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1 

1^ 


KIT  CARSON  DAYS 


THR  ■.■•'•'•■^  '^"■''^  ' 


(Pholograt'h  by  O.   T.  Davis) 


KIT  CARSON  DAYS 


(1809-1868) 


BV  "tV 

EDWIN  L.  SABIN 


Illustrated  by  more  than  one  hundred  half-tones, 
mostly  from  old  and  rare  sources 


»  » 


CHICAGO 

A.  C.  McCLURG  &  CO. 

1914 


t.  ^r' 


A.  C.  McCLURG  &  CO. 
1914 


Published  June,  1914 


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SL  jr.  l|aU  |farlHtiii9  Oil.  aU^tnga 


To  My  Father 

HENRY  SABIN  OF  IOWA 
A  Lover  of  History 


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PREFACE 

For  text  and  picture  in  Kit  Carson  Days  I  have  drawn 
liberally  upon  chronicles  long  out  of  date,  thus  essaying  to 
get  back  close  to  the  sources  of  our  knowledge.  Perhaps 
occasional  excerpts  may  strike  the  modern  reader,  and  par- 
ticularly the  historian,  as  exaggerated;  but  it  seems  to  me 
that  the  men  who  participated  in  the  times  herein  treated, 
who  wrote  while  yet  the  events  were  fresh,  must  furnish 
us  with  a  perspective  not  only  interesting,  but  valuable.  If 
I  have  erred  upon  the  side  of  local  color,  if  the  viewpoint 
of  rcOTiance  may  be  charged  to  have  distorted  in  places  the 
viewpoint  of  accuracy,  if  fancy  may  have  intruded  upon 
sober  fact  and  figure,  I  make  only  the  defense  that  I  have 
written  con  amorCj  and  have  emphasized  also  the  side  of 
sympathy. 

So,  in  making  mention  of  the  numerous  excerpts,  I  would 
suggest  that  the  notes  to  the  chapters  be  not  neglected. 
These  notes  are  not  always  essential  to  the  text.  Indeed, 
frequently  they  may  lead  from  the  text,  inciting  to  a  wide 
reading  which  may  prove  delightful  and  profitable. 

For  modem  authorities  I  am  chiefly  obliged  to  General 
H.  M.  Chittenden's  The  History  of  the  American  Fur 
Trade  of  the  Fa/r  West,  an  exhaustive,  fascinating  compila- 
tion, upon  which  must  be  based  all  succeeding  histories  of 
beaver  days.  At  the  head  of  the  long  line  of  individuals 
who  are  co-authors  with  me  would  I  place  Walter  B. 
Douglas  of  St.  Louis,  to  whose  generosity  every  writer 
upon  western  history  is,  I  imagine,  deeply  indebted.  Ken- 
neth M.  Chapman,  of  the  Museum  of  American  Archae- 
ology at  Santa  Fe,  stepped  aside  from  his  special  duties  to 
assist  in  this,  the  work  of  a  stranger.    J.  M.  Guinn  of  Los 

vii 


viu  PREFACE 

Angeles  is  another  kindly  partner.  Mrs.  Teresina  Bent 
Scheurich,  who  was  bom  into  the  very  thick  of  American- 
Mexican  events,  has  been  most  patient  with  my  queries 
upon  those  persons  and  times  still  near  and  dear  to  her. 
Charles  C.  Harvey,  journalist,  of  St.  Louis,  has  been  a 
constant  encourager.  Captain  Smith  H.  Simpson  of  Taos, 
and  Major  Rafael  Chacon  of  Trinidad,  Colorado,  comrade 
veterans  of  the  same  glowing  days  in  southwest  history, 
have  given  me  facts  which  only  a  very  few  persons  now 
alive  can  recall.  To  the  great  assistance  of  Major  Oliver 
P.  Wiggins  I  have  paid  especial  tribute  elsewhere  in  this 
narrative.  In  Valentine  Mott  Porter  of  Santa  Barbara, 
California,  I  found  a  ready  advisor.  The  Seiiora  Petra 
Beaubien  Abreu,  through  her  son,  Don  Jesus  L.  Abreu,  of 
Rayado,  New  Mexico;  Mrs.  A.  L.  Slaughter  of  Kansas 
City;  Mrs.  Mary  St.  Vrain  Sopris  of  Denver;  General  Asa 
B.  Carey  of  Orlando,  Florida;  Colonel  John  A.  Hannay  of 
La  JoUa,  California;  Aloys  Scheurich,  now  with  Kit  Carson, 
but  late  of  Taos;  Captain  George  H.  Pettis,  who  also  has 
crossed  the  Divide,  but  late  of  Providence,  Rhode  Island; 
Mayor  Daniel  L.  Taylor  of  Trinidad,  Colorado;  Sergeant 
Luke  Cahill  of  Las  Animas,  Colorado;  Ferd  Meyer  of 
Costilla,  New  Mexico ;  Robert  C.  Lowry  of  New  York  City ; 
George  H.  Carson  of  Fayette,  Missouri ;  Albert  H.  Pf eiffer, 
Jr.,  of  Del  Norte,  Colorado;  Judge  John  S.  Hough  of  Lake 
City,  Colorado;  Judge  Hiram  D.  Bennet  of  Denver: 
pioneers,  soldiers,  scouts,  and  traders  of  brave  days,  they 
have  willingly  enriched  with  the  gold  of  their  memories 
these  printed  pages  which  otherwise  would  have  been  poor 
indeed.  To  many  readers  their  names  may  mean  little, 
but  they  will  at  least  indicate  how  far  and  wide  the  lines 
of  research  have  led. 

To  F.  J.  Francis  of  Denver  and  O.  T.  Davis  of  Alamosa, 
Colorado,  for  photographs,  and  to  Messrs.  Tishler  & 
Langer,  who  copied  with  much  skill  and  care  the  yellowed, 


PREFACE  ix 

difficult  lithographs  and  engraving^  from  the  brittle  pages, 
I  am  deeply  grateful.  The  Missouri  Historical  Society, 
the  Colorado  Historical  Society,  the  Historical  Society  of 
Southern  California  and  the  Iredell  County  (North  Caro- 
lina) Historical  Society  have  rendered  me  much  aid;  and  I 
have  applied  with  satisfaction  to  the  historical  societies  of 
Oregon,  Nebraska,  Montana,  and  New  Mexico.  It  is  unnec- 
essary, but  none  the  less  pleasant,  to  state  that  every  com- 
munication addressed  to  the  Bureau  of  American  Ethnology 
at  Washington  received  full  attention.  Through  Senator 
George  C.  Perkins  of  California,  the  Smithsonian  Institu- 
tion provided  me  with  data  of  value.  The  Adjutant  Gen- 
eral's office  and  the  Bureau  of  Engineering,  of  the  War 
Department,  have  answered  my  queries  with  military  com- 
pleteness. The  splendid  shelves  of  the  Iowa  State  Library 
and  the  Iowa  State  Historical  Library  at  Des  Moines 
proved  a  treasure-trove  of  enlightenment. 

Amidst  the  mass  of  dates  and  incidents  will  be  found 
errors,  for  the  writer  is  but  human.  Of  these  errors  he 
doubtless  will  soon  be  made  aware.  In  his  narrative  he 
has  aimed  to  transcribe  boldly,  preferring  to  err  rather  than 
to  slight 

And  now,  out  of  data  confused  and  tenuous,  and  hereto- 
fore based  mainly  upon  one  biography  written  before  the 
Civil  War,  and  that  so  frail  that  the  Carson  family,  even 
to  the  hero's  father  and  mother,  have  been  suffered  to 
remain  in  darkness;  out  of  some  six  years'  work  covering 
by  correspondence  and  interview  the  country  from  Los 
Angeles  to  New  York,  from  Oregon  to  Florida,  behold 
Kit  Carson  Days  as  it  has  been  evolved. 

Edwin  L.  Sabin. 
San  Diego,  California. 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER  PAGE 

I    The  Carson  Family i 

II    In  Old  Missouri  — 1810-1826 5 

III  The  Road  TO  Santa  Fe — 1826 13 

IV  New  Mexico  and  New  Mexicans  ....    25 
V  As  Fared  the  Runaway — 1826-1829    .    .    31 

VI    The  Trapper's  Trail  — 1829 37 

VII  To  the  Grand  Canyon,  and  On    ....    44 

VIII  American  Trappers  in  California  ...    54 

IX  The  Heart  of  the  Rockies  — 1830  ...    66 

X  Adventures  of  Kit  Carson  —  183 1- 1832     .    80 

XI    The  Fight  for  Fur 91 

Xn    Dramatis  Personae no 

XIII  Adventures  of  Kit  Carson  —  1832-1834    .  123 

XIV  The  American  Wedge  in  Oregon  ....  137 
XV  Adventures  of  Kit  Carson  —  1834-1835    .  157 

XVI  Adventures  of  Kit  Carson  — 1835-1838    .  168 

XVII    The  Forking  of  the  Trail 179 

XVIII    Bent's  Fort  of  t^e  Plains 186 

XIX  Adventures  of  Kit  Carson  — 1838-1842.  .  195 

XX  On  the  Trail  with  Fremont — 1842     .    .  206 

XXI  On  the  Trail  with  Fremont — 1843-1844 .  218 

XXII  On  the  Trail  with  Fremont — 1845      •    •  237 

XXIII  The  Year  '46 246 

XXIV  The     Mexican      War  —  Carson      under 

Kearny 268 

XXV  The  Mexican  War  —  Carson  at  San  Pas- 

QUAL 280 

XXVI  The  Re-Conquest  of  California  ....  295 

XXVII  Carson  Across  the  Continent —  1847  .    .  301 

XXVIII  ''  A  Ride  with  Kit  Carson  "  — 1848  ...  316 

xi 


xu 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER  PAGE 

XXIX  The  Ranch  at  the  Rayado — 1849-1853    .  338 

XXX  Carson  and  the  Indian  —  1853-1861  .    .    .  358 

XXXI  Campaigns  of  the  Fifties 375 

XXXII  The  Civil  War  —  Carson   at  Valverde, 

1862 394 

XXXIII  Corralling  the  Apache — 1862-1863    .    .  409 

XXXIV  The  Nemesis  of  the  Navajo — 1863-1864  .  418 
XXXV  The  Battle  of  Adobe  Walls  — 1864     .    .  440 

XXXVI    Plains    and    Mountain    Service — 1865- 

1867 467 

XXXVII    Carson  at  Washington  —  1868 485 

XXXVIII    Last  Days  of  "  The  General  "  —  1868  .    .  493 

XXXIX    Kit  Carson 503 


APPENDIX 
I 
2 

3 

4 

5 
6 

7 
8 

9 
10 

II 

NOTES      . 

INDEX      . 


Captain  Jedediah  Strong  Smith 
Carson  Reports  as  Indian  Agent 
The  Battle  of  Valverde  .  .  . 
Carleton  Dispatches  to  Carson 
The  Navajo  Campaign  .... 
The  Kiowa-Comanche  Expedition 
Kit  Carson  on  the  Indian  .  .  . 
Major  Albert  H.  Pfeiffer's  Adventure  . 
Carson  Personal  Letters  to  Pfeiffer  . 
Merchant  Beuthner  to  Camp  Nichols 
The  Carson  Will 


511 

518 

533 

538 

561 
604 

610 

614 

617 

619 

621 

623 

657 


ILLUSTRATIONS 


PAGE 

Colonel  Carson Frontispiece 

Santa  Fe  caravan  on  the  march 22 

Santa  Fe  in  sight 22 

The  Copper  mines  where  Kit  Carson  worked    ....  23 

The  pueblo  of  Los  Angeles 58 

Old  Fort  Union 58 

A  Carson  letter 59 

Independence  Rock 76 

Devil's  Gate 76 

Old  arms  of  plains  and  mountains 77 

The  West  in  1835  (map) 90 

The  West  in  1850  (map) 91 

WiUiam  Wolf  skill no 

Joseph  Robidoux no 

Joseph  L.  Meek no 

"Old"  Jim  Baker no 

Jim  Beckwourth      .    .    , iii 

Rev.  Jason  Lee 136 

Rev.  Samuel  L.  Parker 136 

Rev.  Henry  H.  Spalding 136 

Myra  Fairbanks  Eells 136 

Mary  Richardson  Walker 137 

Rev.  Francis  N.  Blanchet 137 

Rev.  Peter  J.  De  Smet 137 

Ceran  St.  Vrain 137 

Dr.  John  McLoughlin 162 

"Old"  Jim   Bridger 162 

Captain  Nathaniel  J.  Wyeth 162 

xm 


xiv  ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Fort  Hall 163 

Fort  Laramie 163 

Old  Bent's  Fort       186 

William  Bent 187 

Taos  in  1853 200 

Carson's  office  in  Taos 200 

Carson's  home  in  Taos 201 

Old  Fort  Massachusetts 201 

Hon.  Thomas  Hart  Benton 218 

Colonel  John  C.  Fremont 218 

The  passage  of  the  Sierras 219 

Return  of  Carson  and  Godey 234 

Captain  John  August  Sutter 235 

Sutter's  Fort 235 

Hon.  John  S.  Hough 238 

Kit  Carson  III 239 

Battle  at  Klamath  Lake 254 

Monterey  in  1846 255 

Santa  Fe  in  1846 255 

Carson-Beale  Tablet 292 

Carson  in  the  Mexican  War 293 

Robert  F.   Stockton 293 

Taos  pueblo 308 

Crossing  the  plains 309 

Bridger's  Fort 309 

Carson's  commission  as  second  lieutenant 314 

Governor  Charles  Bent 315 

Kit  Carson's  Hawkins  rifle 332 

Oldtime  western  rifles 332 

Tom  Tobin 333 

Kit  Carson  and  Master  Charley  Boggs 368 

Lucien  R.  Maxwell 369 

Viejo  Cheyenne 369 

Captain  Smith  H.  Simpson 392 

The  Carson  plat  on  Memorial  Day 393 

Major  Oliver  Perry  Wiggins 393 

"  Wedding  of  the  East  and  the  West " 414 


ILLUSTRATIONS  xv 

PAGE 

Captain  George  H.  Pettis 436 

Set-Imkia  or  Stumbling  Bear 436 

Set-T'Ainte  (Satanta) 437 

Major  Albert  H.  Pfeiffer 437 

Carson  in  colonel's  uniform 466 

Carson  as  Indian  agent 467 

Carson  in  1867 4^ 

Commission  to  Washington 484 

A  reunion  picture 490 

Last  photograph  of  Kit  Carson 491 

House  where  Kit  Carson  died 496 

Thomas  O.  Boggs 497 

First  monument  to  Kit  Carson 502 

Carson  in  sculpture  at  Denver ,    .  503 

Carson  monument  at  Santa  Fe 510 

William  Carson 511 

Kit  Carson  II 511 


\*  .1      w 


r 


n 


KIT  CARSON  DAYS 


CHAPTER  I 
THE  CARSON  FAMILY 

THAT  "  blood  will  tell "  never  has  been  better  exempli- 
fied than  in  the  case  of  the  Carson  family  in  America ; 
and  when  he  took  the  danger-trail,  youthful  Kit  Carson 
swung  as  true  to  his  instincts  as  swings  the  needle  to  the 
pole. 

The  head  of  the  house  of  Carson  in  America  seems  to 
have  been  William  Carson,  of  Scotch-Irish  strain,  who  emi- 
grated from  England,  possibly  Scotland,  in  the  first  half 
of  the  eighteenth  century,  to  Pennsylvania.  Thence  moving 
southward,  joining  in  that  impulse  which  transfused  into  the 
Carolinas  and  Tennessee  so  much  of  Scotch-Irish  Protestant 
blood,  he  laid  claim  to  692  acres  on  both  sides  of  Third 
Creek,  in  the  Loray  District  of  Iredell  County,  North  Caro- 
lina. The  Carson  grant  to  this  tract,  from  Lord  Granville, 
bears  date  of  December  i,  1761. 

Of  this  William  Carson  the  First  the  records  run  in  brief 
that  he  was  a  farmer ;  that  he  married  Miss  Eleanor  McDuff 
(McDorf?),  and  that  imprudently  drinking  from  a  cold 
spring  on  a  hot  day,  before  the  Revolution,  he  died,  leaving 
a  wife  and  five  children — Robert,  Lindsay  (head  of  the 
Carson  family  in  Missouri),  Andrew,  possibly  an  Alexan- 
der, Eleanor,  and  Sarah. 

The  Carson  family,  now  established  in  America,  pro- 
ceeded to  scatter  like  quail.    An  Alexander  Carson  migrated 

1 


2  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

to  Mississippi ;  Robert  Carson  to  Kentucky,  where  he  lived 
until  he  died;  Lindsay  and  Andrew  to  the  Hunting  Creek 
settlement  in  the  north  of  Iredell  County.  Here  Andrew, 
at  twenty,  and  Lindsay,  at  twenty-two,  proved  the  Carson 
metal  in  the  fire  of  the  Revolution. 

Andrew  became  a  captain  in  the  command  of  Marion  the 
Swampf ox ;  and  while  Lord  Comwallis  was  harrying  Soutli 
Carolina  he  carried  dispatches  between  Marion  and  Greene. 
He  was  in  the  battle  of  Camden,  and  tradition  states  that 
he  bore  out  in  his  arms,  from  under  fire,  the  fatally  wounded 
Baron  DeKalb,  stricken  while  crossing  a  creek,  October  i6, 
1780. 

Of  Lindsay  Carson's  exploits  in  the  Revolution  less  comes 
down  to  us;  but  so  sturdy  an  Indian  fighter  must  have 
graven  deep  his  signature.  After  the  war  he  removed  to 
South  Carolina,  and  married  Miss  Bradley,  to  raise  another 
wilderness  brood,  the  flight  of  which  was  to  reach  from 
Kentucky  to  the  Pacific. 

This,  the  first  of  his  two  marriages,  added  to  his  race 
William,  b.  1786,  who  by  imion  with  Millie  Boone  of  the 
Kentucky  Boones,  perpetuated  around  Fayette,  Missouri, 
the  Carson  name;  Sarah,  b.  1788,  m.  Peyton  and  lived  to 
an  advanced  age;  Andrew,  b.  1790;  Moses  Bradley,  b. 
1792.  The  mother  did  not  long  survive  this  last  child,  but 
died  soon  after  reaching  the  new  home  in  Madison  County, 
Kentucky,  whither,  1792,  the  restless  Lindsay  moved  on. 

Here,  in  Madison  County,  Kentucky,  in  1797,  he  took 
unto  himself  a  second  wife,  Rebecca  Robinson,  of  Green- 
briar  County,  Virginia,  and  so  resumed  the  interrupted 
sequence;  for  those  were  wholesome  days  of  large  fam- 
ilies. Six  more  boys  and  four  more  girls  arrived,  with 
regularity:  i,  Elizabeth,  m.  Robert  Cooper  of  the  Missouri 
(and  Kentucky)  Coopers;  2,  Nancy,  m.  Briggs;  3,  Robert; 
4,  Hamilton;  5,  Christopher;  6,  Hampton;  7,  Mathilda, 
m*  Adams;  8,  Mary,  m.  Ruby;  9,  Sarshel;  10,  Lindsay 


THE  CARSON  FAMILY  3 

Second.  But  this,  his  namesake,  the  father  never  saw,  for 
the  birth  occurred  after  the  fatality  of  September,  1818, 
when  Lindsay  First  died,  aged  sixty-four,  crushed  by  a 
falling  limb. 

Tradition  in  the  Young  family,  of  the  Hunting  Creek 
district.  North  Carolina,  asserts  that  not  in  Kentucky  but 
in  Iredell  County  the  famous  Kit  was  bom,  while  Lindsay 
and  wife  were  upon  a  visit  to  his  brother  Andrew.  Be  that 
as  it  may,  Iredell  County  of  North  Carolina  has  another 
claim,  in  the  report,  reasonably  authentic,  that  Kit  Carson's 
full  given  name  was  Christopher  Houston,  given  out  of 
respect  to  the  Christopher  Houston  who  was  prominent  in 
Iredell  County  during  the  Revolution. 

Of  this  brave  family  of  fourteen,  bom  to  Lindsay  Carson 
by  juncture  with  the  Bradley  and  the  Robinson  clans,  all 
lived  to  manhood  or  womanhood.  And  this  in  itself  is 
remarkable,  for  the  wanderlust  was  in  the  veins.  The  girls, 
of  course,  married;  but  of  the  sons  it  is  written,  by  a  son 
of  William,  the  eldest :  "  Every  one,  without  a  single  excep- 
tion, went  west  in  search  of  the  Indian  and  the  buffalo ;  now 
that  the  Indian  is  guarded  on  the  reservations  and  the  buf- 
falo is  nearly  extinct,  I  am  at  a  loss  to  know  what  their 
descendants  will  do  for  a  pastime." 

When  the  first  Carson  entered  the  Far  West,  is  not  known, 
but  an  Alexander  Carson  (possibly  son  of  that  Alexander 
who  was  son  of  the  first  William)  was  encountered  as  a 
trapper  upon  the  upper  Missouri  by  the  Wilson  Hunt  party 
of  Astorians,  in  the  spring  of  181 1.  And  he  and  his  cc«n- 
panion  turned,  with  the  party  of  Astorians,  for  the  still 
farther  West.  Already  he  had  been  two  years  in  the  beaver 
wilderness. 

Then  with  the  advent  in  Missouri  of  the  Lindsay  tribe, 
the  Carson  family  entered  into  the  thick  of  pioneer  affairs. 
The  father  and  Moses  served,  with  the  home  guard,  against 
the  Indians,  in  the  War  of  181 2;  Moses  was  in  several 


4  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

up-river  expeditions  of  the  fur  trade;  a  Carson  (very  likely 
Andrew,  Moses'  senior)  was  with  the  Ezekiel  Williams 
adventurers  who  fared  into  the  Southwest,  1811,  and  were 
gone  two  years;  William,  the  eldest  of  all,  was  held  back  in 
Kentucky  by  Indian  disturbances,  imtil  the  war  was  over. 

William,  Andrew,  Moses,  Robert,  Hamilton,  and  Chris- 
topher certainly  rode  the  Santa  Fe  Trail;  Lindsay  Second 
is  said  to  have  been  with  Fremont  on  that  heroic  but  futile 
fourth  expedition  to  the  Rockies  in  the  winter  of  1848-49; 
of  Sarshel  and  Hampton  I  have  no  record. 


CHAPTER  II 

IN  OLD  MISSOURI— 18101826 

THE  story  of  Kit  Carson  days  is  the  story  of  beaver  and 
of  Indians;  of  mountain,  canon,  valley,  desert,  and 
stream  ransacked  through  and  through  by  the  fur  hunter ;  of 
white  blood  and  red  blood  meeting,  striving,  and  mingling 

—  mingling  sometimes  in  friendly  union  but  far  of tener  in 
the  struggle  of  mutual  hate ;  of  lonely  camp  and  of  boister- 
ous rendezvous;  of  thirst,  starvation  and  rude  plenty;  of 
the  trapper  followed  close  by  the  trader,  of  both  followed 
by  the  explorer,  of  the  explorer  followed  by  the  emigrant 

—  colonist,  gold  seeker,  settler;  of  Santa  Fe  Trail  and 
Oregon  Trail  and  California  Trail ;  of  a  Bent's  Fort,  a  Fort 
Laramie,  a  Fort  Bridger  —  and  of  trader  and  Indian  march- 
ing out,  the  army  marching  in ;  of  Black  Robe  and  of  mis- 
sionary carrying  Christianity  from  St.  Louis  and  Boston 
overland  to  the  mouth  of  the  Columbia ;  of  Ute,  Apache  and 
Navajo  in  the  Southwest  subdued  by  the  bullet;  of  a  Great 
Britain  on  the  north,  and  a  Mexico  on  the  south,  once  touch- 
ing beyond  the  Rockies,  then  cleaved  a  thousand  miles 
asunder  by  a  westward  pressing  flag;  of  a  Texas,  a  Califor- 
nia, a  New  Mexico,  and  an  Oregon  acquired,  and  of  a 
"  Great  American  Desert  "  fertilized ;  of  a  vast  and  savage 
West  awakened  and  with  astounding  swiftness  made  amen- 
able to  the  purposes  of  civilization ;  of  an  unknown  country 
two  thousand  miles  wide  becoming  known;  of  the  United 
States  expanding  in  three  directions  imtil  it  had  reached 
from  the  Atlantic  to  the  Pacific,  from  the  Gulf  and  the  Rio 
Grande  and  the  mouth  of  the  Colorado  to  Canada  and 
Puget  Sound. 

5 


6  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Kit  Carson  traveled  from  Kentucky  to  Santa  Fe  by  ox 
team  and  wagon.  Before  he  died  he  had  traveled  from 
Washington  City  to  the  Wyoming  Rockies  by  rail ;  another 
year,  and  he  could  have  journeyed  from  coast  to  coast  in 
similar  fashion. 

Daniel  Boone,  in  1797,  at  the  age  of  sixty-five,  had  moved 
across  the  Missouri.  Reports  from  him  and  his  sons  fil- 
tered back.  Then  in  the  spring  of  181 1,  the  head  of  the 
Lindsay  Carson  house  emigrated  from  Madison  County  of 
Kentucky  to  this  new  Boone's  Lick  district  of  the  even  newer 
American  territory  of  Louisiana.  The  youngest  child  (as 
yet)  was  Kit,  born  December  25,  1809. 

The  Carsons  and  their  southern  party  settled  in  what  is 
now  Howard  County,  along  the  Missouri  River,  about  200 
miles  west  of  St.  Louis.  Other  men  and  women  of  the 
South  were  here;  more  arrived;  and  soon  there  arose 
those  doughty  stockades  celebrated  in  Mississippi  Valley  his- 
tory —  Forts  Hempstead,  Cooper,  and  Kincaid.  The  name 
of  Linsey  (Lindsay)  Carson  appears  upon  the  roll  of  old 
Fort  Hempstead,  and  he  is  claimed  likewise  by  the  descend- 
ants of  the  old  Fort  Cooper  garrison. 

This  was  the  extreme  frontier  of  the  United  States; 
beyond  was  the  "  Indian  Country,"  so  to  be  designated,  with 
but  slight  variation,  for  thirty  years.  The  population  of  the 
Territory  of  Louisiana,  which  comprised  that  section  of  the 
old  province  north  of  the  Territory  of  Orleans,  or  the  pres- 
ent state  of  Louisiana,  dwindled  speedily  as  one  proceeded 
northward  from  the  lower  Arkansas  and  westward  from  the 
mouth  of  the  Missouri.  St.  Louis,  with  its  1800  people, 
was  the  metropolis. 

Encouraged  by  the  government  which  was  essaying  to 
absorb  a  continent,  the  fur  trade  (the  only  trade,  to  date, 
of  this  the  new  West)  had  increased  rapidly.  Through 
many  years  St.  Louis,  under  domination  of  the  French,  had 
been  the  headquarters  of  a  fur  trade  operated  mainly  by 


IN  OLD  MISSOURI  7 

jMivate  individuals,  or  at  most  by  partners;  for  St.  Louis 
was  French,  and  from  the  very  outset  it  was  the  French  who 
in  the  new  continent  sought  out  the  pelt  of  forest,  prairie, 
and  stream.  But  now,  at  the  time  of  the  Carsons'  arrival  in 
the  Boone's  Lick  district,  the  Missouri  Fur  Company  of  St. 
Louis  was  organized  with  good  backing,  and  the  energetic 
John  Jacob  Astor  of  New  York  was  pushing  his  American 
Fur  Company.  His  ship  the  Tonquin  was  en  route  for  the 
mouth  of  the  Columbia,  and  up  the  Missouri  River  trail 
from  St  Louis  had  hastened  the  supporting  overland  party 
of  Himt 

In  this  Louisiana,  soon  to  be  rechristened  Missouri  Ter- 
ritory, Lindsay  Carson  continued  his  Kentucky  and  Carolina 
career.  He  led  in  many  skirmishes  with  the  savages;  he 
and  his  third  son,  Moses,  were  enrolled  in  the  home  guards 
during  the  War  of  1812.  In  1814  some  fingers  of  his  left 
hand  were  shot  off  during  a  scrimmage  with  Indians.  In 
September,  1818,  he  died  by  the  fall  of  a  limb  from  a  burned 
tree  while  he  was  cutting  timber  in  the  forest  near  home. 
He  left  a  thriving  family,  and  a  rifle  of  large  bore,  with 
the  stock  (like  the  fingers  of  his  hand)  smashed  by  an 
enemy's  bullet. 

Kit,  no  longer  the  youngest  in  the  family,  was  now  almost 
nine  years  of  age.  Two  and  one-half  of  these  years  had 
been  spent  under  the  stockade  protection  of  Fort  Hemp- 
stead ;  all  had  been  spent  in  the  shadow  of  peril  by  wilder- 
ness. He  had  run  absolutely  unrestrained  except  for  the 
spasmodic  efforts  of  a  tired  mother  with  many  other  nest- 
lings. He  was  thoroughly  a  settler's  child.  When  he 
reached  fifteen  years  his  mother  apprenticed  him  to  a  saddler 
in  Franklin,  then  the  chief  Missouri  frontier  settlement. 

During  the  fourteen  years  since  the  Carsons  had  crossed 
the  Mississippi,  government,  fur  trader,  and  adventurer  had 
repeatedly  assaulted  the  Indian  country.  Making  a  rift  in 
an  entirely  new  spot  of  the  bulwarks  of  the  Northwest,  in 


8  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

1820  Major  Stephen  Long,  of  the  army,  ascended  the  Mis- 
souri, past  Franklin,  in  the  first  steamboat  successfully  to 
plough  that  stream,  and  from  the  present  site  of  Omaha 
proceeded  by  horse  and  mule  up  along  the  Platte  (name 
already  well-known  by  mouth  of  voyageur  and  trapper)  to 
the  Rocky  Mountains.  Then  swinging  south,  he  skirted  the 
eastern  base  of  the  foothills,  passing  the  present  site  of  the 
cities  of  Denver  and  Colorado  Springs,  and  returned  by 
way  of  the  Arkansas. 

The  Missouri  Fur  Company  was  constantly  establishing 
more  posts  in  that  upper  Missouri  country,  and  there  were 
half  a  dozen  other  companies  in  the  field.  William  Ashley 
of  St  Louis,  first  lieutenant  governor  of  the  new  state,  gen- 
eral in  the  militia  and  Missouri's  leading  citizen,  had  taken 
up  the  fur  trade  as  another  vocation,  to  pursue  it  so  indus- 
triously that  within  six  years  he  made  his  fortune.  In  1822 
he  had  escorted  up  the  river  his  first  party,  under  Major 
Andrew  Henry,  who  in  service  of  the  Missouri  Fur  Com- 
pany, a  dozen  years  back,  had  built  the  first  American  fur- 
trading  post  on  the  Pacific  side  of  the  Stony  Mountains, 
by  the  Henry  Fork  of  the  Snake  River  in  extreme  eastern 
Idaho  at  the  Wyoming  line.  General  Ashley  followed  his 
1822  expedition  with  others,  accompan)ring  some  of  them 
himself.  To  young  Kit  Carson  these  Ashley  expeditions 
should  have  been  of  especial  interest,  for  they  at  once  num- 
bered upon  their  rolls  Henry  Vanderburgh,  the  ill-fated; 
Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  Carson's  first  mountain  employer ;  Jim 
Bridger,  discoverer  of  the  great  Salt  Lake;  Jedediah  S. 
Smith,  the  "  knight  in  buckskin,"  whose  Bible  was  as  close 
a  companion  to  him  as  his  rifle,  and  whose  trail  across  the 
desert  into  California,  Carson  would  encounter  on  his  initial 
trip  as  a  trapper;  Jim  Beckwourth,  the  mulatto  Crow  chief; 
the  Sublettes  —  of  whom  William  was  the  best  captain  of 
trappers  in  the  West ;  and  others  whose  names  figure  largely 
in  plains  and  mountain  history,  and  with  whom,  in  a  few 


IN  OLD  MISSOURI  9 

more  )rears,  Kit  Carson,  now  a  boy,  mingled  as  a  man,  a 
fellow  trapper  and  an  equal. 

Moreover,  up  the  river,  in  the  summer  of  1823,  had  passed 
a  punitive  expedition  sent  by  government  and  fur  people 
combined  against  the  fierce  Arikaras,  who  were  forcibly 
obstructing  traffic.  In  the  fighting,  this  "  Missouri  Legion," 
as  it  was  styled,  had  been  moderately  successful.  The  way 
was  opened. 

So  much,  briefly,  as  regards  the  Northwest.  But  the 
Southwest  likewise  was  being  exploited.  Objective  points 
in  the  Northwest  were  the  Three  Forks  cotmtry  of  the 
sources  of  the  Missouri  River,  and  the  Columbia  and  Oregon 
region,  on  the  other  side  of  the  mountains.  The  Southwest 
spelled  Santa  Fe  —  that  far  Mexican  metropolis  of  the 
"  Spanish  Settlements.'*  Pike  had  reported  upon  it;  in  1806 
he  had  found  there  one  James  Purcell  (or  Pursley),  an 
American  from  Kentucky  already  domiciled  At  present 
Santa  Fe  and  the  Spanish  Settlements  were  in  everybody's 
mouth,  for  trade  in  that  direction  promised  an  attractive 
outlet  to  those  Missourians  who  were  not  engaged  in  the 
fiu*  business  of  the  North. 

In  June,  1813,  Ezekiel  Williams  had  returned  to  Boone's 
Lick  of  Missouri,  after  a  long  experience  on  the  upper 
Arkansas,  and  had  brought  back  much  word  of  Santa  Fe.^ 
The  next  year  he  went  out  again  and  his  adventures  were 
reported  widely. 

In  1 82 1  John  McKnight  passed  through  Franklin  upon 
quest  of  his  brother  Robert  who  for  nine  years  had  not  been 
heard  from.  He  found  Robert  imprisoned  in  Chihuahua,  but 
he  f  oimd  also  that  rumors  were  true,  and  that  Mexico  was 
free  from  Spanish  rule,  unfriendly  to  Americans,  so  he  was 
enabled  to  bring  Robert  back  with  him.  The  return  in  the 
summer  of  1822  was  chronicled  in  the  Missouri  Intelligencer 
of  Franklin. 

Meanwhile  Captain  William  Becknell  of  Franklin  adver- 


10  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

tised  in  the  Intelligencer  of  June  lo,  1821,  for  "seventy 
men  to  go  westward  "  on  a  trading  project.  He  assembled 
his  party  at  the  house  of  Ezekiel  WiUiams  (who  doubtless 
could  aid  with  much  information  about  the  country),  and 
succeeded  in  penetrating  safely  into  Santa  Fe  and  in  emerg- 
ing safely  therefrom.  The  following  January  he  arrived 
in  Franklin  again,  enthusiastic  over  his  profits. 

In  the  spring  of  1822  Captain  Becknell  led  another  com- 
pany, with  three  wagons,  and  made  a  new  and  shorter  trail 
across  the  Cimarron  desert.  The  Santa  Fe  trade  was 
fairly  started,  and  the  Missouri  Intelligencer  was  constantly 
printing  items  upon  it. 

So  when  Kit  Carson  was  put  out  at  saddlery  service  in 
Franklin  in  1825,  it  was  locking  the  cat  in  with  the  cream. 
Northwest  and  Southwest  were  thrilling  with  deeds  and 
adventures,  the  accounts  of  which  focused  in  Franklin  — 
Franklin,  still  keenly  mindful  of  the  great  reception  ten- 
dered to  Major  James  and  General  Atkinson,  when  in  1819 
they  had  stopped  off  from  their  steamboat,  en  route  to  the 
Yellowstone.  Ashley  was  reaping  fame  and  furs.  And 
Santa  Fe  had  come  into  being. 

Thus  Kit  Carson  found  Franklin  an  eddy  where  two  trails 
joined.  Down  the  river,  and  up  the  river  to  the  uttermost 
sources  in  the  unknown,  passed  the  men  of  the  fur  trade; 
by  steamboat,  by  keel  boat,  ashore  and  even  afoot,  bringing 
their  pelts,  their  squaws,  their  scars,  and  their  tales.  And 
here  the  Santa  Fe  Trail  met  the  Missouri  River  Trail.  Out 
of  the  south  of  west  they  came,  into  the  dim  south  of  west 
they  went,  those  dusty  pack  trains  laden  tight  with  mer- 
chandise and  escorting  not  only  trader,  but  broadcloth 
merchant  and  health-seeking  adventurer.  Theirs  were  tales 
of  desert  rather  than  of  mountains;  of  Kiowa,  Pawnee, 
Comanche,  and  Arapaho ;  of  the  cibolero,  or  Mexican  buffalo 
hunter;  of  thirst  amidst  burning  sands;  and  of  a  romantic, 
ancient  city,  800  miles  away,  by  horse  and  mule,  across 


IN  OLD  MISSOURI  11 

the  hazy  "  Indian  Country  "  • —  Santa  Fe  of  Neuva  Mejico, 
where  American  goods  and  labor  sold  at  great  profit,  and 
where  American  visitors  were  welcomed  by  the  merry 
fandango. 

As  against  all  this,  the  saddler's  craft  must  have  seemed 
dull  indeed  to  Kit  Carson.  In  a  year  he  had  had  enough 
of  it;  and  the  following  advertisement,  which  appeared  in 
the  columns  of  the  Missouri  Intelligencer  of  Franklin,  indi- 
cates how  he  left  it : 

Notice:  To  whom  it  may  concern:  That  Christopher  Car- 
son, a  boy  about  sixteen  years  old,  small  of  his  age,  but  thick- 
set, light  hair,  ran  away  from  the  subscriber,  living  in  Frank- 
lin, Howard  Co.,  Mo.,  to  whom  he  had  been  bound  to  learn  the 
saddler's  trade,  on  or  about  the  first  day  of  September  last.  He 
is  supposed  to  have  made  his  way  toward  the  upper  part  of 
the  state.  All  persons  are  notified  not  to  harbor,  support, 
or  subsist  said  boy  under  penalty  of  the  law.  One  cent 
reward  will  be  given  to  any  person  who  will  bring  back  the 
said  boy. 

(Signed)  David  Workman. 

Franklin,  Oct.  6,  1826. 

Shrewdly  enough  might  it  be  suspected  that  he  had  set 
face  to  the  north,  in  the  line  of  the  fur  trade.  This  was 
the  easier  travel  and  there  were  countless  invitations  for  a 
lad  to  proceed  onward  with  trader,  trapper,  or  Indian  — 
plenty  of  whom,  we  may  be  certain.  Kit  Carson  knew. 
Anybody  who  could  handle  a  rifle  was  free  to  join  any  of 
a  hundred  wandering  bands,  white  or  red;  and  .Moses 
Carson,  and  no  doubt  others  of  Kit's  brothers,  already  had 
traversed  the  upper  Missouri  trail. 

But  the  chances  for  profit  were  greater  on  the  Santa  Fe 
Trail,  and  the  romance  of  it  was  more  appealing.  So  Kit 
Carson  joined  a  Santa  Fe  caravan,  and,  by  the  irony  of 
events,  at  the  very  first  opportunity,  the  next  spring,  David 
Workman,  saddler,  did  the  same. 


12  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Kit  never  again  saw  his  home,  and  according  to  report, 
he  saw  few  of  his  kinsfolk  for  almost  two  decades.  Not 
until  the  spring  of  1842  did  he  return  to  the  Missouri  fron- 
tier, and  the  sixteen  years  of  spectacular  progress  had 
wiped  out,  as  would  a  landslide,  both  places  and  people. 


1 


CHAPTER  III 
THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE— 1826 

OUT  pulled  the  caravan,  one  of  several  dispatched  this 
year  from  Franklin,  for  the  Santa  Fe  trade  was 
increasing.  It  was  composed  in  the  main  of  wagons  and 
other  vehicles;  the  year  1826  marked  the  passing,  on  the 
trail,  of  pack  animals,  and  the  employment  of  wheels 
entirely,  although  individuals  with  pack  animals  continued 
to  attach  themselves  to  caravans. 

In  this  year,  1826,  all  that  vast  West  of  today,  from 
Missouri  and  Iowa  to  the  Pacific  Ocean,  bore  scarcely  a 
name  save  here  and  there  the  title  of  Indian  tribe,  of  lake, 
stream,  peak  and  range,  and  desert;  and,  principally  along 
the  Missouri  River  and  upper  tributaries,  of  trading  post  or 
fur  company's  "  fort."  One  army  post  had  been  estab- 
lished, at  Council  Bluffs — Fort  Atkinson.  The  heart  of 
this  country,  comprising  what  are  now  fertile  Kansas, 
Nebraska,  and  the  Colorado  plains,  was  labeled  **  Great 
American  Desert."  It  was  presumed  to  be  worthless  except 
for  buffalo  and  uninhabitable  by  civilized  man.  Thus  had 
Major  Long,  in  1820,  reported  it.  He  had  pronounced  it 
a  providential  barrier  against  the  westward  spread  of 
humanity,  and  a  bulwark,  equally  providential,  against 
aggression  by  other  nations  from  that  direction.  The  geog- 
raphies of  a  generation  ago  were  still  clinging  stanchly  to 
this  black-shaded  patch  —  the  "  Great  American  Desert." 

There  was  not  a  settlement  between  New  Mexico  and  the 
mouth  of  the  Columbia  in  Oregon.  Indians,  more  or  less 
hostile,  buffalo,  antelope,  wild  horses,  elk,  deer,  bear,  wolves, 
beaver,  the  eagle,  hawk,  buzzard,  other  birds  and  quadru- 

18 


14  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

peds,  and  many  reptiles,  made  up  the  citizenship,  aside  from 
the  trappers  and  traders.  Fur,  feather,  buckskin,  and  painted 
nakedness  was  the  garb  in  vogue. 

The  boundary  of  that  territory  acquired  as  the  Louisiana 
Province,  from  France,  was  yet  rather  obscure  to  the  people 
at  large,  and  even  to  the  authorities.  The  United  States 
extended  to  the  indefinite  Rocky  Mountains,  on  the  west; 
on  the  south  to  the  Red  River,  and  at  the  undefined  line  of 
the  looth  meridian  of  longitude,  in  present  Kansas,  only 
to  the  Arkansas.    Below,  all  was  Mexico  and  uneasy  Texas 

—  which  also  was  Mexican  territory.    Across  the  Rockies 

—  then  known  as  the  "  Shining  Mountains "  and  the 
"  Stony  Mountains,"  and  toward  their  southern  extremity 
as  the  "  Anahuac  "  —  all  was  Mexico,  generalized  as  Cali- 
fornia, up  to  the  northern  line  of  the  present  Utah.  North 
of  Utah  everything  was  Oregon,  shared  temporarily  by  the 
United  States  and  Great  Britain,  whose  representative  was 
the  Hudson  Bay  Company. 

Kit  Carson's  entrance  into  this  unplotted  West  which  he 
soon  would  help  map  was  not,  we  may  be  certain,  heroic. 
He  arrived,  beyond  any  reasonable  doubt,  at  the  tail  of  the 
horse  herd  or  "  cavvy,"  as  many  another  character  promi- 
nent in  western  history  has  done.  Herding  this  "  cawy  " 
is  the  boy's  and  the  new  hand's  job  in  the  West,  and  always 
has  been. 

Chroniclers  have  given  Kit  Carson  a  place  from  the  out- 
set as  official  hunter  for  the  caravan  —  his  duty  being  to 
supply  the  camp  with  meat  But  he  was  just  a  boy  of  six- 
teen, undersized,  of  the  gritty  but  nondescript  Scotch-Irish 
type  —  sandy-haired,  sandy-complexioned,  tanned  and 
freckled,  with  full  forehead  and  wide-set,  blue-gray  tyts. 
He  was  a  good  shot,  self-reliant,  wise  in  woodcraft  and 
pioneer  expedients,  but  these  were  not  exceptional  qualities, 
and  regularly  appointed  "hunters"  were  not  the  rule  in 
these  early  caravans. 


THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE  15 

The  caravan  itself  is  recorded  very  clearly  by  Captain 
Gregg  and  by  Thmnas  J.  Famham  of  the  same  era.  The 
course  to  Santa  Fe  lay  not  as  one  traveled  road,  but  as  a 
number  of  chance  selected  trails,  for  the  most  part  only  dis- 
cernible to  the  keenest  eyes/  The  country  was,  as  a  rule, 
flat  and  bare,  and  travelers  kept  a  general  direction  from 
water  to  water,  from  camping  spot  to  camping  spot.  Like 
any  other  long  trail,  the  Santa  Fe  was  merely  a  succession 
of  convenient  or  necessary  stages.  Vehicles  traversing  it 
usually  took  a  formation  of  four  abreast,  but  sometimes 
they  stretched  out  in  single  file  for  a  mile  and  more.  How- 
ever, the  column  of  fours,  and  later  of  twos>  was  imperative 
in  the  Indian  country,  where  compactness  was  a  condition 
of  defense. 

The  journey  out  usually  occupied  fifty  or  sixty  days ;  the 
journey  back,  when  the  wagons  traveled  lighter,  could  be 
made  in  forty  days.  The  distance  was  about  780  miles, 
and  a  well-laden  wagon  traveled  on  an  average  fifteen  miles 
a  day.  But  in  1826,  the  time  of  Kit  Carson's  first  trip,  the 
travel  was  less  systematized,  more  haphazard,  and  therefore 
less  expeditious. 

From  Franklin  the  Kit  Carson  caravan  would  strike 
away  from  the  muddy  river,  and  leaving  Missouri  through 
the  green  prairie  of  the  then  friendly  Osage  Indians,  now 
aiming  for  the  Arkansas  River  would  cross  into  the  Kansas 
of  today.  In  addition  to  the  great,  heavy,  flaring-topped 
Conestoga  wagons,  of  Pittsburg  pattern,  each  drawn  by 
eight  mules,  there  were  a  few  stylish  Dearborn  carriages, 
the  conve)rances  of  city  merchants  and  of  invalids ;  for  both 
wealth  and  health  were  to  be  found  upon  the  old  Santa  Fe 
Trail.  Outriders  were  before  and  upon  either  flank  of  the 
column.  In  the  dust  of  the  rear  followed  the  "  cawy,"  and 
on  his  mule.  Kit  Carson. 

As  the  caravan  proceeded,  exchanging  the  green  prairies 
of  western  Missouri  for  the  arid  plains  of  Kansas,  discipline 


16  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

would  become  stricter,  for  the  Pawnees  frequently  raided 
here,  and  just  ahead  were  the  grounds  of  the  fierce  Kiowas 
and  the  equally  dangerous  Comanches.  The  horsemen 
would  look  to  their  arms  and  at  night  the  wagons  would 
be  parked,  or  joined  into  a  hollow  square,  the  front  wheels 
of  one  vehicle  lapping  the  rear  wheels  of  another.  An 
opening  was  left,  through  which  the  animals  might  be  driven 
in  case  of  alarm. 

Early  in  the  morning,  after  the  rude  but  hearty  breakfast, 
the  captain  of  the  caravan  would  sign  to  his  lieutenant ;  the 
lieutenant  would  call,  "  Catch  up !  "  Taking  up  the  cry,  the 
wagoners  would  briskly  harness  their  teams.  Presently 
from  first  one  and  then  another  wagoner  would  come  the 
announcement :  "  All 's  set"  The  teamsters  were  ready. 
"  Stretch  out,  then." 

A  noble  sight  those  teams  were,  forty-odd  in  number,  their 
immense  wagons  still  unmoved,  forming  an  oval  breastwork 
of  wealth,  girded  by  an  impatient  mass  of  near  400  mules, 
harnessed  and  ready  to  move  again  along  their  solitary  way. 
But  the  interest  of  the  scene  was  much  increased  when,  at 
the  call  of  the  commander,  the  two  lines,  team  after  team, 
straightened  themselves  into  the  trail,  and  rolled  majestic- 
ally away  over  the  undulating  plain.^ 

The  journey,  especially  to  the  greenhorn  and  the  boy, 
and  also  to  every  person  who  loved  nature,  could  not  have 
been  monotonous.  There  was  the  constant  outlook  for  sus- 
picious  figures  which  might  be  Indians.  And  the  plains, 
today  so  lifeless  except  as  new  life  has  been  introduced, 
in  caravan  times  teemed  with  their  wild  animals.  The  buf- 
falo led  in  importance,  but  was  subject  to  seasonal  and 
hunters'  influences.  Besides  the  buffalo  there  was  the 
antelope. 

Of  that  singular  animal  —  the  antelope  —  we  saw  great 
numbers;  and  in  the  fall,  once  or  twice,  many  hundreds  in  a 


THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE  17 

gang,  which,  all  of  one  accord,  would  dash  hither  and  thither 
with  wonderful  swiftness,  looking  at  a  distance,  like  the  shadow 
of  a  moving  cloud.  There  was  a  remarkable  species  of  hare, 
nearly  twice  the  size  of  the  eastern;  the  fleetest  of  the  prai- 
rie animals,  though  in  tall  grass  they  were  easily  caught.  I 
had  a  nearly  tame  one,  which  fed  on  rushes,  which  would 
disappear  in  its  mouth  as  if  pushed  through  a  hole.  Badgers 
were  common;  and  prairie  foxes  of  light  and  elegant  pro- 
portions. We  met  with  many  prairie  dog  "  villages"  ;  whole 
acres  of  their  burrows,  with  entrances  in  a  small  mound. 
Of  wolves,  there  were  thousands,  of  all  kinds  and  sizes, 
except  the  large  black  wood  wolf ;  never  an  hour  of  a  night 
passed  without  the  accompaniment  of  their  howls;  even  by 
day  they  were  to  be  seen  around.  One  dark  night,  being 
officer  of  the  guard,  I  advanced  some  two  hundred  paces  to 
a  spot  where  there  was  an  excavation  and  a  small  mound  of 
earth,  and  where  garbage  had  been  thrown ;  from  the  mound, 
I  saw  perhaps  a  dozen  snarling  over  their  unclean  food; 
sword  in  hand,  I  sprang  down  among  them;  they  scattered, 
but  I  did  not  stay  long  to  see  how  far.  Rattlesnakes  were 
very  numerous,  and  dangerous;  we  lost  several  horses  by 
their  bites.  Wild  horses  we  saw  frequently,  but  not  many. 
A  horse  which  we  lost  August  3,  was  recovered  from  a  gang 
a  month  or  two  afterwards.  Buffalo,  wolves,  rattlesnakes, 
and  grasshoppers,  seemed  to  fill  up  the  country.^ 

Pauses  would  be  made  at  noon  for  lunch  and  respite,  and 
halts  at  night  for  camp.  There  were  perils  aside  from  that  of 
Indians.  Accidents  often  happened.  Rain  and  hail  and  sand 
storms  of  terrific  violence  would  sweep  athwart  the  route. 
Animals  would  stampede.  They  and  wagons  would  be 
struck.  The  attack  of  the  elements  was  appalling;  and  the 
caravan,  out  upon  the  vast  pampa,  like  a  ship  in  the  midst  of 
the  ocean,  was  exposed  to  the  ship's  perils  without  the  ship's 
mobility. 

The  Santa  Feans,  when  on  the  march  through  these  plains, 
are  in  constant  expectation  of  these  tornadoes.  Accordingly 
when  the  sky  at  night  indicates  their  approach,  they  chain 
the  wheels  of  adjacent  wagons  strongly  together  to  prevent 


18  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

them  from  being  up-set  —  an  accident  that  had  often  hap- 
pened, when  this  precaution  was  not  taken.* 

On  the  other  hand,  miscalculation  as  to  water  would 
result  in  dreadful  suffering  or  even  death  from  thirst.  The 
Arkansas  River  was  a  great  blessing.  But  away  from  the 
Arkansas,  bewildered  by  the  sameness  of  the  landscape  and 
by  the  "  deep  paths  made  by  the  buffalo,  as  if  a  thousand 
generations  of  them  had,  in  single  file,  followed  their  lead- 
ers from  point  to  point  through  the  plains,"  the  caravan 
might  easily  lose  its  way. 

Of  the  caravan  with  which  Carson  traveled  only  one 
mischance  is  recorded.  A  teamster  accidentally  shot  him- 
self through  the  arm  shortly  before  the  caravan  reached  the 
Arkansas  River.  He  refused  to  have  the  arm  amputated, 
but  by  the  time  the  caravan  reached  the  river  —  along 
which  it  would  proceed  —  the  flesh  had  gangrened  and 
amputation  became  necessary.  There  was  no  surgeon  in  the 
camp.  Three  men  volunteered  to  perform  the  operation, 
among  them  being  Kit  Carson.  It  is  quite  unlikely,  how- 
ever, that,  as  early  biographers  have  affirmed,  he  was  the 
operating  surgeon.  He  probably  held  the  improvised  instru- 
ments for  the  rought  but,  as  turned  out,  successful  cutting 
and  searing.*^ 

About  fifteen  miles  on,  or  another  day's  march,  the  cara- 
van would  arrive  at  Pawnee  Rock.  This  landmark  has 
practically  disappeared  today,  not  alone  from  sight,  but  even 
also  from  memory.  However,  when  Kit  Carson  went  out 
upon  the  trail  it  was  a  bold  sandstone  promontory  beside 
the  trail,  jutting  up  thirty  and  forty  feet,  its  face  carved 
with  the  symbols  of  travelers  both  white  and  red.  The 
Indians  long  had  used  the  rock  as  a  signboard,  and  the 
caravans  speedily  adopted  the  scheme.  Thus,  as  in  the  case 
of  Independence  Rock  upon  the  northern  Oregon  Trail,  and 
of  Inscription  Rock,  westward  upon  the  trail  taken  by  the 


THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE  19 

old  Spanish  conquistadors  across  the  Arizona  desert,  Paw- 
nee Rock  indicated  that  so  and  so  had  passed  that  way. 

Now  the  caravan  was  in  dangerous  country  and  strict 
watch  and  ward  would  have  to  be  maintained.  As  sug- 
gested by  the  name,  this  was  hostile  Indian  territory;  the 
vicinity  of  the  rock  was  a  favorite  resort  of  Pawnee  and 
Kiowa  war  parties,  always  alert,  upon  the  slightest  provoca- 
tion, to  rob  a  foreign  company.  It  was  also  the  heart  of 
the  southern  buffalo  range,  and  Indian  hunting  parties  — 
Pawnee,  Kiowa,  Comanche,  Sioux,  Arapaho,  even  the  far 
northern  Crow  and  Blackf eet  —  were  liable  to  be  encoun- 
tered, following  the  slowly  drifting,  shaggy  herds. 

But  at  this  time  the  Ishmaelite  bandits  of  the  plains  had 
not  yet  fully  risen  to  attacking  an  organized  caravan  of 
eighty  or  one  hundred  men,  their  animals  and  wagons. 
According  to  the  table  prepared  by  Captain  Josiah  Gregg 
in  Commerce  of  the  Prairies,  not  until  1828,  or  two  years 
later,  did  a  caravan  report  loss  of  life  to  its  members. 
Nevertheless,  smaller  expeditions  were  constantly  being 
raided;  this  very  year  four  overland  traders  had  been 
deprived  by  the  Arapahos  of  500  horses  and  mules ;  and  the 
cavvy  of  a  caravan  was  a  prize  bound  soon  or  late,  and  at 
any  moment,  to  draw  down  upon  camp  or  march  a  yelling 
horde.  So  it  may  be  seen  that  even  the  humble  post  of 
wrangler  or  herder  had  its  spice  of  peril. 

Far  western  romance  tells  of  Kit's  caravan  of  1826  hav- 
ing an  Indian  scare  at  Pawnee  Rock,  wherein  young  Kit 
shoots  his  mule  instead  of  a  Pawnee.  But  this  incident  is 
claimed  by  Jim  Bridger,  at  an  earlier  time,  for  himself ;  and, 
in  fact,  is  a  current  joke  ascribed  to  various  individuals, 
and  was  perennial  with  the  early  trappers  and  adventurers. 
I  would  agree  with  Captain  Chittenden's  footnote  in  his 
History  of  the  American  Fur  Trade,  that  it  did  not  happen 
to  Kit  Carson,  here  and  now.  Nor  is  there  any  reference 
in  Gregg  or  other  contemporary  authorities  to  any  bloody 


20  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

battle  with  the  Pawnees  when  any  caravan  of  1826  had 
proceeded  a  short  distance  beyond  the  rock.  On  the  con- 
trary, according  to  the  Peters  biography  of  Carson  (which 
misses  no  legitimate  opportunities)  the  march  of  the  car- 
avan was  uneventful  after  the  Broadus  affair.  So  we  must 
leave  Kit  his  mule,  and  must  defer  for  a  time  his  taking  his 
first  scalp.® 

Some  two  hundred  miles  beyond  the  rock  the  caravan 
of  this  early  date  would  ford  the  Arkansas.  The  looth 
meridian  had  long  been  passed,  and  when  the  river  was 
crossed  the  advance  would  all  be  in  Mexican  territory. 
Later  caravans  forded  lower  down;  but  for  some  years 
there  was  no  one  fording  spot. 

To  ford  the  Arkansas  was  somewhat  risky  on  account 
of  the  quicksands.  Teams  were  strengthened  and  the 
wagons  were  snaked  through  in  double  time.  On  the  far- 
ther shore  all  the  water  which  could  be  stowed  away  must 
be  stored  up ;  five  gallons  to  the  wagon  was  none  too  much ; 
and  it  was  found  advisaWe  to  cook  bread  and  meat  sufficient 
for  a  two-days'  jotuney.  Immediately  ahead  was  a  "  water 
scrape,"  or  a  dry  march:  the  arid  waste  of  the  Cimarron 
desert  in  southwestern  Kansas,  between  the  Arkansas  and 
the  sources  of  the  Cimarron  River.  It  was  the  favorite 
haunt  of  the  bold-riding  Comanches.  The  Cimarron, 
below  its  sources,  was  only  a  dry,  sandy  bed.  Herbage 
was  scarce.  Mirages  lured,  gigantic  hailstones  fell,  the 
surface  of  the  ground  was  so  hard  that  wagons  made  no 
tracks,  and  the  way  was  easily  lost.  The  Cimarron  "  water 
scrape  "  grew  to  be  the  most  dreaded  stage  of  the  overland 
trail  to  Santa  Fe.  It  was  at  its  worst  in  the  fall,  for  water 
was  then  most  scant. 

But  when  that  was  over  —  when,  having  strained  through 
the  heavy  sandhills  that  bordered  the  Arkansas,  and  across 
the  firm,  bare  plain  of  the  interior,  the  wagons,  with  teanv 
sters  and  all  peering  nervously  before  out  of  bloodshot  eyes. 


THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE  21 

toiled  gladly  into  the  valley  of  the  Cimarron  and  reached 
the  first  spring  —  then  there  was  comparatively  clear  sailing. 

And  hereabouts  would  first  be  met,  if  not  met  previously, 
a  cibolero,  or  Mexican  buffalo  hunter.  Gregg  has  described 
him  well.  Wild  as  the  Comanche,  the  cibolero  ranged 
through  the  desert  like  any  Arab,  clad  in  trousers  and  short 
jacket  of  goatskin  leather,  and  wearing  a  flat  straw  hat 
Slung  athwart  his  shoulder  he  bore  bow  and  quiver;  and 
he  had  a  long  lance,  suspended  beside  him  in  a  gaily  tasseled 
case  and  waving  above  his  head.  His  pride  would  be  his 
fusil,  or  smoothbore  musket  of  huge  caliber,  its  muzzle  care- 
fully stoppered  with  a  great  wooden  plug,  also  tasseled. 
His  stirrup  hoods,  or  tapaderas,  swept  the  ground,  and  his 
enormous  saddle  covered  all  his  pony. 

It  was  considered  a  good  stroke  to  encounter  a  cibolero; 
news  of  the  market  in  Santa  Fe  could  be  obtained,  and 
possibly  a  supply  of  dried  buffalo  flesh  from  his  camp, 
where  he,  his  companions,  and  their  families,  would  be  con- 
gregated, all  engaged  in  securing  wild  meat. 

By  the  landmark  of  the  Rabbit  Ear  mounds,  about  where 
now  the  panhandle  of  Oklahoma  joins  New  Mexico,  the 
caravan  would  know  that  it  was  upon  the  straight  course. 
The  country  would  wax  rougher,  mountains  would  be  dis- 
cemiWe,  as  hazy  outlines,  to  the  northwest.  Beyond  them 
lay  that  prominent  Mexican  settlement  of  Fernandez  de 
Taos,  which  now  was  awaiting  Kit  Carson  and  was  to 
be  his  home  town  for  forty  years.  A  trail,  branching 
off,  led  to  it  and  had  been  recommended  by  the  United 
States  survey  party  the  year  before.  Anybody  for  Taos 
was  at  liberty  to  take  it ;  but  traders  in  a  hurry  pressed  on 
for  Santa  Fe.  The  oldest  trail,  the  "  mountain  division  '* 
of  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  did  not  cross  the  Arkansas  until 
having  followed  its  north  bank  clear  to  the  Rockies ;  thence 
it  turned  to  the  south  and  headed  for  Santa  Fe  city.  But 
it  is  likely  that  a  fall  caravan  of  1826  would  have  sought 


22  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

what  it  considered  the  shortest  route,  and  would  have  cut 
across  the  desert  of  the  Cimarron  to  avoid  the  mountain 
snows,  the  sooner  to  reach  its  destination,  and  to  be  enabled 
to  start  back  before  midwinter. 

When  Santa  Fe  was  only  some  200  miles  away  it  was 
the  custom  of  the  caravans  to  dispatch  an  advance  party  pi 
couriers,  as  *'  runners  "  to  announce  the  approach  and  to  stir 
up  the  market.  By  this  time  the  caravans  would  show  signs 
of  wear.  The  exceeding  dry  atmosphere  had  shrunk  and 
warped  the  wheels  of  the  vehicles,  the  roughness  of  the  road 
was  shaking  loose  tires  and  spokes,  so  at  every  halt  much 
tinkering  must  be  done.  Strips  of  buffalo  hide  were  tied 
about,  and  wedges  of  thin  hoop  iron  were  driven  in. 

At  the  Rio  de  las  Gallinas,  or  Turkey  River,  the  first  real 
token  of  civilization,  or  semi-civilization,  would  be  passed : 
a  rude  adobe  rancho,  at  the  foot  of  a  cliff.  It  had  been 
established  before  Gregg's  time,  1831,  and  he  says  that  here 
he  was  treated  to  a  refreshing  draught  of  goat's  milk  and  a 
supply  of  dirty  curd.  After  a  long  and  unvaried  diet  of 
bacon,  poor  bread,  coffee,  and  buffalo  flesh,  such  an  innova- 
tion would  be  welcome.  Without  doubt  the  rancho  was 
there  when  the  Kit  Carson  caravan  traveled  through.  Rural 
New  Mexico  was  a  land  of  few  changes.  Twenty  more 
miles  and  the  first  settlement,  San  Miguel  del  Vado,  would 
be  reached:  an  unprepossessing  collection  of  mud  huts 
squatted  upon  the  bank  of  the  rippling  Pecos  River. 

On  would  plod  the  caravan.  The  region  was  becoming 
more  settled ;  and  Kit  Carson  must  have  kept  his  eyes  anx- 
iously looking  for  the  famous  old  city  to  loom  into  view. 
Then,  finally,  on  an  early  November  day,  as  the  first  wagons 
mounted  a  rocky  ridge,  he  heard  from  the  advance  a  great 
cheering.  The  word  passed  along  the  column :  "  Santa 
Fe !  Santy  Fee !  There  she  is !  "  And  as  he  also  attained 
the  crest  he  saw  in  the  distance  to  the  northwest,  before  and 
below  him,  a  valley  dotted  by  trees,  lined  in  green  by  ditches. 


SANTA  FE  m  SIGHT! 
(From  Gregg's  Commerce  of  the  Prairies) 


gl 


THE  ROAD  TO  SANTA  FE  23 

cultivated  to  patches  of  com  and  grain,  and  blotched  with 
a  splash  of  low,  dun,  sprawling  structures  that,  according 
to  Gr^g,  in  1831,  resembled  brick  kilns,  and  according  to 
Pike,  a  quarter-century  previous,  reminded  one  of  a  fleet 
of  flatboats  moored  against  the  hill. 

It  must  be  borne  in  mind  that  Santa  Fe  was  strictly  of 
Spanish  architecture,  as  adapted  to  the  country :  adobe  mud 
buildings,  as  a'  rule  not  even  whitewashed ;  flat-roofed,  one- 
storied.  Like  the  majority  of  visitors  from  the  states,  Kit 
Carson  must  have  been  disappointed.  He  had  anticipated 
something  far  grander  in  a  city  that  was  the  goal  of  eight 
hundred  miles. 

However,  the  aspect  appeared  to  please  all  of  the  more 
experienced.  When  within  touch  with  Santa  Fe,  caravans 
usually  halted  to  rub  up.  Clothing  was  changed  to  the  best 
at  hand,  faces  were  washed,  hair  was  slicked ;  each  teamster 
removed  the  old  cracker  from  his  whiplash  and  tied  on  a 
new  one.  These  preparations  having  been  consummated  to 
the  best  of  the  wayfarers'  ability,  on  down  the  slope,  across 
the  short  plain  at  the  foot  of  the  ridge,  and  in  amidst  the 
squatty  buildings  would  rumble  and  clatter  the  train.  Gal- 
lantly would  crack  the  long-lashed  whips,  the  poor  jaded 
mules,  plucking  spirit,  would  try  to  gambol,  merrily  would 
shout  the  men.  All  the  population  of  Santa  Fe  seemed  to 
be  gathered  there  on  the  outskirts  of  the  town.  Loud  and 
shrill  pealed  the  cries  of  swarthy  men  and  women: 

'^  Los  Americanos! " 

'^  Los  carrosi"     [The  wagons.] 

"  La  entrada  de  la  caravana! "    [Arrival  of  the  caravan.] 

More  and  more  extravagantly,  then,  the  proud  wagoners 
of  this  November,  1826,  travel- worn  caravan  swimg  their 
whips,  snapping  the  new  crackers  and  showing  off  before 
the  black-eyed  seiioritas.  The  merchant  proprietors  sat 
stiffly  their  horses.  Trappers  grinned;  recovered  invalids 
stared.    While  at  the  very  rear,  pointed  to  and  smiled  upon 


24  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

as  Muchacho!  Muchacho  Americano!  Mire!  [Boy! 
American  boy!  Behold!],  confused  by  the  celebration,  but 
as  much  excited  as  anybody,  rode  Kit  Carson  on  his  dusty 
mule,  driving  his  caballada. 

The  arrival  of  a  caravan  was  a  stupendous  event  for  old 
Santa  Fe.  It  was  a  visit  from  another  planet.  In  1826 
very  many  Mexicans  of  even  the  northern  territory  had 
never  seen  an  American,  nor  had  they  any  clear  conception 
of  the  United  States ;  and  for  more  than  twenty  years  there- 
after the  Caucasian  white  skin  was  a  constant  marvel. 

So  that  night,  and  for  a  succession  of  nights  and  da)rs, 
the  men  of  the  Kit  Carson  caravan  were  entertained,  like 
sailors  from  a  foreign  port,  with  a  series  of  fandangos  and 
other  entertainments.  As  willing  as  anyone  to  be  amused 
was  the  tanned  boy  Kit ;  paid  off  with  his  wage  of  five  dol- 
lars a  month,  accrued  from  seven  or  eight  weeks  of  labor, 
he  probably  saw  the  sights  —  not  omitting  the  palace  with 
its  rumored  festoons  of  dried  Indian  ears ! 


CHAPTER  IV 
NEW  MEXICO  AND  NEW  MEXICANS 

AT  THIS  time  Santa  Fe  and  its  environs  were  accred- 
ited with  a  population  of  about  5,000,  in  which  prob- 
ably not  more  than  a  dozen  of  the  permanent  residents  were 
Americans  —  traders.  There  was  not  an  American  woman 
in' the  country.  By  American  here  is  meant  a  gringo  or 
foreigner,  for  all  aliens  of  light  skin  were  deemed  Ameri- 
can. The  term  "  white "  has  ever  been  accepted  as  a 
reproach  by  the  native  Mexican,  who  considers  himself  as 
white  as  the  Anglo-Saxon,  and  thus  applies  the  adjective 
to  himself  in  distinction  from  the  Indian.  However,  "  white 
blood  "  in  New  Mexico  long  indicated  Spanish  blood,  so 
bringing  to  mind  the  fact  that  the  early  Castilian  was  light- 
haired  and  blue-eyed. 

From  the  first  the  American,  or  gringo,  was  admired  by 
the  women  and  hated  by  the  men,  while  both  sexes  agreed 
that  he  was  uncouth  and  exceedingly  impolite.  The  brusque, 
straightforward  mien  of  the  backwoodsman  and  the  rather 
coarse-fibered  trapper  shocked  the  ceremonious,  Spanish- 
trained  populace,  the  worst  of  whom  would  stab  the  stranger 
in  the  name  of  God,  and  would  not  even  light  a  cigarette 
without  a  polite  ''  Con  su  licencia,  senor  "  —  "  with  your 
permission,  sir."  Of  course,  as  the  aggressions  between 
Mexico  and  the  United  States  waxed  more  irritating  to 
both  sides  —  particularly  after  the  Texas  affair  —  the  feel- 
ing against  the  American  became  excessive.  From  his  dis- 
regard for  conventionalities  (which  today,  as  then,  is  apt 
to  seem  his  characteristic  to  other  peoples),  he  was  viewed 

as  a  monster.     So  that  Lieutenant  Ruxton,  the  English 

25 


26  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

traveler,  relates  that  one  night  in  1846,  when  he  would  have 
stopped  over  with  a  Pueblo  family  in  Ohuaqui,  the  patrona, 
or  mistress,  was  cautious  until  she  discovered  that  he  was 
an  Englishman.    Then  — 

" Gracias  a  Dios"  she  exclaimed.  "A  Christian  will 
sleep  with  us  tonight,  and  not  an  American."  ^ 

Santa  Fe,  at  Kit  Carson's  first  visit,  was  a  place  of  great 
pretensions,  but  of  little  beauty.  The  houses  and  business 
buildings  were  uniformly  of  one  story;  of  mud  bricks 
smeared  with  a  thin  plaster  of  more  mud,  and  in  rare  cases 
whitewashed  with  tierra  blanca,  or  white  earth.  The  mud 
roofs  were  flat,  windows  were  protected  by  wooden  shut- 
ters, iron  bars,  or,  here  and  there,  with  sheets  of  thin,  lam- 
inated gypsum  in  lieu  of  glass.  Mud  front  joined  with  mud 
front,  around  the  central  plaza,  in  monotonous  line,  until 
at  irregular  intervals  a  winding  lane,  for  a  street,  cut 
through.  Dirt  and  squalor,  refuse,  dogs,  and  beggars  pre- 
dominated; nevertheless  there  was  much  to  interest  the 
visitor  from  the  Missouri  frontier. 

The  blanket-enveloped  Mexican,  smiling  in  the  Ameri- 
can's face  and  scowling  at  his  back,  indolent,  graceful,  eter- 
nally smoking  his  comhusk  cigarette,  and  ever  a  caballero, 
or  gentleman ;  the  shawled  Mexican  woman,  her  face  stained 
crimson  with  the  juice  of  the  alegria  plant,  or  coatefl  with 
a  paste  of  chalk,  to  preserve  her  complexion  for  the  fan- 
dango ;  the  burros,  piled  high  with  enormous  loads  of  corn- 
shuck  for  fodder,  or  with  wood  from  the  mountains,  or 
with  parcels  of  melons,  or  balanced  with  casks  of  that 
whiskey  termed  "Taos  lightning";  supplies  of  chili  Colo- 
rado and  chili  verde,  vegetables,  baked  pifion  nuts,  peaches 
from  the  orchards  of  the  Pueblos  and  Navajos,  native 
tobacco  or  punche,  grapes,  bunches  of  hoja  oi"  husk  for  the 
rolling  of  cigarettes,  and  other  products  strange  or  appeal- 
ing— 'or,  to  a  newly  arrived  caravan,  both;  the  constant 
gambling,  principally  at  el  monte,  with  Mexican  cards,  by 


NEW  MEXICO  AND  NEJV  MEXICANS  27 

high  and  low,  rich  and  poor,  alike,  in  open  room  and  upon 
the  street;  the  religious  processions,  at  which  everybody 
must  uncover;  aye,  there  was  much  to  see.  So  we  may 
picture  the  lad  Kit  Carson,  discharged  and  with  money  in 
his  pocket,  wandering,  gazing  and  spending. 

As  soon  as  the  customs  duties  had  been  paid  the  caravan 
would  pursue  its  business  of  barter  and  sale.  It  would 
split  into  its  component  units.  Detachments,  after  refresh- 
ment, would  push  on  for  the  markets  of  El  Paso  del  Norte, 
down  the  river,  and  for  Chihuahua  and  Sonora,  of  the  Old 
Mexico  of  today.  The  Yankee  trader  never  has  been  con- 
tent with  the  near  when  there  was  a  far  which  he  might 
hazard;  and  the  merchants  from  the  States  already  were 
penetrating  on  and  on,  into  the  interior  of  their  new  con- 
nections. 

Usually  it  required  three  or  four  weeks  to  settle  caravan 
business  in  Santa  Fe,  when,  a  return  caravan  having  been 
loaded  with  the  proceeds  of  the  venture,  the  start  back  to 
Missouri  was  made,  conveying  the  gold  dust  and  the  silver 
bullion,  buffalo  robes  and  furs,  wool  and  coarse  blankets, 
and  live  stock.  Having  in  mind  the  return  caravan,  the 
favorite  season  for  the  outward  trip  to  Santa  Fe  was  the 
spring,  that  the  reverse  trip  might  be  made  before  winter. 
Those  merchants  in  the  Kit  Carson  caravan  who  contem- 
plated return  to  Missouri  with  wagons  would  have  hurried 
their  business ;  already  it  was  November ;  winter  soon  would 
threaten  desert  and  plains. 

Intending,  as  he  evidently  did,  to  remain  there,  Kit 
Carson  had  entered  the  far  West  at  an  unfortunate  season. 
If  his  consequent  course  demonstrated  that  he  was  deter- 
mined to  be  a  mountain  man  and  trapper,  this  was  natural, 
for  the  romance  of  such  a  life  would  appeal  to  him  then, 
as  it  has  always  appealed  to  a  boy.  But  Santa  Fe  was  not 
trappers'  headquarters.  Furthermore,  through  the  winter 
emplo)mfient  would  be  slack ;  not  much  of  a  caravan  would 


28  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

be  returning  to  the  States,  so  late  as  this  in  the  fall,  and 
the  stop-over  teamsters,  adventurers,  and  all  would  glut 
the  little  town  with  wage  seekers.  So  if  Kit  Carson  had 
thought  of  remaining  long  in  Santa  Fe  he  was  rebuffed.  If, 
his  money  dwindling,  he  had  tried  to  proceed  still  farther 
southward,  with  Chihuahua  or  El  Paso  parties,  because  he 
did  not  speak  Spanish  he  would  have  been  nosed  out  by 
applicants  who  did.  So  he  turned  into  the  north,  for 
Fernandez  de  Taos,  New  Mexico,  and  arrived  there  in 
December. 

What  measures,  if  any,  his  brothers  attempted  for  him, 
at  this  end  of  the  trail,  I  may  not  allege ;  but  it  is  probable 
that  the  runaway  had  no  notion  yet  of  going  home.  There 
was  still  much  to  be  seen ;  and  Taos,  or  "  Touse,"  moun- 
tain men's  resort,  traders'  resort,  aheady  somewhat  infused 
with  American  blood,  was  as  famous  a  name  in  Missouri 
as  Santa  Fe.  For  anybody  who  wanted  to  be  in  close 
touch,  in  the  far  West,  with  the  trappers,  this  was  the  spot. 
But  when  anybody  engaged  himself  to  a  Santa  Fe  caravan, 
he  was  paid  off  at  the  journey's  end,  in  Santa  Fe. 

Taos  lies  seventy-five  or  eighty  miles  north  and  slightly 
eastward  of  Santa  Fe.  The  trail  between,  like  Taos  itself, 
is  still  without  a  railroad ;  but  even  in  Kit  Carson's  first  days 
it  was  well  traveled.  A  goal  of  the  earliest  caravans,  which 
took  the  mountain  route  to  the  "  Spanish  settlements,"  and 
a  point  of  departure  and  arrival  for  miscellaneous  traffic, 
Taos  was  a  place  of  rank  second  only  to  Santa  Fe,  the 
capital. 

The  lad  Kit  found  Fernandez,  set  near  the  head  of  the 
fertile  Taos  Valley,  el  Valle  de  Taos,  with  the  sparkling 
Taos  creek  flowing  through  and  the  sacred  Taos  moun- 
tain, now  snow-capped,  and  yellow-plashed  with  the  frosted 
aspens,  standing  sentinel  over  the  terraced  twin  buildings 
of  the  Taos  Pueblos,  to  be  a  settlement  of  some  500  people 
and  the  outpost  of  northern  New  Mexico.    Being  upon  the 


NEW  MEXICO  AND  NEJV  MEXICANS         29 

border  —  rather,  the  inhabited  border,  for  the  actual  border 
was  still  two  hundred  miles  northeast,  at  the  Arkansas  River 
—  it  was  a  custom-place.  And  being  the  northern  border 
town,  close  to  the  southern  extremity  of  those  Rockies 
whose  eastern  base  was  United  States  territory,  and  being 
also  connected  by  caravans  with  Santa  Fe  and  St.  Louis, 
from  the  day  of  the  first  gringo  wanderer  to  those  parts 
imtil  the  Civil  War,  it  was  the  great  trappers'  stronghold  of 
the  Southwest. 

To  old  Taos  journeyed,  annually  or  semiannually, 
through  many  years,  by  their  trails  from  the  Platte  River 
of  Wyoming  and  northern  Colorado,  from  the  hill  depths 
of  the  upper  Arkansas,  from  the  Green  River  country 
across  the  range,  the  shaggy  mountain  men,  to  dispose  of 
their  furs  and  to  indulge  in  the  wild  relaxations  of  that 
easy  semicivilization.  To  old  Taos  came  by  caravan  or 
independent  party,  English  traveler,  army  officer,  adven- 
turers-all the  flotsam  and  jetsam  of  the  broad  frontier; 
came  General  Kearny,  Fremont,  the  Bents,  the  St.  Vrains, 
the  Vigils,  Fitzpatrick,  Bridger,  Jim  Beckwourth,  Pegleg 
Smith.  Out  of  old  Taos  sallied  many  and  many  a  punitive 
expedition  of  mountain  man  and  dragoon  against  the 
Apache,  the  Navajo  and  the  Ute. 

Kit  Carson  arrived  there  in  December,  1826,  little  realiz- 
ing, of  course,  that  he  had  selected  his  home  for  forty 
years.  The  principal  industry  of  Taos,  above  the  barter 
of  trapper  goods,  was  the  manufacture  from  wheat  of  a 
strong  aguardiente,  or  "  Taos  lightning,"  together  with 
smuggling,  and  agriculture  enough  to  tide  the  indolent 
ranchero  through  the  winter  and  spring  stringencies.  The 
natives  were  of  the  regulation  nual  class,  ruled  by  a  priest- 
hood not  in  advance,  but  rather  behind,  the  times. 

Taos,  as  seen  by  Lieutenant  Brewerton,  of  the  United 
States  Army,  who  was  a  guest  of  Carson  in  later  years,  was 
then,  as  earlier,  but  little  different  from  other  New  Mexican 


30  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

towns.  The  houses  were  of  adobe,  with  walls  of  great 
thickness,  the  living  rooms  provided  along  the  sides  with 
rolls  of  scrapes,  or  blankets  —  divans  by  day,  and  when 
unrolled,  beds  by  night.  Sacred  relics,  rosaries,  and  images 
and  pictures  of  the  Savior  or  the  Virgin  Mary  were  the 
chief  ornaments,  with  other  prints  and  paintings  of  religious 
tone. 

Some  of  these  pictures  of  Scripture  scenes  strike  the 
gringo  as  singular  and  impair  his  sense  of  reverence.  Brew- 
erton  was  called  upon  by  a  rico,  or  wealthy  Mexican,  to 
inspect  what  was  considered  by  the  anxious  owner  as  a 
masterpiece.  After  the  dust  had  been  brushed  away,  the 
subject  was  discovered  to  be  the  sacrifice  of  Isaac.    But  — 

Abraham  —  who  stands  upward  of  six  feet  —  in  a  yellow 
uniform  coat  and  blue  striped  pantaloons,  with  cavalry  boots, 
spurs,  and  moustaches  to  match  —  is  about  putting  an  end 
to  Isaac  (whose  dress,  with  the  exception  of  the  mous- 
taches, is  gotten  up  in  nearly  the  same  military  style  as  that 
of  the  patriarch)  by  blowing  out  his  brains  with  an  old- 
fashioned  blunderbuss,  the  muzzle  of  which  is  close  to  Isaac's 
right  ear.  The  Angel,  however,  has  arrived  just  in  the  very 
nick  of  time;  for  as  Abraham,  with  averted  head,  is  pulling 
trigger,  the  celestial  visitor  discharges  a  torrent  of  water 
from  a  huge  squirt  directly  into  the  priming  of  the  gun, 
thereby  saving  the  brains  of  the  intended  victim.^ 

To  the  uneducated,  practically  unenlightened,  Mexican 
of  that  day,  this  modern  version  of  the  ancient  story  would 
be  the  more  realistic  and  effective. 

It  was  amidst  such  a  people,  and  their  free  and  easy  life 
in  the  little  town  of  San  Fernandez,  that  Kit  Carson  entered 
now,  fresh  from  Missouri,  presently  to  pass  his  seventeenth 
birthday,  a  boy,  ragged  and  worn,  strange  to  the  customs, 
unable  to  speak  the  language,  fascinated  with  frontier  life, 
and  as  susceptible  as  any  boy  of  his  experience  and  age. 


CHAPTER  V 
AS  FARED  THE  RUNAWAY  — 1826-1829 

SO  IN  old  Taos,  for  that  is  the  name  used  more  generally 
than  the  rightful  appellation,  San  Fernandez,  Carson 
found  society  good,  bad,  and  indifferent.  Carlos  Beaubien, 
a  French  Canadian  of  cultia-ed  blood,  destined  to  be 
appointed  1^  General  Kearny  one  of  the  first  three  circuit 
judges  of  New  Mexico,  already  was  a  resident  there;  also 
Antoine  Robidoux  (Don  Antonio,  forsooth),  who,  already 
contemplating  a  post  or  two  beyond  the  mountains,  was 
as  energetic  in  the  Indian  trade  as  his  brotlier  Joseph,  pro- 
genitor of  St.  Joe  City,  Missouri.®  There  were  several 
families  of  high  Spanish  breeding  —  into  one  of  which  Don 
Carlos  was  about  to  marry.  The  Bents  (William,  the 
trader,  and  Charles,  who  would  be  the  first  governor  of  the 
territory,  under  American  rule),  and  the  St.  Vrains  (Ceran, 
leader  in  state  and  war,  and  his  trader  brother,  Marcellin) 
were  soon  to  arrive  from  St.  Louis;  and  Milton  Sublette 
was  to  drift  in,  forming  a  trapper  partnership  with  Ewing 
Young.  Of  forceful  breed,  he;  his  brother  was  that  Wil- 
liam Sublette  who  had  ascended  the  Missouri  with  the  first 
Ashley  command,  and  he  himself  was  equally  a  rover,  serv- 
ing in  the  North  and  in  the  South,  and  succeeding  to  a  part- 
nership in  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company. 

Taos,  of  course,  had  its  round  quota  of  real  mountain 
men,  American  and  French  and  nondescript,  now  settled 
there  for  the  winter  with  their  Mexican  or  Indian  wives. 
Among  them  was  Ewing  Young,  one  of  the  earliest  trap- 
pers and  traders  of  that  country,  and  Kincaid,  another 
pioneer. 

31 


32  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

No  "  white  man  "  of  any  nationality  could  ccwne  to  Taos, 
where  the  natives  were  many  and  the  aliens  few,  and  not 
be  given  hospitality  by  the  small  contingent  there,  if  only 
for  the  honor  of  his  kind.  The  mountain  trapper  is  nothing 
if  not  generous ;  and  the  boy  Kit  was  housed  with  Kincaid. 
Contemporary  with  forts  Gx)per  and  Hempstead,  of  the 
Carsons'  first  years  in  Missouri,  was  Fort  Kincaid;  so  it 
is  fair  to  presume  that  this  Kincaid  was  f rc»n  old  Howard 
Coimty,  or  at  least  was  of  the  family  for  whom  the  fort 
had  been  christened. 

With  Kincaid,  Carson,  the  newcomer,  spent  the  winter 
of  1826-27.  The  time  of  his  arrival  was  unfortunate. 
Trappers  were  leaving,  rather  than  entering,  the  moun- 
tains; for  the  fall  hynt  was  over  and  no  more  fur  expe- 
ditions would  be  on  the  tapis  until  spring.  In  Taos,  even 
less  than  in  Santa  Fe,  was  there  chance  of  work.  Peon  labor 
was  cheap;  in  winter,  only  the  distilleries  would  be  run- 
ning, and  they  were  small  aflPairs.  However,  for  Kit  the 
winter  was  not  wasted ;  he  was  enabled  to  pick  up  a  good 
smattering  of  colloquial  Spanish.  He  appears  to  have  been 
a  natural  linguist,  learning  by  ear  entirely  (for  he  could 
not  read).  To  speak  Spanish  as  used  in  Mexico  was  abso- 
lutely necessary,  if  he  stayed,  and  he  probably  had  realized 
this.  It  was  the  language  universally  employed,  and  was 
a  medium  even  among  the  Indian  tribes  of  the  north. 

The  lad's  career  through  the  two  years  following  is  some- 
what hard  to  understand,  when  one  thinks  of  his  career 
thereafter,  and  considered  also  that  his  brothers  were  in  and 
out  of  Taos  and  Santa  Fe.  Although  he  was  now  at  Amer- 
ican headquarters,  and  under  the  tutelage  of  Kincaid,  he 
was  not  immediately  enlisted  with  trappers  or  traders,  but 
served  as  teamster,  interpreter,  or  cook  —  pursuing  the 
unattractive  fortunes  of  the  usual  runaway. 

One  explanation  of  this  is,  that  by  size  and  means  he 
had  nothing  to  recommend  him.    He  himself  told  General 


JS  FARED  THE  RUNAWAY  33 

RusHng,  many  years  later,  that  when  he  first  entered  the 
motintain  West  he  "  was  too  small  to  set  a  trap."  ^®  In 
type  he  was  ordinary ;  in  appearance  he  was  undistinguished 
all  his  life.  Few  persons,  not  knowing  Kit  Carson  by  repu- 
tation, would  have  picked  him  out  for  what  he  really  was. 
Certainly,  the  mountain  men  in  old  Taos  would  have  hesi- 
tated about  burdening  themselves  with  a  slight  greenhorn 
youth  who  probably  did  not  look  even  his  years. 

He  would  further  be  deterred  from  joining  any  squad 
because  he  had  no  money,  supplies,  or  weapons.  A  trap  cost 
twelve  dollars  in  St.  Loui^,  and  if  he  had  brought  a  rifle 
out  with  him  he  must  have  sold  it  in  a  pinch.  Taos  had 
nobody  who  would  advance  an  ine:q)erienced  small  boy 
an  outfit,  on  speculation,  or  be  responsible  for  him ;  for  all 
we  know,  Kincaid  was  poor,  himself  —  trapping,  perhaps, 
no  longer.  His  name  seems  not  to  appear  anywhere  among 
the  fur  hunts  of  that  period. 

In  the  spring  the  native  population  would  be  dispersing 
into  the  fields  —  but  the  rancheros  would  tender  no  living 
wage  to  a  gringo.  And  what  other  opportunities  would 
Taos  present,  with  no  industries  except  a  distillery  or  two 
on  the  outskirts,  with  all  the  winter's  money  concentrated 
by  spring  in  the  hands  of  the  saloons  and  gambling  houses, 
and  with  traders  from  the  States  now  squeezing  the  country 
still  drier? 

Going  down  to  Santa  Fe  again,  when  it  was  approaching 
caravan  time,  having  seen  the  world  to  the  end  of  his 
rope,  young  Kit  could  do  naught  but  join  a  caravan  leaving 
on  a  spring  trip  to  Missouri.  Willjmilly,  he  was  homeward 
bound.  But  at  the  ford  of  the  Arkansas,  a  little  over  half 
way,  they  met  a  Franklin  spring  caravan,  outward  headed 
for  Santa  Fe.  To  this  caravan  Carson  transferred  his  alle- 
giance and  turned  back  with  it,  to  Santa  Fe  once  more. 

He  was  tiding  himself  along;  whatever  mirage  of 
romance  and  golden  hope  had  lured  him  from  home  was 


34  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

now  vanished,  and  there  remained  only  the  desperate  desire 
to  scratch  out  a  Uving.  Back  again  in  Santa  Fe,  Kit  Carson's 
sole  ambition  was  not  scalp  nor  pelt,  but  the  simple  neces- 
sity of  a  woolen  shirt.  The  means  for  this  he  earned,  at  last, 
by  engaging  as  a  teamster  with  an  outfit  out  of  Santa  Fe  for 
El  Paso  del  Norte. 

Traders  from  Missouri,  as  has  been  said,  frequently 
extended  their  operations  south  of  Santa  Fe,  down  the 
Rio  Grande  and  clear  to  Chihuahua  of  Old  Mexico.  Old 
El  Paso,  today  of  Texas,  was  in  1827  the  gateway  to  the 
Department  of  Chihuahua.  It  was  known  familiarly  among 
traders  as  "  the  Pass  "  —  the  name  being  attributed  to  the 
ford  here  (Ruxton),  to  the  course  of  the  river  between  two 
high  points  (Gregg),  or  to  the  retreat  of  refugees  from  the 
north  southward,  after  the  Pueblo  revolt  of  1680  (Gregg). 
In  the  boy  Carson's  time  El  Paso  was  noted  chiefly  for 
its  grape  products  — "  Pass  brandy "  and  "  Pass  wine." 
A  bottle  of  either  seems  to  have  been  a  valued  concomitant 
of  a  Mexican  meal.  Gregg  compares  the  wine  to  Malaga, 
and  another  traveler  compares  it  to  Burgundy. 

The  caravan  trail  to  El  Paso  was  320  miles  of  the  trail 
to  Chihuahua,  which  was  still  230  miles  onward.  It  was 
a  trail  not  without  excitement,  frequented  by  bandits  and 
hovered  over  by  the  Apaches,  for  the  last  two  hundred 
miles  of  its  course  totally  unsettled,  and  divided  into  such 
delightful  stages  as  the  Jornada  del  Muerto  (Day's  Journey 
of  the  Dead),  the  forbidding  Laguna  del  Muerto  (Dead 
Man's  Lake),  a  gloomy  caiion  wherein  the  avid  Apache 
loved  to  lurk,  and  the  Ojo  del  Muerto  (Dead  Man's  Spring) 
at  the  farther  end  of  it. 

Having  made  the  El  Paso  trip,  in  the  fall  Kit  Carson 
sought  Taos  again,  as  the  place  to  spend  the  winter.  But 
no  mention  is  made  of  his  old  friend,  the  mountain  man 
Kincaid,  who  may  have  *'gone  under,"  or  have  changed 
his  location.     The  haven  this  second  winter,  1827-28,  for 


AS  FARED  THE  RUNAWAY  35 

the  wanderer,  was  the  quarters  of  Ewing  Young,  trader 
and  captain  of  trappers.  Here  Carson,  eighteen  years  of 
age,  cooked  for  his  board. 

In  the  spring  of  1828  the  luckless  Kit  was  again  foot- 
loose. It  is  strange  that  if  his  abilities  as  a  hunter  and 
woodsman  were  already  pronounced,  in  prcmiise  of  his 
later  eminence,  he  was  not  enrolled  under  Captain  Young, 
who  was  (as  we  know)  now  actively  in  the  trading  and  fur 
business.  But  instead,  deserted,  as  in  the  spring  before, 
by  his  gods,  lad  Kit  once  more  turned  his  face  to  the  east 
and  to  Missouri,  with  an  annual  caravan.  And  as  in  the 
spring  before,  meeting  an  opposite  caravan  at  the  ford 
of  the  Arkansas,  with  it  he  retraced  his  course  to  Santa 
Fe.  By  this  time  he  was  fluent  in  Spanish  as  it  was  spoken 
throughout  Mexico.  As  interpreter  for  Colonel  Tramell, 
a  trader  (whose  name  I  have  not  again  encountered), 
he  enlisted  for  the  long  journey  of  550  miles  to  Chihuahua; 
first  south  to  El  Paso  del  Norte,  thence  inclining  into  the 
west,  and  occup)ring  forty  days. 

I  can  fancy  that  Kit  Carsori'was  glad  of  the  chance  to 
visit  Chihuahua,  the  capital  of  that  department,  with  a 
reputation  as  a  city  far  superior  to  that  of  Santa  Fe,  and 
now  practically  the  farthest  point  to  which  American  traders 
as  yet  penetrated.  Here  in  Chihuahua,  so  remote  from  Mis- 
souri and  yet  more  closely  connected  with  it  through  trade 
than  is  the  case  today,  young  Carson,  the  wanderer,  encoun- 
tered an  old  acquaintance  (by  hearsay  if  not  by  person) ,  that 
Robert  McKnight  whose  return  to  Missouri,  by  way  of 
Franklin,  in  1822,  after  nine  years'  imprisonment  in  the 
Chihuahua  calahozo,  had  been  chronicled  in  the  Intelli- 
gencer. His  brother  John,  who  had  rescued  him,  had  since 
been  killed,  and  Robert  himself  was  back  in  Chihuahua 
and  vicinity,  the  first  American  after  Pike  to  exploit  the 
region.  He  was  at  this  time  endeavoring  to  recoup  from  his 
initial  hard  experience,  by  trading  and  by  mining  in  the 


36  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ancient  copper  prospects  near  the  Rio  Gila,  to  the  north. 
The  mines  being  worked  by  McKnight  were  in  that  old 
Santa  Rita  del  Cobre  (Saint  Rita  of  the  Copper)  district 
in  southwestern  New  Mexico.  From  them  McKnight  was 
planning  to  make  a  fortune;  the  gold  in  the  ore  paid  the 
expenses  of  getting  it  out,  and  hauling  it  and  refining  it,  so 
that  the  copper  was  clear  gain.  It  was  mined,  with  pick  and 
shovel  only,  in  great  masses  of  red  oxide.  But  the  country 
was  thoroughly  Apache,  and  before  McKnight  had  made  his 
fortune  he  was  working  with  as  much  ease  as  if  he  had 
been  in  a  den  of  rattlesnakes. 

Trading  and  mining  together,  McKnight  had  wagons 
and  pack  trains  continually  shuttling  between  his  outpost 
and  the  Chihuahua  settlements.  Following  his  incarcera- 
tion through  those  nine  years,  the  pendulum  must  have 
swung  well  to  the  opposite  end  of  the  arc;  to  mine  or  to 
trade  with  the  Indians,  in  Mexico,  and  particularly  in  this 
portion,  was,  for  an  American,  hedged  about  with  much 
favor  and  declaration,  and  with  many  open  palms. 

To  Robert  McKnight  KTt  Carson  hired  out  as  teamster 
on  the  copper  mines  road ;  worked  thus  through  the  fall  of 
1828,  passed  his  nineteenth  birthday  probably  in  Chihuahua, 
where  Christmas  would  be  celebrated  by  strange  native 
plays,  and  spent  the  main  part  of  the  winter  1828-29  at  the 
mines. 

McKnight  had  not  been  the  only  American  at  the  copper 
mines.  The  Patties,  of  Kentucky  and  Missouri,  had  made 
the  place  headquarters  between  trips  farther  westward  after 
fur.  Other  "  investors,"  also,  had  taken  their  turn  at  these 
mines;  so  that  here  had  grown  up  quite  a  village  of  low 
adobe  huts  for  the  peons  and  officials.  Later  a  fort  was 
erected,  triangular  in  shape,  with  angle  bastions.  The  ruins 
of  fort  and  huts  were  noted  when  in  1846,  through  this 
very  spot  pushed  General  Keam/s  overland  column  to 
California. 


CHAPTER  VI 
THE  TRAPPER'S  TRAIL— 1829 

HOWEVER,  Kit  Carson  had  nearly  reached  another 
crossroads  in  his  career,  and  the  trail  was  about  to 
broaden.  In  this  interior  of  Mexico,  before  foreign  blood 
and  foreign  methods  had  invigorated  it,  the  Anglo-Saxon 
was  swallowed;  he  could  only  adopt  the  life  as  it  was; 
his  very  name  became  Spanish;  and  he  became  Mexican. 
In  Don  Santiago  Querque,  who  of  the  North  would  recognize 
Jim  Kirker,  Scotch  trapper?  Yet  Don  Santiago  Querque 
it  was,  thus  incorporated  with  the  citizenship,  who  led 
relentless  expeditions  from  Sonora  against  the  savages. 

Had  Kit  Carson  stayed  among  the  dons  and  the  peons, 
as  laborer  and  later  as  employer  of  cheap  labor,  he  might 
eventually  have  vanished  from  history,  as  did  Robert 
McKnight ;  he  could  have  lived  easily,  by  the  customs  of  the 
country,  and  have  died  rich,  but  quickly  to  be  forgotten. 
What  impelled  him,  like  a  homing  bird,  toward  Taos  again,  in 
the  early  spring  of  1829,  we  may  not  know.  Whether  the 
Apaches  temporarily  interrupted  the  mining,  whether  he 
had  a  little  money  in  pocket  once  more,  whether  now  in  the 
caravan  season  he  preferred  the  caravan  trail  to  the  ore 
trail,  or  whether  he  was  just  sick  for  the  sight  of  Americans 
other  than  McKnight  and  his  fellows,  and  for  news  of  his 
own  country,  who  can  say?  But  leaving  McKnight  (who 
in  due  course  made  a  fortune,  and  encouraged  thereto  by 
the  Apaches  settled  down  in  Chihuahua  to  enjoy  it),  having 
signed  with  no  caravan  in  Santa  Fe,  he  arrived  in  Taos  at 
the  end  of  March,  when  the  trapper  parties  would  be  set- 
ting out  into  the  beaver  country.    Here  he  found  Captain 

37 


38  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

,Ewing  Young,  and  almost  immediately  was  engaged,  at 
last,  as  a  trapper.  For  Captain  Young  and  Taos  were  both 
on  the  alert,  a  company  which  the  captain  had  dispatched 
for  the  Rio  Gila  country,  on  a  spring  hunt,  having  trailed 
in,  driven  back  by  the  Apaches. 

This  was  not  necessarily  unexpected;  and  very  likely  it 
was  deserved.  Bad  as  he  has  since  proved,  in  the  begin- 
ning of  his  intercourse  with  the  invading  whites  the  Apache 
was  not  as  a  rule  unfriendly  or  vicious.  He  soon  grew 
to  hate  with  fierce  hatred  the  Spanish  and  their  descendants, 
the  Mexicans,  and  met  deceit  and  rapine  with  rapine  and 
deceit. 

You  have  taken  New  Mexico,  and  will  soon  take  California ; 
go,  then,  and  take  Chihuahua,  Durango  and  Sonora.  We  will 
help  you.  You  fight  for  land;  we  care  nothing  for  land;  we 
fight  for  our  rights  and  for  food.  The  Mexicans  are  ras- 
cals; we  hate  them  and  will  kill  them  all. 

After  such  manner  spoke  the  Apache  chief  to  General 
Kearny,  in  explaining  that  Americans  were  safe;  and  he 
fairly  well  set  forth  the  situation.  But  it  came  to  be  with 
the  Apaches  as  with  the  other  Indians  of  the  West:  they 
must  fight;  and  once  settled  down  to  hostility  toward 
everybody  who  wore  a  hat,  they  accepted  their  enforced 
role. 

However,  it  is  with  this  spring  of  1829  that  oot  narra- 
tive is  just  now  dealing,  and  with  a  brigade  of  forty  men, 
including  Kit  Carson,  about  to  set  forth,  under  Ewing 
Young,  from  old  Taos,  to  punish  the  Apaches  and  to  trap 
the  Gila  and  the  Colorado. 

Immediately  upon  the  report  from  his  defeated  detach- 
ment, Ewing  Young  reorganized,  reinforced,  and  led  the 
brigade  himself.  By  virtue  of  his  three  winters  in  the 
country,  the  last  passed  in  the  exposed  districts  of  the 
copper  mines,"  and  by  virtue  also  of  his  previous  acquaint- 


(( 


THE  TRAPPER'S  TRAIL  39 

ance  with  Captain  Young,  Kit  Carson  was,  as  said,  given  a 
berth. 

When  this  expedition  had  left,  Taos  must  have  been  pretty 
well  cleaned  out  of  able-bodied  mountain  men;  the  time 
was  the  first  week  of  April,  and  the  spring  hunt  had  long 
been  siunmoning  into  plain  and  hill. 

The  roll  of  this  Ewing  Young  company  is  still  uncalled. 
The  members  were  Americans,  French-Canadians,  Germans ; 
no  doubt  a  few  Mexicans,  and  men  of  mixed  blood.  Only 
a  few  names  of  the  forty  have  been  preserved:  Ewing 
Yoimg's,  because  he  was  a  leader;  Kit  Carson's,  because  he 
had  a  Boswell;  James  Higgins',  because  he  shot  "big" 
James  Lawrence  —  who  therefore,  also  received  honorable 
mention  —  and  Francois  Turcote,  Jean  Vaillant,  Anastasc 
Curier,  because  they  mutinied. 

The  expedition  did  not  make  course  at  once  into  the 
Southwest  and  for  the  Rio  Gila.  It  had  no  trapping  or 
trading  license  from  the  Mexican  government  —  nor  did 
Captain  Ewing  Young  intend  that  it  should  thus  be  mulcted. 

To  understand  the  license  requirement,  it  must  be  remem- 
bered that  the  Mexicans  themselves  would  not  trap.  That 
was  too  hard  work,  and  too  dangerous.  Even  as  late  as  1846 
Lieutenant  Johnston,  of  the  American  column  to  California, 
remarking  the  tameness  and  prevalence  of  fur-bearing  ani- 
mals along  the  Rio  Grande  del  Norte,  close  to  Mexican 
settlement,  adds,  "  these  creatures  will  not  rejoice  in  the 
change  of  Government.** 

And  while  the  natives  would  not  trap,  under  Spanish 
rule  foreigners  could  not  trap,  except  by  challenging  con- 
fiscation for  their  furs  and  the  calabozo  for  themselves. 
But  after  Mexico  became  an  independent  republic  in  1821, 
licenses  were  issued  to  foreigners  for  hunting  and  trap- 
ping and  trading.  As  New  Mexico  was  presumed  to  extend 
to  the  Arkansas  on  the  north,  and  westward  indefinitely, 
it  covered  the  main  fur  territory  of  the  South,  and  therefore 


40  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  great  proportion  of  trapping  and  hunting  licenses  were 
issued  from  Santa  Fe.  At  first  the  permissions  were 
granted  only  with  the  stipulation  that  a  certain  number  of 
the  natives  should  be  taken  along  by  the  foreigners  and 
"shown  how."  Later  this  stipulation  was  c«nitted;  but 
at  all  times  the  license  was  a  rather  spasmodic  instrument, 
with  a  bad  recoil. 

Often  a  license  soon  after  being  issued  would  be  declared 
void  because  it  had  been  issued  tmder  a  previous  adminis- 
tration. The  rise  and  fall  of  political  parties  in  New 
Mexico  was  so  frequent  and  so  sudden  that  the  returning 
traveler  could  not  foretell  what  policy  he  would  encounter. 
It  was  alleged  by  Americans  that  although  the  license  might 
be  pronounced  valid,  the  Mexican  officials  were  not  above 
hiring  Indians  or  other  desperadoes  to  follow  the  trapper 
and  to  rob  him  of  his  goods. 

However,  in  many  cases  the  trapper  or  trader  was  not 
an  innocent  offender.  He  penetrated  into  Mexican  terri- 
tory without  leave,  and  took  the  risk  of  being  unable  to 
evade  the  authorities  or  to  fight  his  way  out  if  caught.  He 
was  reckless,  overbearing,  and  defiant,  treating  the  Mexicans 
much  as  he  treated  the  Indians. 

Captain  Ewing  Young,  therefore,  took  out  no  license  for 
his  party  of  this  April,  1829.  He  seems  to  have  had  some 
excuse  for  his  course.  In  the  previous  year  he  and  Milton 
Sublette,  having  trapped  under  a  license  from  Governor 
Narbona,  were  arrested  and  their  furs  confiscated  by  order 
of  his  successor,  Governor  Armijo.  A  change  in  the  admin- 
istration had  occurred  during  their  absence.  The  confis- 
cated furs  were  spread  out  to  dry,  before  the  guardia,  in 
Santa  Fe;  whereupon  Sublette  boldly  seized  two  packs 
which  belonged  to  him,  carried  them  off,  and  secreted  them 
and  himself  among  friends.  The  whole  military  force  was 
called  against  him,  and  the  enraged  Armijo  even  had  cannon 
leveled  against  a  suspected  house;  but  the  plucky  Sublette 


THE  TRAPPER'S  TRAIL  41 

finally  saved  his  two  packs  and  himself,  reaching  the 
frontier.  What  Captain  Young  was  doing,  Gregg  (the 
chronicler)  does  not  mention.  Famham  alludes  to  the  fact 
that  Young  "  had  been  plundered  by  the  Mexican  authorities 
of  $i8,ooo  or  $20,000  worth  of  fur  " ;  but  whether  this  time 
or  another  time,  is  left  in  doubt. 

As  a  subterfuge,  to  cloak  overcurious  eyes,  Young 
marched  his  company  northward  out  of  Taos,  taking  pos- 
sibly the  usual  trappers'  trail,  which  led  over  the  Raton  Pass 
and  down  to  the  Arkansas  —  a  trail  which  the  earliest 
caravans  had  used,  and  which -after  the  establishment  of 
the  historic  Bent's  Fort  was  a  beaten  highway.  But  long 
before  reaching  the  Arkansas,  beyond  which  was  American 
territory,  the  party  swtmg  to  the  southwest,  recrossed  the 
ridge,  and  descended  into  the  latitude  which  they  had  just 
left.  There  was  slight  danger  that  anybody  would  now  ask 
for  a  license.  Before  lay  only  that  wide  desert  expanse, 
from  the  Rio  Grande  to  the  Pacific  coast,  from  Chihuahua 
of  Old  Mexico  to  the  Salt  Lake,  totally  uninhabited  by 
white  people  and  as  yet  scarcely  trodden  by  Americans. 

Strange  to  say,  although  this  section  of  the  West  was 
the  first  to  be  explored,  it  was  the  last  to  be  exploited.  The 
country  of  the  conquistadors  and  the  padres,  penetrated  by 
Cabeza  and  Estevan  in  1531,  by  Friar  Marcos  in  1539, 
traversed  by  Coronado,  Diaz,  Alarcon,  1540- 1542,  and 
thereafter  by  Fathers  Lopez,  Rodriguez,  Santa  Maria,  by 
Father  Baltran  and  Don  Espejo,  Ofiate,  the  Jesuit  Kino  and 
his  companions,  establishing  missions  along  the  Gila  and 
the  lower  Colorado,  by  Garces  in  1774,  by  Escalante  in 
1776,  it  remained  as  in  the  beginning.  The  trails  of  hoof 
and  sandal  made  so  bravely  endured  not  even  in  memory ;  for 
half  a  century  after  Escalante's  feat,  the  great,  wondrous 
region  between  the  Rio  Grande  del  Norte  and  the  Cali- 
fornia coast  was  all  unmolested  by  any  outsider.  The  mis- 
sions were  deserted,  the  native  ceased  to  worship  his  little 


42  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

crosses,  the  fabulous  cities  lost  their  fascination,  and  the 
Indian  became  the  conquistador,  levying  upon  that  civiliza- 
tion which  had  attempted  to  levy  upon  him,  the  feeble 
efforts  of  which  had  dwindled  into  but  a  few  shallow  inden- 
tations along  the  southern  borders.  So  the  Southwest 
slumbered  agaia 

But  the  Northwest  was  awakening  everywhere.  The 
contrast  was  an  efficient  lesson  in  the  difference  between 
New  World  and  Old  World  government  —  between  Amer- 
ican and  Spanish  supremacy.  Since  1803,  the  date  of  the 
opening  of  Louisiana  Province  to  the  Anglo-Saxon,  or 
during  but  half  of  that  fifty  years  while  the  Southwest  slept, 
under  impetus  from  Saxon  and  Gaul,  Americans  together, 
the  Northwest  had  advanced  more  than  had  this  same 
Southwest  in  its  three  centuries  from  1531  and  Cabeza. 
Trappers,  American  and  French,  were  exploring  the  secret 
places  of  Wyoming,  Montana,  Idaho,  Oregon,  Utah,  broad- 
ening old  trails  and  making  new  ones,  preparing  the  way 
for  the  hosts  of  civilization.  But  western  New  Mexico, 
Arizona,  Nevada  remained  tmcharted  and  neglected. 

However,  the  Ewing  Young  party  was  not  the  very 
first  expedition  of  Saxon  proclivities  to  invade  the  waiting 
region.  From  1776  —  the  year  of  American  Independence, 
which  signified  naught  to  this  vivid,  sunny  area,  some  day, 
nevertheless,  to  profit  by  it  —  until  1824  there  is  no  record 
of  alien  foot  set  upon  sands  beyond  the  Rio  Bravo  —  the 
Rio  Grande  del  Norte- — of  New  Mexico,  save  at  the  cop- 
per mines,  or  as  Apache  and  Navajo  returned  to  their 
haunts  with  Spanish-Mexican  prisoners,  or  as  occasional 
punitive  columns,  in  revenge,  darted  from  the  white  settle- 
ments of  east  and  south,  and  back  again.  Then,  in  the  spring 
of  1824,  from  Missouri  boldly  struck  out  the  Pattie  party  of 
trappers  and  traders ;  first  detemiined  upon  the  Northwest, 
soon,  however,  to  turn  and  travel  down  to  Santa  Fe  and  on 
to  the  Gila  of  Arizona,  which  at  that  time  was  Nueva  Mejico. 


\ 

1 


THE  TRAPPER'S  TRAIL  43 

Father  and  son  were  the  Patties  —  Sylvester  and  James 
Ohio,  Kentuckians  (of  course)  acclimated  to  Missouri,  the 
new  coimtry.  Having  thus  penetrated  to  the  Southwest,  they 
divided  much  of  their  time  for  two  years  between  the  "  cop- 
per mines,"  where  they  preceded  Kit  Carson,  and  the 
"  Heelay  "  to  the  west ;  they  followed  the  Gila  down  to  the 
Colorado;  ascended  along  the  Colorado  past  the  Grand 
Canon,  pushing  northward  even  to  the  Yellowstone  in 
Wyoming;  and  ended  their  wanderings  in  1828,  in  prison  at 
Sta.  Catarina  of  Lower  California.^ ^ 

It  is  claimed  that  in  1826  Richard  Campbell,  an  early 
trader  of  New  Mexico,  and  later  a  prosperous  ranchero 
near  Santa  Fe,  took  a  pack  train  across  the  desert  from 
Santa  Fe  to  San  Diego.  ^^  As  has  been  noted,  Ewing 
Young  himself  had  been  trapping,  evidently,  in  southwestern 
territory,  with  Milton  Sublette,  and  moreover  had  just 
sent  out  another  venture,  for  the  Colorado.  So  that,  having 
such  precedents,  the  student  of  early  Southwestern  history 
must  realize  that  trapping  parties  aside  from  those  of  the 
Patties,  of  Young  and  Sublette  may  have  been  roaming 
hither  and  thither,  through  this  region,  working,  playing, 
fighting,  feasting,  suffering,  with  no  pen  or  pencil  to  jot 
down  their  joumeyings. 

The  Ewing  Young  party  of  April,  1829,  if  not  the  first 
expedition  since  the  Spaniards  to  brave  the  waiting^  inhos- 
pitable depths,  at  least  was  the  first  of  the  kind  successfully 
to  cross  from  the  settlements  of  the  Rio  Grande  to  the 
Pacific  coast,  and  back  again.  It  undoubtedly  was  encour- 
aged thereto  by  the  reports  from  the  Pattie  enterprise ;  but 
it  seems  to  have  effectually  broken  the  trail  through  and 
to  have  proved  what  could  be  done. 


CHAPTER  VII 
TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON 

SO,  AS  It  happened,  Kit  Carson,  who  was  to  make  a  name 
in  the  Northwest,  was  to  win  his  spurs  in  the  South- 
west. A  wonderful  journey  now  lay  before  him.  The 
trail  first  cut  down  diagonally  through  the  northwestern 
comer  of  the  present  New  Mexico  —  the  realm  of  the 
well-formed,  light-complexioned,  proudly-independent  Nav- 
ajos.  Like  the  Apaches,  in  the  beginning  they  were  friendly 
to  the  Americano  —  that  is,  not  openly  hostile.  But  before 
their  men  now  young  had  become  old,  Kit  Carson  was  their 
conqueror. 

After  leaving  the  Navajo  country  the  expedition  crossed 
Zuni  land,  the  people  of  which  had  gained  wide,  although 
imdeserved,  fame  as  being  "  white."  Thus  Father  de  Nica 
had  defined  them  in  1539  through  seeing,  doubtless,  one  of 
their  albinos.^*  Leaving  Zuni  the  expedition  entered  what 
is  today  Arizona,  and  traversing  toward  the  south  this  home 
of  the  Apache,  came  upon  the  head  of  the  Rio  Salido,  or 
Salt  River  —  on  modem  maps  the  Salido.  The  Salido 
rises  near  the  New  Mexican  line,  and  flowing  west  through 
east  central  Arizona  empties  into  the  Gila,  of  which  it  is  the 
largest  tributary. 

Thus  far  the  Ewing  Young  party  had  traveled  as  in  ai 
hurry,  and  by  route  direct  —  tracing  again,  perhaps,  the 
course  of  that  first  party  which  had  been  turned  back. 
As  evidence  of  all  this,  it  is  recorded  that  upon  the  sources 
of  the  Salido  one  object  was  achieved;  here  were  encoun- 
tered the  same  Apaches  who  had  been  concerned  in  the 
previous  attack. 

44 


TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON  45 

But  whether  the  same,  or  not,  it  would  have  made  little 
diflference  to  the  trappers.  When  a  Navajo's  wife  died,  he 
was  under  obligations  to  go  out  and  kill  somebody.  And 
borrowing  from  the  Indian,  the  trapper,  when  an  oflfense 
had  been  committed  against  him  or  his,  took  vengeance,  if 
not  upon  the  very  offender,  then  upon  the  tribe.  In  this 
respect  savage  and  frontiersman  were  much  alike. 

Seeing  the  Apaches,  the  Ewing  Young  company  lured 
them  on  with  a  show  of  weakness,  until  they  caught  them 
in  an  ambush  and  shot  down  fifteen  by  crossfire  from  rifle 
and  pistol.     The  rest  fled. 

Having  exacted  blood  atonement,  and  cleared  the  way, 
the  Ewing  Young  trappers  might  proceed  to  gather  their 
furs.  The  valley  of  the  Salt  River  was  and  is  of  exceeding 
romantic  interest;  ruins  of  large  towns,  acequias,  or  irri- 
gating aqueducts  twenty-five  feet  wide,  myriad  fragments 
of  pottery,  speak  of  a  vanished  civilization.  While  on  the 
road  out  from  Taos  the  expedition  had  passed  the  Chaco 
Canon,  the  pueblo  of  Zuni,  El  Moro  or  Inscription  Rock, 
and  many  another  witness,  mute  or  speaking,  to  bygone 
epochs.  But  the  route,  and  the  Salt  River,  and  what  must 
have  been  sighted  thereafter,  have  come  down  to  us  only 
in  Indians  and  fur;  as  unromantic  a  narration  as  the 
parasangs  of  the  Anabasis. 

The  Rio  Salido  (christened  in  1698  by  busy  Father 
Kino,  who  upon  one  of  his  pilgrimages  surveyed  it  from 
a  hilltop)  is  at  first  a  swift,  cold  mountain  stream,  until 
rushing  out  of  the  range  it  enters  a  series  of  richly  alluvial 
flats,  and  swirling  on,  with  rapid,  clear  current,  finally 
merges  with  the  Gila,  in  central  Arizona.  During  the  lower 
half  of  its  course  it  flows  over  a  bed  of  pure  salt,  so  that 
its  waters  are  perceptibly  brackish.  This  was  another  of 
the  wonders  which  Father  Kino  met. 

The  Salido,  wherever  its  banks  were  wooded,  was  2k 
beaver  resort.    The  Ewing  Young  party  trapped  down  it 


46  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

until  they  reached  the  mouth  of  the  Verde,  or  San  Francisco 
—  a  tributary  coming  from  the  north.  As  was  the  custom, 
they  turned  and  trapped  up  the  San  Francisco,  to  its  head. 
"  A  fine,  large  stream,"  has  been  said  of  the  San  Francisco, 

in  some  cases  rapid  and  deep,  in  others  spreading  out  into 
wide  lagoons.  The  ascent  *  ♦  ♦  by  gradual  steppes, 
which,  stretching  into  plains,  abounded  in  timber.  The  river 
banks  were  covered  with  ruins  of  stone  houses  and  regular 
fortifications  ;  which  ♦  ♦  ♦  appeared  to  have  been  the 
work  of  civilized  man,  but  had  not  been  occupied  for  cen- 
turies. They  were  built  upon  the  most  fertile  tracts  of  the 
valley,  where  were  signs  of  acequias  and  cultivation.^* 

Indians  bothered  the  trappers  almost  nightly  from  the 
time  they  reached  the  San  Francisco.  Trapped  animals 
were  killed  and  animals  and  traps  stolen.  Meanwhile  much 
fur  was  "  caught."  Twenty-two  of  the  men  were  dispatched 
back  to  Taos,  with  the  pelts,  there  to  sell  them  and  to  buy 
more  traps,  for  a  fall  hunt  Retaining  seventeen  men 
(among  them  Kit  Carson),  and  now  stocked  with  the 
traps  of  the  Taos-bound  party.  Captain  Young  decided  to 
strike  in  the  opposite  direction,  for  California. 

His  retention  of  Kit  Carson  is  the  first  definite  token  that 
the  future  celebrity  was  making  good.  During  the  two 
years  and  more  that  Carson  had  been  in  the  far  West  his 
career  would  not  indicate  any  sudden  rise.  On  the  con- 
trary, his  offices  as  wrangler,  teamster,  and  cook,  and  his 
failure  to  be  enrolled  with  the  enterprises  of  these  mountain 
men  whom  he  had  met,  would  relegate  him  to  the  ordinary 
crowd.  But  when  Captain  Young  divided  his  company,  he 
would  discard  the  chaflf  —  the  weak,  the  laggard,  the  ineffi- 
cient—  for  return  to  Taos,  and  would  keep,  for  the  Cali- 
fornia trail,  only  the  tried  and  true. 

He  was  now,  probably,  in  the  vicinity  of  Bill  Williams 
Mountain,  seventy-five  or  eighty  miles  northeast  of  Pres- 


TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON  47 

cott,  Arizona.  Thereabouts  the  modem  traveler  disem- 
barks at  the  station  of  Williams,  en  route  for  the  Grand 
Canon  to  the  north.  And  he  was,  roughly  speaking,  half 
way  from  Taos  to  the  coast.  However,  California  could 
have  been  but  little  known  to  Ewing  Young  or  his  men,  as 
yet,  and  the  distance  to  be  covered  must  have  been  only 
guessed  at.  Commercial  intercourse  between  New  Mexico 
and  California  had  not  yet  been  established.  But  lured 
by  some  report  or  by  some  notion,  as  if  the  Golden  State 
were  already  wielding  its  magic  wand,  making  his  own  trail 
across  the  grimmest  of  deserts,  Ewing  Young  led  his  sev- 
enteen men  onward  to  the  West. 

Warned  by  friendly  Indians  (possibly  wandering  Mo- 
haves,  but  more  likely  Tonto  Apaches,  a  degraded  tribe 
frequenting  the  Bill  Williams  country)  that  a  dry  entrada 
or  march,  was  ahead,  the  California-bound  party  remained 
in  camp,  around  the  sources  of  the  San  Francisco,  for 
several  days,  to  provision  with  meat  and  water.  But  they 
killed  only  three  deer. 

We  are  accustomed  to  look  upon  the  western  hills  and 
plains  of  early  days  as  swarming  with  game;  and  so, 
according  to  many  chronicles,  they  were.  But  the  game 
then,  as  today,  was  erratic.  Here  around  Bill  Williams 
Mountain  were  abundant  timber,  grass,  and  springs  of  the 
great  San  Francisco  forest  tract,  a  favorite  resort  of  deer 
and  antelope ;  yet  the  eighteen  trappers,  good  shots  all  and 
versed  in  hunting  craft,  secured  only  the  three  animals. 

Making  tanks  of  hides  they  filled  them  with  water;  suf- 
ficient, it  was  hoped,  to  last  the  entrada  through.  The  flesh 
was  jerked  or  dry  cured.  Then,  mainly  afoot,  and  driving 
before  them  their  pack  mules,  they  started  upon  an  unknown 
way,  for  the  Sacramento  Valley,  which  lay  somewhere  in 
Nueva  California,  far  beyond  a  waterless  stretch  of  one 
hundred  and  eighteen  miles. 

Their  course  was  northwest,  and  must  have  been  right 


48  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

across  the  desolate  Colorado  Plateau,  which  borders  the 
Grand  Canon  of  the  Colorado  on  the  south.  "A  more 
frightfully  arid  region  probably  does  not  exist  upon  the 
face  of  the  earth/*  says  Lieutenant  Ives,  in  his  report  of 
the  government  expedition  of  1857-58.  His  route  south- 
ward from  the  Grand  Canon  must  very  nearly  coincide  with 
that  of  the  Ewing  Young  party,  northward,  thirty  years 
before.  The  Ives  description  is  vivid:  A  rolling  plateau 
with  occasional  thick  growths  of  pines  and  cedars;  with 
expanses  of  loose,  porous  soil  wherein  the  mules  sank  to 
their  fetlocks;  with  sharp  slopes,  forming  small,  higher 
plateaus,  and  unexpected,  sheer,  impassable  canoncitos,  or 
ravines,  sometimes  so  thickly  intersecting  that  the  plateau 
was  shattered  like  a  ruin ;  with  an  intensely  hot  sun  stream- 
ing down  through  a  dry,  thin  air  that  sucked  moisture  from 
the  body;  with  not  an  animate  thing  encountered;  and 
finally,  with  mules  staggering  along  as  if  drunken,  and 
men's  brains  afire  with  the  scorching  rays. 

Ours  has  been  the  first,  and  will  doubtless  be  the  last,  party 
of  whites  to  visit  this  profitless  locality.  It  seems  intended 
by  nature  that  the  Colorado  River,  along  the  greater  portion 
of  its  lonely  and  majestic  way,  shall  be  forever  unvisited  and 
undisturbed.  The  handful  of  Indians  that  inhabit  the  se- 
questered retreats  where  we  discovered  them  have  probably 
remained  in  the  same  condition,  and  of  the  same  number,  for 
centuries.  The  country  could  not  support  a  large  population, 
and  by  some  provision  of  nature  they  have  ceased  to  multi- 
ply. The  deer,  the  antelope,  the  birds,  even  the  smaller 
reptiles,  all  of  which  frequent  the  adjacent  territory,  have 
deserted  this  uninhabitable  district.  Excepting  when  the 
melting  snows  send  their  annual  torrents  through  the  ave- 
nues to  the  Colorado,  conveying  with  them  sound  and  mo- 
tion, these  dismal  abysses,  and  the  arid  table-lands  that 
enclose  them,  are  left,  as  they  have  been  for  ages,  in  unbroken 
solitude  and  silence.  The  lagoons  by  the  side  of  which  we 
are  encamped  furnish,  as  far  as  we  have  been  able  to  dis- 
cover, the  only  accessible  watering-place  west  of  the  mouth 


TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON  49 

of  Diamond  River.  During  the  summer  it  is  probable  they 
are  dry,  and  that  no  water  exists  upon  the  whole  of  the  Colo- 
rado Plateau.** 


But  Lieutenant  Ives*  party  was  not  the  first.  The  padres 
had  preceded  him.  Cardenas,  in  1540,  and  Garces,  in 
1776,  had  penetrated  this  portion  of  the  great,  lonely  pla- 
teau guarding  the  south  approach  to  the  Grand  Cafion. 
And  the  party  of  Ewing  Young,  containing  Kit  Carson, 
were  the  first  Americans,  and  the  first  white  men  after 
Garces,  to  cross  it. 

It  was  in  the  middle  of  April  that  the  Ives  expedition 
traversed  the  Colorado  Plateau;  the  time  of  the  Young 
party  must  have  been  June  or  July  (they  had  trapped  on 
the  way),  so  that  the  region  was  yet  drier.  To  trace  abso- 
lutely the  trappers'  trail  is  impossible;  we  can  only  see 
them,  in  our  mind's  eye,  toiling  on  and  on,  northwest 
from  the  San  Francisco  country,  pigmies  amidst  the  wide 
desolation  of  gigantic  ruin,  conquistadors  and  padres  again, 
whose  hope  was  no  seven  cities  nor  savage  souls,  but  simply 
fur.  Through  four  days  they  had  water  from  the  hide 
tanks  doled  out  to  them;  each  night  an  armed  guard  was 
placed  over  the  scant  supply;  but  when  four  days  had 
passed  they  came  upon  other  water,  camped  beside  it  for 
two  days,  and  rested.  This  may  have  been  the  lagoons 
mentioned  by  Ives,  in  the  extract  just  preceding,  and  located 
toward  the  northwestern  edge  of  the  plateau,  or  it  may  have 
been  a  pool  or  spring  (of  which  there  are  several)  lower 
down. 

Frc«n  the  camp  beside  the  water  it  was  another  four 
days'  entrada,  of  hunger  and  thirst  (pleasantly  broken,  at 
the  close,  by  purchase  from  some  Mohave  Indians  of  a  tidbit 
in  shape  of  an  old  mare)  to  the  Colorado,  which  was 
struck  at  the  Grand  Canon.  I  am  inclined  to  think  that 
this  point  was  near  the  western  end  of  the  Grand  Canon 


50  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

proper,  or  about  at  the  sharp  elbow  (on  the  map)  where 
is  marked  Diamond  Creek  and  the  present  Walapai  reser- 
vation. 

It  "  failed  not  to  awaken  a  thrill  of  delight  in  every 
member  of  the  party/'  inscribes  Peters,  Carson's  earliest 
biographer.  The  rest  is  left  to  the  imagination  of  the 
reader.  But  this  we  know:  from  the  time  of  Cardenas, 
who,  traveling  up  from  the  south  in  1540,  was  the  first 
white  person  to  stand  upon  the  canon  brink,  until  today, 
none  can  have  gazed  into  this  mighty  chasm  without  an 
overpowering  rush  of  feeling.  This  was  the  point  where 
the  Ives  expedition,  after  having  experienced  a  long  suc- 
cession of  only  slightly  lesser  cafions  below,  came  upon  it. 

At  the  end  of  ten  miles  the  ridge  of  the  swell  was  attained, 
and  a  splendid  panorama  burst  suddenly  into  view.  In  the 
for^[round  were  low  table-lands,  intersected  by  numberless 
ravines;  beyond  these  a  lofty  line  of  bluffs  marked  the  edge 
of  an  immense  canon;  a  wide  gap  was  directly  ahead,  and 
through  it  were  beheld,  to  the  extreme  limit  of  vision,  vast 
plateaus,  towering  one  above  the  other  thousands  of  feet  in 
the  air,  the  long  horizontal  bands  broken  at  intervals  by  wide 
and  profound  abysses,  and  extending  a  hundred  miles  to  the 
north,  till  the  deep  azure  blue  faded  into  a  light  cerulean  tint 
that  blended  with  the  dome  of  the  heavens.  The  famous  "  Big 
Canon  "  was  before  us ;  and  for  a  long  time  we  paused  in  won- 
dering delight,  surveying  this  stupendous  formation  through 
which  the  Colorado  and  its  tributaries  break  their  way.^® 

As  far  as  is  recorded,  the  Ewing  Young  party  was  the 
second  party  of  Americans  to  see  the  Grand  Canon.  The 
Patties,  two  years  before,  must  have  seen  it  —  and  their 
remarks  upon  the  nature  of  the  country  are  less  in  admira- 
tion than  in  a  great  desire  to  be  free  of  it.  Jedediah  S. 
Smith  and  party  (of  whom  more  will  be  told,  presently) 
did  not,  probably,  see  it ;  they  saw  only  the  canons  further 
down.    Before  the  Patties  and  Smith,  were  but  the  Spanish ; 


TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON  61 

after  them,  came  Ewing  Young,  Kit  Carson,  James  Law- 
rence, James  Higgins,  the  three  Frenchmen,  and  their 
comrades  whose  names  no  man  knows. 

On  the  brink  of  the  Grand  Cafion  the  Ewing  Young 
party  now  stayed  three  days,  recouping  while  doubtless 
also  vainly  wondering  if  it  were  possiWe  to  cross  this  tre- 
mendous gorge.  But  pass  there  was  none.  Mohaves  from 
the  south  found  the  camp,  and  brought  in  a  small  quantity 
of  com  and  black  beans.  From  these  Mohaves  the  trappers 
would  learn  that  southward  the  walls  lowered,  and  a  cross- 
ing existed.  Having  rested,  the  Ewing  Yoimg  party  there- 
fore diverged  from  the  Canon,  and  traveling  southwest  for 
three  days,  by  this  short  cut  of  the  big  bend  which  projects 
from  northwestern  Arizona  into  Nevada,  reached  the  river 
again  at  the  valley  home  of  the  Mohaves,  where  Nevada 
tapers  to  a  slender  point  between  Arizona  and  California. 

A  people  warlike,  able  to  defend  themselves,  sturdy, 
independent,  proud,  but  generally  just  and  friendly  to  the 
whites,  have  been  the  Mohaves;  devoted  less  to  the  chase 
than  to  the  raising  of  com,  squash,  and  beans,  upon  the 
river  bottoms,  their  land,  and  to  tattooing  of  their  bronze 
bodies.  The  men  have  been  noted  for  their  fine,  tall  stat- 
ures. When  aroused  they  are  fierce  fighters  and  as  mer- 
ciless as  other  Indians. 

The  Ewing  Young  party  were  not  the  first  trappers  who 
had  visited  them.  The  Patties  had  passed  up  the  Colorado, 
from  the  mouth  of  the  Gila,  two  years  before;  and  three 
years  before  Jedediah  Smith  and  party  on  a  beaver  hunt 
from  Utah  had  passed  down,  on  the  same  side  (the  east) 
from  the  mouth  of  the  Virgin  River  in  what  is  now  south- 
eastem  Nevada.  Bound  from  the  Salt  Lake  of  Utah  to  the 
teeming  streams  of  Calif omia  was  Smith;  the  first  man,  he, 
to  lead  across  the  desert  which  lies  between.  At  the  Virgin 
he  crossed  the  Colorado  to  the  east  bank ;  at  the  Mohave  vil- 
lages he  crossed  back  again  by  raft,  to  the  west  bank,  thence 


52  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

journeying  boldly  on  southwest  into  the  sands,  for  Califor- 
nia. The  Mohaves  had  been  friendly;  but  when  he  would 
have  repeated  the  trip,  the  next  year,  incited  by  the  Spanish 
of  California  to  keep  the  gringo  out  they  attacked  his  raft 
in  midstream  and  of  the  eighteen  men  killed  ten.  Smith* 
himself  escaped,  with  his  wounded,  to  reach  San  Diego  by 
that  parching  desert  trail  which  he  had  broken  the  year 

before." 

Taos  being,  we  may  easily  believe,  the  center  of  mountain 
gossip  in  the  far  West,  and  Smith  and  the  Sublettes  having 
been  associates  in  the  trapping  business,  the  chances  are 
that  Captain  Young  was  informed  as  to  Smith's  move- 
ments —  just  as  he  must  have  been  informed,  by  word  from 
the  copper  mines  and  Santa  Fe,  if  not  more  directly,  of 
the  journeying^  of  the  Patties.  So  he  doubtless  was  upon 
his  guard  against  the  Mohaves.  The  Colorado  was  to  be 
crossed  by  means  of  the  Mohaves'  rafts,  for  although  a 
river  people,  the  Mohaves  never  have  possessed  boats  or 
canoes. 

The  one  contemporary  biography,  upon  which  all  other 
biographies  have  been  based,  states  that  in  the  vicinity  of 
the  Jedediah  Smith  "  massacre  "  (when  the  Indians  are 
the  victors  in  a  fight,  "  massacre  "  is  the  proper  word),  on 
their  route  the  Ewing  Young  party  met  with  a  dry  river, 
rising  in  the  coast  ranges  and  leading  "  northeast "  into  the 
Great  Basin.  This  they  followed  for  several  days  before 
they  came  to  water  in  it.  Making  due  allowance  for  errors 
of  geog^phy  natural  to  the  first  trip  in  a  new  country  forty 
years  before  the  same  trip  was  chronicled,  we  may  assume 
this  dry  river  to  have  been  the  Mohave,  of  the  modem 
map,  in  San  Bernardino  County  of  southern  California. 
There  is  no  other  stream  with  the  faculty  of  flowing 
"bottom-side  up,"  between  the  Mohave  Valley  and  Los 
Angeles,  which  one  might  follow  for  several  days'  travel, 
or  say  one  hundred  miles. 


TO  THE  GRAND  CANYON,  AND  ON  53 

This  is  a  very  singular  stream.  It  may  be  said  to  run  south- 
eastwardly  about  two  hundred  miles,  and  empty  into  the  Colo- 
rado. But  on  all  its  length  it  does  not  run  two  miles  without 
entirely  disappearing  in  the  sand.  So  that  it  presents  to  the 
traveler  a  long  line  of  little  rippling  lakes,  from  two  to  two 
and  a  half  feet  deep,  at  one  time  sunken  among  hard  flinty 
hills  or  piles  of  drifting  sands,  and  at  others  gurgling  through 
narrow  vales  covered  with  grass,  and  fields  and  forests  in 
which  live  the  deer,  the  black  bear,  the  elk,  the  hare,  and  many 
a  singing  bird.^® 

In  four  days  from  the  erratic  river  the  trappers  arrived 
at  the  mission  of  San  Gabriel,  near  El  Pueblo  de  los  Angeles 
which  is  today  Los  Angeles  city.  This  was  a  welcome  sta- 
tion, one  goal  upon  the  march  of  over  a  thousand  mfles 
just  for  fur.  When  we  read  of  the  distance  covered,  the 
perils  braved,  the  discomforts  endured,  by  the  western 
trapper,  we  can  but  marvel.    It  was  the  prospector's  gamble. 


CHAPTER  VIII 
AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA 

SO  HERE  was  Captain  Ewing  Young,  and  here  with 
him  were  Kit  Carson  and  the  rest,  gaunt,  burned, 
bearded,  or  bristly,  in  tattered,  patched  buckskins,  but 
steady-eyed,  unabashed,  handling  easily  their  long  rifles, 
and,  in  sooth,  a  little  company  compact  and  formidable. 

The  missions  of  California  still  were  prosperous,  although 
hampered  by  interference  from  the  new  overlord,  the  repub- 
lic of  Mexico.  Materiality  was  succeeding  spirituality,  and 
the  end  was  near,  for  secularization  loomed  upon  the  hori- 
zon and  already  the  priesthood  was  divided,  its  powers 
upon  the  wane. 

However,  they  yet  were  fat,  these  splendid  niissions,  ooz- 
ing oil  and  wine,  gathering  about  them  those  flocks  and 
herds  and  lands  coveted  by  the  State  which  had  not  earned 
them.  San  Gabriel  Arcangel,  old  (lacking  but  two  years 
of  being  the  oldest)  and  honorable,  was  proud  mistress 
over  i,ooo  Indians,  70,000  neat  cattle,  4,200  horses,  400 
mules,  S4,ooo  sheep;  its  vines  produced  annually  200  bar- 
rels of  brandy,  and  twice  as  much  wine;  and  here  were 
stationed  a  priest,  and  fifteen  Mexican  soldiers  serving  as 
guard.^® 

The  governor  of  Alta  California,  in  this  summer  of  1829, 
was  Colonel  Jose  Maria  Echeandia,  "  a  man  of  scholastic 
bent  and  training  and  of  Castilian  lisp."  He  it  was  who 
had  maintained  such  close  espionage  upon  Jedediah  Smith ; 
he  it  was  who  had  retained  the  Patties :  for,  first  man  as  he 
was  to  penetrate  by  land  into  California,  Captain  Smith 
had  been  arrested  and  expelled  —  pursued  by  suspicion  all 

54 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA        55 

the  way  f  rcmi  San  Gabriel  to  San  Jose  of  the  north ;  and 
the  Patties,  the  second  Americans  to  enter  by  land,  like- 
wise were  arrested,  the  father  to  die.  The  Hudson  Bay 
Company,  entering  from  the  north,  knew  how  to  conciliate 
the  authorities;  but  the  American  freebooter,  as  a  rule 
disregarding  those  niceties  of  intercourse  which  miarked 
the  gente  de  razon  and  gente  Una,  was  unwelcome. 

So  Ewing  Young  did  not  tarry  at  San  Gabriel ;  his  party, 
the  third  one  of  Americans  tlius  invading  from  the  interior, 
not  only  were  American  trappers,  but  they  had  no  license 
—  or  other  conciliations.  So  Captain  Young  paused  in 
his  course  only  to  trade  foiu*  butcher  knives  for  a  fat 
ox,  and  hastened  on  before  the  presidio  of  San  Diego,  under 
whose  protection  the  mission  was,  should  have  been  notified. 
Moreover,  the  summer  was  advancing  and  the  valleys  of  the 
North  waited. 

Northward  this  little  party  pressed;  past  the  famous 
olive  orchard  mission  of  San  Fernando  Rey  de  Espana, 
but  a  short  march  of  thirty  miles  from  San  Gabriel,  stop- 
ping here  only  an  hour  or  two,  and  hastening  onward.  The 
rounded  hills  of  a  landscape  already  browning  in  a  Cali- 
fornia summer  waxed  richer  in  natural  resources;  and  by 
reason  of  streams,  herbage,  and  groves  was  a  pleasing  con- 
trast to  the  desert  behind.  Such  a  region,  imder  the  soft  Cali- 
fornia sky  where  never  a  cloud  appeared,  roamed  over  by  vast 
quantities  of  deer,  elk,  bear,  and  wild  horses  must  have 
appeared  as  trappers'  paradise. 

Few  civilized  beings  could  have  been  met.  The  twenty- 
one  missions,  the  four  presidios,  San  Diego,  Santa  Bar- 
bara, Monterey,  and  San  Francisco;  the  pueblos,  de  los 
Angeles,  Monterey,  Yerba  Buena  and  San  Jose  de  Gu^a- 
lupe,  all  were  along  the  seaboard ;  the  route  of  the  trappers 
was  inland,  up  the  middle  of  the  present  state,  towards  the 
Sacramento  Valley.  The  settlement  by  Anglo-Saxons  also 
was  entirely  by  sea  and  upon  the  coast  —  captains  of  Amer- 


56  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ican  and  English  vessels  and  their  supercargoes  being  the 
chief  gringo  residents. 

Up  through  the  pleasant  land  pushed  the  Ewing  Young 
party,  until  in  the  Tulare  Valley,  amidst  sign  of  beaver  and 
otter,  they  found  fresh  sign  of  other  trappers.  Here  had 
entered  the  alert,  energetic  Hudson  Bay  Ccwnpany,  to  glean 
along  the  trail  of  Jedediah  Smith. 

Perhaps  disappointed,  and  no  doubt  spurred  to  renewed 
endeavor  for  the  purpose  of  overtaking  and  passing  their 
rivals,  the  Ewing  Young  company  made  greater  haste. 
They  emerged  upon  the  noble  San  Joaquin  (Joachim), 
where  with  sweep  from  the  west  into  the  north  it  continues 
on  through  its  lush  valley  for  the  yet  far  distant  bay. 

Trap  signs  were  constant;  somebody  had  been  reaping 
the  harvest;  and  upon  the  lower  San  Joaquin  the  Amer- 
icans overtook  a  party  in  the  employ  of  the  Hudson  Bay 
Company  of  Vancouver,  under  command  of  that  Peter 
Skene  Ogden  for  whom  Ogden,  Utah,  is  named. 

As  neither  party  w-ould  let  the  other  go  ahead,  and  as 
Captain  Young  must  have  been  too  shrewd  a  trapper  and 
trader  to  trust  much  in  any  professions  by  that  powerful 
corporation  of  the  Northwest,  whose  country  he  really 
was  invading,  the  two  must  trap  together,  more  or  less 
amicably.  To  this,  Ogden  probably  was  nothing  loath,  for 
he  was  a  jovial,  easy-going  man,  fond  of  social  amenities 
of  the  wilderness.  And  as  he  had  been  in  the  valley  since 
the  preceding  fall,  his  packs  were  heavy  with  fur. 

The  two  parties  trapped  down  the  San  Joaquin  to  its 
delta,  at  Suisun  Bay,  which  is  the  innermost  extension  of 
the  Bay  of  San  Francisco,  and  crossed  over  to  the  Sacra- 
mento. Now  was  it  well  into  the  summer;  the  fur  season 
was  done;  the  Ogden  party,  their  mules  laden  high,  pro- 
ceeded up  the  Sacramento  Valley  for  the  Pitt  River  country 
beyond,  and  for  Vancouver ;  the  Young  party  turned  back 
for  the  lower  San  Joaquin,  and  went  into  camp. 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA        57 

The  summer  passed  with  no  interference  from  the  jealous 
Calif omian  government.  It  is  likely  that  the  soldiery  of 
the  missions  of  the  few  presidios  cherished  a  wholesome 
respect  for  American  trapper  rifles.  Little  was  to  be  gained 
by  armed  conflict.  And  at  Monterey  Captain  Young  pos- 
sessed a  friend  in  residence:  Captain  Cooper,  of  famous 
surname  (as  witness  the  Missouri  Coopers),  but  not  more 
definitely  designated,  and  said  to  be  not  a  woodsman  but  a 
seaman,  now  in  business  at  Monterey.^^ 

Fortunately,  the  Taosans  were  enabled  to  be  of  service  to 
the  mission  San  Jose,  situated  some  twenty  or  thirty  miles 
westward  from  the  camp,  and  seventy  miles  north  of 
the  town  Monterey.  Powerful  and  rich  was  San  Jose, 
raising  much  grain.  From  eighty  bushels  of  wheat  sown 
were  gathered  8,600  bushels.  It  grazed  60,000  cattle,  and 
in  1825  was  suzerain  over  3,000  Indians.  But  it  was 
reputed  to  be  a  harsh  taskmaster ;  and  in  this  July,  of  1829, 
the  alcalde  came  to  the  trappers'  camp  on  a  hunt  for  run- 
away neophytes.  He  had  pursued  them  to  an  Indian  village, 
where  he  had  been  defeated.^ ^ 

A  few  years  before  (in  1826),  by  the  Republic  of  Mexico 
a  decree  had  been  issued,  applying  to  California,  setting 
free  mission  Indians.  But  spiritual  power  was  slow  to 
resign  to  temporal;  and  the  missions  clung  to  their  home- 
rule  policy.  The  alcalde  was  determined  to  capture  and 
pimish  the  San  Jose  refugees. 

The  camp  of  the  Americans  (recognized  as  invaders, 
heretics,  and  ruffians,  but  great  fighters)  was  appealed  to, 
and  twelve  men.  Kit  Carson  of  course  being  one,  volun- 
teered to  help.  Thus  augmented,  the  mission  force  returned 
to  the  attack,  the  village  was  captured,  and  "  one-third  of 
its  inhabitants  killed."  The  demand  to  deliver  over  the 
refugees  "was  complied  with." 

Relying  now  upon  the  obligations  of  the  mission,  Captain 
Young,  a  few  days  after  this  affair,  visited  it  and  engaged 


58  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

to  trade  in  some  furs  for  horses,  of  which  he  was  in  need. 
Tallow,  grain,  hides,  beef,  and  wine  were  the  California 
missions'  main  support;  augmented  occasionally  by  furs 
from  the  stock  of  foreign  trappers  (the  natives  would  not 
trap),  as  in  this  case.  Either  through  the  mission,  or  direct. 
Captain  Young  disposed  of  his  pelts  to  the  skipper  of  a 
schooner,  which  had  put  in  to  Monterey  harbor,  and  took 
back  to  camp  with  him  a  fresh  outfit  of  horses.  Almost 
immediately  sixty  of  the  animals  were  stolen  from  the  camp 
cavvy  by  Indians  who  sneaked  in  at  night;  a  revenge,  no 
doubt,  by  those  savages  whom  the  trappers  had  needlessly 
rendered  hostile  toward  them. 

This  was  serious,  as  it  left  only  fourteen  animals.  Evi- 
dently Kit  Carson,  youth  though  he  was,  had  been  demon- 
strating that  caution  and  boldness  combined,  directed  by 
intuitive  right  choice,  which  set  him  above  the  majority  of 
his  contemporaries;  for  Captain  Young  put  him  at  the 
head  of  ten  other  trappers,  and  sent  him  in  pursuit  of  the 
thieves.  After  a  ride  of  one  hundred  miles,  into  the  Sierra 
Nevada  Mountains,  the  marauders  were  surprised  in  the 
very  act  of  feasting  upon  six  of  tlie  horses;  eight  were 
killed,  the  rest  were  routed,  and  with  the  regained  horses 
and  three  captured  Indian  children  the  victorious  squad 
returned  to  the  waiting  camp. 

It  may  here  be  remarked  that  whereas  the  forest  and 
prairie  Indian  of  the  East  and  the  plains  and  mountain 
Indian  of  the  West  differed  by  the  use  of  the  horse,  the 
animal  was  not  at  first  put  to  the  same  purpose  by  all  the 
Western  tribes.  The  Eastern  Indian  traveled  either  afoot 
or  by  canoe;  the  plains  and  the  majority  of  the  mountain 
Indians  traveled  horseback,  but  a  portion  of  the  desert 
Indians,  and  of  the  California  Indians,  ate  the  horse  rather 
than  rode  him.  This  was  especially  the  case  with  those 
more  or  less  indolent  or  impoverished  tribes,  such  as  the 
Diggers,  the  Califomians,  and  even  the  Mohaves. 


OLD  FORT  UNION,  NEW  MEXICO,  1853. 

SIXTY    MILES    SOIITHKAST  OF   TAOS 

(Sketch  by  Lieut.  Col.  l-alnti  in  Pavii'  New  ifexici  and  h,-< 


v^ 


A  CARSON  LKTTER 


I,  COLO.  TEHRITC 


I..)    A.   H. 


1-wcrf  by  A.  H.  rieiffer.  Jr.) 


Fort  Garland,   C.  T. 
October  loth,  1867. 

Dear  Friend. 

It  is  with  extreme  regret  on  my 
part  that  the  necessities  of  the  service  has  at 
last  separated  us,  as  a  brother  officer  of 
six  years  acquaintance,  and  an  intimate 
and  esteemed  friend  of  a  prior  [time  I] 
have  long  learned  to  place  in  [you  my] 
confidence  as  an  officer  and  a  man.    [It] 
is  useless  for  me  to  make  any  expressions 
of  my  esteem  for  you,  this  is  known  by 
all,  and  better  felt  than  expressed. 

Whilst  your  knowledge  of 
frontier  and  Indian  life  in  this  country 
is  unsurpassed,  your  courage  is  too  well 
known  to  need  any  endorsement  of  mine. 
Your  loss  and  sufferings  since  in  the 
service  are  of  so  peculiarly  severe  a  cha- 
racter as  to  deserve  the  thanks  of  a  grateful 
country,  and  receive  my  hearty  sympathy 
and  commisseration. 

Receive  with  this  my  brother- 
ly regard  and  Believe  me. 

Your  true  friend, 

Bvt.  Lt  Col.  A.  H.  Pfeiffer,  C.  Carson 

Santa  Fe,  N.  M.  B'v't  Brig.  Gen'l,  U.  S.  Vols. 


-?  A 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA         59 

At  the  beginning  of  fall,  or  in  September,  1829,  Captain 
Young  broke  camp  and  with  his  men  started  back  for  New 
Mexico.  However,  another  episode  had  occurred.  Toward 
the  close  of  that  same  July  three  of  his  French  Canadians 
—  Francois  Turcote,  Jean  Vaillant,  and  Anastase  Curier, 
before  mentioned  —  deserted,  and  announced  at  Monterey 
that  they  were  going  to  stay  in  California.  But  the  doughty 
captain  apprehended  them,  and  on  the  charge  that  they  owed 
him  money  paid  to  them  in  advance  forced  them  to  return 
with  the  party.    He  brooked  no  insurrections. 

Having  retraced  the  former  route  to  San  Fernando  mis- 
sion, thence  the  captain  made  the  mistake  of  paying  a 
visit  with  his  party  to  the  near-by  Pueblo  de  los  Angeles. 
His  followers  may  have  importuned  him  for  this  dissipation, 
on  the  eve  of  leaving  upon  their  long  desert  march.  The 
action  of  the  three  Canadians  has  shown  that  in  the  ranks 
were  turbulent  spirits. 

El  Pueblo  de  Nuestra  Senora  la  Reina  de  los  Angeles :  the 
Town  of  Our  Lady  the  Queen  of  the  Angels,  was  a  place 
of  more  pretensions  than  Monterey,  and  older.  In  1830 
it  had  1,000  inhabitants;  and  although  the  houses  were 
little  more  than  hovels  of  mud,  eight  feet  high,  with  roofs 
of  reeds  and  asphaltum,  it  was  known  as  a  "  city  of  gar- 
dens," as  today.  Amusements  were  many;  the  trappers 
determined  to  have  a  final  "  fling."  And  Captain  Young, 
unable  to  produce  the  proper  papers  at  the  demand  of  the 
vigilant  alcalde,  saw  what  an  error  he  had  committed. 

To  arrest  eighteen  rough-and-ready  American  trappers 
and  deprive  them  of  their  arms  and  outfits  was  rather  more 
of  a  task  than  the  small  force  at  the  alcalde's  immediate 
service  could  manage.  However,  with  true  natural  shrewd- 
ness taking  advantage  of  the  trappers'  bent,  he  did  not 
press  the  demand  but  encouraged  his  citizenship  to  show 
the  visitors  a  good  time.  Abstinence  had  been  over  pro- 
longed ;  the  men  were  reckless ;  and  Captain  Young  presently 


60  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

had  the  chagrin  of  seeing  his  charges,  plied  with  free  brandy 
about  to  be  made  helpless  and  easy  subjects  for  the  calabozo. 
Moreover,  he  well  knew  that  when  reinforcements  arrived 
(as  soon  they  would)  from  San  Gabriel  and  from  the 
presidio  of  San  Diego  or  Santa  Barbara,  he  and  his  party, 
drunk  or  sober,  would  be  in  serious  plight. 

The  Patties,  a  year  before,  had  been  taken  off  their 
guard  and  arrested  without  valid  reason  whatsoever,  con- 
fined at  San  Diego,  and  treated  most  harshly.  Captain 
Young,  trapping  without  papers,  had  really  broken  the 
law ;  and  this  meant  confiscation  of  all  property,  and  impris- 
onment indefinitely.  In  the  crisis  he  again  put  reliance  upon 
youthful  Carson,  who,  as  was  characteristic  of  him  in  after 
years,  evidently  had  kept  his  head.  Carson  was  directed  to 
take  three  of  the  still  somewhat  sober  men,  and  the  extra 
horses,  and  to  go  on;  if  the  captain  and  the  other  men  did 
not  catch  up,  in  time,  they  were  to  be  reported  in  Taos  as 
having  been  "  massacred  "  by  the  Mexicans  of  California. 
In  that  case.  Captain  Young  probably  had  dreams  of  being 
revenged. 

Carson  succeeded  in  getting  his  squad  together  and  head- 
ing them  into  the  country.  The  Calif omians  still  hung 
about,  but  were  hoist  with  their  own  petard.  The  other 
trappers  had  meanwhile  waxed  more  turbulent,  so  that  a 
free-for-all  fight  occurred  among  them.  This  would  include 
knives  and  bullets ;  James  Higgins  shot  "  Big  Jim  "  Law- 
rence, and  the  Calif  omians  temporarily  withdrew  to  avoid 
damage.  A  trapper  at  a  certain  stage  in  his  cups  was  apt 
to  make  less  of  killing  either  Indian  or  "  greaser  "  than  of 
killing  a  comrade. 

The  short  march  to  water  and  the  night's  sleep  restored 
sense  to  the  hardy  mountain  men,  so  that  on  the  next  day, 
under  realization  of  their  peril  and  again  united  with 
Carson,  they  hastened  on  until  out  of  reach  by  pursuit.  They 
recrossed  the  San  Bernardino  Desert,  and  after  nine  days' 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA         61 

travel  out  of  Los  Angeles  stood  once  more  upon  the  brink  of 
the  Colorado. 

The  homeward  course  was  now  pursued  leisurely  down 
the  Colorado  and  up  the  Gila,  with  many  stops  to  trap  likely 
points.  As  the  lower  Colorado  and  the  Gila  were  in  the 
warm  latitudes  of  Arizona,  the  party  could  trap  all  winter. 

The  Colorado  itself  never  could  have  been  a  first-class 
beaver  stream;  in  those  deep,  rock-bound  caiions,  between 
whose  bare  walls  the  waters  run  turgid  and  fierce,  no  beaver 
would  live;  only  in  the  more  placid  spots  and  wider  pock- 
ets which  intervened  now  and  then  would  the  animal  be 
found.  But  the  progress  of  the  Young  party  was  not 
monotonous.  The  lower  Colorado  and  the  Gila  also  had 
been  invaded  sufficiently  by  white  people  —  Spanish,  Mex- 
icans, and  trappers  —  to  produce  the  usual  friction  with  the 
Indians  there. 

On  the  Colorado,  while  Kit  Carson  and  two  or  three  com- 
rades were  taking  care  of  camp,  the  other  men  being  out 
running  traps,  a  large  body  of  Indians  came  in:  probably 
Chemehuevi,  who  occupied  a  valley  down  from  the  mouth 
of  the  Bill  Williams  River,  below  the  Mohaves ;  or  Yumas, 
who  dominated  the  Rio  Colorado  from  the  Chemehuevi 
country  to  the  gulf.  Both  are  of  a  cunning,  thievish  nature. 
Weapons  were  concealed  beneath  the  visitors'  blankets  and 
shirts,  and  for  a  moment  the  camp  must  have  been  in  a 
precarious  position.  Experience  of  many  years  has  proven 
that  in  a  case  of  this  kind  there  is  only  the  one  thing  to  do. 
Promptness  and  boldness  are  necessary;  Carson  had  both. 
At  a  word  each  trapper  selected  his  man  and  held  cocked 
rifle  against  him ;  addressing  one  of  the  Indians  who  spoke 
Spanish,  Carson  ordered  him  to  clear  out,  with  his  fellows, 
at  once,  or  the  whites  would  fire.  When  it  comes  to 
exchanging  life  for  life  the  Indian  balks;  and  the  band  sul- 
lenly left.  They  may  not  have  planned  any  harm  at  all, 
but  the  trappers  must  be  on  the  safe  side. 


62  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Having  for  four  hundred  miles  followed  down  the  Colo- 
rado, whose  rocky  canons,  as  they  proceeded,  became  less 
frequent,  and  whose  welcomed  stretches  of  alluvial  beaver 
ground  grew  more  continuous,  the  Ewing  Yotmg  trappers 
arrived  at  the  flat  intake  of  the  Gila,  in  the  southwestern 
extremity  of  Arizona.  They  turned  from  the  Colorado 
(the  prime  trapping  territory  was  still  below)  and  entered 
the  Gila.  This  river,  the  famous  and  romantic  beaver  stream 
of  the  Southwest,  they  ascended  three  hundred  miles  to  the 
mouth  of  the  San  Pedro,  above  the  present  town  of  Florence 
in  south  central  Arizona. 

A  typical  stream  of  the  desert  country  of  the  Southwest, 
where  sands  and  trap  rock  enclose  fertile  valle)rs,  during  the 
last  four  hundred  miles  of  its  course  the  Gila,  at  low  water, 
averages  one  hundred  feet  wide  and  two  or  three  feet  deep ; 
now  flowing  through  the  green,  now  through  the  gray,  and 
now  through  the  whitish  yellow.  Where  was  brushy 
growth,  beaver  were. 

At  the  mouth  of  the  San  Pedro,  which  enters  from  the 
south  above  Florence,  the  trappers  came  upon  a  camp  of 
those  Apaches  with  whom  they  had  had  the  brush  in  the 
previous  spring.  They  promptly  charged  the  camp,  taking 
it  by  surprise,  driving  the  Indians  out  and  away,  and  taking 
possession  of  their  animals. 

Then,  that  night,  while  the  party  were  camped,  in  turn, 
they  were  aroused  by  the  trampling  of  hoofs.  More  of  the 
tribe  were  approaching,  apparently  from  a  raid  into  the 
Mexican  borders,  driving  before  them  a  large  bunch  of 
stock.  No  questions  were  asked  and  doubtless  there  was  no 
time  for  such  preliminaries.  As  promptly  as  before,  the 
trappers  poured  in  a  volley,  shot  the  Indians  down  or  routed 
them,  and  on  the  theory  that  thieves  have  no  property  appro- 
priated the  stock. 

This  last  herd  contained  two  hundred  or  more  horses. 
*'  To  return  the  animals  to  their  owners  was  an  impossibil- 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA        63 

ity,"  naively  chronicles  Peters;  and  in  any  case  we  cannot 
easily  picture  Captain  Young  or  other  old-time  trapper  rid- 
ing very  far  to  restore  to  Mexicans  their  Apache-stolen 
stock.  The  Young  party  had  thus  brusquely  acciunulated 
many  more  horses  and  mules  than  they  could  manage,  so 
they  retained  only  the  best,  killed  two  for  meat,  and  let  the 
others  go  —  presumably  for  the  Apaches  to  round  up  again ! 

Having  thus  effectually  reestablished  their  claim  to  the 
country,  the  company  continued  to  trap,  ascending  the  Gila 
until,  near  its  sources,  across  the  line  into  what  is  today 
New  Mexico,  they  were  opposite  the  copper  mines.  Here 
they  abandoned  the  river  and  proceeded  south  the  sixty 
miles  to  the  mines,  where  Robert  McKnight  still  was  mining 
and  trading. 

The  bales  of  pelts  were  stored  in  some  of  the  old  prospect 
holes  and  abandoned  workings,  McKnight  engaged  to  look 
after  them,  and  marching  on  with  most  of  his  men  for 
Santa  Fe,  from  the  innocent  authorities  there  Mr.  Young 
procured  license  to  trade  with  the  Mimbreiios  Apaches, 
who  frequented  the  Mimbres  River  and  the  copper  mines 
district.  When,  having  journeyed  to  the  mines,  the  party 
quickly  returned  to  Santa  Fe  with  a  fine  amount  of  beaver, 
"  everyone  considered  the  trappers  had  made  a  very  good 
trade ! " 

It  is  stated  that  the  fur  aggregated  two  thousand  pounds 
—  which  would  be  some  fifteen  hundred  skins,  as  a  beaver 
skin  weighs  about  a  pound  and  a  quarter  —  and  that  twelve 
dollars  a  pound  was  paid.  If  true,  this  price  was  excep- 
tional, six  dollars  a  pound  being  top  price  usually  in  the 
industry,  and  the  southern  skins  not  being  as  prime  as 
those  of  the  cold  North. 

The  shares  of  the  venture  having  been  apportioned,  every 
man  with  a  pocketful  of  money,  the  expedition,  in  April, 
1830,  just  a  year  from  departure,  rode  jubilantly  into  old 
"Touse.**     And  right  speedily  old  Touse  was  feeling  the 


64  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

influx  of  the  loose  wealth.  A  trapper  home  again  was  like 
Jack  in  port.  But  when  the  money  was  gone  —  there  was 
more  beaver.^^ 

That  the  youthful  Kit  Carson  performed  his  part  in  con- 
tributing to  the  gaiety  of  the  home-coming  we  may  not 
doubt.  In  after  years  he  confessed  that  in  his  early  dajrs 
he  was  rash  and  quick;  and  now  in  token  of  being  a  full- 
fledged  mountain  man  he  probably  did  as  his  comrades  did. 

Most  readers  will  be  interested  to  follow  the  adventures 
of  Ewing  Young  to  the  end.  California  summoned  him 
again.  He  left  Taos  in  September,  1831,  with  Moses  Car- 
son, Kit's  elder  brother,  in  his  party,  and  trapped  through 
to  the  coast,  arriving  there  in  April,  1832.  Some  time  or 
other  he  essayed  to  cross  the  terrific  Great  Basin  from  the 
Salt  Lake  region  to  Upper  California,  direct.  The  sequel 
of  this  undertaking  of  the  gallant  old  beaver  trader  was, 
that  having  traveled  until  his  animals  had  exhausted  their 
supply  of  fodder,  and  all  had  died,  he  cut  food  from  their 
carcasses  for  himself  and  men  and  commenced  his  return 
to  the  lake.  On  the  way  five  of  his  men  perished.  The  cap- 
tain and  the  rest  reached  the  lake  in  a  wretched  condition. 

After  an  exhaustive  trapping  tour  up  the  northern  Cali- 
fornia coast  and  backward  again  through  California  clear 

to  the  Gila,  the  veteran  captain  of  trappers  settled  at  Mon- 
terey. In  1834  he  joined  the  company  of  Hall  J.  Kelly, 
bound  for  Oregon  to  colonize  it  for  the  Americans.  In 
Oregon  he  located  in  the  Willamette  Valley  and  organized 
the  "  Wallamet  Cattle  Company,"  from  which  the  Oregon 
settlers  might  obtain  beef,  and  returning  to  California  he 
made  a  drive  of  cattle  and  horses  to  Oregon.  There  he 
erected  a  whisky  still  —  only  to  abandon  it  at  the  request 
of  the  missionaries.  "  He  was  one  of  the  three  powers  of 
the  country  —  the  first  being  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  the 
second  the  Methodist  Mission,  and  the  third  —  Ewing 
Young."    He  died  February  15,  1841,  on  his  farm  near  the 


1 


AMERICAN  TRAPPERS  IN  CALIFORNIA         65 

Willamette.  He  was  a  "  man  mysterious,  a  natural  leader,  a 
loyal  American,  courageous,  of  integrity,  and  honest,"  who, 
in  1829,  pioneering  across  the  desert  to  California,  made 
of  Kit  Carson  a  mountain  man  and  trapper,  and  brought 
out  word  of  a  new  market. 


CHAPTER  IX 

THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES— 1830 

T  N  EVERY  party  of  men  banded  together  on  a  common 
'-  enterprise,  there  always  are  one  or  two  who  jump  right 
to  the  front;  who,  by  common  consent,  are  given  leader- 
ship. Kit  Carson  seems  to  have  been  such  a  character. 
Slight  in  stature,  younger,  perhaps,  than  any  of  the  others, 
his  reputation  that  of  a  roving  teamster,  a  hard  worker, 
and  a  Carson  of  frontier  breed  from  the  Boone's  Lick  dis- 
trict, he  went  out  with  Ewing  Young  upon  the  trapper's 
trail  as  a  promising  hand  who  yet  had  much  to  learn ;  from 
that  trip  he  came  back  Ewing  Young's  lieutenant,  and  a 
youth  whose  cool-headedness  and  decision  already  had 
placed  him  well  above  the  average  mountain  man. 

So  it  was  with  some  natural  pride  that  he  now  might 
meet,  in  Taos  or  in  Santa  Fe,  his  elder  brother  Moses,  and 
trade  with  him  news  of  the  trail  for  news  of  home.  The 
brothers  would  not  meet  again  for  twelve,  or  more  likely, 
fifteen  years. 

The  summer  of  1830  would  be  spent  by  the  majority  of 
the  returned  trappers  in  Taos  and  Santa  Fe,  for  they  had 
plenty  of  money  and  the  season  (this  being  April)  was 
advanced.  By  fall  the  money  would  be  gone,  the  delights  of 
town  life  would  have  palled,  the  beaver  and  the  trail  would 
call  again.  When  in  September  word  was  spread  that  the 
Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  wanted  good  men,  young 
Kit  Carson,  among  others,  enrolled  his  name.  The  destina- 
tion was  the  Northwest.  The  ever  active  Ewing  Young 
already  was  in  fresh  enterprises.    Whether  he  and  Kit  saw 

66 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  67 

one  another  again  is  doubtful ;  but  he  had  served  his  pur- 
pose in  Carson's  Ufe. 

That  Northwest  country  —  the  upper  Missouri  and  the 
Platte,  and  the  Rockies  of  Q)lorado,  Wyoming,  Montana, 
Idaho,  Utah  and  beyond  —  was  then  and  continued  to  be 
for  many  years  the  real  fur  grotmd  of  the  West  A  few 
trappers,  such  as  Ewing  Young,  made  a  specialty  of  the 
Southwest,  principally  because  it  was  on  a  direct  line  out 
of  the  market,  Santa  Fe. 

Before  ICit  Carson  had  swapped  the  saddler's  bench  in 
old  Franklin  for  the  back  of  a  mule  on  the  Santa  Fe  Trail, 
the  Northwest  had  been  well  traversed.  The  impetus  given 
by  Lewis  and  Clark  had  gained  in  momentum;  and  while 
the  steady  exodus  into  New  Mexico  was  mainly  along 
beaten  lines  staked  out  by  a  suspicious  Latin  government, 
that  to  the  northwestward  was  without  law  and  without 
restriction,  diverging,  as  it  traveled,  where  it  pleased,  free 
to  seek  out  whatever  spots  were  to  its  advantage.  The 
trader  established  his  fort,  the  trapper  on  his  pony  ranged 
through  hill  and  plain.  It  was  their  country:  essentially 
by  right  of  exploration  the  mountain  man's  country ;  he  who 
had  succeeded  to  the  voyageur  and  the  coureur  des  hois  of 
the  eastern  rivers  and  lakes. 

In  the  five  years  (182 5- 1830)  which  Kit  Carson  had 
spent  as  saddler,  wrangler,  cook,  teamster,  and  finally  trap- 
per, the  Northwest  had  advanced  rapidly,  but  its  affairs  were 
little  changed  on  the  surface.  The  Missouri  Fur  Company, 
in  which  Moses  Carson  had  served,  was  defunct;  while  the 
great  General  Ashley,  after  having  achieved  a  fortune  by 
those  splendid  expeditions  which  he  had  sent  out,  and  hav- 
ing retired  from  the  mountains,  was  about  to  enter  Con- 
gress, there  to  be  stout  exponent  of  the  interests  of  the  Far 
West. 

Three  of  that  really  brilliant  company  which  enlisted 
under  him  —  Jedediah  S.  Smith,  David  E.  Jackson  and 


68  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

William  L.  Sublette  —  bought  his  fur  business  from  him. 
Smith  has  been  noted  as  the  first  American  overland  into 
California.  The  name  of  Jackson  comes  down  to  us  in  the 
famous  game  resort,  Jackson  Hole,  of  northwestern  Wyo- 
ming. Of  William  Sublette  much  might  be  said :  a  foremost 
partisan  or  captain  of  trappers,  he,  the  best  known  among 
five  brothers ;  a  fighter  and  a  trader,  one  of  the  few  recorded, 
besides  Ashley,  who  "  amassed  a  handsome  fortune." 

This  transfer  had  been  made  in  July,  1826.  To  the  part- 
nership, which  never  was  known  by  title  save  as,  occa- 
sionally, "  Smith,  Jackson  &  Co.,"  or  "  Smith,  Jackson  & 
Sublette,"  had  succeeded  in  August,  1830,  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tain Fur  Company,  formed  by  five  other  thorough  mountain 
men,  of  whom  two,  at  least,  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  and  James 
Bridger,  were  graduates  of  the  Ashley  school.  The  three 
others  were  Milton  Sublette,  brother  of  William ;  Jean  Baj>- 
tiste  Gervais,  unknown  to  fame  because  he  has  lacked  a 
chronicler;  and  Henry  Fraeb  (commonly  styled  "  Frapp  "), 
destined  to  be  slain  by  the  Sioux  and  Cheyennes. 

Thus  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  had  come  into 
existence,  to  continue  business  in  the  main  Rocky  Moun- 
tains, the  Continental  Divide  being  its  especial  field.  Across 
in  the  Northwest  reigned  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  of 
Great  Britain;  old,  powerful,  autocratic,  its  feet  upon  the 
ruins  of  Astoria.  But  another  fur  company  was  already 
aiming  to  wrest  from  Fitzpatrick,  Bridger  and  partners 
their  legacy.  This  was  the  American  Fur  Company,  child 
of  John  Jacob  Astor  of  New  York,  whose  Astoria  had  so 
failed ;  with  a  western  branch  established  in  St.  Louis,  dur- 
ing Kit  Carson's  novitiate  of  four  years  in  the  Southwest 
it  had  waxed  stronger,  and  was  at  last  taking  decisive  steps 
for  advancing  from  the  Missouri  River  fur  trade  to  the 
mountain  fur  trade. 

And  the  fur  business  was  booming.  Ashley  had  given  it 
impetus ;  Kit  Carson  entered  it  in  its  heyday.    Not  yet  had 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  69 

the  western  soil  been  turned  by  the  plough  of  a  settler ;  the 
ground  of  plain  and  of  valley  was  suffered  to  lie  despised, 
while  north  of  the  Arkansas  and  west  of  Missouri  the 
only  incentive  to  the  white  man  was  trade  and  fur.  By 
keelboat  and  by  caravan  the  bales  from  post  and  rendezvous 
came  pouring  into  St.  Louis ;  by  keelboat  and  by  caravan 
went  forth  the  supplies  to  rendezvous  and  to  post.  Not, 
as  in  the  North  before  the  West  was  discovered,  was  traffic 
by  water  alone ;  now  at  the  opening  of  this  decade  of  Ameri- 
can supremacy  in  the  trans-Mississippi  country,  the  pack 
train  threading  lone  plan  and  wooded  pass,  bearing  its 
cargo,  was  a  recognized  institution. 

The  trading  posts  were  the  fur  country's  principal  pro- 
tection. They  were  little  forts,  established  in  the  Indian 
precincts,  and  semi-military.  They  already  extended  along 
the  Missouri  to  its  headwaters  and  well  up  along  the  Platte. 
Beyond  the  Rockies  were  the  posts  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany, encouraging  a  flow  of  furs  westward,  not  eastward. 
The  only  aggressive  military  occupation  of  the  country  had 
been  an  expedition  (boat  and  horse)  up  the  Missouri  to  the 
mouth  of  the  Yellowstone  in  Montana,  by  General  Atkinson 
in  1825,  and  in  1827  the  establishing  of  Fort  Leavenworth 
on  the  Missouri  in  northeastern  Kansas. 

The  Missouri  frontier  had  advanced  one  hundred  and 
fifty  miles,  from  old  Franklin  to  Independence,  toward  the 
mouth  of  the  Kaw  or  Kansas  River  where  Kansas  City  now 
stands.  At  Independence  landing  the  goods  for  the  Santa 
Fe  trade  were  unloaded,  and  from  Independence  went  trail- 
ing out  into  the  dusty  Southwest  the  long  caravans,  as  of 
yore,  save  that  oxen  were  supplanting  mules  for  teams. 
Franklin,  once  "a  center  of  wealth  and  fashion,"  was 
approaching  its  early  decay,  and  soon  was  to  be  abandoned 
—  its  graveyard  alone  remaining  as  token  of  the  days  that 
were. 

The  Northwest  was  still  forging  ahead  of  the  Southwest, 


70  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

despite  the  constantly  increasing  Santa  Fe  business.  To 
be  sure,  beside  the  mountains  south  of  the  Hatte,  in  United 
States  territory,  during  Kit  Carson's  novitiate,  had  been 
founded,  in  1829,  Bent's  Fort;  two  hundred  miles  north 
of  Taos,  upon  the  "mountain"  Santa  Fe  Trail  up  the 
Arkansas.  But  from  Bent's  Fort  northward  through  Col- 
orado to  Wyoming  there  was  not  a  white  man's  habita- 
tion, other  than  the  rude  trapper's  lodge,  as  movable  as 
the  tipi  of  the  Indian.  As  said,  up  into  the  Northwest 
from  St.  Louis  to  the  mountains,  post  after  post  had  been 
established.  Such  posts  had  even  crossed  the  mountains, 
tentatively  feeling  their  way,  to  meet  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany posts  inward  creeping  f  rcwn  the  Pacific ;  while  the  Salt 
Lake,  the  Green  River,  the  Henry  Fork  of  the  Snake,  and 
the  Snake  itself  in  Idaho  were  becoming  to  St.  Louis,  base 
of  supplies,  as  household  words.  The  Rockies  were  indeed 
better  known  to  the  East  than  were  the  plains. 

Such,  briefly  sketched,  is  a  bird's-eye  view  of  the  West 
when  Kit  Carson,  in  this  September,  1830,  as  a  seasoned 
hand,  entered  in  earnest  into  the  trapper  calling;  from  now 
on  he  mingled  as  an  equal  with  the  most  skilled  frontiers- 
men —  hunters,  trappers,  fighters,  and  scouts  in  one  —  that 
the  world  has  produced.  We  know  but  little  of  that  com- 
pany with  whom  he  traveled  to  California  and  back;  it  must 
have  contained  experts,  good  men  and  true;  but  when  he 
engaged  with  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  he  entered 
a  different  atmosphere,  where  the  gay,  active  homme  du 
nord  —  coureur  or  voyageur —  transplanted  from  Mak- 
inaw,  vied  with  the  lUinoisan  and  the  Kentuckian;  where 
the  mighty  pine-clad  slopes  of  the  snow-capped  mountains 
invited  ever  to  fresh  endeavors;  where  the  air  was  full 
of  energy,  and  where  the  Indian,  even,  was  of  type  superior 
to  the  cowardly  Apache  and  the  lethargic,  squash-raising 
Mohave. 

Carson  served  only  intermittently  with  the  Rocky  Moun- 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  71 

tain  Fur  Company.  Although  it  existed,  under  its  title,  but 
four  years,  yet  for  its  stirring  history  and  for  the  men 
connected  with  it  early  and  late  this  company  should 
be  famous.  It  had  rivals,  better  known;  the  American 
Fur  Company,  whose  boast  was  to  be  designated  simply 
as  "  The  Company,"  and  the  Hudson  Bay  Company ;  but 
in  its  search  for  fur  it  opened  up  that  wonderful  territory 
now  comprising  Colorado,  Wyoming,  Montana,  Idaho,  and 
Utah;  in  the  Rocky  Mountain  center  of  the  United  States 
it  reigned,  for  a  time,  supreme;  and  it  educated  the  major- 
ity of  the  scouts  and  guides  who  in  after  day  piloted  across 
the  wilderness  army  detachment  and  colonist  column. 

From  Taos  there  was  a  good  300  miles  of  travel  before 
traps  should  be  set.  Four  trapper  trails  were  available. 
They  led  by  the  one  route  (the  caravan  road)  north  from 
the  town  and  over  the  Raton  Range  down  to  the  Arkansas, 
long  miles,  where  Bent's  Fort  had  been  located.  Thence 
one  trail  diverged  west,  up  the  Arkansas,  into  the  mountains 
100  miles  away,  and  where  Caiion  City  is  located  at 
the  mouth  of  the  famed  Royal  Gorge  crossed  by  a  Ute 
and  Arapaho  trail  to  the  north  and  into  South  Park.  An- 
other trail  branched  from  this  one  where  Pueblo,  Colorado, 
is  located,  followed  up  Fountain  Creek,  toward  Colorado 
Springs,  and  turning  into  the  Manitou  country  crossed  by 
a  pass  here  for  South  Park  and  the  regions  beyond.  This 
also  was  an  Indian-made  trail.  A  third  trail,  instead  of 
turning  into  the  west  at  Colorado  Springs  proceeded  on 
northward,  over  the  little  divide  between  the  Arkansas  and 
the  Platte,  about  as  the  various  railroads  skirting  the  foot- 
hills from  Denver  south  now  run,  and  at  Denver's  site,  enter-  ^ 
ing  the  mountains  along  a  trail  later  widened  by  the  South 
Park  stages,  climbed  "  over  the  hill,'*  passed  the  future  min- 
ing center  of  Breckinridge,  and  dipping  down,  in  the  north  ( 
end  of  Middle  Park,  joined  with  the  two  other  trails,  before 
mentioned,  at  the  "junction."     The  fourth  trail,  essen- 


72  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

tially  a  trappers'  and  traders'  trail  (although  all  these  old 
trails  were  cut  first  by  the  elk,  the  buffalo,  and  the  red  man), 
from  the  Arkansas  at  Bent's  Fort  or  about  the  mouth  of 
the  Purgatoire  stretched  almost  straightaway  into  the 
north,  traversing  the  plains  well  out  from  the  foothills, 
passing  thirty  miles  east  of  Colorado  Springs  and  consid- 
erably east  of  Denver,  and  striking  into  the  South  Platte 
about  at  the  mouth  of  the  Cache  la  Poudre,  or  just  east 
of  the  present  town  of  Greeley.    Thence  it  continued  north 

to  the  Laramie. 

The  second  trail  mentioned  —  that  up  the  Fountaine  qui 
Bouille  Creek,  and  through  Manitou  and  over  —  was  the 
favorite.  I  am  inclined  to  think  that  the  Kit  Carson  party 
took  this.  The  routes  skirting  the  foothills  or  through  the 
plains  traversed  what  was  known  as  the  "  neutral  strip  " 
—  a  highway,  from  the  Arkansas  to  the  Platte,  about 
thirty  miles  wide,  which  was  a  debatable  ground  of  all 
the  tribes;  Crows,  Sioux,  Blackfeet,  Cheyennes,  Snakes, 
Utes,  Arapahoes,  Kiowas,  and  even  the  Comanches  and  the 
Apaches.  Consequently  no  traveler  here  could  consider 
himself  safe. 

Engaged  not  as  hired  trappers  but  as  "  skin ''  trappers, 
who  had  contracted  only  to  sell  their  pelts  to  the  Rocky 
Mountain  Company,  the  Kit  Carson  detachment  followed 
into  the  fur  country  by  the  trail  up  the  Fountain.  And  we 
can  see  them.  Frenchman,  American,  Irishman,  half-breed 
Mexican,  with  long  hair,  long  rifles,  fringed  buckskins, 
broad  hats,  short  stirrups,  in  compact  yet  mobile  squad, 
at  trappers'  rack  or  cow  pony  trot,  pressing  on  into  the 
hills ;  around  the  foot  of  Pike's  Peak,  past  the  boiling  soda 
spring  where  today  the  gaiety  of  a  pleasure  resort  has  suc- 
ceeded the  Manitou  rites  of  the  Indians,  through  the  strange 
red-rock  region  of  the  Garden  of  the  Gods,  over  the  ridge 
and  on.  Behind  and  about,  naught  for  which  they  par- 
ticularly cared;  before,  beaver,  Injun,  and  maybe  death.** 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  73 

Simultaneously  with  this  expedition  of  the  fall  of  1830, 
which  took  Kit  Carson  into  the  mountains,  occurred  two 
other  events  of  importance  in  the  opening  of  the  far  West. 
The  keel  of  the  steamboat  Yellowstone  was  being  laid,  at 
Louisville,  Kentucky,  on  commission  from  the  American 
Fur  Company,  and  thus  was  bom  the  first  steamboat  to 
ascend  the  upper  Missouri.  With  the  next  spring  it  entered 
the  fur  trade,  thus  greatly  facilitating  the  operations  of  the 
company  which  was  to  crush  and  absorb  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tain Company.  And  as  Kit  Carson  started  for  the  North- 
west, William  Wolf  skill  (Wolf  scale),  with  a  party  of  trad- 
ers, broke  a  new  trail,  soon  to  be,  and  long  to  remain, 
popular  as  the  "  Old  Spanish  Trail,"  through  to  California. 

This  trail,  at  best  only  a  saddle  and  pack  trail,  from  Santa 
Fe  and  Abiqui  pointed  northwest,  up  the  Chama,  from  the 
headwaters  thereof  rounding  north  of  the  San  Juan  River 
and  cutting  the  southwest  comer  of  Colorado.  Passing 
north  of  Durango  city,  and  of  Cortez  town  (Colorado) 
it  paralleled  for  some  distance  the  Dolores  River;  thence 
diverged  westerly  to  enter  Utah,  striking  present  Moab 
and  crossing  the  Green  about  where  the  railroad  crosses 
now.  It  passed  into  the  west  by  Castledale,  and  bending 
south,  by  way  of  Fillmore  (Utah)  and  the  Parowan  coun- 
try, following  down  the  Virgin  to  the  mouth  of  that  river 
it  swerved  off  for  the  Smith  and  Young  route  across  the 
San  Bernardino  Desert,  the  Cajon  Pass  of  the  Sierra 
Madre  Mountains,  and  Los  Angeles. 

A  portion  of  this  trail,  or  that  in  southwestern  Colorado, 
had  been  broken  by  the  Spanish  explorer,  Juan  Maria  Rivera, 
from  Santa  Fe,  in  1761 ;  it  wasj  better  and  further  broken 
by  the  padre  Francisco  Silvestre  Velez  Escalante,  in  1776; 
for  that  reason  it  may  have  been  termed  the  "  Old  Spanish 
Trail."  The  names  —  such  as  Dolores,  Piedra,  Las  Animas, 
Ancapagari  (Uncompahgre)  — applied  by  Escalante  linger 
yet 


74  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

William  Wolfskill,  then,  enthused  by  the  new  report  of 
Ewing  Young,  in  the  fall  of  1830  revived  a  portion  of  the 
Trail  of  the  Father,  and  pushed  the  terminus  through  to 
California.  It  was  a  longer  and  more  circuitous  route 
than  the  southern  routes;  but  it  afforded,  through  the  first 
half,  grass  and  water,  and  it  avoided  the  canons  of  the 
Colorado  Plateau,  where  Ewing  Young  had  struggled.  And 
the  Old  Spanish  Trail,  the  inception  of  which  was  the  glory 
of  God  and  the  Catholic  Faith,  became  highway  for  horse 
trader  and  horse  thief ;  and,  still  later,  as  between  the  Utah 
desert  country  and  New  Mexico,  known  as  the  "  Durango 
Trail  '*  it  became  famous  for  cattle  drives  and  bandit  flights. 
/  But  to  return  to  Kit  Carson,  The  first  traps  were  set  on 
the  North  Platte  River,  probably  in  what  is  today  North 
Park,  of  Colorado;  for  through  Middle  Park  from  South 
Park  trended  the  trappers'  trail  from  Taos  by  way  of  the 
mountain  route.  Trapping  down  the  Platte,  and  across  the 
Wyoming  line« — while  the  river  ran  now  pebbly,  now 
smooth,  with  wide  curves  washing  sage  flats  and  high 
brushy  hills  —  the  fur  hunters  arrived  at  the  Sweetwater, 
flowing  into  the  Platte  from  the  west.  Up  this  Sweet- 
water the  Taos  squad  turned,  facing  west  for  the  snowy 
ranges  and  the  country  that  bided  beyond. 

Pleasantly  falls  upon  the  ear  the  word  "  Sweetwater " 
—  word  which  meant  so  much  to  those  thirsty  emigrants 
who  along  this  Indian  and  trapper  bridle  path,  ascending 
the  rapid  stream,  found  a  way  open  to  the  Salt  Lake, 
Oregon,  and  California.  For  the  Sweetwater  formed  a 
most  important  link  in  the  trans-continental  route  of  old; 
at  its  source  was  South  Pass,  over  which  might  pour  down, 
buoyed  by  the  vain  trust  that  at  last  they  were  "  across  the 
Rockies,"  colonist,  Mormon,  and  gold  seeker.  It  was  Ore- 
gon Trail,  Mormon  Trail,  and  Trail  of  the  Forty-niner. 

What  white  man  first  ventured  over  the  original  Indian 
track  made  by  Crow,  Blackfeet,  Snake,  and  marauding 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  75 

Sioux  from  the  Black  Hills  eastward,  we  may  not  know. 
But  it  is  safe  to  say  that;  the  indefatigable  General  Ashley 
was  dose  upon  his  heels.  The  French  negro,  Creole  Jim 
Beckwourth,  Crow  chief  (in  time),  intimates  that  in  1823 
he  and  an  Ashley  party  passed  this  way.  In  the  fall  of 
1825  another  Ashley  company  adopted  the  route,  and  the 
next  spring  the  doughty  general  himself,  lured  from  his 
bride  of  six  months,  traveled  through  by  the  same  course, 
trundling  overland  to  the  rendezvous  at  Salt  Lake  a  six- 
pounder  cannon  —  herald,  it,  of  those  countless  creaking, 
white-topped  vehicles  preparing. 

In  1827  up  the  Platte  and  the  Sweetwater  trail,  from 
Council  Bluffs  for  the  Salt  Lake  Valley  had  marched 
Joshua  Pilcher,  of  the  declining  Missouri  Fur  Company, 
with  forty-five  men  and  more  than  one  himdred  horses,  to 
emulate  the  celebrated  Ashley's  successes.  And  in  the 
spring  of  1830  had  passed  up  also  William  Sublette,  of 
Smith,  Jackson  &  Co.,  with  eighty-one  men  upon  mules, 
ten  wagons  of  merchandise,  two  Dearborn  carriages,  some 
cattle,  and  a  milch  cow,  bound  for  the  last  rendezvous  of  this 
company,  in  the  Wind  River  Valley. 

Many  smaller  parties,  recorded  and  tmrecorded,  had  been 
coming  and  going,  through  the  dozen  years,  so  that  the 
Sweetwater  trail  was  well  defined. 

"L'  Eau  Sucree"  the  stream  is  called  in  early  records 
—  the  language  another  tribute  to  the  French  Canadian  ^ 
who  through  the  West  as  through  the  North  blazed  a  way 
for  the  Anglo-Saxon  to  follow  —  "L'  Eau  Sucree,"  or 
Sweetened  Water,  a  pack  mule  laden  with  sugar  having, 
one  time,  been  capsized  in  the  current;  or,  according  to 
Missionary  White,  "a  company  were  once  passing  the 
stream,  and  during  a  drunken  carousal,  emptied  into  it 
a  large  bag  of  sugar,  thereby,  as  they  said,  christening  it, 
and  declaring  it  should  hereafter  be  called  Sweetwater  Val- 
ley, as  long  as  water  ran."  ** 


76  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Of  the  two  explanations  the  former  is  the  more  credible ; 
for  sugar  in  the  mountains  was  too  valuable  a  commodity 
to  be  thrown  away  by  the  bag.  However,  neither  need  be 
accepted;  the  title  in  English  may  stand  of  itself,  fully 
merited  by  this  invigorating,  life-saving  creek  flowing  so 
bravely  amidst  potash,  and  salt,  alkali,  and  other  bitterness. 

Above  the  mouth  of  the  Sweetwater  would  be  encoun- 
tered Independence  Rock,  an  isolated,  sudden  outcrop  into 
the  sagy,  desolate  plain.  Like  to  Pawnee  Rock  of  the 
Santa  Fe  Trail,  and  to  El  Moro,  or  Inscription  Rock  of  the 
Conquistador's  trail  through  Zuni  of  Arizona,  was  this  land- 
mark, famed  to  the  Indians,  the  trappers,  and  the  Oregon 
Trail ;  a  signboard  or  bulletin  board,  so  to  speak,  for  all 
who  passed.  But  the  names  scratched  and  painted  upon  it 
were  as  yet  comparatively  few. 

It  is  the  first  appearance  of  a  strange  ridge  of  granite  masses, 
near  a  hundred  miles  long,  which  stand  in  the  midst  of  a  great 
plain,  in  a  direction  perpendicular  to  that  of  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tains. The  Sweet  Water  for  nearly  half  its  course,  from  the 
South  Pass  to  the  Platte,  runs  near  its  southern  base.  Some  of 
the  dome-like  elevations  are  about  1,500  feet  high;  apparently 
no  tree  or  shrub  —  no  beast  or  bird  relieves  its  stem  and  life- 
less gray;  its  monumental  solemnity.  For  how  many  ages, 
since  its  upheaval  by  the  primitive  fires,  has  it  stood  —  change- 
less in  summer  heats  and  wintry  storms  —  in  untrodden  soli- 
tude; in  awful  silence.^*^ 

It  is  about  five  miles  up  stream  from  Independence  Rock 
that  the  ridge  actually  begins;  and  through  a  fissure  in 
its  lower  extremity  issues  the  Sweetwater,  boiling  out  from 
the  hill  country.  This  fissure  is  Devil's  Gate  —  a  spec- 
tacular gorge  which  excited  the  wonder  of  the  early  trav- 
elers. And  I  am  dwelling  upon  these  features  of  the  Sweet- 
water trail,  for  we  must  bear  in  mind  that  this  was  Kit 
Carson's  first  trip  as  a  trapper  into  the  genuine  Rockies. 
The  Sweetwater  was  an  Ashley  trail,  opened  by  the  men 


INDEPENDENCE  ROCK 
(From  Report  of  the  March  of  the  RiHe  Kegiineiil  to  Oregon.  iS^g) 


DEVIL'S  GATE 
(From  Report  of  the   March  nf  the  Rifle  Kegimcnt   to   Oregon,  1849) 


M !  n!H 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  77 

whom  Kit  was  at  last  meeting,  and  was  destined  to  be  the 
Oregon  Trail,  peopling  with  Americans  the  British  North- 
west 

The  Sweetwater  trail  of  the  trappers  and  those  who  fol- 
lowed led  around  the  gorge  of  the  Devil's  Gate,  and  over 
fhe  ridge.  But  the  custom  was  to  ride  aside,  to  the  brink 
of  the  gorge,  and  look  down  in.  The  depth  is  some  four 
hundred  feet;  the  width  at  the  bottom  estimated  as  about 
one  hundred ;  the  length,  one  thousand ;  and  the  "  deep- 
toned  roar,"  the  "  dizzy  awe  of  the  downward  view,"  the 
walls  "  frowning  gloomily  above  the  abyss  which  had  sun- 
dered them  forever,"  seem  to  have  impressed  all  beholders. 

Above  Devil's  Gate  extends  westward  for  eighty  miles 
the  Valley  of  the  Sweetwater  —  barren  slopes  and  potash 
flats  on  either  hand,  with  the  river's  course,  interrupted  fre- 
quently by  the  gfranite  ridge  which  has  been  erupted  in  the 
middle,  wandering  between  them.  The  result  is  a  succes- 
sion of  charming  verdurous  pockets,  where  in  Kit  Carson's 
day  were  found  buffalo,  mountain  sheep,  antelope,  deer, 
grizzly  bear,  and  sage  chickens.  Short  defiles,  like  minia- 
tiu-e  Devil's  Gates,  exist;  one  gained  the  name  Hell  Gate, 
"so  called  for  being  the  place  where  eleven  whites  were 
once  cut  off  by  the  Indians."  ^^ 

Beyond  this  gap,  twenty-five  miles  above  Devil's  Gate, 
is  first  disclosed,  as  a  rule,  the  hoary,  wild  Wind  River  range 
far  in  the  northwest,  at  whose  southern  base  was  held  the 
rendezvous  of  1830,  when  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Com- 
pany received  new  foster  parents  and  new  christening. 
Well  might  young  Kit  Carson,  with  this  trapper  band  now 
ascending  the  Sweetwater,  gaze,  mysteriously  moved,  at  the 
silently  waiting  frontage  of  the  grandest  realm  ever  ruled 
by  trappers. 

The  Kit  Carson  party  continued  on,  up  the  length  of  the 
Sweetwater  and  over  the  great  divide  by  the  already  famed 
Southern   Pass  —  the   South   Pass   of  the   modem  map. 


78  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

discovered  in  the  fall  of  1822,  by  Etienne  Prevost.  Bleak, 
wide,  and  open  is  this  South  Pass,  and  of  rise  so  gradual 

that  but  for  our  geographical  knowledge,  and  the  imposing 
landmarks  on  our  right  (the  snow-capped  peaks  of  the  Wind 
River  Mountains  raising  their  cold,  spiral,  and  barren  sum- 
mits to  a  great  elevation),  we  should  not  have  been  conscious 
that  we  had  ascended  to,  and  were  standing  upon  the  summit 
of  the  Rocky  Mountains  —  the  backbone,  to  use  a  forcible 
figure,  of  the  North  American  Continent.*^ 

However,  it  required  no  guideboards  to  prove  that  it  was 
the  Continental  Divide.  The  Sweetwater,  in  dwindling 
volume,  had  been  hastening  eastward;  but  from  Pacific 
Spring  the  waters  went  trickling  westward.  Furthermore, 
every  trapper  knew  that  when  speckled  trout  were  found 
in  the  streams,  then  the  Pacific  side  of  the  continent  had 
been  reached. 

So  this  was  Oregon  —  this  farther  slope  of  the  smooth 
swell.  Traveling  on,  the  party  struck  the  headwaters  of 
the  Green  River,  in  western  Wycnning,  trapped  these  to  the 
beginnings,  crossed  westward  into  David  E.  Jackson's 
favorite  quarters  of  Jackson  Hole,  continued  on  into  Idaho, 
clear  to  the  Salmon  River,  and  meeting  here  other  trap- 
pers, "  a  band  of  their  own  party,  who  had  left  Taos  some 
days  in  advance  of  the  main  body,  and  for  whom  they  were 
then  hunting,"  went  into  winter  camp  with  them  upon  the 
Salmon  River,  among  the  friendly  Nez  Perce  Indians. 

A  survey  of  the  map  will  indicate  the  distance  covered 
by  this  one  outward  trip  of  the  fall  of  1830;  but  it  will 
scarcely  indicate  the  tremendous  energy  and  toil  involved. 
Yet  this  whole  journey,  from  Taos  of  New  Mexico  to  the 
Salmon  River  of  northern  Idaho,  in  the  life  of  Carson  pre- 
sumed to  have  been  dictated  by  himself,  occupies  only  eleven 
lines ;  of  such  little  moment  was  it  considered. 

Now  about  to  ''winter  in,"  Kit  Carson  had  seen  the 


THE  HEART  OF  THE  ROCKIES  79 

nature  of  this  much-reputed  beaver  country  of  the  North- 
west; snow-crowned  mountain  ranges,  crystal,  rushing 
streams,  green  valle3rs  flanked  by  dense  pines  and  firs  and 
spruces,  tremendous  canons  of  red  rock  and  gray  rock, 
chasm  and  crest  alike  impassable,  patches  of  "  bad  lands," 
wilderness  of  park  and  peak,  alive  with  game  and  threaded 
by  the  Indian  and  the  pelt  hunter.^^ 


CHAPTER  X 

ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  — 1831-1832 

f  T  IS  the  way  of  the  West  to  receive  the  newcomer  with 
*  a  certain  proper  reservation,  and  to  take  little  on  hear- 
say. When  Kit  Carson  entered  the  mountains  he  found 
there  men  who  had  been  in  service  longer  than  himself, 
and  who  had  already  shown  the  stuff  that  was  in  them. 
Jim  Bridger,  the  Sublettes,  Fitzpatrick,  old  Hugh  Glass, 
Black  Harris,  and  a  score  and  more  of  others  educated 
in  the  Missouri  Fur  Company,  the  Ashley,  the  Smith,  and 
even  the  Astoria  school,  were  ahead  of  him,  comprising  a 
company  of  the  Old  Guard.  Not  until  the  spring  of  1833 
do  we  find  even  a  mention  of  Carson ;  but  then,  as  "  among 
the  gamest  of  the  trappers,"  at  last  he  is  credited  to  the 
ranks  of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company.  It  must 
be  remembered  that  in  1830  he  was  yet  only  a  youth. 

Now  to  guarantee  a  chronological  account  of  Carson's 
career  for  the  succeeding  dozen  years,  until  in  1842  he  joins 
with  Fremont,  involves  the  ambitious  biographer  in  a  maze 
worse  than  the  cafioned  labyrinths  of  the  Snake  itself.  The 
times  were  distinguished  by  deeds,  not  days ;  and  the  move- 
ment of  events  was  so  rapid,  so  reiterative,  that  year 
blended  with  year  in  a  vaguely  defined  procession.  The 
beaver  hunter  thought  more  in  the  present  and  the  future 
than  upon  the  past;  and  yesterday  was  always  dead  and 
cast  aside. 

So  in  reading  the  narrative  of  W.  A.  Ferris,  of  Zenas 
Leonard,  of  Jim  Beckwourth,  of  Captain  James  Hobbs, 
the  historian  with  dates  at  his  command  is  hopelessly 
bewildered. 

80 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CJRSON  81 

The  adventures  of  Kit  Carson,  while  probably  not  more 
varied  nor  more  perilous  than  those  of  other  mountain 
men  such  as  Jim  Bridger,  Joe  Meek  and  their  companions, 
are  fully  indicative  of  the  life  upon  the  beaver  trail,  and 
well  bear  out  the  assertion  that  **  wherever  railroads  now 
run,  and  trails  are  followed,  Kit  Carson  led  the  way;  and 
his  footprints  are  all  along  the  route." 

From  the  commencement  of  his  moimtain  career  he  was 
a  wandering  trapper,  always  with  a  tendency  to  hunt  for 
himself  —  a  tendency  which  his  marked  ability  in  the  most 
trying  situations  made  most  practicable.  He  must  speedily 
have  became  a  welcome  addition  to  any  squad,  as  well  as 
a  personage  amply  sufficient  to  himself,  did  he  choose  to 
hunt  upon  his  own  account. 

In  their  winter  quarters  (i 830-1 831)  upon  the  Salmon, 
the  men  repaired  their  outfits,  killed  game  for  food,  and 
loafed.  But  they  were  not  safe  from  the  dreaded  Black- 
feet  ;  four  of  their  number,  while  hunting  buffalo,  were  sur- 
rounded and  slain.  Barring  this  bad  luck,  in  the  spring  the 
party  emerged  in  good  condition.  Young  Kit  Carson  was 
a  hivernan  or  winterer;  and  he  had  celebrated  his  twenty- 
first  birthday.^® 

In  April  the  spring  trapping  was  begun.  A  course  was 
laid  across  country  to  reach  the  Snake  River,  southward. 
This  took  the  party  through  a  grim,  jagged  coimtry,  dark 
and  forbidding;  and  when  the  Snake  was  attained  it  must 
have  proved,  after  all,  poor  trapping  ground.  A  fierce, 
hostile  river  is  the  great  Snake.  It  rushes,  along  its  upper 
course,  through  stretches  of  gloomy  lava,  the  outpouring 
of  ancient  volcanic  action.  In  places  its  bed  is  a  thousand 
and  more  feet  down,  its  water  inaccessible.  Three  massy 
falls  are  to  be  found,  between  the  Henry  Fork  at  the 
Snake's  sources  and  the  mouth  of  the  Salmon,  whereon  Kit 
Carson  spent  his  winter;  they  rival  Niagara,  and  rapids 
are  many. 


82  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

However,  occasionally  the  Snake  pours  out  of  its  gorges 
into  meadow  lands,  and  coming  with  much  labor  to  such 
spots,  the  trappers  found  beaver. 

From  the  upper  Snake  the  party  crossed  over,  southward 
a  few  miles,  to  the  Bear,  which  flows  south  into  the  Great 
Salt  Lake.  From  the  Bear  they  turned  north,  to  the  Green 
River,  and  reached  the  place  of  summer  rendezvous;  the 
lovely  Green  River  Valley. 

Here  they  found,  under  William  Sinclair  of  Arkansas, 
fifteen  men  of  a  company  which  had  left  New  Mexico,  via 
Taos,  that  spring  of  1831.  Some  of  these  men  were 
destined  to  travel  on  even  to  California,  and  there  to  be 
prominent  settlers;  but  for  Sinclair  this  was  the  last  ren- 
dezvous save  one.  At  the  close  of  the  next  summer's  gath- 
ering, in  Pierre's  Hole,  of  northeastern  Idaho,  he  was 
killed  during  a  great  battle  between  the  assembled  trappers 
and  some  Blackfeet. 

This  annual  market,  or  rendezvous,  of  1831  did  not 
prove  very  successful,  for  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  who  in  the 
spring  had  left  for  St.  Louis  to  bring  back  trading  supplies 
and  other  necessary  goods,  did  not  appear.  Either  Kit 
Carson  was  dissatisfied,  or  the  wandering  spirit  that  marks 
his  trapper  years  was  manifesting  itself,  for  learning  from 
the  Sinclair  party  that  a  Captain  Gant  was  trapping  east 
of  the  mountains,  and  his  engagement  with  the  Rocky 
Mountain  Company  evidently  having  expired,  he  and  four 
associates  proceeded  to  seek  the  banner  of  the  captain. 
Possibly,  also,  Taos  was  in  their  minds,  and  they  coimted 
upon  trapping  their  way  back  to  the  New  Mexico  provinces. 

They  worked  under  Captain  Gant  that  fall,  trapping  the 
Laramie  Plains;  thence  southward  across  many  a  ridge, 
to  search  other  streams.  Through  wild  scenes  of  snow 
peaks,  dense  timber,  foaming  torrents,  sheer  canons,  flowery 
meadows,  and  aspen  dales  they  traveled  ever  down  the 
middle  of  Colorado,  and  came  out  into  Colorado's  South 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  83 

Park,  the  headwaters  of  the  South  Platte  River.  Being 
heavily  laden  with  their  fur,  they  struck  east  for  the  plains, 
and,  emerging  upon  the  Arkansas  River  near  the  foothills, 
they  halted  and  established  camp. 

Captain  Gant  and  a  companion  or  two  proceeded  south- 
eastward to  Taos,  to  deposit  the  furs  and  to  get  supplies. 
When  they  returned  winter  was  setting  in.  So  upon  the 
Arkansas  was  located  the  winter  camp.  And  a  hard 
winter  it  was,  with  the  usual  forage  deeply  covered  by 
snow.  Had  the  party  not  been  enabled  to  cull  cottonwood 
bark  and  willow  bark  and  branches,  the  horses  and  the 
mules  would  surely  have  perished.  For  the  men  themselves 
there  were  plenty  of  buffaloes,  collected  in  the  bottoms  and  in 
the  gulches. 

In  January  a  party  of  fifty  Crows,  who  had  wandered  this 
far  upon  a  midwinter  excursion  from  their  village  on  the 
Big  Horn  in  Wyoming,  stole  upon  the  trappers'  camp  by 
night  and  drove  off  nine  horses.  In  the  morning  the  theft 
was  discovered.  Kit  Carson,  naturally  a  leader  here  as  he 
had  been  when  with  Ewing  Young  in  California,  imme- 
diately headed  twelve  men  and  followed  hard  upon  the 
Indians'  trail.  This  trended  north,  for  the  coimtry  of 
the  Crows. 

It  was  a  difficult  task,  for  during  the  night  buffaloes  had 
moved  hither  and  thither,  treading  upon  the  tracks.  The 
horses  that  the  pursuers  were  riding  were  in  poor  condi- 
tion because  of  the  strenuous  winter ;  and  after  forty  miles 
had  been  put  behind  it  was  thought  best  to  camp  and  rest 
in  a  patch  of  trees  descried  just  before.  But  smoke  was 
curling  out  from  the  timber;  the  Crows  themselves  were 
there. 

The  trappers  halted  quickly,  and  concealing  themselves 
and  their  mounts  cautiously  reconnoitered.  The  Crows  had 
established  a  permanent  camp  in  two  divisions,  protected 
by  brush  and  logs  against  the  weather  and  against  attack. 


84  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

They  were  dancing  the  theft  of  the  nine  horses,  picketed  just 
outside  one  of  the  breastworks. 

The  trappers  watched  and  waited  for  darkness  to  come. 
A  cold  job  was  this,  for  they  could  not  make  a  fire,  and 
they  were  traveling  light.  But  when  finally  the  Indians 
had  danced  enough  and  eaten  enough,  and  had  lain  down 
to  sleep.  Kit  Carson  and  five  comrades,  crawling  nearer 
through  the  snow,  cut,  with  fingers  numbed,  the  nine  horses' 
picket  ropes.  Then  they  threw  pieces  of  snow  at  the  horses 
to  drive  them  off  toward  the  other  trappers.  This  was 
accomplished  so  deftly  that  even  the  Indians'  dogs  had  not 
been  disturbed. 

The  majority  of  the  trappers  then  declared  in  favpr  of 
retiring,  with  the  re-captured  stock,  to  the  camp  upon  the 
Arkansas;  for  the  weather  was  bitter  and  supplies  were 
meager.  But  the  impetuous  young  Carson  and  two  or 
three  others  said  that  the  Indians  should  be  punished ;  the 
forty-mile  pursuit  and  the  cold  wait  should  exact  a  penalty. 
This  opinion  carried;  and  leaving  three  men  to  care  for 
the  horses,  the  remaining  trappers  walked  boldly  upon  the 
camp  of  the  Crows. 

Their  rapid  approach  over  the  creaking  snow  was  heard. 
A  dog  barked.  The  Indians  in  one  of  the  little  fortifica- 
tions sprang  to  their  feet.  At  the  cracks  of  the  trappers' 
rifles  some  of  them  fell ;  the  others  ran  for  the  breastworks 
of  the  second  division,  to  unite  with  their  fellows. 

And  now,  in  the  winter  half-light,  just  before  dawn, 
amidst  this  snow-bound  wilderness,  back  and  forth  spat 
the  rifles  —  the  ten  trappers  behind  trees,  the  two  score 
Indians  behind  their  breastworks. 

At  break  of  day  the  savages  charged.  They  were  driven 
back.  Soon,  knowing  how  few  the  trappers  were,  they  des- 
perately charged  again  — so  desperately  that  the  trappers 
in  turn  were  forced  to  retreat.  Frc«n  tree  to  tree  they 
fought;  the  three  men  left  to  guard  the  horses  came  up 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  85 

on  the  run,  as  reinforcement.  At  last,  by  withdrawing,  each 
side  signified  that  it  had  had  enough ;  the  Crows  retired  into 
their  camp,  the  trappers  with  their  horses  along  the  back 
trail  to  the  camp  upon  the  Arkansas. 

The  Indians  had  lost  a  number  of  men;  the  trappers, 
according  to  their  report  as  it  comes  to  us  today,  suffered 
but  a  few  wounds. 

Kit  Carson  and  the  whole  party  might  well  consider  that 
they  had  come  off  fortunately  in  this  little  set-to.  They  had 
regained  their  horses  and  had  punished  the  thieves.  How- 
ever, Indian  troubles  were  thickening  around  them  and 
even  their  own  men  were  soon  to  play  them  a  scurvy  trick. 

When  spring  came  it  was  decided  by  Captain  Gant  to 
return  to  the  old  beaver  ground  of  the  North  Platte  and 
the  Laramie  rivers,  in  New  Park  and  southern  Wyoming 
adjacent  So  the  fur  accumulated  since  the  captain's  trip 
to  Taos  was  "  cached  '*  and  the  start  northward  was  begun. 
But  they  had  scarcely  reached  the  South  Park  when  one 
evening  two  men  were  missing. 

Supposing  that  they  might  have  straggled,  the  party  waited 
twenty-four  hours;  and  then  Carson  and  a  companion 
were  dispatched  hack,  by  Captain  Gant,  to  the  Arkansas. 
They  were  sent,  because  now  the  suspicion  had  arisen  that 
those  "stragglers"  had  deserted,  and  were  hurrying  to 
rob  the  cache  of  fur.  When  the  two  riders  arrived,  the 
cache  had  been  torn  open,  and  the  300  pounds  of  fur,  beaver 
and  otter  chiefly,  were  gone.  Neither  the  two  missing  men 
nor  the  furs  bearing  the  Gant  &  Blackwell  private  mark 
ever  were  heard  of  again. 

Why  Carson  and  his  partner  remained  here  instead  of 
returning  to  Gant  in  the  Bayou  Salade  we  may  not  under- 
stand. To  be  sure,  the  aspens  and  the  cottonwoods  were 
unfolding  their  leaves,  as  signal  for  the  Indians  to  mount 
their  ponies  and  ride  upon  their  annual  spring  forays ;  but 
the  trail  between  the  winter  camp  and  the  Bayou  Salade 


86  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

had  been  traversed  twice,  and  two  skilled  mountain  men 
would  not  have  been  deterred  from  attempting  it  a  third 
time.  However,  there  may  have  been  signs  that  hostiles  — 
the  Crows,  the  Sioux,  the  Blackfeet,  even  the  Arapahos 
—  were  hovering  about;  for  in  the  Indian  country  the 
spring  is  the  most  dangerous  season.  Therefore  perhaps 
it  was  by  discretion,  or  perhaps  by  orders  to  await  Captain 
Blackwell,  that  Carson  and  partner  now  remained  in  the 
old  winter  camp  on  the  upper  Arkansas. 

This  they  strengthened.  It  is  likely  that  the  Indian 
signs  were  portentous,  for  we  read  that  the  two  himted 
only  in  company,  and  maintained  a  constant  guard.  In 
about  a  month  Captain  Blackwell,  Gant's  associate  in  busi- 
ness, with  supplies  and  fifteen  new  trappers,  from  St.  Louis, 
appeared,  having  come  out  by  the  Bent's  Fort  branch  of 
the  Santa  Fe  Trail. 

About  at  the  same  time  there  entered  four  men  from 
the  Gant  camp,  who  had  back-tracked  to  meet  Captain 
Blackwell  and  incidentally  to  find  what  had  happened  to 
Carson  and  his  partner.  The  Indians  certainly  must  have 
been  on  bad  behavior,  and  the  trails  must  have  been  encom- 
passed closely  by  eager  savages  of  many  tribes,  for  as  the 
report  goes  the  Gant  camp  had  given  Carson  and  partner 
up  for  lost  But  now  all  rode  northward  for  the  Bayou 
Salade,  two  hundred  miles. 

This  Bayou  Salade,  or  Salt  Marsh,  forms  the  source -of 
the  South  Fork  of  the  South  Platte  River,  in  Colorado's 
South  Park.  A  famous  place  it  was,  in  trapper  days.  The 
salty  waters  oozing  amidst  the  bottoms  attracted  vast  quan- 
tities of  buffalo  and  other  animals;  the  winters  were  con- 
sidered mild ;  and  both  the  Utes  of  the  moimtains,  and  the 
Arapahos  of  the  plains  claimed  it  as  a  special  hunting 
ground.  Many  battles  for  it  occurred.  Everybody,  trap- 
pers and  savages,  knew  of  the  Bayou  Salade,  and  all  trails 
converged  there. 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  87 

From  the  Arkansas  a  trail  led  north  past  the  foothills, 
up  the  Fountain  Creek,  and  westward,  to  the  Fontaine 
Qui  Bouille  or  celebrated  Boiling  Spring.  This  was  the 
Manitou  of  the  Indians  —  a  sacred  spring  where  members 
of  all  tribes  pilgrimaged  to  "  make  medicine  "  to  the  great 
Manitou,  or  God,  and  to  deposit  offerings.  The  bottom  of 
the  spring  was  covered  with  beads  and  amulets.  Today  this 
spot  still  is  Manitou,  and,  thus  known,  is  a  resort  annually 
visited  by  thousands  of  sight-seers,  who  drink  the  waters, 
climb  Pike's  Peak,  and  explore  the  Garden  of  the  Gods. 

Skirting  this  fantastic  red  Garden  of  the  Gods,  the  trail 
led  from  the  Boiling  Spring,  and  climbing  the  mountain 
divide  behind,  wound  on  for  the  Bayou  Salade. 

Over  such  a  trail,  worn  smooth  through  the  centuries 
by  countless  Indian  moccasins,  proceeded  the  Blackwell 
party.  On  the  fourth  day,  while  the  camp  was  at  its  early 
breakfast  in  the  cool  grayness  among  the  fragrant  sage 
and  pines,  the  crack  of  the  sentry's  rifle  and  a  loud  whoop 
from  him  spread  sudden  alarm.  As  the  men  sprang  to 
their  guns,  down  charged  a  band  of  Indians  for  the  horses. 
But  these  fortunately  had  been  hobbled,  as  well  as  picketed. 
So  that  at  the  volley  the  Indians  swerved,  and  fled,  leaving 
a  dead  warrior  and  taking  only  one  animal. 

The  camp  hastily  packed,  and  made  a  forced  march  of 
fifty  miles.  The  Indian  signs  ceased;  it  was  hoped  that 
there  would  be  no  more  trouble,  and  accordingly  the  tired 
trappers  went  into  camp  upon  the  bank  of  a  little  stream, 
tributary  to  the  Arkansas. 

The  barking  of  one  of  their  faithful  mongrel  dogs 
aroused  them.  They,  could  find  no  reason  for  his  barking ; 
but  to  be  safer  they  brought  their  horses  in  closer,  and 
posted  an  extra  guard.  After  that  nothing  especial  hap- 
pened, and  morning  broke  with  the  camp  and  its  horses 
unmolested.  It  was  decided  that  the  dog  must  have  barked 
at  a  coyote. 


88  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Kit  Carson  and  three  others  rode  to  exjrfore  for  beaver. 
Returning,  trotting  along  and  chatting  carelessly,  as  they 
rounded  a  curve  in  their  trail  they  abruptly  met  almost  face 
to  face  four  Indians,  armed  and  painted  and  mounted  for 
war.  The  trappers  hesitated  not  an  instant.  They  charged 
at  a  gallop;  and  pursuing  the  Indians  closely  they  found 
themselves  decoyed  into  the  midst  of  sixty  more  reds,  the 
main  war  party. 

Now  is  demonstrated  how  instantaneously  and  for  the 
best,  like  the  mind  of  wild  animal  or  domestic  cat,  the  mind 
of  the  mountain  man  could  act.  Without  slackening  pace 
or  firing  a  shot  the  party  continued  headlong  on,  received 
at  twenty  paces  a  volley  of  bullet  and  arrow,  and  still  reply- 
ing not  but  reserving  the  menace  of  their  loaded  guns,  burst 
the  half  circle  and  actually  escaped. 

The  astonished  Indians  did  not  pursue  —  which  was 
just  as  well  for  the  trappers,  since  two  of  them  had  been 
severely  wounded.  However,  as  to  trappers'  eyes  it  was  now 
evident  that  the  savages  were  upon  the  warpath  and  lately 
had  been  in  an  affray,  the  four  whites  rode  hard  and  with 
no  little  anxiety  for  the  camp.  They  found  it  intact,  but 
with  another  man  wounded  in  an  onslaught  by  this  very 
band.  An  attempt  had  been  made  upon  the  camp  horses; 
the  loose  stock  had  been  run  off,  and  four  of  the  whites, 
pursuing,  had  regained  it  only  after  an  exchange  of  shots, 
during  which  an  Indian  was  killed  and  a  trapper  wounded. 
Naturally  this  had  not  sweetened  the  temper  of  the  reds, 
and  Kit  Carson  and  three  companions  spoke  truly  when 
they  claimed  that  "  they  had  retained  their  scalps  by  a  very 
narrow  shave." 

With  one  of  the  wounded  men  borne  in  a  rude  litter,  the 
Blackwell  party  resumed  its  march  for  the  Gant  camp  in  the 
Bayou  Salade. 

Captain  Gant  seems  to  have  been  one  of  those  whom 
Fortune  does  not  meet  halfway.     It  was  he  who  com- 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  89 

manded  the  party  of  seventy  men,  out  of  St.  Louis  in  the 
spring  of  1 83 1  (a  year  back),  with  whom  served  that 
Zenas  Leonard  whose  narrative  of  mountain  life  has  been 
previously  referred  to.  In  the  summer  of  1831,  having 
reached  the  mountain  beaver  country  at  the  Laramie  Plains, 
the  party  divided  into  three  detachments,  and  were  never 
reunited.  Mr.  Blackwell  returned  with  Fitzpatrick,  who 
passed,  to  St.  Louis  for  supplies  for  next  year.  Captain  Gant 
disappears  from  knowledge,  but  he  evidently  makes  his  hunt 
southward,  and  Carson  is  of  his  company  in  1831-32.  As  is 
seen,  Mr.  Blackwell  comes  out  on  time,  with  supplies. 

Now,  with  the  middle  spring  of  1832  Captain  Gant  and 
Captain  Blackwell  were  in  the  Bayou  Salade,  and  little  had 
been  done  except  to  fight  Indians.  The  agreement  with 
the  two  other  parties  provided  a  meeting  this  spring,  at  the 
mouth  of  the  Laramie.    The  meeting  did  not  occur. 

To  be  sure,  the  course  was  laid  north,  into  Colorado's 
Old  Park,  or  Middle  Park.  But  the  season  was  well  along, 
and  Old  Park  had  been  trapped  ahead  of  them.  The  out- 
look grew  less  and  less  encouraging,  and  the  men  grew 
disheartened.  In  the  dissolution  which  resulted  (and  which 
caused  the  firm  of  Gant  and  Blackwell  to  be  reported 
through  the  mountains  as  insolvent),  Carson  and  two  com- 
rades diverged  for  an  expedition  upon  their  own  account. 
They  wisely  plunged  into  the  timber  regions ;  and  while  the 
Indians  were  hunting  buffalo  on  the  plains  and  in  the  parks, 
they  trapped  unmolested. 

Captain  Gant,  discouraged  as  a  trapper,  returned  to  the 
Arkansas  and  entered  into  trading  relations  with  the 
Arapahos.    Of  Captain  Blackwell  we  do  not  hear  again. 

On  the  more  sequestered  streams  of  central  and  western 
Colorado  Carson  and  his  companions  finished  out  the  trap- 
ping season  successfully;  and  as  free  trappers,  in  the  sum- 
mer took  their  furs  to  Taos. 

By  so  doing  they  missed  the  rendezvous  of   1832,  in 


90  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Pierre's  Hole,  at  the  close  of  which  occurred  the  day-long 
battle,  famed  through  Irving  and  many  another  chronicler, 
between  four  hundred  and  more  trappers,  Flatheads,  and 
Nez  Perces,  and  fifty  Blackfeet  warriors  entrenched  in  a 
swampy  copse.  William  Sinclair  was  killed,  William  Sub- 
lette was  badly  wounded,  and  the  honors  of  the  fight 
remained  with  the  Blackfeet,  who  silently  escaped  by  night 
At  this  rendezvous  appeared,  for  a  baptism  of  fire, 
Nathaniel  J.  Wyeth,  the  Cambridge  youth,  who  had  been 
convoyed  with  the  remnants  of  his  Boston  company  by  the 
supply  train  of  William  Sublette,  thus  far  upon  his  road 
that  he  might  embark  in  "some  business  enterprise,"  its 
nature  yet  undecided,  on  the  Columbia.  Wyeth  at  once 
showed  his  spirit,  and  having  placed  his  greenhorns  behind 
their  packs,  himself  led  to  the  attack  a  squad  of  trappers 
and  friendlies.  And  here  likewise  were  initiated  into  ren- 
dezvous ways  Zenas  Leonard  and  some  of  his  fellows, 
refugees  from  the  disorganized  command  of  Gant  and 
Blackwell.  Other  notables  present  were  Robert  Campbell, 
William  Sublette's  friend  and  partner;  two  grandsons  of 
Daniel  Boone,  Jim  Bridger,  Andrew  Drips,  Vanderburgh 
(soon  to  die),  Fitzpatrick' — the  last  named  just  emerged 
from  a  terrific  hide-and-seek  game  with  the  Blackfeet,  his 
form  emaciated  and  his  hair  grayed  thereby  so  as  to  make 
him  almost  unrecognizable  —  all  men  whom  we  shall  itieet 
later  in  these  pages. 


CHAPTER  XI 
THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR 

WHEN  with  the  spring  of  1832  young  Kit  Carson  and 
his  two  comrades  departed  from  the  sinking  Gant 
and  Blackwell  ship  to  make  their  vo)rage  independently, 
with  Taos  as  their  home  port,  the  fur  business  of  the 
motmtains  was  at  the  flood. 

As  has  been  said,  the  coimtry  of  the  far  West  was  becom- 
ing a  land  cris-crossed  by  the  moccasined  foot  of  the  Amer- 
ican trapper,  and  in  the  past  decade  the  restless  beaver 
hunter  from  the  States  had  penetrated  virtually  through- 
out the  Northwest  and  Southwest,  between  Missouri  and 
the  coast.  The  salient  features  were  accurately  mapped 
by  the  trapper  in  trapper  mind  —  a  mind  tenacious,  like 
that  of  Jim  Bridger,  who,  in  later  days,  with  a  piece  of 
charcoal  could  sketch  oflfhand  a  range,  its  passes  and  val- 
leys, upon  a  piece  of  upturned  buffalo  hide. 

It  still  was  a  land  of  romance.  Even  to  the  practical 
moimtain  men  it  held  many  an  ultima  Thule,  strangely 
peopled  like  the  shores  of  mythology.  For  among  the 
trappers  were  Gullivers,  Hakluyts,  Marco  Polos,  Munchau- 
sens.  An  island  in  the  Salt  Lake  was  for  some  years  yet 
to  be  invested  by  a  race  of  giants,  whose  enormous  cut 
timbers  from  time  to  time  washed  ashore.  In  the  depths 
of  the  desert  of  the  Colorado  and  of  the  Great  Basin  dwelt 
other  giants  armed  with  clubs.  There  were  canoned  cities, 
pent  from  the  world,  wherein  lived  as  of  yore  descendants 
of  the  Montezuma,  fugitives  from  the  rout  by  Cortez. 
And  there  were  those  bubbling  springs,  geysers,  and  oddly 
tinted  or  ashy  tracts,  real  but  made  unreal  by  imaginary 

01 


92  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

m 

attributes,  to  which  the  trapper,  like  the  Indian,  threw  a  sop 
by  "making  medicine." 

It  still  was  a  land  misimderstood ;  a  land  popularly  pre- 
sumed to  be  forever  condemned,  behind  its  barrier  of  the 
chimeric  "  Great  American  Desert,"  and  of  the  beetling 
ranges  which  seemed  so  snowy  and  austere.  In  the  words 
of  Benton  (1825)  :  "  The  ridge  of  the  Rocky  Mountains 
may  be  named  without  offense  as  presenting  a  convenient, 
natural,  and  everlasting  boundary."  And  the  Robert  Green- 
how  report  upon  Oregon  and  the  Pacific  coast,  seven  years 
later  than  this  year  of  1832,  was  to  declare  that  this  trap- 
pers' battleground  from  the  Rockies  to  the  Blue  Moun- 
tains of  Idaho  was  either  a  barren  waste  or  else  that  the 
climate  was  "  sufficient  to  render  any  attempts  at  cultiva- 
tion entirely  fruitless." 

Hereabout  were  those  favorite  rendezvous  valleys  of 
the  Green,  the  Bear,  and  Pierre's  Hole ;  here  were  the  Grand 
Ronde  and  Horse  Prairie,  Brown's  Hole,  Ogden's  Hole, 
and  Cache  Valley  —  all  well-beloved  of  the  mountain  man 
for  their  shelter  and  their  bounty  in  time  of  need.  Here 
were  the  wonders  of  the  Salt  Lake,  of  the  Bear  Springs, 
of  the  Soda  Springs,  of  waters  hot  and  cold,  of  salt  and 
gypsum  and  potash.  Hereabout  were  the  beautiful  Flat- 
head Lake  and  Pend  d'Oreille  on  the  north,  lovely  Utah 
Lake  on  the  south,  with  many  a  gem  of  lesser  note  in 
between.  Here  flowed  the  varied  current  of  the  Green,  the 
friendly  stream  encountered  at  the  very  foot  of  the  South 
Pass,  imiting  with  the  equally  varied  Grand  to  form  the 
wondrous  Colorado;  here  rushed  the  fierce  Snake,  deeply 
canoned  in  stark  lava  beds,  to  cross  which,  as  said  Jim 
Bridger,  "  a  bird  must  carry  along  its  own  provisions  " ; 
here  rippled  the  Bear;  here,  coming  down  from  the  north 
to  its  union  with  the  Snake,  rolled  to  the  sea  the  mighty 
Columbia;  here  sparkled  the  Henry  Fork,  the  Godin,  the 
Uintah,  and  a  hundred  other  tributaries  to  the  arterial 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  93 

system;  here  were  deer,  elk,  buffalo,  sheep,  speckled  trout, 
the  friendly  Indians.  And  sentinels  facing  west,  looked 
over  all  the  snowy  tips  of  the  Three  Tetons  —  the  trap- 
pers' Pilot  Buttes. 

Hereabout  were  to  appear  the  two  great  highways  branch- 
ing from  the  valley  of  the  Green:  the  highway  north  of 
west,  to  Oregon;  the  highway  south  of  west,  to  Salt  Lake 
and  California.  Thus  already  had  the  fates  spun;  for  in 
1 83 1  almost  simultaneously  had  Hall  Kelly,  the  Boston 
schoolmaster,  incorporated  "The  American  Society  for 
Encouraging  the  Settlement  of  Oregon  Territory,"  and 
changing  from  New  York  to  Ohio  the  Mormon  church  had 
begun  its  series  of  heroic  moves.  And  to  defy  the  diagno- 
sis by  Robert  Greenhow  and  fellow  students,  hereabout 
would  blossom  and  bear  the  utter  desolation  of  the  Salt 
Lake  Valley,  and  every  beaver  stream  would  course  by 
flock  and  herd  and  mine  and  ranch  and  Alladin-summoned 
town. 

Robert  Greenhow,  the  librarian,  in  his  report  to  Congress 
upon  Oregon  declared  —  though  it  was  an  understatement 
—  that  until  1834  there  never,  at  one  time,  were  more  than 
200  Americans  west  of  the  Rockies.  But  crossing  by  the 
South  Pass,  discovered  by  Etienne  Prevost  of  the  Ashley 
company  in  1824,  the  Americans,  few  or  many,  spread  far 
and  wide.  Ashley  had  made  known  the  valleys  of  the 
Green  or  Seeds-skee-dee  (Prairie-hen  River),  and  had 
even  tried  to  descend  its  canons  by  boat  (as  Major  Powell 
did  successfully  almost  half  a  century  later),  and  had  left 
his  name  therein  for  future  explorers  to  read;  he  had 
opened  the  country  of  the  Bear,  north  of  Salt  Lake,  the 
country  of  Utah  Lake  and  Sevier  Lake,  southward.  With 
forty-five  men  and  more  than  one  hundred  horses  Joshua 
Pilcher  had  traversed  from  Council  Bluffs  west  to  the 
Green,  north  to  Flathead  Lake  and  Fort  Colville  in  Wash- 
ington near  the  Canadian  line,  and  then  by  the  Athabaska 


94  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

and  Red  River  of  Canada  back  to  the  Missouri  and  the 
States.  Jedediah  S.  Smith  had  been  as  far  north  as  the 
present  city  of  Spokane;  he  had  carried  beaver  to  the 
British  and  the  Bible  to  the  Flathead,  and  by  his  explora- 
tions of  the  country  of  tlie  Snake  and  the  Columbia,  as 
transmitted  to  the  war  department,  had  supplemented  the 
information  previously  supplied  by  the  routes  of  Lewis  and 
Clark  and  the  Astorians;  he  had  been  as  far  south  as 
San  Diego,  he  had  thrice  crossed  the  Great  Basin,  and  with 
Ewing  Young  had  investigated  California  from  the  south 
to  the  extreme  north.  Colter,  Joe  Meek,  Jim  Bridger,  and 
Robert  Meldrum  had  exploited  the  Yellowstone  Park. 
There  were  three  trails  across  the  desert  of  the  Colorado 
—  by  William  Wolf  skill  in  the  north,  Ewing  Young  in  the 
middle,  and  David  E.  Jackson  in  the  lower  part ;  and  there 
were  the  trails  by  the  Snake  and  the  Columbia. 

Thus  the  routes  to  and  from  the  coast  had  been  opened ; 
within  another  year  the  Joseph  Walker  detachment  of  the 
Captain  Bonneville  expedition  would  open  the  overland  trail 
from  Salt  Lake.  A  trade  in  horses  and  mules  —  a  trade 
legitimate  as  well  as  illegitimate  —  had  begun,  via  Santa 
Fe  and  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  between  the  States  and  Califor- 
nia; Spanish  Trail  broken  by  William  Wolf  skill  was  being 
stirred  by  shuffling  hoofs.  The  Southwest  was  sufficiently 
known;  the  tide  of  humanity  was  surely,  although  still 
in  a  manner  blindly,  setting  into  the  Oregon  then  present 
and  yet  to  be.  The  battle  groimd  of  the  white  race  and  the 
red  was  extending  through  Wyoming,  Colorado,  Utah, 
Idaho,  Montana,  Washington,  Oregon  —  states  yet  in  em- 
bryo, but  only  waiting. 

To  be  sure,  the  topography  of  the  West  was  more  hazy 
than  its  geography.  The  Green  River  —  the  Seedskeedee, 
Buenaventura  or  Spanish  River — confused  with  another 
mythical  Buenaventura,  was  presumed  to  empty  into  the 
Pacific ;  and  the  Great  Salt  Lake  was  assigned  two  outlets 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  95 

cm  the  west,  also  draining  into  the  Pacific  —  a  fallacy  which 
prevailed  for  yet  ten  years.  The  Rocky  Mountains  were 
stated,  by  competent  authority  of  the  day,  to  present  peaks 
of  25,000  feet  elevation.'*^ 

But  although  the  main  exploring  activities  were  now  in 
the  wide  Oregon  country  which  occupied  all  of  the  North- 
west beyond  the  Shining  Mountains,  of  American  fort  or 
fur  posts  there  was  none  —  save,  perchance,  the  post  of 
the  enterprising  Antoine  Robidoux,  in  the  Uintah  region 
of  northeastern  Utah.  Major  Andrew  Henry's  log  fort 
upon  the  Henry  Fork  of  the  Lewis  or  Snake,  at  the  western 
base  of  the  Wind  River  divide,  had  been  abandoned ;  and 
that  ambitious  structure  upon  the  shore  of  Utah  Lake,  to 
which  the  gallant  General  Ashley,  upon  his  last  trip  into  the 
motmtains,  had  hauled  his  six-pounder  cannon  had  also 
been  abandoned.  Only  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  posts, 
west  of  the  latitude  of  the  Blue  Mountains  of  Idaho  —  that 
long  accepted  barrier  beyond  which  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany was  presiuned  to  reign  supreme  —  had  persisted  as 
representatives  of  white  man's  enterprise. 

The  fur  trade,  if  prosperous,  was  waxing  complicate^ 
also,  as  cutthroat  methods  of  an  avaricious  civilization 
intruded  more  and  more.  Firmly  entrenched  upon  the 
western  coast,  with  headquarters  at  Vancouver,  and  domi- 
nating the  blackened  remnants  of  that  Astoria  which  twice 
had  changed  hands,  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  proud, 
rich,  and  powerful,  tenaciously  gathered  to  itself  the  streams 
of  iur  heading  in  north,  south,  and  east.  Doing  a  fur  busi- 
ness in  Oregon  alone  of  $140,000  annually;  with  its  bri- 
gades and  its  twenty  posts  as  strictly  disciplined  as  any 
military  force;  with  its  trained  engagis  and  clerks  and 
bourgeois;  with  its  immense  resources  and  experience;  its 
employees  courteous  as  man  to  man,  but  inflexible  as  trader 
to  trader  —  now  dining  the  stranger  at  a  twenty- foot  table 
lavish  with  viands  and  wines,  and  now  refusing  him  one 


96  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ounce  of  supplies  to  further  him  upon  the  onward  trail 
into  the  fur  country  —  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  by  every 
resource  within  its  means  resisted  the  inroads  of  the  Amer- 
ican. When  it  must  outbid,  it  outbid ;  when  it  must  tmder- 
sell,  it  undersold ;  when  it  must  deceive,  it  deceived ;  when 
it  must  play  alcohol  against  blanket,  it  played ;  and  when  it 
must  crush,  it  crushed. 

The  whole  of  this  Oregon  country  was  considered,  in 
point  of  law,  debatable  ground,  and  was  jointly  occupied 
(again,  in  point  of  law)  by  Americans  and  British.  But 
the  great  company,  consummate  in  its  machinery,  yielded 
not  an  inch  in  the  Oregon  of  today,  and  the  actual  debatable 
ground  was  that  section  before  specifically  referred  to,  lyin|^ 
from  the  Rockies  west  to  the  Blue  Mountains,  the  southern 
portion  being  technically  New  Mexico. 

Now,  when  Kit  Carson  entered  the  mountains,  there  had 
pushed  into  this  western  slope  district  another  rival  for  the 
fur  trade  which  the  Rocky  Mountain  Company  of  Sublette, 
Bridger,  Fitzpatrick,  and  others  had  hoped  to  inherit  from 
the  efforts  of  Ashley  and  Jedediah  Smith.  With  Henry 
Vanderburgh,  Lucien  Fontenelle,  and  Andrew  Drips  as  its 
mountain  partisans,  the  American  Fur  Company,  which 
under  another  name  had  failed  at  Astoria,  now  operating 
out  of  St.  Louis  a  western  department,  had  not  only 
ascended  the  Missouri  but  had  veered  into  the  Northwest. 

The  fall  of  1831  marked  its  first  definite  invasion  of  the 
new  territory,  and  fleeing  the  advance  of  the  prying  brigade 
under  the  West  Pointer  Vanderburgh  and  the  trader  Drips, 
the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  had  driven  its  own  men 
to  the  upper  Snake  and  the  Salmon  River  country,  in  the 
Nez  Perce  fastness. 

In  addition  to  this  rivalry,  and  as  if  further  to  complicate 
matters,  now  in  the  spring  of  1832  there  were  leaving 
Boston,  for  Oregon,  as  "  salmon  fishers,"  but  destined  to 
become  castaways  and  beaver-hunters,  a  detachment  of 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  97 

twenty-one  tenderfoot  New  Englanders  under  young 
Nathaniel  Jarvis  Wyeth  of  Cambridge,  whose  building  of 
Fort  Hall  on  the  upper  Snake  was  to  supply  the  Hudson 
Bay  Cc«npany  with  an  easternmost  post.  And  starting 
westward  from  Independence  there  was  wending  by  horse, 
foot,  and  wagon,  with  his  company  of  one  hundred  and 
ten,  Irving's  hero-to-be.  Captain  Benjamin  Eulalie  de 
Bonneville,  of  the  army  —  a  fur  hunter  of  the  Ashley  stamp, 
but  not  of  the  Ashley  success.  Already  in  the  mountains 
were  parties  of  free  trappers  —  one  imder  bold  Sinclair  of 
Arkansas,  and  another,  from  Pennsylvania  (in  the  number 
being  the  chronicler  Zenas  Leonard),  imder  Messrs.  Gant 
and  Blackwell. 

But  these  detachments,  while  lending  excitement  and 
variety,  were  only  chips  in  the  current.  Gant  and  Black- 
well  failed,  their  company  dispersed;  Sinclair  died  the 
trapper's  death,  and  his  company  dispersed;  Bonneville 
tried  hither  and  thither,  opened  a  new  trail  to  California, 
reported  upon  the  Great  Basin,  built  Fort  Nonsense,  had 
to  quit;  Wyeth,  rebuffed  by  Americans  and  British  alike, 
had  to  quit.  The  Rocky  Mountain  Company,  the  American 
Company,  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  grappled  until  only 
the  two  were  left. 

Having  outlined  the  country  and  the  combatants,  let  us 
consider  the  methods  and  then  the  rank  and  file. 

In  this  campaign  of  1832  and  of  the  half  dozen  years 
succeeding,  until  the  last  regular  rendezvous,  at  Fort  Non- 
sense, in  1839  —  a  campaign  that  decimated  the  beaver, 
demoralized  the  Indian,  and  killed  the  goose  that  laid  the 
golden  tgg  —  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  despite  its  superb 
organization,  in  American  trans-montane  territory  was  at 
first  imder  disadvantage ;  for  its  organization  was  met  with 
disorganization  under  King  Alcohol. 

A  few  words  are  necessary  to  explain  the  system  of  the 
Hudson  Bay  Company.     Following  the  splendid  example 


98  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

of  that  British  autocracy  the  Northwest  G>mpany  of  Can^ 
ada,  and  with  true  British  policy,  its  principles  were  high 
principles  of  good  business.  In  this  respect  it  was,  and  is, 
a  striking  contrast  to  improvident  American  methods,  which, 
imder  the  theory  "  get  while  you  're  getting,"  devastate 
forests  and  exterminate  fur,  fin,  and  feather. 

The  Hudson  Bay  Company  never  over-trapped,  never 
over-paid,  never  connived  at  offenses  in  order  to  receive 
favors,  never  temporized  with  enmity  in  order  to  obtain 
a  transient  friendship,  and  never  willingly  debauched  busi- 
ness with  liquor. 

As  for  over-trapping: 

If  the  annual  return  from  any  well-trapped  district  be  less  in 
any  year  than  formerly,  they  order  a  less  number  still  to  be 
taken,  until  the  beaver  and  other  fur-bearing  animals  have  time 
to  increase.  The  income  of  the  Company  is  thus  rendered 
uniform,  and  their  business  perpetual.^* 

As  for  prices: 

A  regular  tariff  was  established  on  the  Company's  goods, 
comprising  all  the  articles  used  in  their  trade  with  the  Indians ; 
nor  was  the  quality  of  their  goods  ever  allowed  to  deteriorate. 
A  price  was  also  fixed  upon  furs  according  to  their  market 
value,  and  an  Indian  knowing  this,  knew  exactly  what  he  could 
purchase.  No  bartering  was  allowed.  When  skins  were 
offered  for  sale  at  the  fort  they  were  handed  to  the  clerk 
through  a  window  like  a  postoffice  delivery-window,  and  their 
value  in  the  article  desired,  returned  through  the  same 
aperture. 

As  for  offenses,  no  Indian  culprit,  from  murderer  to 
thief,  ever  was  permitted  to  go  unpunished.  Even  when  the 
company  of  the  American,  Jedediah  Smith,  entering  upon 
the  Hudson  Bay  ground  in  the  spring  of  1828  was  assaulted 
by  the  Shasta  Indians  on  the  Umpqua  of  Oregon,  from 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  99 

Fort  George  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  dispatched  instantly 
a  force  to  punish  the  Indians  and  recover  the  Americans' 
goods.  Such  a  poHcy  was  maintained  by  the  ccxnpany  as 
a  measure  of  self-defense. 

As  for  temporizing  with  enmity,  as  for  even  suffering 
friendship  to  mingle  with  business  interests  the  Hudson 
Bay  posts  would  entertain  the  traveler,  but  would  sup- 
ply not  the  trader.  It  bought  the  furs  of  Jedediah  Smith  the 
castaway,  to  prevent  other  markets  from  getting  them ;  but 
when  Ewing  Yoimg  entered  Oregon,  with  some  hope  of 
pursuing  trade  with  the  Indians,  it  refused  to  sell  him  a 
single  article  of  clothing. 

As  for  liquor,  a  modicum  was  furnished,  at  stated  and 
well  separated  intervals,  to  employees  as  reward  of  duty. 
But  until  the  final  fight  for  furs  had  to  be  met  with  Amer- 
ican methods,  no  alcohol  went  out  in  trade.  And  alcohol 
was  not  necessary.  The  Indians  knew,  as  well  as  did  the 
company,  what  furs  should  bring  and  what  goods  should 
cost,  and  never  found  their  confidence  abused. 

On  the  debit  side  of  the  ledger,  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany existed  for  its  own  profit  absolutely  and  only.  It  was 
opposed  to.  agriculture  —  for  that  invited  settlers  upon  the 
fur  grounds,  showed  the  Indian  that  hunting  was  not  the 
only  livelihood,  and  intruded  upon  the  company's  business. 
The  company  discouraged  any  competition,  healthful  of 
tinhealthful,  and  was  entirely  a  monopoly.  Its  course  in 
obliterating  rivalry  was  as  imscrupulous  as  the  alleged 
course  of  Standard  Oil,  and  very  similar.  In  competi- 
tion it  would  starve  out  and  drive  out  with  a  singte-minded- 
ness  bent  upon  the  one  aim  —  absolute  mastership  in  the 
field. 

It  occupied  the  beaver  grounds  west  of  the  Rockies  and 
north  of  Utah  by  virtue  of  that  agreement  of  1818,  extended 
by  the  agreement  of  London,  1827,  by  which  citizens 
of  the  United  States  and  of  Great  Britain  should  have 


'» H*    '  I*  < . 


■  Jl 


100  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

equal  rights  of  trade  and  settlement  in  the  Oregon  Terri- 
tory. Its  fur  business  was  carried  on  through  the  medium 
of  strong  posts,  of  which  in  1832  the  most  eastern  in  the 
lower  territory  was  Fort  Walla  Walla  on  the  Columbia 
near  the  mouth  of  the  Snake,  in  present  Washington.  But 
eventually  the  American  rendezvous  summoned  its  traders, 
and  W.  A.  Slocum,  in  his  report  to  the  government,  an- 
nounced that  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  especially  sent  to 
be  present  at  the  American  rendezvous  of  1836,  Chief 
Trader  McLeod. 

The  "  Nor'west "  Company,  as,  by  right  of  succession, 
the  Hudson  Bay  outfit  was  known  among  the  trappers  gen- 
erally, was  by  the  Americans  feared,  hated,  combated.  In 
this  year  1832  the  British  influence  exerted  among  the 
Indians  during  the  War  of  181 2  was  still  fresh  in  the  public 
mind ;  and  it  was  well  understood  that  the  fur  traders  were 
the  men  who  exerted  the  greatest  influence  of  all.  They 
were  the  go-betweens.  With  British  traders  still  active 
in  American  territory  (the  Hudson  Bay  traders  west  of 
the  Rockies,  and  traders  from  Canada  coming  down  upon 
the  upper  Missouri),  both  American  lives  and  property 
were  threatened. 

So  we  see  that  on  February  9,  1829,  the  indefatigable 
defender  of  western  interests,  Senator  Thomas  H.  Benton, 
for  the  Committee  on  Indian  Affairs,  makes  a  strong  report 
to  the  Senate,  embodying  memorials  and  statements  from 
the  Assembly  of  Missouri,  from  General  Ashley,  from 
General  William  Clark  (surviving  leader  of  the  Lewis  and 
Clark  expedition) ,  Governor  Lewis  Cass  of  Michigan,  John 
Jacob  Astor,  and  others.  It  recites  that  because  of  British 
aggression,  aided  by  the  high  duties  imposed  upon  scarlet 
cloth,  blankets,  and  so  on,  used  in  the  Indian  trade,  and  by 
the  free  admission  of  foreign  furs,  the  fur  trade  of  the 
United  States  is  seriously  ill;  and  that  because  of  the 
presence  upon  American  fur  grounds  of  the  British  traders 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  101 

500  lives  and  $500,000  worth  of  property  have  been  lost, 
during  the  past  twenty  years. 

He  suggests,  as  first  of  the  measures  to  be  taken,  that 
"  the  project  of  a  joint  occupancy  by  the  British  and  Amer- 
icans, of  the  country  west  of  the  Rocky  Mountains,  ought 
to  be  abandoned;  a  line  of  demarkation  amicably  estab- 
lished, with  as  little  delay  as  possible ;  and  the  citizens  and 
subjects  of  the  two  powers,  for  all  the  purposes  of  trade 
and  intercourse  with  the  Indians,  confined  to  their  respective 
sides  of  it."  ^^ 

Here  sounded  one  of  those  early  calls  for  the  occupancy 
of  Oregon  —  but  not  for  settlement,  only  for  trade.  Pend- 
ing any  such  arrangement,  General  Ashley  had  in  1823 
taken  the  initiative  by  sending  his  men  across  the  divide  to 
the  Green,  and  in  1826  had  emphasized  his  action  by  haul- 
ing that  six-pounder  cannon  over  to  Utah  Lake.  Then 
Smith,  Jackson  and  Sublette,  in  1826,  had  boldly  pushed 
further,  until  the  roving  Smith  had  appeared  even  upon 
the  Pacific  coast  —  where,  with  Christian  meekness  and 
gentlemanly  spirit,  he  had  hobnobbed  with  Governor 
McLoughlin  himself,  chief  of  the  Hudson  Bay  affairs  in 
America. 

But  this  urbane  interview  did  not  represent  the  Amer- 
ican attitude  toward  the  British  company,  and  the  American 
traders  and  trappers  considered  the  "  Nor' westers  "  fair 
prey.  In  1824  the  religious  Smith  is  accused  of  having, 
by  questionable  Yankee  methods,  gained  for  himself  some 
packs  of  furs  to  which  a  Hudson  Bay  factor  deemed  his 
own  company  entitled ;  and  the  factor,  one  Ross,  could  not 
but  admit  that  the  Americans  were  "  shrewd  men,"  and 
that  Smith  was  "  a  very  intelligent  person."  General  Ash- 
ley is  accused  of  having  lifted  a  Hudson  Bay  cache,  or 
else  of  having  demoralized  with  liquor  a  Hudson  Bay  party, 
by  which  he  achieved  the  turn  in  his  fortunes  to  wealth; 
Fitzpatrick  rendered  an  Ogden  party  foolish  with  alcohol, 


102  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

and  got  their  furs  for  a  songj  and  Captain  Bonneville  de- 
scended to  honey  and  alcohol,  that  hd  might  befuddle  a 
"  Nor'west "  guest. 

We  now  come  to  the  American  methods  of  gaining  furs 
for  themselves;  and  the  process  never  was  more  thor- 
oughly illustrated  than  when,  in  1832,  Kit  Carson  had 
entered  the  mountains.  The  Government,  with  true  but 
mistaken  democracy,  recognized  no  one  company,  declined 
to  parcel  the  field  among  separate  companies ;  such  was  the 
dread  of  a  "  monopoly,"  however  wisely  administered  for 
the  public  peace. 

Instead  of  blaming  upon  British  aggression  the  alleged 
injury  to  and  decline  of  the  fur  trade  of  the  West,  the 
trader  of  the  States  should  have  removed  the  beam  from 
his  own  eye. 

These  traders  are  continually  endeavoring  to  lessen  each 
other  in  the  eyes  of  the  Indians,  not  only  by  abusive  words,  but 
by  all  sorts  of  low  tricks  and  maneuvers.  *  *  ♦  The  im- 
posing appearance  of  the  army  equipments  of  the  white  men 
and  the  novelty  and  convenience  of  their  merchandise  had  im- 
pressed the  Indians  with  a  high  idea  of  their  power  and 
importance,  but  the  avidity  with  which  beaver  skins  are  sought 
after,  the  tricks  and  wrangling  made  use  of,  and  the  degrada- 
tions submitted  to  in  obtaining  them,  have  induced  a  belief 
that  the  whites  cannot  exist  without  them,  and  have  made  a 
great  change  in  their  opinion  of  our  importance,  our  justice, 
and  our  power.^* 

Thus  from  Council  Bluffs  wrote  Thomas  Biddle,  in  1819; 
and  herein  was  shown  the  folly  of  the  American  and  the 
wisdom  of  the  Britisher.  Whereas  the  former,  by  run- 
ning after  the  Indian,  would  seem  to  make  himself  depen- 
dent upon  Indian  favor,  the  latter  by  his  steady  policy,  his 
fixed  prices,  and  the  quality  of  his  goods,  made  the  Indian 
dependent  upon  him  for  comforts. 

The  erratic,  scrambling  rivalry  of  the  American  traders 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  103 

among  themselves  continued;  so  that  in  1833  Thomas  Fitz- 
patrick,  the  trader  and  trapper  of  long  experience,  wrote  to 
General  Ashley,  the  fur-trade  champion  at  Washington : 

If  there  is  not  some  alteration  made  in  the  system  of  busi- 
ness in  this  country  very  soon,  it  will  become  a  nuisance  and  a 
disgrace  to  the  United  States.  With  so  many  different  com- 
panies roving  about  from  one  tribe  to  another,  each  telling 
a  different  tale,  and  slandering  each  other  to  such  a  degree 
as  to  disgust  the  Indians,  they  will  evidently  all  become  hostile 
to  Americans.'* 

And  this,  indeed,  was  the  situation  now  in  the  spring  of 
1832,  when  the  two  American  companies  —  the  Rocky 
Mountain  Fur  Company  and  the  American  Fur  Company 
—  and  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  were  locked  in  a  bitter 
fight,  with  Bonneville,  Wyeth,  Gant  and  Blackwell,  and 
the  other  lesser  fry,  vainly  attempting  flank  marches. 

Of  the  two  principal  companies,  the  American  Fur  Com- 
pany (in  the  West,  after  its  first  establishment  there,  to 
be  known  and  referred  to  simply  as  "  the  Company,"  a  title 
significant  of  its  masterful  character)  had  possession  of 
the  plains.  Operated  with  John  Jacob  Astor  overseeing 
from  New  York,  and  Pierre  Chouteau,  Jr.,  directing  from 
St.  Louis,  with  the  best  organizers  and  traders  in  the  fur 
business  upon  its  list  of  agents,  its  posts  were  located  or  in 
process  of  location  all  along  the  Missouri  clear  to  the  Black- 
feet  country  near  the  river's  som^ces  in  Montana.  Many 
of  these  forts,  like  many  of  the  highly  capable  agents,  were 
inheritance  from  former  companies  which  "  the  Company  " 
absorbed,  thus  acquiring,  all  ready  to  hand,  men,  territory, 
and  munitions.  It  had  just  installed  upon  the  Missouri  the 
first  traffic  steamboat.  The  Yellowstone,  for  carrying 
supplies  to  the  posts  and  furs  to  St.  Louis.  Sternly  business- 
like, exacting  from  its  employees  as  much  work  as  possible 
with  as  little  risk  and  expenditure  to  itself  as  possible,  the 


104  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

American  Fur  Company  eventually  occupied  the  whole  fur 
field  of  the  West. 

The  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company's  stronghold  and 
headquarters  were  the  mountains,  where  at  the  outset  it 
held  the  advantage  in  that  it  knew  the  country.  It  had  no 
posts,  it  worked  by  means  of  camps  and  rendezvous,  it  was 
versatile,  mobile,  and  lived  afield  at  a  minimum  of  expense. 
Of  its  leaders,  Fitzpatrick,  Milton  Sublette,  and  Bridger  had 
been  in  the  mountains  since  Ashley's  early  endeavors  of 
1823  and  1824;  and  the  chances  are  that  Fraeb  and  Gervais 
were  almost  as  experienced.  Their  men  had  been  taken 
over  from  the  Smith,  Jackson  &  Sublette  outfit  —  some  of 
them  inherited  from  Ashley;  and  the  names  of  Fitzpatrick 
and  Jim  Bridger  and  Milton  Sublette  alone  would  have 
induced  the  pick  of  mountaineers  to  join  the  standard.  Wil- 
liam Sublette  had  the  contract  to  bring  in  the  supplies  — 
which  insured  competent  service. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  partisans  and  many  of  the  file  in 
the  American  Fur  Company,  which  for  the  first  time  was 
extending  its  operations  to  the  Rockies  and  beyond,  were 
strangers  in  a  strange  land.  The  condition  was  after  a 
manner  similar  to  that  at  the  beginning  of  the  Civil  War: 
the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company,  like  the  Confederate 
forces,  fought  upon  its  own  soil,  and  upon  ground  of  its 
own  choosing;  the  American  Fur  Company  was  the  invader. 
Hither,  thither,  trapped  the  Rocky  Mountain  squads,  at  first 
seeking  the  rich  spots  known  only  to  them,  later  conducting 
feints  and  retreats,  but  always  pursued  by  the  American 
detachments,  willing  to  spend  to  learn.  For  the  campaign 
of  education  cost  the  American  Fur  Company  lives  and 
money ;  lured  into  the  Blackf eet  fastnesses,  the  gallant  Van- 
derburgh fell,  dying  like  a  soldier,  and,  coming  to  rendez- 
vous, the  supply  trains  of  Fontenelle  must  witness  a  camp 
already  supplied  by  the  better  endowed  Sublette.  At  last, 
worn  out  in  the  four  years  like  the  armies  of  the  South, 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  105 

the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  ceased  as  an  organiza- 
tion. The  American  Company  became  supreme  in  the 
moimtains  as  upon  the  plains. 

The  fetish  of  the  fur  trade,  as  it  was  the  fetish  of  the 
fur  hunt,  was  alcohol ;  it  was  worshiped  with  the  blindness 
of  the  African  savage,  and  it  fattened  its  priests  at  the 
expense  of  the  blood  and  soul  of  its  devotees. 

In  the  beginning,  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  as  has  been 
remarked,  forbade  the  use  of  alcohol  in  trading.  This  was 
policy,  not  principle ;  and  when,  in  rivalry  with  the  Ameri- 
can traders,  alcohol  was  demanded,  the  company  changed 
its  policy  to  meet  the  occasions.  Could  both  nations  have 
agreed  not  to  use  alcohol  in  the  fur  country,  the  result 
would  have  been  most  beneficial  to  both.  The  one  side 
suspiciously  refused  so  to  engage;  the  other  engaged,  but 
failed  to  perform. 

From  the  time  of  Lieutenant  Zebulon  Pike,  who,  in 
ascending  the  Mississippi  in  the  summer  of  1805,  distrib- 
uted presents  of  rum  to  the  Sioux,  liquor  has  been  a  factor 
in  the  Indian  country  of  the  West.  Up  to  1822  it  was  used 
with  discretion,  for  the  fiu'  business  was  then  a  government 
enterprise,  conducted  from  posts  or  factories  —  a  system 
somewhat  along  the  lines  of  the  British  companies.  But 
with  the  demand  that  the  fur  trade  be  thrown  open  to  the 
people  (and  as  usual  it  was  not  the  people,  but  the  few 
personages  who  benefited),  for  the  next  ten  years  liquor 
might  be  legally  taken  into  the  Indian  country  only  for  the 
use  of  the  white  employees  en  route  and  at  the  posts.  How- 
ever, this  was  a  country  beyond  the  law. 

What  a  farce  this  regulation  proved  is  evidenced  by  the 
padded  lists  provided  by  traders  even  as  high  in  standing  as 
the  Chouteaus  of  St.  Louis,  and  by  the  instance  of  William 
Sublette,  who  obtained  a  license  to  carry  liquor  for  his 
"  boatmen,"  when  his  destination  was  Pierre's  Hole,  over- 
land across  the  Rocky  Mountains !    For  in  fur  days,  as  in 


106  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

later  da3rs^  successfully  to  defraud  the  government  was  held 
no  crime. 

Then,  in  1832,  despite  the  protests  of  the  fur  companies, 
the  government  of  the  Republic  —  and  praise  be  to  its  pur- 
pose, if  not  to  its  execution  —  by  act  of  Congress,  July  9, 
provided  that  "no  ardent  spirits  shall  be  hereafter  intro- 
duced, under  any  pretence,  into  the  Indian  Country." 
Upon  the  government  force  at  Fort  Leavenworth  devolved 
the  responsibility  of  confiscating  the  liquor  which  might 
be  smuggled  that  far ;  but  the  government  search  would  be 
limited  to  the  boats  ascending;  the  overland  expeditions 
evaded  the  regulation.  Not  until  June  30,  1834,  was  the 
department  of  Indian  Affairs  created,  which  could  oversee 
or  pretend  to  oversee  the  wider  territory. 

Now,  after  the  interdiction  of  liquor,  in  1832,  the  bitter- 
ness of  the  fight  for  furs  waxed  vastly.  The  Hudson  Bay 
Company  quickly  took  advantage  of  its  rivals'  plight,  and 
used  liquor  more  freely  than  before.  And  this  is  a  damn- 
ing blot  upon  the  story  of  the  British  success  in  furs :  that 
when  opportunity  was  presented  to  eliminate  liquor  from 
the  fur  country,  the  English  did  not  meet  the  American 
spirit  halfway.  Among  themselves  the  American  traders 
were  at  odds  and  ends  —  and  all  about  who  should  be 
supplied  with  the  whiskey.  Chiefly  the  fight  waged  up  and 
down  the  Missouri,  where  the  American  Fur  Company,  con- 
trolling much  of  that  territory,  was  in  sore  straits  to 
compete  with  the  British  of  the  borders  and  with  the  small 
concerns  who  were  not  so  closely  watched.  Accusations  and 
counter  accusations  flew  back  and  forth. 

But  there  was  no  dearth,  in  1832,  or  for  half  a  century 

thereafter,  of  liquor  for  the  Indian  trade  upon  the  plains 

and  in  the  mountains,  whither  it  was  transported  at  first 

in  the  fiat  kegs,  on  back  of  mule  and  horse,  and  later  in 

wagons. 
In  1841  the  caravan  with  which  traveled  Rufus  Sage 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  107 

conveyed,  as  a  portion  of  its  trading  assets,  twenty-four 
barreb  of  alcohol,  moving  the  truthful  chronicler  to  jwotest: 

This  announcement  may  occasion  surprise  to  many,  when 
aware  that  the  laws  of  Congress  prohibit,  under  severe  penal- 
ties, the  introduction  of  liquor  among  the  Indians,  as  an  article 
of  traffic,  subjecting  the  oflFender  to  a  heavy  fine  and  con- 
fiscation of  effects.  Trading  companies,  however,  find  ways 
and  means  to  smuggle  it  through,  by  the  wagon  load,  under  the 
very  noses  of  the  government  officers,  stationed  along  the 
frontier  to  enforce  the  observance  of  the  laws. 

I  am  irresistibly  led  to  the  conclusion  that  these  gentry  are 
wilfully  negligent  of  their  duty.  *  *  ♦  it  seems  almost 
impossible  that  a  blind  man,  retaining  the  senses  of  smell, 
taste  and  hearing  could  remain  ignorant  of  a  thing  so  palpably 
plain.  The  alcohol  is  put  into  wagons,  at  Westport  or  Inde- 
pendence, in  open  day  light,  and  taken  into  the  territory  in 
open  day  light,  where  it  remains  a  week  or  more  awaiting  the 
arrival  of  its  owners.    *    ♦    * 

These  gentlemen  cannot  plead  ignorance  as  an  excuse.  They 
well  know  that  alcohol  is  one  of  the  principal  articles  in  the 
Indian  trade  —  this  fact  is  notorious  —  no  one  pretends  to 
deny  it ;  not  even  the  traders  themselves.    ♦    *    *  ss 

Smallpox  and  alcohol  were  the  gifts  of  the  white  man 
to  the  red;  and  the  latter  gift  was  the  worse,  for  while  it 
scorched  the  heart  of  the  receiver  it  withered  also  the  soul 
of  the  donor.  If  the  Indian  would  stop  at  no  sacrifice  to 
obtain  his  dram,  the  white  would  stay  at  no  meanness  to 
supply  it.  Consequently,  by  the  eagerness  on  both  sides 
arose  those  well  known  practices:  the  gradual  dilution  of 
the  keg  until  the  drunken  Indian  was  trading  for  only 
water;  the  false  measuring,  by  inserting  thumb  or  finger 
into  the  gill,  or  covering  the  bottom  of  the  tin  cup  with  a 
layer  of  paraffin;  the  adulteration  by  tobacco  and  pepper, 
that  the  dose  might  poison  sooner;  all  those  wretched 
deceits  by  which  the  weak  second  party  should  be  cheated 
the  more  roundly.  Truly,  the  beaver  and  the  buffalo  had 
their  revenge. 


108  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

But  what  was  the  coin  for  which  the  white  trader  stooped 

so  far? 

Let  the  reader  sit  down  and  figure  up  the  profits  on  a  forty- 
gallon  keg  of  alcohol,  and  he  will  be  thunder-struck,  or  rather 
whiskey-struck.  When  disposed  of,  four  gallons  of  water  are 
added  to  each  gallon  of  alcohol.  In  two  hundred  gallons  there 
are  sixteen  hundred  pints,  for  each  of  which  the  trader  gets  a 
buffalo  robe  worth  five  dollars.  The  Indian  women  toil  many 
long  weeks  to  dress  these  sixteen  hundred  robes.  The  white 
trader  gets  them  all  for  worse  than  nothing,  for  the  poor 
Indian  mother  hides  herself  and  her  children  in  the  forests 
until  the  effect  of  the  poison  passes  away  from  husbands, 
fathers,  and  brothers,  who  love  them  when  they  have  no 
whiskey,  and  abuse  and  kill  them  when  they  have.  Six 
thousand  dollars  for  sixty  gallons  of  alcohol.  Is  it  any  wonder 
that,  with  such  profits  in  prospect,  men  get  rich  who  are 
engaged  in  the  fur  trade?  *® 

Thus  writes  Jim  Beckwourth,  Crow  chief  and  likewise 
Indian  trader,  after  having,  himself,  turned  six  kegs  of  the 
stuff  into  eleven  hundred  robes  and  eighteen  horses,  aggre- 
gating the  six  thousand  dollars  above  mentioned,  and  bring- 
ing on  the  fit  of  moralizing,  which  was  cheap.  Beaver  and 
other  furs  were  gained  as  improvidently.  The  Indian  was 
not  only  befuddled,  he  was  robbed.  When  he  protested,  he 
was  cajoled,  laughed  at  behind  his  back,  and  befuddled 
again. 

Listen  to  the  Red  Man  of  the  West  —  whose  dignity  was 
once  portrayed  by  a  Catlin,  whose  mental  and  moral  status 
was  once  extolled  by  an  Irving: 

Big  man,  me.  Chief  —  Black  Warrior.  Me,  American 
soldier !  Love  Americans,  heap.  Big  man,  me !  Love  whiskey, 
heap.  White  man  good.  Whiskey  good.  Love  whiskey,  me 
—  drink  heap  whiskey.  No  give  me  whiskey  drink?  Me, 
Chief.  Me,  American.  Me,  Black  Warrior.  Heap  big  man, 
me!  Love  Americans.  Take  him  hand,  shake.  White  man 
good.  Whiskey  good.  Me  love  whiskey !  Love  him  heap !  No 
give    Black   Warrior    Whiskey?      No?     One    leetle    drink? 


THE  FIGHT  FOR  FUR  109 

Whiskey  good.  Me  love  him.  Make  Black  Warrior  strong. 
Big  man,  me — Chief.  American  soldier.  We  love  American. 
Shake  him  hand.  Fight  him,  bad  Indian,  no  love  white  man. 
Kill  him.  White  man  good.  Me  love  white  man.  Whiskey 
good.  Me  love  whiskey.  No  give  Black  Warrior  whiskey  — 
one  leetle  drink?    Me,  Chief.    Big  man,  me.    Etc.®*^ 

Contrast  this  with  the  fancied  speech  of  an  Uncas,  or 
with  the  real  speech  of  a  Keokuk,  a  chief  Joseph,  a  Sitting 
Bull.  Truly  the  beaver  and  the  buffalo  did  have  their 
revenge,  not  only  in  blood  of  many  a  skirmish  and  horrid 
raid,  but  in  the  very  essence  of  destruction  —  the  destruc- 
tion of  the  spirit 


1 


CHAPTER  XII 
DRAMATIS  PERSONAE 

AS  THE  curtain  lifts  for  this  act  ushering  upon  the  stage 
of  the  beaver  West  the  year  1832  and  the  events 
which  follow  it,  let  us  briefly  glance  at  the  more  important 
actors.  The  popular  General  William  Henry  Ashley  had 
already  been  elected  to  Congress.  "  The  most  influential 
man  in  Missouri,  next  to  Senator  Benton,"  married  three, 
perhaps  four  times,  father  of  the  American  beaver  trade  in 
the  mountains  (but  with  no  other  child),  militia  man,  trader, 
trapper  and  fur  merchant,  financier  and  politician,  out  of 
defeats  achieving  his  success  after  he  was  fifty,  he  died  at 
sixty  (in  1838)  to  lie  in  a  neglected  grave  upon  a  Missouri 
farm,  beside  the  waters  of  the  river  trail  which  he  had  so  oft 
ascended. 

As  for  Major  Andrew  Henry,  the  Ashley  partner,  already 

He  is  gone  on  the  mountain, 
He  is  lost  to  the  forest 

The  first  American  to  establish  foothold  between  the  Rock- 
ies and  the  coast,  he  had  submitted  to  his  narrow  bed 
January  10,  1832  —  a  man  of  "honesty,  intelligence  and 
enterprise,''  tall  and  slender,  with  dark  hair  and  light  eyes, 
fond  of  the  violin.  His  name  survives  in  descendants,  and  in 
the  lake  and  river  in  the  vicinity  of  his  old  fort  of  1810. 

Ewing  Young  is  trapping  through  the  Gila  country  with 
Moses  Carson  in  his  company.  He  will  arrive  in  California 
again  in  April,  and  will  take  up  residence  of  two  years  at 
Monterey,  thence  to  sail  (1834)  with  Hall  Kelly,  the 
Oregon  colonizer.    His  Mexican  wife  and  the  boy  child  in 

110 


WILLIAM  WOLFSKtLL  JOSEPH   ROBIDOUX 

WHO  BROKE  THE  "SPANISH    trail"   TO  HEAD    OF    THE    FAMOUS     FAMIL 

TALIFORNIA,    l8,iO  Fl'K    HL-NTERS,    AND   WHO    FOUNDE 

(Copy  of  old  dagucrreolyfe)  J'*.  Missouri 


JOSEPH  L.  MEEK  "OI.IV  JIM  RAKER 


JIM  BECKWOURTH 

FRENCH -MULATTO,    CROW    CHIEF.    MOUNTAIN     MAN,    CONTEMPORARY    OF 


DRAMATIS  PERSON  A  E  .  Ill 

Taos  never  will  see  him  again,  nor  does  he  mention  them 
in  his  new  home. 

David  E.  Jackson  ("  Davy  *'  to  his  friends)  of  "  Jackson 
Hole,"  on  a  mule-trading  excursion  to  San  Diego,  via  Santa 
Rita  and  Tucson,  is  taking  perhaps  the  first  negro,  a  slave, 
into  California.  Coming  back  again  to  the  States,  he  dies  a 
poor  man  in  St.  Louis. 

Joshua  Pilcher,  Virginian,  hatter,  banker  of  St.  Louis, 
fur  trader  of  long  experience  dating  back  to  1819,  hero  of  the 
"  grand  toiu- "  swinging  around  the  circle,  in  1827,  is  Ameri- 
can Fur  agent  at  Council  Bluffs.  In  six  years  he  will  suc- 
ceed the  famous  and  jovial  General  William  Clark  in  the 
Indian  affairs  superintendency  at  St.  Louis;  and  in  June, 
1847,  will  die,  aged  only  57. 

Etienne  Provost  (Prevost),  first  white  user  of  the  South 
Pass,  accredited  with  being  the  first  white  visitor  to  the 
Salt  Lake,  is  still  alive,  but  his  end  of  worldly  wanderings 
is  near. 

Jedediah  S.  Smith  is  only  a  memory.'*  For  six  months 
his  bones  have  been  l)ring  under  Southwest  soil.  Connecti- 
cut bom,  a  man  of  high  ideals  and  of  steadfast  faith  in  the 
Christian  religion,  a  combination  of  the  wilderness  hunter 
and  the  missionary,  he  can  ill  be  spared  from  an  area 
wherein  characters  like  this  are  sorely  needed.  His  ambition 
was  to  present  the  world  with  an  atlas  and  history  of  the 
western  country ;  but  it  was  never  achieved. 

Let  us  call  the  roll  of  those,  the  rank  and  file,  still  active 
in  the  field: 

William  Sublette :  "  Height  six  feet  two  inches ;  fore- 
head straight  and  open;  eyes  blue,  light;  nose  Roman; 
mouth  and  chin  common;  hair  light  or  sandy;  complexion 
fair;  face  long  and  expressive;  scar  on  left  side  of  chin;" 
to  the  Indians,  "  Cut  Face,"  "  Fate,"  and  "  Left  Hand." 
Sublette  was  a  Kentuckian,  bom  in  1799,  one  of  five  broth- 
ers, all  of  the  early  trans-Missouri  West ;  a  bold,  energetic 


112  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

trader,  a  determined  and  skillful  Indian  fighter;  known  to 
his  associate  mountain  men  as  "  Billy."  He  retired  wealthy 
from  the  mountains  in  1842,  aspired  vainly  to  Congress 
from  Missouri,  would  have  been  satisfied  with  the  superin- 
tendency  of  Indian  Affairs  at  St.  Louis,  but  died  young,  in 
1845,  at  Pittsburg,  Pennsylvania,  while  on  his  way  to  Wash- 
ington City. 

Robert  Campbell :  An  Irishman  of  Coimty  T)rrone,  who, 
in  1825,  aged  21,  as  an  Ashley  man,  sought  the  mountains 
for  his  health,  and  found  there  not  only  health,  but  wealth. 
Partner  and  stanch  friend  of  William  Sublette  in  trading 
enterprises,  later  one  of  St.  Louis'  most  prominent  finan- 
ciers and  business  heads;  banker  and  owner  of  the  old 
Southern  Hotel;  Indian  commissioner  in  1851  and  1869, 
and  outfitter  of  government  expeditions,  he  was  a  man  of 
prized  counsel  and  fine  integrity.  Outliving  most  of  his 
contemporary  mountain  men,  he  died  in  October,  1879, 
aged  75. 

Milton  Sublette:  Brother,  and  associate  in  the  moun- 
tains, of  William  Sublette,  the  partner  in  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tain Fur  Company.  Second  to  his  brother  in  prominence,*® 
in  December,  1836,  while  still  a  young  man,  he  died  at  old 
Fort  William,  built  by  his  brother  and  Robert  Campbell 
and  named  for  his  brother,  owned  by  himself  in  partnership 
with  Fitzpatrick  and  Jim  Bridger,  and  now  in  1836  already 
being  called  Fort  Laramie. 

Baptiste  Gervais:  Canadian  Frenchman;  a  partner  in 
the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company,  and  a  mountaineer 
without  history  because  he  lacked  a  biographer.  After  he 
sold  out  his  interest  in  the  company,  1834,  for  "twenty 
head  of  horse  beast,  thirty  beaver  traps  and  five  hundred 
dollars'  worth  of  merchandise,"  he  disappears. 

Henry  Fraeb :  German ;  partner  in  the  Rocky  Mountain 
Fur  Company.  He  and  Gervais  usually  hunted  together  in 
the  mountain  region  of  northwestern  Colorado.    When  in 


DRAMATIS  PERSONA E  113 

1834  he  sold  out  his  partnership  for  "  forty  head  of  horse 
beast,  forty  traps,  eight  guns  and  one  thousand  dollars' 
worth  of  merchandise,"  he  continued  to  hunt  for  beaver  in 
Colorado,  As  "  Frapp  '*  he  lived,  and  as  "  Frapp  "  and 
"  Trapp ''  he  died,  being  shot  while  **  f  orted  "  with  his  thirty 
trappers  against  an  attack  by  three  hundred  Cheyennes  and 
Sioux,  at  the  confluence  of  Battle  Creek  and  the  Little 
Snake,  in  northern  Colorado  near  the  W)roming  line,  August 
21  and  22,  1841.  He  was  buried  on  the  spot  with  $80  in 
his  pockets ;  and  his  grave  and  the  grave  of  three  compan- 
ions mark  the  site  of  the  last  known  "  big  "  trapper  and 
Indian  battle  in  the  West. 

Thomas  Fitzpatrick :  "  Bad  Hand,"  "  Broken  Hand," 
"White  Head,"  trader,  partisan  and  mountain  man,  fully 
the  equal  of  William  Sublette,  and  contemporary  with  Sub- 
lette in  his  beginnings  under  General  Ashley  in  1823,  but 
long  outliving  him ;  first  a  partner  in  the  Rocky  Mountain 
Fur  Company,  and  afterward  a  professional  guide  for  over- 
land parties.  He  is  mentioned  with  praise  by  the  missionary 
Elijah  White  as  his  guide  on  the  way  to  Oregon  in  1842 ; 
praised  by  Fremont  as  an  efficient  guide  upon  his  expedi- 
tions across  to  California,  in  1843  ^tnd  in  1845;  by  Colonel 
Philip  St.  George  Cooke  as  his  guide  in  the  dragoon  excur- 
sion along  the  Oregon  Trail  in  1845 ;  by  Lieutenant  J.  W. 
Abert,  as  his  guide  in  the  government  expedition  exploring 
the  country  from  Bent's  Fort  on  the  Arkansas  to  St.  Louis ; 
by  Lieutenant  Johnston  and  others  as  guide  with  the  Kearny 
overland  column  through  the  Colorado  Desert,  1846,  thence 
turning  back  with  Kit  Carson's  dispatches  to  Washington. 
Called  by  the  Indians  "  Bad  Hand  "  and  ''  Broken  Hand," 
because  of  partial  crippling  through  accidental  discharge  of 
a  rifle,  he  was  named  "  White  Head,"  later,  because  of  a 
terrific  chase  ( 1832)  by  Indians,  whidh  turned  his  hair  gray. 
Rather  thickset,  still  young  looking  when  employed  first  by 
Fremont,  his  white  hair  contrasted  strangely  with  his  ruddy 


114  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

complexion.  In  the  fall  of  1846  Fitzpatrick  was  appointed 
Indian  Agent  upon  the  upper  Platte  and  the  Arkansas, 
over  Sioux,  Cheyennes,  Arapahos  and  "other  wandering 
tribes,"  with  post  at  Bent's  Fort,  served  thus  with  notable 
efficiency,  reporting  that  he  "  looks  out  for  the  old  moun- 
tain men  traders  who  may  not  have  procured  licenses." 
After  the  demolition  of  Bent's  Fort,  in  1852,  he  removed 
his  agent's  headquarters  to  the  Big  Timbers,  the  site  of  the 
new  Bent's  Fort.  He  was  "  greatly  esteemed  by  the  Indians, 
and  among  white  men  is  reputed  to  have  been  the  best  agent 
these  tribes  ever  had."  Married  a  half-breed  Arapaho  girl, 
daughter  of  John  Poisal,  an  interpreter  known  among  the 
Indians  as  **  Old  Red  Eyes,"  on  accoimt  of  an  inflammation. 
He  died  in  1855,  while  still  agent.  A  man  evidently  of 
much  energy  and  judgment,  of  activities  as  wide  and  as 
useful  as  those  of  Carson  or  Bridger,  yet  by  the  singular 
eccentricity  of  fate  he  was  to  pass  away  unnoted  and  with 
his  grave  unmarked. 

James  Bridger :  "  Old  Gabe,"  "  Daniel  Boone  of  the 
Mountains,"  the  "  Old  Man  of  the  Mountains,"  "  Casapy  " 
or  "  Blanket  Chief,"  bom  in  Virginia  in  1804,  ^^^d  blind 
and  decrepit  on  his  farm  at  Santa  Fe,  Missouri,  not  far 
from  Kansas  City,  in  1881,  one  of  the  very  few  mountain 
men  who  long  survived  the  beaver  days  and  lived  to  a  ripe 
age.  At  nineteen  Bridger  was  an  Ashley  man;  at  twenty- 
two  (1826)  accredited  discoverer  (on  a  wager  that  he 
would  descend  Bear  River  to  its  mouth)  of  the  Salt  Lake; 
first  exploiter  of  the  wonders  in  the  Yellowstone  National 
Park' — and  not  believed;  partner  in  the  Rocky  Mountain 
Fur  Company;  partner  next  in  the  short-lived  fur  firm  of 
Sublette  (Milton),  Campbell  &  Bridger;  founder  of  Fort 
Bridger,  the  first  trading  post  for  emigrants  on  the  Oregon 
Trail,  erected  in  1843  ^^  Black's  Fork  of  the  Green  River, 
southwestern  Wyoming,  "  west  of  the  mountains."  A 
blacksmith  originally,  then  beaver  trapper,  trader,  and  guide ; 


DRAMATIS  PERSONAE  115 

guide  in  1854-55  for  Sir  George  Gore,  the  Irish  sportsman 
in  the  Rockies;  for  the  General  Albert  Sidney  Johnston 
"  Utah  column  "  in  the  Mormon  War  of  1857-58;  for  vari- 
ous army  detachments  on  the  plains  in  the  Civil  War,  and 
consulted  by  General  Sheridan  as  late  as  1868;  for  Captain 
Reynolds  of  the  army  in  the  attempted  exploration  of  Yel- 
lowstone Park  in  1869;  adviser  to  the  survey  for  the  Union 
Pacific  Railroad,  1869,  and  donator  thereto  of  the  cut-off 
Bridget's  Pass.  He  was  a  man  of  spare  but  powerful  Vir- 
ginian type,  gray-eyed,  brown-haired,  shaven  and  wrinkled 
and  tanned,  with  quizzical  cast  of  countenance.  A  moun- 
tain man  ranking  with  Carson  and  Fitzpatrick,  having, 
according  to  Father  DeSmet,  "  two  quivers  full  of  arrows 
shot  into  his  body,"  possessing  the  qualities  of  a  natural 
topographer  and  a  bom  story-teller,  he  was  in  his  declining 
years  a  pathetic  figure.  The  last  of  the  Ashley  type  of  beaver 
hunters,  he  died  poor,  feeling  that  he  had  been  defrauded 
by  a  government  which  he  had  well  served.  But  over  his 
body  in  the  Mount  Washington  cemetery  of  Kansas  City 
is  reared  a  noble  granite  monument  —  token  that  his  deeds 
and  services  are  not  and  never  will  be  forgotten. 

William  Henry  Vanderburgh  was  an  American  Fur  Com- 
pany man  and  partisan  in  the  mountain  hunts  whereby  the 
Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  was  steadily  harrassed. 
An  Indianan,  a  West  Pointer  (entering  181 7),  by  1823  a 
fur  trader  in  the  Missouri  Fur  Company,  and  in  that  year 
a  captain  under  Colonel  Leavenworth  in  the  attack  upon 
the  Arikara  Indians,  he  was  ambushed  by  the  Blackfeet,  in 
October,  1832,  while  pressing  recklessly  along  a  side  stream 
of  the  Jeflferson  River  in  the  Three  Forks  country  of  south- 
western Montana.  His  horse  was  disabled,  and  abandoned 
by  his  helplessly  stampeded  and  shattered  men,  his  last 
words,  as  bravely  he  faced  the  enemy  and  shot  the  foremost 
were :  "  Boys,  do  n't  run.'*  Thus  fell  William  Henry  Van- 
derburgh, under  thirty  years  of  age. 


116  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Andrew  S.  Drips  was  partisan  and  agent  of  the  Ameri- 
can Fur  Company,  in  the  mountain  campaigns  and  on  the 
upper  Missouri.  A  Pennsylvanian,  born  in  17.89,  he  died  in 
Kansas  City,  i860.  He  entered  the  fur  trade  as  early  as 
1820  with  the  title  of  "major"  —  that  honorary  title 
applied  by  government  reports  to  Jim  Bridger,  Fitzpatrick, 
and  other  traders  and  scouts.  In  1842  he  was  appointed 
agent  for  the  tribes  of  the  upper  Missouri  and  stationed  at 
Fort  Pierre,  at  the  mouth  of  the  Teton  River  in  southeast- 
em  North  Dakota.  He  was  the  first  Indian  Agent  to  fight, 
with  genuine  zeal,  the  introduction  of  liquor  into  the  Indian 
country. 

Lucien  Fontenelle:  The  third  in  the  trio  of  American 
Fur  Company  partisans  in  the  mountain  rivalry.  A  New 
Orleans  Frenchman,  of  aristocratic  blood,  a  youth  bom  to 
romance,  orphaned  by  a  Louisiana  hurricane,  made  a  run- 
'  away  by  a  too-strict  aunt,  exchanging  a  bank  clerkship  for 
the  Missouri  River  frontier,  returning  to  New  Orleans, 
after  twenty  years,  to  be  identified  by  and  welcomed  by 
an  old  nurse,  but  to  be  repudiated  by  a  sister.  Again  he 
became  a  trader,  associated  with  Andrew  Drips  at  Bellevue, 
and  later  led  brigades  into  the  Rockies.  He  was  a  swart, 
foreign-appearing  man,  of  a  saturnine  temperament,  which 
finally  brought  him  to  suicide,  early  in  1836,  at  that  Fort 
William  on  the  North  Platte,  where  but  a  few  weeks  pre- 
ceding his  competitor,  Milton  Sublette,  had  died.  His  chil- 
dren by  an  Omaha  Indian  wife  were  prominent  figures  in 
the  early  history  of  Nebraska. 

Captain  Benjamin  Louis  Eulalie  de  Bonneville:  French 
bom.  West  Point  educated;  died  June  12,  1878,  at  Fort 
Smith,  Arkansas.  He  was  "  of  middle  size,  well  made  and 
well  set,'*  his  countenance  "  frank,  open  and  engaging,"  with 
a  French  cast.  He  had  a  "  pleasant  black  eye,"  a  high  fore- 
head and  a  bald  crown.  In  the  spring  of  1832,  on  leave 
from  the  army,  he  conducted  an  exploring  and  fur  himting 


DRAMATIS  PERSON  A  E  117 

brigade  across  South  Pass,  and  along  the  Salt  Lake  and 
Snake  and  Green  Rivers,  but  was  rebuffed  by  British  and 
American  companies,  alike.  He  succeeded  in  calling  more 
attention  to  the  Great  Basin  (today  bearing  his  name),  and 
accidentally  opening  communication  with  California  by  the 
Walker  route,  sprinkled,  as  advanced  the  Star  of  Empire, 
with  the  blood  of  wretched  Diggers. 

Captain  Gant :  An  independent  trader,  of  whom  we  first 
hear  when,  in  the  spring  of  183 1,  he  took  a  party  of  seventy 
trappers,  many  of  them  greenhorns  from  Pennsylvania,  out 
of  St.  Louis  across  Nebraska  and  up  the  Platte  to  the  Lara- 
mie Plains.  A  man  well  initiated  into  his  western  career 
by  bad  fortune,  he  seems  to  have  placed  himself  in  history 
as  the  first  trader  to  cultivate  a  stable  outpost  among  the 
Arapahos  —  3.  people  jealous,  in  their  plains  ranging  along 
the  foothills  between  the  Arkansas  and  the  Platte,  of  white 
invasion.  He  and  his  partner,  Captain  Blackwell,  had  a 
post  upon  the  upper  Arkansas  in  the  early  thirties ;  and  the 
ruins  of  at  least  one  of  their  posts,  about  six  miles  below 
the  present  city  of  Pueblo,  were  visible  for  some  years  prior 
to  the  Mexican  War.  When  Colonel  Henry  Dodge's  First 
Dragoons  in  the  summer  of  1835  swung  out  from  Fort 
Gibson,  on  a  tour  of  the  Indian  country,  up  the  Platte  to 
the  mountains  and  south  to  return  by  the  Arkansas,  "  Cap- 
tain Gant,  Indian  trader,"  was  the  guide.  Of  his  partner. 
Captain  Blackwell,  nothing  is  known. 

Nathaniel  Jarvis  Wyeth:  General  trader,  fur  hunter, 
first  enthusiast  to  put  the  Oregon  question  to  practical  test. 
Cambridge  born  and  educated  in  Massachusetts.  In  1832, 
after  a  preliminary  "  hardening  "  by  two  weeks'  camping 
upon  an  island  in  the  home  river,  out  of  Boston  he  headed, 
with  his  twenty  amateur  crusaders,  to  embark  in  "  business  " 
in  Oregon !  His  men  were  daunted  by  unexpected  hardships 
and  sarcastic  over  his  wagon-boat,  dubbed  by  Harvard  stu- 
dents the  Nat-Wyethium.     Succored  by  Sublette,  he  was 


118  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

received  by  the  mountains  with  the  fierce  battle  of  Pierre's 
Hole.  After  that  his  trail  was  one  of  constant  disappoint- 
ment and  discouragement,  and  with  the  title  of  captain  he 
ultimately  returned  to  New  England  and  an  ice  business. 

Joseph  L.  Meek:  Trapper,  first  Oregon  sheriff,  envoy 
from  Oregon  "  to  the  Court  of  Washington."  Bom  in  Vir- 
ginia in  1810,  almost  at  the  time  of  the  birth  of  Kit  Carson 
in  Kentucky,  he  entered  the  mountains  as  a  runaway  in 
1828,  with  William  Sublette.  A  rogue,  a  wit,  a  harum- 
scarum,  now  here,  now  there,  now  prosperous,  now  poor, 
the  plantation  his  school  and  the  motmtains  his  college,  his 
adventures  upon  the  beaver  trail  resulted  in  one  of  the  best 
histories  of  the  opening  of  the  Northwest.*^ 

William  Williams :  "  Old  Bill "  Williams,  lone  trapper, 
ex-preacher,  eccentric.  A  tall,  stooped  man  of  Missouri 
f ever-and-ague  type,  his  thin,  leathery  face,  his  nut-cracker 
jaws,  his  Punch  chin  and  nose,  his  small,  sharp,  twinkling, 
restless  gray  eyes,  his  querulous  voice,  slovenly  habits,  elk- 
hide  suit,  black  with  camp-fire  smoke  and  slick  with  grease, 
his  piebald,  hump-nosed  Indian  pony,  were  familiar  to  trap- 
pers, traders,  and  Indians  from  the  Three  Forks  to  the  Gila, 
from  the  States  to  California.  Aged,  infirm,  half  blind  from 
summer  desert  and  winter  hills,  in  conducting  Fremont's 
fourth  expedition  around  the  head  of  the  San  Luis  Park 
of  Colorado,  in  the  fall  of  1848,  he  failed.  With  this,  an 
old  stamping  ground,  he  seemed  utterly  unfamiliar.  After 
the  rescue  of  the  party,  true  to  his  solitary  nature  and  to 
escape  ignominy,  he  fled  from  the  company  of  his  fellows, 
and  amidst  the  depth  of  winter  he  plunged  as  of  yore  back 
into  the  snow-bound  peaks.  In  the  spring  of  1849  ^^^  "^^y 
was  found,  a  bullet  wound  in  its  breast,  sitting  against  a 
tree  as  if  he  had  been  stricken  instantly,  in  a  most  secret 
recess  of  his  favorite  haunt  of  Middle  Park,  Colorado.  A 
medicine  man,  sacred  among  the  Utes,  his  friends,  he  had 
been  convicted  by  them  of  betraying  a  camp  to  the  hQ3tilc 


DRAMATIS  PERSONAL  119 

Arapahos  and  a  council  had  decided  that  he  must  die. 
Thus  they  had  executed  him,  as,  unconscious  of  danger,  he 
sat  in  camp;  and  as  token  they  had  exchanged  fffks  wkfa 
him.  He  is  remembered  today  as  perhapsuthe  most  noto- 
rious of  all  the  mountain  men,  and  his  monuments  are  the 
Williams  Fork  of  the  Grand  River  in  Colorado  Middle 
Park  (his  burial  place),  and  the  Bill  Williams  Peak  and 
the  station  of  Williams,  Arizona.*^ 

Thomas  L.  Smith :  "  Peg-leg  "  Smith,  assumed  but  erro- 
neously to  be  the  brother  of  Jedediah  S.  Smith ;  among  the 
Mexicans  "  El  Cojo  Smit "  (the  Lame  Smith) ;  a  "  stout 
built  man  with  black  eyes  and  gray  hair  " ;  a  "  hard  drinker, 
and,  when  under  the  influence  of  liquor,  very  liable  to  get 
into  a  fight " ;  possessor  of  a  most  serviceable  wooden  leg 
(its  predecessor  having  been  amputated  in  the  brush  after 
a  scrimmage  with  the  Blackfeet),  which,  unstrapped,  aided 
in  cleaning  out  many  a  barroom  and  frontier  "  grocery 
store."  His  mountain-man  trapper  service  dated  from 
before  1826;  and  when  he  died  he  was  almost  the  last  rep- 
resentative of  the  rough-and-ready,  boisterous  frontiersmen. 

Peter  Skene  Ogden:  Hudson  Bay  head  trader;  son  of 
a  chief  justice  of  Montreal;  but  no  match  for  the  Ameri- 
can traders  in  a  bargain.  "  Short,  dark  and  exceedingly 
tough,  with  an  inexhaustible  fund  of  humor";  "a  fellow 
of  infinite  jest,"  perhaps  o  'er  good-natured  for  business,  but 
a  dweller  in  the  wilds  who  traveled  his  trail  with  a  smile 
and  amidst  friends.  He  died  in  Oregon,  his  adopted  land, 
in  1854. 

Captain  Joseph  Reddif ord  Walker :  Tennessean  and  Mis- 
sourian,  dark  and  bearded,  six  feet  tall,  weight,  two  hundred 
pounds,  thorough  frontiersman,  mild  but  resolute,  Santa  Fe 
trapper,  Spanish  captive,  Indian  fighter,  Missouri  sheriflf, 
Southwest  trader,  captain  under  Bonneville  into  the  moun- 
tains, breaker  of  the  trail  frc«n  Salt  Lake  west  across  the 
Great  Basin  to  Monterey,  desert  guide  for  emigrant  parties, 


^'  120  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 


\ 


^>^  California  rancher  and  stock  raiser,  first  of  the  Arizona 
prospectors  who  opened  the  Prescott  region  —  "  one  of  the 

Lve§^^TffKk.most  skillful  of  mountain  men,"  especially 
familiar  with  thie^esert  of  the  Southwest  He  died,  famous 
and  respected,  on  a  ranch  in  Contra  Costa  County,  Califor- 
nia, 1876,  at  the  age  of  78,  his  only  request  being  that 
upon  his  stone  be  ascribed  to  him  the  discovery  of  Yosemite 
Park. 

Michel  Sylvestre  Cerre:  Fur  trader  and  captain  under 
Bonneville,  St.  Louis  Frenchman,  born  April,  1803,  and 
grandson  of  a  pioneer  fur  hunter  of  the  Mississippi  Valley ; 
in  the  American  Fur  Company,  after  the  Bonneville  expedi- 
tion; 1848,  representative  in  the  Missouri  Assembly;  1849, 
clerk  of  St.  Louis  District  Court;  1858,  sheriff  of  St.  Louis 
County;  died  from  pneumonia  January  5,  i860.  The  name 
Cerre  still  survives,  on  an  equality  with  the  proud  name  of 
Chouteau. 

Markhead :  Christian  name  unknown ;  "  cele- 
brated for  his  courage  and  reckless  daring,*'  in  years  as  in 
deeds  Kit  Carson's  contemporary,  he  was  shot  in  the  back 
by  Mexican  captors  while  on  the  Taos  Trail  during  the 
Mexican  Pueblo  insurrection  of  the  winter  1846-1847.^* 

Robert  Newell :  "  Doc  "  Newell,  trapper,  Ohioan  recruit 
of  1829  with  William  Sublette;  Meek's  comrade,  fellow 
rancher  and  influential  fellow  citizen  in  Oregon,  Indian 
agent  and  speaker  in  the  Oregon  Assembly. 

John  Hawkins:  "Jake  Hawkens,"  trapper,  later  a 
rancher  and  trader,  in  1847,  at  the  pueblo  on  the  Arkansas  — 
the  settlement  where  now  has  arisen  Pueblo,  Colorado. 

Richard  Owens:  "Dick"  Owens,  Carson's  close  com- 
rade and  partner  in  many  mountain  doings ;  his  partner  in 
ranching  it  in  New  Mexico  after  trapper  days;  his  compan- 
ion upon  the  third  Fremont  expedition,  and  a  captain  in 
California  service  during  the  events  which  followed  the 
Bear  Flag.    A  man  "  cool,  brave  and  of  good  judgment." 


DRAMATIS  PERSONA E  121 

Jim  Beckwourth :  Of  French-negro  blood,  trapper  with 
the  first  Ashley  expedition  of  1822,  and  of  long,  varied  serv- 
ice thereafter;  Crow  chief;  alleged  army  scout  in  Florida; 
trader;  overlander  to  California,  immigrant  trader  there 
and  discoverer  of  Beckwourth's  Pass  in  the  Sierras,  where, 
ascending  Feather  River,  today  a  railroad  crosses;  a 
romanticist,  whose  dictated  volume  of  his  life  exceeds  the 
best  endeavors  of  a  Ned  Buntline.  In  his  later  years  a 
Denverite ;  and  at  the  end  again  a  Crow,  dying  by  poisoned 
soup  in  a  Crow  lodge  of  the  North  Platte  country,  Wyo- 
ming, 1867,  aged  seventy.  Thus  his  Crow  wife  retained  his 
spirit. 

Antoine  Robidoux :  *^  First  fur  trader  out  of  old  Taos, 
whose  post  in  southwestern  Colorado  was  the  pioneer  Amer- 
ican trading  post  beyond  the  Continental  Divide  of  the  Rock- 
ies; later  with  a  post  established  at  the  forks  of  the 
Uintah  River  in  northeastern  Utah  —  Fort  Uintah,  cap- 
tured and  destroyed  in  1844  by  the  Utes.  One  of  New 
Mexico's  earliest  gold  miners  —  setting  the  fashion  by 
"  sinking  eight  thousand  dollars."  Interpreter  and  guide 
with  the  Kearny  overland  column  of  1846  to  California, 
where  his  brother,  Louis  Robidoux,  who  had  preceded  him 
by  two  years,  was  alcalde  and  jues  de  paz  at  San  Bernar- 
dino; grievously  wounded  by  a  lance  thrust  at  the  battle 
of  San  Pasqual;  granted  a  pension  by  Congress  May  23, 
1856;  died  at  St.  Joseph,  Missouri  (former  trading  post  of 
his  second  brother,  Joseph),  in  i860,  aged  66.  A  "thin 
man,"  of  the  French-Canadian  type,  active  member  of  a 
family  distinguished  along  the  Missouri,  in  the  Southwest 
and  in  California.  His  pass  across  the  rampart  Sangre  de 
Cristo  range,  Colorado,  for  the  inner  country,  today  Mosca 
Pass,  was  long  a  noted  wagon  trail. 

Captain  Sir  William  Drummond  Stuart :  "  Sporting 
Englishman  "  with  the  "  two-shoot "  gun ;  seventh  Baron  of 
GrandtuUy ;  lover  of  the  wild  West,  and  therein  beloved ;  hail 


122  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

comrade  with  the  mountain  men,  a  hunter  and  a  fighter,  a 
thorough  Britisher  on  the  big  game  trail  who  traveled  with 
courage  and  with  creature  comforts  which  alike  astonished 
camp  and  rendezvous. 

J.  M.  Stanley:  Artist,  whose  "The  Trapper's  Last 
Shot "  is  among  the  very  few  canvases  and  perhaps  is  the 
only  one  photographic  of  those  numberless  events  deserving 
of  a  Remington,  but  with,  alas,  no  Remington  there;  the 
first  artist  to  attempt  this  stirring  field,  and  later  deline- 
ator of  the  Governor  Isaac  I.  Stevens  exploration,  and  con- 
temporary army  explorations^  1853-54-55,  for  a  railroad 
route  to  the  Pacific.** 


CHAPTER  XIII 
ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  — 1832-1834 

WE  FIND  Kit  Carson,  in  the  summer  of  1832,  as  a  free 
trapper  back  in  Taos  with  his  mountain  furs.  Here 
he  is  out  of  the  strife  which  is  embittering  the  solitudes, 
and  by  sale  of  his  beaver  he  has  a  competency  which  would 
last  a  youth  of  his  sober  instincts  scnne  time.  But  at  twenty- 
two,  in  the  far  West  of  that  day,  what  youth  would  plan  a 
siesta  of  long  duration  ?  There  enters  upon  the  scene  "  Cap- 
tain Lee,"  said  to  be  a  minor  partner  in  the  active  trading 
firm  of  Bent,  St.  Vrain  &  Co.,  who  recently  had  established 
the  post  of  Fort  William,  or  Bent's  Fort,  northeast  of  Taos 
on  the  Arkansas  River  in  southeastern  Colorado,  and  of 
whc«n  more  will  be  related  presently. 

Captain  Lee,  like  Captain  Gant  and  more  like  Captain 
Blackwell,  seems  fated  to  go  down  the  aisles  of  history  with- 
out distinction  of  name.  However,  with  Captain  Lee  (pre- 
viously of  the  United  States  Army),  in  October  of  1832, 
Kit  Carson  takes  a  mule  pack  train  of  trading  supplies  from 
Taos  into  the  Uintah  country  of  northeastern  Utah. 

The  route  chosen  by  Captain  Lee  and  yotmg  Carson  was 
that  old  Spanish  Trail,  retraced  two  years  previously  by 
William  Wolf  skill,  and  since  then  by  various  horse  and 
mule  expeditions,  lawful  and  unlawful,  between  New  Mex- 
ico and  Alta  California,  made  well  ddined. 

Not  a  pleasant  trail  was  this,  in  its  beginnings,  through 
the  perilous  country  of  the  Apaches  —  a  country  heavily 
timbered  in  the  mountains,  but  for  the  most  part  whitish, 
gravelly  mesas  or  table-lands,  watercourses  now  dry,  sand 
and  cactus,  sage  and  pinon  and  scrub  oak,  where  lived  the 

123 


124  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

coyote  and  the  jack  rabbit,  the  rattlesnake,  tarantula  and 
buzzard:  yet  a  country  requiring  only  the  irrigating  ditch 
to  make  it  fertile. 

In  southwestern  Colorado  the  timber  became  more  com- 
mon, with  chaparral  or  brushy  growth  and  sage  covering  the 
mesas,  and  bare  volcanic  ridges  rising  to  the  north.  Ancient 
stone  ruins  of  forgotten  people  were  passed  in  the  walls 
of  deep,  bare  caiions,  or  crowning  gravelly  hills.  At  the 
Dolores  the  party  left  the  Wolfskill  trace  and  headed  more 
into  the  north  for  the  Uintah  coimtry  of  northeastern  Utah. 
They  may  not  have  known  that  they  were  following  any  but 
an  Indian  trail,  but  this  was  the  course  of  the  original  Span- 
ish Trail,  as  pioneered  by  good  Father  Escalante  himself. 

The  country  would  grow  more  rugged,  filled  with  spires 
and  peaks,  their  bases  heavily  clad  with  pines  and  spruces, 
their  crests  gaily  tinted  and  specked  with  patches  of  snow. 
Indeed,  upon  the  crests  and  the  passes  snow  already  was 
falling.  It  was  now  Ute  country,  however,  and  the  Utes 
were  friendly  to  the  trader. 

From  the  White  River  of  northwestern  Colorado  the  Lee- 
Carson  party  followed  down  to  the  Green,  and  from  the 
Green  a  short  cut  was  made  northwest  to  a  point  where, 
"  at  the  forks  of  the  Uintah,"  and  **  on  the  right  bank,  in 
latitude  40°,  2/,  45"  north,  longitude  109°,  56',  42"  west " 
was  to  be  located  Robidoux  Fort,  or  Fort  Uintah,  at  this 
time  but  a  rude  collection  of  lodges.  Here  was  established 
experimentally  the  veteran  Antoine  Robidoux,  from  Taos, 
and  perchance  his  brother  Louis,  future  juez  de  paz  of  San 
Bernardino.  The  situation  was  to  prove  satisfactory,  until, 
in  a  dozen  years,  or  about  1844,  in  an  attack  by  the  Indians 
during  the  absence  of  the  proprietor,  the  post,  of  substantial 
build,  was  destroyed. 

In  this  fall  of  1832  the  place  was  the  headquarters  of 
some  twenty  men,  trappers  and  traders,  their  squaws  and 
their  families. 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  125 

It  would  appear  scarcely  reasonable  to  presume  that  Lee 
and  Carson  had  counted  upon  this  Robidoux  camp  as  their 
destination  and  market,  for  the  veteran  Antoine  would  con- 
trol the  territory.  However,  as  winter  was  setting  in,  the 
two  companies  made  winter  camp  together,  further  down, 
at  the  mouth  of  the  Uintah.  Skin  lodges  were  erected,  and 
fuel  and  meat  had  to  be  stored. 

In  the  Robidoux  employ  was  an  Indian  from  California. 
One  night  during  the  winter  he  disappeared,  and  with  him 
disappeared  six  horses,  valued  at  $600 ;  for  although  horses, 
in  trapper  days,  were  plentiful,  yet  a  good  horse  was  some- 
thing that  could  not  always  be  easily  replaced.  The  lowest 
cash  value  of  a  good  one  was  $60.  The  horse  was  a  com- 
mon commodity,  it  was  a  necessity  also,  and  the  pick  of 
necessities  is  apt  to  be  ranked  in  value  with  a  luxury.  Car- 
son's reputation  for  skill  and  reliability  was  of  course 
known  to  Robidoux,  and  he  was  asked  to  undertake  the 
pursuit  of  the  thief.    Carson  probably  was  nothing  loth. 

He  was  warned  that  the  California  Indian  was  very 
shrewd,  and  was  one  of  the  best  rifle  shots  at  the  fort.  At 
a  Ute  village,  near  by,  he  picked  up  a  Ute  brave,  for  trailer, 
and  hard  and  fast,  over  the  winter  landscape,  they  followed 
the  trail  of  the  Calif ornian  and  his  stolen  horses. 

Down  the  Green  River  it  sped  away,  through  a  grim,  bare 
mesa  region  fringed  with  rimrock  and  cut  deep  by  arroyos. 
Evidently  the  Indian  fugitive  was  aiming  for  California, 
his  home.  Then,  when  by  two  days  of  riding  the  pursuit 
had  covered  one  hundred  miles,  the  Ute's  horse  was  taken 
sick  and  could  be  used  no  more. 

But  the  trail  was  growing  warm;  the  Indian  with  his 
six  driven  horses  could  not  travel  as  fast  as  single  riders ; 
he  could  be  only  a  short  distance  ahead,  and  Kit  Carson 
continued  alone. 

After  he  had  proceeded  thirty  miles  more,  he  sighted 
ahead  of  him  the  thief  and  the  stolen  stock.    The  Indian 


126  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

well  knew  that  he  was  being  pursued,  and  he  had  seen  Kit 
Carson  as  quickly  as  Kit  Carson  had  seen  him.  Fast  and 
faster  they  rode,  the  Indian  to  reach  cover,  just  before  him, 
where  he  might  make  a  stand.  Kit  Carson  to  c^tch  him  ere 
he  did  so. 

Kit  Carson's  horse  was  the  swifter,  and  presently  only  a 
hundred  and  fifty  yards  separated  pursuer  and  pursued. 
Both  men  had  down  their  rifles  —  but  the  Calif omian  did 
not  appreciate  who  was  after  him.  He  waited  a  moment 
too  long,  for  it  was  his  purpose  to  shoot  as  he  reached 
cover,  and  there,  under  shelter,  to  reload  in  readiness  to 
shoot  again,  if  his  first  bullet  had  missed. 

Just  at  the  edge  of  the  cover,  as  he  whirled  and  leveled 
his  rifle,  from  the  back  of  the  galloping  horse  behind 
cracked  the  rifle  of  Carson.  The  Indian's  gun  exploded,  but 
without  aim,  for  he  pitched  to  the  ground  and  instantly 
died.  Kit  Cs^rson  had  shot  first.  In  due  time  Carson  reached 
the  Uintah  camp  with  the  stolen  horses. 

As  the  winter  wore  away,  there  arrived  at  the  camp  a 
small  party  of  men  from  the  upper  country  to  the  north, 
who  reported,  among  other  things,  that  Fitzpatrick  and 
Bridger  of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  had  wintered 
in  the  Snake  River  Valley  and  were  preparing  for  the 
spring  hunt. 

Evidently  Robidoux  had  not  bought  many  of  the  Lee 
supplies;  and  it  seemed  to  the  captain  and  to  Kit  Carson 
that  they  should  start  onward,  to  catch  the  Fitzpatrick- 
Bridger  camp  before  it  broke  up.  Accordingly  they  packed, 
and  leaving  the  isolated  camp  of  Robidoux,  headed  into 
the  north. 

It  was  a  disagreeable  journey  of  fifteen  days,  amidst  the 
snowy,  chill  weather  of  late  winter  and  early  spring,  through 
a  country  very  rough,  but  a  region  familiar  to  Carson, 
who  had  been  in  this  vicinity  before;  and  by  the  end  of 
the  fortnight  he  and  the  captain,  emerging  at  the  juncture 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  127 

of  the  Portneuf  and  the  Snake,  in  southeastern  Idaho,  found 
there  encamped  the  doughty,  winter-bound  main  force  of 
the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company,  under  Messrs.  Fitzpat- 
rick,  Bridger,  and  Milton  Sublette. 

Carson,  and  probably  Captain  Lee  (if  associated  with 
Bent's  Fort)  therefore  met  old  acquaintances,  and  around 
the  lodge  fires  the  news  of  the  mountain  world  would  be 
rehearsed.  They  would  hear  how  the  winter  here  (as  like 
enough  down  on  the  Uintah)  was  hard,  "  with  skeins  of 
frost  two  feet  long  hanging  from  the  roofs,  inside  " ;  they 
would  learn  that  William  Sinclair,  the  free  trapper  from  the 
Arkansas  party,  had  been  killed,  that  William  Sublette  had 
been  woimded,  both  in  a  big  affray  at  Pierre's  Hole;  that 
Vanderburgh  of  the  American  Company  had  been  "  wiped 
out "  by  the  Blackf  eet  in  the  Three  Forks  country ;  and  that 
Bridger  had  been  shot  in  the  back  with  two  arrows  —  one 
point  being  there  yet. 

As  Carson's  biography  states  that  the  Rocky  Mountain 
Company  took  over  the  trading  supplies  brought  in  by  the 
twain,  paying  therefor  in  beaver,*^  it  is  probable  that 
Captain  Lee  returned  with  the  pack  train  to  Taos  or  Bent's 
Fort.  He  then  drops  from  view.  Carson  stays  with  the 
company  for  a  short  time,  but  long  enough  to  join  in  a  fight. 
It  may  be  said  of  Kit  Carson  that  trouble  never  dodged 
him. 

Ere  tlie  camp  had  broken  up  for  the  spring  hunt  the 
early  Blackfeet,  more  restless  and  more  vengeful  since 
that  affair  of  last  summer  in  Pierre's  Hole,  rushed  the 
horseherd  and  ran  off  most  of  the  saddle  stock,  including 
Jim  Bridger's  favorite  Comanche  mount,  Grohean.  After 
a  sharp  pursuit  through  the  snow  by  thirty  of  the  trappers, 
among  them  Carson  (who  here  receives  his  first  mention 
in  trapper  chronicle  of  the  day)  the  Indians  were  over- 
taken and  a  parley  resulted.  The  Blackfeet  claimed 
that  they  thought  they  were  robbing  their  enemies  the 


128  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Snakes,  and  not  their  "  friends  "  the  Americans.  However, 
this  was  but  a  ruse ;  and  after  the  savages,  in  lordly  manner, 
had  brought  on  five  of  the  poorest  horses  and  offered  them 
as  full  settlement,  the  council  broke  up  in  a  general  and 
mutual  rush  for  weapons.  The  fight  was  from  behind 
trees  and  rocks.  Trapper  Markhead  had  trouble  with  the 
lock  of  his  gun  and  by  quickly  changing  aim  from  his 
own  adversary  to  Markhead's,  Carson  saved  his  compan- 
ion's life  but  received  in  the  left  shoulder  the  bullet  which 
he  might  otherwise  have  avoided. 

With  shoulder  shattered  he  lay  upon  the  ground  until 
the  trappers,  badly  outnumbered  and  almost  outfought, 
slowly  withdrew,  and  night  put  an  end  to  the  battle.  The 
night  was  bitterly  cold,  but  this  checked  the  bleeding  of 
Carson's  wound  —  the  only  severe  wound,  so  far  as  re- 
corded, which  he  ever  received  at  hostile  hands. 

However,  the  cold  caused  much  suflfering  to  the  trappers, 
who  were  in  light  marching  order,  and  they  decided  that 
they  were  not  prepared  to  pursue  the  Blackf eet  further.  So 
they  returned  to  camp,  without  the  horses;  and  a  supple- 
mental chase  by  Bridger  himself,  heading  a  party,  resulted 
in  nothing  more. 

This  spring  of  1833  continued  fitful  and  laggard,  cold 
and  wet,  with  much  wind  and  snow.  When  camp  finally 
broke,  for  the  usual  exodus  into  the  hills,  Carson  again 
struck  out  for  himself,  his  reason  being 

that  there  were  too  many  congregated  together  either  to  accom- 
plish much  or  to  make  the  general  result  profitable  in  the 
distribution.  He  accordingly  arranged  an  enterprise  upon  his 
own  account,  and,  from  his  well-established  reputation,  found 
more  men  than  he  wanted  to  join  him.  From  those  who 
applied  he  selected  but  three.*® 

This  argument,  whether  sound  or  not,  as  assigned  to 
Carson,  shows  him  in  the  light  of  a  shrewd  thinker  and  inde- 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  129 

pendent  actor.  He  preferred  to  make  his  own  trails.  And 
following  his  biography,  we  find  him  this  spring  trapping, 
with  his  little  squad,  on  the  Laramie  Plains.  Before  tlie 
summer  rendezvous  he  has  another  of  his  celebrated  adven- 
tures. 

One  late  afternoon,  while  distant  from  camp,  after  meat, 
he  shot  an  elk,  and  instantly  was  charged  by  two  grizzly 
bears.  They  gave  him  no  time  for  reloading  his  rifle.  He 
ran  for  the  nearest  tree,  and  hoisted  himself  by  a  limb 
just  as  the  bears  rushed  tmder  so  close  as  to  brush  his  dan- 
gling legs. 

The  tree  was  a  young  spruce  or  fir,  and  low-branching; 
and  now  we  may  understand  that  Carson  had  been  foolish 
enough  to  leave  camp  without  his  pistol ;  for  here  he  must 
hastily  slash  oflf  a  bough  and  use  it  as  a  dub.  A  bear, 
when  erect,  has  no  mean  reach,  and  these  threatened  to  drag 
him  in  shreds  from  his  perch;  but  he  lustily  thwacked 
them  upon  the  nose.  After  vainly  trying  him,  and  being 
beaten  down,  having  kept  him  an  uneasy  prisoner  until 
darkness  they  retired,  and  he  descended  with  difficulty, 
under  a  cloudy  sky,  to  reach  camp  again. 

While  en  route  to  the  rendezvous  a  jimcture  was  made 
with  a  Rocky  Mountain  Company  party  under  Bridger,  and 
the  travel  was  resumed  to  the  Valley  of  the  Green,  for  the 
annual  market. 

The  summer  rendezvous  of  1833,  in  the  well-beloved 
Valley  of  the  Green,  was  one  of  the  greatest  ever  held. 
The  rivalry  of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Company  and  the 
American  Company  was  at  its  height,  and  Captain  Bonne- 
ville likewise  was  exerting  himself  to  the  utmost.  No  trap- 
per was  necessarily  out  of  emplo)rment ;   furs  went  rapidly. 

The  rendezvous  dissolved,  and  there  was  a  great  parting 
of  the  ways.  The  youth  Nathaniel  Wyeth,  after  his  winter 
in  Oregon  (where,  truth  to  say,  he  had  been  more  kindly 
treated  by  the  British  company  than  he  had  been,  or  would 


130  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

be,  treated  by  his  American  competitors)  proceeded  on  to 
Boston,  there  to  close  a  contract  with  Milton  Sublette  for 
bringing  supplies  to  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company 
rendezvous  of  the  next  year;  to  form  the  Columbia  River 
Fishing  and  Trading  Company;  and  altogether  to  plan 
great  things  —  ignorant,  he,  as  yet  (so  mysterious  are  the 
works  of  Providence),  that  his  training  had  been  shaped 
to  far  greater  purpose  —  the  escorting  across  the  plains  of 
the  first  missionaries,  Jason  Lee  and  party,  as  a  wedge 
widening  the  crack  made  by  the  fur  hunters,  so  that  into 
Oregon  might  enter  the  creaking  canvas-top  wagons  of  the 
emigrants  from  the  States. 

So  from  the  rendezvous  Wyeth,  his  work  cut  out  for  him, 
proceeded  on  courier  way  home  to  Boston.  In  the  opposite 
direction  rode  a  Bonneville  detachment  under  Joe  Walker, 
for  the  west  side  of  the  Great  Salt  Lake,  inadvertently  or  not 
to  blaze  the  emigrant  Overland  Trail  across  the  desert  to 
golden  California. 

The  various  other  companies  and  squads  of  fur  hunters, 
for  the  Rocky  Mountain  Company,  for  the  American  Com- 
pany, for  the  Bonneville  Company,  for  the  Hudson  Bay 
Company,  for  the  free  companies,  separated  to  trap  wher- 
ever fortune  good  or  ill  indicated. 

As  for  Kit  Carson's  movements  this  fall  and  winter,  the 
chronicler  is  confronted  by  a  multiplicity  of  choices,  of 
which  none  are  satisfactory.  By  a  few  corroborative  dates 
we  may  check  Carson's  adventures:  by  the  founding  of 
Fort  Hall,  in  1834;  by  his  alliance  with  Joseph  Gale  in 
1834;  by  the  date  of  his  duel  at  the  rendezvous  of  1835; 
by  the  forting  against  the  Blackfeet,  in  1835;  by  the  death 
of  Fontenelle  in  1837;  by  the  rendezvous  of  1837.  Yet 
in  any  extant  biography  of  him,  his  wanderings  are  repre- 
sented so  independently  of  these  dates  that  time  seems  to 
have  been  kept  by  notches  on  a  forked  stick. 

This  fall  of  1833  may  perhaps  have  been  the  one  when. 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  131 

enlisted  with  a  company  of  fifty  men,  he  traveled  to  the 
Three  Forks  cotintry  of  the  sources  of  the  Missouri,  in 
Montana,  and  there  was  excessively  annoyed  by  the  Black- 
feet;  but  it  would  be  more  reasonable  to  send  him  south- 
ward into  western  Colorado  and  the  desert  of  the  Southwest, 
with  the  German  Fraeb  and  the  French  Canadian  Gervais, 
to  himt  and  to  spend  the  winter.  Meantime  the  Walker 
party,  emulating  Jedediah  Smith,  crossed  the  western  desert 
in  a  new  place ;  fully  recuperated  amidst  the  hospitality  of 
Monterey,  where  bullfights  and  fandangos  and  the  smiles 
of  seiioritas  welcomed  them,  and  in  February  and  spring, 
1834,  were  backward  journeying,  to  report,  on  the  Bear 
River,  to  Captain  Bonneville  that  they  had  done  nothing 
with  the  talents  entrusted  to  them. 

A  portion  of  the  party,  however,  swung  more  to  the 
south,  roistered  through  the  lower  country,  of  the  Mohaves 
on  the  Colorado  River,  and  on  freebooter  course  continu- 
ing to  the  Gila,  thence  turned  north  and  struck  the  Williams 
Fork  of  the  Colorado.  This  they  ascended,  and  met  with 
the  Rocky  Mountain  Company  division  of  Fraeb  and  Ger- 
vais, which  included  Kit  Carson,  again  in  his  first  grounds 
of  1829,  traversed  under  Ewing  Young. 

In  this  fall  of  1833  and  spring  of  1834  the  desert  had 
suddenly  become  the  fashion  —  and  a  strange  fashion  when 
we  realize  how  much  more  pleasant  and  profitable  were  the 
mountains. 

Two  hundred  strong,  the  tmited  parties  proceeded  east- 
ward to  the  Colorado  Chiquito  —  the  Flax,  or  the  Little 
Colorado,  River  (neither  title  equaling  the  Spanish) ;  and 
here  they  lawlessly,  in  true  freebooter  style,  plundered  the 
Moqui  melon  gardens.  For  resisting,  twenty  of  the  Moquis 
were  shot  to  death ;  and  the  unripe  as  well  as  the  ripe  fruit 
was  destroyed. 

Pointing  northwest,  having  thus  sown  the  seeds  of  hatred 
and  death,  and  leaving  the  ruined  Moquis  to  curse  the 


132  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

vandal  whites,  the  trappers  rode  onward  across  the  north- 
western comer  of  New  Mexico  and  struck  the  headwaters 
of  the  Rio  Grande  del  Norte,  in  Colorado's  San  Luis 
Park.     The  objective  point  was  the  South  Park. 

It  is  likely  that  some  of  the  party  diverged  to  Taos,  now 
only  eighty  miles  distant,  or  to  Bent's  Fort  on  the  Arkansas, 
for  we  find  Kit  Carson,  Joe  Meek,  William  Mitchell,  and 
three  Delawares,  Tom  Hill,  Jonas,  and  Manhead  (the  last- 
named  to  be  slain  in  due  time  by  the  Blackfeet)  on  a  hunt 
in  southeastern  Colorado  —  "  in  the  country  lying  between 
the  Arkansas  and  Cimarron,  where  numerous  small  branches 
of  these  rivers  head  together,  or  within  a  small  extent  of 
country." 

Now  occurred  another  Kit  Carson  adventure  —  a  grim, 
plains  Indian  fight,  no  more,  no  less  than  a  hundred  fights 
which  have  by  their  blood  fertilized  the  Great  American 
Desert,  but  a  fight  such  as  no  man  wishes  to  repeat. 

On  a  May  morning  the  six  hunters  were  charged  by  some 
two  hundred  Comanches,  those  riders  of  the  southern  plains 
equal  to  their  allies,  the  fierce  Kiowas.  The  whites  and 
Delawares  barely  had  time  in  which  to  cut  the  throats  of 
their  saddle  mules,  and  to  form  a  fort  of  the  dead  bodies 
(in  trapper  style)  before  the  Comanches  were  upon  them, 
only  to  recoil  before  their  rifles. 

An  all-day  fight  ensued ;  the  trappers  strengthened  their 
barricade  of  mule  carcasses  by  digging  pits  behind.  The 
Comanches  charged  again,  "  the  medicine-man  in  advance 
shouting,  gesticulating,  and  making  a  desperate  clatter  with 
a  rattle  which  he  carried  and  shook  violently.  The  yelling, 
the  whooping,  the  rattling,  the  force  of  the  charge  were 
appalling."  Three  of  the  trappers  fired,  while  the  other 
three  reloaded;  the  Comanche  horses  shrank  from  the 
smell  of  the  mule  blood ;  and  the  warriors  could  not  reach 
the  little  fort. 

Three  medicine  men  were  killed;  and  each  time  the 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  133 

Comanches  must  retire  to  choose  a  new  one.  During  the 
confabs,  the  squaws  approached  to  bear  off  the  slain  and 
to  revile  the  defenders.  The  attacking  force  was  armed  prin- 
cipally with  the  regulation  Comanche  long  lance,  attached 
to  hair  rope  for  recovery,  and  with  bows  and  arrows.  The 
siege  and  the  reiterated  assaults  lasted  until  nightfall,  so 
that  without  shade  and  water,  under  the  blazing  sun,  and 
tortured  by  dust  and  heat  and  powder-reek,  the  three  whites 
and  the  three  Delawares  were  desperately  put  to  it. 

That  the  Comanches  fought  bravely  is  attested  by  the 
record  of  forty-two  killed.  Finally,  having  "  lost  faith  in 
their  medicine,"  they  retired. 

When  the  coast  was  deemed  clear,  the  six  trappers  shoul- 
dered blanket  and  gun  and  maintained  a  dogtrot  all  night, 
making  for  the  mountains  and  camp,  and  did  not  reach 
water  until  they  had  covered  seventy-five  miles. 

The  main  camp  of  the  party  was  in  Colorado's  South 
Park,  where  the  spring  fur  hunt  was  finished  out.  The 
summer  rendezvous  was  held  as  customary  in  the  Valley 
of  the  Green. 

Here  now  gathered  the  various  trapping  bands  of  the 
companies  and  the  free  men,  save  those  of  Captain  Bonne- 
ville, which  had  met  in  the  Valley  of  the  Bear,  southward. 
The  Cambridge  knight-errant,  Nathaniel  Wyeth,  arrived 
with  supplies  and  sixty  men.  He  was  full  of  hope,  but 
Milton  Sublette  proved  false  to  his  promise,  and  the  Rocky 
Mountain  Fur  Company,  favoring  William  Sublette,  the 
trader,  former  partisan,  and  Milton's  brother,  refused  to 
take  the  Wyeth  goods.  So  amidst  the  wassailing  and  yarn- 
ing there  was  bitter  feeling;  Wyeth  protested,  Fitzpatrick, 
"  the  Bad  Hand,"  railed  against  the  loss  of  his  pack  train  at 
the  hands  of  the  Crows,  instigated,  he  alleged,  by  the 
American  Fur  Company;  Captain  Bonneville  had  been 
seducing  the  rank  and  file  by  lavish  liquor  and  by  proffers  of 
higher  pay;  the  beaver  business  was  demoralized;  and  early 


134  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

in  the  rendezvous  the  Rocky  Mountain  Company  had  issued 
the  following  statement: 

Whereas  a  dissolution  of  partnership  having  taken  place  by 
mutual  consent  between  Thos.  Fitzpatrick,  Milton  G.  Sublette, 
Henry  Fraeb,  John  Baptiste  Jervais  and  James  Bridger,  mem- 
bers of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company,  all  persons  having 
demands  against  said  company  are  requested  to  come  for- 
ward and  receive  pa)rment,  those  indebted  to  said  firm  are 
desired  to  call  and  make  immediate  pa3rment  as  they  are 
anxious  to  close  the  business  of  the  concern. 
Ham's  fork  June  20,  1834. 

Thos.  Fitzpatrick 

M.  G.  Sublette 

Henry  Fraeb 

J.  B.  Gervais 

James  Bridger  (his  mark) 
Wit. :    W.  L.  Sublette  for  Bridger  &  Fitzpatrick. 
Wit. :    J.  P.  Risley  for  Fraeb  &  Gervais. 
The  public  are  hereby  notified  that  the  business  will  in  future 
be  conducted  by  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  Milton  G.  Sublette,  & 
James  Bridger,  under  the  style  and  firm  of  Fitzpatrick,  Sub- 
lette &  Bridger. 
Ham's  fork  June  20,  1834. 

Thos.  Fitzpatrick 

M.  G.  Sublette 

James  Bridger  (his  mark) 
Wit:    W.L.Sublette. 

Thus  dissolved  the  Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company,  of 
robust  lineage.  The  evil  days  of  bad  faith  and  of  con- 
cupiscence had  fallen  upon  the  beaver  trail.  At  the  close 
of  the  rendezvous,  Nathaniel  Jarvis  Wyeth  of  the  Coliunbia 
River  Fishing  and  Trading  Company  departed,  disappointed 
but  not  yet  defeated  in  his  endeavor  to  enter  the  mountain 
trade,  hoping  to  clear  himself  by  ventures  at  the  Pacific  end 
of  the  great  river  of  Oregon,  and  with  the  threat  (well 
fulfilled)  to  "  roll  into  the  garden  "  of  Milton  Sublette  and 
associates  "  a  stone  which  they  cannot  remove."    The  bri- 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  135 

gades  and  companies  departed  east,  west,  north,  and  south. 
For  the  Columbia  was  already  hastening  Captain  Bonne- 
ville to  sweep  the  coimtry  ahead  of  his  fellow  struggler 
Wyeth.  And  over  the  Oregon  Trail,  yet  in  its  embryo 
form,  from  the  rendezvous  which  they  had  visited,  traveled 
the  two  missionaries,  Jason  and  Daniel  Lee,  and  a  company, 
bearing  the  gospel  of  the  white  East  to  the  red  West. 

They,  and  not  the  dissolution  of  the  Rocky  Mountain 
Company,  mark  the  epoch  of  the  summer  of  1834.  The 
beaver  himters  were  the  scouts,  the  missionaries  were  the 
pioneers,  of  the  westward  march  of  the  white  civilization. 

However,  let  us  not  omit  Hall  J.  Kelly  and  Ewing 
Young,  who  at  this  moment  are  out  of  California  and  near- 
ing  Oregon.  Of  Ewing  Young  we  know.  Of  Hall  J.  Kelly 
more  should  be  known.  A  Boston  man,  born  in  1791; 
Harvard  graduate,  scholar  and  gentleman ;  textbook  writer, 
surveyor,  mathematician,  through  almost  thirty  years,  or 
since  181 5,  inspired  by  the  Lewis  and  Clark  expedition 
he  has  been  preaching  Oregon,  ever  Oregon;  but  for  the 
most  part  he  has  been  a  prophet  dishonored  in  his  own 
country.  Known  to  history  more  or  less  slightingly  as 
"  the  Boston  schoolmaster,"  planning  for  a  great  1832  emi- 
gration, in  1827  he  issued  a  circular  "  To  all  persons  who 
wish  to  migrate  to  Oregon  Territory."  He  memorialized 
Congress  upon  the  subject;  in  1829  he  asked  for  a  grant, 
to  American  citizenship,  of  twenty-five  miles  in  the  Colum- 
bia district.  With  the  traditional  schoolman's  lack  of  the 
practical  he  bid  without  his  host,  for  under  joint  occu- 
pancy with  Great  Britain  such  a  grant  was  beyond  the  scope 
of  Congress,  even  should  Congress  (itself  impractical)  listen 
to  his  Cassandra  voice.  Now,  in  1834,  for  four  years  he 
has  urged  personally  in  the  lobbies  at  Washington  the 
American  occupancy  of  Oregon.  Heartsick  but  enthusias- 
tic and  determined,  all  his  other  schemes  for  a  coloni- 
zation come  to  naught,  save  to  interest  Nathaniel  Wyeth, 


136  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

in  1833,  forty-two  years  old,  by  sea  and  land  he  headed, 
via  Vera  Cruz,  for  California,  thence  to  make  for  Oregon, 
and  to  send  back  his  reports. 

In  this  summer  of  1834  he  encounters  in  Monterey  Cap- 
tain Ewing  Young.  He  has  worked  in  vain  to  ingratiate 
himself  with  Governor  Figueroa,  a  suspicious  Mexican. 
But  with  Young,  nothing  loth  to  embark  in  a  trading 
venture,  and  with  eight  others,  with  ninety-eight  horses 
and  mules,  the  nucleus  of  a  stock  ranch,  he  continues  on 
for  the  land  of  his  dreams.  Nine  "  marauders  "  convoying 
fifty-six  stolen  animals  join  them,  and  prove  their  undoing. 
Young  should  have  known  better  —  but  perhaps  he  was  not 
opposed  to  despoiling  the  Latin. 

Governor  Brigadier  General  Jose  Figfueroa,  short  in  reign, 
"  of  Aztec  blood,  and  hence  swarthy  in  color,"  *^  extremely 
zealous  against  the  foreigner,  saw  his  opportunity,  and 
promptly  dispatched  word  to  Governor  John  McLoughlin 
of  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  at  Vancouver  that  a  party  of 
American  outlaws,  with  their  plunder  from  California,  were 
upon  their  way  to  the  British  possessions. 

Therefore  when  the  Kelly- Young  Company  arrived  at 
Vancouver  —  innocent  of  theft  (s^ve  by  their  association 
with  the  nine  disreputables,  who  ere  this  had  diverged  upon 
another  course)  —  although  upon  the  trail  they  had  met 
with  succor  from  Hudson  Bay  trappers,  they  were  received 
by  Governor  McLoughlin  with  suspicion.  Kelly  was  refused 
a  seat  at  the  "  gentleman's  mess  "  of  the  McLoughlin  table; 
and  this  cut  him  to  the  soul.  Young  stayed  on ;  he  was  of 
fiber  innured  to  rebuff  by  nature  or  by  man.  But  remaining 
scarce  a  year,  a  broken  crusader,  a  penniless  scholar,  a 
ragged  surveyor,  a  proscribed  citizen,  ill  in  mind  as  in  body. 
Hall  J.  Kelly  sailed  again  for  home — in  his  pocket  to 
help  him  on  his  way  thirty-five  dollars  from  the  governor, 
whose  right  hand  was  the  hand  of  Company  policy  while 
his  left  hand  was  so  often  the  hand  of  human  charity.*® 


REV.  JASON  LEE 

'esy  of  the  Oregon  Historical 


REV.  SAMUEL  L.  PARKER 

OF    THE    SECOND    MiaS[ONARV    PARTI 
1  OREGON,   l8,15,  WH 


REV.  HENRY  H.  SPALDING 


MVRA  FAIRBANKS  EELLS 


MARY  RICHARDSON  WALKER         REV.    FRANCIS    N.    BLANC]^ET 

or    THE    SECOND    PARTY    OF    MISSION-  OF    THE    FIRST    R.    C.    MISBION.'IRIES    TO 


TO  OHEMN,  1B38  (Courlesv   of  the  Oregon   HUtorital 

(Courtesy   of   the   Oregon   Historical  Society) 


REV.  PETER  J.  DE  SMET 


CERAN  ST.  VRAIN 


CHAPTER  XIV 
THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON 

IT  MAY  be  said  that  the  first  invasion  of  Oregon  Territory 
by  missionaries  from  the  States  did  not  have  any 
conscious  purpose  of  colonizing  the  Pacific  coast.  In  the 
spring  of  1833,  when  by  the  Christian  Advocate  and  Journal 
and  Zion's  Herald,  the  "  Macedonian  cry  "  was  repeated 
through  the  Atlantic  coast  cities,  to  the  people  of  the  East 
Oregon  was  an  immense,  indefinite  country,  comprising  all 
the  fur  regfion  beyond  the  Rocky  Mountains,  where  flowed 
the  rivers  discovered  by  Lewis  and  Clark  and  the  Astor 
expeditions.  And  while  the  spasmodic  irruptions  in  Con- 
gress, the  pronunciamentos  of  the  zealous  Hall  Kelly,  and 
the  business  endeavors  of  Nathaniel  J.  Wyeth,  were  direct- 
ing attention  afresh  to  Oregon  (even,  it  is  claimed,  arous- 
ing interest  from  those  who  were  to  be  the  first  of  the  Prot- 
estant missionaries),  nevertheless  the  initial  missionary 
journey  of  Jason  and  Daniel  Lee,  Cyrus  Shepard  and  Philip 
L.  Edwards  had  in  view  a  gospel  establishment  among  only 
the  Flatheads  —  whose  home  was  but  the  nearer  edge  of 
Oregon. 

Wisely  did  Representative  McCormick  of  Arizona  in  an 
address  before  the  National  House  of  later  day  call  atten- 
tion to  the  fact  that  the  western  Indians*  are  not  cut  from 
the  one  cloth ;  but  that  they  "  differ  as  much  from  each 
other  as  Americans  do  from  Japanese  or  Chinese  " ;  that 
some  incline  to  barbarism,  some  to  civilization.  The  Amer- 
ican \.hite  man  has  been  disposed  to  regard  an  Indian  as 
an  Indian,  and  as  a  bad  Indian,  and  to  apply  one  set  of 
regulations  and  one  standard  of  measure  to  them  all. 

137 


138  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Fr(Mn  the  time  of  their  first  contact  (so  far  as  recorded) 
with  the  whites  in  the  persons  of  the  Lewis  and  Clark 
expedition  of  1804-1806,  the  Nez  Perce  Indians  and  the 
Flathead  Indians  (scwnewhat  confused  by  early  narratives), 
have  been  awarded  a  high  plane  of  intelligence,  cleanliness, 
probity,  and  morality.  A  Nez  Perce  or  Flathead  wife  was 
the  trapper's  prize.  Through  these  two  tribes  ran  a  strange 
vein  of  religious  fervor  af^oaching  that  of  the  Brahman, 
Long  before  the  licensed  missionary  from  the  East  had 
approached  them,  the  Book  in  his  hand,  these  Flatheads  and 
Nez  Perces  appear  to  have  followed  a  worship  akin  to  the 
worship  of  the  Christian. 

Captain  Bonneville,  who  was  amcmg  Nez  Perc&  in  the 
fall  of  1832,  relates  the  rebuke  which  he  received  when  he 
proposed  to  them  a  buffalo  himt  upon  a  day  set  apart  by 
a  sacred  calendar  that  they  maintained.  And  the  Sabbath 
was  observed  regularly  by  a  religious  dance  and  by  exhor- 
tations from  the  chiefs  as  priests. 

The  Flatheads,  also,  and  the  "  Skynses  '*  (Sk3ruses,  Cay- 
uses),  like  their  neighbors  the  Nez  Perces,  observed  the 
Sabbath  with  devotional  exercises. 

In  the  Southwest,  the  Roman  Catholic  priest  was  the 
leader  in  proselyting,  but  here  in  the  Northwest  Protestant- 
ism led  the  way,  through  a  land  as  dure  and  as  wild  as 
ever  confronted  the  Jesuit  and  the  Franciscan.  It  seems, 
however,  to  have  been  Romanism  that  was  again  first  in  the 
field  among  the  so-called  infidels;  for  before  ever  the 
famous  Flathead  delegation  in  search  of  the  Book  of  Heav- 
en visited  St.  Louis,  the  Roman  Catholic  religion  was 
well  implanted  amidst  several  of  the  tribes  beyond  the 
mountains. 

Captain  Bonneville  foimd  the  Nez  Perces,  the  Flatheads 
and  the  "  Skynses  "  (Cayuses?)  in  1832  already  following, 
after  a  fashion  rude  but  sincere,  the  ritual  and  the  calendar 
of  the  Roman  church,  the  rites  having  been  propagated 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON        139 

among  them  by  two  Iroquois  Indians  from  an  early  Cana- 
dian mission. 

It  must  be  remembered  that  throughout  the  tribes  west 
of  the  mountains,  in  the  Oregon  Territory  of  the  North- 
west, there  had  been  circulating  for  twenty  years  the 
employees  of  the  British  fur  companies,  mainly  French 
Canadians  and  good  Catholics.  The  Indians  absorbed  much 
precept  and  doctrine.  And  at  the  posts  of  the  Hudson  Bay 
Company  in  particular,  as  at  Fort  Walla  Walla  under  Chief 
Trader  Pambrun,  and  at  Ft.  George  (Vancouver)  under 
Governor  John  McLoughlin,  pains  were  taken  to  impress 
the  visiting  natives  with  the  force  of  the  Roman  faith. 
With  Agent  Pambrun  this  was  sincere  proselyting  —  but 
the  fact  was  not  forgotten  that  the  Christianized  Indian  was 
the  better  Indian  with  whom  to  deal. 

John  W.  York,  Methodist  minister  of  St.  Louis  in  1830, 
stated  to  Judge  J.  Q.  Thornton  that  September  17,  five  dele- 
gates, Nez  Perces,  Flatheads,  or  Iroquois  from  the  Colum- 
bia, arrived  there  in  quest  of  religious  aid ;  and  that  General 
Clark,  who  was  a  Catholic,  sent  for  him  and  the  Reverend 
Alliston  and  Edmundson,  for  inquiry  into  the  possibility 
of  the  Methodists  replying  with  missionaries.*^ 

But  now,  in  the  midseason  of  1832  there  arrived  in  New 
York  four  Columbia  country  Indians,  seeking  General  Wil- 
liam Qark  (whom  they  remembered  from  1805)  ^uid 
inquiring  further  about  the  white  man's  Book  of  Heaven. 

A  touch  of  romance  pervades  the  instigation  which  urged 
them  to  this  long  trip. 

It  appeared  that  some  white  man  had  penetrated  into  their 
country,  and  happened  to  be  a  spectator  at  one  of  their  reli- 
gious ceremonies,  which  they  scrupulously  perform  at  stated 
periods.  He  informed  them  that  their  mode  of  worshipping 
the  supreme  Being  was  radically  wrong,  and  instead  of  being 
acceptable  and  pleasing,  it  was  displeasing  to  him;  he  also 
informed  them  that  the  white  people  away  toward  the  rising 


140  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

of  the  sun  had  been  put  in  possession  of  the  true  mode  of 
worshipping  the  great  Spirit.  They  had  a  book  containing 
directions  how  to  conduct  themselves  in  order  to  enjoy  his 
favor  and  hold  converse  with  him;  and  with  this  guide,  no 
one  need  go  astray ;  but  every  one  that  would  follow  the  direc- 
tions laid  down  there  could  enjoy,  in  this  life,  his  favor,  and 
after  death  would  be  received  into  the  cotmtry  where  the  great 
Spirit  resides,  and  live  forever  with  him. 

Thus,  in  a  letter  published  in  the  Christian  Advocate  and 
Journal  and  Zion's  Herald,  under  date  of  January  19,  1833, 
declares  William  Walker,  an  educated  Wyandotte  and  mis- 
sionary among  that  nation,  who  was  in  St.  Louis  at  the 
time  of  the  Flatheads'  visit  and  who  saw  them  at  the  house 
of  General  Clark.  The  man  who,  as  a  Protestant,  instructed 
the  Flatheads  in  the  existence  of  the  Bible,  is  presumed  to 
have  been  Jedediah  S.  Smith;  for  he  spent  the  winter  of 
1824-25  among  the  Flatheads.  If  indeed  his  teachings 
there  influenced  the  deputation  of  1832,  then,  no  matter 
that  he  died  in  his  prime  before  his  history  and  atlas  were 
prepared,  he  did  not  live  in  vain. 

It  is  declared  by  this  same  William  Walker  that  General 
Clark  did  his  best  to  inform  the  Flatheads  upon  the  Christ 
and  the  Bible.  However,  after  having  been  much  feted 
(paying  the  penalty  which  civilization  inflicts  upon  distin- 
guished guests,  and  no  civilization  in  a  greater  degree  than 
the  American),  in  November  or  December  of  that  year, 
1832,  they  must  sadly  part,  without  the  Bible  or  at  least 
without  anyone  who  could  translate  it  to  them,  and  less 
two  of  their  number,  victims  of  "  change  of  climate  and  of 
diet.'' 

The  two  surviving  Indians  left;  and  when,  afterward, 
the  famous  artist,  Catlin,  heard  of  their  errand,  he  declared 
that  they  were  passengers  upon  the  very  steamboat  of  the 
American  Fur  Company  by  which  he  himself  was  taken 
to  the  mouth  of  the  Yellowstone,  on  his  initial  trip  into  the 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON        141 

Indian  country  of  the  far  West.  But  the  religious  fervor 
which  the  visit  of  these  four  strangers  aroused  must  have 
communicated  itself  to  Catlin,  causing  him  to  clutch  at 
straws.  As  he  ascended  the  Missouri  at  the  opening  of 
navigation  in  1832,  and  the  two  Indians  took  the  home 
trail  by  land,  after  the  close  of  navigation  in  1832,  he  could 
not  have  met  them  nor  immortalized  them  in  his  great  port- 
folio. 

But  let  us  not  probe  romance  too  ruthlessly  —  although 
if  we  strip  away  banquets  and  speeches  and  voyage  with 
Catlin  we  still  have  the  basic  fact  that  four  Indians  from  the 
upper  Columbia  did,  in  the  late  summer  or  early  fall  of  1832, 
seek  religious  instructions  at  St.  Louis.  The  elder  two  died, 
there;  the  two  younger  members  left,  in  the  late  fall  or 
early  winter,  for  their  tribe. 

Not  until  spring  of  1833  ^^^  ^he  news  filter  through  to 
the  East ;  but  then,  by  publication  in  the  Christian  Advocate, 
the  Protestant  Church  from  north  to  south  along  the 
Atlantic  coast  was  electrified.  In  this  delegation  from  a 
region  upon  the  continent  and  within  the  tentative  bounds 
of  the  United  States,  but  less  known  than  India  or  the  Sand- 
wich Islands,  was  an  appeal  which  reached  every  heart. 

With  a  "  Hear !  Hear !  Who  will  respond  to  the  call 
from  beyond  the  Rocky  Mountains  ?  *'  Dr.  Wilbur  Fisk, 
already  at  forty  a  famous  divine,  and  president  of  Wesleyan 
College  of  Middletown,  Connecticut,  in  a  ringing  editorial 
summoned  Methodism  to  establish  a  Flathead  mission. 
"  Money  shall  be  forthcoming.  I  will  be  bondsman  for  the 
church.  All  we  want  is  men.  Who  will  go?  Who? 
*  *  *  Were  I  young,  healthy,  and  unencumbered,  how 
joyfully  would  I  go !  But  this  honor  is  for  another.  Bright 
will  be  his  crown,  glorious  his  reward." 

At  this  time,  although  foreign  missions  were  being  zeal- 
ously prosecuted  by  all  the  Protestant  churches,  the  domestic 
missions   among   the   Indians   had   not  been  overlooked. 


142  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Instituted  first  among  the  tribes  of  the  East  and  South, 
and  in  Canada,  as  the  tribes  had  been  moved  westward 
the  missions  had  accompanied  them. 

The  idea  expressed  in  1804  t>y  President  Jefferson,  that 
the  new  Louisiana  Purchase  would  afford  an  asylum  for 
these  doubtful  wards,  the  Indians,  at  last  (or  in  January, 
1825,)  had  been  presented  in  proper  shape  to  Congress  by 
President  Monroe  as  one  of  the  final  acts  of  his  administra- 
tion. The  result  was  the  establishment  of  an  "  Indian 
Frontier."  By  treaty  of  June,  1825,  the  Osages  and  the 
Kaws  or  Kansas  siurendered  their  vast  hunting  range  in 
the  Southwest,  along  the  Santa  Fe  Trail.  The  government 
hastened  to  remove  here  its  Indians  from  the  states  of  the 
South;  and  now  the  movement  of  other  tribes  also  was 
rapidly  promoted  —  the  country  so  exchanged  with  them 
"  forever  secured  and  guaranteed  to  them  and  their  heirs 
or  successors,*'  their  fate  "  left  to  the  common  God  of  the 
white  man  and  the  Indian,"  themselves  isolated  and  inde- 
pendent, left  "  to  the  progress  of  events  "  —  what  uncon- 
scious irony! 

In  1835  the  boundaries  of  the  "  Indian  Territory  "  were 
defined  by  the  Annual  Register  of  Indian  Affairs  as  "  begin- 
ning on  Red  River,  east  of  the  Mexican  boundary  and  as 
far  west  of  Arkansas  Territory  as  the  country  is  habitable, 
thence  down  Red  River  eastwardly  to  Arkansas  Territory; 
thence  northwardly  along  the  line  of  the  Arkansas  Terri- 
tory to  the  State  of  Missouri ;  thence  up  Missouri  River  to 
Pimcah  ( Puncah,  i.  e.,  Niobrara)  River ;  thence  westwardly 
as  far  as  the  country  is  habitable,  and  thence  southwardly 
to  the  beginning." 

The  italics  are  the  author's.  In  this  Indian  country  dwelt, 
according  to  rough  estimate,  some  100,000  Indians;  and 
here,  beyond  the  Mississippi,  the  various  churches  were 
represented  among  the  Cherokees,  Choctaws,  Kansas,  Paw- 
nees, Creeks,  Omahas,  lowas,  Delawares,  Otoes,  Potawato- 


THE  JMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       143 

mi,  Shawnees,  Kickapoos,  and  so  on,  as  far  as  the  country 
was  habitable.  Truly  it  was  a  noble  work,  in  which  men  and 
women  died,  and  in  which  the  harvest  was  great,  but  the 
laborers  were  few.  Beyond,  in  that  **  uninhabitable  coun- 
try," were  the  Sioux  (they,  however,  being  approached  by 
way  of  Fort  Snelling,  Minnesota),  the  Comanches,  the 
Blackfeet,  the  Snakes,  the  Arapahos  —  strange,  roving, 
thoroughly  wild  people,  not  yet  within  the  fold. 

But  the  delegation  of  the  Columbia  River  Indians  prof- 
fered another  foothold.  Dr.  Fisk  had  called  "  for  two  suit- 
able men,  unencumbered  with  families,  possessing  the  spirit 
of  martyrs,"  to  "  throw  themselves  into  the  nation  —  live 
with  them  —  learn  their  language  —  preach  Qirist  to  them." 
He  himself  had  one  such  man  in  mind,  and  that  was  Rever- 
end Jason  Lee,  a  Canadian  but  an  American,  once  a  pupil 
of  his  at  Wilbraham  Academy  of  Massachusetts,  now  sta- 
tioned at  Stanstead,  Province  of  Quebec,  and  employed  in 
missionary  work  among  the  Indians  of  Canada.*® 

The  blood  of  that  great  New  England  preacher,  the 
"  Apostle  of  Methodism,"  Jesse  Lee,  must  have  been  strong 
in  this  second  generation.  The  sxmmions  by  Dr.  Fisk  in 
the  Christian  Advocate  appeared  in  March,  and  at  the 
Boston  session  of  the  New  England  Conference  in  June  fol- 
lowing, Jason  Lee,  having  resigned  his  Canadian  field,  was 
appointed  superintendent  of  the  new  Oregon  mission !  Tall, 
stooped,  awkward  and  honest,  "of  good  digestion  and  a 
sound  mind,"  he  was  the  choice  reflecting  Dr.  Fisk's  excel- 
lent judgment. 

In  August  his  nephew.  Reverend  Daniel  Lee,  was 
aiqx)inted  as  his  fellow  laborer.  He,  too,  "  was  not  an 
Adonis";  but  like  his  uncle  stood  as  an  example  of  the 
plain,  orthodox,  New  England  Methodist  preacher,  and  of 
a  youth  preordained  to  the  cause  of  souls. 

In  the  Christian  Advocate  there  had  been  published  advice 
from  Robert  Campbell,  the  trader  and  St.  Louis  citizen. 


144  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

upon  the  prospects  of  the  Columbia  country,  and  upon  the 
method  of  getting  there,  overland:  namely,  by  escort  of 
fur  trader  caravan. 

And  I  doubt  not  but  that  they  would  willingly  allow  a  mis- 
sionary to  accompany  them;  but  the  privations  that  a  gentle- 
man of  that  profession  would  have  to  encounter  would  be  very 
great,  as  the  shortest  route  that  he  would  have  by  land  would 
not  be  less  than  one  thousand  miles,  and  when  he  reached  his 
destination  he  would  have  to  travel  with  the  Indians,  as  they 
have  no  permanent  villages,  nor  have  the  traders  any  houses, 
but,  like  the  Indians,  move  in  their  leather  lodges  from  place 
to  place  throughout  the  season. 

Never  was  a  blind  cry  so  blindly  answered.  But  totally 
ignorant,  as  were  the  great  majority  of  Easterners,  of  the 
far  western  land,  its  methods,  distances,  businesses,  phases 
of  climate,  and  inhabitants,  by  naught  were  the  Lees  and 
Methodism  deterred.  Transportation  was  the  problem  (the 
summer  being  advanced),  and  a  voyage  around  the  Horn 
was  advocated,  until  in  November  "  notice  appeared  in 
the  public  journals  that  Captain  N.  J.  Wyeth,  of  Cambridge, 
Mass.,  had  recently  returned  from  a  tour  west  of  the  Rocky 
Mountains,  and  that  he  contemplated  returning  to  Oregon 
in  the  following  spring." 

The  way  seemed  opened;  and  Captain  Wyeth,  whose 
remarkable  energy  and  performances,  being  directed  along 
secular  lines,  had  attracted  little  if  any  notice  from  the 
spiritual  workers  of  the  land,  was  sought  in  Boston  by 
Jason  Lee  himself.  From  Captain  Wyeth  "  valuable  infor- 
mation was  received  respecting  the  state  of  the  country,  the 
general  character  and  disposition  of  the  Indian  tribes  inhab- 
iting the  Oregon  territory;  and  he  likewise  manifested  a 
disposition  to  give  every  aid  in  his  power  to  the  mission."  ^* 

Accordingly,  when  the  Columbia  River  Fishing  and  Trad- 
ing Company  ship.  May  Dacre,  laden  with  Wyeth's  hopes 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       145 

and  the  company  supplies,  sailed  on  the  last  of  November, 
1833,  out  of  Boston  for  the  port  of  Vancouver,  it  bore  also 
the  supplies  for  the  prospective  missionary  station  of  the 
Methodist  Church  in  Oregon. 

And  when,  on  April  28,  1834,  the  united  caravans  of 
Wyeth  and  Milton  Sublette  issued  from  Independence,  they 
convoyed  into  the  West  Reverend  Jason  Lee,  Reverend 
Daniel  Lee,  Lay  Missionary  Cyrus  Shepard  of  Lynn,  Mass., 
and  Lay  Missionary  Philip  L.  Edwards  of  Richmond,  Mo., 
crusaders  of  the  church  militant 

Besides  the  four  missionaries,  so  bravely  facing  two  thou- 
sand miles  of  hard  travel  to  which  they  were  wholly 
imwonted,  as  guests  with  the  caravan  were  two  other  men, 
scientists  who  blazed  the  trail  for  Audubon.  Long  before, 
or  in  181 1,  had  John  Bradbury,  the  English  naturalist,* 
ascended  the  Missouri  with  the  Astorian  expedition  under 
Wilson  Hunt.  He  was  the  pioneer,  inspired,  of  course,  by 
the  observations  of  the  first-of-all  Lewis  and  Qark.  Now 
in  1834,  Thomas  Nuttall,  Englishman,  Harvard  professor, 
and  botanist,  who  had  been  with  John  Bradbury  in  181 1, 
was  about  to  cross  the  continent,  and  had  as  companion  J. 
K.  Townsend,  ornithologist,  whose  name  is  retained  in 
Townsend's  warbler  of  the  Pacific  coast. 

With  seventy  men,  250  horses,  and  the  missionaries' 
cattle,  the  caravan  proceeded,  following  the  regulation  trail 
which  led  from  old  Independence  across  the  Kansas  River 
at  its  mouth,  thence  to  the  Platte  and  through  Nebraska 
up  the  Platte  and  the  North  Platte  to  the  Sweetwater  of  the 
Laramie  Plains  of  Wyoming. 

Thus  the  Oregon  Trail  was  for  the  first  time  pressed  by 
actual  colonizers  —  the  forerunning  emigrants  of  the  host 
already  restless  behind. 

In  June  the  noted  spectacles  of  the  trail  —  Chimney  Rock, 
Independence  Rock,  Devil's  Gate,  South  Pass,  Wind  River 
Mountains  —  were  witnessed,  and  left;    and  on  the  19th 


146  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  missionaries  pitched  their  camp  amidst  the  fur  rendez- 
vous upon  Ham's  Fork  in  the  Valley  of  the  Green.  This 
wild  gathering,  rife  with  lawless  passion  of  men  red  and 
white,  at  once  fascinating  and  repellent,  must  have  impressed 
Messrs.  Lee,  Shepord,  and  Edwards  with  the  seriousness  of 
the  life  before  them.  And  here  they  might  study  Indians 
such  as  they  nor  others  of  their  cloth  ever  had  seen ;  here 
they  might  for  the  first  time  study  the  Flatheads,  their 
wards  in  prospect 

Wyeth  must  remain  two  weeks ;  then,  on  July  3,  with  his 
goods  thrown  upon  his  hands  by  the  Rocky  Mountain  Com- 
pany, and  his  first  disappointment  of  1834  encountered,  he 
pushed  on,  with  him  Nuttall  and  Townsend,  and  the  inde- 
fatigable Captain  Sir  William  Stuart,  British  sportsman. 
*  At  the  juncture  of  the  Portneuf  with  the  Snake  in  Idaho, 
the  resourceful  Yankee  youth,  not  yet  licked,  stopped  the 
party  (126  horses,  forty  men)  to  build  his  own  fort,  wliich 
should  house  and  distribute  his  trading  goods. 

Here  arrived  Thomas  McKay  and  his  company  of  Hud- 
son Bay  employees;  half  of  these  were  Indians  (probably 
Cayuses,  Flatheads,  and  Nez  Perces),  and  again  the  white 
missionaries  had  the  chance  to  study  their  future  charges 
—  even  having  a  chance  to  see  them  at  their  devotions, 
"conducted  very  seriously,  but  after  a  fashion  all  their 
own."  Jason  Lee,  who,  it  is  stated,  "  was  a  man  all  liked 
and  respected,"  and  who  evidently  was  making  good  in 
trapper  opinion  if  not  in  trapper  souls,  preached  to  the 
assembled  habitants  and  natives;  then,  with  his  associates, 
with  McKay  and  Captain  Stuart,  as  the  fort  was  not  fin- 
ished, he  pressed  forward,  down  the  Snake.  They  left 
behind  Wyeth,  with  his  company,  to  complete  the  fort,  to 
name  it  Fort  Hall,  to  hoist  over  it  an  American  flag  of  sheet- 
ing, red  flannel,  and  blue  patches,  and  salute  this  "with 
damaged  powder  and  to  wet  it  with  villainous  alcohol." 
The  date  was  August  5,  1834.     Consigning  his  post  to  the 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       147 

care  and  occupancy  of  eleven  men,  fourteen  horses  and 
mules  and  three  cows,  in  charge  of  one  Evans,  the  busy 
Wyeth  hastened  onward,  on  the  trail  of  the  preceding 
McKay  and  the  missionaries,  for  the  coast.  There  he  would 
meet  his  vessel.  May  Dacre  —  and  find  only  more  dis- 
appointment. 

The  Lees,  Shepard,  and  Edwards  had  learned  much  since 
they  crossed  the  mountains  by  South  Pass.  They  could  real- 
ize how  difficult  it  would  be  to  maintain  a  mission  in  the  Flat- 
head cotmtry,  so  remote  it  was,  so  far  from  supplies  and  so 
sparsely  inhabited.  And  as  Protestants  they  perhaps  were 
indeed  received,  by  Canadians  and  convert  Iroquois  alike, 
with  the  subtle  opposition  of  a  Romanism  already  estab- 
lished. 

Whether  rebuffed  by  the  country,  or  people,  or  both,  the 
missionary  party  decided  to  continue  on  westward  to  the 
lower  Columbia  and  make  that  their  base.  So  they  pressed 
ahead,  through  the  desolate  region  along  the  Snake,  to 
plant  the  Bible. 

At  Walla  Walla  they  left  their  horses  and  cattle,  for  later 
disposal,  and  embarking  upon  another  wild  trip,  in  Hudson 
Bay  Company  log  canoes,  they  descended  the  Colxmibia  to 
Vancouver  and  Fort  George  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Company. 
Here  they  arrived  on  September  15,  to  sleep  again  under 
a  roof,  for  the  first  time  after  one  hundred  and  fifty  nights 
in  trappers'  lodges  or  under  the  stars. 

Thus  may  we  leave  them;  the  Bible  has  crossed  the  con- 
tinent; the  landing  of  the  Pilgrim  Fathers  scarce  was  more 
significant,  for  the  American  mission  in  Oregon  meant 
that  the  western  half,  like  the- eastern  half  of  a  continent, 
was  to  be  settled  under  a  free  constitution.  From  the  mis- 
sionary movement  came  Whitman,  and  if  we  may  believe 
the  word  of  man,  Whitman  saved  Oregon.  But  even  elimi- 
nating the  human  purpose  in  the  ride  of  Marcus  Whitman, 
a  few  years  of  the  missionaries  of  the  Protestant  Church 


148  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

made  the  Oregon  Territory  better  known  to  the  eastern 
people  than  did  all  the  years  of  the  fur  hunters. 

Let  us  pass  to  the  summer  of  1835,  and  to  another  ren- 
dezvous in  the  Valley  of  the  Green;  for  inasmuch  as  the 
only  method  of  crossing  the  plains  and  mountains  was  under 
the  auspices  of  the  spring  trading  caravans  out  of  Independ- 
ence, the  annual  markets  for  the  next  five  or  six  years 
form  paragraphs  in  the  annals  of  the  Protestant  missions  to 
Oregon. 

At  this  rendezvous  of  July  and  August,  1835,  appear 
Reverend  Samuel  Parker,  A.  M.,  of  the  Dutch  Reformed 
(Presbyterian)  Church,  and  Dr.  Marcus  Whitman,  mis- 
sionary physician.  Reverend  Mr.  Parker  is  from  Ithaca, 
New  York ;  Dr.  Whitman  is  from  Wheeler.  Since  March 
14  they  have  been  upon  their  journey,  having  left  Council 
Bluffs  June  21,  with  the  American  Fur  Company  caravan 
under  Lucien  Fontenelle;  and  from  Fort  William  (^prede- 
cessor of  Fort  Laramie)  continuing  under  Thomas  Fitz- 
Patrick,  who  there  assumed  charge  of  the  march. 

These  two  men,  the  Reverend  Samuel  Parker,  A.  M., 
and  Marcus  Whitman,  M.  D.,  dispatched  by  the  American 
Board  of  Commissioners  for  Foreign  Missions,  differed 
much  in  character.  The  Reverend  Mr.  Parker  was  typically 
serious,  viewing  any  levity  as  verging  upon  sin,  taking 
life  hard,  his  soul  continually  "pained."  Dr.  Whitman, 
younger,  livelier,  adaptable,  more  quickly  made  friends 
among  the  rough  trappers  and  traders. 

Down  the  Ohio  and  up  the  Missouri  to  Liberty  and 
Council  Bluffs,  Mr.  Parker  distributed  his  tracts  and  held 
services.  The  land  and  people  impressed  him  as  heathenish. 
He  and  the  doctor  would  not  travel  on  Sunday,  at  first, 
and  the  caravan  went  on  without  them  —  its  men  offended 
by  the  implied  rebuke  and  probably  disgruntled  over  being 
burdened  with  finicky  tenderfeet  After  a  scourge  of  chol- 
era which  they  lightened,  the  doctor  and  the  missionary 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       149 

learned  that  some  of  the  men  of  the  caravan  actually  had 
planned  to  put  them  out  of  the  way  and  thus  be  rid  of  their 
wet-blanket  presence. 

At  the  rendezvous,  Dr.  Whitman  extracted  arrowheads 
from  the  back  of  two  trappers  —  one  being  Jim  Bridger. 
By  conversation,  through  an  interpreter,  with  the  Flat- 
heads,  and  Nez  Perces,  Mr.  Parker  ascertained,  to  his 
satisfaction,  that  the  "field  was  white  for  the  harvest" 
Dr.  Whitman,  out  of  the  zeal  and  energy  which  character- 
ized him,  decided  that  he  ought  to  return  to  the  East  with 
the  caravan,  to  report  in  person  upon  the  need  of  more 
missionaries,  and  to  bring  out  a  party  with  the  next  caravan 
of  1835,  thus  saving  a  year  of  time.  Mr.  Parker  proceeded 
alone  to  the  coast. 

Joe  Meek,  the  mountain  man,  in  his  biography  speaks 
slightingly  of  Mr.  Parker,  who  did  not,  it  would  seem, 
make  the  good  impression  made  by  Jason  Lee.  It  was 
difficult  for  Mr.  Parker  to  temporize  with  the  evils  which 
he  met;  the  wild  ways  of  the  motmtains  visiMy  shocked 
him. 

He  arrived  at  Vancouver  on  November  16,  1835. 
Although  his  stay  in  Oregon  comprised  only  about  seven 
months  (he  sailed  thence  June  28,  1836,  for  Connecticut, 
via  the  Sandwich  Islands)  he  thoroughly  explored  the 
interior  of  the  Columbia  basin,  the  purpose  for  which  he 
was  sent  out  by  the  Board.  The  most  notable  result  of  his 
visit  was  his  book,  Journal  of  an  Exploring  Tour  Beyond 
the  Rocky  Mountains,  which,  published  with  map  in  1838, 
endorsed  by  Noah  Webster,  President  Humphrey  and  Pro- 
fessor Hitchcock  of  Amherst,  and  written  in  scholarly 
manner,  is  the  first  account,  after  that  by  Lewis  and  Qark, 
of  the  upper  Platte  and  the  Columbia  country  —  scenery, 
inhabitants,  geology,  zoology,  climate  and  customs  —  and  is 
the  very  first  book  devoted  largely  to  Oregon.'^ 

While  Reverend  Samuel  Parker  is  gathering  facts  and 


150  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

spreading  the  Word  up  the  Columbia  of  Oregon,  further 
than  the  Lees  and  associates  had  yet  penetrated,  Dr.  Whit- 
man, aflame  with  great  purpose,  is  hastening  hither  and 
thither  through  New  England,  not  the  least  of  his  encour- 
agements his  betrothed,  the  noble  Narcissa  Prentiss  of 
Angelica,  New  York.  Dr.  Whitman  had  taken  back  with 
him,  from  the  Snake  River,  two  Nez  Perce  bo)rs,  that  he 
might  present  tangible  evidence  of  the  work  awaiting, 
beyond  the  mountains.  With  these,  and  through  his  own 
efforts,  he  counted  upon  forming  a  party  for  the  caravan 
trip  of  1836. 

It  is  stated  that  there  was  some  difficulty  in  obtaining 
the  desired  companions;  not,  let  it  be  understood,  that 
flesh  and  spirit  were  wanting,  and  that  the  heroic  breed 
of  Protestant  missionaries  had  so  early  been  exhausted,  but 
because  Marcus  Whitman  had  determined  that  his  young 
bride  should  be  permitted  to  make  the  long  journey,  and 
he  was  looking  for  another  white  woman  and  wife  to  be 
her  associate. 

.  .  .  and  then  light  came  f  rcmi  an  unexpected  quarter.  In  the 
early  spring  of  1836  a  sleigh,  extemporized  from  a  wagon,  was 
crunching  through  the  deep  snows  of  western  New  York.  It 
contained  the  Reverend  and  Mrs.  Spalding,  who  were  on  their 
way,  under  commission  of  the  American  Board,  to  the  Osage 
Indians.  The  wife  had  started  from  a  bed  of  lingering  ill- 
ness, and  was  then  able  to  walk  less  than  a  quarter  of  a  mile. 

Dr.  Whitman,  having  heard  of  the  rare  courage  of  this 
woman,  by  permission  of  the  board,  started  in  pursuit. 

"  We  want  you  for  Oregon,"  was  the  hail  with  which  he 
overtook  them. 

*'  How  long  will  the  journey  take?  " 

"The  summers  of  two  years." 

"  What  convoy  shall  we  have?" 

"  The  American  Fur  Company  to  the  Divide." 

"  What  shall  we  have  to  live  on  ?  " 

"  Buffalo  meat,  till  we  can  raise  our  own  grain." 

"  How  shall  we  journey?  " 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       151 


"  On  horseback." 

"  How  cross  the  rivers?  " 

"  Swim  them." 


Mr.  Spalding  decided  instantly,  as  for  himself.  And 
after  prayer,  apart,  in  the  tavern  at  Howard,  New  York, 
Mrs.  Spalding  appeared  with  beaming  face. 


"  I  have  made  up  my  mind  to  go." 

"  But  your  health,  my  dear." 

"  I  like  the  command  just  as  it  stands.  '  Go  ye  into  all  the 
world,'  and  no  exceptions  for  poor  health." 

"  But  the  perils,  in  your  weak  condition  —  you  don't  begin 
•  to  think  how  great  they  are." 

"  The  dangers  of  the  way  and  the  weakness  of  my  body  are 
His;  duty  is  mine."  '• 

The  die  was  cast.  They  went  —  the  two  women,  both 
tender,  each  a  bride  and  one  an  invalid.  The  maxim  on 
the  Sweetwater  trail  long  had  been :  "  No  white  woman 
can  cross  the  moimtains  and  live." 

The  little  party  numbered  five:  Missionary  Physician 
Dr.  Marcus  Whitman,  aged  thirty-three ;  Narcissa  Prentiss 
Whitman,  his  bride,  aged  twenty-eight;  Missionary  Henry 
H.  Spalding,  of  Prattsburgh,  N.  Y.,  who  but  three  years  . 
before  had  been  graduated  from  Western  Reserve  College, 
and  who  was  about  the  same  age  as  Dr.  Whitman;  Eliza 
Hart  Spalding  of  Trenton,  N.  Y.,  his  wife;  Assistant  Mis- 
sionary William  H.  Gray,  aged  twenty-five,  of  Utica,  who 
would  serve  also  as  agent  of  farming  and  mechanics.*** 

The  start  was  made  in  February  by  the  Spaldings  and  in 
March  by  the  others.  From  the  very  beginning  the  way 
was  rendered  hard.  At  Pittsburg,  Catlin  the  artist  told  tales 
of  horrors  to  them,  and  would  dissuade  them.  At  St  Louis 
the  Fur  Company  declined  to  accept  them  as  passengers, 
and  yielded  only  to  the  insistence  of  Whitman,  who 
reminded  the  men  how  he  had  rescued  them  in  the  cholera 


152  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

scourge,  a  year  before ;  how,  "  from  behind  the  festering 
spine  of  a  comrade,"  he  had  extracted  the  arrow  heads. 
After  the  promise,  the  company's  boat  passed  them,  pur- 
posely, at  Liberty  Landing.  A  mule  kicked  Spalding ;  ague 
attacked  him;  a  cow,  plunging  overboard  from  a  ferry, 
dragged  him  after;  a  hiu-ricane  leveled  his  tent,  and 
drenched  him  again ;  and  before  the  party,  hastening  after 
the  recreant  boat,  had  reached  Council  Bluffs,  the  company 
caravan  had  pulled  out  and  was  five  days  in  advance. 

Mr.  Spalding,  sick  and  discouraged,  would  have  ttu-ned. 
But  his  wife,  stronger  in  spirit  than  in  body,  declared:  "  I 
have  started  for  the  Rocky  Mountains  and  I  expect  to  go 
there  I" 

With  a  cawy  of  half-broken  Missouri  mules,  fifteen  or 
twenty  horses,  cattle,  two  wagons,  and  mission  goods,  the 
three  men  and  the  two  women,  glided  by  Dr.  Whitman, 
the  only  member  with  any  frontier  experience  whatsoever, 
set  out  to  overtake  the  fur  traders'  caravan.  Through  a 
series  of  accidents  which  held  the  caravan  back,  after  a  two 
weeks'  chase  and  after  a  final  desperate  spurt  (wherein  Mrs. 
Spalding  fainted)  from  daylight  until  two  o'clock  the  next 
morning,  the  race  was  won  at  the  Loup  Fork  of  the  Platte ! 

But  now  that  the  missionary  party  had  carried  its  point 
"nothing  could  exceed  the  kindness  of  the  men.  The 
choicest  buffalo  morsels  were  always  kept  for  our  ladies." 
The  party  not  only  had  won  the  race,  but  they  had  won  the 
regard  of  the  traders  and  trappers,  who  could  appreciate 
pluck.  Evidently  the  two  women  were  not  going  to  be 
a  clog,  as  had  been  feared.  At  any  rate,  willynilly,  the 
march  must  continue;  and  200  persons,  600  animals,  the 
caravan  proceeded  with  military  discipline  up  the  Platte. 

Meat  was  the  sole  menu,  and  fresh  meat  at  that.  Once 
or  twice  this  failed,  and  the  camp  went  hungry.  Mrs. 
Spalding,  with  whom  the  diet  seemed  to  disagree,  grew 
weaker;  and  at  Fort  William  on  the  Laramie  the  captain 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       163 

of  the  caravan,  Fitzpatrick,  declared  that  Mrs,  Spalding 
had  come  far  enough ;  she  would  die  for  want  of  bread. 

"  No,"  said  she ;  "  I  started  over  the  mountains  in  the 
name  of  my  Savior,  and  I  must  go  on."  ^^ 

They  went. 

By  this  time  she  rode  a  horse  only  with  difficulty,  and  pre- 
ferred the  lighter  of  the  two  mission  wagons.  The  nine- 
teen wagons  of  the  traders  were  left,  as  customary,  at  the 
fort,  and  the  supplies  were  transferred  to  mule  back;  but 
Dr.  Whitman  insisted  upon  taking  his  party's  two  wagons 
on,  for  the  Columbia.  The  British  big-game  hunter,  Cap- 
tain  Stuart,  who  bobs  up,  as  usual,  and  was  with  the 
caravan,  not  to  be  outdone  took  onward  a  two-mule  wagon 
of  his  own. 

Word  had  been  sent  ahead,  by  means  of  an  express  to  the 
rendezvous,  that  the  "  Company "  annual  caravan  was 
approaching,  and  that  with  it  were  two  white  women. 
Nothing  could  have  created  more  excitement  in  the  Valley 
of  the  Green.  Instantly  half  a  dozen  of  the  trappers,  includ- 
ing the  ever-ready  Joe  Meek,  had  mounted  and  were  speed- 
ing away,  on  a  wild  race  with  some  of  the  Nez  Perces,  to  bid 
the  strangers  welcome. 

So,  ascending  the  Sweetwater  for  the  South  Pass,  the 
missionaries  witnessed  this  mad  calvacade  dashing  down 
upon  them,  carrying  in  the  muzzle  of  a  rifle  the  white  flag 
of  peace,  but  by  whoop  and  yelp  and  headlong  charge  appear- 
ing to  give  it  the  lie. 

Naturally,  all  eyes  were  upon  the  two  women,  thus  ini- 
tiated into  the  wild  ways  of  the  wildest  West.  Some  of 
the  trappers  had  not  seen  a  white  woman  for  ten  years ;  the 
Indians  had  never  seen  a  white  woman.  What  they,  trap- 
pers and  Indians,  saw  now,  was  a  slight,  dark-haired,  pallid 
skinned,  delicate-featured,  demure  young  woman  in  a 
wagon,  gazing  back  studiously  but  with  a  quiet  reserve. 
This  was  Mrs.  Spalding.    They  saw,  for  the  other,  a  larger. 


164  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

fuller,  blue  -  eyed,  sparkling  -  faced,  generous  -  featured, 
brightly  auburn-haired  young  woman,  in  perfect  health, 
upon  a  horse,  returning  loc4c  for  lode  and  smile  for 
smile,  as  if  appreciative  of  the  exhibition.  This  was  Mrs. 
Whitman. 

The  caravan  and  the  calvacade  motmted  South  Pass, 
where,  on  this  the  Fourth  of  July,  Mrs.  Spalding  again 
fainted.  She  was  permitted  to  lie  upcm  the  ground  and 
rest 

"  Leave  me  and  save  yourselves,"  she  begged.  "  Tell 
mother  I  am  glad  I  came." 

But  from  the  top  the  caravan  sent  back  for  her,  and  she 
proceeded.  The  march  of  this  woman,  across  the  plains 
and  over  the  pass,  and  on,  while  fighting,  every  step,  the 
pangs  of  an  outraged  flesh,  her  purpose  only  the  good  of  an 
unknown  and  alien  people,  should  rank  higher  than  the 
march  of  any  Franciscan  or  Jesuit  of  the  Southwest.  The 
Southwest  has  its  heroes ;  the  Northwest  has  its  heroine. 

Presently  the  Continental  Divide  of  North  America  had 
been  spanned ;  before,  the  waters  flowed  west ;  before, 
opened  Oregon,  where,  crushed  by  horrors  and  many 
fatigues,  Mrs.  Spalding  was  later  to  sleep  "  under  an  Oregon 
clod,"  and  whence,  as  symbol  of  martyrdom,  returned,  after 
thirty- four  years,  by  the  hand  of  Henry  Spalding  —  an  old 
man  broken  and  bereft  —  only  a  lock  of  Mrs.  Whitman's 
hair,  of  silky  texture  and  reddish-gold  color.*'® 

On  the  Pacific  slope  of  the  South  Pass  the  caravan  halted, 
while  the  little  band,  at  twelve  o'clock  noon  of  Independence 
Day,  1836, 

six  years  before  Fremont,  following  in  the  footsteps  of  the 
women,  gained  the  name  of  the  "  Path-finder,"  alighting  from 
their  horses  and  kneeling  on  the  other  half  of  the  continent, 
with  the  Bible  in  one  hand  and  the  American  flag  in  the  other, 
took  possession  of  it  as  the  home  of  American  mothers,  and 
of  the  Church  of  Christ."^ 


THE  AMERICAN  WEDGE  IN  OREGON       155 

Again  are  we  reminded  of  Plymouth  Rock. 

Down  from  the  pass  proceeded  the  caravan  and  retainers, 
to  be  met  now  by  the  charging  cavalry  of  the  Nez  Perces 
and  Flatheads  en  masse,  arrayed  in  their  brightest  and 
bravest.  With  this  additional  escort  the  rendezvous  was 
reached.  Mrs.  Whitman  naturally  attracted  the  men,  but 
Mrs.  Spalding,  ill  and  delicate  and  reserved,  attracted  the 
women.  The  Indian  squaws  took  her  in  charge,  adminis- 
tered to  her  fibrous  roots  which  eflfectively  stopped  the 
exhausting  bowel  trouble  caused  by  the  green  buffalo  meat, 
and  '*  from  that  hour  she  began  to  mend,  and  from  that 
hour  her  future  and  theirs  were  one." 

Fortunately  this  was  the  summer  when  the  first  Hudson 
Bay  trading  party,  under  McLeod,  was  sent  to  the  American 
rendezvous ;  with  this  party  the  missionaries  traveled  west- 
ward again.  At  the  rendezvous  the  heavy  four-mule  freight 
wagon  was  left  At  Fort  Hall  (last  American  outpost)  the 
light  wagon  must  be  transformed  into  a  two- wheeled  cart; 
at  Fort  Boise  (just  erected  by  the  British  traders  as  a 
counter-post  to  Fort  Hall),  even  the  cart  must  be  abandoned 
until  it  could  be  brought  on  by  some  party  unencumbered. 

But  the  indomitable  Doctor  Whitman  had  demonstrated 
his  theory.  In  1826  Messrs.  Smith,  Jackson  and  Sublette 
had  taken  cattle  and  wagons  to  the  South  Pass;  in  1832 
Captain  Bonneville  had  taken  his  wagon  train  over  the 
South  Pass  to  the  Green;  now  in  1836  women,  wagon,  and 
cattle  had  been  taken  to  the  Snake,  and  the  next  time  they 
would  be  taken  by  Whitman  to  the  coast. 

The  Columbia  at  Walla  Walla  was  reached  September  i, 
and  the  good  agent  Pambrun  received  Mrs.  Spalding  in  his 
arms  "as  if  he  had  been  her  father."  On  November  12 
the  bateaux  bearing  the  travelers  rounded  the  point  where 
stood  Vancouver  and  Fort  George.  Flags  were  waving, 
songs  were  resounding,  and  the  Hudson  Bay  dignitaries, 
Governor  John  McLoughlin  and  Father  James  Douglass, 


156  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

"  with  stately  courtesy  "  escorted  into  the  fort  the  first  white 
women  over  the  Oregon  Trail.  Thus  had  been  performed 
"  an  undertaking  pronounced  impossible  by  every  mountain 
man,  by  George  Catlin  and  the  missonary  Lee";  and  in 
Oregon  the  Protestant  Church  had,  by  importation  of  the 
white  American  family  and  of  American  customs,  laid 
the  foundation  of  the  American  commonwealth  in  the 
Northwest 


CHAPTER  XV 
ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  — 1834-1835 

THE  summer  market  or  rendezvous  of  1834  is  over.  The 
fall  beaver  hunt  has  succeeded  thereto,  and  a  numerous 
command  of  trappers  imder  Jim  Bridger,  of  the  firm  of 
Fitzpatrick,  Sublette  &  Bridger,  are  at  work  in  the  Black- 
feet  country  around  the  sources  of  the  Missouri  in  Mon- 
tana. On  a  tributary  of  the  Gallatin,  one  of  the  Three 
Forks,  signs  of  trappers  above  have  been  discovered  by  the 
party  with  which  Kit  Carson  is  working ;  these  signs  lead  to 
the  company  of  Joseph  Gale  —  field  captain  for  Nathaniel 
Wyeth. 

This  Gale  company  is  but  one  of  the  strings  to  Wyeth's 
bow.  He  has  also  built  Fort  Hall,  an  entrepot  for  supplies 
and  furs ;  and  having  followed  the  missionary  party  of  the 
Lees,  Cyrus  Shepard,  P.  L.  Edwards,  and  proceeded  to 
Vancouver,  he  has  met,  just  arriving,  his  ship,  the  May 
Dacre.  The  planet  Saturn  still  governs  the  Wyeth  horo- 
scope, for  the  May  Dacre  has  been  struck  by  lightning, 
is  three  months  late,  and  now  the  salmon  shipping  season 
is  past!  Whereupon,  with  true  Yankee  thrift  that 
deserved  a  better  reward,  the  versatile  Wyeth  has  dispatched 
from  Vancouver  to  Fort  Hall,  on  a  trading  trip  by  land, 
Skipper  Thing,  eight  motmtain  men  and  the  crew  of  thirteen 
Sandwich  Islanders. 

The  Wyeth  luck  extends  as  far  as  the  Wyeth  operations ; 
for  up  among  the  sources  of  the  Missouri,  along  the  Gal- 
latin Fork,  the  Joseph  Gale  company  have  been  saddled  by 
never-lightened  disaster  as  by  the  old  Man  of  the  Sea.  As 
Joe  Meek  records :    "  They  had  been  out  a  long  time.    The 

157 


158  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Blackfeet  had  used  them  badly.  Their  guns  were  out  of 
order,  their  ammunition  all  but  exhausted ;  they  were  desti- 
tute, or  nearly  so,  of  traps,  blankets,  knives,  everything. 
They  were  what  the  Indian  and  the  mountain  man  called 
*  very  poor/  "  Moreover,  in  the  last  fracas  with  the  Black- 
feet,  several  of  the  whites  had  been  shot,  and  Richard 
(Dick)  Owens  had  received  almost  a  death  wound. 

This  was  Wyeth  fortune.  In  the  morning  Kit  Carson 
and  the  other  Bridger  men  left  Gale,  in  order  to  trap  on 
and  join  the  main  camp;  but  they  had  ascended  along  the 
river  only  some  two  miles,  when  the  foremost  pair  of  trap- 
pers (claimed  by  Meek  to  have  been  Liggitt  and  himself) 
rode  into  an  ambush  of  Blackfeet.  Then  ensued  a  hot  race 
back  to  the  Gale  camp,  the  Blackfeet  madly  firing  and 
whooping. 

From  the  united  camp,  of  unexpected  size,  the  Indians 
swerved.  They  fell  back  and  as  they  went  set  on  fire  the 
long  grass.  The  camp  was  located  in  a  bunch  of  pines  and 
aspens;  a  strong  wind  was  blowing,  and  the  timber  was 
threatened  by  flames.  The  detachment  of  Gale  trappers, 
being  short  of  ammunition  and  of  serviceable  weapons, 
attended  to  the  horses  and  the  camp  equipage,  while  the 
Bridger  detachment  attended  to  the  savages. 

Kit  Carson  says  that  the  fire  died  out  at  the  edge  of  the 
copse.  Joe  Meek  says  that  the  pines  caught  and  that  the 
men  were  driven  into  the  open,  where  they  used  the  bodies 
of  dead  horses  as  barricades.  At  any  rate,  the  battle  waged 
fiercely  until  mid-afternoon,  when,  having  suffered  severely, 
and  having  been  warned  by  scouts  that  a  large  body  of  trap- 
pers were  approaching,  the  Blackfeet,  announcing  that  they 
would  fight  no  more,  withdrew. 

The  Bridger  main  company  soon  arrived  —  all  uncon- 
scious that  a  battle  had  been  waged,  for  the  strong  adverse 
wind  had  carried  the  sounds  in  the  opposite  direction.  Cap- 
tain Gale's  party,  which  but  for  ^he  opportune  reinforce- 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  159 

ment  by  Meek,  Carson,  and  the  others,  would  surely  have 
been  "  wiped  out "  within  a  day  or  two,  now  joined  with 
the  Bridger  company,  for  protection,  and  the  Wyeth  trap- 
ping enterprises  in  this  unfriendly  West  were  practically 
at  an  end. 

Joseph  Gale  quit  the  Wyeth  employ  this  winter,  entered 
the  employ  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  eventually 
migrated  westward  to  settle  on  the  Tualatin  Plains  of  Ore- 
gon, and  meeting  an  emergency,  became  skipper  of  the  first 
Oregon-built  ship  —  the  schooner  Star  of  Oregon,  which,  in 
September,  1842,  with  a  retired  mountain  man  as  captain 
and  green  ranchers  as  crew,  sailed  from  the  port  of  Van- 
couver for  the  port  of  San  Francisco  —  which  was  safely 
reached. 

Carson's  story  states  that  the  Bridger  command  was 
driven  out  of  the  Missouri  side  of  the  mountains  this  fall 
by  the  persistent  harassing  of  the  Blackfeet,  and  that  all 
the  Bridger  men,  like  the  Wyeth  men,  had  to  make  discre- 
tion the  better  part  of  valor  and  cross  to  the  western  slope 
and  the  Flathead  Lake  of  northwestern  Montana,  there  to 
meet  some  Flatheads  and  to  winter  with  them  further  south, 
on  the  Big  Snake. 

It  well  may  be  this  spring  of  1835,  when,  as  his  biography 
says,  emerging  from  winter  quarters,  Carson  fell  in  with 
Thomas  McKay  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  and  with 
five  associates  joined  him  in  a  spring  hunt ;  for  the  moun- 
tain business  among  the  American  companies  was  being 
badly  cut  up.  The  McKay  venture  proffered  success,  and 
it  proffered  new  country:  the  country  of  the  Great  Basin 
west  of  Salt  Lake. 

Consequently  Thomas  McKay  was  an  agreeable  leader 
for  Kit  Carson,  and  association  with  him  was  not  to  be 
despised.  The  Snake,  between  Walla  Walla  and  Fort  Hall, 
evidently  was  McKay's  province,  for  it  was  hereabouts,  in 
the  summer  of  1834,  that  the  overland  party  of  the  Lees 


160  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

encamped  with  the  McKay  company,  and  even  preached  to 
them. 

With  five  other  Americans  Kit  Carson  now  joined  the 
McKay  command  for  an  expedition  down  the  Mary's  River 
of  northwestern  Nevada,  which  was  separated  from  the 
Snake  country  on  the  north  by  a  wide  divide  of  bare,  bris- 
tling ridges,  and  by  plateaus  of  sage,  sand,  and  lava  falling 
away  into  deep  dry  canons.  It  is  a  region  well-nigh  impas- 
sable by  man;  and  by  what  trail  they  traveled  we  do  not 
know. 

Eighteen  months  previous  the  detachment  imder  Joe 
Walker,  from  the  Bonneville  brigade,  upon  their  accidental 
way  to  California  had  descended  along  this  river,  known  as 
Mary's  and  as  Ogden's,  and  today  as  the  Humboldt  River, 
to  which  they  applied  the  name  Barren.  Since  that  fall 
of  1833  no  expedition  is  recorded  as  having  trapped  the 
stream,  and  McKay  evidently  expected  to  reap  a  harvest, 
as  Peter  Ogden  had  before.    But  the  traps  were  set  in  vain. 

Down  along  the  Mary's  River,  which,  with  its  rocky, 
sterile  ridges,  its  grateful  bottoms,  its  mingling  of  heat  and 
cold,  of  springs,  alkali  ponds,  sandy  bluffs  and  grassy  camp- 
ing spots,  for  two  hundred  miles  was  soon  to  be  a  feature 
of  the  Overland  Trail  already  platted  by  the  stars,  traveled 
the  McKay  and  Carson  party,  clear  to  the  Sinks  of  the 
Humboldt.  Here,  in  the  midst  of  a  desert  desolation,  char- 
acterized by  flats  of  soda  and  ash,  burnt-rock  outcrops,  stag- 
nation of  earth,  air,  water,  and  animate  life  —  a  region  as 
appalling  as  the  surface  of  the  moon  —  the  Mary's  ceased 
at  a  swampy  lake  with  no  outlet.  The  water,  scummy  and 
green,  and  speckled  with  wild  fowl,  was  sucked  up  by  the 
dry  air  faster  than  it  could  gather  to  overflow.  This  was 
the  Sink  of  the  Humboldt. 

According  to  his  biographer,  Charles  Burdett,  Carson 
here  was  sent  ahead  by  McKay  toward  the  ranges  which 
showed  bluish  in  the  west,  to  be  gone  a  few  days  to  see  if 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  161 

there  were  not,  somewhere,  beaver  streams.^®  He  found 
a  lake  of  potash,  with  pumice  stone  floating  upon  it;  he 
found  more  sinks  and  deposits  of  soda  —  ahnost  underfoot 
were  the  gold  and  silver  which  since  have  made  western 
Nevada  famous,  but  he  passed  careless  glances  over  their 
resting  place;  he  found  dried  lakes,  like  saucers,  rimmed 
with  low  ridges,  pulverized  mud  and  ashes  for  their  bot- 
toms ;  he  found  many  a  wonder  —  but  no  beaver.  And  he 
returned  to  McKay. 

Then  upon  this  country  of  ruin  they  turned  their  backs 
and,  partially  retracing  their  outward  course,  they  made  for 
the  Snake  again. 

Sage  and  sand  and  barrenness  encompassed  them  until, 
as  they  threaded  among  the  lonely  hills,  they  occasionally 
came  upon  little  valleys  which  flowing  water  had  made 
green.  When  they  struck  the  Snake  in  southern  Idaho, 
midway  between  its  source  above  Fort  Hall  and  its  mouth 
at  the  Columbia  afar,  the  party  divided.  Partisan  McKay 
tiuned  west  down  the  Snake,  making  for  the  Hudson  Bay 
Company  post  of  Fort  Walla  Walla  in  southeastern  Wash- 
ington; Carson,  as  captain  of  the  five  remaining  men,  set 
out  in  the  opposite  direction,  up  the  Snake,  for  Fort  Hall. 

As  McKay  was  to  have  the  better  country,  where  game 
and  grass  were  available,  he  took  only  a  small  portion  of 
the  provisions  and  the  majority  of  the  horses. 

The  provisions  left  were  poor  enough  —  roots  and  a  little 
rabbit  meat  —  and  the  horses  left  were  poor  indeed,  sad, 
hard-worked,  famished  things  which  the  desert  had  used 
cruelly.  Kit  Carson  and  men  may  have  had  a  bad  time  of 
it  in  the  Great  Basin,  but  now  they  were  to  have  a  worse. 
They  saw  no  game,  and  as  their  fare  grew  scantier  they 
saw  no  Indians  from  whom  they  might  obtain  succor.  It 
was  a  region  deserted,  with  scenery  sublime,  but  caring 
naught  for  man. 

When  Fort  Hall  was  still  four  or  five  days'  journey  east- 


162  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

ward  their  roots  had  given  out  They  had  but  the  one 
resort  left,  which  trappers  had  used  before ;  they  cut  veins 
in  their  mules  and  horses,  and,  drinking  the  warm  blood, 
closed  the  veins  again.  However,  they  could  not  repeat  this 
operation.    The  mules  and  horses  were  too  thin  and  weak. 

A  debate  arose  whether  or  not  to  kill  some  of  the  animals 
and  eat  them,  bony  as  they  were.  But  without  animals, 
how  could  the  party  proceed,  supposing  the  route  continued 
rough?  To  kill  the  animals  might  put  the  party  in  worse 
plight  than  ever. 

At  this  crisis  they  encountered  a  band  of  friendly 
Indians  (probably  Snakes),  and  by  dint  of  much  dickering 
and  persuasion  obtained  from  them  a  "  fat  horse  "  —  which 
immediately  was  killed  and  devoured.  This  provender 
lasted  during  the  march  on  to  Fort  Hall. 

While  Carson  and  his  five  companions  pause  to  recuper- 
ate, let  us  also  pause  an  instant  at  old  Fort  Hall  when  it 
was  new,  for  it  deserves  more  than  merest  mention.  Situ- 
ated "  upon  the  left  bank  of  Snake  River,  or  Lewis^  Fork 
of  the  Columbia,  in  a  rich  bottom  near  the  delta  formed 
by  the  confluence  of  the  Portneuf  with  that  stream,  in  lat. 
43^  lo'  30"  north,  long.  112°  20/  54"  west,"  it  reflected 
much  credit  upon  Wyeth's  judgment.  It  was  built  of  the 
customary  palings  or  palisades,  with  a  sally-port  or  double 
gateway  facmg  the  Portneuf,  the  walls  "  extending  back 
toward  the  Snake."  In  1836  it  was  transferred  by  Wyeth 
to  the  Hudson  Bay  Company,  and  now  having  become,  as 
the  British  eastern-most  outpost,  "  the  stone  in  the  garden  " 
of  the  American  traders,  under  agent  Captain  Grant,  it  was 
for  more  than  fourteen  years  a  Hudson  Bay  Company 
quarters.  The  wooden  walls  were  replaced  by  adobe,  which, 
whitewashed,  gleamed  as  a  welcome  signal  to  wayfarers 
amidst  the  sagy  deserts  of  the  rushing  Snake.  After  the 
hospitable  Mr.  Grant  retired  to  settle  with  his  half-Indian 
family  upon  a  fertile  bottom  land  five  miles  above  his 


DR.  JOHN  McLOUGITLIN 

THE  FAMOUS   HUIISON's  DAY   ACE»T 

(Cotirtcsy  of  the  Orfgan  lliilorical  Society) 


"  OLD  "  JIM  BRIDCER  CAPT.  NATHANIEL  J.  W'YETH 

(From  a  daguerrcotyl-e  taken  about  (Courtesy   of   the   Oregon   Historical 
1S46,  presented   by  Bridger's   daugh-  Society) 

ler  to   General  Grenville  M.  Dodge) 


FORT  LARAMIE.  18-12 
(From  Fremont's  report  of  his  first  e.rfidilio 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  163 

former  post,  the  old  fort  still  remained  a  favorite  station 
for  emigrants  over  the  Oregon  Trail,  but  it  was  superseded 
by  the  new  government  post  of  the  same  name.  Later  a 
third  Fort  Hall  grew  up,  dominating  the  Bannock  Indian 
reservation. 

Here,  at  the  palisaded  first  Fort  Hall,  occupied  by  the 
Wyeth  garrison  hopeful  of  trade  with  the  Snakes  and  the 
Utes,  but  bothered  much  by  pilfering  bands  of  invading 
Crows,  Blackf  eet,  and  Sioux,  the  Carson  party  of  six  rested, 
until,  making  an  excursion  after  buffalo,  they  invited  fur- 
ther adventure. 

This  occurred  in  the  valley  of  the  Little  Snake,  near  to 
the  dividing  line  between  northwestern  Colorado  and  cen- 
tral Wyoming  —  and  not  far  southeast  from  the  spot  where, 
in  1 84 1,  the  veteran  Fraeb  forted  and  was  killed.  The 
locality  is  definitely  fixed  by  Fremont's  journal  of  his  return 
from  his  second  tour  (1843-44).  He  says:  "  We  passed 
during  the  day  a  place  where  Carson  had  been  fired  on  so 
close  that  one  of  the  men  had  five  bullets  through  his  body." 
But  Carson  tells  his  own  story: 

It  was  in  —  let  me  see  —  yes,  1835.  There  were  six  of  us 
hunters  out  after  buffalo,  up  in  the  Snake  country.  We  had 
made  a  pretty  good  hunt,  and  came  into  camp  at  night,  intend- 
ing to  start  in  next  morning.  (Back  to  Fort  Hall,  west  almost 
three  hundred  miles!)  Well,  we  camped.  Had  a  good  many 
dogs  with  us,  some  of  them  good  dogs.  They  barked  a  good 
deal,  and  we  heard  wolves.  As  I  lay  by  the  fire,  I  saw  one  or 
two  big  wolves  sneaking  about  camp  —  one  of  them  quite  in 
it.  Gordon  wanted  to  fire,  but  I  would  not  let  him,  for  fear 
of  hitting  some  of  the  dogs.  I  had  just  a  little  suspicion, 
that  the  wolves  might  be  Indians,  but  when  I  saw  them  turn 
short  about,  and  heard  the  snap  of  their  teeth,  as  the  dogs 
came  too  close  to  one  of  'em,  I  felt  easy  then,  and  made  sure 
it  was  a  wolf.  The  Indian  fooled  me  that  time.  Confound 
the  rascal,  —  becoming  animated  —  confound  the  rj^cal,  you 
think  he  had  n't  two  old  buffalo  bones  in  his  hand  that  he 
cracked  together  every  time  he  turned  to  snap  at  the  dogs? 


164  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Well,  by  and  by  we  dozed  off  asleep,  and  it  was  n't  long  before 
I  was  awoke  by  a  crash  and  blaze.  I  jumped  straight  for  the 
mules,  and  held  'em.  If  the  Indians  had  been  smart,  they  'd 
'a  had  us  all,  but  they  run  as  soon  as  they  fired.  They  killed 
but  one  of  us  —  poor  Davis.  He  had  five  bullets  in  his  body, 
and  eight  in  his  buffalo-robe.  The  Indians  were  a  band  of 
Sioux,  on  the  war  path  after  the  Snakes,  and  came  on  us  by 
accident.  They  tried  to  waylay  us  next  morning,  but  we  killed 
three  of  'em,  including  their  chief  .*^* 

Now  supplied  with  meat,  the  five  trappers  pitched  their 
lodge  just  outside  the  walls  of  Fort  Hall,  and  waited  for 
McKay  to  return  from  Walla  Walla.  The  Wyeth  ill  luck 
which  attended  Fort  Hall  communicated  itself  evidently  to 
everyone  connected  with  it  under  his  proprietorship.  As  a 
new  American  post  it  was  treated  with  small  respect  by  the 
roving  tribes  who  made  their  forays  into  this  district.  It  is 
safe  to  say  that  under  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  manage- 
ment it  commanded  a  different  attitude. 

Two  or  three  nights  after  the  Carson  squad  had  come  in 
from  the  buffalo  hunt  and  had  encamped  beside  the  fort, 
Indians  (said  to  have  been  Blackfeet,  who  bore  the  brunt 
of  general  blame)  boldly  entered  the  post  corral  and  led 
away  every  animal  that  the  trappers  had  placed  therein  for 
security.  This  was  done  at  daybreak;  the  sentinel  stationed 
over  the  cavvy  saw  two  figures  approach  and  let  down  the 
bars;  and  so  deliberately  was  it  done  that  he  assumed  the 
customary  relief  was  taking  the  cavvy  out  to  graze.  Where- 
upon he  turned  in  and  went  to  sleep. 

When  the  horse  guard  actually  did  arrive  to  relieve  the 
sentry,  they  were  amazed  to  find  the  corral  empty.  Investi- 
gation showed  that  the  animals  had  been  driven  by  the  two 
thieves  to  the  main  party  of  Indians,  and  then  trailed  across 
country  at  a  rapid  rate.  Inasmuch  as  not  a  horse  or  mule 
was  left  at  the  post,  pursuit  was  fruitless. 

However,  McKay  came  in,  after  a  month,  and  brought 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  165 

with  him  enough  extra  saddle  animals  so  that  Carson  and 
his  four  comrades  could  ride  on  to  the  rendezvous  of  the 
summer  of  1835  in  the  Valley  of  the  Green.  Here  there 
arrived,  under  escort  of  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  from  Fort 
John,  the  two  missionaries  Samuel  Parker  and  Marcus 
Whitman.  And  at  this  rendezvous  occurred  Kit  Carson's 
celebrated  duel  with  a  Canadian  mountain  man  called  Cap- 
tain Shunan,  or  Shuman,  or  Shunar,  who  had  thrashed  two 
men  with  his  fists  and  was  boasting  that  he  would  "  cut  a 
stick  and  switch  "  any  American  who  interfered.  Various 
modem  accounts  of  it  have  appeared  —  all  based  upon  the 
one  heroic  recital  in  Peters.  But  as  Reverend  Mr.  Parker 
was  present,  and  is  a  candid,  if  not  an  overglowing  narrator 
of  the  wild  West  as  he  saw  it,  we  will  let  him  tell,  in  his 
didactic  fashion,  the  incident: 

A  few  days  after  our  arrival  at  the  place  of  rendezvous,  and 
when  all  the  mountain-men  had  assembled,  another  day  of 
indulgence  was  granted  to  them,  in  which  all  restraint  was 
laid  aside.  These  days  are  the  climax  of  the  hunter's  happi- 
ness. I  will  relate  an  occurrence  which  took  place,  near  eve- 
ning, as  a  specimen  of  mountain  life.  A  hunter,  who  goes  tech- 
nically by  the  name  of  the  great  bully  of  the  mountains, 
mounted  his  horse  with  a  loaded  rifle,  and  challenged  any 
Frenchman,  American,  Spaniard,  or  Dutchman,  to  fight  him 
in  single  combat.  Kit  Carson,  an  American,  told  him  if  he 
wished  to  die,  he  would  accept  the  challenge.  Shunar  defied 
him.  C.  mounted  his  horse,  and  with  a  loaded  pistol,  rushed 
into  close  contact,  and  both  almost  at  the  same  instant  fired. 
C's.  ball  entered  S's.  hand,  came  out  at  the  wrist,  and  passed 
through  the  arm  above  the  elbow.  Shunar's  ball  passed  over 
the  head  of  Carson;  and  while  he  went  for  another  pistol, 
Shunar  begged  that  his  life  might  be  spared.*^ 

The  Peters'  biography  makes  Carson,  after  a  sounding 
speech,  seek  his  lodge  for  a  weapon,  while  Shunan  likewise 
sought  his.  Both  men  appear  mounted  and  armed  in  the 
lists ;  and  when  their  horses*  heads  touch,  Carson  demands : 


166  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 


ti 
It 


Am  I  the  person  3rou  are  lodcing  for  ?  " 
No/'  answers  Shunan,  at  the  same  moment  raising  his 
rifle.    Carson  instantly  fires,  shattering  his  opponent's  fore- 
arm, causing  the  rifle  muzzle  to  tilt  so  that  the  discharge 
grazes  his  scalp  and  powder-bums  his  face. 

Shunan,  or  Shunar,  evidently  was  one  of  those  large, 
braggart  bravos  —  the  "cock  of  the  woods"  when  in  his 
cups ;  a  character  calculated  to  overawe  a  camp  and  convince 
it  that  it  were  best  to  let  him  alone.  Kit  Carson  was  exactly 
the  person  to  undertake  him,  and  in  tackling  the  job  acted 
precisely  as  would  be  expected. 

However,  a  motive  beyond  merely  the  offensiveness 
implied  by  Mr.  Parker  and  by  other  chroniclers  must  be 
assigned  to  the  quarrel ;  and  a  well-based  story  from  Car-  ^ 
son's  own  lips  —  in  fact  told  by  him  to  Captain  S.  H.  Simp- 
son of  Taos,  declares  that  the  ill  feeling  culminated  over  a 
young  squaw,  desired  by  both  men.  Carson  won  out,  and, 
to  judge  from  his  own  story,  killed  his  opponent.®^ 

When  the  rendezvous  broke  up,  August  20,  Bridger,  with 
the  missionaries  and  fifty  trappers,  including  Carbon,  the 
Flatheads,  and  Nez  Perc&,  headed  north  for  the  upper 
Snake  or  the  Tetons,  from  whose  base  and  the  western  base 
of  the  Wind  River  Range  flow  the  waters  of  the  Henry 
and  the  Lewis  Forks. 

The  march  was  begun  on  August  21;  on  the  22d  Dr. 
Whitman  turned  east  to  recross  South  Pass  and  recruit  the 
missionary  ranks  for  the  next  year.  On  the  23d,  which 
was  Sunday,  in  Jackson's  Little  Hole,  the  Reverend  Mr. 
Parker's  impromptu  church  services  were  interrupted  by  a 
buffalo  hunt.  On  August  25  Jackson's  Big  Hole  was 
reached,  and  Captain  Bridger  detached  a  portion  of  his 
command  to  trap  the  streams. 

The  trail,  ever  seeking  the  beaver,  crossed  the  Teton  Pass 
and  descended  into  Pierre's  Hole,  westward,  where  had 
been  fought,  three  years  before,  the  big  traiq)er-Blackfeet 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  167 

battle.  Here  the  Bridger  command  diverged  for  the  north- 
east and  the  Three  Forks  country  of  the  Blackfeet,  and  Mr. 
Parker  proceeded  west,  with  his  Nez  Perce  and  Flathead 
escort,  for  the  lower  Columbia. 

The  Blackfeet  were  very  active  this  fall  and  winter.  The 
Bridger  camps  were  constantly  harassed,  so  that  "  a  white 
man  could  not  leave  his  camp  and  go  a  distance  of  a  single 
mile  without  being  fired  upon."  Consequently  the  company 
dropped  down  to  the  Yellowstone,  where  they  went  into 
the  winter  quarters  of  1835-1836. 


CHAPTER  XVI 
ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  — 1835-1838 

THE  winter  upon  the  Yellowstone  was  to  be  far  from  a 
peaceful  one  for  the  Bridger  camp,  with  which  was 
Kit  Carson.  In  this  January  (1836)  a  hunting  party  irom 
the  camp  crossed  a  large  Blackfeet  trail,  and  as  signs  of 
alien  Indians  in  winter  could  mean  only  a  war  party,  it  was 
necessary,  before  the  camp  could  rest  easily  again,  that  the 
country  be  cleared.  Forty  trappers,  including  Carson  (who, 
now  at  twenty-six,  must  have  been  among  the  best  of  the 
mountain  men),  were  dispatched  upon  the  trail. 

Trailing  hard  and  fast,  through  snow  and  cold,  the  Kit 
Carson  company  —  Americans,  French  Canadians,  Mex- 
ican Spaniards,  Germans,  half-breeds,  motley  in  nationality 
and  motley  in  garb,  but  one  in  their  hatred  of  the  Blackfeet 
•—overtook  the  Blackfeet  scouts,  who  fled.  As  had  been 
expected,  the  scouts  raced  for  the  main  body,  so  that  soon 
the  charging  whites  found  themselves  stoutly  opposed  by  a 
fierce  array  as  stubborn  as  ever. 

Joe  Meek's  account  of  a  similar  battle  (which  may  or 
may  not  have  been  the  same)  says  that  the  trappers  discov- 
ered the  Blackfeet  forted  upon  an  island  in  the  Yellowstone, 
and  each  man  screening  himself  by  a  little  mesh  of  twigs 
and  grass,  they  were  enabled  to  creep  up  unobserved  and 
deliver  a  destructive  fire  from  the  banks  above.  But  the 
Carson  account  says  that  after  a  sharp  fight  the  Blackfeet 
retreated  to  this  island  and  forted. 

Night  fell  and  a  truce  was  necessary.  The  trappers 
camped  as  best  they  might  in  the  cold  and  darkness,  and 
waited,  to  renew  at  dawn  the  attack;  for  in  these  wildcat 

168 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  169 

fights  between  Blackfeet  and  mountain  men  the  cry  was, 
"  Give  'em  Green  River,"  the  cry  of  extermination  and 
scalps.  At  dawn  the  whites  charged  again,  and,  hoarsely 
shouting,  crossed  upon  the  ice  or  even  waded  when  the 
current  intervened.  But  the  fort  was  deserted.  Only 
"the  snow  within  the  fortification  was  red  with  fresh 
Mood,  and  from  the  place  a  bloody  trail  led  to  a  hole  in  the 
ice  of  the  stream,  where  a  large  number  of  lifeless  bodies 
had  been  sunk."  ^ 

The  victorious  but  disappointed  trappers  returned  to  the 
Bridger  camp.  A  council  was  held  at  once.  It  was  folly 
to  presume  that  the  Blackfeet  would  accept  such  a  drubbing 
and  not  retaliate.  The  location  of  the  camp  had  been  spied 
upon ;  the  Blackfeet  would  gather  again.  Bridger  decided 
not  to  vacate,  but  to  stick  it  out  and  act  upon  the  defensive. 
Outposts  were  stationed,  and  throughout  the  day  a  sentinel 
sat  upon  a  high  hill,  near  by,  to  watch  over  the  surround- 
ing country.  Meanwhile  the  camp  was  being  fortified  as 
rapidly  as  possible,  but  before  preparations  were  completed 
the  sentry  on  the  hill  signaled  that  the  Indians  were  in 
sight  More  packs  and  logs  and  rocks  were  piled  to 
strengthen  the  barricade,  the  horse  and  mule  herd  was 
brought  in  and  corralled,  arms  were  grasped  and  prim- 
ing freshened. 

The  advance  party  of  the  savages  soon  appeared  in  sight,  but 
then  they  discovered  the  strength  of  the  trappers,  they  halted 
and  awaited,  distant  about  half  a  mile  from  the  breast-work, 
the  arrival  of  the  rest  of  the  band.  It  was  three  days  before 
the  whole  force  of  the  Indians  had  arrived.  They  mustered 
about  one  thousand  warriors.  [Joe  Meek  says  eleven  hundred.] 
It  was  a  sight  which  few  white  men  of  the  American  nation 
have  looked  upon.  Arrayed  in  their  fantastic  war  costume 
and  bedaubed  with  paint,  armed  with  lances,  bows  and  arrows, 
rifles,  toniahawks,  knives,  etc.,  some  mounted  and  some  on 
foot,  they  presented  a  wild  and  fearful  scene  of  barbaric 
strength  and  fancy.^^ 


170  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

When  the  full  force  had  assembled  a  great  war  dance 
was  performed,  further  to  intimidate  the  whites  and  nerve 
the  warriors.  The  tumult  continued  probably  through  the 
night  (according  to  Indian  custom)  ;  and  with  the  morning 
the  Blackfeet,  worked  up  to  a  high  pitch,  charged. 

But  as  might  have  been  expected,  faced  by  the  breast- 
works and  by  the  ready  rifles,  they  split  Before  they 
reached  the  danger  zone  they  wheeled  and  retired.  The 
Indians  of  the  West  never  have  had  the  stomach  to  assault 
breastworks ;  each  individual  Indian  thinks  of  his  own  scalp. 

The  trappers  jeered  and  yelled,  taunting  the  Blackfeet  to 
come  within  range.  Carson  says  that  the  enemy  presently 
withdrew  about  a  mile  and  sat  in  council.  This  dissolved, 
the  reds  divided  into  two  bands,  one  marching  on  into  the 
Crow  country,  the  other  taking  the  back  trail.  Joe  Meek 
says  that  they,  too,  f orted,  throwing  up  small  cottonwood 
enclosiu"es  for  ten  men  each,  from  which  a  skirtnishing  fight 
was  carried  on,  with  small  loss  to  either  side,  for  two  days ; 
after  which  the  Blackfeet  quit. 

The  trappers'  camp  was  not  molested  again  during  the 
winter.  The  spring  hunt  was  pursued  in  the  Crow  country 
of  the  Yellowstone  and  the  Big  Horn,  in  the  Wind  River 
Valley,  and  thence  across  to  the  Lewis  Fork  and  down  to 
the  rendezvous  near  the  mouth  of  Horse  Creek  in  the  Val- 
ley of  the  Green. 

At  the  Green  River,  preceding  the  rendezvous  of  1836, 
occurred  the  tragedy  whereby  Joe  Meek's  wife,  Umen- 
tucken,  a  Snake  young  woman  transferred  from  Milton 
Sublette,  closed  her  days.  A  band  of  Bannocks,  assuming 
that  the  whites  had  stolen  their  horses,  dashed  into  camp 
and  caught  the  trappers  unprepared. 

Bridger  stood  in  front  of  his  lodge,  holding  his  horse  by  a 
lasso,  and  the  head  chief  rode  over  it,  jerking  it  out  of  his 
hand.     At  this  unprecedented  insult  to  his  master,  a  negro 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  171 

named  Jim,  cook  to  the  Booshway,  seized  a  rifle  and  shot  the 
chief  dead.  At  the  same  time,  an  arrow  shot  at  random  struck 
Umentucken  in  the  breast,  and  the  joys  and  sorrows  of  the 
Mountain  Lamb  were  over  forevermore.®* 

The  mountain  men  now  rallied,  chased  the  Bannocks, 
drove  them  from  their  village  to  an  island  in  the  Green, 
and  so  well  avenged  Umentucken  that  finally  an  old  Ban- 
nock squaw  approached,  bearing  the  pipe  of  peace. 

**  You  have  killed  all  our  warriors,"  she  said ;  "  do  you 
now  want  to  kill  the  women?  If  you  wish  to  smoke  with 
women,  I  have  the  pipe." 

This  convinced  the  trappers  that  they  had  done  their 
duty,  and  they  drew  off.  It  also  had  convinced  the  Ban- 
nocks that  the  white  race  were  fighters  of  a  new  breed ;  and 
coming  as  a  first  experience,  changed  a  bold  nation  into  a 
race  of  bushwhackers  as  vicious  as  the  Diggers. 

Following  the  fight  with  the  presumptuous  Bannocks,  the 
rendezvous  time  being  at  hand,  Andrew  Drips,  the  Ameri- 
can Fur  Company  partisan,  took  half  a  dozen  or  so  of  men 
and  rode  eastward  to  meet  the  caravan  from  St.  Louis.  On 
the  Sandy  (the  Big  Sandy  and  the  Little  Sandy  creeks  are 
two  famous  streams  encountered  on  the  west  slope  of  South 
Pass,  and  long  famed  as  the  overland  traveler's  introduc- 
tion to  the  Pacific  slope)  they  noted  signs  of  Indians. 
Meek  and  Carson,  with  that  habitual  caution  which  twelve 
years  later  moved  Lieutenant  G.  D.  Brewerton  to  remark 
upon  it,  at  the  next  camp  retained  the  saddles  upon  their 
horses  and  tied  the  picket  rope  to  themselves.  When,  just 
before  dawn,  the  apprehended  attack  was  made,  all  the 
horses  save  those  of  Meek  and  Carson  were  stampeded. 
But  these  two  wily  mountain  men  were  enabled  to  flee  at 
full  speed,  not  to  be  rejoined  by  others  of  the  party  until 
the  Sweetwater,  across  the  pass,  was  reached. 

The  majority  on  foot,  the  party  proceeded  as  far  east  as 
Independence  Rock,  when  another  attack  turned  them  back. 


172  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Strange  to  relate,  the  whole  party  finally  rendezvoused  again 
on  the  Green,  not  a  man  having  been  killed  or  (which  was 
the  same  thing)  captured. 

Into  this  rendezvous  entered,  with  spectacular  escort,  the 
two  white  wcMnen,  Mrs.  Spalding  and  Mrs.  Whitman,  and 
the  other  missionaries,  Messrs.  Spalding,  Whitman,  and 
Gray.  At  this  rendezvous  also  it  would  be  learned  that  Cap- 
tain Bonneville,  the  erstwhile  trader  and  exjdorer,  had  been 
gone  a  year  from  the  mountains;  that  Nathaniel  Wyeth, 
the  plucky,  had  failed  in  every  venture,  and  that  he,  too, 
was  practically  out  of  the  mountain  business,  his  salmon 
shipments  having  amounted  to  naught  and  his  Fort  Hall 
having  been  opposed  by  the  new  Hudson  Bay  post  of  Fort 
Boise,  lower  down  on  the  Snake.  And  doubtless  the  St. 
Louis  caravan  brought  out  news  from  Texas,  where  Ameri- 
cans were  fighting  for  new  American  territory  as  important 
as  Oregon. 

This  fall  of  1836  the  firm  of  Fitzpatrick,  Sublette  & 
Bridger  seems  to  have  ceased  entirely,  and  all  the  former 
Rocky  Mountain  Fur  Company  personages,  save  William 
Sublette,  who  was  still  in  the  field,  supported  the  American 
Fur  Company  against  the  British  aggression.  Fort  Boise 
was  a  menace  and  Wyeth's  Fort  Hall  was  another.  From 
now  on  for  twenty  years  the  only  American  fur  concern 
of  importance  in  the  western  trade  is  that  great  corporation, 
"  the  Company  " :  the  American  Fur  Company,  sometimes 
referred  to  as  the  "  Company  of  North  America,"  as  arro- 
gant, east  of  the  mountains,  as  ever  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany west  of  the  mountains,  and  much  more  despotic  over 
its  employees. 

From  the  rendezvous  the  missionaries  departed  with  the 
British  party  of  trader  McLeod,  westward  for  the  Colum- 
bia ;  Bridger  and  Fontenelle  (the  Rocky  Mountain  Company 
and  the  American  Company  united,  like  the  lying  down 
together  of  tliQ  wqU  and  the  lamb)  led  a  large  brigade  north, 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  173 

and  divided.  The  Bridger  party  proceeded  to  the  head- 
waters of  the  Snake,  and  into  Pierre's  Hole;  Fontenelle, 
with  one  hundred  men,  among  them  Carson,  trapped  in  the 
Yellowstone  country.  There  were  rumors  among  the  Crows 
that  the  Blackf  eet  had  been  swept  by  a  scourge  of  smallpox 
and  were  in  full  retreat  from  it.  The  trappers,  who  had 
many  old  scores  to  settle  with  this  tribe,  accepted  the  plague 
as  a  gift  of  providence,  and  extended  their  operations  the 
more  freely. 

That  winter  the  imited  bands  of  Bridger  and  Fontenelle 
went  into  camp  among  the  Crows  of  the  Yellowstone.  The 
season  was  severe. 

Fuel,  however,  was  abundant,  and  excepting  the  inconven- 
ience of  keeping  unusually  large  fires,  they  suffered  but  little. 
Not  so  with  the  animals.  It  was  with  the  greatest  difficulty 
that  they  preserved  them  from  starvation.  ♦  ♦  ♦  The 
intense  cold  operated  to  bring  upon  them  another  serious 
annoyance,  in  the  shape  of  immense  herds  of  starving  buffalo, 
which,  goaded  on  by  the  pangs  of  hunger,  would  watch  for  an 
opportunity  to  gore  the  animals  and  steal  their  scanty  allow- 
ance of  provender.  It  was  only  by  building  large  fires  in  the 
valleys  and  constantly  standing  guard  that  the  trappers  suc- 
ceeded in  keeping  them  off.**^ 

But  if  the  winter  was  severe,  the  mountain  men  and 
Indians  alike  appear  to  have  made  merry,  for,  according  to 
Joe  Meek  "  perhaps  there  never  was  a  winter  camp  in  the 
mountains  more  thoroughly  demoralized  than  this,  espe- 
cially during  the  months  of  January  and  February." 

Fontenelle  and  four  men  and  the  party  of  Captain  Stuart 
(who  was  still  on  deck  and  in  the  thick  of  mountain  life)  set; 
off  in  midwinter  for  the  Laramie  (Fort  John) ;  and  here, 
soon  after  arrival  in  January,  Fontenelle  killed  himself 
while,  it  is  claimed,  in  his  cups. 

When  spring  opened  two  of  the  trappers  were  sent  to 
the  fort  on  the  Laramie  for  supplies,  and  never  were  heard 


1 


174  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

from  at  either  terminus  of  the  route;  and  in  March  the 
beaver  trail  was  taken  for  the  sources  of  the  Missouri  in 
the  presumably  desolated  country  of  the  Blackfeet. 

About  this,  the  most  dangerous  of  regions,  the  mountain 
men  seem  to  have  hovered  with  the  persistency  of  a  boy 
haunting  a  forbidden  apple  orchard.  It  was,  of  course,  an 
excellent  beaver  district,  but  there  were  other  beaver  dis- 
tricts as  prolific,  and  much  less  venomous. 

The  route  was  northwest  from  the  Powder  River 
headwaters  in  northern  Wyoming,  across  the  Big  Horn 
mountains  and  the  rivers  of  the  Big  Horn,  Clarke's  and  the 
Rosebud  (a  wild,  austere  countr}')  to  the  upper  Yellow- 
stone. That  not  all  the  Blackfeet  were  yet  dead  was  proven 
when  near  the  Yellowstone  the  Bridger  advance  struck  a 
Blackfeet  village  and  another  brisk  fight  occurred. 

The  march  continued  northwest  across  Twenty- 
five  Yard  River  to  the  Three  Forks  of  tlie  Missouri. 
The  Bridger  camp  had  been  three  hundred  strong  and 
although  it  must  have  been  lessened  during  the  march,  as 
details  dropped  off  to  trap,  it  proceeded  defiantly  into  the 
Blackfeet  territory.  An  advance  guard  of  forty  or  fifty 
men  were  sent  forward  to  follow  a  broad  Blackfeet  trail; 
evidently  that  of  a  village  fleeing  from  the  plague,  for  the 
trail  was  strewn  with  the  disfigured  corpses  of  smallpox 
victims. 

The  stricken  village  noted  the  pursuit  and  posted  one 
hundred  and  fifty  warriors  to  cover  its  retreat.  The  point 
chosen  was  a  narrow  valley  or  bottom,  hedged  by  high, 
rocky  bluffs.  But  if  an  ambush  had  been  projected  the 
wily  mountain  men  were  too  acute;  and  several  of  them, 
leaving  their  horses,  climbed  around  and  above,  and  sur- 
prising the  reds,  poured  in  a  sudden  fire. 

For  a  time  it  was  give  and  take,  with  the  Blackfeet  heroic- 
ally enduring  their  losses  and  acting  upon  the  defensive 
until  the  village  might  escape.    After  three  hours  of  battle 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  175 

the  trappers'  ammunition  began  to  run  low;  and  apprised 
by  the  slackening  fire,  the  desperate  reds  suddenly  turned 
like  a  striking  snake,  carrying  the  fight  to  the  trappers. 

The  voice  of  Kit  Carson  and  of  other  recognized  leaders 
rallied  the  whites,  bidding  them  stand  fast.  The  rifles  were 
emptied  and  as  on  the  Blackfeet  came  the  pistols  were 
brought  into  deadly  use.  Back  rolled  the  feathered,  painted 
tide,  only  to  swell  again  and  again.  So  hot  was  the  con- 
test among  the  rocks  that  sometimes  a  single  boulder  sep- 
arated opponent  and  opponent,  each  striving  to  reach  the 
other. 

The  reserves  from  the  trapper  camp,  on  the  march  behind, 
now  arrived  with  reinforcement  of  men  and  ammunition. 
But  the  Blackfeet,  running  amuck  and  mad  with  the  lust 
of  the  fight,  declined  to  loosen  their  desperate  clutch  on 
victory  and  revenge.  The  trappers  having  mounted,  the 
battle  was  renewed  with  added  fury. 

Several  of  the  incidents  have  been  preserved  to  this  day. 
Doc  Newell,  dismounting  to  scalp  an  Indian  presumed  to 
be  dead,  resuscitated  the  corpse  by  the  prick  of  his  knife, 
and,  his  fingers  caught  among  the  gun  screws  with  which 
the  savage's  topknot  was  adorned,  he  well  nigh  never  got 
free  alive.  Joe  Meek,  unconsciously  posing  while  turned 
in  his  saddle,  was  made  by  J.  M.  Stanley,  the  mountain  days 
artist,  who  was  present  at  the  time,  the  subject  of  a  cele- 
brated canvas,  "The  Trapper's  Last  Shot."  A  Blackfeet 
woman's  horse  was  killed,  but  evading  capture  she  seized 
the  tail  of  her  husband's  horse  and  at  full  speed  was  dragged 
from  danger. 

Mansfield,  trapper,  was  pinioned  tmder  his  own  horse  in 
the  thick  of  the  fray,  as  he  was  passing  a  point  of  rocks. 
Six  Blackfeet  dashed  afoot  for  him,  to  count  -a  coup  and 
take  his  scalp.  But  at  his  despairing  cry :  "  Tell  old  Gabe 
[Bridger]  that  old  Cotton  [his  own  sobriquet]  is  gone," 
Carson,  who  had  noted,  sprang  from  his  saddle  and  stood 


176  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

over  him.  He  shot  the  foremost  warrior  dead ;  other  moun- 
tain men  turned  their  weapons  the  same  way,  and  only  two 
of  the  Blackfeet  reached  coven  Cotton  managed  to  wriggle 
from  beneath  his  horse  and  make  for  safety.  Kit  Carson's 
horse,  however,  during  the  hurly-burly  had  bolted,  leaving 
him  exposed  in  the  open.  But  he  vaulted  behind  a  comrade 
and  was  borne  away.  His  mount  was  caught  and  restored 
to  him. 

The  battle  resumed  more  furiously  than  ever.  Although 
confronted  by  the  reinforcements,  the  Blackfeet  yielded  not 
an  inch.  The  trappers,  as  usual  in  such  contests,  were  the 
better  armed,  and  at  last  plied  so  with  rifle  ball  and  jnstol 
ball  that  the  Blackfeet  commenced  to  waver.  By  ones  and 
twos  and  threes  they  scurried  backward  to  save  their  lives, 
until,  on  a  sudden,  the  rout  became  general ;  the  first  trickle 
waxed  into  a  torrent,  and  down  the  hill  slope,  through  the 
valley  and  away,  the  defeated  Indians  fled. 

The  trappers  did  not  pursue.  They  let  well  enough  alone ; 
and  camping  upon  the  battle  field,  buried  their  three 
dead,  attended  to  their  several  wounded,  and  rested. 

The  rendezvous  of  the  summer  of  1837  was  held  in  the 
Wind  River  Valley,  in  present  Wyoming,  east  of  the  Conti- 
nental Divide  and  north  of  South  Pass.  Here  arrived, 
upon  his  way  from  Oregon  to  the  Atlantic  coast,  the  mis- 
sionary William  H.  Gray,  who,  the  previous  year,  had 
appeared  with  Reverend  and  Mrs.  Spalding  and  Doctor  and 
Mrs.  Whitman  at  the  rendezvous  in  the  Valley  of  the 
Green. 

Mr.  Gray,  accompanied  by  two  white  men,  three  Flat- 
heads  (one  of  whom  was  an  educated  chief,  The  Hat),  an 
Iroquois  and  a  Snake,  and  nothing  daunted  by  the  strenu- 
ous journey  of  the  year  before,  was  re-traveling  the  Oregon 
Trail,  on  mission  and  personal  business.  Disregarding 
warnings  that  his  escort  was  insufficient,  as  a  man  of  God 
he  proceeded  eastward,  only  upon  the  plains  of  the  lower 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  177 

Platte  to  be  spied  by  the  prowling  Sioux.  To  the  Sioux 
anything  from  the  west  of  the  mountains  was  fair  prey. 

The  three  Flatheads  and  the  Iroquois  and  Snake  fought 
bravely,  killing  fifteen  of  the  Sioux.  In  the  parley  promoted 
by  a  French-Canadian  trader  among  the  Sioux,  Mr.  Gray 
was  promised  his  life  and  the  life  of  his  two  white  com- 
panions, if  the  five  Indians  and  their  ^*  fine  horses  "  were 
delivered  over.  That  this  compromise  was  effected,  who 
can  believe?  But  the  five  Indians  were  slain,  the  three 
whites  passed  through  to  the  frontier,  and  ever  after  the 
Flathead  tribe  accused  Mr.  Gray  of  cowardly  double-dealing, 
and  among  the  mountain  men  he  was  a  bjrword.  The  fact 
that  he  was  twice  wounded,  and  while  on  horseback  in  the 
river  was  grazed  along  the  top  of  the  head  by  another  ball, 
shows  how  dire  were  his  straits.  In  this  world  Mr.  Gray 
cannot  be  judged.  However,  a  Protestant  mission  never 
was  established  amidst  the  Flatheads,  who  first  had  incited 
the  crusade.®^ 

Wyeth's  Fort  Hall  had  been  sold,  this  summer  of  1837, 
to  the  British.  Under  the  new  proprietors  it  engaged  some 
of  the  American  trappers,  but  Fort  Davy  Crockett,  in 
Brown's  Hole,  Colorado,  on  an  elbow  of  the  Green,  cour- 
teously managed  by  the  mountain  men  William  Craig,  Philip 
Thompson,  and  Sinclair  (St.  Clair),  was  the  fashionable 
American  gathering  place.  Thither,  after  the  rendezvous 
of  this  summer,  journeyed  Kit  Carson  and  seven  others. 

Thompson  and  Sinclair  were  organizing  a  trading  trip 
south  into  the  Navajo  country  of  present  New  Mexico,  and 
Carson  joined  them.  This  was  a  trip  not  after  furs,  but 
after  horses  and  mules,  and  the  Navajo  merchandise  of  hair 
ropes  and  blankets.  The  latter  article  especially  was  valued, 
as  it  is  valued  today.  Substantial,  warm,  waterproof,  of 
pleasant  pattern,  the  Navajo  blanket  early  appealed  to  the 
Mexican  and  the  traveler  over  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  was  made 
popular  by  the  American  soldiers  of  the  days  of  '46  (who 


178  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

discovered  it  in  Santa  Fe),  and  has  maintained  itself  as 
a  Navajo  asset  ever  since. 

Out  of  the  Navajo  country,  with  its  peach  orchards  and 
ranging  flocks,  the  traders  proceeded  to  Bent's  Fort  on  the 
Arkansas,  where  the  spoils,  principally  mules,  were  sold  for 
the  Missouri  market. 

This  winter  of  1837-38  Kit  Carson  sptat  in  Brown's 
Hole  as  hunter  for  Fort  Davy  Crockett  It  is  evident  that 
the  beaver  trail  was  losing  its  fascination  for  him ;  that  the 
beaver  trade  was  on  the  wane.  Indeed,  back  as  far  as  the 
summer  of  1832  the  astute  Astor,  while  in  London,  had 
noted  the  advent  of  the  silk  hat,  and  in  a  letter  had  recorded 
a  fear  that  beaver  fur  must  soon  yield  to  the  cocoon,  the 
trap  to  the  loom. 

It  is  impossible  to  assert  whither  Kit  Carson  made  his 
fur  hunt  of  the  spring  of  1838.  We  have  choice  of  the 
Black  Hills  (which  in  those  days  extended  to  the  Laramie), 
of  the  Snake,  of  the  Grand  River  in  Colorado.  Operating 
as  an  independent  trapper,  he  took  his  furs  to  the  Robidoux 
post,  Fort  Uintah.  **  But  the  prices  at  which  he  was  oWiged 
to  sell  them  did  not  at  all  please  him."  Trapper  talk 
trended  to  the  decision  that  the  beaver  business  was  irrevo- 
cably on  the  decline,  and  probably  with  his  previous  visits  to 
Bent's  Fort  in  mind,  Carson,  accompanied  by  his  wife  and 
child,  by  old  Bill  Williams,  William  New,  William  Mitchell 
and  one  Fredericks,  a  Frenchman,  all  disgusted  with  the 
mountain  profits,  set  out  for  the  lower  country  and  Bent's 
Fort  on  the  plains. 


CHAPTER  XVn 
THE  FORKING  OF  THE  TRAIL 

FOR  several  reasons  it  seems  safe  to  make  the  summer 
of  1838  the  dividing  line  between  Kit  Carson's  youth 
in  the  mountains  and  his  maturity  upon  the  plains.  He 
leaves  the  hills  to  emerge  not  only  into  a  wider  horizon  of 
nature,  but  into  a  wider  horizon  of  life,  and  to  take  a  more 
active  part  in  general  western  affairs. 

All  biographies  of  Kit  Carson  assign  to  him  eight  con- 
secutive )rears  as  resident  hunter  at  Bent's  Fort.  By 
sequence  of  summers  and  winters  these  biographies  also 
represent  him  as  occupied  in  the  mountains  until  the  sum- 
mer of  1840.  The  problem  in  addition,  to  this  point,  is 
simple ;  we  have  but  to  add  adventure  to  adventure,  rendez- 
vous to  rendezvous,  winter  camp  to  winter  camp ;  but  when 
to  the  sum  we  must  add  eight  years  as  hunter,  and  yet 
send  him  with  Fremont  in  1842,  and  again  in  1843-44,  and 
again  to  California  and  the  conquest,  in  1845-6,  the  task 
requires  more  than  mathematical  ingenuity. 

We  know  that  he  fought  upon  the  side  of  Joseph  Gale, 
the  Wyeth  man,  in  the  fall  of  1834  in  the  Blackfeet  country ; 
that  in  the  spring  of  1835  he  had  his  adventure  with  the 
wolf-imitating  Sioux,  at  the  Colorado-Wyoming  line;  that 
his  duel  with  Bully  Shunan  occurred  at  the  rendezvous  of 
1835 ;  that  in  the  winter  of  1836  he  was  with  Bridger,  and 
in  the  summer  of  1836  was  at  rendezvous;  that  he  spent 
two  winters  at  Fort  Davy  Crockett  (one  winter  as  hunter), 
whereas  Fort  Davy  Crockett  did  not  exist  until  1836  or 
1837;  that  Captain  James  Hobbs  claims  to  have  met  him  in 
the  summer  of  1837,  trading  with  a  small  party  on  the 

179 


180  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

plains  of  southern  Colorado.  Meek  says  Carson  was  at 
Crockett  in  the  winter  of  1839-40;  and  he  himself  says  to 
Colonel  Meline,  in  speaking  of  Father  DeSmet :  "  I 
remember  he  came  once  among  the  hunters  and  trailers 
up  in  the  mountains,  and  baptized  forty-odd  children."  But 
Father  DeSmet  did  not  enter  the  mountain  missionary 
work  until  1840. 

It  is  very  likely  that  Kit  Carson's  adventures  were  more 
compressed  than  he  recalls.  The  accepted  chronology  is 
obviously  wrong  in  some  of  its  dates  —  discrepancies  only 
to  be  expected,  and  of  course  pardonable;  But  we  must 
accept  also  that  his  huntership  for  Bent's  Fort  would  not 
deprive  him  of  excursions  between  seasons  into  the  moun- 
tains ;  and  that  while  himter  he  very  well  could  have  figured 
in  various  mountain  incidents,  in  camp  and  at  rendezvous. 

Oliver  Wiggins  again  is  authority  for  the  statement  that 
to  supply  meat  for  Bent's  Fort  required  only  two  big  buffalo 
hunts  a  year ;  and  that  to  those  the  Carson  company  bent  all 
its  energies  of  the  moment.  And  inasmuch  as  Carson 
resided  at  Taos  in  1838,  I  am  inclined  to  the  opinion  that 
this  huntership  at  the  post  comprised  four  years,  1838- 1842, 
of  two  seasons  each,  rather  than  eight  straight  years  from 
1834  on.^'' 

Before  continuing  with  Kit  Carson  in  his  translation  from 
beaver  himter  to  accredited  guide,  before  bridging  the  short 
interval  between  the  acts,  while  the  scenes  are  shifted  from 
the  beaver  trail  setting  to  the  setting  of  the  explorer,  we 
may  as  well  say  a  few  last  words  of  the  trapper  generally. 
For  the  withdrawal  of  Kit  Carson  from  the  exclusive  pur- 
suit of  mountain  fur  hunting  was  portentous  of  a  change 
in  epochs. 

As  has  been  said,  John  Jacob  Astor  in  1832  prophesied 
that  the  silk  hat  spelled  the  doom  of  the  beaver  trade.  In 
1834  Silliman's  Journal,  without  reference  to  silk,  spoke 
as  darkly. 


THE  FORKING  OF  THE  TRAIL  181 

It  appears  that  the  fur  trade  must  henceforth  decline.  The 
advanced  state  of  geographical  science  shows  that  no  new  coun- 
tries remain  to  be  explored.  In  North  America,  the  animals 
are  slowly  decreasing,  from  the  persevering  efforts  and  the 
indiscriminate  slaughter  practised  by  hunters,  and  by  the  appro- 
priation to  the  uses  of  man  of  those  forests  and  rivers  which 
have  afforded  them  food  and  protection.  They  recede  with 
the  aborigines,  before  the  tide  of  civilization ;  but  a  diminished 
supply  will  remain  in  the  mountains  and  uncultivated  tracts 
of  this  and  other  countries,  if  the  avidity  of  the  hunter  can  be 
restrained  within  proper  limitations. 

Two  hundred  thousand  skins  a  year  were  exported  from 
the  western  plains  and  mountains  to  the  markets  of 
Europe ;  •^  no  effort  was  made  at  conservation  —  any  more 
than  at  conserving  the  buffalo,  later.  When  the  silk  hat 
began  to  outrival  all  but  the  very  finest  bejiver  hat,  the 
market  for  the  poorer  pelts  dropped  with  a  thud,  and  an 
ordinary  second-grade  skin  brought  only  a  dollar.  When 
beaver  fur  was  found  satisfactory  for  other  uses  than  in 
hats,  suddenly  the  animal  had  become  scarce ;  and  although 
for  a  squaw-dressed  pelt  Oliver  Wiggins  and  partners,  in 
1840  and  onward  through  half  a  dozen  years,  obtained 
eight  dollars  at  St.  Joe,  except  in  favored  localities  trap- 
ping was  apt  to  fetch  slim  bags. 

So  rapidly  did  the  beaver  business  in  the  mountains 
decline,  giving  place  to  the  buffalo  robe  trade  of  the  plains, 
that  at  St.  Vrain's  fort  on  the  South  Platte,  close  to  the 
Colorado  foothills,  in  the  summer  of  1843,  Fremont 
remarks : 

It  is  singular  that,  immediately  at  the  foot  of  the  mountains, 
I  could  find  no  one  sufficiently  acquainted  with  them  to  guide 
us  to  the  plains  at  their  western  base ;  but  the  race  of  trappers 
who  formerly  lived  in  their  recesses  had  almost  entirely  dis- 
appeared—  dwindled  to  a  few  scattered  individuals  —  some 
one  or  two  of  whom  are  r^;ularly  killed  in  the  course  of  each 
year  by  the  Indians.** 


182  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

In  the  combination  which  produced  the  decline  of  the 
beaver  business  in  the  mountains  there  was  another  element : 
the  dissolution  of  the  Rocky  Mountain  Company  and  the 
supremacy  of  the  American  Company.  The  American  Fur 
Company  was  not,  to  use  a  cow-puncher  expression, 
"  wised  "  to  mountain  methods  and  mountain  tribes ;  the 
upper  Missouri  River  and  the  river  trails  of  the  plains  were 
its  field,  posts  and  not  rendezvous  were  its  system  for  barter ; 
badly  organized,  the  mountain  fur  business  after  1836  rap- 
idly disintegrated. 

The  rendezvous  of  the  American  Fur  Company  of  1838 
was  held  by  Bridger,  the  partisan,  and  Drips,  the  trader, 
with  supplies  from  St.  Louis  (or,  more  likely,  from  Fort 
Union)  not  in  the  Valley  of  the  Green,  but  on  the  head 
waters  of  the  Yellowstone,  within  easy  reach  of  pack  train 
from  the  upper  Missouri. 

The  English  captain.  Sir  William  Dnmimond  Stuart,  was 
again  at  rendezvous ;  and,  more  important,  there  were  pres- 
ent new  missionaries,  coming,  apparently,  by  a  more  north- 
em  route  than  that  of  the  Snake  and  the  South  Pass.  And 
among  them  were  white  women,  emulating  the  pioneer- 
ing two  ye^s  before  by  Narcissa  Whitman  and  Eliza 
Spalding. 

Protestant  missionary  work  in  Oregon  was  approaching 
full  tide.  Now  Reverend  Jason  Lee  and  Mr.  P.  L.  Edwards, 
who  had  led  the  march  in  1834,  with  two  Chinook  boys 
Christianized  tmder  the  simple  names  of  William  Brooks 
and  Thomas  Adams  were  hastening  back  to  the  East,  for 
the  purpose  of  further  arousing  the  Missionary  Board  to 
the  call  of  Oregon.  This  party  met  at  the  rendezvous  their 
fellow  worker.  Reverend  William  Gray,  returning  with  his 
bride,  Mary  Augusta  Dix  Gray  (wooed  and  won  in  a  court- 
ship of  an  evening),  aged  twenty-seven,  of  Ithaca,  New 
York;  Reverend  Gushing  Eells,  aged  twenty-eight,  of 
Blandford,  Mass.,  and  his  bride,  Myra  Fairbanks  Eells, 


THE  FORKING  OF  THE  TRAIL  183 

aged  thirty-two,  of  Holden,  Mass. ;  Reverend  Asa  B.  Smith, 
aged  twenty-nine,  of  Williamstown,  Mass.,  and  his  bride, 
Sarah  White  Smith,  aged  twenty-four,  of  West  Brookfield, 
Mass.;  Reverend  Elkanah  Walker,  aged  thirty-two,  of 
North  Yarmouth,  Maine,  and  his  bride,  Mary  Richardson 
Walker,  aged  twenty-seven,  of  Baldwin,  Maine;  and  a  lay 
missionary,  Cornelius  Rogers,  aged  twenty-two,  of  Cincin- 
nati —  "a  fine  yoimg  man,*'  who  in  less  than  five  years  was 
to  find  a  death  amidst  the  swollen  winter  waters  of  the 
Willamette.''^ 

But  the  time  had  come  when  the  Roman  Catholic  mis- 
sionary, so  tardy  in  arrival  here,  although  so  early  else- 
where, was  to  bear  his  banner  across  from  east  to  west. 
The  accessions  to  the  Protestant  missions  of  1838  are  not 
the  only  ones.  The  Hudson  Bay  brigade  of  1838  brings 
out  to  the  Columbia  Reverend  Francis  N.  Blanchet,  newly 
appointed  Vicar  General  of  the  Oregon  Catholic  Missions 
(and  soon  to  be  first  Catholic  Bishop  of  Oregon)  and 
his  assistant.  Reverend  Modeste  Demers. 

On  November  24  the  two  priests  arrived  at  Vancouver, 
where  "  the  populace  rushed  to  feast  their  eyes  on  the  first 
Catholic  missionaries,  whose  presence  they  had  so  long 
expected.  In  the  absence  of  Dr.  McLoughlin,  James  Doug- 
lass received  them  and  saw  them  well  housed  and  fed." 

These  two  Jesuits,  Father  Blanchet  and  Father  Demers, 
had  the  lower  Columbia  for  their  field,  with  Vancotuver  as 
their  occasional  meeting  place.  They  were  reinforced  in 
1840  by  the  great  and  good  Father  Peter  J.  DeSmet,  also 
of  the  Society  of  Jesus.  He  was  from  St.  Louis ;  they  were 
from  Montreal.  They  were  French;  he  was  Belgian. 
They  worked  among  chiefly  the  Hudson  Bay  employees  and 
the  Cayuses  of  the  Vancouver  and  Willamette  regions ;  his 
work  was  among  the  Flatheads,  who  had  sent  in  the  call 
eight  years  ago.  And  it  is  mainly  the  name  DeSmet  that 
spells  the  best  history  of  Roman  Catholicism  in  pioneer 


184  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Oregon,  for  he  was  a  broad  and  noble  character  —  a  second 
Marquette. 

From  St  Louis  in  the  spring  of  1840  Father  DeSmet 
traveled  to  Fort  Hall;  thence  he  turned  north,  over  the 
mountains  for  the  Bitter  Root  country  of  the  Flatheads, 
across  the  present  Montana  line,  whither  the  Protestant 
missionaries  of  1834  had  gazed,  but  from  which  they  had 
been  deflected.  During  his  first  visit  of  two  months,  in  the 
spring  and  summer  of  1840,  he  baptized  600  persons  and 
taught  the  prayers  of  the  Catholic  church  to  2,000.  The 
following  year  he  commenced  the  erection  there  of  a  mission 
establishment,  the  nucleus  of  other  Catholic  missions,  first 
among  the  Coeur  d'  Alenes,  and  later  among  the  Blackfeet 
themselves. 

The  rendezvous  of  1839  ^^^  ^^^^  ^^^^  Bonneville's  old 
fort,  Fort  Nonsense,  on  the  Horse  Creek  tributary  of  the 
Green,  in  the  Valley  of  the  Green.  From  the  rendezvous 
of  1839  the  disgruntled  and  disheartened  mountain  men, 
scattered  to  the  four  winds,  but  not  necessarily  to  the  four 
winds  of  the  beaver  trail.  "  Some  went  to  Santa  Fe,  some 
to  California,  others  to  the  lower  Columbia,  and  a  few 
remained  in  the  mountains,  trapping,  and  selling  their  furs 
to  the  Hudson  Bay  Company  at  Fort  Hall."  The  American 
Fur  Company  posts  drew  many;  and  there  was  Oregon. 
Thither,  in  1840  and  on,  trailed  squads  of  the  mountain 
men. 

"  Come,"  said  Newell  to  Meek, "  we  are  done  with  this  life  in 
the  mountains  —  done  with  wading  in  beaver  dams,  and  freez- 
ing or  starving  alternately  —  done  with  Indian  trading  and 
Indian  fighting.  The  fur  trade  is  dead  in  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tains, and  it  is  no  place  for  us  now,  if  ever  it  was.  We  are 
young  yet,  and  have  life  before  us.  We  cannot  waste  it  here ; 
we  cannot  or  will  not  return  to  the  States.  Let  us  go  down  to 
the  Willamet  and  take  farms."  '^^ 

So,  one  after  another,  traders,  guides,  ranchers,  Indian 


THE  FORKING  OF  THE  TRAIL  185 

agents,  prospectors,  squaw-men,  nondescripts  they  became  — 
some  sinking,  others  rising,  and  many  unable,  the  rest  of 
their  lives,  to  adjust  themselves  to  the  new  conditions  of 
earning  a  living. 

A  surprising  proportion  of  these  retired  mountain  men 
were  young.  Joe  Meek  was  twenty-eight,  Jim  Bridger  was 
thirty-eight,  Robert  Newell  was  not  thirty,  Joe  Walker  was 
forty-two,  Kit  Carson  was  twenty-eight.  And  now  to 
Bent's  Fort  were  his  footsteps  turned. 


CHAPTER  XVIII 

BENT'S  FORT  OF  THE  PLAINS 

T^HE  Northwest  is  assured.  But  now,  while  in  the  East 
*  Reverend  Jason  Lee,  assisted  by  the  two  Indian  boys, 
is  lecturing  from  Missouri  to  the  Atlantic  coast,  while  rein- 
forcements of  artisans,  farmers,  money,  and  "  young  ladies  " 
are  being  hastened  by  land  and  by  sea  to  this  farthest  fron- 
tier where  they  "have  everything  to  do,  and  little  to  do 
with  " ;  while  the  first  territorial  petition  is  in  Congress  and 
Oregon's  newest  legislative  champion.  Senator  Lewis  Fields 
Linn,  of  Missouri,  is  declaiming  the  cause  of  secular  occupa- 
tion; while  the  mountain  men,  deprived  of  rendezvous  and 
supply  train,  are  reluctantly  wending  their  way,  with  squaws 
and  children,  to  the  Willamette;  and  while  at  Dubuque, 
Iowa,  inspired  by  the  Welsh  civil  engineer,  John  Plumbe, 
a  convention  has  been  held,  March  31,  1837,  to  promote 
a  transcontinental  railroad.  Kit  Carson,  at  Bent's  Fort  on 
the  plains  and  at  Taos,  New  Mexico,  is  by  no  means  removed 
from  the  flutter  of  the  onward  reaching  flag. 

Down  here  in  the  Southwest,  however,  the  voice  of  colo- 
nization has  not  yet  been  sounded.  The  Oregon  Trail 
invited  the  settler;  the  Santa  Fe  Trail  invited  the  mer- 
chant. Now  in  1838  (and  for  many  a  year  to  come) 
still  slowly  roll  the  great  Conestogas  upon  their  long  way 
across  prairie  and  desert;  wagons  are  used  exclusively 
and  oxen  have  to  a  large  extent  supplanted  the  mules 
of  the  boy  Kit  Carson  days.  Old  Franklin  is  old  indeed, 
threatened  by  the  river  and  abandoned  by  many  inhabitants. 
Independence,  up  river  toward  the  mouth  of  the  Kaw,  is 
the  terminal  point  for  both  caravan  and  moimtain  train, 

180 


OLD  CENT'S  FORT 
(SkrUhei  by  Lieut.  J.  IV.  Aberl) 


WILLIAM  BENT 


(Courtesy  nf  the  Missouri  Historical  Society) 


BENTS  FORT  OF  THE  PLAINS  187 

but  Westport  Landing,  a  few  miles  above,  is  the  steamboat 
terminal,  and  the  adjacent  Westport  town  is  also  bidding 
for  business  and  inviting  a  future  Kansas  City.  Civilization 
is  ever  edging  farther  into  the  Indian  country. 

The  Indian  frontier  has  been  definitely  established  by 
Congress ;  and  across  it,  in  present  Oklahoma,  Kansas,  and 
Nebraska,  are  located  the  tribes  from  the  east  of  the  Mis- 
sissippi, to  dwell  forever  and  naturally,  and  guaranteed 
against  invasion  by  the  whites.  For  this  purpose  only  was 
the  country  between  the  States  and  the  moimtains  pro- 
nounced to  be  adapted. 

In  Texas  the  decisive  battle  of  San  Jacinto  (April  21, 
1836)  has  been  fought,  and  the  paean  has  welled  to  the 
patriotic  chorus: 

For  this  we  are  determined,  to  die  or  to  be  free. 

And  TEXAS  TRIUMPHANT  our  watchword  shall  be  I 

And  of  the  new  republic  of  Texas,  extending  from  the 
Sabine  to  the  Rio  Grande,  General  Sam  Houston  is  presi- 
dent. Full  a  year  had  passed  since,  August  4,  1837,  the 
new  republic  had  applied  for  annexation  with  the  larger  and 
older  republic  and  had  been  refused;  but  the  arguments 
on  both  sides  bid  fair  to  end  in  reconsideration. 

Near  Independence  has  appeared  that  new  sect,  the 
Church  of  Jesus  Christ  of  the  Latter  Day  Saints,  on  that 
westward  movement  so  fraught  with  national  import.  From 
Independence  on  to  Far  West  do  these  strange  "  Mor- 
mons "  continue;  there  to  lay,  in  this  summer  of  1838,  the 
comer  stone  of  a  Zion  Temple.  But  Missouri  declines 
them ;  from  Illinois  they  will  be  driven  forth,  and  thus  they 
are  led  to  break  the  Mormon  Trail  to  Salt  Lake,  and  to 
California;  and  Utah  is  colonized. 

In  the  northwest,  Oregon,  and  in  the  southwest,  Texas, 
are  ready  at  a  touch  to  burst  into  full  citizenship.    Forth- 


188  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

reaching  right  and  left,  the  United  States  will  harvest  them 
almost  simultaneously.  And  straight  in  front,  beyond  the 
West,  California  is  being  prepared  as  another  segment  in 
the  mighty  circle. 

Colonel  Jose  Maria  Echeandia  —  that  "  man  of  scholas- 
tic bent  and  training  and  Castilian  lisp,"  so  suspicious  of 
the  gringo  American  —  has  retired  from  his  governorship ; 
Kit  Carson  had  not  yet  arrived  back  in  Taos,  from  that 
trip  under  Ewing  Young,  when  to  Echeandia  had  suc- 
ceeded the  mestizo  or  Indian-Mexican  breed.  Lieutenant 
Colonel  Manuel  Victoria,  and  to  Victoria  had  succeeded 
Brigadier  General  Jose  Figueroa,  "  of  Aztec  blood,  hence 
swarthy  in  color."  And  to  Figueroa  succeeded  others  — 
a  long  line  vexed  by  revolts  in  which  already  the  gringo 
American  bore  customary  part. 

Isaac  Graham,  the  Tennessean,  mountain  man  with  the 
Captain  Sinclair  party  from  Arkansas  up  the  Green  in 
183 1,  and  at  the  battle  of  Pierre's  Hole  in  1832,  has  in  1836 
supported  the  native  Califomian  revolt  for  the  cause  of 
Juan  Bautista  Alvarado,  with  the  result  that,  following  the 
example  of  Texas,  Alta  California,  on  November  6,  pro- 
claimed itself  independent  of  Mexico.  Not  yet,  of  course, 
has  the  Bear  Flag  been  designed;  but  the  Latin  unrest  is 
further  agitated  by  the  ferment  of  the  American  adventurer, 
and,  a  factor  of  tremendous  importance,  in  1838  there  trav- 
ersed the  Oregon  Trail  to  the  Pacific  coast  Johann  August 
Sutter,  to  establish  himself  at  New  Helvetia  on  the  Sacra- 
mento, and  by  the  lodestone  of  the  gold  in  his  mill  race  to 
draw  from  the  very  ends  of  the  earth  a  new  citizenship^ 

From  the  originating  point  of  Missouri,  the  lines  of  inter- 
est lead  to  Texas,  Oregon,  California;  and  in  the  midst 
of  the  fan-shaped  field,  caught,  as  it  were,  in  the  web, 
where  the  plains  are  about  to  meet  the  foothills  of  the 
Rockies,  is  Kit  Carson  at  Bent's  Fort. 

Bent's  Fort  (to  which  had  been  vainly  assigned  the  title 


BENTS  FORT  OF  THE  PLAINS  189 

Fort  William),  was  built  in  1829,  and  was  therefore  ten 
years  old  when  Kit  Carson,  out  of  the  mountains,  became 
its  official  hunter.  Its  founders  were  five  St.  Louis  traders, 
Charles  Bent,  William  Bent,  George  Bent,  and  Ceran  St. 
Vrain,  whose  brother  Marcelin  also  was  associated  with 
him.''^ 

/The  site  of  Bent's  Fort  was  upon  the  north  bank  of 
the  Arkansas  (consequently  in  American  territory)  below 
the  present  town  of  La  Junta,  Colorado,  and  about  fourteen 
miles  above  the  mouth  of  the  Rio  Purgatoire,  that  stream 
whose  name,  anglicized  into  Purgatory,  was  further  reduced 
to  the  Americanism  of  "  Picketwire."  It  is  also  known  as 
the  Rio  Las  Animas  or  Rio  de  las  Animas  Perdidas  (River 
of  the  Lost  Souls),  but  it  is  thereby  confounded  with 
another  Rio  Las  Animas,  in  the  opposite  southwestern  cor- 
ner of  Colorado.  One  hundred  and  thirty  miles  west  from 
the  fort  were  the  moimtains.  Thither,  up  the  Arkansas,  ran 
a  trappers'  and  traders'  trail,  for  the  Fontaine  qui  Bouille 
and  the  South  Park  and  beyond ;  north  from  the  fort  ran  a 
trail  to  the  Bent  and  St.  Vrain  posts  on  the  Platte,  and  to 
Fort  Laramie,  380  miles ;  south,  over  the  Raton  Mountains 
ran  the  trail  to  Taos,  two  hundred  miles,  and  to  Santa  Fe ; 
while  from  the  east  came  in  the  mountain  division,  the 
oldest  route,  of  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  from  Missouri,  530 
miles.  Thus  at  the  crossroads  of  the  plains  wilderness  was 
stationed  old  Bent's  Fort  —  its  dun  ramparts  a  stronghold 
and  a  hospice  in  one."'* 

It  stood  alone,  with  "its  high  clay  walls  in  the  midst 
of  the  scorching  plains."  A  home  more  isolated  did  not 
exist  in  North  America.  The  lodge  of  the  mountain  man 
had  the  companionship  of  the  mighty  hills,  but  except  for 
a  few  low  bluffs  and  a  scattering  of  cotton  woods  and  wil- 
lows, the  post  of  Fort  William  was  the  sole  eminence  for 
miles  about.  Fort  Laramie  was  on  a  trail  where  passed  and 
repassed  not  only  the  fur  trade  caravans,  and  many  a  trader 


190  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

and  trapper,  but  also  travelers,  missic^iaries,  and  prospective 
settlers,  a  stream  constantly  increasing  and  bringing  the 
States  to  the  fortress  gate.  Bent's  was  on  its  own  trail, 
until  in  1846  "  the  wild  and  lonely  banks  of  the  upper 
Arkansas  beheld  for  the  first  time  the  passage  of  an  anhy '' ; 
it  was  the  center  of  a  kingdom  of  its  making,  and  as  a 
nucleus  of  white  supremacy  beyond  the  frontier  can  be  com- 
pared only  with  Pierre,  Union,  and  early  Fort  George  of 
Vancouver.  But  even  the  upper  Missoiui  was  more  fre- 
quented than  the  upper  Arkansas. 

To  be  sure,  in  the  summer  of  1835,  swinging  out  of  Fort 
Leavenworth  on  a  wide  circle  up  the  South  Platte  to  the 
mountains  and  thence  south,  the  dragoons  of  Colonel  Henry 
Dodge,  guided  by  Trader  Captain  Gant,  had  stopped  on 
their  return  for  a  few  August  days.  This  was  the  only 
exploration  of  the  plains,  by  the  military  of  the  United 
States,  until  1846.'^*  To  be  sure,  five  miles  above  the  post 
was  the  heterogeneous  assortment  of  retired  trappers  and 
traders,  white  and  Mexican  breeds,  and  of  varioiisly  com- 
plexioned  squaws  and  children,  composing  the  community 
of  the  "  puebla ''  —  Fort  el  Puebla.  But  Bent's  Fort  asked 
neither  military  aid  nor  neighbors.  With  its  walls,  cannon 
and  employees,  it  was  self-sufficient 

Old  Bent's  Fort,  Fort  Bent,  or  Fort  William,  was  located 
about  sixty  yards  from  the  brink  of  the  Arkansas,  and 
amidst  a  patch  of  grassy  bottom  land.  The  walls,  of  large 
adobe  bricks  after  the  fashion  of  the  West,  were  eighteen 
feet  in  height,  and  six  or  seven  feet  thick  at  the  base,  taper- 
ing off  to  two  feet  at  the  top.  They  formed  a  rectangle, 
running  north  and  south,  150  feet  by  100  feet  At  the 
northwest  and  southeast  comers  they  intersected  in  the 
axes  of  twin  towers,  or  bastions,  thirty  feet  high  and  ten 
feet  in  diameter,  which,  swelling  out,  permitted  the  defend- 
ers to  rake  the  outside  of  the  walls  with  gun  fire.  - 

The  main  entrance  was  a  thirty-foot  gateway  in  the  east 


BENrS  FORT  OF  THE  PLAINS  191 

wall,  looking  downstream,  or  along  the  Missouri  Trail,  and 
closed  by  a  pair  of  immense  plank  doors.  Over  the  gate  was 
a  sentry  box,  floating  the  Flag.  A  six-pounder  brass  cannon 
and  several  smaller  ordnance  were  mounted  upon  the  walls, 
commanding  the  court  within  and  the  approaches  without. 

The  post  had  a  hide  press,  for  pressing  robes  and  furs 
into  bales.  This  stood  in  the  center  of  the  court  In  the 
cupola  of  the  headquarters  building  was  a  "  fine  spyglass," 
and  a  billiard  table  hauled  clear  from  Independence.  Among 
the  clerks  and  even  among  the  trappers  were  men  who  could 
handle  a  cue;  and  when,  during  the  war  with  Mexico, 
United  States  troops  occupied  the  post  as  a  way  station, 
the  table  was  in  much  demand  among  the  army  officers.  In 
the  kitchen  presided  Qiarlotte,  the  negress  cook,  famed  for 
her  pumpkin  pies! 

The  situation  might  seem  forlorn  and  monotonous  for  the 
inmates.  The  rolling,  treeless  plains  of  the  cattle-range 
West  surrounded  them;  in  summer  these  lay  brown  and 
parched,  swept  by  blasting  winds  as  undiminished  in  force 
as  if  coming  across  an  ocean ;  and  reflected  from  the  white- 
washed walls  and  the  hard  clay  of  the  post's  court,  the  sun 
fairly  blistered  all  objects  exposed.  In  the  winter,  the 
snow,  and  the  bare  patches,  with  the  short  grass  that  barely 
concealed  the  ground,  made  the  fort  a  cheerless  place. 

The  post  was  most  advantageously  situated  for  both  the 
Indian  and  the  Mexican  trade.  The  Cheyennes  and  Arapa- 
hos  annually  held  a  winter  camp  in  the  Big  Timbers,  a 
stretch  of  huge  cottonwoods  thirty-two  miles  below  and 
extending  twenty- four  miles  along  the  river;  and  in  the 
spring  and  fall  they  followed  the  buffalo  back  and  forth 
across  the  Arkansas,  with  the  end  in  view  of  marketing  their 
robes  at  the  post.  The  Red  River  Comanches,  and  the  Utes 
likewise,  engaged  in  the  summer  and  winter  trading.  It  is 
related  that  in  the  fall  sometimes  as  high  as  20,000  Indians 
were  assembled  in  the  neighborhood  of  the  post.    As  the 


192  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

post  was  upon  the  mountain  route  i>etween  the  States  and 
Santa  Fe,  it  was  a  candidate  for  the  Mexican  trade  also. 

The  principal  trade  with  the  Indians  was  in  buffalo  robes, 
although  of  course  trappers  brought  in  beaver;  and  good 
business  was  carried  on  in  horses  and  mules  for  the  Mis- 
souri market.  The  organization  of  the  post  was  strict,  like 
the  organization  of  the  American  Fur  Company  and  the 
Hudson  Bay  Company  posts.  Being  immune  to  fire  from 
without,  the  place,  if  rightly  guarded,  need  fear  no  assault. 

Bent's  Fort  was  owned  and  conducted  by  the  St.  Louis 
trading  firm,  Bent,  St.  Vrain  &  Co.,  whose  trade  brand 
was  "Quarter-Circle  B"  [)-B].  They  instituted  other 
posts,  to  make  a  chain;  the  principal  one  being  Fort  St. 
Vrain  or  Fort  George,  north  from  Bent's  Fort,  built  for 
the  Arapaho,  northern  Cheyenne,  and  Sioux  trade,  and 
situated  on  the  plains  in  north  central  Colorado  where, 
southwest  of  the  present  town  of  Greeley,  the  St.  Vrain 
Creek  empties  into  the  South  Platte.  This  post  was  a 
halfway  station  between  Bent's  Fort  and  Fort  Laramie, 
and  was,  in  its  last  days,  the  northern  terminal  of  the  first 
pony  express  route  of  the  plains,  which  carried  mail  and 
packages  from  St.  Vrain  to  Taos,  and  handed  down  to  the 
emigrant  the  Cherokee  Trail  of  the  fifties. 

Fort  St.  Vrain  (whose  title  of  Fort  George  probably 
refers  to  George  Bent,  brother  of  William  Bent)  was  estab- 
lished about  1837;  and  ten  years  thereafter,  or  in  1848^ 
on  the  Canadian  River  in  northwestern  Texas  the  firm  estab- 
lished the  post  of  Adobe  Walls,  for  trade  with  the  Kiowas, 
Comanches,  and  Prairie  Apaches.  Here,  at  Thanksgiving 
time,  1864,  Kit  Carson  engaged  in  the  greatest  Indian  fight 
of  his  career. 

When  the  pilgrimage  of  the  Forty-niners  to  California 
set  in,  old  Bent's  Fort  was  a  station  on  the  Arkansas  River, 
Cherokee  Trail,  and  Cherry  Creek  (the  future  Denver) 
route.    Colonel  Bent,  who  by  this  time  was  the  sole  pro- 


L 


BENTS  FORT  OF  THE  PLAINS  193 

prietor,  wanted  to  sell  his  post  to  the  government  He 
asked  for  the  property  $16,000;  $12,000  was  offered;  and 
in  the  summer  of  1852,  tired  of  the  dickering,  in  a  fit  of 
wrath  he 

loaded  all  the  goods  he  could  get  on  his  wagons,  sixteen  in 
number,  set  fire  to  his  premises,  and  pulled  out.  A  consider- 
able quantity  of  powder  remained  in  the  fort,  and,  as  the  train 
wound  its  way  down  the  river,  the  ascending  flames  accom- 
panied by  a  succession  of  loud  reports  told  how  effectually 
the  fortress  was  being  converted  into  a  ruin.  Thus  the  Arkan- 
sas Valley  was  again  devoid  of  human  habitation.^ '^ 

The  rifted  battlements  of  the  historic  post  persisted  as 
landmarks  for  over  a  quarter  of  a  century.  The  next  year, 
or  in  May,  1853,  when  Edward  F.  Beale  (late  lieutenant, 
United  States  Navy,  hero  with  Carson,  and  now  appointed 
Indian  Agent  for  California)  and  his  companion,  Gwinn 
Harris  Heap,  passed  by,  for  the  coast,  they 

rode  all  through  the  ruins,  which  present  a  strange  appear- 
ance in  these  solitudes.  A  few  years  ago  this  post  was  fre- 
quented by  numerous  trappers  and  Indians,  and  at  times 
exhibited  a  scene  of  wild  confusion.  It  is  now  roofless;  for 
when  the  United  States  refused  to  purchase  it,  the  proprietor 
set  it  on  fire  to  prevent  its  becoming  a  harbor  for  Indians. 
The  adobe  walls  are  still  standing,  and  are  in  many  places  of 
great  thickness.  They  are  covered  with  written  messages  from 
parties  [i.  e.,  emigrants]  who  had  already  passed  here,  to 
their  friends  in  the  rear.''® 

Colonel  Bent  journeyed  down  river  thirty  miles,  and  at 
the  Big  Timbers  erected  a  few  log  cabins  as  a  winter  trad- 
ing post  for  the  Indians  who  were  accustomed  to  gather 
here.  Lieutenant  E.  J.  Beckwith,  outward  bound  in  this 
spring  of  1853,  for  one  of  the  Pacific  Railroad  surveys, 
notes  them  as  being  then  abandoned.  But  here  at  the  Big 
Timbers  Colonel  Bent  followed  the  log  cabins  with  a  sul>- 


194  '      KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

stantial  stone  post  almost  as  pretentious  as  <^d  Fort  Wil- 
liam above;  and  this,  in  1859,  the  Government  did  pur- 
chase. Remodeled,  it  became  Fort  Wise  of  the  army,  old 
Fort  Lyon  of  the  settlers  —  as  differentiated  from  the  new 
Fort  Lyon  of  later  date,  twenty-five  miles  upriver,  or  back 
toward  the  original  Bent's  Fort.  It  was  at  this  new  Fort 
Lyon  Kit  Carson  died,  in  1868;  and  near  by  died,  aged 
sixty,  still  true  to  the  old  trail,  William  Bent^^ 


CHAPTER  XIX 
ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  — 1838-1842 

KIT  CARSON  did  not  settle  down  as  merely  hunter  for 
Bent's  Fort.  It  probably  is  true  that  he  had  the  con- 
tract to  supiJy  the  fort  with  meat.  But  that  he  operated 
from  Taos,  and  not  from  the  post,  we  know  by  corrobora- 
tive testimony  of  a  contemporary,  Oliver  P.  Wiggins. 

In  the  mid-fall  of  this  year  1838,  a  Santa  Fe  caravan  of 
fifty-two  wagons  commanded  by  Captain  Blunt  left  Inde- 
pendence, Missouri,  for  the  New  Mexican  market.  It  hap- 
pened that  after  a  short  period  of  truce  the  Kiowas  were 
again  about  to  break  forth  —  as  they  had  the  habit  of 
doing  every  three  years  —  and  the  Blunt  caravan  was 
warned,  while  on  its  way,  by  travelers  from  the  West. 

The  Kiowas  were  the  fiercest  fighters  of  the  southwest 
plains ;  not  even  the  Comanches  and  Apaches  were  so  much 
dreaded,  and  even  the  Pawnees  did  not  outrank  those 
painted  horsemen  with  the  truly  Indian  name. 

At  the  crossing  of  the  Arkansas,  in  southern  Kansas,  the 
much-alarmed  train  was  met  by  Kit  Carson,  leading  a  cc«n- 
pany  of  bearded  trappers  from  Taos;  and  right  glad  was 
the  caravan  to  see  the  reinforcement,  for  many  of  the  team- 
sters were  greenhorns,  and  poorly  armed.  At  the  rear,  driv- 
ing the  cawy,  there  jogged  along  on  a  humble  mule  a  run- 
away boy  of  fifteen,  who,  accoutered  with  a  stained  juve- 
nile dragoon  suit  of  blue,  and  a  pistol  "  as  large  as  the  palm 
of  my  hand,"  was  out  "  to  hunt  Injims  " !  This  was  Oliver 
P.  Wiggins,  for  twelve  years  to  be  Kit  Carson's  subaltern 
and  close  friend. 

The  Kiowa  territory  was  beyond.    After  two  days'  travel, 

195 


196  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

when  the  danger  zone  was  reached,  on  the  third  morning 
the  raw  teamsters  were  amazed  to  witness  the  vaunted 
mountain  men  tie  their  horses  to  the  rear  of  the  wagons, 
and  pile  in,  a  pair  to  a  wagon,  under  the  canopy  tops. 
This  occasioned  grumbling  and  not  a  few  sneers  fronl  the 
Missourians,  whose  remarks,  however,  were  treated  with 
silent  contempt. 

But  scarcely  had  the  train  got  under  way,  when  from  over 
the  sandhills  to  the  north,  down  poured  the  whooping 
Kiowas ;  riding  hard,  brandishing  lance  and  bow  and  shield, 
shouting  and  shooting  their  fruitless  arrows.  But  if  they 
thought  that  they  had  to  deal  only  with  the  teamsters 
who  foolishly  emptied  their  guns  in  reply  they  were  much 
mistaken.  Undeterred  by  the  confused  parking  of  the  cara- 
van they  lunged  on  —  until  suddenly  from  the  slightly  rolled 
edges  of  the  wagon  tops  poked  forth  the  long  heavy  barrels 
of  the  trappers'  rifles,  and  the  poised  muzzles  spat  their  hot 
lead.  The  volley  was  as  deadly  as  unexpected.  Back  reeled 
the  remnant  of  the  reds,  scurrying,  screeching,  for  those 
sandhills  whence  they  had  so  valiantly  emerged ;  and  after 
them  raced  the  trappers,  shooting. 

The  caravan  was  almost  at  the  Taos  Trail  —  the  forking 
of  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  at  the  Cimarron  in  New  Mexico. 
That  evening,  in  the  twilight,  Ike  Chamberlain,  the  Kit 
CarscMi  lieutenant,  approached  Oliver,  and  said: 

"  Boy,  'stead  o'  goin'  on  to  Santy  Fee,  how  'd  you  like 
to  travel  'long  to  Touse  with  us?  " 

How  would  he  like  it !  The  ragged  urchin  whom  every- 
one had  appeared  to  overlook,  Kit  Carson,  with  that  kind- 
liness toward  youth  which  was  one  of  his  best  attributes, 
had  noticed.  Before  ever  he  had  reached  Independence 
the  boy  had  heard  of  Kit  Carson,  and  had  dreamed  of 
meeting  him. 

"All  right,"  continued  Chamberlain,  interpreting  his 
look  of  joy.     "We  take  the  Touse  Trail  in  the  momin.' 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  197 

There  '11  be  no  more  Injuns.  I  '11  see  Kit  again,  and  if 
he  says  for  you  to  come  we  '11  light  a  fire,  after  daric  where 
we  're  campin'.     When  it  flares  up,  you  'II  know." 

Thus  Oliver  Wiggins  accompanied  the  Carson  company 
to  Taos.  By  this  he  lost  his  wages,  for  the  wagon  master 
refused  to  pay  him  except  at  the  end  of  the  trail,  Santa  Fe ; 
but  the  wages  cut  little  figure  compared  with  the  chance 
offered  —  and  boy  Oliver  was  never  sorry.  For  twelve 
years  he  was  a  *'  Carson  man."  ''^ 

Taos  was  reached  early  in  December.  Here  Kit  Carson, 
twenty-nine  years  old,  had  home  and  headquarters,  and 
operated  with  a  company  of  forty-five  trappers.  His  assist- 
ants were  Ike  Chamberlain  and  Solomon  Silver.  Most  of 
the  men  were  Kentuckians.  Usually  half  the  company 
were  out  at  a  time,  under  Chamberlain  or  Silver,  after 
beaver.  Strangely  enough,  the  names  of  these  two  lieuten- 
ants do  not  appear  in  moimtain  and  plains  history.*^^ 

Twice  a  year,  in  the  spring  and  fall,  the  whole  party  went 
on  a  great  buffalo  hunt,  to  fulfill  Carson's  contract  with 
Bent's  Fort.  Between  times  there  were  the  beaver,  the 
horse  herd,  and  the  Indians. 

Carson  was  the  best  trapper  among  all  the  men,  good 
though  they  were.  The  fur  trail  extended  clear  to  the 
Wisdom  Riv^r,  north  of  the  Three  Forks  source  of  the 
Missouri.  The  Blackfeet  had  quieted,  and  the  Wisdom  was 
found  to  be  virgin  ground.  At  one  place  the  two-foot  chan- 
nel had  been  dammed  and  expanded  into  a  shallow  pond 
ten  miles  wide;  from  this  great  collection  of  lodges  the 
Carson  party  took  3,000  beaver,  which  Blackfeet  squaws 
dressed,  their  payment  being  the  carcasses  and  an  occasional 
pinch  of  sugar.  Another  time,  in  Colorado's  South  Park, 
by  cutting  a  dam  the  Carson  trappers  drained  a  beaver  pond 
and,  wading  into  the  muck,  at  one  attack  killed  eighty 
beaver  with  clubs. 

The  pelts  were  regularly  sent  down  from  the  camps,  by 


198  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  Missouri  or  the  Platte  trails,  to  St  Joe  —  the  former 
Blacksnake  Hills  —  where  Louis  Robidoux,  the  trader, 
handled  them.  Of  the  proceeds  Carson  took  ten  per  cent; 
the  remainder  went  to  the  employees  —  the  year's  division 
not  infrequently  amounting  to  a  thousand  dollars  apiece 
for  the  trappers. 

Carson,  as  may  easily  be  comprehended,  even  after  his 
so-termed  retirement  from  the  mountains  covered  a  wide 
extent  of  territory,  in  trapping  and  hunting  trips.  Amidst 
all  he  was  a  captain,  operating  independently  by  means 
of  his  employees  or  by  himself.  Moreover,  working  frcmi 
Taos,  or  from  Bent's  Fort  ( for  Bent,  St.  Vrain  &  Co.  must 
protect  their  trains)  he  seems  to  have  been  the  guardian  of 
the  trail.  The  incident  of  the  Blunt  caravan  in  the  fall 
of  1838  has  been  told.  Another  similar  incident,  of  1841, 
may  be  related. 

One  sunrise  that  fall  there  arrived  in  Taos  an  excited 
group  of  riders,  with  the  news  that  about  seventy  miles 
east,  on  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  a  caravan  had  been  held  a 
day  and  a  night  by  Indians  and  was  in  peril  of  extermina- 
tion. At  the  time  Carson  was  suffering  from  a  pistd  wound 
in  the  right  leg ;  his  pistol  had  fallen  and  had  discharged ;  the 
ball  passed  upward,  diagonally,  through  the  calf,  and  he 
was  in  bad  shape  for  six  months.  This  injury  is  mentioned 
in  no  biographies,  and  probably  was  only  a  passing  incident 
of  frontier  life. 

But  Ike  Chamberlain,  now  aged  twenty-six,  was  on  hand, 
and  Carson  ordered  him  to  get  the  men  out  and  take  the 
trail  in  twenty  minutes.  However,  a  slight  delay  was  neces- 
sary (at  which  Carson,  with  his  characteristic  impatience  of 
unreadiness,  chafed),  to  permit  some  of  the  men  to  run 
bullets.  As  quickly  as  possible  twenty-five  or  thirty  men 
took  the  trail. 

Oliver  Wiggins,  eighteen,  and  the  youngest,  accompanied 
the  party,  for  he  had  been  promoted  to  man's  work,  and  had 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  199 

just  been  rewarded,  by  Carson's  own  new  percussion-cap 
rifle,  for  a  recent  exploit  in  which  he  had  summarily  dis- 
posed of  a  Kiowa  band  and  recovered  stolen  stock. 

The  rescue  horsemen  from  Taos  rode  all  that  day,  and 
reached  the  beleaguered  caravan  about  two  in  the  morn- 
ing. They  managed  to  pass  through  the  savages,  and  found 
the  caravan  with  its  oxen  almost  dead  from  hunger  and 
thirst.  Now  followed  a  stratagem  similar  to  that  of  Novem- 
ber, 1838.  The  Carson  men  distributed  themselves  among 
the  wagons,  to  await  the  Indian  charge.  At  daybreak, 
down  swooped  the  reds  —  to  be  lured  on  by  a  feeble  round 
of  a  few  muskets  and  pistols.  But  when  they  were  well 
inside  point-blank  range,  the  whites  delivered  the  first  vol- 
ley; nevertheless,  still  the  charge  continued,  for  to  the 
Indian  mind  the  defenders  now  had  only  empty  guns. 

Abruptly  and  disastrously  the  galloping  warriors  were 
made  acquainted  with  an  evolution  in  firearms.  The  Kit 
Carson  company,  according  to  Oliver  Wiggins,  was  main- 
tained in  the  highest  state  of  efficiency;  the  revolving  pistol 
had  lately  been  adopted;  and  springing  from  cover  to  the 
backs  of  their  animals,  the  trappers  met  the  Indian  charge 
with  a  countercharge,  shooting  right  and  left  without 
reloading.  Saddle  pads  were  emptied,  the  Indians  broke 
and  fled,  with  that  accusation  which  has  become  historic: 
"  White  man  shoot  one  time  with  rifle  and  six  times  with 
butcher  knife  1'' 

These  Indians  were  Kiowas,  with  a  few  Comanches,  the 
tribes  more  or  less  intermingling.  More  than  a  hundred 
were  killed,  while  the  whites  lost  only  one  man. 

"  Ah,  what  fighters  we  were,  in  those  days !  '*  sighed 
old  Oliver  Wiggins,  at  eighty-seven,  his  faded  eyes  kindling. 
"  Nobody  could  lick  the  Carson  men !  They  might  kill  us, 
but  they  could  n't  whip  us !  "  While  the  triumphant  Taos 
whites  are  riding  back  to  report  to  their  disabled  captain, 
let  us  note  what  a  change  had  been  made  in  the  civilizing 


200  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

weapons  of  the  West.  The  percussion  cap  had  been 
invented,  cartridges  for  breech-loading  had  been  experi- 
mented with,  and  the  famous  Colonel  Samuel  Colt  had 
brought  to  comparative  perfection  his  revolver. 

The  rifle  which  Oliver  Wiggins  wielded  in  this  affray  was 
the  first  percussion-cap  rifle  owned  in  Taos,  and  had  been 
bought  of  the  makers,  Golcher  &  Butler  of  Philadelphia, 
by  Kit  Carson  in  1840  for  $60  gold.  According  to  Oliver 
Wiggins,  Carson  was  alert  and  his  men  were  alert  to  secure 
the  most  advanced  ideas  in  offensive  and  defensive  weapons ; 
and  so  his  party  in  the  fight  of  1841,  to  rescue  the  wagon 
train,  were  armed  with  the  new  revolving  pistols  of 
Samuel  Colt. 

Kit  Carson  is  now  settled  in  Taos,  and  here  and  at  Bent's 
Fort  is  sleeping  continuously  under  a  roof  for  the  first 
period  in  a  dozen  years.  Taos  was  his  home;  Bent's  Fort 
but  an  adjunct.  At  Taos  he  had  his  horses  and  mule  stock; 
hence,  on  occasion,  he  dispatched  his  punitive  expeditions 
along  the  Santa  Fe  Trail;  and  here  he  outfitted  his  men 
with  saddles,  when  needed  —  for  his  short  apprenticeship 
under  David  Workman  stood  him  in  good  stead.  We  may 
regard  him  as  a  rising  young  citizen,  engineering  various 
pursuits  engendered  by  the  advantages  of  his  location;  a 
young  citizen  among  other  citizens  such  as  Charles  Bent, 
Ceran  St  Vrain,  Carlos  Beaubien,  the  Padre  Martinez, 
editor  and  publisher  of  the  first  and  only  newspaper  in  New 
Mexico  (its  life  being  limited  to  one  month),  Lucien  Max- 
well, Basil  Lajeunesse,  and  others,  traders,  plainsmen,  and 
mountain  men ;  merchants,  traders,  trappers ;  of  recognized 
profession  or  of  less  definite  status,  but  forming  a  select 
society.  For  Taos  was  not  without  the  best  blood  of  the 
West,  and  as  custom-place  of  the  New  Mexican  northern 
border  was  a  settlement  second  only,  if  at  all,  to  Santa  Fe. 

As  has  been  related,  in  the  summer  of  1835  Carson  fought 
a  duel  with  Bully  Shunan,  at  the  Green  River  rendezvous, 


1  n  skcUh  by  Lie 


TAOS  IN  1853 
i(.  Col.   Eaton.     From   Davi. 
i'  ^fl'xico  and  her  I'copU) 


CARSON'S  OFFICE  IN  TAOS 

HEADQUARTERS   AS   INDIAN    ACF.NT   tt'KRE   IN    THE 

(Photograph  by  the  author) 


OLD  FORT  MASSACHl'SETTS,  1853 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  201 

and  the  cause  of  war  is  said  to  have  been  a  woman.  This 
girl,  an  Arapaho,  Carson  married  (with  the  customary 
accepted  rites  of  Indian  and  trapper),  and  very  likely  it  was 
she  whom,  as  his  "  Alice,"  he  brought  out  with  him  upon  his 
later  trips  to  Bent's  Fort  and  the  plains.  At  any  rate,  his 
only  Indian  wife  of  whom  we  have  knowledge  died  soon 
after  presenting  him  with  a  daughter,  in  1837  or  1838. 

I  am  unable  to  find  definite  record  of  this  Indian  wife  as 
resident  in  Taos.  Oliver  Wiggins,  who  was  the  only  person 
living,  so  far  as  I  know,  with  memory  going  back  to  Carson 
days  in  Taos  of  1838,  said  that  he  had  no  clear  recollection 
of  the  Indian  woman;  but  he  recalled  well  the  little  girl, 
and  he  recalled  also  her  mother's  being  dead.  It  may  be 
that  in  her  young  wifehood  "  Alice,''  the  Arapaho  girl,  was 
at  Bent's  Fort  and  at  Taos;  but  it  is  assured  that  before 
1840  she  had  passed  away;  and  that  little  Adaline  was  about 
four  years  old  when,  in  the  spring  of  1842,  her  father 
decided  upon  removing  her  from  the  uncertain  influences 
to  which  she  was  exposed,  and  taking  her  to  Missouri. 

That  he  was  fond  of  her  is  very  evident.  But  in  all 
my  correspondence  with  those  persons  now  living  who 
knew  Kit  Carson,  only  two  or  three  can  recall  that  he  men- 
tioned his  wife  Alice,  and  none  recall  that  he  mentioned  his 
little  daughter.  Naturally  a  reticent  man,  in  his  later 
years,  and  even  after  his  second  marriage,  which  soon 
occurred,  he  would  not  speak  of  his  Indian  marriage,  for 
fear  of  being  misjudged.  But  at  Taos  during  his  widower- 
hood  he  declared  that  he  would  be  glad  to  have  for  his 
second  wife  "  Alice's  sister,"  who,  also,  "  was  a  good  girl." 
Few  traits  in  Kit  Carson  so  appeal  as  his  honor  for  the 
Indian  wife  who  "  alwajrs  had  the  warm  water  ready  for 
his  feet,"  and  who  bore  him  his  first  child. 

This  little  girl  was  named,  we  may  accept,  for  the  Adaline 
Carson  who  was  born  to  William  Carson,  the  elder  brother, 
in  1810  and  but  a  few  weeks  after  Kit's  own  birth  in  1809, 


f 


202  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

and  was  Kit's  first  niece,  and  a  favorite  chum.  The  second 
Adaline  (Adeline)  was,  as  Oliver  Wiggins  stated,  a  djtrk, 
elfish  child  (for  the  Indian  blood  always  dominates,  in 
mixed  offspring,  over  the  white),  and  it  may  easily  be 
realized  that  with  the  father  away  much  of  the  time,  and 
the  population  of  Taos  and  of  Bent's  Fort  so  extraordinary 
in  its  mingling  of  races,  her  bringing  up  was  a  problem. 
And  in  this  episode  we  see  another  evidence  of  Kit  Carson's 
intrinsic  sound  sense  and  innate  progressive  ideas :  that  for 
his  little  daughter,  mountain  half-breed  though  she  was, 
he  desired  a  better  atmosphere  and  a  better  chance. 

It  was  quite  practicable  to  take  her  to  Santa  Fe  and  to 
put  her  into  convent  training ;  this  was  done  by  the  major- 
ity of  the  leading  families  of  Taos,  Mora,  and  elsewhere. 

However,  he  seems  to  have  had  other  views,  and  in  the 
spring  of  1842  she  accompanied  him  from  Bent's  Fort  back 
to  Independence.  Report  says  that  he  found  few  persons 
at  Franklin  who  remembered  him,  and  that  the  majority 
of  his  home  people  had  vanished  utterly.  But,  amidst  the 
changes  of  sixteen  years  of  a  new  country,  he  did  find 
relatives;  for  if  the  Carson  kin  were  wanderers,  they  were 
also  numerous.  Among  these  relatives  was  a  niece,  Mrs. 
Leander  Amick,  whose  mother  had  been  Kit  Carson's  sister 
Elizabeth,  wife  to  Robert  Cooper  of  Howard  Coimty's  first 
days. 

Mrs.  L.  P.  Slaughter  of  Kansas  City,  daughter  of  Mr. 
and  Mrs.  Amick,  writes: 

When  I  was  a  child,  Kit  Carson's  daughter  Adeline,  the 
daughter  by  his  first  wife,  lived  for  several  years  with  my 
parents  on  a  farm  between  Fayette  and  Glasgow,  in  Howard 
county,  in  this  State.  There  and  in  a  St.  Louis  convent  school 
she  received  her  education.  As  my  mother  refused  to  accept 
any  money  for  caring  for  his  daughter,  he  purchased  many 
presents  for  her,  among  which  was  a  mahogany  rocking- 
chair  which  I  have  still. 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  SARSON  203 

In  a  letter  to  the  author,  Mrs.  Slaughter  writes  further 
(1911): 

My  sister,  if  now  living,  would  be  74  years  old,  and  was 
about  the  same  age  of  Adeline  Carson,  Kit's  daughter.  She 
stayed  with  us  until  about  eleven  years  old.  She  attended  a 
school  named  Rock  Springs  school  which  was  about  nine  miles 
from  Fayette.  When  Kit  took  Adeline  away  from  our  home  he 
said  he  might  leave  her  in  St.  Louis  in  school  or  he  might  take 
her  with  him  to  California.  It  is  the  opinion  of  most  of  the 
Howard  County  pioneers  that  Adeline  died  in  California  and 
not  in  Missouri.  She  was  dark  complexioned,  black  hair  and 
dark  eyes.    Kit  visited  her  several  times  while  she  was  with  us. 

Mr.  George  H.  Carson,  of  Fayette  (Missouri),  whose 
recollections  as  son  of  William  Carson,  Kit  Carson's  eldest 
brother,  have  before  been  drawn  upon,  in  this  narrative, 
writes  to  me : 

'  In  1848,  I  think,  he  (Kit  Carson)  brought  his  daughter  to 
Fayette  and  placed  her  in  school.  I  know  she  was  in  school 
here  in  1849,  '^^  I  spent  most  of  the  summer  here  and  often 
saw  her,  myself.  My  remembrance  is  that  he  took  her  west 
in  the  early  fifties.  She  married,  died,  and  is  buried  at  Taos, 
N.  M.,  is  family  tradition.  I  know  of  my  own  knowledge  that 
he  took  her  west. 

This  removal  to  school  in  Fayette,  at  the  old  Howard 
Female  Seminary,  occurred  during  Carson's  second  trip 
east  from  California,  bearing  dispatches  for  Washington. 
Mrs.  Slaughter's  remembrance,  then,  that  Adaline  was 
eleven  years  of  age  when  she  left  the  Amick  home,  in  con- 
nection with  the  George  Carson  recollection  of  her  in  1848 
would  place  her  birth  in  1837 :  a  date  further  substantiated 
by  the  comparison  of  Mrs.  Slaughter's  sister's  age,  seventy- 
four,  in  191 1. 

But  notwithstanding  these  various  recollections,  singu- 
larly if  not  pathetically  little  Adaline  fades  from  public 


204  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

view.  Oliver  Wiggins  insisted  that  she  died  when  about 
ten  years  old,  and  died  in  Missouri ;  and  report  does  declare 
that  she  died  while  attending  school  at  a  St.  Louis  convent. 

Mr.  George  Carson  states  that  "  family  tradition  "  assigns 
her  a  grave  in  Taos,  but  I  failed  to  find  trace  of  her  in  the 
ancient  cemetery  there,  or  in  the  annals  of  the  place. 

Mrs.  Teresina  Scheurich,  native  of  Taos,  who,  aged  six, 
after  the  murder  of  her  father,  Governor  Charles  Bent, 
entered  the  household  of  her  uncle  and  aunt,  Kit  Carson 
•  and  wife,  writes  the  author  that  Adaline  "  married  an  officer 
and  went  to  California,  1851  (  ?  ),  soon  after  she  was  mar- 
ried, and  died  there  two  years  later."  This  would  tend 
to  endorse  the  report  by  Captain  James  Hobbs,  in  Wild 
Life  in  the  Far  West,  of  a  visit  by  him  to  Mono  Lake, 
California,  in  1869. 

I  was  informed  by  a  gentleman  living  there  by  the  name  of 
Scott  that  a  daughter  of  Kit  Carson  was  buried  near  by.  At 
my  request  he  pointed  out  her  grave  to  me,  when  I  employed 
a  man  to  build  a  fence  around  it,  as  a  mark  of  respect  to  and 
in  memory  of  her  father,  with  whom  I  had  been  pleasantly 
acquainted.  I  remembered  seeing  this  girl  often,  when  she 
was  about  eight  years  old.  She  was  a  daughter  by  Kit's 
first  wife,  who  was  called  the  Pine  Leaf  and  was  of  the  Black- 
foot  tribe.  This  girl  was  called  the  Prairie  Flower,  and  was 
born  at  Bent's  Fort  on  the  Arkansas  River.  Her  mother  died 
when  she  was  ten  years  of  age.  The  girl  then  lived  in  Colonel 
Bent's  family  till  she  was  sixteen  years  old,  when  she  married 
a  man  by  the  name  of  George  Stilts  of  St.  Louis,  Mo.,  and 
went  to  California  with  him  in  1849.  Stilts  was  a  reckless 
man.  *  *  *  After  traveling  about  in  California  with  her 
husband  a  while  she  left  him,  and  went  to  Mono  Lake  with  a 
gentleman  and  his  family,  and  died  there.  She  was  a  noble 
^looking  woman,  of  mixed  complexion,  black  eyes  and  long 
black  hair,  and  could  excel  most  men  in  the  use  of  the  rifle.^ 

But  of  this  Adaline's  death  as  a  girl,  or  of  her  existence 
in  young  wifehood,  we  have  only  fragmentary  testimony. 


ADVENTURES  OF  KIT  CARSON  205 

She  seems  never  to  have  been  mentioned  by  Carson  in  his 
Memoirs.  However,  his  early  efforts  in  her  behalf  were 
rewarded.  His  trail  opened,  as  he  pursued  it ;  for  this  trip 
to  Missouri  resulted  in  his  engagement  with  Fremont,  and 
thus  fate  met  him  half  way.  We  cannot  assert  that  Fre- 
mont made  Kit  Carson.  Kit  Carson  would  have  made,  and 
did  make,  himself.  But  he  might  have  lived  at  Taos  until 
the  Mexican  War,  at  least,  without  attracting  public  atten- 
tion as  a  valuable  man.  His  name,  before  1842,  appears 
in  few  chronicles  and  in  no  official  reports. 


CHAPTER  XX 
ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  — 1842 

WHEN,  in  June,  1842,  on  the  steamboat  ascending  the 
river  Missouri  from  St.  Louis,  Christopher  Carson, 
the  young  mountain  man  out  of  the  West,  met  Lieutenant 
John  Charles  Fremont,  the  young  army  engineer  out  of 
the  East,  opportunity  joined  their  hands.  Together  they 
entered  into  fame. 

Both  were  Southerners :  Carson  of  North  Carolinan  and 
Kentuckian  blood,  Fremont  bom  in  Georgia  but  raised  in 
South  Carolina.  Carson  was  the  elder,  being  then  in  his 
thirty-third  year,  whereas  Fremont  was  then  twenty-nine. 
Carson  was  mature  beyond  his  ye^s,  and  a  father;  Fre- 
mont was  youthfully  enthusiastic,  and  a  husband  of  only 
six  months. 

The  two  men  were  opposites.  Carson  was  Scotch-Irish ; 
gray-blue  eyed,  sandy  complexioned  (under  his  tan),  light- 
haired,  rather  flat-featured,  gritty  but  so  quiet  and  ordinary 
both  in  appearance  and  manner  that  few  not  knowing  his 
name  would  bestow  upon  him  more  than  a  passing  glance. 
Fremont  was  French :  flashing  blue  eyes,  olive-white  com- 
plexion, thick  brown  hair,  features  regular  and  oval,  dis- 
position sensitive,  quick,  eager,  and  indomitable  —  few 
would  forget  him. 

Fremont  was  a  scholar,  of  both  American  and  Continen- 
tal accomplishments;  at  this  time  Carson  could  not  read, 
nor  write  even  his  own  name,  and  his  speech,  even  in  1866, 
was  of  patois  wherein  mingled  Mexican,  Indian,  and  many 
a  frontier  English  "  thar,"  "  font,"  "  massacreed,''  "  pore," 
etc.    But  he  spoke  in  more  languages  than  did  Fremont  him- 

206 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  207 

self ;  not  only  being  fluent  in  "  English,  French,  Spanish, 
and  several  Indian  tongues,  all  acquired  orally,"  but  also 
being  well  conversant  with  the  sign  language  of  redman 
and  of  trail.*^  Fremont  was  a  student,  poet,  and  adven- 
turer, which  combine  in  the  true  explorer,  and  no  one  can 
examine  his  oflicial  reports  without  being  struck  by  the 
painstaking  knowledge  wrested  from  an  unfamiliar  field; 
no  one  can  read  his  Memoirs  without  appreciating  the  deli- 
cacy of  expression  employed ;  and  no  one  can  ride  his  trail 
without  being  impressed  by  his  whole-souled  methods.  It 
may  be  that  John  Charles  Fremont  was,  as  claimed,  intol- 
erant, over-ambitious,  ill-balanced  —  and,  according  to 
Oliver  Wiggins,  headstrong  to  pursue  his  own  course  in 
spite  of  advice.  So  far  as  I  can  find,  he  was  that  kind  of  a 
man  beloved  of  Westerners,  a  man  who  set  out  to  do  his 
share  of  the  work,  and  who,  if  we  except  that  fourth  expe- 
dition, made  good  in  what  he  undertook.  He  was  a  hard 
man  to  follow,  but  those  who  did  follow  him  were  pretty 
certain  of  having  their  money's  worth.  He  was  (as  that 
disastrous  fourth  expedition  proved),  headstrong:  the  type 
of  headiness  which  receives  from  the  western  veteran  the 
growl  "  fool  tenderfoot ''  —  and  then  impels  him,  body  and 
mind,  to  the  rescue,  when  rescue  for  such  a  tenderfoot 
is  needed. 

It  seems  to  me  that  Fremont,  the  rash,  needed  Carson, 
the  cautious,  and  that  each  could  estimate  and  value  the 
other,  for  both  were  brave.  In  1842  began  a  friendship 
which  was  maintained,  with  mjmy  mutual  expressions  of 
goodwill  and  almost  brotherly  love,  until  death.  Fremont 
constantly  refers,  with  generous  praise,  to  Kit  Carson's 
qualities  of  heart  and  body,  and  receives  him  as  an  equal 
into  the  home.  Carson,  in  his  loyal  statement  for  the 
Senate,  1848,  declares  that  "  he  was  under  more  obligations 
to  Fremont  than  to  any  other  man  alive." 

So,  in  the  words  of  Fremont : 


208  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

On  the  boat  I  met  Kit  Carson.  He  was  returning  from  put- 
ting his  little  daughter  in  a  convent  school  at  St.  Louis.  I 
was  pleased  with  him  and  his  manner  of  address  at  this  first 
meeting.  He  was  a  man  of  medium  height,  broad-shouldered 
and  deep-chested,  with  a  clear  steady  blue  eye  and  frank  speech 
and  address ;  quiet  and  unassuming. 

I  had  expected  to  engage  as  guide  an  old  moimtaineer,  Cap- 
tain Drips,  but  I  was  so  much  pleased  with  Carson  that  when 
he  asked  to  go  with  me  I  was  glad  to  take  him. 

Now,  he  has  become  so  familiarly  known  that  I  will  let 
the  narrative  tell  of  the  life  we  had  together,  out  of  which 
grew  our  enduring  f riendship.®^ 

Carson  engaged  at  $ioo  a  month.  Why  he  engaged,  is 
hard  to  fathom.  He  seemed  to  be  doing  well  at  Bent's  Fort 
and  at  Taos.  Possibly  a  certain  melancholy  attached  to 
his  late  visit  amidst  his  boyhood  haunts,  where  few  wel- 
comed him;  and  having  safely  bestowed  his  daughter,  he 
was  now  foot-loose  and  restless. 

At  any  rate.  Kit  Carson  promptly  swung  into  the  trail 
with  which  his  bridle  path  had  joined;  and  from  the 
Cyprian  Chouteau  post  whence  the  start  was  to  be  made 
dispatched  two  Delaware  "  nmners  "  to  Taos,  with  a  mes- 
sage instructing  about  fifteen  of  his  own  men  to  meet  him 
at  Fort  Laramie  (Fort  John),  with  equipment. 

The  Cyprian  Chouteau  post  was  on  the  right  bank  of  the 
Kansas  River,  about  ten  miles  above  its  mouth;  and  con- 
stituted, as  says  Fremont,  "  one  of  the  friendly  contribu- 
tions by  the  St.  Louis  Chouteaus,  which  were  to  come  in 
aid  on  this  and  future  journeys.'*  The  American  fur  com- 
panies realized  that  the  army  invasion  of  plains  and  moun- 
tains would  help  trade  by  diverting  the  warpath,  and  we 
find  them,  large  and  small,  as  a  rule  assisting  the  govern- 
ment in  every  way.  Colonel  Robert  Campbell,  especially, 
was  a  most  obliging  patron  —  of  course  not  without  profit 
to  himself. 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  209 

Of  the  men  connected  with  this,  another  government 
scientific  and  exploring  column  directed  into  the  western 
wilds,  interest  remains  longest  with  the  leader ;  with  Carson, 
the  guide;  Maxwell,  the  hunter;  Basil  Lajeunesse,  who 
became  Fremont's  favorite,  rivaling  Carson ;  bristly-headed 
and  tow-headed  Charles  Pruess,  the  plucky  German  topog- 
rapher; and  the  lads,  Henry  Brant,  aged  nineteen,  son  of 
Senator  Benton's  niece,  Sarah  Benton  Brant  (Mrs.  J.  B. 
Brant)  of  St  Louis,  and  Randolph  Benton,  aged  twelve, 
son  of  Senator  Benton  himself.  The  twenty-two  or  three 
other  members  of  the  party  were  voyageurs,  French  of 
Canada  and  Missouri. 

Friday,  June  lo,  witnessed  the  departure  of  the  colvimn; 
Monday,  October  lo,  exactly  four  months  later,  witnessed 
its  return  to  the  mouth  of  the  Kansas. 

Technically,  this  expedition,  known  as  "  Fremont's  First 
Expedition,"  was  "  An  Exploration  of  the  Country  Lying 
Between  the  Missouri  River  and  the  Rocky  Mountains,  on 
the  line  of  the  Kansas  and  Great  Platte  Rivers."  Theoreti- 
cally, it  was  an  exploration  to  acquaint  the  Government 
with  the  nature  of  the  "  rivers  and  country  between  the 
frontiers  of  Missouri  and  the  base  of  the  Rocky  Moun- 
tains ;  and  especially  to  examine  the  character,  and  ascertain 
the  latitude  and  longitude  of  the  South  Pass,  the  great  cross- 
ing place  to  these  mountains  on  the  way  to  Oregon." 
Officially  it  was  an  expedition  "  ordered  by  Colonel  Abert, 
chief  of  the  Topographical  Bureau,  with  the  sanction  of 
the  Secretary  of  War."  But  actually,  while  including  the 
above  scope,  it  was  a  Benton-Fremont  expedition  for  the 
political  triumph  of  one,  the  professional  triumph  of  the 
other,  and  the  encouragement  (involved  with  both  designs) 
of  the  emigration  to  Oregon. 

The  first  Linn  bill  for  Oregon  occupation,  the  bill  of 
1838,  was  dead.  The  Linn  bill  of  the  winter  of  1842-43 
had  not  yet  been  announced,  and  this  expedition  was  a  pre- 


210  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

paratory  measure.  Thus  coming  events  cast  their  shadows 
before,  and  deep  run  the  waters  of  politics.  As  Fremont 
narrates,  in  his  Memoirs,  the  object  of  his  exploration  was 
"  auxiliary  and  in  aid  to  the  emigration  to  the  Lower  Colum- 
bia " ;  his  real  commission  was  to  "  indicate  and  describe 
the  line  of  travel,  and  the  best  positions  for  military  posts," 
as  well  as  to  fix  the  location  of  the  South  Pass. 

Senator  Benton,  than  whom  a  greater  statesman  and 
more  astute  politician  never  lived,  and  Lieutenant  Fremont, 
than  whom  a  more  willing  explorer  never  lived,  worked  well 
together;  for  they  were  united  by  the  ties  of  profession, 
family  and  ambition.  Senator  Benton  worked  at  home, 
Lieutenant  Fremont  worked  in  the  field,  an^  the  results 
justified  the  mutual  confidence. 

As  to  this  expedition,  Senator  Linn,  able  colleague  of 
the  great  Benton  with  the  eagle  nose,  summarized  it  in  his 
presentation  to  the  Senate  of  the  official  report.  His  breath- 
less style  carries  unseen  exclamation  points  —  as  a  press 
agent  Dr.  Linn  scores.  The  report  is  to  be  classed  as  that 
species  of  gratuitous  reading  matter  with  which  newspapers 
and  magazines  are  flooded  and  which  usually  have  another 
than  a  purely  news  motive. 

In  executing  his  instructions,  Mr.  Fremont  proceeded  up  the 
Kansas  River  far  enough  to  ascertain  its  character,  and  then 
crossed  over  to  the  Great  Platte,  and  pursued  that  river  to  its 
source  in  the  mountains,  where  the  Sweet  Water  (a  head 
branch  of  the  Platte)  issued  from  the  neighborhood  of  the 
South  Pass.  He  reached  the  Pass  on  the  8th  of  August,  and 
describes  it  as  a  wide  and  low  depression  of  the  mountains, 
where  the  ascent  is  as  easy  as  that  of  the  hill  on  which  this 
Capitol  stands,  and  where  a  plainly  beaten  wagon  road  leads 
to  the  Oregon  through  the  valley  of  Lewis's  River,  a  fork 
of  the  Columbia.  He  went  through  the  Pass,  and  saw  the 
headwaters  of  the  Colorado,  of  the  Gulf  of  California;  and, 
leaving  the  valleys  to  indulge  a  laudable  curiosity,  and  to 
make  some  useful  observations,  and  attended  by  four  of  his 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  211 

men,  he  climbed  the  loftiest  peak  of  the  Rocky  Mountains, 
tmtil  then  untrodden  by  any  known  human  being;  and,  on  the 
15th  of  August,  looked  down  upon  ice  and  snow  some  thousand 
feet  below,  and  traced  in  the  distance  the  valleys  of  the  rivers 
which,  taking  their  rise  in  the  same  elevated  ridge,  flow  in 
opposite  directions  to  the  Pacific  Ocean  and  to  the  Mississippi. 
From  that  ultimate  point  he  returned  by  the  valley  of  the 
Great  Platte,  following  the  stream  in  its  whole  course,  and 
solving  all  questions  in  relation  to  its  navigability,  and  the 
character  of  the  country  through  which  it  flows. 

However,  the  first  portion  of  the  journey,  that  from  the 
Missouri  to  Fort  Laramie,  is  not  without  interest,  just  as, 
in  the  matter  of  speaking  well  of  the  character  of  the  val- 
le)rs,  it  was  not  without  value.  With  customary  Fremont 
thoroughness  the  company  was  divided;  the  main  party, 
under  Qement  Lambert  as  chief  and  Carson  as  assistant, 
proceeding  by  the  Oregon  Trail  route  up  the  North  Platte, 
while  Fremont  himself,  with  four  others  including  Lucien 
Maxwell,  continued  on  up  the  South  Platte  to  Fort  St. 
Vrain,  thence  to  march,  northward,  for  the  rendezvous  at 
Fort  Laramie. 

Previous  to  this  separation  the  rubber  boat,  a  Fremont 
idea  ridiculed  later  by  the  Carson  men,  had  capsized  in 
crossing  the  Kansas,  and  some  provisions,  the  most  impor- 
tant being  a  sack  of  coflfee,  were  lost.  By  their  aquatic 
efforts  at  rescue  Carson  and  Maxwell  both  were  made  ill. 

The  Fremont  trail  to  Fort  St.  Vrain  was  uneventful, 
save  for  spring  storms  and  one  or  two  Indian  scares.  The 
Lambert-Carson  detachment  met  Jim  Bridger  convoying 
down  the  North  Platte  trail  a  company  of  traders,  and  by 
this  company  were  informed  tha^  the  Sioux,  Gros  Ventre 
Blackfeet,  and  the  Cheyennes  were  combined;  that  all 
were  out  for  revenge,  after  the  casualties  of  the  battle  with 
Fraeb,  the  trapper  partisan,  in  the  preceding  August;  and 
that  the  Sweetwater  route  —  the  route  from  Laramie  to 
South  Pass  —  was  very  hazardous.    This  spread  constema- 


212  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

tion  among  the  in-going  company,  who  paid  serious  atten- 
tion to  the  opinion  of  such  a  seasoned  campaigner  as  old 
Bridger.  So  genuine  was  the  gravity  of  the  situation  that 
at  Fort  Laramie  Carson  made  oral  will  —  an  incident  not 
unusual  among  trappers,  but  here  not  calculated  to  relieve 
the  tenseness  of  the  situation. 

At  Laramie,  and  at  Fort  Platte  below,  agents  and  Indians 
all  urged  upon  the  expedition  to  wait  at  least  until  the  war 
parties  which  were  out,  upon  the  trail  beyond,  should 
return.  However,  Fremont  was  no  man  to  be  intimidated. 
Perhaps  this  was  the  rashness  of  a  tenderfoot  in  the  moun- 
tains—  perhaps  it  was  wisdom,  foreseeing  that  to  have 
yielded  now  might  have  established  a  precedent  among 
the  Indians,  and  have  encouraged  them  to  future  dictation. 
For  a  government  officer  to  back  down  and  let  the  trail 
be  dosed  against  him,  was  poor  policy.  Besides,  this  was 
a  white  trail  —  and  a  settler  trail ;  and  the  lives  of  countless 
companies  to  follow,  might  hang  upon  decisive  action  now. 

Anyway,  Lieutenant  Fremont  wavered  not  an  inch, 
opposed  though  he  was  by  veterans  such  as  Carson  and  the 
traders  of  both  posts.  He  informed  his  company  that  he 
was  going  through,  and  he  called  the  roll,  and  only  one 
member  refused. 

As  it  happened,  the  trip  out  to  the  South  Pass  and  neigh- 
borhood, and  back  to  the  post,  was  made  with  no  direct 
opposition,  beyond  words,  by  the  Indians;  in  fact,  few 
Indians  were  sighted  on  the  Sweetwater  trail;  and  the 
chief  peril  was  when,  during  the  return,  in  the  Red  Narrows 
of  the  Platte  the  rubber  boat  was  wrecked  and  its  crew 
barely  escaped  drowning. 

To  revert  to  the  Linn  report,  again,  in  which  the  scien- 
tific aspects  of  the  journey  are  reviewed,  these  being  the 
latitudes  and  longitudes,  elevations,  character  of  soils,  prac- 
ticability of  routes,  geological,  botanical  and  meteorolog- 
ical features: 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  213 

Eight  carts,  drawn  by  two  mules  each,  accompanied  the  expe- 
dition ;  a  fact  which  attests  the  facility  of  traveling  in  this  vast 
region.  Herds  of  buffaloes  furnished  subsistence  to  the  men ; 
a  short,  nutritious  grass,  sustained  the  horses  and  mules.  Two 
boys  (one  of  twelve  years  of  age,  the  other  of  eighteen), 
besides  the  enlisted  men,  accompanied  the  expedition,  and 
took  their  share  of  its  hardships;  which  proves  that  boys,  as 
well  as  men,  are  able  to  traverse  the  coimtry  to  the  Rocky 
Motmtains. 

The  result  of  all  his  observations  Mr.  Fremont  has  con- 
densed into  a  brief  report  —  enough  to  make  a  document  of 
ninety  or  one  hundred  pages;  and  believing  that  this  document 
would  be  of  general  interest  to  the  whole  country,  and  bene- 
ficial to  science,  as  well  as  useful  to  the  government,  I  move 
the  printing  of  the  extra  number  which  has  been  named. 


"  The  printing  was  ordered  " ;  not  only  accomplishing 
the  purpose  of  encouraging  prospective  emigrants  by  the 
"  apparent  interest  which  the  government  *  *  *  took 
in  their  enterprises,"  but  also  (although  it  does  not  strike 
me  that  the  Fremont  report  supports  the  Linn  contention) 
spreading  the  first  truth  about  the  Great  American  Desert : 
"that  the  country,  for  several  htmdred  miles  from  the 
frontier  of  Missouri,  is  exceedingly  beautiful  and  fertile; 
alternate  woodland  and  prairie,  and  certain  portions  well 
supplied  with  water,"  and  that  "  the  valley  of  the  river 
Platte  has  a  very  rich  soil."  Thus  the  chimera  of  the  Great 
American  Desert  received  its  initial  puncture  —  albeit  per- 
sisting as  a  bugbear  until  the  ignis  fatuxis  of  the  gold  be- 
yond had  been  pursued  to  the  end. 

The  details  of  this  first  expedition  of  Fremont,  by  which 
Kit  Carson  likewise  was  "  drawn  into  the  current  of  impor- 
tant events,"  cannot  be  better  told  than  by  Fremont  him- 
self, who,  a  young  lieutenant  inspired  by  freshness  of 
achievement,  backed  by  authority  of  his  first  command  and 
by  the  knowledge  that  he  is  making  history,  produces  a 
narrative  that  reads  like  a  tale  of  some  knight-errant.    He 


214  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

thoroughly  enjoys  the  venture.  He  enjoys  the  spectacle  of 
Carson,  "  without  a  saddle,  and  scouring  bareheaded  over 
the  prairies,  *  *  *  one  of  the  finest  pictures  of  a 
horseman  I  have  ever  seen  " ;  he  enjoys  the  alarms  —  "  in 
an  instant,  every  man's  weapon  was  in  his  hand,  the  horses 
were  driven  in,  hobbled  and  picketed,  and  horsemen  were 
galloping  at  full  speed  in  the  direction  of  the  newcomers, 
screaming  and  yelling  in  the  wildest  excitement."  His  buf- 
falo himt  is  so  contagious  as  to  be  quoted  to  this  day  — 
"  My  horse  was  a  trained  himter,  famous  in  the  West  under 
the  name  of  Proveau,  and,  with  his  eyes  flashing,  and  the 
foam  flying  from  his  mouth,  sprang  on  after  the  cow 
like  a  tiger! "  The  atmosphere  of  the  wild  plains  and  of 
the  lofty  peaks,  so  vast,  so  tremendous,  so  immutable, 
entered  into  his  blood ;  as  did  the  deeds  which  they  fostered 
among  their  inhabitants.  High  romance  and  the  spectac- 
ular were  to  John  Charles  Fremont  the  wine  of  life.  What 
army  officer  of  later  day,  what  scientific  explorer  would 
think  to  embody  in  a  formal  report  a  side  allusion  such 
as  this  which  follows  a  description  of  an  Arapaho  and 
Cheyenne  village : 

I  remarked  near  some  of  the  ledges  a  kind  of  tripod  frame, 
formed  of  three  slender  poles  of  birch,  scraped  very  clean, 
to  which  were  affixed  the  shield  and  spear,  with  some  other 
weapons.  All  were  scrupulously  clean,  the  spear  head  was 
burnished  bright,  and  the  shield  white  and  stainless.  It 
reminded  me  of  the  days  of  feudal  chivalry;  and  when,  as  I 
rode  by,  I  yielded  to  the  passing  impulse  and  touched  one  of 
the  spotless  shields  with  the  muzzle  of  my  gun,  I  almost 
expected  a  grim  warrior  to  start  from  the  lodge  and  resent 
my  challenge.®' 

That  was  Fremont  —  to  yield  to  the  impulse,  and  boy- 
ishly playing  the  knight,  touch  the  transformed  shield. 

This  first  expedition  of  Fremont  has  been  misunderstood 
—  and  sneers  have  been  cast  upon  it  because,  after  all,  it 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  215 

traversed  only  ground  already  familiar  to  the  public,  by 
years  of  previous  travel.  There  is  no  indication  that  Fre- 
mont or  the  Government  ever  claimed  to  have  discovered 
the  South  Pass ;  on  the  contrary,  the  South  Pass  is  named  in 
advance  in  the  instructions.  But  since  the  Major  Stephen 
Long  army  expedition  of  1820,  no  scientific  report  by 
a  trained  observer,  save  the  report  of  Reverend  Samuel 
Parker,  had  been  made  upon  the  Platte  River  route  to  the 
mountains;  and  the  Major  Long  report  was  of  the  South 
Platte  and  the  Arkansas,  and  not  upon  the  North  Platte. 
The  Parker  narrative  naturally  would  be  considered,  if 
considered  at  all  in  army  circles,  with  the  interest  of  sus- 
picion —  of  toleration  indulgent  to  the  cloth  . 

Aside  from  the  real  purpose  to  which  the  expedition  was 
fitted  by  the  expansionist  senators,  Benton  and  Linn,  there 
was  a  necessity  in  the  War  Department  for  accurate  author- 
ized data  upon  the  North  Platte  country.  Maps  must  be 
kept  up  to  date,  and  memoranda  filed  away  for  future 
reference.  With  this  exploration  concluded,  the  War 
Department  might  consider  itself  fairly  well  posted  upon 
the  features  of  the  trans-Missouri  Country,  to  the  moun- 
tains. Lieutenant  Fremont  now  reported  upon  both  the 
North  Platte  and  the  South  Platte.  Major  Long  had 
reported  upon  the  South  Platte,  base  of  the  mountains,  the 
Arkansas,  and  the  Red  River.  Again,  in  1835,  Colonel 
Henry  Dodge  had  repeated  the  tour  via  the  South  Platte 
and  the  Arkansas  and  had  supplied  additional  information, 
chiefly  upon  the  Indian  tribes. 

Mention  has  been  made  that  Carson  sent  runners  from 
the  Missouri  to  Taos,  and  summoned  a  party  of  his  own 
men.  This  was  natural  —  and  that  Fremont  does  not  refer 
to  the  accession,  in  his  official  reports,  proves  naught  Oliver 
Wiggins,  who  accompanied  the  squad,  and  who  was  on  the 
Fremont  second  expedition  also,  declared  that  names  figured 
very  little,  in  those  days,  and  that  the  Fremont  lists  were 


216  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

incomplete  and  inaccurate.  Moreover,  the  appropriations 
for  the  expeditions  were  small,  even  inadequate,  so  that  the 
lieutenant  would  have  risked  criticism  by  extending  his  roll 
call  unnecessarily.  However,  the  Carson  squad  was  an  inde- 
pendent command.    Wiggins  relates  of  the  trip: 

The  order  from  Kit  direct  was  the  cause  of  rejoicing  among 
our  crowd,  and  we  started  in  time  to  reach  the  fort  ahead  of 
the  government  party. 

We  hurried  away  late  in  June  with  laden  pack  horses,  and 
pushed  east  and  north  along  the  Indian  trail,  up  through 
Pueblo,  then  a  Mexican  village  of  adobe  buildings,  up  through 
the  old  trail  fourteen  miles  east  of  the  present  city  of  Colorado 
Springs,  crossing  Cherry  Creek  at  Denver,  where  at  that  time 
there  was  not  even  a  cabin  or  permanent  tent,  and  joining  the 
party  at  the  fort.  We  trappers  were  not  engaged  as  a  part  of 
the  Fremont  company,  but  the  territory  through  which  we 
were  to  travel  was  wild  and  the  Indians  were  plentiful,  and 
Kit,  with  his  usual  foresight,  preferred  to  have  his  men  within 
call  in  case  of  trouble.  It  was  a  continuous  hunting  trip  for 
us,  with  plenty  of  big  game  along  the  route.  We  lived  much 
like  Indians  as  we  traveled,  and  I  can  not  say  that  we  were  not 
much  like  them  except  for  racial  differences. 

Fremont  went  no  miles  west  of  Laramie  to  Sweetwater 
River,  then  up  the  Sweetwater.  Leaving  that  stream  we  jour- 
neyed through  unbroken  mountains  and  forests  to  Atlantic 
and  Pacific  Springs,  on  the  West  Slope.  About  thirty,  miles 
west  of  the  Springs  Kit  left  Fremont,  rejoined  us,  and  we 
returned  with  our  pelts  to  Taos,  where  we  spent  the  winter. 
Fremont  had  learned  many  things  heretofore  unknown  to  the 
government,  and  when  we  parted  company  it  was  with  the 
understanding  that*  Carson  was  to  act  as  guide  for  a  second 
expedition  the  next  year. 

Back  again  in  Taos,  pending  the  second  expedition.  Kit 
Carson  again  married,  just  previously  being  baptized  into 
the  Roman  faith.  The  marriage  entry  in  the  parish  book, 
which  is  still  maintained  by  the  resident  priest  at  Taos, 
reads  as  follows : 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  217 

Cristover  Carson  &  M*.  Josefa  Jaramillo  married  on  the  6th 
day  of  February,  1843,  by  the  parish  priest  Antonio  Jose 
Martinez. 

C.  Carson,  son  of  Linsey  Carson  and  Rebecca  Rovenson  of 
the  State  of  Mo. 

Maria  Josefa  Jaramillo,  daughter  of  Francisco  Jaramillo  and 
Maria  Polonia  Vigil. 

Witnesses:  George  Bent  and  Cruz  Padillo,  Juan  Manual 
Lucero  and  Jose  Maria  Valdez.®^ 

The  Seiiora  Carson,  aged  scarce  fifteen,  and  therefore 
some  eighteen  years  younger  than  her  husband,  was  of 
marked  bnmette  type,  upon  Spanish  lines.  "A  style  of 
beauty,"  observed  the  impressionable  Lewis  Garrard,  seeing 
her  at  Taos  in  April,  1847,  four  years  after  the  wedding, 
"  of  the  haughty,  heart-breaking  kind,  such  as  would  lead  a 
man,  with  the  glance  of  the  eye,  to  risk  his  life  for  one 
smile.  I  could  not  but  desire  her  acquaintance."  ®^  Car- 
son had  married  well.  The  Jaramillo  and  Vigil  families 
were  highly  connected  with  the  best  interests  of  New 
Mexico.  A  sister  of  Carson's  bride  was  the  wife  of  Charles 
Bent,  leading  American  at  Taos,  and  Donaciano  Vigil,  of 
Taos,  had  been  military  secretary  to  Governor  Armijo. 

To  the  union  of  Carson  and  girlish  Senorita  Jaramillo  of 
heart-breaking  glance  were  bom  eight  children:  Charles 
(who  died  at  nine  months),  William,  Teresina,  Christopher 
(Kit),  Jr.,  a  second  Charles,  Rebecca,  Stella,  Josefita.  The 
union  endured  happily  for  twenty-five  years,  and  then  was 
only  briefly  interrupted  by  death,  which  removed  Mrs. 
Carson  first,  for  a  month's  absence  from  him. 

But  this  is  anticipating.    For  the  year  is  1843. 


CHAPTER  XXI 
ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  — 1843-1844 

BETWEEN  his  scouting  duties  with  the  Bent,  St.  Vrain 
&  Co.  caravans,  and  his  other  trips.  Kit  Carson  was 
allowed  but  scant  newly-wedded  bliss  before,  three  months 
later,  he  was  summoned  to  the  second  expedition  of 
Lieutenant  Fremont. 

The  effect  of  the  first  expedition  had  been  instantaneous. 
Aroused  by  Marcus  Whitman,  waiting  upon  the  frontier  of 
Missouri  was  gathered  the  first  great  influx  of  American 
colonists  into  Oregon.  Still  the  Government  hesitated,  con- 
fronted by  the  equal  claims  to  Oregon  of  Great  Britain. 
The  expansionist  bill  of  Dr.  Linn  had  survived  the  Senate, 
but  had  been  killed  in  the  House.  Nevertheless,  the  expan- 
sionist spirit  was  not  dead.  Even  before  the  first  survey 
by  Lieutenant  Fremont  had  been  completed,  the  second 
survey  must  have  been  projected ;  inasmuch  as  parting  with 
Kit  Carson  in  the  mountains  Lieutenant  Fremont  had 
engaged  him  for  the  next  year.  Fremont  himself  says,  in 
reviewing  the  report  of  the  expedition,  by  Senator  Linn: 
"  In  the  meantime  the  second  expedition  had  been  planned." 
And  Senator  Benton  records :  "  His  first  expedition  barely 
finished,  Mr.  Fremont  sought  and  obtained  orders  for  a 
second  one."  The  Oregon  machine  worked  smoothly;  its 
product  to  be,  not  that  fabric  of  selfishness  which  so  often 
comes  from  the  loom  of  politics,  but  a  finished  tapestry 
without  the  pattern  of  ignoble  private  aims.  In  urging 
Oregon,  Senator  Thomas  H.  Benton,  aided  by  Senator 
Lewis  Linn,  seems  to  have  been  a  true  patriot,  under  no 

918 


k 


\ 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  219 

suspicion  of  the  land-grabbing  schemes  which  so  attach  to 
the  throwing  open  of  new  territory  today. 

This  second  expedition  again  was  one,  states  Senator 
Benton,  by  which  the  administration  at  Washington  is 
tatitled  only  to  the  credit  of  compliance,  not  to  any  credit 
of  origination.  It  was  authorized  by  the  War  Department, 
to  pursue  on  the  west  side  of  the  Rockies,  in  joint  territory, 
the  same  objects  that  had  been  pursued  on  the  cast  side,  in 
American  territory :  or  technically,  "  to  connect  the  recon- 
naissance of  1842  with  the  surveys  of  Commander  Wilkes 
on  the  coast  of  the  Pacific  ocean,  so  as  to  give  a  connected 
survey  of  the  interior  of  our  continent."  It  is  known  offi- 
cially as  the  "  Exploring  Expedition  to  Oregon  and  North 
California,  in  the  years  1843-44."  Practically,  it  extended 
far  beyond  its  scope  —  farther  than  even  Fremont  himself, 
who,  once  cut  loose  from  red  tape,  rambled  as  the  spirit 
moved  him,  could  foresee.  It  suggested  Utah.  Mrs.  Fre- 
mont declares  that  it  led  to  the  acquisition  of  California; 
and  it  did,  in  that  the  leader  returned  enthusiastic  over  a 
country  which  had  been  misjudged  as  badly  as  the  coast  to 
the  north.  He  sowed  fresh  seed  of  covetousness  in  the 
heart  of  the  American  people. 

The  Fremont  second  expedition  left  the  village  of  Kansas 
(or  Westport  Landing)  on  the  south  bank  of  the  Missouri 
at  the  present  Kansas-Missouri  line,  May  29,  1843,  and 
returned  thereto  July  31,  1844.  It  left  hurriedly,  on  a  mes- 
sage from  Mrs.  Fremont,  who  had  opened  orders  from  the 
War  Department  directing  the  leader  to  return  to  Wash- 
ington and  explain  why  he  was  taking  along  a  brass  how- 
itzer. And,  truth  to  tell,  just  at  this  period  of  territory 
agitation  and  of  war  talk  between  the  United  States  and 
Mexico  and  England,  a  brass  howitzer  imported  by  a  strictly 
scientific  expedition  into  disputed  bounds  might  fire  another 
shot  "  heard  'round  the  world ; "  especially  in  the  hands  of 
the  impulsive  Fremont. 


220  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Besides  this  brass  howitzer  (supplied  legitimately  by 
Colonel  Stephen  W.  Kearny,  from  the  arsenal  at  St.  Louis) 
were  taken  other  anomalies,  in  shape  of  Jacob  Dodson, 
young  free  negro  in  the  service  of  the  Benton  family;  a 
Prussian  ex-artillerist,  for  the  howitzer;  two  Delaware 
Indians  for  hunters.  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  "  the  Bad  Hand," 
"  whom  many  years  of  hardship  and  exposiu'e  in  the  West- 
em  territories  had  rendered  familiar  with  a  portion  of  the 
coimtry  it  was  designed  to  explore,"  was  the  guide.  Super- 
numeraries were  Frederick  Dwight,  a  tenderfoot  from 
Springfield,  Massachusetts;  Theodore  Talbot,  a  young 
government  draughtsman,  and  William  Gilpin,  page  to 
Andrew  Jackson,  West  Pointer  of  one  year  cadetship,  lieu- 
tenant in  the  Seminole  War,  editor  of  the  Missouri  Argus, 
St.  Louis  (a  Senator  Benton  paper),  secretary  of  the  Mis- 
souri General  Assembly,  friend  in  the  Benton  family,  soon 
now  to  be  major  and  lieutenant  colonel  of  Missouri  Volun- 
teers in  the  Mexican  War,  and  later  to  be  first  governor  of 
Colorado  Territory.  Lucien  Maxwell  accompanied  them  on 
his  way  home  to  Taos.  The  force  was  larger  than  that  of 
1842,  the  men,  besides  those  especially  mentioned,  listing 
as  thirty-two  —  the  great  majority,  as  before,  Creole  French 
or  Canadians,  but  the  enrollment  naming  such  as  Patrick 
White,  two  Campbells,  Henry  Lee,  etc.®^ 

From  the  Missouri  at  the  mouth  of  the  Kansas,  the  route 
of  the  expedition  —  Fremont  and  the  horsemen  preceding, 
Fitzpatrick  and  the  wagons  following  —  led  westw^ard  up 
along  the  Kansas,  thence  up  the  valley  of  the  Republican, 
and  westerly  again  through  the  northern  border  of  Kansas, 
where  drain  the  southern  tributaries  of  the  Republican; 
it  struck  the  South  Platte  in  northeastern  Colorado,  and 
followed  it  up  to  Fort  St.  Vrain.    This  was  reached  July  4. 

From  the  post  a  detour  was  made  southward,  to  obtain 
mules  from  Taos.  At  the  mountain-man  settlement  of  the 
Pueblo  (name  retained,  in  the  same  spot,  by  the  second  city 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  221 

of  Colorado)  it  was  learned  that  owing  to  the  fomentation 
by  the  Texans  against  Mexican  peace  and  prosperity  the 
Mexican  frontier  was  being  closed  to  traffic,  and  that  expor- 
tation of  supplies  from  Taos  was  doubtful.  But  here  at  the 
Pueblo  they  "  accidentally  "  encountered  Kit  Carson.  He 
readily  undertook  a  mission  to  procure  mules  from  Charles 
Bent  of  Bent's  Fort,  seventy-five  miles  down  the  Arkansas. 

Frcan  the  Pueblo  the  party  returned,  with  a  slight  digres- 
sion on  the  way  to  examine  the  Boiling  Springs  of  the  pres- 
ent Manitou,  to  Fort  St.  Vrain,  which  had  been  appointed 
as  the  rendezvous  with  Fitzpatrick  and  his  carts,  and  Carson 
and  his  mtdes.  Lucien  Maxwell  had  proceeded  from  the 
I^ieblo  south  for  Taos. 

As  upon  the  previous  expedition,  Carson  decided  to  take 
along  his  own  retainers  —  who  were  not  loth  to  go. 

Fort  St.  Vrain,  the  meeting-place  agreed  upon,  was  a  trading 
post  at  the  mouth  of  the  St.  Vrain  Creek,  forty-two  miles  from 
the  present  city  of  Denver.  Chamberlain,  the  lieutenant  under 
Carson,  started  for  the  fort  in  time  to  reach  there  July  4,  and 
that  very  day  something  happened  that  resulted  in  a  serious 
breach  between  the  Carson  and  Fremont  parties.  St.  Vrain's 
people,  assisted  by  the  Fremont  men,  were  having  a  celebra- 
tion. It  had  been  a  long  time  between  Fourth  of  July  cele- 
brations with  us  fellows  out  on  the  plains,  and  we  wanted  to 
get  in  on  a  little  of  the  fun.  I  was  out  with  the  horses  some 
distance  from  the  fort  and  a  sergeant  of  the  Fremont  company 
was  in  charge.  I  insisted  upon  going  to  the  fort,  and  Pat 
White,  the  sergeant,  refused  permission.  He  was  new  to  the 
ways  of  the  plainsmen  and  forgot  that  we  were  not  soldiers, 
hence  not  under  any  orders  from  his  commander.  Pat  thought 
he  was  physically  capable  of  making  me  submit  to  his  orders, 
but  when  I  went  into  the  fort  I  asked  them  to  send  a  wagon 
out  after  the  sergeant,  while  I  enjoyed  the  fun.  There  was  a 
sharp  scene  between  Fremont  and  Carson  over  the  affair,  but 
Kit  was  firm  and  Fremont  finally  instructed  his  men  to  keep 
out  of  trouble.  Here  Carson's  character  and  determination 
cropped  out  plainly,  and  Fremont  learned  what  kind  of  men 
had  opened  the  pathways  over  the  plains.    Carson's  men  were 


222  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

out-numbered,  but  he  plainly  warned  Fremont  that  although 
he  was  not  a  government  officer,  his  word  was  supreme  with 
his  men,  and  that  a  few  men  armed  with  repeating  rifles  were 
more  dangerous  than  a  small  army  with  old-fashioned  guns 
and  government  authority.®^ 

At  St  Vrain's  fort  there  joined  the  party  as  official  hunter, 
Alexander  Godey,  "  a  Creole  Frenchman  of  St  Louis,  of 
medium  height  with  black  eyes  and  silky  curling  black  hair, 
which  was  his  pride  "  —  and  which  he  permitted  no  one  to 
disparage.  In  1843  he  was  about  twenty-five  years  of  age, 
a  trapper  and  trader  of  Indian  country  experience,  and  "  in 
courage  and  professional  skill  a  formidable  rival  to  Carson." 
Here  also  joined  the  company  "  an  Indian  woman  of  the 
Snake  nation,  desirous,  like  Naomi  of  old,  to  return  to  her 
people."  Newly  widowed,  she  took  her  two  children, 
"  pretty  little  half-breeds,  who  added  much  to  the  liveliness 
of  the  camp."    So  narrates  Fremont. 

In  two  divisions  again,  the  expedition  left  the  post.  With 
the  heavy  baggage  Fitzpatrick,  "the  White  Head,"  pro- 
ceeded north  to  strike  the  Platte  at  Fort  Laramie,  and 
thence  crossing  by  the  South  Pass,  to  unite  with  the  first 
division  at  Fort  Hall  on  the  Snake.  With  Carson  and 
other  tried  men  Fremont  struck  up  the  Cache  la  Poudre 
River,  and  past  Fort  Collins  of  today,  making  northwest, 
around  the  north  end  of  the  Medicine  Bow  Mountains  in 
northern  Colorado,  around  North  Park  above  the  W3ro- 
ming  line,  and  to  the  Sweetwater,  approximating  the 
future  Overland  Stage  route  from  Denver  to  Salt  Lake, 
via  Bridger's  Pass. 

At  the  Sweetwater  he  found  already  a  "  broad,  smooth 
highway,  where  the  numerous  heavy  wagons  of  the  emi- 
grants had  entirely  beaten  and  crushed  the  artemisia  (sage), 
a  happy  exchange  to  our  poor  animals  for  the  sharp  rocks 
and  tough  shrubs  among  which  they  had  been  toiling  so 
long." 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  223 

The  emigrant  trail  was  followed  into  the  valley  of  the 
Bear,  where  the  various  curiosities,  known  to  trappers,  were 
investigated.  Fremont  could  not  resist  the  lure  of  the  lonely 
Salt  Lake ;  and  who  may  blame  him  ?  "  Its  islands  had 
never  been  visited;  and  none  were  to  be  found  who  had 
entirely  made  the  circuit  of  its  shores.  *  ♦  ♦  Jt  was 
generally  supposed  that  it  had  no  visible  outlet ;  but  among 
th€f  trappers,  including  those  in  my  own  camp,  were  many 
who  believed  that  somewhere  on  its  siirface  was  a  terrible 
whirlpool,  through  which  its  waters  foiind  their  way  to  the 
ocean  by  some  subterranean  communication." 

Not  surfeited  by  his  descent  of  the  Platte  Narrows  the 
year  before,  Fremont,  the  indefatigable,  had  brought  with 
him  on  this  trip  another  rubber  boat;  and  the  act  would 
indicate  that  out  of  his  prosaic  instructions  by  the  War 
Department  he  had  been  inspired  by  thoughts  which  the 
department,  from  its  office  chairs  in  the  East,  little  dreamed. 

Thus,  with  the  keen  enthusiasm  of  a  Balboa  (as  he  says), 
from  a  butte  at  the  debouchment  of  Weber's  Fork  he  gazed, 
the  morning  of  September  6,  upon  the  white-capped  waters 
of  the  sluggishly  rolling  lake.  I  can  fancy  that  Carson, 
beside  him,  surveyed  them  likewise  with  a  gleam  of  studi- 
ous, calculating  interest  in  his  usually  mild,  blue  eye.  That 
he  had  visited  the  lake  before  it  is  reasonable  to  presume; 
but  only  incidentally,  with  his  mind  upon  beaver. 

On  the  morning  of  September  9,  1843,  ^^e  rubber  boat, 
its  crew  Kit  Carson,  the  mountain  man ;  John  C.  Fremont, 
the  army  man;  Preuss,  the  German  topog^pher;  Basil 
Lajeunesse,  the  Creole  trapper;  and  Baptiste  Bemier,  the 
Canadian  voyageur,  cleared  away  for  a  low  island ;  and  if 
white  men  were  not  then  for  the  first  time  upon  these  m)rs- 
terious  waters  this  was  at  least  the  first  "  deep  sea  voyage  " 
recorded.  And  much  like  the  mariners  of  the  Columbus 
caravels  must  the  explorers  have  felt;  even  the  steady 
Carson,  here  out  of  his  element,  betrayed  nervousness: 


224  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

"  Captain/'  said  Carson,  who  for  some  time  had  been  looking 
suspiciously  at  some  whitening  appearance  outside  the  nearest 
islands,  "what  are  those  yonder?  —  won't  you  just  take  a 
look  with  the  glass?  "  We  ceased  paddling  for  a  moment,  and 
found  them  to  be  the  caps  of  the  waves  that  were  beginning 
to  break  under  the  force  of  a  strong  breeze  that  was  coming 
up  the  lake. 

No  other  portents  were  encountered.  Beyond  being  more 
lonely,  it  was  the  lake  of  today. 

After  a  night's  stay  upon  the  island,  whose  haunted  soli- 
tude undoubtedly  was,  on  this  September  the  9th,  1843,  ^^^ 
the  first  time  broken  by  "  the  cheerful  sound  of  human 
voices,"  return  was  made  to  the  shore.  The  island,  about 
eight  miles  out,  named  "  Castle  Island  "  by  the  first  Mor- 
mons, was  by  the  government  party  of  Captain  Howard 
Stansbury,  in  1849,  christened  Fremont  Island,  as  was 
proper.®® 

Having  done  a  little  more  than  the  previous  explorers, 
Fremont  and  Carson  might  head  north,  up  the  Bear,  for 
the  rendezvous  with  Thomas  Fitzpatrick  at  Fort  Hall. 

At  old  Fort  Hall  (which  had  been  drained  of  provisions 
by  the  passing  emigrants)  the  long  threatened  rupture 
between  the  Fremont  party  and  the  Carson  party  occurred ; 
and  that  such  a  rupture  was  inevitable  may  easily  be  under- 
stood, when  we  understand  also  that  the  Carson  men  were 
mountaineers,  under  no  obligations  to  the  leader,  and  that 
the  Fremont  men  were  French  voyageurs  and  American 
Fur  Company  engages.  And  without  doubt  the  Taos  party 
were  tired  of  the  methodical  measures  of  the  army  expedi- 
tion. They  foresaw  much  hard  work,  and,  perhaps,  little 
satisfaction. 

It  was  now  late  in  September  and  very  stormy,  with  rain 
and  snow.  When  the  Taos  men  learned  that  the  goal  was 
the  coast,  they  balked.  Many  of  them  had  been  to  the  west- 
ward, and  they  knew  what  a  tough  trail  it  was,  down  the 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  225 

Snake,  and  that  the  desolation  would  be  heightened  by  the 
bleak  season  approaching.  California  was  mentioned,  and 
this  made  matters  worse,  for  the  snowy  passes  of  the  Sierras 
had  been  a  spectre  ever  since  the  Jedediah  Smith  ^d  the 
Joe  Walker  ventures. 

According  to  Oliver  Wiggins,  the  Carson  contingent  told 
Fremont  that  they  would  continue  if  he  would  winter  at 
Walla  Walla  and  postpone  further  exploration  until  spring : 

Fremont's  men  refused  to  go  on  the  California  trip  unless 
driven  to  it,  and  the  nervy  youngster  was  told  by  the  moun- 
taineers in  the  party  that  to  be  caught  in  the  passes  with  sixty 
to  seventy  feet  of  snow  to  block  the  way  would  be  certain 
death. 

Carson  tried  to  dissuade  the  impetuous  Fremont,  but  he  was 
not  a  man  to  be  balked,  and  retorted : 

"  1 11  show  you  fellows  who  think  you  know  all  about  moun- 
tain exploring  that  I  can  go  where  I  please." 

"  All  right,  boys,*'  said  Kit  to  us ;  "  I  shall  go  with  Fre- 
mont; I  cannot  ask  you  to  go." 

Fremont  threatened  to  put  us  all  under  arrest  for  insubordi- 
nation, or  something  equally  as  terrible,  but  Kit  faced  him  with 

a  calm  determination  to  prevent  trouble. 
********** 

However,  Fremont  placed  us  under  arrest  as  a  matter  of 
form,  allowing  us  to  retain  our  arms.  The  Irish  sergeant  with 
whom  I  had  been  unpleasantly  mixed  up  early  in  the  year, 
was  in  charge  of  the  party,  and  we  were  sent  on  ahead.  A 
particularly  rocky  cut  caused  a  hurried  order  from  the 
explorer  to  the  prisoners  to  return  and  assist  in  clearing  a 
passageway  for  the  wagons,  and  we  sent  back  a  very  saucy 
answer.  When  the  messenger  returned,  full  of  wrath,  our  men 
were  far  up  the  mountains  in  another  trail,  going  faster  all 
the  time,  and  with  the  helpless  Irishman,  whom  we  all  hated, 
trying  to  hustle  along  and  keep  track  of  his  prisoners. 

The  sergeant  (Patrick  White,  as  would  appear)  aban- 
doned the  long-winded  mountain  men  as  impossible  charges, 
and  descended  to  join  the  main  party.    As  for  the  Taosans, 


226  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

"  it  broke  us  all  up  to  leave  Kit  to  the  whims  of  Fremont, 
but  we  knew  our  traveling  with  the  Fremont  party  was  all 
oflf,  and  we  started  back  alone." 

Blankets  and  a  few  supplies  were  obtained  at  Fort  Hall. 
Taos  was  not  reached  until  January. 

As  for  the  onward  bound  expedition,  the  van,  commanded 
by  Fremont  and  guided  by  Kit  Carson,  the  rear  being  in 
charge  of  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  marched  along  the  Oregon 
Trail  down  the  Snake,  passing  many  emigrants  and  noting 
where,  at  Fall  Creek  —  a  short  distance  above  Raft  River 
of  Idaho  —  a  fresh  wagon  trail  branched  off,  a  trail  made 
by  the  main  division  of  the  Chiles  California  party  guided 
by  the  veteran  Joe  Walker  of  Bonneville  fame. 

November  8  Fremont  called  upon  Governor  McLoughlin, 
at  Vancouver,  "  who  received  me  with  the  courtesy  and 
hospitality  for  which  he  has  been  eminently  distinguished." 

This  completed  the  survey  as  ordered.  Now  Lieutenant 
Fremont  was  officially  expected  to  seek  his  station.  "  He 
might  then  have  returned  upon  his  tracks,  or  been  brought 
home  by  sea,  or  himted  the  most  pleasant  path  for  getting 
back,"  announces  his  zealous  patron.  Senator  Benton ;  "  and 
if  he  had  been  a  routine  officer,  satisfied  with  fulfilling  an 
order,  he  would  have  done  so."  Possibly  life  would  have 
flowed  smoother  for  Fremont,  and  he  would  have  escaped 
humiliation  had  he  been  more  of  a  routine  officer.  As  to 
his  returning,  in  winter,  by  the  trail  of  the  Snake  and  the 
South  Pass  —  that  would  have  been  a  problem.  However, 
with  true  Fremont  audacity  and  largesse  of  toil  —  like- 
wise with  true  Fremont  zest  for  spectacular  endeavor  —  for 
his  return  east  he  headed  south. 

The  Great  Basin  haunted  Fremont.  "All  that  vast 
region,  more  than  seven  hundred  miles  square,  equal  to  a 
great  kingdom  in  Europe,  was  an  unknown  land,  a  sealed 
book,  which  he  longed  to  open  and  read."  ®*  After  consul- 
tation with  McLoughlin,  he  aimed  to  strike  diagonally  south- 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  227 

east  and  by  cutting  from  the  lower  Columbia  of  Oregon 
down  to  the  upper  Colorado  of  Arizona,  cleave  the  heart 
of  the  mystic  mid-region  of  the  continent. 

The  Great  Basin  had  already  been  traversed  from  east  to 
west :  by  Jedediah  Smith,  Joe  Walker,  the  Bartleson-Bidwell 
party,  and  more  than  halfway  by  Carson  himself.  It  has 
been  traversed  from  east  to  west  many  a  time  since.  But 
it  had  not,  and  has  not,  been  traversed  from  north  to  south. 
That  is  a  different  proposition.  However,  such  a  fact 
never  would  deter  Fremont. 

Although  the  courtly  Captain  Bonneville's  map  and 
report,  showing  the  contrary,  had  now  been  half  a  dozen 
years  in  circulation,  still  it  suited  the  credulous  world,  per- 
sistent in  this,  as  it  was  for  a  Northwest  Passage,  to  believe 
that  from  the  interior  of  the  Great  Basin  of  Utah  and 
Nevada  there  flowed  rivers  to  the  western  sea.  The  coast 
range  was  ignored,  the  distance  was  ignored,  the  dry  atmos- 
phere which  withered  streams  at  their  source  was  ignored, 
and  ignored  were  the  failures  to  locate  such  rivers.  Popu- 
lar superstition,  dating  back  to  Father  Escalante,  named 
the  principal  stream  the  Buenaventura.  And  the  Buenaven- 
tura, as  the  Green  itself,  or  as  a  river  with  its  head  in  the 
Salt  Lake  or  some  Lake  Salado;  the  River  Los  Mingos  or 
Timpanogos;  or  other  river,  draining  that  Great  Basin 
coimtry,  connecting  the  western  slope  of  the  Rockies  with 
the  Pacific  Ocean,  thus  continuing  a  waterway  from  the 
Rocky  Mountains  to  the  coast,  was  confidently  anticipated. 

To  locate  such  a  stream ;  to  locate  the  Tlamath  (Klamath) 
Lake ;  to  locate  another  lake  termed  "  Mary's  "  —  these 
were  the  three  chief  objects  of  the  desert  trail  by  Lieutenant 
Fremont  in  the  winter  of  1843-44;  and  only  one  of  the 
three  objects  was  attained.^ 

With  a  band  "  of  many  nations,  American,  French,  Ger- 
man, Canadian,  Indian  and  colored  —  and  most  of  them 


228  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

young,  several  being  under  twenty-one  years  of  age ; "  104 
mules  and  horses,  many  of  "  thin,  inferior  quality,"  and  the 
howitzer  as  the  only  thing  on  wheels,  at  noon  of  November 
25,  "  weather  disagreeably  cold,  with  flurries  of  snow,'*  they 
started  from  the  Protestant  mission  at  The  Dalles. 

On  March  8  asylimi  was  gained  at  Sutter's  Fort,  in  Cali- 
fornia, near  the  present  site  of  the  city  of  Sacramento.  The 
party  had  found  the  desert  stem  and  implacable,  giving 
naught  and  requiring  all,  even  to  life.  They  had  found  it 
hedged  along  its  border  by  mountains  of  snow.  And  they 
had  found  no  great  river  "  with  rich  bottoms  covered  with 
wood  and  grass,  where  the  wild  animals  would  collect  and 
shelter !  "  When  they  traveled  the  sparsely  timbered  high- 
lands they  were  frozen  and  impeded  by  snow;  when  they 
descended  to  the  bare  lowlands  they  were  starved ;  and  at 
last,  like  a  bird  beating  against  the  wires  of  a  cage,  having 
clung  along  the  east  base  of  the  Sierra  to  the  latitude  of 
San  Francisco  Bay,  they  had  the  alternative  of  perishing 
here  on  the  desert  or  of  crossing  the  snow  moimtains  — 
there  as  well,  perchance,  to  perish.  The  decision  was  made 
January  18,  and  the  next  day  the  ascent  of  the  divide  was 
begun.  The  howitzer  soon  had  to  be  abandoned.  Out  of 
the  sixty-seven  horses  and  mules  present  at  the  east  base, 
only  thirty-three  reached  the  west  base  of  the  Sierra;  and 
among  the  lost  was  the  buffalo  horse  Proveau,  But,  lead- 
ing the  other  animals  —  "a  woeful  procession  crawling 
along  one  by  one,  skeleton  men  leading  skeleton  horses  "  — 
the  explorers,  after  having  encotmtered,  as  they  had  been 
forewarned  by  Indians,  snow  deep  as  a  tree  and  precipices 
whence  the  wayfarer  would  fall  half  a  mile,  the  travelers 
appropriated  the  future  trail  of  the  Forty-niners,  topped  the 
high  Sierra  and  following  a  little  creek  which,  ice-covered, 
waxed  to  a  rushing  river,  the  American,  they  won  out,  on 
the  last  of  February,  into  the  genial,  paradise  valley  of  the 
Sacramento. 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  229 

Here  was  Captain  Johann  August  Sutter,  Swiss-Ameri- 
can, who,  in  1839,  had  wandered  down  from  the  Oregon 
Trail,  and  with  his  "  eight  Kanakas,  three  white  men,  an 
Indian  and  a  bulldog,"  having  out  of  his  awarded  inch 
taken  an  ell,  was  now,  the  self-styled  Gobernador  de  Fortel- 
eza  de  Nueva  Helvecia,  as  secure  as  any  pirate  king  or 
baron  of  rock-eyried  castle  on  the  Rhine.  Governor  John 
McLoughlin  himself  of  Vancouver,  was  a  seigneur  scarce 
more  powerful. 

"  Sutter's  Fort "  was  destined  to  be  the  Mecca  for  the 
gold  pilgrimage  of  '49,  was  destined  sooner  to  be  the  base 
for  the  Fremont  invasion  of  the  memorable  year  '46,  and 
was  already  a  harbor  for  revolutionists  and  always  a  haven 
for  the  traveler  and  particularly  the  Americano. 

The  outer  walls,  1 50  by  500  feet,  according  to  Lieutenant 
Joseph  Warren  Revere  of  the  United  States  sloop  of  war 
Cyane,  were  fifteen  feet  high  and  two  feet  thick,  flanked 
by  the  customary  bastions  at  diagonally  opposite  comers.®^ 

Recuperated  by  the  kindly  offices  of  the  sturdy,  bald- 
headed,  blue-eyed  Captain  Sutter  (whom  men  like  Carson 
and  Thomas  Fitzpatrick,  as  well  as  Fremont  himself,  could 
appreciate)  the  expedition  proceeded  southward  up  the  val- 
ley of  the  San  Joaquin,  scene  of  Kit  Carson's  first  excur- 
sion through  California,  as  a  boy,  1829,  with  Ewing  Young. 
Ewing  Young  had  been  dead  three  years ;  and  the  California 
as  he  knew  it  was  soon  to  be  dead,  also. 

About  the  northern  latitude  of  southern  California,  or 
opposite  San  Luis  Obispo  above  the  Point  Conception,  the 
expedition,  which  had  been  skirting  the  inner  flanks  of  the 
Sierra  Nevada  range  betWeen  California  and  the  desert, 
made  obliquely  to  the  east,  and  led  by  a  native  refugee 
Christian  Indian  through  the  Tah-ee-chay-pah  Pass  (the 
route  today  followed  by  the  Santa  Fe  railroad  from  the 
desert  to  Bakersfield),  emerged  upon  the  awaiting  arid 
stretch  of  the  Mohave  Desert. 


230  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

Across  this  Mohave  Desert  had  Kit  Carson  toiled  west- 
ward, on  his  trapping  trip  under  Ewing  Young;  and  back 
across  it  had  he  and  Captain  Young  fled,  evading  the  out- 
raged authority  of  the  alcalde  of  Los  Angeles.  But  this 
third  trip,  of  1844,  was  in  April,  when,  if  ever,  the  desert 
had  softened  and  bloomed. 

After  a  continued  traverse  southward,  the  Spanish  Trail 
was  encountered;  and  by  this,  leading  northeastward,  the 
Great  Basin  was  skirted  —  not,  as  Fremont  had  planned, 
cut  asunder.  The  energetic  Joseph  Walker,  again  return- 
ing to  the  States,  via  Santa  Fe,  with  a  great  caravan  of 
horses  and  mules,  the  first  of  the  spring  caravans  put  of 
Los  Angeles,  joined  the  party  at  the  good-water  camp  of 
Las  Vegas  de  Santa  Clara  (the  Santa  Clara  Meadows), 
and  accompanied  them  from  the  rim  of  the  desert,  past  Utah 
Lake,  and  over  the  Wasatch. 

Now  by  the  Uintah  of  northeastern  Utah  (where  Antoine 
Robidoux  was  maintaining  his  fort  for  the  last  year),  east- 
ward up  the  Yampah  of  northwestern  Colorado,  and  along 
the  Wyoming  line  (where  the  veteran  Fraeb  had  forted  and 
died)  they  traveled  fast,  turning  south,  descending  through 
the  three  parks  of  central  Colorado  —  North  or  New  Park, 
Middle  or  Old  Park,  South  Park  or  the  Bayou  Salade,  famil- 
iar and  reminiscent  grotmd  to  all  trappers  and  traders,  but 
yet,  as  Fremont  explains,  "  unknown  to  science  and  history." 

From  the  Bayou  Salade  crossing  to  the  upper  Aricansas, 
the  party  descended,  having  Pike's  Peak  as  a  landmark,  to 
the  Pueblo,  "  where  we  had  the  pleasure  to  find  a  number 
of  our  old  acquaintances."    And  now 

our  cavalcade  moved  rapidly  down  the  Arkansas,  along  the 
broad  road  which  follows  the  river,  and  on  the  ist  of  July  we 
arrived  at  Bent's  Fort,  about  70  miles  below  the  mouth  of  the 
Fontaine-qui-bouit.  As  we  emerged  into  view  from  the  groves 
on  the  river,  we  were  saluted  with  a  display  of  the  national 
flag  and  repeated  discharges  from  the  guns  of  the  fort,  where 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  231 

we  were  received  by  Mr.  George  Bent  with  a  cordial  welcome 
and  a  friendly  hospitality. 

As  chronicles  the  Peters  biography  of  Carson :  "  On  the 
following  Fourth  of  July  Mr.  Bent  gave  a  dinner  in  com- 
memoration of  the  occasion  to  Fremont  and  his  party. 
Although  hundreds  of  miles  separated  from  their  country- 
men, yet  they  sat  down  to  as  sumptuous  ai  repast  as  could  be 
furnished  in  many  towns  of  the  States."  The  icehouse  and 
the  carefully  doled  stirrup  cups  for  which  the  post  was 
famous,  doubtless  added  zest  to  the  banquet. 

At  the  post  the  expedition  practically  disbanded;  and 
those  who  wished  to  remain  did  so.  Carson,  and  probably 
Captain  Joe  Walker,  on  his  way  to  Santa  Fe,  rode  for  Taos, 
the  former  to  seek  his  home  and  bride,  after  a  year's  absence 
and  the  completion  of  his  longest  continuous  trail,  roughly 
5,500  miles,  the  trail  of  the  explorer  surpassing  the  trail 
of  the  trapper. 

With  his  spoils  of  the  country  —  with  his  Indians,  his 
Mexicans,  his  saddle-horse  Sacramento,  iron-gray,  "  of  the 
best  California  stock,"  gift  from  Captain  Sutter  —  Lieu- 
tenant Fremont  set  out  for  St.  Louis.  He  arrived,  *'  inspired 
with  California,"  full  of  facts  and  theories,  convinced  that 
the  Buenaventura  and  other  alleged  rivers  draining  the  Great 
Basin  into  the  Pacific  were  m)rths,  but  to  write  upon  his  map 
in  a  long  arc  covering  that  immense  vacant  area  from  the 
Salt  Lake  to  the  Sierra,  from  the  Columbia  River  to  the 
Mohave  of  southern  California: 

THE  GREAT  BASIN:  diameter  11^  of  latitude,  10°  of 
longitude;  elevation  above  the  sea  between  4  and  5,000  feet; 
surrounded  by  lofty  mountains ;  contents  almost  imknown,  but 
believed  to  be  filled  with  rivers  and  lakes  which  have  no  com- 
munication with  the  sea,  deserts  and  oases  which  have  never 
been  explored,  and  savage  tribes,  which  no  traveler  has  seen  or 
described. 

But  he  returned  to  fame  and  to  the  double  brevet  (well 


232  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

earned)  of  first  lieutenant  and  captain,  and,  if  conquered 
by  the  desert,  nevertheless  to  siM-ead  word,  by  authority,  of 

the  Great  Salt  Lake,  the  Utah  Lake,  the  Little  Salt  Lake ;  at 
all  which  places,  then  desert,  the  Mormons  now  are;  the 
Sierra  Nevada,  then  solitary  in  the  snow,  now  crowded  with 
Americans  digging  gold  from  its  flanks ;  the  beautiful  valleys 
of  the  Sacramento  and  San  Joachin,  then  alive  with  wild  horses, 
elk,  deer,  and  wild  fowls,  now  smiling  with  American  cultiva- 
tion ;  the  Great  Basin  itself,  and  its  contents ;  the  Three  Parks ; 
the  approximation  of  the  great  rivers  which,  rising  together 
in  the  central  region  of  the  Rocky  Mountains,  go  off  east  and 
west,  toward  the  rising  and  the  setting  sun:  —  all  these,  and 
other  strange  features  of  a  new  region,  more  Asiatic  than 
American.®* 

Where  in  1844  only  that  arc  of  Fremont's  printed  words, 
in  lieu  of  any  trail,  traversed  Utah  and  Nevada,  condemning 
them,  today  are  scattered  the  homes  of  enlightened  men, 
despoiling  of  fruit  and  ore  the  giants*  caches  in  earth  and 
rock.  But  even  knowing  this,  we  cannot  disparage  the 
accurate  guess  of  Fremont  as  to  the  topography  of  the  vast 
country ;  and  it  was  his  report  upon  the  territory  along  the 
east  of  the  Salt  Lake  ("good  soil  and  good  grass  adapted 
to  civilized  settlements  ")  which  attracted  the  eye  of  Brig- 
ham  Young.  Or,  at  legist,  so  rather  superciliously  states  the 
Mormon  governor  himself: 

From  Fremont's  reports,  we  determined  to  get  our  wagons 
together,  form  a  grand  caravan  and  travel  through  the  country 
to  the  Salt  Lake,  1,000  miles  from  any  civilized  settlement. 
We  started  out  with  147  people  and  73  wagons.  This  was 
in  1847.  *  *  *  Salt  Lake  plain  is  a  natural  desert.  When 
we  struck  this  plain  there  was  nothing  on  it  but  sage-bushes.'* 

In  this  the  second  of  the  government  explorations  engi- 
neered by  the  Oregon  expansionists,  but  which  really 
exjJoited  California  (for  Oregon  was  taking  care  of  itself) 
Kit  Carson  might  have  just  pride.  It  was  a  distinct  achieve- 
ment and  he  had  played  a  Carson  part.    The  first  expedi- 


ON  THE  TRJIL  WITH  FREMONT  233 

tion,  to  the  South  Pass  and  back,  had  required  of  him  httle 
extra  ability,  and  had  brought  him  no  added  repute.  He 
had  proved  a  safe  guide ;  that  was  all 

On  this  second  expedition  he  was  given  opportunity  to 
demonstrate  his  high  qualities  of  frontiersman.  Moreover, 
although  his  status  in  the  expedition  is  riot  declared,  Fitz- 
patrick  being  the  guide  and  Godey  being  the  hunter,  he 
appears  to  have  been  an  important  factor.  When  messages 
were  to  be  carried  he  usually  was  selected;  and  when  the 
commander  chose  a  bodyguard  he  was  in  the  number.  It 
was  his  description^  of  the  vales  of  the  Sacramento  which 
put  heart  into  the  company,  toiling  amidst  the  snow  and  ice 
of  the  Sierra;  and  it  was  his  keen  eye  and  his  experience, 
out  of  all  the  party,  which  enabled  him  to  renew  hope  again 
languishing. 

Far  below  us,  dimmed  by  the  distance,  was  a  large  snowless 
valley,  bounded  on  the  western  side,  at  the  distance  of  about  a 
hundred  miles,  by  a  low  range  of  mountains  which  Carson 
recognized  with  delight  as  the  mountains  bordering  the  coast. 
"  There,"  said  he,  "  is  the  little  mountain  —  it  is  fifteen  years 
ago  since  I  saw  it;  but  I  am  just  as  sure  as  if  I  had  seen  it 
yesterday."  Between  us,  then,  and  this  low  coast  range,  was 
the  valley  of  the  Sacramento ;  and  no  one  who  had  not  accom- 
panied us  through  the  incidents  of  our  life  for  the  past  few 
months,  could  realize  the  delight  with  which  at  last  we  looked 
down  upon  it. 

The  one  incident  which  stands  out  above  the  routine  of 
daily  heroism  shared  by  all  the  company  announces  Carson, 
and  must  have  fixed  him  indelibly  in  the  minds  of  the  Gov- 
ernment. And,  at  the  same  time,  it  shows  that  in  the  West 
Kit  Carson  did  not  possess  the  only  stock  of  generous  cour- 
age. Alexander  Godey,  yoimger  and  less  widely  known, 
was  a  man  who,  granted  the  opportunity,  was  doubtless  Kit 
Carson's  equal  in  dash  and  bravery.  Whether  he  possessed 
those  intrinsic  qualities  which  elevated  Carson  above  the 


234  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

majority  of  the  mountaineers  and  plainsmen,  no  matter  how 
daring,  we  cannot  judge.  Of  course,  it  takes  more  than  the 
deed  to  make  a  man ;  motives  are  to  be  considered. 

But  for  the  incident :  on  the  homeward  way  by  the  Span- 
ish Trail  two  Mexicans,  Andreas  Fuentes  and  an  eleven- 
year-old  boy,  Pablo  Fernandez,  came  as  refugees  into  the 
Fremont  camp,  reporting  that  the  remainder  of  their  party 
(the  wife  of  Fuentes,  the  father  and  mother  of  Pablo,  and 
one  Santiago  Giacome),  surprised  in  camp  by  the  Indians, 
had  probably  been  killed  or  captured.  The  two  refugees, 
on  horse-guard,  had  escaped  with  about  thirty  horses. 

The  Fremont  camp  took  the  back  trail  of  the  two  Mexi- 
cans, fotmd  that  the  horses,  left  at  a  watering  place,  had 
been  seized  by  the  savages  and  driven  away;  and  here 
Carson,  Gkxiey,  and  the  Mexican  Fuentes  set  oflf  upon  the 
fresh  trail  to  pursue  the  marauders. 

The  Mexican  presently  was  back  with  Fremont,  his  horse 
having  failed.    But 

in  the  afternoon  of  the  next  day  a  war-whoop  was  heard, 
such  as  Indians  make  when  returning  from  a  victorious  enter- 
prise; and  soon  Carson  and  Godey  appeared,  driving  before 
them  a  band  of  horses,  recognized  by  Fuentes  to  be  part  of 
those  they  had  lost.  Two  bloody  scalps,  dangling  from  the 
end  of  Godey's  gun,  announced  that  they  had  overtaken  the 
Indians  as  well  as  the  horses. 

The  entrance  was  spectacular  and  truly  mountain-man. 

The  twain,  Carson  and  Godey,  had  continued  the  pursuit^ 
and  at  nightfall  had  entered  among  mountains.  They  fol- 
lowed the  plain  trail  by  moonlight,  imtil  the  moon  was  low 
and  did  not  penetrate  into  defiles.  The  trail  was  to  be  dis- 
tinguished only  by  feeling,  while  the  two  led  their  horses  and 
groped  for  it.  They  judged  that  the  fugitives  were  but  a 
few  hours  ahead,  so  they  unsaddled  and  camped,  without 
fire  or  food,  to  rest  and  wait  until  daybreak.    Early  in  the 


RHTURN  OF  CARSON  AND  GODF.Y 

N   INCIDENT  OF  THE  SPANISH   TKAIL  IN  THE  FREMONT  SKCONl 
SPRING  OF    1844 

(From  Frcinnnl's  Mcmnirs) 


S  5  "^ 


■  ■  s  .-I 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  235 

morning  they  did  make  a  small  fire  for  warmth,  trusting 
that  in  the  seclusion  of  the  ravine  it  would  be  inconspicuous. 
Then  they  resiuned  the  trail. 

Just  at  sunrise  the  Indians  were  discovered,  about  two 
miles  in  advance,  in  camp  among  the  bare  hills,  and  break- 
fasting on  horse  steaks.  The  stolen  stock  was  grazing 
without  guard ;  and  Carson  and  Godey  decided  to  creep  down 
among  the  horses,  possibly  to  edge  the  animals  away  and 
stampede  them.  They  made  a  successful  stalk ;  but  scarcely 
had  they  arrived  safely  when  "  one  of  the  young  horses  of 
the  band  became  frightened  at  the  grotesque  figures  cut  by 
the  two  creeping  men,  and  exhibited  his  fear  by  snorting 
and  kicking  up  his  heels." 

The  Indians  sprang  for  their  arms.  Instant  action  was 
the  only  salvation  for  the  mountain  men.  With  a  loud  yell 
they  charged.  They  shot  at  the  same  man,  who  fell;  and 
Godey,  swiftly  reloading,  struck  down  another.  The 
Indians  replied  with  their  long  bows  or  war  bows  (desert 
weapons  more  formidable  than  even  those  of  the  tribes  of 
the  Rockies  and  the  plains),  and  an  arrow  passed  through 
Gode/s  shirt  collar,  grazing  his  neck.  Astonished  and 
puzzled  by  the  boldness  of  two  men  who  charged  thirty,  the 
savages,  suspicious  of  a  trap,  fled,  leaving  the  horses,  the 
two  fallen  comrades,  and  a  boy. 

In  possession  of  the  camp,  Godey  proceeded  to  scalp  the 
victims  while  Carson  stood  guard.  The  Indian  shot  by 
Godey  was  dead;  but  the  other  Indian,  with  two  balls 
through  his  body,  revived  during  the  scalping  process,  and 

sprang  to  his  feet,  the  blood  streaming  from  his  skinned 
head,  and  uttered  a  hideous  howl.  An  old  squaw,  possibly  his 
mother,  stopped  and  looked  back  from  the  mountain  side  she 
was  climbing,  threatening  and  lamenting.  The  frightful  spec- 
tacle appalled  the  stout  hearts  of  our  men;  but  they  did  what 
humanity  required,  and  quickly  terminated  the  agonies  of  the 
gory  savage. 


236  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

The  abandoned  boy,  the  bulk  of  the  stolen  horses,  a  quan- 
tity of  horse  beef  boiling  in  large  clay  pots,  and  several 
baskets  containing  fifty  or  sixty  pairs  of  moccasins  were  the 
fruits  of  the  conquest. 


CHAPTER  XXII 
ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  —  1845 

IN  THE  spring  of  1845  John  Charles  Fremont,  possessed 
of  his  double  brevet  of  first  lieutenant  and  captain  in  the 
Topographical  Engineers  of  the  United  States  Army,  has 
finished  the  dictation  of  his  adventures  and  observations, 
and  upon  March  i  the  report  has  been  given  to  Congress. 
A  third  expedition  is  being  prepared  by  a  southern  route  to 
the  Sierra  again:  scientific  exploration  of  Mexican  terri- 
tory its  reason,  its  object  the  presence  of  an  American  force 
to  take  advantage  of  circumstances.  For  Texas  is  about 
to  be  annexed,  the  Oregon  boundary  is  to  be  settled,  and 
California,  too,  is  to  be  added  to  the  territory  of  the 
Republic.  The  Oregon  and  California  migrations  continue ; 
the  Texas  migration  is  under  way ;  and  at  Nauvoo,  Illinois, 
the  Mormon  dictator,  Brigham  Young,  is  considering  the 
hegira  of  1846-1847. 

Meantime  Kit  Carson  has  gone  to  farming  in  New 
Mexico.  About  this  move  upon  his  part  is  something  typi- 
cal of  his  dual  nature.  A  mountain  man,  a  roamer,  "  who 
for  fifteen  years  saw  not  the  face  of  a  white  woman,  or  slept 
under  a  roof,"  a  terrific  Indian  fighter,  he  also  was  a  home 
man,  or  lover  of  fireside  and  family  and  of  peaceful  ways. 
We  find  him  now  in  the  summer  of  1845  settled  with  his 
younger  mountain-man  friend,  Dick  Owens,  upon  a  tract 
of  land  near  the  Cimarron  about  fifty  miles  east  of  Taos. 

Here  we  may  see  him  supervising  tilling,  planting,  build- 
ing and  gathering  about  him  his  herds  and  implements;  a 
change  which  does  him  double  credit,  for  in  all  the  great 
company  of  mountain  men  he  was  one  of  the  very  few  who 

237 


238  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

realized  that  wealth  and  prosperity  lay  in  the  land  over 
which  they  had  ridden,  not  in  the  animals  and  the  people 
who  were  transient.  It  took  many  years  more  of  the  West 
to  teach  this  to  the  world.  The  Eldorado  of  the  beaver  trap 
must  first  be  succeeded  by  the  Eldorado  of  the  miner's 
shovel  and  pick,  and  the  rodeo  of  the  long-horn  cow  trample 
into  dust  the  ground  later  to  be  abloom  with  wh^  and 
com,  apple  and  potato. 

In  August,  1845,  Kit  Carson,  settled  down  to  a  life  which 
he  was  but  rarely  to  enjoy,  vainly  planning  to  be  quiet  in 
the  midst  of  world-changing  events,  received  word  by 
express  rider  from  Bent's  Fort  that  Captain  Fremont  was 
there  and  awaiting  him. 

Oliver  Wiggins  claimed  that  Carson  was  by  this  time 
tired  of  Fremont;  and  moreover  was  cautious  of  such  lead- 
ership. But  we  do  not  need  the  Wiggins  assertion.  Kit 
Carson  had  resolved  to  change  his  mode  of  life,  to  devote 
himself  more  to  his  family,  and  to  make  the  most  of  this 
fertile  country.  No  doubt  he  did  much  regret  having  prom- 
ised his  services  again  to  Fremont.  But  he  had  so  promised 
(Wiggins  says  that  he  had  signed  a  contract),  and  "  With 
me,"  declares  Fremont,  "  Carson  and  truth  are  one." 

Having  probably  g^ven  up  his  home  in  Taos  when  he 
removed  his  family  to  the  rancho,  Carson  must  dispose  of 
his  wife  as  well  as  of  his  ranch ;  and  as  if  apprehending  that 
his  absence  was  to  be  long,  again,  and  that  troublous  times 
were  hovering  upon  the  horizon,  he  placed  her  with  the 
household  of  Charles  Bent,  whose  own  wife  was  a  Jara- 
millo,  sister  to  Mrs.  Carson.  His  ranch  he  sold  at  a  sacri- 
fice price. 

The  Fremont  third  expedition,  starting  from  St.  Louis 
but  organizing  at  Bent's  Fort,  contained  many  familiar 
faces.  Carson  was  there ;  Lucien  Maxwell  was  there ;  Basil 
Lajeunesse  was  there  —  not  to  return  again;  Godey  was 
there,  McDowell,  the  former  tenderfoot,  and  Talbot  of 


HON.  JOHN  S,  HOUGH  OF  LAKE  CITY,  COLO. 
(Pholo^rapk  by  George  L.  Beam) 


KIT  CARSON  111 


(Phologral'h  bv  Q.  T.  Davis,  Alamosa.  Colorado) 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  239 

Washington,  Jacob  Dodson,  the  negro,  and  Thomas  Fitz- 
patrick,  and  probably  Joe  Walker,  and  the  iron-gray  horse 
El  Toro  del  Sacramento  —  the  Bull  of  the  Sacramento. 

Among  the^  new  faces  were  twelve  Delawares  and  an 
Iowa  half-breed,  under  the  Delaware  chiefs,  Swanok  and 
Sagundai;  Lieutenant  J.  W.  Abert  and  Lieutenant  G.  W. 
Peck ;  Edward  Kern  of  Philadelphia,  topographer,  succeed- 
ing the  German  Preuss;  Archambeau,  the  Canadian  htmter; 
Stepp,  the  gunsmith,  who  was  to  spike  the  cannon  at  the 
Golden  Gate;  and  Richard  Owens,  "  Dick"  Owens,  within 
a  year  to  be  Captain  of  Company  A,  First  California  Bat- 
talion of  Mounted  Riflemen,  Colonel  John  C.  Fremont  com- 
manding, but  at  present  characterized  only  as  a  friend  of 
Kit  Carson. 

Lieutenants  Abert  and  Peck,  with  Thomas  Fitzpatrick  as 
guide  and  the  trader  Hatcher  (whom  Garrard,  in  his  Wah- 
tO'Yah  makes  famous)  as  hunter,  and  with  some  thirty 
other  men,  were  detached  for  reconnaissance  from  Bent's 
Fort  down  the  Canadian  River  country  through  northern 
Texas  to  the  lower  Arkansas,  thence  north  to  St.  Louis. 

On  August  26  Captain  Fremont  himself  left  Bent's  Fort 
with  200  horses  and  a  "  well-appointed,  compact  party  of 
sixty,  mostly  experienced  and  self-reliant  men,  equ^l  to  any 
emergency  likely  to  occur  and  willing  to  meet  it." 

So  from  Bent's  Fort,  which  was  having  its  last  year  of 
lordly  isolation,  they  set  out  ostensibly  to  explore  "  that 
section  of  the  Rocky  Mountains  which  gives  rise  to  the 
Arkansas  River,  the  Rio  Grande  del  Norte  of  the  Gulf  of 
Mexico,  and  the  Rio  Colorado  of  the  Gulf  of  California; 
to  comjrfete  the  examination  of  the  Great  Salt  Lake  and  its 
interesting  region ;  and  to  extend  the  survey  west  and  south- 
west to  the  examination  of  the  g^eat  ranges  of  the  Cascade 
Mountains  and  the  Sierra  Nevada." 

From  Bent's  Fort  they  ascended  along  the  Arkansas  by 
the  trappers'  trail  into  the  foothills,  and  to  the  mouth  of 


240  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  Grand  Canon  of  the  Arkansas;  here,  at  the  site 
of  present  Canon  City,  Colorado,  they  camped  for  a  night. 
Thence  diverging  northward,  to  circumvent  this  Grand 
Canon,  they  traveled  through  the  region  of  Cripple  Creek, 
and  westward,  evidently  up  Four  Mile  Creek,  through  the 
lower  end  of  the  South  Park  or  Bayou  Salade  until  they 
struck  the  Arkansas  again  near  Buena  Vista.  Now  they 
ascended  along  the  river,  paralleling  the  later  route  of  the 
Denver  &  Rio  Grande  railroad,  camped  on  the  west  shore 
of  the  upper  of  the  beautiful  Twin  Lakes;  and  passing 
over  the  continental  divide  near  Leadville  (where  they 
noted  the  lakes  of  the  high  country)  by  the  divide  between 
the  Eagle  and  the  Blue  rivers  they  reached  the  Piney 
River,  tributary  of  the  Grand.  Crossing,  still  on  a  course 
north  by  west,  to  the  White  River,  they  descended  by  Indian 
and  trapper  trail  to  the  juncture  with  the  Green  of  Utah, 
and  probably  by  that  post  road  which  still  exists,  they 
pressed  west,  beyond  the  Green,  through  the  Uintah  coun- 
try, to  Provo  near  the  shore  of  Utah  Lake.  From  here 
the  southern  part  of  the  Great  Salt  Lake  was  readily  acces- 
sible. ^ 

So  far  the  route  of  the  Third  Expedition  had  approxi- 
mated the  homeward  route  of  the  Second  Expedition,  1844. 
At  Great  Salt  Lake  little  new  was  developed;  systematic 
observations  were  taken,  and  Antelope  Island,  familiar  today  ' 
to  all  visitors  to  the  lake,  was  investigated.  But  the  trail 
which  awaited  was  a  quantity  as  yet  tmdeterminable.  Fre- 
mont proposed  to  test  it  out. 

At  this  point  we  were  to  leave  the  lake.  From  any  neighboring 
mountain  height  looking  westward,  the  view  extended  over 
ranges  which  occupied  apparently  the  whole  visible  surface  — 
nothing  but  mountains,  and  in  winter  time  a  forbidding  pros- 
pect. Afterwards,  as  we  advanced,  we  found  the  lengthening 
horizon  continued  the  same  prospect  until  it  stretched  over 
the  waters  of  the  Pacific.    Looking  across  over  the  crests  of 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  241 

these  ridges,  which  nearly  all  run  north  and  south,  was  like 
looking  lengthwise  along  the  teeth  of  a  saw.  *  *  *  The 
country  looked  dry  and  of  my  own  men  none  knew  an)rthing 
of  it;  neither  Walker  nor  Carson.  The  Indians  declared  to 
us  that  no  one  had  ever  been  known  to  cross  the  plain,  which 
was  desert.  *  *  *  Men  who  have  traveled  over  this 
country  in  later  years  are  familiar  with  the  stony,  black, 
unfertile  mountains,  that  so  often  discouraged  and  brought 
them  disappointment.®* 

Jedediah  Smith  the  omnipresent,  had,  however,  crossed, 
about  here,  in  1827,  returning  from  California;  and  soon 
the  Hastings  emigrant  trail  was  to  trace  lasting  furrows 
for  wc«ien  and  children  to  follow. 

On  October  28,  Carson,  Maxwell,  Archambeau  the  hunter, 
and  a  camp  tender,  were  sent  ahead,  supplied  with  water, 
to  cross  the  sagy,  arid  plain  which  intervened  between  the 
Salt  Lake  and  those  bare,  saw-tooth  ranges  westward;  to 
ascertain  whether  there  was  water  beyond,  and  to  signal 
back  by  smoke.  For  Fremont,  taught  one  lesson  by  that 
desert  which  yielded  not  a  whit  to  any  enthusiast,  was 
cautious. 

These  four,  with  a  pack  mule,  made  a  march  of  sixty 
miles  before,  at  the  foot  of  the  mountains,  they  found 
water  and  grass.  They  signaled  by  smoke,  and  Archambeau 
rode  back  to  meet  Fremont.  He  found  him  advanced  into 
the  desert,  but  abandoned  by  his  Indian  guide  —  whom  the 
terrors  of  the  unknown  had  so  aflfected  that  "his  knees 
really  gave  way  under  him  and  he  wabbled  like  a  drunken 
man.  *  *  *  He  was  so  happy  in  his  release  that  he 
bounded  off  like  a  hare  through  the  sagebrush,  fearful  that 
I  might  still  keep  him." 

Now,  by  a  succession  of  little  passes  connecting  short 
low  range  with  short  low  range,  the  expedition  proceeded 
westward,  until  on  November  5,  at  the  eastern  side  of  the 
Humboldt  chain  of  motmtains,  the  party  divided  —  the 


242  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

major  portion,  under  topographer  Kem  and  Joe  Walker, 
the  desert  guide,  being  directed  to  strike  the  Mary's  or 
Ogden's  River  to  the  northwest,  and  follow  it  down.  Fre- 
mont, with  ten  selected  men,  "  some  of  whom  were  Dda- 
wares,"  the  others  including  Carson,  Owens,  Maxwell, 
meanwhile  continued  across  the  southern  half  of  the  Great 
Basin. 

The  meeting  place  was  to  be  the  vicinity  of  Walker's 
Lake.  The  Fremont  trail  thereto  led  from  Franklin  Lake 
and  the  south  end  of  the  Ruby  Range,  in  eastern  Nevada, 
southward  through  Eureka  County,  well  into  Nye  County, 
thence  through  Esmeralda  County  to  Walker's  Lake.  The 
lake  was  attained  without  incident.  Another  joint  (the  first 
being  the  Mary's  River)  had  been  found  in  the  armor  of 
the  Great  Basin;  and  although  the  Fremont  route  was 
improved  upon  by  later  explorations;  although,  in  conse- 
quence of  the  California  troubles,  his  investigations  of  1845 
received  less  notice  by  the  world  and  were  less  thoroughly 
exploited  by  himself  than  those  of  his  which  preceded,  he 
really  pioneered  the  most  feasible  trail  at  that  time;  and, 
as  he  claims  in  his  report,  he  and  his  party  were  the  first 
white  men  to  traverse  this,  the  prospector's  end  of  Nevada, 
today  still  a  terra  incognita  save  to  the  stage,  the  pack 
animal,  his  companion  treasure  seeker,  and  the  wandering 
Indian. 

Previous  to  this  exploration  in  the  late  fall  of  1845,  i^ 
maps  and  in  public  assertion  the  whole  of  the  Great  Basin 
from  the  Salt  Lake  to  the  Sierras  was  represented  "  as  a 
sandy  plain,  barren,  without  water,  and  without  grass." 
But  of  the  southern  half, 

instead  of  a  plain,  I  found  it,  throughout  its  whole  extent, 
traversed  by  parallel  ranges  of  mountains,  their  summits  white 
with  snow  (October) ;  while  below,  the  valleys  had  none. 
Instead  of  a  barren  country,  the  mountains  were  covered  with 
grasses  of  the  best  quality,  wooded  with  several  varieties  of 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  243 

trees,  and  containing  more  deer  and  mountain  sheep  than  we 
had  seen  in  any  previous  part  of  our  voyage.®^ 

From  Walker's  Lake,  again  in  two  divisions  the  party 
assault  the  Sierra  ramparts  of  alluring  California:  the 
Fremont  squad  by  the  north,  past  Reno,  and  up  the  Truckee 
(Salmon  Trout)  River  and  over  —  the  trail  of  the  Forty- 
niners,  and  of  the  later  Pony  Express;  the  Kern- Walker 
company  by  a  route  farther  southward  and  already  known 
to  Walker. 

For  winter  had  arrived  (as  Fremont  knew  that  winter 
would  arrive) ;  it  had  caught  them  upon  the  desert  (as 
Fremont  knew  that  it  would  catch  them),  and  for  provi- 
sions they  must  digress  into  California  again  (as  Fremont 
knew  that  they  would  digress).  Thus  the  case  stands. 
With  the  alleged  legitimate  excuse  of  the  year  before,  he 
entered  the  fair  estate,  and  on  December  9  he  was  safely 
at  Sutter's  Fort.  The  fascination  of  that  second  visit  which 
always  tantalizes  the  trespasser  had  proved  too  much.*® 

At  Sutter's  Fort  he  was  "  received  with  the  same  friendly 
hospitality  which  had  been  so  delightful  to  us  the  year 
before  " ;  and,  as  he  naively  adds : 

I  found  that  our  previous  visit  had  created  some  excitement 
among  the  Mexican  authorities.  But  to  their  inquiries  he 
[Sutter]  had  explained  that  I  had  been  engaged  in  a  geograph- 
ical survey  of  the  interior  and  had  been  driven  to  force  my 
way  through  the  snow  of  the  mountains  simply  to  obtain  a 
refuge  and  food  where  I  knew  it  could  be  had  at  his  place, 
which  was  by  common  report  known  to  me. 

So  here,  within  less  than  a  year,  were  again  the  same 
Americanos;  and  in  view  of  the  fact  that  Captain  Sutter 
was  imder  suspicion,  that  the  American  explorers  were 
under  suspicion,  and  that  the  times  were  under  suspicion, 
who  may  marvel  that  the  conjunction  of  the  three  was  a 
portent  of  much  evil  omen  in  the  Mexican  horoscope? 


244  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Various  decrees  had  been  issued  forbidding  the  entrance 
of  strangers  without  passports  —  and  particularly  the 
entrance  of  foreign  troops  or  of  gringo  families.  Yet  what 
did  they  amount  to,  if  here  was  to  be  admitted  not  only  a 
fresh  party,  but  a  party  armed  and  under  a  United  States 
army  captain? 

However,  these  discussions  may  be  postponed,  as  post- 
poned they  were,  while  the  zealous  Fremont,  needing,  after 
all,  no  recuperation  at  Sutter's  Fort  (for  he  had  gathered 
supplies  of  food,  fodder,  and  strength  on  the  way  down) 
turned  to  the  southward,  up  the  San  Joaquin,  for  the  ren- 
dezvous near  Lake  Tulare  with  the  Kern-Walker  company. 
But  through  an  error  in  mutual  understanding  the  reunion 
did  not  occur  until  the  middle  of  February,  about  twelve 
miles  south  of  San  Jose,  at  the  Pacific  rather  than  at  the 
Sierra  side  of  the  uneasy  territory. 

Carson  and  Dick  Owens  were  the  twain  who,  scouting 
on  information  from  the  natives,  effected  the  juncture  of 
the  two  parties.  This  was  Carson's  third  exploration  of 
California.  Like  Fremont  he  was  enamored  of  the  place, 
and  reports  secondhand  would  indicate  that  he,  like  Fre- 
mont, and  in  fact  like  the  majority  of  toiu'ists,  had  designs 
of  living  here.  But  he  never  did  live  here.  After  the 
Mexican  war  he  made  but  one  visit  to  the  country,  of  brief 
duration. 

The  third  expedition  had  so  far  brought  few  thrills,  and 
Carson  had  little  opportunity  to  demonstrate  his  prowess. 
In  the  trip  up  the  San  Joaquin  Valley  there  had  l)een  skir- 
mishes with  the  "  Horse-Thief  Indians  "  —  the  renegades 
from  the  secularization  of  the  missions;  skirmishes  fatal 
to  the  aborigines,  but  practically  harmless  to  the  invaders. 

"  Wait,  you  rascals !  "  these  natives  threatened,  after  their 
first  discomfiture.  "  Wait,  till  morning !  There  are  two 
big  villages  up  in  the  mountains  close  by;  we  have  sent 
for  the  chief ;   he  '11  be  down  before  morning  with  all  the 


ON  THE  TRAIL  WITH  FREMONT  245 

people,  and  you  will  all  die.  None  of  you  shall  go  back; 
we  will  have  all  your  horses/' 

But  they  had  found  in  the  new  race,  with  buckskins  and 
long  rifles,  a  foe  of  a  new  fiber,  a  foe  skilled  in  brush 
fighting,  apt  with  the  bullet,  and  undeterred  by  threats  or 
apparent  odds. 

Now  Fremont  is  snug  in  California  again.  Outside  is 
that  Great  Basin,  branded  with  the  Fremont  irons  —  Hum- 
boldt River,  Humboldt  Mountains,  Pilot  Knob,  Basil  Creek, 
Sagundai  Spring,  Walker  River,  Walker's  Lake,  Owens 
Lake.  Some  of  the  brands  have  stuck,  others  have  been 
changed  and  may  scarcely  be  recognized,  as  if  the  desert 
sands  and  sage  had  grown  over  them.®'' 


CHAPTER    XXIII 

THE  YEAR  '46 

THE  grasp  of  Mexico  upon  California  is  the  grasp  of 
a  palsied  old  man  upon  a  wajrward  child ;  and  as  such 
a  weakling  is  Mexico  to  be  treated. 

Captain  Fremont  has  been  to  Monterey,  where  he  has 
called  upon  Consul  and  Confidential  Agent  Thomas  O. 
Larkin,  ex-Governor  Colonel  Juan  Alvarado,  Captain  Man- 
uel Castro,  the  prefect,  Don  Jose  Castro,  the  general  com- 
manding, and  the  alcalde;  has  explained  what  were  the 
ostensible  purposes  of  the  expedition,  being  "  in  the  inter- 
ests of  science  and  of  commerce,"  and  that  the  party  are 
citizens,  not  soldiers ;  that  he  wished  to  obtain  supplies  and 
to  proceed  to  Oregon.  It  is  claimed  that  this  permission  to 
recruit  was  fully  given,  with  the  gracious  Bueno,  Senor, 
of  the  Mexican  high  and  low.  But  instead  of  pursuing  a 
course  northeastward,  aroimd  San  Francisco  Bay  and  on 
to  Oregon,  the  Fremont  party,  sixty  strong,  to  the  dis- 
comfiture of  the  Department  of  Monterey,  resumed  their 
course  southward,  as  for  the  coast  and  Monterey  itself.^® 

At  the  Salinas  River,  March  5,  "in  the  afternoon  the 
quiet  of  the  camp  was  disturbed  by  the  sudden  appearance 
of  a  cavalry  officer  with  two  men."  He  was  Lieutenant 
Chaves,  with  a  very  natural  if  imexpected  order  from  head- 
quarters that  the  Americans  leave  the  boundaries  of  the 
department  by  the  quickest  route. 

Despite  the  fact  that  the  message  was  irritating  in  its 
brusqueness  (military  though  that  was)  and  in  its  threat 
to  use  force,  and  was  irritatingly  delivered  by  the  caballero 
who  despised  the  gringo,  Fremont's  reception  of  it  was 

246 


THE  YEAR  '46  247 

wrong.  Hot-headed,  and  supported  by  followers  likewise 
intolerant  of  anything  Spanish,  he  reproved  the  officer  and 
sent  by  him  word  that  departure  from  the  district  would 
be  made  as  suited  convenience.  "  I  desired  him  to  say  in 
reply  to  General  Castro  that  I  peremptorily  refused  ccMn- 
pliance  with  an  order  insulting  to  my  government  and 
myself."  «^ 

As  much  of  a  freebooter  as  any  Francis  Drake,  Captain 
Fremont,  early  in  the  morning  of  April  6,  moved  a  few  miles 
to  the  crest  of  the  hill-divide  about  thirty  miles  east  of 
Monterey,  between  the  Salinas  and  the  San  Benito  rivers, 
and  on  Gavilan,  or  Hawk  Peak,  which  overlooked  the  mis- 
sion of  San  Juan  and  the  valley  of  the  Salinas,  he  built 
"  a  rough  but  strong  fort  of  solid  logs,"  and  upon  a  tall 
sapling  "  the  American  flag  was  raised  amidst  the  cheers  of 
the  men." 

Here  he  had  turned  at  bay,  def3ring  the  government  of 
California  —  that  feeble  arm  of  old  Mexico  —  to  budge 
him  from  the  field  of  trespass.  He  had  no  shadow  of 
right  on  his  side,  save  the  right  of  self-defense;  whereas 
General  Castro  was  acting  entirely  within  his  rights,  hav- 
ing received  a  fresh  order  from  Mexico  that  the  Fremont 
company  were  not  upon  any  accoimt  to  be  admitted  into  the 
district. 

Thus  the  American  flag  by  land  first  broke  out  belliger- 
ently in  Alta  California;  and  it  practically  was  not  furled. 

Meanwhile,  on  March  11,  in  the  East,  General  Zachary 
Taylor  had  crossed  the  Rubicon  also  by  marching  from  the 
Nueces  for  the  Rio  Grande,  carrying  the  flag  into  the  119 
miles  of  unsurrendered  Mexican  territory.  The  word  had 
gone  forth:  and  from  this  second  week  of  March,  1846, 
dates  5,000  miles  of  new  American  seacoast  and  1,000  miles 
square  of  neW  American  interior.  At  the  same  time  Presi- 
dent James  K.  Polk's  absolute  declaration,  in  his  first 
message  to  Congress,  December,  1845,  that  he  stood  out 


248  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

for  "  Fifty-four  Forty  or  Fight/'  had  reached  the  British 
ministry. 

Now  from  the  hilitop  the  Fremont  half-hundred,  of  one 
mind  against  the  Spaniard,  watched  the  forces  of  Don 
Castro  mobilizing  at  the  San  Juan  Bautista  mission  below. 
The  raising  of  the  flag  was  spectacular  enough  to  satisfy 
even  a  Fremont,  and  it  was  a  new  sensation  to  the  majority 
of  the  men.  Fremont  himself,  suddenly  in  command  in  a 
moment  of  war,  rather  courted  the  experience;  and  when 
a  body  of  cavalry  approached  he  went  down  a  short  dis- 
tance to  meet  and  ambush  them.  Whether  he  had  military 
ability  (appointed  from  civilian  life  to  a  corps  which 
required  no  training  in  tactics)  we  shall  never  know,  for  the 
ascending  party  turned  back  and  the  hill  was  not  stormed. 

In  truth,  a  force  of  306  soldiers,  regular  or  irregular, 
might  long  hesitate  ere  assaulting  a  fortified  hill  patrolled 
and  garrisoned  by  American  sharpshooters,  with  their 
keen  eyes,  steady  hands,  and  long  rifles.  The  battle  of  New 
Orleans  had  proved  the  breed. 

Having  three  days  awaited  the  enemy,  and  the  flag  having 
fallen  with  weariness,  Captain  Fremont  concluded  to  obey, 
as  he  ingenuously  puts  it,  the  obligations  of  a  scientific  party 
in  foreign  territory,  and  go  upon  his  way. 

The  Americans  proceeded  inland  across  to  the  valley  of 
the  San  Joaquin;  General  Castro  captured  the  fortress  on 
Gavilan  and  munitions  of  war  to  the  extent  of  the  flagpole, 
some  extemporaneous  tent  poles,  a  few  old  garments,  two 
discarded  pack  saddles,  and  some  stray  native  horses. 
Whereupon  might  it  be  reported  by  proclamation  that  the 
band  of  highwaymen  under  this  Captain  Fremont  had  been 
driven  out  and  sent  into  the  back  country;  as  a  matter  of 
fact,  forced  into  hiding  among  the  bullrushes  of  the  Sacra- 
mento ! 

Leaving  behind  them  a  trail  of  unwholesome  excitement, 
fed  by  rumors  of  all  kinds,  in  the  fascinating  aftermath 


THE  YEAR  '46  249 

of  the  California  rainy  season,  the  Americans  proceeded, 
unmolested  and  unpursued,  down  the  lush,  green  valley  of 
the  San  Joaquin,  and  up  the  equally  pleasing  valley,  poppy- 
strewn,  of  the  Sacramento;  again  past  Sutter's  Fort,  past 
the  site  of  Marysville  where  the  Yuba  empties  into  the 
Feather  River,  and  ever  toward  the  Sierra  —  a  northward 
course  which  they  should  have  taken  at  the  outset.  The 
ranch  of  Joseph  Neal,  mountain  man  and  blacksmith  with 
the  second  expedition,  but  now  a  farmer,  was  visited  on  a 
side  stream  of  the  Sacramento  above  Sutter's;  and  May 
6  the  company  were  at  Klamath  Lake,  southern  Oregon  — 
the  lake  of  the  winter  of  December,  1843,  when  the  trail 
from  The  Dalles  of  Oregon  southward  for  the  fabled  Buena- 
Ventura  and  Mary's  Lake  skirted  it. 

Here  Captain  Fremont  was  in  his  chosen  element  —  and 
the  word  is  used  literally,  for  his  element  was  the  wilds 
wherein  he  loved  to  believe  that  he  was  the  first  white  man. 
From  the  Klamath  Lake  west  across  the  Cascade  Range  to 
the  coast  were  moimtains,  streams,  and  lakes  (he  pictured) 
forming  a  land  which  "  had  never  been  explored  or  mapped, 
or  in  any  way  brought  to  common  knowledge,  or  rarely 
visited  except  by  strong  parties  of  trappers,  and  by  those 
at  remote  intervals,  doubtless  never  by  trappers  singly.  It 
was  a  true  wilderness.  *  *  *  All  this  gave  the  coimtry 
a  charm  for  me.  It  would  have  been  dull  work  if  it  had 
been  to  plod  over  a  safe  country  and  here  and  there  to 
correct  some  old  error."  ^^^  Nothing  better  reveals  the 
Fremont  character  than  this  concluding  sentence.  The 
conventional  did  not  appeal  to  him. 

To  penetrate  these  tempting  recesses,  to  climb  these  beck- 
oning summits,  to  open  mysteries,  to  emerge  perhaps  upon 
a  new  and  valuable  harbor,  to  find  perhaps  a  good  untrav- 
eled  trail,  to  discover  perhaps  game  in  new  abundance  and 
new  variety,  to  be  able  to  announce  new  vegetation,  new 
scenery  —  with  such  hopes  Fremont  thrilled,  as  did  Carson, 


250  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Maxwell,  and  all  the  adventurers,  facing,  like  the  Cabots, 
the  Hudsons,  the  Drakes,  upon  an  enchanted  sea. 

Man  proposes;  but  a  Higher  Will  disposes.  California 
apparently  had  been  left  far  behind ;  and  from  fighters  the 
company  had  become  once  more  peaceable  explorers.  The 
change  back  again  was  even  more*  dramatic.  I  cannot 
improve  upon  the  lines  of  Fremont  himself : 

How  fate  pursues  a  man !  Thinking  and  ruminating  over 
these  things  [i.  e.,  the  scenes  and  discoveries  anticipated],  I  was 
standing  alone  by  my  camp  fire,  enjoying  its  warmth,  for  the 
night  air  of  early  spring  is  chill  under  the  shadows  of  the  high 
motmtains.  Suddenly  my  ear  caught  the  faint  sound  of  horses' 
feet,  and  while  I  was  watching  and  listening  as  the  sounds, 
so  strange  hereabouts,  came  nearer,  there  emerged  from  the 
darkness  —  into  the  circle  of  the  firelight  —  two  horsemen 
riding  slowly  as  though  horse  and  man  were  fatigued  by  long 
traveling.  In  the  foremost  I  recognized  the  familiar  face  of 
Neal,  with  a  companion  whom  I  also  knew.  They  had  ridden 
nearly  a  hundred  miles  in  the  last  two  days,  having  been  sent 
forward  by  a  United  States  officer  who  was  on  my  trail  with 
dispatches  for  me;  but  Neal  had  doubted  if  he  would  get 
through.ioi 

The  meeting  of  Livingston  and  Stanley  in  the  wilds  of 
Africa  was  not  more  startling  than  this  meeting,  on  May  8, 
1846,  of  the  Fremont  party  in  camp  by  the  lonely  lake  and 
the  two  messengers  from  Lieutenant  Gillespie. 

Neal  and  his  comrade  Sigler  reported  that  the  officer, 
left  behind,  had  dispatches  from  Washington  for  Fremont, 
and  that  he  was  threatened  by  Indians;  that  he  had  with 
him  only  three  men,  and  that  rescue  might  not  arrive  in 
time. 

The  trail  by  night  would  be  impassable ;  but  early  in  the 
morning  the  Fremont  relief  squad  set  out  —  Fremont,  Car- 
son, Owens,  Stepp,  Godey,  Basil  Lajeunesse,  Denny  the 
Iowa  half-breed,  and  four  Delawares.    After  a  hard  ride 


THE  YEAR  '46  251 

of  forty-five  miles,  on  the  back  trail,  at  a  previous  camp 
by  a  small  stream  in  a  glade  the  messenger.  Lieutenant 
Archibald  Gillespie  of  the  Marine  Corps  of  the  Navy,  and 
his  three  men,  were  sighted. 

The  dispatches,  which  were  in  the  shape  of  letters,  had 
left  Washington,  in  the  hands  of  Lieutenant  Gillespie,  the 
previous  October,  had  traveled  with  him  through  "  the 
heart  of  Mexico,  from  Vera  Cruz  to  Mazatlan,"  thence 
up  the  coast  of  California  to  Monterey  and  inland  to  the 
Klamath  Lake  of  present  Oregon.  Now,  May  9,  they 
were  delivered. 

The  nature  of  these  missives  has  long  been  a  topic  for 
debate.  The  Government  i^  silent  upon  them  —  as  the 
Government  always  would  be  silent  upon  matters  of  state- 
craft. We  have  the  word  of  Fremont,  of  Mrs.  Fremont, 
and  of  Senator  Benton,  as  to  their  contents,  and  that  should 
be  sufficient.  The  dispatches  consisted  of  a  letter  of  cre- 
dentials from  the  Department  of  State,  a  letter  from  Sena- 
tor Benton,  letters  and  newspapers  from  "home"  ;  and 
the  verbal  interpretation  of  Lieutenant  Gillespie.  That 
verbal  interpretation  is  the  fraction  hardest  to  estimate. 

Many  fractions  must  be  added,  to  make  the  sum:  the 
fraction  of  Fremont's  conversations,  before  leaving  Wash- 
ington, with  Secretary  Bancroft,  Senator  Benton,  and 
others ;  the  fraction  of  the  dispatches  having  pursued  him 
with  such  persistency;  the  fraction  of  the  tenor  of  the 
various  missives  —  a  fraction  very  elusive,  this;  the  frac- 
tion (another  delicate,  almost  undeterminable  item)  of 
Lieutenant  Gillespie's  words  and  accented  syllables  and 
emphasized  sentences;  the  fraction  of  conjectures  as  to 
what  had  occurred  in  the  last  six  months ;  and  summed  to 
what  result  ?  Simply  that  Fremont  was  burdened  with  the 
responsibility  of  his  own  discretion. 

The  various  letters  contained,  individually,  nothing  deci- 
sive.    By  veiled  allusions  they  must  dovetail  according  to 


252  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  intuition  of  the  reader.  War  with  Mexico  was  at  hand ; 
the  wheel  of  the  ship  California  was  not  to  be  seized,  but 
she  was  adroitly  to  be  piloted  past  English  and  French 
signals  into  American  waters. 

Was  Fremont  the  man  to  be  entrusted  with  such  dis- 
cretion ?  The  debate  over  this  also  has  been  long,  and  never 
will  end.  He  was  young,  fond  of  power,  impulsive,  imagi- 
native, not  bred  to  the  repressive  school  of  the  service  to 
which  he  had  been  appointed ;  he  was  practically  alone  in 
authority  upon  land,  the  dream  of  empire  loomed  large; 
he  passionately  loved  his  country  and  his  share  in  making 
it;  he  knew  California  better  than  did  those  at  home  — 
and  such  a  preponderance  of  knowledge  is  always  danger- 
ous to  a  subordinate. 

It  is  not  probable  that  he  took  into  council  Carson  or 
anyone  save  Lieutenant  Gillespie  —  and  perhaps  not  fully 
Gillespie,  who  (according  to  the  Memoirs)  "  was  directed 
to  act  in  concert  with  me." 

I  saw  the  way  opening  clear  before  me.  War  with  Mexico 
was  inevitable;  and  a  grand  opportunity  now  presented  itself 
to  realize  in  their  fullest  extent  the  far-sighted  views  of  Senator 
Benton,  and  make  the  Pacific  Ocean  the  western  boundary  of 
the  United  States.  I  resolved  to  move  forward  on  the  oppor- 
tunity and  return  forthwith  to  the  Sacramento  valley  in  order 
to  bring  to  bear  all  the  influence  I  could  command. 

Except  myself,  then  and  for  nine  months  afterward,  there 
was  no  officer  of  the  army  in  California.  The  citizen  party 
under  my  command  was  made  up  of  picked  men,  and  although 
small  in  number,  constituted  a  formidable  nucleus  for  frontier 
warfare,  and  many  of  its  members  commanded  the  confidence 
of  the  emigration. 

This  decision  was  the  first  step  in  the  conquest  of  Cali- 
fomia.102 

His  course  he  had  about  thought  out  when  he  was  inter- 
rupted by  a  movement  of  alarm  among  the  animals  on  the 


THE  YEAR  '46  253 

shore  of  the  lake,  about  one  hundred  yards  away.  With- 
out notifying  his  men,  who  were  exhausted  and  asleep, 
Fremont,  pistol  in  hand,  went  down,  through  moonlight 
and  forest  shades,  to  investigate  —  and  this  was  a  plucky 
and  a  reckless  act.  He  returned,  having  found  nothing 
alarming,  to  his  fire  —  one  of  the  three  around  which  the 
party  were  lying  under  their  Mankets.  The  camp  was 
hedged  on  three  sides  by  low  cedars;  and  scarcely  had  the 
captain  turned  in  last  of  all,  to  invite  sleep,  when  the  adven- 
ture occurred  which,  for  the  next  day  or  two,  effectually 
interrupted  those  thoughts  upon  future  conquest. 

Carson  may  tell  the  story,  for  it  was  Carson's  quick  ear 
which  comprehended  first.  Had  he  been  the  one  to  hear  the 
uneasiness  of  the  mules,  the  succeeding  attack  might  have 
failed. 

Mr.  Gillespie  had  brought  the  Colonel  letters  from  home  — 
the  first  he  had  had  since  leaving  the  States  the  year  before 
—  and  he  was  up,  and  kept  a  large  fire  burning  until  after 
midnight ;  the  rest  of  us  were  tired  out,  and  all  went  to  sleep. 
This  was  the  only  night  in  all  our  travels,  except  the  one  night 
on  the  island  in  the  Salt  Lake,  that  we  failed  to  keep  guard; 
and  as  the  men  were  so  tired,  and  we  expected  no  attack  now 
that  we  had  fourteen  in  the  party,  the  Colonel  did  not' like  to 
ask  it  of  them,  but  sat  up  late  himself.  Owens  and  I  were 
sleeping  together,  and  we  were  waked  at  the  same  time  by  the 
licks  of  the  axe  that  killed  our  men.  At  first,  I  did  not  know 
it  was  that ;  but  I  called  to  Basil,  who  was  that  side :  "  What's 
the  matter  there?  What's  the  fuss  about?"  He  never 
answered,  for  he  was  dead  then,  poor  fellow  —  and  he  never 
knew  what  killed  him.  His  head  had  been  cut  in,  in  his  sleep; 
the  other  groaned  a  little  as  he  died.  The  Dela wares  (we  had 
four  with  us)  were  sleeping  at  that  fire,  and  they  sprang  up 
as  the  Tlamaths  charged  them.  One  of  them  (named  Crane) 
caught  up  a  gun,  which  was  unloaded ;  but,  although  he  could 
do  no  execution,  he  kept  them  at  bay,  fighting  like  a  soldier, 
and  did  not  give  up  until  he  was  shot  full  of  arrows,  three 
entering  his  heart ;  he  died  bravely.  As  soon  as  I  had  called 
out,  I  saw  it  was  Indians  in  the  camp,  and  I  and  Owens 


254  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

together  cried  out  "  Indians."  There  were  no  orders  given ; 
things  went  on  too  fast,  and  the  Colonel  had  men  with  him 
that  did  not  need  to  be  told  their  duty.  The  Colonel  and  I, 
Maxwell,  Owens,  Godey  and  Stepp  jumped  together,  we  six, 
and  ran  to  the  assistance  of  our  Dela wares.  I  do  n't  know  who 
fired  and  who  didn't;  but  I  think  it  was  Stepp's  shot  that 
killed  the  Tlamath  chief;  for  it  was  at  the  crack  of  Stepp's 
gun  that  he  fell.  He  had  an  English  half-axe  slimg  to  his 
wrist  by  a  cord,  and  there  were  forty  arrows  left  in  the  quiver, 
the  most  beautiful  and  warlike  arrows  I  ever  saw.  He  must 
have  been  the  bravest  man  among  them,  from  the  way  he  was 
armed,  and  judging  by  his  cap.  When  the  Tlamaths  saw  him 
fall,  they  ran;  but  we  lay,  every  man  with  his  rifle  cocked, 
until  daylight,  expecting  another  attack.*®^ 

Basil  Lajeunesse  had  been  brained  by  the  chief's  axe; 
the  half-breed  Denny  had  been  killed  with  arrows,  as  he 
lay;  Crane  the  Delaware,  who  had  snatched  up  an  unloaded 
rifle  (some  of  the  men,  having  cleaned  their  guns  by  dis- 
charging them,  had  carelessly  omitted  to  reload  them), 
with  the  butt  endeavored  to  defend  himself  as  he  jumped 
from  side  to  side,  vainly  dodging  the  arrows.  He  fell.  Car- 
son's own  rifle  was  useless,  by  reason  of  a  broken  cap  tube 
(another  piece  of  criminal  negligence) ;  he  threw  it  aside, 
and  with  his  pistol  shot  at  the  bold  chief,  who  was  rapidly 
pouring  his  arrows  into  the  helpless  Delaware.  The  ball 
only  cut  the  half-axe  from  the  red  wrist.  Maxwell  fired, 
as  the  chief  now  dodged,  and  wounded  him  in  the  leg.  The 
chief  was  about  to  plunge  into  cover  (whence  his  men 
were  delivering  a  storm  of  shafts),  but  the  bullet  of  Stepp, 
the  gunsmith,  caught  him,  and  brought  him  to  earth. 

With  their  dead  covered  by  blankets,  with  fires  extin- 
guished and  with  blankets  hung  up  to  give  shelter,  the  whites 
lay  close  and  bided  the  next  movement  of  the  enemy. 

At  daylight  the  whites  might  venture  out.  Carson  seized 
the  half-axe  of  the  dead  chief  and  in  Indian  revenge 
knocked  his  head  to  pieces  with  it.     Sagundai,  Delaware 


MOXIEREV  JX  1846 
(From   Re-.'crcs  A    Tour  ,>f  Duly  hi   California) 


SANTA  I-E  1>J   184G 
(From  the  Emory  Rcfiorls) 


THE  YEAR  '46  255 

chief,  wounded  slightly,  scalped  him.  The  arrows  which 
Carson  admired  so  much  "  were  all  headed  with  a  lancet- 
like piece  of  iron  or  steel  —  probably  obtained  from  the 
Hudson  Bay  Company's  traders  on  the  Umpqua  —  and 
were  poisoned  for  about  six  inches.  They  could  be  driven 
that  depth  into  a  pine  tree." 

The  attack  had  been  a  true  Indian  surprise.  Only  a  few 
days  before,  the  expedition  had  divided  with  these  very 
Klamaths  a  scanty  supply  of  meat;  and  the  dead  chief 
was  recognized,  before  disfigurement,  as  the  man  who  had 
yesterday  presented  Lieutenant  Gillespie  with  a  salmon,  and 
had  shown  him  a  ford.  Fremont's  reinforcement  of  the 
Gillespie  party  undoubtedly  saved  them  from  annihilation. 

By  the  tracks  examined  in  the  dawn,  it  was  estimated  that  . 
the  attacking  savages  numbered  some  fifteen  or  twenty.    As 
matter  of  habit,  the  Americans  decided  that  the  animosity 
should  be  laid  to  the  influence  of  the  British  traders  —  the 
Hudson  Bay  Company  in  particular. 

The  three  dead  —  Basil  Lajeunesse  the  Canadian,  Crane 
the  Delaware,  Denny  the  breed  —  were  carried  upon  the 
pack  mules  for  ten  miles;  and  then,  the  enemy  hovering 
near  and  the  trail  becoming  bad  by  reason  of  the  heavy 
timber,  they  were  buried  in  a  copse  beside  the  Klamath 
Lake. 

The  attack  had  occurred  on  the  night  of  May  9.  This  • 
day  General  Taylor  had  fought  and  won  the  battle  of  Resaca 
de  la  Palma;  two  days  before,  or  on  May  7,  he  had  fought 
and  won  that  initial  struggle  of  the  war,  the  battle  of  Palo 
Alto.  But  isolated  here  by  Klamath  Lake  of  the  Pacific 
coast,  Fremont  knew  naught ;  and  anyway,  he  and  his  men 
had  plenty  to  do,  fighting  their  own  battles. 

The  trail  of  Fremont  and  Gillespie  and  company  back 
to  the  valley  of  the  Sacramento  was  a  succession  of  skir- 
mishes, and  more  than  skirmishes.  The  Indians  seemed  sud- 
denly inflamed.     The  march  of  the  reunited  parties  led 


256  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

around  the  lake.  The  Klamath  village  was  assaulted,  four- 
teen of  the  enemy  killed  at  one  stand,  and  the  others  put 
to  flight  so  precipitously  that  they  had  no  time  to  gather 
up  their  arrows,  laid  in  a  fan-shape,  ready  to  be  picked 
one  by  one  from  the  ground,  about  each  warrior.  The 
village  was  burned. 

In  the  heart  of  the  wood  we  came  suddenly  upon  an  Indian 
scout.  He  was  drawing  his  arrow  to  the  head  as  we  came  upon 
him,  and  Carson  attempted  to  fire,  but  his  rifle  snapped;  and 
as  he  swerved  away  the  Indian  was  about  to  let  his  arrow 
go  into  him ;  I  fired,  and  in  my  haste  to  save  Carson,  failed  to 
kill  the  Indian,  but  Sacramento,  as  I  have  said,  was  not  afraid 
of  anything,  and  I  jumped  him  directly  upon  the  Indian  and 
threw  him  to  the  ground.  His  arrow  went  wild.  Sagundai 
was  right  behind  me,  and  as  I  passed  over  the  Indian  he  threw 
himself  from  his  horse  and  killed  him  with  a  blow  on  the 
head  from  his  war-club.  It  was  the  work  of  a  moment,  but  it 
was  a  narrow  chance  for  Carson.  The  poisoned  arrow  would 
have  gone  through  his  body.*^* 

"  I  owe  my  life  to  them  two.  The  Colonel  and  Sacra- 
mento saved  me,"  quoth  Carson,  afterwards.  While: 
"  By  heaven,  this  is  rough  work  1 "  that  night  declared 
Gillespie,  teeming  with  the  incidents  so  foreign  to  his  pre- 
vious experiences,  upon  a  man-of-war.  "  I  '11  take  care  to 
let  them  know  in  Washington  about  it." 

"  Heaven  does  n't  come  in  for  much,  about  here,  just 
now,"  answered  Fremont,  matter-of-fact;  "and  as  for 
Washington,  it  will  be  long  enough  before  we  see  it  again ; 
time  enough  to  forget  about  this."  His  second  assertion 
was  not  without  considerable  common  sense. 

The  trail  was  resumed,  for  the  Sacramento.  The  com- 
pany kept  their  advance  covered  and  their  flanks  protected, 
and  at  night  "  forted  "  by  falling  trees.  After  a  day  of 
quiet.  Maxwell  and  Archambeau  rode  ahead,  to  hunt,  and 
their  companions,  following,  passed  a  fresh  bloody  scalp 


THE  YEAR  '46  257 

stuck  upon  an  arrow,  in  a  trail.  As  it  was  an  Indian  scalp, 
more  curiosity  than  alarm  was  felt.  Curiosity  was  satisfied 
by  the  story  when  told.  The  two  hunters  had  been  met  by 
a  single  Indian,  coming  up  the  path.  Upon  seeing  them,  he 
had  halted,  calmly  disposed,  in  the  grass,  of  some  young 
crows  which  he  was  carrying  in  his  quiver;  and,  like  a 
Horatius  holding  the  bridge,  had  promptly  let  fly  an  arrow 
at  Maxwell.  Maxwell  flung  himself  from  his  saddle  just 
in  time;  the  shaft  sped  across  it.  After  a  lively  duel,  of 
two  men  with  rifles  and  pistols  against  one  man  with  bow 
and  arrow,  the  audacious  native  was  killed.  His  scalp  was 
planted  in  the  trail,  as  notice  to  friend  and  foe. 

Another  adventure  remained.  By  wisely  circuiting  a. 
canon,  instead  of  traversing  it,  the  company  escaped  an 
ambush,  but  not  another  attack.  The  Indians  boldly  rushed 
out,  determined  to  fight.  They  recoiled,  and  Carson, 
Godey,  and  a  third  of  the  whites  charged  on.  One  warrior, 
in  a  rock  shelter  whence  he  was  plying  his  arrows,  kept  the 
whites  dodging.    Fremont  continues  to  relate : 

He  had  spread  his  arrows  on  the  ground  and  held  some  in  his 
mouth,  and  drove  back  the  men  out  of  range  for  some 
moments,  until  Carson  crept  around  to  where  he  could  get 
a  good  view  of  him  and  shot  him  through  the  heart.  Carson 
gave  the  bow  and  arrows  to  Mr.  Gillespie. 

The  Indians  ceased  their  harrying  espionage,  and  on 
May  24  the  company  were  encamped  in  the  valley  of  the 
lower  Sacramento. 

Now  with  the  events  immediately  succeeding,  important 
and  stirring  as  these  events  were,  we  may  not  linger.  But 
it  may  easily  be  comprehended  that  with  the  return  into 
the  valley,  of  this  fiery  Fremont,  officer  of  the  United  States 
army,  and  this  undaunted  Gillespie,  officer  of  the  United 
States  navy,  and  their  armed  Americans,  both  turmoil  and 
distrust  spread  as  spread  the  news. 

Alta  California,  and  particularly  that  California  between 


258  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Ijos  Angeles  and  San  Francisco,  where  the  chief  seditions 
and  the  chief  immigrations  were  housed,  was  divided  into 
two  camps:  one  portion  of  the  resident  native  people 
favored  American  jurisdiction,  another  portion  oj^sed  it, 
preferring  England  or  France.  And  there  were  the  Mex- 
ican minority  and  the  American  settlers,  as  other  ingredients 
of  the  boiling  pot. 

The  anti-American  sentiment  seemed  to  be  gaining 
grotmd.  Signed  with  the  popular  Mexican  watchword, 
knightly  in  its  ring  if  not  always  inspiring  to  knightly 
deeds,  a  banda  or  proclamation,  headed  "  God  and  Liberty," 
had  on  the  30th  of  April,  1846,  been  issued  from  Monterey 
against  the  "multitude  of  foreigners  abusing  our  local 
circumstances  without  having  come  with  the  requisites 
provided  by  law." 

Fremont  located  camp  at  the  Buttes  of  the  Sacramento, 
near  to  the  juncture  of  the  Bear  and  the  Feather  rivers, 
below  the  present  town  of  Marysville.  Here  he  awaited 
developments,  but  particularly  the  arrival  of  supplies  from 
the  American  squadron,  to  which,  lying  in  the  bay  of  San 
Francisco,  Lieutenant  Gillespie  had  descended  with  a  mes- 
sage. He  must  have  hesitated,  perplexed,  ind  wondering 
whether  war  between  the  United  States  and  Mexico  had 
actually  commenced,  and  to  what  length  he  was  justified  in 
going. 

The  Indians  of  the  Sacramento  Valley  assumed  a  threat- 
ening attitude,  incited  ( the  settlers  were  told )  against  immi- 
grants by  the  Mexican  authorities.  Fremont's  camp  was 
being  made  the  rallying  place  of  his  fellow  countrymen,  and 
in  their  protection  he  took  it  upon  himself  to  teach  the 
still  unsophisticated  aborigines  a  wholesome  fear  of  white 
prowess. 

Ere  they  could  bum  the  wheat,  now  ripening,  he  sallied 
upon  them,  striking  a  blow  for  himself  as  well  as  a  blow 
for  the  ranchers. 


THE  YEAR  '46  259 

I  judged  it  expedient  to  take  such  precautionary  measures  as 
in  my  forward  movement  would  leave  no  enemy  behind  to 
destroy  the  strength  of  my  position  by  cutting  off  my  supplies 
in  cattle  and  break  communication  with  the  incoming  emigrants. 

Little  loth  would  be  the  camp,  augmented  by  the  choice 
spirits  who  had  constantly  been  joining,  to  assume  the 
offensive.  The  Indian  rancherias  up  the  valley  were  sur- 
prised, one  after  another,  and  the  inhabitants  (many,  indeed, 
it  is  alleged,  already  in  war  paint)  with  the  customary  white 
impetuousness  were  driven  headlong  in  flight. 

Rumors  of  projects  by  General  Jose  Castro,  commanding 
general  of  the  province,  for  the  purpose  of  expelling,  by 
force  of  arms,  the  distrusted  gringos  infesting  the  valley 
of  the  Sacramento,  steadily  gathered.  Captain  Fremont 
on  June  8  moved  his  camp  from  the  Buttes  down  to  the 
vicinity  of  Sutter's  Fort,  which,  under  the  doughty  Swiss 
Bourbon-American  Sutter,  now  in  the  face  of  the  reports 
flying  hither-thither  had  assumed  a  menacing  aspect. 

June  10  Ezekiel  Merritt,  issuing  forth  with  a  dozen 
comrades  from  the  Fremont  camp  if  not  by  the  Fremont 
connivance,  deprived  Lieutenant  Francisco  Arce,  Castro 
subaltern,  of  170  horses  destined  for  the  Castro  reinforce- 
ment—  possibly  for  a  Castro  demonstration  against  the 
American  intruders.  This  was  the  first  voluntary  act  of 
war  by  the  Anglo-Saxons  in  California.  Word  was  left 
with  Lieutenant  Arce  that  if  General  Castro  wished  the 
horses,  he  might  come  and  take  them. 

The  California  government  had  proclaimed ;  the  Amer- 
icans performed.  Scarcely  had  the  horses  been  stowed 
safely  at  Sutter's  Fort,  when  Ezekiel  Merritt,  Dr.  Robert 
Semple,  John  Grigsby  (hard  names  for  the  Mexican 
language  to  master,  as  the  bearers  were  hard  nuts  for  the 
Mexican  authorities  to  crack)  with  some  thirty  followers 
marched  across  westward,  for  the  old  mission  of  San  Fran- 
cisco Solano,  now  the  presidio  of  Sonora,  north  of  San 


260  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Francisco  Bay.  On  the  morning  of  June  14  they  appeared 
before  it,  easily  captured  it,  accepted  the  capitulation  of  the 
commandant  General  Mariano  Guadalupe  Vallejo  (pre- 
viously friendly  to  the  cause  of  independence),  hi^  brother, 
Don  Salvador  Vallejo;  his  secretary,  Victor  Prudon  (a 
Swiss),  and  his  son-in-law,  the  American,  Jacob  P.  Leese; 
and  with  the  munitions,  horses,  and  the  stimulation  of  con- 
siderable liquid  refreshment,  declared  themselves  in  behalf 
of  a  revolution  "  to  make  California  a  free  and  independent 
government." 

On  June  15,  "they  ran  up  a  flag  sufficiently  significant 
of  their  intentions  —  a  white  field,  red  border,  with  a  grizzly 
bear  eyeing  a  single  star,  which  threw  its  light  on  the  motto, 
'  The  Republic  of  California.'  To  this  flag  and  its  fortunes 
they  pledged  themselves  in  mutual  confidence."  ^^^ 

On  this  day,  June  15,  1846,  at  Washington  was  signed 
by  the  Secretary  of  State  and  the  British  minister  the  Ore- 
gon treaty,  in  which  the  parallel  of  forty-nine  was  extended 
as  a  national  boundary  from  the  Rockies  to  the  Pacific. 
Three  stars  at  once  —  Oregon,  Washington,  Idaho  —  were 
added  to  the  flag.  At  the  same  time  16,000  Mormons, 
trekking  westward,  had  crossed  the  Mississippi  River,  and 
the  van  had  reached  the  Missouri  at  Council  Bluffs,  Iowa. 
In  the  Southwest  50,000  American  volunteers  from  a  popu- 
lace inflamed  for  service  against  Mexico  had  swarmed  to 
the  colors ;  the  American  arms  under  General  Taylor  had 
achieved  abundant  and  brilliant  successes  on  the  lower  Rio 
Grande;  the  war  was  in  full  blast;  and  at  Fort  Leaven- 
worth the  celebrated  Army  of  the  West  had  assembled, 
under  General  Stephen  Watts  Kearny,  soon  to  begin  its 
unprecedented  march  across  the  plains,  thence  to  seize  New 
Mexico  and  by  desert  route  from  Santa  Fe  authoritatively 
to  enter  California. 

So  the  Bear  flag  flies  over  the  rude  fortress  of  Sonoma; 
the  new  commander,  William  B.  Ide,  installed,  is  preparing 


THE  YEAR  '46  261 

for  issuance,  on  June  18,  the  proclamation  of  the  revolu- 
tionists, bidding  the  inhabitants  of  the  District  of  Sonoma 
to  have  no  fear,  and  inviting  all  citizens  **  to  repair  to  my 
camp  at  Sonoma,  without  delay,  to  assist  us  in  establishing 
and  perpetuating  a  republican  government."  The  Sonoma 
prisoners  —  the  two  Vallejos,  Lieutenant  Colonel  Prudon, 
Jacob  Leese  —  have  been  received  by  Fremont  and  turned 
over  to  the  custody  of  Sutter's  Fort,  where,  as  Leese  records 
poignantly,  "  we  pass'd  the  next  day  in  the  most  aughful 
manner  a  reflecting  on  the  cituation  of  our  familys  and 
property  in  the  hands  of  such  a  desperate  set  of  men"; 
and  Fremont  himself,  taking  the  decisive  step,  assumes  con- 
trol of  Sutter's  Fort  by  placing  over  it  the  topographer, 
Edward  Kern.  At  the  same  time  he  draws  up  his  resigna- 
tion from  the  army,  that  he  may  release  his  Government 
from  responsibility,  and  shortly  after  he  starts  with  his 
force  for  Sonoma,  to  succor  the  eighteen  men  of  Ide. 

The  Fremont  resignation,  not  yet,  of  course,  forwarded 
to  headquarters  or  accepted,  was  but  precautionary  "  hedg- 
ing," and  would  not  have  saved  him  from  court-martial 
or  the  Government  from  responsibility.  However,  he  would 
rather  be  sacrificed  for  doing  too  much  than  for  doing  too 
little;  and  the  men  under  him,  Carson,  Lucien  Maxwell, 
Alex  Godey,  Dick  Owens,  and  the  Delawares,  had  been 
free  rovers  over-long  to  reflect  much  upon  the  consequences 
of  actions. 

The  Fremont  company,  largely  augmented  since  their 
return  a  month  previous,  were  irrevocably  embarked  upon 
the  current  of  conquest;  they  had  cast  their  fortunes  with 
the  revolution.  From  Sonoma  they  marched,  160  strong, 
for  the  San  Rafael  mission  across  the  Golden  Gate  and  up 
the  bay  from  Yerba  Buena  which  is  today  San  Francisco. 
Already  blood  had  been  shed;  for  about  a  week  before, 
or  on  June  19,  two  Americans  of  the  Ide  command,  Fowler 
and  Cowie,  captured  by  Calif omian  cavalry  of  the  detach- 


262  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ment  of  Captain  Joachin  de  la  Torre  were  "  butchered  with 
knives."  The  march  by  Fremont  from  Sonoma  south  to 
San  Rafael,  about  twenty-five  miles,  was  for  the  purpose 
of  attacking  the  de  la  Torre  forces- — an  event  strongly 
desired  by  the  now  savage  hearts  of  the  backwoodsmen. 
At  the  mission  was  made  the  one  blot  upon  the  Carson 
escutcheon  —  a  blot  extending,  it  is  true,  from  the  Fremont 
escutcheon.  Across  the  bay  from  San  Rafael  was  the  point 
of  San  Pablo.  While  the  Fremont  company  were  at  San 
Rafael  waiting  upon  revenge,  on  June  28 

a  boat  with  four  strangers  was  seen  approaching  from  San 
Pablo.  This  boat  Kit  Carson  with  a  squad  was  sent  to  inter- 
cept. It  landed  at  Point  San  Pedro,  and  three  of  the  strangers 
having  debarked,  Carson  and  his  men  left  their  horses,  ad- 
vanced, took  careful  aim,  and  shot  them  down.  The  victims 
proved  to  be  Francisco  and  Ramon  de  Haro  of  San  Francisco, 
and  Jos6  de  los  Berreyesa,  an  aged  ranchero  of. Santa  Clara. 
An  eye-witness  of  the  affair,  Jasper  O'Farrell,  stated  in  1856 
that  Carson  asked  Fremont  whether  he  should  make  prisoners 
of  the  strangers,  and  that  the  lieutenant,  waving  his  hand, 
replied,  "I  have  no  room  for  prisoners."  ^^ 

This  was  not  like  Carson,  trained  though  he  had  been 
in  the  exigencies  of  frontier  warfare  where  no  quarter 
was  given  nor  expected.  Fremont  glosses  over  the  circum- 
stance, laying  it  at  the  door  of  "  my  scouts,  mainly  Dela- 
wares " ;  and  Senator  Benton,  reporting  in  the  Senate, 
merely  says :  "  In  return  for  the  murder  of  Cowie  and 
Fowler,  three  of  de  la  Torre's  men,  being  taken,  were 
instantly  shot."  But  Fremont's  company  were  supposed  to 
be  aiding  the  cause  of  civilization,  of  "  liberty,  virtue,  and 
literature,"  under  "  favor  of  Heaven  "  (as  appealed  the 
Bear  flag  proclamation),  and  this  wanton  killing,  without 
accusation  or  any  trial,  never  can  be  justified.  In  later 
years  Carson  would  not  have  countenanced  it. 

Now  from  the  settlement  of  Sausalito  below  San  Rafael, 


THE  YEAR  '46  263 

Captain  Fremont  with  twelve  of  his  best  shots,  including 
Carson,  by  means  of  a  boat  of  the  American  trading  ship 
Moscow  (William  D.  Phelps,  captain)  crossed  the  Golden 
Gate  straits  for  the  Castillo  of  San  Joachim. 

Pulling  across  the  strait  or  avenue  of  water  which  leads  in 
from  the  Gate  we  reached  the  Fort  Point  in  the  gray  dawn  of 
the  morning  and  scrambled  up  the  steep  bank  just  in  time  to 
see  several  horsemen  escaping  at  full  speed  toward  Yerba 
Buena.  We  promptly  spiked  the  guns  —  fourteen  —  nearly 
all  long  brass  Spanish  pieces.  The  work  of  spiking  was  ef- 
fectually done  by  Stepp,  who  was  a  gunsmith,  and  knew  as 
well  how  to  make  a  rifle  as  to  use  one.*<>^ 


Rat  tail  files,  like  the  boat,  had  been  supplied  by  the  enthu- 
siastic Captain  Phelps.  Whether  Fremont  was  technically 
right  in  his  support  of  the  revolution  may  be  debated ;  but 
the  unanimity  in  the  approval,  by  all  his  countrymen,  of  his 
acts  is  remarkable;  he  had  the  enthusiastic  cooperation  of 
his  men,  the  open  assistance  of  American  merchants  by  land 
and  by  sea,  and  the  discreetly  covert  commendation  and 
good  wishes  of  the  naval  officers  on  the  coast.  That  any 
of  the  foreigners  opposed  was  due  only  to  their  desire  to 
accomplish  the  same  conquest  themselves;  and  even  a  fac- 
tion of  the  Calif omians  favored  the  American  jurisdiction 
—  preferring  it,  however,  imposed  in  a  less  "  bear-like  " 
maimer. 

But  let  us  keep  pace  with  events.  Another  Fourth  of 
July  has  arrived,  and  Fremont  and  Kit  Carson  are  at  another 
banquet.  But  it  is  a  far  cry  to  Bent's  Fort  and  the  banquet 
of  1844;  it  is  a  far  cry  to  the  Fourth  of  1845  intervening, 
the  peaceful  day  at  Washington  for  the  one,  at  his  New 
Mexican  farm  for  the  other.  This  Fourth  of  July,  1846, 
was  spent  at  Sonoma,  where  "  the  day  was  celebrated  by 
salutes  and  a  ball  in  the  evening."  Here  on  this  date  and 
upon  the  following  date,  July  5,  was  organized  the  Cali- 


264  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

fomia  Battalion  of  Mounted  Riflemen,  224  men,  Captain 
John  C.  Fremont,  U.  S.  A.,  colonel  commanding;  Lieuten- 
ant Archibald  H.  Gillespie,  U.  S.  N.,  major;  company  cap- 
tains, Richard  Owens,  Henry  L.  Ford,  Granville  P.  Swift, 
John  Grigsby,  John  Sears ;  among  the  privates,  William  B. 
Ide,  late  commander  of  the  Sonoma  presidio,  and  so  far  as 
we  know.  Kit  Carson  himself.  The  organization  was 
democratic. 

In  the  meantime,  over  the  Oregon  Trail  has  been  toiling 
an  increased  emigration  —  part  for  Oregon,  part  for  Cali- 
fornia. The  California  trains  include  the  party  of  Edwin 
Bryant,  who  will  be  alcalde  of  San  Francisco,  and  who 
will  write  an  entertaining  book;  arriving  at  Sutter's  Fort, 
September  i,  he  will  be  astonished  to  see  sitting  at  the  gate- 
way several  foreigners, 

dressed  in  buckskin  pantaloons  and  blue  sailors'  shirts  with 
white  stars  worked  on  the  collars.  I  inquired  if  Captain  Sut- 
ter was  in  the  fort?  A  very  small  man,  with  a  peculiarly 
sharp  red  face  and  a  most  voluble  tongue,  gave  the  response. 
*  *  *  He  said  in  substance,  that  perhaps  I  was  not  aware 
of  the  great  changes  which  had  recently  taken  place  in  Cali- 
fornia; that  the  fort  now  belonged  to  the  United  States,  and 
that  Captain  Sutter,  although  he  was  in  the  fort,  had  no  con- 
trol over  it.i<*® 

The  California  trains  include  also  the  company  of  James 
T.  Reed  and  the  Donners,  which  after  terrible  experiences 
upon  an  untried  road  through  the  Great  Basin,  caught  by 
the  snows  of  the  Sierra  lose  forty  members. 

Leaving  Fort  Leavenworth  June  26,  in  this  July,  1846, 
over  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  "  tracked  with  the  bones  of  men 
and  beasts,"  march  in  the  panoply  of  war,  following  the 
flag,  1658  volunteer  infantry  and  mounted  riflemen,  bound 
for  Bent's  Fort,  Santa  Fe,  and  California  —  a  route  of 
more  than  2,000  miles,  half  of  which  is  through  a  hostile 
country  . 


THE  YEAR  '46  265 

A  Colonel's  command,  called  an  army,  marches  eight  hun- 
dred miles  beyond  its  base,  its  communication  liable  to  be  cut 
oflF  by  the  slightest  effort  of  the  enemy  —  mostly  through  a  des- 
ert —  the  whole  distance  almost  totally  destitute  of  resources, 
to  conquer  a  territory  of  250,000  square  miles ;  without  a  mili- 
tary chest,  the  people  of  this  territory  are  declared  citizens  of 
the  United  States,  and  the  invaders  are  thus  debarred  the  rights 
of  war  to  seize  needful  supplies;  they  arrive  without  food 
before  the  capital  —  a  city  two  hundred  and  forty  years  old, 
habitually  garrisoned  by  regular  troops!  I  much  doubt  if 
any  officer  of  rank,  but  Stephen  W.  Kearny,  would  have  under- 
taken the  enterprise;  or,  if  induced  to  do  so,  would  have 
accomplished  it  successfully. 

This  is  the  art  of  war  as  practiced  in  America.^^* 

And  in  this  July  has  been  biding  uncertainly,  at  Monterey, 
the  American  flagship  Savannah;  on  board,  Commodore 
John  D.  Sloat,  commander  of  the  Pacific  squadron,  who  has 
hesitated  in  acting  until  he  is  assured  of  formal  declaration 
of  war.  If  Captain  Fremont  is  precipitate,  Commodore 
Sloat  seems  over-cautious ;  nevertheless  he  is  an  older  man, 
he  understands  that  princes  and  republics  alike  are  liable 
to  the  imputation  of  ingratitude,  and  that  to  annex  Cali- 
fornia prematurely  is  a  large  order.  Commodore  Jones 
had  made  one  error  at  Monterey;  that  error  must  not  be 
repeated.  v 

At  Mazatlan  of  the  Mexican  coast  Sloat  had  learned  of 
the  battles  by  General  Taylor,  and  of  the  blockade  of  Vera 
Cruz ;  closely  observed  by  the  English  fleet,  also  at  Mazat- 
lan, he  had  set  sail  for  Monterey.  Arriving  there  July  2 
he  learned  of  the  operations  of  Fremont ;  and  emboldened 
thereby  and  by  additional  news,  brought  through  by  Indians, 
of  battles  on  the  Rio  Grande,  and  by  evidences  of  British 
designs  for  a  protectorate  over  California,  on  the  morning 
of  July  7  he  landed  at  Monterey  25a  men  from  the  various  < 
vessels  of  his  squadron ;  at  ten  o'clock  "  the  flag,  in  charge 
of  Lieutenant  (Edward)  Higgins,  was  raised  on  the  flag- 


266  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

staff  of  the  Custom-House,  and  the  Prodamaticm  of  Occu- 
paticm  was  read  by  Purser  (Rodman  M.)  Price,  in  Spanish 
and  in  Ejigiish,  before  our  own  force  and  the  assembled 
citizens  of  the  place,  from  the  porch  of  the  Custom- 
House."  "^ 

Thus,  upon  July  7,  1846,  was  fair  California  formally 
and  eternally  annexed  to  the  repuWic.  On  July  16  sailed 
into  the  harbor  the  British  flagship  Collingwood,  eighty 
guns.  Rear  Admiral  Sir  George  Seymour — sailed  in  nine 
days  too  late,  having,  it  is  claimed,  been  deceived  in  the 
course  first  laid  from  Mazatlan  by  Commodore  Sloat  The 
American  ships  flew  the  recall  for  their  shore  parties  and 
beat  to  quarters.  But  the  British  Admiral  is  accredited 
only  with  saying: 

"  Sloat,  if  your  flag  was  not  flying  on  shore  I  should 
have  hoisted  mine  there." 

Meanwhile,  July  9,  the  same  flag  had  been  raised  at  San 
Francisco  by  Lieutenant  Revere  of  the  Portsmouth,  and 
on  the  same  date  had  superseded  the  Bear  flag  at  Sonoma. 
July  10,  at  Sutter's  Fort  Captain  (or  Colonel)  Fremont 
received  word  and  flag  from  Captain  Montgomery  of  the 
Portsmouth,  and  at  sunrise  of  July  11  at  Sutter's  Fort 
also  breaks  out,  to  the  salute  of  twenty-one  guns,  the  stars 
and  stripes. 

The  Bear  war,  merged  with  a  movement  much  weightier 
in  its  momentum,  henceforth  ceased.  General  Castro  real- 
ized that  this  was  war  in  earnest ;  and  as  he  fell  back  before 
the  sudden  combination  of  land  and  sea  forces,  Fremont, 
deeming  that  under  the  new  authorities  and  the  new  acces- 
sions the  Sacramento  Valley  could  stand  alone,  led  his 
Rough  Riders  toward  Monterey. 

On  the  tenth  of  July,  the  whole  northern  district,  including 
the  Bay  of  San  Francisco,  was  in  possession  of  the  United 
States,  and  the  principal  points  garrisoned  by  our  troops. 
All  the  Americans,  and  most  of  the  foreigners,  took  up  arms, 


THE  YEAR  '46  267 

and  volunteered  en  masse  to  defend  the  American  flag,  which 
they  regarded  as  the  symbol  of  liberty,  emancipation,  and  re- 
generation. Proceeding  to  the  principal  posts  thqr  offered 
themselves  to  the  American  officers  as  volunteers,  without 
pay  or  emolument,  each  man  taking  with  him  his  trusty  rifle 
and  accoutrements.  It  was  a  touching  evidence  of  the  influ- 
ence of  our  free  democratic  institutions,  to  see  these  rough 
old  trappers,  whose  lives  had  been  passed  with  the  Indians 
and  wild  beasts,  rally  around  the  flag  of  their  native  land, 
to  which  they  owed  nothing  but  the  accident  of  birth,  and  that 
abiding  love  of  liberty  and  independence  which  is  inherent  in 
our  people.  Nor  was  the  devotion  of  the  settlers  from  the  old 
world  less  worthy  of  admiration.  They  had  sought  in  the  far- 
off  wilderness  a  refuge  from  oppression,  and  found  that  they 
had  fallen  under  a  worse  despotism  than  they  had  left  at  home. 
When  therefore  a  fair  opportunity  occurred  for  dealing  a 
death-blow  to  the  dominion  of  the  mock  republic  of  Mexico, 
these  sons  of  Europe  flew  to  arms  with  an  enthusiasm  un- 
known to  the  reluctant  tools  of  tyrants.  We  could  do  no 
more  than  to  select  the  most  youthful  and  hardy  of  these  gal- 
lant men,  who  were  hastily  organized  into  a  battalion  under 
Captain  (since  Colonel)  Fremont,  and  marched  eagerly  to 
meet  the  enemy  in  the  field.  Many  of  these  new  recruits  had 
withheld  their  support  from  the  "  Bear  Party,"  which  did  not 
seem  to  them  to  possess  stability.^  *^ 

With  Fremont  went  Kit  Carson,  soon  by  fate  to  be 
assigned,  as  customary,  an  individual  part  in  nation  making. 


CHAPTER  XXIV 
THE  MEXICAN  WAR  — CARSON  UNDER  KEARNY 

CAPTAIN  FREMONT  and  his  armed  band,  with 
Lieut.  Gillespie  of  the  marine  corps,  arrived  last 
evening  from  their  pursuit  of  Gen.  Castro."  So  chroni- 
cles, July  20,  1846,  the  Reverend  Walter  Colton,  chaplain 
of  the  frigate  Congress,  newly  anchored  in  the  bay  at 
Monterey. 

They  are  two  hundred  strong,  all  well  mounted,  and  have 
some  three  hundred  extra  head  of  horses  in  their  train.  They 
defiled,  two  abreast,  through  the  principal  street  of  the  town. 
The  ground  seemed  to  tremble  under  their  heavy  tramp.  The 
citizens  glanced  at  them  through  their  grated  windows.  Their 
rifles,  revolving  pistols,  and  long  knives,  glittered  over  the 
dusky  buckskin  which  enveloped  their  sinewy  limbs,  while  their 
untrimmed  locks,  flowing  out  from  under  their  foraging  caps, 
and  their  black  beards,  with  white  teeth  glittering  through, 
gave  them  a  wild,  savage  aspect.  They  encamped  in  the  skirts 
of  the  woods  which  overhang  the  town.  The  blaze  of  their 
watch-fires,  as  night  came  on,  threw  its  quivering  light  into 
the  forest  glades  and  far  out  at  sea.  Their  sentinels  were 
posted  at  every  exposed  point;  they  sleep  in  their  blankets 
under  the  trees,  with  their  arms  at  tl^eir  side,  ready  for  the 
signal  shot  or  stir  of  the  crackling  leaf.^*^ 

Thus  Fremont  and  his  men  returned  in  force  to  Mon- 
terey, whence  they  had  retired,  although  sullenly,  four 
months  previous,  before  this  same  Don  Jose  Castro.  He 
as  commanding  general,  must  now  himself  retire  southward, 
soon  to  meet,  in  an  alliance  of  mutual  protection,  with  the 
Governor,  Don  Pio  Pico,  at  Los  Angeles,  where  six  months 
later  the  American  leader  would  appear  with  his  battalion. 

268 


CARSON  UNDER  KEARNY  269 

The  re-entry  into  Monterey  and  civilization  of  the  famous 
explorer  and  his  men  attracted  the  attention  that  today 
is  attracted  by  a  Wild  West  parade;  for  their  deeds  had 
preceded  them. 

The  English  admiral  was  still  at  Monterey  *  *  *  and 
looked  on  with  his  officers  with  much  interest.  It  was,  in- 
deed, a  novel  and  interesting  sight  —  the  command,  number- 
ing two  or  three  hundred  men,  marching  in  a  square,  within 
which  was  the  cattle  which  they  were  driving  for  their  sub- 
sistence. They  were  mostly  clothed  in  buckskin,  and  armed 
with  Hawkins  rifles.  The  individuality  of  each  man  was  very 
remarkable.  When  they  dismounted,  their  first  care  was  their 
rifles.  Fremont  *  *  *  was  the  conspicuous  figure.  Kit 
Carson  and  the  Indians  accompanying  him  were  the  objects  of 
much  attention.^!* 

It  was  a  imique  experience  for  many  of  the  Fremont 
battalion.  Few  in  the  original  expedition  ever  had  seen 
the  ocean  —  "a  great  prairie  without  a  single  tree."  In 
the  interval  while  Fremont  was  explaining  to  the  alarmed 
Commodore  Sloat  that  he  had  not  been  acting  under  writ- 
ten orders  from  Washington,  and  that  he  had  not  been 
notified  of  the  declaration  of  war,  his  riflemen  more  or 
less  cautiously  ventured  among  the  ships.  Meanwhile  the 
report  by  Fremont  had  thrown  Commodore  Sloat  into  a 
wretched  state.  Now,  having  climbed  so  far,  he  feared  ai 
fall.  Pending  the  announcement  of  formal  declaration  of 
war  between  the  United  States  and  Mexico,  he  declared  that 
he  would  do  nothing  more ;  and  finally  he  cut  the  Gordian 
knot  by  resigning  command  and  responsibility  into  the 
hands  of  Commodore  Stockton  of  the  Congress  and  by 
starting  for  home  on  the  plea  of  ill  health.  Commodore 
Robert  F.  Stockton,  a  Princeton  man,  with  the  Princeton 
spirit,  courted  the  command  and  the  responsibilities,  gladly 
assumed  them;  immediately,  or  on  July  24,  he  appointed 
Fremont  a  major.  Lieutenant  Gillespie  a  captain,  and  en- 


270  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

rolled  the  woodsmen  as  that  unique  organization,  the  Navy 
Battalion  of  Mounted  Riflemen! 

But  they  suffered  for  the  distinction.  On  July  27,  in 
their  new  service,  they  sailed  on  the  sloop  of  war  Cyane, 
Commander  Dupont,  for  San  Diego,  400  miles  by  land  and 
more  by  sea.  Amused  eyes  watched  them  embark,  and 
the  Reverend  Mr.  Colton  took  a  malicious  pleasure  in  soon 
making  the  accurate  prophecy :  "  The  wind  is  fresh,  they 
are  by  this  time  cleverly  sea-sick,  and  lying  about  the  deck 
in  a  spirit  of  resignation  that  would  satisfy  the  non- 
resistant  principles  of  a  Quaker.  Two  or  three  resolute  old 
women  might  tumble  the  whole  lot  of  them  into  the  sea." 

It  is  safe  to  say  that  Kit  Carson,  for  one,  would  willingly 
have  exchanged  his  misery  in  the  scuppers  for  another  dead 
mule  rampart,  and  siege  by  the  Comanches,  on  the  plains. 

By  a  march  from  San  Diego,  Los  Angeles  was  taken  with- 
out bloodshed ;  the  combined  forces  of  Stockton  and  Fre- 
mont entered  the  pueblo ;  Governor  Don  Pio  Pico  and 
Commandante-General  Jose  Castro  retired,  and  Commodore 
Stockton  issued,  on  August  17,  a  proclamation,  declaring 
the  country  a  territory  of  the  United  States.  He  appointed 
himself  governor  of  California,  Major  Fremont  military 
governor,  and  CaptJiin  Gillespie  commandant  of  the  South- 
em  District,  with  headquarters  at  Los  Angeles;  and  he 
sailed  away. 

Kit  Carson  set  out,  with  his  friend,  Lucien  Maxwell, 
overland  with  the  news  for  Washington;  and  across  the 
desert  from  Santa  Fe  was  meanwhile  approaching  the  real 
governor  of  California,  General  Stephen  Watts  Kearny, 
leading  the  remnants  of  his  Army  of  the  West. 

This  dispatch  duty  to  which  Carson  was  assigned  seems 
to  have  been  a  personal  tribute  to  his  abilities.  It  was 
awarded  to  him  to  be  an  achievement  and  a  privilege  in  one. 
He  would,  if  the  plan  were  carried  out,  have  the  pleasure 
and  the  honor  of  announcing  direct  to  the  President  the 


CARSON  UNDER  KEARNY  271 

alleged  conquest  of  California,  and  en  route  he  would  see 
wife  and  friends  at  Taos.  "  Going  off  at  the  head  of  his 
own  party,  with  carte  blanche  for  expenses  and  the 
prospect  of  novel  pleasure  and  honor  at  the  end,  was  a 
culminating  point  in  Carson's  life,"  adds  Fremont 

Thus  far  rank  had  passed  Kit  Carson  by.  Godey  was  a 
lieutenant,  Talbot  was  lieutenant  and  adjutant,  Dick  Owens 
was  a  captain,  all  in  the  California  Battalion  service.  There- 
fore it  is  with  real  satisfaction  that  we  witness,  on  Sep- 
tember 15,  1846,  Carson,  as  lieutenant  upon  special  service, 
starting  out  with  an  escort  of  fifteen  men  (six  being  Dela- 
wares)  and  fifty  horses,  from  Los  Angeles  for  Washing- 
ton, and  engaged  to  make  the  round  trip  in  120  days!  It 
is  the  first  of  three  round  trips  across  the  desert,  carrying 
government  dispatches.  This  time  he  travels  from  Cali- 
fornia almost  to  Santa  Fe  and  back ;  within  a  few  months 
he  must  travel  from  California  to  Washington  and  back 
to  California;  and  soon  thereafter  he  must  travel  from 
California  to  Washington,  and  back  to  New  Mexico.  The 
aggregate  of  the  three  journeys,  each  through  perilous  ter- 
ritory, was  16,000  miles,  more  than  half  being  by  horse  or 
mule  back. 

This  route  of  1846  was  not  unknown  to  him,  for  he  had 
traversed  the  same  country,  between  Los  Angeles  and  Taos, 
in  1829  and  1830  with  Ewing  Yoimg;  and  there  now  was  a 
traders'  trail,  slight,  to  be  sure,  from  Santa  Fe  to  San 
Diego  by  the  Gila  and  Yuma.  But  the  Apaches  and  hostile 
Mexicans  still  infested  the  desert. 

Almost  upon  the  same  date  that  Carson  set  out  upon  his 
ride,  or  upon  the  25th  of  September,  from  ancient  Santa  Fe, 
which  now  also  flew  the  American  flag.  General  Stephen 
Watts  Kearny  set  out  for  the  coast.  Santa  Fe  had  been 
captured  without  a  fight ;  New  Mexico  had  been  annexed ; 
Charles  Bent  was  governor  of  the  Territory;  and  with  his 
300  men  "  the  Horse-Chief  of  the  Long  Knives  "  (as  he 


272  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

was  known  among  the  plains  Indians)  proposed  to  complete 
the  subjugation  of  California,  a  thousand  miles  away. 
Moreover,  448  Mormons,  intercepted  in  their  pilgrimage 
from  Nauvoo,  and  enlisted  as  a  separate  battalion,  infan- 
try, were  expected  to  follow  —  their  services  having  been 
promised  to  the  Government  —  imder  Lieutenant  Colonel 
Philip  St  George  Cooke. 

Thomas  Fitzpatrick  glided  the  Kearny  column ;  Antoine 
Robidoux  was  interpreter;  and  the  topographer  was  J.  M. 
Stanley,  the  beaver-days  artist. 

On  the  Rio  Grande  del  Norte,  ten  miles  below  Socorro, 
New  Mexico,  the  Kit  Carson  party,  hastening  east,  and  the 
General  Kearny  column,  toiling  west,  met.  The  dragoons 
were  eleven  days  out  of  Santa  Fe  and  had  covered  150  miles. 
The  Carson  company  were  twenty-six  days  out  of  Los 
Angeles  and  had  covered  800  miles.  They  had  worn  out 
thirty-four  mules,  but  they  were  on  schedule  time.  Carson 
was  not  entirely  unprepared  for  the  meeting,  which  we  may 
best  describe  in  the  words  of  Captain  Abraham  Johnston, 
who  rode  to  his  death  at  San  Pasqual. 

October  6  —  Marched  at  9,  after  having  great  trouble  in  get- 
ting some  ox  carts  from  the  Mexicans ;  after  marching  about 
three  miles,  we  met  Kit  Carson,  direct  on  express  from  Cali- 
fornia, with  a  mail  of  public  letters  for  Washington;  he  in- 
forms us  that  Colonel  Fremont  is  probably  civil  and  military 
governor  of  California,  and  that  about  forty  days  since.  Com- 
modore Stockton,  with  the  naval  force,  and  Colonel  Fremont, 
acting  in  concert,  commenced  to  revolutionize  that  country, 
and  place  it  under  the  American  flag ;  that,  in  about  ten  days, 
their  work  was  done,  and  Carson,  having  received  the  rank 
of  lieutenant,  was  dispatched  across  the  country  by  the  Gila, 
with  a  party  to  carry  the  mail;  the  general  told  him  that  he 
had  just  passed  over  the  country  which  we  were  to  traverse, 
and  he  wanted  him  to  go  back  with  him  as  a  guide ;  he  replied 
that  he  had  pledged  himself  to  go  to  Washington,  and  he  could 
not  think  of  not  fulfilling  his  promise.  The  general  told  him 
he  would  relieve  him  of  all  responsibility,  and  place  the  mail 


CARSON  UNDER  KEARNY  273 

in  the  hands  of  a  safe  person,  to  carry  it  on;  he  finally  con- 
sented, and  turned  his  face  to  the  west  again,  just  as  he  was 
on  the  eve  of  entering  the  settlements,  after  his  arduous  trip, 
and  when  he  had  set  his  hopes  on  seeing  his  family.  It  requires 
a  brave  man  to  give  up  his  private  feelings  thus  for  the  public  y 
good ;  but  Carson  is  one  such !  honor  to  him  for  it !  Carson 
left  California  with  fifteen  men  ;  among  them  six  Delaware 
Indians  —  faithful  fellows;  They  had  fifty  animals,  most  of  '' 
which  they  left  on  the  road,  or  traded  with  the  Apaches,  giving 
two  for  one;  they  were  not  aware  of  the  presence  of 
the  American  troops  in  New  Mexico;  they  counted  upon 
feeling  their  way  along,  and  in  case  the  Mexicans  were  hostile, 
they  meant  to  start  a  new  outfit,  and  run  across  the  country. 
When  they  came  to  the  Copper-mine  Apaches,  they  first 
learned  that  an  American  general  had  possession  of  the  ter- 
ritory of  New  Mexico.  The  Apaches  were  very  anxious  to  be 
friendly  with  the  Americans,  and  received  them  very  cordially, 
much  to  their  surprise.*** 

Thomas  Fitzpatrtck  turned  east,  for  Washington,  with 
the  precious  mail ;  Kit  Carson  turned  west,  for  California 
again,  with  the  dragoons.  The  act  brings  tribute  not  only 
from  Captain  Johnston,  but  from  Colonel  Cooke.  "  That 
was  no  common  sacrifice  to  duty." 

However,  Carson  was  not  persuaded.  He  testifies  that 
he  was  not  persuaded,  but  obeyed  orders.  "  And  I  glided 
him  through,  but  with  great  hesitation,  and  had  prepared 
everything  to  escape  in  the  night  before  they  started,  and 
made  known  my  intention  to  Maxwell,  who  urged  me  not 
to  do  so."  **'  All  in  all,  the  occasion  was  one  of  much 
perplexity  for  Lieutenant  Kit  Carson.  The  conflict  of 
authority  now,  and  to  come,  perplexed  men  more  expe- 
rienced than  he.  He  was  fortunate,  in  his  simplicity  and  ^ 
honesty,  to  get  off  as  easily  as  he  did ;  for  in  Stephen  Watts 
Kearny  he  met  the  superior  officer,  a  soldier  from  the 
ground  up,  and  a  man  with  an  eye  of  blue  colder  than  that 
in  the  eye  of  the  Fremont  whom  he  outranked. 

Reduced  after  hearing  that  California  was  pacified,  the 


274  KIT  C ARSON  DAYS 

column  proceeded :  lOO  enlisted  men,  six  eight-mule  wagons, 
two  howitzers,  with  a  flag  strange  to  the  desert  solitudes. 
Kit  Carson  dryly  informed  them  that  at  the  rate  they  were 
traveling  they  would  not  get  to  Los  Angeles  in  four  mcmths  1 

Within  three  da)rs  after  leaving  camp  below  Socorro, 
the  six  wagons  had  to  be  dismissed,  and  packsaddles  sub- 
stituted. To  Captain  Cooke  and  his  luckless  Mormons 
fell  the  uncertain  privilege  of  making  the  first  wagon  road 
through  the  farthest  Southwest  —  Santa  Fe  to  southern 
California. 

For  a  week  the  Kearny  trail  descended  along  the  Rio 
del  Norte;  230  miles  below  Santa  Fe,  under  Carson's 
guidance,  it  diverged  to  th^  west  >and  entered  the  Mimbres 
country.  Thence  the  dragoon  column  crossed,  October  20, 
to  the  head  of  the  Gila,  which  was  to  be  followed  to  its 
mouth  at  the  Colorado,  600  miles  away. 

Dragging  the  constantly  disabled  howitzers,  with  mules 
continually  failing,  the  men  without  shoes,  partially  naked, 
and  exposed  to  night  temperatures  below  freezing,  and  days 
of  thirst,  hunger,  and  burning  sim,  the  First  Dragoons,  C 
and  K  Companies,  plodded  along  the  trail  first  traversed  by 
the  beaver-hunting  Patties  in  1827;  afterward  in  1830  by 
the  hcmieward  returning  Ewing  Young  and  Kit  Carson,  his 
assistant,  and  in  1831  by  the  trading  party  of  Davy  Jackson, 
the  mountain  man,  and  William  H.  Warner,  who  became 
one  of  the  first  American  ranchers  of  California.  I 

Lieutenant  Carson,  the  guide,  was  invaluable;  the  route 
was  the  one  by  which  he  had  met  the  column,  and  so  he 
knew  its  peculiarities.  Every  day  Lieutenant  W.  H.  Emory, 
of  the  topographical  corps,  recorded  his  meteorological 
observations,  wrote  up  his  diary;  every  day  the  fated  Cap* 
tain  Abraham  Johnston,  Kearny's  aide-de-camp,  maintained 
the  official  journal.  If  the  march  was  hard,  it  was  not  unin- 
teresting, for  the  many  ancient  ruins  still  awaited  the  depre- 
dations of  the  vandal.    The  Indians  were  uniformly  friendly, 


CARSON  UNDER  KEARNY  275 

viewing  the  Americans  as  allies  against  the  hated  Spanish^ 
and  as  good  custcmiers  who  paid  promptly  for  what  they 
obtained.*** 

November  22  the  juncture  of  the  Gila  and  the  Colorado 
was  just  ahead. 

The  day  was  warm,  the  dust  oppressive,  and  the  march,  twen- 
ty-two miles,  very  long  for  our  jaded  and  ill-fed  brutes.  The 
general's  horse  gave  out,  and  he  was  obliged  to  mount  his  mule. 

Most  of  the  men  were  on  foot,  and  a  small  party,  composed 
chiefly  of  the  general  and  staff,  were  a  long  way  ahead  of  the 
straggling  column,  when,  as  we  approached  the  end  of  our 
day's  journey,  every  man  was  straightened  in  his  saddle  by 
our  suddenly  falling  on  a  camp,  which,  from  the  trail,  we 
estimated  at  1,000  men,  who  must  have  left  that  morning. 
Speculation  was  rife,  but  we  all  soon  settled  down  to  the  opin- 
ion that  it  was  Central  Castro  and  his  troops;  that  he  had 
succeeded  in  recruiting  an  army  in  Sonora,  and  was  now  on 
his  return  to  California.  Carson  expressed  the  belief  that  he 
must  be  only  ten  miles  below,  at  the  crossing.  Our  force  con- 
sisted only  of  no  men.  The  general  decided  we  were  too 
few  to  be  attacked,  and  must  be  the  aggressive  party,  and  if 
Castro's  camp  could  be  found,  that  he  would  attack  it  the 
moment  night  set  in,  and  beat  them  before  it  was  light  enough 
to  discover  our  force.**^  ' 

Lieutenant  Emory  and  squad  reconnoitered ;  horses  were 
heard  neighing,  and  a  fire  was  seen  blazing.  But  the  no 
did  not  attack  the  fancied  1,000,  for  the  camp  was  found 
to  consist  of  Mexican  traders,  conveying  scmie  500  horses 
from  California. 

The  chief  of  the  party,  a  tall,  venerable  looking  man,  rep- 
resented himself  to  be  a  poor  employe  of  several  rich  men 
engaged  in  supplying  the  Sonora  market  with  horses.  We  sub- 
sequently learned  that  he  was  no  less  a  personage  than  Jos6 
Maria  Leguna,  a  colonel  in  the  Mexican  service.*** 

The  next  day,  however,  was  marked  by  a  more  porten- 
tous meeting,  which  resulted  in  the  capture  of  a  Mexican 


276  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

jogging  as  upon  a  journey.    Taken  to  the  tent  of  General 
Kearny,  he  was  found  to  be  carrying  California  mail. 

Among  the  letters  was  one  addressed  to  General  Jose  Castro 
at  Altar,  one  to  Antonio  Castro,  and  others  to  men  of  note  in 
Sonora.  *  *  *  We  ascertained  from  them  that  a  counter 
revolution  had  taken  place  in  California,  that  the  Americans 
were  expelled  from  Santa  Barbara,  Puebla  de  los  Angeles, 
and  other  places,  and  that  Robideaux,  the  brother  of  our 
interpreter,  who  had  been  appointed  alcalde  by  the  Americans, 
was  a  prisoner  in  jail.  They  all  spoke  exultingly  of  having 
thrown  off  "the  detestable  Anglo- Yankee  yoke,"  and  con- 
gratulated themselves  that  the  tri-color  once  more  floated  in 
California,*^® 

Here  was  news,  indeed,  for  an  invading  column  of  i  lo 
men,  without  a  base,  and  the  desert  behind.  The  date  of  the 
letters  was  October  15.  What  had  been  occurring  in  the 
meantime?  The  no  pushed  on  to  the  Colorado,  and  ten 
miles  below  the  mouth  of  the  Gila  crossed  by  a  ford  known 
to  Carson  into  the  sandy,  dry- wash  Colorado  Desert  of 
southern  California. 

This  last  of  the  desert  jomadas  was  begun  on  November 
25.  The  distance  was  about  ninety-one  miles.  The  wild 
horses  seized  from  the  Mexican  "  traders "  were  soon 
tamed,  and  sank  and  died.  On  November  30  the  men  were 
inspected.  "  Poor  fellows !  They  are  well  nigh  naked  — 
'  some  of  them  barefoot* — a  sorry  looking  set.  A  dandy 
would  think  that,  in  those  swarthy,  sunburnt  faces,  a  lover 
of  his  country  will  see  no  signs  of  quailing.  They  will  be 
ready  for  their  hour  when  it  comes."  And  the  hour  was  at 
hand. 

In  the  face  of  high,  cold  winds  and  hostile  surroundings', 
salty  grass  and  water,  deep  sand,  hot  days  and  numbing 
nights,  the  column  toiled  on  to  the  foothills  of  the  other 
edge,  and  with  one  horse  and  a  few  worn  mules,  on  Decem- 
ber 2,  arrived  at  the  green  valley  of  the  Agua  Caliente,  where 


CJRSON  UNDER  KEARNY  277 

was  situated  the  ranch  of  Warner,  the  American.  San 
Diego  was  now  but  sixty  miles  southwest;  Los  Angeles 
some  IOC  miles  northwest.  The  trail  through  Warner's 
rancho  was  the  Sonora  Trail,  and  General  Kearny,  thus 
informed,  might  congratulate  himself  that  he  was  blocking 
Mexican  traffic  between  Sonora  and  Southern  California 
points.  That  evening  Lieutenant  J.  W.  Davidson,  with  Kit 
Carson  as  guide  and  with  twenty-five  men,  rode  fifteen  miles 
and  despoiled  a  herd  of  tmbroken  horses  and  mules  held 
for  the  command  of  General  Flores. 

By  the  English  rancher,  Senor  Stokes,  a  letter  was  sent 
on  to  Commodore  Stockton,  who  was  reported  as  still  in 
possession  of  San  Diego.  The  commodore  was  apprised 
of  the  arrival  of  the  Kearny  dragoons,  and  asked  to  open 
communication  "  as  quickly  as  possible."  On  December  4 
the  march  for  San  Diego  was  resumed.  The  weather  was 
murky  and  cold,  with  an  all-day  rain.  Little  definite  infor- 
mation had  been  gained  as  to  the  state  of  the  country 
ahead,  except  that  everything  between  San  Diego  and  Santa 
Barbara  was  in  the  hfUids  of  the  "  country  people." 

What  was  the  situation  in  California  since  Kit  Carson 
and  his  fifteen  men  had  departed,  September  15,  to  carry 
to  Washington  the  word  that  Fremont  and  Stockton  had 
"pacified"  the  coast?  In  August,  Castro,  the  inefficient, 
complaining  that  he  was  unable  to  gather  more  than  "  one 
hundred  men,  badly  armed  and  worse  supplied,"  and  Gov- 
ernor Pico,  his  colleague,  had  delivered  a  farewell  procla- 
mation and  fled  together  over  the  Sonora  road,  not  to  return 
until  1848.  But  scarcely  had  the  Kit  Carson  command 
spurred  forth  to  bear  their  tidings  east,  when  the  chafing 
Mexican  citizenship  squirmed  into  renewed  life. 

This  was  due  in  part  to  Archibald  H.  Gillespie,  formerly 
lieutenant  in  the  marines,  but  at  that  time  captain  in  the 
California  Battalion,  and  as  commandant  of  the  southern 
district  of  California,  stationed  with  a  company  of  forty  men 


278  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

at  the  Pueblo  de  los  Angeles.  "  A  man  of  Fremont  ideas," 
he  was  without  the  Fremont  finesse ;  instead  of  conciliating 
the  people,  he  had  tactlessly  enforced  his  orders.  Conse- 
quently, on  September  24,  he  had  waked  up  to  find  a  rebel- 
lion in  full  flower,  the  head  gardeners  being  General  Jose 
Maria  Flores,  Colonel  Jose  Antonio  Carrillo-and  Captain 
Andres  Pico,  former  Castro  officers.  The  small  American 
garrison  of  the  town  yielded  perforce,  and  on  October  4 
they  marched,  with  the  doubtful  honors  of  the  defeated, 
to  embaric  at  San  Pedro  (Los  Angeles'  port)  and  sail  for 
Monterey. 

From  Santa  Barbara  the  hard-fighting  young  Washing- 
tonian,  Theodore  Talbot,  sergeant  major  and  first  lieutenant, 
had  cut  his  way  with  his  squad  to  the  hills;  thence,  smoked 
out  by  fire  in  the  brush,  they  had  made  retreat  for  Monterey. 
From  San  Diego  the  redoubtable  Ezekiel  Merritt  and  his 
little  command  of  hunters  had  abruptly  sought  the  incongru- 
ous sanctum  of  a  whale  ship  in  the  bay.  Commodore  (who 
was  also  Governor)  Robert  Stockton  was  at  San  Francisco ; 
Lieutenant  Colonel  and  Military  Governor  John  C.  Fremont 
had  been  in  the  valley  of  the  Sacramento,  .bear  hunting  and 
recruiting,  unsuccessfully,  for  a  Stockton  descent  upon  the 
western  coast  of  Mexico  and  a  conquering  march  inland  to 
the  City  of  Mexico.  A  hurried  message  from  the  commo- 
dore had  recalled  him  to  San  Francisco,  and  a  boat 
squadron  from  the  ships  had  met  him  at  the  head  of  Suisun 
Bay  to  hasten  him  on. 

With  the  California  Battalion  (428  men,  including 
Indians  and  servants,  says  Lieutenant  Edwin  Bryant,  the 
newly  arrived  emigrant)  now  augmented  by  three  compa- 
nies of  emigrants,  a  party  of  Walla  Walla  Indians  and  two 
pieces  of  artillery,  on  November  30  Major  Fremont,  soon 
promoted  to  a  lieutenant-colonelcy,  had  set  out  from  the 
neighborhood  of  his  first  campaign,  the  mission  of  San  Juan 
Bautista,  under  Gavilan  Peak,  to  retake  Los  Angeles.    Com- 


CJRSON  UNDER  KEARNY  279 

modore  Stockton  moved  to  San  Diego,  which  he  found 
closely  beleaguered  by  C^ifornia  horsemen. 

In  the  midst  of  such  alarms  the  little  battalion  of  Kearny's 
First  Dragoons,  piloted  by  Kit  Carson  —  himself  presumed 
to  be  in  Washington  • —  arrived  from  their  long  desert  jour- 
ney. December  3  Commodore  Stockton,  seaman  turned  land 
commander,  and  chafing  at  the  mobile  enemy,  in  his  head- 
quarters in  San  Diego  received  at  the  hand  of  the  merry- 
faceS  Serior  Stokes  the  tidings  that  a  detachment  of  troops 
from  New  Mexico  were  as  far  as  Warner's  rancho;  and 
that  "  by  orders  from  the  President  of  the  United  States," 
a  new  commander  in  chief  was  near. 


CHAPTER  XXV 
THE  MEXICAN  WAR  — CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL 


€t 


SO  WE  slept  till  morning."    In  these,  the  last  penned 
words  of  Captain  Johnston,  is  something  prophetic 
and  comforting.    His  journal  reads : 

December  4  —  Marched  at  9,  and  took  the  route  for  San 
Diego,  to  communicate  with  the  naval  forces  and  to  establish 
our  depot,  not  knowing  yet  in  what  state  we  would  find  the 
country.  Marched  15  miles  in  a  rain,  cold  and  disagreeable, 
and  encamped  at  St.  Isabella,  a  former  ranch  of  San  Diego 
mission,  now,  by  hook  or  by  crook,  in  the  possession  of  an 
Englishman  named  Stokes;  here  hospitality  was  held  out  to 
us  —  Stokes  having  gone  to  San  Diego.  We  ate  heartily  of 
stewed  and  roast  mutton  and  tortillas.  We  heard  of  a  party  of 
Calif omians,  of  80  men,  encamped  at  a  distance  from  this; 
but  the  informant  varied  16  to  30  miles  in  his  accounts,  ren- 
dering it  too  uncertain  to  make  a  dash  in  a  dark,  stormy  night ; 
so  we  slept  till  morning.^® 

Lieutenant  Emory  must  continue  the  journal. 

December  5  —  A  cold  rainy  day,  and  the  naked  Indians  of 
the  rancheria  gathered  about  our  fires.  We  marched  from  the 
rancheria  of  San  Isabel  to  that  of  Santa  Maria.  [This  was 
another  of  the  Stokes  ranches.]  On  the  way  we  met  Capt 
Gillespie,  Lieutenant  Beale,  and  Midshipman  Duncan  of  the 
navy,  with  a  party  of  thirty-five  men  sent  from  San  Diego 
with  a  dispatch  for  Gen.  Kearny.  We  arrived  at  the  rancheria 
after  dark,  where  we  heard  that  the  enemy  was  in  force  nine 
miles  distant,  and  not  finding  any  g^ass  about  the  rancheria, 
we  pushed  on  and  encamped  in  a  canon  two  miles  below.^*^ 

The  day  had  been  so  murky  that  little  of  the  country  was 
visible,  and  any  movements  of  the  reported  enemy  were 

280 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  281 

concealed.  The  country  hereabouts  is  rolling,  the  sparsely 
timbered  but  brushy  southern  California  hills  undulating 
monotonously.  The  Kearny  dragoons,  worn  by  their  desert 
march  of  900  miles  and  more,  poorly  mounted  on  untrained 
horses  and  fagged-out  mules,  were  at  great  disadvantage  as 
opposed  to  the  native  cavalry,  superbly  mounted  and 
acquainted  with  all  the  trails. 

But  Gillespie  was  burning  for  revenge  to  counterbalance 
his  discomfiture  at  Los  Angeles.  He  made  light  of  the  Cali- 
fornia valor.  So  did  even  Kit  Carson,  who,  in  common 
with  other  mountain  men  of  the  Southwest,  thought  little 
of  Latin  courage.  After  their  easy  conquest  of  New  Mex- 
ico, when  the  march  from  Bent's  Fort  to  Santa  Fe,  the 
capital,  had  been  practically  undisputed.  General  Kearny 
and  his  officers  and  men  also  were  inclined  to  dismiss  the 
Calif omians  curtly. 

Influenced  by  the  contempt  of  Gillespie  and  Carson,  and 
not  realizing  that  here  the  fight  was  with  free  Calif  omians 
accustomed  to  more  initiative  than  the  New  Mexicans,  Gen- 
eral Kearny's  council  decided  to  push  on  for  San  EHego, 
and  to  attack  the  enemy  if  they  were  opposed.  In  this 
plan  was  sound  military  sense.  Boldness  would  win  a  way, 
whereas  hesitancy  might  result  in  the  little  force  being  shut 
off  from  the  sea  and  all  supplies,  and,  by  a  constantly  increas- 
ing foe,  confined  helplessly  inland  while  their  chances  gfrew 
less. 

So,  in  the  night  of  December  5,  through  the  darkness 
from  the  camp 

a  party  under  Lieut.  Hammond  was  sent  to  reconnoiter  the 
enemy,  reported  to  be  near  at  hand.  By  some  accident  the 
party  was  discovered,  and  the  enemy  placed  on  the  qui  vive. 
We  were  now  on  the  main  road  to  San  Diego,  all  the  "  by- 
ways "  being  in  our  rear,  and  it  was  therefore  deemed  neces- 
sary to  attack  the  enemy,  and  force  a  passage.  About  2 
o'clock,  a.  m.,  the  call  to  horse  was  sounded.*^^ 


282  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

San  Diego  was  forty  miles  distant ;  the  Calif omians  were 
between.  "  I  then  determined,"  reports  General  Kearny, 
"  that  I  would  march  for  and  attack  them  by  break  of  day." 

With  the  advance  guard  of  twelve  imder  Captain  John- 
ston was  Kit  Carson,  scout ;  behind  this  advance  guard  rode 
the  general  himself,  with  lieutenants  Emory  and  Warner 
and  four  enlisted  men.  Upon  this  little  detachment 
devolved  the  brunt  of  the  first  onslaught 

The  Califomians  under  Captain  Andres  Pico,  brother  of 
Don  Pio  Pico,  the  late  governor,  were  encamped  comfort- 
ably at  the  small  Indian  village  of  San  Pasqual  (Pascual), 
seven  miles  ahead,  and  thereby  about  thirty  miles  from 
San  Diego. *^^  At  dawn  the  advance  guard  of  the  Ameri- 
cans, with  the  general  and  staff  close  following,  from  a  mile 
away  sighted  the  fires,  which  "  shone  brightly."  The  gen- 
eral himself  now  "  ordered  a  trot,  then  a  charge,  and  soon 
we  found  ourselves  engaged  in  a  hand  to  hand  conflict  with 
a  largely  superior  force." 

Captain  Andres  Pico,  ignorant  of  the  numbers  of  the 
invaders,  as  the  invaders  likewise  had  been  ignorant  of  his 
numbers,  upon  learning  of  their  approach  by  way  of  War- 
ner's ranch,  had  planned  not  to  oppose  at  once,  but  to 
reconnoiter  until  he  had  drawn  them  to  ground  of  his  own 
choosing.  When  the  advance  guard  of  twenty  men  (for 
the  general  and  his  escort  joined  the  Johnston  command) 
charged,  as  the  general  states,  "  furiously,"  downhill  upon 
the  pickets,  the  latter,  vaulting  to  ready  horse  and  clutching 
bridle,  spurred  for  the  main  camp.  The  twenty  Americans 
pursued  hard  down  the  hill  into  the  village.  Kit  Carson's 
horse  stumbled  and  threw  him  headlong,  shattering  his  rifle 
at  the  grasp.  At  the  same  moment  the  Pico  force,  aston- 
ished by  the  rash  valor  of  the  few,  and  pausing  to  see  if 
there  was  a  large  support  behind,  in  their  saddles  received 
the  charging  dragoons  with  a  volley  from  carbine,  escopeta 
and  pistol,  killing  Captain  Johnston  and  a  dragoon. 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  283 

Carson,  lying  still  while  his  comrades  rode  over  him, 
staggered  up  unharmed,  and,  seeing  the  dead  dragoon  near, 
grabbed  carbine  and  cartridge  box,  caught  a  horse, 
remounted  and  hastened  for  the  fray.  In  the  village  and  just 
beyond  the  Calif omians  were  now  standing  their  ground. 
Cheered  on  by  Captain  Ben  Moore,  down  thundered  the  fifty 
men  of  the  support,  and  the  Calif  omians  gave  way.  Captain 
Moore  on  his  white  horse  led  in  pursuit;  the  Calif omian 
horses  easily  distanced  the  dragoon  horses,  and  the  dragoon 
horses  distanced  the  dragoon  mules.  Thus  the  pursuit 
strung  out  over  half  a  mile  of  road,  when,  quickly  grasping 
the  advantage,  the  Parthian  Calif  omians  rallied,  and  tumed 
compact.  They  were  eighty  or  more  (official  reports  place  ^ 
the  nimiber  a^t  i6o),  and  they  were  enabled  now  to  take  the 
dragoons,  little  squad  by  squad. 

Here  the  lance,  wielded  from  horses  as  agile  as  wasps, 
proved  its  worth.  Against  these  nine-foot  staves  the  saber 
and  the  clubbed  carbine,  swung  from  fagged  and  stub- 
bom  animals  (the  mule  is  always  badly  bitted  and  badly 
dispositioned  for  a  cavalry  fight),  were  totally  ineffectual. 

Conspicuous  on  his  white  horse,  Captain  Moore  was 
lanced  to  death ;  Lieutenant  Hammond  was  lanced  so  that 
he  died  soon  after;  General  Kearny  was  woimded  twice 
and  would  have  been  thrust  through  and  through  had  not 
Lieutenant  Emory  stopped  his  assailant  by  a  lucky  pistol 
ball ;  Lieutenant  Warner  was  lanced  in  three  places,  Captain 
Gillespie  in  three  places,  Captain  Gibson,  and  even  the  vet- 
eran trader,  Antoine  Robidoux,  likewise  were  wounded.  Of 
enlisted  men  were  killed  two  sergeants,  two  corporals,  ten 
privates  of  the  dragoons ;  a  private  of  the  Gibson  company 
of  volunteers  and  an  employee  in  the  topographical  service ; 
wounded,  one  sergeant,  one  "  bugleman,"  nine  privates  of 
the  dragoons.  Total,  eighteen  killed ;  fifteen  wounded  —  of 
the  latter  "  many  surviving  from  two  to  ten  lance  wounds, 
most  of  them  when  unhorsed  and  incapable  of  resistance." 


V 


284  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

The  howitzers  arriving  on  the  gallop,  the  Califomians 
fled.  When  the  pieces  were  being  unlimbered  the  span  of 
mules  drawing  one  ran  off  with  it  into  the  midst  of  the 
retreating  enemy,  but  f ortimately  the  Pico  force  did  not  try 
to  make  use  of  it 

Such  was  the  battle  of  San  Pasqual,  thirty  miles  north- 
east of  San  EHego,  fought  at  break  of  day,  December  6, 
1846,  and  resulting  in  the  discomfiture  of  the  American 
regular  dragoons  and  the  vindication  of  the  Calif omian 
irregular  cavalry. 

The  killed  and  wounded  (General  Kearny  reports  that 
six  Califomians  also  were  left  on  the  field)  were  being 
gathered,  when,  records  Emory: 

a  large  body  of  horsemen  were  seen  in  our  rear  and  fears 
were  entertained  lest  Major  Swords  and  the  baggage  should  fall 
into  their  hands.  The  general  directed  me  to  take  a  party  of 
men  and  go  back  for  Major  Swords  and  his  party.  We  met 
at  the  foot  of  the  first  hill,  a  mile  in  rear  of  the  enemy's  first 
position.  Returning,  I  scoured  the  village  to  look  for  the  dead 
and  wounded.  The  first  object  which  met  my  eye  was  the 
manly  figure  of  Capt.  Johnston.  He  was  perfectly  lifeless, 
a  ball  having  passed  directly  through  the  center  of  his  head. 
The  work  of  plundering  the  dead  had  already  commenced ; 
his  watch  was  gone,  nothing  being  left  of  it  but  a  fragment  of 
the  gold  chain  by  which  it  was  suspended  from  his  neck.  By 
my  directions  Sergeant  Falls  and  four  men  took  charge  of  the 
body  and  carried  it  into  camp.  Captain  Johnston  and  one 
dragoon  were  the  only  persons  either  killed  or  wounded  on 
our  side  in  the  fight  by  firearms. 

It  was  found  that  the  mules  were  not  strong  enough  to 
transport  the  dead  to  San  Diego ;  and  in  order  to  save  the 
bodies  from  further  plundering  the  American  dead  were 
buried  at  night,  to  the  sound  of  the  howling  of  coyotes, 
under  a  willow  at  the  east  of  the  battle  field  camp. 

Before  allowing  his  injuries  to  be  dressed  the  general 
fainted.     Captain  H.   S.   Turner,   as  senior  officer  left, 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  285 

assumed  the  command.  The  surgeon  of  the  column,  Dr. 
J.  S.  Griffin,  was  occupied  tmtil  late  afternoon  in  stanching 
the  many  lance  wounds  of  the  rank  and  file.  A  sorry  sight 
was  the  bloody  camp.  "  Provisions  were  exhausted,  horses 
dead,  mules  on  their  last  legs,  men,  reduced  to  one-third  of 
their  number,  were  ragged,  worn  and  emaciated."  So 
records  Lieutenant  Emory.  Ambulances  were  lacking,  and 
soon  after  the  fight  Lieutenant  Godey,  with  three  others, 
was  sent  to  make  his  way,  with  best  mountain-man  skill, 
through  byways  to  San  Diego  for  wheeled  vehicles.  Already 
the  English  ranchero,  Stokes,  was  nearing  there,  posthaste, 
with  an  excited  tale  of  the  fight. 

The  dragoon  camp  was  unmolested  throughout  the  day; 
the  night  settled  cold  and  damp  from  the  previous  rains,  and 
"  the  ground,  covered  with  rocks  and  cacti,  made  it  difficult 
to  get  a  smooth  place  to  rest,  even  for  the  wounded  *  *  * 
and  notwithst^ding  our  excessive  fatigues  of  the  day  and 
night  previous,  sleep  was  impossible."  December  7,  says 
Emory, 

dawned  on  the  most  tattered  and  ill-fed  detachment  of  men 
that  ever  the  United  States  mustered  under  her  colors.  The 
enemy's  pickets  and  a  portion  of  his  force  were  seen  in  front. 
The  sick,  by  the  indefatigable  exertions  of  Dr.  Griffin,  were 
doing  well,  and  the  general  enabled  to  mount  his  horse.  The 
order  to  march  was  given,  and  we  moved  off  to  offer  the  enemy 
battle,  accompanied  by  our  wounded,  and  the  whole  of  our 
packs.  The  ambulances  grated  on  the  ground,  and  the  suffer- 
ings of  the  wounded  were  very  distressing.  We  had  made  for 
them  the  most  comfortable  conveyance  we  could,  and  such  as 
it  was,  we  were  indebted  principally  to  the  ingenuity  of  the 
three  remaining  mountain  men  of  the  party,  Peterson,  Lon- 
deau,  and  Perrot.  The  fourth,  the  brave  Francois  Menard,  had 
lost  his  life  in  the  fight  of  the  day  before. 

Kit  Carson,  with  his  usual  fortune,  had  come  out  of  the 
fight  practically  unscathed. 


286  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

The  slow  coltimn  moved  on  —  the  wounded  and  the 
packs  in  the  center.  Upon  the  hills  about  hovered  the 
lancers  of  the  Califomians,  constantly  threatening,  but  ever 
yielding  the  advance.  In  about  nine  miles  was  attained  the 
rancho  San  Bernardo.  Here  the  column  commandeered 
water  for  the  animals  and  chickens  for  the  men ;  but  there 
was  no  grass,  and  the  march  must  tiuti  aside,  "driving 
many  cattle  before  us/'  for  the  rich  San  Bernardo  River 
bottoms,  south.  - 

We  had  scarcely  left  the  house  and  proceeded  more  than  a 
mile,  when  a  cloud  of  cavalry  debouched  from  the  hills  in 
our  rear,  and  a  portion  of  them  dashed  at  full  speed  to  occupy 
a  hill  which  we  must  pass,  while  the  remainder  threatened  our 
rear.  Thirty  or  forty  of  them  got  possession  of  the  hill,  and 
it  was  necessary  to  drive  them  from  it.-  This  was  accomplished 
by  a  small  party  of  six  or  eight,  upon  whom  the  Californians 
discharged  their  fire;  and  strange  to  say,  not  one  of  our  men 
fell.  The  capture  of  the  hill  was  then  but  the  work  of  a 
moment,  and  when  we  reached  the  crest,  the  Californians  had 
mounted  their  horses  and  were  in  full  flight.  We  did  not  lose 
a  man  in  the  skirmish,  but  they  had  several  badly  wounded. 
By  this  movement  we  lost  our  cattle,  and  were  convinced  that 
if  we  attempted  any  further  progress  with  the  ambulances  we 
must  lose  our  sick  and  our  packs. 

The  tactics  of  Captain  Pico  were  apparent:  the  Ameri- 
cans must  permit  themselves  to  be  menaced  from  higher 
ground,  or  must  take  the  hill  and  lose  their  cattle ;  they  now 
must  occupy  the  hill  and  cease  their  advance,  or  else  be 
flanked  again  and  again  until  they  lost  all  their  packs  and 
probably  their  wounded,  too.  General  Kearny  decided  to 
occupy  the  hill  until  the  wounded  were  so  improved  as  to 
require  less  attention  from  the  able-bodied. 

The  night  of  December  7  was  spent  upon  the  hill.  One 
hundred  more  Californians  were  on  their  way  from  Los 
Angeles  to  reinforce  the  besiegers,  but  the  Kearny  company 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  287 

did  not  know  it,  and  could  only  fear  as  yet  that  every  hour 
was  making  their  position  worse.  On  the  hill  there  was  no 
forage  except  the  mahogany  and  manzanita  brush.  There 
w^as  no  water  until,  by  boring  holes,  a  modicum  was 
obtained,  for  the  men  only.  The  animals  must  constantly 
be  guarded,  lest  they  break  for  the  grass  and  the  river  below. 
The  fattest  of  the  mules  was  slaughtered  for  meat. 

While  the  camp  was  wondering  whether  Godey  and  his 
companions  had  succeeded  in  winning  through  with  the 
message  to  Commodore  Stockton,  Captain  Andres  Pico  sent 
in  word  under  flag  of  truce  that  he  had  four  prisoners,  just 
captured,  whom  he  would  like  to  exchange  —  and  the  hopes 
of  the  camp  were  dashed.  The  prisoners  could  be  no  others 
than  Godey  and  his  companions.  The  Americans  had  only 
one  prisoner,  but  Lieutenant  Beale  was  delegated  to  meet  the 
Calif omian  representative  and  treat  for  an  exchange  on  that 
basis.  The  request  for  Godey  was  refused  by  Pico,  he 
being  considered  too  valuable  a  man ;  but  one  Burgess,  the 
least  intelligent  of  them  all,  was  offered.  However,  upon 
Lieutenant  Beale  reporting  to  the  general.  Lieutenant  Emory 
was  sent  down  with  the  prisoner  to  make  the  exchange.  He 
found  Captain  Pico  to  be  a  "  gentlemanly  looking  and  rather 
handsome  man,"  and  in  demeanor  evidently  as  courteous  as 
the  Spanish-Mexican  customarily  is. 

Burgess  took  "  rather  a  contemptuous  leave  of  his  late 
captors."  He  related  that  the  Godey  party  had  safely 
reached  San  Diego,  but  that  when  in  sight  of  the  camp,  on 
their  return,  they  had  been  spied  and  taken  by  the  Pico 
videttes.  Before  capture  they  had  "  cached "  their  dis- 
patches under  a  tree.  He  did  not  know  what  was  in  the 
dispatches ;  he  did  not  know  what  Godey  had  communicated 
to  Commodore  Stockton,  and  therefore  the  exchange  of 
prisoners  resulted  in  but  little  satisfaction  to  the  Americans 
upon  the  hill.  They  could  not  guess  that,  apprised  both  by 
the  excited  Stokes  and  by  Godey,  Commander  Stockton  was 


./ 


288  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

at  this  moment  assembling  all  his  availaUe  sailors  and 
marines  for  a  forced  march  to  their  relief.  At  this  juncture 
the  young  Lieutenant  Beale  volunteered  to  take  his  Indian 
servant  and  try  with  another  message  for  Stockton;  Kit 
Carson  instantly  offered  himself  as  the  third. 

Of  Kit  Carson  we  have  heard  much ;  the  Indian  must  pass 
on  to  Valhalla  as  only  one  of  the  earth's  heroes  imnamed 
and  unsung;  but  Lieutenant  Edward  Fitzgerald  Beale  on 
this  December  8,  1846,  made  himself  famous.  The  grand- 
son of  Commodore  Thomas  Truxtun  of  the  old  navy  when 
it  was  new,  and  sc«i  of  another  naval  officer,  Lieutenant 
George  Beale,  bom  in  1822  Acting  Lieutenant  Beale  was 
now  but  twenty-four  years  old  and  sixteen  months  com- 
missioned as  midshipman.  But  the  American  traditions 
animating  him  dated  back  through  seventy  years.    Now 

the  brief  preparations  for  the  forlorn  hope  were  soon  made; 
and  brief  they  were.  A  rifle  each,  a  revolver,  a  sharp  knife, 
and  no  food ;  there  was  none  in  the  camp.  General  Kearny  in- 
vited Beale  to  come  and  sup  with  him.  It  was  not  the  supper 
of  Antony  and  Cleopatra;  for  when  the  camp  starves,  no 
general  has  a  larder.  It  was  meager  enough.  The  general 
asked  Beale  what  provision  he  had  to  travel  on;  the  answer 
was,  nothing.  The  general  called  his  servant  to  inquire  what 
his  tent  afforded;  a  handful  of  flour,  was  the  answer.  The 
general  ordered  it  to  be  baked  into  a  loaf  and  be  given  to 
Beale.  When  the  loaf  was  brought  the  servant  said  that  was 
the  last,  not  of  bread  only,  but  of  everything;  that  he  had 
nothing  left  for  the  general's  breakfast.  Beale  directed  the 
servant  to  carry  back  the  loaf,  saying  that  he  would  provide 
for  himself.  He  did  provide  for  himself;  and  how?  By 
going  to  the  smouldering  fire  where  the  baggage  had  been 
burnt  in  the  morning,  and  scraping  from  the  ashes  and  embers 
the  half-burnt  peas  and  grains  of  com  which  the  conflagration 
had  spared,  filling  his  pockets  with  the  unwonted  food.  Carson 
and  the  faithful  Indian  provided  for  themselves  some  mule 
beef.i2* 

San  Diego  was  still  thirty  miles  southwest.    This,  it  must 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  289 

be  understood,  was  the  old  San  Diego  —  later  called  Old 
Town  —  about  two  miles  north  of  the  present  city,  or 
between  it  and  the  mouth  of  Mission  Valley,  which  op^ns 
upon  the  flats  of  Mission  or  False  Bay.  Here,  back  of  the 
squalid  collection  of  adobe  huts,  Stockton  was  fortifying 
his  quarters  on  a  hill  commanding  the  presidio.  The 
interior  country,  to  the  Kearny  position,  was  composed 
of  mesas  and  abrupt  hills  covered  by  the  chaparral,  or  brush, 
mingled  with  prickly  pear  and  other  cacti,  and  cut  by  deep 
clay  and  gravelly  ravines  or  arroyos.  It  was  the  rainy 
season,  although  General  Kearny,  in  a  letter  to  his  wife, 
reports  the  country  to  be  very  dry. 

With  the  fall  of  dusk  the  three  started.  Knowing  that 
among  the  Americanos  pent  upon  the  hill  was  Kit  Carson, 
the  renowned  hunter,  and  knowing  also  that  every  effort 
would  be  made  to  effect  a  juncture  with  Stockton,  at  night 
Captain  Pico  threw  a  double  and  triple  cordon  of  sentries 
around  the  base  of  the  hill  and  kept  a  patrol  moving.  He 
warned  his  men  with  the  significant  Spanish :  "  Se  escapara 
el  lobo  "  —  "  The  wolf  will  escape !  " 

To  descend  the  hill  slope  the  three  scouts  must  crawl,  in 
order  not  to  limn  themselves  against  the  sky  line.  That 
the  twigs  should  not  crack  underfoot,  and  that  stones  should 
not  ring,  the  two  whites  removed  their  shoes  and  tucked 
them  in  their  belts.  Speedily  their  feet  were  afire  with  the 
stinging  spines  of  the  cacti.  Presently  the  canteens  were 
discarded,  lest  they,  too,  give  out  the  alarm. 

Slowly,  but  surely,  they  evaded  the  vigilant  guard  of  the 
Mexican  sentinels,  whom  they  found  to  be  mounted  and  three 
rows  deep,  *  *  *  So  near  would  they  often  come  to  these 
Mexican  sentinels,  that  but  a  few  yards  would  measure  the 
distance  between  them  and  their  enemies,  yet,  with  brave 
hearts  they  crept  along  over  the  ground  foot  by  foot  ;  they 
were  almost  safe  beyond  these  barriers,  when  all  their  hopes 
came  near  being  dashed  to  pieces.    This  alarm  was  caused  by 


290  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

one  of  the  sentinels  riding  up  near  to  where  they  were,  dis- 
mounting from  his  horse  and  lighting,  by  his  flint  and  steel, 
his  cigarette.  On  seeing  this.  Kit  Carson,  who  was  just  ahead 
of  Lieutenant  Beale,  pushed  back  his  foot  and  kicked  softly 
his  companion,  as  a  signal  for  him  to  lie  flat  on  the  gp-ound 
as  he  (Carson)  was  doing.  The  Mexican  was  some  time, 
being  apparently  very  much  at  his  leisure,  in  lighting  his 
cigarette  ;  and  during  these  moments  of  suspense,  so  quietly 
did  Kit  Carson  and  his  companion  lie  on  the  ground,  that 
Carson  said  and  always  after  affirmed,  that  he  could  distinctly 
hear  Lieutenant  Beale's  heart  pulsate.i^s 

Presently  the  unconscious  Calif omian  remounted  his 
horse  and  rode  away. 

It  was  during  an  interval  of  despair  such  as  this  that 
the  lad  Beale,  his  stout  spirit  worn  by  the  torture,  physical 
and  mental,  wavered,  and  reaching  for  Carson,  whispered 
in  his  ear :  "  We  are  gone.  Let 's  jump  and  fight  it  out !  " 
But  Carson,  of  longer  experience  in  this  work,  and  of  a 
frame  and  spirit  inured  to  keen  dangers,  answered :  "  No. 
I  've  been  in  worse  places  before."  And  the  boy  was 
encouraged. 

They  passed  through  the  cordon  of  sentries  and  videttes ; 
and  before  them  lay  two  miles  of  open  valley  across  which, 
despite  the  clustering  cacti  and  the  sharp  stones,  they  must 
still  crawl.  Here  beyond  was  broken  ground,  with  covert  of 
chaparral  and  of  some  trees.  This  slight  vantage  ground 
they  gained  at  last. 

Now  they  might  stand  and  don  their  shoes  —  but  they 
found  that  the  shoes  had  been  lost  from  their  belts,  and  that 
the  remainder  of  the  way,  like  that  preceding,  must  be  trav- 
eled in  tattered  stockings  or  bare  soles.  Reckless  of  the 
cactus,  they  proceeded,  as  rapidly  as  possible,  and  daylight 
caught  them  well  on  their  circuitous  trail  for  San  Diego. 
They  left  the  high  ground  and  took  to  the  canons.  Their 
feet  swollen  by  bruise,  cut,  and  cactus  spine,  their  throats 
parched,  they  were  yet  elated  at  the  progress  they  had 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  291 

made.     However,  the  cordon  thrown  about  San  Diego 
awaited  to  be  pierced. 

Meanwhile  the  camp  on  the  hill  had  passed  another 
wretched  night  Among  the  sufferers  who  seemed  doomed 
was  Don  Antoine  Robidoux,  the  trader  of  Fort  Uncom- 
pahgre  and  Fort  Uintah.  He,  "a  thin  man  of  fifty-five 
years,"  slept  next  to  Lieutenant  Emory,  who  describes  his 
plight : 

The  loss  of  blood  from  his  wounds,  added  to  the  coldness 
of  the  night,  28°  Fahrenheit,  made  me  think  he  would  never 
see  daylight,  but  I  was  mistaken.  He  woke  me  to  ask  if  I  did 
not  smell  coffee,  and  expressed  the  belief  that  a  cup  of  that 
beverage  would  save  his  life,  and  that  nothing  else  would.  Not 
knowing  there  had  been  any  coffee  in  camp  for  many  days,  I 
supposed  a  dream  had  carried  him  back  to  the  cafes  of  St.  Louis 
and  New  Orleans,  and  it  was  with  some  surprise  I  found  my 
cook  heating  a  cup  of  coffee  over  a  small  fire  made  of  the 
sage.  One  of  the  most  agreeable  little  offices  performed  in  my 
life,  and  I  believe  in  the  cook's  to  whom  the  coffee  belonged, 
was  to  pour  this  precious  draught  into  the  waning  body  of  our 
friend  Robideaux.  His  warmth  returned,  and  with  it  hopes 
of  life.  In  gratitude  he  gave  me,  what  was  then  a  great  rarity, 
the  half  of  a  cake  made  of  brown  flour,  almost  black  with  dirt, 
and  which  had,  for  greater  security,  been  hidden  in  the  clothes 
of  his  Mexican  servant,  a  man  who  scorned  ablutions.  I  ate 
more  than  half  without  suspicion,  when,  on  breaking  a  piece, 
the  bodies  of  several  of  the  most  loathsome  insects  were 
exposed  to  my  view.  My  hunger,  however,  overcame  my 
fastidiousness,  and  the  morceau  did  not  appear  particularly 
disgusting  till  after  our  arrival  at  San  Diego,  when  several 
hearty  meals  had  taken  off  the  keenness  of  my  appetite. 

This  day,  December  9,  the  Kearny  camp  stayed  upon  its 
hill.  As  for  the  three  scouts,  they  made  what  progress  they 
might,  unseen,  through  the  canoncitos,  and  at  evening  were 
within  twelve  miles  of  San  Diego.  Now  they  nerved  them- 
selves for  another  ordeal.    At  dusk  they  separated  to  attempt 


292  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  settlement  by  three  routes  and  thus  triple  the  chance  of 
success. 

In  San  Diego  Bay,  on  the  frigate  Congress  and  the  sloop 
Portsmouth  and  the  merchant  vessels  two  bells  were  strik- 
ing for  the  hour  of  nine,  and  in  the  town  itself  the  Stockton 
relief  force  were  just  starting  for  a  night  march  to  rescue 
Kearny,  when  an  outp6st  challenged  and  was  answered  by 
an  Indian.  It  was  the  first  of  the  three  scouts  —  the  Indian 
had  won.  He  was  taken  to  Stockton  and  scarcely  had  fin- 
ished telling  his  story  in  Spanish  when  Lieutenant  Beale 
was  carried  in,  unable  to  walk.  By  the  time  Carson  arrived, 
about  three  in  the  morning,  last  because  to  assure  success 
he  had  taken  the  more  roundabout  course,  the  relief  force 
had  long  been  upon  their  way,  and  the  Indian,  exhausted, 
and  Beale,  partially  out  of  his  head,  had  been  cared  for  by 
the  surgeon. 

Thus  terminated  what  may  be  regarded  as  one  of  Kit 
Carson's  greatest  feats  —  a  feat  in  which  he  was  not  alone, 
but  in  which  he  was  rivaled  by  a  sailor  and  an  Indian. 
Although,  without  doubt,  he  would  have  got  through  by 
himself,  and  without  doubt  Lieutenant  Beale,  if  alone,  would 
have  failed,  lacking  the  mature  advice  and  the  example  of 
woodcraft  supplied  by  his  more  skilled  companions,  to  me 
the  chief  merit  of  the  feat  lies  in  the  fact  that  its  incentives 
were  not  escape  for  themselves,  but  succor  for  their  com- 
rades. The  danger  was  not  so  much  capture  (Pico  seems 
to  have  been  a  kindly  host,  respecting  bravery)  as  failure; 
and  the  chief  sufferings  to  be  feared  were  those  which  they 
did  endure  through  thirst  and  cactus,  and  those  which  they 
would  have  endured  had  their  efforts  come  to  naught.  That 
their  tidings  had  preceded  them  does  not  lessen  the  merit 
of  their  performance. 

Carson  was  disabled  for  several  days;  Beale  was  so 
broken  that  for  more  than  a  year  he  was  not  in  good 
health ;  of  the  heroic  Indian  we  hear  naught.    His  was  the 


CARSON -BE  ALE  TABLET 
(Courtesy  of  the  Smithsonian  Iiistitntton) 


CARSON  AT  SAN  PASQUAL  293 

burden  of  stoicism  and  anonymity.    Back  at  the  beleaguered 
camp  on  the  hill  Sergeant  Cox  hjtd  died  from  his  wounds. 

December  lo  —  The  enemy  attacked  our  camp,  driving  be- 
fore them  a  band  of  wild  horses,  with  which  they  hoped  to 
produce  a  stampede.  Our  men  behaved  with  admirable  cool- 
ness, turning  off  the  wild  animals  dexterously.  Two  or  three  of 
the  fattest  were  killed  in  the  charge,  and  formed,  in  the  shape 
of  a  gravy-soup,  an  agreeable  substitute  for  the  poor  steaks  of 
our  worn  down  brutes,  on  which  we  had  been  feeding  for  a 
number  of  days. 

The  surgeon  announced  that  the  wounded  and  ill  were 
about  ready  for  the  saddle.  Dependence  could  not  be  placed 
upon  the  scouts,  who  had  not  been  heard  from ;  and  when 
the  cache  under  the  tree,  where  Burgess  said  the  dispatch 
from  Stockton  was  placed,  was  examined,  no  letter  was 
found.  This  left  the  camp  apparently  without  resource; 
and  yielding  to  the  importunities  of  his  officers  and  men. 
General  Kearny  determined  to  cut  his  way  to  the  coast, 
regardless  of  sacrifice. 

By  orders,  all  the  baggage,  even  to  the  greatcoats,  was 
burned;  and  on  this,  the  evening  of  the  loth,  the  camp 
sought  its  hard  beds.    Again  quoting  Emory : 

We  were  all  reposing  quietly,  but  not  sleeping,  waiting  for 
the  break  of  day,  when  we  were  to  go  down  and  give  the  enemy 
another  defeat.  One  of  the  men,  in  the  part  of  the  camp  as- 
signed to  my  defense,  reported  that  he  heard  a  man  speaking 
in  English.  In  a  few  minutes  we  heard  the  tramp  of  a  column, 
followed  by  the  hail  of  a  sentinel.  It  was  a  detachment  of 
100  tars  and  80  marines  under  Lieutenant  Gray,  sent  to  meet 
us  by  Commodore  Stockton,  from  whom  we  learned  that 
Lieutenant  Beale,  Carson,  and  the  Indian  had  arrived  safely  in 
San  Diego.  The  detachment  left  San  Diego  on  the  night  of 
the  9th,  cached  themselves  during  the  day  of  the  loth,  and 
joined  us  on  the  night  of  that  day.  These  gallant  fellows 
busied  themselves  till  day  distributing  their  provisions  and 
clothes  to  our  naked  and  hungry  people. 


294  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

The  union  of  sailors  and  dragoons,  revealed  by  morning, 
was  a  disagreeable  surprise  to  Captain  Pico.  He  withdrew 
his  forces,  the  Americans  marched  down  from  their  hill, 
and,  gathering  the  abandoned  cattle,  proceeded  on  the  road 
now  open  to  San  Diego  and  the  sea.^* 


^ 


CHAPTER  XXVI 
THE  RE.CONQUEST  OF  CALIFORNIA 

AT  THE  hamlet  of  San  Diego  ("a  few  adobe  houses,  two 
or  three  of  which  only  have  plank  floors  ")  Kit  Carson, 
and  presumably  the  forgotten  Indian,  speedily  recovered, 
although  for  a  day  or  so  it  was  feared  that  Carson  might 
lose  his  feet.    Lieutenant  Beale  remained  in  a  bad  way. 

Meanwhile  Commodore  Stockton  carefully  conserved  his 
titulary  position  as  commander  in  chief  and  governor  in  the 
province  which  he  claimed  by  uncertain  conquest,  and  in 
the  north  Lieutenant  Colonel  Fremont  still  marched  at  the 
rate  of  three  to  fifteen  miles  a  day  upon  Los  Angeles.  In 
New  Mexico  a  revolt  kindred  to  one  which  upset  the  Stock- 
ton-Fremont plans  was  about  to  interrupt  the  Kearny  paci- 
fication also ;  and  in  Old  Mexico  the  Missouri  volimteers  of 
the  noted  Doniphan  column,  offshoot  of  the  Army  of  the 
West,  pressed  another  desert  march  into  populous  Chi- 
huahua. 

The  principal  news,  of  course,  was  war  news;  neverthe- 
less amidst  the  roll  of  cannon,  the  clank  of  saber,  and  the 
creak  of  army  wagon  and  pack  mule  leather  could  plainly 
be  heard  the  crack  of  the  emigrant's  lash  and  the  groaning 
lurch  of  his  white-topped  wagon.  A  History  of  Texas;  or, 
the  Emigrants^  Guide  to  the  New  Republic,  by  a  Resident 
Emigrant  (New  York,  1845),  was  a  rival  of  Scott's  Tactics, 
and  itself  was  rivaled  by  the  Oregon  books  of  Robert  Green- 
how  and  C.  G.  Nicolay.^^^  Upon  the  Overland  Trail  by  the 
South  Pass  another  new  vade  mecum  was  The  Emigrants 
Guide  to  Oregon  and  California,  by  L.  W.  Hastings  of 
"Hastings'  Cut-Off"  —  the  Fremont-Kern  byway  of  1845 

295 


sj 


296  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

irom  Salt  Lake  to  the  Humboldt  River.  The  last  of  two 
thousand  emigrants  by  land  were  assailing  the  Sierra. 

As  to  the  mid-West,  the  Latter  Day  Saints,  pressing  for- 
ward from  the  new  state  of  Iowa,  were  spending  a  hard 
winter  among  the  Potawatomi  at  the  edge  of  that  Indian 
country  beyond  which  lay  a  promised  land ;  and  six  months 
more  were  to  witness  the  Mormons  marching  in  to  accept 
old  Jim  Bridger's  challenge  of  $i,ooo  for  a  car  of  com  from 
the  Salt  Lake  valley. 

But  we  are  with  Kit  Carscm  at  San  Diego  and  our  ways 
are  not  the  ways  of  peace.  He  who  traveled  with  Carson 
rarely  lacked  for  action ;  and  here  in  California  there  was 
still  in  the  field,  assisted  by  the  Picos  and  Manuel  Castro, 
the  ex  tempore  governor,  Jose  Maria  Flcwes,  whose  dic- 
tum read: 

1.  We,  the  inhabitants  of  the  Department  of  California, 
as  members  of  the  great  Mexican  nation,  declare  that  it  is  and 
has  been  our  wish  to  belong  to  her  alone,  free  and  independent 

2.  Consequently  the  authorities  intended  and  named  by  the 
invading  forces  of  the  United  States  are  held  null  and  void. 

3.  All  the  North  Americans  being  enemies  of  Mexico,  we 
swear  not  to  lay  down  our  arms  till  they  are  expelled  from  the 
Mexican  territory.^^s 

On  the  morning  of  December  29,  the  allied  forces  of 
those  rivals,  the  general  and  the  commodore,  marched  for 
the  north  to  meet  Flores,  to  support  Fremont,  or  to  take 
Los  Angeles,  or  all  three.  Carson  accompanied  as 
chief  of  scouts ;  ^^®  Beale  was  still  on  the  disabled  list  in  the 
sick  bay  of  the  Congress  and  a  month  was  to  elapse  before 
he  would  be  able  even  to  hold  a  pen. 

Fifty-seven  dragoons  out  of  the  original  no;  sixty  rifle- 
men Volunteers,  433*  sailors  and  marines  ( forty-six  of  the 
tars  being  artillerists),  three  engineers,  three  medical  offi- 
cers, twenty-five  Indians  and  Califomians  as  teamsters,  etc., 
made  up  the  force  of  about  600  men,  who  were  divided 


THE  RE'CONQUEST  OF  CALIFORNIA        297 

into  four  battalions,  commanded  by  Captain  Turner  of  the 
Dragoons,  Captain  Gillespie  of  the  Volunteers  and  Lieuten- 
ants Renshaw  and  Zielin  of  the  Navy.  The  battery  of  six 
pieces,  "  got  up  with  great  exertion,  under  the  orders  of 
Commodore  Stockton,"  was  commanded  by  Lieutenant 
Tilghman  of  the  Navy;  the  wagon  train  "of  one  four- 
wheel  carriage  and  ten  ox-carts  "  was  in  charge  of  Lieuten- 
ant Minor  of  the  Navy.  The  wheels  of  the  carts  being  only 
two  feet  in  diamater,  and  (carreta  fashion)  literally  rough- 
hewn  from  cross  sections  of  trees,  the  march  was  ^omewhat 
impeded. 

Paralleling  the  romantic  highway  of  the  fathers  —  the 
Camino  Real,  which  connected  the  missions,  but  which  was 
not  by  any  means  the  smoothly  traveled  highway  that  the 
title,  *'  Royal  Road "  implies  —  in  the  form  of  a  square 
termed  by  the  sailors  a  "  Yankee  corral "  (baggage  in  the 
center,  artillery  at  the  foiu-  comers),  the  column  marched 
laboriously,  taking  ten  days  to  cover  125  miles.  Sometimes 
in  sight  of  the  surf,  sometimes  not  within  sound  of  it,  up 
one  sandy  hill  and  down  another  whereon  the  grass  was 
already  sprouting,  and  amidst  occasional  ranch  patches, 
past  the  abandoned  missions  of  San  Luis  Rey  de  Francia 
and  San  Juan  Capistrano,  proceeded  the  toiling  Americanos, 
until  on  the  afternoon  of  January  8  the  Calif omians,  under 
Flores  himself,  assisted  by  his  colonels,  Andres  Pico  and 
Jose  Antoine  Carrillo,  gave  the  battle  with  artillery  and  500 
cavalry,  at  the  Rio  San  Gabriel. 

With  skirmishers  out,  in  the  face  of  cannon  muzzles 
ranged  point  blank  along  the  opposite  high  bank  only  100 
yards  distant,  the  Americans  dragged  their  pieces  across 
the  knee-deep  current  and  through  quicksands,  into  counter 
battery,  and  now,  "  very  brisk  in  firing,"  protected  the  cross- 
ing of  the  wagons  and  cattle.  The  grape  and  ball  of  the 
enemy,  directed  from  the  bank  beyond,  for  the  most  part 
sped  too  high.    Californian  cavalry,  which  had  been  show- 


/ 


298  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ing  their  heads  on  right  and  left,  suddenly  charged  the 
American  rear  (the  favorite  Mexican  lancer  practice)  but 
were  repulsed.  Another  f tu-ious  but  ineffectual  charge  or 
two,  a  counter  charge  (afoot),  and  the  battle  of  San 
Gabriel,  January  8,  1847,  ^^  won. 

The  Califomians  then  withdrew  a  short  distance,  while 
the  Americans  camped  on  the  field.  But  when  on  the 
morning  of  January  9  the  Keamy-Stockton  forces  looked 
about  them,  the  Califomians  hjid  vanished  from  the  hill. 
The  Americans  marched  across  the  mesa  of  the  angle 
between  the  San  Gabriel  and  the  Fernando  (Los  Angeles) 
rivers.  The  Califomians  were  awaiting  them.  Says 
Emory: 

'  Here  Flores  addressed  his  men,  and  called  on  them  to  make 
one  more  charge;  expressed  his  confidence  in  their  ability  to 
break  our  line ;  said  that  yesterday  he  had  been  deceived  in  sup- 
posing that  he  was  fighting  soldiers. 

Flores  fired  at  long  range  with  his  nine-poimders  on  the 
right  The  Americans  did  not  reply,  or  halt  except  for  a 
moment.    Los  Angeles  was  only  a  few  miles  before. 

Flores  sallied  and  made  a  "  horseshoe  in  our  front " ;  his 
cannon  extended  on  the  points  of  the  right  and  the  left. 
The  Americans  marched  into  the  horseshoe,  silenced  the 
nine-potmders  on  the  right  flank,  received  with  deadly  car- 
bines and  rifles  a  charge  on  the  left  flank,  and  another 
charge  on  the  rear;  with  a  round  of  grape  completed  the 
discomforture  of  the  enemy;  and  while  considering  that 
this  was  but  the  beginning  of  a  good  fight,  found  that  it  was 
the  end! 

It  was  now  about  three  o'clock,  and  the  town,  known  to  con- 
tain great  quantities  of  wine  and  aguardiente,  was  four  miles 
distant.  From  previous  experience  of  the  difficulty  of  con- 
trolling men  when  entering  towns,  it  was  determined  to  cross 
the  river  San  Fernando,  halt  there  for  the  night,  and  enter  the 


THE  RE-CONQUEST  OF  CALIFORNIA        299 

town  in  the  morning,  with  the  whole  day  before  us.    The  dis- 
tance today,  6.2  miles. 

And  so  passed  the  battle  of  Los  Angeles,  January  9,  1847, 
the  final  battle  in  the  re-conquest  of  fair  California. 

On  the  morning  of  January  10  the  capitulation  of  Los 
Angeles  was  accepted,  and  Captain  Gillespie  "  raised  again 
the  banner  which  four  months  before  he  had  lowered." 

From  the  north  Fremont,  having  in  one  black,  rainy 
Christmas  lost  among  the  ravines  a  hundred  horses  and 
mules,  on  January  11  defiled  upon  the  plain  of  San  Fer- 
nando, twenty  miles  north  from  Los  Angeles.  To  him,  the 
third  party,  fell  the  spoils;  and  if  there  was  anything  in 
"  Fremont  luck,"  he  here  sipped  of  the  last  savory  cup  that 
fate  had  in  store  for  him  through  many  a  month  to  come ; 
for  to  him,  at  the  rancho  Cahuenga,  January  13,  Andres 
Pico  and  Jose  Antonio  Carrillo  engaged  to  '*  deliver  up  their 
artillery  and  public  arms  "  and  to  "  assist  and  aid  in  placing 
the  country  in  a  state  of  peace  and  tranquillity."  In  return 
Fremont  guaranteed  them  "protection  of  life  and  prop- 
erty "  and  permission  to  leave  the  coimtry  "  without  let  or 
hindrance." 

So  much  for  the  Treaty  of  Couenga,  made,  as  protests  that 
army  martinet,  Colonel  Philip  St.  George  Cooke,  by  Lieuten- 
ant Colonel  Fremont  "  with  enemies  he  had  never  met,  in 
a  camp  twelve  miles  from  the  capital  and  headquarters  of 
two  superiors  in  rank  and  civil  authority,  who  had  recently 
fought  and  defeated  them."  And  albeit  Commodore  Stock- 
ton was  properly  annoyed,  and  General  Kearny  was  prop- 
erly astonished,  the  measure  was  ratified.  After  all,  the 
Fremont  way,  if  not  the  orthodox  way  of  negotiating  with 
alleged  rebels  who  had  broken  their  paroles,  was  the  best 
and  shortest  way  between  the  two  points  of  war  and  peace. 

On  January  14  Lieutenant  Colonel  Fremont  and  his  hardy 
battalion  marched  into  the  Ciudad  de  los  Angeles ;  and  Kit 


y 


v/ 


300  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Carson  had  the  opportunity  of  again  meeting  his  old  com- 
mander. 

On  January  i6  Lieutenant  Colonel  Fremont  became,  by 
virtue  of  Commander  in  Chief  Stockton's  proclamation. 
Governor  and  Commander  in  Chief  of  the  territory  of  Cal- 
ifornia, Upper  and  Lower,  "  until  the  President  of  the 
United  States  shall  otherwise  direct."  The  California  Bat- 
talion stuck  by  their  colonel;  and  on  January  i8  General 
Kearny,  impotent  in  his  rival  governorship,  took  his  few 
men  and  his  ox  carts  back  to  San  Diego,  whither  went,  at 
the  same  time,  the  triumphant  Commodore  Stockton,  with 
his  sailors  and  marines  "  to  sail  as  soon  as  possible  for  the 
coast  of  Mexico,  where  I  hope  they  will  give  a  good  account 
of  themselves."  At  the  same  time  the  new  Commander  in 
Chief  by  sea.  Commodore  W.  B.  Shubrick,  was  approaching 
Monterey  with  dispatches  which  would  break  the  deadlock. 
Meanwhile  in  Taos  and  its  environs  was  coming  to  a  head 
that  bloody  revolt  of  January  19  which  was  to  kill  Carson's 
best  friend  and  imperil  his  wife.  But  of  this  impending 
horror  Carson  was  to  be,  for  at  least  sixty  days,  utterly 
ignorant.  He  remained  at  Los  Angeles  with  Fremont,  who, 
persona  grata  to  the  Calif omians,  whom  he  well  understood, 
had  taken  up  his  governorship  of  less  than  two  troubled 
months. 


CHAPTER  XXVII 
CARSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT  — 1847 

IT  MAY  have  been  fortunate  for  Kit  Carson  that  at  this 
time  of  conflict  of  military  and  civil  authorities  among 
the  conquistadors  he  was  detached  again  upon  express  duty 
with  dispatches  for  Washington.  He  started  February  25, 
accompanied  by  Lieutenant  Beale,  with  dispatches  from 
Fremont  for  Senator  Benton  at  St.  Louis,  for  the  President 
and  the  Departments  at  Washington,  and  for  the  Fremont 
family,  wherever  they  chanced  to  be.  Lieutenant  Emory 
was  meanwhile  hastening  by  way  of  Panama  with  Kearny's 
dispatches,  and  Lieutenant  Gray  of  the  Navy  with  Stock- 
ton's dispatches.  Commodore  W.  Branford  Shubrick  had 
been  a  month  at  Monterey,  there  by  Washington  authority 
to  assume  the  chief  command  —  a  command  only  nom- 
inal, however,  until  fresh  dispatches  confirmed  it.  In  the 
sarcastic  words  of  Lieutenant  Colonel  Cooke  of  the 
Mormon  Battalion  (also  arrived) : 

General  Kearny  is  supreme  —  somewhere  up  the  coast ;  Col- 
onel Fremont  is  supreme  at  Pueblo  de  Los  Angeles;  Com- 
modore Stockton  is  "  Commander-in-Chief  "  at  San  Diego ; 
Commodore  Shubrick,  the  same  at  Monterey;  and  I,  at  San 
Luis  Rey;  and  we  are  all  supremely  poor;  the  government 
having  no  money  and  no  credit;  and  we  hold  the  Territory 
because  Mexico  is  poorest  of  all.^^^ 

Kit  Carson  is  well  out  of  this  mess ;  and  he  will  be  doubly 
blessed  if  he  does  not,  like  a  vessel  in  a  typhoon,  run  into 
the  other  side  of  it  at  Washington. 

Lieutenant  Beale  is  still  much  the  worse  for  wear.    He 

301 


302  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

must  have  come  up  on  the  Cyane  from  San  Diego  to  San 
Pedro  of  Los  Angeles,  thence  to  be  invalided  East  Says 
Carson: 

During  the  first  twenty  days  of  our  journey,  he  was  so  weak 
that  I  had  to  lift  him  on  and  off  his  riding  animal.  I  did  not 
think  for  some  time  that  he  could  live;  but  I  bestowed  as 
much  care  and  attention  on  him  as  any  one  could  have  done 
under  the  circumstances.  Before  the  fatiguing  and  dangerous 
part  of  our  route  was  passed  over,  he  had  so  far  recovered 
as  to  be  able  to  take  care  of  himself.  For  my  attention  (which 
was  only  my  duty)  to  my  friend,  I  was  doubly  repaid  by  the 
kindness  shown  to  me  by  his  family  while  I  stayed  in  Wash- 
ington, which  was  more  than  I  had  any  reason  for  expecting, 
and  which  will  never  be  forgotten  by  me.^*^ 

Save  for  a  slight  attack  by  Indians  on  the  Gila,  Carson's 
journey  by  desert  trail  was  uneventful.  A  delay  of  ten 
days  was  occasioned  at  Santa  Fe,  where,  from  the  new  Fort 
Marcy,  "  our  glorious  flag,  with  its  graceful  stripes,  playing 
in  the  wind,"  kept  watch  over  the  old,  flat-roofed  capital. 
But  here  arriving  after  forty  days  of  travel  from  the  Cali- 
fornia frontier,  Kit  Carson  must  have  speedily  lost  interest 
in  the  change  which  had  taken  place  in  local  affairs.  If  he 
had  anticipated  meeting  Governor  Charles  Bent  and  receiv- 
ing news  of  wife  and  children,  he  was  disappointed.  Gov- 
ernor Charles  Bent  was  dead  —  murdered  by  his  own 
townspeople  and  neighbors;  and  the  womenfolk  of  the  Taos 
home  had  barely  escaped.  Following  the  massacre,  troops, 
regular  and  volunteer,  had  stormed  the  Taos  pueblo,  shat- 
tered the  ancient  church,  scattered  the  defenders,  captured 
both  Indian  and  Mexican  alleged  ringleaders,  and  hanged 
them,  as  fast  as  tried  and  condemned,  at  the  outskirts  of 
the  excited  town. 

The  news  had  in  it  every  element  to  shock  even  so  hard- 
ened a  fighter  as  Carson:  it  concerned  family,  friend,  and 
acquaintance,  and  revealed  barbaric  depths  all  unsuspected. 


CJRSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT  303 

* 

For  the  Pueblos,  particularly  the  Taos  Pueblos,  had  been 
inoffensive  during  more  than  lOO  years. 

The  tale  as  it  has  come  down  to  me  through  the  one  eye- 
witness living,^^*  and  probably  as  it  was  told  to  Kit  Carson, 
when,  impatient  of  delays,  he  galloped  in  (three  months  late 
for  the  revenge  which  he  regretted  all  his  life  had  been 
delegated  to  others),  is  this : 

Even  before  Charles  Bent,  governor  of  less  than  three 
months,  started,  January  14,  1847,  frc^n  Santa  Fe,  his 
official  quarters,  upon  his  last  ride  to  visit  wife  and  chil- 
dren at  his  home  in  San  Fernandez  de  Taos,  one  conspiracy 
by  a  Mexican  clique  against  all  Americans  and  American 
sympathizers  had  been  exposed,  and  the  governor  had  been 
warned  that  another  was  brewing.  Nevertheless,  fearless 
and  singularly  credulous  for  a  man  who  had  lived  twenty 
years  among  such  an  unstable  people,  he  went  to  Taos,  and 
with  him  went  a  company  of  five  other  Taosans. 

Don  Carlos,  the  American  governor,-  and  his  p^rty 
arrived  at  Taos  on  the  second  day,  which  was  January  16. 
Even  yet  grace  of  three  days  remained,  for  the  fateful  date 
was  January  19.  But  Governor  Bent  had  said :  "  I  am  not 
afraid.  When  they  [the  Mexicans  and  Pueblos]  have  been 
hung^,  I  have  fed  them;  when  they  have  been  sick,  I  have 
attended  them.    Why  should  they  harm  me,  their  friend  ?  " 

Thus  his  doom  was  sealed  by  himself.  Just  before  eight 
o'clock  on  the  morning  of  January  19,  while  yet  Taos  was 
scarcely  astir  (for  New  Mexican  villagers  are  not  early 
risers),  the  Bent  home  was  aroused  by  a  timiult  in  the 
dusty,  crooked  street  outside.  Mexican  threats,  and  wild 
shouts  and  chants,  and  the  Bent  name  sounded  above  the 
shuffle  of  feet  Scarcely  had  Mrs.  Bent  called  in  alarm, 
and  the  governor  sprung  from  his  couch,  when  the  wooden 
door  of  the  entrance  to  the  patio  was  burst  in,  and  headed 
by  Tomasito  Romero,  alcalde  of  the  Indians  at  the  pueblo 
three  miles  from  the  village,  over  the  door  poured  the  mob 


304  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

• 

—  Mexicans,  Taos  Pueblos,  with  a  few  Apaches,  a  Dela- 
ware desperado,  and  other  strays. 

In  the  house,  a  one-story  adobe  structure  continuous  with 
a  row  of  similar  dwellings,  were  the  governor,  his  wife, 
who  had  been  the  Seiiorita  Maria  Ignacia  Jaramillo,  Kit 
Carson's  wife  (left  in  safe  keeping),  who  had  been  the 
Seiiorita  Jose  fa  Jaramillo,  Mrs.  Thomas  O.  Boggs,  who  was 
stepdaughter  of  the  governor  and  the  wife  of  his  nephew 
(a  trader  from  a  famous  Missouri  frontier  family),  and  the 
Bent  children:  a  company  of  one  man,  three  women,  and 
three  children,  the  eldest  of  whom  was  ten  years. 

The  clamorous  mob  beat  upon  a  door  of  the  house,  and 
the  governor  opened  to  them.  They  surged  upon  the  thres- 
hold. He  faced  them  boldly,  while  behind  him  cowered 
the  women  and  children.    A  bullet  struck  him  in  the  chin. 

"  What  do  you  want,  my  friends  ?  "  he  asked. 

"  We  want  your  head !    We  want  your  gringo  head !  " 

Already  the  insurrectos  had  killed  on  his  own  doorstep 
the  sheriff,  Stephen  Lee,  and  the  prefect  (pure-blood  Mexi- 
can but  an  American  adherent),  Comelio  Vigil  of  the  Jara- 
millo connections.  These  two  men  had  been  of  the  Bent 
company  which  left  Santa  Fe  January  14.  Governor  Bent 
may  have  but  dimly  realized  that  murder  had  been  com- 
mitted. However,  he  fully  realized  that  murder  was  inevi- 
table ;  and  he  resolved  to  be  the  propitiatory  sacrifice  to  the 
Moloch  of  savagery. 

Mrs.  Bent,  now  at  his  side,  alternately  pleaded  with  him 
either  to  fight  or  to  escape  by  a  back  way,  and  with  the  mob 
to  spare  him.  In  another  room  Mrs.  Carson  and  Mrs. 
Boggs  were  digging  frantically  with  poker  and  iron  spoon 
to  make  a  hole  through  the  adobe  wall  into  the  adjoining 
house.  And  little  Alfred  Bent,  aged  ten,  lugging  a  shotgfun, 
took  his  stand  by  his  father's  side  and  said : 

"  Papa,  let  us  die  like  men." 

The  governor  now  was  bleeding  from  other  wounds  by 


CARSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT  305 

arrows  and  slings.  The  mob  was  pressing  close,  too  close 
for  effective  work,  but  were  awed  by  the  steady  front  of  this 
one  man.  However,  upon  the  roof  of  poles  and  mud,  eager 
hands,  coppery  and  hairy,  were  chopping  with  axes. 

Escape  for  Governor  Bent  was  impossible.  No  Mexican 
would  dare  to  shelter  him  who  was  the  chief  prospective 
victim.  And  knowing  this,  he  refused  to  flee;  knowing 
more  than  this,  he  refused  to  fight.  Too  well  was  he  versed 
in  Indian  character.  His  pistols  were  thrust  into  his  hands, 
but  he  declined  them. 

"  They  wish  my  death.  That  is  all.  If  I  resist  they  will 
kill  every  one  of  us,"  he  explained.  "  I  must  not  imperil 
my  women  and  children." 

Through  the  window  and  from  the  housetops  behind  the 
mob,  missiles  were  showering  upon  him ;  at  the  roof,  which 
was  the  ceiling,  hands  were  chopping  and  tearing.  But 
now  the  hole  in  tlie  division  wall  was  hacked  through. 
The  governor,  sorely  spent,  heard  the  dear  voices  calling 
to  him,  and  left  his  post  For  a  brief  instant  he  and  his 
were  by  themselves  in  that  inner  room ;  but  even  while  the 
mob  raged  beyond  the  thin  door  separating  life  and  death, 
he  calmly  insisted  that  the  women  and  the  children  enter 
first  through  the  hole.  They  did.  They  heard  the  mob 
crash  into  the  room  which  the  governor  was  still  occupying ; 
and  presently  he  came  feebly  crawling  through,  scalped  and 
holding  his  hand  to  his  gory  head. 

The  house  in  which  refuge  had  been  sought  was  the  dwell- 
ing of  a  Canadian,  whose  Mexican  wife  was  the  only  inmate 
at  home.  Of  course  she  could  do  naught  to  aid  the  fugitives. 
By  the  windows,  by  the  hole  in  the  wall,  and  by  a  hole  in 
the  ceiling,  into  the  haven  rushed  the  murderers,  mad  with 
blood-lust.  Amidst  the  screams  of  the  women  and  children 
the  governor  tried  to  write  a  message  on  a  piece  of  paper; 
he  held  up  his  hands  in  defense,  and  they  were  slashed  down; 
he  still  survived  long  enough  to  pluck  two  or  three  arrows 


306  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

from  his  face ;  and  then  shot  in  the  face  by  a  pistol  at  close 
range,  he  died.    After  that  his  head  was  hacked  off.^' 

The  mob  left,  parading  through  the  town  his  gray  scali^ 
stretched  with  brass  tacks  on  a  board.  Other  victims  were 
Pablo  Jaramillo,  brother-in-law  of  Bent  and  Carson ;  J.  W. 
Leal,  ranger  and  circuit  attorney,  and  third  companion 
of  the  governor  upon  the  ride  from  Santa  Fe,  now  also 
scalped  alive;  and  even  Narcisso  Beaubien,  son  of  Judge 
Charles  Beaubien,  brother-in-law  of  Lucien  Maxwell,  and 
just  home  from  five  years  of  college  at  Cape  Girardeau 
below  St.  Louis.  He  had  hidden  himself  under  a  heap  of 
straw,  and  had  evaded  the  search.  But  a  woman  servant 
in  the  family,  spying  him,  called  to  the  departing  questors : 
*'  Ven^t  Kill  the  young  ones  and  they  will  never  be  men 
to  trouble  us ! "  So  back  hastened  the  crowd,  slew  him 
and  scalped  him.    His  mother  was  of  the  country. 

All  this  did  Kit  learn,  spurring  in  too  late  even  to  see 
the  hangings.  He  learned  that  his  wife,  Mrs.  Bent,  and 
Mrs.  Boggs  had  escaped  so  narrowly  that  they  barely  saved 
their  lives,  and  took  only  the  clothing  they  wore ;  that  Gen- 
eral Elliott  Lee,  of  St  Louis,  visiting  his  brother,  the  mur- 
dered sheriff,  had  been  saved  only  by  the  firm  stand  of  a 
priest ;  that  at  the  Arroyo  Hondo  settlement,  twelve  miles 
northwest,  after  a  brave  defense,  the  hospitable  miller  and 
retired  mountain  man,  Simeon  Turley,  and  six  mountain 
men  friends,  had  been  killed;  that  at  the  Mora  (future 
home  of  Ceran  St.  Vrain)  had  been  murdered  eight  other 
American  "  foreigners  "  including  Lawrence  Waldo  of  the 
Santa  Fe  trade  Waldos ;  and  that  on  their  way  to  Taos  with 
beaver  pelts  two  other  trappers,  William  Howard  and  that 
Markhead  for  whom  Carson  had  received  a  Blackfeet  bullet 
in  the  shoulder,  also  had  been  foully  slain,  by  their  Mexican 
companions. 

He  heard,  too,  with  added  items,  how  Charles  Townes  of 
the  1843  Fremont  expedition  had  escaped,  the  only  resident 


i 


CJRSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT  307 

American  to  do  so  —  hurrying  by  night  from  Taos  on  the 
back  of  a  swift  mule  supplied  him  by  his  Mexican  father- 
in-law,  to  carry  the  news  to  Santa  Fe ;  how  over  the  moun- 
tains, by  forced  march  in  dead  of  winter,  there  had  pushed 
to  the  relief  of  the  place  the  hastily  mustered  troops  of 
Colonel  Sterling  Price  —  a  detachment  of  sixty-seven  men 
being  volunteers  under  Ceran  St.  Vrain  as  captain,  lucky 
Ceran  St.  Vrain,  whom  only  apparent  accident  placed  in 
Santa  Fe  that  bloody  day,  instead  of  at  his  customary  home 
in  Taos. 

He  learned  how  the  revolutionary  forces,  1,500  strong, 
were  met  the  next  day,  January  24,  at  the  pass  of  La  Cafiada 
(Santa  Cruz)  on  the  Taos  trail,  twenty-five  miles  north  of 
Santa  Fe,  and  were  defeated ;  how,  reinforced  to  480  men 
by  the  gallant  Captain  Burgwin  of  the  First  Dragoons 
(coming  all  the  way  from  Albuquerque),  the  Price  column 
had  pressed  on,  cleared  the  pass  at  Embudo,  and  on  Febru- 
ary 3,  "  exhausted  and  half  frozen,  reached  Fernandez  de 
Taos  to  find  that  the  insurgents  had  fortified  themselves  in 
the  Pueblo  de  Taos  '*  —  the  warriors  occupying  the  massy 
old  church. 

He  heard  how  the  determined  little  army  paused  before 
the  stronghold;  how  for  two  hours  they  vainly  battered 
the  church;  how  by  morning  the  canny  Colonel  Price  and 
his  young  staff  had  evolved  their  plan  of  battle;  how  the 
combat  was  renewed ;  how  from  two  sides  bellowed  the  can- 
non; how  by  noon  no  appreciable  damage  had  been 
wreaked;  how  the  soldiers  now  charged  with  ladders  and 
axes;  how  they  hewed  and  clung,  throwing  shells  by  hand, 
firing  the  thatched  roof,  repelled  by  bullet  and  arrow  and 
lance,  so  that  the  scene  was  one  of  the  Middle  Ages ;  how 
the  storming  column  of  the  First  Dragoons  recoiled  from 
the  church  door,  their  captain,  the  lamented  Burgwin,  mor- 
tally stricken  by  a  ball  from  the  musket  of  the  renegade 
Delaware,  "  Big  Nigger  " ;  how  now  the  sun  was  past  the 


308  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

meridian,  and  while  the  Pueblos  and  the  few  Mexicans  still 
defended  desperately,  although  with  waning  strength,  an- 
other storming  column,  led  by  Lieutenant  Joseph  Mcllvaine, 
assailed  with  axes,  chipping  at  the  thick  wall  itself ;  how  at 
three  o'clock  a  breach  was  effected,  at  which  battered  from 
sixty  yards  the  six-pounder  howitzer;  how  all  the  air  was 
heavy  with  the  reek  of  the  fight,  and  how,  amidst  it,  nm  up 
to  within  ten  yards,  the  howitzer  poured  shell  and  gprape 
through  the  breach ;  how  "  the  mingled  noise  of  bursting 
shells,  firearms,  the  yells  of  the  Americans,  and  the  shrieks 
of  the  wounded,  was  most  appalling  '* ;  how  at  last  through 
breaches  and  door  burst  the  grimy  soldiers,  to  find  the  church 
filled  with  smoke  but  almost  empty  of  human  beings ;  how 
the  Pueblos,  leaping  from  the  gallery,  were  streaming  for 
their  casas  grandes  and  for  the  Sacred  Mountain  behind; 
and  how,  thus  in  the  open,  they  were  savagely  picked  off, 
fifty-one  out  of  fifty-four  or  five,  by  the  mounted  riflemen 
under  vengeful  St.  Vrain  and  Captain  Slack;  and  how  to 
the  rifle  of  Ceran  St.  Vrain  himself  fell  the  Mexican  ring- 
leader, Pablo  Chaves,  wearing  at  the  time  Charles  Bent's 
shirt  and  coat.^^* 

He  was  told  how,  with  1 50  dead  and  with  the  living  dis- 
heartened by  the  failure  of  their  religion,  new  or  old,  to 
protect  them,  the  Pueblos  the  next  morning,  "  bearing  white 
flags,  crucifixes  and  images,*'  sued  for  mercy;  how  it  was 
granted  upon  condition  that  they  deliver  over  the  chief 
Tomasito;  how  the  Mexican  conspirator,  Pablo  Monto3ra, 
—  self-styled  "  the  Santa  Ana  of  the  North  *'  —  was  cap- 
tured and  hanged  three  days  thereafter,  on  February  7,  in 
the  Fernandez  plaza;  how,  at  the  civil  trial,  the  Senoras 
Bent,  Carson,  and  Boggs  were  the  chief  witnesses ;  how  the 
Seiiora  Bent  with  steady  finger  pointed  to  the  murderer  of 
her  husband,  and  how  a  Missourian  guard  placed  over  the 
prisoners  at  the  calabozo  deliberately  shot  Tomasito;  how 
six  of  the  prisoners  were  hanged  on  April  9,  near  the  jail 


S  s 


CROSSrNG  THR  PLAINS 
(From  Bonl.-s'  Cur  Xctv  II'csI) 


URIDGER'S  J'ORT 

MANAllED   BY   JIM    BHIlKiEk 

(From  Slansburys  F-.rploralion   of  Ihc  Great  Salt  Lake) 


CARSON  JCROSS  THE  CONTINENT  309 

at  the  edge  of  town ;  and  how  nine  more,  four  Indians  and 
five  Mexicans,  were  to  hang  April  30. 

All  this,  and  more,  did  Kit  Carson  hear;  for  he  had  been 
from  home  a  year  and  nine  months.  However,  little  was 
there  for  him  to  do  now ;  and  as  a  soldier  he  must  get  his 
dispatches  through.  It  is  evident  that  he  arrived  at  Taos 
between  the  two  wholesale  hangings ;  for  in  the  middle  of 
April  we  find  him  descending  along  the  Purgatoire  of  the 
Taos  Trail  to  Bent's  Fort;  and  on  the  evening  of  April 
20  (about)  he  is  here  encountered  by  Louis  Garrard,  who 
is  just  from  the  tragedies  at  Fernandez. 

Carson  was  now  traveling  on  horses,  posthaste  after  his 
delays.  On  May  6,  at  the  mouth  of  the  Purgatoire,  four- 
teen miles  below  the  Bent  post,  Mr.  Ruxton,  en  route  with  a 
government  train  to  the  States,  records : 

At  this  camp  we  were  joined  by  six  or  seven  of  Fremont's 
men,  who  had  accompanied  Kit  Carson  from  California;  but, 
their  animals  "giving  out"  here,  had  remained  behind  to  recruit 
them. 

It  must  have  been  after  leaving  Bent's  Fort  that  Carson 
had  a  skirmish  with  the  Pawnees,  who  frequented  the  plains 
and  not  the  mountain  country;  and  we  know,  by  the  fact 
of  Carson  having  been  met  by  the  Garrard  camp  on  the 
upper  Purgatoire,  that  he  was  taking  the  mountain  branch 
of  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  via  Taos.  As  for  the  skirmish  itself, 
all  we  know  is  by  the  pen  of  Ruxton  —  that  the  Santa  Fe 
Trail  down  the  Arkansas  was  infested  by  Pawnees;  that  in 
this  preceding  winter  a  government  train  had  been  attacked ; 
and  that  the  Pawnees  '*  had  likewise  lately  attacked  a  party 
under  Kit  Carson,  the  celebrated  mountaineer,  who  was 
carrying  dispatches  from  Colonel  Fremont  to  the  govern- 
ment of  the  United  States." 

But  the  Carson  chronicles  are  silent  as  to  the  Pawnee 
"scrimmage";  and  within  thirty  days,  or  before  the  end 


310  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

of  May,  armed  with  the  Fremont  encomium  —  "  With  me, 
Carson  and  truth  mean  the  same  thing.  He  is  always  the 
same,  gallant  and  disinterested,"  —  Carson  was  at  St.  Louis, 
where  Senator  Benton  received  him  hospitably.  The  sen- 
ator carefully  perused  the  personal  letter  from  Fremont, 
(the  governor  already  deposed),  obtained  from  the  mes- 
senger sundry  statements  to  be  used  later,  and,  forwarding 
to  the  President  both  epistle  and  messenger,  instructed  the 
latter  to  make  the  Benton  home  in  Washington  his  quarters. 

At  St.  Louis,  also,  Carson  was  in  line  to  receive  sincere 
compliments  upon  the  celerity  with  which  he  had  traveled 
—  he  having  made  the  overland  trip  from  the  coast,  "  not- 
withstanding the  inclemency  of  the  season,  and  an  unavoid- 
able detention  at  Santa  Fe,  in  a  shorter  time  [so  states  a: 
personal  sketch  of  him,  in  1848]  than  it  was  ever  before 
accomplished."  He  had  left  on  the  25th  of  February,  and 
had  arrived  in  the  middle  of  May. 

The  dispatch  bearer  continued  with  Lieutenant  Beale  and 
probably  Lieutenant  Talbot.  The  route  from  St.  Louis 
doubtless  was  the  route  taken  next  year  by  that  other 
mountain  man  and  messenger,  Joe  Meek,  envoy  from 
Oregon,  bearing  another  tale  of  massacre  and  a  call  for 
protection.  From  St.  Louis  to  Washington  City  was  a 
ten-days*  journey,  and  inasmuch  as  (according  to  the  Polk 
memorandum  upon  the  back  of  the  Benton  letter)  Carson 
delivered  his  dispatches  June  8,  he  must  have  left  St.  Louis 
about  the  last  of  May.  From  St.  Louis  the  popular  and 
doubtless  the  shortest  road  to  Washington  was  by  boat 
down  the  Mississippi,  up  the  Ohio  to  Pittsburg;  thence 
by  stage  southeast  up  the  valley  of  the  Youghiogheny  and 
over  the  Allegheny  Mountains,  125  miles  to  Cumberland, 
just  below  the  Maryland  line;  from  there  by  the  enter- 
prising Baltimore  &  Ohio  Railroad  170  miles  to  Relay 
Station,  eight  miles  below  Baltimore,  then  on  by  the 
Washington  branch,  31  miles  south  to  the  national  capital. 


CARSON  JCROSS  THE  CONTINENT         311 

Mrs.  John  C.  Fremont,  daughter  of  Colonel  Benton,  and 
wife  of  the  distinguished  explorer,  was  in  attendance  at  the 
railroad  depot  when  the  train  of  cars  in  which  Kit  Carson  was 
traveling  arrived  in  Washington.  It  was  quite  late  in  the 
evening  when  he  reached  the  terminus  of  his  journey;  yet,  not- 
withstanding this,  Kit  had  hardly  landed  on  the  platform  of 
the  depot  before  he  was  addressed  by  a  lady  who  said  that  she 
knew  him  from  her  husband's  descriptions  of  him,  and  that  he 
must  accept  the  hospitalities  of  her  father's  house.*®** 


This  Carson  did  —  glad,  naturally,  to  be  afforded  a  haven 
amidst  siuroundings  so  utterly  strange  to  him.  He  had 
none  of  the  Joe  Meek  bravado  and  audacity  which  made 
that  erratic  individual  glory  in  his  wild-man  character  and 
put  up  at  the  fashionable  Coleman  House,  where  he  ordered 
antelope  steak!  The  Fremont  and  Benton  household  was 
Carson's  anchorage ;  and  according  to  Fremont,  his  *'  mod- 
esty and  gentleness  quickly  made  him  a  place  in  the  regard 
of  the  family,  to  whom  he  gave  back  a  lasting  attachment" 

The  partial  seclusion  afforded  by  the  Benton  home  must 
have  been  doubly  appreciated  by  Carson,  because  he  was 
doubly  embarrassed  by  the  new  environment  in  which  he 
found  himself,  here  in  the  focus  not  only  of  the  country's 
rank  and  fashion,  but  also  of  the  country's  gaze.  His  name 
had  preceded  him ;  and  the  fame  thereof  abashed  him.  He 
encountered  himself  in  the  new  guise  of  a  mighty  hero. 
The  Fremont  reports  of  the  first  two  exploring  expeditions 
had  spread  Carson's  name  farther  than  he  had  any  adequate 
idea,  for  he  was  by  nature  mild  and  unimaginative  and  by 
training  matter-of-fact.  The  one  recital  by  Fremont  of  that 
one  deed,  when  on  the  journey  homeward  from  California, 
in  the  spring  of  1844,  Carson  and  Godey  made  a  bold  desert 
ride  to  avenge  the  Fuentes  camp,  would  have  been  sufficient 
to  emblazon  upon  the  mind  of  the  East  his  alliterative  name. 
This  would  have  given  the  newspapers  their  cue ;  and  since 
those  expeditions  he  had  been  mentioned  in  Fremont  letters 


312  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

to  Senator  Benton  and  more  briefly  in  dispatches ;  and  fre- 
quently, with  varying  degrees  of  fact  and  fiction,  in  chroni- 
cles filling  the  press.  Moreover,  the  California  Battalion 
in  the  Bear  Flag  war  and  in  the  conquest  immediately 
succeeding  had,  by  June,  1847,  become  historic. 

But  now  here  he  was,  himself.  Kit  Carson,  the  moun- 
taineer and  guide,  overland  from  Los  Angeles  and  able  to 
tell  not  only  of  events  there,  and  (if  he  were  not  wise)  of 
the  controversy  impending,  but  also  of  the  bloody  insur- 
rection in  New  Mexico. 

The  newspapers  of  Washington,  Boston,  New  York,  and 
Philadelphia  did  their  best,  in  their  journalistic  style  so 
carefully  pedantic,  so  refreshing  as  compared  with  the  hotly 
eager  style  of  today,  to  make  of  Kit  Carson  and  his  arrival 
a  story;  but  I  do  not  find  that  he  was  awarded  any  scare 
heads.  The  East  was  still  conservative  toward  the  West  — 
that  West  which  for  the  East  existed  only  vaguely. 

Thus  in  June  of  1847  Kit  Carson,  from  the  far  West, 
first  experienced  the  conventionalities  of  the  far  East.  He 
would  re-visit  the  East  —  Washington,  Boston,  New  York 
—  time  and  again ;  and  an  eastern  trip  will  be  made  twenty 
years  after  this  initial  venture,  almost  the  last  act  of  his 
life.  But  during  these  twenty  years  he  will  have  grown 
accustomed  to  travel  amidst  cities,  and  to  being  lionized. 

Aside  from  the  pleasure  in  the  friendship  of  the  Bentons 
and  Fremonts  and  Beales,  and  probably  of  the  Talbots, 
one  other  recognition  in.  Washington  of  his  services  must 
have  greatly  gratified  Kit  Carson.  On  June  8  he  delivered 
to  the  President  his  dispatches  and  the  Benton  letter;  on 
June  9  he  was  appointed  by  President  Polk  second  lieuten- 
ant in  the  young  regiment  of  the  United  States  Mounted 
Riflemen ;  soon  thereafter  he  was  assigned  to  duty  again  in 
California,  and  was  ordered  thither  with  dispatches. 

Lieutenant  Beale  accompanied  him  westward  as  far  as 
St.  Louis;  there  he  was  too  ill  to  continue  and  had  to 


CARSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT  313 

stop  off.  Lieutenant  Carson  improved  the  opportunity 
afforded  by  this  retiun  trip,  in  the  summer  of  1847,  and 
according  to  Mr.  George  H.  Carson,  his  nephew,  "  visited 
all  his  relatives  in  Howard  County.  I  remember  him  very 
well,  it  being  the  first  time  that  we  had  met,  he  having  left 
Missouri  three  years  before  I  was  born." 

From  St.  Louis  and  Howard  County  Lieutenant  Carson 
proceeded  up  to  Fort  Leavenworth;  reported,  and  with  a 
company  of  fifty  recruits  for  the  reinforcement  of  the 
needy  Colonel  Sterling  Price  at  Santa  Fe,  set  out  along  the 
Santa  Fe  Trail,  into  his  own  country. 

He  took  the  desert  route,  this  time,  which  at  the  crossing 
of  the  Arkansas  diverges  from  that  guiding  river  for  the 
dry  march,  or  drive,  over  the  arid  stretch  of  the  plains  of  the 
Cimarron  in  New  Mexico.  At  Point  of  Rocks,  only  160 
miles  this  side  of  Santa  Fe,  he  caught  up  with  a  company 
of  Lieutenant  Maloney's,  escorting  a  supply  train  for  Santa 
Fe.  Here  occurred  a  small  brush  with  the  Comanches,  who 
attempted  to  run  off  the  Maloney  stock  —  and  partially 
failed  only  because  they  ran  into  the  Carson  camp.  As  it 
was,  the  Indians,  the  boldest  horsemen  of  the  plains,  suc- 
ceeded in  getting  away  with  twenty-seven  of  the  Maloney 
horses  and  two  of  the  Carson. 

At  Santa  Fe  Carson  (so  asserts  the  not  altogether  reli- 
able Burdett)  met  his  wife;  and  by  this  I  suspect  that, 
at  the  forking  off  of  the  Taos  branch  of  the  trail,  he  may 
have  detached  an  express  for  his  home  place;  or  he  may 
have  sent  on  word  ahead,  from  Missouri,  recounting  his 
new  prospects. 

At  Santa  Fe  his  volunteers  were  delivered  to  their  station ; 
and  here  Carson  found  awaiting  him  not  only  his  wife  but 
fifteen  mountain  men  of  his  celebrated  Taos  forty-five. 
Strengthened  by  these,  he  pushed  ahead  for  California; 
but,  if  we  may  believe  Peters,  not  by  the  southern  trail 
of  the  Gila,  where  perhaps  he  feared  that  Indians,  instigated 


314  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

by  refugees  from  Mexico  and  California,  might  be  await- 
ing the  passage  of  travelers.  Moreover,  the  Gila  Trail  had 
been  devastated  of  grass  and  wood  by  the  marches  of  the 
dragoons  and  the  Mormons. 

His  course  lay  northwest  by  the  Spanish  Trail,  cutting 
across  southwestern  Colorado  into  Utah  and  down  through 
the  Fillmore  and  Sevier  Lake  country  to  the  trapper- 
christened  Virgin  River. 

On  the  Muddy  River,  tributary  of  the  Virgin,  in  south- 
eastern Nevada,  his  party  unexpectedly  rode  into  a  camp 
of  300  Indians,  treacherously  inclined,  who,  however,  by 
threats  and  leveled  rifles  were  made  tojceep  their  distance. 
Carson,  knowing  Indian  character,  repeated  his  success  of 
1830,  when  on  the  Gila,  south,  he  had  likewise  to  clear  the 
camp  of  undesirable  neighbors.  Now,  as  before,  he  gave 
the  savages  a  limited  time  within  which  to  move  away; 
when,  after  the  time  had  expired,  several  still  lingered  as 
if  to  test  his  nerve,  he  ordered  his  men  to  fire.  One  Indian 
was  killed;  three  or  four  wounded.  Such  prompt  action 
brought  success. 

When  Lieutenant  Carson  of  the  United  States  Mounted 
Rifles  arrived  in  Los  Angeles  he  found  the  aspect  of  affairs 
changed.  A  new  dynasty  reigned ;  the  troubled  waters  were 
smooth.  Colonel  Richard  B.  Mason,  of  the  famous  First 
Dragoons,  was  governor  of  California  and  commander  in 
chief  upon  land ;  upon  sea.  Commodore  James  Biddle, 
the  veteran  of  almost  fifty  years'  naval  service,  succeeded 
Commodore  Shubrick ;  "  Fighting  Bob  "  Stockton  had  gone 
to  Washington  voluntarily  to  submit  his  defense  in  the 
Keamy-Stockton-Fremont  imbroglio,  to  repair  his  political 
fences,  to  resign  from  the  navy,  and  to  be  United  States 
senator  from  New  Jersey;  Lieutenant  Colonel  John  C. 
Fremont  had  on  June  14,  1847,  at  Sutter's  Fort,  or  New 
Helvetia,  received  from  Monterey  the  following  order  from 
Kearny : 


CARSON-S  C0%rMISS10N 

ANT,    f.    S.    MOUNTEP   RIFLES,    JUNE,    1847.      SIGNEO   1 


GOVKRXOR  CIIARLF.S  RFNT 


TAOS.    JANUARY.    1^17 

II  /"lUJi-jjiV^H  nf  Ills  ddiigltU'r,  Mrs.  Teresina 
Siheiirith,  nf   Taos) 


CARSON  ACROSS  THE  CONTINENT         315 

I  shall  leave  here  on  Wednesday,  the  i6th  instant,  and  I  re- 
quire of  you  to  be  with  your  topographical  party  in  my  camp 
(which  will  probably  be  fifteen  miles  from  here),  on  the  eve- 
ning of  that  day,  and  to  continue  with  me  to  Missouri. 

Fremont  suffered  the  ignominy  of  being  assigned  to  the 
rear  of  the  Kearny  column,  with  instructions  not  to  camp 
at  more  than  a  mile  interval;  and,  at  Fort  Leavenworth, 
had  been  relieved  of  his  government  property  and  ordered 
to  report,  imder  arrest,  to  the  adjutant  general  at 
Washington. 

At  Los  Angeles  Kit  Carson,  finding  no  one  to  whom 
to  report,  was  directed  to  the  strange  governor,  already  in 
office  three  months,  and  last  of  the  line  of  four  American 
commander  governors  of  1847.  To  Colonel  Mason  at  Mon- 
terey he  delivered  his  dispatches,  and  was  assigned  for 
dragoon  recruiting  service  under  Lieutenant  (Captain?) 
Andrew  Smith  Johnson  of  Colonel  Cooke's  Mormon 
Battalion. 

Next  we  find  Lieutenant  Carson  transferred  to  a  com- 
mand of  his  own  and  to  a  service  probably  more  agreeable : 
that  of  guarding  Tejon  Pass,  ninety  miles  north  of  Los 
Angeles.  Smuggling  and  predatory  bands  of  Indians  and 
Mexicans  were  wont  to  travel  a  trail  here  between  the  desert 
on  the  east  and  the  Los  Angeles  country  on  the  southwest. 
Carson's  business  was  to  examine  manifests  and  packs, 
and  to  curb  the  illegal  traffic.  At  Tejon  Pass,  therefore, 
where  for  a  brief  space  was  the  United  States  post  of  Fort 
Tejon,  he  spent  a  not  unpleasant  winter. 


u 


CHAPTER  XXVIII 
A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON  "  —  1848 


WRITING  home  from  Monterey,  young  Lieutenant 
William  Tecumseh  Sherman,  of  the  Third  United 
States  Light  Artillery,  which  after  a  long  voyage  around 
the  Horn  had  finally  arrived  in  port  January  28,  on  the 
man-of-war  Lexington,  refers  as  follows  to  a  Carson  trip 
eastward : 

Monterey,  Calif.,  April   10,   1848.  —  The  time  is  rapidly 

approaching  when  Lieut.  Carson,  the  Kit  Carson  of  Fremont's 

narratives,  will  start  for  home.     He  goes  from  Los  Angeles 

to  Santa  Fe,  and  thence  to  Saint  Louis,  where  he  will  put  his 

mail  in  the  Post  Office,  a  long  and  rough  route  to  entrust  papers 

to,  but  letters  have  come  that  way  and  may  possibly  go 
again.^36 

Of  Carson's  trip  we  fortunately  have  full  account,  from 
the  sprightly  pen  of  Lieutenant  G.  Douglas  Brewerton,  late 
of  the  Seventh  New  York  Volunteers,  who  accompanied 
Carson  and  who  later  proved  himself  to  be  a  journalist  the 
equal  of  the  more  famous  Albert  D.  Richardson,  another 
chronicler  of  a  "  ride  with  Kit  Carson."  ^^"^ 

The  trail  opened  from  Los  Angeles,  headquarters,  where 
Lieutenant  Brewerton  waited  to  take  advantage  of  the  Car- 
son escort.  He  was  "  beginning  to  weary  of  the  compara- 
tively idle  life  which  we  were  leading,"  when 

a  friend  informed  me  that  Carson  had  arrived  and  would 
shortly  join  our  party  at  the  mess-room.  The  name  of  this 
celebrated  mountaineer  had  become  in  the  ears  of  Americans 
residing  in  California  a  familiar  household  word;  and  I  had 
frequently  listened  to  wild  tales  of  daring  feats  which  he  had 
performed.     .    .    . 

316 


€€ 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON*'  317 


The  Kit  Carson  of  my  imagination  was  over  six  feet  high 
—  a  sort  of  modem  Hercules  in  his  build  —  with  an  enormous 
beard,  and  a  voice  like  a  roused  lion,  whose  talk  was  all  of 
"  Stirring  incidents  by  flood  and  field." 

The  real  Kit  Carson  I  found  to  be  a  plain,  simple,  unostenta- 
tious man ;  rather  below  the  mediiun  height,  with  brown,  curl- 
ing hair,  little  or  no  l)eard,  and  a  voice  as  soft  and  gentle  as  a 
woman's.  In  fact,  the  hero  of  a  hundred  desperate  encounters, 
whose  life  had  been  mostly  spent  amid  wildernesses,  where  the 
white  man  is  almost  unknown,  was  one  of  Dame  Nature's 
gentlemen  —  a  sort  of  article  which  she  gets  up  occasionally, 
but  nowhere  in  better  style  than  among  the  backwoods  of 
America. 

Evidently  it  was  Carson's  way,  bom  of  experience,  not 
to  assume  the  responsibilities  of  the  trail  before  he  was  pre- 
pared to  meet  them.  Only  a  tenderfoot  relies  on  luck  or 
bravado  to  see  him  through ;  and  the  longer  a  woodsman, 
plainsman,  mountain  man,  or  seaman  follows  his  profession, 
the  greater  care  does  he  take  to  anticipate  emergencies. 
Consequently  Carson  had  gone  into  camp  at  Bridge  Creek, 
fifteen  miles  from  Los  Angeles,  where  he  assembled  his 
men  and  animals.     Brewerton  continues: 

Many  of  these  men  were  noted  woodsmen,  old  companions 
of  Carson  in  his  explorations  with  Fremont;  while  others, 
again,  were  almost  as  ignorant  of  mountain  life  as  myself; 
knowing  nothing  of  the  mysteries  of  a  pack-saddle,  and  keep- 
ing at  a  most  respectful  distance  from  the  heels  of  a  kicking 
mule. 

Lieutenant  Brewerton  joined  Carson  in  the  camp  of 
instruction ;  several  weeks  were  spent  in  hardening  the  green 
men  and  the  animals.  Camp  was  broken  May  2,  and  moveji 
to  Los  Angeles,  whence  the  start  was  to  be  made  May  4. 

In  the  interval  we  employed  ourselves  in  making  our  final 
preparations ;  drawing  rations  and  ammunition  for  our  men,  and 


318  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

dividing  our  provisions  into  bags  of  equal  size  and  weight  for 
the  greater  convenience  of  packing.  The  stores  provided  for 
our  own  mess  (which  had  been  increased  to  four  in  ntunber 
by  the  addition  of  an  old  man,  a  friend  of  Carson's,  and  a 
citizen  returning  to  the  States),  consisted  of  pork,  coflFee, 
brown  sugar,  "  penole  "  and  "  atole." 

Atole  is  a  kind  of  meal  which  when  prepared  forms  a  very 
nutritious  dish  not  unlike  "mush"  ♦  ♦  ^^  Penole  is 
made  by  parching  Indian  com;  then  grinding  it,  and  mixing 
it  with  cinnamon  and  molasses.  This  condiment  is  almost  in- 
valuable to  the  travelers  in  the  wilderness  of  the  far  West; 
as  it  requires  no  fire  to  cook  it,  being  prepared  at  a  moment's 
warning  by  simply  mixing  it  with  cold  water.  It  has  the 
further  advantage  of  occupying  but  little  space  in  proportion  to 
its  weight ;  but  when  prepared  for  use,  it  swells  so  as  nearly  to 
double  in  quantity.  A  very  small  portion  is  therefore  sufficient 
to  satisfy  the  cravings  of  hunger.  In  addition  to  these  mat- 
ters, we  carried  for  our  private  consumption  a  small  quantity 
of  dried  meat ;  this  is  also  obtained  from  the  Mexicans,  who 
cut  the  beef  into  long  strips  and  then  hang  it  upon  a  line,  ex- 
posing it  to  the  influence  of  the  sun  and  wind  until  it  is  thor- 
oughly hardened.  ♦  ♦  ♦  Beef  prepared  in  this  way 
*    ♦    ♦    is  generally  sold  by  the  Mexican  vara  or  )rard. 

On  May  4  the  cavalcade  set  out  from  the  Pueblo  de  los 
Angeles,  which  Kit  Carson  was  not  to  see  ag^in  for  half 
a  dozen  years.  The  mules  were  well  laden  and  the  Carson 
saddlebags  stuffed  with  soldier  letters  for  "  home." 

We  numbered  twenty  hired  men,  three  citizens,  and  three 
Mexican  servants,  besides  Carson  and  myself,  all  well  mounted 
and  armed  for  the  most  part  with  "  Whitney's  rifle,"  a  weapon 
which  I  cannot  too  strongly  recommend  for  every  description 
of  frontier  service,  from  its  great  accuracy  and  little  liability 
to  get  out  of  order  —  an  important  point  in  a  country  where 
no  gunsmith  can  be  found. 

Starting  thus  for  the  States,  Kit  Carson  left  behind  him 
an  Alta  California  pacified,  with  the  Calif omians  and  the 
Fremont  riflemen  alike  settled  down  to  the  pursuits  of 


«€ 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON  "  319 


quiet  citizenship.  But  on  the  American  Fork  above  Sutter's 
Mill  gold  had  been  discovered  almost  four  months  and 
California  was  on  the  verge  of  bursting  into  a  flame  which 
would  spread  like  a  prairie  fire  throughout  the  whole  civi- 
lized world.  Just  in  advance  of  it  rode  Kit  Carson  (the 
news  reached  Monterey  May  29,  and  reached  Los  Angeles 
soon  after),  his  back  to  possible  fortune,  his  face  to  further 
fame.  Yet  in  this  he  was  favored,  for  it  is  doubtful  if 
after  another  month  he  could  have  held  in  his  train  a 
corporal's  guard. 

The  trail  from  Los  Angeles  led  past  the  preliminary  camp 
at  Bridge  Creek  and  over  the  "  Great  Pass  "  (which  doubt- 
less was  the  Cajon  Pass,  by  which  the  railroad  today  crosses 
the  Sierre  Madre  'twixt  desert  and  interior  California)  for 
the  Mohave  Desert  and  the  Spanish  Trail.  The  first  stages 
were  without  event,  save  accidents  to  poor  packs,  the  over- 
taking of  a  trading  caravan,  and  oiu*  tenderfoot  lieutenant's 
trials  with  his  muleteer. 

I  have  heretofore  briefly  mentioned  my  Mexican  servant 
Juan,  to  whom  Carson  had  g^ven  so  indifferent  a  character. 
This  scapegrace  had  for  some  days  shown  a  disposition  to  give 
trouble  in  various  ways ;  but  we  had  come  to  no  open  rupture 
until  one  afternoon,  when  riding  in  the  advance,  I  looked  back 
and  observed  the  reata  of  my  pack-mule  dragging  upon  the 
ground.  Calling  Juan  to  secure  it,  I  rode  on,  thinking  that  my 
orders  had  been  attended  to.  Now  it  so  happened  at  that  par- 
ticular moment  that  Senor  Juan  was  engaged  with  the  as- 
sistance of  a  Mexican  friend  and  his  cigarrito  in  making  him- 
self exceedingly  comfortable ;  and  upon  again  turning  my  head 
I  found  my  reata  in  a  worse  way  than  before.  "  Now,"  said 
Kit,  "  that  fellow  is  trying  which  is  to  be  the  master,  you  or 
he,  and  I  should  advise  you  to  give  him  a  lesson  which  he 
will  remember ;  if  we  were  nearer  the  settlements  I  would  not 
recommend  it,  for  he  would  certainly  desert  and  carry  your 
animals  with  him;  but  as  it  is,  he  will  not  dare  to  leave  the 
party,  for  fear  of  Indians."  As  I  fully  concurred  in  Carson's 
opinion,  and  felt  moreover  that  the  period  had  arrived  for 


320  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

bringing  up  Senor  Juan  with  the  "  round  turn  "  I  had  mentally 
promised  him,  I  simply  rode  back,  and  without  any  particular 
explanation  knocked  the  fellow  off  his  mule.  It  was  the  first 
lesson  and  the  last  that  I  found  it  necessary  to  read  him.  Juan 
gave  me,  it  is  true,  a  most  diabolical  look  upon  remounting, 
which  made  me  careful  of  my  pistols  for  a  night  or  two  after- 
ward ;  but  he  was  conquered,  and  in  future  I  had  no  reason  to 
complain  of  any  n^ligence. 

Our  daily  routine  of  life  in  the  desert  had  a  sort  of  terrible 
sameness  about  it ;  we  rode  from  fifteen  to  fifty  miles  a  day, 
according  to  the  distance  from  water;  occasionally  after  a  long 
drive  halting  for  twenty-four  hours,  if  the  scanty  grass  near 
the  camping  grounds  would  permit  it,  to  rest  and  recruit  our 
weary  cattle ;  among  our  men  there  was  but  little  talking  and 
less  laughing  and  joking,  even  by  the  camp-fire,  while  travers- 
ing these  dreary  wastes;  the  gloomy  land  by  which  we  were 
surrounded,  scanty  food,  hard  travel,  and  the  consciousness  of 
continual  peril,  all  tended  to  restrain  the  exhibition  of  animal 
spirits.  Qirson  while  traveling,  scarcely  spoke;  his  keen  eye 
was  continually  examining  the  country,  and  his  whole  manner 
was  that  of  a  man  deeply  impressed  with  a  sense  of  responsi- 
bility. We  ate  but  twice  a  day,  and  then  our  food  was  so 
coarse  and  scanty,  that  it  was  not  a  pleasure,  but  a  necessity. 
At  night  every  care  was  taken  to  prevent  surprise;  the  men 
took  turns  in  guarding  the  animals,  while  our  own  mess  formed 
the  camp  guard  of  the  party. 

During  this  journey  I  often  watched  with  great  curiosity 
Carson's  preparations  for  the  night.  A  braver  man  than  Kit 
perhaps  never  lived,  in  fact  I  doubt  if  he  ever  knew  what  fear 
was,  but  with  all  this  he  exercised  great  caution.  While  ar- 
ranging his  bed,  his  saddle,  which  he  always  used  as  a  pillow, 
was  disposed  in  such  a  manner  as  to  form  a  barricade  for  his 
head ;  his  pistols,  half  cocked,  were  laid  above  it,  and  his  trusty 
rifle  reposed  beneath  the  blanket  by  his  side,  where  it  was 
not  only  ready  for  instant  use,  but  perfectly  protected  from 
the  damp.  Except  now  and  then  to  light  his  pipe,  you  never 
caught  Kit  exposing  himself  to  the  full  glare  of  the  camp 
fire.  He  knew  too  well  the  treacherous  character  of  the  tribes 
among  whom  we  were  traveling;  he  had  seen  men  killed  at 


*e 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON''  321 


night  by  an  unseen  foe,  who,  veiled  in  darkness,  stood  in  per- 
fect security  while  he  marked  and  shot  down  the  mountaineer 
clearly  seen  by  the  firelight.  "  No,  no,  boys,"  Kit  would  say ; 
"  hang  round  the  fire  if  you  will ;  it  may  do  for  you  if  you 
like  it,  but  I  do  n't  want  to  have  a  Digger  slip  an  arrow  into 
me,  when  I  can't  see  him." 

When  the  hour  for  our  departure  from  camp  had  nearly  ar- 
rived. Kit  would  arise  from  his  blanket  and  cry  "  Catch  up  " ; 
two  words  which  in  mountain  parlance  mean,  prepare  to  start ; 
and  these  words  once  uttered,  the  sooner  a  man  got  ready  the 
better.  Kit  waited  for  nobody;  and  woe  to  the  unfortu- 
nate tyro  in  mountain  travel  who  discovered  to  his  sorrow  that 
packs  would  work,  bags  fall  off,  and  mules  show  an  utter 
disregard  for  the  preservation  of  one's  personal  property. 

They  arrived  at  the  dreaded  Jornada  del  Muerto  (Jour- 
ney of  Death)  which  the  Spanish  Trail,  like  the  majority 
of  desert  trails  of  the  West  and  Southwest,  possessed; 
and  this  stretch  of  eighty  waterless  miles,  covered  in  one 
stage  from  tliree  in  the  afternoon  until  late  the  next  morn- 
ing, filled  Brewerton's  mind  with  fantasies:  "Our  way- 
worn voyagers,  with  their  tangled  locks  and  unshorn  beards 
(rendered  white  as  snow  by  the  fine  sand  with  which  the 
air  in  these  regions  is  often  filled)  had  a  weird  and  ghost- 
like look,  which  the  gloomy  scene  around,  with  its  frowning 
rocks  and  moonlit  sands,  tended  to  enhance  and  heighten." 

It  was  the  many  horse  skeletons  bleaching  along  this 
Jornada  which  prompted  a  tale,  for  the  Brewerton  ready 
ears,  of  old  Bill  Williams'  raid  upon  the  mission  herds ;  of 
the  pursuit ;  of  the  one  thousand  animals  that  dropped  from 
fatigue;  of  the  mountain  men's  reprisal,  and  of  the  final 
loss  of  the  whole  caballada  to  the  Indians. 

The  Jornada  del  Muerto  put  behind, 

our  party,  with  few  exceptions,  besides  the  watchful  horse- 
guard,  were  stretched  upon  the  ground  resting  wearily  after 
the  long  night's  ride,  which  we  had  just  accomplished.    Carson, 

r 


/ 


S22  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

who  was  lying  beside  me,  suddenly  raised  himself  upon  his 
elbow,  and  turning  to  me,  asked  **  I)o  you  see  those  Indians?  " 
at  the  same  time  pointing  to  the  crest  of  one  of  the  gravelly, 
bluff -like  hills  with  which  we  were  surrounded.  After  a  care- 
ful examination  of  the  locality,  I  was  obliged  to  reply  in  the 
negative.  "  Well,"  said  Kit,  "  I  saw  an  Indian's  head  there 
just  now,  and  there  are  a  party  of  at  least  a  dozen  more,  or 
I  am  much  mistaken."  Scarcely  were  the  words  out  of  his 
mouth  when  a  savage  rose  to  his  full  height,  as  if  he  had 
grown  out  of  the  rocks  which  fringed  the  hill  top ;  this  fellow 
commenced  yelling  in  a  strange  guttural  tongue,  at  the  same 
time  gesticulating  violently  with  his  hands ;  this  he  intended  as 
a  declaration  of  friendship ;  and  Kit  rising  up,  answered  him 
in  his  own  language,  **  Tigabu,  tigabu  (Friend,  friend)." 

The  old  Digger  was  persuaded  to  comt  in  —  and  by  twos 
and  threes  came  in,  sure  enough,  the  dozen  others  whom 
Carson  had  predicted.  Came  in  also,  from  the  trail,  and 
bound  eastward,  Captain  Joe  Walker  with  a  trading  com- 
pany convoying  horses  and  mules  into  the  Utah  country. 

Imagine  us  seated  in  a  circle  on  the  ground,  checkered  red 
and  white,  with  here  a  half  naked  Indian,  and  there  a  moun- 
taineer, almost  as  uncouth,  in  his  own  peculiar  garb.  The 
arms  of  both  parties,  though  not  ostentatiously  displayed 
(which  might  have  interfered  with  our  n^otiation),  being 
placed  where  they  could  be  reached  at  a  moment's  warning; 
a  pipe  (Carson's  own  particular  "dudheen")  being  put  into 
requisition  for  the  occasion,  was  duly  filled  with  tobacco, 
lighted,  and  a  short  smoke  having  been  taken  by  Carson, 
Walker  and  myself,  it  was  then  passed  to  the  oldest  man  among 
our  Indian  guests,  who  took  two  or  three  long  whiffs,  re- 
taining the  smoke  in  his  mouth  until  his  distorted  face  bore 
so  strong  a  resemblance  to  an  antiquated  monkey's  under  try- 
ing circumstances,  that  I  had  all  but  disturbed  the  gravity  of 
the  assembly  by  bursting  into  a  roar  of  laughter  ♦  ♦  ♦. 
The  pipe  having  finally  gone  the  rounds  of  our  parti-colored 
circle,  found  its  way  back  into  the  hands  of  the  old  Indian, 
who,  having  placed  it  securely  in  his  mouth,  seemed  to  con- 
tinue smoking  in  a  fit  of  absence  of  mind,  which  not  only 
induced  him  to  refill  it,  but  rendered  him  perfectly  insensible 
to  the  reproving  grunts  of  his  brethren. 


''A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON''  323 

And  this  was  Kit  Carson's  "  own  particular  '  dudheen 


>  >j 


The  talk  then  commenced.  Kit  told  as  much  of  his  route 
and  future  intentions  as  he  thought  necessary,  though  I  doubt 
whether  they  gained  much  real  information ;  and  concluded  by 
charging  divers  murders  and  outrages  upon  the  members  of 
the  tribe  to  which  the  visitors  belonged.  The  Diggers  an- 
swered to  the  effect  that  there  were  bad  Indians  living  among 
the  hills  who  did  such  things,  but  that  for  themselves  they  were 
perfectly  innocent,  never  did  anything  wrong  in  their  lives, 
entertained  a  great  regard  for  the  whites  in  general,  and  our- 
selves in  particular;  and  wound  up,  diplomatically  speaking, 
by  "  renewing  to  us  the  assurances  of  their  distinguished  con- 
sideration," coupled  with  a  strong  hint  that  a  present  (a  horse, 
or  some  such  trifle)  would  not  be  unacceptable  as  an  evidence 
of  our  esteem. 

The  Diggers  remained  all  day,  and  the  night  travel  was 
hedged  about  by  smoke  signals,  so  that  the  next  day  Carson 
thought  best  to  hold  a  young  warrior  as  a  hostage  against 
trouble.  The  camp  was  undisturbed,  save  by  the  lamenta- 
tions, from  the  hills,  of  the  young  man's  friends  and  rela- 
tives, who  were  quieted  only  by  assurances  from  Carson 
and  the  hostage  himself. 

The  vicinity  where  in  the  spring  of  '44  Carson  and  Godey, 
under  Fremont,  performed  the  ride  which  made  them  both 
famous  was  passed,  and  the  story  was  retold.  Indian  signs 
by  tracks  and  fires  grew  more  pronounced;  and  the  party 
soon  passed  another  of  the  Fremont  camping  places,  where 
the  hunter  Tabeau  had  been  killed.  This  tale  also  was  told 
again,  for 

many  of  our  party  had  been  friends  and  companions  of  the 
unfortunate  Tabeau;  and  the  exciting  sensations  called  up 
by  revisiting  the  scene  of  his  tragic  end,  found  vent  in  the  deep 
and  general  feelings  of  indignation  expressed  by  our  moun- 
taineers against  the  tribe  who  had  committed  the  murder. 

We  had  scarcely  been  encamped  two  hours,  when  one  of  our 
horse-guards  reported  that  he  had  discovered  new  Indian 


324  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

tracks  near  our  cdballada,  and  expressed  the  opinion  that  they 
had  just  been  made  by  some  Digger  spy,  who  had  recon- 
noitered  our  position  with  the  view  of  stealing  the  animals. 
With  the  associations  connected  with  the  spot,  it  will  hardly 
seem  wonderful  that  our  line  of  conduct  was  soon  determined 
upon.  Carson,  two  old  hunters,  named  Auchambeau  and 
Lewis,  and  myself  took  our  guns,  and  started  upon  the  freshly- 
made  trail.  The  foot-tracks  at  first  led  us  through  the  winding 
paths,  along  the  river  bottom,  where  we  were  obliged  to  travel 
in  Indian  file ;  and  then  turned  suddenly  aside,  ascending  one 
of  the  steep  sand  hills  which  bordered  upon  the  stream.  There 
we  lost  some  time  from  the  obscurity  of  the  trail,  but  finally  re- 
covered it  upon  the  crest  of  the  bluff.  A  moment  after,  I  heard 
Kit  shouting,  "  there  he  goes  " ;  and  looking  in  the  direction  to 
which  he  pointed,  I  saw  a  Digger  with  his  bow  and  arrows  at 
his  back,  evidently  badly  frightened,  and  running  for  his  life. 
Such  traveling  through  deep  sand  I  never  saw  before.  The 
fellow  bounded  like  a  deer,  swinging  himself  from  side  to  side, 
so  as  to  furnish  a  very  uncertain  mark  for  our  rifles.  Once, 
he  seemed  inclined  to  tarry,  and  take  a  shot  at  us ;  but  after 
an  attempt  to  draw  his  bow,  he  concluded  he  had  no  time  to 
waste  and  hurried  on.  Kit  fired  first,  and,  for  a  wonder, 
missed  him ;  but  it  was  a  long  shot,  and  on  the  wing,  to  boot. 
I  tried  him  next  with  a  musket,  sending  two  balls  and  six 
buck-shot  after  him,  with  like  success.  Auchambeau  fol- 
lowed me,  with  no  better  fortune ;  and  we  had  begun  to  think 
that  the  savage  bore  a  charmed  life,  when  Lewis,  who  carried 
a  long  Missouri  rifle,  dropped  upon  one  knee,  exclaiming,  "FU 
bring  him,  boys."  By  this  time  the  Indian  was  nearly  two 
hundred  yards  distant,  and  approaching  the  edge  of  a  steep 
canon  (as  it  is  called)  of  rocks  and  sand.  The  thing  was  now 
getting  exciting,  and  we  watched  the  man  with  almost  breath- 
less care,  as  Lewis  fired;  at  the  crack  of  the  rifle  the  Digger 
bounded  forward,  and  his  arm,  which  had  been  raised  in  the 
air,  fell  suddenly  to  his  side.  He  had  evidently  been  wounded 
in  the  shoulder ;  yet,  strange  to  say,  such  is  their  knowledge  of 
the  country,  and  so  great  are  their  powers  of  endurance,  that 
he  succeeded  in  making  his  escape. 

"  Our  adventures  in  the  desert  were  eventually  terminated 
by  our  arrival  at  '  Las  Vegas  de  Santa  Clara,' "  continues 


tt 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON''  325 


Lieutenant  Brewerton;  "and  a  pleasant  thing  it  was  to 
look  once  more  upon  g^reen  grass  and  sweet  water,  and  to 
reflect  that  the  dreariest  portion  of  our  journey  lay 
behind  us." 

Unknown  to  them  while  they  had  been  traveling,  all  this 
great  country  of  Nevada,  and  of  the  Utah  which  they  were 
just  entering,  had  changed  nominal  ownership;  and  the 
Spanish  Trail  which  commenced  in  American  territory  by 
conquest  now  traversed  American  territory  by  purchase  as 
well.  Like  a  missing  puzzle-piece  the  final  section  had  been 
fitted  into  place  in  the  old  beaver  West,  completing  to 
solidity  the  checkerboard  of  the  United  States  of  North 
America.*®^ 

Upon  the  high  ridges  beyond  Little  Salt  Lake  the  Cali- 
fornia mules  first  saw  and  felt  snow  —  testing  it  gingerly 
with  forefeet.^**  The  Green  was  high  and  icy  cold  with  the 
June  meltings. 

This  formidable  obstacle  was  to  be  passed,  and  how  to  over- 
come the  difficulty  I  scarcely  knew.  Kit,  however,  solved  the 
problem,  by  proposing  a  raft,  and  accordingly  all  hands  set  to 
work  with  a  will  collecting  the  necessary  material  from  the 
neighboring  woods.  Kit,  in  his  shirt-sleeves,  working  hard 
himself  —  instructing  here  and  directing  there,  and,  as  usual, 
proving  himself  the  master-spirit  of  the  party.  After  much 
labor,  a  few  logs  were  properly  cut,  notched,  and  rolled  into 
the  water,  where  they  were  carefully  fastened  together  by 
binding  them  with  our  reatas,  until  this  rude  expedient  fur- 
nished a  very  passable  mode  of  conveyance  for  a  light  load  of 
luggage. 

Having  freighted  it  as  heavily  as  we  dared  with  our  packs 
and  riding  saddles,  and  placed  the  bags  containing  the  Cali- 
fornia mails  upon  the  securest  portion,  we  next  proceeded  to 
determine  who  of  our  party  should  be  the  first  to  swim  the 
stream.  Five  men  were  at  length  selected,  and  as  I  was  a 
good  swimmer,  I  concluded  to  join  the  expedition  as  cap- 
tain. So  taking  Auchambeau  as  my  first  mate,  we  two 
plunged  into  the  stream ;  and  having  arranged  our  men  at  their 
appointed  stations,  only  waited  Kit's  final  orders,  to  trust 


326  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

ourselves  to  the  waters.  These  instructions  were  soon  briefly 
given  in  the  following  words :  "  All  you  men  who  can't  swim 
may  hang  onto  the  comers  of  the  raft,  but  do  n't  any  of  you 
get  upon  it  except  Auchambeau,  who  has  the  pole  to  guide  it 
with ;  those  of  you  who  can  swim,  are  to  get  hold  of  the  tow- 
line,  and  pull  it  along;  keep  a  good  lookout  for  rocks  and 
floating  timber;  and  whatever  you  do,  don't  lose  the  mail 
bags." 

The  result  was,  that  while  cheered  on  by  the  detachment 
which  remained  behind,  the  navigators  were  carried  down 
stream  a  mile  and  landed  on  the  same  side  whence  they  had 
started!  Brewerton  was  almost  drowned,  being  saved  by 
Auchambeau. 

The  river  at  this  point  was  impassable  on  accoimt 
of  rapids  and  rocks;  so  that,  naked  except  for  their  hats, 
shouldering  their  baggage  and  towing  the  raft,  the  squad 
must  retrace  their  way,  ascending  along  the  stream,  "  and 
uttering  more  than  one  anathema  upon  the  thorny  plants, 
which  wounded  our  unprotected  feet  at  every  step." 

A  second  essay  was  successful  —  abeit  the  plucky 
Auchambeau  had  to  be  well  rolled  and  rubbed,  on  the  oppo- 
site bank,  to  relieve  him  of  violent  cramps  from  the  cold 
water  and  the  exertion.  Buffalo  robes  were  borrowed,  for 
covering,  from  the  Ute  Indians  who  opportimely  arrived; 
and  by  the  Utes'  assistance  the  raft  was  unloaded. 

Carson  and  his  squad  crossed  safely,  with  more  baggage; 
but  the  last  squad  met  with  disaster  —  the  raft  bursting 
upon  a  snag,  the  men  saving  themselves  with  difficulty,  and 
"six  rifles,  three  saddles,  much  of  the  ammimition,  and 
nearly  all  our  provisions  "  being  lost. 

Under  these  depressing  circimistances,  our  camp  that  night 
was  anything  but  a  lively  one ;  the  Eutaws  being  the  only  per- 
sons who  seemed  to  feel  like  laughing.  Indeed,  I  half  think 
that  our  loss  put  them  in  high  good-humor,  as  they  had  some 
prospect  of  recovering  the  rifles,  when  a  lower  stage  of  water 
should  enable  them  to  explore  the  bed  of  the  river.    The  little 


tt 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON"  327 


that  remained  of  our  private  mess  stores  was  now  the  only 
certain  dependence  left  to  us  in  the  way  of  food  for  our  whole 
party.  These  stores  were  equally  divided  by  Carson  himself ; 
our  own  portion  being  the  same  as  that  of  our  men,  and  the 
whole  would,  with  economy  in  using,  furnish  but  three  days' 
scanty  rations  for  each  individual.  Some  of  our  men  had  lost 
their  riding-saddles,  and  were  fain  to  spread  their  blankets 
upon  a  mule's  back,  and  jog  along  as  best  they  might  —  a 
mode  of  travel  which,  when  the  animal's  bones  are  highly  de- 
veloped, I  take  to  be  "  bad  at  the  best."  Others  of  the  party 
had  lost  their  clothing ;  and  I  am  sorry  to  say  that  the  number 
of  pairs  of  "  nether  integuments  "  was  two  less  than  that  of 
the  people  who  ought  to  have  worn  them.  But  this  was  a  trifle 
compared  with  our  other  difficulties,  for  there  was  nobody  in 
those  regions  who  knew  enough  of  fashions  to  criticise  our 
dress;  and  as  for  ourselves  we  were  in  no  mood  to  smile 
at  our  own  strange  costumes.  Personally,  I  had  been  more 
lucky  than  the  majority  of  my  companions,  having  saved  my 
precious  suit  of  deer-skins,  my  rifle,  and  a  few  rounds  of 
ammunition;  but,  alas!  the  waters  of  Grand  [i.  e.,  Green] 
River  had  swallowed  up  my  note-book,  my  geological  and  bo- 
tanical specimens,  and  many  of  my  sketches,  a  most  serious 
and  vexatious  loss,  after  the  labor  of  collecting  and  prepar- 
ing them. 

Two  days  thereafter  the  Grand  River  must  be  similarly 
crossed  —  crossed  with  as  much  discomfort  but  with  less 
loss.  The  party  was  soon  down  to  horseflesh  and  muleflesh 
—  against  which  the  New  Yorker  held  out  for  forty-eight 
hours,  only  to  give  in,  "  and  for  more  than  a  week  ate  horse- 
flesh regularly." 

"  Perhaps  the  reader  would  like  to  know  how  it  tasted. 
I  can  only  say  that  it  was  an  old  animal,  a  tough  animal,  a 
sore-backed  animal  —  and,  upon  the  whole  —  I  prefer 
beef/' 

The  Rockies  of  Colorado  were  reached,  at  the  western 
side.  Here  much  game  was  seen,  but  it  was  exceedingly 
wild,  evading  the  white  hunters. 


328  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

I  shall  not  soon  forget  accompanying  Carson,  about  this  time, 
on  one  of  our  many  excursions  to  procure  venison.  We  had 
discovered  a  doe  with  her  fawn  in  a  little  grassy  nook,  where 
the  surrounding  rocks  would  partially  screen  us  from  their 
view,  while  we  crawled  within  gun-shot.  Dismounting  with  as 
little  noise  as  possible,  I  remained  stationary,  holding  our 
horses,  while  Kit  endeavored  to  approach  the  unsuspecting 
deer.  We  were  both  somewhat  nervous,  for  our  supper  and 
breakfast  depended  upon  our  success ;  but  we  knew  well  from 
former  experiences  that  if  the  doe  heard  but  the  crackling  of 
a  bush  she  would  be  off  like  the  wind.  Kit,  therefore,  ad- 
vanced with  somewhat  more  than  ordinary  care,. using  every 
caution  which  a  hunter's  education  could  suggest,  and  at 
length  gained  a  point  within  rifle-shot  of  his  prey.  My  nerv- 
ousness was  now  at  its  height ;  why  does  n't  he  fire  ?  thought 
I.  But  Kit  was  cooler,  and  calculated  more  closely  than  my- 
self. At  last  I  saw  him  bring  his  rifle  to  his  eye,  at  the 
time  showing  himself  sufficiently  to  attract  the  attention  of 
the  doe,  who  raised  her  head  a  little  to  get  a  look  at  the  object 
of  alarm,  thus  offering  a  better  mark  for  his  rifle ;  a  moment 
more,  at  the  report  of  the  piece  the  doe  made  a  convulsive 
bound,  and  then  rolled  upon  the  sward.  To  tie  our  horses,  cut 
up  the  deer,  and  attach  its  quarters  to  our  saddles,  was  the 
work  of  twenty  minutes  more;  and  then,  remounting,  we 
pursued  our  way,  making  quite  a  triumphal  entry  into  camp, 
where  Kit's  luck  rejoiced  the  hearts  and  stomachs  of  every 
man  in  the  party ;  it  was  really  a  great  event  to  us  in  those  days, 
and  we  had  that  night  a  right  jolly  time  of  it. 

From  those  rugged  mountain  paths  we  at  length  emerged, 
descending  into  the  beautiful  plains  known  as  Taos  Valley. 
Here  we  had  scarcely  gone  a  day's  journey,  before  we  discov- 
ered a  great  increase  in  the  amount  of  "  Indian  sign,"  and 
also  a  change  in  its  appearance,  which,  though  hardly  percept- 
ible to  an  inexperienced  eye,  was  too  surely  read  by  Carson's 
not  to  beget  great  uneasiness. 

"  Look  here,"  said  Kit,  as  he  dismounted  from  his  mule,  and 
stopped  to  examine  the  trail ;  "  the  Indians  have  passed  across 
our  road  since  sun-up,  and  they  are  a  war-party,  too ;  no  signs 
of  lodge-poles,  and  no  colt  tracks ;  they  are  no  friends,  neither ; 
here's  a  feather  that  some  of  them  has  dropped.  We'll  have 
trouble  yet,  if  we  don't  keep  a  bright  lookout." 


''A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON''  329 

After  two  or  three  alarms,  which  resulted  in  nothing 
serious,  the  party  was  within  eighteen  miles  of  the  outer- 
most of  the  New  Mexican  settlements.  This  was  a  debat- 
able coimtry,  where  both  Utes  and  Apaches  were  liable  to 
be  encountered. 

I  was  just  beginning  to  feel  a  little  relieved  from  the  anxious 
watchfulness  of  the  last  few  days,  and  had  even  beguiled  the 
weariness  of  the  way  by  picturing  to  myself  the  glorious  din- 
ner I  would  order  upon  reaching  Santa  Fe,  when  Carson,  who 
had  been  looking  keenly  ahead,  interrupted  my  musings,  by 
exclaiming :  "  Look  at  that  Indian  village ;  we  have  stumbled 
upon  the  rascals,  after  all."  It  was  but  too  true  —  a  sudden 
turning  of  the  trail  had  brought  us  full  in  view  of  nearly  two 
hundred  lodges,  which  were  located  upon  a  rising  ground  some 
half  a  mile  distant  to  the  right  of  our  trail.  At  this  particular 
point  the  valley  grew  narrower,  and  hemmed  in  as  we  were 
upon  either  hand  by  a  chain  of  hills  and  mountains,  we  had 
no  resource  but  to  keep  straight  forward  on  our  course,  in 
the  expectation  that  by  keeping,  as  sailors  say,  "  well  under 
the  land,"  we  might  possibly  slip  by  unperceived.  But  our 
hope  was  a  vain  one;  we  had  already  been  observed,  and  ere 
we  had  gone  a  hundred  yards,  a  warrior  came  dashing  out 
from  their  town,  and,  putting  his  horse  to  its  speed,  rode 
rapidly  up  to  Carson  and  myself ;  he  was  a  finely  formed  sav- 
age, mounted  upon  a  noble  horse,  and  his  fresh  paint  and 
gaudy  equipments  looked  anything  but  peaceful.  This  fellow 
continued  his  headlong  career  until  almost  at  our  side,  and, 
then,  checking  his  steed  so  suddenly  as  to  throw  the  animal 
back  upon  its  haunches,  he  inquired  for  the  "capitan"  (a 
Spanish  word  generally  used  by  the  Indians  to  signify  chief)  ; 
in  answer  to  which,  I  pointed  first  to  Carson,  and  then  to 
myself.  Kit,  who  had  been  regarding  him  intently,  but  with- 
out speaking,  now  turned  to  me,  and  said :  "  I  will  speak  to  this 
warrior  in  Eutaw,  and  if  he  understands  me  it  will  prove  that 
he  belongs  to  a  friendly  tribe;  but  if  he  does  not,  we  may 
know  to  the  contrary,  and  must  do  the  best  we  can ;  but  from 
his  paint  and  his  manner  I  expect  it  will  end  in  a  fight  any- 
way." 

Kit  then  turned  to  the  Indian,  who,  to  judge  from  his  ex- 
pression, was  engaged  in  taking  mental,  but  highly  satisfactory 


330  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

notes  of  our  way-worn  party,  with  their  insufficient  arms  and 
scanty  equipments,  and  asked  him  in  the  Eutaw  tongue,  **  Who 
are  you  ?  "  The  savage  stared  at  us  for  a  moment ;  and  then, 
putting  a  finger  into  either  ear,  shook  his  head  slowly  from 
side  to  side.  "  I  knew  it,"  said  Kit;  "  it  is  just  as  I  thought, 
and  we  are  in  for  it  at  last.  Look  here,  Thomas ! "  added  he 
(calling  to  an  old  mountain  man)  — "  get  the  mules  together, 
and  drive  them  up  to  that  little  patch  of  chaparral,  while  we 
follow  with  the  Indian."  Carson  then  requested  me  in  a 
whisper  to  drop  behind  the  savage  (who  appeared  determined 
to  accompany  us),  and  be  ready  to  shoot  him  at  a  moment's 
warning,  if  necessity  required.  Having  taken  up  a  position  ac- 
cordingly I  managed  to  cock  my  rifle,  which  I  habitually  car- 
ried upon  the  saddle,  without  exciting  suspicion. 

Kit  rode  ahead  to  superintend  the  movements  of  the  party, 
who,  under  the  guidance  of  Thomas,  had  by  this  time  got  the 
pack  and  loose  animals  together  and  were  driving  them  toward 
a  grove  about  two  hundred  yards  further  from  the  village.  We 
had  advanced  thus  but  a  short  distance,  when  Carson  (who 
from  time  to  time  had  been  glancing  backward  over  his 
shoulder)  reined  in  his  mule  until  we  again  rode  side-by-side. 
While  stooping,  as  if  to  adjust  his  saddle,  he  said,  in  too  low 
a  tone  to  reach  any  ears  but  mine :  "  Look  back,  but  express 
no  surprise."  I  did  so,  and  beheld  a  sight  which,  though  highly 
picturesque,  and  furnishing  striking  subject  for  a  painting, 
was,  under  existing  circumstances,  rather  calculated  to  de- 
stroy the  equilibrium  of  the  nerves.  In  short,  I  saw  about  a 
hundred  and  fifty  warriors,  finely  mounted,  and  painted  for 
war,  with  their  long  hair  streaming  in  the  wind,  charging  down 
upon  us,  shaking  their  lances  and  brandishing  their  spears  as 
they  came  on. 

By  this  time  we  had  reached  the  timber,  if  a  few  stunted 
trees  could  be  dignified  with  the  name;  and  Kit,  springing 
from  his  mule,  called  out  to  the  men :  "Now,  boys,  dismount, 
tie  up  your  riding  mules;  those  of  you  who  have  guns,  get 
round  the  caballada,  and  look  out  for  the  Indians;  and  you 
who  have  none,  get  inside,  and  hold  some  of  the  animals.  Take 
care,  Thomas,  and  shoot  down  the  mule  with  the  mail  bags  on 
her,  if  they  try  to  stampede  the  animals." 

We  had  scarce  made  these  hurried  preparations  for  the 
reception  of  such  unwelcome  visitors,  before  the  whole  horde 
was  upon  us,  and  had  surrounded  our  position.    For  the  next 


'\A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON  "  331 

fifteen  minutes  a  scene  of  confusion  and  excitement  ensued 
which  baffles  all  my  powers  of  description.  On  the  one  hand 
the  Indians  pressed  closely  in,  yelling,  aiming  their  spears,  and 
drawing  their  bows,  while  their  chiefs,  conspicuous  from  their 
activity,  dashed  here  and  there  through  the  crowd,  command- 
ing and  directing  their  followers.  On  the  other  hand,  our 
little  band,  with  the  exception  of  those  who  had  lost  their 
rifles  in  Grand  River,  stood  firmly  around  the  caballada;  Car- 
son, a  few  paces  in  advance,  giving  orders  to  his  men,  and 
haranguing  the  Indians.  His  whole  demeanor  was  now  so  en- 
tirely changed  that  he  looked  like  a  different  man;  his  eye 
fairly  flashed,  and  his  rifle  was  grasped  with  all  the  energy  of 
an  iron  will. 

"There,"  cried  he,  addressing  the  savages,  "is  our  line; 
cross  it  if  you  dare,  and  we  begin  to  shoot.  You  ask  us  to 
let  you  in,  but  you  do  n't  come  unless  you  ride  over  us.  You 
say  you  are  friends,  but  you  do  n't  act  like.it.  No,  you  do  n't 
deceive  us,  we  know  you  too  well ;  so  stand  back,  or  your  lives 
are  in  danger." 

It  was  a  bold  thing  in  him  to  talk  thus  to  these  blood-thirsty 
rascals ;  but  a  crisis  had  arrived  in  which  boldness  alone  could 
save  u^,  and  he  knew  it.  They  had  five  men  to  our  one ;  our 
ammunition  was  reduced  to  three  rounds  per  man,  and  re- 
sistance would  have  been  momentary ;  but  among  our  band  the 
Indians  must  have  recognized  mountain  men,  who  would  have 
fought  to  the  last,  and  they  knew  from  sad  experience  that  the 
trapper's  rifle  rarely  missed  its  aim.  Our  animals,  moreover, 
worn  out  as  they  were,  would  have  been  scarcely  worth  fight- 
ing for,  and  our  scalps  a  dear  bargain. 

Our  assailants  were  evidently  undecided,  and  this  indecision 
saved  us;  for  just  as  they  seemed  preparing  for  open  hos- 
tilities, as  rifles  were  cocked  and  bows  drawn,  a  runner, 
mounted  upon  a  weary  and  foam  specked  steed,  came  galloping 
in  from  the  direction  of  the  settlements,  bringing  information 
of  evident  importance.  After  a  moment's  consultation  with 
this  new  arrival,  the  chief  whistled  shrilly,  and  the  warriors 
fell  back.  Carson's  quick  eye  had  already  detected  their  con- 
fusion, and  turning  to  his  men,  he  called  out,  "  Now,  boys,  we 
have  a  chance;  jump  into  your  saddles,  get  the  loose  animals 
before  you,  and  then  handle  your  rifles,  and  if  these  fellows 
interfere  with  us  we  11  make  a  running  fight  of  it." 

In  an  instant  each  man  was  in  his  saddle,  and  with  the  cabal- 


332  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

lada  in  front  we  retired  slowly;  facing  about  from  time  to 
time,  to  observe  the  movements  of  our  enemies,  who  followed 
on,  but  finally  left  us  and  disappeared  in  the  direction  of  their 
village. 

Few  situations  show  to  better  advantage  Kit  Carson's 
mountain-man  abilities,  or  the  respect  in  which  he  >vas 
held,  as  a  leader.  Even  with  his  preparedness  and  bold 
front  the  party  might  not  have  escaped,  for  we  are  told 
that  he  was  aided  by  the  Indians'  fear  of  past  misdeeds  and 
by  their  information  that  a  posse  was  upon  their  trail.  Now 
free  from  peril,  camp  was  made,  and  rest  of  a  day  was  taken. 

Early  upon  the  following  day  we  resumed  our  march,  and 
that  evening  terminated  our  wanderings,  for  a  season,  by  bring- 
ing us  to  the  Mexican  village  of  Taos,  where  I  was  hospitably 
entertained  by  Carson  and  his  amiable  wife,  a  Spanish  lady, 
and  a  relative,  I  believe,  of  some  former  governor  of  New 
Mexico. 

The  other  members  of  the  party  again  took  the  trail,  for 
Santa  Fe,  eighty  miles  south ;  and  finding  in  Kit  Carson  a 
disposition  (under  the  circumstances  not  reprehensible)  "  to 
linger  by  his  own  fireside  to  the  last  moment  which  duty 
would  permit,"  Lieutenant  Brewerton,  with  promise  from 
host  to  join  him  again  in  Santa  Fe,  also  took  the  trail  and 
overtook  the  company. 

Thus  ended  Lieutenant  G.  Douglas  Brewerton's  "ride 
with  Kit  Carson."  With  that  mockery  of  fate  which  so 
often  impresses  itself  upon  man's  career,  after  enduring 
all  the  hardships  of  the  trip  by  desert,  river,  and  peak,  our 
New  Yorker  finds  himself,  now  arrived  at  Santa  Fe,  stricken 
with  influenza,  caught  (he  judges)  by  sleeping  in  a  draught  I 
Therefore,  Kit  Carson,  riding  in  but  little  later,  ready  for 
business,  and  appearing  as  a  "  very  gleam  of  sunshine,  if 
sunshine  ever  came  in  the  garb  of  a  travel-soiled  moun- 
taineer," had  to  be  disappointed  in  that  companionship 
upon  which  he  must  have  counted.    However,  this  was  not 


w    p  2  ^ 


O   i  5  S 


TOM  TOBLN 


(Photograph  by  O.  T.  Davis,  at  Port  Garland.  Colo.,  1905) 


ft 


A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON''  333 


the  only  disappointment.  In  Santa  Fe  he  learned  for  the 
first  time,  from  the  lips  of  Colonel  E.  W.  B.  Newby  of  the 
Illinois  Volunteers,  that  the  lieutenancy  conferred  a  year 
ago  by  the  President  never  was  confirmed  by  the  Senate. 

I  do  not  know  that  this  news  was  to  Kit  Carson  a  dis- 
appointment so  much  as  it  was  a  source  of  chagrin.  He 
says  that  he  did  not  intend  to  retain  the  commission,  after 
the  war,  and  this  we  may  believe.  His  tendencies  and  his 
independent  training,  coupled  with  his  love  of  home,  did 
not  influence  him  toward  army  life.  But  he  had  been 
taught,  for  a  year,  to  consider  himself  a  commissioned 
officer  in  the  United  States  service,  and  he  had  presumed 
that  he  was  entitled  to  a  lieutenant's  pay.  Now  he  must 
realize  that  he  had  not  been  a  commissioned  officer,  that 
he  had  not  been  entitled  to  a  lieutenant's  pay,  and  that, 
furthermore,  he  had  no  back  pay  and  no  future  pay  coming 
to  him  I  **^  To  him  here,  triumphant  after  a  long,  hard, 
dangerous  trail  upon  government  business,  a  trail  followed 
through  successfully  despite  hunger,  thirst,  freshet,  and  sav- 
ages, the  words  from  Colonel  Newby  must  have  been  a 
blow  in  the  face.  Os 

About  this  failure  of  President  Polk's  recommendation 
there  has  centered  a  m)rstery.  Why  should  Kit  Carson 
have  been  turned  down  by  the  Senate,  particularly  at  this 
time  when  appointments  were  called  for,  right  and  left,  as  ^ 

the  forces  in  the  field  demanded?  Many  a  commission  in 
the  army  has  been  handed  to  less  deserving  candidates.  Dr. 
Peters,  of  the  army  medical  corps,  serving  soon  after  the 
occurrence,  claims  that  army  circles  did  not  know  the  reason 
for  the  Senate's  action.  Nevertheless,  it  seems  to  me  that 
this  was  a  little  slap  by  the  West  Point  and  KearfU^s^action 
at  Senator  Benton,  who,  of  course,  suggested  to  President 
Polk  the  Carson  commission. 

The  alleged  caste  of  the  West  Point  clique  had  long  been 
bitterly  assailed  by  Senator  Benton,   who  never  minced 


^ 


is 


^ 


c^ 
•» 


334  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

words;  to  West  Point  jealousy  he  laid  all  hostility  against 
FremcMit,  his  son-in-law,  and  he  lost  no  opportunity  to 
deride  the  abilities  and  the  characters  of  the  Government 
Academy  graduates. 

Whether  the  commissioned  rank  in  the  regular  service 
resented  the  appointment,  per  se,  of  illiterate  Kit  Carson, 
who  may  have  appealed  on  the  trail  but  not  in  the  garrison ; 
whether  it  was  trying  to  check  the  infusion  of  civilian  blood 
amidst  its  Academy  sang  royal  cannot  now  be  told.  In  Civil 
War  time  no  man  who  wore  the  United  States  uniform  was 
more  highly  esteemed  than  was  Colonel  and  General  Kit 
Carson  —  although  even  here  he  was  made  (it  is  claimed) 
the  scapegrace  of  army  politics.^*^ 

As  regards  this  lieutenancy  which  was  not  confirmed.  Kit 
Carson  betrayed  no  pique.  It  is  stated  by  Peters  that 
various  friends,  real  or  pretended,  advised  Carson  not  to 
persist  with  the  dispatches,  urging  him  that  he  was  imder 
no  obligations  to  perform  the  mission.  As  might  be 
expected  of  Carson,  and  as  could  not  be  expected  of  a  man 
less  broad  in  his  conceptions  of  duty,  he  forebore  to  turn 
his  dispatches  in  to  the  commanding  officer  at  Santa  Fe,  and 
continued  on  to  finish  the  task  which  he  had  undertaken. 
This  is  the  more  creditable  to  him,  inasmuch  as  from  Colo- 
nel Newby  he  had  learned  also  that  the  Santa  Fe  Trail  and 
the  southwest  plains  were  badly  infested  by  the  Ccwnanches, 
threatening  all  travel. 

From  Santa  Fe  Carson  returned  with  fresh  animals  to 
Taos,  for  the  remainder  of  his  trans-continental  journey. 
Wishing,  with  his  usual  discretion,  to  avoid  interference 
by  the  Comanches,  he  rode  from  Taos  with  four  followers, 
of  whom  one  was  Oliver  Wiggins  (just  recovered  from  a 
bullet  wound  received  at  the  battle  of  Monterey,  Mexico), 
and  headed  upon  a  great  circuit  into  the  north  and  the 
Platte  country. 

This  being  June,  it  is  probable  that  the  bulk  of  the  Indians 


*t 


d  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CJRSON''  335 


wotdd  be  finishing  their  buffalo  hunts  on  the  plains  —  tag- 
ging the  great  herds  northward.  I  should  think,  there- 
fore, that  Carson  would  have  chosen  the  foothills  trail, 
through  Pueblo,  Colorado,  up  the  Fontaine  qui  Bouille, 
through  Colorado  Springs,  over  the  divide  and  down  to 
the  site  of  the  future  Denver.  Hereabouts  he  veered  to 
the  eastward,  and  struck  the  Bijou  Creek  which  flows  some 
fifty  miles  east  of  present  Denver,  through  the  rolling  plains, 
for  many  a  crooked  mile  deep-cut  in  clay  or  bordered  by 
willows  and  cottonwoods  and  wild  crabs,  to  empty  into  the 
South  Platte  west  of  old  Fort  Morgan. 

Into  the  first  noon  camp  of  the  Carson  party,  twenty-five 
miles  from  the  Bijou  mouth,  rode  seven  Kiowas.  I  have 
the  story  from  Wiggins. 

No  Indians  of  early  plains  days  were  more  to  be  feared 
than  the  perpetually  hostile  Kiowas ;  and  the  arrival  of  the 
visitors  indicated  trouble.  Although  Carson's  reputation 
among  the  tribes  of  the  Southwest  was  undiminished,  he 
had  been  absent  so  long  that  to  many  of  the  young  men  his 
face  was  unfamiliar.  These  Kiowas  evidently  did  not  recog- 
nize him.  They  sat,  ate,  and  the  inevitable  pipe  was  filled, 
lighted,  and  passed. 

Carson  understood  enough  Kiowa  to  make  out  what  the 
guttural  asides  meant.     Said  the  leader  to  the  other  bucks : 

"  These  are  some  of  those  Carson  men  who  have  killed 
so  many  of  us.  When  the  smoke  has  gone  around  the 
third  time,  kill  them  quick." 

Carson  understood  but  betrayed  no  emotion  other  than 
the  suave  dignity  which  characterized  the  meeting;  but  he 
spoke  to  his  companions: 

"  Be  attending  to  the  horses.  Watch  what  I  do,  and  if 
I  lift  my  hand,  shoot." 

The  pipe  passed,  once,  twice;  and  as  Carson  took  it  for 
the  third  pull,  he  remarked,  pleasantly  but  clearly,  in  plain 
English : 


336  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

"  I  suppose  this  is  the  last  time  Vound,  is  it  ?  Now  you 
will  kill  us/' 

The  Indians  understood  enough  English  to  interpret 
aright  either  the  words  or  the  tone.  Carson's  men  of  course 
sprang  forward  with  their  weapons;  the  startled  Kiowas 
threw  off  their  blankets  —  but  they  were  too  late.  Carson 
berated  them  in  Kiowa  and  English. 

"You  red  dogs!  You  thought  you  could  murder  us. 
Do  you  know  who  I  am  ?  I  am  Kit  Carson !  Take  a  good 
look  at  me,  before  you  die."  ' 

The  Indians  collapsed  —  not  so  much  from  alarm  as  from 
astonishment.    They  dropped  their  g^s  and  bows. 

"You're  a  nice  set  of  cowards,"  scolded  Carson. 
"  Shame  on  you  and  your  tribe.  Go!  Go,  tell  your  chiefs 
that  you  have  seen  Kit  Carson  and  that  he  let  you  live. 
Stop ! "  he  yelled,  as  they  slunk  away.  "  Take  your  bows 
and  arrows,  so  you  can  kill  a  few  rabbits  on  your  way. 
And  next  time  you  smoke  the  peace  pipe  with  a  white  man, 
do  n't  plan  to  murder  him." 

The  Kiowas  went  off,  afoot.  After  watching  them  out  of 
sight,  the  Carson  party  resumed  their  route,  leaving  the 
Bijou  and  making  a  short  cut  to  the  Hatte.  Where  the 
South  and  the  North  Platte  joined,  a  trading  party  descend- 
ing from  Fort  Laramie  were  met.  So  Wiggins,  his  three 
comrades,  and  one  of  the  traders  bound  southward  turned 
back  for  Taos,  and  Carson  continued  with  the  other  party 
of  fifteen,  on  to  St.  Joe. 

He  reported  at  Fort  Leavenworth,  deposited  his  mail  at 
St.  Louis,  and  proceeded  again  to  Washington,  where  he 
was  entertained  by  the  Benton  and  Fremont  households. 

Here  in  Washington  was  also  Joe  Meek,  the  mountain 
man,  now  "envoy  from  Oregon,"  arrived  across  country 
to  bear  the  news  of  the  Whitman  massacre  and  to  deliver 
the  appeal  of  the  Oregon  people  for  government  protec- 
tion.   But  Judge  J.  Q.  Thornton  had  preceded  him,  trav- 


''A  RIDE  WITH  KIT  CARSON"  337 

eling  around  the  Horn,  to  present  to  Congress  Oregon's 
ideas  upon  the  administration  of  her  affairs.  The  bill  for 
the  admission  of  Oregon  Territory  was  being  considered  at 
last 

Of  Judge  Thornton,  the  citizen,  we  hear  little;  of  Joe 
Meek,  the  messenger,  we  hear  more,  as  he  revels  in  favor  of 
hero-worshiping  womankind,  lives  fatly,  and  occasionally 
is  interviewed  by  the  more  humble  Carson,  A  strange 
meeting  amidst  unwonted  scenes  was  this,  for  both. 

So  long  as  Meek's  purse  was  supplied,  as  it  generally  was, 
by  some  member  of  the  family  at  the  White  House,  Carson 
could  borrow  from  him.  But  one  being  quite  as  careless  of 
money  as  the  other,  they  were  sometimes  both  out  of  pocket 
at  the  same  time.  In  that  case  the  conversation  was  apt  to  take 
a  turn  like  this: 

Carson :    "  Meek,  let  me  have  some  money,  can't  you  ?  " 

Meek :  "  I  have  n't  got  any  money.  Kit." 

Carson :  "  Go  and  get  some." 

Meek:  "  Hang  it,  whar  am  I  to  get  money  from?" 

Carson :  "  Try  the  '  contingent  fund,'  can't  you  ?  "  1*2 

After  a  bitter  debate  upon  the  section  which  prohibited 
slavery,  the  Oregon  Bill,  as  approved  by  Judge  Thornton, 
passed  the  Senate,  with  all  amendments,  Sunday  morning, 
August  13  —  only  twenty- four  hours  before  final  adjourn- 
ment. 

Now  appointed  United  States  Marshal  in  the  new  terri- 
tory, Joe  Meek  was  dispatched  to  Newburg,  Indiana,  to 
hand  to  General  Joseph  Lane,  veteran  of  the  late  war,  the 
presidential  warrant  ;as  governor  of  the  northwest  empire. 

Kit  Carson,  retired  to  civil  life  (and  glad  of  it),  having 
again  experienced  the  hospitality  of  the  Benton  home,  left 
it,  and  in  October  was  back  by  his  own  fireside  at  old  Taos. 


CHAPTER  XXIX 
THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAYADO  — 1849-1853 

WHEN  in  October  of  1848  Kit  Carson,  brevet  lieuten- 
ant (so  to  speak)  late  of  the  United  States  Mounted 
Riflemen,  returned  to  home  and  private  citizenship  in  Fer- 
nandez de  Taos,  he  found  that  during  the  past  decade  the 
frontier  of  the  United  States  had  not  advanced  an  inch. 
The  longitude  of  western  Missouri  was  still  the  longitude 
of  the  American  frontier. 

The  state  of  Iowa  had  come  into  the  flag;  the  territory  of 
Minnesota  was  another  new  enlistment;  and  ranged  thus, 
Louisiana,  Arkansas,  Missouri,  Iowa,  Minnesota,  in  a  solid 
column,  permanent  and  steadfast,  the  trans-Mississippi  West 
pressed  against  the  trans-Missouri  East.  But  the  line 
of  cleavage  was  as  sharply  marked  as  the  boundary  between 
two  nations. 

Of  the  great  Louisiana  Purchase  of  1803  only  this  narrow 
eastern  strip  between  the  Mississippi  and  the  lower  Missouri 
was  yet  devoted,  even  in  part,  to  the  legitimate  uses  for 
which  the  expanse  had  been  created  —  the  home  of  civilized 
man.  Ignoring  its  possibilities,  across  it  were  annually 
trekking  hundreds  of  people,  deeming  it  but  an  interruption, 
and  rejoicing  when  they  had  put  behind  them  its  five  hun- 
dred miles  of  hidden  riches.  It  was  still  the  Great  Amer- 
ican Desert ;  still  accepted  as  an  asylum  for  wild  men  and 
a  pasture  for  wild  beasts;  the  reports  of  Fremont  thus  far 
were  bearing  only  green  fruit. 

Still  there  assembled  at  Westport,  or  at  Elm  Grove, 
within  the  eastern  border  of  present  Kansas,  the  emigrants 
for  Oregon  and  the  traders  to  Santa  Fe  reinforced,  now, 

..338 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  339 

by  the  California  settlers,  and  soon  doubly  reinforced 
by  the  Forty-niners.  Oregon  Territory  embraced  all  that 
northwest  country  beyond  the  South  Pass,  the  country  out 
of  which  was  to  be  bom  not  one  state  but  three:  Idaho, 
Oregon,  Washington.  As  for  the  rest  of  that  mighty  sec- 
tion beyond  the  Shining  Mountains,  the  present  upper  Cali- 
fornia, Utah,  Nevada,  Arizona,  western  Colorado,  and 
western  New  Mexico,  it  was  known  vaguely  as  California 
and  as  "unorganized." 

In  October,  1848,  Major  (Brevet  Lieutenant  Colonel) 
John  M.  Washington,  of  the  Light  Artillery  in  the  recent 
war,  was  military  governor  of  New  Mexico,  succeeding 
Charles  Bent,  Donaciano  Vigil,  Colonel  Sterling  Price, 
Colonel  E.  W.  B.  Newby,  and  Major  Benjamin  L.  Beall  — 
a  long  list  (equaling  that  of  California)  for  two  short 
years.  New  Mexico  had  been  left  largely  to  its  own  devices 
under  the  eyes  of  temporary  tutors.  "  Until  Congress  shall 
provide  for  them  a  territorial  government "  the  people  of 
New  Mexico  are  advised  by  the  President  "  to  live  peaceably 
and  quietly  under  the  existing  government  de  facto;"  but 
addressing  a  letter,  August  28,  1848,  to  "the  people  of 
California  and  New  Mexico,"  Senator  Thomas  H.  Benton 
advised :  "  Meet  in  convention,  provide  for  a  cheap  and 
simple  government,  and  take  care  of  yourselves  until  Con- 
gress can  provide  for  you." 

The  provisional  government  idea  had  worked  well  in 
Oregon ;  but  minds  and  temperaments  in  Latin  New  Mexico 
were  far  different  from  those  of  the  Saxonized  Northwest. 
Here  in  Nueva  Mejico  social  conditions  also  were  differ- 
ent :  Texas  claimed  the  Rio  Grande,  and  in  the  organization 
of  a  civil  government  the  slave  question  thrust  the  shadow 
of  its  black  arm  across  the  pages  of  any  prospective  con- 
stitution. 

If  Kit  Carson,  back  from  the  wars,  anticipated  a  period 
of  ease,  he  was  to  learn  that  he  was  one  who  could  "  con- 


340  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

sider  peace  only  as  a  breathing-time."  With  those  650,000 
square  miles  of  territory  the  government  of  the  United 
States  had  inherited  the  doubtful  asset  of  120,000  addi- 
tional Indians:  Navajos  and  Apaches,  of  characteristics 
imtested,  unappreciated;  Utes  and  Comanches,  known  to 
the  trapper  and  the  trader,  but  a  tenantry  strange  to  the 
new  landlord. 

Against  these  —  against  the  Ishmaelite  Comanches  rang- 
ing the  Texas  plains  and  north  clear  to  the  Santa  Fe  Trail ; 
against  the  Utes,  descending  from  the  San  Luis  Valley  and 
the  foothills  of  Colorado  to  prey  upon  the  lowlanders  and  to 
stir  the  plains  tribes  into  retaliation;  against  the  crudest 
Apaches,  the  very  thugs  and  holdups  of  the  Southwest, 
by  horse  and  foot  ranging  from  central  Arizona  to  the 
Cimarron  of  northeastern  New  Mexico;  against  the 
wealthy  and  ever  haughty  Navajos,  "  lords  of  New  Mex- 
ico," whose  open  declaration  was  "that  they  would  have 
exterminated  the  Mexicans  long  ago  had  it  not  been  more 
profitable  to  use  them  as  herders " ;  against  these  the  Gov- 
ernment of  the  United  States  must  not  only  protect  its 
own  citizens,  but  by  the  treaty  of  Guadalupe  Hidalgo, 
through  which  the  savage-infested  territory  was  acquired, 
did  "  solemnly  agree  "  to  protect  Mexico  also,  and  to  redeem 
and  return  to  their  country  the  luckless  Mexicans  whom 
Apache,  Comanche,  and  Navajo  were  in  the  habit  of  captur- 
ing across  the  border  and  leading  back,  as  slaves,  to  the 
fastnesses  of  the  North. 

That  was  a  large  contract  upon  the  part  of  the  new  owmers 
of  all  this  acreage  and  of  all  these  chattels;  how  large, 
Mexico,  two  hundred  heavy  years  helpless  before  the  red 
raiders,  well  knew  —  and  Mexico's  successor  was  to  find 
out  by  experience  extending  over  forty  years  of  hard,  inces- 
sant fighting  to  a  practical  extermination  of  the  enemy. 
The  millions  of  dollars  and  the  hundreds  of  lives  expended 
by  the  United  States  to  fulfill  its  obligations  toward  a  con- 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  341 

quered  people  form  one  bright  spot  in  the  western  Indian 
wars. 

So  dawns  in  the  Southwest  the  era  of  the  army  days, 
forming  protection  for  the  march  onward  of  the  white 
settler  —  a  march  to  which  the  himdred  forts  now  but  idle 
names  were  stepping-stones  as  significant,  in  many  cases, 
as  the  crosses  beside  the  Mexican  trails. 

Not  yet,  indeed,  had  there  sprung  up  by  trail  and  stream, 
in  desert  and  green  vale,  those  valiant  citadels.  Fort  Union, 
Fort  Bliss,  Defiance,  Bowie,  Apache,  Fillmore,  Massachu- 
setts, Bascom,  Sumner,  Yuma,  Craig,  Stanton,  Wingate, 
Webster,  and  others  —  many  of  them  parched,  forsaken 
places  where  to  live  was  heroic. 

In  the  North  the  First  Regiment  of  Mounted  Riflemen 
(Carson's  old  regiment)  was  about  to  follow  the  Oregon 
Trail  to  the  coast,  leaving  behind  a  garrisoned  Fort  Laramie 
and  Cantonment  Loring  beside  old  Fort  Hall.  Thus  the 
soldier  advanced  into  the  country  of  the  Sioux,  never  to 
be  driven  back.  And  when  in  October,  1848,  Kit  Carson 
returned  to  Taos,  almost  simultaneously  there  marched  in 
C  Company,  First  Dragoons,  Lieutenant  J.  H.  Whittlesey. 
At  Fort  Marcy  of  Santa  Fe,  also,  there  were  troops.  But 
the  army  days  were  tentative  and  very  young.  Afar 
stretched  New  Mexico  —  including  the  country  north  into 
central  Colorado,  west  to  California,  east  indefinitely;  a 
country  wild,  diversified,  hot  and  cold,  with  its  deserts, 
chaparral  and  timber,  its  fearsome  canons,  secret  valleys 
and  rugged  heights,  ruled  by  the  Navajo,  poisoned  by  the 
Apache.  Through  it,  as  through  the  North,  the  white  race 
must  first  travel  by  emigrant  trail  to  California,  and  after 
that,  buy  with  blood  the  right  of  tilling  the  barren  earth. 

Upon  the  eve  of  the  new  era  Kit  Carson  arrived  "  home.'* 
He  was  thirty-nine  years  old ;  he  had  a  name  known  from 
California  to  Washington;  to  welcome  him  there  were  old 
friends:  Judge  Beaubien,  Captain  Ceran  St.  Vrain  (about 


342  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

to  remove  to  the  Mora,  to  conduct  a  store  and  a  mill), 
Lucien  Maxwell,  Alex  Godey  (about  to  join  Fremont  at 
Bent's  Fort,  for  a  disastrous  exploration  straight  west  into 
the  heart  of  the  Colorado  mountains),  Dick  Owens  (soon 
to  be  married ) ,  and  many  mountain-man  cronies  of  former 
days. 

It  required  time  to  distribute  the  American  soldiery 
through  New  Mexico;  the  volunteers  had  been  discharged, 
and  recruits  for  the  regular  service,  and  particularly  for  the 
mounted  regiments,  had  to  be  found.  The  cavalry  arm, 
hitherto  deprecated,  came  into  its  own  when  the  army 
spread  through  the  western  chaparral  and  desert  Mean- 
while, for  a  year  or  so,  the  Navajo  and  the  Apache  on  the 
one  hand  and  the  Americano  on  the  other  examined  one 
another,  appraised  one  another,  sparred  a  little,  skirmished 
a  little,  and  drew  on  to  the  inevitable  close  grip. 

So,  with  the  interruption  of  an  occasional  trip  to  Santa 
Fe,  on  private  business,  and  of  one  or  two  trips  afield  as 
guide  with  Major  Benjamin  L.  Beall,  in  command  of  the 
district,  in  ineffectual  pursuit  of  marauding  Apaches,  Kit 
Carson,  for  a  year,  rested. 

His  household  was  composed  of  his  wife,  little  Teresina 
Bent,  his  niece  (daughter  of  the  murdered  Charles  Bent, 
his  friend),  and  Dick  Owens.  From  this  home,  under  date 
of  January  27,  1849,  John  Charles  Fremont  writes  to  his 
wife.  The  fourth  expedition  has  been  a  failure,  and  he 
is  resting  after  its  fatigues. 

My  Very  Dear  Wife : 

I  write  to  you  from  the  house  of  our  good  friend  Carson. 
This  morning  a  cup  of  chocolate  was  brought  to  me,  while 
yet  in  bed.  To  an  overworn,  overworked,  much  fatigued,  and 
starving  traveler,  these  little  luxuries  of  the  world  oflFer  an 
interest  which  in  your  comfortable  home  it  is  not  possible 
to  conceive.  While  in  the  enjoyment  of  this  luxury,  then,  I 
pleased  myself  in  imagining  how  gratified  you  would  be  in 
picturing  me  here  in  Kit's  care,  whom  you  will  fancy  con- 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAYADO  343 

stantly  occupied  and  constantly  uneasy  in  endeavoring  to  make 
me  comfortable.  How  little  could  you  have  dreamed  of  this 
while  he  was  enjoying  the  pleasant  hospitality  of  your  father's 
house  1  The  furthest  thing  then  from  your  mind  was  that  he 
would  ever  repay  it  to  me  here. 

I  find  myself  in  the  midst  of  friends.  With  Carson  is  living 
Owens,  and  Maxwell  is  at  his  father-in-law's,  doing  a  very 
prosperous  business  as  a  merchant  and  contractor  for  the 
troops. 

Mr.  St.  Vrain  dined  with  us  today.  Owens  goes  to  Mis- 
souri in  April  to  get  married,  and  thence  by  water  to  Cali- 
fornia. Carson  is  very  anxious  to  go  there  with  me  now,  and 
afterwards  remove  his  family  thither,  but  he  cannot  decide 
to  break  off  from  Maxwell  and  family  connections. 

At  Carson's  adobe  house  Fremont  stayed  three  weeks. 
This  increase  in  the  household  was  nothing  for  the  hos- 
pitable Southwest.  However,  Carson  and  his  wife  were 
anticipating  a  further  increase;  for  in  the  spring  of  1849 
arrived  their  first-bom,  Charles  (named  for  Charles  Bent), 
who,  however,  survived  only  a  few  months. 

At  this  time  living  in  New  Mexico  was  a  problem,  so 
scarce  was  money,  so  high  were  prices.  The  occupation  of 
the  country  by  the  invading  army  had  stripped  it  bare  of 
resources  and  it  had  not  yet  shown  any  recuperative  powers. 
An  adobe  house  with  dirt  floor  rented  in  Santa  Fe  (as 
Indian  Agent  Calhoun  pathetically  records)  at  $70  a  month. 

Com  IS  worth  at  this  time  $2  per  bushel ;  shoeing  of  a  horse, 
$4 ;  sugar,  50  cents  per  pound ;  coffee,  37^ ;  lumber,  $65  per 
M;  bacon  and  lard,  none  except  at  the  commissary's;  beef, 
exceedingly  poor  and  coarse,  8  cents  per  pound ;  a  shoat,  not 
weighing  more  than  60  to  75  pounds,  $8  to  $10;  chickens, 
from  25  to  50  cents  each ;  turkeys,  from  $1  to  $2.  The  neces- 
sities of  life,  such  as  we  have  been  accustomed  to  in  the  States, 
and  the  delicacies  and  luxuries  which  we  require,  must  all  be 
brought  from  the  United  States. 


344  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Freight  on  the  Santa  Fe  Trail  from  Independence  to 
Santa  Fe  was  ten  and  twelve  cents  a  pound;  horses  were 
$125 ;  hay,  $60  a  ton,  and  little  of  it  at  that. 

Obviously,  it  behooved  Kit  Carson,  not  even  on  half  pay, 
to  engage  in  some  business  which  would  be  a  source  of 
steady  income.  His  beaver  days  were  over,  a  resumption  of 
his  precarious  hunter  days  could  not  be  considered,  the 
post  of  official  guide  for  the  United  States  Army  ^vas  not 
created,  neither  would  it  be  a  sinecure;  and  with  that  fas- 
cination of  opposites  which  stamps  alike  the  frontiersman 
and  the  clerk.  Kit  Carson  again  bethought  of  farming. 
And,  despite  the  attractions  of  California,  which  was  then 
booming,  he  decided  upon  farming  in  New  Mexico  with 
Lucien  Maxwell. 

Maxwell  was  located  upon  the  vast  estate  of  his  father- 
in-law.  Judge  Charles  Beaubien,  fifty  miles  east  from  Taos, 
in  a  valley  on  the  Santa  Fe  Trail,  mountain  branch,  from 
Bent's  Fort  south  over  the  Raton  Mountain,  down  to  the 
Rayado  River  and  on  toward  Santa  Fe.  Stretching  many 
leagues  over  hill  and  dale,  this  estate  comprised  the  cele- 
brated "Beaubien  and  Miranda  Grant*':  a  sheer  g^ft  in 
1841,  from  Governor  Manual  Armijo  to  his  friends  Don 
Guadalupe  Miranda  and  Don  Carlos  Beaubien,  of  more  than 
1,700,000  acres  —  a  principality  almost  as  large  as  the 
state  of  Connecticut.  Don  Carlos  bought  out  Don  Guada- 
lupe; as  son-in-law  of  Don  Carlos,  Lucien  Maxwell  man- 
aged the  domain,  eventually  inherited  it,  and  here  he  lived 
in  1849,  potential  prince  of  the  greatest  private  estate  in 
America,  "  and  after  the  vicissitudes  of  early  frontier  life, 
enjoyed  leisure  and  profusion  in  his  later  days."  **^ 

Out  of  his  love  of  home,  loving  his  friends  also,  and 
counting  Lucien  Maxwell  high  among  them,  Carson  "  threw 
in  "  with  him ;  eventually  moved  over  from  Taos,  and  put 
up  an  adobe  house.  Just  what  was  his  thought,  in  making 
the  change,  we  may  not  know.     But  it  was  his  second 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  345 

venture  in  the  same  place,  for  hereabouts  upon  the  Cimar- 
roncito,  or  Little  Cimarron,  he  and  Dick  Owens  had  been 
ranching  (says  Peters)  when  Fremont  sent  from  Bent's 
Fort  his  call  to  the  Third  Expedition. 

Encouraged  by  the  presence  of  both  Maxwell  and  Carson 
in  this  valley  which  Utes  and  Comanches  made  perilous, 
other  bold  spirits  may  have  entered  and  squatted;  there 
was  land  a-plenty  for  all,  and  the  more  settlers,  the  better. 
But  a  Deerfield  or  a  Plymouth  of  old  New  England  days 
was  not  more  exposed  or  more  precariously  founded  than 
this  early  Maxwell  colony  at  the  Rayado.  However,  all 
the  men  were  Indian  fighters,  and  the  women,  mainly  of 
Mexican  blood,  were  wonted  to  frontier  perils. 

But  no  sooner  was  Carson  established  than  he  was  sum- 
moned away  by  an  event  which  seems  to  have  been  noted 
as  the  first  of  those  sickening  murders  that  marked  the 
American  warfare  with  the  Apache  in  New  Mexico  and 
Arizona. 

This  was  the  attack  October,  1849,  upon  the  family  of 
J.  M.  White  —  a  tragedy  that  through  more  than  sixty  years 
has  come  down  to  us  as  typical  of  frontier  times  in  the 
Southwest.  Strangely  enough,  all  the  references  are  simply 
to  "  Mr.  White,  a  merchant  of  Santa  Fe  " ;  by  this  title 
he  traveled  his  last  trail,  and  by  this  title  he  died.  Return- 
ing in  his  own  carriage  from  Missouri,  with  his  wife  and 
ten-year-old  daughter,  near  Point  of  Rocks  on  the  Trail, 
being  within  161  miles  of  Santa  Fe  and  as  he  thought 
beyond  danger,  he  pushed  ahead  of  the  slower  wagon  train 
(under  F.  X.  Aubrey,  well  known  trader)  for  home.  "A 
German  named  Lawberger,  an  American  whose  name  is 
not  known,  a  Mexican,  and  a  negro  servant,  accompanied 
his  carriage/' 

While  the  Americans  were  in  camp,  a  small  party  of  Indians 
came  up  and  demanded  presents.  These  Mr.  White  refused 
to  give  them,  and  drove  them  out  of  the  camp.    They  returned 


346  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

shortly,  and  were  again  treated  In  the  same  manner.  This 
time  they  did  not  go  away,  but  commenced  an  attack  upon  the 
party  by  shooting  the  negro  and  the  Mexican,  the  latter  falling 
upon  the  fire.  The  others  made  an  attempt  to  escape,  but  were 
all  killed  except  Mrs.  White  and  child,  who  were  made  pris- 
oners. The  dead  bodies  were  then  laid  beside  the  road,  but 
were  neither  scalped  nor  stripped.  A  short  time  afterward  a 
party  of  Mexicans  came  along  and  began  to  plunder  the  wagon, 
when  the  Indians,  who  had  concealed  themselves,  fired  upon 
them  and  wounded  a  boy,  who  was  left  for  dead.  He  lay  still 
until  the  Indians  had  left,  when  he  got  up  and  started  toward 
the  settlements,  with  an  arrow  sticking  between  the  bones  of 
his  arm.  He  came  up  with  a  party  of  Americans  the  same 
day,  and  got  in  in  safety.^** 

The  word  seems  to  have  been  taken  to  Taos,  where 
Major  W.  N.  Grier,  then  in  command  of  the  post,  ordered 
his  company  of  First  Dragoons  into  the  field,  to  the  rescue. 
On  their  way  to  pick  up  the  trail  at  the  scene,  the  dragoons, 
guided  by  two  Taos  mountain  men,  Joachim  Leroux  and 
one  Fisher,  whose  deeds  have  distinguished  him  more  than 
his  name,  passed  through  the  Rayado;  and  with  his  char- 
acteristic readiness  Kit  Carson  joined  them.  However,  the 
scouting  command  was  vested  in  Leroux. 

The  trail  was  found  at  the  spot  where  the  deed  had  been 
committed,  and  for  twelve  days  was  followed  southeast, 
to  the  Canadian  River.  Already  some  three  weeks  had 
passed ;  so  that  it  was  a  cold  trail  to  begin  with,  and  snow 
had  since  descended.  Only  the  mountain-man  guides,  expe- 
rienced in  Indian  customs,  could  realize  what  probably  had 
befallen  Mrs.  White  during  these  three  weeks. 

Carson  describes  this  as  being  the  most  difficult  trail  to 
follow  he  remembers  ever  to  have  undertaken,  for  the  rascally 
Apaches,  on  breaking  up  their  camps,  would  divide  into  parties 
of  two  and  three,  and  then  scatter  over  the  vast  expanse  of  the 
prairies  to  meet  again  at  some  preconcerted  place,  where  they 
knew  water  could  be  had.    In  several  of  these  camps  the  pur- 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  347 

suers  found  remnants  of  dress  and  other  articles,  that  were 
known  to  have  belonged  to  Mrs.  White.  By  these  signs,  they 
were  led  to  believe  that  she  still  lived.^** 

It  IS  probable  that  in  hope  of  rescue  the  wretched  prison 
captive  did  her  best  to  encourage  pursuit.  At  last,  in  eastern 
New  Mexico,  near  where  the  Canadian  River  enters  Texas, 
the  dogged  perseverance  of  the  chase  was  rewarded  by 
sight  of  the  Apache  village.  Carson  was  ahead;  well 
knowing  the  utmost  importance  of  instant  action  before 
the  Indians  could  form  for  defense  or  could  collect  their 
wits  for  aught  save  flight,  with  a  yell  to  the  soldiers  to  come 
on  he  rode  headlong,  whooping  briskly. 

Dr.  Peters  would  have  us  believe  that  between  the  Leroux 
and  the  Carson  adherents  jealousy  existed ;  and  that  oppos- 
ing Carson's  policy,  guide  Leroux  counseled  a  parley; 
whereupon  Major  Grier  halted  his  command.  In  this  is 
seen  that  mistaken  policy  which  for. a  time  dominated  the 
attitude  of  the  Government  toward  the  red  man :  the  policy 
of  temporizing,  rather  than  of  conquering. 

However,  in  the  case  of  Mrs.  White  there  was  room  for 
two  opinions:  one,  that  the  band  could  be  induced  to  sur- 
render her;  the  other,  that  the  band  could  be  made  to  sur- 
render her.  Unfortunately,  while  Kit  Carson  acted  upon 
the  latter  assumption.  Major  Grier  paused  to  act  upon  the 
other.     Carson  probably  was  right. 

He  charged  alone,  and  seeing  this,  he  reined  up.  Mean- 
while, the  camp  had  been  in  confusion,  squaws  scuttling  for 
safety,  warriors  hurriedly  mounting  to  spread  for  cover. 
But  seeing  the  hesitation  of  the  soldiery,  they  turned  with 
a  volley,  and  a  ball  struck  the  major  in  the  breast,  by  the 
shock  taking  the  breath  from  him.  He  was  unable  to  speak. 
Infuriated  by  the  wound,  apparently  mortal,  given  him,  his 
men  swept  forward.  The  charge  was  too  late.  Only  one 
warrior  was  killed,  the  others  escaped,  and  the  camp  was  de- 
serted save  for  the  body,  yet  warm,  of  Mrs.  White,  with  an 


y 


348  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

arrow  piercing  it.  Having  been  granted  a  moment  of  grace 
the  Indians  had,  as  was  their  custom,  killed  their  now  use- 
less captive  —  as  menace  against  other  pursuits,  and  as  a 
means  of  lightening  their  trail. 

"As  God  would  have  it,"  said  Kit  Carson,  to  Colonel 
Meline,  in  years  afterward,  "  she  was  just  dead  when  we 
reached  her;  and  perhaps  it  was  as  well."  She  was  "  wasted, 
emaciated,  the  victim  of  a  foul  disease,  and  bore  the  sor- 
rows of  a  life-long  agony  on  her  face."  ^*®  To  Surgeon 
Peters,  Carson  related : 

I  am  certain  that  if  the  Indians  had  been  charged  imme- 
diately on  our  arrival,  Mrs.  White  would  have  been  saved.  At 
first,  the  savages  were  much  confused  at  our  approach,  and  I 
do  not  hesitate  to  say  that  she  saw  us  as  quickly  as  any  of 
the  redskins  did,  for  it  undoubtedly  was  the  all-absorbing  topic 
in  her  mind  that  her  rescue  would  be  attempted  by  her  friends 
and  countrymen.  On  seeing  us  coming,  she  had  attempted  to 
run  toward  us,  when  she  was  shot  down.  Had  she  been 
liberated,  she  could  not  have  long  survived  the  brutality  of 
hardships  and  vicissitudes  she  had  experienced.  Words  can- 
not describe  the  bitter  cup  that  she  had  been  obliged  to  drink 
during  her  captivity. 

Major  Grier  was  found  not  to  have  been  seriously  in- 
jured; the  ball  had  struck  his  buckskin  gloves,  folded  and 
thrust  inside  his  blouse.  The  Indians  were  pursued  farther, 
for  a  few  miles,  until  the  dragoon  horses,  already  severely 
pushed,  began  to  fail.  Then  the  company,  fain  to  be  con- 
tent with  the  little  damage  that  they  had  inflicted  upon 
Apache  life  and  property,  could  only  return  to  the  camp, 
g^ve  the  piteous  remains  of  the  murdered  woman  a  burial, 
and  head  for  Taos. 

On  the  way  a  fierce  winter  blizzard  drove  them  into  the 
timely  shelter  of  a  patch  of  timber  near  Las  Vegas.  Had 
it  not  been  for  the  knowledge  of  their  guides  they  might 
have  perished;  but  to  their  sufferings  there  was  some  rec- 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  349 

ompense  in  the  tidings,  later,  that  the  Apaches,  hard  put 
through  loss  of  their  camp  equipment,  were  decimated  by 
this  same  storm. 

The  young  daughter,  who  had  been  sharing  the  mother's 
torture,  was  still  to  be  found.  The  Honorable  Alexander 
H.  H.  Stuart,  Secretary  of  the  Interior,  says  in  his  annual 
report  of  1850,  to  the  President: 

At  the  last  session,  Congfress  appropriated  $1,500  to  be  used 
in  procuring  her  release.  This  sum  was  promptly  placed  at 
the  disposal  of  Agent  Calhoun,  the  nearest  resident  agent, 
whose  judgment  and  knowledge  of  the  Indian  character  fit 
him  in  a  peculiar  manner  to  discharge  the  duty,  with  full 
power  to  use  it  in  such  manner  as  he  might  think  best.  He 
has  also  been  instructed  to  convey  information  to  the  Indians, 
that  unless  this  child  be  delivered  up  they  will  receive  the 
chastisement  by  the  military  power  of  the  government  which 
their  savage  cruelty  so  richly  deserves.^*^ 

But  despite  this  fatherly  admonition  by  the  State  Depart- 
ment, the  Apaches  (for  obvious  reasons)  declined  to  pro- 
duce the  girl  —  whose  body  probably  long  before  had  been 
food  for  the  wolves. 

The  Grovemment  at  Washington  was  still  young  in  Indian 
knowledge,  still  uncertain  in  its  course  toward  its  fickle 
wards :  and  Colonel  Meline's  statement,  here  appended,  may 
in  the  main  be  true. 

The  following  year  a  treaty  of  peace  was  made  with  the 
Apaches,  and  they  received  the  "  whisk "  and  "  shoog " 
(whiskey  and  sugar)  for  which  alone  they  made  it.  The 
Apache  chief  who  represented  the  tribe,  and  who  had  carried 
off  the  unfortunate  lady  we  have  spoken  of,  came  into  our  camp 
on  that  occasion  appropriately  adorned  with  a  necklace  made 
of  the  teeth  of  the  murdered  Doctor  White !  1*® 

Of  this,  however,  we  are  assured :  the  head  chief.  White 
Wolf  (Lobo  Blanco)  finally  met  his  deserts  in  a  dramatic 


850  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

duel,  March  5,  1854,  near  the  Cimarron  River  seventy  miles 
east  of  Fort  Union,  with  Second  Lieutenant  David  Bell,  H 
Company,  First  Dragoons.  The  company,  then  on  a  scout, 
numbered  about  thirty  men. 

Bell  had  assigned  his  baggage-mules  to  the  charge  of  five 
or  six  men,  and  held  a  mounted  interview  with  White  Wolf, 
who  stood  in  front  of  twenty-two  Indians  on  foot,  well  armed 
and  in  line.  Bell  was  in  front  of  his  troopers,  who  were  about 
twenty  paces  from  the  Indians  —  exactly  equal  in  number  and 
extent  of  line.    Both  parties  were  prepared  to  use  firearms. 

The  parley  was  almost  tediously  long.  *  *  *  White 
Wolf  was  very  bold,  and  became  defiant. 

At  last  —  the  chief  sinking  on  one  knee  and  aiming  his 
gun,  and  Bell  throwing  his  body  forward  and  reining  up  his 
horse  —  they  exchanged  shots.  Both  lines,  by  ccwnmand,  fol- 
lowed the  example,  the  troopers,  however,  spurring  forward 
through  or  over  their  enemies.  The  warriors  mostly  threw 
themselves  on  the  earth,  and  several  vertical  wounds  were 
received  by  horse  and  rider. 

The  Apaches  were  broken,  and  fled;  the  death  list 
(mainly  Indian)  was  twenty-one  out  of  the  forty-six 
participants.     Lieutenant  Bell  was  not  wounded,  but 

he  had  shot  White  Wolf  several  times,  and  afterwards  others 
did  so;  but  so  tenacious  of  life  was  he  that,  to  finish  him, 
a  man  got  a  great  rock  and  mashed  his  head.^*® 

Thus  were  the  White  family  avenged.  But  from  this 
aftermath  of  that  tragedy  which  so  interested  Kit  Carson 
and  his  contemporaries,  let  us  return  to  Kit  Carson  himself. 

During  the  winter  of  1849-50  Rayado  (the  "  The  "  being 
early  dropped,  and  today  being  forgotten)  became  a  mili- 
tary outpost,  at  which  were  stationed  a  detachment  of  the 
First  Dragoons.  The  settlement  must  have  been  growing 
—  Lucien  Maxwell  and  Kit  Carson,  both  so  well  known, 
would  have  popularized  the  venture  —  and  the  protection 
of  the  soldiers  would  be  welccmied.     As  an  outpost  Rayado 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAYADO  351 

was  admirably  located,  being  across  the  ridge  from  close- 
pent  Taos,  and  within  easy  striking  distance  of  the  Santa  Fe 
Trail  from  the  Cimarron  to  Santa  Fe,  and  of  the  country 
north  and  south. 

Through  Colonel  John  Mimroe,  commanding  the  Ninth 
Military  District  (which  was  New  Mexico)  we  have  the 
following  dispatches,  dated  April  15,  1850,  transmitted  to 
the  adjutant  general  at  Washington,  "  giving  an  account  of 
a  gallant  and  successful  affair  *  *  *  with  a  maraud- 
ing party  of  Apache  Indians,  the  troops  having  the  valuable 
experience  of  Mr.  Kit  Carson  and  his  two  associates  in  con- 
ducting the  business  " : 

Taos,  New  Mexico,  April  12,  1850. 
Sir: 

Herewith  I  have  the  honor  to  forward,  for  the  information 
of  the  Colonel  commanding  9th  military  department,  a  report 
of  Sergeant  Holbrook,  of  my  company,  who  has  lately  had  a 
fight  with  a  party  of  Apache  Indians.  I  regard  the  affair  as  a 
very  handsome  one,  and  very  creditable  to  the  sergeant  and  his 
men.  I  am  informed  by  a  creditable  person  from  Rayado  that 
two  of  the  Indians  were  killed  with  the  sabre  —  the  contest 
having  become  so  close. 

The  sergeant  speaks  of  having  the  scalps  of  the  Indians 
whom  they  killed.  They  were  taken,  I  am  informed,  by  two 
or  three  Mexican  herders  who  came  up  after  the  fight  was 
over. 

I  rejoined  my  command  at  this  post  (from  Santa  Fe)  at  11 
o'clock  A.  M.  yesterday. 

Very  respectfully,  &c., 

Wm.  N.  Grier, 
Capt.  and  B't.  Maj.,  Com'g  at  Taos,  New  Mexico. 

Rayado^  New  Mexico^  April  7,  1850. 
Sir: 

It  becomes  my  duty  to  report  the  result  of  a  fight  between 
the  detachment  of  company  "  I,"  first  dragoons,  stationed 
at  Rayado,  and  a  party  of  Apache  warriors,  which  took  place 
yesterday,  the  6th  instant,  on  the  opposite  side  of  Red  River, 
thirty  miles  from  this  place.    The  circumstances  led  to  it  as 


352  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

follows:  On  the  night  of  the  Sth  instant,  Mr.  Maxwell's 
herders'  camp,  which  is  three  miles  from  here,  was  attacked 
by  Indians,  who  severely  wounded  two  of  his  men,  and  drove 
off  nearly  all  of  the  horses  and  mules  belonging  to  the  citizens 
of  this  place.  On  the  news  of  this,  I  started  in  pursuit,  with 
the  assistance  of  Messrs.  Carson,  Fesher,  and  Newell ;  and  as 
soon  as  daylight  appeared,  to  enable  us  to  discover  tfie  trail, 
we  galloped  until  we  overtook  the  enemy.  A  charge  was 
immediately  made,  which  resulted  in  the  loss  on  our  side  of 
one  horse  (that  of  private  Richart's,  shot  from  under  him). 
We  killed  five  Indians,  (the  scalps  of  which  we  have  for  a 
voucher),  and  wounded  one  or  two  others,  and  recovered  all 
the  animals,  but  four,  which  four  Indians  made  their  escape 
on.  Allow  me  to  say  that  every  man  was  eager  in  the  pursuit, 
and  fought  with  that  gallantry  characteristic  of  the  American 
soldier. 

Very  respectfully,  your  obedient  servant, 

Wm.  C  Holbrook, 
Sergeant,  Commanding  Detachment. 
Major  Wm.  N.  Grier, 

Commanding  Officer  at  Taos,  N.  M. 

Existence  at  the  Rayado  was  therefore  by  no  means  as 
halcyon  as  might  have  been  hoped;  for  when  the  Indians 
grew  so  vindictive  as  to  pillage  the  property  of  mountain 
men  as  well  known  as  Maxwell  and  Carson  life  assumed  a 
serious  aspect. 

Soon  after  the  little  battle  exultantly  reported  by  Colonel 
Munroe,  from  Major  Grier  and  Sergeant  Holbrook,  Kit 
Carson  and  comrade  Tim  Goodell  (another  veteran  of  the 
beaver  trail)  rode  north  with  fifty  mules  and  horses  to  cut 
the  Oregon  Trail  at  Fort  Laramie.  Here  the  animals  were 
marketed  among  the  passing  emigrants  bound  for  the  golden 
West  ^—  and  here,  if  report  may  be  credited,  the  overlanders, 
curious  to  view  the  wearer  of  a  name  so  celebrated,  upon 
seeing  Carson,  roundly  vented  their  disappointment,  even 
declared  the  modest  claimant  a  pretender.  Goodell  was 
smitten  with  the  gold  fever,  and  proceeded  to  California; 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAYADO  353 

Kit  Carson,  more  phlegmatic,  and  conscious  of  his  family 
responsibilities,  returned  to  Rayado,  via  Taos. 

Again  at  home,  and  bent  upon  that  farmer's  profession 
which  he  would  make  a  vocation,  but  which  the  fates  decreed 
should  be  only  an  avocation,  during  the  summer  he  was 
called,  as  general  police  officer,  to  take  the  trail  of  one  Fox 
who,  with  some  companions,  was  suspected  of  designs  upon 
the  life  and  money  of  Messrs.  Weatherhead  and  Brevoort, 
Santa  Fe  merchants  bound  upon  a  purchasing  visit  to  St. 
Louis.  With  a  small  squad  of  dragoons,  and  aided  by  rein- 
forcements from  the  inward  bound  recruits  under  Captain 
R.  S.  Ewell  (future  Confederate  general)  encountered  on 
the  way,  Carson,  after  a  ride  of  some  300  miles,  intercepted 
the  caravan  before  the  evil  design  upon  it  had  been  consum- 
mated, exposed  the  conspirators,  and  assisted  at  their  arrest. 
Fox  was  taken  back  to  Taos,  and  incarcerated  in  the  cala- 
bozo  —  whence,  for  lack  of  proper  witnesses  to  testify 
against  him,  he  was  soon  liberated.  As  for  Kit  Carson,  his 
tangible  reward  for  succor  rendered  to  honest  traders  was  a 
pair  of  silver-mounted  revolvers,  engraved  with  "a  very 
few,  but  expressive  words." 

Sometime  in  1850  he  made  a  trip  to  Missouri,  and  brought 
back  with  him  (so  claims  a  report)  his  little  daughter 
Adaline  and  a  niece,  Susan  Carson,  who  soon  married  Jesse 
Nelson,  a  member  of  the  Rayado  colony.  Carson's  house- 
hold now  consisted  of  his  wife,  his  half-Indian  daughter 
Adaline,  aged  about  fourteen  and  better  educated  than  her 
father,  his  niece,  Teresina  Bent,  aged  nine,  and  his  new  niece, 
Susan.  In  the  coming  year,  1851,  would  be  bom  a  second 
boy,  William  —  the  first  of  the  seven  children  who  lived. 

Again,  in  1851  (the  exact  season  is  in  dispute),  Carson 
made  another  trip  to  Missouri,  as  captain  of  a  wagon  train 
from  the  Maxwell  rancho,  conveying,  probably,  robes,  Mex- 
ican blankets,  horses  and  mules,  for  trade  in  the  "  States." 
He  would  see  the  beginnings  of  that  new  town  called  Kansas 


354  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

City;  and  irom  its  port  of  Westport  Landing  would  descend 
by  steamboat  to  St.  Louis,  there  to  purchase  supplies  for  the 
Rayado  establishment  Carson  came  back  by  Bent's  Fort, 
which,  now  lapsed  from  its  former  glory  and  devoted  chiefly 
to  the  wants  of  the  gold  field  emigrants,  was  being  offered 
in  vain  to  the  government 

With  his  customary  fortune  he  ran  into  a  band  of  Chey- 
ennes  enraged  over  the  flogging  of  a  chief  by  an  indiscreet 
army  officer.  Here  ensued  a  scene  very  much  like  the  inci- 
dent with  the  Kiowas,  in  the  summer  of  1848.  After  the 
pipe  had  gone  round,  Carson  heard  himself  discussed  as  a 
prospective  victim ;  whereupon,  when  his  treacherous  guests, 
not  knowing  him  and  not  suspecting  that  he  understood 
their  words,  had  said  their  say,  he  arose,  to  accuse  them. 

Of  his  fifteen  men  only  two  were  dependable.  One,  a 
Canadian,  Pete,  afterwards  narrated  to  Dr.  Peters: 

Why,  Kit  knew  just  what  was  to  be  done,  and  did  it,  too. 
With  any  other  man,  we  would  have  gone  under.  The  Indians 
were  more  afraid  of  him  than  all  the  rest  of  us  put  together. 
There  were  red  fellows  enough  there  to  eat  us  up,  and  at  one 
time  I  could  almost  feel  my  hair  leaving  my  head.  We  had 
two  women  traveling  with  us,  and  their  crying  made  me  feel 
so  bad  that  I  was  sartin  there  was  no  fight  in  me.  Women  are 
poor  plunder  to  have  along  when  going  out  on  a  war  party,  but 
Kit  talked  to  them  and  then  to  the  Indians,  and  put  them  both 
finally  on  the  right  trail.  Wagh!  But  them  were  ticklish 
times ! 

After  having  been  reminded  by  Carson  who  he  was,  and 
how  at  Bent's  Fort  and  elsewhere  their  nation  had  accepted 
his  hospitality,  the  Cheyennes  sullenly  withdrew,  to  recover 
from  their  astonishment  and  to  consult  further.  Ere  their 
return,  the  train  had  been  put  in  motion,  and  under  cover 
of  night  Carson  had  dispatched  a  Mexican  boy,  on  foot,  for 
Rayado,  over  200  miles  south,  with  word  to  the  dragoons 
stationed  there. 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAYADO  355 

On  the  second  day,  back  came  the  Cheyennes,  as  if  on  mis- 
chief bent.  They  were  told  that  the  express  had  been  sent, 
and  that  if  harm  happened  to  the  train  the  soldiers  would 
know  just  whom  to  punish.  The  wily  Indians  replied  that 
they  would  look  for  moccasin  tracks,  and  see  whether  the 
words  were  true.  They  found  the  messenger's  tracks  lead- 
ing south  from  the  late  camp;  and  they  promptly  made 
tracks  themselves  for  cover  in  the  hills.  The  train  was  not 
troubled  again  —  especially  as  the  relief  from  Rayado  met  it 
near  Bent's  Fort,  to  escort  it  on. 

About  the  same  time,  or  in  July  of  1851,  Lieutenant  Colo- 
nel Edwin  Vinton  Sumner  succeeded,  in  command  of  the 
Department  of  New  Mexico,  the  bluff  soldier.  Colonel  John 
Munroe.  "  His  orders  were  to  cut  down  the  expenses  of  all 
branches,  both  military  and  civil,"  runs  the  lore  of  New 
Mexican  pioneers.  Probably  acting  upon  this  plan,  he 
appointed  Carson  purchasing  agent,  at  the  Rayado  post,  for 
the  Utes  and  the  Apaches  who  were  being  supplied  with 
rations  from  there.  Maxwell,  the  trader,  must  have  had  the 
contract  for  supplies,  and  Carson  could  work  well  in  con- 
junction with  him,  and  not  be  dishonest.  The  Government 
could  have  had  no  better  agent  than  Kit  Carson  —  and 
never  did.^*^^ 

In  the  spring  or  fall  of  1852  Carson,  as  if  seeking 
variation,  led  a  company  of  retired  trappers  upon  an  old- 
time  beaver  hunt.  The  streams  long  had  been  neglected, 
save  by  a  few  recluse  mountain  men  whom  nothing  could 
tempt  therefrom,  and  nothing  discourage.  Consequently  the 
hunt  was  a  success  —  the  more  so,  of  course,  because  many 
of  the  trappers  felt  that  it  was  their  last.  The  emigrant 
was  invading  the  Platte  and  the  Green;  around  the  Salt 
Lake  were  the  Mormons ;  the  plains  were  alive  with  wagons ; 
there  was  talk  of  a  Kansas  and  a  Nebraska  in  the  Great 
American  Desert;  old  Fort  Laramie  and  Fort  Hall  were 
"  busted  " ;  old  Bent's  had  been  "  wiped  out "  —  blown  to 


1 


356  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

smithereens  by  the  colonel ;  the  days  that  were  could  never 
come  again,  except  in  pretense. 

In  the  early  summer  of  1853  Carson  and  Maxwell 
embarked  in  the  speculation  of  driving  sheep  overland  to 
California,  there  to  sell  them  on  the  hoof.  Below  Santa  Fe 
they  bought  some  ten  or  twelve  thousand,  and  with  a  band 
of  sixty-five  hundred,  Carson  started  ahead,  by  way  of  the 
Laramie  and  the  Salt  Lake  Trail.  The  northern  route  of 
course  promised  more  water  and  feed ;  but  that  he  and  his 
herders  managed  to  get  the  shaggy  flock  through  the  thou- 
sand miles  of  perils  by  Indian,  desert,  and  storm,  is  another 
'  tribute  to  his  absolute  knowledge  of  western  ways  and 
means.  By  careful  treatment  of  the  aborigines  especially, 
and  due  observance  of  their  requirements  as  to  toll,  he  landed 
his  sheep,  with  little  loss,  on  the  Sacramento.  They  brought 
$5.50  a  head.  Maxwell,  following  by  the  same  trail,  was 
equally  successful. 

They  found  many  changes  in  California,  since  the  old 
days  of  the  Fremont  incursion  and  the  Bear  War.  The 
miserable  hamlet  of  Yerba  Buena,  which  in  January,  1847, 
under  its  new  name  had  a  population  of  479,  now  in  1853, 
after  being  four  times  burned,  had  a  population  of  40,000 
and  in  tonnage  of  its  shipping  ranked  only  after  New  Yoric 
and  New  Orleans.  The  barren  waste  adjoining  Sutter's 
Fort  was  covered  by  a  mushroom  growth  equally  wonder- 
ful—  the  tents  and  shanties  and  business  blocks  of  12,000 
people  collected  to  make  Sacramento  City.  All  the  hills 
amidst  which  the  Fremont  men  had  ridden,  seeing  only 
Indians  and  wild  horses  and  deer,  were  populous  with  the 
white  race ;  and  the  straggling  Pueblo  de  los  Angeles,  out  of 
which  in  May,  1848,  Carson  had  ridden  with  Lieutenant 
Brewerton,  now  was  a  chartered  American  city  of  2,000 
people. 

Friends  Carson  probably. found.  Fremont,  late  senator 
from  California,  was  in  the  East,  having  just  returned  from 


THE  RANCH  AT  THE  RAY  ADO  357 

Europe  to  outfit  his  fifth  and  last  expedition,  which  would 
take  him  through  the  Great  Basin  again  and  to  the  coast^**^ 
But  Godey  was  in  the  state;  Lieutenant  Beale,  as  Indian 
Agent  newly  appointed,  arrived  at  Los  Angeles,  August  22  \ 
and  while  near  San  Francisco  Carson  met  an  old  motmtain- 
man  crony  and  Taos  fellow  citizen,  Jacob  Beard,  farming. 

"  Kit,  on  seeing  you  I  feel  homesick,"  he  exclaimed,  "  and 
I  think  I  ought  to  go  back  with  you."  Carson  became  sym- 
pathetic at  once,  and  said :  "  Well,  Jake,  we  have  only  one 
life  to  live,  and  in  living  it  we  should  make  the  most  of  our 
opportunities." 

Whereupon  for  Mr.  Beard  "that  settled  the  matter.  I 
returned  to  the  ranch,  adjusted  my  affairs,  saddled  my  mule, 
caught  up  with  Carson's  party,  went  back  to  New  Mexico, 
and  lived  there  for  many  years  afterward."  ^^^ 

This  expedition  from  the  Rio  Grande  to  the  coast,  with 
the  sheep,  and  back  was  Kit  Carson's  last  journey  overland 
west  —  the  last  of  those  long  trails,  by  pass  and  desert, 
which  had  occupied  his  time  so  much  during  twenty-five 
years.  He  was  now  forty- four,  and  in  his  prime;  but  he 
had  drained  the  best  that  the  adventurous  West  might  offer, 
and  although  government  columns  on  half  a  dozen  lines  were 
traversing  the  country,  seeking  that  Pacific  Railroad  which 
yet  was  distant  almost  a  decade  and  a  half,  either  he  was 
not  offered  the  post  of  guide,  or  else  he  declined  it.  A 
better  occupation  was  awaiting  him.  The  return  was  evi- 
dently uneventful,  and  arrived  in  Santa  Fe  he  received  the 
welcome  news,  communicated  by  the  delegate  from  the  Utah 
Territory  to  Congress,  that  he  had  been  appointed  United 
States  Agent  for  Ute  Indians  —  "probably  the  most 
difficult  Indians  to  manage  within  the  territory." 


CHAPTER  XXX 

CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  — 1853-1861 

CARSON'S  affairs  at  the  Rayado  were  such  that  he  could 
easily  leave  them  (and  frequently  he  had  left  them), 
in  order  to  administer  officially  in  Taos.  Now  for  the  ensu- 
ing eight  years  he  had  office  and  home  in  Taos.  Indeed, 
Taos  always  may  be  considered  as  his  home  after  his  boy- 
hood in  Missouri.  It  was  the  center  around  which  he  re- 
volved and  whither  he  returned  from  his  excursions.  From 
time  to  time  he  had  temporary  quarters  elsewhere  —  trap- 
per quarters,  scout  quarters,  ranch  quarters,  army  quarters ; 
but  he  was  a  Taosan  from  1827  until  the  close  of  his  life; 
and  at  Taos  is  his  grave,  today. 

At  the  time  of  the  advancement  of  Carscm  to  the  agency 
of  the  Utes  and  Apaches,  the  National  Government  was 
face  to  face  with  the  Indian  problem,  which  to  this  day 
never  has  been  solved.  In  the  Southwest  the  American 
soldiers  had  planted  a  new  flag  whose  principles  were  as 
new,  had  brought  new  ideas  to  be  enforced  among  an  old 
race,  and  had  made  new  regulations  for  a  people  hitherto 
unregulated.  The  mettle  of  red  and  white  was  to  be  tried 
out.  And  into  the  West,  into  the  region  by  solemn  pledge 
given  to  the  Indian  and  "  forever  secured  and  guaranteed  " 
to  him  against  encroachment  by  alien,  was  pressing  at  last 
the  white  settler. 

For  a  dozen  years,  he  had  been  crossing,  in  constantly 
increasing  numbers,  with  his  teams  and  his  firearms  and  his 
foreign  virtues  and  vices,  grazing  upon  the  Indian's  grass, 
burning  the  Indian's  fuel,  eating  the  Indian's  game  or  driv- 
ing it  away,  shooting  the  Indian  himself  when  necessity  or 

358 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  359 

convenience  demanded,  and  scattering  among  the  natives 
"  loathsome  diseases,  unknown  in  their  primitive  state." 
Still,  amidst  his  unavailing  protests  the  Indian  had  been 
recognized,  in  the  letter  if  not  in  the  spirit  of  the  law,  as 
proprietor  of  his  own  allotted  territory. 

But  the  crest  of  the  westward  rolling  wave  representing 
civilization  was  towering  above  the  fictitious  barrier  erected 
in  1835  by  President  Jackson  —  that  barrier,  between  the 
United  States  at  the  Missouri  and  the  Great  American 
Desert  beyond  —  and  the  white  spray  was  dashing  over  and 
on.  The  closer  the  Great  American  Desert  was  viewed,  the 
more  attractive  did  it  appear;  and  in  1852  the  inevitable  was 
recognized : 

One  thing  is  certain,  the  condition  of  the  various  tribes 
located  on  the  western  border  of  Missouri  will  be  speedily 
changed,  and  now  is  the  time  to  determine  what  is  best  to 
be  done  for  their  future  welfare.  *  *  *  The  border  tribes 
themselves  are  well  aware  of  the  fact,  that  there  is  no  resting 
place  for  them,  under  the  existing  order  of  things;  and  this 
knowledge  has  had  a  most  unhappy  effect  upon  them.  When 
urged  to  turn  their  attention  to  agricultural  or  mechanical 
pursuits,  they  invariably  reply:  "  What  is  the  use  of  it?  In  a 
few  more  years  we  will  be  driven  back  into  the  plains,  or  the 
Rocky  Mountains;  and  what  will  our  knowledge  of  agricul- 
ture, or  the  mechanic  arts,  avail  us  on  the  prairies,  or  in  the 
Rocky  Mountains  ?  "  ^^^ 

In  1851  was  signed  at  Fort  Laramie  the  first  great  treaties 
by  which  the  plains  Indians  began  to  relinquish  the  rights 
guaranteed  to  them  forever.  Agent  Fitzpatrick's  Chey- 
ennes  and  Arapahos,  the  Shoshoni,  the  Sioux,  the  Black- 
feet,  and  the  Crows  agreed  to  let  the  army  in  and  to  let 
the  emigrant  through.  In  1853  Fitzpatrick  met  the  Co- 
manches  and  Apaches  at  Fort  Atkinson  on  the  Santa  Fe 
Trail  in  present  southern  Kansas,  wheedling  them,  persuad- 
ing them,  making  "  a  renewal  of  faith,  which  the  Indians  did 
not  have  in  the  Government,  nor  the  Government  in  them/* 


360  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

So  the  frontier  of  a  quarter-centtiry  duration,  as  if  over- 
weighted by  the  yearly  emigrant  rendezvous,  sorely  pressed 
at  the  center  bulged  outward,  threatening  to  break  upon  the 
easternmost  tribes,  and  to  the  whites  akeady  wrestling 
with  the  red  man's  ethical  natiu'e  add  those  who  would 
encroach  upon  his  worldly  treasures  as  well. 

By  order  of  Congress  new  treaties  were  made  —  for  trea- 
ties with  the  Indians  are  never  exhausted.  Commissioner 
George  A.  Manypenny  himself  spent  much  of  the  summer  of 
1853  holding  councils  with  the  various  tribes,  laboriously 
explaining  why  the  old  promises  were  worn  out  and  why 
fresh  ones  were  better.  This  explaining  was  polite,  but  per- 
functory. Shawnee  and  Kickapoo,  Sac  and  Fox,  Omaha 
and  Wea,  yes,  Arapaho,  Pawnee,  Cheyenne,  and  Ute  were 
already  evicted,  and  the  Manypenny  and  the  Fitzpatrick 
excuses,  the  sounding  responses  from  chief  high  and  low,  all 
the  pipes  smoked,  all  the  presents  given,  all  the  indentures 
exchanged,  only  joined  other  chips  carried  with  that  current 
which  no  chips  could  stem.  The  Indian  of  the  West  has 
had  the  westerner's  choice :  '*  If  you  do  n't  like  bacon,  help 
yourself  to  the  peppersass." 

So  in  the  spring  of  1854  they  sign  their  "  articles  of  agree- 
ment and  convention ;  "  they  sign 

the  Omaha,  Ottoe  and  Missouria,  Sac  and  Fox  of  Missouri, 
Iowa,  Kickapoo,  Delaware,  Shawnee,  Kaskaskia,  Peoria,  Wea, 
Piankeshaw,  and  Miami  Indian,  all  residing  within  the  central 
superintendency.  *  *  *  These  tribes  possessed  lands  bounded 
on  the  east  by  the  western  boundaries  of  the  States  of  Mis- 
souri and  Iowa,  and  lying  between  the  parallels  of  37®  and  42^ 
40'  north  latitude,  embracing,  in  the  aggregate,  nearly 
15,000,000  acres,  all  of  which,  with  the  exception  of  about 
1,342,000  acres,  being  the  amount  of  their  several  reservations, 
was  ceded  to  the  government.    *    *    * 

In  the  recent  negotiations  for  their  lands  the  Indians  dwelt 
upon  the  former  pledges  and  promises  made  to  them,  and 
were  averse  generally  to  the  surrender  of  any  portion  of  their 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  361 

country.  They  said  that  they  were  to  have  the  land  "  as  long 
as  grass  grew  or  water  run,"  and  they  feared  the  result  if 
they  should  consent  to  yield  any  part  of  their  possessions. 
When  they  did  consent  to  sell,  it  was  only  on  the  condition 
that  each  tribe  should  retain  a  portion  of  their  tract  as  a 
permanent  home.  All  were  unitedly  and  firmly  opposed  to 
another  removal.   *    *    * 

There  they  stand,  the  representatives  and  remnants  of  tribes 
once  as  powerful  and  dreaded  as  they  are  now  weak  and 
dispirited.  By  alternate  persuasion  and  force,  some  of  these 
tribes  have  been  removed,  step  by  step,  from  mountain  to 
valley,  and  from  river  to  plain,  until  they  have  been  pushed 
half-way  across  the  continent.  They  can  go  no  further ;  on  the 
ground  they  now  occupy  the  crisis  must  be  met,  and  their 
future  determined.  Among  them  may  be  found  the  educated, 
civilized,  and  converted  Indian,  the  benighted  and  inveterate 
heathen,  and  every  intermediate  grade.  But  there  they  are,  and 
as  they  are,  with  outstanding  obligations  in  their  behalf  of  the 
most  solemn  and  imperative  character,  voluntarily  assumed 
by  the  government.^*^* 

Yes,  there  they  are ;  but  the  "  crisis  "  which  so  stirred  the 
Honorable  Commissioner  George  W.  Manypenny  could 
scarcely  be  expected  to  create  much  of  a  furor  in  the  halls 
of  Congress  where  the  red  complexion  of  the  debatable 
country  was  of  far  less  moment  than  whether  the  complex- 
ion should  be  white  or  black ;  where,  indeed,  the  resolution 
introduced  by  Senator  Augustus  C.  Dodge  of  Iowa,  organiz- 
ing the  territory  of  Nebraska  to  extend  from  the  latitude  of 
New  Mexico  north  to  43°  30',  in  present  South  Dakota, 
from  Iowa  and  Missouri  west  to  the  mountains,  did  pro- 
vide that  nothing  in  the  act  "be  construed  to  impair  the 
right  of  persons  or  property  now  pertaining  to  the  Indians 
in  that  territory,  so  long  as  such  rights  shall  remain  unex- 
tinguished by  treaty  between  the  United  States  and  such 
Indians" :  but  where,  this  phase  considered  to  be  settled  by 
the  customary  temporizing,  the  great  Douglas  was  thunder- 
ing in  defense  of  his  compromise  Kansas-Nebraska  Bill  and 


362  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

"  squatter  sovereignty  " ;  where  Chase  and  Sumner  were  de- 
nouncing the  waiving  of  the  Missouri  Comprcxnise  line  (the 
slave-district  bovmdary  of  36°  30')  as  "  a  gross  violation  of 
a  sacred  pledge/'  "  criminal  betrayal  of  precious  rights,"  an 
"  atrocious  plot  to  exclude  from  a  vast  unoccupied  region 
emigrants  from  the  old  world,  and  free  laborers  from  our 
own  states,  and  to  convert  it  into  a  dreary  region  of  despo- 
tism, inhabited  by  masters  and  slaves";  and  where  (the 
pledge  referred  to  looming  above  pledges  forgotten)  "  the 
struggle  *  *  ♦  on  the  one  side  and  the  other  in  regard 
to  this  measure,  heated  and  made  more  intense  by  so  con- 
stant appeals  from  without,  made  by  memorials,  public 
meetings,  and  newspaper  arguments,  was  carried  on  with  a 
vehemence  and  passion  rarely  exhibited  in  deliberative 
bodies."  "«^ 

A  small  chance  there  was  for  that  innocent  bystander,  the 
Indian!  And  when,  on  May  30,  1854,  the  bill  was  signed 
creating  out  of  that  pleasant  fiction  the  Indian  Territory 
(  "  forever  secured  and  guaranteed  "  )  the  territories  of 
Kansas  and  Nebraska,  the  same  signature  dissipated  the 
Indian.  The  white  man  had  assumed  control  of  the  Great 
American  Desert. 

The  organization  of  the  Indian  country  into  the  Kansas 
and  Nebraska  territories  affected  Kit  Carson  only  in  that 
when  it  threw  open  the  land,  it  threw  open  also  the  ques- 
tion :  "  What  shall  be  done  with  the  red  man  ?  "  As  Indian 
Agent,  Carson  now  was  called  upon  to  add  his  opinions  to 
the  thousand  other  opinions,  of  which  two  rarely  were  har- 
monious. He  had  returned  to  Taos.  The  first  year,  of 
his  seven  years  and  a  half,  as  agent,  was  1854.  In  this  year 
the  himdred  thousand  buffalo  robes  descending  the  Missouri 
and  the  Platte  were  met  by  the  inflowing  five  thousand  set- 
tlers with  their  cattle ;  in  reports  to  fill  twelve  volumes  the 
various  army  officers  detailed  to  make  transcontinental  sur- 
veys for  a  future  Pacific  Railroad  were  asserting  the  news 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  363 

(which  was  to  Kit  Carson  and  many  another  no  news  at  all) 
that  the  continent  was  traversable. 

Meanwhile,  as  a  cog  in  the  new  machine  which  is  being 
adjusted,  Carson  at  Taos  is  agent  over  two  tribes.  He  suc- 
ceeds John  Greiner,  advanced  to  become  secretary  of  state. 
The  corps  of  1854,  in  the  honorable  Indian  service  of  New 
Mexico  Territory  was :  Superintendent  ex  oificio,  at  Santa 
Fe,  Governor  David  Merriwether;  agent  of  the  Navajos,  at 
Fort  Defiance,  H.  L.  Dodge ;  agent  of  the  Southern  Apaches, 
at  Dona  Ana,  E.  A.  Graves ;  agent  of  the  Capote  and  Tabu- 
ache  Utes,  at  Abiquiu,  James  M.  Smith  —  soon  succeeded  by 
Lorenzo  Labadie;  agent  of  the  Jicarilla  Apaches  and 
Mohuache  Utes,  at  Taos,  Christopher  Carson. 

It  seemed  as  though  Carson  was  now  fitted  into  his  niche. 
He  certainly  was  a  man  who  understood  Indians  —  even  felt 
at  home  with  Indians ;  and  he  was  a  man  whom  the  Indians 
understood,  and  with  whom  they  felt  at  home.  Here  in 
Taos,  with  his  family  and  friends,  and  amidst  familiar 
scenes,  comfortable  in  his  salary  of  $1,000,  his  many  years 
of  activity  an  inexhaustible  resource  upon  which  to  draw, 
and  the  country  roundabout  suiting  his  mode  of  life,  Carson 
held  to  his  agency,  and  outlasted  all  his  colleagues  with 
whom  he  started.  .Grovemors  changed,  superintendents 
changed,  agents  changed,  but  he  stuck  fast. 

At  the  close  of  1856  the  Jicarillas  seem  to  have  been 
transferred  to  the  Abiquiu  agency,  and  the  Tabuache  Utes 
attached  to  the  Taos  agency.  The  Carson  reports  are 
uniformly  headed  "  Utah  Agency." 

As  to  the  Utes  in  general  and  the  Jicarilla  Apaches  with 
whom  the  Mohuache  Utes,  particularly,  affiliated  in  deeds 
of  outlawry,  Superintendent  Merriwether  reports  in  1854: 

The  Utahs  of  New  Mexico  are  a  portion  of  the  tribe  of 
the  same  name  inhabiting  the  Territory  of  Utah ;  they  speak 
the  same  language  and  have  frequent  intercourse  with  each 
other.     From  the  best  information  which  I  have  been  able 


364  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

to  obtain,  that  portion  of  the  tribe  properly  under  the  charge 
of  this  superintendency  numbers  between  five  and  six  thousand 
souls ;  and  they  inhabit  and  claim  all  of  that  r^on  of  country 
embracing  the  sources  of  the  northwestern  tributaries  of  the 
Arkansas  River,  above  Bent's  Fort,  up  to  the  southern 
boundary  of  Utah  territory,  and  all  the  northern  tributaries 
of  the  Rio  Grande  which  lie  within  New  Mexico  and  north 
of  the  37th  parallel  of  latitude.  This  country  is  estimated 
to  cover  a  space  equal  to  twenty  thousand  square  miles,  which 
would  give  about  five  square  miles  to  each  soul ;  but  they  often 
extend  their  wanderings  beyond  these  limits.  This  is  a  highly 
warlike  tribe  of  Indians,  are  well-armed  with  fire-arms,  and 
have  committed  many  depredations  upon  the  unoffending 
inhabitants  of  New  Mexico.  They  do  not  cultivate  the  soil, 
but  depend  upon  the  chase  and  robbery  for  a  subsistence.  A 
continued  feud  has  existed  between  the  Utahs  on  the  one 
side,  and  the  Arapahoes  and  Cheyennes  of  the  Arkansas  on 
the  other,  for  many  years  past ;  but  latterly,  the  latter  Indians, 
having  been  supplied  with  arms  and  ammunition  by  our 
Indian  agents  and  traders,  have  proved  more  than  a  match 
for  the  former,  and  consequently  the  Utahs  dare  not  visit  the 
buffalo  regions  in  search  of  food.  This,  together  with  the  fact 
that  game  is  becoming  comparatively  scarce  in  their  country, 
has  induced  if  not  constrained  the  Utahs  to  keep  up  their 
ancient  custom  of  theft  and  robbery. 

The  Utahs  are  probably  the  most  difficult  Indians  to  manage 
within  the  territory.  They  are  subdivided  into  several  small 
bands  under  petty  chiefs,  who  acknowledge  no  superior,  and 
roam  over  a  vast  extent  of  country,  having  no  permanent  places 
of  residence,  and  hence  are  often  difficult  to  be  found.  Occa- 
sionally, parties  will  come  into  the  settlements  and  labor  for 
the  citizens  for  a  short  time,  particularly  in  threshing  out 
the  grain,  which  they  are  enabled  to  do  with  their  own  horses 
and  mules ;  they  then  leave,  and  nothing  more  is  heard  of  them 
for  months.  They  *  *  *  are  always  ready  for  mischief, 
and  hard  to  overtake  in  a  retreat.  Many  of  this  tribe  are 
understood  to  have  made  common  cause  with  the  Jicarillas  in 
their  recent  difficulties.  ♦  *  *  They  now  profess  to  be 
friendly  with  us,  but  little  confidence  is  to  be  placed  in  their 
professions  at  any  time. 

The  Jicarilla  Apaches    *    *    *    claim  a  region  of  country 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  365 

of  indefinite  space,  lying  west  of  the  Rio  Grande  and  on  the 
head  of  the  Chama  and  Puerco  rivers,  but  they  roam  over 
other  portions  of  the  territory.  It  is  confidently  believed  that  no 
other  single  band  of  Indians  have  committed  an  equal  amount 
of  depredations  upon,  and  caused  so  much  trouble  and  annoy- 
ance to  the  people  of  this  territory,  as  the  Jicarillas.  They 
are  supposed  to  number  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  warriors, 
and  probably  five  hundred  souls ;  they  own  a  large  number  of 
horses  and  mules,  and  whenever  there  is  any  mischief  brew- 
ing, invariably  have  a  hand  in  it.  *  *  *  They  rely  upon 
the  chase  for  a  subsistence;  and  when  this  fails  resort  to 
depredations  upon  the  fiocks  and  herds  of  the  inhabitants. 

At  the  time  of  Kit  Carson's  accession  to  the  fatherhood 
of  the  Mohuache  Ute  and  Jicarilla  Apache  bands,  annual 
reports  upon  some  350,000  Indians  were  being  handed  in 
by  100  agents,  teachers,  and  superintendents. 

The  Carson  report  for  1853  is  lacking  in  the  fifty  published 
volumes,  entitled  Indian  Affairs.  He  first  reports  "  for 
the  present  month,"  September  26,  1855,  confining  himself 
chiefly  to  an  attack  by  Indians  in  his  district  upon  Mexican 
herders  near  Mora  and  the  theft  of  some  twelve  head  of 
cattle  (valued  at  $12  a  head)  from  the  Maxwell  Ranch,  and 
to  the  rescue  by  Mexicans  of  Mexican  prisoners. 

The  Indians  that  are  now  committing  depredations  are  those 
who  lost  their  families  during  the  war  [i.  e.,  probably  the 
campaign  declared  in  1854  against  the  Jicarillas  and  allies  by 
the  Government] .  They  consider  they  have  nothing  farther  to 
live  for  than  revenge  for  the  death  of  those  of  their  families 
that  were  killed  by  the  whites ;  they  have  become  desperate ; 
when  they  will  ask  for  peace  I  cannot  say. 

Respectfully  submitted. 

I  have  the  honor  to  be,  very  respectfully,  your  obedient 
servant, 

C.  Carson, 
Indian  Agent. 

To  the  report  Superintendent  Merriwether  affixes  the 
mild  reproof :     **  Mr.  Carson  does  not  inform  me  what 


366  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Indians  committed  these  depredations,  though  the  last  part 
of  his  report  would  leave  the  impression  that  they  were  com- 
mitted by  the  Jicarilla  Apaches.  *  *  *  It  is  to  be 
regretted  that  Agent  Carson  did  not  ascertain  from  the 
prisoners  what  Indians  they  were." 

This  Carson  probably  did;  rather,  certainly  he  did;  it 
would  be  one  of  the  first  details  babbled  by  the  mouths  of  the 
frightened  fugitives,  and  passed  from  mouth  to  mouth  by 
the  other  Mexicans.  But  in  his  unaccustomed  dictation  he 
left  it  out 

The  Carson  reports  as  agent  at  Taos  appear  in  1855,  are 
omitted  in  1856,  resumed  in  1857,  and  continue  to  1861. 
The  reports  are  signed  (with  slight  variation)  "  I  have  the 
honor  to  be,  very  respectfully,  your  obedient  servant,  C. 
Carson/'  In  addition  to  preparing  the  reports,  he  must  dis- 
tribute and  otherwise  account  for  the  annuities  —  blankets, 
knives,  powder,  paint,  provisions;  must  act  as  judge,  jury 
and  tribal  parent;  must  pay  visits,  and  must  satisfy  both 
the  governmental  red  tape  and  the  aboriginal  ideas,  equally 
as  rigid  and  peculiar. 

The  Carson  home  was  at  the  northeast  comer  of  the  Taos 
plaza  —  that  central  square  which  in  all  frontier  Mexican 
towns  indicated  the  original  corral  whither  the  community 
animals  were  driven  at  night.  The  house  stands  today;  a 
low  one-story,  flat-roofed  "  adobe,"  continuous  with  other 
houses  forming  a  solid  line,  and  having  the  customary 
veranda,  supported  by  poles,  along  the  front  Here  lived 
Kit  Carson,  his  wife,  and  their  increasing  family.^^® 

The  official  agency  quarters  were  halfway  around  the 
plaza,  on  the  south  side  —  being  a  single  room  in  the  row  of 
adobes  there.  But  the  Indians,  growing  to  trust  their  agent 
and  being  emboldened  more  and  more  to  seek  the  town,  on 
chance  of  gaining  3ome  point,  frequented  home  and  office 
alike. 

The  only  fly  in  the  ointment  was  the  clerical  duties  con- 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  367 

nected  with  the  office.  At  this  time  Kit  Carson  could 
sign  his  name  —  having  been  instructed  in  that  while 
an  army  officer  in  California,  and  later  by  his  wife;  but 
beyond  this,  "reading,  writing,  and  (save  in  its  simplest 
form)  arithmetic  "  were  a  terra  incognita}^'^  With  fatu- 
ous and  apparently  suspicious  insistency  the  Government 
required  from  all  its  agents  a  regular  accounting;  and  to 
fill  out  the  forms,  to  make  out  an  annual,  much  tnore  a 
monthly  report,  seriously  bothered  Carson. 

However,  he  got  around  this  difficulty  without  formal 
confession  or  requisition  for  a  go-between.  The  Govern- 
ment did  allow  interpreters  —  but  not  for  the  clerical  role 
which  would  have  appealed  to  Carson.^*^®  Accordingly,  in 
the  matter  of  the  monthly  reports  upon  his  Indian  charges 
he  reported  in  person  and  by  word  of  mouth  at  Santa  Fe. 
A  letter  to  the  author  from  Captain  Smith  Simpson  says : 

Kit  would  go  to  Santa  Fe  six  or  eight  times  a  year.  In  the 
office  of  the  Superintendent  of  Indian  AfTairs  there  was  a 
man  named  John  Ward  —  a  very  intelligent  man.  I  think  that 
he  wrote  Kit's  monthly  reports  and  dated  them  "Taos."  I 
do  not  remember  to  have  written  any  reports  except  the  quar- 
terly accountings  covering  the  money  on  hand  and  the  money 
expended  for  com,  wheat,  sheep  and  beef.^*^® 

Possibly  it  was  through  John  Ward  that,  previous  to 
young  Smith  Simpson's  appearance  in  Taos,  Agent  Carson 
managed  his  quarterly  accountings  also;  possibly  Ceran  St. 
Vrain  may  have  helped.  Then  when,  in  the  summer  of 
1855,  the  campaign  against  the  Utes  and  Jicarillas  having 
been  finished.  Sergeant  Smith  H.  Simpson,  of  the  volun- 
teers from  Santa  Fe,  was  mustered  out  in  Taos  and  con- 
cluded to  stay  there,  Carson's  accountings  were  simplified. 
Young  Simpson,  aged  twenty-two,  came  opportunely  into 
Kit  Carson's  life.  He  was  also  a  welcome  adjunct  to  the 
English-speaking  society  in  Taos.  While  thereafter  Carson 


368  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

did  the  quarterly  dictating,  young  Simpson  did  the  figuring; 
and  from  this  partnership  between  young  New  Yorker  and 
older  mountain  man  evolved  the  first  (or  what  is  claimed  to 
be  the  first)  Kit  Carson  jrfiotograph. 

Photographs  (daguerreotypes,  ambrotypes,  and  tintypes) 
became  the  fashion,  it  would  seem,  following  the  Mexican 
War;  and  during  the  period  from  1845  ^^  ^860  there 
appeared  what  now  are  our  most  valued  mementoes  of 
many  frontiersmen.  Jim  Bridger,  William  Sublette,  the 
Bents,  Ceran  St.  Vrain,  and  their  comrade  veterans  sat  be- 
fore the  novel  lens.  But  with  typical  aversion  to  publicity, 
and  with  almost  Indian  suspicion,  some  refused,  among 
them  being  for  many  years  Kit  Carson,  until  in  i860  he  had 
to  make  a  virtue  of  necessity.  The  time  had  waxed  until 
that  bugbear,  a  government  quarterly  report,  must  be 
tackled ;  and  Carson  mildly  suggested  that  they  get  to  work. 
Simpson  blandly  returned  that  inasmuch  as  Carson  would 
not  favor  him  by  having  that  picture  taken,  he  did  not  know 
that  he  could  set  his  hand  to  writing. 

"  Come  along,  then,"  bade  Carson,  accepting  the  Simpson 
challenge ;  and  together  they  went  to  the  little  gallery,  where 
before  that  mysterious  "  machine  "  to  which,  Carson  had 
declared,  he  would  prefer  the  "  cannon's  mouth,"  they  singly 
posed.  "  That  was  December,  i860,"  writes  Captain  Simp- 
son, now  half  a  century  after.  "  It  cost  me  $7.50,  for  Kit's 
and  my  own  taken  at  the  same  time."  ^®® 

In  the  real  and  active  duties  of  his  agency.  Kit  Carson 
was  thoroughly  at  home.  No  white  man  could  better  have 
interpreted  to  the  Indians  the  Government,  or  to  the  Gov- 
ernment the  Indian.  This  was  a  matter  independent  of  pen 
and  paper.  The  selection  of  the  Utes  as  Carson's  charges 
was  particularly  happy;  with  the  Utes  he  was  thoroughly 
familiar,  and,  in  addition,  there  was  mutual  respect.  They 
knew  him  by  tradition  and  by  actual  experience;  he  knew 
them,  as  repeats  General  Rusling  in  1866,  for  "  the  bravest 


KIT  CARSON'  AND  MASTER  CHARLEY  BOGGS 

AN  EARLV  PICTURE  OF  CARSON.  TINTVPE,  DATE  UNKNOWN,  PROBABLY 
[FTIES   OB    EARLY    SIXTIES.      THE    BOY    WAS    THE    SON    OF    CARSON's    F} 

O.  BOCGS  OF  TAOS  AND  THE  ARKANSAS.  TlNTVl-E  GUrEK  TO  J.  S.  H 
1-   CARSON'S  DAUGHTER.   TERE.SINA 

(Courtesy  of  George  L.  Beam,  present  possessor) 


O    -  3       ^ 


^iil 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  369 

and  best  Red  Skins  he  had  ever  met,  in  all  his  wide  wander- 
ings." Said  General  Sherman  at  the  same  time : 

"  These  Red  Skins  think  Kit  twice  as  big  a  man  as  me. 
Why,  his  integrity  is  simply  perfect.  They  know  it,  and 
they  would  believe  him  and  trust  him  any  day  before  me." 

And  in  his  report  of  1857  Carson  refers  to  the  Tabuaches 
as  being  "  by  far  the  most  noble  of  the  Utah  tribes,"  and  the 
Mohuaches  as  "  the  most  noble  and  virtuous  tribe  within 
our  Territory." 

Entire  harmony  seems  to  have  prevailed  between  Carson 
and  the  Utes,  when  he  could  get  at  them  and  reason  with 
them.  The  Apaches  were  "truly  the  most  degraded  and 
troublesome  Indians  we  have  in  our  department";  "we 
daily  witness  them  in  a  state  of  intoxication  in  our  plaza  " ; 
to  them  he  was  "Kit,"  but  to  the  Utes  he  was  not  only  "  Kit," 
but  "  Father  Kit "  and  "  Uncle  Kit." 

The  Carson  Indian  policy  would  endorse  the  theory  of 
segregation  from  the  whites,  and  of  pride  in  work.  How- 
ever, the  Government's  early  experiments  with  the  native 
westerner,  whom  it  displaced  by  the  imported  easterner, 
were  vacillating  and  vm  fortunate. 

Having  deprived  them  of  most  that  made  existence  [1.  e., 
in  the  old  way  and  accustomed  way]  possible,  it  took  great 
satisfaction  in  furnishing  a  substitute,  in  the  form  of  a  ration 
system  under  which  all  Indians  who  were  good  —  in  other 
words,  who  stayed  on  their  reservations  and  abstained  from 
violence  —  would  receive  at  stated  intervals  so  many  pounds 
of  meat,  of  beans,  of  flour,  of  sugar  and  other  edibles.  *  *  * 
Nothing  was  demanded  of  the  Indians  in  return  except  that 
they  obey  their  Agents  and  keep  quiet.  It  is  true  that  salaried 
farmers  were  sent  to  the  reservations  to  instruct  them  in  agri* 
culture,  and  that  tools  and  fencing  were  offered  them  as 
rewards  of  industry;  but  what  was  to  be  gained  by  being 
industrious  if  one  could  live  on  the  fat  of  the  land  without 
stirring  a  muscle  in  labor?  Satan's  proverbial  gift  for  find- 
ing mischief  for  idle  hands  to  do  came  promptly  into  play, 
and  the  idle  hands  of  the  Indians  soon  learned  to  reach  for 


370  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

the  whiskey  bottle.  Hence  it  came  that  a  people  once  vigorous, 
strong-willed,  untiring  on  the  trail  of  an)rthing  they  wanted, 
became  debauched  by  a  compulsory  life  of  sloth,  and  within 
a  single  generation  acquired  among  the  whites  a  reputation 
for  laziness,  incompetence,  and  general  degradation.^®^ 

This  criticism,  and  more,  Carson  ^nd  a  few  of  his  asso- 
ciate agents  proclaimed,  earnestly,  fifty  years  preceding.  For 
his  Mohuache  Utes  Carson  advises,  in  his  annual  report, 
date  August  29,  1857 : 

Humanity,  as  well  as  our  desire  to  benefit  the  Indian  race, 
demands  that  they  be  removed  as  far  as  practicable  from  the 
settlements.  Have  farmers,  mechanics,  etc.,  placed  among 
them  to  give  instruction  in  the  manner  of  cultivating  the  soil 
to  gain  their  subsistence,  and  learn  them  to  make  the  neces- 
sary implements  to  carry  on  said  labor.  They  would,  in  a 
few  years,  be  able  to  support  themselves,  and  not  be,  as  at 
present,  a  burden  on  the  general  government.  It  is  true  much 
could  not  be  expected  of  the  present  generation,  for  they  have 
been  accustomed  to  gain  their  maintenance  by  the  chase  and 
robberies  committed  on  the  neighboring  tribes  and  the  whites. 
But  if  the  rising  generation  be  taught  to  maintain  themselves 
by  honest  labor,  in  their  manhood  they  will  not  depart  there- 
from, and  will  feel  proud  in  being  able  to  instruct  their  chil- 
dren the  manner  of  maintaining  themselves  in  an  honest  way. 
Troops,  for  a  period  of  time,  should  be  stationed  near  them, 
for  the  purpose  of  protecting  them  from  hostile  tribes,  and 
also  show  them  that  the  government  has  the  power  to  cause 
them  to  remain  on  the  lands  given  them  and  not  to  encroach 
on  that  of  their  neighbors. 

In  the  annual  report  of  1858,  Agent  Carson  would  explain 
that  "  it  is  impossible  to  give,  as  required  by  commimication 
from  the  Department  of  the  Interior,  dated  July  11,  1857, 
the  exact  number  of  Indians  under  my  charge.  They  live 
in  parties  of  ten  to  twenty  lodges,  and  have  no  permanent 
residence.  In  agricultural  or  mechanical  pursuits  there  are 
none  engaged;  by  the  chase,  and  with  what  is  given  them 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  371 

by  the  United  States  and  its  citizens,  they  maintain  them- 
selves." And  he  adds,  as  if  responding  to  another  sugges- 
tion: 

It  would  promote  the  advance  of  civilization  among  the 
Indians  of  this  agency  if  it  were  practicable  that  I  could  live 
with  them.  They  have  no  particular  place  to  reside,  are  of  a 
roving  nature,  and  an  agent  could  not  be  with  them  at  all 
times,  so  I  have  selected  this  place  as  the  most  proper  for 
them  to  receive  such  presents  of  food  as  they  need,  and  such 
will  necessarily  be  the  case  until  the  agency  buildings  are 
built.  The  Indians  should  be  settled  on  reserves,  guarded  by 
troops,  made  to  cultivate  the  soil,  because  the  required  amount 
of  provisions  to  be  given  them  cannot  be  procured  at  any  of 
the  frontier  settlements.    *    *    * 

To  keep  the  Indians  from  committing  depredations  on  citi- 
zens, food  by  the  government  must  be  furnished  them,  and 
liberally,  there  being  no  game  of  any  consequence  in  the 
coimtry  through  which  they  roam. 

Thus  the  annuities  were  becoming  only  briberies,  and 
none  knew  it  better  than  the  Indians  themselves.  If  they 
were  to  be  made  dependents,  the  people  which  so  decreed 
should  pay  a  price ! 

During  the  year  the  Indians  committed  few  depredations; 
they  stole  some  animals  from  the  Mexicans,  and  the  Mexicans 
also  stole  some  from  them.  The  Indians  gave  me  the  animals 
stolen  by  them,  and  I  made  the  Mexicans  return  the  animals 
they  had  stolen,  thus  satisfying  both  parties. 

I  have  visited  the  Indians  as  often  as  necessary  during  the 
year,  and  given  them  such  articles  as  they  required,  principally 
provisions.  It  being  thought  that  the  Utahs  would  join  the 
Mormons  in  their  opposition  to  the  entry  of  the  United  States 
troops  into  Great  Salt  Lake  City,  I  caused  the  allowance  of 
their  provisions  to  be  increased,  to  prevent  such  a  course 
being  pursued  by  them.  No  Utah,  as  far  as  I  know,  aided  the 
Mormons.  ^®^ 

Carson's  September,  1859,  annual  report  from  Taos,  to 
Superintendent  J.  L.  Collins  at  Santa  Fe,  includes : 


372  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

The  two  bands  of  the  Muahuaches  and  Tobawatches,  so  far 
as  regards  their  numerical  strength,  are  on  the  decline,  and 
the  causes  of  this  decrease  in  population  are  disease  and  fre- 
quent conflicts  with  other  warlike  tribes. 

If  any  improvement  has  been  made  in  their  condition  or 
prospects,  it  is  not  perceptible.  They  are,  at  the  present  day, 
as  uncivilized  as  when  the  government  first  took  them  under 
her  care,  and  it  is  my  opinion  they  will  remain  in  the  same 
state  until  they  shall  be  settled  on  reserves,  and  compelled  to 
cultivate  the  soil  for  their  maintenance.  Not  having  the  least 
particle  of  the  pride  of  self-support  about  them,  they  will 
continue  to  sink  deeper  into  degradation,  so  long  as  a  generous 
government,  or  their  habits  of  begging  and  stealing,  aflFord 
them  a  means  of  subsistence.  I  have,  heretofore,  recom- 
mended that  they  be  settled  on  farms,  and  I  am  still  satisfied 
that  it  is  the  only  practicable  mode  of  reclaiming  them  from 
their  barbarous  condition. 

The  report  refers  to  hostilities  commenced  in  July  against 
gold  hunters  of  the  Valle  Salado  —  for  into  South  Parte  of 
the  Colorado  soon  to  be,  had  penetrated  the  white  roamer, 
disturbing  with  pick  and  shovel  the  ground  long  sacred  to 
Ute  dead,  with  rifle  and  voice  disturbing  the  game  long 
sacred  to  Ute  living  —  advises  that  no  troops  have  yet  been 
furnished  in  response  to  the  call  for  protection  to  the  tres- 
passers, and  warns : 

The  consequences  arising  from  letting  these  Indians  go 
unpunished  will  be  injurious.  Other  bands  of  Indians,  seeing 
that  depredations  are  committed  by  these  with  impunity,  will 
soon  follow  the  example  so  much  in  accordance  with  their 
habits  and  inclinations,  and  will  only  remain  quiet  so  long  as 
it  suits  their  convenience.^^  ^ 

The  last  Carson  report,  that  of  August  29,  i860,  reiter- 
ates the  opinion  of  1857: 

In  my  opinion,  the  best  policy  the  government  can  adopt 
in  the  regulation  and  management  of  these  two  bands  of 


CARSON  AND  THE  INDIAN  373 

Utahs  would  be  to  have  them  settled  upon  reserves,  and  fur- 
nished with  a  few  good  fanners  and  mechanics,  who  could 
and  would  instruct  them  in  husbandry  and  the  mechanic  arts. 
Their  minds  are  tractable,  and  capable  of  receiving  impres- 
sions which  would  in  a  comparatively  short  time,  under  judi- 
cious training,  enable  them  to  obtain  an  honest  subsistence 
for  themselves  and  families.  It  is  true  that  the  older  members 
of  the  tribes,  who  are  confirmed  in  their  present  habits  of  life, 
might  be  obstinate  in  their  resistance  to  the  change ;  but  they, 
in  the  course  of  nature,  must  pass  away  in  a  few  years,  and 
the  young  generation  which  is  now  growing  up  to  take  their 
places,  can  be  educated  in  such  a  manner  as  to  make  them 
submit  to  the  habits  and  customs  of  civilized  life  with  facility. 
To  eflfect  this  reformation  will  be  required  the  labor  of  years, 
but,  in  my  opinion,  would  in  the  end  prove  a  measure  of 
economy  to  the  government  and  a  blessing  to  the  Indians. 

^P  ^n  ^^  ^P  ^F  ^^  ^F  ^F  ^^  ^r 

If  some  policy  of  this  kind  is  not  adopted  by  the  govern- 
ment, and  if  provisions  are  not  furnished  them  in  sufficient 
quantities  to  sustain  them  during  the  winter  months,  they 
will  be  reduced  to  the  necessity  of  thieving  and  robbing.  Their 
game  being  killed  or  driven  off,  nothing  better  can  reasonably 
be  expected  from  them.  In  a  few  years,  if  allowed  to  roam 
at  large  and  visit  the  settlements  at  pleasure,  they  will  become 
victims  to  intemperance  and  its  concomitant  vices,  which  will 
reduce  them  to  a  condition  of  great  depravity.  Humanity 
demands  that  this  fate  should  be  averted  from  them,  and  it 
can  only  be  avoided  by  setting  them  apart  to  themselves,  agri- 
cultural instruments  given  them,  and  proper  instruction 
imparted  to  them,  as  before  mentioned. 

I  have  the  honor  to  be,  your  obedient  servant, 

C.  Carson, 
United  States  Indian  Agent.*®* 

In  his  correspondence  Agent  Carson  presented  no  start- 
ling theories;  he,  perhaps  unwittingly,  advocated  a  system 
even  then  being  tried  farther  east,  where  earnest,  self-sacri- 
ficing people  were  endeavoring  in  school  and  field  to  make 
the  Indian  conscious  of  the  responsibilities  w^hich  he  faced. 
Reservations  had  been  set  aside;   farmer  and  mechanic 


374  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

teachers  had  been  provided;  tribes  had  been  allotted  their 
own  tracts,  to  do  thereon  and  therewith  as  their  judgment 
might  incline.  But  (save  the  usual  exceptions)  with  all 
these  thus  early  started  upon  the  white  man's  road,  as  with 
Carson's  Utes,  Steck's  Apaches,  Fitzpatrick's  and  Bent's 
Cheyennes  and  Arapahos,  the  result  was  the  same.  The 
signposts  of  the  white  man's  road  dippesMng  most  to  the  red 
man  were  the  white  man's  vices,  not  the  white  man's  virtues. 
And  at  the  close  of  his  days  Kit  Carson  himself,  having  wit- 
nessed the  best  plans  of  a  mighty  government  apparently 
nullified  by  the  machinations  of  unscrupulous  servants  of 
that  government,  could  only  blame  the  conditions  upon 
"  bad  white  men,"  and  lament  that  the  end  was  as  the  end 
must  be. 


CHAPTER  XXXI 
CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES 

K[T  CARSON,  as  "  father  "  to  the  Indians,  did  not  find  it 
possible  to  spare  the  rod.  Among  the  mesas  and  hills 
to  the  immediate  west  and  northwest  was  Chico  Velasquez, 
the  Apache,  head  of  a  long  line  of  chiefs  —  Blanco,  Chacon, 
Mangas  Colorado  (Red  Sleeves),  Cochise,  Delgadito  (The 
Slender),  Cuchillo  Negro  (Black  Knife) — who  in  Car- 
son's time  led  upon  vengeful  foray  Jicarilla,  Mescalero, 
Coyotero,  Mimbreiio,  Pinal,  Chiricahui,  and  other  tribes  still 
smarting  from  the  wholesale  murders  by  Kirker's  and  John- 
son's scalp  hunters,  and  smarting  also  from  the  alleged 
injustice  of  not  being  allowed  to  kill  Mexicans  as  of  yore. 

From  1850  through  more  than  a  third  of  a  century  the 
story  of  the  Southwest  is  the  story  of  incessant  war,  mainly 
with  the  Apache.  Carson  entered  with  the  first  chapter; 
but  the  volume  writ  in  blood,  its  tale  the  cruelty  of  man 
to  man,  continued  long  after  he  had  been  retired  perma- 
nently from  the  scenes. 

By  1854  the  army  had  already  started  its  series  of  historic 
outposts  which  were  t^  be  oases  in  the  midst  of  the  threat- 
ening desolation.  After  old  Marcy  at  Santa  Fe,  there  were 
erected,  to  protect  the  Southwest,  forts  Yuma  and  Union : 
the  one  located  in  California,  facing  the  mouth  of  the  Gila, 
where  the  emigrant  trail  crossed  the  Colorado;  the  other,  / 
built  in  185 1,  In  the  opposite  comer,  on  the  Santa  Fe  Trail 
100  miles  northeast  of  Santa  Fe,  fifty  miles  southeast  of 
Taos,  and  maintained  as  headquarters  of  the  Northern  Mili- 
tary District  of  New  Mexico.  The  line  of  posts  stretched 
^own  along  the  Rio  Grande  to  the  border;  they  spread  on 

875 


376  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

either  side  into  Apache  country,  and  sent  skirmishers  into 
the  north  among  the  Navajos  and  the  Utes.  So  that  now 
in  1854  there  were  forts  Marcy  and  Union;  Cantonment 
Burgwin,  nine  miles  north  of  Taos,  and  named  for  the  gal- 
lant captain  who  fell  before  Big  Nigger's  bullet,  at  the  bat- 
tle of  Taos  Pueblo;  Fort  Massachusetts,  in  the  midst  of  the 
San  Luis  Valley,  which  is  Colorado;  Fort  Defiance,  in  the 
Navajo  country,  which  is  Arizona;  forts  Craig,  Thorn,  Fill- 
more, and  Bliss,  on  the  lower  Rio  Grande,  reaching  to  the 
Texas  line ;  and  garrisons  at  the  Rayado,  Albuquerque,  Las 
Lunas  (Los  Lunas)  below,  and  Tucson;  while  Fort  Con- 
rad at  Valverde  below  Socorro  (first  battle  field  of  New 
Mexico  in  the  Civil  War),  Fort  Webster  at  the  Copper 
Mines,  long  sacred  to  Apache  rule,  the  towns  of  Ciboletta, 
Socorro,  Taos,  Dona  Ana,  El  Paso,  San  Elizario,  Las  Vegas, 
Abiquiu,  and  others,  had  borne  the  Flag.  Thus  swiffly  had 
marched  in  the  American  soldier  where  a  decade  befpre  the 
only  law  was  the  wild  will  of  the  Apache,  Ute,  and  Navajo. 

Commanding  the  district  of  New  Mexico  was  Colonel 
Thomas  T.  Fauntleroy  of  the  First  Dragoons.  John  Mun- 
roe,  the  martinet,  Sumner,  the  distinguished,  Fauntleroy, 
Garland,  Bonneville,  the  mountain  man  soldier,  Loring,  the 
one-armed  adviser  of  the  Khedive,  Canby,  the  victim  of  the 
lava  beds,  Carleton,  the  indefatigable;  tmder  these  depart- 
ment commanders  Carson  served  in  border  warfare. 

Shudder  as  we  may  at  the  atrocities  of  the  Apache,  we 
must  remember  that  it  was  broken  faith  which  brought  on 
the  campaign  that  really  opened  the  war.  For  in  his  initial 
report,  from  the  palace  at  Santa  Fe,  September  i,  1854, 
Governor  David  Merriwether  says,  criticising  a  compact 
which  he  discovers  as  an  onus  upon  the  office : 

It  will  be  found  that  my  predecessor,  on  the  part  of  the 
United  States,  contracted  with  the  Indians  that  they,  and 
all  others  who  should  join  in  it,  should  be  supplied  with  food, 
to  consist  of  com,  beef  and  salt,  for  that  current  year  and  the 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  377 

year  1854,  and  to  give  them  a  reasonable  amount  of  food  (of 
which  the  agent  was  to  be  the  judge)  for  three  years  there- 
after, and  also  brood-mares,  etc.,  etc. 

The  thirteenth  article  stipulates  that  this  compact  shall  have 
no  validity  until  approved  by  the  authority  of  the  United 
States;  but  before  any  approval  on  the  part  of  the  United 
States,  my  predecessor  proceeded  to  carry  it  into  effect,  by 
assembling  and  locating  a  large  number  of  these  Indians  on 
two  farms  situated  near  Fort  Webster  and  the  town  of  Abiquiu, 
employed  farmers  and  laborers,  and  supplied  all  the  Indians 
assembled  with  provisions.  These  steps  so  taken  in  com- 
pliance with  the  compact  doubtless  led  the  Indians  to  suppose 
that  a  ratification  on  the  part  of  the  United  States  had  been 
received,  nor  am  I  informed  of  their  having  been  undeceived 
previous  to  my  arrival  in  the  territory. 

Confronted  with  the  fact  that  not  only  were  all  the  funds, 
save  $3,000,  for  contingent  expenses  of  Indian  Affairs  in 
New  Mexico  exhausted,  but  that  there  were  claims  of  $10,- 
000  against  the  office;  and  that  the  compact  itself  not  only 
had  been  left  unratified  but  had  been  disapproved  by  the 
Grovemment,  Superintendent  Merriwether  must  perforce 
break  to  the  touchy  Jicarillas  the  delicate  news  that  it  was  all 
a  mistake  and  that  they  would  cease  to  be  supplied  with 
food.  Consequently,  not  understanding,  and  not  choosing 
to  tmderstand,  the  complicated  methods  of  the  new  land- 
lord whose  every  change  of  "  father ''  meant  a  change  of 
policy,  the  Apache  took  umbrage.  For  after  all,  he  was  of 
that  savage  simplicity  which  accepts  the  deed  for  the  word. 

It  is  due  to  these  Indians  that  I  should  say,  that  the  want 
of  ability  on  my  part  to  csfrry  into  effect  the  stipulations  con- 
tained in  the  compact  heretofore  alluded  to,  left  them  in  a 
destitute  condition. 

I  have  found  it  difficult,  if  not  impossible,  to  make  the 
Indians  comprehend  how  it  is,  that  previous  to  my  arrival 
in  this  country  this  compact  was  being  executed  on  our  part, 
and  that  their  rations  should  be  stopped  so  soon  thereafter. 


378  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

When  I  explain  the  thirteenth  article  to  them,  and  inform 
them  that  my  government,  so  far  from  ratifying,  had  disap- 
proved it  entirely,  they  then  ask  how  it  was  that  their  former 
Father  could  satisfy  them  with  food  and  carry  the  compact 
into  eflfect,  whilst  their  present  Father  could  not.  When  I 
say  to  them  that  I  had  no  money  to  purchase  presents  and 
provisions  with,  their  reply  is,  how  did  their  former  Father 
get  money  for  this  purpose  ?  ^^ 

The  produce  of  the  two  farms  being  sufficient  for  only 
a  few  weeks'  subsistence,  there  the  Apache  was  moved  from 
his  hunting  grounds,  and  given  naught  in  their  place.  For 
this  apparent  trickery  he  made  the  Government  pay  dearly, 
the  saving  in  the  department  resulting  in  the  loss  to  the  New 
Mexican  people,  September,  1853,  to  September,  1854,  of 
"  between  forty  and  fifty  thousand  dollars  and  many  valu- 
able lives." 

So  in  the  spring  of  1854,  following  a  sharp  rebuke,  by 
warwhoop  and  bullet  and  arrow,  to  a  detachment  of  First 
Dragoons  who  would  have  "  watched  and  restrained  their 
movements,"  Acting  Governor  and  Superintendent  William 
S.  Messervy 

issued  a  proclamation,  declaring  that  war  existed  between  the 
United  States  and  the  Jicarilla  band  of  the  Apache  tribe  of 
Indians,  and  all  their  aiders  and  abettors.  Shortly  afterward 
he  also  issued  an  order  calling  out  a  portion  of  the  militia 
of  the  Territory,  to  assist  in  protecting  the  frontiers  and  prose- 
cuting the  war;  and  this  decisive  step,  together  with  the 
bravery,  energy,  and  promptness  of  the  troops,  assisted  by  the 
citizens  *  *  *  distressed  the  Indians  very  much  and 
caused  them  great  loss.^®® 

Early  were  the  soldiery  taught  the  lesson  that  in  the 
southwestern  Apache  they  had  no  mean  foe.  March,  1854, 
saw  the  defeat  of  Lieutenant  John  W.  Davidson,  a  hero  of 
San  Pasqual  and  an  officer  accustomed  to  the  guerilla  tactics 
employed  by  Mexicans  and  Indians  alike.     Sent  forth  by 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  379 

order  of  Major  George  A.  H.  Blake,  commanding  at  Can- 
tonment Burgwin,  with  F  and  I  companies,  consisting  of 
sixty  men,  First  Dragoons,  "  to  watch  and  restrain  *'  the 
marauding  Jicarillas,  along  the  trail  to  Santa  Fe,  Davidson 
came  upon  them  in  the  Embudo  Motmtains,  twenty  miles 
southwest  of  Taos,  "  in  a  rocky  defile  of  their  own  choos- 
ing." Consequently  ensued,  continues  Colonel  Meline,  who 
a  dozen  years  later  passed  through  the  vicinity  (the  lieuten- 
ant himself  then  being  general  in  command  at  Fort  Union), 
"  one  of  the  most  desperate  fights  in  our  Indian  record.  "  ^^'^ 

When  beset,  the  dragoons  clambered  on  foot  up  the  sides 
of  the  defile,  trusting  by  the  charge  to  dislodge  the  shriek- 
ing reds.  But  instead  they  only  scattered  them  among  the 
rocks.  It  was  a  style  of  fighting  with  which  the  Indian  is 
much  in  iQve;  and  the  Apaches,  avid,  gleeful,  themselves 
scarcely  seen,  with  a  storm  of  lead  and  shaft  smote  the  toil- 
ing, heavier  soldiers.  Now  the  dragoon  horses  were  en- 
dangered; and  led  by  Lieutenant  Davidson  ("as  cool  and 
collected  as  if  under  the  guns  of  his  fort,"  was  reported  to 
Kit  Carson)  the  soldiers  must  cut  their  way  back  again. 
Just  in  time  they  arrived  at  their  saddle  stock,  and  retreat 
was  ordered.  It  proved  a  hand-to-hand  conflict,  saber  and 
pistol  against  lance  and  arrow.  Leaving  twenty-two  men 
dead  on  the  field  ("I  helped  bury  them  myself,"  said  Kit 
Carson),  with  thirty-six  wounded,  including  the  lieutenant, 
out  of  the  remaining  forty,  the  First  Dragoons  painfully 
made  their  way  back  to  Cantonment  Burgwin. 

An  express  was  dispatched  with  the  news  to  Fort  Union, 
sixty  miles  away,  where  Lieutenant  Colonel  Philip  St. 
Greorge  Cooke  was  in  command  —  a  character  of  renown  in 
western  army  annals :  "  a  very  peppery  man  with  language," 
who  "  talked  through  his  nose  so  that  you  could  hardly 
understand  him,  but  you  had  to  understand  him."  ^®^ 

He  has  spoken  before  in  these  pages.  Let  him  speak 
again. 


380  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

On  the  31st  of  March,  1854,  while  at  Fort  Union,  I  received 
news  from  Major  Blake,  commanding  at  Camp  Burgwin,  of 
a  severe  action  between  a  detachment  of  the  First  Dragoons, 
under  Lieutenant  Davidson,  and  the  Apaches,  in  which  the 
dragoons  had  "  lost  from  thirty-five  to  forty  men,  and  brought 
in  seventeen  wounded  men."  The  despatch  reached  me  about 
nine  o'clock  in  the  morning,  and  by  noon  of  the  same  day 
I  started  with  all  the  troops  that  could  be  prudently  drawn 
from  the  fort,  and  comprising  a  detachment  First  Dragoons, 
under  Lieutenant  Sturgis,  and  Company  H  of  the  Second 
Dragoons,  Lieutenant  Bell.  The  entire  command  had,  within 
sixteen  hours,  returned  from  marches  of  200  miles,  part  of 
the  distance  through  severe  snowstorms.  Qosely  following 
the  mounted  men  came  Company  D,  Second  Artillery  (serv- 
ing as  riflemen),  commanded  by  Brevet  Captain  Sykes,  Third 
Artillery.i«» 

"  By  one  of  the  most  severe  winter  marches  I  ever  tmder- 
took,"  Colonel  Cooke  now  pursued  the  retiring  Jicarillas. 

In  brief,  we  crossed  the  main  ridge  of  the  Rocky  Mountains. 
Our  force,  increased  by  some  of  the  First  Dragoons  from 
Fort  Burgwin  and  Major  Blake,  together  with  about  thirty 
New  Mexicans  and  Pueblo  Indians  under  the  famous  Kit 
Carson  (then  Indian  agent  for  the  Apaches),  now  amounted 
to  100  sabres  and  89  rifles  and  irregulars.  Crossing  the  Rio 
Grande,  we  pursued  the  enemy  through  deep  snows  along  the 
margin  of  frightful  precipices  and  ravines,  over  the  roughest 
mountains  by  sheep-paths,  following  the  devious  and  scarcely 
perceptible  trail  only  through  the  wonderful  sagacity  of  our 
Pueblo  allies,  who  seemed  never  at  fault. 

Carson  was  chief  of  scouts.  The  captain  of  the  scout 
company  was  James  H.  Quinn,  Taos  Irishman  of  much 
renown  and  president  of  the  Territorial  Council.  The  trail 
was  approximately  the  stage  trail  of  today,  which  connects 
Taos  with  the  railroad  at  Servilleta,  thirty-five  miles  east. 
The  Rio  Grande  was  swollen  with  melting  snow  and  must 
be  forded.  Scouts  and  dragoons  forced  in  their  horses, 
which  with  great  difficulty  kept  foothold  among  the  rocks 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  381 

of  the  icy  torrent,  here  rushing  along  between  high  canon 
walls.  The  horses  must  then  be  sent  back  for  the  use  of  the 
riflemen.  Aiding  and  inciting,  Carson  is  said  to  have 
crossed  and  recrossed  twenty  times.  Up  the  switchback 
trail  which  ascends  the  west  wall,  the  benumbed,  dripping 
men  and  horses  clambered,  and  crossed  the  sagy  plateau 
which  lies  between  the  river  and  Servilleta. 

Beyond  Servilleta  the  trail  of  the  Apaches  was  discovered 
by  the  scouts.  The  soldiers  followed  persistently  —  the 
spirited  Captain  Sykes  declining  to  mount  the  horse  which 
was  his  by  virtue  of  his  rank,  but  lending  it  constantly  to 
some  disabled  member  of  his  foot  command. 

On  the  fourth  day  from  Servilleta  the  foe,  heading  for 
the  rugged,  timbered  region  of  the  El  Rito  country  (  favorite 
with  the  Apache),  finding  that  the  Americans  were  not  to 
be  discouraged,  pimctuated  the  pursuit  of  1 50  miles  by  turn- 
ing at  bay 

in  a  position  selected  by  them,  and  one  of  singular  strength. 
It  was  defended  by  ramparts  of  solid  rock,  towering  above 
and  on  either  side  of  us.  At  its  foot  ran  the  Agua  Caliente,  a 
mountain  stream,  in  most  places  impassible,  and  fringed  along 
its  banks  with  huge  bowlders  which  had  tumbled  from  the 
overhanging  cliffs.  The  position  could  only  be  turned  by  a 
march  of  some  hours. 

This,  then,  was  the  Caliente  or  Warm  Spring  country  to 
the  southwest  of  Servilleta,  in  north  central  New  Mexico. 
The  scouts  under  Carson  uncovered  the  enemy ;  nothing  loth 
were  the  Pueblos  to  engage  their  ancient  foe.  Colonel 
Cooke  ordered  the  Sykes  riflemen  to  deploy  as  skirmishers. 
The  captain  "  cheered  his  men  from  a  limping  walk  into  a 
sort  of  run,*'  and,  crossing  the  stream,  through  snow-water 
to  their  armpits,  they  dashed  to  the  attack,  supporting  the 
scouts. 

Lieutenant  David  Bell  led  his  H  Company  of  the  First 


382  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Dragoons  on  a  charge  up  the  mountain  side,  penetrated  the 
loose  line  of  the  Apaches,  and,  after  dismounting  his  men, 
seized  upon  a  ledge  of  rock  which  flanked  the  Indian  posi- 
tion. Lieutenant  Joseph  E.  Maxwell  was  ordered  below, 
to  intercept  the  pony  herd,  that  the  Apache  retreat  might  be 
cut  off. 

Before  this  scientific  assault  the  Jicarillas*  tactics  failed ; 
they  could  not  meet  West  Point  and  frontier  combined. 

With  the  commands  of  Captain  Sykes  and  Major  Blake, 
aided  by  Lieutenant  Bell,  the  enemy's  right  was  soon  after 
turned,  and  they  were  completely  dispersed  with  severe  loss. 
The  enemy  numbered  about  150  warriors,  under  Head-Chief 
Chacon.  He  acknowledged  five  killed  and  six  wounded.  Our 
loss,  one  (i)  killed  and  one  (i)  severely  wounded. 

It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  say  that  all  the  officers  exhibited 
energy  and  gallantry,  and  I  would  thus  include  Captain  Quinn, 
of  the  Spy  Company ;  and  Mr.  Carson  showed  his  well-known 
activity  and  boldness. 

At  sun-down,  Brevet  Major  Carleton,  First  Dragoons,  joined 
me  with  his  command.  Very  early  the  next  day  (9th)  the 
pursuit  was  renewed.  I  found,  after  some  miles,  that  the 
enemy's  horse-tracks  converged  in  the  snow  on  a  mountain 
side.  There  had  been  broken  a  path  two  feet  deep,  which 
led  over  the  great  obstacles  of  a  forest  of  aspens  and  pines 
which  had  been  prostrated  by  storm;  through  bogs  where 
mules  had  to  be  unpacked;  up  and  down  the  steep  mountain 
sides,  from  whose  summit,  above  the  growth  of  trees,  a  world 
of  bleak  snow  spread  unlimited  to  the  west;  over  a  stream 
half-bridged  with  ice  and  deep  snow,  where  the  horses  fell 
and  every  mule  had  to  be  unpacked.  The  very  beef-cattle 
were  forced  through  the  snow  so  slowly  as  to  add  to  these 
delays  of  hours,  and  a  horse  losing  his  footing  floundered 
dangerously.  American  horses,  led  in  file,  first  broke  the  path 
of  this  retreat.  Such  was  the  scene  of  the  enemy's  flight  by 
moonlight ;  the  tracks  of  bare  and  diminutive  feet  left  a  feeble 
memorial  of  their  suflFering. 

After  three  days  of  similar  obstacles,  somewhat  ameliorated 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  383 

by  the  occasional  glimpses  of  the  most  stupendous  scenery 
*  *  *  we  came  to  a  point  where  the  trail,  after  expanding 
like  the  sticks  of  a  fan  into  twenty  smaller  trails,  finally  "  ran 
out '' ;  as  I  was  assured  by  the  guides,  Carson,  and  all  who 
were  experienced,  that  it  was  useless  to  pursue  farther,  I 
gave  the  order  to  turn  toward  the  settlements  of  the  Chama. 

The  trail  of  the  Apache  is  a  work  of  art.  No  Indians 
are  more  expert  in  flight,  just  as  no  Indians  are  more  expert 
in  pursuit.  Decoyed  onward  through  the  most  difficult 
places  to  be  found,  the  Colonel  Cooke  command  at  night 
would  be  only  a  few  miles  from  the  start  of  the  morning 
before.  The  Apaches  traveled  light  —  an  ignis  fatuus 
almost  but  never  quite  overtaken  —  until,  having  exhausted 
the  dragoons  and  the  foot  soldiery,  they  dissolved  in  the 
"  twenty  smaller  trails  expanding  like  the  sticks  of  a  fan.'* 
After  one  or  two  futile  sallies  from  Abiquiu,  tlie  historic 
Mexican  village  on  the  Chama,  the  expedition  under  its 
doughty  colonel  must  return  to  the  several  posts.  The 
bodies  of  the  twenty-two  dragoons  who  fell  at  Embudo 
might  still  call  for  vengeance  ( for  slight  had  been  the  tab- 
ulated loss  in  the  fight  at  Agua  Caliente)  ;  but  in  the  words 
of  the  Department  Commander,  General  Garland,  satisfac- 
tion could  be  taken  from  the  fact  that  to  the  Indians  had 
been  demonstrated  something  "  worth  more  to  us  than 
victory  "  that  they  "  are  not  safe  from  pursuit  in  the  most 
inaccessible  parts  of  the  Rocky  Mountains." 

Back  at  Taos,  and  meanwhile  performing  his  duties  of 
agent  and  overseeing  his  ranching  operations  at  the  Rayado, 
Carson  was  called  to  the  field  by  Major  James  H,  Carleton, 
against  the  Jicarillas. 

Fort  Massachusetts,  far  up  into  the  mountain  interior  of 
present  Colorado  and  the  most  isolated  of  the  frontier  posts, 
was  made  the  basis  of  operations.  In  two  columns,  one 
under  that  partisan  volunteer.  Captain  Quinn,  and  the  other 
under  Major  Carleton  himself,  with  Carson  for  guide,  the 


384  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

troops  crossed  eastward  from  Fort  Massachusetts  by  Mosca 
Pass  and  Sangre  de  Cristo  Pass  into  the  valleys  between  the 
main  range  and  the  front  range  of  the  moimtains,  where 
they  struck  an  Indian  trail.  Swinging  southward,  in  a  six 
days'  march  they  were  back  into  New  Mexico  at  Fisher's 
Peak  of  the  Raton  Range  between  Bent's  Fort  and  Taos. 
From  the  dry  basin  of  the  bald  Fisher's  Peak  itself  the 
Apaches  and  some  few  renegade  Utes  were  driven  in  flight. 
It  was  on  this  trail  to  Fisher's  Peak  that  Kit  Carson  made 
his  special  reputation  as  a  scout  —  made  it  by  one  incident 
which,  scwnehow,  has  gained  the  ascendency  over  many  a 
more  important  incident. 

On  the  morning  of  the  day  when  the  Apache  camp  was 
sighted,  Carson,  judging  from  the  freshening  sign  in  the 
trail,  hazarded  the  prediction  to  Major  Carleton  that,  bar- 
ring accident,  the  Indians  would  be  overtaken  "by  two 
o'clock  this  afternoon."  The  major,  with  that  indulgency 
and  that  half -incredulity  which  is  apt  to  stamp  the  regular 
army  officer's  attitude  toward  the  less  regular  and  appar- 
ently mysterious  scout,  promptly  offered  him  a  hat  to  prove 
his  words.  Evidently  the  prediction  was  accurate;  for  in 
due  time  came  to  Kit  Carson  at  Taos,  from  the  "  States," 
"  a  superb  hat,"  bearing  within  it  the  inscription : 

At  2  o'clock 

KIT      CARSON 

from 

MAJOR    CARLETON 

The  early  spring  and  the  summer  of  1855  witnessed  a 
larger  campaign  against  the  Jicarillas  and  the  Mohuache 
Utes,  their  combined  bands  being  under  the  leadership  of 
Blanco  —  chief  with  the  "lofty  forehead"  and  features 
as  regular  as  if  "carved  for  sculptured  perfection."  By 
order  of  Governor  Merriwether  and  Colonel  Garland  both 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  385 

volunteers  and  regulars  took  the  field,  the  former  organized 
at  Santa  Fe,  under  Ceran  St.  Vrain,  the  trader,  in  response 
to  the  proclamation  calling  for  700  men  to  serve  six  montlis. 
Volimteers  and  regulars  were  mobilized  at  Taos,  whence, 
under  Cdonel  ThcMnas  Fauntleroy  himself  and  Ceran  St 
Vrain  (who  wins  the  title  of  lieutenant  colonel),  and  with 
Carson  as  chief  of  Taos  Pueblo  scouts,  the  expedition  set 
forth.  The  command  consisted  of  two  companies  of  the 
First  Dragoons,  D  company  of  the  Second  Artillery  (afoot 
as  riflemen),  six  companies  of  volunteers  (Americans  and 
Mexicans  mingled  and  one  in  valor)  under  St  Vrain,  and 
the  company  of  Carson  spies. 

Among  the  regulars  was  Lieutenant  Alexander 
McDowell  McCook,  just  out  of  West  Point  and  with  a 
glorious  career  before  him;  Lieutenant  William  Magruder; 
Lieutenant  William  Craig,  scarce  a  year  from  the  Academy 
and  one  day  to  seek  the  governorship  of  Colorado.  Among 
captains  of  volunteers  were  Charles  Williams,  A  Company ; 
Francisco  Gonzales,  B  Company;  Captain  Charles  Deiis 
and  Captain  Manual  Antonio  Chaves  —  the  last,  a  worthy 
descendant  of  a  DeVargas  conquistador  of  1690,  his  name 
dating  back  to  the  Moorish  war  of  1160,  and  he  himself, 
when  a  warrior  youth  but  sixteen  years  of  age,  pierced  by 
seven  Navajo  arrows.  The  expedition  of  1855  boasted 
no  more  distinguished  member  than  Manual  Chaves  — 
smaller  and  slighter  even  than  Kit  Carson,  with  steely  gray 
eyes,  brown  hair,  a  florid  complexion,  and  a  great  heart 
for  a  fight 

The  Mohuache  Utes  and  Jicarilla  Apaches,  being 
well  provisioned,  well  munitioned,  after  a  brief  period  of 
quiet  were  refreshed,  and  ready  to  whip  the  Americans. 
The  campaign  out  of  Taos  was  first  carried  on  in  March 
weather  below  zero,  in  the  San  Luis  Valley  and  among 
the  engirting  mountains  of  Colorado,  with  old  Fort  Massa- 
chusetts as  a  base.     Carson  vouches  for  the  temperature 


386  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

and  the  travel  being  the  wcwst  in  all  his  long  experience, 
surpassing  even  the  severities  of  the  year  before. 

The  hostiles  were  found  encamped  near  the  Saguache, 
at  the  northern  end  of  the  San  Luis  Parte.,  Deceived  by 
the  smallness  of  the  advance  guard,  they  swarmed  from  their 
lodges  to  the  defense.  Scarcely  had  the  main  body  of  the 
troops  hastened  to  the  front,  when  in  a  long,  whooping  line, 
shrieking  their  taiuits,  shaking  their  bows  and  lances,  down 
the  valley  charged,  with  feathers  streaming,  the  Indians. 

A  young  Apache  chief  rode  to  and  fro,  yelling  at  the  top  of 
his  voice  and  encouraging  his  warriors  at  every  hand.  This 
chief,  with  lance  in  hand,  boldly  charged  upon  Captain  Chaves, 
who  killed  him  with  a  shot  from  his  unerring  rifle ;  before  the 
Indian  had  fallen  from  his  horse  he  was  dragged  to  the 
ground  by  Antonio  Tapia  and  scalped  with  a  knife,  which 
afterwards  came  into  the  possession  of  Major  Weightman, 
and  was  used  by  him  when  he  killed  Felix  X.  Aubrey  in  the 
Exchange  Hotel,  at  Santa  Fe.  The  Indians  finally  turned  and 
fled,  having  suflFered  great  loss.^^® 

■ 

Writes  to  me  Major  Rafael  Chacon,  who,  as  a  youth, 
served  in  the  battalion  of  volunteers : 

At  the  place  called  Saguache  we  had  the  first  encounter  with 
the  enemy;  they  were  undoubtedly  waiting  for  us  to  give 
battle;  they  oflfered  g^eat  resistance,  and  we  had  a  regular 
pitched  battle  with  them.  Finally  they  were  put  to  flight,  and 
they  left  several  of  their  dead  on  the  field.  On  our  side  only 
one  soldier,  of  the  regular  cavalry,  was  wounded;  he  had  his 
leg  broken ;  he  did  not  die,  but  suffered  great  pain.  Later  on, 
after  much  travel  and  campaigning,  when  we  reached  Fort 
Massachusetts  we  put  him  in  the  hospital.*''* 

In  this  battle  the  fighting  surgeon,  soldier  and  author, 
Lieutenant  Colonel  Dewitt  C.  Peters,  whose  life  of  Carson 
is  the  standard  authority  for  all  other  biographies,  accom- 
panying the  troops  out  of  his  station,  Fort  Massachusetts, 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  387 


€1 


met  with  an  adventiire  which  came  near  costing  him  his 
life."  He  tells  his  own  story,  and  while  the  epistle  scarcely 
would  cause  Kit  Carson  and  his  fellow  Indian  fighters  to 
draw  bated  breath,  we  may  readily  appreciate  that  it  fur- 
nished the  worthy  surgeon  with  food  for  serious  thought. 

It  was  my  duty  to  follow  the  charging  soldiers  in  order  to 
be  near  at  hand  to  render  professional  services  to  the  wounded, 
should  there  be  any.  I  was  mounted  on  a  young  horse,  and 
when  the  dragoon  horses  started  off,  he  became  frightened  and 
unmanageable,  and  was  in  a  short  time  left  far  behind,  but  not 
until  he  had  fallen  and  thrown  me  into  a  thrifty  bed  of  prickly 
pears,  the  thorns  of  which  did  not  in  the  least  save  me  from 
being  hurt.  On  regaining  my  feet,  I  found  that  my  injuries 
were  but  slight,  and  that  I  still  retained  my  bridle  rein,  there- 
fore I  quickly  regained  my  seat  in  the  saddle  and  started  on 
again,  remembering  the  old  proverb,  which  says,  "  All  is  fair 
in  warl "  While  riding  on,  I  was  joined  by  a  soldier  whose 
horse  had  broken  down  in  the  charge.  As  we  now  advanced 
together,  our  routes  led  us  by  some  large  sand  hills,  behind 
which  several  Indians  had  sought  refuge,  when  hotly  pur- 
sued. 

It  appears  that,  unfortunately  and  to  his  embarrassment, 
the  worthy  doctor  possessed  no  Red  Cross  flag.  Out  at 
them  dashed  the  warriors, 

and  commenced  firing  their  arrows  in  fine  style.  My  horse 
now  became  unmanageable,  and  by  some  unaccountable  impulse 
made  directly  for  the  Indians,  seeing  which,  they  fled  precipi- 
tately. [And  this  probably  saved  the  doctor's  life.]  My  horse 
seem  determined  to  bring  me  into  uncomfortably  close  quar- 
ters with  a  young  warrior,  who  constantly  turned  and  saluted 
me  with  his  arrows.  As  the  situation  was  getting  decidedly 
unpleasant,  I  raised  myself  in  the  saddle,  and  sent  a  ball  from 
my  revolver  through  the  body  of  the  Indian,  which  rolled  him 
to  the  ground  dead;  his  horse,  relieved  of  his  load,  galloped 
away  furiously.  As  the  danger  was  thick  about  them,  the 
balance  of  the  Indians  soon  left  to  eflfect  their  escape. 


388  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

With  his  reputation  as  a  fearless  fighter  now  established 
among  both  whites  and  reds  and  his  horse  distanced,  the 
doctor  might  pull  down,  to  ride  back  to  the  field,  and  this 
he  did. 

The  pursuit  by  the  troops  was  continued  until  night, 
when  camp  was  pitched  at  the  foot  of  the  Cochetopa  Pass, 
westward  of  the  Saguache.  Lieutenant  Lloyd  Beale,  of  the 
fort's  company,  was  detached,  with  the  baggage  and  foot 
soldiers,  to  proceed  east,  across  the  valley,  over  Mosca 
Pass,  and  to  meet  the  main  colimin  in  the  Wet  Motmtain 
country.  Colonel  Fauntleroy  and  the  flying  column  con- 
tinued on  the  round-up  of  the  Indians,  with  the  intention  of 
making  a  circle. 

At  the  Cochetopa  Pass  occurred  another  fight  in  which 
eig^t  Indians  were  killed  and  two  dragoons  wounded. 
Here  the  Mohuaches  and  the  Jicarillas  divided  and  the  two 
tribes  took  divergent  routes  —  the  Utes  for  the  north,  the 
Apaches  for  the  east  Fauntleroy,  Carson,  and  the  rest 
pursued  the  Utes  north,  over  Poncha  (Punche)  Pass,  into 
the  headwaters  of  the  Arkansas. 


narrates  Major  Chacon], 
i.  e.,  Pass  of  the  Punche] 


At  the  place  now  called  Salida 
by  us  called  the  Puerto  del  Punche 
we  had  another  encounter  with  the  Indians ;  they  did  not  make 
much  resistance,  and  we  took  several  prisoners.  From  there 
we  followed  them  down  along  the  Nepesta,  now  Arkansas, 
River,  and  we  caught  up  with  them  at  the  junction  of  a  small 
stream  which  flows  to  the  north  of  the  Sierra  Mojada.  I  think 
the  place  is  now  called  Rosita.  From  there  we  turned  toward 
Fort  Massachusetts  by  the  Puerto  del  Mosca,  for  the  purpose 
of  taking  out  new  rations,  and  to  leave  there  the  wounded 
soldier  mentioned  before,  as  well  as  the  sick  and  prisoners. 

Thus  the  circle  was  completed.  By  this  time  (the  first 
of  April)  the  men  and  horses  of  the  command  were  badly 
worn.  Many  of  the  latter  had  died  by  exhaustion.  Carson 
is  quoted  as  sajring  that  on  this  trip  the  troops  "were 


I 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  389 

exposed  to  the  most  intense  cold  weather  I  ever  remember 
experiencing.  We  were  overtaken  by  several  severe  snow 
storms  which  came  near  completely  using  us  up."  The  Mex- 
ican volunteers  especially  suffered,  for  they  were  ill  provided 
with  clothing  or  blankets.  However,  the  Indians  were  as 
hardly  put,  their  camps  were  being  destroyed,  one  after 
another,  and  it  was  the  consensus  of  opinion  given  by  St. 
Vrain,  Carson,  and  the  army  officers  that  the  campaign 
should  not  slacken. 

After  a  brief  rest  at  the  post,  where  the  horses  were 
enabled  to  pick  up  on  the  abundant  forage  now  uncovered 
by  the  melting  snow ;  and  after  having  given  a  short  space 
of  confidence  to  the  Indians  that  they  might  unite  their 
scattered  squads  and  families,  the  command  was  divided. 

April  20  Colonel  St.  Vrain  with  two  companies,  A  and 
B,  of  volunteers,  one  company  of  dragoons,  and  a  corps 
of  spies  under  Carson  was  detached  to  scour  the  country 
to  the  east  of  the  main  Sangre  de  Cristo  range,  whither 
the  Jicarillas  had  headed.  Colonel  Fauntleroy  led  the  other 
troops  upon  the  Utes  again. 

The  St.  Vrain  command,  with  which  were  Carson  and 
his  Pueblos,  crossed  the  Sangre  de  Cristo  range  by  the 
northern  pass  called  Veta  Pass. 

From  there  [writes  Major  Chacon]  we  turned  south  to  the 
Rio  del  Oro  in  the  direction  of  Apishapa.  At  the  point  now 
called  Rio  de  los  Trujillos  we  caught  up  with  a  band  of 
Apaches  who  fled  from  us.  And  from  there  Captain  Carson 
was  ordered  to  come  out  to  the  plains  with  his  scouts,  going 
through  the  place  now  called  Aguilar.  The  balance  of  our 
force  kept  along  the  draw  now  called  Reilly  Canon,  where  we 
lost  our  way  and  came  out  towards  Chicosa.  The  plains  were 
full  of  deer;  Captain  Carson  had  given  leave  to  his  scouts  to 
kill  several  of  them,  and  as  they  were  scattered  about  we  took 
them  (the  Pueblos)  for  Apaches,  and  were  about  to  charge  on 
them,  when  they  took  refuge  on  the  Chicosa  hill ;  from  there 
they  displayed  their  signals,  which  were  strips  of  white  cloth 


390  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

two  yards  long,  tied  about  their  temples,  and  with  the  ends 
streaming  down.  This  saved  them  from  being  attacked  by  us. 
From  that  point  we  again  caught  up  with  the  Indians  at  what 
is  now  Long's  Caiion.  There  we  took  several  women  and 
children  prisoners,  and  we  followed  the  trail  up  to  Wootton's 
Ranch,  where  we  again  caught  up  with  the  warriors  and  again 
made  some  of  their  women  and  children  captives.  From  that 
point  the  main  force  under  Colonel  St.  Vrain  went  to  Fort 
Union  with  the  captives.  My  company  pursued  the  Indians 
in  the  direction  ot  Red  River  (the  Canadian),  to  the  loca- 
tion of  Fort  Bascom.  In  the  month  of  July  the  company  was 
disbanded,  the  Indians  having  sued  for  peace. 

While  the  St.  Vrain  command  was  making  this  long 
march  over  the  mountains  and  down  upon  the  plains  of 
southeastern  Colorado  beyond  Trinidad  city,  thence  to  the 
Raton  Mountains,  and  thence,  as  Cc«npany  B,  on  down 
through  northeastern  New  Mexico,  Colonel  Fauntleroy  had 
pressed  north  from  Fort  Massachusetts,  to  the  Punche 
Pass  again.  The  artillery  company,  afoot,  marched  in 
snow  and  mud  ankle  deep,  from  Mosca  Pass  to  the  Punche, 
eighty-five  miles  in  thirty-six  hours.  On  the  evening  of 
April  28  the  village  of  the  Utes  was  discovered,  twenty 
miles  beyond  the  pass;  a  night  attack  was  made,  surpris- 
ing the  village,  interrupting  a  war  dance  and  strewing  the 
field  with  over  forty  Indian  bodies. 

The  dismayed  Utes  fled,  separating  into  two  bands,  one  of 
which  took  to  the  Wet  Mountains  and  the  east  side  of  the 
Sangre  de  Cristo  range,  the  other  to  the  San  Luis  Valley 
west  of  the  Rio  Grande  River. 

Dividing  his  command  again,  to  scour  the  country  thor- 
oughly. Colonel  Fatmtleroy  followed  the  southeastward 
trail.  After  another  skirmish  at  the  foot  of  the  Sierra 
Blanca  mountain,  early  in  May  he  re-entered  Fort  Massa- 
chusetts, to  learn  by  express  that  the  St.  Vrain  command, 
by  fights  of  April  25  and  26  "  at  the  crossing  of  the  Huer- 
fano," had  smitten  the  Apache  also,  had  killed  six  out  of 


I 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  391 

sixty,  captured  seven,  rescued  two  Mexican  prisoners,  taken 
thirty-one  horses,  and  destroyed  all  the  camp  equipage. 

But  the  war  was  not  finished.  Detached  by  Colonel 
Fauntleroy,  C  company  of  the  volimteers  had  set  out  on  the 
trail  down  the  San  Luis  Valley,  past  present  Alamosa  and 
along  the  west  side  of  the  Rio  Grande.  Captain  Smith  H. 
Simpson,  who  was  sergeant  quartermaster,  serving  with 
C  company,  writes : 

After  the  fight  at  the  Arkansas  (Nepesta)  we  divided  on 
the  east  and  west  side  of  the  mountains.  My  company  was 
ordered  towards  what  is  now  Alamosa  (Colorado)  and  Tierra 
Amarillo  (New  Mexico).  We  drove  the  Indians  on  to  El  Rito, 
where  they  attacked  us.  We  drove  them  across  the  Rio  Grande, 
and  they  took  to  the  mountains  known  as  the  Jicarillas,  the 
highest  mountains  north  and  east  of  Santa  Fe.  From  there 
we  drove  them  out  again,  and  at  last,  after  five  months'  chasing 
and  fighting,  they  were  forced,  July,  1855,  ^^^^  Santa  Fe, 
where  they  made  a  peace  that  they  have  kept  ever  since. 

The  Utes  and  Jicarillas  had  been  seven  times  caught,  and 
upon  every  occasion  had  been  greatly  worsted.  "  They 
had  lost  at  least  five  hundred  horses,  all  their  camp  equipage, 
ammunitioh,  provisions,  and  most  of  their  arms."  There- 
fore, with  Indian  wisdom,  they  judged  that  it  was  time  to 
quit  and  from  hostiles  change  to  friendlies.  By  June  the 
campaign  was  closed,  and  the  volunteers  were  honorably 
discharged.  In  the  Taos  plaza  the  valiant  Pueblo  scouts 
held  a  grand  war  dance  of  triumph.  Superintendent  and 
Governor  Merri wether  reported,  September,  1855 : 

Early  in  August,  a  delegation  on  the  part  of  these  two  bands 
presented  themselves  to  me  and  sued  for  peace  ♦  ♦  ♦  and  I 
appointed  to  meet  both  bands  on  the  Chama  River  above 
Abiquiu,  on  the  loth  instant;  this  meeting  was  held  at  the 
time  and  place  designated,  and  resulted  in  treaties  of  peace 
with  both  bands  *  ♦  *  and  I  can  now  have  the  pleasure  of 
informing  you  that  peace  has  once  more  been  restored  to 
this  territory. 


392  KIT  CJRSON  DAYS 

Carson  was  opposed  to  this  peace  upon  terms  so  easy  for 
the  Indians.  It  was  the  psychological  moment  for  impress- 
ing the  red  wards  with  the  fact  that  the  Government  held 
the  whip  hand ;  and  that  he  who  fights  and  runs  away  is  not 
to  be  welcomed  back  as  the  prodigal  son.  Kit  Carson  by 
no  means  stood  alone  in  his  attitude  of  criticism  of  the 
government  methods.  The  New  Mexican  native  people 
sided  with  him,  for  the  agent,  Don  Diego  Archuleta,  sta- 
tioned at  Abiquiu  over  the  Jicarillas,  writes  direct  to  Wash- 
ington : 

The  expeditions  made  by  the  commanding  officers  of  this 
department  against  our  neighboring  savages  during  the  last 
four  years  must,  I  venture  to  say,  have  cost  the  government 
at  least  one  million  of  dollars,  and  what  has  been  the  gain? 
The  Indians  are  at  peace,  no  one  doubts  that;  but  how  long 
will  they  remain  so  ?  Indians  have  no  national  faith  —  at  least 
the  Apaches  and  Utahs  have  not  —  and  the  propriety  may  be 
questioned  to  acknowledge  in  them  the  power  to  make  treaties. 
The  acknowledgement  of  such  a  power  necessarily  implies  a 
sovereignty  which  these  Indians  do  not  possess,  and  which,  if 
they  did  possess  it,  they  would  sell  to  the  first  purchaser  offer- 
ing himself,  for  a  piece  of  tobacco,  a  pipe,  a  piece  of  meat,  or 
an  old  shirt.  A  treaty  is  not  kept  sacred  by  them,  nor  ever  will. 
Whenever,  in  the  opinion  of  our  Indian  neighbors,  it  appears 
that  the  government  is  tardy  in  making  them  the  usual  presents, 
or  whenever  they  have  some  object  in  view  which  they  cannot 
obtain  peaceably,  they  will,  disregarding  their  treaties,  make 
war  upon  us  by  stealing  our  property,  murdering  and  violating 
our  families,  knowing  that  the  consequence  will  be  a  *'  treaty," 
where  they  are  to  receive  what  they  desire.  The  government, 
after  an  unsuccessful  pursuit  in  a  country  almost  inaccessible 
to  our  troops,  will  readily  listen  to  their  applications  for  peace. 
The  Indians  receive  the  gratifications,  and  sign  the  "  treaty," 
with  the  felonious  intent  to  break  it  as  soon  as  convenient. 

Of  the  succeeding  campaigns  in  which  Agent  Carson  took 
part,  we  have  but  little  record,  and  that  a  record  with  only 
slight  variation  of  incident.     The  Jicarillas  and  the  Utes, 


■ 


CAPTAIN  SMITH  H.  SIMPSON' 

SEKVtCE.       HE    HELPED   CAftSOH    THE   INUMM    AGENT    W] 


Be 
H  I 
<  i 


33  I 


3°  ■■■ 


CAMPAIGNS  OF  THE  FIFTIES  393 

their  favor  bought  by  government  presents,  remained  on 
the  whole  harmless  even  if,  in  instances,  most  dangerous. 
Carson  himself  must  have  been  busy;  visiting  Abiquiu, 
Conejos  of  the  San  Luis  Valley,  Fort  Union,  Santa  Fe, 
Rayado;  dividing  his  time  between  his  charges  and  his 
business  details;  upon  his  excursions  among  the  settle- 
ments, extending  his  rides  even  down  to  Albuquerque, 
there,  in  the  summer  of  i860,  to  be  seen  by  the  versatile 
Samuel  Cozzens,  as  "  a  little  weazen- faced,  light-haired, 
active  frontiersman  "  who  did  n't  "  fear  no  Injun  livin'/' 

In  i860  Carson  took  a  hunting  trip  with  a  party  into 
the  San  Juan  Mountains  of  southwestern  Colorado.  Here, 
while  descending  a  steep  gravelly  slope  and  leading  his 
horse,  the  animal  slipped,  and  before  he  could  throw  the 
reata  from  him,  he  was  entangled,  drawn  tmder  the  strug- 
gling brute,  and  dragged  some  distance.  It  was  one  of  his 
narrow  escapes  from  death ;  and  it  left  him  with  an  internal 
injury  which  grew  steadily  worse.  From  that  maltreatment 
developed  the  enlargement  of  the  artery  which  eight  years 
later  brought  the  end. 

Carson  was  being  retained  as  Indian  agent ;  and  with  this 
and  with  his  ranching  prospects  and  the  prospects  which 
opened  with  the  country,  he  seemed  to  be  attaining  pros- 
perity. Then,  suddenly,  all  the  current  of  his  life,  and  the 
current  of  the  life  about  him,  was  interrupted  by  the  shot 
fired  at  Fort  Sumter. 


CHAPTER   XXXII 
THE  CIVIL  WAR  — CARSON  AT  VALVERDE 

BY  ALL  accounts  Kit  Carson's  mind  wavered  not  one 
instant  from  the  duty  to  which  he  was  bound  by 
every  sentiment  save  that  of  remote  birth.  If  in  his  bosom 
had  lingered  any  rancor  over  the  non-ratification  of  his  lieu- 
tenancy, a  dozen  years  before  —  a  failure  of  the  Govern- 
ment to  recognize  his  services,  but  a  failure  atoned  for  later 
by  its  support  of  him  as  Indian  agent  —  the  wound  had 
healed.  Now,  for  another  decade,  he  had  been  associating 
with  the  blue  uniforms  to  which  Fremont  first  had  intro- 
duced him;  he  had  marched  with  the  Flag  in  California,  and 
later  with  the  guidon  in  New  Mexico;  he  had  been  sworn 
ambassador  to  the  red  children,  and  had  preached  to  them 
the  doctrine  of  citizenship  and  obedience.  He  was  of  that 
single-mindedness  which  fosters  loyalty  through  thick  and 
thin  —  which  cannot  see  two  paths  from  right  to  right 
And  in  his  stand  for  the  Union  he  was  not  alone. 

When  the  news  of  Abraham  Lincoln's  election  was 
announced  in  Taos,  Carson,  Captain  Simpson,  and  other 
stanch  retainers  of  the  Republic,  both  Americans  and  Mex- 
icans, hoisted  the  Stars  and  Stripes  in  the  plaza  and  kept 
them  there. ^^^  At  the  news  of  war  Carson  resigned  his 
position  as  agent,  and  was  succeeded,  in  July,  by  William 
F.  M.  Amy — the  agency  being  removed,  because  of  the 
Taos  whiskey  stills,  forty  miles  east,  to  "  Maxwell's  Rancho 
on  the  Cimmeron."  Here  the  Carson  influence  was  still  felt, 
for  Agent  Amy  reported,  September  24,  of  the  same  year, 
that  "the  Mohuache  band  of  Utah  Indians,  for  whom  I 
am  agent,  are  friendly  disposed  towards  the  United  States, 

394 


C ARSON  AT  VALVERDE  395 

and  since  my  arrival  here  have  tendered  their  services  for 
the  protection  of  the  citizens  of  this  Territory."  ^"'^ 

Henry  Connelly,  Kentuckian,  Santa  Fe  trader,  of  long 
residence,  was  now  governor,  and  firm  in  his  allegiance.  In 
the  place  of  Colonel  W.  H.  Loring,  the  seceding  military 
commander,  was  appointed  the  uncompromising  Colonel 
Edward  R.  S.  Canby  of  the  Nineteenth  Infantry  —  a  soldier 
who  could  be  depended  upon  to  tlie  very  end.  Major  Gen- 
eral John  C.  Fremont,  stationed  at  St.  Louis,  was  in  com- 
mand of  the  Department  of  the  West.  Rumors  were  flying 
thick  and  fast  regarding  the  contemplated  withdrawal  of 
this  new  West.  But  New  Mexico,  Colorado,  Utah,  Nevada, 
California,  remained  loyal.  Arizona,  however,  unrecon- 
ciled to  the  apparent  neglect  of  Washington  in  ignoring  its 
"  Arizuma "  delegate  from  the  Gadsden  purchase,  south 
of  33^  40',  invited  the  Confederacy,  and  in  August  elected 
a  delegate  to  the  halls  of  the  Southern  Congress. 

Lieutenant  Colonel  John  R.  Baylor,  leading  his  Second 
Texas  Moimted  Rifles,  C.  S.  A.,  crossed  into  the  Mesilla  Val- 
ley, and  proclaimed  for  this  Arizona,  to  the  line  of  34^,  a 
Confederate  military  government  and  for  himself  the  office 
of  governor,  making  Mesilla  his  capital.  Fort  Fillmore 
at  Mesilla  was  surrendered  by  Major  Isaac  Lynde,  with 
scarcely  a  shot  fired  for  its  honor.  The  only  other  Arizona 
posts,  Fort  Breckinridge  on  the  San  Pedro,  and  Fort 
Buchanan  on  the  border  southeast  of  Tucson,  were  evac- 
uated by  their  garrisons,  who  hastily  retired;  and  as  they 
marched  out  the  Apaches  swarmed  in,  their  only  flag  the 
flag  of  plunder.  What  mattered  to  them  the  rights  or  the 
wrongs  of  the  white  man's  providential  strife? 

The  pioneer  overland  stage  line  —  the  Butterfield  South- 
em  Express,  which  through  almost  3,000  miles  of  desert, 
carried  the  mails  twice  a  week  in  spite  of  Indian,  sun,  dust, 
and  cloudburst,  between  Arkansas  and  the  mouth  of  the 
Gila — after  three  years  of  its  six  years  contract  at  $600,000 


396  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

a  year  was  obliged  to  transfer  its  business  to  the  Platte 
trail.    Meanwhile 

the  Apache  marauders  swept  down  from  their  mountain 
strongholds,  and  carried  death  and  destruction  throughout 
Southern  Arizona;  ranches  and  stock-ranges  were  abandoned, 
and  the  few  whites  left  in  the  country  took  refuge  within  the 
walls  of  Tucson.  The  savages  indulged  in  a  saturnalia  of 
slaughter,  and  the  last  glimmer  of  civilization  seemed  about  to 
be  quenched  in  blood.  The  horribly  mutilated  bodies  of  men, 
women,  and  children  marked  nearly  every  mile  of  the  road  to 
the  Rio  Grande.  This  frightful  condition  of  things  existed 
for  nearly  a  year  after  the  withdrawal  of  the  troops.^*^* 

Before  the  news  of  the  battle  of  Bull  Run  had  been  received, 
in  August,  Colonel  Canby  was  making  desperate  efforts  to 
rally  his  local  forces,  and,  under  Ceran  St.  Vrain,  its  colonel, 
and  Christopher  Carson,  its  lieutenant  colonel,  the  First  New 
Mexican  Volunteer  Infantry  was  being  rapidly  recruited 
from  the  country  roundabout  Taos.  The  Second,  Third, 
Fourth,  and  Fifth  Volunteers  had  been  called  for,  or  else 
were  in  near  prospect;  and  leaders  such  as  the  Pinos,  the 
Chaves  family,  the  Valdez  family,  and  other  Mexicans  of 
noble  blood,  had  come  forward  in  their  new  patriotism.^*^* 

In  August,  from  Fort  Union,  Colonel  St.  Vrain  and  Lieu- 
tenant Colonel  Carson  signed  a  protest,  to  be  forwarded  to 
western  headquarters,  against  any  withdrawal  of  the  regu- 
lar troops  from  the  Territory,  submitting  that  in  the  post 
were  stores  to  the  amount  of  $271,147.55  (eastern  cost), 
and  that  the  volunteers,  unsupported  by  fire-tried  troops, 
were  not  efficient  for  a  modem  battle.  Colonel  Canby 
endorsed  this,  calling  the  attention  of  Major  General  Fre- 
mont, who  should  know  the  New  Mexicans  well,  to  the 
fact  that  the  volunteers  enlisted  were  not  rancheros  or 
citizens  of  the  better  class,  but  were  untrained,  imambitious, 
apathetic  pcdsanos,  etc.,  of  doubtful  capabilities.  Neverthe- 
less, more  than  6,000  New  Mexicans,  the  majority  natives, 
were  enrolled  under  the  banner  which  forbade  peonage. 


CARSON  AT  VALVERDE  397 

•So,  aided  by  St  Vrain  and  Carson,  Colonel  Canby  strug- 
gled to  obtain  from  the  higher  authorities  the  other  sinews 
of  war. 

I  have  heretofore  called  the  general-in-chief 's  attention  to 
the  destitute  condition  of  this  department  in  military  resources 
and  supplies  of  every  kind. 

No  information  has  yet  been  received  with  regard  to  the 
annual  supply  of  ordnance  stores  required  for  the  troops  in 
this  department. 

The  military  operations  in  this  department  have  for  several 
months  past  been  greatly  embarrassed,  and  are  now  almost 
entirely  paralyzed,  by  the  want  of  funds  in  the  pay  depart- 
ment. Many  of  the  r^;ular  troops  have  not  been  paid  for 
more  than  twelve  months,  and  the  volunteers  not  at  2\\P^ 

But,  for  the  other  side  of  the  shield, 

Men,  money  and  supplies  were  forthcoming  from  the  Terri- 
tory, however.  The  Legislature  authorized  the  governor  to 
call  into  service  the  entire  Territorial  force,  volunteers  flocked 
to  the  standard,  and  Governor  Connelly  congratulated  the 
people  on  their  patriotism.^*^^ 

In  September  Ceran  St.  Vrain  resigned  his  colonelcy  on 
account  of  ill  health,  and  was  succeeded  by  Kit  Carson. 
He  confined  himself  to  his  strong  personal  influence,  and 
to  supplying  the  commissary  with  flour  from  his  mill. 

In  October  the  First  Regiment  was  assembled  at  Albu- 
querque, garrisoned  by  six  companies  from  the  Fifth  and 
Seventh  United  States  Infantry,  and  by  the  First,  Second 
and  Third  New  Mexican  Volunteers.  Colonel  B.  S.  Rob- 
erts, the  incorruptible,  was  now  in  command  of  the  South- 
em  Military  District  of  New  Mexico,  with  headquarters 
at  Fort  Craig  where  Colonel  Canby  was,  as  fast  as  prac- 
ticable, concentrating  his  Union  forces.    The  border  forts 


398  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

had  fallen;  and  General  Henry  Hoj^ins  Sibley's  Confed- 
erate brigade  for  the  conquest  of  New  Mexico  to  still 
another  flag  was  marshalling  at  El  Paso,  to  move  on  through 
the  gateway  of  the  Rio  Grande,  for  Santa  Fe  and  Colorado. 
The  First  Regiment  of  Volunteers  stayed  at  Albuquerque 
until  the  end  of  January.  There  was  drilling,  of  coiU"se, 
and  other  martial  routine  to  whip  the  recruits  into  shape. 
But  Colonel  Carson  made  the  most  of  his  opportunity  to 
cement  further  his  domestic  bonds.  The  colonel's  uniform 
sat  lightly  upon  his  shoulders.  His  wife  and  children  came 
down  from  Taos. 

He  was  very  loving  toward  his  family  [says  Major  Chacon, 
captain  under  him].  I  remember  that  he  used  to  lie  down 
on  an  Indian  blanket,  in  front  of  his  quarters,  with  his  pockets 
full  of  candy  and  lumps  of  sugar.  His  children  would  then 
jump  on  top  of  him,  and  take  the  sugar  and  candy  from 
his  pockets  and  eat  it.  This  made  Colonel  Carson  very  happy, 
and  he  derived  great  pleasure  from  these  little  episodes.  His 
wife.  Dona  Josepha  Jaramillo,  was  called  by  him  by  the  pet 
name  of  "  Chipita,"  and  he  was  most  kind  to  her. 

The  trail  from  Santa  Fe  down  the  Rio  Grande  to  Socorro 
and  on  to  El  Paso,  was  the  Chihuahua  Trail  for  traders. 
Socorro  marked  the  jumping-off  place,  below  which  was  a 
southern  New  Mexico,  uninhabited  and,  because  of  the 
Indians,  deemed  iminhabitable.  But  with  forts  Craig, 
Thorn,  and  Fillmore  to  form  a  line  with  Fort  Bliss  at  El 
Paso  of  Texas,  the  Yankee  government  had  boldly  intruded 
upon  this  traditional  solitude,  and  had  thrust  it  through 
with  the  finger  of  the  white  civilization. 

Fort  Craig  was  at  the  head  of  the  dreaded  Jornada  del 
Muerto,  where  the  trail  left  the  Rio  Grande  and  for  eighty 
miles  traversed  waterless  lava  and  sand.  In  February  a 
force  of  3,810  men  had  been  assembled  there  umier  Colonel 
Canby:  Companies  B,  D,  F,  I,  and  K  of  the  Fifth  Regular 
Infantry;   Companies  C,  F,  and  H  of  the' Seventh  Regu- 


C ARSON  AT  VALVERDE  399 

lar  Infantry ;  Cc«npanies  A,  F,  and  H  of  the  Tenth  Regular 
Infantry;  Companies  D  and  G  of  the  First  Regular  Cav- 
alry; Company  G  of  the  Second  Regular  Cavalry;  Com- 
panies C,  D,  G,  I,  and  K  of  the  Third  Regular  Cavalry; 
Company  B,  Captain  Dodd,  of  the  Second  Colorado  Volim- 
teers  (sent  posthaste  by  the  splendid  Governor  Gilpin) ; 
eight  companies  of  Colonel  Christopher  Carson's  First 
New  Mexican  Volunteer  Infantry;  seven  companies  of 
the  Second  New  Mexican  Volunteer  Infantry;  seven 
companies  of  the  Third  New  Mexican  Volunteer  Infan- 
try; one  company  of  the  Fourth  and  two  companies 
of  the  Fifth;  Captain  James  Graydon's  cc«npany  of  New 
Mexican  Spies;  and  i,ooo  unorganized  militia.  Nor  must 
we  omit  the  battery  of  two  twenty- four-pound  howitzers 
from  the  Tenth  Infantry,  commanded  by  Lieutenant  Robert 
H.  Hall,  and  the  provisional  light  battery,  made  up  of 
Companies  G  of  the  Second  and  I  of  the  Third  Cavalry, 
commanded  by  Captain  Alexander  McRae  of  the  Third, 
his  subalterns  lieutenants  Lyman  Mishler,  First  Infantry, 
and  Joseph  McC.  Bell.  Governor  Connelly  himself,  and 
Superintendent  of  Indians  J.  L.  Collins,  were  present  also. 

By  orders  of  February  14  Colonel  Carson  was  assigned, 
for  field  operations,  to  the  command  of  the  Third  Column, 
composed  of  his  First  Regiment  —  two  battalions  of  four 
companies  each,  the  one  battalion  under  Lieutenant  Colo- 
nel J.  Francisco  Chaves,  the  other  under  Major  Arthur 
Morrison,  making  altogether  512  men. 

Colonel  Canby  was  by  no  means  an  isolated  example  of 
alleged  neglect  from  a  busy  government,  for  through  delays 
and  inattention  which  he  declared  to  be  disheartening  (and 
which  were  fatal-  to  his  project)  until  the  end  of  January 
General  Sibley  was  unable  to  resume  his  forward  movement. 

From  Fort  Bliss  to  Fort  Craig  is  160  miles  —  sixty  miles 
of  it  a  rolling  country  providing  wood  and  water,  and  eighty 
miles  of  it  the  bare  Jornada  del  Muerto.    But  it  was  do  or 


400  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

die  with  the  Confederates ;  for  the  country,  instead  of  wd- 
ccMning  them,  seemed  to  be  ccmibining  against  them,  and 
now,  from  the  west,  was  pressing  eastward  the  California 
Column  of  2,350  men  under  Colonel  James  H.  Carleton. 
Thus  not  only  had  the  disaffection  hoped  for  in  California 
proved  a  disappointment,  but  from  that  state  the  flag  carried 
there  by  desert  march  of  Kearny's  dragoons  was  coming 
back  to  reassert  itself  along  the  same  historic  Gila  trail. 
The  Confederate  Arizona  of  **  Governor  "  Baylor  was  short- 
lived. The  "  Second  Texas  Mounted  Rifles,  C.  S.  A.,"  and 
the  reinforcements  from  Sibley  were  quickly  retired;  and 
post  after  post  was  re-occupied  by  the  Union. 

Reinforced  by  Baylor,  the  Sibley  coliunn  of  some  2,600, 
whose  apparent  lack  in  numbers  was  more  than  balanced 
by  the  equipment  of  experience,  marched  up  along  the  Rio 
Grande.  All  were  American  fighters,  wonted  to  Indian 
warfare;  whereas  on  the  other  side  fully  half  the  Canby 
troops  were  not  only  of  peasant  class  but  had  not  been 
bred  by  custom  to  meet  fighting.  Yet,  when  well  led,  they 
could  endtu"e  much  and  dare  much,  as  was  proved  in  the 
severe  mountain  campaign  of  1855.  Colonel  Canby  knew, 
however,  of  the  timid  element  among  his  forces  and  so  he 
designed  that  the  volunteers  and  militia  should  not  be  ma- 
neuvered under  fire,  a  scheme  which  was  thwarted  by  his 
opponent  officers  who  knew  this  element  as  well  as  he  did. 

With  column  depleted  by  illnesses,  and  with  mtdes  so 
thirsty  and  famished  that  on  the  20th  some  200  of  them 
deflected  to  the  river  and  to  the  fort,  on  the  i8th  of  Feb- 
ruary the  Confederate  advance  appeared  below  Fort  Craig. 

The  course  of  the  Rio  Grande  here  is  between  ridges  of 
drifting  sand,  and  of  lava  outcrops  usually  parallel  to  the 
stream,  thereby  affording  excellent  cover  for  troops.  Below 
and  across  from  the  post  was  a  basaltic  mesa  from  forty  to 
eighty  feet  high,  almost  inaccessible  by  horse  or  artillery, 
but  nmning  down  to  the  river  in  a  point  which,  at  1,000 


CARSON  AT  VALVERDE  401 

yards,  commanded  the  interior  of  the  post.  Two  and  a  half 
miles  above  it,  began  the  higher  Mesa  del  Contadero,  300 
feet  high,  three  miles  long  and  two  wide.  At  either  extrem- 
ity of  it  the  valley  of  the  river  was  accessible,  with  a  ford 
at  the  upper  end. 

Any  hope  on  the  part  of  Colonel  Canby  that  the  enemy 
would  attempt  to  reduce  the  post,  and  that  he  would  be 
enabled  to  fight  his  volunteers  from  behind  the  walls,  was 
dissipated;  for  it  was  evident  that  General  Sibley's  plan 
was  to  turn  the  position  by  marching  arotmd  it.  On  the 
20th,  at  the  Panadero  Ford  below  the  fort  he  unexpepfedly 
crossed  from  the  west  bank  to  the  east  bank,  and^deverly 
sidestepping  the  defenses,  although  hampered  b]^/<he  deflec- 
tion of  his  thirsty  mules,  moved  northward,  up  the  rougher 
east  side,  between  the  mesa,  unscalable,  and  the  river,  now 
turgid  and  rising.  His  column,  keeping  three  and  Tour 
miles  distant,  could  be  seen  from  the  fort. 

Thus  the  defenders  were  drawn  from  their  base,  and 
compelled  to  fight  upon  ground  of  the  enemy's  choosing. 

About  five  miles  above  the  fort,  at  Valverde,  a  ruinous, 
deserted  settlement,  the  river  was  to  be  crossed  again,  from 
east  to  west.  Seeing  that  the  Sibley  forces  were  evidently 
making  for  this  point.  Colonel  Canby  dispatched  to  the 
east  side  of  the  river  Graydon's  spies,  and  500  mounted 
militia  and  volunteers  under  colonels  Pino  and  Stapleton, 
to  threaten  the  enemy's  flanks  and  impede  him.  But  the 
volunteers,  as  Canby  remarks  in  disgust,  were  thrown  into 
confusion  by  a  "  few  harmless  shells,"  and  this  movement 
failed.  However,  by  the  demonstration  the  Confederates 
were  held  all  that  night  in  position.  At  eight  o'clock  on  the 
morning  of  the  next  day,  the  21st,  they  advanced  again. 

As  the  battle  was  inevitable,  and  as  Sibley  was  outmaneu- 
vering  him.  Colonel  Canby  had  dispatched  Lieutenant  Col- 
onel Roberts  along  the  west  bank  to  the  ford  with  regular 
cavalry  and  mounted  volunteers  to  occupy  and  hold  the 


402  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

crossing.  He  was  fcJlowed  at  five  in  the  morning  by  the 
McRae  and  Hall  batteries,  supported  by  Brotherton's  com- 
pany of  the  Fifth  Infantry,  Ingrahimi's  of  the  Seventh, 
and  two  companies  of  volunteers;  and  these  by  Selden's 
battalion,  eight  companies  of  regulars,  the  company  of 
Colorado  Volunteers,  and  Carson's  First  Regiment.*^® 

So  here,  in  the  Southwest,  with  little  attention  from  the 
great  armies  maneuvering  in  the  East,  where  the  fate  of  a 
national  principle  was  to  be  decided,  was  waged  the  first  of 
the  two  or  three  battles  that  settled  not  so  large  a  question 
as  the  national  one,  but  one  that  nevertheless  bore  definitely 
upon  the  affairs  of  half  a  continent.  Had  the  Confederate 
project  of  investing  the  Rocky  Mountain  country  met  with 
only  a  measure  of  success,  it  would  have  started  in  the  flesh 
of  the  Republic  a  malignant  sore  of  guerilla  warfare  more 
virulent  than  ever  yet  has  been  prescribed  for.  White  and 
red  against  white  and  red  —  thus  the  fever  would  have 
swept  desert,  pass,  plain,  and  vale. 

Fairly  planned,  but  poorly  executed,  were  the  Federal 
operations  in  the  battle  of  Valverde,  New  Mexico,  February 
21,  1862.  Colonel  Canby  gained  less  credit  from  the  contest 
than  his  subalterns ;  yet  there  was  truth  in  his  complaint : 

The  battle  was  fought  almost  entirely  by  the  r^[ular  troops 
(trebled  in  number  by  the  Confederates),  with  no  assistance 
from  the  militia  and  but  little  from  the  volunteers,  who  would 
not  obey  orders  or  obeyed  them  too  late  to  be  of  any  service. 
The  immediate  cause  of  the  disaster  was  the  refusal  of  one  of 
the  volunteer  regiments  to  cross  the  river  and  support  the  left 
wing  of  the  army. 

The  contemporary  operations  of  the  right  wing  were  emi- 
nently successful. 

Although  the  ground  had  been  surveyed  a  month  before, 
says  Colonel  Roberts,  and  the  importance  of  the  Valverde 
ford  had  been  recognized,  upon  arrival  there  he  now  found 


CARSON  AT  VALVERDE  403 

himself  tCK)  late;  the  passage  had  been  pre-empted  by  the 
invading  column,  which  was  being  posted  to  cover  the  cross- 
ing. However,  Colonel  Roberts  was  a  fighter;  and  so  act- 
ing promptly  he  succeeded  in  seizing,  by  desperate  work  of 
the  McRae  battery  and  Major  Duncan's  cavalry,  the  little 
bosque  or  copse  that  commanded  the  ford  —  the  key  to  the 
situation. 

When  the  Carson  regiment  arrived  at  nine  o'clock,  the 
booming  of  the  cannon  and  the  rattle  of  the  small  arms  were 
incessant.  None  recognized  better  than  Carson  how  uncer- 
tain a  quality  the  New  Mexican  green  volunteers  were ;  and 
he  had  wisely  asked  of  Colonel  Canby  that  the  First  Regi- 
ment be  held  back  as  long  as  practicable  —  probably  with 
a  view  to  arousing  its  spirit.  Now,  upon  reporting  to  Colo- 
nel Roberts,  he  was  ordered  to  take  position  on  the  left, 
in  a  bosque  there,  and  to  watch  the  Confederate  right. 
This  he  did,  and  "moved  along  up  the  west  side  of  the 
Rio  Grande  as  the  enemy  extended  his  right  in  the  same 
direction.'* 

Thus,  previous  to  the  arrival  of  Colonel  Canby  himself 
with  fresh  troops  to  relieve  the  Roberts  companies,  the 
Carson  men  "  had  remained  on  the  west  side  of  the  river 
and  had  taken  no  part  in  the  battle." 

About  I  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  I  received  from  Colonel 
Canby  the  order  to  cross  the  river,  which  I  immediately  did, 
after  which  I  was  ordered  to  form  my  command  on  the  right 
of  our  line  and  to  advance  as  skirmishers  toward  the  hills. 
After  advancing  some  400  yards  we  discovered  a  large  body 
(some  400  or  500)  of  the  enemy  charging  diagonally  across 
our  front,  evidently  with  the  intention  of  capturing  the  24- 
pounder  gun,  which,  stationed  on  our  right,  was  advancing  and 
doing  much  harm  to  the  enemy.  As  the  head  of  the  enemy's 
column  came  within  some  80  yards  of  my  right  a  volley  from 
the  whole  column  was  poured  into  them,  and  the  firing  being 
kept  up  caused  them  to  break  in  every  direction.  Almost  at 
the  same  time  a  shell  from  the  24-pounder  was  thrown  among 


404  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

them  with  fatal  effect.  They  did  not  attempt  to  reform,  and 
the  column  supported  by  the  gun  on  the  right,  was  moving 
forward  to  sweep  the  wood  near  the  hills,  when  I  received 
the  order  to  retreat  and  recross  the  river.  This  movement  was 
executed  in  good  order.  The  column,  after  crossing  the  river, 
returned  to  its  station  near  Fort  Craig,  where  it  arrived  about 
7  o'clock  in  the  evening.^*^® 

This  is  Carson's  report  of  his  part  at  Valverde,  where 
West  Pointer  was  arrayed  against  West  Pointer,  and  where 
for  the  first  and  only  time  he  witnessed  American  battle 
tactics  opposed  to  American  battle  tactics,  American  arms 
opposed  to  American  arms.  To  him,  the  battle  was  going 
well  for  the  Union  forces,  and  his  own  advance  had  been 
successful;  but  to  the  more  practiced  eye  the  aspect  was 
different 

When  at  2:45  (according  to  Colonel  Roberts)  Canby 
took  command  on  the  field,  having  left  a  rear  guard  at  the 
fort  and  sent  forward  every  other  available  man,  he  found 
that  the  Confederate  movement  had  been  entirely  tmcovered, 
that  the  ford  was  the  focus,  and  that  Colonel  Roberts'  occu- 
pation of  the  bosque  was  precarious.  Sibley,  practically 
abandoning  his  supply  train,  was  rushing  up  more  men; 
his  position,  in  a  swale  between  two  sand  ridges,  was  very 
strong,  and  an  assault  upon  him  all  along  the  line  would 
have  been  risky. 

Colonel  Canby  determined,  as  a  last  measure,  to  force 
the  Confederate  left  by  advancing  the  Federal  right  and 
center  with  his  own  left  as  a  pivot  —  a  change  of  front, 
at  a  right  angle,  which  would  rake  the  swale  and  reverse 
the  advantage. 

For  this  movement,  the  McRae  battery  at  the  river, 
strongly  supported,  formed  the  Federal  left ;  Selden's  Regu- 
lars and  Carson's  Volunteers  formed  the  center;  Hall's 
battery,  with  its  support,  and  Major  Duncan's  dismounted 
regular  cavalry  formed  the  right.    The  Pino  Second  Regi- 


CARSON  AT  VALVERDE  405 

ment  of  Volunteers,  a  squadron  of  the  First  Cavalry,  and 
Colonel  Valdez*  Volunteers  formed  the  reserve. 

"Accordingly,  Carson's  regiment,  which  at  his  own 
request  had  not  hitherto  been  brought  into  action,  was 
ordered  to  cross  the  river."  It  was  just  in  time  to  join  in 
repulsing  a  charge  on  Hall's  battery,  and  "  by  a  well-directed 
fire  added  to  the  discomfiture  of  the  enemy." 

The  charge,  which  was  in  the  nature  of  a  feint,  drew  the 
Carson  regiment  into  piu'suit.  So  they  followed  (as  Carson 
reports),  flushed  with  seeming  victory.  But  behind,  at  the 
ford,  two  masked  batteries,  concealed  in  an  arroyo,  or 
portion  of  the  old  river  bed,  from  about  one  hundred  yards 
had  opened  upon  the  McRae  battery. 

The  formation  of  this  old  river-bed  gave  ample  protection 
to  their  guns  and  gunners,  while  their  enfilading  fire  on  our 
entirely  exposed  command  was  most  destructive  to  men  and 
horses.  This  terrific  fire  of  canister  swept  through  us  for 
some  time  (the  battery  supports  meantime  lying  protected  in 
our  rear,  as  their  presence  could  be  of  no  assistance),  when  a 
body  of  the  enemy,  numbering  some  twelve  or  fifteen  hundred 
men,  rose  from  behind  the  old  river-bank  and  charged  us. 
To  describe  this  charge  would  be  but  to  tell  of  many  similar 
ones  during  the  war,  in  which  wild  ardor  and  determination 
were  the  moving  features.*®^ 

Colonel  Canby,  watching  the  field,  noted  these  dismounted 
Texans  (i,ooo,  he  states)  stealing  forward  imder  cover  of 
the  sand  hills.  He  hastened,  himself,  to  warn  the  battery 
support,  but  before  he  could  deliver  the  word  the  charge 
had  developed ;  *'  on  they  came,  without  order,  each  man 
for  himself,  and  *the  devil  for  the  vanquished,'  in  true 
'  Ranger '  style,  down  to  almost  the  muzzles  of  our  guns." 
At  the  sight  and  the  yells,  the  Mortimore  and  Hubbell  com- 
panies of  the  Third  New  Mexican  Volunteers  broke  and 
fled,  tearing  their  way  through  the  companion  support  of 
Captain  P.  W.  L.  Plympton's  Regulars  and  the  Colorado 


406  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

company,  "  leaving  their  gallant  Colonel  ♦  ♦  ♦  and 
a  few  of  his  officers  to  do  independent  service  in  the 
battery."  ^^ 

Letting  the  New  Mexicans  go,  the  regulars  and  the  Col- 
oradans  rallied,  pressed  forward,  and  aiding  the  cannoneers 
by  fierce  volleys  drove  back  the  Texan  advance.  But,  as 
says  the  gallant  Bell,  serving  with  these  cavalrymen  turned 
artillerists : 

Then  again  the  Texan  batteries  opened  with  the  same  un- 
savory diet  of  canister,  and  we  replied  in  kind,  preparing  for 
the  next  onslaught  that  was  sure  to  come.  And  it  did  come, 
with  larger  numbers  and  more  violence  than  before. 

The  wild  Texan  wave  surged  forward,  deploying  in  a 
long  fan-shaped  line,  and  converging  while  it  poured  a 
furious  fire  from  rifles,  revolvers,  and  shotguns  loaded  with 
buckshot. 

And  again,  with  double-shotted  guns,  they  were  driven  back, 
but  leaving  us  little  able  to  resist  successfully  such  another 
eflFort.  In  this  second  charge  Captain  McRae  (this  officer 
refused  to  surrender,  but,  seated  upon  a  gun,  coolly  emptied 
his  pistols,  each  shot  counting  one  Texan  less,  until  covered 
with  wounds,  he  expired  at  his  post)  and  Lieutenant  Mishler 
were  killed,  Lieutenant  Bell  thrice  wounded,  and  certainly 
one-half  the  men  and  two-thirds  of  the  horses  either  killed  or 
hors  de  combat.  The  charging  party  of  the  enemy  regained 
their  position  behind  the  old  river-bed,  we  were  again  treated 
to  another  and  more  continuous  fire  from  their  batteries,  which 
we  feared  was  but  the  introduction  to  another  charge  from 
their  reinforced  numbers.  We  hadn't  long  to  wait  for  the 
coup  de  main,  Down  they  came  upon  us,  rushing  through 
the  fire  poured  into  them,  with  maddened  determination,  until 
the  whole  force  was  inside  the  battery,  where,  hand-to-hand, 
men  were  slaughtered.  Simultaneously  with  this  third  charge,  a 
column  of  the  enemy's  cavalry  moved  upon  our  left  flank, 
which  commanded  the  attention  of  our  infantry  supports,  leav- 
ing our  thinned  but  enthusiastic  battery-men  to  resist  as  well 
as  possible  the  Texan  force  among  us.*  ^^ 


CARSON  AT  VALVERDE  407 

All  was  confusion.  The  available  Federal  cavalry,  a 
small  squadron  under  Lieutenant  Lord  of  the  volunteers, 
were  summoned  to  the  scene  to  occupy,  if  possible,  the 
battery  until  the  Fifth  Infantry,  from  another  part  of  the 
field,  could  arrive.  But  amid  the  struggling  mass  they 
were  unable  to  distinguish  friend  from  foe,  and  had  to  be 
sent  to  the  rear  again.  But  the  Captain  Wingate  battalion 
of  regulars,  arriving  at  double-quick,  by  rapid  volleys 
threw  the  Texans  into  momentary  disorder.  Seizing  upon 
this,  and  still  trusting  to  turn  the  scale.  Colonel  Canby 
(three  horses  having  been  shot  under  him),  dispatched  his 
messages  recalling  the  Carson  and  other  troops  from  the 
vain  pursuit  and  rallying  the  reserves. 

The  right  wing,  with  which  Carson's  command  had 
coalesced,  was  far  and  scattered;  the  Union  troops  had 
been  fording  and  re- fording,  where  the  water  was  swift  and 
cold,  and  were  worn  out;  the  reserves  were  panic-stricken, 
inextricably  mixed  with  fugitives,  and  at  the  last 

Pine's  regiment,  of  which  only  one  company  (Sena's)  and 
part  of  another  could  be  induced  to  cross  the  river,  was  in  the 
wildest  confusion,  and  no  efforts  of  their  own  officers,  or  of 
my  own  staff,  could  restore  any  kind  of  order.  More  than  lOO 
men  from  this  regiment  deserted  from  the  field.^®^ 

The  day  was  lost  to  the  Union  forces;  the  capture  of 
the  McRae  battery  settled  the  possession  of  the  ford.  From 
the  Confederate  supply  train  more  men,  swelling  the  rein- 
forcements to  500  (according  to  Canby)  were  hastening 
up ;  the  hour  was  five  o'clock,  dusk  was  near,  and  "  with  a 
large  number  of  our  men  killed  and  woimded,  horses  dead 
and  disabled,  our  supports  badly  thinned,  and  the  enemy 
massing  their  forces  upon  us.  General  Canby  gave  the 
orders  to  fall  back.  It  was  not  possible  to  carry  the  whole 
of  the  battery  with  us,  and  but  two  guns  and  three  cais- 
sons were  taken  across  the  river,  under  the  fire  that  was 


408  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

poured  into  us  by  the  Texan  troops  lining  the  east  bank  of 
the  stream."  i«* 

The  Canby  army  retired  to  Fort  Craig;  crippled  by  the 
victory  dearly  won,  the  Sibley  army  pressed  wearily  on,  to 
leave  their  wounded  at  Socorro,  twenty-seven  miles  above, 
and  thence  to  hasten  for  Albuquerque,  Santa  Fe,  and  Fort 
Union,  which  none  reached  save  as  prisoners. 

The  Confederate  loss  was  reported  by  Sibley  as  forty 
killed  and  lOO  wounded  —  and  this  is  supplemented  by  the 
report  of  his  field  officers,  who  place  the  loss  at  thirty-six 
killed  and  150  wounded.  Union  casualties,  sixty-eight 
killed,  160  wounded,  thirty-five  missing;  total  263.  The 
Carson  First  Regiment's  quota  was  one  man  killed,  one 
wounded,  and  eleven  missing. 

Colonels  Miguel  E.  Pino  and  Christopher  Carson,  lieuten- 
ant colonels  J.  Francisco  Chaves  and  Manual  Chaves,  and 
others  of  the  volunteer  officers,  the  majority  of  whom  seem 
to  have  led  bravely,  were  mentioned  in  dispatches. 


CHAPTER   XXXIII 
CORRALLING  THE  APACHE  — 1862-1863 

WITH  the  subsequent  war  between  whites  and  whites 
in  New  Mexico  we  have  naught  directly  to  do. 
History  records  how  the  battered  Sibley  column  marched 
on  to  Albuquerque,  occupied  Santa  Fe,  and  pushed  for  the 
$300,000  cache  of  Fort  Union;  how  hurrying  from  the 
north,  with  one  march  of  sixty-four  miles  in  twenty-four 
hours,  the  First  Regiment,  Colorado  Volunteer  Infantry, 
under  Colonel  Slough  and  the  fighting  parson,  Chivington, 
arrived  in  time  to  place  the  post,  already  mined  by  the  weak 
garrison,  out  of  immediate  danger;  how  from  the  fort 
regulars  and  volunteers  sallied  to  the  south,  and  how  from 
Fort  Craig  the  chagrined  Canby  sallied  to  the  north,  and 
the  Texans  were  between.  It  records  how  on  March  26  at 
historic  Apache  Canon,  on  the  overland  trail  from  Fort 
Union  to  Santa  Fe,  the  Texans  were  encountered  by  the 
Colorado  "  Pike  Peakers  " ;  how  the  Texans  were  driven 
from  the  field ;  how  on  the  28th  another  battle,  and  a  larger 
one,  was  fought  by  the  two  main  armies  at  Pigeon's  Ranch ; 
and  how  the  doughty  Chivington,  under  guidance  of  Lieu- 
tenant Colonel  Manual  Chaves,  flanked  the  Texans  and  com- 
pelled them  to  retreat  to  Santa  Fe;  how  from  Santa  Fe 
the  invaders  fell  back  to  Albuquerque;  and  how,  dogged 
by  the  allied  forces  under  Canby  from  the  south  and  Chiv- 
ington and  Paul  from  the  north,  the  shattered  Texans, 
1,200  men  and  thirteen  wagons  out  of  the  3,800  men  and 
327  wagons,  perforce  retraced  their  way  down  the  Rio 
Grande,  fighting  for  the  lead  and  to  prevent  the  Federals 

409 


410  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

from  crossing,  until  finally,  above  Fort  Craig,  they  found 
a  by-trail  which  conducted  them  to  safety. 

In  naught  of  the  foregoing  did  Colonel  Christopher 
Carson  take  part.  After  Valverde  the  battles  for  free  or 
slave  supremacy  in  the  Southwest  were  fought  by  the  other 
commands,  and  the  campaign  up  along  the  Rio  Grande  was 
conducted  without  his  active  help.  For  when  Canby  was 
ready  to  leave  Craig,  for  vengeance  upon  the  Sibley  column, 
he  made  secure  his  base  with  the  following  order : 

Headquarters  Department  of  New  Mexico. 
Fort  Craig,  N.  Mex,,  March  31,  1862. 
Col.  C.  Carson: 

Colonel :  You  are  charged  with  the  duty  of  holding  this  post. 
Your  command  will  consist  of  seven  companies  of  your  own 
regiment,  two  of  the  Second,  and  one  of  the  Fourth  Regiment 
New  Mexican  Volunteers.  The  convalescents,  as  they  beccmie 
effective,  will  add  to  your  strength,  and  I  am  instructed  by  the 
colonel  commanding  to  say  that  the  objects  in  view  of  the  plan 
of  operations  require  that  it  should  be  held  to  the  last  extrem- 
ity. The  manner  of  doing  this  is  left  to  your  judgment  and 
discretion,  in  both  of  which  he  has  the  utmost  confidence. 
The  force  of  the  enemy  in  Mesilla  will  not  allow  him  to  make 
a  r^ular  attack  upon  the  post,  but  it  may  be  attempted  by 
surprise.  To  guard  against  this  he  desires  that  you  will  exer- 
cise yourself  and  exact  from  all  of  your  command  the  most 
unremitting  vigilance. 

The  sick  and  wounded  left  in  your  care  will  of  course 
receive  every  attention,  and  the  colonel  commanding  desires 
me  to  say  that  any  expenditures  that  will  add  to  their  comfort 
or  conduce  to  their  recovery  will  be  fully  authorized. 

Very  respectfully,  sir,  yr  obed  serv't, 

Wm.  J.  L.  Nicodemus, 
Captain  Twelfth  Infantry,  Actg.  Asst.  Adj't.  Gen. 

On  this  same  date  Colonel  Canby  was  appointed,  at 
Washington,  brigadier  general  of  volunteers;  on  the  next 
day  he  rode  with  his  column  for  the  north.  In  this  March, 
also,  of  1862,  before  the  National  House  was  introduced 


CORRALLING  THE  APACHE  411 

that  bill  creating  the  Arizona  of  today,  which  passed  the 
Senate  a  year  later. 

After  the  departure  of  General  Canby  no  news  of  impor- 
tance emanated  from  Fort  Craig.  That  Kit  Carson  was 
there  seems  to  have  inspired  confidence  throughout  the 
Territory. 

As  colonel  of  infantry  Carson  was  now  credited  to 
monthly  pay  of  $95,  to  six  rations  a  day  of  monthly  cash 
value  of  $54,  to  two  servants  of  the  monthly  commutation 
value  of  $45,  and  to  horse  forage  of  monthly  value  of  $4 
in  war  and  $2  in  peace.  His  income  therefore  totalled,  if 
he  could  so  manage  it,  $198.  As  he  did  not  have  his  family 
with  him  to  require  the  servants  and  to  consume  the  rations, 
he  probably  sent  home  much  of  both  allowance  and  pay. 
He  was  colonel,  in  the  field  most  of  the  time,  for  four  years. 

On  May  31,  the  First,  Second,  Fourth,  and  Fifth  New 
Mexican  Volunteer  Regiments  were  consolidated  to  form  the 
First  New  Mexican  Volunteer  Cavalry,  with  Carson  com- 
manding. His  income  as  mounted  officer  was  now  raised 
by  $18  —  his  pay  being  $110,  his  servant  hire  $47,  and  his 
horse  forage,  in  war,  $5.  General  Canby  was  relieved  by 
orders  of  August  5,  1862,  and  called  to  report  at  Wash- 
ington; thence  to  enter  upon  a  distinguished  army  career 
amidst  the  large  operations  of-  the  East.  General  James  H. 
Carleton  of  the  California  Column  had  already  arrived 
at  his  destination,  the  banks  of  the  Rio  Grande;  and  on 
September  18  he  succeeded  General  Canby  in  command  of 
the  Department  of  New  Mexico  which  included  the  district 
of  Arizona  then  to  the  south  but  soon  to  be  on  the  west. 

Behold  then,  Carson's  commander  for  the  next  four 
years:  James  H.  Carleton,  aged  forty-eight,  Maine  bom 
and  raised,  appointed  from  Maine  to  the  First  Dragoons, 
1839;  brevetted  major  for  gallantry  at  Buena  Vista,  major 
of  the  First  Dragoons,  and  as  such  paying  to  Carson,  his 
chief  scout,  the  tribute  of  a  hat ;  colonel  of  the  First  Cali- 


412  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

fornia  Infantry,  brigadier  general  for  the  Department  of 
New  Mexico.  Carleton  was  a  fighter,  a  gentleman  and  a 
Christian,  at  once  soldier  and  citizen,  to  whom  the  South- 
west owes  more  than  it  yet  has  acknowledged.  The  records 
of  the  Carleton  rule,  1862- 1866,  in  New  Mexico,  as  com- 
piled amidst  the  plainly  bound  tomes  which  form  the  reports 
of  general  officers  during  the  Rebellion,  are  convincing 
token  of  the  wonderful  activity  of  the  man.  A  very  dynamo 
of  energy,  relentless  as  a  chastiser,  kindly  as  an  adviser,  un- 
wavering in  policy  yet  charitable  in  performance,  with  mind 
broad  enough  to  see  that  he  was  building  a  state  and  not 
merely  occup)ring  it,  he  was  a  chief  most  fitting  to  help 
shape  aright  the  character  of  Carson,  new  to  army 
command.*®^ 

General  Carleton  was  not  slow  to  appreciate  that  in  his 
command  he  had  perhaps  the  most  skillful  Indian  fighter  in 
the  West;  and  upon  Colonel  Christopher  Carson  devolved 
the  campaign,  first,  against  the  Mescalero  tribe,  or  the 
White  Mountain  Apaches,  whose  range  was  that  rolling 
Region  from  the  lower  Rio  Grande,  say  at  Fort  Craig,  east 
to  the  Pecos.  The  Mescaleros  were  not  so  vicious  as  other 
Apaches,  but  the  Texan  retreat  had  bequeathed  the  victors 
a  legacy  of  quarrel,  and  to  the  Mescalero,  once  incensed,  all 
whites  looked  alike. 

From  his  command  at  Fort  Craig,  during  the  summer, 
Colonel  Carson  had  advanced  up  the  river,  as  if  gravitating 
toward  that  home  which  was  so  often  uppermost  in  his 
mind.  In  September  he  was  at  Los  Lunas,  just  below  Albu- 
querque, with  A  and  G  companies  —  seven  officers,  ninety- 
four  men*— of  his  First  New  Mexican  Cavalry.  Again 
in  the  fall  he  was  at  Albuquerque.  But  this  respite,  this 
approach  to  the  ease  of  peace,  was  effectually  broken  by 
Special  Orders  No.  176  from  headquarters,  where  sat  a 
soldier  who  brooked  no  rest  in  anybody  until  rest  was 
further  earned. 


CORRALLING  THE  APACHE  413 

Department  of 

New  Mexico,  Assistant  Adjutant  General's  Office 

Santa  Fe,  N.  M.,  September  27,  1862. 
♦         ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ 

III.  Fort  Stanton,  on  the  Bonito  River,  in  the  country  of  the 
Mescalero  Apaches,  will  without  delay  be  reoccupied  by  five 
companies  of  Colonel  Christopher  Carson's  regiment  of 
New  Mexico  Volunteers.  *  *  *  Colonel  Carson  will 
receive  instructions  as  to  the  particular  duties  of  his  command 
while  serving  in  the  Mescalero  country.  The  world-wide  repu- 
tation of  Colonel  Carson  as  a  partisan  gives  a  good  guaranty 
that  anything  that  may  be  required  of  him,  which  brings  into 
practical  operation  the  peculiar  skill  and  high  courage  for 
which  he  is  justly  celebrated,  will  be  well  done. 

By  conunand  of  Brigadier  General  Carleton: 

Ben  C.  Cutler, 
First  Lieutenant,  C.  V.,  A.  A.  A.  General. 
Official:  Ben  C.  Cutler, 

Assistant  Adjutant  General. 

General  Carleton  explained  the  order  in  his  report  to  the 
Adjutant  General  of  the  Army : 

I  find  that  during  the  raid  which  was  made  into  this  territory 
by  some  armed  men  from  Texas,  under  Brigadier  General 
Sibley,  of  the  army  of  the  so-called  Confederate  States,  the 
Indians,  aware  that  the  attention  of  our  troops  could  not,  for 
the  time,  be  turned  toward  them,  commenced  robbing  the 
inhabitants  of  their  stock,  and  killed,  in  various  places,  a 
great  number  of  people;  the  Navajoes  on  the  western  side,  and 
the  Mescalero  Apaches  on  the  eastern  side  of  the  settlements, 
both  committing  these  outrages  at  the  same  time.    *    *    * 

To  punish  and  control  the  Mescaleros,  I  have  ordered  Fort 
Stanton  to  be  reoccupied.  That  post  is  in  the  heart  of  their 
country,  and  hitherto  when  troops  occupied  it  those  Indians 
were  at  peace.  I  have  sent  Colonel  Christopher  Carson  (Kit 
Carson),  with  five  companies  of  his  regiment  of  New  Mexican 
Volunteers,  to  Fort  Stanton. 

Against  the  Mescaleros  marched  Colonel  Carson,  over- 
taken en  route  by  a  dispatch  from  headquarters  giving  him 


414  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

free  hand  and  tight  rein.     "  All  Indian  men  of  that  tribe 
are  to  be  killed  whenever  and  wherever  you  can  find  them." 


If  the  Indians  send  in  a  flag  and  desire  to  treat  for  peace, 
say  to  the  bearer  that  when  the  people  of  New  Mexico  were 
attacked  by  the  Texans,  the  Mescaleros  broke  their  treaty  of 
peace,  and  murdered  innocent  people,  and  ran  off  their  stock; 
that  now  our  hands  are  united,  and  you  have  been  sent  to 
punish  them  for  their  treachery  and  their  crimes;  that  you 
have  no  power  to  make  peace ;  that  you  are  there  to  kill  them 
wherever  you  can  find  them ;  that  if  they  beg  for  peace,  their 
chiefs  and  twenty  of  their  principal  men  must  come  to  Santa  F6 
to  have  a  talk  here ;  but  tell  them  fairly  and  frankly  that  you 
will  keep  after  their  people  and  slay  them  until  you  receive 
orders  to  desist  from  these  headquarters ;  that  this  making  of 
treaties  for  them  to  break  whenever  they  have  an  interest  in 
breaking  them  will  not  be  done  any  more;  that  that  time  has 
passed  by;  that  we  have  no  faith  in  their  promises;  that  we 
believe  if  we  kill  some  of  their  men  in  fair,  open  war,  they  will 
be  apt  to  remember  that  it  will  be  better  for  them  to  remain  at 
peace  than  to  be  at  war.  I  trust  that  this  severity,  in  the  long 
run,  will  be  the  most  humane  course  that  could  be  pursued 
toward  these  Indians. 

You  observe  that  there  is  a  large  force  helping  you.  I  do  not 
wish  to  tie  your  hands  by  instructions ;  the  whole  duty  can  be 
stmmied  up  in  a  few  words:  The  Indians  are  to  be  soundly 
whipped,  without  parleys  or  councils  except  as  above.  Be  care- 
ful not  to  mistake  the  troops  from  below  for  Texans.  If  a  force 
of  rebels  comes,  you  know  how  to  annoy  it ;  how  to  stir  up  their 
camps  and  stock  by  night ;  how  to  lay  waste  the  prairie  by  fire; 
how  to  make  the  country  very  warm  for  them,  and  the  road  a 
difficult  one.    Do  this,  and  keep  me  advised  of  all  you  do. 

At  Fort  Stanton,  vacant  after  the  retirement  of  the 
Texans,  the  flag  was  again  raised.  The  results  were 
prompt.  Captain  William  McCleave  of  the  California 
Volunteers  found  the  Mescaleros,  mustering  loo  warriors, 
opposing  him  at  the  portal  Dog  Canon,  and  with  his  two 
companies  he  drove  them  in  flight.    At  the  end  of  October 


f  I 

i  I 


2     ^ 


o  ££  I 

Q    £       - 


CORRALLING  THE  APACHE  415 

Captain  Thomas  Gray  don  (w^  commanded  the  Spy  Com- 
pany at  Valverde)  while  on  a  scout  with  his  company  met 
old  Manuelito,  head  chief  of  the  Mescaleros,  and  his  band. 
Although  they  were  already  bound  for  Santa  Fe  to  ask 
peace,  he  fired  upon  them,  killed  outright  Manuelito,  four 
warriors,  and  a  woman ;  and,  in  pursuit,  shot  down  others. 
Astounded  and  alarmed  by  this  precipitate  campaign 
which  was  invading  their  fastnesses  with  its  diamond-cut- 
diamond  policy,  the  Mescalero  leaders  now  did  not  venture 
to  take  time  for  the  required  trip  to  Santa  Fe,  but  in  hope 
of  safety  and  out  of  faith  in  the  well-known  Kit  Carson, 
they  made  straight  for  Fort  Stanton.  As  they  had  trusted, 
Carson  did  not  murder  them.  He  told  them,  however, 
that  he  had  no  authority  to  make  treaties  with  them  as  in 
previous  days,  but  that  they  must  go  up  to  Santa  Fe  and 
submit  to  the  irascible  "  big  chief  "  there.  So  he  sent  them 
along,  five  of  them,  under  escort ;  and  they  arrived  in  safety 
about  November  23. 

You  are  stronger  than  we  (thus  is  reported  the  speech  of 
Gian-nah-tah  to  General  Carleton).  We  have  fought  you 
so  long  as  we  had  rifles  and  powder;  but  your  weapons  are 
better  than  ours.  Give  us  like  weapons  and  turn  us  loose, 
we  will  fight  you  again;  but  we  are  worn  out;  we  have  no 
more  heart;  we  have  no  provisions,  no  means  to  live;  your 
troops  are  everywhere ;  our  springs  and  water-holes  are  either 
occupied  or  overlooked  by  your  young  men.  You  have  driven 
us  from  our  last  and  best  stronghold,  and  we  have  no  more 
heart.  Do  with  us  as  may  seem  good  to  you,  but  do  not  forget 
we  are  men  and  braves. 

Already,  under  General  Orders  No.  193,  date  November 
4,  a  board  of  officers  had  been  ordered  to  locate  in  that 
region  on  the  upper  Pecos  —  northeast  of  Fort  Stanton, 
150  miles  southeast  of  Fort  Union  and  165  southeast  of 
Santa  Fe  —  called  the  Bosque  Redondo  (Round  Grove), 
a  new  fort,  of  which  the  title  should  be  Fort  Sumner. 


416  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Thither  the  Mescaleros  were  sent,  with  orders  that  they 
be  housed  and  fed,  until,  when  the  whole  tribe  should  be 
assemUed,  **  we  can  then  conclude  a  definite  treaty,  and 
let  them  all  return  again  to  inhabit  their  proper  country." 

The  Graydcm  affair  brought  an  official  investigation  and 
reprimand  for  that  overzealous  officer ;  but  the  result  could 
not  be  gainsaid.  Manuelito  and  Jose  Largo  (Big  Joe)  his 
cooperator  were  dead  —  ar/d  with  nine  companies  of  Indian 
haters,  New  Mexicans  and  Calif  omians,  searching  the  chap- 
arral with  Sharp's  carbines,  and  looking  for  scalps  and 
booty  rather  than  prisoners,  the  day  of  the  Mescalero 
seemed  early  eclipsed.  In  lieu  thereof  rose  the  day  of  the 
Bosque  Redondo  —  that  fond  colcmization  scheme  of  Gen- 
eral Carleton's,  which,  like  many  another  dream  solving  the 
Indian  problem,  proved  to  be,  after  all,  one  of  vain  hopes. 

However,  as  driven  or  persuaded  in,  band  by  band  for- 
warded from  Fort  Stanton  to  new  Fort  Sumner,  the  Mes- 
caleros were  rapidly  concentrated  at  the  Bosque  Redondo; 
and  although  outlawed  squads  of  the  Apaches  continued  to 
make  the  whole  territory  from  the  Mesilla  Valley  of  the 
border  up  to  Fort  Union  of  the  Santa  Fe  trail  perilous 
for  soldier  and  citizen  alike,  on  March  19,  1863,  General 
Carleton  was  emboldened  to  report  to  Washington : 

General  :  I  have  the  honor  to  inform  you  that  the  opera- 
tions of  the  troops  against  the  Mescalero  Apaches  have  resulted 
in  bringing  in  as  prisoners  about  four  hundred  men,  women 
and  children  of  that  tribe,  from  their  fastnesses  in  the  moun- 
tains about  Fort  Stanton,  to  Fort  Sumner,  at  the  Bosque 
Redondo,  on  the  Pecos  River.  This  leaves  about  one  hundred, 
the  remainder  of  that  tribe,  who  are  reported  as  having  fled 
to  Mexico  and  to  join  the  Gila  Apaches.  Against  these  last, 
the  Gila  Apaches,  vigorous  hostilities  are  prosecuted,  as  I  have 
already  informed  you.  Want  of  troops  and  of  forage  has  pre- 
vented any  operations  against  the  Navajoes.  Now  that  the 
Mescaleros  are  subdued,  I  shall  send  the  whole  of  Colonel 
Carson's  regiment  against  the  Navajoes,  who  still  continue 


CORRALLING  THE  APACHE  417 

to  plunder  and  murder  the  people.  This  regiment  will  take 
the  field  against  them  early  in  May.  Already  I  have  com- 
menced drawing  the  companies  in  from  the  Mescalero  country 
preparatory  to  such  movement. 

And  he  seals  the  fate  of  the  Mescalero  by  adding : 

It  is  my  purpose  to  induce  the  Mescaleros  to  settle  on  a 
reservation  near  Fort  Sumner  at  the  Bosque  Redondo,  on  the 
Pecos  River.  The  superintendent  of  Indian  affairs  for  New 
Mexico  and  myself  proceed  to  that  point,  starting  today,  to 
have  "  the  talk "  with  them  with  reference  to  this  matter. 
My  purpose  is  to  have  them  fed  and  kept  there  under  sur- 
veillance;  to  have  them  plant  a  crop  this  year;  to  have  them, 
in  short,  become  what  is  called  in  this  country  a  pueblo.  If 
they  are  once  permitted  to  go  at  large  again,  the  same  trouble 
and  expense  will  again  have  to  be  gone  through  with  to  punish 
and  subdue  them.  They  will  murder  and  rob  unless  kept  from 
doing  it  by  fear  and  force. 

At  the  same  time  Colonel  Christopher  Carson,  whose 
office  has  largely  been  that  of  commander  directing  from 
headquarters  at  the  fort,  and  of  forwarding  agent,  was 
g^ven  short  leave  (which  he  never  was  in  mood  to  decline) 
to  visit  his  family. 


CHAPTER   XXXIV 
THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  — 1863-1864 

THE  name  Navajo  has  come  down  to  us  almost  white 
as  compared  with  the  crimson  name  Apache.  But  the 
Mexicans  knew  the  title  well  as  that  of  an  ogre  by  which 
other  than  children  were  to  be  frightened.  When  from  their 
northern  canons  and  plateaus  rode  these  "  Lords  of  the 
North,"  and  through  the  Mexican  villages  pealed  the  cry 
"  Navajo,  Navajo! "  uttered  by  a  score  of  savage  throats, 
how  quickly  the  inhabitants  blanched  and  fled !-  The  Navajo 
recked  no  master.  As  Superintendent  Amos  Steck  reports 
in  September,  1863,  "  Not  since  the  acquisition  of  New 
Mexico  in  1847  ^^^^  ^he  Navajos  been  at  peace."  Six 
treaties  with  them  were  broken  even  before  they  had  been 
ratified.    Out  of  this  condition 

four  campaigns  against  the  Navajoes  resulted,  in  three  of 
which  our  army  failed  of  either  success  or  glory.    In  the  fourth 

the  Indians  succumbed  to  the  superior  strategy  of  the  re- 
nowned Kit  Carson,  and  were  compelled,  by  hunger,  to 
surrender.^  ®^ 

True  Bedouins  were  the  Navajos  —  true  Ishmaelites, 
their  hand  against  every  man  and  every  man's  hand  against 
them.  With  their  flocks  and  their  herds,  their  looms  and 
their  orchards,  and  their  kindly  treatment  of  their  women, 
yet  with  the  mig^tory  instincts  which  forbade  any  settled 
village,  sending  them  hither  and  yon  through  the  summer, 
and  housing  them  in  rude  hogans  and  the  caiions  in  the 
winter,  they  stand  out  distinct  as  an  independent,  aboriginal 
people.     Strange,  that  a  pastoral  folk,  today  wealthy  as 

418 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  419 

compared  with  other  tribes,  still  aloof  and  united,  troubling 
not  the  white  world  and  of  the  white  world  asking  naught, 
should  have  so  scourged  the  Southwest. 

General  Kearny  in  1846  found  the  Navajos  at  war  with 
the  country;  he  promised  protection  for  the  citizens,  sub- 
jugation for  the  enemy  —  and  scarcely  had  he  thus  given 
his  pledge  when,  in  his  very  sight,  the  underrated  Lords  of 
the  North  drove  off  some  of  his  stock. 

Thereupon  the  doughty  Missourian,  Colonel  Doniphan, 
and  the  fighting  statesman,  William  Gilpin,  proceeded 
against  the  Navajo,  and  made  a  treaty.  In  1847  Major 
Walker,  in  1848  Colonel  E.  W.  B.  Newby,  in  1849  Colonel 
John  M.  Washington  successively  marched  to  the  Canon 
de  Chelly,  made  treaties,  and  marched  back  again.  As  for 
the  Washington  treaty 

a  party  of  the  same  Indians  who  were  present  when  the 
treaty  was  signed,  reached  the  settlements  in  advance  of  the 
colonel's  command,  and  stole  a  large  number  of  mules  that 
were  grazing  near  this  place,  almost  in  sight  of  the  flag  staif 
which  stands  in  the  Plaza.^®^ 

In  the  winter  of  1851-52  Colonel  E.  V.  Sumner,  sent  out 
by  the  Government  to  organize  this  troublesome  and  costly 
New  Mexico,  settle  the  Indian  question,  and  cut  down 
expenses,  had  the  doubtful  pleasure  of  obtaining  from  the 
Navajos  still  another  treaty.  Thereafter  he,  also,  marched 
against  them,  as  far  as  the  Canon  de  Chelly;  but  "  believing 
his  force  insufficient  to  meet  the  enemy,  concluded  to  retreat, 
which,  it  is  thought  by  some,  he  did  rather  hurriedly." 
This  doubtless  was  one  of  those  experiences  which  prompted 
the  colonel  to  advise,  in  May,  1852,  that  the  territory  of 
New  Mexico  was  not  worth  retaining,  and  that  it  would 
be  a  good  stroke  of  the  United  States  to  "  withdraw  all 
the  troops  and  civil  officers "  and  to  exercise  merely  a 
protectorate. 


420  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

Fort  Defiance  was  established,  in  the  very  midst  of  the 
Navajo  country,  "  and  for  a  time  produced  more  effect  upon 
the  Indians  than  all  the  expeditions  that  had  been  made 
against  them," 

Colonel  Edward  R.  S.  Canby  had  been  the  last  man, 
before  General  James  H.  Carleton,  to  proceed  against  the 
Navajos.  In  the  winter  of  i86a-6i,  by  the  most  successful 
of  all  the  army  campaigns  up  to  that  date  he  had  brought 
the  enemy  not  only  to  another  treaty  but  also  apparently 
to  a  realization  that  the  American  soldiery  was  a  new 
anc^  stern  kind  of  foe.  To  this  treaty  twenty-two  chiefs 
appended  their  marks  —  "a  greater  number  than  on  any 
previous  occasion." 

From  this  fact  and  other  concurrent  causes,  it  was  believed 
that  permanent  peace  and  security  was  at  last  bestowed  on  the 
Territory,  and  commensurate  to  the  boon  was  the  joy  of  the 
people.  Grain  and  other  seeds  were  given  to  the  Indians, 
and  they  made  gardens  after  their  own  mode  and  fashion 

♦      ♦      ♦  188 

But  the  Navajos  were  a  pastoral  rather  than  an  agricul- 
tural people,  and  their  herds,  as  well  as  their  crops,  had  been 
badly  decreased  through  the  incessant  wars.  So,  pending 
the  time  when  they  would  be  again  self-supporting,  they 
broke  the  truce  of  a  year,  and  the  treaty  also,  and  by  1862 
were  more  active  than  ever.  Their  raids  extended  from 
their  central  base,  where  northern  Arizona  and  New  Mex- 
ico meet,  as  far  as  the  lower  Rio  Grande  and  into  the  coun- 
try of  the  Mescaleros.  Indeed,  they  boldly  stampeded  stock 
from  the  Bosque  Redondo  itself. 

With  the  same  thoroughness  with  which  he  would  clean 
his  house  of  the  Apache,  General  Carleton  in  the  spring  of 
1863  started  in  to  clean  his  house  of  the  Navajo. 

Again  the  Bosque  Redondo  was  to  be  the  concentration 
point ;  and  the  Navajos  as  well  as  the  Apaches  were  to  be 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  421 

herded  under  surveillance.  September  6,  Carleton  thus 
announced  his  plans  to  Adjutant  General  Lorenzo  Thomas, 
at  Washington: 

The  knowledge  of  the  perfidy  of  these  Navajoes,  gained  after 
two  centuries  of  experience,  is  such  as  to  lead  us  to  put  no 
faith  in  their  promises.  They  have  no  government  to  make 
treaties.  They  are  a  patriarchal  people.  One  set  of  families 
may  make  promises,  but  the  other  set  will  not  heed  them. 
They  understand  the  direct  application  of  force  as  a  law.  If 
its  application  be  removed,  that  moment  they  become  lawless. 
This  has  been  tried  over  and  over,  and  over  again,  and  at  great 
expense.  The  purpose  now  is  never  to  relax  the  application  of 
force  with  a  people  that  can  no  more  be  trusted  than  you  can 
trust  the  wolves  that  run  through  their  mountains ;  to  gather 
them  together,  little  by  little,  on  to  a  reservation,  away  from 
the  haunts,  and  hills,  and  hiding-places  of  their  country,  and 
then  to  be  kind  to  them;  there  teach  their  children  how  to 
read  and  write ;  teach  them  the  arts  of  peace ;  teach  them  the 
truths  of  Christianity.  Soon  they  will  acquire  new  habits, 
new  ideas,  new  modes  of  life;  the  old  Indians  will  die  off,  and 
carry  with  them  all  latent  longings  for  murdering  and  rob- 
bing; the  young  ones  will  take  their  places  without  these  long- 
ings ;  and  thus,  little  by  little,  they  will  become  a  happy  and 
contented  people,  and  Navajo  wars  will  be  remembered  only 
as  something  that  belongs  entirely  to  the  past.  Even  until  they 
can  raise  enough  to  be  self-sustaining,  you  can  feed  them 
cheaper  than  you  can  fight  them. 

Such  was  the  plan,  to  the  spirit  of  which  no  one  may 
take  exception;  and  as  the  truant  officer,  so  to  speak,  Kit 
Carson  was  naturally  selected.  Not  until  June  were  the 
arrangements  completed,  although  there  was  correspon- 
dence with  Carson  at  Taos,  in  April,  when  he  was  advised 
from  headquarters  to  hire  as  guide  for  the  proposed  expe- 
dition one  Manzaneres,  of  Abiquiu,  former  captive  among 
the  Navajos,  and  also  ten  "  of  the  best  Ute  warriors,  and 
say  four  of  the  best  Mexican  guides,  as  spies  and  guides." 

In  May  Colonel  Carson  was  at  Santa  Fe  for  a  council 


422  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

with  the  department  commander  over  details  of  the  cam- 
paign. And  next  were  issued  the  decisive  General  Orders 
No.  15: 

Headquarters  Department  of  New  Mexico, 

Santa  Fe,  N.  M.,  June  15,  1863. 

I.  For  a  long  time  past  the  Navajo  Indians  have  murdered 
and  robbed  the  people  of  New  Mexico.  Last  winter,  when 
eighteen  of  their  chiefs  came  to  Santa  Fe  to  have  a  talk,  they 
were  warned,  and  were  told  to  inform  their  people  that,  for 
these  murders  and  robberies,  the  tribe  must  be  punished,  unless 
some  binding  guarantees  should  be  given  that  in  future  these 
outrages  should  cease.  No  such  guarantees  have  yet  been 
given ;  but,  on  the  contrary,  additional  murders  and  additional 
robberies  have  been  perpetrated  upon  the  persons  and  property 
of  our  unoffending  citizens.  It  is  therefore  ordered  that 
Colonel  Christopher  Carson,  with  a  proper  military  force,  pro- 
ceed without  delay  to  a  point  in  the  Navajo  country  known 
as  Pueblo  Colorado,  and  there  establish  a  defensible  depot 
for  his  supplies  and  hospital,  and  thence  to  prosecute  a  vigorous 
war  upon  the  men  of  this  tribe  until  it  is  considered,  at  these 
headquarters,  th^t  they  have  been  effectually  punished  for  their 
long-continued  atrocities. 

The  following  comprises  the  force  alluded  to  above : 

field  and  staff. 

Colonel  Christopher  Carson,  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers, 
commanding. 

Captain  A.  B.  Carey,  United  States  army,  chief  quarter- 
master. 

First  Lieutenant  Richard  S.  Barrett,  ist  infantry  California 
volunteers,  chief  commissary. 

First  Lieutenant  Lawrence  G.  Murphy,  adjutant,  ist  New 
Mexico  volunteers. 

Major  Joseph  Cummings,  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers. 

Major  Arthur  Morrison,  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers. 

Surgeon  Allen  F.  Peck,  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers. 

Rev.  Damaso  Taladrid,  chaplain  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers. 

Companies  K,  L,  and  M  will  proceed  from  Fort  Union,  New 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  423 

Mexico,  to  Los  Pinos,  New  Mexico,  starting  the  day  after  the 
military  commission  adjourns  which  has  been  ordered  to 
assemble  at  Fort  Union. 

Companies  A,  H,  and  G  have  heretofore  been  ordered  to 
rendezvous  at  Los  Pinos. 

Companies  B  and  C,  now  at  Fort  Wingate,  will  be  in  readi- 
ness to  move  at  a  day's  notice. 

Colonel  Carson  will  require,  and  receive,  two  mountain 
howitzers  on  prairie  carriages,  with  an  adequate  supply  of 
ammunition,  etc.,  to  be  used  in  defence  of  his  depot  at  Pueblo 
Colorado. 

These  troops  will  march  from  Los  Pinos  for  the  Navajo 
country  on  Wednesday,  July  i,  1863. 

The  chiefs  of  the  quartermaster,  subsistence,  medical,  and 
ordnance  departments  will  furnish,  on  Colonel  Carson's  requi- 
sition, such  spies  and  guides,  means  of  transportation,  intrench- 
ing tools,  quartermaster  property,  clothing,  camp  and  garrison 
equipage,  subsistence  stores,  hospital  stores,  medicines,  arms, 
and  ammunition  as  may  be  necessary  to  equip  and  provide 
completely  for  his  command  to  insure  to  it  the  cardinal 
requirements  of  health,  food,  mobility,  and  power. 
*♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ 

III.  A  board  of  officers,  to  consist  of  Colonel  Christopher 
Carson,  ist  New  Mexico  volunteers;  Major  Henry  D.  Wallen, 
United  States  army,  acting  inspector  general;  Surgeon  James 
M.  McNulty,  United  States  volunteers,  medical  inspector; 
Brevet  Captain  Allen  L.  Anderson,  United  States  army,  acting 
engineer  officer;  and  Captain  Benjamin  C.  Cutler,  assistant 
adjutant  general  United  States  volunteers,  will  proceed  with 
Colonel  Carson's  command  to  the  locality  known  as  Pueblo 
Colorado,  in  the  Navajo  country,  and  select  and  mark  out,  at 
or  as  near  that  place  as  practicable,  the  exact  site  for  a  military 
post,  to  be  garrisoned  by  four  companies  of  cavalry  and  four 
companies  of  infantry. 

A  map  of  the  surrounding  country  will  accompany  the  report 
of  the  board,  as  well  as  a  ground-plan  of  the  post,  an  estimate 
of  its  cost,  and  its  measured  distance  from  the  Rio  Grande. 

The  geographical  position  of  the  post  will  be  fixed  instru- 
men  tally. 

Unless  otherwise  ordered  by  competent  authority,  this  new 
post  will  be  known  as  Fort  Canby,  in  honor  of  Brigadier 


424  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

General  E.   R.   S.  Canby,  United  States  army,  the  recent 
commander  of  the  department  of  New  Mexico. 
By  command  of  Brigadier  General  Carleton. 

Ben.  C.  Cutler, 
Assistant  Adjutant  General 

F.  P.  Abreu,  A.  H.  Pfeiffer,  J.  L.  Barbey,  Charles  Deiis, 
John  Thompson,  Joseph  Bimey,  Francis  McCabe,  Eben 
Everett,  and  Jose  de  Sena  were  the  company  commanders. 
The  force  consisted  of  twenty-seven  oflScers,  709  men,  and 
260  were  immomited. 

On  June  23,  Lieutenant  Colonel  J.  Francisco  Chaves, 
commanding  at  old  Fort  Wingate  on  that  Gallo  River  the 
name  of  which  appears  to  have  survived  in  the  station  of 
Gallup  (Arizona),  was  directed  by  Carleton  to  inform  the 
Navajo  chiefs  upon  the  proposed  war,  which  was  to  be 
for  submission  or  extermination.  All  Navajos  who  claimed 
to  desire  peace  and  who  were  "  good  Navajos  "  must  come 
into  Wingate,  at  once,  there  to  be  given  transportation  to 
the  Bosque  Redondo,  their  future  home. 

Send  for  Delgadito  and  Barboncito  again  and  repeat  what 
I  before  told  them,  and  tell  them  that  I  shall  feel  very  sorry 
if  they  refuse  to  come  in ;  that  we  have  no  desire  to  make  war 
upon  them  and  other  good  Navajoes;  but  the  troops  cannot 
tell  the  good  from  the  bad,  and  we  neither  can  nor  will  tolerate 
their  staying  as  a  peace  party  among  those  against  whom  we 
intend  to  make  war.  Tell  them  they  can  have  until  the  twen- 
tieth day  of  July  of  this  year  to  come  in  —  they  and  all  those 
who  belong  to  what  they  call  the  peace  party ;  that  after  that 
day  every  Navajo  that  is  seen  will  be  considered  as  hostile  and 
treated  accordingly;  that  after  that  day  the  door  now  open  will 
be  closed.  Tell  them  to  say  all  this  to  their  people,  and  that 
as  sure  as  that  the  sun  shines  all  this  will  come  true. 

Some  came  in ;  more  did  not.  And  at  the  dry-wash  of  the 
Rio  Pueblo  Colorado  (Red  Town  River),  in  northeastern 
Arizona,  west  of  Fort  Defiance,  Colonel  Carson  established 
Fort  Canby  the  last  week  in  July. 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  425 

For  the  majority  of  the  companies,  the  orders  indicated 
a  hard  march,  without  adequate  water,  from  the  Rio  Grande 
into  the  Navajo  field.  The  first  stage  was  to  the  Rio  Puerco, 
by  the  trail  fifty  miles ;  the  next  was  to  old  Fort  Wingate, 
sixty  miles.  Carson  accompanied  the  main  command  from 
Albuquerque.  A  short  halt  was  made  to  organize  at  Fort 
Wingate.^«» 

The  command  arrived  late  in  the  afternoon,  and  after  getting 
settled  down,  one  of  the  men  went  to  the  company  clerk, 
and  asked  him  to  write  an  order  on  the  post  commissary,  that 
he  might  purchase  a  quart  of  molasses ;  the  order  was  required 
to  be  signed  by  the  commanding  officer  of  the  post,  who  was 
then  Colonel  Carson.  The  man  went  over  to  the  colonel's 
quarters,  and  presenting  his  order  asked  him  to  sign  it  as  he 
was  not  well  —  explaining  to  the  colonel  the  purport  of  the 
order.  The  colonel,  who  was  always  the  best-natured  of  men, 
signed  it,  and  the  man  got  his  molasses.  The  man  upon  his 
return  to  his  quarters,  informed  his  friends  that  he  believed 
the  colonel  could  not  read  manuscript,  and  related  his  experi- 
ence. It  was  the  regulations  of  the  post  that  no  enlisted  man 
could  purchase  whiskey  at  the  sutler's  except  upon  the  order 
of  the  commanding  officer.  So  one  of  the  men,  who  was 
anxious  to  get  some  whiskey,  thought  that  he  would  try  and 
see  what  he  could  do  with  the  colonel  in  this  direction.  He 
had  the  company  clerk  write  an  order  on  the  sutler  for  a 
canteen  of  whiskey  (price  of  which  was  $5).  He  accordingly 
appeared  with  it  before  the  colonel  and  told  him  that  he  was 
not  feeling  well  and  that  he  would  like  to  get  some  molasses  at 
the  commissary's.  The  colonel  signed  the  order  as  before,  and 
the  man  obtained  the  canteen  of  whiskey  at  the  sutler's  and 
paid  for  the  same.  The  news  soon  spread  through  the  com- 
pany and  for  the  next  two  weeks  there  was  a  brisk  business 
at  the  sutler  store.  It  happened  that  then  Colonel  Carson  made 
a  visit  to  the  sutler's  and  looking  around  asked,  kindly :  "  Well, 
John  (the  sutler's  name  was  John  Waters),  how 's  business?  " 
John  answered  that  it  was  fine  —  he  had  sold  two  barrels  of 
whiskey  by  the  canteen,  to  H  company !  Upon  this  the  colonel 
waxed  warm,  and  said:  "John,  don't  you  know  that  it's 
agin  regulations  to  sell  whiskey  to  enlisted  men  of  the  post 


426  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

without  the  written  order  of  the  commanding  officer  ?  "  Waters 
replied  that  he  knew  it  very  well ;  and  he  added  that  every  sale 
had  been  made  upon  written  order.  To  prove  it,  ht  went 
behind  the  counter  and  showed  his  order  string  —  a  wire  set 
in  a  block  of  wood  and  holding  already  a  foot  of  orders! 
After  this  Colonel  Carson  would  not  sign  an  order  until  his 
adjutant,  Lieutenant  Lawrence  Murphy,  had  read  it  first^^ 

This  being  Kit  Carson's  first  large  command  in  the  field, 
he  was  somewhat  bothered  in  the  handling  of  it  He  was 
fortunate  in  having  at  his  elbow  Captain  Carey,  Regular, 
who  could  and  did  advise  him.  The  rules  of  discipline 
were  what  embarrassed  him  the  most.  He  must  be  refused, 
kindly  but  emphatically,  his  ill-timed  requests  for  leave  of 
absence;  and,  on  September  19,  he  is  informed  by  orders 
from  headquarters : 

Colonel:  By  custom  of  service,  no  officer  who  is  not  com- 
petent to  order  a  general  court-martial  can  order  a  court  of 
inquiry,  excepting  in  the  case  of  an  enlisted  man,  when  a 
colonel  commanding  a  r^jiment  may  order  the  court  (DeHart, 
272,  273).  You  will,  therefore,  annul  all  proceedings  of  any 
such  court  in  the  case  of  Lieutenant  Hodt. 

Non-commissioned  officers  must  not  be  reduced  to  the  ranks 
within  your  regiment  by  any  person's  orders  but  your  own. 
The  regulations  must  be  your  guide  in  all  such  matters,  or 
the  discipline  of  your  regiment  will  be  bad.^**  , 

The  campaign  has  gone  down  into  history  as  a  spectacular 
achievement  But  as  a  matter  of  fact  the  character  of  the 
country  and  of  the  foe,  together  with  the  character  of  the 
officer  commanding  in  the  field,  forbade  the  spectacular; 
and  the  crowning  effort  of  all  —  that  passage  of  the  Canon 
de  Chelly  —  which  alone  was  spectacular,  fell  to  the  lot  of  a 
subordinate.  Captain  Albert  Pfeiffer.     The  campaign 

was  one  of  constant  hard  scouting  with  now  and  then  a  skir- 
mish; the  idea  being  to  wear  the  Indians  out  by  capture  of 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  NAVAJO  427 

their  herds  of  sheep  and  ponies  (they  had  no  other  live  stock), 
the  destruction  of  their  fields  of  corn,  beans,  pumpkins,  etc.; 
the  covering  by  occupancy  by  small  detachments  of  troops, 
of  all  water  supply,  which  in  the  end  would  result  in  acceptance 
by  them  of  General  Carleton's  terms.  The  same  policy  was 
pursued  in  the  campaign  of  1860-61  commanded  by  Col.  E.  R. 
S.  Canby  when  the  Navajoes  were  pushed  in  the  same  way 
to  final  surrender,  the  only  difference  being  that  peace  was 
made  by  General  Canby,  the  Indians  remaining  in  their  own 
country,  whereas  in  the  campaign  of  1863-64  they  were  sent 
out  of  their  own  country  under  guard,  and  kept  under  guard 
and  fed  at  a  specified  place.  True,  Carson's  campaign  was  a 
great  success,  indeed  it  was  the  last  war  against  the  Navajoes, 
and  to  General  Carleton  belongs  the  credit  of  its  great  success, 
inasmuch  as  he  pursued  them  to  a  reservation  and  confined 
them  to  it.1^2 

To  carry  out  such  a  policy  for  a  campaign.  Kit  Carson, 
thorough  plainsman  and  mountaineer,  and  as  thoroughly 
versed  in  all  the  wants,  likes,  and  dislikes  of  the  Indian,  was 
the  very  man.  With  the  i  ,000  troops  operating  out  of  Fort 
Wingate  and  Fort  Canby  as  bases,  results  were  prompt. 

To  stimulate  the  zest  of  the  troops  and  employees,  a 
bonus  of  $20  was  authorized  by  General  Carleton  as  prize 
money  for  every  sound  and  serviceable  horse  or  mule  cap^ 
tured  and  delivered  to  the  quartermaster;  one  dollar  a 
head  was  allowed  for  sheep.  But  the  naive  suggestion 
from  Colonel  Carson  (dated  July  24)  that  to  stimulate 
and  reward  the  Ute  scouts  they  be  permitted  to  keep  the 
women  and  children  captured  by  them  was  repudiated  with 
proper  emphasis.**' 

The  reports  of  scouting  operations  are  brief.**^ 

August  19. — Colonel  Christopher  Carson  reports  that  he 
left  Camp  Canon  Bonita,  August  5,  1863,  on  a  scout  for 
thirty  days.  On  the  first  day  out  sent  Sergeant  Romero  with 
fifteen  men  after  two  Indians  seen  in  the  vicinity ;  he  captured 
one  of  their  horses;  the  Indians  made  their  escape.  On  the 
night  of  the  4th  instant  Captain  Pfeiifer  captured  eleven 


428  KIT  CARSON  DAYS 

women  and  children,  besides  a  woman  and  child,  the  former 
of  whom  was  killed  in  attempting  to  escape,  and  the  latter 
accidentally.  Captain  Pf eiffer's  party  also  captured  two  other 
children,  one  hundred  sheep  and  goats,  and  one  horse.  The 
Utes  captured  in  the  same  vicinity  eighteen  horses  and  two 
mules,  and  killed  one  Indian.  Captain  Pfeiffer  wounded  an 
Indian,  but  he  escaped.  On  the  i6th,  a  party  who  were  sent 
for  some  pack-saddles  brought  in  one  Indian  woman.  At  this 
camp  the  brave  Major  Cummings,  ist  New  Mexico  Volun- 
teers, was  shot  through  the  abdomen  by  a  concealed  Indian, 
and  died  instantly.  One  of  the  parties  sent  out  from  this  camp 
captured  an  Indian  woman.  Total  Indians  killed,  three;  cap- 
tured, fifteen;  wounded,  one;  twenty  horses,  two  mules,  and 
one  hundred  sheep  and  goats  captured.  Troops,  one  commis- 
sioned officer  killed. 

August  — .  —  Colonel  Christopher  Carson  with  his  command 
left  Pueblo  Colorado  on  the  20th  day  of  August  for  Canon  de 
Chelly  with  the  main  force,  secreting  twenty-five  men  under 
Captain  Pf eiifer  in  the  canon  to  watch  for  Indians.  Soon  after, 
two  Indians  were  seen  approaching  the  canon,  and  were  fired 
upon,  and  although  badly  wounded  succeeded  in  getting  away. 
On  the  same  day  the  advance  guard  pursued  and  killed  an 
Indian.  On  the  31st  the  command  returned  to  Fort  Canby. 
Indian  loss,  one  killed,  two  wounded. 

October  5.  —  Colonel  Carson  reports  that  on  the  22d  of  Sep- 
tember his  command  pursued  a  party  of  Indians,  but,  owing 
to  the  broken-down  condition  of  his  animals,  they  only  suc- 
ceeded in  capturing  one.  On  the  2d  day  of  October  discovered 
a  small  Indian  village  which  had  just  been  abandoned;  this 
was  destroyed,  nineteen  animals  captured,  seven  of  which  got 
away.  Three  men  left  camp  to  hunt  up  the  animals  which  had 
escaped;  they  did  not  return  until  after  the  command  had 
returned  to  Fort  Canby ;  they  state  that  they  were  attacked  by 
a  party  of  Indians  when  within  five  miles  of  the  post,  one  of 
whom  they  killed.  One  of  the  men,  named  Artin,  was  severely 
wounded  and  the  Indians  captured  his  mule.  On  the  3d  day  of 
October  Lieutenant  Postle  discovered  an  Indian,  pursued  him 
and  wounded  him  in  three  places;  the  lieutenant  was  slightly 
wounded  by  the  Indian.  Indian  loss,  one  killed,  one  wounded, 
and  one  captured,  twelve  animals  captured.  Our  loss,  one 
officer  and  one  private  wounded  and  one  mule  lost. 


THE  NEMESIS  OF  THE  N A  FA  JO  429 

November  15.  —  Colonel  Carson  with  his  command  left  Fort 
Canby  for  the  country  west  of  the  Oribi  villages,  for  the  pur- 
pose of  chastising  the  Navajo  Indians  inhabiting  that  region. 
On  the  i6th  a  detachment,  under  Sergeant  Andres  Herrera, 
overtook  a  small  party  of  Indians,  two  of  whom  were  killed 
and  two  wounded;  fifty  sheep  and  one  horse  were  captured; 
Colonel  Carson  speaks  in  high  terms  of  the  zeal  and  energy 
displayed  by  Sergeant  Herrera. 

On  the  25th  the  command  captured  one  boy  and  seven 
horses  and  destroyed  an  encampment;  on  the  same  day  cap- 
tured one  woman  and  one  child,  and  about  five  hundred  head 
of  sheep  and  goats,  seventy  horses,  and  destroyed  an  Indian 
village.  On  the  3d  of  December  surprised  an  Indian  encamp- 
ment, capturing  one  horse  and  four  oxen.  The  Indians 
escaped.  Indian  loss,  two  killed,  two  wounded,  three  cap- 
tured; 550  sheep  and  goats,  nine  horses,  and  four  oxen 
captured. 

Operations  were  carried  on  at  the  same  time  out  of 
Wingate,  Craig,  Los  Ltmas,  Sumner,  McRae,  and  other 
forts.  The  Fort  Canby  reports  show  that  the  soldiery  were 
by  no  means  uniformly  successful,  and  it  is  not  difficult  to 
cull  other  reports  favorable  to  the  cause  of  the  red  man : 

August  6.  —  Captain  E.  H.  Bergman  reports  that  a  party  of 
company  I,  ist  New  Mexico  Volunteers,  in  charge  of  a  herd 
of  beef  cattle,  were  attacked  by  a  body  of  Navajoes  on  the  22d 
July,  near  Conchas  sprin