1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

Captain J.B. Irvine Company A 22nd Infantry 1866-1891

 

 

This photo of J. B. Irvine was taken while he was a Captain in the 22nd Infantry.
The marksman buttons on the collar of his uniform indicate the photo was taken between the years 1881 and 1891.

 

 

Javan Bradley Irvine was born in Dansville, Livingston County, New York on April 3, 1831.
He settled in Minnesota in 1852. Around 1858 he became a Private in a local militia unit called the Pioneer Guard.
When the Civil War started in 1861, the Pioneer Guard became the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment.
Irvine was 30 years old at the time. For his gallant conduct during the first Battle of Bull Run, and for capturing
a Confederate Lieutenant Colonel during the fight, he was recommended for a commission in the Regular Army
by several notable people, including a couple of senators from Minnesota. On December 23, 1861, he was commissioned
a 1st Lieutenant in the 13th US Infantry. He continued with that unit during the War, serving for a time as adjutant
at a military prison in Illinois, and was Regimental Quartermaster of the 13th Infantry from November 1862 to March 1865.

On April 7, 1866 he was promoted to Captain, Company A of the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Infantry.
On September 21, 1866, Companies A and I of the 2nd Battalion 13th Infantry were officially re-designated
Companies A and I of the 22nd Infantry, and Irvine thus became Commanding Officer of Company A 22nd Infantry,
and one of the 22nd’s very first officers during its reconstitution in 1866. He would officially retain command of Company A
until 1891, when he was promoted to Major, and retired. He moved to California, where he died in 1904.

During his twenty-five year service with the 22nd Infantry, Irvine was stationed at all the major posts where the 22nd Infantry
was assigned, from the different forts in the Dakotas, to Madison Barracks in New York, to New Orleans,
to Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, to Fort Griffin in Texas, to Fort Garland Colorado, to Fort Keogh, Montana, and finally,
to Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, where he served until retirement.

From October 1876 to May 1877, and again during October and November 1877 Irvine commanded the post at Detroit, Michigan.
In May 1881, he closed down Fort Griffin, Texas, by leading the only remaining Army unit there, Company A 22nd Infantry
out of the post to Fort Clark, Texas. He commanded the post at Fort Garland, Colorado from November 1882 to the end of 1883.

Irvine’s favorite pastime when not on duty was hunting. Members of the 22nd Infantry formed a hunting club, and kept dogs
to aid them on their trips into the field, looking for rabbits, antelope and other game. At first the club used fox hounds,
but replaced them with pure bred English Greyhounds. On November 9, 1872, Irvine set out from Fort Sully, Dakota,
to hunt alone on horseback with the dogs. A few miles from the fort an Indian rode up to him and said he was trying to find
some ponies which had strayed. Irvine recognized the Indian and thought him to be friendly. Suddenly the Indian pulled a revolver
which had been concealed, and shot at Irvine four times and then rode off. Irvine was struck by a bullet which lodged in his scalp.
He returned to the post, where the Surgeon said the bullet had glanced off his head and made a lump, dressed the wound,
and sent Irvine to his quarters. Sometime later, convinced the bullet was still in that lump, Irvine sent for the doctor to come
and take it out. With some difficulty the surgeon began to cut, and found that, indeed, the bullet was still in Irvine’s head,
and finally managed to get it out. All together, the bullet had remained in Irvine’s scalp for some eight hours before being removed.
A dispatch sent to the War Department reporting the incident ended with “The Indian is said to be the same one who stabbed
and killed a soldier at the Cheyenne Agency last June. Efforts are being made to arrest the Indian, who is still at large.”

In May of 1873 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was moving the Seventh Cavalry Regiment
to Fort Abraham Lincoln, and camped for several days only a few miles from Fort Sully. Upon hearing of the Greyhounds
of the 22nd Infantry Hunting Club, Custer proposed a race between them and his own Greyhounds, of which he was known
to brag about wherever he went. The dogs of the 22nd Infantry handily beat Custer’s dogs in the race, and Irvine proudly reported
that "during the straight chase our slowest dog kept ahead of General Custer's fastest."

J.B. Irvine's decorations

 

 

At some time during his frontier service, Irvine met and became friends with the legendary William F. Cody,
also known as Buffalo Bill. Cody presented Irvine with a coat made from the skin of a buffalo that Cody had killed.
Upon his retirement, Irvine gave the coat to Second Lieutenant Albert C. Dalton, of Company A, 22nd Infantry,
preferring that it go to a soldier still on active duty who could make use of it.

That coat is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

 

The buffalo coat of CPT J.B. Irvine on display at the
Smithsonian National Museum of American History

 

 

Sources:

Official US Army Register of 1889

Annual Reports to the Secretary of War 1872

First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment website

South Dakota magazine.com

Vernon Lynch, "FORT GRIFFIN," Handbook of Texas Online
(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/uef04),
accessed January 09, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

 

 


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