On June7, 1847 at Fort Leavenworth, Lieutenant John Love and Company B which was made up of about eighty men, new recruits that were from Eastern Missouri, got orders to escort a paymaster to Santa Fe to pay the troops in New Mexico. After a short stay at the fort Lieutenant Love, his Dragoons and paymaster Major. Charles Bodine, his train of twelve wagons, and around $350,000 in specie left for Santa Fe, New Mexico along the Santa Fe Trail.
On June 23, 1847 Lieutenant John Love and Company B, Of the First Dragoons, reached the crossing of the Pawnee Fork. When they arrived at the crossing they found the Pawnee was at flood stage because of heavy rains in the area, but was receding. At the crossing were several wagon trains waiting for the Pawnee to go down so they could cross and continue the journey on to there destinations.
From the time Lt. Love and his men had crossed the Little Arkansas, Indian signs were all around them and the danger of Indian attack became apparent. On night of June 23, they spotted a raiding party of Kiowas and Comanches in the area of one of the camps. Shots rang out at several location in the camp and the Indians broke off the assault on the train, but not before they had managed to take 160 head of livestock.
In the morning on June 24 Love's command crossed the Pawnee. The high water and steep banks made the crossing a slow and difficult one, but it was finally completed without any losses. It took the two government trains and the company of dragoons, with the paymaster and his wagons all day to make the crossing. On the south bank they camped for the night and made preparations for a early start in the morning.
On the 25th of June, Love and the two wagon trains caught up with the train that was headed by the man named Hayden. Hayden had made camp at the edge of the valley of the Arkansas, nearly a mile west of the river and five hundred yards beyond where the dragoons erected their guard tent. Love put his dragoons into camp next to the river. Fagan's train also made camp near the river about three hundred to the rear. After camp and guard post were sit up the night passed with out any incident.
The morning of the June 26, brought with it a clear sky, with a south breeze. After checking the valley for the presence of Indians the livestock was allowed out of the corral to graze under the guard of their herdsmen.
After the livestock had been grazing for a while, like phantoms out of the night came the Comanches on horseback, their shields and long war lances held in ready, they came out of the grass from every direction. More of the warriors came out of the ravine of the Big Coon Creek. They were all dress in full war paint and ready for action. The Indians charged through the camp wounding several in the process. This first attack was on Hayden's campsite. Lt. Love was in the distance and hearing the commotion came at a full gallop and issued orders for his men to saddle and mount up for action. Just as Love and his men were about to take off after the livestock that had been run off, a new body of warriors appeared on the southeast side of the river across from the camp that the dragoon's had made near the river. It wasn't long before more than a hundred plus Indians were on the attack. So instead of chasing the livestock, Love and his men fell back to protect the paymaster and the payroll as he had been assigned to do. He gave the command to dismount and fight on foot to all but a hand full of men that were assigned to pursue the Indians and retake the oxen that Hayden had lost. The rest of the troops were deployed around the camp.
This proved to be a mistake as they were out numbered by great numbers. In the process the Indians killed five of Love's men and wounded six others. There was nothing to do but retreat to the safety of the camp which they did.
After the Indians had gone Love and his men went to retrieve the dead, which they did and buried them along the trail. Some were found to have suffered many wounds from lances, plus mutilation after death.
After being beaten so bad Love and his men along with the two government trains remained at this campsite until July 2. On July 2 the wounded men had recovered enough to resume the march to Santa Fe. They left behind a cache of ox yokes and seventeen wagons. They broke camp and made there way to Fort Mann. When they arrived at the fort it had been abandoned and was deserted.
Love's dragoons, Fitzpatrick, the paymaster and his party, Fagan's train, and Wethered and the other traders they had picked up along the way, left Fort Mann on July 9, and crossed the Arkansas on the 11th, reaching the town of Santa Fe on the 6th of August, 1847.
The battle that Love had with the Indians on June 26, 1847, was referred to by the newspaper as "Lieutenant Love's Defeat," despite the gallant effort that Love had exercised in protecting the paymaster and the respect and agreement expressed by Thomas Fitzpatrick and Love's own men.
The Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail has marked this location as being about nine and one half miles west of the present-day town of Garfield, Kansas on U.S. 56. The marker is on the south side of highway U.S. 56 just across the railroad tracks that isn't there any more.
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.