Lieutenant Love’s Indiana Recruits


By Will Gorenfeld

After he left the military, John Love became a successful businessman in Indianapolis. Active in civic affairs, he was a co-founder of the Indiana Historical Society. In this capacity, he left his collection of correspondence with the society. This is a brief account of his recruiting efforts in Indiana during the Mexican War.

An intrepid horseman and a dragoon, John Love was born in Culpepper County, Virginia. He was the son of Richard H. Love and of Eliza Matilda Lee, the granddaughter of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Raised in Tennessee, Love entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1841, he secured a lieutenancy in the First Dragoons.[1]

When war came between the United States and Mexico in 1846, he was on recruiting duty in Indiana. Lt. Love remained on recruiting duty while his regiment was getting ready to ship out for the war. As might be expected of a young officer eager for glory, he chaffed at being precluded from joining his company and repeatedly wrote to Kearny and to Adjutant General Roger Jones, seeking permission to shut down his recruiting depot and “join my Company should my Regiment be ordered into the field.” Captain Henry Turner, Kearny’s adjutant, calmly instructed Love to remain at his post.[2] Three agonizing weeks passed before orders arrived relieving Love of recruiting duties, commanding him to report to Ft. Leavenworth to serve on Kearny’s staff. He reached the fort on June 15th and, attached himself to Kearny’s staff, departing from Ft. Leavenworth on June 30, 1846.[3] Participating in the conquest of Santa Fe, Love returned to Fort Leavenworth with orders to rebuild Company B.

First Lieutenant John Love must have felt he was in a rut that winter of 1846-47. As in the year before, he was on recruiting duty. Lt. Love desperately sought to recruit a full company of men so that he might return to New Mexico before the fighting was over. On December 20, 1846, the Lieutenant again wrote to Roger Jones, the Army’s grandfatherly Adjutant General, expressing how “extremely anxious” he was “to fill the Company which fortune has given me the command” and that he expected to take the field by April 1, 1847. Finding recruits in a hurry was not going to be an easy task. Lt. Anderson Nelson of the regular Sixth Infantry, one of Love’s West Point classmates, complained to him in February of 1847 that, after “pegging away since some time last summer and [he had] done any thing but a ‘land office’ business” finding Hoosier recruits for his regiment.

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

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

The 1st Dragoons were a mounted regiment; the volunteer regiments, for the most part, were infantry. Lt. Love knew that he had an ace in the hole and he was quick to play it–pointing out to the Hoosier farm boys the glory of their becoming splendidly clothed and mounted “bold dragoons”–whose military status, uniform and bearing was unquestionably superior to that of the humble and often ill-clad “dough foot” of most volunteer regiments.

When some of Love’s recruits arrived at Newport Barracks, Kentucky, they found there were no horses available and, worse, infantry officers were daily putting them through the wearisome close order drill of the foot soldier. Included in the John Love collection at the Indiana Historical Society is a letter from three recruits from Indianapolis expressing their “not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us.” The trio complained that, “[w]e are here drilled in the infantry squads [by Infantry officers], and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted of.” [4]

Love quickly “liberated” his men from Newport Barracks and sent them down river to Fort Leavenworth. On June 7, 1847, B Company took the salutes of Lieutenant Colonel Clifton Wharton, paraded out of the fort and headed west. George Ruxton, an English cavalry officer and adventurer, observed Company B on its march. He was less than impressed with what he saw and wrote that although “superbly mounted” ‘on full-blooded sorrels, these men were “soldier like neither in dress nor appearance.”[5] In less than three weeks these men tasted combat on the Santa Fe Trail.

Below is a list of the twenty-three men recruited by Lieutenant Love while in Indiana in 1847, and what became of them while in the service. Most of his recruits fought at the battles of Coon Creeks against the Comanches on the Santa Fe Trail and against the Mexican Army at Santa Cruz de Rosales, in the State of Chihuahua. Five of the men died while in the service, at least two were wounded and one man deserted. Except where otherwise noted, all of the men were discharged at Santa Fe, on August 19, 1848. Four men remained with the army after the end of the war.[6]

Demaree, Isaac, Blacksmith, February 5, 1847, Madison.

Dunbar, Louis, Blacksmith, Mar. 27, 1847, Madison.

Elkins, Martin, Laborer, February 5, 1847, Madison, discharged March 22, 1851, Rayado, New Mexico Territory.

Gardner, Anthony, Laborer, February 22, 1847, Madison, Died Newport Barracks, March 27, 1847.

Gaskill, George, Clerk, April 17, 1847, Edinburgh, Killed in Action at Coon Creeks, Missouri Territory, June 26, 1847.[7]

George, John, Physician, February 23, 1847, Indianapolis, discharged October 1, 1848, Indianapolis.

Gibson, George, March 7, 1747, Indianapolis, clerk, appointed corporal June 10, 1847.

Hahasey, Michael, Framer, March 16, 1847, Indianapolis.

Hazel, William, Farmer, March 22, 1847, Indianapolis.

Harper, Thomas, Farmer, March 22, 1847, Indianapolis, Died December 13, 1847, Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory.

House, Alber, April 9, 1847, Lafayette, Deserted from Fort Leavenworth, June 7, 1847.

Jones, William, Shoemaker, March 17, 1847, Madison.

Lane, Jonathan, February 23, 1847, Madison, transferred to Company I, September 1, 1848.

Lewis George, Laborer, February 15, 1847, Madison, Discharged February 15, 1852, Los Linares, New Mexico Territory.

Leaverton, William, Laborer, March 7, 1847, Indianapolis, Discharged July 14, 1848, Chihuahua, Mexico.

McCole, March 27, 1847, Indianapolis.

Powell, Jepha, Farmer, March 16, 1847, Indianapolis.

Puterbaugh, Adam, Blacksmith, February 16, 1847, Transferred to Company I, discharged surgeon’s certificate, October 16, 1849, Taos.

Turner, Dempsey, February 16, 1847, Madison, Died December 25, 1847, Albuquerque.

Ward, Thomas, Cooper, April 12, 1847, Lafayette.

Walker, George, Farmer, March 27, 1847, Indianapolis, Died March 27, 1848, Chihuahua.



[1] George Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from its Establishment, March 16, 1802 to Army Reorganization of 1866-67 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868) 2 vols, “John Love” 2:14. John Love (1820-1881) was born in Culpepper County, Virginia, the son of Richard H. Love and of Eliza Matilda Lee, the grand-daughter of Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was raised in Tennessee. Two older brothers, Ludwell and Thomas, died in infancy; and a third, Richard, served in the U.S. Navy until his death in 1855. Sister Cecilia Lee Love married Lewis Armistead, a regular officer in the Sixth Infantry and later a Confederate general. She died in 1850. Cadet Love attended West Point from 1837 to 1841 Graduating 14th in a class of 52. He was stationed at the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, later assigned to serve with Company A, stationed at Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, and then to Forts Scott and Leavenworth in Missouri Territory. Tenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point, June 12, 1879 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1879) 33; Patricia Duncan, Genealogical Abstract from the Democratic Mirror and the Mirror, 1857-1879, Loudoun County, Virginia (Westminster: Heritage Books, 2008) 202.

[2] Adjunct General Roger Jones to Love, May 22, and 27, 1846; Colonel Stephen Kearny to Love, February 9, 1846; Captain Henry Turner to Love, April 9, 1846. All correspondence mentioned in this article may be located in the John Love Collection, 1837-1886, at the Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana.

[3] Louis Barry, Beginning of The West, (Topeka: Kansas Historical Society 1972) 620.

[4] This letter seems not to have offended Lt. Love: in June of 1847, he promoted George Gibson, one of the signatories, to the rank of corporal. All three of the men served honorably in Company B. I have left intact the spelling and grammatical errors contained in the original.

Newport Barracks

April 2, 1847

Liet Dear Sir

We wish to inform you that our condition is very unpleasant

on account of the absence of our officers. We are here drilled in the infantry

squads, and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted

of, were you with us and on this account there is some, not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us. We would inform you that the discord refered to, has already been the cause of the one of the company’s “deserting”, but we do not think that any who came with us, will, on any consideration be guilty of so base an act, but could you favor us with an officer of our own greater satisfaction would exist, and a greater degree of confidence would be concentrated in you by your men. We consider it right you should know these circumstances and also that is binding on us to inform you of it. Gardener is dead and another one of the Company not expected to recover. We have considered it our duty to write this much.

We remain your friends and Obedient soldiers

John W. George

Jeptha Powell

George W. Gibson

[5] George Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (New York: Harper & Bros. 1847).

[6] For further accounts of the Battles of Coon Creeks and Santa Cruz de Rosales, see Dragoons vs. Comanches, Wild West Magazine, June 2004; Such is a Dragoon’s Life: Corporal Mathias Baker, Company B, First Dragoons, 1845-1849, Missouri Historical Review, July 2011, vol. 105, No. 4.

The Cowpen Slaughter: Was There a Massacre of Mexican Soldiers at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales? 81 New Mexico Historical Review 413 (Fall 2006)

[7] George Gaskill’s body was found by Corporal Mathias Baker who describe what he found: The fifth man – Gaskin [sic] –we did not find until this morning, he was dreadfully mutilated, his scalp was not taken, but half of his hair was pulled out, I suppose the one that killed him had no knife about him. The father of the slain trooper wrote to Lt. Love on July 19, 1847, from Shelbyville seeking further information on the loss of his son.

At the 17th [of July] I rec’d a letter from Mr. [Private] Jno H. George giving us the painful intelligence of the untimely death of my son George at the skirmish with the enemy near Camp Raccoon on the 26th June last. And as you was the officer under whom he enlisted I am induced o ask your assistance in sending me a certificate of his enlistment & subsequent death in the service of the United States and all necessary papers & communications that may be requested towards selling his estate.

Any information in regard to the particulars of his death will be most gratefully received. And should you on your return to the States find yourself near us–you will confer a lasting favor by calling upon us at this place.

I am with Respect,

Your friend,

George Gaskill