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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A full-length photograph of a man. He is Augustus Cleveland Tyler, a West Point graduate whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Colonel Augustus C. Tyler

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Fortieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 10th, 1909.

 p88  Augustus Cleveland Tyler
No. 2498. Class of 1873.
Died November 27th, 1908, in New London, Connecticut, aged 58.

The subject of this article was born May 2, 1851, in Norwich, Conn. He was a son of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Daniel Tyler 4th, class of 1819, U. S. M. A., and Emily Lee, daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Leighton Lee, of Cambridge, Mass. General Daniel Tyler at the time of his death, November 30th, 1882, was the oldest living graduate of West Point. He resigned from the Army in 1834. In 1861, when sixty‑two years of age, he was the first man in Connecticut to volunteer for service in the Civil War, and went to the front as Colonel of the First Regiment Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Later he was commissioned Brigadier General.

General Tyler's father, Daniel Tyler 3rd, was adjutant of Putnam's regiment at the battle of Bunker Hill.

His mother, Sarah Edwards, was a daughter of Timothy, and the oldest grandchild of Jonathan Edwards.

Until thirteen years of age, Augustus Cleveland Tyler's boyhood was passed in Norwich. After that period, until his entrance at West Point, he was a student at the Charlier Institute in New York. His summers were spent in Red Bank, New Jersey, where General Tyler purchased a country home soon after the death of his wife in 1864.

 p89  On January 3, 1878, Augustus Tyler was married to Cornelia Osgood, daughter of Dr. Charles Osgood, of Norwich, Connecticut. Of this union there were born Edna Leighton Tyler, Sarah Larned Tyler (Mrs. Edward Everett Marshall), Frederick Osgood Tyler.

In 1898, when in command of the Third Connecticut U. S. V. I., then stationed at Camp Marion, Summerville, S. C., Colonel Tyler became impressed by the commercial possibilities of the planting and manufacturing of tea in the southern states. Subsequently he bought nearly seven thousand acres of land comprising the four plantations "Holly Grove," "Rutledge Island," "Mowbray" and "Turkey Hill" in Colleton County, S. C., where very flourishing tea gardens and a factory for the manufacture of tea are now located, and under the management of Frederick Osgood Tyler.

Colonel Tyler was largely interested in The Anniston (Alabama) Manufacturing Co., of which corporation he was a director. He was also a director of The Union National Bank of New London.

Although seldom, if ever, absenting himself from his family circle in the evening, no man found greater enjoyment in the companion­ship of men. It was his custom to pass a part of each afternoon at one of the following clubs of which he was a valued member: University, Manhattan and New York Yacht Clubs of New York; Metropolitan, Chevy Chase and Patuxent Hunt Clubs, of Washington, D. C.; Charleston Club and Charleston Country Club, of Charleston, S. C.; Thames Club and Pequot Casino Association, of New London, Conn. He was president of the latter at the time of his death.

Recollections of the Military Life of
Augustus Cleveland Tyler,
Class of 1873, United States Military Academy.

We first met as "Seps"​a on reporting at West Point on August 28, 1869. He was then a dark haired, dark eyed, ruddy complexioned youth of medium stature, 18 years old. His cadet career was the  p90 usual uneventful one and at this distance of time I can recall no special incident worthy of mention except perhaps that he stood first in French and Spanish without having to work very hard to do so, and was very far from being equally distinguished in drawing. He had a genial nature and was fond of companion­ship. He never growled, sulked or complained, but faced the vexatious and disagreeable incidents of cadet life with sometimes a grim, half-humorous remark, indicating his resignation to the inevitable, and with at other times an epigrammatic comment or quotation that was both apt and witty. He had a particular faculty, that showed his good heart and that became more apparent to me in our service together after graduation, for discerning what was commendable in the character and disposition of others and for appreciating their mental strength and capabilities whether developed with or without a school education. Very unselfish and very generous, always modest, thoughtful of others and courteous, he was a true gentleman and most loveable man.

On graduation he and I were the only members of the class assigned to the Fourth Cavalry, in which regiment we were both destined to be thrown much together for the next five years and to know each other better.

He joined at Fort Clark, Texas, at the end of September, 1873, while I followed at the end of November. On arriving at San Antonio by stage on the way to join, I found he was already known by reputation at the Headquarters of the Department of Texas. I was told that he was living in camp, had already been on a scout after Indians, liked the life and, better still, that the officers of the regiment liked him.

On arrival at Fort Clark I was sent to the same camp, located on a creek about 7 miles west of the post. This was the western extremity of a line of four camps that extended eastward to Kerrville, 60 miles northwest of San Antonio. The line was over 100 miles long and troops in the camps were cavalry soldiers belonging to the garrison at Fort Clark. Similar cavalry camps were established by other posts in Texas. A post itself was merely a base of supplies. A camp was a base from which to send out scouting parties of from 10 men to a troop, with 10 to 15 days' rations of bacon, flour, sugar and coffee, no hard bread and no forage, to try to find a trail of raiding Indians or get information about them and if possible attack them. The raiding parties were comparatively small and came from large camps of Indians then located in  p91 Mexico, New Mexico, on the Staked Plains in Northwest Texas, and in Indian Territory. Their principal object was to steal ponies from the settlers, an easy matter as ponies were plentiful enough and had to be turned loose to get their living by grazing. While the small settlements were many miles apart, fences, except those immediately around a house, were few, and there was no way of communicating with one's neighbor or with a post or camp except by a messenger or, in some places by mail once or twice a week. One such raiding party of 35 or 40 warriors had appeared at a stage station about 70 miles west of San Antonio, about half way between San Antonio and Fort Clark, on the night of November 27th, 1873. The next night, when passing the station on my way to join at Fort Clark, I met there a lieutenant with 10 men from one of the camps, who had followed them for sixteen hours without a halt and had only been stopped by the darkness at night-fall when their trail could no longer be seen. These Indians went subsequently to within a few miles of Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico, killed about 25 people and stole several hundred ponies. On December 10th, thirteen days after their appearance at the stage station, they were intercepted near Kickapoo Springs about 40 miles north of Fort Clark by a detachment from the post itself when 9 were killed and all the stolen stock they then had was captured. In those thirteen days they must have traveled quite 600 miles in dodging and eluding the many detachments after them and broken down many ponies that they replaced by others they stole. Fort Clark was one of the outposts on the western edge of the settlements established for the protection of the settlers from such raids. With the exception of a small settlement on the Rio Grande, about 35 miles westward, there was not a house between it and El Paso, 500 miles away. To the northward the nearest house was at Fort McKavett, more than 150 miles away. To the eastward the first dwelling was the stage station, 25 miles away, and to the southward there was but one house between the post and Eagle Pass, 43 miles away. The Indians utilized moonlight nights for stealing horses and traveling unobserved. They were to be expected within a week after a new moon, and in the warm climate of southern Texas, in winter as well as summer. Further, they were not slow to take advantage of an opportunity afforded by careless sentinels or a weak guard to charge through a cavalry herd in the day time or a camp in the night time with the double purpose of stampeding the animals and securing them for themselves and of putting the soldiers afoot so that pursuit by the latter was impossible and they became, for that raid at least, a negligible quantity.

 p92  Our camp consisted of three troops with seven officers present, including ourselves. Our food was very simple and necessarily limited in variety. The canned food industry was in its infancy and our staples were canned corn, canned tomatoes and condensed milk. The amount of these furnished posts that had to be supplied over long wagon roads was so limited that their sale had to be regulated so that all should receive their proportionate share. Fresh onions and potatoes were luxuries, obtainable only occasionally at a cost of perhaps 20 cents a pound. The five officers senior to us were three Captains and two First Lieutenants, all of foreign birth except one Lieutenant, and all former regular soldiers who had been appointed officers during or immediately after the Civil War. With the exception of perhaps one, they had had but little school education and read but little. The American Lieutenant was the most illiterate of all.

In this camp, from which no one ventured 200 yards without firearms, eating coarse food and with only these officers for associates, Tyler, — a young man of aristocratic lineage, reared in eastern cities in an atmosphere of refinement and culture, — lived and performed his daily duties for two months before I came. The conditions were a revelation to him and directly contrary to much that his training had led him to expect or imagine. Here was where I first became impressed by his disposition to discover the good in others as well as comport himself as became a subordinate to his superiors. Not once did he utter to me — his classmate and friend — a word of criticism about those officers. They were men of character and tried courage. They had a sound practical knowledge of their duties gained in the experience of a terrible civil war and of Indian campaigns before and after it that no book knowledge could replace. While unfamiliar with all the rules of the most fashionable society they had a social code of their own, the social customs of the service that were based on a regard in a remote past for precedence and courtly forms, and were further developed in our own frontier service by a generous hospitality and a chivalrous loyalty, first, to the officers and their womenkind of one's own troop and regiment, and next to those of all our profession in general. These officers adhered to this code most rigidly as a part of their military duty.

They had a profound sense of duty of which they were justly proud and no one could be more observant or critical of young lieutenants to see whether they also had it, or be better fitted to inspire it in them if they did not have it. If necessary they did not hesitate to make a youngster know his place and keep in it. Of these things  p93 Tyler did talk to me a great deal. The opinions of such officers had great weight in establishing a young officer's reputation in the service. Suffice it to say they were satisfied with Tyler and considered him a valuable addition to the regiment.

After a two weeks' scout together in January, 1874, I was sent to Fort McKavett and in April following he was sent to another of the camps, located in Sabinal Canyon, about half way between Fort Clark and San Antonio. From there the scouting was constant until about the end of July when his troop was ordered to Fort Concho, about 55 miles north of Fort McKavett. Fort Concho was the post where the troops assembled that belonged to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.R. S. Mackenzie's expedition to the Staked Plains in 1874, known generally in the Fourth Cavalry as "The '74 Scout." Here Tyler and I met about the middle of August. The command consisted of 8 troops, Fourth Cavalry, five companies of Infantry (Tenth and Eleventh Regiments), and the Seminole Negro and Tonkaway Indian Scouts, with 100 army wagons. Each cavalry troop also had a few mules for pack animals.

The expedition arrived on September 1st at its supply camp at Catfish Creek, also known as the Fresh Fork of the Brazos, at the mouth of the Canyon Blanco on the edge of the Staked Plains. Tyler's troop, as well as others, had marched about 500 miles to get there. The camp was to be kept supplied from Fort Griffin, about 125 miles to the east.

It was the custom for the cavalry to cut loose from the wagons with supplies on pack animals, letting the train follow our trail with an infantry guard. The first general action was on the night of September 26th and 27th. The night was clear and the moon about full.​b The Indians were a band of about 500 warriors, Cheyennes, Comanches and Kiowas, who broke the silence about 10 P.M. by suddenly attacking our camp, a large number trying to charge through it and stampede our horses. Fortunately the attack had been expected and prepared for and the charge failed. There was firing all night, however, which kept all awake and the Indians had to be driven off after daylight, a matter easily accomplished by a small portion of the command that charged them and kept after them without dismounting. The wagons had arrived after midnight. Rations were drawn in the forenoon, a good meal was then eaten and at noon, Sunday, September 27th, the cavalry, minus a troop left with the train, started in pursuit. After a steady march a large Indian camp was found at daybreak next morning in the Palo Duro Canyon, which is merely a narrow cleft with  p94 precipitous sides in the level Staked Plains, at the bottom of which is the bed of the Red River. At this place it was about 800 feet deep and less than a quarter of a mile wide. After once reaching the bottom we charged up stream through a string of Indian camps for about seven miles. After considerable skirmishing we climbed out of the canyon where we had entered it with nearly 2,000 captured ponies. A number of Indians had been killed and much of their camp equipage burned or captured. Strange to say that while the casualties to our horses were numerous, I recall that seven were wounded in one troop and perhaps one or two killed, no man was killed and but one slightly wounded. This is confirmatory of an old cavalry adage that if the men will only ride their horses into action, the casualties will be among the horses and not the men.

It was three o'clock Monday afternoon when we were all finally withdrawn from the canyon with the ponies collected and ready to start. Owing to the night attack we had had no sleep since waking on Saturday morning, we had been practically 27 hours in the saddle and at the lowest estimate had ridden at least 80 miles with nothing to eat since noon of the day before. In those days cavalry troops were not provided with saddle bags that suggested a pair of carpet bags, but had small saddle pockets, just large enough for a horse shoe to fit into and to take in also a few horse-shoe nails and a curry comb and brush. Nose bags were back at the supply camp where the grain was kept. There were no receptacles on the saddle in which it was easy to carry a lunch and but few had taken any. Among the latter was Tyler who was now hunting for something to eat. In conformity with his character, finding he could get nothing, he dropped down by me and dryly said he was not very hungry now anyhow but had been hungry during the march the preceding night.

The wagon train had been notified to follow our trail. By following a straight route back instead of one on three sides of a square by which we had come, we reached it about midnight after a 40mile march, when nearly every one was too sleepy to eat, if not too tired. Ponies that straggled were killed as fast as they fell back and next day nearly 1,100 were killed by the infantry. This was to prevent the Indians stampeding them and recovering them, a matter of easy accomplishment when the cavalry should start off again. Among about 500 animals that were retained, Tyler became the owner of a very long legged, short bodied, heavy headed and lop eared brute that had a pendulous under lip and looked ready to drop down and die of old age, but had the colt teeth of a four year old. He said he  p95 wanted an animal that was young, strong and enduring and reasonably gentle. There was no doubt about his strength and endurance. A year later he had not yet become so gentle that a whole parade ground afforded room enough for Tyler to mount him in.

The next action in which he was engaged was at Twin Lakes near the southern boundary of the Staked Plains, known better by their Spanish name of Lagunas Cuatas. At that time those lakes were more or less mythical, their location was unknown and it is doubtful if any white man, except possibly a renegade, had ever seen them. We ran across them just before sunset on November 3rd, after two days and a night without water during all but six hours of which time we were in the saddle, or rather our horses were saddled, for one second day many dropped from fatigue and thirst and were killed to put them out of misery and the others were led by their riders on foot, trudging up and down sand hills in which their feet sank several inches at each step. This last march followed immediately after several other long and chilly night marches and there had been but six days' rest in the supply camps for the horses for eight weeks. The action was a small one, resulting in killing and wounding a few warriors, the capture of about 20 women and children, the destruction of their camp and the capture of nearly 200 ponies. But few of our horses were able to gallop, the majority could trot slowly and some could only walk. They were too weak to enable us to get more decisive results. But with the camp we got precious water which many horses absolutely refused to leave to engage in the pursuit.

There were other small encounters on this scout between small detachments, but no others in which the cavalry as a command was engaged. Of course thrilling incidents were frequent. Only the day before the last mentioned action the Indians drove in our scouts and marched on our flank all day long, but our horses were too weak and theirs too fresh for us to attempt anything against them. Two days after the action our scouts killed two more hostiles within a few miles of us and captured 25 or 30 ponies. Later, a solitary Indian was called by the scouts. A few days after that Lieutenant Warrington and ten soldiers had a very successful fight with some Indians our pickets discovered trying to observe the camp. All these things kept up the interest but the work was too much for the horses. On no campaign have I ever suffered such long continued privations and extreme physical discomfort as in the last four months of 1874. The men left their posts and camps in July and August with less bedding  p96 and clothing on their saddles and in the wagons together than a trooper now has to carry on his saddle for inspection. It was all they had for five months. The Staked Plains have an altitude of from 3,000 to 4,000 feet and are as level as a table, without a valley, a hollow, a ravine, or the slightest elevation. Streams are only found in the deep gulches called canyons whose sides drop suddenly from the general level of the plain with no preliminary slope. The only vegetation was then the short buffalo grass, with not a shrub higher than one's shoe top to break the chilly northwest winds coming from the Rocky mountains. In the beginning of the scout there were night marches, rain, mud and bad water; later sleet, snow, zero temperature, biting winds, again night marches, good water and no water, at all times no tents, no fuel except Buffalo chips, and when they were saturated with rain or melting snow, not even those. By December the men were in rags, but the work kept on. There was hardly a day during the month without rain, sleet or snow, the latter sometimes a foot deep, and thousands of buffalos had grazed the grass so close for miles about good watering places that the horses almost starved. Men, wet to the skin by a cold rain that turned to sleet, walked all night long to keep from freezing to death. Their footwear was worn out and much of their other clothing rotten or discarded. All this time their diet had been the monotonous one of meat, (sometimes bacon, but usually buffalo), flour, coffee and sugar, and there were symptoms of scurvy.

We started for Fort Griffin in time to reach there about the last of December. There Tyler's troop remained while mine went on 125 miles farther east to Fort Richardson.

Our next station together was at Fort Sill where we met in May, 1875. Shortly afterward he went home on leave and on his return he went to Fort Elliott, then only a cantonment just established in the Texas Panhandle.

We came together in the field again in August, 1876, at Camp Robinson, Nebraska, where six troops Fourth Cavalry were sent after the Custer Massacre, with the prospect of having some severe fighting. His troop was not selected to be taken away from Indian Territory, but from the numerous volunteers belonging to the troops that had to stay there he was one of those that General Mackenzie, the Colonel of the regiment, took with him. The events that took place on General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Crook's Powder River Expedition in the winter of 1876‑77, have been described in both newspapers and magazines. Among the latter is one by the late Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John G. Bourke, entitled "Mackenzie's Last Fight With the Cheyennes," that is widely known.

 p97  In this action which took place in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming on November 25, 1876, General Mackenzie had ten troops of cavalry divided into two battalions, one of six troops and one of four. Tyler was Adjutant of the larger battalion. During this all‑day conflict that had such a decisive effect in causing nearly all the hostile Indians to return to the agencies the next spring, Tyler and I met several times. He was usually smoking a pipe and no one could be cooler or less concerned about himself. As usual it had required an all night march to enable us to surprise the camp, but although we got nothing to eat from the evening before the fight until after the fight was over, he had profited by experience and did not go hungry at all times.

He could not shake off, however, the deep gloom cast over all of us by the death of the very gallant and exceedingly popular young Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McKinney of the Fourth Cavalry and Class of '71, who had been killed while leading his troop in the charge into the camp at dawn. He and Tyler were devoted friends. McKinney was the young officer mentioned before as having been met at a stage station in November, 1873, who had followed raiding Indians with 10 men for 16 hours.​c

On this expedition the troops were in the field from about the 1st of November, 1876, until the middle of January, 1877, and although excessive cold was experienced, sufficient to freeze the mercury in a thermometer, and in the coldest weather the only fuel was sage brush, and ninety per cent of the command were more or less frost-bitten, the actual physical suffering and discomfort did not compare with that experienced on the staked Plains in 1874. The men had plenty of warm clothing and bedding; with the exception of but a few days they always had stoves and tents; the country was broken and they could get protection from the wind; there was but one night march, while the day marches were comparatively short, with many days on which there was no marching at all; owing perhaps to the cold, the enemy was much less active and threatening and the great watchfulness demanded of the command day and night in 1874 was much less necessary. The men were not frequently tired to exhaustion by long marches, without food, water or sleep; they did not have extreme heat immediately followed by extreme cold; above all they had no rain, sleet or mud, without tents or a dry change of clothing, and they were always dry.

At the close of the expedition Tyler had to take a sick leave due to his eyes having been affected by the bright reflection from the  p98 snow. He rejoined in April and shortly afterward, many hundreds of Indians having surrendered, the six troops of the Fourth Cavalry marched back to Indian Territory, Tyler's troop arriving at Fort Sill early in July. Nothing of interest occurred there.

In the meantime part of the regiment had been sent to Texas on account of troubles on the Rio Grande frontier, and Tyler returned from leave in February, 1878, to his old station of Fort Clark.

The country there was now becoming settled and cattle raising attempted. This was retarded by lawless Mexicans who stole large herds at a time, driving them across the Rio Grande. On the other hand the Indian raids had practically ceased. Nevertheless the new conditions kept the troops quite as much in the field as formerly and Tyler did his share of the work.

Finally he resigned on July 1, 1878. He left the service regretted, loved and respected. So modest was he that it is likely that hundreds of those he met almost daily in his after life never knew, or certainly never learned from him, that he had participated in some of the most stirring campaigns on our frontier, marching many thousands of miles, enduring the severest fatigue and privations and getting his share of Indian fighting at a period of frontier warfare when our troops were most active. Never was there a more gentle and loveable character.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. H. Dorst,

Colonel, Third Cavalry.

Thayer's Notes:

a New Cadets whose date for reporting to West Point was September 1. Most New Cadets reported on July 1.

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b This is accurate, according to "Phases of the Moon, 1801‑1900" (NASA Web Site): the full moon fell that month on September 25.

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c See William A. Ganoe's account of the battle, The History of the United States Army, p342, in which Lt. McKinney's death is mentioned.

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Page updated: 28 Feb 16