One-page Mexican-American War letter from a newly appointed ensign in the Missouri Volunteers as his unit prepared to depart Camp Lucas in Missouri on the Great Platte River Road in route to establishing Fort Kearny for protection of the Oregon Trail. John V. Masters to the Honorable C. Masters.
One-page Mexican-American War letter from a newly appointed ensign in the Missouri Volunteers as his unit prepared to depart Camp Lucas in Missouri on the Great Platte River Road in route to establishing Fort Kearny for protection of the Oregon Trail.
One-page Mexican-American War letter from a newly appointed ensign in the Missouri Volunteers as his unit prepared to depart Camp Lucas in Missouri on the Great Platte River Road in route to establishing Fort Kearny for protection of the Oregon Trail.
One-page Mexican-American War letter from a newly appointed ensign in the Missouri Volunteers as his unit prepared to depart Camp Lucas in Missouri on the Great Platte River Road in route to establishing Fort Kearny for protection of the Oregon Trail.

One-page Mexican-American War letter from a newly appointed ensign in the Missouri Volunteers as his unit prepared to depart Camp Lucas in Missouri on the Great Platte River Road in route to establishing Fort Kearny for protection of the Oregon Trail.

Camp Lucas (St. Louis), Missouri to Warren Court House, Pennsylvania: 1847. Unbound. This one-page stampless folded letter measures 15.5” x 10” unfolded. It is dated “Camp Lucas May 30th 1847.” The cover must have been delivered by hand, outside of the postal system, as it is unfranked and bears no postmarks. It is in nice shape. A transcript is included as is a copy of Masters’s service summary showing he was assigned to Lt. Col. Powell’s Missouri Volunteers.

In the letter John Masters informs his father that he has been appointed an ensign in “1st Battalion of St. Louis Volunteers, Comp (E)” and will be departing for Santa Fe the next morning. He asks his father to pay a $15 debt he incurred with a St. Louisan and informs him to address future letters to him in care of the battalion at Santa Fe, noting that mail for Santa Fe departs St. Louis on a monthly basis. Very good. Item #009164

Masters's official military records show that he had enlisted as a private in Lt. Col I. E. Powell’s Battalion of Missouri Mounted Volunteers (also known as Mounted Battalion Missouri Mexican War Volunteers and later as Powell’s Battalion Oregon Volunteers) just two week before this letter was written.

When the unit was organized, it was originally intended to travel to New Mexico via the Santa Fe Trail to fight in the Mexican-American War. However, Congress had recently determined that a Regular Army force was needed to protect pioneers from attacks by Native Americans while traveling to the Northwest along the “Oregon Route.” So, the battalion was diverted from its Santa Fe assignment and instead charged with protecting the Oregon Trail until a Regular Army unit could be deployed.

By May 30th, the battalion had assembled at Camp Lucas on James H. Lucas’s pasture just west of the St. Louis city limits at what is now 12th Street (Tucker Boulevard) and Olive Street.

Public records (United States Congressional serial set, Issue 2711) reflect that by December, the battalion had marched through Fort Leavenworth to a point on the Missouri River known as Table Creek (now Nebraska City) where it established winter quarters. It broke camp in April of 1848 and marched west along the Great Platte River Road where in June it established a fortification—which it christened Fort Childs—on the south bank of the Nebraska (Great Platte) River just below the head of Grand Island. While there, Lt. Col. Powell concluded a peace treaty with the four confederated bands of Pawnee Indians: the Grand Pawnee, Loups Pawnee, Republican Pawnee, and Tappage Pawnee.

The battalion remained at Fort Childs, which had been renamed Fort Kearny, until October of 1848 when its term of service expired, and it was relieved by a Regular Army unit after which it was mustered out of the service.

Although the battalion never made it to New Mexico, Congress eventually approved Mexican-American War pensions for its surviving members in 1889. While Mexican-American War mail from units deployed via the Santa Fe Trail to fight in and defend New Mexico are scarce, correspondence from the first military unit sent to protect the Oregon Trail and establish an Army post that eventually became Fort Kearny appears to be non-existent other than this letter. As of 2018, no correspondence from this unit is for sale in the trade, and no other correspondence from the unit has appeared at auction per ABPC and the Rare Book Hub. OCLC shows no institutional holdings of correspondence from this unit.

Price: $750.00