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.
Word was received by Lieutenant Colonel Cooke at Fort Union, New Mexico, on March 31, 1854, of the repulse of Lieutenant Davidson, First Dragoons. The Jicarillo Apaches had combined to assemble about 200 warriors and attacked the company of the First, which had sixty men. After a desperate fight of three hours, Davidson was forced to withdraw with the remnant of his company, having over thirty-five killed and seventeen wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Cooke organized an expedition at once to pursue the hostiles. This force was made up of Company H, Second Dragoons, a detachment of the First Dragoons, and a company of the Second Artillery, and was joined at Fort Burgwin by some more men of the First Dragoons and about thirty New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians as scouts under the famous Kit Carson, who was now Indian agent for the Apaches. This force of 189 men followed the savages over deep snows and along the edge of frightful precipices until April 8, when the enemy was overtaken in a good defensive position in the canon of Ojo Caliente.
The artillery company, who were serving as riflemen, and the scouts formed skirmishers to the front and attacked at once. Lieutenant Bell, with Company H, Second Dragoons, passed at a gallop to the right flank of the enemy, climbed a mountain and began firing upon the Indians from above. This action threw them into a panic and they began to withdraw. The reserves were then sent in pursuit at once and the retreat became a panic. It was found later this force numbered 150 warriors under Chief Chacon and they lost about five killed and six wounded, while the soldiers lost one killed and one wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Cooke pursued them for three days in severe cold and deep snow, but after the Indians split into small groups or bands he decided to give up the chase and return. This tribe of Apaches were humbled by the fight and soon sued for peace. Lieutenant Colonel Cooke had the following to say about Company H in this combat:
“But it would be injustice to pass over the fact that the handsome charge of Lieutenant Bell, in which the superior instruction and discipline of his company seconded him well, and the fortunate position which they took – penetrating the enemy’s line – had the effect of striking him with panic, and perhaps decided the victory at the first blow. I commend this, his second distinguished service under my orders, to the most favorable consideration.”