Stephen Watts Kearney, commander of the U.S. Army mounted dragoons
out West amounted to a flying the stars and stripes from moving
columns of dragoons - and hope the Indians behaved.
appropriated money to form a regiment of 500 mounted 'dragoons' -
led by Col. Henry M. Dodge - for the purpose of policing the Santa
Fe trail and keeping the peace. "It is deemed indispensable
to the peace and security of the frontiers that a respectable force
should be displayed in that quarter, and that the wandering and
restless tribes who roam through it should be impressed with the
power of the United States by the exhibition of a corps well
qualified to excite their respect. The Indians are beyond the
reach of a mere infantry force. Without stationary
residences, and possessing an abundant supply of horses, and with
habits admirably adapted to their use, they can be held in check
only by a similar force, and by its occasional display of force
Prior to the creation of the U.S. Cavalry, the American
West was 'patrolled' by dragoons.
War Cass also argued that the eastern tribes needed protection from
the plains tribes. Peace and security could "only be
fulfilled by repressing and punishing every attempt to disturb
general tranquility." If that could be done, Cass argued,
"there is reason to hope that the display of this force will itself
render unnecessary its hostile employment. The more barbarous
tribes will perceive that their own safety is closely connected
with the permanent establishment of pacific relations both with the
United Sates and with other Indians."
and predictions, as so many others that were to come in the
following decades, proved to be nothing more than conceits.
The Dragoons seldom saw the 'nomadic tribes' they were sent to
impress. Nevertheless, they were watched closely by the
Indian scouts as they made their way down the Santa Fe Trail.
(for more history of the Dragoons, click