The 9th United States Cavalry was formed during the Civil War as a segregated unit with African American troopers and white officers. The regiment was stationed in the West in 1867 and served in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, and Wyoming. In 1898 it took part in the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba.
In 1891, Troop E, located at Fort Washakie, Wyoming, was ordered to Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The wife of one of the officers, Lieutenant Montgomery Parker, had given birth to a daughter three weeks before. She was still weak, so her mother, Mary E. Almy, came to Fort Washakie to help during the move. Mrs. Parker was laid on the floor of the “ambulance” (a covered wagon) cushioned by eight buffalo hides. The new baby, Mildred, was placed in an Arapaho cradle board attached to the ribs of the wagon cover. Between caring for her daughter and granddaughter, Mary Almy kept a journal of the trip which began on May 18, 1891.
“I am chief nurse and doctoress and so far am getting along very successfully. L [Lizabeth] stands the trips, excitements and all very well, and her appetite is improving, and I see no reason why she shouldn’t go through all right. [Mildred] loves to cuddle and be cuddled and kissed and fussed over. That makes her such a comfort and plaything.”
Mrs. Almy also took note of the soldiers who created their camp at the end of each day after a difficult march: “This horde of black men got the seven tents up for the officers in marvelously quick time…The escort wagons were mired twice today.” Almy provided details about one such incident. “The escort wagons were ahead. Two first ones decided to drive through the pond, down a steep pitch and up an incline. They got over all right. Number three, the heaviest of all, with trunks and bedding, then came down. Mr. Driver thought he’d take the road…tipping the huge bulky old wagon on its side, down the embankment and into the pond. I thought, ‘Oh, Mary! All the clothes you’ve got are in the consommé!’” Fortunately, the contents of the wagon had little damage.
More excitement was encountered at the crossing of the Sweetwater River. “The men cut down the bank on the farther side of the river to make the ascent less steep. L…took Mildred in her lap and put her feet up on the opposite seat, where the bags and the rugs were piled almost to the top of the ambulance. Mont got in to keep them from falling off the seat, and a lively time those rebellious bags gave him, chasing each other off the seats, on the floor, into the water that slowly oozed in between the cracks, as we bounced over boulders and slipped between the rocks.”
Hunting was apparently encouraged to supplement rations. “We have had hopes of an antelope all day,” Almy noted, “as we have seen them several times at a distance, but the men are not good hunters, therefore they missed two that are quite close.” Lizabeth Parker also had bad luck. “Close to the road we drove on to seven sage hens. Holmes, the driver, had a carbine. L got out and walked to a good shooting distance and fired and shot too high, of course. She fired again at two, close together, and the ball struck the ground between them. If she had had a short gun, she’d have gotten the two hens.” It was not all disappointment. The Parkers’ “striker”, Greene, “came to the tent and rapped. ‘Can I speak to the lieutenant?’ He had five small fish. Some of the men are catching them in a net here in the Platte River.”
On June 12 the company arrived in Casper, where, according to Almy, “we attain the commonplace again.” At Casper, the troops were loaded onto railroad cars for the rest of the trip to Fort Robinson. From Fort Robinson Mary Almy mailed her journal to a relative with instructions to return it later, so she could copy it into Mildred’s baby book as a record of “Mildred’s First Journey.”
In 1981 Mildred, now grown and married to General Barton Kyle Yount, sent a transcription of the narrative to the American Heritage Center. “I cannot send the original” she explained, “because the paper it is written on is so old that it is cracking.” Mildred Almy Parker Yount died in 1986.
The location of the original journal is now unknown.
Extracts from Mary E. Almy journal, Collection Number 3596, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
Blog contribution by D. Claudia Thompson, Processing Manager, American Heritage Center