History Mormon Battalion Chapter 09 Section A


Rations Reduced-Bones of Mules Found-Ancient Ruins-the Officers and Healthy Men Push on for Santa Fe-Sick Left to Follow Without a Doctor-Style of Milking Spanish Goats-Arrival At Santa Fe-Partiality Shown the Battalion By General Doniphan-Glimpse At Missouri Persecutions

To add to the hardships of the men they were reduced to two-thirds rations, and, through drinking brackish water, many were attacked with summer complaint. Many of the feeble ones also suffered severely from cold and rain while on guard at night, as they preferred to bear their portion of camp duties while they could possibly do so, rather than make their condition known and have to take the doctor’s drugs and abuse.

On the 24th we found the bones of about one hundred mules which died in a cold storm about a year previously. The storm consisted of snow and hail. A human skull was found among the bones. Dr. Sanderson believed it to be the skull of an Indian. The animals belonged to a company of “fur traders.” We learned the particulars from an emigrant returning to the east, who informed us that it was with difficulty that the white men who owned the animals had escaped ed with their lives. It was the most severe storm, so far as we could learn, that had ever occurred in that region.

The two mountain peaks known as the Rabbit’s Ears, and which serve as a guide to travelers, were in sight on our route.

A company of traders going south of Santa Fe camped with us that night. Buffalo chips, which had been our only fuel since leaving the Arkansas river, were very scarce.

On the 25th we marched twenty miles, over a rough and mountainous road and camped at Gold Spring, the first good water for several days; we also had a view of the first timber seen for nine days, there having been no shrubbery, even, along the whole distance traversed in that time.

On the 26th we saw a number of deer, elk, and antelope. We reached Cedar Springs at night, at which place we found cedar, spruce, and cottonwood timber.

On the 27th we marched over rough sand hills and encamped by a pond of stagnant water. There were a few buffalo chips, which were soon gathered, when some who had none of this kind of fuel, traveled two miles to timber and brought wood on their shoulders. A few antelope added to our short rations were quite a treat. The monotony of the barren plains in our rear was considerably relieved by the view of numerous mountain peaks in front, the first many of us ever saw, including the Rabbit’s Ears.

Sergeant William Hyde incidentally remarks here: “Our encampments generally inclose from four to six acres of ground.”

During the next day our route for a considerable distance was over hills and high ridges. A number of antelope were killed and some bears and wild turkeys were seen, but no buffalo were visible, as we were quite out of the country over which they ranged.

On the 29th we passed the “Rabbits Ears” about noon. The teams and men were continually failing on account of a lack of feed, water and judgment on the part of our commander. The following day we passed Rock Creek. On account of finding no feed for our animals, we traveled until about 9 o’clock at night, and were on the move again the next morning at day break.

About noon on the 1st of October we passed within half a mile of the walls of an ancient structure situated on the north side of the road. There were two solid walls about four feet apart running parallel nearly due north and south. The total length of these walls was about one hundred and ninety feet; for one hundred and thirty feet they were intact. The rock was laid in cement, which had become solid as the rock itself.

Whether these had been partition walls of a castle or some large building, or a part of a fortification, it would be difficult to determine. It was evident that the whole face of the country had undergone a change. There were numerous canals or channels where large streams had once run, probably for irrigating, but which were then quite dry, and to all appearance had not been used for generations.

We reached Red River on the 2nd of October and on the 3rd camped by a large spring, the outlet of which formed a small creek. Here a council of officers was called. The commander informed the council that he had received orders from General Kearney that unless the command reached Santa Fe by the 10th we would be discharged. He suggested selecting fifty able-bodied men from each company, taking the best teams and traveling on a double forced march, leaving the sick with the weak teams to follow as best they could.

This proposition was carried, being opposed only by Lieutenants James Pace, Andrew Lytle, and Samuel Gulley and, we think, Lieutenant W. W. Willis, with invited guests, Levi W. Hancock, David Pettegrew, Sergeant Wm. Hyde and others. Their opposition was on the ground that Colonel Allen had pledged himself that the Battalion should not be divided.

Accordingly, the Battalion was divided, the able-bodied soldiers and most of the commissioned officers, including Colonel Smith and Dr. Sanderson, making their way with all possible haste to Santa Fe, leaving the sick and feeble men and the worn out teams to follow as best they could.

The fact of Dr. Sanderson leaving the sick behind while he proceeded on with those who were healthy, is a fair indication of the interest he took in attending to the duties of his office. But the sick did not complain on that score. The sorrow which they felt at the loss of friends through having the Battalion divided, was in a great measure compensated by the relief they experienced at being rid of the Doctor’s drugs and cursing for a few days. There was a noticeable improvement, too, in most of those who were sick after the Doctor left, so that when they arrived in Santa Fe many of them were convalescent.

After the division of the command, no unnecessary time was spent on the road even by those who brought up the rear. They were anxious to reach Santa Fe as early as possible, lest their friends of the advance division should be attached to some other corps and they be left to serve under their old religious persecutor, of Missouri memory, Colonel Sterling Price.

The feed and water, too, became better as we advanced, and we were able to force our jaded animals a little farther in a day than we had previously done. We passed a number of Mexican towns, and were visited by many of the inhabitants, who offered to sell us bread and cakes. The houses in these towns were generally small and squatty. They were built of adobies, or unburnt brick, of a very large size. The roofs, which were mostly flat, were covered with day. The streets were narrow and irregular. The fields were unfenced, and the method of farming pursued was of the most primitive style. The people generally were a cross between the Spaniards and Indians.

While passing through the village of San Miguel, we saw for the first time Spanish sheep and goats, and were amused at watching the process of milking the latter. It was generally done by boys, who sat at the rear of the animals, and the milk pail caught frequent droppings of nanny-berries, which were carefully skimmed out with the fingers. Possibly, this may in some degree account for the extreme richness of the goat’s milk cheese.

The first division of the Battalion arrived at Santa Fe on the evening of October 9th, 1846. On their approach, General Doniphan, the commander of the post, ordered a salute of one hundred guns to be fired from the roofs of houses, in honor of the Mormon Battalion. The second division arrived on the 12th of October.

When Colonel Sterling Price with his cavalry command which left Fort Leavenworth two or three days ahead of us, arrived at Santa Fe, he was received without any public demonstration, and when he learned of the salute which had been fired in honor of the “Mormons,” he was greatly chagrinned and enraged.

This same General Doniphan, who had been an eminent lawyer of Clay County, Missouri, was present, when Joseph Smith and others were tried by a court-martial of the mob at Far West, in 1838. When the prisoners were sentenced upon that occasion to be shot in presence of their families, General Doniphan denounced the decision as “cold-blooded murder,” and swore that neither he nor the regiment which he commanded should witness the execution. He was not only an officer in the militia, but he was the only lawyer of prominence who was present on that occasion, and his influence was such that by his firm and spirited action the decision of the court-martial was changed and the prisoners were turned over to the custody of the civil authorities of the State.

When the Battalion arrived at Santa Fe, General Doniphan was pleased to find a number of old acquaintances and friends among the soldiers, whom he knew to be honorable, upright and loyal men, and it was probably the memory of the wrongs which they had suffered from the Missouri mobocrats which prevented him from extending any courtesies to Colonel Price and his disgraceful command on their arrival.

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