Kearny's Dragoons Out West
The Birth of the U.S. Cavalry
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Having banished eastern Native peoples to lands west of the Mississippi, President Andrew Jackson’s government by 1833 needed a new type of soldier to keep displaced Indians from returning home. And so the 1st Dragoons came into being. Will and John Gorenfeld tell their story—an epic of exploration, conquest, and diplomacy from the outposts of western history—in this book-length treatment of the force that became the U.S. Cavalry.
The 1st Dragoons represented a new regiment of horsemen that drew on the combined skills and clashing visions of two types of leaders: old Indian killers and backwoodsmen such as loudmouth miner Henry Dodge; and straight-arrow battlefield veterans such as Stephen Watts Kearny, who had fought Redcoats in 1812 but now negotiated treaties with Indian tribes and enforced the new order of the West. Drawing on soldiers’ journals and other never-before-used sources, Kearny’s Dragoons Out West reconstructs this forgotten, often surprising moment in U.S. history. Under Kearny, the 1st Dragoons performed its mission through diplomacy and intimidation rather than violence, even protecting Indians from white settlers.
Following the regiment up to the U.S.-Mexican War, when diplomacy gave way to open violence, this book introduces readers to future Civil War generals. Colorful characters appearing in these pages include Private Thomas Russell, a young attorney tricked by a horse thief into joining the army; James Hildreth, who authored two books on the 1st Dragoons; and English drill sergeant Long Ned Stanley, whose tenure in the 1st reveals much about American immigrants’ experience in 1833–48.
The promises made in Kearny’s well-intentioned treaty making were ultimately broken. This detailed and in-depth look back at his legacy offers a glimpse of a lost world—and an intriguing turning point in the history of western expansion.
“This is a wonderful account of the early, golden years of the 1st Dragoons, the regular army’s first mounted regiment, which spent its formative years as restrained diplomats, peacekeepers, intermediaries, and even protectors of the Southern Plains tribes. It is also the honest account of the unit’s surprising decline after its conquest of New Mexico and the departure of such superior officers as Stephen Watts Kearny. Grounded in a wealth of primary sources and extraordinary research, it is a gracefully written story.”—William P. MacKinnon, author of At Sword’s Point: A Documentary History of the Utah War, Parts 1 and 2
“Kearny’s Dragoons Out West is the culmination of decades of research. The Gorenfelds have woven the definitive narrative on what has far too long been an overlooked aspect of frontier military history.”—John P. Langellier, author of US Dragoons, 1833–55
“Finally, the storied 1st U.S. Dragoons have received historical treatment worthy of the regiment’s distinguished service from its inception through the U.S.-Mexican War. The Gorenfelds have done an outstanding service to the field of U.S. military history.”—Durwood Ball, coeditor of Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier, Second Edition