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Iowa History Daily: August 19 - Return of the Dragoons

Iowa History Daily: On August 19, 1835, the 1st United States Dragoons arrived back at First Fort Des Moines (Montrose) following a successful expedition spanning over 1,000 miles exploring Iowa for the United States government.

Arriving in Iowa during the late fall of 1834, Kearny’s men struggled through a bitterly cold winter before orders arrived for a summer campaign into Iowa’s interior. Orders instructed Companies B, H, and I to proceed to the Des Moines River Confluence with the Raccoon for the purpose of finding a suitable location for a military fort. An extension of the orders detailed an overland march north-by-northeast to the Dakota leader Wabasha’s village near modern-day Winona, Minnesota, and then back west to the headwaters of the Des Moines before descending back to their post on the Mississippi.

As the Dragoons prepared for the June 7 departure, fate stepped in to grant Albert Lea the opportunity to lead one of the three companies. Although Captain Nathan Boone (namesake of Boone, Iowa), Captain E.V. Sumner, and Captain Jesse B. Brown drew the original assignments to lead the individual companies under Kearny, Brown took ill as the troops prepared to march. Lieutenant Lea stepped in to the captain’s responsibilities, and opened the possibility of his creating an extensive record of his observations of the expedition.

The resultant “Notes on the Wisconsin Territory, particularly concerning the Iowa District,” represents a major entry in the early history of Iowa, and also inspired the name of “Notes on Iowa.” In 2021, “Notes on Iowa” started with a 370-mile journey on foot to follow the Dragoons, and the website continues a great deal of information related to the expedition. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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