1833 - Dragoons in Indian territory

Stephen Watts Kearney, commander of the U.S. Army mounted dragoons

         Indian Policy out West amounted to a flying the stars and stripes from moving columns of dragoons -  and hope the Indians behaved.

         Congress 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 among them."

A Dragoon

  Prior to the creation of the U.S. Cavalry, the American West was 'patrolled' by dragoons.         

         Secretary of 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."

         These notations 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 here)