I believe the detachment took up its line of march on the 18th instead of the 17th, as directed in the order of Colonel Cooke; so says John G. Smith, one of the party, who kept a daily journal.
Few incidents occurred on the journey from Santa Fe to Pueblo outside of the ordinary routine of travel. Very good time was made in traveling, considering the miserable plight of the teams and the feeble condition of most of the men. The third day after starting several yoke of fresh oxen were obtained, which proved a great benefit to the detachment.
On the night of the 27th Milton Smith died and the next day received as good a burial as his friends could give him on the prairie.
Owing to the weak condition of the teams, the sick were obliged to walk when ascending steep hills and where the roads were unusually bad, which was a great hardship to them.
On the 9th of November, when the detachment had reached the Arkansas river, Captain James Brown, and others, left the command and proceeded on to Bent’s Fort, to secure sixty days’ provisions, and the following day the detachment crossed the river and traveled on towards Pueblo.
The detachment arrived within four miles of Pueblo on the 15th of November, where a halt was made to allow time for the officers to make the necessary arrangements for the winter quarters.
On the 17th the Arkansas river was crossed, Pueblo entered and a camping place selected near the quarters of Captain Higgins’ detachment and a company of Saints from Mississippi, who had stopped there to winter.
The greeting which occurred between comrades and old friends, husbands and wives, parents and children, when the two detachments met, was quite touching. A thrill of joy ran through the camp which none but those living martyrs can fully comprehend.
It was immediately agreed that eighteen rooms, fourteen feet square, should be erected for the winter quarters, and the men who were able to chop were dispatched to the woods to procure timbers for the houses, with the understanding that the first rooms finished should be allotted to the sick. The work of erecting the houses was pushed with all possible rapidity, but before they were finished sufficiently to shelter the sick from the piercing winds and cold mountain storms, some had already succumbed. Among the number, was Joseph Wm. Richards, a very estimable young man, who died on the 21st of November. Of his death, C.C. Roe, a comrade, writing to Apostle Franklin D. Richards, brother to the deceased, says:
“The Battalion left Point Pool, on the Missouri river, on the 24th day of July, 1846, and marched to Fort Leavenworth on foot, without tents or shelter of any kind, sleeping on the ground, which was sometimes saturated with rain and heavy dews. Some rain storms fell upon us while thus sleeping under the open canopy of the heavens. At Fort Leavenworth Joseph Wm. Richards took sick, doubtless from exposure on the road. When the command left the garrison he remained in the hospital unable to be moved. By kind treatment and medical aid he was soon able to be forwarded, and overtook us at Council Grove. From this time his health fluctuated. When the Battalion was divided by order of Lieutenant A. J. Smith, and the stronger portion put on a forced march to be in Santa Fe in time to cross the mountains to California the same fall, he, being stronger than usual, was selected as one of them. When I arrived with the invalids I found Joseph again prostrated, so far at least that he was considered unfit to attempt to cross the mountains and deserts to California. As my health increased his seemed to fail, and as we had been very much attached from the beginning, he placed himself entirely in my care. On the sad night of his departure, while I was endeavoring, at his request, to render him some assistance, after grasping me with a hug which almost took my breath, he gradually sank down and in a few moments expired in my arms without a struggle or a groan, but quietly passed away like a child going to sleep.”
Apostle Franklin D. Richards, writing of his brother’s death, says: “When the call for the Battalion was made known to us, the massacred body of one of my brothers, George S. Richards, lay buried in the well, with about fifteen others, at Haun’s Mill, in Caldwell Country, Missouri; another, Joseph William Richards, born in Richmond, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, May 25, 1829, died at Fort Pueblo, enroute from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to California, in November, 1846. Brother Samuel and myself were in England, in our first mission.”
James Ferguson, himself Sergeant Major of the Battalion, in a lecture delivered before an assembly of Elders, including the Presidency of the European Mission, in Liverpool, England, November 7, 1855, speaks thus of Brother Richards’ enlistment, travels, virtues and the patriotism of his aged and feeble mother:
“Exposed to enemies who lurked in every grove, President Young visited the various camps, nor ceased his exertions till the last muster roll was filled. But few knew the sacrifice it cost. There was one scene that was particularly touching. An aged mother to whom the call of the government and the wish of the President were made known came forward. She had five sons-one was murdered and now lay buried deep and unavenged in the tragic well in Missouri. Two were in a foreign land, preaching the faith for which their brother’s blood was shed; one was still too young to administer, but needed care and comfort; the other was a young man, the sentinel and protector of her tottering steps. Even in her aged heart, withered and broken as it was, the love of country burned deep and strong. She yielded up her son and never saw him more. I knew him well. We marched side by side. He had been worn down by the bitterness and exposure of many persecutions. But Joseph Richards was noble, generous and brave, and never complained.”
Sister Celia Hunt, who often took him nourishment and said comforting words to him, giving him the last food he ever ate, a few hours before his death, speaks of him as among the most noble young men she ever knew. He never complained of his lot.
We will now leave these two detachments, for the present, and return to Santa Fe, and follow the main army again.