History Mormon Battalion Chapter 04 Section A


Departure of Elders on Missions-Sickness-Start From Fort Leavenworth-Henry Standage Lost-News of Col. Kane’s Sickness-a Severe Storm-Feast of Honey-Ancient Ruins-Sanford Porter Healed in Answer to Prayer-Wagon Overturned in a Creek-Colonel Allen’s Death-Death of Jane and John Bosco

On the 8th of July Elders Orson Hyde, John Taylor and J. C. Little took leave of the Battalion at Fort Leavenworth and proceeded on their missions.

The first Sunday spent by the Battalion at Fort Leavenworth was observed by holding religious service. Elder Geo. P. Dykes preached a kind of military and gospel sermon, which was his usual style on such occasions.

The weather at this time was extremely warm, the thermometer indicating 101′ in the shade and 135′ in the sun. Some of those who had taken sick on the road were much improved, but a number of new cases of sickness from ague and fever were developed while in garrison. Sergeant Wm. Hyde was among the number. Jonathan Pugmire, Jr., of company E, (recently Bishop’s Agent of Bear Lake Stake of Zion, and lately deceased) was also taken seriously ill with fever. In writing of this, under date of April 25, 1878, he said: “At Leavenworth I was detailed to do blacksmithing, that being my trade. Having no conveniences of a shop, I had to work out of doors, under the scorching heat of an August sun, the rays of which, reflected from a bed of limestone, made the heat almost unbearable. Just as I finished the last wheel and gave the last stroke of the hammer, I fell to the ground in a raging fever, and had to be carried to my tent. For my services as blacksmith up to date I have not received a cent. I still feel the effects more or less of the sickness thus contracted. I had to be hauled a considerable portion of the way to Santa Fe, and the fever being intense, I suffered severely for want of water.”

This case is a sample of many, so far as fevers and suffering for want of water are concerned, as our water was generally carried in canteens and flagons, hanging from straps over the shoulders of the men. Col. Allen was taken seriously ill after our arrival at Fort Leavenworth, and as there seemed to be no improvement in his case while we remained there, he instructed the senior Captain, Jefferson Hunt, to advance with the command while he would remain there to recruit and complete the business pertaining to outfitting the Battalion.

On the 12th, companies A., B. and C, took up the line of march for Santa Fe, and traveled that day five miles, finding only poor water and but little of it, which made it very bad for the sick, several of whom had raging fevers. One of company B’s wagons also broke down.

On the 3rd, Henry Standage traveled ahead of his company, and was not heard from until the following day, when he was overtaken, to the infinite joy and relief of himself and friends, as he had been without either food or blankets for almost two days and much anxiety had been caused by his absence.

On the 14th, companies D and E left Leavenworth for Santa Fe, and the same day news was received, by express, through Brother Joseph Matthews, from the Twelve at Council Bluffs, to the effect that Col. Thomas L. Kane was lying at the point of death. We also learned from Brother Matthews that the main body of the Church had crossed the Missouri River, at Sarpee’s Point, and traveled up the west side some fifteen or twenty miles, where they had established Winter Quarters.

On the 15th the advance companies crossed the Kansas or Kaw river, which, at the ferry, was about three hundred yards in width. We were ferried over in flat boats by some half-civilized Delaware and Shawnee Indians who were living there and cultivating the soil. In the evening we reached Spring Creek, where we found more than a dozen springs within twenty yards of each other. We remained at this point two days, during which time a heavy shower of rain fell and we learned that although our tents did us considerable good, they were not as substantial as shingle-roofed houses. The rain spattered through and ran under them, and we were pretty thoroughly drenched. While here, Robert S. Bliss found a bee-tree containing twenty or more pounds of nice honey, which made him and his immediate friends an excellent repast.

It was intended to remain longer at Spring Creek, but our beef cattle became so troublesome to the crops of the Indians, that the command advanced about four miles, to Stone Coal Creek. Here we were overtaken by companies D and E. After our encampment, a furious hurricane, accompanied by rain, hail, vivid lightning and peals of thunder, like the constant roar of heavy artillery, met us from the west. Before it reached us we beheld in the distance a heavy dark cloud illumined only by the vivid lightning, while our ears were saluted with continuous rolling thunder and the sweeping of the wind. When the storm reached us only five or six out of over one hundred tents were left standing, and it took six men to each tent to hold it. Three wagons were upset, two of which were heavy government baggage wagons; the other, a light two-horse carriage, was slightly injured. Sergeant Wm. Coray’s carriage was driven before the wind about ten rods. The ground was descending to the east. Mrs. Coray was in the carriage when it started, but she preferred exposure to the storm to risking the dangers of being driven in the carriage before the wind, and sprang to the ground, and with womanly dignity and courage took the driving rain and the pelting hail. The author, being unable to stand and brace against the strength of the gale, was driven some twelve or fifteen rods to a patch of willows flattened by the wind like lodged grain, nearly to the ground. He fell to his face, held to the willows with his right hand, and placed his left arm over his head, at the same time pulling the willows over the back of his head to shield it from the pelting hail. His hat, like many others, was blown away at the commencement of the storm. There were many sick in our camp, among whom were Mrs. Celia Hunt, wife of Senior Captain Jefferson Hunt, and her twin babes, who were taken with chills and fever before leaving Fort Leavenworth. They were very sick. The matron lady happened to be in her wagon, while her husband held the babes in the tent, which blew down. With much difficulty the Captain kept the little ones from drowning and suffocating. As everything was wet they were forced to sleep in their wet clothes. Strange to say, with all the exposure, neither the good lady nor her “dear angels,” as she termed her babes, had any more chills and fever. My recollection is that others, also, were cured by this wonderful shower bath. The storm lasted about twenty minutes.

Colonel Sterling Price and his command of cavalry, who left the garrison two days in advance of us, were encamped at Stone Coal Creek, when we arrived there. During the storm his animals were scattered in all directions, and several days were spent in searching before they could be recovered. The result was a portion of Price’s cavalry did not overtake the Battalion until after we arrived at Santa Fe.

The day after the storm we rested and dried our clothes. During the afternoon the Battalion was called together and was addressed by Captain Hunt, Corporal Daniel Tyler, Musician Levi W. Hancock and Sergeant Wm. Hyde respectively An excellent spirit prevailed, and all seemed to appreciate the remarks. Three persons were also baptized for their health and one for the remission of sins.

R. S. Bliss, the Nimrod of the Battalion, here found another bee-tree, and provided another treat for himself and friends.

While at this place two pieces of artillery, a blacksmith forge and six or eight wagons loaded with ammunition for Kearney’s Brigade, passed us.

On the 21st Adjutant Dykes arrived from the garrison, and brought word that Col. Allen was still very sick. Many prayers ascended to God for his recovery. He was universally beloved by the command. Our hospital wagon also arrived.

On the 22nd the Battalion left Stone Coal Creek, or, as it was called, by the command, “Hurricane Point,” and had traveled but a short distance when we came to a small stream which was very difficult to cross. Long ropes were fastened to the wagons on each side, with ten to fifteen men to each rope to aid the teams in crossing. All were over about noon. After traversing a fine prairie of rich bottom land, we camped at night at Allen’s Grove. The sick were much improved in health.

During our next day’s travel we passed an old stone wall, some five feet thick. Ruins of an ancient city were also plainly visible, showing that the country must have been inhabited sometime long ages past by a civilized people. Sanford Porter, of company E, was taken sick while traveling this day, and fell behind the command. He suffered so intensely that he thought he must die; but while alone he summoned all his faith and called upon the Lord in fervent prayer, asking that his life might be spared if there was any further work for him to do. In an instant all pain left him and he was as vigorous and healthful as he ever had been in his life.

On the 24th we traveled over a district of country, which, if cultivated, would make excellent farms. Parties who had worked in the precious metals, also, thought they saw strong indications of lead ore along our route. We nooned at Schwitzer’s Creek, and at night camped on Beaver Creek.

On the 25th, three yoke of oxen being lost, John G. Smith and others remained and hunted for, but did not find them. The command moved on and while nooning the camp was visited by a number of Kaw Indians, who afterwards followed us some distance. During the afternoon we met Bro. McKenzie, who had been to Bent’s Fort as Indian interpreter to General S. F. Kearney. Several letters were sent back by him to anxious friends.

On the following day, while crossing a creek, one of company C’s wagons was upset in the stream, containing six or seven sick men and a number of women. The water was several feet deep, and the banks high. The men who were on the banks jumped into the stream and pulled the inmates from the wagon. All of them were completely immersed and some were strangling as they were unable to get their heads above water. Among those who assisted in clearing the wagon was the author of this narrative. Being overheated from traveling, as well as exhausted by his efforts to rescue the parties from a watery grave and to turn the wagon right side up, he contracted a severe cold and fever which resulted in chronic catarrh and other afflictions, from which he still suffers.

The lost oxen were recovered and Sergeant Shelton overtook the command and brought the painful news of the death of our highly esteemed and much loved Colonel, James Allen, who departed this life at 6 o’clock a. m. of the 23rd day of August, 1846.

On the 28th some Santa Fe traders brought and delivered to us Sergeant Hyde’s pony, which he had lost several days previously, in consequence of which he had, while still in very poor health, been compelled to walk about seventy miles.

The same day an aged English lady by the name of Jane Bosco, who was traveling in company with Captain Hunt, died, and her husband, John Bosco-not a soldier-died before daylight the next morning. Thus they gained an oft-repeated wish, that neither should be left to mourn the loss of the other. They were very highly respected. They were buried in one grave, and a dry substantial stone wall was built around and over the tomb, under the supervision of Elisha Averett, to mark their last resting place and to shield their bodies from the wolves. The covering was of good but unpolished flat rock.

On the 29th, Adjutant Dykes preached the funeral sermon of the lamented Colonel, James Allen. Senior Captain Jefferson Hunt also made some very appropriate remarks on the occasion. We also learned of a row in a camp of Missouri volunteers not far distant from ours, in which one soldier shot and mortally wounded another.

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