The first mention of the Sixth Infantry is found in the Acts of Congress of July 16, 1798, and March 3, 1799.
Of the thirty officers constituting the commissioned strength Aug. 1, 1799, twenty-seven were appointed from North Carolina and three from Tennessee, and orders from the War Department of Jan. 5, 1800, direct that this regiment be recruited in North Carolina; but on June 15 following we find it disbanded under the Act of May 14, 1800.
April 12, 1808, should be considered the birthday of the present Sixth Infantry. For under the Act of Congress of that date the regiment was organized, and it has since then been continuously in service.
Its first colonel was Jonas Simonds, appointed from Pennsylvania on July 8, 1808, and his name, with those of Joseph Constant (lieutenant-colonel) from New York, and Zebulon M. Pike (major) from New Jersey, and the names of ten captains, ten first lieutenants, ten second lieutenants, nine ensigns, one surgeon, and one surgeon's mate, appear in the commissioned roster of the regiment for January, 1809.
During the War of 1812-15 the Sixth Infantry took part in the battles of Heights of Queenstown, U. C., Oct. 13, 1812; York, U. C., April 27, 1813; Fort George, U. C., May 27, 1813; and the siege of Plattsburg, N. Y., September 6 to 11, 1814.
March 1, 1815, found Colonel Jonas Simonds still at the head of the regiment; but, in the reduction of the army of that year under the Act of March 3, 1815, the Sixth was re-organized, and consolidated with the 11th, 25th, 27th, 29th and 37th Regiments of Infantry, and Colonel Henry Atkinson of the 37th was retained as its colonel.
In regimental orders dated Fort Lewis, N. Y., Aug. 27, 1815, Colonel Atkinson "assumes the command of the Sixth Regiment of Infantry," and on the 4th of September the regiment embarked at Fort Lewis for Governor's Island, N. Y., where it arrived the following day and remained until April 16, 1816, when it left on transports for Troy en route to Plattsburg, N. Y., where it arrived on the 30th and remained until the spring of 1819.
The regiment left Plattsburg for St. Louis, Mo., on March 19, 1819, and reached Pittsburgh early in May, where orders were issued at camp near Pittsburgh, May 8, for the embarkation of the regiment on transport boats for St. Louis.
The boats were numbered from 1 to 10, and followed each other in that order. They were propelled by oars and sails, and there was a regular system of signals provided in orders for their government.
*An abridgment of Lieut Byrne's " Sixth U. S. Infantry." Regimental Press 6th Inf. Fort Thomas, Ky. 1893
This fleet of boats with the Sixth Infantry on board was off Cincinnati, May 15, 1819. So that more than seventy-three years ago the regiment passed down the Ohio under the shadow of the Kentucky hills where Fort Thomas, its present station, is now so beautifully situated.
On June 8, it left the transports and went into camp at Belle Fontaine, Missouri.
Here the regiment awaited supplies and transportation until July 4, when it embarked for Council Bluffs, and reached Camp Missouri, near Council Bluffs, in September. Colonel Atkinson in a private letter says:
"Here from the vicinity of several powerful tribes of Indians it became necessary to establish a post. The troops were landed and put to work to cover themselves for the winter and erect the necessary defenses, all of which were completed in season, and we remained contented with the prospect of sending one of the regiments to the mouth of the Yellowstone early in the spring. The rifle regiment, which was stationed at a point four hundred and fifty miles up the Missouri, was joined to my command."
This was known as the Yellowstone Expedition of 1819; but as Congress the following winter declared against the expediency of its further progress, the expedition terminated at Council Bluffs.
On May 13, 1820, Colonel Atkinson was promoted to the grade of brigadier general, and was succeeded by Colonel Ninian Pinkney, promoted from the 2d Infantry.
The following session of Congress the army was reduced, and under the Act of March 2, the Sixth was again re-organized by consolidation with the Rifle Regiment at Fort Atkinson (Council Bluffs), May 4,1821; and General Henry Atkinson was retained as colonel of the Sixth Infantry with the brevet of brigadier general, filling the vacancy made by the transfer of Colonel Pinkney to the 3d Infantry, August 16, 1821.
The buildings constructed (at Fort Atkinson) by the troops consisted of four blocks of hewed log barracks comprehending eighty-eight rooms, with shingle roof, plank floor, and a brick chimney to each; with a strong magazine, and the best kind of wooden store-houses, of ample size, for the quartermaster's and subsistence departments; a saw mill, capable of sawing fifteen hundred feet of plank per day; and a grist mill that would grind one hundred and fifty bushels per day.
The land under cultivation was estimated at 506 acres.
The Sixth Infantry thus built the first United States fort west of the Missouri River, and started the earliest settlement in Nebraska. Fort Atkinson was afterwards known as Fort Calhoun, in honor of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War. It was situated on the original Council Bluffs, about twenty miles distant from the present city of that name and about sixteen miles from the site of Omaha. The nearest settlements were St. Louis on the south, Prairie du Chien on the east, and the fort of the Hudson Bay Company at Vancouver, in the northwest.
While the Sixth was at Fort Atkinson in June, 1823, it was led by its lieutenant colonel, Henry Leavenworth, to the relief of General Ashley's party, which had been attacked by and was in imminent danger from the Arikara Indians.
The expedition resulted in the defeat of the Indians and the destruction of their villages, and the Adjutant-General in acknowledging to the Department Commander the receipt of the detailed report of the operations of Colonel Leavenworth's command says: "These papers have been submitted to the General-in-chief, who directs me to express to you his high satisisfaction with the success of the expedition and his approbation of the conduct of Colonel Leavenworth and his officers, to whom he desires you to convey his thanks for the zeal and activity which they have displayed upon this occasion."
The regiment remained at Fort Atkinson until April, 1827, when it was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Mo., where it was established with part of the 3d Infantry, and the post was regarded as the Infantry School of Practice of that day. The famous old Regimental Mess originated about this time and lasted for more than twenty years, until after the return from Mexico in 1848.
General Atkinson, the colonel of the Sixth Infantry, was the first commandant of Jefferson. Barracks.
In May, 1829, Companies A, B, F and H, under Brevet Major Bennet Riley, were detached from the regiment to escort the overland traders to Santa Fé, and on their return in the fall they took post at Fort Leavenworth.
These companies returned to headquarters in December, 1831, and the regiment was again concentrated at Jefferson Barracks, preparatory to taking the field against the Sac and Fox Indians in the Black Hawk War. By June, 1832, it had reached Dixon's Ferry and was actively engaged in the campaign conducted by its colonel as commander of the frontier forces of the northwest.
On August 2d, General Atkinson's army, of which the Sixth under Lieut. Col. Daniel Baker formed a large part of the regular brigade, came up with Black Hawk at the junction of the Bad Axe and Mississippi rivers, and immediately attacked him. The battle lasted about three hours. The Indians fought with desperation, but were defeated and dispersed, suffering a loss of about two hundred killed and wounded.
This action was the finishing stroke of the war, and Black Hawk, deserted by his followers, soon after surrendered to the agent at Prairie du Chien. General Atkinson, in orders, expressed his approbation of the brave conduct of the troops engaged, referring to the fact that the regular troops among others were, from their position in order of battle, more immediately in conflict with the enemy. The orders in this case were signed, as A. D. C. and A. A. A. G., by Albert Sidney Johnston, then adjutant of the regiment.
Regimental orders of September 7, 1832, appoint as adjutant Lieut. Philip St. George Cooke, who afterwards entered the dragoons and in 1861 became a brigadier general.
On October 2d the regiment arrived at Jefferson Barracks.
From December 1832 until August 1834. Companies A, B, F and H, were stationed at Fort Leavenworth, the headquarters and six companies remaining at Jefferson Barracks, where the entire regiment was concentrated in September 1834.
The regiment left Jefferson Barracks on February 29, 1836, en route to
Louisiana, and by April 17th, was concentrated at Camp Sabine, Louisiana, with the exception of Company G which joined on June 5th. By November 30th Companies C, D and E, were at Fort Worth, La.; I and K at Camp Sabine; and the remainder, with headquarters, at Fort Jessup.
The Sixth Infantry was now under orders for Florida, destined to be the field of its greatest glory.
Companies C, D and E were sent to take station at Camp Sabine, La., where they arrived December 27. The headquarters, with Companies A, B. F, G, H, I and K, left Fort Jesup, December 19; arrived at New Orleans Barracks the 22d; embarked the 29th for Tampa Bay, and on February 28th were at Fort Dade, East Florida. By November 14th, with Lieut. Col. A. R. Thompson in command, they had arrived at Fort Taylor.
The Sixth (excepting Companies C, D and E) under its lieutenant colonel was now part of a separate column commanded by Colonel Zachary Taylor of the 1st Infantry, who on December 19th received orders to proceed with the least possible delay against any portion of the enemy he might hear of within striking distance, and to destroy or capture him.
After leaving an adequate force for the protection of his depot, he started with Captain Munroe's company of the Fourth Artillery, thirty-five men; the First Infantry, under the command of Lieut. Col. Foster, two hundred and seventy-four; the Sixth Infantry under Lieut. Col. Thompson, two hundred and twenty-one; the Missouri Volunteers, one hundred and eighty; Morgan's spies, forty-seven; pioneers, thirty; pontoneers, thirteen; and seventy Delaware Indians; making a force, exclusive of officers, of 870 men.
On December 25, 1837, Colonel's Taylor's army came upon the enemy strongly posted in a dense hummock, perfectly concealed and confident of victory. Their number has been variously estimated up to seven hundred. The engagement was brought on by Morgan's spies and the volunteers under Gentry. These troops moved gallantly forward, exposed to a heavy fire, which, accompanied by infernal yells, was poured in upon them from the tree tops and from every thicket and concealment.
Colonel Gentry fell mortally wounded ; his men began to stagger, and finally, seized with a panic, broke and fled in wild disorder.
After referring to the repulse of the volunteers, and the failure of repeated efforts to bring them again into action, Colonel Taylor, in his detailed report of the battle of Okee-cho-bee, says:
"The enemy, however, were promptly checked and driven back by the 4th and 6th Infantry, which in truth might be said to be a moving battery.
"I am not sufficient master of words to express my admiration of the gallantry and steadiness of the officers and soldiers of the Sixth Regiment of Infantry. It was their fortune to bear the brunt of the battle. The report of the killed and wounded, which accompanies this, is more conclusive evidence of their merits than anything I can say. After five companies of this regiment, against which the enemy directed the most deadly fire, were nearly cut up, there being only four men left uninjured in one of them; and every officer and orderly sergeant of those companies, with one exception, were either killed or wounded; Captain Noel, with the remaining two companies, his own company, 'K,' and Crossman's, 'B,' commanded by Second Lieutenant Woods, which was the left of the regiment, formed on the right of the Fourth In-
fantry, entered the hummock with that regiment and continued the fight and the pursuit until its termination.
"It is due to Captain Andrews and Lieutenant Walker, to say they commanded two of the five companies mentioned above, and they continued to direct them, until they were both severely wounded and carried from the field; the latter received three separate balls."
He speaks in complimentary terms of Lieut. George H. Griffin, 6th Infantry, on his personal staff and an aide-de-camp to Major-General Gaines and a volunteer from his staff in Florida.
Colonel Taylor continues:
"It is due to his rank and talents, as well as to his long and important services, that I particularly mention Lieut. Col. A. R. Thompson, of the Sixth Infantry, who fell in the discharge of his duty, at the head of his regiment. He was in feeble health, brought on by exposure to this climate during the past summer, refusing to leave the country while his regiment continued in it. Although he received two balls from the fire of the enemy early in the action, which wounded him severely, yet he appeared to disregard them and continued to give his orders with the same coolness that he would have done had his regiment been under review or on any parade duty. Advancing, he received a third ball, which at once deprived him of life. His last words were: 'Keep steady, men, charge the hummock-remember the regiment to which you belong.'
"Captain Van Swearingen, Lieutenant Brooke, and Lieutenant and Adjutant Center, of the same regiment, who fell on that day, had no superiors of their years in service, and in point of chivalry ranked among the first in the army or nation."
As has been said by Colonel Taylor, the most conclusive evidence of the glorious record of the gallant Sixth on that bloody Christmas of 1837, is the official list of those who fell killed and wounded in the action.
RETURN OF THE KILLED AND WOUNDED AT THE BATTLE OF OKEE-CHO-BEE.
|Regiments and Corps.
| 1st Infantry
|| Lieut. Col. Davenport
| 4th Infantry
|| Lieut. Col. Foster
| 6th Infantry
|| Lieut. Col. Thompson
| Mounted 4th Infantry
|| Captain Allen
|Regiments and Corps.
| Missouri Volunteers
|| Colonel Gentry
|| Lieut. Col. Morgan
|| Captain Parks
Of the Sixth Infantry, Lieut. Col. A. R. Thompson was wounded in three places before he fell. The first ball passed through the abdomen to the left, the second in the right breast, and the last through the chin and neck, evidently shot from a tree. He fell in a sitting posture, uttering as he died the memorable words quoted in Colonel Taylor's report.
Captain J. Van Swearingen was shot in advance of his company, in the
lower part of the neck. When passing to the rear he raised both hands to his head, fell flat on his face, and expired instantly. Lieutenant and Adjutant J. P. Center was shot through the head from a tree, and expired on the spot. First Lieut. E. J. Brooke was shot through the heart. Sergt. Major Henry Sleephack was mortally wounded, and died December 27.
The thanks of the President of the United States was tendered Colonel Taylor and the officers, non-commissioned officers, and troops of the regular army, for the discipline and bravery displayed by them on the occasion of this battle.
In May, 1838, Companies C, D and E, which had remained until this time at Camp Sabine, La., joined the forces serving in East Florida, and by November the whole of the regiment was in middle Florida under the command of Captain William Hoffman.
On May 2, 1839, Lieut. Win. Hulbert and several men were waylaid and killed by Indians near Fort Frank Brooke. Company I, under Lieuts. Samuel Woods and L. A. Armistead, had an engagement with the Indians at Fort Andrews on August 29, 1839, in which one sergeant and one private were killed. On July 13, 1840, two men of Company D were killed by Indians near Fort Pleasant.
The Sixth Infantry remained in Florida until after the restoration of peace, when it was sent north on transports via New Orleans, and by March 20, 1842, the entire regiment was again at Jefferson Barracks, Mo. It had left behind,—killed in action, or dead from wounds and diseases,—ten officers and one hundred and twenty-nine enlisted men.
On April 16th the regiment left Jefferson Barracks for Fort Towson, C. N., where the last company arrived May 14.
In July news was received of the death of Gen. Atkinson at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., on June 14, 1842. This distinguished officer had, been the colonel of the regiment for more than twenty-six years. He was succeeded by Col. William Davenport, promoted from the First Infantry.
On July 7, 1843, Colonel Davenport effected a transfer of regiments with Colonel and Brevet Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor. The former returned to the First, and the latter, afterwards the hero of Buena Vista and Monterey and President of the United States, became colonel of the Sixth. General Taylor was then at Fort Smith, Arkansas, in command of the 2d Military Department.
On the regimental return for July, 1844. Brevet 2d Lieut. Winfield S. Hancock is reported as "gained by appointment from the Military Academy."
The declaration of war with Mexico, May 13, 1846, found the headquarters of the Sixth Infantry, Lieut. Col. Loomis commanding, and Companies A, E, G and H, at Fort Gibson; Companies B and C at Fort Towson; I and K at Fort Washita; and D and F at Fort Smith.
General Zachary Taylor, the colonel of the regiment, ceased to be an officer of the Sixth Infantry on June 29, 1846, by his promotion to the grade of major general. He was succeeded by Colonel Newman S. Clarke, promoted from the 8th Infantry.
By July, 1847, the entire regiment, with the exception of Company G
(left at Fort Gibson) and Company I (left at Fort Washita), was at Puebla, Mexico, with the army under General Scott.
Companies G and I remained in the United States during the Mexican War, and should be understood as not included in the strength of the regiment when reference is made thereto in connection with the battles and incidents of this campaign.
The Sixth Infantry left Puebla with General Worth's Division, August 9, and, taking part at Contreras, was before the enemy's works at San Antonio on the 19th, turned his three batteries and was warmly engaged in the battle of Churubusco on the 20th.
To quote from Ripley's History of the Mexican War:
"The Sixth and Fifth Regiments had pushed on along the road in pursuit of the retreating enemy, the Sixth being in advance, as it had formed on the left of the Fifth when the latter had engaged the Mexican flank. Worth moved on with the greater portion of his troops, and overtook the Fifth before it came under fire; but the Sixth, having passed rapidly forward beyond supporting distance, had become warmly engaged, and the battle of Churubusco had commenced.
"The army which Santa Anna had led back from San Angel was forming along the river Churubusco, and in the cornfields to its north. * * * Of the guns which Bravo had sent from San Antonio, three had arrived at the tête du pont. One thirty-two pounder broke down on the road, and was seized by the Sixth Infantry in its advance. The whole train of ammunition wagons being exceedingly heavy and unwieldy, had stalled on coming to the entrance of the fortification, blocking up the road for a considerable distance in its front, and partially obstructing the fire from the embrasures. * * *
"Santa Anna, assisted by a crowd of general officers, strove to form his line, and with some success; but, while things were in this state the small battalion of the Sixth Infantry came boldly forward, though irregularly and in confusion. The leading companies being gallantly led, from very rashness would, in all probability, have entered the tête du pont, had not Rincon's troops opened a terrific fire of cannon and musketry from the convent.
"The distance was great for musketry, being over three hundred and fifty yards but the Mexican position was elevated, and, with the enormous cartridges furnished to Mexican soldiers, the bullets were easily sent to the road; without accurate aim, it is true, but in heavy rolling volleys, and with deadly force.
"The artillery soon opened, raking the causeway, and, being without support or definite orders, the Sixth staggered for a time, the rear became separated from the front, and the regiment was finally ordered by its major to break, fall back, and reform behind the houses of the village which it had passed in its advance.
"With the exception of a party under Captain Walker, which had extended to the right and remained in the vicinity of the enemy, the regiment obeyed the order; but its advance had a most beneficial effect upon the after events of the action.
* * * * *
"While these events were taking place, a battalion of the Sixth Infantry bad reformed, and soon after was ordered to assault the tête du pont directly along the road. Captain Hoffman led it forward with gallant bravery, and officers and men followed nobly.
"But the Mexicans in the work, whose attention had been given to the troops advancing through the corn on either flank, seeing this direct assault, turned all their guns upon it, which, enfilading the road, made dreadful havoc. Some of the men re-
coiled under the stern stroke of the artillery, but the general officers were by their side, and a few words of reproof and encouragement sent them back to their places. With a shout they again followed their officers in the advance, but the direct assault was impracticable and Worth shouted to Hoffman to incline to the right into the corn, to operate with the main body of the division in that quarter. There, next the causeway, the Fifth and Eighth had become engaged. They had advanced on the right of the rood, and had been saved much of the loss which had befallen the Sixth. * *
"The battle had raged for more than two hours from the time it was first opened by the Sixth Infantry, when the Mexicans first gave way in front of the American right, and fled through the cornfields in their rear toward the city.
"A party of American troops of different regiments, principally of the Second Artillery and Sixth Infantry, was led on by its officers past the left of the tête du pont, crossed the river Churubusco, and presented itself in threatening position in rear of the work.
"The other troops came up, those on the right closed in, and, rushing through wet ditches, waist deep, over the parapets and into the work, the American troops carried it in a crowd."
Captains Wm. Hoffman and W. H. T. Walker and 1st Lieut. L. A. Armistead, of the Sixth Infantry, with the colors of the regiment, were among those who rushed forward in the advance and finally carried the tête du Pont.
General Clarke, the colonel of the Sixth, was wounded in this action while in command of the brigade. After Churubusco the Sixth was concentrated at Tacubaya.
On Sept. 8 the brilliant battle of Molino del Rey was fought. The storming party at the Mills was divided into five companies each of one hundred men, the Sixth Infantry under Captain A. Cady, with 2d Lieutenant M. Maloney, 4th Infantry, forming one of them. In describing the attack Ripley says:
"Wright promptly advanced his party in line in the direction indicated.
"Upon nearing the enemy's position, all doubts as to the resistance to be encountered were dispelled at once. The battery whose location had been changed during the night, opened heavily upon the flank of the party with round-shot and grape, cutting down officers and men in frightful rapidity.
"The charge was ordered, and the noble soldiers, bringing down their muskets, rushed straight at the battery.
"Of the fourteen officers who went into action with the command, eleven soon fell dead or disabled and with them a large number of the rank and file. In scattered parties those unhurt kept up the fire, but the command as a body was broken and fell away from the battery.
"The Mexican infantry soldiers rushed forward and reoccupied it. They murdered every wounded man left on the ground except Captain Walker of the Sixth Infantry and one private. both desperately wounded, and both doubtless believed to be dead."
In after years Captain Walker, as a major general in the Confederate army, was killed near Atlanta, July 22, 1864.
To quote from Wilcox's History of the Mexican War:
"The Sixth and Eighth Regiments of Infantry were ordered by General Worth over to the right, and reached the intersection of the roads at the north end of Molino del Rey as the flour mill was being taken. * * * Supported by the 4th, they
formed at the junction of the two roads, and as the enemy again advanced opened an artillery and infantry fire, and repulsed and followed him in the direction of Chapultepec."
The battle of Chapultepec followed on Sept. 13th. To quote from Ripley:
"Worth ordered Colonel Clarke's brigade to advance, and that corps came rapidly forward. Pillow ordered them to be posted on the slope of the hill for shelter. The 8th and 5th and a party of the Sixth went up the ascent. The Sixth was, however, ordered around the northern base of the rock, to cut up the fugitives from the castle; for the Mexican garrison was already shaken by the near approach and many were attempting to make good their escape. The Mexican artillery fire having been silenced, the troops most in advance had only been awaiting the ladders to make the last attack. When they were brought up, parties from different corps, moving quickly forward over the rugged though short space between the crest of the hill and the ditch, leaped in, and at once planted ladders. Lieutenant Armistead, of the storming party, led the way, and as the ladders were raised, Lieutenant Selden first mounted to scale the walls. Chapultepec was captured, and the next day Scott's army entered the City of Mexico."
Lieutenant Armistead of the Sixth Infantry, the first to leap into the ditch, is the same who as a brigadier general in the Confederate army commanded one of the three brigades of Pickett's division in the immortal charge at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and led his men through that terrific storm of battle until he fell mortally wounded within the Federal lines.
Of the officers of the Sixth Infantry who took part in the campaign, General Clarke, Major Bonneville, Captain Hoffman, and Lieutenants Bacon, Hendrickson and Buckner, were wounded at Churubusco; Captains Cady and Walker, and Lieut. Ernst were wounded at Molino del Rey; and Lieut. Armistead was wounded at Chapultepec. Lieutenant Ernst died of his wounds in the City of Mexico, on Sept. 22, 1847. Lieutenant Bacon died of his wounds on Oct. 12, 1847. Of the rank and file the regiment lost in killed and wounded at Churubusco ninety-one, at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec seventy-two.
Among the many officers of the Sixth who received brevets for their conduct in this war was 2d Lieut. Winfield S. Hancock, brevetted 1st lieutenant for Contreras and Churubusco. 2d Lieut. Simon B. Buckner, afterwards a lieutenant general in the Confederate service and later Governor of Kentucky, was given the brevets of 1st lieutenant and captain.
After the occupation of the City of Mexico in September, the regiment remained quartered there until January, 1848, when it was moved to Toluca. The month of June found it concentrated at Jalapa, Mexico, preparatory to leaving for the United States, and by July 31, the Sixth, with the exception of Companies G and I at Gibson and Washita where they had remained during the war, was concentrated at Jefferson Barracks awaiting distribution.
December 31 found the headquarters at St. Louis, Mo.; Company D at Jefferson Barracks; Companies A, E and K, at Fort Snelling; B and F at Fort Crawford; C at Fort Atkinson; G and I at Fort Leavenworth, and H at Fort Scott.
On Oct. 1, 1849, Lieut. Winfield S. Hancock was appointed adjutant of the regiment.
The headquarters in October were at Fort Snelling, but returned to St. Louis by Dec. 31, and on May 1, 1851, moved to Jefferson Barracks.
The companies, scattered over the frontier in garrison and in the field and changing from post to post, were stationed during the period from 1851 to 1858, from time to time, at Jefferson Barracks, Forts Gaines, Scott, Snelling, Kearney, Laramie, Atkinson, Dodge, Leavenworth, Riley, Ridgely and Pierre.
On Aug. 29, 1854, Brevet 2d Lieut. J. L. Grattan, 6th Infantry, and thirty men of Company G were killed by Indians near Fort Laramie. The affair is known as the "Grattan Massacre." A party of Mormons en route to Salt Lake City having officially reported to the commanding officer of Fort Laramie that the Sioux had stolen one of their cows and refused to give it up, Lieutenant Grattan was sent with thirty men of Company G and a mountain howitzer to demand restoration of the stolen property. This was the last seen of Grattan and his men alive, and the facts of the massacre as related have been gathered from statements of the Indians. Having reached his destination Lieutenant Grattan made his demand upon the Indians, and then despite their warning trained his howitzer upon them and prepared to fire. The Indians, watching the pulling of the lanyard, avoided the shot by falling to the ground as the piece was discharged, and rushing upon the troops overpowered them and killed every man.
On July 20, 1855, the headquarters were moved from Jefferson Barracks to St. Louis.
On Sept. 3 a battalion of the regiment composed of Companies A, E, H, I and K, under the command of Major Albemarle Cady, took part in the affair with the Sioux on the Blue Water, known as the battle of Ash Hollow.
Writing to the Adjutant-General from his camp on Blue Water Creek, N. T., under date of September, 1855, General Harney says:
"At half past four o'clock, A. M., I left my camp with Companies A, E, H, I and K, 6th Infantry, under the immediate command of Major Cady of that regiment, and proceeded toward the principal village of the Brules with a view to attacking it openly, in concert with a surprise contemplated through the cavalry. * * *
"The results of the affair were eighty-six killed, five wounded, about seventy women and children captured, fifty mules and ponies taken, besides an indefinite number killed and disabled. The amount of provisions and camp equipage must have comprised nearly all the enemy possessed, for teams have been constantly engaged in bringing into camp everything of value to the troops, and much has been destroyed on the ground.
The casualties of the command amount to four killed, four severely wounded, and one missing, supposed to be killed or captured by the enemy. * * *
With regard to the officers and troops of my command I have never seen a finer military spirit displayed generally ; and if there has been any material difference in the services they have rendered, it must be measured chiefly by the opportunity they had for distinction.
"Lieutenant Colonel Cook and Major Cady, commanders of the mounted and foot forces, respectively, carried out my instructions to them with signal alacrity, zeal, and intelligence.
"The company commanders whose position, either in the engagement or in the pursuit, brought them in closest contact with the enemy, were Captain Todd of the
6th Infantry, Captain Steele and Lieutenant Robertson of the 2d Dragoons, and Captain Heath, 10th Infantry. * * *
"Brevet Major Woods, Captain Wharton, and Lieutenant Patterson, of the 6th Infantry, with their companies, rendered effective service as reserves and supports, taking an active share in the combat when circumstances would permit." * * *
Thus Grattan and his men were avenged by their comrades of the Sixth.
General Clarke was relieved from the command of the Department of the West July 1, 1856, and the headquarters of the regiment moved to Jefferson Barracks. They were at Fort Leavenworth Oct. 11th, and on the 14th were at Lecompton, K. T., but by Nov. 25 were again at Fort Leavenworth.
During July and August, 1857, Companies C, D and G, Captain William S. Ketchum commanding, took an active part in the expedition against the Cheyennes commanded by Colonel Sumner, 1st Cavalry, experiencing unusual hardships. On July 6, with six companies of cavalry and four mountain howitzers, with pack mules for transportation, they crossed the Platte River, and proceeded in the direction of the Republican and South Fork. On the 29th the cavalry in advance met a body of some four hundred Indians, and an engagement occurred in which the mounted troops had one killed and seven wounded.
After this affair Company C (Captain R. W. Foote and Lieut. John McCleary) remained with the wounded, sick and disabled, and threw up a. breast-work called Fort Floyd.
Companies D and G, Captain William S. Ketchum, 1st Lieutenant William P. Carlin, and 2d Lieutenant Orlando H. Moore, marched with the command in pursuit of the Indians.
The duty required of the companies of the regiment on this campaign, in keeping up and coöperating with the cavalry, was especially trying in its forced marches and deprivations. Companies C and D in returning suffered particularly. The former left Fort Floyd on August 8, after having been constantly harassed by the Indians, and finally reached Fort Kearney about the 21st, much wearied and broken down, having been out of rations some eighteen days. From August 2d to the 19th Company D had nothing but fresh beef for food, the rations with this exception having become exhausted. The men suffered much, and many were bare-footed, and otherwise destitute of clothing.
In January, 1858, the headquarters, with Companies A, D, E, G, H and K, were at Camp Bateman near Fort Leavenworth, Companies B and C were at Fort Laramie, F at Fort Riley, and I at Fort Kearney.
The Sixth was now preparing for its grand march across the continent from Fort Leavenworth to the Pacific Ocean.
The movement began on March 18, when Companies E and H left Camp Bateman as part of the escort to the supply train for the army in Utah, and the headquarters with Companies A, D, F, G, I and K, arrived at Fort Bridger August 6, where they were joined on the 15th by B and C from Fort Floyd. Companies E and H were relieved from garrison duty at Fort Bridger on the 16th and encamped in the vicinity of the post.
The regiment left camp near Fort Bridger August 21, and arrived at camp near Benicia Barracks, Cal., on November 15, the total distance marched from Fort Bridger to Benicia Barracks having been 1017 miles.
The regiment during this march was under the command of Lieut. Col. George Andrews, with Major Wm. Hoffman, second in command.
From Benicia Barracks the Sixth was distributed among different posts and stations in the Department of the Pacific.
By January, 1859, the headquarters and Companies F and H were at the Presidio, A at Benicia Barracks, B at Fort Humboldt, C and I at Benicia Depot, D at Fort Weller, Cal., E and K at Camp Banning near San Bernardino, Cal., and G at New San Diego, Cal.
On August 5 Captain Lewis A. Armistead with a command consisting, of twenty-five men of his own company, F, and twenty-five men of Company I under 1st Lieutenant Elisha G. Marshall, attacked and defeated the Mohave Indians in an engagement near a lagoon twelve miles below Fort Mohave. Over two hundred Indians are supposed to have taken part in the affair and twenty-three were found dead on the field. The only casualties among the troops were three privates of Company I slightly wounded.
In January, 1860, the headquarters and Companies A and H were at Benicia Barracks, B at Fort Humboldt, C, E and F, at Fort Yuma, D at Fort Bragg, and G, I and K, at New San Diego.
Company A, Captain Franklin F. Flint commanding, left Benicia Barracks May 14 and arrived at Truckee River, U. T., three hundred miles distant, on the 31st, and on June 2 had an engagement with the Indians in which one private was severely wounded.
On October 17, 1860, the colonel of the regiment, Brevet Brig. Gen. Newman S. Clarke, died at San Francisco while in command of the department of California. He was succeeded by Colonel Washington Seawell, promoted from the 8th Infantry, who joined the regiment at Benicia Barracks on March 8, 1861.
On April 2, a detachment of thirty enlisted men of Company B, 6th Infantry, under the command of 1st Lieut. Joseph B. Collins, 4th Infantry, left Fort Humboldt, on a scout in the Bald Hills, Cal. They were engaged with the "hostiles" on the 14th and 15th near Mad River, about fifty miles from the post.
The Indians lost on the first day between fifteen and twenty killed, and on the second day five killed and three wounded. The only casualty among the troops was one man wounded.
The great War of the Rebellion was now in progress, and the summons had crossed the continent for the Sixth to hurry eastward. Several of its best and bravest officers, honest in a mistaken construction of the Constitution and true to their convictions as to duty under it, had tendered their resignations and given themselves to the fatal cause. But the rank and file with unhesitating fealty stood by the old flag, and remained to a man, on the side of the North.
The movement began October 31, 1861, and by January 31, 1862, the entire regiment was concentrated at Washington under the command of its colonel.
Colonel Seawell retired from active service February 20, 1862, and was succeeded by Colonel Electus Backus, promoted from the 3d Infantry, who died at Detroit, Mich., on June 7, 1862, and was in turn succeeded by Col. Hannibal Day, promoted from the 2d Infantry.
The regiment left Washington City on March 10, 1862, for service in the field, as part of Sykes' Brigade of Regulars, and participated in the siege and the operations which preceded the evacuation of Yorktown by the enemy on May 4.
The regiment was mainly employed on picket duty along the Chickahominy until June 26, when it was sent to reinforce a portion of McCall's Division of Fitz John Porter's Corps which was engaged with the enemy at Mechanicsville. It arrived close to the scene of conflict late in the evening, but took no part in the action, and the next morning was ordered to fall back towards Gaines' Mill and await the attack of the enemy, who was advancing in force. The battle commenced about noon on the 27th.
During the earlier stages the 5th New York and a South Carolina regiment had repeatedly attacked each other to no purpose. Colonel Warren about 3 o'clock in the afternoon asked the division commander for the Sixth Infantry, and formed it in front of and perpendicular to the line of the 5th New York and 17th Infantry, facing the open space over which the former and the South Carolina regiment had been charging and countercharging. The arrangement was that the 5th New York should repeat its charge, and on being countercharged the Sixth was to take the Confederate regiment in flank. The Sixth Infantry had hardly taken position when those in command saw the uselessness of such work, which, according to Warren's graphic words, was "only covering the ground with dead men," and the regiment received orders simply to hold its position in the woods, which it did until about sunset, when the Federal lines, flanked at both extremities, gave way.
As the regiment's position was in advance of the first line and in the woods, the status of affairs was not at once apparent, but a few moments under heavy canister fire sufficed to clear up matters, and, crossing a small bridge, the Sixth in disarray passed to the rear between two of the enemy's skirmish lines, and reformed on the ridge occupied by Generals French and Meagher.
Later in the evening the regiment moved into the valley of the Chickahominy, and early on the morning of the 28th crossed that stream. The bridge was destroyed after the passage of the Sixth Infantry, the last troops to leave the field.
In this action Captain R. W. Foote was killed, and Lieutenants H. A. F. Worth and D. D. Lynn were wounded. Captain Thomas Hendrickson, commanding the regiment, had his horse killed under him. Of the enlisted men five were killed and sixty-one wounded.
During the day 2d Lieutenant Jeremiah P. Schindel, while separated from the regiment with a few men, exhibited personal bravery and coolness under fire to a marked degree.
The regiment arrived at Manasses [i.e., Manassas] via Warrenton junction August 20th, and participated in the second battle of Bull Run on the 30th. It occu-
pied a position about the centre of the line, near the Warrenton Turnpike, from early in the forenoon until near five o'clock, P. M., and falling back with the army bivouacked that night at Centerville.
Six enlisted men of the regiment were killed in this battle; and Lieutenants C. M. Pyne, A. W. Bickley, and J. P. Schindel, and twenty-five enlisted men, were wounded.
During the battle of Antietam, September 17, the Sixth was on picket duty, and on the 19th the regiment proceeded to Nolan's Ford on the Potomac near Sharpsburg, crossed into Virginia, and had a skirmish with the enemy on the 20th, and, finding him in force, re-crossed in obedience to orders and encamped at Sharpsburg, Md.
The regiment took part in several reconnoissances in October, November and December, and on December 11 bivouacked on a ridge on the north bank of the Rappahannock, overlooking the valley and city of Fredericksburg.
Crossing with Hooker's division on the 13th, the regiment was moved forward to within a few hundred yards of the famous stone wall for the purpose of attacking on the morning of the 14th. The plan being changed, the Sixth held its position in the line on the same ground during the whole of the 14th, Sunday, under a most galling fire without having a chance to make an appreciable return. Between 11 and 12 o'clock P. M. the line was withdrawn into the town, and occupied the main street during the 15th exposed to some artillery fire. About 9 o'clock P. M. the division of which the Sixth formed a part was moved nearer the outskirts of the town, where it remained till next morning, when in a fog and rain the regiment recrossed the Rappahannock, following the First Brigade. The ground in front of Company E was so flat that in the course of the day 1st Sergeant Thetard—afterwards mortally wounded at Gettysburg—was struck, and Corporal Kelley and five other men were picked off in succession. Having re-crossed the river the regiment during the day and night reoccupied with its division the bivouac on the ridge north of and overlooking the city, and on the 17th returned to camp near Potomac Creek.
At Fredericksburg five enlisted men were killed, and 2d Lieutenant James McKim and twenty enlisted men were wounded.
The regiment left camp near Potomac Creek April 27, 1863, and proceeded to Harwood Church, on the Fredericksburg-Warrenton road, crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford on the 29th, and after dark on the same day waded the Rapidan at Ely's Ford and bivouacked on its right bank. On the 30th the Sixth marched with its division to Chancellorsville, and after a short halt moved out on the Fredericksburg road for about three-quarters of a mile and bivouacked for the night.
In the forenoon of May 1 the Second Brigade was formed on the edge of the Wilderness, with the 2d and 6th Infantry on the right of the road. The line, only part of the time covered by skirmishers, rapidly advanced, brushing away the Confederate force in front, which precipitately retreated, but re-formed while the Federals halted, and opened a fire from which the 2d and 6th Infantry particularly suffered. Being finally outflanked, the line was withdrawn, and on reaching the ground where it had formed in the morning, the Sixth was detached to cover the exposed flank until re-
lieved. General Hancock's skirmishers soon coming up, the regiment rejoined the brigade, which had reached the ground of the previous night's bivouac.
The casualties to the regiment in this action were confined to the enlisted men, one being killed and twenty-three wounded.
On the 3d, while on picket in the vicinity of Chancellorsville, the regiment captured four of the enemy, and while engaged in a skirmish two enlisted men were wounded.
On the morning of the 6th the regiment retreated with the army towards the Rappahannock, re-crossed at the U. S. Ford, and arrived after a hard march of sixteen miles at the old camp on Potomac Creek, near Falmouth.
The regiment left camp on Potomac Creek, June 4, for Benson's Mills where it remained until the 13th, when it took up the march for Aldie, Va., arriving at that point on the 22d. It left Aldie on the 27th, crossed the Potomac at Edwards' Ferry on the same day, and marching with but little intermission until the 30th, arrived at Unionville, Md.
At Frederick the Sixth Infantry was transferred from the Second to the First Regular Brigade of Sykes' Division, under its colonel, Hannibal Day, as brigade commander.
Moving into Pennsylvania, the regiment by dawn of July 2 was in position on the extreme right of the Union line, not far from the Baltimore and Gettysburg Turnpike.
About the middle of the forenoon it was placed as reserve near the centre of the line, and during the afternoon was moved in haste to the left and down the rugged slopes with the regular brigades. The Second penetrated the woods and wheat field in front, while the First, to which the Sixth Infantry belonged, held the open ground immediately in its rear. The left being in the air and the troops on the right having given way the division was ordered to fall back.
The regular infantry, which included the Sixth, was then formed in the woods back of Little Round Top and remained there during the 3d, exposed to the fire of artillery and to that of sharpshooters who were hidden among the rocks in and around the "Devil's Den."
On the morning of the 4th the First Regular Brigade was ordered towards the Emmetsburg Turnpike, to " feel " the enemy. It advanced with the 3d, 4th and 6th Infantry in line, the Sixth on the left, to the edge of Durfee's peach orchard, which was entered by the skirmishers. The brigade then moved back to Little Round Top, but was immediately faced about with orders to picket the "Devil's Den " and outer edge of the woods in front of the line. The Confederate outposts were in close proximity, and the picket firing which soon began was continued until dark.
On the morning of the 5th, part of the picket line, including Company I, 6th Infantry, was advanced beyond the Emmetsburg road. In the afternoon the brigade returned to its position in the woods in front of Round Top, and by 5 o'clock was with the division in pursuit of the enemy, bivouacking that night about four miles from Emmetsburg.
The casualties to the regiment at Gettysburg were 1st Sergeant I.
Thetard, Company E, and seven privates killed ; 2d Lieutenant Thomas Britton, eight non-commissioned officers and thirty privates wounded.
Lieutenant Britton's wound was received under circumstances which especially distinguished him for bravery.
The regiment was lying down exposed to a telling fire from Confederate sharpshooters, when, to steady the growing uneasiness of his men, he deliberately rose in the line of file closers, stretched and yawned as though waking from a nap, and coolly walked back and forth the length of the company.
On the 1st of August 1863 Colonel Day was retired from active service and was succeeded by Col. E. A. King, promoted from the 19th Infantry; but on the 20th of September,—less than two months later,—Colonel King was killed at the battle of Chickamauga while in command of a brigade of Thomas' Corps. He was succeeded by Colonel J. D. Greene, promoted from the 17th Infantry.
On August 16, 1863, the regiment, under the command of Captain Montgomery Bryant, embarked for New York City, where it arrived on the 21st and camped in Washington Park. It had been sent there on account of the draft riots, and remained doing provost duty until the 11th, when it was transferred to Fort Hamilton, N. Y. H.
While at Fort Hamilton the regiment was consolidated into two companies,—H and L—and drilled as heavy artillery, to form part of the defenses of New York City. On May 17, 1865, the regiment embarked on the steamer Star of the South for Savannah, Ga., where it arrived on the 21st and was assigned to duty as part of the forces of the District of Savannah with headquarters at Hilton Head.
The regiment,—with the exception of Companies B and I on detached service at Lawtonville, S. C., since September,—arrived at Charleston, S. C., from Hilton Head on December 9, 1865, and took quarters in the "Citadel."
During February skeleton Companies A, C, E and F, were recruited from the depot, completing the original organization of the regiment.
While the headquarters remained at Charleston the companies were moved from place to place in South Carolina, being stationed from time to time at Charleston, Georgetown, Aiken, Beaufort, Darlington, Orangeburg, Lawtonville, Columbia, Strawberry Station, and other points.
On June 25, 1867, Col. Greene resigned from the Army, and was succeeded by Colonel De L. Floyd-Jones, promoted from the 19th Infantry. In the same year regimental headquarters, with Companies C, D, E and F, were transferred to the Indian Territory.
In the reduction of the army under the act of Congress approved March 3, 1869, the Sixth was reorganized by consolidation with the 42d Regiment of Infantry, and on March 15, 1869, Colonel Floyd-Jones was transferred to the unassigned list and Bvt. Maj. Gen. Wm. B. Hazen became colonel of the regiment by transfer from the 38th Infantry.
Companies A, B, G, H, I and K, which had continued on duty in the South, arrived at Fort Gibson March 17th, where they were joined in May by headquarters from Fort Arbuckle.
January, 1872, found the headquarters and Companies A, G and I, at
Fort Hays, Companies B, C, H and K, at Camp Supply, D at Fort Larned , and E and F, at Fort Dodge.
Since leaving the South the companies of the regiment had been employed in marching from place to place, and performing the duties incident to service on the frontier in those days, and had taken part in the settlement of the "Neutral Lands" trouble in Kansas. General Hazen, the colonel of the regiment, commanded the District of the lower Arkansas, which included the disturbed section, from August to December, 1869.
Company I was at Chicago from October 13 to 24, 1871, sent there for service during the great fire.
In May and June, 1872, the regiment was transferred to the Department of the Dakota, the last company reaching its station June 21.
Companies B and C were present during the skirmishing between the "hostiles" and the garrison of Fort A. Lincoln on the 2d and 18th of October, 1872.
The limited space allowed this sketch will not admit following the companies of the regiment in detail through their arduous and varied service in the Department of Dakota.
The Sixth furnished troops to escort the engineers of the Northern Pacific Railway from time to time, for duty in connection with the Yellowstone expedition of 1873, as escort for the commission survey in the northern boundary in 1874, and for the exploration of the Yellowstone River in 1875; and took an active part in the Sioux campaign of 1876. In the last case a battalion of the regiment consisting of Companies B, C, D and I under Major Orlando H. Moore, formed a part of General Terry's column operating against the "hostiles," during May, June, July, August, and September.
On August 21, 1876, Company G, 1st Lieutenant Nelson Bronson commanding, left Fort Buford as guard for the steamers Josephine and Yellowstone. While running about fifty yards from the bank at a point on the Yellowstone some forty miles below Glendive Creek, the boat carrying Lieutenant Bronson and his men was suddenly fired upon by Indians concealed in the timber and dense undergrowth. Private Dennis Shields was shot through the left breast and instantly killed. The fire was promptly returned, but on account of the retreat of the Indians and the nature of the country nothing more could be done, and the steamer continued on her way.
In June, 1880, the Sixth Infantry was relieved from duty in the Department of Dakota, and ordered to proceed to White River, Col., and at the muster of June 30 in camp on Snake River, Wyo., the colonel, lieutenant-colonel, major, and all the companies were present.
Major Orlando H. Moore and Companies D and I were left at Snake River, while the remainder of the regiment continued the march, arriving at camp on White River July 7.
On December 15, 1880, General Hazen was appointed chief signal officer of the army and was succeeded by Bvt. Maj. Gen. A. McD. McCook, promoted from the 9th Infantry.
On May 13, 1881, Companies D, F, G and H, under Capt. H. S. Hawkins, formed the infantry battalion with General Mackenzie's Expedition in south
western Colorado. The battalion marched to the junction of the Grand and Gunnison rivers via Cantonment Uncompahgre, and returning to Gunnison City, Col., was sent by rail via Cheyenne, Wyo., to Park City, Utah, en route to the junction of the Greene and Duchesne rivers in eastern Utah, where it arrived September 17 and commenced building a post called Fort Thornburgh.
The entire regiment had in the meantime been ordered to the Department of the Platte.
In May, 1883, the entire regiment was concentrated at Fort Douglas, Utah.
In May, 1886, General McCook was made Commandant of the U. S. Infantry and Cavalry School, and the headquarters were sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kans., where they arrived on the 15th.
Companies H and I left Fort Douglas on July 1 and joined the headquarters at Fort Leavenworth on the 4th.
Companies A, B, C, D, E, F, G and K remained under the command of Lieut.-Col. Nathan W. Osborne, 6th Infantry.
On November 5, Companies F and K left Fort Douglas for the site of the new post near Chicago, Ill., and, under the command of Major and Brevet Lieut.-Col. William J. Lyster, established a camp on the military reservation in the Highlands where Fort Sheridan is now situated.
On July 11, 1890, General McCook was appointed brigadier-general, and was succeeded by Col. Melville A. Cochran, promoted from the 5th Infantry.
On July 21, orders were issued from the War Department skeletonizing Companies I and K by transferring the enlisted men to other companies of the regiment.
On August 19, the headquarters and Company G left Fort Leavenworth for the new post near Newport, Kentucky, now known as Fort Thomas, where they arrived on the 20th and joined Company F from Fort Sheridan.
Colonel Cochran assumed command of the regiment at Fort Thomas on the 22d.
November 1, 1892, the date of this sketch, finds the Sixth Infantry in its eighty-fifth year, under the command of Col. Melville A. Cochran, with headquarters, skeleton Companies I and K, and Companies B, C, D, F, G and H, at Fort Thomas, Ky,; Company A at Fort Wood, N. Y. H.; and Company E at Newport Barracks, Kentucky.
Note.—The writer is under obligations to Lieut.-Col. Robert H. Hall, 6th Infantry, for much information as to the original organization of the regiment to Capt. Jeremiah P. Schindel, 6th Infantry, for a great deal concerning the late war to 1st Lieut. Benjamin W. Atkinson, 6th Infantry, for the use of his private scrap books containing autograph letters of his grandfather, Gen. Henry Atkinson, and interesting memoranda; and to Sergt.-Maj. Charles H. Devereaux, 6th Infantry, for his excellent, painstaking work in collecting and extracting valuable matter from the regimental records, of which in his present position he has been immediate custodian for more than eighteen years.