FORT UNION
Historic Resource Study
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CHAPTER THREE:
MILITARY OPERATIONS BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR (continued)

     Troops from Fort Union continued to investigate reports of Indian raids. On May 20 Second Lieutenant Robert Ransom, First Dragoons, led 96 dragoons from the post to pursue and punish Indians reported to be killing herders and stealing sheep between the Pecos and Canadian rivers. They went via Las Vegas to Alexander Hatch's Ranch on the Gallinas River, where they were informed that the Indians had attacked the herders and taken the sheep of Juan Perea, located about 40 miles east of Hatch's Ranch. Leaving the pack train in camp with a guard, Ransom took the remainder of his detachment to the scene of the raid. They found about 3,000 sheep without herders and drove them back to the settlements to be claimed by their owners. Because of recent rains, they found no sign of Indians. When they returned to the Gallinas with the sheep, the soldiers met some herders with the remainder of Perea's sheep. They claimed that Indians had stolen 6,500 of their sheep and killed one herder. [59]

     It was possible the Indians had driven the sheep toward the Pecos or Canadian River. Ransom picked up the pack train and headed down the Pecos in search of Indians. On May 25 his command overtook a small party of Indians, believed to be Mescalero Apaches, with a herd of stolen cattle and gave chase for about four hours. The Indians killed many of the cattle and fled. Ransom was forced to abandon pursuit when the dragoon horses became exhausted. He reported that the Indians had "scattered, no two taking the same trail; throwing away every article that would at all retard their flight." The next day the detachment went beyond Bosque Redondo and found no Indians. They then headed toward the Canadian River, hoping to find the sheep stolen from Perea. They found a trail of a large flock of sheep and the carcasses of many sheep that had been killed, but they were unable to overtake the Indians. Ransom blamed the poor condition of the horses for the failure to catch Indians. The troops recovered about 2,000 sheep that the Indians had abandoned and drove them to Las Vegas where they could be claimed by the owners. The identity of the Indians who stole the sheep was unknown, but Ransom thought they were from the plains. The detachment returned to Fort Union on June 3. [60]

     On June 30 fifty-eight men of Companies D and H, Second Dragoons, from Fort Union, under command of Lieutenant Sykes and Second Lieutenant Maxwell, both Third Infantry, who had been joined in the field by two small parties of New Mexican militia from Las Vegas, pursued a small band of Jicarillas who had been raiding in the vicinity of Las Vegas. They followed the Indians along the Mora River and overtook them at a point about 35 miles from the post near where the Mora joins the Canadian River. Maxwell was in the lead of a few soldiers who chased the Indians up a hill. At the top Maxwell was killed immediately by a volley of arrows. Four Indians, including at least one of those who shot Maxwell, were killed in the engagement. At least two dragoons were wounded. [61]

     At this point both sides stopped fighting and Brigadier General Garland reported that "the Jicarilla Apaches are pretty thoroughly subdued" and "making overtures of peace." They had learned, Garland stated, that "they are not safe from pursuit in the most inaccessible parts of the Rocky Mountains." Garland had high praises for all the officers and troops involved in the war against the Jicarillas, and expressed delight that he and Acting Governor Messervy had "acted in perfect harmony." Most of the militia volunteers were released before their term of service expired because it was believed the Jicarillas were ready to end the conflict. Chief Chacon offered to make peace in August and met with Governor Meriwether in September. But Chacon did not represent all the Jicarillas, many of whom were not yet ready to give up without further struggle. No peace agreement was concluded and preparations were begun at Fort Union, where Colonel Thomas T. Fauntleroy replaced Cooke as post commander on September 18, 1854, to resume the campaign against the Jicarillas and the Utes in the spring of 1855. [62]

     During the winter of 1854-1855 the Jicarillas and Utes began raiding because they needed food, hoped to destroy some of the frontier settlements, and possibly saw it as a way to alleviate the frustrations of encroachments on their territory and way of life. They committed acts of desperation before surrendering to the inevitable. In November they drove off a herd of cattle and several hundred sheep about 25 miles southeast of Fort Union. Although Fort Union was undermanned and some of the troops were in tents because the quarters were unsafe, Fauntleroy sent a detachment which recovered some of the cattle and sheep. In December troops were sent from Los Lunas and Fort Fillmore to investigate reports of raids by Jicarilla and Mescalero Apaches along the Pecos River. [63] The New Mexico Territorial Legislature reported at the end of 1854 that during the previous year Indians had killed 50 citizens and destroyed property worth $100,000. [64]

     Although most of the Ute Indians of northern New Mexico Territory had refused to join with the belligerent Jicarillas during the campaigns of 1854, they permitted many Jicarillas to join their camps around the San Luis Valley during the autumn and winter. Soon Jicarillas and Utes were joining together in raids on the settlements, and the army had to conduct military operations against both tribes during 1855. On December 25, 1854, a combined force of Jicarilla and Ute warriors attacked the settlement of Pueblo on the Arkansas River in present Colorado, killing fourteen men, wounding two men, capturing one woman and two children, and taking 200 head of livestock. [65]

     This assured that a major campaign would be organized against them as soon as possible in the spring. Major Blake, commanding at Cantonment Burgwin, was called to Santa Fe by Garland on January 12 to help arrange for a campaign against the offenders. Captain Horace Brooks, commanding Fort Massachusetts, was informed that an expedition would be organized and directed to use troops from his garrison to gain information about the Indians' "whereabouts." On January 13, 1855, Captain Carleton, commanding the Post at Albuquerque, was directed to prepare his company of dragoons for "active field service" and to join later with other troops in the department in a campaign against Indians (Carleton was used in the campaign against the Mescaleros instead of the one against the Utes and Jicarillas). Colonel Fauntleroy would lead the expedition, including troops from Fort Union. [66]

     While preparations were being made, the raids continued. On January 11, 1855, Mescalero Apaches attacked at Galisteo (about 25 miles south of Santa Fe), "killed one man, wounded another, stripped a dozen women and drove off seventy mules." Fauntleroy was directed to send troops from Fort Union to cut off the raiders if they headed toward the Canadian River. A detachment was out four days and found no signs before returning to the post. Troops were also sent from Fort Marcy at Santa Fe, and they overtook the raiding party, killed three, and wounded four before the Indians escaped. On January 19 a combined force of Utes and Jicarillas again struck at Pueblo, killing four citizens and stealing approximately 100 head of livestock. The combined force of Captains Richard S. Ewell and Henry W. Stanton, which had been searching for hostile Mescaleros, attacked a Mescalero camp in the Sacramento Mountains of southeast New Mexico on January 20 and killed twelve Indians, including three chiefs. Captain Stanton and two privates were killed in the engagement. [67]

     Colonel Fauntleroy led a detachment from Fort Union on January 25, 1855, to see if he could locate the Jicarillas and Utes who had attacked Pueblo. He returned on February 5 without success. Nothing much could be done until winter was over and a large command could take the field, and the raids continued. On February 8 a party of New Mexicans were attacked at Ocate by eight Indians who killed one of their party and stole five or six horses. A small detachment was sent from Fort Union the following day to investigate. They found the dead citizen but saw no Indians. Fauntleroy also received reports of Indian raids near Las Vegas. Kit Carson reported from Taos on February 28, 1855, that the Jicarillas and Utes were raiding without restraint, and the following day he wrote that they "have been committing thefts, robberies and murders upon the stock and inhabitants of this northern portion of the Territory." [68]

     In preparation for a spring offensive Governor Meriwether, at the request of Brigadier General Garland, called for a militia battalion of mounted volunteers to join with the regular troops against the Indians. Lieutenant Colonel Ceran St. Vrain commanded the six companies of volunteers who were outfitted at Fort Union. Colonel Fauntleroy was placed in charge of military operations in the area, including troops at Fort Union, Fort Massachusetts, and Cantonment Burgwin. Captain Daniel Rucker, quartermaster at Fort Union, was named quartermaster of the campaign. The Jicarillas and Utes increased their attacks along Ocate Creek, the Canadian River, near Las Vegas, and in the San Luis Valley, stealing several thousand head of livestock. [69]

     One of the mounted volunteers was First Sergeant Rafael Chacon, Captain Francisco Gonzales's Company B, whose memoirs covering much of his remarkable life, 1833-1925, have been published. Soon after the volunteers received their arms and equipment at Fort Union, before the campaign began, Chacon was part of a detachment sent from Fort Union in pursuit of Jicarillas who had seized a herd of horses from Juan Vigil of La Cueva, located between Fort Union and the village of Mora. The volunteers followed the trail of the stolen horses past Wagon Mound and through the Raton Mountains to what is presently known as Long's Canyon, a side canyon of the Purgatoire River in present Colorado, where they caught up with the thieves. As Chacon recalled, "the Indians fled from us, abandoning their camp where they had been making a meal on horse meat. Our own provisions at this time had been exhausted, and we ate the meat which the Indians had left." The Indians got away with the stolen horses which were not recovered. [70]

     The Indians had split up, dividing the stolen horses, and the volunteers also separated to pursue them. "I got lost," Chacon remembered, "with four soldiers, and on the following day we killed a wildcat, which, for lack of better food, we were obliged to eat." Unable to regain the lost horses, "we returned to the fort to provide ourselves with a fresh supply of food and ammunition in order to continue the campaign." [71]

     On February 20, 1855, Fauntleroy left Fort Union under command of Captain Joseph Whittlesey, traveled to Taos where he made additional preparations for the campaign, and proceeded the following month to Fort Massachusetts where he gathered his force of 500 men, including two companies of dragoons, four companies of mounted volunteers, and thirty spies and guides under command of Captain Lucien Stewart from Taos. Indian Agent Carson accompanied the campaign. [72]

     Fauntleroy led his troops into the field on March 14, heading into the San Luis Valley. The primary mission of the campaign was to find and punish the bands led by Ute Chief Blanco and Jicarilla Chief Huero, believed to be the ones responsible for the attacks on Pueblo. After traveling approximately 100 miles northwest of Fort Massachusetts the troops had a brief engagement on March 19 near Saguache Pass with a camp of Utes and Jicarillas, during which seven Indians were killed. The Indians had seen the soldiers coming and resisted until their families made good their escape. As the soldiers followed the trail the Jicarillas split from the Utes and soon scattered, making it impossible for the troops to pursue all the Indians. The command followed the largest group (Chief Chacon and his followers) to a camp on the headwaters of the Arkansas River. There the troops captured most of the Indians' horses, but the Jicarillas managed to escape. [73] Fauntleroy did not follow because his men needed supplies, and he returned the expedition to Fort Massachusetts via Mosca Pass. Carson returned to his agency at Taos. [74]

     As soon as his command was ready to march again, Fauntleroy took part of them back to the San Luis Valley to try to find the Utes, and St. Vrain led the remainder of the force across the Sangre de Cristo range in an attempt to locate the Jicarillas in present Colorado. Fauntleroy picked up the trail of Chief Blanco's Moache Utes and pursued them. His soldiers attacked the Indians in camp near the Arkansas River about 20 miles from Poncha Pass on April 28. The Indians had been up all night celebrating a scalp dance and were completely surprised. The soldiers, as Fauntleroy reported, "swept the enemy like chaff before the wind," killed an estimated forty Utes, wounded many more, and captured six children, thirty-five horses, twelve sheep and goats, six rifles, five pistols, twenty-five bows with arrows, and all the baggage, including over 200 buffalo robes and 150 pack saddles. Only two soldiers had been wounded, one of whom died later after his leg was amputated. A soldier was killed after the battle while attempting to pursue the fleeing Utes. Chief Blanco escaped with the rest of his band, and the soldiers followed and attacked a portion of the Ute band on May 1 and 2, killing four more Indians and capturing thirteen horses. Blanco and most of his people again escaped with the troops in pursuit. Chief Blanco appeared on a high ledge and asked to make peace, but one of the soldiers shot at him. The Indians then eluded the soldiers and scattered, making further pursuit fruitless. Fauntleroy returned to Fort Massachusetts in May. He rejoined the garrison at Fort Union in July and resumed command of the post on July 20. [75]

     Meanwhile St. Vrain's command had followed the trail of the Jicarilla Apaches in present Colorado. They attacked a camp of Jicarillas on Bear Creek, a tributary of the Cucharas River, [76] killing and wounding thirteen, from where the survivors fled to the Purgatoire River. On the Purgatoire they struck the Jicarillas again, killing four and taking six women and children prisoners who were sent to Fort Union to be held until the conflict had ended. [77] In May the volunteers searched for Jicarillas along the Canadian River without success. They marched to Fort Union for supplies and prepared to take the field again. In June they caught up with a party of Jicarillas in the mountains of present southern Colorado and attacked, killing six, capturing seven, and taking thirty-one horses. The remainder of this band reportedly scattered, making pursuit impossible. A party of Jicarillas reportedly killed eight or ten New Mexicans in the mountain settlements between Cantonment Burgwin and Mora, but the offenders were not found. The enlistment period for the volunteers expired at the conclusion of six months and they were discharged at the end of July 1855 with high praises from Brigadier General Garland. [78]

     The Jicarillas and Utes were tired of running and ready to make peace. They were practically destitute and were eating their mules. In August 1855 Governor Meriwether met with a delegation of Jicarillas and Moache Utes, and peace treaties were signed with the Moache Utes on September 11 and with most leaders of the Jicarillas on September 12. The Indians agreed to stop raiding and to give up claims to all lands except for reservations to be established for them. In addition to protected reserves, they were to receive rations, blankets, clothing, household utensils, agricultural implements, and seed. The treaties of 1855, like those of a few years earlier, were not approved by the Senate. New Mexicans, who did not want the Indians located close to the settlements, petitioned President Franklin Pierce to reject the treaties. Even though the agreements were not implemented, most of the Indians stayed near their agencies at Abiquiu and Taos, drawing their rations which were continued even though the treaties were rejected. The rations were considered a temporary expedient until permanent reservations were established. A few Jicarillas who refused to make peace continued to raid periodically near Mora and Rayado. One of the Jicarilla chiefs, Apache Negro, refused to participate in the peace arrangements in September 1855 but came to Santa Fe in March 1856 and promised to abide by the treaties. The Jicarillas did not receive a permanent reservation until 1887. [79]

     In 1861 the Taos agency was moved to the Cimarron agency, and Indian Agent Carson was replaced by William F. N. Arny. Lucien Maxwell leased a two-square-mile area to the agency and contracted to supply rations to the Jicarillas. Arny hoped to get the Jicarillas to farm, but his successor in 1862, Levi Keithly, was not interested in farming and distributed rations from Maxwell's flour mill at Cimarron. Troops from Fort Union were temporarily stationed at Cimarron from time to time to help keep the peace and oversee the distribution of rations. [80]

     By the time the Jicarilla Apaches and Utes were brought under control in 1855, the Comanches were causing alarm in New Mexico. They began visiting ranches along the Pecos River in the late spring months, taking livestock for their food supply. They took 200 sheep from Maxwell's Ranch at Rayado in July. Upon receipt of a report in September that 250 Comanches were destroying crops and livestock near Hatch's Ranch on the Gallinas River (33 miles southeast of Las Vegas and 13 miles east-northeast of Anton Chico), Fauntleroy sent Lieutenant Robert Johnston, First Dragoons, with 30 dragoons from Fort Union to the area with 12 days' rations to provide protection for settlers. Garland considered the Comanche threat serious because he believed they were being pushed out of their traditional lands in Texas. He sent Captain William T. H. Brooks, Third Infantry, with 45 men from Fort Marcy and Captain Carleton with 80 dragoons from Albuquerque to join the other troops at Hatch's Ranch. Garland directed the officers to attempt to meet the Comanche leaders "to warn them of the necessity of departing from New Mexico and returning to their own country." He directed Captain Brooks, senior officer and commander of the troops at Hatch's Ranch, to "open a communication" with the Comanches and "inform them, explicitly, that they will not be permitted to remain in this territory." Brooks was directed to avoid hostilities with the Comanches if at all possible, but punish them if necessary. Other than stealing some green corn and a few beef cattle, the Comanches caused no other destruction and left the territory within a few days. The troops sent to Hatch's Ranch returned to their previously-assigned stations. Garland reported at the end of October that all the Indians in the department had been quiet the preceding month, "not even a theft has been committed." Hatch's Ranch was considered to be a strategic location in the area because it was close to the Pecos River settlements, near the Fort Smith route to Albuquerque, and in an area through which Comanches and Kiowas often entered the settled regions of New Mexico. The ranch become a military outpost in the department the following year. [81]

     The Indians remained quiet during the winter of 1855-1856, except for the Gila Apaches in southwestern New Mexico, and in February the mail escorts by troops from Fort Union on the Santa Fe Trail were discontinued because their was no apparent threat to travelers. When the February westbound mail failed to arrive in New Mexico, the cause was severe snow storms, not Indians. A detachment was sent from Fort Union as far as Rabbit Ear Creek to provide relief for the mail party but returned without meeting the mail because of the "immense fall of snow." It was later learned that the mail party had turned back to Missouri because of the weather. [82]

     Despite the severe winter, which caused many Indians to suffer for want of provisions and tied them down because of the difficulty of traveling through deep snow, there were still many reports of Indian depredations which had not in fact occurred. Brigadier General Garland declared, "there is, I regret to say, an obvious desire to keep up, on the part of some of the citizens, an Indian excitement, and in consequence, we are annoyed by many false rumors." [83] Nevertheless, reports of Indian hostilities had to be investigated in case they were true. Alexander Hatch, as will be seen, was an example of someone who profited from the presence of troops.

     Military operations took many forms and were not always directed at Indian problems. In March troops were sent from Fort Union in an attempt to catch deserters and recover property they had stolen when they took early leave from the army, apparently at Albuquerque. Lieutenant Johnston and 20 dragoons left Fort Union during the night of March 24 to take an indirect route to Point of Rocks (or as far as Rabbit Ear Creek if necessary) in order to get ahead of the wagon trains that had recently left for Missouri. The troops were to march back toward Fort Union, examine each train they met for deserters and stolen military equipment, arrest any deserters, and take possession of any government property they found. They examined eight trains and found nothing. They returned to the post on March 30. [84]

     The Navajos began raiding during the summer of 1856, but most of the other tribes that had signed treaties the previous year were quiet. In June seven unarmed New Mexicans were killed by Indians near Mora, and a band of Jicarillas were charged with the outrage. Garland, however, was assured by the agent at Abiquiu that the parties blamed had not been absent from that area. The department commander believed that the deed may have been done by a large war party of Cheyennes and Arapahoes who had crossed the Sangre de Cristos to attack the Utes, killing fourteen of them. He concluded before the facts were known that "it is quite probable that a fragment of this war party visited the Moro settlement on their return and committed the murders attributed to the Jicarillas." Apparently no troops were sent in pursuit. A month later Garland confirmed that the guilty parties were "the Indians of the Arkansas River, not within this Department." [85]

     Sometimes the Indians were blamed for what they did not do. In the autumn of 1856 a report reached Fort Union that a number of sheep had been killed near Wagon Mound, presumably by Indians. A detachment was sent out by the new post commander, Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Loring, to investigate and found the report was true. The perpetrators left a trail which was followed to Mora, where it was found that a party of New Mexican hunters and traders were responsible. A short time later, Colonel B. L. E. Bonneville (who was serving as department commander while Garland was on leave of absence) stated that "the Indians, generally, are quiet, except occasionally a few thefts, committed by roving bands or by Mexicans." [86]

     Comanches and Kiowas returned to New Mexico in September 1856, taking food from the ranches as they passed through the Pecos Valley area. One party of warriors from the two tribes pushed beyond the Rio Grande to attack the Navajos and lost many of their horses. When they returned to the plains, they took some livestock from the settlers. Mostly they took enough for their food supply but did little other damage. [87]

     According to historian Charles Kenner, the Comanches had come into New Mexico for decades to trade and "helped themselves to foodstuffs." They did not consider this raiding, and the New Mexicans had tolerated such behavior. The Anglo ranchers, such as Alexander Hatch, Preston Beck, and James M. Giddings, considered the taking of food to be raiding and called on the army for protection. [88] When the Comanches and Kiowas took corn from Hatch's Ranch in September, Hatch requested that troops come to the area as they had the year before. Garland, just before he left the territory, sent Captain Washington Lafayette Elliott and his Company A, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, to search for a suitable location to station troops near Hatch's Ranch and to establish quarters there for the winter to protect the area. [89]

     Captain Elliott inspected Beck's Ranch and found the road bad, wood scarce, and the water of poor quality. He found Hatch's Ranch to be the best place for troops. There were enough buildings to "afford comfortable shelter for my company, men & horses for the coming winter." There was plenty of wood and water, and Hatch had, despite his claims that the Indians had destroyed his crops, "corn sufficient to supply the company until about Apr. 1st next." There were more settlers around Hatch's Ranch than at Beck's, so troops stationed at Hatch's Ranch would be better positioned to protect the livestock in the vicinity. Lieutenant Colonel Loring, regimental commander of the mounted riflemen and commanding officer at Fort Union, endorsed Elliott's choice and sent Elliott's company from Fort Union on November 4 to take station at Hatch's Ranch. [90]

     Captain Elliott, Lieutenant William B. Lane, Second Lieutenant John H. Edson, and 73 enlisted men of Company A, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, established the post, which Elliott called Fort Biddle, on November 7, 1856. His proposed name was not approved and the post was known as Hatch's Ranch. It was occupied off and on, depending on the threat of Indian troubles, into the Civil War. It was generally considered an outpost of Fort Union, from which troops and supplies were typically sent, and the activities of the garrison at Hatch's Ranch were often coordinated with the actions of troops at Fort Union. For example, on December 26, 1856, department headquarters appended the following note to a letter to the commander at Fort Union regarding plans for a possible campaign against the plains Indians: "It is understood, as a matter of course, that Captain Elliott's Company [at Hatch's Ranch] is under your instructions, as regards any service you may deem proper to require of it." Even so, Hatch's Ranch had its own commanding officer who ordinarily reported directly to the commander of the military department. Just prior to the Civil War the post at Hatch's Ranch was considered as a possible replacement for Fort Union. [91]

     Hatch's Ranch was located about 65 miles from Fort Union on a flat area about one-half mile west of the Gallinas River, approximately one-quarter mile south of where Aguilar (Eagle) Creek joins the Gallinas. Hatch had called his place Eagle Ranch for a short time but soon changed it to Hatch's Ranch. Hatch furnished land for the post and apparently some buildings used by the troops without charge or for a nominal payment but made his money supplying corn and hay for the garrison. Lieutenant Edward F. Beale, in charge of improving the Fort Smith road, spent almost two months at Hatch's Ranch in late 1858 and early 1859. He described Hatch as "being a shrewd man" who "makes large profits by taking contracts for the delivery of grain or selling it at his house." Beale noted that Hatch had "some ten thousand bushels of corn which he was selling at over one dollar a bushel to the government and others." Hatch was later appointed post sutler for the troops stationed at his own ranch. He and his neighbors benefited from the protection of the troops. More settlers came into the area, and New Mexicans established the village of Chaparito about three miles north of Hatch's Ranch. The new community served as a base for Comancheros, buffalo hunters, and herders, and it provided entertainment for the troops at Hatch's Ranch. [92]

William Wing Loring
William Wing Loring, Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.

     The troops at Hatch's Ranch spent the first several weeks erecting shelter for themselves and their horses. Although Elliott had implied in his initial report that Hatch would provide buildings for the men and horses, he may have only provided the space for them to construct their own quarters and stables. The buildings were completed on December 15. It is not clear what building materials were used at that time, but the quarters at Hatch's Ranch were later described as built of stone. The garrison remained there, sending out an occasional scouting party to keep a watch for hostile Indians, until March of 1857 when they returned to Fort Union. [93]

     One of the inhabitants of the post was Lydia Spencer Lane, wife of Lieutenant Lane, and author of I Married a Soldier, a source on the social life of the army in the Southwest. Lydia Lane was a sister to Valeria Elliott, wife of Captain Elliott, commanding officer at Hatch's Ranch. The Lanes had a one-year-old daughter. Mrs. Lane probably expressed the feeling of many of the troops, too, when she later wrote of Hatch's Ranch: "When we saw the ranch we felt somewhat melancholy at the prospect of spending the winter in such an isolated spot, so far from everywhere." The Lanes and Elliotts lived together in the same building occupied by Hatch and his wife, "a long, low, adobe house, with a high wall around it, except in front." [94]

     There was no surgeon assigned to Hatch's Ranch, Mrs. Lane noted, "so we tried to keep well." Some nonprofessional medical care was available: "A Mexican man and his wife went about sometimes to officiate in particular cases. . . . I think their performances would have made the scientific physicians of the present day open their eyes." The Lanes felt isolated but survived the winter at Hatch's Ranch without incident. Lydia and Valeria were fortunate to have each other's companionship at the outpost. "We passed a very quiet, though pleasant, winter;" recalled Lydia Lane, "but we were by no means sorry when the company was ordered to Fort Union in the spring." [95]

     At the same time plans were being made in the autumn of 1856 to station troops at Hatch's Ranch, Kiowa Indians were threatening Bent's New Fort on the Arkansas River where the army had stored supplies. This also resulted in the involvement of troops from Fort Union. William Bent had abandoned and destroyed Bent's Old Fort in 1849, and he built Bent's New Fort near Big Timbers on the Arkansas River in 1853. Bent continued to trade with the plains tribes. In October 1856 Bent returned from a trip to Missouri and discovered that the man he had left in charge of the trading post while he was gone had been giving whiskey to the Indians. This was illegal under the Indian trade and intercourse act of 1834, and Bent knew he could lose his license to trade. This occurred while James Ross Larkin was at Bent's New Fort, and Larkin left a record of what happened. [96]

     On October 14, 1856, Bent dismissed the employee (identified by Larkin only as "a Frenchman"). Some Kiowas, who had received whiskey from and were friends of the discharged man, protested to Bent and made trouble, even threatened to kill Bent. The Cheyennes present defended Bent and his trading post, moving inside the fort to assist in case the Kiowas attacked. Bent's wives were both Cheyennes and he had many friends among the members of the tribe. He had traded with them for over 20 years. An uneasy impasse remained at the trading post when Larkin left on October 26. [97]

     A few days later, on November 1, the peace was broken. Bent wrote to his friend and former partner, Ceran St. Vrain, whom he addressed as colonel because of his rank in the New Mexico volunteers, "to inform you and the U.S. Troops that the Tug of war is now at hand, this evening we was attacted by the Kiowa Indians." The Cheyennes had repulsed the attack, killed one Kiowa, and taken several horses from them. Bent praised his defenders, "the Cheyennes are doing all they can to protect the whites and the Fort." Although St. Vrain lived in Mora, the letter was sent to Fort Union where St. Vrain arrived on November 8. Bent especially wanted to "notify you and the U.S. Troops what is going on, as U.S. have a great many stores in my warehouse and no one here to protect them, but myself, a few men, and the Cheyennes." [98]

     Bent expressed concern that "I shall have an awful time here this winter, with the Kiowas." Although the Cheyennes promised to fight the Kiowas, Bent stated "I would like to have some of the Troops come over and see what is going on, as war is going to rage in this part of the Country to some extent." Bent warned, "should not the Troops attend to this amediately it will be very trouble some traveling across the plains next season." Clearly he hoped troops from Fort Union would come to his assistance. [99]

     St. Vrain sent the letter to Colonel Bonneville at Santa Fe, who directed Lieutenant Colonel Loring to send two officers and twenty enlisted men to Bent's Fort "with instructions, ostensibly, to look into the Commissary stores at that place. . . . The principal object, however, is to ascertain the state of affairs at that point in regard to Indian matters." Bonneville cautioned that the "strictest secrecy should be observed, that in the event of a campaign against the Kiowas, they may be taken by surprise." The officer in charge of the reconnaissance was to gather as much information as possible about the numbers, location, and disposition of the Indians. If it appeared the presence of troops at Bent's New Fort was required for the safety of the post and the government stores, the troops were to remain there and send an express to Fort Union. Otherwise they were to return to Fort Union as soon as practicable. [100]

     Mounted riflemen were called from other posts to Fort Union to comprise the detachment sent to Bent's New Fort. A corporal and six privates were picked from Hatch's Ranch, and Second Lieutenant Alexander McRae, with one non-commissioned officer and fifteen privates, was called from Cantonment Burgwin. McRae was in charge of the reconnaissance. These troops returned to Fort Union on January 8, 1857, and reported that the situation was quiet at Bent's New Fort. [101] McRae also provided details about the Kiowas, who had gone to the Cimarron River about 200 miles from Fort Union for the winter, and what would be required to mount a campaign against them. Colonel Loring passed this information on to department headquarters, noting that a force of 400 to 500 well-mounted soldiers, with 100 Ute Indian guides, 50 wagons for supplies, and rations for three months should be sent in February if a successful campaign was to be made against the Kiowas. The commanding officers at all posts in the department were directed to be prepared for "active operations in the field . . . as soon as the grass will permit," if such became necessary. [102] If the Kiowas remained quiet, however, there was no immediate need for a campaign to punish them. But other Indian problems might require the services of troops in the department. [103]

     Because the January mail coach from Independence had not arrived in New Mexico and there was apprehension that the Kiowas might attack the mail party leaving New Mexico for the states in February 1857, an escort of two officers and forty enlisted men was ordered to accompany the mail from Fort Union to the Cimarron River and as far as Walnut Creek on the Arkansas River if required. The escort was to travel in wagons, and the soldiers were to be especially alert for information about the Kiowas. If they found the westbound mail in need of assistance, they were to provide protection. They were not to attack Indians unless provoked. If the plains Indians proved to be "friendly," the word could be passed along to those planning to cross the plains in the spring that they could "start out without fear of being molested." [104]

     Lieutenant Hyatt C. Ransom, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was placed in command of the escort which left Fort Union on February 4. According to the department commander, they "found the Kiowas and all other prairie Indians friendly." Since there was no need to go farther, the escort had returned after seeing the mail safely to the Cimarron River. They arrived back at Fort Union on February 25 after traveling an estimated 550 miles. [105]

     With assurances that the Santa Fe Trail was safe from Indian hostilities, eastbound wagon trains began leaving New Mexico during February. Some traders departed before the mail escort returned, apparently assuming that the presence of such a large body of troops would help assure peace along the route. One of these trains, led by Richens Lacy "Uncle Dick" Wootton [106] and owned by Joseph B. Doyle (a trader who had been previously been a partner with Alexander Barclay at Barclay's Fort) and others, was reported to the commanding officer at Fort Union to be carrying at least ten kegs of gunpowder. Colonel Loring immediately protested "the impropriety of so small a party passing through the Indian Country with so large a quantity of powder" which was surely "destined for trade with the Indians." Given "our present relations" with the plains tribes, Loring declared this to be "criminal." He charged that trading such quantities of powder to the enemy would encourage them to raid, and proclaimed that "none has done more to impress their hostilities than Mr. Wooten, the man in charge." Doyle and his partners were going to be "held responsible" if any of the powder ended up in Indian hands, and Loring promised to "report your conduct to the proper Authorities both here and in the States." [107] Loring may have been something of an alarmist in this instance. Whether or not the powder was traded to Indians has not been determined, but the Indians caused few problems along the trail. Wootton recalled, "I made four trips across the Plains in 1857-1858, but as the Indians were on their good behavior at that time I had no more thrilling experience than being caught once in a Kansas blizzard." [108]

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