• 1829 Graduate of US Army Academy in West Point
  • Member in the 1832 Schoolcraft expedition to find the headwaters of the Mississippi
  • Had charge of producing the first US Army maps of the western frontier
  • Supervised improvements to the harbor of Chicago
  • Commander of Fort Sanford to patrol the Sac and Fox indian agency
  • Commander of Fort Des Moines which was then became the core of the city Des Moines
  • Organized the Mormon Battalion in 1846 and was their highly regarded first commanding officer
  • First US Army officer to be buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
  • Allens Bay on Cass Lake in the State of Minnesota is named in his honor.


Lt Col James D Allen was born 15 February 1806 in Ohio, United States to James Allen (1776-1848) and Jane Heathwood (1775-1845) and died 23 August 1846 Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, United States of congestive fever.


Early Years

James Allen was born of Irish parents somewhere in Ohio in 1806. At age 19 he entered the United States Military Academy Class of 1829 at West Point as a cadet from the State of Indiana.

He graduated from West Point – 35th in a class of 46. A fellow classmate was Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870). Assigned to duty as second lieutenant at Fort Brady, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Territory.

Schoolcraft Expedition

In 1832, Lt Allen was ordered to head a military escort for Henry Schoolcraft on an expedition to the Indians in the northwest regions of Michigan Territory. While on this expedition, Allen produced the first correct map showing the true relationships of the lakes and streams at the ultimate source of the Mississippi River. On the return journey, the military escort fell behind and suffered numerous hardships along the St. Croix and Brule Rivers.

He wrote a report (The Expedition Through Iowa Territory in 1844) of his activity there. Afterwards he was attached to the First Regiment of Dragoons near St. Louis.

In 1835 he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and promoted to First Lieutenant. Served as an engineer in the exploration of the Indian country of the Southwest. In 1837, promoted to Captain and given command of Company I, First United States Dragoons.

Fort Sanford Command

In 1842, Capt Allen was assigned to supervise the Sac and Fox Agency (named "Fort Sanford" by Allen) near the present site of Ottumwa, Iowa. The following year he established and commanded Fort Des Moines on the Des Moines River at the mouth of the Raccoon River. This fort was necessary to protect the Sac and Fox from continuous, aggressive intrusions by settlers, traders and the Sioux. The city of Des Moines was established on this site after the dissolution of Fort Des Moines in early 1846.

Mormon Battalion Veteran


Participant in the march of The Mormon Battalion. This unit of the US Army served in the Mexican-American War and was the only religiously based infantry unit ever created by Presidential order. It consisted of nearly 500 men recruited exclusively from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormons). They undertook the longest infantry march in U.S. military history (as of 1847) and in the process marked out and creating the first continuous wagon road to California which linked the future states of New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the United States. Most members served an initial 12 month term (Jul 1846- Jul 1847) with some members re-enlisting for an additional 12 months afterwards.

Gravesite of Lt Col James D Allen at Fort Leavenworth KS

In July 1846, Capt Allen was assigned to enlist over 500 Mormon men in Council Bluffs, Iowa for an expedition to California to provide a reserve force in the Mexican War. This unit would become very well-known as The Mormon Battalion. This expedition was basically intended to facilitate the Mormons' westward migration. There is much on the web that tells of Allen's organization and command of the Mormon Battalion.

Mormon leaders had petitioned President James K Polk to assist their people had been recently evicted from their city of Nauvoo, IL. Just 8 days after the United States had declared war on Mexico, President Polk offered the Mormons an opportunity to recruit a battalion of five hundred men in exchange for financial aid to assist their move to the western frontier. The Mormon leader, Brigham Young accepted this offer.

Colonel Kearny, commander of the U.S. Army of the West designated Captain James Allen to raise five companies of volunteer soldiers from the able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five in the Mormon encampments in Iowa. On 26 June 1846 Allen arrived at the encampment of Mt. Pisgah. He was initially treated with much suspicion, but with the aid of Mormon leaders succeeded in his recruitment goal.

Early Death

Shortly after raising the battalion and leading them from Iowa to Fort Leavenworth for supplies and weapons, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. He died on August 23, 1846, from a 10 day illness attributed to congestive fever near Fort Leavenworth. Buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

Lieutenant Colonel Allen is the first officer who has died at Fort Leavenworth since its establishment, a period of nineteen years. This is a remarkable fact.


Offspring of James Allen (1776-1848) and Jane Heathwood (1775-1845)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Alexander Allen (1800-)
John Allen (1803-1833)
James Allen (1806-1846) 15 February 1806 Ohio, United States 23 August 1846 Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, United States
Alice Allen (1810-)
Robert Allen (1811-1866)


The parents of James Allen immigrated from Ulster, Northern Ireland, and settled in the Ohio shortly before the birth of the first of their five children in 1800.



Footnotes (including sources)