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Kansas Historical Quarterly - The Military Phase of Santa Fe Freighting, 1846-1865

by Walker D. Wyman

November 1932 (Vol. 1, No. 5), pages 415 to 428
Transcribed by lhn; HTML editing by Tod Roberts;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.

THE Mexican War brought a great and rapid change in the traffic on the Santa Fe trail. Over this highway moved troops, traders, expresses, and hundreds of wagons belonging to the quartermaster's department. The northern province of Mexico, having been economically a part of the United States for several years, fell before this avalanche of guns and goods, which was a part of the Army of the West.

Official hostilities between the United States and Mexico began May 12, 1846. Stephen W. Kearny's Army of the West was en route to Santa Fe in detachments by the end of June. Col. Sterling Price's regiment and the Mormon battalion followed later in the summer.

The problem of supplying the army was of no small import. Reports from New Mexico indicated a grain shortage in that country. Reliance upon that area for a food supply was impossible. The alternative was to send all subsistence overland, in wagons pulled by mules or oxen. Grave doubts. were expressed concerning the food supply for approximately 6,000 Americans who would be in New Mexico. The Santa Fe trail ran through a land of hostile tribes. Santa Fe was 873 miles from the government depot at Fort Leavenworth. Kearny realized the precarious position in which his army would be placed, and demanded supplies for twelve months. This was a demand impossible to meet. One spectator said that 250 wagons accompanied Kearny, and another said that sufficient provisions for six months were to leave with the army.

Captain Turney of Colonel Kearny's staff arrived in St. Louis from Fort Leavenworth on June 12 with instructions "to furnish necessary provisions, baggage, trains, etc.," for the contemplated trip to New Mexico. It was estimated that 900 wagons, 1,000 teamsters, and about 10,000 oxen and mules would be required. Government agents operated actively in St. Louis and vicinity, buying mules, horses, wagons and provisions, and in contracting for the manufacture of wagons, knapsacks and various other articles necessary for the army. Thousands of barrels of pork at $10 per barrel and thousands of pounds of "clear bacon-sides" at five cents per pound were purchased in St. Louis and sent by way of steamer to



Fort Leavenworth. Agents of the commissary department penetrated Missouri and near-by states for mules, paying $100 apiece for all they could get. An incomplete report of the quartermaster general shows that 459 horses, 3,658 mules, 14,904 oxen, 1,556 wagons, and 516 pack saddles were used by the government in the fiscal year of 1846-1847. [1]

All the supplies were shipped to Fort Leavenworth. Provisions came faster than wagons, accumulating on the banks of the river. By June 20, just six days before the last of Kearny's army left the fort, a provision train was on the trail and "others are being loaded and started every day." Provisions for 1,300 men to last three months were in the wagons going across the plains. Soldiers not yet dispatched performed what they called "fatigue duty" in loading wagons, and they did it with "utmost cheerfulness," some one observed. When a steamer brought a deck load of wagons, they were immediately loaded and sent off in groups of seven or eight, and instructed to wait for Kearny at the crossing of the Arkansas river. Even far-away Pittsburgh supplied wagons. Steamers seemed to be afflicted with a wagon epidemic or eczema, being literally covered with them. The St. Louis New Era skeptically advised the government to send a few wheelwrights and blacksmiths ahead of these wagons "to secure their arrival at the place of destination."

The wagons accompanying the army were poorly distributed. Tents and utensils were not always with the proper company. The instances of intense hunger on the part of some companies were not rare. Undisciplined volunteers assaulted one train and used the contents regardless of the objections of the drivers who said it was a "through" train, not to be opened until its arrival. Even Kearny had to call a wagon train back upon one occasion.

All provision trains which did not accompany the army to New Mexico were sent by mistake to Bent's Fort. [2] The effects of this surprising blunder were both immediate and far-reaching. Even Kearny's army suffered en route. At Bent's Fort the army was placed on half rations. Before their arrival in Santa Fe part of them were existing on one-third rations. From August 1 until the last of September they had no sugar or coffee and but one-half ration of flour. The march of the day before they reached Santa Fe was made "without a morsel of food." Even the cooking uten-


sils had not yet arrived. Dough was wound around a stick and baked over an open fire. The first night that American sentries paraded the public plaza in Santa Fe, hungry soldiers went from door to door trying to buy food. These conditions were not remedied for some time -- as late as November 14 a soldier wrote that he had beef and bread for breakfast, bread, beef and coffee for dinner, and for dessert twice each week rice soup was served. This beef, he said, was boiled six hours from "a not-being-able-to-walk-any-longer disease" (sic) cattle. At least one New Mexican was under contract to deliver beef in Santa Fe. This beef, if one is to believe the above testimony, was of questionable value as an article of nourishment. Native flour was purchased, being "a miserable stuff -- exceedingly coarse, and operates on the bowels of many persons." However, in spite of the murmurings on the part of soldiers, the commissary general reported on November 17, 1846, that there had been "no official complaint of either quality or quantity of subsistence furnished to the armies . . . ."

To remedy the precarious condition of the troops in Santa Fe and vicinity, soldiers were sent to Bent's Fort to aid in forwarding supplies. In early November one soldier wrote that the ten wagons of provisions which he had the pleasure of bringing from Bent's Fort were pretty well exhausted; there had been no other arrivals "nor do we know when we shall have . . . ." By the latter part of October wagons were being forwarded from Bent's Fort at the rate of thirty per week. Some commissary trains were going straight through, but even these went the long route by way of the fort. There were about one hundred forty tons of provisions stored at Bent's Fort. on October 30, and only about a dozen wagons were en route there from Fort Leavenworth. The quartermaster reported that no wagons were to leave the states after September 8, but there is reason to believe that some were dispatched at a later date. Many wagons, mules and oxen were kept in Santa Fe to accompany troops to the south and to the Indian country. Upon the arrival of wagons in Santa Fe the quartermaster had the tires reset, and immediately sent them on their return trip.

The Mexican War may have been planned some time before the shedding of blood on American soil, but the method of supplying its army shows lack of deliberation. Wagon trains were dispatched without guard in a country through which few could hope to pass without attack by roving bands of mounted Indians. Inexperienced drivers were employed. As high as fifteen cents per mile per pound


was paid by sutlers. Goods were sent to a fort on the Arkansas river while an army was in need of food. The cost of all this was excessive. Pork was purchased in St. Louis for $10 per barrel. The cost of it transported from Fort Leavenworth to Bent's Fort was more than $32 per barrel. From there to Santa Fe the cost was $18 per barrel. By adding the original price to the cost of transportation, a barrel of pork cost $50 in Santa Fe. [3] As the St. Louis New Era commented, "the dear people pay."

The new and quite abnormal traffic in the bustling days of 1846 demanded scores of teamsters and wagons. Wagons came from Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and were also purchased from anybody who had one to sell. Many young men who had rushed to the frontier for the purpose of enlisting in the Army of the West found that source of enlistment closed, hence they joined the ranks of the army teamsters. [4] This type of service paid from $25 to $30 per month, including subsistence, while ordinary soldiers received but $7 for the same period of service on regular duty. Oftentimes soldiers were given "extra duty" at the salary of $14.90 per month. These teamsters became foot soldiers of a wagon train subject to dangers far more perilous than those faced by many of the regular soldiers. These men were not accustomed to handling several yoke of oxen or teams of mules over a desolate plain, contesting the right of way with Comanche or Pawnee. Neither did they know how to care for the animals. Lieut. J. W. Abert complained that teamsters mistreated cattle and wagons. The road from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe was strewn, it was said, with "about $5,000,000 worth of U. S. government supplies; the bones of cattle, and in many places the drivers, lie side by side -- a melancholy result,, brought about alone by inexperience." Innumerable wagons lay amidst a "grievous waste of provisions." Near Santa Fe in December, 1846, Lieut. Abert saw many carcasses of oxen. "Some were half-devoured by the wolves and ravens, others had not been dead long, for the birds of prey had only torn out their eyes."

The supply trains, as a rule, were dispatched without military guard but were given ammunition with which to protect themselves from the Indians. A writer from Bent's Fort complained that only two rounds of ammunition were given to some of the trains. The Missouri Republican remarked that unless Colonel Price, who left Fort Leavenworth in latter July, did not "give the Indians a drubbing, all provision wagons are in danger of being cut off, and the


army left to starve. There is gross neglect in failing to send military guard."

Further distress was expected because of lack of grass for animals. The season had been dry and there was great scarcity of water. Fires had destroyed much of the grass. The troops had driven the buffalo far from the trail. Private traders, anticipating a lack of provisions, took an additional supply with them. A returned soldier reported on October 30, 1846, that the grass was "very indifferent and very scarce . . . and extremely dry weather [had caused] . . . much suffering from want of water for the teams."

In the winter of 1846-'47 the trail was covered with snow. Overland freighting was hazardous. Two hundred miles of the trail were covered with two feet of snow. The ravines were impassable. A few government trains tried to go through. One Mr. Coons, a private trader who made the trip from Santa Fe in December and January, saw a government train which had left Santa Fe on December 8. The teamsters were in "a very destitute condition, twenty of them having subsisted for ten days on the meat of a government mule." [5] Eight teamsters were seen one hundred miles from Bent's Fort in January, 1847. They were all afoot and nearly out of provisions. Some of them had frozen hands and feet. Captain Clary found two dead men at the foot of a tree, the bark of which had been eaten all around. By the middle of March it was supposed that approximately fifty government employees had perished on the trail. Lieutenant Abert, while returning to the states in the first part of the year, had his mules stolen by the Indians. His men pulled one of the wagons for a while. A thirty-six-hour storm covered them with five feet of snow at Turkey Creek, Kansas, and in that snow they left their bedding, provisions, guns, and utensils. A twenty-seven-mile walk brought them to Cottonwood Fork, where they met a wagon master with plenty of provisions. [6]

During 1847 commissary trains and troops continued to ply back and forth between New Mexico and Fort Leavenworth. The volunteers had enlisted for a year. The romance of the war being over, most of them refused to serve again. In small groups, usually with wagon trains, many of them returned to Missouri. More troops rode across the plains to fill the fast-depleting ranks. Some one in Santa Fe who remembered the drunken brawls and the flagrant


violation of civil rights which existed when General Price was in command, wrote that "we almost dreaded the arrival of new troops, fearful lest the scenes of last year were about to be enacted again."

Commissary wagons made their way across the plains, but none arrived in Santa Fe before July 5. The commissary department had experienced some anxious weeks, for private trains had been arriving since June. John Dougherty contracted to take 550 head of cattle across to Santa Fe at the rate of $2.50 per hundred pounds. The cattle and a large train of government wagons and private traders were protected, in a sense, by a company of dragoons. In the meantime prices were high in Santa Fe. Crushed wheat could be purchased only in limited quantities. Sheep weighing thirty pounds sold from $1.50 to $2. Mules reputed to be worth $35 sold for $60 each; oxen "worth $30 in Missouri" brought $70; and corn to feed them was offered at $3.50 per bushel. Some one on the commissary staff remarked that "we have freely paid them, rather than levy forced contributions." Only specie would talk to the native of New Mexico.

According to the Reveille (June 3, 1848) the Indians attacked almost every train that crossed the plains in 1846 and 1847. A man from Bent's Fort wrote that the "Pawnees are playing the deuce with the provision wagons . . . [they have] killed men, burned several wagons . . . and I am glad of this because now, perhaps, Uncle Sam, the old fool, will punish these Indians who have so long committed outrages upon the traders with impunity." The commissioner of Indian Affairs in his annual report of 1847 exonerated the Indians north of the Arkansas by saying that, with the exception of the Pawnee, no plains Indians had attacked any wagon trains. However, property, "which was no doubt plundered from trains, has been found in the possession of two or three tribes [of the plains] . . . but they alleged having received it in trade.

They all cheerfully gave it up . . . except the Pawnees, who were compelled to do so." [7]

The chief depredations were committed between the Cimarron river and Pawnee Fork at the bend of the Arkansas. The Comanches told that they were advanced large droves of horses and mules as well as considerable money by the Mexicans. In return they were to kill Americans and destroy all their property. [8] The penetration of the Indian territory by the various trails and the


rapidly diminishing buffalo upon which the Indian relied to supply physical wants, may explain the attitude of the Indian more sympathetically, perhaps more scientifically. Facing their approaching doom, and having once tasted the plunder of the caravans, the plains Indians gathered at the Arkansas crossing each year to harass the passing wagon trains. Mounted on horses, armed with bows and arrows, spears, and guns, few travelers were free from their attack or their night prowlings. Cattle were speared and the tails cut off close for trophies. Scalps were lifted from many heads. As Col. Alton Easton's regiment filed across the prairies in June and July, 1847, great herds of buffalo were driven in close to the trail by the Indians, for the purpose of decoying troops away from the main body. Great piles of fuel at various points on the south side of the Arkansas succeeded in luring men away upon one occasion. Eight men paid for this venture with their lives. [9]

One government train was surrounded by a horde of Indians. Three hundred sacks of flour were cut open, so the story goes, and scattered "to the four winds of Heaven. The prairie for miles around . . . is said to have been as white . . . as snow. The villainous rascals, immediately upon getting possession of the wagons, set to work powdering themselves and the color of their yellow skins was soon changed to one of snow whiteness. The sport of snowballing each other with hands full of flour they enjoyed to a great degree; . . . they bedecked themselves out in the sacks, and in this garb several were seen by the men who returned to Fort Leavenworth . . . two or three days after the robbery. One fellow had modeled his sack into a turban, and the brand U. S. was immediately in front. The letters were quite unintelligible to them, but they seemed to prize them quite highly, as in all the breech clothes made of them the U. S. was in front." These Indians, according to the story, besides having their fun, did the conventional thing of carrying away the arms, clothing, and fifty head of mules. [10]

A Delaware Indian came in from the plains in June, 1847, and told of the assault of 1,000 Indians upon thirty government. wagons. The teamsters were driven from the saddle and massacred. The wagons, stores, and mules were taken.

These incidents are not rare. Col. William Gilpin estimated the total losses from Indians in 1847 to have been 47 Americans killed,


330 wagons destroyed, and 6,500 head of stock plundered. [11] The greater amount of these losses was sustained by government trains, Gilpin believed, since "no resting places, depots, or points of security exist between Council Grove and Vegas, a bleak stretch of 600 miles." These losses evidently caused the government to heed the demand for military protection. On November 30, 1846, an Indian agent had been appointed for the Indians between the Platte and the Arkansas. [12] Small forts on the Arkansas had been temporarily used by soldiers. Wagon trains had banded together as many as 180 at a time. The troops which went across in 1847 carefully sheltered accompanying wagon trains. In September, 1847, Gilpin was placed in command of a battalion to be used in guarding the Santa Fe trail. These troops were organized at Independence and St. Louis and outfitted at Fort Leavenworth. Including the teamsters there were 519 in this battalion; 70 wagons carried provisions for 100 days; 856 horses, mules, and cattle completed the force. The last of this detachment left on October 6, the whole force concentrating at Fort Mann, on the Arkansas. Gilpin left three companies to rebuild the fort, and he proceeded up the river to winter among the Cheyenne and Arapahoe. Supplies were drawn from Santa Fe and Taos. Horses lived on dead grass. After an expedition to the south the Indians retreated from the Arkansas for the first time in several years. He then concentrated his troops on the eastern part of the trail. In early 1848 troops were divided, Captain Pelzer was in command at Fort Mann, and Gilpin at Bent's Fort. It was reported that the troops were in a "disgraceful state of insubordination, officers doing as they pleased."

In 1848 wagons loaded with pork and flour continued to creak along on the Santa Fe trail. The plains Indians did not wreak their vengeance on the oxen and their drivers in that season. Some trains and a herd of beef cattle were escorted by troops en route to New Mexico. Gilpin and his little band of soldiers stayed at their posts on the Arkansas. Thomas Fitzpatrick, a confirmed cynic in the matter of a peaceable relationship existing between white man and the Indian, tersely stated that Gilpin had acted only in the defensive. He did not succeed in that, he said, "as the Indians took by force many of their horses." However, he did admit that Indian attacks were less frequent, but this may be attributed to the fact that the marauders had "secured so much


booty . . . and have been luxuriating in and enjoying the spoils." The peace treaty with Mexico was confirmed by the senate in May. Eight hundred seventy-five troops were retained in the seven posts of New Mexico. Santa Fe continued to be the army depot to which government wagons came with supplies. According to a gentleman who arrived in the latter part of August, 400 public wagons were on the trail in August. Gilpin estimated that 3,000 wagons, 12,000 people, and 50,000 head of live stock passed over the trail in the last year of this period of conquest. The first army contractor, James Browne, of Independence, made several agreements in May and June to deliver government stores to Fort Union, New Mexico. In one of his contracts he agreed to buy a number of wagons, ox yokes, and chains from the quartermaster's department. This indicated that the government was slowly withdrawing from the freighting business. [13]

The conquest of northern Mexico bad been made, the political transfer merely consummating what had been done economically several years before. It was the uncompromising nature of our new wards, the Apache Indians, that made necessary the establishment of a permanent military frontier. The barren nature of the country made reliance upon local food supplies somewhat precarious at all times, and undesirable most of the time. Hence Missouri river towns settled down to the booming business of freight depots, connecting the steamer (and the railroad) with the prairie schooner, the old world with the new. The "contract system," or the employment of private freighting firms by the government to transport supplies for a fixed sum per mile per pound, became the accepted means of furnishing "Navaho Land" with food. To these lonely posts, located in the fastnesses of the marauding red man, wagon trains pulled by oxen and manned by bullwhackers, made their toilsome way.

These "forts," which were to make up the Ninth Military Department's defense system, were scattered throughout the territory. In 1849 there were 987 soldiers occupying seven posts. Ten years later sixteen posts accommodated over 2,000 troops. [14] However,


the presence of uniformed men did not subjugate the Indian. In the years 1846-1850 the people suffered the loss, according to contemporary reports, of 150,231 sheep, 893 horses, 758 mules and asses, and 1,254 cows. [15] Treaties were made only to be broken. Implements, rugs, and calicoes were brought from California and Missouri to bribe them. [16] Troops marched and countermarched. The Indian agent of the territory complained that such conditions were a result of a combination of circumstances-the wild, desert, and mountainous country and the "savage and untamed habits of most of the Indians who roam over it." More troops were demanded by citizens in Santa Fe. Thomas Fitzpatrick, in reply, accused the traders who "live and thrive on the expenditures of the troops" of being the loudest in asking for protection. They care less about protection than they do about augmenting and increasing the expenses of the general government . . ." [17] Even Mexico advised the United States to remember her treaty obligations and stop depredations on the boundary. The government slowly acquiesced and troops marched down the Old Trail to protect a bulging frontier.

Thus the Indian gave rise to the necessity of feeding troops located several hundred miles from the military frontier of the Mississippi valley. The Missouri Republican, pointed out that one-seventh of the army was in New Mexico trying to protect one-twentieth of our frontier. [18] Santa Fe was the headquarters of the army and the depot for supplies until 1851. In that year Fort Union, located some 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe, became the military depot. Freighters transported goods to this place for distribution, or freighted the goods directly to the scattered posts in that district. Forage and fuel were purchased in the territory, as a rule. In the latter part of the decade the expenses of overland freighting were decreased by purchasing beans and vinegar from merchants of Santa Fe or near-by towns.

During the Mexican War the quartermaster's department transported most of the supplies for the troops in New Mexico. Perhaps it was the waste and inefficiency of this war-time experience which caused the government to make greater use of the contract system for overland transportation. In 1848 James Browne, of Independence, Missouri, agreed to transport 200,000 pounds of goods


and other "such government stores as may be delivered to him" at $11.75 per hundred. To aid the government in converting its freighting equipment into capital he offered to buy the surplus wagons, ox yokes, etc." [19]

In 1849 the era of government contract freighting properly began. The freighters, James Browne and William H. Russell, contracted to transport such stores as could be delivered to them at $9.88 per hundred. [20]

Between July 8 and October 2, 1850, 278 wagons left Fort Leavenworth for Santa Fe and El Paso. The contractors were Joseph Clymer, David Waldo, James Browne, "Brown, Russell & Company," and Jones & Russell. Brown, Russell & Company were the principal freighters, with 135 wagons. Rates ranged from $7.871/2 to $14.331/3, depending on the destination and the time of the year. The average rates were $8.871/2 to Santa Fe and $13.471/2 to El Paso. There were no contracts to the other posts. [21] In the spring of 1850 Fort Leavenworth was literally flooded with barrels which had been shipped up the river from St. Louis. Since there was no warehouse, the nine-pin alley, company quarters, and two "leaky blockhouses" served as temporary places of deposit until the freighters loaded them for the plains. Later in the year a public warehouse was built out of the proceeds from the sale of unserviceable horses and wagons, the "whole of which might have been given away with advantage."

George McCall, inspector general of the War Department, gave a few helpful suggestions for freighting bacon and hard bread. Since the bacon sides were cut in squares, when packed in the round whisky barrels they left large "interstices." In addition to that, the round barrel left much unused space in the wagons. He recommended square boxes for both bacon and bread. Freighting a barrel which weighed one-half as much as the contents seemed a costly procedure, so he asked why a baker could not be sent. However, his suggestions were not followed -- soldiers of the adobe forts continued to eat hard bread while contractors prospered. [22]


In 1851 contractors made long pilgrimages to Santa Fe, El Paso, Albuquerque, Dofia, Taos, Las Vegas, Fort Union, and Rayado. Jones & Russell sent 131 wagons from Fort Leavenworth in May. Clymer, who seems to have been the only other contractor, sent one train of thirty wagons. Freight rates were lower than in the previous year, the highest being $12.84. [23]

It is fair to assume that some of the goods, upon delivery, were in a deplorable condition. The long drive of 800 or 1,000 miles, during the summer months, had unfavorable effects on meat, in particular, as well as on other food products. At the post of E1 Paso from October 1, 1849, to July 31, 1851, these goods were condemned: Three barrels and 68 pounds of pork; 58,561 pounds of bacon; 7,0881/2 hams; 36 barrels and 172 pounds of flour; 394 pounds of hard bread; 3 bushels and 7 quarts of beans; 517 pounds of rice; 96 pounds of coffee; 183 pounds of sugar; 12 pounds of candles; 4 quarts of salt; and 114 gallons of pickles. [24] However, not all of these goods had come from Missouri.

In 1851 an experiment was tried in supplying the troops in the southern part of the district from San Antonio. [25] The total cost of $22 per hundred made it prohibitive as a regular source of supply. The quartermaster decided that the Santa Fe trail was the cheaper route. The continued use of whisky barrels in shipping bacon and hard bread was the cause of the commissary general's report that flour would be more convenient to pack and "generally preferred by the men." A trial had been made in the use of the "meat biscuit" in the hope that it could form a part of the soldiers' rations. But the commissary general thought the reports gave "reason to believe that it cannot be used as a substitute for the bulkier parts of the rations." [26]

Alexander Majors and J. B. Yager were the principal contractors in 1853. [27] Rates had increased to $16. In that year the commissary department, perhaps moved by the humanitarian spirit as much as by the scientific, experimented on salt cures for pork. The possibility of spoiled meat was somewhat lessened when J. C. Irwin drove 2,000 cattle down the trail to New Mexico to be used as a source of fresh meat. [28] This probably did much to solve that calorie problem.


Supplies were freighted to El Paso, Fort Fillmore, Albuquerque, and Fort Union, directly from Fort Leavenworth, in 1854. The cost of transportation had decreased; but the system of contracting for the goods to be delivered at Fort Leavenworth began to cause some trouble. The contracts were given to the lowest bidder and were "let" nine months before delivery. In 1850 some had been defaulted because of the rise in prices. In 1856 Comm. Gen. George Gibson complained that the provisions were not of a good quality and "consequently the decay is greater. The contractors as a general rule are not dealers in articles, but speculators, without the same inducement to produce good articles as a regular dealer." He concluded that in his thirty-eight years of experience he had failed to find a single benefit to the government in the contract system, "whilst its evils have increased . . . ." [29] In 1857 no bids to supply the troops were accepted. Supplies were purchased outright as needed.

In the freighting season of 1857 Majors & Russell contracted to transport 5,000,000 pounds of supplies from Fort Leavenworth or Fort Riley to Fort Union, intermediate points, or New Mexico posts. [30] Other contracts were made during the year. They virtually had a monopoly, and were well on their way toward becoming towering figures among the freighters of the West and Southwest.

On January 16, 1858, Russell, Majors & Waddell agreed to receive all supplies turned over to them in 1858 and 1859, and to deliver these goods to posts in Kansas, New Mexico, and the Gadsden Purchase. The aggregate each year was to be from 50,000 to 10,000,000 pounds. Freight charges varied from $1.25 to $4.50 per hundred pounds per hundred miles with an additional 10 per cent for hard bread, bacon, pine lumber, and shingles. [31] This firm was the principal contractor in 1860 and 1861, being engaged at both ends of the terminals, Fort Leavenworth and Fort Union, in forwarding supplies. [32]

The quartermaster general in 1865 reported that his department had no statistics to show the extent of overland freighting in the number of wagons engaged. The total cost of transporting stores to Fort Union and posts in New Mexico and along the trail was $1,439,538. While the policy had been long adopted of having the troops as self-sufficient as possible, the cost of grain transported


to New Mexico in that year was $697,101.69. A bushel of corn purchased at Fort Leavenworth and delivered at Fort Union cost $9.44. [33]

Two forces were at work in the first half of the decade of the sixties -- the railway and the farmer. By 1865 the lines of survey crossed the trails at all angles. Farmers began to fence in their "160's" according to "the unyielding lines of his rectangular boundaries." The homestead act of 1862 made the Santa Fe trail a meandering line, not following the ridges as of old, but often leading through wet, low land to avoid some farmer's corn field or shocks of wheat. [34]

The railroad put an end to the government contractor. The Kansas Pacific pushed westward. A government inspector advised against shipping from the terminal of the railroad in 1866, since there were no warehouses at the end of the line. [35] In 1867 the railroad transported goods to Fort Harker, thus saving the contractor 215 miles. From that point John E. Reeside agreed to transport the stores to forts in Kansas, Colorado, and to Fort Union. Mitchell and Craig freighted from Fort Union. Military posts in Arizona required one-fourth of the total supplies consumed in the Ninth Military District. [36] However, some of the public trains came overland from California.

When the shrill whistle of the Kansas Pacific was heard in Denver, the death knell of the Old Trail was sounded. The branch south from Bent's Fort was all that was left of the most famous trail in the Southwest. The great business of government freighting was never again to be of great importance to the men with ox teams. Many of the cattle were fattened and shipped back over the road in a box car to serve as an article of food in the Mississippi valley. The trail, the unbroken prairies, the roving Indian became a memory. In a few years the soldier moved to the border, while the Indian took up agriculture. The railroad spanned the plains and solved the food problem of the Army of the Southwest. Isolation, that factor which had given character to a type of transportation and which had given the frontier its uniqueness, vanished before the impact of the industrial revolution. The Old West was no more.


1. This report was given November 24, 1847, in Senate Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess., v. 1, s. n. 503, Doe. No. 1, p. 545.
2. The teamsters refused to drive their oxen beyond Bent's Fort, maintaining that their articles of agreement did not require them to go farther. See Senate Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess., v. IV, s. n. 506, Doc. No. 23, p. 4.
3. Niles' Register, August 8, 1846, quoting the Missouri Republican.
4. Senate Reports of Committees, 30 Cong., 2 sess., s. n. 535, No. 291.
5. The experiences of Mr. Coons are given in the St. Louis Reveille, February 26, 1846, and quoted in the New York Tribune, March 10, 1847.
6. Abert's account is a classic. It is given in the St. Louis Union, March 9, quoted in the New York Tribune, March 19, 1847; also given in Senate Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess., v. IV, s. n. 606, Doc. No. 23, p. 4.
7. Senate Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, s. n. 503, Doe. No. 1, pp. 742, 743.
8. This explanation was given in the St. Louis Reveille, August 30, 1847.
9. Ibid., August 7, 1847.
10. This tale is given in the St. Louis Era, quoted in the New York Tribune, December 4, 1847. The incident is typical in general nature, if not in detail.
11. House Executive Documents, 30 Cong., 2 sess., v. 1, s. n. 537, Doc. No. 1, p. 137.
12. Leroy R. Hafen, "Thomas Fitzpatrick and the First Indian Agency of the Upper Platte and the Arkansas," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, v. XV., pp. 374-384.
13. These contracts are given in Senate Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 1 sess., v. VI, e. n. 554, Doc. No. 26, p, 12; House Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 1 sess., v. VII, s. n. 876, Doc. No. 38.
14. A complete survey of all the forts and posts occupied, the time of the construction and excavation, is given in House Executive Documents, 35 Cong., 2 sess., v. IX, s. n. 1008, Doc. No. 93, pp. 21, 22. The distribution of the troops for various years is given in Senate Executive Documents, 31 Cong, 2 sess., v. I, s, n. 587, Doc. No. 1, p. 110; Ibid., 32 Cong., 2 sess., v. II s. n. 59 Doc. No. 1, p. 56; Ibid., 33 Cong., 2 sess, v. II, s. n., 747, Doc. No. 2, p. 6; Ibid., 34 Cong, 3 sess., v. III, s. n. 76, pp. 244-245; Ibid., 30 Cong., 1 sess., v. II, part 2, s. n. 1024, Doc. No. 2, pp. 06, 607; House Executive Documents, 40 Cong., 2 sess., v. II, Part 1, s. n. 1324, Doc. No. 1, p, 40.
15. Senate Executive Documents, 32 Cong., 1 sess., v. III, s. n. 613, Doc. No. 1, p. 271.
16. Ibid., 36 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, s. n. 1023, Doc. No. 2, p. 173.
17. House Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 2 sess., v. I, s. n. 595, Doc. No. 1, p. 53.
18. Missouri Republican, September 6, 1850.
19. This contract is given in Senate Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 1 sess., v. VI, s. n. 554, Doc. No. 26, p. 12.
20. House Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 1 sess., v. VII, s. n. 576, Doc. No. 38.
21. An elaborate report of freighting for the years 1850 and 1851, including the dates of departure of the wagons, the number of wagons, the number of pounds, the exact destination and the rate for each contract, is given in a report by Asst. Quar. E. A. Ogden, of Fort Leavenworth (October 4, 1851). See Senate Executive Documents, 32 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, s, n. 611, Doc. No. 1.
22. This full report is given in Senate Executive Documents, 31 Cong., 2 sess., v. I, s. n. 587, Doc. No. 1, Part 2.
23. Ibid., 32 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, s. n. 611, Doc. No. 1 (see footnote No. 21).
24. Ibid., p. 252.
25. See a detailed report of the quartermaster general of November 22, 1851, given in Senate Executive Documents, 32 Cong., 1 sess., v. 1, s. n. 611, Doc. No. 1, pp. 219 et seq.
26. Ibid., p. 336.
27. House Executive Documents, 33 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, s. n. 721, Doc. No. 63, p. 33.
28. Wichita Beacon, March 11, 1928, as given in Trails Clippings (compiled by the Kansas Historical Society, Topeka), v. II, p, 198.
29. House Executive Documents, 33 Cong., 1 sess., v. I, Part 2, s. n. 711, Doc. No. 1, p. 141.
30. Ibid., 35 Cong., 1 sess., v. IX, s, n., 955, Doc. No. 57, p. 8.
31. Ibid., 35 Cong., 2 sess., v. VII, s. n. 1006, Doc. No. 50, pp. 4, 5.
32. Ibid., 36 Cong., 2 sess., v. VIII, s. n. 1099, Doc. No. 47, pp. 8-10.
33. Ibid., 39 Cong., 1 sess., v. III Part 1, s. n. 1249, Doc. No. 1, pp. 112-114; also Ibid., p. 750. Corn was sent to New Mexico in 1863, 1864 and 1865 because of a drought in some places, devastation from insects throughout the territory, and because of a flood on the Rio Grande which destroyed the crops.
34. Ibid., p. 113.
35. Report of Brig. Gen. James F. Rusling in House Executive Documents, 39 Cong., 2 sess., v. VII, s. n. 1289, Doc. No. 45, pp. 8-16.
36. Senate Executive Documents, 40 Cong., 2 sess., v. II, s.n. 1317, Doc. No. 74, p. 2.