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 companies sent north to recuperate from the Florida campaign were finally brought together at Camp Washington, Trenton, New Jersey, for an inspection and review in October, 1839. Inspector General Wool and Colonel Twiggs went over the men thoroughly and pronounced them fit for field service. At this time the only arm of the privates was the carbine, but General Wool recommended the sword and it was later adopted. Regimental Headquarters and band and the six companies sailed from Fort Columbus, New York, in November, and arrived at Garey’s Ferry, east Florida, via Savannah, Georgia, the same month. Colonel Twiggs took station with the headquarters and band at Fort Heileman, east Florida, and the companies were placed at strategic points on the Atlantic side of the territory.
On April 10, 1840, Captain B.L. Beall received word that the express rider carrying the mail from Fort Cross to Tampa Bay had been murdered. Moving out promptly with Company I, he followed the Indians through the night and the next day, coming upon them that evening as they were making camp. In the pursuit the Indian chief, Waxehadjo, took to the nearby pond. The dragoons pursued him into the water, where he dived beneath the surface. He was soon found holding to the grass at the bottom of the marsh and in the ensuing struggle was killed.
General W.R. Armistead relieved General Taylor in command of the troops in Florida, May 6, 1840. Expeditions were dispatched through the swamps in various directions, in many of which the companies of the Second Dragoons took part. Later in the year the headquarters of the army was moved from San Augustine to Fort Brooke, Tampa, Florida, in order to be nearer the scene of most of the activities. When General Armistead took command there was an aggregate of 4,941 officers and men in Florida, including the sick, composed of the Second Dragoons, the Third Artillery, and the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infantry regiments. During the month of December, 1840, Lieutenant Colonel Harney commanded an expedition into the Everglades made up of ninety men from Companies A, B, D, F, H, and K, Second Dragoons, and the Third Artillery. Borrowing canoes from the navy, the party entered the swamps December 4, carrying with them twenty-five days’ rations of meat and bread, and fifty rounds of ammunition for each man. They traveled quietly from one island to another in the area where some of the Indians now lived. It was found that this was the same tribe that massacred thirteen men of the detachment at the trading house on July 23, 1839, when Colonel Harney made his miraculous escape. Some of the property belonging there was found among these Indians. From December 7 to 10, the detachment pursued the savages from one island to another, capturing many women and children and generally hanging the men for their attack on the trading house. In the fight at the island where the chief, Chekika, lived, the troops surprised the Indians and killed one, capturing two warriors and several women and children. The chief was pursued several miles by Corporal Lewellin, Third Artillery, and Private Hall, Second Dragoons, and was finally killed by Hall. In the attack by Lieutenant Ord and a small group on December 9, several warriors signified their willingness to surrender, and approached holding out white flags. When within forty yards of the soldiers, the savages fired, killing one, and wounding one of the men. The detachment was then forced to retire to a hummock until the arrival of reenforcements, when the fight was renewed with success. The expedition reached the head of Shark River and descended to the sea by that stream, returning to the post via Indian Key.
On December 18, 1840, there occurred the massacre of Lieutenant Sherwood, with a detachment of eleven men of the Seventh Infantry, and Mrs. Montgomery. Shortly afterward these Indians under the chief Cosa Tustenugge assembled at Pilaklikaha for a conference with the authorities. Suddenly a scouting party of the Second Dragoons fired upon them, capturing the entire band. They were held until June and shipped to Arkansas on the 20th of that month. The capture of this band is justified by the fact that the Indians had repeatedly asked for parleys in order to get supplies or to watch for a chance to attack by treachery.