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.
The next service of the Second Dragoons was in the territory of Utah. After this area became a part of the United States as a result of the Mexican War, a territorial government was set up with Brigham Young, who was the supreme head of the Mormon Church, as the first governor. The Mormon population of Utah and Brigham Young himself were so antagonistic toward the federal officials in the territory that it was necessary for them as well as the non-Mormon population to leave the area. The President removed Young as governor, appointed Alfred Cumming in his place, and sent a military expedition to aid the new governor. This expedition was organized at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, under command of Albert Sidney Johnston, Colonel, First Cavalry, in the summer of 1857. The force initially consisted of the Second Dragoons, the Fifth and Tenth Infantry, and a battery of the Fourth Artillery. The following spring it was increased in size by the addition of several regiments.
Companies A, B, C, F, G, and I left Fort Leavenworth for Utah September 17, 1857, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Cooke. They had been given only a week to prepare for the expedition after returning from extensive field service in Kansas. Upon arrival at Fort Kearney, Nebraska, October 5, they took on a supply of hard bread and exchanged some mules. The march to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, was marked by difficulty in keeping the animals in flesh due to the lack of proper grazing. Although Colonel Johnston had been given permission for the regiment to winter at Fort Laramie, it was decided to push on to Utah. Carrying as much corn as possible but otherwise traveling light, they left there October 26. The march was a continual struggle against the elements, sometimes almost destroying the whole force. Through the Rocky Mountains they experienced a succession of blizzards, the temperature ranging much of the time below zero. There was the same dearth of grass, and soon the animals began to die. After a terrific struggle to save man and beast the command reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming, and went into camp near the rest of the expedition. They had lost 134 horses out of 278 and a large number of mules. Companies E and H joined the regiment at Camp Scott, Utah, on November 25.
At this time there was a great shortage of officers for various reasons. The following remarks are noted on the regimental returns:
October, 1857: Captain Campbell has been absent (sick) about six years, has not reported for near three years, and may be dead. [editors note: Captain Campbell would turn up in the Regiment again later]
November: Company H in the field without an officer.
That winter continued to be an unpleasant one for the Second Dragoons. They were assigned the duty of herding in the distant mountain valleys over seven thousand oxen, cattle, and horses belonging to the expedition. These were continually subject to raiding parties by the Mormons. In June, 1858, the regiment marched to Fort Bridger and there joined the main force on its way to Salt Lake City, Utah. This place had been temporarily abandoned by the Mormons when the troops arrived. The latter marched on through the city and established Camp Floyd about forty miles beyond. Meantime, the commissioners were conferring with Brigham Young and peace was established this same month.