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.
Having been organized pursuant to G.O. No. 80, W.D., November 30, 1836, Companies E, F, G, and H left Fort Columbus, N.Y., December 27, on the transport America for Fort Monroe, Virginia, where they picked up Companies A and I. After stopping on the way at Charleston, S.C., the transport arrived at the mouth of the St. Johns River in east Florida about the middle of January, 1837. Company A now took station at Fort Micanopy; Company E, at Fort Mellon; Companies F, G, and H at Fort Call; and Company I at Fort Heileman, all in east Florida. Company D, which was already a veteran organization when the other companies arrived, had been stationed at Fort Heileman, east Florida, since August, 1836.
Shortly after reaching Florida, Companies A, E, F, G, H, and I began active operations. On February 8, 1837, about 200 Indians under Coacoochee attacked Camp Monroe (Fort Mellon), east Florida, thinking the garrison was weak. Companies E, F, G, and H, Second Dragoons, were stationed there at this time under Lieutenant Colonel Harney, along with some artillery. The enemy threw a ring of skirmishers around the little fort on the landward side, reaching from the shore of Lake Monroe on one side to the shore on the other side. Although most of the soldiers were recruits, they soon became steady under fire. The contest lasted about three hours, when the enemy was severely repulsed and withdrew. Six men of the Second Dragoons were wounded in this fight, which was the first these companies had experienced. Much praise was bestowed upon officers and men for their gallant conduct.
Camp Monroe, on Lake Monroe, Florida.
February 9, 1837.
GENERAL-“On yesterday morning, a little before daylight, we were aroused by a warwhoop all around us. The enemy’s right rested on the lake above us, and his line extended round our front, his left resting on the lake below. Our men sprang to their breastworks. A sharp contest ensued. Second Lieutenant Thomas was directed to go on board the Santee (steamboat), serve the six-pounder, and direct his fire upon the right of the enemy. Our flank in that direction was soon cleared. The enemy pertinaciously hung upon our front and right flank for nearly three hours, and then retired, wearied of the contest. Our men, being recruits, at first wasted a great deal of ammunition, and it was with much difficulty the officers prevented them from throwing away their shots. They soon, however, became collected, and in the end behaved extremely well. In fact, the enemy was handsomely repulsed. The extensive fire of the enemy, and the traces he has left behind show him to have been about from three to four hundred in force.
The brave Captain Mellon, of the Second Regiment of Artillery, a few minutes after the combat commenced, received a ball in his breast, and fell dead at his post. We last night gave to his remains all we could give, our tears and a “soldier’s gave.” Captain Mellon entered the service at the commencement of the last war with England, and has ever since remained in it. He has left no property, and I know he has left a widow and four children to deplore his loss. [Their pension will be but twenty-five dollars per month for five years. Now I think too well of my countrymen to believe it is their will that this should be the limit of the nation’s gratitude.]
Passed-Midshipman McLaughlin, serving with the army, ready by my side to convey orders, received a ball in his breast. The surgeon cannot yet pronounce his fate, but has strong hopes of his recovery. This gentleman had charge of the supplies for the detachment, as well as of those for the army expected here. He has performed his duties with great zeal and ability. On every occasion of apparent danger, I have found him on the spot, ready to perform any service of hazard. Let us hope he may yet live to grace the profession he has chosen.
On examining the ground, we found no dead enemies, yet we found several trails, apparently made by the dragging off of the dead bodies. We also found several belts and straps covered with blood, a small pouch of bullets, and some scalping-knives. It is most probable the enemy suffered more than ourselves. It is true that we are without the trophies of victory; but this is no reason that the officer whom I have had the honor to command and whose gallant bearing I have witnessed, should not receive honorable mention. Lieutenant-Colonel Harney, commanding the four companies of dragoons, displayed during the contest the greatest boldness and vigor, and inspired his newly enlisted men with great confidence. With the officers of his battalion I have every reason to be well satisfied. My eye was upon every one, and I discovered nothing but firmness and confidence in all. In justice to them their names must be mentioned: Captain Gordon, Captain Bean, First Lieutenant John Graham, First Lieutenant Blake, Second Lieutenant McNeil, Second Lieutenant Thornton, Second Lieutenant Kingsbury, and Second Lieutenant May.
On the fall of Captain Mellon, Captain Vinton, of the Third Artillery, assumed the command of the two companies of artillery. I have long known his great military attainments; on this occasion I witnessed his conduct and courage. First Lieutenant Davidson took the command of Mellon’s company during the engagement. It could not have fallen into better hands. I have already spoken of the service rendered by Second Lieutenant Thomas, of the Fourth Artillery. He has always volunteered his services on every dangerous scouting party. Lieutenant Piercy, of the navy, captain of the friendly Indians, with his Indian force, fought among the regular troops; and he is always foremost in danger. He has at all times volunteered his services for any difficult or hazardous enterprise.
Assistant-Surgeon Laub dressed the wounded under the fire of the enemy. In fact, I have never seen the sick soldier more promptly or faithfully attended to, than since this detachment left Volusia. Lieutenant Dusenberry, quartermaster to the expedition, had been sent previously to the attack to Volusia, and could not be present at the time. His duties have been very arduous, and he has discharged them with vigor, zeal, and ability. Paddy Carr, the Creek chief, fought well. He has generally headed the scouting-parties, and had performed those laborious and dangerous duties with great promptitude and cheerfulness.
I cannot end this letter without publicly expressing my thanks to Captains Brooks and Peck, of the steamboats Santee and Essayons. They have unhesitatingly pushed their boats through difficult channels, and unknown waters, into the heart of the enemy’s country. I must be pardoned this prolixity. If I have mentioned all, it is because all deserve mention. Never was officer, charged with a delicate and hazardous enterprise, served with more zeal and promptitude.
You will herewith receive official lists of the killed and wounded. To the wounded, Passed-Midshipman McLaughlin should be added. The “John Stoney” is just arrived. Lieutenant Dusenberry hands me a letter from Lieutenant Chambers, aid-de-camp. By this I learn that hostilities are to cease for the present, and that this detachment is directed to fall back upon Volusia.
Report of the killed and wounded in the affair with the Seminole Indians at Camp Munroe, Florida, on the morning of the 8th of February, 1837: Killed: Captain Charles Mellon, of the 2d Regiment of Artillery. Wounded: Fifteen; Passed-Midshipman J. T. McLaughlin of the navy; one corporal and two privates of E, two privates of G, and one of H Companies, 2d Dragoons – 6; one sergeant and three privates of C Company, 2d Artillery, and four privates of B Company, 3d Artillery – 8.
I have the honor to be, etc., etc.,
A. C. W. FANNING,
Brevet Lt.-Col. Commanding Detachment.