Bear Creek Pass Battle
  1. The Mexican government also provided armed escorts from time to time. Gregg reported that almost every spring the caravans were met near the upper Canadian River, about 140 miles from Santa Fe, by a military escort. The primary purpose was to prevent smuggling, but it also provided protection from the Indians for the traders. Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies, 75. Mexican soldiers provided a return escort to the United States boundary in 1829 and met the caravan going to Santa Fe, at the Cimarron Crossing, in the autumn of 1843. See Below.

  2. There were other bodies of troops on the Trail during this period, using it only as a means of travel and not of directly protecting traders. The most important of these was Colonel Henry Dodge's expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1835, which returned via the Arkansas route. For the Dodge expedition, see 24 Cong., 1 sess., House Doc. 181. In addition to the six escorts along the Trail, an escort was provided for the caravan led to Santa Fe by Josiah Gregg in 1839, which did not follow the regular route. Departing from Van Buren, Arkansas, the traders followed a route along the Canadian River. Henry Putney Beers, "Military Protection of the Santa Fe Trail to 1843," New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. XII (April, 1937), 126-27.

  3. 20 Cong. 2 sess., Sen. Doc. 52.

  4. Macomb to Eaton, November, 1829, American State Papers: Military Affairs, IV, 155. Companies A, B, F, and H comprised the escort.

  5. See, e.g., Missouri Intelligencer (Fayette), May 1, 1829.

  6. Although no cavalry existed in 1829, General Alexander Macomb intended for the escort to be mounted. His plans were abandoned because no appropriation was available to purchase horses for the infantry. Macomb to Eaton, November, 1829, American State Papers: Military Affairs, IV, 156. The officers of the escort battalion had horses to ride, but the troops marched to the Arkansas and back.

  7. In response to this fear, Governor Miller attempted to raise a company of Missouri militia to accompany the traders all the way to Santa Fe, but the effort failed. Major Bennet Riley's Journal of the 1829 Escort, printed with notes in Fred S. Perrine, "Military Escorts on the Santa Fe Trail," New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. III (July, 1928), 269 (hereafter cited as Riley's Journal) ; Otis E. Young, The First Military Escort on the Santa Fe Trail, 1829, 40-41.

  8. Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies, 332.

  9. For a history of this post, see Elvid Hunt, History of Fort Leavenworth, 1827-1937.

  10. Riley's Journal, 267-71, 273; Cooke, Scenes and Adventures, 40-41; Major Bennet Riley's Report of the 1829 Escort, 21 Cong., 1 sess., Sen. Doc. 46, p. 2 (hereafter cited as Riley's Report). The latter document has been reprinted in Perrine, New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. II (1927), 178-92. Besides Riley, other officers of the expedition were Second Lieutenant James Farley Izard, adjutant; Second Lieutenant Francis J. Brooke, acting assistant quartermaster and commissary of subsistence; Assistant Surgeon William H. Nicoll; Captain William N. Wickliffe, ranking junior officer and commander of Company F; Captain Joseph Pentland, commander of Company B; First Lieutenant George Washington Waters, commander of Company H; Second Lieutenant Joseph Van Swearingen, commander of Company A; and Second Lieutenants Gustavus Dorr, Robert Sevier, and Philip St. George Cooke. Riley's Journal, 268. Cooke served as Major Riley's chronicler for the expedition and has provided much information, in addition to the official records, concerning the escort in his Scenes and Adventures, 40-93.

  11. Ibid., 46.

  12. Copy of letter reproduced in Young, First Military Escort, 181-82.

  13. Riley's Report, 5. Riley recorded that the number of Indians attacking the camp was between three and four hundred. He estimated the Indians' losses at eight or ten killed and wounded, and later learned it was eight. Riley's Journal, 286, 293. It is interesting to note that eight years later the opposing force had increased considerably. In a letter to Senator Lewis F. Linn, August 28, 1837, Major Riley, recalling the battle, stated the number of Indians was eight hundred and their losses were forty killed and wounded. American State Papers: Military Affairs, VII, 958.

  14. Cooke, Scenes and Adventures, 59.

  15. This fact, perhaps, was best recognized by Colonel Vizcarra, who stated in a letter to Major Riley, summarized as follows by Secretary of War John H. Eaton: ". . . experience has taught him that unless there be a perfect understanding between the United States and his government to protect their commerce, that it will not be safe for any merchant to undertake any kind of traffic; he therefore requests to urge with the Congress of the United States the importance of such an understanding, and engages to do his best, on his return to the capital of New Mexico, to do the same." American State Papers: Military Affairs, IV, 277. Despite the determined efforts of interested parties in both countries, no arrangements for cooperative protection were ever worked out. This problem is further discussed below.

  16. Otis E. Young, The West of Philip St. George Cooke, 1809-1895, 54.

  17. American State Papers: Military Affairs, IV, 154.

  18. Macomb to Eaton, January 4, 1830, ibid., 219.

  19. 22 Cong., 1 sess., Sen. Doc. 90.

  20. Ibid., 4. Cass favored sending an escort, and apparently one company of troops was sent out in 1832. They started so late in the season, however, that they met the traders coming back from Santa Fe before they had advanced as far as the Arkansas River. Beers, New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. XII (1937), 123.

  21. Albert Gallatin Brackett, History of the United States Cavalry, 54.

  22. Otis E. Young, "The United States Mounted Ranger Battalion, 1832-1833," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. XLI (December, 1954), 453-55.

  23. Gregg, Commerce of the Prairies, 253-56.

  24. Henry Dodge, A Frontier Officer's Military Order Book, MS, Iowa State Historical Society Library, Iowa City, 29-30, cited in Young, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. XLI (1954), 462; General Orders, No. 1, Headquarters Department of the West, April 15, 1833, MS, Adjutant General's Office (Record Group No. 94), Army and Air Corps Branch, National Archives (hereafter cited as AGO, AACB, NA).

  25. Riley to Wickliffe, May 18, 1833, and Wickliffe to Riley, August 4, 1833, Letters Received, MSS, ibid.

  26. The battalion of Mounted Rangers passed out of existence in 1833, but Secretary of War Cass requested the creation of a permanent cavalry force to replace it. Congress responded favorably, and on March 2, 1833, a bill was enacted which authorized the creation of a regiment of Dragoons as part of the regular service. Brackett, History of the United States Cavalry, 35.

  27. Captain Clifton Wharton's Report of the 1834 Escort, July 21, 1834, printed with notes in Perrine, New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. II (1927), 269-70 (hereafter cited as Wharton's Report).

  28. Ibid, 274-75
    "Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail" by Leo Oliva 1967 Military Escorts 1829-1845
    Used With Permisssion of the Author:
    Leo Oliva

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