Notes and Documents
Mules, Packs, and Packtrains
EMMETT M. ESSIN, III*
W HENEVER LEAN UNITED STATES CAVALRYMEN IN THEIR DUSTY
blues rode on extended expeditions into Indian country, they
truly earned whatever glory and credit came their way. Yet without
necessary equipment and supplies they would have been helpless
within a week. At best a trooper could carry only minimum supplies
himself. Since a mount carried a maximum of 250 pounds including
the rider, this meant that the trooper limited himself to essentials-
250 rounds of ammunition, weapons, sometimes a change of clothing,
bedsack, two days' rations, and one day's supply of grain.' All other
necessary equipment was supplied by pack or wagon trains following
During the early years of cavalry service, the army had difficulty
organizing an efficient supply system for mobile troops. At first they
used wagons. When Captain Matthew Duncan's Rangers escorted the
Santa Fe Caravan of 1833, they were supplied by army wagons. With
a definite trail to follow and fairly level terrain, wagon transportation
in this case was appropriate." But on the Dodge expedition to the
Pawnee Pict villages the following year the use of wagons turned out
to be a mistake. There were no marked trails to follow; much of the
march was over rugged terrain; wagons broke down and details had
to be left to guard them while they were being repaired. When the
First Dragoons encountered the Cross Timbers, the wagons had to be
abandoned and supplies were "jerry rigged" on the mules and oxen.
As early as June 22, Lieutenant T. B. Wheelock underlined in his
*Emmett M. Essin, III, is associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University.
'Philip St. George Cooke, Cavalry Tactics or Regulations for the Instruction, Formation,
and Movements of the Cavalry of the Army and Volunteers of the United States (Wash-
ington, 1862), 15-16.
2Otis E. Young, "The United States Mounted Ranger Battalion, 1832-1833," The Mis-
sissippi Valley Historical Review, XLI (December, 1954), 461-464.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 74, July 1970 - April, 1971. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101200/. Accessed January 31, 2015.