Doniphan’s Expedition

The most important military expedition to pass over the Santa Fe Trail was Doniphan’s Expedition. To Santa Fe it was commanded by General S. W. Kearny, who went on to California. Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan was left in command of the expedition. This whole military movement is known in history as Doniphan’s Expedition. It was organized at Fort Leavenworth in the spring of 1846, as a part of the American forces of the Mexican War. The volunteer force was made up on the frontier of Missouri, various counties of that State contributing companies. It was called the First Regiment Missouri Mounted Volunteers, Mexican War. Alexander W. Doniphan had joined the Clay County Company as a private, but in the selection of officers he was elected Colonel of the Regiment. Congreve Jackson was Lieutenant-Colonel, and William Gilpin was Major.

Col. A. W. Doniphan
[From Photograph Owned by William E. Connelley]

The regiment marched from Fort Leavenworth on the 26th day of June, 1846. It crossed the Kansas River at the mouth of the Wakarusa. From that point it marched south to the Santa Fe Trail, coming into that historic highway at Black Jack Point. The location known by that name to the Missourians is not the point of the same name where John Brown met and captured the Border-Ruffians. It is the elevation overlooking the valley of Coal Creek, and where the Fort Scott Road crossed the Trail. The town of Brooklyn was laid out there. The regiment followed the Trails and arrived eight miles below Bent’s Fort and crossed into Mexican territory on the 29th of July. The final stage of the march to Santa Fe was begun from Bent’s Fort on the 2d of August. Santa Fe was entered on the 18th day of August, 1846, and New Mexico was taken without the shedding of a drop of American blood. Colonel Doniphan made a successful campaign against the Navajo Indians and then invaded Mexico from the north. He defeated the Mexicans at Brazito, north of El Paso, which post fell into his hands in consequence. On Sunday, the 28th day of February, 1847, he fought the battle of Sacramento, twelve miles north of Chihuahua. This was not the greatest battle, but it was the most remarkable battle ever fought by Americans. An army of five thousand Mexicans was attacked and destroyed by an army of Missourians, less than a thousand strong. And the Missourians lost but four men killed and eight wounded. Colonel Doniphan took possession of Chihuahua, which he held until ordered to report to General Wood at Saltillo. The expedition returned to Missouri by way of New Orleans.

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