Iowa History Daily: July 2 - Kearny's 1820 Expedition Moves North

Iowa History Daily: On July 2, 1820, an American military expedition of Dragoons embarked from Council Bluffs (Fort Nebraska) across what would become Iowa to the mouth of the Minnesota River (Fort Snelling). Captain Stephen Watts Kearny, as well as Lieutenant Andrew Talcott, left journals detailing significant information about the lands now known as the Hawkeye State.

Embarking from Council Bluff, roughly 30 miles beyond the mouth of the Platte in Nebraska, the group of five officers, fifteen soldiers, three Indigenous guides, and four servants struck out for Camp Coldwater (later Fort Snelling). Eight mules and seven horses aided the travelers as they struck out to chart a new road between the two military forts on distant edges of an expanding America.

On July 4, the expedition paused at the Boyer River to celebrate the United States. “This day being the anniversary of our Independence, we celebrated it, to the extent of our means; an extra gill of whiskey was issued to each man…and (we) drank to the memory of our forefathers in a mint julup [sic],” recorded Kearny’s journal.

A week later, on July 11, the expedition encountered a massive herd of bison near the future site of Northwood in North Iowa. “...discovered a large drove of Buffaloe to our left, probably 5 thousand…” Other entries detail a wide-variety of early environmental information including plant, animal, and weather observations. Complaints about heavy dew soaking the soldiers and pesky mosquitoes often appear throughout the journal.

On July 25, the weary travelers arrived at Camp Coldwater feeling as if the road taken did not represent a realistic option for future travelers. “The object of the exploring party which I have accompanied from the C.B. being to discover a practicable route for traveling between that Post & this, the one we have come is not, in the least, adapted for that purpose,” determined Kearny. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistory Calendar


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