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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Texas Erupts; Two Enemies to Contend With in1861

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Reminiscences of Private Brazil Monroe Damon, 1st U.S. Infantry (part one)

by Gordon Thorsby

In 1861, the common U.S. soldier patrolling and protecting the western frontiers was dealing with settlers marauding tribes of Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee and Wachitas and the harsh wilds of Texas. Then, a new enemy arose.

The following are excerpts from Reminiscences of Brazil Monroe Damon, ( called Monroe) Private, 1st U.S. Infantry.

“At 2 P.M. we set out with the important dispatch, the contents we were entirely ignorant of…that the cavalry from Fort Smith, Ark. had just arrived and all was confusion. Just what was the trouble, we could only surmise. We headed out to deliver our pouch.” The story continues:

“Our appearance riding on the route past a military reservation at an unusual speed [fast] caused great consternation among the renegades, whites who had married squaws, and a camp or two of Indians. They sent messengers after us and we learned the cause of our haste. The cause of that haste was there were Texas Rangers marching against us.”

At the mail station, the next day, a solitary horseman arrived with the following message: …

You are to proceed to arrive at Fort Leavenworth Ks by 5 May. Move at the earliest moment with only enough supplies until you reach us. Fort Smith has been evacuated. You are to proceed north until you strike our trail, following it until you join us.

C.C. Gilbert, Command’g.

“Fort Cobb had been abandoned in addition to Smith. Scouts reported McCullough [Benjamin McCullough, see right] at the head of 1500 rangers on forced march to capture all of the posts.

Fort Smith had fallen into the hands of the rebels and half-breed scouts were exciting the Indians against us.”

After uniting with more of the regiment, they proceeded on between the North Canadian and the Arkansas River where they had to deal with no water for 35 miles while going on foot.

They reached trees. Where there were trees, there was water, and there they were able to recuperate. They moved on and joined up with the gathering Union force. The very next morning an officer came in with information that Earl Van Dorn {below] and 800 rangers were camped within five miles and would be visiting us soon. Camp was quickly broken and they made a fast march to where four troops of cavalry, two batteries of artillery and four troops of infantry were drawn up in line of battle and positioned on a ridge. The 800 rangers soon appeared and three officers from their command stopped, disappeared. Apparently, they had not expected our forces to be ready and waiting.

"The three rebel officers then reappeared and slowly approached our position. And presented a letter demanding surrender. His Colonel replied, “I send my compliments to your commander and give you five minutes to get beyond reach of our guns.”

Damon remarked, “my first battle of the rebellion was over. We had met the enemy and our lives were spared. The bugle sounded and we resumed our march toward Leavenworth arriving May 1st without further incident.”

Source: Chesaning Argus, February, 1894

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