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This webpage reproduces a section of
Uncle Sam's Camels

Lewis Burt Lesley

Harvard University Press,
Cambridge [Mass.], 1929
As republished by The Rio Grande Press, Inc.
Glorieta, NM 1970

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

The Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale to the Secretary of War concerning the Wagon Road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River
April 26, 1858
35th Congress, 1st Session,
House of Representatives
Ex. Doc., No. 124

 p174  p30 August 1. Raised camp at 4.30, and sunrise found us some distance on the road. Last night was passed watchfully, Indian signs having been observed. We travelled four miles, and after ascending a short but steep hill encamped at some rain water holes. On the brow of the hill is the grave of two Germans killed by the Indians, from which this place takes its name of the Allemagne. Three miles further on is another place of the same name, where a third German of the same party lost his life. Our journey this morning was short, owing to our finding water and the uncertainty of soon finding it again. The road is excellent and the grass very abundant, wanting only trees and water to make the country perfect. After breakfasting we started p31again, and, on arriving at the Big Allemagne, found a party of Mexicans journeying to Dona Ana. In this country the first question is, Indians? And the second, water? Having exchanged views as to the first and most important, we found that, to our sorrow, we should not find water at the Laguna, and that, as no rain had fallen to the northward, we had no hope of my water nearer than the river — fifty miles distant. This at once determined me to spend the day where we were and travel  p175 after night. The teams were immediately turned loose and our camp made; the rain water in the holes being abundant. At sundown we started on our journey again, and travelled till 1 o'clock at night, when we encamped on the plain, having made twenty miles. The grass is excellent, but the animals, having no water, ate but little.

August 2. At 4, up and off again. The sun rose hot and fiery, and all betokened a distressing day's journey. Soon we began to see that since the Mexicans had passed rain had fallen upon their trail, and shortly after, to our great joy, a hole containing sufficient rain water for all our animals was found. Camp was made at once, and breakfast. After a hurried meal, the animals being refreshed by water and abundance of grass, we started again and at noon encamped on the Rio Grande. Thus, we have passed the terrible "journey of death," and it has been our good fortune to have had a most agreeable passage of it; rain water as often as we desired, instead of a ninety-mile journey without any. The road is already good; the grass, as I have before remarked, everywhere excellent and abundant, and nothing but water required to make it in every way desirable. At present, it lies directly on the road between El Paso and Santa Fe — the dread and terror of travellers, and has cost more loss in the suffering and death of cattle than would pay ten times over for the three wells the government might cause to be dug. The grass on the river bottoms is not good, and we therefore camped on the nearest hills to the river, where we found excellent gramma. Distance made today twenty-five miles.

 p176  August 3. Started somewhat late this morning, (6 o'clock) and after a short march came in sight of Fort Craig, on the opposite side of the river. I did not cross to it, but from its appearance at a distance of a quarter of a mile it presented a more fort-like outside and aspect than any post we have seen on the road. Travelled up the river sixteen miles and encamped on a hill near it. Grass good, and wood, in the timber of the river bottom, abundant.

The scenery of the river, especially the green meadow and the trees is very pleasant, and to us, who have been so long without the sight of running water, and kept so constantly anxious on the subject of a good square drink, the abundant river is a very grateful object of view.

August 4. Being anxious to see General Garland, and to arrange matters in relation to the soldiers I am to take with me, I left camp this morning and travelled on ahead as rapidly as the worst road in the known world would permit. At every step our poor beasts sank deep in the sand, and could scarcely lift a leg when we arrived p32at camp. The river bottom, to which we occasionally descended and travelled upon, was filled with corn fields, and tolerably well cultivated after the Mexican fashion, almost the entire day's travel. Herds of sheep, goats, and cattle, sheltered from the scorching sun under the cotton-woods, or standing belly deep in the river, added the grace of pastoral life to the beauty of the landscape.

We passed several towns, and found the fame of the camels had preceded us. At the first, I was taken for the head showman. A crowd soon gathered around us, and a slouchy looking ruffian, acting as interpreter, we had quite an amusing time. Looking at my ambulance, which the  p177 taste of the builder had painted a bright red, he commenced:

"Dis show wagon, no?"

I replied, "yes."

"Ah, ha! You be dee showmans, no?"

"Yes, sir."

"What you gottee more on camelos? Gottee any dogs?"

"Yes, monkeys too, and more."

"Whattee more?"

"Horse more."

"Whattee can do horse?"

"Stand on his head, and drink a glass of wine."

"Valgame Dios! What a people these are to have a horse stand on his head, and drink a glass of wine."

And we left our friend explaining to his audience what had passed, and filled with admiration for the nation, one of whose humblest individuals possessed a horse capable of standing on his head and drinking wine.

August 10. Albuquerque. Returned from Santa Fe, having arranged all my business with the commanding officer of the department. As we were engaging rooms at a wretched fonda, on our arrival here, I was met by Major Rucker, of the army,​a whom I had known in California years ago. The major kindly offered Thorburn and myself rooms at his house, which we gladly accepted. Business kept me here today pretty busy, though I nevertheless enjoyed highly the change from the rough fare of camp to the well supplied table of our kind host.

August 11. Still in Albuquerque.

August 12. Started my train on, it being necessary for me to remain until the arrival of the express from Santa Fé.  p178 I was anxious, moreover, to get the men out of town as soon as possible, as the fandangos and other pleasures had rendered them rather troublesome. This morning I was obliged to administer a copious supply of the oil of boot to several, especially to my Turks and Greeks, with the camels. The former had not found, even in the positive prohibitions of the prophet, a sufficient reason for temperance, but was as drunk as any Christian in the train, and would have remained behind, but for a style of reason much resorted to by the head of his church, as well as others, in making converts, i.e., a broken head. Billy Considine says he has seen a cut glass decanter do good service, when aimed low, but to move a stubborn half-drunken Turk give me a good tough piece of wagon spoke, aimed tolerably high.

p33 August 15. To my delight the express arrived last night, and today, at 2 o'clock, we got off. After travelling some twelve miles or so we encamped on a plain beyond the Puerco.

August 16. Travelled all day, and overtook the train at the little half Indian town of Covero. We arrived about sundown, and no one can imagine the pleasant thing it was to us to get back to our flannel shirts, big boots, and greasy buckskins once more. It was home to us.

August 17. We moved a few miles up the valley and encamped. We are travelling very slowly, awaiting the arrival of Col. Loring,​b from whom I am to receive my escort, and who is now on his way to Fort Defiance. We are all very impatient, as our work is now about to commence; and whatever fortune is before us, we are anxious to meet it,  p179 and have done with all suspense in regard to it. I trust to be in California in sixty days after we once get started.

We find this valley, cultivated by the Indians, in far better condition, as far as crops and prospects are concerned, than any part of New Mexico we have yet seen. They seem to have plenty of corn and wheat, and are, altogether, quite as well off as their Mexican neighbors.

August 18. Moved camp this morning a few miles up the stream of the Gallo. Having nothing to do but await impatiently the arrival of Colonel Loring, we only move camp to get better grass.

The little valley of the Gallo presents a most singular appearance. Directly down the centre, and rising to a height of some twelve feet, a stream of lava has flowed, and apparently ceased somewhere near our camp of yesterday. This fiery torrent seems to have been nearly a quarter of a mile in width, and looks as if a troubled ocean of molten iron had suddenly cooled. The whole valley is so completely filled with the solid lava as to leave only here and there a narrow belt of meadow; but this is knee deep with the finest and greenest grass, and almost hidden by it, and winding its way through it is the clear, sparkling brook of the Gallo. The stream is quite narrow, in fact nowhere over six feet in width, but the water clear as crystal and very cool. It is quite deep, being in many places breast high. The contrast with the rough, black, honey-combed rock, which extends as far up the valley as the eye can reach, and the soft velvet green of the little fringe of meadow, is very pleasant, not only to ourselves but to our poor mules, to whom our present short camps seem particularly delightful. On each side of the valley the mountains rise abruptly, and on  p180 the left, directly in front, is a palisaded mesa of very considerable height. The term mesa is a Mexican word, signifying table; but out here it is used in reference to mountains. As an English word, when so used, it means a mountain with a flat top, and in this region nearly all are so; in fact, it is an exception to see one otherwise. A sprinkle of rain this evening. Every day for the past ten we have had more or less rain, and at times heavy showers.

August 19. Still in camp, waiting for Colonel Loring. Today we made a seine of gunny bags, and caught a large quantity of fish; they p34were principally mullet, with a few trout. The stream seems filled with fish, and with a proper net an abundance for any number of men might be taken.

Our camels are doing well here, and seem as fat as when we left, and apparently in better order for the road. On leaving Albuquerque they were packed with an average of seven hundred pounds each; the largest carried nearly a thousand pounds, and the others in proportion to their size and strength. Two Zuñi Indians came into camp this morning and reported Colonel Loring as only a few miles behind, so that we hope to see him this evening. We found the grass on the other side of the creek best, and our mules are now grazing in it belly deep.

August 20. This morning I mounted the white dromedary, "Seid," and started back to meet Colonel Loring. The morning was cool and pleasant, and the fine animal travelled off at the rate of eight miles an hour without, apparently, the least effort.

On reaching Covero, some thirteen miles and a half from camp, I found the colonel, who had just arrived, and after a pleasant interview, we started back together; but finding  p181 his animals unequal to mine, I rode on to camp again alone, and arrived after an absence of three hours, during which I had ridden twenty-seven miles. "Seid" seemed not the least tired; indeed, it was as much as I could do to hold him on my return, and could not have done so had I not put the chain part of his halter around his lower jaw. The best mule or horse in our camp, in present condition, could not have performed the same journey in twice the time, although they have been fed with corn ever since leaving, and some of the horses not worked at all, having been kept for express duty in the event of accident, while "Seid" has not only worked every day, but been grazed entirely on grass.

I saw some Indians, in the hills at a distance, as I rode along.

I found our men had been fishing again, and had caught, at one haul of our gunny bag net, ninety-six fine fish, which furnished us a good meal for all hands.

There is plenty of wood at this camp — cedar and a few dwarf pines.

August 21. Today I sent the camp on to Zuñi, and shall go up with Colonel Loring, whose command reached here last evening, to Fort Defiance, so as to start with my escort from that place. I have determined to take but twenty men, instead of thirty-five, as I do not wish to encumber myself more than is absolutely necessary.

Started at 8 and travelled over a beautifully undulating country for twenty-two miles, when we reached the "Agua Azul," (Blue Water) and encamped. We found two trains of army wagons here, with their escorts. I cannot, imagine why this place should ever have been called "Blue Water."  p182 It is a long, ditch-like hole, extending about half a mile, and probably twelve feet in width, by an average depth of two and a half. The water, which, from its name, should be blue, is the deepest colored red brown I ever saw; even more colored than the Pecos, of Texas; differing, however, from that wretched stream in this, that the water is sweet, palatable, and wholesome.

The meadow here embraces, in all, probably two thousand acres of uncommonly fine land, and is covered with a beautiful grass, of a kind p35I have not before met with in this country. It grows quite tall, and is very pleasant to the taste and seemingly nutritious; in color a blue green, and very much resembling the blue grass of Jamaica.

There is but little wood immediately at the water, though we found enough drift trash for cooking. A mountain range, which extends all along the road we travelled today, and about five or six miles distant, seems to carry good wood in all parts of it. The foothills are covered with small cedars, and the higher mountains with large pine trees. On our road today a bear crossed our track, just out of gun shot, ahead of us. Thorburn and I started to cut him off, in some hills to our right, for which he was making, but Bruin outran us, and we gave up the chase, completely out of breath with running.

This evening we have killed a few snipe, which, cooked on a stick, with alternate slices of bacon, have made us a nice supper.

Colonel Loring having turned off the road to a spring, we passed without seeing his command, and shall await his arrival here.

August 22. The night has been cloudy, with rain, and  p183 this morning the sky is still overcast with occasional showers. Fortunately, we have an Indian rubber blanket with us, which protected us both very well, our blankets being spread on the ground close together. Made our breakfast on snipe killed this morning, some black birds, and a piece of mutton we brought from camp with us — a better and a heartier one, and eaten with a more contented mind, than many a one eaten this morning at the best hotel in New York. This morning the colonel joined us, and in the evening we proceeded together to Fort Defiance. Leaving at 2 o'clock, we rode, through a driving rain and heavy mud, but over a very level country, fourteen miles, and encamped at a muddy spring of sulphurous water, unfit for man or beast. Fortunately, we had filled our canteens at the Agua Azul, and so were provided with good water. Made a pleasant camp in the shelter of a pine grove, but had poor grass for our animals. On our right runs, bounding the valley, a curious range of red sandstone bluffs, some hundred feet perpendicular in height, and stone abutments extending into the plain like capes at sea. This curious formation is said to extend for a hundred and twenty miles to the northward of this. On our left the mountain is covered with fine timber — cedar and pine. The plains are filled with rich gramma grass, which is now hardly long enough to allow our animals to graze on, but which is rapidly springing up everywhere.

August 23. Yesterday's remarks would apply perfectly, without change, to today's travel. We have had the same rain, followed up the same valley, had the same curious range of red sandstone on our right, and finely timbered mountain on our left; the same freshly growing gramma  p184 grass; in fact, everything just as yesterday. The valley through which we have travelled is apparently very level, and the road excellent. At noon, having made seventeen miles, we encamped in a fine grove of pines, just in time to shelter us somewhat from a heavy rain squall. Started in the afternoon and travelled six miles, and encamped near some rain water. Grass tolerably good. The grass throughout this region is now coming on rapidly, and, once well up, will remain good p36during the winter, and until the first of June. It is nearly all gramma.

August 24. Started about 7 and travelled nearly eighteen miles, when we encamped on the Puaco, a deep gulley, in which we found water. We are now on the western slope of the Rocky mountains, and the waters from this point all reach the Pacific. Our ascent has been so gradual that no one would have supposed, from the character of the road, we were ascending at all, much less that we were approaching the summit of a most formidable range of mountains. Not even a hill of any size has obstructed the passage of our wagon, and our mules are as fresh after their day's work as though we had been travelling on the great plains. The country through which we are passing is all well timbered with pine and cedar. This evening we found a vein of coal quite near the road where it crosses the Pecos. It seemed to us of excellent quality, and was about two feet in width. It cropped out in two places, and seemed equally large at both. We brought off specimens of it, which we kicked up with our boots from the surface. I subsequently learned that coal in large quantities existed near Fort Defiance and was used at the government shops by the blacksmiths, and found of excellent quality.

 p185  Thorburn and I tried our strength this evening in overthrowing a huge rock, which was so perfectly balanced on another that it resembled the rocking stone of the Druids. A very slight exertion caused it to oscillate backwards and forwards like a cradle, though I am sure all of our party could not have lifted half of it. After great exertion, and prizing it with a pine log, we at last overcame its balance and sent the huge mass crashing to the foot of the cliff. This afternoon we came on about ten miles, and finding good grass, wood and water, encamped.

We are now about twenty miles from Fort Defiance, and shall breakfast there tomorrow. Since leaving Albuquerque the weather has been delightfully cool, and at night one finds a pair of blankets hardly enough to keep him comfortable.

Last night the dew was very heavy, amounting almost to rain. This evening mosquitoes are very abundant; but, as the sun goes down, the night is too cold for them to trouble us at all.

August 25. Started about 6, and after travelling for some hours over a beautiful country, where coal seemed everywhere abundant, we met Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Carlisle, who was on his way in the ambulance to meet Colonel Loring. As we stood in the warm sun of August, it was most refreshing to see the captain's servant throw off the folds of a blanket from a tub in the bottom of the wagon, and expose several large and glistening blocks of ice, while at the same time the captain produced a delicate flask of "red eye." In ten miles more we reached the post and were most hospitably received by the officers. Thorburn and myself accepted the invitation of Dr. Irving to live at his house, and are indebted to him for a great deal of hospitality.

 p186  August 26. Rose early, and, with Thorburn and the doctor, took a long walk.

This post is situated at the mouth of a cleft in the mountain, by which the very backbone of the mountain seems to have been cloven down p37to the level of the plain; nothing I have ever seen hitherto compares with it. Fancy a great mountain range running in an unbroken line for miles and miles, and here rent asunder, so that a road perfectly level passes directly through what would otherwise present an impassable barrier, and the rock rising in a solid mass, five hundred feet perpendicular, on each side. This cleft is about a hundred yards in width and about three miles in length. Through the centre trickles a scanty stream, which serves to water the gardens of the garrison, which are all made in the cañon, and which seem to be in a most flourishing condition, especially the potatoes. This vegetable is found in this vicinity growing wild. Our walk this morning was constantly through the grandest scenery, and fully repaid us for rising so early.

August 27. This morning, everything being in readiness, we take leave of our kind and hospitable friends and start upon our journey into the wilderness. No one who has not commanded an expedition of this kind, where everything ahead is dim, uncertain, and unknown, except the dangers, can imagine the anxiety with which I start upon this journey. Not only responsible for the lives of my men, but my reputation and the highest wrought expectations of my friends, and the still more highly wrought expectations of envious enemies — all these dependent on the next sixty days' good or evil fortune. Today commences it. Let us see what I shall say in this journal, if I live to say  p187 anything, on the day of my return here. Left the post at 2 P.M., and travelling over a very pleasant rolling country, reached camp twenty-two miles from the Fork, at a spring called the Collito. On our way we passed the spring called Amarillo, seven miles from the post. The water was the coldest I have ever tasted where no artificial means were resorted to.

At our camp to‑night the grass is not good, though wood is plenty — cedar and pine.

August 28. Raised camp at 5 and travelled until 9; country rolling and heavily timbered nearly all the way with pine. Road excellent, but water not to be found. Grass very good in many places. I stopped to rest the men on the Puerco, (the fifth river we have seen of that name), but found no water in the river. We remained at the Puerco two hours, when we took up our march for this place. Course today and yesterday southerly. We found two steep but not high hills on the road this evening, but nothing to make double teaming necessary. Fine timber everywhere — cedar and pine. The road has run, since leaving the spring near the fort, almost entirely through level cañons of sandstone sides, and on the left hand very abrupt and high. The attrition of water has worn them in many places into the most curious and fantastic shapes. Thorburn took a sketch of one this morning, which resembled, on a gigantic scale, an Italian road side shrine.

[image ALT: A small brick shrine, about 50 cm on a side and about 2½ meters tall, consisting of a niche on a rectangular base; the niche contains a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the shrine is crowned by a metal cross adding another 50 cm in height to it. It is a roadside shrine, or madonnina, not far from Mercatale, Tuscany (central Italy).]

During his Navy career, Beale had traveled to Italy, and could not have avoided seeing such shrines, ubiquitously dotting the countryside. Although these edicole take many forms (for which see my pages), this very typical example near Mercatale in Tuscany on the Umbrian border is likely what he had in mind: tall, somewhat top-heavy, and with a niche hollowed out in the upper part.

Today our journey has been twenty-six miles — course southerly.

We encamped at the Posos (wells), a grassy vega of about one hundred and sixty acres, where the water and grass are good and timber abundant — cedar and pine.

Thorburn and I have passed the evening in anxiously  p188 examining the very meagre notes of Aubrey, who passed somewhere near where p38our trail will go. We have tried hard to reconcile it with the very imperfect maps of the wilderness, but both are so vague that I fear we shall profit nothing by them.

August 29. Arrived at Zuñi, an old Indian pueblo of curious aspect; it is built on a gentle eminence in the middle of a valley about five miles wide, through which the dry bed of the Zuñi lays. As we approached, cornfields of very considerable extent spread out on all sides, and apparently surrounded the town. This place contains a population of about two thousand souls; the houses, although nearly all have doors on the ground floor, are ascended by ladders, and the roof is more used than any other part. Here all the cooking is done, the idle hours spent, and is the place used for sleeping in summer. Each house or family has a little garden, rarely over thirty feet square, which is surrounded by a wall of mud. Inside of these, and completely encircling the town, are the corrals for sheep, asses, and horses, which are always driven up at night. We saw here many Albinos, with very fair skins, white hair, and blue eyes. The Indians raise a great deal of wheat, of a very fine quality, double-headed. The squaws are more expert at carrying things on their heads than our southern negroes. I saw one ascend to the second story of a house by a ladder, with an earthen jar containing a full bucket of water, without touching it with her hands. It was quite amusing to see the men knitting stockings. Imagine Hiawatha at such undignified work. The old Jesuit church is in ruins; but a picture over the altar attracted our attention from the beauty of four small medallion paintings in each corner,  p189 which were very beautifully done. After much rubbing off the mud and dust we made out that it was painted by Miguel somebody in 1701.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is the old Jesuit church at Zuñi Pueblo, New Mexico.]

A photograph taken by Henry T. Hiester in the 1870's, which he titled "Old church at Zuni from which the Jesuits were driven more than a century ago and to which they never have returned". The mission church of Our Lady of Guadalupe was built in 1629 and is still standing, having been restored four times, in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.

The photograph is in the public domain. An informative page and a very good modern photograph also showing the modern cemetery that has grown in front of it, can be found on the University of Arizona's Colonial Missions site.

White intercourse (traders) with these Indians seems to have destroyed with them all the respect they had for the Catholic religion, without giving them any in return. Like all Indians who have a fixed abode, they are quiet and inoffensive. A knowledge of this fact induced me to endeavor to establish the same system of old missions in California; but the government did not appreciate the fact as I did, and it has not been carried out. We found here a few indifferent peaches, the only effect of which was to carry us back, in fancy, to home at this season. The melons also were quite poor, almost unfit to eat.

For an account of these people, as they were centuries ago, see Coronado's expedition. For more modern accounts, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Whipple's answers every purpose, and is very interesting. Salt, of the finest quality, is found near here by the Indians in the greatest abundance. There is no wood nearer the town than five miles. After leaving camp this morning we had no water until our arrival here. The grass is good, and the wood on the road abundant, until getting within five miles of the place.

Distance made today nineteen miles.

August 30. We spent the morning in arranging a trade with the Indians for corn. The men were all day and until midnight shelling it.

August 31. — Camp No. 1. Got off at 11 o'clock, and travelled until 6 in the evening very pleasantly over a rolling country.

p39 There has been so little rain that there was no water at the usual water holes, two of which we passed. The grass was everywhere of good quality, but the drought had shrivelled it until but little remained. It was all gramma. At 6 we encamped on good grass, but without water. The  p190 high rolling prairie, over which we have travelled today, has good wood, cedar and pine, and plenty of it everywhere.

Thayer's Notes:

a Daniel Henry Rucker: born in New Jersey, appointed from Michigan. Second Lieutenant in the Dragoons 13 Oct 1837; First Lieutenant 8 Oct 1844; Captain 7 Feb 1847; Captain, Assistant Quartermaster 23 Aug 1849; Major, Quartermaster 3 Aug 1861; Colonel Assistant Aide-de‑camp 28 Sep 1861; Brigadier General of Volunteers 23 May 1863; honorably mustered out of the Volunteer Service 1 Sep 1866; Colonel, Assistant Quartermaster General 28 Jul 1866; Brigadier General, Quartermaster General 13 Feb 1882; retired 23 Feb 1882; Brevet Major 23 Feb 1847 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Buena Vista, Mex.; Lieutenant‑Colonel, Colonel, and Brigadier General 5 Jul 1864 for diligent and faithful service during the war and Major General United States Army and United States Volunteers 13 Mar 1865 for faithful and meritorious service during the war. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

[decorative delimiter]

b William Wing Loring: born in North Carolina, appointed from Florida. Second Lieutenant in the Florida Volunteers 16 Jun to 16 Aug 1837; Captain in the Mounted Rifles 27 May 1846; Major 16 Feb 1847; Lieutenant-Colonel 15 Mar 1848; Colonel 30 Dec 1856; Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel 20 Aug 1847 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mex. and Colonel 13 Sep 1847 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Chapultepec, Mex.; resigned 13 May 1861. Major General, C. S. A. in the war 1861 to 1865. Died 30 Dec 1886. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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