First Dragoons

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How William Grier became Colonel Grier

Willaim Grier: Grant Makes Him a Colonel
By Thomas P. Farner, 2003
This is the final part in a series printed in the SandPaper on the life of General William N. Grier before he arrived in Manahawkin, New Jersey, as President of the Stafford Land Company in the early 1870's.

Grier and his 1st U. S. Cavalry had played a key role in what has been called the Peninsula Campaign from May-June 1862. He received a saber wound leading a charge at Williamsburg, Virginia, and also suffered from other physical problems. He wrote in 1866, "At the time we left Yorktown, it was my misfortune to be suffering from dysentery. Nevertheless (against the recommendations of my surgeon) I remained with the Army of the Potomac until it reached 'Harrison's Landing' on James River - avoiding the sick report during the whole xxxxxxx."
But in August 1862 the situation became critical. Grier wrote, "I was no longer able to ride my horse half a mile without falling off; was sent from the field."
For the hard charging cavalry officer of the American west, the opening of the Civil War 1862-65, saw him confined to a desk. First sitting on court-martials in St. Louis, Missouri from September 1862 to February 1863, then as a recruiting officer in Ohio and Iowa. Of this time in his career he remembered he was, "still suffering for a year and a half with chronic dysentery, and then with typhoid fever, and chills and fevers - yet, laboring hard at officer duties, and avoiding leaves of absence and sick reports."
As the Civil War was winding down in March 1865, Grier was awarded the Brevet rank of Brigadier General for meritorious service in the war. With peace and improved health Grier again wanted to lead a cavalry regiment but the army was downsizing and commands were few and far between. In 1897, General U. S. Grant's son Fredrick Dent Grant wrote an article for The New York World Sunday magazine about his father. A portion was entitled, 'How Grier Became a Colonel.”
"A good illustration of how he appreciated a kindness may be given in his thoughtfulness of Lieut. (afterwards Col.) Grier, who was a tactical officer at West Point when my father was a cadet. My father occupied a room with Cadet [George] Deshon, who is now a priest in the Paulist Church in New York. Upon one occasion Deshon ventured forth upon a foraging expedition and brought back a turkey, and my father and he were cooking this treasure in their room when Lieut. Grier came in upon them while making a tour of inspection. The odor of roasting turkey was strong in the room and must have smote the officer in his nostrils before he crossed the threshold. He walked around, keeping his eyes continually upon the ceiling, and announced with ostentatious severity: 'Gentlemen, it seems to me I can smell something cooking.' Grier carefully avoided looking at the guilty faces of the two young fellows or towards the fowl on their hearth. It was perfectly clear that he had not the faintest intention of reporting them, and he did not do so. Of course he should have reported them, for their's was a serious offense. His consideration saved the boys a great deal of trouble, and possibly from dismissal from the corps of cadets, and in after years, when the reorganization of the army took place, my father remembered the favor shown to him by Grier, and he did not allow the pressure brought by the friends of other officers to secure them places in the new army list to overweigh the just and proper claims of one who had rendered a kindness to him in his early life. Grier, who was a brave and efficient officer, became a Colonel."
In August 1866, Grier was named Commander of the 3rd U. S. Cavalry. In July 1867. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had decided to revise the manuals of tactics used by the U. S. Army. On the 9th a Board of distinguished officers was convened to evaluate and recommend the new manual's adoption. Heading the Board was General U. S. Grant along with General George Gordon Meade, hero of Gettysburg and designer of Barnegat Lighthouse and West Point classmate of William Grier, who was also appointed to serve on the Board.
After the Board disbanded Grier became the Commander of Fort Union, New Mexico where he remained until 1870 when the regiment was transferred to Camp Halleck, Nevada. Grier's health began to decline and he was hospitalized in San Francisco. Later that year on December 15 he requested retirement after 35 years in the service of his country. It was his background of fighting Indians with Kit Carson, for dashing charges at the head of his regiment that Grier brought to the little cottage on Stafford Avenue and almost immediately The New Jersey Courier of Toms River began to refer to the Grier house as the 'Cavalry Cottage,' the name by which most people know it today.
It would appear even then that his adopted home wanted to show their respect for the new resident and its only fitting that 133 years after his retirement the modern citizens of Stafford chose to purchase and preserve the building and recognize the 35 years of faithful service he gave to his country.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Capt. John Davidson and Company B to the Rescue

In August of 1855 it was reported that Capt. John Pope's comand (Company I, 7th Infantry) out on the Staked Plains near the Texas/New Mexico border, had been attacked by Comanche Indians and had lost 7 men. John Davidson's B Company, stationed at Fort Stanton, was dispatched to rescue Pope. A patrol, under Sgt. James Bennett, left Ft. Stanton on 21 August. The remainder of the company departed from Ft. Stanton on 28 August. Two men were drowned at the crossing of Blue Water. After traveling across the harsh desert terrain with temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, Pope's camp was reached on 1 September. Company B discovered that the reported Indian attack turned out to be false. It returned to Fort Stanton and arrived there on 16 September.

Here are two reports of the patrol graciously provided by Gary Cozzens and the Fort Stanton history group.

Head Quarters Fort Stanton
N. M. September 10th 1855

Desirous of sending the whole force of Captain Davidson’s Company to Delaware Creek, he deferred his departure until 28th August for the return of about 10 men absent escorting to Fort Bliss. These not returning by the time he departed with all the strength of his Company here (thirty five men) and 20 pack mules with a howitzer with the Dept. order and the Genl’s letter of instructions of 2nd August for his guidance, to open communication with Capt. Pope, T. E. He returned within 20 miles of them last night and reported to me. I directed him to come to the Post. I enclose a copy of his report, the original being in pencil. It was my design to allow his animals about 10 days to recruit and send him again with the whole strength of his company now increased by eleven recruits and six men who will by that time return from escorting Dr. Henry to Fort Fillmore on his way as a witness to Fort Bliss as it is believe he could go securely by Dog Canyon and south of the Guadalupe Mountains. Flores the guide (bearer of this) wishes to go to Santa Fe, on important business to him, and I have thought it best to enclose to the Cmdg General Captain Davidson’s report and a sketch of the country transversed for his information, and further particulars he can get from Flores and through him I can be informed of the General’s wishes by the time the animals are sufficiently rested for another expedition. A map will be furnished as soon as complete.
Captain Davidson speaks very highly of Flores; of his perfect knowledge of the county, and of of the Indians their bands, habits, numbers and mountains. It is deemed very important that he be returned here for a year as to acquire a knowledge of the country, now unknown to the officers serving here. Col. [Daniel] Chandler has written to me to send Flores to Fort Craig, but it seems to me that the services of him or of El Cojo of Manzanos or some equally good are very material here, and Flores is considered best, and is most desired. I believe he would be glad to be so employed at $1.50 per diem.
It is his opinion and Capt. Davidson that no reliance can be placed on the friendship of the Mescaleros and that as soon as their fruits and other resources on the Rio Grande are exhausted, we may expect them (perhaps with others), to make attempts at driving off our animals.
Capt. Davidson estimates the distance to Capt Pope at considerably over 200 miles and that he has reached within about 80 miles of him. The Pecos was very high and he considered it very dangerous if not impractible then to cross it. The grass below is excellent and his horses are in better condition than when he started, but the mules much exhausted.
The [ ] Mill works pretty well. We have made yokes and yoked up some of our beef cattle to haul logs.
I am Sir
Your Obt. Svt.
Bvt. Major N. A. Nichols J. Van Horne
Asst Adjt General USA B. Maj. Comdg
Santa Fe

(National Archives microfilm, RG 393, M1120, [V-8].)

Camp on Ruidoso near “Santa de los Rios”
September 7, 1855

I have the honor to report briefly to the Commanding Officer from this point that in pursuance to his orders I left the post on the 1st ulto. with 1 sergeant, 1 bugler, platoon of sixteen files of my Company, and a mountain howitzer to open communication with Capt. Pope, Topo Engineer.
Below the junction of the Ruidoso and Bonito the road became so impracticable that I left my gun it being impossible to carry it further without great labor and detentioin.
On the 2nd of September in the afternoon I observed signal smokes about 12 miles below me on the Pecos having been on this river two days and striking the river an hour later I came upon a large Indian Camp located a day or two from the signs of my guide (Flores) judged there to be a band of Auga Nueva Apaches joined by a renegade band of Mescaleros under Chino [?] (likely as not is at the treaty) and that from this [?] has obsereved [?] camped about [?] below on the River, where some [?] from the Mesa to the Pecos and which are termed Los Luganitas. There Indians must have with them some 200 head of horses among which is a shod one recently stolen from the Settlements as the traders are cut clear showing the newness of the shoe. There could have been no friendly Mescaleros among them or there was no sign of corn in the camp or any of the supplies down under the treaty but to the contrary they are subsisting scantly on game, the roots of the field and the fruit of the cactus. I counted 32 lodges which have been put up one fine camped without lodges.
From the direction from which these Indians came, my Guide thinks them to be the same, apart of whom committed the depredations near Fort Bliss probably attacked and killed the wagon escort on the river and are about 90 strong. These things gave me matter of reflection during the night and on the morning of the 3rd then signal smokes being answered from the Guadalupe. Showing another band to be in concert with them. I therefore in consideration of the known hostility of these Auga Nuevas, the size of the band and the smallness of my own force, there being no means of transporting wounded men (not a pole for stretchers to be cut on the river) and no particular routes on the eastern slopes of the Guadalupe by going down the Pecos and my order not being for a Campaign, determined not to jeopardize my party without necessity but returned to this point, Report and await further orders which I have done. Accordingly with exceeding regret not that I doubt the prosperity of this step but that I have not sufficient force to prosecute my march whiter I choose to go.
The pack mules of my party are unsuited for such an expedition having done much work this year with scanty forage and little rest and have been giving out daily so as to delay my marches going and returning back to this point slowly. On the 4th I had one shot unable to go further.

I am Sir
Your Obdt Servt
J. N. Davidson
Capt 1st Dragoons

Lt. R. M Bonneou
Post Adjutant
Fort Stanton, N. M.

National Archives, RG 393, M-1120, [V 8/1]