Unit: B Co, 2d Dragoons
Enlisted: March 15, 1852 in New York, New York. He was 27.
Hometown: Carlow, Ireland
Occupation prior to enlistment: Laborer
Campaign: Plains Indian War (pre Civil War)
Died: 13 April 1854
Age at death: 29
Location of fatality: Fort Belknap, Texas (Newcastle, Texas)
Note from the Reed Museum: In 1853, Private Bolger and the rest of Company B were stationed at a small frontier installation, named Fort Belknap, in north Texas. Fort Belknap served as the northern anchor in a chain of forts founded to establish a military presence on the Texas frontier. From these forts, troops pursued raiding bands of Indians and mounted expeditions as far north as Kansas. Fort Belknap became the hub of a network of roads stretching in every direction, the most notable being the Butterfield Overland Mail route from St. Louis to San Francisco.
Regimental records document what may have been Private Bolger’s last mission: “Lieutenant Arthur D. Tree was sent out from Fort Belknap, Texas, with 20 men of Company B, on March 8, 1854, in pursuit of a small band of Kickapoos guilty of murdering the Indian Agent and a friend near the post. Lieutenant Tree followed the trail into New Mexico and finally got information of the culprits near Fort Arbuckle, where they were punished. The detachment returned to Fort Belknap March 28 after a march of 360 miles.” On 13 April 1854, Private John Bolger died at Fort Belknap. No cause of death is listed. This usually indicated that a trooper died of disease or illness, perhaps contracted during this grueling march. His remains were re-interred in the San Antonio National Cemetery in 1907. Years later, during a road construction project near the old fort, Private Bolger’s headstone was recovered.
The road crew and local residents brought the headstone to the museum at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio. They, in turn, transferred it to the Reed Museum. This headstone is a physical reminder of the selfless service and sacrifice of the troopers of the 2d U.S. Dragoons.