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The Court-Martial of Lt. Manuel Eyre

Captain Lane continued to supply Camp Cady, but the transactions were not without problems. Lieutenant Manuel Eyre of Company K, 14th Infantry, had assumed command of the post in June of 1867. He also held the offices of Acting Commissary Subsistence (ACS), which had charge of purchasing food for the camp, and Acting Assistant Quartermaster (AAQM), which was responsible for obtaining all other provisions, and for providing all transportation, including that for food supplies. To the misfortune of the Lieutenant, he got into a dispute with some of the Mojave ranchers, and as a result eventually faced a court-martial because of accusations that he used questionable practices in his dealings with them.

One of the charges against Eyre was "Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline." There were seven allegations under this heading, including one dealing with an official letter Eyre had written to Lane on January 31, 1868, in which he stated, "I would rather have your hay, than hay from a damned Mormon at $10.00 a ton cheaper."

Lane was called upon to testify at the trial, and he produced the letter in question. On examination, Eyre (who served as his own defense counsel) asked him, "Did I ever tell you the reason why I preferred your hay at $10 a ton more, than a Mormons?" Lane, who referred to Eyre in the third person, replied, "Because he was put out about the watering of the hay. He spoke about it. Some of the boys put rocks in it at the forks of the road and Watered the bales -- they fell short, they watered it to have it hold out." When asked if the "boys" referred to Mormons, Lane answered in the affirmative.

Lieutenant Eyre, who had been under arrest for eight months, and was informed of the specific charges only two days before the trial began, prepared a hastily written account of his side of events:
    The first time I weighed hay in person the loads did not hold out, but when I came to give receipts to the teamsters, they stated that they had hitherto been allowed what they started with whereas by my weight they lost. After that I was always present at the weighing and the loads fell short sometimes as much as half a ton in a load of thirty hundred.

    Then they wet the bales and put stones in them and when I discovered it I "talked rough to them" to use the words of one who has appeared before the Court. At first they all wanted to shake hands and introduce each other to me but I did not shake hands as I knew nothing about them. This and other things made me enemies....
It was also alleged that Eyre was "Trafficking in certificates of Govt. indebtedness, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline." At times, when Camp Cady needed supplies but money was lacking, vouchers were issued by the ACS or AAQM. These were redeemable in San Francisco, but because of the trouble and delay in getting the money, the vouchers were often sold by their recipients at discount. The potential for abuse by the acquisitions officer is obvious.

In this case Eyre was charged with issuing a voucher to pay a private debt. He took a voucher made out to Richard Mathews, and used it to pay a bill owed to Charley Roe, who supplied spirits to the sutler's store at Camp Cady. Eyre credibly defended himself against this accusation, but there is one aspect of it that involved Lane, albeit somewhat peripherally. When Eyre made a purchase from Lane he attempted to pay with a voucher, but it was returned. That was when Eyre wrote the January letter to Lane explaining his position, which is given here in its entirety:
    Camp Cady
    Jany 31st/68

    Friend Lane --

    Yr. note recd, hope to see you soon -- Bring the oxen. You sent back the vouchers. I have no money on hand in the Quartermasters office. But I will keep your vouchers & pay you when I get the money -- Or you can sell the vouchers in San Bernardino -- Shall I send them back to you and you sell them? I may not have any money for months to come -- Your hay is good and I think you don't charge me too much, not more than you would the stage Company, but I would rather have yours than buy from a damned Mormon at $10.00 a ton cheaper --

    Yrs truly
    Manuel Eyre
Lane still refused to accept vouchers, Picture of Lt. Eyre and was quoted by Eyre as having said he would "not receive Camp Cady paper to peddle to the Jews." This is a reference to the Jewish merchants in San Bernardino who were willing to redeem the notes for fees of between six and eight percent. Eventually Eyre agreed to send the vouchers to San Francisco and charge only the express there and back, a proposition that was satisfactory to Lane.

Referring to Captain Lane, Eyre said during the trial, "Now Camp Cady is supplied with good beef by this man at 11 [cents] per lb; when until I, by my act, produced in him confidence in Govt. vouchers, he would not have sold it at less than 13 [cents]; and there were no other bids even at that figure in the last contract."

According to abstracts of purchases and other documents, and testimony in the court-martial papers, one of the major suppliers to the post, other than Lane, was Richard Mathews. Mathews was named specifically as one whose load of hay was rejected by Eyre. Other suppliers included Daniel Cline; Charles Girard, who kept a station in Cajon Pass; William Armstrong; and William Lightfoot, one of the proprietors of the Cottonwoods Station.

Another accusation was that Eyre had sold two government mules to Lightfoot's partner, John J. Atkinson, for two inferior mules and $100 cash. Atkinson's testimony showed that instead he had traded two of his mules for two of the government’s that had "given out" at the Cottonwoods, and that Eyre had not been involved in the swap, nor was there an exchange of $100.

Eyre did approve the swap later, which he could hardly do otherwise, since Atkinson's mules were no longer on the desert. The two men evidently were friendly, because Atkinson testified that he had been "Wagon Master" at Camp Cady from the time of Eyre's arrival until early in 1868, and that they had "messed," or took meals, together for most of that time.

Lieutenant Eyre had definitely made himself some enemies on the desert. It appears that every charge possible was brought against him by some of the Mojave ranchers, no matter how insignificant.

In spite of the short time he had to prepare, Eyre gave an adequate defense against many of the allegations, but was unable to refute all of them. He was ultimately found guilty on several counts, and since he had previously alienated his fellow officers and had not developed the necessary support to protect himself from court-martial, he was dismissed from the service.

The accounts in the court-martial show that the Mojave ranchers were receiving payments running into several hundreds of dollars for their supplies to the military. They also show that Captain Lane was very competitive in his bids to Camp Cady, and was enjoying much of this prosperity.

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