The frontier army was repeatedly confronted with desertions. Often the deserters were recaptured and punished. Here is an account of the dismal fate of two men who deserted from Company G.
New York Times November 16, 1859, reported:
From the Arizonian, Oct. 27
On the 14th inst. Corporal GORMAN, and Private CAULFIELD, of G—™s Company, 1st Dragoons, deserted from Fort Buchanan, while out in charge of the Fort herd, taking with them three horses, arms and accouterments, and fled into the State of Sonora, where they met with a reception very different from that which they expected. Some thirty-six hours after their flight they were pursued by the indefatigable Arizonian —œVidocq— JAMES GRAYDON, of Casa Blanco, and overtaken after a hard chase, at Barajito, Sonora. It appears that these misguided men employed some Mexicans to guide them down towards Guaymas, who, in a lonely part of the highway, fell upon and robbed them. One of the robbers snatched GORMAN—™s pistol and discharged its contents at his head, the ball passing through his hat, which sent him to the —œright about double quick time,— leaving his companion, who was less fortunate, in the hands of the highwaymen. When CAUFIELD was again discovered, he was found hanging to a mesquoite [sic] tree, suspended by means of his own pocket-kerchief, and it is supposed he may have been driven, by his forlorn and desperate condition, to self destruction, as the thieves had plundered him of his horse and everything about him. GORMAN and his horse were recovered and brought back to the Fort by his pursuers, after a hard ride of nearly three hundred miles, performed in sixty hours. This is another sad illustration of the kind of sympathy which Americans will receive in Mexico, as long as barbarous retaliation is the —œorder of the day— on both sides of the boundary line.
On the 16th, a party of twenty-five dragoons were sent from sent from Fort Buchanan to protect the inhabitants of Tubac and its vicinity, against an imaginary attack from the Apaches, who were reported to be marching in incredibly large numbers for the purpose of —œcleaning out— the valley of Santa Cruz. At last accounts, the wolf had not arrived, and the presence of troops allaying the fears of those who were stampeded by this silly canard.
The deserters were members of Captain Richard Ewell’s troop. On October 26, 1859, the captain wrote to “Dear Lizzie”, his niece of the incident.
I believe I owe you a letter, or two, or three of them, but as it is sometime since I wrote I have concluded to inform you that there is nothing stirring. I am just recovering from the effects of a very hard ride I took a few days since. Every now and then soldiers seem to be taken with a fit for deserting, and last Friday week a corporal and [a] private of Dragons took it into their heads to leave with two of my best horses. I returned from a short absence the day after, and started with one man in pursuit, the deserters being 36 hours in advance. I rode, without stopping that night and next day, arriving within fifteen miles of them [at] about sunset. Sunday night, about four in the morning I started back with the corporal; the post being hundred and twenty-eight miles off, and riding all Monday and Monday night, I reached it at 8 in the morning. Making in abut 60 hours two hundred and fifty miles, the longest stop being from sunset until 4 o’clock Sunday night. The horses were changed of course on the road. After overtaking the deserters, the reasons for the speedy return were (until leaving the Mexican side of the line, where I overtook them) the dangers of interference by Mexican authorities and robbers. After that there was no one to watch the prisoner while I slept, I thought it best to keep on to the post. The corporal and private had employed some Mexicans to guide them, and when the whole party were walking, at a concerted signal, one knocked the private down and the other jerked the corporal’s pistol from his belt and fired at his head, the ball passing through his hat. The corporal rode back at speed for help and a party of Mexicans returned to the place with him. They found the other deserter hung by his hankerchief to a tree, supposed to have committed suicide; this was the reason I only brought back the corporal. We thought the other committed suicide because a Mexican would not have thrown away his hankerchief but would have stabbed or shot him. They murder each other (Americans and Mexicans), on this and the other side of the line without the slightest remorse, and, as if they wanted to see which was the most attrocious. Since my return, I have heard they collected a party to follow me, but when they were ready to start, I was then across the line. The most of the people there of any standing are very friendly disposed towards me, and through they might go through forms they would be very far from showing ill will.