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Title: Christopher Carson
Author: Abbott, John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot), 1805-1877
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christopher Carson" ***

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Familiarly Known as Kit Carson

The Pioneer of the West



With Illustrations by Eleanor Greatorex

New York:
Dodd & Mead, No. 762 Broadway



Pioneers and Patriots of America


Each one volume, 12mo, illustrated, $1.50.







Other Volumes in preparation



It is a prominent object of this volume to bring to light the wild
adventures of the pioneers of this continent, in the solitudes of the
mountains, the prairies and the forests; often amidst hostile Indians, and
far away from the restraints and protection of civilization. This strange,
weird-like life is rapidly passing away, before the progress of
population, railroads and steamboats. But it is desirable that the memory
of it should not drift into oblivion. I think that almost every reader of
this narrative will be somewhat surprised, in its development of the
character of Christopher Carson. With energy and fearlessness
never surpassed, he was certainly one of the most gentle, upright, and
lovable of men. It is strange that the wilderness could have formed so
estimable a character. America will not permit the virtues of so
illustrious a son to be forgotten.




Early Training.

Birth of Christopher Carson.--Perils of the Wilderness.--Necessary
   Cautions.--Romance of the Forest.--The Far West.--The
   Encampment.--The Cabin and the Fort.--Kit an Apprentice.--The
   Alarm.--Destruction of a Trading Band.--The Battle and the
   Flight.--Sufferings of the Fugitives.--Dreadful Fate of Mr.
   Schenck.--Features of the Western Wilderness.--The March.


Life in the Wilderness.

A Surgical Operation.--A Winter with Kin Cade.--Study of the
   Languages and Geography.--Return towards Missouri.--Engagement with
   a new Company and Strange Adventures.--The Rattlesnake.--Anecdote
   of Kit Carson.--The Sahara.--New Engagements.--Trip to El
   Paso.--Trapping and Hunting.--Prairie Scenery.--The Trapper's
   Outfit.--Night Encampment.--Testimony of an Amateur Hunter.


Among the Trappers.

The Discomfited Trappers.--The New Party Organized.--A Battle with
   the Indians.--Trapping on the Colorado.--March to the
   Sacramento.--The Friendly Indians.--Crossing the Desert.--Instinct
   of the Mule.--The Enchanting Valley of the Colorado.--The Mission
   of San Gabriel.--Vast Herds of Cattle.--The Mission of San
   Fernando.--Adventures in the Valley of San Joaquin.--The Meeting of
   two Trapping Bands.--Reasons for Kit Carson's Celebrity.--A
   Military Expedition.--The Indian Horse Thieves.--The Pursuit and


Conflicts with the Indians.

The American Trapper.--The Trapper of the Hudson's Bay
   Company.--The Return Trip.--Polished Life in the Wilderness.--The
   Spanish Gentlemen.--Council of the Trappers.--Self-possession of
   Kit Carson.--The Camp Cleared of Intruders.--Robbing the
   Robbers.--Sale of the Furs.--Mr. Fitzpatrick's Expedition.--Pains
   and Pleasures of Rocky Mountain Life.--Pursuit of Indian Horse
   Thieves.--Extraordinary Battle.


Marches and Encampments.

The Encampment Among the Rocky Mountains.--The Attempted
   Stampede.--Retreat and Pursuit by the Savages.--The Alarm.--Loss
   of the Horses.--Their Recovery.--Enterprise of Kit Carson.--Fight
   with the Indians.--The Litter for the Wounded.--Union of the two
   Trapping Parties.--Successful Return to Taos.--Carson joins a
   Trading Party.--Chivalric Adventures.--Attacked by Bears.


The Rendezvous.

Fair in the Wilderness.--The Encampment.--Dispersion of the
   Trappers.--Hostility of the Blackfeet.--Camp on the Big Snake
   River.--The Blackfeet Marauders.--The Pursuit.--The Calumet.--The
   Battle.--Kit Carson wounded.--The Rencontre with Shunan.--The
   Defeat and Humiliation of Shunan.--Remarkable Modesty of
   Carson.--Testimony to Mr. Carson's Virtues.


War with the Blackfeet Indians.

Unsuccessful Trapping.--Disastrous March to Fort Hall.--The Feast
   upon Horse-flesh.--The Hunting Expedition.--Its Rare
   Attractions.--Dogged by the Blackfeet.--Safe Arrival at the
   Fort.--All their Animals Stolen by the Indians.--Expedition to the
   Blackfeet Country.--Winter Quarters with the Friendly
   Indians.--Sufferings of the Animals.--Return to the Blackfeet
   Country.--Battle with the Indians.--Incidents of the Battle.


Encampments and Battles.

The Renewal of the Battle.--Peculiarities of the Fight.--The
   Rout.--Encampment in the Indian Village.--Number of Trappers among
   the Mountains.--The New Rendezvous.--Picturesque Scene of the
   Encampment.--The Missionary and the Nobleman.--Brown's Hole.--The
   Navajoes.--Kit Carson Purveyor at the Fort.--Trapping at the Black
   Hills.--Again upon the Yellowstone.--Pleasant Winter
   Quarters.--Signs of the Indians.--Severe Conflict.--Reappearance
   of the Indians.--Their utter Discomfiture.


The Trapper's Elysium.

Trapping on the Missouri.--Attacked by the Blackfeet.--The
   Battle.--Persevering Hostility of the Indians.--The Trappers
   driven from the Country.--Repair to the North Fork.--Cheerful
   Encampments.--Enchanting Scene.--Village of the Flatheads.--The
   Blessings of Peace.--Carson's Knowledge of Languages.--Pleasant
   Winter Quarters on the Big Snake River.--Successful
   Trapping.--Winter at Brown's Hole.--Trip to Fort Bent.--Peculiar
   Characters.--Williams and Mitchel.--Hunter at Fort
   Bent.--Marriage.--Visit to the States.


Fremont's Expedition.

Carson's Visit to his Childhood's Home.--On the
   Steamer.--Introduction to Fremont.--Object of Fremont's
   Expedition.--Joins the Expedition.--Organization of the Party.--The
   Encampment.--Enchanting View.--Fording the Kansas.--The Stormy
   Night.--The Boys on Guard.--The Alarm.--The Returning
   Trappers.--The Homeless Adventurer.--Three Indians join the
   Party.--First sight of the Buffaloes.--The Chase.


The Return of the Expedition.

Beautiful Prairie Scene.--Fate of the Buffalo Calf.--Vast Buffalo
   Herds.--The Fourth of July on the Plains.--Journey up the South
   Fork of the Platte.--Visit to Fort St. Vrain.--Remonstrance of the
   Chiefs.--Second Marriage of Mr. Carson.--New Engagements.--Perilous
   Ride to Santa Fe.--The Successful Mission.--The Noble Mexican
   Boy.--Conflict with the Savages.--Discomfiture of the
   Indians.--Fremont's Second Expedition.--Carson joins the
   Party.--Course of the Expedition.--Arrival at the Great Salt Lake.


Marches and Battles.

Entering the Lake.--Dangerous Navigation.--The Return to
   Camp.--Feast upon Horse Flesh.--Meeting the Indians.--Joyful
   Meeting.--Return to Fort Hall.--Feasting at the Fort.--The Party
   Diminished.--The Journey down Snake River.--Crossing the Sierra
   Nevada.--Carson Rescues Fremont.--Fort Sutter.--Heroic Achievement
   of Carson.--Disbanding the Party.--The third Expedition.--Crossing
   the Desert.--Threatened by the Mexicans.--Fight with the
   Indians.--The Surprise.--Chastisement of the Indians.


The Dispatch Bearer.

Colonel Fremont.--Hazardous Undertaking of Kit Carson.--Carson's
   Courage and Prudence.--Threatened Danger.--Interview with General
   Kearney, and Results.--Severe Skirmish.--Wonderful Escape of
   Carson.--Daring Adventure.--Fearful Suffering.--Lieutenant
   Beale.--Carson's Journey to Washington.--Adventures on his Return.


The Chivalry of the Wilderness.

Injustice of the Government.--Heroic Resolve of Mr. Carson.--Indian
   Outrages.--The valley of Razado.--Barbaric Murders by Apaches.--An
   Exciting Chase.--An Attractive Picture.--Plot of Fox
   Overthrown.--Gift of Messrs. Brevoort and Weatherhead.--Adventure
   with the Cheyennes.


Recollections of Mountain Life.

Character of the Native Indian.--The Caravan.--Interesting
   Incident.--Effects of Cholera.--Commission of Joe Smith.--Snow on
   the Mountains.--Government Appointment.--Adventure with three
   Bears.--Journey to Los Angelos.--Mt. St. Bernardino.--The
   Spring.--Character of Men.--Insubordination Quelled.--Suffering
   for Water and Relief.--A Talk with Indians.


Recollections of Mountain Life.

Position of The Spring.--The Cachè.--Kit Carson's Character and
   Appearance.--Cool Bravery of a Mountain Trapper.--Untamed Character
   of Many Hunters.--The Surveyor's Camp in an Indian
   Territory.--Terrors from Indians.--Joe Walker.--A Mountain
   Man.--Soda Lake.--Optical Illusion.--Camp on Beaver Lake.--The
   Piyute Chief.--Conversation with Him.--An Alarm.--A Battle.


Frontier Desperadoes and Savage Ferocity.

Original Friendliness of the Indians.--The River Pirates, Culbert
   and Magilbray.--Capture of Beausoliel.--His Rescue by the Negro
   Cacasotte.--The Cave in the Rock.--The Robber Mason.--His
   Assassination.--Fate of the Assassins.--Hostility of the
   Apaches.--Expedition of Lieutenant Davidson.--Carson's Testimony in
   his Favor.--Flight of the Apaches.


The Last Days of Kit Carson.

The Hunting Party.--Profits of Sheep Raising.--Governmental
   Appointment.--Carson's Talk with the Apaches.--His Home in
   Taos.--His Character.--Death of Christopher Carson.


The Last Hours of Kit Carson.



Early Training.

   Birth of Christopher Carson.--Perils of the Wilderness.--Necessary
   Cautions.--Romance of the Forest.--The Far West.--The
   Encampment.--The Cabin and the Fort.--Kit an Apprentice.--The
   Alarm.--Destruction of a Trading Band.--The Battle and the
   Flight.--Sufferings of the Fugitives.--Dreadful Fate of Mr.
   Schenck.--Features of the Western Wilderness.--The March.

Christopher Carson, whose renown as Kit Carson has reached almost every
ear in the country, was born in Madison county, Kentucky, on the 24th of
December, 1809. Large portions of Kentucky then consisted of an almost
pathless wilderness, with magnificent forests, free from underbrush, alive
with game, and with luxuriant meadows along the river banks, inviting the
settler's cabin and the plough.

There were then many Indians traversing those wilds. The fearless
emigrants, who ventured to rear their huts in such solitudes, found it
necessary ever to be prepared for an attack.

But very little reliance could be placed even in the friendly
protestations of the vagabond savages, ever prowling about, and almost as
devoid of intelligence or conscience, as the wolves which at midnight were
heard howling around the settler's door. The family of Mr. Carson occupied
a log cabin, which was bullet-proof, with portholes through which their
rifles could command every approach. Women and children were alike taught
the use of the rifle, that in case of an attack by any blood-thirsty gang,
the whole family might resolve itself into a military garrison. Not a tree
or stump was left, within musket shot of the house, behind which an Indian
could secrete himself.

Almost of necessity, under these circumstances, any bright, active boy
would become a skilful marksman. A small garden was cultivated where corn,
beans and a few other vegetables were raised, but the main subsistence of
the family consisted of the game with which forest, meadow and lake were
stored. The settler usually reared his cabin upon the banks of some stream
alive with fishes. There were no schools to take up the time of the boys;
no books to read. Wild geese, ducks and other water fowl, sported upon the
bosom of the river or the lake, whose waters no paddle wheel or even keel
disturbed. Wild turkeys, quails, and pigeons at times, swept the air like
clouds. And then there was the intense excitement of occasionally bringing
down a deer, and even of shooting a ferocious grizzly bear or wolf or
catamount. The romance of the sea creates a Robinson Crusoe. The still
greater romance of the forest creates a Kit Carson. It often makes even an
old man's blood thrill in his veins, to contemplate the wild and wondrous
adventures, which this majestic continent opened to the pioneers of half a
century ago.

Gradually, in Kentucky, the Indians disappeared, either dying off, or
pursuing their game in the unexplored realms nearer the setting sun.
Emigrants, from the East, in large numbers entered the State. Game, both
in forest and meadow, became scarce; and the father of Kit Carson, finding
settlers crowding him, actually rearing their huts within two or three
miles of his cabin, abandoned his home to find more room in the still more
distant West.

Christopher was then the youngest child, a babe but one year old. The
wilderness, west of them, was almost unexplored. But Mr. Carson, at his
blazing fireside, had heard from the Indians, and occasionally from some
adventurous white hunter, glowing accounts of the magnificent prairies,
rivers, lakes and forests of the far West, reposing in the solitude and
the silence which had reigned there since the dawn of the creation.

There were no roads through the wilderness. The guide of the emigrants was
the setting sun. Occasionally they could take advantage of some Indian
trail, trodden hard by the moccasined feet of the savages, in single file,
through countless generations. Through such a country, the father of Kit
Carson commenced a journey of several hundred miles, with his wife and
three or four children, Kit being an infant in arms. Unfortunately we are
not informed of any of the particulars of this journey. But we know, from
numerous other cases, what was its general character.

It must have occupied two or three weeks. All the family went on foot,
making about fifteen miles a day. They probably had two pack horses, laden
with pots and kettles, and a few other essential household and farming
utensils. Early in the afternoon Mr. Carson would begin to look about for
a suitable place of encampment for the night. He would find, if possible,
the picturesque banks of some running stream, where there was grass for
his horses, and a forest growth to furnish him with wood for his cabin and
for fire. If the weather were pleasant, with the prospect of a serene and
cloudless night, a very slight protection would be reared, and the weary
family, with a buffalo robe spread on the soft grass for a blanket, would
sleep far more sweetly in the open air, than most millionaires sleep in
tapestried halls and upon beds of down.

If clouds were gathering and menacing winds were wailing through the
tree-tops, the vigorous arm of Mr. Carson, with his sharp axe, would, in
an hour, rear a camp which could bid defiance to any ordinary storm. The
roof would be so thatched, with bark and long grass, as to be quite
impenetrable by the rain. Buffalo robes, and a few of the soft and
fragrant branches of the hemlock tree, would create a couch which a prince
might envy. Perhaps, as they came along, they had shot a turkey or a brace
of ducks, or a deer, from whose fat haunches they have cut the tenderest
venison. Any one could step out with his rifle and soon return with a

While Mr. Carson, with his eldest son, was building the camp, the eldest
girl would hold the baby, and Mrs. Carson would cook such a repast of
dainty viands, as, when we consider the appetites, Delmonico never
furnished. It was life in the "Adirondacks," with the additional advantage
that those who were enjoying it, were inured to fatigue, and could have no
sense of discomfort, from the absence of conveniences to which they were

If in the darkness of midnight, the tempest rose and roared through the
tree-tops, with crushing thunder, and floods of rain, the family was
lulled to sounder sleep by these requiems of nature, or awoke to enjoy the
sublimity of the scene, whose grandeur those in lowly life are often able
fully to appreciate, though they may not have language with which to
express their emotions.

The family crossed the Mississippi river, we know not how, perhaps in the
birch canoe of some friendly Indian, perhaps on a raft, swimming the
horses. They then continued their journey two hundred miles farther west,
till they reached a spot far enough from neighbors and from civilization
to suit the taste even of Mr. Carson. This was at the close of the year
1810. There was no State or even Territory of Missouri then. But seven
years before, in 1803, France had ceded to the United States the vast
unexplored regions, whose boundaries even, were scarcely defined, but
which were then called Upper Louisiana.

Here Mr. Carson seems to have reached a very congenial home. He found,
scattered through the wilderness, a few white people, trappers, hunters,
wanderers who had preceded him. The Indians, in numerous bands, as hunters
and as warriors, were roving these wilds. They could not be relied upon,
whatever their friendly professions. Any wrong which they might receive
from any individual white man, their peculiar code of morals told them
they might rightly attempt to redress by wreaking their vengeance upon any
pale face, however innocent he might be. Thus hundreds of Indian warriors
might, at any time, come swooping down upon Mr. Carson's cabin, laying it
in ashes, and burying their tomahawks in the brains of his family.

The few white men, some half a dozen in number, who had gathered around
Mr. Carson, deemed it expedient for self-defence to unite and build a
large log cabin, which should be to them both a house and a fort. This
building of logs, quite long and but one story high, was pierced, at
several points, with portholes, through which the muzzles of the rifles
could be thrust. As an additional precaution they surrounded this house
with palisades, consisting of sticks of timber, six or eight inches in
diameter, and about ten feet high, planted as closely as possible
together. These palisades were also pierced with portholes.

With a practiced eye, these men had selected a very beautiful spot for
their habitation, in what is now called Howard county, Missouri, just
north of the Missouri river. It seems that they had much to fear from the
Indians. There were at this time, frequent wars with them, in the more
eastern portions of the continent, and the rumors of these conflicts
reached the ears of all the roving tribes, and greatly excited them. It
became necessary for the settlers to go upon their hunting excursions with
much caution.

As the months passed rapidly away, other persons one after another, came
to their fort. They were glad to find a safe retreat there, and were
welcomed as giving additional strength to the little garrison. Game began
to be scarce around their lonely habitation, for the crack of the rifle
was almost incessantly heard there. It thus became necessary to resort
more generally to farming, especially to raising large fields of corn,
whose golden ears could easily be converted into pork and into bread. With
these two articles of food, cornbread and bacon, life could be hilarious
on the frontier. Keenness of appetite supplied the want of all other

When they went to the cornfield to work, they first made a careful
exploration of the region around, to see if there were any lurking savages
near. Then with their guns ever ready to be grasped, and keeping a close
lookout for signs of danger, they ploughed and sowed and gathered in their

Thus fifteen years passed away. Civilization made gradual encroachments.
Quite a little cluster of log huts was reared in the vicinity, where the
inmates in case of necessity could flee to the fort for protection.
Christopher, at fifteen years of age, was an unlettered boy, small in
stature, but very fond of the solitude of the forest, and quite renowned
as a marksman. He was amiable in disposition, gentle in his manners, and
in all respects a good boy. He had a strong character. Whatever he
undertook, he quietly and without any boasting performed. With sound
judgment, and endowed with singular strength and elasticity, he was even
then deemed equal to any man in all the requirements of frontier life.


At a short distance from the fort there was a saddler, and Mr. Carson,
with the advice of friends, decided to apprentice his son, now called Kit,
to learn that trade. The boy remained in this employment for two weary
years. Though faithful to every duty, and gaining the respect and
confidence of his employer, the work was uncongenial to him. He longed for
the freedom of the wilderness; for the sublime scenes of nature, to which
such a life would introduce him; for the exciting chase of the buffalo,
and the lucrative pursuits of the trapper, floating on distant streams in
the birch canoe, and loading his bark with rich furs, which ever commanded
a ready sale.

All these little settlements were clustered around some protecting fort. A
man, who was brought up in the remote West, furnishes the following
interesting incident in his own personal experience. It gives a very
graphic description of the alarms to which these pioneers were exposed:

"The fort to which my father belonged was three-quarters of a mile from
his farm. But when this fort went to decay and was unfit for use, a new
one was built near our own house. I well remember, when a little boy, the
family were sometimes waked up in the dead of night by an express, with
the report that the Indians were at hand. The express came softly to the
door and by a gentle tapping raised the family. This was easily done, as
an habitual fear made us ever watchful, and sensible to the slightest
alarm. The whole family were instantly in motion.

"My father seized his gun and other implements of war. My mother waked up
and dressed the children as well as she could. Being myself the oldest of
the children, I had to take my share of the burdens to be carried to the
fort. There was no possibility of getting a horse in the night to aid us.
Besides the little children we caught up such articles of clothing and
provisions as we could get hold of in the dark, for we durst not light a
candle or even stir the fire. All this was done with the utmost dispatch
and in the silence of death. The greatest care was taken not to awaken
the youngest child.

"To the rest it was enough to say _Indian_, and not a whisper was heard
afterward. Thus it often happened that the whole number belonging to a
fort, who were in the evening at their homes, were all in their little
fortress before the dawn of the next morning. In the course of the next
day their household furniture was brought in by men under arms. Some
families belonging to each fort were much less under the influence of fear
than others. These often, after an alarm had subsided, in spite of every
remonstrance, would remove home, while their more prudent neighbors
remained in the fort. Such families were denominated _fool-hardy_, and
gave no small amount of trouble by creating such frequent necessities of
sending runners to warn them of their danger, and sometimes parties of our
men to protect them during their removal."

While Kit Carson was impatiently at work on the bench of the
harness-maker, feeding his soul with the stories, often greatly
exaggerated, of the wonders of scenes and adventures to be encountered in
the boundless West, a party of traders came along, who were on the route
for Santa Fe. This city, renowned in the annals of the West, was the
capital of the Spanish province of New Mexico. It was situated more than
a thousand miles from Missouri, and contained a mongrel population of
about three thousand souls. Goods from the States could be readily sold
there at a profit of one or two hundred per cent. Cotton cloth brought
three dollars a yard.

Captain Pike, upon his return from his exploring tour, brought back quite
glowing accounts of Santa Fe and its surroundings. It was a long and
perilous journey from Missouri. The party was all strongly armed, with
their goods borne in packs upon mules and horses. They expected to live
almost entirely upon the game they could shoot by the way. Kit, purely
from the love of adventure, applied to join them. Gladly was he received.
Though but a boy of eighteen, his stable character, his vigorous strength,
and his training in all the mysteries of frontier life, rendered him an
invaluable acquisition.

The perils to which they were exposed may be inferred from the fate which
some traders encountered soon after Kit Carson's party had accomplished
the journey. There were twelve traders returning from Santa Fe. To avoid
the Indians they took an extreme southern route. Day after day they toiled
along, encountering no savages. It was December, and in that climate mild
and serene. A caravan of twenty horses or mules travelling in single
file, leaves a trail behind which can easily be followed.

Our adventurers were on a treeless prairie, an ocean of land, where
nothing obstructed the view to the remote horizon. One beautiful morning,
just after they had taken their breakfast and resumed their march, they
perceived, not a little to their alarm, some moving object far in the
distance behind. It soon resolved itself into a band of several hundred
Indians, well mounted, painted and decorated in the highest style of
barbaric art. They were thoroughly armed with their deadly bows and arrows
and spears. It was indeed an imposing spectacle as these savage warriors
on their fleet steeds, with their long hair and pennons streaming in the
wind, came down upon them.

The little caravan halted and prepared for defence. There were twelve bold
hearts to encounter several hundred foes on the open prairie. They knew
that the main object of the Indians would be to seize the horses and mules
and effect a stampede with their treasure. This being accomplished they
would torture and murder the traders in mere wantonness. The savages had a
very salutary caution of rifles which could throw a bullet twice as far as
the strongest bow and the most sinewy arm could speed an arrow.

With the swoop of the whirlwind they approached until they came within
gun-shot distance, when they as suddenly stopped. Each trader had fastened
his horse or mule with a rope and an iron pin two feet long driven firmly
into the ground. They knew that if they were captured a cruel death
awaited them. They therefore prepared to sell their lives as dearly as
possible. There was no trunk or tree, or stone behind which either party
could hide. The open prairie covered with grass was smooth as a floor.

For a short time both bands stood looking at each other. The traders in a
small group had every man his rifle. Had the Indians in their resistless
strength come rushing simultaneously upon them, they could easily have
been trampled into the dust. But it was equally certain that twelve
bullets, with unerring aim, would have pierced the hearts of twelve of
their warriors. The Indians were very chary of their own lives. They were
never ready for a fight in the open field, however great might be the odds
in their favor.

The savages having halted and conferred together, endeavored to assume a
friendly attitude. With a great show of brotherly feeling they cautiously
approached one by one. The traders not wishing to commence the conflict,
began to move on, leading their animals and with their rifles cocked,
watching every movement of the intruders. The mounted Indians followed
along, quite surrounding with their large numbers the little band of white

Two of the mules lagged a little behind. One or two of the bolder of the
savages made a dash at them and shot dead a man by the name of Pratt, who
had them in charge. It was the signal of battle. A shower of arrows fell
upon the traders, another man dropped dead, and an arrow buried its head
in the thigh of another. Several of the Indians also fell. But the savages
manifested a great dread of the rifle; and though they were forty to one
against the white men, they retreated to a safe distance. As they felt
sure of their victims, they did not wish to peril their own lives.

The traders hastily took the packs from the mules and piled them around
for a barricade. The Indians were very wary. But by entirely surrounding
the little fort and creeping through the long grass they succeeded in a
few hours in shooting every one of the mules and horses of the traders.
The savages kept up an incessant howling, and thirty-six dreadful hours
thus passed away. It seemed but a prolongation of death's agonies. Hunger
and thirst would ere long destroy them, even though they should escape the
arrow and the tomahawk. It was not deemed wise to expend a single charge
of powder or a bullet, unless sure of their aim. And the Indians crept so
near, prostrated in the long grass, that not a head could be raised above
the frail ramparts without encountering the whiz of arrows.

The day passed away. Night came and went. Another day dawned, and the
hours lingered slowly along, while the traders lay flat upon the ground,
cramped in their narrow limits, awaiting apparently the sure approach of

The night was dark, dense clouds obscuring the sky. The Indians themselves
had become somewhat weary, and deeming it impossible for their victims to
escape and feeling sure of the booty, which could by no possibility be
removed, relaxed their watchfulness. As any death was preferable to
captivity and torture by the Indians, the traders resolved, in the gloom
of midnight to attempt an escape, though the chances were a hundred to one
that they would be almost buried beneath the arrows of the howling

Cautiously they emerged from their hiding-place, creeping slowly and
almost breathlessly through the tall grass of the prairie, till quite to
their surprise, they found themselves beyond the circle of the besiegers.
There were ten men, one wounded, fleeing for life, expecting every moment
to be pursued by five hundred savages. It was a long, dark, dismal
winter's night, for in that changing clime a freezing night succeeded a
sunny day. Like spectres they fled over the open prairie. That their
flight might not be encumbered they had taken nothing with them but their
guns and ammunition.

They were determined men. In whatever numbers and with whatever speed the
mounted Indians might ride down upon them, ten of their warriors would
inevitably bite the dust ere the fugitives could be taken. The Indians
fully understood this. And when the morning dawned and they saw that their
victims had escaped, instead of pursuing, they satisfied their valor in
holding a triumphant powwow over the rich booty they had gained.

It was a chill day and the wind moaned dismally over the bleak prairie.
But as far as the eye could extend no foe could be seen. Not even a tree
obscured the vision. The exhaustion of the fugitives, from their
thirty-six hours of sleeplessness and battle, and their rapid flight, was
extreme. They shot a few prairie chickens, built a small fire of dried
buffalo chips with which they cooked their frugal breakfast, and then,
lying down upon the rank grass, slept soundly for a few hours.

They then pressed on their pathless way toward the rising sun. Through
weary days and nights they toiled on, through rain and cold, sleeping
often in stormy nights drenched, upon the bare soil, without even a
blanket to cover their shivering frames. Their feet became blistered.
Passing beyond the bounds of the open prairie, they sometimes found
themselves in bogs, sometimes in tangled forests. There were streams to be
waded or to be crossed upon such rude rafts as they could frame with their
hatchets. Their clothes hung in tatters around them, and, most deplorable
of all, their ammunition became expended.

For days they lived upon roots and the tender bark of trees. Some became
delirious, indeed some seemed quite insane through their sufferings. The
man who was wounded, Mr. Schenck, was a gentleman of intelligence and of
refinement and of distinguished family connections, from Ohio. A poetic
temperament had induced him to seek the romance of an adventure through
the unexplored wilderness.

After incredible sufferings his wound became so inflamed that it was
impossible for him to go any farther. Prostrate upon a mound in the forest
his comrades left him. They could do absolutely nothing for him. They
could not supply him with a morsel of food or with a cup of water. They
had no heart even to bid him adieu. Silently they tottered along, and Mr.
Schenck was left to die. Through what hours of suffering he lingered none
but God can tell. Not even his bones were ever found to shed any light
upon his sad fate.

So deep became the dejection of these wanderers that often for hours not
one word was spoken. They were lost in the wilderness and could only
direct their steps toward the rising sun. After leaving Mr. Schenck there
were but nine men remaining. They soon disagreed in reference to the route
to follow. This led to a separation, and five went in one direction and
four in another. The five, after wandering about in the endurance of
sufferings which can scarcely be conceived of, fell in with a party of
friendly Creek Indians, by whom they were rescued and treated with the
greatest humanity. Of the other four two only succeeded in escaping from
the mazes of the wilderness.

Such were the perils upon which the youthful Kit Carson was now entering
from the pure love of adventure. He was not uninformed respecting these
dangers. The knowledge of them did but add to the zest of the enterprise.

Crossing the plains of the interior of our Continent from the Missouri
river to the Rocky mountains, was a very different undertaking half a
century ago, from what it has been in more modern times. The route was
then almost entirely unexplored. There were no charts to guide. The bold
adventurers knew not where they would find springs of water, where forage
for their animals, where they would enter upon verdureless deserts, where
they could find fording-places of the broad and rapid rivers which they
might encounter on their way.

This is not a forest-covered continent. The vast plains of the interior,
whether smooth or undulating or rugged, spread far away for weary leagues,
almost treeless. The forest was found mainly skirting the streams. Immense
herds of buffaloes, often numbering ten or twenty thousand, grazed upon
these rich and boundless pastures. Timid deer and droves of wild horses,
almost countless in numbers, here luxuriated in a congenial home. There
was scarcely a white man in the land whose eyes had ever beheld the cliffs
of the Rocky mountains. And each Indian tribe had its hunting-grounds
marked out with considerable precision, beyond which even the boldest
braves seldom ventured to wander.

About a score of men started upon this trip. They were thoroughly armed,
practiced marksmen, well mounted and each man led a pack mule, heavily
laden with goods for the Santa Fe market. Their leader was
commander-in-chief, whom all were bound implicitly to obey. He led the
company, selecting the route, and he decided when and where to encamp.
The procession followed usually in single file, a long line.

Early in the morning, at the sound of the bugle, all sprang from their
couches which nature had spread, and they spent no more time at their
toilet than did the horse or the cow. After a hurried breakfast they
commenced their march. Generally an abundance of game was found on the
way. The animals always walked slowly along, being never put to the trot.

At noon the leader endeavored to find some spot near a running stream or a
spring, where the animals could find pasture. The resting for a couple of
hours gave them time for their dinner, which they had mainly picked up by
the way.

An hour or two before sundown the camping ground was selected, the animals
were tethered, often in luxuriant grass, and the hardy pioneers, by no
means immoderately fatigued by the day's journey, having eaten their
supper, which a good appetite rendered sumptuous, spent the time till
sleep closed their eyelids in telling stories and singing songs. A very
careful guard was set, and the adventurers enjoyed sound sleep till, with
the dawn, the bugle call again summoned them. Under ordinary circumstances
hardy men of a roving turn of mind, found very great attractions in this
adventurous life. They were by no means willing to exchange its
excitements for the monotonous labors of the field or the shop.


Life in the Wilderness.

    A Surgical Operation.--A Winter with Kin Cade.--Study of the
    Languages and Geography.--Return towards Missouri.--Engagement
    with a new Company and Strange Adventures.--The
    Rattlesnake.--Anecdote of Kit Carson.--The Sahara.--New
    Engagements.--Trip to El Paso.--Trapping and Hunting.--Prairie
    Scenery.--The Trapper's Outfit.--Night Encampment.--Testimony of
    an Amateur Hunter.

The company of traders which Kit had joined enjoyed, on the whole, a
prosperous expedition. They met with no hostile Indians and, with one
exception, encountered nothing which they could deem a hardship. There was
one exception, which most persons would deem a terrible one. The
accidental discharge of a gun, incautiously handled, shattered a man's
arm, shivering the bone to splinters. The arm rapidly grew inflamed,
became terribly painful, and must be amputated or the life lost. There was
no one in the party who knew anything of surgery. But they had a razor, a
handsaw and a bar of iron.

It shows the estimation in which the firm, gentle, and yet almost womanly
Kit Carson was held, that he was chosen to perform the operation. Two
others were to assist him. The sufferer took his seat, and was held
firmly, that in his anguish his struggles might not interfere with the
progress of the knife. This boy of but eighteen years then, with great
apparent coolness, undertook this formidable act of surgery.

He bound a ligature around the arm very tightly, to arrest, as far as
possible the flow of blood. With the razor he cut through the quivering
muscles, tendons and nerves. With the handsaw he severed the bone. With
the bar of iron, at almost a white heat, he cauterized the wound. The
cruel operation was successful. And the patient, under the influence of
the pure mountain air, found his wound almost healed before he reached
Santa Fe.

Having arrived at his journey's end, Kit's love of adventure led him not
to return with the traders, by the route over which he had just passed,
but to push on still further in his explorations. About eighty miles
northeast of Santa Fe there was another Spanish settlement, weird-like in
its semi-barbarous, semi-civilized aspects, with its huts of sun-baked
clay, its Catholic priests, its Mexican Indians and its half-breeds. It
was a small, lonely settlement, whose population lived mainly, like the
Indians, upon corn-meal and the chase. Kit ever kept his trusty rifle
with him. His gun and hatchet constituted his purse, furnishing him with
food and lodging.

It was a mountainous region; here in one of the dells, Kit came across the
solitary hut of a mountaineer by the name of Kin Cade. They took a mutual
liking to each other. As Kit could at any day, with his rifle bring in
food enough to last a week, the question of board did not come into
consideration. It was in the latter part of November that Kit first
entered the cabin of this hunter. Here he spent the winter. His bed
consisted probably of husks of corn covered with a buffalo robe, a
luxurious couch for a healthy and weary man. Pitch pine knots brilliantly
illumined the hut in the evening. Traps were set to catch animals for
their furs. Deer skins were softly tanned and colored for clothing, with
ornamental fringes for coats and leggins and moccasins. Kit and his
companion Kin were their own tailors.

Thus passed the winter of 1826. Both of the men were very good-natured,
and of congenial tastes. They wanted for nothing. When the wind howled
amid the crags of the mountains and the storm beat upon their lonely
habitation, with fuel in abundance and a well filled larder, and with no
intoxicating drinks or desire for them, they worked upon their garments
and other conveniences in the warmth of their cheerful fireside. It is
not hazarding too much to say that these two gentle men, in their solitary
cabin, passed a far more happy winter than many families who were
occupying, in splendid misery, the palatial residences of London, Paris
and New York.

Kin Cade was perhaps a Spaniard. He certainly spoke the Spanish language
with correctness and fluency. The intelligence of Kit is manifest from the
fact that he devoted himself assiduously during the winter to the
acquisition of the Spanish language. And his strong natural abilities are
evidenced in his having attained, in that short time, quite the mastery of
the Spanish tongue. It is often said that Kit Carson was entirely an
uneducated man. This is, in one respect, a mistake. The cabin of Kin Cade
was his academy, where he pursued his studies vigorously and successfully
for a whole winter, graduating in the spring with the highest honors that
academy could confer.

We ought not to forget that, in addition to the study of the languages, he
also devoted much attention to the study of geography. They had no books,
no maps. It is doubtful indeed, whether either Kit or his teacher could
read or write. But Kin had been a renowned explorer. He had traversed the
prairies, climbed the mountains, followed the courses of the rivers, and
paddled over the lakes. With his stick he could draw upon the smoothly
trodden floor of his hut, everything that was needful of a chart. There
were probably many idle students in Harvard and Yale, who during those
winter months did not make as much intellectual progress as Kit Carson

In the spring of 1827, Kit again went forth from his winter's retreat into
the wilderness world, which has its active life and engrossing
excitements, often even far greater than are to be found on the city's
crowded pavements. Not finding in these remote regions any congenial
employment, Kit decided to retrace his steps to Missouri. Most persons
would have thought that the journey of some thousand miles on foot,
through a trackless wilderness where he was exposed every step of the way,
to howling wolves and merciless savages, a pretty serious undertaking. Kit
appears to have regarded it but as an every-day occurrence.

He joined a party of returning traders. Much of the region they traversed
may be aptly described in the language which Irving applies to Spain. "It
is a stern melancholy country, with rugged mountains and long sweeping
plains, indescribably lonesome, solitary, savage." After travelling nearly
five hundred miles, about half the distance back to Missouri, they
reached a ford of the Arkansas river. Here they met another party of
traders bound to Santa Fe. Kit, who with great reluctance had decided to
return home, eagerly joined them. His services were deemed very valuable,
and they offered him a rich reward. His knowledge of the Spanish language
became now a valuable investment to him, and as he had already twice
traversed the route, he was at once invested with the dignity of guide as
well as interpreter.

The following incident, related by a traveller who was passing over this
same plain under the guidance of Kit Carson, shows that there are other
dangers to be encountered besides the prowling savage and the wolf:

"It was a bright moonlight night. I had, as was my custom, spread my
saddle leathers for a bed, and had drawn my blanket closely around me.
Weary with the day's march, I had been sleeping soundly for several hours,
when about midnight I awoke suddenly with an unaccountable feeling of
dread. It must have been a sort of instinct which prompted me, for in a
moment I was upon my feet, and then, upon removing my blanket, I found a
rattlesnake, swollen with rage and poison, coiled and ready to strike.

"I drew away the blanket which served as a mattress, intending to kill the
reptile, when to my astonishment it glided away making its escape into a
small opening in the ground directly beneath my bed. The whole matter was
explained at once. The snake had probably been out to see a neighbor; and
getting home after I was asleep, felt a gentlemanly unwillingness to
disturb me. And, as I had taken possession of his dwelling he took part of
my sleeping place, crawling under the blanket where he must have lain
quietly by my side until I rolled over and disturbed him. I can scarcely
say that I slept much more that night, and even Carson admitted that it
made him a little nervous."

Kit Carson was not a garrulous man. He was much more given to reflection
than to talk, and he was never known to speak boastfully of any of his
achievements. It is the invariable testimony of all who knew him, that he
was mild, gentle and unassuming, one of Nature's noblemen. While
travelling he scarcely ever spoke. Nothing escaped his keen eye. His whole
appearance was that of a man deeply impressed with a sense of the
responsibility of his office. He knew full well the treacherous character
of the Indians, and that "the better part of valor is discretion."

He had often seen men killed at night by an invisible foe. From the
impenetrable darkness which surrounded the camp fire, an arrow would come
winged with death, piercing the heart of some mountaineer whose body was
clearly revealed by the firelight. Kit Carson would never thus expose
himself. He would always spread his blanket where the firelight would not
reveal him.

"No, no boys," he would say to his often reckless comrades, "you may hang
around the fire if you will. It may do for you, if you like it. But I do
not wish to have a Digger Indian slip an arrow into me when I cannot see

A gentleman, who was guided over the plains by Kit, writes, "During this
journey I have often watched Carson's preparation 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 arranging
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 placed 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, at night, exposing himself to the full glare of the camp

When on the march everything was conducted with military precision. At the
early dawn as Kit gave the signal to prepare to start, all were instantly
in motion. The mules were brought up; their packs were fastened firmly
upon their backs, an operation which required much labor and skill. The
mules have a strange instinct which leads them to follow with a sort of
fascination a white horse. Thus generally a white horse or mare leads the

At times it was necessary to march long distances without meeting water.
One of these dreary stretches was eighty miles long. It was necessary to
pass over it as rapidly as possible, day and night almost without resting.
In accomplishing one of these arduous journeys across a desert almost as
bare as that of Sahara, the party set out one afternoon at three o'clock.
One of the travellers writes:

"I shall never forget the impression which that night's journey left upon
my mind. Sometimes the trail led us over large basins of deep sand, where
the trampling of the mules' feet gave forth no sound. This, added to the
almost terrible silence which ever reigns in the solitude of the desert,
rendered our transit more like the passage of some airy spectacle where
the actors were shadows instead of men. Nor is this comparison a strained
one, for 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 is said, as illustrative of Kit's promptness of action, that one night
an inexperienced guard shouted "Indians." In an instant Kit was on his
feet, pistol in hand. A dark object was approaching him. The loss of a
second of time might enable a savage to bury his arrow-head deep in his
side and to disappear in the darkness. Like a flash of lightning Kit fired
and shot _his mule_. It was a false alarm.

The traders arrived safely in Santa Fe. Kit Carson, having faithfully
performed his contract, began to look around for new adventures. Three
hundred and fifty miles south of Santa Fe, there was the Mexican province
of Chihuahua. It was a very rich mining district, and many adventurers had
flocked to it from Spain. There was here a narrow valley of the Rio Grande
about ten miles in extent, and quite well filled with the rude settlements
of the miners. It is said that at one time there were nearly seventy
thousand Spaniards and Indians scattered along the river banks in search
of the precious metals.

A trading party was bound from Santa Fe to this region. Colonel Trammel
was the leader of this party, and he eagerly secured the services of Kit
Carson, who, in addition to his experience as a traveller, could also
perform the functions of an interpreter. We have no record of the
incidents which occurred on this journey. As the route was well known, and
there were no hostile Indians to be encountered, it was probably

In this valley of El Paso, as it was called, Carson found about five
thousand people, mostly on the right bank of the river. The rudeness of
the style in which they lived painfully impressed him. There was far more
comfort in the cabins he had left in Missouri.

The houses were of clay baked in the sun, with earthen floors. Window
glass was a luxury unknown. It seems almost incredible that they should
have had neither chairs, tables, knives nor forks. These Mexicans were
scarcely one remove from the untamed savages of the wilderness. Young
Carson found nothing to interest him or to invite his stay. He returned to
Santa Fe. The summer had now passed and another winter come.

About a hundred and fifty miles north of Santa Fe there was a small
collection of huts called Taos, inhabited by trappers and hunters. This
pursuit of game for food and fur was the employment which was congenial to
him above all others. He directed his steps to Taos and at once entered
into an engagement with Mr. Ewing Young, making his cabin headquarters.

Hunting and trapping were somewhat different employments, though perhaps
equally exciting. The hunter depended upon his rifle, and was mainly in
search of food. Still the robe of the buffalo and the coat of the grizzly
bear were very useful in various ways, in the cabin of the hunter, and the
softly tanned skin of the deer was invaluable, furnishing every article of
clothing, shirt, leggins and moccasins. The skins of these animals had
also a market value.

But the trapper was in pursuit of furs only. Though the men engaged in
this pursuit were occasionally exposed to great hardship and suffering,
still, in general they probably had, in the gratification of congenial
tastes, a full share of such happiness as this world can furnish.

Young Carson, at the age of nineteen, had no taste for the scholarly
seclusion of Yale or Harvard, no desire to stand all day behind the
counter of the dry-goods store, or to work amid the crowd and the hum of
the factory; he had no wish for what is called society, or to saunter down
Broadway with his cigar and his cane, to exhibit his tightly-fitting
garments; but he did love to set out on a hunting and trapping expedition.
Let us follow him in one of these adventures.

It is a bright morning of the Indian summer, far along in November. There
is a small log cabin on a mound of the wilderness. A dense forest breaks
the northern winds. A rippling stream runs by the door. Beyond lies the
prairie rich in verdure and enamelled with gorgeous autumnal flowers.
Herds of buffalo are grazing in groups of hundreds, sometimes of
thousands, on the broad expanse. Gangs of deer are seen, graceful,
beautiful, following in the train of the antlered bucks, and with scent so
keen and eyes so piercing that it requires the utmost skill of the hunter
to approach them within rifle shot. Clouds of prairie chickens and quails
are floating here and there in their short flight. It is the paradise of
the hunter. Let no one think this description overdrawn. It would be
difficult to exaggerate the loveliness of the flower-spangled prairie on a
bright autumnal day. Eden could scarcely have presented scenes more

Young Carson stands at the door of the cabin with a stout mule before him.
The animal is strong and plump, having been feasting upon the wild oats
growing luxuriantly around. Carson is packing his mule. His outfit
consists of a Mexican blanket, rough, thick and warm; a supply of
ammunition; a kettle; possibly a coffee-pot and some coffee, which have
been obtained at Santa Fe; several iron traps; some dressed deerskin for
replacing clothing and moccasins, a hatchet and a few other similar
articles. In addition to his mule he may also take a pony to bear him on
the way. Thus, if by accident, one give out, he has another animal to rely
upon. And if very successful he may have furs enough to load them both on
his return.

His costume consists of a hunting shirt of the soft and pliable deerskin,
ornamented with long fringes and often dyed with bright vermilion.
Pantaloons of the same material are also ornamented with fringes and
porcupine's quills of various colors. Many a tranquil hour has been
beguiled, in the long evenings and when the storm has beaten upon the hut,
in fashioning these garments with artistic taste, learned of the Indians.
A flexible cap, often of rich fur, covers his head, and moccasins, upon
which all the resources of barbaric embroidery have been expended, cover
his feet.

His rifle is borne on his left shoulder. His powder horn and bullet pouch
hang under his right arm. In his bullet pouch he also carries spare
flints, steel and various odds and ends. Beneath the broad belt which
encircles his waist there is a large butcher knife in a sheath of buffalo
hide. There is a whetstone in a buckskin case made fast to the belt, and
also a small hatchet or tomahawk.

Thus accoutred, our young hunter and trapper sets out in search of the
most lonely ravine which he can find among the mountains. He would reach
if possible, some solitary stream which no white man's eye had ever
beheld. He has no road, no trail to guide him. He rides his pony and leads
his mule. Over the prairie, through the forest, across the streams, in
silence and in a solitude which to him is not lonely, he passes on his

Night comes. If pleasant, he unburdens his horse and mule; drives his iron
pickets into the ground, to which his animals are attached by ropes about
thirty feet long, generally in pastures of rich grass or wild oats; builds
a fire, cooks his supper, rolls himself in his blanket and sleeps soundly
till morning. If the weather is unpleasant it makes but little difference.
He knows exactly what to do. In a short time he constructs a frail but
ample shelter; and then, with his feet towards the fire, sleeps sweetly
regardless of the storm. His animals have no more need of shelter than
have the bears and the buffaloes.

This is the _ordinary_ life of the hunter. There are, of course,
exceptions when calamity and woe come. A joint may be sprained, a limb
broken. Fire may burn, or Indians may come, bringing captivity and
torture. But the ordinary life of the hunter, gratifying his natural
taste, has many fascinations. This is evidenced by the eagerness with
which our annual tourists leave their ceiled chambers, in the luxurious
cities, to encamp in the wilderness of the Adirondacks or the Rocky
mountains. There is not a restaurant in the Palais Royal, or on the
Boulevards which can furnish such a repast as these men often find, from
trout which they have taken from the brook, and game which their own
rifles shot, have cooked at the fires which their own hands have kindled.
A gentleman who spent a winter in this way, in the green and sheltered
valleys of the Rocky mountains, writes:

"There was something inexpressibly exhilarating in the sensation of
positive freedom from all worldly care, and a consequent expansion of the
sinews, as it were, of mind and body, which made me feel as elastic as a
ball of India rubber, and in such a state of perfect ease that no more
dread of scalping Indians entered my mind, than if I had been sitting in
Broadway, in one of the windows of the Astor House. The very happiest
moments of my life have been spent in the wilderness of the Far West, with
no friend near me more faithful than my rifle, and no companion more
sociable than my horse and mules.

"With a plentiful supply of pine logs on the fire, and its cheerful blaze
streaming far up into the sky, illuminating the valley far and near, and
exhibiting the animals, with well filled bellies, standing contentedly
over their picket-pins, I would sit enjoying the genial warmth, building
castles in the air. Scarcely ever did I wish to exchange such hours of
freedom for all the luxuries of civilized life. Such are the fascinations
of the life of the mountain hunter that I believe that not one instance
could be adduced of even the most polished and civilized of men, who had
once tasted the sweets of its attendant liberty and freedom from every
worldly care, not sighing once more to partake of its pleasures and

"A hunter's camp in the Rocky mountains is quite a picture. It is
invariably made in a picturesque locality. Nothing can be more social and
cheering than the welcome blaze of the camp fire on a cold winter's

Young Carson, alone with his horse and mule, would journey from fifty to a
hundred miles, examining every creek and stream, keeping a sharp lookout
for signs of beaver. Having selected his location, generally in some
valley eight or ten miles in extent, with a winding stream circling
through the centre, which he had reason to believe was well stocked with
beaver, he would choose a position for his camp. This would be more or
less elaborate in its construction, according to the time he intended to
spend there. But he would always find some sunny nook, with a southern
exposure and a pleasing prospect, near the brook or some spring of sweet
water, and, if possible, with forest or rock sheltering from the north

In a few hours young Carson would construct his half-faced cabin, as the
hunting-camp was called. A large log generally furnished the foundation of
the back part of the hut. Four stout stakes were then planted in the
ground so as to inclose a space about eight feet square. These stakes were
crotched at the ends, so as to support others for the roof. The front was
about five feet high, the back not more than four. The whole slope of the
roof was from the front to the back. The covering was made of bark or
slabs and sometimes of skins. The sides were covered in a similar way. The
whole of the front was open. The smooth ground floor was strewed with
fragrant hemlock branches, over which were spread blankets or buffalo
robes. In front of the opening the camp fire could be built, or on the one
side or the other, in accordance with the wind.

Thus in a few hours young Carson would erect him a home, so cosey and
cheerful in its aspect as to be attractive to every eye. Reclining upon
mattresses really luxurious in their softness, he could bask in the beams
of the sun, circling low in its winter revolutions, or gaze at night upon
the brilliant stars, and not unfrequently have spread out before him an
extended prospect of as rich natural scenery as ever cheered the eye. He
had no anxiety about food. His hook or his rifle supplied him abundantly
with what he deemed the richest viands. He knew where were the tender
cuts. He knew how to cook them deliciously. And he had an appetite to
relish them.

Having thus provided himself with a habitation, he took his traps and,
either on foot or on horseback, as the character of the region or the
distance to be traversed might render best, followed along the windings of
the stream till he came to a beaver dam. He would examine the water
carefully to find some shallow which the beavers must pass in crossing
from shoal to deep water. Here he would plant his trap, always under
water, and carefully adjust the bait. He would then follow on to another
dam, and thus proceed till six traps were set, which was the usual number
taken on such an expedition.

Early every morning he would mount his horse or mule and take the round of
his traps, which generally required a journey of several miles. The
captured animals were skinned on the spot, and the skins only, with the
tails which the hunters deemed a great luxury as an article of food, were
taken to the camp. Then the skin was stretched over a framework to dry.
When dry it was folded into a square sheet, the fur turned inward and a
bundle made containing from ten to twenty skins tightly pressed and
corded, which was ready for transportation. These skins were then worth
about eight dollars per pound.

After an absence of three or four weeks, young Carson would return with
his treasures, often several hundred dollars in value, to the rendezvous
of Mr. Ewing Young at Taos. Soon again he would set out on another similar
expedition. Thus Carson passed the winter of 1827.


Among the Trappers.

    The Discomfited Trappers.--The New Party Organized.--A Battle
    with the Indians.--Trapping on the Colorado.--March to the
    Sacramento.--The Friendly Indians.--Crossing the
    Desert.--Instinct of the Mule.--The Enchanting Valley of the
    Colorado.--The Mission of San Gabriel.--Vast Herds of
    Cattle.--The Mission of San Fernando.--Adventures in the Valley
    of San Joaquin.--The Meeting of two Trapping Bands.--Reasons for
    Kit Carson's Celebrity.--A Military Expedition.--The Indian Horse
    Thieves.--The Pursuit and Capture.

Soon after Carson returned to the cabin of Mr. Young from one of his
trapping expeditions, a party of trappers came back who had set out to
explore the valley of the Colorado, in pursuit of furs. At Taos they were
west of the Rocky mountains, and the route which they were to take led
them still farther in a northwest direction, a distance of three or four
hundred miles. It was known that the region was full of roving Indians,
and it was not doubted that the savages, if they saw any chance of
overpowering the trappers, would do so, and seize their effects, which to
the Indians would prove booty of almost inconceivable value. The rifle
gave the trappers such an advantage over the Indian, with his bow and
arrows, that they never hesitated, when upon the open plain in
encountering almost any superiority of numbers.

This party of eighteen trappers, with their horses and heavily laden
mules, had advanced but a few days' journey, over an almost unexplored
region, when they fell in with a powerful tribe of Indians, who, after a
little palaver, seeing their weakness in numbers and the richness of their
treasure, attacked them with great fury. The Indians had adroitly selected
a spot where they could fight Indian fashion, from behind trees and logs.
The battle lasted a whole day. We are not informed how many of either
party fell in the fray. But the Indians seemed to swarm around the
trappers in countless numbers, and the white men were, greatly to their
chagrin, driven back with the loss of several mules.

As the discomfited party returned with their tale of disaster, the ire of
Mr. Young was raised. It is a comment upon the number of men then roving
the wilderness, that Mr. Young was in a short time enabled to organize
another party of forty men, to resume the enterprise. It was a motley
collection of Spaniards, Americans, Mexicans and half-breeds. Proudly this
powerful band, well armed, well mounted and with heavily laden pack mules,
commenced its adventurous march, burning with the desire to avenge the
insult which the previous expedition had encountered.

Mr. Young had learned highly to prize the capabilities of young Carson,
and engaged him to take a prominent position in this company on its
hazardous tour. After a march of about a hundred miles, they reached the
region occupied by the Indians who had attacked and defeated the former
band. The savages, flushed by success, were all ready to renew the
conflict. Mr. Young himself was the leader of the party. The Indians, by
their gestures and shouts of defiance, gave unmistakable evidence of their
eagerness for the fight.

There was some little delay as both parties prepared for the deadly
strife. Mr. Young, a veteran in the tactics of the forest, posted his men
with great sagacity. He had forty, as we have mentioned, in all.
Twenty-five of them he hid in ambush. With the other fifteen he cautiously
advanced, and at length, as if alarmed, halted. The eminences all in front
of them, seemed filled with the plumed warriors. The previous conflict had
taught them the powers of the deadly rifle bullet. They kept at a
respectful distance, never advancing unless protected by some tree or

But there were hundreds of savages almost surrounding the little band,
and making the hills and plains resound with the hideous war-whoop. When
the trappers halted and began slowly to draw back, a deafening shout arose
from the triumphant foe, and in a simultaneous charge they advanced, but
still cautiously, not venturing near enough to discharge their arrows.
They were thus drawn along into the trap. When fairly within rifle range,
twenty-five unerring marksmen from their concealment, almost at the same
instant, opened a death-dealing volley upon the surprised and bewildered
warriors. The slaughter was terrible beyond anything they had ever, in
their native battles, witnessed before. Twenty-five of their bravest
warriors, for the bravest were in the advance, fell dead or severely
wounded. The Indians were thrown into an utter panic.

The thunder, the lightning, and the death-bolts had come from they knew
not where. With almost the rapidity of thought the rifles were again
loaded and the whole united band rushed forward upon the Indians who were
now flying wildly in all directions. Instinct taught them to perform all
sorts of gyrations to avoid the bullets which pursued them. They made no
attempt to rally, though many of their proud warriors were left behind
lifeless, or struggling in the convulsions of death.

The power of the rifle was such that, in those days, forty or fifty men
never hesitated to engage whole tribe, though it might number one or two
thousand warriors. A man will fight with terrible persistence when he
knows that defeat is inevitable death by torture. It is a thousandfold
better to fall beneath the arrow, the tomahawk or the war-club, than to be
consumed alive amid the jeers and tortures of yelling Indians inspired
with demoniac instincts. Thus with the trapper it was always either
victory or death.

These hostile warriors were punished with a severity never to be
forgotten. The fugitives carried far and wide to other roving tribes the
tidings of their disaster. The bold trappers proceeded on their way,
encountering no more serious molestation. Smoke upon the distant hills
indicated that their march was watched. If a trap was set at any distance
from the night's encampment, it was pretty surely stolen. Or if a weary
mule was left to recruit, a little behind, intending to bring him up in
the morning, before the dawn he disappeared.

The whole party followed slowly down a tributary of the Colorado river,
very successfully trapping upon the main stream and its branches, until
they reached the head waters of the San Francisco river. They then
divided, and Mr. Young with Carson and seventeen others proceeded several
hundred miles farther west, to the valley of the Sacramento. Before
setting out for this long journey, as it was uncertain what game they
might find by the way, two or three days were devoted to hunting. The
skins of three deer were converted into water tanks, which were without
difficulty carried by the mules. They were induced to this caution because
some friendly Indians had assured them that there was a great destitution
of water by the way.

On their march they encountered a tribe of Indians in all their native
wildness. They were very friendly though they had apparently never seen a
white man before. Perhaps their friendliness was _because_ they had never
yet met any of the pale faces, from whom they subsequently suffered such
great wrongs. These Indians presented remarkably fine specimens of the
physical man. They were tall, erect and admirably proportioned. Their
features were European, their eyes very full and expressive, and the dress
of men and women simple in the extreme. They were all splendid horsemen,
and often as they entered the camp at full speed on their spirited
chargers, it seemed as though the steed and its rider, like the fabled
centaur, were but one animal. Their bodies were painted and oiled so as to
resemble highly polished mahogany.

The travellers found the information communicated to them by the friendly
Indians to be true. For four days they travelled over a dreary, sandy
waste, where there were neither streams nor springs. At the camping place
each night there was given from the tanks, a small amount of water to each
animal and man, but only enough to sustain life. A guard was set over the
rest, for should any accident befall it the destruction of the whole party
would be the probable consequence.

As they were toiling along the fifth day, painfully through the sand, the
mules began to manifest a strange excitement. They pricked up their ears,
snuffed the air, then began to rush forward with all the speed their
exhausted strength would allow. The sagacious animals had scented water at
the distance of nearly a mile. It was a clear running stream, fringed with
grass and shrubs. When the first mule reached the water, the remainder
were scattered for a great distance along the trail. Here the party
encamped and remained for two days to recruit.

The bags of deerskin were again filled with water and the journey was
resumed. The route still led over a similar barren region, where both man
and beast suffered great privations from the want of water. On the fourth
day they came in sight of the splendid valley of the great Colorado. It
was with a thrill of delight that they gazed upon its verdure and its
luxuriance, which were an hundredfold enhanced from the contrast with the
dreary region which they had just traversed.

In their march of eight days through this barren and gameless region,
their provisions had become quite exhausted. They chanced to come across
some Indians from whom they purchased an old mare. The animal was promptly
cut up, cooked and eaten with great gusto. They also obtained, from the
same Indians, a small quantity of corn and beans. In the rich meadows of
the Colorado our adventurers again found abundance. They spent a few
delightful days here, feasting, trapping and hunting. The animals found,
for them, a paradise in the luxuriant pastures of wild oats.

Again the journey to the west was resumed. The account we have of their
movements is so meagre that it is impossible to follow with accuracy the
route they traversed. They followed for some leagues a river, when
suddenly its waters disappeared. They apparently sank beneath the surface
of the quicksands. Still there were indications which enabled them to
follow the course of the river, until finally it rose again above the
surface, and in the open air flowed on to the ocean.

At length they reached the celebrated Catholic Mission of San Gabriel,
near the Pacific coast. The Mission was then in a flourishing condition.
The statistics, published in 1829, indicate a degree of prosperity which
seems almost incredible. More than a thousand Indians were attached to the
Mission, and were laboring in its widely-extended fields, tending its
herds and cultivating the soil. The poor Indians, who were often half
starved upon the plains, found here light employment, shelter and abundant
food. The statistics to which we refer, state that the Mission had seventy
thousand head of cattle, four thousand two hundred horses, four hundred
mules, and two hundred and fifty sheep.

These Missions, several of which were established in a line, within about
fifty miles of the Pacific coast, belonged to the Spanish government, and
were supported by the revenues of the crown. Animals multiplied with great
rapidity upon those luxuriant and almost boundless prairies. They ranged
sometimes, it was said, spreading out over a hundred thousand acres of
wonderfully fertile pastures. There must of course, have been much
guess-work in estimating the numbers of these vast herds, generally
wandering unattended at their pleasure. But with such supplies of animal
and vegetable food there was no fear of want. The indolent Indians
consequently gathered around the Missions in great numbers. They were all
fond of show, and not unwillingly became such Christians as consists in
attending the ceremonies of the church.

The Mission, with its buildings, cultivated fields and vast herds, seemed
like the garden of Eden to our weary travellers. They however, remained
here but one day, as they were not on a tour of pleasure but in pursuit of
furs. A day's travel brought them to another but much smaller Mission,
called San Fernando. Without any delay they pushed on towards the west,
their object being to enter the valley of the Sacramento river, where they
had been told that beavers could be found in great abundance. They
expected to reach the banks of this now renowned, but then scarcely known
river, after a few days' journey in a northeast direction. They were now
in a delightful region. The climate was charming. Brooks of crystal water,
and well filled with fishes, often crossed their path. There was abundant
forage for their cattle; and forest and prairie seemed alive with game.

They soon reached the banks of the San Joaquin, a lovely stream flowing
northerly and emptying into the Sacramento near its mouth. There, finding
a very eligible camping site, and many indications of beaver in the
stream, Mr. Young halted his party, to rest for a few days, and in the
meantime to set their traps. The general character of the scenery around
them may be inferred from Mr. Bryant's description of a similar encampment
in his overland journey to California.

"Finding here an abundance of grass, we remained the following day for the
benefit of our animals. The valley was probably fifteen miles in length,
with a variable width of two or three miles. It was a delightful spot.
Wild plants grew in profusion, many-hued flowers studded its surface, and
silvery streams, bordered by luxuriant verdure and shrubs, were winding
through it. On both sides the mountains towered up by continuous
elevations of several thousand feet, exhibiting a succession of rich
vegetation, and then craggy and sterile cliffs, capped by virgin snow, the
whole forming a landscape of rare combinations of the beautiful and

After a short rest the trappers continued their journey slowly, setting
their traps on the San Joaquin and its tributaries. Pretty soon, much to
their surprise, they saw indications that there was another band trapping
on the same streams. In a short time they met, and it was found that the
other party belonged to the Hudson Bay Company, and was commanded by Peter

It is pleasant to record that the two parties, instead of fighting each
other as rivals, cordially fraternized. For several weeks they trapped
near together, often meeting and ever interchanging the courtesies of
brotherly kindness. These men were from Canada. They were veterans in the
profession of hunting and trapping, having long been in the employment of
the Hudson Bay Company, and having served a regular apprenticeship to
prepare them for their difficult and arduous employment. Here again the
peculiarity of Kit Carson's character was developed. Instead of assuming
that he knew all that was to be known about the wilderness, and the
business in which he was engaged, he lost no opportunity of acquiring all
the information he could from these strangers. He questioned them very
carefully, and his experience was such as to enable him to ask just such
questions as were most important.

There is scarcely a man in America who has not heard the name of Kit
Carson. No man can make his name known among the forty millions of this
continent, unless there be something extraordinary in his character and
achievements. Kit Carson was an extraordinary character. His wide-spread
fame was not the result of accident. His achievements were not merely
impulsive movements. He was a man of pure mind, of high morality, and
intensely devoted to the life-work which he had chosen. His studies
during the winter in the cabin of Kin Cade, had made him a proficient in
the colloquial Spanish language. This proved to him an invaluable
acquisition. He had also gathered and stored away in his retentive memory
all that this veteran ranger of the woods could communicate respecting the
geography of the Far West, the difficulties to be encountered and the mode
of surmounting them. And now he was learning everything that could be
learned from these Canadian boatmen and rangers.

Already young Carson had attained eminence. It was often said, "No matter
what happens, Kit Carson always knows at the moment exactly what is best
to be done."

Both as a hunter and a trapper, though he had not yet attained the age of
manhood, he was admitted to be the ablest man in the party. And his native
dignity of person and sobriety of manners commanded universal respect. In
this lovely valley both parties lived, as trappers, luxuriously. They were
very successful with their traps. And deer, elk and antelope were roving
about in such thousands, that any number could be easily taken. These were
indeed the sunny, festival days of our adventurers.

The two united parties, trapping all the way, followed down the valley of
San Joaquin to the Sacramento. Here they separated. The Hudson Bay
Company set out for the Columbia river. Mr. Young and his party remained
to trap in the valley of the Sacramento. At this time an event occurred
which again illustrates the fearlessness, sagacity and energy of Kit

Not very far from their encampment there was the Catholic Mission of San
Rafael. Some Indians belonging to that Mission, after committing sundry
atrocities, fled, and took refuge in a distant Indian village. It was
deemed important, in order that the Indians might be held under salutary
restraint, that such a crime should not go unpunished. A force was sent to
demand the surrender of the fugitives. But the Indians assumed a hostile
attitude, refused to give up the criminals, and fiercely attacking the
Mission party, drove them back with loss.

The Mission applied to the trappers for assistance. The request was
promptly granted. Such a victory would puff up the Indians, render them
insolent, and encourage them to make war upon other parties of the whites.
Eleven volunteers were selected for the expedition, and the young and
fragile Kit Carson was entrusted with the command. In manners he was
gentle as a girl, with a voice as soft as that of a woman. He had no
herculean powers of muscle, but he had mind, mental powers which had been
developed in a hundred emergencies. And these stout, hardy veterans of
the wilderness seem with one accord to have decided that he was the
fitting one to lead them into battle, where they were to encounter perhaps
hundreds of savage warriors.


Cautiously Kit Carson led his little band so as to approach the Indian
village unperceived. At a given signal they raised the war-whoop and
impetuously charged into the cluster of wigwams. As the terrified warriors
rushed out of the huts, all unprepared for battle, these unerring marksmen
laid them low. One-third of the warriors were slain. The rest fled in
dismay. The village was captured with the women and the children. The
victorious Carson then demanded the immediate surrender of the criminals.
The next day they were brought in, strongly bound, and delivered to the
Mission. With his heroic little band Kit Carson returned to the
encampment, apparently unconscious that he had performed any unusual feat.

The trappers purchased of the Mission sixty horses, paying for them in
beaver skins, which always had a cash value. These horses were
indispensable to the trapper. It required a large number to carry the
packs of a successful trapping party. It would be impossible for the
trappers to transport the packs upon their own backs. A party of forty
trappers would need each a horse to ride. Then generally each man led a
spare horse, lest the one he rode should break a limb or in any other way
give out in the midst of the wilderness. If the expedition were
successful, each trapper would have three or four horses or mules to lead
or drive, laden with the packs of skins, the traps, camping utensils and a
supply of food for an emergency. Thus a party of forty men would sometimes
be accompanied by more than two hundred horses. Horses were cheap, and
their food on the rich prairies cost nothing. But it was necessary to
guard the animals with the greatest care, for the Indians were continually
watching for opportunities to steal them.

Soon after Mr. Young, whose party it will be remembered now consisted of
eighteen men, had made his purchase of horses, in preparation for a
return, as the animals were feeding on the open prairie, a band of Indians
succeeded one night in stealing sixty of them, and with their booty, like
the wind they fled towards the valleys of the Snow mountains. Such a
cavalcade of horses in one band, travelling over the turf of the prairie,
would leave a trail behind which could easily be followed. The number of
the Indian thieves was not known, though the boldness of the robbery and
their tracks indicated that the band must have been large.

Twelve men were immediately detached to pursue the gang. Young Carson was
then appointed leader. There were but fourteen horses left in the camp.
Carson, having mounted his twelve men, had the other two horses led, to
meet any emergency. Vigorously the pursuit was pressed. There was no
difficulty in keeping the track. The Indian with all his cunning was never
the equal of the far more intelligent white man. Indeed the ordinary
savage was often but a grown-up child.

For more than one hundred miles Carson continued his pursuit before he
came up with the robbers. They had already entered the green valleys of
the Snowy mountains. The eagle eye of the pursuer saw some smoke circling
up in the distance. No ordinary eye would have perceived it. Immediately
he dismounted his men, and tethered the horses. The rifles were carefully
examined, that every one might be loaded, primed, and in perfect order.
The band then cautiously pressed forward, led by their boy captain, till
they came to the entrance of a wild but lovely glen, where at the distance
of perhaps a mile, they saw these savage warriors, enjoying all the luxury
of a barbaric encampment. A mountain stream, rippled through the valley.
The horses were grazing in the rich pasture. The thieves had killed six of
the fat young horses, and having cooked them and feasted to utter
repletion, were lounging around, basking in the sun, in the fullness of
savage felicity. Little were they aware of the tempest of destruction and
death about to burst upon them.

The Indians could not have chosen a more delightful spot for their
encampment and their feast. Neither could they have selected a spot more
favorable for the unseen approach of the pursuers. But the savages, having
accomplished more than a hundred miles, deemed themselves perfectly safe.

Carson carefully reconnoitred the position, gave minute directions to his
men, and they all, with the noiseless, stealthy movement of the panther,
worked their way along until they were within rifle distance of their
foes. Every man selected his victim and took deliberate aim. The signal
was given. The discharge was simultaneous. Twelve bullets struck twelve
warriors. Most of them dropped instantly dead. Almost with the rapidity of
thought the rifles were loaded, and the little band rushed upon the
bewildered, terror-stricken, bleeding savages. The Indians scattered in
every direction. Eight were killed outright. Carson had no love of
slaughter. Many more, in their flight, might have been struck by the
bullet; but they were allowed to escape. All the horses were recovered
excepting the six which the Indians had killed.

Great was the rejoicing in the camp when the victorious party returned so
abundantly successful. One of the annalists of this extraordinary man
speaking of the enterprise, very truthfully writes:

"Carson, though at that day a youth in years and experience, had risen
rapidly in the estimation of all, and had excited the admiration and
enlisted the confidence of the entire band. When called upon to add his
counsel, concerning any doubtful enterprise, his masterly foresight and
shrewdness, as well as clearness in attending to details, gave him willing

"But it was the modest deportment he invariably wore, which won for him
the love of his associates. Kit Carson's power in quickly conceiving the
safest plan of action in difficult emergencies, and his bravery, which in
his youth, sometimes amounted to rashness, caused his companions to follow
his leadership. His courage, promptitude, self-reliance, caution, sympathy
and care for the wounded, marked him at once as the master mind. Like the
great Napoleon, when he joined the army for his first campaign, he was a
hero, in spite of his youth, among men grown grey with experience."

The highest style of manhood, the most attractive character is that in
which the mildness and the delicacy of the woman is combined with the
energy and the fearlessness of the man. In Kit Carson we witness a
wonderful combination of these two qualities. An acquaintance of the
writer, who spent many years of his early life roving through the
wilderness of the far West, and who had often met Kit Carson, said he
never heard an oath from his lips. Even the rude and profane trappers
around him could appreciate the superior dignity of such a character.

Rev. Dr. Bushnell, speaking of the region in which our trappers were
engaged, says, "Middle California, lying between the head waters of the
two great rivers, and about four hundred and fifty or five hundred miles
long from north to south, is dividend lengthwise parallel to the coast,
into three strips or ribbons of about equal width. First the coastwise
region comprising two, three, and sometimes four parallel tiers of
mountains, from five hundred to four thousand, five thousand or even ten
thousand feet high. Next, advancing inward we have a middle strip, from
fifty to seventy miles wide, of almost dead plain, which is called the
great valley; down the scarcely perceptible slopes of which from north to
south, and south to north run the two great rivers, the Sacramento and the
San Joaquin, to join their waters at the middle of the basin, and pass off
to the sea. The third long strip or ribbon is the slope of the Snowy
mountain chain which bound the great valley on the East, and contains in
its foothills, or rather its lower half, all the gold mines."

It was in this middle region called The Great Valley, that Mr. Young and
his trappers pursued their vocation. They commenced far south, at the head
waters of the San Joaquin, and trapped down that stream, a distance of
about one hundred and fifty miles. They then struck the greater flood of
the Sacramento, and followed up that stream nearly three hundred and fifty
miles. They had now obtained furs enough to load down all the horses and
mules at their disposal. They prepared to return to Santa Fe, where they
were sure of a ready market for their furs, which would be sent to Europe
for their final sale.


Conflicts with the Indians.

    The American Trapper.--The Trapper of the Hudson's Bay
    Company.--The Return Trip.--Polished Life in the Wilderness.--The
    Spanish Gentlemen.--Council of the Trappers.--Self-possession
    of Kit Carson.--The Camp Cleared of Intruders.--Robbing the
    Robbers.--Sale of the Furs.--Mr. Fitzpatrick's Expedition.--Pains
    and Pleasures of Rocky Mountain Life.--Pursuit of Indian Horse
    Thieves.--Extraordinary Battle.

In the last chapter we have alluded to the friendly meeting, in the valley
of San Joaquin, of the American trappers with a party from Canada, sent
out by the Hudson's Bay Company. It is a remarkable fact, but one which
all will admit, that the Hudson's Bay Company maintained far more friendly
relations with the Indians than the Americans secured. In fact, they
seldom had any difficulty with them whatever. The following reasons seem
quite satisfactorily to explain this difference. It is said:

"The American trapper was not like the Hudson's Bay employees, bred to the
business. Oftener than any other way he was some wild youth who, after
some misdemeanor in the society of his native place, sought safety from
reproach or punishment in the wilderness. Or he was some disappointed man,
who with feelings embittered towards his fellows, preferred the seclusion
of the forest and mountain. Many were of a class disreputable everywhere,
who gladly embraced a life not subject to social laws. A few were brave,
independent and hardy spirits, who delighted in the hardships and wild
adventures their calling made necessary. All these men, the best with the
worst, were subject to no will but their own. And all experience goes to
prove that a life of perfect liberty is apt to degenerate into a life of

"Even their own lives, and those of their companions, when it depended
upon their own prudence, were but lightly considered. The constant
presence of danger made them reckless. It is easy to conceive how, under
these circumstances, the natives and the foreigners grew to hate each
other, in the Indian country, especially after the Americans came to the
determination to 'shoot an Indian at sight.'

"On the other hand, the employees of the Hudson's Bay Company were many of
them half-breeds, or full-blooded Indians of the Iroquois nation, towards
whom nearly all the tribes were kindly disposed. Even the Frenchmen, who
trapped for this Company, were well liked by the Indians on account of
their suavity of manner, and the ease with which they adapted themselves
to savage life. They were trained to the life of a trapper, were subject
to the will of the Company, and were generally just and equitable in their
dealing with the Indians. Most of them also had native wives, and
half-breed children, and were regarded as relatives. There was a wide

It was the month of September when Mr. Young and his party set out on
their return. The homeward route was essentially the same which they had
already traversed. They made a brief visit at the Mission of San Fernando,
and then pressed on to the flourishing Mission village of Los Angelos.
This City of the Angels, as it was called, from the salubrity of the
climate and the beauty of the scenery, was on a small river about four
hundred and fifty miles southeast from the present site of San Francisco.

Here Mr. Carson was introduced to a scene of refined, and polished life,
such as he had never witnessed before. He was informed that a Spanish
gentleman of wealth was residing, at the distance of a few miles, on one
of the most highly cultivated farms in the country. Young Carson, who
never allowed any opportunity of extending his knowledge to escape him,
dressed himself carefully in his best apparel, mounted a fine horse, well
caparisoned, and set out to pay the Spaniard a visit.

He reached the _ranche_, as the farm was called, dismounted at a wicket
gate, and having fastened his horse, walked up several rods, over a
gravelled-walk, and beneath an avenue of trees, with occasional clumps of
shrubs and flowers, until he reached the residence. It consisted of a
spacious one story edifice, built of sun-baked bricks, called _adobe_. The
dwelling was a hundred feet long, and the roof was rendered impenetrable
to rain, being covered with a thick coating of asphaltum, mingled with
sand. There was a spring of this valuable pitchy substance near the
village; and the roofs of all the houses in Los Angelos were similarly

A huge brass knocker was attached to the door. In response to its summons,
an Indian girl made her appearance, and ushered him into an elegantly
furnished parlor. There were several guitars lying about, with other
indications that there were ladies in the household. Soon the gentlemanly
owner of the farm appeared, in morning gown and slippers. He was a fine
looking man, of dignified address, and courteously he saluted the

There was a native air of refinement about Kit Carson, with his highly
intellectual features, and his modest, self-possessed bearing, which
seemed always to win, at sight, interest and confidence. Carson
introduced himself as an American, though he spoke in the Spanish
language. His host, evidently much pleased with his guest, replied in
English, saying:

"I address you in your native tongue, which I presume is agreeable to you,
though you speak very good Spanish."

The parties were immediately on the most friendly terms. Carson sought
information which the Spanish gentleman was able and happy to give. It was
an early hour in the morning. Carson was invited to remain to breakfast,
and was soon conducted to the breakfast-room, where he was introduced to
the wife of his host, and several sons and daughters.

There was no restraint in conversation, as both parties could speak, with
equal apparent facility, the Spanish and the English. There was a young
gentleman from Massachusetts, a graduate from a New England college, who
was private tutor in the family. After breakfast the stranger was
conducted around the farm, and to the vineyard.

"I have more grapes," said the host, "than I know what to do with. Last
year I made more butts of wine than I could dispose of, and dried five
thousand pounds of raisins. I have travelled through Europe, and I think
that neither the valley of the Rhine nor the Tagus can produce such grapes
as ours. I think that the Los Angelos grape is indeed food for angels.
They are equal to the grapes of Eschol. You remember the heavy clusters
that were found there, so that two men carried one on a pole resting upon
their shoulders. See that vine now. It is six inches in diameter. And yet
it needs a prop to sustain the weight of the two clusters of grapes which
it bears."

"I have more oranges," he said, "than I can either use or give away. This
is the finest country the sun shines upon. We can live luxuriously upon
just what will grow on our own farms. But we cannot get rich. Our cattle
will only bring the value of the hides. Our horses are of little worth,
for there are plenty running wild, which a good huntsman can take with a
lasso. I think that we shall have the Americans with us before many years,
and, for my part, I hope we shall. The idea of the Californians generally,
as well as other Mexicans, that the Americans are too shrewd for them, is
true enough. But certainly there is plenty of room for a large population,
and I should prefer that the race that has most enterprise should come and
cultivate the country with us."

Thus the conversation continued for two hours. Young Carson modestly
suggested that it would be better if the Spaniards were less cruel in
breaking in their horses.

"Your horses," said he, "would make excellent buffalo hunters with proper
training. I have some horses at camp, that I intend shall see buffalo. But
why do you not deal gently with them when they are first caught? You might
thus preserve all the spirit they have in the herd. Pardon me, but I think
that in taming your horses you break their spirits."

"I sometimes think so too," the Spanish gentleman replied. "We mount one
just caught from the drove, and ride him until he becomes gentle from
exhaustion. Our custom is brought from Spain. It answers well enough with
us, where our horses go in droves; and when one is used up, we turn him
out and take up another."

When young Carson took his leave, the Spaniard, with true Castilian
courtesy, pressed his hand, thanked him for his visit, and promised to
return it at the camp. It was thus instinctively that Kit Carson,
naturally a gentleman, took his position among gentlemen.

In the meantime most of the rude trappers, seeming to be almost of a
different nature from Kit Carson, were indulging in a drunken carouse at
Los Angelos. They got into a brawl with the Mexicans. Knives were drawn,
wounds inflicted, and one Mexican was killed.

It became necessary to get these men away as soon as possible. Carson was
sent forward a day's march, with all who could be collected. The next day
Mr. Young followed, having with much difficulty gathered the remainder of
the band. Soon the party was reunited, and the men were recovered from
their shameful debauch. Then for nine days they vigorously continued their
march homeward, when they again reached the banks of the Colorado river,
not far from the spot where they had crossed it before.

Here they encamped for a few days, while most of the men ranged the stream
for many miles up and down, still very successfully setting their traps.
Carson, with half a dozen men, was left to guard the camp. It was a
responsible position. Nearly all the horses were there, and all the
treasures of furs which they had gathered in their long and laborious
excursion. As the animals were turned out to graze, the packs, which were
taken from them, were arranged in a circular form so as to enclose quite a
space, like a fortress. These bundles of furs not even a bullet could
penetrate. Thus Kit Carson reared for himself and men a rampart, as
General Jackson protected his troops with cotton bags at New Orleans.

Scarcely was this work completed, when a band of five hundred Indians was
seen approaching. As usual, they stopped at a short distance from the
fortified camp, and a few of the warriors, laying aside their arms and
expressing by words and gestures the utmost friendliness, came forward and
were admitted into the camp. They were followed by others. Soon there were
enough stalwart savages there easily to overpower, in a hand-to-hand
fight, the feeble garrison of but six men. Carson's suspicions were
excited, and watching their movements with an eagle eye, he soon
discovered that they all had concealed weapons.

Without the slightest apparent alarm he quietly summoned his men, with
their rifles, into one corner of the enclosure. Then in his usual soft
voice he directed each man to take deliberate aim at some one of the
prominent chiefs. He himself presented the muzzle of his rifle within a
few yards of the head of the leader of the now astonished and affrighted
party. This was all the work of a moment. Then calmly he said to the
leader, "leave this fort instantly or you are dead men." A moment of
hesitation on their part, a word of parleying would have been followed by
the simultaneous discharge of the rifles, and six of the warriors at
least, would have been numbered with the dead. In a moment the fort was
cleared, and the savages did not stop until they had got beyond the reach
of rifle bullets.

One of these Indians could speak Spanish. Thus Kit Carson again found the
inestimable advantage of his winter's studies in the cabin of Kin Cade.
The Indians, five hundred in number, might easily, at the expense of the
loss of a few lives, have overpowered the white men, and seized all their
animals and their goods. But Carson well knew their habits, and that they
would never hazard a contest where they must with certainty expect a
number of their own warriors to be slain. Friendly relations were opened
with the Indians, only two or three being admitted to the fort at a time.
The animals were tethered in the rich herbage within the protection of
their rifles and were carefully watched, night and day.

In a few days the men who had left the camp on a trapping expedition,
returned. The whole united company then followed down the south bank of
the Colorado, setting their traps every night, until they reached its tide
waters. From that point they struck over east to the river Gila, and
trapped up the western banks of that river until they reached the mouth of
the San Pedro, a distance of more than two hundred miles.

Their animals now were very heavily laden with furs, and they were in
great need of more beasts of burden. The following is the account which is
given of the manner in which they obtained a supply. It certainly looks
very suspicious. It is not improbable that the Indians, had they any
historians, would give a very different version of the story.

"Near the mouth of the San Pedro river they discovered a large herd of
horses and mules. On a closer examination they found that they were in
possession of a band of Indians, who had formerly given them some of their
gratuitous hostilities. Not having forgotten their former troubles with
these people, they determined to pay them off in their own coin by
depriving them of the herd. A short search sufficed to discover the Indian
camp. Without waiting an instant, they put their horses to their speed,
and charged in among the huts. The Indians were so completely taken by
surprise, that they became panic-struck, and fled in every direction. They
however rallied somewhat and a running fight commenced, which lasted some
time, but which did not change matters in favor of the Indians. The entire
herd fell into the possession of the trappers.

"On the same evening, after the men had wrapped themselves up in their
blankets, and laid down for sleep, and while enjoying their slumbers, a
noise reached their ears which sounded very much like distant thunder. But
a close application of the sense of hearing showed plainly that an enemy
was near at hand. Springing up, with rifle in hand, for generally in the
mountains a man's gun rests in the same blanket with himself, on all
sleeping occasions, they sallied forth to reconnoitre, and discovered a
few warriors driving along a band of at least two hundred horses. The
trappers comprehended instantly that the warriors had been to the Mexican
settlement in Sonora, on a thieving expedition, and that the horses had
changed hands, with only one party to the bargain. The opportunity to
instill a lesson on the savage marauders was too good to be lost.

"They saluted the thieves with a volley from their rifles, which, with the
bullets whizzing about their heads and bodies, so astonished them that
they seemed almost immediately to forget their stolen property, and to
think only of a precipitous flight. In a few moments the whites found
themselves masters of the field and also of the property. To return, the
animals to their owners was an impossibility. Mr. Young, therefore,
selected as many of the best horses as he needed for himself and men, and,
game being very scarce, killed two, and dried most of the meat for future
use, turning the remainder loose."

Such were the morals of the wilderness. Mr. Young resolved himself into a
court, of which he was legislator, judge, jury and executioner. The
property of others he could confiscate at pleasure, for his own use. The
Indians probably retaliated upon the first band of white men which came
within their power. And this retaliation would be deemed an act of wanton
savage barbarism demanding the extinction of a tribe.

Continuing their march up the Gila river, trapping all the way, from its
head waters they struck across the country to Santa Fe. Here they found a
ready market for their furs, at twelve dollars a pound. Their mules were
laden down with two thousand pounds. Thus the pecuniary results of the
trip amounted to the handsome sum of twenty four thousand dollars. The
trappers, flush with money, returned to Taos. The vagabonds of the party
soon squandered their earnings in rioting, and were then eager to set out
on another excursion. It was now April, 1830.

Young Carson was at this time a very handsome young man of twenty-one
years. He had obtained a high reputation, and his pockets were full of
money, with which he scarcely knew what to do. It is said that, for a
time, he was led astray by the convivial temptations with which he was
surrounded. To what length he went we cannot ascertain. There is no
available information upon this point. Perhaps the whole story is but one
of those slanders to which all men are exposed. One of his annalists

"Young Kit, at this period of his life, imitated the example set by his
elders, for he wished to be considered by them as an equal and a friend.
He however passed through this terrible ordeal, which most frequently
ruins its votary, and eventually came out brighter, clearer and more noble
for the conscience polish which he received. He contracted no bad habits,
but learned the usefulness and happiness of resisting temptation; and
became so well schooled that he was able, by the caution and advice of
wisdom founded on experience, to prevent many a promising and skilful hand
from grasping ruin in the same vortex."

In the fall of this year Kit joined another trapping expedition. Its
destination was to the innumerable streams and valleys among the Rocky
mountains. Mr. Fitzpatrick, a man of good reputation and a veteran
trapper, had charge of the party. Crossing a pass of the Rocky mountains,
they pursued their route in a direction nearly north, a distance of about
three hundred miles, till they reached the head waters of the Platte
river. They were now on the eastern side of those gigantic ranges which
form the central portion of the North American Continent.

Here, in the midst of the mountains, the winter was inclement, with
piercing blasts and deep snows. Still the trappers, warmly clad,
vigorously pursued both hunting and trapping, availing themselves of
every pleasant day. In inclement weather they gathered joyously around
their ample camp-fires, finding ever enough to do in cooking, dressing
their skins, repairing garments, making moccasins, and in keeping their
guns and knives in order. Some of these valleys were found sheltered and
sunny. Even in mid-winter there were days of genial warmth. They
occasionally changed their camp and trapped along the banks of the Green,
the Bear and the Salmon rivers.

During the winter one sad incident occurred. Four of the trappers who were
out in pursuit of game, were surrounded and overpowered by a numerous
party of Blackfeet Indians, and all were killed. There were buffaloes in
abundance in that region, and these animals found ample forage, as they
had the range of hundreds of miles, and instinct guided them to sheltered
and verdant glens. But in some of the narrow, wind-swept valleys the
animals of the trappers suffered from exposure and want of food. They were
kept alive by cutting down cottonwood trees and gathering the bark and
branches for fodder. But the trappers themselves, having abundance of
game, fared sumptuously.

The beaver is so intelligent that he is one of the most difficult animals
in the world to entrap. Marvellous stories are told by the hunters of his
sagacity. Many of the Indians believe that the beavers have human
intelligence. They say that the only difference between the beaver and the
Indian, is that the latter has been endowed by the Great Spirit with
capabilities to catch the former.

Among these bleak, barren, gigantic ridges there are many lovely valleys
to be found, scores of miles in length and width. Here are found two
extensive natural parks, of extraordinary beauty. Apparently no landscape
gardener could have laid them out more tastefully. There are wide-spread
lawns, sometimes level as a floor, sometimes gently undulating, smooth,
green and at times decorated with an almost inconceivable brilliance of
flowers. Here and there groves are sprinkled, entirely free from
underbrush. There are running streams and crystal lakelets. Birds of
brilliant plumage sport upon the waters. Buffaloes, often in immense
numbers, crop the luxuriant herbage. Deer, elks and antelopes bound over
these fields, reminding one of his childish visions of Paradise. In the
streams otter and beaver find favorite haunts.

During the winter, as business was a little dull, Kit Carson and four of
his companions set off on a private hunting expedition. They were gone
about six weeks. Soon after their return, in the latter part of January,
a party of Crow Indians, one very dark night, succeeded in stealthily
approaching the camp and in driving off nine of the animals which were
grazing at a short distance. It was not until morning that the loss was

As usual Kit Carson was sent, at the head of twelve men, in pursuit of the
thieves. They selected their best horses, for it was certain that the
Indians would make no delay in their flight. It was found quite difficult
to follow their trail, for, during the night, a herd of several thousand
buffaloes had crossed and recrossed it, quite trampling it out of sight.
Still the sagacity of Carson triumphed, and after being baffled for a
short time, he again with certainty struck the trail.

For forty miles the pursuit was continued with much vigor. The horses then
began to give out. Night was approaching. Carson thought it necessary to
go into camp till morning, that the horses might be refreshed and
recruited. There was a grove near by. Just as they were entering it for
their sheltered encampment, Kit Carson saw the smoke of Indian fires at no
great distance in advance of him. He had no doubt that the smoke came from
the encampment of the party he was pursuing.

The Indians had fled from the north. Of course it would be from the north
that they would look for the approach of their pursuers. The southern
borders of their camp would consequently be less carefully guarded. The
trappers remained quietly in their hiding-place until midnight. They then
took a wide circuit, so as to approach the Indians from the south. The
savages seemed to have lost all fear of pursuit, for the gleam of their
triumphal fires shone far and wide, and the shouts of their barbaric
revelry resounded over the prairie.

Very cautiously Carson and his men approached, availing themselves of
every opportunity of concealment, creeping for a long distance upon their
hands and knees. Having arrived within half gunshot they gazed upon a very
singular spectacle, and one which would have been very alarming to any men
but those accustomed to the perils of the wilderness.

A large number of Indian warriors, painted, plumed and decorated in the
highest style of savage taste, were celebrating what they deemed a victory
over the white men. Their camp was in a beautiful grove, on what would be
called an undulating prairie. There was some broken ground which
facilitated the approach of the trappers. The nine horses they had stolen
were tethered in some rich grass, at a short distance from the encampment.
The Indians had erected two large huts, or wigwams, which, in their
caution, they had constructed partially as forts into which they could
retreat and protect themselves should they be attacked.

The large fires were burning hotly. At these fires they had roasted two
horses, and had feasted to satiety. They were now dancing franticly around
these fires, brandishing their weapons, shouting their rude songs of
defiance and exultation, interspersed with occasional bursts of the shrill
and piercing war-whoop. The savages outnumbered the trappers many to one.
They were also armed with rifles and had learned how to use them
skillfully. Thus, in view of a battle, the odds seemed fearfully against
the trappers.

It was a dark night in January, and a piercing winter wind swept the
prairie. Even savage muscles will get weary in the frenzied dance, and the
continuously repeated war-whoop will exhaust the most stentorian lungs.
Carson ordered his men to remain perfectly quiet in their concealment. As
they had but a scanty allowance of clothing, they suffered much from the
intense cold. Soon after midnight the savages threw themselves down around
the fires and most of them were soon soundly asleep.

Kit Carson then, with five of his companions, cautiously crept towards the
horses, drew out the picket-pins and led them a short distance to a place
of concealment nearer their own camp. Several of the party were then in
favor of returning, with their recovered property, as rapidly as possible.
They would have several hours advantage of the savages, and they thought
it not advisable to provoke a conflict with foes outnumbering them, and
who were also armed with rifles.

But Mr. Carson said, "our horses are exhausted. We cannot travel fast. We
shall certainly be pursued. The Indians can judge from our trail how few
we are in numbers. They are perfectly acquainted with the country. They
can select their point of attack. With their large numbers they can
surround us. First they will shoot our horses. Then we shall be on foot
and at their mercy. We now can take them by surprise. Our only safety
consists in so weakening them, and appalling them by the vehemence of our
attack, that they will have no heart to renew the conflict."

We do not profess to give Mr. Carson's precise words. These were his
views. They were so manifestly correct that all, at once, fell in with
them. The united party then again advanced, with rifles cocked and primed,
towards the Indian camp. The trappers were in the shade. The recumbent
forms of the sleeping Indians were revealed by the smouldering fires. When
they were within a few yards of the foe, an Indian dog gave the alarm.
Instantly every savage sprang to his feet, presenting a perfect target to
these marksmen who never missed their aim. There was almost an
instantaneous discharge of rifles and thirteen Indian warriors fell
weltering in their blood.

The rest, thus suddenly awoke from sound sleep, witnessing the sudden
carnage, and with no foe visible, fled precipitately to their forts. But
the trappers instantly reloaded their pieces and, secure from harm, in the
darkness, and behind the trees, struck with the bullet every exposed
Indian, and five more fell. This was an awful loss to the Indians. Still
they greatly outnumbered the whites. But they were caught in a trap. They
had neither food nor water in their forts. Not an Indian could creep from
them without encountering certain death.

Upon the dawn of day the Indians were able to ascertain that their foes
were but few in number. As the only possible resort, which could save them
from destruction, they decided to make a simultaneous rush, from the forts
into the grove, and to take their stand also behind the protection of the
trees. This would give them, with their superior numbers, the advantage
over the trappers. They were good marksmen with the rifle, and were
accustomed to that style of fighting. Mr. Carson was prepared for this
movement. They made the rush, and they met their doom. Thirteen more
warriors were struck down, either killed or severely wounded.

The Indians had now lost thirty-one warriors. Discouraged and appalled
they retreated. The way was now clear for the return of Kit Carson. The
savages made no attempts to obstruct their path. With all the horses which
had been stolen, and without a man injured, this Napoleon of the
wilderness re-entered the camp to be greeted by the cheers of his


Marches and Encampments.

    The Encampment Among the Rocky Mountains.--The Attempted
    Stampede.--Retreat and Pursuit by the Savages.--The Alarm.--Loss
    of the Horses.--Their Recovery.--Enterprise of Kit Carson.--Fight
    with the Indians.--The Litter for the Wounded.--Union of the two
    Trapping Parties.--Successful Return to Taos.--Carson joins a
    Trading Party.--Chivalric Adventures.--Attacked by Bears.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, with his party of trappers, wandering to and fro, found
himself at length encamped on the head waters of the Arkansas river, in
the heart of the Rocky mountains, more than a thousand miles from the
point where that majestic stream empties into the Mississippi. Their
intercourse with the Indians had not been such as to secure friendly
relations. Powerful tribes were around them, ready to combine for their
destruction. The men were widely scattered in their trapping excursions,
and but few were left here to guard the camp and the furs already taken.

It is impossible to trace with accuracy the course pursued by these
different bands, neither is it a matter of any moment. Kit found himself
at one time, left with but one man to guard the camp. He was fully
conscious of his danger, and made every possible preparation for defence,
should they be attacked. With food in abundance, loop-holes properly
arranged, and a number of rifles ever ready loaded, no war-party, however
numerous, could seize the fort without the loss of many of their men. And
as we have said, the boldest of these warriors were never willing to
expose themselves unprotected to rifle shot.

Neither of the men dared to venture far from their camp for game.
Fortunately this was not necessary. Game existed in such abundance that,
almost from the door of their fortification, they could shoot any quantity
they needed. They always kept a careful guard. While one slept the other
watched. For a month these two men were in this lonely position. At the
end of that time Mr. Blackwell, one of the partners in one of these
expeditions, arrived with fifteen fresh men, and a very thorough outfit.
It was a joyful meeting, and the whole party, taking with them their furs,
commenced a march to the Salt springs, near the head waters of the Platte

These adventurers had been but four days on their route, when one morning
as they were breakfasting, the guard gave the startling cry of "Indians."
Every man was instantly on his feet, rifle in hand. The horses of the
trappers were at but a short distance from the camp, turned loose to crop
the grass, which was there scanty, wherever they could find it. But when
Kit Carson was in a company nothing was ever left to chance. The animals
were all carefully hobbled, a hind foot and a fore foot so bound together
that they could not possibly run.

The Indians, on fleet horses, with flaunting pennons, hair streaming in
the wind, and uttering demoniac yells, came down like the sweep of the
tornado upon the animals. Their object was to cause a stampede, that is,
to throw the animals into such a panic that they would break away from
everything, and follow the Indian horses off into the boundless prairie.
The trappers thus left without any steeds, would find pursuit impossible.

The movement was so sudden and so rapid that, though several shots were
fired, but one Indian was struck. He fell dead upon the sod. One horse
only was lost. One of the warriors, as he was passing by on the full run,
succeeded in cutting the cord of a rearing, struggling steed, and the
terrified animal disappeared with the mounted herd. Had it not been for
the precaution of hobbling the horses, probably every one would have been
lost in this attempted stampede. What is usually called good luck, is
almost always the result of wise precautions. In reference to this adroit
mode of horse-stealing adopted by the Indians, it is written:

"These stampedes are a source of great profit to the Indians of the
Plains. It is by this means they deprive the caravans of their animals.
The Comanches are particularly expert and daring in this kind of robbery.
They even train horses to run from one given point to another, in
expectation of caravans. When a camp is made which is nearly in range,
they turn their trained animals loose, who at once fly across the plain,
penetrating and passing through the camp of their victims. All of the
picketed animals will attempt to follow, and usually succeed. Such are
invariably led into the haunts of the thieves, who easily secure them.

"Young horses and mules are easily frightened. And, in the havoc which
generally ensues, oftentimes great injury is done to the runaways
themselves. The sight of a stampede on a grand scale, requires steady
nerves to witness without tremor. And woe to the footman who cannot get
out of the way when the frightened animals come along. At times, when the
herd is large, the horses scatter over the open country and are
irrecoverably lost.

"A favorite policy of the Indian horse thieves is to creep into camp, cut
loose one animal and thoroughly frighten him. This animal seldom fails to
frighten the remainder, when away they all go with long ropes and
picket-pins dangling after them. The latter sometimes act like harpoons,
being thrown with such impetus as to strike and instantly kill a valuable
steed from among the brother runaways. At other times the limbs of the
running horses get entangled in the ropes, and they are suddenly thrown.
Such seldom escape without broken legs or severe contusions, which are
often incurable. The necessity of travelling on, without delay, renders it
an impossibility to undertake the cure, when it might be practicable under
other circumstances."

The next day the party of trappers travelled fifty miles, till they
thought themselves beyond the reach of the hostile savages. Still they
knew how stealthily their trail might be followed, and they were vigilant
to guard against surprise. They selected, for their night's encampment, a
beautiful spot upon the banks of a clear mountain stream, which emptied
into the Arkansas river. They had there a smooth and verdant meadow, of
limited extent, affording fine pasturage. Here the wearied animals were
strongly picketed. There was also a grove, where they could obtain fuel
and timber for such camp protection as they might require.

It was nearly dark when they reached this spot, hungry and tired after
the long journey of the day. But their camp-fires soon blazed brightly.
Rich viands of choice cuts of venison and other game, were cooked by
artistic hands. And the mountain springs afforded them cool and delicious
water. With ravenous appetites they partook of a feast which any gourmand
might covet. And then wrapped in their furs, and surrounded by the silence
and solitude of the wilderness, with the whole wild scene illumined by
their fires, they fell asleep. In accordance with invariable custom a
careful guard was set.

They had one cause of solicitude, which to any person unfamiliar with
mountain life would have been very serious; the place abounded with
rattlesnakes. The whole region seemed to be a favorite rendezvous for
these venomous reptiles. These mountaineers, however, had become so
thoroughly acquainted with their habits, as to sleep in the midst of them
without anxiety. In the night the rattlesnake seldom moves, in the daytime
with his rattles he gives chivalric warning before he strikes with his
fangs. Consequently it is not often that the trapper or the Indian is

Our travellers carefully examined the ground over which they reared their
frail shelters, and then folded in their blankets or buffalo robes,
experienced no solicitude. About midnight a faithful dog began to bark
furiously. It was not doubted that the sagacious animal scented the
approach of Indians. Every trapper was instantly on his feet, with his
rifle in his hand. Their attention was immediately directed to the horses.
The Indians were professional thieves, not murderers; they were in search
of booty, not of revenge. And when they sought to take the lives of the
trappers, it was merely as a necessary means for attaining their end of

It subsequently appeared that the Indians were undoubtedly near, and that
the dog had not given a false alarm. The savages probably from their
covert, saw that the animals were strongly tethered, and that the trappers
were on the alert. Any attempt to stampede the horses, would expose them
to the bullets of these unerring marksmen. They therefore withdrew,
waiting for a more favorable opportunity. After an hour of watching, the
trappers, about seventeen in number, having posted an extra guard, lay
down again, but not for sleep. They expected every moment to see a band of
mounted savages, perhaps several hundred in number, coming with the sweep
of the whirlwind upon their horses, and yelling like demons, as they drove
the terrified animals far away into the wilderness. The night, however,
passed away without further disturbance. As the morning dawned serene and
cloudless upon them, all suspicions seem to have been dispelled. They
replenished their fires, cooked their savory breakfast, and decided to
remain for a day or two in their delightful encampment. The region
abounded with the most desirable game, and it was thought that beaver
might be found in the adjacent streams.

Kit Carson had a remarkably retentive memory, and a wonderful aptitude for
comprehending the mazes of rivers, mountains, and valleys. He had very
thoroughly studied the geography of these regions, and told his companions
that at a distance of a few miles, there was a much larger stream than
that upon which they were encamped; and that he had been informed that
beaver were to be found there in abundance. There were two ways of
approaching that stream; the shorter, but more difficult one, was by
clambering over a mountain ridge several hundred feet high, and then
descending into the valley beyond, through which the river flowed. The
other and much longer route, was to follow down the small stream upon
whose banks they were encamped, for several miles, until they reached its
entrance into the larger river.

Four of the trappers, led by Kit Carson, undertook to cross this Rocky
Mountain peak, and explore the valley beyond. They mounted four horses,
laden with their traps, and other articles essential for a short trapping
excursion. Probably the Indians, hidden in the distance, were with keen
eyes watching every movement at the camp. Carson and his companions had
been absent but about four hours, and others of the party were dispersed
in search of game, when a large band of Indians, mounted on fleet horses,
with flaunting pennons, and hair streaming in the wind, and making the
cliffs resound with their yells, succeeded in liberating a large number of
the horses, and with their booty, rapidly disappeared down the winding

This all took place in almost less time than it has required to describe
it. The hardihood and fearlessness of these hunters is signally manifest
in the fact that four of these men instantly grasped their rifles, and
springing upon four of the fleetest of their remaining horses, set out in
pursuit of these savages, who outnumbered them ten to one. The narrowness
of the glen was such, that the pursuers had the decided advantage over the
spoil-encumbered pursued. They soon overtook them, and opened upon them a
deliberate and deadly fire. One warrior fell dead from his horse. The
others, imminently exposed to the same fate, with terror abandoned the
drove they had captured, and soon disappeared in their rapid flight. The
horses were all regained, and with them the victorious party returned to
the camp. One of the men however was seriously wounded, having been struck
by a bullet from one of the Indian warriors, several of whom were armed
with rifles.

In the meantime, Carson and his companions, after surmounting great
difficulties, reached the valley they sought, and to their disappointment,
found no beaver there. Crossing the ridge had proved so difficult, that
they decided to return by the more circuitous route of the two valleys. As
they were riding along on their pathless way, they suddenly came upon four
Indian warriors, evidently on the war-path; painted, plumed and armed in
the highest style of military decoration. The four Indians instantly
turned their horses and fled. The four trappers at once spurred on their
steeds, and pursued them.

They were dashing on at their highest speed, when suddenly they found they
had been led into an ambush. Sixty warriors came rushing upon them from
behind the hill, where they had been concealed. The trappers had no time
for deliberation. There was but one possible escape. It was to run the
gauntlet. Bowing down to the necks of their horses, so as to expose their
persons as little as possible to bullets or arrows, they urged their
steeds to their utmost speed. The horses had an instinctive dread of the
Indian. Sharing the alarm of their riders, they became frantic with
terror, and needed no urging in their impetuous race. The Indians were
often within sixty feet of their victims, and bullets and arrows flew
thickly around the trappers. But both parties being on the fiercest run,
and there being interposing obstacles of rocks, and shrubs, and trees,
accurate aim was impossible. As the fugitives drew near their camp, the
Indians relinquished the pursuit. One of the men had been struck by an
arrow and wounded.

It was late in the afternoon when these heroic men were all re-assembled
around the camp-fires, to recount the adventures of the day. With the
sleeplessness of the preceding night, and the toil and peril which the
rising sun had ushered in, they were all exceedingly exhausted. Still the
consciousness that they were surrounded by a vigilant and powerful foe,
rendered it necessary for them to adopt every precaution for their safety.
They tethered their horses with very great care, near their camp. They
prepared hasty ramparts which guarded every approach; and having
established a very careful guard, sought that repose which all so greatly
needed. The night passed without alarm.

At the distance of four days' march, there was another encampment of
trappers, under Mr. Gaunt. They decided as speedily as possible to join
them. But the two wounded men found their wounds so inflamed that they
could not travel. The trappers, accustomed to such exigencies, prepared
for them litters very ingeniously constructed. They cut two flexible poles
about twenty-four feet long. These were laid upon the ground, three feet
apart, and a buffalo robe laid between them, strongly fastened on either
side, so as to present a swinging hammock about six feet in length. This
left at either end shafts about six feet long. Two mules or horses, of
about the same size were selected as carriers. The ends of these shafts
were attached to saddles, on each of the animals. Thus the patient was
borne by a gentle, swinging motion, over the roughest paths.

In four days they reached Gaunt's camp. The whole united party set out for
the lovely region to which we have before alluded, known as the Great
Park. Here they found beautiful scenery, game in abundance, a delicious
climate, rich pasturage for their animals, but no beavers. Other trapping
parties had just preceded them, and emptied all the streams of their furs.
For a week or two they wandered far and wide, setting their traps in vain.
At length Kit Carson, weary of such profitless pursuits, took two chosen
companions with him, and with the hearty good wishes of Mr. Gaunt and the
remaining trappers, set out on an expedition on his own account.

He plunged directly into the very heart of the mountains, where game not
being abundant he would be less likely to be annoyed by the savages. His
experience and sagacity guided him safely and successfully. For several
months these three men wandered about among these lonely streams, which
even the Indian rarely visited. They found beaver in abundance, and
loading down their animals with the well packed furs, set out on their
perilous journey home. It was necessary for them to pass over miles of
open prairie, where Indian bands were ever found pursuing buffalo, deer
and other game. It would seem that a miracle only could preserve them from
attack, and they were too few in numbers for a persistent defence.

The sagacity of Kit Carson, however, triumphed over all the obstacles he
had to encounter. He traversed the forest and the prairie undiscovered,
and reached Taos with all his animals and their precious freight. Here he
found furs in great demand. Traders were there from various parts of the
States, ready to purchase his supply at the highest prices. Kit Carson was
abundantly rewarded for all his toil, and for a mountain trapper, might be
deemed rich. His two companions speedily squandered their earnings in all
kinds of extravagant and senseless revelry. Mr. Carson, having perhaps
learned wisdom from past experience, judiciously invested the sums he had

Mr. Carson had now very decidedly stepped out from the ranks of
vagabondage, in which so many of the reckless trappers were wandering, and
had entered the more congenial association with intelligent and respected
men. There was at that time at Taos, a gentleman by the name of Lee. He
had the title of Captain, having been formerly an officer in the United
States army. He was then a partner in the firm of Bent and Vrain,
merchants of renown in the fur trade. This firm, in the eager pursuit for
furs, had dispatched Captain Lee to these remote frontiers in New Mexico.

Bands of energetic trappers were penetrating streams and valleys, over
distances thousands of miles in extent. Many of the Indians also, seeking
lucrative trade with the white men, had purchased steel traps and had
become quite successful in the capture of beavers. Captain Lee had
obtained a large number of mules. These he was to load with packs,
containing such goods as he thought would be the most eagerly sought for
by the trappers. Then with a cavalcade of perhaps forty or fifty mules,
horses for his party to ride, and spare horses to meet any accidental
loss, he was to set out on a long tour of hundreds of miles, climbing the
mountains, threading the valleys, crossing the prairies in search of these
widely wandering bands.

In exchange for his goods he received furs; and the mules returned with
their freightage of very rich treasure. This was in the latter part of
October, 1832. Captain Lee became acquainted with Kit Carson, and
immediately appreciated his unusual excellencies as a companion in an
enterprise so arduous and perilous, as that in which he was engaged. He
made him so liberal an offer to join his company, that Mr. Carson promptly
accepted it.

There is a narrow mule-path which has been traversed for ages, between New
Mexico and California. The mules and the Indians ever travel it in single
file. It was then known by the name of The Old Spanish Trail.

As merchants, not trappers, they marched, without any delay, down White
river, forded Green river, and struck across the country to Windy river.
Ascending its windings, they reached the camp of Mr. Robidoux, who, with
twenty men in his employ, was there setting his traps. They had scarcely
arrived at the encampment, when snow began to fall, and an early winter
seemed to be setting in. It was deemed expedient for the united party to
establish winter quarters there. They erected very comfortable lodges, of
buffalo skins, quite impervious to wind and rain, and made everything snug
for a mountain home. They had food in abundance, ample materials for
making and repairing their clothing, and when gathered around their bright
and warm camp-fires seemed to be in want of nothing.

Attached to Mr. Robidoux's company there was an Indian of great strength
and agility, in whom much confidence was reposed. He had become very
expert with the rifle, and had shrewdly studied all the white man's modes
of attack and defence. Horses were in this remote region very valuable.
They could not easily be obtained, and were indispensable to transport the
furs. They were worth two hundred dollars each.

This Indian, one night, selected six of the fleetest horses, and mounting
one and leading the rest, with his stolen property, disappeared over the
trackless waste. It was a sum total loss of twelve hundred dollars. But
the immediate pecuniary loss was not all, for the horses could not easily
be replaced, and without them all the movements of the trapping party were
greatly crippled. Mr. Robidoux, knowing Kit Carson's reputation for
sagacity and courage, immediately applied to him to pursue the Indian. It
was just one of those difficult and hazardous enterprises which was
congenial to the venturous spirit of Carson.

There was a friendly tribe of Indians in the vicinity, in which there was
a young warrior whose chivalric spirit had won the confidence and regard
of Carson. This young man was easily induced to join him in the chase. But
a short time was required for preparation. Grasping their rifles, and
taking their blankets, they each mounted a fine horse and set out in
pursuit of the fugitive, who had several hours the start of them. The wary
thief had so successfully concealed the direction of his flight that it
took them some time to discover his trail. Having at length found it, they
set off, at the highest speed which they felt that their animals could
endure. Over soft ground, the marks left by six horses, running in one
compact band, could be without difficulty followed. But at times the
nature of the soil was such that but a very indistinct imprint of their
footprints was left.

As the thief, in his flight, conscious that he might be overtaken, would
make no difference between day and night, it was necessary that his
pursuers should also press on without allowing darkness to delay them.
This added greatly to the difficulty of following the trail. But the
sagacity of Carson and his intelligent Indian comrade triumphed over all
these obstacles. For one hundred miles they followed the fugitive with
unerring precision. But now they encountered a serious calamity.

This singular race was down the valley of the Green river. The Indian's
horse suddenly gave out completely. He could go no farther. Nothing
remained for Carson but to relinquish the pursuit, and slowly to return
with the dismounted Indian, or to continue the chase alone. Carson could
not endure the thought of failure. His pride of character led him ever to
resolve to accomplish whatever he should undertake. He seems not at all to
have thought of the peril he would encounter in grappling with the savage
alone. The Indian was of herculean size and strength, and of wonderful
agility. He was well armed, and thoroughly understood the use of his
rifle. His bravery had already given him renown, and it was certain that
under the circumstances he would fight with the utmost desperation.

Kit Carson, on the other hand, was slender and almost boyish in stature.
In a conflict with the burly savage it would be a David meeting a Goliath.

It was a peculiarity of Mr. Carson's mind, that his decisions were
instantaneous. He never lost any time in deliberation; but whatever the
emergency, he seemed instinctively to know at the moment, exactly the best
thing to be done. The most mature subsequent deliberation invariably
proved the wisdom of the course he had adopted. This was said to have been
a marked peculiarity in the mind of Napoleon I. However great the
complication of affairs, however immense the results at issue, his mind at
a single flash discerned the proper measures to be adopted; and without
the slightest agitation the decision was pushed into execution.

Carson looked for a moment upon his unhorsed comrade, uttered no words of
lamentation, bade him good bye, wished him a successful return, and pushed
forward on his truly heroic enterprise. Thirty miles farther he rode alone
through the wilderness, carefully husbanding his horse's strength,
allowing him occasional moments of rest, and not unfrequently relieving
him of his burden as he ran along by his side. Though Mr. Carson was, as
we have said, very fragile in form, his sinews seemed tireless as if
wrought of steel.

At length, just as he was rounding a small eminence on the open prairie,
he caught sight of the Indian with his stolen cavalcade, not an eighth of
a mile before him. He was mounted on one of the most powerful of the
steeds, moving leisurely along, leading the rest. There chanced to be two
or three trees not far from the savage. The moment he caught sight of
Carson, his keen eye discerned who his foe was. Instantly he leaped from
his horse, rifle in hand, and rushed at his highest speed for the trees.
Could he but reach that covert, Carson's fate was sealed beyond any
possibility of escape. Sheltered by the trunk of the tree, he could take
deliberate aim at his foe, exposed on the open prairie within half rifle

Carson comprehended the peril of his position. He sprang from his horse,
unslung his rifle, took calm and sure aim, and just at the moment when the
Indian was reaching his covert, the sharp report was heard, the bullet
whistled through the air, the Indian gave one convulsive bound and fell
dead upon the sod. The savage had already cocked his rifle. As he fell the
piece was discharged, and the bullet intended for Carson's heart, whizzed
harmlessly through the air. Such scenes were of constant occurrence in
this wild mountaineer life. They produced no lasting impression. The
shooting of a bear, a buffalo or an Indian seemed about alike eventful.
These pioneers being entirely beyond the protection of law, were compelled
to be a law to themselves.

Mr. Carson collected the horses, who were all very weary, and quietly
commenced his return home. He did not urge the animals at all, allowed
them to feed abundantly on the rich prairie, and after a few days'
journey, modestly entered the camp with his recaptured animals all in
good condition. This was another of those victories which Carson was
continually winning, and which were giving him increased renown.

A few days after his return to the encampment, two or three wandering
trappers entered their lodges, and informed them that a numerous party
were encamped on Snake river, about fifteen days' journey from them. This
party was in the employ of two men quite distinguished in the fur trade,
Messrs. Fitzpatrick and Bridger. Snake river is one of the tributaries of
Green river, or rather flowing from the western declivities of the Rocky
mountains, it first enters Bear river, then Green river, then the Colorado
river, down whose current it flows a distance of more than a thousand
miles into the gulf of California.

The encampment at Snake river was five or six hundred miles almost due
north from Taos. West of the Rocky mountains the climate is much more mild
than in the same latitudes east of those gigantic ridges. Though it was
mid-winter, and though many snow-storms were to be encountered, Mr. Lee
decided to set out immediately on that journey, doubting not that he could
readily dispose of his remaining goods to Messrs. Fitzpatrick and Bridger.

The execution of this enterprise would require a very laborious march;
but still one not fraught with much danger from the severity of the cold.
Though there were often treeless prairies, whose bleak expanse they must
traverse, all the streams, even the smallest, were fringed with forests.
Suitable precaution would enable them every night to obtain the shelter of
some one of these groves. They were almost certain during the day to
obtain all the game they would need. A couple of hours' work with their
axes, would enable them to rear a sufficient shelter for the night. With
an immense fire roaring, and crackling, and throwing out its genial warmth
in front of their camp, they could, wrapped in their furs and with their
feet to the fire, enjoy all the comfort which the pioneers of the
wilderness could desire. No matter how dismally the wintry storm might
wail through the tree-tops, no matter how fiercely the smothering,
drifting snow-storm might sweep the prairie, they, in their warm and
illuminated cabins, could bid defiance alike to gale and drift. Their
hardy animals, ever accustomed to unsheltered life in winter as well as
summer, knew well how to find the grass beneath the snow, or to browse
upon the succulent foliage.

The journey, though it proved very toilsome, was successfully
accomplished. Captain Lee, with Carson, and their accompanying band,
having reached the Snake river encampment, readily sold all his goods,
taking his pay in beaver skins. With his rich purchase packed upon the
backs of his horses, he returned to Taos. As there was nothing in Captain
Lee's journey home to require the services of so important a man as Mr.
Carson, the latter decided to remain and unite himself with the trappers.

The party was large, the beavers were scarce, and after the lapse of a
month Mr. Carson decided that the prospect of a rich remuneration in the
distribution of their furs, was not encouraging. He therefore arranged an
expedition on his own account. His popularity as a man and his reputation
as a trapper were such that every man in the party was ready to join him.
He selected three of the best men, and crossing the main ridge of the
Rocky mountains, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles, reached
the Laramie river, a stream which flowed into the north fork of the

The warm airs of spring were now beginning to breathe through these
valleys. On the Laramie and its tributaries, Carson and his companions
continued trapping through the whole summer. They were successful beyond
their highest expectations. As they were to carry their furs for sale to
Taos, which was on the west side of the mountains, they set out, laden
with their goods, to cross the wide and rocky range. It was slow work
threading these defiles, and it required a journey of several days.

One afternoon having travelled for hours through a very dreary and barren
ravine, in which they had found no game, they halted two hours before
sunset. Carson, while his two companions were arranging the camp, set off
with his rifle in pursuit of supper. He had wandered about a mile from the
camp, when he came upon the fresh tracks of some elk. Following their
trail for a little distance, he soon discovered a small herd of the
beautiful animals grazing upon a hill-side, just on the edge of a grove.
Moving with great care, circuitously he entered upon the covert of the
trees, crept up within rifle range, selected the largest and fattest of
the herd, and at the report of the rifle, the animal stood for a moment
shivering as if struck by paralysis, and then dropped dead.

Carson was more than usually elated by his success. The party were all
hungry. The region was extremely wild and barren, and there was great
danger that they would have to go supperless to bed. Scarcely had the echo
of his rifle shot died away, when Carson heard a terrific roar, directly
behind him. Instantly turning his head, he saw two enormous grizzly bears,
coming down upon him at full speed, and at the distance of but a few rods.

The grizzly bear is a larger animal and far more ferocious, than the
black bear. A bullet seems to prick rather than to maim him, and he will
attack the hunter with the most desperate and persevering fierceness.
Carson was helpless. He had discharged his rifle. The brutes were close
upon him, and there were two of them. They could outrun him. His fate
seemed sealed.

For once, Kit Carson was frightened; but not so much so as in the
slightest degree to lose his self-possession. With a lightning glance, his
eye swept the grove, in search of a tree into whose branches he might
climb. He saw one at a little distance, and rushed towards it, pursued by
both of the monsters growling and gnashing their teeth. With wonderful
agility, he sprang and caught a lower branch, and drew himself up into the
tree, just in time to escape the blow which one of the bears struck at him
with his terrific claws. But he had by no means obtained a place of
safety. He had been compelled to drop his rifle in his flight. The grizzly
bear can climb a tree, far more easily than can a man. He was too far
distant from the camp to hope for aid from that quarter. Again it seemed
that a dreadful death was inevitable.

The bears hesitated for a moment, growling and showing their claws and
their white teeth. Quick as thought Carson cut and trimmed from the tree a
stout cudgel, which would neither break nor bend. Soon, one of the
bears commenced climbing the tree. The nose of the bear is very tender,
and is the only point vulnerable to blows.


Cudgel in hand, Carson took his stand upon one of the branches, and as
soon as the bear's head came within reach, assailed him with such a storm
of blows, that he dropped howling to the ground. The other then made the
attempt to climb the tree, and encountered the same fate. The blows which
the sinewy arm of Carson had inflicted, evidently gave the animals
terrible pain. They filled the forest with their howlings, and endeavored
to bury their snouts beneath the sod. For some time they lingered around
the tree, looking wistfully at their prey, as if loth to leave it. But
they did not venture to incur a repetition of the chastisement they had
already received. At length, with almost a ludicrous aspect of
disconsolateness, they slowly retired into the forest.

Carson waited until assured that they had entirely withdrawn. He then
descended the tree, reloaded his rifle, and repairing to the spot where he
had shot the elk, found that it had already been devoured by wolves. This
adventure had occupied many dreadful hours. It was not until the morning
dawned, that Carson found his way back to his anxious companions in the
camp. He often said that never in his life, had he been exposed to greater
peril, than on this occasion.


The Rendezvous.

    Fair in the Wilderness.--The Encampment.--Dispersion of the
    Trappers.--Hostility of the Blackfeet.--Camp on the Big Snake
    River.--The Blackfeet Marauders.--The Pursuit.--The Calumet.--The
    Battle.--Kit Carson wounded.--The Rencontre with Shunan.--The
    Defeat and Humiliation of Shunan.--Remarkable Modesty of
    Carson.--Testimony to Mr. Carson's Virtues.

In the morning the party fortunately found, in one of their traps, a
beaver, upon whose not very palatable flesh they breakfasted. The tail of
a beaver when well cooked, is esteemed quite a delicacy. But one tail
would not furnish sufficient food for three men. Fifteen days passed away
before Kit Carson's little band was reunited with the larger company of
Messrs. Fitzpatrick and Bridger. A rendezvous had been appointed at a spot
on Green river, which afforded great attractions for an encampment.

In some unexplained way intelligence had been conveyed, through the
wilderness, to the widely dispersed trappers, that a Fair for trading,
would be held at a very commodious and well-known spot on the
above-mentioned stream. There was here a green, smooth, expanded meadow;
the pasturage was rich; a clear mountain stream rippled through it,
fringed by noble forest trees. The vicinity afforded an abundance of game.
Here they reared their camps and built their roaring fires. Band after
band of trappers and traders came in with loud huzzas. Within a few days
between two and three hundred men were assembled there, with five or six
hundred horses or mules.

On one of the gorgeous days of the Indian summer, the encampment presented
a spectacle of beauty which even to these rude men was enchanting. There
was the distant, encircling outline of the Rocky mountains, many of the
snow-capped peaks piercing the clouds. Scattered through the groves, which
were free from underbrush, and whose surface was carpeted with the tufted
grass, were seen the huts of the mountaineers in every variety of the
picturesque, and even of the grotesque. Some were formed of the well
tanned robes of the buffalo; some of boughs, twigs and bark; some of
massive logs. Before all these huts, fires were burning at all times of
the day, and food was being cooked and devoured by these ever-hungry men.
Haunches of venison, prairie chickens, and trout from the stream, were
emitting their savory odors, as they were turned on their spits before
the glowing embers.

The cattle, not even tethered, were grazing over the fertile plain. It was
indeed a wild, weird-like, semi-barbaric Fair which was thus held in the
very heart of the wilderness. Men of many nationalities were present, in
every variety of grotesque costume; and not a few Indians were there, with
scarcely any costume at all. For nearly two months the Fair continued,
with comings and goings, while hill and plain often resounded with

At length the festival was dissolved, and the mountaineers, breaking up
into smaller bands, separated. The traders, with their horses loaded down
with the furs, returned to the marts of civilization. The trappers again
directed their steps to the solitudes of the remoter streams.

Kit Carson joined a party of fifty men, to explore the highest tributaries
of the Missouri river. The region was occupied by a numerous band of
warlike Indians, called Blackfeet. Many of the warriors had obtained
rifles. The itinerant trader could not refrain from furnishing the Indians
with guns and ammunition, at the exorbitant prices which the savages were
ready to pay. It shows the superiority of the white men, that fifty of
them ventured to enter upon these plains and into these defiles, where
thousands of these well-armed warriors were watching for their

The enterprise proved more bold than successful. The trappers found the
Indians so vigilant and hostile, that it was necessary to protect
themselves by an intrenched camp. They had to adopt the most wearisome
precautions to protect their animals, never allowing them to graze beyond
rifle distance from the camp, unless under a strong guard. Matters grew
daily more and more desperate. The Indians seemed to be gathering from
great distances, so as almost to surround the encampment. If any small
party wandered a mile, to examine their traps, they were pretty sure to
find the traps stolen, and to be fired upon from ambush. This state of
affairs at length constrained them to quit the country. Like an army,
exposed hourly to an attack from its foes, this heroic band of fifty men
commenced its march in military array, watching with an eagle eye, knowing
not but that at any moment hundreds of strongly mounted, well-armed
savages might come rushing down upon them. They could indulge in no rest,
till they got beyond the territory of the Blackfeet.

A march of one or two hundred miles brought them to the banks of the Big
Snake river. It was the month of November. In those northern latitudes
winter was setting in with much severity. The hill-tops were covered with
snow; the streams were coated with ice; freezing blasts from the mountains
swept the bleak plains and the narrow defiles. It was necessary to go into
winter quarters for a couple of months. But there was no discomfort in

They selected a snug valley having a southern exposure, with a northern
barrier of hills, and in the midst of a wide-spread grove which fringed a
pure mountain stream. There were fifty men. Every man belonged to the
working class. Every man was skilled in the trades of hunting, trapping,
wigwam-building, cooking, and tailoring. A few hours' work reared their
cosey huts. Fuel was cheap and abundant. The broadcloth for their clothing
was already woven on the backs of buffaloes, bears, deer and wolves. Their
own nimble hands speedily formed them into garments impervious to wind and
cold. They had laid in quite a store of game, which the cold weather
preserved, and there was enough more within their reach. And fortunately
for them all, nature's law of prohibition, had effectually banished from
the whole region all intoxicating drinks. Where there is no whiskey there
is rarely any quarrel. The pure mountain stream supplied them with their
health-giving beverage.

In a few days everything was cosey and comfortable around them. During
the months of December and January, and until the middle of February,
while wintry blasts swept the hills, warmth, abundance and friendliness
reigned in these sheltered, cheerful huts in a Rocky Mountain valley.
There was one exciting event which disturbed the serenity of this winter

A band of Blackfeet Indians had cautiously dogged their footsteps,
watching for an opportunity to stampede their horses. One very dark night,
a number of these savages, supported by quite a numerous band of warriors,
crept, like wolves, into the grazing ground of the horses, and succeeded
in seizing eighteen of them, with which they made off rapidly towards
their own country. The loss was not discovered until morning. After a few
moments' deliberation it was decided that the valuable property must be
recovered if possible, and the Indians chastised for such insolence.

The unanimous voice called upon Kit Carson to lead the enterprise, and to
select his men. He took eleven. In a few minutes they were all mounted; a
blanket their only baggage; their rifles and ammunition their only stores.
The ground was covered with snow. These veteran mountaineers knew well
when and how to spare their horses for a continuous pursuit.

The Indians being more numerous, having horses to lead, and with their
steeds somewhat jaded with the long journey from their own country, could
not travel as fast as their pursuers were able to do with their fresh
animals. Still the savages had so much the start that it required fifty
miles of sharp riding before they were overtaken. Fortunately for the
pursuers, there had been recently a heavy fall of snow, so that the
Indians were under the necessity of breaking a path. Their party was so
large that the white men were furnished with a clearly marked,
well-trodden trail. This toil through the snow, seems quite to have
exhausted the strength of the horses of the Indians. They had been
compelled to stop at noonday to refresh the animals. A spot had been
selected on a hill-side, where the wind had blown away the snow, and where
the horses found, for grazing, an abundance of succulent dried grass.

Suddenly, and probably not a little to their consternation, the twelve
trappers, rounding an eminence on the full trot, appeared before them.
Carson halted his troop to reconnoitre; for his foes were strongly posted
and far outnumbered him. The savages, seeing the impossibility of
immediately gathering and mounting their horses for flight, cunningly
sent a flag of truce to solicit a parley. According to their custom, this
flag consisted of one of their warriors advancing entirely unarmed,
half-way to the opposing band. There he stopped, and folding his arms,
waited for some one of the other party similarly weaponless, to come
forward to confer with him.

These savage thieves manifested a degree of intelligence in their cunning,
which was hardly to have been expected of them. Through their interpreter
they assumed an air of perfect innocence, affecting great surprise that
the horses belonged to the trappers, saying that they supposed that they
had been robbing their hereditary foes, the Snake Indians.

"Nothing would induce us," said these barbarian diplomatists, "to commit
any depredations upon our friends the white men."

Such barefaced falsehood did not, for a moment, deceive Kit Carson. But it
was needful for him to move with great caution. The number of the Indians,
their position, their weapons, and the nature of the ground upon which
they had met, rendered the result of a battle very doubtful. It would not
do for Carson to manifest the slightest trepidation, or the least doubt of
his ability to recover the stolen property, and to chastise the marauders.

After some pretty severe questioning, he suggested that since they were
friends, they should all meet in council unarmed, and smoke the calumet of
peace. There are generally some points of honor, which will bind the most
abandoned men. Such was the smoking of the pipe of peace with the savages.
A large fire was built. The two parties met around it. The calumet was
lighted, and passed around to each person present. Every one of the
savages first puffed two whiffs, and the white men then did the same. This
was the solemn pledge that there should be no treachery.

The council then commenced. Several of the Indian warriors made long and
wordy speeches, with many protestations of friendship, but carefully
avoiding any offer to restore the stolen animals. Mr. Carson listened
patiently and made no response, until they had talked themselves out. He
then simply replied, that he was very happy to learn that the Indians were
friendly in their feelings toward the whites, and that the taking of the
animals was a mistake. The trappers would therefore overlook the affair,
and peacefully return home with the restored horses.

The Indian orators again began to chatter, branching off upon various
points irrelevant to the question at issue. But Mr. Carson was in no mood
to be drawn into a profitless palaver. To these eloquent speeches he made
no response, but simply demanded the return of the horses.

The Indians began to bluster, to talk loud and to grow insolent. But Mr.
Carson never allowed himself to lose his temper. A man in a passion seldom
acts wisely. With calm persistence he said, "I can listen to no overtures
of peace, until our horses are restored." Still the Indians hesitated to
provoke a battle in which some of their warriors would undoubtedly fall.
At length they sent out and brought in five of the poorest and most
exhausted of the horses, saying that these were all that they could or
would restore.

The trappers accepted this as a declaration of war. In a body they retired
to seize their rifles and to submit the question to the arbitrament of
battle. The savages also, with tumultuous howlings, rushed to grasp their
guns. The battle immediately commenced, each party seeking the shelter of
trees. But for the dread in which the savages stood of the powers of the
white men, the advantages would have been in their favor ten to one. There
were unerring marksmen on both sides. No one could expose himself to the
aim of either party without almost certain death. Kit Carson and one of
his companions, by the name of Markhead, were the foremost of the band of
trappers, and they stood behind trees not far from each other. As Carson
was watching the movements of a burly savage, who was endeavoring to get a
shot at him, he saw another savage taking deliberate aim, from his
concealment, at Markhead.

With the rapidity of thought Carson wheeled around, and at the same
instant the bullet from his rifle pierced the heart of the savage and he
fell dead. But there was another report, almost simultaneous with that
from Carson's gun. A bullet whizzed through the air, touched the bark of
the tree, behind which nearly the whole of Carson's body was concealed,
and severed one of the sinews of his shoulder, shattering a portion of the
bone. The blood gushed freely from the wound, and Carson fell, almost
fainting, to the ground. With much difficulty his friends succeeded in
bearing him off from the field, and in their rough kindness ministered to
his wants.

This loss of Carson's guidance and arm was irreparable and fatal to the
trappers. Still they continued the battle valiantly, holding the Indians
at bay until night came. The night was bitter cold. The trappers could not
light any fire, for it would surely guide the Indians to their retreat,
and present them as fair targets to the bullets of the savages.

Disappointed as these bold men were, they had the consolation of feeling
that the wound of their leader had not passed unavenged. They were sure
that several of the Indians had been killed and many wounded. Though they
did not doubt that the Indians would still fight desperately in defence,
they did not fear that they would venture to pursue and to attack the
trappers where they could choose their own ground. The trappers therefore,
bearing as tenderly as possible their wounded leader, commenced their
return to the camp which they reached in safety. The savages, as it
afterward appeared, fled as rapidly as possible in the other direction.

The adventure added to the reputation of Kit Carson. All admitted that it
was to save the life of a comrade that he had imperilled his own. And no
one doubted that, but for his wound, his sagacity would have triumphed
over the savages, and that he would have brought back all the horses. It
was immediately decided, in general council, that another expedition of
thirty men, under Captain Bridger, should pursue and chastise the thieves.
This well armed party vigorously followed the Indian trail for several
days. But the savages had fled so rapidly, into distant and unknown parts,
that they could not be overtaken. The trappers returned disappointed to
their camp.

Spring was returning with its milder breezes and its warmer sun. The time
for the spring hunt had commenced. There were no hostile Indians in the
vicinity to disturb the trappers. Success, surpassing their most sanguine
expectations, attended their efforts. Every morning the trappers came in
from their various directions laden with furs. All were elated with their
extraordinary prosperity. There is the spring hunting and the fall
hunting. But there is a period in midsummer when the fur is valueless or
cannot easily be taken. Game was then abundant, camping was a luxury. This
was the time selected by the traders for their Fairs in the wilderness.
Here, as we have mentioned, there was exchange of the commodities needed
in mountaineer-life, for the furs the trappers had taken during the
autumn, winter and spring. There was at this time another rendezvous on
Green river, where there was to be a renewal of the scenes of the past

Kit Carson very speedily recovered from his wounds. His perfect health and
temperate habits caused a cure, which seemed almost miraculous. As we have
mentioned, these mountaineers were beyond the limits of the laws. There
was no governmental protection whatever. Every man was compelled to be his
own protector, filling the threefold office of judge, jury and

The incident we are about to record would have been highly immoral in any
well-ordered community where law was recognized and could be enforced. And
yet the same act occurring in the savage wilderness may have merited the
high commendation which it universally received.

There was a fellow at the rendezvous, as the Fair among the mountains was
called, known as captain Shunan. He was of unknown nationality, of very
powerful frame, a bully and a braggadocio. Totally devoid of principle,
and conscious of his muscular superiority, he was ever swaggering through
the camp, dealing blows and provoking quarrels. He was universally
detested and also feared. Every one in the camp desired to see him

One day Shunan was particularly offensive. That morning he had engaged in
two fights, and had knocked down and flogged both of the men whom he had
assailed. The traders had brought whiskey to the rendezvous, and probably
whiskey was at the bottom of these troubles. Mr. Carson was quietly
talking with some of his friends, in one part of the extended encampment,
when the swaggering bully came along seeking to provoke another fight.
"These Americans," said he, "are all cowards; they are all women. I am
going into the bush to cut some rods and I'll switch every one of them."

Kit Carson immediately stepped forward in his calm, unimpassioned way,
and with his soft and almost feminine voice said:

"Captain Shunan, I am an American and one of the smallest and weakest of
them all. We have no disposition to quarrel with any one. But this conduct
can no longer be endured. If it is continued, I shall be under the
necessity of shooting you."

There was almost a magic power in Kit Carson's calmness. He had a piercing
eye, before whose glance many would quail. There was an indescribable
something in his soft words, which indicated that they came from a
lion-like heart. The whole company of trappers looked on in perfect
silence, curious to see what would be the result of this bold movement.

Shunan at first, the herculean bully, looked down upon his fragile
opponent, with much of the contempt with which Goliath contemplated David.
But apparently that glance showed him that he had encountered no ordinary
foe. The reputation also of Kit Carson, as an able and fearless man
extended through the whole encampment. There was a moment of perfect
silence, Shunan not uttering one word in reply. He then turned upon his
heel and walked rapidly across the plain towards his camp. Carson and the
mountaineers understood perfectly what this meant. He had gone to seize
his rifle, mount his horse, and shoot Kit Carson for defying him.

Carson also turned his steps towards his own lodge. He took a loaded
pistol, bestrode his horse, and saw Shunan riding down towards him rifle
in hand. All this had occupied but a few minutes. Still it had arrested
the attention of nearly the whole encampment. It was well known that when
Carson and Shunan should meet on the hostile field, there was to be no
vulgar rough and tussle fight, but a decisive conflict which would settle
forever the question, whether the one or the other was to be master. The
common law of the wilderness demanded only, that the parties should be
left to settle the question in their own way.

Kit Carson always rode a magnificent horse. He bestrode his steed as if he
were a part of the animal, and seemed as unembarrassed in his movements
when in the saddle, as when on the floor of his tent. Rapidly he rode down
upon Shunan until the heads of their horses nearly touched. Calmly he
inquired, as if it were one of the most ordinary occurrences of life.

"Am I the person you are looking for?" The treacherous bully answered,
"No," hoping thus, in some degree, to throw his opponent off his guard;
but at the same instant, he brought his rifle to his shoulder with the
muzzle not four feet from the heart of his intended victim. The life of
Carson depended upon the fraction of a moment. We call him a lucky man; we
should rather say, he was a wise man prepared for every emergency. His
pistol was in his hand, cocked and primed. Quick as a flash, it was
raised, not at the heart, but at the right arm of the insolent bully, whom
he would bring to order.

So simultaneous was the discharge of both weapons, that but one report was
heard. But Carson's bullet entered upon its mission probably half a second
before the ball of Shunan left the rifle. Shunan's wrist was shattered, as
the bullet struck it; and from the curvature of the arm the ball passed
through a second time above the elbow. The sudden shock caused the rifle
to tilt a little upwards and thus saved the hero's life. Carson's face was
severely burned by the powder, and the ball glanced over the top of his
head, just cutting through the skin. The bully's rifle dropped from his
hand. He had received a terrible and an utterly disabling wound. He had
fought his last battle. No surgery could ever heal those fractured bones
so as to put that arm again in fighting trim. The wretch had sought the
life of Carson; but Carson had sought only to subdue the tyrant.

Shunan was thoroughly humbled, and became as docile as a child. They took
him to his tent, and treated him with all the rough nursing which trappers
in the wilderness could bestow. The shattered bones of course could never
recover their former strength. The weakest of those upon whom he formerly
trampled, could now chastise him, should he assume any of his former
insolent airs. The tyrant became docile as a child, and the whole camp
regarded Carson as its benefactor.

It is worthy of special notice, that Mr. Carson was not at all elated by
his victory. He never boasted of it. He never alluded to it, but with a
saddened countenance. Whenever the subject was referred to, he always
expressed his heartfelt regret, that it had been needful to resort to such
severe measures to preserve the good order of the camp.

In the life of John Charles Fremont we find the following reference to Mr.
Carson and to this adventure:

"Christopher Carson is a remarkably peaceable and quiet man, temperate in
his habits, and strictly moral in his deportment." In a letter written
from California in 1847, introducing Carson as the bearer of dispatches to
the government, Col. Fremont says:

"'With me Carson and Truth, mean the same thing. He is always the
same,--gallant and disinterested.'

"He is kind-hearted and averse to all quarrelsome and turbulent scenes,
and has never been engaged in any mere personal broils or encounters,
except on one single occasion, which he sometimes modestly describes to
his friends. The narrative is fully confirmed by an eye-witness, of whose
presence at the time he was not aware, and whose account he has probably
never seen."

Another who knew him well, writes, in corroborative testimony:

"The name of Christopher Carson has been familiarly known for nearly a
quarter of a century. From its association with the names of great
explorers and military men, it is now spread throughout the civilized
world. It has been generally conceded, that no small share of the benefits
derived from these explorations, was due to the sagacity, skill,
experience, advice and labor of Christopher Carson. His sober habits,
strict honor, and great regard for truth, have endeared him to all who can
call him friend; and among such may be enumerated, names belonging to some
of the most distinguished men whose deeds are recorded on the pages of
American history.

"A few years ago, the writer of this first met Christopher Carson. It
needed neither a second introduction, nor the assistance of a friendly
panegyric, to enable him to discover, in Christopher Carson, those traits
of manhood which are esteemed by the great and good to be the
distinguishing ornaments of character. This acquaintance ripened into a
friendship of the purest stamp. Since then the writer has been the
intimate friend and companion of Christopher Carson at his home, in the
wild scenes of the chase, on the war trail, and upon the field of battle.

"Christopher Carson physically, is small in stature, but of compact
framework. He has a large and finely developed head, a twinkling grey eye,
and hair of a sandy color which he wears combed back. His education having
been much neglected in his youth, he is deficient in theoretical learning.
By natural abilities, however, he has greatly compensated for this defect.
He speaks the French and Spanish languages fluently, besides being a
perfect master of several Indian dialects. In Indian customs, their
manners, habits, and the groundwork of their conduct, no man on the
American Continent is better skilled."


War with the Blackfeet Indians.

    Unsuccessful Trapping.--Disastrous March to Fort Hall.--The Feast
    upon Horse-flesh.--The Hunting Expedition.--Its Rare
    Attractions.--Dogged by the Blackfeet.--Safe Arrival at the
    Fort.--All their Animals Stolen by the Indians.--Expedition to
    the Blackfeet Country.--Winter Quarters with the Friendly
    Indians.--Sufferings of the Animals.--Return to the Blackfeet
    Country.--Battle with the Indians.--Incidents of the Battle.

At the close of the summer months the rendezvous was broken up, and all
parties scattered; the traders to their homes, within the precincts of
civilization, and the trappers to the savage wilderness. Kit Carson joined
a party bound to the upper waters of the Yellowstone river. This is a
large stream with many tributaries, all of which take their rise amidst
the eastern ravines of the Rocky mountains, pouring their united flood
into the Missouri at Fort William. From the head waters of the river, to
the point where it enters the Missouri, there is a distance of five or six
hundred miles, of perhaps as wild a country as can be found on this

Here, amidst these rugged defiles, the mountaineers set their traps. But
they caught no beaver. They then struck across the country, in a southeast
direction, a distance of one or two hundred miles, to the Big Horn river,
another large tributary of the Yellowstone. Here again they were
unsuccessful. They then journeyed westward, several hundred miles, to what
are called the Three Forks of the Missouri river. Here again they set
their traps in vain. Our disappointed but persistent trappers turned their
footsteps south, and having travelled about two hundred miles, passing
through one of the defiles of the Rocky mountains, they reached the head
waters of the Big Snake river. This is a large stream, some six hundred
miles in length, which pours its flood through the Columbia river into the
Pacific Ocean.

Here Kit Carson met a Mr. McCoy, formerly a trader in the employment of
the Hudson Bay Company, but who was now out on a trapping excursion. With
the consent of his companions, Kit Carson and five others withdrew from
the larger party to join their fortunes with Mr. McCoy. A rumor had
reached them that abundance of beaver were to be found at a distance of
about one hundred and fifty miles, on Mary's river, since called the
Humboldt. Here again they were doomed to disappointment. They followed
down this stream, trapping in vain, for a hundred miles, till its waters
were lost in what is called the Great Basin.

These hardy adventurers now directed their steps north, and after
traversing a country, most of it wild and barren, about two hundred miles
in extent, again reached the banks of the Snake river, midway between its
source and its mouth. Here the company divided. Mr. McCoy set out to trap
down the stream, about one hundred and fifty miles, to Fort Walla Walla,
which was near the junction of this river with the Columbia.

Kit Carson and his band followed up the stream about the same distance,
trapping most of the way. They, however, encountered continued
disappointments. The region they traversed was dreary and barren in the
extreme. Often there was no game to be found. They were brought to the
very verge of starvation. For some time they subsisted upon nutritious
roots, which they had adopted the precaution to take with them. When these
were exhausted they were reduced to the greatest straits, and could be
only saved from starving by bleeding the mules and drinking the warm
blood. This is a resource which could not be repeated. The animals were
also very poor, though enough of dry and scanty grass was found to keep
them alive.

The whole party became frightfully emaciated, and they began to fear that
they should be compelled to kill some of their mules. But the men
themselves had become so weak it was with difficulty they could carry
their rifles. The loss of any of these useful beasts of burden would
terribly enhance their peril. It might compel them to abandon, not only
their traps, but also their rifles and their ammunition. In this dreadful
emergency they came across a band of Indians who proved to be friendly.
But the savages were also in an extremely destitute condition.

Fortunately for both parties there was water at hand, and the withered
herbage furnished the animals with sustenance. The Indians had a young
horse which was respectably fat. It required all of Kit Carson's
diplomatic skill and knowledge of the Indian character to induce the
Indians to part with the animal. It was not until after much maneuvering
that they succeeded in obtaining him. He was immediately killed and eaten.
To the hungry men, the horse flesh afforded as delicious a feast as
epicure ever found in the most costly viands.

At last Kit Carson and his men reached Fort Hall. Here they were, of
course, kindly received by their countrymen, and all their wants were
immediately and abundantly supplied. This fort was then mainly occupied as
a trading post. As the men were neither sick nor wounded, but only half
starved, they found themselves in a few days quite recruited, and ready
again for any adventure of enterprise and hardship. During their sojourn
at the fort the men were not idle. They had their saddles, clothing and
moccasins to repair. All their outfit was in the condition of a ship which
has just weathered a storm with loss of anchor, sails, spars, and leaking

Having finished their repairs the party, in good condition, with their
mules, set out on a hunting expedition. They were told that in a fertile
region, about fifty miles south of them, large herds of buffaloes had
recently been seen. The weather was delightful. They were all in good
spirits. It was trapper philosophy never to anticipate evil,--never to
borrow any trouble. At a rapid pace they marched through a pleasant,
luxuriant well watered region, entirely forgetful of past sufferings.

On the evening of the second day, as they were emerging from a forest,
there was opened before them a scene of remarkable beauty and grandeur.
Far as the eye could extend towards the south, east and west an undulating
prairie spread, with its wilderness of flowers of every gorgeous hue,
waving in the evening breeze like the gently heaving ocean. The sun was
just setting in a cloudless sky, illuminating with extraordinary
brilliance the enchanting scene. Here and there in the distance of the
boundless plain, a few clumps of trees were scattered, as if nature had
arranged them with the special purpose of decorating the Eden-like
landscape. But that which cheered the hunters more than all the other
aspects of sublimity and loveliness, were the immense herds, grazing on
the apparently limitless prairie. Many of these herds numbered thousands
and yet they appeared but like little spots scattered over the vast
expanse. The hunter had found his paradise; for there were other varieties
of game in that luxuriant pasture, elk, deer, antelopes and there was room
enough for them all.

Our adventurers immediately selected a spot for their camp on the edge of
the forest, near a bubbling spring. With great alacrity they reared their
hut, and arranged all the apparatus for camping, with which they were
abundantly supplied. Poles were cut from the forest, and planted in the
open sunny prairie, with ropes of hide stretched upon them. Upon these
ropes they were to suspend strips of buffalo meat to be cured by drying in
the sun. Every thing was prepared over night for the commencement of
operations in the early dawn. The best marksmen were selected for hunters.
They were to go into the prairie, shoot the game and bring it in. The rest
were detailed to cut up the meat and hang it on the ropes to dry. After
it was sufficiently dried, they were to take it down, and pack it closely
in bundles for transportation.

These were halcyon days, and abundant was the harvest of game which these
bold reapers were gathering. During the days thus spent, in shooting the
game and curing the meat, the hunters lived upon the fat of the land. The
tongue and liver of the buffalo, and the peculiar fat, found along the
spine are deemed great delicacies.

In a few days a sufficient supply had been obtained to load all their pack
animals. So heavily were they laden that their homeward journey was very
slow. They were followed by a foe, of whom they had not the slightest
conception. A band of Blackfeet Indians had discerned them from the far
distance with their keen eyes. Keeping carefully concealed, they watched
every movement of the unconscious hunters. When the party commenced its
return they dogged their steps; in the darkness creeping near their
encampment at night, watching for an opportunity to stampede their animals
and to rob them of their treasure. Though Kit Carson had no suspicion that
any savages were on his trail, his constitutional caution baffled all
their cunning.

The fort was reached in safety, and the abundance which they brought was
hailed with rejoicing. The party of hunters encamped just outside the
pickets of the fort, where there was good pasturage for their animals, and
where they could watch them. The inmates of the fort had fenced in a large
field or barnyard which they called a _corral_. Into this yard at night
they drove their animals, from the prairie, and placed a guard over them.
At any time a band of savages might, like an apparition, come shrieking
down upon the animals to bear them away in the terrors of a stampede, or
might silently, in midnight gloom, steal towards them and lead them
noiselessly away one by one.

Two or three nights after the arrival of the hunters at the fort, all the
horses and mules were driven, as usual, into the enclosure; the bars were
put up and a sentinel was placed on duty. It so happened that the
sentinel, that night, was an inexperienced hand; a new comer, not familiar
with the customs of the fort. He was stationed, at a slight distance from
the enclosure, where he could watch all its approaches, and give the alarm
should any band of Indians appear. He supposed that a large, well mounted
band alone would attempt the hazardous enterprise of capturing the

The latter part of the night, just before the dawn of the morning, he saw
two men advance, without any disguise, deliberately let down the bars and
drive out the horses and mules. He supposed them to be two of the inmates
of the fort or some of his own companions, who were authorized to take out
the herd to graze upon the prairie. Concluding therefore that he was
relieved from duty, he returned to his camp and was soon fast asleep.

In the morning the horses and mules had all disappeared. They were nowhere
to be seen. There was hurrying to and fro, for a solution of the mystery,
when a short investigation revealed the true state of affairs. The cunning
Indians had come in a strong party, well mounted, and were concealed at a
short distance. Two of their number had gone forward and driven out the
animals. The horses and mules are always ready to rush along with any herd
leading them.

Placing the stolen animals between the van and the rear guards of their
steeds, the Indians moved cautiously until they had gained some little
distance from the fort. Then giving the rein to their powerful charges,
with the fleetness of the wind they fled, over the hills and through the
valleys, to their wild and distant fastnesses.

Not a single animal was left for the garrison or the trappers upon which
to give chase. The Indians, who have but little sense of right and wrong,
might well exult in their achievement. Without the loss of a single man,
and even without receiving a wound, they had taken from beneath the very
walls of the fort, its whole herd, leaving the garrison powerless to
pursue. The loss was very severe to the trappers. Without their horses and
mules, they could do nothing. It only remained for them to wait for the
return of Mr. McCoy and his party, who had promised, after visiting Fort
Walla Walla, to rendezvous at Fort Hall.

The Blackfeet Indians were at that time, forty years ago, the terror of
the whole region. It is said that the warlike tribe numbered thirty
thousand souls. Of course there could not have been any very accurate
estimate of the population. Not long after this the small-pox prevailed,
with awful fatality. One half of the tribe perished. The dead were left
unburied, as the savages endeavored to flee in all directions from the
fearful pestilence.

A month passed slowly away before Mr. McCoy with his party reached the
fort. Very opportunely he brought a fresh supply of animals; having
purchased a number at Fort Walla Walla. The united band returned to the
Green river. Here Mr. Carson joined a party of one hundred trappers who,
in their strength, were to plunge into the very heart of the Blackfeet
country, on the Yellowstone river.

Arriving at the region where they were to set their traps, they divided
into two companies of fifty men each. It was necessary to be always armed
and on the alert, ready to repel any sudden attack. The duty of one
company was to explore the streams in search of beavers and game for food.
The other party guarded the camp, dressed, rudely tanned, and packed the
skins, and cooked the food. The trappers were so strong, that they not
only went where they pleased, but they were eager to come in contact with
the savages, that they might pay off old scores. They were, however, not
molested. Not an Indian crossed their path. They subsequently learned, as
a solution of the mystery, that at that time the small-pox was making
dreadful ravages. Thousands were dying and it was feared the whole tribe
would perish. The Indians in their terror, had secluded themselves in the
remotest solitudes.

Winter was now approaching, with its freezing gales, its drifting snows,
its icy streams. It was necessary to find winter quarters for two or three
months. The region, drained by the Yellowstone and its tributaries,
extends over thousands of square miles. In one portion of the territory
there was a mountainous region inhabited by the Crow Indians. As they were
the deadly foe of the Blackfeet tribe, they were disposed to cultivate
friendly relations with the whites, and to enter into an alliance with

Quite a large band of the Crow Indians joined the trappers, and conducted
them to one of their most sheltered valleys. Here they reared their huts
and lodges. The mountain ridges broke the force of the cold north wind.
They had water and fuel in abundance. Game was not scarce and they had
also an ample supply of dried meat in store. But as the season advanced,
the cold became increasingly severe, until at last it was more intense
than the trappers had ever before experienced. Still the trappers, with
their rousing fires and abundant clothing, found no difficulty in keeping

But the animals suffered terribly. Snow covered the valleys to such a
depth, that they could obtain no food by grazing. It was with the utmost
difficulty they kept the animals alive. They cut down cottonwood trees and
thawed the bark and small branches by their fires. This bark was then torn
into shreds, sufficiently small for the animal to chew. The rough outside
bark was thrown aside, and the tender inner bark, which comes next the
body of the tree, was carefully peeled off for food. There is sufficient
nutrition in this barely to keep the animals alive for a time, but they
can by no means thrive under it.

Quite a company of Indians reared their lodges in the same valley with the
trappers. In the pleasant days they vied with each other, in various
athletic games, and particularly in their skill in hunting. Both parties
were very happy in this truly paternal intercourse. There were no
quarrels, for there was no whiskey there. One barrel of intoxicating drink
would have changed kindly greetings into hateful brawls, and would have
crimsoned many knives. Independently of the anxiety, the trappers felt for
their suffering animals, the six or eight weeks of wintry cold passed away
very pleasantly. The returning sun of spring poured its warmth into the
sheltered valley, melting the snows and releasing the streams. With
wonderful rapidity the swelling bud gave place to leaves and blossoms. The
green grass sprang up on the mounds, the animals rejoiced and began even
to prance in their new-found vigor. The winter had gone and the time for
the singing of birds had come.

The trappers were in need of certain supplies, before they could
advantageously set out on their spring hunting tour. They therefore sent
two of their party to obtain these supplies at Fort Laramie, which was one
or two hundred miles south of them, on the Platte river. They did not
return. They were never heard from. It is probable that they fell into the
hands of hostile Indians, who killed them and took possession of all their
effects. This was another of those innumerable tragedies, ever occurring
in this wicked world, which are only recorded in God's book of

The trappers, after waiting for their companions for some time, were
compelled to enter upon their spring hunt without them. They continued for
some time setting their traps on the Yellowstone river, and then struck
over to what is called the Twenty five yard river. After spending a few
weeks there, they pushed on to the upper waters of the Missouri, where
those waters flow through the most rugged ravines of the Rocky mountains.
Here again they were in the vicinity of their Blackfeet foes. And they
learned, through some wanderer in the wilderness, that the main village of
that tribe was at the distance of but a few miles from them.

In the previous collisions between the Blackfeet and the trappers, the
Indians had gained decidedly the advantage. They had at one time driven
the trappers entirely out of their country, having stolen their traps, and
effectually prevented them from taking furs. In the conflict, in which Kit
Carson was wounded, the Indians had retired, though with loss, still
victorious, carrying with them all their booty of stolen horses. Most
humiliating of all, they had, without firing a shot, captured all the
animals of the garrison and the trappers at Fort Hall. And it was most
probable that they had robbed and murdered the two men who had been sent
to fort Laramie.

The trappers were all burning to avenge these wrongs. The thievish
Blackfeet had made these assaults upon them entirely unprovoked. The
savages were greatly elated with their victories, and it was deemed
essential that they should be so thoroughly chastised, that they would no
longer molest those who were hunting and trapping within those wild
solitudes. The whole party of trappers struck the trail which led to the
Indian encampment, and cautiously followed it, until they were within ten
or fifteen miles of their foes.

The company, numbering a hundred men, with one or two hundred horses and
mules, presented a very imposing cavalcade. A council of war was held, and
Kit Carson, with five picked men was sent forward to reconnoitre the
position of the village, and to decide upon the best points of attack. The
rest of the company retired to some little distance from the trail, where
they concealed themselves, obliterating, as far as possible, their tracks.
It was deemed necessary to proceed with the utmost caution. The Blackfeet
composed one of the most numerous and ferocious of all the Indian tribes.
Their warriors were numbered by thousands. It was certain that they would
fight, and that a high degree of intelligence would guide them in the

After the lapse of a few hours, Kit Carson returned from his perilous
adventure. He had attained an eminence from which he could look down upon
the valleys of the foe, which was in one part of an extended plain in the
midst of hills. He reported that there was some great agitation in the
camp. There were runnings to and fro, driving in the animals from their
pasturage, saddling and packing them, and sundry other preparations
indicative of a general alarm. It might be that their braves were entering
on the war-path. It might be that they were preparing for flight. It was
not improbable that, through their scouts, they had gained intimation of
the approach of the trappers. A council of war was held. Promptly it was
decided to send out forty-three men, under the leadership of Kit Carson to
give the Blackfeet battle. The remaining men, fifty-five in number, were
left, under Mr. Fontenelle, to discharge the responsible duty of guarding
the animals and the equipage. They were also to move slowly on, as a
reserve force, who could rush to the aid of the advanced force, or upon
which those men could fall back in case of disaster.

They soon reached the village. It was pretty evident that they were
expected. But the savages had only bows and arrows. This gave the
assailants an immense advantage. They had both rifles and pistols. Taking
a circuitous route, they approached the village from an unexpected
quarter. They were scarcely seen before a discharge of their guns struck
down ten of the bravest warriors. But at that time it was an encampment
rather than a village, occupied mainly by fighting men, who greatly
outnumbered their assailants. The Indians fought heroically. Each man
instantly sprang behind some tree where, protected, he could watch his
opportunity and keep his foe at a distance. When a rifle was once
discharged, it took some time to reload; but the Indians could throw a
dozen arrows in a minute, with sinewy arms, with sure aim and with deadly

The battle was mainly in the forest, neither party being willing to
encounter the exposure of the open plain. The Indians, behind the trees,
watched their opportunity. As there were several Indians to one white man,
and the trappers were necessarily dispersed, seeking the protection of the
trees, the Indians, as soon as a rifle was discharged, would dodge from
tree to tree, ever drawing nearer to their assailants. For three hours
this battle continued. The ammunition of the trappers was nearly
exhausted, and they remitted the energy of their fire, awaiting the
arrival of their companions. The Indians comprehended the state of things
and sagaciously resolved to make a simultaneous charge, before the
trappers should have opportunity to replenish their powder-horns and

There was a distance of many rods between the two contending parties. The
ground was mainly level, and there was no underbrush to intercept the
view. The trappers saw and understood the movement for the charge. Every
man was prepared, with his loaded rifle and revolver. On came the Indians,
dodging, as they could, from tree to tree, but with an impetuosity of
onset which excited the admiration of their opponents. The forest
resounded with their shrill war-whoop. Carson requested every man to
withhold his fire until sure of his aim. "Let not a single shot," said he,
"be lost." It was a fearful moment, for upon that moment depended the life
of every man in the party. Should the outnumbering Indians succeed in
passing the narrow intervening space, the trappers would inevitably be
overpowered and from the spear-heads of the savages, forty-three scalps
would be waved as the banners of their victory.

There was no simultaneous discharge but a rattling fire, occupying perhaps
sixty seconds. Forty-three Indian warriors were struck by the bullets.
Eleven fell instantly dead; the others were more or less crippled by
their wounds. Still the brave Indians rushed on, when suddenly there was
opened upon them another deadly fire from the revolvers. This was a
reinforcement of the strength of their foes which the savages had not
anticipated. They hesitated, staggered as if smitten by a heavy blow, and
then slowly and sullenly retreated, until they were far beyond pistol
range. Some of the mountaineers were on horseback to carry swift aid to
any imperilled comrade. Kit Carson was also mounted and with his eagle eye
was watching every act of his little army.

One of his aids, a mountaineer by the name of Cotton, was thrown from his
horse, which slipped upon some smooth stones, and fell upon his rider,
fastening him helpless to the ground. Six Indians near by rushed, with
exultant yells and gleaming tomahawks, for his scalp. Kit Carson, calling
on two or three to follow him, sprang from his horse and with the speed of
an antelope was by the side of his fallen comrade. The crack of his rifle
was instantly heard; the foremost of the savages gave one convulsive
bound, uttered a death cry and fell weltering in his blood. The rest
immediately fled, but before they could reach a place of safety three more
were struck down by the balls of those who had followed Carson. Two only
of the six savages escaped.


Encampments and Battles.

    The Renewal of the Battle.--Peculiarities of the Fight.--The
    Rout.--Encampment in the Indian Village.--Number of Trappers
    among the Mountains.--The New Rendezvous.--Picturesque Scene of
    the Encampment.--The Missionary and the Nobleman.--Brown's
    Hole.--The Navajoes.--Kit Carson Purveyor at the Fort.--Trapping
    at the Black Hills.--Again upon the Yellowstone.--Pleasant Winter
    Quarters.--Signs of the Indians.--Severe Conflict.--Reappearance
    of the Indians.--Their utter Discomfiture.

There was now a brief lull in the battle. The Indians had not left the
field and by no means acknowledged a defeat. With very considerable
military skill they selected a new position for the renewal of the fight,
on broken ground among a chaos of rocks, about one hundred and fifty yards
from the line of their opponents. They were evidently aware of the strong
reserve approaching to join the trappers. With this reserve it was
necessary that the trappers should make the attack, for they could not
venture to move on their way leaving so powerful a hostile army behind

The Indians manifested very considerable powers of reasoning, and no
little strategic skill. They took the defensive, and chose a position from
which it would be almost impossible to dislodge them. The trappers awaited
the arrival of their comrades, and obtained a fresh supply of ammunition.
The whole united band prepared for a renewal of the battle. Thus far not
one of the trappers had been wounded, excepting Cotton, who was severely
bruised by the fall of his horse.

About an half hour elapsed while these movements were taking place with
each party. The trappers all dismounted and then, in a long line, with
cheers advanced in Indian fashion, from tree to tree, from rock to rock,
every moment drawing nearer to their determined foes. The great battle,
the Waterloo conflict, now commenced. Small as were the numbers engaged,
limited as was the field of action, there was perhaps never a battle in
which more personal courage was displayed, or in which more skill and
endurance was called into requisition. Not unfrequently a trapper would
occupy one side of a large boulder and an Indian warrior the other, each
watching for the life of his adversary, while every fibre of mental and
muscular power were roused to activity. Neither could leave his covert
without certain death, and one or the other must inevitably fall.

For an hour or two this dreadful conflict continued. Gradually the
superiority of the white man, and the vast advantage which the rifle gave,
began to be manifest. The Indians were slowly driven back, from tree to
rock, from rock to tree. Many of their warriors had fallen in death. The
ground was crimsoned with their blood. The disheartened Indians began to
waver, then to retreat; and then as the trappers made a simultaneous
charge, and the rifle bullets whistled around them, to run in complete
rout, scattering in all directions. It was in vain to attempt any pursuit.
The women and children of the Blackfeet village were on an eminence, about
a mile from their homes, awaiting the issue of the conflict. They also
instantly disappeared, seeking refuge no one knew where.

In this battle a large number of the Indians were killed or wounded, we
know not how many. But three of the trappers were killed, though many
others received wounds more or less severe. The Indian village was located
on very fine camping-ground. They left nothing behind them. An Indian
woman needs no Saratoga trunk for her wardrobe. Their comfortable wigwams
were left standing. Here Fontenelle allowed his party to rest for several
days. The dead were to be buried, the wounded to be nursed, damages to be
repaired, and a new supply of provisions to be obtained. Free from all
fear of molestation, the trappers explored the region for miles around,
and were very successful in taking beavers.

It is estimated that the various parties of trappers, then wandering among
the mountains, numbered at least six hundred men. While our trappers were
thus encamped, elated with their victory over the Indians, and still more
exultant over their daily success in trapping and hunting, one day an
express rode into the camp, and informed them that the rendezvous was to
be held, that year, upon the Mud river, a small stream flowing
circuitously from the south into Green river. The party, having a large
stock of beaver on hand, set out to cross the main ridge of the Rocky
mountains, to dispose of their furs at the rendezvous. It required a
journey of eight days. As the trapping party, nearly a hundred in number,
all mounted on gayly caparisoned steeds, and leading one or two hundred
pack horses, entered the valley over the distant eminences, there were two
scenes presented to the eye, each peculiar in many aspects of sublimity
and beauty.

It was midsummer. The smooth meadow upon which the encampment was held was
rich, verdant and blooming, a beautiful stream flowing along its western
border. A fine grove fringed the stream as far as the eye could reach up
and down. Not a tree, stump, or stone was to be seen upon the smooth,
lawn-like expanse. Its edge, near the grove, was lined with a great
variety of lodges, constructed of skins or bark, or of forest boughs.
Horses and mules in great numbers were feeding on the rich herbage, while
groups of trappers, Canadians, Frenchmen, Americans and Indians, were
scattered around, some cooking at their fires, some engaged in eager
traffic, and some amusing themselves in athletic sports. It was a peaceful
scene, where, so far as the eye could discern, man's fraternity was
combined with nature's loveliness to make this a happy world. Such was the
spectacle presented to the trappers as they descended into the valley.

On the other hand, the trappers themselves contributed a very important
addition to the picturesqueness of the view. Half a mile from the
encampment, in the northeast, the land rose in a gentle, gradual swell,
smooth, verdant and treeless, perhaps to the height of a hundred and fifty
feet. Down this declivity they were descending, with their horses and
their pack mules, in a long line of single file. They were way-worn
pilgrims, and the grotesqueness of their attire, and their unshaven,
uncut, and almost uncombed locks, added to their weird-like aspect.

Here the party met with two gentlemen, such as were rarely, perhaps never
before, seen on such an occasion. One was a Christian missionary, Father
De Smidt, who, in obedience to the Saviour's commission, "Go ye into all
the world and preach my Gospel to every creature," had abandoned the
comforts of civilization, to cast in his lot with the savages, that he
might teach them that religion of the Bible which would redeem the world
by leading all men to repentance, to faith in an atoning Saviour, and to
endeavor "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God."

The other stranger was an English nobleman, a gentleman of high character,
of refinement and culture. In his ancestral home he had heard of the
sublimities of the wilderness; the wide-spread prairies; the gloomy
forests; the solitary lakes. He had heard of savage men, numbering tens of
thousands in their tribes, almost as wild, as devoid of human traits as
were the buffaloes whom they pursued with whoop and halloo over the
plains. Curiosity, a very rational and praiseworthy curiosity, had lured
him into these remote realms, that he might behold the wondrous works of
God, and that he might study the condition of his brother man without the

Kit Carson was, by a natural instinct, drawn into association with this
refined English gentleman. They could each appreciate the other. They soon
became acquainted, and a warm friendship sprang up between them. Mr.
Carson subsequently wrote, in reference to Sir William Stuart:

"For the goodness of his heart and numerous rare qualities of his mind, he
will always be remembered by those of the mountaineers who had the honor
of his acquaintance."

The terms of the commendation show the virtues which Mr. Carson could
appreciate, and which he was accustomed to practice. Of the missionary,
Rev. Mr. De Smidt, it has been very truly written:

"Perhaps there never was a person, in the wilds of America, who became so
universally beloved, both by the white and red man. While in the mountains
he acted with untiring zeal for the good of all with whom he came into
contact. Wherever duty called him, there he was sure to be found, no
matter what the obstacles or dangers spread upon his path. He worked
during a long series of years in these dangerous localities, and when he
at length returned to civilization he left an indelible name behind him."

The Rendezvous continued for twenty days. It was a constant festival, like
the Olympic games of the Greeks, or the renowned Tournaments of more
modern days, with the exception that business was intimately blended with
pleasures. It at length broke up into small parties. Kit Carson, with
seven companions, followed down the Green river, to Brown's Hole; a narrow
but sunny and fertile valley about sixteen miles long. Here he found a
party of traders, who were on an excursion to a numerous and quite wealthy
band of Indians, called the Navajoes. They seemed to have attained a
degree of civilization considerably above that of any of the other tribes.
They had fixed abodes; had immense herds of sheep, horses and mules. They
had also attained, the art by a slow and tedious process, of weaving
admirable woolen blankets; thick, warm and strong. These blankets were
quite renowned throughout all that region, and brought a high price. Kit
Carson joined the traders in their expedition to the country of the

Here they purchased many of these blankets, and a large drove of strong,
fat mules. With these they crossed the mountains, to a distance of three
or four hundred miles, to a fort on the south fork of the Platte river. At
this place they disposed of their blankets and cattle to great advantage,
and Mr. Carson promptly returned to the companions he had left at Brown's
Hole. The traders undoubtedly received in payment the only currency of the
country, beaver skins. These they probably took with them to St. Louis
for ultimate sale. We know not how Mr. Carson invested his earnings. It is
very certain that he did not squander them in riotous living. Subsequent
events indicate that they were sent through the hands of the traders,
Messrs. Thompson and Sinclair, to the States, there to be deposited to his

The autumnal months had now passed away, and the blasts of approaching
winter warned the hunters that they must seek a refuge from its storms.

Mr. Carson had produced so favorable an impression upon the men at the
fort on the Platte river, that they sent him a very urgent invitation to
return, and take the very responsible position of steward or purveyor for
the garrison during the winter. They offered him such ample emolument that
he accepted their proposition, though many other parties were eager to
obtain his services. I cannot help remarking, in this connection, in
special reference to any of my young readers, that this is the true secret
of success in life. In whatever position you are, in whatever business you
are engaged, be as faithful and perfect as possible. Promotion and
prosperity are then almost sure.

The task which now devolved upon Mr. Carson was, with his rifle and such
aid as he might need, to supply all the animal food which twenty men might
require. He performed this duty, not only to the satisfaction of all, but
such was his energy, his skill, his spirit of self-sacrifice, his entire
devotion to his work, and the wonderful success which attended his
exertions, that he secured universal affection and esteem.

With the returning sun of spring, Mr. Carson, having well performed his
task, joined Mr. Bridger and four other trappers, to go to what were
called the Black Hills. This was a limited mountainous range, far away in
the north, extending a distance of about a hundred miles between the
Laramie and Sweetwater rivers. These streams were tributaries of the north
fork of the Platte. This region had perhaps never before been visited by
either trapper, or hunter. They found beavers in plenty, and their success
was excellent.

With well laden mules they again crossed the Rocky mountains to reunite
themselves with the main camp of the trappers on Green river. They trapped
on their way and continued success attended them. Thus enriched, they
accompanied the main party to a tributary of the Wind river, where the
annual Rendezvous was that year to be held. Here were renewed the usual
scenes of the trapper's great Fair which we have already described.

As the Rendezvous broke up, Mr. Carson joined a large party, and
recrossed the mountains to the Yellowstone, where they had already had so
many bloody encounters with the Blackfeet Indians. They trapped
successfully until the inclement weather forced them into winter quarters.
Nothing occurred of any moment, until mid-winter. Daily parties went out
for game and they always returned with an ample supply. In their snug
lodges, gathered around their blazing fires, telling stories of past
adventures, preparing clothing for the summer, feasting upon fat turkeys,
and the choicest cuts of buffalo-meat and venison, a few weeks passed very
pleasantly away. Being free from that most terrible of all earthly curses,
intoxicating drinks, there was no discord, and this little community of
mountaineers, in the solitudes of a Rocky mountain valley, were perhaps as
happy as any other equal community amidst the highest conveniences of

One winter's day a little band of hunters, in their pursuit of game, were
lured to a greater distance than usual from the camp. Their attention was
arrested by certain signs which indicated that a band of Indians had
passed by, and had endeavored carefully to conceal their trail. A close
scrutiny so confirmed this opinion that they hastily returned to the camp
with the declaration that savages were certainly prowling around watching
for an opportunity to attack them. They knew full well that the wary
Indians would never think of approaching their camp unless in overpowering
numbers. It was deemed expedient not to allow the foe any time to mature
their plans. A party of forty men was immediately fitted out, under the
command of Kit Carson, to go to the hidden trail and follow it till the
haunts of the Indians were discovered. The reputation of Mr. Carson was
such that unanimously he was invested with dictatorial powers. Everything
was left to the decision of his own good judgment.

With silent, moccasined tread the adventurers threaded their way over the
broken country, and through a dense forest, when suddenly they came upon a
band of Indians, manifestly on the war-path; painted, plumed and armed in
the highest style of their barbaric art. The savages, on catching sight of
the trappers, turned and fled with the utmost speed, without scattering.
The trappers pursued with equal swiftness of foot. They had no doubt that
there was a stronger band at some little distance, which the Indians were
retreating to join.

The supposition proved correct. A large number of warriors had assembled,
in a very good military position, and it was at once evident that they
intended to give battle. Though the majority of them had only arrows and
lances, many were armed with rifles. They were on a hill-side which was
quite steep, rugged with boulders, and with a heavy growth of gloomy firs
and pines. The field was admirably adapted for the Indian mode of warfare,
and the desperate warriors of the Blackfeet were foes not to be despised.

Kit Carson possessed the qualities essential to a military leader. He was
cautious as he was bold. He was very careful never unnecessarily to expose
the lives of his men. Very deliberately he reconnoitred the position, and
prepared for the battle. He had no doubt that, with what would be called a
gallant rush, he might drive the Indians from him and gain a brilliant
victory. But it would be attended with loss. By a slower process he was
sure of the result, while his men would be protected from death and
wounds. All of his men were armed with the best of rifles. They had a good
supply of ammunition. They could afford to load with heavy charges which
would throw the balls to the greatest possible distance. It was very
difficult for the Indians to obtain ammunition. They therefore found it
necessary to husband the little they had with great care. Consequently the
Indian's rifle, but lightly charged, would seldom throw a bullet more than
two-thirds the distance thrown by the rifle of the trapper.

Mr. Carson gave every man his position. They were all veterans in every
exigence of Indian warfare. Each man was capable of independent action.
They all knew the folly of throwing away a single shot. There was no
random firing. Each man was trained to seek sure protection behind rock,
stump or tree, and then to keep a vigilant watch, not only to guard
himself but his immediate comrades from the missiles of the foe. Slowly
the line of trappers was to advance upon the enemy, from point to point of
protection, making sure that every bullet should kill or wound. The
tactics of the battle secured the victory. The Indians fought with their
accustomed bravery. But one after another their warriors fell killed or

As the gloom of a winter's night settled down over this awful scene of
war, the savages retired in good order, across the ice of an arm of the
Yellowstone, to an island in the middle of the river. They had adopted the
precaution, unusual with them, of erecting here quite a strong fortress,
to which they could retreat in case of disaster. Thus situated, both
parties, wearied with the long conflict of the day, sought such repose as
night could give to men sleeping upon their arms.

The trappers knew not what scenes were transpiring in the Indian camp on
the island. As for themselves, they could only venture, with the utmost
caution, to kindle small fires to cook their supper. They then carefully
extinguished the embers, lest the flames should guide several hundred
warriors in a midnight attack.

Mr. Carson was not aware of the strength of the Indian fortifications on
the island. Not wishing to give them any time to strengthen their works,
with the earliest dawn he put his men in motion. They crossed the ice to
the island, where they found only silence and desolation. Not an Indian
was to be seen. In the night the savages had retreated, and were then
probably at a distance of leagues, no one could tell where. There were,
however, many indications left of the results of the battle. The interior
of the fort was quite crimsoned with fresh blood. A bloody trail led to a
hole which they had cut through the ice in the middle of the river, and
into which they had thrust the bodies of the slain. It was not their
intention that the trappers should know how many of their number had been
wounded or slain. Mr. Carson with his victorious associates returned to
the camp.

A council of war was held. It was generally supposed that the powerful
Blackfeet could bring five thousand warriors into the field. They were
very resolute men; having been abundantly successful heretofore, it was
not doubted they would strain every nerve to wipe out the disgrace of this
defeat. The trappers were confident that the savages would soon appear
again, with numbers which they would deem sufficient to annihilate the
white men. Guided by the wisdom of Kit Carson, the whole camp immediately
resolved itself into a military garrison. Intrenchments were thrown up to
guard every approach. Everything was cleared away, around the camp within
rifle range, behind which an Indian could secrete himself. The most trusty
men were appointed as sentinels.

About a mile from the camp there was an eminence, several hundred feet
high, whose summit commanded a fine view of the whole surrounding country.
Every day some one was sent to that hill to keep a constant lookout.

The wisdom of Mr. Carson's measures was soon apparent. One morning the
watch on the hill discerned, far away in the distance, a warlike band of
Indians approaching. He had no doubt that it was, as it proved to be, but
the advanced guard of the Indian army. He waved his signal to communicate
the intelligence to the camp, and immediately hastened down to join his
comrades. Every man sprang to arms and was at his post. Kit Carson had
anticipated everything and had attended to the most minute details.

With firm self-confident tread the savages came on, a thousand in number,
to crush by the weight of their onset, and to trample beneath their feet
sixty trappers. It was an appalling sight even for brave men to look upon.
They were all arrayed in their fantastic war costume, some on horseback
splendidly mounted, some on foot, many armed with rifles, and others with
bows, arrows, and lances which were very formidable weapons in the hands
of such stalwart and sinewy men.

They came in separate bands, of two or three hundred each, and took
position about a mile from the fort. As band after band came up, the
prairie and the adjacent hills resounded with their yells of defiance. In
the evening they held their war-dance, which the trappers well understood
to be the sure precursor of the battle on the next day. Their songs could
be distinctly heard in the camp, and as they danced, with hideous
contortions, in the gathering shades of night around their fires, it
seemed as though a band of demons had broken loose from Pandemonium.

With the first dawn of the morning, a large party of these warriors
approached the fort to reconnoitre. They were evidently astonished in
beholding the preparations which had been made to receive them. They could
not, from any direction, approach within an eighth of a mile, without
presenting their bodies a perfect target for the rifles of men who never
missed their aim. These cautious warriors did not venture within half a
mile of the fortress. But they were keen-eyed and sagacious men. They saw
that the trappers were effectually protected by their breastworks, and
that the fort could by no possibility be taken without enormous slaughter
on their own side. Indeed it was doubtful whether, armed as the white men
were, with rifles, revolvers and knives, the fort could be taken at any

In their impotent rage a few random shots were fired at the fort, but the
bullets did not reach their mark. The trappers threw away no lead. They
quietly awaited the attack, and were so confident of their ability to
defeat the Indians, that they were disappointed when they saw the
reconnoitring party commencing to retire. They shouted to them in terms of
derision, hoping to exasperate them into an attack. But the wary savages
were not thus to be drawn to certain death. They retired to their camp,
which as we have said was distant about a mile from the fort, but which
was in perfect view.

Here they evidently held a general council of war. There probably was some
diversity of opinion, as many speeches were made and the council was
protracted for several hours. There was manifestly no enthusiasm on the
occasion, and no exultant shouts were heard. At the conclusion of the
council, the whole band divided into two parties and, in divergent
directions, disappeared from view. After this the trappers were not again
disturbed by the Indians. Indeed they feared no molestation. No Indian
band would think of attacking a fortress which a thousand warriors had
declared impregnable.

As soon as the returning spring would permit, the trappers broke up their
encampment on the Yellowstone, and passing directly west through the very
heart of the Blackfeet country, planted their traps on the head waters of
the Missouri river. For three months they traversed many of the
tributaries of this most majestic of streams. They were moderately
successful, and in the early summer turned their steps south, crossing the
mountains to dispose of their furs at the Rendezvous, which was again held
on Green river. Here they remained in such social enjoyment as the great
festival could afford them, until the month of August, when the Rendezvous
was dissolved.


The Trapper's Elysium.

    Trapping on the Missouri.--Attacked by the Blackfeet.--The
    Battle.--Persevering Hostility of the Indians.--The Trappers
    driven from the Country.--Repair to the North Fork.--Cheerful
    Encampments.--Enchanting Scene.--Village of the Flatheads.--The
    Blessings of Peace.--Carson's Knowledge of Languages.--Pleasant
    Winter Quarters on the Big Snake River.--Successful
    Trapping.--Winter at Brown's Hole.--Trip to Fort Bent.--Peculiar
    Characters.--Williams and Mitchel.--Hunter at Fort
    Bent.--Marriage.--Visit to the States.

Upon the breaking up of the rendezvous at Green river, Kit Carson, with
five companions, directed his steps in a northwest course, about two
hundred miles to Fort Hall, on Snake river. He spent the autumnal months
trapping along the various streams in this region. They were very
successful on this tour, and at the close of the season returned to the
fort with a rich supply of furs. These forts were generally
trading-houses, well fortified and garrisoned, but not governmental
military posts.

Here Carson disposed of his furs to good advantage, and after remaining
there about a month he crossed the mountains with a large party of
trappers to the head waters of the Missouri, thus again entering the
country of the Blackfeet. They struck the Missouri river itself far up
among the mountains. They commenced setting their traps on this stream.
Slowly they followed up the banks, gathering in the morning what they had
taken through the night.

One morning a party of half a dozen trappers, who had gone about two miles
from the camp to examine their traps, encountered a band of Blackfeet
Indians, who fired upon them. The trappers immediately retreated with the
greatest rapidity. Though closely pursued by their swift-footed foes they
reached the camp in safety. It so happened, that near their camp there was
quite an extensive thicket of tall trees and dense underbrush. Kit Carson,
not knowing how numerous the Indians might be who were coming upon him,
directed the men as quickly as possible to conceal themselves and animals
in the thicket.

Scarcely had the order been executed when the Indians with hideous yells
came rushing towards the camp. But not a trapper or a horse was visible.
Nothing was found there but silence and solitude. Still they came rushing
on, shouting and brandishing their weapons, when suddenly and to their
great consternation, the reports of the rifles were heard and fourteen
bullets struck fourteen warriors. Several were killed outright, others
were seriously wounded. Before the savages had recovered from their
consternation the rifles were reloaded and every man was ready for another

The brave Blackfeet wavered for a moment, and then with unearthly yells,
made a simultaneous charge upon the thicket. Carson was in the midst of
his little band. His calm, soft voice was heard reassuring his men, as he

"Keep cool and fire as deliberately as if you were shooting at game."

There was another almost simultaneous discharge and every bullet struck a
warrior. The Indians, thus mercilessly handled, recoiled, and every one
sought refuge behind some trunk, rock or tree. They could see no foe,
while the trappers could find peep-holes through which they could watch
all the movements of the Indians. A shower of arrows was thrown into the
thicket, but none of the trappers were struck. The intermittent battle
continued the whole day. Several times the savages attempted to renew the
charge, but as often the same deadly volley was poured in upon them with
never-failing aim.

At length they attempted to set the thicket on fire, hoping thus to burn
out their foes. There was another and still larger body of trappers about
six miles below the point where this battle was raging. But the direction
of the wind was such, together with the dense forest and the broken
ground, that the report of the fire-arms was not heard.

It is probable that the Indians had knowledge of this band, and feared
that the larger party might come to the aid of their friends. Whatever may
have been the reason which influenced them, they suddenly abandoned the
contest and departed. As soon as Mr. Carson had satisfied himself that
they were effectually out of the way, he emerged from his retreat and
joined his friends down the river. His coolness and prudence had saved the
party. They lost not a man nor an animal.

But the Indians still hovered around in such energetic and persevering
hostility, that not a trapper could leave the camp without danger of
falling into an ambuscade. The Indians avoided any decisive conflict, but
their war-whoops and yells of defiance, like the howlings of wolves, could
be heard, by day and by night, in the forests all around them. Unless the
traps were carefully guarded, they were sure to be stolen. Under these
circumstances there was no possibility of trapping with any hope of
success. Once before the indomitable Indians had driven the trappers from
their country. And now again it was deemed necessary to withdraw from
their haunts.

To the trappers this was a very humiliating necessity. A council was held
and it was decided to abandon the region and to direct their steps about
two hundred miles, in a northeasterly direction, to the north fork of the
Missouri river. The journey was soon accomplished without adventure. The
trappers, far removed from their inveterate foes, vigorously commenced
operations. They had their central camp. In small parties they followed up
and down the majestic stream, and pursued the windings of the brooks
flowing into it. They generally went in parties of two or three.

Wherever night found them, whether with cloudless skies or raging storm,
it mattered not, the work of an hour with their hatchets, reared for them
a sheltering camp. Before it blazed the ever-cheerful, illuminating fire.
Rich viands of the choicest game smoked upon the embers, and the hunters,
reclining upon their couches of blankets or furs, exulted in the luxurious
indulgence of a hunter's life. With all the hardships to which one is
exposed in such adventures, there is a charm accompanying them which words
cannot easily describe. It warms the blood of one sitting upon the
carpeted floor in his well-furnished parlor to send his imagination back
to those scenes.

Men of little book culture, and with but slight acquaintance with the
elegancies of polished life, have often a high appreciation of the
beauties and the sublimities of nature. Think of such a man as Kit Carson,
with his native delicacy of mind; a delicacy which never allowed him to
use a profane word, to indulge in intoxicating drinks, to be guilty of an
impure action; a man who enjoyed, above all things else, the communings of
his own spirit with the silence, the solitude, the grandeur, with which
God has invested the illimitable wilderness; think of such a man in the
midst of such scenes as we are now describing.

It is the hour of midnight. His camp is in one of the wildest ravines of
the Rocky mountains. A dense and gloomy forest covers the hillsides. A
mountain torrent, with its voice of many waters, flows on its way but a
few yards beyond the open front of his camp. A brilliant fire illumines
the wild scene for a few rods around, while all beyond is impenetrable
darkness. His hardy mule, accustomed to all weathers, is browsing near by.
The floor of his camp, spread with buffalo robes, looks warm and inviting.
His two comrades are soundly asleep with their rifles on their arms, ready
at the slightest alarm to spring to their feet prepared for battle.

There is a raging storm wailing through the tree-tops. The howling of the
wolves is heard as, in fierce and hungry packs, they roam through these
uninhabited wilds. Carson, reclining upon his couch, in perfect health and
unfatigued, caresses the faithful dog, which clings to his side, as he
looks out upon the scene and listens to the storm. What is there which the
chambers of the Metropolitan hotel can afford, which the hardy mountaineer
would accept in exchange?

Slowly our party of trappers ascended the river, gathering many furs on
their way. It was an unexplored region, and they could never tell what
scene the next mile would open before them. One morning as they were
turning the majestic bend of a ravine, they came upon a beautiful little
meadow, where the mountains retired for nearly a quarter of a mile from
the stream, and where the waters of the river flowed gently in a smooth,
untroubled current. They were ascending the river which flowed down from
the south. A beautiful vista was opened before them of green valleys and
gentle treeless eminences, while far away in the distance rose towering

Upon this lovely meadow there was a large village of Flathead Indians.
Their conical lodges, constructed of skins, were scattered thickly around,
while the smoke of their fires curled gently through an opening in the top
of each lodge. Children were playing upon the greensward, shooting their
arrows, throwing their javelins, and engaged in sundry other barbaric
sports. A party of the Indians had just returned from a hunting expedition
laden with game. Warriors and women were scattered around in small groups,
discussing the events of the day and preparing for a great feast. Young
Indian girls, of graceful form, looked very attractive in their
picturesque attire of fringed buskined leggins and glittering beads.

Kit Carson at once recognized these Indians as his friends, the Flatheads.
They knew him and gave him and his comrades a cordial greeting. O, the
blessings of peace! How many are the woes of this world which are caused
by man's inhumanity to man. The trappers were led by their Indian friends,
with smiling faces and kind words, into their lodges, and shared with them
in a thanksgiving feast.

Mr. Carson was endowed with unusual facility in the acquisition of
languages. He could converse fluently in Spanish and French, and it was
stated that he also understood some ten Indian dialects. With the
Flatheads he was quite at home. After a few days, spent in this hospitable
village, it was deemed expedient to seek winter quarters. Several of the
chiefs accompanied them. They accordingly left the head waters of the
Missouri, and crossed the Rocky mountains in a southerly direction, about
two hundred miles, till they reached the Big Snake river. It will be
remembered that this stream, flowing from the western declivities of the
mountains, is the most important tributary of the Columbia river. Here the
winter passed very pleasantly away without any incident which calls for
record. Rather an unusual quantity of snow fell. But the trappers were
warmly housed, with ample clothing and abundant fuel.

Every pleasant day hunters left the camp, and usually returned well laden
with game. Thus the larder of the trappers was well provided for. An
anonymous writer speaking of these winter encampments, says:

"The winter seasons in the Rocky mountains are usually fearful and severe.
There snow-storms form mountains for themselves, filling up the passes for
weeks and rendering them impracticable either for man or beast.

"The scenery is indescribably grand, provided the beholder is well housed.
If the case be otherwise, and he is doomed to encounter these terrible
storms, his situation is dreadful in the extreme. Even during the summer
months the lofty peaks of this mighty chain of mountains are covered with
white caps of snow. It affords a contrast to the elements, of the grandest
conception, to stand in the shade of some verdant valley wiping the
perspiration from the brow, and at the same time to look upon a darkly
threatening storm-cloud powdering the heads of the hoary monster mountains
from its freight of flaky snow.

"So far these American giant mountains are unsurpassed by their Alpine
brothers of Europe. Not so in the glaciers. Throughout the great range
there are no glaciers to be found which can compare with those among the

In the spring the trappers scattered in small bands throughout that
region. They were in the territory of the Utah Indians, just north of the
Great Salt Lake. Kit Carson was well acquainted with them and they were
all his friends. The trappers, therefore, wandered at pleasure without
fear of molestation. Mr. Carson took but one trapper with him, with two or
three pack mules. They were very successful, and in a few weeks obtained
as many furs as their animals could carry.

With these they went to a trading post, not very far distant from them
called Fort Robidoux. Here their furs were disposed of to good advantage.
Mr. Carson, having judiciously invested his gains, organized another party
of five trappers, and traversed an unpeopled wilderness for a distance of
about two hundred miles until he reached the wild ravines and pathless
solitudes of Grand river. This stream, whose junction with the Green
river forms the Colorado, takes its rise on the western declivity of the
Rocky mountains, amidst its most wild and savage glens. Trapping down this
river with satisfactory success, late in the autumn he reached Green
river. Falling snows and piercing winds admonished him that the time had
come again to retire to winter quarters.

He repaired to Brown's Hole, the well known and beautiful valley which he
had often visited before. Here he passed an uneventful but pleasant
winter. With the earliest spring he again directed his footsteps to the
country of the Utahs in the remote north. He was successful in trapping,
and as the heat of summer came, he again turned his steps, with well laden
mules, to Fort Robidoux. Here he found, to his disappointment, that beaver
fur had greatly deteriorated in value. His skins would scarcely bring him
enough to pay for the trouble of taking them. This was caused mainly by
the use of silk instead of fur, throughout Europe and America, in the
manufacture of hats.

Kit Carson saw at a glance, that his favorite occupation was gone; that he
and the other trappers would be compelled to seek some other employment.
In company with five men of a decidedly higher order than the common run
of trappers, he struck for the head waters of Arkansas river. Following
this stream down along the immense defile which nature seems to have
opened for it through the Rocky mountains, they approached Fort Bent,
which is about one hundred and fifty miles east of that gigantic barrier.

Mr. Carson's companions on this trip, were some of them at least, very
peculiar characters,--very interesting specimens of the kind of men who
are drawn from the haunts of civilization to the wilderness. One was a
man, probably partially insane, who was known through all the Rocky
mountain region as "old Bill Williams." He had been a Methodist preacher
in Missouri. For some unknown reason he left the States and joined the
Indians, adopting their dress and manners. He was very familiar with the
Bible and had marvellous skill in the acquisition of languages. He would
spend but a short time with any tribe before he became quite familiar with
their speech. Though his conduct was often in strange contrast with the
teachings of that sacred book, he took much pleasure in telling the
Indians Bible stories. He was subsequently killed in some feud with the

Another of his companions, whose real or assumed name was Mitchel, had
abandoned his friends and joined the Comanche Indians. It is a much easier
step from the civilized man to the savage than from the savage to the
civilized. Mitchel, with his Indian costume, his plumed head-gear, his
Indian weapons, and his fluent Indian speech, could not be distinguished
from the savages around him. The Comanches adopted him into their tribe
and accepted him as one of the most prominent of their braves. Mitchel
said that his object was to discover a gold mine through their guidance,
which they reported was to be found amid the mountains of Northern Texas.
Disappointed in this endeavor, he joined the trappers and was cordially
welcomed by them as an experienced mountaineer, a man full of humor and
one who could tell a capital story.

When Kit Carson and his companions had arrived within a few days' journey
of the fort, Mitchel and a man by the name of New, contrary to the advice
of Carson, decided to remain behind, to enjoy themselves in a beautiful
country where they found abundance of game. A week after the safe arrival
of Mr. Carson and his party, these two men made their appearance in a
truly pitiable plight. They had encountered a party of Indian hunters who,
while sparing their lives, had robbed them of their arms, their ammunition
and even of every particle of their clothing. Of course they were kindly
received at the fort and all their wants supplied.

Fort Bent was a trading post; belonged to a company of merchants of whom
Messrs. Bent and Vrain, residing at the fort, were partners. Immediately
upon Mr. Carson's arrival there, he was so well known and his capabilities
so well understood, that he received an earnest application to take the
position of hunter for the fort. He accepted the office and filled it for
eight years with such skill and fidelity that never did one word of
disagreement pass between him and his employers. His duties were to supply
a camp of about forty men with all the animal food they needed.

When game was plenty, this was an easy task, but often wandering bands of
Indian hunters would sweep that whole region around rendering the labors
of Mr. Carson extremely difficult. For unfrequently he would wander from
sunrise to sunset over prairie and mountain, in pursuit of game; but
rarely did he return without a mule load. At times he extended his hunting
trips to a distance of fifty miles from the fort. During these eight years
thousands of buffalo, elk, antelope and deer, fell before his rifle,
besides a vast amount of smaller game.

The skill which he displayed, and the success which that skill secured,
excited the admiration alike of the red men and the white men. He was
universally known by the Indians, and was respected and beloved by them.
Fearless and alone he wandered over mountain and prairie, frequently
meeting bands of hunters, and warriors, and entering the lodges of the
savages, and sleeping in them without encountering any harm. They admired
his boldness, and an instinctive sense of honor led them not to maltreat
one who had ever proved their friend, and who trusted himself so
unreservedly in their power.

His familiarity with the Indian language enabled him to converse
familiarly with them. He was as much at home in the wilderness as the most
veteran hunters of their tribes. In the huts of the Arapahoes, Cheyennes,
Kiowas and Comanches he was always a welcome guest. They appreciated the
vast superiority of his intellect. Often groups of men, women and children
would linger around the central fire of the lodge till after midnight,
listening to his entertaining stories of adventure and peril.

One incident which occurred at this time, speaks volumes in reference to
Mr. Carson's character as a lover of peace, and is deserving of perpetual

The Sioux tribe of Indians who could bring a thousand warriors into the
field had invaded the hunting-grounds of the Comanches. Several skirmishes
had already taken place, in which the Comanches had been worsted. The
chiefs sent a deputation to Kit Carson, whom they regarded as a host in
himself, to come to their aid, and to take the leadership of one of their
bands. Carson promptly responded to their call. He met the Comanche chiefs
in council, and so represented to them the blessings of peace and the
horrors of war, that they consented to send a deputation, to effect if
possible, an amicable settlement of the difficulty.

We infer from the brief narrative that is given that Kit Carson was the
bearer of this Indian flag of truce. He was the friend of both parties. He
was alike regarded by both as eminent for his wisdom and his sense of
justice. He met the Sioux chiefs in council. After long deliberation, they
consented to retire from the Comanches' hunting-ground at the close of the
then season, and never to molest them more.

Carson returned to the Comanches with this announcement, and persuaded
them to accede to the terms. Thus a dreadful Indian war was averted.

Among some of these tribes Kit Carson found a beautiful and unusually
intelligent Indian girl, whom he married, and took to his home in the

It is the undisputed testimony of all who knew him, that he was a man of
unspotted purity of character in his domestic relations. By this wife, Mr.
Carson had one child; a daughter. Not long after the birth of this child,
the mother died. The father watched over the motherless infant with the
utmost tenderness. As she emerged from infancy to childhood he removed her
to St. Louis. Here he found the funds he had so carefully invested very
valuable to him. He was able liberally to provide for all her wants, to
give her as good an education as St. Louis could afford, and to introduce
her to the refining influences of polished society. She was subsequently
married and removed with her husband to California.

Sixteen years had now elapsed since Kit Carson left the log cabin of his
father, in the then wilds of Missouri, for the still wilder regions of
mountaineer life. Referring to this period, he says:

"During sixteen years my rifle furnished almost every particle of food
upon which I lived. For many consecutive years, I never slept under the
roof of a house, or gazed upon the face of a white woman."

He now, very naturally, began to long to visit the home of his childhood,
and to witness some of the scenes of progressive civilization, rumors of
which often reached him in the forest. Messrs. Bent and Vrain were in the
habit of sending once a year a train of wagons to St. Louis, to transport
their skins and to obtain fresh supplies. It was a journey of about six
hundred miles. There was a wagon trail, if we may so call it, leading
circuitously over the vast and almost treeless intervening plains. The
route led along the river valleys, following the windings of streams, and
conducting to fords near their head waters. Sometimes they came to swampy
regions, sometimes to deep gulleys, sometimes to desert plains. But
throughout all this wide expanse there were no mountain ranges to obstruct
their path.

It was in the spring of the year 1842, that Mr. Carson, as a gentleman
passenger, joined one of these caravans. The little daughter, of whom we
have spoken, was then six or seven years of age. It was one object of his
journey to place her at school, at St. Louis, where she could enjoy the
advantages of a refined and Christian education. We have no record of the
incidents of this journey, which was probably uneventful. The old Indian
trail had become quite a passable road for wagons.


Fremont's Expedition.

    Carson's Visit to his Childhood's Home.--On the
    Steamer.--Introduction to Fremont.--Object of Fremont's
    Expedition.--Joins the Expedition.--Organization of the
    Party.--The Encampment.--Enchanting View.--Fording the
    Kansas.--The Stormy Night.--The Boys on Guard.--The Alarm.--The
    Returning Trappers.--The Homeless Adventurer.--Three Indians Join
    the Party.--First Sight of the Buffaloes.--The Chase.

When the caravan, with which Kit Carson travelled as a passenger from Fort
Bent, arrived within the boundaries of Missouri, he left his companions
and, with his little daughter, turned aside to visit the home of his
childhood. He had, as we have mentioned, been absent from that home for
sixteen years. Time, death, and the progress of civilization had wrought,
in that region, what seemed to him fearful ravages. One of his biographers

"The scenes of his boyhood days he found to be magically changed. New
faces met him on all sides. The old log cabin where his father and mother
had resided, was deserted and its dilapidated walls were crumbling with
decay. The once happy inmates were scattered over the face of the earth,
while many of their voices were hushed in death. Kit Carson felt himself a
stranger in a strange land. The strong man wept. His soul could not brook
either the change or the ways of the people. While he failed not to
receive kindness and hospitality from the noble hearted Missourians,
nevertheless he had fully allayed his curiosity and, as soon as possible,
he bade adieu to these unpleasant recollections.

"He bent his steps towards St. Louis. In this city he remained ten days.
As it was the first time, since he had reached manhood, that he had viewed
a town of any magnitude, he was greatly interested. But ten days of
sight-seeing wearied him. He resolved to return to his mountain home,
where he could breathe the pure air of Heaven and where manners and
customs conformed to his wild life and were more congenial to his tastes.
He engaged a passage on the first steamboat which was bound up the
Missouri river."

Kit Carson was instinctively a student. In whatever situation he was
placed he was ever endeavoring to learn something new. He was also always
drawn, by constitutional taste and preference towards men of culture, and
high moral worth. On board the steamer, he found himself almost a perfect
stranger. Though a small man in frame, modest and unobtrusive, there was
something in his kindly handsome face and winning manners, which
invariably attracted attention. As he quietly wandered over the boat,
studying its machinery, the discipline of the crew and the faces of his
fellow passengers, he found himself irresistibly drawn towards one whose
countenance and dignified bearing indicated that he was decidedly above
most of those on board.

It is said that "the eagle eye, the forehead, the form, the movements, the
general features, the smile, the quiet dignity of the man, each and all
these attributes of his manhood had been carefully noted by the wary and
hardy mountaineer, and had not failed to awaken in his breast a feeling of
admiration and respect."

Kit Carson entered into conversation with this man. Immediately an
attachment sprang up between them, which grew increasingly strong through
many subsequent years. The new friend whom Carson had thus found was
Lieutenant John C. Fremont, of the United States corps of Topographical
Engineers. He had been commissioned by the Government to explore and
report upon the country between the frontiers of Missouri and the South
Pass in the Rocky mountains, on the line of the Kansas and Great Platte

Lieutenant Fremont had left Washington, and arrived at St. Louis on the
twenty-second of May 1842. Here he engaged a party of twenty-one men,
principally Creole and Canadian boatmen, who were familiar with Indian
life, having been long engaged in the service of the various fur
companies. In addition to these boatmen, Lieutenant Fremont had under his
charge, Henry Brandt, nineteen years of age, son of Colonel J.B. Brant, of
St. Louis, and Randolph Benton, a lively boy of twelve years, son of the
distinguished U.S. Senator from Missouri. These young men accompanied the
expedition for that development of mind and body which their parents hoped
the tour would give them.

With this party, Lieutenant Fremont was ascending the river four hundred
miles, to the mouth of the Kansas, from which point he was to take his
departure through the unexplored wilderness. We say unexplored, though
many portions of it had been visited by wandering bands of unlettered
trappers and hunters. Lieutenant Fremont had been disappointed in
obtaining the guide he had expected. Upon learning this fact, Mr. Carson
retired to a secluded part of the boat, sat down, and for some time seemed
lost in reverie. Then rising and approaching Lieutenant Fremont he
modestly said to him,

"Sir, I have been for some time in the mountains, and think I can guide
you to any point there you may wish to reach."

The office of a guide, through thousands of miles of untroden wilderness,
was a very responsible position. Mr. Carson was an entire stranger to
Lieutenant Fremont. But there was something in his bearing which inspired
confidence. After making a few inquiries of others, Mr. Carson was engaged
to act as guide with a salary of one hundred dollars a month.

The expedition commenced its march from near the mouth of the Kansas on
the 10th of June 1842. It followed along the banks of that stream, in a
westerly direction. The whole party consisted of twenty-eight souls. They
were well armed and were well mounted with the exception of eight men, who
drove as many carts. These carts were each drawn by two mules and were
packed with the stores of the party, their baggage and their instruments.
There were a number of loose horses in the train to supply the place of
any, which might be disabled by the way. There were also four oxen, which
were added as a contribution to their stock of provisions, one may well
imagine that so numerous a cavalcade, winding its way over the undulating
and treeless prairie, would present a very imposing aspect.

An Indian guide conducted them for the first forty miles, along the river
banks, with which Mr. Carson was not familiar. He then left them and they
entered upon that vast ocean of prairie which extended, with scarcely any
interruption, to the base of the Rocky mountains.

The borders of nearly all these western streams are fringed with a narrow
belt of forest. Here where there was abundance of water, the richest of
soil, which needed but to be "tickled with a hoe to laugh with a harvest,"
and where there was an ample supply of timber for building and for fuel,
they found many good-looking Indian farms with Indians riding about in
their picturesque costumes.

At an early hour in the afternoon they encamped in a smooth and luxuriant
meadow, upon the banks of a small stream flowing into the Kansas. Nearly
all the party were experienced backwoodsmen. Speedily, and with almost
military precision, the camp was formed in the following manner: The eight
carts were so arranged as to present a sort of barricade, encircling an
area about eighty yards in diameter. The cloth tents, such as are used in
the army, were pitched inside the enclosure. The animals were all hobbled
and turned out to feed in the meadow. The company was divided into four
messes of seven men each. Each mess had its cook. They quickly prepared
the evening meal.

At nightfall all the animals, having been well fed on the abundant grass,
were driven within the enclosure for the night and picketed. A small
steel-shod picket was driven firmly into the ground, to which the animal
was fastened by a rope about twenty feet long. The carts were regularly
arranged for defending the camp. A guard was mounted at eight o'clock,
consisting of three men, who were relieved every two or three hours. At
daybreak the camp was roused. The hobbled animals were again turned loose
upon the meadow or prairie to obtain their breakfast. The breakfast of the
men was generally over between six and seven o'clock. The march was then
resumed. There was a halt at noon for about two hours. Such was the usual
order of the march day after day.

The second night, just as they were about to encamp, one of the loose
horses started upon the full gallop, on his return, and was followed by
several others. Several men were sent in pursuit. They did not return with
the fugitives until midnight. One man lost his way and passed the whole
night upon the open prairie. At midnight it began to rain violently. By
some strange oversight, the tents were of such thin cloth that the rain
soaked through, and those within them were thoroughly drenched. The
discomfort of the night, however, was forgotten as the dawn of the
morning ushered in another lovely summer day.

The journey through the beautiful and picturesque scenery was a delight.
In the serene close of the afternoon they encamped on one of the Kansas
bluffs. From this spot they had an enchanting view of the valley, about
four miles broad, interspersed with beautiful groves and prairies of the
richest verdure. This evening they killed one of their oxen for food. Thus
far their route had been along the southern bank of the Kansas. The next
day they reached what was called the ford of that river, a hundred miles
from its entrance into the Missouri.

But the recent rains had so swollen the stream that it was rushing by, a
swift and rapid torrent two hundred and thirty yards wide. The river could
not be forded. Several mounted men entered it to swim their horses across,
and thus to act as guides or leaders for the rest. The remaining animals
were driven in, and all got safely across excepting the three oxen, who
being more clumsy swimmers, were borne down by the current and again
landed on the right side. The next morning, however, they were got over in

Lieutenant Fremont had adopted the precaution of taking with him a
portable India rubber boat. It was twenty feet long and five feet broad.
It was placed in the water, and the carts and the baggage were carried
over piecemeal. Three men paddled the boat. Still the current was so
strong that one of the best swimmers took in his teeth the end of a rope
attached to the boat and swam ahead, that, reaching the shore, he might
assist in drawing her over. Six passages were successfully made and six
carts with most of their contents were transported across. Night was
approaching, and it was very desirable that everything should be upon the
other side before the darkness closed in.

"I put," says Lieutenant Fremont, "upon the boat the two remaining carts.
The man at the helm was timid on the water and, in his alarm, capsized the
boat. Carts, barrels, boxes and bales were, in a moment, floating down the
current. But all the men who were on the shore jumped into the water
without stopping to think if they could swim, and almost everything, even
heavy articles, was recovered. Two men came very near being drowned. All
the sugar belonging to one of the messes was dissolved in the water and

But the heaviest calamity of all was the loss of a bag containing the
coffee for the whole company. There is nothing so refreshing to a weary
mountaineer, as a cup of hot coffee. Often afterwards these travellers,
overcome with toil, mourned the loss of their favorite beverage.

Kit Carson had made such efforts in the water, that in the morning he was
found quite sick. Another of the party also was disabled. Lieutenant
Fremont, on their account, and also to repair damages, decided to remain
in camp for the day. Quite a number of the Kansas tribe of Indians visited
them in the most friendly manner. One of them had received quite a
thorough education at St. Louis, and could speak French as fluently and
correctly as any Frenchman. They brought vegetables of various kinds, and
butter. They seemed very glad to find a market for their productions.

The camping-ground of the party was on the open, sunny prairie, some
twenty feet above the water, where the animals enjoyed luxuriant
pasturage. The party was now fairly in the Indian country, and the chances
of the wilderness were opening before them.

About three weeks in advance of this party, there was a company of
emigrants bound to Oregon. There were sixteen or seventeen families, men,
women and children. Sixty-four of these were men. They had suffered
severely from illness, and there had been many deaths among them. One of
these emigrants, who had buried his child, and whose wife was very ill,
left the company under the guidance of a hunter, and returned to the
States. The hunter visited the Fremont camp, and took letters from them to
their friends.

Day after day the party thus journeyed on, without encountering anything
worthy of special notice. They had reached the Pawnee country. These
savages were noted horse-thieves. The route of the surveyors led along the
banks of a placid stream, about fifty feet wide and four or five feet
deep. The view up the valley, which was bordered by gracefully undulating
hills, was remarkably beautiful. The stream, as usual with these western
rivers, was fringed with willows, cottonwood, and oak. Large flocks of
wild turkeys tenanted these trees. Game, also, of a larger kind made its
appearance. Elk, antelope and deer bounded over the hills.

A heavy bank of black clouds in the west admonished them, at an early hour
in the afternoon, to prepare for a stormy night. Scarcely had they pitched
their tents ere a violent wind came down upon them, the rain fell in
torrents and incessant peals of thunder seemed to shake the very hills. It
so happened that the three who were to stand guard on that tempestuous
night, were Carson and the two young gentlemen Brandt and Benton.

"This was their first night on guard," writes Lieutenant Fremont "and
such an introduction did not augur very auspiciously of the pleasures of
the expedition. Many things conspired to render their situation
uncomfortable. Stories of desperate and bloody Indian fights were rife in
the camp. Our position was badly chosen, surrounded on all sides by
timbered hollows, and occupying an area of several hundred feet, so that
necessarily the guards were far apart. Now and then I could hear Randolph,
as if relieved by the sound of a voice in the darkness, calling out to the
sergeant of the guard, to direct his attention to some imaginary alarm.
But they stood it out, and took their turn regularly afterwards."

The next morning, as they were proceeding up the valley, several moving
objects were dimly discerned, far away upon the opposite hills; which
objects disappeared before a glass could be brought to bear upon them. One
of the company, who was in the rear, came spurring up, in great haste,
shouting "Indians." He affirmed that he had seen them distinctly, and had
counted twenty-seven. The party immediately halted. All examined their
arms, and prepared for battle, in case they should be attacked. Kit Carson
sprang upon one of the most fleet of the hunting horses, crossed the
river, and galloped off, over the prairie, towards the hills where the
objects had been seen.

"Mounted on a fine horse, without a saddle," writes Lieutenant Fremont,
"and scouring, bareheaded, over the prairies, Kit was one of the finest
pictures of a horseman I had ever seen. He soon returned quite leisurely,
and informed them that the party of twenty-seven Indians had resolved
itself into a herd of six elk who, having discovered us, had scampered off
at full speed."

The next day they reached a fork of the Blue river, where the road leaves
that tributary of the Kansas, and passes over to the great valley of the
Platte river. In their march, across the level prairie of this high
table-land, they encountered a squall of rain, with vivid lightning and
heavy peals of thunder. One blinding flash was accompanied by a bolt,
which struck the prairie but a few hundred feet from their line, sending
up a column of sand.

A march of about twenty-three miles brought them to the waters of the
majestic Platte river. Here they found a very delightful place of
encampment near Grand Island. They had now travelled three hundred and
twenty-eight miles from the mouth of the Kansas river. They had fixed the
latitude and longitude of all the important spots they had passed, and had
carefully examined the geological formation of the country.

They were working their way slowly up this beautiful valley, to a point
where it was only four miles wide. Here they halted to "noon." As they
were seated on the grass, quietly taking their dinner, they were alarmed
by the startling cry from the guard, of "All hands." In an instant
everybody was up, with his rifle in hand. The horses were immediately both
hobbled and picketed, while all eyes were directed to a wild-looking band
approaching in the distance. As they drew near they proved to be a party
of fourteen white men, returning on foot to the States. Their baggage was
strapped to their backs. It was indeed a forlorn and way-worn band. They
had, on a trapping excursion, encountered but a constant scene of
disasters and were now returning to St. Louis, utterly impoverished.

They brought the welcome intelligence that buffaloes were in abundance two
days' journey in advance. After a social hour, in which the two parties
feasted together, the surveyors mounted their horses, and the trappers
shouldered their packs, and the two parties separated in different
directions. Lieutenant Fremont mentions an incident illustrative of the
homeless life which many of these wanderers of the wilderness live:

"Among them," he writes, "I had found an old companion on a northern
prairie, a hardened and hardly-served veteran of the mountains, who had
been as much hacked and scarred as an old _moustache_ of Napoleon's Old
Guard. He flourished in the soubriquet of La Tulipe. His real name I never
knew. Finding that he was going to the States, only because his company
was bound in that direction, and that he was rather more than willing to
return with me, I took him again into my service."

The company made but seventeen miles that day. Just as they had gone into
camp, in the evening, three Indians were discovered approaching, two men
and a boy of thirteen. They belonged to the Cheyenne tribe, and had been
off, with quite a numerous band, on an unsuccessful horse-stealing raid
among the Pawnees. Upon a summit, they had caught a glimpse of the white
men, and had left their companions, confident of finding kind treatment at
the camp-fires of the pale faces.

They were invited to supper with Lieutenant Fremont's mess. Young Randolph
Benton, and the young Cheyenne, after eying each other suspiciously for
some time, soon became quite intimate friends. After supper one of the
Cheyennes drew, upon a sheet of paper, very rudely, but, as it afterwards
appeared, quite correctly, a map of the general character of the country
between the encampment and their villages, which were about three hundred
miles further west.

The two next days the party made about forty miles. "The air was keen,"
writes Lieutenant Fremont, "the next morning at sunrise, the thermometer
standing at 44 degrees. It was sufficiently cold to make overcoats very
comfortable. A few miles brought us into the midst of the buffalo,
swarming in immense numbers over the plains, where they had left scarcely
a blade of grass standing. Mr. Preuss, who was sketching at a little
distance in the rear, had at first noticed them as large groves of timber.
In the sight of such a mass of life, the traveller feels a strange emotion
of grandeur. We had heard, from a distance, a dull and confused murmuring,
and when we came in view of their dark masses, there was not one among us
who did not feel his heart beat quicker. It was the early part of the day
when the herds are feeding, and every where they are in motion. Here and
there a huge old bull was rolling in the grass, and clouds of dust rose in
the air from various parts of the bands.

"Shouts and songs resounded from every part of the line, and our evening
camp was always the commencement of a feast which terminated only with our
departure on the following morning. At any time of the night might be seen
pieces of the most delicate and choicest meat, roasting on sticks around
the fire. With pleasant weather, and no enemy to fear, an abundance of
the most excellent meat and no scarcity of bread or tobacco, they were
enjoying an oasis of a voyageur's life."

Three buffalo cows were killed to-day. Kit Carson had shot one, and was
continuing the chase in the midst of another herd, when his horse fell
headlong, but sprang up and joined the flying band. Though considerably
hurt, he had the good fortune to break no bones. Maxwell, who was mounted
on a fleet hunter, captured the runaway after a hard chase. He was on the
point of shooting him, to avoid the loss of his bridle, a handsomely
mounted Spanish one, when he found that his horse was able to come up with

The next day was the first of July.

As our adventurers were riding joyfully along, over a beautiful prairie
country, on the right side of the river, a magnificent herd of buffalo
came up from the water over the bank, not less then seven or eight hundred
in number, and commenced slowly crossing the plain, grazing as they went.
The prairie was here about three miles broad. This gave the hunters a fine
opportunity to charge upon them before they could escape among the distant
hills. The fleet horses for hunting, were brought up and saddled.
Lieutenant Fremont, Kit Carson and L. Maxwell mounted for the chase.
Maxwell was a veteran pioneer, who had been engaged as hunter for the

The herd were about half a mile distant from the company. The three
hunters rode quietly along, till within about three hundred yards of the
herd, before they seemed to be noticed by the buffaloes. Then a sudden
agitation and wavering of the herd was followed by precipitate and
thundering flight. The fleet horse can outstrip the buffalo in the race.
The three hunters plunged after them at a hard gallop. A crowd of bulls,
gallantly defending the cows, brought up the rear. Every now and then they
would stop, for an instant, and look back as if half disposed to show

"In a few moments," writes Lieutenant Fremont, "during which we had been
quickening our pace, we were going over the ground like a hurricane. When
at about thirty yards we gave the usual shout and broke into the herd. We
entered on the side, the mass giving away in every direction in their
heedless course. Many of the bulls, less fleet than the cows, paying no
heed to the ground, and occupied solely with the hunters, were
precipitated to the earth with great force, rolling over and over with the
violence of the shock, and hardly distinguishable in the dust. We
separated, on entering, each singling out his game.

"My horse was a trained hunter, famous in the west under the name of
Proveau, and with his eyes flashing and the foam flying from his mouth, he
sprang on after the cow, like a tiger. In a few moments he brought me
along side of her. Rising in the stirrups, I fired, at the distance of a
yard, the ball entering at the termination of the long hair, passing near
the heart. She fell headlong at the report of the gun. Checking my horse,
I looked around for my companions.

"At a little distance Kit was on the ground, engaged in tying his horse to
the horns of a cow, which he was preparing to cut up. Among the scattered
band, at some distance, I caught a glimpse of Maxwell. While I was
looking, a light wreath of white smoke curled away from his gun, from
which I was too far to hear the report. Nearer, and between me and the
hills, towards which they were directing their course, was the body of the
herd. Giving my horse the rein, we dashed after them. A thick cloud of
dust hung upon their rear, which filled my mouth and eyes and nearly
smothered me. In the midst of this I could see nothing, and the buffalo
were not distinguishable until within thirty feet. They crowded together
more densely still, as I came upon them, and rushed along in such a
compact body that I could not obtain an entrance, the horse almost
leaping upon them.

"In a few moments the mass divided to the right and left, the horns
clattering with a noise heard above everything else, and my horse darted
into the opening. Five or six bulls charged on us, as we dashed along the
line, but were left far behind. Singling out a cow I gave her my fire, but
struck too high. She gave a tremendous leap and scoured on swifter than
before. I reined up my horse, and the band swept on like a torrent, and
left the place quiet and clear. Our chase had led us into dangerous
ground. A prairie-dog village, so thickly settled that there were three or
four holes in twenty yards square, occupied the whole bottom for nearly
two miles in length."


The Return of the Expedition.

    Beautiful Prairie Scene.--Fate of the Buffalo Calf.--Vast Buffalo
    Herds.--The Fourth of July on the Plains.--Journey up the South
    Fork of the Platte.--Visit to Fort St. Vrain.--Remonstrance of
    the Chiefs.--Second Marriage of Mr. Carson.--New
    Engagements.--Perilous Ride to Santa Fe.--The Successful
    Mission.--The Noble Mexican Boy.--Conflict with the
    Savage.--Discomfiture of the Indians.--Fremont's Second
    Expedition.--Carson joins the Party.--Course of the
    Expedition.--Arrival at the Great Salt Lake.

After this exciting and successful buffalo hunt, the caravan in a long
dark line advanced over the prairie twenty-four miles, and encamped on the
banks of a stream, where they feasted abundantly upon the choicest cuts of
buffalo beef. Wolves were howling around them all night, their instinct
teaching them that bones would be left there which they would be
privileged to gnaw. In the morning the wolves were seen sitting around at
a short distance, barking and growling impatiently, waiting for the
departure of the caravan.

Resuming their march, they ascended the stream about eighteen miles, where
they found a fording-place and crossed over to the northern bank. Here
there opened before them a rich and beautiful prairie, bordered with
gentle eminences on the north and the south. This prairie extended about
twenty miles along the banks of the river and was nearly six miles wide.
Its vast expanse was almost as smooth as a gentleman's lawn, and was
waving with a luxuriant growth of grass and flowers. The river was skirted
with a slight fringe of willow and cottonwood trees.

As Lieutenant Fremont intended to return by the same route, he concealed
here for his homeward journey, in what is called a _cache_, a barrel of
pork. They encamped in the evening upon the open prairie. As there was no
wood at hand, they built their fires of the dry excrement of the buffalo.
This substance, which was called buffalo chips, burns like turf and forms
a very good substitute for wood. Immense numbers of wolves surrounded the
camp at night, with an incessant and hideous howling and barking. In the
morning, while the explorers were sitting quietly at breakfast, a small
buffalo calf rushed frantic with terror through the camp, pursued by two
wolves. The helpless little thing, separated from the herd, had probably
mistaken the animals of the caravan for a herd of buffaloes. The
frightened creature, discovering its error, continued its precipitate
flight. The wolves, too wary to enter the camp, made a circuit around it,
thus the calf got a little the start. It strained every nerve to reach a
large herd of buffaloes at the foot of the hills, about two miles distant.
Wolf after wolf joined in the chase until more than thirty were yelping in
the hot pursuit.

A bull came out to the rescue of the little one, but was overpowered and
driven back. Soon the foremost of the pack fastened their fangs into the
calf, the rest were instantly upon him, and the quivering animal was
pulled down, torn to pieces and devoured almost before he was dead. Every
reader will sympathize with the remark of Lieutenant Fremont:

"We watched the chase with the interest always felt for the weak. Had
there been a saddled horse at hand he would have fared better."

As the caravan was slowly advancing that afternoon, vast clouds of dust on
their right near the hills attracted their attention. Several enormous
herds of buffalo seemed to emerge from these clouds, galloping down
towards the river. By the time the first bands had reached the water the
whole prairie seemed darkened with the countless multitudes, numbering
thousands upon thousands. They stretched in an unbroken line from the
hills to the river, and fording the river passed on to the other side.

The prairie here was not less than two miles wide. The mighty mass filled
the whole expanse. As they reached the caravan, they circled around it
leaving the travellers an open space of two or three hundred yards. The
caravan continued its march, and the buffaloes continued their flow, until
towards evening, when the company reached its camping-ground.

It was the evening of the fourth of July. All through the day preparations
were being made to celebrate the anniversary by a great feast. Lieutenant
Fremont gives the following attractive account of the bill of fare:

"The kindness of our friends at St. Louis had provided us with a large
supply of excellent preserves and rich fruit cake. When these were added
to macaroni soup and variously prepared dishes of the nicest buffalo meat,
crowned with a cup of coffee, and enjoyed with prairie appetites, we felt
as we sat in barbaric luxury around our smoking supper on the grass, a
greater sensation of enjoyment than the Roman epicure at his perfumed
feast. But most of all it seemed to please our Indian friends who, in the
unrestrained enjoyment of the moment, demanded to know if our medicine
days came often."

The party had now reached near the point where the north and south fork of
the Platte river unite. Lieutenant Fremont wished to explore the south
branch, to obtain some astronomical observations, and to determine the
mouths of its tributaries as far as St. Vrain's fort. He also hoped to
obtain some mules there which he greatly needed. He took with him nine
men. The three Cheyenne Indians accompanied him, as their village was upon
that stream. The remainder of the company followed up the north fork to
Fort Laramie to be joined by their companions there.

The journey proved an arduous one. It was intolerably hot; there were
frequent tempests, with floods of rain and violent gusts of wind. The
bottom lands on each side of the river seemed absolutely covered with
buffaloes. Upon ascending any eminence vast herds were seen grazing as far
as the eye could reach. Our adventurers pressed on, quietly and
cautiously, following the windings of the stream. On the fourth day they
discovered Indians in the distance; a band of three hundred, well mounted.
Maxwell recognized the chief. This secured for them a friendly reception.
They were led into their village. It consisted of a hundred and
twenty-five lodges bordering a broad irregular street.

After a hospitable entertainment, they continued their journey and
encamped in a little grove of cottonwood, in a cold drizzling rain. The
next morning they caught their first glimpse of the Rocky mountains, about
sixty miles distant. That day they came across a camp of four or five
white men who were on a trapping expedition. They had all taken Indian
wives, and a large number "of little fat buffalo-fed boys were tumbling
about the camp, all apparently of the same age, about three or four years
old." Their camp was on a rich bottom, luxuriant with grass, and they had
many well fed horses and mules.

They reached St. Vrain's fort on the tenth, where they were hospitably
received by Mr. St. Vrain. They purchased several horses and mules, and
hired three additional men to accompany them across the country, one
hundred and twenty-five miles, to Fort Laramie. On the twelfth they
recommenced their journey, and reached the fort on the fifteenth. This
trading post was quite an imposing military construction, with large
bastions at the corners, its lofty walls being whitewashed and picketed. A
cluster of lodges of Sioux Indians was pitched almost under the shadow of
its wall. The party which Kit Carson had accompanied had arrived a few
days before, and was encamped near by.

Here Fremont received the alarming intelligence that there was great
excitement among the Indians beyond. They were all assuming a hostile
attitude. Several parties of whites had already been cut off and
massacred. Most of the men, at the Fort, remonstrated against his advance
till the country should be somewhat settled. Even Kit Carson, though
perfectly ready himself to proceed, declared his conviction that the
danger was imminent, and that some encounters with the Indians were
inevitable. He made his will, left it at the fort and was prepared to go.

Just before starting, the Sioux chiefs encamped at the fort almost forced
themselves into Lieutenant Fremont's presence and presented him the
following remonstrance written in good French:

"Mr. Fremont:

"The chiefs, having assembled in council, have just told me to warn you
not to set out before the party of young men, which is now out, shall have
returned. They tell me that they are sure they will fire upon you as soon
as they meet you. They are expected back in seven or eight days. Excuse me
for making these observations, but it seems my duty to warn you of danger.
Moreover the chiefs, who prohibit your setting out before the return of
the warriors, are the bearers of this note. I am your obedient servant,

"Joseph Bissonnette."

The chiefs who brought this note, four in number, sat in silence until it
had been read. One of them rose and stepping forward shook hands with Mr.
Fremont, and then said:

"You have come among us at a bad time. Some of our people have been
killed, and our young men, who are gone to the mountains, are eager to
avenge the blood of their relations, which has been shed by the whites.
Our young men are bad. If they meet you they will believe that you are
carrying goods and ammunition to their enemies, and will fire upon you.
You have told us that this will make war. We know that our great father
has many soldiers, and big guns, and we are anxious to have our lives. We
love the whites and are desirous of peace. Thinking of all these things,
we have determined to keep you here until our warriors return."

The others followed in the same strain. Lieutenant Fremont had the pride
of an American military officer, and was not disposed to be driven from
his course by threats of danger. He also believed the stories of peril to
be greatly exaggerated, and that the great object of the chiefs was to
prevent him from going farther into their country, where he had openly
avowed it was his intention to establish a military fort. He therefore, in
reply, urged that two or three of the chiefs should accompany him until
they should meet the young men. He said they should eat at his table and
sleep in his tent, and that he would abundantly reward them on their

This they declined to do, saying that they were too old for such a

Mr. Fremont then said to them, "You say that you love the whites. But you
are unwilling to undergo a few days' ride to save our lives. We do not
believe you. We will not listen to you. We are the soldiers of the great
chief your father. He has told us to come here and see this country, and
all the Indians. We shall not go back. We are few and you are many. You
may kill us all. But do you think that our great chief will let his
soldiers die and forget to cover their graves? Before the snows melt, his
warriors will sweep away your villages as the fire does the prairie in the
autumn. See! I have pulled down my white houses, and my people are ready.
When the sun is ten paces higher, we shall be on the march."

They left the fort on the twenty-second of July, and followed up the north
fork of the Platte for three weeks, encountering no molestation from the
Indians, and meeting only with the ordinary hardships to be expected in
travelling through the wilderness. They generally found a sufficiency of
water, of grazing and of game. They at length found themselves among the
wildest ravines of the Rocky mountains. Here they employed themselves day
after day in astronomical and geological observations, and then commenced
their return. All the objects of their expedition had been successfully
accomplished. They reached Fort Laramie early in September. Kit Carson's
labors were now ended. He had joined the expedition as hunter and guide.
In neither of these offices were his services any longer required. He
therefore remained at the fort, while the surveying party returned to St.

Mr. Carson's Indian wife had long been dead. Four months after this, in
February, he married a Mexican lady, named Senora Josepha Jarimilla. This
lady was highly esteemed by all who knew her for her many virtues, and was
also endowed with much personal beauty. She subsequently became the mother
of three children, for whom Mr. Carson has ever manifested the strongest

Two months after his marriage he engaged as a hunter to accompany an
expedition of Messrs. Bent and Vrain's wagons to the United States. When
about half-way across the plains, they struck the great Santa Fe trail.
Here Carson and his companions came upon an encampment of Captain Cook,
with four companies of U.S. Dragoons. They were escorting a train of
Mexican wagons, as far as the boundary line between the United States and
New Mexico. The region was infested with robber bands and it was deemed
important that the richly freighted caravan should not encounter harm
within the limits of the United States.

The Mexicans, were apprehensive that, as soon as they should separate from
their American protectors, they should be attacked upon entering Texas, by
a large body of Texan Rangers, who, it was reported, were waiting for
them. They therefore offered Kit Carson, with whose energetic character
they were well acquainted, three hundred dollars, if he would carry a
letter to Armijo the governor of New Mexico, who resided at Santa Fe. This
letter contained an application to the governor to send them an escort. To
convey the letter required a journey of between three and four hundred
miles through a wilderness, filled with hostile Indian bands.

Carson accepted the offer, and engaging another man, Owens, to accompany
him, rode back to Fort Bent. Here he learned that the Indians, through
whose territory he must pass, were all up in arms against the whites, and
that the journey would be full of peril. Owens refused to go farther.
Carson was not a man to turn from duty because of danger. He found no one
at the fort who could be induced to share the peril with him. He therefore
set out alone. In addition to the powerful horse which he rode, Colonel
Bent furnished him with a magnificent and fleet steed, which he led as a
reserve corps.

Very rapidly Carson pressed on his way, watching for Indian trails and
carefully avoiding all their wandering bands. From every eminence he
narrowly examined the wide and generally treeless expanse spread out
before him, in search of any sign of the foe. One afternoon he saw, far
away in the distance, an Indian encampment of many lodges, directly on his
trail. He immediately sought an out of the way place, where he might
effectually secrete himself until night. When darkness came on, he, by a
circuitous route, passed the camp of the savages and pressed rapidly on
his way. In a few days he reached Taos, much exhausted by his impetuous

He immediately called upon the mayor of the town, to whom he delivered the
dispatches, and he at once sent an agent with them, down south a distance
of about thirty miles to the governor at Santa Fe. He waited at Taos the
return of the messenger to recruit himself and horses in preparation for
his ride back. The response was that Governor Armijo had sent a hundred
Mexican dragoons to seek the caravan, and that he was about to follow with
six hundred more. We may mention in passing, that this company of one
hundred men, were attacked after a few days' march, by a large body of
Texan rangers, and were all massacred except one, who escaped on a fleet

Governor Armijo and his dragoons, as they were on their way, learned of
this massacre, and hearing exaggerated reports of the strength of the
Texan Rangers, retreated rapidly to their fortification at Santa Fe. The
governor, in the meantime, entrusted dispatches to Carson, thinking that
he, by riding express, could reach the caravan before the governmental
troops could come to their aid.

Carson was a remarkable judge of character. He selected, as a companion
for his return, a Mexican boy whose innate nobility was soon developed.
When two days out from Taos, Carson and his young companion came suddenly
upon four Indian warriors. There was no escape, for the warriors, though
at a distance, had seen them, and were riding rapidly down upon them. This
noble young Mexican promptly turned to Kit Carson and said, "I am but a
boy and perhaps the Indians will spare my life. At any rate your life is
much more valuable than mine. Therefore mount the horse you are leading
without delay, and you can undoubtedly make your escape."

Kit Carson replied, "I cannot and I will not forsake you. We must stand
our ground together. If we have to die, let us take each with us an Indian

At this time the Indians had come near and halted out of rifle range, as
Carson and his companion were taking deliberate aim at them, thus
forbidding a nearer approach. One of the savages then alighted, and
leaving his arms behind him, came forward for a parley. He assumed to be
very much at his ease, and approached with a careless, swaggering air and
a smile, and offered his hand in token of friendship. Carson accepted the
proffered hand. The moment it was released, the savage, a man of herculean
frame, grasped his rifle endeavoring to wrench it from him, doubtless
intending instantly to shoot him down, when the boy would easily become
their captive. But Carson, with his clenched fist and sinewy arm, gave the
Indian instantly such a blow between the eyes as rolled him prostrate upon
the grass, with the blood spouting from his nostrils.

The Indian, apprehensive that the next moment a rifle ball would pierce
his heart, sprang up and with the fleetness of an antelope rejoined his
companions. They were on the open prairie. There was nothing to afford
either party the slightest protection. The Indians slowly and cautiously
advanced, until they came within speaking distance. Carson, who could
speak their language, hailed them and ordered them to stop. He then
assured them, that if they advanced any farther or made any hostile
demonstration whatever, two of their number would certainly and instantly

The savages began to bluster, primed their guns, and boasted of what they
intended to do. But even to their darkened minds it was manifest that two
out of the four, in case of hostilities, must certainly fall before the
rifles of the white man. And should the remaining two rush on before their
opponents could reload, still the white men had their revolvers in hand,
and it was not improbable that the other two might be shot. These were not
the circumstances under which the Indians were willing to enter into
battle. After a short delay and many defiant gestures, they departed.

Mr. Carson and his noble-hearted boy immediately resumed their journey,
and after five days of hard riding reached Fort Bent. Here Mr. Carson
learned that the Texan Rangers, having incautiously entered the territory
of the United States, were all captured and disarmed. This relieved the
conductors of the Mexican train from all anxiety. The dispatches which Mr.
Carson had borne were left at the fort, from which place they were sent
back to Santa Fe.

A few days before Mr. Carson arrived at Bent's Fort, from this expedition
into New Mexico, Mr. Fremont had passed by, on a second expedition to the
still far off west. Carson was anxious to see his old friend and comrade
again. He mounted his horse and, following his trail, by rapid riding
overtook him after a pursuit of seventy miles. Colonel Fremont manifested
the greatest pleasure in again meeting Mr. Carson, and so urged him to
join the expedition that he decided to do so. It had become manifest that
the party needed more mules to assist them in their operations. In
climbing wild mountains these hardy animals are far more valuable than

Kit Carson was sent back to Fort Bent to procure the mules, and to rejoin
the party at St. Vrain's Fort, on the south fork of the Platte. Here Major
Fitzpatrick, with a reinforcement of forty men, was added to the
expedition. On Mr. Carson's return with the mules, the exploring party was
divided into two forces; the main body, under Major Fitzpatrick, following
the eastern bank of the river to the site of the present city of Denver,
and then west, through the passes of the mountains. They took with them
nearly all the camp equipage.

Colonel Fremont, with Kit Carson as a guide, accompanied by fifteen men,
in what may be called light marching order, followed along the Thompson
river some miles, directly west, then struck north about thirty miles, to
the Cache le Poudre river. This stream they followed up in a northwesterly
direction some sixty miles, through a ravine in the mountains, till they
reached the head waters of the Laramie river. They then pushed on in a
still northwesterly direction, under the eastern brows of the Rocky
mountains, through a somewhat broken, though prairie country, two hundred
miles, to the Sweetwater river.

They then pressed on, two or three hundred miles directly west, through
the south pass of the Rocky mountains, along the route now followed by the
Central Pacific Railroad, to Soda Springs, on Bear river. From this point
Kit Carson was sent, with one companion and a relay of mules, about forty
miles in a northwesterly direction to Fort Hall, on Snake river, to obtain
supplies. He was directed to meet the remaining party at the extreme end
of the Great Salt Lake. As usual he successfully accomplished his mission
and rejoined his companions.

The whole body then journeyed down the eastern shores of this immense
inland sea, about twenty miles. They were delighted with the beauty of the
scenery opening before them, and were very busy in taking observations and
exploring the country through which they passed. Far out in the lake there
was seen a very attractive and densely wooded island. Colonel Fremont had
with him an india rubber boat, which, with inflated air chambers, was very
buoyant. Improvidently the plates of the boat had been gummed together
only, instead of being also sewed. Thus the boat was very frail and could
not endure the strain of a heavy sea.

It was the latter part of August, 1843, when Colonel Fremont encamped on
these shores. Though this was but thirty years ago, that now quite
populous region, had then been visited only by trappers in search of
beaver streams. Colonel Fremont decided to visit the island. He selected a
pleasant spot for encampment, in a grove on one of the banks of Bear
river, near its entrance into the lake. He felled timber so as to make a
large pen for the animals. He then erected a rude fort, which would
protect the company from any ordinary band of Indians. The boat was
repaired with gum, and the air chambers inflated. Game was found to be
scarce, and their provisions were about exhausted. He therefore sent back
one half his party to Fort Hall for supplies.

Leaving two or three to guard the fort and the horses, Colonel Fremont,
with Carson and three other men, set out on their expedition to explore
the island. It was a very beautiful morning, the eighth of September.
Slowly they floated down the romantic stream, frequently stopping to get a
shot at the wild geese and ducks they met on their way. It was not until
the edge of the evening that they reached the outlet of the river.

They encamped in a small willow grove, where they found an abundance of
drift-wood for their camp fire. The game they had taken furnished their
supper. They made for themselves soft beds of the tender willow twigs, and
in a mild atmosphere, beneath a starlit sky, slept soundly till morning.
The voices of millions of waterfowl, around them, did not disturb their


Marches and Battles.

    Entering the Lake.--Dangerous Navigation.--The Return to
    Camp.--Feast upon Horse Flesh.--Meeting the Indians.--Joyful
    Meeting.--Return to Fort Hall.--Feasting at the Fort.--The Party
    Diminished.--The Journey down Snake River.--Crossing the Sierra
    Nevada.--Carson Rescues Fremont.--Fort Sutter.--Heroic
    Achievement of Carson.--Disbanding the Party.--The third
    Expedition.--Crossing the Desert.--Threatened by the
    Mexicans.--Fight with the Indians.--The Surprise.--Chastisement
    of the Indians.

The morning of the ninth of September dawned upon our voyagers remarkably
serene and beautiful. They hurried through breakfast to make an early
start. The water was found so shallow, at the mouth of the river, that it
would not float the boat. They were compelled to take off their clothes
and wade through the soft mud for the distance of a mile, dragging the
boat, when they came to deep water. The whole wide marshy expanse seemed
to be covered with waterfowl of every description, filling the air with
their discordant voices. Though it was calm, there was quite a heavy swell
upon the ocean-like lake. The waters were of crystal clearness, though so
thoroughly saturated with salt that the spray left a saline crust upon the

They reached the island and ascended its loftiest peak, which was about
eight hundred feet high. It is almost certain that never since the
creation had a white man's foot trod that summit.

"As we looked," writes Colonel Fremont, "over the vast expanse of water
spread out beneath us, and strained our eyes along the silent shore, over
which hung so much doubt and uncertainty, I could hardly repress the
desire to continue our exploration. But the lengthening snow on the
mountains, spreading farther and farther, was a plain indication of the
advancing season, and our frail linen boat appeared so insecure that I was
unwilling to trust our lives to the uncertainties of the lake. I therefore
unwillingly resolved to terminate our survey here and to remain satisfied
for the present with what we had been able to add to the unknown geography
of the region. We felt also pleasure in remembering that we were the first
who, in the traditionary annals of the country, had visited the island and
broken with the cheerful sound of human voices, the long solitude of the

"Out of the drift-wood on the beach, we made ourselves pleasant little
lodges, open to the water, and, after having kindled large fires, to
excite the wonder of any straggling savage on the lake shores, lay down,
for the first time in a long journey, in perfect security, no one thinking
about his arms. The evening was extremely bright and pleasant. But the
wind rose during the night, and the waves began to break heavily, making
our island tremble. I had not expected, in our inland journey, to hear the
roar of an ocean surf. The strangeness of our situation, and the
excitement we felt, in the associated interests of the place, made this
one of the most interesting nights I remember during our long expedition."

The next morning they set out at an early hour, on their return to the
main land, about nine miles distant. When they had rowed about three miles
the clouds gathered, menacing a storm, and a strong wind rose, blowing
directly against them. The heavy sea which they encountered caused a
leakage in the air chambers of the boat, and they were in imminent danger
of finding a grave in the bottom of the lake. It was with much difficulty
that a man, stationed at the bellows, supplied the chamber with air as
fast as it escaped.

At length they effected a landing on marshy ground, about nine miles from
the encampment. Two men were immediately dispatched to the camp to bring
horses to take back the boat and baggage.

"The rude looking shelter," writes Colonel Fremont, "we raised on the
shore, our scattered baggage and boat lying on the beach made quite a
picture. We called this the fisherman's camp."

The horses arrived in the afternoon. It was then blowing such a gale that
a man could hardly stand against it. The water of the lake was rapidly
rising, forced in by the wind. Very hurriedly they packed their baggage
and had scarcely left the spot ere it was entirely submerged. They reached
the camp in the edge of the evening, just in time to escape a thunder
storm, which blackened the sky and deluged the earth with rain. The next
day they remained at the camp, and boiled down five gallons of lake water
which yielded fourteen pints of very fine white salt. The ensuing morning
was calm and beautiful, as is almost invariably the case during the summer
and autumnal months, throughout all that region.

They now commenced their return by the same route they had already
traversed, ascending the valley of the Bear river towards the north. Day
after day they journeyed on, without meeting much game, and their supply
of food was nearly exhausted. All the party seemed low-spirited, and
trudged along in silence. Scarcely a word was spoken. On the night of the
fourteenth they encamped on the bank of a crystal stream. It was a lovely
evening, serene and mild. But the company seemed very forlorn from
hunger. Colonel Fremont therefore consented that a fat young horse, which
he had purchased of the Indians, should be killed for food. As the company
gathered around their brilliant camp-fires, feasted on the savory horse
steak, the customary good-humor and gayety were restored.

The next day, as they were still ascending the valley, they came upon two
families of Snake Indians who were gathering herbs and roots. The berries
they were drying on buffalo robes. These two families had twelve or
fifteen horses grazing around their encampment. Soon after this they
encountered a solitary Indian, who had an antelope which he had killed.
They purchased the antelope and encamped early to enjoy the rich feast.
While they were protracting the pleasures of their repast, a messenger
came galloping into their camp saying that Mr. Fitzpatrick was within a
few miles of them, with an ample supply of provisions. They could scarcely
sleep that night for joy. The next morning before sunrise they were on the
move and soon rejoined their friends. Together they continued their
journey to the northward, encountering several lodges of Snake Indians; of
whom they purchased about a bushel of dried berries.

Leaving the valley of the Bear river they crossed over to Snake river, or
as it is sometimes called, Lewis's Fork of the Columbia river. On their
way they met an Indian family on horseback, who had been gathering what
are called service berries. At night fires were seen burning all along the
mountainsides, indicating numerous encampments of the Indians. But they
were all friendly, and the weary voyagers slept with a very happy and
grateful sense of security. On the eighteenth they entered the spacious
valley of the Snake river, near its upper waters. The next morning the
snow began to fall and it continued snowing all day.

They were now very near Fort Hall. They therefore encamped, and Colonel
Fremont rode up to the fort and purchased several horses, and five fat
oxen. The arrival of the oxen, giving promise of such good cheer, was
received with shouts of joy. Though night came down upon the wanderers,
cold and stormy, rousing fires and smoking steaks made all happy.

For several days the party remained in their encampment. They had
journeyed from the frontier of Missouri, thirteen hundred and twenty-three
miles. Though winter had come on thus early, and both game and forage were
known to be scarce along the route they were about to travel, Colonel
Fremont decided to continue his explorations, regardless of ice and cold.
He thought it, however, expedient to diminish the number of his party.
Accordingly he assembled the men, informed them of his intention, and of
the great hardships to which they would doubtless be exposed. Thus he
persuaded eleven men to withdraw from the expedition, and return to the

With the lessened party, about twenty in number, Colonel Fremont
recommenced his journey, on the twenty-second of September, down the
valley of the river towards the mouth of the Columbia. We have not space
here to record the many interesting events of this journey. The Colonel
bears constant and affectionate testimony to the services rendered by Kit
Carson. After travelling six or seven hundred miles, they reached Fort
Dalles, then passing directly south, through the very heart of the Oregon
territory, they made a thorough exploration of Klamath Lake, to its
extreme southern border.

Thence they started for California. It was necessary to cross a ridge of
the Sierra Nevada mountains. The snow was six feet deep on a level. The
toils and sufferings of the men were dreadful. There was neither game nor
forage to be found. Many of the mules died of starvation. One incident,
which occurred during this dreadful march, we give in the words of Colonel
Fremont. Under date of February 23rd he writes:

"This was our most difficult day. We were forced off the ridges, by the
quantity of snow among the timber, and obliged to take to the mountain
sides, where occasionally rocks and a southern exposure afforded us a
chance to scramble along. But these were steep, and slippery with snow and
ice, and the tough evergreens of the mountain impeded our way, tore our
skins, and exhausted our patience. Some of us had the misfortune to wear
moccasins, with soles of buffalo hide, so slippery that we could not keep
our feet, and generally we crawled along the snow beds. Axes and mauls
were necessary to make a road through the snow.

"Going ahead with Carson, to reconnoitre the road, we reached, this
afternoon, the river which made the outlet of the lake. Carson sprang
over, clear across a place where the stream was compressed among the
rocks. But the sole of my moccasin glanced from the icy rock, and
precipitated me into the river. It was some few seconds before I could
recover myself in the current, and Carson thinking me hurt, jumped in
after me, and we both had an icy bath. We tried to search a while for my
gun, which had been lost in the fall, but the cold drove us out. Making a
large fire on the bank, after we had partially dried ourselves, we went
back to meet the camp. We afterwards found that the gun had been slung
under the ice which lined the shores of the creek."

Upon reaching the southern declivity of the mountains, Fremont and Carson,
with six others, pushed ahead to Fort Sutter where, it will be remembered,
the gold of California was first discovered. The whole party reached the
fort on the sixth of March, 1844. These extraordinary men, in the depths
of winter, had travelled from Fort Hall about two thousand miles. They
remained at the Fort recruiting but a fortnight. A braver enterprise
history does not record. Its successful accomplishment sent the name of
John C. Fremont, its leader, on the wings of fame, throughout the
civilized world. We have no space to record the vastly important results
accomplished by this exploration.

Upon leaving the fort, on their return towards the States, they met a
Mexican and a little boy, who were in great destitution and grief. They
had been left with a band of six, among whom were the boy's father and
mother, to watch their animals grazing in a fertile meadow. They were
suddenly attacked by a party of thirty Indians, who either captured or
killed all of the party except the man and the boy, who fortunately
escaped. The Indians fled with their booty. The poor boy was overwhelmed
with grief. He had every reason to fear that both of his parents were

Kit Carson's heart was touched. He proposed to Richard Godoy, an
experienced and noble-hearted mountaineer, that they two should pursue the
thirty Indian warriors, rescue the captives, and regain the animals. They
soon struck the Indian trail and followed it nearly all the night. The
Indians, not apprehensive of pursuit, were travelling leisurely. Towards
morning, Carson and his companion halted for an hour or two, to allow
their horses to graze and to get a little sleep. At daybreak they were
again in the saddle, and just at sunrise discovered the Indians in a snug
little valley, feasting luxuriously upon horse-steaks. They had already
killed five of the stolen animals.

These two men immediately charged, with a loud shout, upon the thirty
warriors. The savages were taken utterly by surprise, and thrown into a
panic. Carson's practiced eye selected the chief, who instantly fell
pierced through the heart by a bullet from Carson's rifle. Godoy missed
his aim, but instantly reloading, another warrior dropped in his blood.
The Indians, not doubting that the two were but the advance party of a
strong force, fled with precipitation, abandoning everything. Deliberately
Carson collected the horses, counted them and found that they had them
all, excepting the five the thieves had killed.

They then followed the trail back to the spot where the savages had
attacked the Mexicans. The captives had all been killed and their bodies
had been shockingly mangled. Carson and his heroic companion, with fifteen
horses, rejoined the camp. The property was at once restored to the
Mexicans without any remuneration whatever being received by either of
these men for their exploit. They had been absent from the camp thirty
hours, and had ridden over a hundred miles.

The march was now resumed and, after a tedious journey of many leagues,
they reached Fort Bent on the second of July, where the exploring party
was disbanded. Colonel Fremont proceeded to Washington. Kit Carson
returned to Taos. Thinking that he had had enough of wandering, he decided
to become a farmer, that he might reside at home with his family. He
purchased quite a large tract of land a little out from the straggling
village of Taos, and commenced farming upon a pretty large scale.

As he was very busy erecting his buildings and breaking up the soil, an
express arrived from Colonel Fremont, stating that he was about to set out
on a third exploring tour and that he should depend upon Mr. Carson's
accompanying him. He also reminded him of a promise once given that he
would be ever ready to heed such a call.

Mr. Carson had made large investments in buildings, stock, farming
utensils, etc. With Mr. Owens, who had been his companion on a former
trip, Mr. Carson set out for Fort Bent, where he met with a very cordial
welcome from Colonel Fremont. We cannot follow the party, in its long and
adventurous wanderings, along the ravines, across the prairies, and over
the mountains, until they reached the lower extremity of the Great Salt
Lake. Before them towards the west spread out a vast desert, of unknown
extent. No white man had ever crossed it. Colonel Fremont decided that it
was his duty to explore it. His men were always ready to follow their bold

Kit Carson and three others were sent forward to mark out the road by
their trail. Should they find grass and water, they were to build a fire,
the smoke of which would convey the joyful intelligence to Colonel
Fremont, who was watching, spy-glass in hand, from a neighboring eminence.
For sixty miles they travelled without finding a drop of water, or a blade
of grass. Then suddenly they came upon both in abundance; an oasis in the

Carson built a rousing fire, piling on the green wood to make as much
smoke as possible. Notwithstanding the great distance, the glass of
Fremont discerned the billowy signal, ascending through the serene skies.
His party was at once put in motion, and after a weary march reached their
companions. They thence pressed on to Sutter's Fort, where they could only
obtain moderate supplies. On the trip they had divided into two parties
and one of them had wandered and got lost. Mr. Carson was sent to hunt
them up. With his usual skill and promptitude, he accomplished his
mission, and brought the lost party safely to the fort. They then directed
their course to Monterey, on the sea coast, where they could obtain all
they needed. When within thirty miles of the place, an express arrived
from General Castro, the Mexican commander of the territory, ordering
Colonel Fremont and his party to leave the country or he would compel them
to do so.

Instead of obeying this order, Colonel Fremont, with but forty men under
his command, immediately selected a good military position, and prepared
for a defence. General Castro soon appeared with several hundred troops,
infantry, cavalry and artillery, and established himself within a few
hundred yards of the Fremont camp. The two parties watched each other for
three days. Colonel Fremont then, satisfied that the Mexicans would not
assume the offensive, and that it would be rash to attempt to force his
way against so powerful a foe, turned his steps north to the Sacramento
river, and thence to the mouth of the Columbia.

On the route they met a thousand Indian warriors. They were armed only
with arrows and javelins. A fierce battle ensued. The Indians were
repelled with heavy loss. Mr. Carson thinks that in that conflict, they
became convinced that with their weapons, they could never hope to
vanquish the rifle-armed white men. Upon this trip they also learned that
war had broken out between the United States and Mexico. The express which
brought this intelligence informed Fremont that a United States officer
was in the rear, with a few men in imminent peril.

Colonel Fremont took Carson and ten other picked men, and hastened to the
rescue. Mr. Carson himself gives the following account of a tragic scene
which soon took place. The narrative was given in a letter published in
the Washington Union of June, 1847:

"Mr. Gillespie had brought the Colonel letters from home and he was up,
and kept a large fire burning until after midnight. This was the only
night, in all our travels, except the one night on the island in Salt
Lake, that we failed to keep guard. As the men were so tired and we
expected no attack now that we had sixty 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 on that side:

"'What's the matter there? What's that 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 Delawares, we
had four with us, were sleeping at that fire, and they sprang up as the
Klamaths charged them. One of them caught up a gun which was unloaded, but
although he could do no execution he kept them at bay like a soldier, and
did not give up till he was shot full of arrows, three entering his heart.

"As soon as I had called out I saw it was Indians in the camp, and I and
Owens cried out together, '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 and went to the assistance of our Delawares.

"I don't know who fired first and who didn't; but I think it was Stepp's
shot that killed the Klamath chief; for it was at the crack of Stepp's gun
that he fell. He had an English half-axe slung to his wrist by a cord, and
there were forty arrows left in his 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 from his cap.

"When the Klamaths saw him fall, they ran; but we lay, every man with his
rifle cocked, until daylight, expecting another attack. In the morning we
found, by the tracks, that from fifteen to twenty of the Klamaths had
attacked us. They had killed three of our men and wounded one of the
Delawares, who scalped the chief, whom they left where he fell.

"Our dead men we carried on mules; but after going about ten miles we
found it impossible to get them any farther through the thick timber. And
finding a secret place we buried them under logs and chunks, having no way
to dig a grave. It was only a few days before this, that some of these
same Indians had come into our camp; and although we had only meat for two
days and felt sure that we should have to eat mules for ten or fifteen
days to come, the Colonel divided with them, and even had a mule unpacked
to give them some tobacco and knives."

In consequence of the war declared between the United States and Mexico,
Colonel Fremont thought it expedient to return to California. He judged
it, however, to be necessary first, as a lesson to the savages, to punish
them severely for their wanton murder of his men. Kit Carson, at the head
of ten chosen mountaineers, was sent forward in search of their
strongholds. If he discovered them without being seen himself he was to
return for reinforcements. If seen he was to act as he thought best.

He soon discovered an Indian trail, and followed it to an Indian
encampment of fifty lodges, containing one hundred and fifty warriors. The
agitation in the camp evidenced that the Indians had obtained warning of
danger. Carson decided to attack them instantly, in the midst of their
confusion. The Indians for a moment made a bold stand. But as bullet after
bullet pierced them, from the invisible missiles of their foe, whom they
could not reach with arrows, they turned in a panic and fled. Mr. Carson
wishing to inflict chastisement which would not soon be forgotten, ordered
all their valuables to be collected in their lodges and then applied the
torch. The flames leaped high in the air and in an hour nothing remained
of the Indian village, but glowing embers and the bodies of their dead

Colonel Fremont saw the smoke of the conflagration and understood its
significance. He hastened forward and joined Carson. But it was thought
that the Indians had not yet received the punishment which their crime
deserved. The whole party then moved on together for several miles, to a
secluded encampment.

Mr. Carson said that the warriors would certainly return to view the ruins
of their village and to bury their dead. Twenty men were consequently sent
back to lie in ambush. At midnight fifty savages were seen in the bright
moonlight, approaching their ruined homes. Some alarm caused them
precipitately to retreat. Carson was a little in advance with Colonel
Fremont. He saw one solitary warrior separate from the rest. Spurring upon
the savage at the distance of not ten paces he endeavored to shoot him,
when his gun missed fire. He was now apparently at the mercy of the
Indian, who had already with sinewy arm, drawn an arrow to the feather to
pierce the body of his foe.

Fremont was mounted on a very powerful and spirited charger. He plunged
the rowels of his spurs into the animal, when the noble horse made one or
two frantic leaps, knocked down the Indian and trampled over him. The
arrow of the savage flew wide of its mark. The next moment a rifle ball
pierced his heart, and he lay quivering in death.

The party now pressed on to the Sacramento river. The Klamath warriors
dogged their path, watching for an opportunity to take them at advantage.
One day Carson and Godey, who were a little separated from the rest of the
company, came quite unexpectedly upon a band of these warriors and
instantly charged upon them. One Indian only was too proud to fly. He took
his position behind a rock and as soon as the two white men came within
shooting distance, he let fly his arrows with great force and rapidity.

After dodging these arrows for some time, Carson mounted and crept through
concealment, till he obtained good aim at the savage. There was a sharp
report of the rifle, and the Indian was dead. Carson took from him a
beautifully wrought bow and a quiver still containing a number of arrows.
But the savages still continued to hover around their trail without
venturing upon any attack.


The Dispatch Bearer.

    Colonel Fremont.--Hazardous Undertaking of Kit Carson.--Carson's
    Courage and Prudence.--Threatened Danger.--Interview with General
    Kearney, and Results.--Severe Skirmish.--Wonderful Escape of
    Carson.--Daring Adventure.--Fearful Suffering.--Lieutenant
    Beale.--Carson's Journey to Washington.--Adventures on his

Our explorers now pressed on for twenty-four hours without encountering
any molestation, though they saw many indications that the Indians were
hovering about their track. Hungry and weary, they reached Fort Lawson, on
the Sacramento river, where they tarried for a week to recruit. They then
followed down the river some distance, to the well-known camping-grounds,
"The Buttes."

War between the United States and Mexico was in active operation. Colonel
Fremont took the responsibility of capturing a weak Mexican post near by,
at Sonoma, where he obtained several cannon and some small arms. His
explorers being thus virtually resolved into an army, he marched, with Kit
Carson as nominal Lieutenant, for the capture of Monterey. Before he
reached there, the city was taken by an American squadron under Commodore
Sloat. Colonel Fremont obtained a ship to convey him, with his fast friend
Kit Carson, and one hundred and fifty bold mountaineers, who had attached
themselves to his fortunes, a few hundred miles down the coast, to San
Diego. Thence he marched upon Los Angelos.

It was becoming important to have some communication with Washington. To
send dispatches around by the cape, required a voyage of weary months. To
reach the capital by land, it was necessary to traverse an almost pathless
wilderness four thousand miles in extent. Whoever should undertake such an
enterprise, must not only live upon such food as he could pick up by the
way, but also be exposed to attack from innumerable bands of hostile
savages, urged on by still more hostile Mexicans.

On the fifteenth of September, 1846, Kit Carson undertook this hazardous
enterprise. He was placed in command of fifteen picked men. The utmost
vigilance was necessary every step of the way. He was instructed to make
the journey in sixty days. For two days, he pressed on his way without
molestation. The third day, he came suddenly in view of a large encampment
of Apache Indians. Each party discovered the other at the same moment.
There was instantly great commotion in the Indian camp; the warriors
running to and fro in preparation for a fight.

Mr. Carson, acquainted with their language, and also familiar with all
their customs, saw at once that his only safety consisted in reckless
courage. He halted his little band, and assuming an air of entire
unconcern, rode forward till he came within speaking distance, and of
course within arrow distance of hundreds of plumed and painted warriors.
He was entirely at their mercy. They might instantly pierce him, and
almost bury him beneath a shower of arrows. The chief of the white men
being thus killed, the rest of the party would fall easily a prey to their
overpowering numbers. Carson shouted out to them:

"I come to you as a friend, and I ask for a parley."

Two or three warriors then came forward and with the usual preliminaries,
held a brief conference. They could without any difficulty have seized
upon Carson and held him as a hostage. But he knew that his only possible
safety was in this apparent act of desperation. Having smoked the pipe of
peace, he said to them:

"We come to you as friendly travellers, seeking only a passage through
your country. We come to you as brothers, presenting the olive branch of
peace. We do not wish to harm you. We ask only for your friendship. Our
animals are weary. We would exchange them for those that are fresh. We
will pay you well for the exchange."

If that be eloquence which moves the heart, this was eloquence. It changed
the hearts of the Indians. Friendly demonstrations immediately took the
place of preparations for a bloody fight. Carson pitched his camp at a
short distance from the Apaches. His prudence, as well as his courage, was
developed. He selected a site where in case of treachery, he could make a
vigorous defence. Every man had rifle, revolver, and knife. Every man was
instructed, while assuming an air of entire trust in the Indians, to be
constantly on the watch. There was to be no surrender. In case of attack,
every man was to sell his life as dearly as possible. The calm,
self-possessed, invincible spirit of this wonderful man was infused into
all his followers. Fifteen such men with rifles, revolvers, and knives,
would make terrible havoc among a crowd of Indian warriors, before they
could all be cold in death.

As soon as the camp was arranged, the Indians were allowed to come in.
They smoked and feasted, and traded together, in the most friendly manner.
Carson remounted all his men on fresh and vigorous steeds. The next
morning he went on his way rejoicing.

Nearly a month passed away, as this heroic little band, with tireless
diligence, pressed along their pathless route towards the rising sun. With
the utmost caution, Mr. Carson avoided the Indian trails, making a path
for himself. He would often make a wide circuit, that he might not cross
hunting grounds where his experience taught him that Indian hunting bands
would probably be encountered.

It was a bright and beautiful morning, the sixth of October, that they
entered upon the western edge of a smooth, treeless prairie extending to
the east as far as the eye could reach. Soon after the morning sun began
to flood that ocean of waving flowers with its rays, the keen eye of
Carson discerned in the extreme east, a small speck, like the sail of a
ship at sea. He watched it, it moved. Slowly it increased in size. It soon
developed itself into the front of a numerous band of warriors. His
anxiety was great. It was not wise to attempt flight over the boundless

As the column drew nearer, he discovered to his great joy that it was a
detachment of United States troops. The expedition had been sent out by
the government, to operate under General Kearney, in California. As the
two parties met, General Kearney sent for Mr. Carson, and after a little
conversation with him, decided to entrust his dispatches to Mr.
Fitzpatrick, to convey them to Washington, while he should attach Mr.
Carson to his staff as a guide, of which he stood greatly in need. Upon
informing Mr. Carson of this his decision, the modest reply of the pioneer
was, "As the General thinks best."

Mr. Carson now was invested with the responsible office of guiding the
footsteps of this army over these almost boundless plains. This duty he so
performed as to receive the highest commendation of General Kearney. And
his dignified character was such as to win the confidence and respect of
every man in the army. The worst of men can often appreciate high moral

Early in December the army had reached California, and were approaching
San Diego. On the sixth, the scouts brought the news that a numerous party
of Mexicans were strongly intrenched a few miles before them, to dispute
their passage. Fifteen men were sent forward as an advanced guard, under
the guidance of Kit Carson, to drive in the outposts, and capture any
loose animals which might be found. A very fierce battle ensued. These
Californian Mexicans developed a degree of bravery and determination
totally unexpected, and which could not have been exceeded.

Quite a number of troops had come up to assist in carrying an important
post. In addition to the fifteen men with Carson, there were two companies
of United States dragoons, and twenty-five California volunteers. These
determined men, all well mounted, formed a very imposing column for the
charge. Mr. Carson was in the front rank of the column. As the horses were
plunging forward upon the foe, Mr. Carson's horse, from some inequality in
the ground, fell, throwing his rider over his head with such violence as
to break his gun-stock in several pieces. Carson was slightly stunned by
the fall, and the whole troop of horse galloped over him. It seems a
miracle that he was not trampled to death. Though severely bruised, no
bones were broken.

Upon recovering, and finding his own gun useless, he looked around and saw
a dead dragoon. Seizing his gun, he rushed forward into the thickest of
the fight. It is probable that the fall of his horse saved his life.
Nearly the whole of the head of the charging column was cut off by the
bullets of the foe. The Mexicans were soon driven from their post, and
fled on swift horses. But the Americans suffered terribly. Large numbers
were killed.

The Mexicans soon rallied with reinforcements and resumed the battle. The
advanced guard of the Americans was driven back and compelled to act upon
the defensive. We have not space here to give, in detail, the victories
and defeats of these fierce conflicts. Most of these California Mexicans
were of the bravest blood of Spain. And they fought as if determined to
perpetuate their ancestral renown.

When near San Diego, Kearney's force was surrounded by three or four times
its number, and were starving. The men were feeding upon the mules. Even
that resource seemed almost exhausted. The utter ruin of the army seemed
inevitable. A council of war was held. Carson was present. He was a man of
few words. When he spoke, all listened. In his soft, feminine voice he

"I think I may be able to creep in the night, through the Mexican lines. I
can hasten then to San Diego, and inform Commodore Stockton of our peril.
He will hasten to the rescue. I am willing to try."

Immediately Lieutenant Beale, of the United States Navy, one of the most
heroic of men, added, "I will go with him." General Kearney accepted the
noble offer. In its desperation was his only hope.

The camp was encircled by three concentric rows of sentinels. They were
mounted, and rode incessantly to and fro, through their short patrols.
Night came. It was dark. Carson and Beale crept out from the camp, on
their hands and feet, feeling for the tall grass, the slight depressions
in the ground, the shade of the thickets. They had shoes instead of
moccasins. As they crept along foot by foot in breathless silence, the
stiff soles of the shoes would sometimes hit a stone or a stick, and make
a slight noise. They drew off their shoes and pushed them under their
belts. Occasionally they were within a few feet of the sentinels, whom
they could dimly discern.

They had passed the first line of sentinels, and the second, and were just
beginning to breathe a little more freely when a sentinel rode up to
within a few feet of the spot where they were lying still as death, and
but slightly concealed in the tall grass. By daylight they would have been
instantly seen. To their terror the sentinel was mounted, and alighting
with flint and steel began to strike a light to indulge in the comfort of
his pipe. The flame of a piece of paper would reveal them. The suspense
was terrible. So still did they lie and so intense were their inward
throbbings that Mr. Carson afterwards affirmed that he could actually hear
Lieutenant Beale's heart pulsate.

Providentially the Mexican lighted his pipe, and remounting rode in the
other direction. For a distance of nearly two miles Carson and Beale thus
crept along, working their way through the Mexican lines. Having left the
last sentinel behind them, they regained their feet and felt for their
shoes. They were gone. Thus far they had not interchanged even a whisper.
Though the worst peril was now over, they had still many dangers to
encounter, and fearful suffering. It would not do to advance upon San
Diego by any of the well-trodden trails, all of which were closely watched
by the enemy's scouts. Carson chose a circuitous route over rocks and
hills, where their feet were dreadfully lacerated by the prickly pear.

All the next day, with feet torn and bleeding, they toiled along, feeding
upon whatever they could find, which would in the slightest degree appease
the gnawings of hunger. Another night spread its gloom around them. Still
onward was the march of our heroes. About midnight, Carson discovered,
from a slight eminence, the dim outline of the houses in San Diego. They
approached the American sentinels, announced themselves as friends, and
were conducted to Commodore Stockton. He immediately dispatched one
hundred and seventy men with a heavy piece of ordnance, and with
directions to march day and night, for the relief of Kearney.

The Mexicans hearing of their approach, knowing that they would be
attacked both in front and rear, fled. Kearney and his army were saved.
Carson and Beale had rescued them.

The main army of the Mexicans was now at Los Angelos, about a hundred and
twenty miles north from San Diego. They had a strongly intrenched camp
there; garrisoned by about seven hundred men. Kearney and Fremont united
their forces to attack them. Carson was again with his friend Fremont. The
Mexicans were driven away, and the American army took up its winter
quarters during two or three cold and dreary months.

In the month of March, 1847, Mr. Carson was directed to carry important
dispatches to Washington. Lieutenant Beale, who never recovered from the
hardships he encountered in his flight to San Diego, was permitted to
accompany him. As we have mentioned, it was a journey of four thousand
miles. It was accomplished in three months. In reference to this adventure
Mr. Carson writes:

"Lieutenant Beale went with me as bearer of dispatches, intended for the
Navy Department. 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 staid in
Washington, which was more than I had any reason for expecting, and which
will never be forgotten by me."

On this expedition, Kit Carson was provided with a guard of ten or twelve
picked men, veteran mountaineers. They took an extremely southern route.
Having journeyed about four hundred miles without meeting any hostile
encounter, they reached the Gila, a tributary of the lower Colorado. Here
Mr. Carson had evidence that a band of hostile Indians, keeping always out
of sight, were dogging his path, watching for an opportunity to attack him
by surprise. Their route led over a vast prairie, where there were no
natural defences. They cooked their supper early in the evening, and
wrapped in their blankets, threw themselves on the grass for sleep. Mr.
Carson, aware that the cunning Indians might be, watching all his
movements, as soon as it was dark, ordered his men to rise, march forward
in the darkness more than a mile, again to picket their animals, and then
to arrange their pack-saddles so as to protect them from the arrows of the
Indians. In case of an attack they were to lie perfectly still, and not
speak a word. It would be of no use to fire, for no savage would be within
sight. If the Indians ventured into the camp, they were then, with rifle,
and revolver and knife, to assail them with the utmost desperation.

At midnight the yell of the savage was heard, and a shower of arrows fell
around. They had not ascertained with accuracy the position of the
travellers. They dared not approach near enough to see, for in that case
they could be seen, and the bullet would certainly strike them. After many
random shots, and many unearthly yells, the discomfited savages fled. They
dared not await the dawn of the day, when upon the open prairie, their
arrows would be powerless weapons against rifles. In all these
journeyings, Mr. Carson was so cautious that one not acquainted with his
well balanced character, might deem him wanting in courage. Not a tree, a
rock, a bush, or any other place where an Indian might hide, escaped his
notice. His eye was ever scanning the horizon to see if there were any
smoke indicating an Indian's fire, or any flight of crows hovering over a
spot where Indians had recently encamped. The ground he was ever watching
in search of the pressure of the horse's unshod foot, or of the Indian's

Colonel Fremont had married the daughter of Missouri's illustrious
Senator, Hon. Thomas H. Benton. Mr. Carson, upon his arrival at St. Louis,
was taken immediately to Mr. Benton's home, where he was treated with
every attention, and where he enjoyed the pleasure of an introduction to
the most distinguished men of the city. As in the continuance of his
journey he stepped upon the platform of the depot in Washington, Mrs.
Fremont was there, with her carriage, to convey him as a guest to her

In the crowd landing from the cars, Mrs. Fremont recognized him at once,
from the description which her husband had given. Mr. Carson remained in
Washington for several weeks, greatly interested in the entirely new world
which was open to him there. His reputation had gone before him, and the
very best men in our land honored themselves in honoring Christopher
Carson. President Polk appointed him Lieutenant in the United States Rifle
Corps. He was then directed to return immediately across the continent as
bearer of important dispatches.

Arriving at Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, he was there furnished with an
escort of fifty soldiers to accompany him across the plain. He reached the
eastern declivity of the Rocky mountains without important adventure.
Here, at a place called Point of Rocks, he overtook a party of United
States Volunteers, under command of Lieutenant Mulony. They were escorting
a large train of wagons to New Mexico. They encamped not far from each
other. Just before the break of day a band of Comanche Indians made an
attack upon the cattle of Mulony's party, and got possession of all the
oxen and of twenty-six horses.

Mr. Carson, ever on the alert, heard the tumult, and made a sudden and
impetuous charge upon the savages. He recovered all the oxen, but the
horses were effectually stampeded and lost. But for Mr. Carson, the cattle
also would have fallen into the hands of the Indians, which would have
been a great calamity. The next day Mr. Carson resumed his rapid march and
reached Santa Fe in safety. Here he left his escort in accordance with
orders, and hiring sixteen mountaineers, he proceeded on his journey.

Travelling rapidly, he came to Muddy Creek, a tributary of Virgin river.
Here he suddenly encountered a camp of three hundred Indians. He knew
their reputation as treacherous in the extreme. He threw up a little
rampart, forbidding the Indians to draw too near, and then held a parley
under the protection of his men. Thoroughly acquainted with the Indian
character, he seemed always to know the tone which it was best to assume.
Sternly addressing the chiefs, he said:

"I know your treachery. Your words of friendship cannot be believed. Not
long ago, you massacred seven Americans. You wish to gain admission to my
camp that you may kill us also. I will now allow you till midday to be
off. If any of you, after that, are within reach of our rifles you will

Most of the Indians were overawed by this bold talk, and disappeared. A
few of the more desperate of the warriors lounged about, apparently
doubting his words. At the designated hour he ordered his men to take good
aim and fire. Though the Indians were at quite a distance, one of the
warriors fell instantly dead. Four others were severely wounded. Soon not
a savage was to be seen. Thus fifteen men under Carson, vanquished three
hundred Indians. "Better," said Napoleon, "is an army of deer led by a
lion, than an army of lions led by a deer."

Mr. Carson now pressed on to Monterey, and delivered his dispatches to
Colonel Mason. As acting lieutenant in the U.S. army he was placed at the
head of a company of dragoons, to guard Tajon Pass, the main outlet
through which robber Indian bands conveyed their booty from California to
the plains. After spending the winter very successfully in the discharge
of this duty, he was again ordered to proceed to Washington with
dispatches. Fifteen men were detailed to escort him on the way.


The Chivalry of the Wilderness.

    Injustice of the Government.--Heroic Resolve of Mr.
    Carson.--Indian Outrages.--The valley of Razado.--Barbaric
    Murders by Apaches.--An Exciting Chase.--An Attractive
    Picture.--Plot of Fox Overthrown.--Gift of Messrs. Brevoort and
    Weatherhead.--Adventure with the Cheyennes.

On this second excursion of Mr. Carson to Washington as bearer of
dispatches, he learned at Santa Fe, that the Senate of the United States
had refused to confirm his appointment as lieutenant. It was a great
wrong. Party spirit then ran high at Washington. His friends at Santa Fe
advised him to resent the wrong, by delivering his dispatches to the
officer in command there, saying he could no longer serve a government
which refused to recognize him. His heroic reply was:

"I have been entrusted with these dispatches. I shall try to fulfill the
duty thus devolving upon me, if it cost me my life. This is service for my
country. It matters little, whether I perform it as lieutenant in the
army, or as a mountaineer. I certainly shall not shrink from duty because
the Senate does not confirm an appointment which I never sought."

In the then state of the country, there was perhaps not another man who
could have conveyed those dispatches over the almost boundless plains,
swarming with hostile Indians. It was well known at Santa Fe that the
Comanche savages, in bands of two or three hundred, were watching the old
Santa Fe road, for two or three hundred miles, that they might murder and
rob all who fell into their hands.

Carson resolved to make a trail of his own. He selected but ten men.
Pushing directly north, he reached a region which the Comanches seldom
visited. Then changing his route, he struck the Bijoux river, and followed
it down until within about twenty-five miles of its entrance into the
Platte. He then traversed the plains to Fort Kearney, and thence proceeded
to Fort Leavenworth without any molestation. His men and animals were in
fine condition. His trail, though very circuitous, had led him through a
country abounding in game, well watered and with a succession of rich
pastures. Here he dismissed his escort, and proceeded to Washington alone.

Having delivered his dispatches, he immediately set out on his return, and
reached his home in Taos in October, 1848. He had not been long at home,
before the Apache Indians in the vicinity were committing terrible
outrages. Colonel Beale, who was in command at Taos, learned that a large
party of the savages were upon the upper waters of the Arkansas, with
quite a number of white prisoners. He took two companies of dragoons, and
Kit Carson as a guide. Upon reaching the river, he found two hundred
Indians who had met there in grand council. The force of armed warriors
was so strong, and their passions so aroused, that Col. Beale deemed it
impossible to liberate the captives, who were Mexicans, by force. He
therefore returned to Taos, to resort to the more peaceful operations of

There was at that time residing at Taos, an old mountaineer friend of Kit
Carson, by the name of Maxwell, who had become quite rich. Fifty miles
east from Taos, there is one of the most lovely valleys in the world
called Razado. Fringed with lofty hills of luxuriant foliage, with a
mountain stream meandering through the heart of the valley, and with the
fertile prairie extending on either side, waving with grass and flowers, a
scene is presented which is quite enchanting.

This valley Maxwell and Carson selected for their vast farms, or ranches,
as they were called, containing thousands of acres. Maxwell erected a
mansion which would be an ornament to any country town. Mr. Carson's
dwelling, though more modest, was tasteful, and abounding with comforts.
While earnestly engaged in developing and cultivating his farm, he heard
that an American merchant by the name of White, while approaching Santa Fe
in his private carriage, had been killed by the Apaches, and his wife and
only child were carried off by the savages.

A command was immediately organized to pursue the murderers, and rescue
the lady if possible. Kit Carson proffered his services for the
expedition. The first object was to find the trail. They soon reached the
place where the crime had been committed. The ground was strewn with
boxes, trunks and pieces of harness, etc., which the savages had not
thought it worth while to carry away. They struck the trail and followed
it for twelve days without overtaking the fugitives. At last their camp
was seen far away in the distance. Kit Carson was the first who caught a
glimpse of it. He urged that they should draw unseen as near the camp as
possible, and then make a sudden rush upon the Indians, with constant and
unerring discharges from their rifles. He said that the savages in their
consternation would run, each one to save his own life, without thinking
of their captives. If there were a few moments allowed them for thought,
they would certainly kill them before effecting their escape.

Unfortunately his counsel was not followed. There was hesitation, delay,
and talk of parley. At length they made the attack. The Indians fled
before them like deer. The body of Mrs. White was found in the camp, still
warm, with an arrow piercing her heart. The savages, on their fresh
horses, could not be overtaken by the wearied steeds of the dragoons. They
were pursued for six miles. One warrior was killed, and several wounded.
Sadly they returned. The little child of Mrs. White had annoyed the
Indians by its cries, and with one blow of a tomahawk, its skull had been
split open.

Mr. Carson speaking of this adventure modestly writes:

"I am certain that if the Indians had been charged immediately on our
arrival, Mrs. White would have been saved. Yet I cannot blame the
commanding officer, or the guide, for the action they took in the affair.
They evidently did as they thought best; but I have no doubt that they now
can see that if my advice had been taken, the life of Mrs. White might
have been spared."

The expedition however was not a failure. The Indians were severely
punished. Many of them fled with nothing but the scanty clothing they had
on. Mr. Carson returned to Razado. The winter passed peacefully away.

In the spring, a band of Apaches entered the valley, shot the two
herdsmen, and drove off a large number of animals. Kit Carson, at the head
of ten dragoons, set out in sharp pursuit. After a ride of twenty-five
miles, they came in sight of them, far away on the prairie. It was an open
chase. Soon four of the horses of the dragoons gave out. The remainder of
the party, consisting of Carson, six dragoons, and three settlers, pressed
on. They soon got near enough to count the numbers of the Indians. There
were twenty. Five of them were soon struck by rifle balls, and dropped
from their horses. The heroic band returned with the stolen property.

Mr. Carson was now a farmer. In May, 1856, accompanied by an old
mountaineer, he took fifty horses and mules to Fort Laramie, a distance of
five hundred miles, and sold them to advantage. He then set out for home
accompanied only by a Mexican boy. He remained at his farm through the
following summer, a peaceful, industrious, busy man, loving his home and
enjoying it. He had quite a number of Mexicans employed upon his large
farm, whose labors he superintended. Much of his time he employed in
hunting, thus abundantly supplying his large family with game. It is
written of him, at this time:

"Mounted on a fine horse, with his faithful dog and gun, early each day he
would start out on the prairies, to engage in the chase. In a few hours he
would return on foot with his noble hunter loaded down with choice game.
Sometimes it would be an antelope or elk. On another occasion it would
consist of black-tailed deer, which are celebrated as being the largest
and finest specimens of venison that roam the forests of any country, and
are only to be found in the Rocky mountains; on another, wild turkeys, and
then mountain grouse and prairie chickens, helped to complete the load.
When thus provided for, it is no wonder that Kit's workmen loved their
employment, and labored with good will.

"In his mountain home he was often visited by Indian friends who came to
smoke the pipe of peace with him, and to enjoy his hospitality. He saw
himself in possession of fine lands, well watered and well timbered. The
soil, unsurpassed in richness and fertility, was a safe and sure
depository for his seeds, telling him in its silent but unmistakable
language, of the harvest in store for him. His stock was the best which
heart could wish. And last, but not least, he was within a stone's throw
of splendid hunting-grounds."

During the summer two gentlemen, Messrs. Brevoort and Weatherhead, were
going to the United States from Santa Fe, with a large sum of money to
purchase goods. One of the worst of frontier vagabonds, a fellow by the
name of Fox, offered his services as guide, and to organize a company to
escort them over the plains. He was a shrewd and plausible scoundrel, and
his services were accepted. He enlisted a small but very energetic band of
desperadoes, and conspired with them to murder and rob the gentlemen on
the way. The deed was to be perpetrated when they should have got nearly
across the plains. The murderers could then divide the rich booty among
themselves, and scatter throughout the States.

One wretch who had been applied to to join the gang, but who for some
unknown reason had declined, divulged the plot when he thought that his
friend Fox was so far on his way that there was no danger of his being
overtaken and arrested. The rumors of the diabolical plot reached the ears
of Kit Carson. He knew Fox and his depraved associates well. The murder
was to be perpetrated when the party should reach Cimaron river, about
three hundred miles from Santa Fe.

In an hour the energetic man was mounted with a small band of his
employés, all upon the fleetest and most powerful steeds. Most of the
workmen on Mr. Carson's extended ranche were veteran pioneers. Every man
was well armed, and led a horse in addition to the one upon which he rode.
It was _possible_, and that was all, that by the most expeditious riding
the travellers might be overtaken before the bloody deed had been

Their path was over the open prairie. Onward they went as fast as their
steeds could be safely urged. The second night out, they came upon a
detachment of United States troops bound for California as recruits. The
officer in command, Captain Ewell, knowing that the plains were infested
with powerful bands of Indians, by whom the small party of Mr. Carson
might be cut off, generously joined him with twenty men, leaving the rest
of his party to proceed on their journey by slow marches.

They overtook the merchants just before they had reached the spot where
their lives were to be taken. Fox was at once arrested. Messrs.
Weatherhead and Brevoort were astounded when informed of the peril from
which they had been rescued. Fox was carried back to Santa Fe and placed
in jail. The merchants were entrusted to the care of fifteen men who could
be relied upon. The rest of the gang were ordered immediately to leave the
camp. Though their guilty designs were unquestioned, they would be
difficult of proof. The grateful merchants offered Kit Carson a large sum
of money for his heroic and successful efforts to save their lives. He

"It is a sufficient reward for me to have been instrumental in saving the
lives of two worthy citizens. I can not think of receiving one cent of

They all met that night gratefully and joyously, around their camp fires.
With the exception of the guilty wretches who had been plotting murder,
all were very happy. The emotions excited were too deep to allow of
jollity. Indeed Kit Carson was never a jolly man. He had no taste for
revelry. As in every man of deep reflection and true greatness, the
pensive element predominated in his character.

It was a brilliant night, calm, serene and starlight. As Carson lay awake
at midnight, thanking God for what he had been enabled to accomplish, it
must have been an hour of sublimity to him, such as is rarely experienced
on earth. While most of the numerous party were sleeping soundly around
him, nothing could be heard but the howling of packs of prairie wolves,
and the heavy tread of the guards, as they walked their beats.

We can not doubt that Mr. Carson was in heart thoroughly a religious man.
It is the element of religion alone, which, in the midst of such
temptations, could form a character of such remarkable purity. He was too
reticent to speak of his own feelings and there were but few, if any, of
the thoughtless men around him who could appreciate his Christian

Messrs. Brevoort and Weatherhead made a graceful acknowledgment of their
obligations to Mr. Carson for the invaluable service which he had rendered
them. In the following spring they presented him with a pair of
magnificent revolvers. Upon the silver mountings there was engraved a
brief narrative of his heroic achievement. Mr. Carson on his return to
Razado, found pleasant and constant employment in carrying on his farm and
providing many hungry mouths with game. His hospitable home was ever
crowded with guests.

Early in the summer he set out with Mr. Maxwell and a large train of
wagons, for the States. Leaving his animals and wagons on the Kansas
frontier, he descended the river to St. Louis in a steamboat. Here he
purchased a large stock of goods, and reascending the river, transferred
them to his caravan. He then started with his long train to return to New
Mexico. His route was through the rich pasturage to be found on the way
to Bent's Fort. Just before reaching the ford of the Arkansas, he fell in
with an encampment of Cheyenne warriors. They were greatly and justly
exasperated by an outrage inflicted upon them by a preceding party of
United States recruits. Kit Carson, though unconscious of this, perceived
at once that something was wrong. These Indians had been very friendly.

With his customary caution, he ordered the caravan to press forward as
rapidly as possible, through the country of the Cheyennes, while every man
was ordered to be constantly on guard. Having advanced about twenty miles,
he saw that the savage warriors were rapidly gathering around him, in ever
increasing numbers. Throwing up an intrenched camp, he rode out to within
hailing distance of an advanced party of the warriors, and proposed a
council. His friendly words in some degree conciliated them. They were
soon seated in a circle, and they smoked the pipe of peace. Carson had
addressed them through an interpreter. They did not suppose that the pale
face could understand their language. But he did understand it perfectly.

The savages began to talk very loudly among themselves. Carson,
understanding every word they said, listened eagerly, hoping to ascertain
the cause of their unexpected hostility. Openly, but as they thought
secretly, they discussed their plot, treacherously to disarm the whites of
their suspicion, and then to arise and massacre them all. With true
Indian cunning, they had arranged matters so that it would appear that
the Sioux Indians, had perpetrated the massacre, and that the white man's
vengeance might fall upon them.

Suddenly Carson sprang to his feet, ordered every man who attended him, to
be ready for immediate action. Then to the astonishment of the savages, in
pure Cheyenne, he said to them:

"You see that I understand all that you have said. Why do you wish for my
scalp? I have ever been the friend of your tribe. No one of you has ever
been injured by me. There are some here whom I have met in past years. If
they will turn to their memories, they will recall the former hunter of
Bent's Fort. I have eaten and drank with them. And now without any
provocation from me, you treacherously seek my life. If you do not
instantly leave this place, I will order you to be shot."

The warriors disappeared on swift feet. Kit Carson's change of dress had
so altered his appearance, that they did not at first recognize him. But
they had not forgotten his reputation. Though they had counted his armed
teamsters, and saw that they numbered fifteen, the Indian warriors held a
grand council, and probably the decision was to withdraw without an
attack. Perhaps they remembered their former friendship for Carson;
perhaps they were intimidated by his military prowess. At all events, he
was not again molested. The remainder of the journey to Razado was
accomplished in safety, though the vigilance of this distinguished leader
was not intermitted in the slightest degree for a single mile of the way.


Recollections of Mountain Life.

    Character of the Native Indian.--The Caravan.--Interesting
    Incident.--Effects of Cholera.--Commission of Joe Smith.--Snow on
    the Mountains.--Government Appointment.--Adventure with three
    Bears.--Journey to Los Angelos.--Mt. St. Bernardino.--The
    Spring.--Character of Men.--Insubordination Quelled.--Suffering
    for Water and Relief.--A Talk with Indians.

In writing the life of Kit Carson, my object has been, as has been
mentioned, not merely to record those remarkable traits of character which
Mr. Carson developed, but also to portray and perpetuate the great
features of that wild and wondrous mountaineer life, which the discovery
of this continent ushered in, but even the memory of which is now rapidly
passing to oblivion.

It so happens that I have an intimate friend who passed ten years of his
early manhood roving through these solitudes. I have spent many an evening
hour, listening to his recital of the adventures which he encountered
there. This friend, Mr. William E. Goodyear, is a man of unusual native
strength of mind, of marvellous powers of memory, and I repose implicit
confidence in his veracity. At my earnest solicitation, he has furnished
me with the following graphic narrative of the scenes which he witnessed
nearly a score of years ago, when these regions were rarely visited save
by the wild beast and the Indian.

In the year 1852 I, then a young man, in all the vigor of early youth, and
of unusual health and strength, when the wildest adventures were a
pleasure, was led by peculiar circumstances to undertake a trip across the
continent. Our journey from Independence, Missouri, to Salt Lake was
accomplished without any incident worthy of especial record. Along the
route we were accompanied by almost an incessant caravan of wagons,
horsemen and footmen, some bound to the Mormon city, some flocking to the
recently discovered gold mines in California, and some on hunting and
trapping excursions, to the vast prairies and majestic valleys of the far
west. Here we met several men whose names had attained much renown among
the pioneers of the wilderness, such men as James Bridger, Tim Goodell,
Jim Beckwith, chief of the Crow Indians, William Rogers, a half breed, and
Arkansas Sam.

Our company numbered but four, consisting of my uncle, then and now
resident in California, who was returning to his home, from a visit to the
States; myself, who was crossing the continent mainly for the love of
adventure; another young man, and an Indian boy, about sixteen years old,
called Joe. The boy had been brought from the Indian country, and was
about as wild and ungovernable a spirit as ever chased a buffalo or
shouted the war-whoop.

My uncle had often during the previous twenty years, crossed the
mountains, on trapping expeditions with an elder brother. In these
adventures my uncle, whom I was accompanying, had become quite familiar
with the peculiarities of the Indian, and had become acquainted with many
of the chiefs of the different tribes. Neither he nor his brother had even
been afraid to enter the camp of the Indian; for they had never deceived
nor defrauded him.

Let it be remembered that these excursions of my uncle had taken place
nearly forty years ago, before unprincipled traders had carried whiskey
into the country and robbed the Indians in every possible way. The native
Indian seems to have been the soul of honor. But now how changed!
contaminated by vagabond white men.

Our company had about a dozen horses and mules. We rode the horses and the
well packed mules carried our luggage. We had also a light two horse
spring wagon. Behold us, then, three of us, mounted in half Spanish
saddles, with our rifles in front lying crossways between our persons and
the horn of the saddle. The never-failing revolver and hunting knife were
in our belts. The young man drove the wagon which contained many of our
most valuable effects.

It was without much thought that we set out on the emigrant trail to
California, a distance of about three thousand miles. As on our journey we
were one day descending the hills into the valley of the Platte river,
near a place called Ash Hollow, our keen-eyed Indian boy exclaimed, "I see
Indians." Looking around with a rapid glance and seeing nothing, I said,
"I think not." "Yes," he replied, "there certainly are Indians," and
pointed to some specks far away before us, on the meadows which skirted
the stream.

Sure enough, there was a band of Indians quite distinctly discernible. My
uncle looked at them for a moment quite intently and in silence. Then he

"Boys! there is a band of Indians on the war-path. I wish you to obey my
instructions exactly. Do not stop your riding animals or the team. Keep
straight ahead, unless I tell you to halt. Do not fire a shot unless I
fire first. Then take deliberate aim and kill as many as you can before
you go under."

"Go under!" this was the almost invariable phrase, in the language of the
mountains, for death. I well remember my thoughts as we neared them. It
was indeed a formidable looking band of Aripaho Indians, hideously
painted, and looking more like demons than men, armed for a fight. They
were all mounted, and each warrior carried in his hand a long spear and a
strong shield, impervious to arrows, made of rawhide. Their bows and
arrows were slung to their backs. To my inexperienced eye they seemed
incarnate fiends. We had met several small bands of Indians before, but no
war party like this.

When we had approached within a few hundred yards of each other, my uncle

"Boys! do not forget what I have told you."

Then pressing his large Mexican spurs into the sides of his horse, he
darts away towards them upon the full gallop, at the same time shouting
something in the Indian language which I did not understand. Their ranks
opened and he rode into the centre and instantly dismounted. There was the
chief on a splendid charger. He also alighted, and for a moment both were
concealed from our view, buried as it were, within the ranks of the plumed
warriors. They were, as we afterwards ascertained, fraternally embracing
each other. Both remounted their horses, the ranks opened again and they
two, my uncle and the chief, rode out upon the full run towards us as our
little cavalcade were steadily pressing forward on the trail.

When they reached us, the chief held out his hand to me, and said in
broken English, "How do, brother?" I shook hands with him, returning the
salutation of "How do." My uncle then turning to me said, "Have you plenty
of tobacco with you?" "O yes," I replied rather tremblingly, for I was ill
at ease. "You can have it all if you want it." "I don't want it all,"
uncle replied. "Give me one plug." I gave it to him and he handed it to
the chief.

The war party was directly on the trail. Four hundred mounted warriors
occupy much space, composing a formidable looking band. Following the
directions which had been given us, we continued on the move. The chief
waved a signal to his men, to which they promptly responded, opening their
ranks and filing to the right and to the left. We passed on through this,
living wall bristling with spears, meeting with an occasional greeting of
"How do." Having passed through the long lines of the band my uncle said
to me, "Keep straight on till night. I will then rejoin you. I am going to
have a big smoke with the chief."

With alacrity we obeyed this mandate, glad enough to leave such customers
behind us. I confess that I was half frightened to death, and feared I
should never see my uncle again. In the evening he joined us and laughed
very heartily at me for wishing, in my trepidation, to give the chief all
my tobacco.

In after life, in my intercourse with the Indians, I got bravely over
being scared by any sights or sounds emanating from them. We pressed on
without molestation to Salt Lake, passing continually the newly made
graves of the dead. The cholera had broken out with awful fatality, along
the whole line of the emigrants' march, consigning thousands to burial in
the wilderness.

We reached the Great Salt Lake, the home of the Mormons, in safety. Here
we remained for nearly a month. I called on Brigham Young, and also on the
old patriarch Joe Smith. From the latter I received a commission, or power
of attorney, for the consideration of two dollars, authorizing me to heal
the sick, to raise the dead, and to speak all languages. Perhaps my want
of faith left me as powerless as other men, notwithstanding my commission.
We spent our time here in strolling around the city, visiting the
tabernacle, bathing and fishing in the river Jordan, which empties into
the lake, and in making sundry purchases for the continuation of our
journey to the Pacific.

Again we started upon our journey. After weary days of travel, without
encountering any adventure of special interest, we reached the vast ridge
of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Up, up, and still up, the trail led us
over the gigantic cliffs. On the summit we found snow hundreds of feet
deep, and apparently as hard as the rock which it surmounted. We crossed
the ridge by what is called the Carson route. Descending the mountains on
the western side, we find ourselves in California, and pressing on through
Sacramento, to Benicia, are at our journey's end.

We left Independence on the third of June. It is now the latter part of
September. We have spent almost four months on the road. And here let me
say, that had I given a description of the country, its rivers, its
mountains, its scenery, its abundance of game, among the noblest of which,
are the buffalo, bears of different kinds, deer, antelope, mountain sheep;
its numerous rivers abounding with a great variety of fishes,--had I
endeavored to give a full description of all these, it would have demanded
a volume rather than a chapter.

Here I was at Benicia, and winter was at hand. I decided not to go to the
mining district until the spring sun should return. Provisions commanded
almost fabulous prices. Packers got a dollar a pound for packing flour,
sugar, rice and other things which the miners must have.

But an unexpected opening presented itself to me. Mr. Frederick Loring was
about to set out on a surveying tour in behalf of the government. I
secured a position in the party as chain-man.

We set out for San Rafael, which is in Marin county, on the coast of the
Pacific, just north of San Francisco. We had been out but five or six
weeks, when Mr. Loring's health began seriously to fail him. One day he
called me to him, and said:

"I wish you now to quit chaining and to carry my instrument and to watch
me, that you may learn to use it yourself. I shall probably not be able to
finish this contract. I ought to be on my bed now."

Very readily I fell in with this arrangement. Having studied navigation
while a boy at school, which is somewhat similar to surveying, it did not
take me a great while to learn to adjust the instrument, or to take the
variations at night, on the elongation of the north star. I will here
remark in passing, that Mr. Loring soon became so enfeebled that he
returned to San Francisco, where he died.

One day while surveying in the coast range, we had descended a mountain,
and upon a plain below had found a dense chaparral or thicket of bushes,
so closely interwoven that we could not penetrate it with our pack
animals. We therefore sent the boys down the plain, along the edge of the
thickets, to find some better place to go through. Mr. Loring, our
chain-man and I prepared to make a triangulation, in order to get the
distance from the point we were at, to a white stone on our line of
survey, which was on the side of the opposite mountain and across the

Having finished the triangulation, Mr. Loring and I endeavored to cross
the chaparral by a direction different from that which the main body of
the party was pursuing. Suddenly Mr. Loring dropped his instrument and in
a tone of terror exclaimed:

"Look at that bear." I looked as he pointed in the direction of a large
rock, and there were three huge grizzly bears. Loring, being longer legged
than I, left me like a shot from a gun. I ran to a tree, near by, from
four to six feet in circumference, and very speedily found myself perched
among its branches. I looked for the bears. One had not left the spot
where we discovered them. Another was growling and snarling at the foot of
the tree which I had climbed. The other was going after Loring at no very
slow pace.

We had got through the chaparral and our party with the mules had also
come across and were many rods farther down the valley, coming up to meet
us. As Loring fled with the speed of an antelope, he met the first animal,
which happened to be the kitchen mule. He was so called, because he had
very large open bags or panniers, into which we put all our cooking
utensils. Loring sprang upon the back of the mule. At the same moment the
animal caught sight of the grizzly bear. Frantic with terror, he turned
and fled as mule never fled before. Down went the mule on the back track
along the edge of the chaparral. Once in a while, as the bags flew around,
they would catch on the bushes, and tear a hole. Soon the tin cups and
plates began to fly, the mule kicking at them with every jump, making such
a din as to set all the rest of the animals flying through the bushes, and
down the trail in the wildest imaginable stampede. The huge bear in mad
pursuit was rushing after them.

It was a sight I shall never forget. Loring on the cook's mule hanging on
with all his might. The tin ware flying in all directions. All the boys as
well as your humble servant, up in the trees looking on. I laughed so
heartily at the ludicrous scene, that I was in danger of falling, in which
case the bear would have torn me to pieces right quick.

But who is this coming towards me? He is an old hunter of our party who
used to make shingles in the Red-woods. He has had two sons killed by
bears. Now he has joined our party to provide us with game. Deliberately,
he walks up to within ten feet of the bear who is growling at the foot of
my tree. Bruin turns on his new foe, and rising on his hind feet, with
appalling howlings, prepares for battle. But in an instant the old man's
rifle is at his shoulder. His eye runs quickly through the sights, an
explosion follows, and the bear is dead. The hunter knew well where to
strike a vital point. Satisfied that the monster was powerless, I came
down from the tree.

The other bear, apparently dismayed by the commotion he had created,
turned into the chaparral and disappeared. It required all the rest of the
day to re-collect our party and to repair damages.

Let us now pass from these scenes to the spring of the year 1854. Here we
are then in San Francisco, all ready to start on board the Sea Bird. "Cast
off the lines." "Aye, aye, sir." Off we go around North Beach. You will
see Point Boneta on the north, and Point de los Lobos on the south.
Through the straits we go out at the Golden Gate. Onward we glide past
Farallones de los Frayles, and here we are out on the broad Pacific.

After sailing about three hundred miles south we arrive at San Pedro. We
go ashore at once and secure seats in the stage for Ciudad de los Angelos,
which is situated about twenty-five miles from here in a northerly
direction. There is now, after the lapse of twenty years, a railroad,
instead of Banning's stages, by which one can be transported to the City
of Angels. We shall be obliged to stay here for a few days, to prepare our
outfit. Let us see what we want. Mules and jacks, pack-saddles, saddles
for ourselves to ride, in fact every thing pertaining to camp-life. Here
we can get almost any thing we wish for man or beast.

Well then we will suppose that now we are ready to start. Away we go
towards San Bernardino. We pass the finest of vineyards where thousands of
gallons of wine are made. On, on we go, and at last, after a ride of about
seventy miles, we arrive at San Bernardino. One of the first things which
attracts our attention is the mountain of the same name. It rises
seventeen thousand feet above the level of the ocean, attaining an
altitude two thousand feet above that of Mont Blanc, the monarch of the

The inhabitants of the towns are, with few exceptions, Mormons. It was
from this place that we started on a survey, commencing east of the coast
range of mountains, and extending our operations to the extreme boundary
line of California, on the east. The Colorado river was then the line
which separated California from New Mexico.

The party employed in this surveying tour consisted of about forty men.
The first day we went as far as the mouth of the Cahon Pass, by which we
were to penetrate through the coast range of which I have spoken. At this
spot we found a large farm, which they call a ranche, where provisions can
be purchased, and also poor whiskey. We rested here for the night,
sleeping in the open air, and at an early hour in the morning, sprung from
our blankets ready dressed. The cook speedily prepared our breakfast, we
ate like hungry men and then packed our mules and jacks, and were on our
way. Our pack animals will carry from two to three hundred pounds without
any trouble.

Nearly at the eastern end of the pass we came to water. This I claim that
I discovered, or at least that my horse discovered it for me. It is called
in Spanish _Guilliome Bobo_, or "William I Drink." No one would see the
spring unless narrowly looking for it. It trickles down the almost
perpendicular side of the mountain. We encamped at the spring, and in the
morning made an early start, as we had some forty or fifty miles to go
that day. But we had a serious job to encounter before we could get out of
this defile. It is so steep at its eastern extremity, that we had to
unpack and send up very small loads at a time. In some places we had to
use ropes, to haul up our goods.

But after a while everything is ready for another start. On, on we go,
through a barren cactus country, till we reach the Mohavè river. The day
is far spent, we are all very weary, men as well as animals. So, boys, off
with the packs of provisions, and let your mules go with their long hair
ropes. Let one of the men be sent to look out for the animals. This was no
sooner said than done. I was captain of my men. A harder set could not be
found, in any prison in this or any other land.

My lieutenant, whose name was Texas, had but one eye and he was covered
with scars. But notwithstanding the company was a hard one, it was the
best I could get for my use. Almost all of them had been in many a fight.
Before they had been with me three months, I have reason to believe every
one of them loved me, and I know that they feared me. Only two instances
of mutiny occurred in over two years and a half. Both of these I will here

On one occasion I observed that some of the jacks had been kicked
severely. I said to my pack-master, "Mr. Williams, how is this? Those
jacks have been shamefully used. The skin is off and the wounds are
bleeding. I, as you well know, hold you personally responsible for every
animal. Don't let me ever see this again, sir."

As I turned to go from him, I heard him mutter something. I at once, with
my hand upon my revolver, came back towards him and inquired, "what's this
you're saying, sir?"

He replied, "I kicked the jacks myself and I will do it again if they
bother me."

I walked to within perhaps ten paces of him and said, "If I ever catch you
at it, I will shoot you like a dog."

"Two," he replied, "can play at that game," and his hand neared the butt
of his revolver. I jerked out my pistol and fired at his arm. His pistol
dropped to the ground.

"Don't shoot again, captain. I will do as you wish in the future."

"All right," said I. "Let me see your arm."

I had shot him through his wrist. I bound up the wound as well as I could,
and it soon healed. He remained in my employ nearly four years after that,
and to my knowledge was never guilty of doing me or my animals a wrong.

Another instance happened a long time after this. I was getting short of
provisions, and had got to do just so much work within a certain time. So
I resolved to run two instruments. As we were then running sectional
lines, I could take the variations at night. So I fixed another instrument
and gave it into the hands of a young man by the name of Biddleman. I
assigned to him his part of the line then, and set him at work within
three miles of the camp.

Returning to camp about two o'clock in the afternoon, to do some traverse
work around a small lake, what was my astonishment, to see that
Biddleman's party was already in camp. Upon asking him what it meant, he
told me that upon running a random line, he stopped to correct the error
at the half mile corner, and that his men on getting to the mile corner,
instead of coming back and reporting the error as they should have done,
started for camp. He, of course, followed on, as he could not do anything

I at once called his party of men, told them to get their chain and pins,
put the stakes, pickaxe and shovel on the line animal, and follow me. This
they did. When we got to the corner where Biddleman left off work, I set
my instrument, gave them an object to run by, and sent them off. They went
and returned to me. I then ran another mile north, set my instrument and
started them east again on random. They went and I followed them to the
half mile corner, to which place they returned.

I said: "Boys, we will now go to camp. In future whether with me or
Biddleman, you will continue at your work until you are directed to

Had I allowed either of the above transactions to have passed unpunished,
I might as well have started for the States, for all order would have been
at an end.

Sometimes we would see a small party of Indians at a short distance from
us. I would step to my instrument, and turn the glass towards them. They
would at once commence to scamper, throw sand, turn into all manner of
shapes, lie down, roll over, thinking no doubt it was a gun or something
that would destroy them. At one time, I attempted to cross from the sink
of the Mohavè river to Providence, some sixty miles, expecting to find
water at Washburn's well. This was a hole which I afterwards found dug
down about ten feet in the white sand that covers this desert. On this
sand not any thing grows, but musquit bush, which bears a bean that the
Indians eat.

After travelling to within twelve miles of the mountain, my animals and my
men all gave out. We did not have a drop of water, and my chart said that
there was none short of the mountain. I told the boys that evening was
coming on, and I would take some leather bottles we had and go and get
some water as quickly as I could. So just before dark, I started with
bottles enough to hold twenty quarts. I had a trail to follow in the dark,
not over a foot in width. After what seemed to me the longest twelve miles
I ever travelled, I arrived at the mountain. After following the ravine
through the top, I found the spring, drank heartily, filled my bottles,
and started on my return trip. I arrived at the place where I had left my
men, just as the day was breaking. After giving them a good drink, I gave
some to each of the animals, any one of which would drink from a canteen
or bottle.

We then all immediately started on towards the mountain, at which place we
finally arrived. When within about fifty yards of the spring, I saw a
small party of Indians camped just above it. One of them, the chief,
stepped forward, and in Spanish ordered me to stop. And here let me say,
that almost all of the Indians, especially their chiefs, can talk Spanish.
When he ordered me to stop, I burst out into a laugh, and asked him "what
for." My boys in the meantime were preparing for a fight. I told them to
put up their weapons, as I did not wish to commence fighting the Indians
here, as there were lots of them, and we had a good deal of work to do in
that vicinity. Though we might kill or capture all of this party, a larger
band might attack us in the future. So I told the boys that if they would
keep still, I would bother the Indians a little, and then let them go.
This was agreed to. Upon my asking the chief _what for_, he said,

"This water belongs to the Indians."

I replied, "Do you call yourselves Indians? You are nothing but squaws and
papooses. I was here last night, and got water under your very noses, and
you did not know it."

"The white captain," the chief replied, "talks with two tongues. He lies."

"You are the one that lies," I rejoined. "Has the chief lost his eyesight?
Is he so old that he cannot see the white man's trail? Let him come
forward and meet his white brother alone, and he will show him his trail."

He at once advanced as I did myself. We shook hands. I pointed out my last
night's trail. He saw it at once, and turning to his companions, said to

"The white captain has told the truth."

So we shook hands all around. I gave them some hard bread, also some
bacon, and we had a good time generally all day resting at this spring. At
nightfall they all departed, as silently as shadows, leaving us in full
possession of the spring of water.


Recollections of Mountain Life.

    Position of The Spring.--The Cachè.--Kit Carson's Character and
    Appearance.--Cool Bravery of a Mountain Trapper.--Untamed
    Character of Many Hunters.--The Surveyor's Camp in an Indian
    Territory.--Terrors from Indians.--Joe Walker.--A Mountain
    Man.--Soda Lake.--Optical Illusion.--Camp on Beaver Lake.--The
    Piyute Chief. Conversation with Him.--An alarm.--A Battle.

Mr. Goodyear in his interesting narrative continues: Here let me speak a
word or two about water. The springs, as a general thing, are found near
the summit of the mountains. In some cases I have had to pack the water a
distance of forty miles, for months at a time. From a lake where it
bubbled up from the bottom as warm as you would like to hold your hand in,
the process of evaporation in the leather bottles rendered it soon, almost
as cool as ice water.

Let us now return to our first camping ground on the Mohavè river. Here I
_cached_ or buried for concealment, some of my provisions, to relieve the
animals of their heavy load. If Mr. Indian does not find the _cache_, it
will be all right on our return. I will explain how we do it. First, then,
we send out two or three men as scouts, to see if they can discover any
signs of Indians, such as footprints or trail, or smoke, or anything of
that kind. Men that are used to it, can distinguish between the footprints
of an Indian and a white man. They can also, at a long distance off, tell
an Indian fire from a white man's.

Any mountaineer can tell by the trail, how long since persons have passed,
the number of the party, as well as the number of animals. An Indian, when
he makes a fire, uses half a dozen little sticks as big as your thumb, and
very dry, and all the smoke the fire makes, will ascend straight up in one
steady column. The white man will use, if he is a novice, the dry to
kindle with, and then he will chuck on the wet wood, which will cause a
great smoke.

But to return to my _cache_. I keep out my scouts all the time we are to
work. "Boys, get your shovels, and dig a hole about four or five feet
deep, by ten feet in length. Put a lot of wood or branches in the bottom.
In with the provisions, canvas over the top, or more bushes. Cover over
all with earth. Then take ashes from previous fires, and scatter over the
top; then build fires over them, so as to dry the sand."

It was here in this camp that I first met Christopher Carson, or Kit
Carson, as he was called. From his wide acquaintance with the Indians on
both sides of the Rocky mountains; from his personal knowledge of the many
tribes of the red men; from his bravery under all circumstances in which
he has been placed, Kit Carson stands at the head of all the hardy
pioneers of the Great West. It is now more than twenty years, since I
first met him on the Mohavè river, about eighty miles from San Bernardino.

He was accompanied by an American and half a dozen Mexicans or half
breeds, who were assisting him to drive some sheep. As he rode up, he
saluted me with Buenos dias Señor, which means 'good day sir.' I answered
the salutation in the same language, at the same time clasping his hand as
he dismounted, and introduced himself as Kit Carson. He is about five feet
eight or nine inches high, and weighs about one hundred and sixty pounds.
He had a round, jolly looking face, a dark piercing eye, that looked right
through you, and seemed to read your every thought. His long brown hair
hung around his shoulders. His dress consisted of buckskin coat and pants,
with leggins coming up to his knees, and in which he carried, in true
Mexican style, his Machete or long two-edged knife.

His coat and pants were heavily fringed, in which the quills of the
porcupine bore a conspicuous part. A cap of fox-skin surmounted his head,
with four coon's tails sticking out around the edges of the cap. On his
feet were moccasins. His never-failing rifle was strapped to his back, as
also a powder-horn and bullet-pouch, which latter contained bullets, lead
and moulds. Around his waist there was a heavy belt, which was fastened by
a large, highly polished silver buckle. Attached to the belt, were a pair
of revolvers and a hunting knife.

The noble steed by which he stood, was gayly caparisoned, in true Mexican
style. In many places his trappings were covered with gold and silver. His
bridle also glittered with silver ornaments and buckles.

Thus Kit Carson stands before you, the beau ideal of a mountain man, or
trapper, always ready to help every one in distress, or to avenge an
injury, and no matter what the odds, would fight to the death, believing
that if he went under, fighting for his friends, it was all right.

Kit Carson was a host in himself. It is my belief that he was feared,
singly and alone, more than any other trapper in the Indian country. For
my own part, in an Indian fight, many a one of which I have been in, I
would rather have Carson than twenty common men. His name struck terror
to an Indian. And if it were known that Kit, with a companion or two, was
on their trail, they would flee faster than they would from a whole
regiment of Uncle Sam's men. If Kit was after them, they might as well
commence their death song at once, and prepare for their happy hunting
grounds, for he would surely catch them any where this side of that.

But I must not forget the names of other brave trappers, with whom I
became acquainted, and who often shared with me my camp in the Indian
country, such as Peg Leg Smith, Joseph Walker, and a host of other brave
men. I will here tell you how Smith got his name of Peg Leg.

Thirty years ago, he and some of his companions were trapping in the
Indian country. They had made a hut in a ravine. For a camping place, it
was so well concealed, that for a long time they were undisturbed. One
day, however, Smith and three or four of his party were discovered by
Indians, about two miles from camp. A fight took place, in which Smith was
struck by a rifle ball, that shattered the bone below the knee. He fell,
and during the melee managed to crawl into a thicket, unobserved either by
the Indians or his own men. Here, after tying up his own leg with buckskin
thongs which he cut from his hunting shirt, he very coolly and
deliberately went to work with his own knife, and cut his own leg off.
After this he crawled to his camp, where he found his companions who
supposed he was dead, and who were expecting the next morning to go and
find his body.

This is said to be a true story, and who of those who were in California
twenty years ago, do not remember Peg Leg Smith and his horse
John. He would come into San Francisco, or Benicia, riding like the
wind, his long grey hair floating about his shoulders, and then that
never-to-be-forgotten war-whoop! And now here in Benicia, he dashes up to
the Vallejos hotel.

"John," he says to his horse, "down sir, quick. I'm mighty dry." Down goes
the horse; old Peg gets off. "Boys, how are you. I say there," addressing
the bar tender, "make me a whiskey toddy."

This is done at once. No pay is expected. No one expects Peg Leg Smith to
pay for any thing, where he is known.

Most of these men possessed many noble impulses, and would prove true to
the death for their friends. But they considered the killing of an Indian
as justifiable, whenever they met with one.

I was at this time at work under Colonel Jack Hayes, of Texas. Every one
familiar with the history of that State in its infancy, will remember him
as an old Indian fighter. He was one who never turned his back on friend
or foe. At this time, he was United States Surveyor-General of California.

Some may like to know how we camp in an Indian country. I will give a
brief description of our camp. First our pack saddles are placed in a
circle, enclosing a pretty large space. Our provisions and goods are then
stored inside of the circle. Our animals are picketed at our heads, the
pack saddles serving as pillows, and our feet being towards the centre of
the circle. When there is danger to be apprehended, the animals are placed
within the circle. But ordinarily, they graze to the extent of their
picket ropes upon the rich grass outside. Generally inside the circle
there is a rousing fire. Those of us who are not on guard, lie down in our
blankets, feet towards the fire. Our rifles are placed in the hollow of
the left arm; our revolvers at our back, ready for instant use. The sky is
our covering, the earth our support. The guard patrols on the outside the
circle, outside the horses. We go to sleep to dream of home and friends,
and often to be awakened by the quick sharp bark of the cayote, the
howling of the grey wolf, or what is far worse, the almost infernal
war-whoop of the Indian.

My orders to each man, in case of an attack, were not to rise. The guard
also, as they came inside the circle of pack saddles, were to throw
themselves flat on the ground. Those that were in their blankets were to
roll over on their stomachs, and then when they saw an Indian to 'blaze
away.' When we were on the line and expected trouble, we would build a
fire and at dark, after supper, move away slowly for one or two miles, and
lie down without any fires, and in this way cheat Mr. Indian.

Sometimes after working all day we were obliged to fight for our lives all
the latter part of the night; for this is the time which the Indian
chooses for his fighting, as a general rule. Notwithstanding these
apparent drawbacks, I must say that the life of a mountain man or trapper,
had ever indescribable charms for me.

And now in conclusion, let me give you an account of my last Indian fight,
which happened in the year 1859, on the Colorado river, near what is now
called Fort Mohavè. At that time the Indians in that region had seen but
few white men, and they had obtained but about half a dozen old guns. I,
having surveyed a large portion of the country previously, was chosen to
act as guide to Colonel Hoffman, who was to be escorted by fifty dragoons
from Fort Tejou, near Los Angelos, to Fort Yuma. I, not then being
acquainted with the country upon the Colorado river down to the fort, the
celebrated scout and trapper Joe Walker, was to go with us, to act as
guide after we had passed through that portion of the country with which I
was acquainted.

Joe was a tall, large man, six feet high and weighing over two hundred
pounds. We slept together in the same blankets, and many a night have I
laid awake, listening to his stories of fights with the Indians and his
hair-breadth escapes.

I shall pass rapidly over our journey across the mountains and along the
valley of the Mohavè river. Away we go across Soda Lake, which is dry, and
the surface of which as far northward as the eye can extend, is covered
with saleratus, white as the driven snow. If you should see at a distance
anything coming towards you, it would seem to approach bottom upwards; if
an animal, the feet would be in the air.

But on we go to the Granite springs, thence we pass on to Piyute Creek.
Slowly we ascend the mountains from which we are to descend to the
Colorado river. Colonel Hoffman orders a halt, for the smoke of Indian
fires is seen ascending for miles along the banks of the majestic river.
Having got all things prepared for either peace or war, we march down into
the valley. The Indians have undoubtedly caught sight of us, for suddenly
the smoke disappears, all the fires apparently being extinguished. We
press on and soon reach the banks of the river.

Following down the stream a mile or two, the colonel searches for a good
spot for a camping-ground. As we are on the move, all mounted, well armed
and in military array, about thirty Indians showed themselves. Moving
cautiously at first, they gradually became emboldened and ran along our
lines asking sundry questions. But we returned no answers. Having selected
the spot for camping-ground, we lay out our camp in the form of a
triangle. On the one side is a bluff from six to ten feet high, on the
opposite side is a lake called Beaver Lake, about five hundred yards wide.
Here, upon the rich grass which borders the lake, we tether our animals,
each one having the range of a rope about thirty feet long. Here we
considered them safe, as the Indians would hardly attempt to attack them.
It was early in the month of January, 1859.

The third side of our triangle was a dry swamp, covered with a dense
growth of willow bushes. By order of the colonel, these bushes were cut
down for a distance of sixty or eighty yards, so that no foe could
approach unseen. By four o'clock in the afternoon, the labor of
establishing our camp was completed. At some distance from us there was a
large and constantly increasing band of Indians, curiously watching our
proceedings. They were all well armed with their native weapons of lances,
bows and arrows.

As I was talking in one part of the camp with Joe Walker, Colonel Hoffman
approached us and said,

"I want one of you to go and have a talk with the Indians."

"Very well sir," I replied, and turning to Joe, added, "will you go, or
shall I?"

"You had better go, I guess," Joe replied.

I at once set out towards the Indians, and when I arrived within speaking
distance, hailed them in Spanish, saying that I wished to see their chief
and to have a talk. I had left my rifle in the camp, but still had my
revolvers, and my knife. A young fellow, tall, of splendid proportions,
and one of the fiercest looking Indians I ever saw, stepped out towards
me, with his bows and arrows. He was entirely naked except his breach
clout and a small plaid shawl thrown over his shoulders. The ends were
fastened down by a piece of black tape. On this tape was strung a pair of
common shears, apparently as an ornament.

His color was like a new piece of copper, clear, brilliant and exceedingly
beautiful, like one of the most majestic statues in shining bronze. "How
do you do?" said he, in Spanish, as he approached me and held out his
hand. I took his hand, returning the salutation in the same language.

"Why do you come here?" he then promptly said. "This is our country. We
have nothing to give you, for yourselves or your horses."

I gave him some tobacco in token of good will, and then replied: "We have
come to look at the country. We do not wish you to give us anything. If
you are friendly, we shall give you presents. If you attack us, we shall
kill you." I then added: "Some of the Indians of this country massacred a
party only a year ago. We shall have no more killed by them. We shall
build a fort here, to protect our emigrants."

He replied a little angrily, "I am a Mohavè. My people own this country. I
shall kill whoever I please." I had not any doubt that the shawl and the
shears came from the party they had massacred. I pointed to the shawl and

"Where did you get that?"

"I bought them," he replied, evidently annoyed. "I bought them from the
Piute Indians."

"My brother," I replied, "does not talk with a straight tongue. It is
forked, and his words are crooked." He now added, with considerable

"Go to your own camp, and prepare for war. I will not kill you. Your guns
are short. I will take your horses, and my men shall have a big feast.
Your horses are fat and good. I have many men many braves. You have but
few. Go to your camp and prepare for war."

"Indian," said I, "I go, but remember that our short guns kill an Indian
every time. We never stop to load them."

I turned to go back to the camp. It is not etiquette on such an occasion
to back out, watching your opponent, as though you were a coward and
feared an attack. I turned squarely round, with my back to the Indian,
when I saw the boys at the fort suddenly raise their rifles with their
muzzles directed towards us. At that moment, an arrow whizzed through my
buckskin shirt, just making a flesh wound on the shoulder. I had slightly
turned as the arrow left the bow, otherwise I should probably have
received my death-wound. Instantly, with my revolver already in my hand, I
discharged in quick succession, two shots at the savage, who was distant
but a few feet from me. The first bullet broke his arm; the second passed
through his heart. I instantly seized the shawl and shears and taking a
little of his hair to remember him by, started on a jump towards our men,
who were rushing towards me as fast as possible. The arrows flew so thick
and fast, that you would have thought it was hailing. Night soon came on,
and the Indians retired, probably to get recruits and to renew the battle
in the morning with the certainty of our destruction. We doubled our guard
for the night, during which I was awakened but once. Joe Walker and I
slept together. So much used were we both to such little affairs, that I
do not believe we should have awakened at all, had we not been called.

About twelve o'clock, a sentry came to where we were sleeping, and
touching me, said:

"Guide, I believe there is an Indian creeping up behind a bush." Joe says,
"Bill, get up and see what it is. My eyes are not as good in the night as

So out of my blanket I got, grabbed my revolver and went towards the
bluff. The sentinel accompanying me, pointed out the bush. I did not like
to fire into it, lest I should give a false alarm. I watched it about ten
minutes, and there was not the least movement. "I guess," I said, "it is
nothing but a bush." But at that moment, I perceived a very slight
agitation of the branches. It proved that there must be somebody there.

"Oho! Mr. Indian," I exclaimed, "at your old tricks." I raised my
revolver, took deliberate aim at the very heart of the bush, and fired.
Mr. Indian gave a hideous yell, and he had gone to his happy hunting
grounds. In the morning, we prepared to leave. The Indians, as we
afterwards learned, had fifteen hundred warriors within a radius of five
miles. We numbered but about fifty men. But we had rifles, they had only
bows and arrows. The superiority of our arms raised us above all fear.

It was manifest however, with the earliest dawn, from the large number of
warriors assembled, and the menacing cries they raised, that we must have
a fight. Colonel Hoffman detached every fourth man, each one to hold four
horses. The rest of the dragoons were marshalled on the bluff, which as I
have mentioned, lined one side of our encampment. As our rifles could
throw a bullet more than twice as far as any arrow could be thrown, the
battle was rather a source of amusement to us, than of terror. No Indian
could approach within arrow shot of our ranks, without meeting certain
death. It must be confessed that we had no more compunctions in shooting
an Indian than in shooting a bear or a wolf. As they dodged from tree to
tree, assailing us with their impotent arrows, our keen marksmen watched
their opportunity to strike them down with the invisible death-dealing

Old Joe Walker practiced with our Hawkins' rifles and revolvers, as he
said, "just to keep his hand in." After an hour or two of this strange
battle, in which the Indians suffered fearful carnage, and we encountered
no loss, our foe in rage and despair retired. They left sixty of their
number dead, besides taking with them many wounded. We continued our march
without further molestation.

And now my friend, if you shall find anything interesting to you in this
short sketch, I shall be satisfied. I have written a great deal more than
I expected to write, when I began. And yet you have but a very brief
narrative of my adventures in California.

Yours truly,

(signed)     William E. Goodyear.


Frontier Desperadoes and Savage Ferocity.

    Original Friendliness of the Indians.--The River Pirates, Culbert
    and Magilbray.--Capture of Beausoliel.--His Rescue by the Negro
    Cacasotte.--The Cave in the Rock.--The Robber Mason.--His
    Assassination.--Fate of the Assassins.--Hostility of the Apaches.
    Expedition of Lieutenant Davidson.--Carson's Testimony in his
    Favor.--Flight of the Apaches.

We have occasionally alluded to the desperadoes who infested the
frontiers. They were often much more to be dreaded than the Indians.
Indeed the atrocities which these men perpetrated were the main cause of
the hostility of the savages. It is the uncontradicted testimony that the
natives were, at first, disposed to be friendly. It was only when
exasperated by unendurable wrongs that they appealed to arms. When
seemingly unprovoked assailants, they were seeking revenge for some great
outrage which they had already experienced, from the depraved vagabonds of
the wilderness.

When St. Louis was under Spanish rule, there had sprung up quite a brisk
commerce between that settlement and New Orleans. But the shores of the
majestic Mississippi were then infested by large bands of robbers,
watching to attack and plunder boats, as they ascended and descended the
stream. There were two leaders of one of these large bands, by the name of
Culbert and Magilbray, who, occupying commanding points, were carrying on
a regular system of river piracy.

In the year 1739, a merchant by the name of Beausoliel, had sailed from
New Orleans, in a barge richly freighted with goods, bound for St. Louis.
The robbers, pushing out from the shore in their light canoes, and well
armed, captured the boat without a struggle. They ordered the owner and
the crew into the little cabin and fastened them in.

There was a negro on board, a very remarkable man, by the name of
Cacasotte. Though carved in ebony, he had great beauty of countenance, and
wonderful grace and strength of person. His native, mental endowments were
also of a high order. This man, Cacasotte, as soon as the barge was taken,
assumed to be greatly overjoyed. He danced, sang and laughed, declaring
that he would no longer live in irksome slavery, but that he would join
the band, and enjoy liberty among the freebooters as their attendant.

He was so jovial, and so attentive, in anticipating all their wants, that
he won their confidence, and they all thought that he would be a valuable
addition to their company. He was thus permitted to roam over the boat,
unmolested and unwatched. He formed a plan in all its details, for the
recapture of the boat, and the liberation of the crew. This plan he
succeeded in communicating to his master. Mr. Beausoliel had his earthly
all in the boat, and he also expected that the pirates would take their
lives. He was therefore ready to adopt any plan, however desperate, which
gave any promise of success. We have the following account given in "The
Great West," of the plan the negro formed and of its successful

"Cacasotte was cook, and it was agreed, between him and his fellow
conspirators, likewise too negroes, that the signal for dinner should also
be the signal for action. When the hour arrived, the robbers assembled in
considerable numbers on the deck, and stationed themselves on the bow and
stern and along the sides, to prevent any rising of the men. Cacasotte
went among them with the most unconcerned demeanor imaginable. As soon as
his comrades had taken their assigned stations he placed himself at the
bow, near one of the robbers, a stout herculean fellow, who was armed
cap-à-pie. Cacasotte gave the preconcerted signal, and immediately the
robber near him was struggling in the water. With the speed of lightning
he ran from one robber to another, as they were sitting on the sides of
the boat and, in a few seconds' time, had thrown several of them
overboard. Then seizing an oar he struck on the head those who had
attempted to save themselves by grappling the running boards. He then shot
with rifles, which had been dropped on deck, those who attempted to swim
away. In the meantime his companions had done almost as much execution as
their leader."

Thus every one of these robbers found a watery grave. Mr. Beausoliel had
his property restored to him, and pressing all sail went on his way

A few years after this, about the year 1800, there was a noted robber
named Mason, who occupied what is called, "The Cave in the Rock." This
renowned cavern was about twenty miles below the Wabash river. Its
entrance was but a few feet above high water-mark, and opened into a very
remarkable chamber, two hundred feet long, eighty feet wide and
twenty-five feet high. Throughout the whole central length the floor was
quite level, and on each side of this central aisle the sides rose in
tiers, like the seats of an amphitheatre.

This remarkable cave is connected with another a little above. Here this
Mason, a man of gigantic stature, and of inferior education and intellect,
had his concealed retreat, with two sons and several other desperadoes,
organized into a band of land and water pirates. With great skill they
prosecuted their robberies, plundering boats as they descended the river,
but more often watching the return boats, to rob the owners of the money
which they had received from the sale of their cargoes.

As the population of the Ohio valley increased, Mason deemed it expedient
to abandon the Cave in the Rock and established himself with his gang, on
a well known and much frequented trail called the Nashville and the
Natches Trace. Here his gang became the terror of the whole travelling
community. Sometimes, with his whole band decorated in the most gaudy
style of Indian warriors, with painted faces, and making the forest
resound with hideous yells, they would swoop down upon a band of
travellers, inflicting outrages which savages could not exceed.

The atrocities of which this desperate gang were guilty, at length became
so frequent and daring, accompanied with the most brutal murders, that
Governor Claiborne, of the Mississippi Territory, offered a large reward
for the capture of Mason dead or alive. But the wilderness of prairie,
forest and mountain was very wide. Mason was familiar with all its lurking
places. For a long time he baffled all the efforts of the authorities for
his capture.

Treachery at last delivered him to the hands of justice, or rather
brought his ignominious career to a close, inflicting upon him the violent
and bloody death which he had so often inflicted upon peaceful and
innocent merchants and travellers. Two of his own band, tempted by the
large reward which was offered, and perhaps maddened by his tyranny, for
he ruled his gang with a rod of iron, conspired to kill him. They watched
their opportunity and one day, as Mason was counting out the money he had
just gained by the robbery of some merchants, one of them advancing from
behind him, struck a hatchet into his brain. The accomplices then cut off
his head, and carried it to the Governor at Washington, which was the seat
of the Territorial government. They received their reward. They, however,
received another reward which they had not anticipated.

The proclamation of the governor had contained no promise whatever of
pardon to any of the gang. These two men were immediately arrested, as
robbers and murderers. They were tried, condemned and hung. The robber
band, thus deprived of its leader and of two of its most desperate men,
was broken up and the wretches dispersed, to fill up the measure of their
iniquities in other regions.

But let us again cross the Rocky mountains, and contemplate some of the
strange scenes of violence and blood which were occurring there. We have
mentioned, that Kit Carson had been appointed, by Government Indian
Commissioner. This gave him much satisfaction, for it was an office he
felt perfectly competent to fill. It also was an evidence that, at last,
his ability and services had been appreciated. He at once accepted the
appointment and entered upon its duties.

He soon found the office no sinecure. The Apaches began to commit
depredations upon the property of the settlers in the northern part of New
Mexico. Some of the citizens fell a sacrifice to their barbarity. Mr.
Carson at once sent Lieutenant Bell, a United States officer, with quite a
force of dragoons, in pursuit of them. Although the red men were quite
willing to scalp peaceful and unarmed citizens, when they found their own
ranks torn and bleeding by the balls of their foes, and their chiefs
biting the dust in the death agony, then courage gave place to terror, and
flight became their resource.

Not long after, news came to Mr. Carson that another insurrection had
appeared among the Apaches. They were encamped about twenty miles from
Taos, upon quite a little ridge of mountains. Mr. Carson proceeded
unattended, to their lodges, to meet the chiefs for a friendly talk.
Having been among them for so many years, he was well known by nearly all
the Rocky mountain tribes. Mr. Carson, by his gentle words and his
personal influence, succeeded in pacifying them, and obtaining promises of
friendly relations. Hardly had he left their lodges, when the treachery of
the Indian became manifested in new crimes and barbarities. Carson,
distrusting them, was not unprepared; but with a band of tried men
inflicted such blows as were not soon forgotten.

Lieutenant Davidson was not long after this sent with a force of sixty
United States Dragoons, to attack and dislodge an encampment in the
mountains. They were all men who understood Indian character and warfare.
Repairing to their fastnesses, they found the Indians well posted, and
expecting a visit from the white men. Two hundred and more warriors were
on the highest crags of the hills.

The Indian loves a _palaver_ or talk; and the Lieutenant sent one or two
men to endeavor to settle affairs thus amicably. But the savages,
perceiving the inferior numbers of the white men, were not inclined to be
communicative, or to listen to peaceful terms. Fight, blood, scalps, they
thirsted for, and those they would have.

Perceiving that no pacific measures would avail, Lieutenant Davidson tried
the effect of powder and lead. Many of the warriors fell dead, but the
savages were so many and so fierce, that the odds were against the troops.
In danger of being surrounded and of thus sacrificing the whole of his
little army, Davidson decided to retreat down the mountains. Being hotly
pursued he was obliged to contest every foot of his way. Trees, rocks,
stumps were, as usual, Indian breastworks. With their unerring aim, they
laid low twenty of the soldiers. Most of the other forty of Davidson's
command were more or less severely wounded. Bravely the poor fellows
fought, though unsuccessfully. They however escaped to Taos.

The people in Taos were much distressed, in learning of this disastrous
termination of the battle. The next day they sent wagons to convey the
remains of the fallen soldiers to a proper burial place. On reaching the
spot, they found the inhuman savages had, as usual, mutilated the remains
of every one, and had stripped them of their clothing. Not long after
several Apaches appeared in the streets of a small Mexican settlement,
clad in the garments of the slain dragoons, and afforded much amusement to
the people by their grotesque appearance, and awkward endeavors to imitate
military etiquette and courtesy.

As is always the case in every military disaster Lieutenant Davidson's
conduct has been assailed. But the evidence of the men of his command was,
that his coolness in difficulty, his courage in danger, and his judgment
in the retreat entitle him to credit, not censure. Mr. Carson does not
justify the unkind accusations against him, but says:

"I am intimately acquainted with Lieutenant Davidson, and have been in
engagements with him, where he has taken a prominent part, and can testify
that he is as brave and discreet as it is possible for a man to be. Nearly
every person engaged in, and who survived that day's bloody battle, has
since told me, that his commanding officer never once sought shelter, but
stood manfully exposed to the aim of the Indians, encouraging his men, and
apparently unmindful of his own life. It was, however, in the retreat they
say that he acted the most gallantly, for when every thing was going badly
with the soldiers, he was as cool and collected as if under the guns of
his fort. The only anxiety he exhibited was for the safety of his
remaining men."

The Apaches left the region at once, wisely fearing retribution at the
hand of their foes. Mr. Carson, in travelling homeward from Santa Fe, saw
no trace of them. But their barbarities were not forgotten and new and
more vigorous measures were taken to reduce them to submission.

Colonel Cook was appointed commander of this new expedition. Mr. Carson
accompanied him. Forty Mexicans and several Pueblo Indians joined the
party under the command of Mr. James H. Quinn. Passing on in a northerly
direction, they came to a small river emptying into the Rio del Norte.
This was a wild mountain stream, swollen into a foaming torrent, by
melting snows and recent rains. But it must be crossed. It was perilous,
for the bed was rocky and the current rapid.

Carson took the lead, piloting over party after party in safety. Arriving
on the shore, they found a bold perpendicular bluff several hundred feet
high confronting them. Pursuing a zigzag trail around the eminence, the
top was at last reached, and they emerged into a rough country, broken by
ravines and hills. Passing a day at a small Mexican village, they set off,
the next morning, in search of the Apaches. Carson's keen, quick eye
caught the trail, and rapidly they pursued their way for a couple of days,
when they overtook the Indians, leisurely resting in one of their small
villages. The horses of the savages were fresh, and remembering the
death-dealing rifle of the white man, most of the Indians saved themselves
by flight. The steeds of the soldiers were too weary for pursuit. Yet many
Indian warriors were struck down by the bullets of their pursuers, and
the horses and camp furniture of the savages, such as it was, fell into
the hands of Colonel Cook's party. Mr. Carson describing these events

"To Captain Sykes, who commanded the infantry, is due the greatest amount
of praise for the part he acted in our adventures. When his men were
almost broken down with sore feet, long and difficult marches, want of
provisions, the coldness of the weather, and with their clothing nearly
worn out, and when they were on the point of giving up in despair, they
were prevented from so doing by witnessing the noble example set them by
their captain. He showed them what a soldier's duty really was, and this
so touched their pride that they hobbled along as if determined to follow
him until death relieved them from their sufferings.

"Although this officer had a riding animal at his disposal, yet never for
once did he mount him; but instead lent the horse to some deserving
soldier who was on the point of succumbing to overwork. When the Indian
village was discovered, he cheered his men from a limping walk into a sort
of run, and dashing through a swollen mountain stream, which was nearly up
to their armpits, and full of floating ice, he was, with his company, the
foremost in the attack."

Night put a stop to the pursuit. The next morning, at an early hour,
Colonel Cook's dragoons were again in motion, following, under the
guidance of Mr. Carson, the fresh trail of the routed Indians. On and
still on they pressed for many weary leagues, through valleys and over
snow-clad mountains, until they found that it was impossible to overtake
the red men. The sagacious Indians broke up their party into small squads
of two and three and scattered in all directions. To continue the pursuit
would be like chasing "a flea upon the mountains."

The Indians had manifested a great deal, not of cunning only, but of
intelligence in their flight. It was their manifest object to lead their
pursuers through the most difficult paths, that both men and horses might
be worn out by the ruggedness of the way. Very often they would pursue a
route so circuitous, through wild gorges and over mountain torrents, that
Colonel Cook would often find himself bivouacking at night, but a short
distance from the spot which he had left in the morning. The Indians were
perfectly familiar with the country and could travel with much greater
ease than could the white men.

Colonel Cook, finding that nothing could be accomplished by the further
continuance of the pursuit, turned back and sought a refuge for his
soldiers from the toils and hardships of their campaign, in the little
Mexican town of Abiguire, about sixty miles northwest from Santa Fe, on a
tributary of the Rio del Norte.

On his march back, Colonel Cook had encountered and captured an Indian
warrior, whom he supposed to be one of the hostile Apaches. The Indian was
deprived of his horse and arms, and treated as a captive. He made his
escape. Afterwards it was learned that he belonged to the friendly Utah
tribe. Colonel Cook, regretting the mistake, and fearing that it might
induce the Utahs to join the Apaches, very wisely decided to do his duty,
and make an apology and reparation.

Kit Carson was, of course, employed as the ambassador of peace. He sent an
Indian runner to the principal village of the Utahs, with the request that
their chief would hold a council with him. They all knew him, loved him,
and familiarly called him "Father Kit."

The council met, Mr. Carson explained the mistake and expressed the
deepest regret, that through ignorance, one of their friendly braves had
been captured, and treated like an enemy. He assured them of his readiness
to make ample reparation for the wrong.

"My countrymen," he said, "do not wish to do you any injury. They hope
that you will overlook this accident. They do not ask this through fear.
The warriors of the Utah are but a handful, when compared with those of
their Great Father. But they wish to live with you as brothers. The
country is large enough for both."

The Indians seemed ever ready to listen to reason. They were satisfied
with the explanation, and declared that their hearts were no longer
inimical to their pale face brothers. Thus another Indian war was averted.
Had the Indians always been treated with this spirit of justice and
conciliation, humanity would have been saved from innumerable woes.


The Last Days of Kit Carson.

    The Hunting Party.--Profits of Sheep Raising.--Governmental
    Appointment.--Carson's Talk with the Apaches.--His Home in
    Taos.--His Character.--Death of Christopher Carson.

We left Mr. Carson at his farm in Razado. After a short time he organized
a pleasure hunting-party of eighteen of his most highly esteemed
companions of former years. It was unanimously voted that the excursion
should not be one of boy's play but of man's. It was Carson's last
trapping excursion. Each trapper felt that he was bidding farewell to the
streams and valleys, where in past years, he had encountered so many
exciting adventures.

"The boldest and one of the longest routes, known to their experienced
footsteps, was selected. It comprised many of the mighty rivers of the
Rocky mountains, every one of which was almost a hunting ground by itself.
Onward, over the wild and broad plains, this band of stalwart men, brave
and kindred spirits, dashed. They soon put several miles between them and
the comfortable firesides of Razado.

"In a short time the well remembered waters of the South Platte were
descried. Their practiced eyes soon discovered the oft noted 'signs of the
beaver.' The beaver had increased in great numbers. The party continued
working down this stream, through the plains of Laramie to the New Park;
and thence on to the Old Park. They trapped a large number of their old
streams, until finally the expedition was terminated on the Arkansas
river. The hunt proved very successful. With a large stock of furs, they
returned in safety to Razado, via the Raton mountains, which are spurs of
the great Rocky chain."

This expedition occupied several months. Mr. Carson now devoted himself
assiduously to farming, and especially to raising flocks and herds. In
August, 1853, he drove, aided by many well armed attendants, a flock of
six thousand five hundred sheep to California, where he sold them for five
dollars and fifty cents a head. His knowledge of the country was such,
that he was enabled to follow a route which gave them good pasturage all
the way.

At San Francisco, Kit Carson found himself an object of universal
attention. His renown had preceded him. The steamboats gave him a free

All places of amusement were open to him. Wherever he went he was pointed
out as the man to whom California was under the greatest obligations.
Still he retained his modesty and integrity unsullied. Soon after his
return to Razado, he received the unexpected and very gratifying
intelligence, that he had been appointed by the United States Government,
Indian Agent.

The duties of this difficult and responsible office he performed with
remarkable wisdom and success. Whenever his counsel was followed, it was
attended with the desired results. Whenever it was rejected disaster was
sure to ensue. His knowledge of Indian customs was such, that more than
once he presented himself entirely alone at the council fire of
exasperated warriors; and urged upon them peace. On one of these occasions
he learned that an angry band of Apache warriors were encamped among the
mountains, but about fifty miles from his home. He knew the chiefs. He was
familiar with their language. Though he knew that they were in a state of
great exasperation, and that they were preparing to enter upon the
war-path, he mounted his horse and rode thither, without even an
attendant. The chiefs received him with sullen looks; but they listened
patiently to his speech.

"The course you are pursuing," said he, "will lead to your inevitable and
total destruction. Your tribe will be exterminated. Your Great Father has
thousands upon thousands of soldiers. He can easily replace those who fall
in battle. It is not so with you. When your warriors are killed, you have
no others to place in their moccasins. You must wait for the children to
grow up.

"Your Great Father loves his children. He wishes to give you rich
presents. I am his servant to bring those presents to you. We wish to live
in peace, that we may help one another."

This conciliatory speech softened their hearts for a time, and they all,
with seeming cordiality, came forward and professed friendship. The great
difficulty, in our intercourse with the Indians, has been that the
wilderness has been filled with miserable vagabonds, who were ever
perpetrating innumerable outrages, robbing them, and treating them in all
respects, in the most shameless manner. Even civilized men, in war, will
often retaliate, by punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty.
It is not strange that untutored Indians, having received atrocious wrongs
from one band of white men, should wreak their vengeance on the next band
whom they chanced to encounter.

Mr. Carson, in addition to his farm at Razado, had what may be called his
city residence in the straggling old town of Taos. It is said that a
traveller upon entering these crooked streets, lined with one story
buildings of sun-baked bricks, is reminded of a number of brick-kilns,
previous to being burnt, all huddled together without any regard to order.
As in all Spanish towns, there is a large public square in the centre.

Mr. Carson's house faced this square on the west side. Though but one
story in height, it spread over a large extent of ground. It was one of
the largest and most commodious houses in the place. Every body who went
to Taos, Indians as well as white men, felt bound to call upon "Father
Kit," as he was familiarly called. To the Indian, particularly, he was
ever a true friend and benefactor. He knew, as no other man knew, how
terrible his wrongs,--not from the government,--but from the vagabond
desperadoes of the wilderness. Never was his patience exhausted by their
long visits, and never was he weary of listening to their harangues. It
has ever been with him a constant effort to warn them against the use of
intoxicating drink--that "fire water" which has so long been consuming the
Indian, body and soul.

Whenever the government had any important or delicate mission to perform
among the Indians, the services of Mr. Carson were sure to be called into
requisition. Thus he entered upon the evening of his days, honored and
beloved by all who knew him. These peaceful hours were probably the
happiest of his life. We have no detailed account of his last sickness and
death. He breathed his last at Fort Lyon, in Colorado, on the twenty-third
of May, 1868, in the sixtieth year of his age. The immediate cause of his
death, was an aneurism of an artery in the neck. Thus passed away one of
the most illustrious of the "Pioneers and Patriots" of America. His name
deserves to be held in perpetual remembrance.


The Last Hours of Kit Carson.

    The following letter, received since the publication of the first
    edition, gives an interesting account of the last hours of Mr.
    Carson from the physician who was with him when he died.

"Fort Wadsworth,
New York Harbor,
January 7th, 1874.

"Mr. John S.C. Abbott,
Fairhaven, Conn.

"Dear Sir:--

"I have just read your interesting life of Kit Carson, and write to give
you a short account of his last sickness and death. I first met him at the
house of a mutual friend, not far from Fort Lyon, C.T., late in the Fall
of 1867. He had then recently left the service of the U.S., having been
colonel of a regiment of New-Mexican volunteers during the war of the

"As I was a successful amateur trapper, he threw off all reserve, and
greeted me with more than usual warmth, saying, 'the happiest days of my
life were spent in trapping.' He gave me many practical hints on trapping
and hunting.

"He was then complaining of a pain in his chest, the origin of which he
attributed to a fall received in 1860. It happened while he was descending
a mountain. The declivity was so steep that he led his horse by the
lariat, intending, if the horse fell to throw it from him.

"The horse did fall, and although he let go the lariat, it caught him and
carried him a number of feet, and severely bruised him.

"In the Spring of 1868, he took charge of a party of Ute Indians, and
accompanied them to Washington and other cities, going as far east as
Boston. He consulted a number of physicians while on the trip.

"It was a great tax on his failing strength to make this journey; but he
was ever ready to promote the welfare of the Utes, who regarded him in the
light of a father.

"I saw him in April, 1868. His disease, aneurism of the aorta, had
progressed rapidly; and the tumor pressing on the pneumo-gastric nerves
and trachea, caused frequent spasms of the bronchial tubes which were
exceedingly distressing.

"On the 27th of April, Mrs. Carson died very suddenly, leaving seven
children, the youngest only two weeks old. Mrs. Carson was tall and
spare, and had evidently been a very handsome woman; she was thirty-eight
years old at the time of her death, and he informed me that they had been
married twenty-five years. Her sudden death had a very depressing effect
upon him.

"I called frequently to see him; and as he was living on the south side of
the Arkansas River five miles from Fort Lyon where I was stationed, and
the Spring rise coming on, making the fording difficult, I suggested that
he be brought to my quarters, which was done on the 14th day of May.

"This enabled me to make his condition much more comfortable. In the
interval of his paroxysms, he beguiled the time by relating past
experiences. I read Dr. Peters' book, with the hero for my auditor; from
time to time, he would comment on the incidents of his eventful life.

"It was wonderful to read of the stirring scenes, thrilling deeds, and
narrow escapes, and then look at the quiet, modest, retiring, but
dignified little man who had done so much.

"You are perfectly correct in describing Carson as a gentleman. He was one
of nature's noblemen--a true man in all that constitutes
manhood--pure--honorable--truthful--sincere--of noble impulses, a true
knight-errant ever ready to defend the weak against the strong, without
reward other than his own conscience.

"Carson had great contempt for noisy braggarts and shams of every sort.

"His disease rapidly progressed and he calmly contemplated his approaching
death. Several times he repeated the remark, 'If it was not for this,'
pointing to his chest; 'I might live to be a hundred years old.'

"I explained to him the probable mode of termination of his disease: 'that
he might die from suffocation or more probably the aneurism would burst
and cause death by hemorrhage.' He expressed a decided preference for the
latter mode. His attacks of dyspnoea were horrible, threatening
immediate dissolution. I was compelled to give chloroform to relieve him,
at considerable risk of hastening a fatal result; but he begged me not to
let him suffer such tortures, and if I killed him by chloroform while
attempting relief, it would be much better than death by suffocation.

"Once, he remarked: 'What am I to do, I can't get along without a doctor?'

"I replied, 'I'll take care of you.'

"He, smiling, said, 'You must think I am not going to live long.'

"The night preceding death he spent more comfortably than he had for days
before. He was obliged to sit up nearly all the time. He coughed up a
slight amount of blood during the night, and a very little in the

"In the afternoon, while I was lying down on his bed and he was listening
to Mr. Sherrick, he suddenly called out 'Doctor, Compadre, Adios!'

"I sprang to him and seeing a gush of blood pouring from his mouth,
remarked, 'this is the last of the general;' I supported his forehead on
my hand, while death speedily closed the scene.

"The aneurism had ruptured into the trachea. Death took place at 4.25
P.M., May 23rd 1868.

"Mr. Carson was a small man not over five feet six inches tall, with gray
eyes, light-brown hair tinged with gray; his head was large; forehead high
and broad; his nose somewhat _retroussé_. He had a good broad chest and a
compact form. He had been a remarkably quick active man and what he lacked
in strength, he made up in agility. It is related of him, that while he
was in command of his regiment and on a campaign against the Navajo
Indians, he would leave camp very early each morning, taking his Ute
Indian scouts, and let his lieutenant-colonel take charge of the regiment;
before the command would have time to come up with the fugitive enemy,
Carson and his Utes had finished the fighting.

"I am under the impression that the Navajo nation, numbering 8,000 or
10,000 people were so severely pressed by Kit Carson, that they
surrendered to him, and were put on a government reservation, where they
remained under military control, for several years. Within the last three
years they have been permitted to return to the country formerly occupied
by them; but I am not positive of the above.

"Carson was made a brigadier-general of volunteers by brevet, at the close
of the rebellion.

"Shortly after coming to my quarters he made his will, and left property
to the value of seven thousand dollars to his children.

"No post-mortem was made. The pulse at the right radial artery was very
indistinct, while the left continued good.

"I have been thus minute, thinking that while writing his life, you had
grown to love him, as all who knew him certainly cherished great affection
for him.

"Yours Truly,
H. R. Tilton,
Ass't Surgeon U.S. Army."

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