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The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Twenty-Seventh Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11th, 1896.

 p81  John Scott Payne
No. 2146. Class of 1866.
Died, December 16, 1895, at Washington, D. C., aged 51.

John Scott Payne entered the Military Academy under peculiar conditions and at a trying time. A Virginian by birth and  p82 lineage, reared in the tenets and imbued with most of the traditions of Fauquier County, it was perhaps remarkable that he should have been sent to West Point during the fiercest battling along the Chickahominy, and should be walking post, a plebe sentry, in the very month when two hostile armies, the blue and the gray, were in alternate occupation of the streets of his native Warrenton.

He was handicapped from the start. Accepting his appointment and education at the hands of the National Government, he was believed, by not a few, to be more than half in sympathy with the cause of the Confederacy. He came of a race of Virginia gentlemen distinguished in politics and in the law, and he inherited their gifts of oratory and argument — gifts which, in a young man impetuous in speech and not always sound in judgment, proved dangerous possessions. Either in the section room or in class debate Payne was frequently in hot water.

Without attaining high rank in any particular study, but shining principally in the Dialectic Hall, where his undisputed talent helped no whit in his class standing, he was graduated in 1866, and in less than two years after joining the Fifth Cavalry, then serving in the South, had become distinguished as a speaker at political meetings near the station of his troop, at a time when, even more than usual, it was the wiser course for an officer to avoid them. As a result of the correspondence that followed, Payne impulsively tendered his resignation, and was out of the army before the ink was fairly dry.

Taking up the pen, he edited the Knoxville Daily Whig for a while, but, after some four years of civil life and earnest effort, the clouds and misunderstandings were cleared away. President Grant himself recommissioned him a Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Cavalry, and the very next year Congress restored him to the Fifth Cavalry, with his original rank as First Lieutenant, (from May 23, 1867), and then long afterwards, in '81, gave him credit in service for longevity pay for the four years or more than he was actually out of the army.

Meantime Payne had been making a name for himself as a  p83 troop leader that warranted all the good fortune that had befallen him. Promoted Captain within less than a year from the date of his restoration to the old regiment, he served wit through the memorable Sioux campaign of '76, and was prominent and distinguished in the sharp action at Slim Buttes, the evening of September 9th. The next year, at the head of one of the best drilled and disciplined troops the regiment had ever seen, he took the field in August for the dash with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Merritt's column to intercept Chief Joseph and the Nez Perces.

In 1868 he was again scouting over the familiar scenes at the base of the Big Horn Mountains, and in the following year, '79, was one of the three troop commanders sent, under Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thornburgh, to bring the Ute Indians to terms at their agency in the heart of the Colorado mountains. The result is history. Intercepted at Milk river by the full force of the Ute warriors, their gallant leader shot from ambush, and several of their number killed and wounded, the troops looked to Payne for leadership in the hour of peril, and were not disappointed. Skillfully withdrawing to the wagon train, the new commander posted his little squadron to fight on foot, and though many gallant soldiers received their death blow, and he himself was twice wounded in the furious action that followed, he succeeded in beating off the attack and holding his savage foe at a respectful distance. Then followed a seven days' siege, dramatic in its incidents of heroism and suffering; the scorching heat from the burning wagons of Gordon's train, the slaughter of the horses of the entire command, the days of glaring sun and maddening thirst, the nights of ceaseless vigilance and daring sallies for water for the wounded, the gallant dash of Dodge's troop of darkies to join their fortunes with those of the beleaguered white squadron, and finally, just at dawn, the triumphant coming of Merritt with half the Fifth Cavalry at his back, after a perfectly planned and admirably executed march au secours of nearly one hundred and seventy miles in some sixty hours — their trumpets and the answering cheers "waking the valley," as Payne wrote, "with the sweetest music I ever heard." The orders and letters and reports of Generals Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sherman,  p84 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Sheridan, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Crook bear abundant testimony to the high estimate that was placed by these eminent soldiers on his conduct and services in this memorable and trying duty, but, not until long after, the tardy recognition of a brevet to the rank of Major was accorded him for gallant services in action against Indians at Mill Creek where he was wounded. But meantime his health had begun to fail. He was retired from active service in April, 1886, and the evening of his eventful life was spent within view of the wooded heights of Warrenton until he was called to Washington as a member of the Board of Pension Appeals. Here, surrounded by congenial friends, and in the sweet companionship of the wife and children to whom he was devotedly attached, he passed two years in well won ease and content until warned by unmistakable symptoms that the end was near. On the 15th of December, 1895, he passed quietly and peacefully away, and was laid to rest, as he had asked, among the graves of his ancestors beneath the shadows of the Virginia hills he had loved so long and well.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Charles King.


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