Love's artillery

In August of 1847, the Army command at Santa Fe decided to convert Company B, 1st United States Dragoons, into a field artillery battery. The company had only recently arrived at Santa Fe and was composed of, in the main, new recruits. Lt. Jone Love, its field commander, drew weapons, mules, tack and equipage from Lt. A.B. Dyer, the post ordnance officer. Below is a four-page receipt for the stores drawn by Lt. Love to outfit the new battery. Of note, is a 6 pounder that had been captured in 1843 by Mexican forces from a party of Texas invaders. This cannon was, in turn, captured when, in 1846, the Army of the West marched into Santa Fe.

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

Clash at the Coon Creeks: Lt. John Love's Report of 27 June, 1847

Camp on the “Arkansas,” June 27, 1847.

Sir: I have the honor to report, that company “B,” 1st dragoons, marched from Fort Leavenworth on the 7th instant, to join the army in New Mexico, escorting some three hundred and fifty thousand dollars– government funds. On our arrival at “Pawnee Fork,” (about three hundred miles from Fort Leavenworth,) we found two “trains” of wagons bound for Santa Fe, and one returning to the United States. The day before our arrival, one of the “trains” for Santa Fe, and the one for the United States, (encamped about one mile apart,) were attacked by the Indians, supposed to be either Pawnees or Osages– (each tribe receiving an annuity.) All the oxen of the return ” train” were driven off and killed in sight of Pawnee Fork. One man of Mr. Wethered’s trading party was severely wounded lanced in five or six places. I at once determined to travel with the trains for Santa Fe, and give them all the protection in my power. Our first day’s march from Pawnee Fork brought us on the Arkansas river, where we encamped; one train a quarter of a mile from the river; the other nearly the same distance from the river, and three or four hundred yards from the first. With my company I encamped on the bank of the river between the two trains.

On the morning of the 26th– just as the oxen of the first train were turned out of the coral, (a pen formed by the wagons,) the oxen of the second about turning out to graze, and the horses of the company were picketed– the Indians made their appearance a half mile distant, in full chase after the oxen.– The herdsmen used every effort to drive the oxen back into the coral; but, unable to do so, placed themselves between the oxen and Indians, hoping to prevent their being driven off. The Indians charged boldly amongst the oxen, frightened them, and drove them into the prairie; wounding in the charge two or three herdsmen. As soon as I saw the Indians, I ordered the company to saddle. Some Indian, seeing my intention to pursue, immediately appeared on the opposite bank of the river, numbering fifty or one hundred men. It now became necessary for me to protect our own camp; I therefore dismounted all but 25 men I ordered, under Sergeant Bishop to pursue the Indians, and recover the oxen proven weight loss supplements.– When the sergeant arrived in the vicinity of the oxen, the Indians swarmed in from all directions, and completely surrounded his platoon; he charged fearlessly amongst them, but our horses being wild, and unaccustomed to the yells of the Indians and shaking of blankets, (all done to frighten the horses,) could not be held by the riders. So great was the number of Indians– supposed to be three hundred on the north side, and two hundred on the south side of the river– that all hope of cutting a way through to the oxen was abandoned. It is with the deepest regrets that I have to report five of our best men killed: privates Arledge, Dickhart, Gaskill, Short, and Blake; and Sergeant Bishop and five men wounded. Sergeant Bishop (who so gallantly led the charge) and privates Lovelace and Vankastar are severely wounded; privates Bush, Wilson, and Ward slightly. With pride, I call your attention to the gallant conduct of this platoon of the company, as shown in the list of killed and wounded we have no means of telling, as their dead were carried off the field.

The oxen of one train having been driven off, I have encamped both trains together, and shall remain with them until enough trains together, and shall remain with them until enough trains arrive to take the government property to Santa Fe. I would respectfully call your attention to the fact, that it is the determination of the Indians, headed (as I have every reason to believe) by white men and Spaniards, to destroy all the government property in their power. It would seem at first sight that one company of soldiers ought to be enough to secure any number of oxen and mules from spies to watch our movements, never attacked unless by the Indians, but, sir, you must reflect that the animals of a train have to be scattered over a large extent of country for grazing; that in an attack, it is nearly as much as a company of dragoons can do to prevent their horses from taking a “stampede;” that the Indians, thoroughly acquainted with the country, and constantly having everything is in their favor; that being the most expert horsemen I the world, they are enabled to make an attack, alarm the animals, and be out of sight in an incredibly short time. You can judge, when from the time they were first seen approaching on the 26th, until they had the oxen over the river and out of sight, was not more than half an hour.

The only way, then, sir, to insure safety to public property on this road, is, in my opinion, to station about 300 mounted men at Pawnee Fork, 300 near the crossing of Arkansas, and 300 more at or near the upper Cimeron spring. These troops to have their permanent encampments at these points, but to scour the country in all directions, and at least keep the Indians in check, or they cannot catch them.– Scarcely a party has crossed the prairie this spring in summer without being harassed by them. I deem it my duty to make this report to you, believing a proper representation has not been made to you of all the outrages committed by the Camanches and other Indians during the last six months; and to represent the importance of taking active measures to insure safety to the provision trains. There was a fort or depot established by the quartermaster’s department near the crossing of the Arkansas; but this was worse than useless, as the Indians kept the few men there penned up, and have eventually succeeded in compelling them to abandon and burn the fort. This I learn from a wagon-master. The only way to deal with these Indians is to station a force in their country, to pursue and whip them for any misconduct.

With the highest respect, I am, sir, your obedient servant, JNO. LOVE,

lieut. 1 dragoons, comd’g. comp. B.

Letter from Jefferson Barracks, 1847: "I am disgusted with the duty."

During the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, Jefferson Barracks, Missouri was a beehive of activity; serving as a major staging area for supplies and troops heading to the war as well as a training facility where the recruits learned basic drill, companies organized and the men equipped. While brother officers were gaining glory and brevets on distant battlefields, those officers stationed at Jefferson Barracks had the unrewarding task of instructing recruits in the school of the soldier.

One such officer was Lt. Leonadis Jenkins of the 1st Dragoons1. He had seen his regiment cover itself in glory, when on 18 August 1846, five Dragoon companies under the command of General Stephen W. Kearney took part in the bloodless conquest of Santa Fe2. Lt. Jenkins’s close friend and classmate from the Military Academy’s Class of 1841, Lt. John Love. rode with the Dragoons into Santa Fe and then placed in field command of Company B3 In October of 1846, the War Department ordered Lt. Love to Dayton, Ohio, with directions to build the company up to wartime compliment of 80 enlisted men.4

While Lt. Love was busily scouring the countryside in the states of Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana for dragoon recruits, Lt. Jenkins had set up a recruiting station in St Louis, Missouri and was fast reaching his quota of recruits. The energetic lieutenant would take his men down to Jefferson Barracks where he would drill and equip them. In the following letter from Lt. Jenkins to Lt. Love we are given a peek into the mindset of a young officer who, although performing a valuable task of securing and training recruits, sees his chance for fame and promotion fast slipping away, while the star of his dear friend is on the rise.

Jefferson Barracks

March 20, 1847

Dear Love,

I have just returned from Fort Leavenworth where I have been and left 25 recruits and 24 sorrel horses for your company.5 A fair lot of men 6 and tollerable [sic] horses and the new saddle and equipments7. It stormed all the way up and took me 16 days to make the march8. I came back by steamboat.

Wharton 9 has just been relieved from the command of the Regiment and Mason 10is considered as commanding it. Stanton 11 is perfectly disgusted and has applied to join his comp__.

I have 13 men and in a few days think I will make it up to 20– as good men as ever enlisted. They get along rapidly in their drill on foot and if I only had a few horses and saddles could have them pretty well instructed by the time that you are ready to receive them. We expect you will be sent here to organize what do you expect? Wharton told me that that he had recommended that as soon as you had 20 men & I 20,you should be sent either here or to Fort L. to fit up as that would make your comp. 80 strong. I believe your arms etc. are mostly here. Wharton has asked Col. D 12 to have 25 sets of accouterments sent up there. I shall persuade him not to do it, if possible, as I suppose you should rather organize here than at Fort Leavenworth as Davenport will let you have your own way here and give you everything you ask for.

As I had not heard from you this winter and wished to meet your wishes while recruiting for your company, I thought I would trouble you with a few lines by way of a friendly greeting.

Where do you expect to get your horses? If I had a few here for drill I could advance your men considerably in the school of the trooper mounted. I am disgusted with the duty. Won’t you exchange with me? This would be a delightful place for you and you won glory enough last summer.13

Yours in haste,

L. Jenkins

Hancock 14 has just arrived here with 60 Infantry recruits en rout for Ft. Smith. He brings news of Genl Taylors bloody affair. 15

Company B was deemed organized on April 19, 1847.16 On 26 June 1847, this untrained unit encountered and fought in a bloody engagement with Comanche tribesmen at the Coon Creeks. 17 On March 16, 1848, Company B, hastily trained as artillerists, played an important part in the battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales.18

1. 1st Lt. Leonadis Jenkins graduated from the Military Academy in 1841. After two years of service on the Great Plains with the 1st Dragoons, he was assigned to recruiting service in 1845. (George W. Cullum: Services and Promotions of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy (New York, C.S. Westcott & Co. 1868) Vol. 2, p.13.

2. Justin Smith, The War With Mexico (New York, McMillan & Co. 1919) Vol. 1, pp. 295-96; James M. Cutts, Conquest of California and New Mexico (Philadelphia, Casey and Hart 1847) 53-57.

3. After capturing Santa Fe, Santa General Kearney had ridden off with two companies of 1st Dragoons to California. Three companies of Dragoons remained behind to protect New Mexico. Captain Abraham Johnson, the commanding officer of Company B, accompanied General Kearney as his adjutant. On 6 December 1846, Captain Johnson was killed at the Battle of San Pascual. (W.H. Emory, Notes of a Military Reconnaissance (Wash. D.C., Wendell and Van Benthuysen 1848) 108-110.

4. Company returns, First Dragoons, Company B, October 1846 (National Archives microfilm M744, R2).

5. Company B, 1st Dragoons was typically mounted on sorrel colored mounts. (E.g., see Percival Lowe: Five Years a Dragoon (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1965), 83.

6. During the 1840s, Irishmen made up a substantial portion the ranks of the regular army. (Edward M. Coffman, The Old Army (New York, Oxford University Press 1986) 141. Yet, there is not an Irish surname to be found among the 25 men recruited by Lt. Jenkins in St. Louis. Was this a case of “No Irish need apply?” See Catholics and the Regular Army in Paul Foos, A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press 2002), 25-29.

7. For most of the war, the standard issue saddle was the Ringgold. (Randy Steffen: United States Military Saddles 1812-1943 (University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 1973), 38. In 1846, the Army began to experiment with the use of a lighter saddle and horse equipment designed by Thornton Grimsley of St. Louis, Missouri. (Id., 38-42.) These new saddles and tack were procured by Lt. Jenkins and issued to the B Company recruits in March of 1847 weight loss supplements.

8. Lt. Jenkins’s detachment arrived at Ft. Leavenworth on 17 February 1847. (Company B returns, id.) The distance between Jefferson Barracks to Fort Leavenworth is about 300 miles; the fierce winter weather slowed the pace of Jenkins mounted column to less than 20 miles a day.

9. Lt. Col. Clifton Wharton, 1st United States Dragoons. (Francis H. Heitman, Historical Register of the United States Army, Washington D.C., Government Printing Office 1903, 1022.)

10.Colonel Richard Mason, 1st United States Dragoons, was commissioned colonel of the regiment on 30 June 1846. (Heitman, id. 695.)

11. 1st Lt. Henry Whiting Stanton, regimental adjutant of the 1st United States Dragoons, graduated from the Military Academy in 1842. (Heitman, id. 916.)

12.Col. William Davenport, 7th United States Infantry, commanding officer at Jefferson Barracks.

13. 4. Lt. Jenkins is referring to Lt. Love�s participation in the August 1846, invasion of New Mexico. He would soon get his wish to be rid of Jefferson Barracks. Lt. Jenkins received orders to join the regiment and on 18 October, and died of disease while stationed at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He was 28 years of age. (Cullum, id, 13.)

14. 2d Lt. Winfield Scott Hancock graduated from the Military Academy in 1844 and was assigned to the 6th Infantry. In the early part of 1847 he was on recruiting duty. (Cullum, id 108.)

15. Lt. Jenkins is referring to General Zachary Taylor’s victory at Buena Vista, which took place on 23 February 1847. (Smith, id. Vol. 1, pp. 384-400.)

16. Company B returns, id, National Archives M 744, roll 2; William Chalfant, Dangerous Passage (Norman, Univ. Okla. Press) 87-102.

17. Diary of Phillip Gooch Ferguson printed in Ralph Bieber, Marching With the Army of the West (Glendale: Arthur Clark Co. 1936) 356; Niles National Register July 31, 1847.

18. Lt. Love received a captain’s brevet for his gallant conduct at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales. He would resign his commission in 1853 and become a railroad contractor in the state of Indiana. John Love saw brief service as a General of Indiana Volunteers during the Civil War. (Cullum, id 13-14.)

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