Merger Of Second and Third Colorado

On October 11, 1863, the Second and Third regiments of Colorado Volunteer Infantry were ordered to consolidate into a new regiment, to be known’ as the Second Regiment of Colorado Volunteer Cavalry. At this time the two regiments were widely scattered, six companies of the Second had been attached to General Blunt’s command, the remainder at the time doing outpost and guard duty along the Arkansas River trails, and the Third was a part of Schofield’s Army of the Frontier.

This necessitated much delay, consequently it was not until the late fall that the two regiments assembled at St. Louis, as per orders. In January following the reorganization was accomplished and the regimental officers chosen were: James H. Ford, colonel; Theodore H. Dodd, lieutenant colonel; Samuel S. Curtis, J. Nelson Smith and Jesse L. Pritchard, majors. The companies of the Second became Companies A, B, C, D, E, F and G, while those of the Third be-came Companies H, I, K, L and M.

Career Of The Second Cavalry

Colonel Ford’s regiment, 1,240 strong, well equipped and mounted, was ordered to Kansas City in the latter part of January, 1864, where Ford was placed in command of a military sub-district, consisting of three border counties, Jackson, Cass and Bates, the former including Kansas City. Under his command, in addition to the Second Colorado Cavalry, there were: a regiment of Missouri infantry, some Missouri militia and two companies of Minnesota infantry. Until the autumn of 1864 Ford’s troops engaged in combating the fierce guerillas through Missouri, a form of warfare much disliked by all northern soldiers, but popular among certain classes of Confederates.

Both the Second Colorado Cavalry and McLain’s Battery were chosen in September, 1864, as part of the army to meet Gen. Sterling Price’s Confederates, a host 15,000 strong which marched into Missouri with the intention of conquering the state. Price’s troops were seasoned veterans, but nevertheless were re-pulsed from St. Louis. The Confederates then moved westward to Jefferson City, there again to be defeated. From Jefferson City, Price marched up the Missouri River, with the purpose of investing Kansas City and capturing Fort Leavenworth. Gen. S. R. Curtis, in command of the Department of Kansas and the Indian Territory, with headquarters at Leavenworth, hastened to assemble all available troops at Kansas City and Independence, and the Colorado troops, who had been assigned under General Blunt, were stationed at Lexington, Missouri. The heavy hand of Price’s army soon fell upon Blunt and his small command.

On the morning of October 20th, Price’s gray-clad men appeared before Lexington and quickly attacked the Federal troops. The latter, fighting desperately, held the attacking ranks off until night, then withdrew from the position, which was rapidly becoming untenable, to the Little Blue River, six miles east of Independence. Here, on the 21st, they again engaged Price’s entire army, suffering heavy losses. Blunt was compelled to again fall back to the Big Blue River, joining the main army of General Curtis which had been reinforced by Pleasanton’s Cavalry. This augmented command, on October 22d, succeeded in inflicting a severe defeat upon the Confederates, which was the beginning of the end for Price and his army.

By the end of the 23d of October, after a day of continual battle, Price began a disordered retreat southward, closely followed by the Union forces. On the night of the 24th he was attacked in Linn County, Kansas, by Curtis’ men, including the Colorado companies, and driven out. The Confederates came to bay again on the 25th at Mine Creek, but could not maintain their stand and were forced onward.

The culminating battle occurred on the 28th at Newtonia, a Missouri village southeast of Fort Scott. The struggle waged bitterly, with great losses upon each side, until finally Price’s army was driven from the field. He was pursued as far as the Arkansas, when, with the remnant of his once well-equipped and trained army, he was permitted to escape across the river. The Second Colorado’s losses at Newtonia included forty-two men killed outright. This was easily the most sanguinary engagement of the campaign.

In December, 1864, the Colorado troops which had participated in the Price campaign were ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, there to be assigned to the service against the plains Indians. In this manner they continued until the fall of 1865, when they were mustered out.

Raid Into Colorado Territory

The nearest approach to an organized Confederate expedition into Colorado Territory was the raid by James Reynolds’ Texan guerrillas into the South Park in the summer of 1864. Reynolds, formerly a miner in the South Park, entered southeastern Colorado with twenty-one renegades in July, intending to pillage and murder indiscriminately. The band avoided Fort Lyon, Pueblo and Cañon City, but proceeded to the South Park, where the men began a systematic campaign of plundering, attacking ranchmen, miners and stage coaches. Reynolds boasted that he intended to ravish Denver at the first opportunity, but this opportunity never came. Colorado citizens began a determined hunt for the desperado and his gang. The first conflict resulted in the death of three of the band and the wounding of Reynolds himself, whereupon all fled, leaving their supplies and plunder behind. A few days later Reynolds and five of his men were captured near Canon City, the others escaping. The leader and his men were brought to Denver, then started for Fort Lyon under military guard. Just what happened at this juncture is not known definitely, but can be guessed with little error, for very shortly the troops returned to Denver with the statement that Reynolds and his men had been shot while attempting to escape near the head of Cherry Creek.

History of Colorado


Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918