An Excursion into the West 1834

Niles Weekly Register, Vo. 89:389 August 2, 1834


[from the Army and Navy Chronicle]

The regiment of dragoon is now completed to its establishment, and all the companies have marched to Fort Gibson, where the head quarters have been established during the winter. This regiment is composed of ten companies, of about seventy men each; each man is armed with a sword, pistol and carbine. The carbine is of a peculiar description; it is on the principle of Hall’s rifles, it loads in the breech, and the part containing the charge is so constructed as to separate from the barrel by mean« of a spring. This part may be called the chamber; and is about six inches long; when loaded, it is easily returned to its position, and then, if the percussion cap is put on the touch-hole, the piece is ready for firing; it requires no ramrod, yet it is furnished with one, which answers the purpose of a wiper, and, when drawn out, makes a bayonet equal in length in the barrel of the piece, and is a very formidable weapon. The whole piece weighs seven pounds and a half, and carries balls twenty-four to the pound.

The dragoons are instructed to serve on horse or foot, as occasion may require. About this time, it is expected that they are on the expedition among the tribes of Indians inhabiting the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi. They arc in proceed across the country to the boggy of the Red River, thence westwardly towards the Mexican frontier, thence northward as far as it may be prudent to go, allowing time to return before the cold weather sets in. On its return, the regiment will descend by the Missouri on either bank.

Four companies will winter at Fort Leavenworth, via: Wharton’s, Hunter’s, Ford’s and Duncan’s.

Three companies, Sumner’s, Boone’s and Browne’s, on the right bank of the Mississippi, within the Indian country, near the mouth of the Des Moines.

The other three companies, Trcnor’s, Bean’s and Perkin’s at or near Fort Gibson.

The expedition, it is understood, will be accompanied by several gentlemen of science, who goat their own expense. The object of the expedition in to give the wild Indians some idea of our power, and to endeavor, under such an imposing (oree, to enter into conferences with them, to warn those Indians who have been in the habit of robbing and murdering our people who trade among them, of the dangers to which they will be exposed in case they continue their depredations and massacres.

Several delegations of’ the newly emigrated Indian, now settled beyond the states and territories, to the westward of the Mississippi, as well as the Osages and other tribes near them, will accompany the expedition, in the hope of making treaties of friendship with the wild tribes, and thus prevent, for the future, the recurrence of those wars which are s? common among the Indians.

The expedition, it is hoped, will result in much good: it will afford protection to the civilized Indians, to our frontiers, to our trade with the natives, and cover the Santa Fe caravans trading with Mexico; and, perhaps, enlighten the Indians generally as to the humane policy of the United States towards them, and also as to their own true interests.

Army and Navy Chronicle May 5, 1836


No. 1

Departure of U.S. Dragoons From Fort Leavenworth —
Officers Attached to the Corps — Corps — Big Nemohaw— A traveling bridge —    -a novel craft — man drowned — Little Nemohaw — Saline.

TUESDAY,  May 29th, 1835.

Agreeably to General Order, No. 12, from the Head Quarters of the Army, dated March 9, 1835, three companies of the regiment U.S. Dragoons, under command of Col. H. Dodge, left Fort Leavenworth this day for the purpose of visiting various tribes of Indian inhabiting the country east of the Rocky Mountains, and between the two great rivers
La Platte and Arkansas.  The officers attached to this command are Col. H. Dodge, commanding the expedition; Capt. L. Ford commanding Company G; Capt. M. Duncan commanding Company C; 1st Lieut. L.P. Lupton, commanding Company A; 2nd Lieut. G.P. Kingsbury, Acting Adjutant; 2nd Lieut. B. A Terrett, Commissary of Subsistence;
2nd Lieut. E. Steen, Ordnance Officer; and Assistant Surgeon B.F. Fellowes.

Our course for the first twelve days lay over that beautiful and highly interesting country, lying between the Missouri River on the East, and the Ottoe country and the Platte River on the West.  This portion of country had so often been described by other travellers,  and particularly by Mr. John T. Irving, in a late work, entitled “Irving Indian Sketches,” that I shall pass it over , merely noticing some few of the most important events connected with the march to the Ottoe village.

In consequence of the early rains which commenced falling nearly simultaneously with our leaving Fort Leavenworth, all the little prairie creeks, which in ordinary seasons, contain little or no water, had become swollen to an almost impassable degree.  The first stream of any importance which became necessary for us to cross was the Big Nemohaw.
This river takes its rise in the Prairie, and after running a north-west course about one hundred miles, falls into the Missouri below the mouth of the Platte. As was expected, we found it nearly so high as to be out of its banks, and with a current really frightful.  The great question then was how are we to get our ordnance and wagons across the river?
Various modes were suggested, but all seemed objectionable.  At length, a raft or jam of logs was found in a short bend in the river, which extended completely across the stream, and which appeared to be solidly embedded in the bottom.  To throw a bridge across at this point, making the raft serve as a foundation, seemed the most feasible, as well as the most speedy and safe, mode of crossing.  Accordingly, a detail was ordered for each company, which, under the direction of Lieut. Steen, commenced operations.  Timbers were cut and laid about half way across the river, as a foundation on which to place pluncheons. In less than three hours the bridge was half completed.  In the meantime the river continued to rise rapidly. All at once, and while I was standing upon the bank of the river, congratulating myself and my fellow officers upon our good fortune, lo! the raft, bridge, and all, took the line of march “for New Orleans and intermediate ports.”  At the moment the alarm was given that the raft was moving, there were nearly twenty men at work upon the bridge; and several others seated upon the logs, fishing in the Nemohaw.
Such a scampering hath probably not been seen since the flood.  Happily, all reached the shore in safety.

After the disaster of the morning, it became necessary to cast about for some other mode by which our baggage and such of the command as could not swim, could be conveyed to the other side of the river.  As good luck would have it, someone suggested the possibility, that the body of a small body of a wagon belonging to one of the officers, might be so calked and otherwise repaired as to answer in the place of a boat.  After an hour’s work, this novel craft was launched in due form, and found to ride upon the water as though it had been its natural element, and by attaching ropes to each end of the boat, it could be drawn from shore to shore with great facility.  While these preparations were going on,  our enterprising friend Capt. G.——, who accompanied the expedition as guide, was employed in constructing another vehicle which, to me, was equally novel.  This second non-descript was manufactured from the hide of an ox, which that morning had been butchered. Within two hours from the time the ox was quietly grazing upon the luxuriant grass of the prairie, his skin was upon the waters of the Big Nemohaw, and conveying from shore to shore a burden of six hundred pounds.— In one day the command crossed in these boats with all its baggage without the slightest loss or accident, after which, the horses and mules were made to swim the stream.

The Indian traders, Messrs. O’Fallon and Winter, who accompanied the expedition, were not equally fortunate in crossing the Nemohaw.  After crossing their goods in skin boats, and while they were engaged in swimming their horses, one of their men was drowned. In attempting to swim his horse, he was thrown from his back; and in endeavouring to regain his seat, the horse struck him with one of feet upon the back of his head with such violence as is supposed to have deprived him of sense,  He instantly sank, and owing to the swiftness of the current was seen no more.

A march of twenty-five miles brought us to the Little Nemohaw, a stream running nearly parallel with the Big Nemohaw, and which also falls into the Missouri. Although not so large as the first, yet we were compelled to cross it in the same manner. Having killed another of our beef cattle for the use of the troops, we were enabled to add another boat to our squadron.

The only stream of any importance, after leaving the Little Nemohaw, is the Saline. The water of this stream, when not swollen by recent rains, is very salt to the taste; it is from twenty to thirty yards wide, with a rocky bottom, and may be forded without difficulty.

Captured Mexican Items at Santa Cruz de Rosales

Following the capture of the town of Santa Cruz de Rosales in 1848, the Army inventoried the captured Mexican ordnance. Below is a copy of this report.

City of Chihuahua
March 26, 1848

The Board met pursuant to the foregoing orders, and soon after the
reception of the captured property, as was practicable, and up to the
present time have been busy in assorting and taking inventories of
said property, which they find to be as follows (incl.(?) accompanying
list or inventory as marked “A”).

All the large guns are more or less injured by firing, and some of
them badly cast, full of flaws and honeycombs. The majority of the
muskets and escopetas are in bad order, broken locks and stocks, bent
barrels &c. Three of the muskets are very much injured in the stock
by shot, or shell, of one, the entire stock is gone. The muskets, and
in fact all of the cartridges, are badly made, and only valuable for
the amount of powder they contain. The shells, strap shot, balls, and
canister, are as a general thing very badly made and would be apt to
greatly damage a good piece if fired from one.

One reference to the list, it will be found that there are
eleven large boxes of powder, this is supposed to be for cannons, as
also the five bags. Ten of the kegs contain very fine powder,
supposed to be for rifles, and the remainder for muskets. Having no
means to ascertain the weight, the amount in bulk only is first put
down as it appeared before the Board.

The horses are all small, poor, and weak, and many of the mules are
equally in as bad condition, none of them being fit for present use,
and scarcely any will ever be capable of hard service.

The saddles are of Spanish pattern and much out of order in their
present state worthless.

Of the drums, three are without heads or have but one, and the others
are so heavy and unwieldy as to be almost or quite unserviceable.

The articles, not having (sic) innumerated, are generally
in very good condition, and might, if necessary, be put to immediate

The above is respectfully submitted as a report of the proceedings of
the Board, which, having no further business before it, adjourns sin

B.L. Beall,
Major 1st Dragoons



2 Two 32-Lb. Brass Howitzers

1 One 10-Lb. Brass Cannon by Measurement

1 One 8-Lb. ” ” ” ”

1 One 4-Lb. ” ” ” ”

2 Three Swivels

7 Seven Wall Pieces

1 One Double-Barrel Wall Piece

392 Three Hundred and Ninety-Two Muskets

281 Two Hundred and Eighty-One Musket Bayonets

99 Ninety-Nine Cartridge Boxes & Belts

80 Eighty Escopetas

27 Twenty-Seven Service Rifles

78 Pistols

35 Sabres

122 One Hundred and Twenty-Two Lances Complete

142 One Hundred and Forty-Two Lance Heads and Ferrules

150 ________ Lance Straps

145 Shafts for Lances

6 Six Wipers for Wall Pieces

11 Eleven Large Boxes of Powder

23 Twenty-Three Kegs of Powder

5 Five Bags of Powder

58 Fifty-Eight Cartridges for 32-Lb. Howitzer

72 Seventy-Two Cartridges for 9-Lb. Gun

2600 Twenty-Six Hundred Musket Cartridges

7 Seven Bunches Signal Rockets

9 Nine 32 Lb Grenades

9 Nine 24 lb Shells

4 Four 32 lb Shells

75 Seventy-Five 4 lb Shells

7 Seven 3 lb Strap Shot

24 Twenty-Four 6 lb Strap Shot

4 Four 12 lb Strap Shot

103 One-Hundred and Three 4lb Balls

50 Fifty 3 lb Balls

76 Seventy-Six Cases 32 lb Canister

116 One-Hundred Sixteen Cases 3 lb Canister

1 One Lot Canister for Wall Piece

1 One Lot Balls for Wall Piece

1 One Lot Musket Balls

1 One Ten Ball Roller

10 Ten Bullet Molds

7 Seven Rifle Locks

1 One Lot Gun Flints

11 Eleven Sponges

2 Two Worms

6 Six Hand Spikes

1 One Treatment Scale

A List of Quarter Master Property Captured at the Siege of Santa Cruz
de Rosales, Mexico, March 16th 1848.

98 Ninety-Eight Horses

66 Sixty-Six Mules

7 Seven Wagons

52 Sets of Harnesses, four collars wanting

9 Nine Pack Saddles

35 Thirty-Five Spanish Bridle Bits

32 Thirty-Two Sets Spanish Saddle Rigging

1 One Bulk ” ” ”

35 Thirty-Five Buckles

7 Seven [Screw} Drivers

43 Forty-Three Files

8 Eight Hammers

4 Four Vices

2 Two Wrenches

1 One Grinding Stone

65 Sixty-Five Edge Tools

13 Thirteen Augers

18 Eighteen Saws

3 Three Screw Plates

2 Two Anvils

10 Ten Pounds Rod Steel

2 Two Boxes Tin

2 Two Boxes Shoes

8 Eight Boxes Blue Clothe

1 Lot Printing Type

1 Lot Duct Parts

1 Lot Rosin

2 Lots Steel Yards

12 Twelve Empty Boxes

11 Eleven Boxes Cigarilos

Sharps Carbines in New Mexico

In February of 1854, the government shipped 30 M1851 Sharps Carbines to the Department of New Mexico for field tests. The following letter (found in Nat’l Archives microfilm number 1120, roll 3, at 1125) briefly discusses the trial of one such weapon and the distribution of carbines amongst the various commands.


Headquarters Fort Defiance, N.M.
April 10, 1854

Ft. Union, W.A.Nichols
Asst. Adjt. Gen.


Pursuant to instructions from the headquarters of this department, under the date of March 29th, 1854, calling for the result of our experiment with Sharp’s carbine, I have the honor to report that although we were at first, from insufficient practice, prejudiced against this carbine, the effect of more numerous trials, has been to thoroughly convince us (waiving the consideration of the pistols), of its great superiority over every other fire arm that we have yet seen for the use of mounted corps, and especially for such use in Indian warfare.

It is incomparably superior to the musketoon in every aspect, except in its balance; its gauge and accuracy are greater than those of Hall’s Carbine. While it is certainly more liable to get out of order; it holds up its ball much better than the service rifle does. Its accuracy is superior to the latter (especially at long distance) while it loads far more rapidly, with less display of the pers0n’s [sic], and with less liability to accident.
From its manner of loading there is no objection to giving its barrel a length equal to that of the musketoon (an increase of about 4 inches) which would only slightly add to its weight, but would increase ___________ ____________and improve its balance.

In our trials we observed no tendency to get out of order from its manner of loading, that seemed to be perfect, and all danger of having a ball stick in the barrel from want to coolness in loading is obviated.

In relation to the primers, (Maynard), the mechanical construction works admirably, but the primers themselves that were furnished to us were bad. Out of 200 which we tested, only 40 exploded the charges; but whether this was due to a deficiency in the quality or quantity of the fulminate, or to the paper having driven into the vent of the cone; or to some other cause, we cannot tell as yet, but one of the common service caps failed to ignite a charge.

The primers apparently were quite useless and jammed. Their covering was perfect, but their real character rendered it impracticable to test their power of resisting moisture and rough usage.

I believe the officers here, who have witnessed the trials, fully concur with me in these observations.

Very respectfully,

H.L. Kendrick
Capt. 2nd Arty. & B. Major
Comd. Fort Defiance

Fort Union Ord Depot
April 25, 1854


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, this inst. of your letter of the 29th March ult. — enclosing the copy of a letter, Chief of Ordnance, dated Feb. 15th & relative to the xxxxxxxx of Sharps Carbine for our service. In reply I have to state that thirty of Sharps carbines were sent to this Depot, 29 of them were almost immediately issued, as follows, 8 to Major Carleton, 5 to Capt. Ewell 6, to Major Kendrick, 5 to Lt. Johnson Co. F 1st Dragoons & 5 to Bvt. Lt. Col. Chandler. As the arm has been entrusted to these officers for trial, I suppose that their reports would be most satisfactory. Not having had an opportunity to give the arm a trial in field service, I am unable to afford any information other than was derived from seeing a few rounds fired from one of them at a target at the distance of 600 yards, where I discovered that the recoil of the piece was so great as to present that accuracy which is expected in a rifle. I also discovered that the Maynard primer was liable to injury from each fire, in consequence of several of the caps exploding at a time, and I observe that several officers into whose hands they have further found the same fault & have requested caps of the old pattern to be issued for the arm to obviate the uncertainty of fire with the Maynard primer.

Very Respectfully,
I am, Sir,
Your Obd.Svt.
W.R. Shoemaker
Master of Ordnance
Comg. Depot

Love's artillery

In August of 1847, the Army command at Santa Fe decided to convert Company B, 1st United States Dragoons, into a field artillery battery. The company had only recently arrived at Santa Fe and was composed of, in the main, new recruits. Lt. Jone Love, its field commander, drew weapons, mules, tack and equipage from Lt. A.B. Dyer, the post ordnance officer. Below is a four-page receipt for the stores drawn by Lt. Love to outfit the new battery. Of note, is a 6 pounder that had been captured in 1843 by Mexican forces from a party of Texas invaders. This cannon was, in turn, captured when, in 1846, the Army of the West marched into Santa Fe.