Discharge Papers for Horatio Babcock (Colorado State Archives)
Colorado became a territory just a few weeks before the firing on Fort Sumter signaled the official beginning of the Civil War. Although sentiments were somewhat divided in the early days of the war, Colorado was a Union territory. When President Lincoln called for volunteer soldiers to supplement the regular army, Colorado responded. Eventually, nearly 4,000 men from the Colorado Territory served in the volunteer Union forces authorized by the United States War Department. Hundreds more served in militia companies, authorized by the territorial governor, most of which were formed to fight Indians rather than Confederates.
Colorado's Civil War military is somewhat unusual in that two of its three cavalry regiments were formed from previously-existing infantry regiments. Colorado's volunteer military regiments, in the order of their formation were:
The 1st Regiment of Colorado Volunteers (Infantry)
Organized by the territory's first governor, William Gilpin, this infantry regiment began enlistment in August 1861. Nicknamed "Gilpin's Pet Lambs" because of the governor's involvement in their organization, the regiment marched to northern New Mexico in February-March 1862. There they fought in the battles of Apache Canyon and Pigeon's Ranch (also called the Battle of Glorieta Pass) and at Peralta, New Mexico. Their first colonel was John P. Slough, who resigned and was replaced by Major John M. Chivington in April 1862. The regiment's first and only lieutenant-colonel was Samuel F. Tappan. The Colorado State Archives has custody of the casualty records, clothing issue records, some of the muster rolls, and the morning reports relating to this regiment.
The 2nd Colorado Infantry
Organized by Colonel Jesse H. Leavenworth, the 2nd Colorado Infantry was authorized in February, 1862. The first four companies already existed at that date, as independent volunteer companies. One of these companies, later designated Company A, fought in New Mexico at the Battle of Valverde (February 21, 1862). This company, under command of Captain Theodore H. Dodd, is called Dodd's Independent Company according to Colorado Archives records of the period. Another company, later designated Company B, fought at Glorieta Pass with the 1st Colorado in March 1862. This company, commanded by Captain James H. Ford, is called Ford's Independent Company. Both companies participated in the battle at Peralta, New Mexico. The third and fourth independent companies, later designated Companies C and D, were posted at Fort Union, New Mexico in April 1862, where they took part in actions against Navajo Indians as well as Confederate guerillas.
With the four independent companies as a nucleus, Colonel Leavenworth raised an additional six companies, as well as an artillery company later designated McLain's Independent Battery. Leavenworth appointed Captain Dodd as lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, while Captain Ford became Major. The regiment, however, did not remain complete. Companies C and D were absorbed by the 1st Colorado Cavalry when it formed in November 1862. The remaining companies were posted at various places along the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas, to guard supply trains against Indian attacks and to deter an expected Confederate invasion from Texas. Battalions from this regiment met the Confederates at Cabin Creek and Honey Springs, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in July 1863. Colonel Leavenworth resigned in September, 1863 and was not replaced. The regiment was later combined with the incomplete 3rd Colorado Infantry in November 1863 to form the 2nd Colorado Cavalry.
The 1st Colorado Cavalry
Colorado's first cavalry regiment was formed in November 1862 from the 1st Regiment of Colorado Volunteers (Infantry) and Companies C and D of the 2nd Colorado Infantry. This conversion from infantry to cavalry was authorized by the War Department because cavalry troops were more effective for Indian-fighting purposes. The 1st Colorado Cavalry's assignment was to guard the Colorado Territory and its gold mines from possible Confederate invasion, and to protect the ever-expanding white settlements from Indian raids. In 1863, they participated in isolated skirmishes against the Utes, (in "Idaho Territory", part of present-day Wyoming) Kiowas, and Comanches (in Kansas).
In January 1864, re-enlisting troops from this regiment formed the 1st Colorado Veteran Volunteers, also referred to as the Veterans Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Tappan. More than a standard battalion, the Veterans Battalion actually had at least six companies, and remained part of the 1st Colorado Cavalry for administrative purposes. Rosters of the reformed companies appear in the Transcript of Records at the Colorado State Archives.
Troops from this regiment are generally considered to have begun the Indian War of 1864, by attacking a party of Cheyenne at Fremont's Orchard in April 1864. Thereafter, detached companies from the regiment met the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 1864. Traffic on the Platte River trail, one of the main immigration routes into Colorado, came to a halt as the tribes retaliated, and by late summer of 1864 Denver was totally cut off from the east.
The Cheyenne and Arapahoe were quick to retaliate. The first attack came on January 7, 1865, at Julesburg, Colorado --- which was part of the Military District of Nebraska and had no Colorado troops. Companies of the 1st Cavalry took part in actions against the Cheyenne in General Patrick Connor's Powder River Campaign in the spring of 1865. The last actions of the 1st Colorado Cavalry came in June, 1865 with a minor skirmish at Rock Creek, Dakota Territory.
Colonel Chivington's enlistment expired in September 1864; and he mustered out of the service in January 1865, when relieved as commander by Colonel Thomas Moonlight of the 11th Kansas Cavalry. Colonel Moonlight ordered an investigation into Chivington's actions at Sand Creek, which was conducted by officers of the 1st Cavalry. In addition, a joint committee of the United States Congress investigated the military actions at Sand Creek. Despite his early successful engagements against the Confederates at Apache Canyon and Johnson's Ranch, John M. Chivington passed into history condemned for all time as the author of the Sand Creek Massacre.
The 3rd Colorado Infantry
The 3rd Colorado Infantry was raised by "General" William Larimer, one of the founders of Denver, in the fall of 1862. Because of the competition for recruits, Larimer only managed to raise five complete companies and part of a sixth. He resigned in December, 1862, and was replaced as colonel by James H. Ford, the First Major of the 2nd Colorado Infantry. This incomplete regiment marched to Pilot Knob, Missouri in April 1863, where they remained on guard and fatigue duty until combined with the 2nd Colorado Infantry to eventually become the 2nd Colorado Cavalry. The Colorado State Archives has casualty records from this regiment; enlistment records are found with the records of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry.
The 2nd Colorado Cavalry
The 2nd Colorado Cavalry was formed in November 1863, by consolidation of the incomplete 2nd Colorado Infantry and 3rd Colorado Infantry. The first and only colonel of the regiment was James H. Ford; Theodore Dodd was the lieutenant colonel. At the time of consolidation, Company A of the 2nd Colorado Infantry (Dodd's former company) became Company B of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry. Company B of the 2nd Colorado Infantry (originally Ford's Independent Company) became Company A of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry, in a move which has confused researchers for more than a century. Abstracts of records of men who served in the independent companies, infantry regiments, and the cavalry regiment generally list all three affiliations.
Enlistment Card (Colorado State Archives)
In January, 1864, the 2nd Colorado Cavalry was ordered to the Missouri border counties of Jackson, Cass, and Bates, (part of the new Department of Kansas), to relieve Kansas troops defending against Confederate "bushwhackers," loosely-organized guerillas. Beginning in late April, 1864, the regiment fought several skirmishes with bushwhackers throughout the summer months, while John Evans, the new governor of Colorado Territory, pleaded for their return to Colorado. Just as the 2nd Colorado prepared to return for Indian-fighting duty in Colorado, the Confederate General Sterling Price began his invasion of Missouri. The 2nd Colorado was attached to the Union force raised to repel the invasion, and took part in the battles of the Little Blue, Westport, Marias des Cygnes, and Mine Creek in October, 1864. When Price withdrew, the 2nd Colorado was part of the pursuit, meeting him for the last time near Fayetteville, Arkansas, in November, 1864.
The 2nd Colorado Cavalry was moved to Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) in December, 1864, where Colonel Ford, with the brevet rank of Brigadier General, commanded the military District of the Upper Arkansas. As the first companies of the regiment began to muster out in December, the remaining troops moved to Fort Riley, Kansas. As the Indian war which began the previous summer continued, the 2nd Colorado was largely devoted to escorting supply and wagon trains across Kansas, and occasional skirmishes with Indians.
The Independent Battery raised at the same time as the 2nd Infantry regiment remained with the 2nd Colorado after the summer of 1864, until it mustered out in August 1865. The last troops of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry were mustered out in September 1865. Records of this regiment in the Colorado State Archives include muster rolls, transcripts of records, and casualty records.
The 3rd Colorado Cavalry
Raised in the summer of 1864 in response to Governor Evans' pleas for a regiment of Indian fighters, the 3rd Colorado Cavalry existed for only 100 days. This was a volunteer regiment authorized by the War Department, although its makeup, training, and equipment was little better than a militia regiment authorized by the governor. The colonel, who took command in October, 1864, was George Shoup. Until his promotion, he was a lieutenant in the 1st Colorado Cavalry. Despite the peacemaking efforts of the various chiefs who attended the Camp Weld Meeting in September, Colonel Chivington, as district commander, was under pressure from the governor and his own commanding officers not to make peace. Rather, he was advised to use the "Bloodless Third" to suppress the Indians before their hundred-day enlistment expired.
Special Orders (Colorado State Archives)
Severe blizzards in October and early November 1864 delayed equipping the 3rd Cavalry. Two companies were stationed on the Platte River Trail, to keep that travel and communication line open. Late in November, the remaining ten companies, along with detachments from the 1st Colorado Cavalry, traveled in great secrecy to Fort Lyon, on the Arkansas River near present day Lamar. There they attached another 125 men from the 1st Cavalry, and a section of artillery. Then, in an overnight march through bitter cold, they moved in on the only group of Indians Chivington could find --- Black Kettle's camp on the Big Sandy. At dawn on November 29, 1864, they attacked, killing about 150 Indian men, women and children, losing only ten soldiers.
Now called the "Bloody Third," the regiment returned to Denver in December, and mustered out on December 31, 1864. Records in the Colorado State Archives include all the service records of all the troops, as well as all the General and Special orders for the 3rd Colorado, and for the District of Colorado during the last five months of 1864.
Other Civil War military records in the Colorado State Archives include abstracts compiled to show all appearances by an individual in any of the muster rolls; certain discharge certificates, and an indexed transcript of records compiled in the 1880s. In addition, the transcripts of records contain the muster rolls for a quasi-official militia company, the Tyler Rangers, which existed at the same time as the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, and records of the 1864 Governor's Guard, a militia company of prominent Denver citizens.
Colorado During the Civil War - Bibliography
Adams, Blanche V. "The Second Colorado Cavalry in the Civil War," Colorado Magazine, VII, 3, May 1931.
Carey, Raymond G. "Colonel Chivington, Brigadier General Connor, and Sand Creek," Denver Posse of the Westerners 1960 Brand Book. Boulder: The Johnson Publishing Company, 1961.
-------- "The Bloodless Third' Regiment, Colorado Volunteer Cavalry," Colorado Magazine, Vol. 38 No. 4, October 1961.
Colton, Ray C. The Civil War in the Western Territories. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.
Hoig, Stan. The Sand Creek Massacre. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
Hollister, Ovando J. History of the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, Denver: Thomas Gibson & Co., 1863. Reprint: Colorado Volunteers in New Mexico, 1862. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., The Lakeside Press, 1962.
Howbert, Irving. Memories of a Lifetime in the Pike's Peak Region. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1925.
Hyde, George E. Life of George Bent Written from his Letters. Savoie Lottinville, editor. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.
Ickis, Alonzo Ferdinand. Bloody Trails Along the Rio Grande. Nolie Mumey, editor. Denver: The Old West Publishing Company, 1958.
Nankivell, Major John H. History of the Military Organizations of the State of Colorado. Denver: The W.H. Kistler Stationery Co., 1935.
Sanford, Mollie Dorsey. Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska and Colorado Territories, 1857-1866. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 1959.
Smith, Duane A. The Birth of Colorado: A Civil War Perspective. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
U. S. Congress, House of Representatives, "The Chivington Massacre," Reports of the Committees, 39 Cong. 2 sess. Washington, Government Printing Office.
U. S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion. A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Four series, 128 vols. Washington, Government Printing Office. 1880-1901.
Whitford, William C. Colorado Volunteers in the Civil War. Denver: Colorado State Historical Society, 1909, Golden, Colorado: Pruett Press, 1963.
Williams, Mrs. Ellen. Three Years and a Half in the Army; or, History of
the Second Colorados. New York: Fowler & Wells Company, 1885.
M.S. Elswick is a native of Colorado and has been a Historical Society volunteer and researcher for several years, with a primary focus on the early territorial period. Elswick has used the Colorado State Archives as an information source for two books and one monograph on the subject of Colorado's Civil War Volunteer military, and has assisted in compiling an index to the records of the volunteers.
In order to obtain access to the records of the Colorado Volunteers please contact the Colorado State Archives. We will be happy to provide you with additional information concerning this collection or others, and the fees that are associated with doing research here.
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