Was a mountain howitzer the first wheeled vehicle to cross America?

Dear Mr. History,

I have heard the first wheeled vehicle to cross North America was an early model of mountain howitzer, but been unable to find a reference to support this claim. Can you find support for this claim and, if so, what model of mountain howitzer was it?


Henry B. Davis IV
U.S. Army

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Dear Major Davis,

I’m not sure of what you mean by “wheeled vehicle.” A Conestoga wagon? A railroad train? A bicycle? As far as I know the first wheeled, motorized vehicle to traverse the United States from west to east was a Winton driven by Horatio Jackson, leaving San Francisco on May 23, 1903, and reaching New York on July 26—thus winning a 50 dollar bet as to whether a motorcar could manage the feat in less than three months.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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One Response

  1. LTC Paul R. Rosewitz

    MAJ Davis, Mr. Guttman,
    Indeed there is an assertion that a mountain howitzer was the first wheeled vehicle to cross North America based on 2LT Charles Fremont obaining a Mountain Howitzer from St. Louis Arsenal in 1843 and taking it with his scientific expedition from Ft Leavenworth to Northern California in 1843-44. Fremont notes that the howitzer ended up being the only wheeled vehicle left in the column when he left his wagons and instrument cart at Fort Wallawalla in Nov 1843 before entering the last series of mountains. The howitzer was abandoned in high snows in the Sierra Nevadas in Jauary 1844. So, it traveled from St Louis to the California/Nevada border in 1843-44 being the longest wheeled trip across Norh America to that point. At the time the mountain howitzer was not known by a model number. It was the ‘Mountain Howiter’ although modern historians tend to refer to it as a model 1835 because the first foundary order referred to the tubes as such. That is the only reference to model I am aware of until the 1861 ordnance manual refers to the tube as the 1841 model. Hope this helps. Fremont’s report:
    Frémont, Brevet Captain J. C., Report of The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-’44, Printed by order of the Senate of the United States, Gales and Seaton, Washington. 1845. (taken from: http://www.longcamp.com/how.html)

    Paul R. Rosewitz
    LTC, FA
    US Army


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