Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Colorado

Always a bit perplexing the disregard for alphabetical order among the clerks at the Ordnance Department in 1863. But it is what you make of it. Instead of California following Alabama and Arkansas, it was Connecticut. And next Colorado.

I detailed the story of the Colorado Battery, also known as McLain’s Independent Battery, in the last quarter. Recall the battery was “un mustered” by order of the War Department in September 1863. This was justified as the battery had not been organized with official War Department authority. They had cannons. And they were using them. But they were not supposed to be a battery. However, by December, the state was given authority to raise a battery. The governor directed such shortly thereafter. Though, Captain William D. McLain’s appointment was not official until January the following year. A convoluted story that perhaps a historian with more background on the American West can better detail.

What I am allowed to focus upon, however, are two summary statement lines, indicating a battery not officially in existence was indeed in service… and serving by sections!

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  • 1st [Colorado] Light Battery: At Camp Weld, Colorado Territory, with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers. The return is posted February 5, 1864.
  • Section, [1st Colorado] Light Battery: At Denver, Colorado Territory, according to a March 23, 1864 return. No cannon indicated.

At the start of the quarter, other ranking officers of the battery were Lieutenants George S. Esyre and Horace W. Baldwin. Of course, when the “de mustering” took place, all were left without rank. Esyre was discharged at Camp Weld on October 20. His commission restored in February, he was assigned recruiting duty in Denver. Baldwin had a more “exciting” service interruption which I will touch upon in the closing. A December department return indicates 1st Sergeant William B. Moore (erroneously identified as a Lieutenant) was in command of a section then at Fort Garland.

But the main battery listing, in the department returns for December, has the headquarters at Camp Weld under a Lieutenant Chaney M. Crossitt. Crossitt was actually the Commissary Sergeant of the 1st Colorado Cavalry. Briefly, from October through December, returns have him detailed in “command” of the Colorado Battery. I would think as a practical matter, with a handful of cannon at the post it made sense to assign them to someone (and grant that someone commensurate rank with the responsibility) until this matter with the War Department was settled. So Crossitt had some cannon, even though there was no battery, administratively, at the end of December.

Those administrative details in order, somewhat, we can turn to the listing of ammunition, supplies, and small arms. I’ve posted those to Flickr, but we can skip forward to smoothbore ammunition:

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  • 1st Colorado Battery: 90 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

We can skip past all the remainder of the pages to the small arms:

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  • 1st Colorado Battery: 38 Sharps carbines, 9 Colt navy revolvers, and 76 cavalry sabers.
  • Section at Denver: 15 Springfield muskets and 8 cavalry sabers.

That was all the items reported. And we might close this post with that short summary. But I would be remiss without at least noting Horace Baldwin’s activities that October. As mentioned above, the War Department issued orders to disband the battery on September 28. Those would not arrive at Fort Garland until around October 15. And Baldwin was out in the field, having left the post on October 12 with a detachment of men accompanying the tracker / scout Thomas Tate Tobin to search for Felipe Espinosa, a rather ruthless murderer causing problems in the territory. I’ll let Baldwin’s official report lay out the “official” details:

I left Fort Garland at 11 o’clock a.m. on the 12th day of October, 1863, and proceeded up the road toward the Sangre de Cristo Pass, to a spot in the road where a man, supposed to be Espanoza, had committed certain outrages a day or two previous. Camped near this Spot the first night. Next morning we discovered the trail of the party or parties who were supposed to have committed such outrages as were known to have been committed, from the fact that two mules had been shot and one carriage burned, the remains of which were then lying in the first-mentioned spot in the road, about 18 miles from Fort Garland, Colo., on the Sangre de Cristo Creek. We followed this trail until it led us into the main traveled road, when and where we were obliged to leave it. Going again to the ruins in the road, we took a new direction, directly opposite to the one we had taken the day before. We followed along the mountains on the north side of the road until we struck the range of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Finding no signs of importance, we followed along this range in a southern direction, entering the Great Cañon at its mouth, near the main road. Here we discovered a moccasin track, which we followed a number of miles, but left it, as signs indicated that it was old and of no importance to us. Upon leaving this cañon, about 5 miles from its mouth, the trail of two men (or man and boy) was found. From signs it was evident that these persons had either led or driven two cattle along that spot not to exceed two days before. Following this trail through an almost impassable fall of dead timber a distance of about 5 miles, a number of crows were seen flying over a spot on the side of, and near the top of, a lofty mountain, indicating a camp or carrion near; two magpies were also seen flying about near this spot. Being convinced that a camp was near, I sent a few men with the horses which were being led (several men being dismounted and in advance) to the rear and behind a hill, that they might not be seen, or their heavy tramp over dead timber might not be heard, in case the object of our search should be near at hand. Thomas Tobin (guide) and 4 soldiers were in advance. The horses were scarcely out of sight, behind the hill, when a shot was fired from Tobin’s rifle, he having approached the camp and discovered a man (Mexican) sitting on a log at the spot indicated by crows, &c., and fired, wounding the man. A boy was at this time seen to run from a spot near where the man was sitting. He was instantly shot. The man, Espanoza, had dodged behind a log or logs, which had been thrown up as a sort of defense. While lying in this position behind the logs he was fired at several times by advancing party (soldiers). From this sort of defense Espanoza fired two shots at soldiers, but without effect. He then raised his body enough to be visible, when he was pierced by many balls, killing him instantly. The heads of the two dead persons were severed from the bodies and taken to our first night’s camp, on Sangre de Cristo Creek, about 18 miles from Fort Garland.
Started before daylight from this camp on morning of the 16th of October, 1863, for Fort Garland, arriving at the latter place at 9 a.m. same date. We delivered to you the heads of the two persons as soon as we arrived.

(OR, Series I, Volume XXII, Part 1, Serial 32, pages 704-5.)

Duty more befitting a US Marshal than an artillerist! The desperado was betrayed by the magpies!

Of course, upon his triumphant return, Baldwin was informed that his battery, and thus his commission, ceased to exist. So he was out of a job. But apparently he didn’t just quit the post. Later in January, Baldwin was brought up on charges. Major Jacob Downing, inspector of the district and officer of the 1st Colorado Cavalry insisted that Baldwin had served as officer of the day and performed other official duties after the date his commission was revoked. Serious charges and a court martial followed on February 20, 1864. The charges were dismissed, with witnesses including Colonel John Chivington and post commander, and 1st Colorado Infantry Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel F. Tappan speaking on Baldwin’s behalf. (And leading me to believe there was more than just a simple disagreement in play, the next day charges were brought by Tappan against Downing for insubordination…. read into it what you may.)

Baldwin returned to duty with the newly re-formed battery. And he would serve with it for the rest of the war, with breaks in service for recruiting duty.

As for the head of Espinosa? Rumor is the head was put in a jar of alcohol and displayed at different businesses around Denver. Sometime in the 20th century when a reporter sought to track it down, everyone seemed to have seen the head but nobody could cite the whereabouts. Lost to history? Or is that macabre artifact sitting in a Denver attic waiting rediscovery?

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Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – The Colorado Battery

Yes, indeed!  Colorado, a territory at the time, mustered an artillery battery during the Civil War.  Though, like a mountain stream, the story of that battery was not a straight line from start to finish.  For the second quarter, we noted a single entry line for a Colorado battery, reporting from Camp Weld, Colorado Territory.  And for the 3rd Quarter we find two entry lines (and the territory given a proper header):

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One battery, but separate lines for each section:

  • 1st Colorado Battery: With infantry stores at Camp Weld, Colorado Territories.
  • Section of 1st Colorado Battery: At Camp [Fort] Garland, Colorado Territories.

Let’s go back to this battery’s inception.  Operations into the fall of 1861 bore out the need for more troops to thwart any Confederate incursions and maintain order.  However, with pressing needs everywhere on the map, the Territory of Colorado looked to build such a force with resources on hand.  As the 2nd Colorado Infantry formed, one of its companies, under Captain William D. McLain, was detailed for artillery duty.  I’m not exactly sure as to why this decision was made.  At least one secondary source mentions bronze cannon purchased by McLain, and thus the company may have been one of the many “sponsored” units frequently seen early in the war.  At least initially, the battery was still considered a company within the 2nd Colorado Infantry.

But it was not officially sanctioned by the War Department in far away Washington, D.C.  That lead to the battery being disbanded, briefly, before being officially re-mustered in December 1862 with three year enlistments.  The battery appears on some records as McLain’s Independent Battery, but still being recruited and formed.  Aside from McLain, Lieutenants George S. Esyre and Horace W. Baldwin were ranking officers in the battery.

In February 1863, the battery appears, as the 1st Colorado Battery, on organizational listings for the Department of the Missouri, in the District of Colorado, at Fort Lyon, under McLain.  In June, the battery was still at Fort Lyon, but under Lieutenant Baldwin.  It appears McLain and Esyre were recruiting more men to complete the battery.

By July 31, a section under Baldwin was at Camp Weld.  Such implies the battery had cannon, and at least enough men trained to man two guns.  Though on the same organizational listing, McLain appears under the heading of “Recruiting parties within the District.”

Right around that time, McLain and his battery came under a great deal of scrutiny.  In the first place, nobody at the War Department recognized the battery as being formally mustered.  Furthermore, there was no indicated requirement, and thus no authorization, for a battery in the District of Colorado.  Thus, in the bureaucratic minds that determine such things, the battery was not supposed to be in the service.  So they directed it “un-mustered” or at least not brought onto the rolls.

Major-General John Schofield, in the Department of the Missouri, sensing McLain was working without sanction, or at worst hindering the war effort, sent out an order for the captain’s arrest on July 29.  Schofield called specific attention to proper reporting procedures, adding, “Unless officers comply with regulations and orders in making returns they are to be arrested and tried for disobedience of orders.”  At that time, McLain was on duty in Denver at a General Court Martial… not his own, per-say, but as an officer of the court.

With the War Department considering the battery a non-entity and Schofield looking to lock up the commander, the Colorado Battery’s service seemed at an end.  Orders were for the battery to disband.  McLain and some of his officers received dishonorable discharges.  The Rocky Mountain News, out of Denver, ran this short piece on October 14 about the fate of the battery:

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As is often the case with our news, this has only half the story and was actually a few weeks behind.  At the same time McLain was discharged and the battery thrown out, the War Department issued Special Orders No. 431, dated September 26.  Paragraph 29 specified:

Captain McLain’s Company, 2d Colorado Volunteer Infantry, is, under the special circumstances of the case, hereby recognized as an Independent Battery of Colorado Volunteer Artillery, and is hereby permanently detached from the Infantry organization.  The officers of the Company having been dishonorably discharged the service of the United States, the Governor of the Territory is hereby authorized to make new appointments for the Battery.

We can easily read between the lines in regard to the “special circumstances” as clearly the District of Colorado had need of some artillery.  But it is the last line which left open the path to redemption for McLain and his officers.  In effect, this order disbanded the battery but directed it be reorganized.  And the authority for that reorganization was left to the Territorial Governor, John Evans.  And Evans would turn right back to McLain, Esyre, and Baldwin to lead the battery.

However, paperwork had to be filed and all had to be done at the pace allowed by bureaucracy.  Not until January 12, 1864, was McLain officially restored, the wording being “the disability regarding this officers is removed and is hereby mustered in by virtue of commission issued by his Excellency [Samuel Hitt] Elbert, Acting Governor of Colorado Territory.”  The order was post-dated to December 19, 1863.  (Elbert was the Territorial Secretary at that time, acting as Governor when Evans was away on business. Western history buffs will point out that Evans was later appointed territorial governor in the Grant administration, 1873-4.  But I’m wandering afield here.)

At any rate, this long narrative helps us establish a few administrative “facts” about the battery.  Technically, it was “un-mustered” and being “re-mustered” at the end of September 1863.  However, it did exist, with sections at Camp Weld and Fort Garland.  And give the officers credit, as they did submit their returns (perhaps wary of the wrath of Schofield).  The Ordnance Department received Camp Weld’s report on January 26, 1864.  And that of Fort Garland’s section on November 16, 1863.  Not bad for reports from the frontier!

Although no cannon were indicated on the return, some ammunition was:

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  • Fort Garland Section: 17 shell and 25 case for 12-pdr howitzers.

I’ll leave the determination of field or mountain howitzers open for discussion.  For the following quarter, the battery would report four 12-pdr mountain howitzers on hand.  There’s little doubt those were the same weapons McLain formed the battery with the previous year – be those owned by the territory or donated by subscription (which is perhaps why those howitzers were not reported in September 1863… as the tubes would then not be US government property and thus “off the books”).

No rifled projectiles reported (I’ve posted those pages here, here, and here, for those who desire to look at blank sections).  But there were small arms on hand to report:

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  • Fort Garland Section: Twelve Navy revolvers, twenty-eight cavalry sabers, and two horse artillery sabers.

As you can see, the story of this battery offers a lot of twists and turns.  And there will be more to discuss in the next quarter, with temporary officers assigned to the sections.  Furthermore, Lieutenant Baldwin had a little “adventure” of his own along with another brush with military authorities over the regulations!  But we’ll cover those points when the next quarter’s summary is due.

In the mean time, I’ll leave you to ponder this battery which was almost the casualty of a bureaucratic defeat.  This same battery would play a role – an active one – in the defeat of Price at Westport in October 1864.  Rather fortunate that the “special circumstances” were recognized and this battery was left to fight another day!