1846 - Army of the West

        President James Polk sent sixteen hundred mounted U.S. Dragoons under the command of General Stephen Watt Kearny on a mission to claim the southwestern territories for the U.S. under the banner of Manifest Destiny.  The force is guided to New Mexico by Fitzpatrick, who Kearney praised for his knowledge and courage when passing through Comanche country.


Gen. Stephen Watt Kearny

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        When the Army of the West began its long march to the Southwest (see Hampton Side'sBlood and Thunder), men and animals kicked up a trail of dust that stretched for miles across the prairie.  Foot soldiers, yoked oxen and mounted horsemen pulling wagons filled with ammunition, salt provisions, and hard tack, stretched from horizon to horizon. Nearly 15,000 cattle and oxen started out from Ft., Leavenworth.  Pack mules hauled components of the mountain howitzers and other pieces of artillery.  Wagon wheels creaked under the great loads, as the barrels of molasses and bacon and meal rattled in the wagon beds. 

         "Soon, to those bringing up the rear," writes Sides,  "the entire trail smelled of lathered sweat and fresh excrement and urine, the rancid musk of a living army on the move.  In the distance, the head of the column could be glimpsed when the road took a bend or mounted a hillock, or when a crack of a pistol shot drifted back along the column.  The riders in the vanguard cleared the path of rattlesnakes whose dens were then rife on the prairie."