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“A campaign against the Navajo”: Highlights from Territorial Papers of the United States

Posted on 07/30/2019


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The July release of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1765-1953, includes many revealing letters between military officers, territorial officials, and the executive branch of the federal government. This correspondence from New Mexico Territory, October 1862, showcases a single episode in the wide range of military campaigns against the Navajo and other tribes covered in this digital collection. 

Captain J.C. Shaw to General B.C. Cutler. Unauthorized Indian Campaigns, etc., Oct. 6, 1862

Writing from Head Quarters, Western Military District, Department of New Mexico, Captain Shaw reports his observations and requests orders:

Sir: In the instructions for the guidance of the Officer commanding this District it states that all parties not legally authorized will be prevented from campaigning against the Navajo Indians etc., and that due notice of any such force being authorized would be furnished to the Commanding Officer of the District.

The Alcalde of this place is now enrolling militia men to be ready to march on the 15th of the month against Navajos. I have seen the Governor …. in relation to the movement, but have no official notice of it.

The attention of the General Commanding is respectfully called to this subject, and his orders, thereon requested.


H.S. Johnson to Governor Connelly. Desires Permission to Make Campaign against Navajos, Oct. 23, 1862

Later in October 1862, a request for aforementioned authorization was sent to New Mexico Governor Henry Connelly (1800-1866) and delivered to territorial secretary and Acting Governor William Frederick Milton Arny (1813-1881).

Sir: By request of Juan Padilla…and of other residents of Bernalillo, Valencia, and Socorro counties, I write to you to give permission to the said Padilla and others to the number of two hundred and upwards, to make a campaign against the Navajo Indians. The said Padilla and others furnishing their own arms, equipment, subsistence, etc. and to take for their compensation such spoil as they may take from said Indians.

I am well acquainted with Juan Padilla. He is an honest, sober, and industrious man and well acquainted with the Navajo Country, wherein he has heretofore served as a guide to the United States Troops. He is also a citizen of the United States of undoubted loyalty.

Therefore, I recommend that your Excellency grant him a license to make such campaign.


W.F.M. Arny to H.S. Johnson. Request Can Not Be Granted, Oct. 25, 1862

Acting Governor William F. M. Arny responded two days later, acknowledging Johnson’s letter and writing:

In response I beg leave to say that in the present condition of the Navajo Indians, it would be improper for me to grant the permission you request. The Mexican and Indian Expeditions, such as you propose, do not discriminate between the friendly and the unfriendly Indians. The consequence of which is that, but a few days ago, a party of friendly Navajos, who are located in the settlements and had placed themselves under the protection of the officers of the government, were attacked and some killed.

We have therefore decided that no expedition can be authorized, without the concurrence of the Commandant of the Military Department and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who have under their protection some fifteen hundred friendly Navajos.

We are adopting measures to reach effectually and punish the unfriendly Indians.


W.F.M Arny to Brigadier-General J.H. Carleton. Indian Matters, Oct. 25, 1862

William Arny also wrote to Brigadier-General James Henry Carleton on the same day about steps being taken to maintain peaceful relations with the “friendly Navajos.”

It is important that the Mohucha Utahs and Jicarilla Apaches who, to the number of fifteen hundred, are located east of the Rio Grande and who are compelled to range to the mountains south of Tars Mountain, should be kept friendly as they do now actually possess the balance of power between the citizens of this Territory and the unfriendly Indians (the Mexcaleros Southern Apaches, and Navajos).

If the Utahs and Jicarilla Apaches are not kept under the contract of the Agent, there will be no safety to the mails and trains from the states.

A few days ago I held a council with them and enlisted the Agent…to issue their annual presents to them, and took the occasion to urge upon them the importance of being at peace with the government of the United States and discontinuing their expeditions against the Indians of the Plains and also against the Navajos, and that they must not commit any depredations upon the settlers and their stock.

They addressed me that if they were supplied with provisions for themselves, their wives and children, they would remain quiet at or near the Agency; but if not supplied with provisions, they would be compelled to steal cattle from the Ranchos and corn from the fields of the settlers.


J.H. Carleton to Captain Amos F. Garrison. Orders on Provisions for Indians, Oct. 29, 1862

Within days of Arny’s letter, Brigadier-General James Henry Carleton directed Captain Amos F. Garrison to provide supplies per Arny’s request. Carlton writes:

You will purchase sixty head of Beef Cattle of the Chief Quarter Master of this Department, the cattle to be delivered to you at Fort Union on the 3d day of November…

These cattle you will transfer to Colonel James L. Collins, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, as subsistence for some Utah and Jicarilla (Apache Indians), who are represented by the Acting Governor of New Mexico and by Colonel Collins to be in want of food for the coming winter.

You will confer with Colonel Collins as to whom you shall transfer these cattle at Fort Union…


J.H. Carleton to W.F.M Arny. In Reply to Letter of Oct. 25, Oct. 31, 1862

Brigadier General Carleton, after issuing orders to Captain Garrison, replied to Arny, writing:

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th inst., and to say in reply that I have given orders to transfer to the Indian Department sixty head of beeves for the Indians whom you represent as being in a destitute condition.

It is out of my power at this moment to establish troops at Gurina [sic] Pass. But you may rest assured that I will cooperate with you by all proper means to see justice done to friendly Indians, as well as to unfriendly Indians.


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