Iowa History Daily: July 8 - Morgan's Mounted Volunteers

Iowa History Daily: On July 8, 1846, John McGowan Morgan, as well as twelve other men, commissioned into the United State military at Fort Atkinson, Iowa Territory. Morgan joined in response to the escalating conflict known today as the Mexican-American War. “Morgan’s Mounted Volunteers” never arrived in Mexico, but ended up providing surprising service to the United States during the earliest years of Iowa’s American history.

The United States Congress authorized the raising of fifty-thousand volunteers during May of 1846, following the outbreak of hostilities in a disputed strip of territory between the US and Mexico. Although Iowa still existed as a territory for another seven months, many of the inhabitants of the area jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for military service.

Territorial Governor James Clarke called for ten companies. Twelve companies formed from ten Iowa counties: Des Moines, Van Buren, Muscatine, Louisa, Washington, Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, and Jefferson. The companies waited for service, but never got the call. Although many migrating Latter Day Saints pulled from southern Iowa camps served in the famous “Mormon Battalion” and a distinct group of 100 Iowa Volunteers attached as Company K of the 15th Infantry under General Winfield Scott did see action at the Battle of Vera Cruz and during the siege of Mexico City.

Morgan’s Mounted Volunteers never made it to Mexico, but served another purpose for the American government during their time of service. In June of 1848, the group provided military support as the government sought to relocate the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) from Wisconsin homelands and a temporary home in Iowa’s “Neutral Ground” around Fort Atkinson to a new home in Minnesota Territory. Escorting nearly 3,000 people with a baggage train including 166 wagons and 1,600 horses, Morgan’s men slowly headed toward Long Prairie.

The dispossessed Ho-Chunk offered some resistance, and Morgan called to Fort Snelling and Fort Crawford for reinforcement after an alleged plot allying the Ho-Chunk and Dakota posed a threat to the government’s intentions of moving the tribe west of the Mississippi. After an American show of force, the procession moved on, ultimately arriving at Long Prairie, Minnesota, by October 4, 1848. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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