Doniphan's Expedition.In May, 1846, Gov. Edwards of Missouri requested Col. Alexander W. Doniphan, a lawyer of Liberty, to assist him in raising troops in the western counties of the state for volunteer service in the war with Mexico, and he acceded to the request. The enthusiasm of the people was high and in a week or so the eight companies of men had volunteered, which, upon organization at Fort Leavenworth, formed the famous First Missouri mounted volunteers. This regiment formed a portion of the column known as the Army of the West, commanded by that chivalric soldier, Gen. Stephen W. Kearney. All of the troops rendezvoused at Fort Leavenworth. The volunteers having undergone a few weeks' drilling, the Army of the West commenced its march to Santa Fe on June 26, 1846, and on Aug. 18 following Gen. Kearney's army entered Santa Fe without firing a gun.
In November of the same year, Col. Doniphan was ordered with his regiment into the country of the Navajo Indians, on the western slope of the Rocky mountains, to overawe or chastise them. He completed this movement with great celerity. His soldiers toiled through snows three feet deep on the crests and eastern slope of the mountains. Having accomplished the object of the expedition by concluding a satisfactory treaty with the Indians, he returned to the Rio del Norte, and on the banks of that stream collected and refreshed his men, preparatory to effecting what was then intended to be a junction with Gen. Wool. He was here reinforced by two batteries of light artillery. In Dec., 1846, he turned his little column to the south and put it in motion towards Chihuahua. In quick succession followed his brilliant and decisive victories at Brazito and Sacramento, the capture of Chihuahua, the plunge of his little army into the unknown country between Chihuahua and Saltillo, and its emergence in triumph at the latter city. After his arrival at Saltillo, inasmuch as the period of enlistment of his men would soon expire, his regiment was ordered home. The march was continued to Matamoras, where the regiment embarked for New Orleans. The men were discharged at New Orleans and arrived at home about July 1, 1847.
The march of this regiment from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, Chihuahua, Saltillo and Matamorasa distance of near 3,600 milesis called Doniphan's Expedition, and in a measure is germane to Kansas history. There was no road, not even a path, leading from Fort Leavenworth into the regular Santa Fe trail. The army, therefore, steered its course southwesterly, with the view of intersecting the main Santa Fe trail, at or near the Narrows, 65 miles west of Independence. In accomplishing this, many deep ravines and creeks with high and rugged banks were encountered. The heat was often excessive; the grass was tall and rank; the earth in many places so soft that the heavily loaded wagons would sink almost up to the axle upon the level prairie, and the men were frequently compelled to dismount and drag them from the mire with their hands. Hence the march was, of necessity, both slow and tedious. About noon on June 30, they arrived upon the banks of the Kansas river, which they crossed in boats without loss or accident, and encamped for the night on the west bank among the friendly Shawnees. On July 1 the troops continued their march in a southwesterly direction, to intersect the road leading from Independence to Santa Fe. After a toilsome march of some 15 miles, without a guide, through the tall prairie grass and matted pea-vines, sometimes directing their course to the southward and sometimes to the westward, they at length struck upon the old Santa Fe trace, and encamped for the night near Black Jack, in what is now Douglas county. Provisions (chiefly bread-stuffs, salt, etc.) were conveyed in wagons, and beef-cattle driven along for the use of the men. The animals subsisted entirely by grazing. By July 5 the troops had reached Council Grove, now the county seat of Morris county, Kan., one of the most important stations on the old trail. Advancing about 16 miles further they encamped near the Diamond Springs. On July 9, they arrived upon the banks of the Little Arkansas, in what is now Rice county. The evening of July 12 found them at Walnut creek, in what is now Barton county, and the following day brought them to the noted Pawnee rock, near which place they diverged from the main Santa Fe road and followed the Arkansas river to a point near the present city of Pueblo, Col., where they crossed into the enemy's country.
Then ensued what proved to be one of the most remarkable military campaigns in American history. The principal engagement was the battle of Sacramento, which one writer says "was the most wonderful ever fought by American arms." Col. Doniphan's men attacked a fortified position held by troops outnumbering them nearly five to one, and in speaking of their charge at that place the same writer says, "It has never been equaled in all the annals of the world's warfare." The State of Kansas has honored Col. Doniphan by naming a county and a town for him, and the State of Missouri named the seat of Ripley county in his honor.Pages 532-534 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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