Sgt. William Holbrook
Sergeant William C. Holbrook served with Company E of the 3d Missouri regiment at Santa Cruz de Rosales on 16 March 1848. After the battle at Rosales, the sergeant faced a general court martial—which is the military equivalent of felony proceeding—for having attempted to enter, while intoxicated, the home of a resident of the city of Chihuahua. The court martial tribunal found him not guilty of the forcible entry, but guilty of the charge of intoxication. Because of Holbrook’s prior service to the country with the 3d regular Infantry at the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca, Monterey and Vera Cruz, General Price annulled the charge and he was honorably discharged from the volunteers.
After the war, Holbrook footloose in New Mexico, enlisted in Company I of the 1st Dragoons and soon became its 1st sergeant. In 1850, while stationed at Rayado, New Mexico Territory, he led a patrol that reportedly killed and scalped five Jicarilla Apache horse thieves. 1
In March of 1854, Sergeant Holbrook, still serving with Company I at the battle with the Jicarilla at Cieneguilla, was struck with an arrow in his shoulder, which Corporal Benjamin Dempsey promptly pulled out. The corporal was immediately hit in the leg with a musket ball and also had a portion of his thumb shot off. He would somehow survive. Sergeant Holbrook’s luck ran out as he was quickly hit by two more arrows, the shaft of one was deeply lodged so that only the fletches could be seen. The sergeant was faintly heard to cry out, “I am shot and cannot go any further on foot.” Weakened from the heavy loss of blood, Sergeant Holbrook begged trooper Strawbridge to bring up his horse. While attempting to place his foot in the stirrup, the sergeant fell backwards and died.
1. Holbrook to McLaws, April 7, 1850, Letters Received, 9 Military District, M-1102, roll 2, RG 393, Nat’ Archives; and Munroe to Jones, April 15, 1850, M269/1850, Letters Received, AGO, RG 94, Nat’l Archives; Carson, Kit, Autobiography (Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press 1966) edited by Quaife, Milo M., 136-137. The report sent along to the War Department included a note from Sgt. Holbrook’s commanding officer Capt, William Grier, another veteran of Santa Cruz de Rosales, stated that the scalping was performed by Mexican civilians who had accompanied the expedition. Message of the President to the 31st Congress (Washington 1850) Exec. Doc no. 1, Senate version, Report of the Secretary of War, 70-71.
Bennett, James A., Forts and Forays (Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press 1996) edited by Brooks, Clinton and Reeve, Frank, forward by Thompson, Jerry, xxiii.