The Army of the US Historical Sketches of Staff and Line with Portraits of Generals-in-Chief

Twentieth Regiment of Infantry

By Capt. J. N. Coe

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The Twentieth Infantry was organized by direction of the President, May 4, 1861, and confirmed by act of Congress July 29, 1861, as the second battalion of the Eleventh Infantry, the first, numerically, of the nine three battalion regiments organized under this act.

Its designation was changed by act of Congress of July 28, 1866, when by the addition of two companies to the eight which constituted the battalion, it became the Twentieth Infantry. Its designation and organization was completed and fixed under the act, by the provisions of General Orders No. 92 from the War Department, series of 1866, and was of effect from the 21st of September, 1866.

While as an organization perfected at this date the Twentieth Infantry can have no distinct war record, its officers (with hardly an exception) and a great number of enlisted men whose names appear on its original rolls, with many officers who have subsequently joined by promotion and otherwise, had served during the entire War of the Rebellion, and with marked distinction and gallantry, in such important and conspicuous positions that their military record had become a part of the nation's history.

At the time of this evolution or development of the battalion into a regiment (1866), it was, with the exception of Co. B (then at Union, West Virginia), stationed at Richmond, Va., under the immediate command of its major, Thomas H. Neill, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. U.S.A. As a part of the Eleventh Infantry, it had remained there from early in May, 1865, occupying the temporary but very comfortable (to troops that had endured four years of field service in actual warfare) location and buildings, then known as Camp Winder, later Camp Grant. In addition to the ordinary garrison routine, it had been performing the arduous and often disagreeable duties of provost-guard, patroling the streets of the city, and furnishing large details of enlisted men to act as a police force for the preservation of order and protection of persons and property.

The first field officers of the Twentieth Infantry were:

  • Colonel, Frederick Steele, Bvt. Major-Gen. U. S. A.
  • Lieut.-Colonel, Louis D. Watkins, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. U. S. A.
  • Major, Thomas H. Neill, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. U. S. A.

Its Captains were:

  • Alexander S. Webb,
  • Charles S. Russell,
  • Charles C. Pomeroy,
  • James M. Cutts,
  • Henry G. Thomas,
  • Charles E. Farrand,
  • John C. Bates,
  • Edward R. Parry,
  • John J. Hoff.


In January, 1867, the number of captains was completed by the appointment of Lieut. A. A. Harbach, regimental adjutant, to the remaining original vacancy.

In January, 1867, the regiment was transferred from Richmond to the Department of the Gulf and District of Louisiana, with headquarters at Baton Rouge, La., where it arrived on the first day of February, 1867, having remained for two or three days in New Orleans, from which point the companies were assigned to posts and stations. The journey by which the regiment reached its new stations in the Department of the Gulf, then commanded by General Sheridan, was performed by rail to Norfolk, Va., where it arrived about midnight on January 13th. On the morning of the 14th, its commander was notified that the regiment would embark at once on board the steamship Missouri, then ready to receive and transport it to New Orleans, but the prescribed inspection of the vessel, the construction of wooden bunks between decks for the accommodation of enlisted men, the provision of some very primitive and limited cooking facilities, and the stowing of baggage, occupied the entire day and until the afternoon of the 15th, when with headquarters and nine companies (B not having joined), band playing and colors flying, the Missouri steamed out past Fort Monroe. All were in high spirits, enjoying the scenery, and happy in the belief that in six or seven days they would be enjoying the delightful winter climate of Louisiana. But soon the sea became rough, weather very threatening, and in a few hours it was blowing a terrible gale accompanied by rain and hail.

The ship proved less seaworthy than she had appeared to the board convened for her inspection, and soon became disabled through breakage of some of her machinery, then sprung a leak, and after the storm of four days' duration had somewhat abated, the commanding officer was informed of the condition of affairs, and that the ship was a long way off her course; but the leakage and damage to machinery proved less serious than was supposed, and after a day's delay was repaired, and the ship proceeded on her voyage to the southwest pass of the delta of the Mississippi, and there stuck in the mud. After some delay a steamer of the Morgan Line was procured, the troops and baggage transferred, and after a delightful sail up the Mississippi the regiment disembarked at New Orleans on the 27th day of January, 1867. On the 28th, the following assignments to stations was made, and the organizations proceeded to them by companies or battalions direct from this point.

Lieut.-Col. L. D. Watkins, with headquarters and companies A and E (Captains Patterson and Fletcher), Baton Rouge, La.; Company B (Captain J. C. Bates, bvt. lieut.-col.), Alexandria, La.; Company C (2d Lieut. William Hawley, commanding), Marshall, Texas; Company D (2d Lieut. Stanton Weaver, commanding), Jefferson, Texas; Company F (2d Lieut. Charles Robinett) and Company I (Captain John J. Hoff), Ship Island, Mississippi; Company G (Captain Edward R. Parry), Fort Jackson, La.; Company H (Captain J. M. Cutts, bvt. lieut.-col.), Shreveport, La., and Company K (1st Lieut. John W. Hicks, commanding) to Fort St. Philip, La.

During the two years next succeeding, the regiment was employed on duties connected with the reconstruction of the States of Mississippi, Lou-


isiana, and Texas, with frequent changes of stations of companies within the District and Department.

Colonel Steele never joined, and Lieutenant-Colonel Watkins remained in command of the regiment until sudden death, at New Orleans, on the 29th of March, 1868, terminated the career of this brilliant and accomplished officer.

On March 20, 1868, Lieut.-Col. George Sykes, 5th Infantry, bvt. major-general, U. S. A., was attached to, and took command of the regiment, and in August following formally assumed command as its colonel,—in succession to Colonel Frederick Steele, whose death occurred on the 12th day of January of that year.

By G. O. No. 17, A. G. O., March 15, 1869, the regiment was transferred to the Department of Dakota, and in compliance with this order its companies, then widely scattered over the State of Louisiana, assembled and were rendezvoused at Baton Rouge.

On the 4th of April the entire regiment under command of its colonel (Sykes) embarked on the steamer Pauline Carroll for St. Paul, Minn., where it arrived April 20, then proceeded to and disembarked at Fort Snelling, Minn., where orders were received for the following assignments to stations: Headquarters, Band and Company E, to Fort Snelling, Minn.; A and G to Fort Ripley, Minn.; B and H to Fort Wadsworth, Dakota Ter.; C and D to Fort Ransom, D. T.; F and I to Fort Abercrombie, D. T.; and K to Fort Totten, D. T.

Companies A and G left Fort Snelling for Fort Ripley, April 29, 1869, but owing to the impassable condition of the roads or trails by which the companies designated to garrison Forts Abercrombie, Ransom and Wadsworth, were to reach their stations, their movement was delayed until May 14, when the six companies, B, C, D, F, H and I, under command of Captain H. G. Thomas, proceeded by rail to St. Cloud, Minn., and thence by marching to their posts.

Company K was detained at Fort Snelling until late in the month of May, when it proceeded by rail to Saint Cloud, Minn., and marched from that point to Fort Totten, a distance of 300 miles. About the same time Company A changed station from Fort Ripley to Fort Totten, by marching about 260 miles.

These stations were at that date among the most isolated and inaccessible in the country. They were located on, or near the reservations and lands on which the savage bands of Sioux roamed, or were maintained, and in addition to the probable restraining influence they had upon the Indians, served as safeguards to the thousands of hardy settlers who, with the advent of railways, have made the Dakotas the populous and prosperous States of to-day.

The headquarters of the regiment remained at Fort Snelling while the companies garrisoned these frontier posts, with occasional tours of detached duty and changes to and from regimental headquarters and other posts in the Department, performing duties incident to service in an Indian country. On August 31, 1871, Company B (Captain J. C. Bates) left Fort Wadsworth (since known as Sisseton and now abandoned), escorted a wagon train to


Fort Rice, D. T., and there joined an expedition commanded by Major Whistler, 22d Infantry, organized as an escort to a Northern Pacific surveying party, and as a part of this escort marched to the Yellowstone River. It returned to Fort Wadsworth, October 26, having marched 660 miles.

In 1872 and 1873 Company K was in the field for several months as an escort to the Northern Boundary Commission; and in the following year (1874), Company I was attached to and formed a part of the command of General Custer, for the exploration of the Black Hills country. Other companies had frequent but less extended tours of detached duty, on expeditions of minor importance.

The transfer of the regiment from the Department of Dakota to the Department of Texas was announced in General Orders from the Division of the Missouri, dated December 3, 1877. The movement commenced about the middle of the month, the companies marching to the nearest point at which railway transportation could be taken, and proceeding thence by battalions to stations assigned them in the Department of Texas as follows: Col. Sykes with headquarters, band and companies B, D, G, I and K, to Fort Brown, Texas; Co. A (Captain Patterson) to San Antonio, Texas; and Companies C, E, F and H; with Lieut.-Col. L. C. Hunt in command, were ordered to take station at Fort Clark, which was reached from the railway terminus (San Antonio) by a march of 126 miles.

This portion of the regiment, owing to the impassable condition of the roads from heavy rains during the last ten days of December, 1877, and early part of January, 1878, was detained in San Antonio from January 2 until the 21st, and did not reach Fort Clark, its station, until the 29th. The colonel, with headquarters, band and the companies assigned to Fort Brown (with the exception of Co. K), reached their station about January 1, 1878, Company K a few days later.

Companies C, E, F and H formed a part of the expeditions which on two occasions in 1878 crossed the Rio Grande in pursuit of cattle thieves; and, during the autumn of 1879 and winter of 1880, with a company of the 24th Infantry and the mounted company of Seminole Scouts, occupied the then Indian country south of Fort Davis and between the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers, and opened a military road from San Philipe northwest across Devil's river, through Painted and Pecos Cañon, to a point near Maxon's Springs, materially shortening the wagon route from Clark to Fort Davis.

In 1880 some changes of stations of companies were made; Company A from San Antonio to Fort Brown, and Companies C, E, F and H, marching from Fort Clark to Fort McIntosh, and in February 1881, F and H, from McIntosh to Fort Ringgold.

The death of Colonel Sykes, who had held uninterrupted command of the regiment for more than twelve years, occurred at Fort Brown on the 8th of February, 1880. He was succeeded by Colonel Elwell S. Otis, promoted from Lieut.-Col. 22d Infantry, who joined at Fort Brown and assumed command of the regiment on the 31st day of March, 1880.

The transfer of the regiment from the Department of Texas to the Department of the Missouri was announced in General Orders from the Division of the Missouri of date October 16, 1881, and under Special Orders No.


133, Department of Texas, it moved as follows: Companies C and E left Fort McIntosh November 1, and having been assigned to station at Fort Dodge, Kansas, proceeded direct to that post by rail via San Antonio. On Nov. 5, the band, then temporarily at Fort Ringgold, with Companies F and H, left that post by steamboat, proceeded to Brownsville, thence to Point Isabel, where the six companies from Fort Brown had preceded them. The battalion,—then consisting of headquarters, band and Companies A, B, D, F, G, H, I and K, under command of Major C. R. Layton, 20th Infantry,—embarked on the evening of November 7 on board the steamer I. C Harris which sailed on November 8, and arrived at Galveston on the 10th. From there they proceeded by rail to stations assigned them by S. O. No. 233, Department of Missouri, November 12, 1881, as follows: Headquarters, band and Companies F and H, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Company D, Fort Dodge, Kansas; Companies B and K, Fort Gibson, I. T.; Company A, Fort Wallace; and Companies B and I, and F, Fort Hays, Kansas. By the 15th of November all had reached their stations.

The regiment remained in this department (Missouri) until the spring of 1885, and all the companies, with the exception of B and K, had one or more change of station within the department. These companies were in the field during the troubles in the Indian Territory in March, April and May, 1883, when, under the command of Captain J. C. Bates, 20th Infantry, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, the capture of all insurgent Creek Indians was completed. The companies then returned to their station (Fort Gibson) having marched a distance of 375 miles. In January and February, 1885, Companies C and D (which had, on the abandonment of Fort Dodge in June, 1882, changed station to Fort Reno. I. T.) were in the field engaged in removing intruders and trespassers from the public lands in Oklahoma, and in the performance of this duty marched 188 miles. No other field service of importance was performed by companies of the regiment in the department of the Missouri.

In compliance with G. O. No. 44, A. G. O., April 9, 1885, and G. O. No. 2, Headquarters Division of the Missouri, April 29, 1885, the regiment was again transferred to the Department of Dakota, and on May 20, the entire regiment having rendezvoused at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, proceeded by rail to Bismarck, D. T., where it arrived on May 23, and on the same day embarked on steamers Helena, Batchelor and Rosebud, for the upper Missouri country. The headquarters, band, and Companies A, B, C, E, F, H, I and K, took post at Fort Assiniboine, Mont., which, after disembarking at Coal Banks, was reached by a march of 40 miles. Companies D and G, under command of the major (Bates) disembarked at Rocky Point and marching about fifty miles, reached Fort Maginnis, to which post they had been assigned, thus relieving at these posts the entire Eighteenth Infantry, which was transferred to the Department of the Missouri, using in its journey to Bismarck the boats by which the Twentieth Infantry had made the trip up the Missouri River. By the 10th of June, 1885, the headquarters and companies were at their stations.

In October, 1885, Company I marched from Fort Assiniboine to Sweet Grass Hills and returned to post. Distance marched, 144 miles. Company


D, as escort to paymaster, marched from Fort Maginnis to Custer Station, and returned to its post on the 16th of November, 1885, having marched 220 miles. In August, 1886, Company G changed station from Fort Maginnis to Camp Poplar River, Mont., by marching about fifty miles to the Missouri River (Rocky Point), thence by boat; and in the same month, Company I changed station from Fort Assiniboine to Camp Poplar River, marching to Claggett (60 miles), thence by boat to its station. During the months of October and November, 1886, short tours of detached duty were performed within thirty or forty miles of the post by Companies A, C and K. Company B, Captain McCaskey commanding, left Fort Assiniboine May 27, 1887, and marched to Sweet-Grass Hills, where it remained in camp until October, returning to its post on the 17th of that month, having marched 140 miles. Companies E and H performed short tours of detached service in the months of August and September, 1887. In the spring of 1888 Companies A, F and K performed a tour of twenty days detached duty, and commenced the construction of a dam on Beaver Creek, about eight miles above the post, for the storage of water from which the post might be supplied in seasons of excessive drought. On June 1, Company A left Fort Assiniboine for Fort Maginnis, changing station, and marched 126 miles. Company D left Maginnis on the same date for Fort Assiniboine, where it arrived and took station June 8, having also marched 126 miles.

In September, 1888, a practice march of 73 miles with camps of instruction lasting 23 days was participated in by the band, Companies B, C, D, E, F, H and K, from Fort Assiniboine, and similar instruction was given companies of the regiment stationed at other posts. This was repeated in the fall seasons of 1889-90-91 and 92, throughout the Department, under orders from its commander.

During the fall of 1888 and summer of 1889, all the companies of the regiment performed short tours of detached service. On the 16th of October, 1889, Company F changed station from Fort Assiniboine to Camp Poplar River, Montana; and Company G, on the 17th, left Camp Poplar River for Fort Assiniboine, taking station there October 18, both movements by rail. Company A changed station from Fort Maginnis to Assiniboine and, under the same order, Company C moved from Fort Assiniboine to Fort Buford, North Dakota. Company A reached Fort Assiniboine May 28, 1890, having marched 118 miles, and Company C arrived at Buford the same date, by rail 295 miles.

Companies I and K were skeletonized under General Orders No. 76, A. G. O. series of 1890, the officers transferred to other companies from which officers were absent on extended tours of detached service, or long leave of absence, and the enlisted men distributed among the remaining companies of the regiment. By the disbandment of Company I at Camp Poplar River, that garrison was reduced to one company, and on the 18th of September Company C, under orders of the Department commander, left Fort Buford and marched to Camp Poplar River, 63 miles, taking station there September 21, 1890.

On November 29, 1890, Companies G and H, under command of Captain


A. A. Harbach, 20th Infantry, left Fort Assiniboine en route by rail to Fort Keogh, Mont., equipped for participation in the campaign then being inaugurated against unruly Sioux Indians.

The battalion reached Fort Keogh on December 2, went into camp near that post, and remained until December 31, when it was attached to the command of Colonel A. K. Arnold, 1st Cavalry, and on that date marched with it en route to the Little Missouri River, which was reached on January 9, 1891, and a camp established from which the country could be patrolled. This was maintained until the 22d of January, when, under orders from the Department commander, camp was broken and the command returned to Fort Keogh, where it arrived on the 29th and remained until the 3d of February, 1891, when the battalion returned by rail to Fort Assiniboine, Montana, having travelled 1184 miles by rail, and marched 268 miles.

In the summer following, Company I was reëstablished, as an Indian company, under War Department Orders of March 9, 1891, and assigned to station at Camp Poplar River. Enlistments of Indians for this company were made from the Sioux at the Poplar River, and Gros Ventres and Assiniboines at the Fort Belknap Agency, and, when the number necessary for its organization seemed assured Company F was ordered from Camp Poplar River to Fort Buford, and, proceeding by rail, took station there May 21, 1891. A few weeks later, it again changed station to Fort Assiniboine, where it arrived by rail on the 21st of July, 1891. Since that date no changes have taken place, nor have any tours of detached service been performed by companies beyond the usual fall manoeuvres in September of 1891 and 1892. The regiment is now,—March, 1893,—stationed in the Department of Dakota, the Headquarters, Band, and Companies A, B, D, F, F, G and H, at Fort Assiniboine, Montana, commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Evan Miles, 20th Infantry. Companies C and I at Camp Poplar River, Mont., commanded by Major Lloyd Wheaton, 20th Infantry.

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