Wednesday, June 5, 2013

U. S. Army Shifts More Troops into Idaho Territory

On June 5, 1863, The Oregonian reported on activities in Walla Walla, Washington: “Major Truax has been ordered to Lapwai – probably to take command of the post there. It is thought that Col. Steinberger will be returned to the command of Fort Walla Walla.”

Sewall Truax was born in 1830, in southern Quebec, Canada to parents who were U. S. citizens. He grew up near Saint Albans, Vermont, perhaps 20-30 miles south of where he was born. Educated as an engineer at Norwich University in Vermont, he emigrated to Oregon in 1853. He saw action in the Rogue River War, and became a Captain of Oregon Volunteer Cavalry in 1861. He was promoted to major within a year.
Councilman Sewall Truax. Washington Archives

Before the transfer noted in the news report, Major Truax had been in command at Fort Walla Walla. He remained in charge at Fort Lapwai through 1864. He apparently served at Fort Boise for a time before returning north. There, in 1866-1867, he directed work parties sent to improve the Lolo Trail cutting across the Bitterroot Mountains into Montana.

Around 1870, Sewall returned to Walla Walla as a civilian engineer. He later served a term in the legislative Council of Washington Territory. Sewall died in 1894.

The Oregonian article went on, “Capt. Mason’s company of W. T. Infantry has been ordered out on the old emigrant road across the Blue mountains to repair the road for the Government teams bound for the new post at Boise.”

At this point, of course, the Army did not know exactly where they might establish a fort. Still, the assumption was that it would be along the Boise River, to offer protection to emigrants on the Oregon Trail as well as the mining camps higher in the mountains.

The newspaper said, “Two companies, under command of Major Lugenbeel, have left the Dalles to accompany the expedition to Boise. The first of the teams left the Dalles on Monday last.”

Major Pinckney Lugenbeel, a Regular Army officer, had been assigned the responsibility to survey the country and select a location for the new Fort.

References: “From Walla Walla,” The Oregonian, Portland (June 5, 1863).
Frank T. Gilbert, Historic Sketches of Walla Walla, Whitman, Columbia and Garfield counties, Washington Territory, and Umatilla County, Oregon, A. G. Walling Printing, Portland, Oregon (1882).
“Indian Post Office,” Reference Series No. 926, Idaho State Historical Society (Revised July 1992)

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