Military Historians, has been the author of articles on the First United States Dragoons. He lives in Ventura, California.

GEORGE STAMMERJOHAN, grew up in the farming community of Turlock, California. From 1974 through 1998, he worked as a State Historian II with the California Department of Parks and Recreation where he authored several historical articles on California and military history. Among his interests is the role of the Spanish, Mexico, and the U.S. military in early California. George resides in Sacramento, California.

The United States Dragoons
Dragoons are horsemen who are trained to fight both on foot and while mounted. The United States Regiment of Dragoons was formed in 1833 for patrolling the Great Plains region. In 1836, a second regiment of Dragoons was formed to fight the Seminoles in Florida. The 3d Dragoons were created for the Mexican War and disbanded at the end of the war.

The typical Dragoon was a —œmoving arsenal and military depot.— Secured by a leather sling over his left shoulder hung a .52 caliber Hall carbine—”a percussion breech-loading smooth-bore carbine of limited range and impact. In his pommel holster was a single shot Model 1836 flintlock horse pistol in .54 caliber. This foot-long weapon was wildly inaccurate and it was said, —œ[I]n practicing marksmanship it was never wise to choose for a mark anything smaller than a good sized barn.—

From his buff belt was slung the Model 1833 saber. Troops complained that this saber would warp —œrubber-like around a man—™s head and was only good for cutting warm butter.— He also carried on his person a cartridge box, a small pouch containing percussion caps, a haversack for rations, and a wooden canteen. Attempting to mount, while weighed down by all of this unwieldy equipage, could be a daunting task. Company B was able to obtain the new Grimsley saddle and horse equipment.

As for the —œgenteel clothing— mentioned in the recruiting advertisement, army regulations provided that for dress occasions the Dragoons wore a high collared coatee with a double row of nine brass buttons, trimmed in yellow, light blue kersey trousers, white belts, and a shiny black shako that sported a flowing white horsehair plume and yellow braid. For fatigue duty, Dragoons wore the natty blue woolen shell jacket that was trimmed in yellow along with the Model 1839-pattern dark blue wool forage cap.



Included in the John Love collection at the Indiana Historical Society is a letter from three recruits complaining about their treatment at Newport Barracks, Kentucky. This did not offend Lt. Love 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 the men would serve honorably in Company B. We have left intact the spelling and grammatical errors contained in the original.
Newport Barracks
April 2, 1847
Liet Dear Sir
We wish to inform you that our condition is very unpleasant
on account of the absence of our officers. We are here drilled in the infantry
squads, and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted
of, were you with us and on this account there is some, not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us. We would inform you that the discord refered to, has already been the cause of the one of the company—™s —œdeserting—, but we do not think that any who came with us, will, on any consideration be guilty of so base an act, but could you favor us with an officer of our own greater satisfaction would exist, and a greater degree of confidence would be concentrated in you by your men. We consider it right you should know these circumstances and also that is binding on us to inform you of it. Gardener is dead and another one of the Company not expected to recover. We have considered it our duty to write this much.
We remain your friends and Obedient soldiers
John W. George
Jeptha Powell
George W. Gibson
A CALL TO ARMS: Indiana 1846

When it became known that the President of the United States had made requisition upon the States for troops. and in response to a general demand from all parts of’ the county, a meeting of the citizens of the county was called to be held in the City Hall at Dayton the evening of May 21, 1846. The hall was filled with militiamen of the different companies of the county and prominent citizens of the city and townships. Gen. Spiece was called to the chair. and Maj. Thomas B. Tilton. his Brigade Major, was made Secretary of the meeting. Gen. Spiece briefly stated the object of the meeting to be to give an expression of the sentiment of the county on the Mexican war question, and to adopt measures to encourage the enrollment of volunteers. Capt. Luther Giddings of the Dayton Dragoons in response to a call of the meeting. made a patriotic appeal. Short. stirring speeches were. also delivered by Capt. M. B. Walker. of the Germantown Cavalry : by Maj. Tilton. Capt. Lewis Hormell, of the Dayton National Guards (German Company) ; Lieut. Atlas Stout, of the Dayton Gun Squad and Lieut. John Love, of the United States Army, and others.

Clash at the Coon Creeks: Lt. John Love's Report of 27 June, 1847

Camp on the “Arkansas,” June 27, 1847.

Sir: I have the honor to report, that company “B,” 1st dragoons, marched from Fort Leavenworth on the 7th instant, to join the army in New Mexico, escorting some three hundred and fifty thousand dollars– government funds. On our arrival at “Pawnee Fork,” (about three hundred miles from Fort Leavenworth,) we found two “trains” of wagons bound for Santa Fe, and one returning to the United States. The day before our arrival, one of the “trains” for Santa Fe, and the one for the United States, (encamped about one mile apart,) were attacked by the Indians, supposed to be either Pawnees or Osages– (each tribe receiving an annuity.) All the oxen of the return ” train” were driven off and killed in sight of Pawnee Fork. One man of Mr. Wethered’s trading party was severely wounded lanced in five or six places. I at once determined to travel with the trains for Santa Fe, and give them all the protection in my power. Our first day’s march from Pawnee Fork brought us on the Arkansas river, where we encamped; one train a quarter of a mile from the river; the other nearly the same distance from the river, and three or four hundred yards from the first. With my company I encamped on the bank of the river between the two trains.

On the morning of the 26th– just as the oxen of the first train were turned out of the coral, (a pen formed by the wagons,) the oxen of the second about turning out to graze, and the horses of the company were picketed– the Indians made their appearance a half mile distant, in full chase after the oxen.– The herdsmen used every effort to drive the oxen back into the coral; but, unable to do so, placed themselves between the oxen and Indians, hoping to prevent their being driven off. The Indians charged boldly amongst the oxen, frightened them, and drove them into the prairie; wounding in the charge two or three herdsmen. As soon as I saw the Indians, I ordered the company to saddle. Some Indian, seeing my intention to pursue, immediately appeared on the opposite bank of the river, numbering fifty or one hundred men. It now became necessary for me to protect our own camp; I therefore dismounted all but 25 men I ordered, under Sergeant Bishop to pursue the Indians, and recover the oxen proven weight loss supplements.– When the sergeant arrived in the vicinity of the oxen, the Indians swarmed in from all directions, and completely surrounded his platoon; he charged fearlessly amongst them, but our horses being wild, and unaccustomed to the yells of the Indians and shaking of blankets, (all done to frighten the horses,) could not be held by the riders. So great was the number of Indians– supposed to be three hundred on the north side, and two hundred on the south side of the river– that all hope of cutting a way through to the oxen was abandoned. It is with the deepest regrets that I have to report five of our best men killed: privates Arledge, Dickhart, Gaskill, Short, and Blake; and Sergeant Bishop and five men wounded. Sergeant Bishop (who so gallantly led the charge) and privates Lovelace and Vankastar are severely wounded; privates Bush, Wilson, and Ward slightly. With pride, I call your attention to the gallant conduct of this platoon of the company, as shown in the list of killed and wounded we have no means of telling, as their dead were carried off the field.

The oxen of one train having been driven off, I have encamped both trains together, and shall remain with them until enough trains together, and shall remain with them until enough trains arrive to take the government property to Santa Fe. I would respectfully call your attention to the fact, that it is the determination of the Indians, headed (as I have every reason to believe) by white men and Spaniards, to destroy all the government property in their power. It would seem at first sight that one company of soldiers ought to be enough to secure any number of oxen and mules from spies to watch our movements, never attacked unless by the Indians, but, sir, you must reflect that the animals of a train have to be scattered over a large extent of country for grazing; that in an attack, it is nearly as much as a company of dragoons can do to prevent their horses from taking a “stampede;” that the Indians, thoroughly acquainted with the country, and constantly having everything is in their favor; that being the most expert horsemen I the world, they are enabled to make an attack, alarm the animals, and be out of sight in an incredibly short time. You can judge, when from the time they were first seen approaching on the 26th, until they had the oxen over the river and out of sight, was not more than half an hour.

The only way, then, sir, to insure safety to public property on this road, is, in my opinion, to station about 300 mounted men at Pawnee Fork, 300 near the crossing of Arkansas, and 300 more at or near the upper Cimeron spring. These troops to have their permanent encampments at these points, but to scour the country in all directions, and at least keep the Indians in check, or they cannot catch them.– Scarcely a party has crossed the prairie this spring in summer without being harassed by them. I deem it my duty to make this report to you, believing a proper representation has not been made to you of all the outrages committed by the Camanches and other Indians during the last six months; and to represent the importance of taking active measures to insure safety to the provision trains. There was a fort or depot established by the quartermaster’s department near the crossing of the Arkansas; but this was worse than useless, as the Indians kept the few men there penned up, and have eventually succeeded in compelling them to abandon and burn the fort. This I learn from a wagon-master. The only way to deal with these Indians is to station a force in their country, to pursue and whip them for any misconduct.

With the highest respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant, JNO. LOVE,

lieut. 1 dragoons, comd’g. comp. B.