Lt. Colonel John 8 BIGELOW
Col. John 8
Bigelow, son of John7,
(Asa6, David5, David4, John3, Joshua2, John1) and Jane
(Poultney) Bigelow, was born at New York City on 12 May 1854.
John Bigelow, Jr. was the eldest of the two sons of the statesman John
Bigelow, Senior and Jane Tunis Poultney born in New York City, New
York. He spent much of his early years in France and traveled
throughout Europe with his parents. He became fluent in the French
language as well as having a general understanding of German and
On April 28, 1883 he married Mary Dallam (b July 24, 1858 Baltimore,
Maryland – d about 1941) and they had one son and several daughters of
which only one survived him. Their son, Captain Braxton Bigelow was
killed in action in 1917 while serving with the British Royal Engineers
Indian Wars and frontier service
9th Regiment United States Cavalry insigniaBigelow was appointed from
New York and graduated from the United States Military Academy at
Westpoint, New York in 1877. He requested cavalry and was assigned to
the 10th U.S. Cavalry but served with the 9th U.S. Cavalry for a time
before going back to the 10th. While at the Military Academy Bigelow
met Henry Ossian Flipper a classmate who had been born a slave. Bigelow
faced for the first time the racisim then prevailing in America. His
upbringing in Europe did not prepare him for such hatred. His efforts
to explain what he saw in Europe only inflamed other racists. With
subtle help from his peers, Flipper was the first "negro" to graduate
from West Point.
9th Cavalry Regiment–The Buffalo Soldiers
The Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It honors the
African-Americans troopers and those who led them.After the Civil War
two regiments of "Negro Troops" were raised for cavalry service on the
frontier. These were the 9th Cavalry and the 10th U.S. Cavalry. By 1877
the regiments lead by white officers were veterans of Indian Warfare
and frontier life. Bigelow, later with the 10th Cavalry, wrote
historical sketches for these Buffalo Soldiers which are still used
today as a reference.
On December 14, 1877, the young Bigelow reported for duty at Fort
Duncan in West Texas. He was assigned to Company B, 9th Cavalry. In
time he learned to become a cavalry trooper. His handsome looks turned
many a lady's head and he left many broken hearts behind him. His
language skills and presentation were also a plus for him. His journals
and sketches created a colorful portrait of his frontier service.
In 1877 the 9th Cavalry were in the New Mexico Military District, which
covered parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. Bigelow and
participated in the later part of the Apache Wars dated from 1875 to
1881. His service included the Battle of Tularosa with Chiricahua
Apache warriors led by Victorio in May 1880. In 1881 the 9th were
transferred east to Fort Riley, Kansas. But Bigelow was transferred to
the 10th U.S. Cavalry and in October 1882 he is at Fort Davis in Texas.
10th Cavalry Regiment
In the spring of 1885 the 10th left Fort Davis for the Department of
Arizona. Enroute the widely scattered troops began to come together and
formed a full regiment of 12 troops for the first and only time in its
history. Bigelow stated it was a sight to see and would never be seen
again. On May 20, 1885, the regiment reached its new headquarters at
Fort Apache, Arizona territory. Within weeks they were headed to
various isolated posts and forts for duty.
In the mid 1880s the hunt for Geronimo was on and Bigelow was involved
with the search, patrolling out of Fort Grant. Many patrols were
carried out and the public's attention was drawn to the hunt. Harper's
Weekly sent a young Frederic Remington out to document the historic
events. While Remington went out with various cavalry troops of the
10th, he met a friend of an old friend in the dusty west. Bigelow's
brother Poultney Bigelow was a former Yale classmate of Remington and
had remained in contact with him. This started a friendship which would
last for decades. Bigelow allowed Remington to read his journals and
see his sketches. While Bigelow never became proficient in his
sketches, his journals became the basis of serial articles on the hunt
for Geronomo for his brother's Outing magazine. Remington added a
series of freelance sketches for the magazine that included his new
friend, John Bigelow.
Bigelow, now tough and leaner with in stature, with a regimental
approved mustache, from his tenure on the frontier had become a teacher
to Remington regarding the cavalry and the tools of the trade. Bigelow
teased his friend about his British-style pith helmet. He gave his
friend a quiver of Apache hunting arrows and its bow that he had
recovered from the field. Remington made dozens of sketches that often
focused on what Bigelow did and often inserted himself in his own
sketches. In 1889 Remington would publish some of his sketches and tell
of what it was like going on a "scout" with the Buffalo Soldiers. The
tall lean frame and face of Bigelow can be seen in many of Remington's
later paintings and artistic works. Unfortunately this caused some
problems for Bigelow. Not only did some officers become jealous of the
attention given to Bigelow, but many women, married and single,
competed for his attention. Bigelow had many a close call toward the
state of matrimony, but improved his Spanish skills. On at least two
occasions his "notoriety" caused him delay in returning to his command
because of the "need" for him to attend a party while in transit at
some frontier posting.
Fort Grant, circa 1885.While the prize of capturing Geronimo in
September 1886 went to Captain Henry Lawton, in command of B Troop, 4th
Cavalry, the 10th Cavalry had drawn their part of the noose tight to
make it happen. Bigelow and his troop were part of the escort taking
Geronimo to the railroad station for his imprisonment back east.
In 1891, The headquarters for the 10th was moved to Fort Grant. Bigelow
was listed as the Regimental Quartermaster. There he would write a
brief history of the 10th Cavalry which became part of the United
States Military historic record.
Late career and Spanish-American War
"On the battleground of Las Guasimas" - American Buffalo Soldiers of
the 10th Cavarly going to the front" in Harper's Pictorial History of
the War with Spain, Vol. II, 1899.In late June 1898 Captain Bigelow in
command of D Troop, 10th Cavalry landed in Cuba. The harsh jungle
conditions were hard on him and his men. His unit was part of the
Cavalry Division's Second Brigade which included the 1st Volunteer
Cavalry later led by Lt. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and was in the
thick of the fighting.Three principal battles were fought by this
brigade on the approach to the principal city of Santiago de Cuba.
The first of these were the Battle of Las Guasimas on June 24, 1898
where Bigelow and the 10th Cavalry saved a portion of the Rough Riders
from annihilation when their lead companies were ambushed and pinned
down. This was where Harper's Weekly war correspondent Frederic
Remington expirenced the true horror of combat and heard the whistle of
bullets near his head. Remington later painted the "Scream of the
Shrapnel" in 1899 that represented this event.
"The Battle of Las Guasimas, June 24 - The heroic stand of the 'Rough
Riders'" in Harper's Pictorial History of the War with Spain, 1899.The
second was the Battle of El Caney in the early morning hours of July 1
where stubborn Spanish forces held the Americans at bay for almost
twelve hours. Then came infamous or famous Battle of San Juan Hill in
the late afternoon.
Bigelow was in a quandry. His troops and others were receiving fire
from the San Juan Heights that was fortified by the Spainsh defenders.
Other units went into position on the left and the right. But still no
orders to advance came. Bigelow's second in command, First Lieutenant
Jules Garesche Ord, son of General Otho Cresap Ord,was sent to
Brigadier General Hamilton S. Hawkins asking permission to attack.
Hawkins refused to give permission but did not deny it either. Enroute
back to the company, Ord passed by the different units including
Roosevelt's Rough Riders and asked them to support the regulars when
they went up the hill.
Captain Bigelow led his soldiers up the steep slopes to the heights of
San Juan Hill. Advancing through blistering fire, Bigelow was hit but
continued to urge his men forward. Just past the midway point he was
hit in quick succession by three Spainsh bullets which caused him to
fall. Several soldiers present reported that he encouraged them with,
"Men, don't stop for me, just keep up the charge until you get to the
top of the hill." His men did so and was able to provide covering fire
for those attacking adjacent to them.
Bigelow's second in command, Jules Ord reached the top and began
directing supporting fire when he was hit in the throat mortally
wounded. On that one day and one place, one half of the 10th's officers
and one-fifth of its soldiers became casualties. First Lieutenant John
J. Pershing quartermaster of the 10th took over command of D Troop.
Pershing had helped lead the charge up Kettle Hill with the right flank
of the 10th.
Bigelow was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on San Juan Hill.
In August 1899 he turned down a lieutenant colonelcy with a volunteer
regiment to stay with the 10th. This act was perceived as a snub. It
took many months for him to recover from his wounds and he found
himself back in Cuba in 1899. He spent the next three years
investigating Spainsh war claims there.
10th Regiment United States Cavalry insigniaReturning to the United
States he was shuffled from one fort to another each further westward
until he reached the Presido of San Francisco in later part of 1903.
His repeated efforts for an active command fell on deaf ears. In 1904
he became the superintendent of Yosemite National Park which was then
considered a retirement posting. Once again he served with elements of
the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers. In 1904 they built an arboretum on
the South Fork of the Merced in the southern section of Yosemite
National Park. This arboretum had pathways and benches, and some plants
were identified in both English and Latin. Yosemite's arboretum is
considered to be the first museum in the national park system. These
Buffalo Soldiers, as military stewards were some of the first "Park
Rangers" that protected the national parks from illegal grazing,
poaching, timber thieves, and forest fires.
Bigelow became more aware that he had become "persona no grata" for his
stanch support for the black Buffalo Soldiers. Claiming ill health, he
retired from the Army in late September 1904. Then he headed east
toward home where he would write and teach.
Bigelow's retirement from the Army did not stop him from working. He
became a professor of French and the head of the Department of Modern
Languages at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1905 to
1910. Afterward he devoted himself to studying strategy, tactics and
international relations. He wrote several books on these subjects. His
efforts to become a foreign statesman like his father was turned down.
His unintentional snubbing of Teddy Roosevelt in 1899 and undaunted
support for black troops continued to prevent him from serving his
country like his father.
In 1914 when war broke out in Europe, he redoubled his effort to join
the diplomatic corps and when that failed, he offered to serve in any
capacity. As America was dragged into World War I, Bigelow was recalled
to active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel. Again he was denied an active
command and served at Rutgers and in the War Department's Historical
Branch until his release in the later part of 1919.
He and his wife Mary suffered a tremendous loss in 1917. Their only
son, Braxton had been killed in action while serving with the British
near Loos. Braxton decided to get in the war early and in 1915 became
an officer in the British Royal Engineers. By the time of his death he
was a Captain and had received many awards for his service.
After the war years, Bigelow and his wife traveled to Europe with their
daughter Jane. They visited the grave of their son and he explored the
possibility of serving with the British. Discouraged by what he saw in
Europe he returned home. On February 29, 1936 with war looming once
again in Europe he died at home in Washington, D. C.
Honors and awards
During his military career, Bigelow earned the Silver Star while
attacking up San Juan Hill in Cuba. He received a Purple Heart for his
four wounds received there.
<> The Bigelow Society,The Bigelow Family Genealogy,Vol II
Howe, Bigelow Family of America; pg 450.
Kineman, Marcos, Frontier Cavalryman;
Lieutenant John Bigelow with The Buffalo Soldiers in Texas; pub 1998
(source of new photographs)
Forge sources below, On the Bloody Trail of Geronimo:
about John Jr's military career, Western Frontier, Military Life, a new
bride and family, life at Fort David, life at the Frontier with a
Forge: The Bigelow Society Quarterly; Vol 27, No 2, Apr 1998, pg 27;
Forge: The Bigelow Society Quarterly; Vol
27, No 3, July
1998, pg 49;
Forge: The Bigelow Society Quarterly; Vol 27, No 4, Oct 1998,
The following link are the Forge articles noted above and is in three
parts by Guy A. Bigelow:
Modified - 12/24/2009
(c) Copyright 2009 Bigelow Society, Inc. All rights
Rod Bigelow - Director
Rod Bigelow (Roger Jon12 BIGELOW)
Box 13 Chazy Lake
Dannemora, N.Y. 12929
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