Co. F, 1st Dragoons at Churubusco

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

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

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

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

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

War correspondent George Kendall of the New Orleans Picayune reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puebla July 2nd 1847

Dear Sir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vera Cruz,

November 25, 1847

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


August 24, 1847

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement of loss on the 20th instant.

Captain Kearny, loss of arm.

Captain McReynolds, wounded severely.

Lieutenant L. Graham, wounded slightly.

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

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

I am sir, very respectively your obedient servant.

P. Kearny, Jr.

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

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

Taos Mutinty: General orders, No. 12, War Department, August 9, 1856

GENERAL ORDERS          )                  WAR DEPARTMENT
No. 12.                       )                                 ADJUTANT GENERAL—™S OFFICE,
)                                        Washington, August 9, 1855

1..  The proceedings of the General Court Martial which convened at Don Fernandez de Taos, New Mexico, May25, pursuant to —œSpecial Orders,—  No. 43, of May 14, 1855, from the Head-Quarters of the Department of New Mexico, whereof Colonel T.T. FAUNTLEROY, 1st Dragoons, is President, and which adjudged certain enlisted men to suffer death, having, in conformity with the 65th Article of War, been transmitted to the War Department for the decision of the PRESIDENT, the following are the orders thereon:

Washington, August 8, 1855

A General Court Martial held at Taos, New Mexico, on the 21st May, has passed sentence of death on Privates Aaron D. Stevens,  John Cooper,  Joseph Fox, and John Steel, of Company —œF— 1st Dragoons, who were engaged in a drunken riot in that town, when the Company entered it on their march to join a military expedition against the Indians, and who mutinied against a Major of the regiment, which, being present in the town,  he interposed his authority to bring them into order.  The case is a clear one under the 7th and 9th Articles of War upon the law and the facts; and the President would feel it his duty to order the execution of the sentence of death, if he was not compelled to find something to mitigate the crime of these men in the general condition of their Company, and in the misconduct of their officers.  It is proved that the commander of the Company,  and many of the Company,  then under arms, on a march, were drunk when the riot and mutiny broke out.  It would seem, too, that proper exertions were not made by the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the Company, to suppress the mutiny, although, thereby, under the 8th Article of War they were each and all committed an equal crime, and incurred equally the penalty of death, with those who joined in the mutiny.  It appears that no proper discipline had been previously maintained in the Company, and that the major of the regiment, under whose command they had been serving, was greatly responsible for that utter want of discipline which would have cost him his life in this mutiny, if he had not been rescued by civil authority;  and that part of the violence he suffered, in the riot,  was invited by his challenging the company to fight him man by man.  Under the circumstances, however imperative the President may feel his duty to enforce the laws, which will not endure that our people will suffer for the evils of an undisciplined soldiery, committing riot and outrage in their towns, he will not visit the whole consequence of this mutiny upon the four soldiers who have been convicted, nor execute in this case the sentence of death.  The sentences pronounced against Privates Aaron D. Stevens, John Cooper, Joseph Fox, and John Steel, are hereby mitigated to hard labor for three years, under guard, without pay.  They will be sent out of New Mexico in irons, by the first convenient opportunity, and will be put to labor with ball and chain at Fort Leavenworth.  The non-commissioned officers of Company —œF—, 1st Dragoons, will no longer be trusted to serve together as a company.  They will be distributed as privates to other companies of their regiment serving in New Mexico.

The Commander of the Department of New Mexico, on this order of the War Department, will prefer charges against the officers and non-commissioned officers of the Company who did not use their utmost endeavour to suppress the mutiny, and against such privates of the Company, if any there be, whose failure to their duty, in this particular, may deserve special notice, and against the Major of the Regiment for such parts of his conduct, in the riot, and in command of the Company at Fort Massachusetts, as seen to call for such proceedings against him.  And a Court Martial will be convened to try them.

The record indicates other grave charges against the officers implicated in this affair, besides those directly relating to the riot and mutiny.

Secretary of War.

II… The transfer of the enlisted men of company F, above directed, will be made by the Colonel of the 1st Dragoons, under the orders of the Department Commander.

Assistant Adjutant General

The 1854 March of Dragoon Recruits

                     The 1854 Overland March of Dragoon Recruits

On June 1, 1854, a column under the command of Lt. Colonel E. J. Steptoe, consisting of 77 supply wagons, 2 companies of 3d Artillery and 90 much needed recruits for the 1st Dragoons out in California, left Ft. Leavenworth by way of the Overland Trail.  Major Steptoe carried secret orders from the President to investigate whether the Mormons had taken part in the 1853 murder of Captain John Gunnison and his surveying party. He also carried orders to, if necessary, to declare martial law and take control of the territory.
    The column included about 300 horses, but the Dragoon recruits walked.  There was a shortage of good horses in California and Quartermaster Rufas Ingalls viewed these newly purchased mounts to be too valuable to be exposed to the rigors of being ridden by inexperienced soldiers on a cross-country march.  He ordered that the horses be led in strings of 30-40 mounts that were attached to the wagons.
The responsibility for immediate care of these valuable mounts was placed upon John Cuddy, a civilian employee of the Quartermaster Department.  Cuddy was the former first sergeant of B Company, 1st Dragoons.  This six footer from Ireland was described by a fellow solider as being —œwell-educated, bright, clear headed, and a good judge of men.—
The command reached Fort Kearny on June 21st and remained there for two days.  It reached Ft. Laramie on the 16th of July and headed west along the North Fork of the Platte River.  About a month later, Major Steptoe’s detachment entered Salt Lake City, 92 days and 1,216 miles out of Ft. Leavenworth.  They encamped in nearby Rush Valley for a few weeks and then, to the chagrin of many Mormons, moved into quarters in the town. 
    Let it suffice to say, the proximity of soldiers and civilians is a formula for trouble.  Indeed, tensions began to heat up when several young lieutenants used their epaulettes to impress Mormon girls—”including some married women.  Lt. Sylvester Mowry courted the wife of one of Brigham Young’s sons.  The Mormons were even more distressed over the sometimes rowdy exploits of the recruits.  The authorities banned the sale of alcohol, but thirsty soldiers could always show the recruits how to find some bug-juice.  Matters came to a head on December 23 when a fight commenced between civilians and drunken soldiers at a theatre.
    The young lieutenant soon found themselves embroiled in the fray.  Lt. LaRhett Livingston, 3d Artillery, wrote: “I got my face scratched & hand lamed in trying to quell the disturbance.” Lt. Mowry was knocked down early in the action.  On Christmas Day, several soldiers returned to the streets looking for another fight and soon found it.  Livingston blamed the trouble on the “desperate set of rascals infesting this City” and noted the soldiers “will not be run over if they can help it.”  Soon there was a free for all in the streets involving 300 “rowdies about town and drunken soldiers.”  Shots were fired, but nobody was hit. As Livingstone noted, “The stones and clubs did better execution.”

Muster Roll Company F, 30 April 1855

1st Sgt. Thomas Fitzsimmons NY 20 Jan. 1851; Reduced to the ranks and transferred to Co. K
Sgt. Hugh Cameron NY 4 Mar. 1851 DS Burgwin
Sgt. James Arthur Ft. Mass. 20 Aug. 1853 Re-enlisted; reduced to the ranks; sent to G Compy.
Sgt. Charles Hamish Ft. Mass. 21 Aug. 1853 Re-enlisted
Corp. Robert Walsh Las Vegas 26 Mar. 1851 Re-enlisted
Corp. John Weldon Burgwin 22 Sept 1854 Re-enlisted
Corp. James Vanderlen NY 5 Mar 1851 Appointed Mar. 5, 1855
Corp. Hugh May Albuquerque 5 May 1852 Appointed Mar 7 1855
Bugler Aaron Stevens * NY 1 Mar. 1851 In confinement Ft. Mass. since
15 March 1855
Bugler William Kerr Burgwin 1854 Re-enlisted
Farrier Edward O—™Meara * Buffalo 17 Feb. 1850 Re-enlisted Ft. Fillmore 18 Jan. 1855; in confinement since 5 April 1855
Pvt. Abraham Allen Albuquerque 20 xxx 1852 Returned to ranks 5 Mar. 1855
Robert W. Allen Las Vegas 20 Mar. 1851 Re-enlist (3d) 21 Feb. 1856
Albert Atwell Baltimore 15 Apr. 1852
Peter Albertson Burgwin Re-enlisted.
James Buck Las Vegas 27 Mar. 1851 Re-enlist’d; 2 Jan. 1856; trans.
Co, B; wounded Cieneguilla;
Neil Brewer Ft. Mass. 15 Oct. 1852 Re-enlist’d; trans. to Co. D
William Cassidy Taos 9 Feb 1852 Re-enlist’d; transf. to Co. K
John Cooper * Taos 28 Nov. 1851 Re-enlisted; confined
Jonathan K. Davis Las Vegas 15 Dec 1851 Re-enlisted; ds 12 June 1850
Earle Day 12 June 1850
William Eakens Burgwin 24 Jan. 1855 Re-enlisted; forfeit month—™s pay
Benjamin Engle Rochester 8 Nov 1849
John Flanigan Baltimore 17 Mar. 1853 Forfeit month—™s pay.
Michael Flood New York 15 Mar.1851
Joseph Fox * Baltimore 26 Apr. 1852 In confinement
George Fouches Albuquerque 11 May 1853, transferred to H Co.
William Gray Galesto 12 Oct. 1852 Re-enlisted; in confinement;
13 July 1857 Ft. Buchanan–Co. K
John Harper Las Vegas 7 Oct. 1851 Re-enlisted; in confinement
since Mar. 15, 55
George W. Hartley Louisville 20 Aug. 1850
Francis Hewitt NY 1 Oct 1852
Henry Jacobs Baltimore 27 Feb 1851 In confinement.
Adam Johnson Boston 19 Dec. 1850 Transferred to Co. K; DS
Burgwin; re-enlisted 27 Dec. 1855 Albuquerque
Robert Johnson Philadelphia 24 Sept. 1852 In confinement; forfeit month—™s pay.
John F. Krebler NY 5 Sept. 1851 Musketoon $11.00; Aston Pistol $7.00.
John Keebler Ft.Leavenworth 2 Feb. 1852
Augustus Knauss NY 21 Apr. 1853, transferred to H Co.
Daniel McFarland NY 17 Apr. 1852 In confinement; forfeit month—™s
Thomas McKinley Philadelphia 20 Oct. 1852
Patrick Madden Baltimore 20 May 1852
Jeremiah Mahoney Boston 19 Jan. 1851 Colt Pistol $25; trans to Co. H
James Murphy NY 13 Jan 1853 DS Burgwin
Joseph E. B. Noms Baltimore 18 Mar 1852
Benjamin Platiner Philadelphia 1 Mar. 1853
John Quinn New York 20 Dec. 1852 DS Ft. Massachusetts
George Ray New York 2 Feb. 1852 Colt $25.00; trans. to Co. B and then to H.
Richard Roberts New York 13 Dec. 1850 Transferred to Co. B
James Smith New York 10 Jan. 1851 Transferred to Co. H
John Steele * Boston 19 Dec 1850 In confinement Ft.
Massachusetts since Mar. 15th
Jeremiah Sullivan New York 20 Nov. 1852 Transferred to Co. B
John Walsh New York 4 Nov. 1850 Transferred to Co. H
James Walsh New York 4 Nov 1850 Transferred to Co. K
John White Louisville 1 June 1850 Forfeited month—™s pay due to
Phillip Welsh Albuquerque 26 Mar. 1851 Re-enlisted; $13.00 Pistol; DS
Adam Williams Taos 26 Nov. 1853 In confinement; forfeit $10; DS
Burgwin; Trans to Co. D
Thomas Williamson Albuquerque 1 Jan. 1853 Transferred to I Co.

* facing general court martial charges for mutiny

Taos Mutiny 1855

May 24, 2009
On the 16th day of March in the year 1860, Aaron Stevens, a principled young man and abolitionist, finds himself awaiting execution on the gallows in Charleston, Virginia. A jury has declared guilty him of complicity in John Brown—™s abortive raid on Harpers Ferry. Stevens had honorably fought for his country in the late war with Mexico and then out in New Mexico with the United States Army. How different might the fate of Stevens have been had he not, five years earlier, attempted to restore order following a drunken riot by fellow soldiers.
In the mid 19th Century there were few reported attacks by a group of regular soldiers men upon an officer. One such attack took place in the Spring of 1855 in Taos, New Mexico Territory, when about   a dozen enlisted Dragoons participated in a physical assault upon Major George Blake. Blake was a martinet somewhat cast in the mold of the Captain William Bligh. Both were uncaring officers who routinely mistreated the men in the ranks and stirred their animus until it eventually boiled over. After suffering the ignominy of mutiny and surviving for weeks in a longboat, Blight would become an admiral in the Royal Navy and contribute to its victory at Trafalgar. Blake would, likewise, avoid being dismissed from the service, rise in rank and gain a degree of glory in battle.
Blake—™s adjutant, Lt. Robert Johnston, who acted faint-hearted during the riot, would become one of the Robert E. Lee—™s most trustworthy generals during the Civil War. The remainder of the cast, however, would not fare well. Capt. Philip Thompson, the company commander, would be dismissed from the service. The non commissioned officers of the company lost their stripes. In particular, Bugler Aaron Stevens, initially a bystander who got caught up in the riot by offering to help bring peace, and three other enlisted men were found guilty of rioting and condemned to death.
Buck and Gag Him
The Taos mutiny of 1855 offers unique insight into the tensions and problems besetting the army in Northern New Mexico Territory. To be specific, it exposes the ill feeling extant not only between enlisted men vs. officers, as well as officer vs. officer. The mutiny sheds light upon the hostility caused by a mediocre cast of officers serving in Northern New Mexico Territory.
An army song of the era, —œBuck and Gag Him—, encapsulated the systematic abuse inflicted upon the common soldier for, sometimes, the most minor of offenses:
The treatment they give us, as all of us know,
Is bucking and gagging for whipping the foe;
They buck for malice or spite,
But they are glad to release us when going to fight.

A poor soldier tied up in the hot sun or rain
With a gag in his mouth till he is tortured with pain,
Why, I—™m blessed if the eagle, we wear on our flag,
In its claws couldn—™t carry a buck and a gag.

Disgruntled soldiers tend to desert from the army. If they stay, these malcontents take out their resentment upon sergeants and corporals.  This is because officers remain distant from the enlisted ranks, while non commissioned officers are in daily contact with the men and are responsible for enforcing unpopular commands. Hence, mutinies directed at officers tend to be rare. The Taos Mutiny of 1855 is, thus, unique in that it was directed at an officer.  Military historian William Skelton observed, —œThe most common form of soldier resistance was spontaneous and individualized—”a single soldier reacting against an officer—™s threats or blows or against a perceived affront to his dignity.—   This is not to say that the potential for —œfragging— (the killing of an officer by another soldier) was unheard of out during antebellum times. A trooper who served with the Regiment of the Mounted Rifles wrote, —œDiscipline was very severe in those days and I heard many of the enlisted men [of Captain George McLane—™s company] say that if opportunity offered itself they would spare one shot for some of the officers for whom they had a grievance.—   Captain McLane was killed during a skirmish with the Navajos on October 13, 1860.
Most men in the ranks feared, with good reason, those who commanded them. Army discipline of the day tended to be swift and court martial sentences were draconian.  In 1852, Dragoon Captain James Carleton forced three drunken enlisted men to walk back to camp while tied behind wagons; one of the men fell, was dragged for a mile and one-half and soon died from injuries suffered from being dragged.   Dragoon James Bennett described how an enlisted man, who said he could not go further on a march was stuck down by the sword of his commanding officer and left to die. He also wrote of another officer, without any justification, seriously injuring an enlisted man with his sword.   A Dragoon in Utah Territory reported an incident in which a lieutenant, for no apparent reason, knocked an enlisted man senseless with the butt of an army revolver, and then remarked —œone less dough boy.—   Lt. Cave Couts, a Dragoon officer, described in his journal of his disgust for an artillery officer who chained a handcuffed prisoner to a caisson, with an iron band around his waist, and then forced him to walk behind the caisson from Chihuahua to Santa Fe.   Lt. Philip Thompson, of whom we shall hear much more about later, was known to lose his temper when drunk and would physically abuse enlisted men. As a veteran of service in the 7th Infantry wrote, —œcompany commanders would inflict all kinds of punishment that was not prescribed by regulations, bucking and gagging, carrying large timbers before the guard house, knocking them down with the butt of their muskets, maiming them by sabre cuts and in some instances shooting them.—  The abuse of alcohol by enlisted men and officers was a long-standing problem in the military. Dragoon Sergeant Percival Lowe of B Company wrote, —œUnfortunately there were men who would become intoxicated and cause trouble for anyone having anything to do with them.—   He estimated that, at any given time, ten percent of his company could be found in the guardhouse for offenses committed while intoxicated.   Suffice it to say, Fort Massachusetts was not immune from alcoholism. As in other frontier garrisons, many men endured the harsh duty, isolation and boredom at Fort Massachusetts through the heavy use of intoxicating liquor.   Alcoholism was also a serious problem for many an officer in the antebellum army.   Thompson was fighting a lifelong battle with alcohol, a battle that he would ultimately lose.
A colorful cast of characters roamed New Mexican Territory during the Antebellum Years. Remarkably, a number of these personages found themselves caught up in the 1855 riot. During the course of this paper the author will briefly introduce the reader to a variety of soldiers, vecinos, peones, townsmen, a deputy marshal, a judge and two widely noted frontiersmen. As the primary focus will be upon the actions of Aaron Stevens and two officers who played central roles in the affair, they shall be introduced more fully than the others.

A. Aaron Dwight Stevens: The Bowld Soger Boy

There is not a man that’s going
Worth a knowing or a showing,
Like Scott from glory growing,
The Bold Soldier Boy.
He went to Mexico,
Sure you know it is so,
And he flogged his country’s foe,
Like the Bold Soldier Boy.
Triumphantly he marched through.

Bold Soldier Boy F. J. Ottarson;
Colston, E. R.; editors,
The Campaign Scott and Graham Songster:
A Choice Collection of Original and
Selected Whig Songs (New York: D. E. Gavit, 1852.)

Bugler Aaron Stevens served on the New Mexican frontier in the First Dragoons. From all reports, he was a capable soldier who took great pride in his regiment. On November 27, 1854, Stevens wrote to his sister Lydia Pierce from Cantonment Burgwin, New Mexico Territory. He was in good spirits and apologized for not having written any sooner, explaining he had been on patrol since April. The 24-year old Stevens boasted that his company —œhad two fights with the Patches, this year and had 9 men killed & 10 wounded . . . and as luck would have it[,] I have got off safe so far, but they might get me yet.—   He bragged, “that they hadn—™t taken his scalp yet—¦but if they did, it was just as good ground to be buried in as New England.” This soldier described himself as —œd__m sauscy [sic]— and thinking of marrying —œa Spanish Lady—, He wrote of shooting bear and antelope, but stated he would trade them —œfor a good old pot-apple pie or some berries and milk.—
Stevens had enjoyed the freedom of open spaces and many of the adventures the army had provided him. Though he might have made the army his career and possibly covered himself with glory, within the space of a few months of writing to his sister, he and several other men of his company assaulted Major George Blake in the Taos plaza. An Army court martial panel sentenced Stevens and with three enlisted men to be executed. The once carefree Stevens found himself bound on a journey that ended with his capture as a participant in John Brown—™s abortive slave uprising at a place called Harpers Ferry.
Aaron Dwight Stevens hardly fit the stereotypical notion of a mutineer, much less an enlisted soldier. Born in Lisbon, Connecticut, on March 15, 1831, this son of a comfortable upper middle-class family came from solid Puritan stock. His great grandfather Moses Stevens had been a captain in the Revolutionary War who was personally honored by George Washington for his contributions to the cause of liberty.  Great grandson Aaron was said to be a man of superb bravery who was blessed with a great sense of humor. It is said that as a youth Stevens expressed his zeal to defend the rights of the weak and oppressed.
The Mexican American War was so unpopular in Connecticut that the state refused to raise a regiment to fight in the war. At 16 years of age, possibly a young gentleman finding himself in difficulties, left his comfortable home and went to Massachusetts, where claiming to be 19 years old, Stevens enlisted in Company I of Colonel Caleb Cushing—™s soon to be made infamous, 1st Massachusetts Regiment. If he was looking for the glory of war, he didn—™t find it. The young soldier, rather, found himself in a regiment badly run by political hacks plagued with mismanagement, graft, dissention and disciplinary problems,  serving alongside soldiers described by a contemporary as —œlow ignorant men; some of them drunken and brutal.—  A regular officer noted in his journal that the men of the Massachusetts regiment could be distinguished from the other regiments by its —œ—™General rowdy appearance,—™ and ignorance of a Soldier—™s duty.—
Amidst the jeers and boos of antiwar Bostonians, the regiment boldly marched off to the war.  Stevens landed with his regiment at the Mexican port of Vera Cruz in October of 1847. On the 18th of October, one of the companies mutinied when they were ordered to throw away their volunteer clothing and purchase new uniforms. Cushing, recently promoted to the rank of brigadier general, found sixty-five of the men to be —œincorrigibly mutinous and insubordinate— and placed them in confinement in the castle of San Juan de Ulloa.
During the ensuing campaign, the men of the Massachusetts regiment would suffer some of the harshest punishment inflicted during the war.  The troops, however, devised ways to resist this arbitrary authority. In order to intimidate his mutinous men, Cushing had constructed a couple of wooden stocks and a punishment horse in his encampment. His men promptly carried off these punitive devises and destroyed them. For weeks afterwards, the ranks poked fun at Cushing by posting advertisements in the camp seeking the return of the runaway horse.
Although the regiment marched with General Winfield Scott into the Valley of Mexico, it —œhad the slightest possible glimpse of the —˜elephant,—™ as they had never have been in a single engagement[,] returning home unshaven, dirty, half-clad, ragged, sick, and hungry.—  While stationed in Mexico, nearly half of the men in the 1st Massachusetts died from disease and exposure.  In June of 1848, the regiment began its long trip home. Stevens was amongst the regiment—™s lucky, albeit grubby, survivors.
Following his discharge from service in the volunteers in 1848, Stevens—™ father seems to have located work for him and his cousin as machinists in New York. It has been reported that when a fellow worker attempted to harass him, Stevens grabbed the tormenter firmly by the neck, then slapped and pinned the terrified scoundrel against a wall.  As was the case with so many reckless and bored young men of the era, the lure of the west beckoned.
Although he had witnessed and experienced the worst kind of treatment the voluntary military establishment could dish out, Stevens expected that he would be better treated in the regular army. On 1 April 1851, Stevens visited a recruiting depot in New York where he met Major Charles May, a dashing bearded Dragoon hero in the late war. Stevens was enthralled with May—™s stories of military adventure and glory. His enlistment papers state that Stevens stood at 5 feet and 8 inches, with grey eyes and dark hair.2
Immediately shipped from New York to the West without any training, the Army assigned him to Company F of the 1st Dragoons and, on May 26, 1851, Stevens accompanied his company on its march from Fort Leavenworth to New Mexico Territory.
Having served in a mutinous volunteer regiment in the Mexican-American War, Aaron Stevens surely witnessed the harsh discipline dished out to the ranks 2by an inferior class of politically appointed officers. What he was to witness as an enlisted man in New Mexico would be every bit as draconian and brutal as anything he saw in Mexico.
Nearly half of the ranks of the antebellum army were foreign born.  In 1855, Company F counted fifty-six men in its ranks—”seventeen of these men with either German or Irish surnames. Like Stevens, a significant number of the enlisted men in the company had previous military experience—”that is if one wants to count Stevens—™ service in one of the war—™s worst trained regiments. A few of the enlisted dragoons serving in New Mexico at this time, like Stevens, came from comfortably established families and were reasonably well educated.
On 30 March 1854, Lieutenant John Davidson, at the Battle of Cieneguilla, foolishly attacked a peaceful Jicarilla Apache village.  The Jicarillas fought back with great skill and courage, killing or wounding one hundred percent of a 15-man Company F detachment engaged in the battle.  Stevens was not engaged in this battle. But six days after the battle, three men of F Company deserted from Cantonment Burgwin. One of the men taking —œFrench leave— was a veteran bugler by the name of James Cook who took with him not only a horse and saber, but also a new Sharps carbine.  With Cook—™s hasty departure, Stevens became a company—™s bugler. With Davidson—™s defeat at Cieneguilla, General John Garland planned an intensive campaign against the Jicarillas and their Ute allies.  The operation would rage for nearly two years and Company F would play a significant role in the fighting.
(To be continued)

Aaron Stevens Writes Home from Cantoment Burgwin 1854

Bugler Aaron Stevens, Co. F., 1st Dragoons wrote the following letter to his sister in Connecticut. In less than four months he would find himself caught up in the Taos mutiny of 1855. Sentenced to death by a military tribunal for attempting to shoot his commanding officer, Stevens would embark on a journey which would ultimately wind up with him serving at the side of abolitionist John  Brown and dying on the gallows in 1860.

More on the 1855 mutiny can be found elsewhere on this blog.

New Mexico
November 20, 1854
My Dear Sister
That I have a few leisure hours at present I take pleasure in writing you a few lines, hoping in writing you a few lines, hoping they will find you in good circumstances. The reason I did not write before, was because I have been tramping nearly all the time since last April, and now I have just returned from a schout [scout] after the Patches and was gone one month, but we did not find them, we enjoyed ourselves though very much. We had 48 Antelope and one bear. The bear was so fat that we could hardly eat it, the fat was six inches thick all over it, and you would have laft to see us greasing our hair. I took a piece about the size of your fist and greast my hair, and then my horse all over, and I tell you what, we both skined…. Our Company has had two fights with the Patches this year, and had 9 men killed & 10 wounded, and another Company 14 killed & 18 wounded, & another, 9 killed and 5 wounded, and another 2 killed and 3 wounded…and as luck would have it I have got off safe so far, but they may get me yet. We have made four tribes come to a treaty since I came to this Country.
I wonder where poor Sam is now. I expect he is in the Pacific sailing and tumbling about. I would like to see him very much. I suppose he has got to be quite a man. I hope he will do well, and live till we shall meet once more.
What would you think to hear I had got married to o a Spanish Lady, well I havn’t yet and I don’t expect I shall, although there is sum [sic] pretty girls here, but give me the Yankee girls yet.
I see by what Henry tells me that all the young people are getting married. I don—™t expect there would be any chance for me there now: as yet, I can—™t find one in the West, if I can—™t, then I—™ll have to live as I am, that all.
Give my love to Joseph and tell him I should like to see him very much, and have a chat about old times. Tell him I am fat egged, and d—”m saucy.
Give my love to Lucy, Billy, the children and all inquiring friends, and now with many good wishes I bid you good by until I here from you again.
Your most affect. and loving Brother
A. D. Stevens

Recruitment Advertisement 1833

The army would routinely place advertisements for recruits in newspapers. One of the first advertisements for recruits for in the newly formed Regiment of Dragoons was placed by Capt. Nathan Boone on October 26, 1833, in the Jeffersonian Republican. It read as follows:

The undersigned being anxious to make up his Company of United States Dragoons, entirely from the State of Missouri, gives notice to the enterprising and able bodied citizens of Missouri who may be disposed to enlist in the new Regiment, now about to be organized, —œfor the more perfect defence of the frontier— that they can have an opportunity of doing so by applying to the undersigned at Franklin, Howard County, Mo. Or to Lieut. Jmes W. Shaumburgh in Palmyra.

Meanwhile, it was reported in the New York Evening Post for November 18, 1833, that at Fort Wayne, Indiana, that —œCapt. Ford, who lately commanded a company of rangers, has been appointed Captain of the U. States Dragoons, and has been directed to raise a company of 70 men in Indiana. The regiment will be sent next summer on an exploring expeditions to the Yllow Stone River and the Rocky Mountains. The term of service is fixed at three years, and the government engages to furnish all equipments, horses, clothing, provision, & c.—”The pay of a private is $8 per month.

Recruitment advertisements from later periods appear elsewhere in this blog.

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

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

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


Ft. Leavenworth, December 24, 1846

Dear Love

I send you herewith a Regimental and General Orders, and an extract from the clothing receipt roll of Sergt. Muller  and Corpl. Nickerson,  clothing issued by Lieut. McLean.   I also send you Duplicate Receipts for Ordnance and Horse Equipage which I have directed Sergt. Bishop   to leave behind as I do not think you would want to be troubled with old equipage and ordnance at Jefferson Barracks, when you will probably get an entire New Equipment for your Company.
If you should want any horse equipage I have receipted for a good deal of New Equipage that was sent on for the different Dragoon Companies, and which has never been used, and if you are not able to equip you Company entirely at St. Louis, I may be able to help you. Colonel Wharton   has at last indirectly applied to join the Army in the field, he will probably get an answer before the middle of next month. We got a mail from Santa Fe a day or two ago. Grier  had a fight with the Indians,   it seems they have runned [sic] off some cattle, Grier followed them, but owing to the bad condition of the mules of his party, only himself, Lieut. Wilson  and two men were able to come up with the Indians; they killed two of the Indians and Grier’s horse or mule whatever it was, shot [out from] under him. The Dragoons under Burgwin  have been ordered to the Passo [El Paso] to protect the traders.   He writes very despondently, says, if his men were only Dragoons he might do something. I hope that Colonel Wharton joins [Generals] Scott or Taylor that he will [have] some more Companies of the 1st Dragoons down with him. If he could get four or five Companies it would be a very pretty command. How are you getting along at Dayton. Did the Girls give you a warm welcome? I was not able to send you a copy of your estimate for clothing because by some mistake it was sent off without a copy being attached. If there should by any possibility be any thing new here, I will [sic] let you know.
Yours Truly


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

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

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

“So warm and exciting was the chase, that the officers, who were well

mounted, heeded not the want of their men who were unable to keep pace

with them, but they pressed on, anxious to recover the immense “cavalgada”

of sheep the Indians were yet driving.

Suddenly they saw they had rushed into an ambuscade, for the Indians

rising up from their concealment surrounded Captain Grier and his three

brave companions. With horrid cries and shouts of “Navajoe,” the

Indians sprang forward to the combat; they were dressed for war, being

ornamented with paints and plumes, and mounted on good horses, and

armed with bows and arrows, and lances; but, fortunately, they were so

crowded that they feared lest they shoot each other. At length, one of

the chiefs came alongside of Lieutenant Wilson; their horses were on

the gallop, each one waiting until the horses should jump together,

when, at the same moment, Lieutenant Wilson and the Indian fired; the

officer’s pistol did not go off, and the arrow of the chief only cut

off a coat button, and lodged in the saddle blanket of Captain Grier.

As the Indian turned his horse, a Mexican, who had started at full

speed, came in contact with him, and rolled horse and rider in the

dust; the Indian was immediately upon his feet, and rushed up to a

dragoon soldier, who had a patent [Hall’s] carbine, such as loaded at

the breach, and had, unseen by the Indian, reloaded it, and the Indian

coming up within two or three feet, the soldier shot him dead. One

other Indian was killed, when Captain Grier ordered a retreat, and the

four, drawing their sabres, cut their way out and rejoined their

company, while the Navajoes succeeded in carrying off 3,000 head of


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

stanton (presumably) to editor, missouri republican:

Fort Leavenworth December 21, 1846.

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


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

For further information on the refitting of Company B, see Gorenfeld, Jefferson Barracks, 1847: I’m Disgusted with the Duty, Military Collector & Historian, Winter 2003-2004, Vol. 55, No. 4, 211.  John Love graduated from the Military Academy in 1841 and was promoted to the rank of 2d Lieut. in the 1st Dragoons in 1842, and 1st Lieut. on June 30, 1846. (George W. Cullum. Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy (New York, J. F. Trow, 1850) 241 (hereafter cited as Cullum)
Born in New York, Henry W. Stanton graduated from the Military Academy in 1842 and became a 2d lieut. in the 1st Dragoons on October 8, 1844.  In 1846, he was serving at Fort Leavenworth as regimental adjutant. (Cullum, 253.)
In 1846, the Ringgold saddle was the official saddle for the mounted arm.  It was not until March 7, 1848, that an Army board approved the Grimsley saddle as the official pattern. (Stephen Dorsey & Kenneth McPheeters, The American Military Saddle 1776-1945 (Collectors—™ Library, Eugene, Ore. 1999), 20.
The original of this letter may be found at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis.  The author wises to express his deep appreciation to Mrs. Besty Caldwell for making a copy of this letter available.
German-born First Sergeant Frederick Muller had been with the Dragoons since 1834.  He was thirty-five years of age and was six foot-one inch in height.  Lt. Love wrote of Muller that, —œwhether in battle, in camp, or on the march, he is energetic and soldierly; never in one instance have I known him to neglect his duty.— Sergeant Muller donned the scarlet trimmed jacket of an Ordnance Sergeant. He served in this capacity until his death in 1861 at Fort Wood in New York harbor. (Report of John Love, House Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 sess., No. 1, 120.; (War Department Files, National Archives, Lt. John Love’s Company B, Muster Roll Records, 28 February to 30 April, 1847. (Hereafter, Muster Roll)..
Trooper John F. Nickerson enlisted in the 1st Dragoons in 1841.  Promoted to the rank of corporal in June of 1847, on February 6, 1848, he received a surgeon—™s discharge.  (Muster Roll, Company B, 1 January to 28 February, 1848.).
2d Lt. Eugene Eckel McLean, 1st Infantry, graduated from the Military Academy in 1842.  During the Mexican War he served as Aide de Camp to General John Wool. (Cullum, 253)
Sergeant Benjamin Bishop had served with the Dragoons since 1834. Sergeant Bishop was discharged in 1849 and gained employment at Fort Leavenworth as a civilian forage master for the army. (Percival Lowe. Five Years a Dragoon (Norman, Okla. Univ. Oklahoma Press), 82-83, 242; Muster Roll, Company B,  29 February to 30 April, 1847.)
Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton. 1st Dragoons (Heitman, 1022).
Capt. William N. Grier, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1835, was promoted to Captain on August 23, 1846 and commanded Company I. (Cullum, 205.)
A detailed account appears in Lt. Col. W.H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, Ex. Doc. No. 41, Washington, 1848, Report of Lt. J. W. Abert, 498. —œSo warm and exciting was the chase, that the officers, who were well mounted, heeded not the want of their men who were unable to keep pace with them, but they pressed on, anxious to recover the immense “cavalgada” of sheep the Indians were yet driving. Suddenly they saw they had rushed into an ambuscade, for the Indians rising up from their concealment surrounded Captain Grier and his three brave companions. With horrid cries and shouts of “Navajoe,” the Indians sprang forward to the combat; they were dressed for war, being ornamented with paints and plumes, and mounted on good horses, and armed with bows and arrows, and lances; but, fortunately, they were so crowded that they feared lest they shoot each other. At length, one of the chiefs came alongside of Lieutenant Wilson; their horses were on the gallop, each one waiting until the horses should jump together, when, at the same moment, Lieutenant Wilson and the Indian fired; the officer’s pistol did not go off, and the arrow of the chief only cut off a coat button, and lodged in the saddle blanket of Captain Grier. As the Indian turned his horse, a Mexican, who had started at full speed, came in contact with him, and rolled horse and rider in the dust; the Indian was immediately upon his feet, and rushed up to a dragoon soldier, who had a patent [Hall—™s] carbine, such as loaded at the breach, and had, unseen by the Indian, reloaded it, and the Indian coming up within two or three feet, the soldier shot him dead. One other Indian was killed, when Captain Grier ordered a retreat, and the four, drawing their sabres, cut their way out and rejoined their company, while the Navajoes succeeded in carrying off 3,000 head of sheep.”

2d Lt. Clarendon J. L. Wilson, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1846 and was serving as a brevet 2d Lt at the time of the battle. (Cullum, 271.)
Capt. John Henry K. Burgwin, 1st Dragoons. Graduated from the Military Academy in 1830 and was promoted to Captain on July 31, 1837, and commanded Company G.  Captain Burgwin was mortally wounded during the Taos insurrection and died of wounds on February 7, 1847. (Cullum, 163.)
During the most of Mexican War, there was lively trade between American merchants in Santa Fe and Mexican merchants in Chihuahua. (See generally, Edward James Glasgow and William Henry Glasgow, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails, edited by Mark L. Gardner (Niwest, Colo, Univ. Colorado Press 1993).
Francis Heitman, Historical Register of the United States Army (Washington D.C. GPO 1903) 1:916; LTC Miles to General Garland November 18, 1854 (National Archives Microfilm Publication, Washington, D.C.) M1120, roll 3,
Capt. Richard Ewell to Lt. William Nichols, 10 February 1855, Letters Received, Department of New Mexico, Record Group 393, Microfilm 1120, Roll 4, National Archives.
; James A. Bennett, Fort & Forays, edited by Clinton E. Brooks & Frank Reeve (Univ. New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1996), xxviii-xxix.  James Bennett, a sergeant with Company I, described the battle and Stanton—™s death as follows: —œThe main body of troops moved up the stream and small parties of Dragoons kept charging out after parties of Indians.  A running fight was kept up until 4 o—™clock, when we encamped.  Captain Stanton with 12 men rushed up a deep ravine.  The Indians in ambush fired upon him, a ball passed through his forehead.— (Bennett, 60.)  In Captain Richard Ewell—™s official account of the battle, he states: —œAbout 3 PM on the 18th of Jan [1855], I came to the first of their abandoned camps where my command was halted for the night and Captain Stanton was directed to take his company, with some additional men and examine a small open valley to the right where were some more abandoned lodges, about 500 yards distant, and endeavor to find the direction taken by the Indians when they left.  This officer, after reaching the place designated, charged after some Indians he saw in front and in following up the steep hillside in the ardor of the chase, became separated from some of his men, badly mounted, who were unable to join him when he sounded the rally.  After rallying about a dozen men he proceeded up the valley until he became satisfied that the Indians had not retreated in that direction, then he started back, leading his horses.  About three-fourths of a mile form the camp the valley narrowed with trees, and here he was ambushed and fired into, the first fire killing one of his men.  He ordered his party to take to the trees, but the Indians being in too great force, he mounted and ordered his party to retreat, remaining in the rear himself, firing his Sharps carbine, when he received a shot in the head and was instantly killed.— (Ewell to Nicolls, Letters Received, Dept of NM.)

6th November, 1846, Santa Fe

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

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

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

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

Letters Home: Mathias Baker

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

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

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