Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – The Indian Home Guard

Below the listing of Iowa’s summaries is this short section with the heading “Indian Brigade”:

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In earlier quarters, we’ve discussed the origins of the Indian Brigade, or more specifically the units in the Indian Home Guard. For the second and third quarters, only a section from 3rd Indian Home Guard Regiment appeared in the summaries. Here, we find two entries. The lower of the two is consistent with earlier quarters. But the upper line is a fresh field to consider:

  • Company E, 2nd Indian Home Guards: Actually reading “2nd Infy’ | Arty Stores|” or something along those lines. The unit is reporting from Fort Gibson… indicated as “Arkansas” but this should read “Cherokee Nation” or “Indian Territories.” During the war, the post was sometimes cited as Fort Blunt. The line reports two 12-pdr field howitzers. No leads as to who was in charge of this pair of howitzers. But in the time period we are reviewing, Major Moses B.C. Wright commanded the 2nd Indian Home Guards.
  • Company L, 3rd Indian Home Guards: And again to be precise this line reads “3rd Infy’ Indian Home Guard, Stores.” No location given, but the 3rd was also operating out of Fort Gibson/Blunt. The report indicates three 12-pdr mountain howitzers. We have connected Captain Solomon Kaufman with these cannon in previous quarters.

At the end of December, 1863, the Indian Home Guards were part of the First Brigade, District of the Frontier, Department of Missouri. Colonel William A. Phillips, who’d led the organization of these guards, led the brigade, with his headquarters at Fort Gibson/Blunt. In addition to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Indian Home Guards, the brigade included the 14th Kansas Cavalry. Their mission was to maintain the lines between Fort Gibson, Fort Smith, and other Federal strongholds in the district. With that charge, these regiments did a lot of patrolling, with much interaction with Confederate forces operating in the same area.

The details about the artillery use of these units remains an unclear and imprecise area of my studies. Certainly these cannon were employed to defend the post. And at times they are used to support patrols. As mentioned in the second quarter discussion, the mountain howitzers were used at Cabin Creek in July 1863. Beyond that, I can only speculate.

Turning to the ammunition reported, howitzers need shells and case shot:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 130 shell and 124 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 3rd Home Guards: 50 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

And canister on the next page:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 19 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • 3rd Home Guards: 60 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

No rifled projectiles were reported on hand, of course. So we move to the small arms:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: Three .69-caliber musketoons, 31 Sharps’ .52-caliber rifles, and one Colt navy revolver.
  • 3rd Home Guards: One Sharps’ .52-caliber cabine and 33 Sharps’ .52-caliber rifles.

And those Sharps’ needed cartridges:

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  • 2nd Home Guards: 1,000 Sharps cartridges.

As for powder, not much reported:

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  • 3rd Home Guards: Two pounds of musket powder.

The presence of even a small number of howitzers at the advance post of Fort Gibson was an important resource in the hands of Federal commanders in this theater of war. On the Confederate side, several officers noted the lack of artillery supporting their allies from the tribes. And the Federals were keen to maintain their edge in regard to the artillery. In correspondence dated February 11, 1864, sent to Colonel Phillips in Fort Gibson, Major-General Samuel Curtis noted that more artillery was needed at that post. Underscoring that desire, three days later Curtis communicated to Major-General Henry Halleck, in Washington, his designs to strengthen the hold in the Indian Territories, pointing out, “Fort Gibson has been fortified by the volunteers, making it a pretty safe position; but some finishing and repairing are necessary, and two or three good siege guns would be a great additional strength.”

Yes, a couple of heavy guns in the blockhouses would ensure control of the Arkansas River. And with that a sizable portion of the territory beyond. However, there is no indication Halleck considered Curtis’ request.

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Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – the Indian Brigade’s howitzers

Perhaps a Zane Gray reference is apt here… in that we have “Vanishing Americans”:

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Last quarter, we noted an entry for the 3rd Regiment of the Indian Home Guards.  For the third quarter, we find an entry which seems to have suffered from the eraser.  I can’t say for sure, but the return looks to have posted in November:

  • Company L (?), 3rd Regiment: Location is illegible, but much clearer is the notation for two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.  If indeed I transcribe the company column correctly, we have a direct connection to Captain Solomon Kaufman, who is mentioned in several reports as in charge of a section of howitzers.  The 3rd regiment, along with most of the Indian Brigade, remained around Fort Gibson.  The howitzer section was, in the previous quarter, at Fort Blunt, a supporting work of Fort Gibson.  The 3rd Regiment was under Major John A. Foreman, with Colonel William A. Phillips advanced up to command the brigade.

While I feel secure with the identification and transcription, the faded ink leaves me to wonder.  Clearly the Indian Brigade had a section of howitzers and dutifully reported such.  But is this a case where a clerk attempted to erase the entry?  Or perhaps he was running low on ink when transcribing the return?  Regardless, the bold header tells us the Ordnance Department was interested in the Indian Brigade… if for no other reason than to account for all government issued property!

We turn to the ammunition now.  What did they feed those mountain howitzers?

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  • Company L, 3rd Regiment: 70 case and 72 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzer.

Sufficient for an expedition.  Though one would hope more ammunition was on hand, perhaps retained at in garrison’s stores.

Three (one, two, three) pages of empty cells, as the brigade had no rifled guns at this time.  So we move to the small arms:

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  • Company L, 3rd Regiment: Fifty-one “Springfield rifled musket, cal. 58,” two breechloading carbines, three rifles (unspecified type), and one Army revolver.

Note, no edged weapons reported.  And I have to speculate if the small arms reported were the total number with the company at that time.  Clearly fifty-one muskets would be much more than needed for the crew of two mountain howitzers.  So was Company L best considered as Kaufman’s howitzer section, with its accompanying supports?  Or was there a half company of skirmishers here supported by a pair of little mountain howitzers?  Either way, those small cannon were put to good use combating Confederate raiders in the Indian Territory.