by Charles W. Bowman
Events of 1865-1868
In 1865, Fort Lyon was garrisoned by Company G, Second
United States Cavalry, and two companies of volunteers, distinguished, from the
fact of their doubtful loyalty, as "Galvanized Yankees." Capt. David S. Gordon
was Post Commander. In the fall, the cavalry company was relieved by Company I,
Third Infantry, when Lieut. I.W. Hamilton became Post Commander. On the 1st of
November, Company G, of the Third, arrived at Fort Lyon, and Lieut. E.A. Belger
assumed command. The "Galvanized Yankees" left about the middle of November, for
Fort Leavenworth, where, with other detachments of the same class of troops,
from Garland and Union, they were mustered out.
In the fall of 1866, two companies of the Seventh Cavalry, then lately organized, reached the fort, and Capt. G. Robeson (brother of Secretary Robeson) assumed command. Robeson retained command till March, 1867, when he was relieved by Capt. W.H. Penrose, Company I, Third Infantry, Brevet Brigadier General.
That spring, an unprecedented rain occurred, beginning about the 10th of May and continuing daily for a month. No such flood had been known from the earliest times. The Arkansas was out of its banks, and the water two feet deep on the level in Fort Lyon. The troops were consequently obliged to evacuate the fort and take refuge in tents on the adjoining bluffs. This abandonment proved to be permanent. Capt. Kirk, the Quartermaster, proceeded with a force of mechanics twenty-five miles westward to the site of the present Fort Lyon, about the 1st of June, and began the improvements which afterward developed into Fort Lyon. Thenceforth, the former post became Old Fort Lyon, which name it still retains. Capt. Kirk had among his employes at this time, Holbrook, Chief Clerk; George Hunter and Philip Lander, the McMurtrie brothers, Mark B. Price and Harry Floyd. On the 11th of June the Post Commander moved his headquarters and command to the site of the new Fort Lyon, where the troops went into camp.
The post traders at Fort Lyon from 1865 were Lyman Fields, till 1867, when he sold out to A.E. Reynolds and B.D. Smith. Reynolds & Smith removed with the troops to the new fort, and continued business only a few months. Two stores were next opened, one by J.A. Thatcher & Co., the other by A.E. Reynolds. In 1869, one store was discontinued by order of the War Department. A.E. Reynolds & Co. remained till 1870, when they were succeeded by S.G. Bridges. Bridges held on till 1877, when he was superseded by George M. Brown, present incumbent.
About the time of the removal from Old Fort Lyon, Company G, of the Thirty-seventh Infantry, was added to the command. The Indians continuing hostile, it was necessary to run escorts with all the stage coaches, and maintain guards at the stations. The infantry was accordingly distributed to the various stage stations to the east as far as Dave Keener's, known as the Baltimore ranch. During the month of June, three members of Company G, Thirty-seventh, were surprised and killed at Pleasant Encampment. The stages were frequently fired into and robbed, but no passengers killed. The method of the Indians was to dash up, fire a volley and gallop away. Charles Bent, son of Col. Bent, was head chief of the Southern Cheyennes, and was credited with leading these forays. All trains of immigrants and freighters were required by the military commander at Fort Riley to organize in parties of fifty wagons, form a military organization and thoroughly arm and equip before proceeding, the Government providing arms and ammunition.
The year 1868 is memorable to all old settlers as the year the Indians were bad. They not only harassed travelers and freighters along the routes of travel, but killed and drove off stock of the settlers. E.R. Sizer, J.W. Prowers, William Bent, Thomas Boggs, Kit Carson's estate, all lost stock, and had some herders killed. Sizer's ranch was attacked two or three times, and his barn burned. The soldiers were out as often as two or three times a week for the purpose of guarding ranches or rescuing the inhabitants. In cases of extreme peril, the settlers on the Lower Purgatoire gathered at Boggsville for defense, and in Nine Mile Bottom, at the ranch of Urial Higbee. On the morning of September 8 (election day), an attack was made all along the creek. Thomas Kinsey, a Judge of Election, was killed while on his way from Sizer's ranch to the voting-place, Boggsville. Word was conveyed to the fort, and troops at once started out in pursuit of the Indians, Gen. Penrose in command, accompanied by several citizens. The Indians proved to be only a small party. They were pursued and overtaken twenty-five miles south of the fort, and four of them killed, with a loss of two soldiers. The remainder of the Indians escaped, taking with them a lot of stock stolen form Boggsville.
A month later, or the next full moon, the Indians, two or three hundred strong, made their appearance near Boggsville. Fortunately, the settlers had been expecting them, and were able to make such formidable demonstrations, aided by the troops, as caused the foe to withdraw without attacking. Nor did Gen. Penrose dare pursue them, as it seemed evident, from their maneuvers, they desired he should. They contented themselves by killing or driving away what stock they found, and, turning aside from their usual southeasterly course into the valley near Big Sandy, they found and attacked the train of George Pool, and cut out and drove off a wagon containing Mrs. Flynn, a sister of Mrs. J.F. Buttles. From this captivity Mrs. Flynn never escaped, but was killed by the squaws the next winter during an attack on the Indians by Gen. Custer.
In the autumn of 1868, a mammoth expedition against the Indians was organized at Fort Lyon, under Gen. Carr. Gen. Penrose moved out in advance, with the Tenth Cavalry and parts of the Third and Fifth Infantry. Gen. Carr followed with the Fifth Cavalry and one company of the Third Infantry, and overtook Penrose on the Palo Duro, where he assumed command of the whole expedition. But it was resultless, the grand army returning without striking a blow. Perhaps something should be credited to its moral effect on the Indians, as there were no more raids on the Purgatoire. Gen. Penrose reached Fort Lyon with his original command February 16, 1869. The return of the troops was the signal for the return of the settlers to their several ranches, and the resumption of travel and freighting.
In 1867 and 1868, an organized band of stock-thieves, under the lead of William Coe, operated between Colorado and New Mexico. Their principal rendezvous was at a stone ranch and corral on the Dry Cimarron. They also had a station at the Hoerner ranch, on the Purgatoire, twelve miles above Boggsville. A number of murders were known to have been committed by them. A detective sent out from Fort Lyon, among others, met death at their hands. In the spring of 1868, a flock of 3,000 sheep, stolen in New Mexico, was found in their possession on Adobe Creek, which led to their arrest. A Sheriff from Trinidad, assisted by troops and citizens, surrounded eight of the gang while they were engaged at a game of cards at the Hoerner ranch, and, by shoving the muzzles of nine or ten rifles in at the door, compelled an unconditional surrender. The officer and posse proceeded next to a house above Higbee's and captured Coe. The prisoners were sent to the fort for safe keeping, but, within two weeks, made their escape. Six were re-captured, including the leader, and turned over to the civil authorities at Pueblo. Shortly after this, Coe was taken from the jail at Pueblo and privately hung by a committee of soldiers – it was believed at the instigation of their superior officer. Certain it is, they were not court martialed, nor was there any public demonstration of sorrow for the deceased.