The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 184
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
expedition and the remarkable individuals that were involved in the en-
terprise. The Sprague document is significant in that it not only details
the first major attempt to transport supplies between San Antonio and
El Paso, it also removes the mystery surrounding the outcome of a signif-
icant subsequent event. In order to place this wagon train expedition of
1850 in proper historical perspective, it is necessary to review some of
the events leading to it.
In the summer of 1849, Bvt. Lt. Col. Joseph E. Johnston" of the Army's
Topographical Engineers directed an expedition over what was to be-
come known as the southern military road between San Antonio and El
Paso del Norte. Johnston was escorted by Capt. John H. King's company
of First Infantry, and accompanied by Bvt. Maj. Jefferson Van Horne's
Third Infantry Regiment, as well as a party of California-bound immi-
grants. Led by Johnston's road-builders, but with Van Horne as military
commander, it was the first expedition to set out over this new trail, and,
like Sprague's train a year later, it was a large one. Van Horne's Third
Infantry alone consisted of six companies totaling 21 o rank and file. To
transport the regiment's stores and property were 275 wagons and 2,500
animals. The route had been reconnoitered by Lts. W. H. C. Whiting'
Ovid, New York Mrs. Messmer's great grandfather was Gen. Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody,
West Point class of 1866, who later served in the Spanish American War. The Messmers believe
the Sprague document originated with General Dunwoody. Ben E. Pingenot acquired Major
Sprague's journal from the Messmers in 1981. See Sprague, "Journal,"July 9, 1850.
SJoseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891), a native of Virginia, graduated from the United
States Military Academy (hereafter U S.M.A.) in 1829. During the Seminole campaign he served
as aide-de-camp to Gen. Winfield Scott. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel during the
Mexican War and was cited for gallantry at the Battle of Cerro Gordo, where he was severely
wounded. From 1848 to 1853, Johnston was chief topographical engineer of the Eighth Military
Department After attaining the rank of brigadier general, he resigned in 1861 to enter the Con-
federate army, rising to the rank of full general From 1879 to 1881, he represented his state in
the U.S. Congress, and from 1887 to 1891 he served as U.S. commissioner of railroads. Heit-
man, Histoncal Register, I, 578; Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen Bran-
da (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3 vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1952, 1976),
" A native of Pennsylvania, Van Horne graduated in 1827 from the U.S.M.A. and was breveted
second lieutenant in the infantry. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the Third Infantry in
1836 and to captain in 1840. He was breveted to major in 1847 for gallant and meritorious con-
duct during the Mexican War battles of Contreras and Churubusco. Van Horne commanded the
first garrison at the post which became Fort Bliss, and he permitted the organization of the El
Paso region during the 1849-185o dispute between Texas and New Mexico over the jurisdiction
of the area. He died at Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 28, 1857 Heitman, Hstorical
Register, I, 988; Webb, Carroll, and Branda (eds.), Handbook of Texas, II, 831.
William Henry Chase Whiting of Mississippi graduated first in the class of 1845 at the
U.S M.A. and was commissioned a second heutenant in the Corps of Engineers He was promot-
ed to first lieutenant in 1853 and to captain in 1858. He resigned his commission in 1861 and
entered the service of the Confederacy, rising to the rank of major general. In January 1865,
during the federal attack on Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, N C., Whiting was severely wounded;
then taken as a prisoner of war to Governor's Island, New York, where he died on March 1o,
1865. Heitman, Histoncal Register, I, 103O, George W Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers
and Graduates of the U S.Milatary Academy at West Point, N Y. . (4 vols., 3rd ed., Boston:
Houghton, Mifflin and Co, 1891), II, 112-113.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/222/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.