Fort Jesup

As the war with the Seminoles began to wind down, the Regiment was repositioned in Louisiana, which formed part of the eastern frontier of the Louisiana Purchase. This was the Regiment’s first posting in the state of Louisiana.

In October 1842, Company’s A, D, E, F, and G were ordered to move to Fort Jesup, Louisiana, and Fort Towson, Arkansas. The remaining Companies worked to improve their positions and to scout for the last band of hostile Indians in Florida. Upon completion of their tasks in Florida, these Company’s went to Louisiana, where the entire Regiment assembled. Headquarters were at Fort Jesup and additional postings were to the Arkansas Territory and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In August 1842 Congress passed a resolution to dismount the Regiment as a cost-saving measure, and it was reconstituted as a Regiment of Riflemen. The Secretary of War noted in his report of 1842 that dismounting the Regiment saved very little money. It was also pointed out that the distances along the frontier and the mounted Indian tribes of the area necessitated more mounted formations. In March of 1843 the Regiment was re-mounted and again designated as the Second Dragoons.

Fort Jesup was home to the Dragoons for four years. They patrolled the border between the United States and the Republic of Texas while providing security along the famous El Camino Real, which took travelers from Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Nacogdoches, Texas. Life for the Regiment at Fort Jesup was a nice change from the deprivations of service in Florida. Twiggs established a steam-powered sawmill at the Fort to begin an extensive building program. (Visitors to the historic site of Fort Jesup, six miles east of Many, Louisiana, can see some of the original buildings of this frontier post.)

Following a period of temporary duty in Europe, one Captain William J. Hardee briefly armed several of the Dragoon’s Company’s with lances. An Inspector General’s report said at the time that the unit was the “best drilled” outfit in the entire Army. In 1836 the Republic of Texas was established after fighting for its independence from Mexico. For the next decade, Mexico refused to recognize Texas’ independence and made sporadic attempts to recover its lost province. The country along the border was in constant turmoil as a result of these extremely ruthless raids. On March 1, 1845, Congress resolved to admit Texas into the Union. The Mexican Government promptly broke off diplomatic relations with Washington.

President James K. Polk continued to hope that the situation could reach a negotiated settlement. Not only did he wish to resolve the issue of the annexation of Texas, but he also wished to purchase additional Mexican territory extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Negotiations were further complicated by a long unresolved dispute regarding the southern border of Texas. Spain and Mexico maintained that the southern boundary was the Neuces River, while Texas and the United States claimed that the Rio Grande River was the international border. In anticipation of hostilities, Brevet Brigadier General Zachary Taylor assembled an “Army of Observation” at Fort Jesup.

2 Replies to “Fort Jesup”

  1. There is a William B. Kirkwood enlisted by Lt. Asheton October 3, 1839 and discharged April 5, 1843. It is noted that the discharge was “by Order P.O.No. 203.907. Aug 13/56.” What is the discharge designation?
    He was a farrier and blacksmith. Coming from Scotland as a designer and builder of farm machinery his main employment in Scotland had been as a blacksmith.

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    1. The P.O. No. is his pension order number, granted August 13, 1856. He was discharged by order April 5, 1843 because he was a farrier/blacksmith. The 2d Regiment of Dragoons was redesignated Regiment of Riflemen March 5, 1843 and all their horses were taken away to save money, so they didn’t need farriers and blacksmiths. A year later Congress decided they weren’t saving any money that way so they remounted and Regiment of Riflemen and designated them 2d Dragoons again.

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