Lt. Ben Allston leaves Ft. Leavenworth for Utah in 1854

Fort Leavenworth I.T.

May 19, 1854

Mt dear Mother,

Here I am at the jumping off place. I wrote to you some time since today that I had applied for this duty. I wrote also a few days ago to inform you that I had got my request and then was making every preparation for leaving St. Louis as soon as possible. I left on the evening that I anticipated and having had a safe passage up I find myself at the post. Col. Steptoe and his command are here, also Capt. [Henry] Judd and Mrs. Judd.

I do not think we will get off before the 1st of June. There is no other lady along with us but Mrs. Judd and I think it very doubtful if either they Capt or herself go ahead with our party. They are both in very delicate health.

I am very sorry that this should be the case. I like them both very much from what I have seen of them. But I do not think their health will justify their going! Fort Leavenworth is a very pretty place. Much prettier than Jefferson Bks. The Country differs in being a rolling prairie Country where Jefferson Bks or the County around and about is full of what are termed sinkholes, deep natural pits. The grass here is very fine and an excellent place for grazing. My horse and mule, for I have one, spend most of their time grazing, picketed with a rope of about 20 feet. I bought a mule when I was here a short time since. It is a small animal but a very nice little thing having the particular property of being very gentle. Horses and Mules are very high here. They average from 140 to 130 dollars. The Indians [?] buy them up almost as rapidly as they are brought in. I think it more than probable that the Command will Winter in Salt Lake. Yet I do not know, neither can I tell, whether we are on the Plains some distance and see how many miles we travel a day. I am afraid that I will walk almost all the way, though I will have my very own horses and mules. Yes the men of my Command Dragoons will buy the strange fancy of Genl Jesup have to walk while there are 300 and more horses going out, some of which are for these very same men when they get there. I will be unwilling to ride when they walk, knowing full well that they ought to ride as well as I. I hope we may have a pleasant time crossing the Plains and many a time while trudging along very weary way I think of you. And oft when I am smoking my pipe in the evening after supper sitting around the fire if it is cold enough or by the stream on the grass if we are lucky enough. I will think of you, father, and the children sitting on the steps of the house on the beach, talking perhaps of the absent member. And when I stop at Noon I will think of you sorting out and your fruit and saying “Now children go away. Don’t bother me” or “Children behave,” or “Jane I will slap you if you do so again,” and many other nice sayings to keep the too desirous hands from dipping into the pears, figs and apples. Ah! How well do I remember those days of my childhood passed and never to return.

The Missouri River is the most rapid stream I think I saw taking it as a river. There are portions of other streams more rapid to observe but as a body of water I have never seen any which in my opinion can compare with the Missouri. There is very little difference between the Missouri and Mississippi, but I think that from what I have seen that the former is even more rapid than the latter. It is much more muddy and a much faster river. The banks a short distance from the mouth are high and well filled with grass and trees which give a very pretty appearance while here and there you see the ragged and the timeworn rock jutts out in defiance to the storms of heaven. This river is completely filled with snags. The Mississippi in this respect cannot compare with it. In some places it seems as though the boat could not possibly get through, and certainly nothing but nice steering and excellent management can do so sometimes. I thought when I was at home and looked on the map that Fort Leavenworth was out of civilization altogether, but when I got here I found I was mistaken as every [one] else will be who comes out [here] with any such notion.

I must draw to a close here my dear Mother as you see. My Father is getting written up. I will write again before I leave though by the time this reaches you I will be upon the Plains. Theophilus [the slave] is well and so am I. Give my love, etc.


Camp on 3 Mile Creek near Fort Leavenworth

May 26, 1854

My dear Mother

As you see from my heading I am in Camp, and I have been there for a few days passim. I should have written to you but that I have been so busy     since I have been here that I scarcely know which way to turn around. Our friend Capt. [Robert] Judd [3d Atry] and his excellent Lady, who as I before told you to have gone with us, sharing a separate command of an hundred men and even I for a subaltern have been compelled, through the very ill health of the Capt. to return to New York. The Dr. of the Post positively forbid the Capt. to go out with the Command and to leave the Post as soon as possible. Being very desirous of joining his Comp. which is in Cala. is determined to go by sea by which route he would if the trip prove successful much sooner then we shall. By this time of affairs, I was left in Command of the Dragoon Detachment of which he had been. As soon as I was placed in Command by turning over the Papers &c. to me I moved into the Camp and the next day Capt. Judd & Lady took their departure. I was very sorry to see the Capt. leave, for I had formed a very favorable opinion of him. I have had very much to do. Papers to make out, receipts to sign &c. and the worst of it is that I am not through yet.

My sources of consolation are however various and not the least is that I am acquiring knowledge every day which may be of use to me one of these days. My Camp is pitched about two or three hundred yards from Col. Steptoe’s. I have my own sentinel and over every thing am Comdg. the Camp and in that small space of the camp, I am a big man, much bigger than anywhere else. My tent is placed just at the head of the Camp, and I think I look very comfortable. I wish you could see me just as I am now, writing to you to describe it to your ________ and impossibility for me, but I think I must draw you a plan of the encampment.

Genl. Jessup and the other knowing ones at Washington think that this Comnd. of Col. Steptoe’s ought to walk across the plains 2,000 miles and guard almost 800 horses which they may mount upon when they get over. But Col. Steptoe has thought fit from the exigencies of the Case to Mount a certain number of the men, for the protection of himself and others of his Comnd.

As I am the only Dragoon Officer present and have Comnd. of the Dragoons recruits, I have mounted part to be selected by myself from my men, is placed under my Comnd and the remainder of the men are to be placed under the Comnd. of another officer to ________ I will have a Comnd. independent of all save Col. Steptoe and I will take great pain in making it efficient &c. for all duty. Whether I will be able to effect this or not is another thing but I will try and do so. I think we will learn more on Monday 29th inst. It is late at night now when I am writing. My camp is quiet and still. I am going around to inspect the Centinels. I have a very good set of men much better behaved than they are in the Artillery Camp. I think it very probable that I we will Winter in Salt Lake or near there. I will try and write to you from someplace on the route. I suppose we will be at Fort Kearney by the end of June. I have given you my address for California but I told you to address to Salt Lake. So you may write to me there and if I am there the letters will be forwarded to me. If we Winter there, we will not leave before the Spring. Give my love to all of my friends at home and say that I am very well satisfied. I have a good deal to do, more papers to sign. They so cover up and smother my ________ that I can hardly see through them. But I have managed thus far to get through with them and I hope to manage the rest of them. Give my best to Father, Adele and all of the children and tell them I am comfortable. I must now wind up my letter to you. It has not been a long one, but share in time my letter with them, to write more. Many of my letters will be much shorter than any you have received for a long time. Give my love, etc.

Ben Allston


Camp on Oak Point

June 6, 1854

My Dear Mother,

I must drop you a few lines from this solitude wilderness. Here we are a short distance from the Fort on our winding way to California. This makes the sixth day since we have been out from our Encampment three miles from the Fort. I am quite well and every thing my self. I wrote to you just before I left the Fort informing you that I was in command of Capt. Judd’s party. I am still in command of 50 of them, being number of the only mounted party along.

You would laugh to see my Costume—one of your check shirts rather more dirty-stained you would like to see it, no collar and no cravat and a common grey flannel shirt used as a coat—This with my pants rolled up to my knees almost, completes my costume.

The opportunity of sending in a letter to you occurs from meeting the Pay Master on his way to the Fort from Fort Laramie.

I wish I could see you. You have by this time learned of my departure for California. I wish that it had been possible to give you notice it and receive an answer in reply before I went but this was impossible.

I leave many friends behind in St. Louis and the day may soon come when you or I may have the opportunity to return them the kindness they have shown you.

I must close this short, but I know I know it will be an acceptable letter. I must not allow the opportunity to slip by me. Give my love to Father and Adele and all the Children, to Joe you will also. Joe has not written to me since I left. And so he is going to Europe   success be with him. Theophilus is well and is my cook.

Adieu Mother, etc.

Ben Allston



Dragns & Artillery Camp 30 miles from

Fort Kearney June 20th 1854

My dearest Mother

Taking advantage of an early Camp and knowing that we shall or rather stand a chance of meeting the Mail from Salt Lake on its way in, in a day or so now, I sit down to write you a few lines informing you of my well being. I am thanks to the gun in most excellent health, now in better. I enjoy my self in the wild life, so you would term it, but I cannot call it so exactly. The life is certainly very different from any that I had heretofore led but I thing much more charming and delicious. The only thing in my opinion approaches it in the slightest degree is the summer on the beach where you are now. There you seldom if ever breathe impure air. There I might say more the air is balmy and delicious. Imagine to yourself Mother a line of tents and wagons such as you have seen driven into town with cotton, I might say a long line for it is indeed pretty long 70 odd wagons and 50 odd tents. Now if you should look at the fourth tent from the right, you might see me sitting under it under a fly facing the west with my dog in front of me barking in the sun after the march. The front of my tent stretches out the east plain green as possible undulating, and wavering over 800 mules and horses together picketed out grazing on the       , until this time near-failing grass. Look around you and you will not be able to see a tree or shrub as far as the eye can reach. There is a small stream scarcely running but yet not stagnant, particularly through the sand in some cases and running in others. Here we all are without a stick of wood to cook on_______ except what we brought with us which is not much. We laid to Sunday as is the Col.’s intention. It rained very harshly the night previous as also that morning but it cleared off about twelve o’clock and a party of five of us went out to see if we could come across a stray buffalo. We crossed the little Blue and went about five or eight miles. We saw several antelope with their faerie figures, if you so might call them. They are the most curious creatures I have ever saw. They somewhat resemble the deer, but they move differently and not so fast. When they are running from you, you can see nothing but their tails white as cotton and much larger. But we could not get any of them because we were all foolish enough to go out without anything but our pistols. We saw tracks yet no Buffalo, I hope we may be more fortunate the next time.

I must now bid you goodbye my dear Mother…   I will write again from Kearney where we will be tomorrow or the next day. Adieu

Ben Allston


Camp on North Folk of the Platte

Near the Court House Rock

July 11, 1854

My Dearest Mother

Here you see I am on the North Fork of the Nebraska or Platte—I am quite well and in good spirits. The life has not yet lost its pugliancy [?] and pleasure for me. The scenes, though very much the same, are changing every day and the constant and daily exercise keeps me always with a good appetite, not to say am or have been generally without it. But there is a pleasure in feeling tired and then have the time to eat. Something which I presume you do not often feel, sometimes maybe when you have taken a race after the children at the Beach or have carried the baby on your back for the sake of the thing, you may feel a little tired, but it is not the tire of a hot and long march. There is a luxury about it that you cannot well understand I presume. A little incident occurred to one party the other day which broke very much on the monotony and rest of the Sabbath. On Saturday the 1st of the present month one of our party, a very nice fellow, in his thoughtlessness and excitement of the matter, left the party alone in the pursuit of a Buffalo. Capt. Ingalls by whose side he was riding saw him disappear on the crest of the hill. This was the last that was seen of him. We got into Camp soon after, this happened about then and thought nothing of his absence. He was not missed by myself. But when dawn came on _______ and he was still absent, we became alarmed and a party of five or six was made up to go in search of him. They returned at twelve at night with no intelligence of him. Capt. Ingalls and myself then determined to go out at 3 o’clock in the morning with a large party consisting of some civilians in his employ, and I took 15 (fifteen) of my Dragoons. One of the other officers started also and we got up at four o’clock. It was then broad daylight. We took a wagon with us to bring him in if we found him, and carried some provisions in it as we had no breakfast. I ordered my men to take some bread with them. We went out. I took nothing but a glass of cold water, and started. We soon got separated from each other. I with my men travelled over a whole area of at least ten miles by six or seven. Any quantity of Buffalo went soon. I was out without a morsel to eat for 10-l/2 hours with but little water. I was determined not to leave him out there until the necessity of the case I was obliged to come in. I would not have come in then believing as I did not had he not been found. Had it not been both men and horses were suffering from the length and fatigue of the work. I got into camp at half past two when I came in I felt very tired and exhausted having had but an hour and a half’’s sleep the previous night. I took a little to eat and drink. I found all the parties already in very much to my surprise a captain told me that they had him. My first question is, is he dead? Much to my joy he told me that he was not, but that he was crushed. I immediately went in to see him. He was perfectly sensible and told me how the accident occurred. He said that he had scarcely been out of sight of the Capt. when being in full chase after his game his horse stumbled and fell throwing him out and then rolling twice over him crushing his hind parts. For ten minutes he says he was delirious from pain, when he came to his senses he found that he was entirely disabled in his lower parts, from the small of his back. His suffering was intense. He had been without food for more than twenty-four hours but did not feel it was the thirst that he suffered from the most. His mouth was thoroughly parched. He heard the men when they were shouting for him during the night and says that they could not have been more than 60 to 100 yards from him but he was unable to give them the least due to him. Wolves and ravens, the buzzards of the plains, ______and owls around him all night. How great his anguish must have been when he heard the party go off and leave him you may imagine. He said that seeing nothing of anyone in the morning early he supposed that we had given him up and moved on. Where he was found he was lying on his face. He had been crawling with his hands and elbows, which were full of prickly pear, in order he said to try and reach the River— for he said that he could not make up his mind to die without one drink of water— if he could have got that he was willing to die. It was a great relief to me to find that he had been found. Messengers were sent out to me as soon as he was found but they all missed me. He is doing quite well at present but still unable to move or act for himself. As soon as I had eat and taken something to quench thirst I lay down in the shade of the tent and slept for five hours so soundly that the firing of the mountain howitzers did not disturb me. I am writing this now partly after the twelfth our camp is beneath Chimney Rock and the Capitols as Stansbury calls them. I drank today of the identical stream, five miles from Chimney Rock, where Stansbury and his party were encamped five years ago. I have had my chase after Buffalo and am in Company with Capt. Ingalls killed the first buffalo that was killed in the Camp. It is not safe to chase buffalo alone. If any accident should occur there should be one to tell the tale. I must close of this letter now as we may meet the mail tomorrow and this request not miss it for you would not get it for a month later. Give my love &c. …. I think I am growing shorter and may be a little taller. If the mail does not meet us tomorrow I shall write Laramie, I was prevented from writing to you at Kearney by being placed on duty on a Court Martial if no such intervening accident occurs I shall write from Laramie. Give my love to all &c. Affectionately yours, Ben Allston


Camp Near Fort Laramie

July 17th 1854

Mt dear Mother

I have just your two letters of the 25 May and June 6th and though there is a letter in the same mail that this will be in, I write this to inform you of the condition of affairs. I am quite well and in good spirits. I cannot give you much of a letter for my time is very limited. Fort Leavenworth is as different from Carlisle Bks as you can well imagine. The buildings are all old and not in the best condition. There are no farmers about it, and some few Indians. The Country on the opposite side of the River is well settled. But Fort Leavenworth being is in Indian Territory there are no settlements around it to speak of. The Indians who are about it are harmless. I saw none while there. Indeed, I saw none at all during the trip until a few days since where a War Party of the Sioux caught up with us, since then we have seen quite a number. They are odd looking subjects. But they, I meaning the tribe, is well disposed to the Whites. Fort Laramie is situated on the tongue of land situated between the North Folk of the Platte and the Laramie River. It seems to be quite a pleasant place. As fpr the Indians they are thick around this place. Any quantity of them may be seen hanging around. Many of them have come into our Camp to ask for sugar and Coffee and whatever else they can get. The first that came into our Camp near at the foot of Scotts Bluffs. The scenery about here is quite pretty. There is some wood around here—which is seldom seen on the Platte River. We will probably leave here tomorrow for the Salt Lake where we hope to arrive before September. I am sorry that I cannot write more but I really have not time. Have you heard any of the various experts that were flying around about      &c They were all      I have not been indisposed once. Give my love to …… etc. Ben Allston




Camp on Echo Canon

August 24th 1854

Here I am again my dearest Mother writing to you on the green turf. I am now about twenty miles west of Bear River—and in among the Wasatch Mountains. First and foremost I am well and am well-placed. I have had nothing like sickness since I left—have enjoyed myself very much. There is such a great variety in scenery, and at the same time such a vast monotony. I wrote to you from Laramie and I presume that you have received and read that letter to this time, and are looking-out for another. I will come in the course of time Mother—I am keeping myself quiet by thinking what a feast I will have when I get to Salt Lake. I expect any quantity of letters. I expect many from you to be waiting there for me. I would delay writing to you until I arrive in the City but I am afraid though not now distant over 60 miles from it, that I might miss the mails for there is no telling when we will get into the City. I intend to send this letter in by Col. Steptoe who goes in, in a day or two and will leave the Commd to wait his return to them. He will be certain to get in in time for the Mail as he will go in one day. If I am in time for the Mail in the City I will give you some account of it. Leaving Fort Laramie on the 19th ultimo, where we had received as much attention as it was possible for them to show there being only two officers and a Surgeon there with nothing much about them. We started for the – The road was quite rough for a short distance and some pretty steep hills to get up and down but nothing like we had gone up and done since. In ascending the Black Hills we took a road which left the river entirely. There is another road which follows the river called River Road in Contra distinction of the Hill Road that we took. We had got 12 to 15 Miles from Laramie and on the edge of the Hills when we were over taken by a violent hail-storm. Most unluckily my animals alone caught the hail. The rest of the Comm’d all caught the rain but not the hail or it have played a sorry part to us. Several of my horses burst away from those holding them and ran at a most precious rate. I had great doubt of ever seeing any of them in a woeful condition again. The hail fell very thick and my own horse, Falstaff, was most anxious to race with the rest. He had not the slightest shelter, I had a poncho of Indian rubber about me but it was not the slightest use, I had enough to do to keep it around me, the wind having a great propensity to take it away from me.

As soon as the storm was over I dispatched several men after the horses and proceeded with the rest of the Comm’d & Camp. The horses were recovered but ten of then were very badly hurt. One of them so badly that after carrying him along until we get to the Crossing of the N. Fork of the Platte, I determined to leave, and send him back to Laramie to the Q.M., the other horses recovered.

The country over which we travelled was mountainous, bleak and sterile except on streams where there was generally good grass to be found if we went off the road and hunted it. These Hills or Mountains as you please to call them evidently derive their name from the quantity of pine which grows on them, giving them at a distance black and dismal appearance. After four or five days travel we again struck the Platte, our old “Compagne du Voyage”. The second day travel after striking it brought us to the Crossing, where finding good grass we remained two days to recruit the Animals before we started over the country between it and the Sweet Water. Crossing the Platte on the 31st we followed it up for nine miles and encamped opposite the “Red Buttes.” I crossed over to these and found them to consist primarily of red sandstone — which had been heaved up, and teetered at a considerable angle. There is also a great deal of red clay in them. The Butte breaks through the Black Hills here their having a butte on each side of their banks. I picked up here a great many specimens of petrified wood of which there seems to be a great quantity about. I have now one or two specimens with me besides a section of a petrified Buffalo horn. We did advance to the Platte on the 1st of August and commenced the crossing of a country still more of a desert if possible than any we have yet crossed and in two days reached the long looked-for and wished-for Sweet Water. We struck this beautiful stream at Independence Rock. Having the desire to go to the top of this famous Rock, I watered my horses and dismissing my men let the horses graze while I proceeded to look for the Col who was ahead of me. The Rock as Stansbury says is literally covered with names but I recognized none of them. It is an immense rock of granite. I do not know the dimensions of it exactly. We encamped on the Sweet Water about two or three miles from the Devils Gate. Starting the next day I attempted to pass through the Devils Gate or rather the Col thought he would try to have me go through, but it was a most signal failure. I rode my horse in through about the middle where it was very cool. The size of it are 400 ft. high and a short time before we were there a young lad had fallen from the top of the rock. He belonged to a party of immigrants, the family consisting of Father, Mother & Son. The mother died some days before reaching here and the son was killed and the poor bearded father went alone. Camp on the Werber River               Aug. 25th I take up my [narative?], again having time to write more. Yesterday evening, leaving the Devils Gate which is a curious formation and, in my opinion, water had nothing to do with its formation; it must have been an immense fracture which the water took advantage of. We followed up the Sweet Water several days and then came to the South Pass. The Sweet Water falls undoubtedly may many feet in some places and forms tremendous cascades—although I saw none of them, I know that this must be the case because while following it we ascended at times many feet at a time. It is really a beautiful stream winding way along with the utmost regularity. The course is most irregular something like this (squiggly marks) making the strangest bends, imaginable, when you consider that the soil of the valley is to all appearances exactly the same—and one can see no cause for its meandering in the way it does. We did advance through this little stream with reluctance knowing that we would have a sorry time of it for grass and water for our next two camps at least. Dr. Wirtz and two other officers and myself went back to the summit of the South Pass and sat down, having drank to the remembrance of our Eastern friends, smoked a pipe, picked up a specimen or two and then proceeded to join the Commd. Such a Country as we passed over is something that you have never seen. Almost in complete dissent. The wild sage which Stansbury called Artemesia to use his own words “has taken complete possession of the grounds.” But such a sight was not at all uncommon [?] to us. Indeed the whole Country is the same except at intervals where we find a stream then there is grass in the small valley of it. We found no grass hardly until we struck Green River where descending it some five or six miles we encamped in a lovely spot on Grand Islands, remained there two days to recruit the animals. Green River as we saw it is a most beautiful stream running in some places with a very rapid current and then suddenly subsiding into a slow deep and dark green-looking river—soon again it rumbles forth its hoarse tones, and rushes madly over rocks and stones of every description. The waters of it where we crossed it, appeared to me like molten metal they seemed so solid, yet they were as clear as crystal. I meant to have said some more about South Pass before I left it, but I “slipped up”, as the Q.M. would say and forgot it. There is a full report given of it in Fremont’s Report, but I judge that a few words from me would not set you in “arrears” at all. It is a most remarkable formation.

To commence with, the road which by the [Commd ?] is an excellent one, one of the best roads I have been on, artificial or natural, passes between two little knobs about fifty to sixty feet high, which stand as sentinels to guard the pass and see that the ground is not violated which separates the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Pacific. Standing thereto the North offers nearby the Wind River Mountains, to one of which Fremont has given his name. They appear with patches of snow but we did not see them, as Stansbury did come with snow about one third of the distance down. We did not the pleasure of seeing them thus. To the South of us arose hills of considerable height but nothing like the mountains exept away in the far distance so they could be scarcely be seen. Standing there I did not feel as if I was in and among the great Mountains of the Western Continent. I did not feel that that I was among Mountains at all—although I was then on seven thousand feet above the sea, looking down upon all my friends, be they on sea or mountain. This Pass is certainly a very curious break in the great chain of Mountains, but I am told by some of the rough Mountaineers who live out here, there are many passes possible for wagons, both north and south of this one. What reliance is to be placed upon this statement I cannot say, certain it is that nest of them are in the habit of romancing a great-deal.

Saturday 25th Still in camp on Wind River. Having finished my digression on about the South Pass I will proceed with my account. About a mile and a half from our camp on Grand Island, was a trading post, belonging to an old French-man or half-breed French. I had occasion to go up there and such a set as I found there I cannot well describe to you. There was a perfect round of drinking and its concomitance, although I had the good fortune not to see any of them. A fight with knives is a now usual occurrence out here, where men all collect together at one of these posts.

Leaving Green River on the 17th of this month we crossed several streams, tributaries to Green River, all of which we found good grass and water and arrived at Fort Bridger on Saturday 20th. The intervening Country is one of the most remarkable I ever saw. It is between streams, as the Country already passed can, a complete desert incapable of producing any thing. Even the Sage here grows very sparse and is a miserable looking specimen. The Country seems to have been completely burned up by an immense heat. Any quantity of volcanic rock are to be found there, pieces of obsidian, trup, and all the others of the same nature. The face of the Country also shows the signs of a by-gone immense action of water on a grandiose scale as indeed the whole country since first striking the Platte at Kearney does. The soil is almost altogether Clay incorporated with stones—small boulders of sand and lime stone and igneous rock, together with the soil resulting from their decomposition. There was one isolated peak just on the side of the road particularly attracted my attention, and halting my horses to give them half an hours rest after a ride of three hours, I went up to this and examined it in a curiosity manner. From the road it appeared to be covered with the most curious and antique kind of covering. On approaching I found it to consist of red sandstone, & bluish or greyish limestone and a whitish clay. What appeared as a carriage was the effects of the weather, some portions of the hill bring, as you will readily see, much after the others. There were great caves so I might call them which had been excavated by the rain &c. If this could be painted as it actually exists, you would find few who would believe that this was a hill covered by natures own workmen so much are we accustomed to judge a painting by what we ourselves have seen.

I see that I will have to commence on another sheet of paper, or else break off in the midst of my ideas and account. Whether the subject matter of this epistle will replay you for the reading of it I know not, but as I have commenced it I will proceed though I hope it will not be to your annoyance. I might cross this but I do not like to do it, is the writing bold enough without being confusion?

Leaving this hill as soon as I had rested sufficiently we proceeded with our journey. The whole day it appeared to me as if I was travelling through the remains of what was at some far distant day, an immense Fortification. There were ramps and slopes and heights and all so completely and thoroughly blended together, as to give this appearance, while their utter destitution from vegetation appear the work, I could not help thinking while passing through, one of the Plains summoned on all sides with a vast rampart, what a fine place for a battle and I don’t doubt but that some battles of our country will there be fought.

The whole country is pretty much the same until we reach Fort Bridger. As you have already found, without doubt, some idea of this celebrated Station. Doubtless you have formed, allow me to say, a very extravagant idea of this place. I know that I did. I thought it was quite something of a building, where a person could be accommodated comfortably. But I was most woefully mistaken. It is a small dirty little building in the form of a square—with an opening or gateway. Black’s Fork, which branches off into many small streams forming many glades. The Country immediately surrounding would be pretty were it not for the fact that thousand upon thousand Cattle have accumulated there. The Fort, so called, it is the most perfect abode of filth I have ever seen. There were hides, feet, heads and almost every other portion of the carcasses, collected just in the immediate vicinity of the door and the idea of the old man’s wanting to sell it to the government for $50,000 is I have heard he did so is preposterous. It would take the garrison stationed there two weeks or more hard work to put it in a habitable condition for any one unaccustomed to the life of a mountaineer or an Indian trader. I bought here three four pence chickens, as we call them for the benefit of the mess,          the caterer and paid a dollar a piece for them $3.00. How many chickens would you buy at this rate? Not many. I suppose. We stayed at Bridger being encamped being about three quarters of a mile above the Fort the day following our arrival being Sunday—although the grass was very indifferent, simply because it passed Sunday. Leaving this place, about which Stansbury speaks a good deal, on the 22nd we commenced closing up the last 100 miles between the states and Salt Lake. The aspect of the country is entirely changed after the first 20 miles. The signs of fertility become more numerous and we commence to very sensually to feel the cool mountain air and at sight Bear River is a fine stream but we did not catch trout here as we thought we should do. We caught them in Blacks Fork and in this stream. After leaving Bear River we continued crossing the Wasatch range of mountains. The country is truly picturesque and interesting. For the last four days we have been travelling down Canon (Canyon) with steep hills or mountains on either side of us. On our right is the rare rock exposed. It is sandstone or conglomerate. The sandstone is of the brightest colors. Deep and light red, yellow, green, white &c. I never saw rocks so variously and brightly colored, but shows evidence in the tilt all the             of being powerfully and       . I went fishing with the Col. today and caught my first trout. It is a beautiful fish and delicious eating, the regular mountain trout. The Col starts to morrow morning early for the City. I would write more if I had time, but it is now night and I must rise early to morrow to attend to some duties besides I have scribbled you ten pages, the longest letter I have ever wrote in all my writing. I sincerely hope that it will not tire you. Theophilus is well and sends love to all, wishes to know something about his things, wife &c. Remember me most kindy to all my friends, [etc.] Ben Allston



Camp in Rush Water Lake Valley

Sept. 29, 1854

My Dear Mother

I have not more than time to write that I am quite well and as far as circumstances will admit, enjoying myself well. I should have written more at leisure and meant to please you had it not been that [the] Col Sunday noon last I received orders to strike our tents and move on the next morning. This order went so decidedly beyond any thing I had though of, took me quite unprepared and by surprise, consequently I will be obliged to make some of my auditors wait long before I they get them over. I am now 45 miles from the City and have been as busy as I could possibly could ever since I have been here—building a corral for my horses, I have been here for two days and have 99 yds or 100 yds of the wall built consisting of rods, being 6 ft high or more. This is I think doing very well, I know not what you or Father may think of it. I promise in my last which was eleven pages, I don’t know whether you will ever get it or not, to give you a description of Salt Lake City &c but you will have to wait until some other and more favorable time arrives for as I before said my dear Mother I actually have not time. I must start off my expressman early in the morning in order that he may ride from this the City 45 miles and get there before the mail closes. You never saw such a place as this for ducks and geese. They thoroughly abound, but I have not yet shot none. Stanbury’s description of the City is very good, but as regards its inhabitants, I think it is the lowest of the low. I cannot express to you what a thorough disgust I have for the whole religion and it only in my opinion, needs one to be an eyewitness to be of the same tone of feeling. Honor and integrity I see none—Truth and justice, I see none. Religion and chastity—I see none. Purity of thought, and delicacy of sentiment—there is none. This is my opinion and it goes of course only this far no farther.

But of this, sometime hence—You know or rather will know before this letter reaches you of wht has occurred at Laramie. We do not know here yet and every man is in suspense. It has been reported that the whole garrison was cut off and the fort burned down how this is I cannot say.

I am well and in good health and good spirits. Give my love to all of my Relatives & Friends—Father, Sister and all and may the ever living God protect and guide you all aright is the sincere prayer of your most devoting attached Son,

Ben Allston





  1. L. City March 15th


My dear Mother

I commence this letter as you will perceive, in the middle of the Month. I am ordered away and I know if I will return in time to write you by the Mail. In my last letter, I wrote that I was to start the next morning for Fillmore to obtain some of the Indians who were concerned in the murder of Gunnison and party. We made the trip in very rapid time, but arrived in the City the day the Mail left it so that I could not write to you by the Mail. We got all of the number except one who is yet to be given up. The Indians were very much agitated on the day they were given up and for several days previous. But they were delivered. There were several to have been given up. There were to have been seven given up, we received four men, one woman and her child which counted for one. The other man is yet to be given up. We came back from Fillmore to the City a distance of 150 miles in three days. This is what I call good travelling for teams. What say you [?] We are going down to Nephi a distance of 90 mi for the purpose of attending the trial of the prisoners and protecting the Judge from receiving any injuries at the hands of the enemy. Our force consists of sixty eight men, not including the officers and the quartermaster. Col. Steptoe goes down himself I think or so he says though I know not if he will. I take twenty of my men, the rest are from other Companies. I sincerely hope that we may get back in time for the Mail that I may give you an account of it and relieve your mind from the anxiety under which I know it will labor. But I apprehend little or no danger. The town in which we will encamp is a walled town and adaptable of defending itself against the Indians. Besides the one wall which encloses it , it consists of three or four stockade forts, all of which make up the city of Nephi. Nephi is one of he Prophets mentioned in the Book of Mormon, indeed it commences with the Book of Nephi.

The weather curious to relate has been very unpleasant it was when I started two weeks ago. It has been blowing and threatening all day and now at half past eleven P.M. it is snowing, sweet prospect for the morrow. But the weather is very changeable here that we may have tomorrow a fine and pretty day. Last night at 12 o’clock if was first the reverse of what it is now. Now as I have just said is dark cloudy and snowing. Last night it was clear starlight, and pleasant, and when I woke it was blowing and slating a little.

We may count upon one thing, however, very bad roads for travelling, muddy and slippery.

I was enabled to write Father only a short note by last mail, acquainting him with the summer full fact that I had again given a draft on him for $18.00. Mr Perry came here just before I started and stated he was in need of so much money, and requested me to let him have it. I could not refuse, and so I gave it to him. I do not mean that there was any           in the matter, but I considered it obligatory upon me, and I then cancelled the obligation. $500 is a pretty large sum to spend in a few short months, and if I continue I will soon spend all that I have, there being not much more than that very sum remaining. Put every thing will have a beginning and an ending and so will these large expenditures. I will see the Company and every body in it in the                 imaginable before I again do the like. I am out of debt to Mr. Perry and intend to stay so. I leave here even with the world and draw no more either. My investment in goods at Fillmore is I am afraid not going to turn out as well by a good deal as I fondly hoped it would. But if my partners are the honest men I will at least secure my capital back “Experientia docet.” The only Latin proverb I know, but a good one for all that. I intend to hold on to my lands, and expect in the course of time to make my losses on them, and at last come out even. To sell them would only be a loss, for I doubt if I could sell them for what they cost me, but this will change in the course of a year or two. We are anxious here to learn of the proceedings of Congress in regard to the Army Bills. And as no Eastern Mail came in last month, we are expecting some [unintelligible] developments in the expected Mail. You of course know all about it now, and can tell better than I can what impact what prospect is before me. If it is good congratulate me if not do not console me, for it is of very little to me; but nevertheless would like a little more rank in the Army, then I have at present.

I hope and trust you are all well my dear Mother, I have had serious apprehensions to the contrary coming into my brain how I cannot tell, but there they live and continue for some days until I drive them away as foolish. I am quite well except a slight Cold which is nothing. I do not think I will have much of a beard when I see you. It appears to be slow in its growth I know not why. Give my love to Father, Adele and all of the children and to all my Relatives and friends. Remember me to all of the servants, Theophlius is well, but not as dutiful as one might desire. Hoping to add to this before. The mail leaves I remain all affectionate, Your Ben Allston


Such is a Dragoon's Life (State Historical Society of Missouri, July 2011, vol 105, no. 4)

Such is a Dragoon’s Life: Corporal Mathais Baker, Company B, 1st Dragoons, 1845-1849[1]

By Will Gorenfeld and Tim Kimball
The year 1845 found Mathias L. Baker, a twenty eight year old clerk from Middlesex County, New Jersey, residing in a reasonably comfortable neighborhood in St Louis. On October 17, 1845, he enlisted in the United States Army.  His enlistment papers indicate that blue eyed, dark haired, fair skinned Mathias stood six feet tall.  Assistant Surgeon William Hammond certified that he was free of all bodily defects and mental infirmities.   Recruiting officer 1st Lieutenant Henry S. Turner certified that Baker was entirely sober when he enlisted and of lawful age (twenty one). [2]

After a short stay in the recruit depot at nearby Jefferson Barracks, on November 13, 1845, Private Baker and seven other recruits were escorted up the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Territory, by the 1st Dragoons Regimental Sergeant Major.  From that river port the recruit party traveled another forty eight miles west, arriving at castle-like Fort Atkinson, Iowa Territory on November 25, 1845.  The fort and its stone buildings, on the heights above the Turkey River, had been home to Company B of the First Dragoons since June 1842.  Company B and its long-time Captain, Edwin Vose Sumner, had just returned from a late summer’s typical campaign, marching northwest almost to the Canadian border, showing the flag, and encouraging peace among the Natives. [3]

There is no detailed record of Baker’s winter at Fort Atkinson, but likely it was spent learning the rudiments of Dragoon skills—the School of the Soldier and School of the Company.  It would have included dismounted and mounted drill and use of the dragoon weapons: pistol, carbine, and sabre.  Baker’s other winter duties would have been caring for his assigned horse, occasional guard duty, and fatigue details.  More experienced men from the company would undertake a series of assignments during the hard winter, including removing Winnebago Indians from the Neutral Ground, testifying at a murder trial, chasing deserters, and maintaining the peace during payment of annuities by Indian Agents.  Baker probably had little time or inclination to visit the adjacent off post drinking sites known as “Sodom and Gomorrah,” or “Whiskey Creek,” nor spend time with the dissolute Winnebago and Minominee women found there.  No indications of disciplinary problems or extended illness involving Baker are found in company records.  Baker also would have learned—if he did not already know—that in the army, even in the dragoons, many of the men were chronic drunkards and shirkers.[4]

Less than five months after his enlistment, probably as a tribute to his discipline, reliability, and perhaps the legible hand of this former civilian clerk, Sumner selected Baker to be 4th corporal, the most junior of the core of eight non-commissioned officers authorized for each company. This gave Baker a raise from eight to ten dollars a month, a substantial increase in responsibility, and a set of a Non Commissioned Officers as peers who would stay with him through the duration of his life: Sergeants Frederick Muller, Benjamin Bishop, Corporals Jacob Martin, Michael Albert, Israel Haff, as well as Bugler Langford Peel.[5]
By May 11, 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico. On June 20, Baker and his comrades of Company B were ordered from Fort Atkinson, leaving it to be garrisoned by a volunteer force during the war. Reaching Prairie du Chien on June 22, they joined forces with 1st Dragoons Captain Philip St. George Cooke’s Company K from nearby Fort Crawford, with Sumner serving as commander of the two company squadron.  They and their mounts embarked on the Steamboat Cecelia and a pair of towed barges for St. Louis, traveling 370 miles downstream on the Mississippi River and arriving June 28, 1846.[6]

The original orders for Companies B and K had directed them to San Antonio, Texas, join the forces of Major General Zachary Taylor.  But Dragoon Colonel and commander of the Army of the West, Stephen Watts Kearny insisted that Sumner, Cooke, and their companies (“among the very best”) were indispensable to his assignment: the conquest of Mexican-held New Mexico and California.  In St. Louis, they were redirected to Fort Leavenworth, assembly and starting point for Kearny’s Army of the West.  On July 3 they loaded on to the Steamboat Amaranth, traveling the length of the Missouri to that post, over 300 miles west.  On July 6 they disembarked at Fort Leavenworth and, and began their march to Santa Fe on the same day, becoming the last of Kearny’s initial force to leave for the Conquest of New Mexico.  Company B headed overland with a total of 63 dragoons in the ranks, having left a trail of seven deserters in its wake.[7]

Sumner’s squadron made up for lost time, traveling across the picked-over prairie. On July 31 they rendezvoused with the 1600-man balance of Kearny’s troops camped around Bent’s Fort, on the north bank of the Arkansas River.  Kearny turned over command of the five dragoon companies (B, C, G, I, and K) and a St. Louis mounted volunteer company (the Laclede Rangers, equipped for dragoon service) to Sumner, the senior Captain.  Crossing the Arkansas River, the border between the now-warring United States and Mexico, on August 2 Kearny (and Private Baker) began the 250-mile balance of the march down the Mountain branch of the Santa Fe Trail, through Raton Pass to Santa Fe, capital of the Mexican Department of New Mexico. This portion of the march was hard on man and beast–with scanty forage for the animals and half rations for the men.[8]

The Army of the West entered an undefended and partially deserted Santa Fe on August 18, 1846. Kearny took formal possession of New Mexico late that afternoon with a flag rising and the firing of a national salute. Baker and his dragoon comrades fared well enough on the march—Missouri volunteer private John Hughes complained that Kearny favored them unfairly—but even the regulars would soon turn in their already worn out, starving horses and resort to mules or even shoe leather.[9]

Soon after arrival in Santa Fe, Kearny began planning and organizing for his California trek. Although plans were constantly changing with the circumstances, his next mission was to head to California by marching south along the Camino Real, west to the basin of the Gila River, across to the Colorado River, and enter California from the south.  Kearny’s force would include his  “three hundred wilderness-worn Dragoons, in shabby and patched clothing,” and a like number of emigrating Mormons recruited as infantry volunteers for California (the Mormon Battalion), which had left Fort Leavenworth in mid-August but not yet arrived in Santa Fe.  In California this force was to be increased by a regiment of New York volunteers and a regular army artillery battery sent by sea.[10]

By the time Kearny returned to Santa Fe from a show-the-flag march south to Tomé, he realized that most of the Army of the West’s original horses were too worn down to make a march to California. The general ordered the dragoon horses replaced with the best mules the Quartermaster could find, directing the return of the surviving dragoon mounts to Fort Leavenworth.  The dragoons had first established a grazing camp in the Galisteo Basin, south of Santa Fe.  By the time of Baker’s first letter, they had moved to the village of La Cienega, in the valley of the Santa Fe River.  Neither venue had enough grass to even begin to restore their mounts.[11]

First Letter:

Baker’s observations about New Mexico were fairly standard for an American who had recently arrived in the region.  As with so many others, he was consciously (or unconsciously) repeating negative observation found in two very popular works about New Mexico: Josiah Gregg’s 1844, Commerce of the Prairies, and George Wilkins Kendall’s 1843 Narrative of the Santa Fé Expedition, both of which expressed a substantially jingoistic and ethnocentric view of New Mexico and New Mexicans. Baker had seen little of populated New Mexico, passing through Las Vegas and the few villages between there and Santa Fe, with a single day or two in the capital, starting south later on the march to Tomé, but being turned back to the grazing camp he wrote from shortly after that journey began.[12]

On Sept. 13, 1846, Baker wrote his sister, Mrs. Hugh Martin (1 Hudson Street in Manhattan) from the dragoon grazing camp.  He described New Mexico as bare and mountainous, with only a few valleys capable of cultivation.  Its homes of sun-dried bricks he found to be limited to a single story and devoid of windows, dark during day time when the door is shut, but warm in winter and cool in summer.  Some of the ladies were “extraordinarily fine,” though generally the population was of “mixed” Indian blood.  All this from a man who had arrived less than a month before and spent most of his time on isolated duty in the grazing camps!  Baker urged his sister to write him back AND to send the latest copies of the New York Herald.  He did not expect any fighting, as “the Mexican Army will not fight.”  He asked about the family’s health and assured them that HE was healthy (“This is the most healthy country in the world.”) and “burnt to the colour of Mahogany and wear immense Moustachios.”  He expected to be marching to Monterey, California, soon, via “Chuwauwau” (Chihuahua).[13]

Second letter:

On September 27, Kearny set off for California with all his Dragoons, a topographic engineer party, and his staff.  His plans changed significantly when on October 6, he encountered eastbound Christopher Kit Carson south of Socorro.  Carson carried dispatches announcing that American naval forces, Fremont’s topographical engineer party, and local American residents had seized control of California.  Relying upon this information and Carson‘s assessment of the extremely limited resources available on the coming march, Kearny reduced his force to a small staff, the Topographic Engineer party, and a 100-man Dragoon escort composed of only Companies C and K.  Baker’s Company B, along with Companies G and I, each stripped of their of the best of their mules, were ordered by Kearny to return to Albuquerque and winter under the overall command of Captain Sumner.[14]

On October 13, the Kearny party was below Fra Cristobal, last camp before entering the Jornado del Muerte from the north.  Kearny now had learned that wheeled vehicles would be more of a hindrance than an asset on the Gila route, and sent back for pack saddles and men to collect all the rolling stock except for two small mountain howitzers and their limbers.  When a last mail arrived, Kearny received notice of a series of promotions that set several final changes into motion for the stay-behind Dragoons.  Sumner had been promoted to Major in the Second Dragoon regiment and ordered to join his regiment in Mexico. Kearny directed that Sumner’s Company B, already returning north with companies G and I, be broken up. Its privates were distributed among the other two companies, and recently promoted 1st Lt. John Love was to return east with the balance of company B’s non-commissioned staff and recruit the company full again.[15]

Baker would be included in Sumner’s party of seventeen Dragoons and discharged volunteers returning to Fort Leavenworth.  Beginning on October 18, from Sabinal, north of Socorro, his party traveled the more direct  “Dry” route of the Santa Fe Trail, bypassing Bent’s Fort. Included in the Sumner group were Love, 1st Lt. Henry Stanton, 2nd Lt. Bezaleel Armstrong (also newly promoted and headed for the Second Dragoons), the 1st Dragoons’ non-commissioned regimental staff, and Baker’s cadre of fellow non-commissioned officers of Company B: Sergeants Muller, Martin, the newly promoted Sgt. Albert, Corporals. Haff, Baker, Nickerson, and Bugler Peel.  Sgt. Bishop and Corporal McFeters—the balance of  Company B’s non-commissioned staff—had headed east with earlier returning parties.  Baker by now had become a solid member of this core leadership group, and would continue so for the balance of the Mexican War.[16]

Sumner passed through Santa Fe on their way out.  Love secured wheat and corn as forage for the party’s mules in San Miguel, Tecolote and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, they exchanged five unserviceable mules for five fit ones, paying the standard premium of $20 each, $100 total. This party made a well managed late Fall trip, the main group arriving at Fort Leavenworth on November 20, 1846. [17]

Sumner and Armstrong continued on to join the 2nd Dragoons in Mexico, where Sumner won Brevets of Lt. Colonel at Cerro Gordo and Colonel at Molina del Rey. Baker, Martin, Albert, Haff and Peel remained in the Dragoon detachment at Fort Leavenworth while Lt. Love and Sgt. Muller journeyed to Ohio and Indiana to seek recruits; Bishop was assigned to the regimental depot at Jefferson Barracks with 2nd Lt. Leonidas Jenkins  [18]

Three weeks after the arrival of the Sumner return party at Fort Leavenworth, on Dec. 15, 1846, Baker began penning a letter to his namesake nephew, Matthais Lee Baker Martin, son of his sister, Mrs. Hugh Martin, to whom he had addressed the first of this series of letters.  It seems young Martin had written his uncle, telling him that he “hoped” that he was NOT in the army!  Baker shot back with pride in his service, his role in the occupation of New Mexico and his achievement of non-commissioned rank.  Corporal Baker described the Sumner party’s return trip:  two wagons and a carriage (probably a spring wagon) with most of the men mounted on mules and living largely off game.  They had a single brush with the increasingly aggressive Indians, at what Baker called “Rocky Point,” probably Point of Rocks, the beginning of that dangerous middle portion of the Santa Fe Trail in which native raiders often held the upper hand.  Towards evening Baker and his comrades encountered a single native lurking outside their camp and chased him off with carbine fire.   The Corporal speculated that the fugitive was a “Camanche” who would now recognize and avoid Dragoons.   Ten of the party’s mules died on the journey, leaving most of the men to walk the last one hundred and fifty miles.[19]

Third Letter:

Lt. Love sought to recruit a full company of men quickly, return to the war, and actually TASTE gunpowder before the war was over. On December 20, 1846, he wrote to Roger Jones, the Army’s grandfatherly Adjutant General, expressing how “extremely anxious” he was “to fill the Company which fortune has given me the command” and that he expected to take the field by April 1, 1847. Finding recruits in a hurry was not going to be an easy task. One of Love’s West Point classmates, also on recruiting duty, complained to him in February of 1847 that, after “pegging away since some time last summer and [he had] done any thing but a ‘land office’ business” finding Hoosier recruits for his regiment.[20]

February of 1847 found Lt. Love in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his recruiting flag draped from a balcony of the Drake Hotel. He placed the army’s prepared advertisement in the Indianapolis  State Journal, requesting the wartime services of men of good character, between the ages of 18 and 35.  “None need apply to enter the service but those who are determined to serve the period of their enlistment honestly and faithfully.”  The advertisement optimistically promised each mounted recruit eight dollars a month, good quarters, the best of medical attention, as well as a “large supply of comfortable and genteel clothing.”  The recruiting laws, now having been changed by Congress, made service in the regulars somewhat more attractive. A recruit was now allowed to opt for a shorter enlistment, the “duration of the war,” instead of only a five year term with no alternative.[21]

The 1st Dragoons were a mounted regiment; the five Mexican War volunteer regiments from Indiana, were all infantry.   Lt. Love knew that he had an ace in the hole and he was quick to play it–pointing out to the Hoosier farm boys the glory of their becoming splendidly clothed and mounted “bold dragoons”–whose military status, pay, uniform, weapons, and bearing were unquestionably superior to that of the humble and often ill-clad “doughboys” of the volunteers or regular infantry, stumbling along with their “fence rails” (a derogatory term for the long, heavy musket with which they were perpetually burdened). When Love’s bright-eyed recruits arrived at Newport Barracks, Kentucky, however, they found there were no horses available and, worse, infantry officers were daily putting them through the wearisome close order drill of the foot soldier. Many of Love’s recruits were not happy with their training at Newport Barracks, and wrote to tell him so.[22]

Due to the immediate need for a completed company, recruits would be limited in their training to the basics: mounted and dismounted drill, care of their mounts and equipment, and use and care of their carbines, sabres, and pistols.   Many recruits would have less than two months to develop adequate skills, a time frame far better than volunteer received and typical of the other two 1st Dragoon companies reorganized during the Mexican War.  It was incumbent upon Stanton, Jenkins and the non-commissioned cadre of company B at Fort Leavenworth and Jefferson Barracks to use the available time to train the recruits on hand with the skills necessary for them to be competent soldiers. [23]

At Jefferson Barracks Lt. Leonadis Jenkins had been seeking men, horses and equipage for B Company around the St. Louis area.  On February 17, 1847, Jenkins marched his accumulation of twenty five recruits and their mounts more than 300 miles overland across Missouri to Fort Leavenworth in sixteen days.  There they would undergo further mounted training under the tutelage of Albert, Baker, and Peel.  On return to Jefferson Barracks, Jenkins wrote a March 20, 1847, letter to Love boasting of his completed trip, the quality of his recruits, the status of equipping the company, and army gossip.  Jenkins promised that if more mounts could be furnished, he could advance the training of the next group of Company B recruits at the Depot.[24]

By April, the Company B non-commissioned officers available for training the initial recruits at Fort Leavenworth were down to Baker, Sgt. Albert, and Bugler Peel, under the command of Stanton.  Bishop was at Jefferson Barracks and Haff had joined Love at the recruiting rendezvous in Indiana.[25]

The third letter was also written by Baker for his namesake nephew.  Dated April 28, 1847, it reflected on his daily duties, the training of the recruit party left by Jenkins on March 4, the prospects and schedule for Company B as it completed its reorganization and returned to service.  Baker was hoping to dissuade his nephew from the common notion that all soldiers’ lived an easy life in garrison—perhaps an additional response to the nephew’s apparent negative opinion of the army mentioned before.  Baker wrote that while an infantryman’s life might be easy, a Dragoon’s life was filled from Reveille (at sunup) to final Tatoo (long after dark), and must always be prepared to ride out.  “Such is a Dragoon’s life…”  Baker wrote of how difficult it was training 25 recruits with only three non-commissioned officers, “especially when they are sometimes so Dutch as to not understand or be understood.”   And he figured that the company was likely to be full enough to be officially reorganized “in about three weeks” (actually two and a half weeks, May 15), and would either be sent south to join Scott in his assault on Mexico City or returned to Santa Fe.  Baker wrote that he preferred the latter, as the “climate is the most healthy” in the world.  As for the future, perhaps Baker would stay in the army if “inducements” were held forth, but in such a case he surely would take a furlough and visit his nephew.[26]

Fourth Letter:

Love would bring twenty five men he had recruited in the East with him to Jefferson Barracks on April 25, 1847. There they joined with the on-hand recruits and recycled veterans—sick returned to health, confined men returned to duty—to make a contingent of fifty eight men when Company B was officially reorganized on May 15, 1847.  The company marched for Fort Leavenworth that same day. [27]

The Missouri Republican was quite impressed with what they saw in a public drill of the company in St. Louis on May 11:

“[Lt. Love] has with him a very fine company of men and they are probably the best fitted and prepared for service of any company which has ever left this city.  They are all mounted on horses which in appearance, for strength and beauty, cannot be surpassed in or out of the service, and their military trappings correspond.  When the company is full, as it will be upon its arrival at Fort Leavenworth, they will of themselves constitute a body in appointments, command and stamina, almost sufficient to overrun a large portion of New Mexico.”[28]

George Ruxton, an English officer touring Mexico and the West in mufti, observed this same group of fifty Company B recruits and Lt. Love as they were finishing their march from St. Louis to Fort Leavenworth in late May. Ruxton was less than impressed with what he saw and wrote that while the group was “superbly mounted” on beautiful horses “fifteen hands high, in excellent condition,” the raw recruits were “soldierlike neither in dress nor appearance.” [29]

The reorganized company arrived at Fort Leavenworth on May 31, joining with the on-hand group of thirty four NCOs and men already on hand.  With B Company recruited up to full strength and well mounted—albeit neither men nor horses fully trained— and present at Fort Leavenworth, the army considered it ready to march to Santa Fe. The troops stationed in newly conquered New Mexico and the locals provisioning them had not been paid for several months.  Now Company B would escort Paymaster Major Charles Bodine and $350,000 in specie on his trip to Santa Fe, and do the same for slower moving quartermaster trains and beef herds already en route as they were overtaken.[30]

A week after arrival of the reorganized Company B at Fort Leavenworth, Lt. Love, the only officer, with Corporal Baker and an eighty three man strong Company B, paymaster Bodine, and various supernumeraries, paraded out of the fort on June 7, 1847 in a column of fours.  Each dragoon was astride his government sorrel, the column trailed by the nine mule-drawn wagons of the paymaster and three more of Company B.  Following the custom of the time it is likely they were played out of the Fort by First Dragoon Principal Musician John Schnell and the 1st Dragoon Regimental band, with a selection of songs that included “The Girl I Left Behind.”  This time the company left six deserters behind—including Privates Isaac Cameron (who also had deserted in St. Louis the year before) and John Stein, recaptured the next day across the Missouri in Weston.[31]

Prior to the commencement of the Mexican War, Native Americans living near the Santa Fe Trail controlled their outrage at the invasion and destruction of their range by raiding only the smaller trading caravans, confining themselves to horse stealing, pilferage, and simple begging.  Experienced traders traveled in large numbers, heavily armed, and were rarely attacked. By 1847 the Santa Fe Trail became the highway of conquest as a vast stream of troops, animals and supplies headed west along the 873-mile path that crossed the Great Plains from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe. As troop movements and supply trains proliferated during the war, the travelers not only polluted the streams and spread contagion, but consumed the sparse grasses, fuel, and water along the trail, and butchered or chased off the game.  Drought put further pressure on the Plains tribes, as did the necessary hunting of many once-eastern tribes, Cherokee, Delaware, Osage, and others, forced to migrate and subsist on the fringes.   Starvation and disease were becoming progressively more widespread among the Plains tribes, even more so after 1845. The boldest and most desperate of them began to assault nearly every one of the caravans and quartermaster trains—even those accompanied by troops—that traveled on the route.   It was reported that the raiding was encouraged or participated in by Mexicans, fugitive slaves, and American renegades.  During the summer of 1847, 47 Americans would be killed, 330 wagons destroyed, and 6,500 head of stock plundered. [32]

Although Lt. Love, in his six years of military service, had never commanded a troop in the field and most of his men had limited training, his experience suggested that tribesmen would not be so foolish as to attack this large force of armed Dragoons.   In 1843, while on an expedition on the Plains, he wrote, “6 men could have kept off 500 Indians as they never approach within gun shot.” Corp. Baker observed the carnage caused by the tribesmen.   Baker was confident that his company would soon give battle with the Comanches and Pawnees and avenge the deaths of travelers recently murdered on the Santa Fe Trail. [33]

On June 14, 1847, a day Company B spent at Council Grove, the usual rendezvous site on edge of contested portion of the Santa Fe trail, Baker responded to his nephew’s letter brought with the previous day’s express in our fourth letter.  He described the party as including over one hundred men, twelve wagons, the paymaster and his specie, and another one hundred and twenty wagons moving slowly ahead of them, to be added to those already escorted as the faster moving Company B caught up with them.  Baker wrote that eight hundred lodges of Comanche and Pawnees were within 200 miles and that he hoped that Company B would get a chance to give them the “severe punishment” they “deserved.”  He told of the suffering of men in a returning quartermaster train the Company had encountered and claimed that Native’s attacks had been encouraged by the Mexicans.  Baker speculated that Company B might be returning to guard the threatened central portion of the trail after delivering Bodine and the specie to Santa Fe.  He advised his namesake to obey his parents and study, and hoped to see him someday.[34]

Fifth and Final Letter:

Newly appointed Indian Agent, but old time mountain man Thomas “Brokenhand” Fitzpatrick, making his way to his assignment at Bent’s Fort, overtook the Dragoon column at Council Grove and traveled on with it and our bold corporal. Fitzpatrick, a trapper, guide, scout, and Indian agent, had ranged the frontier since 1823. Fitzpatrick would later write that the Dragoons and paymaster’s wagon train “traveled along happily and with much expedition, until we arrived at Pawnee Fork, a tributary of the Arkansas River, three hundred miles from Fort Leavenworth.” It was at this point that, on the early evening of June 23, they came upon the encampment of three large government commissary wagon trains (two outbound and one homebound). These wagons had been attacked two days prior by a large body of Native Americans Indians, who left three men wounded. The eastbound train had lost most of its oxen to the marauding raiders. Left without the means of hauling several of its wagons any further, the wagon master destroyed the badly needed wagons.[35]

Seeking the dragoons’ protection, the three trains traveled along with the dragoons at a brisk pace, making 27-miles on the 25th and, camped on a plain in about a mile from the Arkansas River. The dragoons made their camp on the north bank of the Arkansas River, at a site known as Pawnee Fork.  Two of the trains made camp nearby. The third, headed by Hayden, a wagon master reluctant to take orders from young Lt. Love, camped almost out of sight.   Although the plain was sandy and nearly barren of grasses, the river bottoms provided good grazing for the animals. The treeless prairie was bisected by two washes that flowed into the Arkansas, known as Little Coon Creek and Big Coon Creek.[36]

In the pre-dawn hours of June 26, 1847, Lieutenant Love mounted and rode to the top of a slight hill. The sky was clear and a slight breeze blew up from the south. This young officer knew that horses and mules should not be allowed to freely graze until it was safe to do so—i.e., when no raiders lurked in high grasses of the nearby washes. For the moment, all horses and mules remained tethered to the picket lines. Looking to the west he noticed that Hayden had turned his oxen out of his evening’s corral  (formed of wagons circled, wheel to axel) to graze. Love opened his spyglass for a better view of the early morning countryside. He saw well over one hundred Comanches spilling out of the Big Coon Creek wash. Lt. Love could see the teamsters frantically grabbing what few clumsy weapons they possessed and firing wildly at the raiders. The Comanches fought back, wounding three teamsters; within minutes they had stampeded Hayden’s oxen and seized control of the herd.[37]

The next day Baker began the final one of our known letters to his nephew from the Pawnee Fork campsite, as Company B lay by to allow its seriously wounded a chance to recover before moving on.  He told how they had encountered the quartermaster trains and incorporated them loosely into their party, after the homebound train had been attacked, stock stolen, and men wounded.  Baker wrote of how Hayden’s stock was carelessly turned out that morning and quickly being driven off.  All of Company B saddled up, Baker being one of the first.  Only a party of twenty one dragoons and Sergt. Bishop, according to Baker, were allowed out to halt the stock theft, the rest being held back to protect the camp from a large party of threatening hostiles on the opposite side of the Arkansas.  Baker wrote when he saw the Bishop group get cut off by at least two hundred warriors, he begged for a party of twenty dragoons to intercede, but was refused by Love.  The teamsters from the train whose stock was being run off had themselves fallen back and left Bishop and his party helpless and surrounded.  Bishop’s dragoons retreated as quickly as they could, but five men were unable to reach the camp, and were later found dead.  Of those getting back, Bishop and four others were badly wounded—Baker himself leaving the camp to bring in the wounded Farrier, John Lovelace, holding him on his horse until safe inside.  After roll was called, Baker was part of the group that went out to recover their comrades’ bodies.  That day they found four bodies, badly mutilated, the next morning they recovered the last one.[38]

Baker was not sure what would happen if the Comanches would attack again, or they would be able to move on before being hit again.  “Fort” Mann, a small and adobe and cottonwood
palisade erected by quartermaster teamsters, the strongest point on the central trail, just had been abandoned under repeated attacks.  Baker told his nephew that if he should perish in coming assaults, he wanted him to have whatever the government owned him and anything else of value, and “if you see me no more, spare a moment to think of your uncle.”[39]
We have not, as yet, found any later letters from Mathias Baker. From military records, we know that he and his fellows did NOT return to guard the Santa Fe Trail nor to Fort Leavenworth until after the end of the war.  Six weeks after he wrote his last letter Baker was with Love’s battered command when it reached the end of the Trail in Santa Fe on August 6, 1847.  Though bloodied and reduced in numbers, these dragoons had accomplished their primary mission of protecting the paymaster funds and quartermaster trains.  Now they stayed on to reinforce New Mexico. At this time the twelve month enlistments of Price’s Missouri volunteer 1846 force had been completed and the companies had marched back to Fort Leavenworth to be paid off and discharged. This left the occupation to companies G and I, and now B, of the 1st Dragoons, four volunteer companies being reenlisted in Santa Fe to create the Santa Fe Battalion, and the last hand full of Price’s original force.  Soon though, New Mexico would be crowded once again with newly recruited “for the war” volunteers, including both a mounted regiment and infantry battalion from Missouri and an infantry regiment from Illinois.[40]

On August 19, 1847, Love turned in the wagons, mules and gear Company B had used in conveying Bodine and his specie.  They left Santa Fe at the end of the month, spending four days in Albuquerque, and formed a grazing camp near the mountain village of San Antonio.  On October 15, they returned to Albuquerque and its Dragoon garrison. In December, Company B received all the mules, guns, and ordnance it would use as a scratch light artillery battery in Price’s hoped-for expedition against Chihuahua—including two 24-pound howitzers, two of the captured Mexican 5-pounder guns, the recaptured “Texian” 6-pounder, and one of the dragoons’ on-hand 12-pound Mountain Howitzers.  During December, three privates died of illness.[41]
The company’s captured deserter, Pvt. John Stein, had been released from confinement and sent on by Acting Regimental Commander, Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton as part of the escort party for the returning Sterling Price, now promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers.  Price, his staff, and the escort arrived in Santa Fe on December 9, 1847.  Stein immediately disappeared again, to be recaptured on the 16th.  Twelve days later an Albuquerque general court martial composed of Dragoon officers found him guilty of both desertions as well as selling his army great coat. He was sentenced to forfeit all pay, have his head shaved, be stripped of all badges, receive 50 lashes “well laid on, with a raw hide ,” and be drummed out, in front of the assembled Dragoon command. Other Company B Dragoon miscreants were tried before the same court along with Dragoons from companies G and I.  Stein was convicted as were all others charged.   His horrible sentence approved and carried out.[42]
The month of January was filled with preparation for a possible march south by Price, his volunteers stationed below Albuquerque, and the three Dragoon companies.   On February 11, Company B marched, the last to do so.  An alarm had been sent up by Missouri volunteers from occupied El Paso, announcing the approach of General Urea and 3,000 Mexican troops. The company made a difficult crossing of the swollen and ice-choked Rio Grande above Fra Cristobal.  On February 28, Company B reached El Paso, a 280 mile journey from Albuquerque.  Price left that city the next day with his advance units, leaving the slower artillery and infantry to catch up.   Price’s immediate command reached Chihuahua on March 7, to find their prey—Governor Angel Trias, with a few Mexican regulars and several hundred recently enrolled militia—had fled south.  Price again set off at a fast pace, following the wheel ruts of Trias’ cannon. At 9 a. m. the morning of March 9, the American advance group brought Trias and his 900 man force to ground in the town of Santa Cruz de Rosales, which Price immediately besieged.[43]
Price had sent back an express, reaching the slower parties on March 12 and hurrying them forward. Love and Company B immediately left their baggage wagons behind and began a fast march, covering 150 miles. They reached Chihuahua on the 15th, pressed (confiscated) fresh mules for the guns, and hurried the last 60 miles at a pace that put them in front of the enemy town at 5 a. m. on March 16.  As Company B wheeled its six guns into position, it was reported that the volunteers heard the defenders cry “Estos dos carajos!” “Here come two monsters!”  Company B immediately began firing shell and canister against fortified Mexican positions in the city center. Company B’s Dragoons-as-light-artillery played a major role in the victory at Santa Cruz de Rosales that day—the last of the already-concluded Mexican War.[44]
General Price’s report declared: “The distinguished conduct of Lieutenant Love–in the highly efficient manner in which his battery was served; in the rapidity of movement which characterized his conduct, when ordered to reinforce me, traveling night and day, going into battery four hours after his arrival, and his unceasing efforts during the entire day in working his battery–deserves especial notice…”  Love apportioned plenty of praise to the men who did the fighting, singling out section commanders Sergeants Muller and Bishop (still weak from his Coon Creek wounds), gun commander Corp. Haff, and all of the privates. The company suffered two men severely wounded and five slightly, one of the heavier tolls among the American units engaged.[45]
Company B was ordered to serve as part of the occupation force in or near the beautiful city of Chihuahua for the following four months of peace.  There some Dragoons fell in love and everyone enjoyed the city life, bullfights and horse races. When the peace finally was approved, army command ordered Chihuahua to be evacuated.  On July 17, Company B began its return march to Santa Fe.  On August 19, 1848, the ordnance was turned in there and the “for the war” enlistees discharged. On August 21, Company B once again was broken up, with the few remaining privates distributed to Dragoon Companies G and I, again remaining in New Mexico.  And again, Corporal Baker would form part of the core of a rebuilt Company B.  With Love, Muller, Bishop, Haff, and Peel, much of the same party as Baker had traveled the length of the Santa Fe Trail with three times in two years, he left Santa Fe on September 2, 1848, arriving at Fort Leavenworth twenty six days later.[46]
Baker was shown on the October 1848 return as a Sergeant for the first time, promoted up as Muller took the position of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant.  Captain Robert H. Chilton, the designated commanding officer of Company B, arrived at Jefferson Barracks to take command at that post on November 9.  Recruits began filling out the reforming company the same month.  Lt. Love left on leave.[47]
Once again, on December 19, 1848, a Company B recruit group was mounted at Jefferson Barracks and marched out for Fort Leavenworth where Sgt. Baker and his non-com friends awaited them.  The newly organized company arrived on Dec. 31, 1848.  In January, Baker’s first company commander, Sumner, now promoted to Brevet Colonel and line Lt. Colonel, arrived at the post as the new regimental commander.  That same month Baker, Sumner’s one time clerk recruit from Fort Atkinson days, was designated as Acting Sergeant Major of the First Dragoons.  On February 8, 1849, the promotion was made permanent, and with it Baker became the senior non-commissioned officer of the regiment.  When the reorganized Company B left to reoccupy Fort Kearny on May 11 (nine of these recent recruits deserted on the three days before the company marched—some things never change), Baker stayed  at Fort Leavenworth with his new regimental duties, along with Sumner, Lt. Love (now Regimental Quarter Master), and Quarter Master Sergeant Muller.  The history and traditions of the company would travel with Bishop, Martin, Haff, and Peel, and several of the once new recruits who had fought Comanche and Mexicans, now part of a new Non Commissioned core.[48]
Some four months later, on June 7, 1849, Sergeant Major Baker suddenly sickened and died of Cholera (then epidemic in the West) at Fort Leavenworth.  As did so many unheralded antebellum regulars in dirty shirt blue, Baker stood ready to pour his life-blood freely pro bono publico and died in the quest of manifest destiny, four and one half years after he began his dragoon adventure. That his death was from sickness rather than in battle was hardly exceptional; in the war and on the frontier deaths of soldiers from disease far outnumbered those in combat.  One hopes that his friends Sumner, Love, and Muller were able to be part of their comrade’s Dragoon funeral.[49]
No marker for our bold Dragoon was found twelve years later when the graves from the “Soldiers Burying Ground” were moved to what became Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery. Baker’s remains likely lie there among some two hundred mostly anonymous dead of those earlier decades, far away from family and childhood friends.  Such was a Dragoon’s death.[50]




The Baker Letters of letters Sept. 13, 1846, Santa Fe; Dec. 13, 1846, Fort Leavenworth; and April 28, 1847, Fort Leavenworth, were found as photocopies of originals in the Beinecke Rare Book and Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-502, B175.  Extracts of these same letters were found, with two additional complete letters  (June 14, 1847, Council Grove; and June 27, 1847, Pawnee Fork), all in typescript form, in the Missouri Historical Society Archives, Mexican War Collection 1846-1940, Mathias Baker Folder, RSN: 01/A1037.   Subsequent references to these five feature letters will only be as Baker Letters, referring to the first three from the Beinecke, the last two from the Missouri Historical Society.


[1] A Dragoon, in the United States Army, was a utility soldier, intended generally to served mounted, armed with a sabre, pistols, and carbine.  The regulations provided for his service on foot as required, at which time his pay was reduced.  Baker served in the First Dragoon Regiment, established 1833.  In 1836 a second dragoon regiment was formed; both consisting of ten companies, designated A-K, with no J (a duplicate of the cursive I, too easily confused).  At the beginning of the Mexican War dragoon company size limits were expanded to a minimum of sixty four and maximum of one hundred privates, plus three officers, eight non-commissioned officers, and four specialists  (Captain) Abner Riviere Hetzel, Military Laws of the United States, Third Edition (Washington City: G. Templeman, 1846), 232. 275-278, 282.  There are two excellent and extensive memoirs of enlisted dragoon life by men who, like Baker, served  as members of Company B.  Private James A. Hildreth was in the original Company B and described its first year, 1833-34, in Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains (New York: Wiley & Long, 1836); Sergeant Percival Green Lowe described his enlistment during 1849-1854, including mentions of many of Baker’s one time comrades, in Five Years a Dragoon (’49 to ’54) (Kansas City, Mo.: The F. Hudson Publishing Co., 1906).  Private (later Brevet Brigadier General) Samuel E. Chamberlain penned a rollicking, somewhat exaggerated story of his Mexican War adventures in Company E, My Confession: The Recollections of a Rogue  (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956). Sergeant Major Frank Clarke succeeded Baker as Regimental Sergeant Major; he also served in Company F in New Mexico; his letters have been collected and edited by Darlis Miller as Above a Common Solidier: Frank and Mary Clarke in the American West and Civil War, 1847-1872 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press,1997).  Private, sometimes Sergeant, James A. Bennett (who enlisted and served as James Bronson) served in New Mexico variously with Companies I, G, and B; his occasionally truth-stretching diary of two 1st Dragoon enlistments and a desertion was edited by Clinton E. Brooks & Frank D. Reeve, as Forts and Forays: A Dragoon in New Mexico, 1850-1856 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press: 1996).  The memoir, “Personal Recollections—A Trumpeter’s Notes (‘52-’58),” of Bugler (Later Chief Bugler) William Drown, which includes his time in Company H, 1st Dragoons, also in New Mexico, is contained in Brevet Brigadier General Theophilus F. Rodenbough’s From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000).  While focused on the 2nd Dragoons, the work is filled with memoirs from men of both dragoon regiments.  The composited articles and journals of 1st Dragoon Captain, later Brevet Major General, Philip St. George Cooke, are in Scenes and Adventures in the Army (Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakeston, 1856), and The Conquest of New Mexico and California: An Historical and Personal Narrative (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1878).  Cooke’s Company K, served with Baker and Company B from June-October 1846, the beginning months of the Mexican War, covered on pages 10-86 in the later work.

[2]Enlistment papers, Mathais L. Baker (Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780-1917, Record Group 94, 1845, volume 44, entry 271).   “Baker Matthias M, ns Myrtle e of 2nd.” Green’s St. Louis City Directory, 1845, 15. Baker’s first name is found with both a single and a double “t;” we use the form found on the Dragoon rolls (his own signature was “M. L. Baker”).  William Hammond, SR., assistant surgeon 1 June 1834, Maryland, promoted to surgeon 7 Aug. 1847, died at Benicia, California, 13 Feb. 1851.  Heitman, Register, 74; “Hammond W, M.D., U.S.A., ns Washington Av w of 3rd,” Green’s  St. Louis City Directory 1845,  76.

Henry Smith Turner, was born in Virginia, 1811, attended West Point, graduating 1834, and assigned to the Dragoons.  At the time of Baker’s enlistment Turner was a 1st Lt.; in April 1846 he was promoted to Captain and soon made Acting Assistant Adjutant General to the Army of the West; Dwight L. Clarke, “Introduction,” in The Original Journals of Henry Smith Turner (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) 9-15, also George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy [3rd. Edition], 2 vols.,  (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company: 1891), #770.  All U.S.M.A. graduates are assigned a unique Cullum number, ordered by chronology, then class rank.  ANY set of Cullum’s Register will show graduates’ biographies sequentially by number, regardless of volume, publisher, or date, and hence, graduate’s information from Cullum is cited by number, i.e. Cullum, Register, #770 (no pages numbers).

[3]National Archives and Records Adminstration (hereafter, NARA), Returns from Regular Cavalry Regiments, 1833-1916; First Cavalry; 1845-1847 (Microfilm Publication M744, Roll 2), First Cavalry; 1848-1850  (Roll ), Records of U.S. Regular Army Mobile Units, Record Group 393  (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1972); hereafter NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847 and NARA, 1st  Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850.   Company B, 4th Quarter 1845, Regiment, Nov. 1845, and Regimental History, 1845; also C. Stanley Stevenson, “Expeditions in Dakota,” South Dakota Historical Collections, Volume IX (1918), 347-375.  Edwin Vose Sumner, born in Boston 1797, was commissioned directly as a 2nd Lt. in 1819, became commanding officer Company B, (1st) Dragoons on creation of the Regiment in 1833, and was promoted Major, 2nd Dragoons, June 30, 1846. Heitman, Register, 836.

[4]“Fort Atkinson, 1840-46,” Jeffery T. Carr and William E. Whittaker, Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians, Traders, and Soldiers, 1682-1862, edited by William E. Whittaker,  (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009), 145-160; Francis P. Prucha, Broadax & Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army In the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860  (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995) 36-37, 129-130; NARA, 1st Dragoon returns 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment, January-May 1845.

[5] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, April, 1846; Adjutant General and Brigadier General Rodger Jones, General Order #2, January 8, 1847,  as published by directive in (St. Louis) Missouri Republican, January 28, 1847.

[6]Justin Smith, The War With Mexico, 2 volumes  (New York, McMillan & Co. 1919) 1:181-183; NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron (Co.s B & K), June 1846; Company K commanding officer Captain Philip St. George Cooke, was born in Virginia and graduated from West Point in 1827.  He too was an original officer of the Dragoon regiment, becoming a Captain in 1835. Cooke would serve as a volunteer Lt. Colonel commanding the Mormon Battalion after arrival in New Mexico.  Cullum, Register, #492

[7]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron, June, July 1846; Louise Barry, The Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West 1540-1854 (Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society, 1972), 623; Stephen Watts Kearny, Winning the West: General Stephen Watts Kearny’s Letter Book 1846-1847, edited by Hans von Sachsen-Altenburg and Laura Gabiger (Boonville, MO: Pekitanoui Publications: 1998), 134 (Kearny to Brooke, May 31, 1846). Colonel, later Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny entered the Army as a young man from New Jersey in 1812 to fight the British; he was made Lt. Col. of the newly created Dragoons in 1833 and in 1836 became the regiment’s commander.  His vast experience on the western plains, the Santa Fe Trail, and his presence at Fort Leavenworth made him a natural choice as commander of the Army of the West in May of 1846; Dwight L. Clarke. Stephen Watts Kearny: Soldier of the West  (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) 101-115; Heitman, Register, 380.

[8] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Sumner Squadron, June, July 1846; Barry, The Beginning of the West, 623; National Archives, Orders issued by Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny and Brig. Gen. Sterling Price to the Army of the West, 1846-1848 (Microfilm Publication T1115), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, ND) Orders No. 11, July 31, 1846, hereafter  NARA, Orders, Army of the West; Abraham Robinson Johnston, Journal, in Marching with the Army of the West, Volume IV, The Southwest Historical Series, edited by Ralph P. Bieber (Philadelphia:  Porcupine Press, 1974), 92

[9]2nd Lieutenant George Rutledge Gibson, Journal of a Soldier Under Kearny and Doniphan 1846-1847,

edited by Ralph P. Bieber,  (Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1935) 203-206; 1st Lt.Christian Kribben, letter of Aug. 19, 1846 in (St Louis) Täglich Anzeiger des Westens Sept. 28, 1846 (all items from Anzeiger and (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne translated by Kimball); James McGoffin, letter of August 22, 1846, in, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails: Edward James Glasgow and William Henry Glasgow 1846-1848, edited by Mark L. Gardner (Nitwot, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1993), 87; Private Marcellus Bell Edwards, Journal, in Marching with the Army of the West, 139-140, 158-159; Lieut. Col., W. H. Emory,  Congressional Serial 517, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, from Fort Leavenworth in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, Ex. Doc. No. 41, 30th Congress, First Session (1848), 32-33, 36, hereafter Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance; Cooke, Conquest, 70-71.

[10] Letter of Sept. 24, 1846, to Adj. Gen. Jones, in Kearny, Letterbook, 168-169; also see Army of the West Orders No.s 18 (Aug. 27, 1846) and 22 (Sept. 18, 1846), Special Order No. 8 (Sept. 20, 1846), in NARA, Orders, Army of the West, 1846-1848; Cooke, Conquest, 69-70.  Actual count of Dragoons present for service on the September 30, 1846 return is 317.

[11] Cooke, Conquest,51-71.

[12] See: Josiah Gregg , Commerce of the prairies: or, The journal of a Santa Fe trader, during eight expeditions across the great western prairies, and a residence of nearly nine years in northern Mexico, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: J. W. Moore, 185); and George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 2 vols. (New York:  Harper and Brothers, 1844); John Taylor Hughes, Doniphan’s expedition and the conquest of New Mexico and California, edited by William Elsey Connelley  (Topeka, KS: Published by the editor, 1907) 207-217; George Rutledge Gibson, Journal of a Soldier,  209-245; see also Auguste deMarle’s letters of August 31, 1846 and September 16, 1846 in (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne, October 10 and 25, 1846.

[13] Baker to “Dear Sister” (Mrs. Hugh Martin), 1 Hudson Street (Manhattan), New York, from Santa Fe, Mexico, Sept. 13, 1846. An extract of this Baker letter was published in, Chronicles of the Gringos: the U. S. Army in the Mexican War, 1846-1848, Accounts of Eyewitnesses & Combatant, edited by George Winston Smith and Charles Judah (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1868) 123-124. Baker is incorrectly identified in the editors’ comments as “a traveler en route to Mexico.”

[14] NARA, Letters received by the Office of the Adjutant General (Main Series); Papers relating to the activities of Maj. Gen. Stephen W. Kearny and to the Army of the West 1846-1847  (Microfilm Publication M567, Roll 319), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1965), Kearny letters of Oct. 6 and 11, 1846 (both to  Adj. Gen. Jones), and Oct. 9, 1846 (to Sumner); a published but unsigned letter from “commander of companies C and K” (Benjamin Moore) to “relative” (probably Moore’s father-in-law, Judge Mathew Hughes) of Oct. 6, 1846, from “Camp on the Rio Grande Del Norte,” in Jefferson [Mo.] Inquirer, December 1, 1846.

[15]NARA Orders, Army of the West, Kearny, Order No. 35, Oct. 10, 1846; Turner, Original Journals, 80-83. Emory, Notes of a Reconnaissance, 55-56.  Just-promoted 1st Lieutenant John Love was to become a central character in Baker’s life as the new commander of Company B.  Born in Virginia, a resident of Tennessee when appointed to West Point, Love graduated and was assigned to the First Dragoons in 1841. Since then he had garnered typically extensive experience on the plains and Rockies.  As 2nd Lt. of Moore’s Company C, Love had been on recruiting duty in Dayton Ohio, from 1845 until the outbreak of the war. Companies C (without Love) and G had left Fort Leavenworth on June 5, 1846, being the first departing detachment of the Army of the West.  Love traveled as a supernumerary on Kearny’s staff, leaving June 30, 1846, returning to Company C at Bent’s Fort the end of July; Cullum, Register, #1072, Barry, Beginning of the West, 591, 620.  Love had been the officer who acted as negotiator for Cooke as the Dragoons disarmed the Texian partisan “Battalion of Invincibles” lurking on the Santa Fe Trail at Jackson’s Grove June 30, 1843.  Philip St. George Cooke, edited by William E. Connelley, “A Journal of the Santa Fe Trail,” in Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly, Vol. XII. No. 2(June, 1925), 227-236.

[16]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Companies B, G, & I, Oct. 1846;  2nd Lt. Henry W. Stanton, from New York, had graduated from the Military Academy in 1842 and been assigned to the 1st Dragoons.  He had accompanied Capt. Moore to New Mexico, where his Company was broken up. Upon his return to Fort Leavenworth, he would serve a dual role, as Acting Assistant Adjutant General for the 1st Dragoons and commander of the detachment of 1st Dragoons (progressively composed more and more of the rebuilding Company B) accumulating at the post; Cullum, Register, #1155; National Archives, Returns from U. S. Military Posts, 1800-1916; [Fort] Leavenworth, KS; Aug 1827-Dec.1850 (Microfilm Publication M617, Roll 610), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1968) Nov. 1846-May 1847; hereafter  NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns.  Ohioan 2nd Lt. Bezaleel W. Anderson graduated from the Military Academy in 1845 and been assigned to Company G, 1st Dragoons.  He had marched west on June 5 as a Brevet 2nd Lt. and was now promoted and assigned to the 2nd Dragoons.  Like Sumner, Anderson was returning to the States with the intention of traveling on and joining his new regiment in Mexico. Cullum, Register, #1253; NARA 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Regiment, June 1846; NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, June, 1846.

[17] Cooke, “Journal of the March of the Mormon Battalion,” entries for Oct. 19 and 23, 1846, in NARA, Letters, Army of the WestNARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, Dec.1846; Love, “Abstract of Purchases made during the Quarter ending December 31 46.” (Will Gorenfeld Personal Collection);

[18] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, Nov. 1846; Heitman, Register, 625.  A “Brevet” was an honorary promotion rewarding valor or service.  West Point graduates were initially only Brevet Second Lieutenants (as had been Armstrong); Hetzel, Military Laws, 24, 116, 155.  Baker and the detachment at Fort Leavenworth never seemed to have been idle; his second letter described duties that seem like those detailed by Sergt. Percival Lowe when in similar small detachments; Five Years a Dragoon.

[19] Baker to “Dear Nephew,” Fort Leavenworth, Dec. 10, 1846.  The public has generally thought poorly of enlisted regular soldiers.  See for instance, Bennett (who enlisted under an alias), glad NOT to be recognized by his mother the first time he ventured on to the streets of his home town in uniform; Forts and Forays, 4.  Drown thought it best not to tell any of his Chicago friends when he reenlisted, “Trumpter’s Notes,” in Rodenbough, Everglade to Canyon, 203-204. Ulysses Grant wrote in his wonderful memoir that in the summer of 1843 he returned to his parents’ home in Bethel, Ohio, as a Brevet 2nd Lieutenant on graduation furlough.  While riding out in his new uniform (hoping to impress the neighbors, particularly the young ladies) he was accosted on the street by an urchin with the chant of “Soldier! Will you work? No, sir—ee; I’ll sell my shirt first!” Personal Memoirs (New York: Random House, 1999), 18.  Percival Lowe, alone, never seemed ashamed of his uniform or his service during his enlistment (nor did anything of which to be ashamed), Five Years a Dragoon.  Rocky Point was most often the sight of theft and raiding by Jicarilla Apaches.s

[20] 2nd Lt. Anderson O. Nelson to John Love, Terre Haute February 12, 1847, Will Gorenfeld Collection.  Nelson would soon return to duty with his regiment, the 6th Infantry, and be in combat by May 14, as Scott’s army fought its way to Mexico City (Cullum #1101).

[21] Indiana State Journal, February 8, 1847.

[22] Wm. Hugh Robarts, Mexican War Veterans: A Complete Roster (Washington, D. C.: Brentano’s, 1887) 47-50.   Letter of (Pvts.) John W. George, Jeptha Powell, and George W. Gibson to “Liet [Love] Dear Sir,” from Newport Barracks, April 2, 1847, in John Love Papers, 1837–1886, Collection #M 0653 OM 0320, William Henry Smith Memorial Library, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis; hereafter John Love Papers, Indiana Historical Society.  Will Gorenfeld wishes to express his thanks to Mrs. Betsy Caldwell for access to this and related documents.  Lt. Love did not regard the letter as a slight to his rank and station. In June of 1847, he promoted George Gibson, one of the signatories, to the rank of corporal. All three of these men would serve honorably in Company B.

[23] Such accelerated and abbreviated training was typical in the army, particularly during the Mexican War. The Missouri volunteers who had marched with Kearny in June 1846 had less than two weeks between muster and departure for New Mexico, some units, less than a week—Murphy’s Platte County Volunteer Infantry Company actually marched for New Mexico two days after mustering into service.  Missouri Secretary of State, On-Line Archives, Soldiers’ Records (for muster dates); Barry, Beginning of the West, 594-596 (for departure dates).  1st Dragoons, Company F, reorganized on August 31, 1846, shipped out for Mexico Oct 6, 1846 (37 days); Company K reorganized August 15, 1847 and left for Mexico September 15, 1847 (31 days).  Company B had thirty-six days from its reorganization  (and only seven days with the forty-two man detachment at Fort Leavenworth consolidated with the St. Louis party—less desertions, of course) until its departure. NARA, Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Annual Reports, 1846, 1847.  In 1849, dragoon recruit Bennett seems to have received only infantry and musician training as he began his 1849 enlistment with six months of time wasted on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor. (Bennett, Forts and Forays, 4-8)Enlisted a month earlier, Lowe went to Carlisle Barracks for two months of initial instruction under the then-Brevet Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke, proceeding to Company B before Christmas 1849; Lowe. Five Years a Dragoon, 5-11.

[24] Jenkins to “Dear Love,” March 20, 1847, from Jefferson Barracks; Will Gorenfeld Personal Collection; 2nd Lt. Leonidas Jenkins, 1st Dragoons, had been on recruiting duty at Jefferson Barracks and nearby St. Louis since Oct. 1845.  He had graduated from USMA 1841 and been with the 1st Dragoons since then. Jenkins would soon reorganize Company K at Jefferson Barracks, lead it to Vera Cruz, and die there of the vomito, Oct. 18, 1847; (Cullum #1071; NARA, 1st Dragoons Retuns, 1845-1847, Annual Report 1847;    NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns , March, 1847.

[25] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, April, 1847.  Stanton was serving as Regimental and Post Adjutant AND commander of the Dragoon detachment.

[26] Baker to “My Dear Boy,” Fort Leavenworth, April 28, 1847. Peel was a Bugler, not technically an NCO, but apparently quite competent.   Of the twenty five recruits and their mounts marched by Jenkins from Jefferson Barracks and undergoing training at Fort Leavenworth after march 4, 1847, twelve were listed as born in “Germany.”  Five more had distinctive German names (i.e. Fosbenner, Schoele, etc.) and may have been German born as well; see Gorenfeld’s “German Born Men of Company B,” on line at   St. Louis, host city to Jefferson Barracks and source of many of the 1st Dragoons’ recruits, had a substantial and growing population of German immigrants—largely military-age men.  Robyn Burnett, Ken Luebbering, German settlement in Missouri: new land, old ways (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996), 20-22.

[27] NARA, Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916; Jefferson Barracks, MO; Jan. 1826-Dec. 1851  (Microfilm Publication M617, Roll 546), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94 (Washington, D. C: National Archives, 1968), April and May, 1847. NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B, May 1847.

[28] Missouri Republican, May 11, 1847.  In perspective though, such superlatives were tossed about rather carelessly.

[29] George F. Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains (New York: Harpers & Brothers: 1848), 294.  Ruxton continued on to Fort Leavenworth and there came in contact with a deserter from his British regiment in Canada, the 89th Regiment of Foot, Pvt. Thomas Crosby, a reenlisted regular of Company B. “Memoir of Lieut. G. A. F. Ruxton,” The Daguerreotype, Volume 3, 1849, 238-239; NARA  Discharge papers, Crosby.  While traveling through New Mexico and enjoying the hospitality of the Burgwin Dragoon Squadron in Albuquerque on December 17, 1846, Ruxton had an encounter with another deserter from the 89th  Foot, 1st Dragoon Pvt. Henry Herbert, of Company G.  Ruxton, Adventure, 186.

[30] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, May, 1847; Love to Adj. Gen. R. Jones, June 27, 1847, from Camp on the Arkansas, in Niles National Register 72 (1847), 343-344; hereafter Love to Jones, NNR, June 27, 1847.  On June 20, 1847, Fort Leavenworth Acting Commissary of Subsistence 1st Lt. William Prince wrote from Fort Leavenworth to his superior, Major R. B. Lee, that “the determination of the Indians” would prevent the successful transit of any unescorted trains that season.  William Prince Letterbooks, 1845-48, Beinecke Rare Book and Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-551, 343-344.

[31] NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, June 1847; see (then-Major) Clifton Wharton, on the Band playing out a departing force, in “Expedition,” in Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. XVI (1925): 272.

[32] William Y. Chalfant, Dangerous Passage: the Santa Fe Trail and the Mexican War (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), 165-185; Kevin Sweeney, “Thirsting for War, Hungering for Peace: Drought, Bison Migrations, and native peoples on the Southern Plains, 1845-1859,” Journal of the West, Vol. 41,

No. 2 (Summer 2002): 70-78. Lt. Col. William Gilpin to Adj. Gen. R. Jones, August 1, 1848, from Fort Mann, in Congressional Set 537, Report of the Secretary of War, Executive Document No. 1, 30th Congress, 2nd Session, 1848, 136-140; hereafter Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West.  The earlier Prince letter (supra, Fn 30) and that of March 3, 1847 from Adj. Gen. Jones to Missouri Governor Edwards (Niles National Register72 (1847), 206 make clear that the danger to transportation trains from Native raiding along the Santa Fe Trail during 1847was understood by the military and that all trains were intended to be escorted between Council Grove and Las Vegas, New Mexico.

[33] Will Gorenfeld and George R. Stammerjohan., “Love’s Defeat: Dragoons vs. Comanches,” Wild West, v.17, no.1 (June 2004), 38-45. Baker to “My Dear Nephew,” Council Grove, June 14, 1847.

[34] Ibid.

[35] LeRoy R. Hafen, Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick, Mountain Man, Guide and Indian Agent (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 1981) 245-246; Thomas Fitzpatrick to Thomas H. Harvey (Superintendent Indians Affairs, St. Louis), Sept. 18, 1847, Bend’s Ford [sic, Bent’s Fort], in Congressional Set 503, Appendix to the Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Executive Document No. 8, 30th Congress, 1st Session, 1847, 238-240.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Baker to “My dear Nephew,” Arkansas River, June 27 1847.

[39]Ibid.  Love himself called attention to the courage and sacrifice of his men and called for better planning and logistics to prevent recurrences of what became known as “Love’s Defeat.” Love to Jones, NNR, June 27, 1847.  Sgt. Ben Bishop, leader of the badly mauled detachment, paid tribute to Lt. Love.  Like Fitzpatrick, Bishop  insisted that Love had acted “prudently and wisely;” see Bishop’s July 1, 1847 letter from “Camp Battleground” reprinted in James Madison Cutts, The Conquest of California and New Mexico by the forces of the United States in the Years 1846 &1847 (Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1847), 240-243.

[40] NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment, August 1847;  Santa Fe Republican, September 10, 1847; 1st Lt. A. B. Dyer wrote that all of the replacement volunteer regiments and battalions had arrived in Santa Fe by Sept. 6, 1847, though Company B, 1st Dragoons, was clearly the first new unit to arrive in 1847.  A. B. Dyer, typescript Mexican War Diary, entry for September 6, 1847, in Alexander Brydie Dyer Papers, Collection AC 070-P, Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, NM; hereafter Dyer Diary, Chavez Library.

[41] John Love Papers, IHS: “Received Santa Fe New Mexico, August 16, 1847, of Lieutenant John Love… Wm. McKissack, Capt., AQM,” with a list of turned in items, and (same source) “Invoice of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores… August, 1848;” NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1845-1847, Company B and Regiment,  Sept. -Dec. 1847; Dyer Diary, Chavez Library, Dec. 2-19, 1847.

[42]NARA, Returns From U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916, Albuquerque, NM: Oct 1846-July 1867 (Microfilm M617 Roll 13), Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917, Record Group 94, (Washington, D.C: National Archives, 1968), Nov. 1847; Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton, directly commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in 1818, became a Captain of the original Dragoons in 1833.  He was serving as Acting Commander of the 1st Dragoons and Post Commander of Fort Leavenworth in 1847 (Heitman, Register, 686; NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, 1847.   Dyer Journal, Dec. 9, 1847; NARA, Orders, AOW, Record of General Court Martial, Albuquerque, Dec. 24-28, (Report, Santa Fe, Jan. 1, 1848).

[43]NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Company B, Jan. and Feb., 1848; Lt. Col. R. H. Lane  from El Paso, to 1st Lt. W. E. Prince, Jan 30, 1848 , in Missouri Republican, May 2, 1848.  Shepard, Autobiography of Elihu H. Shepard (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., 1869), describes the extremely challenging crossing of Easton’s Infantry and Walker’s Santa Fe battalions on the evening of Feb. 6, 1848.  The Rio Grande was likely to have still been in flood when Love crossed, 151-154. Unsigned (author “our correspondent,” Pvt. Philip Gooch Ferguson) letter of April 6, 1848 from Chihuahua, in Missouri Republican, May 15, 1848;

[44] Missouri Republican, May 2, 1848; (St. Louis) Deutsche Tribüne, June 7, 1848, letter of March 20, 1848, from Santa Cruz de Rosales, signed “Der Rekrut von Santa Cruz” (probably Orderly Sergt. Herman Weber); Brig. Gen. Sterling Price to Adj. Gen. Jones, from Chihuahua, March 31, 1848, Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West, 113-119.

[45]Report of 1st Lt. John Love, March 22, 1844, 124-126; Report of Major B. L. Beall, March 23, 1848, 122-124; both in Congressional Set 537, Operations of the Army of the West.

[46] Deutsche Tribüne, June 7, 1848; Shepard, Autobiography, 170-174; Dyer Diary, Chavez Library, March 16-July 18, 1848; NARA, 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Company B and Regiment, March-August 1848.  Considering this the end of their Mexican War era journeys, the cadre of Company B had completed marches totaling over 5,036 overland miles since leaving Fort Atkinson at the beginning of the war (not counting the additional 670 steamboat miles); Love, Muller, and others had actually covered more in their 1846-1847 recruiting journey and return.

[47] NARA, 1st Dragoons Returns, 1848-1850, Company B and Regiment, Oct. and Nov. 1848.

[48] Ibid, Company B and Regimental Returns, Dec. 1848 through May, 1849, NARA, Fort Leavenworth Returns, January 1849.

[49] NARA 1st Dragoon Returns, 1848-1850, Regiment, June, 1849; Death Notice, Boston Evening Transcript, June 29, 1849.  Thanks to John Maurath for contributing this and for his wonderful tour and perspective on Jefferson Barracks, which he and his friends are actively preserving and promoting.

[50]Ebenezer T. Carr, “Addenda,” in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12 (1912), xv-xvi, described the 1861 removal of all bodies from every distinguishable grave in Fort Leavenworth’s  “old soldiers burying ground,” including any associated markers.  No record of Baker’s grave remained; confirm,, and telephone conversation with Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery staff member, Sept. 24, 2009.

George Henneberg: Immigrant Bugler and Deserter

Kearny to Adj. Gen. Jones, January 27, 1839, Letter Book 410


By the last mail received your instruction of the 8th Inst. to send George Henneburg one of the Principal Musicians of the 2d Dragoons, to Jefferson Barracks that he may be sent over there to join his Regiment in Florida, & for the information of the Com. in Chief I sent to you his history as I understand it.

In June 1836 Henneberg with his family (a wife & 3 children) arrived in the U.S. from Germany. In November (in five months after his arrival) he was enlisted in Baltimore by Capt. Winder, 2d Dragoons. He, not understanding our language was (as he says) promised by the Capt. [through a doctor Hantz?] (who acted as an Interpreter and who he thinks was the Examining Surgeon) that he should not be sent to Florida , but to Jefferson Barracks to serve there during his enlistment as        instructor to both bands. He was sent there; [unintelligible] with his Reg’t., having his family with him; and when it left there in Sep’t ’34 for Florida, he started with it, but on arriving at Shawneetown on the 15th of that month, considering the promise made to him at his enlistment had not been fulfilled, he deserted, went to New Orleans where his family with the Baggage of the Re’t had been sent. He returned with them to Jefferson Barracks, and on the 11th Dec. delivered himself up to Brig. Gen’l Atkinson (without expenses to the U.S.) who in October ’38 sent him under Capt. Perkins to this Post to serve with the 1st Drags. ‘til further orders.

On my return to the Reg’t in December I found him here & assigned him to Co. “B” as a Bugler, as I reported to you in my letter of the 11th of that month. He is now in that Company having with him his wife , two young children and daily expecting another.

This man appears to me like a very respectable German and still understands our language very imperfectly. As I have been thus particular about his family, that the Comd. In Chief may himself judge, & I have no doubt he would agree with me, in crediting his story, that he was deceived in his enlistment when promised that he was to serve at Jefferson Barracks, & not to be sent to Florida where he is most unwilling to go, as it would separate him from those far removed as from the native Homes and dependent upon him. I have now to recommend that he be transferred from the 2nd to the 1st Dragoons, in Exchange for one of the many men that Regt had received the letters. I will detain him here ‘till the decision of the Comd. in Chief is received in reply to this communication.

Bugler George Henneberg re-enlisted in Company F on 16 July 1846. Lt. Phil Kearny, the recruiting officer promised to keep Henneberg with his family. The movement of Co. F to San Antonio, Texas and the replacement of the easy going Capt. Philip Thompson with the wild eyed Lt. Kearny, resulted, on 14 September 1846, of Henneberg’s 2d desertion. This time, having his fill of broken promises, he did not return,

Beall's 1849 Expedition


Maj. Ben Beall to Lt. John Dickerson, 2d Arty., AAAG, Head Quarters, 9th Military Dist.

Don Fernando de Taos, NM, March 12, 1849


Agreeably to a letter of instructions from Head Quarters 9th Mily Department, dated 27th January 1849, directing me to “proceed as soon as possible to the country inhabited by the Kiowa Indians” for the purpose of releasing “a number of prisoners in their possession who have been captured in New Mexico,” I have the honor to submit the following report.

On the morning of the 10th ultimo I left Taos with Company I 1st Dragoons under the command of 1st Lieut Whittlesey accompanied by 2d Lieut. J. H. Adams 1st Dragoons acting adjt to the Detachment, and asst. Surgeon H. R. Wirtz. I crossed the mountains of the “Rio de la Mora” by different passes and through deep snow and reaching the Prairie on the eastern side I was joined Lieut. A. Pleasanton in command of Co. H, 2d Dragoons, on the 14th. I then took the most direct route to the Arkansas River and camped on the “Rio Lempa” on the 22d being then within thirty miles of Bent’s Fort.

It appears that news had reached Bents Fort from the “Green Horn” that a military force was en route to the Kiowa Nation to liberate the Mexican prisoners in their possession and accordingly on the evening of that day I received a letter by express from the Fort from the U. States Indian Agent for the Upper Platte and Arkansas (Mr. Fitzpatrick) and also one from an influential resident at the Pueblo. The purpose of these letters was as follows—That the Indians in the vicinity of the post were at present exceedingly civil, but that if forcible measures were resorted to in order to liberate the prisoners in the hands of the Kiowas, the lives and property of the Americans residing in that portion of the country would be in the most imminent danger if they were not absolutely compelled to leave the settlements at the sacrifice of all they possessed. The Indian Agent, therefore, requested that I come on to Bents Fort in advance of my command in order that we might confer together about the feasibility of the expedition. On the following morning, I marched to the Arkansas, and early the next day reaching the Fort encamping my command on the South bank of the Arkansas river.

By the letter of instruction to me directed, I understand that every possible measure was to be adopted in order to secure the liberation of the captives in the hands of the Kiowa Indians, but that if they could not be obtained “peaceably” they must be obtained “otherwise.”

I was convinced by the opinion of every person on the Arkansas who was acquainted with Indian affairs that to obtain the Mexican captives by peaceable means was a thing impossible and great stress being laid in the above mentioned letter of instruction upon the desirability of a continuance of the friendly relations between the Kiowas and Whites I was in doubt how to act.

On arriving at the Fort I learned from the U. States Indian Agent that the greater part of the Kiowa nation was absent on a great hunt with the Comanches and that but a few lodges were at that time on the Arkansas River. The majority of the prisoners I also understood were with the absent party.

The expediency of an attack upon the few Kiowas who were then on the Arkansas (for I was convinced they would not release their captives without a fight) and the chance of losing thereby those persons who were with the remainder of the nation, thus defeating in a measure the object of the expedition, induced me to call a council of my officers, and I now present for the consideration of the comg officer of the 9th Mily Department my reasons for acting as I have done, and the conclusion which I have adopted.

1st In the first place I thought it best to learn the disposition of the Kiowas in regard to their prisoners, and I obtained the following information—the majority of the captives are women who are married to Indians and have by their numerous children. This portion is perfectly satisfied, with but a few exceptions, to remain, and even if offered their “liberty” would doubtfully refuse to leave a nation with which they have so many ties. The male portion of the captives have become perfectly barbarianised, and in their mode of life and custom have affiliated themselves            more or less completely with their captors. These individuals if liberated would be totally unfitted for and made miserable by the usages of civilized life. The Indians themselves are much attached to their prisoners from affection or cupidity and would fight for them with as much tenacity as for their own people. I therefore saw that the Kiowa would must certainly give us battle rather than give up a portion of their own nation as it were into our hand.

2dly  The feasibility and expectancy of successfully resorting to forcible measures was there to be considered. (1) The great map of the Kiowa nation was absent. The majority of the prisoners was with them. To attack those who were in camp on the Arkansas was no easy matter.  Here was a Kiowa lodge, there Arapahoe lodge; here again a Kiowa lodge — there a Cheyenne lodge, for about fifteen miles along the river bank, indeed so interrupted and scattered were they that in a sudden attack upon the Kiowas, many Indians of other tribes would have been there fired, and many Kiowas would have escaped.  To tell them the object of the expedition, to order them to separate themselves and fight us, would have been the extreme of folly, inasmuch as if they did present a bold front, the prisoners would certainly be run off or if there was no chance to effect this they would massacre them rather than let them fall into our hands. (2) Even supposing it to have been reasonable to have obtained every prisoner there from the Arkansas, all hope would have been lost of our regaining by forcible means the remainder and the majority.  In the inaccessible vastness of the mountains and in the wide spread plains of the Indian country they would have hidden them from us most probably successfully. (3) Again — several Comanche chiefs have lately arrived at this post suing for peace.  Now the Comanches have more prisoners than any other tribe of the Plains, and as a peace with the Comanches was considered a desireable object by the U. States Indian Agent, and as a statement of the object of my expedition would most certainly have interrupted such arrangements by informing them that the United States intended to take all prisoners from the Indians forcibly and not purchased them as has always been done heretofore I give to this consideration also its proper weight. (4) There was still another consideration of great importance, namely defenseless condition of the American citizen on the Arkansas, far away from the new Mexican settlements, exposed to the cruelty of outraged savages and unable by their number or strength to stand such odds.  The effect of a fight with the Kiowa would have certainly have broken up the prospect of civilization along the course of the Arkansas and the valley of the “greenhorn.”

Under these adverse circumstances I concluded according to the best of my judgment that it would be to the interest of the service and the general Government to delay forcible measures until I could lay the state of the case before the army officer of the 9th mily and Department and at the same time to avail myself of every piece of useful information I could collect for their action.

That the expedition might not be unproductive of useful results, and there being present at the fort several principal Chiefs of the different tribes, I concluded to call them together in Council and give them some advice and information with regard to the present State of New Mexico, Texas and the Plains carefully advising in conformity with my conclusions herein stated, any mention of the Mexican Prisoners in the hands of the Kiowas.

Leaving Bents Fort on the 2d inst, I directed my course up the Arkansas, ordering Lieut. Pleasanton with his command to return to Santa Fe via the Mora intending myself to reach this post with Company I, 1st Dragoons via “Sierra Blanca” leaving the Spanish peaks on my left.

The passage of this mountain was very difficult.  The snow in many places ten or fifteen feet deep, and was only by the most untiring exertion on the part of the command in beating down the drifting snow that a track was formed. The command reached this Post on the 9th inst.

Subjoined are the minutes of the council, and two letters from the U. States Indian Agent, and one from a citizen of the Pueblo.

I am very respectfully your obt. Servt.,

B.L. Beall, Major, 1st Dragoons Comy

@font-face { font-family: “?? ??”; }@font-face { font-family: “?? ??”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 10pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }.MsoChpDefault { font-size: 10pt; font-family: Cambria; }.MsoPapDefault { margin-bottom: 10pt; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordSection1; }

Thomas Fitzpatrick to Beall

Bents Fort, February 2, 1849


Being at the Puebla a few days ago on my way to the Katty [?] I learned that you were en route for this place, and being apprehensive that some difficulty might arise out of your mission I thought it best to return and be present. There are great numbers of Indians in this vicinity at present all of which are exceedingly civil, but should you be obliged to resort to harsh measures in regard to the Mexican prisoners I doubt much whether they will remain civil longer than your presence will keep them in awe. Such a state of things, you are aware will leave many American citizens in a very dangerous situation in this country. But I hope that your judicious management in the matter will not leave the least appearance of danger behind. Your arrival here at this time is very opportune for more reasons than one, as four Comanche Chiefs suing for peace have just arrived.

You may rely implicitly on my cooperation with you and would be glad if you could arrive here in advance of your command in order that we might confer together on the whole subject.

Thos. Fitzpatrick

I have just arrived last night late in haste.

Thomas Fitzpatrick to Beall

Bents Fort, February 24, 1849

Sir, For the purpose of fulfilling, and carrying out the 4th article of the late treaty between the United States and Mexico (which obligates the United States to liberate and restore to Mexico all persons in possession of Indians residing within the territories of the United States), being the object of your visit here at present, with your command. I hope you will not consider me presuming too much if I take the opportunity of submitting my opinion and views on a matter which so deeply interests the general government, as well as many American citizens whose business leads them into this remote and unprotected region.

I am not aware, nor do I make pretentions of possessing any power or authority whatever that could give one a right to interfere in the smallest degree with the performance of your duty or instructions. On the contrary I feel bound by duty as well as inclination to cooperate with and aid you to the utmost of my abilities, and inasmuch as I consider myself acquainted with the disposition, manners, customs, habits and prospects of the Indian tribes of this country, as well as the situations of the whites thereby, I respectfully lay before you the following statement in order that you may thus more readily decide on the most proper course to pursue.

There is immediately in the vicinity of this place at the present time, a portion of several tribes—Cheyenne’s, Kiowas, Aripahoes [sic], Apache, and a delegation of Comanche Chiefs now in this fort who have first arrived and are immediately suing for peace with the American people. Of all these tribes, the Kiowas are the only tribe who have prisoners amongst them, and I am quite certain that they will never surrender them without ransom of by force of arms, which if resorted to will not only cause the death of some of the prisoners, but will drive them once more into an inveterate state of hostility against us. What is meant by force of arms causing the deaths of a part of the prisoners is that, whenever the Indians are attacked on their account, those having any in possession will immediately will put all those to death whom they suppose have any inclination to leave them. A similar effect with a like policy will be produced on the Comanche, who have, perhaps more Mexican prisoners than all the others put together, and are now, as before observed, within this fort seeking the “olive branches”. But the greatest difficulty which I perceive you are likely to meet with in the accomplishment of the object of the present campaign is that the Indians are so scattered and interspersed, that in making an attack on any encampment you will liable to injure necessarily olf each of the above tribes and thereby embroil yourself with the whole.

In bringing to you notice all of the foregoing considerations you will perceive that I have said little or nothing in regard to the very dangerous, and precarious situation which such a state of affairs as I have referred to, would place many American citizens pursuing a lawful and laudably, and laudable business in this country. But the many disasters and misfortunes which American citizens have been subjected to in this country, are well known, yet up to this moment there has never been the slightest effort made towards their protection, or redress for wrongs.

The foregoing is but a brief and hasty writing of what is likely may arise out of any attempt to obtain the Mexican prisoners by force of arms. Indeed, the whole matter seems to be so different from the first and various usages of the United States government towards the red man, that I can with difficulty, and only because coming from so respectable source, realize or believe the fact. It is well known that any thing taken in war by Indians, according to their notions is of more value than any other sort of property, inasmuch as it becomes a portion of the history and fame of the warrior.

When I first became acquainted with the article of the treaty which is the subject of this letter I at once came to the conclusion that congress as soon as practicably devise and means for its fulfillment, by appointing commissioners, or agents to treat with the friendly tribes and thereby accomplish the object amicably. I wish to be understood as having no objection whatever to any thing or course you may see proper to pursue. I only beg to be allowed to say that this is not the proper season of the year to accomplish this object in view, over winter, is your command sufficiently strong in case of a union of the bands now almost together, as it were in one camp on the river.

A Gold Rush Officer's Card Game Feud

Born and reared in Tennessee, Lt. Cave Couts frequently placed personal integrity above all else and a willingness to chastise those opponents threatening his honor. This became evident after an army officer, Major Justus McKinstry, verbally maligned Couts’ new-found novia, Ysidora Bandini. Incensed, Couts sent Lieutenant George Evans, with a note challenging McKinstry to a fight. Declining the summons, McKinstry chose instead to thrash it out with Evans in Old Town Plaza of San Diego , much to the ire of Couts.

McKinstry and Evans were court martialed for their actions. McKinstry suffered “three months suspension of rank, pay and involvements and to be reprimanded by the General Command.” (Letter from Cave Couts to William Emory, January 1, 1851, contemporary copy, San Diego Historical Society, Couts Letter File.) Other primary and secondary sources for the Couts-McKinstry feud include: a letter published in the Missouri Republican, December 1, 1849, p. 2; William H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), p. 161; and Grant Foreman, Marcy and The Gold Seekers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939), pp. 320-321.

The McKinstry-Couts feud seems to go back to a bad debt. In the course of an 1849 card game, McKinstry borrowed seven hundred dollars from Couts of which he would only repay four hundred. As Couts later stated: “… being in want of the money I sent a polite note requesting the difference between us. It was denied me.” Letter from Cave Couts to Thomas Sidney Jesup, Statement Against Justus McKinstry, September 10, 1849, Cave Couts Collection, Huntington Library.

In subsequent years McKinstry’s behavior showed little improvement. After a scandal involving fraudulent administration of his command, he was court-martialed from the army on January 28, 1863, for “neglect and violation of duty, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” Thomas W. Sweeney, The Journal of Lt. Thomas W. Sweeney, 1849-1853, ed. by Arthur Woodward (Los Angeles: The Westernlore Press, 1956), p. 260.)

San Luis Rey, Califa

March 1, 1851

Dear [Lt. John] Love,

I recd. your note of 7th Dec. by last steamer. Why did you not tell us something more of the New Regiments? We expect it to be a ten strike for us and of course are materially interested. Also more of our dear regiment? For we are as ignorant of Regimental affairs out here, as though we were in Egypt.

I returned from San Francisco about the middle of the past month, where I had been standing charges prefr. by Bvt. MaJor J. McKinstry, A.Q.M. He resorted to this in consequence of a private difficulty, notified the Judge Advocate that he should put in the presentation of the charges, and here is the findings of the court after find an honorable acquittal): viz

“The court cannot refrain from an expression of decided disapproval of the court which Major McKinstry, the accuser in the case, has thought proper to pursue. His utter failure to prove the charges and specifications, and the circumstances of the case as spread upon the record, constrain the court to believe that these charges have proceeded more from personal ill will, than from a regard to the interest of the public service.”

“The court therefore deems it their duty to make a Public expression of the disapprobation of the course pursued by the accuser, Major McKinstry.”

I mention this because I have understood some 12 or 18 months since he published a letter in a N. Orleans paper (the “Crescent”) where both myself and Evans were placed in an unfavorable light. I have now been able to see this; it resulted from his having found proof upon all gentlemen in the vicinity, that he was a coward & liar and unworthy of their farther attention or intercourse.

I did not have an opportunity of going to Benicia to see Kearny & he was, and had been there sick for some time. Saw Stoneman, who is very well and making a pile of money.

In the event of the “New Regiment” being organized, and a complete Regt. of Dragoons sent to Califa, what say you to making an effort to get all of the 1st out? With a whole Regt here, at least Seven Comp[anies] would be constantly at head quart[ers]: and we would have an infinitely better time on the whole, than any where on the old frontier. In such an event, but little effort on the part of some of our Sr. officers, would accomplish the matter, and one would have the whole Regt., to all purposes together. All who have been to Califa. Would undoubtedly find this strongly. Kind Regards to all friends,

I am, very truly,

Cave Couts

[p.s.] The Maj. [Benjamin Beall?] desires to be remembered.
Present my regards particularly to Col. F[auntleroy] & his family

Old Four O'Clock: Sumner Takes Command of the Mounted Rifles

Armstrong to Love: Letter from Brazos Santiago, 1847.

(A special guest contribution)

This  breezy  communication was written by  2nd Lt. Bezaleel Armstrong, USMA 1845. He had recently returned from the occupation of New Mexico with a small party of 1st Dragoons, arriving at Fort Leavenworth on November 20, 1846.  Armstrong was one of several young officers transferred due to promotions.  The Dragoon return party was led by Major Edwin Vose Sumner,  finally promoted himself after thirteen years as a captain.  Armstrong’s letter was intended for his friend and recent traveling companion, 1st Lt. John Love, now in Dayton, Ohio, and assigned to recruit Compy B, 1st Dragoons full (broken up on order from Kearny and its privates distributed among Compys G & I, remaining in New Mexico).

Describing his own travels, reflecting on Major General Scott and the state of sea transportation, Armstrong also discussed the  Sumner’s assignment by Commanding General Winfield Scott as Acting Commander of the new regular army Regiment of Mounted Rifles, in apparent preference over the amateurs assigned to its field grade ranks.  Sumner, formally a  Major of the 2nd Dragoons, would train, command, and lead the Regiment of Mounted Rifles to Mexico City, winning Brevets of Lieutenant Colonel at Cerro Gordo and Colonel at Churubusco.

Armstrong never fully recovered his health, surviving the war only to die at home in Ohio, “a skeleton,” February 15, 1849.

Brazos Island, Texas
January 15, 1847

Dear  John:
Here I am on a sand bank without money, without a horse, a fairly considerably bad case of C…–entirely disgusted & anxious to get along from the “Greenwood” without being able to do it, on account of the wind blowing, the breakers running, and sand flying.
When I left you in Saint Louis, we got along very well on our way to New Orleans, until we got into the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio, when I (unlucky devil that I am) was taken with the Dysentery and came near going to Davy Jones before my time—we got into N. Orleans and there the Doctors took charge of me and after about ten days they put me on my legs again.  I then commenced to look about me, for a vessel to goBrazos [Brazos Santiago, the transshipment point for Taylor’s Army]. The doctor advised me not to go in the first vessel that left as I had not yet so far recovered as to [be] able to stand salt water to drink.  So I waited until the Alabama went out, but in the mean time the great “Mogul,” Gen. [Winfield] Scott came and took all room there was on Board for horses.  So I refused to go without my horse and waited until the Steamer [McKino?] was ready to go, but I was in no great hurry and she was considered rather a poor sea vessel so I waited a day or two for the next vessel, which was the “[Marcia Burt?]”  the evening she was to go.  I sent my horse on her, together with Major [Cary, former 2nd Lt., 3rd U.S. Inf.] Fry’s of Ky. Vol. (a cousin of Miss Gaphney’s [sic, Ellen Gwathmey]) and his nigger, but as she had no sails and we came to the conclusion that we could send our horses ahead and wait for the Massachusetts, we did so and arrived here days ago, but the Marcia Burt is not here, and nothing has been heard of her, so that my horse has gone in search of shells at the bottom of the gulf—at least every one here has given her up as she has been out about fifteen days.
So I am broke as I stayed in New Orleans about twenty eight days, at an expense of at least $5 per day, but the hardest lick is that I have lost my horse, and he cannot be replaced in this country.  Nearly all the horses of the Rifle Regiment have been lost in the gulf during the last gales.  When we arrived in New Orleans, the rifles were running wild, and their Major [William Loring] confined to his room by sickness.  So soon as Genl Scott arrived in New Orleans he assigned old “4 O’clock” [Major Sumner] to the command of the rifle Regiment, and he is now encamped at the mouth of the Rio Grande in command of the Rifle Regmt, 80 recruits of the 2nd Dragoons, about 200 of the 4th Infy, and a company of artillery.
I am ordered to the mouth to take charge of the recruits for my Regmt [2nd Drags] as they are now under a Bvt 2nd.  So I cannot tell when I will reach Genl [Zachary] Taylor.  Genl Scott & staff are here and will remain for about ten days, [who knows?] where they are going after that I cannot tell and “Tom Williams” [won’t?].  The fact the great “Captain” is very Mysterious, we have heard nothing from the Army as yet no battles has been fought as was expected.
Since I have been here we have heard that a detachment of the 2nd Drags has been attacked and six men killed, the Lieut in command has been arrested (so report says).  It is supposed [1st Lt. Reuben] Campbell was the officer.  I do not know the particulars.  I hope you will recruit soon and come on.  The Mexicans say they will have all [1st Lt. Phillip, Compy F, 1st Dragoons] PKearny’s horses before a month.  Give my love to Buckeye Gals and write me to mention how you are getting along.

Yours truly,

[2nd Lt. Bezaleel] Armstrong. [2nd Dragoons]

Gossip from Ft. Leavenworth 1845 & 1846

McLean to Love

Fort Leavenworth Mo.

Nov 26th 1845

Dear John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Wharton


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Where the Regiment Was Scattered During the Mexican War

A lack of Mexican War records has vexed historians as they’ve tried to pin down where the ten companies of the 1st Dragoons operated between 1845 and 1848. It wasn’t until 1851, three years after the treaty with Mexico, that the army comprehensively recorded where the units were during the war.

Except for five companies assigned to the Army of the West, the rest lay all over the map, in groups formed from between one and three companies, from present-day Oklahoma and south into the Valley of Mexico. This complicated efforts to track troop movement and personnel from the regimental headquarters at Ft. Leavenworth, Missouri Territory.

Below is a useful summary of where the regiment’s ten companies served during the years 1845-1848. I’ve taken these from annual returns of each year (from the National Archives’ NARA M7742).

Continue reading “Where the Regiment Was Scattered During the Mexican War”

Quake That Shook The Army’s Adobe

The army established Fort Tejon, California, in 1854. In January of 1857, the post was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes. These quakes were, possibly, the worst earthquakes to take place in California in the past 200 years. Inspector General Edward Mansfield noted in his 1859 inspection report that the post, built almost entirely out of adobe bricks “is particularly exposed to earthquakes , and every building is cracked by them; and on one occasion the gabled ends of two buildings were thrown down by earthquakes: in a few miles off, I saw an immense crack and crevice in the earth extending for many miles, caused recently by them.”

Lt Col. Benjamin L. Beall commanded the regiment and post. He was sound asleep when the quake struck and awoke to find his bedroom wall to have fallen away from the building. That evening he issued this preliminary report to headquaters.

Continue reading “Quake That Shook The Army’s Adobe”

From the Wide Missouri to the Pacific Shore: Rufus Ingall's Report of the Steptoe Expedition

In 1854-55, an expedition of dragoon and artillery recruits, under the command of Major Steptoe, left Fort Leavenworth for the Pacific Coast. Steptoe carried with him orders to spend the winter in Salt Lake City and, while there, investigate the murder of Captain John Gunnison and his party. Capt. and Assistant Quartermaster Rufus Ingalls, a former 1st Dragoon, submitted a following report of the expedition.

Report of the Secretary of War- Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First (1st) Session of the Thirty Fourth Congress, Senate Ex. Do. No. 1, December 31, 1855 (Beverly Tucker, Washington, 1855) Vol. 2, 153

Washington City, D. C,

November 22, 1855.

General: I have the honor to submit the following summary of the principal events and useful information contained in my communication* to you in relation to the march of Colonel Steptoe’s command into the Great Basin of Utah, last year, and referred to in the second paragraph of my report of the 25th of last August. I beg this may be substituted for the letters, as they contain many repetitions almost necessarily, and touch on various business matters which do not belong to a report of the march.
Continue reading “From the Wide Missouri to the Pacific Shore: Rufus Ingall's Report of the Steptoe Expedition”