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,

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]

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”

Santa Fe Captured


The steamer Little Missouri arrived last night from the Missouri.  An express had arrived at Fort Leavenworth, bringing the gratifying news of the entrance of General Kearney into Santa Fe, without the firing of a gun, or any opposition from the Mexicans whatever.
It appears from our correspondent’s letter, that after leaving Fort Bent, most of the ammunition wagons of the artillery were forced to put in oxen instead of the other animals; that the oxen had also given out, and it was with great difficulty the oxen proceeded onward.  Several hundred horses and mules were left behind the army, unable to follow.

The Diary of an Officer of the Army of the West [1st Lt. Christian Kribben, Captain Fischer’s Company B, Major Clark’s Missouri Volunteer Light Artillery Battalion.]

THURSDAY, August 13 — Started at 12, M., Col. Doniphan’s regiment in sight as we left the camp.  We soon met the spy company, (Capt. Bent,) with. with his small party, had captured four Mexicans, well mounted and armed.  They summoned him and his party to surrender, but the Captain told them that he thought their safest plan was to surrender to him.  They prudently consented to do so.  They acknowledged themselves sent to ascertain who we were.  They were made prisoners.
One of the Mexicans who was taken day before yesterday, was disarmed and sent forward to his village, distant 24 miles, with letters and proclamations.  He promised to meet us to-morrow.  At 8 miles we came to the establishment of a Mr. Wells, an American.  He had an abundance of horses, mules and cattle.  With him was another American, who had been sent  from Santa Fe, by an american merchant of that place, to inform Gen. K. that the Mexicans were 10,000 strong, and had determined to meet us 15 miles this side of Santa Fe, at a deep ravine which they were fortifying.  He stated, as his opinion, that not more than 2,000 would be well armed; and also, that they had four pieces of cannon.
The Americans of Santa Fe and other towns, are very much alarmed for their safety.  The Mexicans tell them that if defeated, they will return to the towns and villages and take full vengeance on them.
As this news is communicated to us in a heavy rain, and we are encamping in the midst of it   No little excitement prevails in camp.  To retreat nine hundred miles is idle; (no one thinks of it,) and if they do meet us, as they have promised, we shall vindicate the character of the Saxon blood in death or victory.  Mark that! — Gen. Kearney is as cool as if walking to his office on a May morning to attend to his accustomed garrison duties, and all look to him as to a man who is to shed glory on the American name.  It is said here that Gov. Armijo is opposed to daylight, but is urged on by the rich men of the country; yet the latest accounts are that the rich are backward in lending their money.  But if ten thousand men are assembled, they must have furnished the means.  There is a Mr. Bondy living near this place.  He visited us and gave us a fat steer.  This is the first settlement we have met.  The place is called the ‘Moro”– Two beautiful mountain streams meet here, each of sufficient size for milling purposes.  The artillery came up at sundown.  At this place the road by the Simerone comes in.
FRIDAY, August 14. — Started at 7 o’clock; at four miles met four Mexicans sent by Gov. Armijo to Gen. K. with a letter.  They were dragoons, dressed in a roundabout and pants of light blue cloth similar to our own dragoons with a red stripe down the outer seam of the pants.  They all wore large Mexican hats; there was a Lieutenant, sergeant and two privates.  They made a very respectable appearance, but such soldiers cannot fight U. S. dragoons.  Their heavy horses and superior equipment will conquer them.  The four dragoons above spoken of, and those taken a day or two since, were set at large to-day.  The Colonel told them that he had come with a sufficient force to extend our laws over them.– That he came as their friend.  That he came to give protection alike to the poor man and the rich.  That, although he had the power to do as he pleased, still his orders were to treat all who remained at home in the peaceful pursuit of their business, as friends.  But that if found in arms against him, the vengeance of his government and army would be poured out upon them.  He told them that, not “an onion or a pepper would be taken from them without a full equivalent in cash; “that their persons, property and religion, would be respected.  That he would soon be in Santa Fe and that he hoped to meet Gov. Armijo and shake hands with him as a friend; but if that were denied him, he had a force sufficient to put down all opposition, and that he would certainly do it.  We are encamped at the Passes; at this place runs a small mountain stream, and near it a village containing, probably, 100 mud built houses.
There were three hundred mounted men here yesterday. They have all gone to Santa Fe, no doubt to join the main army, which is said to be 12,000 strong-2,000 well armed, four pieces of artillery (one six pounder taken from the Santa Fe prisoners). The other 10,000 are said to be armed with bows and arrows, slings and other weapons–the Mexican, dragoons report that Capt. Cook left Santa Fe with them, but as they got a change of horses, they outrode him. (The Captain had been sent from Bent’s Fort by Gen. Kearney with letters to Gov. Armijo)  He will be with us to-morrow. From white man who reside here, we learn, that the Governor exercises the most despotic way over the common people, aided by the priests. They say to such men as we have met, “go on such a road, ascertain where Cook and his men are, and return to me at such a time.” They furnish no means for the performance of the duty, and give no compensation. Yet no Mexican dare refuse, or fail to perform the duty. What a change will be effected  among these people when they are emancipated! If General Kearney succeeds  in this expedition without  inflicting any pain he will be the greatest man that has ever been in New Mexico.  There are extensive fields of corn near us cultivated by irrigation. After spring sets in there is no rain here till  August, when they have refreshing showers, and the grass begins to grow again. The rain of this season commenced about ten days since and grass is more abundant.  But for this, it would be impossible to take our animals to Santa Fe, probably not beyond this place. Gen. Kearney’s “good luck” still attends him. We have passed within the last two days, cattle and sheep enough to subsist the army all winter, and we have no fear of starving.
SATURDAY, Aug. 15.–Started at 7 A. M., and passed through the village.  The Col. was overtaken at this place my Major Swords from Fort Leavenworth, who brought him a commission as Brigadier General.
After having passed through the village the troops halted near it, while the Gen. addressed the Alcalde and people from the top of one of the houses.  He told them “that he came by order of the Government of the United States, to take possession of New Mexico, and to extend the laws of the United States over them.  That he had an ample force with him, and that another army would would soon join them.  that, in future, they were absolved from all allegiance to the Mexican government and Gov. Armijo, and must hold allegiance to the U. S. and to him as their Governor.  That for this allegiance, they would be protected by the U. S. Government from the Indians, (who are dreadful scourges to them,) and from all their enemies.  That he came to protect the poor man as well as the rich man.  That if they remained peaceably at home they would be considered good citizens, but if found fighting against him, they would be considered traitors and treated accordingly.”
He continued the Alcalde in his office, and told him to be governed by the laws of Mexico, for the present.
He stated to them that he had been well informed “that some of the priests had endeavored to make them believe that he was coming to destroy their religion and to inflict grievous wrongs upon them.”  This, he said, was false.  He told them that their persons, property and religion would not be interfered with.  Now, said he, under these circumstances, are you, “Mr. Alcalde, and you, two Captains of militia, willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.”  Two of them readily consented, but one of the Captains evaded the question.  The General demanded a categorical answer.  The Captain said, “yes,” but it was evident it was with a bad grace.  They then raised their hands and made the sigh of the cross with the thumb and finger, all present uncovering their heads, and the General in a solemn manner administered the following oath:  “You do swear to hold faithful allegiance to the United States, and to defend its government and laws against all its enemies, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,” or words to the effect.  The General then said–“I will shake hands with them as good friends.”  When he came to the Captain, who did not seem to enter fully into the matter, he took him by the hand, and told the interpreter, “tell the man to look me in the eye.”  The General gave him one of his significant smiles, and with his keen eyes fixed firmly on him, seemed to say, “I know you are a rascal,”–(such, he no doubt was,)–but the others, I think, were honest.  He then told the people, (about two hundred,) I shake hands with our all, through your Alcalde, and hail you as good citizens of the United States; upon which they raised a general shout.  At this town are extensive fields of wheat and corn, cultivated by irrigation, from a beautiful creek.  the water is taken out on each side in canals, and spread over their fields.  It was a beautiful sight to see the clear mountain water rushing through these canals, and producing luxuriant field of corn and wheat, where rain so seldom falls.
Our camp was near these fields, and although sentinels were placed very near together, with strict orders to keep every animal out of them, yet some did get in, and some damage was done.  The General told the Alcalde that he had used every precaution to prevent “any interference with their crops,” yet “they had sustained some loss.”– He told him to examine the fields and ascertain what the damage was to each man, to send him a statement of it to Santa Fe, and that full compensation should be paid them.  they seemed delighted with this exemplification of equal justice–a thing not dreamed of in New Mexico, under the rule of Armijo.
News reached the General late last night, that we would have a fight to-day in one of the mountain gorges, and our movement has been in a strict military manner.  When passing through these narrow defiles, (where an enemy would be most formidable,) the word, “draw sabre,” was given, and we passed through at a fast trot.  But no enemy has been seen.  The infantry passed over the mountain to take them in rear.  We passed through several other villages, where the General assembled the inhabitants, and proceeded as with the first.  The two last appeared happy to be recognized as citizens of the United States, and were seen to embrace each other in token of their joy at the change of government.  At the last one, they brought forward their wives to receive the congratulations of the General.  (whose manner on such occasions is most happy,) and it was evident that his words had gladdened their hearts, for they smiled upon him in a manner which woman alone knows how to do.  We encamped at 4, P. M., in poor grass, having marched 17 miles.  Captain Cook met us to-day, from Santa Fe, and says Governor Armijo will meet us with an army.  He had been kindly treated while in Santa Fe, and smoked many a “segarrito” from the fair lips of the ladies.
The villages we have passed to-day are built of sun-burnt bricks.  The houses have flat roofs, covered with earth, and are dry and comfortable, from the absence of rain or moisture.  Each one has a church, and a grave yard, with high walls of sun-burnt brick.  There is more intelligence among them than I expected to find, and with a good government and protection from the Indians, they will become a happy people.
The Eutaws have recently stolen their stock and carried off several children.  Well may they hail this revolution as a blessing.  One of the Alcaldes to-day said, that God ruled the destinies of men, and that as we had come with a strong army among them to change their form of government, it must be right and he submitted cheerfully.  Major Swords and Lieutenant Gilman brought us the mail to the 19th July, and many a heart was made glad by tidings from wives, mothers, children, and dearly beloved ones.  There are plenty of cattle, sheep, and goats, in the country, and we shall fare well enough.
SUNDAY, August 16.–Started at the usual hour, and at seven miles came to the village of St. Miguel, built like the others, of sun burned brick, and with flat roofs.  After much delay, the Alcalde and Padre were found and presented to Gen. Kearney.  They received him politely, but it was evident they did not relish an interview with him.  this village contains a respectable church and about two or three hundred houses.  The General expressed a wish to ascend one of the houses, with the Priest and Alcalde, and to address the people of the town, informing them of the object of his mission.  After many evasions, delays, and useless speeches, the Padre made a speech, stating that “he was a Mexican, but should obey the laws that were placed over him for the time, but if the General should point all his cannon at his breast, he could not consent to go up there and address the people.”
The General very mildly told him, through the interpreter, Mr. Robideau, that he had not come to injure him, nor did he wish him to address the people.  He only wished him to go up there and hear him (the General) address them.  The Padre still fought shy, and commenced a long speech, which the General interrupted, and told him, he had no time  to listen to “useless remarks;” and repeated, that he only wanted him to go up and listen to his speech.  He consented.  The General made pretty much the same remarks to the Alcalde and people, that he had made to the people of the other villages.  He assured them that he had an ample force and would have possession of the country against all opposition, but gave them assurances of the friendship and protection of the United States,  He stated to them that this had never been given then by the government of Mexico; but that the United States were able and would certainly protect them, not only in their persons, property and religion, but against the cruel invasions of the Indians.  That they saw but a small part of the force that was at his disposal.  Many more troops were near him on another road, (some of which he showed them a mile or two distant.) and that another army would, probably, be through their village in three weeks.  After this, he said, Mr. Alcalde, are you willing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.”  He replied that “he would prefer waiting till the General had taken possession of the capital.”  The General told him, :it was sufficient for him to know that he had possession of his village.”  He then consented, and with the usual formalities, he said, “You swear that you will hear true allegiance to the government of the United States of America?”  The Alcalde said, “Provided I can be protected in my religion.”  The General said, “I swear you shall be.”  He then continued,
and that you will defend her against all her enemies and opposes, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? –Amen.”
The General then said, “I continue you as the Alcalde of this village; and require you , the inhabitants of this village, to obey him as such.  Your laws will be continued for the present, but as soon as I have time to examine them, if any change can be made that will be for your benefit, it shall be done.”  After shaking hands with them he left.  The Padre then invited him to his house, and gave him and his staff refreshments; and after sundry hugs, jokes, and professions of friendship, with an expression from the General, that “the better they became acquainted, the better friends they would be,” and an invitation to the Padre to visit him at Santa Fe, (which he promised) we left the village.  The Padre was evidently the ruling spirit of the village, and the Alcalde was under great restraint by his presence.  The visit to the priest, and the frank and friendly manner of the General, had the desired effect, and I believe they parted the best of friends, and have no doubt that the inhabitants of St. Miguel will soon be as good democrats as can be found in Missouri.
The Alcalde informed the General that 400 men left the village to join the Mexican army, but that 200 had returned home.
Soon after leaving this village, an express arrived from Santa Fe, informing the General that a large force would oppose his march 15 miles from the place, in a deep ravine.  It was headed by an individual known as Salazar; that Gen. Armijo refused to command them, and said he would defend the town.  The same information was soon after brought by Puebla Indians, who said there was a large force of their people among the Mexicans, armed with bows and arrows; that their people had been forced into the service, and that their chiefs would not permit them to take their guns.
As it is not more than two days march to Santa Fe, if we have a fight it will probably be to-morrow.  Marched 17 miles.
MONDAY, Aug. 17.– Started at the usual time.  Our picket guard took a prisoner, the son of the noted Salazar, well remembered by the Texan prisoners for his cruelties to them.  He stated that the Mexican army had left the cannon and gone home.  The General told him he would keep him a prisoner, and if he found that he had told him falsely he would hang him.  We soon met others from Santa Fe, who congratulated the General on his arrival in the country, and their deliverance from the tyrannical rule of Armijo.
They further said, that Armijo had taken one hundred dragoons and his cannon, and gone this morning towards Chihuahua.  We passed to day the ruins of the ancient town of Pecos.  I visited it with some Mexicans and an interpreter, who gave me a full account of it.  It was said to have been built long before the conquest.– It stands on an eminence.  The dwellings were built of small stones and mud; some of the buildings are still so far perfect as to show three full stories.  There were four rooms under ground, fifteen feet deep, and twenty-five feet across in a circular form.  In one of these rooms burned the “holy fire” which was kindled many centuries before the conquest; and when the Pecos Indians were converted to the Catholic faith, they still continued their own religious rites, and among them the “sacred fire,” which never ceased to burn till seven years since, when the village was broken up.  The population is probably one thousand.  the church is large, and although in ruins, was evidently a fine building.  It was built after the conquest.  The eastern roof of the main building is still good — it is filled with birds.  As we came in front of it the Mexicans took off their hats, and on entering the building did the dame.  The General learned to-day that Salazar had been in command at the cannon, and that he had passed around us and gone to St. Miguel, the town we passed yesterday.  the General sent him word that he had his son a prisoner, and would treat him well, if the father remained peaceable, but if he took up arms, or excited the people to resistance, he would hang him.
We encamped at 3 P.M. on the Pecos Creek, in excellent grass, where was a beautiful farm, well watered–distance to-day fifteen and three quarter miles.
An abundance of vegetables have been brought into camp this evening, and we have not fared better since we left Missouri.  Bread, coffee, and bacon are excellent articles of food, when accompanied with other little “fixings,” which ladies only can provide us with, but of themselves, after a few weeks, campaigners become a little tired.
An American gentleman has just arrived in camp from Santa Fe; he left at 12 M. to-day, and says that after the Governor’s abdication, the Alcaldes held a meeting and gravely discussed the propriety of tearing down the churches, to prevent their being converted into barracks, and that the American citizens interfered and assured them that they had nothing to fear on that subject, and thereby saved the churches.  A lady also sent for him this morning, and asked him if he did not think it advisable for her to leave the town, with her daughters, to save them from dishonor.  He advised her by all means to remain at home, and assured her that she and her daughters were in no danger from the approach of the army.
Most of the respectable people of the town have left, and many country people are going to town for protection.
TUESDAY, August 18th.–Started as usual, and at six miles came to the cannon, where the Mexican army had been assembled.  There had been 3,000 troops there, but it seems that the nearer we approached that the fewer they became, and when we passed through they had all gone.  The position they chose was near the lower end, and it was one of great strength.  the passage was not more than forty feet wide — in front, they had made an obstruction with timber, and beyond this at 300 yards distance, was an eminence in the road, on which their cannon had been placed; and it was thought by us, that their position was equal to 5,000 men.  We reached the hill which overlooks Santa Fe, at 5 P. M.  Major Clark’s artillery was put into line, and the mounted troops and infantry were marched through the town to the Palace, (as it is called,) on the public square, where the General and his staff dismounted, and were received by the acting Governor and other dignitaries, and conducted into a large room.  The General stated, in a few words, the object of his visit, and gave assurances of safety and protection to all unoffending citizens.  while this transpired, the stars and stripes were hoisted on the staff which is attached to the Palace, by Major Swords; and as soon as it was seen to wave above the buildings, it was hailed by a national salute from the batteries of Captains Fischer and Weightman, under the command of Major Clark.  While the Genral was proclaiming the conquest of New Mexico, as a part of the United States, the first gun was heard: “There,” said he, “my guns proclaim that the flag of the U. S. floats over this capital.”  The people appeared satisfied.  The General slept in the palace, (we democrats must call it the Governor’s house).  One company of dragoons was kept in the city as a guard, and the business of the day was ended.
Thus, in the short space of fifty days, has an army been marched nearly 900 miles, over a desert country, and conquered a province of 80,000 souls, without firing a gun–a success which may be attributed mainly to the skill and ability with which Gen. Kearney has managed this arduous and delicate business.  In explaining his object in coming into the country, and the kindness he felt for the inhabitants, he was mild and courteous; but then, (would add,) I claim the whole of New Mexico for the United States.  I put my hand on it from this moment, (bringing his hand firmly down on his thigh,) and demand obedience to its laws.
WEDNESDAY, August 19.–The general addressed the whole people to day more at length than he had  on other occasions, and took particular care to give them the most positive assurances of protection in their person, property, and religion.  Many families had fled on his approach, and he told their friends to bring them back, and to day to them that they would be more safe under his administration than they had ever been.  He stated, that in taking possession of New Mexico, he claimed the whole of it for the United States, without reference to the Rio Grande.  He absolved them from their allegiance to Mexico and Gov. Armijo, and proclaimed himself governor of New Mexico, and claimed them as citizens of the United States.
The acting Governor and Alcaldes then took the oath of allegiance to the United States, and the people, with a simultaneous shout, exclaimed, “Vive la General.“–The acting governor then addressed the people as follows;–
“John Baptist, Vigil and Alcalde, political and military Governor pro tem, of the department of New Mexico, to the inhabitants of Santa Fe, the capital thereof, greeting:  It having been out of my power, by all the exertions that I could put in practice, to calm the fears impressed on the inhabitants by the desertion of Gen Don Manuel Armijo and his soldiers, and what was most frightful, he having made them conceive, on the approach of the military forces of the government of the United States of North America to the capital, that said forces were composed of cruel and sanguinary savages, and for which many families have left their homes, to hide themselves in the desert–believing that no security, no protection of their lives or property was to be expected from the commander of said forces; and in order to appease these fears I thought it convenient and necessary to order ot be set up in the most public places, the proclamation of the chief of said forces, of which the following is its tenor.”  He then read the proclamation which Gen. K. had sent among the Mexicans in advance.
THURSDAY, Aug. 20, and FRIDAY, 21st.–The General sits in his room, and is constantly receiving visits from the officers of ex-Governor Armijo and others, who fled on his approach.  To all who remain quiet and peaceable he promises protection.  Many of then come into his presence very much disquieted, but he has the happy faculty of calming all their fears, and he is winning laurels among them daily.  Ex-Gov.Armijo has certainly fled.  The cannon he took from the place have been re-taken by Capt. Fischer, and will be here soon.  The gun taken from the Texan prisoners was left in a mountain, carriage destroyed; the gun, a brass six pounder, has been recovered.
SATURDAY, Aug. 22.–The General is still receiving visits and attending to matters and things which are referred to him.  Capt. Waldo, of the volunteers, is translating the few written laws which can be found.
SUNDAY, August 23.–The General and his staff, and some other officers, went to church to-day.  There are no seats in the church, except one for the governor, and a bench on which his subs sit.  Gen. K. occupied the former, and we the latter.  The rich and the ragged kneel, or sit on the floor, as best they can.  When the Priests were ready, the service commenced with a piece of music not unlike what I have heard at the theatre, and pretty well played.  This continued with different pieces of music till the ceremony was over.  After which, they escorted the General to his quarters with music.
There is evidently a large proportion of very Ignorant people here; and many of them seem to think, judging from their deportment, that they have no righs, and are bound to obey their superiors.  When our laws and institutions are established here, the resources of the country will be developed, and these people will become prosperous and happy.”
In addition to what is stated in the Diary, we have a letter from our regular correspondent, which we cannot find room for to day.  It bears date one day later — the 24th of August — and gives somewhat later news.  This part of the letter we copy:
“On to-morrow a body of troops will march towards Albuquerke, to take possession of that district.  It is supposed that a detachment of the army will also soon be sent to California.  The artillery, under Major Clark, is erecting fortifications in front of the town. The two companies under his command, commanded by Captains Fischer and Weightman, it is generally supposed, will be stationed here, supported by some other forces; Major Clark commanding the garrison.  These are the current reports, generally credited, although Gen. Kearney can hardly know for certain how the appearances of things may change, and what steps may become necessary to ensure a permanent tranquility in the province.
In conclusion, let me say that we have not lost any men in the artillery, nor have we any sick at the present time–that we are all as contented as we can possibly be, and burning with impatience to hear from our friends in St. Louis, and our brother soldiers in the south.”

[From the St. Louis Republican, Sept. 25]

We published yesterday, exclusively, a very minute account of General Kearney’s march to Santa Fe, of his entrance into that capital of New Mexico, and of his taking possession, on behalf of the United States, of the entire department.
It would seem that General Armijo had actually 4,000 men at his command, but very badly armed; and that on the 16th they left for the place appointed as the battle ground.  When he got there, however, a council of his officers was called, and, “much to his satisfaction,” they refused to fight.  His second in Command, Colonel Archuletti, was exceeding valorous up to a late date, but very suddenly changed his entire views of the necessity of the quarrel.  Very soon after this determination, Gov Armijo turned his head towards Chihuahua, followed by a few dragoons.
It was supposed that General Kearney would nominate a Mexican for the office of Governor of the department, and appoint an American as Secretary.  All those in office, who were thought to be trustworthy, would, in all probability, be continued in their places.
Gen. Kearney, it was supposed, would leave a force of 2,000 men in Santa Fe, and march, in a short time, to California with a like number.
The traders who were overtaken by Gen. Kearney’s force, were close at hand, but it was believed that they would not be able to make sales of their goods in Mexico.  They would be compelled to make their way slowly down the Del Norte, awaiting the result of Gen. Wool’s movement against Chihuahua.
Lieut. C. Kribben, of the Artillery, had been appointed Judge Advocate, and was acting in that capacity in a Court Martial which had been some days in session.
CIVILIZATION IN SANTA FE.– A gentlemen attached to General Kearney’s expedition says, in a letter from Santa Fe to a brother in St. Louis…”This is the most miserable country I have ever seen.  The hovels the people live in are built of mud, one story high, and have no flooring.  They sleep on the ground, and have neither beds, tables, nor chairs.  In fact they burrow in the ground like prairie dogs.  We entered the city on the 18th of August, and took possession without firing a gun.”
(graphics courtesy United States Army Corps of Engineers. )

Co. F, 1st Dragoons at Churubusco

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

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

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

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

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

War correspondent George Kendall of the New Orleans Picayune reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puebla July 2nd 1847

Dear Sir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vera Cruz,

November 25, 1847

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


August 24, 1847

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement of loss on the 20th instant.

Captain Kearny, loss of arm.

Captain McReynolds, wounded severely.

Lieutenant L. Graham, wounded slightly.

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

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

I am sir, very respectively your obedient servant.

P. Kearny, Jr.

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

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

Captured Mexican Items at Santa Cruz de Rosales

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

City of Chihuahua
March 26, 1848

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B.L. Beall,
Major 1st Dragoons



2 Two 32-Lb. Brass Howitzers

1 One 10-Lb. Brass Cannon by Measurement

1 One 8-Lb. ” ” ” ”

1 One 4-Lb. ” ” ” ”

2 Three Swivels

7 Seven Wall Pieces

1 One Double-Barrel Wall Piece

392 Three Hundred and Ninety-Two Muskets

281 Two Hundred and Eighty-One Musket Bayonets

99 Ninety-Nine Cartridge Boxes & Belts

80 Eighty Escopetas

27 Twenty-Seven Service Rifles

78 Pistols

35 Sabres

122 One Hundred and Twenty-Two Lances Complete

142 One Hundred and Forty-Two Lance Heads and Ferrules

150 ________ Lance Straps

145 Shafts for Lances

6 Six Wipers for Wall Pieces

11 Eleven Large Boxes of Powder

23 Twenty-Three Kegs of Powder

5 Five Bags of Powder

58 Fifty-Eight Cartridges for 32-Lb. Howitzer

72 Seventy-Two Cartridges for 9-Lb. Gun

2600 Twenty-Six Hundred Musket Cartridges

7 Seven Bunches Signal Rockets

9 Nine 32 Lb Grenades

9 Nine 24 lb Shells

4 Four 32 lb Shells

75 Seventy-Five 4 lb Shells

7 Seven 3 lb Strap Shot

24 Twenty-Four 6 lb Strap Shot

4 Four 12 lb Strap Shot

103 One-Hundred and Three 4lb Balls

50 Fifty 3 lb Balls

76 Seventy-Six Cases 32 lb Canister

116 One-Hundred Sixteen Cases 3 lb Canister

1 One Lot Canister for Wall Piece

1 One Lot Balls for Wall Piece

1 One Lot Musket Balls

1 One Ten Ball Roller

10 Ten Bullet Molds

7 Seven Rifle Locks

1 One Lot Gun Flints

11 Eleven Sponges

2 Two Worms

6 Six Hand Spikes

1 One Treatment Scale

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

98 Ninety-Eight Horses

66 Sixty-Six Mules

7 Seven Wagons

52 Sets of Harnesses, four collars wanting

9 Nine Pack Saddles

35 Thirty-Five Spanish Bridle Bits

32 Thirty-Two Sets Spanish Saddle Rigging

1 One Bulk ” ” ”

35 Thirty-Five Buckles

7 Seven [Screw} Drivers

43 Forty-Three Files

8 Eight Hammers

4 Four Vices

2 Two Wrenches

1 One Grinding Stone

65 Sixty-Five Edge Tools

13 Thirteen Augers

18 Eighteen Saws

3 Three Screw Plates

2 Two Anvils

10 Ten Pounds Rod Steel

2 Two Boxes Tin

2 Two Boxes Shoes

8 Eight Boxes Blue Clothe

1 Lot Printing Type

1 Lot Duct Parts

1 Lot Rosin

2 Lots Steel Yards

12 Twelve Empty Boxes

11 Eleven Boxes Cigarilos

A Letter from Ft. Leavenworth 1846

In 1846, Company B of the 1st United States Dragoons participated in the bloodless conquest of Santa Fe. The Brig. General Stephen W. Kearny broke up Company B and transferred its enlisted men and mounts to the other companies in his command. Lt. John Love was placed in field command of Company B and was ordered by General Kearny to return East to recruit men and rebuilt the company back up to full strength. (1)

While Lt. Love was slowly gaining recruits for Company B in Ohio and Indiana, he received the following letter from Lt. Henry Stanton, regimental adjutant. (2) The letter is significant in two regards. First, it reveals that the new Grimsley horse equipage was being widely issued, prior to its official adoption by the Army board in 1848. (3) Second, the letter tells of a November 11, 1846, running battle between elements of the 1st Dragoons and the Navajo. Although the Dragoons had patrolled the plains since 1833, this encounter was the first reported skirmish between the Dragoons and Native Americans. (4)

Ft. Leavenworth December 24, 1846

Dear Love

I send you herewith a Regimental and General Orders, and an extract from the clothing receipt roll of Sergt. Muller (5) and Corpl. Nickerson (6), clothing issued by Lieut. McLean (7). I also send you Duplicate Receipts for Ordnance and Horse Equipage which I have directed Sergt. Bishop (8) to leave behind as I do not think you would want to be troubled with old equipage and ordnance at Jefferson Barracks, when you will probably get an entire New Equipment for your Company.
If you should want any horse equipage I have receipted for a good deal of New Equipage that was sent on for the different Dragoon Companies, and which has never been used, and if you are not able to equip you Company entirely at St. Louis, I may be able to help you. Colonel Wharton (9) has at last indirectly applied to join the Army in the field, he will probably get an answer before the middle of next month. We got a mail from Santa Fe a day or two ago. Grier (10) had a fight with the Indians, it seems they have runned off some cattle, Grier followed them, but owing to the bad condition of the mules of his party, only himself, Lieut. Wilson (11) and two men were able to come up with the Indians; they killed two of the Indians and Grier’s horse or mule whatever it was, shot under him. (12) The Dragoons under Burgwin (13) have been ordered to the Passo to protect the traders. (14) He writes very despondently, says, if his men were only Dragoons he might do something. I hope that Colonel Wharton joins Scott or Taylor that he will [take] some more Companies of the 1st Dragoons down with him. If he could get four or five Companies it would be a very pretty command. How are you getting along at Dayton. Did the Girls give you a warm welcome? I was not able to send you a copy of your estimate for clothing because by some mistake it was sent off without a copy being attached. If there should by any possibility be any thing new here, I will let you know.
Yours Truly

Henry Stanton would serve as regimental adjutant at Fort Leavenwoth and Jefferson Barracks until 1851. Gaining a Captain—™s commission in 1854, he took part in an expedition against the Mescalero Apache in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico Territory. (15) Captain Stanton seems to have forgotten Captain Grier—™s nearly fatal mistake of riding far in advance of his support. (16) While rashly leading a small detachment in pursuit of a fleeing band of Mescaleros he and three troopers were ambushed and killed. (17)



(1) For further information on the refitting of Company B, see Gorenfeld, “Jefferson Barracks, 1847: ‘I’m Disgusted with the Duty'”, Military Collector & Historian, Winter 2003-2004, Vol. 55, No. 4, 211. John Love graduated from the Military Academy in 1841 and was promoted to the rank of 2d Lieut. in the 1st Dragoons in 1842, and 1st Lieut. on June 30, 1846. (George W. Cullum. Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy (New York, J. F. Trow, 1850) 241 (hereafter cited as Cullum)

(2) Born in New York, Henry W. Stanton graduated from the Military Academy in 1842 and became a 2d lieut. in the 1st Dragoons on October 8, 1844. In 1846, he was serving at Fort Leavenworth as regimental adjutant. (Cullum, 253.)

(3) In 1846, the Ringgold saddle was the official saddle for the mounted arm. It was not until March 7, 1848, that an Army board approved the Grimsley saddle as the official pattern. (Stephen Dorsey & Kenneth McPheeters, The American Military Saddle 1776-1945 (Collectors’ Library, Eugene, Ore. 1999), 20.

(4) The original of this letter may be found at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. The author wishes to express his deep appreciation to Mrs. Besty Caldwell for making a copy of this letter available.

(5) German-born First Sergeant Frederick Muller had been with the Dragoons since 1834. He was thirty-five years of age and was six foot-one inch in height. Lt. Love wrote of Muller that, “whether in battle, in camp, or on the march, he is energetic and soldierly; never in one instance have I known him to neglect his duty.” Sergeant Muller donned the scarlet trimmed jacket of an Ordnance Sergeant. He served in this capacity until his death in 1861 at Fort Wood in New York harbor. (Report of John Love, House Ex. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 sess., No. 1, 120.; (War Department Files, National Archives, Lt. John Love’s Company B, Muster Roll Records, 28 February to 30 April, 1847. (Hereafter, Muster Roll).

(6) Trooper John F. Nickerson enlisted in the 1st Dragoons in 1841. Promoted to the rank of corporal in June of 1847, on February 6, 1848, he received a surgeon’s discharge. (Muster Roll, Company B, 1 January to 28 February, 1848.).

(7) 2d Lt. Eugene Eckel McLean, 1st Infantry, graduated from the Military Academy in 1842. During the Mexican War he served as Aide de Camp to General John Wool. (Cullum, 253)

(8) Sergeant Benjamin Bishop had served with the Dragoons since 1834. Sergeant Bishop was discharged in 1849 and gained employment at Fort Leavenworth as a civilian forage master for the army. (Percival Lowe. Five Years a Dragoon (Norman, Okla. Univ. Oklahoma Press), 82-83, 242; Muster Roll, Company B, 29 February to 30 April, 1847.)

(9) Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton. 1st Dragoons (Heitman, 1022).

(10) Capt. William N. Grier, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1835, was promoted to Captain on August 23, 1846 and commanded Company I. (Cullum, 205.)

(11) 2d Lt. Clarendon J. L. Wilson, 1st Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1846 and was serving as a brevet 2d Lt at the time of the battle. (Cullum, 271.)

(12) A detailed account appears in Lt. Col. W.H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance, Ex. Doc. No. 41, Washington, 1848, Report of Lt. J. W. Abert, 498. “So warm and exciting was the chase, that the officers, who were well mounted, heeded not the want of their men who were unable to keep pace with them, but they pressed on, anxious to recover the immense “cavalgada” of sheep the Indians were yet driving. Suddenly they saw they had rushed into an ambuscade, for the Indians rising up from their concealment surrounded Captain Grier and his three brave companions. With horrid cries and shouts of “Navajoe,” the Indians sprang forward to the combat; they were dressed for war, being ornamented with paints and plumes, and mounted on good horses, and armed with bows and arrows, and lances; but, fortunately, they were so crowded that they feared lest they shoot each other. At length, one of the chiefs came alongside of Lieutenant Wilson; their horses were on the gallop, each one waiting until the horses s
hould jump together, when, at the same moment, Lieutenant Wilson and the Indian fired; the officer’s pistol did not go off, and the arrow of the chief only cut off a coat button, and lodged in the saddle blanket of Captain Grier. As the Indian turned his horse, a Mexican, who had started at full speed, came in contact with him, and rolled horse and rider in the dust; the Indian was immediately upon his feet, and rushed up to a dragoon soldier, who had a patent [Hall’s] carbine, such as loaded at the breach, and had, unseen by the Indian, reloaded it, and the Indian coming up within two or three feet, the soldier shot him dead. One other Indian was killed, when Captain Grier ordered a retreat, and the four, drawing their sabres, cut their way out and rejoined their company, while the Navajoes succeeded in carrying off 3,000 head of sheep.”

(13) Capt. John Henry K. Burgwin, 1st Dragoons. Graduated from the Military Academy in 1830 and was promoted to Captain on July 31, 1837. And commanded Company G. Captain Burgwin was mortally wounded during the Taos insurrection and died of wounds on February 7, 1847. (Cullum, 163.)

(14) During the most of Mexican War, there was lively trade betweenAmerican merchants in Santa Fe and Mexican merchants in Chihauhua. (See generally, Edward James Glasgow and William Henry Glasgow, Brothers on the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails, edited by Mark L. Gardner (Niwest, Colo, Univ. Colorado Press 1993).

(15) Francis Heitman, Historical Register of the United States Army (Washington D.C. GPO 1903) 1:916; LTC Miles to General Garland November 18, 1854 (National Archives Microfilm Publication, Washington, D.C.) M1120, roll 3

(16) Capt. Richard Ewell to Lt. William Nichols, 10 February 1855, Letters Received, Department of New Mexico, RG 393, National Archives.

(17) James A. Bennett, Fort & Forays, edited by Clinton E. Brooks & Frank Reeve (Univ. New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1996), xxviii-xxix. James Bennett, a sergeant with Company I, described the battle and Stanton’s death as follows: “The main body of troops moved up the stream and small parties of Dragoons kept charging out after parties of Indians. A running fight was kept up until 4 o’clock, when we encamped. Captain Stanton with 12 men rushed up a deep ravine. The Indians in ambush fired upon him, a ball passed through his forehead.” (Bennett, 60.)

LOVE'S DEFEAT (Coon Creeks 1847)

LOVE’S DEFEAT: The Battle of the Coon Creeks
By Will Gorenfeld and George Stammerjohan
ed December 8, 2003

First Lieutenant John Love, commanding Company B, 1st United States Dragoons, felt he was in a rut that winter of 1846-47. The year before, as a 2d Lieutenant, he was on recruiting duty in Dayton, Ohio. Hearing that the war with Mexico had begun, in May of 1846, the young officer sent off a flurry of letters to his superiors requesting permission to close down the recruiting station and join my Company should my Regiment be ordered into the field.—In due course, authorization was granted and, on July 29, 1846, the hard-riding Lt. Love caught up with Colonel Steven W. Kearney’s Army of West near Bent’s Fort. A few days later, he marched with Kearney—™s column into Santa Fe, New Mexico. The bloodless conquest of New Mexico had been accomplished, and Lieutenant John Love was ordered back to Dayton to again seek dragoon recruits.

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

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

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

The 1st Dragoons were a mounted regiment; the volunteer regiments, for the most part, were infantry. Lt. Love knew that he had an ace in the hole and he was quick to play it–pointing out to the Hoosier farm boys the glory of their becoming splendidly clothed and mounted “bold dragoons”–whose military status, uniform and bearing was unquestionably superior to that of the humble and often ill-clad “dough foot” of the volunteer regiments. 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. Included in the John Love collection at the Indiana Historical Society is a letter from three recruits from Indianapolis expressing their “not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us.” The trio complained that, “[w]e are here drilled in the infantry squads [by Infantry officers], and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted of.”

Meanwhile, a detachment of 25 Company B recruits who had been recruited by Lt. Leonidas Jenkins in St. Louis were doing much better than their Indiana and Ohio counterparts. These men had been sent to nearby Jefferson Barracks and there drilled by Lt. Jenkins of the 1st Dragoons. He wrote to Lt. Love that the recruits from Missouri were “as good men as ever were enlisted.” In early March of 1847, the Lt. Jenkins scared up some horses and new model Grimsley saddles for these troops and marched them westward to Fort Leavenworth.

Of all of the branches of the service, the mounted arm of the nineteenth century military was the hardest to train. It is one thing to teach a soldier how to march and fight while on foot and quite another to instruct him how to march, attack, and rally while mounted. In addition, the mounted trooper must learn how to care for, feed, groom, and saddle his mount.

The 1841 manual for the training of dragoons contemplated that the typical recruit would spend his first six weeks in dismounted drill; the next twelve weeks learning to ride; and five weeks learning to ride in military formation. But due to the immediate need for reinforcements in Santa Fe, this regimen would be ignored for Company B. Most B Company recruits would be expected to learn in less than two months’ time the skills that a dragoon usually learned in six.

Although the troops were untrained and horses scarce, two seasoned non- commissioned officers would drill the recruits once they reached Fort Leavenworth. German-born First Sergeant Frederick Muller had been with the Dragoons since 1834. Thirty-five years of age and standing six foot-one inch, Sgt. Muller commanded the respect of his commanding officer. Lt. Love would write of Sgt. Muller, “whether in battle, in camp, or on the march, he is energetic and soldierly; never in one instance have I known him to neglect his duty.” Pennsylvanian Benjamin Bishop also had joined the Dragoons in 1834. At five foot ten inches, tough and literate, he was a born leader of men and a skilled horseman.

Company B was also fortunate to have Bugler Langford Peel in its ranks. The son of a career soldier, Peel was “practically raised in the army” and at seventeen years of age he enlisted in the Dragoons. Percival Lowe, who served with Peel from 1849-1854, described him as being “naturally bright, clear headed, cheerful and helpful always . . . a perfect horseman, possessing unlimited courage and endurance, he was a man to be relied on and trusted in every emergency.”

The recruits had barely settled into its quarters in the two-story brick barracks at Fort Leavenworth when the troop received orders to escort the paymaster and $350,000 in gold coin to New Mexico. Also joining the expedition would be Navy Lieutenant John K. Duer, who was carrying important dispatches for the Pacific Squadron in California. On June 7, 1847, B Company took the salutes of Colonel Clifton Wharton, paraded out of the fort and headed west. George Ruxton, an English cavalry officer and adventurer, observed Company B on its march. He was less than impressed with what he saw and wrote that although “superbly mounted” ‘on full-blooded sorrels, these men were “soldier like neither in dress nor appearance.”

Although Lt. Love, in his six years of military service, had never commanded a troop in the field and his men were untrained, he was certain that the Comanche 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, —œ6 men could have kept off 500 Indians as they never approach within gun shot.— He would be soon proven wrong.

Prior to the commencement of the Mexican War, Native Americans living near the Santa Fe Trail raided only the smaller trading caravans. Experienced traders traveled in large numbers and heavily armed. These trains were rarely attacked. But this all changed during the years 1846-1848, as the Santa Fe Trail became the highway of conquest as a vast stream of troops and supplies headed west along the 873-mile road that coursed the Plains from Ft. Leavenworth to Santa Fe. As the number of expeditions proliferated during the war, the travelers not only polluted the streams and spread contagion, but consumed the sparse grasses, wood, water, and game along the trail. Starvation and disease became more widespread among the tribes and they began to assault nearly every caravan, supply train, and body of troops that traveled on the Santa Fe Trail. By year—™s end, 47 travelers would be killed, 330 wagons destroyed, and 6,500 head of stock plundered.

A few days out of the fort, Indian Agent Thomas “Badhand” Fitzpatrick, making his way back to his post at Bent’s Fort, overtook the Dragoon column and traveled with it. Fitzpatrick, a trapper, guide, scout, and Indian agent, had ranged the frontier since 1823. The late historian David Lavender credits Fitzpatrick as being “one of the openers of the West.”

Indian Agent Fitzpatrick later wrote 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 23d, they came upon the encampment of three large government commissary wagon trains (two westbound and one eastbound). These wagons had been attacked two days prior by a large body of Indians, who left three men wounded. The eastbound train had lost most of its oxen to the marauding Indians and was thereby left without the means of hauling several of its wagons any further. These wagons were burned in order to prevent their contents from falling into the hands of the Indians. Lieutenant Love promised the dejected wagon boss that he would avenge the attack on the train.

Lieutenant Love directed that henceforth, the westbound trains would travel and encamp with the Dragoons for the duration of the trip. Charles Hayden, the 22-year-old captain of one of the government trains chafed at being told what to do by a shave-tail lieutenant. Hayden claimed to have received detailed instructions from the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth and would take whatever course of action he thought to be prudent.

It took all of the next day for the wagon trains to descend the steep banks, cross the swollen waters of Pawnee Creek, and climb the opposite bank. The next morning, the wagons of Hayden, along with two wagons belonging to civilian trader Henry Miller, were out on the trail at dawn’s light and making good time. Hayden was determined to travel without the interference of a military escort and would beat them into Santa Fe.

The wagon trains traveled along at a brisk pace, making 27-miles that day and, camped on a plain in about a mile from the Arkansas River (what is today about nine and one-half miles west on US 56 near Garfield, Kansas). The dragoons made their camp on the north bank of the Arkansas River. 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.

Lieutenant Love was not pleased by the fact that Hayden and Miller, in attempting to shake off the army and its wagons, had placed their wagon trains about 500 yards to the west of the Dragoon camp. In the event of a raid, Love’s soldiers and their short-ranged weapons could not effectively protect these wagons and stock. He planned to speak to Hayden tomorrow about the need to camp within supporting distance of the other wagon trains and troops.

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, when no raiders lurked in high grasses of the nearby washes. For the moment, all horses and mules remained tethered to the picket lines.

With the first emergence of dawn, the young officer heard the distant sound of reveille. He saw his troopers slowly forming for the morning roll call and inspection. Looking to the west he noticed that Hayden had turned his oxen out of the corral to graze. Love opened his spyglass for a better view of the countryside. His jaw dropped when he saw well over one hundred Comanche spilling out of Big Coon Creek. Lt. Love could see the teamsters frantically grabbing what few clumsy weapons they possessed and firing wildly at the raiders. The Comanche fought back, wounding three teamsters; within minutes they had stampeded Hayden’s oxen and seized control of the herd.

Spurring his horse down the rise, Lt. Love galloped back to the Dragoon camp and ordered Bugler Peel to sound “Boots and Saddles”. The non commissioned officers barked orders to their sleepy men; horses were saddled; the men were soon smartly standing to horse, under arms, awaiting further orders. It was Lt. Love’s intention to recapture the oxen so he ordered his detachment to mount. Just then he saw about 150 Comanche splashing across the Arkansas River with the intent of attacking his camp. Faced with this new danger, Love ordered his men to dismount and fight as skirmishers.

A ragged volley from the massed Hall carbines drove most of the Comanche out of range. Sgt. Benjamin Bishop, the veteran trooper, fired his Hall carbine and killed the horse of one warrior. A pull on the Hall’s fishtail lever opened the breech of his carbine. Tearing open a paper cartridge and spilling its powder and ball into the chamber, Bishop slammed the breech shut, and capped his weapon. Before he was able to take aim, two riders gracefully swooped down; each grabbing an arm of the fallen warrior, and carried him away to safety.

Lieutenant Love placed Sergeant Benjamin Bishop in command of 25 Dragoons and ordered him to retrieve the stolen oxen. Bishop, who had been with the Dragoons since 1834, must have had a sense of apprehension. Taking a small detachment of green troops, mounted on unseasoned horses, with orders to pitch into over one hundred of the world—™s finest horseman, was pure folly, to say the least. But orders were orders.

Bishop dutifully trotted his men out of camp and brought them to within one hundred and fifty yards of the raiders. There he halted and formed his small detachment into line. The sergeant was about to order an advance when he noticed a large body of well-mounted Comanche fast approaching to his rear. Armed with lances, bows and firearms, these warriors had crossed the Arkansas River and cut off the Dragoons’ avenue of retreat.

Outnumbered twenty to one, Bishop realized that his only real chance for survival was to keep his formation intact. In this manner, the massed volley fire from 25 carbines and pistols might sufficiently rattle the enemy just long enough to allow his detachment to charge to the rear. Sgt. Bishop ordered, “Left about, march!” Wheeling a line of 25 horses 180 degrees on a parade ground is not an easy task for a detachment of unskilled horsemen. Attempting this tricky maneuver while on restive mounts and under attack was near impossible.

The army-issued curb bit of the 1840’s was designed so that a Dragoon need only to gently tug at the reins in order to gain control of his mount. The curb bit had the opposite effect should an untrained rider, attempting to turn or stop a horse, pull too hard upon the reins. It is fair to assume that many of the novice troopers frantically tugged at the reins, causing their horses to run wildly out of control.

The Comanche waved blankets, blew on bone whistles and yelled to further panic the horses. Several of the Dragoon horses, being new to the service and unaccustomed to the pandemonium of combat, soon became wholly unmanageable and bolted. Given the chaos that followed, all manner of military formation was lost and it was now every man for himself.

Sergeant Bishop fired his carbine and then discharged his horse pistol. There was not time to reload and so he drew his saber. Finding himself beset by several warriors and struck in the side by a musket ball, Bishop pointed his saber forward in “tierce point,” spurred his mount, and rushed headlong into his foes. Later he would recall that he “made his saber . . . drink blood”; the lanky sergeant hacked and parried lance thrusts, fended off blows from buffalo hide shields, somehow fighting his way back to the safety of the Dragoon encampment. Five members of the detachment were not as fortunate. Troopers Jonathon Arledge, John Dickhart, Moses Short, George Gaskill, and Henry Blake were killed. (Gaskill, having enlisted at Edinburgh, Indiana, on April 17, 1847, had been in the army for just over two months.) Five other troopers, Henry Vancaster, John Lovelace, Thomas Ward, James Bush, and Willis Wilson, although badly wounded, were able to cheat death and escaped. Fourteen Dragoons somehow managed to reach the camp without suffering any serious wounds.

Although Bugler Peel later boasted that he killed three warriors during the fray, the Comanche seem to have endured only a few casualties in the half-hour fray. They were content to take all of Hayden’s oxen and before departing, mutilated three of the dead Dragoons and absconded with their clothing, equipment, arms, and horses.

The Dragoons were forced to remain encamped at the Coon Creeks to tend to the wounds suffered by six troopers and because of the lack of sufficient teams of oxen to pull all wagons. On the day after the battle, a train of eight wagons was seen approaching from the east. Lt. Love and Fitzpatrick rode out to this train and asked the wagon boss for assistance. Fortunately, this train had a number of spare mules that were for sale and Henry Miller was able to obtain mules to pull his two wagons.

On July 2, 1847, Lt. Love deemed it to be safe to move his wounded. The remaining oxen were redistributed between the two government wagon trains and, in this manner; Hayden obtained enough oxen to pull 13 of his wagons. The caravan, making five to eight miles a day, limped its way towards the small government outpost of Fort Mann. Finding the fort to be abandoned, Love left Hayden and his train behind with instructions that he remain there until a relief party could be sent. The weary and battered Dragoon detachment reached Santa Fe on August 6, 1847.

When word of the battle reached “the states”, newspapers were quick to call the battle “Love’s Defeat” Indeed, for recklessly ordering Sgt. Bishop to attack overwhelming numbers of Comanches with untrained troops, Lt. John Love had displayed the same arrogance that would later spell the doom of the commands of John Grattan, William Fetterman, and George Custer. Agent Fitzpatrick and Sgt. Bishop, nonetheless, wrote accounts in which they commended the manner in which he handled his troops during the battle with the Comanche. Fitzpatrick was quick to fault the wagon captain for not following Love’s order to place his camp next to that of the two other wagon trains. He was “very certain that, if Hayden had obeyed the order of Lieutenant Love, no such misfortune would have happened.”

In his report, a wiser and chasten Lt. Love wrote that the Comanche were “the most expert horsemen in the world, they are enabled to make an attack, alarm the animals, and be out of sight in an incredibly short time.” He concluded that, “in an attack, it is nearly as much as a company of dragoons can do to prevent their horses from taking a “stampede.”

Seven months later, Lt. Love would redeem himself at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales in Mexico, where Company B, converted into a battery of artillery, performed gallantly in the battle. Sergeants Muller and Sergeant Bishop (the latter still recovering from the wound he had suffered at Coon Creek) each ably commanded a section of artillery. The war ended, but Company B garrisoned the town of Chihuahua, Mexico until July 16, 1848. After thirty-four days of marching, they entered Santa Fe, wheeled their horses smartly into line on the town plaza, and dismounted. Between August 19th and 24th the —œwartime service— men received their discharges and went home. In a period of fifteen months, these Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri farm boys had marched across two thousand miles of harsh terrain and fought in two battles. In the finest tradition of the United States Dragoons, they could now proudly claim to be veterans.

Company B was broken up and its few remaining enlisted men transferred to Company G. Lieut. Love and the non-commissioned officers headed east in search of a new batch of recruits. In 1849, Sergeant Muller donned the scarlet trimmed jacket of an Ordnance Sergeant. He served in this capacity until his death in 1861 at Fort Wood in New York harbor. Sergeant Bishop was discharged in 1849 and gained employment at Fort Leavenworth as a civilian forage master for the army. Bishop later became a successful cattleman in the town of Weston, Missouri.

John Love was brevetted to the rank of captain for his heroism at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales. He resigned his commission in 1853. Returning to Indianapolis, Love embarked upon a career as a railroad construction contractor. During the Civil War, he was briefly commissioned as a Major General of Indiana volunteers. After the war he spent most of his remaining years as the European agent for the Gatling Arms Company.

To read more on the post war exploits of B Company, the reader might wish to consult Percival Lowe’s Five Years a Dragoon.For information on the Santa Fe Trail during the Mexican War, the authors recommend “Dangerous Passage” by William Chalfant, published by the University of Oklahoma in 1994. The authors wish to express their deep appreciation to Betsy Caldwell (Collections Assistant) at the Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, for supplying them with previously unpublished letters that are quoted extensively in this article.

WILL GORENFELD, an attorney for the State of California and member of the Company of Military Historians, has been the author of articles on the First United States Dragoons. He lives in Ventura, California.

GEORGE STAMMERJOHAN, grew up in the farming community of Turlock, California. From 1974 through 1998, he worked as a State Historian II with the California Department of Parks and Recreation where he authored several historical articles on California and military history. Among his interests is the role of the Spanish, Mexico, and the U.S. military in early California. George resides in Sacramento, California.

The United States Dragoons
Dragoons are horsemen who are trained to fight both on foot and while mounted. The United States Regiment of Dragoons was formed in 1833 for patrolling the Great Plains region. In 1836, a second regiment of Dragoons was formed to fight the Seminoles in Florida. The 3d Dragoons were created for the Mexican War and disbanded at the end of the war.

The typical Dragoon was a —œmoving arsenal and military depot.— Secured by a leather sling over his left shoulder hung a .52 caliber Hall carbine—”a percussion breech-loading smooth-bore carbine of limited range and impact. In his pommel holster was a single shot Model 1836 flintlock horse pistol in .54 caliber. This foot-long weapon was wildly inaccurate and it was said, —œ[I]n practicing marksmanship it was never wise to choose for a mark anything smaller than a good sized barn.—

From his buff belt was slung the Model 1833 saber. Troops complained that this saber would warp —œrubber-like around a man—™s head and was only good for cutting warm butter.— He also carried on his person a cartridge box, a small pouch containing percussion caps, a haversack for rations, and a wooden canteen. Attempting to mount, while weighed down by all of this unwieldy equipage, could be a daunting task. Company B was able to obtain the new Grimsley saddle and horse equipment.

As for the —œgenteel clothing— mentioned in the recruiting advertisement, army regulations provided that for dress occasions the Dragoons wore a high collared coatee with a double row of nine brass buttons, trimmed in yellow, light blue kersey trousers, white belts, and a shiny black shako that sported a flowing white horsehair plume and yellow braid. For fatigue duty, Dragoons wore the natty blue woolen shell jacket that was trimmed in yellow along with the Model 1839-pattern dark blue wool forage cap.



Included in the John Love collection at the Indiana Historical Society is a letter from three recruits complaining about their treatment at Newport Barracks, Kentucky. This did not offend Lt. Love 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 the men would serve honorably in Company B. We have left intact the spelling and grammatical errors contained in the original.
Newport Barracks
April 2, 1847
Liet Dear Sir
We wish to inform you that our condition is very unpleasant
on account of the absence of our officers. We are here drilled in the infantry
squads, and obliged to do duties that we believe we would be exempted
of, were you with us and on this account there is some, not inconsiderable dissatisfaction prevailing in regard to our having no officers of our own company with us. We would inform you that the discord refered to, has already been the cause of the one of the company—™s —œdeserting—, but we do not think that any who came with us, will, on any consideration be guilty of so base an act, but could you favor us with an officer of our own greater satisfaction would exist, and a greater degree of confidence would be concentrated in you by your men. We consider it right you should know these circumstances and also that is binding on us to inform you of it. Gardener is dead and another one of the Company not expected to recover. We have considered it our duty to write this much.
We remain your friends and Obedient soldiers
John W. George
Jeptha Powell
George W. Gibson
A CALL TO ARMS: Indiana 1846

When it became known that the President of the United States had made requisition upon the States for troops. and in response to a general demand from all parts of’ the county, a meeting of the citizens of the county was called to be held in the City Hall at Dayton the evening of May 21, 1846. The hall was filled with militiamen of the different companies of the county and prominent citizens of the city and townships. Gen. Spiece was called to the chair. and Maj. Thomas B. Tilton. his Brigade Major, was made Secretary of the meeting. Gen. Spiece briefly stated the object of the meeting to be to give an expression of the sentiment of the county on the Mexican war question, and to adopt measures to encourage the enrollment of volunteers. Capt. Luther Giddings of the Dayton Dragoons in response to a call of the meeting. made a patriotic appeal. Short. stirring speeches were. also delivered by Capt. M. B. Walker. of the Germantown Cavalry : by Maj. Tilton. Capt. Lewis Hormell, of the Dayton National Guards (German Company) ; Lieut. Atlas Stout, of the Dayton Gun Squad and Lieut. John Love, of the United States Army, and others.

Saltillo, Mexico 20 May 1848: Lt. Couts to Lt. Love

Dear Love,

I have come this far with the Capts. Whiltsey and Adams–the orphans of Chihuahua.
Through they leave for that forsaken community, I do not give them up until sufficient time shall have elapsed for them to pass Parral; for our Genl. is famous for countermanding orders. The old man Grier, however, will give you an account of him (the Genl, who is accused of all the vile things that could be heaped upon mortal man).
Cpt. Rucker comds. our squ’d at the Willow Spring near Monterey. Maj. Bragg, Comdg. Offr:–I presume you know Cpt. R. and knowing him, you may well fancy how subservient he is to Bragg.
I was very anxious to go up in place of Capt. Grier with “A” Compy–or for Capt. Rucker’s Compy. to go–or for Capt. Grier to remain with us & not go, but things turned out in every way, contrary to my wishes.
When will any portion of the Regt. ever get together again. The Northern Hemisphere, at present, contains the whole of the Regt.–but in the course of time, the Southern may get a small portion of us, if lucky.
We are delighted to hear from Capt. Grier that you had nothing to do with “Cowpen Pen Slaughter” at Santa Cruz.
Something had been heard of it previous to the arrival of the Capt., which agreed with his version of the affair, viz: you penned up a number of Mexican regular greasers, and slaughtered them by file. We are all proud , and feel happy in learning that you gave countenance to no such inhumanity.
A letter was received from Franklin in Monterey, a short time since, and he states that Capts. Turner & Kearney, and a third one, whom he does not recollect, have resigned–the letter was written from Washington. Capt. Rucker is daily in a melancholy mood and always talks of resigning, but this is all in my eye–he is desirous (I believe) of getting a Paymaster’s appointment!
As to the current news, slander too, Grier, Whittlesy & Adams will tell you all of ours.
I have my tail up for the 3d Dragoons; if I can get there as I wish, will have fair promotion–there is no doubt of its being retained–indeed there is a requisition in the War Office for a 4th Regt. of Dragoons.
Buford & Pat. Noble have transferred companies. Buford goes to Gibson & Pat. to City of Mexico.
There are some few in the states–so many indeed, that I cannot enumerate them. Carleton is in Maine exhibiting his various curiosities that he took during the Battle of Buena Vista–presenting them to museum etc.
I had forgotten at the commencement of my letter to congratulate you on your Captaincy–allow me to do so, in a few minutes, with a good gulp of Puros (1200) Ano, not least a keg of fine old Brandy (15 galls). Take a drink with all the fellows in Chihuahua also, for me.
If peace is not mde, we will probably meet in the next world, if not before. In haste.

Truly yr. friend,

Cave S. Couts