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Bibliography of John Conline
Served in:
The 9th Cavalry - Buffalo Soldiers
at Ft. Bayard, New Mexico
at Los Pinos Indian Agency
at Ft. Stanton, New Mexico
at Ft. Selden, New Mexico
at Ft. Union, New Mexico
the Victorio War of 1880

Format By C. W. Barnum
Used with permission fromRobert Tavernier

MAJOR JOHN CONLINE (1846 Vermont - 1916 Washington D.C.)
Original Member of the Michigan Commandery, Insignia Number 4926
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
By
Robert Tavernier
(November 2004)
John Conline was born January 1, 1846 in Rutland, Vermont.1 John decided at an early age that he wanted to pursue a military career. In 1859, John sent an application to Secretary of War John Floyd, seeking an appointment to West Point. In 1860, John re-submitted his application to Secretary Floyd and anxiously waited for a reply.2 Receiving none; John was one of the first to answer President Lincoln's call for volunteers by enlisting in the First Vermont Volunteer Infantry on May 9, 1861, at the young age of fifteen, and mustered out with that unit three months later on August 15, 1861. John re-enlisted in the Fourth Vermont Infantry on March 1, 1862,3 and was discharged on September 5, 1863, to accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. During this period; the Fourth Vermont Infantry was engaged in the following:

In the eighteen months John served with the Fourth Vermont Infantry he was involved in an equal number of campaigns, including but not limited to Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Franklin's Crossing and Gettysburg. During the Battle of Antietam and parallel to the "sunken road" or "bloody lane," Edward S. Cooper the soldier on John's left was "dangerously" wounded when an artillery shell exploded directly in front of them.5 "At Little Round Top at Gettysburg; bullets pierced his haversack and canteen. At Fredericksburg, his company formed the rear guard in the right wing's retreat across the Rappahannock."6 Undaunted by this experience, John was determined to continue in his pursuit of a military career.

Following the Civil War, Major Conline wrote a paper entitled, Recollections of the Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign. Major Conline presented this paper before the Michigan Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) on January 7, 1897. The paper was published in 1898 in Volume 2 (pages 110-119) of the collection of War Papers read before the Michigan Commandery of the MOLLUS.7

During the winter of 1862, while on leave, John traveled to Washington to persuade Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to appoint him to West Point. John was successful in his efforts and Secretary Stanton agreed to his appointment. 8 It was during his tour of duty in New York, following the draft riots, when Conline received orders to report to West Point. Conline received his appointment from Georgia (?), entered West Point on September 9, 1863, and graduated on June 15, 1870. These were difficult years for John, requiring seven years to complete a four year program. Finally after dropping several classes and failing to complete his third year, due to illness and fatigue, John received a leave of absence from the academy, on March 31, 1866. John returned to the academy the following year and was found deficient in chemistry, during the June 1868 examination. On July 6, 1868, John was automatically discharge from the academy. William Roe, a classmate of John's, wrote that John, "borrowed enough dollars from an officer then stationed on the post . . . went on to Washington, laid his case personally before the President [Johnson] and asked to be reinstated. And the President [Johnson] did reinstate him." On January 30, 1869, upon the recommendation of the Academic Board, John was reinstated. John graduated the following year, 54th out of a class of 59 cadets, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and assigned to the Ninth Cavalry serving on the western frontier.9

In 1872, John married fifteen year old Emma Jane Leland, of New York. On December 21, 1875, a daughter Viola Alger was born. This was a troublesome marriage for the Conline's. Mrs. Conline accompanied her husband to the frontier where she, "was ordered to leave Fort Garland, Colorado in 1877 - on the grounds that she was insane and therefore disturbing the order and quiet of the post. Her primary offense was conduct unbecoming a lady. In addition to her speaking openly of having an abortion, she used 'unladylike and violent language,' made daily visits to the laundress' quarters where she gossiped about officers, and it was rumored that she had chased one laundress with a gun."11 When Conline refused "to send Emma away," he "endured arrest for forty days while appealing the order to General Pope." Failing to win on appeal, Conline had no choice but to accompany his wife back to New York. While enroute to New York, Emma "berated Conline for being too weak to defend her . . . and badgered him into 'signing separation paper.'"12 John and Emma divorced in 1879.

Returning to Fort Garland, conditions for John continued to deteriorate. Facing courts-martial, John suffered a "nervous breakdown" and was committed to the Insane Asylum in Washington, D.C. in October 1877. "When he arrived there, Dr. W.W. Godding, the superintendent, found him 'incoherent and irritable.' He was so 'thin and haggard' that he resembled 'a person who had been through some exhausting labor.'" Three months later, John was released from the asylum and "brought before a retirement board." Prevailing before the retirement board and acquitted on all courts-martial charges, Conline was returned to duty.13

On April 4th, 1880, four companies of Buffalo Soldiers, A, D, F and G, 9th Cavalry under the command of Captain Henry Carroll, left Tularosa, New Mexico in search of a band of hostile Indians led by the Apache Chief Victorio. On the morning of April 5th, 1880, Lieutenant Conline in command of "A" Troop 9th Cavalry was ordered in advance to locate Victorio and his warriors, who were believed to be in the San Andreas Mountains of New Mexico. After a 37 mile march, 35 to 50 Apaches including Victorio were located near the mouth of Hembrillo Canyon. At 5:30 p.m., "when the Indians advanced to within about 250 yards, a heavy fire was opened, which caused them to halt and seek cover. The Indians fired rapidly in the beginning, and afterwards kept up a desultory fire until 7:30 p.m., when the engagement closed and the Indians fell back." Casualties were reported as two wounded, two horses killed and one horse wounded. Indian casualties were not reported. Since there was no water in the area, Lieutenant Conline rejoined the main body of the command at 11:00 p.m. The next morning Captain Carroll again divided his command. Companies A and G were under the commands of Lieutenants Conline and Cusak respectively. Companies D and F remained with Captain Carroll.14 In the late afternoon of April 6th, Captain Carroll came under heavy fire, in the Hembrillo Basin, and was completely surrounded by Victorio and approximately 150 Apache warriors. Captain Carroll was severely wounded as were several of his men, some mortally. Several horses and mules were killed. The attack continued well into the night, leaving Captain Carroll and his men in a hopeless position. On the morning of April 7th, 1880, as Victorio and his warriors were about to rush Captain Carroll's position, Lieutenants Conline and Cusak came to the rescue of Captain Carroll and his men. With the addition of three more companies and Apache Scouts, the cavalry was able to force Victorio and his warriors to retreat; thereby ending the largest Military Battle of the Victorio War on April 8, 1880.15 Lieutenant Conline received a commendation for his actions during this campaign.

In 1886, Conline commanded the Department of the Platte Rifle Team. On August 24, 1886, during the annual marksmanship competition held at Fort Omaha's Bellevue Rifle Range, Conline fired a near perfect score, at 500 yards, with nine bulls-eyes and one shot slightly off center. John scored 48 out of a possible 50 points and was awarded a marksmanship medal.16

On September 1, 1887, Conline married Fannie Strickland, of Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa. In 1889, a daughter Vivienne Duchesne was born.17 In 1891, after John's retirement, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan.

During the depression of 1893, unemployment in the city of Detroit was estimated at over ten percent. Detroit's Mayor Hazen S. Pingree established a public works project, providing work and food for the city's poor, by allowing city residents to plant vegetable gardens on vacant city land. These garden plots become known as "Pingree's Potato Patches" or "Pingree's Potato Farms," of which Conline gratuitously managed. In 1896, over 400 acres were cultivated providing work and food for over 1700 families. "No other plan of helping worthy people to help themselves has attracted such widespread and universal attention… Very many of the great cities of the Union have adopted the plan and carried it out with success."18

In 1896, Conline was appointed Detroit's Police Commissioner and served in that capacity until 1900. Little is known of Conline's activities during the period 1900 to 1910, when he moved his family to Washington, D.C. In 1913, he traveled to Europe with his family and returned to Washington in 1914. John Conline died, in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1916.19 John is buried in Section 2 Site number 1183 in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

William J. Roe, a classmate of John's at the Academy, wrote John's obituary:

From the Homepage of the
Michigan Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Copyright 2004, Robert Tavernier