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Title: Life of Kit Carson - The Great Western Hunter and Guide
Author: Burdett, Charles
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.

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[Illustration: KIT CARSON.]










Copyright, 1869, by JOHN E. POTTER & CO.


In offering to the public a revised and complete history of the most
remarkable of American frontiersmen, we perform a pleasing task. All the
attainable circumstances connected with his life, adventures and death
are fully set forth, and we offer this in confidence as a reliable
authority for the reader.

No one should hesitate to familiarize himself with the exploits of the
subject of this volume. They evince a magnanimity and an uprightness of
character that is rarely found in one leading so daring and intensely
wild a life, and cannot but contribute their share of lustre to the
interesting records of the Far West. We regret that his modesty, equally
proverbial with his daring, prompted him to withhold many of the
exciting incidents of his career from the public.

We have compiled a portion of this work from such official reports of
his great skill, indomitable energy, and unfaltering courage as have
been communicated by his friend and commander, Col. Fremont, who has
invariably awarded to him all the best attributes of manhood, when
opportunity afforded. Added to these, our hero had been prevailed upon
by a few of his friends to communicate some of the records of the most
important passages in his extraordinary and eventful life, which are
embodied in this volume.

His has indeed been a life of peculiarly exciting personal hazards, bold
adventures, daring coolness, and moral and physical courage, such as has
seldom transpired in the world, and we have been greatly impressed, in
its preparation, with the necessity for a thorough work of this kind.
All are aware that the young, and even matured, often seek for books of
wild adventure, and if those of an unhurtful and truthful character are
not found, they are apt to betake themselves to trashy and damaging
literature. In this view, this work has a purpose which, we trust, will
commend it to every family throughout the land.


  Hero of the narrative -- from what race descended -- his fame
  -- theater of his exploits-nativity -- his father emigrates to
  Missouri -- father's occupation -- Kit's apprenticeship --
  dissatisfaction with his trade -- joins an expedition to Santa
  Fe -- surgical operation -- Santa Fe, its situation, business,
  style of buildings, water, appearance, altitude, scenery,
  population -- spends the winter at Taos -- learns the Spanish
  language -- joins a party bound to Missouri -- returns to
  Santa Fe -- becomes a teamster -- El Paso, its grape culture,
  style of living of its people, name -- youth of traveler --
  new occupation for the winter -- becomes interpreter for a
  trader.                                                          13


  Chihuahua, cathedral, statues, public buildings, convent,
  mint, trade, age, population -- Carson longs for the prairie
  -- changes employment -- returns to Taos -- joins a party of
  hunters and trappers to punish the Indians -- result of the
  affray -- Indian style of fighting -- method of trapping for
  beaver -- beaver signs -- setting the traps -- bait --
  fastening the traps -- caution in setting the traps.             21


  Carson's qualifications for a trapper -- starts for California
  -- desert in the route -- Mohave Indians, non-intercourse with
  whites, appearance, dress, ornaments, painting their bodies,
  money -- Mission San Gabriel, cattle, horses, sheep, mules,
  vineyards, income -- other Missions in California, when
  founded, laborers -- Missions of Upper California --
  Missionary subscriptions -- management of the fund --
  Commandante-general -- the Monks -- golden age of the
  Missions.                                                        29


  New Mexico and Arizona -- their desert prairies -- Carson in
  California -- traps on the San Joaquin -- the valley of the
  Sacramento.                                                      40


  The Digger Indians, a description of them, and their mode of
  living -- Carson's visit to a ranche in search of a cow -- his
  journey to the camp with his prize.                              45


  Carson at the Mission San Gabriel -- recovers sixty stolen
  horses after a fight with the Indians -- "Los Angelos" --
  climate of California.                                           54


  Visit to a ranche -- likes California, but likes buffalo
  better -- leaves Los Angelos, and traps on the Colorado -- in
  a tight place, but gets out of it.                               66


  Trapping with Young upon the Colorado -- captures cattle and
  horses from the Indians -- goes to Santa Fe, disposes of furs,
  and sows his wild oats -- _coureurs des bois_, travels,
  dress, habits -- joins Mr. Fitzpatrick trapping among the Nez
  Perces -- winters in the New Park -- punishes the Crow Indians
  for horse-stealing -- pursues and punishes robbers of a
  _cache_ -- flies from a party of sixty Indians.                  76


  Hunts with two companions -- saving his money -- trading with
  Captain Lee -- pursues an Indian horse-thief and recovers the
  horses without assistance -- traps on the Laramie -- fight
  with two grizzlies -- description of the grizzly bear, his
  food -- traps among the Blackfeet -- unsuccessful attempt to
  chastise Blackfeet horse-thieves -- Carson is wounded --
  Bridger's pursuit without finding them.                          83


  Carson, recovered, attends summer rendezvous on Green River --
  description of the rendezvous -- camp, traders, charges --
  British Fur Company -- the Indians bringing in furs --
  appearance of Montreal at a fair for the Indians -- trappers
  and traders from the States -- purchases of the trappers,
  necessaries, luxuries, Indian wife.                              93


  Green River rendezvous again -- the backwoodsman -- Carson the
  peace-maker -- Sherman the bully, his punishment -- cause of
  the duel -- trapping and parley with the Blackfeet -- on
  Humboldt River -- explores the desert -- discovers the river
  afterwards named for him.                                       101


  Dreary prospect on the Humboldt -- Humboldt Lake -- sinks of
  other rivers -- overflow of Humboldt Lake and River -- station
  at the sink, the traders -- Humboldt Indians -- Fourth of July
  on the Humboldt -- Humboldt sinking -- land available for
  agriculture on this river.                                      109


  Carson on the Humboldt -- sufferings of the return party --
  Pyramid Circle -- a horse purchased for food -- buffalo hunt,
  meat jerked -- horses stolen by the Indians -- extent of
  buffalo ranges -- buffalo upon the Platte in 1857, numbers,
  trails crossing the river, animals killed.                      116


  Carson traps with a party of a hundred in the Blackfeet
  country -- winter camp among the Crows -- Indian lodges --
  winter life of the trappers -- fight with the Blackfeet --
  Carson saves the life of a friend, dislodges the Indians from
  a rocky fastness, and compels their flight -- no more
  molestation -- the rendezvous -- trade with the Navajos
  Indians -- fort at Brown's Hole -- goes again against the
  Blackfeet, a thousand warriors assemble, retire without an
  engagement -- traps on the Salmon River -- among the
  Blackfeet, another fight, leaves their country -- Chinook and
  Flathead Indians -- process of flattening the head.             126


  Carson continues trapping -- the trade becomes unprofitable --
  war of extermination upon the beaver, silk for hats prevents
  -- Carson's experience enables him to aid one who should
  explore in behalf of science -- knowledge of the country --
  comes to Bent's Fort, forsaking trapping -- becomes hunter for
  the fort -- his employers -- his business -- reputation as a
  hunter -- fulfills the early hopes of him -- knowledge of the
  country -- regard shown him, especially by the Indians --
  diplomatist between the Sioux and the Camanches -- marriage --
  death of his wife -- takes his child to St. Louis for
  education -- changes at his old home -- reception at St. Louis
  -- meets Col. Fremont -- engages to guide Fremont's exploring
  party to the South Pass in the Rocky Mountains.                 139


  Party of explorers starting -- style of encamping -- defense
  -- morning in camp -- ford of the Kansas -- India-rubber boat
  -- accident from overloading the boat -- Carson ill -- lies in
  camp on the prairie.                                            152


  Road over rolling prairie -- Pawnee country -- false alarm of
  the presence of Indians -- Carson rides to discover the cause
  -- coast of the Platte River -- party of trappers from Fort
  Laramie -- one of this party joins Fremont's company --
  buffalo -- appearance of the herds -- feasting in the camp --
  Carson's mishap in the hunt -- Carson, Maxwell, and Fremont
  join in the chase.                                              157


  Fremont divides his party -- attempt to lasso a wild horse --
  Maxwell prevents an Indian attack -- Indians on a buffalo hunt
  -- return laden with meat -- Cheyenne village -- tripod
  support for their weapons -- Fremont entertained by the chief
  -- tribute to the Great Spirit on taking the pipe -- Jim
  Beckwith -- other settlers on the mountain streams -- St.
  Vrain's Fort -- Fort Laramie -- Carson's camp -- excitement in
  the company -- hostile intentions of the Indians --
  preparations for continuing the explorations -- one of the
  command dismissed.                                              167


  The growth of Artemisia -- fate of the Indian party so much
  dreaded -- cache of wagons and other effects -- value of
  Carson's aid to Fremont -- propriety of calling this an
  exploring party -- ascent to the South Pass -- exploration up
  a tributary of Green River -- lake at its source -- continue
  to explore in the mountains -- Fremont climbs the highest
  summit -- why Carson was not with him.                          179


  Party returns to Fort Laramie -- Carson remains -- marriage --
  joins Fremont -- a second exploring expedition -- object of
  the expedition -- Great Salt Lake -- Fremont's description --
  current impressions in regard to the lake -- Beer Springs --
  Hot Springs -- Standing Rock.                                   188


  A part of Fremont's men return East -- leave Fort Hall, en
  route for the valley of the Columbia -- difficulty of finding
  camping places -- Carson kills buffalo -- melancholy looking
  country -- crossing Snake River -- fish-eating Indians --
  refitting equipage at the Dalles -- proposed return route --
  spirits of the party -- Tlamath Lake -- sufferings of the
  party.                                                          208


  Fremont's story of the difficulties and exposures of his party
  -- hot springs -- explorations for grass -- mountain lake --
  central ridge of the Sierra Nevada -- Indians -- talks by
  signs -- Indian guide -- encouragement afforded by Carson's
  descriptions of California -- provisions low -- snow deep --
  animals weak -- Indian harangue -- guide deserts -- Carson
  recognizes Sacramento valley and the coast range -- taking the
  horses through the snow -- sleds for the baggage -- pine nuts
  the food of the Indians -- glorious sunrise.                    217


  Thunder storm -- view of the Sacramento, and Bay of San
  Francisco -- mauls to path the snow -- Carson saves Fremont
  from drowning -- rapid river, snow, grass, pines, live oak,
  mistletoe -- division of the party -- horses lost -- members
  of the party wander, return -- horses killed for food --
  country improving in beauty -- arrival at Sutter's Fort --
  description of a _cache_.                                       237


  Carson at home in Taos -- decides to commence farming --
  preparations -- Fremont requests his service for a third
  expedition -- meeting at Bent's Fort -- head-waters -- Great
  Salt Lake -- expedition divides -- Horse-Thief Indians -- the
  skirmish.                                                       250


  Arrival at Sutter's Fort -- command of Gen. Castro to leave
  the country -- his march against Fremont -- Fremont departs
  for Oregon -- Indians instigated by the Mexicans, Fremont's
  march against them -- he returns to California -- another
  Indian fight.                                                   264


  Loss to Fremont's party -- Carson's attack upon Indian village
  -- start for the Sacramento -- Fremont's campaign against the
  Mexicans -- captures Sonoma -- calls American settlers into
  his service -- Gen. Castro leaves San Francisco -- Fremont
  garrisons Sutter's Fort -- marches to Monterey -- Commodore
  Sloat in possession -- hoists the flag of the United States.    273


  Fremont marches on, and occupies Los Angelos -- appointed
  Governor of California -- Carson starts for Washington as
  bearer of dispatches -- unexpected meeting with Apache Indians
  -- meets the expedition of Gen. Kearney -- returns to
  California as guide.                                            280


  March to California -- Mexicans intercept Kearney's troops --
  American attack on the Mexican force -- disastrous result --
  Carson and Lieut. Beale reach San Diego -- reinforcements sent
  by Com. Stockton -- capture of Los Angelos -- Mexicans
  surrender to Fremont -- want of harmony in the American camps.  285


  Graphic description of the entrance into Monterey, of Fremont,
  Carson, and party -- indiscretions of American officers --
  Kearney's dispatch to the War Department -- Fremont's
  extraordinary ride.                                             302


  Fremont visits his Mariposa purchase -- grand hunt and ball --
  the fandango -- Carson and Beale ordered to Washington -- kind
  reception -- appointed to a lieutenancy -- encounter with
  Camanches -- arrival at Los Angelos -- sent to the Tejon Pass
  -- again to Washington -- arrival at home -- the warlike
  Apaches -- Carson entertains Fremont and suffering explorers.   315


  Dreadful sufferings endured by Fremont and party -- error in
  engaging a guide -- Fremont's letter to his wife -- horrible
  details.                                                        330


  Mr. Carvalho's narrative -- cravings of hunger -- disgusting
  food considered a delicacy -- Death of Mr. Fuller -- Carson
  joins Col. Beale as guide -- the Apache and Camanche Indians.   341


  Carson and Maxwell's settlement -- exploits in defense of his
  neighbors -- encounter with the Cheyennes -- rescue.            341


  Grand trapping expedition -- the Mountain Parks -- Pike's Peak
  -- Carson drives sheep to California -- San Francisco --
  appointed Indian Agent -- habits -- services in New Mexico --
  his death at Fort Lyon -- summing up.                           369



As, for their intrepid boldness and stern truthfulness, the exploits and
deeds of the old Danish sea-kings, have, since the age of Canute, been
justly heralded in song and story; so now by the world-wide voice of the
press, this, their descendant, as his name proves him, is brought before
the world: and as the stern integrity of the exploits and deeds of the
old Danes in the age of Canute were heralded by song and story; so too,
in this brief and imperfect memoir, are those of one who by name and
birthright claims descent from them. The subject of the present memoir,
Christopher Carson, familiarly known under the appellation of Kit
Carson, is one of the most extraordinary men of the present era. His
fame has long been established throughout this country and Europe, as a
most skillful and intrepid hunter, trapper, guide, and pilot of the
prairies and mountains of the far West, and Indian fighter. But his
celebrity in these characters is far surpassed by that of his individual
personal traits of courage, coolness, fidelity, kindness, honor, and
friendship. The theatre of his exploits is extended throughout the whole
western portion of the territory of the United States, from the
Mississippi to the Pacific, and his associates have been some of the
most distinguished men of the present age, to all of whom he has become
an object of affectionate regard and marked respect. The narrative which
follows will show his titles to this distinction, so far as his modesty
(for the truly brave are always modest) has permitted the world to learn
anything of his history.

It appears, from the various declarations of those most intimate with
Christopher Carson, as well as from a biography published a number of
years before his death, that he was a native of Madison county,
Kentucky, and was born on the 24th of December, 1809. Colonel Fremont in
his exhaustive and interesting Report of his Exploring Expedition to
Oregon and North California, in 1843-44, says that Carson is a native
of Boonslick county, Missouri; and from his long association with the
hunter, he probably makes the statement on Carson's own authority. The
error, if it is an error, may have arisen from the fact stated by Mr.
Peters, that Carson's father moved from Kentucky to Missouri, when
Christopher was only one year old. He settled in what is now Howard
county, in the central part of Missouri.

At the time of Mr. Carson's emigration, Missouri was called Upper
Louisiana, being a part of the territory ceded to the United States by
France in 1803, and it became a separate State, under the name of
Missouri, in 1821. When Mr. Carson removed his family from Kentucky, and
settled in the new territory, it was a wild region, naturally fertile,
thus favoring his views as a cultivator; abounding in wild game, and
affording a splendid field of enterprise for the hunter, but infested on
all sides with Indians, often hostile, and always treacherous.

As Mr. Carson united the pursuits of farmer and hunter, and lived in a
sort of block-house or fort, as a precaution against the attacks of the
neighboring Indians, his son became accustomed to the presence of
danger, and the necessity of earnest action and industry from his
earliest childhood.

At the age of fifteen, Kit Carson was apprenticed to Mr. Workman, a
saddler. This trade requiring close confinement, was, of course, utterly
distasteful to a boy already accustomed to the use of the rifle, and the
stirring pleasures of the hunter's life, and at the end of two years,
his apprenticeship was terminated, for Kit, who, with his experience as
the son of a noted hunter, himself perfectly familiar with the rifle,
and, young as he was, acknowledged to be one of the best and surest
shots, even in that State, where such merit predominated at that time
over almost every other, could not bear in patience the silent,
sedentary monotony of his life, voluntarily abandoned the further
pursuit of the trade, and sought the more active employment of a
trader's life.

His new pursuit was more congenial. He joined an armed band of traders
in an expedition to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. This, at that
period, (1826,) was rather a perilous undertaking, on account of the
Indian tribes who were ever ready to attack a trading caravan, when
there was any prospect of overcoming it. No attack was made on the
party, however, and no incident of importance occurred, if we except
the accident to one of the teamsters who wounded himself by carelessly
handling a loaded rifle, so as to render it necessary to amputate his
arm. In this operation Carson assisted, the surgical instruments being a
razor, an old saw, and an iron bolt, heated red hot, in order to apply
the actual cautery. Notwithstanding this rough surgery, the man

In November (1826) the party arrived at Santa Fe, the capital, and the
largest town in the then Mexican province of New Mexico. This place is
situated on the Rio Chiuto, or Santa Fe river, an affluent of the Rio
Grande, from which it is distant about 20 miles. It was then, as now,
the great emporium of the overland trade, which, since 1822, has been
carried on with the State of Missouri. The houses are chiefly built of
_adobes_, or unburnt bricks, each dwelling forming a square, with a
court in the centre upon which the apartments open. This mode of
building, originally Moorish, prevails in all the colonies settled by
the Spaniards, as well as in Old Spain, and the oriental countries. It
makes each house a sort of fortress, as General Taylor's troops learned
to their cost at the siege of Monterey. The front entrance of each
house is large enough to admit animals with their packs.

Santa Fe is well supplied with cool water from springs within its
limits, and from fountains above the city near the neighbouring
mountain. The appearance of the place is inviting and imposing, as it
stands on a plateau elevated more than 7000 feet above the sea, and near
a snow capped mountain, which rises 5000 feet above the level of the
town; but the population is said to be exceedingly depraved. The present
population is about 5000; but at the time of Carson's first visit, it
was comparatively a small town.

Soon after their arrival at Santa Fe, Carson left the trading band,
which he had joined when he abandoned the saddlery business, or trade,
as the reader may choose to term it, and of which we have previously
spoken, and proceeded to Fernandez de Taos. In this place Carson passed
the winter of 1826-7, at the house of a retired mountaineer. And it was
while residing there, that he acquired that thorough familiarity with
the Spanish language, which, in after years, proved of such essential
service to him. In the spring he joined a party bound for Missouri, but
meeting another band of Santa Fe traders, he joined them and returned
to that place. Here his services being no longer required by the
traders, he was again thrown out of employment. He now engaged himself
as teamster to a party bound to El Paso, a settlement, or more properly
a line of settlements, embracing a population of about 5,000, situated
in the rich, narrow valley which extends 9 or 10 miles along the right
bank of the Rio Grande, in the Mexican State of Chihuahua, 350 miles S.
by W. of Santa Fe. Here the grape is extensively cultivated, and
considerable quantities of light wine and brandy, (called by the traders
_Pass wine_ and _Pass brandy_,) are made. The houses are like those of
Santa Fe, built of _adobes_ with earthen floors. With abundance of
natural advantages, the people are content to live without those
appliances of civilized life, considered indispensable by the poorest
American citizens. Glazed windows, chairs, tables, knives and forks, and
similar every day conveniences are unknown even to the rich among the
people of El Paso. The place is the chief emporium of the trade between
New Mexico and Chihuahua, and its name, "the passage" is derived from
the passage of the river through a gorge or gap in the mountain just
above the town.

On his arrival at this place, young Carson might justly be considered
in view of his age, (not yet 18,) more than an ordinary traveler. He had
arrived at a spot where everything was strange to him. New people, new
customs, a new climate, a wine country, a population of mixed breed,
half Indian, half Spaniard--everything wearing a foreign aspect;
everything totally different from his home in Missouri.

He did not remain long in this place, but returned to Santa Fe, whence
he again found his way to Taos, where he passed the winter in the
service of Mr. Ewing Young, in the humble capacity of cook; this he soon
forsook for the more pleasant and profitable position of Spanish
interpreter to a trader named Tramell, with whom he, for the second
time, made the long journey to El Paso and Chihuahua.


Chihuahua, where Carson had now arrived, is the capital of the Mexican
province bearing the same name. It is situated on a small tributary of
the Conchos river, in the midst of a plain. It is regularly laid out and
well built; the streets are broad and some of them paved. Like other
cities built by the Spaniards, it has its great public square, or Plaza
Major, on one side of which stands the cathedral, an imposing edifice of
hewn stone, built at a cost of $300,000. It is surmounted with a dome
and two towers, and has a handsome façade with statues of the twelve
apostles, probably the first statues that Carson had ever seen. Other
public buildings surround the square, and there is a fountain in the
middle. The city contains a convent founded by the Jesuits, and an
aqueduct 3-1/2 miles long, supported by vast arches and communicating
with the river Chihuahua. It has also its mint, and in the neighborhood
are silver mines with furnaces for melting the ore. It carries on an
extensive trade with the United States by means of caravans to St. Louis
in Missouri, and San Antonio in Texas. It was founded in 1691, and
during the time when the silver mines were in successful operation, it
contained 70,000 inhabitants. The population at present is 14,000.

As he had come with one of the trading caravans in the service of
Colonel Tramell as Spanish interpreter, we might naturally expect that
the engagement would be a permanent one. But such was not the case. The
monotony of this life soon disgusted him, and after weary weeks passed
in comparative idleness, he longed again for the freedom of the prairie
and the forest, and gladly abandoning the rather dignified position of
interpreter to Colonel Tramell, entered into the service of Mr. Robert
M. Knight, in the more humble capacity of teamster in an expedition to
the copper mines on the river Gila, whence he soon after found his way
back to Taos.

It was during this visit to Taos that Carson was first enabled to
gratify the desire which he had long entertained of becoming a regular
hunter and trapper. A party of trappers in the service of Carson's old
friend, Mr. Ewing Young, had returned to Taos, having been beaten off
from their hunting and trapping grounds by a hostile band of Indians.
Mr. Young raised a party of forty men, for the double purpose of
chastising the Indians, and resuming the business of trapping, and
Carson joined them. The fact that he was accepted for this service was a
marked token of esteem for his valor, as well as his skill in hunting,
parties of this description always avoiding the enlistment of
inexperienced recruits, as likely to embarrass their operations in the

The ostensible object of the expedition was to punish the Indians, but
its ultimate purpose was to trap for beavers. The Mexicans by an express
law had forbidden granting licenses to any American parties, and in this
instance a circuitous route was chosen to conceal their real design.

They did not fall in with the Indians of whom they were in pursuit,
until they had reached the head of one of the affluents of the Rio Gila,
called Salt River. Once in presence of their enemies they made short
work with them, killing fifteen of their warriors, and putting the whole
band to rout. Such occurrences were by no means unfrequent, as we shall
see in the course of this narrative. A small body of experienced
hunters and trappers, confident in their superior skill and discipline,
never hesitates to attack a greatly superior number of Indians, and it
was a rare thing that success did not attend their daring. The Indian is
not fond of a "fair stand up fight." He prefers stratagem and ambush,
and reverences as a great "brave," the warrior who is most successful in
circumventing his enemies, and bringing off many scalps without the loss
of a man; but when a considerable number of Indians are shot down in the
first onset, the remainder are very apt to take to flight in every

We have said that Carson joined the party of trappers under the command
of Mr. Ewing Young, and it may not be out of place to describe briefly
the mode of life which parties in that pursuit have to adopt, with a few
remarks upon the habits and haunts of the animal, for whose sake men
were then so willing to risk their lives, and to undergo such hardships.

The method of trapping for beaver formerly employed by the trappers in
the western country, is thus described by one who has had considerable
experience in the art; and we quote it as illustrating the severe
training to which Carson had voluntarily subjected himself:

"To be a successful trapper, required great caution as well as a perfect
knowledge of the habits of the animal. The residence of the beaver was
often discovered by seeing bits of green wood, and gnawed branches of
the bass-wood, slippery elm, and sycamore, their favorite food, floating
on the water, or lodged on the shores of the stream below, as well as by
their tracks or foot-marks. These indications were technically called
_beaver sign_. They were also sometimes discovered by their dams, thrown
across creeks and small sluggish streams, forming a pond in which were
erected their habitations.

"The hunter, as he proceeded to set his traps, generally approached by
water, in his canoe. He selected a steep, abrupt spot in the bank of the
creek, in which a hole was excavated with his paddle, as he sat in the
canoe, sufficiently large to hold the trap, and so deep as to be about
three inches below the surface of the water, when the jaws of the trap
were expanded. About two feet above the trap, a stick, three or four
inches in length, was stuck in the bank. In the upper end of this, the
trapper excavated a small hole with his knife, into which he dropped a
small quantity of the essence, or perfume, which was used to attract
the beaver to the spot. This stick was attached by a string of horse
hair to the trap, and with it was pulled into the water by the beaver.
The reason for this was, that it might not remain after the trap was
sprung, and attract other beavers to the spot, and thus prevent their
going to where there was another trap ready for them.

"The scent, or essence, was made by mingling the fresh castor of the
beaver, with an extract of the bark of the roots of the spice-bush, and
kept in a bottle for use. The making of this essence was held a profound
secret, and often sold for a considerable sum to the younger trappers,
by the older proficients in the mystery of beaver hunting. Where they
had no proper bait, they sometimes made use of the fresh roots of
sassafras, or spice-bush; of both these the beaver was very fond.

"It is said by old trappers that they will smell the well-prepared
essence the distance of a mile. Their sense of smell is very acute, or
they would not so readily detect the vicinity of man by the smell of his
trail. The aroma of the essence having attracted the animal into the
vicinity of the trap, in his attempt to reach it, he has to climb up on
to the bank where it is sticking. This effort leads him directly over
the trap, and he is usually taken by one of the fore legs. The trap was
connected by a chain of iron, six feet in length, to a stout line made
of the bark of the leather-wood, twisted into a neat cord, of fifteen or
twenty feet. These were usually prepared by the trappers at home or at
their camps, for cords of hemp or flax were scarce in the days of beaver
hunting. The end of the line was secured to a stake driven into the bed
of the creek under water, and in his struggles to escape, the beaver was
usually drowned before the arrival of the trapper. Sometimes, however,
he freed himself by gnawing off his own leg, though this was rarely the
case. If there was a prospect of rain, or it was raining at the time of
setting the trap, a leaf, generally of sycamore, was placed over the
essence stick, to protect it from the rain.

"The beaver being a very sagacious and cautious animal, it required
great care in the trapper in his approach to its haunts to set his
traps, that no scent of his feet or hands was left on the earth, or
bushes that he touched. For this reason he generally approached in a
canoe. If he had no canoe, it was necessary to enter the stream thirty
or forty yards below, and walk in the water to the place, taking care
to return in the same manner, lest the beaver should take alarm and not
come near the bait, as his fear of the vicinity of man was greater than
his sense of appetite for the essence. It also required caution in
kindling a fire near their haunts, as the smell of smoke alarmed them.
The firing of a gun, also, often marred the sport of the trapper, and
thus it will be seen that to make a successful beaver hunter, required
more qualities or natural gifts than fall to the share of most men."


Carson's previous habits and pursuits had eminently qualified him to
become an useful and even a distinguished member of Mr. Young's company
of trappers. He had lived in the midst of danger from his childhood. He
was familiar with the use of arms; and several years of travel and
adventure had already given him more knowledge of the western wilds in
the neighborhood of the region which was the scene of their present
operations, than was possessed by many who had seen more years than
himself. Added to this, he had become well acquainted with the peculiar
character and habits of the western Indians, who were now prowling
around their camp, and occasionally stealing their traps, game, and

The party pursued their business successfully for some time on the Salt
and San Francisco rivers, when a part of them returned to New Mexico,
and the remainder, eighteen in number, under the lead of Mr. Young,
started for the valley of Sacramento, California, and it was to this
latter party Carson was attached. Their route led them through one of
the dry deserts of the country, and not only did they suffer
considerably from the want of water, but their provisions giving out,
they were often happy when they could make a good dinner on horse-flesh.
Near the Cañon of the Colorado they encountered a party of Mohave
Indians, who furnished them with some provisions, which relieved them
from the apprehension of immediate want.

The Mohave Indians are thus described by a recent visitor:

"These Indians are probably in as wild a state of nature as any tribe on
American territory. They have not had sufficient intercourse with any
civilized people, to acquire a knowledge of their language, or their
vices. It was said that no white party had ever before passed through
their country without encountering hostility; nevertheless they appear
intelligent, and to have naturally amiable dispositions. The men are
tall, erect, and well-proportioned; their features inclined to European
regularity; their eyes large, shaded by long lashes, and surrounded by
circles of blue pigment, that add to their apparent size. The apron, or
breech-cloth for men, and a short petticoat, made of strips of the inner
bark of the cotton-wood, for women, are the only articles of dress
deemed indispensable; but many of the females have long robes, or
cloaks, of fur. The young girls wear beads; but when married, their
chins are tattooed with vertical blue lines, and they wear a necklace
with a single sea-shell in front, curiously wrought. These shells are
very ancient, and esteemed of great value.

"From time to time they rode into the camp, mounted on spirited horses;
their bodies and limbs painted and oiled, so as to present the
appearance of highly-polished mahogany. The dandies paint their faces
perfectly black. Warriors add a streak of red across the forehead, nose,
and chin. Their ornaments consist of leathern bracelets, adorned with
bright buttons, and worn on the left arm; a kind of tunic, made of
buckskin fringe, hanging from the shoulders; beautiful eagles' feathers,
called 'sormeh'--sometimes white, sometimes of a crimson tint--tied to a
lock of hair, and floating from the top of the head; and, finally,
strings of wampum, made of circular pieces of shell, with holes in the
centre, by which they are strung, often to the length of several yards,
and worn in coils about the neck. These shell beads, which they call
'pook,' are their substitute for money, and the wealth of an individual
is estimated by the 'pook' cash he possesses."

Soon after leaving the Mohave Indians, Mr. Young's party, proceeding
westward, arrived at the Mission of San Gabriel. This is one of these
extensive establishments formed by the Roman Catholic clergy in the
early times of California, which form so striking a feature in the
country. This Mission of San Gabriel, about the time of Carson's visit,
was in a flourishing condition. By statistical accounts, in 1829, it had
70,000 head of cattle, 1,200 horses, 3,000 mares, 400 mules, 120 yoke of
working cattle, and 254,000 sheep. From the vineyards of the mission
were made 600 barrels of wine, the sale of which produced an income of
upwards of $12,000. There were between twenty and thirty such missions
in California at that time, of which San Gabriel was by no means the
largest. They had all been founded since 1769, when the first, San
Diego, was established. The labor in these establishments was performed
by Indian converts, who received in return a bare support, and a very
small modicum of what was called religious instruction. Each mission had
its Catholic priests, a few Spanish or Mexican soldiers, and hundreds,
sometimes thousands of Indians.

The following interesting account of those of Upper California, we
transcribe from a recent work of high authority.[B]

"The missions of Upper California were indebted for their beginning and
chief success to the subscriptions which, as in the case of the
missionary settlements of the lower province, were largely bestowed by
the pious to promote so grand a work as turning a great country to the
worship of the true God. Such subscriptions continued for a long period,
both in Old and New Spain, and were regularly remitted to the City of
Mexico, where they were formed into what was called '_The Pious Fund of
California_.' This fund was managed by the convent of San Fernando and
other trustees in Mexico, and the proceeds, together with the annual
salaries allowed by the Crown to the missionaries, were transmitted to
California. Meanwhile, the Spanish court scarcely interfered with the
temporal government of the country. It was true that some of the
ordinary civil offices and establishments were kept up; but this was
only in name, and on too small a scale to be of any practical
importance. A commandante-general was appointed by the Crown to command
the garrisons of the presidios; but as these were originally established
solely to protect the missions from the dreaded violence of hostile
Indians, and to lend them, when necessary, the carnal arm of offence, he
was not allowed to interfere in the temporal rule of the Fathers. He
resided at Monterey, and his annual salary was four thousand dollars.

"In every sense of the word, then, these monks were practically the
sovereign rulers of California--passing laws affecting not only
property, but even life and death--declaring peace and war against their
Indian neighbors--regulating, receiving, and spending the finances at
discretion--and, in addition, drawing large annual subsidies not only
from the pious among the faithful over all Christendom, but even from
the Spanish monarchy itself, almost as a tribute to their being a
superior state. This surely was the golden age of the missions--a
contented, peaceful, believing people, abundant wealth for all their
wants, despotic will, and no responsibility but to their own
consciences and heaven! Their horn was filled to overflowing; but soon
an invisible and merciless hand seized it, and slowly and lingeringly,
as if in malicious sport, turned it over, and spilled the nectar of
their life upon the wastes of mankind, from whence it can never again be
collected. The golden age of another race has now dawned, and with it
the real prosperity of the country.

"The missions were originally formed on the same general plan, and they
were planted at such distances from each other as to allow abundant room
for subsequent development. They were either established on the
sea-coast, or a few miles inland. Twenty or thirty miles indeed seems
all the distance the missionaries had proceeded into the interior;
beyond which narrow belt the country was unexplored and unknown. Each
mission had a considerable piece of the best land in the neighborhood
set aside for its agricultural and pastoral purposes, which was commonly
about fifteen miles square. But besides this selected territory, there
was generally much more vacant land lying between the boundaries of the
missions, and which, as the increase of their stocks required more space
for grazing, was gradually occupied by the flocks and herds of the
Fathers, nearest to whose mission lay the previously unoccupied
district. Over these bounds the Fathers conducted all the operations of
a gigantic farm. Their cattle generally numbered from ten thousand to
twenty thousand and their sheep were nearly as numerous--though some
missions had upwards of thrice these numbers--which fed over perhaps a
hundred thousand acres of fertile land.

"Near the centre of such farms were placed the mission buildings. These
consisted of the church--which was either built of stone, if that
material could be procured in the vicinity, or of _adobes_, which are
bricks dried in the sun; and was as substantial, large, and richly
decorated an erection as the means of the mission would permit, or the
skill and strength of their servants could construct. In the interior,
pictures and hangings decorated the walls; while the altars were
ornamented with marble pillars of various colors, and upon and near them
stood various articles of massy gold and silver plate. A profusion of
gilding and tawdry sparkling objects caught and pleased the eye of the
simple congregations. Around, or beside the church, and often in the
form of a square, were grouped the habitations of the Fathers and their
household servants, and the various granaries and workshops of the
people; while, at the distance of one or two hundred yards, stood the
huts of the Indians. The former buildings were constructed of _adobes_,
and covered with brick tiles, frail and miserable materials at the best.
The huts of the Indians were occasionally made of the same materials,
but more commonly were formed only of a few rough poles, stuck in the
ground, with the points bending towards the centre like a cone, and were
covered with reeds and grass. An _adobe_ wall of considerable height
sometimes inclosed the whole village. The direction of the affairs of
the settlement was in the hands of one of the Fathers, originally called
a president, but afterwards a _prefect_; and each prefect was
independent in his own mission, and practically supreme in all its
temporal, and nearly in all its spiritual matters, to any human

"Thus the Fathers might be considered to have lived something in the
style of the patriarchs of the days of Job and Abraham. They indeed were
generally ignorant and unlettered men, knowing little more than the
mechanical rites of their church, and what else their manuals of
devotion and the treasuries of the lives of the saints taught them; but
they seem to have been personally devout, self-denying, and beneficent
in their own simple way. They thought they did God service, and perhaps
much more the Indians themselves, in catching, taming, and converting
them to Christianity. That was their vocation in the world, and they
faithfully obeyed its calls of duty. Towards the converts and actually
domesticated servants, they always showed such an affectionate kindness
as a father pays to the youngest and most helpless of his family. The
herds and flocks of the Fathers roamed undisturbed over numberless hills
and valleys. Their servants or slaves were true born children of the
house, who laboured lightly and pleasantly, and had no sense of freedom
nor desire for change. A rude but bounteous hospitality marked the
master's reception of the solitary wayfarer, as he traveled from mission
to mission, perhaps bearing some scanty news from the outer world, all
the more welcome that the Fathers knew little of the subject, and could
not be affected by the events and dangers of distant societies. All
these things have now passed away. The churches have fallen into decay,
deserted by the old worshipers, and poverty-stricken; the _adobe_
houses of the Fathers are in ruins--and there is scarcely any trace
left of the slightly erected huts of the Indians, who themselves have
deserted their old hearths and altars, and are silently, though rapidly,
disappearing from the land. But the memory of the patriarchal times, for
they were only as yesterday, still remains fresh in the minds of the
early white settlers."

Mr. Young's party did not remain long to enjoy the sumptuous fare at the
Mission of San Gabriel; but pushed on to that of San Fernando, and
thence to the river and fertile valley of Sacramento. In this
neighborhood they trapped for beaver, and Carson displayed his activity
and skill as a hunter of deer, elk, and antelope.


Only familiarity with one of like character, by actually seeing it, can
give a just idea of the country through which they were traveling.
Livingston's descriptions of localities in Central Africa might be
transferred to our pages _verbatim_, to give a word-painting of the
desiccated deserts of what is now New Mexico and Arizona. Carson's
curiosity, as well as care to preserve the knowledge for future use, led
him to note in memory, every feature of the wild landscape, its mountain
chains, its desert prairies, with only clumps of the poor artemisia for
vegetation, its rivers, and the oases upon their banks, where there were
bottom-lands--nor were beaver found elsewhere--with its river beds whose
streams had found a passage beneath the surface of the earth, and each
other general feature that would attract the eye of the natural, rather
than the scientific observer.

In our day, the note book of the pioneer furnishing the data, the
traveler carries a guide-book to direct his course from point to point,
upon a well trodden road, to those places where grass and water will
furnish refreshment for his animals, while he regales himself, not upon
the spare-rib of a starved mule, killed because it could go no longer,
but upon a variety of good things from the well stocked larder of the
pouches of the saddle-bags his pack mule carries, or the provision box
of his wagon. Or, instead of the meat-diet of the trapper, when he has
been in luck in a fertile locality, the traveler--not trapper--of
to-day, perhaps has shot a prairie chicken, and prepares his dinner by
making a stew of it, which he consumes with hard bread he has purchased
at a station not ten miles away.

Familiarity with the features of the country does not restore the
experience of the pioneer of these wilds. The Indian, now, is advised by
authority he seldom dares defy, to keep off the roads of the emigrants;
and seldom does a party leave the road for any great distance; nor are
these roads infrequent, but the country is intersected with them, and
the guide-books protect against mistake in taking the wrong direction.
The test of character, however, with the trappers, was their ability to
endure hardships when they had to be encountered; and to guard against
them, when they could be avoided, by a wise foresight in taking
advantage of every favor of fortune, and turning each freak or whim of
the wily dame to best account.

Carson was delighted with California from the first, and realizing
intense satisfaction in his position, yet a youth, on terms of easy
familiarity with the other seventeen old trappers, especially selected
for this expedition, circumstances conspired to call into play all the
activities of his nature, and nothing intruded to prevent his resigning
himself to the impulses of the time, and making the most of every
occasion that offered.

He had the confidence of Capt. Young and of all his men, who permitted
him to do precisely as he chose, for they found him not only intending
always to do what was best, but possessed of foresight to know always
"just the things that ought to be done," almost without effort, as it
seemed to them.

After leaving the Mission of San Fernando, Young's party trapped upon
the San Joaquim, but they found that another party of trappers had been
there before them, employed by the Hudson Bay Company, in Oregon. There
was however, room for them both, and they trapped near each other for
weeks. The friendly intercourse kept up between the two parties, was not
only one of pleasant interchange of social kindness, but in one sense
was essentially useful to Kit, who lost no opportunity of improving
himself in the profession (for in those days trapping was a profession)
which he had embraced, and he had the benefit of the experience by way
of example, not only of his own companions, but of those who were
connected with the greatest and most influential company then in
existence on this Continent. It is hardly necessary to say that he lost
no opportunity of acquiring information, and it is quite probable that
he would, if called on, allow that the experience acquired on this
expedition was among the most valuable of any which he had previously

When Mr. Young went to the Sacramento, he separated from the Hudson Bay
party. The beautiful Sacramento, as its waters glided toward the chain
of bays that take it to the ocean through the Bay of San Francisco out
at the Golden gate, had not the aspect of the eastern river's immediate
tributaries of the Missouri. Its waters then were clear as crystal, and
the salmon floated beneath, glistening in the sunlight, as the canoe
glided through them.

The very air of this valley is luxurious; and in speaking of it, we will
include the valley of the San Joaquim, for both these streams run
parallel with the coast, the Sacramento from the north, the San Joaquim
from the south, and both unite at the head of the chain of bays which
pour their waters into the Pacific.

The Sacramento drains nearly three hundred miles of latitude, and the
San Joaquim an hundred and fifty miles of the country bounded by the
Sierra Nevada (snow mountains) on the east, and the coast range on the
west, the whole forming a great basin, with the mountains depressed on
the north and south, but with no outlet except through the Golden gate.


No climate could be more congenial to a full flow of animal spirits,
than this region, where, upon the vegetation of the rich black
soil--often twenty feet deep--game of the better class in great
abundance found support. Deer in no part of the world was ever more
plenty, and elk and antelope bounded through the old oak groves, as they
may have done in Eden.

Carson had many opportunities of exploring the country, which he gladly
embraced, and thus became familiar with many localities, the knowledge
of which was in after years of such essential service to him and others.

There were many large tribes of Indians scattered through this country,
in these and smaller valleys, beside those which the missions had
attached to them. We know not that any record has been kept of the names
of these tribes and their numbers; but since the white men intruded,
they have melted away as did earlier those east of the Mississippi.

These Indians were all of the variety called Diggers, but in better
condition than we see them, since the small remnants of large tribes
have adopted the vices of the white men, and learned improvidence, by
sometimes having plenty without much toil; so that they can say to-day,
"No deer, no acorn; white man come! poor Indian hungry," as the happiest
style of begging.

A brief description of the Tlamath or Digger Indians, and their mode of
living, may not now be out of place, and having been visited by Carson
in his earlier years, may not be uninteresting. We quote from the
language of one who has paid a recent visit to the tribe:

"There were a dozen wigwams for the nearly hundred that composed the
tribe, one of which was much larger than the rest, and in the centre of
the group, the temple, or "medicine lodge." As we entered, the bones of
game consumed, and other offal lay about; and to our inquiry why they
did not clear away and be more tidy, only a grunt was returned. The men
had gone fishing, said the Indian woman we addressed, so we saw but two
or three; but in one wigwam which we entered there were fourteen with
ourselves--the rest, besides the boy who went before to announce us,
were women and children.

"We ascended a mound of earth, as it seemed, about six feet high, and
through a circular hole, perhaps two feet and a half in diameter,
descended a perpendicular ladder about ten feet. This opening, through
which we entered, performed the double office of door and window to the
space below, which was circular, about fourteen feet across, with
arrangements for sleeping, like berths in a steamboat, one over another,
on two sides, suspended by tying with bark a rough stick to upright
posts, which served to hold the sticks that sustained the roof. The
whole was substantially built, the covering being the earth which was
taken from the spot beneath, heaped upon a layer of rushes, the floor of
the wigwam being four feet below the surface of the ground. On the two
sides of the wigwam not occupied by the berths, were barrels filled with
fish--dried salmon, seeds, acorns, and roots.

"On hooks from the rush lined ceiling hung bags and baskets, containing
such luxuries as dried grasshoppers and berries. About the berths hung
deer skins and some skins of other game, seemingly prepared for wear.
There was no appearance of other dress, yet in the berths sat three
women, braiding strips of deer skin, and attaching the braids to a
string, in the form of long fringe. Each of the women wore an apron of
this kind about the waist, and only the dress of nature beside. The
children were dressed '_in puris naturalibus_.'

"After stopping ten minutes, we were glad to ascend to the open air, for
a sickness came over us from which we did not recover for several hours.
How human beings live in such an atmosphere we cannot tell, but this is
the way they habitate.

"When the grasshoppers were abundant, for this insect is one of the
luxuries of the Diggers, they scoured the valley, gathering them in
immense quantities. This is done by first digging holes or pits in the
ground at the spot chosen. Then the whole party of Indians, each with
the leafy branch of a tree, form a circle about it and drive in the
grasshoppers till they heap them upon each other in the pits: water is
then poured in to drown them. Their booty gathered, they proceed to
another place and perform the same operation. These insects are prepared
for food by kindling a fire in one of these pits, and when it is heated,
filling it with them and covering it with a heated stone, where they
are left to bake. They are now ready for use at any time, and eaten with
gusto, or they are powdered, and mixed with the acorn meal in a kind of
bread, which is baked in the ashes."

To return to the camp of trappers, and witness one day's duties, may be
gratifying to the reader. With early dawn the traps are visited, and the
beaver secured. The traps are re-adjusted, and the game brought into
camp--or left to be skinned where it is if the camp is far away.
Meantime breakfast has been prepared by one of the party; others have
looked after the animals, relieving the watch which is still kept up
lest a stampede occur while all are sleeping. Carson could not be cook
for the party constantly, but takes his turn with the rest, and by the
nice browning of his steak, and the delicacy of his acorn coffee, and
the addition to their meal of roasted kamas root, he proves the value of
the apprenticeship of his earlier years. He has a dish of berries, too,
and surprises the party with this tempting dessert, as well as with the
information that in his rambles the day before he had dined with an old
Californian, with his wife and daughters, and had the promise from them
of a cow, if he would call for it on the morrow.

Breakfast over, and the remains put by for lunch at noon, Carson mounts
his pony, and riding a few miles down the bank swims the river, and
dashing out among the hills with a high round mountain peak in view,
still miles away, is lost among the oak groves for a score of miles, and
at length emerges on Susan bay, and doffs his hat and makes his bow to
the young Señorita who greets him at the door with a smile of welcome.
The sun is low; dinner waits--hot bread, and butter, and cheese, and
coffee with sugar, are added to the venison and beef, and Irish and
sweet potatoes. Amid the civilities and pleasant chat, the hour passes
happily, and Carson proposes returning to his party.

The ladies will not allow him to depart. Will he not accept the
hospitality of their mansion for a single night? They do not urge after
one refusal, because his every feature indicates the decision of his
character. He must go. His horse is brought--a young and beautiful
animal--and the cow, this object of his second journey thither, given
him in charge as he mounts, with a rope attached to her horns, by which
to lead her. The full moon is rising, on which he had calculated, as he
told his hostesses, and with words of pleasant compliment, with which
the Spanish language so much more than ours abounds, and a _Buenos
noches, señor_, from his entertainers, and _Buenos noches, señoritas_,
in return, he slowly winds his silent way on and on through the oak
groves and the wild oats covering the hill-sides, hearing only the song
of the owl and the whippoorwill, the music of the insects, and the
whispering leaves, but with ear ever open to detect the stealthy tread
of the monster of the wood and hills--the grizzly bear. Off on the
distant hill he sees one, with a cub following her; but game is plenty,
and deer is good enough food for her. On, on he goes at slow pace, for
he has a delicate charge, and already is she restive from very
weariness, though his pace is slow.

Half his journey is completed as the gray of dawn and the twinkle of the
star of morning relieves the tedium and anxiety of his loneliness. He
has made the circuit of the bay. The river is before him as he descends
the hill which he has ascended for observation. Morning broadens. The
flowers glow with variegated beauty as he tramples them, and in some
patches the odor of the crushed dewy beauties fills the air to satiety.

A few miles more of travel and he crosses the river, and is again in the
river-bottom where the party have taken the beaver. He stops at an
Indian village, and dines from the liberal haunch and the acorn bread
the chief presents, and with good feelings displayed on either side,
takes in his arms a young papoose, the digger's picaninny, and salutes
it with a kiss. Kit leaves there a trifling, but to them, valuable
memorial of his visit, mounts his sorrel which is restive under the slow
gait to which he has restrained him, takes the rope again which secures
his treasure, the cow, and plods towards home at evening. The camp fire
smokes in the distance, while the few horses that remain are staked
about, and the sentinel paces up and down to keep off the drowsiness
induced by fatigue and a hearty meat supper. The eastern and the western
horizon are lighted with pale silver by the departing god of day, and
the approaching goddess of the night, and the still river divides the
plain, bounded only by the horizon, except he look behind him. Such is
the scene as, approaching, the sentinel raises his gun and gives the
challenge to halt. But the rest of the camp are not yet sleeping, and a
dozen voices shout in the still evening a glad welcome to Carson, for
whom they were not concerned, for they well knew there was not one of
the party so well able to take care of himself as he.


Peters, in his "Life of Carson," tells the story of two expeditions
which Carson led against the Indians, while they trapped upon the
Sacramento, which give proof of his courage, and thorough education in
the art of Indian warfare, which had become a necessity to the
_voyageur_ on the plains, and in the mountains of the western wilds.
With his quick discrimination of character, and familiarity with the
habits of the race, he could not but know the diggers were less bold
than the Apaches and Camanches, with whom he was before familiar.

The Indians at the Mission San Gabriel, were restive under coerced
labor, and forty of them made their escape to a tribe not far away.

The mission demanded the return of these fugitives, and being refused,
gave battle to the neighboring tribe, but were defeated. The Padre sent
to the trappers for assistance to compel the Indians not to harbor their
people. Carson and eleven of his companions volunteered to aid the
mission, and the attack upon the Indian village resulted in the
destruction of a third of its inhabitants, and compelled them to
submission. Capt. Young found at this mission a trader to take his furs,
and from them purchased a drove of horses. Directly after his return, a
party of Indians contrived to drive away sixty horses from the trappers,
while the sentinel slept at night. Carson with twelve men were sent in
pursuit. It was not difficult to follow the fresh trail of so large a
drove, yet he pursued them a hundred miles, and into the mountains,
before coming up with them. The Indians supposed themselves too far away
to be followed, and were feasting on the flesh of the stolen horses they
had slaughtered. Carson's party arranged themselves silently and without
being seen, and rushing upon the Indian camp, killed eight men, and
scattered the remainder in every direction. The horses were recovered,
except the six killed, and partly consumed, and with three Indian
children left in camp, they returned to the joyful greetings of their

Early in the autumn of 1829, Mr. Young and his party of trappers set out
on their return home. On their route they visited Los Angelos, formerly
called Pueblo de los Angelos, "the city of the angels," a name which it
received on account of the exceedingly genial climate, and the beauty of
the surrounding country. It is situated on a small river of the same
name, 30 miles from its mouth, and on the road between the cities of San
Jose and San Diego. It is about three hundred and fifty miles east of
San Francisco, and a hundred miles to the south.

Although to very many thousands of readers, anything on the subject of
the climate of California may seem superfluous, yet there are as many
thousands who have no really distinct idea of the country or the
climate, and we therefore quote from Rev. Dr. Bushnell, whose article on
those topics in the "New Englander," in 1858, attracted justly such
universal attention:

"The first and most difficult thing to apprehend respecting California
is the climate, upon which, of course, depend the advantages of health
and physical development, the growths and their conditions and kinds,
and the _modus operandi_, or general cast, of the seasons. But this,
again, is scarcely possible, without dismissing, first of all, the word
_climate_, and substituting the plural, climates. For it cannot be said
of California, as of New England, or the Middle States, that it has a
climate. On the contrary, it has a great multitude, curiously pitched
together, at short distances, one from another, defying too, not seldom,
our most accepted notions of the effects of latitude and altitude and
the defences of mountain ranges. The only way, therefore, is to dismiss
generalities, cease to look for a climate, and find, if we can, by what
process the combinations and varieties are made; for when we get hold of
the manner and going on of causes, all the varieties are easily

"To make this matter intelligible, conceive that Middle California, the
region of which we now speak, 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 divided lengthwise, parallel to the coast,
into three strips, or ribands of about equal width. First, the
coast-wise 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 Joaquim, to join their waters at the middle of
the basin and pass off to the sea. The third long strip, or riband, is
the slope of the Sierra Nevada chain, which bounds the great valley on
the east, and contains in its foot-hills, or rather in its lower half,
all the gold mines. The upper half is, to a great extent, bare granite
rock, and is crowned at the summit, with snow, about eight months of the

"Now the climate of these parallel strips will be different almost of
course, and subordinate, local differences, quite as remarkable, will
result from subordinate features in the local configurations,
particularly of the seaward strip or portion. For all the varieties of
climate, distinct as they become, are made by variations wrought in the
rates of motion, the courses, the temperature, and the dryness of a
single wind; viz., the trade wind of the summer months, which blows
directly inward all the time, only with much greater power during that
part of the day when the rarefaction of the great central valley comes
to its aid; that is, from about ten o'clock in the morning, to the
setting of the sun. Conceive such a wind, chilled by the cold waters
that have come down from the Northern Pacific, perhaps from Behring's
Straits, combing the tops and wheeling round through the valleys of the
coastwise mountains, crossing the great valley at a much retarded rate,
and growing hot and dry, fanning gently the foot-hills and sides of the
Sierra, still more retarded by the piling necessary to break over into
Utah, and the conditions of the California climate, or climates, will be
understood with general accuracy. Greater simplicity in the matter of
climate is impossible, and greater variety is hardly to be imagined.

"For the whole dry season, viz., from May to November, this wind is in
regular blast, day by day, only sometimes approaching a little more
nearly to a tempest than at others. It never brings a drop of rain,
however thick and rain-like the clouds it sometimes drives before it.
The cloud element, indeed, is always in it. Sometimes it is floated
above, in the manner commonly designated by the term _cloud_. Sometimes,
as in the early morning, when the wind is most quiet, it may be seen as
a kind of fog bank resting on the sea-wall mountains or rolling down
landward through the interstices of their summits. When the wind begins
to hurry and take on less composedly, the fog becomes blown fog, a kind
of lead dust driven through the air, reducing it from a transparent to a
semi-transparent or merely translucent state, so that if any one looks
up the bay, from a point twenty or thirty miles south of San Francisco,
in the afternoon, he will commonly see, directly abreast of the Golden
Gate where this wind drives in with its greatest power, a pencil of the
lead dust shooting upwards at an angle of thirty or forty degrees,
(which is the aim of the wind preparing to leap the second chain of
mountains, the other side of the bay,) and finally tapering off and
vanishing, at a mid-air point eight or ten miles inland, where the
increased heat of the atmosphere has taken up the moisture, and restored
its complete transparency. This wind is so cold, that one who will sit
upon the deck of the afternoon steamer passing up the bay, will even
require his heaviest winter clothing. And so rough are the waters of the
bay, landlocked and narrow as it is, that sea-sickness is a kind of
regular experience, with such as are candidates for that kind of

"We return now to the middle strip of the great valley where the engine,
or rather boiler power, that operates the coast wind in a great part of
its velocity, is located. Here the heat, reverberated as in a forge, or
oven (whence _Cali--fornia_) becomes, even in the early spring, so much
raised that the ground is no longer able, by any remaining cold there is
in it, to condense the clouds, and rain ceases. A little further on in
the season, there is not cooling influence enough left to allow even the
phenomena of cloud, and for weeks together, not a cloud will be seen,
unless, by chance, the skirt of one may just appear now and then,
hanging over the summit of the western mountains. The sun rises, fixing
his hot stare on the world, and stares through the day. Then he returns
as in an orrery, and stares through another, in exactly the same way.
The thermometer will go up, not seldom, to 100° or even 110°, and
judging by what we know of effects here in New England, we should
suppose that life would scarcely be supportable. And yet there is much
less suffering from heat in this valley than with us, for the reason
probably that the nights are uniformly cool. The thermometer goes down
regularly with the sun, and one or two blankets are wanted for the
comfort of the night. This cooling of the night is probably determined
by the fact that the cool sea wind, sweeping through the upper air of
the valley, from the coast mountains on one side, over the mountains
and mountain passes of the Sierra on the other, is not able to get down
to the ground of the valley during the day, because of the powerfully
steaming column of heat that rises from it; but as soon as the sun goes
down, it drops immediately to the level of the plain, bathing it for the
night with a kind of perpendicular sea breeze, that has lost for the
time a great part of its lateral motion. The consequence is that no one
is greatly debilitated by the heat. On the contrary, it is the general
testimony, that a man can do as much of mental or bodily labor in this
climate, as in any other. And it is a good confirmation of this opinion,
that horses will here maintain a wonderful energy, traveling greater
distances, complaining far less of heat, and sustaining their spirit a
great deal better than with us. It is also to be noted that there is no
special tendency to fevers in this hot region, except in what is called
the _tule_ bottom, a kind of giant bulrush region, along the most
depressed and marshiest portions of the rivers.

"Passing now to the eastern strip or portion, the slope of the Nevada,
the heat, except in those deep cañons where the reverberation makes it
sometimes even insupportable, is qualified in degree, according to the
altitude. A gentle west wind, warmer in the lower parts or foothills by
the heat of the valley, fans it all day. At points which are higher, the
wind is cooler; but here also, on the slope of the Nevada, the nights
are always cool in summer, so cool that the late and early frosts leave
too short a space for the ordinary summer crop to mature, even where the
altitude is not more than 3,000 or 4,000 feet. Meantime, at the top of
the Sierra, where the west wind, piling up from below, breaks over into
Utah, travelers undertake to say that in some of the passes it blows
with such stress as even to polish the rocks, by the gravel and sand
which it drives before it. The day is cloudless on the slope of the
Sierra, as in the valley; but on the top there is now and then, or once
in a year or two, a moderate thunder shower. With this exception, as
referring to a part uninhabitable, thunder is scarcely ever heard in
California. The principal thunders of California are underground.

"We return now to the coast-wise mountain region, where the multiplicity
and confusion of climates is most remarkable. Their variety we shall
find depends on the courses of the wind currents, turned hither and
thither by the mountains; partly also on the side any given place
occupies of its valley or mountain; and partly on the proximity of the
sea. Sprinkled in among these mountains, and more or less inclosed by
them, are valleys, large and small, of the highest beauty. But a valley
in California means something more than a scoop, or depression. It means
a rich land-lake, leveled between the mountains, with a sharply defined,
picturesque shore, where it meets the sides and runs into the
indentations of the mountains. What is called the Bay of San Francisco,
is a large salt water lake in the middle of a much larger land-lake,
sometimes called the San Jose valley. It extends south of the city forty
miles, and northward among islands and mountains, about twenty-five
more, if we include what is called San Pueblo Bay. Three beautiful
valleys of agricultural country, the Petaluma, Sonora, and Napa valleys,
open into this larger valley of the bay, on the north end of it, between
four mountain barriers, having each a short navigable creek or inlet.
Still farther north is the Russian River valley, opening towards the
sea, and the Clear Lake valley and region, which is the Switzerland of
California. East of the San Jose valley, too, at the foot of Diabola,
and up among the mountains, are the large Amador and San Ramon valleys,
also the little gem of the Suñole. Now these valleys, which, if we
except the great valley of the two rivers, comprise the plow-land of
Middle California, have each a climate of its own, and productions that
correspond. We have only to observe further, that the east side of any
valley will commonly be much warmer than the west; for the very
paradoxical reason that the cold coast-wind always blows much harder on
the side or steep slope even, of a mountain, opposite or away from the
wind, than it does on the side towards it, reversing all our notions of
the sheltering effects of mountain ridges."


During this brief tarry at Los Angelos, Carson had not been idle, but
entirely without thought that his confidence could be deemed
presumption, arranging his dress with as much care as its character
permitted, early in the morning he mounted his horse--always in
excellent trim--and rode to the residence of the man he had been
informed owned the best _ranche_ in the vicinity, and dismounting at the
wicket gate, entered the yard, which was fenced with a finely arranged
growth of club cactus; and passing up the gravel walk several rods,
between an avenue of fig trees, with an occasional patch of green
shrubs, and a few flowers, he stood at the door of the spacious old
Spanish mansion, which was built of _adobe_ one story in height and
nearly a hundred feet in length, its roof covered with asphaltum mingled
with sand--like all the houses in Los Angelos, a spring of this material
existing a little way from the town. After waiting a few moments for an
answer to his summons, made with the huge brass knocker, an Indian
servant made his appearance, and ushered him to an elegantly furnished
room, with several guitars lying about as if recently in use. The lordly
owner of the ranche soon appeared in morning gown and slippers, the
picture of a well to do old time gentleman, with an air evincing an
acquaintance with the world of letters and of art, such as only travel
can produce.

He asked the name of his stranger guest, as Carson approaching addressed
him, and at once commenced a conversation in English, saying with a look
of satisfied pleasure, "I address you in your native tongue, which I
presume is agreeable, though you speak very good Spanish;" to which
Carson, much more surprised to hear his native language so fluently
spoken, than his host was to be addressed in Spanish, replied,

"It is certainly agreeable to find you can give me the information
which, as an American, I seek, in the language my mother taught me," and
at once they were on terms of easy familiarity.

As it was early morning, his host asked Carson to take a cup of coffee
with him, and conducting him to the breakfast room, presented him to
the family--a wife and several grown sons and daughters.

Carson enjoyed the social part of this treat, more than the tempting
viands with which the board was loaded. Though Spanish was the language
most used by the family, all spoke English, and a young man from
Massachusetts was with them as a tutor to some of the younger children.
Breakfast over, the host invited him to visit the vineyard, which he
said was hardly in condition to be exhibited, as the picking had
commenced two weeks before. He said his yard, of a thousand varas,
yielded him more grapes than he could manage to dispose of, though last
year he had made several butts of wine, and dried five thousand pounds
of raisins. The vines were in the form of little trees, so closely had
they been trimmed, and were still loaded with the purple clusters.
Tasting them, Carson justly remarked that he had never eaten so good a

"No," said his host, "I think not; neither have I, though I have
traveled through Europe. The valley of the Rhine, nor of the Tagus,
produces anywhere a grape like ours. I think that the Los Angelos grape
is fit food indeed for angels--is quite equal to the grapes of
Eshcol--you remember the heavy clusters that were found there, so that
two men carried one between them on a pole resting upon their shoulders.
See that now," and he drew Carson to a vine whose trunk was six inches
through, and yet it needed a prop to sustain the weight of the two
clusters of grapes it bore.

A species of the cactus, called the prickly pear, enclosed the vineyard,
and this really bore pears, or a fruit of light orange color, in the
form of a pear, but covered with a down of prickles. The Indian boy
brought a towel, and wiping the fruit until it shone, gave to Carson to
taste. It was sweetish, juicy, and rich, but with less of flavor than a
pear. Beyond the vineyard were groves of fig and orange trees. The figs
were hardly ripe, being the third crop of the season, while the oranges
were nearly fit for picking. The host said that his oranges were better
than usual this season, but he did not know what he should do with them.
He was in the habit of shipping them to Santa Barbara and Monterey, and
thence taking some to San Jose; but latterly oranges had been brought to
Monterey from the Sandwich islands by ships in the service of the Hudson
Bay Company, returning from the China trade to the mouth of the
Columbia, which, arriving before his were ripe, he found the fruit
market forestalled.

"This is the finest country the sun shines upon," said he, "and 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 value, for there are plenty running wild which good
huntsmen can take with the lasso; and, as for fruit, from which I had
hoped to realize something, the market is cut off by Yankee competition.
I think we shall have the Americans with us before many years, and for
my part I hope we shall. The idea of Californians generally, as well as
of other Mexicans, that they 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."

Carson's youth commanded him to listen, rather than to advance his own
sentiments; but he expressed his pleasure at hearing his host compliment
the Americans, and said in reply, "I have not been an extensive
traveler, and have chosen the life of a mountaineer, for a time
certainly; but since I came to California, I am half inclined to decide
to make this my home when I get tired of trapping. I like the hunt, and
have found game exceedingly plenty here, but there is no buffalo, and I
want that. Give me buffalo, and I would settle in California."

He described to his host a buffalo hunt in which he engaged with the
Sioux Indians, before he left his father's home, at fifteen years of
age, and another later, since he came into the mountains. He had hunted
buffalo every year since he was twelve years old.

The Don was charmed with the earnestness and the frankness, and manifest
integrity of the youth, and turning his glance upon him, with the
slightly quizzical expression the face a Spaniard so readily assumes, he
inquired how many buffalo he had ever killed.

"Not so many as I have deer, because I was always in a deer country; but
in the eight years since I commenced going in the buffalo ranges, I must
have killed five hundred. The hunter does not kill without he wishes to
use. I was often permitted to take a shot at the animals before I was
able to help in dressing them."

But Carson felt it might seem like boasting, for him to tell his own
exploits, and changing the theme, remarked,

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

"My tutor has said the same, and I too have thought so in regard to the
Mexican style of training our horses. We mount one just caught from the
drove, and ride him till he becomes gentle from exhaustion. The French
do not train horses in that way, nor the English; I have not been in the
United States. Our custom is brought from Spain; and 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; but when we take this animal again,
he is just as wild as at the first; we cannot afford to spend time on
breaking him when it must be done over again directly."

And so the two hours, which Carson had allotted for his visit, passed in
easy chat, and when he took his leave, his host expressed his thanks
for his visit, and promised to return it at the camp.

Carson did not again see his courteous host, for early on the following
morning, Mr. Young found it necessary that he should get his men away
from Los Angelos as speedily as possible. They had been indulging to
excess in bad liquors, and having none of the best feelings towards the
Mexicans, many quarrels, some ending in bloodshed, had ensued.

He therefore despatched Carson ahead with a few men, promising to follow
and overtake him at the earliest moment, and waiting another day, he
managed to get his followers in a tolerably sober condition, and
succeeded, though not without much trouble, in getting away without the
loss of a man, though the Mexicans were desperately enraged at the death
of one of their townsmen, who had been killed in a chance fray. In three
days he overtook Carson, and the party, once more reunited, advanced
rapidly towards the Colorado River, his men working with a heartiness
and cheerfulness, resulting from a consciousness of their misconduct at
Los Angelos, which, but for the prudent discretion of Young and Carson,
might have resulted disastrously to all concerned.

In nine days they were ready to commence trapping on the Colorado, and
in a short time added here to the large stock of furs they had brought
from California.

Here while left in charge of the camp, with only a few men, Carson found
himself suddenly confronted by several hundred Indians. They entered the
camp with the utmost assurance, and acted as though they felt the power
of their numbers. Carson at once suspected that all was not right, and
attempting to talk with them, he soon discovered that, with all their
_sang froid_, each of them carried his weapons concealed beneath his
garments, and immediately ordered them out of camp. Seeing the small
number of the white men, the Indians were not inclined to obey, but
chose to wait their time and do as they pleased, as they were accustomed
to do with the Mexicans. They soon learned that they were dealing with
men of different mettle, for Carson was a man not to be trifled with.


His men stood around him, each with his rifle resting in the hollow of
the arm, ready to be dropped to deadly aim on the sign from their young
commander. Carson addressed the old chief in Spanish, (for he had
betrayed his knowledge of that language,) and warned him that though
they were few, they were determined to sell their lives dearly. The
Indians awed, it would seem, by the bold and defiant language of Carson,
and finding that any plunder they might acquire, would be purchased at a
heavy sacrifice, sullenly withdrew, and left the party to pursue their
journey unmolested.

Any appearance of fear would have cost the lives of Carson and probably
of the whole party, but the Indian warriors were too chary of their
lives to rush into death's door unprovoked, even for the sake of the
rich plunder they might hope to secure. Carson's cool bravery saved the
trappers and all their effects; and this first command in an Indian
engagement is but a picture of his conduct in a hundred others, when the
battles were with weapons other than the tongue. The intention of the
Indians had been to drive away the animals, first causing a stampede,
when they would become lawful plunder, but they dared not undertake it.

The wily craftiness of the Indians induced the necessity for constant
vigilance against them, and in the school this youth had been in all his
life, he had shown himself an apt scholar.


While on the Colorado, Young's party discovered a company of Indians,
(with whom they had had a previous skirmish,) as they were coming out
from Los Angelos, and charging suddenly among them, succeeded in taking
a large herd of cattle from them in the Indians' own style. The same
week an Indian party came past their camp in the night, with a drove of
a hundred horses, evidently just stolen from a Mexican town in Sonora.
The trappers, with their guns for their pillows, were ready in an
instant for the onslaught, and captured these horses also, the Indians
hurrying away for fear of the deadly rifle. The next day they selected
such as they wanted from the herd, choosing of course the finest, and
turning the rest loose, to be taken again by the Indians, or to become
the wild mustangs that roamed the plains of Northern Mexico, in droves
of tens of thousands, and which could be captured and tamed only by the
use of the lasso.

Mr. Young and his party trapped down the Colorado and up the Gila with
success, then crossed to the vicinity of the New Mexican copper mines,
where they left their furs and went to Santa Fe. Having procured there
license to trade with the Indians about the copper mines, they returned
thither for their furs, went back to Santa Fe and disposed of them to
great advantage. The party disbanded with several hundred dollars
apiece, which most of them expended as sailors do their earnings when
they come into port. Of course Carson was hail fellow well met with them
for a time. He had not hitherto taken the lesson that all have to learn,
viz., that the ways of pleasure are deceitful paths; and to resist
temptation needs a large amount of courage--larger perhaps than to
encounter any physical danger; at least the moral courage it requires is
of a higher tone than the physical courage which would carry one through
a fight with a grizzly bear triumphantly; that the latter assists the
former; indeed that the highest moral courage must be aided by physical
bravery, but that the latter may exist entirely independently of the

Carson learned during this season of hilarity the necessity of saying
No! and he did so persistently, knowing that if he failed in this he
would be lost to himself and to everything dear in life. He was now
twenty-one, and though the terrible ordeal of poverty had been nobly
borne, and he had conquered, the latter ordeal of temptation from the
sudden possession of what was to him a large sum of money, had proved
for once, too much. And it is well for him perhaps it was so; as it
enabled him to sow his wild oats in early youth.

It is not improbable that some of this party belonged to the class of
Canadians called _coureurs des bois_, whose habits Mr. Irving thus
describes in his Astoria:

"A new and anomalous class of men gradually grew out of this trade.
These were called _coureurs des bois_, rangers of the woods; originally
men who had accompanied the Indians in their hunting expeditions, and
made themselves acquainted with remote tracts and tribes; and who now
became, as it were, pedlers of the wilderness. These men would set out
from Montreal with canoes well stocked with goods, with arms and
ammunition, and would make their way up the mazy and wandering rivers
that interlace the vast forests of the Canadas, coasting the most remote
lakes, and creating new wants and habitudes among the natives.
Sometimes they sojourned for months among them, assimilating to their
tastes and habits with the happy facility of Frenchmen; adopting in some
degree the Indian dress, and not unfrequently taking to themselves
Indian wives.

"Twelve, fifteen, eighteen months would often elapse without any tidings
of them, when they would come sweeping their way down the Ottawa in full
glee, their canoes laden down with packs of beaver skins. Now came their
turn for revelry and extravagance. 'You would be amazed,' says an old
writer already quoted, 'if you saw how lewd these pedlers are when they
return; how they feast and game, and how prodigal they are, not only in
their clothes, but upon their sweethearts. Such of them as are married
have the wisdom to retire to their own houses; but the bachelors do just
as an East Indiaman and pirates are wont to do; for they lavish, eat,
drink, and play all away as long as the goods hold out; and when these
are gone, they even sell their embroidery, their lace, and their
clothes. This done, they are forced upon a new voyage for subsistence.'"

Many of these _coureurs des bois_ became so accustomed to the Indian
mode of living, and the perfect freedom of the wilderness, that they
lost all relish for civilization, and identified themselves with the
savages among whom they dwelt, or could only be distinguished from them
by superior licentiousness.

In the autumn Carson joined another trapping party under Mr.
Fitzpatrick, whom we shall have frequent occasion to mention hereafter.
They proceeded up the Platte and Sweet Water past Goose Creek to the
Salmon River, where they wintered, like other parties, sharing the good
will of the Nez Perces Indians, and having the vexations of the
Blackfeet for a constant fear. Mr. Fitzpatrick, less daring than Carson,
declined sending him to punish this tribe for their depredations.

In the spring they came to Bear river, which flows from the north to
Salt Lake. Carson and four men left Mr. Fitzpatrick here, and went ten
days to find Captain Gaunt in the place called the New Park, on the head
waters of the Arkansas, where they spent the trapping season, and
wintered. While the party were wintering in camp, being robbed of some
of their horses by a band of sixty Crow Indians, Carson, as usual, was
appointed to lead the party sent in pursuit of the plunderers. With only
twelve men he took up the trail, came upon the Indians in one of their
strongholds, cut loose the animals, which were tied within ten feet of
the fort of logs in which the enemy had taken shelter, attacked them,
killed five of their warriors, and made good his retreat with the
recovered horses; an Indian of another tribe who was with the trappers
bringing away a Crow scalp as a trophy.[C]

In the spring, while trapping on the Platte River, two men belonging to
the party deserted and robbed a _cache_, or underground deposit of furs,
which had been made by Captain Gaunt, in the neighborhood. Carson, with
only one companion, went off in pursuit of the thieves, who, however,
were never heard of afterwards.

Not finding the plunderers, Carson and his companion remained at the old
camp on the Arkansas, where the _cache_ had been made, until they were
relieved by a party sent out from the United States with supplies for
Captain Gaunt's trappers. They were soon after joined by a party of
Gaunt's men, and started to his camp. On their way they had repeated
encounters with Indians attempting to steal their horses, but easily
beat them off and saved their property.

On one occasion when Carson and the other trappers were out in search
of _beaver sign_, they came suddenly upon a band of sixty warriors well
armed and mounted. In the presence of such a force their only safety was
in flight. Amid a shower of bullets from the Indian rifles, they made
good their escape. Carson considered this one of his narrowest escapes.


In the spring of 1832, Mr. Gaunt's party had been unsuccessful, and were
now upon a stream where there was no beaver, therefore Carson announced
his intention of hunting on his own account. Two of his companions
joined him, and the three for the whole season pursued their work
successfully, high up in the mountain streams, while the Indians were
down in the plains hunting buffalo; and taking their fur to Taos,
disposed of them at a remunerative price. While the two former spent
their money in the usual way, Carson saved his hard earnings which his
companions were so recklessly throwing away. This self-discipline, and
schooling himself to virtue and temperance, was not without effort on
the part of Kit Carson, for he loved the good will and kindly civilities
of his companions; but he knew also that he could not have his cake and
eat it too, and chose to save his money and his strength for future use.

While remaining at Taos, Captain Lee, formerly of the United States
army, now a partner of Bent and St. Vrain, at Bent's Fort, invited
Carson to join an expedition which he was arranging. Carson accepted his
offer, starting in October. Going northward they came up with a party of
twenty traders and trappers, upon a branch of the Green River, and all
entered winter quarters here together.

Mr. Robideau had in his employ a Californian Indian, very skillful in
the chase--whether for game or for human prey--very courageous, and able
to endure the greatest hardships, and whose conduct hitherto had won the
confidence of all. This Indian had left clandestinely, taking with him
six of Mr. Robideau's most valuable horses, which were worth at least
twelve hundred dollars. Mr. Robideau, determined to recover them if
possible, solicited Carson to pursue and overtake the Indian. Kit asked
his employer, Mr. Lees', permission to serve Mr. Robideau, which was
readily granted, when he at once prepared himself for hard riding and
sturdy resistance.

From a Utah village near he obtained an intelligent and brave young
warrior to join him--for Carson's reputation for courage, skill, and
efficiency, were known to the tribes, and many of its braves were
attached to him, and afterwards proved that they cherished a lasting
friendship for him.

For a time the blindness of the trail compelled them to go slowly, but
once sure of its direction, they pursued it with the utmost speed, down
Green river, Carson concluding the Indian was directing his course
toward California. When they had gone a hundred miles on their way, the
Indian's horse was suddenly taken sick. The Indian would not consent to
continue the pursuit, as Carson suggested, on foot, and he therefore
determined to go on alone, and putting spurs to his horse revolved not
to return until he had succeeded in recovering Mr. Robideau's property.
With practiced eye ever upon the trail, he revolved in his mind the
expert skill he might need to exercise in encountering the wily savage.
This desperate expedition Carson had boldly entered into, not with
rashness, but he had accepted it as an occasion that demanded the
hazard. At the distance of thirty miles from where he left his Utah
companion, he discovered the object of his chase. The Indian too had
discovered him, and to prepare himself for the attack, turned to seek a
shelter whence he might fire and reload without exposure to the shot
from Carson's rifle--which he had unslung when first he discovered the

With his horse at full speed, at the moment the Indian reached his
cover, Carson fired with aim so true that the Indian gave one bound and
fell dead beside his horse, while his gun went off at the same instant.
No further particulars of description or speculation can add to the
interest of this picture. We leave it to the imagination of the reader,
as an illustration of the daring and fidelity of Kit Carson. Collecting
the horses, he soon had the pleasure, after a few minor difficulties, of
presenting to Mr. Robideau, the six animals he had lost, in as good
condition as when they were stolen, and of announcing to him the fact
that there lived one less rogue.

Soon after Carson's return to camp, some trappers brought them news that
Messrs. Fitzpatrick and Bridger were camped fifteen miles from them.
Captain Lee and Carson at once concluded that to them they might sell
their goods. They started for their camp and were as successful as they
had hoped, for they sold their whole stock of goods to this party, and
took their pay in furs. Their contract being now completed, Carson
joined Mr. Fitzpatrick again in a trapping expedition, but did not
remain long with him, because the party was too large to make it pay, or
even to work harmoniously together. With three men whom he chose from
the many who wished to join him, Carson again commenced trapping on his
own account. They trapped all summer on the Laramie, with unusual
success. It was while Carson was out on this tramp that he had the
adventure with the grizzly bears,[D] which he considered the most
perilous that he ever passed through. He had gone out from the camp on
foot to shoot game for supper, and had just brought down an elk, when
two grizzly bears came suddenly upon him. His rifle being empty, there
was no way of escape from instant death but to run with his utmost speed
for the nearest tree. He reached a sapling with the bears just at his
heels. Cutting off a limb of the tree with his knife, he used that as
his only weapon of defence. When the bears climbed so as nearly to reach
him, he gave them smart raps on the nose, which sent them away growling;
but when the pain ceased they would return again only to have the raps
repeated. In this way nearly the whole night was spent, when finally
the bears became discouraged, and retired from the contest. Waiting
until they were well out of sight, Carson descended from his unenviable
position, and made the best of his way into camp, which he reached about
daylight. The elk had been devoured by wolves before it could be found,
and his three companions were only too glad to see him, to be troubled
about breakfasting on beaver, as they had supped the night before; for
trappers in camp engaged in their business had this resort for food when
all others failed.

Laramie river flows into the North Platte, upon the south side. The
country through which it flows is open, yet the stream is bordered with
a variety of shrubbery, and in many spots the cottonwood grows
luxuriantly, and for this reason, the locality is favorable for the
grizzly bear.


Baird says of this bear: "While the black bear is the bear of the
forest, the grizzly is the bear of the chapparal, the latter choosing an
open country, whether plain or mountain, whose surface is covered with
dense thickets of manzanita or shrub oak, which furnish him with his
favorite food, and clumps of service bushes, and low cherry; and whose
streams are lined with tangled thickets of low grape vine and wild
plumb." The grizzly is not so good at climbing as the black bear, and
can best manage by resting upon his haunches and mounting with his fore
arms upon the bushes that he cannot pull over, to gather the berries, of
which he is very fond.

"Only in a condition of hunger will he attack a man unprovoked, but when
he does, the energy with which he fights, prevents the Indians from
seeking the sport of a hunt for the grizzly bear. He is monarch of the
plain, with only their opposition, and has departed only before the
rifle of the white hunter. An Indian, who would, alone, undertake to
conquer a dozen braves of another tribe, would shrink from attacking a
grizzly bear; and to have killed one, furnishes a story for a life time,
and gives a reputation that descends to posterity. The mounted hunter
can rarely bring his horse to approach him near enough for a shot."

Soon after his encounter with the bears, Carson and his men were
rejoiced by the arrival of Capt. Bridger, so long a mountaineer of note,
and with him his whole band. Carson and his three companions joined with
them, and were safe; and now for the first time he attended the summer
rendezvous of trappers on the Green River, where they assembled for the
disposal of their furs, and the purchase of such outfit as they needed.

Carson for the Fall hunt joined a company of fifty, and went to the
country of the Blackfeet, at the head waters of the Missouri; but the
Indians were so numerous, and so determined upon hostility, that a white
man could not leave his camp without danger of being shot down;
therefore, quitting the Blackfeet country, they camped on the Big Snake
River for winter quarters.

During the winter months, the Blackfeet had in the night run off
eighteen of their horses, and Kit Carson, with eleven men, was sent to
recover them, and chastise their temerity. They rode fifty miles through
the snow before coming up with the Indians, and instantly made an
attempt to recover their animals, which were loose and quietly grazing.

The Indians, wearing snow shoes, had the advantage, and Carson readily
granted the parley they asked. One man from each party advanced, and
between the contending ranks had a talk. The Indians informed them that
they supposed they had been robbing the Snake Indians, and did not
desire to steal from white men. Of course this tale was false, and
Carson asked why they did not lay down their arms and ask for a smoke,
but to this they had no reply to make. However, both parties laid aside
their weapons and prepared for the smoke; and the lighted calumet was
puffed by every one of the savages and the whites alternately, and the
head men of the savages made several long non-committal speeches, to
which, in reply, the trappers came directly to the point, and said they
would hear nothing of conciliation from them until their property was

After much talk, the Indians brought in five of the poorest horses. The
whites at once started for their guns, which the Indians did at the same
time, and the fight at once commenced. Carson and a comrade named
Markland having seized their rifles first, were at the lead, and
selected for their mark two Indians who were near each other and behind
different trees; but as Kit was about to fire, he perceived Markland's
antagonist aiming at him with death-like precision, while Markland had
not noticed him, and on the instant, neglecting his own adversary, he
sent a bullet through the heart of the other savage, but at the moment
saw that his own enemy's rifle was aimed at his breast. He was not
quite quick enough to dodge the ball, and it struck the side of his
neck, and passed through his shoulder, shattering the bone.

Carson was thenceforward only a spectator of the fight, which continued
until night, when both parties retired from the field of battle and went
into camp.

Carson's wound was very painful, and bled freely, till the cold checked
the flow of blood. They dared not light a fire, and in the cold and
darkness, Carson uttered not a word of complaint, nor did even a groan
escape him. His companions were earnest in their sympathy, but he was
too brave to need it, or to allow his wound to influence the course they
should pursue. In a council of war which they held, it was decided that,
as they had slain several Indians, and had themselves only one wounded,
they had best return to camp, as they were in unfit condition to
continue the pursuit. Arriving at camp, another council was held, at
which it was decided to send thirty men under Capt. Bridger, to pursue
and chastise these Blackfeet thieves. This party followed the Indian
trail several days, but finally returned, concluding it was useless to
search further, as they had failed to overtake them.


The Spring hunt opened on the Green river, and continuing there a while,
the party went to the Big Snake; and after trapping with extraordinary
success for a few weeks, returned to the Summer rendezvous, held again
upon the Green River. Meantime Carson had recovered from his wound.

An unusually large number of trappers and traders, with great numbers
from the neighboring Indian tribes, assembled at this rendezvous,
made up of Canadians, Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Spaniards, and many a
backwoodsman, who had lived upon the borders, perhaps, for three
generations, removing when a neighbor came within ten miles, because
_near_ neighbors were a nuisance to him. Let us see the parties as they
come in, the leader, or the one to whom fitness accords this position,
having selected the spot for the camp, so remote from every other, as to
have plenty of grass about it for the animals of the party. Perhaps a
tent is spread, at least, everything is put in proper order, according
to the notions and the tastes of the men who make up the party; for the
camp is the home of its members, and here they will receive visitors,
and exchange courtesies.

The party or parties that have made the special arrangements for the
rendezvous--traders with a full supply of goods--have spread a large
tent in a central spot of the general encampment, where the whole
company, save those detained at each camp in charge of the animals
belonging to it, will assemble, at certain hours each day, the time upon
which the sales are announced to take place, and the exchanges commence.

The several parties arriving first, have been obliged to wait until all
expected for the season have arrived, because there is a feeling of
honor as well as a care for competition, that compels the custom. The
traders take furs or money for their goods, which bring prices that seem
fabulous to those unaccustomed to the sight or stories of mountain life.
The charge, of course, is made upon the ground of the expense and risk
of bringing goods eight hundred and a thousand miles into the
wilderness, from the nearest points in western Missouri and St. Louis.

Irving opens his Astoria with the following: "Two leading objects of
commercial gain, have given birth to wide daring and enterprise in the
early history of the Americas; the precious metals of the South and the
rich peltries of the North." When he wrote this, it was true of the
localities he named--the gold was not yet an attraction, except in the
south, and only the British Fur Company in Canada had become an object
of history in this branch of trade. He says, "While the fiery and
magnificent Spaniard, influenced with the mania for gold, has extended
his discoveries and conquests over those brilliant countries, scorched
by the ardent sun of the tropics, the adroit Frenchman, and the cool and
calculating Briton, have pursued the less splendid, but no less
lucrative, traffic in furs, amidst the hyper-borean regions of the
Canadas, until they advanced even within the Artic Circle.

"These two pursuits have thus, in a manner, been the pioneers and
precursors of civilization. Without pausing on the borders, they have
penetrated at once, in defiance of difficulties and dangers, to the
heart of savage countries; laying open the hidden secrets of the
wilderness; leading the way to remote regions of beauty and fertility,
that might have remained unexplored for ages, and beckoning after them
the slow and pausing steps of agriculture and civilization. It was the
fur trade, in fact, that gave early sustenance and vitality to the great
Canadian provinces.

"Being destitute of the precious metals, they were for a long time
neglected by the parent country. The French adventurers, however, who
had settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence, soon found that in the
rich peltries of the interior, they had sources of wealth that might
almost rival the mines of Mexico and Peru." The Indians, as yet
unacquainted with the artificial value given to some descriptions of
furs, in civilized life, brought quantities of the most precious kinds
and bartered them away for European trinkets and cheap commodities.
Immense profits were thus made by the early traders, and the traffic was
pursued with avidity.

"As the valuable furs became scarce in the neighborhood of the
settlements, the Indians of the vicinity were stimulated to take a wider
range in their hunting expeditions; they were generally accompanied on
these expeditions by some of the traders or their dependants, who
shared in the toils and perils of the chase, and at the same time, made
themselves acquainted with the best hunting grounds, and with the remote
tribes whom they encouraged to bring peltries to the settlements. In
this way the trade augmented, and was drawn from remote quarters to
Montreal. Every now and then a large body of Ottawas, Hurons, and other
tribes who hunted the countries bordering on the great lakes, would come
down in a squadron of light canoes, laden with beaver skins and other
spoils of the year's hunting. The canoes would be unladen, taken on
shore, and their contents disposed in order. A camp of birch-bark would
be pitched outside of the town, and a kind of primitive fair opened with
that grave ceremonial so dear to the Indians.

"Now would ensue a brisk traffic with the merchants, and all Montreal
would be alive with naked Indians, running from shop to shop, bargaining
for arms, kettles, knives, axes, blankets, bright-colored cloths, and
other articles of use or fancy; upon all which, the merchants were sure
to clear two hundred per cent.

"Their wants and caprices being supplied, they would take leave, strike
their tents, launch their canoes, and ply their way up the Ottawa to
the lakes."

Later, the French traders, _couriers des bois_, penetrated the remote
forests, carrying such goods as the Indians required, and held
rendezvous among them, on a smaller scale, but similar to the one Carson
had attended, so far as the Indian trade was concerned. But the Yankee
element of character preponderated among the traders and trappers from
the States; besides the greater difficulty and expense necessarily
incurred to reach the hunting grounds by land than in canoe, called into
the work only men of energy and higher skill than the employees, mostly
French, in the service of the Hudson Bay Fur Company, and a score of
smaller parties, each owning no authority outside itself, adopted the
plan of these summer encampments, during the season when the fur of the
beaver and the otter was not good, as an arrangement for mutual
convenience; and the Indians of this more southern section availed
themselves of the occasion, for their own pleasure and profit, and to
the advantage and satisfaction of the traders, whose prices ruled high
in proportion to the difficulty of transit, as well as the monopoly in
their hands of the articles deemed necessary to the trapper's dress,
culinary establishment, and outfit. These consisted of a woolen shirt, a
sash or belt, and with some stockings, coffee, and black pepper, and
salt, unless he could supply himself from the licks the buffalo visits;
with tin kettle, and cup, and frying pan; the accoutrements of the
horse, saddle and packsaddle, bridle, spurs, and horse-shoes; with
material for bait; and last, but not least, tobacco, which if he did not
use, he carried to give to the Indians--made up not only the
necessaries, but the luxuries which the Indian and the white man
indulged in, and for which, at such times, they paid their money or
their furs.

Perhaps the trapper took an Indian wife, and then she must be made fine
with dress, denoting the dignity of her position as wife of a white man,
and presents must be given to the friends of his bride. This was usually
an expensive luxury, but indulged in most frequently by the French and
Canadian trappers, many of whom are now living quietly upon their farms
in Oregon and California, and the numerous valleys of the West. Indeed
we might give the names of many a mountain ranger, and pioneer of note,
first a trapper, who still lives surrounded by his Indian wife and
their children, and finds himself thus connected with this people,
having their utmost confidence, chosen the chief of his tribe, and able
to care for them as no one not in such association could.

At almost any point upon Green River the grass upon the bottom lands is
sufficient for a night's encampment for a small party; but at the place
selected for the rendezvous, in the space of two or three miles upon
either side of the river, the bottom spreads out in a broad prairie, and
the luxuriant growth of grass, with the country open all about it, made
the spot desirable for a large encampment.


Early in the summer the grass is green, but later it is hay made
naturally, root and branch dried on the ground--there is no sod--and
this, though less agreeable, is more nutritious for the animals than
fresh grass.

A scattered growth of fine old trees furnishes shade at every camp, and
immediately about the great tent they afford protection from the sun to
parties of card players, or a "Grocery stand," at which the principal
article of sale is "whiskey by the glass;" and perhaps, further on is a
_monte_ table, parties from several Indian tribes, and the pioneer of
semi-civilization--the back-woodsman--has come in "with his traps," a
few bags of flour, and possibly some cheese and butter, and the never
failing cask of whiskey. Perhaps his wagon is the grocery stand, to
which we have just alluded. Without extenuation, these encampments were
grand occasions of which a few descriptions may be found written at the
time by men of science and intellectual culture, like Sir Wm. Stewart,
who traveled upon these plains for pleasure, or the Rev. Samuel Parker,
who happened at a Green River rendezvous, in 1835, while on his way to
the Columbia River, under the auspices of the American Board of
Commissioners for Foreign Missions. This was long before Brigham Young
came West--before his scheme of religious colonization had its birth.

There is now--has been for years--a trading post where a Canadian
Frenchman and an American partner, with Indian wives, have provided
entertainment or furnished supplies to emigrants and Indians. It is near
the Green River crossing, on the road from the South Pass to great Salt
Lake City, via Fort Bridger.

Amid the motley company it might be expected that quarrels would arise,
and disorderly conduct, growing out of the feuds among the tribes of
Indians. These were kept in abeyance as much as possible, and already
Carson's popularity with them enabled him to act the part of peace-maker
between them and the quarrelsome whites, as well as between each other,
for many of them recognized him as the brave who had led excursions,
whose success they had felt and suffered, and even though leader of
victorious parties against themselves, they admired his prowess still;
for the party of Blackfeet came to the rendezvous under the protection
of the white flag, and for the time, no one more truly buried the
hatchet than Carson, though just recovered from a wound given by a party
of that tribe, which had nearly cost him his life, and of which we have
written in a previous chapter.

There was belonging to one of the trapping parties a Frenchman by the
name of Shuman, known at the rendezvous as "the big bully of the
mountains," exceedingly annoying on account of his boasts and taunts, a
constant exciter of tumult and disorder, especially among the Indians.
Bad enough at any time, with the means now for intoxication, he was even
more dangerous.

The habits of the mountaineers, without law save such as the exigency of
the moment demanded, required a firm, steady hand to rule. Carson had
feared the results of this man's lawlessness, and had often desired to
be rid of him, but he had not as yet found the proper opportunity. The
mischiefs he committed grew worse and worse, and yet for the sake of
peace they were borne unresistingly. At length an opportunity offered to
try his courage. One day Shuman, boasting of his exploits, was
particularly insolent and insulting toward all Americans, whom he
described as only fit to be whipped with switches. Carson was in the
crowd, and immediately stepped forward, saying, "I am an American, the
most inconsiderable one among them, but if you wish to die, I will
accept your challenge."


Shuman defied him. He was sitting upon his horse, with his loaded rifle
in his hand. Carson leaped upon his horse with a loaded pistol, and both
rushed into close combat. They fired, almost at the same moment, but
Carson an instant before his boasting antagonist. Their horses' heads
touched, Shuman's ball just grazing Carson's cheek, near the left eye,
and cutting off some locks of his hair. Carson's ball entered Shuman's
hand, came out at the wrist, and passed through his arm above the elbow.
The bully begged for his life, and it was spared; and from that time
forward, Americans were no more insulted by him.

If, as in other duels, we were to go back to remoter causes, and find in
this too, the defence of woman--a Blackfoot beauty--whom Shuman had
determined to abuse, which Carson's interference only had prevented, for
the sake of truth, of honor, and virtue, as against insolence,
falsehood, and treachery, although the girl did belong to a tribe that
was treacherous; we shall be but giving a point to the story that it
needs for completeness, and show Carson in the exalted manliness and
fidelity of his character.

The trappers made arrangements at the rendezvous for the fall hunt; and
the party who were so fortunate as to secure Carson's services, went to
the Yellowstone River, in the Blackfeet country, but met with no
success. Crossing through the Crows' country to the Big Horn River, they
met the party of Blackfeet returning from Green River. Carson held a
parley with them, as was his custom whenever it was safe to go to an
Indian camp. He told them he had seen none of their people, and that the
tomahawk was buried if they were faithful to him. "But," said he, "the
Crows are my friends, and while I am with them, they must be yours."

On the Big Horn, too, their success was no better, and Carson did not
meet his Crow friends. On the Big Snake, too, which they next visited,
the result was the same.

They here met a party from the Hudson Bay Company, led by a Mr. McCoy.
Carson and five of his companions accepted the offer he made them, and
went with him to the Humboldt river, trapping with little success from
its source to the desert where it loses itself, and where the termini of
several other large rivers are all within a day's ride, according to the
statement of residents at this point. Capt. McCoy said to Carson, as he
and two of the company started off upon the desert,

"Do not be gone longer than to-morrow night, and if you strike a stream
where there is beaver--there must be water between here and those snow
mountains--we will trap a few days longer."

On they rode over the artemisia plain till the lake was out of view from
an eminence which Carson climbed; then struck a tract of country
entirely destitute of every sign of animal or vegetable life, with
surface as smooth as the floor for miles in extent, then broken by a
ridge a few feet high, like the rim to a lake, whose bottom they had
passed, to plunge immediately upon another like it, with perhaps a white
and glistening crystalization spread thinly over it.

Carson knew he must be upon the celebrated Mud Lakes of which he had
heard, and of which he had seen miniature specimens further east. Over
these lake bottoms of earth, that broken, seemed like mingled sand and
ashes, but which bore the tread of their horses, and over which they
seemed to fly rather than to step, so fragrant and exhilarating was the
atmosphere, they traveled thirty miles, then struck the artemisia plains
again, only there was less of even this worthless production for the
next ten miles than he had seen before for long a distance.

Through a heavy sand, the weary horses plod, for they had come forty or
fifty miles beneath a burning sun without food and without water. On
they ride, for rest and refreshment to themselves was not to be thought
of till they have it for the animals. The river is gained! a broad, deep
current of water, muddy like that of the Platte, supplies the moisture
to the trees, whose tops ascend only a few feet above the desert level,
and whose trunks rise from green meadows but little above the surface of
the water. The bottom lands are narrow, and the abrupt bank descends to
the water perpendicularly twenty feet or more, seemingly of clayey
earth, so soft, the water constantly wore upon it, and evidently the
river channel was settling, as the years advanced. There were no signs
of beaver, and, from the nature of the banks, there could be none,
unless high up on the stream.


Capt. McCoy had calculated that he would soon find game in the country
through which his route lay, and therefore he had turned over to Carson,
and the division of the party under his command, nearly all the food
which was left, but this was insufficient to give them full meals for
more than three days. Their prospect was a dreary one indeed, for at the
earlier season of coming down the river, they had not half enough to
eat, even with the few beaver they had taken, to add to the supply, and
even this was now denied them. And now, that the reader may understand
Carson's position, we invite him to enjoy with us a few of the incidents
passed through, and views observed in our passage up this river, which
the untraveled eastern man would find so entirely new, and the man of
travel and of letters would find so full of interest, as did the man
whose name the river bears, for it was named by Fremont, after Carson,
whom he had learned to love and respect, long before he reached it. We
shall speak especially of the features of this country, common to so
much that lies between the civilizations of the Atlantic and the Pacific
slopes, though the latter was not a civilization; and when from the
desert Carson gazed with admiration at the snow mountains, he surmised,
as he afterwards realized through hunger, cold, danger, and suffering,
that this was the chain of mountains which separated him from

At the station-house, upon the lake, called the Sink of the Humboldt, we
were told that the Humboldt did not connect with this lake, except in
the spring season, after the rains; and that for the last two years it
had not been connected even at that time; and that in the autumn one
could pass between the lake and the limit of the marsh in which the
river loses itself, upon dry ground; and that the sinks, or the margins
of the lakes or marshes in which the Carson, the Walker, and the Susan
Rivers, neither of them less than a hundred miles in length, and some of
them several hundred, in the wet season empty or lose themselves, were
all within the limit of a single day's ride, and in the direct vicinity
of the desert upon which the reader last saw Carson.

It was the evening of the second of July, during a rain storm, (an
unusual occurrence at this season of the year, no traveler having ever
reported a similar one so far as we had heard,) that, weary, and wet,
and cold, we found our way in the dark to this river in the wilderness.
The house of the traders at the sink was made of logs, with two
rooms--the logs having been drawn from the mountains, forty miles
distant. There was no timber in sight, and nothing that was green except
some grass about the lake, which we were told was poison, and on
examining, we found it encrusted with a crystalization of potash, left
on it by the subsiding water in which the grass had started.

During the wet season, the water of the lake overflows its banks, and
the banks of the river are also overflowed, while the water standing
upon the surface of the ground is strongly impregnated with potash, not
only near the sink, but far up the stream, nearly to its source, the
same cause existing, though only in occasional spots is it exhibited to
the same degree as about the lake. It is not improbable that some
immense coal formation might have been consumed here in some remote
past age, though that is a matter for more scientific examination than
becomes this work.

But, to leave speculation; the occupants of the station, whilom trappers
in the mountains, furnished barley for our animals, and we might have
purchased coffee, or a rusty gun, or bad whiskey, but little else, for
their regular supplies for the emigrants who were soon expected to
arrive, had not yet come in. The parties bound east had passed, and the
Mormons, with their herds of cattle for the California markets, had been
met beyond the desert. A party of Pah Utah or Piete Indians, a tribe of
Diggers, were hanging about the encampment, and possibly had caused the
stampede of the Mormon oxen, which one of their herdsmen had reported to
us as occurring here. The traders on the plains are charged with
conniving at such expeditions of the Indians, and of sharing with them
the plunder. These traders may not have been privy to any thing of the
kind, but certain it is they always stood ready to purchase the worn out
stock of the overland emigrants, much of which is worthless to cross the
desert, after the prior fifteen hundred miles of travel.

This is made a lucrative business, as will be readily imagined, when
the number of animals driven over is taken into consideration, which has
amounted to a hundred thousand annually, by this route, during several
of the years since the quest for gold.

The traders said they had twenty-five hundred horses and as many oxen,
in charge of herdsmen in a mountain valley. Shrewd men they were, one of
them with an eye we would not warrant to look out from a kindly soul.

Miserable wretches were these Humboldt Diggers, with scarcely a trace of
humanity in their composition, for they have not improved since Carson
first met them, many years ago. The old chief was delighted with a lump
of sugar, which one of our party gave him. He wore a long coat made of
rabbit skins, warm and durable, strips of the skin with the hair out
being wound around a deerskin thong, and these rolls woven into a
garment, but the rest of the party were nearly naked.

Passing Lassen's meadows where the party lunched at a spring, indicated,
as we approached, by a growth of willows, and striking upon the
artemisia plain that constitutes the larger portion of the river valley,
when about fifty miles from the station, we left the road by a blind
trail, and approached the river, descending to the bottom land by a
precipitous bluff thirty feet in height. The mountains approached close
on the opposite side of the river, probably a mile distant, and enclosed
us in a semi-circle, while the bluff was lined with a scattered growth
of alders.

It rained, was raining violently when we halted, and stretching a rope
from alder to alder, with a blanket thrown over it, we thus made a tent,
and established ourselves cosily to spend here the nation's Sabbath-day,
the 4th of July.

The rain turned into snow towards evening, and covered the mountains to
their base, but melting as it fell where we were encamped, and with the
cooing of the doves which filled the alders, the croaking of the frogs
in the marsh next the river, and the patter of the rain upon the bushes,
we had other music--nature's deep bass--in a constant roaring sound,
like that of old ocean at full tide on a sand beach of the open coast of
the Pacific; or like the sound of Niagara, heard half a mile away, but
there was no discoverable cause.

Going a mile up and down the river from the camp--if there is up and
down to a dead river--we still heard the sound, the same in tone and
power. Our Wyandotte--a member of the party who had crossed the plains
with Col. Fremont--suggested that it was "the Humboldt sinking."

All the day of the 4th of July we rested here, with our animals in
clover, amid the snow which reached even to the foot of the mountains
opposite, and the dirge played for us by the unseen hand. It was a
quiet, still sweetly sad day--pleasant in memory, and such an one as we
shall never spend again--so far from civilized humanity, and in a place
so remote from human footsteps, it seemed a natural wonder which had
never been properly examined and explained.

Sooner than the old trappers anticipated, will the Humboldt be lined
with farms, and the little mountain valleys filled with grazing herds,
and the church spire and the cross upon an unassuming building in the
centre of a six mile square prairie, indicate the advance of
civilization. Yet, except in the mud-lake localities, there is no tract
of country that can well be more unpromising than that about the
Humboldt; and not many years will elapse before science will make plain
and palpable that wonder of the world, "the sinking of the Humboldt."


Through the country we have thus briefly described, Carson and his men
had trapped taking some small game, intending to return late in the
season when the cold of this high altitude, with the sun low, was
becoming terribly severe, while the grass was dead, and the birds of
passage had all departed. Their prospects were cheerless and
unpromising, nor were they at all improved after they left the Humboldt;
for their route lay through an artemisia desert, varied only by an
occasional little valley, where springs of water in the early season had
induced the growth of grass.

On reaching Goose Creek, they found it frozen, so that there was no
possibility of finding even roots, to satisfy their hunger. Though
to-day this is the trail of California emigration, with plenty of grass,
for a great portion of the way, in its season; now all was desolate,
and inured as they were to hardship, Carson's men had never before
suffered so much from hunger, nor did their animals fare much better.
Capt. McCoy had taken with him all not needed by Carson's party, because
he could give them food, and it was fortunate for them he had adopted
this course.

The magnificent mountain scenery on the route could scarcely excite
admiration or remark from this company of hungry, toil-worn men; even
that unique exhibition of nature's improvised ideality, done in
stone--pyramid circle--with its pagodas, temples, obelisks, and altars,
within a curiously wrought rock wall, they only wished were the _adobe_
walls and houses of Fort Hall. However, nothing daunted by the dreary
prospect before them, they here bled their horses, and drank the
precious draught, well knowing they were taking the wind from the sails
upon which they must rely to waft them into port, if they ever reached

The next day, they were meditating the slaughter of one of their horses,
when a party of Snake Indians fortunately came in sight. They had been
out on the war trail, and returning, had little food, but Carson managed
to purchase a fat horse, which they killed at once, and thus managed to
live luxuriously till they reached the fort, able now to walk and give
the horses the advantage of their diet.

Epicureans of civilization, when the squeamishness of an appetite,
perverted by too delicate fare, is invited to such a repast, may rest
assured that they know not the satisfaction such fare afforded to Kit
Carson and his party. Horse beef was sweeter food to these starving men,
than epicures had ever tasted.

After recruiting for a few days at the fort, and learning that there
were large herds of the game, which they gloried most in hunting, the
buffalo, near by, Carson and his party started for the stream on which
they could be found, and were not long in discovering a large herd of
fine fat buffalo. Stretching lines on which to hang the strips, they
killed, and dressed, and cut; and soon had dried all the meat their
animals could carry, when they returned to the fort.

Three days before reaching the fort, a party of Blackfeet Indians were
again upon their trail, and watching for their return.

On the third morning after their arrival, just as day dawned, two of the
Indians came past their camp to the _corral_ of the fort in which their
animals were confined, let down the bars and drove them all away; the
sentinel thinking the Indians were men of his party who had come to
relieve his watch, had gone into camp and was soundly sleeping before
the animals were missed. By this time the Indians had driven them many
miles away, and as a similar _ruse_ had been played upon the people at
the fort a few days before, by which all their animals were run off,
there was no possibility of giving chase.

Of course there was now no alternative but to wait the return of Capt.
McCoy from Walla Walla, which he did in about four weeks, bringing
animals enough to supply Carson and his party, besides, the men at the
fort, which had been obtained of the Kiowas, or Kaious Indians, in
Oregon. These Indians range between the Cascade and the Rocky Mountains,
in what is now the eastern portion of Washington and Oregon Territories,
living by the chase, and owning immense herds of horses, of which the
chief of this tribe owned ten thousand. In this same locality the Indian
bands reported by the parties of trappers in the American Fur Company,
had abundance of horses, with which they hunted deer, "ringing or
surrounding them, and running them down in a circle." But while
antelope, and elk, and deer, as well as beaver, were abundant, their
locality was not frequented by the buffalo, its ranges being further
toward the south and west.

Many suppose that buffalo never existed west of the Rocky Mountains; but
to attempt a correction of this impression with our readers, is no
longer necessary, as we have seen Carson killing them on the Salmon
River, on the Green River, and lastly, in the valley of a stream that
flows into the Salmon.

From Baird's General Repository, published in 1857, we quote,

"It will perhaps excite surprise that I include the buffalo in the fauna
of the Pacific States, as it is common to imagine that the buffalo has
always been confined to the Atlantic slopes, because it does not now
extend beyond the Rocky mountains. This is not true. They once abounded
on the Pacific."

This animal has not been found in California nor in Oregon, west of the
Cascade mountains, within the present generation of men, and the limit
of its ranges, narrowing every year, is now far this side of the Rocky
Mountains. Really a wild animal, incapable of being domesticated, as the
country is more and more traversed, he retires--is killed by thousands
by the hunter--and seems destined, as really as the Indian race, to
become extinct. Could either be induced to adopt the modes of life which
residence among the races of civilized men requires, their existence
might be prolonged perhaps for centuries, but there seems to be no care,
on the part of anybody who has the power, to preserve either the Indian
or the buffalo as a distinct race of man, and quadruped.

A writer who reports his trip from California in the summer of '57, by
Humboldt River and Fort Laramie, says:

"I watched for buffalo, expecting to see them in the valleys of the
streams, the head-waters of the Platte. But the hundred miles upon the
Sweet-water revealed no buffalo; upon the North Platte above Laramie
there were none, and on to Fort Kearney we looked in vain for this noble
game. If we had been a wagon party, and therefore confined to the road,
this would not have surprised us, as the immense emigration to
California first, to Salt Lake next, and the United States army
following, might be supposed to have driven them away. Then, too, Col.
Sumner had been through, and with a war party of three hundred mounted
riflemen, had followed the Cheyennes from Fort Laramie south to the
head-waters of the Arkansas. But we frequently left the road for days
together, in pursuit of game and the finer scenery of the immediate
river valley, or the hills as it happened.

"Only until three days after passing Fort Kearney, did the glad sight
greet us.

"In the broad bottom--ten miles at least between the hills that shut in
the river valley--they were scattered thickly and quietly grazing.

"In two hours after coming in sight of them, we pitched our camp upon
the river bank, and were soon prepared for the hunt. Though ten thousand
were in sight, we had not yet approached within half a mile of one, so
shy are they, moving off when we came in sight.

"The Platte was three quarters of a mile wide where we were camped, and
above and below us were numerous trails running from the river back into
the hills. These were like the cow-paths running to a spring in a New
England pasture. We camped about three o'clock, and soon after the
buffalo upon one side of the stream commenced moving towards the river
by these paths, and following each other close, to wade across it in a
continuous line by half a dozen paths in sight from where we were.
These moving lines of huge animals were continued till slumber closed
our eyes, at ten o'clock in the evening, and we knew not how much

"Having no fresh animals, and only one that had not made the distance
from the other side the Sierra Nevada within the last fifty days, we
could not hunt by the chase. Accordingly, with nicely loaded double
barrelled rifle, we crept through the under-brush that lined the bank
above us, and came near a line of buffalo crossing the river, and
choosing our opportunity, as the animal pauses from the brisk trot
before plunging into the stream, we were able to take good aim, and soon
had lodged a ball in the breast of a fine cow, who with a bound leaped
into the water, but was not able to proceed, nor needed the other shot
which we lodged in the brain, to float her down the stream.

"Calling help, we had her dressed directly, and the nicest steaks upon
the coals already kindled at the camp, and found them exceedingly
delicious--of course more so from the fact that we had taken it. Others
of the party came in without success; some had shot at a buffalo, others
had got a sight of one, and at two of the crossings the line was broken
temporarily by an unsuccessful attempt to kill an animal, but without
hurting him. Most of us had no practice with this kind of game, though
they had killed grouse, and some of them had shot antelope during our
journey. But now their guns would not go off, or they shot too high, or
could not get near enough. Just at dark, however, the old gentleman came
in for help. His French rifle--a gun of Revolutionary times--had done
execution, and a big bull was the prize he announced. We invited him to
our prepared repast, but 'no! he would sup to-night upon his own game,
he thanked us.' Of course he had the tongue from the animal he killed,
nor were the tender-loin and other choice bits bad eating, and taking
the tongue ourself, with the rest of the party, (of ten,) we managed to
carry away in the morning nearly all of the cow that we had not already

"All night long the bellowing from the other side the river greeted our
tired senses. The situation was novel, and really in imagination, quite
terrific. Would they return across the river and stampede our animals?
We got a little sleep before midnight, but not much later.

"In the morning the buffalo were indeed returning in the style they
went, but as we rode on over their track, the lines were always broken,
and the animals scattered before we could approach them, and only once
did we come within pistol shot of any of them; nor did the rest of the
party do any better.

"Of course we might have done it had we made this our business; but we
were hastening from the El Dorado, after a four years' absence from our
homes. So much for our _extemporised_ buffalo hunting. In twenty-four
hours after striking them, we had passed the buffalo, and saw no more of
them. As we estimated it, we had seen in that time at least fifty
thousand; we had crossed the trail of fifteen lines of them crossing the
river after we left camp this morning."

We have quoted this to show the way in which travelers--emigrants
now--meet the buffalo. Sometimes a huge drove of them overrun an
emigrant party; but this seldom occurs, nor do parties often see more of
them than did the one we have just presented, though usually they see
them for a longer time. So much have the times changed since Carson was
a trapper.


With fresh animals, and men well fed and rested, McCoy and Carson and
all their party soon started from Fort Hall, for the rendezvous again
upon Green River, where they were detained some weeks for the arrival of
other parties, enjoying as they best might the occasion, and preparing
for future operations.

A party of an hundred was here organized, with Mr. Fontenelle and Carson
for its leaders, to trap upon the Yellowstone, and the head waters of
the Missouri. It was known that they would probably meet the Blackfeet
in whose grounds they were going, and it was therefore arranged, that,
while fifty were to trap and furnish the food for the party, the
remainder should be assigned to guard the camp and cook. There was no
disinclination on the part of any to another meeting with the Blackfeet,
so often had they troubled members of the party, especially Carson, who,
while he could be magnanimous towards an enemy, would not turn aside
from his course, if able to cope with him; and now he was in a company
which justly felt itself strong enough to punish the "thieving
Blackfeet," as they spoke of them, he was anxious to pay off some old

They saw nothing, however, of these Indians; but afterwards learned that
the small-pox had raged terribly among them, and that they had kept
themselves retired in mountain valleys, oppressed with fear and severe

The winter's encampment was made in this region, and a party of Crow
Indians which was with them, camped at a little distance, on the same
stream. Here they had secured an abundance of meat, and passed the
severe weather with a variety of amusements in which the Indians joined
them in their lodges, made of buffalo hides. These lodges, very good
substitutes for houses, are made in the form of a cone, spread by the
means of poles spreading from a common centre, where there was a hole at
the top for the passage of the smoke. These were often twenty feet in
height, and as many feet in diameter, where they were pinned to the
ground with stakes. In a large village the Indians often had one lodge
large enough to hold fifty persons, and within were performed their war
dances around a fire made in the centre. During the palmy days of the
British Fur Company, in a lodge like this only made, instead, of
birch-bark, Irving says the Indians of the north held their "primitive
fairs," outside the city of Montreal, where they disposed of their furs.

There was one drawback upon conviviality for this party, in the extreme
difficulty of getting food for their animals; for the food and fuel so
abundant for themselves did not suffice for their horses. Snow covered
the ground, and the trappers were obliged to gather willow twigs, and
strip the bark from cottonwood trees, in order to keep them alive. The
inner bark of the cottonwood is eaten by the Indians when reduced to
extreme want. Beside, the cold brought the buffalo down upon them in
large herds, to share the nourishment they had provided for their

Spring at length opened, and gladly they again commenced trapping; first
on the Yellowstone, and soon on the head waters of the Missouri, where
they learned that the Blackfeet were recovered from the sickness of last
year, which had not been so severe as it was reported, and that they
were still anxious and in condition for a fight, and were encamped not
far from their present trapping grounds.

Carson and five men went forward in advance "to reconnoitre," and found
the village preparing to remove, having learned of the presence of the
trappers. Hurrying back, a party of forty-three was selected from the
whole, and they unanimously selected Carson to lead them, and leaving
the rest to move on with the baggage, and aid them if it should be
necessary when they should come up with the Indians, they hastened
forward, eager for a battle.

Carson and his command were not long in overtaking the Indians, and
dashing among them, at the first fire killed ten of their braves, but
the Indians rallied, and retreated in good order. The white men were in
fine spirits, and followed up their first attack with deadly result for
three full hours, the Indians making scarce any resistance. Now their
firing became less animated as their ammunition was getting low, and
they had to use it with extreme caution. The Indians, suspecting this
from the slackness of their fire, rallied, and with a tremendous whoop
turned upon their enemies.

Now Carson and his company could use their small arms, which produced a
terrible effect, and which enabled them again to drive back the
Indians. They rallied yet again, and charged with so much power, and in
such numbers, they forced the trappers to retreat.

During this engagement, the horse of one of the mountaineers was killed,
and fell with his whole weight upon his rider. Carson saw the condition
of the man, with six warriors rushing to take his scalp, and reached the
spot in time to save his friend. Leaping from the saddle, he placed
himself before his fallen companion, shouting at the same time for his
men to rally around him, and with deadly aim from his rifle, shot down
the foremost warrior.

The trappers now rallied about Carson, and the remaining five warriors
retired, without the scalp of their fallen foe. Only two of them reached
a place of safety; for the well aimed fire of the trappers leveled them
with the earth.

Carson's horse was loose, and as his comrade was safe, he mounted behind
one of his men, and rode back to the ranks, while, by general impulse,
the firing upon both sides ceased. His horse was captured and restored
to him, but each party, now thoroughly exhausted, seemed to wait for the
other to renew the attack.

While resting in this attitude, the other division of the trappers came
in sight, but the Indians, showing no fear, posted themselves among the
rocks at some distance from the scene of the last skirmish, and coolly
waited for their adversaries. Exhausted ammunition had been the cause of
the retreat of Carson and his force, but now with a renewed supply, and
an addition of fresh men to the force, they advanced on foot to drive
the Indians from their hiding places. The contest was desperate and
severe, but powder and ball eventually conquered, and the Indians, once
dislodged, scattered in every direction. The trappers considered this a
complete victory over the Blackfeet, for a large number of their
warriors were killed, and many more were wounded, while they had but
three men killed, and a few severely wounded.

Fontenelle and his party now camped at the scene of the engagement, to
recruit their men, and bury here their dead. Afterward they trapped
through the whole Blackfeet country, and with great success; going where
they pleased without fear or molestation. The Indians kept off their
_route_, evidently having acquaintance with Carson and his company
enough to last them their life time. With the small-pox and the white
man's rifles the warriors were much reduced, and the tribe which had
formerly numbered thirty thousand, was already decimated, and a few more
blows, like the one dealt by this dauntless band, would suffice to break
its spirit, and destroy its power for future evil.

During the battle with the trappers, the women and children of the
Blackfeet village were sent on in advance, and when the engagement was
over, and the braves returned to them so much reduced in numbers, and
without a single scalp, the big lodge that had been erected for the war
dance, was given up for the wounded, and in hundreds of Indian hearts
grew a bitterer hatred for the white man.

An express, despatched for the purpose, announced the place of the
rendezvous to Fontenelle and Carson, who were now on Green River, and
with their whole party and a large stock of furs, they at once set out
for the place upon Mud River, to find the sales commenced before their
arrival, so that in twenty days they were ready to break up camp.

Carson now organized a party of seven, and proceeded to a trading post
called Brown's Hole, where he joined a company of traders to go to the
Navajoe Indians. He found this tribe more assimilated to the white man
than any Indians he had yet seen, having many fine horses and large
flocks of sheep and cattle. They also possessed the art of weaving, and
their blankets were in great demand through Mexico, bringing high
prices, on account of their great beauty, being woven in flowers with
much taste. They were evidently a remnant of the Aztec race.

They traded here for a large drove of fine mules, which, taken to the
fort on the South Platte, realized good prices, when Carson went again
to Brown's Hole, a narrow but pretty valley about sixteen miles long,
upon the Colorado River.

After many offers for his services from other parties, Carson at length
engaged himself for the winter, to hunt for the men at this fort, and as
the game was abundant in this beautiful valley, and in the cañon country
further down the Colorado, in its deer, elk, and antelope, reminding him
of his hunts upon the Sacramento, the task was a delightful one to him.

In the spring, Carson trapped with Bridger and Owen's with passable
success, and went to the rendezvous upon Wind River, at the head of the
Yellowstone, and from thence, with a large part of the trappers at the
rendezvous, to the Yellowstone, where they camped in the vicinity for
the winter, without seeing their old enemy, the Blackfeet Indians, until
mid-winter, when they discovered that they were near their principal

A party of forty was selected to give them battle, with Carson, of
course, for their captain. They found the Indians already in the field,
to the number of several hundred, who made a brave resistance, until
night and darkness admonished both parties to retire. In the morning
when Carson and his men went to the spot whither the Indians had
retired, they were not to be found. They had given them a "wide berth,"
taking their all away with them, even their dead.

Carson and his command returned to camp, where a council of war decided
that as the Indians would report, at the principal encampment, the
terrible loss they had sustained, and others would be sent to renew the
fight, it was wise to prepare to act on the defensive, and use every
precaution immediately; and accordingly a sentinel was stationed on a
lofty hill near by, who soon reported that the Indians were upon the

Their plans matured, they at once threw up a breastwork, under Carson's
direction, and waited the approach of the Indians, who came in slowly,
the first parties waiting for those behind. After three days, a full
thousand had reached the camp, about half a mile from the breastwork of
the trappers. In their war paint--stripes of red across the forehead,
and down either cheek--with their bows and arrows, tomahawks, and
lances, this army of Indians presented a formidable appearance to the
small body of trappers who were opposed to them.

The war dance was enacted in sight and hearing of the trappers, and at
early dawn the Indians advanced, having made every preparation for the
attack. Carson commanded his men to reserve their fire till the Indians
were near enough to have every shot tell; but seeing the strength of the
white men's position, after a few ineffectual shots, the Indians
retired, camped a mile from them, and finally separated into two
parties, and went away, leaving the trappers to breathe more freely,
for, at the best, the encounter must have been of a desperate character.

They evidently recognized the leader who had before dealt so severely
with them, in the skill with which the defence was arranged, and if the
name of Kit Carson was on their lips, they knew him for both bravery
and magnanimity, and had not the courage to offer him battle.

Another winter gone, saddlery, moccasin-making, lodge-building, to
complete the repairs of the summer's wars and the winter's fight, all
completed, Carson with fifteen men went, past Fort Hall, again to the
Salmon River, and trapped part of the season there and upon Big Snake,
and Goose Creeks, and selling his furs at Fort Hall, again joined
Bridger in another trapping excursion into the Blackfeet country.

The Blackfeet had molested the traps of another party who had arrived
there before them, and had driven them away. The Indian assailants were
still near, and Carson led his party against them, taking care to
station himself and men in the edge of a thicket, where they kept the
savages at bay all day, taking a man from their number with nearly every
shot of their well directed rifles. In vain the Indians now attempted to
fire the thicket; it would not burn, and sullenly they retired, forced
again to acknowledge defeat at the hands of Kit Carson, the "Monarch of
the Prairies."

Carson's party now joined with the others, but concluding that they
could not trap successfully with the annoyance the Indians were likely
to give them, as their force was too small to hope to conquer, they left
this part of the country for the north fork of the Missouri.

Now they were with the friendly Flatheads, one of whose chiefs joined
them in the hunt, and went into camp near them, with a party of his
braves. This tribe of Indians, like several other tribes which extend
along this latitude to the Pacific, have the custom which gives them
their name, thus described by Irving, in speaking of the Indians upon
the Lower Columbia, about its mouth.

"A most singular custom," he says, "prevails, not only among the
Chinooks, but among most of the tribes about this part of the coast,
which is the flattening of the forehead. The process by which this
deformity is effected, commences immediately after birth. The infant is
laid in a wooden trough, by way of cradle. The end on which the head
reposes is higher than the rest. A padding is placed on the forehead of
the infant, with a piece of bark above it, and is pressed down by cords
which pass through holes upon the sides of the trough. As the tightening
of the padding and the pressure of the head to the board is gradual,
the process is said not to be attended with pain. The appearance of the
infant, however, while in this state of compression is whimsically
hideous, and 'its little black eyes,' we are told, 'being forced out by
the tightness of the bandages, resemble those of a mouse choked in a

"About a year's pressure is sufficient to produce the desired effect, at
the end of which time, the child emerges from its bandages, a complete
flathead, and continues so through life. It must be noted, however, that
this flattening of the head has something in it of aristocratic
significance, like the crippling of the feet among the Chinese ladies of
quality. At any rate, it is the sign of freedom. No slave is permitted
to bestow this deformity upon the head of his children; all the slaves,
therefore, are roundheads."


In the spring, Kit Carson proposed a different plan of operations; he
went to hunt on the streams in the vicinage of his winter's camp with
only a single companion. The Utah Indians, into whose country he came,
were also friends of Carson, and, unmolested in his business, his
efforts were crowned with abundant success. He took his furs to Robideau
fort, and with a party of five went to Grand River, and thence to
Brown's Hole on Green River for the winter.

In the following spring he went to the Utah country, to the streams that
flow into Great Salt Lake on the South, which was rich in furs and of
exceeding beauty, with the points of grand old snow mountains ever in
sight, around him.

From here he went to the New Fork, and as it was afterward described by
a party for whom Carson was the guide, we shall not give the
description at this point of our narrative. Again he trapped among the
Utahs, and disposed of his furs at Robideau Fort; but now the prices did
not please him. Beaver fur was at a discount, and the trade of the
trapper becoming unprofitable.

Baird, in his general report upon mammals, uses the following language,
which is appropriate in this connection:

"The beaver once inhabited all of the globe lying in the northern
temperate zone; yet from Europe, China, and all the eastern portion of
the United States, it has been entirely exterminated, and a war so
universal and relentless has been waged upon this defenceless animal,
his great intelligence has been so generally opposed by the intelligence
of man, it has seemed certain, unless some kind providence should
interpose, that the castor, like its congener, the Castorides, would
soon be found only in a fossil state.

"Happily that providence did interpose, through a certain ingenious
somebody, who first suggested the use of silk in the place of fur for
the covering of hats. The beaver were not yet exterminated from Western
America, and now, since they are not "worth killing," in those
inhospitable regions, where there is no encouragement for American
enterprise or cupidity, we may hope that the beaver will there retain
existence, in a home exclusively their own.

"The price of beaver skins has so much diminished that they were offered
to some of the party at twenty-five cents by the bale."

Carson had pursued the business of trapping for eight years, and his
life had been one of unceasing toil, of extreme hardship, full of
danger, yet withal full of interest. More than this, while the lack of
early scientific training had prevented him from making that record of
his travels, which would have given the world the benefit of his
explorations, he had treasured in his memory the knowledge of
localities, of their conditions, and seasons, and advantages, which in
the good time coming, would enable him to associate his labors with
another, who possessed the scientific attainments which Carson lacked,
and who with Carson's invaluable assistance would come to be known world
wide as a bold explorer, and who, but for Carson's experience, where
such experience was a chief requisite to success, might have failed in
his first efforts in the grand enterprise entrusted to him.

Carson knew the general features of the country, its mountains, plains,
and rivers, and the minor points of animal and vegetable productions,
from the head waters of the "monarch of rivers," to the mouth of the
Colorado, and from the southern Arkansas to the Columbia, better,
perhaps, than any one living, though yet but twenty-five years of age.

We left Carson at Robideau Fort, tired of the pursuit of trapping, as
soon as it had become unprofitable, and while there, he arranged with
three or four other trappers, to come down to Bent's Fort. The trip was
like others made at this season, through a country where the rifle would
supply food for the party, and arriving at Bent's Fort, where his name
was already well-known, Carson could not long be idle. He engaged
himself to Messrs. Bent and St. Vrain, as hunter to the fort, preferring
this by far to the idea of seeking employment nearer civilized life.
Indeed no situation could have pleased him better, if we may judge from
the fact that he continued in it for eight years, and until the
connection with his employers was broken by the death of one of the
partners, Col. Bent.

Gov. Bent, since appointed to the office of chief magistrate of New
Mexico, by the United States Government, had been killed by Mexican
Indians, and was universally mourned by Americans and Indians wherever
he was known. Mr. St. Vrain, the other partner, was active during the
Mexican war, since the date of which we write, still lives, and is
esteemed, as a father, by many an early mountaineer. Carson owed him
gratitude for kindly sympathy and words of counsel, when yet a youth he
was commencing his mountain life, and Dr. Peters, the first biographer
of Kit Carson, dedicates his book to Col. St. Vrain, asserting that he
was the first to discover and direct Carson's talents to the path in
which they were employed. For both of these gentlemanly proprietors,
Carson cherished a warm friendship, nor was there ever an unpleasant
occurrence between them.

When game was plenty, he supplied the forty mouths to be filled with
ease, but when it was scarce, his task was sometimes difficult, but
skill and experience enabled him to triumph over every obstacle.

It is not strange that with such long experience Carson became the most
skillful of hunters, and won the name of the "Nestor of the Rocky
Mountains." Among the Indians he had earned the undisputed title of
"Monarch of the Prairies."

But while he killed thousands of elk, deer, and antelope, nor disdained
the rabbit and the grouse, and took the wild goose on the wing, of all
the game of beast or bird, he liked the best to hunt the buffalo, for
there was an excitement in the chase of that noble animal which aroused
his spirits to the highest pitch of excitement.

Assuredly, Christopher Carson's _is_ "a life out of the usual routine,
and checkered with adventures which have sorely tested the courage and
endurance of this wonderful man." Col. St. Vrain, in the preface to
Peters' Life of Carson, says,

"Entering upon his life work at the age of seventeen, choosing now to
think for himself, nor follow the lead of those who would detain him in
a quiet life, while he felt the restless fire 'in his bones,' that
forbade his burying his energy in merely mechanical toil, he had yet
been directed in his choice, by the fitness for it the pursuits of youth
had given, and spurning the humdrum monotony of the shop, gave himself
entirely to what would most aid him in attaining the profession he had
chosen. We must admire such spirit in a youth, for it augurs well for
the energy and will power of the manhood; therefore, when the biographer
says of Christopher Carson, that the neighbors who knew him, predicted
an uncommon life in the child with whom they hunted, and conceded to him
positions, as well as privileges, that were not accorded to common men,
with his life till thirty-three before us, we feel that he has fulfilled
the hope of early promise, with a noble manhood."

We have followed Carson's pathway, without much of detail, to the
localities where he practised the profession he had chosen, until we saw
him leave it because it ceased longer to afford compensation for his
toil, and during as long a period we have written of his quiet pursuit
of the, to him, pleasant, but laborious life of a hunter; unless we must
class the latter eight years with the former, and assume each as a part
of the profession he had chosen.

In all, with perhaps the exception of a few weeks at Santa Fe, when
still in his minority, we have found him ever strong to resist the
thousand temptations to evil with which his pathway was beset, and which
drew other men away. Strong ever in the maintenance of the integrity of
his manhood, even when the convivial circle and the game had a brief
fascination for him, they taught him the lesson which he needed to
learn, that only by earnest resistance, can evil be overcome; and thus
he was enabled to admonish others against those temptations which had
once overcome even his powers of resistance; and so he learned to school
himself to the idea, that good comes ever through the temptation to evil
to all those who have the courage to extract it.

We have followed him up and down all the streams of our great central
western wilds, and indicated the store of geographic knowledge which he
had acquired by hard experience before they were known so far to any one
besides; and then for eight years more we have seen that this knowledge
was digested and reviewed in the social circle with other mountain
trappers, and beside the lonely mountain river, and 'neath the wild,
steep cliff; or on the grassy bottom, or the barren plain, and in the
less sterile places where the sage hen found a covert, and up among the
oak openings, and in the gigantic parks, where, as a hunter, he
revisited old haunts.

In all his toilsome and adventurous enterprises, while he sought to
benefit himself, he never turned away, nor failed to lend a helping hand
to a needy, suffering brother, or to encourage one who needed such a
lesson, to turn his youth to the most account; and if affectionate
regard is a recompense for such service, he had his compensation, as he
passed along the path he had marked out for himself, not from the white
man alone, but from the Indian who everywhere came to look upon Kit
Carson as his friend.

The Camanches, the Arapahoes, the Utahs, and the Cheyennes, besides
several smaller tribes, knew him personally in the hunt, and he had sat
by their camp fires, and dandled their children, and sung to them the

    "What makes the lamb love Mary so?
      The eager children cry;
    Why Mary loves the lamb, you know,
      And that's the reason why."

The Indians feared, and reverenced, and loved him, and that this latter
may be proved to the reader we relate the following story of private
history, nor will it be esteemed out of taste:

The powerful Sioux had come from the north beyond their usual hunting
grounds, and had had skirmishes with several Indian bands, some of whom
sent for Carson to the Upper Arkansas to come over and help them drive
back the Sioux. As the larder at the fort was full, he consented to go
with the war-painted Camanche messengers to a camp of their tribe,
united with a band of Arapahoes. They told him the Sioux had a thousand
warriors and many rifles, and they feared them, but knew that the
"Monarch of the Prairies" could overcome them. Carson sat in council
with the chiefs, and finally, instead of encouraging them to fight,
persuaded them to peace, and acted so successfully the part of mediator,
that the Sioux consented to retire from the hunting grounds of the
Camanches when the season was over, and they separated without a

It was while engaged as hunter for Messrs. Bent and St. Vrain, Carson
took to himself an Indian wife, by whom he had a daughter still living,
and who forms the connecting link between his past hardships, and his
present greatness; for that he is emphatically a great man, the whole
civilized world has acknowledged.

The mother died soon after her birth, and Carson feeling that his rude
cabin was scarcely the place to rear his child, determined, when of a
suitable age, to take her to St. Louis, and secure for her those
advantages of education which circumstances had denied to him; and
accordingly, when his engagement at the fort had expired, he determined
to go to St. Louis for that purpose, embracing on the route the
opportunity of visiting the home of his boyhood, which he had not seen
for sixteen years.

Of course he found everything changed. Many of those whom he had known
as men and heads of families, were now grown old, while more had died
off; but by those to whom he was made known, he was recognized with a
heartiness of welcome which brought tears to his eyes, though his heart
was saddened at the changes which time had wrought. His fame had
preceded him, and his welcome was therefore doubly cordial, for he had
more than verified the promise of his youth.

Thence he proceeded to St. Louis, with the intention of placing his
daughter at school, but here, to his great amazement, he found himself a
lion; for the advent of such a man in such a city, which had so often
rung with his deeds of daring and suffering, could not be permitted to
remain among its citizens unknown or unrecognized. He was courted and
fêted and though gratified at the attentions showered upon him, found
himself so thoroughly out of his element, that he longed to return to
more pleasant and more familiar scenes, his old hunting grounds.

Having accomplished the object of his visit to St. Louis, in placing his
daughter under proper guardianship, he left the city, carrying with him
pleasing, because merited remembrances of the attentions paid to him,
and leaving behind him impressions of the most favorable character.

Soon after he reached St. Louis, he had the good fortune to fall in with
Lieut. Fremont, who was there organizing a party for the exploration of
the far western country, as yet unknown, and who was anxiously awaiting
the arrival of Captain Drips, a well known trader and trapper, who had
been highly recommended to him as a guide.

Kit Carson's name and fame were familiar as household words to Fremont,
and he gladly availed himself of his proffered services in lieu of those
of Capt. Drips. It did not take long for two such men as John C. Fremont
and Kit Carson to become thoroughly acquainted with each other, and the
accidental meeting at St. Louis resulted in the cementing of a
friendship which has never been impaired,--won as it was on the one part
by fidelity, truthfulness, integrity, and courage, united to vast
experience and consummate skill in the prosecution of the duty he had
assumed--on the other by every quality which commands honour, regard,
esteem, and high personal devotion.

And now Carson's life has commenced in earnest, for heretofore he has
only been fitting himself to live. His name is embodied in the archives
of our country's history, and no one has been more ready to accord to
him the credit he so well earned, as has he who had the good fortune to
secure, at the same time, the services of the most experienced guide of
his day, and the devotion of a friend.

Lieut. Fremont had instructions to explore and report upon the country
lying between the frontiers of Missouri and the South Pass in the Rocky
Mountains, on the line of the Kansas and Great Platte Rivers, and with
his party, leaving St. Louis on the 22nd of May, 1842, by steamboat for
Chouteau's Landing on the Missouri, near the mouth of the Kansas, at a
point twelve miles beyond at Chouteau's trading post, he encamped there
to complete his arrangements for this important expedition.


Fremont was delayed several days at Chouteau's Landing, by the state of
the weather, which prevented the necessary astronomical observations,
but finally all his arrangements being completed, and the weather
permitting, the party started in the highest spirit, and filled with
anticipations of an exciting and adventurous journey.

He had collected in the neighborhood of St. Louis twenty-one men,
principally Creole and Canadian _voyageurs_, who had become familiar
with prairie life in the service of the fur companies in the Indian
country. Mr. Charles Preuss, a native of Germany, was his assistant in
the topographical part of the survey. L. Maxwell, of Kaskaskia, had been
engaged as hunter, and Christopher Carson as guide.

Mr. Cyprian Chouteau, to whose kindness, during their stay at his house,
all were much indebted, accompanied them several miles on their way,
until they met an Indian, whom he had engaged to conduct them on the
first thirty or forty miles, where he was to consign them to the ocean
prairie, which stretched, without interruption, almost to the base of
the Rocky Mountains.

During the journey, it was the customary practice to encamp an hour or
two before sunset, when the carts were disposed so as to form a sort of
barricade around a circle some eighty yards in diameter. The tents were
pitched, and the horses hobbled and turned loose to graze; and but a few
minutes elapsed before the cooks of the messes, of which there were
four, were busily engaged in preparing the evening meal. At nightfall,
the horses, mules, and oxen, were driven in and picketed--that is,
secured by a halter, of which one end was tied to a small steel-shod
picket, and driven into the ground; the halter being twenty or thirty
feet long, which enabled them to obtain a little food during the night.
When they had reached a part of the country where such a precaution
became necessary, the carts being regularly arranged for defending the
camp, guard was mounted at eight o'clock, consisting of three men, who
were relieved every two hours; the morning watch being horse guard for
the day. At daybreak, the camp was roused, the animals turned loose to
graze, and breakfast generally over between six and seven o'clock, when
they resumed their march, making regularly a halt at noon for one or two
hours. Such was usually the order of the day, except when accident of
country forced a variation, which, however, happened but rarely.

They reached the ford of the Kansas late in the afternoon of the 14th,
where the river was two hundred and thirty yards wide, and commenced
immediately preparations for crossing. The river had been swollen by the
late rains, and was sweeping by with an angry current, yellow and turbid
as the Missouri. Up to this point, the road traveled was a remarkably
fine one, well beaten and level--the usual road of a prairie country. By
this route, the ford was one hundred miles from the mouth of the Kansas
river, on reaching which several mounted men led the way into the
stream, to swim across. The animals were driven in after them, and in a
few minutes all had reached the opposite bank in safety, with the
exception of the oxen, which swam some distance down the river, and,
returning to the right bank, were not got over until the next morning.
In the meantime, the carts had been unloaded and dismantled, and an
India-rubber boat, which had been brought for the survey of the Platte
River, placed in the water. The boat was twenty feet long and five
broad, and on it were placed the body and wheels of a cart, with the
load belonging to it, and three men with paddles.

The velocity of the current, and the inconvenient freight, rendering it
difficult to be managed, Basil Lajeunesse, one of the best swimmers,
took in his teeth a line attached to the boat, and swam ahead in order
to reach a footing as soon as possible, and assist in drawing her over.
In this manner, six passages had been successfully made, and as many
carts with their contents, and a greater portion of the party, deposited
on the left bank; but night was drawing near, and in his great anxiety
to complete the crossing before darkness set in, he put on the boat,
contrary to the advice of Carson, the last two carts with their loads.
The consequence was, the boat was capsized, and everything on board was
in a moment floating down stream. They were all, however, eventually
recovered, but not without great trouble. Carson and Maxwell, who had
been in the water nearly all the succeeding day, searching for the lost
articles, were taken so ill in consequence of the prolonged exposure,
the party was obliged to lie by another day to enable them to recruit,
for to proceed without them would have been folly.

The dense timber which surrounded their camp, interfering with
astronomical observations, and the wet and damaged stores requiring
exposure to the sun, the tents were struck early the next day but one
after this disaster and the party moved up the river about seven miles,
where they camped upon a handsome open prairie, some twenty feet above
the water, and where the fine grass afforded a luxurious repast to the
weary animals. They lay in camp here two days, during which time the men
were kept busy in drying the provisions, painting the cart covers, and
otherwise completing their equipage, until the afternoon when powder was
distributed to them, and they spent some hours in firing at a mark, as
they were now fairly in the Indian country, and it began to be time to
prepare for the chances of the wilderness.


Leaving the river bottom, the road which was the Oregon trail, past Fort
Laramie,--ran along the uplands, over a rolling country, upon which were
scattered many boulders of red sand-stone, some of them of several tons
weight; and many beautiful plants and flowers enlivened the prairie. The
barometer indicated fourteen hundred feet above the level of the sea,
and the elevation appeared to have its influence on vegetation.

The country became more broken, rising still and covered everywhere with
fragments of silicious limestone, strewn over the earth like pebbles on
the sea shore; especially upon the summits and exposed situations; and
in these places but few plants grew, while in the creek bottoms, and
ravines, a great variety of plants flourished.

For several days they continued their journey, annoyed only by the lack
of water, and at length reached the range of the Pawnees who infested
that part of the country, stealing horses from companies on their way to
the mountains, and when in sufficient force, openly attacking them, and
subjecting them to various insults; and it was while encamped here, that
a regular guard was mounted for the first time, but the night passed
over without annoyance.

Speaking of the constant watchfulness required when in the neighborhood
of hostile or thieving Indians, Fremont says,

"The next morning we had a specimen of the false alarms to which all
parties in these wild regions are subject. Proceeding up the valley,
objects were seen on the opposite hills, which disappeared before a
glass could be brought to bear upon them. A man, who was a short
distance in the rear, came spurring up in great haste, shouting,
Indians! Indians! He had been near enough to see and count them,
according to his report, and had made out twenty-seven. I immediately
halted; arms were examined and put in order; the usual preparations
made; and Kit Carson, springing upon one of the hunting horses, crossed
the river, and galloped off into the opposite prairies, to obtain some
certain intelligence of their movements.

"Mounted on a fine horse, without a saddle, and scouring bareheaded over
the prairies, Kit was one of the finest pictures of a horseman I have
ever seen. A short time enabled him to discover that the Indian war
party of twenty-seven consisted of six elk, who had been gazing
curiously at our caravan as it passed by, and were now scampering off at
full speed. This was our first alarm, and its excitement broke agreeably
on the monotony of the day. At our noon halt, the men were exercised at
a target; and in the evening we pitched our tents at a Pawnee encampment
of last July. They had apparently killed buffalo here, as many bones
were lying about, and the frames where the hides had been stretched were
yet standing."

Leaving the fork of the "Blue," upon a high dividing ridge, in about
twenty-one miles they reached the coast of the Platte, or Nebraska River
as it is called, a line of low hills, or the break from the prairie to
the river bottom. Cacti here were numerous, and the _amorpha_,
remarkable for its large and luxuriant purple clusters, was in full
bloom. From the foot of the coast, two miles across the level bottom,
brought them to the shore of the river twenty miles below the head of
Grand Island, and more than three hundred from the mouth of the Kansas.
The elevation of the Platte valley here was about two thousand feet
above the level of the sea.

The next day they met a party of fourteen, who had started sixty days
before from Fort Laramie, in barges laden with furs for the American Fur
Company, hoping to come down the Platte without difficulty, as they left
upon the annual flood, and their boats drew only nine inches of water.
But at Scott's bluffs, one hundred and thirty miles below Fort Laramie,
the river became so broad and shallow, and the current so changeful
among the sandbars, that they abandoned their boats and _cached_ their
cargoes, and were making the rest of their journey to St. Louis on foot,
each with a pack as large as he could carry.

In the interchange of news, and the renewal of old acquaintanceships,
they found wherewithal to fill a busy hour. Among them Fremont had found
an old companion on the 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
sobriquet of La Tulipe, and his real name no one knew. Finding that he
was going to the States only because his company was bound in that
direction, and that he was rather more willing to return with Fremont,
he was taken again into his service.

A few days more of travel, whose monotony was not relieved by any
incident worth narrating, brought the party in sight of the buffalo,
swarming in immense numbers over the plains, where they had left
scarcely a blade of grass standing. "Mr. Preuss," says Fremont, "who was
sketching at a little distance in the rear, had at first noted them as
large groves of timber. In the sight of such a mass of life, the
traveler 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 everywhere they were 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, each the scene of some obstinate fight.
Indians and buffalo make the poetry and life of the prairie, and our
camp was full of their exhilaration. In place of the quiet monotony of
the march, relieved only by the cracking of the whip, and an '_avance
donc! enfant de garce!_' 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 in the night might be seen pieces of the most delicate meat,
roasting _en appolas_, on sticks around the fire, and the guard were
never without company. 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 the oasis of a voyageur's life."

Three cows were killed on that day, but a serious accident befell Carson
in the course of the chase, which had nearly cost him his life. Kit 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; and
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 him.

This mishap, however, did not deter Kit from his favorite pursuit of
buffalo hunting, for on the following day, notwithstanding his really
serious accident, we find him ready and eager for another chase. Fremont
in his narrative thus relates the occurrence:--

"As we were riding quietly along the bank, a grand herd of buffalo, some
seven or eight hundred in number, came crowding up from the river, where
they had been to drink, and commenced crossing the plain slowly, eating
as they went. The wind was favorable; the coolness of the morning
invited to exercise; the ground was apparently good, and the distance
across the prairie (two or three miles) gave us a fine opportunity to
charge them before they could get among the river hills. It was too fine
a prospect for a chase to be lost; and halting for a few moments, the
hunters were brought up and saddled, and Kit Carson, Maxwell, and I,
started together. They were now somewhat less than half a mile distant,
and we rode easily along until within about three hundred yards, when a
sudden agitation, a wavering in the band, and a galloping to and fro of
some which were scattered along the skirts, gave us the intimation that
we were discovered. We started together at a hard gallop, riding
steadily abreast of each other, and here the interest of the chase
became so engrossingly intense, that we were sensible to nothing else.
We were now closing upon them rapidly, and the front of the mass was
already in rapid motion for the hills, and in a few seconds the movement
had communicated itself to the whole herd.

"A crowd of bulls, as usual, brought up the rear, and every now and then
some of them faced about, and then dashed on after the band a short
distance, and turned and looked again, as if more than half inclined to
stand and fight. In a few moments, however, during which we had been
quickening our pace, the rout was universal, and we were going over the
ground like a hurricane. When at about thirty yards, we gave the usual
shout (the hunter's _pas de charge_), and broke into the herd. We
entered on the side, the mass giving way in every direction in their
heedless course. Many of the bulls, less active and less fleet than the
cows, paying no attention to the ground, and occupied solely with the
hunter, 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,
sprang on after the cow like a tiger. In a few moments he brought me
alongside of her, and rising in the stirrups, I fired at the distance of
a yard, the ball entering at the termination of the long hair, and
passing near the heart. She fell headlong at the report of the gun, and,
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 bands, at some distance below, I caught a glimpse of Maxwell;
and 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, and 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; and 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 every twenty yards square, occupied the whole bottom
for nearly two miles in length. Looking around, I saw only one of the
hunters, nearly out of sight, and the long dark line of our caravan
crawling along, three or four miles distant."


The encampment of the party on the 4th of July, was a few miles from
where the road crosses over to the north fork of the Platte, where a
grand dinner was prepared, toasts drank, and salutes fired; and it was
here Fremont decided to divide his party, wishing, himself, to explore
the south fork of the Platte, as far as St. Vrain's Fort; and taking
with him Maxwell and two others of his men, and the Cheyenne Indians,
whose village was upon this river, he left the rest of the party to
proceed under the direction of Clement Lambert up the north fork to Fort
Laramie, where they were to wait his arrival, as he intended to cross
the country between the two forts.

Buffalo were still plenty upon Fremont's route, and the Indians with him
made an unsuccessful attempt to lasso the leader of a drove of wild
horses, which they passed. They met a band of two or three hundred
Arapahoe Indians, and were only saved from an attack by Maxwell, who
secured a timely recognition from the old chief who led the party, which
proved to be from a village among whom he had resided as a trader, and
whose camp the chief pointed out to them some six miles distant. They
had come out to surround a band of buffalo which was feeding across the
river, and were making a large circuit to avoid giving them the wind,
when they discovered Fremont's party, whom they had mistaken for
Pawnees. In a few minutes the women came galloping up, astride of their
horses, and naked from their knees down, and the hips up. They followed
the men to assist in cutting up and carrying off the meat.

The wind was blowing directly across the river, and the chief having
requested Fremont to remain where he then was, to avoid raising the
herd, he readily consented, and having unsaddled their horses, they sat
down to view the scene. The day had become very hot, the thermometer
standing at 108°. The Indians commenced crossing the river, and as soon
as they were upon the other side, separated into two bodies.

Fremont thus describes this exciting hunt, or massacre, as the reader
may choose to designate it,--and his subsequent visit to the Arapahoe

"One party proceeded directly across the prairie, towards the hills, in
an extended line, while the other went up the river; and instantly, as
they had given the wind to the herd, the chase commenced. The buffalo
started for the hills, but were intercepted and driven back toward the
river, broken and running in every direction. The clouds of dust soon
covered the whole scene, preventing us from having any but an occasional
view. It had a very singular appearance to us at a distance, especially
when looking with the glass.

"We were too far to hear the report of the guns, or any sound, and at
every instant, through the clouds of dust, which the sun made luminous,
we could see for a moment two or three buffalo dashing along, and close
behind them an Indian with his long spear, or other weapon, and
instantly again they disappeared. The apparent silence, and the dimly
seen figures flitting by with such rapidity, gave it a kind of dreamy
effect, and seemed more like a picture than a scene of real life.

"It had been a large herd when the _cerne_ commenced, probably three or
four hundred in number; but though I watched them closely, I did not
see one emerge from the fatal cloud where the work of destruction was
going on. After remaining here about an hour, we resumed our journey in
the direction of the village.

"Gradually, as we rode on, Indian after Indian came dropping along,
laden with meat; and by the time we had reached the lodges, the backward
road was covered with the returning horsemen. It was a pleasant contrast
with the desert road we had been traveling. Several had joined company
with us, and one of the chiefs invited us to his lodge.

"The village consisted of about one hundred and twenty-five lodges, of
which twenty were Cheyennes; the latter pitched a little apart from the
Arapahoes. They were disposed in a scattering manner on both sides of a
broad, irregular street, about one hundred and fifty feet wide, and
running along the river. As we rode along, I remarked near some of the
lodges a kind of tripod frame, formed of three slender poles of birch,
scraped very clean, to which were affixed the shield and spear, with
some other weapons of a chief. All were scrupulously clean, the spear
head was burnished bright, and the shield white and stainless. It
reminded me of the days of feudal chivalry; and when, as I rode by, I
yielded to the passing impulse, and touched one of the spotless shields
with the muzzle of my gun, I almost expected a grim warrior to start
from the lodge and resent my challenge.

"The master of the lodge spread out a robe for me to sit upon, and the
squaws set before us a large wooden dish of buffalo meat. He had lit his
pipe in the meanwhile, and when it had been passed around, we commenced
our dinner while he continued to smoke. Gradually, five or six other
chiefs came in, and took their seats in silence. When we had finished,
our host asked a number of questions relative to the object of our
journey, of which I made no concealment; telling him simply that I had
made a visit to see the country, preparatory to the establishment of
military posts on the way to the mountains.

"Although this was information of the highest interest to them, and by
no means calculated to please them, it excited no expression of
surprise, and in no way altered the grave courtesy of their demeanor.
The others listened and smoked. I remarked, that in taking the pipe for
the first time, each had turned the stem upward, with a rapid glance,
as in offering to the Great Spirit, before he put it in his mouth."

Riding near the river, Fremont and Maxwell had an interview with Jim
Beckwith, who had been chief of the Crow Indians, but had left them some
time before, and was now residing in this river bottom, with his wife, a
Spanish woman from Taos. They also passed a camp of four or five New
Englanders, with Indian wives--a party of independent trappers, and
reached St. Vrain's Fort on the evening of July 10th, where they were
hospitably entertained by Mr. St. Vrain, and received from him such
needed assistance as he was able to render. Maxwell was at home here, as
he had spent the last two or three years between the fort and Taos.

On the evening of the fifteenth, they arrived at Fort Laramie, a post of
the American Fur Company, near the junction of the Laramie Creek with
the Platte River, which had quite a military appearance, with its lofty
walls whitewashed and picketed, and large bastions at the angles. A
cluster of lodges belonging to the Sioux Indians was pitched under the
walls. He was received with great hospitality by the gentleman in charge
of the fort, Mr. Boudeau, having letters of introduction to him from
the company at St. Louis, and it is hardly necessary to say that he was
hospitably received and most kindly treated. He found Carson with the
party under his command camped on the bank near the fort, by whom they
were most warmly welcomed, and in the enjoyment of a bountiful supper,
which coffee and bread converted almost into a luxury, they forgot the
toils and sufferings of the past ten days.

The news brought by Mr. Preuss, who it will be remembered was with
Carson's party, was as exciting as it was unpleasant. He had learned
that the Sioux who had been badly disposed, had now broken out into open
hostility, and his informant, a well known trapper, named Bridger, had
been attacked by them, and had only defeated them after serious losses
on both sides. United with the Cheyennes and Gros Ventre Indians, they
were scouring the country in war parties, declaring war upon every
living thing which should pass the _Red Buttes_; their special hostility
being, however, directed against the white men. In fact the country was
swarming with hostile Indians, and it was but too evident that any party
who should attempt to enter upon the forbidden grounds, must do so at
the certain hazard of their lives. Of course such intelligence created
great commotion throughout the camp, and it formed the sole subject of
conversation and discussion during the evenings around the camp fires.

Speaking of this report, and the effect produced upon his men, Fremont
uses the following language:

"Carson, one of the best and most experienced mountaineers, fully
supported the opinion given by Bridger of the dangerous state of the
country, and openly expressed his conviction that we could not escape
without some sharp encounters with the Indians. In addition to this, he
made his will; and among the circumstances which were constantly
occurring to increase their alarm, this was the most unfortunate; and I
found that a number of my party had become so much intimidated that they
had requested to be discharged at this place."

Carson's apprehensions were fully justified by the circumstances
surrounding them; and while we might have omitted the above quotation,
as tending to exhibit him in a false light, doubtless unintentionally,
we choose rather to say a few words which will rob the insinuation of
its sting.

While there was reason to expect an encounter with Indians, in whom it
was reported the spirit of revenge was cherished towards the whites,
more than ever it had been before, and whom numbers and acquisition of
fire-arms rendered really formidable foes, he felt that the party with
whom he was now associated, were not the men upon whom he could rely
with certainty in an engagement against such terrible odds. In the days
of his earlier experiences, the old trappers with him were men who had
as little fear as himself, and were also experienced in such little
affairs, for such they considered them. Now, except Maxwell, an old
associate, and two or three others, the men of the party were half
paralyzed with fear at the prospect which this report presented to them;
and it was the knowledge of their fear, which they made no attempt to
conceal, which excited in his mind apprehensions for the worst, for he
did not choose to guide others into danger recklessly, even if he had no
care for himself.

Headlong rashness, which some might mistake for courage, was not a trait
of his character; but the voice of a whole country accords to him cool
bravery, presence of mind, and courage to meet whatever danger
forethought could not guard against.

With a party of men like those he had led several times against the
Blackfeet, nothing could have persuaded him to turn back from any
enterprise which he had undertaken, from a fear of hostile Indians. Of
course he could not state his reason for his apprehensions even to his
employer, because it would reflect upon his ability to arrange for such
an enterprise, or his courage to conduct it to a successful termination,
neither of which he could doubt; and it is therefore with something of
regret we read in an official report, emanating from one who owed more
to Kit Carson, of the fame and reputation so justly earned, than to any
other living man, the assertion that Carson, stimulated by fear, made
his will. The best contradiction which can be afforded, is found in the
fact, that notwithstanding his _apprehensions_, he did accompany the
party, discharging with his usual zeal, ability, and fidelity, the
duties which devolved upon him; and we have yet to learn that Kit Carson
ever shrunk from any danger.

His reputation has, however, outlived this covert insinuation, and we
presume that no man on this continent would hesitate to award to Kit
Carson, the highest attributes of moral and physical courage.

"During our stay here," says Fremont in continuation, "the men had been
engaged in making numerous repairs, arranging pack-saddles, and
otherwise preparing for the chances of a rough road, and mountain
travel, all of which Carson had superintended, urging upon the men that
their comfort and their safety required it. All things of this nature
being ready, I gathered them around me in the evening, and told them
that 'I had determined to proceed the next day. They were all well armed.
I had engaged the services of Mr. Bissonette as interpreter, and had
taken, in the circumstances, every possible means to insure our safety.
In the rumors we had heard, I believed there was much exaggeration, and
then they were men accustomed to this kind of life, and to the country;
and that these were the dangers of every day occurrence, and to be
expected in the ordinary course of their service. They had heard of the
unsettled condition of the country before leaving St. Louis, and
therefore could not make it a reason for breaking their engagements.
Still, I was unwilling to take with me, on a service of some certain
danger, men on whom I could not rely; and as I had understood that there
were among them some who were disposed to cowardice, and anxious to
return, they had but to come forward at once, and state their desire,
and they would be discharged with the amount due to them for the time
they had served.' To their honor, be it said, there was but one among
them who had the face to come forward and avail himself of the
permission. I asked him some few questions, in order to expose him to
the ridicule of the men, and let him go. The day after our departure, he
engaged himself to one of the forts, and set off with a party to the
Upper Missouri."


As our explorers advanced, one of the most prominent features of the
country was the abundance of artemisia growing everywhere, on the hills
and in the river bottoms, in twisted wiry clumps, filling the air with
the odor of mingled camphor and spirits of turpentine, and impeding the
progress of the wagons out of the beaten track.

They met a straggling party of the Indians which had followed the trail
of the emigrants, and learned from them that multitudes of grasshoppers
had consumed the grass upon the road, so that they had found no game,
and were obliged to kill even their horses, to ward off starvation. Of
course danger from these Indians was no longer to be apprehended, though
the prospect was a gloomy one, but new courage seemed to inspire the
party when the necessity of endurance seemed at hand.

The party now followed Carson's advice, given at Fort Laramie, to
disencumber themselves of all unnecessary articles, and accordingly they
left their wagons, concealing them among low shrubbery, after they had
taken them to pieces, and made a _cache_ of such other effects as they
could leave, among the sand heaps of the river bank, and then set to
work to mend and arrange the pack saddles, and packs, the whole of which
was superintended by Carson, and to him was now assigned the office of
guide, as they had reached a section of the country, with a great part
of which long residence had made him familiar. Game was found in great
abundance after they reached the river bottom, off the traveled road,
both upon the Platte and after they crossed over the _divide_ to the
Sweet Water.

Speaking of the gorge where the Platte River issues from the Black
Hills, changing its character abruptly from a mountain stream to a river
of the plain, Fremont says, "I visited this place with _my favorite
man_, Basil Lajeunesse;" and this extraordinary expression, left
unexplained, would lead the casual reader to believe or think that
Carson had lost the confidence of the _official_ leader of the party.

It has seemed to us, in reading Fremont's narrative of this first
expedition to the Rocky Mountains, that in view of some failures to
achieve what was sought, and to avoid what was suffered, Carson's
advice, given with a larger experience, and with less of impetuosity
than that of the young Huguenot's, would, if followed, have secured
different results, both for the comfort of the party, and the benefit of
science; and while those of like temperament were chosen for companions
by Lieutenant Fremont, it detracts nothing from his reputation for
scientific analysis and skill, or for high courage, but only gives to
Carson the deserved meed of praise to say, his was the hand that
steadied the helm, and kept the vessel on her way, at times when,
without his judgment, sagacity, and experience, it must have been
seriously damaged, if not destroyed; and with this balance wheel, a part
of his machinery, the variety of difficulties that might have defeated
the scientific purpose of the expedition, or have made it the last
Fremont would desire, or the Government care to have him undertake, were
avoided; and no one inquired to know the cause.

It often happens that the quiet, simpler offices of life become
imperative, and first duties, to one who feels that all the
qualifications fitting for more honorable place, are possessed by him,
in much larger measure than by the occupant of the higher official
position,--as men are wont to esteem it--and, as there is no explanation
given, nor, by declaration, even the fact stated that this was true now
in respect to Christopher Carson, we shall give no reason, further than
to say, that the care of finding suitable places for camping, of seeing
that the party were all in, and the animals properly cared for, their
saddles in order, and the fastenings secure; of finding game, and
watching to see that the food is properly expended, so that each supply
shall last till it can be replenished; of seeing that the general
property of the party is properly guarded, and a variety of other
matters, which pertain to the success of an enterprise like this, and
without which it must be a failure, could not all be borne by Fremont;
and while he had assigned to each his position in the labor of the camp,
the place of general care-taker, which comes not by appointment, fell
naturally to the lot of Carson; and such supervision was cheerfully
performed, though it brought no other reward than the satisfaction of
knowing that the essential elements of success were not neglected.

Shall we not then deem him worthy of all praise for being content to
occupy such a position? Employed to guide the party, he had hoped to
share the confidence of its leader, but the latter had already other
friends, jealous of his attentions; he had another hunter, jealous of
his own reputation in his profession, and of his knowledge of the
country; then there were two youths in the party, one of whom wished to
be amused, and both to be instructed; and in becoming the general
providence of the party, which is scarcely thought of, because it seems
to come of itself, we find the reason why Fremont's first narrative
shows Carson so little like the brave, bold hunter we have known him
hitherto. We allude to two lads, one a son of the Hon. T. H. Benton, who
accompanied him out during a portion of his first expedition, and for
whom it is evident he made many sacrifices.

Buffalo were numerous, and they saw many tracks of the grizzly bear
among the cherry trees and currant bushes that lined the river banks,
while antelope bounded fitfully before them over the plains.

But the reader is already familiar with this condition of things in the
country, because the hero of our story has been here before, and to
apply the term explorer here to Fremont, and to call this an exploring
expedition, seems farcical, only as we remember that there had not been
yet any written scientific description of this region, so long familiar
to the trappers, and to none more than Carson.

They had now approached the road at what is called the South Pass. The
ascent had been so gradual, that, with all the intimate knowledge
possessed by Carson, who had made this country his home for seventeen
years, they were obliged to watch very closely to find the place at
which they reached the culminating point. This was between two low
hills, rising on either hand fifty or sixty feet.

Approaching it from the mouth of the Sweet Water, a sandy plain, one
hundred and twenty miles long, conducts, by a gradual and regular
ascent, to the summit, about seven thousand feet above the sea; and the
traveler, without being reminded of any change by toilsome ascents,
suddenly finds himself on the waters which flow to the Pacific ocean. By
the route they had traveled, the distance from Fort Laramie was three
hundred and twenty miles, or nine hundred and fifty from the mouth of
the Kansas.

They continued on till they came to a tributary of the Green River, and
then followed the stream up to a lake at its source in the mountains,
and had here a view of extraordinary magnificence and grandeur, beyond
what is seen in any part of the Alps, and here, beside the placid lake,
they left the mules, intending to ascend the mountains on foot, and
measure the altitude of the highest point.

Fremont had wished to make a circuit of a few miles in the mountains,
and visit the sources of the four great streams, the Colorado, the
Columbia, the Missouri, and the Platte, but game was scarce, and his men
were not accustomed to their entirely meat fare, and were discontented.

With fifteen picked men, mounted on the best mules, was commenced the
ascent of the mountains, and amid views of most romantic beauty,
overlooking deep valleys with lakes nestled in them, surrounded by
precipitous ridges, hundreds of feet high, they wound their way up to
the summits of the ridges, to descend again, and plod along the valley
of a little stream on the other side.

For two days they continued upon their mules, through this magnificent
region, when the peak appeared so near, it was decided to leave the
mules beside a little lake, and proceed on foot; and as the day was
warm, some of the party left their coats. But at night they had reached
the limit of the piney region, when they were ten thousand feet above
the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and still the peak rose far above
them, so that they camped without suffering, in a little green ravine,
bordered with plants in bloom, and the next morning continued the
ascent. Carson had led this day, and succeeded in reaching the summit of
a snowy peak, supposed to be the highest, but saw from it the one they
had been seeking, towering eight hundred or a thousand feet above him.
They now descended off the snow, and sent back for mules, and food, and
blankets, and by a blazing fire all slept soundly until morning.

Carson had understood that they had now done with the mountains, and by
directions had gone at day break to the camp, taking with him all but
four or five men, who were to remain with Fremont, and take back the
mules and instruments. But after their departure, the programme was
changed, and now understanding the topography of the country better, the
party left, continued with the mules as far as possible, and then on
foot, over chasms, leaping from point to point of crags, until they
came, with extreme difficulty, in the intense cold and rarified air, to
the height of the crest, and Fremont stood alone upon the pinnacle, and
able to tell the story of this victory of Science to the world. He had
been sick the day before, and Carson could not urge the prosecution of
the enterprise, to reach the highest point, when the leader of the
expedition was too ill to climb the summit, and therefore had not
objected to the arrangement of returning to the camp.

But we have nothing more to say. The reader of the story, as Fremont
tells it, wishes there were evidences of higher magnanimity, which are
wanting. Carson finds no fault, seems to notice none. He performed
faithfully the duty assigned to him, utters no complaint, but is content
in carrying out a subordinate's first obligation, that of obeying


Fremont succeeded, but not without much danger and suffering, in
reaching the highest peak of the Rocky Mountains, and waved over it his
country's flag, in triumph. The return trip to Fort Laramie was not
marked by any incident of special note, and Carson's services being no
longer required, he left his commander here, and set out for New Mexico.
In 1843, he married a Spanish lady, and his time was occasionally
employed by Messrs. Bent and St. Vrain, his old and tried friends.

While thus engaged at Bent's Fort, he learned that his old commander and
friend had passed two days before, on another exploring expedition, and
being naturally anxious to see again one to whom he was so strongly
attached, he started on his trail, and after following it for seventy
miles, came up with him. The meeting was mutually pleasing, but resulted
quite contrary to Carson's anticipations, for, instead of merely
meeting and parting, Fremont, anxious to regain the services of one
whose experience, judgment, and courage, had been so well tried,
persuaded him to join this second expedition, and again we find him
launched as guide and hunter.

Carson was at once despatched to the fort with directions to procure a
supply of mules which the party much needed, and to meet him with the
animals at St. Vrain's Fort. This was accomplished to Fremont's entire
satisfaction. The object of this second exploration was to connect the
survey of the previous year with those of Commander Wilkes on the
Pacific coast, but Fremont's first destination was the Great Salt Lake,
which has since become so famous in the annals of our country.

Fremont's description of this journey, and of his passage across the
lake in a frail India rubber boat, which threatened at every moment
destruction to the entire party, is so true to life, and so highly
interesting, we quote it entire. The party reached, on the 21st of
August, the Bear River, which was the principal tributary of the lake,
and from this point we quote Fremont's words:

"We were now entering a region, which for us, possessed a strange and
extraordinary interest. We were upon the waters of the famous lake
which forms a salient point among the remarkable geographical features
of the country, and around which the vague and superstitious accounts of
the trappers had thrown a delightful obscurity, which we anticipated
pleasure in dispelling, but which, in the meantime, left a crowded field
for the exercise of our imagination.

"In our occasional conversations with the few old hunters who had
visited the region, it had been a subject of frequent speculation; and
the wonders which they related were not the less agreeable because they
were highly exaggerated and impossible.

"Hitherto this lake had been seen only by trappers, who were wandering
through the country in search of new beaver streams, caring very little
for geography; its islands had never been visited; and none were to be
found who had entirely made the circuit of its shores, and no
instrumental observations, or geographical survey of any description,
had ever been made anywhere in the neighboring region. It was generally
supposed that it had no visible outlet; but, among the trappers,
including those in my own camp, were many who believed that somewhere on
its surface was a terrible whirlpool, through which its waters found
their way to the ocean by some subterranean communication. All these
things had been made a frequent subject of discussion in our desultory
conversations around the fires at night; and my own mind had become
tolerably well filled with their indefinite pictures, and insensibly
colored with their romantic descriptions, which, in the pleasure of
excitement, I was well disposed to believe, and half expected to

"In about six miles' travel from our encampment, we reached one of the
points in our journey to which we had always looked forward with great
interest--the famous Beer Springs, which, on account of the effervescing
gas and acid taste, had received their name from the voyageurs and
trappers of the country, who, in the midst of their rude and hard lives,
are fond of finding some fancied resemblance to the luxuries they rarely
have the good fortune to enjoy.

"Although somewhat disappointed in the expectations which various
descriptions had led me to form of unusual beauty of situation and
scenery, I found it altogether a place of very great interest; and a
traveler for the first time in a volcanic region remains in a constant
excitement, and at every step is arrested by something remarkable and
new. There is a confusion of interesting objects gathered together in a
small space. Around the place of encampment the Beer Springs were
numerous; but, as far as we could ascertain, were entirely confined to
that locality in the bottom. In the bed of the river, in front, for a
space of several hundred yards, they were very abundant; the
effervescing gas rising up and agitating the water in countless bubbling
columns. In the vicinity round about were numerous springs of an
entirely different and equally marked mineral character. In a rather
picturesque spot, about 1,300 yards below our encampment and immediately
on the river bank, is the most remarkable spring of the place. In an
opening on the rock, a white column of scattered water is thrown up, in
form like a _jet-d'eau_, to a variable height of about three feet, and,
though it is maintained in a constant supply, its greatest height is
attained only at regular intervals, according to the action of the force
below. It is accompanied by a subterranean noise, which, together with
the motion of the water, makes very much the impression of a steamboat
in motion; and, without knowing that it had been already previously so
called, we gave to it the name of the Steamboat Spring. The rock through
which it is forced is slightly raised in a convex manner, and gathered
at the opening into an urn-mouthed form, and is evidently formed by
continued deposition from the water, and colored bright red by oxide of

"It is a hot spring, and the water has a pungent, disagreeable metallic
taste, leaving a burning effect on the tongue. Within perhaps two yards
of the _jet-d'eau_, is a small hole of about an inch in diameter,
through which, at regular intervals, escapes a blast of hot air with a
light wreath of smoke, accompanied by a regular noise.

"As they approached the lake, they passed over a country of bold and
striking scenery, and through several 'gates,' as they called certain
narrow valleys. The 'standing rock' is a huge column, occupying the
centre of one of these passes. It fell from a height of perhaps 3,000
feet, and happened to remain in its present upright position.

"At last, on the 6th of September, the object for which their eyes had
long been straining was brought to view.

"_Sept. 6._--This time we reached the butte without any difficulty; and,
ascending to the summit, immediately at our feet beheld the object of
our anxious search, the waters of the Inland Sea, stretching in still
and solitary grandeur far beyond the limit of our vision. It was one of
the great points of the exploration; and as we looked eagerly over the
lake in the first emotions of excited pleasure, I am doubtful if the
followers of Balboa felt more enthusiasm when, from the heights of the
Andes, they saw for the first time the great Western Ocean. It was
certainly a magnificent object, and a noble _terminus_ to this part of
our expedition; and to travelers so long shut up among mountain ranges,
a sudden view over the expanse of silent waters had in it something
sublime. Several large islands raised their high rocky heads out of the
waves; but whether or not they were timbered was still left to our
imagination, as the distance was too great to determine if the dark hues
upon them were woodland or naked rock. During the day the clouds had
been gathering black over the mountains to the westward, and while we
were looking, a storm burst down with sudden fury upon the lake, and
entirely hid the islands from our view.

"On the edge of the stream a favorable spot was selected in a grove, and
felling the timber, we made a strong _corral_, or horse-pen, for the
animals, and a little fort for the people who were to remain. We were
now probably in the country of the Utah Indians, though none reside upon
the lake. The India-rubber boat was repaired with prepared cloth and
gum, and filled with air, in readiness for the next day.

"The provisions which Carson had brought with him being now exhausted,
and our stock reduced to a small quantity of roots, I determined to
retain with me only a sufficient number of men for the execution of our
design; and accordingly seven were sent back to Fort Hall, under the
guidance of François Lajeunesse, who, having been for many years a
trapper in the country, was an experienced mountaineer.

"We formed now but a small family. With Mr. Preuss and myself, Carson,
Bernier, and Basil Lajeunesse had been selected for the boat
expedition--the first ever attempted on this interior sea; and Badau,
with Derosier, and Jacob (the colored man), were to be left in charge of
the camp. We were favored with most delightful weather. To-night there
was a brilliant sunset of golden orange and green, which left the
western sky clear and beautifully pure; but clouds in the east made me
lose an occultation. The summer frogs were singing around us, and the
evening was very pleasant, with a temperature of 60°--a night of a more
southern autumn. For our supper, we had _yampah_, the most agreeably
flavored of the roots, seasoned by a small fat duck, which had come in
the way of Jacob's rifle. Around our fire to-night were many
speculations on what to-morrow would bring forth; and in our busy
conjectures we fancied that we should find every one of the large
islands a tangled wilderness of trees and shrubbery, teeming with game
of every description that the neighboring region afforded, and which the
foot of a white man or Indian had never violated. Frequently, during the
day, clouds had rested on the summits of their lofty mountains, and we
believed that we should find clear streams and springs of fresh water;
and we indulged in anticipations of the luxurious repasts with which we
were to indemnify ourselves for past privations. Neither, in our
discussions, were the whirlpool and other mysterious dangers forgotten,
which Indian and hunters' stories attributed to this unexplored lake.
The men had discovered that, instead of being strongly sewed, (like that
of the preceding year, which had so triumphantly rode the cañons of the
Upper Great Platte,) our present boat was only pasted together in a very
insecure manner, the maker having been allowed so little time in the
construction that he was obliged to crowd the labor of two months into
several days. The insecurity of the boat was sensibly felt by us; and
mingled with the enthusiasm and excitement that we all felt at the
prospect of an undertaking which had never before been accomplished, was
a certain impression of danger, sufficient to give a serious character
to our conversation. The momentary view which had been had of the lake
the day before, its great extent, and rugged islands, dimly seen amidst
the dark waters in the obscurity of the sudden storm, were well
calculated to heighten the idea of undefined danger with which the lake
was generally associated.

"_Sept. 8._--A calm, clear day, with a sunrise temperature of 41°. In
view of our present enterprise, a part of the equipment of the boat had
been made to consist of three air-tight bags, about three feet long, and
capable each of containing five gallons. These had been filled with
water the night before, and were now placed in the boat, with our
blankets and instruments, consisting of a sextant, telescope,
spy-glass, thermometer, and barometer.

"In the course of the morning we discovered that two of the cylinders
leaked so much as to require one man constantly at the bellows, to keep
them sufficiently full of air to support the boat. Although we had made
a very early start, we loitered so much on the way--stopping every now
and then, and floating silently along, to get a shot at a goose or a
duck--that it was late in the day when we reached the outlet. The river
here divided into several branches, filled with fluvials, and so very
shallow that it was with difficulty we could get the boat along, being
obliged to get out and wade. We encamped on a low point among rushes and
young willows, where there was a quantity of driftwood, which served for
our fires. The evening was mild and clear; we made a pleasant bed of the
young willows; and geese and ducks enough had been killed for an
abundant supper at night, and for breakfast next morning. The stillness
of the night was enlivened by millions of water-fowl.

"_Sept. 9._--The day was clear and calm; the thermometer at sunrise at
49°. As is usual with the trappers on the eve of any enterprise, our
people had made dreams, and theirs happened to be a bad one--one which
always preceded evil--and consequently they looked very gloomy this
morning; but we hurried through our breakfast, in order to make an early
start, and have all the day before us for our adventure. The channel in
a short distance became so shallow that our navigation was at an end,
being merely a sheet of soft mud, with a few inches of water, and
sometimes none at all, forming the low-water shore of the lake. All this
place was absolutely covered with flocks of screaming plover. We took
off our clothes, and, getting overboard, commenced dragging the
boat--making, by this operation, a very curious trail, and a very
disagreeable smell in stirring up the mud, as we sank above the knee at
every step. The water here was still fresh, with only an insipid and
disagreeable taste, probably derived from the bed of fetid mud. After
proceeding in this way about a mile, we came to a small black ridge on
the bottom, beyond which the water became suddenly salt, beginning
gradually to deepen, and the bottom was sandy and firm. It was a
remarkable division, separating the fresh water of the rivers from the
briny water of the lake, which was entirely _saturated_ with common
salt. Pushing our little vessel across the narrow boundary, we sprang
on board, and at length were afloat on the waters of the unknown sea.

"We did not steer for the mountainous islands, but directed our course
towards a lower one, which it had been decided we should first visit,
the summit of which was formed like the crater at the upper end of Bear
River valley. So long as we could touch the bottom with our paddles, we
were very gay; but gradually, as the water deepened, we became more
still in our frail batteau of gum cloth distended with air, and with
pasted seams. Although the day was very calm, there was a considerable
swell on the lake; and there were white patches of foam on the surface,
which were slowly moving to the southward, indicating the set of a
current in that direction, and recalling the recollection of the
whirlpool stories. The water continued to deepen as we advanced; the
lake becoming almost transparently clear, of an extremely beautiful
bright green color; and the spray, which was thrown into the boat and
over our clothes, was directly converted into a crust of common salt,
which covered also our hands and arms. 'Captain,' said Carson, who for
some time had been looking suspiciously at some whitening appearances
outside the nearest islands, 'what are those yonder?--won't you just
take a look with the glass?' We ceased paddling for a moment, and found
them to be the caps of the waves that were beginning to break under the
force of a strong breeze that was coming up the lake. The form of the
boat seemed to be an admirable one, and it rode on the waves like a
water bird; but, at the same time, it was extremely slow in its
progress. When we were a little more than half away across the reach,
two of the divisions between the cylinders gave way, and it required the
constant use of the bellows to keep in a sufficient quantity of air. For
a long time we scarcely seemed to approach our island, but gradually we
worked across the rougher sea of the open channel, into the smoother
water under the lee of the island, and began to discover that what we
took for a long row of pelicans, ranged on the beach, were only low
cliffs whitened with salt by the spray of the waves; and about noon we
reached the shore, the transparency of the water enabling us to see the
bottom at a considerable depth.

"The cliffs and masses of rock along the shore were whitened by an
incrustation of salt where the waves dashed up against them; and the
evaporating water, which had been left in holes and hollows on the
surface of the rocks, was covered with a crust of salt about one-eighth
of an inch in thickness.

"Carrying with us the barometer and other instruments, in the afternoon
we ascended to the highest point of the island--a bare, rocky peak, 800
feet above the lake. Standing on the summit, we enjoyed an extended view
of the lake, inclosed in a basin of rugged mountains, which sometimes
left marshy flats and extensive bottoms between them and the shore, and
in other places came directly down into the water with bold and
precipitous bluffs.

"As we looked over the vast expanse of water spread out beneath us, and
strained our eyes along the silent shores over which hung so much doubt
and uncertainty, and which were so full of interest to us, I could
hardly repress the almost irresistible desire to continue our
exploration; but the lengthening snow on the mountains 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 remain satisfied for the present with what we had been able to add
to the unknown geography of the region. We felt pleasure also in
remembering that we were the first who, in the traditionary annals of
the country, had visited the islands, and broken, with the cheerful
sound of human voices, the long solitude of the place.

"I accidentally left on the summit the brass cover to the object end of
my spy-glass; and as it will probably remain there undisturbed by
Indians, it will furnish matter of speculation to some future traveler.
In our excursions about the island, we did not meet with any kind of
animal; a magpie, and another larger bird, probably attracted by the
smoke of our fire, paid us a visit from the shore, and were the only
living things seen during our stay. The rock constituting the cliffs
along the shore where we were encamped, is a talcous rock, or steatite,
with brown spar.

"At sunset, the temperature was 70°. We had arrived just in time to
obtain a meridian altitude of the sun, and other observations were
obtained this evening, which place our camp in latitude 41° 102′ 42″,
and longitude 112° 21′ 05″ from Greenwich. From a discussion of the
barometrical observations made during our stay on the shores of the
lake, we have adopted 4,200 feet for its elevation above the Gulf of
Mexico. In the first disappointment we felt from the dissipation of our
dream of the fertile islands, I called this Disappointment Island.

"Out of the driftwood, 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 on the shore, making our
Island tremble. I had not expected in our inland journey to hear the
roar of an ocean surf; and 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

"In the morning, the surf was breaking heavily on the shore, and we were
up early. The lake was dark and agitated, and we hurried through our
scanty breakfast, and embarked--having first filled one of the buckets
with water from which it was intended to make salt. The sun had risen by
the time we were ready to start; and it was blowing a strong gale of
wind, almost directly off the shore, and raising a considerable sea, in
which our boat strained very much. It roughened as we got away from the
island, and it required all the efforts of the men to make any head
against the wind and sea; the gale rising with the sun; and there was
danger of being blown into one of the open reaches beyond the island. At
the distance of half a mile from the beach, the depth of water was
sixteen feet, with a clay bottom; but, as the working of the boat was
very severe labor, and during the operation of sounding, it was
necessary to cease paddling, during which, the boat lost considerable
way, I was unwilling to discourage the men, and reluctantly gave up my
intention of ascertaining the depth and character of the bed. There was
a general shout in the boat when we found ourselves in one fathom, and
we soon after landed on a low point of mud, where we unloaded the boat,
and carried the baggage to firmer ground."

Roughly evaporated over the fire, the five gallons of water from this
lake yielded fourteen pints of very fine-grained and very white salt, of
which the whole lake may be regarded as a saturated solution.

On the 12th they resumed their journey, returning by the same route, and
at night had a supper of sea gulls, which Carson killed near the lake.

The next day they continued up the river, hunger making them very quiet
and peaceable; and there was rarely an oath to be heard in the camp--not
even a solitary _enfant de garce_. It was time for the men with
an expected supply of provisions from Fitzpatrick to be in the
neighborhood; and the gun was fired at evening, to give notice of their
locality, but met with no response.

They killed to-day a fat young horse, purchased from the Indians, and
were very soon restored to gaiety and good humor. Fremont and Mr.
Preuss, not having yet overcome the prejudices of civilization, did not
partake, preferring to turn in supperless.

The large number of emigrants constantly encamping here, had driven the
game into the mountains, so that not an elk or antelope was seen upon
the route; but an antelope was purchased from an Indian, for a little
powder and some ball, and they camped early to enjoy an abundant supper;
which, while not yet prepared, was interrupted by the arrival of a
trapper, who startled and rejoiced all by announcing the glad news, that
Mr. Fitzpatrick was in camp a little way from them, with a plentiful
supply of provisions, flour, rice, dried meat, and even butter.


The difficulty, in view of the approaching winter season, of supporting
a large party, determined Fremont to send back a number of the men who
had become satisfied that they were not fitted for the laborious service
and frequent privation to which they were necessarily exposed, and which
there was reason to believe would become more severe in the further
extension of the voyage. They were accordingly called together, and
after being fully informed as to the nature of the duties imposed upon
them, and the hardships they would have to undergo, eleven of the party
consented to abandon Fremont, and return; but Carson was not one of

Taking leave of the homeward party, they resumed their journey down the
valley, the weather being very cold, and the rain coming in hard gusts,
which the wind blew directly in their faces. They forded the Portneuf in
a storm of rain, the water in the river being frequently up to the

Fremont in his official report thus enumerates some of the difficulties
and sufferings the party had to encounter:

"_September 27._--It was now no longer possible, as in our previous
journey, to travel regularly every day, and find at any moment a
convenient place for repose at noon, or a camp at night; but the halting
places were now generally fixed along the road, by the nature of the
country, at places where, with water, there was a little scanty grass.
Since leaving the American falls, the road had frequently been very bad;
the many short, steep ascents exhausting the strength of our worn out
animals, requiring always at such places the assistance of the men to
get up each cart, one by one; and our progress with twelve or fourteen
wheeled carriages, though light and made for the purpose, in such a
rocky country, was extremely slow.

"Carson had met here three or four buffalo bulls, two of which were
killed. They were among the pioneers which had made the experiment of
colonizing in the valley of the Columbia.

"Opposite to the encampment, a subterranean river bursts out directly
from the face of the escarpment, and falls in white foam to the river
below. The main river is enclosed with mural precipices, which form its
characteristic feature, along a great portion of its course. A
melancholy and strange-looking country--one of fracture, and violence,
and fire.

"We had brought with us, when we separated from the camp, a large gaunt
ox, in appearance very poor; but, being killed to-night, to the great
joy of the people, he was found to be remarkably fat. As usual at such
occurrences, the evening was devoted to gaiety and feasting; abundant
fare now made an epoch among us; and in this laborious life, in such a
country as this, our men had but little else to enjoy."

On arriving at the ford where the road crosses to the right bank of
Snake River, an Indian was hired to conduct them through the ford, which
proved impracticable; the water sweeping away the howitzer and nearly
drowning the mules. Fortunately they had a resource in a boat, which was
filled with air and launched; and at seven o'clock were safely encamped
on the opposite bank, the animals swimming across, and the carriage,
howitzer, and baggage of the camp being carried over in the boat.

It was while at Fort Boise where Fremont first met Mons. Payette, an
employee of the Hudson Bay Co., that he came across the "Fish-eating
Indians," a class lower if possible in the scale of humanity than the
"Diggers." He says:

"Many little accounts and scattered histories, together with an
acquaintance which I gradually acquired of their modes of life, had left
the aboriginal inhabitants of this vast region pictured in my mind as a
race of people whose great and constant occupation was the means of
procuring a subsistence.

"While the summer weather and the salmon lasted, they lived contentedly
and happily, scattered along the different streams where the fish
were to be found; and as soon as the winter snows began to fall,
little smokes would be seen rising among the mountains, where they
would be found in miserable groups, starving out the winter; and
sometimes, according to the general belief, reduced to the horror of
cannibalism--the strong, of course, preying on the weak. Certain it is,
they are driven to an extremity for food, and eat every insect, and
every creeping thing, however loathsome and repulsive. Snails, lizards,
ants--all are devoured with the readiness and greediness of mere

The remainder of the overland journey, until they reached Nez Percé, one
of the trading establishments of the Hudson Bay Company, was not marked
by any incident bringing Carson into special notice.

Having now completed the connection of his explorations with those of
Commander Wilkes, and which was the limit of his instructions, Fremont
commenced preparations for his return, Carson being left at the _Dalles_
with directions to occupy the people in making pack-saddles, and
refitting the equippage; while Fremont continued his journey to the
Mission, a few miles down the Columbia River, where he passed a few days
in comparative luxury.

The few days of rest, added to an abundance of wholesome food, had so
far recruited the party, that they were soon prepared to encounter and
conquer the difficulties of this overland journey in mid-winter. Three
principal objects were indicated by Fremont for exploration and
research, and which, despite the obstacles which the season must so
surely interpose, he had determined to visit.

The first of these points was the _Tlamath_ Lake, on the table-land
between the head of Fall River, which comes to the Columbia, and the
Sacramento, which goes to the bay of San Francisco; and from which lake
a river of the same name makes its way westwardly direct to the ocean.

From this lake their course was intended to be about southeast, to a
reported lake called Mary's, at some days' journey in the Great Basin;
and thence, still on southeast, to the reputed _Buenaventura_ River,
which has had a place in so many maps, and countenanced the belief of
the existence of a great river flowing from the Rocky Mountains to the
Bay of San Francisco. From the Buenaventura, the next point was intended
to be in that section of the Rocky Mountains which includes the heads of
Arkansas River, and of the opposite waters of the Californian Gulf; and
thence down the Arkansas to Bent's Fort, and home. This was the
projected line of return--a great part of it absolutely new to
geographical, botanical, and geological science--and the subject of
reports in relation to lakes, rivers, deserts, and savages, hardly above
the condition of mere wild animals, which inflamed desire to know what
this _terra incognita_ really contained.

It was a serious enterprise at the commencement of winter to undertake
the traverse of such a region, and with a party consisting only of
twenty-five persons, and they of many nations--American, French, German,
Canadian, Indian, and colored--and most of them young, several being
under twenty-one years of age. All knew that a strange country was to be
explored, and dangers and hardships to be encountered; but no one
blenched at the prospect. On the contrary, courage and confidence
animated the whole party. Cheerfulness, readiness, subordination, prompt
obedience, characterized all; nor did any extremity of peril and
privation, to which they were afterwards exposed, ever belie, or
derogate from, the fine spirit of this brave and generous commencement.

For the support of the party, he had provided at Vancouver a supply of
provisions for not less than three months, consisting principally of
flour, peas, and tallow--the latter being used in cooking; and, in
addition to this, they had purchased at the mission, some California
cattle, which were to be driven on the hoof. They had one hundred and
four mules and horses--part of the latter procured from the Indians
about the mission; and for the sustenance of which, their reliance was
upon the grass which might be found, and the soft porous wood, which was
to be substituted when there was no grass.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, with Mr. Talbot and the remainder of the party, arrived
on the 21st; and the camp was now closely engaged in the labor of
preparation. Mr. Perkins succeeded in obtaining as a guide, to the
Tlamath Lake, two Indians--one of whom had been there, and bore the
marks of several wounds he had received from some of the Indians in the

Tlamath Lake, however, on examination, proved to be simply a shallow
basin, which, for a short period at the time of melting snows, is
covered with water from the neighboring mountains; but this probably
soon runs off, and leaves for the remainder of the year a green
savannah, through the midst of which, the river Tlamath, which flows to
the ocean, winds its way to the outlet on the southwestern side.

After leaving Tlamath Lake the party headed for Mary's Lake, which,
however, after incredible sufferings and hardships, they failed to
discover, but they found one which was appropriately christened "Pyramid
Lake," and here the record of toils, dangers and sufferings, undergone
by the whole party, can only be told in the language of him, who
cheerfully toiled and suffered with those under his command, and it is
not too much to say, that with the exception of the "Strain expedition,"
across the Isthmus of Darien, no party of men have ever lived to narrate
such sad experiences. We therefore let Fremont, in his own modest way,
tell the tale of his own and his companions' sufferings.


"_January 3._--A fog, so dense that we could not see a hundred yards,
covered the country, and the men that were sent out after the horses
were bewildered and lost; and we were consequently detained at camp
until late in the day. Our situation had now become a serious one. We
had reached and run over the position where, according to the best maps
in my possession, we should have found Mary's Lake or river. We were
evidently on the verge of the desert which had been reported to us; and
the appearance of the country was so forbidding, that I was afraid to
enter it, and determined to bear away to the southward, keeping close
along the mountains, in the full expectation of reaching the
Buenaventura River. This morning I put every man in the camp on
foot--myself, of course, among the rest--and in this manner lightened by
distribution the loads of the animals.

"_January 4._--The fog to-day was still more dense, and the people again
were bewildered. We traveled a few miles around the western point of the
ridge, and encamped where there were a few tufts of grass, but no water.
Our animals now were in a very alarming state, and there was increasing
anxiety in the camp.

"_January 5._--Same dense fog continued, and one of the mules died in
camp this morning. We moved to a place where there was a little better
grass, about two miles distant. Taplin, one of our best men, who had
gone out on a scouting excursion, ascended a mountain near by, and to
his great surprise emerged into a region of bright sunshine, in which
the upper parts of the mountain were glowing, while below all was
obscured in the darkest fog.

"_January 6._--The fog continued the same, and with Mr. Preuss and
Carson, I ascended the mountain, to sketch the leading features of the
country, as some indication of our future route, while Mr. Fitzpatrick
explored the country below. In a very short distance we had ascended
above the mist, but the view obtained was not very gratifying. The fog
had partially cleared off from below when we reached the summit; and in
the south-west corner of a basin communicating with that in which we
had encamped, we saw a lofty column of smoke, 16 miles distant,
indicating the presence of hot springs. There, also, appeared to be the
outlet of those draining channels of the country; and, as such places
afforded always more or less grass, I determined to steer in that
direction. The ridge we had ascended appeared to be composed of
fragments of white granite. We saw here traces of sheep and antelope.

"Entering the neighboring valley, and crossing the bed of another lake,
after a hard day's travel over ground of yielding mud and sand, we
reached the springs, where we found an abundance of grass, which, though
only tolerably good, made this place, with reference to the past, a
refreshing and agreeable spot.

"This is the most extraordinary locality of hot springs we had met
during the journey. The basin of the largest one has a circumference of
several hundred feet; but there is at one extremity a circular space of
about fifteen feet in diameter, entirely occupied by the boiling water.
It boils up at irregular intervals, and with much noise. The water is
clear, and the spring deep; a pole about sixteen feet long was easily
immersed in the centre, but we had no means of forming a good idea of
the depth.

"Taking with me Godey and Carson, I made to-day a thorough exploration
of the neighboring valleys, and found in a ravine in the bordering
mountains a good camping place, where was water in springs, and a
sufficient quantity of grass for a night. Overshadowing the springs were
some trees of the sweet cotton-wood, which, after a long interval of
absence, we saw again with pleasure, regarding them as harbingers of a
better country. To us, they were eloquent of green prairies and buffalo.
We found here a broad and plainly marked trail, on which there were
tracks of horses, and we appeared to have regained one of the
thoroughfares which pass by the watering places of the country. On the
western mountains of the valley, with which this of the boiling spring
communicates, we remarked scattered cedars--probably an indication that
we were on the borders of the timbered region extending to the Pacific.
We reached the camp at sunset, after a day's ride of about forty miles.

"_January 10._--We continued our reconnoissance ahead, pursuing a south
direction in the basin along the ridge; the camp following slowly
after. On a large trail there is never any doubt of finding suitable
places for encampments. We reached the end of the basin, where we found,
in a hollow of the mountain which enclosed it, an abundance of good
bunch grass. Leaving a signal for the party to encamp, we continued our
way up the hollow, intending to see what lay beyond the mountain. The
hollow was several miles long, forming a good pass, the snow deepening
to about a foot as we neared the summit. Beyond, a defile between the
mountains descended rapidly about two thousand feet; and, filling up all
the lower space, was a sheet of green water, some twenty miles broad. It
broke upon our eyes like the ocean. The neighboring peaks rose high
above us, and we ascended one of them to obtain a better view. The waves
were curling in the breeze, and their dark-green color showed it to be a
body of deep water. For a long time we sat enjoying the view, for we had
become fatigued with mountains, and the free expanse of moving waves was
very grateful. It was set like a gem in the mountains, which, from our
position, seemed to enclose it almost entirely. At the western end it
communicated with the line of basins we had left a few days since; and
on the opposite side it swept a ridge of snowy mountains, the foot of
the great Sierra. Its position at first inclined us to believe it Mary's
Lake, but the rugged mountains were so entirely discordant with
descriptions of its low rushy shores and open country, that we concluded
it some unknown body of water; which it afterwards proved to be.

"We saw before us, in descending from the pass, a great continuous
range, along which stretched the valley of the river; the lower parts
steep, and dark with pines, while above it was hidden in clouds of snow.
This, we felt instantly satisfied was the central ridge of the Sierra
Nevada, the great California mountain, which only now intervened between
us and the waters of the bay. We had made a forced march of 26 miles,
and three mules had given out on the road. Up to this point, with the
exception of two stolen by Indians, we had lost none of the horses which
had been brought from the Columbia river, and a number of these were
still strong and in tolerably good order. We had now sixty-seven animals
in the band.

"We had scarcely lighted our fires, when the camp was crowded with
nearly naked Indians. There were two who appeared particularly
intelligent--one, a somewhat old man. He told me that, before the snows
fell, it was six sleeps to the place where the whites lived, but that
now it was impossible to cross the mountain on account of the deep snow;
and showing us, as the others had done, that it was over our heads, he
urged us strongly to follow the course of the river, which he said would
conduct us to a lake in which there were many large fish. There, he
said, were many people; there was no snow on the ground; and we might
remain there until spring. From their descriptions, we were enabled
to judge that we had encamped on the upper water of the Salmon-trout
River. It is hardly necessary to say that our communication was only by
signs, as we understood nothing of their language; but they spoke,
notwithstanding, rapidly and vehemently, explaining what they considered
the folly of our intentions, and urging us to go down to the lake.
_Tah-ve_, a word signifying snow, we very soon learned to know, from its
frequent repetition. I told him that the men and the horses were strong,
and that we would break a road through the snow; and spreading before
him our bales of scarlet cloth, and trinkets, showed him what we would
give for a guide. It was necessary to obtain one, if possible; for I
had determined here to attempt the passage of the mountain. Pulling a
bunch of grass from the ground, after a short discussion among
themselves, the old man made us comprehend, that if we could break
through the snow, at the end of three days we would come down upon
grass, which he showed us would be about six inches high, and where the
ground was entirely free. So far he said he had been in hunting for elk;
but beyond that (and he closed his eyes) he had seen nothing; but there
was one among them who had been to the whites, and, going out of the
lodge, he returned with a young man of very intelligent appearance.
Here, said he, is a young man who has seen the whites with his own eyes;
and he swore, first by the sky, and then by the ground, that what he
said was true. With a large present of goods, we prevailed upon this
young man to be our guide, and he acquired among us the name Mélo--a
word signifying friend, which they used very frequently. He was thinly
clad, and nearly barefoot; his moccasins being about worn out. We gave
him skins to make a new pair, and to enable him to perform his
undertaking to us. The Indians remained in camp during the night, and we
kept the guide and two others to sleep in the lodge with us--Carson
lying across the door, and having made them comprehend the use of our

Fremont here, after a consultation with some Indians who came into his
camp, made up his mind to attempt the passage of the mountains at every
hazard. He therefore, to quote his own words, called his men together,
and "reminded them of the beautiful valley of the Sacramento, with which
they were familiar from the descriptions of Carson, who had been there
some fifteen years ago, and who, in our late privations, had delighted
us in speaking of its rich pastures and abounding game, and drew a vivid
contrast between its summer climate, less than a hundred miles distant,
and the falling snow around us. I informed them (and long experience had
given them confidence in my observations and good instruments) that
almost directly west, and only about seventy miles distant, was the
great farming establishment of Captain Sutter--a gentleman who had
formerly lived in Missouri, and, emigrating to this country, had become
the possessor of a principality. I assured them that, from the heights
of the mountain before us, we should doubtless see the valley of the
Sacramento River, and with one effort place ourselves again in the
midst of plenty. The people received this decision with the cheerful
obedience which had always characterized them; and the day was
immediately devoted to the preparations necessary to enable us to carry
it into effect. Leggins, moccasins, clothing--all were put into the best
state to resist the cold. Our guide was not neglected. Extremity of
suffering might make him desert; we therefore did the best we could for
him. Leggins, moccasins, some articles of clothing, and a large green
blanket, in addition to the blue and scarlet cloth, were lavished upon
him, and to his great and evident contentment. He arrayed himself in all
his colors; and, clad in green, blue, and scarlet, he made a gay-looking
Indian; and, with his various presents, was probably richer and better
clothed than any of his tribe had ever been before.

"I have already said that our provisions were very low; we had neither
tallow nor grease of any kind remaining, and the want of salt became one
of our greatest privations. The poor dog which had been found in the
Bear River valley, and which had been a _compagnon de voyage_ ever
since, had now become fat, and the mess to which it belonged requested
permission to kill it. Leave was granted. Spread out on the snow, the
meat looked very good; and it made a strengthening meal for the greater
part of the camp.

"The people were unusually silent; for every man knew that our
enterprise was hazardous, and the issue doubtful.

"The snow deepened rapidly, and it soon became necessary to break a
road. For this service, a party of ten was formed, mounted on the
strongest horses; each man in succession opening the road on foot, or on
horseback, until himself and his horse became fatigued, when he stepped
aside; and, the remaining number passing ahead, he took his station in
the rear.

"The camp had been all the day occupied in endeavoring to ascend the
hill, but only the best horses had succeeded; the animals, generally,
not having sufficient strength to bring themselves up without the packs;
and all the line of road between this and the springs was strewed with
camp stores and equipage, and horses floundering in snow. I therefore
immediately encamped on the ground with my own mess, which was in
advance, and directed Mr. Fitzpatrick to encamp at the springs, and send
all the animals, in charge of Tabeau, with a strong guard, back to the
place where they had been pastured the night before. Here was a small
spot of level ground, protected on one side by the mountain, and on the
other sheltered by a little ridge of rock. It was an open grove of
pines, which assimilated in size to the grandeur of the mountain, being
frequently six feet in diameter.

"To-night we had no shelter, but we made a large fire around the trunk
of one of the huge pines; and covering the snow with small boughs, on
which we spread our blankets, soon made ourselves comfortable. The night
was very bright and clear, though the thermometer was only at 10°. A
strong wind which sprang up at sundown, made it intensely cold; and this
was one of the bitterest nights during the journey.

"Two Indians joined our party here; and one of them, an old man,
immediately began to harangue us, saying that ourselves and animals
would perish in the snow; and that, if we would go back, he would show
us another and a better way across the mountain. He spoke in a very loud
voice, and there was a singular repetition of phrases and arrangement of
words, which rendered his speech striking, and not unmusical.

"We had now begun to understand some words, and, with the aid of signs,
easily comprehended the old man's simple ideas. 'Rock upon rock--rock
upon rock--snow upon snow--snow upon snow,' said he; 'even if you get
over the snow, you will not be able to get down from the mountains.' He
made us the sign of precipices, and showed us how the feet of the horses
would slip, and throw them off from the narrow trails which led along
their sides. Our Chinook, who comprehended even more readily than
ourselves, and believed our situation hopeless, covered his head with
his blanket, and began to weep and lament. 'I wanted to see the whites,'
said he; 'I came away from my own people to see the whites, and I
wouldn't care to die among them; but here'--and he looked around into
the cold night and gloomy forest, and, drawing his blanket over his
head, began again to lament.

"Seated around the tree, the fire illuminating the rocks and the tall
bolls of the pines round about, and the old Indian haranguing, we
presented a group of very serious faces.

"_February 5._--The night had been too cold to sleep, and we were up
very early. Our guide was standing by the fire with all his finery on;
and seeing him shiver in the cold, I threw on his shoulders one of my
blankets. We missed him a few minutes afterwards, and never saw him
again. He had deserted. His bad faith and treachery were in perfect
keeping with the estimate of Indian character, which a long intercourse
with this people had gradually forced upon my mind.

"While a portion of the camp were occupied in bringing up the baggage to
this point, the remainder were busied in making sledges and snow shoes.
I had determined to explore the mountain ahead, and the sledges were to
be used in transporting the baggage.

"Crossing the open basin, in a march of about ten miles we reached the
top of one of the peaks, to the left of the pass indicated by our guide.
Far below us, dimmed by the distance, was a large, snowless valley,
bounded on the western side, at the distance of about a hundred miles,
by a low range of mountains, which Carson recognized with delight as the
mountains bordering the coast. 'There,' said he, 'is the little
mountain--it is fifteen years ago since I saw it; but I am just as sure
as if I had seen it yesterday.' Between us, then, and this low coast
range, was the valley of the Sacramento; and no one who had not
accompanied us through the incidents of our life for the last few
months, could realize the delight with which at last we looked down
upon it. At the distance of apparently thirty miles beyond us were
distinguished spots of prairie; and a dark line, which could be traced
with the glass, was imagined to be the course of the river; but we were
evidently at a great height above the valley, and between us and the
plains extended miles of snowy fields and broken ridges of pine-covered

"It was late in the day when we turned towards the camp; and it grew
rapidly cold as it drew towards night. One of the men became fatigued,
and his feet began to freeze, and building a fire in the trunk of a dry
old cedar, Mr. Fitzpatrick remained with him until his clothes could be
dried, and he was in a condition to come on. After a day's march of
twenty miles, we straggled into camp, one after another, at nightfall;
the greater number excessively fatigued, only two of the party having
ever traveled on snow-shoes before.

"All our energies were now directed to getting our animals across the
snow; and it was supposed that, after all the baggage had been drawn
with the sleighs over the trail we had made, it would be sufficiently
hard to bear our animals.

"At several places, between this point and the ridge, we had discovered
some grassy spots, where the wind and sun had dispersed the snow from
the sides of the hills, and these were to form resting places to support
the animals for a night in their passage across. On our way across, we
had set on fire several broken stumps and dried trees, to melt holes in
the snow for the camp. Its general depth was five feet; but we passed
over places where it was twenty feet deep, as shown by the trees.

"With one party drawing sleighs loaded with baggage, I advanced to-day
about four miles along the trail, and encamped at the first grassy spot,
where we expected to bring our horses. Mr. Fitzpatrick, with another
party, remained behind, to form an intermediate station between us and
the animals.

"Putting on our snow-shoes, we spent the afternoon in exploring a road
ahead. The glare of the snow, combined with great fatigue, had rendered
many of the people nearly blind; but we were fortunate in having some
black silk handkerchiefs, which, worn as veils, very much relieved the

"In the evening I received a message from Mr. Fitzpatrick, acquainting
me with the utter failure of his attempt to get our mules and horses
over the snow--the half-hidden trail had proved entirely too slight to
support them, and they had broken through, and were plunging about or
lying half buried in snow. He was occupied in endeavoring to get them
back to his camp; and in the mean time sent to me for further
instructions. I wrote to him to send the animals immediately back to
their old pastures; and, after having made mauls and shovels, turn in
all the strength of his party to open and beat a road through the snow,
strengthening it with branches and boughs of the pines.

"_February 12._--We made mauls, and worked hard at our end of the road
all the day. The wind was high, but the sun bright, and the snow
thawing. We worked down the face of the hill, to meet the people at the
other end. Towards sundown it began to grow cold, and we shouldered our
mauls, and trudged back to camp.

"_February 13._--We continued to labor on the road; and in the course of
the day had the satisfaction to see the people working down the face of
the opposite hill, about three miles distant. During the morning we had
the pleasure of a visit from Mr. Fitzpatrick, with the information that
all was going on well. A party of Indians had passed on snow-shoes, who
said they were going to the western side of the mountain after fish.
This was an indication that the salmon were coming up the streams; and
we could hardly restrain our impatience as we thought of them, and
worked with increased vigor.

"I was now perfectly satisfied that we had struck the stream on which
Mr. Sutter lived, and turning about, made a hard push, and reached the
camp at dark. Here we had the pleasure to find all the remaining
animals, 57 in number, safely arrived at the grassy hill near the camp;
and here, also, we were agreeably surprised with the sight of an
abundance of salt. Some of the horse guard had gone to a neighboring hut
for pine nuts, and discovered unexpectedly a large cake of very white
fine-grained salt, which the Indians told them they had brought from the
other side of the mountain; they used it to eat with their pine nuts,
and readily sold it for goods.

"On the 19th, the people were occupied in making a road and bringing up
the baggage; and, on the afternoon of the next day, _February_ 20, 1844,
we encamped with the animals and all the _materiel_ of the camp, on the
summit of the PASS in the dividing ridge, 1,000 miles by our traveled
road from the Dalles of the Columbia.

"_February 21._--We now considered ourselves victorious over the
mountain; having only the descent before us, and the valley under our
eyes, we felt strong hope that we should force our way down. But this
was a case in which the descent was _not_ facile. Still, deep fields of
snow lay between, and there was a large intervening space of
rough-looking mountains, through which we had yet to wind our way.
Carson roused me this morning with an early fire, and we were all up
long before day, in order to pass the snow fields before the sun should
render the crust soft. We enjoyed this morning a scene at sunrise,
which, even here, was unusually glorious and beautiful. Immediately
above the eastern mountains was repeated a cloud-formed mass of purple
ranges, bordered with bright yellow gold; the peaks shot up into a
narrow line of crimson cloud, above which the air was filled with a
greenish orange; and over all was the singular beauty of the blue sky.
Passing along a ridge which commanded the lake on our right, of which we
began to discover an outlet through a chasm on the west, we passed over
alternating open ground and hard-crusted snow-fields which supported
the animals, and encamped on the ridge after a journey of six miles. The
grass was better than we had yet seen, and we were encamped in a clump
of trees, twenty or thirty feet high, resembling white pine.


"We had hard and doubtful labor yet before us, as the snow appeared to
be heavier where the timber began further down, with few open spots.
Ascending a height, we traced out the best line we could discover for
the next day's march, and had at least the consolation to see that the
mountain descended rapidly. The day had been one of April; gusty, with a
few occasional flakes of snow; which, in the afternoon, enveloped the
upper mountains in clouds. We watched them anxiously, as now we dreaded
a snow storm. Shortly afterwards we heard the roll of thunder, and
looking toward the valley, found it all enveloped in a thunder-storm.
For us, as connected with the idea of summer, it had a singular charm;
and we watched its progress with excited feelings until nearly sunset,
when the sky cleared off brightly, and we saw a shining line of water
directing its course towards another, a broader and larger sheet. We
knew that these could be no other than the Sacramento and the bay of San
Francisco; but, after our long wandering in rugged mountains, where so
frequently we had met with disappointments, and where the crossing of
every ridge displayed some unknown lake or river, we were yet almost
afraid to believe that we were at last to escape into the genial country
of which we have heard so many glowing descriptions, and dreaded again
to find some vast interior lake, whose bitter waters would bring us
disappointment. On the southern shore of what appeared to be the bay,
could be traced the gleaming line where entered another large stream;
and again the Buenaventura rose up in our mind.

"Carson had entered the valley along the southern side of the bay, but
the country then was so entirely covered with water from snow and rain,
that he had been able to form no correct impression of watercourses.

"We had the satisfaction to know that at least there were people below.
Fires were lit up in the valley just at night, appearing to be in answer
to ours; and these signs of life renewed, in some measure, the gayety of
the camp. They appeared so near, that we judged them to be among the
timber of some of the neighboring ridges; but, having them constantly
in view day after day, and night after night, we afterwards found them
to be fires that had been kindled by the Indians among the _tulares_, on
the shore of the bay, eighty miles distant.

"Axes and mauls were necessary to-day to make a road through the snow.
Going ahead with Carson to reconnoitre the road, we reached in the
afternoon the river which made the outlet of the lake. Carson sprang
over, clear across a place where the stream was compressed among rocks,
but the _parfleche_ 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; and
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 banks of the creek.

"The sky was clear and pure, with a sharp wind from the northeast, and
the thermometer 2° below the freezing point.

"We continued down the south face of the mountain; our road leading over
dry ground, we were able to avoid the snow almost entirely. In the
course of the morning, we struck a foot path, which we were generally
able to keep; and the ground was soft to our animal's feet, being sandy
or covered with mould. Green grass began to make its appearance, and
occasionally we passed a hill scatteringly covered with it. The
character of the forest continued the same; and, among the trees, the
pine with sharp leaves and very large cones was abundant, some of them
being noble trees. We measured one that had ten feet diameter, though
the height was not more than one hundred and thirty feet. All along, the
river was a roaring torrent, its fall very great; and, descending with a
rapidity to which we had long been strangers, to our great pleasure oak
trees appeared on the ridge, and soon became very frequent; on these I
remarked unusually great quantities of misletoe.


"The opposite mountain side was very steep and continuous--unbroken
by ravines, and covered with pines and snow; while on the side we
were traveling, innumerable rivulets poured down from the ridge.
Continuing on, we halted a moment at one of these rivulets, to admire
some beautiful evergreen trees, resembling live oak, which shaded the
little stream. They were forty to fifty feet high, and two in diameter,
with a uniform tufted top; and the summer green of their beautiful
foliage, with the singing birds, and the sweet summer wind which was
whirling about the dry oak leaves, nearly intoxicated us with delight;
and we hurried on, filled with excitement, to escape entirely from the
horrid region of inhospitable snow, to the perpetual spring of the

"_February 25._--Believing that the difficulties of the road were
passed, and leaving Mr. Fitzpatrick to follow slowly, as the condition
of the animals required, I started ahead this morning with a party of
eight, consisting (with myself) of Mr. Preuss, and Mr. Talbot, Carson,
Derosier, Towns, Proue, and Jacob. We took with us some of the best
animals, and my intention was to proceed as rapidly as possible to the
house of Mr. Sutter, and return to meet the party with a supply of
provisions and fresh animals.

"Near nightfall we descended into the steep ravine of a handsome creek
thirty feet wide, and I was engaged in getting the horses up the
opposite hill, when I heard a shout from Carson, who had gone ahead a
few hundred yards--'Life yet,' said he, as he came up, 'life yet; I have
found a hill side sprinkled with grass enough for the night.' We drove
along our horses, and encamped at the place about dark, and there was
just room enough to make a place for shelter on the edge of the stream.
Three horses were lost to-day--Proveau; a fine young horse from the
Columbia, belonging to Charles Towns; and another Indian horse which
carried our cooking utensils; the two former gave out, and the latter
strayed off into the woods as we reached the camp: and Derosier, knowing
my attachment to Proveau, volunteered to go and bring him in.

"Carson and I climbed one of the nearest mountains; the forest land
still extended ahead, and the valley appeared as far as ever. The pack
horse was found near the camp, but Derosier did not get in.

"We began to be uneasy at Derosier's absence, fearing he might have been
bewildered in the woods. Charles Towns, who had not yet recovered his
mind, went to swim in the river, as if it was summer, and the stream
placid, when it was a cold mountain torrent foaming among the rocks. We
were happy to see Derosier appear in the evening. He came in, and
sitting down by the fire, began to tell us where he had been. He
imagined he had been gone several days, and thought we were still at the
camp where he had left us; and we were pained to see that his mind was
deranged. It appeared that he had been lost in the mountain, and hunger
and fatigue, joined to weakness of body, and fear of perishing in the
mountains had crazed him. The times were severe when stout men lost
their minds from extremity of suffering--when horses died--and when
mules and horses, ready to die of starvation, were killed for food. Yet
there was no murmuring or hesitation. In the mean time Mr. Preuss
continued on down the river, and unaware that we had encamped so early
in the day, was lost. When night arrived and he did not come in, we
began to understand what had happened to him; but it was too late to
make any search.

"_March 3._--We followed Mr. Preuss's trail for a considerable distance
along the river, until we reached a place where he had descended to the
stream below and encamped. Here we shouted and fired guns, but received
no answer; and we concluded that he had pushed on down the stream. I
determined to keep out from the river, along which it was nearly
impracticable to travel with animals, until it should form a valley. At
every step the country improved in beauty; the pines were rapidly
disappearing, and oaks became the principal trees of the forest. Among
these, the prevailing tree was the evergreen oak (which, by way of
distinction, we shall call the _live oak_); and with these, occurred
frequently a new species of oak, bearing a long, slender acorn, from an
inch to an inch and a half in length, which we now began to see formed
the principal vegetable food of the inhabitants of this region. In a
short distance we crossed a little rivulet, where were two old huts, and
near by were heaps of acorn hulls. The ground round about was very rich,
covered with an exuberant sward of grass; and we sat down for a while in
the shade of the oaks, to let the animals feed. We repeated our shouts
for Mr. Preuss; and this time we were gratified with an answer. The
voice grew rapidly nearer, ascending from the river, but when we
expected to see him emerge, it ceased entirely. We had called up some
straggling Indian--the first we had met, although for two days back we
had seen tracks--who, mistaking us for his fellows, had been only
undeceived by getting close up. It would have been pleasant to witness
his astonishment; he would not have been more frightened had some of the
old mountain spirits they are so much afraid of suddenly appeared in his
path. Ignorant of the character of these people, we had now additional
cause of uneasiness in regard to Mr. Preuss; he had no arms with him,
and we began to think his chance doubtful. Occasionally we met deer, but
had not the necessary time for hunting. At one of these orchard grounds,
we encamped about noon to make an effort for Mr. Preuss. One man took
his way along a spur leading into the river, in hope to cross his trail;
and another took our own back. Both were volunteers; and to the
successful man was promised a pair of pistols--not as a reward, but as a
token of gratitude for a service which would free us all from much

It was not until the 6th, and after a continuation of the most
incredible sufferings, already narrated, that the party reached Sutter's
Fort, where, it is needless to say, they were warmly and cordially
received by that gentleman,--and to close this stirring narrative, we
will only add as an evidence of the terrible sufferings to which they
had been subjected, that out of sixty-seven horses and mules with which
the expedition was commenced, only thirty-three reached the valley of
the Sacramento, and they had to be led. In quoting above from Fremont's
narrative, a continuous record has not been kept, as we have used only
such portions as contain the narrative of incidents directly connected
with the expedition, and of which, though scarcely mentioned throughout,
save in the most incidental manner, Carson might well say, and with
pride, _magna pars fui_.

In the course of this narrative we have frequently used the word
_cache_, and a brief interpretation of its meaning, we are sure will not
be uninteresting to the uninitiated.

A cache is a term common among traders and hunters, to designate a
hiding place for provisions and effects. It is derived from the French
word _cacher_, to conceal, and originated among the early colonists of
Canada and Louisiana; but the secret depository which it designates was
in use among the aboriginals long before the intrusion of the white men.
It is, in fact, the only mode that migratory hordes have of preserving
their valuables from robbery, during their long absences from their
villages or accustomed haunts on hunting expeditions, or during the
vicissitudes of war. The utmost skill and caution are required to render
these places of concealment invisible to the lynx eye of an Indian.

The first care is to seek out a proper situation, which is generally
some dry low bank of clay, on the margin of a water course. As soon as
the precise spot is pitched upon, blankets, saddle-cloths, and other
coverings are spread over the surrounding grass and bushes, to prevent
foot tracks, or any other derangement; and as few hands as possible are
employed. A circle of about two feet in diameter is then nicely cut in
the sod, which is carefully removed, with the loose soil immediately
beneath it, and laid aside in a place where it will be safe from any
thing that may change its appearance. The uncovered area is then digged
perpendicularly to the depth of about three feet, and is then gradually
widened so as to form a conical chamber six or seven feet deep.

The whole of the earth displaced by this process, being of a different
color from that on the surface, is handed up in a vessel, and heaped
into a skin or cloth, in which it is conveyed to the stream and thrown
into the midst of the current, that it may be entirely carried off.
Should the cache not be formed in the vicinity of a stream, the earth
thus thrown up is carried to a distance, and scattered in such a manner
as not to leave the minutest trace. The cave being formed, is well lined
with dry grass, bark, sticks, and poles, and occasionally a dried hide.
The property intended to be hidden is then laid in, after having been
well aired: a hide is spread over it, and dried grass, brush, and stones
thrown in, and trampled down until the pit is filled to the neck. The
loose soil which had been put aside is then brought, and rammed down
firmly, to prevent its caving in, and is frequently sprinkled with water
to destroy the scent, lest the wolves and bears should be attracted to
the place, and root up the concealed treasure.

When the neck of the cache is nearly level with the surrounding surface,
the sod is again fitted in with the utmost exactness, and any bushes,
stocks, or stones, that may have originally been about the spot, are
restored to their former places. The blankets and other coverings are
then removed from the surrounding herbage: all tracks are obliterated:
the grass is gently raised by the hand to its natural position, and the
minutest chip or straw is scrupulously gleaned up and thrown into the
stream. After all is done, the place is abandoned for the night, and,
if all be right next morning, is not visited again, until there be a
necessity for reopening the cache. Four men are sufficient in this way,
to conceal the amount of three tons weight of merchandize in the course
of two days.


Carson had passed the autumn and winter with his family, in the society
of old companions, amid various incidents amusing to the reader if they
were detailed, because so unlike the style of life to which he has been
accustomed, the particulars of which we must however leave to his
imagination, aiding it by some general description of the customs of the
country and locality.

The town of Taos is the second in size in New Mexico, (Santa Fe claiming
of right to be first,) with very little regard to beauty in its
construction, the houses being huddled upon narrow streets, except in
the immediate vicinity of the _plaza_, on which are located the church
and the better class of houses; and where, as in all Mexican towns, the
marketing is carried on. It is situated in the centre of the valley of
Taos, which is about thirty miles long, and fifteen broad, and
surrounded by mountains, upon whose tops snow lies during the greater
part of the year.

The valley appears to be a plain, but is intersected by many ravines,
which flow into the Rio Grande on its western side. There is no timber,
but in the mountains it is abundant, and of excellent quality. The
population in the whole valley numbers scarcely more than ten thousand,
and as their farming operations require but a portion of the soil, the
larger part of the land is still wild, and grazed only by horses,
cattle, and sheep, which are raised in large numbers.

They are obliged to expend much labor upon their crops, as the climate
is too dry to mature them without irrigation; and yet in their community
of interest, in a country without fences, they find much satisfaction in
rendering kind offices to each other; and social life is more cultivated
than in communities whose interests are more separate. The high
altitude, and dryness of the atmosphere, render the climate exceedingly
healthful, rather severe in winter, but very mild and salubrious in
summer, so that disease is scarcely known in the valley.

The dress of the people has changed very much since the population
became partially Americanized, so that often the buckskin pants have
given place to cloth, and the blanket to the coat, and the moccasin to
the leathern shoe, and the dress of the women has undergone as great a
change. They are learning to employ American implements for agriculture,
instead of the rude Egyptian yoke fastened to the horns of the oxen; and
the plough composed of a single hooked piece of timber, and the axe that
more resembles a pick, than the axe of the American woodsman; and the
cart, whose wheels are pieces sawed from the butt end of a log, with a
hole bored for the axle, whose squeaking can be heard for miles, and
which are themselves a sufficient burden without any loading. Their diet
is simple, as it is with all Mexicans, consisting of the products of the
locality, with game, which is always to be included in a bill of fare
such as Carson would furnish; corn, and wheat, and peas, beans, eggs,
pumpkins, and apples, pears, peaches, plums, and grapes, constitute the
principal products of their culture. Their great source of enjoyment is
dancing, and the fandango is so much an institution in a town of the
size of Taos, that, during the winter, scarcely a night passes without a
dance. This is doubtless familiar to the reader, as the acquisition of
California has introduced a knowledge of the customs of its natives to
every eastern household.

In the spring of 1845, Carson had decided to commence the business of
farming at Taos, and had made the necessary arrangements for building a
house, and for stocking and planting, when an express arrived from Col.
Fremont, bringing despatches to remind him of his promise to join a
third exploring expedition, in case he should ever undertake another,
and to designate the place where he would meet the party Fremont was

Before parting with Fremont in the previous summer, Fremont had secured
the promise from Carson, that he would again be his guide and companion,
should he ever undertake another expedition; but Carson was not
expecting its execution at this time, and yet, though it would entail
severe loss on him to make a hasty sale of his possessions, and arrange
for leaving his family, he felt bound by his promise, as well as by his
attachment to Fremont, and at once closing up his business, together
with an old friend by the name of Owens, who had become, as it were, a
partner with him in his enterprise of farming, they having been old
trapping friends, they repaired together to the point designated for
joining the exploring party, upon the upper Arkansas, at Bent's Fort,
where they had last parted from Fremont.

The meeting was mutually satisfactory, and with Fremont were Maxwell, an
old and well-tried friend, and a Mr. Walker, who had been in Captain
Bonneville's expedition to the Columbia, and in other trapping parties
in California and vicinity, so that with other mountain men, whose names
are less known, but every man of whom was Carson's friend, Fremont's
corps was more efficient for the present service, than it had been in
either of the former expeditions.

After some months spent in examining the head-waters of the great rivers
which flow to either ocean, the party descended at the beginning of
winter to the Great Salt Lake, and in October encamped on its
southwestern shore, in view of that undescribed country which at that
time had not been penetrated, and which vague and contradictory reports
of Indians represented as a desert without grass or water.

Their previous visit to the lake had given it a somewhat familiar
aspect, and on leaving it they felt as if about to commence their
journey anew. Its eastern shore was frequented by large bands of
Indians, but here they had dwindled down to a single family, which was
gleaning from some hidden source, enough to support life, and drinking
the salt water of a little stream near by, no fresh water being at hand.
This offered scanty encouragement as to what they might expect on the
desert beyond.

At its threshold and immediately before them was a naked plain of smooth
clay surface, mostly devoid of vegetation--the hazy weather of the
summer hung over it, and in the distance rose scattered, low, black and
dry-looking mountains. At what appeared to be fifty miles or more, a
higher peak held out some promise of wood and water, and towards this it
was resolved to direct their course.

Four men, with a pack animal loaded with water for two days, and
accompanied by a naked Indian--who volunteered for a reward to be their
guide to a spot where he said there was grass and fine springs--were
sent forward to explore in advance for a foothold, and verify the
existence of water before the whole party should be launched into the
desert. Their way led toward the high peak of the mountain, on which
they were to make a smoke signal in the event of finding water. About
sunset of the second day, no signal having been seen, Fremont became
uneasy at the absence of his men, and set out with the whole party upon
their trail, traveling rapidly all the night. Towards morning one of the
scouts was met returning.

The Indian had been found to know less than themselves, and had been
sent back, but the men had pushed on to the mountains, where they found
a running stream, with wood and sufficient grass. The whole party now
lay down to rest, and the next day, after a hard march, reached the
stream. The distance across the plain was nearly seventy miles, and they
called the mountain which had guided them Pilot Peak. This was their
first day's march and their first camp in the desert.

A few days afterwards the expedition was divided into two parties--the
larger one under the guidance of Walker, a well-known mountaineer and
experienced traveler, going around to the foot of the Sierra Nevada by a
circuitous route which he had previously traveled, and Fremont, with ten
men, Delawares and whites, penetrated directly through the heart of the

Some days after this separation, Fremont's party, led by Carson, while
traveling along the foot of a mountain, the arid country covered with
dwarf shrubs, discovered a volume of smoke rising from a ravine. Riding
cautiously up, they discovered a single Indian on the border of a small
creek. He was standing before a little fire, naked as he was born,
apparently thinking, and looking at a small earthen pot which was
simmering over the fire, filled with the common ground-squirrel of the
country. Another bunch of squirrels lay near it, and close by were his
bow and arrows. He was a well-made, good-looking young man, about
twenty-five years of age. Although so taken by surprise that he made no
attempt to escape, and evidently greatly alarmed, he received his
visitors with forced gaiety, and offered them part of his _pot au feu_
and his bunch of squirrels. He was kindly treated and some little
presents made him, and the party continued their way.

His bow was handsomely made, and the arrows, of which there were about
forty in his quiver, were neatly feathered, and headed with obsidian,
worked into spear-shape by patient labor.

After they had separated, Fremont found that his Delawares had taken a
fancy to the Indian's bow and arrows, and carried them off. They carried
them willingly back, when they were reminded that they had exposed the
poor fellow to almost certain starvation by depriving him, in the
beginning of winter, of his only means of subsistence, which it would
require months to replace.

One day the party had reached one of the lakes lying along the foot of
the Sierra Nevada, which was their appointed rendezvous with their
friends, and where, at this season, the scattered Indians of the
neighborhood were gathering, to fish. Turning a point on the lake shore,
a party of Indians, some twelve or fourteen in number, came abruptly in
view. They were advancing along in Indian file, one following the other,
their heads bent forward, with eyes fixed on the ground. As the two
parties met, the Indians did not turn their heads or raise their eyes
from the ground, but passed silently along. The whites, habituated to
the chances of savage life, and always uncertain whether they should
find friends or foes in those they met, fell readily into their humor,
and they too passed on their way without word or halt.

It was a strange meeting: two parties of such different races and
different countries, coming abruptly upon each other, with every
occasion to excite curiosity and provoke question, pass in a desert
without a word of inquiry or a single remark on either side, or without
any show of hostility.

Walker's party joined Fremont at the appointed rendezvous, at the point
where Walker's river discharges itself into the lake, but it was now
mid-winter, they were out of provisions--and there was no guide. The
heavy snows might be daily expected to block up the passes in the great
Sierra, if they had not already fallen, and with all their experience it
was considered too hazardous to attempt the passage with the _materiel_
of a whole party; it was arranged therefore that Walker should continue
with the main party southward along the Sierra, and enter the valley of
the San Joaquin by some one of the low passes at its head, where there
is rarely or never snow. Fremont undertook, with a few men, to cross
directly westward over the Sierra Nevada to Sutter's Fort, with the view
of obtaining there the necessary supplies of horses and beef cattle with
which to rejoin his party.

After some days' travel, leaving the Mercedes River, they had entered
among the foothills of the mountains, and were journeying through a
beautiful country of undulating upland, openly timbered with oaks,
principally evergreen, and watered with small streams.

Traveling along, they came suddenly upon broad and deeply-worn trails,
which had been freshly traveled by large bands of horses, apparently
coming from the settlements on the coast. These and other indications
warned them that they were approaching villages of the Horse-Thief
Indians, who appeared to have just returned from a successful foray.
With the breaking up of the missions, many of the Indians had returned
to their tribes in the mountains. Their knowledge of the Spanish
language, and familiarity with the ranches and towns, enabled them to
pass and repass, at pleasure, between their villages in the Sierra and
the ranches on the coast. They very soon availed themselves of these
facilities to steal and run off into the mountains bands of horses, and
in a short time it became the occupation of all the Indians inhabiting
the southern Sierra Nevada, as well as the plains beyond.

Three or four parties would be sent at a time from different villages,
and every week was signalized by the carrying-off of hundreds of horses,
to be killed and eaten in the interior. Repeated expeditions had been
made against them by the Californians, who rarely succeeded in reaching
the foot of the mountains, and were invariably defeated when they did.

As soon as this fresh trail had been discovered, four men, two Delawares
with Maxwell and Dick Owens, two of Fremont's favorite men, were sent
forward upon the trail. The rest of the party had followed along at
their usual gait, but Indian signs became so thick, trail after trail
joining on, that they started rapidly after the men, fearing for their
safety. After a few miles ride, they reached a spot which had been the
recent camping ground of a village, and where abundant grass and good
water suggested a halting place for the night, and they immediately set
about unpacking their animals and preparing to encamp.

While thus engaged, they heard what seemed to be the barking of many
dogs, coming apparently from a village, not far distant; but they had
hardly thrown off their saddles when they suddenly became aware that it
was the noise of women and children shouting and crying; and this was
sufficient notice that the men who had been sent ahead had fallen among
unfriendly Indians, so that a fight had already commenced.

It did not need an instant to throw the saddles on again, and leaving
four men to guard the camp, Fremont, with the rest, rode off in the
direction of the sounds.

They had galloped but half a mile, when crossing a little ridge, they
came abruptly in view of several hundred Indians advancing on each side
of a knoll, on the top of which were the men, where a cluster of trees
and rocks made a good defence. It was evident that they had come
suddenly into the midst of the Indian village, and jumping from their
horses, with the instinctive skill of old hunters and mountaineers as
they were, had got into an admirable place to fight from.

The Indians had nearly surrounded the knoll, and were about getting
possession of the horses, as Fremont's party came in view. Their welcome
shout as they charged up the hill, was answered by the yell of the
Delawares as they dashed down to recover their animals, and the crack of
Owens' and Maxwell's rifles. Owens had singled out the foremost Indian
who went headlong down the hill, to steal horses no more.

Profiting by the first surprise of the Indians, and anxious for the
safety of the men who had been left in camp, the whites immediately
retreated towards it, checking the Indians with occasional rifle shots,
with the range of which it seemed remarkable that they were acquainted.

The whole camp were on guard until daylight. As soon as it was dark,
each man crept to his post. They heard the women and children retreating
towards the mountains, but nothing disturbed the quiet of the camp,
except when one of the Delawares shot at a wolf as it jumped over a log,
and which he mistook for an Indian. As soon as it grew light they took
to the most open ground, and retreated into the plain.


The record of Fremont and Carson's journey through this region of
country, already so thoroughly explored at such great hazard, and
accompanied with such unheard-of sufferings, would be but a repetition
of what has already been written, for they were again driven to mule
meat, or whatever else chance or Providence might throw in their way, to
sustain life. In every need--in every peril--in every quarter where
coolness, sagacity, and skill were most required, Carson was ever first,
and his conduct throughout cemented, if possible, more firmly the
friendship between him and his young commander.

They reached, at last, Sutter's Fort, where they were received with the
hospitality which has made Mr. Sutter's name proverbial; and leaving his
party to recruit there, Fremont pushed on towards Monterey, to make
known to the authorities there the condition of his party, and obtained
permission to recruit and procure the supplies necessary for the
prosecution of his exploration.

Journeying in the security of this permission, he was suddenly arrested
in his march, near Monterey, by an officer at the head of a body of
cavalry, who bore him a violent message from the commanding officer in
California--Gen. Castro--commanding him to retire instantly from the

There was now no alternative but to put himself on the defensive, as he
had come to the country for an entirely peaceable purpose, and it was
not in the blood of Americans to submit to dictation. The direction of
travel was therefore changed; a strong point was selected and fortified
as thoroughly as could be with the means at their command, which work
was hardly completed before Gen. Castro, at the head of several hundred
men, arrived and established his camp within a few hundred yards and in
sight of the exploring party, evidently under the mistaken idea that he
could intimidate them by his numbers.

Though the Americans were but forty in number, every man had already
seen service, and the half score of old traders and trappers, who had
been leaders in many an Indian fight, made the party, small as it was,
quite equal to that of the ten fold greater number of the Mexicans; for
the men, equally with their leader, were determined to maintain their
rights, and if need be, to sacrifice their lives in defence of the cause
of American citizens in Mexico; for in the three days during which they
lay there encamped, expresses came in from the American citizens in
Monterey, warning them of their danger, and announcing too, the
probability of a war with Mexico, and urging the propriety that every
American should unite in a common defence against the Mexican

At the end of three days the council which Fremont now called, agreed
with him, that the Mexican General had no intention of attacking them,
and that it was the more prudent course to break up camp, push on to the
Sacramento River, and endeavor at Lawson's trading post to obtain the
needed outfit for their return homeward through Oregon, as further
exploration in southern California seemed out of the question; and
because, as an officer in the United States service, Fremont felt he
could not commence, or willingly court hostility with the Mexican
authorities--besides, all the American residents in the country were
equally in peril; and if the event of war pressed upon them,
preparation was needed, and should be made at once.

In council Fremont found Carson ready for such, as for every emergency;
and, around the camp fires, where the subject was discussed, every man
was ready for the affray; and while willing to retire and wait the
command of the leader evinced no disposition to avoid it.

The party remained ten days at Lawson's post, when information was
brought that the Indians were in arms at the instigation of the
Mexicans, as it was supposed, and were advancing to destroy the post,
and any other American settlement; and it was soon rumored that a
thousand warriors were collected, and on their way to aid in this
purpose. The time had now come for action, and, with five men from the
post, Captain Fremont and his command, with Carson for his Lieutenant,
by choice of the party, as well as of its leader, took up their march
against the savages, in aid of their countrymen.

They had no difficulty in finding the Indian war party, and immediately
made the attack, which was responded to with vigor by the Indians, and
contested bravely; but, of course, with inability to conquer. The red
men were defeated with terrible slaughter, and learned here the lesson
not forgotten for many years, that it was useless to measure their
strength with white men.

Carson was, of course, as was his invariable custom, in the thickest of
the fight, and when it was over, and the Indians had retired, cowed and
defeated, ventured the opinion that they had received a lesson which
would not be required to be repeated in many years.

This victory won, and present danger from these Indians thus avoided,
the party returned to Lawson's post, where, having completed their
outfit, they turned their backs on Mexican possessions, and started
northward, Fremont looking to Oregon as the field of his future
operations, intending to explore a new route to the Wah-lah-math

While on that journey, Carson being as ever his guide, companion, and
friend, the party was suddenly surprised by the appearance of two white
men, who, as all knew from experience, must have incurred the greatest
perils and hazards to reach that spot.

They proved to be two of Mr. Fremont's old _voyageurs_, and quickly told
their story. They were part of a guard of six men conducting a United
States officer, who was on his trail with despatches from Washington,
and whom they had left two days back, while they came on to give notice
of his approach, and to ask that assistance might be sent him. They
themselves had only escaped the Indians by the swiftness of their
horses. It was a case in which there was no time to be lost, nor a
mistake made. Mr. Fremont determined to go himself; and taking ten
picked men, Carson of course accompanying him, he rode down the western
shore of the lake on the morning of the 9th, (the direction the officer
was to come,) and made a journey of sixty miles without a halt. But to
meet men, and not to miss them, was the difficult point in this
trackless region. It was not the case of a high road, where all
travelers must meet in passing each other: at intervals there were
places--defiles, or camping grounds--where both parties might pass; and
watching for these, he came to one in the afternoon, and decided that,
if the party was not killed, it must be there that night. He halted and
encamped; and, as the sun was going down, had the inexpressible
satisfaction to see the four men approaching. The officer proved to be
Lieutenant Gillespie, of the United States marines, who had been
despatched from Washington the November previous, to make his way by
Vera Cruz, the City of Mexico, and Mazatlan, to Monterey, in Upper
California, deliver despatches to the United States consul there; and
then find Mr. Fremont, wherever he should be.

Carson, in a letter to the Washington Union in June 1847, thus describes
the interview, and the events consequent upon it:

"Mr. Gillespie had brought the Colonel letters from home--the first he
had had since leaving the States the year before--and he was up, and
kept a large fire burning until after midnight; the rest of us were
tired out, and all went to sleep. This was the only night in all our
travels, except the one night on the island in the Salt Lake, that we
failed to keep guard; and as the men were so tired, and we expected no
attack now that we had sixteen in the party, the Colonel didn't 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 didn't 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 other groaned a little as he died. The Delawares (we had four with
us) were sleeping at that fire, and they sprang up as the Tlamaths
charged them. One of them caught up a gun, which was unloaded; but,
although he could do no execution, he kept them at bay, fighting like a
soldier, and didn't give up until he was shot full of arrows--three
entering his heart; he died bravely. As soon as I had called out, I saw
it was Indians in the camp, and I and Owens together cried out
'Indians.' There were no orders given; things went on too fast, and the
Colonel had men with him that didn't need to be told their duty. The
Colonel and I, Maxwell, Owens, Godey, and Stepp, jumped together, we
six, and ran to the assistance of our Delawares. I don't know who fired
and who didn't; but I think it was Stepp's shot that killed the Tlamath
chief; for it was at the crack of Stepp's gun that he fell. He had an
English half-axe 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 by his cap. When the Tlamaths saw him fall, they ran;
but we lay, every man with his rifle cocked, until daylight, expecting
another attack.

"In the morning we found by the tracks that from fifteen to twenty of
the Tlamaths had attacked us. They had killed three of our men, and
wounded one of the Delawares, who scalped the chief, whom we 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
fight 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


Those who have not been in similar dangers cannot properly appreciate
the feelings of the survivors, as they watched with their dead and
performed for them the last sad rites. Fremont had lost Lajeunesse, whom
they all loved, and the other two, Crane and the Delaware Indian, were
not less brave than he. The Indians had watched for Lieutenant
Gillespie, but in Fremont's coming up, while three were taken, more were
saved, and the benefit to the country, and perhaps the safety to
Fremont's whole force was secured by the receipt of the dispatches, and
this early rencontre. None had apprehended danger that night, being, as
they erroneously supposed, far removed from the Tlamath country, and
equally far from the point where they already had encountered and
defeated the red men. The Indians never again found Fremont's party off
guard, for the events of this night proved a serious and melancholy, as
well as a sufficient lesson. That they cherished revenge, is not to be
wondered at, nor that they vowed to seek it at the earliest opportunity,
as it was now known that war had been declared with Mexico, for such was
the tenor of Lieut. Gillespie's information. Fremont determined to
return to California, and choosing to give his men a chance for revenge
before doing so, he traveled around Tlamath lake, and, camping at a spot
nearly opposite where his three men had been killed, the next morning
sent Carson on in advance, with ten chosen men, and with instructions
that, if he discovered a large Indian village, without being seen
himself, he should send back word, and that he would hasten on with the
rest of the party and give them battle; but if this could not be done,
to attack the village himself, if he thought the chances were equal.

Of course Carson and his men were parties to this advice, choosing the
situation of danger because only in that way could they revenge the
death of their comrades.

They were not long in finding a trail, which they followed to a village
of fifty lodges, in each of which were probably three warriors. The
village was in commotion, which indicated that they had discovered
Carson and his party; so that no time could be lost, and Carson and his
comrades at once determined to take advantage of the confusion in which
the Indian camp seemed to be, by making a sudden charge.

The Indians had their families to defend, and were brave in proportion
as that motive is an incentive to activity, therefore the attack of the
white men was received and met with desperation. But a panic of fear
seized them, owing to the suddenness of the attack, and they fled,
leaving behind them all their possessions, while the victors pursued and
shot them down without mercy, and when the victory was declared complete
by their leader Carson, they returned to the richly-stored village. In
all their travels and adventures, they had never seen an Indian village
in which the lodges were more tasteful in their workmanship and their
decorations, or which were better supplied with utensils of convenience.
The wigwams were woven of the broad leaves of a kind of flag which was
highly combustible. Carson therefore ordered that they should be burned,
having first visited them to see that their contents were so arranged as
to be consumed in the conflagration. The work was completed in a few
moments and Fremont, seeing the smoke, knew that Carson was engaged
with the Indians, and hastened forward to render him any needed
assistance. But he arrived only to hear the report of his lieutenant,
and to have the gloom of the whole party dispelled by the news of the
victory accomplished; and to move on a little for an encampment, and a
talk in regard to their future operations.

The next day all started for the valley of the Sacramento, and were four
days out from their camp when they came to a point on the river where it
passes through a deep cañon, through which the trail would take them,
but Carson advised to avoid this gorge, and they were wise in doing so,
as Tlamath Indians were concealed there, intending to cut off the party
of white men. Disappointed that they had lost their prey, the Indians
came out from this ambush, and were immediately dispersed by Carson and
Godey, and a few others, who made a charge upon them. But one old
Indian, inspired probably by revenge for some friend lost, stood his
ground, and with several arrows in his mouth waited the attack he
courted. Carson and Godey advanced, and when within shooting distance,
were obliged to dodge rapidly to avoid the arrows leveled at them. The
Indian was behind a tree, and only by cautiously advancing while
dodging the death he was sending from his bow, did Carson gain a
position where he was able to aim a bullet at his heart. The beautiful
bow and still unexhausted quiver that Carson took from this Indian, he
presented to Lieutenant Gillespie on his return to camp.

They were in a locality where game was scarce, not being able to find
any, the whole party went supperless that night and breakfastless next
morning, but the next day they found some game, and came, after severe
traveling for some days longer, safely in to Peter Lawson's Fort, where
they rested and hunted a week, and then moved lower down on the
Sacramento, and again camped. But his men were restless from inactivity,
and Fremont decided it was no longer wise to wait for positive
instructions, as the war was probably commenced; he therefore sent a
part of his force to take the little town and fort at Sonoma, which had
but a weak garrison. They captured General Vallejos here, with two
captains and several cannon, and a quantity of arms. The whole force
united at Sonoma, and learning that the Mexicans and Americans in the
south were engaged in open hostility, Fremont was preparing to join
them, calling in all the Americans in the vicinity to come to his
command, when a large Mexican force, dispatched by General Castro from
San Francisco, with orders to drive the Americans out of the country,
came into the vicinity, and took prisoners and killed two men, whom
Fremont had sent out as messengers to the American settlers, to inform
them that Sonoma was taken, and that they could fly thither for safety.

The captain of this party of Mexicans, hearing that Fremont and his
forces were anxious to attack him, lost all courage and fled, to be
pursued by the party of explorers, who followed them closely for six
days, and captured many horses which they had abandoned in their fright.
But finding they could not overtake them, Fremont returned to Sonoma,
and the party of Mexicans continued their march to Los Angelos, where
General Castro joined them.

Around Fremont's party, the American citizens now rallied in great
numbers--nearly all who were in the country--knowing that their time to
aid in its emancipation had arrived. Fremont left a strong garrison at
Sonoma, and went to Sutter's Fort, where he left his prisoners, General
Vallejos and the two captains, and an American, a brother-in-law of
General Vallejos, and having put the fort under military rules, with
all his mountain men, started to take possession of Monterey. But he had
been anticipated in this work by Commodore Sloat, who was in port with
the American squadron, and who left soon after Fremont's arrival,
Commodore Stockton assuming the command.

While at Sonoma, Fremont and his mountain men, with the American
settlers, had declared the Independence of California, and assumed the
Bear Flag, which he gallantly tendered to Commodore Sloat, and the flag
of the United States was hoisted over his camp.


With Carson as his constant adviser, as he was now his acknowledged
friend, Fremont here obtained the use of the ship Cyanne, to convey
himself and his command to San Diego, where they hoped to be able to
obtain animals, and march upon the Mexicans under General Castro, who
was then at Los Angelos, leaving their own for the use of Commodore
Stockton and his marines, who were to meet them at that place.

With the Americans who joined him at San Diego, all of them pioneers of
the true stamp, inured to hardships, hard fare, and Indian fights,
Fremont's command numbered one hundred and fifty men, who started for
Los Angelos, with perfect confidence in their own success, though the
force of the enemy was seven or eight hundred.

Fremont camped a league from this beautiful town, to await the arrival
of the Commodore, who soon joined him, with "as fine a body of men as I
ever looked upon," to quote Carson's own words, and the forces thus
united, marched at once upon Los Angelos, which they found deserted, as
General Castro dared not risk a battle with such men as he knew Fremont

After this, Fremont was appointed Governor of California by Commodore
Stockton, and returned to Monterey and the northern portion of the
country, while the Commodore went to San Diego, as that was a better
port than San Pedro, the port of Los Angelos; and General Castro
returned to the possession of Los Angelos.

Meantime, Carson, with a force of fifteen men, was dispatched to make
the overland journey to Washington, as the bearer of important
dispatches. He was instructed to make the journey in sixty days if
possible, which he felt sure of being able to accomplish, though no one
knew, better than he did, the difficulties he might expect to encounter.

When two days out from the copper mines of New Mexico, he came suddenly
upon a village of Apache Indians, which his quick wit enabled him to
elude. He rode forward in his path, as if unmindful of their presence,
and halted in a wood a few yards from the village, which seemed to
disconcert the inhabitants, unused to being approached with so much
boldness, as they had never been treated in that manner by the Mexicans.
He here demanded a parley, which was granted, and he told them that his
party were simply travelers on the road to New Mexico, and that they had
come to their village for an exchange of animals, as theirs were nearly

The Indians were satisfied with his explanation; and Carson, choosing as
his camping-ground a suitable spot for defense, traded with the Apaches
to advantage, and at an early hour on the following morning resumed his
journey, glad to be thus easily rid of such treacherous, thieving
rascals. A few more days of travel brought him to the Mexican
settlements, and near to his own home and family. The party had been,
for some time, short of provisions, as their haste in traveling did not
allow them to stop to hunt, and on the route--desert much of the
way--there had been little game; and now, with only a little corn which
they ate parched, they were glad of relief, which Carson readily
obtained from friends at the first ranche he entered; for though the
country was at war with the United States, Carson was a Mexican as much
as an American, having chosen their country for his home, and taken a
wife from their people. He was pursuing his course towards Taos, when,
across a broad prairie, he espied a speck moving towards him, which his
eagle eye soon discerned could not belong to the country. As it neared
him, and its form became visible, hastening on, he met an expedition
sent out by the United States Government to operate in California, under
the command of General Kearney, to which officer he lost no time in
presenting himself, and narrated to him his errand, and the state of
affairs in California, with the most graphic fidelity. Kearney was
extremely glad to meet him, and after detaining him as long as Carson
thought it wise to remain, proposed to Carson to return with him, while
he should send the dispatches to Washington by Mr. Fitzpatrick--with
whom Carson had a familiar acquaintance; and knowing how almost
invaluable his services would be to General Kearney, Carson gave the
ready answer, "As the General pleases," trusting entirely to his
fidelity in the matter, and as the exchange was a self-denial to him, he
had no occasion to weigh the motives that might influence a man like
General Kearney in the affair of the dispatches, or the good that his
presence with them might be to himself when he should arrive in
Washington, but while he would have been glad to have met his family, he
cared for the honor of having done his duty.


On the 18th of October, Gen. Kearney took up his march from his camp
upon the Rio Grande, having Christopher Carson for his guide, with
instructions to lead the party by the most direct route to California:
and so ably did Carson fulfill this official duty, so unexpectedly
imposed upon him, that, with their animals in good condition still, they
camped within the limit of California on the evening of the third of
December, and the next morning advanced towards San Diego.

But the Mexicans were not unapprised of the approach of American troops,
and spies sent out by General Castro, to meet Kearney's force, were
surprised and brought into camp by a scout which Carson attended.
Compelled to give information, they said that the Mexican forces under
its general, were planning an attack upon the Americans before they
could join their California allies. Carson, with the understanding he
had of Gen. Kearney, and his knowledge of guerrilla warfare, would have
advised another route, to evade the Mexican troops and avoid a battle,
until the weary and newly arrived soldiery had had some rest, and the
assistance and advice of those who knew the last movements of the
Mexicans, could make a battle more effectual with less of risk than now;
but General Kearney was impatient for an encounter with the stupid
Mexicans, as he deemed them, and only learned by experience that the
Californians were superior to those he had known in other of the Mexican
States, both in courage and natural tact, and in their military order
and discipline, as the story will fully show.

He kept on his course until he approached within fifteen miles of the
Mexican camp, where he halted, and despatched a party to reconnoitre.
They reported on their return, that the enemy were strongly fortified in
an Indian village; but in making the observation the scout had been
discovered and pursued back to camp.

General Kearney determined to make an immediate attack, and commenced
his march at one o'clock in the morning, with no rest that night for his
animals or for his men; and weary and hungry before day, when within a
mile of Castro's camp, the advance guard of the Americans came upon the
advance guard of the Mexicans, which had been stationed to prevent a

This Mexican guard slept in their dress, ready at a five minutes'
warning to mount in their saddles, which were their pillows, while their
horses were tied to feed close around them. The sound of the trumpet
commanded first a rapid trot, then a gallop, and the fifteen Americans
under Captain Johnson with Kit Carson, of course, for his next officer,
had a brisk fight with this Mexican outpost, but failed to stampede
their animals, as each Mexican mounted his own horse immediately, and
the guard drew back into camp. Capt. Johnson and Carson were now joined
by Capt. Moore with twenty five Americans, a force that had united with
Kearney's since he came into California, when Moore ordered an attack
upon the centre of the Mexican force, in order to divide it, and cause
confusion in the Mexican ranks.

The command of forty men were within a hundred yards of the enemy, and
Carson among the foremost, when his horse suddenly fell and threw its
rider, who was not seriously injured; but the stock of his gun was
shivered to splinters, and his position one of exceeding danger, as the
whole body of dragoons went galloping over him. When he could arise from
the ground, he saw a dead horseman lying near, whom he relieved of gun
and cartridge box, and again mounting his horse, upon whose bridle he
had managed to retain his hold, he was speedily in the thickest of the
fight, where the contest was becoming desperate.

Capt. Johnson and several of the soldiers in the advance had already
been killed, and probably only the fall of his horse had saved Carson's
life, but he was now able to assist Moore and his men to dislodge the
Mexicans, and oblige them to retreat. The Americans pursued them, but as
there were only forty in the whole of General Kearney's command who were
mounted on horses, and the mules which were ridden by the rest had
become at once unmanageable when the firing commenced, their success was
not complete. The horses they had were wild, having been captured by
Capt. Davidson and Kit Carson since their arrival in California, from a
party of Mexicans bound for Sonora, so that even Moore's party had
become scattered in the chase, and the pursuit accomplished very little.

The Mexicans immediately discovered the condition of the Americans, and
turning back, recommenced the fight, which had been nearly a bloodless
victory until now, but soon became for the Americans, a terrible
slaughter. Every moment some dragoon yielded his life to the bullet or
the deadly blow of an exasperated Mexican, and of the forty dragoons on
horses thirty were either killed or severely wounded. Captain Moore,
whom Carson calls, "as brave a man as ever drew the breath of life," was
already among the killed. As fast as the American soldiers could come
up, they joined the battle, but the Mexicans fought with a bravery
unsurpassed, and seemed to carry all before them.

Gen. Kearney now drew his sword, and placed himself at the head of his
remaining forces, and though severely wounded, attempted to again force
the Mexicans to retreat, while Lieutenant Davidson came up with two
mountain howitzers; but before he could unlimber them for use, the men
who were working them were shot down, and the lasso, thrown with
unerring aim, had captured the horses attached to one of them, and the
gun was taken to the ranks of the enemy, who, for some reason, could
not make it go off, or the American howitzer, at the distance of three
hundred yards, would have done execution against those who had brought
it thousands of miles to this point, to have it turned against them;
though Lieutenant Davidson had nearly lost his life in the attempt to
save it, but to no purpose.

The Americans were now obliged to take refuge at a point of rocks that
offered, near where they had been defeated, for they had but two
officers besides Carson, who were not either killed or wounded; and here
they waited for the Mexicans, but they did not again venture an attack.

The fighting had continued throughout the entire day; both sides were
weary and spent, and night closed over this scene of battle, without any
positive result to either party. Gen. Kearney must now attend to the
wounded, and all night the camp was occupied in the sad work of burying
its dead, and alleviating the agony of the sufferers; while, at the same
time, a close watch was kept for the enemy, who were constantly
receiving reinforcements, of Indians as well as Mexicans, from the
country around. A council of war was held, which at once decided it was
best to advance toward San Diego in the morning, with the hope of soon
receiving additions to their forces. Gen. Kearney had dispatched three
men to San Diego, with messages to Commodore Stockton, and before the
battle commenced, they had come back within sight of their comrades,
when they were taken prisoners by the enemy; and whether they had
succeeded in getting through to San Diego, Gen. Kearney did not know.
Early in the morning, the command was again upon its way, with the
following order of march: Carson, with twenty-five still able-bodied
men, formed the advance, and the remainder, a much crippled band of
soldiers, followed in the trail that he had made. Their march was
continued all the morning, in the constant expectation of an attack from
the Mexicans, who were also moving on, sometimes out of sight in the
valleys, and sometimes seen from the neighboring hills. When the first
opportunity occurred, Gen. Kearney demanded a parley, and arranged to
exchange a lieutenant, whose horse had been shot from under him during
the battle, and who had consequently fallen into the hands of the
Americans, for one of the express messengers the Mexicans were
detaining; but it availed nothing, for the expressman stated that,
finding it impossible to reach San Diego, he and his companions had
returned, when they were captured by the Mexicans.

The Mexicans had been manoeuvering all day, and toward evening, as the
Americans were about going into camp by a stream of water, came down
upon them in two divisions, making a vigorous charge. The Americans were
obliged to retire before such vastly superior numbers, and marched in
order to a hill a little distance off, where they halted to give the
Mexicans battle; but the latter, seeing the advantage of the position,
drew off to a neighboring height, where they commenced and continued a
deadly cannonade upon the Americans. A party of Americans was sent to
dislodge them, which they accomplished, and the whole force of the
Americans went over to occupy that position, as they were compelled to
make a resting place somewhere, because it was no longer possible for
them to continue their march, with the Mexican force ready at any time
to fall upon them. Upon this hill there was barely water enough for the
men, and to take the horses to the stream could not be thought of, for
the Mexicans would surely capture them; nor had they any food left,
except as they killed and ate their mules.

The condition of the party had become extremely desperate, and the war
council that was called, discussed a variety of measures, equally
desperate with their condition, for immediate relief, until, when the
rest had made their propositions, Carson again showed himself "the right
man in the right place," and when all besides were hopeless, was the
salvation of his party. He rose in the council and said:

"Our case _is_ a desperate one, but there is yet hope. If we stay here,
we are all dead men; our animals cannot last long, and the soldiers and
marines at San Diego do not know of our coming. But if they receive
information of our position, they would hasten to our rescue. There is
no use in thinking why or how we are here, but only of our present and
speedy escape. I will attempt to go through the Mexican lines, and will
then go to San Diego, and send relief from Commodore Stockton."

Lieutenant Beale, of the United States Navy, at once seconded Carson,
and volunteered to accompany him.

Lieutenant Beale is now widely known for his valuable services to the
country, and, as an explorer, he has few equals in the world.

The writer is informed that he is now deeply interested in a wagon road
across the country by the route he had just crossed, at the time of
which we write. His life has been full of strange adventures, since he
left the service of the seas.

Gen. Kearney immediately accepted the proposal of Carson and Lieutenant
Beale, as his only hope, and they started at once, as soon as the cover
of darkness was hung around them. Their mission was to be one of success
or of death to themselves, and the whole force. Carson was familiar with
the custom of the Mexicans, as well as the Indians, of putting their ear
to the ground to detect any sound, and knew, therefore, the necessity of
avoiding the slightest noise. As this was not possible, wearing their
shoes, they removed them, and putting them under their belts, crept on
over the bushes and rocks, with the greatest caution and silence.

They discovered that the Mexicans had three rows of sentinels, whose
beats extended past each other, embracing the hill where Kearney and his
command were held in siege. They were, doubtless, satisfied that they
could not be eluded. But our messengers crept on, often so near a
sentinel as to see his figure and equipment in the darkness; and once,
when within a few yards of them, one of the sentinels had dismounted
and lighted his cigarette with his flint and steel. Kit Carson seeing
this, as he lay flat on the ground, had put his foot back and touched
Lieutenant Beale, a signal to be still as he was doing. The minutes the
Mexican was occupied in this way, seemed hours to our heroes, who
expected they were discovered; and Carson affirms that they were so
still he could hear Lieutenant Beale's heart pulsate, and in the agony
of the time he lived a year. But the Mexican finally mounted his horse,
and rode off in a contrary direction, as if he were guided by
Providence, to give safety to these courageous adventurers. For full two
miles Kit Carson and Lieutenant Beale thus worked their way along, upon
their hands and knees, turning their eyes in every direction to detect
any thing which might lead to their discovery, and having past the last
sentinel, and left the lines sufficiently behind them, they felt an
immeasurable relief in once more gaining their feet.

But their shoes were gone, and in the excitement of the journey, neither
of them had thought of their shoes since they first put them in their
belts; but they could speak again, and congratulate each other that the
imminent danger was past, and thank heaven that they had been aided
thus far. But there were still abundant difficulties, as their path was
rough with bushes, from the necessity of avoiding the well-trodden trail
lest they be detected; and the prickly pear covered the ground, and its
thorns penetrated their feet at every step; and their road was
lengthened by going around out of the direct path, though the latter
would have shortened their journey many a weary mile. All the day
following they pursued their journey, and on still, without cessation,
into the night following, for they could not stop until assured that
relief was to be furnished to their anxious and perilous conditioned
fellow soldiers.

Carson had pursued so straight a course, and aimed so correctly for his
mark, that they entered the town by the most direct passage, and
answering "friends" to the challenge of the sentinel, it was known from
whence they came, and they were at once conducted to Commodore Stockton,
to whom they related the errand on which they had come, and the further
particulars we have described.

Commodore Stockton immediately detailed a force of nearly two hundred
men, and with his usual promptness, ordered them to seek their besieged
countrymen by forced marches.

They took with them a piece of ordnance, which the men were obliged to
draw themselves, as there were in readiness no animals to be had. Carson
did not return with them, as his feet were in a terrible condition, and
he needed to rest or he might lose them, but he described the position
of General Kearney so accurately, that the party to relieve him would
find him with no difficulty; and yet, if the Commodore had expressed the
wish, he would have undertaken to conduct the relief party upon its

Lieutenant Beale was partially deranged for several days, from the
effects of this severe service, and was sent on board the frigate lying
in port for medical attendance; but he did not fully recover his former
physical health for more than two years; but he never spoke regretfully
of an undertaking, which was not excelled by any feat performed in the
Mexican war.

The reinforcement reached General Kearney without a collision with the
Mexicans, and very soon all marched to San Diego, where the wounded
soldiers received medical attendance.

We have spoken of the superiority of character of the California
Mexicans over that of the inhabitants of the other Mexican States. The
officials appointed at the Mexican capital for this State, were treated
deferentially or cavalierly, as they consulted or disregarded the wishes
of the people, and often it happened that a Governor-General of
California was put on board a ship at Monterey, and directed to betake
himself back to those who sent him.

California was so remote from the headquarters of the general
government, that these things were done with impunity, for it would have
been difficult to send a force into the State that could subdue it, with
its scattered population, and if laws obnoxious to them were enacted,
and they violated them, or expelled an official who proposed their
enforcement, it was quietly overlooked. Managing their own affairs in
this way, a spirit of independence and bold daring had been cultivated,
especially since the time when our story of California life commenced in
Carson's first visit to that State, nor had the intercourse with
Americans hitherto lessened these feelings, for the California Mexicans
admired the Americans, as they called them, and cultivated good
fellowship with them generally; so that we see when the Bear Flag and
Independence of the State became the order under Fremont and his party,
many of its leading citizens came at once into the arrangement, or were
parties in it at the first.

Had the conquest and government of the country been conducted wholly by
Fremont, it would have exhibited very little expenditure of life, for
conciliation and the cultivation of kindly feeling was the policy he
pursued; indeed, with Carson as prime counselor, whose wife at home in
Taos owned kindred with this people as one of the same race, how could
it have been otherwise! though as Americans and citizens of the United
States, in whose employ they acted, first allegiance was ever cheerfully
accorded to their country, by Carson equally with Fremont, as the
history of California most fully proves.

The United States forces at San Diego were not in condition to again
take the field, until a number of weeks had elapsed, when a command of
six hundred had been organized for the purpose of again capturing Los
Angelos, where the Mexican forces were concentrated; and General Kearney
and Commodore Stockton were united in conducting it, and in two days
arrived within fifteen miles of the town, near where the Mexican army,
to the number of seven hundred, had established themselves strongly
upon a hill beside their camp, and between whom and the Americans flowed
a stream of water.

General Kearney ordered two pieces of artillery planted where they would
rake the position of the Mexicans, which soon forced them to break up
their camp, when Gen. Kearney and Commodore Stockton immediately marched
into the town, but only to find it destitute of any military control, as
the Mexican army had gone northward to meet Col. Fremont, who had left
Monterey with a force of four hundred Americans, to come to Los Angelos.

The Mexicans found Col. Fremont, and laid down their arms to him,
probably preferring to give him the honor of the victory rather than
Gen. Kearney, though if this was or was not the motive, history now
sayeth not. Col. Fremont continued his march and came to Los Angelos,
and as the fighting for the present certainly was over, he and his men
rested here for the winter, where Carson, who had been rendering all the
aid in his power to Gen. Kearney, now gladly joined his old commander.

The position of the American forces, had the camps been harmonious, was
as comfortable and conducive to happiness during the winter as it was
possible for it to be, and the Mexican citizens of Los Angelos had been
so conciliated, the time might have passed pleasantly. But, as we have
intimated, Gen. Kearney had a general contempt for the Mexicans, and his
position in the camp forbade those pleasant civilities which had
commenced in San Diego before his arrival, and would have been
prosecuted in Los Angelos, to the advantage of all concerned; for, as
many of the men in Fremont's camp were old residents of the country, and
known and respected by the Mexican citizens, with whom some of them had
contracted intimate social relations, it is not wonderful that the
Mexican officers and soldiers chose to lay down their arms to him and
his command. Fremont had beside, at the instigation of Carson as well as
of his own inclination, taken every reasonable opportunity to gratify
their love of social life, by joining in their assemblies as opportunity
offered; and for this, as well as his magnanimous courage, we can
appreciate their choice in giving him the palm of victory.


Events transpire rapidly when a country is in a state of revolution.
Early in March of '46 the little party of explorers received the "first
hostile message" from General Castro--the _Commandant_ General of
California--which, though really a declaration of war, upon a party sent
out by the United States Government on a purely scientific expedition,
had been received and acted upon by Fremont with moderation, and actual
war had not been declared until July, when Sonoma was taken, and the
flag of Independence hoisted on the fourth of that month, and Fremont
elected Governor of California.

While hearing indefinitely of these events, Commodore Sloat, who, with
the vessels belonging to his command, was lying at Monterey, had hoisted
the flag of the United States over that city, anticipating any command
to do so on the part of his government, and anticipating also the
action of the commander of the British ship of war, sent for a similar
purpose, which arrived at Monterey on the 19th of July, under the
command of Sir George Seymour; one of whose officers, in a book
published by him after his return to England, describes the entrance of
Fremont and his party into Monterey as follows:

"During our stay in Monterey," says Mr. Walpole, "Captain Fremont and
his party arrived. They naturally excited curiosity. Here were true
trappers, the class that produced the heroes of Fennimore Cooper's best
works. These men had passed years in the wilds, living upon their own
resources; they were a curious set. A vast cloud of dust appeared first,
and thence in long file emerged this wildest wild party. Fremont rode
ahead, a spare, active-looking man, with such an eye! He was dressed in
a blouse and leggings, and wore a felt hat. After him came five Delaware
Indians, who were his body-guard, and have been with him through all his
wanderings; they had charge of two baggage horses. The rest, many of
them blacker than the Indians, rode two and two, the rifle held by one
hand across the pommel of the saddle. Thirty-nine of them are his
regular men, the rest are loafers picked up lately; his original men
are principally backwoodsmen, from the State of Tennessee and the banks
of the upper waters of the Missouri. He has one or two with him who
enjoy a high reputation in the prairies. Kit Carson is as well known
there as 'the Duke' is in Europe. The dress of these men was principally
a long loose coat of deer skin, tied with thongs in front; trowsers of
the same, of their own manufacture, which, when wet through, they take
off, scrape well inside with a knife, and put on as soon as dry; the
saddles were of various fashions, though these and a large drove of
horses, and a brass field-gun, were things they had picked up about
California. They are allowed no liquor, tea and sugar only; this, no
doubt, has much to do with their good conduct; and the discipline, too,
is very strict. They were marched up to an open space on the hills near
the town, under some large fires, and there took up their quarters, in
messes of six or seven, in the open air. The Indians lay beside their
leader. One man, a doctor, six feet six high, was an odd-looking fellow.
May I never come under his hands!"

Commodore Stockton had arrived the same day with Fremont and Carson and
their command, and under him Fremont had been appointed General in
Chief of the California forces, with Carson for his first Lieutenant;
Stockton assuming the civil office of Governor of the country. This had
been deemed a measure of necessity, from the fact that the California
Mexicans had not yet learned, from the Mexican authorities, the actual
declaration of war between the United States and Mexico; and therefore
looked upon the operations of the Americans as the acts of adventurers
for their own aggrandizement; and yet, with all the intensity of feeling
such ideas aroused, Fremont and Carson had won their admiration and
their hearts, by the rapidity of their movements, their sudden and
effective blows, and the effort by dispatch to avoid all cruelty and
bloodshed as far as possible.

In this way had San Diego, San Pedro, Los Angelos, Santa Barbara, and
the whole country, as the Mexican authorities declared, come into the
possession of Commodore Stockton and General Fremont, as a conquered
territory, taken in behalf of the United States; and the whole work been
completed in about sixty days from the time the first blow was struck;
and when all was accomplished, and the conquest complete, Carson started
upon his errand to communicate the intelligence to the general
government at Washington; with the knowledge that all the leading
citizens of California, native as well as the American settlers, were
friendly to Fremont, and on his account to Commodore Stockton.

During the three months of Carson's absence, events had transpired that
made it necessary to do this work over again, resulting in a measure
from the indiscretions of American officers, which induced insurrection
on the part of the Mexicans. The arrival of General Kearney with United
States troops still further excited them, and produced results which
were everything but pleasant to Fremont and Commodore Stockton, the
details of which we forbear to give, simply saying that Carson's regard
for Fremont showed itself by his return to his service, and doing all
that he could to forward his interests, and in his often attending him
in his excursions. Fremont's command was an independent battalion; and
concerning the last and final contest, General Kearney thus wrote to the
War Department:

"This morning, Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont, of the regiment of mounted
riflemen, reached here with four hundred volunteers from the Sacramento;
the enemy capitulated with him yesterday, near San Fernando, agreeing
to lay down their arms; and we have now the prospect of having peace and
quietness in this country, which I hope may not be interrupted again."

It was during Carson's absence, en route for Washington, that Fremont
accomplished the most extraordinary feat of physical energy and
endurance ever recorded. We find it in the "National Intelligencer," of
November 22, 1847, and quote it entire, as illustrating not only the
physical powers of human endurance produced by practice and culture, but
the wonderful sagacity and enduring qualities of the California horses:


"This extraordinary ride of 800 miles in eight days, including all
stoppages and near two days' detention--a whole day and a night at
Monterey, and nearly two half days at San Luis Obispo--having been
brought into evidence before the Army Court Martial now in session in
this city, and great desire being expressed by some friends to know how
the ride was made, I herewith send you the particulars, that you may
publish them, if you please, in the National Intelligencer, as an
incident connected with the times and affairs under review in the trial,
of which you give so full a report. The circumstances were first got
from Jacob, afterwards revised by Col. Fremont, and I drew them up from
his statement.

"The publication will show, besides the horsemanship of the riders, the
power of the California horse, especially as one of the horses was
subjected, in the course of the ride, to an extraordinary trial, in
order to exhibit the capacity of his race. Of course this statement will
make no allusion to the objects of the journey, but be confined strictly
to its performance.

"It was at daybreak on the morning of the 22d of March, that the party
set out from La Ciudad de los Angelos (the city of the Angels) in the
southern part of Upper California, to proceed, in the shortest time, to
Monterey on the Pacific coast, distant full four hundred miles. The way
is over a mountainous country, much of it uninhabited, with no other
road than a trace, and many defiles to pass, particularly the maritime
defile of _el Rincon_ or Punto Gordo, fifteen miles in extent, made by
the jutting of a precipitous mountain into the sea, and which can only
be passed when the tide is out and the sea calm, and then in many places
through the waves. The towns of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and
occasional ranches, are the principal inhabited places on the route.
Each of the party had three horses, nine in all, to take their turns
under the saddle. The six loose horses ran ahead, without bridle or
halter, and required some attention to keep to the track. When wanted
for a change, say at the distance of twenty miles, they were caught by
the _lasso_, thrown either by Don Jesus or the servant Jacob, who,
though born in Washington, in his long expeditions with Col. Fremont,
had become as expert as a Mexican with the lasso, as sure as the
mountaineer with the rifle, equal to either on horse or foot, and always
a lad of courage and fidelity.

"None of the horses were shod, that being a practice unknown to the
Californians. The most usual gait was a sweeping gallop. The first day
they ran one hundred and twenty-five miles, passing the San Fernando
mountain, the defile of the Rincon, several other mountains, and slept
at the hospitable ranche of Don Thomas Robberis, beyond the town of
Santa Barbara. The only fatigue complained of in this day's ride, was
in Jacob's right arm, made tired by throwing the lasso, and using it as
a whip to keep the loose horses to the track.

"The next day they made another one hundred and twenty-five miles,
passing the formidable mountain of Santa Barbara, and counting upon it
the skeletons of some fifty horses, part of near double that number
which perished in the crossing of that terrible mountain by the
California battalion, on Christmas day, 1846, amidst a raging tempest,
and a deluge of rain and cold more killing than that of the Sierra
Nevada--the day of severest suffering, say Fremont and his men, that
they have ever passed. At sunset, the party stopped to sup with the
friendly Capt. Dana, and at nine at night San Luis Obispo was reached,
the home of Don Jesus, and where an affecting reception awaited
Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont, in consequence of an incident which occurred
there that history will one day record; and he was detained till 10
o'clock in the morning receiving the visits of the inhabitants, (mothers
and children included,) taking a breakfast of honor, and waiting for a
relief of fresh horses to be brought in from the surrounding country.
Here the nine horses from Los Angelos were left, and eight others taken
in their place, and a Spanish boy added to the party to assist in
managing the loose horses.

"Proceeding at the usual gait till eight at night, and having made some
seventy miles, Don Jesus, who had spent the night before with his family
and friends, and probably with but little sleep, became fatigued, and
proposed a halt for a few hours. It was in the valley of the Salinas
(salt river called _Buenaventura_ in the old maps,) and the haunt of
marauding Indians. For safety during their repose, the party turned off
the trace, issued through a _cañon_ into a thick wood, and laid down,
the horses being put to grass at a short distance, with the Spanish boy
in the saddle to watch. Sleep, when commenced, was too sweet to be
easily given up, and it was half way between midnight and day, when the
sleepers were aroused by an _estampedo_ among the horses, and the calls
of the boy. The cause of the alarm was soon found, not Indians, but
white bears--this valley being their great resort, and the place where
Col. Fremont and thirty-five of his men encountered some hundred of them
the summer before, killing thirty upon the ground.

"The character of these bears is well known, and the bravest hunters do
not like to meet them without the advantage of numbers. On discovering
the enemy, Col. Fremont felt for his pistols, but Don Jesus desired him
to lie still, saying that 'people could scare bears;' and immediately
hallooed at them in Spanish, and they went off. Sleep went off also; and
the recovery of the horses frightened by the bears, building a rousing
fire, making a breakfast from the hospitable supplies of San Luis
Obispo, occupied the party till daybreak, when the journey was resumed.
Eighty miles, and the afternoon brought the party to Monterey.

"The next day, in the afternoon, the party set out on their return, and
the two horses rode by Col. Fremont from San Luis Obispo, being a
present to him from Don Jesus, he (Don Jesus) desired to make an
experiment of what one of them could do. They were brothers, one a grass
younger than the other, both of the same color, (cinnamon,) and hence
called _el cañalo_, or _los cañalos_, (the cinnamon or the cinnamons.)
The elder was to be taken for the trial; and the journey commenced upon
him at leaving Monterey, the afternoon well advanced. Thirty miles under
the saddle done that evening, and the party stopped for the night. In
the morning, the elder cañalo was again under the saddle for Col.
Fremont, and for ninety miles he carried him without a change, and
without apparent fatigue. It was still thirty miles to San Luis Obispo,
where the night was to be passed, and Don Jesus insisted that cañalo
could do it, and so said the horse by his looks and action. But Col.
Fremont would not put him to the trial, and, shifting the saddle to the
younger brother, the elder was turned loose to run the remaining thirty
miles without a rider. He did so, immediately taking the lead and
keeping it all the way, and entering San Luis in a sweeping gallop,
nostrils distended, snuffing the air, and neighing with exultation at
his return to his native pastures; his younger brother all the time at
the head of the horses under the saddle, bearing on his bit, and held in
by his rider. The whole eight horses made their one hundred and twenty
miles each that day, (after thirty the evening before,) the elder
cinnamon making ninety of his under the saddle that day, besides thirty
under the saddle the evening before; nor was there the least doubt that
he would have done the whole distance in the same time if he had
continued under the saddle.

"After a hospitable detention of another half a day at San Luis Obispo,
the party set out for Los Angelos, on the same nine horses which they
had rode from that place, and made the ride back in about the same time
they had made it up, namely, at the rate of 125 miles a day.

"On this ride, the grass on the road was the food for the horses. At
Monterey they had barley; but these horses, meaning those _trained and
domesticated_, as the cañalos were, eat almost anything of vegetable
food, or even drink, that their master uses, by whom they are petted and
caressed, and rarely sold. Bread, fruit, sugar, coffee, and even wine,
(like the Persian horses,) they take from the hand of their master, and
obey with like docility his slightest intimation. A tap of the whip on
the saddle, springs them into action; the check of a thread rein (on the
Spanish bit) would stop them: and stopping short at speed they do not
jostle the rider or throw him forward. They leap on anything--man,
beast, or weapon, on which their master directs them. But this
description, so far as conduct and behavior are concerned, of course
only applies to the trained and domesticated horse."


During the autumn of 1846, Fremont had had no time to visit his Mariposa
purchase; but in the winter, while at Los Angelos, inviting Carson and
Godey and two of his Delaware Indians, and his constant attendant
Dobson, to take a tramp with him for hunting, in the time of sunny skies
in February, he extended his hunt thither, and accomplished the
discovery that he had a well-wooded and well-watered--for California
well watered--tract of land, of exceeding beauty, clothed, as it was at
this season, with a countless variety of flowering plants, these being
the grasses of the country, and seemingly well adapted for tillage,
certainly an excellent spot for an immense cattle ranche. They killed
deer and antelope and smaller game, and with the lasso captured a score
of wild horses from a drove of hundreds that fled at their approach;
returning to Los Angelos within a week from the time of their
departure, laden with the spoils of the chase.

Nor could these busy men refuse the kindly hospitalities tendered them
by the old and wealthy natives of Los Angelos. We have described their
style of life as Carson had witnessed it in 1828; and now at a ball
given by Don Pio Pico--for the _fandango_ of the Mexican is a part of
his life, and with all his reverses of fortune it must come in for its
place--Carson and Fremont are of course guests, and Lieutenant
Gillespie, and some other of the American officers. As the company was a
mixed one, we will not attempt a description, but quote from Bayard
Taylor's California, a scene of a similar kind at the close of the
Constitutional Convention, about two years later, when, with the
discovery of gold, California had a population sufficient to demand a
State government, and made one for herself, and prepared to knock for
admission into the Union of States. In this Convention were the old
fathers of California, American army officers, and some more recent
arrivals; and well was it for California that the steps for the
organization of her State government were taken so early, when the fact
of Mexicans and natives having a claim was not ignored, as it might
have been at a later date by the reckless adventurers who thronged the
golden shore.

But it is only the ball at the close of the Convention we propose to
describe, at which Col. Fremont and David C. Broderick were present, as
members of the Convention.

"The morning Convention was short and adjourned early yesterday, on
account of a ball given by the Convention to the citizens of Monterey.
The members, by a contribution of $25 each, raised the sum of $1,100 to
provide for the entertainment, which was got up in return for that given
by the citizens about four weeks since.

"The Hall was cleared of the forms and tables, and decorated with young
pines from the forest. At each end were the American colors tastefully
disposed across the boughs. Then chandeliers, neither of bronze or
cut-glass, but neat and brilliant withal, poured their light upon the
festivities. At eight o'clock--the fashionable hour in Monterey--the
guests began to assemble, and in an hour afterward the Hall was crowded
with nearly all the Californian and American residents. There were sixty
ladies present, and an equal number of gentlemen, in addition to the
members of the Convention. The dark-eyed daughters of Monterey, Los
Angelos, and Santa Barbara mingled in pleasing contrast with the fairer
bloom of the trans-Nevadian belles. The variety of feature and
complexion was fully equaled by the variety of dress. In the whirl of
the waltz, a plain, dark, nun-like robe would be followed by one of pink
satin and gauze; next, perhaps, a bodice of scarlet velvet, with gold
buttons, and then a rich figured brocade, such as one sees on the
stately dames of Titian.

"The dresses of the gentlemen showed considerable variety, but were much
less picturesque. A complete ball-dress was a happiness attained only by
a fortunate few, many appearing in borrowed robes.

"The appearance of the company, nevertheless, was genteel and
respectable; and perhaps the genial, unrestrained social spirit, that
possessed all present, would have been less, had there been more
uniformity of costume. Gen. Riley was there in full uniform, with the
yellow sash he wore at Contreras; Mayors Canby, Hill, and Smith,
Captains Burton, and Kane, and the other officers stationed at Monterey,
accompanying him. In one group might be seen Capt. Sutter's soldierly
mustache and blue eye, in another the erect figure and quiet, dignified
bearing of Gen. Vallejo; Don Peblo de la Guerra, with his handsome,
aristocratic features, was the floor manager, and gallantly discharged
his office. Conspicuous among the members were Don Miguel de Rodrazena,
and Jacinto Rodriguez, both polished gentlemen and deservedly popular.
Dominguez, the Indian member, took no part in the dance, but evidently
enjoyed the scene as much as any one present. The most interesting
figure to me, was that of Padre Remisez, who, in his clerical cassock,
looked on until a late hour. If the strongest advocate of priestly
gravity and decorum had been present, he could not have found in his
heart to grudge the good old padre the pleasure that beamed from his
honest countenance.

"The band consisted of two violins and two guitars, whose music made up
in spirit what it lacked in skill. They played, as it seemed to me, but
three pieces alternately, for waltz, contra-dance, and quadrille. The
latter dance was evidently an unfamiliar one, for once or twice the
music ceased in the middle of the figure. The etiquette of the dance was
marked by that grave, stately courtesy, which has been handed down from
the old Spanish times. The gentlemen invariably gave the ladies their
hand to lead them to their places on the floor; in the pauses of the
dance both parties stood motionless side by side, and at the conclusion
the lady was gravely led back to her seat.

"At twelve o'clock supper was announced. The Court room in the lower
story had been fitted up for the purpose, and as it was not large enough
to admit all the guests, the ladies were first conducted thither, and
waited upon by a select committee. The refreshments consisted of turkey,
roast-pig, beef, tongue, and _patés_, with wines and liquors of various
sorts, and coffee. A large supply had been provided but after everybody
was served, there was not much remaining. The ladies began to leave
about two o'clock, but an hour later the dance was still going on with

The dance at the home of Pico, was after the same fashion--and similar
to those we have mentioned as the constant amusement of the people at
Taos, where Carson resided, and in all the Mexican cities.

But Carson was too valuable an aid to be long allowed to be idle. In
March, 1847, he was ordered to be the bearer of important dispatches to
the War Department at Washington, and Lieutenant Beale was directed to
accompany him with dispatches for the Department of the Navy. The
latter was still so much an invalid as to require Carson to lift him on
and off his horse for the first twenty days of the journey, but Carson's
genial spirits and kindly care, with the healthful exercise of
horsemanship, recovered him rapidly; and the country was so well known
to Carson, that they avoided collisions with the Indians by eluding
their haunts; except once upon the Gila, when they were attacked in the
night, and a shower of arrows sent among them as they lay in camp, from
which his men had escaped, being injured by holding their pack-saddles
before them. They stopped briefly at Taos, and pursued their journey so
rapidly that the two thousand five hundred miles on horseback, and the
fifteen hundred by railroad, were accomplished in less than three

The incidents of such a journey had become every-day scenes to Carson,
so that their narration would seem to him a waste of words on the part
of his biographer. And yet the emotions with which he witnessed, for the
first time, the monument of advancing civilization in the Eastern
cities, and the zest with which he enjoyed the social comforts of the
hospitality afforded him at the homes of Lieutenant Beale and Col.
Benton, can be better imagined than described. He had taken but a small
supply of provisions from Los Angelos, lest it should be cumbersome to
him, and as the road lay often through a country destitute of game,
there had been fasting on the way, sometimes days together; but his
party, which he had selected, making their ability to endure such an
enterprise a leading quality of commendation to him, bore all without a
murmur; stimulated by the one impulse, of reaching their homes and
friends, while Carson cared to secure the approbation of those whom he
served, and the consciousness of having been an honor to his country.

Col. Benton met him at St. Louis, and reaching Washington, Mrs. Fremont
was at the depot to take him to her's and her father's home. She waited
for no introduction, but at once approached him, calling him by name,
and telling him she should have known him from her husband's
description. After a brief tarry in Washington, a lion himself and
introduced to all the lions, he departed with Lieutenant Beale for St.
Louis, but business detained the latter who went later by sea; while
Carson, whom President Polk had made a Lieutenant in the army, with
fifty troops under his command to take through the Camanche country,
again commenced his journey across the prairies, having a battle with
these Indians as was expected, for they were at war with the whites.

This did not occur, however, until near the Rocky Mountains, near the
place called "The Point of Rocks," on the Santa Fe trail, which place is
regarded as one of the most dangerous in the New Mexican country,
because affording shelter for ambush at a place where the travel has to
pass a spur of rocky hills, at whose base is found the water and camp
ground travelers seek, and where unwritten history counts many a battle.

Arriving here, Carson found a company of United States volunteers, and
went into camp near them. Early in the morning the animals of the
volunteer company were captured by a band of Indians, while the men were
taking them to a spot of fresh pasture. The herders were without arms,
and in the confusion the cattle came into Carson's camp, who, with his
men, were ready with their rifles, and recaptured the cattle from the
Indians, but the horses of the picketing party were successfully

Several of the thieves had been mortally wounded, as the signs after
their departure showed, but the Indian custom of tying the wounded upon
their horses, prevented taking the Indian's trophy of victory, the
scalp, and the object of the Indians in their assaults. The success of
the Arab-like Camanches is well illustrated by this skirmish, giving
best assurance that Carson, who was never surprised in this whole
journey, possessed that element of caution so requisite in a commander
in such a country.

Of the two soldiers whose turn it had been to stand guard this morning,
it was found that one was sleeping when the alarm was given, and when it
was reported to Carson, he at once administered the Chinook method of
punishment--the dress of a squaw--for that day, and resuming his
journey, arrived safely in Santa Fe, where he left the soldiers, and
hired sixteen men of his own choosing, to make with him the remainder of
the journey, as he had been ordered at Fort Leavenworth. To his great
joy, his family were here to meet him, as he had requested. Upon Virgin
River, he had to command the obedience of Indians who came into his camp
and left it tardily, by firing upon them, which required some nerve and
experience in a leader of so small a party, while the Indians numbered
three hundred warriors. They arrived at Los Angelos without further
incident than the killing and eating of two mules, to eke out their
scanty subsistence, in the destitution of game and time to hunt it;
whence Carson proceeded to Monterey, to deliver his dispatches at
headquarters, and returned to the duty assigned him as an acting
Lieutenant in the United States Army, in the company of dragoons under
Capt. Smith, allowing himself no time to recruit; and soon he was sent
with a command of twenty-five dragoons, to the Tejon Pass, to examine
the papers and cargoes of Indians passing this point, the route which
most of the Indian depredators took in passing in and out of California;
and here he did much good service during the winter.

In the spring he again went overland to Washington with dispatches,
meeting no serious difficulty till he came to the Grand River, where in
the time of spring flood he was obliged to construct a raft, and the
second load over was swamped, the men barely saving their lives, which
rendered his party destitute of comforts in their onward journey, but
arriving at Taos he stopped with his family, and at his own home gave
his men a few days to recruit, and himself the luxury of intercourse
with his family and friends, which no one enjoys more than Christopher

They had encountered several hundred Indians of the Apaches and Utahs,
whom Carson told he had nothing to give, and upon whom the appearance of
his men gave assurance they would make little by attacking. At Santa Fe,
Carson learned that his appointment as Lieutenant by the President had
not been confirmed by the Senate, and his friends advised him not to
carry the dispatches any further; but Carson was not to be deterred from
doing his duty because the honor he deserved was not accorded to him,
saying that "as he had been selected for an important trust, he should
do his best to fulfill it, if it cost him his life;" and he proceeded to
Washington, feeling that if ill-usage had reached him in connection with
Fremont, to whom he had been of so much service, it was no more than he
might have expected; as, for many months past, political considerations
and rivalries had been seen by him to govern the actions of certain men,
instead of a care for the best interests of the country. He had seen men
in command of troops in the prairies who had the least possible
knowledge of the country, and especially of Indian warfare. He would
have advised that frontier men be chosen for such appointments, rather
than those simply educated in the schools and entirely unaccustomed to
endure privations, but if others neglected the wiser course, that was no
reason why he should not do his duty.

Learning that the Camanches were upon the Santa Fe road, several hundred
strong, he reduced his escort to ten choice mountain men, and determined
upon making a trail of his own returned to Taos, and struck over to the
head-waters of the Platte, and past Fort Kearney to Leavenworth, where
he left his escort and proceeded alone to Washington, and delivering his
dispatches as directed, returned immediately to Leavenworth, and thence
to Taos, where he arrived in October; and was again at home and free
from the burdens and responsibilities of public life, with the settled
purpose of making a protracted stay, and providing himself with a
permanent home.

Perhaps there is no tribe of Indians besides the Seminoles in Florida,
that have given the United States more trouble than the Apaches, in the
time that we have held the claim of their country; and the best proof of
their bravery may be found in the fact that the warriors nearly all die
in battle. Living in a country as healthy as any in the world, and
constantly occupied in hunting buffalo, or Mexicans and whites, with
whom they are at war, they are exceedingly regardful of their national
honor, and as their mountain retreats are almost inaccessible, they have
the advantage of regular troops, and almost of old mountaineers, only as
the latter can equal them in numbers.

Col. Beale was occupying this department at the time of which we write,
and engaged in an effort to chastise the Apaches under _Clico
Velasquez_, their exceedingly blood-thirsty and cruel chief, whose habit
was to adorn his dress with the finger bones of the victims he had
slaughtered. Col. Beale took charge of the command himself, and employed
Carson as his guide. They crossed snow mountains to search for the
Indians, and returning came upon a village, which they attacked, and
captured a large amount of goods and two of the chiefs of the tribe,
with whom Col. Beale had a long talk, and then dismissed to return to
their tribe, hoping thus to convince them of the magnanimity of the
United States Government, when the command returned to Taos to recruit
his troops.

Meantime Carson entertained, at his own home in Taos, Fremont and his
party of suffering explorers, who were making a winter survey of a pass
for a road to California, and by taking a difficult mountain pass, had
lost all their mules and several of their party. Science is not all
that is needed for such undertakings, and as labor and learning should
act in co-partnership, to be most effective, so theoretic and practical
skill should be associated in any effort of difficulty, as this trip of
Col. Fremont, without an experienced mountaineer for a guide, proved to
him and his men, some of whom had fed upon the others who had starved.


In the last chapter, we left Fremont in the hospitable mansion of his
old and tried friend Carson, after one of the most extraordinary
journeys ever performed by any man who survived to tell its horrors; and
as the names of Carson and Fremont are inseparably cemented in history,
as in friendship, and as the former had often endured sufferings almost
as great as those of his old commander and friend, we shall be pardoned
if we allude to this journey at some length. There is no earthly doubt
that had Carson been the guide, many valuable lives of noble, glorious
men might have been spared, and sufferings on the part of those who
survived this disastrous expedition, almost too horrible for belief,

Col. Fremont, in a letter written to his wife from Taos, the day after
his arrival there in a famishing condition, and having lost one full
third of his party by absolute starvation and freezing, mentions that
at Pueblo he engaged as a guide, an old trapper of twenty-five years,
experience, named "Bill Williams," and he frankly admits that the "error
of his journey was committed in engaging this man."

In narrating some of the incidents of this terribly disastrous journey,
we shall use, of course, the language of those best qualified to depict
its horrors, _i. e._, Col. Fremont, and Mr. Carvalho, a gentleman of
Baltimore, who accompanied the expedition as daguerreotypist and artist.

Col. Fremont, in his letter to his wife, treats of the subject
generally, but when we quote from the narrative of Mr. Carvalho, we
think our readers will admit that such a record of human suffering, and
human endurance, added to such an exhibition of moral and physical
courage, has never been paralleled.

Col. Fremont writes, (speaking first of Williams the guide,)

"He proved never to have in the least known, or entirely to have
forgotten, the whole region of country through which we were to pass. We
occupied more than half a month in making the journey of a few days,
blundering a tortuous way through deep snow which already began to choke
up the passes, for which we were obliged to waste time in searching.
About the 11th December we found ourselves at the North of the Del Norte
Cañon, where that river issues from the St. John's Mountain, one of the
highest, most rugged and impracticable of all the Rocky Mountain ranges,
inaccessible to trappers and hunters even in the summer time.

"Across the point of this elevated range our guide conducted us, and
having still great confidence in his knowledge, we pressed onwards with
fatal resolution. Even along the river bottoms the snow was already
belly deep for the mules, frequently snowing in the valley and almost
constantly in the mountains. The cold was extraordinary; at the warmest
hours of the day (between one and two) the thermometer (Fahrenheit)
standing in the shade of only a tree trunk at zero; the day sunshiny,
with a moderate breeze. We pressed up towards the summit, the snow
deepening; and in four or five days reached the naked ridges which lie
above the timbered country, and which form the dividing grounds between
the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

"Along these naked ridges it storms nearly all winter, and the winds
sweep across them with remorseless fury. On our first attempt to cross
we encountered a _pouderié_ (dry snow driven thick through the air by
violent wind, and in which objects are visible only at a short
distance,) and were driven back, having some ten or twelve men variously
frozen, face, hands, or feet. The guide became nigh being frozen to
death here, and dead mules were already lying about the fires. Meantime,
it snowed steadily. The next day we made mauls, and beating a road or
trench through the snow, crossed the crest in defiance of the
_pouderié_, and encamped immediately below in the edge of the timber.

"Westward, the country was buried in deep snow. It was impossible to
advance, and to turn back was equally impracticable. We were overtaken
by sudden and inevitable ruin, and it was instantly apparent that we
should lose every animal.

"I determined to recross the mountain more towards the open country, and
haul or pack the baggage (by men) down to the Del Norte. With great
labor the baggage was transported across the crest to the head springs
of a little stream leading to the main river. A few days were sufficient
to destroy our fine band of mules. They generally kept huddled together,
and as they froze, one would be seen to tumble down, and the snow would
cover him; sometimes they would break off and rush down towards the
timber until they were stopped by the deep snow, where they were soon
hidden by the _pouderié_.

"The courage of the men failed fast; in fact, I have never seen men so
soon discouraged by misfortune as we were on this occasion; but, as you
know, the party was not constituted like the former ones. But among
those who deserve to be honorably mentioned, and who behaved like what
they were--men of the old exploring party,--were Godey, King, and
Taplin; and first of all Godey.

"In this situation, I determined to send in a party to the Spanish
settlements of New Mexico for provisions and mules to transport our
baggage to Taos. With economy, and after we should leave the mules, we
had not two weeks' provisions in the camp. These consisted of a store
which I had reserved for a hard day, macaroni and bacon. From among the
volunteers I chose King, Brackenridge, Creutzfeldt, and the guide
Williams; the party under the command of King. In case of the least
delay at the settlements, he was to send me an express.

"Day after day passed by, and no news from our express party. Snow
continued to fall almost incessantly on the mountain. The spirits of the
camp grew lower. Prone laid down in the trail and froze to death. In a
sunshiny day, and having with him means to make a fire, he threw his
blankets down in the trail and laid there till he froze to death. After
sixteen days had elapsed from King's departure, I became so uneasy at
the delay that I decided to wait no longer. I was aware that our troops
had been engaged in hostilities with the Spanish Utahs and Apaches, who
range in the North River valley, and became fearful that they (King's
party) had been cut off by these Indians; I could imagine no other
accident. Leaving the camp employed with the baggage and in charge of
Mr. Vincenthaler, I started down the river with a small party consisting
of Godey, (with his young nephew,) Mr. Preuss and Saunders. We carried
our arms and provision for two or three days. In the camp the messes had
provisions for two or three meals, more or less; and about five pounds
of sugar to each man. Failing to meet King, my intention was to make the
Red River settlement about twenty-five miles north of Taos, and send
back the speediest relief possible. My instructions to the camp were,
that if they did not hear from me within a stated time, they were to
follow down the Del Norte.

"About sunset on the sixth day, we discovered a little smoke, in a grove
of timber off from the river, and thinking perhaps it might be our
express party on its return, we went to see. This was the twenty-second
day since they had left us, and the sixth since we had left the camp. We
found them--three of them--Creutzfeldt, Brackenridge, and Williams--the
most miserable objects I have ever seen. I did not recognize
Creutzfeldt's features when Brackenridge brought him up to me and
mentioned his name. They had been starving. King had starved to death a
few days before. His remains were some six or eight miles above, near
the river. By aid of the horses, we carried these three men with us to
Red River settlement, which we reached (Jan. 20,) on the tenth evening
after leaving our camp in the mountains, having traveled through snow
and on foot one hundred and sixty miles.

"The morning after reaching the Red River town, Godey and myself rode on
to the Rio Hondo and Taos, in search of animals and supplies, and on the
second evening after that on which we had reached Red River, Godey had
returned to that place with about thirty animals, provisions, and four
Mexicans, with which he set out for the camp on the following morning.

"You will remember that I had left the camp with occupation sufficient
to employ them for three or four days, after which they were to follow
me down the river. Within that time I had expected the relief from King,
if it was to come at all.

"They remained where I had left them seven days, and then started down
the river. Manuel--you will remember Manuel, the Cosumne Indian--gave
way to a feeling of despair after they had traveled about two miles,
begged Haler to shoot him, and then turned and made his way back to the
camp; intending to die there, as he doubtless soon did. They followed
our trail down the river--twenty-two men they were in all. About ten
miles below the camp, Wise gave out, threw away his gun and blanket, and
a few hundred yards further fell over into the snow and died. Two Indian
boys, young men, countrymen of Manuel, were behind. They rolled up Wise
in his blanket, and buried him in the snow on the river bank. No more
died that day--none the next. Carver raved during the night, his
imagination wholly occupied with images of many things which he fancied
himself eating. In the morning, he wandered off from the party, and
probably soon died. They did not see him again.

"Sorel on this day gave out, and laid down to die. They built him a
fire, and Morin, who was in a dying condition, and snow-blind, remained.
These two did not probably last till the next morning. That evening, I
think, Hubbard killed a deer. They traveled on, getting here and there a
grouse, but probably nothing else, the snow having frightened off the
game. Things were desperate, and brought Haler to the determination of
breaking up the party, in order to prevent them from living upon each
other. He told them 'that he had done all he could for them, that they
had no other hope remaining than the expected relief, and that their
best plan was to scatter and make the best of their way in small parties
down the river. That, for his part, if he was to be eaten, he would, at
all events, be found traveling when he did die.' They accordingly

"With Mr. Haler continued five others and the two Indian boys. Rohrer
now became very despondent; Haler encouraged him by recalling to mind
his family, and urged him to hold out a little longer. On this day he
fell behind, but promised to overtake them at evening. Haler, Scott,
Hubbard, and Martin agreed that if any one of them should give out, the
others were not to wait for him to die, but build a fire for him, and
push on. At night, Kern's mess encamped a few hundred yards from
Haler's, with the intention, according to Taplin, to remain where they
were until the relief should come, and in the meantime to live upon
those who had died, and upon the weaker ones as they should die. With
the three Kerns were Cathcart, Andrews, McKie, Stepperfeldt, and Taplin.

"Ferguson and Beadle had remained together behind. In the evening,
Rohrer came up and remained with Kern's mess. Mr. Haler learned
afterwards from that mess that Rohrer and Andrews wandered off the next
day and died. They say they saw their bodies. In the morning Haler's
party continued on. After a few hours, Hubbard gave out. They built him
a fire, gathered him some wood, and left him, without, as Haler says,
turning their heads to look at him as they went off. About two miles
further, Scott--you remember Scott--who used to shoot birds for you at
the frontier--gave out. They did the same for him as for Hubbard, and
continued on. In the afternoon, the Indian boys went ahead, and before
nightfall met Godey with the relief. Haler heard and knew the guns which
he fired for him at night, and starting early in the morning, soon met
him. I hear that they all cried together like children. Haler turned
back with Godey, and went with him to where they had left Scott. He was
still alive, and was saved. Hubbard was dead--still warm. From Kern's
mess they learned the death of Andrews and Rohrer, and a little above,
met Ferguson, who told them that Beadle had died the night before."

Such is a portion of the brief, but thrilling narrative of this
extraordinary and disastrous journey, as detailed in a familiar letter
by Col. Fremont to his wife; but Mr. Carvalho gives in detail some of
the particulars of the horrors which overtook them, all through the
unfortunate error of engaging as guide, a man who either knew nothing,
or had forgotten all he had ever known, of the localities which the
party designed and hoped to reach.


We quote now from the closing part of Mr. Carvalho's narrative:

"At last we are drawn to the necessity of killing our brave horses for
food. To-day the first sacrifice was made. It was with us all a solemn
event, rendered far more solemn however by the impressive scene which
followed. Col. Fremont came out to us, and after referring to the
dreadful necessities to which his men had been reduced on a previous
expedition, of eating each other, he begged us to swear that in no
extremity of hunger, would any of his men lift his hand against, or
attempt to prey upon a comrade; sooner let him die with them than live
upon them. They all promptly took the oath, and threatened to shoot the
first one that hinted or proposed such a thing.

"It was a most impressive scene, to witness twenty-two men on a snowy
mountain, with bare heads, and hands and eyes upraised to heaven,
uttering the solemn vow, 'So help me God!'--and the valley echoed, 'So
help me God!' I never, until that moment, realized the awful situation
in which I was placed. I remembered the words of the Psalmist, and felt
perfectly assured of my final safety. They _wandered in the wilderness
in a solitary way_; they found _no city to dwell in_. _Hungry and
thirsty their soul fainteth within them, and they cried unto the Lord in
their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses._

       *       *       *       *       *

"When an animal gave out, he was shot down by the Indians, who
immediately cut his throat, and saved all the blood in our camp kettle.
This animal was divided into twenty-two-parts. Two parts for Col.
Fremont and his cook, ten parts for the white camp, and ten parts for
the Indians. Col. Fremont hitherto messed with his officers; at this
time he requested that they would excuse him, as it gave him pain, and
called to mind the horrible scenes which had been enacted during his
last expedition--he could not see his officers obliged to partake of
such disgusting food.

"The rule he adopted was that one animal should serve for six meals for
the whole party. If one gave out in the meantime, of course it was an
exception; but otherwise, on no consideration was an animal to be
slaughtered, for every one that was killed, placed a man on foot, and
limited our chances of escape from our present situation. If the men
chose to eat up their six meals all in one day, they would have to go
without until the time arrived for killing another. It frequently
happened that the white camp was without food from twenty-four to
thirty-six hours, while Col. Fremont and the Delawares always had a
meal. The latter religiously abstained from encroaching on the portion
allotted for another meal, while many men of our camp, I may say all of
them, not content with their portion, would, to satisfy the cravings of
hunger, surreptitiously purloin from their pile of meat, at different
times, sundry pieces, thus depriving themselves of each other's
allowance. My own sense of right was so subdued by the sufferings I
endured by hunger, and walking almost barefooted through the snow, that
while going to guard one night, I stole a piece of frozen horse liver,
ate it raw, and thought it, at the time, the most delicious morsel I
ever tasted.

"The entrails of the horse were 'well shaken' (for we had no water to
wash them in) and boiled with snow, producing a highly flavored soup,
which the men considered so valuable and delicious that they forbade the
cook to skim the pot for fear any portion of it might be lost. The hide
was divided into equal portions, and with the bones roasted and burnt to
a crisp. This we munched on the road; but the men not being satisfied
with the division of the meat by the cook, made him turn his back, while
another took up each share separately, and enquired who should have it.
When the snows admitted it, we collected the thick leaves of a species
of cactus which we also put in the fire to burn off the prickles, and
ate. It then resembled in taste and nourishment an Irish potato peeling.
We lived in this way for nearly fifty days, traveling from Grand River
across the divide to Green River, and over the first range of the
Wahsach Mountains, on foot, Col. Fremont at our head, tramping a pathway
for his men to follow. He, as well as the rest of the party, towards the
last was entirely barefoot--some of them had a piece of raw hide on
their feet, which, however, becoming hard and stiff by the frost, made
them more uncomfortable than walking without any.

"Yesterday, Mr. Oliver Fuller, of St. Louis, who had been on foot for
some weeks, suddenly gave out. Our engineers and myself were with him.
He found himself unable to proceed--the snow was very deep, and his feet
were badly frozen. He insisted that we should leave him, and hasten to
camp for relief; not being able to render him any assistance by
remaining, we wrapped his blankets around him and left him on the trail.
In vain we searched for material to build him a fire--nothing was
visible but a wild waste of snow; we were also badly crippled, and we
did not arrive in camp until ten o'clock at night, at which time it
began snowing furiously. We told Col. Fremont of Mr. Fuller's situation,
when he sent a Mexican named Frank, with the two best animals and cooked
horsemeat, to bring Mr. Fuller in. There was not a dry eye in the whole
camp that night--the men sat up anxiously awaiting the return of our

"At daylight, they being still out, Col. Fremont sent three Delawares
mounted, to look for them. About ten o'clock one of them returned with
the Mexican and two mules. Frank was badly frozen, he had lost the
track, and bewildered and cold, he sank down holding on to the animals,
where he was found by the Delaware during the afternoon. The two
Delawares supporting Mr. Fuller were seen approaching. He was found
awake, but almost dead from the cold and faintness. Col. Fremont
personally rendered him all the assistance in his power. So did all of
us--for he was beloved and respected by the whole camp for his
gentlemanly behavior and his many virtues. Col. Fremont remained at this
dreary place near three days, to allow poor Fuller time to recruit--and
afterwards assigned to him the best mule to carry him, while two of the
men walked on either side to support him. A portion of our scanty food
was appropriated at every meal from each man's portion to make Mr.
Fuller's larger, as he required sustenance more than they did.

"On the 7th February, almost in sight of succor, the Almighty took him
to himself: he died on horseback--his two companions wrapped him in his
India rubber blanket and laid him across the trail. We arrived next day
at Parawan. After the men had rested a little, we went in company with
three or four of the inhabitants of Parawan, to bury our deceased
friend. His remains had not been disturbed during our absence."

In the month of February, and soon after Fremont's arrival and
departure, Col. Beale again solicited Carson to be his guide while he
paid a visit to a large village of Indians congregated on the Arkansas,
for the purpose of carrying out a stipulation of the treaty with Mexico,
that the captives the Indians retained in the territory ceded to the
United States, should be returned to Mexico. He found four tribes
congregated, to the number of two thousand, for the purpose of meeting
their agent, an experienced mountaineer, who informed Col. Beale that it
would be useless to attempt to enforce the provisions of the treaty
here, especially when so many Indians were together, and succeeded in
persuading him to desist from the use of force against them.

These Indians had been accustomed to dealing with poorly clad Mexican
soldiers, and the sight and bearing of Col. Beale and Carson and the men
under their command, must have induced a respect for the government they
represented, so that they did not consider the expedition as without
good result.

The Camanche Indians could not well have been induced to fulfill the
provisions of the treaty with Mexico, especially as they were not a
party to it, for in the very many years past, it had been their custom
to make incursions upon the Mexican settlements and parties of
travelers, and to capture their cattle and take their goods, besides
bringing away as many children as possible, in order that the girls
procured in this way should, when grown, marry the braves of the tribe;
till now at least a third of the blood of the tribe was Mexican. This
amalgamation had become more extensive in this than in any of the other
New Mexican tribes.

The Apache is smaller in stature and more closely built than the
Camanche; less skilled in horsemanship, but equally brave, with
beautiful symmetry of form, and "muscles as hard as iron," with an
elasticity of movement that shows a great amount of physical training,
and an eye that reveals the treachery of their character.


Arriving again in Taos, to carry into effect at once, the resolution he
had formed of establishing for himself a permanent home, he joined his
old friend Maxwell in the purpose of occupying a beautifully romantic
mountain valley, fifty miles east of Taos, called by the Indians Rayedo,
which would long since have been settled by the Mexicans, only it was
very much exposed to Indian depredations.

Through the centre of this valley flows a broad mountain stream, and,
for the loveliness of the scenery, or the fertility of its broad,
sloping basin, or the mountain supply of timber, there can scarcely be
found a spot to equal it. Carson and Maxwell established a settlement
about mid-way in the valley; and at the present date, have an imposing
little village, in which the houses of Carson and Maxwell are prominent
by reason of their greater dimensions, and indicate to the trader a
style of plenteous comfort, which, while it might offend the pale-faced
denizen of our most fashionable thoroughfares, the traveler, who has
learned to love nature and health, gazes upon with pleasure, and gladly
tarries to enjoy the patriarchal hospitality, and the sumptuous, almost
regal luxury of their hunter occupants, who "count their horses and
their cattle by the hundreds," and whose thousand sheep are on the
hills; whose larder is replenished from the still countless herds of
prairie oxen which roam through those magnificent plains, and the lesser
bands of speed-defying, beauteous quadrupeds of the hills, and the fleet
climbers of the rocks and big-horned mountain cliffs, and the flocks
that build their eyrie in their crags, all of which are occupants of the
sheep-pasture of these chevaliers of the wilderness, and in whose
court-yards may be seen specimens of this game, of which they are not
ashamed; for a young Carson has lassoed a little grizzly, while antelope
and young fawn feed from his sister's fingers.

Here too the Indian braves fear not to come and call the master of the
mansion, Father,--"Father Kit," is his long time appellation--and they
have learned to look on him and his, with all that reverence and
fondness with which grateful children look upon a worthy sire.

Carson cannot tarry at his pleasant home, much more than to care for its
necessary superintendence, for his life is the property of the public;
and to the quiet settlement of the Indians into the condition which is
happiest for them, so far as it can be secured in the condition of the
country and their own habitudes, is the work to which he has wisely
devoted himself. He has given to the Indians the best years of his ever
busy life, and gives them still, neglectful of immediate personal
comfort--or rather finding highest satisfaction in doing what is fittest
he should do, because it is the work in which he can accomplish the most

In the vicinity of the home of Carson, and that of his friend Maxwell,
are gathered a number of their old comrades--men of the mountains, who
have survived the multitudinous and conflicting events which have come
over the spirit of the Yankee, and the activities of the Yankee nation,
since the business of trapping first became for her hardy sons a
lucrative employment; and here, in the society of each other, and the
conscious security of protection for each other, in a locality
congenial to their tastes, with occasional old time occupations, and
where the rivalries of their predilections can be still indulged, and
quietly maintained, they are ever ready after every test to concede to
Christopher Carson the palm of being _first_ as a hunter, _first_ as an
experienced traveler and guide through the mountain country, whether it
be by a route he has, or one he has never before traveled.

The stories of his exploits in defence of his neighbors and friends, and
to recover from the Indians property they had stolen, since he left the
service of the Army of the United States, would of themselves fill a
volume, and we have space to allude to but a very few.

A Mrs. White, the wife of a merchant of Santa Fe, had been taken captive
with her child, (which was soon killed before her eyes,) by a party of
Apaches, who had shot her husband, and all the men of his company,
before capturing her. A party of New Mexicans was at once organized to
pursue the Indian band, and effect Mrs. White's release if possible. The
guidance of this party was entrusted to a neighbor by the name of
Watkins Leroux, rather than to Carson. They found the Apache murderers,
and Carson was advancing foremost to attack them, when he discovered
that the rest of the party were not following; consequently he had to
retire, and when the commander ordered the attack to be made, it was too
late, for the Indians had murdered Mrs. White and were preparing to
escape by flight. Carson tells this story with all the generous
magnanimity a great soul exercises in speaking of a failure on the part
of a rival; admitting that, if his advice had been followed, they might
have saved Mrs. White, but affirming that the command "did what seemed
to it the best, and therefore no one has any right to find fault."

This occurred in the autumn of eighteen hundred and forty-nine, directly
after the commencement of the settlement of Rayedo.

Near the close of the following winter, all the animals belonging to the
party of ten dragoons which had been stationed there to protect the
settlement, were run off by the marauding Apaches, and the two herders
having them in charge, were wounded. Early the following morning, Carson
and three of the settlers with the ten dragoons, started in pursuit,
discovered the Indians--twenty well armed warriors--and four of the
party being obliged to stop, because their animals had given out, the
remaining ten rode down the Indians, who might themselves have escaped
but for their persistance in retaining the stolen horses, which were all
recaptured except four, while five of the warriors were killed, and
several more wounded. This expedition was planned and executed under the
direction of Carson, and the fact that he was their leader gave every
man confidence, as they knew that with him an engagement implied success
or death.

The next spring Carson went to Fort Laramie with a drove of horses and
mules, making the journey successfully and pleasantly in company with
Timothy Goodell, another old mountaineer, being the observed of all
observers to the large numbers of overland emigrants to California whom
he met at the fort, where Goodell left him to go to California.

Carson found a Mexican to attend him upon his return, and taking a
circuitous course, he managed to avoid the Apaches; often traveling by
moon-light, and taking their animals into a quiet nook, and climbing a
tree for a little sleep during the day, they finally reached the Mexican
settlements in safety.

The days of the following summer winged their happy flight with great
rapidity, while Carson was directing and aiding in his farming, and, of
course, pursuing his favorite employment of hunting, ever returning from
a hunt with his horse laden with deer or antelope, wild turkey and
ducks, or perhaps a half score or more of prairie chickens, to complete
the list. Only once was his work interrupted by the harsher business of
chastising offenders against justice, and this time the guilty parties
were two white men.

A party of desperadoes, so frequently the nuisance of a new country, had
formed a plot to murder and rob two wealthy citizens, whom they had
volunteered to accompany to the settlements in the States, and were
already many miles on their way, when Carson was informed of the
nefarious design. In one hour he had organized a party, and was on his
way in quick pursuit, taking a more direct route to intercept the party,
and endeavoring at the same time to avoid the vicinity of the Indians,
who were now especially hostile, but of whose movements Carson was as
well informed as any one could be. In two days out from Taos, they came
upon a camp of United States recruits, whose officer volunteered to
accompany him with twenty men, which offer was accepted, and by forced
marches they soon overtook the party of traders, and at once arrested
Fox, the leader of the wretches, and then proceeded to inform Messrs.
Brevoort and Weatherhead of the danger which they had escaped; and they,
though at first astounded by the disclosure, had noticed many things to
convince them that the plot would soon have been put in execution.

Taking the members of their party whom they knew were trusty, they at
once ordered the rest, thirty-five in number, to leave immediately,
except Fox, who remained in charge of Carson, to whom the traders were
abundant in their thanks for his timely interference in their behalf,
and who refused every offer of recompense.

Fox was taken to Taos, and imprisoned for a number of months; but as a
crime only in intent was difficult to be proved, and the _adobe_ walls
of their houses were not secure enough to retain one who cared to
release himself, Fox was at last liberated, and went to parts unknown.

On the return of Messrs. Brevoort and Weatherhead from St. Louis, they
presented Carson with a magnificent pair of pistols, upon whose silver
mounting were inscribed such words as would laconically illustrate his
noble deed, and the appreciation of the donors of the great service

The summer following was consumed in an excursion for trade, on behalf
of himself and Maxwell, and a visit to the home of his daughter, now
married in St. Louis; and which was prosecuted without incident worthy
of note, until he came to a Cheyenne village on the Arkansas, upon his
return. This village had received an affront from the officer of a party
of United States troops bound to New Mexico, who had whipped one of
their chiefs, some ten days before the arrival of Carson; and to have
revenge upon some one of the whites, was now the passion of the whole

The conduct of this officer is only a specimen of that which thousands
have exercised toward the Indians of the different tribes; and the
result is the same in all cases. Carson's was the first party to pass
the Indian village after this insult; and so many years had elapsed
since he was a hunter at Bent's Fort, and so much had this nation been
stirred by their numberless grievances, that Carson's name was no longer
a talisman of safety to his party, nor even of respect to himself, in
their then state of excitement; and as Carson went deliberately into the
war council, which the Indians were holding on the discovery of his
party, having ordered his men to keep their force close together, the
Indians supposing he could not understand them, continued to talk freely
of the manner of capturing the effects, and killing the whole party, and
especially himself, whom they at once concluded was the leader. When Kit
had heard all their plans, he coolly addressed them in the Cheyenne
language, telling them who he was, his former association with and
kindness to their tribe; and that now, he should be glad to render them
any assistance they might need; but as to their having his scalp, he
should claim the right of saying a word. The Indians departed, and
Carson went on his way; but there were hundreds of the Cheyennes in
sight upon the hills, and though they made no attack, Carson knew he was
in their power, nor had they given up the idea of taking his train. His
cool deliberation kept his men in spirits, and yet, except upon two or
three of the whole fifteen, he could place no reliance in an emergency.
At night the men and mules were all brought within the circle of wagons,
grass was cut with their sheath-knives, and brought into the mules, and
as large a guard was placed as possible. When all was quiet, Carson
called outside the camp with him a Mexican boy of the party, and
explaining to him the danger which threatened them, told him it was in
his power to save the lives of the company, and giving him instructions
how to proceed, sent him on alone to Rayedo, a journey of nearly three
hundred miles, to ask an escort of United States troops to be sent out
to meet him, telling the brave young Mexican to "put a good many miles
between him and the camp before morning;" and so he started him, with a
few rations of provisions, without telling the rest of the party that
such a step was necessary. This boy had long been in Carson's service,
and was well known to him as faithful and active, so that he had no
doubts as to the faithful execution of the trust confided to him; and in
a wild country like New Mexico, with the out-door life and habits of its
people, a journey like the one on which he was dispatched, was not an
unusual occurrence: indeed, in that country, parties on foot often
accompany those on horse, for days together, and do not seem to feel the
fatigue. Carson now returned to the camp to watch all night himself; and
at break of day they were again upon the road. No Indians appeared until
nearly noon, when five warriors came galloping toward them. As they came
near enough to hear him, Carson ordered them to halt, and approaching,
told them that the night before, he had sent a messenger to Rayedo, to
inform the troops that their tribe were annoying him; and if he or his
men were molested, terrible punishment would be inflicted by those who
would surely come to his relief. The Indians replied, that they would
look for the moccasin tracks, which they probably found, and Carson
considered this the reason that induced the whole village to pass away
toward the hills after a little time, evidently seeking a place of
safety. The young Mexican overtook the party of troops whose officer had
caused the trouble, to whom he told his story, and failing to secure
sympathy, he continued to Rayedo, and procured thence immediate
assistance. Major Grier dispatched a party of troops, under Lieutenant
R. Johnston, which, making rapid marches, met Carson twenty-five miles
below Bent's Fort; and, though they encountered no Indians, the effect
of the quick transit of troops from one part of the country to another,
could not be other than good, as a means of impressing the Indians with
the effective force of the United States troops.


Eighteen years had elapsed, full of eventful history--especially the
last ten--since Carson had renounced the business of trapping, and of
late there had been an almost irrepressible longing once more to try his
skill at his old employment, in company with others who had been, with
himself, adepts at the business. Accordingly he and Maxwell, by a great
effort, succeeded in collecting sixteen more of their old companions,
and taking care to provide themselves abundantly with all the
necessaries for such a service, and with such added articles of comfort
as the pleasurable character of the excursion dictated, they started,
with Carson at the head of the band, "any one of whom would have periled
his life for any other, and having voted that the expedition should be
one for hard work, as when they trapped for gain long ago," they dashed
on across the plains, till they came to the South Platte, and upon its
well remembered waters, formed their camp and set their traps, having
first apprised themselves, by the "signs," that the beaver were
abundant. Indeed, so long ago had trapping gone into disuse, that the
hunt proved successful beyond their anticipations, and they worked down
this stream, through the Laramie plains to the New Park, on to the Old
Park, and upon a large number of the streams, their old resorts, and
returned to Rayedo with a large stock of furs, having enlivened the time
by the recital to each other of many of the numberless entertaining
events which had crowded upon their lives while they had been separated.

Would not the reader like to have made this excursion with them, and
witnessed the infinite zest with which these mature and experienced men
entered again upon what seemed now to them the sport of their earlier
years? They made it, as much as possible, a season of enjoyment. One of
the party had lassoed a grizzly, but, finding it inconvenient to retain
him, he had been shot, and bear steaks, again enjoyed together, had been
a part of the Fourth of July treat they afforded their visitors, the
Sioux Indians. As we have but little further opportunity, we will quote
Fremont's description of the Mountain Parks, for the sake of giving the
reader an idea of the locality of this last trapping enterprise of Kit

"Our course in the afternoon brought us to the main Platte River, here a
handsome stream, with a uniform breadth of seventy yards, except where
widened by frequent islands. It was apparently deep, with a moderate
current, and wooded with groves of large willow.

"The valley narrowed as we ascended, and presently degenerated into a
gorge, through which the river passed as through a gate. We entered it,
and found ourselves in the New Park--a beautiful circular valley of
thirty miles diameter, walled in all round with snowy mountains, rich
with water and with grass, fringed with pine on the mountain sides below
the snow line, and a paradise to all grazing animals. The Indian name
for it signifies "_cow lodge_," of which our own may be considered a
translation; the enclosure, the grass, the water, and the herds of
buffalo roaming over it, naturally presenting the idea of a park, 7,720
feet above tide water.

"It is from this elevated _cove_, and from the gorges of the surrounding
mountains, and some lakes within their bosoms, that the Great Platte
River collects its first waters, and assumes its first form; and
certainly no river has a more beautiful origin.

"Descending from the pass, we found ourselves again on the western
waters; and halted to noon on the edge of another mountain valley,
called the Old Park, in which is formed Grand River, one of the
principal branches of the Colorado of California. We were now moving
with some caution, as, from the trail, we found the Arapahoe village had
also passed this way. As we were coming out of their enemy's country,
and this was a war ground, we were desirous to avoid them. After a long
afternoon's march, we halted at night on a small creek, tributary to a
main fork of Grand River, which ran through this portion of the valley.
The appearance of the country in the Old Park is interesting, though of
a different character from the New; instead of being a comparative
plain, it is more or less broken into hills, and surrounded by the high
mountains, timbered on the lower parts with quaking asp and pines.

"We entered the Bayou Salade, (South Park,) and immediately below us was
a green valley, through which ran a stream; and a short distance
opposite rose snowy mountains, whose summits were formed into peaks of
naked rock.

"On the following day we descended the stream by an excellent buffalo
trail, along the open grassy bottom of the river. On our right, the
bayou was bordered by a mountainous range, crested with rocky and naked
peaks; and below it had a beautiful park-like character of pretty level
prairies, interspersed among low spurs, wooded openly with pine and
quaking asp, contrasting well with the denser pines which swept around
on the mountain sides.

"During the afternoon, Pike's Peak had been plainly in view before us.

"The next day we left the river, which continued its course towards
Pike's Peak; and taking a south-easterly direction, in about ten miles
we crossed a gentle ridge, and, issuing from the South Park, found
ourselves involved among the broken spurs of the mountains which border
the great prairie plains. Although broken and extremely rugged, the
country was very interesting, being well watered by numerous affluents
to the Arkansas River, and covered with grass and a variety of trees."

Carson had disposed of his furs, and was again quietly attending to his
ranche, when he heard of the exorbitant prices for which sheep were
selling in California, and determined to enter upon a speculation. He
had already visited the Navajos Indians, and thither he went again, and
in company with Maxwell and another mountaineer, purchased several
thousand sheep; and with a suitable company of trusty men as shepherds,
took them to Fort Laramie, and thence by the regular emigrant route,
past Salt Lake to California, and arriving without any disaster,
disposed of them in one of the frontier towns, and then went down to the
Sacramento valley, to witness the change which had come over old
familiar places; not that the mining did not interest him; he had seen
that before in Mexico, but he had not seen the cities which had sprung
into existence at a hundred points, in the foot hills of the Sierras,
nor had he seen San Francisco, that city of wondrous growth, which now
contained thirty-five thousand inhabitants.

But for the remembrance of the hills on which the city rested, Carson
would not have known the metropolis of California, as the spot where in
'48 "the people could be counted in an hour." In San Francisco he met so
many old friends, and so many, who, knowing him from the history of his
deeds, desired to do him honor, that the attentions he received, while
it gratified his ambition, were almost annoying.

Tired by the anxiety and hard work of bringing his property over a long
and dangerous journey to a good market, he had looked for rest and
retirement; but instead, he was everywhere sought out and made

He found himself surrounded with the choice spirits of the new El
Dorado; his name a prestige of strength and position, and his society
courted by everybody. The siren voice of pleasure failed not to speak in
his ear her most flattering invitations. Good-fellowship took him
incessantly by the hand, desiring to lead him into the paths of
dissipation. But the gay vortex, with all its brilliancy, had no
attractions for him; the wine cup, with its sparkling arguments, failed
to convince his calm earnestness of character, that his simple habits of
life needed remodeling. To the storm, however, he was exposed; but, like
a good ship during the gale, he weathered the fierce blast, and finally
took his departure from the new city of a day, with his character
untarnished, but nevertheless leaving behind him many golden opinions.

Some newspaper scribbler, last autumn, announced the death of Carson,
and said, in connection, "His latest and _most remarkable exploit_ on
the plains, was enacted in 1853, when he conducted a drove of sheep
safely to California." Probably the writer was one of those whose eager
curiosity had met a rebuff, in the quiet dignity with which Carson
received the officiousness of the rabble who thronged around him on that
visit. Not that he appreciated honor less, but that its unnecessary
attachments were exceedingly displeasing to him.

In this terribly fast city, where the _monte_ table, and its kindred
dissipations, advertised themselves without a curtain, and where to
indulge was the rule rather than the exception, Carson was able to stand
fire, for he had been before now tried by much greater temptations.

In the strange commingling of people from all quarters of the globe,
whom Carson witnessed in San Francisco, he saw but a slight exaggeration
of what he had often witnessed in Santa Fe,--and indeed, for the element
of variety, in many a trapping party, not to name the summer rendezvous
of the trappers, or the exploring parties of Col. Fremont. To be sure
the Chinamen and the Kanackers were a new feature in society. But
whether it be in the many nationalities represented, or in the
pleasures they pursued, except that in San Francisco there was a
lavishness in the expenditure of wealth commensurate with its speedier
accumulation, there was little new to him, and while he saw its magic
growth with glad surprise, the attractions this city offered could not
allure him. Nor could the vista it opened up of a chance to rise into
position in the advancing struggles for political ascendency, induce one
wish to locate his home in a spot so wanting in the kindly social
relationships; for he had tried the things and found them vanity and
vexation of spirit, and now he yearned for his mountain home, and the
sweet pastoral life which it afforded in his circle of tried friends.

He saved the money he had secured by the sale of his flocks, and went
down overland to Los Angelos to meet Maxwell, who took the trip by sea,
which Carson having tasted once, could not be persuaded to try again,
and there renewing his outfit, and visiting again some of its honored
citizens, they started homeward, and had a pleasant passage till they
reached the Gila River, where grass became so scarce that they were
compelled to take a new course in order to find food for their horses;
but Carson had no difficulty in pursuing a measurably direct course,
and without encountering a snow storm, often terribly severe in the
mountains of this interior country, he reached Taos on the third of
December 1853.

He here received the unexpected information that he had been appointed
Indian agent for New Mexico, and immediately wrote and sent to
Washington the bonds of acceptance of this office. And now commences
Carson's official career, in a capacity for which he was better fitted
than any other person in the Territory.

Long had the Indians in his vicinity called him "father," but now he had
a new claim to this title, for he was to be to them the almoner of the
bounty of the United States Government. There was immediate call for the
exercise of the duties of his office, (for the Indians of New Mexico had
all buried the tomahawk and calumet,) in visiting and attempting to
quiet a band of Apaches, among whom he went alone, for they all knew
him, and secured from them plenty of promises to do well; but he had
scarcely left them, before they were tired of the self-imposed
restraint, and renewedly continued their depredations, and several
serious battles were fought with them by the United States troops, the
first having proved unsuccessful, but never was success wanting when
the commander of United States dragoons had placed his confidence in the
advice, and followed the suggestions of Kit Carson, who was admitted by
them to be the prince of Indian fighters--though he never tolerated
cruelty or the expenditure of life when there was no imperious
necessity, but yet regarded severe measures better than a dawdling

There had been serious fights in New Mexico in 1846, while Carson was
away with Fremont; and it was better so, as the Mexicans were his blood
and kin; yet, in the change of authority, he fully sympathized. But now,
the enemy was the different tribes of Indians, and in the capacity of
Agent for them, Carson chose to impress them with the power of the
government for which he acted for their own good, that they might be
induced to desist from their plundering, and be prepared for the
influences and practices of civilization; and all the victories secured
over them were due, as history truly records, "To the aid of Kit
Carson," "With the advice of Kit Carson;" and never once is his name
associated with a defeat; for, if he made a part of an expedition, a
condition must be, that such means should be employed as he knew would
accomplish the end desired; for he did not choose, by one single
failure, to give the Indians a chance to think their lawlessness could
escape its merited retribution.

Nor yet did Carson ever advise that confidence in the promises of the
Indians which was not backed by such exhibition of power as to command
obedience; knowing that with these children of the forest, schooled in
the arts of plunder, and the belief that white men and white men's
property were an intrusion on their hunting grounds, and therefore
lawful prey--this was and is _their law_--non-resistance would not
answer, and only stern command, backed by the rifle, ever has secured
obedience--though they appreciate the kindnesses done by those friends
who have such reliance. But it was Carson's opinion that the country
cannot be safe while the Indians roam over it in this wild way, or until
they are located on lands devoted to them and theirs for permanent
homes, and are compelled to settle upon and cultivate the soil, when he
thinks they will come, by careful teaching, to display sentiments of
responsibility for their own acts.

There is little doubt that, had Carson been appointed Superintendent of
Indian Affairs for the department of New Mexico, the reliance sometimes
placed on treaties would have been discarded, and measures taken at an
earlier date, to locate the Apaches and Camanches and Utahs, which might
have been accomplished with less expenditure of blood and of treasure;
but he quietly pursued his business, relying upon the influence which
his knowledge and skill had given him to induce his superiors in
official authority to undertake such measures as seemed to him the

The headquarters of his Indian agency were at Taos, and while he spent
as much of his time as possible at Rayedo, the duties of his office
compelled the larger part of it at Taos. The thousand kindly acts he was
able to perform for the Indians, by whom he was constantly surrounded,
had secured such regard for himself that he needed no protection where
he was known--and what Indian of New Mexico did not know him? He went
among them, and entertained them as the children of his charge, having
their unbounded confidence and love.

Every year, in the hey-day of the season, Carson continued the custom of
a revival of earlier associations, by indulging, for a few days, or
perhaps weeks, in the chase; and was joined in these excursions by a
goodly company of his old compeers, as well as later acquired friends,
and men of reputation and culture, from whatever quarter of the world,
visiting the territory; and especially by a select few of the braves of
the Indian tribes under his charge. These were seasons of grateful
recurrence, and their pleasures were long anticipated amid the wearisome
duties of his office.

The incidents of his every-day life, intervening his appointment as
Indian agent and the rebellion, would furnish an abundance of material
for a romance even stranger than fiction. A life so exciting as that
among the Indians and brave frontiersmen, and a name so renowned as that
of Christopher Carson, could not but attract and concentre wild and
romantic occurrences. His life during these years is inseparably
connected with the history of the Territory of New Mexico, which, could
it be given to the public in all its copious and interesting details,
would unquestionably concede to him all the noblest characteristics in

The treaties between the United States and the Indians, during the term
of his appointment, were mainly the result of his acquaintance with the
Indians, his knowledge of their character, and his influence over them.
Nor did the Government fail to recognize his valuable services. During
the rebellion, and while serving principally in New Mexico, where he
distinguished himself by his untiring prosecution of hostilities with
his savage foes, then at war with the Government, he was promoted from
rank to rank, until he finally reached that of Brevet Brigadier-General.

In a report to the National headquarters, dated at Camp Florilla, near
Fort Canby, N. M., January 26, 1864, we find the following detailed
account of operations in New Mexico:

"The culminating point in this expedition has been reached at last by
the very successful operations of our troops at Cañon de Chelly. Col.
Kit Carson left Fort Canby on the sixth instant with a command of four
hundred men, twenty of whom were mounted. He had a section of mountain
artillery with him, and taking the road _via_ Puebla, Colorado, he
started for Cañon de Chelly. He gave orders to Capt. Pheiffer with his
command of one hundred men to enter the cañon at the east opening, while
he himself intended to enter it at the 'mouth,' or west opening, and by
this movement he expected that both columns would meet in the cañon on
the second day, as it was supposed to be forty miles in length.

"Capt. Pheiffer's party proceeded two days through the cañon, fighting
occasionally; but although the Indians frequently fired on them from
the rocky walls above, the balls were spent long before they reached the
bottom of the cañon, which, in many places, exceeded one thousand five
hundred feet in depth. It was a singular spectacle to behold. A small
detachment of troops moving cautiously along the bottom of one of the
greatest cañons on the globe, (the largest is in Asia, I believe,) and
firing volleys upward at hundreds of Navajoes, who looked, on the dizzy
height above them, like so many pigmies. As they advanced the cañon
widened in places, and various spots of cultivated land were passed,
where wheat, maize, beans, melons, etc., had been planted last year;
while more than a thousand feet above their heads they beheld
neat-looking stone houses built on the receding ledges of rocks, which
reminded the beholder of the swallows' nests in the house eaves, or on
the rocky formation overhanging the 'sea-beat caves.' Further on, an
orchard containing about six hundred peach-trees was passed, and it was
evident that the Indians had paid great attention to their culture.

"On the second day a party from Col. Carson's column met the Captain in
the cañon, and returned with him to Col. Carson's camp. A party from the
Colonel's command had, in the meantime, attacked a party of Indians,
twenty-two of whom were killed. This had a dispiriting effect on many
others, who sent in three of their number under a white flag. Col.
Carson received them, and assured them that the Government did not
desire to exterminate them, but that, on the contrary, the President
wished to save and civilize them; and to that end Gen. Carlton had given
him instructions to send all the Navajoes who desired peace to the new
reservation on the Rio Pecos, where they would be supplied with food for
the present, and be furnished with implements, seeds, etc., to cultivate
the soil. They departed well-satisfied, and Col. Carson immediately
ordered Capt. A. B. Carey, Thirteenth United States Infantry, with a
battalion to enter the cañon, and make a thorough exploration of its
various branches, and at the same time to be in readiness to chastise
any body of hostile Navajoes he might encounter, and to receive all who
were friendly, and who wished to emigrate to the new reservation. Capt.
Carey, during a passage of twenty-four hours through a branch of the
cañon hitherto unexplored, made an exact geographical map of this
terrible chasm, and discovered many side cañons hitherto unknown. About
one hundred Indians came in to him and declared that 'the Navajo nation
was no more;' that they were tired of fighting and nearly starved, and
that they wished to be permitted to advise their friends and families in
the mountains; many of whom were willing to leave the land forever, and
go to a country where they would be cared for and protected. They said
they understood agriculture, and were certain they would make
comfortable homes on the Pecos. This was, of course, only the opinion of
some; others would prefer to remain and culture the soil on which they
were born, and live at peace with the territory. However, the latter
were positively informed that unless they were willing to remove they
had better not come in, and, moreover, that the troops would destroy
every blade of corn in the country next summer.

"On the 20th of January Col. Carson came to Fort Canby, and about six
hundred Indians had collected there; but when the wagons arrived to
remove them only one hundred wished to go, and the remainder desired to
return to their villages and caves in the mountains, on pretence of
bringing in some absent member of their families. Col. Carson very nobly
and generously permitted them to choose for themselves; but told them if
ever they came in again they should be sent to Borgue Redondo, whether
willing or not. Col. Carson himself took the Indians to Santa Fe, and
will remain absent about a month. Since his departure many Indians came
in and agreed to go to the reservation.

"I think the Colonel foresaw this, as no person understands Indian
character better than he does. Capt. A. B. Carey, Thirteenth Infantry,
commanding in his absence, will see that all Indians coming in will be
removed, and, I think, before April next, if the present good feeling
exists, we shall have accomplished the removal of the entire tribe.
Capt. A. B. Carey, after successfully marching through the cañon and
noting its topography, reached Fort Canby on the eighteenth instant, and
relieved Capt. Francis M'Cabe, First New Mexico Cavalry, who commanded
in the absence of Col. Kit Carson.

"As the Navajo expedition is now entirely successful, it is but justice
to the officers and men of the First Cavalry of New Mexico, and to Col.
Christopher Carson and his staff to say that they have all acted with
zeal and devotion for the accomplishment of that great desideratum--the
removal of the Navajoes. Cut off from the enjoyments of civilized life,
deprived of its luxuries, comforts, and even many of its necessaries,
and restricted to the exploration of a wilderness and the castigation
of an army of savages, who defied them, and endeavored to find a shelter
among the cliffs, groves, and cañons of their country; in pursuing them
to their haunts they have encountered appalling difficulties, namely:
want of water, grass, and fuel; often exposed to the merciless fury of
the elements, and to the bullets and arrows of a hidden foe. In the face
of these difficulties they have discovered new rivers, springs, and
mountains in a region hitherto unexplored, and penetrated by companies
into the very strongholds of the enemy, who fled farther west as our
columns advanced, and on various occasions the dismounted cavalry have,
by rapid and unparalleled night marches, surprised that enemy, capturing
his camp and securing his flocks and herds, at a time when he imagined
himself far beyond our reach, and really when he occupied a country
never before trodden by the foot of a white man.

"Much of the credit is due to the perseverance and courage of Col. Kit
Carson, commanding the expedition, whose example excited all to great
energy, and inspired great resolution; but it may not be out of place to
remark that it is now demonstrated beyond a doubt that, while the troops
of New Mexico have long borne the reputation of being the best cavalry,
they have proved themselves in the present campaign to be the best
infantry in the world.

"Gen. James H. Carlton, who knows, perhaps, and understands the material
for an army as well as any General in our army, has directed the
formation of a New-Mexican Brigade, and when the savage foe is removed,
that Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-Gen. Kit Carson, would surely
reflect credit on the Territory and on the Department Commander."

After the close of the war Christopher Carson continued in the employ of
the Government, rendering such services as only one equally skilled and
experienced could render, until his death. He died at Fort Lyon,
Colorado, on the 23d of May, 1868, from the effects of the rupture of an
artery, or probably an aneurism of an artery, in the neck. But a few
weeks previous he had visited Washington on a treaty mission, in company
with a deputation of red men, and made a tour of several of the Northern
and Eastern cities.

In his death the country has lost the most noted of that intrepid race
of mountaineers, trappers, and guides that have ever been the pioneers
of civilization in its advancement westward. As an Indian fighter he was
matchless. His rifle, when fired at a redskin, never failed him, and
the number that fell beneath his aim, who can tell! (The identical rifle
which Carson used in all his scouts, during the last thirty-five years
of his life, he bequeathed, just previous to his death, to Montezuma
Lodge, A. F. and A. M., Santa Fe, of which he was a member.) The country
will always regard him as a perfect representative of the American
frontiersman, and accord to him the most daring valor, consistent
kindliness, perseverant energy and truthfulness which that whole great
territory, that we must still regard as lying between the civilizations,
is capable of furnishing.

       *       *       *       *       *


[A] Peters.

[B] Annals of San Francisco. By Frank Soulé, John H Gihon, and James
Nisbet. New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1855.

[C] Cutts. Conquest of California and New Mexico.

[D] Peters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Ambiguous and missing quotation marks remedied on pages 79, 177-178,
and 334.

Page 301: "it is not wonderful" probably should be "is it not

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