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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Battlefield Dispatches No. 317: 'Simultaneous campaigns' conducted

Friday, May 18, 2012

In the spring of 1862, the commanding officer of the Department of Kansas was planning to conduct two campaigns at the same time. One campaign was identified as the "Southern Expedition," the goal of which was to defend the southern border of Kansas by occupying the northeastern part of the Indian Territory or present-day Oklahoma. The other was travel to the southwest and occupy the New Mexico Territory. The rendezvous point for the New Mexico Expedition was Fort Riley on the Santa Fe Trail in central Kansas. Humboldt, Kan., on the Neosho River, was the point of embarkation for the Southern Expedition. Troops were ordered to Fort Riley before the Southern Expedition started, and the following descriptions of both expeditions are located in the May 17, 1862, edition of the Fort Scott Bulletin Newspaper.
"From the Kansas SecondCamp: 2nd Kans. Vol. Cav.,Fort Riley, May 9, 1862.
We mustered for pay on the 30th ult., at Camp No. 5 near Topeka. We mustered on foot at 12 noon, and at 3 p.m. we paraded on horseback for review. The citizens of Topeka and surrounding country turned out en masse to witness it. The review was conducted by Lt. Col. Basset, accompanied by the staff. The regiment was commanded by our gallant Maj. (Charles W.) Blair. We first passed in review at a walk, then at a trot, the latter being anything but a pleasant gait for the boys. Afterward we were reviewed by companies and dismissed.The muster rolls being complete, we struck our tents on Saturday morning and commenced our march for this place. Following the ridge road on the south side of the (Kansas) River, which is considered much the best, we camped on ____ Creek, 18 miles from Topeka. At this creek the boys took a general bath, the stream being a very clear and beautiful one. During the night there was a light shower which laid the dust and made traveling much more pleasant. At daybreak, all hands were up and busy preparing for the day's march. At a quarter past seven, the "general" sounded; in 10 minutes every tent was down and the wagons loaded, and before eight o'clock the column was moving.
As we neared Fort Riley the country became more broken, and the last 10 miles of our route was through the roughest portion of Kansas I have yet seen. We arrived opposite the fort at 10 o'clock on Tuesday and immediately commenced the work of crossing. The river is not very wide here, but as only 15 could cross on the ferry at once, it promised to be a very tedious job. While the first two squadrons were crossing, however, Capt. Cameron commenced sounding the river a couple of hundred yards above the ferry and succeeded in finding a ford sufficiently shallow to allow the horses to cross. He immediately marched his squadron safely over; three more soon followed his example, and by 12 o'clock the whole command was over. While the wagons were crossing we marched down this side of the river two miles and prepared our camp. The 7th Kansas (Vol. Cavalry) is two miles above the fort; the 1st and 12th Kansas (Vol. Infantry) and the 13th Wisconsin (Vol. Inf.) are camped immediately below it. We are all waiting patiently for the paymaster, who is expected this week. Fort Riley is by far the handsomest post I ever saw. The buildings are all of stone, with the exception of the blacksmith shop which is brick. The parade ground is not as large as the one at Fort Leavenworth, but it is level and much more beautiful.The quartermaster at fort has received notice that 400,000 rations are on the way here. That looks as if we are going on some expedition either to New Mexico or some other place; I hope it will be the latter. I don't see any prospect of our moving for three weeks at least. W.H.S."

Now then, shortly after this description was written, the New Mexico Expedition was canceled and most of the regiments returned to Fort Leavenworth to be deployed elsewhere. Some, but not all, were ordered to Humboldt to participate in the Southern Expedition.

"The Southern Expedition

The forces going south from this point (Fort Scott) have been assigned by Gen. Blunt to the command of Gen. Doubleday (commander of the 2nd Ohio Vol. Cavalry Regt.). It, the expedition, will be sufficiently strong enough to occupy and keep in subjection the country of the rebel Indians and even menace the border of Texas on the line of the Red River. The forts in the Indian Territory are Gibson, Arbuckle, Washita and Cobb. Of these, Fort Cobb is a new post and Forts Arbuckle and Washita are the old frontier defenses of Texas against the Comanche and Kiowa Indians. These forts are situated as follows:
Fort Gibson is on the Arkansas River, 160 miles south of this place (Fort Scott) and 65 miles west of Fort Smith, by the Military Road and 80 by the Whiskey Road. Tahlequah, the capitol of the Cherokee Nation, is near Fort Gibson. Fort Arbuckle is 140 miles southwest of Fort Gibson: Washita is 60 miles south of Arbuckle and Cobb is 150 miles west of Arbuckle, in the Wichita Mountains. It was built for the protection of the Texas Indians who were removed thither in 1860.Should General Mitchell's Division move south west in the direction of Fort Cobb, he will be able to occupy the whole of Northwestern Texas to the Rio Grande; effectively cutting off their communication with New Mexico and Arizona. We hope, ere long to see the Texans receiving their share of punishment for their participation in the rebellion!"

Now then, Gen. Mitchell's Division did not occupy northwestern Texas and cut off the Confederate communication with New Mexico and Arizona. However, the "Southern Expedition" did advance into the Indian Territory and it will be featured in future "Battlefield Dispatches" and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches