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]



 

Endnotes

 

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 Musketoon.com.   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, http://www.interment.net/data/us/ks/leavenworth/fortleavnat/index_aaal.htm, and telephone conversation with Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery staff member, Sept. 24, 2009.

Gossip from Ft. Leavenworth 1845 & 1846

McLean to Love

Fort Leavenworth Mo.

Nov 26th 1845

Dear John

Had you not said in your first letter, that you would write to me on arriving at Dayton, I suppose I would be obliged to commence this with an apology; but as you were so rash as to give one that piece of information be it on your own bead.

You give a charming picture, truly, of the delights and charms of that famous city; what with tableaux, balls, parties and distinguished consideration I suspect the gallant Captain has changed in so remarkable a degree, that Leavenworth would stand mute with astonished admiration, should any circumstance place him suddenly in the midst of it.  But I am glad to see that in all your gaiety and amusements you do not forget those who are sadly doomed to a winter of dull and insipid monotony.  You have made a happy escape I do assume (Barring Miss Joe, of course) for if a man here should laugh heartily, no, all would be astonished, so uncommon a thing has it become.  Each one seems to be impressed with the conviction that something dreadful is before him and that all he can do, is to brace himself up against it as well as he can, and bear it with as much fortitude as he can muster.  The Major has lately introduced an improvement, which perhaps will give a little variety to a few of the subs, and prevent them from positively dying outright with ennui, for he has taken the important step of ordering an officer of the guard, and it only waiting to have the room fixed to keep the young gentlemen from catching cold.  Poor subs!  Don’t you pity them?  I do really and truly!  Only think how sad a change it would be from Captain Love, commander of all the military forces of Dayton, favorite of the ladies, associate of Mrs Sink, the tableaux vivaux, in fine the observed of all observers, to “Mr. Love you will visit the sentinels every hour, and see that they perform their duty, you have leave the guard house to go to your meals but on no other account except on duty”  Throw back your head dear Captain and pity the poor subs—think of that lonely room, when you are in the midst of a brilliant coterie, think of that supperless belly when your are enjoying your [game?] supper, think of those heavy disconsolate eyelids when your only [illegible] is that you have to return.  Oh John you are really a happy dog!

So you think your polka investment is a bad speculation.  By the way, have you and Jack [1st Infantry Second Lieutenant John] Terrett settled the pointed of that dispute yet? Or do you both affirm and stick to it that the other is wrong.  I had a good laugh at that navigate to this site.  [AQM, First Lieutenant William M. D “Issac”] McKissack puts it in his best style; giving to the whole scene the most graphic effect.  But speaking of speculations, the richest I have known or heard of for some time in one I made myself and three weeks since, I bought a filly, and such a filly! Your old [Sen?] would have big [delight?] to have looked upon her, a head so small, an eye so big, a neck so beautiful and limbs so perfectly graceful few such have been seen at the old fort.  Well John I loved it at first sight and bought it for a cool hundred, brought it here, put it in the stable, and next morning it choked to death. Beat that if you can.

Your bay does not appear to thrive some how or other, he looks rather poorly for some time but now seems to be getting better.  I believe I asked Captain B. [1st Dragoons, John H. K. Burgwin] to tell you that the leg which was wounded by the picket pin had broken out, the lower joint swelled up and finally broke; it is now running slightly, but looks as if it were getting better [it appears Love’s bay was on the Dragoon’s 1845 South Pass Expedition, which Love completed just before leaving for recruiting duty in Dayton].  I am keeping him myself, so you will know he has not been rode very hard—Sanderson has the pony and he has recovered so far from his deviltry that Mrs S. rode him over here the other day and swears she never saw his beat for a lady’s horse—Mrs Rich has a bay baby.  Mrs Hammond’s [young wife of 1st Dragoons Second Lieutenant Thomas] Shadow is beginning to increase, and Lady Foot got pups!

[1st Dragoons Capt. Phillip St. George] Cooke did not take his horse and is still here.  He sent [local attorney, recently resigned former 1st Dragoons Second Lieutenant Charles] Ruff to attend to the business in Phila.  I have sold all your things except the guns and horses, at the prices you left.  I tried to keep back the rocking chair but the confounded plebe got his eye of that the first thing. Every thing suited him very well except the bed which he swore wouldn’t keep him warm. Nothing known about your lost horse.

Give that recruit Jessie John.  Don’t let him come it over you.  If you mange that recruit in good style you know not what might come of it.  Hell make you a Major Genl, before your turn.  Did you ever ask him how he came to enlist? Miss Joe would I expect send her love if I were to tell her that you wished to be remember to her but I believe I’ll tell her that you didn’t say anything about her—think it would have a good effect.

Rich is flourishing as usual quite as fat and jovial as he [used?] to was, hasn’t begun to dance the polka yet tho I told him your opinion of his [illegible].  Major had a party last week at which of course all the elite were present.  I enjoyed myself of course.  All the young ladies were there.  How could 200 of them?  John do you know Mrs Ruff [daughter of Indian Agent/contractor John Daugherty, wife of former Dragoon officer Charles]?  If not and you are ever so unfortunate as to have to danced with her let me caution you to load yourself up to the muzzle beforehand with small talk for you’ll have use of it all—ten times worse than Mrs. H. she’s staying the winter at Cookes.

I should well like to tell you some news but there is none that would afford you five minutes amusement.  I had a letter from [Topog on South Pass Expedition, Brevet Second Lieutenant William] Franklin the other day in which he says they will certain recommend a station a Fort Laramie.  Perhaps if they do it will break up the recruiting depot at Dayton and let that recruit see some service.  Capt. M. [Benjamin Moore, Love’s Compy Commander] wants the rest.   Yours truly E. E. McLean

I raised my hands with pious horror to see the insinuations made against me in your letters to Burgwin & M [illegible] but “Mens ribs can [illegible?]” is my motto, & I defy your gross insinuations.  “vox faucibus haesit” [I was dumb with amazement].

Major Wharton

McLean460912Love

Fort Leavenworth Sept. 21st 1846
Lieut John Love 1st Drags
Dear John
As an express starts out to-morrow I take advantage of it to write you a few lines of what has transpired since my last letter. Tho’ there does not appear top be any thing of any great importance yet almost any thing from here I know will be received by you with pleasure. You see in the first place that we are still here doing peace service, while our “brother warriors” are earning for themselves imperishable fame in the field; and we feel this the more deeply as we appear to be the only company so situated in the whole army; sometimes when I sit down and ponder over matters, I can hardly realize that I am here and every body else fighting, or marching to fight with hearts bounding with hopes of glory and distinction before them. All is here so peaceful and calm; the sad and solemn beauty of the scenery so little like war and its noisy accompaniments that I can scarcely bring myself to think that such a thing is going on. But luck is, nevertheless, the fact, and here are we enjoying all the comforts of a soldier’s life, while you and every one else are undergoing the hardships, fatigues and dangers—I cannot last, I feel as if we could not linger out an inglorious existence here while all our friends are in the field.

A few days ago [Richard] Ewell was here, and tried hard to be ordered out to join you; but it was no use the Lt. Col. Could not take the responsibility.—He says he feels more disgusted  that we can; for we have the consolation of knowing that our company has not been ordered, whereas his is in the field, and he on recruiting service. He feels quite bad about it, and would give any thing in the world to be with you. Did you ever see any thing like the promotion your regiment has had. I’m perfectly disgusted with it I assure you. But did you know that you came very near losing two Captains more by [Pat] Trenor and [Philip] Thompson. The one by delirium tremens the other through the medium of a strike of lightning. Old Pat was very near going when he heard of his majority—he guzzled more rum than you would believe and wasn’t right either for a week or two but he’s well now and you need not calculate on him for a year or so. In think if he had another promotion to go through with, it would carry him off. His limits been extended to six miles and he now can visit Marshes as much as he pleases.

Thompson has been ordered to bring his company [F] here to remain during the winter at which no doubt he will be heartily disgusted as he was making arrangements to join General [John] Wool. Assurances have been given however by the Adjutant General that his company will be the first ordered out if troops are needed in the spring. He has from all accounts a fine company of young men raised principally by [Phil] Kearny who exerted himself in every way to fill the company, which by the way he had scarcely done before he was superseded by Thompson.

We have been engaged for the last month mustering in a regiment of Infantry for your army nine companies have been completed averaging more than 100 aggregate—a fine set of men as you ever saw; much superior I think to those already with you. Two mails ago, however, orders were received from Washington disbanding them; at which of course there was great and furious excitement. They were exceedingly anxious to get out, and if there had not been a difficulty about the election of a Colonel, four good companies would already have been many miles on the road—if started the orders were to let them go on. From all accounts however you will not need them, and as I hear provision are rather scarce in your parts you’d just as lief be without them. By the way John how do you like a hungry belly for a companion. I should think it be damned disagreeable—even if you do have silver plates.

Taylor’s army is on the march for Monterrey. Worth is in advance with his divisions where if has luck he may retrieve his former blunder. They marched from Camargo—all their baggage and so on is taken on pack mules—transportation by wagons being, it is said, impracticable. There is no news of importance further than that they have marched. We expect in the course of a week or two to learn of another battle as troops are said to be collecting beyond Monterrey. The health of the regulars is good but there has been much sickness amongst the volunteers and a great deal of mortality.

On the day that our orders came here for the disbanding of the Infantry regiment [3d Missouri Infantry]  there was another sad occurrence took place here. A sentinel (a volunteer) at the Magazine had a prisoner placed in his charge by the officer of the guard while he went to get a file of men to take him to the guard house. The officer had gone a hundred yards—the prisoner escaped from the sentinel who cried out to him repeatedly to stop or he would fire. He wouldn’t stop and the sentry fired. Down came  the man—dead as Adam. The company to which he belonged then rushed our in mass with a Sergeant at their head crying hang him hang him, and was only prevented from doing violence to the sentinel by the officer of the day Capt. McNair (a bold and daring fellow) rushing out in the from of them drawing his sword and threatening to run the first of them through who advanced. After a good deal of difficulty—the affair was stilled and the men quartered.

If the Regiment had been organized, Daugherty would have been the Col. [Levi] Hinkel ran for Major and if the election had been completed would have been elected I think beyond a doubt.

We are all well and enjoying ourselves greatly. Let me compliment you John on your promotion. My hopes are still pretty slim. Whistler I believe has been cashiered. Thornton acquitted. Wharton is the same old thing. Miss Joe is in fine health. She and Mrs W. have gone to St. Louis for the health of the children. I gave Miss Joe your message. She swears she’s not engaged. Miss Constance sends her love and wanted to know why you didn’t write to her. Mrs. Rich has lost her baby and has moved into the garrison. Report says two companies of the Rifle Regiment are coming up here to winter. Capt. [Nathanial] Boone has got a leave of absence for six months whenever the command of the Department thinks his services can be dispensed with–looks  something like resigning ok? Col. [Richard] Mason is still on recruiting service.

Write whenever you can and whenever you have an opportunity, I will let you know what is going on here. Remember me to all most kindly and
Believe me,
Yours Sincerely,
E. McLean [, Compy A, Ist Infy, Fort Leavenworth AAAdjGenl .]

HinkleObit1872

MAJOR LEVI HINKLE.
Oct. 12, 1872—Maj. Levi Hinkle died at his home, north of Parkville.
W. C. White administered. Bond, $12,000. Maj. Hinkle
entered the army as a common soldier. After his discharge, he
was appointed foragemaster at Fort Leavenworth, and dealt
extensively with our people. He purchased a large farm near
Barry, resigned his office, and engaged in farming. He was a farseeing
and successful trader, a public-spirited citizen, and a zealous
Presbyerian. He was an ardent Union man during the war,
and for a time was provost-marshal. He was born in 1823; married
Margaret Campbell, daughter of William, of Clay. Oh.

William McClung Paxton,  Annals of Platte County, Missouri, from its exploration down to June 1 ,1897: with genealogies of its noted families, and sketches of its pioneers and distinguished people, (Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly Publishing Co., 1897) 532.

A Letter from Ft. Leavenworth 1846

In 1846, Company B of the 1st United States Dragoons participated in the bloodless conquest of Santa Fe. The Brig. General Stephen W. Kearny broke up Company B and transferred its enlisted men and mounts to the other companies in his command. Lt. John Love was placed in field command of Company B and was ordered by General Kearny to return East to recruit men and rebuilt the company back up to full strength. (1)

While Lt. Love was slowly gaining recruits for Company B in Ohio and Indiana, he received the following letter from Lt. Henry Stanton, regimental adjutant. (2) 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. (3) Second, the letter tells of a November 11, 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. (4)

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 (5) and Corpl. Nickerson (6), clothing issued by Lieut. McLean (7). I also send you Duplicate Receipts for Ordnance and Horse Equipage which I have directed Sergt. Bishop (8) 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 (9) 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 (10) had a fight with the Indians, it seems they have runned off some cattle, Grier followed them, but owing to the bad condition of the mules of his party, only himself, Lieut. Wilson (11) 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 under him. (12) The Dragoons under Burgwin (13) have been ordered to the Passo to protect the traders. (14) He writes very despondently, says, if his men were only Dragoons he might do something. I hope that Colonel Wharton joins Scott or Taylor that he will [take] 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 let you know.
Yours Truly
Stanton

Henry Stanton would serve as regimental adjutant at Fort Leavenwoth and Jefferson Barracks until 1851. Gaining a Captain—™s commission in 1854, he took part in an expedition against the Mescalero Apache in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico Territory. (15) Captain Stanton seems to have forgotten Captain Grier—™s nearly fatal mistake of riding far in advance of his support. (16) While rashly leading a small detachment in pursuit of a fleeing band of Mescaleros he and three troopers were ambushed and killed. (17)

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Endnotes

(1) 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)

(2) 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.)

(3) 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.

(4) The original of this letter may be found at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. The author wishes to express his deep appreciation to Mrs. Besty Caldwell for making a copy of this letter available.

(5) 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, “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.” 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).

(6) 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.).

(7) 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)

(8) 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.)

(9) Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton. 1st Dragoons (Heitman, 1022).

(10) 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.)

(11) 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.)

(12) 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. “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 s
hould 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.”

(13) 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.)

(14) During the most of Mexican War, there was lively trade betweenAmerican merchants in Santa Fe and Mexican merchants in Chihauhua. (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).

(15) 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

(16) Capt. Richard Ewell to Lt. William Nichols, 10 February 1855, Letters Received, Department of New Mexico, RG 393, National Archives.

(17) 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: “The 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.)

Above a Common Soldier: Dragoon Life 1849-1854

Charles Frank Clarke sailed from England in 1847. He came from an upper middle class family in Suffolk County and had studied to be a member of the bar. Mr. Clarke had hoped to become a successful merchant in Wisconsin, but his dreams didn’t pan out and he joined the 1st Dragoons. Several of his letters appear in a book entitled “Above a Common Soldier”, published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1997. Here are some portions of letters that concern the Dragoons.

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Jefferson Barracks, Mo. 25 December 1849 “Being very low spirited and not knowing what I could better turn to I enlisted in the 1st Dragoons to serve five years. My pay amounts to Eight dollars per month, which together with my rations and clothing is quite sufficient. I am now on duty as a Clerk in the Office of the Head Quarters of the Regiment at this place & am tolerably comfortable & hope soon to be promoted to something or other. My duty at present is very light.”

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14 March 1850 Jefferson Bks, Mo. “In the beginning of January I was promoted Sergeant Major of the regiment, the former one having died after coming here. I am now at the head of the Enlisted Men in the best disciplined Regiment in the U.S. Service. My pay is 17 dollars per Month. My rations are commuted at 20 cts (10d. Engl. money) per diem & the clothing alled by Government is quite sufficient.

A discharge caanot be bought according to Regulations of the US Army it can only be obtained through the Adjutant General (Maj. Gen’l R. Jones) at Washington. except in cases of Disability or the party enlisted being a Minor &c.

Although I am well aware of the injurious effect resulting from a young man’s following the Army, from the bad company &c he is constantly thrown among, I do not wish to be discharged holding my present situation unless I could better myself. It would, however, be a great gratification to me if I could obtain a Commission in the U.S. Army or a Nomination to the Military Academy at West Point. I think this could be easily obtained for me with some interest employed at Washington or through the American Ambassador in London, my rank being now next to a commissioned officer.

We are at Present stationed at Jefferson Barracks & shall in all probability remain here sometime. The Field Staff & Band are the only parts of the Regiment here. The remainder are scattered over California, Oregon, New Mexico & the Western frontier. The Colonel (Gen;l Mason) & Adjutant of the Regiment will testify as to my Character & acquirements should they be called upon.

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Jefferson Barracks, Mo. 11th April 1850 Since I last wrote to you I have thought seriously on my situationand have come to the conclusion that the Army is not a suitable place for me. As an Enlisted Man is exposed to so many temptations &c that it is almost impossible for him to escape being in some measure contaminated.

I am already disgusted at the wickedness & excesses I have witnessed during the short time I have been in he Army and am anxious to quit it.

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Jefferson Barracks, Missouri 22 June 1850 All ten Companies of our Regiment (1st Dragoons) are separately enaged on the frontier in war with the Indians and not one within 500 miles of the other. Our means of communication with them is so uncertain that our Regimental Returns &c to the War Department are several Years in arrears & no chance of completion. Come of the Companies have not been in quarters since the commencement of the Mexican War in /46. This is rather different to soldiering in England. My only duty is attending at the office and making out papers &c. I never drill except when with the Regiment which will never happen with ours. I am only responsible to the Colonel & Adjutant of the Regiment from whom I alone receive an order.

I send you a special order altering our uniforms, it may be a curiosity to some as a sample to Brother Jonathans experiment. I may add that the change is very strongly disapproved by the Officers who undergo the real hardships of the American Service & those on the Northern & the Western Frontier. The officers of all the Mounted Corps are petitioning against it.

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Jefferson Barracks, Mo. 18 July 1850 I have for some months been aquainted with a young lady named Mary McGowan & being frequently together we became attached to each other, but before we took final any steps in the matter we, both of us, thought it right to consult you & Mother on it & obtain your consents & indeed Mary refuses to have any more to do with me unless you give it.

Mary is an Irish girl, her father (a respectable farmer) resided in the North of Ireland, near Sligo I believe, & on his death she came out with a married sister to this country with whom she resides in St. Louis. She is a good religious honest girl. I do not say that she has the accomplishments of many ladies of England, but she has a good plain Education & is able & willing to work which is a great deal better out West here. My Board & washing costs me $10 per month & is of he very worst kind, having to beg it as a favor. If I were Married it would not cost me more han $3 or $4 in addition to the ration my wife is entitled to & my fuel & Quarters are furnished by the Government.

The Cholera has broke out among the Troops. 4 or 5 die daily but as yet only the new arrivals are attacked, the old hands never were in better health.

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Jefferson Barracks, Mo. 21 August 1850; I am very sorry to say that General mason died of Cholera on the 25th of last month after but a few hours illness. Lieut Stanton (the Adjutant) is also absent on sick furlough, he will probably be away from 12 to 15 months. This is very unfortunate for me, as it will bring an entire new set of officers to Head Quarters, the new Colonel (Fauntleroy) is now Lieut. Col of the 2d Drags. & is in the Western part of Texas.

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Jefferson Barracks, Mo February 14, 1851;The Colonel of my Regiment has arrived. I do not rememeber if I told you before he was promoted from another Regiment. In 1836 Col. Fauntleroy was appointed from civil life Major in a new Regiment of Dragoons then being raised and was in succession promoted Lieut. Col. in the same Regiment and afterwards Colonel in ours without ever having fired a shot or even been in an enemy’s country, much to the annyance of many older & I regret to say better qualified officers. On his arrival here the Adjutant being absent sick and himself wholly unacquanted with the Regimental affairs the whole burden of the business of the office fell upon me. I managed however to please the old fellow so that he gave me the appointment of Quarter Master’s Sergeant of the Regiment which, although a grade lower than my former situation, is a far more profitable one. It is my duty to purchase all forage, stationary, wagons, horses &c required by the Regiment, procure Quarters and on March to attend to the baggage train &c; its duties are not so confining and more agreeable.

A few days ago we received orders moving to Fort leavenworth, a post about 100 miles up the Missouri River, but as the Colonel is absent, that order was suspended until gis Return which will be in about 2 weeks.

I must now, however, direct your attention to matters which more closely concern my own personal happiness, on the 28th of December lasy I was married with the consent and approbation of the Colonel, and I have not from that time to the present had the least reason to regret my choice, my wife is a clever, affectionate, & I believe a truly pios Girl–possessed of every qualification to make an excellant wife & me extremely happy, her character & behaviour whilst single was above criticism & it is my whole study to make her comfortable, happy & contented with her new station in life.

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Fort Massachusetts, New Mexico Seotember 29, 1852
I now avail myself of the first favorable opportunity that has presented it self since I received your letter of sending you a reply. We had then just received orders to go to New Mexico & in a few days (May 12th) started with a large train & 300 troops. Mary & Charley went with me travelling very confortably in a carriage with two mules of our own. We were so fortunate as to escape without sickness on our journey out, which I attribute in a great measure to our sleeping in the carriage. About 200 miles from Ft. Leavenworth we were with bison, antelope, elk &s., in large herds. At one place the bison were so plentiful that for miles around the ground was black with them; it was thought that in one herd there were 100,00. The country through which we travelled was in general rolling sandy plains with timber only on the creeks, although in some places the bottoms were very rich. On the 30th June we arrived at Fort Union, a Military Post 100 miles from Santa Fe & 750 from Fort Leavenworth, here we laid three weeks when a report arriving of an Indian outbreak on the Arkansas Rier we started back again a distance of 400 miles to a place called St Vrain’s Fort, but we had not the good fortune to meet with the Indians, on our Return to Fort Union Myself and 8 other men were order to this place; from Fort Union we went across the Taos Mountains to Taos. Our’s was the only carriage along & in several places the mountains were so rugged & steep that we had to take out the mules & let the carriage down with ropes. From Taos we came on this place which is at the foot of the Sang de Christo Mountains, 80 miles NW of Taos & about the same distance SW of Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River. We have no settlements within 40 miles.

The Fort is built of Logs & is very prettily situated in a valley between two Mountains. Game is ery plentiful in the vicinity. Elk, Black tail dee, Mountain sheep, Bears, Black, Brown & Grisly, panther &c, the bears are so bold that a few days one attacked a man within a hundred miles of he Fort and severely wounded him. Gold is found in the Mountains around but not, as yet, in sufficient quantities to repay the trouble of working the mines.

The appearence of the inhabitants of New Mexico is not at all prepossessing to a stranger, they are a mixture between the Spaniards & Indians & possess all the vices & but few of the virtues of both races. The houses are built of sun dried brick & are anything but neat looking. Agriculture is at a very low ebb and he climate is so dry that in order to secure a certain crop the land has to be irrigated. The only thing in favor of the country is its remarkably healthy climate.

I have now but two years to serve & I hope to save up money sufficient to start me in some business in St. Louis, which I think is destined to be the largest city in the United States; it now numbers 100,000 inhabitants.

The greatest deprivation we have here is books & newspapers, in consequence of the long land carriage but few books are brought here & are printed in the Country. I have not seen a newspaper for over four months, pray send one now & then.

I think it is very uncertain whether we will stay here this winter on account of the scarcity of forage for our horses you had therefore better direct to me with Com.”F”, 1st Dragoons, Fort Union or elsewhere, New Mexico, in order that it may be forwarded to me wherever I may be.

The mails here are too very uncertain of her letters may have been lost; but two years ago the Mail was taken by the Indians & escort, 12 in number, all killed, not however before they killed 50 Indians.

The troops in this Territory are all well armed, we carry a rifle a heavy singlle barrelled dragoon Pistol, one of Colts Revolving Pistols (6 shooters), & a heavy Dragoon Sabre. The weight of a man & kit upon a horse will average 350 pounds. Our forage Ration is very small considering it being but 12 pounds of Hay & 8 pounds of Corn, or 12 pounds of Oats, per diem, barely sufficient to keep a horse alive much more in condition. On a Summer Scout the horses have nothing but Greass.

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Fort Massachusetts New Mexico September 26, 1851

I have now as much business as I can attend to, having the whole management of the Company, being the 1st Non Commissioned officer in it. in case of a move, or any detachments being sent off, i should be certain to go. I have, however, from the last of the month, but one year to stay; but what I shall do with my ime is out is very uncertain as yet. I shall, however, most probably go to St Louis & get into some business on my own account. Out farming turned out to be a terrible failure at this Post. we shall not get the seed we planting owing chiefly to the long winter & dry summer. the garden did not even supply us with vegitables.

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Taos, New Mexico
May 25, 1854

You will be glad to hear that I have obtained a furlough from this time until the expiration of my term of service in the Army (1st Oct.). somethingover 4 months. I hardly hoped to obtain it on account of the troublesome times we have just now with the Indians.

You will doubtless before this have heard of the battle [Cieneguilla] we had with the Indians on the 30th March here. My Company was in it, out of 60 men we had 23 killed on the spot & 22 wounded, the remainder with difficulty escaping. I was at Santa Fe with dispatches. My horse giving out luckily detained me a day, or I should have been in the middle of the fight, the road running over the battle ground, & my chance of escape would have been small, being in the rear of the Indians. hearing of the fight, however, a few miles from the battle ground, I made a large circuit & arrived safe after a few days delay.