History Mormon Battalion Chapter 06 Section A


A Faithful Sentinel Arrests the Colonel-the Colonel Frightened-Buffalo Meat-Military Law Read-Difficult Crossing-the Author Sick-Dread of the Doctor’s Poisonous Drugs-Begs to be Left to Die-News of the Capture of Santa Fe-Dosed With Calomel-Disobey the Doctor and Recover-Doctor Claims Credit for the Cure-Camomile Tea-Who Used the Brandy-Pace’s Account of Colonel Allen’s Death Etc

Soon after Smith took command, while going the grand rounds alone, to see that the sentinels were doing their duty, he was halted by Thomas C. D. Howell, a sentinel on guard. The Colonel, by mistake, gave the wrong countersign, and Howell held him as a prisoner until the arrival of the relief guard, when he turned him over to the Corporal. The Colonel was not only very wrathy, but it may also be presumed that he was a little frightened, for he afterwards remarked to another officer, that the man who took him prisoner “would just as leave kill a man as look at him.”

Those who are acquainted with the peaceable character of Brother Howell will be able to appreciate the effect of his firmness upon the Colonel, for there was generally nothing blood-thirsty indicated in his looks or manner.

It appeared that the Colonel had without knowing it given the password of the previous night, but would not be convinced of his mistake until the Adjutant pointed out the proper countersign in his own handwriting. Smith never forgave Howell. Posterity, however, will commend the sentinel for his integrity.

On the 5th we saw a few buffalo, the first that most of us had ever seen. Several carcasses of these animals that had been killed by Missouri Volunteers lay by the wayside, no portion of them having been used except the tongues. We thought of the scripture-“Woe unto those who take life and waste flesh when they have no need.”

On the following day we not only saw plenty of buffalo, but one of the soldiers killed one. We thought the meat very good. It was, however, like most of the male “sentinels,” rather tough. We learned in time to select for our eating younger and more tender animals, instead of shooting the oldest, which were generally found singly, at some distance from the herd.

On the 7th of September we were ordered on parade at 5 p. m., and had the military law read to us for the first time, the object being that we might be better posted in regard to campaign duties.

On the evening of the 9th we encamped on a stream known as Pawnee Fork, the crossing of which was very difficult, and occupied some time. Each wagon had to be let down the bank with ropes, while on the opposite bank from twenty to thirty men with ropes aided the teams in pulling the wagons up. The water was muddy, very much like that of the Missouri river.

The following day we encountered a heavy rain storm, and found no timber to cook our suppers with. As a rather poor substitute, we used wet buffalo-chips.

The author, having been attacked by fever several days previous, found himself growing rapidly worse. The teamsters feared trouble with the Doctor if they allowed him to ride in the wagons unless he was on the sick report, and as he preferred the mercy of the savages to the cruelty and wicked abuse of Dr. Sanderson, with his poisonous drugs, he lay down upon the ground and begged his messmates to leave him, and report him dead and buried. His comrades reported him to Lieutenant Rosecrans, who was in command of Company C., in the absence of Captain Brown, who was sick, and that officer directed them to put him in a wagon and report him to be entered on the sick list. This was just as the command was about breaking camp.

Soon after an express from Santa Fe brought us the glad news of the surrender of that place to General S. F. Kearney, without resistance. An order from the General directed the Battalion to leave the road and not go by way of Bent’s Fort, whence we had been ordered by Colonel Allen, but march direct to Santa Fe, which, of course, we proceeded to do, although the most of our provisions, etc., and two pieces of artillery, were in advance of us towards the former place, where we understood our lamented Colonel, James Allen, designed us to winter, in case we were too late to cross the mountains that fall.

In the evening two comrades led the author to the quarters of the indolent Doctor, who never visited a wagon to see the sick while they could move one limb before the other, with a man under each arm to bear the weight of the body. The doctor first demanded to know the sick man’s name; next, what ailed him; then, how long he had been sick; next, why he had not come before, and, last, but not least, if he did not know that fevers did not cure themselves. This was in response to the explanation from the sick man that he had hoped to get over his affliction without troubling the doctor.

Instead of doing up his calomel powders in papers as he had previously done, to allow the soldiers to take them at their quarters, the doctor brought out the “rusty old spoon” previously referred to, mixed the powders in molasses and ordered them taken in his presence. He had learned that his medicine was not generally taken, as a number of the men had been thoughtless enough to strew it along the road where he saw it.

The sick man was compelled either to take the medicine quietly, have it forced down him, or be left to perish on the plains; of course, on reflection, he chose the former.

About noon on the 11th, we reached the Arkansas river. This stream, at the point where we crossed it, was about a quarter of a mile wide and was filled with sand from bank to bank, with here and there a small stream of brackish water coursing down a narrow channel. The first rivulet being some distance from the eastern shore of the river, the men dug holes about two or three feet deep in the sand, thereby obtaining a sufficiency of water for all needful purposes. The afternoon was a general time of washing. Having considerable fever the writer drank an incredible amount of water in the afternoon and evening, although the doctor had forbidden him drinking any cold water for two days at least after taking his medicine, saying that if he did, the result would be death. The water had the desired effect, that of breaking up the fever, and it caused a greater degree of perspiration than he ever experienced before or afterwards, and left him very weak.

On the morning of the 12th two men again took him to sick call. On arriving, the Doctor said, with an oath, “Tyler, your fever is broke. I had no idea of being able to break it so soon.”

The writer did not inform him that he had disobeyed his orders, but left him to imagine that he had wrought a wonderful cure. He has ever since believed, however, that the water, under Divine Providence, was the cause of preserving his life instead of taking it away, as the Doctor predicted that it would. He did not give him any more strong medicine at that time, but at the regular evening and morning call, he marched to the tune of “Jim along Joe” and took as much as the old iron spoon would hold of the decoction of bayberry bark and camomile flowers; for that is what it really was, without a drop of the brandy the Government furnished for mixing medicines with; that we understood was drank by the Doctor and Smith and their immediate associates, including their negro servants, who sometimes got rather tipsy. In the latter case, of course, the plea was they had stolen it; and to pass it off, they got a little “cussing.”

Here Lieutenant James Pace, of company E, overtook the command. The following is a condensation of a report kindly furnished by him to the author:

“I left the command at Hurricane Point, Aug. 21st 1846, by permission of Captain D. C. Davis, and returned to Fort Leavenworth, to learn the condition of Colonel Allen. I arrived at the fort on the 22nd and learned that the Colonel was not expected to live many hours. At the request of Lieutenant Gully, I remained through the day watching over the Colonel. At evening he was removed to his old quarters. Lieutenant Gully and myself followed in the procession. We remained with him through the night. His niece, a fine young lady of sixteen or eighteen years of age, gave her special attention to him during the night. She was the only relative I heard of as being present, and her name I have not on my record. The Colonel died at six o’clock a.m., Aug. 23rd, 1846, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. At the announcement of the Colonel’s death, Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Sanderson were for pushing Quartermaster Gully out forthwith to join the Battalion. The requisition was warmly repulsed by Gully, who informed them finally that he was not under their command, nor would he remove until it suited him. At this pressing moment Major Horton, commander of the post, sent by his orderly, requesting Lieutenant Gully and myself to come to his quarters. He desired to know the whereabouts of the Battalion, also if every necessary requisition was filled and completed; which Quartermaster Gully promptly answered in the affirmative. Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Sanderson followed us up to hear what Major Horton would say to us. After the necessary inquiries, and being informed of Smith’s and Sanderson’s arrogant assumptions, he said we now had a perfect right to elect our own Colonel, and that no one had any right to assume the command. He also stated that he had written a letter to that effect to Captain Hunt, and that he would send an express forthwith to General Kearney and inform him of our situation. He also added that we were a separate corps, from all other soldiers in the service. He then suggested that one of us should return to Council Bluffs and inform our President of our situation, and return to the command as soon as possible. It was decided that I should go, as Lieutenant Gully, as quartermaster, had charge of our entire outfit. Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Sanderson, on hearing what the Major said to us, changed their tactics, and in very smooth, language, and with much sophistry, asked me to do them the favor of taking a letter from each of them to President Young, which I did. Their object was to solicit the President’s influence for Smith to take command as Colonel, and Sanderson to be the surgeon of the Battalion. I also took a letter from Lieutenant Gully, asking the President’s counsel in regard to our future action. I took my leave about noon of Aug. 23d, being well fitted out with a good horse and other things necessary, by order of Major Horton, and arrived at the camp of the Saints at Cutler’s Creek, west side of the Missouri, about 18 miles above Sarpee’s Point, Aug. 26th, at 10, a.m. I took only a few letters, as the command was about forty-five miles in the advance, and knew nothing of my intended return. I delivered what letters I had. I then sat in council, answering questions, and receiving special counsel for the Battalion. Howard Egan and John D. Lee accompanied me on my return. On reaching Fort Leavenworth, I was received by Maj. Horton as a gentleman and an officer. He deemed it unsafe for so small a party to travel alone. I insisted on following up the Battalion, to which he finally consented, at the same time charging me to keep with one train until I was sure I could reach another the same night. He fitted me out with a fresh horse and all the grain our carriage could haul with three packages of letters for different commands. We left the garrison on the 6th of September, and, I think, overtook the Battalion on the 11th, at the crossing of the Arkansas river.

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