ELECTUS BACKUS, JR.
Backus Lineage of Electus Backus, Jr.:
Electus Backus7(Electus6, Delucena5, John4, John3, William2, William1)
Electus Backus was the son of Lt. Colonel Electus M. & Sabra (Judson) Backus. Electus, born 17 Feb 1804 in New York, married 1st Sarah Brady, and 2nd Mary L. Brady, both daughters of General Hugh Brady. He died in June, 1862, in Detroit, Michigan, and is buried in that city's Elmwood Cemetery.
2nd lieutenant, 2nd Infantry, July 1, 1824
2nd lieutenant, 1st Infantry, July 1,1824.
Garrison at Sackett's Harbor, N. Y., 1824-5
Clinch River, Fla., 1826
Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1827-8
1st lieutenant July 28, 1831
Captain, 1st Infantry, October 17, 1837
A. D. C. to Brigadier General Hugh Brady, from July 16, 1827, to October 7, 1837. Served in the Sac and Fox War, but was in no important engagement.
Served in the Florida War from December, 1837, to June, 1840. Fort Mitchell, Ala., 1840. Was present under Colonel Davenport with his company and assisted in the capture of forty Indians at the mounds at the foot of Lake Okeechobee, March 14, 1838. Left Florida on sick leave June, 1840.
Fort Columbus, N. Y., 1841;
Fort Snelling, Minn., 1841-44;
Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1845-46;
Mexican War from May 12th, 1846 to its close; was present at battles of Monterey and Vera Cruz; breveted major September 23, 1846, for gallant and meritorious conduct at Monterey September 21, 22, 23, 1846
commanded the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa from April 4, 1847, to January 1, 1848;
Recruiting service in Buffalo, N. Y., 1849-50;
Major, 3rd Infantry, June 10, 1850
Built Fort Defiance in 1851-52; Fort Fillmore 1853-54;
Superintendent of the general recruiting service from July 1, 1855 to July 1, 1856;
Commanded the second column against the Navajo Indians in October and November, 1858, killed seven Indians, captured 57 horses and 300 sheep and goats, lost neither a man or animal during the campaign except one horse killed and one officer wounded on the last day of the campaign and long after the hostilities had ceased
Fort Defiance, N. M., 1858-59
Stationed at Rengold Barracks, Tex., 1860-61; lieutenant-colonel, 3rd Infantry, January 19, 1859; brought his command out of Texas safely on the Star of the West via. New Orleans, and steamboats to Jefferson Barracks, Mo.
Served at Detroit, Mich., in the Rebellion during 1861-62 as mustering and disbursing officer. His failing health would not permit him to take the field, although his presence was greatly desired by General Scott. Colonel, 6th Infantry, June 1, 1862.
This Historical Magazine dated September, 1866, printed the Diary of the Indian campaign in Florida of 1837-8, written by Capt. Electus Backus, U.S.A. [TAMPA SUNDAY TRIBUNE, Sunday, December 2, 1956]
Captain Backus writes that he left Detroit November 14, 1837, and arrived in New York November 21. On the 9th of December, 1837, he sailed in command of a detachment of 194 recruits for Savannah and arrived there on Dec. 15.
He sailed for Black Creek on the 18th in the steamer Florida and arrived there four days later. From Black Creek he marched for Tampa Bay on the 31st of December and arrived January 11, 1838.
News of Col. Zachary Taylor’s battle of Okeechobee, fought on Christmas Day, 1837, reached Captain Backus at Ft Affer
CAPTAIN BACKUS tarried only two days in Tampa, leaving on a Saturday, January 13, 1838, for Fort Bassinger. This Fort Bassinger was built by Col. Zachary Taylor, about the 28th of December, on the Kissimmee River. It lies about 120 miles southeast from Tampa Bay, 20 miles from the battleground of Okeechobee and 60 miles from Fort Denaud on the Caloosahatchee.
Leaving Fort Bassinger, he arrived on January 15 at Pease Creek (38 miles), then took charge of a baggage train and marched for Fort Gardner on January 16, (28 miles), and arrived on the 17th. Col. Zachary Taylor was at Fort Gardner. There was no news from General Jesup.
On January 20, 1838, Captain Backus met Major Larned near Istapoga. The major was on his way to Tampa Bay. He had just come from General Jesup’s camp, 30 miles, southeast of Fort Bassinger.
ON JANUARY 23 Captain Backus was detailed to command an exploring expedition to Lake Okeechobee.
On arriving at Okeechobee he met Delaware Indians who brought news that the graves of those who fell in the battle of Okeechobee were violated. January 30th Captain Backus was on the Okeechobee battleground, where he found the graves violated. Colonel Thompson’s vest, Colonel Gentry’s shirt, and Captain Van Swearingen’s stock were recognized. He saw five or six dead Indians, nearly eaten up by dogs and buzzards.
THE DIARY CONTINUES with its detailed daily entries.
We find Captain Backus in the Everglades on February 7ty where he captured 70 Indian ponies.
On February 12 he reports that Captain Taylor (not Col. Zachary Taylor) returned to Fort Bassinger from Tampa Bay with guides, who said that the Seminoles will come in soon.
On February 23rd express (mail) came from General Jesup that the Indians refuse to come in. Next day, Col. Zachary Taylor, with Captain Barker and Lieutenant Hill for escort, left in good weather to join General Jesup.
BY MARCH 14TH we find Captain Backus arrived at Florida Mounds where he found three Indians and families there, and 20 families a few miles below. The Florida Mounds, known then as Ancient Fortifications, were situated five or six miles from the southeast point of Lake Okeechobee. They were very old. Trees two feet in diameter were growing on them. Their length was about 420 feet, east and west. Their breadth about 90 feet. They were highest at the east end about 18 or 20 feet, the lateral embankments about five feet high. Cypress hammock on the north, wet prairies south and east, pine barren ridge west.
THE LAST ENTRY in the diary is for April 1, 1838, Captain Backus writes: “Eight cases of scurvy this morning. An express (mail) with orders for the first regiment to scour the islands in El Pat-I-oka for Co-a-co-ochee (Wildcat) and his party…..Fourth Infantry gone to Warm Springs, Captain Hoffman gone to New Orleans as guard to Indians taken at Bunero, etc., etc.” and then ends the diary with: “Two soldiers were shot by Indians, pending Jesup’s treaty – a good excuse for violating it on his part.”
ENTRY for January 30, 1838, merits verbatim quoting, as it refers to the
Okeechobee battle December 25, 1837. Here it is as Captain Backus wrote it:
Rode to the battleground (Okeechobee) one and a half miles, with Captain Baker and Miller….The Indians had selected a strong position. On the north shore of Lake Okeechobee is a cypress hammock about 30 yards in width. On the north of the hammock is a wet prairie --- grass five to six feet high. The prairie is about a half mile wide from north to south. Then comes an open hard country, pine wood, etc. The Indians were in the hammock at the point where the trail on which the troops were marching entered it. They had cut down all the small bushes and the grass wide enough for a company to enter in a line. The two companies which entered at this point were nearly annihilated.
|Notes: Electus Backus was born in New York in 1804. He was the son of Col. Electus Backus who was killed at Sackett's Harbor in 1813. The younger Backus graduated from West Point in 1824 and fought in the Seminole and the Mexican wars. In June 1850, Backus, who was Major of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, was assigned command of Fort Defiance, Arizona. Backus died in Detroit in June 1862, just after he was made Colonel of the 6th U.S. Infantry. The diary, which covers November 23, 1851 - April 18, 1852, details Backus's experience as commander of Fort Defiance, AZ, and particularly the army's interactions with the Navajo, the Hopi, and the Apache Indians, including the Indians coming to the fort to trade and buy supplies, Backus's relationships with various Navajo chiefs, and failed treaty negotiations with the Navajo by Edwin Sumner and Territorial Governor James S. Calhoun. Backus also describes his frustration with late supply shipments, his fear that his troops will starve, and the various problems brought on with the winter weather including the death of cattle and horses. Backus also mentions gold and "jewel" mines in the area. Location: Huntington Library Manuscripts Dept. 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, CA 91108.|
|#3492 - Backus, Electus, of Detroit. Filed 17 June 1862. Mary L. Backus, Adm'x. August Stellwagen, app't adm. Sept. 3, 1889. Estate $10,000. Beneficiaries: Mary L. Backus (wid), Mary E. Ward, dau, Electus Backus Ward (gd s), Cassandra Withrell (sister-in-law). Wit: Edward Lyon, E.N. Wilcox. Proved April 25, 1911. Henry S. Hulbert, Judge of Probate.|
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