How did the frontier military travel?

Ask The Marshall - Frontier MilitaryHow did the frontier military travel?

Marsha Callaway
Sedgwick, Kansas

During the Old West era, the frontier military traveled mostly by horse and foot. Many areas did not have train service until the 1880s or later. During the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mormon Battalion took the longest infantry march on record, walking from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California, a distance of some 2,000 miles. That’s a record that won’t be beaten. “We had a weighing frolic. I weighed 128; weight when I enlisted, 198,” wrote Sgt. Nathaniel Jones, in his diary, on January 5, 1847.

Other troops were sent by ship, either around the tip of South America or up rivers like the Missouri or Mississippi.

Eventually, railroads took troops to most major towns and cities—but to get to interior areas, the cheapest and most efficient manner of travel was by foot or by horse.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.
If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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