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Title: Frontier service during the rebellion - or, A history of Company K, First Infantry, California Volunteers
Author: Pettis, George H., 1834-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Brevet Captain United States Volunteers; Late First Lieutenant Company K,
First California Infantry, and First Lieutenant and
Adjutant First New Mexico Infantry.]




[Edition limited to two hundred and fifty copies.]


The first battle of Bull Run had been fought. The government had become
satisfied that the slaveholder's rebellion was not to be put down with
seventy-five thousand men. The Union people of the United States now
fully realized that the rebels were to use every effort on their part
towards the establishment of the Confederacy, and the men of the north,
on their part, were ready to "mutually pledge to each other our lives,
our fortunes, and our sacred honor" to preserve the government as their
fathers before them had pledged themselves to establish it. The loyal
States were ready to respond to any demand made upon them by the
government, and there were none more anxious to do their duty to the old
flag than the Union men of California.

The people of that far distant part of our country were, in the early
days of our "late unpleasantness," stirred to their very depths. A large
portion of the inhabitants had emigrated from the southern States, and
were, therefore, in sympathy with their brethren at home. General Albert
Sidney Johnston was in command of the military department, and a majority
of the regular officers under him were sympathizers with the rebellion,
as were a majority of the State officers. The United States gunboat
"Wyoming," lying in the harbor of San Francisco in the early part of
'61, was officered by open advocates of secession, and only by the
secret coming of General E. V. Sumner, who arrived by steamer one fine
morning in the early part of '61, totally unknown and unannounced, and
presenting himself at the army headquarters on Washington street, San
Francisco, without delay, with, "Is this Gen. Johnston?" "Yes, sir." "I
am General E. V. Sumner, United States Army, and do now relieve you of
the command of this department," at the same time delivering the orders
to this effect from the War Department at Washington, were the people of
the Pacific States saved from a contest which would have been more
bitter, more fierce, and more unrelenting than was exhibited in any part
of the United States during all those long four years of the war.

As I have said before, the prompt and secret action of the government
and that gallant old soldier, General E. V. Sumner (for you all will
remember that California had no railroads and telegraphs in those days),
prevented civil war there. The secessionists, who were preparing to take
possession of the property of the government in that department and turn
the guns of Alcatraz, Fort Point and the Presidio upon the loyalists,
were taken completely aback; they delayed action. General Sumner took
all precautions against surprise, and the Union men of the Pacific
States breathed free again, for civil war had been driven from their
doors. Many of the secession leaders, with General Albert Sidney Johnston,
seeing their plans miscarry, left the State shortly after, and did service
in the Confederate armies.

On the steamer from the States that brought the news to California of
the disaster at Bull Run, came orders from President Lincoln for that
State to furnish its quota of men for the Union army. The same
afternoon, the Franklin Light Infantry, a militia company, composed of
printers only, held a meeting at its armory on Sacramento street, and
voted unanimously to offer their services to the government, which was
accordingly done, and they were the first company that was mustered into
the United States service in California, and was afterwards known as
Company B, First Infantry, California Volunteers, and were officered as
follows: Captain, Valentine Drescher; First Lieutenant, Francis S.
Mitchell; Second Lieutenant, George H. Pettis. Other companies were soon
formed, and the regiment, with nine companies, went into camp of
instruction at Camp Downey, near Oakland.

The regiment had been in camp but a few days when it was ordered to
proceed by steamer to Los Angeles, in Southern California. The transfer
was made, and the regiment went into camp about nine miles from Los
Angeles, on the seashore, where the town of Santa Monica now is. The
First Battalion Cavalry, California Volunteers, consisting of five
companies, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Davis, who was afterwards
killed before Richmond, also accompanied us. In a few days after the
establishment of this camp, Lieutenant Pettis, of Company B, was sent on
detached duty as recruiting officer to San Francisco, in order that the
nine companies now in camp should be filled to the maximum standard. The
tenth company had not been admitted to the regiment as yet, although
several had made application for the position.

Lieutenant Pettis arrived in San Francisco about the fifteenth of
October, and immediately commenced business by opening his recruiting
office on the corner of Montgomery and Clay streets, in the same
building with the _Morning Call_. He was successful, as by the fifteenth
of January he had recruited and sent to the regiment one hundred and two
men, and was ordered by General George Wright, then commanding the
department of California (and who was afterwards lost on the steamer
"Brother Jonathan" on his way to Oregon), to close his office and join
his regiment at Camp Latham. In the meantime, four companies of the
regiment, under Major E. A. Rigg, had proceeded to Fort Yuma, on the
Colorado river, and relieved the regulars who were there. Captain
Winfield Scott Hancock, Assistant Quartermaster United States Army, had
also been relieved and ordered to the States. He had been on duty at Los
Angeles. Three companies of the regiment had been ordered to Warner's
Ranch, about half way between Los Angeles and Fort Yuma, and established
Camp Wright. On the twelfth of February, orders had been received by
Colonel J. H. Carleton, commanding the regiment, to form the tenth
company of his regiment from the recruits enlisted in San Francisco by
Lieutenant Pettis. Company K, First Infantry, California Volunteers, was
thus formed, and was officered as follows: Captain, Nicholas S. Davis,
promoted from First Lieutenant of Company A; First Lieutenant, George H.
Pettis, promoted from Second Lieutenant of Company B; Second Lieutenant,
Jeremiah Phelan, appointed from Hospital Steward of the regular army.

In the meantime, the government at Washington had received information
that General H. H. Sibley had left San Antonio, Texas, with about three
thousand seven hundred rebel soldiers for New Mexico, and as the
government had immense stores of clothing, camp and garrison equipage,
and commissary stores in different posts in that Territory and Arizona,
with but few troops to defend them, and a majority of the officers
avowed secessionists, the rebels expected an easy conquest. Accordingly,
Colonel Carleton had orders to organize what was known as the
"California Column," which consisted of the First and Fifth Infantry,
California Volunteers, (George W. Bowie was Colonel of the Fifth
Infantry, California Volunteers); First Battalion Cavalry, California
Volunteers; Company B, Captain John C. Cremoney, Second Cavalry,
California Volunteers, and Light Battery A, Third United States
Artillery, Captain John B. Shinn.

That an idea may be obtained of the difficulties of this enterprise, I
will say that it is about nine hundred miles from Los Angeles to the Rio
Grande, not a pound of food or of forage was to be obtained on the
route, and everything to be consumed had to be brought from California.
Neither was there, as we afterwards ascertained, a single resident in
all that long march, except at Fort Yuma. The country through which the
"Column" passed was without water, and the Colorado and Gila Deserts to
be crossed before we should come in sight of the green cottonwoods of
the Rio Grande. The Apache Indians supposed that they had driven all the
whites out of the Territory of Arizona, and the former required constant
watching and attention. In consequence of the scarcity of water on the
route, the "Column" could only be moved in detachments.

Companies K and C, First Infantry, and Company G, Fifth Infantry,
Captain Hugh L. Hinds, left Captain Latham about the first of March,
1862, under command of Captain William McMullen, of Company C, and
arrived at Camp Wright in due season, it being about one hundred and
forty miles. The only incident on this march worthy of mention was, that
when the battalion marched through the town of Los Angeles the American
flag had been hauled down from the court house. As it was well known
that the people of Los Angeles at that time were nearly all strong in
their sympathies with the rebellion, it was thought that the hauling
down of the flag was to insult the command. Consequently, on the arrival
of the battalion on the banks of the Los Angeles river, which flows on
the eastern side of the town, it was halted and Captain McMullen
returned, and, finding some of the town officials, insisted that the
flag should be hoisted immediately. The citizens denied any intended
insult to the flag, and proceeded to replace it, which being seen by the
men of the battalion, they gave three cheers, and continued on their

A delay of a couple of weeks at Camp Wright, when orders were received
by Lieutenant Colonel J. R. West, of the First Infantry, commanding at
Camp Wright, to organize the advance detachment of the "Column," to
consist of Companies K and C, First Infantry, California Volunteers, and
Companies B and G, Fifth Infantry, California Volunteers, and proceed
without delay to Fort Yuma. The command as above constituted left camp
at a late hour in the afternoon, and after a short march made camp
beside a laguna, or pond. It rained during the night, and daylight found
us at breakfast, which was quickly dispatched, and we were soon on our
march, the road continually ascending. At nine o'clock in the forenoon
we had reached the line of snow, where it was snowing heavily. At noon
we had reached the summit, and found the snow about two feet in depth,
and as cold as Greenland. A short halt was made, when great fires were
built to warm the men, and then the command moved down the mountain. At
three o'clock in the afternoon we passed through the line of snow,
shortly after through the precipitous cañon of San Felipe, and towards
evening went into camp, the grass being more than knee high, the air
redolent with the perfume of flowers and the sweet melody of the birds.

A short march the next day brought us to Los Dos Palmas, or the "Two
Palms," so called from the fact that two luxuriant palm trees formerly
flourished here, the stumps of which were then to be seen. Thence to
Carizo Creek, nine miles, where the command rested one day. Here
commences the then much-dreaded Colorado Desert. For more than a hundred
miles we were at the mercy of its sands and storms and burning sun. Such
another scene of desolation does not exist on the American continent;
treeless mountains on either side, brown and sombre to their very tops;
no signs of life were to be seen anywhere. Although it was in the first
days of April, still the sun poured down with an intensity that I had
never before experienced, no shade could be found, and the very water in
the creek could not be bathed in--being more fit for cooking than
bathing, it being so hot. Such was the Colorado Desert as we approached
it. What will it be further on? We shall see.

The command left camp at Carizo Creek in the middle of the afternoon,
and continued the march until midnight, when we arrived at Sackett's
Wells. Here it was supposed a ration of water for the men would be
found, but upon examination it was ascertained that somebody had knocked
the bottom out of the well, and no water was to be obtained, except such
as could be caught in cups as it trickled drop by drop from the strata
of clay that had heretofore formed the bottom of the well. No camp could
be made here, and the command moved on, marching until about ten o'clock
in the morning, when we arrived at the Indian Wells, having made
thirty-two miles. A large number of the men were now suffering for the
want of water, and the animals, upon discovering the green bushes in the
distance, near these wells, pricked their ears, and every exertion was
required by riders and drivers to prevent a stampede, so much were they
in want of water. Upon our arrival it was found that but a few buckets
of water was in the well, as a detachment of cavalry had made camp there
the day before, and had only left upon seeing our command approach,
using all the water in the well for their animals before leaving.
However, guards were placed over the well, men sent down to pass the
water up as it collected, and in the course of a few hours the men had
each received his pint of water; then the animals were furnished.

Before the water had all been distributed, one of those terrible sand
storms for which this desert is renowned began, and as the sun went down
it was at its very height. Neither man nor animal could face this shower
of stones and gravel, and the sand and dust penetrated everything. The
only thing that was to be done was to throw oneself down upon his face,
draw his blankets around him, and ride it out, sleeping. The storm
continued through the night, and before dawn approached it had ceased,
and upon crawling out of my sand bank, I saw in all directions what
appeared to be graves, but they were only mounds of sand that had been
formed by the storm over the bodies of the soldiers. Imagine, if you
can, near four hundred of these mounds becoming animate and dissolving
in the desert, as reveille sounded.

At about noon the command moved on, and after marching twenty-five
miles arrived at Alamo Mucho at about two o'clock in the morning. Here
was found a well that would have furnished water for an army
corps--sweet, cold water. It was a pleasure to look at this, to hold it
in a tin cup, look at it, take a mouthful, holding it there a time
before swallowing it; it seemed a sin to drink it. This water was not
taken on the point of the bayonet, as water had been taken for the past
four days, and we had marched sixty-six miles from Los Dos Palmos since
we had our fill of water. After the men had satisfied their thirst they
spread their blankets wherever they pleased, and there was no person in
that command, except the guard, that was not soon in the arms of

Before daylight another sand storm commenced, and when reveille was beat
off, not a dozen men were in line, and they were only brought out of
their sand hills by beating the long roll. The storm subsided in the
early afternoon, when the command moved on, making Gardiner's Wells,
twelve miles, before sundown, where was found a fine well with plenty of
water, but none of the command wanted any, the only objection being, and
that a slight one, that there was standing above the level of the water
in the well, a pair of boots--and a dead man in them. Seven Wells was
soon reached, and, as the name implies, there were plenty of wells, but
there was no water. Thence to Cook's Well, twelve miles, with plenty of
good water, thence fourteen miles to the Colorado river, at Algodones.
The next day, before noon, the command arrived at Fort Yuma and went
into camp. Here we met Don Pascual, a head chief of the Yumas, Don Diego
Jaeger, and the "Great Western," three of the most celebrated characters
in the annals of Fort Yuma.

It was supposed that our command was to constitute the advance of the
"Column" from Fort Yuma. But upon our arrival at that point, we found
that a reconnoitering party, consisting of Company I, First California
Infantry, Captain W. P. Calloway; Company A, First California Cavalry,
Captain William McLeave, and Lieutenant Phelan, with detachments for two
mountain howitzers, had been sent up the Gila river, as the Indians had
reported that a large body of rebels were advancing on Fort Yuma from
Tucson. On the third day after our arrival we crossed over the Colorado
river and continued our march. We passed the divide between the Colorado
and Gila rivers, and arrived at Gila City that afternoon, eighteen
miles. Our route was the old overland stage route on the south side of
the Gila. Here we first saw that peculiar and picturesque cactus, so
characteristic of the country, called by the Indians "_petayah_," but
more generally known as the "_suaro_," and recognized by botanists as
the "_Cereus grandeus_."

Our next march was to Filibuster camp, eleven miles; thence to Antelope
Peak, fifteen; Mohawk, twelve; Texas Hill, eleven; Stanwix, seventeen;
Burke's, twelve miles. Here we found the reconnoitering party, under
Captain Calloway, that had left Fort Yuma a few days before our arrival
there. They had had a brush with the rebels at Picacho, a point about
forty-five miles west of Tucson. Lieutenant Barrett, Company A, First
Cavalry, California Volunteers, and three men of the same company, had
been killed. They had secured three rebel prisoners. The poor devils
were under guard beneath some cottonwoods in their camp. They were now
on their return to Fort Yuma.

The next morning our command moved out with more alacrity than usual,
for we felt that we were now the advance of the "Column," and we would
meet the rebels, too. A short march of twelve miles brought us to Oatman
Flat. We had come down from the high mesa lands into this valley, and as
we passed through near the middle of it, saw upon the right side of the
road a small enclosure of rails, on one end of which was inscribed "The
Oatman Family." We had all heard of this tragedy years before, and now
we were upon the spot where the terrible massacre had been perpetrated.
No one of us could look upon this humble monument without awakening a
feeling of revenge, and many were the silent pledges given that day that
when the opportunity should offer, that at least one shot would be given
for these silent victims to Indian treachery. One officer was so
affected that he approached Colonel J. R. West, our commanding officer,
with the interrogatory: "Colonel, if we should at anytime meet any of
these Indians, what course should be pursued towards them?" "Tell your
men when they see a head, hit it if they can!" was the Colonel's quick
rejoinder. You may think this to have been rather harsh, but remember we
were standing above the remains of the innocent victims of a most
terrible tragedy.

A few miles after leaving Oatman's Flat we came to a pile of immense
boulders in the centre of a pleasant valley. These were the famous
"Pedras Pintados," or painted rocks. A march of fourteen miles brought
the command to Kenyon's. The next day, after sixteen miles marching, we
arrived at Gila Bend. Here we lay over a day, as our next march was to
be to the Maricopa Wells, forty miles distant, the dreaded Gila Desert.
After marching all night and all of the next day, we approached the
Maricopa Wells at about twelve o'clock on the second night. When within
a mile of this point, a small reconnoitering party that had been sent
ahead of our command, met us and reported that a large force of the
rebels had possession of the wells, and from appearances intended to
prevent our command from reaching there. This report served to put new
life into everybody, notwithstanding that the whole command had now been
without sleep for over forty hours, had marched forty miles and was
somewhat fatigued. One company was thrown out as skirmishers, the rest
of the command in line of battle. We approached the watering place, and
when we arrived there, instead of finding a formidable enemy, we found a
half a dozen of our own cavalry that had been scouting ahead of the
command. We found the water strongly impregnated with alkali, but it
served to assuage our thirst.

A short march of ten miles then brought us to the Casa Blanca, the
largest village of the Pimo Indians. Our command remained here for
several weeks, until at least a large part of the "Column" had arrived,
and large stores of commissaries and forage had been collected. Our
Indian scouts and spies brought every few days extravagant reports of
the force of rebels at Tucson, and they all agreed that when our troops
should reach that point, we would meet with a warm reception, and that
rifle-pits, sufficiently manned, extended a long ways on either side of
the town. These Indians were on the best of terms with us, as they had
sold large amounts of their produce to our command, for which they had
been promptly and abundantly paid--a different experience when the
rebels were there. They had been employed by our quartermaster's
department as herders of our beef cattle, and were paid to their own
satisfaction for all services they had rendered, but no inducement that
our commander offered them, no amount of pay, could influence any one of
them to accompany us towards Tucson, so assured were they that we were
to be "wiped out" before we should reach there.

On or about the twelfth day of May, 1862, the advance, constituted as
before stated, with B Company, California Cavalry, Captain Emil Fritz,
added, left the peaceful and hospitable homes of the Pimos, and arrived
at the Sacatone, twelve miles. Here we left the overland mail road,
which we had followed since leaving Los Angeles, and keeping up the
south bank of the Gila to White's Ranch; thence to the celebrated ruins
of the Casa Blanca, so graphically described by Mr. John R. Bartlett in
his "Personal Narratives" of the Boundary Commission; thence to
Rattlesnake Spring; thence to old Fort Breckenridge, which had been so
cowardly deserted the year before by our regular troops; thence to Cañon
de Oro. As we now approached Tucson, everything was in fighting trim. A
short halt was made near the town, and the cavalry company, in two
divisions, approached the place from the north and west. The infantry
marched in by the main street from the west, with the field music
playing "Yankee Doodle," and instead of being received by shot and
shell, we found neither friend nor enemy, only a village without
population, if we except some hundreds of dogs and cats.

When we were at the Pimos, Governor Pesquira, of Sonora, Mexico,
arrived there from California on his way home; he was allowed to pass
our lines; he and his party arrived in Tucson a few days before our
command, and found the place nearly deserted. Captain Hunter, with his
rebel soldiers, were far on their way to the Rio Grande, and as they had
assured the native population--wholly Mexican--that when the
"Abs"--meaning the Union troops--arrived they would massacre all the men
and abuse all the women, they stood not upon the order of going, but
went at once for Sonora. Governor Pesquira hurried forward, overtaking
parties of the fugitives each day, and assuring them of different
treatment from the Union soldiers than they had been told by the rebels,
induced many to return to their homes, and within a week Tucson was
again alive; stores and gambling saloons were numerous, the military had
taken possession of the best buildings in the town for quarters, and the
stars and stripes again waved over the Capital of the Territory of

The advance of the "Column" entered Tucson on the twentieth day of
May, 1862. Several Americans, among them Sylvester Mowry, formerly of
Rhode Island, returned, and being violent in their sympathies with the
rebellion, were arrested. Some were sent out of the Territory, while
Mowry was sent to Fort Yuma, where he remained incarcerated a long time.
About the fifteenth of June, Captain N. S. Davis was relieved from the
command of Company K by Lieutenant Pettis, who remained in command, with
a short interval, until its final muster out. Captain Davis was on duty
in the quartermaster's department. By the first of July, a large part of
the "Column" had arrived at Tucson, a large depot of army stores had
been brought from California, and preparations were commenced for the
movement again of the advance column. Several spies and scouts had been
sent forward from Tucson, but as they had not returned, matters were
rather uncertain. However, in the first week in July, Company E, First
California Infantry, Captain Thomas L. Roberts, and Company B, Second
California Cavalry, were ordered to proceed to Apache Pass and hold
possession of the water at that point. On the twentieth of July the
advance column left Tucson, and on the second day arrived at the San
Pedro, twenty-five miles. Here a delay of one day was made to put the
fording place in good order for the crossing of the "Column."
Information was received here that Captain Roberts' advance into the
Apache Pass had been attacked by a large force of the Apaches, under the
renowned chief, "Cochise," and after fighting during an entire afternoon
had succeeded in driving the Indians, with a loss on our side of several
of our men killed and wounded.

Our next march was to Dragoon Springs, eighteen miles; thence to
Sulphur Springs, twenty-two miles. The famous Apache Pass was reached by
another march of twenty-five miles. Here was found the command of
Captain Roberts, with evidences of the struggle of a few days before. On
leaving Apache Pass the next day, we were again the advance of the
"Column," which position was retained until our arrival on the Rio
Grande. The next camping ground was at San Simon, eighteen miles. As we
were assured by our guides that no water would be found until we reached
_Ojo de Vaca_, or Cow Springs, a distance of sixty-seven miles, it was
deemed advisable to leave the overland route at this point, and proceed
by another route. Accordingly, the next morning the command moved south,
following up the San Simon Valley, a distance of twelve miles, and
camped at the Cienega. Here was found water, the best and most abundant
on the whole march. Imagine, if you can, a valley twenty miles in width,
on either side a range of mountains; and to the north and south, up and
down the valley, a level plain as far as the eye could reach. A trench
three feet wide, by five or six in depth, filled nearly to the top with
clear cold water, running with a velocity of at least six miles an hour,
the bottom covered with white smooth pebbles. Two miles above this point
no water was to be found. As you descended the valley and approached
this water, you found at first the ground moist, then water appeared, a
mere drop, then a small stream of running water, which increased in
volume, until you found a stream as described above. Below this point
the water gradually lessened, until, two miles below, this magnificent
stream had entirely disappeared. There was no shade to be had here,
except that found under the wagon bodies, still there was no fault
found; the fine stream of water that we were enjoying satisfied us for
all other discomforts. It was with feelings of regret that we left this
point late the next afternoon, with well filled canteens; and the
uncertainty of finding water in advance, added to this feeling. We
arrived at Leiteresdorffer's Wells soon after sunset, but no water was
to be found. The march was continued during the night, and all of the
next day, until we arrived at Soldier's Farewell, and no water. The
command was strung out a distance of at least five miles; we had been
marching thirty hours, with only a canteen each of water, with the
thermometer at least 130. A large number of the men had given out and
were scattered in parties of three or four, for a dozen miles in the
rear. What was left of the command moved on, and after leaving the wagon
road, we arrived in Burro Cañon, some time after dark, where plenty of
water was found, when, after taking in a fill, turned into our blankets,
entirely forgetting our hunger in our weariness. Company K marched into
Burro Cañon with less than ten men out of eighty, and it was long after
daylight the next day before the whole command had arrived. A short
march of twelve miles brought us to Ojo de Baca; thence eighteen miles
to the Miembres river.

Our next march, twenty-five miles, was to Cooke's Springs, passing
through Cooke's Cañon. This location was known by Mexicans as _La Valle
del Muerto_, or Valley of Death. It seemed to be rightly named, too, as
for nearly two miles were to be seen, on either side, skulls and other
portions of human remains who had fallen by Indian assassination. Mounds
and crosses were met every few minutes. As we emerged from this _triste_
locality, we encountered the remains of wagons and government stores,
that had been destroyed the year before by the regular troops, who had
deserted Forts Buchanan and Breckenridge, in Arizona. When they had
arrived at this point, they were informed of the surrender of the
regulars at Fort Fillmore; consequently, without further inquiry, they
destroyed all the government property they had in charge, and made their
way, on the west side of the Rio Grande, to Fort Craig.

The next march brought us near to Mule Springs, fifteen miles; and on
the next afternoon could be discovered, in the distance, the green,
winding way of the Rio Grande, with the Sierras de Organos in the
background. Camp was made that night on the banks of the Rio Bravo del
Norte, near to old Fort Thorn. The next march was down the west bank of
the river to the fording place, known as San Diego, which you will find
set down on all maps as a town or village, but to my certain knowledge,
up to the time mentioned, and for several years afterwards, there was
but one house in the vicinity, and that contained but one room and no
roof. As the river was now, the third of August, at its extreme height,
caused by the melting of the snow in the upper Rocky Mountains, we
experienced some difficulty in getting our wagons and stores across;
still all was completed before sundown, and the next day we arrived at
Roblado, near the town of Dona Ana. On the fifth of August, after
passing through the villages of Dona Ana and Las Cruces, we arrived at
the pleasant town of La Mesilla.

Here was to be our resting place. We found a well-built village, with
a numerous population, mostly Mexican. The rebels, who had arrived in
the Territory, we learned, had, after the treacherous surrender of the
regular troops at Fort Fillmore (directly opposite La Mesilla), marched
north. They found Fort Craig too strong to be attacked, and, contrary to
all military maxims, had continued on, leaving a fortified position in
their rear. The desperate battle of Val Verde had taken place on the
twenty-first and twenty-second of February, 1862, a short distance above
Fort Craig. And as long as Major Benny Roberts had command of the
Federal troops they were successful, but when General E. R. S. Canby
came on the field and took command, the rebels soon had turned the tide
of the battle in their favor. McRae's battery was taken, and our troops
were returning, panic-stricken, across the river, and fleeing towards
Fort Craig, about three miles down the river. The rebels then approached
Albuquerque, where was stored a large amount of government stores, which
were surrendered without a struggle. Thence they proceeded to Santa Fé,
where, without opposition, they took possession. There was one other
fort to be taken, about one hundred miles northwest--Fort Union. After
some delay at Santa Fé, the rebels, numbering some sixteen hundred, set
out for Fort Union. At Apache Pass, or Pigeon's Ranch, they were met by
a Colorado regiment, with what regulars and militia could be found, all
under command of Colonel John P. Slough (afterwards chief justice of the
Territory), and were defeated, their wagons, ammunition, and all their
stores having been destroyed by a party of Union troops under Captain
W. H. Lewis, Fifth United States Infantry, and Captain A. B. Cary, of the
Third United States Infantry, who scaled a mountain and got into their
rear. The rebels precipitately retreated from this point, to and down
the Rio Grande, having passed La Mesilla a few weeks before our arrival,
and left the Territory with about twelve hundred men out of thirty-seven
hundred, that they had arrived with.

The different companies of the "Column," as they arrived, were now sent
to different points in the department. Our Colonel, James H. Carleton,
had been promoted to Brigadier General, and had relieved General E. R. S.
Canby, in command of the department of New Mexico. The regular troops
were all relieved, except the Fifth Infantry, and sent east, and a
protection was now assured to the population, by the California
Volunteers. Lieutenant Colonel J. R. West was now promoted to Colonel of
the regiment, and in command of the southern district of the department.
Fine quarters were found for the command in the village of La Mesilla,
and the district was under martial law. Duty was really pleasant
here,--plenty of society, with frequent _bailes_, few drills, and plenty
of everything to eat and drink. The white population were nearly all of
secession proclivities, one in particular, Samuel L. Jones (better known
as the pro-slavery Sheriff Jones, of Kansas), who resided here, was
arrested usually about once a week, and incarcerated in the guard-house
for treasonable utterances.

After a protracted season of this duty, or up to about the twentieth
of November, came the most unpleasant part of the history of Company K.
There had been several escapes from the guard-house of persons who had
been imprisoned for treasonable utterances, until it seemed that there
might exist a disposition among some of the command to be a party to
these frequent escapades. This state of affairs existed until one
morning an escape was reported to the commanding officer, Colonel West,
who immediately ordered the sergeant of the guard, with sentinels
numbers one, two, three, four and five, who were on duty at the time, to
be placed in the guard-house, in irons. It so happened that this
sergeant and all the sentinels belonged to Company K, and at the morning
drill, after guard mount, the company refused to do further duty, or
until the irons were taken off of Sergeant Miller. The soldier most
aggrieved appeared to be Corporal Charles Smith, or rather he acted as
spokesman for the company. The company was immediately ordered into
their quarters by Lieutenant Pettis, and put under guard, and the facts
reported to the commanding officer. Orders were given for all prisoners
to be placed in the guard-house; Company K was ordered to proceed to the
plaza or parade without arms, when the long roll was beat. The other two
companies of the garrison were soon on the plaza, fully equipped.
Colonel West now made his appearance, mounted; he then marched Company
A, Fifth California Infantry, about five paces in front of and facing
Company K, with pieces loaded, and at a "ready." He then called Corporal
Smith to the front, and asked him if he still persisted in refusing to
do his duty? The Corporal respectfully, but firmly, announced that he
would do no duty until the irons were removed from Sergeant Miller.
Company D, First California Infantry, had been wheeled to the right out
of line, and the Corporal was now ordered to place himself about six
paces in front of this company. Upon his again refusing to do duty,
Captain Mitchell, of Company D, was ordered to fire upon him. This order
was unhesitatingly obeyed; and after the smoke had cleared away, it was
seen that the Corporal was uninjured. Not so with some others. The
position of Company D was such that it was facing the cathedral, which
is situated on the west side of the plaza; on either side of the
cathedral were long straight streets, running from the plaza; the long
roll and the other preparations had called all the inhabitants from
their residences, and the result of the first volley was to wound two
invalid soldiers, together with one Mexican woman and one child, and the
cathedral, which was built of adobes, was concealed for a few minutes by
its own dust, caused by the minie balls penetrating its front. The
Corporal was again questioned by Colonel West, who returned his former
answer, and Company D again fired a volley, but the Corporal remained
untouched. After another questioning by the Colonel, Company D was once
more ordered to fire, when, between the commands "aim," "fire," Colonel
West rode up behind the company with uplifted sabre, and gave the
command to "lower those rifles," when the command was given by the
Captain to "fire." At this discharge, the Corporal fell to the ground, a
minie ball having passed directly through him, having entered his right
breast. He was immediately placed upon a stretcher, and expired on his
way to the hospital. The rest of the company was now questioned by
Colonel West, and each man asserted his willingness to do his duty, when
the command was dismissed to their quarters, and Company K immediately
assumed their arms and accoutrements and appeared upon the plaza for
drill. This was the only evidence of insubordination ever shown in the
"Column," and the prompt manner in which this one was met and punished,
precluded any danger of another exhibition of this character.

A few days after these occurrences, some of our spies and scouts
brought in the intelligence that another large party of rebels had left
San Antonio, Texas, for New Mexico. Accordingly, Companies K and D were
ordered to San Elizario, Texas, a town about twenty-five miles below El
Paso, Mexico, and the last point of civilization towards San Antonio, on
outpost duty. After remaining here about six weeks, and no rebels
appearing, Company K was ordered to Fort Craig. A march of twenty-five
miles brought us to Franklin or Fort Bliss, directly opposite El Paso;
thence two marches, aggregating fifty miles, found us in our old
quarters at La Mesilla, where the company was ordered to remain until
the adjournment of a general court-martial which was then in session at
that post. A week later, and Company K commenced its march for Fort
Craig. A short march brought us again to Dona Ana. Three miles from that
village brought us to the commencement of the much dreaded _Jornada del
Muerto_ (Journey of Death). The _Jornada_ is a large desert, well
supplied with fine gramma grass in some portions, but absolutely
destitute of water or shade for seventy-five miles. Why it ever received
its title, I never distinctly learned, but suppose it was on account of
the very numerous massacres committed on it by the Apache Indians. On
the east, in the far distance, are the Sierras Blancos, and is fringed
on the west by the Sierra Caballo and Sierra de Frey Cristobal. From
these heights, on either side, the Indians are enabled to distinctly
perceive any party of travellers coming over the wide and unsheltered
expanse of the _Jornada del Muerto_. When any such parties are seen,
they come sweeping down upon the unsuspecting immigrant in more than
usual numbers, and if successful, as they generally are, in their
attack, invariably destroy all of the party, for there is no possible
chance of escape; and the Apaches never take any prisoners but women and
young children, and they become captives for life.

The first camp was a dry one, and as the command was accompanied by a
tank of water, drawn by six mules, thus being prepared by a plentiful
supply of water, I concluded to cross this desert at my leisure. The
next forenoon we passed by the celebrated "Point of Rocks," the company
being deployed as skirmishers, with the hope of finding Indians hiding
between the huge boulders of which it was composed, but without results.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the Aleman, so called from the fact
that a whole German immigrant family had been massacred at this point
some years before by the Indians. The next night another dry camp,
having passed during the day the _Laguna del Muerto_, where water is
found in some seasons. While some three miles on our left was the _Ojo
del Muerto_, a point where Fort McRae was established in 1863 by Captain
Henry A. Greene, commanding Company G, First California Infantry, now a
resident of this city, (Providence, R. I.). The next day's march brought
us to the little village of El Paraje del Fra Cristobal. Near the spot
on which the camp was made, was the peaceful flowing and muddy Rio
Grande. A short march of five miles brought us to our destination--Fort
Craig. Our arrival was in January, 1863.

The company remained at this post during the year 1863, monotony of
garrison life being relieved by furnishing escorts to wagon trains bound
north and south, and an occasional scout after Indians. In July of that
year, Assistant Surgeon Watson, who had been commissioned at Sacramento,
California, more than a year before, and had been ordered to report to
the headquarters of his regiment at Fort Craig, arrived at Fort McRae,
without accident. On leaving that post, Captain Greene had furnished him
with one government wagon and an escort of five or six men of his
company. They set out with joyful anticipation; the Doctor was delighted
to know that after a year's travel, he would soon be at his new home,
and be doing duty with his own regiment, which he had never seen. The
wagon, with its occupants, soon emerged from the cañon of the _Ojo del
Muerto_, and came out on the hard, smooth, natural road of the
_Jornada_. About the middle of the afternoon, they were proceeding
leisurely along; twelve miles in advance could be plainly seen the
buildings of Fort Craig, with "Old Glory" on the flag-staff. The driver
of the team, Johnson, a soldier of Greene's company, sat on his near
wheel-mule chatting pleasantly with the Doctor, who occupied the front
of the wagon, with his feet hanging down on the whiffle-trees; the
escort were all in the wagon, lying on their blankets, with their arms
and equipments beneath them. Within five miles of them there was not a
rock, tree, shrub, or bush, as large as a man's head--they felt a
perfect security. Another moment, how changed! There arose from the sand
of the desert, where they had buried themselves, some ten or twelve
Apaches, within twenty feet of the moving wagon, and poured a volley of
arrows into the doomed party, and closing in immediately, a part
attacked the occupants of the wagon, while the rest disengaged the
mules, and mounting their backs started for the mountains on the west,
towards the river, and before the soldiers were out of the wagon were
out of reach of their fire. Doctor Watson was shot with two arrows, one
in his right arm, and the other on the inside of his right thigh,
severing the femoral artery. He breathed his last in a few minutes; the
driver was shot through the heart, and one or two of the escorts were
slightly wounded. News of this affair reached the post before sunset,
and in twenty minutes Company K was on its way down the west side of the
river to intercept, if possible, these murderers. The company was kept
in the field for thirty days, without other result than to find a hot
trail of eighty-two Navajoes, who were on their way to their own
country, with some eight thousand head of sheep and other stock that
they had stolen in the upper counties of New Mexico. As the company were
dismounted, it was impossible to take up the trail. The commander of the
company, however, with five cavalrymen and two Mexican scouts, followed
and overtook the Indians after a run of twenty-five miles, but
accomplished nothing except exchanging some twenty or twenty-five shots
on either side, as our animals were completely "blown," and eighty-two
to eight was an unpleasant disparity of numbers. The lieutenant and his
men arrived back at the river the next morning, having been in the
saddle nearly twenty-four hours. The result of the short skirmish was
that one of the cavalrymen's horses was shot through the breast, and one
Navajo was sent to his happy hunting-grounds and one was wounded.

January, 1864, Company K was ordered to Los Pinos, about one hundred
miles further up the Rio Grande, and about twenty miles south of
Albuquerque; marching through the towns of Socorro, La Limitar, across
the sand hills at the foot of the _Sierra de los Ladrones_, or Thieves
Mountains; crossing the Rio Puerco, near its affluence with the Rio
Grande; thence to Sabinal, La Belen, and Los Lunes. They remained here
until the first of February, when Colonel Kit Carson arrived there from
the Navajo country, with some two hundred and fifty-three Navajo
Indians, whom he had taken prisoners in his operations against that
nation. Orders were received from department headquarters for Company K
to proceed with these Indians to the Bosque Redondo, some two hundred
and fifty miles down on the Pecos river. Accordingly, after formally
receiving these prisoners and receipting therefor, the command moved
out, and on the second night arrived at Carnwell Cañon; thence to San
Antonio, San Antoinette, Los Placeres and Gallisteo. Thus far the
command had moved across the country, but on the day of leaving
Gallisteo, the company struck the military road leading from Fort Union
to Santa Fé, near the old Peces ruins. The command moved along this road
to the village of Tecolote; from here they proceeded down the Pecos
river, and arrived at Fort Sumner after eighteen days' marching. Fort
Sumner was a new post, established for the purpose of a reservation for
Indians, both Navajo and Apache, that should be taken prisoners by the
troops, and Colonel Carson was on a campaign against the Navajoes, in
which he was successful, as there were finally some eight thousand of
these Indians captured and placed on this reservation. Those brought in
by Company K were the first large body that had arrived. I will say
here, in parenthesis, that this is the only way to treat the Indian
question; for this Indian nation (the Navajoes), after receiving a
severe drubbing by Carson, and all had surrendered, were finally allowed
to return to their own country, since which time they have continued on
the best of terms with our people. This has always been the experience
on the frontiers--one effective campaign is better than all the treaties
that were ever consummated.

Fort Sumner was at this time in command of Major Henry D. Wallen, United
States Seventh Infantry, than whom there was no more excellent gentleman
in the service of the government. His administration was marked by a
sincere desire to do justice to all under him, a feature that was sadly
deficient in too many officers of the time that is spoken of. He was a
perfect example of sobriety, and his case certainly was a commendation
of the excellence of education of the academy at West Point, of which he
was an honored graduate.

Company K had been at Fort Sumner but a few days when it was ordered to
report to the commanding officer at Fort Union, necessitating a march of
one hundred and twenty-five miles. The command arrived at Fort Union on
the eighteenth day of March, 1864, and remained there, doing camp duty,
during the months of April, May and June. In July, the company
proceeded, with a company of New Mexican cavalry, towards the east, by
the route known as the Cummarron route, passing on our way, Burgwin's
Spring, named after the gallant Captain Burgwin, First Regiment United
States Dragoons, who fell while leading the attack upon the insurgents
at Taos, 1847, and the Wagon Mound, a high landmark (so called from its
shape). From this point to the "Point of Rocks," forty miles, is the
track of a bloody, brave and disastrous fight made by eight passengers
in the stage against a band of sixty Apaches. They fought every inch of
the long, dread struggle. Killed one by one, and dropped on the road,
two survivors maintained their defense a long time, and when the sole
contestant was left, his last dying effort was to strew the contents of
his powder-horn in the sand, and stir it in with his foot, so that the
Indians could not use it. Wilson's Creek, some miles further on, is
named after a Mr. Wilson, a merchant of Santa Fé, who was overtaken here
by the Indians, and, with his wife and child--for he was alone with
them--butchered with the usual savage outrage and cruelty.

The command returned to Fort Union in September, in which month the
First Infantry, California Volunteers, was mustered out of service,
their term of three years having expired, with the exception of Company
K, it being recollected that they were enlisted at San Francisco some
time after the other companies had been formed. However, the members of
that company began, in October, to be dropped out, and when orders
arrived at Fort Union for the formation of the Commanche expedition,
under Colonel Kit Carson, there remained of the First Infantry Regiment,
California Volunteers, one officer (Lieutenant Pettis) and twenty-six
enlisted men of Company K. This company accompanied Carson's expedition
with two mountain howitzers, mounted on prairie carriages, and
rendezvoued at Fort Bascom, on the Canadian river, near the line of
Texas. This expedition consisted as follows: Colonel Christopher Carson,
First New Mexico Cavalry, commanding; Colonel Francisco P. Abreú, First
New Mexico Infantry; Major William McCleave, First California Cavalry;
Captain Emil Fritz, Company B, First California Cavalry, one officer and
forty enlisted men; Lieutenant Sullivan Heath, Company K, First
California Cavalry, one officer and forty men; Captain Meriam, Company
M, First California Cavalry, one officer and thirty-four men; Lieutenant
George H. Pettis, Company K, First California Infantry, one officer and
twenty-six men; Captain Charles Deus, Company M, First New Mexico
Cavalry, two officers and seventy men; Captain Joseph Berney, Company D,
First New Mexico Cavalry, two officers and thirty-six men; Company A,
First California Veteran Infantry, seventy-five men; Assistant Surgeon
George S. Courtright, United States Volunteers, and an officer whose
name escapes me, as Assistant Quartermaster and Commissary,--numbering
in all, fourteen officers and three hundred and twenty-one enlisted men.
In addition to the command, Colonel Carson had induced seventy-two
friendly Indians (Utes and Apaches), and as big scoundrels as there were
on the frontiers, by promising them all the plunder that they might
acquire, to join the expedition.

On the sixth of November, the command left Fort Bascom, and proceeded
down on the north bank of the Canadian, hoping to find the Commanche and
Kiowa Indians (who had been committing their atrocities during the whole
of 1864) in their winter quarters. The Indians with our command, on
every night, after making camp, being now on the war-path, indulged in
the accustomed war dance, which, although new to most of us, became
almost intolerable, it being kept up each night until nearly day-break;
and until we became accustomed to their groans and howlings, incident to
the dance, it was impossible to sleep. Each morning of our march, two of
our Indians would be sent ahead several hours before we started, who
would return to camp at night and report.

We had been on our march day after day without particular incident
until our arrival at Mule Creek, when our scouts brought in the
intelligence that they had seen signs of a large body of Indians that
had moved that day, and that they could be overtaken without much
effort. Immediately after supper, all of the Cavalry, with Company K,
moved out of camp in light marching order, leaving the infantry, under
command of Colonel Abreú, to protect the wagon train and proceed on our
trail on the morrow. Colonel Carson and command marched all night,
except a short halt just before dawn, and struck an outpost of the enemy
on the opposite side of the river, at about sunrise, who being mounted
retreated, followed by our Indians and two companies of our Cavalry. The
rest of the command moved down on the north side of the river, and a few
miles below the cavalry struck a Kiowa _rancheria_ of one hundred and
seventy-six lodges, the Indians retreating down the river on their
approach. Company K, escorted by Lieutenant Heath's command, and
accompanied by Colonel Carson, could not advance with the rapidity of
the cavalry, as the cannoneers were dismounted, and the wheels tracking
very narrow, caused the utmost attention to prevent their being
overturned. The Indians from the Kiowa encampment retreated until they
were reinforced by a large force of Commanches from a Commanche
_rancheria_ of five hundred lodges, a short distance below the "Adobe
Walls," a location well known by all frontiersmen. The cavalry made a
stand here, and were engaged in skirmishing with the enemy, when Company
K came on the field with the two mountain howitzers. An order from
Colonel Carson to Lieutenant Pettis to "fling a few shell over thar!"
indicating with his hand a large body of Indians who appeared to be
about to charge into our forces, that officer immediately ordered
"Battery halt! action right, load with shell--load!" Before the fourth
discharge of the howitzers, the Indians had retreated out of range, and
it was supposed that there would be no more fighting; but we counted
without our host, for our animals had scarcely been watered when the
enemy returned to the conflict. The horses of the cavalry were again
placed in the "Adobe Walls," which were elevated enough to protect them
from the rifle balls of the enemy, and the fight was soon at its height.

About the middle of the afternoon, Carson concluded to return to the
Kiowa village that we had passed through in the morning, contrary to the
wishes of his officers, who were anxious to advance to the Commanche
village, which was less than a mile in our front. The return column
consisted of the cavalry horses, the number four of each set of fours
leading the other three horses, with the howitzers in the rear, the
dismounted cavalry acting as skirmishers on the front, rear and either
flank. The firing was continued from each side until the village was
reached, when our troops proceeded to destroy it, which was effectually
done before dark.

A further march of about four miles, and the wagon train was reached,
the safety of which had been the subject of much anxiety during the day.
The gun carriages and ammunition carts of Company K were packed with the
wounded on their return from the Kiowa village. A rest was had the next
day, which was sadly needed, as the whole command had been marching and
fighting about twenty-seven hours, on a few broken hard tack and a slice
of salt pork each. The second day after the fight, Carson concluded to
return to Fort Bascom, which post was reached in twenty-one days. Here
the command remained until orders were received from General Carleton,
commanding the department, and Company K was ordered to Fort Union, as
the term of service of nearly all the men had expired. By the first of
February, 1865, all the enlisted men of the company had been mustered
out of service, and Lieutenant Pettis, the last man of his regiment, was
ordered to report to the mustering officer at Santa Fé, with all the
records of his company; and on the fifteenth of February, he was
mustered out of service, and Company K, First Infantry, California
Volunteers, had ceased to exist, having marched on foot during its term
of service four thousand two hundred and forty-five miles.


On pages 6 and 7 read for "General Joe Johnston," General Albert Sidney

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