The Path to Hembrillo

Henry Carroll
Commander of the Second Battalion

Portrait of Major Henry Carroll, circa 1885, shown here wearing the insignia of the 1st Cavalry Regiment on his cap.

Captain Henry Carroll, a New Yorker, had been with the 9th Cavalry since its inception in 1867, eagerly accepting a Captaincy as one of the few non-West Pointers chosen for command in the new units. He had originally enlisted as a Private in 1859 and quickly rose in rank during the Civil War, serving in the 3rd Artillery. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in May 1864 and First Lieutenant in 1866. When the 9th moved to Texas, they immediately began scouting for Apache and Comanche bands which were raiding throughout the Trans-Pecos region – in addition to their role in protecting the mail and trade routes from San Antonio to El Paso. For many of the men in his command it was their first experience in this type of fighting. Historian Charles Kenner writes:

All accounts of the battles of 1869 stressed that the buffalo soldiers fought with great valor. Captain Henry Carroll, who led ninety-eight troopers in a successful encounter with the Comanches on 16 September, lauded his men, most of whom “had never seen an Indian before,” for bravery and “excellent behavior.” Unfortunately, he did not cite a single soldier by name.

At least one of those soldiers, however, is known by name – Sergeant Emanuel Stance. Carroll was quick with praise for the men under his command who performed their duties exemplary. Sergeant Stance enlisted as an eighteen-year-old in Lake Providence, Louisiana in October 1866. Participating in many campaigns and scouts, he performed his duties well, but in the first couple of months of 1870 he was court-martialed three times for “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.” On 16 May 1879, a group of Indians kidnapped two children and Carroll immediately ordered two detachments into the field – one led by Stance, leaving Fort McKavett and heading toward Kickapoo Springs. On 26 May Stance filed his report to Lieutenant B.M. Cuter, Post Adjutant:

I have the honor to make the following report of a scout after Indians made in compliance with Special Orders No. 73, extract 2, Headquarters Post of Fort KcKavett, Texas, May 19, [1879]. I left camp on the 20th of May taking the Kickapoo road. When some fourteen (14) miles out I discovered a party of Indians making across the hills having a herd of horses with them. I charged them and after slight skirmishing they abandoned the herd and took to the mountains. Having secured the horses – 9 in number – I resumed my march to Kickapoo Springs and camped for the night. The following morning, I decided to return to the Post with my captured stock, as they would embarrass further operations, as my command was small numbering ten all told.

I accordingly started about 6 o’clock A.M., when about two miles from Kickapoo, I discovered a party of Indians about 20 in number, making for a couple of government teams, which were about three miles in advance of me. They evidently meant to capture the stock as there was only a small guard with the teams. I immediately attacked them by charging them. They tried to make a stand to get their herd of horses off, but I set the Spencers to talking and whistling about their ears so lively that they broke in confusion and fled to the hills, leaving us their herd of five horses. Resuming the march towards Camp, they skirmished along my left flank to the eight mile water hole, evidently being determined to take the stock. I turned my little command lose on them at this place, and after a few volleys they left me to continue my march in peace. I reached camp at 2 P.M. of the 21st with 15 head of horses captured from the Indians.

The casualties of this scout was one horse slightly wounded.

The short scouting mission taken by Stance’s group failed to recover the children and resulted in a comparatively small number of livestock taken. However, Captain Carroll was “elated” by the success of the patrol, sending Stance’s report to departmental headquarters with the endorsement, “This marks the fifth engagement in which he has been cited for gallantry and good behavior.” Carroll’s endorsement resulted in the Medal of Honor for Stance, the first of 18 which would be awarded to African-American troops during the Indian Wars of the west.

Though Carroll was quick to shower praise on those troops who performed admirably he was also a strict disciplinarian who could be quick to punish – and even strike – those whom he felt slacking.

Private Joseph Dayes had enlisted in Mobile, Alabama and served with an infantry regiment in New Mexico. He received a disability discharge but remained in the territory working as a cook and a servant for different officers. In April 1877, he decided to enlist again and this time was posted to Carroll’s command in the 9th Cavalry. Having been away from the Army, and never having been a cavalryman, he was completely unfamiliar with normal commands and drills.

Kenner describes what happened next, “After receiving no response to a command, the captain stormed up to him, beat him over the head with the flat of his saber, and screamed ‘Get, you son of a b-tch!’ Gashed on both his head and left hand, Dayes retreated in panic to his barrack.” He stacked his equipment and fled. Unfortunately for Dayes, his equipment was lost, resulting in charges of theft and desertion, found guilty in court-martial, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Carroll was later censured for the physical attack on Dayes. Dobak and Phillips write:

Soldiers often complained of real, exaggerated, or imagined instances of ill treatment by officers and noncommissioned officers. Many petitions complained of physical and verbal abuse. The War Department undertook formal investigations only [when] the plaintiffs identified themselves. Boards of inquiry and courts-martial were reluctant, anyway, to convict officers because of soldiers’ allegations. Three separate complaints charged Captain Henry Carroll of the Ninth Cavalry with striking enlisted men. “An officer of your experience,” the post adjutant at Fort Stanton, New Mexico, told him, “ought to know the responsibility you assume in knocking a recruit senseless to the ground for an imperfection in drill.” Each time, though, Carroll escaped censure when no soldier would openly testify against him.

Throughout his tenure in the 9th, Carroll was an especially experienced and capable leader. September 1876 found his company scouting the Florida Mountains and engaging a group of Apache, resulting in one Apache killed and a soldier injured, as well as the capture of 11 Apache horses. The company marched 274 miles before returning to Fort Selden. In 1878, Carroll was ordered by Lieutenant Colonel N.A.M. Dudley to bring in several dozen Mescalero Apache who had fled the reservation and were reportedly making mescal near Alamo Canyon.

In July, he left Fort Stanton with Lieutenants Wright and Smith, fifty-two men from Companies F and H, and nineteen Navajo Scouts. In addition, he carried 150 rounds of ammunition per man and rations for forty days. After scouting the reservation, Carroll’s command moved into the Guadalupe Mountains to the south, meeting a company of the 10th Cavalry commanded by Captain Stevens Norvell, who reported having seen no Apache or recent signs of movement. Carroll then marched back into the Sacramento Mountains and encountered a small Apache party near Dog Canyon. A fight developed as the soldiers entered the canyon, finding themselves engaged with a much larger force than expected, who fired down upon them and threw large rocks from the cliffs eight hundred feet above. Through much effort and enduring heatstroke, the men finally gained the top of the ledge only to find the Apache gone. Carroll returned to Fort Stanton on 12 August, after marching 588 miles, but the engagement in Dog Canyon exemplifies the type of fighting between the Apache and the US Army during the previous few years.

The following year, Colonel Hatch elevated Carroll to command of Fort Stanton, as Lieutenant Colonel Dudley was brought up on multiple charges related to the Lincoln County War. After the Hembrillo battle, Carroll would continue to serve with the 9th through the rest of its tenure the following year in New Mexico and made the move with the regiment to Kansas. In 1885, Carroll sought – and received – a transfer as a Major in the 1st Cavalry Regiment. He eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the 7th Cavalry Regiment and retired in 1899, after some 40 years of service.

Leave a Reply