Clipboard icon. This link bypasses navigation taking you directly to the contents of this page.

 

How to Use
the Readings

 

Inquiry Question

Historical Context

Map

Reading 1
Reading 3

Images

Activities

Table of
Contents




Determining the Facts

Reading 2: Combatants' Accounts

Alfred B. Peticolas, a young lawyer, enlisted in the Fourth Texas Mounted Volunteers in Victoria, Texas in May 1861. Sergeant Peticolas recorded the call Colonel Scurry's troops answered to march to the support of Major Pyron at Apache Canyon the evening of Wednesday, March 26, 1862.

Laid over today and waited for the 3rd Regt. Towards evening it came in and two or three hours after, an express from Major Pyron came in informing us that he had been attacked by a large body of Pike's Peak men during the day; that he had gotten the best of the engagement and had fallen back to wood and water, which he would hold till we came up to him. The order was immediately given, and in an hour after we received the express, we were all under way. This, however, made it about 8 o'clock when we started, and we were told that the distance we had to go was 12 miles, but before it was walked we found it to be at least 15. Pyron had two men killed and 3 wounded.

The forces were about 350 on our side, 3 or 4 companies of the 2nd Regt, and from 600 to 1000 of the enemy. We started off at a brisk gait and made the first six miles of our journey in a very little time, but footsore and weary we did not travel from that point so fast as we had been doing, but there was no murmuring at our suffering, and on the want of comfort on this our forced march, but every man marched bravely along and did not complain at the length of the road, the coldness of the weather, or the necessity that compelled the march.

We passed over a very steep pass in the mountains not far from a ranch buried in a circular valley in the bosom of the mountains, and as the ascent and descent was extremely difficult, we were nearly two hours crossing, and while the command was waiting for the artillery and ammunition wagons to cross over, they made large fires at the foot of the pass and warmed chilled hands and feet. About past 3 we reached a ranch down the canion [sic] and were directed to get wood wherever we could and make fires. Now we had not blankets, and Jones proposed to me to go and try and get into a house to sleep, which I succeeded in doing. He and I slept together on the floor with no bedding, and only a few articles of women's wearing apparel which we found scattered round the house.¹

Ovando J. Hollister was living in the mining district of South Clear Creek, Colorado, in the summer of 1861, and enlisted in Captain Sam H. Cook's company of mounted volunteers. He served with the First Colorado Volunteers from the time of its organization through its campaign in New Mexico and return to Denver. Hollister sustained injuries during the campaign that rendered him an invalid unfit for military duty in January 1863. He described the forced winter march by the Colorado Volunteers from Denver to Fort Union to meet the advancing Confederate forces.

The teams, relieved of their loads, took aboard a full complement of passengers, leaving, however, between three and four hundred to foot it. Away into the wee hours of morning did we tramp, tramp, tramp, --the gay song, the gibe, the story, the boisterous cheer, all died a natural death. Nothing broke the stillness of night but the steady tramp of the men and the rattle of the wagons. We were now to prove the sincerity of those patriotic oaths so often sworn, and right nobly was it done. At length the animals began to drop and die in harness, from overwork and underfeed, which forced us to stop. But for this, we would doubtless have made Union without a halt. Col. Slough rode in the coach. That never stops between Red River and Union. Why should we?

Thirty miles would not more than measure this night's march, in which the men proved their willingness to put forth every exertion on demand. But feeling as they did, that there was no call for it but the Colonel's caprice, their 'curses were not loud but deep.' During the halt, they hovered over the willow brush fires or shivered under their scanty blankets, nursing their indignation by the most outrageous abuse of everything and everybody. A soldier would grumble in heaven. As it is all the solace they have for their numerous privations and vexations, and is very harmless, let them growl.

At the first sign of daylight "Assembly" sounded as shrilly as if waking to renewed exertion the iron sinews of a steam engine, instead of a weary mass of human energy scarcely composed to rest. But it was none the less inexorable, and satisfying nature with a crust of hard bread, we were on the road again. ²

Questions for Reading 2

1. Who gives a better description of the land through which he marched, Hollister or Peticolas? Why?

2. How did their patriotic oaths, made when the volunteers enlisted, help Hollister's companions to continue their 30-mile night march towards Fort Union? Why did Colonel Slough's actions cause them to complain?

3. Peticolas' companions made a forced march of 15 miles. Why did they not complain?

4. In what ways were both soldiers' experiences similar? In what ways were they different?

¹ Don E. Alberts, ed., Rebels on the Rio Grande: The Civil War Journals of A. B. Peticolas (Albuquerque: Merit Press, 1993).
²Ovando J. Hollister,
History of the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers (Denver: Thomas Gibson & Co., 1863).

Continue

Comments or Questions

TCP
National Park Service arrowhead with link to NPS website.