Historic Fort Steilacoom

The History of Fort Steilacoom

By John McPherson

Origins (1849–53)

In the aftermath of the U.S.-Mexican War and facing the rapid settlement of the Pacific Coast in the wake of the California Gold Rush, the U.S. Army established Fort Steilacoom to both project American power and secure American interest in the Puget Sound Region of what was then, the Oregon Territory. Fort Steilacoom was a key element in America’s new Pacific Defense system.

First manned by soldiers of Company M, 1st Artillery Regiment beginning in August 1849, the fort's first buildings were built on land leased from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Upon this site, the artillerymen erected simple log structures. By 1853, Fort Steilacoom was now a part of the new Department of the Pacific and the embryonic Washington Territory.

Top of page

Expansion of the Fort (1853–55)

Fort Steilacoom grew in size and importance with the arrival of two companies of the 4th Infantry Regiment in 1853. In 1854, soldiers from these companies were detached to assist in survey and road-building work throughout the Puget Sound Region and across the Cascades through Naches Pass. These troops also aided in protecting the property and personal safety of recently-arrived American settlers.

The autumn of 1855 saw significant activity for the post. Recently-signed treaties gave rise to an Indian insurgency on both sides of the Cascades. Following a series of murders in the White River Valley( located north of the fort), Fort Steilacoom served as a temporary refuge for settlers fleeing the carnage and threat of violence.

Steilacoom was seriously undermanned at this time; most of its troop complement had taken the field. Skirmishing and patrols of both Regulars and Volunteer troops took place during the autumn of 1855. Ft. Steilacoom took on the appearance of a fort under siege. It was in December 1855 that Ft. Steilacoom lost one of its favorite officers, Lt. William Alloway Slaughter in an ambush along the Green River. Lt. Slaughter, and two of his enlisted soldiers, were brought back to the post for burial in the midst of a full-scale insurgency.

Top of page

Arrival of the 9th Infantry Regiment (1855)

General John Wool dispatched the first Regular Army reinforcements to Ft. Steilacoom in November 1855 with the deployment of one company of soldiers from the 3rd Artillery Regiment commanded by Capt. Erasmus Darwin Keyes. They were followed shortly by the arrival of a new post commander, Lt. Colonel Silas Casey of the 9th Infantry Regiment.

Several companies of the 9th, with Keyes’s artillery troops, and troops of the 4th Infantry marched out of Ft. Steilacoom in February 1856 to confront Indian insurgents along the Naches Pass Road. In conjunction with soldiers of the Washington Territorial Volunteers and allied Native Americans, the American forces engaged in aggressive patrolling and occupation of key trails and traditional food-gathering sites of the Native American insurgents.

Several sharp firefights occurred near the White River, particularly in the area of Connell’s Prairie in today’s community of Bonney Lake. A successful raid on the insurgent camp near the Mashel River by Indians under the leadership of Patkanim effectively crushed the Native American resistance in the area. Later raids by volunteer "rangers" and the failed attempt to wipe out the fledgling settlement of Seattle undoubtedly weakened the resistance movement.

By late March of 1856, the Puget Sound phase of the wider Yakama War had concluded. Continued murders and fighting occurred, but none involved the Federal troops of Ft. Steilacoom.

Top of page

Incarceration of Leschi & New Construction at the Fort (1856–58)

The betrayal of lead insurgent, Leschi of the Nisqually, by his former allies and his ensuing two trials strained relations between the officers of the fort and local civilian authorities. Leschi remained incarcerated at Ft. Steilacoom after a failed attempt on his life in the office of none other than Washington Territorial Governor, Isaac Stevens.

Although Lt. August Kautz presented convincing evidence at trial proving Leschi’s innocence regarding the murder charges levied against the chief, Leschi was declared guilty based on "new" evidence provided in the form of eyewitness testimony newly-discovered in the second trial. A legal controversy ensued between Territorial government officials and the fort’s officers as to how to proceed with carrying out Leschi’s death sentence. Lt. Kautz vigorously defended the innocence of Leschi in a series of print articles under the title of "The Truth Teller." In the end, Leschi was hung by civil authorities, not Regular Army troops. Lt. Col. Casey demanded that Leschi be executed at least 300 yards off post and that his men not be involved in the affair.

In 1857, Casey secured Federal funds to expand and modernize Ft. Steilacoom as befitting its status as district headquarters and its expanding role in local affairs. The fort now served as the central hub for military operations in the Puget Sound region, operations that included local security, road-building, and frontier constabulary. Lt. August Kautz supervised the removal of the original log buildings and the construction of new stick-frame and brick structures. Kautz utilized the labor of both soldiers and civilian contract laborers in the raising of new fort buildings. Foundation bricks were fired on site, finish lumber was purchased from local mills, and Kautz employed an innovative water ram to increase the speed of construction.

Top of page

San Juan Island “Pig War” & the Military Road (1859–60)

Fort Steilacoom was nearly emptied of all of its troops as a result of the so-called "Pig War" of the summer and autumn of 1859. This boundary dispute involving the San Juan Islands gave rise to a massive build-up of American troops on the southern tip of San Juan Island.

Initially, only one company of 9th Infantry troops under the command of Capt. George Pickett had been ordered to establish a presence on the island. When confronted with the overwhelming superiority of firepower and numbers of the British Navy in the vicinity, Pickett hastily called for reinforcements. His request was granted in the form of nearly 500 artillery, infantry, and engineer troops under the command of Lt. Col. Silas Casey.

Upon arriving on the island, Casey wisely moved the camp started by Pickett to a less-exposed position, he began the construction of a redoubt intended for large guns, and he engaged in friendly, diplomatic conversation with his British counterparts anchored offshore.

The American encampment and redoubt project lasted only a short time. By November 1860, negotiations involving General Winfield Scott and British Governor James Douglas settled on the placement of a company-sized element from both countries on either end of the island. The first American company to be stationed on the island at the conclusion of negotiations was Company C of the 4th Infantry from Ft. Steilacoom. This company was commanded by Captain Lewis Cass Hunt and Lt. Arthur Schaaf while on the island until it was withdrawn and replaced in April 1860 by Captain Pickett’s company of the 9th Infantry. In 1861, Ft. Steilacoom would provide another company to the island’s defense; Capt. Thomas English of Company H/9th Infantry would replace Pickett’s company.

Concerns over the supply of, communications with, and reinforcement of military posts from Vancouver Barracks to the Cowlitz River to Ft. Steilacoom and northward to Ft. Bellingham led to plans for construction of a military road between these points. Survey work was completed by soldiers of the 9th Infantry assigned to Ft. Steilacoom and contracts were awarded to various speculators for the construction and maintenance of this new road. While a rough-hewn, east-west freight road had been initiated between Ft. Steilacoom and Walla Walla using the Naches Pass route, this new north-south route would never be completed. Events back east would dry up Federal funds for the project.

Top of page

American Civil War Period (1861–65)

News of the presidential victory of Abraham Lincoln reached Ft. Steilacoom in early December 1860. Southern states almost immediately began to secede from the United States in response to Lincoln’s election. Federal arsenals across the South were seized and their contents redistributed to rapidly mobilizing rebel forces. In response to this threat, Lincoln called for the concentration of Federal troops in the East. Ft. Steilacoom was a flurry of activity as its companies packed and prepared to assemble with their respective regiments in ports in California.

Upon redeployment to the East, the Regular soldiers of Ft. Steilacoom would be a part of the Federal Division, the trained, professional nucleus within what would become a primarily volunteer force formed for the purpose of putting down the rebellion of Southern states. Soldiers of the 4th Regiment assembled with their fellow companies in Southern California for transport to the East Coast. Soldiers of the 9th Regiment expected to do the same. Threats of Confederate sympathizers and the potential for both foreign and Native-American attack convinced President Lincoln to keep the 9th Infantry on the West Coast for the duration of the Civil War.

The draining of Federal troops from Ft. Steilacoom necessitated the recruitment of volunteer troops to take their place. Washington Territory was never able to recruit enough men to fill the ranks of an entire regiment. Instead, the territory supplied two companies of troops and filled the rest of its allotted regiment with California Volunteers. During the American Civil War, Ft. Steilacoom was manned by companies G and K of the 1st Washington Infantry Regiment as well as by soldiers from the 1st Oregon Infantry Regiment and Company E of the 4th California Infantry Regiment. These volunteer troops were a part of a much larger organization of West Coast regiments called the Army of the Pacific.

In the absence of Regular Army soldiers, these citizen-soldiers took on the task of maintaining the peace between Native peoples and often hostile whites. They also improved and protected established communication and transportation routes.

Top of page

Post-Civil War Period & Transfer to the Territory (1865–68)

By the middle of April 1865, citizens of the town of Steilacoom and volunteer troops at Ft. Steilacoom had received the news of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

Even before the end of war, volunteer officers had tendered their resignations and the companies of volunteer troops had begun to dwindle in size. After the war, soldiers of the 14th Infantry Regiment were stationed briefly at Fort Steilacoom. But, by 1868, new Indian insurgencies east of the Cascades prompted General Halleck to reallocate U.S. Army resources.

Many of the posts established on the West Coast during the 1850s were closed, including Ft. Steilacoom. The 640 acre fort and farm site was turned over to the Washington Territory.

In 1871, Territorial officials used the fort’s buildings and property as the "Insane Asylum of Washington Territory." This asylum would continue to grow over the years. Many of the post’s original 1857 buildings would be torn down and replaced by newer, more modern facilities to support the needs of the asylum. Later, the asylum replaced its territorial name with the moniker, "Western State Hospital."

Top of page

Modern Period (1983–Present)

Today, four of the fort’s original buildings remain on site, open to visitors and school groups alike. The post’s Catholic chapel was moved in 1864 and currently serves an active congregational gathering place in downtown Steilacoom, not far from the fort.

Beginning in 1983, local volunteers raised funds and donated generously of their time and skills to renovate and restore the original officer’s homes that had been left in disrepair. This dedicated group formed the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association to not only restore the buildings, but also interpret the site for future generations.

The association currently sponsors monthly events and activities promoting the history and personalities associated with Ft. Steilacoom. The HFSA is a non-profit organization run by volunteers whose Board meets each month to determine the direction of the fort’s interpretation. These volunteers host various work parties, living history demonstrations, guided tours of the fort buildings, & lecture programs. The HFSA also operates an on-site museum and gift store that is open to the public throughout the year.

Top of page

Fort Personalities

E. Porter Alexander

E. Porter Alexander

E.P. Alexander was born in 1835 in Wilkes County, Georgia. He graduated third in his class from the USMA at West Point in 1857. He served briefly as an instructor in Engineering and Fencing before being deployed to Utah as part of the 1857 Mormon Expedition.

Alexander returned from the expedition to resume his duties at the USMA and married soon thereafter. He had helped develop the U.S. Signal Corps in concert with Surgeon A. Myer when he received orders to report for duty at Ft. Steilacoom in 1860.

Lt. Alexander replaced Lt. Henry Martyn Robert in command of a detachment of 36 sappers at the post. He received news of the secession of Georgia while at Ft. Steilacoom and he decided at that time to resign his commission in the U.S. Army. Alexander fought in the American Civil War as General Longstreet’s Chief of Artillery with his most memorable assignment being that of commanding the Reserve Artillery at Gettysburg.

After the war, Alexander served as a university mathematics instructor, railroad executive, and foreign diplomat. He maintained friendly ties with his fellow officers and a close friendship with President Grover Cleveland.

Toggle full biography →

James M. Bachelder

James Bachelder served for a time as post sutler at Ft. Steilacoom. Born in Falmouth, Maine in 1817, Mr. Bachelder apprenticed as a seamen and later relocated to Port Townsend near the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He served as master of the George Emory, lumber schooner captained by Steilacoom founder, Lafayette Balch.

In 1850, Bachelder settled in Steilacoom with his wife Sarah and their four children. As with many frontier settlers, he supplemented his income with federal appointments. By 1853, Mr. Bachelder was the U.S. Commissioner and Justice of the Peace of the Third Judicial District of Washington Territory. He handled marriages, legal disputes, and land claims for the district.

In opposition to public opinion, Bachelder joined the officers of Ft. Steilacoom in opposing the execution of Leschi in 1858. He used his power as Justice of the Peace to delay the execution by arresting the Pierce County sheriff and his deputy on the day of the execution on January 22, 1858. This led to Bachelder’s hanging in effigy by the citizens of Olympia. He was also removed from office.

Bachelder attempted to run for office that same year as well as maintain a positive cash flow in his sutler’s store on the fort. According to the diary of August Kautz, the Bachelder family hosted guests frequently at their home on the fort’s campus and that Bachelder was a “great drinker” as well as a “strong, hearty looking man.”

In 1861 Mr. Bachelder helped organize Steilacoom’s first Masonic lodge. He also served as the Pierce County auditor from 1862 to 1864. James Bachelder died young on April 8, 1865 at the age of 47 leaving behind a wife and four children.

Toggle full biography →

Silas Casey & Abigail Perry Pearce Casey

Silas Casey Abigail Perry Pearce Casey (Mrs. Silas Casey)

Silas Casey was born in 1807 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He graduated from the USMA in 1826, 40th in his class of 42, and was assigned to the 7th Inf’y.

He saw his first service and combat in the Red River region but later left the 7th for an official appointment with the 2nd Inf’y. Casey saw additional action in the Second Seminole War and he was a part of General Scott’s invasion of Mexico City. Casey was wounded severely at Chapultepec in that campaign. After the Mexican War, Casey served with the 4th Inf’y on the Pacific Coast and later formed the command nucleus of the 9th Inf’y raised in 1855 under Colonel George Wright.

Casey arrived at Ft. Steilacoom in the winter of 1855 as commander of the District of Puget Sound and as a Lt. Colonel of the 9th Inf’y. Casey returned East during the Civil War, rising to the rank of division commander in 1862. He led his division competently, but struggled to overcome structural issues inherent to the hastily-assembled & intrigue-infested Army of the Potomac. After the Battle of Fair Oaks, Casey was relieved of his command and reassigned to training soldiers and officers for combat.

In 1862, General Casey published his Infantry Tactics, a volume that reflected his beliefs on the most efficient means of training and deploying infantry soldiers. Casey’s Tactics were learned and employed by thousands of Federal troops during the Civil War. Casey retired in 1868 a brevet Brigadier-General in the Regular Army.

Toggle full biography →

Thomas Lincoln Casey & Emma Weir Casey

Thomas Lincoln Casey Emma Weir Casey

Thomas Lincoln Casey was born in 1831 in New York and was the son of Lt. Col. Silas Casey. He graduated first in his class at the USMA at West Point in 1852 and became part of the Army’s elite Topographical Engineer Corps. He taught at the USMA between the years 1853–59.

For a brief time, First Lieutenant Casey commanded two detachments of sappers, or Engineers, at Ft. Steilacoom in 1860-61. While at the fort, 1860 Census records indicate that his family, consisting of his wife, Emma Weir, and two sons lived on post, in close proximity to his parents.

During the Civil War, Casey designed and built coastal fortifications in Maine. After the war, Casey was prolific in his building of public buildings and monuments in Washington City, particularly that of the Old Executive Office Building, Library of Congress, and completion of the unfinished Washington Monument.

He achieved the rank of Brigadier General and Chief of Engineers in the U.S. Army, being among its most famous and influential officers. He would later retire to the historic Casey Farm in Rhode Island, a site interpreted today as a classic example of New England architecture and agriculture.

Toggle full biography →

Edward J. Conner

2nd Lt. Conner was posted at Ft. Steilacoom beginning in August 31, 1858 as officer in the 4th Inf’y. A native of New Hampshire and a veteran of brief service in Texas with the 5th Inf’y Reg’t, Conner took an immediate liking to Lt. Col. Casey’s second daughter, Bessie.

According to the diary entries of August Kautz, Conner enjoyed several excursions in the company of Bessie Casey while stationed at the post. In November 1860, Lt. Conner was transferred to Ft. Chehalis; this seems to have ended his pursuit of Ms. Casey.

On the eve of the American Civil War, Conner secured promotion to 1st Lt. in May 1861. He later saw combat service in the Civil War as a captain in the 17th Inf’y Reg’t.

Toggle full biography →

Thomas Cooper English

Captain Thomas English spent a considerable portion of his military career at Ft. Steilacoom. Born in Pennsylvania on Dec. 22, 1827, English entered the USMA in 1845 and graduated in July 1849.

Initially posted to the 5th Inf’y in Texas as a Bvt. 2nd Lieutenant, he garnered an official 2nd lieutenancy a year later on July 31, 1850. His promotion to the rank of 1st Lieutenant coincided with the formation of the newly-reconstituted 9th Inf’y Reg’t in March 1855.

With this promotion came English’s assignment as the Ninth’s regimental adjutant, a position that he held until May 1856. English undoubtedly helped manage the regiment’s departure from Fortress Monroe in Virgina, to its crossing of the Isthmus of Panama, and its deployment to posts throughout the Pacific Coast.

Following his work as adjutant, Lt. English served in Company H/9th Inf’y under Captain Presley N. Guthrie at Ft. Steilacoom. After Guthrie’s death in 1857, English secured promotion to Captain of the company that December. From 1857 to 1861, English commanded Co. H/9th Inf’y at Ft. Steilacoom. According to the 1860 Census, Capt. English was married to wife Cami, and he was the father of two young children, William (3 yrs.) and Harriet (2 mos.).

His company was ordered to replace Capt. Geo. Pickett’s Co. D/9th on San Juan Island in July 1861. English’s Co. H would remain on the island until November 1861. With the American Civil War in full swing, Capt. English secured a volunteer commission as a Lt. Colonel in the 1st Washington Territory Inf’y. As Regular Army soldiers left Ft. Steilacoom for deployment elsewhere, Lt. Col. English remained on post in command of Cos. G and K/1st Wash. Inf’y in 1862.

By June 1863, his command was reduced on post to that of only Co. K/1st Washington Territory Inf’y. Lt. Col. English requested additional troops of his department commander, but his request was refused in August 1863. In October 1863, Brig. Gen’l Alvord ordered English to take command of Ft. Boise, but English’s departure was delayed by an injury that he had suffered one month earlier.

Within two weeks, English received new orders ordering his presence in Portland, Oregon as Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General for the State of Oregon and Washington Territory. He arrived by steamer in late December 1863. On February 23, 1864, English would take over command of the entire 1st Washington Territory Inf’y after the mustering-out of Col. Steinberger.

This promotion required English’s presence at Ft. Walla Walla, a post consisting of Cos. A and B/1st Washington Territorial Inf’y. Not long after arriving, English was ordered to send one of his companies on an expedition against the Snake Indians. Records reveal his frustration with the presence of obsolete or broken tack as well as issues with volunteer subordinates. In July 1864, Col. Steinberger’s return to command allowed English to resume his recruiting duties in Portland, Oregon later that September.

The end of the Civil War in 1865 witnessed English’s mustering-out of volunteer service. Earlier in the war, in 1863, Captain English had been promoted to the rank of major in the 5th Inf’y. By leaving the volunteer service, now Major English reported for duty in his new regiment.

On Oct. 11, 1867, Major English sat on the court martial of Geo. A. Custer, a position that involved English in Custer’s subsequent suspension of rank, pay, and duty for one year. By February 1869, Major English secured a promotion to Lt. Colonel in the 16th Inf’y Reg’t. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 10, 1876.

Toggle full biography →

Delancey Floyd-Jones

Captain Delaney Floyd-Jones

First Lieutenant Delancey Floyd-Jones was in command of Company C, 4th Inf’y while stationed at Ft. Steilacoom between the years 1853–54. Lt. Floyd-Jones graduated from the USMA in 1846—45th in his class—and he saw subsequent service in the U.S.-Mexican War with the 4th Inf’y Regiment.

A founding member of the Aztec Club, Lt. Floyd-Jones remained with the 4th Regiment after the war. He served at several posts on the Pacific Coast until the outbreak of the Civil War.

In 1861, Capt. Floyd-Jones was promoted to the rank of Major with the 11th Inf’y; he saw significant combat action with the 11th in the Eastern Theater. Commended for his command at the Wheatfield in Gettysburg, Major Floyd-Jones took a Lt. Colonelcy with the 19th Inf’y in August 1863. In 1865, Lt. Col. Jones assumed command of the 19th Inf’y.

After the war, Floyd-Jones commanded several outposts, forts, and the 6th and 3rd Inf’y Regiments. He retired from the Army in 1879.

Toggle full biography →

Presley N. Guthrie

Presley N. Guthrie

Captain Guthrie arrived at Fort Steilacoom in the first week of February 1856 with his command, Company H/9th Inf’y. With him were 1st Lt. Davis and 2nd Lts. Fleming and David Bell McKibbon.

He was born in 1819 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Prior to the Mexican War, Guthrie rose to command of the Dusquesne Greys, but later earned a captain’s commission in the Regular Army in the 11th Inf’y Reg’t. He landed at Vera Cruz with the 11th Inf’y and saw heavy action at Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey.

Guthrie was wounded at Molino del Rey, falling twice from small arms fire. While recovering from his wounds, Guthrie received a Brevet Major’s distinction for his valor in combat.

The 11th Inf’y disbanded after the Mexican War. At this point, Presley Guthrie returned to Pennsylvania and was discharged from the Regular Army. In the early 1850s, he organized and took command of a volunteer organization (militia) company that called itself the “Independent Guthrie Grays.”

Upon the raising of the newly-organized 9th Inf’y Reg’t in early 1855, Guthrie secured a commission as captain in the new regiment. He helped train the new regiment and shortly after arriving in the District of Puget Sound in February 1856, he took the field with his troops. According to testimony provided by surgeon George Suckely, Capt. Guthrie fell ill during the rainy campaign, exhibiting a severe cold and fever.

Guthrie soon suffered from some form of bodily paralysis that most likely resulted from his advanced stage of tuberculosis, a disease that Surgeon Michael Barry testified as one Guthrie first contracted during the Mexican War. Due to poor health, Captain Guthrie applied for a furlough. He died on December 29, 1857 in Newport, Kentucky. His funeral was arranged by his old militia unit, the “Guthrie Grays” and a company of troops from the nearby Newport Barracks was turned out at the ceremony.

Presley Guthrie left behind a wife, Mary, and five children. Mary applied for and was granted her late husband’s pension in 1861. One of her sons, Edward, died in the Civil War at age 18.

Toggle full biography →

Edwin J. Harvie

1st Lt. Harvie served at the fort in Co. H/9th Inf’y under Capt. Thomas English. A VMI graduate, Harvie had seen previous service with Co. E/9th Inf’y before arriving at Steilacoom.

On March 15, 1861, Lt. Harvie resigned his commission to join the rapidly mobilizing Confederate forces. By 1862, now Lt. Col. Harvie had gained considerable wartime experience on the staff of Gen’l Joseph E. Johnston. As Assistant Inspector General, Harvie would later serve on the personal staff of Gen’l Robert E. Lee.

Later posted to the Western Theater of operations, Harvie would reunite with former commander Johnston. It is his reports on the conditions of troops in the field that offer today’s historians glimpses into the fighting readiness of Confederate combat troops throughout the war.

Toggle full biography →

Bennett H. Hill

Bennett H. Hill

Captain Hill is the founding officer of Fort Steilacoom. Ordered to construct a post on the Puget Sound in 1848, Capt. Hill negotiated a lease with the Hudson’s Bay Company that would provide a site for Cos. L and M/1st Artillery to live on and operate.

Hill, 32 years old, arrived at Ft. Steilacoom an experienced officer of 10 years in the service. Born in Washington, D.C. and an 1837 USMA graduate, Hill served in various capacities with the 1st Art’y. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1838 and to captain of Co. M ten years later after seeing service in the Mexican War. By 1853, Hill’s command was replaced by two companies of the 4th Inf’y.

In December 1854, Captain Hill received orders to lead aggressive patrols in the Florida Everglades in an effort to confine or kill Koontee insurgents. One year later (1855), Captain Hill found himself in the middle of the Third Seminole War.

As the Civil War opened in 1861, Capt. Hill, now in Texas, defied the demands of Texas militiamen to surrender his post and men near today’s Brownsville. He subsequently evacuated his command and was promoted to the rank of major in the 2nd Art’y in August 1861. Two months later, Major Hill took command of Fort Taylor, a masonry coastal artillery fort near today’s Key West, Florida.

After a brief sojourn at Ft. Taylor, Hill gained promotion to Lt. Col. In the 5th Art’y. He spent the remainder of the war in Michigan as that state’s Assistant Provost Marshal General. His responsibilities included the enrollment and drafting of volunteer troops and the investigation of seditious activities. Hill later achieved the rank of Brigadier General after the war. He died in 1886.

Toggle full biography →

Lewis Cass Hunt

Lewis Hunt

Captain Lewis Cass Hunt commanded Company C 4th Inf’y at Ft. Steilacoom on paper early as 1856, but not in person until 1858.  He was born in 1824 at Ft. Howard near today’s Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Hunt graduated 33rd in a class of 38 from the USMA in 1847. A veteran of the Mexican War and stations on the Pacific Coast, Hunt at one point shared a room with Capt. H. Ulysses Grant at Ft. Humboldt. Captain Hunt commanded Company C through its service on San Juan Island from August 1859April 1860, its occupation duty at Fort Townsend, and its transfer down the West Coast to its reassignment East at the beginning of the Civil War.

In 1859, Hunt began courting his post commander’s eldest daughter, Abby Casey. This put Hunt in conflict with one of his company officers, Lt. Arthur Schaaf. Schaaf, too, was interested in Abby, but was inclined to over-indulging in alcohol. Abby accepted Lewis’s proposal for marriage and the two were married on November 28, 1860 at the fort. Lt. Schaaf did not attend the wedding.

In 1862, Hunt was wounded leading the 92nd NY Vol. Inf’y at Fair Oaks, VA, an engagement in which Hunt served in the third brigade of a division commanded by his father-in-law and a Corps commanded by another Ft. Steilacoom alumnus, E.D. Keyes.

Recovering from his wounds, Hunt convalesced with his growing family at duty stations such as New Bern, NC and New York Harbor. For the latter half of the war, Brig. Gen’l. Hunt was the commander of the 1st Brigade/4th Div/18th Army Corps. He returned to the 4th Inf’y after the war as a major and later assumed the colonelcy of the 14th Inf’y in 1881.

Hunt suffered for most of his life from chronic dysentery and intestinal problems, a lifelong illness that was exacerbated by his service in Mexico. He died from this illness shortly after arriving for duty at Fort Union, New Mexico on September 6, 1886. Col./Bvt. Brig. Gen’l Hunt was buried in the National Cemetery at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Toggle full biography →

Abby Pearce Casey Hunt

Abby Pearce Casey Hunt (Mrs. Lewis Hunt)

Abby P. Casey was the oldest daughter of Lt. Col. Silas Casey. Living with her family at Ft. Steilacoom, beginning in 1856, Abby was a familiar fixture on the social scene at the post.

Admired and pursued by several bachelor officers, Abby won the interest and affection of Captain Lewis Cass Hunt. At age 22, Abby married Captain Hunt in November 1860, taking up residence on the post. At the wedding, Lt. August Kautz wrote that, “Capt. Hunt was evidently very nervous and quite feeble in his responses. Miss Casey was much more self proposed.”

One year later, she joined her husband and his company as they were transferred to the East to fight in the Civil War. Abby bore the couple’s first child, Bessie Perry Hunt, on November 28, 1861 while awaiting transport via steamer in San Diego.

During the war, Abby would follow her husband through the war, including an extended stay in New Bern, NC while her husband served as occupational commander. It was at New Bern that Abby’s second child, Lewis Casey Hunt, was born on April 17, 1863.

On June 21, 1865, the couple had a third child, Robert Herrick Hunt while stationed in New York at 48 Bleeker Street, NYC. After the war in Michigan in 1867, the couple had a fourth child, Thomas Goodale Hunt; unfortunately, this child did not survive. By 1869, the Hunt family celebrated the birth of a fifth child, Henry Jackson Hunt on February 11, 1869 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

With the Hunt family growing ever larger, the couple decided to establish a permanent home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with Lewis traveling alone to his varied duty stations throughout the west. Abby saw to the education and raising of the family, keeping a diary of her experiences. Her diary entries in 1884 reflected her concern for her husband’s declining health, nicknaming him the “Genr’l.” in her entries.

She also noted that same year the successes of her children in school as three attended college while Henry attended High School. In 1884, Abby also reported her own suffering from great pain and “a kind of bilious attack.” This may have foreshadowed her own illness, that of cancer.

Her last diary entry was on December 31, 1884; Abby Hunt would die from cancer on February 25, 1886 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was buried at the Casey’s ancestral home in Rhode Island. Her husband, Lewis, would die six months later.

Abby’s youngest child, Henry Jackson Hunt would later command the 6th Inf’y Reg’t and see action in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines, and WWI.

Toggle full biography →

Henry Moses Judah

Henry Judah

Captain Judah served briefly at Ft. Steilacoom in 1860 as commander of Company E/4th Inf’y. He graduated from the USMA in 1843, 35th out of 39, and he was assigned initially to the 8th Inf’y Regiment.

During the Mexican War, Judah fought with the 4th Inf’y and received recognition for his bravery at Molino del Ray and Chapultepec. He served at various posts on the Pacific Coast during the 1850s. At one point, he assumed command of Ft. Simcoe near today’s Yakima during Major Garnett’s 1858 expedition.

At the outbreak of Civil War, Judah accepted a colonelcy with the 4th California Volunteer Inf’y. In 1862, Col. Judah was promoted to Brigadier General. A commander in several Western Theater fights, Brig. General Judah commanded the 2nd Division of the 23rd Corps during the Atlanta Campaign.

Issues stemming from his use of alcohol (dating back to the 1850s) and criticism of his command decisions contributed to his assignment to staff duties during the last year of the year. After the Civil War, Judah and his family were assigned to Plattsburg, NY where he died in 1866 at age 45.

Toggle full biography →

Maria Judah

Maria Judah

The wife of Captain Henry Judah, Maria raised three children while the family was stationed at Fort Steilacoom. According to the 1860 Census, the Judah children consisted of Henry, age 10, Theodore, age 1, and Mary, a one-month-old infant in August. Theodore may have been named after Henry’s brother, famed leader of the Central Pacific Railroad and part of the business competition that led to America’s first transcontinental line!

August Valentine Kautz

August Kautz

Lt. Kautz served off and on at Fort Steilacoom as a platoon leader and quartermaster from 1853–61. He was born in Germany in 1828 but came to America as an infant.

He served in the Mexican War as an Ohio volunteer private, but earned appointment to the USMA after the war. He graduated from the USMA in 1852 and was posted to the 4th Inf’y Regiment where he experienced several combat engagements with Indians in Oregon and Washington. Kautz was wounded during two firefights in the course of his Indian war campaigning, once in action along the White River near today’s Bonney Lake.

During his time at the fort, Lt. Kautz married, not legally, the daughter of Quiemuth, a leader in the local Nisqually tribe. Kitty and August Kautz had two children, Augustus and Nugent.  Kitty raised the couple’s sons at nearby Simakins Camp or on the Nisqually Reservation.

At times during his service, Kautz took his sons on excursions near today’s Semiahmoo and Chehalis. Kautz was also instrumental in designing and supervising the construction of new buildings at Ft. Steilacoom in 185758, four of which remain today. During this time, he also took part in the first attempt by whites to ascend Mt. Rainier in 1857. He returned from the trip suffering from snow-blindness and frostbite.

He took leave in Europe in 1859, but returned to Ft. Steilacoom in Oct. 1860 to assist with the Casey-Hunt wedding. In May 1861, Kautz left Ft. Chehalis for duty in the Civil War but not before stopping at Ft. Steilacoom and arranging care for his family. He bade his Indian family goodbye on June 8, 1861, leaving them in the care of Edward Huggins of Ft. Nisqually.

Back East, Kautz assumed a cavalry troop command in the 6th U.S. Cavalry. During the war, Kautz rose quickly as a cavalry commander to the position of Brigadier General of Volunteers, seeing service in Kentucky and later, the Petersburg Campaign.  

After the war Lt. Col. Kautz took command of the 34th Inf’y , the 15th Inf’y, and the 8th Inf’y Regiments. In addition, Kautz authored several informative books for military personnel and today’s historians, The Company Clerk in 1863, Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers in 1864, and Customs of Service for Officers in 1866.

Both Kitty and August Kautz remarried after their separation in 1861. Kautz’s son Nugent taught at the Carlisle Indian College while his son Augustus remained as a farmer and influential tribal member on Puyallup Indian land.

General Kautz retired from the Army in 1892 and moved to Seattle where he died in 1895.

Toggle full biography →

Erasmus Darwin Keyes

Erasmus D. Keyes

Captain E.D. Keyes served at Ft. Steilacoom as commander of Company M, 3rd Art’y beginning in November 1855–Spring 1856 during the Puget Sound Indian War. Keyes graduated 10th out of 45 students from the USMA in 1832.

He saw service in Charleston, SC during the Nullification Crisis and for several years served as military secretary to General Winfield Scott. During the 1840s, Keyes taught courses in Engineering and Artillery at the USMA. During the 1850s, he served at several Pacific posts, including Alcatraz Island. In 1856 Keyes was responsible for the posting of sentinels that ambushed a war party led by Kanaskat.

By 1858, Keyes led a battalion of artillery troops fighting as infantry in the Wright Expedition against the confederated Spokane and Palouse insurgents. At the beginning of the Civil War, Col. Keyes commanded the 11th U.S. Inf’y and later commanded division and corps-sized organizations during McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign of 1862.

By 1863, Keyes ran afoul of his department commander and was removed from command. He served on several administrative boards before retiring from the service in 1864.

Keyes moved back to the West Coast, settling in San Francisco and converting to Catholicism. He achieved great wealth and status as a financier, banker, and mine owner. Keyes wrote about his experiences in Fifty Years’ Observations of Men & Events in 1884. He died in France in 1895.

Toggle full biography →

Maurice Maloney

Captain Maurice Maloney, like Lt. Kautz, saw combat service as an enlisted man prior to serving as a commissioned officer. Born in Ireland around 1812, Maloney entered the Army in 1836 seeing service in Florida and the Cherokee Nation.

By the time of the Mexican War in 1846, Maloney had risen to the rank of Sgt. Major. He was promoted from the ranks to 2nd Lt. on Nov. 27, 1846 and he served as the acting adjutant for the regiment for three days in September 1847.

In October 1847, Lt. Maloney was promoted to full-time adjutant for the 4th Inf’y Reg’t. He earned additional brevet appointments for his heroism in assaults at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. Wounded in battle, Maloney left the war as a 1st Lt./Bvt. Captain (being promoted on May 6, 1848).

Maloney joined the 4th Inf’y in its deployment to the Pacific Coast in 1853. On Nov. 22, 1854, Maloney was promoted to Captain and assigned to duty at Ft. Steilacoom. He coordinated the early reaction of Regular troops to the Indian insurgency in the summer and autumn of 1855.

With the arrival of Capt. Keyes and Lt. Col. Casey on the scene later that year, Maloney went back to company command. Maloney remained in command of Co. A/4th Inf’y for the remainder of his duty in the Pacific Northwest, seeing service not only at Ft. Steilacoom, but also Camp Montgomery and Ft. Chehalis.

Capt. Maloney joined the 4th in its deployment to the East during the Civil War, but he accepted a promotion to Major in the 1st Inf’y on Sept. 16, 1862. His Regulars trained as both heavy artillery and infantry and were commended for their fighting spirit at places such as Corinth and the siege of Vicksburg. For a time, Major Maloney served as the Colonel of the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Inf’y but returned to the Regular Army by the end of the war.

On June 16, 1867, Maloney was promoted to Lt. Col. of the 16th Inf’y, a position he held until being replaced by the promotion of Thomas C. English to Lt. Col. two years later. Maloney was unassigned for just over a year before he retired from the service on Dec. 15, 1870. Lt. Col. Maloney died just two years later on Jan. 8, 1872 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Toggle full biography →

Joseph Mansfield

Joseph Mansfield

Colonel Mansfield visited Fort Steilacoom twice as inspector general, the first time in 1854 and again in 1858. Mansfield graduated second in his class at the USMA in 1822 and he served in the Army’s Topographical Engineer Corps.

By the time of the Mexican War in 1846, Captain Mansfield served as General Taylor’s chief engineer. Throughout the 1850s, Colonel Mansfield served in several departments across the continent as a staff officer and inspector general.

Promoted to major general of volunteer troops during the Civil War, General Mansfield would be mortally wounded at Antietam leading his XII Corps across the East Woods. He died the next day, on Sept. 18, 1862.

Toggle full biography →

David Bell McKibbin

David B. McKibbin

Although never completing his studies at the USMA (he left in 1848), McKibbin brought plenty of initiative to his appointment as an officer with the new 9th Inf’y Reg’t in 1855.

During the 1850s, Lt. McKibbin and his wife, Marian (born 1833), witnessed the growth of Fort Steilacoom serving as a platoon leader in Company H, 9th Inf’y. His aggressive leadership in a sharp firefight along the White River in 1856 was recognized by then Captain E.D. Keyes in Keyes’s later memoirs.

In 1861, McKibbin secured a transfer to the newly-raised 14th U.S. Inf’y, eventually earning promotion to Captain and command of the 2nd Batt’n of the 14 th. He saw significant action during the Peninsula Campaign and at the Battle of Antietam.

By 1863, McKibbin had left the 14th to take a command as colonel of the 158th Pennsylvania Inf’y Reg’t. When that regiment’s term of service expired in 1863, McKibbin returned to the Regulars of the 14th Inf’y and fought in the Wilderness and Petersburg Campaigns.

At the end of the war, McKibbin secured a short-lived colonelcy in the 214th Pennsylvania Inf’y Reg’t. In 1866 Capt. McKibbin transferred out of the 14th to the 32nd Inf’y and served with this regiment for only a year.

He ended his army career as a major in both the 10th Inf’y (1867) and 10th Cavalry (1870), retiring on May 31, 1875. Major David Bell McKibbin died November 8, 1890 in Washington, D.C.

Toggle full biography →

Thomas J. Montgomery

A Maine native and graduate of the USMA in 1845, Capt. Montgomery saw action in the Mexican War with both the 8th and later, 4th Inf’y regiments.

Promoted to 1st Lieutenant on December 26, 1847, Montgomery continued service with the 4th Regiment of Inf’y after the war when it was posted to the West Coast. He served at Benecia Barracks and Fort Dalles, and finally Fort Steilacoom in command of Captain of Co. A/4th Inf’y (promoted March 27, 1854, filling the position vacated by the death of Charles Larnard).

Unfortunately, his service at Ft. Steilacoom was short-lived. According to the Pioneer and Democrat newspaper dated Saturday, December 2, 1854: “We regret to hear of the death of Capt. Thomas J. Montgomery, of the 4th Infantry, who expired at Fort Steilacoom on the 22d inst.[November], after a very short illness.

Capt. Montgomery graduated at West Point in 1845, and served throughout the Mexican War, being in the battles under General Taylor up to Monterey, and in those under Gen. Scott to the City of Mexico. On all these occasions he was conspicuous for gallantry. As a gentleman of high intelligence and most amiable character, he was equally esteemed by all who knew him.

His funeral took place at Fort Steilacoom on the 24th inst. And was attended with Military and Masonic honors.” And, “DIED, At Fort Steilacoom, W.T., Nov. 22, at 11-1/2 o’clock P.M., Capt. Thos. J. Montgomery, U.S. Army, aged 31 years, 9 monts and 17 days.” Capt. Montgomery’s position was filled by the promotion of Captain Maurice Maloney.

Toggle full biography →

George W. Patten

A native of Rhode Island, George W. Patten entered Federal service on July 1, 1830. He saw brief service at Ft. Steilacoom after receiving promotion to Major in the 9th Inf’y on April 30, 1861. Just over a year later, he was promoted to Lt. Col. of the 2nd Inf’y and saw action in the Civil War with Sykes’s Regular Division. He retired from the service on February 17, 1864 after a 34-year career with the Regular Army.

George Pickett

George Pickett

Captain George Pickett commanded Company D of the 9th Inf’y Regiment, a unit that arrived at Fort Steilacoom with Co. H/9th Inf’y and Lt. Col. Casey in the midst of the Indian insurgency of January 1856. He was a veteran of the Mexican War after graduating from the USMA in 1846 at the bottom of his class!

Captain Pickett had served with the 8th Inf’y in Texas during the Mexican War. He joined the 9th Inf’y in 1855. By August 1856, Pickett’s Company D had been dispatched to Bellingham Bay to construct and occupy a post that they named Fort Bellingham.

Nearly three years later, Pickett’s Co. D/9th Inf’y was the vanguard of an American force on San Juan Island, an affair today known as the Pig War. Pickett’s handling of the situation put him at odds with General Winfield Scott and the British authorities. Pickett’s company was among those companies ordered off the island as part of Scott’s negotiations in November 1859.

Captain Pickett would return to San Juan Island in March 1861, but his company would leave the island that summer stopping briefly again at Fort Steilacoom where Pickett would take leave of his company. Capt. Pickett resigned his commission in California, secretly making his way to the newly-formed Confederacy where he would rise to the rank of division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia under General James Longstreet.

After the Civil War, General Pickett fled to Canada, but returned to the U.S. in the 1870s with the approval of then-President Grant.

Toggle full biography →

Henry Prince

Captain Henry Prince

Born in 1811 in Maine, Henry Prince graduated from the USMA in 1835 and served with the 4th Inf’y for most of his military career. He was wounded twice, once during the Seminole Wars in Florida and again, severely, in Mexico at Molino del Ray.

Captain Prince commanded troops of Company C, 4th Inf’y at Ft. Steilacoom; he also served on the Coast Survey expeditions of Puget Sound from 1850-55.

He served as an Army Paymaster for the remainder of the 1850s, participating in the Utah/Mormon Expedition, and as a division commander during the Civil War. He was captured at the Battle of Cedar Mountain but resumed his command duties upon parole a few months later.

He left volunteer service in 1866 and continued as a paymaster after the war, returning to the Pacific Coast in 1875. General Prince retired in 1879 as Chief Paymaster.

Toggle full biography →

Henry Martyn Robert

Henry Martyn Robert

2nd Lt. Henry M. Robert graduated from the USMA in 1857 and immediately posted to the Engineers. He had been born in South Carolina in 1837, but later moved with his family to Ohio as a teenager.

While commanding a detachment of Engineers on road-building projects along the Columbia River, Robert was given the order to embark for San Juan Island late in 1859. Upon arriving on the island in the midst of the Pig War crisis, Robert was given orders by Lt. Col. Silas Casey to design and construct an earthen artillery mount, or “redoubt”, for the installation of large guns near the American Camp.

Work began on the project, Robert’s first large project in his new career. The crisis was diffused and Robert’s engineers were ordered off the island for duties elsewhere. Lt. Robert stayed for a time with some of his engineers at Ft. Steilacoom during 1859–60 awaiting further orders. While on post, his men became acquainted with and entertained by the infantry companies on post. Much of this time is documented by one of Robert’s privates, a William Peck.

When the Civil War erupted back East, Roberts was assigned the duty of preparing Federal defenses around Washington City. The Lt. had contracted malaria while en route to the Pacific Northwest in the 1850s; thus, he sought duty away from the warm Southern climate that might aggravate it more. Instead, Lt. Robert prepared defenses around New Bedford, MA now in the company of a new bride and a rapidly growing family.

The young lieutenant returned to the USMA as an instructor for the remainder of the war, but returned to the Pacific Coast in 1867 as Chief Engineer of the Department of the Pacific. While in San Francisco, Robert developed a written guide for managing meetings at his church, a guide based on what he had learned about the most efficient means of employing parliamentary procedure.

Later, while posted in Wisconsin during the 1870s, Robert expanded on his earlier pamphlet and published it in book form, a book titled Robert’s Rules of Order. The book was a remarkable success and its demand exceeded Robert’s own expectations.

In the 1880s, Col. Robert was appointed by President Cleveland to design and develop the new Port of Galveston in Texas. His innovative use of river hydrology to clear sandbar obstructions was both daring and efficient.

In 1901, Robert retired from the Army as a Brigadier General, but continued as a consulting engineer and author in New York. That same year, he returned to Galveston to reconstruct the harbor after the disastrous hurricane of 1900. General Robert designed the sea wall that protected the city from two major storms and one that still stands today as a testament to his engineering prowess.

Furthermore, it is also the continued success of his book, Robert’s Rules of Order, that highlights his far-reaching influence today.

Toggle full biography →

Robert Nicholson Scott

Lt. Robert N. Scott was the husband of Lt. Col. Casey’s second daughter, Miss Bessie Casey, a relationship that blossomed during Lt. Scott’s service at Ft. Steilacoom beginning in August 1860. Serving as a second lieutenant in Company C/4th Inf’y under Capt. Lewis Hunt, Lt. Scott would later serve as the Adjutant of the 4th Inf’y as the regiment arrived in New York in November 1861 for Civil War service.

Upon arrival in NYC, Scott was notified of his promotion to Captain of Company I, 7th Inf’y dated back to Sept. 25, 1861. During McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign in 1862, Scott served as Acting Adjutant-General under Lt. Col. Robert Buchanan of the 1st Brigade in Sykes’s Regular Division (3d, 4th, 1st Batt’n/12th, and 9 companies of the 14th Inf’y regiments).

After the war, Captain Scott was promoted to Major in the 3rd Artillery Regiment, seeing service with his new family, including a daughter, Martha, at the Presidio in San Francisco. He served for a time as Assistant Adjutant-General for the Military Division of the Pacific under the command of Maj.-Gen’l Henry Halleck.

On December 14, 1877, Major/Bvt. Lt. Col. Scott took charge of the team compiling the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion for both Union and Confederate armies. He died on March 5, 1887 and was promoted posthumously to Lt. Colonel after nearly completing this monumental task. Upon publishing of these records, Scott’s name appeared as the lead editor of the work despite his passing before its completion.

Toggle full biography →

William & Mary Slaughter

William and Mary Slaughter

First Lt. William Slaughter served with Company C, 4th Inf’y beginning in 1851 and assumed fairly active command of the company in the absence of Captain Prince and Lt. Floyd-Jones until 1855 when he took over the company entirely.

He was born in Kentucky in 1826 and admitted to the USMA in 1844. Slaughter graduated from the Academy in 1848 and was later posted to Fort Gratiot, Michigan as a First Lieutenant in the 4th Inf’y.

There, Slaughter became acquainted with Lt. H. Ulysses Grant. Grant took extra care to mention Slaughter’s seasickness in his memoirs as the 4th Inf’y sailed to Panama for deployment to the West Coast that same year.

Prior to Slaughter’s deployment, he married Mary Wells of Port Huron. The Slaughters made their home at Ft. Steilacoom beginning in 1853. The young lieutenant purchased real estate in the new town of Steilacoom near the fort and was active in its promotion. He and his wife were popular figures in the new community and liked by all.

Lt. Slaughter led combined volunteer and Regular troops in active campaigning during the Indian insurgency of the Fall of 1855. He was engaged in several sharp firefights that winter. On the evening of December 4, 1855, Lt. Slaughter and two of his men were killed in a night-time ambush in today’s Kent Valley. Slaughter’s body was brought back to Ft. Steilacoom.

Mary Slaughter never remarried, returning to her parent’s home in Port Huron while being accompanied by Washington Territory Secretary, Charles Mason. Mary died in 1861, shattered by the untimely death of her young husband.

Toggle full biography →