Army Captain John Bourke.

In those halcyon days before the coming of the railroads especially to remote areas like Arizona, which didn’t have a railroad until the early 1880s. The Southern Pacific, building eastbound, crossed the southern part of the territory in 1880 and in 1883 when the westbound Santa Fe, crossing the northern route reached Needles, California.

Still there were no rails into the rugged interior until after the surrender of Geronimo in 1886. Army Captain John Bourke in his classic book On the Border with Crook, wrote in 1871. “Arizona in Those days was separated from ‘God’s Country’ By a space of 1,500 miles, without a railroad…We were often obliged to leave the warm Valleys in the morning and climb to higher Altitudes…and go into bivouac upon summits Where the snow was hip deep.

After the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 infantry troops were shipped by rail to California. Prior to that they walked or rode horseback.  They traveled by ship down around Baja California and up the Sea of Cortez to Port Isabel where they transferred to steamboats. The enlisted men rode in open barges towed by the steamboats, while the officers and their wives on the paddle wheelers. They steamed up the Colorado River to Yuma, Ehrenberg and Fort Mohave. From there they walked to the interior military posts like Forts McDowell, Lowell, Whipple, Verde and Apache. The wives and high-ranking officers rode in ambulances. Army wife Martha Summerhayes in her book, Vanished Arizona, paints a vivid image of such a voyage

During the Mexican War, 1846-1848, the Mormon Battalion took the longest infantry march on record walking from Council Bluffs, Iowa to Santa Fe, then Tucson, San Diego and on to San Francisco where they mustered out. It was a distance of some 2,000 miles.

That’s a record that won’t be beaten. Sgt. Nathaniel Jones wrote in his journal, “We had a weighing frolic. I weighed 128. When I enlisted, 198.”


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