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James Bryant Hoover


James Bryant Hoover and 132 other men from Dallas County, Missouri, were part of Captain Thomas Jones's Company B, Mounted Santa Fe Trace Battalion, Missouri Volunteers, in the War with Mexico. The Company arrived at Fort Leavenworth, September 8, 1847, and was mustered in on September 11.

While traveling the Santa Fe trail during his service, James Bryant Hoover chronicled his experiences in a small diary bound in leatherette. Over 80 years later it was published in the Buffalo Reflex in November, 1929. Spelling in this transcript is as it was in the diary; errors are marked with "[sic]". The reader may want to refer to a map of the Santa Fe Trail which shows some of the places mentioned in the diary.

The Diary

August 30, 1847 - A journal of Capt. Thomas Jones' Company, Lieutenant Colonel W. Gilpens [sic]1 Battalion of Missouri Cavalry volunteers for the plains. This book giving a true statement of our travel from the day we left Buffalo, the county seat of Dallas, showing the day's march and encampments and many other things.

August 30th, A. D. 1847, the volunteers assembled at the town of Buffalo, the county seat of Dallas, having been prepared a fine barbecue by the citizens of Dallas county for the dinner of the company and general community at large. After receiving our flag from the ladies and feasting upon the best that the country afforded, we mounted our company and marched six miles and encamped at William W. Wisdom's on the Round Prairie.

There was a fine barbecue prepared for our breakfast on the 31st. After feasting bountifully, we took up the line of march and encamped at Mr. Tucker's in the edge of the North Prairie.

September first we marched and camped on mile north of Warsaw.

On the second day we marched and encamped one mile from Calhoun.

The third we marched and camped in Grand Prairie near Carpenters.

The fourth we marched and camped in the Grand Prairie near Daniels.

The fifth day we marched and camped five miles from Independence.

The sixth we marched to Independence. There we gave our vote unanimous for W. Gilpens [sic]. Then we marched out and camped on the Big Blew [sic]. 2

On the seventh day we marched and passed through Westport and camped in the Indian Nation.

The eighth we marched within two miles of the Fort and camped.

The ninth we marched through Ft. Leavenworth and went out two miles and camped waiting to be mustered into service.

The tenth we still remained at camp.

The eleventh day we were mustered into the service of the United States.

On the twelfth we were marched into the Fort to be organized.

The thirteenth we moved our camp where we camped the night before we got to the Fort on account of better range.

On the fourteenth we went to the Fort to draw our bounty money and when we got there the business was stopped to bury the remains of Capt. Burguinn that was slain in the battle of Ft. Toas [sic] 3 in the Spanish country, this battle being fought February 14th, 1847. Also there as the remains of two other men brought back.

The fifteenth, and the paymaster was so behind hand with his writing that we had to return again to camp.

On the sixteenth we went back and drew our pay.

The seventeenth we were permitted to go to Weston and get our outfit for to last us six months.

The 18th we still remained at our old camp engaged in writing letters to our families.

The nineteenth - still at the camp shoeing our horses. Also twentieth and twenty-first still at the same business.

On the twenty-second we were ordered to march to Mansfort [sic] 4 at the crossing of the big Arkansas. We loaded our wagons and started and marched two miles and camped.

On the twenty-third we marched within six miles of Caw river and camped in the Delaware Nation.

The twenty-fourth day we crossed the river and camped in the Grand Prairie.

The twenty-fifth day we marched on the road towards Pilot Grove and camped.

The twenty-sixth we marched and camped at the Yawkernut Pond.

The twenty-eighth we marched into the plains and camped at the Bee Tree Ponds.

On the twenty-ninth we marched all day and till eleven in the night to reach wood and water which we found 110 mile. Creek there. Camped.

The thirtieth we lay by.

October first we marched six miles to Swisters Creek and there camped.

The second day we marched and camped on a creek. Bad water.

The third day after marching fifteen miles we camped on a creek called Big John.

The fourth we marched three miles and camped at the Council Grove.

The fifth day we lay by.

The sixth marched 20 miles and camped at the Diamond spring.

The seventh day after marching 20 miles we camped at the Lost Spring.

The eighth marched 15 miles; camped at the Cottonwood. At this place we have an Indian chase. They had found some three steers and butchered them and were preparing their nights lodging. We did not know what Indians they were. We did not overhaul them but we got their beef. In the course of the night a sentinel fired at an Indian, as he thought, and the alarm was given. Every man to his arms and in a line of battle, instantly expecting to be charged on by the savage foes. But it turned out to the reverse.

On the ninth day we marched 20 miles and camped on Turkey creek.

The tenth day we marched 25 miles and camped on the little Arkansas. We had fine sport in killing the Buffalo, fine amusement indeed.

The eleventh day we remained at the same place. Our occupation was Buffalo hunting.

On the twelfth day we moved our camp one mile down the river in order to get better range.

The fifteenth day we turned for Ft. Scott. 5

After traveling till the seventeenth of October, reached Council Grove. Then and there we met Colonel Gilpen [sic] with artillery and infantry companies. Gilpen [sic] was on his way to Ft. Man [sic] where he was ordered for winter quarters, and we two cavalry companies on our march to Ft. Scott which was our orders. But what does Gilpen [sic] do. Why, sirs, he orders us to return to Ft. Man [sic], grass or no grass. 6

After six days march from Council Grove, the twenty-fourth we camped on Big Cow creek.

On the twenty-fifth day we marched 20 miles and camped on the big Arkansas river.

The twenty-sixth we marched 10 miles and camped on Walnut creek. During the day we amused ourselves in killing of Buffalo.

The twenty-seventh day marched 3 miles in order to get better range, and camped, waiting for the Colonel Gilpen [sic] and the infantry to come up.

During the 28th we remained at the same camp waiting for the Colonel.

On the 29th day still remained waiting for Gilpen [sic]. In the evening Capt. Jones changed our position to get the advantage of the ground as this was a dangerous place of Indians, not that we thought of dying but we wanted a fair chance if any attack should be made.

During the 30th day still lay at our old camp for marching orders.

On the 31st day we marched 8 miles and encamped at the mouth of Ash Creek.

November first day. Marched 16 miles and camped on Pawnee fork of [the] Arkansas.

The 2nd day Col. Gilpin made requisition on our company for a scout of 2nd Lieutenant Cudgington and 20 men. They returned in the evening and had made no discovery of Indians. We marched 12 miles and camped on the Arkansas.

The 3rd day marched 15 miles and camped on Arkansas.

The 4th day after marching 14 miles we camped on the river.

The 5th day marched 8 miles. During the day we passed the grand Cave spring. This day drizzly. We camped at Jackson's Grove.

On the 6th day we remained at the Grove on account of a rain and snow storm. During this day and night great suffering with cold and bleak winds prevailed amongst the soldiers and many of our animals froze to death on the spot.

The 7th we marched 15 miles and camped at Mans Fort. During this evening extraordinary suffering prevailed in camp on account of another snow storm. Then and there several of our animals died.

The 8th day we remained at the Fort engaged in writing letters to our families.

The 9th day we still lay by on account of the snow.

The 10th day marched 7 miles up the river and camped on the river.

The 11th day marched 10 miles and camped. This day cold and bleak.

The 12th day day marched 10 miles. In the course of the day we conversed with some of the friendly Cheyennes. This day very cold. In the night the snow fell 20 inches deep. We were blessed though, with plenty of timber to make us fires, as God would have it.

The 13th remained at camp in consequence of the snow. This day we killed lots of Buffalo and salted them up. Then we fared well.

The 14th day marched 6 miles and camped in an island. This fine and warm. In the course of the day some of the Cheyennes got in company with us and camped at our camp.

November 15th we marched 14 miles and camped on the river. This day's march was in a high south wind. We passed through a species of wild sage resembling garden sage. This sage makes a fine tea and is very wholesome.

The 16th we marched 12 miles and camped at the Indian Island. I gave this group of islands this name because we found the remains of an Indian that had been raised some twenty feet into the top of a tree and snugly wrapped in a Buffalo skin.

The 17th we marched 14 miles and camped 2 miles above the Cheyenne encampment.

The 18th marched 15 miles and camped at the Porcupine camp.

The 19th marched 16 miles and camped on the main river. In the course of the day we saw a singular curiosity. That was the Cheyennes dragging their tent poles tied to their ponies and their dogs hauled their Buffalo meat.

The 20th we marched 12 miles and camped in a salt bottom. This ground is covered with salt and plenty of beautiful beads scattered naturally on the plains.

The 21st marched 10 miles and camped on the Arkansas in an island at the lower end of the big timber. 7

The 22nd after marching 10 miles camped in the big timber.

The 23rd day lay by at the old camp grazing our animals.

The 24th we moved in order to get better range for our animals.

The 25th day we lay by. Sent a detail of 20 men out of our company with Col. Gilpin up the river. In the time we discovered the snow peaks of the rocky mountains at a great distance off.

The 26th day marched 10 miles and encamped above the Cheyenne village. In the time of our march their chief came to us. He indicated great friendship to us. He appeared to be an intelligent Indian and his dress was singular. It was of dressed deer skins very well ornamented with many kinds of feathers, hair and beads. He wore a plate of brass in the form of a fine horse.

The 27th day marched 12 miles and camped on the main Arkansas in view of the snow peaks of the Rocky mountains.

The 28th day marched 6 miles and camped on the river six miles below Bentsfort [sic]. 8 At this place the water is salty.

The 29th day moved across the river and camped.

The 30th day remained in camp grazing our animals.

December the first day we lay by engaged in drilling of our men.

The second day we still lay by. This is fine weather.

The third day also lay by. The is day we have to issue half rations of flour on account of rations drawing scarce. Hard times and worse a coming.

The fourth day we still lay by at the same place.

The 5th day we received some Indian lodges bought by Col. Gilpin for our winter quarters. They cost from 40 to 60 dollars each. These are constructed of dressed Buffalo hides made in a peaked form, reared upon long pine poles about 25 feet long, neatly shaved. These poles meet at the top and there are tied together. It is left open at the top for the smoke to go out at.

The 6th day we still lay at the old camp drilling. This day we received 227 pounds of dried Buffalo meat purchased by Col. Gilpin from the Cheyennes. This substance resembled a parcel of raccoon skins thrown out in the back yard of a hatters shop after the hatter had taken the fur off of them, and this chewed by the dogs and mingled with all filth in the world. Those that can eat this mess, of course it will sustain life

The 7th day still lay at camp. This day we have a snow storm from the south.

We remained near Bentsfort until the 31st of December. We had fine weather and lay by doing nothing only drilling of the company.

December 31st at night deceased one of our men. He was a private of good character and well respected as a brother soldier. We made him a coffin out of the lumber of a wagon bed after digging his grave at Bentsfort. We buried him with the honors of war. He was about 20 years of age. He lingered a long time with ague and fever and finally dropped off suddenly. His name was William Bridges.

January 1, 1848, we still lay near Bentsfort. Cold and snowy day. Some sickness in camp. Extraordinary bad colds among the soldiers.

The 9th day we had to issue one pint of corn to the man per day for our bread. This is hard times. We have a snow storm. Men suffering with cold on post camp four miles above Bentsfort. Still remained at the same camp. Beautiful warm weather for the time of the year.

This day, 16th of January, the Colonel employed the men in drilling. We still are living on corn - one and one-half pint per day to a man. Some sickness in camp though not fatal. Last night the animals stampeded and ruined 3 or 4 mules.

January 17th, fair and warm. This is our regular day to draw provisions, but sadly our to our misfortune, there is none here to draw. So we must crack our corn and beef, as we have nothing else to subsist upon.

The 19th day a caravan of pack mules reached us with provisions.

The 22nd day we moved our camp two miles up the river to get better range. This is fine weather. We are living fine on town flour and dried pumpkin and plenty of sugar and coffee and rice.

The 24th, fell a little snow but not very cold.

The 25th day in escort of ten men from our company was sent with Bents han[d]s and pack mules to help the train of wagons over the rattoon [sic] 9 mountains and to forward on our provisions.

The 29th day the express passed from the States going to Santa Fe but we received no news from the war of importance nor no letters from our families. This is fine weather.

The night of the 29th we had a snow storm but not very cold.

February the first day. This is fair weather. This day we moved camp 3 miles down the river for to get better range.

The 2nd day we saw one of the Rapaho [sic] 10 Indians. He came to our camp. He was quite friendly and ate dinner with us. He appeared to be in feature a little different from the Cheyennes. This day clear and very cold winds.

The 4th day the whole Rapaho [sic] nation passed up the river on the opposite side from us, about 100 of their warriors camped past our camp. They traded some with us. This tribe of Indians is a large robust people.

The weather continued fine till the 8th day of February it is cloudy and cool at this time. The health or our company is very good. Our men buying of mules of Bent from 60 to 100 dollars.

The 8th in the evening our boys returned from Red river. They went with the pack mules as far as Red river. There the express from Gilpin overtook them with orders for them to return if there was no danger of the Indians disturbing of the train and consequently they had seen no Indians nor any sign of any so they returned to camp, all well and hearty.

The 9th is tolerable warm, though a little cloudy. This day we commence feeding of corn to our animals. We draw 2 quarts per day.

February 10th, fine weather. Hard times near at hand, flour being nearly all gone, then crack corn.

Though in a far and distant land,
Here on the banks of Arkansas we stand.
Many days have passed and gone.
So far we be now from our home.
The man that goes to war for fun.
He never will find where it begun,
Unless he is fond of cracking corn,
And has been raised like a pig on a farm.

The 11th is very fine weather. We are living on corn. We grind it in our coffee mills.

The 9th and 10th and till the 13th is fine weather.

The 14th day cold and high winds from the west off of the snow mountains.

The 15th day fair and warm. The health of our company is good.

The 16th day and 17th tolerable weather. Still living on corn till the 18th the packs come from Santa Fe.

The 19th we drew flour. It was not of the superfine but real Santa Fe, that is the brand and is very good. At this time the weather is very cold and bleak.

The 20th, 21st and 2nd is still cold. The night of the 22nd is tremendously cold. Sentinels suffer very much. The wind is from the east, falling of snow now and then.

The 23rd very cold and snowy, the snow is about 4 inches deep. About the middle of the day the sun shone out and the frost fell from the skies. This as cold as ever the weather gets to be, though we had to drill wading the snow knee deep in the drifts and the wind and snow flying enough to freeze a man in a short time.

The 24th and 25th very cold. Nights extraordinarily cold. On the day of the 25th the Coskilaski Company of infantry and one piece of artillery joined us with difficulty their teams were able to reach this place. They lost about 50 steers and left 4 wagons on the road.

The 26th and 27th fair and more moderate though the night very cold.

The 28th very warm and fair.

The 29th cloudy and bleak wind, very likely for a snow storm.

March 1st, cloudy and very cold, spitting snow.

March 2nd, still cold.

Third day fair and more moderate. The night very cold.

The 4th day warm. All hands busily engaged in making ready for the line of march against the Comanche Indians.

The 5th and 6th fair and warm. As we are about to leave here I will mention something concerning of Benfort [sic]. First description, it is situated on the north bank of the main Arkansas river about two hundred yards from the bank. It is situated upon a small eminence having a surrounding view of a mile's distance and in view of the snow peaks of the rattoon [sic] mountain. The fortifications are built of dirt dobys [sic]. 11 The wall encloses about one acre of ground. The wall is something like 20 feet high and 3 feet thick and about 8 feet high there is a walk way on the river side and there are places for the men to fight, having port holes. A small parcel can defend this post against a multitude of savages. The wall of this fort forms a part of the rooms. The rooms are decently plastered with white clay. Joining this wall there is a corral for the safe-keeping of animals. It is also made of dobys [sic] 8 feet high and on top of this wall it is covered with prickly pears so as to render it impossible to cross it without being pierced with these mighty thorns.

The 7th day in the forenoon fair and disagreeably hot. About one in the evening an extraordinary storm of wind from the east blew. The wind was so stormy as to raise the sand and dust so as to darken the elements It almost suffocates man and beast. This must closely resemble the sand winds of Arabia. This continued until night when the wind subsided and snow commenced to fall and fell 3 inches deep.

The 8th day warm. The snow has gone off.

The 9th day fair and pleasant. This day the express from Leavenworth arrived at Bentsfort fetching many letters from our families and friends.

The 10th day we took up the line of march towards Comanche country. After marching 6 miles camped on the Arkansas.

The 11th day we traveled 12 miles and camped on the bank of a small creek. We had luck to have a spring though it was a little salty. Very bad range here for horses.

The 12th day we marched 15 miles and camped on the same creek. During the day we passed over some mountains. We saw a great many antelope. At this camp we get some dead cedar and grease brush. This brush is very scrubby and small though it burns like grease. No grass here for our horses. This part of the plains is almost entirely destitute of vegetation. The face of the country is very broken. 12


  1. "Gilpens" was William Gilpin. Gilpin's Battalion was also known as Battalion of Missouri Volunteers for the plains, Gilpin's Battalion Missouri Mounted Volunteers, Oregon Battalion, and Separate Battalion of Missouri Volunteers.

  2. The "Big Blew" is probably the Big Blue river near Westport (now Kansas City), Missouri.

  3. "Ft. Toas" was probably Taos in present-day New Mexico.

  4. "Mansfort" was Fort Mann, eight miles west of Fort Dodge (now Dodge City) and 25 miles east of the Cimarron Cutoff in present-day Kansas. It was established in 1846 to be a post roughly half way between the end points of the trail, Fort Leavenworth and Santa Fe. After it was abandoned circa 1850 the larger and stronger Fort Atkinson was established nearby.

  5. The reference to Ft. Scott is puzzling, as no Ft. Scott lies along the Santa Fe Trail. Apparently they were ordered to Ft. Scott in present-day southeast Kansas near the Missouri border. This would have returned the Company almost back home.

  6. Note that the soldiers had backtracked some 80 miles from the Little Arkansas to Council Grove on the Neosho river before Gilpin ordered them to turn around again and head for Fort Mann. Gilpin's two infantry companies, D and E, and his artillery company, C, stayed at Fort Mann during the winter of 1847-48; only his mounted companies, A and B, went on to Bent's Fort. For more about the role of Gilpin's Battalion see: Fort Mann Kansas on the Santa Fe Trail Research website.

  7. The "big timber" may refer to the Big Timbers area between present-day Lamar and Las Animas, Colorado, named for the giant cottonwoods flanking the Arkansas river.

  8. "Bentsfort" is Bent's Fort near present-day Los Animas, Colorado.

  9. The "rattoon mountains" probably refer to the Raton mountains on the border of present-day Colorado and New Mexico.

  10. The "Rapaho" are no doubt the Arapaho Indians.

  11. The "dobys" are adobes. Bent's fort was made of adobe.

  12. This was apparently only one volume of James Bryant Hoover's diary. The transcript published in the Buffalo Reflex in November, 1929, ends with the March 12, 1848, entry.

    A document from the War Department in James B. Hoover's pension records states: "Regt. left Ft. Leavenworth Oct 4/47 and ascended Ark to foot of Rocky Mts at Bent's Fort, from thence crossed Kalowe Mts on Mch 10/48 & descended the Canadian through the country of Comanche & Apatche [sic] Indians during Mch, Apr, May to the Antilope [sic] Mts, being engaged in skirmishing warfare with Indians on Middle Ark & Kansas until expiration of service. The marching has exceeded 3000 miles mostly in the depth of winter. No further record."

    Records show that Gilpin returned to Fort Mann on May 30, 1848. According to a July 23, 1848, letter (reprinted in Dallas County Missouri History) from Capt. Jones to Lieut. Col. Gilpin, 41 Indians, believed to be Pawnees but in an area recently occupied by Comanches, attacked a detachment of his command on the "Cimarone" [Cimarron] river on July 20th. Those reported as "severely wounded with arrows, the Indians shooting them from behind and in the behind" included Lt. Joseph C. Eldridge, privates Philip Kinchelo, George W. Vance, and James B. Hoover of Company B, and private Robert Williams of Company A. When they returned to Buffalo the boys were teased that the must have been running to get shot in the posterior.

    According to James B. Hoover's pension records this attack was "about 50 miles south of Mansfort" [Fort Mann] and "on the waters of the Simaro" [Cimarron]. This would be very near the Cimarron river along the present-day border of Kansas and Oklahoma south of Dodge City. James Bryant Hoover was wounded by arrows in the left wrist and just above the left elbow. If he was shot in the rear end, he did not mention it in his pension documents.

    The National Archives, Record Group 94, contains a letter from Lieutenant Colonel W. Gilpin to Garland, dated Fort Mann 18 August 1848. This shows that his battalion was still there at that time.

    James Bryant Hoover was discharged, presumably with other members of his Company, on September 28, 1848, at Independence, Missouri.

See Also:

First Battle of the Cimarron River, July 9th 1848
Second Battle of the Cimarron River, July 20th 1848

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