Historic Resource Study
The Comanches remained in camp on the Cimarron during the winter and early in March they were blamed for stealing horses from Dr. J. M. Whitlock at Sapello. By the time Whitlock notified Colonel Loring of the loss, it was too late to pursue the raiders. Loring promised that the troops would pursue hostile Indians if they were given "timely notice." Although the Comanches got away with the horses in this instance, if they were the guilty party, the incident was a portent that the settlements in eastern New Mexico might expect renewed Indian opposition in the spring. 
In anticipation of hostile behavior by the Comanches and Kiowas, Colonel Bonneville determined to station a small force at Hatch's Ranch and establish a supply depot there to serve as a base for a battalion of mounted riflemen sent to scout along the Fort Smith road and the Canadian and Pecos valleys during the summer months. Lieutenant Matthew L. Davis, Third Infantry, was sent to command Hatch's Ranch late in May, where he also performed the duties of quartermaster and commissary of subsistence. Hatch provided storerooms for the provisions at no charge and sold corn to the army for $3.00 per fanega.  The army probably paid rent to Hatch for quarters for the few troops, but no figures were located to indicate the amount paid. That Hatch was ready to turn a profit from the soldiers was later confirmed by Captain Thomas Claiborne who reported "that Mr. Hatch sold so much liquor to my men at his ranche as to cause great annoyance to my command." 
Captain Claiborne, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, and two companies of his regiment stationed at Fort Stanton were sent into the field during the summer to attempt to open a wagon road between Fort Stanton and Hatch's Ranch, scout for Indians, and provide protection for travelers and settlers on New Mexico's eastern frontier. They were at Hatch's Ranch for supplies early in July. Claiborne assigned 20 men from his command to serve as escort to U.S. Deputy Surveyor R. E. Clements, who was working along and east of the Canadian River. In July, when Claiborne reported that the Comanches near the Canadian River were hostile, more troops were sent into the area and they drew rations at Hatch's Ranch. In addition, the escort for the boundary commission surveying the Texas border in 1859, one company of Eighth Infantry, was authorized to draw some provisions from the temporary depot at Hatch's Ranch. Some of the supplies stocked at Hatch's Ranch were hauled from the subdepot at Fort Union and some were brought from the depot at Albuquerque. In July, 31 mules were ordered from the subdepot at Fort Union to the temporary depot at Hatch's Ranch. 
During the summer of 1859 approximately 100 troops from Fort Union were sent to escort a survey party laying out a wagon road from Abiquiu to the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. Major John Simonson left the command of the post to Captain Morris and commanded the escort which left Fort Union on June 7, 1859. Other officers with the battalion included Captains John G. Walker and Henry B. Schroeder, Acting Assistant Surgeon J. H. Bill, and Second Lieutenants DuBois, Edson, and Claflin. Upon completion of the survey, Simonson led this force to Fort Defiance and assumed command until fall. He and some of the troops who accompanied him returned to Fort Union on October 23. DuBois did not arrive at Fort Union until December 6, and he was immediately sent to Fort Bliss for court-martial duty. 
The garrison at Fort Union was much reduced when the Comanches became hostile early in July, and all the troops that could be spared from Cantonment Burgwin were sent to reinforce the garrison and take the field against the Comanches if that became necessary. At the same time a company of spies and guides was authorized to be raised at Mora under Jose Maria Valdez and sent to Fort Union where they would be supplied with arms and ammunition and prepared to join troops in the field against the Comanches. The commander at Fort Union was directed to have every available soldier ready to march at a moment's notice when needed. Before Valdez could enlist a company of spies and guides, he was notified that their services would not be needed. Before more troops were sent against the Comanches, an attempt was to be made to find a peaceful settlement. The troops from Cantonment Burgwin were sent back to their post. 
Clements's survey team arrived on the Canadian River and began work about 100 miles east of the settlements before the troops assigned to escort them arrived. The Comanches, who had previously threatened to prevent all settlements east of Hatch's Ranch, probably understood that settlers would follow the surveyors. They captured the survey team and held them prisoners for five hours, during which time they threatened to kill Clements. Clements promised to abandon the survey if they would let him go, and his New Mexican employees also urged the Comanches to spare their boss. After warning Clements not to resume the survey and taking some of his property (blankets and provisions), the Comanches released them. Clements did not resume the survey in 1859. There was no hurry to complete a survey so long as the Comanches controlled the area. 
Before war broke out with the Comanches an attempt was made to discuss a peaceful arrangement. New Mexico Superintendent of Indian Affairs James L. Collins had already been planning to meet with Comanche leaders to discuss a peace treaty. Missouri Congress man J. S. Phelps, who was especially interested in seeing that the mail parties crossing the plains were not molested by Indians, came to New Mexico to participate in the negotiations. These two officials were joined by Colonel Bonneville in pursuing that effort. These peace seekers were accompanied by Inspector Joseph E. Johnston and an escort of 130 soldiers from Santa Fe on July 18 to Hatch's Ranch where Claiborne's column joined the escort, and from there they planned to go to the Canadian River in an attempt to meet with Comanche leaders. Lieutenant Davis was assigned the task of sending messengers to the Comanches to invite them to the meeting. Collins had also sent some Comancheros to invite the Indians to a council. 
The Comanches were unwilling to meet, apparently fearing they would be punished by all the troops gathering in the area for capturing the surveying party. Bonneville speculated that the presence of the surveyors had alarmed the Indians, causing them to fear that they were about to be driven from their lands. Whatever the reason, the Comanches fled eastward out of New Mexico Territory and the U.S. team and its escort followed down the Canadian River as far as Ute Creek before abandoning the effort. Congressman Phelps went back to Missouri with an escort of 30 riflemen. Bonneville and Collins and the remainder of the escort returned to Hatch's Ranch and from there to Santa Fe. Bonneville showed considerable understanding of the past relations between the New Mexicans and Comanches when he observed that "Mexicans" have traded successfully with the Comanches "for a long time" and "it would be unfortunate to interrupt this intercourse without proper cause." The department commander may have been ready to leave the region to the Indians, for he "found the country we passed over . . . to be perfectly worthless." 
On July 31, before leaving Hatch's Ranch, Bonneville directed that the troops and supplies located there be moved to Fort Union as soon as possible. Captain Claiborne was relieved of the command of his column, and Second Lieutenant William H. Jackson replaced him. Jackson was charged with finding a wagon road between Hatch's Ranch and some point on the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail between Rabbit Ear Mountain and Point of Rocks. This was to be a determined effort: "Should the attempt prove unsuccessful it will be repeated until a route suitable for wagons is found, or until it is satisfactorily ascertained to be impracticable." Bonneville was obviously looking for a way to ship supplies directly to Hatch's Ranch, perhaps even considering it as a replacement for Fort Union. Hatch's Ranch was considered a good location from which to deal with the Comanches. Jackson located what he considered a good wagon road between Rabbit Ear Mountain and Anton Chico and was at Fort Union the later part of August on his way back to Fort Stanton.  The map Jackson submitted with his report is reproduced on the following page. It is possible that William Becknell followed a route from near Rabbit Ear to the region of Anton Chico when he took the first wagons from Missouri to Santa Fe in 1822. 
"Sketch of the Country traversed over by 2d Lieut. W. H. Jackson's (Rifles) command from 7th August 1859 to 21st August 1859," Map US 57, Cartographic Branch, RG 77, National Archives.
(click on image for an enlargement of photo)
During the autumn of 1859 the Comanches began to raid the Anglo and Hispanic ranches in eastern New Mexico. They destroyed livestock and other property but killed none of the New Mexicans. They eluded every military force sent out to punish them for the next several months. The Comanches and Kiowas also attacked travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. The mail from Missouri expected in New Mexico early in October failed to arrive, creating concern in New Mexico that it may have encountered Indian problems on the plains. Colonel Bonneville decided it was time to reestablish escorts for the mails. A detachment of 35 riflemen were ordered from Fort Union under command of Lieutenant Andrew Jackson, Third Infantry, to accompany the eastbound mail until they met the westbound mail or reached "the settlements." If they met the westbound mail, they were to escort it to Fort Union. A revision of orders two days later increased the detachment to 50 troops and directed them to proceed to the Arkansas River in advance of the eastbound mail and find out the reason for the interruption of mail service. Further changes were made the following day when the escort was increased to two officers (Captain Morris and Lieutenant Jackson) and seventy-five men, with Captain Morris in command, and they were directed to accompany the eastbound mail as far as necessary to assure its safety. The escort was accompanied by twelve wagons for provisions, and the teamsters were furnished arms. 
The westbound mail had been attacked in Kansas Territory where Kiowas and Comanches posed a serious threat to travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Traffic along that route had increased dramatically in 1859 with the gold rush to western Kansas Territory (present Colorado). As Indian Agent William Bent wrote, after meeting an estimated 2,500 Kiowas and Comanches near Walnut Creek (east of present Great Bend, Kansas) in September 1859: "A smothered passion for revenge agitates these Indians, perpetually fomented by the failure of food, the encircling encroachments of the white population, and exasperating sense of decay and impending extinction with which they are surrounded." 
During the summer of 1859 three companies of First Cavalry were sent from Fort Riley to establish a summer camp near old Fort Atkinson and protect the trail. When the mail contractor, Jacob Hall & Co., attempted to establish a new stage station at Pawnee Fork that same year, the Kiowas and Comanches threatened to destroy it. Hall requested military protection for the station, which resulted in the establishment of Camp on Pawnee Fork (later Fort Larned) in October. Before the founding of this post which was destined to play a major role along the trail and in the region, a Kiowa chief named Pawnee was killed by soldiers near William Allison's Ranch on Walnut Creek. Pawnee had led a party which attempted to murder the proprietors of Allison's Ranch. The Kiowas were determined to avenge the loss of Pawnee, and their first opportunity came with the westbound mail to New Mexico. 
The mail coach, with a crew comprised of brothers Michael and Lawrence Smith and William H. Cole and no passengers, was escorted as far as Pawnee Fork by a detachment of 30 men under command of Lieutenant Elmer Otis, First Cavalry. The mail party continued without the escort on September 24 and had gone only a few miles when they were attacked by fifteen Kiowas. The Smith brothers were killed and Cole was wounded but escaped and made his way back to Lieutenant Otis. Otis and his detachment went to the scene of the attack, buried the Smith brothers, and recovered the mail. The eastbound mail party which had left Santa Fe without an escort on September 19 learned of the attack on the westbound mail from a wagon train going to New Mexico. They turned back and stayed with that caravan until they met a train of the Majors and Russell Company going to Missouri, which they joined until safely through the region of threatened hostilities. Camp on Pawnee Fork was founded on October 22 and began protecting the mail coaches traveling both directions. Later the escorts were coordinated between that point and Fort Union from which escort service resumed, as noted, during the same month. 
The increased wave of violent opposition by the Kiowas and Comanches continued. On October 15 a party of 30 Comanches threatened the camp of hay cutters under direction of Fort Union post sutler, George M. Alexander, working at Ocate Creek about 25 miles from the fort. When the hay cutters were able to get into camp and take up their arms before the Comanches could attack any stragglers, the Comanches stated they were searching for a band of Utes. The next day the Comanche war party returned past the Ocate camp and reported they had had a fight with the Utes. They had about 100 horses with them they had captured. The Indians headed toward the Canadian River, but the commanding officer at Fort Union notified department headquarters that the Comanches appeared to be "in open hostilities." No troops were sent in pursuit from the post. 
On October 22 Major John S. Simonson, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, arrived and assumed command of Fort Union. Lieutenant Herbert M. Enos, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was directed to lead a detachment from Fort Union to escort Captain John N. Macomb, Topographical Engineers, who was working on the improvement of roads in New Mexico Territory. This was a safety precaution in view of the increasing raids of Kiowas and Comanches. No small party was considered safe from possible attack. Captain Macomb and the escort left Fort Union on October 31. 
During this time of troubles the new department commander arrived to take charge. Colonel Thomas T. Fauntleroy assumed command on October 25 on the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail approximately 150 miles from Fort Union. He had met the mail escort under Captain Morris and changed the orders under which the escort operated. Lieutenant Jackson and 35 of the troops were sent on with the eastbound mail, directed to go as far as the Arkansas River or until they met the next westbound mail, whichever occurred first. If they met the westbound mail, they were to escort it to Fort Union. If they reached the Arkansas River without meeting the westbound mail, they were authorized to wait there for two or three days for the mail before returning. Captain Morris and the remainder of the force returned to Fort Union with Colonel Fauntleroy. Fauntleroy and his escort had brought the first westbound mail in a month across the plains. They had seen only two small parties of Indians, five Kiowas in one and sixteen Comanches in the other, but a boy riding a mule with the mail coach was killed by the Kiowas when he ventured, in violation of strict orders, too far in advance of the party. The mail conductor had tried to rescue him without success. Colonel Fauntleroy, Captain Morris, and the escort arrived at Fort Union on October 29 and Fauntleroy left for Santa Fe on October 31. He relieved Bonneville at department headquarters on November 2. 
Fauntleroy immediately asked directions from Commanding General Winfield Scott regarding the use of troops in pursuing and punishing Indians in New Mexico. Fauntleroy was convinced "that many of the claims set up against the Indians for plundering and stealing stock, etc., are either wholly fabricated or to a considerable degree exaggerated." He was reluctant to send out troops to investigate every reported loss and planned to utilize troops mainly in cases of "instant pursuit" for verified depredations. He expected to treat "claims for thefts" with suspicion but to send troops whenever "unprovoked murders" were reported. He requested "to be instructed" if the troops were to do more. Because of the difficulties of campaigning during winter months, Fauntleroy planned to delay any major troop movements until spring. Approximately 100 officers and men from Fort Union, who had been sent to participate in the Navajo conflicts, returned to Fort Union on November 26. 
The mail escorts were continued. The mail which left Santa Fe for Independence on November 15 was to be accompanied from Fort Union to the Arkansas River or until they met the westbound mail by two non-commissioned officers and fifteen privates. They were to wait two days at the Arkansas for the westbound mail before returning without it. Sergeant Francis McCabe, Company H, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, was placed in charge of the escort. The troops encountered cold weather and some of the men had ears, fingers, and toes badly frozen. After waiting two days at the Arkansas the escort started back to Fort Union without the mail coach for New Mexico. The westbound mail was escorted by troops from Fort Larned and arrived at the crossing of the Arkansas two days after the soldiers from Fort Union started back. The mail train caught up with the troops two days later. 
The escort and mail party were attacked by about 20 mounted Kiowas on the night of December 4 at Cold Spring, and most of the Indians were driven off in a matter of minutes. About 10 Kiowas on foot were hiding in some rocks near the camp and kept up a sporadic fire on the camp for several hours. The next morning the Kiowas set fire to the grass near the camp and tried to burn out the soldiers and mail party. Sergeant McCabe led his men out to fight, encountered a few Indians near the road about 600 yards from the camp, and attacked and drove them away. The sergeant believed several of the Indians may have been killed and wounded. Private Isaac Baker was slightly wounded, the only casualty for the troops. McCabe praised the "coolness and courage of his men" and singled out Corporal Thomas M. Brierly of Company G, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, who "particularly distinguished himself." New Mexican traders informed McCabe that the Kiowas had declared they would kill every white man who came their way. 
Because of the continuing Indian threats to safe passage of the mails from Independence to Santa Fe, Colonel Fauntleroy recommended that official correspondence from army headquarters to department headquarters be sent on the overland mail from St. Louis to El Paso. At the same time, in response to rumors that plains Indians would cause problems along the Fort Smith road and in the region near Anton Chico, a company of mounted riflemen were sent from Fort Union to Hatch's Ranch in December. They carried provisions for 30 days and were to remain there until further orders. They were to draw additional supplies from Fort Union as needed. Corn and fodder for the horses were available from Alexander Hatch. Company H, Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, comprised of 47 men, was sent to Hatch's Ranch under command of Second Lieutenant Ira W. Claflin on December 19. 
Before this company had departed from Fort Union, Major Simonson requested another company of riflemen to be transferred there because of the need to provide protection from possible Kiowa raids to settlers at Ocate, Rayado, and Cimarron. In addition the garrison was expected to continue sending escorts for the mail to Independence. Apparently no escort was sent with the early December mail from New Mexico, which traveled with a large merchant caravan to Missouri. An escort was authorized to accompany the late December eastbound mail from Fort Union as far as Rabbit Ear Mountain, but Major Simonson reported there were insufficient men and transportation available at the post and none was sent. 
The commanding officer at Fort Larned, Second Lieutenant David Bell, was anxious to establish a reliable linkage with escorts from Fort Union. He was frustrated by the failure to make regular connections and, on December 26, sent an escort with orders to accompany the westbound mail all the way to Fort Union if no troops from New Mexico were met along the way. He also sent a message to Colonel Fauntleroy, requesting cooperation and proposing where and when the escorts should meet and relieve each other so that the mail coaches traveling both directions would have constant protection across the plains. Arrangements were completed for the mails and escorts to meet at Lower Cimarron Spring on the first of each month, beginning February 1, but it was not easy to keep the mail coaches on schedule during winter months and the connections were not always made. The January escort from Fort Union was comprised of three non-commissioned officers and 22 men of Company H, Third Infantry, sent from the garrison at Fort Marcy because of insufficient manpower at Union. The mail trains were protected, but other travelers on the routes across the plains continued to experience Indian troubles. 
By the end of 1859 it was clear that the Kiowas and Comanches were virtually unrestrained in their raids and were causing unprecedented destruction in New Mexico and on the plains. Officials in the war and interior departments were convinced that a strong military force would be required to defeat these tribes in the field before they would settle down. A possible three-pronged attack in the spring of 1860, with columns converging on the Kiowa and Comanche homelands from New Mexico, Texas, and Kansas was being discussed as a conceivable way to crush their power.  Until that could be done, there was the ongoing need to coordinate the escorts of the mails between Fort Union and Fort Larned and to protect the settlements along the eastern frontier of the territory.
The troops from Fort Union that were sent to Hatch's Ranch may have provided some security from Indian raids, but they also contributed to the loss of life by New Mexicans. Some of the mounted riflemen sent to Hatch's Ranch were permitted to visit "grog shops and fandango rooms," probably at the community of Chaparito, early in the new year. They became intoxicated, got involved in a fight with some New Mexicans, and killed an unspecified number of citizens. Lieutenant Claflin was rebuked for permitting the incident to happen and an investigation was conducted into the affair. A detachment from Hatch's Ranch did provide an escort for Brevet Second Lieutenant Orlando G. Wagner, Topographical Engineers, engaged in survey work in the vicinity. The remainder of the company was transferred back to Fort Union, arriving there on January 29. Some of the soldiers involved in the fight with New Mexicans were charged with murder and sent to Santa Fe. 
In February 1860 Colonel Fauntleroy began organizing the troops in the department for a major campaign against the Navajos, and he expected to utilize all the mounted riflemen, including the two companies comprising the garrison at Fort Union. He also planned to use the Third Infantry and requested recruits to fill the many vacancies in the regiment. Major Simonson was in poor health and declined to command the mounted riflemen on the campaign. He was left at Fort Union to direct military operations in that region while Fauntleroy devoted attention to the Navajos. 
Colonel Fauntleroy may have considered the Navajos the major problem in New Mexico, but in his preoccupation with them he had neglected the threat of the Kiowas and Comanches to his department and to communications with the states. Despite all his plans to whip the Navajos into submission, army headquarters directed on February 25 that all preparations for a campaign against the Navajos cease. A few days later Fauntleroy was directed to have the troops in his department ready to march against the Kiowas and Comanches "as early in the spring as the grass will permit." 
The Kiowas and Comanches had continued their raids on travelers on the plains and on the settlements of eastern New Mexico. In February there was a rumor that they were on their way to attack Fort Union, perhaps the only time that there was actual fear of an Indian attack at the post, and Major Simonson increased security arrangements immediately. The night guard was increased to 24 privates and three non-commissioned officers, and a picket guard of seven men was stationed on the high ground east of the post beyond Wolf Creek (perhaps in the area where the third fort was later built) to help guard the quartermaster and commissary corrals and to oppose any Indians advancing toward the garrison. Plans were made to repel a direct attack on the post, with stations assigned for every soldier, including the members of the band. All arms were kept loaded and everyone was on alert, "ready to repair at once to his post on the sounding of the assembly." The civilian employees of the quartermaster department were issued arms and assigned to help protect the property in that department. Everything was ready but the Indians never came. After three days of anticipation that an attack was imminent, it was learned that the Kiowas and Comanches were camped on the Canadian River with no intention of striking the post. 
The Kiowas and Comanches posed no danger to the garrison at Fort Union, but they were a potential threat to all travelers and settlers in eastern New Mexico Territory and on the plains to the east. The Kiowa-Comanche campaign of 1860, as earlier discussed, was comprised of three independent columns: one of four companies of cavalry from Fort Riley, Kansas, and two companies of dragoons from Fort Kearny, Nebraska; the second column was composed of six companies of cavalry from the Department of Texas; and the third included six companies of mounted riflemen (A, C, D, F, H, and K) from New Mexico. Each column was to be supplied from its department of origin, "but in an emergency may draw from any post where it may be necessary."  By relentless pursuit of the Indians in their own country, the army hoped to break the power of the two tribes and force them to settle on reservations. It was one thing to declare war, however, and quite another to find the elusive Indians in the vast region in which they were at home.
Fort Union, although under orders to be closed and replaced by Fort Butler, was designated as the rendezvous and outfitting point for the column of mounted riflemen from New Mexico, and Major Charles F. Ruff was assigned to command these troops in the field. Some of the troops assigned to the campaign never went to Fort Union but stopped at Hatch's Ranch which was designated as the point where the expedition would start for the plains. Two companies of the Eighth Infantry, intended eventually to garrison the new Fort Butler, were temporarily stationed at Hatch's Ranch to provide protection to the settlements in that area during the campaign. Hatch's Ranch was also expected to become the point of supply for the column as Fort Union was closed. By mid-April Fauntleroy, concerned that the large encampments of Kiowas and Comanches reported to be in eastern New Mexico might be more than six companies of riflemen could handle, requested that the other two columns of the campaign be sent to the department and combined into one force to overwhelm the Indians. This was not done and the three columns continued to operate independently. None of them had much luck finding the Indians. 
|Charles F. Ruff, Photo Collection, Fort Union National Monument.|
Major Ruff assembled the companies assigned to the Kiowa-Comanche campaign at a camp near Hatch's Ranch during May, where there was good grass for the horses. Before leaving Fort Union, Ruff requested that 60 of the new Colt revolving rifles be issued to the 10 best riflemen in each of the six companies to see how the weapons would perform in the field.  To replace the mounted riflemen withdrawn from Fort Union for the campaign, other troops were sent. Cantonment Burgwin was abandoned late in May and the garrison, under command of Captain Thomas Duncan, was sent to Union. One of the companies of Eighth Infantry at Hatch's Ranch was sent to Fort Union in June. 
The expedition to the plains was to begin from Hatch's Ranch as soon as everything was ready and the grass was sufficient for grazing the horses. Because of a severe drought the grass did not start growing as usual and corn was not available to feed the horses on this campaign. Other supplies for the column were being shipped to the new depot at Hatch's Ranch. After the troops were in the field, a subdepot for their provisions was to be established on the Canadian River some 70 miles east of Hatch's Ranch. Captain Morris, who was not part of Ruff's expedition, took a company of riflemen to Giddings's Ranch south of Hatch's Ranch, where he found good grass and water. He remained there to provide protection because Kiowas and Comanches were reported to be gathering to the south along the Pecos River. 
When the Kiowas and Comanches were reported to be concentrating near Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River and raiding the settlements in the region, Fauntleroy sent three companies of the Third Infantry, then being transferred to the Department of Texas, along the Pecos River to discourage those Indians from raiding. He also directed Ruff to lead or send some of his mounted riflemen in that direction, "to the neighborhood of Gidding's Ranch and below, if necessary, and chastise these marauding parties." No record was found to show that any troops, other than Captain Morris who was camped near Giddings's Ranch, were sent. Captain Andrew Porter, second in command of the Kiowa-Comanche column, did lead a squadron of mounted riflemen toward Anton Chico to investigate reports of Indian attacks there and discovered that no Indians had been to Anton Chico. Instead, he reported, the inhabitants of Anton Chico were mainly interested in keeping some soldiers there so they could sell supplies to them. At the end of May Fauntleroy ordered Ruff to take the field and attack the Kiowas and Comanches where he could find them. Ruffled the six companies of riflemen from Hatch's Ranch on June 1 to establish a camp on the Canadian and then head toward Bosque Redondo where the Kiowas and Comanches were reported to be camped in large numbers. 
Captain James L. Donaldson, chief quartermaster of the department, when writing to Major Ruff about his supplies and to inform him that Mrs. Ruff had arrived safely at Fort Leavenworth without any difficulty crossing the plains from Fort Union, also made a prophetic statement about his campaign. He told Ruff not to expect to find the Indians who always seemed to be able to avoid troops sent after them.  The mounted riflemen never had a fair chance to find the hostile bands of Kiowas and Comanches because their horses were suffering greatly from "black tongue" disease, as well as malnutrition because of the drought, and were unable carry the troops where or as fast as they needed to go. In addition the Comancheros deliberately gave false reports to the officers, sometimes causing them to travel far from where the Indians were located.
Ruff's column left Hatch's Ranch with as many provisions as could be transported in the few wagons assigned to the command and established a camp and subdepot on June 4, called Camp Jackson, about 65 miles east of Hatch's Ranch near the Canadian River. It was opposite the site of Watrous's ranch that had been destroyed in 1858. The troops of Company H were left to protect Camp Jackson because their horses were in the worst condition. The other five companies left on June 8 with provisions for 20 days to go to Bosque Redondo and attempt to find the Comanches and Kiowas reported to be located there. Finding no signs of Indians there, Ruff continued down the Pecos River for several days and found no Indians. Ruff was frustrated and angry, certain that the Comancheros, more fearful of the loss of trade and reprisals from the Comanches than they were of the army, had deliberately lied about Indians being in that vicinity. The time and resources wasted in checking on stories that proved to be "false in every particular" was made worse by the failure of the horses. 
By the time the column had returned to Hatch's Ranch for provisions on June 26, 69 of the 293 horses with the expedition had died and of the 224 still alive only 128 were serviceable. Thus many of the troopers had to walk, and the column had only been able to travel about twelve miles per day. The horses suffered from the lack of good grazing, all the grass being dried up from lack of precipitation, but many of them also had contracted "black tongue" disease. How this disease was acquired was not understood, but it began about the time the column left Hatch's Ranch on June 1 and spread among the herd. Ruff vividly described the results: "This disease, affecting the glands of the throat, also denudes the tongue, lips, and gums of all skin, creating putrid sores, and rendering these parts extremely sensitive, so that the animal is unable to eat any but the softest food." Under these conditions it was virtually impossible for the horses to eat the dry grasses. These horses were so broken down that they could not be used and many of them would probably die if not removed from service, given proper treatment, and fed bran for a time to be followed by nutritious grass and grain. Without grain the remaining healthy horses were not in condition for a hard campaign. With many of his troops on foot, Ruff was limited in what he could do the remainder of the summer. He did draw rations at Hatch's Ranch where he was able to acquire a little corn for the horses, and the column returned to Camp Jackson on July 3. By that time he was able to report that the "black tongue" had "almost entirely disappeared" among the horses. If it would rain so the grass could grow, Ruff predicted many of the horses might recover. If they did, however, they would not be ready for service for several months. He was also dismayed that the column had marched over 400 miles and found no Indians. 
The Indians were practically impossible to find. No sooner had Ruff led the column south to find the Kiowas and Comanches than those same Indians were reported to be located about 60 miles north of Fort Union along the road to the states. According to the New Mexican traders who reported to Simonson, these Indians professed a desire for peace but warned that if any troops attacked them they would strike Fort Union. Major Simonson thought they might be spying on the strength of the troops at Fort Union and waiting for the arrival of supply trains from Fort Leavenworth. He was certain the New Mexicans were providing the Indians with intelligence about the strength of his garrison. He requested that Fauntleroy send more troops to Fort Union, and this was when the company of infantry from Hatch's Ranch joined the garrison at Union as noted above. In July a company of Second Dragoons was sent from Fort Garland for temporary duty at Fort Union. After the arrival of four officers with forty-eight recruits at Fort Union on July 5, the company of infantry from Hatch's Ranch was sent back to that station a few days later. 
Fauntleroy authorized Ruff to select the company in his column that was most in need of treatment for its horses and send it to Fort Union to recuperate. In return Captain Duncan and his Company E of riflemen would be sent to Camp Jackson as replacements. The available records show that this switch did not occur. Because of the unavailability of enough horses or of forage for the horses with the column, Fauntleroy suggested that all the horses with the expedition in need of recuperation be left at Camp Jackson "until they are fit to resume active service in the Field." This meant that many of the troops would not be mounted for the duration of the campaign. Ruff requested a map of the region and that a responsible guide who knew the country be sent to join his column. He did not trust New Mexicans who had been Indian traders, but no one else was available. 
The expedition continued to face hardships and failure. Ruff led 225 men of his command down the Canadian River on July 10 to continue the search for Indians. Second Lieutenant DuBois and 40 men were left at the subdepot. Ruff's battalion found a camp of approximately 300 Comanches on July 15. The Indians had sufficient notice of the approach of the soldiers to escape, and the horses of the troops were so weakened they could not pursue the Comanches. They did destroy the camp and much Indian property (buffalo robes, weapons, ammunition, and other items) that had been left behind, and they killed three of the Comanches who attempted to stampede the army horses. It was not the type of blow to the Comanches, however, that would cause them to abandon their raids and beg for a peace agreement. Ruff followed the trail of the Indians, hoping to surprise them with an attack during the night. He went as far as the old adobe fort of the Bent brothers, commonly known as Adobe Walls, without finding the Indians. DuBois was certain they "would have had a pretty fight if the guide had not told them falsely about the country." Because so many of his horses were unable to continue, Ruff returned to Camp Jackson. He had only 139 horses fit for service in the six companies. 
Some of the Comanches who avoided contact with the expedition left their camps on the Conchas River and moved to a point about 10 miles from Hatch's Ranch in July. They were reportedly visiting the small New Mexican settlements in the area to purchase arms and ammunition. On July 23 about 100 Comanche warriors attempted to visit Hatch's Ranch, presumably to trade, but the commanding officer there, Lieutenant Lafayette Peck, Eighth Infantry, forbade them to come to the ranch. The Comanches came anyway and were engaged by the available troops of the two companies of Eighth Infantry stationed there, led by Second Lieutenant Robert T. Frank. The Indians were driven away with three or four killed and others wounded and reportedly headed for the Canadian River. The troops had one man injured. The supply train for Camp Jackson was at Hatch's Ranch but was not forwarded because there were not sufficient troops to provide an escort. Troops from Camp Jackson were requested to come and protect the provisions on the road to their camp. Lieutenant Joseph G. Tilford and 25 men of Company E of the mounted riflemen were sent by Major Simonson from Fort Union the following day to reinforce the garrison at Hatch's Ranch. The same day, July 24, Fauntleroy ordered Captain Duncan and the remainder of Company E to go to Hatch's Ranch, with Duncan taking command of all troops there until the Indian threat was gone. As soon as possible Duncan's company was to return to Fort Union. The Comanches had left the vicinity of Hatch's Ranch and the mounted riflemen were back at Union on July 31. 
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