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

Armstrong to Love: Letter from Brazos Santiago, 1847.

(A special guest contribution)

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

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

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

Brazos Island, Texas
January 15, 1847

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

Yours truly,

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

Gossip from Ft. Leavenworth 1845 & 1846

McLean to Love

Fort Leavenworth Mo.

Nov 26th 1845

Dear John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Wharton


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

An Excursion into the West 1834

Niles Weekly Register, Vo. 89:389 August 2, 1834


[from the Army and Navy Chronicle]

The regiment of dragoon is now completed to its establishment, and all the companies have marched to Fort Gibson, where the head quarters have been established during the winter. This regiment is composed of ten companies, of about seventy men each; each man is armed with a sword, pistol and carbine. The carbine is of a peculiar description; it is on the principle of Hall’s rifles, it loads in the breech, and the part containing the charge is so constructed as to separate from the barrel by mean« of a spring. This part may be called the chamber; and is about six inches long; when loaded, it is easily returned to its position, and then, if the percussion cap is put on the touch-hole, the piece is ready for firing; it requires no ramrod, yet it is furnished with one, which answers the purpose of a wiper, and, when drawn out, makes a bayonet equal in length in the barrel of the piece, and is a very formidable weapon. The whole piece weighs seven pounds and a half, and carries balls twenty-four to the pound.

The dragoons are instructed to serve on horse or foot, as occasion may require. About this time, it is expected that they are on the expedition among the tribes of Indians inhabiting the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi. They arc in proceed across the country to the boggy of the Red River, thence westwardly towards the Mexican frontier, thence northward as far as it may be prudent to go, allowing time to return before the cold weather sets in. On its return, the regiment will descend by the Missouri on either bank.

Four companies will winter at Fort Leavenworth, via: Wharton’s, Hunter’s, Ford’s and Duncan’s.

Three companies, Sumner’s, Boone’s and Browne’s, on the right bank of the Mississippi, within the Indian country, near the mouth of the Des Moines.

The other three companies, Trcnor’s, Bean’s and Perkin’s at or near Fort Gibson.

The expedition, it is understood, will be accompanied by several gentlemen of science, who goat their own expense. The object of the expedition in to give the wild Indians some idea of our power, and to endeavor, under such an imposing (oree, to enter into conferences with them, to warn those Indians who have been in the habit of robbing and murdering our people who trade among them, of the dangers to which they will be exposed in case they continue their depredations and massacres.

Several delegations of’ the newly emigrated Indian, now settled beyond the states and territories, to the westward of the Mississippi, as well as the Osages and other tribes near them, will accompany the expedition, in the hope of making treaties of friendship with the wild tribes, and thus prevent, for the future, the recurrence of those wars which are s? common among the Indians.

The expedition, it is hoped, will result in much good: it will afford protection to the civilized Indians, to our frontiers, to our trade with the natives, and cover the Santa Fe caravans trading with Mexico; and, perhaps, enlighten the Indians generally as to the humane policy of the United States towards them, and also as to their own true interests.

Army and Navy Chronicle May 5, 1836


No. 1

Departure of U.S. Dragoons From Fort Leavenworth —
Officers Attached to the Corps — Corps — Big Nemohaw— A traveling bridge —    -a novel craft — man drowned — Little Nemohaw — Saline.

TUESDAY,  May 29th, 1835.

Agreeably to General Order, No. 12, from the Head Quarters of the Army, dated March 9, 1835, three companies of the regiment U.S. Dragoons, under command of Col. H. Dodge, left Fort Leavenworth this day for the purpose of visiting various tribes of Indian inhabiting the country east of the Rocky Mountains, and between the two great rivers
La Platte and Arkansas.  The officers attached to this command are Col. H. Dodge, commanding the expedition; Capt. L. Ford commanding Company G; Capt. M. Duncan commanding Company C; 1st Lieut. L.P. Lupton, commanding Company A; 2nd Lieut. G.P. Kingsbury, Acting Adjutant; 2nd Lieut. B. A Terrett, Commissary of Subsistence;
2nd Lieut. E. Steen, Ordnance Officer; and Assistant Surgeon B.F. Fellowes.

Our course for the first twelve days lay over that beautiful and highly interesting country, lying between the Missouri River on the East, and the Ottoe country and the Platte River on the West.  This portion of country had so often been described by other travellers,  and particularly by Mr. John T. Irving, in a late work, entitled “Irving Indian Sketches,” that I shall pass it over , merely noticing some few of the most important events connected with the march to the Ottoe village.

In consequence of the early rains which commenced falling nearly simultaneously with our leaving Fort Leavenworth, all the little prairie creeks, which in ordinary seasons, contain little or no water, had become swollen to an almost impassable degree.  The first stream of any importance which became necessary for us to cross was the Big Nemohaw.
This river takes its rise in the Prairie, and after running a north-west course about one hundred miles, falls into the Missouri below the mouth of the Platte. As was expected, we found it nearly so high as to be out of its banks, and with a current really frightful.  The great question then was how are we to get our ordnance and wagons across the river?
Various modes were suggested, but all seemed objectionable.  At length, a raft or jam of logs was found in a short bend in the river, which extended completely across the stream, and which appeared to be solidly embedded in the bottom.  To throw a bridge across at this point, making the raft serve as a foundation, seemed the most feasible, as well as the most speedy and safe, mode of crossing.  Accordingly, a detail was ordered for each company, which, under the direction of Lieut. Steen, commenced operations.  Timbers were cut and laid about half way across the river, as a foundation on which to place pluncheons. In less than three hours the bridge was half completed.  In the meantime the river continued to rise rapidly. All at once, and while I was standing upon the bank of the river, congratulating myself and my fellow officers upon our good fortune, lo! the raft, bridge, and all, took the line of march “for New Orleans and intermediate ports.”  At the moment the alarm was given that the raft was moving, there were nearly twenty men at work upon the bridge; and several others seated upon the logs, fishing in the Nemohaw.
Such a scampering hath probably not been seen since the flood.  Happily, all reached the shore in safety.

After the disaster of the morning, it became necessary to cast about for some other mode by which our baggage and such of the command as could not swim, could be conveyed to the other side of the river.  As good luck would have it, someone suggested the possibility, that the body of a small body of a wagon belonging to one of the officers, might be so calked and otherwise repaired as to answer in the place of a boat.  After an hour’s work, this novel craft was launched in due form, and found to ride upon the water as though it had been its natural element, and by attaching ropes to each end of the boat, it could be drawn from shore to shore with great facility.  While these preparations were going on,  our enterprising friend Capt. G.——, who accompanied the expedition as guide, was employed in constructing another vehicle which, to me, was equally novel.  This second non-descript was manufactured from the hide of an ox, which that morning had been butchered. Within two hours from the time the ox was quietly grazing upon the luxuriant grass of the prairie, his skin was upon the waters of the Big Nemohaw, and conveying from shore to shore a burden of six hundred pounds.— In one day the command crossed in these boats with all its baggage without the slightest loss or accident, after which, the horses and mules were made to swim the stream.

The Indian traders, Messrs. O’Fallon and Winter, who accompanied the expedition, were not equally fortunate in crossing the Nemohaw.  After crossing their goods in skin boats, and while they were engaged in swimming their horses, one of their men was drowned. In attempting to swim his horse, he was thrown from his back; and in endeavouring to regain his seat, the horse struck him with one of feet upon the back of his head with such violence as is supposed to have deprived him of sense,  He instantly sank, and owing to the swiftness of the current was seen no more.

A march of twenty-five miles brought us to the Little Nemohaw, a stream running nearly parallel with the Big Nemohaw, and which also falls into the Missouri. Although not so large as the first, yet we were compelled to cross it in the same manner. Having killed another of our beef cattle for the use of the troops, we were enabled to add another boat to our squadron.

The only stream of any importance, after leaving the Little Nemohaw, is the Saline. The water of this stream, when not swollen by recent rains, is very salt to the taste; it is from twenty to thirty yards wide, with a rocky bottom, and may be forded without difficulty.

Where the Regiment Was Scattered During the Mexican War

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

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

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

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

Quake That Shook The Army’s Adobe

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington City, D. C,

November 22, 1855.

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

Rare Stevenson Journal Paints An Enchanting City of Saints

James Stevenson, a recruit in Company A of the 1st Dragoons, served as a member of an army expedition that traveled to Salt Lake City in 1854. Twenty-five years later, he wrote of his observations.

We descended the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains into the valley of the Green River, while the snowy peaks of the Wind River Mountains, including Fremont Peak, towering in the clouds on our right like the famous Alps of Europe.

As we dismount on the western slope of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City on the last day of August, 1854, the valley of the Jordan in all its beauty lay spread beneath us like a beautiful picture. The “city of the Saints,” with its lead colored houses, street lined with green cotton wood trees and streams of water, like silver threads, coursing along either side of the streets, looked like a fairy scene, while the great summer sun was descending into the waters of the majestic lake, twenty miles distant, lighting it up like a sheet of burnished gold.

It was enchanting. For weeks before arriving we had been regaled with stories about Mormons, about their peculiar institutions, and of the Great Salt Lake, which was represented as receiving rivers of fresh water constantly and yet remaining very salty, having no outlet except by a great whirlpool in the centre which drew everything towards it that approached within the circle of its powerful influence.

And, as “distance lends enchantment to the view,” we looked a way off to the waters of the lake with wondering eyes and longed to stand upon upon its mystic shores.

Continue reading “Rare Stevenson Journal Paints An Enchanting City of Saints”

What Flogging Was Like In 1854

From a 1854 entry in the previously unpublished journal of soldier James Stevenson, 1st Dragoons:

That winter a court martial was convened at the barracks to try a number of deserters, who were under guard, with ball and chains attached to their ankles.  They are found guilty and sentenced to receive fifty lashes each upon the bare back, to have the letter “D” branded upon the hip, and to be drummed out of the service.

When the day for the execution of the sentences arrived, the troops were drawn up in lines forming three sides of a square, to witness the punishment that might deter them from deserting.  It was the duty of the officer of the day to superintend the execution of the sentences.  A gun carriage was placed on the fourth or vacant side of the square so that all the troops could see, and each prisoner in his turn was lashed firmly to the wheel, having been previously stripped to the waist.  The drummer of the infantry and the buglers of the cavalry administered the stripes with a rawhide; and a more brutal exhibition I have never witnessed.  When a blow was struck which did not seem hard enough, the officer of the day would not count it, so some of the prisoners received sixty stripes instead of fifty.

When a man fainted under his punishment, restoratives were administered, and if the surgeon thought he could still stand it, he received his full allowance.  In one case, the surgeon pronounced a man physically unable to stand the punishment after being restored from a fainting fit, and he was led off with about thirty stripes.  When cut down from the wheel, their backs were rubbed with brine which, although said to be for their good, caused them dreadful suffering, if we could judge by their groans and cries.  After a few days’ medical treatment, the letter “D” was pricked into their skin with India ink, and, with shaven heads, they were marched around the parade ground, the soldiers standing in line to witness the performance.  The drums and fifes played the “Rogues’ March,” and a file of infantry, with bayonets at a charge, marched behind the culprits, and conducted them some distance beyond the limits of the barracks.  Thus ended the inhumane and humiliating spectacle; I can truly say that, instead of filling the hearts of the soldiers with fear and exercising a restraining influence over them, it only filled them with hatred for a service in which such brutal punishment was practiced, and produced a strong desire to get out of it in any way possible.  I do not blame the officers, for they were, as a rule, humane and gentlemanly in their treatment of the soldiers.  It was the fault of the system, and I am happy to say that it has since been done away with.

After the exhibition of cruelty, I was very anxious to get away from “garrison duty” and to enter upon the more dangerous, but vastly pleasanter duty, of “life upon the plains.”’

REPORT: Dragoon Expedition 1839

ARMY AND NAVY CHRONICLE, Vol. IX, No. 18, October 31, 1839 (Whole Number 263)


Fort Leavenworth, Oct. 3, 1839.

Mr. Editor: During that portion of the year in which the prairie grass will sustain horses, it has been customary at this post to detach squadrons or troops, monthly, on a march of reconnaissance along the frontier, to the vicinity of those Indian tribes whose known propensities would lead to the supposition of their committing depredations upon the property of the whites, or of whom complaints had already been made of outrages actually committed. A short account of a March of this kind, of more than usual interest, made during the past month, to the Otoes and Missourias, may not be uninteresting to some of your readers.

In consequence of complaints made of the evil disposition manifested by the Otoes towards the whites, particularly in their conduct to the employés of the Government living among them. Col. Kearny, in immediate command of two squadrons of his regiment, left Fort Leavenworth on the 5th September, to visit them at their villages on the Great Platte river. The officers of the expedition were Col. Kearny, commanding; Major Wharton, Adjutant Thompson, Surgeon Macomb; Capt. Boone, commanding 1st squadron; Capt. Allen commanding 2d squadron; and Lieutenants Steen, Davidson, Chilton and Bowman.

Following, generally, the old ‘Council Bluffs” road, on the south side of the Missouri river, the troops moved leisurely onward, over a country luxuriant, picturesque, and at some points beautiful; the monotony of the march being varied by, at one time, the necessity of cutting down the abrupt banks of some prairie stream, to allow the passage of the wagons, and, at another, of turning from a direct course to head some hollow whose marshy bottom would bear neither man nor horse. In this manner, by easy marches, Wolfe river, the Great and Little Nemahaw, Table Creek, L’eau qui pleut, and many streams of lesser note being crossed, and the site (a most eligible one) for the new post on Table Creek having been visited, we finally stood upon the batiks of the Great Platte. This river, being low, was fordable by horses, but its bed abounding in quicksands rendered the crossing entirely impracticable to loaded wagons. An opportunity was thus offered of testing the utility of Capt. Lane’s admirable application of India rubber to purposes of military economy. A small box, of little weight, containing a boat capable of transporting about 1500 pounds weight across a rapid stream, having been brought with us, the cylinders were inflated and the boat launched. It is almost superfluous, after the many testimonials in its favor, to say that the boat answered all the purposes of its invention, uniting with an ease of management and a readiness of transportation, which must give it entire precedence over every other kind of ponton yet offered to the consideration of the military public. On the sandy beach of this river we found the bones of one of three dragoons who had been drowned a few months previous, while conducting to their tribe some Omahas taken prisoners by the Sacs. The now useless sword and belt and cartridge-box, lying with their owner’s remains, and marked with the letter of his company, and his number, identified the individual. The skeleton, having been placed in a box, was conveyed to our camp, and that evening buried with the honors of war.

The point of our destination having been reached, the Otoes were invited through their agent, Mr. Hamilton, to a council on the 16th. After a delay of unusual length, though at no time remarkable for punctuality, a long string of warriors, boys and women, gave notice of the approach of the nation. The whole assembly having halted a few hundred yards beyond our chain of sentinels, some twenty of the chief men, having dismounted, approached the encampment, and being led to the commanding officer, took their seats in council; on being told, however, that the whole nation were invited to hear what was, to be said to them, the greater portion of the people came forward, taking their stations in concentric circles around the council fire. Observing that, contrary to custom, the Indians had come into council armed, the commanding officer refused to have any thing to say to them while thus equipped, and directed them to lay aside weapons which he neither feared nor had come to contend against. This being done, Col. Kearnv addressed the council.

He told the Otoes that he was glad to see them ; he said he was the representative of their Great Father, the President, who had placed him in their vicinity to observe their conduct; that many reports of their

misconduct towards their white brethren had reached his ears, that as it would be hard to make a whole nation suffer for the acts of a few individuals, he should only punish the most prominent of those against whom complaints had been made; he called upon Kanzas Tunga (Big Kaw) to deliver to him some young men whom he named. (Three young men having been delivered to him, the commanding officer proceeded,) that as these young men had acted badly towards the whites, he intended to punish them before the nation, that it might be a lesson to them would all for the future not to molest the white man—that should the punishment then inflicted fail in producing the intended effect, and he should again hear com- plaints of their bad conduct, it would be as easy for him to visit them again as it had been them; in con elusion he advised them, in their difficulties, to seek counsel from their agent, who would always hear their complaints and assist them.

Kanzas Tunga, Waronisa, Le Voleur, and most of the leading men replied, generally admitting that

their young men had acted badly, but that they were not able to restrain them,” and two of the old chiefs, Waronisa and Le Voleur, offered themselves for punishment in place of the prisoners.   One fine looking young chief came forward, and under great excitement said, “My Father, I place myself among these prisoners, whatever punishment you inflict on them, let me undergo first.”” Cha-ra-to-rishe, or Chef Malade, the head chief of the Pawnees, who with a few of his chiefs, was present, reproached the

Otoes for their conduct, for their turbulence and internal discord; and for the murder of the only man

among them, Jotan [in April 1837]—told them he could manage his young men, and if the Otoe Chiefs could not do the same, they were unworthy the title.

The agent, Mr. Hamilton, now rose, and requested  Col. Kearny to give to him the prisoners, and not to

punish them: that he would be answerable for their future good conduct, and that he thought the nation

would be as much benefited by what had already passed, as if the punishment had actually been inflicted. To this request, after some consideration, the Colonel yielded, and addressed the Otoes again, saying, that as their peace-father had interceded for their young men, he had given them to him—that his intention had been to whip, not to kill, but to whip them there, publicly, before the whole nation, that all might know that they had been punished, and that should he ever have cause again to visit them for their misconduct, his ears would be closed to all solicitations from their agent.

Mr. Hamilton having then explained to the Otoes the pledges he had made in-their behalf, and restored the prisoners, advised them to conduct themselves in good faith towards the white people sent among them by their Great Father for their benefit, and to remember all that had been said to them. The council then dissolved. The Otoes had been much alarmed, and had probably expected that some of their people were – to be killed, or that some treachery was intended, and had accordingly come to the council prepared for the

worst, to fight if necessary, but with no intention of doing so unless forced by an attack by the troops. They were evidently much relieved by the result, and the lesson they have received in the firmness displayed by Col. Kearnv, together with the contempt for their prowess, and confidence in his own resources which he evinced in the council, will doubtless restrain them within proper limits for at least some years.

On the 17th the Missouri river was passed, the horses swimming it, and the camp for the night was formed at one of the Pottawattamie villages. These Indians having been invited to council on the following day, some dozen of their head chiefs appeared, and the commanding officer spoke to them of the invitation of the Government to enter into a new treaty with them or an exchange of their present lands for others lying on the south side of the Missouri. He advised them to accompany the agent of the Government, Capt. Gantt, to examine these lands, and explained to them the difference between living in a territory under the laws of the United States, and within the limits of a State enacting its own laws, and which would certainly extend its jurisdiction over such Indian tribes as might be embraced in its geographical boundaries: that in a few ???rs such would be their situation in their present residence ; he therefore would advise them, as their friend, to accede to the wishes of their Great Father, at least so far as to examine the country which he wished to give them in exchange for theirs. He concluded by saying he spoke to them as a friend, not as the authorized agent of the Government. The orator of the nation replied, simply, that heretofore their ears had been deaf to all words upon the subject of their removal, but that they had now heard the advice of their Father, they thanked him for it, they were glad to see him, and would always be glad to see him at their towns.

These Indians complain that a treaty has been made with them, which has only been partially fulfilled, and that therefore they are unwilling to enter into any new engagements with the Government.  There is truth and justice in the remark; and if it is really the wish to remove the Pottawattamies to the other side of the Missouri river, the stipulations of the late treaty should, at once, be complied with, or any attempt to institute a satisfactory negotiation for an exchange of lands may be considered futile. The command returned to Fort Leavenworth on the 25th September.

Sticking Up For the Force’s “Mormon Boys"

A letter, written by Dragoon Lieutenant Clarendon L. Wilson to Dr. Armistead Mott, of Leesburg, Virginia, was folded and sealed without an envelope, as was the custom of that period. Dr. Mott was the father of our present experienced and efficient military attache in Paris, Colonel T click here for more info. Bentley Mott. Lieutenant Wilson graduated at West Point in the class of 1846. He crossed the continent to California with the column from Fort Leavenworth and returned to New Mexico in 1850. He participated in the actions at Embudo and Fernando de Taos, New Mexico, on the march out, and was brevetted first lieutenant for his conduct. He was promoted to first lieutenant, First Dragoons, in 1849, and died at Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1852, at the age of 28 years. In this connection my attention has been attracted to the very large proportion of deaths, at early ages, of young officers who entered the service from the Florida War to the Civil War. The hardships were great and food limited and poor during that period.

William Harding Carter,

Major General, Retired.

Fort Leavenworth, Aug. nth, 1846.

Dear Mott,

I reached this place two days ago and having a little time to spare take , this opportunity of writing to you. I found here more than two thousand troops, (if these untamed volunteers deserve the name) but the number is daily diminishing as they are put en route for Sante Fe. This place is, at present, a perfect Bedlam—”the damnedest noisy, dusty place that I have ever met with. You can hear nothing; for the teamsters are breaking mules and oxen to the wagons, and cursing, yelling at and thrashing them incessantly. The Mormon force are getting under headway today. I have just seen the rear of the 3d Mormon company file past. There are several more of the same command to leave to-morrow. The Mormons are the most orderly of the forces that I have seen at this place. I think that they are more likely to do credit to themselves, if brought into action, than the other volunteers.

This is a very pretty place—just on the outskirts of civilization—lots of Indians in their original wild state visiting it every day. I wish that you would come out and try this trip—I think (throwing out of consideration the hardships) that we shall have a tall time. It is a much more expensive affair than I had anticipated. The outfit is an extensive one in the line of articles necessary for a prairie life, such as cooking utensils, blankets, knives, axes, oil-cloth (to protect against the expected long rains) quantities of woolen clothing, horses or mules, &c, &c, &c. I am going out in company with one of my classmates and we club together in the major part of the outfit. Mules are selling at from 80 to 130 dollars—”horses at about the same, although you can get some knotty, stinted old fellows at less. Mules and horses are in the greatest demand—”one might make his fortune, if he had grazed this kind of cattle largely. Myself and friend had to purchase 5 horses between us, one apiece to ride in order to spare as much as possible our parade horses, the other for our servant: it being absolutely necessary to get a servant at any rate of hire—the officers here saying that “it was absolutely necessary.” I should have preferred getting three mules, but the rate at which they are selling is too exorbitant.

We are now nearly ready, so far as our personal effects are concerned, to set out, but are detained by order of the ranking officer at this post. He says that he wants to send me out with a supply of government stores under my charge. There is another officer here who perhaps will start out in charge of them and as he is much my senior in years, I should like it a great deal better as it would take the responsibility off my hands. If I am sent, I shall have a company of Mormons, I expect, as an escort and if the Comanches undertake to carry the stores off, they’ll catch hell or I’m mistaken. If I command them, perhaps, I shall get off in a day or two, if not I shall be detained perhaps a week. It has been almost a week since I commenced this letter.

The greater part of the Mormon and other volunteers are now on their way to Sante Fe. Ge1 Kearney is in all probability there at this time as an express arrived from Bent’s Fort a day or two ago, saying that when he left, Kearney proposed leaving Bent’s the next day and marching into Sante Fe. The distance between the latter places is about 12 or 14 days march. The express thinks that there is no chance of a fight. Capt. P. St. G. Cook of the 1st Dragoons had been despatched with 12 men and a flag of truce to Sante Fe. You will perhaps learn from the papers the information brought by the express, more correctly than I did, amidst the bustle and confusion here. If I had had my own way about the matter I should have been on the Sante Fe trail 5 days ago at least.

Give my love to my sisters, my respects to all my friends, substituting names, particularly the Greys’, Harrisons’, Tylers’, Powells’, Masons’, Bentleys’, Sinclairs’, &c, &c, &c. Tell Charley and John Wildman that they had better come out with you and try this trip.

C. I. L. Wilson,
1st Reg. Dragoons.

(The Cavalry Journal (Jan. 1922) vol. xxx1, no. 126, p.300)

Construction of fort moore, saints and dragoon em:

dan tyler diary, p 279:

Orders No. 9.)

“head Quarters S. M. District,

Los Angeles, April 24, 1847. The Mormon Battalion will erect a small fort on the eminence which commands the town of Los Angeles. Company A will encamp on the ground to-morrow forenoon. The whole company will be employed in the diligent prosecution of the labors for one week, but there will be a daily detail of a noncommissioned officer and six privates for the camp guard, which, with the cooks absolutely necessary, will not labor during their detail. The hours of labor will be from half past six o’clock until 12 o’clock, and from 1 o’clock until 6 o’clock. The guard will mount at half past 5 o’clock.

(2) Lieutenant Davidson, First Dragoons, will trace tomorrow on the sight selected, his plan, which has been approved of, a fort with one small bastion, front for at least six guns in barbette, assisted by the company officers. He will have the direction, as superintendent, which pertains to an officer of engineers. As assistant quartermaster, he will procure the necessary tools.

P. St. George Cooke,

Lt. Col. Commanding.”

The 25th of April being Sunday, the Colonel’s ever lucky day, or general day to commence marches, company A moved on to the hill, in obedience to the Colonel’s order. There were various rumors afloat about an expected attack from the Spaniards and Indians that night. Colonel Cooke directed our officers, especially Captain Hunt, to have the Battalion ready to form a line’of battle, at a moment’s notice, with loaded guns and^fixed bayonets.

The 25th of April being Sunday, the Colonel’s ever lucky day, or general day to commence marches, company A moved on to the hill, in obedience to the Colonel’s order. There were various rumors afloat about an expected attack from the Spaniards and Indians that night. Colonel Cooke directed our officers, especially Captain Hunt, to have the Battalion ready to form a line’of battle, at a moment’s notice, with loaded guns and^fixed bayonets.

We were up most of the following night, owing to the Colonel believing we would be attacked. The enemy did not appear, however, and the remaining portions of the Battalion were ordered to remove to the hill as fast as the companies received their pay.

Company C arrived from the Cajon Pass, having received ordeis from Colonel Cooke, by express through a dragoon Corporal, stating that another war seemed imminent. The detachment under Lieutenant Pace also arrived, having been ordered back by an express, the Colonel very properly withdrawing all protection until he had assurance that the conditions of the armistice, already detailed, would be kept by the Californians, and until they and Fremont’s men ceased their threats. They were also given to understand that in case they came upon us no prisoners would be taken. They, of course, understood what that meant. The instructions to the Battalion were to the same effect: “Take no prisoners—”show no quarter, nor ask any.”

Our position on the hill commanded Los Angeles, upon which our artillery would have played to good advantage, and the city would doubtless have been destroyed; but with the prospect of the Mexicans again rising and the low murmurings of civil war hardly ceasing to salute our ears, what the end would have been is difficult to say.

What few dragoons there were, were true to their country and to the Battalion, and none of the latter could be insulted with impunity in the hearing of the former. When bullies came into the town and began to impose upon the “Mormon boys,” the dragoons would not allow them to take their own part if they could avoid it, but would say: “Stand back; you are religious men, and we are not; we will take all of your fights into our hands,” and with an oath would say: “You shall not be imposed upon by them.” Several instances of the kind might be named, but it is not deemed necessary.

Company A commenced work immediately upon their arrival at the new camping place, at excavating the ground for the fort, and the work was afterwards prosecuted by twentyeight men from each company, who were relieved every fourth day.

On the 29th, twenty-eight volunteers came in from Santa Barbara, bringing us some ammunition.

On the 4th of May, an order was read from Colonel Cooke, giving the Battalion the privilege of being discharged on condition of enlisting for five years as U. S. dragoons; but under the circumstances, the generous proposition could not consistently be accepted.