THE EIGHTH REGIMENT
By LIEUTENANT RICHARD H. WILSON, ADJUTANT 8TH U. S. INFANTRY.
The Eighth Regiment of Infantry was organized under the immediate supervision of its colonel—William J. Worth—who established the first regimental headquarters at West Troy, N. Y., in July, 1838. On the 31st they were removed to Madison Barracks, N. Y., at which place all the companies of the regiment were concentrated by the 31st of October.
The regiment was raised under Act of July
5, 1838, and the U. S. Army Register of date
September 1, 1838, gives its commissioned roster
Colonel Wm. J. Worth, Lieutenant-Colonel N. S. Clarke, and Major E. A. Hitchcock.
Captains Thomas Staniford, T. P. Gwynne, J. A. Phillips, St. Clair Denny, George Wright, J. S. Worth, E. B. Birdsall, Joseph Bonnell, W. R. Montgomery, and R. B. Screven.
First Lieutenants Wm. O. Kello. E. A. Ogden, J. M. Hill, C. C. Daveiss, Henry McKavett, J. V. Bomford, Thomas Johns, C. R. Gates, Larkin Smith and J. H. Whipple.
Second Lieutenants J. M. Harvie, J. T. Sprague, Lucius O'Brien, George Lincoln, Wm. C. Browne, J. A. Riell, A. L. Sheppard, Wm. B. Hayward, Joseph Selden, and T. S. J. Johnson.
During the years 1837-38 a very unsettled state of affairs existed in Canada, caused by the efforts of an insurrectionary party known as the "Patriots" to establish there a constitutional government which should be responsible to the people. This movement found many friends on our side of the border, who were so open in their efforts to give aid and comfort to the "Patriots," that a serious rupture between the United States and Great Britain seemed imminent. During this disturbed condition of affairs, to prevent aggressions from our side and to protect our vessels navigating the St. Lawrence, detachments of the regiment were carried on all passenger steamers. This duty and the constant patrol service called for by its position as international peacemaker along the inhospitable Canadian border, kept the regiment on the northern border of New York State until 1840 (April 13) when it was ordered to report to General Atkinson at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin Territory, to take part in the operations against the Winnebago Indians, who had left their reservations and were committing depredations to an alarming extent. At this time Companies E and H had been broken up and consequently did not accompany the regiment.
Starting from Sacket's Harbor, May 2, the trip to Fort Howard at the head of Green Bay, Mich., was made by steamer through Lakes Ontario,
*An abridgment of Lieut. Wilson's "History of the Eighth U. S. Infantry."
Erie, Huron and Michigan, except the short march from Lewiston, N. Y., to Buffalo, N. Y. Fort Howard was reached May 10, and by May 28 the regiment was occupying Camp McKeown near Fort Winnebago. While here the negotiations relative to the removal of the Winnebagoes west of the Mississippi were satisfactorily concluded, and the entire nation embarked in canoes about the middle of June for their new homes.
The Winnebago enterprise having been satisfactorily settled, the regiment was sent to Jefferson Barracks, where it remained but a short time, leaving for Florida, September 24, 1840, where it was to spend the next four years in most arduous service. The transfer of the eight companies was made under Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke, by steamer down the Mississippi, and to Tampa Bay by sailing vessels, thence by marching to Fort King (November 5th) to which station Colonel Worth had brought the reorganized Companies E and H, October 31st. After a short stay at Fort King the regiment (December 2, 1840), took station at Fort Brooke, Tampa Bay.
During the year 1841 the various companies of the regiment made many marches and scouts, traversing the entire theatre of operations in every direction. Colonel Worth, although commanding the "Army of Florida" from May 31, 1841, to July 15, 1842, and subsequently "Military Department No. 3," retained command of his regiment during his entire stay in Florida.
Companies A, E and G were at Camp Hospitarke near Fort Deynaud in September when the officer in command, Captain Gwynne, received word that the artful old Seminole chief Hospitarke, who had outwitted every commanding general from Gaines to Armistead, was in the vicinity and desirous of having a talk. This information was sent to Colonel Worth who at once came over from Tampa bringing with him another noted chief, Coacooche (who had been captured some time before), to assist in the enterprise of capturing Hospitarke. The outlaw and 17 of his young men fell into an ambush skilfully devised, surrendered at discretion, and in a short time was on his way to his new home in Arkansas.
At the end of September, 1841, A, C, E and G were at Punta Rassa where, owing to the fact that at certain periods during great storms the land was subject to overflow from the waters of the Gulf, platforms were erected sufficiently high it was supposed for protection, on which were pitched the tents of officers and men. On the night of October 10th a terrific storm arose which soon grew to a tornado, and at dawn of the next day all that could be seen of the cheerful, busy camp of the day before were the uprights and roofs of the hospital. In the branches of two large, moss-mantled live-oaks which stood in the centre of what was once Camp Caloosahatchie were clustered, close as spines upon the prickly pear, all the men of the command,—some 200,—who, true to their teachings, had clung to their arms through all these trying hours, and not one had perished.
The Big Cypress expedition of the winter of 1841-42 kept the regiment continually upon the move from November, 1841, till February, 1842. This expedition, though not sanguinary, produced good results. Villages and corn fields were given to the flames. Bands of men, women and children were driven from swamp to swamp and from island to island, until, in the
words of one of their chiefs, they could find no safe place in which to rest their weary heads; so in broken and scattered bands they fled their native wilds; delivered themselves up at Fort Brooke, until only Billy Bowlegs and Sam Jones with a handful of warriors and their families were left to represent what, but a few years before, had been an Indian nation.
The activity of the scouting parties was not diminished, however, until the 14th of August, 1842, when Colonel Worth, from his headquarters at Cedar Keys, announced the termination of the war with the Seminole Indians which is estimated to have cost the United States 2000 lives and $20,000,000. Colonel Worth assigned certain lands to the remaining Indians for hunting and planting purposes, and immediately set about redistributing the troops of his command in more healthful and accessible stations.
Although the war had ended the companies of the regiment appear to have been ever on the move from station to station during the year 1843 though more quietly at their posts in 1844 and 1845.
In the latter year it became apparent that peaceful relations with the Republic of Mexico could not be maintained much longer, and the 8th Infantry received orders in the early fall to join General Taylor's "Army of Occupation" in Texas.
From the mouth of the Nueces, a tributary of Corpus Christi Bay, stretches a bleak sandy plain for two miles to the southeast, dotted here and there with scrub live-oaks and dwarf mesquite, terminating at a bare bluff or ridge under which in those days slept the village, hamlet, town, or ranch, of Corpus Christi, the most murderous, thieving, gambling, cutthroat, God-forsaken hole in the "Lone Star State" or out of it. This stretch of plain was the camping ground of the Army of Occupation from August, 1845, until March, 1846. Here the regiment joined the army, then consisting of five regiments of infantry, one regiment of dragoons, and Ringgold's " Flying Artillery,"—the largest force of troops of the regular army that had been assembled up to that time, amounting to nearly 5000 men.
By the middle of October, 1845, all the companies were again united and the regiment was ready for the Mexican War, in which it was second to none in the performance of distinguished services. It was placed in the First (Worth's) Brigade, and was under the command of Major Belknap, and at the beginning of the campaign in Northern Mexico it numbered 20 Officers and 394 men.
Early in 1846 the news of the annexation of Texas to the United States was received, and on the 9th of March General Taylor took up his march to the Rio Grande, reaching that river opposite Matamoras March 28th.
The army immediately set about strengthening its camp, and during this time an event occurred which threw a gloom over the whole army. Colonel Worth had had a controversy with Colonel Twiggs several months before as to their respective rights to command,—Colonel Worth claiming seniority by virtue of his rank in the line, and Colonel Twiggs by virtue of his brevet rank. The claim of the latter having been sustained by President Polk, Colonel Worth at once, in disregard of the earnest appeals of General Taylor, Major Belknap, and his host of friends, tendered his resignation
and, by the advice of General Taylor, accompanied it to Washington. The regiment was paraded April 23 to bid farewell to its colonel. Major Belknap succeeded him in the command of the First Brigade, and Captain W. R. Montgomery took command of the regiment.
Fearing for the safety of his depot at Point Isabel, General Taylor moved his army there, except a small force under Major Brown in the field-work opposite Matamoras, and spent several days in completing its defenses, during which time the Mexicans cannonaded the troops left behind. On the 7th, at 3 P. M., he began the return, having in his front an army of 8000 men, his own force numbering less than 2500. The two armies came in contact at about 2 P. M., May 8, 1846, and the battle of Palo Alto ensued, the first battle in which the Eighth Infantry was engaged as a regiment.
The regiment occupied its several positions during the day without firing a shot, although it lost four killed and 14 wounded, about one-third of all the casualties. The action in fact was a defensive one on the part of the Americans, and was fought mainly by artillery against Mexican artillery and cavalry, supported by infantry. To the American infantry it was most trying and unsatisfactory, subjected as they were to the artillery fire for hours without the possibility of replying to it. At daybreak on the 9th the two armies were in sight of each other, but before daylight the enemy could be seen moving. He fell back to the Resaca de la Palma, which was a ravine six or eight feet deep and 50 yards wide, with thick woods bordering its margin. The Mexican line formed a crescent along it for a mile on the right and left of the road leading to Matamoras.
The American army began its pursuit at an early hour, moving from the right and thus bringing the Eighth in the rear of the column, and at the beginning of the battle it was held in reserve, but later, as the regiment in its advance came near General Taylor, Captain May reported that he had run around the Mexican battery in the centre of their line but could not hold the guns. General Taylor immediately turned to Major Belknap and gave him the following memorable order, "Charge in there, Colonel Belknap, and take those guns and keep them."
The regiment was quickly deployed in an open space on the left of the road, and, accompanied by a part of the 5th Infantry, charged into the ravine and up on the other side of it. The Mexican regiments at this point were the Lapadores and the Tampico Guards, two of the best in their army. These troops defended their guns with special determination, and a hand-to-hand bayonet conflict followed, in which most of the Mexican force was either killed, wounded or taken prisoners. All seven of the guns were taken. The total loss of the regiment was one officer and nine men killed, and seven officers and 26 men wounded. After this second defeat the Mexicans abandoned all hope of defending the line of the Rio Grande, and General Taylor occupied Matamoras on May 18th.
While here, owing to the depletion of Companies C, F, G and K, they were broken up, and the enlisted men, except the 1st sergeants, assigned to the remaining companies of the regiment.
The President having declined to accept the resignation of Colonel
Worth, he returned to the army and assumed command of the First Brigade, May 29th.
During the advance upon Monterey, divisional organization of the army was effected, the Eighth being placed in the Second Division, still under Colonel Worth. Lieutenant-Colonel Staniford assumed command of the regiment, August 30, at Cerralvo, and on September 14, the division left that place, encamping at Walnut Springs, three miles northeast of Monterey, on the 19th.
The 2d Division left its camp at 2 P. M., September 20, to cut the enemy's line of retreat by the Saltillo road. No opposition was offered on the 20th, but on the morning of the 21st, Companies A and B under Captain Screven being among the skirmishers covering the front of the division, a body of cavalry about 450 strong charged upon the advance and were hotly engaged near three-fourths of an hour, when they were driven back and entirely dispersed, the Eighth meeting with no loss. The Saltillo road was reached and held, but in taking up a position for the night Captain McKavett and one man were wounded. The report of Colonel Staniford as to the succeeding operations is as follows:
At the battle of Monterey the strength of the 8th Infantry was 16 officers and 321 men.
The movement from Monterey to join General Scott at Vera Cruz began January 10, 1847, and the six companies of the regiment, now under Captain George Wright, embarked at Brazos February 6, and landed on the Island of Sacrificios, three miles from the Castle of San Juan de Uloa March 9th.
The siege of Vera Cruz was almost wholly a bombardment and the duty of the infantry mainly that of guarding the trenches. The city and castle surrendered March 28th, and Colonel Worth was made commandant and governor of the city.
Company C was reorganized, mainly with recruits, March 18th, and placed on duty with the regiment.
Headquarters with Companies A, B, C, D, E, H and I, left the encampment near Vera Cruz April 13th, for the advance upon the City of Mexico. The regiment was not directly engaged with the enemy at Cerro Gordo, but, after the surrender, was ordered from the position which it had gained on the National Road in rear of Cerro Gordo, to take charge of and guard the prisoners. They were paroled April 18th, and the regiment, resuming the march, reached Puebla May 15th.
Here the reorganized companies—F, G and K—reported August 6th, but on the 7th Company G was again broken up and its men transferred to the other companies.
In the general advance upon the City of Mexico after a long halt at Puebla, the nine companies of the Eighth left that city on the 9th of August. Although they were the first troops to enter the Valley of Mexico, they were not actually engaged with the enemy at the battle of Contreras, August 19th.
The next day the enemy made a stand at Churubusco, six miles from the capital. The storming of Churubusco was perhaps the most brilliant exploit in a war abounding in splendid feats of arms, and the Eighth Infantry was a conspicuous participant in it. The attack was begun by the 6th Infantry without a reconnoissance and with only partial information of the enemy's position. The Fifth and Eighth were brought up to reinforce the advance, and the forward movement was made as rapidly as possible, but being over ditches filled with water and fields of full-grown corn, was attended with some confusion. Reaching a point about 150 yards from the tête-du-pont the fire became so severe that the line was staggered and for a moment absolutely halted. Seeing this, Captain Bomford urged his company (H) with the colors from the regimental line. This company, led by himself and Lieutenant Longstreet, hurried forward and when near the ditch the color-bearer fell. Captain Bomford now took the colors and carried them to the ditch, where he left them with Lieutenant Longstreet, and worked his way through the moat. When on the side next the wall the adjutant threw the colors to the captain and hurriedly crossed the ditch followed by Lieutenants Pickett and Snelling and Company H, immediately behind which came the rest of the regiment. Several attempts were now made to get into the fort, and in so doing the flag was passed from one to another as the chances for an entrance seemed good, until at last Captain Bomford, by placing his feet on the shoulders of some of his men, climbed into the work through the embrasure, dragging the colors with him, and in the shortest space of time the other officers above mentioned, with the balance of the regiment and other troops followed. Thus the Eighth Infantry was the first of the army to occupy the work, and its regimental colors the first American flag on the fortress. The loss of the regiment in this assault was seven enlisted men killed and Lieutenant Holloway and 33 men wounded.
Notwithstanding the hard service already performed by the regiment and its depleted condition, it gallantly pushed forward at the head of the 1st Division, reaching Tacubaya on the day following the battle of Churubusco, and was among the first in the engagement of Molino del Rey on the 8th of September.
Here the regiment,—under Major Waite, succeeded by Captain Montgomery,—performed very conspicuous and meritorious service during the entire battle. At daylight September 8, it was formed in line of battle on the extreme left, opposed to the enemy's right which was strongly intrenched. The enemy was driven from his works but made a gallant though unsuccessful attempt to recover his lost position, approaching within 50 paces of the American line but then breaking and taking refuge under the walls of Chapultepec.
The regiment then took a secure position in rear of Chapultepec where
it remained until the killed and wounded were collected, when it was ordered to assist in their conveyance from the field. This being done the regiment marched to and resumed its quarters, but more than one-third of the gallant men who had participated in the action were missing. Three color-bearers were killed in quick succession and the fourth wounded; the fifth bore them gallantly through the action. The regiment went into action with 425 muskets and came out with 284, having had 27 men killed on the field, and ten officers and 111 men wounded.
The assaulting column in another part of the field was drawn from all the regiments of the 1st Division, and the contingent of the 8th Infantry formed the fifth company and was commanded by Captain Bomford with Lieutenant Snelling. All the enemy's positions in front of this column were finally carried and the party remained in possession of the field for a short time, after which the survivors rejoined their respective regiments. The loss of this command was four-fifths of its officers and nearly one-half of the enlisted men.
The regiment was left out of the attacking party on the 12th of September on account of its severe losses and fatiguing duties, but on the 13th it marched with its division to assault the fortress of Chapultepec. It charged up the hill at double time to the enemy's walls, and then forward with other forces into the works, driving the garrison over the walls or taking them prisoners. Lieutenant Pickett took charge of the regimental colors after Lieutenant Longstreet was wounded, had them carried to the top of the castle, lowered the enemy's standard and replaced it with that of the 8th Infantry and the national colors while the battle was yet raging beneath. The regiment took part in the advance of the 1st Division along the San Cosme causeway and finally reached the Garita de San Cosme by cutting through walls and advancing on the tops of houses. The loss of the regiment at Chapultepec and the San Cosme gate was six men killed, and Lieutenants Longstreet and Selden and 14 men wounded.
The affair at the San Cosme gate was the last action in Mexico in which the regiment was engaged. Seventy-one enlisted men of the regiment received certificates of merit for brave and meritorious service during the war.
The march towards the coast for home began June 12, 1848, and the regiment embarked at Vera Cruz July 16, on the transport Alexandria, the bark John Davis, and the brig Apalachicola, arriving at New Orleans July 24 and 25, 1848.
From New Orleans the regiment was transferred to Jefferson Barracks by steamer Missouri, arriving August 1, 1848, but in November was ordered to Texas via New Orleans, reaching Port Lavacca December 18, where camp was established about one mile from town.
Companies A, E, G, I and K,—the right wing,—left camp on the 21St December, and by easy marches reached a camp on the Guadalupe River, near Victoria, on the 29th. On the night of the 21st, cholera attacked the left wing,—Companies B, C, D, F and H,—and in the course of a few hours became epidemic, so much so as to prevent the troops moving from the camp to join the right wing. The disease attacked the right wing also, but
not with such virulence as it did the left. It attained its height on the 24th, and had almost disappeared on the 27th.
Major Morrison's report, dated January 5, 1849, gives a concise account of this disaster.
Early in January, 1849, the regiments were distributed among the forts and camps of Texas which it was to occupy for twelve years. There were many movements of companies in this interval, a number of Indian skirmishes, several collisions with Cortina's outlaws, and many long marches on escort duty or scouting, but no occurrence of general interest.
Brevet Major-General Wm. J. Worth, the colonel of the regiment, died of Asiatic cholera at San Antonio, May 7, 1849, and was succeeded by Colonel John Garland, promoted from the Fourth.
The only movements of the different companies in the early part of the year 1861 (except a change of station of Company K), were made in compliance with an order issued by General Twiggs, the Department commander, for the troops to leave the State by way of the coast. The attempt to comply with this order resulted in the capture of all the regiment by the newly organized military forces of the Confederate States.
Company C, on entering the plaza at San Antonio April 22, was surrounded by an overwhelming force and obliged to surrender. Lieutenant-Colonel Hoffman, commanding the regiment, and the regimental staff and band, were taken prisoners about 10 o'clock the same day at San Antonio. The regimental colors were not captured, and the manner in which they were saved is narrated by Corporal John C. Hesse, Company A, as follows:
For this act Sergeant Wilson and Corporal Hesse each received a medal of honor.
Companies A and D were captured at Indianola, April 24, and Companies B, E, F, H, I and K, under Captain I. V. D. Reeve, near San Lucas Springs, about 22 Miles west of San Antonio, May 9th. Company G had been broken up.
The officers of Captain Reeve's battalion were not paroled as the others had been, but were, with one or two exceptions, held prisoners at San Antonio for about nine months, when they were exchanged. The enlisted men were held until February 25, 1863, during which time they were divided into squads and removed to different posts on the frontiers of Texas, deprived of pay for more than two years, supplied with scanty food and clothing, and made to suffer severe military punishments. Recruiting officers visited them daily, offering them commissions and large bounties to desert their flag, With few exceptions, however, they repelled the bribes and avoided the treason. Those who chose a different course did it to escape their prison.
The officers of the regiment who took commissions in the Confederate service were: Major Theophilus Holmes, Captains Larkin Smith, E. B. Holloway, Joseph Selden and E. D. Blake; First Lieutenants T. K. Jackson, T. M. Jones, R. G. Cole and Lafayette Peck, and Second Lieutenants J. R. Cooke and J. G. Taylor. The opening of the Civil War thus found the Eighth Infantry with its officers and men either prisoners of war, or debarred by their paroles from serving against the enemy; and it was not until October, 1863, that a body which can be considered fairly representative of the regiment could be assembled.
The reorganization of the regiment began May 1, 1861, at Fort. Wood, N. Y. Harbor, where Company G was recruited. Company F was reorganized at Newport Barracks, Ky., in July, 1861. Company A at Fort Hamilton February 17, 1862, and D at the same station May 7th. B at Fort Columbus July 29; C at Fort Columbus April 15, 1863; E and I at Fort Columbus, May 22; K on the 9th, and H on the 12th of March, 1865.
Company G took part in the battle of Bull Run, and then, with Company F, was placed on duty in Washington as provost guard.
Companies A and D joined the Army of Virginia under General Banks and on August 9, 1862, were engaged in the action with the Confederate army at Cedar Mountain. On this day the battalion was in the advance, and on the appearance of the enemy Captain Pitcher was directed to throw his command forward as skirmishers. Companies A and D formed the right of the line and advanced towards the enemy's line of battle across an open field with a steadiness and precision which were commented upon by Generals Fitzhugh Lee and Stuart. The line continued to advance until confronted by the main body of the enemy, when, not being supported, it fell back to its second line. How well the companies fought is shown by their losses, which were 8 killed, 8 wounded, and 3 missing,—nearly one-third of the
effective strength. Of the five officers present, three were wounded and two taken prisoners.
Both companies took part in the battle of Antietam and then joined Companies F and G for duty as provost guard at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac.
While Companies A and D were serving in northern Virginia, Companies F and G had taken part in the Peninsula Campaign as provost guard at General McClellan's headquarters.
Company B arrived at Sharpsburg, October 3, 1862, and the five companies,—A, B, D, F and G,—were now united for the first time since their reorganization. The battalion accompanied the headquarters in all the marches preceding Fredericksburg, in which battle it was engaged December 13, 1862. Company C joined the battalion at Falmouth, Va., April 18, 1863, where the regiment remained during the Chancellorsville campaign. It marched with the army to Gettysburg, but was not actually engaged in the battle, its duties as provost guard keeping it employed in other ways.
A few days after the battle of Gettysburg the regiment was ordered to New York City to suppress the draft riots, and encamped in the City Hall Park from July 17 to 30, 1863, and on the Battery from July 30 to August 22. It remained in New York Harbor until April 23, 1864, being stationed on Governor's Island until March 22, and after that date at Hart's Island. During this interval the various companies performed much detached service, being apparently available for any object which presented itself. The most important of these duties was the suppression of a mutiny on November 7, among certain N. Y. volunteer regiments. Companies B and I put down the mutiny and brought the ringleaders to Fort Columbus.
The regiment left Hart's Island April 2 1, 1864, and proceeded to Warrenton, Va., where it became the provost guard of the 9th Army Corps. It took part in all the movements of that corps, its detail as provost guard preventing it from engaging actively in any of the battles in which the corps were engaged.
On the 2d of November, 1864, the regiment was sent to Buffalo N. Y., to preserve order during the elections, and thence (November 12) to Baltimore, Md. After several movements of companies in Delaware and Maryland, the regiment was united at Hancock Barracks, Baltimore, Md., August 31, 1865, where it remained during the remainder of the year.
On the 5th of June, 1361, Colonel John Garland, the colonel of the regiment, died at New York, and was succeeded by Colonel Pitcairn Morrison, who retired October 20, 1863, and was succeeded by Colonel Albemarle Cady. Colonel Cady retired May 18, 1864, and was succeeded by Colonel James V. Bomford.
In April, 1866, Companies A, B, D, F, H and K were sent to stations in North Carolina, and Companies E, G and I to Charleston, S. C. Company C went to Winchester, Va., in January, but in September it, too, went to South Carolina. During the reconstruction period in the South the companies changed station very often. The regiment occupied
stations in the Carolinas until May, 1868, after which the whole regiment was in South Carolina.
In 1869, at the time of the reduction of the army, the 8th Infantry was consolidated with the 23d, the order taking effect in May of that year.
The numerous movements of the different companies while the regiment was in the South were due to the inability of the civil authorities to enforce the laws of reconstruction, and the necessity for a military force to support and maintain them. In the execution of their peculiar and unpleasant duties the most prudent and judicious measures were adopted by the officers of the regiment in order to accomplish the ends of justice and prevent bloodshed.
In 1870 the regiment was transferred to David's Island, N. Y. Harbor, in order that it might be in readiness to proceed at any time to the Island of San Domingo to protect the interests of the United States there. With this expectation, the regiment recruited to a "strength present" greater than at any other period of its existence, the regimental return for November, 1870, showing 29 officers and 810 men.
The Chicago fire in October, 1871, was the cause of a part of the regiment (Companies D, E, G and I) being sent to that city for the protection of the property belonging to the sufferers by the fire. The battalion remained in Chicago until May 3, 1872, when it was sent to Utah, where it established and built the post of Fort Cameron. These companies remained continuously at this post until the regiment was moved to Arizona in 1874.
The rest of the regiment remained at David's Island until July, 1872, when it was transferred to the Department of the Platte, arriving at Fort Rice July 21. Here the battalion was attached to the command of Colonel D. S. Stanley, 22d Infantry, designed to accompany and protect the surveyors of the Northern Pacific Railroad. While on this duty the battalion marched about 600 miles and had several collisions with the Indians, but without loss. A similar march was made by Companies B, C, F and H, in 1873, and after its termination in September the battalion was stationed at Fort D. A. Russell, Wyoming.
In February, 1874, the garrison of Fort D. A. Russell was called upon to furnish troops for the purpose of keeping the Ogallalla Sioux on their reservation, and Companies B, C, H, F and K were ordered upon this duty. Fort Laramie was reached February 28, and on the 3d of March the battalion began the march for Red Cloud Agency,—80 miles distant, and the site of the present Fort Robinson,—which was reached on the 8th. Here Company F was left with a battalion of the 13th and 14th, under Captain Van Horn, and Companies B, C, H and K, commanded by Captain Lazelle, continued the march to the Spotted Tail Agency, 41 miles further down White River, where they arrived on the 11th.
For the next four months the little garrison led a very monotonous and circumscribed existence, since "Two Strikes"' band of Sioux and a party of Minneconjous were encamped close by, and the main body under Spotted Tail was only eight miles away.
During this year the regiment was designated for service in Arizona, and
as Colonel Bomford had sustained a paralytic stroke in November, 1873, and was entirely incapacitated for such service, the President retired him from active service on June 8th.
This distinguished officer, who had spent almost a lifetime in the Eighth, was one of the best known and most esteemed of the officers of the old army. To a bravery in battle never surpassed by any one, he united a peculiar kindness and urbanity towards all those, of whatever rank, with whom he came in contact. With his high reputation in the old army and his estimable personal qualities, his failure to attain distinguished prominence in the War of the Rebellion has always been a matter of surprise and a subject for comment among those who knew and admired him. An explanation of this may, however, be found in the fact that, having surrendered in Texas in 1861 as major of the 6th Infantry, his loyalty was for a time unreasonably suspected by the authorities; and still more to the other fact that, at the battle of Perryville, while acting as chief of staff to General McCook and conducting himself with his usual gallantry, he was very severely wounded and virtually incapacitated for further service during the war.
He was succeeded by Colonel August V. Kautz,
The movement to Arizona was begun in July, 1874, and by the end of October the companies were at their new stations,—Headquarters and Company F at Whipple Barracks; A and B at Camp Verde; C at Fort McDowell; D and G at Camp Lowell: E and K at Camp Apache; H at Fort Yuma; and I at Camp Grant.
The 8th Infantry remained in Arizona for four years, during all of which time most of the companies remained at their posts performing the ordinary garrison duties, and in most cases were employed in constructing or enlarging posts, building roads, telegraph lines, etc. The Indians were generally quiet, and no one of the companies was sent into the field as an organization. Many of the officers, however, performed arduous and important service in command of scouting parties, composed of Indian scouts and detachments of the regiment. The only approach to an engagement with the Indians in which the regiment took part, occurred at Camp Apache on July 9, 1876, when Diablo's band of White Mountain Apaches fired into the post from a neighboring hill. Company E, which was the only company of the regiment at that post at the time, turned out at once with the rest of the garrison and attacked the Indians, soon forcing them to retreat up the mountains.
When the Nez Perce war broke out in 1377, Company H joined the column which General Howard had organized against Chief Joseph. It began its march July 30, and during the next three months was engaged in all the marches and other operations of that famous pursuit. Joseph having surrendered, the company was sent back to California, having travelled, by steamer, rail and marching, 7244 miles during the campaign.
In 1878 the regiment was transferred to California, but the transfer was complicated by the Bannock Indian war which broke out while it was in progress. All the companies except E and G were involved in this and were kept constantly in motion while it lasted. At its close the regiment was as-
signed to stations at Benicia Barracks, Angel Island, San Diego, Fort McDermitt, Fort Bidwell, Camp Halleck, and Camp Gaston, with headquarters first at Angel Island, then at Benicia, and finally (March 2, 1880) at Angel Island.
In September, 1881, the Apache Indians broke out again, and after the encounter at Cibicu in which the Indians had the advantage, seven companies of the regiment (A, B, C, D, F, I and K) were selected for field service in Arizona. They were not engaged with the Indians though constantly on the move seeking for them, and by December 20 had all returned to their stations except Company A. This company rejoined at San Diego in March, 1882, only to be sent out again a month later, to return finally May 10, 1882.
The next three years passed without incident, but in the last days of 1885 the Geronimo campaign began and was the cause of the regiment's being sent to Arizona for the third and last time. There was the usual escort and scouting duty to perform and Company E, among its other duties, escorted Indian prisoners in April, 1886, to Fort Marion, Florida., thus finding itself at the station it had occupied 41 years before. In going and returning this company travelled a distance of 4414 miles.
In May Company D was engaged in the pursuit of the Indians under Natchez and Geronimo. The men on this march were reported as completely worn out, barefoot and almost destitute of clothing, and 8 men were sent to Fort Huachuca for medical treatment.
During the month of June, 1886, the intention of keeping the regiment in Arizona seems to have been formed and the companies were assigned to stations.
In July Company I joined Captain Lawton's command in the field and marched rapidly to the Fronteras River in Sonora, remaining in the field until September 10. Detachments from Companies D and K were also on duty with Captain Lawton at this time and were 70 days in pursuit of the Indians, marching a distance of nearly 700 miles through a mountainous and almost inaccessible country.
The campaign against Geronimo having ended, the regiment was transferred in November, 1886, to the Department of the Platte, the headquarters, and Companies A, B, E, F, G and H going to Fort Niobrara, C and I to Fort Robinson, D and K to Fort Bridger.
In August, 1888, the regiment was concentrated in a camp of instruction near Bordeaux, Nebraska, and in 1889 another camp was organized at Fort Robinson. Other troops of all arms were sent to this camp from the various posts in the Department, the whole forming the largest body of regular troops assembled since the war. On September 9th the regiment took part in a practice march conducted in accordance with the conditions of actual warfare and lasting until the 14th, when it returned to camp having marched 70 miles.
Companies I and K were skeletonized in September, 1890.
Although Companies A, B, C and H were called out for service at the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Agencies, they were not actually engaged in the campaign. Company A was the first to reach the battle-field of Wounded
Knee after the battle, and at once began the work of searching out the dead from under the snow by which they were covered, and in caring for the wounded who had survived the intense cold of the previous nights. The campaign having terminated, headquarters and Companies A and H were ordered to Fort McKinney, and at 8.15 P. M., January 31, reached the terminus of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, where preparations were at once begun for the march to Fort McKinney, 135 miles distant.
The weather was intensely cold and the departure was delayed several days in the hope that it might moderate. On February 3d, there being no prospect of the weather becoming more favorable, the command began its march westward to Fort McKinney. This march, of a week's duration, was probably as severe a test of the endurance of officers and men as the army has ever been called upon to undergo. The extremely low temperature continued to the very end, and was combined with frequent snow storms and blizzards. On several occasions camp was made with little or no wood, and no water other than that obtained by melting snow. At Powder River, when half the route had been traversed, a halt of one day was made to enable the exhausted command to obtain rest and warmth. The command reached Fort McKinney February 10th, where it has since remained.
During the month of March, 1891, Company I was reorganized as a company of Indians, recruited from the Arapahoe and Shoshone tribes of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, taking station at Fort Washakie.
On April 20, 1891, Colonel Kautz was promoted brigadier-general, and was succeeded by Colonel J. J. Van Horn, the present colonel.
Return to Table of Contents