Appendix A: Rooted in Utah: Civil War Strategy and Tactics, Generals and Guerrillas

By William P. MacKinnon

William P. MacKinnon, APPENDIX A: Rooted in Utah: Civil War Strategy and Tactics, Generals and Guerrillas,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 385–97.

Appendix A


Rooted in Utah: Civil War Strategy and Tactics, Generals and Guerrillas

William P. MacKinnon

William P. MacKinnon is an independent historian in Santa Barbara, California.

In addition to chapter 1, another way to illustrate the connection between the Utah and Civil Wars (and the impact of the former on the latter) is to probe the extent to which three very prominent West Point–trained Civil War generals had earlier tried to influence prosecution of the Utah campaign. They did so by gratuitously sending long memos to their military superiors or, in one case, to influential politicians. These documents contained information about alternate approaches to the Great Basin accompanied by strategic recommendations for military action. All of these men—Major Generals George H. Thomas and Rufus Ingalls of the Union Army and General Pierre G. T. Beauregard of the Confederate service—were valorous veterans of the Mexican War serving as mid-level U.S. Army officers during 1857–58, but in widely differing roles and locations. Each attempted to influence the conduct of the Utah War for a variety of professional and personal reasons—a selfless desire to contribute, anti-Mormon bias, and unmistakable self-promotion. Two of the three officers—Thomas and Ingalls—displayed some nervousness over the “irregular” nature of their communications; the more flamboyant Beauregard was unabashedly assertive.

It may be helpful to provide a brief biography for each of these three officers, though it will not do justice to their distinguished and varied service careers. General George Henry Thomas (July 31, 1816–March 28, 1870) was one of the Union army’s principal commanders in the Western Theater and won Union victories across Kentucky and Tennessee. Because of his dogged, determined personality and command style his nicknames included “Slow Trot” as well as “Rock of Chickamauga.” He rose to major general, notwithstanding the doubts, if not prejudice, harbored by some northern politicians about his Virginia birth. Union General Rufus Ingalls (August 23, 1818–January 15, 1893) began the Civil War as a captain and ended the war as a brevet major general; he is perhaps best remembered for his outstanding logistical skills. During the war he was quartermaster for the Army of Virginia under first McClellan and later Grant; after the war he became the army’s quartermaster general. Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (May 28, 1818–February 20, 1893) was known as “The Little Napoleon.” He commanded the artillery units that opened fire on Fort Sumter in April 1861 and served in important command positions in both the western and eastern theaters during the Civil War. He became one of only seven full generals in the Confederate Army, and while considered one of the keenest minds in that service, he limited his effectiveness with prickly and abrasive behavior that produced poor relations with President Jefferson Davis as well as a number of peer and subordinate generals.

None of their reports have been published and, because of space limitations, are only excerpted here. Accordingly, this appendix seeks to lay down “markers” by providing scholars with a description of this material and where to find it. Armed with these memos and hindsight, it is possible to consider the linkages between the early strategic thinking of these three officers about a complex, sprawling, multibrigade military campaign in Utah and about the campaign they would soon encounter on a more daunting scale in Tennessee and Virginia.

Turning from generals to lowlifes, this appendix then explores the notion that some of the guerrillas nominally under Confederate and Union command, if not control, also honed the most atrocious of their tactical skills during the Utah War. It does so by focusing on a single, admittedly spectacular case, that of William Clarke Quantrill (July 31, 1837–June 6, 1865), a civilian Utah Expedition teamster, gambler, and camp cook during 1857–58. Later, Quantrill was easily the Confederacy's most notorious guerrilla as he scourged with impunity the Missouri-Kansas border and ranged from Kentucky to Texas. To him falls responsibility for leading the Civil War’s worst atrocity, the August 21, 1863, raid on Lawrence, Kansas, a slaughter of 150 largely unarmed civilians even more destructive than the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah six years earlier.

George H. Thomas

At the outbreak of the Utah War in the spring of 1857, Thomas was a thrice-brevetted, forty-one-year-old major serving at Fort Mason, Texas, with the Second U.S. Cavalry.[1] His was a regiment established two years earlier and led by an elite group of officers hand-picked by then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to include Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston as its commander and Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee as its executive officer. These were staffing appointments that served the Second Cavalry well when Johnston, but not his regiment, was ordered north to lead the Utah Expedition.

On July 7, 1857, Thomas wrote to Colonel Samuel Cooper, the army’s adjutant general in Washington, to share his knowledge of the Colorado River acquired during a previous posting to Fort Yuma, California. Because of Colonel Cooper’s proximity to Secretary of War John B. Floyd, Davis’s successor, Major Thomas probably hoped that his unsolicited memo would reach Floyd and would prove useful either to the prosecution of the Utah War or to the ascent of the Colorado River about to be undertaken by army First Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives, husband of the secretary’s niece. Thomas’s tactic worked, and on September 2, 1857, after a delay attributable to Floyd’s prolonged struggle with medical problems, the secretary sent this memo to Ives en route to the Gulf of California. At this juncture, the Ives Expedition and the Utah Expedition were separate undertakings. They became linked when word reached Washington in mid-November of Lot Smith’s devastating raid on the Utah Expedition’s supply trains, an upset and threat that forced the Buchanan administration to consider reinforcing Johnston from the Pacific Coast. In late November, Floyd rushed orders west to Ives reorienting his mission from an expedition of exploration and scientific discovery to one tasked with determining whether the river would facilitate the insertion of large bodies of troops and supplies into southern Utah Territory. It is difficult to believe that Major Thomas’s earlier recommendations about the navigability of the Colorado River and the attitudes of adjacent tribes did not enter the discussions in Washington during the third week of November 1857 on how best to redirect Ives’s expedition.[2]

Maj. George H. Thomas, Letter to Col. Samuel Cooper, July 7, 1857[3]

Whilst stationed at Fort Yuma I made repeated inquiries of the Indians living on the Colorado river above the post as to the navigability of that stream, and am of the opinion from what they have told me, and from what I could learn from other sources, that small steamers can ascend it very nearly to the point where the whites suppose the Rio Vergen [sic] empties into it.

If upon examination the Colorado proves to be navigable [up to the confluence with the Rio Virgin], it will be not only the most direct but the most convenient and safest route to convey supplies to the troops [to be] stationed in Utah Territory. Such being my belief I recommended its exploration to the Commanding Officer of the Dept of the Pacific in 1854. The Hamok-an Indians . . . say there is no stream of any size emptying into the Colorado from the west, but one which comes in from the east, about the size of the Gila, far above. This I understood, from their description of it, to be the Little Colorado. It is inhabited on its south bank by a tribe which they call Huallo-pay or pine woods people. The Huallo-pays are now at war with their neighbours on the north side of this small stream. These they call Havisoh-pays or Blue people, because their favorite color is blue. The Havisoh-pays are represented as being wealthy in horses, sheep & goats and have frequent intercourse with the whites.[4] Judging from this circumstance and from the similarity of sound I think the Navahoes and Havisoh-pays are the same people. When asked if they knew of the Pay-Utahs they informed me that they were the next tribe above them on the West bank of the river. If this [Indian] story be true they are well acquainted with the Colorado as far north as the Pay-Utah country, and from their account of the river I believe it will be found to be navigable to within one or two hundred miles of Salt Lake City.[5] Believing this information of some importance at this time I have taken the liberty of communicating it in this irregular manner.

Rufus Ingalls

Rufus Ingalls spent the Utah War posted to Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory, a former Hudson’s Bay Company installation on the north bank of the Columbia River (opposite Portland). He was then a once-brevetted quartermaster captain, age thirty-nine. During the fall of 1857, as the Utah War unfolded to his southeast, Ingalls heard reports that senior officers with western commands like Brevet Major Persifor F. Smith and Brevet Brigadier General William S. Harney were offering solicited and gratuitous military advice about a move on Utah from the Pacific Coast to James Buchanan. The president was then grappling with what to say and recommend to an ill-informed Congress about prosecution of the Utah War. At the end of December 1857 Captain Ingalls seized the initiative and, without being requested to do so, sent a long memo addressing the rumored thrust against Utah from the Pacific Coast to his superior at headquarters, Department of the Pacific in San Francisco, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Swords.

There is logic to Ingalls’s initiative, for he had spent the winter of 1854–55 in the Salt Lake Valley as the Steptoe Expedition’s quartermaster, and at that time had crossed the plains to Utah from Fort Leavenworth as well as traversed a new route from Salt Lake Valley to San Francisco Bay. He knew the region. What neither this record nor Ingalls’s memorandum to Swords indicated, however, was that he was grinding a substantial anti-Mormon axe relating to his April 1855 indictment in Salt Lake City for attempting to abduct and impair the morals of a thirteen-year-old Mormon girl and related armed confrontation with an angry Mormon apostle.[6]

Capt. Rufus Ingalls, Letter to Lt. Col. Thomas Swords, December 29, 1857 [7]

Events may render it necessary to dispatch troops in the early Spring to Utah from this Military Department, and I trust you will not hold me as being too forward or officious if I enclose you descriptive lists of some of the immigrants routes from this Coast to the Great Salt Lake City as observed by us in 1855, and further give you some hints of other routes . . .

The enclosed lists will be sufficiently explanatory.[8] From them you will observe that it will be difficult to find any road leading from California to the Great Salt Lake of less than 900 or 1000 miles in length. I am of opinion that quite all the routes that lead from Central California are impracticable from the Sierra Nevada across the [Great] Basin earlier than the middle of June for a column of troops. The Humbolt River Valley, I should say, would certainly be so, and [wagon] trains cannot pass to the south of the Lake by Carson’s river earlier than July, unless a route has been discovered since we were there. . . .

The [southern] route, via San Bernardino and the Mohave is by no means a short one. I do not believe it possesses rescources [sic] for animals in any numbers. It answers well enough for expresses &c for it is open all the year though the best season to pass over it is in February and March. San Pedro [California] is the terminus on the Coast. Were it practicable, it [the road] would answer well, for it touches the most southern Mormon settlements, where I think there are more better disposed people than nearer the chief city.[9]

Were the Colorado River already explored I think it would be found that it is navigable for small steamers to the Great Bend which is only some 25 miles from Los Vegas, a Mormon town just south of the southern rim of the Basin, and about 500 miles from Salt Lake City, over a good road. The facts, however, cannot be made known until Lt Ives has made explorations; but in any event, the route via the Gulf of California [and Colorado River] would be a long and expensive one, answering perhaps the wants of commerce, but no way at all for troops.[10]

[Brevet] Major [John S.] Hatheway and myself sent a train in 1849 from the Umpqua Valley, Oregon, to Fort Hall, under Lieut [George W.] Hawkins—the distances, character of country &c are not now with me but Genl [Joel] Palmer, late Superintendent of Indian Affairs here, was the guide, and in a few days will furnish me notes of the route—It is not, probably, worth attention for any purposes now under consideration.[11]

 

The distance from Fort Leavenworth to the Great Salt Lake City by the nearest road is over 1200 miles—If the detour by Sublette’s cutt off, and Soda Springs at the Great Bend of Bear River, is made, the distance must be over 1400 miles—Soda Springs, you will observe, is near (40 Miles) to Fort Hall, and the latter place is 196 miles from Salt Lake City. This leads me, Colonel, to suggest the line, that probably (and for aught I know, the one already decided upon at Head Quarters) is the shortest, most open defensible, and practicable earlier in spring than any other. That is the line of the Columbia River to Walla Walla—thence by Boise and the southern tributary of the Columbia—the Snake—to near Fort Hall—thence over the northern rim of the Basin (there very low) to Bear River into the settlements of Utah. Walla Walla is about 350 miles from Astoria, and I think, not to exceed 600 miles, by a wagon road practicable from March, or April, (dependant on the winter preceding) to Great Salt Lake City. The Hudson’s Bay Company people have usually called it 600 miles from Walla Walla to Fort Hall; but they think the distance much over estimated. But I see no reason for going as far north and east as Fort Hall. I know of no obstacle in turning down on the Humbolt road where it crosses Raft, or Cache river, though I am not personally acquainted with this country. See descriptive list of my route.

With this point for a Deposit [Depot], and the Dalles, Walla Walla and (perhaps) Boise for Entrepots, the line would appear to be the most eligible in every point of view. By it Utah can be more easily accessible, and the troops there more cheaply supplied than from any other point.

 

All supplies can be put at Walla Walla by water, and from thence transported in ox and mule trains, probably cheaper than by the South Pass, and more rapidly.

In former years we had a monthly mail from this point to Great Salt Lake City the year round, and were it necessary communication might be had with that City from this river any month by expressmen who know the country.

            For all offensive operations, I regard the entrance into the Valley of the Salt Lake by Bear river on the north as far the most easy and eligible in every respect. Should the Rebels attempt an escape to British or Russian America, which, by the way, I do not believe they think of, they might be cut off by a force from this quarter.[12] This force should be a regular one, if possible, though from the present prospect the regulars now in the Country will be required here to hold the Indians in check. If Volunteers are called upon I have no doubt a good description of men could be raised in California.

The Mormons, in my opinion, are mad and crazy with religious fanaticism. You mark if events do not show it. Brigham Young does not see the end [consequences] of his insensate conduct. He believes he is right and that he is going to conquer by aid of God, and he and his devotees will probably fight with unexampled fierceness and perseverance, unless something unforeseen shall arrest them.

It is not clear what impact, if any, Ingalls’s advice eventually had on the Utah War because, unlike Major Thomas and Captain Beauregard, he communicated within the army’s tortuous chain of command instead of using shortcuts to reach key decision makers. Also, at Fort Vancouver, Rufus Ingalls was located at the end of a daunting communications arrangement by which mail traveled for a month or more from the Columbia River by steamer to San Francisco, transferred to a packet boat destined for Panama’s Pacific Coast, crossed the isthmus by rail, and then resumed a long, multi-leg journey north by sea and rail to reach whichever officer Colonel Swords intended to share this memo at the war department in Washington or at either of the two seasonal headquarters that General Scott maintained in Manhattan and West Point, New York.

Pierre G. T. Beauregard

At the onset of the Utah War, Beauregard was a twice-brevetted captain of engineers, age thirty-nine. In early February of 1858, at about the time the Buchanan administration was planning to pressure Brigham Young through a major thrust from the Pacific Coast, Beauregard wrote from New Orleans to criticize this strategy. He ridiculed it as overly complex and risky. His memo commenting on the administration’s plans reflected Beauregard’s well-developed self-confidence, keen interest in strategy, knowledge of European military history, the strong French-Creole influence of his Louisiana plantation upbringing, and contempt for Mormon Utah leavened with a shrewd appreciation of its desperation and potential military capabilities in what was likely to become a guerrilla campaign. Also at work was probably Beauregard’s boredom with his responsibility for a long-term, unglamorous army engineering effort to rescue the sinking U.S. Custom House from the instability of the local soil. He wrote to John Slidell, who was a U.S. senator from Louisiana as well as his brother-in-law and James Buchanan’s 1856 presidential campaign manager. For good measure, Beauregard also sent a copy of this document to Jefferson Davis and John A. Quitman, both of Mississippi and chairmen of the senate and house committees on military affairs, respectively. Not excerpted in Beauregard’s Utah-related passages presented below are his strong comments in defense of the South and slavery as well as his view of the region as unfairly beleaguered by a grasping, oppressive North—sentiments unrelated to Mormon Utah but undoubtedly congenial to the political opinions of Slidell, Davis, and Quitman, if not Buchanan.

In so writing, Beauregard hoped to influence strategy while displaying his knowledge of the field. He also wanted to obtain appointment as a colonel commanding one of the new volunteer regiments then being contemplated by President Buchanan and Secretary Floyd for prosecution of the Utah War.

Capt. P. G. T. Beauregard, Letter to Sen. John Slidell, February 9, 1858 [13]

I see it stated in the newspapers that Genl Scott is about to repair to California to take command of a Corps d’Armée to move from thence on to Utah! I wonder if this is to be done upon the recommendation of the Genl?[14]  If so, it is contrary to all “strategic” principles, if to be executed in conjunction with a similar movement on this side of the mountains—for it is impossible that two operations, from such distant initial points—should be performed with such precision & regularity as to arrive at the Utah Valley within a few days of each other—at any rate such a favorable result would be against all probabilities—It would then follow, if the Mormons are ably commanded, that they would concentrate their forces in succession against each of said columns & crush them before they could unite—in other words, do what Napoleon the Great did so beautifully in Italy in 1796 around & about Lake Guarda & the city of Verona, when he destroyed after a series of the most brilliant victories, in a few months, with an Army of only 30,000 men—two Austrian Armies of 85,000 & 60,000 men each—commanded by two of the oldest and best Generals of the Empire—Wurms and Alvingi![15]

How do we know but that the Mormons may have amongst themselves a great Captain in embryo! Are not volunteers considered by many as equal if not superior to regulars in a Mountainous War?—then how much the more superior would they not be, when defending their religion & their own firesides! look at the interminable war the Russians have been waging for over a quarter of a century with her best troops, against the Circassians—are they any nearer to success now than they were when they first commenced?[16] I believe not—May we not be about to commence our “Circassian War”—with even greater difficulties to contend against than the Russians have had—If I were a Mormon and amply supplied with provisions & ammunitions, I would defy five three times the number of troops you could send against me on the system now adopted—not one of them would ever set foot within the valley of Utah!

The first principle in war, as laid down by the Greatest Captain that ever lived, is “never to despise your enemy” the next “always to act against his main or strategic points with concentrated masses superior if possible to those he has in position there”—& then where practicable “to endeavor to cut off his lines of communication, so as to strike at his bases of operations without exposing your own.”[17]

Now with regard to that Mormon war we ought first to know, what are their resources, and how many effective men they can bring into the field—let us say about 5,000—the rest acting as scouts, guarding the passes &c not being counted but still effective to recruit from or as a force in reserve, in case of reverses—then it becomes evident from what I have already stated—that if we march two converging forces against them thus: [diagram: a right angle with the points marked “a” “b” and “c”]—from a to c & from b to c—the Mormons occupying the central or strategic point c—we must to be certain of success, send each column of at least 7,000 men, for by the time they would get to c—besides being nearly exhausted by their long and fatiguing marches—they would probably be reduced to about 5,000 fighting men each—then success would very much depend upon the nature of the ground they are operating upon, the relative discipline of the opposing forces—the abilities of their commanding officers & other contingencies not necessary to mention here.—Now, as all the probabilities are that the offensive forces, would not reach the point c within several weeks of each other—they would necessarily be fought in succession, & the chances are, that they would get whipped all other things being equal—for the Mormons would be fresh for the fray; & fighting for their religion and their homes, would be the more desperate; whereas, if the best of these two lines of operations, were selected for the offensive march—a force calculated to arrive at c, a little stronger in numbers & discipline than the enemy’s forces, would have all the probabilities of success on its side—whether it would succeed or not would be “for the Gods to decide”—and the same object would then be effected with a great economy in treasure, men & materials.

The above are but crude ideas, roughly put down—but they are based upon the true principles of the “Art of War”—which, whenever departed from—sooner or later assert their supremacy by some disastrous calamity to the offending party.[18]—[Because of its flaws] I am glad to see that the committee’s bill for the increase of the Army has been voted down.—Do Legislators believe that field officers of Regts are less necessary on a distant or prolonged campaign than company officers & men? If so,—they are much mistaken, particularly in our [American] service, where most of those field officers are weighed down with age and infirmities.[19]—In time of active service particularly, our complement of officers ought to be kept up to the full standard, and our companies to about 96 rank & file—which is the French system based upon long standing & dearly bought experience.—Is it not surprising that so much opposition should be shown in Congress to an increase of an Army, so lamentably small in comparison to the duties it is called upon to perform—when in the last few years—(since the War with Mexico) —we have added so much to its area of operations. . . .

Should the Army be increased by two or more Regts, and I succeed to be appointed the Col. of one of said Regts (the Zouaves if possible), could not the Lt Colonelcy & two majorities be conferred on ex-Capts G. W. Smith[,] George McClelland [sic] of the Engrs & ex-Lieut I. [J.] K. Duncan of the Artillery—they are all now in civil life, but have seen considerable hard service whilst in the Army—the two former served with distinction in the company of sappers & miners during the War with Mexico—the second one is the officer who was sent to Europe by the Govt lately & who has written a very interesting & instructive work containing his observations whilst there—they are all in the prime of life & of the highest intelligence & gallantry—a Regiment having such men for its field officers would soon be equal if not superior to any other in our service.[20]

“Take a Tap, Pard”: The Utah Expedition as Finishing School for Civil War Hard Cases

That the federal side of the Utah War produced no known atrocities was a function more of regular army discipline and seasoned, effective military leadership than any inherent good behavior of the troops and camp followers commanded by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston. Delana R. Eckels, Utah’s chief justice, described to a U.S. senator the discharged civilian teamsters swarming about him at Fort Bridger and Camp Scott, Utah, as St. Louis “wharf rats.” U.S. Army Quartermaster Stewart Van Vliet reported to Secretary of War Floyd that Brigham Young “informed me that he had no objection to the troops themselves entering the Territory; but if they allowed them to do so, it would be opening the door for the entrance of the rabble from the frontiers, who would, as in former times, persecute and annoy them”[21]

Lounging in that group was William C. Quantrill, a young Ohioan barely out of his teens, who within six years would become the most notorious guerrilla of the American Civil War—the leader of the Confederate atrocity dubbed the sack of Lawrence, Kansas. Serving with Quantrill on the Utah Expedition as teamsters were David Poole and George Sheppard, both future members of “Captain” Quantrill’s guerrilla band. Poole had witnessed the October 1857 raid by Lot Smith and the Nauvoo Legion on the Utah Expedition’s undefended supply trains. Sheppard was a subsequent rider with the postwar gang led by Jesse James and Cole Younger until captured and imprisoned following an unsuccessful Kentucky bank robbery. Quantrill was mortally wounded in Kentucky by a Union Army patrol in June 1865 at age 27. Until relatively recently his skull was kept in the refrigerator of an Ohio household, a fate appropriate for a man whose band rode roughshod over the Missouri-Kansas border region with human ears and scalps dangling from their horses’ bridles.[22]

Ironically, among the corpses that Quantrill’s band left in the smoking ruins of Lawrence was that of Lemuel Fillmore, a local realtor who during the Utah War had served as a field reporter in Salt Lake City and Provo for the New York Herald until becoming embroiled in a knife fight with a rival correspondent for the New York Times. As a direct consequence of Quantrill’s Lawrence raid came the Union Army’s punitive “Order No. 11,” which in the fall of 1863 ordered the depopulation of three western Missouri countries. It was a mass exodus from the border area on a scale comparable to the Utah War’s Move South of March–June 1858, the largest hegira of civilian refugees since the expulsion of the Acadians and British Loyalists in connection with the French and Indian War and American Revolution.

For a glimpse of the raw, volatile behavior that Col. Johnston and his provost marshal strained to control in 1858, one should turn to a description of Quantrill in action at a Fort Bridger gambling den provided in 1907 in his old age by former cavalry private Robert M. Peck:[23]

I was a soldier in one of the two companies of 1st Cav. that formed a part of the command of Lieut. Col. Wm. Hoffman, 6th Inf., which command was sent out from Fort Leavenworth early in the spring of ’58 to escort several trains—some mule teams and some of oxen—loaded with supplies for the command of Brvt. Brig. Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, Commanding the Mormon Expedition, who had been snowed in all winter at Fort Bridger, or Camp Scott, as it was officially designated.

We arrived at Camp Scott in the first days of June. A paymaster who had followed us arrived about the same time and paid the soldiers off. As there were few ways of spending the money outside of Judge [William A.] Carter’s sutler store, where prices were outrageously high, during the few days that intervened between our arrival at Fort Bridger and the departure of Gen. Johnston’s forces for Salt Lake City, gambling was rife throughout the camp, and, as usually happens, in a short time, a few sharpers had nearly all the soldiers’ money.

Among the celebrities of the camp I had frequently heard the name of Charley Hart[24] mentioned, whose notoriety seemed to be derived from his reckless bettings and phenomenal winnings. I heard it stated that he had come out from Kansas with Gen. Johnston’s troops the previous fall, working as a teamster in one of the six-mule trains.

While sauntering through a big gambling tent a day or so after pay-day, watching the fluctuations of fortune at the various tables where chance games were being operated, I heard some one remark, “There comes Charley Hart”, and having heard his fame as a wild plunger in gambling, I took a good look at him. I could see nothing heroic in his appearance, but considerable of the rowdy, as I now recall the impression I then got of him.

He was apparently about twenty-two or twenty-three [twenty] years of age; about five feet ten inches in height; with an ungraceful, slouchy walk; and by no means prepossessing in features. He had evidently been patronizing Judge Carter’s store, since he “struck it rich,” for his clothes all seemed new. A pair of high-heeled calf-skin boots of small size; bottoms of trousers tucked into boot-tops; a navy [Colt] pistol swinging from his waist belt; a fancy blue flannel shirt; no coat; a colored silk handkerchief tied loosely around his neck; yellow hair hanging nearly to the shoulders; topped out by the inevitable cow-boy hat. This is the picture of Charley Hart, as my memory presents him now.

As he entered the tent he carried in his left hand a colored silk handkerchief, gathered by the four corners, which apparently contained coin. Advancing to one of the tables where the operator, or banker, as the dealer of a chance game is usually called, was dealing “Monte”, he set the handkerchief on the table and opened it out, showing the contents to be gold coins, and seemingly in bulk about equal to the stacks of gold coins tiered upon the table in front of the banker.

Hart then asked, “Take a tap, pard?” meaning would the banker accept a bet of Hart’s pile against the dealer’s, on the turn of a card. The banker accepted the challenge, shuffled the cards, passed the deck to Hart to cut, then threw out the “lay-out” of six cards, in a “column-of-twos” style. Hart then set his handkerchief of gold on a card, at the same time drawing his pistol, “Just to insure fair play,” he remarked, seeing that the banker had his gun lying on the table convenient to his right hand. Keeping his eye on the banker’s hands, to make sure that the deal was done “on the square”, hart said, “Now deal.”

Turning the deck face up the banker drew the cards off successively. Hart’s card won. As the dealer looked up with a muttered oath he found himself looking into the muzzle of Hart’s pistol.

“Back out”, said Hart quietly. “Don’t even touch your pistol. I’ll give it back to you when I rake in the pot.”

The banker did as directed, while Hart, without showing any nervousness, still holding his pistol in one hand, reached across the table and with the other arm swept the banker’s money and pistol over to him. Picking out the twenties, tens, fives and two-and-a-half pieces, he tossed them into his handkerchief. There still remained on the table about a double handful of small silver, (there were very few silver dollars in circulation then, the little one-dollar gold pieces being largely used in their stead), and a handful of gold dollars. Sweeping this small stuff into his hands, Hart said, “I don’t carry such chicken feed as that,” as he tossed the small coins up in the air and let the crowd scramble for them.

Then handing the dejected looking banker his pistol and a twenty-dollar gold piece, he said: “There, pard, is a stake for you,” and gathering up his plethoric handkerchief, he meandered on seeking new banks to “bust.”

The next day, so I was told, Hart’s marvelous luck deserted him, and he lost every dollar he had; and after trying in vain to “strike it up again”, he became discouraged and disgusted with gambling, joined some outfit going back to the states, and went back to Kansas dead broke.[25]

I never heard the name Quantrill used till the summer of ’61, when his depredations along the borders of Missouri and Kansas were bringing the name into unpleasant notoriety. I then heard that Quantrill, the bloody-handed guerrilla leader, and Charley Hart, the reckless gambler of Fort Bridger, were identical.

Notes

[1] To brevet an officer was to confer an additional (higher) rank in recognition of either valor in battle or service of ten years in grade. Absent a system of decorations or awards until the Civil War, brevets were used by the U.S. Army as a means of honoring such officers without permitting them to wear the insignia of their brevet rank or receive its pay unless specifically ordered to a duty that allowed it. Hence, after his promotion in 1858 by brevet, Albert Sidney Johnston wore a single star and styled himself as “brevet brig. gen. and col., Second U.S. Cavalry.”

[2] MacKinnon, At Sword’s Point, Part 1, 423–24.

[3] Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Library, New Haven, Connecticut.

[4] Here Thomas presumably means Mormons.

[5] Thomas was almost as inaccurately optimistic about such distances in the region as was Brigham Young. Captain Rufus Ingalls’s estimate of about five hundred miles was closer to the mark.

[6] MacKinnon, “Sex, Subalterns, and Steptoe: Army Behavior, Mormon Rage, and Utah War Anxieties,” Utah Historical Quarterly 76 (Summer 2008): 227–46.

[7] Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beincecke Library, New Haven, Connecticut.

[8] Not printed here for reasons of brevity.

[9] When Ingalls departed Utah in the spring of 1855, it was via the northern route. His fellow officer, First Lieutenant Sylvester Mowry, led a detachment to California through Utah’s southern settlements and would have disagreed vigorously with Ingalls about the disposition of the settlers based on the hostility he encountered.

[10] At this time Ives was just beginning his ascent of the Colorado River from the Gulf of California to Fort Yuma.

[11] In addition to seeking his old field notes from Palmer, on December 29 Ingalls also sent an urgent note across the Columbia River to Robert (“Doc”) Newell, one of the region’s most experienced mountaineer-guide-interpreters. From Newell, Ingalls wanted advice as to the best route and season for funneling troops into the Salt Lake Valley from Oregon. Remarkably, within two days Newell responded from Champoeg, Oregon, with a long letter. Although he had dated his letter to Swords on December 29, Ingalls held it back until hearing from Palmer and Newell. Newell then revised it, constructed an appendix of routes and distances, and mailed all of this material to San Francisco on January 7, 1858. Newell to Ingalls, December 31, 1857; photocopy in author’s possession.

[12] Both coastal destinations were under consideration in at least some passing fashion by Brigham Young during the war.

[13] Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

[14] For a summary of these events swirling around General Winfield Scott, the army’s general in chief, see MacKinnon, “Buchanan’s Thrust from the Pacific: The Utah War’s Ill-Fated Second Front,” Utah Historical Quarterly 34 (Fall 2008): 226–60.

[15] This was the battle of Arcole, Italy, November 15–17, 1796. Beauregard means Austrian generals Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser and Joseph Freiherr Alvin(c)zy de Berberck.

[16] The Russians had been fighting to subjugate the Circassians in the northwest Caucasuses since 1763. The war would not end in a Russian victory until 1864, with the mass deportation of 500,000 Circassians in its aftermath.

[17] Beauregard’s “Greatest Captain” was the eighteenth-century Russian general Alexander Suvorov, author of the Manual of Victory.

[18] Baron Antoine-Henri de Jemini’s The Art of War, a text on military strategy and the Napoleonic campaigns, had an enormous influence on nineteenth-century military officers in the United States.

[19] Field officers were majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels; company-grade officers were lieutenants and captains. Beauregard’s assessment of the U.S. Army’s officer corps was accurate.

[20] The army was not expanded for the Utah War, and Beauregard remained a captain of engineers until his resignation in 1861. The U.S. Army would have no units of Zouaves, a flamboyantly uniformed infantry corps in the French North African service, until the Civil War. This reference and several others in his letter reflect Beauregard’s French-Louisiana background and proclivities, affectations that fellow Louisianan Slidell would understand, if not appreciate. McClellan’s eagerness to return to the army for the Utah campaign from an engineering vice presidency at the Illinois Central Railroad was well known among his friends, including those still in the service. Beauregard refers to McClellan’s army-sponsored role as a military observer during the recent Crimean War with two other officers and to their joint report published as a congressional document. First Lieutenant and Brevet Captain Gustavus Woodson Smith of Kentucky never returned to the U.S. Army after his 1854 resignation, although he rose to major general in the Confederate service. First Lieutenant Johnson Kelly Duncan of Ohio had resigned in 1855 and was a Confederate brigadier when he died in 1862. All three men, as well as Beauregard, were West Pointers.

[21] Delana R. Eckels to Sen. Jesse Bright, December 13, 1857, copy in author’s possession. Capt. Stewart Van Vliet, Report to Sec. of War John B. Floyd, November 20, 1857, U.S. Secretary of War, Report of the Secretary of War, 35th Cong., 1st Sess., 1857–58, Senate Ex. Doc. 11, 38.

[22] For an account of Quantrill’s and Shepherd’s lives, including their participation in the Utah and Civil wars, see Henry S. Clarke, “W.C. Quantrill in 1858,” Kansas Historical Collections 7 (1901-2): 218-23; William Elsey Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Lawrence: Kansas Heritage Press, 1992), 1–7, 66, 75–81, 87, 94–96, 99–100, 103–4, 100–110; Barry A. Crouch, “A ‘Fiend in Human Shape’? William Clarke Quantrill and His Biographers,” Kansas History 22 (Summer 1999): 143–56; Edward E. Leslie, The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders (New York: Random House, 1996), 52–63; and Martin E. Ismert, “Quantrill-Charley Hart?,” paper presented at the Posse of the Westerners of Kansas City, October 13, 1959, William Clarke Quantrill Research Collection, McCain Library, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg; also Gilbert Cuthbertson, “Shepherd Was Name to Fear in Border War Era,” Kansas City [Missouri] Times, September 9, 1965, 140.

[23]Peck’s reminiscences are found in Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars; Leslie, The Devil Knows How to Ride, 56–57.

[24] Quantrill assumed the alias “Charley Hart” in Kansas Territory during 1856–57 to cover his involvement in a spree of thefts and involvement with the violent disturbances then wracking the region over the slavery issue.

[25] Actually, after leaving Fort Bridger in the summer of 1858, Quantrill followed the Utah Expedition west and worked as a civilian cook at its enormous garrison at Camp Floyd, Utah, until returning east in late 1859.