The story of our family...for my sons

Friday, June 14, 2013

James Ira Stewart...Apache fighter...

My great grandfather, James Ira Stewart served in the 5th Infantry, Co. A, of the California volunteers from 1861 to 1865, and spent the Civil War in the territory of New Mexico "fighting hostiles". The regiment was ordered to concentrate at Albuquerque in the spring of 1861 for a move east, but the department commander persuaded Washington to leave the 5th on the frontier. In early 1862 a Confederate force from Texas invaded New Mexico. Four companies of the 5th formed the Union rear guard in the Confederate victory at Valverde on 21 February, after which the Confederates occupied Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Two other companies of the 5th captured a field piece at the Battle of Glorieta Pass on 28 March, the beginning of the end for the Confederate forces. The 5th also fought in the action at Peralta on 15 April where the enemy lost a large part of their supply train. The Confederates ultimately withdrew to San Antonio, and the 5th spent the rest of the war on frontier duty, watching for another Confederate incursion, which never came. On 1 June 1863 John F. Reynolds officially became colonel of the 5th; however, he was on detached service as a Major General of Volunteers, commanding a corps of the Army of the Potomac. He was killed a month later on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. His replacement as commander of the 5th was another volunteer general, Daniel Butterfield, the composer of the bugle call "Taps". Butterfield, also wounded at Gettysburg, did not join the regiment during the war.

5th Regiment Infantry Engagements

Organized in California at large September to November. 1861. Attached to Depts. of the Pacific and New Mexico.
Ordered to Camp Latham, Southern California, February 1, 1862. Carlton's Expedition from Southern California through Arizona to Northwest Texas and New Mexico April 13-September 20 (Cos. "B" and "G"). Regiment garrison posts in Southern California and Arizona. Company "D" at San Diego. Companies "C," "F," "H," "I" and "K" at Camp Wright and Fort Bowie. Companies "A" and "E" at Fort Barrett. Companies "B" and "G" at Tucson until December, 1862. Company -- march to Tucson July 6, 1862. March from Tucson to the Rio Grande July 25-August 15, 1862 (Cos. "A," "B" and "G"). December, 1862, stationed at Tucson, Company "F"; at Fort Bowie, Companies "E" and "G"; at Fort Yuma, Companies "C" and "H"; at Camp Drum, Companies "D," "I" and "K." Engagement at Pinos Altos Mines January 29, 1863 (Co. "A"). To Tucson and Messilla February, 1863 (Cos. "C" and "H"). Engagement at Cajou de Arivaypo, Apache Pass, April 25, 1863 (Co. "K"). Stationed May, 1863, at Fort Stanton (Co. "A"), Fort Bowie (Co. "E"), Tucson (Cos. "C," "F" and "H"), Fort Craig (Cos. "B," "D," "G," "I" and "K"). Skirmish, Cajou de Arivaypa, May 7, 1863. At Fort Stanton June, 1863. Crook's Canon, N. Mex., July 24, 1863 (Co. "E"). Skirmishes, Chirlcahua Mountains, September 8-9, 1863. Skirmish, Gila River, November 5, 1863. Skirmish, San Andreas Mountains, January 26, 1864 (Detachment). Operations in New Mexico and Arizona February 1-March 7, 1864. Expedition from Camp Mimbres February 24-29, 1864 (Detachment). Pines Altos, Ariz., February 27, 1864. Skirmish at foot of Sierra Bonita April 7, 1864 (Companies "F" and "I"). Doubtful Canon, N. Mex., May 4, 1864 (Company "I"). Gila River Expedition, Arizona, May 25-July 13, 1864 (Companies "E," "I" and "K"). Expedition from Fort Craig, N. Mex., to Fort Goodwin, Ariz., May 16-August 2, 1864 (Companies "A," "C" and "E"). At Fort Goodwin until October (Cos. "A," "C" and "E"). June, 1864, stationed at Camp Mimbres, Ariz. (Cos. "A" and "F"), at Fort Bowie (Co. "K"), at Franklin, Texas (Cos. "G" and "H"), at Tucson (Co. "D"), at Fort Cummings (Co. "I"). Scout in Southeastern Arizona July 16-24, 1864 (Co. "A"). Expedition to Pinal Mountains July 18-August 7, 1864 (Co. "E"). Expedition to Southwest New Mexico July 23-October 10, 1864 (Cos. "B" and "F"). Ordered to Las Cruces October 8, 1864 (Cos. "A," "C," "D," "E," "I" and "K"). Company "F" to Fort Cummings October, 1864. Mustered out November 27 to December 14, 1864

The Battle of Mount Gray

The Battle of Mount Gray was a little known engagement of the Apache Wars fought at the foothills of Gray Mountain, then known as Mount Gray on April 7, 1864. A troop of the United States Army's California Column attacked a superior force of Chiricahua Apaches at their camp and routed them from the field.


When the American Civil War began in 1861, Confederate Arizona was established so the Union raised a volunteer force of Californians to march through Arizona to capture the territory and to reinforce the Union army in New Mexico. During the 900 mile journey in 1862 and 1863, the California Column constructed or occupied several camps and forts and when the column moved on, men were left behind to garrison them. One of these posts was Camp Mimbres. On March 15, 1864, Apaches raided a herd of livestock at Cow Springs. By March 27, the garrison of Camp Mimbres was informed of the attack so Captain James H. Whitlock organized an expedition to retrieve the stolen livestock. The expedition was made up of forty-six men from the 5th California Infantry along with ten men from the 1st California Cavalry. A few militia scouts also went along to be used as trackers. They headed towards Stein's Peak in the Sierra Bonita Mountains and when they arrived, an Apache trail was spotted and led north into the San Simon Valley. After a few more days of marching the Apache trail turned west and it was followed to the base of Mount Gray within present day Hidalgo County, New Mexico.


At about 4:00 am on April 7, while marching through the foothills, Captain Whitlock noticed campfires in the distance and he immediately assumed it to be an Apache camp. Quickly Whitlock advanced his troop to the camp where around 250 Apaches warriors were resting with the herd of livestock. Whitlock decided to separate his command into a few groups to surround the camp, they would then attack at first light. So when the sun rose above the horizon, the American soldiers began their assault. The captain led the charge into the Apache camp which was defended by the Chiricahua for over an hour before they retreated up the mountain. When the Americans were finally in control, they set fire to the wickiups and destroyed about 300 pounds of dried mescal, an Apache food source. While burning the mescal, thirty of the retreating Apaches turned around and attacked the soldiers to try to stop the destruction of their food but they were driven off by effective volleys of rifle fire. Twenty-one Apaches were killed and left on the field, others were wounded but escaped and forty-five horses and mules were captured. There were no American casualties. The battle at Mount Gray was one of the more significant engagements fought between the California Column and the Apache. Similar to the earlier Battle of Apache Pass, the Californians were outnumbered but managed to defeat a larger force of hardened warriors. Whitlock Valley and the Whitlock Mountains were later named after Captain Whitlock.

When the Civil War ended, the bulk of the Regular Army returned from war service in the east to frontier duty in the west. The 5th Infantry moved slightly in the other direction, transferring from New Mexico to Kansas. By October 1868 it was strung out across seven different posts in western Kansas, with headquarters at Fort Riley. That's where James Ira Stewart mustered out...and the life of a farmer in Kansas...thanks Gramps.

The 5th went on to fight at Little Big Horn

In the spring of 1876 the largest Indian confederation of the post-Civil War period formed in the northern plains, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse of the Lakota Indians. The Army organized a three-pronged expedition to round up this force, but the Indians scored major victories against two of the three, stopping George Crook's southern pincer at the Battle of the Rosebud on 17 June and destroying half of the 7th Cavalry, vanguard of Alfred Terry's eastern column, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 25–26 June. Reinforcements were rushed in, including the 5th Infantry, which built Fort Keogh at the mouth of the Tongue River in Montana, and began operating from there. Miles and the 5th caught up to Sitting Bull at Cedar Creek in late October and, failing to negotiate his surrender, defeated his band in battle, forcing them to abandon most of their food and equipment. 2000 Lakota of this group surrendered on 27 October, although Sitting Bull himself escaped. 3 companies of the 5th pursued Sitting Bull along the Missouri River, capturing his camp and scattering his followers on 18 December.

Miles returned to the Tongue River with a force from the 5th and 22nd Infantry to pursue Crazy Horse. They captured several important prisoners in the valley below the Wolf Mountains on 7 January 1877, leading to a confrontation with the main body the following day. The 5th, attacking superior numbers in near-blizzard conditions, drove the Lakota and Cheyenne force off the high ground, forcing them to retreat. The 5th continued to pursue and round up bands from the broken confederacy into the summer of 1877.

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