I MARRIED A SOLDIER (part 6)

An express was sent to Dog Canon with orders to abandon the scout, and, to my great joy, the soldiers returned, when, with much pleasure, I relinquished the command of Fort Fillmore. It was my first and last appearance in the role of commanding officer of a military post. One of the small towns not far from Fort Fillmore was Mesilla, which we sometimes visited; but the Rio Grande was between us and the village, and not always in a good condition to ford, consequently we did not go very often. The Rio Grande has of late years cut an entirely new channel for itself, placing Mesilla on the east bank, while in 1861 it was on the west side of the river. We were invited by some friends living there to see a bull-fight; and we went, expecting to have my blood curdle at the sight of streaming gore from matadore or bull, and to enjoy myself greatly with the horrors of the scene! But I never saw such an old, travel-stained steer tamer, nor one more unwilling to fight ; no amount of red-rag waving, nor prods with iron-pointed staff, could rouse him into anything fiercer than a weary glance at his tormentor.  I soon got tired of such a sport (?) as that, and left. I never went to see another bull-fight. Towards the latter part of the winter the authorities at Santa Fe seemed to become aware that reinforcements were needed at Fillmore. It was but forty miles from Fort Bliss, Texas, and in case of trouble the handful of soldiers stationed there could make no resistance whatsoever. Major Gabriel Paul was sent to command the post, and of course chose our quarters; but when those next door were cleaned and put to rights they were as good as the house we left, and as we had little furniture to move, it was not much trouble. The garrison was reinforced by several companies of Fifth and Seventh Infantry and Mounted Rifles, with their officers. Major Paul was succeeded by Major Lynde in the command of the post.  Two doctors were sent to take charge of the hospital and sick people generally,-Doctor  J. C. McKee and Doctor Alden. It was a relief to feel we need not now send one hundred miles or so, if we were ill, for a doctor. We were turned out of quarters again that spring, but not by a ranking officer. One very warm after­ noon the children and servants were playing in the yard, while we were reading in the house. Presently we heard a great commotion, and someone rushed in to tell us there ” was a river at the back gate.” Husband, thinking it was a joke, dressed himself leisurely and went out, while I kept on reading.  In a moment he was back to say an immense body of water was then in the yard and would be in the house in a few moments. There was no time to be lost in adorning myself, so in a dressing-sack and skirt I flew round, and with the help of the servants tore up our two carpets, picked up the loose things off the floors, and soon had all articles likely t? be injured by water out of the way. I don’t know how we did so much in such a short time. “The lieutenant, armed with a spade, was hard at work on an adobe wall in the yard, trying to break a hole in it, to let the water escape on to the parade. I ran out the front door and beckoned to the soldiers who were seated in front of their quarters, but they took no notice. By degrees they divined something was wrong, as I kept on making motions, and they came running over to see what I wanted. I explained the situation, and they carried out the furniture as fast as possible. By the time the men arrived I was wading in water up to my knees, all over the house. Everybody, man, woman, and child, turned out to see the fun, and were amazed to see the stream that rushed through the house and out the door, spreading rapidly over the parade-ground. The day was bright and beautiful, with not a cloud to be seen. The flood was supposed to have come from a cloud-burst in the Organ Mountains, miles away to the east of us. The water came booming down the mountains, making right for our house; no other on the line was disturbed. Fortunately, there was a set of quarters next us vacant, so that we could go right in; this made our second move and third house at Fort Fillmore. The quarters were not as good as others we had lived in at the post. I did not enjoy the presence of a poisonous snake in the bedroom, nor that of a bat found clinging to the sheet under which I was sleeping. I hated tl}e bat worse than the snake, I believe. They frequently made us hurried visits; there were hundreds of bats in those old adobe walls. XVIII FIGHTING had begun between North and South, and we were most unpleasantly situated.  There were at Fillmore several officers and their families with decided Southern sentiments. One of the officers quietly retired to Texas, leaving his family to follow as best they could, showing how implicitly he relied on the chivalry of his old companions-in-arms to take care of his wife and children until they were able to join him. We did not make friends. All the little tittle-tattle of an army frontier post was measured up and reported to Santa Fe. Silly things said on the spur of the moment were repeated and magnified into something important long after the originator had forgotten all about them. I remember on the Fourth of July, 1861, quite a number of us were singing the national airs, and someone paid a glowing tribute to the “old flag,” when a sweet, gentle Southern woman made a flippant remark, at which we were all indignant. When I had her alone, I asked how she came to make such a speech. ” Oh, just to tease Doctor McKee,” she replied. What she said was reported at head-quarters. Many of our oldest and truest army friends resigned and went South, several of them passing through Fort Fillmore on their way out of New Mexico. Among them were General Longstreet, who came into the post driving his own ambulance, en route to Texas; Cadmus Wil­ cox, Colonel W.W. Loring, Lawrence Baker, Major Sibley, and others whose names I have forgotten. Colonel George B. Crittenden, one of our best friends, also went down to Texas, and I never saw him again. Some left New Mexico via Fort Union, crossing the Plains to reach “the States.” Much pressure was brought to bear on Lieutenant Joseph Wheeler by his Southern relations, all urging him to resign. Between his desire to be true to the government and anxiety not to offend his nearest and dearest, he was almost distracted, but he yielded at last to the importunities of his friends and left the United States army, but very reluctantly. Very few soldiers left the army, while in New Mexico, to join the Southern Confederacy. Of course, every day all sorts of rumors were brought in of intended attacks on the post by Con.: federates, and caused a good deal of uneasiness among us all. The commanding officer, Major Lynde, seemed utterly oblivious of the danger, and took no means to strengthen the place, nor to put his small force where it would be most efficient in case the Texans carried out their plans to make a raid on the garrison. Officers loyal to the United States grew restless under Lynde’s command; some made suggestions to him as to the best manner of protecting the post, but to all he turned a deaf ear. There could not have been a better man in command to help the Southern cause, nor worse for the government, than Major Lynde. Several alarms had been given of the advance of Southern troops into New Mexico, and mounted parties were sent out to investigate and intercept them, when Lynde could be brought to see any danger that might result should the reports be true. On one of these occasions Lieutenant Lane commanded the troops, and I quote from an account of the affair given by Doctor McKee, who tells it more graphically than I can : “Lane was a hot-headed Kentuckian” (writes the doctor)” who had his own way of being loyal, which did not suit the extremists; but I had confidence in his determined bravery as a soldier and his integrity as a man.” The scout left Fillmore June 22, and went down the Rio Grande towards El Paso, a rumor having been brought in that the Texans were advancing four hundred strong. First Lieutenant W. B. Lane was in command of the United States troops, and with him were Second Lieutenant C. H. McNally and Second  Lieutenant E. J. Cressy, Regiment Mounted Rifles, and seventy men. The doctor says, “He (Lane) ordered his officers to examine the cylinders of each man’s revolver, to see that they were properly loaded, as he intended to make it a hand-to-hand fight.”  Unfortunately, he did not meet the enemy”-so the doctor thought-but I was quite satisfied that they did not find “the enemy.” Just about this time I had a visit from old Charles, who had once belonged to Captain Elliot, and who took French leave while at Fort Bliss. His master came to Fillmore on business, and brought Charles with him.  The old fellow was very glad to see us again, and he and I discussed the war seriously.  I asked what he intended to do when the Texans reached Fort Bliss? “Get over into Mexico as quickly as possible,” was his answer. “And leave old Sallie and Patsy?” (his wife and daughter) I asked. “Well,” he replied, “you know the Good Book tells us to look out for number one.”  I was very surprised at such a reading of the “Good Book,” and concluded, if he could distort the meaning to suit his own purposes, the Mormon. the woman was right when she told me “the Bible, like a fiddle, could be made to play many tunes.” I had said to her I did not see how the Mormons based their belief and religion on anything found in the Bible, and the above was her reply. Late in June, or the beginning of July, the post herd was stampeded, but by whom was not known. It was suspected the friends of the Confederacy could tell a good deal about it. The stampede dismounted one or all the companies of riflemen at Fillmore, and made them foot-soldiers for the time being. Not a horse was left in the company Lieu­ tenant Lane commanded, so that the duties of the men were curtailed, having no stable-call to attend. About the middle of July it was decided to send some of the surplus commissary stores to Fort Craig, and the company Lieutenant Lane commanded was ordered to escort the wagon-train. Doctor McKee writes, “He (Lane) was a fighting man, and had to be gotten rid of.” Before leaving Fort Fillmore we sent all our furniture, china, etc., to Mesilla, to be sold at auction, and, strange to say, realized remarkably good prices for everything. We were more fortunate than those friends who remained at Fillmore and lost their all later on On the 24th of July, 1861, we left for Fort Craig; our escort of riflemen was distributed among the wagons, as there were no horses to ride.  We had traveled but a short distance when the wagon­ master insisted on halting to rest the mules, preparatory to a night march across the Jornado del Muerto, the eighty miles’ stretch without water. Lieutenant Lane thought the halt so early in the day entirely unnecessary, but agreed to it, never dreaming the man had any other motive than the one given, the good of the animals.  After-events seemed to prove he was playing for high stakes, but he lost that time. While resting I looked over the peaceful landscape, and remarked that it seemed impossible there could be war and fighting i,n ; the States,” while all here was so serene and quiet.   Little did we im­agine that within a very few miles of us was a large body of Texans, seriously considering the possibility of capturing the train with which we were traveling. It was filled with provisions, of which they stood sorely in need. After resting through the heat of the day we broke camp late in the evening and started out on the Jor­nado, expecting to travel until about nine o’clock. It was a beautiful night, clear, and bright moonlight. Not a sound broke the intense stillness, except the slow, steady trot of the mules on the hard road. The children and servants were asleep in the ambulance, while we kept a keen lookout for danger ahead, and enjoyed the quiet all around us. Suddenly we were roused by the noise of g;illoping horses coming from behind us, and in a few moments several men rode up and asked for “Lieutenant Lane.” The ambulance was stopped at once, and the strangers hurriedly told their story. One of them was Doctor Steck, an Indian agent and a strong Union man, whom we had known in Mesilla. He came to warn us that two hundred and fifty Texans were ready with horses saddled to leave the lower country, overtake us that night, and capture our train! I felt as if turned to stone, and did not speak for some time. Then I asked, ” What are we to do?” ” Fight,” answered “the lieutenant.” ” We will corral the wagons, use the sacks of flour and bacon for a fortification, put you, the children, and servants inside, and do our best to defend ourselves” Imagine my feelings. The whole number of soldiers and teamsters would not be more than sixty men all told, and the prospect of victory for our side was small. I said nothing, and tried to feel brave, but I did not very. We had heard before leaving Fillmore that Captain Alfred Gibbs, Mounted Rifles, was on his way from Albuquerque with beef cattle for that post, escorted by his company, to keep off Indians or Texans, as the case might be. If Gibbs knew of our predica­ment he might push on rapidly and meet us at Point of Rocks, on the Jornado, early next morning. So it was decided to send an express ahead (a man mounted on a horse) to meet him, and let him know what Doctor Steck had reported to Lieutenant Lane, and in case we did not arrive at the designated place at a certain hour, he was to come to our assistance with all possible haste. I felt somewhat better after the note to Gibbs iras written-on the fly-leaf of a book, by the light of a lantern-and despatched, but none too cheerful, I can tell you. Lieutenant Lane ordered the wagon-master to travel as far and rapidly as possible that night. On we went, counting every mile between us and our supposed pursuers as so much gained. The moon still shone brightly on our swiftly-moving train, and lit up the desert for miles in every direction, but not a living thing could be seen. XIX ABOUT one A.M. the report was brought to Lieutenant Lane that the mules were giving out, so we halted and camped just where we were, beside the road. No sign of the enemy yet, and I began to breathe again and took some rest. As soon as the animals were refreshed and had grazed a little,-there was no water for them,-they were harnessed up, and we were off, hoping soon to meet Gibbs. When a cloud of dust in the distance heralded his approach, I was greatly relieved ; and as help was in front and no sign of an enemy in the rear, I began to feel bold, and tried to convince myself I was not so very badly frightened after all, but I think any woman under the circumstances would have been quite as much alarmed as I was. I could not run away, lest I should meet a foe far worse than the Texans. The Indians were always somewhere in the neighborhood, so that it would have been safer to stay where we were than to fall into their clutches. Lieutenant Lane tried to induce Captain Gibbs not to go on to Fillmore, but he decided to obey orders, taking a roundabout way to reach the post, and so avoid, he hoped, the expected enemy. That something had happened to prevent the intended attack on the wagons was evident, for, had the Texans started at the time set, they could have overtaken us hours before we met Captain Gibbs, and we heard how it was some days later. Suspicion fell on the wagon-master for detaining us. It was thought that he knew of the proposed capture of the train, and had delayed it on that account, that we should not get too far away to be caught. I don’t know that the charges were ever proved, but appearances were strongly against him. We continued on to Fort Craig without accident or hindrance, to my great joy. Doctor Steck and those who left Mesilla with him hurried through to Santa Fe. One morning, a few days after our arrival, we were startled by the appearance of a sergeant and two soldiers of the Rifles, whom we had left at Fort Fillmore. They had escaped capture, and made their way to Fort Craig, coming immediately to report to Lieutenant Lane, and from them we learned what took place after our departure. What they told us of the fight at Mesilla, Major Lynde’s disgraceful retreat from Fort Fillmore to­ wards Fort Stanton, the capture and surrender of his whole command to the Texans, has passed into history; but, later, I will quote a little from Doctor McKee on the subject. We also learned that the talked-of raid on the wagon-train, news of which was brought by Doctor I Steck, was no idle rumor. It was well planned, and everything ready, when some Southern men whom we knew well, and with whom we had been friendly, implored those in command not to attempt it, ” for God’s sake; that there were women and children with the train !” So, we were unmolested, and the Texans turned their attention to the troops at Fort Fillmore. Possibly the vicinity of the veterans at that post had more to do with the abandonment of the raid than any feelings of humanity there may have been for a handful of women and children. I was writing home on the day we heard all the news from Fort Fillmore, and when my letter reached Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a month later, Colonel Andrew Porter, Mounted Rifles, was there. He was given the contents of it, and he telegraphed the news of Lynde’s surrender to Washington, which was the first intimation they had at the War Department of what had taken place in New Mexico. To quote from Doctor McKee’s pamphlet, quite a large body of Confederates came up from Fort Bliss on the 24th of July, the day we left Fillmore, and it was some of these troops who were to attack the train of wagons. Doctor McKee says, “On the night of the 24th of July, the garrison, men, women, and children, slept peacefully, with no more than the customary sentinels in time of peace, no pickets out in any direction, n_oprecautions whatever taken to prevent surprise from the approaching enemy. Everybody seemed inert and paralyzed; yet they were all brave men, and would have done their duty, had they had a competent commander. “The Texans, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Baylor, to the number of four hundred men, were quietly encamped within six hundred yards of the fort, intending to surprise us at daylight on the morning of the twenty-fifth, kill or capture the officers in their quarters, and then take the men prisoners in their barracks. Luckily for us, one of the Confederate pickets, composed of two old discharged soldiers, came in and alarmed the garrison, otherwise their success would have been complete, as they intended to storm the place at break of day. Drums beat the long roll, the command turned out, and we were saved for the time.“ The Texans crossed the Rio Grande and went into Mesilla, where they found· many friends. The command at Fillmore was ordered out, and only a guard left for protection. There were between four and five hundred United States troops in all, who marched to Mesilla July 25, hoping to attack the enemy, but no attack was made. The adjutant, in the name of the commanding officer of the United States troops, demanded ” an unconditional surrender of the forces and the town.” The answer was, ” If he wished the town, to come and take-it.” A few shots were fired by the Texans, which killed and wounded some of· our soldiers Then Major Lynde ordered a retreat, and Doctor McKee says, ” Had any of the senior officers present at this time stepped forward, put Lynde in arrest, and taken command, his fortune would have been made.” The United States troops returned to Fort Fillmore at ten P.M., July 25, crestfallen and indignant at the part they were forced to play. On the 26th Major Lynde ordered a great deal of public property destroyed, which was done, preparatory to a hasty retreat in the direction of Fort Stanton, New Mexico. The officers and families lost everything they owned, as they could not take their property with them, _beyond a change of clothes. The Mexicans in the neighborhood reaped a harvest after the soldiers left the post that night. The Texans followed up the troops, and on the 27th the whole command was surrendered, notwithstanding the protests of the officers. No one seemed bold enough to place Lynde in arrest and take command. The doctor says, “Blind, unreasonable obedience to orders (creditable always in a well-disciplined force) was the ruin of our command.” ‘ On July 28 the Texans with their prisoners of war marched to Las Cruces and encamped. Later they were all paroled and ordered to Fort Union, New Mexico, preparatory to leaving for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Captain Gibbs and his company, in making a detour, fell in with the Texans and were surrendered with the other troops. It seemed hard that while obeying orders he should have been so unfortunate. We were truly thankful to have escaped from Fill­ more before these events took place, and distressed that our many friends there had suffered such humiliation. Some of the officers and men later on had opportunities to show off what stuff they were made of, and to prove their loyalty to the government, fighting with desperation born of their sufferings, brought about by their ignominious surrender so early in the war. Major Lynde was tried and dismissed from the army; but after the war he was reinstated and placed on the ” retired list.” It never was proved, I believe, that he sympathized with the South, as many were inclined to think. He seemed utterly incompetent and unfitted for his important command, and it was freely discussed, after it was too late, that he was not the man for the place. Fort Craig was not considered safe just then for women and children, and we remained but a short time. Our two colored women-servants behaved remarkably well all through our exciting march from Fort Fillmore to Fort Craig, never showing the least fear nor anxiety, nor giving trouble, and were a great comfort to us. “The lieutenant” escorted us to Santa Fe, where General and Mrs. Canby gave me rooms in their quarters, and had general supervision over us after Lieutenant Lane left to return to his company, still stationed at Fort Craig. An incident happened while we were in Santa Fe which had a curious ending. One of the children had been presented, at Fort Bliss, with a handsome silver mug which had been made in Mexico. She was playing with it in front of the house, buried it in the sand, and left it there. I did not know anything about it until the next day. Of course it was not to be found. Notices were posted over town, and an advertisement put in the one newspaper, all to no purpose. We never expected to see it again. But nineteen years afterwards, in Washington, D.C., the cup was brought to me by a young woman, who told me her father had taken it from a Mexican in Santa Fe, supposing it had been stolen. He put it away and had often intended to send it to us (the name was on it), but never did until nineteen years had passed. The story was rather lame, but we excused it, as we got the cup, which we had given up as lost. Since that time, 1861, Santa Fe has undergone many changes; there was not then a two-story house in the town, or even thought of. The cathedral, the original one, was still used, and, as we lived just opposite, we had much amusement watching the large congregation going to and coming from mass and vespers. There were no seats nor pews in the church, except possibly some chairs, provided for·their own use by the few Americans who were Roman Catholics. The Mexicans knelt or sat on the hard, cold floor of tiles or brick during the entire service. xx THE Mexican women still wore the national dress, which suited them much better than the half-American and wholly bad style recently adopted by them. Many of the fancifully adorned senoritas walked to church in satin slippers, frequently dispensing with stockings altogether, which was not a bad arrangement, perhaps; for, if the beauty of her dainty shoes was endangered by the ankle-deep dust in the streets, she could easily take them off and go barefooted without exciting comment from the passers-by, but dust more or less did not seem to trouble them. When the bells rang out on Sunday, announcing the end of morning service, circus wagons filled with a band and the actors were sure to pass the church, as a reminder of the performance to take place later in the day, and which part of the congregation was certain to attend between mass and vespers. The yard around the cathedral had been used as a cemetery for two hundred years, and was more than full. Often, in digging a grave, a human skull or bone was thrown out, but it caused little excitement, happening•so frequently: At a child’s funeral a band headed the procession, playing the gayest music. I asked why only children’s funerals were attended by a band ? ” Because,” said my informant, “when a child dies we reJ01ce that it has escaped so much sorrow and has surely gone to heaven, while with older people–” a very suggestive shrug just here intimated in that case the matter was doubtful, and that rejoicing might be somewhat out of place. I saw a funeral once at Las Cruces, New Mexico; the priest with his book headed the procession, and there were several men playing violins. The rear was brought up by friends who fired their revolvers occasionally, “to drive the devil away,” they explained. I suppose nowadays, with the influx of an American population, all this is changed, and the Mexicans bury their dead in true regulation style. I was told in Santa Fe that a coffin was seldom put into a grave; that the body was carried to the church in one, but before burial was removed, rolled in an old blanket, and consigned to the tomb. The reason was, coffins were too expensive and scarce for poor people, and were looked upon as a luxury far beyond their means, so that one was only used for show. Speaking of the difficulty of procuring a coffin reminds me that at a frontier post it was often impossible to get enough new lumber to make one, when there was a death among officers or soldiers, and old packing-boxes had to be brought into requisition. An officer died at a post in Texas, and nothing could be found for a coffin but some old commissary-boxes, which were hastily put·together, and the poor fellow was carried to his last resting-place in a very rough one, on which was marked, in great black letters, ” 200 lbs. bacon !” Indians were to be met in the streets of Santa Fe constantly, both Pueblos and Navajos, who went there to trade. I found a Navajo chief one day with a little basket for sale, which I was anxious to buy, offering him money for it, but he would not take it. He wanted beads, and I bought him some, with which he was delighted, and I got my basket, which I have used constantly ever since. Early in the fall it was decided to send the paroled troops from Fort Union to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and husband, who was again ordered from Fort Craig to Union, thought I, with the children and servants, had better join them. Matters in New Mexico being in a very unsettled state just then, women and children were in the way, so we left for the East with the officers and families going in. ” Captain Lane,” it was then, traveled with us several days to get us well started on what was to be my fourth trip across the Plains. As it would be cold before we reached Leavenworth, he had a small stove put into the spring wagon, which had been comfortably fitted up for our use, and in which we were to travel. Our ambulance had been sold to good advantage before we left Fillmore, and the wagon, being roomy, answered very well. In addition to the one used as an ambulance, we had a government wagon for baggage and tents, of which we had two,-one for ourselves and the other for the servants, used also for a cook tent. Husband traveled with us as long as he could away from his post, when he put us under the care of Captain Joseph Potter, who had been with us at Fillmore, and went back to Union. Time rolled on as monotonous as usual, one day so much like another we hardly knew when the weeks began or ended. As we were traveling east, the Spanish Peaks were behind us, and now our anxiety was to have them disappear. It was with a feeling of relief we looked back to find them no longer visible; it seemed as if we were really making headway when the last vestige of their blue summits, touched here and there with snow, had vanished below the horizon, and the familiar landmark was gone! I never expected then to see the Peaks again, but they have loomed before me in all their majestic beauty several times since those memorable days, but always from the window of a Pullman sleeper. I never saw men sadder or more, disheartened than the officers of the Fifth and Seventh Infantry with whom I crossed the Plains in 1861. Some of them saved their ambulances when they left Fort Fillmore, so that their families were comfortable so far; but they had not been able to carry away more than a change of clothes, and were in a sorry plight. Major Lynde and his wife were with the paroled troops, but had no intercourse with the officers and their families. By the middle of October the nights in camp were very cold, and it was far from pleasant rising at day­ break, and even before, breakfasting by candle-light, and being miles on the road by sun-up. As we approached the end of our march (there were still two weeks more of it before we could reach Leavenworth), I began to wonder how I could dispose of my wagon and camp equipment when done with them. The problem was solved for me, almost as soon as I began to think of it, in a disagreeable and unexpected manner. I will tell you about it.

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