Friday, March 28, 2008

The Personal Diary of J.E.B. Stuart - Introduction

In my research for my biography of Jeb Stuart, I stumbled on this terrific find from the Kansas Historical Quarterlies.

The Kiowa and Comanche Campaign of 1860
as Recorded in the Personal Diary of Lt. J. E. B. Stuart
Edited by W. Stitt Robinson
Winter, 1957 (Vol. XXIII, No. 4)

I. Introduction

The duties of the United States army on the frontier were many and varied during the decade preceding the Civil War. There were both military and nonmilitary services to perform. The military involved primarily campaigns against hostile nomadic Indians, campaigns which were on the whole limited to minor skirmishes and which can hardly be classified as wars. Nonmilitary duties involved the army as policeman rather than soldier and as the builder of forts which ringed the frontier area. Both military and nonmilitary services were vital parts of the mission of the army on the eve of the Civil War.

The Greatest attention in the writing of American military history has been devoted to the fighting role. [1] Even with this emphasis, the story is not complete as evidenced by the lack of printed material concerning some of the campaigns on the frontier. The diary reproduced here has only recently come to light and supplies new and detailed information on the Kiowa and Comanche campaign of 1860. [2] The record was kept by Lt. James Ewell Brown Stuart, who is best known to history as "Jeb," the dashing cavalry leader of the Southern Confederacy. The military units included Companies F, G, H, and K of the First regiment of cavalry with some attention to the two attached companies of the Second dragoons, Companies C and K. As an appropriate background to the diary of the 1860 campaign, a brief resume will be given of Stuart's early military career which involved mainly his service with the First cavalry.

A Virginian by birth, Stuart received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in the class of 1854. His first assignment as an officer was with the regiment of mounted rifles under the command of Maj. J. S. Simonson, who was then carrying out orders for both military and nonmilitary services along the Texas frontier from Fort McIntosh near Laredo to Fort Davis and El Paso. [3] Federal troops were responsible for protecting the area from Indian raids, securing the emigrant routes, fortifying the Mexican border, supporting the enforcement of revenue laws, and curbing the activity of bandits and murderers. [4] Stuart's service in Texas was cut short by his appointment to the First regiment of cavalry which along with the Second cavalry was organized in March, 1855, by act of Congress to expand the number of mounted troops in the army. Command of the First cavalry was assigned to Col. Edwin V. Sumner and Lt. Col. Joseph E. Johnston.

Stuart reported in June, 1855, to Colonel Sumner at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri where the regiment was being organized, and before the end of the month, the unit moved on to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Colonel Sumner assumed command of the post and appointed Stuart to his staff as regimental quartermaster and as assistant commissary of subsistence of the post. [5] While organization was still under way, orders were issued for the First cavalry to participate in the campaign against the Sioux Indians in August and September, 1855. The major skirmish of the expedition involved Bvt. Brig. Gen. William S. Harney and Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke of the Second dragoons in an attack on the Sioux on Blue Water creek near Ash Hollow along the North Platte river in Nebraska territory. [6] But for the First cavalry, the venture was little more than an exercise in organization and an orientation to the Plains, for on the march to Fort Kearny and beyond toward Fort Laramie, no Sioux were encountered. [7]

Upon return from the Sioux campaign, Lieutenant Stuart completed plans for his marriage to Flora Cooke, daughter of Lt. Col. P. S. G. Cooke of Virginia, plans which had been tentatively made after a whirlwind courtship following their first meeting at Fort Leavenworth. The event was solemnized on November 14 at Fort Riley where Lieutenant Colonel Cooke was stationed with the Second dragoons. [8]

The increased tensions of the Kansas struggle in late 1855 and 1856 resulted in the call for military personnel for a wide variety of assignments, more as policemen than as soldiers. Commanders of federal troops were ordered by the Secretary of War to assist the territorial governor in enforcing the law and maintaining the peace. While many of the assignments were common for normal frontier conditions, the number increased for such missions as the following: preventing bloodshed between Proslavery and Free-State factions; guarding the polls and land sale offices; stopping the raids of freebooters and bandits; providing military escorts for the mail, for Indian agents delivering annuities to the tribes, and for visiting or local officials; and prohibiting white encroachment upon the land reserves of friendly semisedentary Indians. Calls were made upon the First cavalry for all these tasks. [9]

Preoccupied during 1856 with these problems, the First cavalry was not able until 1857 to undertake a campaign against the Cheyenne Indians. Although signers of the treaty at Fort Laramie in 1851, [10] the Cheyenne had been guilty of raiding Western trails and murdering whites. The purpose of the campaign, therefore, was to punish the tribe for depredations and at the same time so to overawe them by a show of force that peace would be maintained. Two moving columns led by Col. E. V. Sumner and Maj. John Sedgwick were employed from May until August, the major encounter with the Cheyenne occurring on July 29 on Solomon's fork of the Smoky Hill river. [11] Lieutenant Stuart began the expedition as regimental quartermaster officer, but was relieved during the campaign by Colonel Sumner because of a difference of opinion over the question of signatures for responsibility of government property. [12]
Continuing as a company officer, Stuart was in the thick of the fight with the Cheyenne on July 29; and while attempting to save a fellow officer, he was wounded in the chest by a pistol shot of an attacking Indian. [13]

Further expeditions against the Cheyenne were prevented by the order for federal troops to join the forces being organized in 1857 for the Utah campaign. The Mormons were reported to be in rebellion against the United States; and only two U. S. officials, both being Indian agents, remained in Utah. Alfred Cumming was appointed as new governor of Utah territory, and orders were issued to organize some 2,500 troops at Fort Leavenworth to accompany the governor and other new officials to the Mormon country. [14] Companies of the First cavalry were assigned to various columns that were to march at designated intervals. Stuart was a member of the column under Major Sedgwick and served as quartermaster officer of the expedition. However, agreements worked out by negotiators in the Mormon country ended the campaign without fighting; and Stuart's column, not leaving Fort Riley until May 29, 1858, went beyond Fort Laramie only as far as the Valley of the Sweetwater in present Wyoming before returning to Fort Riley on August 29. [15]

Following a winter in quarters at Fort Riley, the First cavalry received assignments for field duty for the summer of 1859 to protect the emigrant route along the Arkansas river. Stuart obtained a six months' leave and returned to Virginia. While on leave he completed his invention for a sabre attachment devised in Kansas. By means of "a stout brass hook" Stuart made it possible for the mounted soldier to leave his sabre on the pommel of the saddle when dismounting to fight; when remounting, he could easily return the sabre to his belt. Stuart patented the invention (patent number 25684 dated October 4, 1859) [16] and he was successful in selling to the United States government the right to use the improvement for mounted troops. [17]

While in Washington on October 17 waiting outside the office of the Secretary of War for a conference about his invention, Stuart was asked to deliver a message to Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee across the Potomac at his Arlington home. Learning that the mission involved quelling the uprising at Harpers Ferry, Stuart volunteered his services and accompanied Lee as his aide to the scene where John Brown was captured on October 18. Writing to his mother on January 31, 1860, after returning to Fort Riley, Stuart stated that one of his greatest services was the recognition from his experience in Kansas, that the insurgent leader Smith was actually "Old Brown." [18]

Back in Fort Riley, Stuart rejoined the regiment and assumed command of Company G on December 15, 1859, until Capt. William S. Walker returned from leave. [19] Orders from army headquarters were received in March to begin preparations for a campaign against the Kiowa and Comanche Indians. These two tribes along with the Apaches had signed the treaty in 1853 at Fort Atkinson on the Arkansas river (near present Dodge City). The agreement was made to maintain "Peace, friendship, and amity" with the United States and to preserve peace among the signatory Indian tribes. The right was provided for the United States to build roads or highways and military or other posts in territories occupied by the Indians. The three tribes also promised "to make restitution or satisfaction for any injuries done by any band or any individuals of their respective tribes to the people of the United States" legally residing in or traveling through their territories, and not to molest them in any way but rather to aid them if possible. In return the United States was to pay $18,000 annually in annuities for ten years and to protect the tribes from depredations by people of the United States. Violation of the treaty, it was agreed, could result in the withholding of annuities; and if at a later date it seemed desirable to establish farms among the Indians, the United States could use the annuities for that purpose. [20]

By 1857 the Kiowas and Comanches were reported in large numbers for extended periods of time on the Arkansas river, and by 1859 were residing permanently in the area between the Canadian and Arkansas rivers. [21] Indian Agent Robert Miller (or Millar) met the Comanches, Kiowas, and other tribes on July 19, 1858, at Pawnee Fork and found the Comanches unwilling to treat with the United States, threatening to annul the treaty of 1853. The Kiowas were more amenable, but parties from both tribes had been guilty of attacking and robbing two Mexican trains in sight of the agent's camp. Miller found both Kiowas and Comanches arrogant and confident of their superiority over U. S. forces, an opinion held by them, he thought, because of their lack of knowledge of the size and resources of the United States. In his report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, he concluded that "Nothing short of a thorough chastisement, which they so richly deserve, will bring these people to their proper senses." [22]

A few weeks later Colonel Sumner en route from Fort Kearny to the Arkansas river met a band of Kiowas under Little Mountain, one of the leaders with whom Miller had conferred. Sumner found the leaders of the Kiowas desirous of peace, although they indicated great "difficulty in restraining their turbulent young men." Pledges were made to Sumner to exert every effort to keep the young braves off the warpath. [23]

The Kiowas and Comanches were "encountered" the following year on September 16, 1859, at the mouth of Walnut creek by Agent W. W. Bent, who reported their number as 2,500 warriors. As to conduct, they appeared peaceable in the presence of federal troops; but when troops returned to Fort Riley, Agent Bent stated that they "assumed a threatening attitude, which resembles the prelude of predatory attacks upon the unprotected whites" along the Santa Fe road. Bent was convinced that a "smothered passion for revenge agitates these Indians"; and he recommended the establishment of two additional military forts along the Arkansas river to provide the "perpetual presence of a controlling military force." Because of the pressure of white settlement, he foresaw a war of extinction unless the federal government provided for the reduction of the nomadic tribes to an agricultural and pastoral way of life. [24]

Orders from army headquarters of March 10, 1860, ordered "active operations" against the hostile Comanches and Kiowas with instructions to hold no intercourse with them until punishment had been inflicted by military attack. Columns of troops, operating independently, were organized to begin the march in May. Six companies of the First cavalry (A, B, C, D, E, and I) were dispatched under Capt. S. D. Sturgis. The other four companies of the regiment (F, G, H, and K) along with Companies C and K of the Second dragoons were assigned to the column commanded by Maj. John Sedgwick. [25] Writing to his sister in April about the command appointment, Sedgwick stated that "I have no desire for it, but if I have it I shall do my best to bring it to a successful issue." [26]

Special instructions of May 9 were forwarded to Major Sedgwick from Colonel Sumner at headquarters of the Department of the West in St. Louis. Drawing upon his varied experience as an Indian fighter, Sumner advised that in order to be able to pursue, overtake, and attack the enemy, it was necessary to leave the wagon train at Pawnee Fork and to make the expedition from there with supplies conveyed by pack mules and beef cattle on foot. In pursuing Indians traveling with their families, a "steady determined march" would overtake them and when closely pressed, the warriors would separate themselves to protect the families. This, according to Sumner, was an excellent time to strike them; and in case the Comanches and Kiowas should unite to pose a strong threat, efforts should be made to turn their flanks for "Indians can never stand that." One further suggestion from Sumner reflected the problem of the military in distinguishing friendly from hostile Indians and the tendency of Federal troops to make little or no distinction within one tribe when punitive expeditions were under way. When "proffers of peace and disclaimers of all connection with the hostiles" approach you, stated Sumner, it is impossible to make distinctions; therefore, "whenever Comanches or Kiowas are found they must give the character to the whole party." [27]

Lieutenant Stuart accompanied Major Sedgwick's column as a company officer in Company G, and he was appointed journalist of the expedition. In addition to keeping an official record of events, [28] he recorded a more informal and personal impression of the expedition in a "Daily Miniature Diary for 1860" which had been printed by the New York concern of Kiggins and Kellogg. There are gaps in the personal diary, mainly in July. But it is valuable for giving new information of the 1860 expedition and the terrain over which it was made, as well as affording some insight to the personal reaction of Stuart and other military personnel to the events of the campaign.

The Stuart diary presented here is a literal transcription from photographic reproductions of the diary in the possession of the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia and is reproduced with the permission of that institution. Raised letters in the manuscript have been uniformly lowered and deletions by the diarist have been omitted. All other changes have been indicated by the usual square brackets.

Stuart's references to the streams of western Kansas are of considerable interest since history has recorded 1860 as a year of Great Drought for Kansas and adjacent Plains area.


[1] Francis Paul Prucha's Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860 (Madison, Wis., 1953) is a recent study that concentrates on the nonmilitary services of the army.

[2] Brief accounts of the campaign are given in George A. Root, ed., "Extracts From Diary of Captain Lambert Bowman Wolf," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 1 (May, 1932), pp. 206-210, and in Merrill J. Mattes, ed., "Patrolling the Santa Fe Trail; Reminiscences of John S. Kirwan," ibid., v. 21 (Winter, 1955), pp. 585, 586.

[3] "Regimental Returns," Regiment Mounted Rifles, February and March, 1855, National Archives.

[4] Averam B. Bender, The March of Empire: Frontier Defense in the Southwest, 1848-1860 (Lawrence, 1952), pp. 34-36.

[5] "Post Returns," Fort Leavenworth, July, 1855; "Regimental Returns," First cavalry, August, 1855. Both in National Archives.

[6] "Report of the Secretary of War," Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 1, 34th Cong., 1st Sess. (1855-1856), v. 2, Pt. 2, pp. 49-51; ibid., Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 58, 34th Cong., 3d Sess. (1856-1857).

[7] "Regimental Returns," First cavalry, September and October, 1855, National Archives.

[8] Letter of J. E. B. Stuart, November 25, 1855, Confederate Museum, Richmond, Va.

[9] Examples of these assignments are given in my essay on "The Role of the Military in Territorial Kansas," Territorial Kansas: Studies Commemorating the Centennial (University of Kansas Social Science Studies, Lawrence, 1954), pp. 84-98.

[10] Charles J. Kappler, ed., Indian Aiffairs, Laws and Treaties (Sen. Doc. No. 452, 57th Cong., 1st Sess.), v. 2, pp. 440-442.

[11] "Governor Walker's Administration," Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, v. 5, pp. 299-301.

[12] F. J. Porter to J. E. B. Stuart, August 11, 1857, "Letters Sent," Department of the West, National Archives; "Regimental Returns," First cavalry, June, 1857, National Archives.

[13] H. B. McClellan, The Life and Campaigns of Major-General J. E. B. Stuart (Boston and New York, 1885), pp. 20-22.

[14] LeRoy R. Hafen and Francis Marion Young, Fort Laramie and the Pageant of the West, 1834-1890 (Glendale, 1938), pp. 284-299.

[15] Summary of the marches of the regiment, "Regimental Returns," First cavalry, 1858, National Archives; "Muster Rolls," Company G, First cavalry, June-August, 1858, National Archives.

[16] The patent may be found in "Records of the War Department," Office of the Chief of Ordnance, Ordnance Special File, Inventions Section, National Archives.

[17] Receipt for the sale is in special files of the Ordnance Department, Record Group 156, Box 46, National Archives.

[18] The original of this letter is owned by Stuart B. Campbell of Wytheville, Va. Most of it has been reproduced in substance in McClellan, op. cit., pp. 29, 30.

[19] "Muster Rolls," Company G, First cavalry, October, 1859, to April, 1860, National Archives.

[20] Kappler, op. cit., v. 2, pp. 445-447.

[21] "Report of the Secretary of the Interior," Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 2, 36th Cong., 1st Sess. (1859-1860), v. 1, p. 506.

[22] Ibid., Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 1, 35th Cong., 2d Sess. (1858-1859), v. 1, pt. 1, pp. 448-452.

[23] "Report of the Secretary of War," House Ex. Doc. No. 2, 35th Cong., 2d Sess. (1858-1859), v. 2, pt. 2, p. 425.

[24] "Report of the Secretary of the Interior," Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 2, 36th Cong., 1st Sess. (1859-1860), v. 1, pp. 506, 507.

[25] Sumner to Sedgwick, May 9, 1860, "Letters Sent," Department of the West, National Archives; "Report of the Secrctary of War," Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 1, 36th Cong., 2d Sess. (1860-1861), v. 2, pp. 19-22.

[26] John Sedgwick, Correspondence of John Sedgwick, Major-General (New York, 1903), v. 2, pp. 10, 11.

[27] Sumner to Sedgwick, May 9, 1860, loc. cit.

[28] A copy of the official journal kept by Lt. J. E. B. Stuart is in the Coe Collection, Yale University library; microfilm copies are in the libraries of the University of Kansas and the Kansas Historical Society.