Dragoon soldiers from Fort Scott participated in many activities that contributed to westward expansion. They provided armed escorts for parties on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, surveyed unmapped country, and maintained contact with Plains Indians. Each summer, from 1843-45, several companies of dragoons, including Company A, 1st U.S. Dragoons, from Fort Scott, participated in military expeditions along the overland trails. The purpose of these expeditions was to protect travel and trade along the trails and to keep the Plains Indians at peace.
Expeditions undertaken by the dragoons included
- 1843-Dragoons from Fort Scott and Fort Leavenworth patrolled the Santa Fe Trail to keep it safe from Texans who had been attacking Mexican caravans along the trail.
- 1844-Dragoons visited the Pawnee camps in what is now southern Nebraska to persuade the Pawnee to cease their hostilities against the Sioux and to leave emigrant traffic alone along the Oregon Trail.
- 1845-Dragoons from Fort Scott and Fort Leavenworth patrolled the Oregon Trail as far west as South Pass (modern Wyoming) and then returned via the Santa Fe Trail-completing a journey of 2200 miles in just 99 days.
- 1846-Dragoons from Fort Scott left to fight in the Mexican-American War. Fort Scott dragoon Company A played a role in the battle of Buena Vista and actually helped stave off disaster for the American army.
- Another dragoon unit-Company C-stationed at Fort Scott from 1842-travelled with the Army of the West to New Mexico and California. While in battle in California, the fort's first commander, Benjamin Moore, was killed in action.
The dragoons were more fortunate than their fellow infantrymen, who spent more time confined to the posts and routine duties. Summer expeditions provided relief from boredom at least. Yet, the end of the trip the first sight of the flag flying over the post, brought a welcome response. Carleton described the return of the dragoons to Fort Leavenworth:
Two days more of steady marching brought us back to our post. We were met by the Band, and the whole column entered the square from the North-west sally-port, and wheeled into line upon the exact spot where, forty-one days before, it had taken up its march for the prairies. Like a ship's coming home from sea, the first fifteen minutes were nothing but shaking of hands and howdy-doing, right and left. Everybody glad-everybody smiling--all happy.... I hold that such are among the really happiest moments that one ever experiences. This had been, on the whole, an extremely pleasant campaign.... In all the fatigues attending such labors, cheerfulness and alacrity have invariably characterized the movements of the men. They performed every duty with promptness, and a good will, which was remarked with the most complimentary satisfaction by every officer of the command, from the highest down.