First Dragoons

A site dedicated to the 1st US Dragoons 1833-1861 (What is a Dragoon?)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Taos Riot 1855. Johnston Court Martial

Following the 1855 Taos Riot by members of F Company, 1st Dragoons, the President of the United States ordered that two of the officers involved be court martialed. Lt. Robert Johnston was charged with not assisting in the suppression of the riot and tried in Santa Fe in February of 1856. A transcription of his court marial follows.

Lt. Johnston, a capable officer, was acquitted and ultimately commanded a division in Longstreet's Corps during the Civil War.

Johnston Court Martial, Case No. HH624

Santa Fe, New Mexico
11:00 O’Clock A.M., Wednesday, February 6th, 1856

The Judge Advocate, having read the orders convening the Court, asked the accused, 1st Lieut. Robert Johnson, of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons, if he had any objection to any member named therein, to which he replied in the negative.

The Court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the presiding officer of the court in the presence of the accused.

The accused then moved the court to grant him the privilege of introducing the Honorable H.A. Smith as his counsel. Request was acceded to, and the Hon. Hugh A. Smith came into court and took his seat as counsel for the accused.

First Lieut. Robert Johnston of the 1st Regiment of the Dragoons, U.S. Army, was then arraigned on the following charge and specifications:

Charge and specification preferred against 1st Lieut. Robert Johnston, 1st Regiment of the Dragoons, United States Army, by direction of the Secretary of War, is charged --- Violation of the Eighth Article of War.

Specification. In this, that First Liet. Robert Johnston of the 1st Regiment of the Dragoons, United States Army, being present at a mutiny in F Company of the 1st Regiment of Dragoon United States Army in the town of Don Fernando de Taos, New Mexico, on or about the Eighth Day of March, Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Five, did then and there fail to use his utmost endeavor to suppress the _______________.
By Jno. Byrne
Judge Advocate of the Court

To which the accused, First Lieut. Robert Johnson of the First Dragoons, pled as follows:

Not guilty of the specification.
Not guilty of the charge.

At the request of the accused, the Court adjourned to meet at 11:00 o’clock to morrow morning, Thursday, February 7th, 1856.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
11:00 a.m., Thursday, February 7th, 1856
1. Colonel Thomas T. Fauntleroy, 1st Dragoons
2. Bt. Col. Dixson L. Mills, Lieut. Col. 3rd Infy.
3. Bt. Lt. Colonel Joseph H. Eaton, Capt. 3rd Infantry
4. Bt. Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Chandler, Captain 3rd Infantry
5. Bt. Major Governeur Morris, Major 3rd Infantry
6. Bt. Major Jefferson Van Horne, Capt. 3rd Infantry
7. Bt. Major William H. Gordon, Capt. 3rd Infantry
8. Bt. Major W. T. H. Brooks, Captain 3rd Infantry
9. Bt. Major Oliver L. Shepherd, Captain 3rd Infantry
10. Bt. Major William A. Thornton, Captain Ord. Dept.
11. Bt. Major John L. Sprague, Captain 1st Infy.,
Asst. Surgn. J. Byrne, Med., Dept., Judge Advocate

First Lieut. Robert Johnston, 1st Dgns, the accused, also present.

The proceedings of yesterday having been read over, the following testimony was adduced:

Private F. Vandevien of G Copy., 1st Drgns., a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn, testifies as follows:

On or about the 8th of March, 1855, cop F., 1st Drags was on an expedition against the Utah indians and entered Taos about eleven o’clock. I was a corporal in copy. F. at that time. The company was halted in the plaza of Taos by order of Maj. Thompson. Orders were given that one-half of the company could be absent at a time for a period of about twenty minutes each. During that time, some of the men became so drunk that he could not mount his horse, when the “to horse” was sounded. Myself and corp. Walsh of the same company were detailed to tie the man on his horse. At the time we were tying him on,, the first sergeant of the company, Fitzsimmons, struck the man in the face. Maj. Blake came up at the time and asked him why he did it. The sergeant replied that the man struck him first. Maj. Blake then said that the man had not struck him at all. Maj. Blake then requested Maj. Thompson to arrest the first sergeant of his company. Maj. Thompson refused doing it and said that he could not dispense with the services of the 1st segt. being on a march. Maj. Thompson told him that, if he wanted to arrest him, he could arrest him himself. Maj. Blake then arrested the 1st sergeant. About this time, there were a good many citizens crowded around where they were tying this man on his horse. Since 3 or 4 men of the company were mounted, charged over these Mexicans. There was a man of the company, who rode and told Maj. Blake that he could not march the company out. Maj. Blake was ________________ taking hold of the man when Cooper came up, and told Maj. Blake, he had been nigger-driving them long enough. Maj. Blake turned and replied that man was the da---d son of a bitch he had been looking for. They caught ahold of each other and fought for a short time, when I released Cooper from Maj. Blake. At that time, Steele came up and commenced fighting with Maj. Blake. There were five or six blows passed between them, and they fell to the ground. Myself and Segt. Fitzsimmons released Steele from Maj. Blake. About that time a man by the name of Stephens had a pistol, a revolver in his hand. I was ordered by Lieut. Johnston to take hold of him. Lt. Johnston took the pistol away from Stephens. After Maj. Blake was released from Steele, he walked around in front of the Company and said he could whip any man in it, from left to right, at which this man Stephens walked out with a Sharps’ rifle in his hand and told Major Blake that he could not do it. Mr. Carson of Taos stepped up and took the rifle away from Stephens. The Company was marched five or ten minutes afterwards out of town by Lieut. Johnston.

Q. by J. A. How long was it from the time Cooper and Maj. Blake first engaged until Mr. Carson took the gun from Stephens?
Answer. It was more than ten to fifteen minutes.

Q. by J.A. What proportion of the Company was standing in their ranks during the fight, and what were they doing?

Answer. Nearly all the men were standing in the ranks doing nothing but more than four men were engaged in a mutiny, about eight were assisting in putting it down.

Q. by J.A. Were any orders given by Lt. Johnston to the company not engaged in the mutiny to come forward to put it down?

Answer. None that I heard, Sir.

Q. by J.A. Were any of the men of the Company injured by saber or by firearms during the mutiny?

Answer. Yes, Sir. Cooper was slightly cut on the arm and hand with a saber. Maj. Blake cut him. No other man of the Company that I know of, was hurt.

Q. by J.A. State all you saw Lt. Johnston do to arrest the mutiny.

Answer. Lt. Johnston came on the ground after the mutiny commenced. The first I saw of Lt. Johnston he had his saber about half drawn. I caught Lt. Johnston by the shoulders and told him not to draw his saber, that the men were in such a state of mutiny that they would kill him as sure as Maj. Blake, or words to that effect. I heard Lt. Johnston order men to keep in the ranks. I heard him also order Serg. Fitzsimmons, myself, and Corpl. Walsh to arrest these men, Steele and Cooper, who were engaged in the mutiny, and have them taken to jail.

Q. by J.A. Did or did not Judge Brocchus and the sheriff finally put down the mutiny by arresting the mutineers?

Answer. No, Sir.

Question by J.A. Was Maj. Blake’s life in great danger from the acts of the mutineers?

Answer: I think it was.

Q. by J.A. Was there danger also to the life and property of the citizens during the riots?

Answer. There was.

Corp. examined by the accused. Was Lieut. Johnston present or near the company at the commencement of the riot?

Answer. No, Sir.

Q. After the riot commenced, and the people rushed together, did not Lieut. Johnston run to the crowd, and attempt to get into it, and half draw his saber, and did not you pull the Lieut. out of the crowd?

Answer. Johnston did enter the crowd and I pulled him out.

Q. After the scuffle between Maj. Blake and Cooper, did not Maj. Blake charge you with being one of the principal parties concerned in the riot, did not Maj. Blake acknowledge that it was a mistake upon the representation of Lieut. Johnston?

Answer. Major Blake did charge me, and acknowledged his mistake on the representation of Lieut. Johnston.

Q. When bugler Stephens drew his pistol on Maj. Blake, did not you catch his arm and Lieut. Johnston take the pistol from him?

Answer. I did catch Stephens by the arm and Lt. Johnston took the pistol from him.

Q. Did not Lieut. Johnston then order Stephens to take the three horses he had in charge and take his position at the far end of the portal, and did not Stephens obey, and stand there until called off by Judge Brocchus?

Answer: After the pistol was taken from Stephens by Lieut. Johnston, he (Stephens), was ordered by Lieut. Johnston to take his place with the three horses he was holding on the right of the Company in front of Peter Joseph’s store. Stephens obeyed the order and remained at his place until Maj. Blake came around and challenged any man of the Company.

Q. Did you not hear Lt. Johnston give repeated orders to the men to keep their ranks and were not these orders generally obeyed?

Answer. I did hear Lieut. Johnston give the men orders to remain in ranks, and go into the ranks, and they obeyed.

Q. What officer marched the Company out of town, and how long after the arrest of Stephens before they marched?
Answer. Lt. Johnston marched the Company out of town about five minutes after Stephens was arrestred.
Q, During the scuffle between Maj. Blake and the different men, was not Lieut. Johnston between Maj. Blake and the Company and occupied in keeping the men in ranks and endeavoring to restore order?
Answer. At the time of the fighting Lt. Johnston was between Maj. Blake and the Company. He gave orders to some of the men of the Company to keep in ranks.
Q. What officers and non commissioned officers were immediately around Maj. Blake, and assisting him?
A. Lt. Johnston. Segt. Fitzsimmons, Corp. Walsh and myself.
Q. Do you know whether the pack mules and cannon did not leave town some time before the riot commenced, and who sent them out of town?
A. The pack mules and cannon left town an hour before the riot. They were ordered out of town by Lieut. Johnston.
Question by the Court. What was your object in preventing Lt. Johnston from entering the crowd?
Answer. To keep him from getting hurt. He was endangering hishis life there.
Maj, G. A. H. Blake, 1st Dgns, a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn testifies as follows.
A mutiny and riot occurred on the 8th of March last in Taos in Comp F, 1st Dgns. between three & four O’clock in the evening. I was attacked by some of the men of the Company—Prit. Cooper, the first, who seized me by the throat and struck at me. I was knocked down directly. After contending some minutes with the men, I was released from them by some of the men of the Company, and when I got on my feet, I saw Lieut. Johnston for the first time. I know not what assistance I received from him or any one else, as as I did not see above a man’s waist from the time I was struck first until I got on my feet.
Q by J. A. Were you severely injured and was your life in danger?
A. I was severely injured and I consider that my life was endangered in the attack.
Q. Did you see Lieut. Johnston make any effort to stop the riot, did he arrest or confine any one, and how and when was the affair finally put a stop to?
Answer. I did not see Lieut Johnston make any efforts to stop the riot. He did not arrest or confine any one to my knowledge. It seemed to stop of itself. Not a word was said by a man that I heard after I got on my feet. I considered the affair ended. Judge Brocchus came up at about this time, and I pointed out to him those of the men, who I knew were guilty, and requested them to be confined.
Q by J.A. Did you try to use a sabre in your defense during the mutiny?
Answer. I did. At one time I rose to my foot & knee. I drew the sabre of Maj. Thompson from its scabbard. I struck Steele the last man, and the only one at that time that had hold of me with it two or three times. Finding that I could not use it from the position I was in, and the crowd around me, and that I was getting the worst of it, I put it away from me & relied upon my strength.

Q Was the riot of such a character as to endanger the lives and property of the citizens of Taos?

Answer. I can not say, as I was down. Ramon Bacca, a Mexican, who was assisting me, was seriously injured by the soldiers, and a horse, I think ran over a Mexican, and injured him.

Here the witness desired to explain and I said -- I will state that after I got on my feet, and pointed out to Judge Brocchus the parties who had attacked me, I walked from the left of the Company across the plaza to Mr. Peter Joseph’s house, where Bugler Stephens was standing. Whilst down, I had a recollection of him using some violent language I did not know what part he had taken in the riot. I spoke to him and told him I thought that he had acted badly. Judge Brocchus asked him to make acknowledgement to me of his error, whatever it might have been. I told him he could not make it to me, he could to the judge, and he must recall all he had said and done or something to that effect. I was then walking away from him, and but a very short distance, not over a yard or two, he made use of some remark, that he was as good a man as I was, that he would blow my damned heart out, or something of that kind, bringing down his gun, a Sharps rifle, cocked and capped. It was seen by Mr. Carson and Judge Brocchus. I asked to have him confined, and walked into Mr. Peter Joseph’s store and washed myself, and when I returned the Company was gone.
Cross examination by the accused.
Q. Was Lieut. Johnston with Company F when it arrived in the plaza of Taos and on the morning of the riot?
Answer. No Sir. He came into town with me two hour before the arrival of the Company.
Q. Did you know upon what duty Lt. Johnston came into Taos in advance of the Company on that morning?

Answer. I cannot recollect particularly. I am satisfied he did come in on duty as his commissary and quartermaster accounts were kept in town.

Q. Did you not have a pistol handed to you and threw it away without using it during the riot?

Answer. I picked up a pistol, when I first got on my feet. I was very much excited and afraid I might use it against those, who were assisting me. I put it away.

Q. Do you not recollect that Corpl. of Vandener was assisting you during your fight with the men, or with some of them?

Answer. I do not, Sir, but I was satisfied when I got on my feet, that he had been assisting me.

Q. Did you not release Sergt. Fitzsimmons from arrest for the assistance he rendered you in suppressing the riot?

Answer. I did, Sir. I was told that he was assisting me, and I released him from arrest.

Mr. Wm. M. Ashurst, a citizen, a witness for the prosecution being duly sworn, answers to questions put by the Judge Advocate as follows:
Q. Were you present at the riot of Compy. F., Dgns., which took place in Taos in March last?

Answer. I was at the riot ______ sometime in March last, caused by Maj. Thompson’s company of Dragoons.

Q. How many of the men were engaged in the attack on Maj. Blake, and what proportion remained in their ranks?

Answer. My impression is that the major part of the Company remained in their ranks about their horses, some on foot, and some on horse back.

Q. Did you hear anyone urge those men in the ranks to join the mutineers, and if so, state the circumstances?

Answer. I saw a soldier while the fight was pending between Maj. Blake and some of the soldiers, walk up in front of those that were on horse back. He marched up near the right of the Company. He called upon them and said he, are you men or are you dogs? Some of them replied that they were men. He said then follow me, as I understand it, to follow him into the fight against Maj. Blake. A sergeant spoke to the men and told them not to have anything to do with it. None of them followed the soldier, who first addressed them.
Q. How was the riot eventually quelled?
Answer. I can not state.
Q. Did you see Lt. Johnston in the riot.
Answer. I did.
Q. How long after its commencement?
Answer. When I first saw Lt. Johnston the fight was going on. I saw him there a very short time. It might have been one moment [minute].
Cross examined by the accused.
Q, What position and attitude was was Lt. Johnston occupying when you saw him and what did you hear him say?
Answer. The fight commenced in front of the left wing of the Company. Maj. Thompson and George Goukd were standing nearest to Maj. Blake. Lt. Johnston was standing between Maj. Thompson and some of the soldiers of the left wing of the company. The fight seemed to be going on towards that that way. At the tikme my attention was directed to Lieut. Johnston. I saw some six or eight soldiers coming up from the Company to where the fight was going on. I heard Lt. Johnston say to them, stand back men. He put his hand on his sword. My impression was that he drew it entirely, but I am not satisfied on that point. Some one however about that time struck one ofr two of the soldiers with the flat of a sword. I think Lt. Johnston also said in connection with his first remark to the soldiers, stand back or I will cut you through. I have stated where he was standing. His attitude was evidently that of moving about, keeping the men from going in to where the fight was going on. I will state by way of explanation, when I first saw Lieut. Johnston, he was moving about so as to prevent the men from coming up to the fight.
Q. Were not some of the men in ranks evincing an evident disposition to break ranks and get in the row, and were those the men that Lieut. Johnston was attempting to keep back?
Answer. AS I stated before, the men approaching the fight from the ranks were from the left flank of the Company. These were the men he stopped or attempted to stop. I didn’t think he succeeded in stopping all of them.
The witness desired to add further that after the row, he heard Lt. Johnston say that if Maj. Thompson could not march the Company out of town, he could and would do it. He immediately called for his horse, went to the front of the Company, and marched them out of town.
Then the Judge Advocate stated to the Court that Mr. Carson, a witness for the prosecution had left town & gone to Taos although he had had summoned him both on the part of the prosecution & defense--but, he would not ask the Court to delay for the witness, as he had his doubts about his ability to procure his attendance.
The Judge Advocate then announced that the prosecution was closed. Whereupon the Court adjourned until eleven O’Clock to morrow morning Friday February 8th 1856.

Santa Fe, N. Mexico
11 A.M. Friday, February 8, 1856
The Court met pursuant to adjournment. Present.
1. Colonel Thomas T. Fauntleroy, 1st Dragoons
2. Bt. Col. Dickson L. Mills, Lieut. Col. 3rd Infy.
3. Bt. Lt. Colonel Joseph H. Eaton, Capt. 3rd Infantry
4. Bt. Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Chandler, Captain 3rd Infantry
5. Bt. Major Governeur Morris, Major 3rd Infantry
6. Bt. Major Jefferson Van Horne, Capt. 3rd Infantry
7. Bt. Major William H. Gordon, Capt. 3rd Infantry
8. Bt. Major W. T. H. Brooks, Captain 3rd Infantry
9. Bt. Major Oliver L. Shepperd, Captain 3rd Infantry
10. Bt. Major William A. __________, Captain Ord. Dept.
11. Bt. Major John L. Sprague, Captain 1st Infy.,
Asst. Surgn. J. Byrne, Med., Dept., Judge Advocate
First Lieut. Robert Johnston, 1st Dgns, the accused, also present.
The proceedings of yesterday were read.
The Judge Advocate then on the part of the prosecution made the following admission—namely—that if Mr. C. Carson, a ciotizen, were present, he would say,
I was with Lieut. Johnston in Taos on the morning of the riot in F. Copy 1st Dragoons before the Company reached the plaza. Lt. Johnston had come into town in advance of the Company, on duty. He remarked to me if he had command of the Company, it should not be halted in town, because some of the men were drinking, and he was afraid they would get drunk. After the riot had commenced and while the fighting was going on, I saw Lt. Johnston between Major Blake, and the Company endeavoring to keep back the men, who were evincing a disposition to break ranks and join in the riot, and heard him say to them, stand back or I will cut down any any man, who advances. Some of the men separated and went around him. Others fell back into the ranks.
The Judge Advocate said he admitted the facts set forth in the above statement.
Private Robert Walsh, Copy G, 1st Drns, a witness for the defence being duly sworn, answers as follows, to the following questions put to him by the accused.
Q. Were you present at a riot, which occurred in F. Copy at Taos on or about the 8th of March last?
Answer. I was.
Q. Did you see Lt. Johnston there, and if you saw him, what was he doing?
Answer. I saw the Lieutenant there. I saw him walking up and down in front of the Company, and ordering the men to keep in ranks. I saw him seize his sabre, and say that the first man, who would leave the ranks, he would cut him down. I saw Lieut. Johnston march the Company out of town.
Q. Did Lt. Johnston use his utmost endeavors to suppress the riot?
Objected to by the Judge Advocate. The objection was sustained and the decision announced to the accused.
Q. Was any assistance made to Mr. Dephew, the deputy marshal, who arrested the men, was any assistance asked for by him, or any assistance requested to arrest the men?
Answer. I did not hear Mr. Depew asking for any assistance. I did not see any resistance made by the men to the arrest,
Q. About how many men were engaged in fighting with the Major Blake, and what officers & non commissioned were present assisting the Major and taking men off of him?
Answer. About four men were engaged in fighting with the Major. Lt. Johnston, Serg. Fitzsimmons, Corps Walsh & Vanderlien were assisting the Major. I saw Maj. Thompson there, but did not see him do any thing.
Q. Did you see Major Blake have a pistol in his hand during the riot, and if so, what did he do with it?
Answer. I saw the Major with a pistol in his hand, after the last man was turned over to me to be confined --- it was Steele. I saw him holding it at first in both hands. He then took it in his left hand, and put it behind his back as though he were putting it in his pocket. I can not say that he put it in his pocket. I saw nothing more of the pistol.

Cross examine by the Judge Advocate.
Q. Did Lieut. Johnston at any time of the riot, that you saw, actually draw his sabre from its scabbard?
Answer. Yes, Sir.
Q. Were there not several men, who advanced from the ranks to join in the fight?

Answer. I noticed only one, at any time of the riot, a drunk from the ranks. Lt. Johnston ordered him to return & he did it.

Q. Was Corpl. Vandener arrested that day?

Answer. Not to my knowledge. He marched out of town on duty with the Company as a corporal.

Q. Did Maj. Thompson at any time of the riot, strike any soldier with his sabre?

Answer. I did not see him strike any one.

Q. From whom did Lieut. Johnston receive orders to march the Company out of town?

Answer. I do not know, Sir.

Q. by the Court. Who ended the riot--- Did it stop, or was it suppressed by the authority of the officers, and noncommissioned officers of the army then present, or did it cease by the aid and interference of the civil authority?

Answer. It was stopped by the assistance of the officers and noncommissioned officers.

Here the accused informed the Court that he had no further testimony to adduce and asked the Court until to morrow morning at 11:00 o’clock to prepare his final defence. His request was granted, and the Court accordingly adjourned until 11:00 o’clock to morrow morning, Saturday February 9th, 1856.

Santa Fe N. Me.
11:00 A.M. Saturday February 9th, 1856
The Court met pursuant to adjournment.
1. Colonel Thomas T. Fauntleroy, 1st Dragoons
2. Bt. Col. Dickson L. Mills, Lieut. Col. 3rd Infy.
3. Bt. Lt. Colonel Joseph H. Eaton, Capt. 3rd Infantry
4. Bt. Lt. Colonel Daniel L. Chandler, Captain 3rd Infantry
5. Bt. Major Governeur Morris, Major 3rd Infantry
6. Bt. Major Jefferson Van Horne, Capt. 3rd Infantry
7. Bt. Major William H. Gordon, Capt. 3rd Infantry
8. Bt. Major W. T. H. Brooks, Captain 3rd Infantry
9. Bt. Major Oliver L. Shepherd, Captain 3rd Infantry
10. Bt. Major William A. Thornton, Captain Ord. Dept.
11. Bt. Major John L. Sprague, Captain 1st Infy.,
Asst. Surgn. J. Byrne, Med., Dept., Judge Advocate

The proceedings of yesterday were read over, when the accused 1st Lt. R. Johnston presented and read the written defence (Marked A) appended to these proceedings.

The Court was then cleared for deliberation, and having materially weighed the evidence adduced, finds the accused 1st Lt. Robert Johnston of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons U.S. Army as follows:
Of the specification. Not Guilty.
Of the charge. Not Guilty.
And does therefore acquit him.
(signed) Th. T. Fauntleroy Col. 1 Regt. Drag.

The Court, having no further business before it at present, adjourns until the second day of June, 1856 at 11:00 o’clock A.M.

(Signed) Th. T. Fauntleroy Col. 1 Regt. Drag.
J. Byrne, Judge Advocate

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Letters Home: Mathias Baker

Mathias Baker ran off from his prosperous New York home and joined the 1st Dragoons in 1845. He accompanied Stephen W. Kearny to Santa Fe in 1846. Returning to Ft. Leavenworth with Lt. John Love to rebuild the company, he writes of the trek back to the states. Baker accompanied Love to New Mexico in 1847, and in 1848, he fought with Company B at Santa Cruz de Rosales. Having superior writing skills, Baker was made Sergeant Major of the regiment On June 7, 1849, Baker died during the Cholera epidemic while at Ft. Leavenworth.

Here are three letters written by Baker while serving with Company B in the years 1846-1847.

Santa Fe, Mexico, Sep 13th 1846
Dear Sister [Mrs. Hugh Martin],
I suppose that by my previous letter you have long since known my starting for Mexico and by this time you will see I have advanced as far as Santa Fe which at present is held by an American Army, commanded by Gen’l Kearney [sic]. You will have seen by the papers that the Mexican soldiers & officers on the approach of the American Army, retired and totally dispersed. The whole country gave up without a gun being fired, if I except the firing of the American Artillery (blank cartridges) on this day of the entry into Santa Fe. I am much disappointed in this country. It is bare of wood and water, mountainous and the only parts they can cultivate is [sic] a few of the valleys that are watered by springs and small streams from the Mountains. The houses of town and country are built of mud bricks dried in the sun, are one story high and have no windows, so when the door is shut the room is dark at mid-day. However they are very warm in the winter & cool in summer. The roofs all flat. They raise corn, wheat onions, no potatoes, have thousands of goats sheep, some cattle, plenty of asses and mules with some fine Pony horses. The silver and gold mines siren to be plenty and no doubt before long Yankee skill & perseverance will bring many to light, as yet undiscovered. The Americans have heretofore been afraid to hunt for and work the mines on account of the Indians, who have been the Real masters of the country. But the American Dragoons will soon learn them to keep quiet. They have no mills for grinding wheat except some small hand concerns, and they have to use to the sieve or what is commonly done [to] eat bran and all. They kill-dry both corn & wheat. They have some apples & peaches as well as melons and their grapes equal those I saw in France. They are fond as a nation of dancing and have Fandangos every night in town & country and the way the Mexican Senora dances could be a caution to a Broadway belle. The beauty of Mexican ladies is not generally great but in some cases is extraordinarily fine and brilliant. They become women very young and marry early, but fade and become old & haggard in proportion. Indian blood is almost universally mixed through out the population & the language is far from the pure Spanish. I have given you some few ideas of this country & people but cannot dwell at length on the subject now. You know I must have something to talk about when I see you. I suppose you are anxious to know when that may be, I cannot say for certainly when for I start the 25th of this month to go some hundreds of miles south into the country, to Chuwauwau and then west into California, to Monterey, about 1400 miles off. This is the most healthy country in the world, and I am much larger and heavier than ever before. It rains only in the Spring & Fall. You would laugh to see what a complexion I have, burnt to the colour of Mahogany and with an immense Moustachios.
This will be carried by Government express to Fort Leavenworth on the Missouri about 1000 miles from this and hence mailed to New York. I wish you would write me and direct to me care of Major E. C. Sumner Santa Fe via Fort Leavenworth, Missouri. I wish you would also have mailed to me the latest N.Y. Weekly Herald. I suppose the difficulties between the two countries have been settled before this time, if not all our troops have to do is to march from our part of of the country to the other for the Mexican Army will not fight.
Well good bye for the present. Remember me to all of the members of our family. I am anxious to hear how brother James’ healt is. I have not heard since he left for England. I hope you are in good health and spirits. I always am,
Affectionately your brother,
M. L. Baker

Fort Leavenworth Dec. 10 1846
Dear Nephew,
I was much pleased to receive your letter in fact I was delighted to receive a communication from any one East, but was most highly gratified to get a letter from you which is perhaps the first one you have sent to any one. Your first inquiry is “are you in the Army” and next add that my previous letter must have been miscarried as none had been received.” That must be the reason, the letter must have been miscarried and therefore you left in ignorance of my whereabouts. And so you hope I am not in the Army! Why not? Should a consideration of fear keep an American back when he may be wanted by his country to fight for its causes? No my dear boy; you should not have any selfish feelings on such a subject, you should hope and wish for a x welfare that would go to the x , but at the same time feel proud of a relative’s determination in such a matter. Yes, my dear boy, I am in the Army, and although I do not rank as high as some yet without the influence of powerful friends, but my merit alone am already a N. C. Officer of B Troop of the U.S. Dragoons. I went out last spring under Gen Kearney [sic] and was with him in entering the Mexican Territory and in the taking of Santa Fe. When Gen. Kearney [sic] left for California our Company was broken up and the men out in other companies to fill them up, and our officers ordered to the U.States to fill up a new company. Some are now in Ohio, St. Louis & [et]c recruiting for us and by spring our Troop will be organized and sent to the seat of War. As to the exact point I cannot say, perhaps, to join the Southern Army commanded by Gen Taylor or which is very probable ordered to California. But the whereabouts is very uncertain as a soldier seldom knows where his presence may be wanted for an hour ahead.
We had a hard time of it in coming from Santa Fe this time of the year. Scarcely any grass was left, and very little wood. We had two six mule teams and one four mule carriage and put in much corn as we could carry besides our own food. We could only give our mules but two quarts a day! Yet enough of them lived to bring our waggons to this post, having lost about Ten, but we replaced them by saddle mules and by the saddle party (17.) walking the last 150 miles. Yet notwithstanding all this we made the trip in thirty one (31) days! We had plenty of Buffalo and Antelope meat on the way with an occasional Squirrel, Hare. Turkey & [et]c. Some shoot the Prairie Dogs but I don’t fancy them as for friends and inhabitants of their holes [,] Owls, a Rattlesnake and a horned frog! This is singular, but true and the Frog is a most curious and beautiful animal, entirely harnless. The Dog is about the size of a plump rabbit and their meat and [et]c resembles a squirrel, but they resemble very much a bull pup as they sit at the mouth oftheir holes and bask at you. They live in Towns, never above, for when you come across a dog hole you will see debris in extent all dug up huge rattle snakes running in and out of the holes, here and there, an Owl hopping in and out, the prairie dog shaking his little tail and shirilly barking, while here and there is the most curious of all curious animals the horned frog. The Grass grows around a dog town. For hundreds of mile in the Buffalo range, we see in all directions as far as the eye the eye can reach the ground blackened by Buffalo. To look at this you would not expect they could run very fast but it takes a very fast horse to keep up with them. Their meat is most excellent and no butter can compare to the marrow in their bones. A person can eat four fold the quantity of this meat than of Beef, and feel no inconvenience. The road is infested part of the way by the Comanche Indians, but we saw none of them except one evening, when by a timely precaution we perhaps saved ourselves from a night attack. The place is called Rocky Point and is noted for many attacks being made there by the Indians on Traders & others. We noticed on coming into Camp we noticed some dung from Indian ponies grazing at a . . . .and suspected immediately that some of these devils were in the neighborhood. As soon as we got supper over a few of us went out armed to the teeth to reconnoitre. We had had proceeded about one hundred yards when the Mules were panicked, when up jumps an Indian from behind a rock and starts off with the speed of a Deer. He was distant–above 90 or 100 yds when he started, and it being after dark he certainly could be x seen again, but on [letter damaged hereon] carbine at the rascal but none of the Balls hit him as he . . . . coursed and suddenly disappeared among the rocks. . . . . him/loading as we ran, but could find no trace . .. . . put on guard to keep watch but we sure . . . . more by them. They know the difference between a Dragoon . . . . I find my letter must come to a close for . . . .
Fort Leavenworth April 28, 1847

My Dear Boy,
I received your letter a short time since and from its date, I see that it has laid in the office for some time. In the Army, we know not at which moment our services may be required and although we may be at this post to day, yet we may be about some fifty miles by the morrow. Such as been the case with me during the past winter. I have been ordered to take charge of a party to go among the Indians, and in one quarter of an hour have been in my saddle, and on my journey, fully armed and equipped. Such is a Dragoon’s life, he must have always, all his accoutrements ready, and in the proper place, so that whether we are ordered night or day, it makes no difference in the dispatch. I have been called upon at 10 O Clock at night and traveled without moment’s rest the distance of one hundred and forty miles. Some say a soldier’s life is an easy or lazy life. In some respects, the Infantry does lead such a life (as garrison), but no one can say our Corps, (that is the Dragoons) are ever idle. I will give you a small detail of my duties during the day. I rise at Reveille (that is early dawn.) The men are all formed into line and the roll called = one half hour. After Drill Call is blown, and we mount our horses and Exercise with Carbine, Sabre and pistol for an hour or so. Then comes breakfast call. The men are all paraded and they march into the eating room. But previous to this all the horses are thoroughly groomed and watered. In mornings we have ourselves except we may be on Guard or on some fatigue party, which a non commissioned officer (like myself) always has charge of—in x. (for a non commissioned officer is not supposed to labor at all) At 12 O Oc[lock] Stable Call, when all the horses are led into line and watered. At One O Clock Dinner. At Two—Drill for something like an hour. At Six P.M. stable call, the horses groomed, watered, & [et]c. At sun down, Retreat sounds, all are paraded during the fifteen minute of the Band playing, from thence to supper and at 9 Oclock Tattoo sounds, all parade again answer to their names. Half an hour after this call sounds second Tattoo, at which all the lights in the garrison are put out, and all have retired to bed. Such is a garrison life of a Dragoon, and considering the different set of arms he has to use, as well as his horse equipage, all of which must be in a clean state, I am sure no one can say he has an idle and lazy life. At our leisure moments, we repair to the library and read the papers & periodicals of the day and take perhaps some work home to our quarters to peruse. I have been very busy since I last wrote you. Lately a number of Recruits have arrived from St Louis all of which now being drilled. Three of us have that duty to perform, dividing the men into different squads. I need not say it is a very serious task to be drilling a lot of green horns and especially when they are sometimes so Dutch as not to understand or be understood. Our Company is about full and will be organized either here or at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis in about three weeks, when we will get orders to proceed either to join Gen. Scott or, once again, to visit Santa Fe, I prefer the latter, on account of the climate for it is the most healthy climate in the world. Wherever I go, I shall sit down before I start, and let you know so you will do in the public print the departure of B. Company. I should like much to see you all again, but no one cannot say when. Certainly not until the close of the War and maybe not for some years afterwards. You must let me hear from you, as soon as you receive this, for I know not how soon I may be on my way to Mexico, and be sure to give me all the news concerning the family & [et]c. & [et]c. I am enjoying the best of health and satisfied and contented with my present mode of life.
When the war closes, I may perhaps leave the Army, but I do not promise for I may have inducement held forth to help me, for the balance of my life. But if such shall be the case, I shall see you much more and perhaps more for I can get a furlough (that is, leave of absence) when the Army is laying still. My dear boy, make as rapid progress as possible in your studies, for perhaps you may in time be thrown on the world like myself and then you will see the advantages of improving one’ self in early life. Give my love to Pa & Ma, as well as other friends and relatives. I much need close, so good bye and believe me to be an uncle that wishes you all the happiness this world can bestow.
M. S. Baker
Corporal B Troop & 1st Regiment
of U.S. Dragoons

PS. Please say, I received the x papers and should be pleased to receive any that my friends would take the trouble to send me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fort Stanton Cave


By Mike Bilbo (Outdoor Recreation Planner/Cave Specialist, BLM-Socorro Field Office)


In 1855, a patrol of the 1st Dragoons from Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, explore a large limestone cave located about one mile north of the fort. Their horses tied up and under guard, the men slowly and carefully make their way down the steep, loose entry sink talus. At the dripline the musty smell of the cave assails them. The soldiers are dressed in the military clothing typical of the period: white wool shirts under dark blue wool shell jackets, sky blue wool kersey trousers supported by cotton galluses, leather boots, and either non-descript campaign hats, brims flopped down in the slouched style of the western hat, or M1839 forage caps.

Down they descend into a dark, dank cavern for the first time - the first white men to explore this cave. Down into the gloom, carrying bulky whale oil lamps, ropes, haversacks, tin canteens, their heavy .44 caliber pistols belted around their waists and maybe carrying their musketoons, too. These men are young but they're veterans - tough 'ombres all right - they've been in some fights with Apaches, Comanches and Comancheros. They take it slow and cautious. Their lantern lights - their only outside reminder - flicker dimly on the walls, casting grotesque shadows all about.

Following a main passage south and east, the patrol treads first through mud and water, and then up onto massive piles of limestone blocks covered by white, powdery rubble - one of them mutters, "Shore and tis the Gates o' Hell." Another: "Nein, das ist der Backbone oaf zee Teufel." Devil's Backbone, an apt name in an appropriate place. "Knock it off and keep your eyes and ears open!" hisses the corporal. They continue the scout.

Caving is a part of their duty - they must understand all aspects of the topography they are to patrol in the coming years. Fort Stanton has been established to protect regional settlers from Plains Comanche and the nearby Mescalero Apache. Somewhere in the Guadalupe-Sacramento-Capitan mountain chain lies a cave the Apaches hold sacred. It is where the Mountain Spirits protected some Mescaleros from certain death. This event is commemorated every year by the dance of the Mountain Spirits. Religion is powerful medicine for any people. The military strategy is harsh and simple: destroy their religion and subsistence - there is a chance you can subdue the people - maybe.

Is this the cave...?

After some 1,200 feet of slow, careful progress and a slippery climb up a steep 20-foot mud slope, they are suddenly faced with a choice: the main passage bears away north and east, while to their right it pinches down into a crawl way. Being adventurous troopers, this intrepid band of recent recruits from Governor's Isle, which includes some immigrant Germans and a Scot, choose the crawlway. On hands and knees, carrying their lanterns by the bales between their teeth and dragging their gear behind them, they enter a broad, low passage and behold a most amazing sight: like a carpet of grass, thousands and thousands of crystal clear gypsum needles, each almost a foot high, fill the passage.

The Dragoons push forward, but out of respect for this wonder of nature, they keep their passage shoulder-width only. This is not new to the Germans - they caved many times in Bavaria only a few years before. 600 feet later the party exits the crawl and stands up, "Let's take five for a lit." The soldiers have just come out of Crystal Crawl and are relaxing at the beginning of Decoration Passage.


So in March, 1975, one hundred twenty years later, with three friends, I go on one of my first caving trips. With a caving permit from the Bureau of Land Management, we are here in Fort Stanton Cave because we came to look for some reported military names associated with Fort Stanton. We are soldiers ourselves - all members of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. The ancestral unit, the illustrious Regiment of Mounted Rifles, had once been stationed at Fort Stanton in the 1850's. With me is the regimental museum curator, Sgt. Dan Peterson, and his assistants, Specialists Ron Howie and Lisa Meyers. We're thinking that maybe these reported names can be traced through post returns, hoping they turn out to be Mounted Rifles.

Supposing to be where the names were located and beginning to wonder about the accuracy of directions to the names, we had once again come the same way and had come to the same resting spot. "Well, no names here. Great, just great. Well, let's push on and see what's up ahea...Wait! Here they are, here they are! Wow, this great! Look, look at the dates - "1855." And look at this: "K Co. 1st Dr(agoons) U.S.A." So we had found the names. Not Mounted Rifles, but close enough.

In 1855 both units worked hand-in-hand in this region. The names were written in a characteristic mid-19th Century style. There were two groups of names, actually. They were etched on a protruding mass of light yellow flowstone and were covered by a transparent mineral layer, which had probably helped preserve them through the years. The layer also helped fix the authenticity of the names.

The Names

One group of six names was associated with the phrase "5 for a lit (or possibly bit)," while the other group of two German names, possibly immigrant-soldiers, was associated with a phrase or sentence: "Caxes Texeher uns Anhalt Deffuer (or De/fuer)." Two dates of 1855 were associated with the latter group. The first group read:

John Lepsey, Washington, Kansas

K, Cherry, John (John Cherry, Company K)

L. Loerhe, K Co. 1 Dr U.S.A. (L. Loerhe, Company K, 1st Dragoons, United States Army)

Victor H. Brown, Tracy City, Tennessee

Horace Belknap, Company B

William Richards, Capitan, New Mexico

The German group read:

E. Fritz 1855 (probably Emil Fritz)

Joseph Meyers, Wiessemberg 1855

The dates 1855 are the year the soldiers visited the cave in conjunction with the establishment and building of Fort Stanton by the 1st Dragoons in March of that year. In each case the individual either listed his unit or his hometown. Follow-up research on the names has been limited, but with some interesting findings. In order to find out more about these men and their relationship to regional or national history, we contacted Marion Grinstead, a noted regional military historian specializing in pre-Civil War frontier military unit histories of West Texas and Southern New Mexico, especially the Mounted Rifles.

Marion obtained microfilm copies of the official post returns from the National Archives pertaining to Fort Stanton in 1855. With special reference to the location of Companies B and K, Marion was able to confirm that these were members of the 1st Dragoons. Because of this fact, Fort Stanton Cave is nationally significant relative to the garrisoning of the West by the U.S. Army in this time period, when many other forts were also built.

While Marion was not able to follow up on the personal histories of each man, she feels quite confidant she has identified four of the men. The one, "E. Fritz," is almost certainly Emil Fritz, who rose from private to colonel in and around southern New Mexico, and retired into business at Lincoln town in partnership with Messrs. Murphy and Dolan; in the late 1870's he played a significant role in the Lincoln County Wars. His descendants remain in the Lincoln vicinity to this day! The following section is Marion's notes on the Fort Stanton Post Returns:

Analysis of the Military Names in Fort Stanton Cave, Prepared for Mike Bilbo by Marion Grinstead, April, 1975

The Captain of Company K (and post commander), 1st Dragoons was James H. Carleton, one of the truly (to my notion) outstanding military men in New Mexico during the Civil War. He received his baptism of fire along the plains of Mexico during the Mexican War, 1846-48. The 1st Lieutenant was D.H. Hastings, at this time not present; and the 2nd Lieutenant was A.B. Chapman, also not present. Carleton was in command and present when they arrived at what would become the site of Fort Stanton, and remained in command until they left.

March - July, 1855: March 19 Co. K left Albuquerque March 19th and camped in the Gallinas Mountains, New Mexico. March 31/55.

April 1, 1855: Departed Camp in the Gallinas Mountains and arrived at Camp Garland, Rio Bonito, N.M. April 6.

May - June, 1855: Fort Stanton.

July 16, 1855: Left Fort Stanton, N.M.

July 21, 1855: Arrived at Albuquerque, N.M.

The above is all carried on the face of the Regimental Return. There is no other information regarding the men, i.e., they were not on Extra Duty or Daily Duty during this period, nor were they on Detached Service.

One interesting reference was to a Corporal Brown who was on Extra Duty, but there were several Browns, though no Victor H. They do not indicate that a corporal by this name was discharged in the five years examined. However, I do not suppose this to be really important - there were one or two names omitted (and noted by the Washington office to which these returns were sent) and were apparently never picked up.

Discharged, 1 January 1856: Emil Fritz, Sgt, Co. K, Reenlisted in Regiment same date. Last muster, 1861. Company K then at Albuquerque.

Discharged, 15 February 1856: John Cherry, Pvt, Co. K. No reenlistment. Company K at Albuquerque.

Discharged, 12 February 1858: Joseph Myer, Bugler, K, at Ft. Buchanan, New Mexico (Arizona). Reenlisted same date and place. (After looking at Mike's photos of this particular name, I am convinced this is his "Meyers" - "Myer" is probably a clerical error.

Discharged, 26 February 1858: Louis Loeslie, Pvt, K, at Ft. Buchanan, New Mexico. No reenlistment. (Again, after careful examination of Mike's photos, I am sure this is his "Loerhe." There are no other names which fit, and in this instance - bless that old trooper - he added his company and regiment!).

ä Enlistments during this period were for five years. Therefore the first muster dates may possibly be

determined by subtracting from the discharge date.

ä From Returns from Regular Army Cavalry Regiments, 1833-1916. Microcopy 744. Rolls 4 and 5, First Cavalry, 1851-1859 and 1860-1866.

ä So Emil Fritz was 23 years old when he scratched his name on the Decoration Passage wall - and the time he did it can be pinned down to a few months. ------------------Marion Grinstead

The 1st Patrol

A common, mostly true story, has an 1855 “Cavalry” (actually, 1st Dragoon) patrol looking for Apaches, finding ponies tied near the cave entrance, and finding moccasin tracks leading into the Fort Stanton Cave entrance. The soldiers did not actually see the Apaches enter the cave but assumed they were in the cave and set up a picket to starve them out. Later, the same group of Apaches is seen by soldiers trying to make for their ponies. It is probable that the soldiers’ assumptions about the Indians

actually being in the cave were erroneous. The nature of the entry sink is such that the skillful Apaches could well have slipped out a certain area of the sink while the troops entered the other. Area lore has it that the Apaches exited from another entrance.

To date there is no evidence of a second entrance and the geology does not seem to support this. For the last 50 years cavers have thoroughly explored, documented and mapped the cave to a length of about eight miles (the third longest in New Mexico). This has been careful, step-by-step documentation and every physical lead has been followed. There is plenty of evidence of a Pleistocene

entrance in the north part of the cave due to vertebrate bones found in a certain area in the cave of which there is a sink depression on the surface directly overhead, although separated by 100 feet of limestone. However, never say never. In late 2001 cavers broke through into a new passage, the Snowy River section, so named due to a rare calcite floor area where once there was a water pool.

It is quite possible that the 1st Dragoon Name Site is the only record, though not recorded in any document, of the entry by the soldiers following the Apaches.

Fort Stanton and Mounted Forces in 1855

The 1st and 2nd Dragoons and Mounted Rifle regiments were closely related for, in 1855, the U.S. Army's mounted frontier regulars consisted of the 1st and 2nd Dragoon regiments and the Regiment of Mounted Rifles. The three units were veterans of recent combat, having seen hard action throughout the Mexican War, 1846-1848. They were posted in the borderlands frontier west during the 1850's for security and exploration purposes. In 1862 these units were redesignated the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cavalry regiments respectively.

A Brief History of Union Cavalry (Eric Wittenberg:

Civil War armies consisted of three major components: infantry, artillery, and cavalry. Cavalry played a major role. It's primary role was to support the infantry and artillery, gathering intelligence, scouting, screening the movements of the army, and serving as the "eyes and ears of the army." As the war dragged on, the Federal cavalry's role changed. Instead of scouting and screening, the primary role became that of an offensive weapon. By the end of the Civil War, the Northern cavalry had become one of the most fearsome offensive forces that the world had ever seen.

In 1861, with the coming of the war, the United States Army had several mounted units. The oldest was the First Dragoons, formed in the 1830's. In the 1840's, a second regiment of Dragoons was formed, followed by the Regiment of Mounted Rifles. In the 1850's, the 1st US Cavalry was formed, which was followed by the 2nd US Cavalry in 1856. Dragoons combined most aspects of both light cavalry and mounted infantry. They carried a weapon known as a musketoon in the early days, which was a shortened musket. Later, they carried carbines. Dragoons used their horses to move them from place to place, not for fighting. Most, if not all, of their fighting was done dismounted. Light cavalry served an entirely different purpose. It was primarily intended to scout and screen an army's advance, and do whatever fighting it did do mounted, typically using either the saber or pistols.

Col. Phillip St. George Cooke of the 2nd Dragoons is generally considered to be the father of the U. S.

Cavalry. In the 1850's, he wrote the tactics manual that governed the operations of the U. S. Army's mounted forces. In 1861, with the coming of the Civil War, the US Army reorganized its mounted arm. The 1st Dragoons became the 1st US Cavalry, the 2nd Dragoons became the 2nd US Cavalry, the Regiment of Mounted Rifles became the 3rd US Cavalry, which served in the West, the 1st US Cavalry became the 4th US Cavalry (which also served in the Western Theatre), and the 2nd US Cavalry became the 5th US Cavalry, which was a fine unit. A new regiment was recruited in the summer of 1861, which became the 6th US Cavalry, which was the only Regular cavalry regiment formed during the Civil War. Its men came from the area around Pittsburgh, who typically enlisted for a term of five rather than three years.

On August 10, the Adjutant General's Office General Order No. 55 re-designated the regular army's mounted units as follows:

The 1st Dragoons - 1st US Cavalry

The 2nd Dragoons - 2nd US Cavalry

The Mounted Rifles - 3rd US Cavalry

The 1st US Cavalry - 4th US Cavalry

The 2nd US Cavalry - 5th US Cavalry

The 3rd US Cavalry - 6th US Cavalry

Fort Stanton & Fort Stanton Cave Chronology

Jul 26, 1851: Lawrence Murphy enlists in the Army at Buffalo, New York.

Jan,1855: Captain Stanton in command of a 1st U.S. Dragoon column, is ambushed and killed by Mescalero Apaches on the Rio Penasco at a location between Cloudcroft and Artesia.

Mar, 1855: Co. K, 1st Regiment, U.S. Dragoon members - privates Emil Fritz, bugler Joseph Myers, Victor Brown, John Lepsey, Horace Belknap, John Cherry, Louis Loeslie inscribe their names, unit and date on a wall of Fort Stanton Cave 3/4 mile in!

May 4, 1855: Fort Stanton established at present location by Col. Dixon S. Miles, 3rd U.S. Infantry. Fort named in honor of Captain Stanton.

Jun 3, 1859: Land around the fort established by Executive Order as "Fort Stanton Reservation."

Jul 27, 1861: Strong federal force of 450 men at Fort Fillmore (Las Cruces) abandons post due to disposition of Major Isaac Lynde, 7th U.S. Infantry. Federals start across Organ Mountains to Fort Stanton.

Jul 28, 1861: Because Major Lynde surrenders his force of 400+ to Lt. Col John R. Baylor's 258-man column at San Augustine Springs, Fort Stanton cannot be reenforced.

Aug 2, 1861: Union force at Fort Stanton abandons and partially burn some buildings upon learning of situation at Fort Fillmore - join in other withdrawals toward Rio Grande Valley and Fort Craig.

Aug 13, 1861: Confederate troops under Scurry ransack Placitas after federal abandonment of Fort Stanton. Shortly after, elements of the 2nd Texas Mounted Rifles occupy Fort Stanton.

Sep 9, 1861: Confederate troops abandon Fort Stanton after the federal victory at the Battle of Glorieta Pass.

Oct 16, 1862: Col. Kit Carson and five companies of the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry/Infantry Regiment (now the New Mexico Army National Guard) reoccupy Fort Stanton and begin renovating the post.

Nov 18, 1869: In one of the first major actions of the early Indian Wars, Lieutenants Cushing and Yeaton and a 32-man troop of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry from Fort Stanton raid a Mescalero Apache rancheria in the rugged Guadalupe Mountains, destroying tons of food stockpiled for the winter months.

Aug 7, 1872: Fort Stanton Reservation, except fort, transferred to the Department of the Interior.

Sep 30, 1873: Post traders Murphy and Company evicted from Fort Stanton for cheating the


Feb 2, 1874: Mescalero Apache Reservation established on lands surrounding Fort Stanton.

Aug 21,1877: Wheeler Expedition (U.S.Survey of the Territories) explores and maps Fort Stanton Cave with members of the Fifth U.S. Infantry. Names with dates can be seen in cave.

Dec 18, 1877: Buffalo Soldiers of Companies F and M, 9th Cavalry sent to El Paso, Texas to assist troops from Fort Davis in quelling racial fighting of the El Paso Salt War.

Feb 21, 1878: Company H, 9th Cavalry and Company H, 15th Infantry sent to Lincoln to preserve peace and prevent bloodshed.

Apr 5, 1878: Col. Nathan Dudley assumes command at Fort Stanton.

Apr 20, 1878: Four soldiers 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers sent to Lincoln to assist sheriff John Copeland in keeping peace after killing of Sheriff Brady by Billy the Kid.

Jul 15, 1878: "Five Day War" begins in Lincoln. Col. Dudley and force of 9th Cavalry and 15th Infantry travel from Fort Stanton to Lincoln to quell the Five-Day War. Brought Gatling gun and 12-pound mountain howitzer.

Jul 19, 1878: Lincoln. Day of the "Big Killing." McSween house burned, McSween and five men killed, with troops who were supposed to be intervening, looking on.

Mar 6, 1879: Regulators, including Billy the Kid, arrested and taken to Fort Stanton.

Mar 10, 1879: Stanton troops sent to vicinity of Seven Rivers (Carlsbad) to prevent rustling and retrieve stolen cattle.

Sep 4, 1879: Victorio leads Apaches off Mescalero Reservation. Victorio Campaign starts with coordinated movement of troops throughout region.

May 19, 1882: New Mescalero Apache Reservation established in present location.

Aug 26, 1887: 2nd Lieutenant John J. ("Blackjack") Pershing arrived at Fort Stanton - assigned to Troop L, 6th Cavalry. The nickname "Blackjack" given to him at Stanton – several colorful version of nickname origin. Participates in the U.S. Army's first ever "War Games." Names associated with 6th Cavalry and 8th Cavalry (Ft. Bayard) can be seen in cave.

May 30, 1888: 10th Infantry arrives at Fort Stanton as the 6th Cavalry departs.

Apr 9, 1891: The Great Divide Expedition consisting of three 10th Infantry Band members at Stanton make a three-day journey in Fort Stanton and publish the results in the Great Divide Newspaper of Colorado Springs, Colorado: "Three Days and Nights Spent Among the Wonders of a Midnight World." Names with dates can be seen in cave.

Oct 28, 1895: General Order No. 56 orders the abandonment of Fort Stanton, with the establishment of the Mescalero Apache Reservation.

Aug 17, 1896: To Adjutant General: "Sir, I have the honor to report that detachments at this post were withdrawn today and therefore no further returns will be rendered." Lt. William Black, 24th Infantry (Buffalo Soldiers).

Apr 1, 1899: Fort Stanton transferred to the U.S. Marine Health Service (now the U.S. Public Health Service) as a hospital to treat Merchant Marine victims of tuberculosis. Names with dates can be seen in cave.

Aug 16, 1956: Fort Stanton transferred to the New Mexico State Department of Public Welfare as tuberculosis clinic. Surrounding 26,381 acres transferred to Bureau of land Management.

Jun 22, 1970: NMSU signed cooperative agreement with BLM to conduct range and wildlife research for 20 years.

Aug 10, 1963: Lincoln Cavern, first major find since 1855 in Fort Stanton Cave, is discovered.

1975: Fort Stanton Cave designated as a National Natural Landmark

Nov 22, 1975: Bilbo party of cavers record names and 1855 date of 1st Dragoon soldiers who established Fort Stanton - reports find to BLM (see Mar 21, 1855).

Oct, 2001: John McLean, Lloyd Swartz, Andrew Grieco & Don Becker, Fort Stanton Cave Study Project, discover Starry Nights and Snowy River passages.

July, 2003: After completing detailed environmental assessment, BLM cave specialist Mike Bilbo and lead researcher John Corcoran coordinate first Fort Stanton Cave Study Project scientific and survey trips to Snowy River.

2003-present: Fort Stanton Cave Study Project continues to research and document natural and cultural history of Fort Stanton Cave National Natural Landmark. Bilbo currently documenting all known inscription sites – 18 so far.

Fort Stanton Cave is closed to public visitation annually from Nov. 1 to April 15 due bat hibernation. For permit information, please write or call: Cave Specialist, BLM-Roswell Field Office, 2902 West 2nd Street, Roswell, NM 88201-2019. 505-627-0278/0272

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Disabled Dragoon Officers

George Evans

George Evans graduated from the Military Academy as a member of the legendary Class of in 1846. Assigned as a brevet 2d Lieutenant to the 1st Dragoons, he received a brevet for bravery at the battle of Buene Vista before receiving his permanent rank of 2d Lt. Assigned to A Company, he suffered what appears to be a stroke while in California in 1850. Sent home to Maine, he languished for another 9 years before dying on 29 March 1859.

Adjutant-General's Office,
Washington, November 9, 1854.

Report of the Adjutant General of the Army relates to passing over 2d Lieutenant George F. Evans, of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons, on account of physical disability.

Sir: Lieutenant George F. Evans, of the 1st Dragoons, being at the head of the list of second lieutenants of his regiment, and a vacancy having occurred therein by the resignation of Captain Buford, I respectfully request your instructions on the question of carrying up Lieutenant Evans to a first lieutenancy, or giving the promotion to the next below him on the regimental list.
Lieutenant Evans left his company in California in October, 1850, in consequence of a severe attack of paralysis, affecting both his limbs and speech, and from which there seems but little, if any, prospect of his recovery. He is entirely unable to make the monthly sick-reports prescribed by the regulations, which are in the handwriting of his father, Lieutenant E., simply affixing his mark to them. Accompanying is the last certificate of Lieutenant Evans's physicians, dated at Gardiner, Maine, October 2, 1854.
"I have the honor to be, sir, your obe'd't ser't,
(Signed)"S. COOPER,

Hon. Jefferson Davis,
"Secretary of War.

The disability of Lieutenant Evans requires that the officer next below him, competent for active service, shall be promoted over him.
Sec. of War

1st Lieut. Thomas Castor

Benny Havens ran a tavern that was located about a mile and one-half from the cadet barracks at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. The saloon quickly became a favorite haunt for generations of cadets. Cadet Edgar Allan Poe wrote that Benny was “the sole congenial soul in the entire God forsaken place.” In 1838, a couple of appreciative young officers, borrowing the Irish tune known as the Wearing of the Green (also known as The Rising of the Moon), composed some verse to honor Benny Havens. The first verse went as follows:
“Come fill your glasses, fellows, and stand up in a row,
To singing sentimentally we’re going for to go;
In the army there’s sobriety, promotion’s very slow;
So we’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!
Oh! Benny havens, Oh! Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!”

The song soon became quite popular among officers. During the ensuing years, many a new verse was added as cadets carried the song with them from the dismal Everglades to Buena Vista’s barren plain and then out to the foothills of California’s Motherlode.
Thomas Foster Castor entered West Point in 1841. His classmates, a rather notable group, included the likes of George McClelland, Thomas Jackson, A.P. Hill, George Crook and George Pickett. The latter cadet seems to have become “addicted to Benny’s enticements.” During the years of Cadet Castor’s stay at the Academy it is likely that he also frequently slipped out of the barracks to partake in a glass of hard cider and join in the good cheer at Benny Haven’s public house.
“Let us toast our foster-father, the Republic, as you know,
Who in the paths of science taught us upward for to go;
And the maidens of our native land, whose cheeks like roses glow,
They’re oft remembered in our cups at Benny Havens, Oh!”

Upon graduation in 1846, Castor was posted to Fort Columbus in New York Harbor. Here is a copy of letter that a freshly minted brevet 2d Lieutenant Castor wrote to the folks back home in Pennsylvania.

Fort Columbus, 3 Sept. 1846

To Mrs. George Castor, Frankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

Dear Grandmother:

Well here I am snugly fixed on the Island. I arrived in N. York on Tuesday about 2 o'clock and reported myself for duty about 5 on the same day. I was attached to the dragoon recruits now here under the command of Lieut. Sibley. I have nothing to do but to superintend the drills and roll-calls, inspect their rations and keep them in order generally. I suppose that it will afford you a great deal of pleasure to hear that we will probably not sail for a month yet and very likely not that soon. Mr. Sibley told me that he would propose to the Captain when he arrived to take the company from here to Carlisle, mount it there and after drilling it for some time take it down to Mexico by land. if this obtains I would not be surprised if we did not leave this part of the country until November. And if the reports which have just been received prove true (viz. that private advices have been received that the war is over) we will very likely not go to Texas at all. Aunt Eliza I know will clap her hands at this news notwithstanding it cuts me out of all chance of distinguishing myself. I have been so lucky as to get quarters with one of my classmates who has been here for some time and we have to rooms carpeted with tables, sofa, beds, looking glasses and everything complete. To day I am Officer of the Day and it would make you laugh to see me strutting around with my sash and sabre followed all day by an orderly at a respectful distance and having Captains and old Lieuts. asking permission to have boats etc. The Officer of the Day being you know second in command for the time being. I am very well pleased with the post so much as I know of it. The officers are very clever and the society I am told is very good.

I had the blues going up the river and indeed the whole day after I left home. I waved my handkerchief as I passed our house but I suppose it was so foggy you did not see it as I could see none waved in return. Please tell me in your answer how Aunt Eliza and [Bud?] got home and particularly how Josephine is. I was afraid when I left that she would have a spell of sickness. How did she get through wit her teeth, how much did they cost and every thing. you must tell me all. I hope you have gotten over your troubles on account of my departure and if you have not I say you must!!

Yesterday about 700 troops sailed from here for Pt. Isabel. Poor fellows they were glad to get off but many a soldiers wife who was left behind went sorrowing to her home. If there are any letters at home for me please send them on directed to Ft. Columbus, Governors Island, N.Y. I am getting over my home sickness and am in good health. Please write very soon and tell all that has occurred since I left home, and everything that would be of any interest to me. Give my love to Aunts Liz and Buts [?] and take it yourself. I am going to write to all in succession? as I promised and I hope that nobody will fail to write me a long long answer. You dear grandmother must get Buts [?] to write for you. It is near 11 o'clock so good night dear Grandmother and I hope that you will not forget.

Your affectionate grandson

On 6 December 1846, Castor gained a permanent commission as 2d Lt. with the 1st Dragoons and campaigned in Mexico with the regiment, from the siege of Vera Cruz into the Valley of Mexico through the capture of Mexico City. While in Mexico he became quite ill and began to drink heavily. There may not have been much sobriety, but promotion came slow: Castor did not become a First Lieutenant until 1851. Following the war Castor was posted to Forts Snelling and Ripley, Minnesota. On 9 October 1851. While stationed at Fort Lane in Oregon he participated in a skirmish on the Illinois River on 24 October 1853. The next year Lt. Castor was sent to Fort Miller in California with Company A. Later that year he was ordered to start construction on what became Fort Tejon. Castor's drinking and ill health continued to rack his body. In August of 1854, Castor led the first troops to the proposed site of Fort Tejon. The rigors of years of hard campaigning, and the effects of hard drinking, had taken their toll on the Lieutenant. Castor had a bout with tuberculosis and was seriously ill during his posting at Fort Tejon. On September 8, 1855, he died.

“To our kind old Alma Mater, our rock-bound Highland home,
We’ll cast back many a fond regret as o’er life’s sea we roam;
Until on our last battlefield, the lights of heaven shall glow,
We’ll never fail to drink to her and Benny Havens, Oh!”

His remains were ceremoniously buried under the spreading oaks that dot the landscape behind the Lebeck Oak. Fellow officers bought a marble headstone and an iron fence to honor their fallen comrade. Some years later, the fence and marble grave stone were moved to the site of the old post cemetery. As a consequence, no memorial marks final resting place of Lt. Castor.

“To our comrades who have fallen, one cup before we go,
They poured their life-blood freely our pro bono publico.
No marble points the stranger to where they rest below;
They lie neglected far away from Benny Havens, Oh!”


Thompson grew up in a privileged family, the eldest son of Dr. B.C. Thompson of Augusta, Georgia and grandson of Philip R. Thompson, a former congressman from western Virginia. Thompson had attended the Richmond Academy and then was a cadet at the United States Military Academy. In 1835, he graduated 36th in a class of 56 from the Military Academy, and the Army assigned him to the 1st Dragoons. The years 1837-1841, found Thompson serving on the plains at Forts Atkinson and Leavenworth as well as the regimental adjutant for Col. Stephen W. Kearny.

In 1846, with the outset of the Mexican-American War, the Army promoted Thompson to the rank of Captain. Alcoholism was a serious problem for far too many an officer in the antebellum army. Thompson was fighting a lifelong battle with alcohol and it was a battle that he would ultimately lose.

Thompson became the adjutant for Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan’s regiment of Missouri volunteers and, as a member of Col. Doniphan’s staff, participated in the invasion the Mexican State of Chihuahua. Col. Doniphan, a lawyer in civilian life, knew little of military matters and relied heavily upon his adjutant. At the Battle of Sacramento, 28 February 1847 he received the honorary rank of major for bravery. Col. Doniphan wrote in his official report of the battle praised Capt. Thompson who “acted as my aid and adviser on the field during the whole engagement, and was of the most essential service to me."

At war’s end, Capt. Thompson reunited with his dragoon company at Ft. Scott, Missouri Territory. In the spring of 1851, the troop traveled to New Mexico Territory. Katie Bowen, the wife of Captain Isaac Bowen, department commissary officer, 1851-1855, traveled with the column. She wrote of Capt. Thompson, when intoxicated, could turn violent. "Frequently he has had 'the man with the poker' after him and always carries his pistols loaded. He fancies, when in his cups that some of his men are going to kill him, and last night, as this man was cooking by the fire, the Maj called him and presented a pistol to his head, but immediately lowered it and told the man to go about his work. When, as he was stooping over the fire, the Maj deliberately shot him in the back, the ball passing through the body under and into one arm. Medical aid from here was soon procured and the man is still alive but little hopes of recovery. Maj Thompson has been arrested . . . . He is very polished and agreeable when himself, but can not live long at the rate he has drank while here. He has nights of delirium . . . but is always gentle with his wife. She, poor soul, must be in trouble enough now. I have not heard how she bears it." The man whom Thompson shot survived, and the Army ordered Thompson to pay him $600 in damages and required that he join the temperance society in Santa Fe. Thompson "broke the pledge so soon that the society expelled him." Maj. Blake, like many other commanding officers out West, was short of officers and put up with Thompson’s alcoholism.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Resigning Dragoon Officers

Obtaining a rebel commission was not an easy thing for officers of the regular army. First, one had to choose between the loyalty owed to his home state and to the oath to defend the Constitution. Many officers of Southern birth remained in the federal army. Of 821 West Point educated officers actively serving in the federal army in 1861, 184 gained commissions in the army of the Southern Confederacy.

Consider the case of William T. Magruder--an officer who managed to fight for both sides in the war. A native of Maryland, he graduated from West Point in 1850 and landed a commission in the 1st Dragoons. He received a Captain's commission and the command of Company E to date from 8 January 1861. When the war started, Magruder found himself on leave in the East and fought for the Union Army at the Battle of Bull Run. After the battle he hurried to the West Coast to take command of his company at Fort Wall Walla, in Washington Territory only to turn around and take his company back to Washington, D.C. Magruder dutifully boarded a steamer and arrived in Washington D.C. with his troop at the end of January of 1862. He fought in a number of battles during General McClellan’s failed campaign to take Richmond in May of 1862. Opposing McClellan was Magruder's older brother, Prince John Magruder.

With his battered troop in need of new recruits and refitting, Captain Magruder went on leave in August. He did not return. On October 1, 1862, the Union Army accepted his resignation. The capable Magruder quickly obtained a captain's commission in the Confederate Army and served on General Robert E. Lee's staff. On July 3, 1863, he was killed while attempting tp rally the men of General Davis' brigade during the final moments of Pickett's charge at Gettysburg.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dragoon Buglers

Dragoon Buglers--a work in progress
By George Stammerjohan and Will Gorenfeld

See also infra: Langford Peel, Paddy Graydon and Aaron Stevens.

1. Michael I. Considine

He was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1834 and emigrated to the United States in 1854. The former clerk, by training, could not find work in New York City and sought out the recruiting station in that city. At least the military fed and clothed a person. He enlisted on March 21, 1855 and was immediately detailed to the dragoons and assigned to a recruit detachment organizing for California. Considine was 21 years old; he stood five feet ten inches in his stocking feet and had blue eyes and a fair complexion that would burn red and then brown under western skies. He was sent across New York Harbor to Fort Hamilton, garbed in the non-descript old fatigue uniform of the infantry. He did not stay long at the fort. On April 19, he met his new company commander in dour, pale Captain John W. T. Gardiner, a puritanical son of Maine, and the next day sailed as part of a 100-man recruit detachment for Panama. They crossed the Isthmus in one day in open leaky cars on a rattletrap railroad and boarded another steamer on the Pacific side for California. They reached San Francisco in early June and were transferred to the steamer Senator to backtrack back down the coast to New San Pedro. Two-thirds of the detachment was left behind. That group was going to Oregon.

From New San Pedro, the recruits marched overland through Los Angeles, Cahuenga Pass, past the old San Fernando Mission, at the time the vast rancho of Andreas Pico, over the massive height of San Fernando Pass where a gang of laborers was trying to improve the road to the San Joaquin and Antelope Valley. At the headwaters of the Santa Clara River, they turned toward the mountains, today known as the Saugus-Newhall area, along the Lake Elizabeth Road, which cut through the coast range in a deep sun-blasted ravine. As they neared the Antelope alley --- a part of the Mojave Desert--- they turned west along the south flank of the valley and then north into Grapevine Canyon. They reached Fort Tejon on June 20, 1855, two months after leaving New York. A few days later, another detachment, marching overland from Fort Leavenworth since June 1854, also reached the fort with a herd of horses. While Considine was footsore, these new men looked devastated from their long desert crossing.

Fort Tejon was not much to look at; a number of adobe buildings only partially finished, a ratty wooden log mess hall with a faded canvas roof, and some crude wooden buildings dotted here and there as if lost children. The dragoons at the post were a hard working lot, in tattered work clothes, though they did turn out at retreat in the new dress frock coat with the pattern of 1851 cap. Their musketoons were bright and shiny. The men were crowded into the one barracks which was being added to, but they ate in even a more crowded condition in the small log kitchen-mess hall. The other large adobe building was being converted to a mess hall with a kitchen being built onto it with a brick floor and a new wood-range cut out of sheet iron by the Quartermaster Blacksmith.

The Post Bugler, James A. Samo, who was struggling to learn music and master the bugle, was not doing very well. Captain Gardiner continued to tolerate Samo, but on June 29, 1855 appointed William T. Coates as Second Bugler. Coates had arrived with Private Considine. But, Gardiner's patience was wearing thin. When he discovered that Private William Peasner, who had turned himself in as a deserter at Salt Lake City in December 1854 and traveled to Fort Tejon as part of the overland recruit detachment, was a Bugler with his old outfit, he demoted Samo, appointing Peasner, the former deserter, to the rank of Bugler on July 26. Peasner, who had been listed as "a casual", waiting to join a company, was assigned to Company A that same day.

Coates struggled to master the bugle, but again Gardiner was displeased and on September 18, 1855, demoted Coates and appointed Private Considine to the position. Considine served as Company Bugler until February 1, 1856 when he, too, having incurred Gardiner's wrath, was demoted to the ranks. But, Gardiner was unable to find a suitable replacement and restored Considine to the bugle on April 16 of that same year. Considine remained Bugler throughout the year. He saw, as far as can be determined, no field duty, but performed his tasks at the fort until the company departed for Benicia Barracks on December 23, 1856.

2. William Peasner

Peasner was born in Byrne, Germany on August 22, 1831, At age, claiming to be 18, he enlisted in the newly formed 11th Infantry. His enlistment papers have him standing at 5 foot and 7 1/2 inches, with brown hair and a dark complexion. The war with Mexico ended before he could join his regiment and, on August 15, 1848, was discharged.
After working as a laborer for a few months in Washington D.C., he enlisted in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles and, on March 16, 1849, was assigned to Company H. encamped five miles west of Ft. Leavenworth. On May 10, 1849, the regiment began its cross-country march to Oregon Territory. It was in Oregon that Peasner likely learned how to play the bugle and, on March 1, 1850, he was appointed as a bugler with Company F.

In the spring of 1851, word reached the regiment that it was to be reorganized at Jefferson Barracks. The army ordered the privates to California to reinforce the Dragoons; the officers and non commissioned officers proceeded by ocean voyage to Panama, across the Isthmus on foot and then by sea to New Orleans and, finally, up the Mississippi to Jefferson Barracks via steamboat. It was during the regiment's stay in Missouri that Peasner managed to get himself arrested by civilian authorities and he missed his company's departure for Texas. Upon release from jail, he transferred to Company A and served with that unit out on the plains until the end of his enlistment on 13 December 1853, at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory.

Peasner took an early discharge to re-enlist in Company K. He was to report to his new unit on 1 April 1854, but failed to do so and reported as a deserter. The 23 year old bugler eventually drifted to St Louis and, using the name of William Pearson, joined a civilian quartermaster detail employed by Bvt. Lt. Col. J.S. Steptoe for his march to the west coast. The column reached Salt Lake City and encamped there for the winter. Capt. Rufus Ingall, AQM, discharged the civilian teamsters and told them they would be rehired in the spring. The unemployed Peasner would now have to fend for himself through the winter. If he turned himself in as a deserter, the Army, at least, would feed him. On 24 December 1854, Peasner walked into temporary headquarters and surrendered to Lt. Benjamin Allston, 1st Dragoons. Lt. Col. Steotie assigned Peasner to the Dragoon detachment and placed in irons. A few months later, Army Headquarters in New York issued a special order restoring Peasner to duty without trial. (Special Order 19, Headquarters of the Army, March 28, 1855 in General Orders and Circulars, 1855 M-1094 R-7.) On July 14, 1855, the Department of the Pacific issued an order directing Peasner to serve with Company A of the 1st Dragoons.

Meanwhile, back in Utah, Peasner was assigned to a detachment of dragoons bound for Southern California and Fort Tejon, which was reached in late June of 1855. Peasner he was released from arrest and placed on the A Company rolls. On 25 July 1855, Captain John Gardiner appointed Peasner to be one of the company's two buglers. Peasner settled into the routine of garrison duty for the remainder of the year.

In early May of 1856, the Yokuts living near the town of Visalia were attacked by townsfolk and an Indian war errupted. (See Tule River War ) Bugler Peasner was attached to the detail of 40 Dragoons commanded by Lt. Ben Allston dispatched by LTC Ben Ball to the seat of war. On 22 December 1856, Company A left Ft. Tejon, bound for Benecia Barracks. After refitting and getting new recruits, the company started north up the Sacramento Valley, ending up in June of 1857. on Fall River, where the men built Ft. Crook. Until March of 1856, Bugler Peasner worked as company saddler and as a carpenter.

On June 10, 1858, bugler Peasner left Ft. Crook with the troop to participate in a patrol out to Honey Lake, in southeastern Lassen County, to keep the peace between intruding whites and Maidu natives. Company A returned to the post on 2 July and bugler Peasner resumed duty of sounding daily calls and helping build the post. Ob January 13, 1859, Peasner received hius discharge. Times were hard in 1859 and Peasner drifted around the state for the next 18 months in search of employment and drifted south back to Ft. Tejon. In mid February of 1860, Lt. Henry Davidson hired him for $40 a month to be a herder and cook at the post. Peasner, on April 7, accompanied Captain James Carleton on his escort of the paymaster to Utah Territory and to investigate the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Peasner returned to Ft. Tejon on 30 June and found himself discharged from employment by the quartermaster department.

Peasner again drifted around the state in search of a job. On 29 May 1860, he wandered into Fort Crook and re-enlisted into Company A. He was once again appointed as a bugler and soon found himself on the march to Pyramid Lake in Utah Territory--the Piaute War was raging. By the time Peasner's troop arrived at the seat of war the fighting had stopped and his troop was, once again put to work building a new post--Fort Churchill. With springtime, news reached the remote post of the pending dissolution of the Union and of the resignation of several officers, including Col. Thomas Fauntleroy. Other Dragoon officers hurried off to Washington, D.C. to seek commissions in state regiments.

In May of 1860, Maj. George A.H. Blake reached Ft. Churchill and soon took command of the 1st Dragoons. He quickly appointed Peasner as Chief Bugler in the regimental band. Blake moved regimental headquarters, renamed as the 1st Cavalry, to Ft. Vancouver in Washington Territory. The band and headquarters eventually made their way back to San Francisco where they were put on a steamer to Panama and from there to New York.

The regiment soon found itself stationed at Camp Sprague, just outside of Washington, D.C. Attached to the Reserve Cavalry Brigade and under the command of General Philip St. George Cooke, the 1st Cavalry participated in General George McClellan's Peninsula Campaign where the 1st tasted heavy combat at Gaines Mill. The campaign failed to take Richmond and McClellan retreated back to Harrison Landing on the James River. The losses suffered by the 1st Cavalry required that it rebuild its battered and skeleton ranks and it was sent back to Carlisle Barracks under the supervision of Lt. Col. Wm Grier. In September, following the Gettysburg Campaign, the regiment went into camp at Camp Burford near Washington for a month to rearm and remount. In mid-October Chief Bugler Peasner and the 1st Cavalry was back in the field fighting at places named Catett's Statioon, Culpepper. Stephensburg and Mine River.

In 1864, Phil Sheridan took command of the Cavalry Brigade where it fought in the Wilderness Campaign. Peasner re-enlisted at City Point, Virginia, on 12 July 1864, and while on furlough, he married Miss Jane Fay.

On 21 September 1864, Peasner fell wounded and was sent to Carisle for rehabilitation where he remained until February of 1865. He was returned to regimental headquarters at Winchester on 27 February of 1865 and remained there until the war ended. The war had ended but peace had not been restored: General Kirby Smith refused to surrender and France had during the war taken control of Mexico. The 1st was ordered to accompany General Sheridan as his personal escort on his march to Texas. Travelling by rail and riverboat the regiment reached New Orleans on May 31, 1865. Relesed from escort duty, the 1st boarded a steamer bound for Panama, bound for California. Emarking from Panama on the Pacific Mail steamer SACRAMENTO, the regiment arrived in San Francisco on 22 January 1866. Arriving in San Pedro aboard the coastal steamer ORIZABA, headquarters went into garrison at Drum Barracks.

Once again, elements of the regiment would find themselves scattered all about crude outposts on the West Coast. On 5 June of 1866, headquarters and the band boarded a steamer and sailed to Ft. Vancouver on the banks of the Columbia River. Chief Trumpeter Peasner re-enlisted on 17 July 1867. In 1870, regimental headquarters and the band were moved back to Benicia Barracks. There the band remained through the Modoc War. On July 17, 1872, Peasner re-enlisted for another 5-year term and, in December of that year journeyed to Ft. Walla Wall where, on 17 July, he enlisted in the army for the 7th time and placed in the rank of Saddler Sergeant.

The hard years of soldiering were steadily taking their toll on this lasr remaining enlisted dragoon. Peasner was suffering from frequent bouts of malaria and chronic rheumatism. The coming years were spent in garrison duty at Walla Walla. In 1879, Peasner ended his 24-year service with the dragoons and became an Ordance sergeant, assigned to Fort Lapwai in Idaho where he re-enlisted one final time on July 17, 1882. At Fort Spokane, on 7 May 1885, he retired from the Army and, with his family, moved to the nearby town of Walla Walla. On 1 July 1899, the old dragoon died of cancer to the jaw. (To be continued.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

“Overawing the Indians": Major Steen’s Futile Pursuit of the Apaches in 1850

The editor of Santa Fe Gazette of 5 March 1853, pondered, "How can a Dragoon who, with his arms and accoutrements weighing 250 pounds, mounted on a half starved browken down horse be expected to catch an Indian mounted upon his fleet little pony, sooner than an Infantryman loaded down with his musket, knapsack, his haversack?" To prove his point on the 19th of the month he printed a report filed by Brevet Major Enoch Steen from Dona Ana, New Mexico Territory, February 5, 1850. [Bvt. Maj. Steen, from Missouri, had been a 2d Lt. in the Battalion of Mounted Rangers. On 19 Sept. 1833, he was commissioned as a 2d lt. in the 1st Dragoons. In 1847 he was brevetted as a major for his conduct at the 1847 Battle of Buena Vista, a battle in which he fell wounded. Send to New Mexico Territory, Bvt. Major Steen , on 16 August 1849, he was wounded in a fight with the Apaches near the Copper Mines. This talented officer would eventually rise to the rank of Lt. Col. of the 2d Dragoons, retiring in 1863. 1 Heitman, Army Register 919.]

On Saturday the 2d inst., about 8 o’clock A.M., a report was brought to my quarters that the Apaches had made a descent upon the herds grazing in the rear of the town, and driven off the stock after wounding four Mexican herders—one of them is since dead, and carrying away one boy. On inquiry I found the facts as stated, and that the Indians had come within a mile of the town—so near that they were seen by the men from their quarters. I immediately ordered out company [H], 1st Dragoons, and started in pursuit, accompanied by L. W. O’Bannon, 3d Infantry; before, however,
we could get started, the Indians had gained some six miles.

My first impression was they were the Apaches from the Gila, and thought that by going up the river, I could intercept them at the crossing; but Mexicans all saying that they had gone in the direction of San Diego, I was induced to follow directly in their trail.

Some six or seven miles from the garrison we found the bueyada [stolen herd of cattle], which the Indians, seeing themselves closely pursued, had left. After spurring the animals, going on fifteen miles further, we were evidently gaining on the Indians. I ascertained that my first impressions were correct, and the Indians were endeavoring to reach the river. Here I divided my command, and, sending about twenty-five of the men who were best mounted with Lieutenant O’Bannon to follow on their trail of the Indians, and cut them off from the mountains, I took a more southerly route to come in between them and the river, and thus drive them upon the level plain of the Jornada, where I thought we could easily succeed in running them down.

The result was, however, contrary to my expectations, and the Indians proved to be better mounted than we were; for, after riding more than forty miles at our best speed, we were obliged to give up the chase—our horses being completely broken down, and the command so scattered that, at last, I had but six men left with me. Abandoning the chase, we espied two men standing by their horses, half way up a little rise, some half mile distant, and a herd of cattle grazing near. Supposing them to be Mexicans, we approached to within a few hundred yards, when to our surprise, they proved to be Indians, who jumped opon their horses and galloped up the hill, beckoning us to follow. WE did so as fast as our wearied animals would permit; but, arriving at the top of th rise, we saw . . . some thirty or forty warriors, all mounted on their horses, and cursing us in bad Spanish, call us to come over and fight them. As I did not chose to do this with the few men I had, I dismounted my party and made arrangements to defend myself if attacked; at the same time building a fire, in the hope that the smoke might bring Lieutenant O’Bannon’s party to my assistance, when we would be able to give them a fight. Remaining here an hour and a half, [resting] my horses, I then returned to this place, which I reached at 9 o’clock P.M., having ridden eighty miles.

Lieutenant O’Bannon, with his party, following directly in the trail of the Indians, gained upon them rapidly; but coming to a canon above the San Diego, he was obliged to dismount his men, to lead their horses down the rocky pass in single file: here the men mounted as they passed through it, and continued the chase; four of the first though, who were best mounted, were close upon the heels of the Indians, and one man, private Teagardin, company H, 1st Dragoons, came up with a party of eight who were thrown out as a rear guard. Wounding one of them with his [Hall carbine], three of the others turned upon him and attacked him with theirlances: he, however, succeeded in parrying them with his saber—receiving only a slight scratch in his back; when, perceiving the command closing upon them, two fired on him,--one shooting him through the thigh, severely fracturing the bone. I must take this opportunity to urge upon the commanding officer of this department the necessity of arming Company H with Colt’s revolvers. Had this man had one of these weapons, he would probably have killed several of these Indians. I should have mentioned that before the Indians turned, the other three dragoons had closed in and exchanged fire, wounding two other Indians.

The whole command had now passed through the canon, and here ensued a most exciting scene. The Indians in full sight, not more than a mile and a half in advance, on a level plain, and the dragoons in hot pursuit,--both parties at the top of their speed; and thus the chase was continued for thirty miles, until the horses were completely broken down.—Towards the last, the Indians were to be seen throwing away blankets, provisions, and everything but their arms, rendering themselves as light as possible.

Lieutenant O’Bannon, in returning, fell in with another small party of Indians, mounted on fresh horses and driving more with them. From the fatigued condition of his animals, they easily escaped him.

Three of my best horses were left dead in the road. I can only say, the company, without exception, behaved admirably; and every possible effort, was made to overtake the Indians; and it was owing to our having run our horses over the first and most difficult part of the country, that we were unable to come up with them after getting upon the plain.

On my return I was informed that, at about the time we started in pursuit another party of Indians came in at the lower side of town, near the river and driven off stock from there.—This was probably the party I saw after watering. In connexion [sic] I would state that, on the 27th ult a party came in about sundown and stole two Mexican boys who were working in a field not a mile from the quarters and drove off some stock. At the same time another party came in, some four miles south west of us, and drove off twenty three head of oxen, the property of Mr. Beck.

I cannot close this report without urging upon the commanding officerof the department the necessity of a campaign against these Indians as speedy as possible.

When Indians become so bold that they will come in broad daylight within a mile of a United States garrison, where dragoons are stationed, and drive off stock and murder defenceless herders, I think it becomes necessary to chastise them; this can only be done by a regularly organized campaign against them.

When these Indians start on a marauding expedition they come mounted on their best horses, (which are equal to any of ours,) and at the same time have relays waiting for them at twenty-five or thirty miles’ distance. They do their mischief and get off with several miles the start, come up with their relays and thus are mounted on fresh animals, and can snap their fingers at us, whose horses are broken down by the long chase. Thus; it is next to impossible for any dragoons to overtake them; and for this, I would suggest that a depot be selected at or near the Copper Mines; and that that point be established as the base of operations.

All of which I most respectfully submit.

E. Steen
Bvt. Maj. 1st Dragoons, Com’d’g

Lt. L. McLaws
AA Adj’t Gen.
Santa Fe