General Henry Leavenworth

Gen. Henry Leavenworth was born in Connecticut in the closing year of the revolutionary war, 1783. While a boy he moved to Delaware county, N. Y., where he grew to manhood and secured such an education as the schools of that new country were able to afford. He afterward took up the study of law in the office of Gen. Root, of Delhi, and formed a partnership with his preceptor after his admission to the bar. He soon acquired a high standing in the legal profession and great popularity throughout Delaware county. When the second war with Great Britain was declared in 1812 he helped raise a company and was elected its captain. This was the beginning of his military career. His company was assigned to the 9th regiment of infantry and attached to the brigade commanded by Gen. Winfield Scott. He was active in the campaign in northern New York during his first year of service and was promoted to the rank of major. He was in the campaign for the invasion of Canada from the Niagara frontier, and was in the battle of Chippewa. He was brevetted a lieutenant colonel for gallantry on this occasion. He afterward took part in the battle of Lundy’s Lane, and so distinguished himself that he was brevetted a colonel. After the close of the war Col. Leavenworth took up his residence at Delhi again and was elected to represent Delaware county in the legislature. He was soon after offered a majorship in the regular army and was stationed at Sackett’s Harbor. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the old 5th infantry in 1818. He joined the regiment at Detroit and was soon afterward detailed to command an expedition into the great Northwest. After much active service among the Indians he established a post, now Fort Snelling, near St. Anthony Falls. When the army was reduced in 1821, Col. Leavenworth was transferred to the 6th infantry and placed in command of troops around Council Bluffs and other Iowa points. He was in command of the expedition against the hostile Arickaree Indians in August, 1821, and defeated them in a running fight lasting four days. For distinguished service in this campaign Col. Leavenworth came in for high commendation in the report of Gen. Gaines, and was especially mentioned in both the annual reports of President Monroe and Secretary of War Calhoun. Col. Leavenworth was the originator of the plan to establish schools of instruction for officers and soldiers of the regular army. The idea of military schools, something after the method of the infantry and cavalry school at Fort Leavenworth, was strenuously advocated by him. In this connection it would seem fitting and proper that his body should be buried at the post named in his honor and where a great war college would be located. After considerable correspondence Col. Leavenworth, in conjunction with Gen. Atkinson, was delegated in March, 1826, to select a site for an army school on the west bank of the Mississippi river within twenty miles of its junction with the Missouri. Col. Leavenworth finally picked out as a suitable place the grounds where Jefferson barracks, near St. Louis, is now located. He started in with a detachment of his regiment to erect a large post and military school buildings. He received very little encouragement in the way of appropriations or aid from Washington. Before the school was fairly well started, Col. Leavenworth was ordered to transfer his troops to points on the upper Mississippi, and the military school plan died and was not revived in a practical manner again until more than fifty years afterward, when Gen. Sherman established the Fort Leavenworth infantry and cavalry school. In March, 1827, Col. Leavenworth received orders to take four companies of infantry and to ascend the Missouri river, and upon reaching a point within twenty miles of the mouth of the Platte river to establish a cantonment. A permanent cantonment was to be located on the left bank. Col. Leavenworth first picked a site near the mouth of the Little Platte, in the Missouri bottoms, opposite Fort Leavenworth. He explored the country and was soon convinced that the land on the east or Missouri side of the river would be flooded during high water, and that it was not advantageous for a permanent post. Without waiting for new orders, he crossed over to the Kansas side and picked the site for a cantonment where Fort Leavenworth is now located. The first camp on the site was pitched May 8, 1827, nearly seventy-five years ago, and it was named “Cantonment Leavenworth.” Col. Leavenworth sent a clear and beautiful description of the land and advantages of the new cantonment to Washington, and it was approved by a formal order of the war department in September, 1827. During the next two years many of the soldiers were taken sick and died of malarial fever, mainly for lack of proper medicines to treat the disease, and Cantonment Leavenworth was looked upon as an unhealthy place. In less than two years the garrison was ordered withdrawn to Jefferson barracks. This was in the spring of 1829, and the buildings deserted and were occupied by the Kickapoo Indians. The cantonment was taken possession of the second time in the fall of 1829, about six months after its abandonment, by a new battalion of troops commanded by Col. Leavenworth, in which Gen. Phillip St. George Cooke, afterwards a noted cavalry officer, but then a second lieutenant, was a member. The name of the place was changed from Canton Leavenworth to Fort Leavenworth in general order No. 11, issued February 8, 1832. It was never abandoned as an army post since the time mentioned in 1829, but came near being depopulated of both white men and Indians during a cholera epidemic in 1838. On this occasion a boat came up from St. Louis loaded with troops and settlers. Cholera broke out among them the night the boat tied up at Fort Leavenworth. Many of the passengers on the boat died and were hastily buried in the ground where the commanding officer’s residence is located, and the new quarters for lieutenants is going up. The bones dug up recently in making foundations for the new quarters were those of cholera victims. Those of the passengers who did not die were marched into a camp in Salt Creek valley, and when the contagion broke out among the first soldiers in the garrison a panic set in, and practically every person at the fort left and camped in the woods until the ravages of the disease were spent. While stationed at Fort Leavenworth in 1832 Col. Leavenworth was assigned to the command of the Southwestern frontier. He conducted a campaign against the Pawnee Indians, defeating and subduing them. The campaign was a long one, but it was conducted with such skill that he was promoted to be brigadier general as a reward. The news of this promotion did not reach Gen. Leavenworth before his death. He passed away after an illness of a few days while sick in a hospital wagon on Cross Timbers, near the falls of the Washita river, in the Indian Territory, July 29, 1834. He was in command of an expedition against a band of hostile Indians at the time he died. His body remained buried at this place for several months, when it was taken across the plains and finally sent to Delhi, N. Y., where it is now buried. — Quoted from an old newspaper clipping.

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