FRONTIER DUTY

From:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

IWAs a result of the unstable state of affairs in the West, the regiment received orders in October, 1865, to change station to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was then encamped at Monrovia Station, Maryland, following four years of active duty in the Civil War. Having received its complement of recruits, the regiment now had a strength of 34 officers and 876 enlisted men. During October, it was depleted of all horses and was not again provided with them until November, after arriving in the West. The regiment now consisted of a regimental headquarters, a band, and twelve companies, with squadrons of two companies. On October 15 it moved by rail to Parkersburg, West Virginia, at which place it embarked on the steamboats Mariner and Huntsville. Thence it traveled via the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers to Fort Leavenworth, where it arrived November 7. The regiment was not again to be assembled as a unit in one post until the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The troops moved between November 10 and 20, 1865, to frontier posts as follows:

Regt. Hq, Band, and Co. E – Fort Riley, Kansas.
Cos. A, B – Fort Kearney, Nebraska.
Co. C – Fort Hays, Kansas.
Co. D – Fort Lyon, Colorado.
Co. F – Fort Ellsworth (Fort Harker), Kansas.
Cos. G, I – Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Co. H – Pond Creek (Fort Wallace), Kansas.
Co. K – Fort Dodge, Kansas.
Co. L – Fort Larned, Kansas.
Co. M – Fort Aubry, Kansas.

These posts were newly located, offering little shelter to men or animals. It was therefore necessary for the troops to embark upon a building program using soldier labor, especially at Hays, Harker, and Wallace on the Smoky Hill route, and Dodge and Aubry on the Arkansas River. The troops were thus employed in cutting timber, quarrying stone, making adobe bricks, running saw mills, burning brick and lime, and driving wagons.

This was a common way of constructing new posts, and even old posts were provided with new buildings from materials found in the vicinity. Many desertions were thought to be caused by troops doing this kind of work. In addition, enlisted men were used to procure fuel and hay, and to act as gardeners. It was necessary that the troop also do some drilling, guarding, and general police of the post. The men were usually so busy at the various activities that there was little time for drilling and other military work.

During the War of the Rebellion, the Indian question had been largely left in abeyance. It was to keep these people in a peaceful state that the Second Cavalry was now on the Great Plains. In the area where the regiment was to be stationed during the next year the government assembled, in the fall of 1865, the Southern Tribes, consisting of the Southern Cheyennes, Kiowas, Arapahoes, Apaches, and some Comanches, in a grand council at the big bend of the Arkansas in southern Kansas. They made a treaty of peace with the whites, and agreed to allow the government to establish a stage line through their country along the Smoky Hill River to Denver, and not to molest the settlers.

This treaty was soon broken through repeated attacks upon the stage lines and settlers. Accordingly, it was decided to send a commissioner among the Indians in February to make another treaty. Companies K and L, under Captain G. A. Gordon, were selected to act as escort to the meeting place, which was on Bluff Creek. The same peaceful treaty was again signed as the year before. It was not broken until after the regiment left the Department of the Missouri later in the year of 1866.

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