History Mormon Battalion Chapter 15 Section A


Lieutenant Willis Sent Back With the Sick-Only Five Days’ Rations for a Journey of 300 Miles-Ox Mired and Killed-Oxen Providentially Provided-Death of Elijah Freeman and Richard Carter-Wagons Exchanged for Pack Animals-Sickness of Men-Left on the Way-a Severe Journey-Snow Four Feet Deep-Arrival At Pueblo-Condition of Men-Gilbert Hunt Sent Back for the Sick-Sad Death of Coleman

On the 10th, it was decided that a detachment of fifty-five sick men, under command of Lieutenant W. W. Willis, be sent back to Pueblo, by way of Santa Fe, to winter. The Colonel ordered that they be furnished with twenty-six days’ rations, allowing ten ounces of flour per day-eighteen ounces being the usual soldier’s ration. It appears though, that through some mistake, probably an oversight in loading the wagon, this amount was not taken.

Following are the names of those who accompanied Lieutenant Willis:
Company a

1 Bevan James

2 Calkins Alva

3 Curtis Josiah

4 Carl James C.

5 Frederick David

6 Hewett Eli B.

7 Maxwell Maxey

8 Wriston Isaac N.

9 Woodworth Lysander
Company B

1 Bybee John

2 Bingham Thomas

3 Camp James

4 Church Hayden W.

5 Clark George S.

6 Eastman Marcus

7 Hinkley Arza E
Company C

1 Blackburn Abner

2 Brimhall John

3 Babcock Lorenzo

4 Burt William

5 Dunn James

6 Johnston Jesse

7 Rust William W.

8 Richmond Benjamin

9 Shipley Joseph

10 Squires William, Corp.

11 Thomas Nathan

12 Welsh Madison
Company D

1 Badlam Samuel

2 Compton Allen

3 Higgins Alfred

4 Hoagland Lucas

5 Mecham Erastus D.

6 Stuart James

7 Stuart Benjamin

8 Tubbs William R.

9 Tippetts John H.

10 Thomas Haywood

11 Dalton Edward

12 Dalton Harry
Company E

1 Brazier Richard Sergt.

2 Burns Thomas R.

3 Brown Daniel

4 Cazier John

5 Cazier James

6 McLelland William E. (or McClellan)

7 Richardson Thomas

8 Wilson George

9 Sheen Joseph

10 Woolsey Thomas

Lieutenant Willis, writing from memory of the incidents of the Battalion, says:

“Active preparations now commenced to carry into effect the Colonel’s orders, and by 4 o’clock of the same day we had collected of invalids fifty-six, one big government wagon, four yoke of poor cattle, five days’ rations and two dressed sheep, as food for the sick. Our loading for the one wagon consisted of the clothing, blankets, cooking utensils, tents and tent poles, muskets, equipage, and provisions, and all invalids who were unable to walk. With some difficulty I obtained a spade or two and a shovel, but was provided with no medicines or other necessaries for the sick except the mutton before referred to, and only five days’ rations, to travel near three hundred miles.

“Thus armed and equipped we commenced our lonesome march, retracing our steps to Santa Fe. We marched the same day about two miles and were visited by Captain Hunt and others at night, who spoke words of comfort to us and blessed us, administering the Church ordinance to the sick, and bidding us God speed. They left us the next day.

“We resumed our march, camping in the evening near some springs. One yoke of our oxen got mired in the mud. We took off the yoke when one got out. The other we undertook to pull out with a rope and unfortunately broke his neck. Our team was now too weak for our load. In the night Brother John Green died, and we buried him by the side of Brother James Hampton.

“What to do for a team we did not know. This was a dark time, and many were the earnest petitions that went up to our God and Father for Divine aid.

“The next morning we found with our oxen a pair of splendid young steers, which was really cheering to us. We looked upon it as one of the providences of our Father in heaven. Thus provided for, we pursued our march. We traveled two days without further accident.

“During the night of the 25th of November, Elijah Freeman was taken very ill. We hauled him next day in our wagon and could distinctly hear his groans to the head of our little column. We lay by next day for his benefit. It was very cold and snowy. Next day we resumed our march, but were forced to stop the wagon for our afflicted comrade to die. After his death we resumed our march until the usual time of camping when we buried the corpse. Richard Carter also died the same night and we buried him by the side of Brother Freeman. Their graves are four miles south of Secora, on the Rio Grande.

“We continued our march to Albuquerque, where we presented our orders for assistance to Captain Burgwin, of Kearney’s brigade. He gave me five dollars, cash, and the privilege of exchanging our heavy wagon for a lighter one. I had fuel and everything to buy, and spent $66.00 of my own private money before reaching Santa Fe, which was, as near as I can recollect, about the 25th of November.

“On my arrival at that place, General Price, commander of the post, ordered me to Pueblo, on the Arkansas river. He also ordered Quartermaster McKissock to furnish us with the necessary provisions, mules, etc. I obtained from the Quartermaster ten mules and pack-saddles, ropes and other fixtures necessary for packing. With this outfit we had to perform a journey of about three hundred miles, over the mountains, and in the winter.

“Packing was new business to us, and at first we were quite awkward. This was about the 5th of December. The first day we marched about ten miles. Here we gave Brother Brazier, who was too sick to travel, a mule, and left Thomas Burns to wait upon him and follow, when he got able, to a Mr. Turley’s, where I designed leaving those who were unable to cross the mountains.

“The next day we traveled about twenty miles and camped on a beautiful stream of water where we had to leave one broke-down mule. The day after, we marched about fifteen miles, and camped in a Spanish town. Here Alva Calkins, at his own request, remained to await the arrival of Brothers Brazier and Burns. About ten inches of snow fell that day, and the next day it snowed until about noon, after which we marched ten or twelve miles and hired quarters of a Spaniard. Here the men bought bread, onions, pork, etc., from their own private means. Brother William Coleman was seized with an unnatural appetite, and ate to excess. In the night we were all awakened by his groans. Dr. Rust gave him a little tincture of lobelia, the only medicine in camp, which gave him partial relief.

“Continuing our journey, we traveled within about ten miles of Turley’s, Brother Coleman riding on a mule with the aid of two men to help him on and off. The next morning, started early for Mr. Turley’s to make arrangements for the sick. I left my saddle mule for the sick man, with strict instructions to have him brought to that place. On my arrival I made the necessary arrangements, and about noon the company arrived, but to my surprise and regret without Brother Coleman. They said he refused to come. Mr. Turley, on hearing me express my regret and dissatisfaction at his being left, proffered to send his team and carriage to go back next day and bring him in, which offer I accepted, and agreed to pay him for his trouble. I left quite a number of sick with Mr. Turley, paying him out of my own private funds for their rations and quarters, and then traveled about ten miles. At night, strong fears were entertained that the snow was so deep we could not cross the mountains and some resolved not to attempt it, accusing me of rashness. I called the company together and stated the fact to them that I was unauthorized to draw rations except for the journey and other necessaries unless for the sick, and that I was expending my own private money. I also stated that I should carry out my instructions and march to Pueblo to winter, if I had to go alone. I then called for a show of right hands of all who would accompany me. All voted but one, and he fell in afterwards and begged pardon for his opposition.

“We continued our march from day to day, traveling through snow from two to four feet deep, with continued cold, piercing wind. The third day, about noon, we reached the summit of the mountain. Before reaching the top, however, I had to detail a rear guard of the most able-bodied men, to aid and encourage those who began to lag, and felt unable to proceed farther, whilst with others I marched at the head of the column to break the road through enormous snow banks. It was with the greatest exertion that we succeeded, and some were severely frost-bitten. When we got through the banks, to our inexpressible joy, we saw the valley of the Arkansas below, where the ground was bare. The drooping spirits of the men revived, and they soon descended to the plain below, where they were comparatively comfortable. From here the command had good weather and pleasant traveling to Pueblo, their destination for the remainder of the winter.

“We arrived on the 24th of December, and found the detachments of Captains Brown and Higgins as well as could be expected, and enjoying themselves with some comfortable quarters.”

John G. Smith, of Captain Brown’s detachment, gives December 20th as the day upon which the first portion of Willis’ detachment arrived at Pueblo, instead of the 24th, as stated in the narrative of Lieutenant Willis. It is likely that Brother Smith’s date is the correct one; as he kept a daily journal and was very accurate in regard to dates. He states that the men in Willis’ command were haggard and emaciated on their arrival, from the sickness, hunger and fatigue which they had endured.

Lieutenant Willis got Gilbert, son of Captain Jefferson Hunt, who had accompanied the families to this point, to go back to Mr. Turley’s and bring up the sick he had left there. They started on the 27th, and the same day the Lieutenant started for Bent’s Fort, a distance of seventy-five miles. He arrived on the 2nd and was very kindly received by Captain Enos, commander of the post and acting Quartermaster, who furnished sixty days’ rations for the company and transportation to Pueblo with ox teams. On Lieutenant Willis’ return, the detachment went to work, preparing their quarters, each mess to build a log cabin.

About the middle of January Corporal Gilbert Hunt and company returned with all the sick except Brothor Coleman. Mr. Turley forwarded the Lieutenant a letter by Corporal Hunt to the effect that he sent his carriage as agreed upon, but on arriving at the place where Brother Coleman was left, he was not there. The Spaniard reported that after the company had left, in spite of entreaties to the contrary, Brother Coleman, followed on after the company, and it was supposed, after traveling a short distance, he expired, as he was afterwards found dead, by the road-side not far distant.

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