From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.


Dragoons Here Were Army's Original Cavalry Regiment

Leavenworth Times, Tuesday Evening, April 8, 1947

by Harry H. Seckler

Often one finds in early Leavenworth history the name "Dragoon." The first regiment, organized at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., to hold down the warlike tendencies of well-mounted Indians who harassed early Kansas settlers and with whom unmounted troops could not "come to grips" nor pursue, was the First regiment of cavalry in the Regular Army.

In 1833 four companies, after many vicissitudes, reached Fort Leavenworth to find although orders had been given for the construction of stables, none had been built. Orders were issued the men build such for their mounts, but they refused to do so, claiming they had been told when recruited they would have nothing to do but take care of their horses and perform military duties.

They must have gone to work, however, for Col. Dodge, in command wrote later: "I shall pursue a steady and determined course with the insubordinate men until they are brought to a sense of duty."

The stables were built on the south side of what now is known as the Main Parade.

Lowe Came With Dragoons

P. G. Lowe, who later built the large frame residence at Twenty-Second and Shawnee streets in Leavenworth, came to the post as a dragoon recruit. In 1905 he published a book, "Five Years a Dragoon," in which he gives a graphic description of the trip from Jefferson Barracks to the post, this being made by a circuitous route that made the march from Portland, Mo., to Leavenworth, 300 miles long.

The men considered themselves comfortable during their first winter with bed sacks fill once a month with prairie hay which they called "prairie feathers," a pair of blankets, and an overcoat that did duty as a pillow. They cut and hauled their own fuel from the north end of the reservation. Barrels sawed in two and placed in the company kitchen between supper and tattoo served as bath tubs.

Weston, Mo., Lowe recounts, in those days was the starting place of a great many caravans, boasted of several thousand inhabitants, and had a City club at which people of the post were entertained.

Remodeled Uniforms

Lowe's daughter was the late Mrs. Sam Wilson. A son was "Percy" Lowe, an officer in the regular Army. He was cited for bravery in the saving of lives of some Indian scouts of his command in a flash flood in the Pecos river in Texas.

Capt Lowe told an amusing story of the Indians of his command who, when they were outfitted with Regular Army uniforms, appeared on the drill ground next day with the seats cut from their trousers, making chaparajos, or overalls, usually open at the back. the garment was worn by the Indians first, and later to this day is made of leather and worn by cowboys. It took some pretty rough talk, then some coddling on the part of the officer to prevail upon the scouts to wear their trousers soldier style.

Another son of P. G. Lowe, was Wilson, a graduate of the Pennsylvania military academy, Chester, Pa., a typical soldier, straight as an arrow, who in his mature years was commandant of cadets in some of the more prominent military colleges in the United States.

Jeff Davis, Friend of Post

Three efforts were made, at different times, by influential officers, and once by an Indian commissioner, to have Fort Leavenworth abandoned. One of these, made by Col. T. T. Fauntleroy, commanding the local post, proposed the establishment of the post now known as Fort Riley, as an aid to western immigration.

"Jeff" Davis, then secretary of war, later elected president of the Confederacy, visualized the importance of the fort as a "main depot and cavalry station, which with its river transportation made the retention of the post desirable."

The commissioner of Indian affairs, who later proposed the abandonment of Fort Leavenworth, must have made Davis pretty sore for he wrote regarding the proposal:

"With regard to the opinion advanced by the commissioner, as to the expediency of abandoning Fort Leavenworth as no longer necessary for the Indian service in that quarter, I will merely observe the post is maintained for other and more important purposes of which he is not deemed a proper judge."

Pony Express Established Here

Jones Russell and Company started their Pike's Peak express in Leavenworth in 1859, carrying mail as far as Salt Lake City. Russell, Majors and Waddell, who had the government contracts for supplying Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston's army in Utah, had headquarters in Leavenworth, establishing stores, warehouses and blacksmith shops.

The valley of what is known as Corral Creek, on the reservation, was where they corralled many thousands of oxen and mules belonging to the government and the transportation company.

An early writer, returning from the post to Leavenworth, described this concentration of men, wagons and animals as follows: "I passed numbers of ox trains; they are remarkable, each wagon team consisting of ten yolks of fine oxen selected and arranged not only for drawing, but for picturesque effect; in sets of 20, either all black, all spotted or otherwise marked uniformly.

(Note: Corral creek is known to Fort Leavenworth as "One Mile," while to residents of Leavenworth it is called "Two Mile." They designate as "One Mile" the creek that drained the depression where are situated the two lakes near the Post.

The Army probably is correct in its "One Mile" designation, since Corral creek is one mile from the Main Parade. Creeks were numbered by the early day caravans. Three Mile is just south of Choctaw street. There is no Four Mile, but Five Mile is south of the Missouri Valley's old shipyard. The next creek of any importance is Nine Mile, just south of Lansing.)

(To be continued)


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