Hell Canyon in Arizona Territory was Apache country, and the scene of several violent and deadly acts in the late 1860s. One such event, a skirmish fought on July 3, 1869, involved an entire cavalry troop. Though few details were reported, four Indian warriors died in the engagement, and three soldiers received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.
One of the cavalrymen is pictured here. Sanford D. Bradbury, a 29-year-old first sergeant in the 8th U.S. Cavalry when he went into the Hell Canyon fight, had served in the military most of the decade.
A New Jersey native who lived in New York at the beginning of the Civil War, Bradbury traded his clerk’s pencil for a saber in May 1861, when he joined the 27th New York Cavalry. Over the next two years with the Army of the Potomac, he worked his way from private to corporal, and participated in battles that included First Bull Run and Fredericksburg.
After his enlistment expired in 1863, he joined the 1st New York Cavalry, and earned his sergeant’s stripes in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign. He mustered out in July 1865, and accepted a second lieutenant’s commission in the 6th U.S. Colored Cavalry. He served in this capacity until the spring of 1866.
Around this time, he cast his lot with the regular army and signed on with the 8th Cavalry. According to one account of his service, Bradbury “was first sergeant of his company from May, 1867, till his discharge in November, 1871, being all the time engaged in hard service in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.”
Bradbury returned East at the end of his enlistment, settled in Washington, D.C., and worked as a clerk in the War Department. In 1873, he married a Virginia belle, Bertha E. Corbett, and started a family that grew to include three children.
Bradbury lived until 1911, dying at age 71.
This portrait is part of the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) Book Project. Established by Jim Quinlan, owner of The Excelsior Brigade, its mission is to identify approximately 15,000 Civil War veterans interred on the hallowed grounds of the cemetery, and to provide a biographical sketch and photograph of each individual. If you have an image to share, or would like more information about the ANC project, please contact Jim at 703-307-0344.