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.
Pursuant to orders from the Department headquarters at San Antonio, Captain Hardee organized an expedition against the Indians in July, 1850. He directed Captain Oakes with G Company to move down the left bank of the Frio River, Captain Wallace with his company of Texas volunteers to move down the right bank of the Nueces, and with Company C, he scoured the country between the two rivers. Company G came upon a camp of a small party of Indians July 11 and killed two and captured twenty-one horses and all of the equipment. This manner of combing the country was kept up all summer by Captain Hardee.
As soon as one expedition was finished another started, usually in small groups of about one company, with all moving at the same time over a given area. This method of sweeping the ground met with success as various detachments of the force met the hostiles several times. On August 12, Captain Oakes was severely wounded in a fight with a party of Indians, but he killed three and captured a number of horses. Lieutenant Tyler of C Company, while guarding Fort Inge in the absence of the troops, heard of a fresh trail of Indians nearby. Following them to the Nueces he came upon a party of thirty strong, well posted. He charged at the head of ten men, killed two, wounded several, and captured much property.
CAPTAIN HARDEE’S REPORT
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
September 14, 1850
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of troops under my command in a campaign against the Indians, made in obedience to Orders No. 27, of June 4, 1850.
On the receipt of your order, I concentrated Captain Oakes’ company, 2d Dragoons, and Captain Wallace’s company, Texas volunteers, at Fort Inge: and, on the 23d of the same month, made the following disposition for a combined movement on Fort Merrill: I directed Captain Oakes to move down the left bank of the Rio Frio: Wallace to move down the right bank of the Nueces: while I moved, in person between these rivers, crossing the Nueces about 25 miles from Fort Merrill. At the same time, I sent a detachment of Wallace’s company, under Lieutenant Brady, direct to Loredo, with instructions to the mounted company at the post to examine the country north of the San Antonio and Loredo road; while Brady was directed to examine the country south of the same road, and report at Fort Merrill. The mounted company at Loredo was ordered to return to its post after making the scout above indicated. Oakes reached Fort Merrill on the 3d July, Wallace and myself on the 5th, and Brady on the 9th. No Indians or recent signs of Indians were seen by either of these columns. Captain Grumbles, who had been directed to make a scout to Arkansas Bay and Refugio and report to me at Fort Merrill, informed me, in writing, that he had not been able to make this scout, on account of excessive rains. I immediately ordered a part of his command, under Lieutenant Gouch, to the mouth of the Cibolo, to protect the settlements on the San Antonio, while I directed Lieutenant Bagby and thirty men to join me for active service.
On the 8th of July, news having reached me that the Indians had committed depredations near Corpus Christi, I immediately dispatched Captain Wallace to the point specified, with directions to take up the trail and to follow the Indians wherever they might go. At the same time, I dispatched Captain Oakes across the country to Loredo, in the hope that he might intercept their trail, should the Indians have gone above. By Captain Oakes I forwarded orders to the companies on the Rio Grande, giving such instructions for scouts as to insure a combined movement of all troops under my command. Wallace returned to Fort Merrill without finding the Mexican who was reported to have been killed, or without seeing any signs of the Indians. Oakes, after following a trail of Indians for two days, came upon a camp of a small party of Indians on the 11th. He succeeded in killing two, and in capturing twenty-one horses, one mule, with a number of saddles, bows, arrows, etc. – leaving the Indians who escaped in a perfectly destitute condition. On the 18th July, the troops under my command were directed to make the following scouts, concentrating at Fort McIntosh: Captain Granger, 1st Infantry, with a detachment of Captain Grumbles’ company, under Lieut. Bagby, was directed to move on Loma Blanca, from which point they were to divide – the former to return to Fort Merrill by the way of the settlements on the Aqua Dulce and the Oso, while Lieutenant Bagby was directed to move through the country to Fort McIntosh; Wallace was directed to move up the Nueces to Espantosa Lake; Brady to move through the country by the most direct route to Fort McIntosh; while I was to reach the same point by passing up the Nueces. Ford, who was at the San Antonio Wells, made a scout on the Rio Grande; while Captain Oakes and Lieutenant Holabird made scouts respectively to the south and north of Loredo and San Antonio road. In connection with this movement, and at my request, scouts were sent out from Ringgold Barracks and Fort Duncan in the direction of Loredo – so that ten columns, each column pursuing a different direction, were moving simultaneously between the Nueces and Rio Grande. In this movement, Captain Ford pursued and drove a small party of Indians across the Rio Grande; they barely reached the opposite bank in time to save themselves.
Captain Wallace, in the execution of orders, met with a considerable body of Indians on the left bank of the Nueces. They attacked him, and in the encounter Wallace reports to have killed seven Indians, wounded nine, and to have had three of his own command wounded. None of the other parties met with Indians. I reached Loredo on the 27th, and, as soon as I could get my command together, I made arrangements for another movement across the country. I directed Captain Oakes to move down the San Roque to the Nueces, and from thence to proceed through the country to his post on the Rio Seco. I directed Captain Ford to pass down on the right, and Lieut. Walker, the 1st lieutenant of his company, to pass down on the left bank of the Raices. Lieutenant Brady was ordered to examine the country about the great Comanche crossing on the Nueces, to pass that stream, examine the Frio, and to join me at Fort Merrill. Lieutenant Underwood was directed to scout about the junction of the Nueces and Frio, to examine the right bank of the former river for about sixty miles, to make a circle to his left, and to return to his post by way of the Laguna Trinidad. With Lieutenant Bagby and my own command, I left Fort McIntosh to examine the country below, extending from the lower Albuquerque to Corpus Christi.
Captain Oakes was again fortunate in finding a small party of Indians. He killed three and captured a number of horses, etc., but I regret to say was himself severely wounded. Lieutenant Tyler, of my company, who had been left at Fort Inge during my absence, on learning that the Indians fought by Captain Wallace had not probably left the lower country, united a part of his command with that of Captain McCown, and went out in pursuit of them. He overtook them on the Nueces, about eighty miles above the Leona. He charged them gallantly, at the head of ten men, killed two, wounded some and dispersed the remainder. Much booty, consisting of horses, shot-pouches, etc., was left in the hands of the victors. Before arriving at Corpus Christi, at the Pero Chalco, I met Lieutenant Bagby in the direction of the coast, while I went in person direct to that point.
After resting a few days at Corpus Christi, I again left that place, with a view of making a thorough examination of the country in the neighborhood. On the 20th, I despatched Lieutenant Bagby to examine to the Oso, the Alazan to the coast, thence to the San Gertrude, and up that river to Fort Merrill. On the 21st, I left to examine the Aqua Dulce, the Presenos, the Olmos, the Laquarta, and the Ramariania.
I reached Fort Merrill on the 27th, Lieutenant Bagby on the 26th. Neither of us discovered any Indians, or recent signs of Indians. On the 31st, I left Fort Merrill for Fort Inge, in obedience to your order, to resume the command of that post. I reached Fort Inge on the 6th of September.
The country between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, extending from Wool’s road to the coast, is for the most part a barren prairie, with but little water and timber. A portion of this country is entirely destitute of water, and in other parts it is only to be found in water holes, sometimes at great distances, difficult to find, and not always furnishing an abundant or a good supply.
The absence of shade trees rendered the heat very oppressive at times. The thermometer ranged from 94 to 107 in the shade; and this heat was the more sensible felt, as my men and horses were sometimes from 24 to 36 hours without water. The Indians disperse themselves over the country in small bands, prowl around the settlements, awaiting a favorable moment to murder and rob, and, having accomplished their object, they speedily cross the Rio Grande and elude pursuit, or fly with speed to their homes in the upper country. It is difficult, nay, impossible, to overtake and punish any of the parties, when they become aware of pursuit. If in danger of being overtaken, they scatter, and, each pursuing a different route to some remote point, they effectually baffle the skill of the most experienced trailers. My object has been, as far as circumstances would permit, to push my scouts through unfrequented parts of the country, to take up the trails where Indians least expected to be pursued, to follow these trails cautiously and quietly, and in this way take them by surprise.
If the Indians stop anywhere in the lower country to recruit and rest their horses, they do so, I believe, either on the Arroyes Las Raices and San Roque or about some of the large lakes on the Nueces; and in this connection I would respectfully recommend that a company of volunteers should be stationed near the junction of the Las Raices with the Nueces. Either this should be done or Loredo should be reinforced with two additional companies, so that the mounted force at that point may be at least equal to one hundred and fifty men. I judge also that good policy, if not necessity, requires that a garrison of regular troops should be stationed at Corpus Christi. In this neighborhood are many Mexicans whose business is to hunt the wild mustangs on the prairies. They are for the most part men of bad character; they live like Indians, dress like them, and I fear resemble them in many other points.
It affords me great pleasure to notice the effective cooperation which I received from Captain Granger and Lieutenants Underwood and Holabird, of the 1st Infantry, and from Captain Oakes of the 2d Dragoons. The latter met Indians twice. He is an officer full of zeal, intelligence, and gallantry; and I would especially recommend him to the favorable consideration of the commanding general.
The volunteers, with a few exceptions, evinced much energy and intelligence, and obeyed my orders; but in irregular cavalry, where the horses are owned by the volunteers, it must be expected that they will consider the preservation of their animals as paramount to other considerations.
With much respect, I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,
W. J. HARDEE,
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel U. S. A.
To Major GEO. DEAS, Assistant Adjutant General,
Headquarters 8th Military Department,
San Antonio, Texas.
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTH MILITARY DEPARTMENT,
San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 16, 1850
GEO. DEAS, Assistant Adjutant General.