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RG3944.AM:  Gouverneur Kemble Warren, 1830-1882

Journals, etc.:  1855-1857

Nebraska Territory:  Topographical engineer; soldier

Size:  0.25 cu.ft.; 1 box and 1 reel of microfilm


With the discovery of gold and the westward movement of settlers in the 1840’s, the U.S. government realized that explorations and land surveys of the land between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains would be necessary.  The initial task of “survey and protection” was given to the U.S. Army, and the command of this project, designated as the Sioux Expedition was placed in the hands of General William S. Harney.

Harney was ordered to take all necessary measures to protect the Kansas and Nebraska frontiers against Sioux uprisings and to safeguard wagon routes leading from the Missouri River to the West.  The surveying part of the directive was carried out by Lt. Gourverneur Kemble, who, after graduating second in the 1850 class at West Point, was assigned to the Engineering Corps of the Army and became involved in a program studying navigation improvements.  He performed surveys on the Mississippi Delta, worked on the canal around the falls of the Ohio River; and completed surveys for the improvement of Rock Island and Des Moines rapids on the upper Mississippi.

These projects prepared Warren for his next assignment, to serve as Gen. Harney’s topographical engineer on the Sioux Expedition.  For the next three years – 1855, 1856 and 1857 – Warren and his staff explored hundreds of miles of land, charting and sketching the Missouri River from St. Louis to the Yellowstones; reporting environmental observations; and reaching conclusions as to which route would be the most logical military road from Sioux City to South Pass, determining that the Platte River Valley provided the best route.  The expeditions also accomplished the first explorations of the Black Hills and the land along the Niobrara.

After his years on the Plains, Warren returned to West Point serving as an instructor.  He entered the civil war was a Lieutenant Colonel of a New York unit, and after distinguished service with the Army of the Potomac was promoted to Gen. Hooker’s staff.  After successfully defending Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg, Warren was made a Major-General at the age of thirty-three.

At the Battle of Five Forks, Warren was inexplicably removed from his command by Gen. Sheridan.  After the war, Warren retained his commission in the Engineers and received assignments as a construction engineer.  After fourteen years of prodding, the government consented to examine Warren’s removal from command.  Warren died on August 8, 1882.  Three months later, a complete vindication of Warren was announced.


This collection consists of one reel of microfilm and one box of manuscript material (photocopies only).  This material relates to the explorations made by Lt. Col. G.K. Warren and his staff in Nebraska Territory from 1855 to 1857.  Included in this collection is a report and topographical sketches of W.H. Hutton, topographer on Warren’s 1856 expedition; journals and a survey book kept by J. Hudson Snowden while serving as a topographer on the 1857 expedition; journals kept by G.K. Warren during all three Nebraska Territory excursions; the 1857 journal of Edgar W. Warren; and a letter by Dr. Samuel Moffitt describing medical problems of the 1857 expedition.

These journals and reports provide descriptions of the area around the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers.  The route from Ft. Pierre to Ft. Kearny, the Loup River country through the sandhills, and the Black Hills.  Throughout the journals, the writers describe terrain, distances, landmarks, and locations of wood, water, and grass.  Of particular interest are Warren’s journal entries which record his observations during and after the Battle of Ash Hollow, 1855.

Note:  The original journals, reports and letter are held by the New York State Library.  Permission to publish must be obtained from the New York State Library.  A photocopy of P.M. Engle’s “Sketches and Surveys Made During the Exploration Tour of 1857 to Nebraska and Dakota under Lt. G.K. Warren,” was added to the collection in 1987.  Permission to publish from this manuscript must be obtained from the Beinecke Library at Yale University.


Reel 1


  1. Report of Yellowstone Expedition, 1856-W.H. Hutton to Lt. Warren; Journal for June 28-October 27, 1856

  2. Journal of J. Hudson Snowden from Sioux City to Ft. Laramie and return; June 27-November 15, 1857 (also photocopy and typescript in Box 1)

  3. Journal of J. Hudson Snowden from Ft. Laramie to Ft. Randall, September 12-October 31, 1857 (also photocopy and typescript in Box 1)

  4. Letter from Dr. Samuel Moffitt, physician to the expedition to Lt. Warren, describing medical problems of the 1857 expedition (also photocopy in Box 1)

  5. G.K. Warren Journal while o Sioux Expedition, May 7-November 30, 1855

  6. G.K. Warren Journal:  January 1-22, 1856; April 22-August 4, 1856; September 1-5, 1856

  7. G.K. Warren Official Journal Commanding Explorations in Nebraska, July 7-November 13, 1857 (typescript in Box 1)

  8. Edgar W. Warren’s Journal, June 27-November 16, 1857

  9. W.H. Hutton’s Topographical sketches made under direction of Lt. G.K. Warren, USTE, in summer of 1856; notes of a survey from Ft. Union, NT up Yellowstone River commenced July 22nd, ending August 18, 1856

  10. Survey book of J. Hudson Snowden under direction of Lt. G.K. Warren, T.E., June 27-November 14, 1857

Box 1


  1. Photocopy of J. Hudson Snowden journals and Dr. Samuel Moffitt letter

  2. Typescript of J. Hudson Snowden journals

  3. Typescript of G.K. Warren journal, 1857

  4. Photocopy of P.M. Engle’s “Sketches and Surveys Made During the Exploration Tour of 1857 to Nebraska and Dakota under Lt. G.K. Warren,” pt. 1

  5. Photocopy of P.M. Engle’s “Sketches and Surveys Made During the Exploration Tour of 1857 to Nebraska and Dakota under Lt. G.K. Warren,” pt. 2


Subject headings:

Ash Hollow, Battle of, 1855

Blue Water Creek, Battle of, Neb., 1855

Dakota Indians — Wars

Dakota Territory — Description and travel

Engle, P.M.

Hutton, William Rich, 1826-1901

Indians of North America — Wars

Military posts — Nebraska Territory

Moffitt, Samuel H.

Nebraska Territory — Description and travel

Roads — Nebraska Territory

Snowden, J. Hudson

U.S. History — Civil War, 1861-1865

Wagon roads — Nebraska Territory

Warren, Gouverneur Kemble, 1830-1882

West (U.S.) — Discovery and exploration

Yellowstone River Valley — Discovery and exploration


AIP/pmc              12-15-1986

Revised TMM      04-19-2019