My frontier historical novel, Bozeman Paymaster: A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre, will be issued by Five Star Publishing in June 2022. I will post a prelude each month before that date to provide historical facts that occur before the story in the book begins. This is the second prelude.
Colonel Henry B. Carrington, a Yale Law School graduate, received his commission as commanding officer of the 18th US Infantry in 1861. When the Civil War broke out, he was the adjutant general of Ohio under Governor Salmon P. Chase. It did not hurt Carrington’s career that he had a passing friendship with President Abraham Lincoln, who appointed Chase to be Secretary of the Treasury. For most of the war years, Carrington, who was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General in 1862, helped the governor of Indiana raise that state’s regiments for the Union’s war effort. During his earlier years, Carrington had been secretary to well-known author Washington Irving. Carrington clearly had influential friends in high places. Though he served throughout the duration of the war, Colonel Carrington did not fight in a single battle. The 18th US Infantry’s field commander was Lieutenant Colonel William Judd Fetterman.
In March 1866, Colonel Carrington began assembling elements of the 18th US Infantry Regiment at Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory. The fort was named for General Stephen Watts Kearny, famous for the conquest of New Mexico and California during the Mexican-American War. The fort, located along the Oregon Trail in south-central Nebraska near the Platte River, served as a major assembly point for westward bound travelers.
The 18th US Infantry contained three battalions, but Carrington would man the new Bozeman Trail forts with only the Second Battalion (the 2/18). The First Battalion would be assigned to defend the Oregon Trail leading from Fort Laramie to Salt Lake City. The Third Battalion would man forts in Colorado Territory. Each battalion should contain 700 men. The 2/18 mustered a strength of only 220, many of whom were new recruits, all armed with obsolete, muzzle-loading, Springfield rifles. Carrington pleaded frequently that the 2/18 be equipped with newer weapons, but he was only successful in obtaining Spencer seven-shot carbines for his 25-member military band.