Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another Example of Impressive Footwork

Soldiers in the trans-Mississippi certainly were involved in a number of impressive marches! Recently, I came across another example to add to the marching feats mentioned in my posting of 19 February. Union Colonel James M. Williams wrote the following on 20 September 1864 from Pryor’s Creek in the Indian Territory:

“I arrived here at 11 a.m. yesterday, and met the advance of Gano and Stand Watie’s command, consisting of 2,300 men with six pieces. The enemy had captured the train and post at Cabin Creek in the morning, and were returning with their booty (this information is from a prisoner). My command (all infantry and artillery) was completely exhausted, having marched eighty-two miles in the last forty-six hours, carrying their knapsacks [italics added]. I immediately formed my line and prepared to give battle. Skirmishing was kept up until 4.30 p. m., when the enemy’s line came within range of my Parrott guns, and I soon drove them back and continued skirmishing until dusk, and bivouacked in line of battle on the field. This morning the enemy has disappeared, it is supposed across the Verdigris. Had my troops been fresh I think I could have recaptured the train; as it was, I was unable to move without rest….” (Official Records, 41, pt. 1, 765).

These hardy soldiers had marched from the Fort Smith area and consisted of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry (79th U. S. Colored), the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry, the 11th U. S. Colored Infantry, the 54th U. S. Colored Infantry, and the 1st Arkansas Light Battery according to Steven L. Warren’s book, Brilliant Victory: The Second Civil War Battle of Cabin Creek, Indian Territory, September 19, 1864 (Wyandotte, OK: Gregath Publishing Co., 2002), 31.

After such an incredible march, I doubt that any of Colonel Williams' superiors chastised him for failing to continue on after the captured wagon train.


  1. I'm sorry, but I refuse to accept this account as factual. Eighty-two miles in forty-six hours? I will not believe that happened until I see someone do it. When I was in the 7th grade, I hiked 50 miles in one day. Took us about 14 hours. We were young kids, in good shape, walking in tennis shoes and not carrying anything, and none of us - of the 50% who completed the hike - could walk the next day. I'm not saying that no one could walk that distance in that time, but am saying that no unit could do that and still be a cohesive military unit when they arrived at their destination.

  2. We know where and when the troops started from and where and when they ended up and according to my map it was about 82 miles. Apparently the weather was decent, and the terrain is not too difficult in the area. There had been recent rains so the water supply was adequate. The men had several factors weighing in their favor. As to what percentage of the men actually completed the march in the time period mentioned by Williams, well, I guess we'll never know that. His unit was cohesive enough to engage in light skirmishing; fortunately for them they were not called on to do anything beyond that. It's too bad that little documentation exists concerning this march because I would like to have more details.