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Iowa Article: "Captain James Allen and Fort Des Moines" by Editor, Annals of Iowa

In a brief editorial ode to Captain James Allen of the Iowa Dragoons, the 1937 editor of Annals of Iowa provided a sketch of the man who in 1843 led the Dragoons up the river in order to establish (Second) Fort Des Moines. After the successful establishment of the fort, Allen sent back a detailed report to the War Department, clearly showcasing his "thorough acquaintance with the adjacent territory."

After leaving Fort Des Moines for Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Allen passed away in 1846 on his way to the Mexican-American War. No known photograph of Allen existed until his extended relatives sent the picture (below) to the Historical Curator for Iowa during 1937. The relatives also enclosed a letter detailing more information about Allen's life. Allen's parents immigrated from northern Ireland in 1799, seven years before the birth of James. Born in 1806, James went on to graduate from West Point on July 1, 1825 as a brevet second lieutenant. After being initially assigned to the 5th Infantry in July 1829, James became second lieutenant for the Iowa Dragoons in March of 1833. The letter also goes on to briefly detail the life of Robert Allen, brother to James, who also graduated from West Point before serving the American military in the Seminole War, the Mexican-American War, and in the American Civil War (specifically on Sherman's 'March to the Sea').

Although the article is brief, Allen has great significance to the Summer 2021 "Notes on Iowa" project in that his report provides clear information developed from the initial expedition of the Iowa Dragoons in 1835, while also providing updates on how the environment already had begun to change.


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