top of page

Dragoons March from Montrose: Iowa Time Machine June 7, 1835

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On June 7, 1835, the 1st United States Dragoon took up a line of march through the Des Moines River Valley under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny. In the first major American military expedition up the Des Moines, the government tasked the Dragoons with documenting the lands that would become Iowa.

An expedition stretching over 1,100 from First Fort Des Moines Montrose on the Mississippi, up the confluence of the Boone River with the Des Moines, over to the village of Dakota leader Wabasha, and back to the Des Moines near the headwaters in modern-day Minnesota, roughly 160 men made the summer 1835 journey into the relatively unknown.

The Dragoons, soldiers mounted on horseback who fought on foot, were a forerunner to the more familiar cavalry soldiers of the late 1800s. Brought to Iowa to document lands, develop military forts, and enforce boundaries between overly eager settlers and Iowa’s Indigenous peoples, the Dragoons represented a key presence on the Iowa frontier.

Kearny’s men separated into three companies for the journey up the Des Moines. Additionally, five four-horse wagons and a herd of cattle accompanied the Dragoons across a landscape of bison-filled prairies, oak savannah, and slough hard to imagine today. The commander of Company B, Lieutenant Albert Lea, recorded his observations of the journey in a little book called “Notes on the Wisconsin Territory, Particularly Pertaining to the Iowa District.”

You might notice a similarity between Lea’s book title and “Notes on Iowa,” and the cross-over is intentional. The “Notes on Iowa” project started with a 2021 walk across Iowa following the route of the 1835 Dragoons expedition. To learn more about the Dragoons, the walk across Iowa, and many other Iowa topics, visit (walk across Iowa). #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


bottom of page