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´╗┐Title: The Life of Kit Carson: Hunter, Trapper, Guide, Indian Agent and Colonel U.S.A.
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Life of Kit Carson: Hunter, Trapper, Guide, Indian Agent and Colonel U.S.A." ***

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Hunter, Trapper, Guide, Indian Agent and Colonel U.S.A.

By Edward S. Ellis.


Christopher Carson, or as he was familiarly called, Kit Carson, was
a man whose real worth was understood only by those with whom he was
associated or who closely studied his character. He was more than
hunter, trapper, guide, Indian agent and Colonel in the United States
Army. He possessed in a marked degree those mental and moral qualities
which would have made him prominent in whatever pursuit or profession he

His lot was cast on the extreme western frontier, where, when but a
youth, he earned the respect of the tough and frequently lawless men
with whom he came in contact. Integrity, bravery, loyalty to friends,
marvelous quickness in making right decisions, in crisis of danger,
consummate knowledge of woodcraft, a leadership as skilful as it was
daring; all these were distinguishing traits in the composition of
Carson and were the foundations of the broader fame which he acquired as
the friend and invaluable counselor of Fremont, the Pathfinder, in his
expeditions across the Rocky Mountains.

Father Kit, as he came to be known among the Indians, risked his life
scores of times for those who needed, but had no special claim upon his
services. The red men were quick to learn that he always spoke with a
"single tongue," and that he was their unselfish friend. He went among
his hostiles when no one of his race dare follow him; he averted
more than one outbreak; he secured that which is impossible to
secure--justice for the Indian--and his work from the time when a mere
boy he left his native Kentucky, was always well done. His memory will
forever remain fragrant with those who appreciate true manhood and an
unswerving devotion to the good of those among whom he lived and died.


 Kit Carson's Youth--His Visit to New Mexico--Acts as Interpreter and in
 Various Other Employments--Joins a Party of Trappers and Engages in a
 Fight with Indians--Visits the Sacramento Valley.

"Kit Carson," the most famous hunter, scout and guide ever known in this
country, was a native of Kentucky, the scene of the principal exploits
of Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, the Wetzel brothers and other heroic
pioneers whose names are identified with the history of the settlement
of the West.

Christopher Carson was born in Madison county, December 24, 1809, and,
while he was still an infant, his father removed to Central Missouri,
which at that day was known as Upper Louisiana. It was an immense
wilderness, sparsely settled and abounding with wild animals and
treacherous Indians. The father of Carson, like most of the early
pioneers, divided his time between cultivating the land and hunting
the game in the forests. His house was made strong and was pierced with
loopholes, so as to serve him in his defence against the red men that
were likely to attack him and his family at any hour of the day or
night. In such a school was trained the wonderful scout, hunter and

No advantages in the way of a common school education were within reach
of the youth situated as was Kit Carson. It is to be believed, however,
that under the tutelage of his father and mother, he picked up a fair
knowledge of the rudimentary branches, for his attainments in that
respect were above the majority of those with whom he was associated in
after life.

While a mere stripling, Kit became known as one of the most skilful
rifle shots in that section of Missouri which produced some of the
finest marksmen in the world. It was inevitable that he should form a
passion for the woods, in which, like the great Boone, he would have
been happy to wander for days and weeks at a time.

When fifteen years old, he was apprenticed to a saddler, where he stayed
two years. At the end of that time, however, the confinement had become
so irksome that he could stand it no longer. He left the shop and joined
a company of traders, preparing to start for Santa Fe, the capital of
New Mexico, one of the most interesting towns in the southwest. The
majority of its population are of Spanish and Mexican origin and speak
Spanish. It is the centre of supplies for the surrounding country, and
is often a scene of great activity. It stands on a plateau, more than
a mile above the sea level, with another snow capped mountain rising a
mile higher. The climate is delightful and the supply of water from the
springs and mountains is of the finest quality.

Santa Fe, when first visited by the Spaniards in 1542, was a populous
Indian pueblo. It has been the capital of New Mexico for nearly two
hundred and fifty years. The houses of the ancient town are made of
adobe, one story high, and the streets are unpaved, narrow, crooked and
ill looking. The inhabitants are of a low order, scarcely entitled to
be ranked above the half civilized, though of late years the infusion of
western life and rugged civilization has given an impetus and character
to the place for which, through three centuries, it waited in vain.

The company to which young Kit Carson attached himself, was strongly
armed and it made the perilous journey, across rivers, mountains and
prairies, through a country infested with fierce Indians, without the
loss of one of their number. This immunity was due to their vigilance
and knowledge of the ways of the hostiles who, it may be said, were on
all sides, from the beginning to the end of their journey.

After reaching Santa Fe, Carson left the party and went to Taos, a small
station to the north of Santa Fe. There he stayed through the winter of
1826-27, at the home of a veteran pioneer, from whom he gained not only
a valuable knowledge of the country and its people, but became familiar
with the Spanish language--an attainment which proved invaluable to
him in after years. In the spring, he joined a party which set out
for Missouri, but before reaching its destination, another company of
traders were met on their way to Santa Fe. Young Carson joined them, and
some days later was back again in the quaint old capital of New Mexico.

The youth's engagement ended with his arrival in the town, but there
was nothing indolent in the nature of Carson, who immediately engaged
himself as teamster to a company about to start to El Paso, on the Rio
Grande, near the frontier of New Mexico. He did not stay long before
drifting back to Santa Fe, and finally to Taos, where he hired out as
a cook during the following winter, but had not wrought long, when
a wealthy trader, learning how well Carson understood the Spanish
language, engaged him as interpreter.

This duty compelled the youth to make another long journey to El Paso
and Chihuahua, the latter being the capital of the province of the same
name, and another of those ancient towns whose history forms one of the
most interesting features of the country. It was founded in 1691 and a
quarter of a century later, when the adjoining silver mines were in full
operation, had a population of 70,000, though today it has scarcely a
fifth of that number.

The position of interpreter was more dignified than any yet held by
Carson, and it was at his command, as long as he chose to hold it; but
to one of his restless nature it soon grew monotonous and he threw it
up, making his way once more to Taos. The employment most congenial to
Carson's nature, and the one which he had been seeking ever since he
left home, was that of hunter and trapper. The scarred veterans whom he
met in the frontier and frontier posts gave him many accounts of their
trapping experiences among the mountains and in the gloomy fastnesses
where, while they hunted the bear, deer, beaver and other animals, the
wild Indian hunted them.

Carson had been in Taos a short time only when he gained the opportunity
for which he was searching. A party of trappers in the employ of Kit's
old friend had just come to Taos, having been driven from their trapping
grounds by the Indians. The employer set about raising a party strong
enough to return to the trapping grounds, chastise the hostiles and
resume business. Knowing the skill and bravery of the young Kentuckian,
the gentleman made him an offer to join the party and Kit eagerly
accepted it.

The Mexicans have never been particularly friendly toward their
neighbors north of the Rio Grande, and at that time a very strict law
was in force which forbade the issuance of any license to American
citizens to trap within Mexican territory. The company which mounted
their horses and rode out of Taos gave the authorities to understand
that their errand was simply to chastise the red men, whereas their
real purpose was to engage in trapping. With a view of misleading the
officers, they took a roundabout route which delayed their arrival in
the section. Nevertheless, the hunters were desirous of punishing the
Indians who had taken such liberties with the small party that preceded
them. On one of the tributaries of the Gila, the trappers came upon the
identical band whom they attacked with such fierceness that more than a
dozen were killed and the rest put to flight. The fight was a desperate
one, but young as Carson was, he acquitted himself in a manner which
won the warmest praise of those with him. He was unquestionably daring,
skilful and sagacious, and was certain, if his life was spared, to
become one of the most valuable members of the party.

Having driven the savages away, the Americans began or rather resumed
their regular business of trapping. The beavers were so abundant that
they met with great success. When the rodents seemed to diminish in
number, the hunters shifted their quarters, pursuing their profession
along the numerous streams until it was decided to divide into two
parties, one of which returned to New Mexico, while the other pushed
on toward the Sacramento Valley in California. Carson accompanied the
latter, entering the region at that early day when no white man dreamed
of the vast wealth of gold and precious metals which so crowded her soil
and river beds that the wonder is the gleaming particles had not been
detected many years before; but, as the reader knows, they lay quietly
at rest until that eventful day in 1848, when the secret was revealed by
Captain Sutter's raceway and the frantic multitudes flocked thither from
the four quarters of the earth.


 California--Sufferings of the Hunters--The Mission of San Gabriel--The
 Hudson Bay Trappers--Characteristics of Carson--He Leads the Party which
 Captures an Indian Village and Secures some Criminals.

California, one of the most magnificent regions of the earth, with its
amazing mineral wealth, its rich soil and "glorious climate," has its
belts of sterility and desolation, where the bones of many a traveller
and animal lie bleaching in the sun, just as they fell years ago, when
the wretched victim sank down and perished for want of food and water.

The hunting party to which Carson was attached numbered eighteen,
and they entered one of those forbidding wastes, where they suffered
intensely. All their skill in the use of the rifle was of no avail, when
there was no game to shoot and it was not long before they were forced
to live on horse flesh to escape starvation. This, however, was not so
trying as might be supposed, provided it did not last until the entire
party were dismounted.

Fortunately, in their straits, they encountered a party of Mohave
Indians, who sold them enough food to remove all danger. These Indians
form a part of the Yuma nation of the Pima family, and now make their
home on the Mohave and Colorado rivers in Arizona. They are tall, well
formed, warlike and industrious cultivators of the soil. Had they chosen
to attack the hunters, it would have gone ill with the whites, but the
latter showed commendable prudence which might have served as a model to
the hundreds who came after them, when they gained the good will of the
red men.

Extricating themselves from the dangerous stretch of country, the
trappers turned westward until they reached the mission of San Gabriel,
one of those extensive establishments formed by the Roman Catholic
clergy a hundred years ago. There were over a score, San Diego being the
oldest. Each mission had its priests, a few Spanish or Mexican soldiers,
and scores, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Indian converts who
received a scant support and some religious instruction.

The Mission of San Gabriel was by no means the largest in California,
and yet at the time of Carson's visit it owned 70,000 head of cattle,
200 horses, 3,000 mares, hundreds of mules, oxen and sheep, while the
vineyards produced 600 barrels of wine every year.

Those old sovereigns of the soil dispensed hospitality without stint to
all who knocked at their gates. When the trappers caught sight of the
Mission, as they rode out from the wilderness, they knew what awaited
them in the way of entertainment. They were treated right royally, but
remained only one day.

Not far away they reached another Mission of less extent than the
former, but, without halt, they pressed steadily forward toward the
Sacramento River. The character of the section changed altogether. It
was exceedingly fertile and game was so abundant that they feasted to
their heart's content. When fully rested, they proceeded to the San
Joaquin river down which they began trapping.

While thus employed, they were surprised to discover signs of another
trapping party near them. They wondered where they came from and it
did not take them long to learn that their neighbors were a company of
trappers belonging to the Hudson Bay Company--that enormous corporation,
founded two centuries before, whose agents and employees tramp over
British America, far to the northward of the frozen circle, and until a
recent date hunted through Oregon.

The two parties were rivals in business, but they showed excellent
sense by meeting on good terms and treating each other as friends. They
trapped near each other until they came to the Sacramento once more,
when they parted company. The Hudson Bay trappers started for the
Columbia River, while the one to which Carson was attached went into
camp where they were for the rest of the summer. With the approach of
warm weather the trapping season ended and they devoted themselves to
hunting and making ready for cold weather.

It will be borne in mind that Kit Carson was still a youth, not having
reached his majority. He was of short, compact stature, no more than
five feet, six inches tall, with light brown hair, gray eyes, large
head, high forehead, broad shoulders, full chest, strong and possessing
remarkable activity. Even at that early age, he had impressed the
veteran hunters and trappers around him as one possessing such
remarkable abilities, that, if his life was spared, he was certain to
become a man of mark. If we should attempt to specify the particular
excellencies in which he surpassed those around him, it would be said
that while Carson was one of the most fearless men who lived, yet he
possessed splendid judgment. He seemed to know instinctively what could
be accomplished by himself and friends in positions of extreme peril,
and he saw on the moment precisely how to do that which often was
impossible to others.

His knowledge of woodcraft and the peculiarities of the savage tribes
around him was as perfect as it could be. He was a matchless hunter,
and no man could handle a rifle with greater skill. The wilderness, the
mountains, the Indians, the wild animals--these constituted the sphere
in which nature intended Kit Carson should move and serve his fellow men
as no one before or after him has done.

Added to these extraordinary qualifications, was the crowning one of
all--modesty. Alas, how often transcendent merit is made repelling by
overweening conceit. Kit Carson would have given his life before he
would have travelled through the eastern cities, with his long hair
dangling about his shoulders, his clothing bristling with pistols and
knives, while he strutted on the mimic stage as a representative of the
untamed civilization of the great west.

Carson was a superior hunter when a boy in Missouri, and the experience
gained among the experienced hunters and trappers, soon caused him to
become noted by those who had fought red men, trapped beaver and shot
grizzly bears before he was born. And yet it could not have been that
alone: it must have been his superior mental capacity which caused those
heroes of a hundred perils to turn instinctively to him for counsel and
guidance in situations of extreme peril. Among them all was no one with
such masterful resources in that respect as he.

While the trappers were encamped at this place, a messenger visited
them from the Mission of San Rafael, with a request that they would help
chastise a party of Indians, who, after committing some outrages at the
Mission, had fled to an Indian village. When a demand was made for the
surrender of the refugees, the villagers not only refused to give
them up, but attacked the party and drove them off. Appreciating
the importance of upholding their authority, the priests sent to the
trappers for assistance in bringing the guilty ones and their friends to

As soon as the request was made known, Carson and eleven of his
companions volunteered to help their visitors. Thus reinforced, the
company from the Mission set out again for the Indian village.

Nothing can attest more strongly the skill and bravery of Kit Carson,
than the fact that he was at once selected to lead the party on its
dangerous errand. While he was as modest as a woman and with a voice as
gentle and persuasive, he could not be ignorant of his own capacities,
and he assumed charge without any pretense of unfitness.

It is easy to understand the great care required in this expedition,
for the warriors in the village, having beaten off their assailants,
naturally looked for their return with reinforcements, and, in order to
insure success, it was necessary that the attack should be a surprise.

Having brought his men quite close to the village unperceived, Kit gave
the signal and the whole company swept through the place like a cyclone.
There were a few minutes of terrific fighting, during which a score of
warriors were killed, and then the entire village was captured. Carson
as the leader of the assailants, demanded the surrender of the offenders
against the Mission. Not daring to disobey such a summons, they were
delivered up to the authorities, and Carson, seeing nothing more to
do for his friends, returned with his companions to camp and resumed
hunting and their preparations for cold weather.


 The Trapper's Life--Indian Horse Thieves--Carson's Skilful Pursuit
 and Surprise of the Savages--Arrival at Los Angeles--Trouble with the
 Authorities--A Singular Escape.

The trappers being in the heart of the Indian country, with hostile
on every hand, were cautious in all their movements. When one of the
grizzled hunters in the depths of the wilderness fired his gun at
some deer, antelope or bear, he hastily reloaded his rifle, listening
meanwhile for sounds of the stealthy footprints of his enemy. He knew
not when the treacherous shot would be sent from behind the rock
or clump of bushes, but he had learned long before, that, when he
penetrated the western wilds and followed the calling of trapper, he
took his life in his hands and he was ready to "go under," whenever the
fate so decreed.

The most flagrant crime on the frontier is horse stealing. He who shoots
one of his fellow men has a chance of escaping punishment almost as good
as that afforded in civilized communities, but if he steals a horse and
is caught, his case is hopeless. It may be said that the value of the
animal to the hunter or trapper is beyond all calculation, and, inasmuch
as the red man is equally appreciative, Carson always warned his friends
to be on the watch against the dusky thieves. Sentinels were on guard
while others slept, but the very calamity against which they thus sought
to protect themselves overtook them.

One dark night a number of Indians stole by the sentinels and before
their presence was discovered, drove off the major part of the horses.
In the morning, when the alarming truth became known, the employer of
the trappers asked Carson to take twelve of the men and do his utmost
to recover those that were stolen. Carson assented at once, and, in his
quiet, self possessed fashion, collected his comrades who were speedily
in the saddle and galloping along the trail of the thieves.

It may strike the reader that an offhand statement like the foregoing
relates to a proceeding of no special difficulty or peril. A party of
brave white men were pursuing a company of Indian horse thieves and the
chances of escape and capture were about equal. Thus the matter presents
itself to the ordinary spectator, whereas the truth was far different.

In the first place, the savages, being as well mounted as their
pursuers, were sure to maintain a swift pace, so long as they believed
any danger threatened. They would keep a keen watch of the back trail
and would be quick to detect the approach of enemies. If pressed hard,
they would act as the Apaches and Comanches do, when they find the
United States troops at their heels--break up in so many small parties
that it is impossible to follow them.

First of all, therefore, Carson had two achievements before him--and the
accomplishment of either seemed to render the other impossible: he must
travel at a faster rate than the thieves, and, at the same time keep
them in ignorance of his pursuit. It is on such occasions that a man's
woodcraft and knowledge of the country serve him so well. Many a time,
during the career of Kit Carson, did he outwit the red men and white
criminals, not by galloping along with his eye upon their footprints,
but by reasoning out with unerring skill, the destination or refuge
which the criminals had in mind. Having settled that all important
question, he aimed at the same point and frequently reached it first.
Thus it came about that often the fugitive, while hurrying along and
glancing furtively behind him, suddenly found himself face to face with
his pursuer, whose acquaintance with the country enabled him to find the
shorter route.

It took Carson only a few minutes to satisfy himself that the criminals
were heading for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but, inasmuch as they were
following a direct course, he could only take their trail. Where there
were so many animals in flight, it was impossible to hide their tracks
and the thieves made no attempt to do so. They struck the horses into
a sweeping gallop, which with a few interruptions they maintained until
they were a hundred miles from the camp of the white men and among the
fastnesses of the Sierras.

Then it was the red men made a careful survey of the trail behind them.
The black penetrating eyes scanned the country with a piercing keenness
which it would seem shut out all possibility of concealment. Nowhere
could they detect the faint smoke climbing toward the sky from among the
trees nor could they gain sight of the line of horsemen winding around
the rocks in the distance. Nothing resembling a human being was visible.
Surely they were warranted in believing themselves perfectly secure.

Such being their conclusion, they prepared for a great feast. Six of the
stolen horses were killed and the red men became as ardent hipophagi as
was the club of advanced Parisians a short time ago. The roasted meat
tasted as fine to them as though it was the choicest slices from the
bison or deer, and they ate and frolicked like so many children let
loose for a holiday.

But in the midst of their feast was heard a series of frightful yells
and whoops. The appalled Indians had scarcely time to turn their eyes
when a dozen horsemen, that seemed to have risen from the very ground,
thundered down upon them. Carson and his men had overtaken the thieves
and they now swept down upon them with resistless fury. The fight was
as short as it was fierce. The red men fell on the right and left, and
those who escaped the wrath of the trappers, scattered and ran as if
a hundred bomb shells were exploding around them. Every horse stolen
(except the six killed for the feast) were recovered and Carson took
them back to camp without the loss of a man.

The hunters stayed until early autumn, when their employer decided to go
to New Mexico. The journey led for a great portion of the way through a
country over which they had travelled, and which therefore was familiar
to them. After halting a brief while at the Mission of San Fernando,
they arrived at Los Angeles, which like the rest of the country as the
reader knows, belonged to Mexico. As it was apparent that the horsemen
were hunters and trappers, the authorities demanded their written
license to pursue their calling in Mexican territory. Such was the law
and the officials were warranted in making the demand, but it need not
be said that the party were compelled to admit they had nothing of the
kind in their possession.

The authorities thereupon determined to arrest the hunters, but knowing
their desperate nature, hesitated as to the safe means of doing so. They
finally hit upon a rather ingenious, though unfair means of disarming
the white men: they began giving them "fire water" to drink, refusing
to accept pay therefor. Those who lead lives of hardship and peril are
generally fond of such indulgence, and, though the trappers could not
fail to understand the purpose of the Mexicans, and though they knew the
disastrous consequences of giving away to temptation, they yielded and
took in their mouths the enemy which stole away their brains.

The employer became alarmed and saw that something must be done at once
or everything would be lost. Carson had been too wise to fall into the
snare, and he turned to him.

"Take three of the soberest men," said he, "and the loose animals and
camp equipage and push out of the place. I will join you as soon as I
can, but you mustn't linger for me. If I fail to join you, hasten to
New Mexico and make known that I and the rest of my men have been

These instructions were definite and they showed the gravity of the
situation. Carson did as directed, while the employer gave his attention
to the rest of the men. It was high time that he did so, for they were
fast succumbing to their appetites. Despite the indignant protests and
efforts of the employer they would have undoubtedly fallen victims but
for an unlooked for occurrence.

One of the trappers who was so much under the influence of liquor as to
become reckless, fired upon and slightly wounded a native of the place.
The act threw the Mexicans into a panic of terror, and they fled
from the presence of the dreaded Americans who seemed eager for any
sanguinary deed.

The employer was wise enough to take advantage of the occurrence and
he succeeded, after much labor, in getting his half intoxicated men
together and out of the place. The horses were forced to their utmost
and the same night they overtook Carson and his anxious companions. All
danger from that source was ended.


 An Alarming Visit--Carson's Resources--On the Colorado and
 Gila--Capturing a Herd of Horses and Mules--The Raiders--Turning the
 Tables--Caching their Peltries--Return to Santa Fe--Carson Goes upon
 a Second Trapping Expedition--Hunting with an Old Mountaineer--A Visit
 from Crow Indians.

A week or more later, the trappers again reached the Colorado River.
They had traveled at a leisurely pace and once more they went into camp,
where they were familiar with the country. Men leading such lives as
they, were accustomed to all kinds of surprises, but it may be doubted
whether the trappers were more amazed in all their existence than when
five hundred Indian warriors made their appearance and with signs of
friendship overran the camp before they could be prevented or checked.

The hunters did not know what to make of the proceeding, and looked to
Carson for advice. He had already discovered that the situation was one
of the gravest danger. Despite the professions of friendship, Kit saw
that each warrior had his weapons under his dress, where he hoped they
were not noticed by the whites. Still worse, most of the hunters were
absent visiting their traps, only Kit and a few of his companions being
in camp. The occasion was where it was necessary to decide at once what
to do and then to do it without flinching.

Among the red men was one who spoke Spanish and to him Carson addressed

"You must leave the camp at once; if you don't do so without a minute's
delay, we shall attack you and each of us is sure to kill one warrior if
not more."

These brave words accompanied by such determination of manner were in
such contrast to the usual course of the cowardly Mexicans that the
Indians were taken all aback. They could not suspect the earnestness of
the short, sturdy framed leader, nor could they doubt that though the
Indians would be sure to overwhelm the little band, yet they would
have to pay dearly for the privilege. It took them but a few minutes
to conclude the price was altogether too high and they drew off without
making a hostile demonstration against the brave Carson and his men.

The trappers worked their way down the Colorado until they arrived at
tidewater, when they moved to the Gila, along which they trapped until
they reached the mouth of the San Pedro. They were in sore need of
horses with which to transport their furs and peltries, that had become
numerous and bulky. While in this neighborhood, they discovered a large
herd of horses and mules in the possession of a few Indians. According
to the morality of the border this property was legitimate prey, but in
point of fact when the trappers determined to take the animals from the
aborigines, they became thieves and robbers. However, it is not to be
hoped that a single member of the company felt the slightest twinge of
conscience when he rode at full speed, yelling to the highest bent, and
helped scatter the terrified red men to the winds. The entire herd fell
into the hands of the whites, and, congratulating themselves on their
good fortune, they kindled a huge fire and encamped for the night.

Most of the men had lain down with the intention of sleeping until
morning, and Kit sat looking in the fire, when his trained ear caught
a peculiar sound. At first, it seemed to be the faint roll of distant
thunder, but he knew it was not. He listened carefully and was able
to tell the direction whence came the singular noise, but remained
uncertain as to its cause. Then, as he had done many a time, he leaned
over and pressed his ear to the solid earth. Immediately the rumbling
became more distinct and he recognized what it meant: it was the tramp
of numerous hoofs galloping forward.

Carson and several of his men stole noiselessly out to reconnaissance
and found a half dozen warriors hurrying along a drove of more than a
hundred horses. They had been on a raid among the Mexican settlements in
Sonora and were now returning home with their plunder.

The temptation was one which Carson and his companions could not resist.
They sent a volley from their rifles among the thieves, which threw them
into such a panic that they dashed off at full speed without giving
the least thought to their valuable property. The latter as a matter
of course was taken charge of by the trappers, who were glad of the
opportunity to chastise the cowardly marauders.

Under the circumstances, however, the animals were of little value
to the hunters, who had all they needed. It was beyond their power to
return them to their owners, but the best were selected, several of the
plumpest killed and cured, and the rest turned loose to go whither they

The trappers continued up the Gila until near the copper mines of New
Mexico, where they found a party of white men trading with the Indians.
The peltries were cached and placed in charge of their friends, while
Carson and his companions continued on until they reached Santa Fe.
There their employer bought a license to trade with the Indians who
lived near the copper mines. Then they went back and procuring their
furs, returned once more to Santa Fe, where they were sold for more than
twenty thousand dollars. This being equitably divided among the hunters,
furnished each a goodly sum. Like so many sailors just ashore from a
long voyage, most of the trappers went on a prolonged carousal, which
caused their money to melt like snow in the sun. When their pockets were
empty, they had aching heads, weak frames and only the memory of their
feverish pleasures.

Kit Carson did not go through this trial unscathed. He drank and spreed
with the rest, but he awoke to the folly and madness of his course
sooner than they and the sad lesson learned at the time lasted him
through life. The baneful habit was not fastened upon him, and he not
only acquired the mastery over self, but was able more than once to
save others from falling into the whirlpool which has swept unnumbered
multitudes to wretchedness and death.

Carson found little in the way of congenial employment until the fall of
the year, when he joined a second trapping expedition. The first had won
him such a reputation for sagacity, daring and skill, that his services
were always in demand, and those who were forming such enterprises
sought him out among the very first.

The new party was in charge of an experienced mountaineer, who told
Kit his intention was to trap along the principal streams of the Rocky
Mountains. He was well acquainted with the region and was confident that
the expedition would not only be enjoyable and thrilling in the highest
degree, but would prove profitable to all.

The party travelled northward until they reached the Platte River where
the business began. They moved from stream to stream, as necessity
demanded, shooting such game as they needed, exchanging shots with the
watchful red men, who killed four of the trappers while hunting bison,
and steadily adding to their stock of furs until the close of the season
in the spring of 1831. Learning that an old mountaineer, named Captain
Gaunt, had spent the winter at Laramie River and was then at New Park,
Kit Carson and four of his friends set out to join him. It was a long
and perilous journey, but they made it in safety and the Captain gave
them glad welcome. They hunted together for many months following until
the Captain went to Taos to sell his peltries. On his return, operations
were resumed until the weather became so cold they were forced into
winter quarters.

The winter proved very severe. The snow was so deep that only by cutting
down numerous cottonwoods and using the bark and twigs for fodder were
the animals saved from starvation. Fortunately, they had laid in a
good stock of bison meat so that the trappers themselves underwent no
suffering for food. In fact, they found little to do except to pass the
time in idleness. With abundant food, plenty of tobacco and the means
of engaging in certain games, they whiled away the long winter days and
evenings until the signs of spring appeared.

But while the winds were moaning around their hut, in which they made
their home, and the snow rattled like fine sand against the logs, they
were taught again that no weather is severe enough to keep the wily red
man within his wigwam. A party of Crow Indians discovered the camp of
the trappers and one tempestuous night made them a stealthy visit. They
departed during the darkness, and, when they went away, took with them
nine of the very best horses of the hunters--a loss too serious to be
borne without using every recourse to prevent it.


 Kit Carson's Decision--A Hot Pursuit an and Unexpected Discovery--Weary
 Waiting--A Snow Balling Party--A Daring Attack--Brilliant Exploit.

Instinctively every one turned to Carson to learn what he had to advise
and yet each was certain what he would say.

"It'll never do, boys, to let them steal our horses in that style,"
he remarked in his quiet fashion, compressing his lips and shaking his
head, while his eyes flashed with a dangerous light.

All knew what his words and manner meant, and in a twinkling the
thirteen men were in their saddles, and, with their gallant leader at
their head, galloped forth off in pursuit.

It would be supposed where the ground was covered with snow to such a
depth, that it was the easiest matter imaginable to follow the trail,
and yet Kit and his companions found it one of the most difficult tasks
they had ever undertaken. Hundreds of bison had repeatedly crossed the
tracks since they were made and less experienced eyes than those of the
trappers would have given over the search in despair.

But no one thought of turning back, and the pursuit was pushed
unflaggingly for fully forty miles. Not the first glimpse had been
obtained of the Indians, and the horses that had been pushed so hard
finally gave out. They were in poor condition, and, when the company
came to a halt, showed such exhaustion that it was evident they could
not be forced much further. It was decided, therefore, to go into camp.
Accordingly, they turned the heads of their panting animals toward a
piece of woods a short distance away.

Before the shelter was reached, the trappers were astonished to observe
a column of smoke rising above the trees. They looked in each others'
faces with a smile of gratification: inasmuch as the trail led into the
grove and it was evident a camp fire was burning there, it followed
that they were close to the thieves whom they had followed such a long

The discovery infused new warmth into the blood of the hunters, who were
fairly atremble with eagerness to attack the unsuspecting Indians.

But all were too experienced in the ways of the wilderness to allow
their impatience to betray them into any indiscretion. They deemed
it necessary their assault should be a surprise and they, therefore,
withdrew to a secluded place in the woods and waited for night.

This was trying to a painful degree. The weather which had been bitterly
cold during the day, grew still colder, until the animals shivered as if
with the ague. They were carefully tied where the trees partly sheltered
them from the cutting wind and the hunters made sure their arms were
ready. Then, when the sun went down and darkness crept over the snowy
landscape, the men moved around so as to approach the camp from the
direction opposite to that from which the Indians would naturally look
for pursuit.

When close enough to catch sight of the flames among the trees, the
hunters sank on their knees and crept noiselessly forward until able to
gain a full view of the dusky thieves. They were surprised at what they
saw. The savages had thrown some logs and stones together so as to make
a couple of rude forts and had divided themselves into two parties. It
was characteristic of them that they were holding a dance and feast in
honor of the brilliant style in which they had outwitted the trappers
forty miles away.

The scene was quite interesting, especially when our friends plainly
saw their stolen animals tied near one of the forts. The sight of their
property was anything but soothing to the wrathful trappers, who were
resolved not to go back to their own camp without taking the horses

But the Crows were strong in numbers, well armed and ready to fight on
the briefest notice. It would have been an act of the greatest rashness
to charge upon their camp, while they were excited to an unusual degree
by the rejoicing in which all took a hilarious part. The whites decided
to wait several hours longer until most of their enemies would be
unconscious in slumber.

All this time the weather was growing colder, and, toughened as the
trappers had become by years of exposure, they suffered greatly. They
dare not move about to keep up the circulation of their blood, for the
slightest noise was liable to attract the suspicion of some of the Crows
who might be prowling through the grove. More than once Carson feared
his limbs were freezing, but he held out like the genuine hero he was,
and his companions were all worthy of him.

At last the dance was over and the tired warriors wrapped their blankets
around their forms and stretched out to rest. Their manner showed they
had no thought that a foe was anywhere in the neighborhood. Although
such men sleep lightly, they do not remain long awake when courting
sleep, and in a brief while all were unconscious except the sentinels
on duty. Even they were so confident that nothing threatened, that they
became less vigilant than usual.

"Sh! now is the time," whispered the youthful leader. They had decided
long before upon their plan of action, so that no time was now lost in
consultation. Kit and five of his men began slowly creeping toward their
horses. This was anything but a pleasant occupation, for the snow, it
will be remembered, was deep on the ground; but such veterans cared
nothing for a trifle like that, and they speedily reached their animals.

Such an attempt is always a dangerous one, for the horse of the Indian
or white hunter often proves his most skilful sentinel. He is able to
detect the stealthy approach of a scout, long before the straining ear
of his master can catch the slightest sound. If the beasts should become
frightened by the shadowy figures crawling over the snow, they would be
likely to alarm the camp; but Carson and his companions managed it so
well that there was not a single neigh or stamp of a hoof.

Silently rising to their feet, they cut the halters which held the
horses fast, and then, withdrawing a slight distance, began throwing
snowballs at them. These feathery missiles fell among and struck against
them, until, to escape the mimic bombardment they moved out the wood
altogether, where they were taken charge by the others who were waiting.
All this was accomplished without attracting the attention of a single

Having met with such success, common prudence and sense suggested that
the trappers should make all haste to their own comfortable quarters, so
many long miles away; but they had scarcely joined each other when they
fell into an earnest discussion as to what the next step should be.

Some were in favor of withdrawing with the least possible delay, but
Kit Carson and a couple of daring spirits were bent on going back and
punishing the thieves who had given them so much trouble. As they could
not be argued out of their purpose, the others, as a matter of course,
agreed to give them their aid.

Three of the trappers were sent to take the recaptured animals to where
the saddle horses were secured while the others advanced directly upon
the Indian camp. They moved cautiously as was their custom and were
almost upon the Crows, when one of their dogs gave notice of danger by a
vigorous barking. On the instant, the warriors leaped to their feet
and the fight opened. So many of the Indians were shot down and the
advantage was so strongly against them, that the survivors hastily
ran into the nearest fort, from which they returned the fire of their
assailants. The latter, however, had stationed themselves behind trees,
where they were safe against the whistling bullets, and in their attack
they threw away very few shots indeed.

It began growing light in the east, and, as soon as the Crows
discovered how few composed the besieging force, they in turn became
the assailants, and rushed out of their fort with their frightful war
whoops, but they were met by such a destructive fire that they scurried
back again.

The second attack of the savages was so furious that the trappers were
forced to fall back, but the reserve, as it may be called, speedily
joined them, and once more drove the Indians into their fort. Several
of the whites had been wounded though not dangerously, and both parties
having had enough of fighting, the battle ended.


 The British and American Trapper--Hunting on the Laramie--The
 Deserters--The Vain Pursuit--Arrival of Friends--The Return Journey--The
 Night Alarm--The Attack Upon the Camp--Pursuit and Recovery of Horses.

A half century ago the vast region beyond the Rocky Mountains was
comparatively unknown and unexplored. Its general features of course
were understood, but the interior was like the central portion of
Australia or Africa. Clarke and Lewis made their famous expedition to
Oregon during the early days of the century, and helped to turn general
attention in that direction. Its growth and development since then is
one of the wonders of the age.

But there was one class (if the word may be used), who never hesitated
to penetrate the wildest and most dangerous recesses of the far West
and Northwest: those were the hunters and trappers. As we have already
stated, the employees of the venerable and all embracing Hudson Bay
Company ranged over British America and through Oregon, to which vast
territory they possessed the clear legal right, besides which they and
the trappers of the American Fur Company frequently trespassed on each
others reserves, and not infrequently came in bloody collision with each

Far to the northward, the Indian drove his birch canoe across the silent
Athabasca and Great Bear Lakes, on his way with his peltries to the
distant factory or post of the Company; along the frozen shores of the
lone Mackenzie (the only American river flowing into the Arctic Ocean),
the trapper glided on his snow shoes, or with his sturdy dogs and
sleigh, fought his way over the snowy wastes of Prince Rupert's Land;
the brigades in their boats rounded the curves of the Saskatchewan,
keeping time with their paddles to their own cheery songs; their camp
fires were kindled in the land of the Assiniboine and they set their
traps in the wildest recesses of the Rocky Mountains where the whirling
snow storms almost carried them off their feet; but north of the
dividing line, the hunters had little if anything to fear from the red
men. Though they encountered in the loneliest and most desolate distant
regions, they generally met and separated as friends. Among the perils
of the trapper's life in British America was not reckoned that from the
hostile natives.

It was far different within our own territory. Those who left our
frontier States and pushed westward, and those who penetrated northward
and eastward from the Mexican country, knew they were invading the
hunting grounds of the fiercest Indians on the American continent. We
have already told enough to show the intense hostility of the red men;
between them and the hunters and trappers raged a war that never ceased
or slackened, except when policy held it for a time in check.

The little group of horsemen, who rode out from Independence or
Westport, or who took steamer at St. Louis up the Missouri, often came
back with several of their number missing. Up among the mountains, they
had gone out to visit their traps and had never come back to camp. The
lurking Blackfoot, or Sioux, or Crow, had aimed all too well, and, as
he bounded whooping away, he swung aloft the scalp of his victim whose
trapping days were ended forever.

After recovering their horses from the band of Crows, Carson and his
companions returned to camp, where they remained until spring, when they
cached their furs and made their way to the Laramie River on another
hunting expedition. While thus employed, a couple of the men deserted
taking several of the best animals. Kit Carson and a single companion
were sent in pursuit, the rascals having a good day's start. A desperate
fight was sure to follow a meeting between the parties, for Carson would
never forgive such treachery, and the deserters were not the ones to
permit themselves to be despoiled of their booty without doing their
utmost to prevent it.

It was suspected that they were on their way to the place where the
beaver had been cached; and disregarding the trail, therefore Carson
made all haste thither. It need not be said that he lost no time on the
road, but when he reached their old camp, he found the deserters had
preceded him. They had stolen several thousand dollars worth of furs and

Carson was more anxious than ever to overtake the scoundrels. He and his
companion made diligent search, but failed utterly to find them. They
were never seen or heard of again, and Carson was convinced they had
fallen victims to the Indians who in turn made off with the stolen

It will be borne in mind that Kit and his friend were several hundred
miles from the main body of hunters, and in one of the most dangerous
countries they had ever visited. So dangerous, indeed, did they consider
an attempt to return to them, that they decided not to make it, but to
stay in the old camp. Inasmuch as it would be impossible to keep their
presence from the knowledge of the Indians, they threw up some rude
fortifications and never relaxed their vigilance. When Carson wrapped
his blanket around him, and lay down to rest, he knew his companion was
on guard and would not slumber. It was the same with his friend, their
watchfulness undoubtedly preventing the attack which scarcely could have
failed to be effectual.

It was needful now and then that one of them should venture out to
procure game, but that was so plentiful that he was never compelled to
go far, and he used such extreme care that he was not even so much as
fired upon.

Thus the time passed, until at the end of several weeks, the hunters
were surprised and delighted by the arrival of more than a dozen men on
their way with a complete outfit to join the main body. Carson and his
friend were glad enough to go with them and the long journey was begun.
They had not gone far, when they exchanged shots with hostiles and there
were almost daily skirmishes with them. By sunset they had travelled a
long distance, and went into camp, feeling certain that though Indians
had not shown themselves, they were in the vicinity. To prevent a
stampede of their animals, the long ropes around their necks were
fastened to stakes driven deep into the earth. This arrangement allowed
them to graze over sufficient ground and opposed an almost insuperable
obstacle to the success of the dusky thieves prowling around.

It was yet early in the evening when one of the dogs belonging to the
camp began barking. A score of causes might have caused this but Carson
believed the incitement in that instance was the one most dreaded.
Several men were added to the guard and the rest lay down, too uneasy to
gain much slumber, however.

The trappers were right in their suspicion that savages were near but
they could not have failed to note what precautions had been taken by
the whites against surprise and they withdrew without molesting them.
The party were in a beaver country, and Carson and three of his men went
up the stream some distance to learn whether it was worth their while to
set the traps.

They had not been gone long when a party of Indians, who were probably
awaiting such an opportunity, charged upon the camp and drove off all
the loose horses. Four of the hunters instantly saddled the swiftest
of those remaining and started in hot pursuit. So hot indeed was the
pursuit that they speedily came up with the marauders and opened a
running fight. One of the hunters was badly wounded, while a warrior
was shot from his horse pitching headlong to the earth with a screech
of agony. The remaining ones were pressed so hard that they were glad
enough to abandon the property which came back to the rightful owners,
probably before an animal was able to comprehend what had taken place.

The promptness and daring of the hunters had prevented a serious loss,
and though one of their number was severely hurt, his wound was not
mortal. It may be said that he suffered much but fully recovered in
time. Men with such iron constitutions and rugged frames rallied from
injuries that would have swept off those accustomed to less stirring

Having righted matters, so far as possible, the trappers picketed their
horses and awaited the return of Carson and his companions. They were
much disturbed by fears for their safety, as in truth they had good
cause to be.


 An Unexpected Meeting--The Ambush--A Daring and Perilous Ride--Return to
 Camp--Disappointments--The Beaver.

Meanwhile the Indians made it exceedingly lively for Kit Carson and his
three companions.

The latter had heard so much of the abundance of beavers in a
certain section that they determined to visit it and make a thorough
exploration. To do this, it was necessary to ride over a lofty Rocky
Mountain peak or take many hours to pass around it. Very naturally they
concluded to "cut across lots," confident of their ability to take care
of themselves, no matter what danger threatened.

The ascent proved very exhausting to men and animals, for the trappers
did not compel the weary beasts to bear them up the steep slope where it
tired them to force their own way. They rested many times, but finally
accomplished the ascent and passed over into the valley beyond. There,
disappointment awaited them. The most careful search failed to show the
first sign of a beaver and they had their labor for their pains. The
toil of climbing the mountain peak was so severe that the hunters
concluded to take the longer route home. Their steeds had been pushed so
hard, that they were permitted to set their own pace on the return.
This naturally enough was a deliberate walk, while their riders talked,
laughed, jested and occasionally made some remark on the magnificent
scenery by which they were surrounded. There was no call for haste, and
they knew nothing of what had taken place in camp after their departure;
otherwise, they might have felt more impatience to rejoin their friends.

All at once, the hunters descried four Indian warriors in the path in
front. They were splendidly mounted, their hair ornamented with stained
eagle feathers, their ugly countenances daubed with yellow, black and
crimson paint, and they were fully armed. Their appearance showed they
were on the war path.

Such undoubtedly being the case, a sight of the braves was a challenge
to the hunters who accepted it without a second's hesitation.

Pausing not a moment to consult on their plan of action, Kit and his
companions spurred their horses to a dead run, with the purpose of
bringing them within range of their rifles, but the steeds of the dusky
foes were fleet of foot and they sped away like the wind.

The pursuit was a furious one, until the flying fugitives shot by a
hill, when more than fifty warriors similarly mounted and accoutred,
dashed out to intercept the enthusiastic hunters. Just then it dawned
upon Kit and his companions that the whole proceeding was a trap
arranged by the Indians into which he and his friends had dashed at
headlong speed.

It was in such crises that Kit Carson displayed his marvelous resources
and lightning-like perception of the best course to adopt. The discovery
of the ambush would have thrown almost any company of men, no matter
how brave into a panic, or at least into temporary confusion which would
have been equally disastrous. Most probably they would have reined up or
wheeled about and fled in the opposite direction. The whole band would
have dashed in pursuit and the running fight between four men and more
than twelve times their number, every one of whom it is fair to presume
was thoroughly familiar with the country, could have resulted in but one
way. Skilled and daring as were Carson and his comrades, they could
not accomplish the impossible, as they would have had to do in order to
escape the yelling band behind them.

Kit was slightly in advance of the others, and he did not check his
animal in the least. On the contrary, he urged him to his utmost, and
the four sped straight ahead on a dead run, seemingly as if they meant
to charge the entire war party.

Such, however, was not their intention: they shied off as much as they
could, and, throwing themselves forward and over the side of their
horses, ran the terrible gauntlet. No one of the trappers fired a shot,
for if dismounted by the bullets of their enemies, each wished to have
his loaded rifle in hand, with which to make his last defense.

The very audacity of the movement amazed the Indians. By the time they
comprehended what the white men were doing, they were thundering in
front of them. Then the warriors opened fire, and the bullets whistled
about the horses and riders, who kept their steeds to the highest
bent and finally passed beyond danger--their escape one of the most
extraordinary on record.

The Indians did not pursue the hunters, two of whom had been struck by
their bullets, and Carson and his friends drew their horses down to
a more moderate pace. The great scout admitted that he was never more
utterly deceived and entrapped by the red man in all his life. But
he saw in the occurrence a deeper significance than appeared on the
surface. The ambush into which he and his friends had been led was only
a part of the campaign against the entire party, who, weakened by the
absence of Carson and his companions were likely to fall victims to such
a large band of warriors. Trembling with fear for their comrades, they
again forced their animals to a high speed and lost no time in making
their way back to camp. They found everything in good shape, much to
their relief, and were not at all surprised to learn of the visit
that had been made by the savages during the absence of Kit and his

The wounds of the two trappers who were shot while running the fiery
gauntlet, were found to be of such a serious nature that the party had
not gone far when they were obliged to go into camp again. One of them
especially, was in such a bad way that it was found necessary to carry
him on a litter until the main camp was reached. There he was allowed to
rest and everything possible was done to make him comfortable. When he
had fully recovered, the entire company headed for Old Park, once
famous on account of the immense numbers of beavers found there.
Disappointment, however, awaited them, for other trappers had preceded
them, and made such thorough work that it was useless for the last
arrivals to unload and set their traps.

The party visited other sections but in every instance they appeared
to be "a day too late for the fair;" the beaver runs had been worked so
thoroughly by others that it was useless for them to expect success.

The beaver, as the reader probably knows, aside from its great value
in producing fur and perfume, possesses a most wonderful instinct. They
live in communities and prefer to build their houses by small clear
rivers and creeks or close to springs. Sometimes they are found on the
banks of lakes.

The dams which they construct with the skill of a professional civil
engineer, are built for the purpose of making sure of a full supply of
water at all times and seasons. These dams are composed of stones,
mud and tree branches, the base being ten or twelve feet in thickness
sloping gradually upward to the summit.

In building their dams, the beaver does not thrust the ends of the
stakes into the bed of the river, but lays them down horizontally,
holding them in place by piling mud and stones upon them. The logs which
compose the dams are mostly from six to eight inches in diameter, though
some have been found nearly two feet through. The enormous number of
such logs used may be imagined perhaps, when the ponderous character of
the dams is remembered, and when it is stated that some of them are more
than an eighth of a mile wide. Every log, after being gnawed off the
proper length, is stripped of its bark which is stored away for use as
food during the winter.

The lodges of the beavers are composed principally of mud, moss and
branches, circular in shape, the space within being seven feet in width
and about half as high. The walls are so thick that on the outside the
corresponding dimensions are nearly three times as great as within. The
roof is finished off with a thick layer of mud, laid on with wonderful
smoothness and renewed every year. The severe frosts of winter freeze
the lodge into such a solid structure that the beaver is safe against
the wolverine, which is unable to break through the wall, resembling the
adobe structures found in Mexico and the Southwest. Even the trapper who
attempts to demolish one of the structures finds it tiresome labor, even
with the help of iron implements.

The beavers excavate a ditch around their lodges too deep to be frozen.
Into this opens all their dwellings, the door being far below the
surface, so that free ingress and egress are secured.

The half dozen beavers occupying a lodge arrange their beds against the
wall, each separate from the other, while the centre of the chamber is
unoccupied. During summer they secure their stock of food by gnawing
down hundreds of trees, the trunks or limbs of which are sunk and
fastened in some peculiar manner to the bottom of the stream. During the
winter when the beaver feels hungry, he dives down, brings up one of the
logs, drags it to a suitable spot and nibbles off the bark.

It is impossible fully to understand how this remarkable animal does its
work, for as it never toils in the day time, it is out of the power of
any one to watch its method.

The peculiar odoriferous substance, secreted in two glandular sacs near
the root of the tail, is "castoreum," more generally known as "bark
stone" among the trappers. The odor is powerful and is so attractive to
the animals themselves, that the trapper has only to smear some of it
near the trap which is hidden under water. Any beaver which catches the
scent, is sure to hasten to the spot and is almost certain to be caught
in the trap.


 Carson and two Companions set out on a Trapping Expedition of Their
 Own--They Meet With Great Success--Is Engaged by Captain Lee--Carson's
 Pursuit of an Indian Thief.

Kit Carson finally grew tired of wandering over the country without
gaining sight of a beaver. He proposed to two of his companions that
they start on a private expedition of their own. They were as disgusted
as he and eagerly agreed to the proposition.

The employers of the men commended the enterprise of the little company
and gave them their best wishes. Cordial farewells were exchanged all
around, and Kit and his comrades left the camp on their perilous errand.

On this occasion, as on innumerable other ones, Carson showed most
excellent judgment. His scheme was to keep entirely to the streams never
once venturing upon the plains. Several advantages were likely to
flow from this course. During the summer season the mountain Indians
generally placed their women and children in charge of the old men and
a few warriors and came down from their retreats to engage in hunting
bison or in marching on the war path. Occasionally they are at peace
with the Indians of the plains, which was a bad thing for the Mexican
settlements, for they left a track of desolation among them.

Few of the trappers ventured far into the mountains, where game was
abundant, so that Carson was confident of finding plenty of beavers.
In this he was not mistaken. The fur bearing animals seemed to be
overrunning the country, while the Indians acted not only as if unaware
of the fact but as if entirely ignorant of the little party of
visitors, who, making hay while the sun shines, were not long in finding
themselves with as large a supply as they could carry home.

This was the ordeal more to be dreaded than all the others. While on
their way to the beaver runs, they had nothing to do beyond taking
care of themselves; but now their valuable peltries were liable to be
captured by the Indians, who could compel their abandonment by pressing
the owners hard.

But extreme and altogether unexpected good fortune attended them, and
they reached Taos, without receiving a scratch or losing a fur. They
found on arriving at that quaint town, that there was great demand for
peltries and prices were correspondingly high. They sold out their stock
for a very liberal price, and Kit's friend, despite his advice, went
on a carousal which soon squandered all their hard earned wages. Kit
himself, however, had not lost the lesson he learned under somewhat
similar circumstances, and he laid away his funds, against the
proverbial rainy day.

By this time the character of Carson was fairly formed. He was resolute,
self reliant, sober, thoughtful, cool headed, wonderfully quick to grasp
all the points of a situation, chivalrous, agile as a panther, a perfect
master of woodcraft, and withal, charmingly modest.

While Carson was in Taos, waiting for some favorable opening to present
itself, he met Captain Lee, formerly of the United States Army, but who
was then a member of the firm of Bent and St. Vrain, engaged for so
many years in furnishing supplies to those who visited the mountains and
plains. Captain Lee at that time was thus employed and knowing the value
of a man like Carson, he made him so liberal an offer that he accepted
it on the spot.

In the Autumn of 1832, with a train of mules loaded with such goods as
were needed by trappers, Captain Lee, Carson and a number of men started
northward to find their purchasers. They followed the well worn mule
path leading from New Mexico to California and which had been known for
years as the "Old Spanish Trail."

They reached White River without mishap, and made their way down it
until Green River was forded, when they struck across the country to
Winty River, where they came upon a party of twenty hunters, who were
engaged in trading and trapping as opportunity offered. They affiliated
at once, for there is something in the presence of a common danger which
draws men closely together.

The weather became very cold and snow began to fall. It was decided,
therefore, to go into winter quarters near the mouth of Winty River.
There they erected skin lodges, such as are used by many tribes of
American Indians, and were content to wait the coming of spring.

The skill and address of Carson seemed to create a call for his
services, no matter where he happened to be, and it was not long before
he became involved in a most remarkable adventure.

Among the employees of the other party, was a shrewd civilized Indian,
who was held in high regard by the whites on account of his native
keenness, and who stood well in the confidence of his employer; but one
day he disappeared, simultaneously with several of the very best
horses. The circumstances were such that there could be no doubt the two
occurrences were inseparably connected.

The loss was too serious to be borne, and the angered leader of the
other company (though he had not the least claim upon young Carson),
appealed to him to help him to recover his property. Carson said he was
perfectly willing, provided Captain Lee would give his consent, and as
the Captain was more willing to help his friend, he directed Carson to
do as he saw fit.

The matchless hunter made sure his weapons were in the best order, and,
mounting one of the fleetest horses in camp, he waved a merry farewell
to his friends and galloped off. He had not ridden far when he turned
off toward an Indian village, whose people were on friendly terms with
the hunters, and, riding directly among the red men, whose lingo he
understood, he asked for one of their bravest warriors to join him
in hunting down a California Indian that had run off with their best

Such a request coming from any other hunter would have received little
notice; but those dusky barbarians not only knew Carson by name, but
looked upon him as the greatest white warrior they had ever seen. He
could have secured a score of braves had he wanted them, but he desired
only one--a sinewy, daring fellow whom he knew could be relied on in any
emergency. This Indian required no more time than Carson himself to make
ready, and, shortly after Kit's arrival in the village, he rode forth
again with his faithful friend at his elbow.

It was impossible for the thief to conceal the trail of the stolen
horses and he made no attempt to do so. A slight examination showed the
pursuers that it led down the Green River, the general course being such
that Carson was confident the thief was making for California--a long
distance away.

As the fugitive was well mounted and all his horses were fleet, and as
he must have been quite certain he would be pursued, he lost no time on
the road. The trail showed he was going at a full gallop, and, under the
most favorable circumstances, the chase was sure to be a long one.


 A Hot Pursuit--An Unexpected Calamity--Carson Continues the Chase
 Alone--The Result.

Everything now depended on speed. Not only was the dusky thief pushing
his animals to the utmost, but Kit Carson knew he would give them little
rest night or day. He was familiar with the route to California and the
pursuit would be no child's play.

There could be no doubt, however, of the destination of the redskin, and
Carson and his brave warrior were equally persistent with their horses.
The ground flew beneath their hoofs. Across the stretch of prairie,
along the bank of the rushing streams, around the rocks, over mountains,
through torrents, they forced their way, with no thought of turning back
or checking the speed of their animals. Occasionally the bright eyes of
the pursuers glanced at the ground in front, when the displaced gravel
or the indentation in the soft earth showed they had not lost the trail.

In this headlong fashion the friends galloped forward until they had
placed a full hundred miles behind them. They were a long distance from
home and camp, but in spite of the speed of the fugitive, Carson was
confident they had gained considerably upon him. If everything went
well, they ought to catch sight of him on the morrow. At this juncture,
when the prospect was so encouraging, an unlooked for calamity occurred.

Carson's steed stood the great strain admirably, but the one bestrode
by the Indian succumbed. He suddenly slackened his pace, staggered and
trembled so violently, that, when the warrior leaped from his back, he
saw he was fearfully ill. If he did not die, he would not recover for
hours and even then could not be forced hard.

Carson contemplated the situation with dismay. He had not counted on
anything like this, and the help of the Indian was beyond all price
to him. He was unusually strong, active and experienced, and would not
hesitate to attack any person single handed.

Seeing the condition of the exhausted steed, Kit proposed to his dusky
companion that he should abandon him and continue the pursuit on foot,
but the brave shook his head. He was equal to the exploit of running ten
or twenty miles at a high pace, but a great deal more was likely to
be required and he needed all his powers when the shock of the battle
should come. He not only refused to continue the chase, but, knowing
the character of the thief, tried to dissuade Carson from going further.
They had certainly done all that could be asked of them and no one could
find fault if, in the face of such difficulty, they should withdraw and
return to their friends.

"No," said Carson, "I have set out to recover those horses and nothing
shall turn me back. I am sorry to lose you, but it can't be helped; so
good bye and good luck attend you."

And putting spurs to his steed, he dashed over the trail with compressed
lips and flashing eye, determined on running down the fugitive if he had
to follow him to the bank of the Pacific itself. This single act of the
famous mountaineer shows his character in its true light.

In the first place, it must be remembered that Kit Carson was a man
of slight figure and was never noted for his strength. Many of his
companions were much more powerful, though none was so quick and active
in his movements. His wonderful success lay in his coolness, agility,
skill and bravery, which never "overleaped itself." As we have stated,
he was below the medium stature, and never could have attained a tithe
of his renown, had his muscular strength formed a necessary part of his

On the other hand, the Indian thief whom he was pursuing, was
exceptionally powerful, athletic and one of the most desperate men on
the whole frontier. He cared nothing for Carson, nor for any single
member of the company he had left. He would expect pursuit and would be
on the watch for it. Whenever he caught sight of those who were seeking
him, he would not abandon the horses and flee. Far from it: he would
stand his ground, and if his booty should be wrested from him the men
who did it would be compelled to the fiercest kind of fight. He would
not run from the attack of two or three persons: much less from one of
the most insignificant men in the entire company.

The course of Carson illustrated another marked feature of his
character--that of loyalty to his friends and resolution in carrying
through any task he undertook. Where scarcely one man in a multitude
would have pushed forward, he advanced without hesitation. He
deliberately resolved to attack a fierce criminal who was as fully armed
as he, as daring and perfect in his knowledge of woodcraft, and much his
superior in strength.

Carson had proven the mettle of his steed, and he now showed him no
mercy. The trail indicated he was gaining rapidly and he was anxious to
force matters to an issue before night. Among the horses the Indian was
running off were one or two whose endurance was less than the others.
Their tardiness moderated the pace of the rest, and thus gave Kit a
chance of lessening the distance between him and the fugitive.

At the end of the ten miles he scanned the ground in front, but nothing
was seen of the thief or his horses; but the hoof prints were fresh and
the scout knew he was closer to him than at any time since the chase
began. The flanks of his steed shone with perspiration and froth, but
it would not do to lag now. The lips were compressed and the gray eye
flashed fire as before.

Ten more miles were speedily thrown behind him, and he knew he was not
far from the dusky desperado, who doubtless was continually glancing
backward in quest of pursuers; but the keen vision which swept around
every portion of the visible horizon, discovered no sign of the thief.

Carson anticipated some attempt on the part of the fugitive to confuse
pursuit and he, therefore, watched the hoof prints more closely than
ever. The eagle eye continually glanced from the ground to the country
in front, and then to the right and left. Nothing escaped his vision,
but when his foamy steed had thundered over another ten miles the
fugitive was still beyond sight.

"He can't be far off," was the thought of Carson, "I'm bound to overtake
him before long."

At that moment, he caught sight of the Indian galloping leisurely
forward, amid the stolen horses. The cunning savage, as the scout had
suspected, was constantly on the alert, and detected Carson the same
moment that he himself was discovered. Quick as a flash, he leaped from
the back of his horses and started on a swift run for a clump of trees
between him and his pursuer. The latter understood his purpose on the
instant. If the Indian could secure the shelter of the grove, he would
have his enemy at his mercy; for not only would he be able to protect
his body, while loading and firing, but Carson himself, being in an open
space, would be without the slightest protection against his deadly aim.

Carson cocked his rifle and driving his spurs into the flanks of his
high spirited steed, charged at full speed for the same shelter. Whoever
should reach it first would be the master.

The Indian had much less distance to run, and was as fleet of foot as
a deer. He bounded forward with such tremendous strides, that while the
horseman was still some distance away, he plunged in among the trees;
but for the last few seconds the foes had approached each other at a
terrific pace, a result that was not only inevitable, but desirable, to
the pursuer.

The very second the savage arrived on the margin of the grove, he made a
leap for the nearest tree from behind which he meant to shoot his enemy;
but in the very act of doing so, he was smitten by his bullet. Without
checking his animal in the slightest, Carson had aimed and fired.

The death screech of the savage rang out, as he leaped in the air and
tumbled prostrate to the earth, killed by the shot that was unerring in
its accuracy. The Indian himself was so near firing his gun, that his
piece was also discharged, the ball whizzing harmlessly above the head
of his pursuer. A couple of seconds delay on the part of Carson must
have proved fatal to him, for the savage was a good marksman, and was
standing still, with such a brief space intervening, that he could not
have missed. It is hard to conceive of any escape more narrow than that
of the daring mountaineer.


 Carson Returns with the Recovered Property--Journey to Snake
 River--Starts on a Trapping Expedition with Three Companions--Carson's
 Stirring Adventure with Two Grizzly Bears.

Carson gathered the horses together and set out on his return. The
distance was considerable and he was compelled to encamp more than once
on the road, while he was continually exposed to attack from Indians,
but with that remarkable skill and foresight which distinguished him
when a boy, he reached home without the slightest mishap and turned over
the recovered animals to their owner. Some days later, several trappers
entered camp with the statement that a large body of hunters were on
Snake River, a fortnight's journey distant. Captain Lee at once set out
with his men and found the company who gave them a warm welcome. They
purchased all the supplies Captain Lee had for sale, and then, as
Carson's engagement with the Captain was ended, he attached himself to
the other body. He remained, however, only a few weeks, for he saw there
were so many that they could never take enough peltries to bring
much money to the individual members. He decided to do as he had done
before--arrange an expedition of his own. He had but to make known
his intentions, when he had more applicants than he could accept. He
selected three, who it is needless to say had no superiors in the whole
party. The little company then turned the heads of their horses toward
Laramie River.

At that day, the section abounded with beaver, and although the summer
is not the time when their fur is in the best condition, the party
trapped on the stream and its tributaries until cold weather set in.
They met with far greater success than could have come to them had they
stayed with the principal company of trappers. But they had no wish
to spend the winter alone in the mountains and gathering their stock
together, they set out to rejoin their old companions.

One day, after they had gone into camp, Carson, leaving his horse in
charge of his friends, set out on foot to hunt some game for their
evening meal. They had seen no signs of Indians, though they never
forgot to be on their guard against them. Game was not very abundant and
Carson was obliged to go a long ways before he caught sight of some elk
grazing on the side of a hill. Well aware of the difficulty of getting
within gunshot of the timid animals, the hunter advanced by a circuitous
course toward a clump of trees, which would give him the needed shelter;
but while creeping toward the point he had fixed upon as the one from
which to fire, the creatures scented danger and began moving off. This
compelled him to fire at long range, but he was successful and brought
down the finest of the group.

The smoke was curling upward from the rifle of Carson, when he was
startled by a tremendous crashing beside him, and, turning his head, he
saw two enormous grizzly bears making for him at full speed. They were
infuriated at this invasion of their home, and were evidently resolved
on teaching the hunter better manners by making their supper upon him.

Carson had no time to reload his gun: had it been given him he would
have made short work of one of the brutes at least, but as it was, he
was deprived of even that privilege. Fortunate indeed would he be if he
could escape their fury.

The grizzly bear is the most dreaded animal found on this continent.
He does not seem to feel the slightest fear of the hunter, no matter
whether armed or not, and, while other beasts are disposed to give man
a wide berth, old "Ephraim," as the frontiersmen call him, always seems
eager to attack him. His tenacity of life is extraordinary. Unless
pierced in the head or heart, he will continue his struggles after a
dozen or score of rifle balls have been buried in his body. So terrible
is the grizzly bear, that an Indian can be given no higher honor
than the privilege of wearing a necklace made from his claws--that
distinction being permitted only to those who have slain one of the
animals in single handed combat.

No one understood the nature of these beasts better than Kit Carson and
he knew that if either of the animals once got his claws upon him, there
would not be the faintest chance of escape. The only thing therefore
that could be done was to run.

There were not wanting men who were fleeter of foot than Carson, but
few could have overtaken him when he made for the trees on which all his
hopes depended. Like the blockade runner, closely pursued by the man of
war, he threw overboard all the cargo that could impede his speed. His
long, heavy rifle was flung aside, and the short legs of the trapper
doubled under him with amazing quickness as he strove as never before to
reach the grove.

Fortunately the latter was not far off, and, though the fierce beasts
gained rapidly upon him, Carson arrived among the timber a few steps
in advance. He had no time even to select the tree, else he would
have chosen a different one, but making a flying leap, he grasped the
lowermost limb and swung upward, at the moment the foremost grizzly
was beneath him. So close in truth was his pursuer that the hunter
distinctly felt the sweeping blow of his paw aimed at the leg which
whisked beyond his reach just in the nick of time.

But the danger was not over by any means. The enthusiastic style in
which the bears entered into the proceedings proved they did not mean
that any trifles should stop them. They were able to climb the tree
which supported Carson, and he did not lose sight of the fact. Whipping
out his hunting knife, he hurriedly cut off a short thick branch and
trimmed it into a shape that would have made a most excellent shillelagh
for a native of the Green Isle.

He had hardly done so, when the heads of the bruins were thrust upward
almost against his feet. Carson grasped the club with both hands and
raising it above his shoulders brought it down with all his might upon
the nose of the foremost. The brute sniffed with pain, threw up his
head and drew back a few inches--just enough to place the other nose in
front. At that instant, a resounding whack landed on the rubber snout
and the second bear must have felt a twinge all through his body.

Though each blow caused the recipient to recoil, yet he instantly
returned, so that Carson was kept busy pounding the noses as if he was
an old fashioned farmer threshing wheat with a flail.

It was a question with Carson which would last the longer--the club or
the snouts, but in the hope of getting beyond their reach, he climbed to
the topmost bough, where he crouched into the smallest possible space.
It was idle, however, to hope they would overlook him, for they pushed
on up the tree which swayed with their weight.

The nose of the grizzly bear is one of the most sensitive portions of
his body, and the vigorous thumps which the hunter brought down upon
them, brought tears of pain to their eyes. But while they suffered, they
were roused to fury by the repeated rebuffs, and seemed all the more
set on crunching the flesh and bones of the insignificant creature who
defied them.

It must have been exasperating beyond imagination to the gigantic
beasts, who feared neither man nor animal to find themselves repeatedly
baffled by a miserable being whom they could rend to pieces with one
blow of their paws, provided they could approach nigh enough to reach

They came up again and again; they would draw back so as to avoid those
stinging strokes, sniff, growl and push upward, more eager than ever to
clutch the poor fellow, who was compressing himself between the limb and
the trunk, and raining his blows with the persistency of a pugilist.

They were finally forced to desist for a few minutes in order to give
their snouts time to regain their tone. The bulky creatures looked at
each other and seemed to say, "That's a mighty queer customer up there;
he doesn't fight fairly, but we'll fetch him yet."

Once more and for the last time, they returned to the charge, but the
plucky scout was awaiting them, and his club whizzed through the air
like the piston rod of a steam engine. The grizzlies found it more than
they could stand, and tumbling back to solid earth they gave up the
contract in disgust. Carson tarried where he was until they were beyond
sight, when he descended and hastily caught up and reloaded his rifle,
having escaped, as he always declared, by the narrowest chance of all
his life.


 On the Green River--In the Blackfoot Country--The Blackfeet--An
 Unwelcome Visit--The Pursuit and Parley--Dissolution of the Peace

The day was drawing to a close when Carson set out for camp, which was
not reached until after dark. His companions did not feel any special
alarm over his continued absence, for the good reason that they were
confident he could take care of himself no matter in what labyrinth of
peril he might become involved.

It was too late to send for the carcass of the elk and more than likely
it had already been devoured by wolves. So the trappers made their
breakfast on one of the beavers found in their traps, and went into
camp to await the arrival of the main body of trappers, which Carson
was confident would come that way. Some days later they put in an
appearance, and the company proceeded to the general rendezvous on Green
River, where were found assembled the principal trappers of the Rocky
Mountains. There were fully two hundred divided into two camps. What a
history could have been written from the thrilling experiences of such a
body of men!

They had gathered at the rendezvous to buy what supplies they needed
and to dispose of their peltries. It was several weeks before the
negotiations were over, when the assemblage broke up into smaller
companies which started for their destinations hundreds of miles apart.

Carson joined a party numbering about fifty who intended to trap near
the headwaters of the Missouri. Hundreds of beavers had been taken in
that section, but poor success went with the large band of which Carson
was a member. That was bad enough, but they were in a neighborhood
which, it may be said, was the very heart of the Blackfoot country,
and those hostiles were never more active and vigilant in their warfare
against the invaders.

The Blackfeet or Satsika today, are the most westerly tribe of the
Algonquin family of Indians, extending from the Hudson Bay to the
Missouri and Yellowstone. They number over 12,000 warriors about equally
divided between Montana and British America. They have always been
a daring and warlike people, and the early explorers of the Far West
probably met with more trouble from them than from any other tribe on
the continent.

Carson and his companions ran in difficulty at once. The Blackfeet
seemed to swarm through the woods, and sent in their treacherous shots
from the most unexpected quarters. Whoever made the round of the traps
in the morning was almost certain to be fired upon. Matters became
so bad that after a time the trappers decided to leave the country.
Accordingly they made their way to the Big Snake River where they
went into quarters for the winter. Even there they were not safe from
molestation at the hands of their old enemies the Blackfeet.

One night, when there was no moon or stars, a band of warriors stole
into camp and ran off about twenty of the best horses. This outrage
touched the hunters in the most sensitive part of their nature, and
the truth no sooner became known than they unanimously agreed that the
animals not only should be recovered but the audacious aggressors should
be chastised.

Twelve men were selected for the most difficult and dangerous task and
need we give the name of the youth who was made the leader?

With his usual promptness, Carson took the trail which was followed
without trouble over the snow. The Blackfeet had reason to fear some
such demonstration, and they hurried off with such speed that they were
not overtaken until fifty miles from camp.

The situation was a novel one. The Indians had come to a halt and the
horses were grazing on the side of a hill where the wind had blown away
the snow. The Blackfeet had on snowshoes which gave them an advantage
over the trappers. The latter galloped in the direction of their
horses, the moment they caught sight of them. The Blackfeet fired at the
trappers, who returned a scattering volley but no one was hurt on either
side. Then followed skirmishing and manoeuvering for several minutes,
without either party gaining advantage. Finally the Blackfeet asked for
a parley to which the trappers assented.

In accordance with the usual custom, one of the Indians advanced to a
point midway between the two parties and halted. At the same time, one
of the trappers went forward, the rest of the whites and red men keeping
their distance and watching them.

The Blackfoot opened business by what might be termed an apology which
was no more genuine than many made by his civilized brethren under
somewhat similar circumstances. He expressed great surprise to learn
that the horses belonged to their good friends the trappers. They had
supposed all along that they were the property of the Snake Indians
whom the Blackfeet considered it their duty to despoil on every suitable

This glaring misrepresentation did not deceive the man who was acting as
spokesman for his side. By way of reply, he asked that if such was
the case, why had not the Blackfeet come forward on discovering their
mistake, greeted their white brothers as friends and returned their
property to them.

The replies were evasive and the hunters became convinced that the
Indians were seeking to gain time for some sinister purpose; but a full
parley having been agreed upon, both parties left their guns behind and
advanced to where their representatives were holding their interview.

The Blackfeet still professed the most ardent friendship, and as an
emphatic token of the same, produced the calumet and began smoking the
pipe of peace. The tobacco having been lit, each took several whiffs
and then passed it to his neighbor, who did the same until the round was
completed. This solemn pledge of good will having been exchanged, the
convention or peace congress was opened as may be said, in due and
ancient form.

Carson and his companions were distrustful from the start, though it was
hard for them to decide the meaning of the prolonged negotiations, since
no one could see what the Blackfeet were to gain by such a course. They
may have hoped to deceive the hunters and throw them off their guard,
but, if such was the case, they failed.

First of all, the leading warriors indulged in several long speeches
which were without point, but what was said in reply could admit of no
doubt as to its meaning. The trappers understood the Blackfoot tongue
well enough to make their responses models in the way of brevity and
force. They said that it was idle to talk of friendship or peace until
the stolen property was returned to its owners. The Indians still
attempted to postpone or evade, but the complainants were in no mood
for trifling and they repeated their declaration more positively than

The Blackfeet were much more numerous than the whites, and confident of
their strength, began to bluster and to assert that whatever they did
would be dictated by their own wishes and not by any fear of their
visitors. Whether they desired to avoid a fight or not can only be
conjectured, but they finally sent back to where the horses were
tethered and caused five of the worst to be picked out and brought

When the trappers inquired the meaning of this proceeding, the Indians
said that it was the best they could do and the hunters must be content.

This last insult was the spark which exploded the magazine. Instantly
every white man ran for his gun, and the Blackfeet did the same. A few
seconds after they wheeled about and the sanguinary fight began.

Kit Carson and a companion were the first to obtain their guns and as
a consequence they led the advance. Each selected a warrior who was
partially hidden by the trunk of a tree. Carson was in the act of
firing, when he observed that his friend was examining the lock of his
gun all unmindful of the fact that one of the Blackfeet had levelled his
weapon directly at his breast. On the instant, Kit changed his aim and
shot the savage dead, thereby saving the life of his friend, who could
not have escaped had the weapon of his adversary been discharged.


 Carson Badly Wounded--A Drawn Battle--An Ineffectual Pursuit--The Summer
 Rendezvous--Carson's Duel.

This act of chivalry on the part of Carson simply transferred the peril
of his friend to himself, for the Indian whom he had selected for his
target was carefully sighting at him, at the very moment the gun was
discharged. Kit saw what was coming and bounded to one side in the hope
of dodging the bullet. Quick as he was, however, he did not entirely
succeed, though the act doubtless saved his life. The ball from
the rifle of his adversary grazed his neck and buried itself in his
shoulder, shattering the head of one of the bones.

Carson though badly hurt, did not fall or retreat. On the contrary, he
tried desperately to reload his gun, but found it impossible to raise
his arm. He was hors de combat beyond all question, and bleeding so
fast that his weakness compelled him to lie down on the ground while
the conflict went on about him. The fight was very hot for a time,
the result being what may be called a drawn battle, with the advantage
inclining to the side of the Indians. The trappers fell back to the
safest place that presented itself and went into camp. They dared not
start a fire; for they knew it would bring an attack from the Indians,
but wrapping their saddle blankets around them, they bore the intense
cold as best they could.

The sufferings of Carson were great. His wounds continued bleeding and
froze upon the dressings, which were of the most primitive character.
And yet not once through those hours of anguish did he utter a word of
complaint. Many a strong man would have cried out in his agony, but one
might have sat within arm's length of the mountaineer without knowing he
was hurt at all.

More than that, Carson took his part in the council which was held in
the cold and darkness. The conclusion reached was that the party of
trappers were not strong enough to pursue the Blackfeet, and the proper
course to pursue was to rejoin the main body and report what had been
done. It would then be time enough to decide upon their future action.

When this programme was carried out, a larger party of hunters under
the lead of an experienced mountaineer resumed the pursuit; but nothing
could be found of the savages. They had utilized the grace allowed
them so well that it was impossible to overtake or trace them, and the
indignant trappers were obliged to submit to their loss.

The severe cold moderated, and, as spring was close at hand the hunters
pushed their trapping operations along the Green and Snake Rivers,
meeting with unbounded success. They gathered more peltries than they
had dared to hope for, and when warm weather approached, went into
quarters where they remained until the following fall, a party of
traders having brought them all the supplies they needed.

The rugged constitution of Carson and his temperate habits caused him
speedily to recover from his severe wound. He again became the active,
vigilant, keen witted guide and hunter who was looked up to by all as
the most consummate master of woodcraft that had ever been known in the

Such a large party as were gathered at the summer rendezvous was certain
to include many varieties of people. The frank, brave and open hearted,
the sly and treacherous, the considerate and courteous, the quarrelsome
and overbearing--indeed the temperaments of the individuals composing
the company were as varied as it is possible to imagine.

Among them was a powerful Frenchman known as Captain Shunan. He had won
his title by hard fighting, possessed a magnificent physique, was brave
and skilled in the use of arms, and was the most quarrelsome individual
in camp. It is impossible to picture a more irascible and disagreeable
personage than Captain Shunan, who appeared to spend all his spare
time in trying to provoke quarrels with those around him. Sometimes he
succeeded, but more often his insolence was submitted to by men as brave
as he, but who wished to avoid trouble with him.

The activity and strength of the Frenchman were so great that a skilful
pugilist would have found difficulty in handling him. The only ground
upon which he could be met with anything like fairness was where
firearms were used.

On one of these occasions, the bully became unbearable in his behavior.
He knocked down several weak and inoffensive persons, and swaggered back
and forth through camp, boasting that he could trounce any one there. In
the midst of his bluster, Carson walked up in front of him and said in a
voice loud enough to be heard by those around:

"Captain Shunan, there are plenty here who can easily chastise you, but
they prefer to submit to your impudence for the sake of peace: however,
we have had enough and now I notify you to stop at once or I shall kill

These were astounding words, and, as may be supposed, when uttered by
a man six inches shorter and many pounds lighter than the blustering
Captain, they fairly took away his breath. Carson spoke in his quiet,
soft voice, as though there was not the least cause for excitement;
but those who knew him, noted the flash of his clear, gray eye and
understood his deadly earnestness.

Captain Shunan was infuriated by the words of Carson. As soon as he
could recover himself, he turned about and without speaking a word,
walked to his quarters. Kit did not need be told what that meant. He
did the same, walking to his own lodge, from which he speedily emerged
holding a single barrel pistol. He was so anxious to be on the ground in
time, that he caught up the first weapon that presented itself.

Almost at the same moment, Captain Shunan appeared with his rifle.
Carson observed him, and, though he could have secured without
difficulty a similar weapon, he did not do so. He was willing to give
his burly antagonist the advantage, if it should prove such. The other
trappers as may be supposed, watched the actions of the two men with
breathless interest. The quarrel had taken such a course that they
were convinced that one or the other of the combatants would be killed.
Captain Shunan had been so loud in his boasts that he did not dare
swallow the insult, put on him by the fragile Kit Carson. Had he done
so, he would have been hooted out of camp and probably lynched.

As for Kit, his courage was beyond suspicion. He feared no man and was
sure to acquit himself creditably no matter in what circumstances he was
placed. He was the most popular member of the large company, while his
antagonist was the most detested; but the love of fair play was such
that no one would interfere, no matter how great the need for doing so.

The duellists, as they may be called, mounted each his horse and
circling about the plain, speedily headed toward each other and dashed
forward on a dead run. As they approached, they reined up and halted
face to face, within arm's length.

Looking his antagonist straight in the eye, Carson demanded:

"Are you looking for me?"

"Have you any business with me?"

"No," growled the savage Frenchman; but, while the words were in his
mouth, brought his rifle to his shoulder, and, pointing it at the breast
of Carson, pulled the trigger; but Kit expected some such treacherous
act, and, before the gun could be fired, he threw up his pistol and
discharged it as may be said, across the barrel of the leveled weapon.

The ball broke the forearm of Captain Shunan, at the very moment he
discharged his gun. The shock diverted the aim so that the bullet grazed
his scalp, inflicting a trifling wound; but the combatants were so close
that the powder of the rifle scorched the face of the mountaineer.

Captain Shunan had been badly worsted, and was disabled for weeks
afterward. He accepted his fate without complaint and was effectually
cured of his overbearing manner toward his associates.


 On the Yellowstone--Repeated Disappointments--Carson Enters the Employ
 of a Hudson Bay Trader--Poor Success--A Trying Journey--Arrival at Fort
 Hall--The American Buffalo or Bison.

With the approach of cool weather, preparations were made for the fall
hunt. When all was ready, the trappers headed for the Yellowstone, which
was reached without mishap, and they immediately set their traps. The
country as a rule, was a good one for those valuable animals, but the
visitors were disappointed to learn they were unusually scarce.

When it became evident that it was useless to work on the Yellowstone,
they gathered up their traps and made their way to the Big Horn, but,
failing again, tried their fortunes on other rivers in that vicinity
with no better results.

It was while engaged in this discouraging work that they met a trader
belonging to the Hudson Bay Company. He had been pushing operations in
every direction, but the stories he told were of the same general tenor
as those of the larger party. He had been as unsuccessful in the way of
trade as they had been in catching the fur bearing animals.

The Hudson Bay trader, however, was confident he could succeed where
they had failed, and he made such liberal offers to Carson that he and
several of his companions accepted them on the spot.

The first point which they visited was the Humboldt River, from which
had come reports of the abundance of beavers. They began near the head
waters of the stream, and carefully trapped down to the Great Basin.
Meeting with only moderate success, they made their way to Big Snake
River. After remaining there a considerable time, the party divided,
the Hudson Bay trader and his friends going northward toward Fort Walla
Walla, while Carson and the larger number set out for Fort Hall.

The journey thither was one of the most distressing which Kit Carson
ever undertook. The country through which most of the march led is one
of the most dismal wastes on the American continent. Except in extent, a
journey across it is similar to that of the parched caravans across the
flaming sands of Sahara. Carson and his companions were accustomed to
all manner of privations, but more than once their endurance was tried
to the utmost point.

The trappers had gathered some nutritious roots upon which they managed
to subsist for a time, but these soon gave out, and their situation grew
desperate. When almost famishing they bled their mules and drank the
warm current. They would have killed one of the animals, but for the
fact that they could not spare it, and, as there was no calculating how
long the others would last, they were afraid to take the step, which was
likely to cripple them fatally.

This strange source of nourishment served them for the time, but a
repetition would endanger the lives of their animals, who were also in
sore straits, inasmuch as the grass was not only poor but very scanty.
Matters rapidly grew worse, and soon became so desperate that Carson
said they would have to kill one of their animals or else lie down and
perish themselves.

At this trying crisis, they discovered a band of Indians approaching.
Perhaps the hapless situation in which all were placed left no room for
enmity, for the red men showed a friendly disposition. The high hopes of
Carson and his friends were chilled when it was found that the Indians
were in about as bad a plight as themselves. They had barely a mouthful
of food among them, and, when besought to barter with the whites, they
shook their heads. They had nothing to trade, and, while they felt no
hostility toward the suffering trappers, they gave them to understand
they could not afford any help at all.

But Carson had fixed his eyes on a plump old horse, and never did a
shrewd New Englander apply himself more persistently to secure a prize
than did he. Kit's companions put forth all their powers of persuasion,
but in vain, and they advised Carson that he was throwing away his
efforts in attempting the impossible.

But Carson succeeded, and when the equine was slaughtered and broiled,
the trappers enjoyed one of the most delicious feasts of their lives.
They filled themselves to repletion and felt that the enjoyment it
brought was almost worth the suffering they had undergone to obtain it.

When their strength was recruited, they resumed their journey and a few
days later reached Fort Hall. There they found abundance of food and
received a cordial welcome. In a brief while they were as strong as ever
and eager for any new enterprise.

Hundreds of bisons were in the neighborhood of the fort and Carson
and his friends slew them by the score. Indeed they kept the post well
supplied with fresh meet as long as they remained there.

The animal almost universally known as the "buffalo" is miscalled, his
correct name being the "bison," of which there are droves numbering, it
is said, as high as a hundred thousand. The flesh is held in high
repute by hunters, and not only is nourishing but possesses the valuable
quality of not cloying the appetite. The most delicate portion of the
animal is the hump which gives the peculiar appearance to his back. That
and the tongue and marrow bones are frequently the only portions made
use of by the hunter.

The hide answers many useful purposes. All know how much a "buffalo
robe" is appreciated in wintry weather by those exposed to cold. It
serves to form the Indian's tents, his bed, parts of his dress and is
sometimes made into a shield which will turn aside a rifle ball that
does not strike it fairly.

Hundreds of thousands of bisons are killed annually--myriads of them
in pure wantonness--and yet enormous droves may be encountered today in
many portions of the west, where it is hard for the experienced hunters
to detect any decrease in their numbers.

Some of the methods employed to slay bisons are cruel in the extreme.
Many a time a large herd has been stampeded in the direction of some
precipice. When the leaders found themselves on the edge, they have
endeavored to recoil; but there was no stemming the tide behind them.
The terrified animals literally pushed the leaders over the rocks and
then tumbled upon them. In a little while the gully or stream would be
choked with the furiously struggling creatures and hundreds would be
killed within a few minutes.

The bison is as fond as the hog of wallowing in mud. When he comes upon
a marshy spot he lies down and rolls about until he has worn out a large
and shallow excavation into which the water oozes through the damp soil.
Lying down again he rolls and turns until he is plastered from head
to tail with mud. Though it cannot be said that it adds to his
attractiveness, yet the coating no doubt serves well as a protection
against the swarms of insects, which are sometimes terrible enough to
sting animals to death.

Those who have viewed the scraggy specimens in the menageries and
zoological gardens would scarcely suspect the activity and power of
running possessed by them. The body is covered with such an abundance
of hair that it looks larger than it really is, while the legs appear
smaller. But the bison not only can run swiftly, but possesses great
endurance. They will often dash at full speed over ground so rough that
the more graceful horse will stumble.

When wounded by the hunters, a bull will sometimes turn in desperation
on his persecutor. Then, unless the horse is well trained, serious
consequences are likely to follow. The plunging thrust of his stumpy
horns perhaps rips open the steed, sending the rider flying over the
back of the furious bison, who may turn upon him and slay him before he
can escape.

This rarely happens, however, the bison being a huge, cowardly creature
which prefers to run rather than fight, and a hunt of the game in these
days often takes the character of wholesale butchery in which no true
sportsman would engage.


 A Strange Occurrence--Arrival of Friends--Carson Joins a Large
 Company--Trapping on the Yellowstone--The Blackfeet--A Dreadful
 Scourge--In Winter Quarters--The Friendly Crow Indians--Loss of Two
 Trappers--On the Head Waters of the Missouri.

A singular occurrence took place a few nights after the return of Carson
and his friends from an extended bison hunt. Their horses and mules were
corralled near the post and a sentinel was on duty at all hours of the
night to prevent the animals being stolen by the Indians who were always
prowling through the neighborhood.

In the dim uncertain light, just beyond midnight, the sentinel saw two
men walk forward from the darkness, and without any appearance of haste,
let down the bars and drive out the stock. Very naturally he concluded
they were his friends who intended to take out the animals to graze. As
there was nothing more for him to do, he sought his quarters, lay down
and went to sleep.

In the morning not a horse or a mule was to be found. The two
individuals who had let down the bars and driven them out, were
Blackfeet Indians, whose complete success was due to their amazing
audacity. Had they shown any hesitation or haste, the suspicions of the
sentinel would have been aroused, but when the truth became known, he
was the most astonished man at the fort.

The hunters were in a most sorry plight, for the Blackfeet having made
a clean sweep, they were without the means of pursuing and recovering
their property. The parties who belonged at the fort had suffered a
somewhat similar trick a short time before from the same tribe, so that
only a few rickety horses remained in their possession.

Under the circumstances, the trappers were compelled to accept their
misfortune with grim philosophy, and await the arrival of the rest
of the party, who had promised to rejoin them after completing their
business at Fort Walla Walla.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, their friends appeared and
providentially indeed they brought with them an extra supply of
excellent horses. The trappers were in overflowing spirits once more and
soon started for the general rendezvous on Green River.

Other trappers continued to arrive for a number of days, until about all
that were expected had come in. Trade and barter then began and lasted
some three weeks. The scene was picturesque and stirring and there was
much hand shaking and pleasant wishes when the time came to separate.

Kit Carson left the employ of the Hudson Bay Company trader and attached
himself to a party numbering fully a hundred who had determined to
trap along the Yellowstone. It will be recalled that Carson once quit a
company of trappers because it was too large, and it may be wondered why
he should join one that was still more numerous. The reason he did
so was because they were going into the very heart of the Blackfoot
country. They had suffered so much from these daring marauders that
they knew there would be no safety unless they went in strong force.
Furthermore, the whites had so many old scores to settle with those
redskins that they meant to invite attack from them. If the Blackfeet
would only offer the opportunity for battle, the trappers meant to give
them their fill.

The formidable company arranged matters according to a system. Dividing
into two equal parties, the duty of one was made to trap beaver, while
the other furnished food and guarded the property. By this means,
they would always be in shape to meet their sworn foes, while the real
business which brought them into the country would not be neglected.

The hunters were confident they would not be left alone very long. The
Blackfeet would resent the invasion of their hunting grounds, and to say
the least, would take measures to prevent the time hanging heavily on
the hands of the pale faces.

But, to the astonishment of the trappers, the days passed without
bringing a glimpse of the savages. No hostile shot awoke the impressive
stillness of the wilderness. Could it be the Blackfeet were seeking to
throw the whites off their guard? Did they expect to induce a degree of
carelessness that would enable the Blackfeet to gather their warriors
and overwhelm them before they could reply?

It was not reasonable to suppose that the sagacious tribe held any such
belief, for they could not have failed to know that any such hope was

But the explanation came one day by a party of friendly Crow Indians,
who stated that the small pox was raging with such awful virulence among
the Blackfeet that they were dying by hundreds and thousands. Indeed,
the havoc was so dreadful that there was reason to believe the whole
tribe would be swept away.

It would not be the first time that such an annihilation has taken place
among the American Indians. The treatment required by that frightful
disease is precisely the opposite of that which the red man in his
ignorance pursues. When small pox breaks out among them, therefore, the
mortality becomes appalling.

The Crow Indians affiliated with the trappers and guided them to a
secluded valley, where they established themselves for the winter. The
lodges were made strong and substantial, and it was fortunate that such
precautions were taken, for the winter proved one of the severest known
for many years. With their abundance of fuel, they kept enormous fires
going and passed the days and nights in comparative comfort.

But it was far different with their stock. During the severe weather,
the only food that could be obtained was the bark of the cottonwood.
The inner lining of this is quite palatable to animals and in cases of
extremity it affords temporary sustenance to men. With its help actual
starvation was kept away, though it came very close.

Unusual weather always brings unusual experience, and the intense cold
developed an annoyance to the trappers upon which they had not counted.
The difficulty of finding food was felt by the wild animals as well
as domestic, and the bisons became desperate. When they saw the horses
eating their fodder, they rushed forward and with lowered heads drove
them away. If a horse or mule refused, he was likely to be gored to

The beasts finally became so numerous and fierce they would have killed
all the stock of our friends if they had not kindled large fires and
mounted constant guard. When the weather moderated those annoyances

Had any explorer of the west found his way to the secluded valley
where the trappers were in winter quarters, he would have looked upon
a striking scene. The Crow Indians and white men engaged in numerous
athletic sports in friendly rivalry. They maintained the best of terms,
and when the bisons departed, the strange community enjoyed themselves
far better than would be supposed. In truth where they were favored with
such rugged health and where they had plenty of food and comfortable
quarters, it would have been remarkable had they not been comparatively
happy. They were not disturbed by political discussions or diversity of
views on any public questions and were satisfied that the glorious Union
was safe without any worriment on their part.

When spring came, two of their party were sent to Fort Laramie to
procure needed supplies. They went off well mounted and armed and
were never heard of again. Somewhere in the recesses of the forest or
mountain, the Blackfeet had probably killed them as they had done with
many a brave man before, and as they have done with multitudes since.

When it became certain the messengers had been slain, the company
began the spring hunt without them. After trapping a brief while on the
Yellowstone, they worked their way to the head waters of the Missouri.
They met with fair success and while engaged in that section, learned
that the reports of the ravages of the small pox among the Blackfeet had
been greatly exaggerated. Instead of being decimated, the tribe had
not suffered to any serious extent and were as strong and aggressive as

The trappers were not displeased to learn that such was the case,
for they desired a settlement of accounts with them. Under such
circumstances it was impossible that hostilities should be long delayed.


 A Fierce Battle with the Blackfeet--Daring Act of Kit Carson--Arrival of
 the Reserves and End of the Battle.

When near the head waters of the Missouri, the trappers discovered they
were approaching the principal village of the Blackfeet. They determined
to attack and punish the Indians who had caused them so much trouble
and suffering; but the whites were so numerous and powerful that extreme
care was necessary to prevent their presence becoming known.

When a number of miles from the village, the trappers came to a halt,
and Kit Carson with several men was sent forward to reconnoitre. With
extreme caution they made their way to a point from which they could
overlook the village.

A glance showed the Indians hurriedly making ready to move elsewhere.
The shrewd red men had discovered their danger before their enemies
caught sight of them. Carson galloped back as rapidly as he could, and
made known what had been seen. A council was hastily called and about
half the company advanced to give the Blackfeet battle. Kit Carson, as
might be supposed, was made the leader. The others were to guard the
property, advance slowly and act as reserve, which could be hurried
forward should it become necessary.

As agreed upon, Kit Carson galloped ahead, and the moment his men came
in sight of the village, they dashed through it, killing a number
of warriors. The others slowly fell back, fighting as they went, and
without showing the least panic. They received charge after charge of
the white men, with the steadiness of veterans. By and by the eagerness
of the trappers reduced their ammunition and their firing became less
destructive. The Blackfeet were quick to perceive the cause, and in turn
they charged upon their assailants who became immediately involved in
a desperate hand to hand fight. It was then the small arms in the
possession of the whites played their part. They were used with such
effect, that the fierce warriors were compelled once more to retreat.

But the courageous red men recoiled a short distance only, when they
halted and then, with exultant yells, dashed toward the trappers, who
despite all they could do, were forced back until it looked as if the
whole party would be overwhelmed and destroyed.

On this retreat, one of the horses belonging to the hunters was shot,
and plunged to the ground so suddenly that his rider was caught before
he could spring from the saddle. Several of the warriors were quick to
perceive his sore straits, and dashed toward him, eager to secure his
scalp. The poor fellow struggled desperately, but could not extricate
himself, and his expression of horrified despair when he perceived the
fierce red men running a race with each other to reach him, would have
melted the heart of almost any one.

Carson was several rods distant, but seeing the danger of his friend,
he bounded out of his saddle, and shouted to the others to rally to the
defence of their imperilled comrade. Kit raised his rifle while on the
run and shot the leading warrior dead. The other whites were so close
behind that the remaining Blackfeet whirled and ran for their lives.
Several of them were shot down before they could reach the shelter of
the rocks from behind which they sprang after the fallen white man.

Carson's devotion to his friend now placed him in an unpleasant if not
dangerous situation. His steed being without restraint, galloped off
beyond his reach, and the commander was thus left on foot, when there
was urgent need that he should be mounted.

Meanwhile the mountaineer who was caught under the body of his horse,
was struggling desperately to withdraw his imprisoned leg, for there was
no saying when the Blackfeet would be upon him again. He succeeded at
last, and, standing upon his feet, shook himself together, as may be
said, and he found that though pretty badly bruised, no bones were
broken, and he was able to do his full part in the serious duty before

The exciting episode benefited the trappers in one respect: it served to
check the seemingly resistless rush of the Blackfeet and gave the others
a chance to rally and fix upon some course of action.

Carson ran rapidly toward the nearest horseman and sprang upon the back
of his animal behind him. The steed was forced to his best and speedily
joined the main body a short distance off. It was fortunate that just at
that moment there came a lull in the furious fighting, else Carson could
scarcely have escaped so well. The runaway horse was pursued by one
of the mountaineers who finally cornered and brought him back to their

The Blackfeet did not follow the whites, nor did the latter return to
their charge against them. Both parties had gained a thorough taste of
each other's mettle, and the conclusion reached was like that of two
trained pugilists--their strength was so nearly equal that neither could
afford to throw away his advantage by leading in the assault.

Undoubtedly Carson and his men would have withdrawn but for the hope
that the reserves were close at hand. The trappers had fought valiantly
but not more so than the Indians, who still possessed plenty ammunition
while that of the whites was nearly exhausted. Had they advanced and
encountered the warriors again, the latter would have swept everything
before them. As it was, the mountaineers were by no means safe even when
acting on the defensive. If the red men should charge upon them with
their old time fierceness, it was by no means certain they would
not destroy the whites. The fight would necessarily be of the most
sanguinary nature, but when guns and small arms were useless for lack
of ammunition, nothing short of a miracle could save them from

Several hours had gone and Carson and his men wondered what could delay
the reserves. Time always passes slowly to those in waiting, and to some
of the hunters the tardiness of their friends was unaccountable. Carson
was on the point of sending messengers back to hurry them forward, when
the whole party appeared and the situation changed.

But those who expected the Blackfeet to flee in panic when they observed
the doubling of the assailing forces, were much mistaken. The feeling
among the Indians could not be described as in the least "panicky."
They quietly surveyed the new arrivals and prepared with the coolness
of veterans for the conflict that was sure to come, within the next few

The powder was distributed among the trappers, who were more eager than
ever to attack their old enemies, who were as ready as they for the
conflict. Nearly two hundred yards separated the combatants, when
the mountaineers, leaving their horses behind, advanced on foot. The
Blackfeet stationed themselves behind rocks and trees and defiantly
awaited the attack.

In a few minutes the most savage fight of the day was raging. A hundred
rifles were flashing in every direction and the yells of the red men
mingled with the shouts of the excited mountaineers.

As the warriors had used every means to shelter themselves, it was
necessary to dislodge them before they could be driven back. Without
remaining together in a compact mass, the trappers made for them with
the fierceness of tigers.

The result of this charge were a number of remarkable combats. A hunter
would dash at a warrior crouching behind some rock, and the two would
begin dodging, advancing, retreating, firing, striking and manoeuvering
against each other. Sometimes one would succeed and sometimes the other.
The Blackfoot, finding the situation becoming too hot, would break
for other cover and probably would be shot on the run or would escape
altogether. Again, it would be the white man who would be just a second
too late in discharging his gun and would pay the penalty with his life.

At last the Indians began falling back and the mountaineers pushing them
hard, they finally broke and fled in a wild panic, leaving many dead
behind them. On the part of the trappers three had been killed and quite
a number badly wounded.


 At Brown's Hole--Trading in the Navajoe Country--Carson Serves as Hunter
 at Brown's Hole--Trapping in the Black Hills--On the Yellowstone--Fight
 with the Blackfeet--Their Retreat to an Island--Their Flight During the
 Night--An Imposing Array of Warriors.

The fight between the Blackfeet and trappers was one of the most
important in which Kit Carson, previous to the late war, was ever
engaged. The forces must have included several hundred, and the lesson
administered to the aggressive red men was remembered by them a long

After burying their dead, looking after the wounded and setting matters
to rights, the hunters resumed trapping through the Blackfoot country.
They were scarcely disturbed by their old enemies who dreaded rousing
the resentment of such a formidable body of daring and unerring

Our friends were very successful, and, when they made their way to the
rendezvous, a week's journey away, they carried with them an immense
stock of peltries. When the trading was finished, the parties made new
combinations and departed in different directions. Instead of attaching
himself to a large company, Kit Carson and seven choice spirits started
for a trading post known at that time as Brown's Hole. They reached
there just in time for the leader to join an expedition, numbering only
two beside himself, which went into the Navajoe country for purposes of
barter. The venture proved a great success and Carson drifted back again
to Brown's Hole. There such liberal offers were made him to serve
as hunter for the fort, that he accepted and entered upon his rather
singular, but exceedingly congenial duties.

These, as the reader must know, simply consisted of keeping the garrison
supplied with all the meat they needed. Though the country was noted for
its fine game, it required much time, skill and patience for Carson to
make sure that none of the vigorous appetites at the post suffered. No
one could have done better and very few as well as he. When spring came,
and he gave up his position, he was complimented by those whom he left
behind on the admirable manner in which he had met all requirements.

During those years there was much similarity in the life and experience
of Kit Carson. He had become known all through the west and southwest
as the most daring, sagacious and brilliant leader in that country. His
services were in demand wherever he went, and as he was in the enjoyment
of perfect health, overrunning with life and activity, he made money
rapidly and showed his wisdom by laying aside a respectable sum for a
rainy day.

In the spring following his engagement at Brown's Hole, he went with
a small party to the Black Hills, where they were quite successful in
hunting. Later in the summer they joined the main body of trappers on
Green River. All meeting at the general rendezvous on a branch of the
Wind River. Still later, the majority of the trappers went into winter
quarters on the Yellowstone. They were again in the country of their
bitter enemies, the Blackfeet, and were certain of a fight with them;
but several months passed without molestation.

One day, however, several of the trappers who were making the rounds
of the traps, came upon signs which showed they were close to a strong
force of the Blackfeet. The men lost no time in hurrying back to camp
with the news, where it was agreed that trouble was at hand.

Forty men were selected at once to hunt out the Indians and engage them
in battle. It goes without saying, that Kit Carson was made the leader
and there was not a moment's unnecessary delay in starting out to find
the enemy.

They were successful in their search. They suddenly found themselves in
the presence of a scouting party, who were undoubtedly looking for them;
but perceiving the strength of the whites, they began retreating. Carson
and his men pressed them hotly, when, as anticipated, they fell back on
the main body and one of the old fashioned battles between trappers and
Indians began.

The Blackfeet always fight bravely, and, for a time, they held their
ground well, but they were forced to give way and retired to a small
island in the Yellowstone, where they had thrown up rude fortifications
and felt able to hold their own against a much superior force.

Darkness closed in upon the contending forces, and the assailants ceased
firing and encamped for the night on the bank of the river. They were on
the qui vive through the still hours, and so eager for the attack that
with the earliest streakings of light in the east, they plunged into the
stream and made for the barricades. It was not to be supposed that the
Blackfeet would be taken off their guard, and the trappers expected to
reach the defences through a hot fusillade from the dusky defenders.

To their surprise, however, not a single gun was discharged and they
rushed pell mell over the rugged fortifications to engage the enemy
in hand to hand conflict. To their chagrin, however, not a solitary
Blackfoot was visible. Despite the watchfulness of the white men, the
entire Indian force had withdrawn during the night without arousing the
least suspicion on the part of the watchers.

But the trappers were too wise to misconstrue the action of the
Blackfeet. Their withdrawal was a strategic movement, and did not by
any means signify they were afraid of the large force or that they would
prefer not to molest them. The signs around the fortifications showed
that the Indians had suffered severely and they would never content
themselves until full retaliation had been made.

The trappers returned to camp, where a long council was held. The
conclusion was that the Blackfoot village was near by, and when they
learned of the severe punishment received by the scouting party, they
would lose no time in entering upon a campaign of revenge. As the
Blackfeet nation included several thousand warriors, there was reason to
fear they would overwhelm the trappers, despite their bravery and skill.
Barricades were thrown up and the best men stationed as sentinels. One
of them hastened to the top of an adjoining hill, which commanded an
extensive view of the surrounding country.

The sentinel had been in position but a short time when he signalled
to his friends the approach of a large body of Indians. The hunters
immediately began strengthening their defences, and before the redskin
arrived, they had rendered their position almost impregnable against any
force that could be gathered in the country.

As the Blackfeet approached, the sentinel hurried down from the hill and
joined the main body. Shortly after, the advance party of Blackfeet came
in sight and made a reconnaissance which apprised them of the nature of
the defences. They did not fire a shot but waited until the arrival of
the main band.

When that came in sight, it was enough to strike dismay into every
heart. There were few if any less than a thousand warriors. Dr. Peters,
the biographer of Carson, says:

"It was a sight which few white men of the American nation have looked
upon. Arrayed in their fantastic war costume and bedaubed with paint,
armed with lances, bows and arrows, rifles, tomahawks, knives, etc.,
some mounted and some on foot, they presented a wild and fearful scene
of barbaric fancy.

"Soon after their last company had reported, the frightful war dance,
peculiar to the American savages, was enacted in sight of the trappers'
position. The battle songs and shouts which accompanied the dance
reached the ears of the whites with fearful distinctness. Any other
than hearts of oak with courage of steel would have quailed before this
terrible display of savage enmity and ferocity. This dance, to men well
skilled in the ways of the Indian warrior, was a sure signal that the
next day would be certain to have a fearful history for one party or the
other and doubtless for both. The odds, most assuredly, were apparently
greatly in favor of the savage host and against the little band of hardy


 The Morrow--Withdrawal of the Indian Army--At Fort Hall--In the
 Blackfoot Country--The Ambush--The Trappers Decide to Withdraw--Trapping
 in Other Localities--Carson Decides to Abandon the Business--Visits
 Bent's Fort Where He Serves as Hunter for Eight Years.

Having gone through what the red men consider the necessary
preliminaries of such a grand campaign, the vast number of warriors
awaited the dawn that was to witness the annihilation of the entire
force that had dared to venture upon their hunting grounds without so
much as asking permission.

It was scarcely light when the imposing array advanced upon the
mountaineers, who coolly awaited their approach. When the Blackfeet came
close enough to see the fortifications thrown up by the whites, they
were astonished. They knew from previous experience the strength of such
means of defence and suddenly lost their eagerness to make the attack.

After a full survey of the work before them, they concluded the task
was beyond accomplishment. The magnificent force, therefore, began
withdrawing. It was the turn of the trappers to feel disappointed. They
had not thought of any such issue and were enraged. They shouted and
made tantalizing gestures to the Blackfeet, in the hope of goading them
to stand their ground, but they were too wise to do so. They retreated
to a safe point where a council of war was held. It was not to be
expected that after such an abrupt withdrawal, they could summon enough
courage to make the assault.

When the conference was over, the Indian army, as it may be called,
broke into two divisions, one of which went back toward their own
village while the other set their faces toward the Crow country.
Uncertain whether they would not reappear when they believed there
was hope of surprising the mountaineers, the latter maintained their
vigilance day and night.

It may have been that the red men made several reconnaissances, but, if
so, they concluded it would be imprudent to attack the mountaineers
who held their position and continued trapping as opportunity presented
through the winter.

After trapping in various localities, Kit Carson and several friends
visited Fort Hall, where they joined a party in the employ of the
Northwest Fur Company. They trapped around the head of Salmon River and
other streams, and finally returned to Fort Hall, where the peltries
were sold for a fair valuation. Then Carson and a few others set out to
join a party which he knew was trapping in the Blackfoot country.
Upon coming up with them, he was told that they had had several sharp
skirmishes with the Indians, in one of which a trapper was severely
wounded. The following morning, Carson and his comrades parted from the
rest and were trapping slowly up stream, when they were fired upon by
Blackfeet and compelled to retreat. They hurried back and succeeded
in escaping a serious danger; but the pursuit was so close that Carson
hastily stationed his men in ambush. A hot fire dropped several of the
warriors and caused the others to hesitate.

The halt was just long enough to allow the trappers to reload their
pieces, when the Blackfeet made a fiercer rush than before; but with
that pertinacious courage for which the tribe is noted, they kept up the
fight through the rest of the day, determined to throw away no advantage
they might gain. Had Carson chosen his position with less judgment,
he and his command must have been overwhelmed, for nothing could have
exceeded the daring of their assailants, who in their desperation set
fire to the thicket in which the mountaineers had ensconced themselves;
but the shrubbery was too green to burn well, and, after a little while,
it died out. Then it must have been the red men concluded it was useless
to strive further, and, learning that the main body of the trappers were
not far off, they departed.

The annoyance from these Indians was so great that it was decided
to leave the country. While the trappers were able to hold their own
against them, yet it was impossible to make much progress in taking
furs, when their attention was mainly taken up in fighting the warriors,
who varied their shooting by destroying the traps that were set for the

The next scene of operations was the North Fork of the Missouri where
they had been engaged only a short time when they came upon an extensive
village of Flathead Indians. These showed their friendliness to the
trappers by sending one of their chiefs and a number of warriors who
helped them hunt along the different streams.

The following spring Carson and a single companion set their traps
in the vicinity of Big Snake River. This was the country of the Utah
Indians, who were well disposed towards the whites. Thus, while furs
were plenty, the couple were enabled to devote their whole time to
taking them, without fear of being fired upon every time they ventured
out of sight of camp. As a consequence, they succeeded beyond their own
expectations, and, making their way to the nearest post, sold the stock
for a fair sum.

The peltries were scarcely disposed of, when Carson organized another
expedition which visited the Grand River, over which they trapped until
winter, when they returned to Brown's Hole, where Carson remained until
spring. Then he trapped once more in the land of the Utahs and at New
Park, taking their furs to the post where he was obliged to sell them
for a much less sum than he had ever received before.

The transaction had an important bearing on the fortunes of Kit Carson,
for it was proof of an unpleasant truth that had been forcing itself
for a number of months upon him: the days of remunerative trapping were

For years, the demand had been growing steadily less both in Europe and
America. The ingenuity of the manufacturer showed itself in the make
of cheaper substitutes, while the beavers that had been hunted so
persistently were becoming scarce: there were few regions in which
trapping could be pursued with any success.

Nothing could be plainer, therefore, to Carson than the fact that he
must soon give up the business and engage in something else to gain a
livelihood. What should it be?

Carson and several veteran trappers started for Bent's Fort, located on
the Arkansas, near an immense forest of cottonwoods, known as the Big
Timbers. Messrs. Bent and St. Vrain, the proprietors, no sooner learned
that Carson contemplated a change of occupation, than they offered
him the position of hunter for the fort, his duties being to keep it
supplied with all the game that was required.

Carson was more willing to accept the offer than he would have been
under other circumstances. He agreed that the large number of men should
never want for animal food, and, having given his promise, he kept it
most faithfully for a period of eight years.

This statement includes a great deal, for it means that his wonderful
rifle brought down thousands of deer, antelope, elk and bisons; that he
tramped over hundreds of leagues of wilderness; that his splendid
health never failed him, and that his knowledge of the woods and its
inhabitants was as full and complete as it could be.

Furthermore, it is stated by Dr. Peters, that during that entire period,
not a single impatient word passed between Carson and his employers. He
attended to his duties with such regularity, promptness and skill that
the only comments they could make on his work were in the nature of
strong compliments.

Inasmuch as we have claimed that Carson was the superior in every
respect of those with whom he was associated, we must dwell for a moment
on this fact. Let the reader ask himself how many cases he knows where
the term of service has been so long, in which not a single unkind word
has passed between employer and employee.

His occupation as hunter was not monotonous, for where there were so
many to provide for, difficult and dangerous work was required and the
journeys which he often made through the long stretches of wilderness
were sometimes attended with much personal danger.

But the surrounding tribes, including the Arapahoes, Kiowas, Cheyennes,
Comanches and others, looked upon the great hunter with affectionate
admiration and no guest was more welcome and honored in their lodges
than he.


 Carson Visits his Old Home in Missouri--He Goes to St. Louis--Voyage up
 the Missouri--Makes the Acquaintance of Lieutenant John C. Fremont--Is
 engaged as a Guide for Fremont's First Expedition--The Start
 Westward--Various Mishaps--The Emigrants--The False Alarm.

Kit Carson had left his home in Missouri when only a boy and he was now
in the prime of a vigorous young manhood. The years since he turned his
back upon his old home had been busy and eventful ones and now, as
is often the case with those placed as was he, he longed to visit the
scenes of his childhood, and to meet and shake the hands of those of his
old friends who were still among the living.

In the spring of 1842, Carson went eastward with a train of wagons,
carrying goods to the States. When the borders of Missouri were reached,
he bade his companions goodbye and made his way back to his old home.
His experience was touching. His parents were dead, the old building
which would ever linger in his memory, had tumbled down and nearly every
one whom he met was a stranger. The cheeks of the hardy mountaineer were
wet with tears, and with a sigh, he turned his face away forever.

Carson had never seen a large city, and he made his way to St. Louis,
where he spent more than a week in sight seeing. Before the end of that
time, the old yearning for the mountains, prairies and streams of
the West came back to him, and he engaged passage on a steamer up the

On the same boat John C. Fremont was a passenger. He was two years
younger than Carson and had been commissioned Second Lieutenant in the
Corps of Topographical Engineers, in 1838. Four years later he projected
a geographical survey of the entire territory of the United States from
the Missouri River to the Pacific.

Carson was attracted by the fine, manly and intellectual appearance of
Fremont, and, learning he was in search of a skilful mountaineer, he
introduced himself, referring in a modest fashion to his experience in
the west and expressing the belief that he could be of service to the

Fremont was an excellent judge of character and was favorably impressed
with Carson from the first. The answers to the inquiries which he made
concerning the famous guide and mountaineer, were satisfactory in the
highest degree. He engaged Carson as his guide, agreeing to pay him a
salary of one hundred dollars a month.

The party of explorers were mainly gathered in St. Louis. It was
composed mostly of Creole and Canadian voyageurs, Charles Preuss, a
learned German, a young son of Colonel Benton (which statesman was the
father in law of Fremont), several other friends, including a noted
mountaineer named Maxwell, who was employed as the hunter of the party.
Including the commander, the entire company numbered twenty-eight.

With this party of explorers Fremont ascended the Missouri until the
mouth of the Kansas was reached, when they disembarked and made their
preparations for the long and dangerous journey before them. The march
westward began June 10, 1842.

The course lay along the banks of the Kansas. All the party were well
armed and well mounted, excepting eight men, each of whom drove a
cart, drawn by two mules. These carts contained the stores, baggage
and instruments of the expedition. A number of spare horses were taken
along, so as to provide against loss in that respect. In addition, they
had four oxen intended to serve as a reserve in the event of provisions
running short.

It was the custom to arouse the camp at daybreak and turn out the
animals to graze; breakfast followed and the march was begun. The noon
halt lasted from one to two hours and the afternoon's march ended a
short time before sunset. The tents were then pitched, horses hobbled
and turned out to graze, and the evening meal prepared. When it became
dark, all the animals were brought in and picketed, the carts arranged
so as to serve as barricades and guard mounted.

An Indian guide conducted the expedition for the first forty miles along
the Kansas, when he departed and the responsibility was turned over to
Carson. The pilot had guided the steamer out of the harbor and upon the
great ocean, and henceforth the hand of Carson was to be at the helm.

The soil over which they journeyed for many miles was of the most
fertile character. Numbers of Indian farms were seen, and one could
not but reflect on the possibilities of the future for the red man,
who should abandon war and give his energies to the cultivation of the

Such an expedition could not go far without a taste of the trials that
awaited them. On the second night, the four spare horses seemed to
become disgusted with the whole enterprise, and turning their heads
eastward started on a rapid gallop for the States. Their loss was too
serious to be borne, and a number of men were dispatched in pursuit.
The chase was a long one and the animals were not recovered for several
hours. One of the men lost his way and was forced to spend the night on
the open prairie. At midnight it began to rain, and then the exceedingly
unpleasant discovery was made that the tents on which the explorers
relied for protection and shelter were so thin that they were drenched
as if the water came through a sieve.

The morning, however, brought clear weather and bright sunlight, and
all were in high spirits. The scenery for a time was of a pleasing and
picturesque character, and they pushed contentedly forward, until they
arrived at the ford of the Kansas, one hundred miles from the point
where it emptied into the Missouri.

The stream was found so swollen from recent rains that it could not be
forded. Accordingly several of the mounted men forced their animals into
the stream and swam them across to serve as guides for the rest. They
succeeded quite well, excepting the oxen, which, after floundering
awhile, landed on the same side from which they started. The following
morning they succeeded in crossing.

Among the useful articles with which Fremont had provided himself, was
an India rubber boat, twenty feet long and five feet wide. This was very
buoyant and the carts and baggage were carried over piecemeal in it,
with the exception of the last two carts. Laden with these the boat
left the shore but had not gone far when the man at the helm, who was
exceedingly nervous, managed to capsize the craft, with all its precious
cargo. The hunters were so dismayed over the prospect of losing their
stores that nearly all plunged into the stream and made frantic efforts
to save what they could. Several did not stop to remember that they
could not swim, so that the principal efforts of some of the others were
directed to saving them.

Most of the goods were recovered, but nearly all the sugar dissolved
and every grain of coffee was lost. It would be hard to imagine any
deprivation greater than that to which this misfortune condemned the
explorers. Carson and one of the others made such strenuous efforts in
the water that they were ill the next day, and Fremont remained in camp
for twenty-four hours with a view of giving them time to recruit.

The journey westward progressed without any special incident. A large
party of emigrants on their way to Oregon were several weeks in advance
of the explorers. Bad fortune seemed to have followed them from the
start, and numerous freshly made graves were seen. One of the emigrants
who had been peculiarly unfortunate, came into camp with a hunter on his
way home. He took charge of the letters which the explorers desired to
send to their families.

The party soon reached the Pawnee country where they were forced to
unusual vigilance, for those Indians have long been noted as most
persistent horse thieves. Game was abundant. Large flocks of wild
turkeys were found roosting in the trees along the streams; elk,
antelope and deer were plentiful, and as for bisons, they were beyond
all computation.

One day a member of the company happened to be riding at the rear
galloped up in hot haste, shouting, "Indians!" He declared that he had
seen them distinctly and counted twenty-seven. An immediate halt was
called, and Carson, leaping on one of the fleetest horses, crossed the
river and galloped over the prairie.

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


 On the Platte--A False Alarm--The Cheyennes--Fremont's Account of his
 Buffalo Hunt--Division of the Party--Fremont's Journey up the South
 Fork--The Band of Indians--Arrival at St. Vrain's Fort--The Journey to
 Fort Laramie.

Fremont and his party, after traveling something over three hundred
miles from the mouth of the Kansas reached the Platte river, where they
encamped in a charming place near Grand Island. The country was most
beautiful, though they suffered somewhat from the violent storms which
frequently broke over them.

The noon halt was made and all were lounging about the camp, when one
of the men on guard called an alarm. Everybody sprang to his feet and
grasped his rifle, expecting an attack from Indians. A strange wild
looking company were seen approaching, but, as they came closer, they
were discovered to be white men. They were a striking sight, numbering
fourteen, in the most ragged and woebegone condition imaginable. They
had been on a trapping expedition, but having met with nothing but
disasters from the beginning, were now straggling back to St. Louis on

The explorers proceeded at a leisurely pace that day and having gone
into camp, observed three Indians drawing near, one of whom was a boy
about a dozen years of age. They were Cheyennes that had been out
among the Pawnees to steal horses, but having met with no success, were
returning home. Catching sight of the white men, they unhesitatingly
entered camp, confident of being treated well, as of course proved to be
the case. After supper one of the warriors drew a rude but correct map
of the country around them, and gave it to Fremont.

On the first of July, while riding over a delightful prairie country,
on the right bank of the river, a herd of buffaloes, numbering nearly
a thousand, came up from the water and began slowly crossing the plain,
cropping the grass as they went. As the prairie was three miles broad
only, a fine opportunity was given the hunters to charge before the
animals could scatter among the hills.

The fleetest horses were quickly saddled and Carson, Fremont, and
Maxwell prepared for the chase. By that time the herd was a half mile
away and they did not notice the hunters until they were within three
hundred yards. Then followed an agitation of the animals, quickly
followed by their precipitate flight. The horses dashed after them. A
crowd of bulls brought up the rear, they having stationed themselves
there to defend the females. Every once in a while they would whirl
about and stare, snorting at the horsemen, as if they had made up their
minds to fight; but when the hunters came nigher, they turned about and
plunged after the herd. Describing the exciting incident, Fremont wrote;

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

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

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

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

The stirring buffalo hunt ended, the company advanced over the prairie
for more than twenty miles, and encamped on the banks of a stream, where
they enjoyed a fine feast on choice bison steaks. While they were thus
employed, the wolves were attracted thither by the smell of broiling
meat and prowled around camp, licking their chops, impatient for the
time when they would be permitted to gorge themselves upon what should
be left.

For several days there was little variation in the experience of the
explorers, and no special incident took place. At the junction of the
north and south fork of the Platte, Fremont, who wished to explore the
south branch and to secure some astronomical observations, set out with
nine men intending to advance to St. Vrain's fort, where he was hopeful
of obtaining some mules. The rest of the party followed the north fork
to fort Laramie, where it was agreed they would wait for the others to
join them.

Fremont's experience in going up the south branch was in strong contrast
to the pleasant scenes of the previous. It was midsummer and the weather
was suffocatingly hot. Fierce storms of wind and gusts of rain swept
the country, while the bisons were everywhere. They literally numbered
hundreds of thousands, and, look in whatsoever direction the men chose,
they were sure to see the huge creatures cropping the grass or lumbering
across the prairie.

On the fourth day a band of three hundred mounted Indians suddenly
appeared. The chief proved to be an old acquaintance of Maxwell and
showed genuine pleasure in meeting him. They shook hands and the sachem
conducted the little party to his village, where they received most
hospitable treatment.

Resuming their journey, they encamped in a cottonwood grove in a chilly
drizzling rain. The next morning dawned bright and clear, and they
caught their first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. They gazed long on
the snowy peaks outlined in the far distance like fleecy clouds against
the blue sky.

St. Vrain's Fort was reached on the tenth day. They were made welcome
by Mr. St. Vrain, who was much interested in the expedition westward and
did everything he could to assist Lieutenant Fremont in the enterprise.
The needed horses and mules were secured, and three men were hired to
accompany them across the country to Fort Laramie.

This station was a hundred and twenty-five miles distant, and the new
hands engaged, as a matter of course, were so familiar with it, that
there was no possibility of going astray. The journey was resumed on
the second day after reaching the fort, and without meeting with any
particular incident they arrived at their destination, three days later.

Fort Laramie, at that time, was one of the most important posts of the
far west. It had large bastions at the corners, and its high walls were
whitewashed and picketed.

Several lodges of Sioux Indians were pitched close by, and the division
under charge of Kit Carson having arrived several days before, had also
gone into camp with the appearance of the commander of the expedition.


 Alarming News--Fremont Presses Forward and is Not Molested--Arrival at
 South Pass--Fremont's Account of the Ascent of the Highest Peak of
 the Rocky Mountains--The Return to Fort Laramie--Carson Starts for New
 Mexico--End of Fremont's First Exploring Expedition.

Alarming news awaited Fremont at Fort Laramie. A number of trappers
informed them that the Sioux, through whose country their route lay,
were excited to exasperation by several recent conflicts with hunters
in which the red men were worsted. The Sioux warriors were gathered in
large numbers and would attack any white men who ventured beyond the
fort. They had already massacred a number and it was impossible for
Fremont and his party to get through without a battle in which they were
likely to be overwhelmed.

Carson looked upon the situation as so serious that he made his will and
left it at the fort. When consulted by Fremont, he said he considered
the prospect full of peril, but he was ready to go the moment required.
The commander was confident the danger was greatly exaggerated, and,
without much misgiving, he resumed his journey westward, following up
the north fork of the Platte. Game and water were found, and, at the end
of three weeks, they arrived at the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains
without having exchanged a shot with a red man on the way.

They had now reached their destination and Lieutenant Fremont at once
began his observations. When they were concluded he undertook the
ascent of the highest mountain peak. The situation was anything but
encouraging: they were in the country of the hostile Blackfeet, some of
whom were observed hovering in the vicinity; men and animals were worn
out and it was hard to procure game. But the ascent was begun, Fremont
taking fourteen men with him. Those who were left in camp erected a rude
but strong fort, behind which they were confident they could sustain
themselves against any force the Indians were likely to muster.

The ascent of the mountain was laborious in the extreme. Kit Carson
climbed to one of the loftiest peaks from which he gained a full view of
the very highest elevation. The next day Fremont sent Carson and several
of the men back. He unquestionably intended that no one should share
with him the honor of climbing the most elevated point. This exploit is
worthy of description at the hands of the Pathfinder himself.

"At intervals we reached places where a number of springs gushed from
the rocks, and about 1,800 feet above the lakes came to the snow line.
From this point our progress was uninterrupted climbing. Hitherto, I had
worn a pair of thick moccasins, with soles of parfleche but here I put
on a light thin pair, which I had brought for the purpose, as now the
use of our toes became necessary to a further advance. I availed myself
of a sort of comb of the mountain, which stood against the wall like
a buttress, and which the wind and solar radiation, joined to the
steepness of the smooth rock, had kept almost entirely free from snow.
Up this I made my way rapidly. Our cautious method of advancing in
the outset had spared my strength; and, with the exception of a slight
disposition to headache, I felt no remains of yesterday's illness. In a
few minutes we reached a point where the buttress was overhanging, and
there was no other way of surmounting the difficulty than by passing
around one side of it, which was the face of a vertical precipice of
several hundred feet."

Parfleche is the name given to buffalo hide. The Indian women prepare it
by scraping and drying. It is exceedingly tough and hard, and receives
its name from the circumstance that it cannot be pierced by arrows or

The entire dress of Fremont and his party, on their ascent to the "top
of America," consisted of a blue flannel shirt, free and open at the
neck, the collar turning down over a black silk handkerchief tied
loosely, blue cloth pantaloons, a slouched broad brimmed hat, and
moccasins as above described. It was well adapted to climbing, quite
light, and at the same time warm, and every way comfortable.

"Putting hands and feet in the crevices between the blocks, I succeeded
in getting over it, and when I reached the top, found my companions in a
small valley below. Descending to them, we continued climbing, and in a
short time reached the crest. I sprang upon the summit and another step
would have precipitated me into an immense snow field five hundred feet
below. To the edge of this field was a sheer icy precipice; and then,
with a gradual fall, the field sloped off for about a mile, until it
struck the foot of another lower ridge. I stood on a narrow crest about
three feet in width, with an inclination of about 20 degrees N. 51
degrees E. As soon as I had gratified the first feelings of curiosity I
descended, and each man ascended in turn, for I would only allow one
at a time to mount the unstable and precarious slab, which it seemed a
breath would hurl into the abyss below. We mounted the barometer in
the snow of the summit, and, fixing a ramrod in a crevice, unfurled the
national flag, to wave in the breeze, where never flag waved before.
During our morning's ascent, we met no sign of animal life, except a
small bird having the appearance of a sparrow. A stillness the most
profound, and a terrible solitude forced themselves constantly on the
mind as the great features of the place. Here, on the summit, where
the stillness was absolute, unbroken by any sound, and the solitude
complete, we thought ourselves beyond the region of animated life; but
while we were sitting on the rock, a solitary bee (bombus terrestris,
the humble bee) came winging his flight from the eastern valley, and lit
on the knee of one of the men.

"Around us the whole scene had one main striking feature, which was that
of terrible convulsion. Parallel to its length, the ridge was split
into chasms and fissures, between which rose the thin, lofty walls,
terminated with slender minarets and columns, which are correctly
represented in the view from the camp on Island Lake. According to the
barometer, the little crest of the wall on which we stood was three
thousand five hundred and seventy feet above that place, and two
thousand seven hundred and eighty feet above the little lakes at the
bottom, immediately at our feet.

"Our camp at the Two Hills (an astronomical station) bore south 30 east,
which, with a bearing afterward obtained from a fixed position, enabled
us to locate the peak. The bearing of the Trois Tetons was north 50
degrees west, and the direction of the central ridge of the Wind River
Mountains south 39 degrees east. The summit rock was gneiss. Sienite
and feldspar succeeded in our descent to the snow line, where we found
a felspathic granite. I had remarked that the noise produced by the
explosion of our pistols had the usual degree of loudness, but was not
in the least prolonged, expiring almost instantaneously. Having now made
what observations our means afforded, we proceeded to descend. We had
accomplished an object of laudable ambition, and beyond the strict
order of our instructions. We had climbed the loftiest peak of the Rocky
Mountains and looked down upon the snow a thousand feet below, and,
standing where human foot had never stood before, felt the exultation of
first explorers. It was about two o'clock when we left the summit; and
when we reached the bottom the sun had already sunk behind the wall, and
the day was drawing to a close. It would have been pleasant to linger
here and on the summit longer; but we hurried away as rapidly as the
ground would permit, for it was an object to regain our party as soon as
possible, not knowing what accident the next hour might bring forth."

This mountain which bears the name of Fremont's Peak, in honor of the
great Pathfinder, was found to be 13,570 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

The object of the expedition was accomplished and preparations were made
for the return to the states. No accident worth the mention had befallen
the explorers, and the Blackfeet, from whom so much was feared, did not
molest them. It may have been that when their scouts reconnoitred the
camp, they found the barricades so strong and the garrison so watchful
that they decided it would be too costly to make an attack upon them.
It is not impossible that some one or more of them recognized the daring
mountaineer who more than once years before had given their warriors
such severe defeat and punishment. If such was the truth, we cannot but
respect the discretion they showed.

Fort Laramie was reached in the month of September 1842. There as Kit
Carson's labors were ended, he bade his commander and friends goodbye
and started for New Mexico. Fremont and his men reached the states in
safety and thus ended his first exploring expedition.


 Carson Starts for the States--The Encampment of Captain Cook and his
 Dragoons--Carson Undertakes a Delicate and Dangerous Mission--The
 Perilous Journey--Return of Carson and the Mexican Boy--Encounter with
 Four Utah Indians--Arrival at Bent's Fort.

Early in the year 1843, Kit Carson married his second wife and shortly
after agreed to accompany an expedition of Bent & St. Vrain's wagons to
the States. When part way across the plains, they struck the old Santa
Fe trail and came upon an encampment of Captain Cook with four companies
of United States Dragoons.

They were engaged in escorting a train of Mexican wagons to the boundary
line between New Mexico and the United States. The train was a very
valuable one and an escort of a hundred men were hired to accompany it
through the Indian country.

The situation of this train was an alarming one. It was the duty of
Captain Cook and his soldiers to guard it as far as the fording of the
Arkansas, at that time the boundary line between the two countries.
There was good reason for believing that a strong band of Texan rangers
were waiting beyond, with the intention of attacking and plundering the
train. Indeed the Mexican who had it in charge had received information
that left no possible doubt of the fact.

His face lighted up when he recognized Kit Carson. Hardly waiting until
they had greeted each other, he offered him a liberal reward if he
would ride post haste to Santa Fe and deliver a letter to the Governor,
containing an urgent request to send a strong force to escort the train

Carson unhesitatingly accepted the offer and with his usual promptness
started almost immediately on his delicate and dangerous business. The
journey was one of several hundred miles through a country swarming with
Indians, and all the skill, cunning and vigilance of the great scout
would be required to succeed. But he never faltered in the face of

A veteran mountaineer agreed to keep him company, but, when Bent's Fort
was reached he refused to go further, and Carson, as he had often done
before in critical situations, went on alone.

The news which he heard at the fort was of a startling nature. The Utah
Indians were hostile and his long journey led him directly through their
country. He could not censure his friend for declining to go further,
nor could he blame others whom he asked to accompany him, when they
shook their heads. Mr. Bent understood the peculiar danger in which Kit
would be placed, and though he was splendidly mounted, he loaned him a
magnificent steed which he led, ready to mount whenever the necessity
should arise for doing so.

That journey was one of the most remarkable of the many made by Kit
Carson. It would have been less so, had he possessed a companion of
experience, for they could have counselled together, and one would have
kept watch while the other slept. As it was, Carson was compelled to
scan every portion of the plain before him, on the constant lookout for
Indians, who would have spared no effort to circumvent and slay him, had
they known of his presence in their country. He was so placed, indeed,
that only by the most consummate skill could he hope to run the
continuous gauntlet, hundreds of miles in length.

He had gone but a short distance when he detected the trails of his
enemies, showing they were numerous and liable to be encountered at
any moment. When night came, he picketed his horses and lay down on the
prairie or in some grove, ready to leap to his feet, bound upon one of
his steeds and gallop away on a dead run. Where the hunter has no friend
to mount guard, he is often compelled to depend upon his horses, who
frequently prove the best kind of sentinels. They are quick to detect
the approach of strangers, and a slight neigh or stamp of the foot is
enough to give the saving warning.

A large portion of the country over which he rode, was a treeless plain
and the keen blue eyes of the matchless mountaineer were kept on a
continual strain. A moving speck in the distant horizon, the faint
column of thin smoke rising from the far off grove, or a faint yellow
dust against the blue sky, could only mean one thing--the presence of
enemies, for he was in a region which contained not a single friend.

One afternoon Carson discovered an Indian village directly ahead of him
and on the trail which he was following. He instantly withdrew beyond
sight of any who might be on guard, and, hunting a sparse grove of
timber, kept within it until dark; then he made a long circuit, and came
back to the trail far beyond it. He travelled a long distance that night
and by daylight was in no danger of detection.

By using such extreme caution and watchfulness, he succeeded in passing
the entire distance without exchanging a hostile shot with anyone. He
reached Taos, where he waited as agreed upon, until his message could
be sent to the Governor at Santa Fe. While in Taos he learned that
one hundred men had been sent out to meet the caravan and the Governor
himself was about ready to follow with six hundred more. It may be
stated in this place that the smaller company, while looking for the
train was attacked by the Texan rangers and with a single exception
every man was killed; but venturing into American territory, the rangers
were disarmed by Captain Cook and his dragoons, and the wealthy wagon
train, with its valuable cargo reached its destination in safety.

Having accomplished his mission, Carson set out on his return to Bent's
Fort. This time he took a Mexican boy with him. The mountaineer had
become strongly attached to the youth, who was a noble, high minded lad,
the fit companion of the prince among plainsmen.

Two days out from Taos, both were surprised to find themselves
confronted by four Utah Indians on the war path. They appeared
so suddenly, that the two friends were given little time to make
preparation; but, as some distance separated the parties, Kit and the
lad hastily consulted over what was best to do.

"It is you whom they are seeking," said the youth, "and your life is
worth a great deal more than mine; you have a swift horse; mount him
and dash off; perhaps they will spare me, but you cannot help me by

"Your offer is a kind one," said Carson much touched by the words of his
young friend; "but nothing in the world would induce me to leave you.
We will stick together and if we must die, why let's each take a warrior
with us."

The leading warrior sauntered toward the couple, while they were hastily
consulting together, after the manner of one who felt he was master of
the situation. A broad grin stretched across his painted face, as he
extended one hand to salute Carson, while he reached for his rifle with
the other. Just as his fingers were closing around the weapon of the
mountaineer, the latter struck him a violent blow in the face, which
sent him staggering several paces backward. The other Utahs instantly
ran forward to the help of their comrade.

When they were within a few rods, Carson brought his gun to his shoulder
and peremptorily ordered them to halt. They hesitated, as if uncertain
what to do, when he told them that if they advanced another step or made
any hostile demonstration, both he and his companion would fire. They
would be sure of hitting two of the warriors, when it would become
something like an even fight, with two on each side, and with the
prospect that the red men might suffer still further.

But the Indians were not to be bluffed in such an easy fashion. They
brandished their guns, shook powder in the pans and talked boastingly of
what they meant to do. They were double the number of their enemies and
they would teach them how brave Utah warriors were.

Neither Carson nor the lad was disturbed by these demonstrations, which
meant to intimidate them. The mountaineer whispered to his brave young
companion to keep on his guard against any sudden rush or demonstration.
But the lad scarcely needed the warning. He was as alert and vigilant
as his friend. Had the red men attempted anything hostile, the two would
have fired instantly and then drawn their pistols and been ready for the

The Utahs finally saw it was useless to attempt to bluff the man and
boy, and they rode away without offering them the least harm. Carson and
his young companion instantly resumed their journey, still watchful
and alert; but they reached Bent's Fort without molestation, and the
dangerous venture was over.


 Kit Carson Hears Surprising News--He Visits Fremont--Is Re-engaged as
 Guide--Fremont's Account of his Visit to Salt Lake.

Kit Carson was astonished on reaching Bent's Fort to learn that
Lieutenant Fremont had gone by on his second exploring expedition but a
few days before. Carson felt a strong attachment for his old leader
and galloped nearly a hundred miles to overtake him. Fremont gave
the mountaineer most cordial greeting and insisted so strongly on his
accompanying him that Carson could not refuse.

The object of Fremont's second exploration was to connect the survey of
the previous year with those of Commander Wilkes on the Pacific coast.
The first objective point was the Great Salt Lake of Utah, of which very
little was known at that time.

Carson was sent back to the fort to procure a number of mules. He did as
directed and rejoined Fremont at St. Vrain's Fort. The region traversed
by these explorers is so well known today that it is hard to realize
what a terra incognita it was but a short time since. Perhaps it will
be most instructive at this point to quote the words of the great
Pathfinder himself. The party arrived on the 21st of August on the
Bear River, one of the principal tributaries of Great Salt Lake. The
narrative of Fremont proceeds:

"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
traveller 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.

"September 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 travellers 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 Francois 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. Tonight
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 occulation. The summer frogs were singing around us, and the
evening was very pleasant, with a temperature of 60 degrees--a night
of a more southern autumn. For our supper, we had yampak, 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 tonight were
many speculations on what tomorrow 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 hunter's 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 canons 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."

"September 8.--A calm, clear day, with a sunrise temperature of 41
degrees. In view of our present enterprise, a part of the equipment of
the boat had been made to consist of three airtight 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,
spyglass, 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 he 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 waterfowl.

"September. 9.--The day was clear and calm; the thermometer at
sunrise at 49 degrees. 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 bateau 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
sometime 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 way 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 spyglass and as it will probably remain there undisturbed by Indians,
it will furnish matter of speculation to some future traveller. 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 degrees. We had arrived just in time
to obtain a meridian altitude of the sun, and other observations were
obtained this evening, which placed our camp in latitude 41 degrees 10'
42" and longitude 112 degrees 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."


 The Return--Suffering for Food--A Royal Feast--On the Lewis
 Fork--Fort Hall--Division of the Party--Arrival at Dalles--The Sierra
 Nevada--Preparations for the Passage Through the Mountains--Fremont's

The explorers remained in camp the next day and boiled down some of the
water from the lake, thereby obtaining considerable salt. The following
morning was clear and beautiful and they returned by the same route,
ascending the valley of Bear River toward the north.

The expected Fitzpatrick and the provisions did not show themselves and
the party began to suffer for food. When their situation became serious,
Fremont permitted a horse to be killed and then all enjoyed one of their
old fashioned feasts.

But this supply could not last long, and still they failed to meet their
expected friends. After a time they encountered an Indian who had killed
an antelope, which they quickly purchased and another feast made every
heart glad. By way of dessert, a messenger galloped into camp with
the news that Fitzpatrick was close at hand with an abundant supply of

The next morning the two parties united and continued the journey
together. After leaving the Bear River Valley they crossed over to
Lewis's Fork of the Columbia. At night the camp fires of the Indian
twinkled like so many stars along the mountain side; but they were all
friendly and the tired explorers slept peacefully.

Pushing onward they reached the upper waters of Lewis's Fork, where
snow began to fall. However, they were quite near Fort Hall and they
therefore went into camp, while Fremont rode to the fort and procured
several horses and oxen.

The weather continued severe, but Fremont determined to push on, despite
the hardships which he knew awaited them all. As a matter of prudence,
however, he sent back eleven of his men, leaving about twenty with which
he pursued his journey down the river valley in the direction of the
Columbia. The Dalles was reached in safety where Kit Carson was left in
command of the party, while Fremont with a few companions pushed on to
Vancouver Island, where he procured some provisions. On his return, the
whole party united and made their way to Klamath Lake, in what was then
Oregon Territory. When their observations were completed, they took up
their march in the direction of California.

After a long and wearisome journey, attended by much suffering for the
lack of food, they came in sight of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which
were seen to be covered with snow. The men were in a sorry plight. The
provisions were nearly gone; they could not turn back, and there seemed
but two alternatives before them: to push on through the mountains or
remain where they were and starve to death. Such men were not the ones
to fold their hands and lie down in helpless despair. Accordingly, they
made their preparations for the terrible venture.

The snow was so deep that it was impossible to get forward without
the aid of snowshoes. Devoting themselves to the manufacture of these
indispensable articles, a few were sent ahead to learn how far it was
necessary to break a path for the animals. After a laborious passage,
it was found that nine miles would have to be prepared in that fashion.
Carson was with this advance and when they halted, he saw in the
distance the green Sacramento Valley. Although nearly twenty years had
passed since he visited that section, he recognized it at once. Away
beyond towered the white peaks of the Coast Range. Carson was the only
man in the party who really knew where they were.

This passage of Fremont and his men through the Sierra Nevada Mountains
is one of the most extraordinary achievements in American history.
Carson himself took such a prominent part in it, that it seems only just
that Fremont's thrilling account should be quoted.

"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.

"Tonight 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 degrees. 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 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

"Seated around the tree, the fire illuminating the rocks and the tall
boils 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 snowshoes. 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 travelled on snowshoes 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 place 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 today
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 snowshoes, 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 snowshoes, 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, fifty-seven 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 all the materiel of the camp, on the summit of the pass
in the dividing ridge, 1,000 miles by our travelled 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."


 Continuation of Fremont's Account of the Passage Through the Mountains.

"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 thunderstorm. 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 today 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 20 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 animals 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 mistletoe.

"The opposite mountain side was very steep and continuous--unbroken
by ravines, and covered with pines and snow; while on the side we were
travelling, 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 Sacramento.

"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 night fall 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 hillside 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 today--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 meantime 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

At the end of four days, Mr. Preuss surprised and delighted his friends
by walking into camp. He had lived on roots and acorns and was in the
last stages of exhaustion.

Shortly the advance party reached Sutter's Fort where they received the
most hospitable treatment. All their wants were abundantly supplied, and
provisions were sent back to Fitzpatrick and his party.


 The Start Homeward--The Visitors in Camp and Their Story--Carson and
 Godey Start to the Rescue--Trailing the Enemy by Night--In Camp--The
 Attack--An Amazing Success--The Return.

Fremont and his command remained at Sutter's Fort about a month, when
their preparations were completed for their return to the States. They
journeyed leisurely up the valley of the San Joaquin, crossing over the
Sierra Nevada and Coast Range by means of an easily travelled pass. The
latter chain was followed until they came upon the Spanish trail, along
which they passed to the Mohave River. Where the Trail diverges from
that stream, Carson became involved in a characteristic adventure.

While in camp two Mexicans, a man and a boy, rode up and told a sad
story. They belonged to a party of Mexican traders from New Mexico. Six
of them, including two women who acted as cooks, were left in charge
of a band of horses while the rest were away, engaged in barter. When
endeavoring to find better grazing for their animals and while the man
and boy were on guard, they were attacked by a band of thirty Indians.
The warriors were after the horses and their first demonstration was
a flight of arrows. The only chance of escape was to make off with
the animals and the two started them on a dead run straight toward
the Indians. The charge was so impetuous, that they forced their way
through, and continued their flight, while the warriors remained behind
to massacre the others.

When the couple had gone a long distance, they left the horses and
turned back to look for their friends. While they were doing so, they
came upon Fremont's camp. When it is added that among those who were
left behind by the Mexicans, were the wife of the man and the father and
mother of the boy, their pitiful situation must touch the hearts of
all. They were overcome with grief, and Carson was so stirred that he
volunteered to go back with the couple and help rescue their friends
if alive, or punish the Indians, if it should prove that they had been

Richard Godey, a mountaineer almost the equal with Carson, willingly
agreed to accompany him. The two were perfectly familiar with the
country, which was an immense advantage. When the Mexicans described the
spring, a long ways distant, where they had abandoned the horses to
hunt for their friends, Carson recalled its exact location. It was about
thirty miles away and he said that that was the point toward which they
must push with all speed.

Accordingly they turned the heads of their horses thither and struck
into a sweeping gallop, resting only when compelled to do so, and
reaching the spring at daylight the next morning. Not a horse was
visible, but an examination of the ground showed that the Indians had
followed the fleeing Mexicans and stock to the spring, where, finding
the animals, they had captured and driven them off in another direction.

It seems like a piece of madness for three men to pursue ten times as
many Indian warriors; but the blood of Carson was up and he told Godey
it was too soon for them to turn back. The eyes of both flashed, when
they reflected upon the shameful outrage, and they meant that the
marauders should not get off scot free.

As the boy was only an incumbrance, he was left behind, and, taking
the trail of the warriors, the three put their horses to their best,
confident the chase would be a long one. On such occasions, the red men
are accustomed to travel a long distance before making a halt. With so
much booty in their hands, they were liable to be set upon by others as
savage as themselves, and they had every cause, therefore, to get out of
the country with the least possible delay.

The three were riding in this furious fashion, when most unexpectedly
the steed of the Mexican gave out. A minute's examination showed he was
as thoroughly used up and useless as the horse of the Ute Indian, years
before, who started out with Kit to pursue the thief that was running
off with the animals. There was no course but to leave the Mexican
behind, for time was too precious to ride back to camp after another
horse. He, therefore was told to go back to Fremont's camp and await
their return.

The exploit of Carson and Godey, when calmly told, seems incredible.
There was no one in Fremont's command who would go with them, and though
they knew there were a score and a half of savage wild men to encounter,
they did not hesitate, but pressed their steeds to the utmost, eager to
join in the fierce hand to hand conflict.

When night shut in upon them, the Indians were not in sight and the
signs indicated they were a good many miles ahead. There was no moon
or stars and they could see only a few feet in advance of their horses'
ears, but it would not do to linger. If they should go into camp, they
would lose so much ground that pursuit was likely to be hopeless.

Accordingly, they dismounted and leading their steeds, continued
the pursuit on foot. Where it was impossible to see the ground, they
depended on the sense of feeling. Quite certain of the general direction
taken by the red men, they occasionally stooped down and passed their
hands over the earth. The trail was so distinct that it could be readily
detected in this manner, provided they had not gone astray. Several
times they wandered to the right or left, but found their way back
without difficulty, and the chase was continued for several hours in
this singular fashion.

After a time, the trail became so fresh that it could be readily
detected and no doubt was left in their minds that they were close upon
the marauders. Inasmuch as Carson and Godey had pushed their horses to
the utmost, and they were showing signs of weariness, they concluded, in
view of these facts, to halt and wait until daylight.

The night was unusually cold, but they dared not start a fire, lest
it should apprise their enemies of their presence. So they suffered in
silence, miserable, wretched and as uncomfortable as it was possible to
be, while watching for the growing light in the east.

When at last, morning appeared, they were so chilled that they could
hardly walk; but making their way to the bottom of a ravine, they
kindled a fire, and with the help of some violent exercise, managed to
start their blood in circulation.

In a very brief time, their horses were resaddled and they were
galloping along the trail again. Within an hour, they caught sight of
the Indians and the stolen animals. The warriors were in camp and were
enjoying a breakfast of horse meat, several of the stock having been
killed to furnish the food.

Before the Indians could detect their pursuers, the latter dismounted
and hid their steeds where they were not likely to attract notice. They
then started to crawl in among the stolen animals, which were grazing a
short distance from camp. This was an exceedingly delicate task, for
the horses were likely to give the alarm, even if the warriors did not
detect their presence; but patience and skill succeeded, and, after a
time, they were among the drove.

But the very thing they dreaded took place. They had scarcely reached
the animals, when one of them became frightened by the appearance of the
strangers, and began rearing and snorting. This caused such confusion
among the others that the Indians became alarmed and sprang to their
feet. Carson and Godey emitted a series of yells that must have made the
red men envious, and dashed at full speed toward the thirty Indians. The
moment they were within range, both fired. Carson killed his man, but
Godey missed. The latter reloaded with great quickness and fired again,
bringing down his man.

Meanwhile, the warriors were thrown into a sort of panic by the
amazing audacity of their assailants. They could not have suspected the
truth--that is that no others were near. They must have believed that a
strong reserve was close at hand and that if they tarried in camp they
would be overwhelmed by a party of avengers. Accordingly they broke and
ran, leaving the daring mountaineers masters of the field.

In accordance with the savage spirit of the border, Godey scalped the
two Indians who had been shot, after which the horses were gathered
together and driven to where the steeds of the mountaineers had been

But when this point was reached, Carson expressed himself as not
satisfied: they had not ascertained the fate of the captives and they
now proceeded to do so.

In the camp of the Mexicans were found the mangled bodies of the two
men. These were buried by Carson and Godey who made search for the
women. Though nothing of them was discovered, it was afterwards learned
that they, too, had been killed. Having done all that was possible,
Carson and Godey made their way back to Fremont's camp, where the
stolen property was turned over to the Mexicans, the daring mountaineers
refusing to accept the slightest payment for their extraordinary


 Arrival at Bent's Fort--Carson goes to Taos and Decides to Become a
 Farmer--Arrival of a Messenger from Fremont--Carson and Owens Repair
 Again to Bent's Fort--Carson Engages as Guide for Fremont's Third
 Exploring Expedition--On the Great Divide--Division of the Parties--The
 Journey Across the Desert--A Singular Meeting--Aboriginal Horse Thieves.

After a tedious journey of many miles, the exploring party reached
Bent's Fort July 2, 1844. The labors were considered finished, and
bidding his old commander goodbye, Carson made his way to Taos, where he
had a most happy reunion with his family. He was cordially welcomed by
hundreds of old friends who had learned years before the rare courage
and worth of the man, and who were proud to possess such a neighbor.

Carson had led a wild and adventurous career, and, after talking much
with those in whom he had confidence, he decided to adopt the life of
a farmer. In this conclusion he was joined by Richard Owens, an old
mountaineer and an intimate associate for many years.

It did not take them long to fix upon a desirable site, and, in the
spring of 1845, stock and animals were bought, building commenced
and everything was fairly under way. At the moment when the scarred
mountaineers were counting with pleasure on the complete arrangements
made, an express messenger galloped up and handed Carson a letter.

The contents were of an important character. Captain Fremont had written
to notify Kit that he had started on his third exploring expedition,
and, inasmuch as the mountaineer had given his promise months before,
that in the event of doing so, he (Carson) would serve again as guide,
Fremont reminded him that he should hold him to his pledge and would
expect to meet him at Bent's Fort on his arrival there.

It was a considerable pecuniary sacrifice for Carson to keep his
promise, but he never failed to do so, when it was not absolutely
impossible. Besides, it is fair to presume that the old life could never
lose its charm for one of his disposition, and, contrasted with the
humdrum existence of a farmer, he could not have been much grieved over
the reception of the message. But it must be stated that both Owens and
Carson sold out at much loss, and, putting their affairs in the best
shape possible, bade families and friends goodbye, mounted their horses
and set out for Bent's Fort which was safely reached some days later.

There they were warmly welcomed by Fremont, who had entered upon his
third exploring expedition, the last under the authority of the United
States government, though two others were afterwards undertaken on his
own responsibility. As was to be supposed, Fremont taking lessons from
his previous experiences, was much better equipped for his third than
for either of the other preceding expeditions. He had about fifty men,
among them in addition to Carson and Owens, being Maxwell, the famous
mountaineer, Walker who was a member of Captain Bonneville's expedition
to the Columbia, besides other hunters and scouts less known but not
less skilful and daring than they.

We have already given tolerably full accounts of the two exploring
expeditions of Fremont, and it is not our purpose to narrate the
particulars of the one which followed. There is a sameness in many of
the occurrences but the third time the Pathfinder penetrated into the
recesses of the far west, he became involved in a series of experiences
totally different from the preceding and deeply interesting of

Several months were spent on what may be called the Great Divide--that
is the region where the waters flow east or west to either ocean, and
in the autumn of the year they encamped on the southwestern shore of the
Great Salt Lake.

Before them stretched a vast arid plain to which the trappers referred
with a shudder of terror. They had heard of it many a time and the
common legend was that no man white or Indian who had ever attempted to
cross it, succeeded. These stories, however, added to the eagerness of
Captain Fremont to explore its secrets, and, when he proposed it to
his men, they expressed as strong a desire as he to do so. They felt a
mutual trust and confidence impossible under other circumstances.

Some seventy miles away, a mountain peak held out the promise of wood
and water. Four men under the guidance of an Indian, were sent forward
to explore the place, and, in the event of finding water, they were
instructed to apprise the watchful commander by means of the smoke from
a camp fire.

When the second day closed without sight of the signal, Fremont became
so uneasy that he moved forward with the rest of the party and travelled
all night. At daylight, one of the smaller party approached them. He
said that running water and grass existed at the mountains, but their
Indian guide was wholly ignorant of the country. This was good news and
the next day the party reached the stream.

Shortly after, the expedition was divided into two parties, Walker (of
whom mention has been made), taking charge of the larger while Fremont
led the smaller. It was the purpose of Walker to pass around to the
foot of the Sierra Nevada, by a route with which he was familiar, while
Fremont with Carson and less than a dozen men, among whom were several
Delaware Indians, headed straight across the desert.

While advancing over this arid tract, they detected a volume of smoke
rising from a ravine. Cautiously approaching, they discovered an Indian
warrior perfectly nude, standing by a fire and watching an earthen pot
in which something was simmering. He was greatly frightened and offered
them his food. They smiled, treated him kindly and gave him several
trifling presents which he received with childish delight.

One of the singular incidents of the journey took place while the
exploring party were making their way along the foot of the Sierras.
Passing around a point on the lake shore, they unexpectedly met a dozen
Indian warriors. They were walking directly behind each other in what is
known as Indian file, their heads bent forward and their eyes fixed on
the ground. The whites turned aside to allow them to pass and naturally
watched them with much interest. The Indians neither halted, deviated
from the path, spoke nor looked up, but walked straight forward with
their silent, measured tread until they disappeared. The explorers did
not interfere with them or speak to them. Thus the representatives of
the different races encountered.

The division under charge of Walker joined Fremont at the appointed
rendezvous, but winter was upon them, the mountains were sure to be
choked with snow and no one was familiar with the route. As a matter of
prudence, therefore, Walker was directed to continue southward with the
principal party, while Fremont and a few picked men pushed on directly
through the Sierras to Sutter's Fort, with a view of obtaining the
necessary animals and supplies.

The smaller division was advancing as best it could, when a number of
plainly marked trails were observed showing they were in the vicinity of
some of the most notorious horse thieves in the world. They were daring
and skilful, went long distances, plundered ranches and hastened to the
mountains with their booty. The exasperated Californians often organized
and went in pursuit, but it was rare they overtook the dusky thieves,
and when they succeeded in doing so, were invariably defeated.

This sort of people were undesirable neighbors, and Fremont sent forward
two Delawares and two mountaineers to make an investigation. They
had not gone far, when the company following them found the signs so
threatening that they were alarmed for the scouts. A short distance
further they came upon such an excellent camping site that they decided
to halt for the night.


 Alarming Sounds--Danger of the Scouts--Fremont Goes to Their
 Rescue--Arrival at Sutter's Fort--Ordered out of California by
 the Mexican Governor--Fremont's Refusal--Withdrawal to Sacramento
 River--Arrival of Despatches from Washington--War with Mexico--Meeting
 with Lieutenant Gillespie--Night Attack by Klamath Indians.

While preparing to go into camp, the explorers were mystified by
hearing a number of peculiar sounds like the barking of dogs. Attentive
listening, however, satisfied them that it came from an Indian village
close by, whose women and children were calling out and lamenting. This
constituted positive proof that the friends in advance were in trouble
with the red men and there was not a minute to lose in going to their

A half mile further, the explorers galloped over a slight ridge, when
they suddenly came in sight of several hundred Indians, who were making
their way up two sides of a knoll, on the crest of which the four scouts
had entrenched themselves among the rocks and trees and were coolly
awaiting the attack of their enemies.

The little party had run so suddenly into danger that they were
compelled to make a flying leap from their horses, in order to secure
a suitable shelter. The assailants had almost captured the abandoned
horses, when relief came. The two Delawares made a dash to recover their
animals, their companions shooting the foremost of the thieves. The
property was saved and then all fell back to their own camp.

As the aboriginal horse thieves were so numerous, Fremont kept up
an unremitting watch all through the night. Singular noises were
continually heard and there could be no doubt that the women and
children were retreating further into the mountains.

One of the Delawares on guard was sure he saw an Indian leap over a log,
and firing quickly, brought him to the ground; but it proved to be a
prowling wolf. None of their enemies appeared, and when morning came,
Fremont withdrew from his perilous position.

Sutter's Fort at last was safely reached, and the other party having
become lost, Carson was sent to find them. He succeeded with little
difficulty and the companies reunited.

Their course was now directed toward Monterey on the sea coast, where
they were confident of securing all they needed, but before reaching the
place, a messenger arrived from General Castro, the Mexican commander of
the territory, ordering the Americans to leave at once or they would be
driven out.

Fremont immediately intrenched himself and waited for the Mexicans to
carry out their threat. He waited three days, and then, as no attempt
was made, withdrew to the Sacramento, which stream was followed to
Lawson's Trading Post, where the commander hoped to purchase the outfit
for the journey homeward.

Moving northward toward the Columbia, they encountered an enormous force
of marauding Indians with whom a fierce battle was fought. The savages
were defeated and lost a large number of warriors.

While encamped near Klamath Lake, two horsemen galloped up with
despatches to Fremont from Washington, forwarded by Lieutenant
Gillespie, of the United States Marines. This officer was making his way
through the Indian country with six men as an escort, when his animals
began to succumb. Fearing he would not be able to intercept the Captain,
the Lieutenant selected two of his best men and sent them ahead with the
despatches. He begged Fremont to forward him assistance, as he doubted
his ability to reach him without such help.

But the most startling news brought to camp was that war had been
declared between the United States and Mexico. When Fremont had read his
despatches from his Government, he appreciated the imminent danger in
which the Lieutenant was placed, and, without any tarrying, perfected
measures for his rescue.

He immediately selected ten of his men, Carson, as a matter of course
being among them, and pushed on with all haste, leaving directions for
the rest to follow as rapidly as they could.

Fremont and his little company had journeyed something over fifty miles
when they met the officer and his companions. The meeting was of the
happiest nature, for the Lieutenant, in fact, was in greater danger than
he suspected, the Indians around him being among the most treacherous of
their race.

Those who have been placed in a situation resembling in a slight degree
that of Fremont, can appreciate the interest with which he perused the
letters and papers from his distant home. After the parties had gone
into camp, the Captain sat up till after midnight reading by the light
of the camp fire. Tired out at last, he stretched out with his blanket
about him and sank soon into heavy slumber.

The night was cold, and Carson and Owens, with their saddle blankets
wrapped around them, lay down close to the fire. All at once Carson
heard a peculiar noise, as though some one had struck a quick blow
with an axe. Wondering what it could mean, he called to one of the

"What's the matter over there?"

There was no answer, for the head of the poor fellow had been cleft by
an axe in the hands of one of the Klamath Indians who had crept into
camp. A Delaware had already been killed by the treacherous redskins,
that night being the second among all those spent in the west, when the
explorers had no sentinel on duty.

Carson and Owens called out "Indians!" and springing to their feet,
hurried away from the fire whose strong light was sure to tempt the aim
of their enemies.

One of the other Delawares who leaped to his feet snatched up the
nearest rifle which unfortunately was not his own, and was unloaded.
Unaware of the fact, he tried to fire it over again and again, without
suspecting the cause, while a Klamath launched arrow after arrow into
his body. The first penetrated his left breast and was fatal; but he
bravely kept his feet trying to discharge the useless gun, until four
other missiles were also buried within a few inches of the first.

Kit Carson had been quick to detect the danger of the brave Delaware,
and, in the hope of saving his life, he brought his unerring rifle to
his shoulder. Just as his finger pressed the trigger, he recollected
that that, too, was unloaded.

By one of those singular fatalities which sometimes occur, Carson had
broken the tube the night before, and left the weapon unloaded. Without
trifling with it, he threw it down, drew his single barrelled pistol
and ran toward the Klamath, who was coolly launching his arrows into the
breast of the poor Delaware.

The Indian leaped from side to side, so as to distract the aim of his
enemies, and, instead of hitting him, Carson only cut the string which
held a tomahawk to the warrior's arm. The mountaineer had no other shot
at command, and Maxwell tried his hand, but in the uncertain light,
inflicted only a slight wound. The Indian at that moment wheeled to run,
when one of the whites shot him dead. By this time the alarm was general
and the assailants fled.

There was good reason to believe that the Klamath Indians had set the
snare for Lieutenant Gillespie and his escort. As it was, the wonder was
that Fremont's command did not suffer to a greater extent; for having
no sentinels on duty, the warriors might have perfected their schemes in
security and killed a large number.

The Indian who drove five arrows into the left breast of the Delaware,
three of which pierced his heart, was the leader of the attacking party.
He had an English half axe slung to his wrist by a cord, and forty
arrows were left in his quiver. Carson pronounced them the most
beautiful and warlike missiles he had ever seen.

As may be supposed the explorers "slept on their arms" for the rest of
the night, but the assailants had fled.

They had killed three of the explorers, besides wounding another of the
Delawares, who took characteristic revenge by scalping the leader
that had been left where he fell. The dead were given the best burial
possible. As illustrating the ingratitude and perfidy of these red
men, it may be stated that it was only a few days before that they had
visited Fremont's camp, and, though provisions were very scarce, they
had been given considerable food, besides tobacco and a number of


 Retaliatory Measures--Fremont's Return to California--Capture of
 Sonoma--Sutter's Fort Placed Under Military Rule--Monterey Taken
 by Commodore Sloat--Capture of Los Angeles by Fremont and Commodore
 Stockton--Carson Sent East as a Bearer of Despatches--The Meeting with
 Apaches--General Kearney--Bravery of the California Mexicans.

The indignation over the action of the Indians was so great that
retaliatory measures were determined upon. Fremont moved around Lake
Klamath until nearly opposite where his command had been attacked. The
following morning, Carson and ten men were sent forward to search
for the Indian village that was believed to be somewhere in the
neighborhood. If the discovery could be made without detection on the
part of the Indians, Carson was instructed to signal to Fremont who
would hasten forward with reinforcements.

The mountaineer had not gone far, when he struck a broad, clear trail,
which speedily carried him in sight of a village of some fifty lodges.
As it was evident that the Indians had detected their danger, Carson and
his companions made an impetuous attack before which the red men fled in
wildest panic. A number were shot, when, finding pursuit useless, Carson
returned to the village where all the lodges were destroyed.

Because of the war with Mexico, Fremont decided to return to California.
On his way thither, the Tlamath Indians continually dogged them and a
number of collisions followed, though none was of particular moment.
After suffering many hardships, Lawson's Fort was reached and several
days were spent in hunting, while Fremont awaited instructions as to the
course he was to take in the war then going on between the United States
and Mexico.

As the days went by without bringing him any despatches, he wearied of
inactivity and decided to assume the aggressive. Accordingly he sent
a force to a Mexican military post known as Sonoma, which with little
trouble was taken.

Fremont sent out a couple of messengers to inform the American settlers
of what had taken place, but the messengers fell into the hands of
General Castro who put both to death.

General Castro sent one of his captains, with quite a force to destroy
the Americans, but the officer changed his mind when he found himself
in the neighborhood of the detested invaders. Fremont pursued him for
nearly a week, and captured much of his stock and property, but the
Mexican was so skilful in retreating that he could not be brought to bay
and Fremont returned to Sonoma.

The little force under Fremont now became the rallying point for the
American settlers, and before long the Captain had several hundred under
his command. Leaving a garrison at Sonoma, he marched to Sutter's Fort,
which was placed under military rule, and then made his way toward
Monterey with the purpose of capturing that town. On his arrival,
however, he found the place had already been taken by Commodore
Sloat and the American squadron. The Commodore leaving shortly after,
Commodore Stockton succeeded him.

While at Sonoma, Fremont and his comrades had declared the independence
of California and adopted the Bear Flag, which was proffered to
Commodore Sloat and the Star Spangled Banner hoisted over the camp.

As the Mexican General, Castro, was known to be at Los Angeles, Fremont
asked for and obtained a ship on which his force was taken to San
Diego. Then with a much inferior force, he set out to give battle to the
Mexican leader; but the latter no sooner learned of his coming, than
he fled with all his men. Finding it impossible to force him to give
battle, Fremont encamped near the town, where he waited until joined by
Commodore Stockton and a company of marines.

The junction effected, they marched upon Los Angeles which immediately
fell into their hands. Long before this, Fremont had become impressed
with the necessity of having some communication with Washington. In
one sense it may be said he was all at sea, for he was without positive
instructions, at a critical period, when it was most important that his
line of policy should be clearly defined by his government.

But the matter of communicating with headquarters, thousands of miles
away, was infinitely more difficult and serious than it is today. A
vast, wild, perilous and almost unknown tract stretched between the
Pacific and Atlantic, across which it required weeks and sometimes
months for an express rider to make his way. To send despatches around
Cape Horn took a much longer time; but the necessity was so urgent
that Fremont sent Carson with fifteen picked men across the plains,
instructing him to complete the journey if possible in sixty days.

Carson started in the middle of September, 1846, and by the exercise of
his consummate skill he passed rapidly through a most dangerous section
without running into any special danger until the third day. Then, when
in the neighborhood of the copper mines of New Mexico, he suddenly came
upon an encampment of Apaches, one of the most hostile tribes and the
most daring of fighters in the whole southwest.

This was another of those critical occasions where Carson's wonderful
quickness of mind enabled him to make the right decision without a
second's delay. He understood the language, customs and peculiarities
of the people, and he knew them to be splendid riders and tiger-like
warriors. The least evidence of timidity would invite an overwhelming
attack: a bold front and what may be called indomitable "cheek" were all
that was likely to take them through.

Telling his men to halt, Carson galloped forward until within a few rods
of the warriors, when he reined up and called out that he wished to hold
a parley with them. Thereupon, a number advanced to hear what he had
to say. The mountaineer stated that he and his friends were simply
travellers through the Apache country; while they were prepared for war,
they desired peace, and as their animals were tired out they wished to
exchange them for fresh ones. The Apaches expressed themselves satisfied
with the proposal, and Carson carefully chose a camping site, where they
could best protect themselves against treachery. Then the exchange was
made, both parties being so well satisfied that they parted with many
expressions of good will.

It was impossible to carry any extended stock of provisions, the party
depending upon their rifles to supply their needs in that direction; but
game proved to be very scarce and they suffered much until they reached
the first Mexican settlement. Although those people were at war with the
United States, their friendship for Carson led them to supply abundantly
all the wants of himself and friends.

With unremitting diligence and skill, the party pushed on day after day
until the sixth of October, when, as they were riding across a treeless
prairie, several moving specks were observed in the far horizon. As they
came closer, they resolved themselves into horsemen, and, with a
delight which may be imagined, Carson speedily observed that they were
a detachment of United States troops under the command of General S. W.
Kearney, who was highly pleased to meet Carson.

The detachment was a strong one and was on its way to operate in
California. After that officer had obtained all the important news
Carson had to give, he decided to send the despatches to Washington by
another, while he employed the mountaineer to guide him back.

This delicate duty was executed with such admirable skill that General
Kearney commended Carson in the highest terms. So rapidly did they move
that California was entered early in December, and they were approaching
San Diego, when the scouts brought news that a large party of Mexicans
were intrenched a short distance ahead with the intention of disputing
their advance. Fifteen men under Carson were sent forward to drive in
the outposts and capture such loose animals as could be found.

A fierce fight followed, the Mexicans showing far more daring and skill
than was expected. General Kearney was compelled to send two companies
of dragoons and twenty-five California volunteers to charge the enemy.
Carson was in the front column, and was riding at high speed, when his
horse stumbled, throwing him so violently as to shatter the stock of
his gun. He lay partly stunned but speedily recovering, he caught up the
rifle of a dead dragoon and rushed into the fight. Though the Mexicans
were finally driven out, they inflicted frightful loss on the Americans.
Nearly every man who was in the front column, where Carson was riding
when his horse threw him, was killed by the deadly bullets of the enemy.

The Mexicans soon rallied and attacked the Americans with such
fierceness that the advance guard was driven back and forced to act on
the defensive. No soldiers could have fought with greater gallantry
than did the assailants. Before the two mountain howitzers could
be unlimbered, almost every man around them was shot down. Then the
Mexicans charged forward, lassoed the horses, captured one of the guns
and turned it on the Americans. From some cause or other it could not
be discharged. Finally, the Americans took refuge among the rocks, where
they were surrounded by three or four times their number, seemingly with
the choice of two courses before them--to surrender or starve to death.


 Daring Exploit of Kit Carson and Lieutenant Beale--General Kearney

The situation of General Kearney and his men could not have been more
desperate. The only subsistence they had were their mules, and the water
was insufficient to meet their wants. They were completely surrounded by
the brave California Mexicans. They might exist for a time on the bodies
of their animals, but they must perish without water.

General Kearney called his friends together during the afternoon to
consult as to whether any possible means of escape was before them. He
could see none. He had sent three scouts to Commodore Stockton at San
Diego, asking for immediate help, but the three were captured by the
Mexicans on their return. Kearney had succeeded in exchanging a Mexican
lieutenant, whom he held prisoner, for one of the scouts, but nothing
was gained thereby. The messenger reported that they had been unable to
reach San Diego, and Commodore Stockton, therefore, was in ignorance of
the peril of his countrymen not far distant.

When every one expressed himself as unable to see the first ray of
hope, Carson in his deliberate, modest way said that it was clear only a
single possibility remained--that was by procuring relief from Commodore
Stockton at San Diego. Though the other scouts had failed to reach
him, Carson expressed his belief that he could succeed. At any rate, he
desired to make the attempt to pass the Mexican lines.

Lieutenant Beale, since Minister to Austria, and favorably known
throughout the country, immediately seconded the proposition,
volunteering to accompany Carson. General Kearney gladly and gratefully
accepted the offer, and the arrangements were instantly made. These
arrangements were of the simplest nature. The beleaguered Americans
were surrounded by three cordons of sentinels, and it was necessary
for Carson and Beale to make their way past them in order to reach San

When night was fully descended, the two left the rocks and approaching
the first line, sank upon their hands and knees, and crawled forward
with the silence and stealth of Indian scouts. Despite the utmost care,
their shoes made a slight noise now and then, and to avoid it, they took
them off and shoved them in their belts.

The exploit of Lieutenant Beale and Kit Carson was a most remarkable
one in every respect. Frequently through the gloom they would catch the
faint outlines of a sentinel, pacing back and forth. Instantly the two
would lie flat on their faces until the man moved away, when the painful
progress would be resumed.

The slightest forgetfulness was certain to prove fatal, for the
Mexicans, knowing the desperate straits of the Americans, must have
been expecting some such attempt and were therefore more than usually

Once a mounted Mexican rode close to the prostrate figures, sprang off
his horse and lit his cigarette. He was so close that the tiny flame
showed his nose and features, as it was held in front of his face, while
lighting the twist of tobacco. During that most trying moment, as
Kit Carson afterwards declared, he distinctly heard the beating of
Lieutenant Beale's heart.

There seemed no escape but finally the horseman drove away and the
painful progress was continued for fully two miles, during which both
men were constantly peering through the darkness for signs of danger.
Again and again they were compelled to halt, and lying flat on their
faces, wait till their fate was determined.

"We are through," whispered Carson at last, when considerable distance
beyond the last row of sentinels.

"Thank heaven!" exclaimed Lieutenant Beale in the same guarded voice.

"Now we'll put on our shoes and travel as fast as we know how to San

The mountaineer paused in dismay, for, while creeping over the plain, he
had lost both his shoes that were thrust in his belt. The Lieutenant had
been equally unfortunate, and, as it was utterly out of their power
to recover them, they could only push on barefooted, over a soil that
abounded with thorns and prickly pears. As these could not be seen in
the darkness, their feet were soon wounded to a distressing degree. It
was necessary to avoid the well beaten trails, so that the route was not
only made longer, but much more difficult on account of the obstacles

Yet they were working for a great stake. The lives of General Kearney
and his brave men were in the balance. If Carson and Beale failed to
bring help right speedily, they were doomed.

All night long, through the succeeding day and far into the following
night, the couple, worn, wearied and with bleeding feet, pushed ahead.
When exhausted, they would halt for a brief while, but the thought of
their imperilled comrades, and the fear that some of the Mexicans were
pursuing them, speedily started them off again and they kept to their
work with a grim resolution which heeded not fatigue, suffering and

The only compass Carson had was his eye, but he was so familiar with the
country that he never lost himself. The weary men were still trudging
forward, when through the darkness ahead suddenly flashed out a
star-like point of light. Several others appeared and a minute after
they dotted the background of gloom like a constellation.

"That's San Diego!" exclaimed Carson, who could not be mistaken. The
couple could scarcely restrain their joy. New life and activity thrilled
their bodies, and they hurried on with the same elastic eagerness they
felt at the beginning.

In a short while they were challenged by sentinels, and making known
their mission, were taken before Commodore Stockton. That officer, with
his usual promptness, sent a force of nearly two hundred men to the
relief of General Kearney. They took with them a piece of ordnance which
for want of horses the men themselves were forced to draw.

They advanced by forced marches to the endangered Americans, scarcely
pausing night or day, until in sight of the Mexicans, who considering
discretion the better part of valor, withdrew without exchanging a shot
with the naval brigade.

As may be supposed, the feet of Carson and Beale were in a frightful
condition, when they reached San Diego. The mountaineer, on that
account, did not return with the reinforcements, but he described the
course and location so minutely that no difficulty was experienced by
the relieving force.

Lieutenant Beale was a man of sturdy frame, accustomed to roughing it
on the frontier, but the sufferings he underwent on that eventful night
were such that he felt the effects for years afterward.


 Capture of Los Angeles--Court Martial of Fremont--Carson Appointed a
 Bearer of Dispatches to Washington--His Journey to St. Louis--Visits
 Washington--Appointed Lieutenant by President Polk--Ordered Back Across
 the Continent--His Journey--Assigned to Duty at Tajon Pass--Again
 Ordered to Washington--His Appointment not Confirmed by the United
 States Senate--Visit to Washington--Return to New Mexico.

The chief force of the Mexicans was at Los Angeles over a hundred miles
to the north of San Diego. They numbered six or seven hundred and were
strongly intrenched. General Kearney and Commodore Stockton joined their
commands and marched to attack them. Arriving in front of the town, they
scattered the Mexicans intrenched on the outside, and then marched into
the place. But the enemy had fled and gone northward to meet Fremont
who was on his way from Monterey with four hundred men to attack Los

The Mexicans had not long to search when they found Fremont, but,
instead of giving him battle, their commander surrendered, possibly
preferring to give him the honor, instead of selecting the other
commanders. Fremont continued his march to Los Angeles, where they went
into winter quarters, and Carson, who had been devoting his valuable
services to General Kearney, now rejoined his old friend, Fremont.

It may be stated in this place that the jealousy between Commodore
Stockton and General Kearney assumed such a shape at that time that
Fremont was compelled to acknowledge either one or the other as his
superior officer. He selected Commodore Stockton as the one to whom he
owed superior allegiance. The result of the petty quarrel was the trial
of Fremont by court martial, the particulars of which are too well known
to require further reference at our hands.

In the following March, Kit Carson was selected to carry despatches to
Washington. Lieutenant Beale, who was still suffering from the exposure
and hardships he had undergone, accompanied him, together with a guard
of a dozen veteran mountaineers. Lieutenant Beale was so weak that
Carson for many days was obliged to lift him on and off his horse; but
the clear air, the healthful exercise and the cheery companionship of
the hardy scout were the best tonics in the world, and probably did the
invalid more good than any other treatment that could have been devised.

Carson took an extremely southern route, and his superior skill and
knowledge of the country and its inhabitants enabled him to avoid all
danger until he reached a tributary of the lower Colorado. While in camp
at midnight, they were assailed with a shower of arrows from a party
of Indians; but, as Carson expected the attack, he had made such
preparations that not one of his men were injured.

Without any other incident worth the mention, Carson and his escort
reached St. Louis. There the renowned mountaineer became the hero of
the hour. He was taken at once to the home of Hon. Thomas H. Benton, the
distinguished statesman and the father in law of Colonel Fremont, who
introduced him to the leading Citizens.

The first person to greet Carson when he stepped from the cars in
Washington was Mrs. Fremont, who recognized him from the description
given by her husband in his letters. She compelled him to accompany her
to the house of her father, where he remained an honored guest during
his stay in Washington, which was for a considerable time.

Among the compliments paid Carson while in the capital was that of his
appointment by President Polk, as lieutenant in the rifle corps of the
United States army, and he was ordered to return across the continent
with despatches. At Fort Leavenworth, Carson was furnished with an
escort of fifty men who were volunteers in the war against Mexico.

The journey westward was marked by no stirring incident until he reached
the eastern declivity of the Rocky Mountains, where a company of United
States Volunteers were overtaken. They had in charge an enormous train
of wagons on the way to New Mexico. On the morning after the encampment
of Carson near them, the Indians made an attack upon the volunteers,
capturing all their cattle and more than twenty horses. The mountaineer
and his men dashed to the rescue, recaptured all the cattle, but were
unable to retake the horses.

Shortly after, Carson and his company reached Santa Fe. There he parted
from the volunteers and hired sixteen others with which he continued the
journey, thereby obeying the instructions received at Fort Leavenworth.

Pursuing the even tenor of his way, he arrived at a tributary of the
Virgin River, when he abruptly came upon an encampment of several
hundred Comanches, who, as Carson happened to know, had massacred a
number of settlers only a short time before. Understanding as thoroughly
as he did the treacherous nature of these people, he made a bold front,
and, when they attempted to visit his camp, peremptorily ordered them to
keep away.

He added that he knew all about them, and the first one who moved closer
would be shot. Furthermore, if they did not depart, within a specified
time, he notified them that they would be fired upon. These were such
audacious words that the Comanches doubted their sincerity. To test it,
some of them overstayed their time. Not wishing to break his pledge,
Carson ordered his men to fire, One of the warriors fell, while several
others, who were badly wounded, came to the conclusion that when the
great mountaineer made a statement there was likely to be considerable
truth in it.

Food soon became so scarce that mule meat formed the only diet until
they reached Los Angeles. Carson pushed on to Monterey where he
delivered the despatches to the proper officer, and then returning to
Los Angeles he was assigned to duty in Captain Smith's Company of
United States dragoons. He was given command of twenty-five dragoons and
directed to proceed to Tajon Pass, through which marauding Indians were
accustomed to pass when returning from their raids in California. It
was an important point, and the winter of 1847-48 was spent in the
performance of the duties thus placed upon him. In the spring, he was
once more ordered to carry despatches to Washington, an escort being
furnished him as in the previous instance.

In crossing Grand River, one of the rafts became unmanageable, upset,
losing considerable valuable property and endangering the lives of a
number of the company. A large force of Utah and Apache Indians were
encountered, but Carson managed them with the same skill he had shown
them so many times before.

On arriving at Taos, he spent several days with his family and friends,
after which he proceeded to Santa Fe. There he learned that the United
States Senate had refused to confirm his nomination as lieutenant in
the army. Many of his friends were so angered over this slight that they
urged him to refuse to carry the despatches further; but his reply, as
given by Dr. Peters, is so admirable that we quote it:

"I was entrusted with these despatches, having been chosen in
California, from whence I come, as the most competent person to take
them through safely. I would try to fulfill this duty even if I knew it
would cost me my life. It matters not to me, while I am performing this
service for my country, whether I hold the rank of lieutenant in the
United States Army or am known merely as an experienced mountaineer. I
have gained some little honor and credit for the manner in which I
have always conducted myself when detailed on any special and important
business, and I would on no account now wish to forfeit the good opinion
formed of me by a majority of my countrymen because the United States
Senate did not deem it proper to confer on me an appointment which I
never solicited, and one which, had it been confirmed, I would have
resigned at the termination of the war."

Having determined to perform his duty, he made careful inquiries as to
the state of feeling among the Indians through whose country the trail
led. The reports were of the most alarming character: the Comanches were
on the war path with a vengeance. They were swarming all along the old
Santa Fe Trail, on the watch for parties whom they could overwhelm and

Such being the case, Carson resorted to the bold artifice of making a
trail of his own. He reduced his escort to ten experienced mountaineers
and then struck out upon his new route. He rode northward from Taos
until within a region rarely visited by hostiles, when he changed his
course by the compass several times. By this means, he reached Fort
Kearney on the Platte and finally arrived at Fort Leavenworth. Not only
had he avoided all trouble with Indians, but by following the new route,
had found abundance of game so that the entire trip was but little more
than a pleasure excursion.

All danger was over at Fort Leavenworth, where he parted from his escort
and went alone to Washington. Previous to this, the war with Mexico
had ended, the treaty of peace having been signed February 2, 1848, and
proclaimed on the 4th of July following.

Carson tarried in Washington only long enough to deliver his despatches
to the proper authorities, when he turned about and made his way to
Taos, New Mexico, where he joined once more his family and friends.


 Hostility of the Apaches--Colonel Beale Sends an Expedition Against
 Them--Nothing Accomplished--Colonel Beale Leads an Expedition with
 Carson as Guide--Capture and Release of Two Chiefs--March to the
 Arkansas--Another Failure--Carson and Maxwell Build a Ranche--Fremont's
 Fourth Expedition--The Murderous Apaches--A Fruitless Pursuit.

Kit Carson was one of those whose destiny seems to be that of stirring
incident and adventure. No man possessed such an intimate knowledge of
the manners, customs and peculiarities of the tribes in the southwest,
and with his exceptional woodcraft, skill and high courage his services
were always indispensable.

While he was at Taos, the Indians around him were restless until the
whole country was seething and on the verge of a general revolt.
Colonel Beale, commanding officer of the district, had established his
headquarters at Taos. The Apaches committed so many outrages that he
believed the only course open was to administer a thorough chastisement;
but it was tenfold easier to reach such a conclusion than it was to
carry it out. A strong force having been despatched to bring them to
account, pursued them to the mountains from which they were compelled to
return without accomplishing anything at all. The subsequent history of
these Apaches and of General Crook's campaign against them are
familiar enough to all to justify the declaration that they have proven
themselves the bravest and most formidable tribe that has defied the
United States government during the past half century.

Disappointed that the officer whom he sent failed to do anything,
Colonel Beale took command himself and employed Kit Carson as guide.
Instead of stopping in the mountains because they were blocked with
snow, as the former expedition had done, Colonel Beale forced his way
with great difficulty through them. The search for the Indians was long
but fruitless. The cunning red skins were at home in their fastnesses
and not a solitary warrior was bagged.

As the supply of provisions was running low, Colonel Beale was forced to
return and retrace his steps. On their return, they came upon a village
of Apaches into which the soldiers charged; but the nimble warriors
easily got away, with the exception of a couple of chiefs who fell into
the hands of the Americans. Hoping to rouse the chivalry and gratitude
of their nature, Colonel Beale lectured them kindly and after their
promise to behave themselves, allowed them to depart. As soon as they
were beyond rifle shot, they must have grinned with exultation, for it
was not their nature to repay kindness with anything but cruelty.

As Colonel Beale could not accomplish anything during the winter months,
he returned to Taos, where he remained until February, when, learning
that a large force of Indians were congregated on the Arkansas, with a
number of Mexican captives, he went thither intending to retake them
by force, if they could not be secured by peaceable means. He had two
companies of dragoons, and as before, engaged Carson as guide.

When he reached the Arkansas, he found himself confronted by two
thousand Indians who had gathered to meet their agent and probably to
consult as to their future movements. The agent was present and was a
man of practical sense and experience. He told Colonel Beale that it
would never do to demand the prisoners, for the Indians were in ugly
temper and if aroused, would massacre the whole command. Colonel Beale
himself was resentful, and very much disposed to give the red men
battle, but he suffered himself to be dissuaded from carrying out his
original purpose.

When Carson returned once more to Taos, he reflected that he was
approaching middle life, and as he now had quite a family, he was
anxious to provide something for them. Though he had rendered services
beyond value to the United States government, and to different
individuals, he had not received enough compensation to place them
above want should he become disabled. About this time, his old friend,
Maxwell, proposed that they should build a ranch in a beautiful valley
some distance north of Taos. The site was a most charming one, though it
was so much exposed to the attack of Indians that until then no one had
dared to settle there.

Handsome, roomy and substantial structures were erected, and many of the
most enjoyable days of their lives were spent on this famous ranche. It
would be a pleasant farewell to leave them there to end their days
in comfort and peace, but it was to be far otherwise with both and
especially with Carson.

In 1848-49, Colonel Fremont made a fourth exploring expedition across
the continent, he bearing all the expense, as he did in the case of
his fifth expedition made in 1853. The fourth was an appalling failure,
marked by an extremity of suffering that is incredible. The guide
employed was wholly ignorant and the command became entangled among the
snows of the mountains, where some of them lived not only on mules
but on each other. The strongest lay down and died, and the horrible
features of Fremont's fourth expedition were only approached by that
of Lieutenant Strain on the Isthmus of Darien. When the few ghastly
survivors staggered out of the mountains they tottered to Carson's
ranche, where they received the kindest treatment from him who had
served Fremont so faithfully on his former expeditions.

Carson had been on his ranche but a short time, when news reached him of
a most atrocious murder by the Apaches. A wealthy merchant was returning
in his private carriage with his wife and child from the United States
to Santa Fe. He was accompanied by a small escort and the wagon train
carrying his goods. When he believed all danger past, he hurried forward
with his family, who were becoming tired of the journey.

At a point where there was no suspicion of danger, the Apaches fired
upon the carriage, killing every one who accompanied it, including the
merchant himself. The wife and child were made prisoners and carried
away. Shortly after the little one was tomahawked and thrown into the

When news of the outrage reached New Mexico, a party was hastily
organized and started out in the hope of saving the woman and punishing
the wretches who had committed the murders. When Carson learned of what
was contemplated, he offered his services. They were accepted, but much
to the surprise of his friends, he was given an inferior position. It
was characteristic of the splendid scout that he did not show by word or
look that he felt the slightest resentment on account of the slight.

With a less skilful leader than himself, Carson galloped with
the company to the scene of the murder. The sight was frightfully
suggestive: pieces of harness, band boxes, trunks, strips of blood
stained clothing, and fragments of the carriage attested the untamable
ferocity of the Apaches who had swooped down on the doomed party like a

From that point the trail was taken and the infuriated mountaineers
urged their steeds to the utmost, knowing the value of every hour and
that in the case of a fight with the Indians a surprise is half the

Day after day the pursuit was maintained until nearly two weeks had gone
by, before the first glimpse of a warrior was obtained. The trail was
one of the worst imaginable, and, had the pursuers been less skilful,
they would have been baffled almost from the first. At certain points,
the Apaches would break up into parties of two or three that would take
different routes, reuniting at some place many miles beyond where water
was known to be. This was done repeatedly, with a view of disconcerting
any avengers who might take their trail, and it is a tribute to the
ability of the mountaineers that the cunning artifice failed, so far as
they were concerned, of its purpose.

At last the Apaches were descried in the distance. Carson was the
first to discover them, he being some distance in advance. Knowing how
necessary it was to surprise them he shouted to his companions to charge
at once. Not doubting he would be followed, he dashed ahead with his
horse on a dead run, but looking over his shoulder when he had gone part
way, he saw to his consternation he was alone.

Angered and impatient, he rode back to learn what it meant. The chief
guide had directed the men to wait as there was no doubt the Apaches
desired to hold a parley. It meant the next moment in the shape of
a bullet from the Indians which struck the leader in the breast and
rendered him senseless. As soon as he recovered, he ordered his men to
make the attack and leave him to himself.

He was obeyed, but the delay was fatal. On charging into the camp they
were able to kill only one warrior. The body of the woman was found
still warm, showing that she had been slain only a brief while before.

All those acquainted with the particulars of this sad affair agreed that
had the advice of Carson been followed the poor lady might have been


 The Wounded Herder--A Successful Pursuit--An Atrocious Plot--How it
 was Frustrated--Gratitude of the Gentlemen Whom Carson was the Means of
 Saving From Death.

Carson returned to his ranche where he spent the winter. One day in
spring a wounded herder managed to reach the place with the news that
he and his companion, stationed a few miles away, had been attacked by
Apaches, who wounded both, and ran off all the horses and mules.

A squad of ten dragoons and a sergeant were on guard near Carson's
ranche. They and three settlers, including Carson, started at once in
pursuit. It was so late in the day that when they came to the place
where the outrage had been committed, it was dark and they went into
camp; but they were astir at the earliest dawn, and soon striking the
trail of the thieves, put their animals to a keen gallop. Some twenty
miles further, the Apaches were described a long distance away. As it
was upon the open prairie the contest at once resolved itself into an
open chase.

It was no time to spare the animals, whose rapid gait was increased
until it became a killing pace. The pursuers were steadily gaining, when
four of their horses succumbed and their riders, much to their chagrin,
were shut out from the impending fray. The others had no time to stop:
they could simply shout goodbye to them and spur their steeds to
greater exertions. Fortunately the pursuers were better mounted than the
fugitives who numbered a full score. With a bravery characteristic
of their tribe, they clung to their stolen property, preferring to be
overtaken and forced into a fight rather than abandon it.

As soon as the parties were within rifle range, the battle began
and became of the most exciting character. The Apaches were splendid
horsemen and displayed great skill. They threw themselves on the far
side of their steeds, firing from under the neck, and keeping their
bodies so well concealed that it was a difficult task to bring them

But the white men were accustomed to that sort of work, and the Apaches
learned a lesson they never forgot. Five of their best warriors were
killed, several badly wounded and nearly all the animals recaptured. Kit
Carson directed every movement of his men and to that fact their great
success was due.

The mountaineer was favored with prosperous times on his ranche. He and
a companion drove fifty head of mules and horses to Fort Laramie,
where they were disposed of at a liberal profit. The round journey of
a thousand miles was attended with much danger, but it was accomplished
without mishap.

He reached home just in time to learn that the Apaches had visited the
little settlement and run off all the animals. But as enough soldiers
were within call, a pursuit was soon organized and very nearly all the
stock was recovered.

Some months later an officer of the United States Army in Taos learned
of a most atrocious plot that was on foot. Two wealthy gentlemen,
travelling leisurely through that section of the country, had engaged an
American named Fox to hire enough men to escort them across the plains.
This Fox was one of the most conscienceless wretches and desperadoes
that ever lived. He formed a scheme to murder the two gentlemen at a
certain point on the plains and to divide their money among him and his
companions. Those whom he secured were taken into his confidence and
agreed to the crime before hand.

Among those to whom he applied was a miscreant in Taos, who, for some
reason, refused to go with him. However, he kept the secret until
sure the entire party were so far out on the plains that nothing could
prevent the perpetration of the crime. He then told it to several
associates, one of whom made it known to the officer of whom we have

This gentleman was horrified, and uncertain what could be done, if
indeed he could do anything, hastened to Kit Carson, to whom he made
known the story. The mountaineer listened eagerly, and, as soon as he
grasped the whole plot, declared there was reason to believe it was not
too late to frustrate it. With that wonderful intuition which was such a
marked characteristic of his nature, he fixed upon the very place where
it had been decided the crime was to be committed. Knowing the entire
route, it was easy to determine the spot most likely to be selected,
which was more than two hundred miles distant. Instead, therefore, of
following the trail, he struck directly across the open prairie by the
most direct course to his destination.

Ten finely mounted dragoons accompanied, all ready for any deed of
daring. The route led through a country where the Indians were very
hostile, but they were avoided with little difficulty. The second night
out, they came upon the encampment of a detachment of United States
troops, whose captain volunteered to take twenty of his soldiers and
help bring the desperadoes to justice.

The expedition was a complete success. They overtook the party at the
very spot fixed upon, and Fox was arrested before he suspected the
business of the strangers in camp. When the overthrow of the wretches
was complete, the gentlemen were told the story. They were speechless
for a moment and could not believe it; but the proof was complete, and
they turned pale at the thought of the fate they had escaped.

Their gratitude was unbounded. Taking the hand of Carson they begged him
to name some reward he would accept, but the mountaineer shook his head.

"I am more than repaid in being able to help frustrate such a crime as
was contemplated; I cannot think of accepting anything of the kind you

The gentlemen, however, could not forget that under heaven, they owed
their lives to Kit Carson. The following spring a couple of splendid
revolvers arrived at the mountaineer's ranche addressed to him.
Beautifully engraved on them were a few sentences expressive of the
feelings of the donors and the special occasion which called forth the

It is easy to understand how much more acceptable such an
acknowledgement was to Kit Carson than any sum of money could have been.

Fox was lodged in jail, but though there was no doubt of his guilt in
the minds of every one, yet the meditated crime was so difficult to
establish that ultimately he was set free.


 Carson Visits St. Louis on Business--Encounter with Cheyenne on
 his Return--His Sagacity Does not Fail Him--Carson's Last Beaver
 Expedition--His California Speculation.

Maxwell, the mountaineer and intimate friend of Carson, was quite
wealthy and was of great assistance in several schemes which they
undertook in partnership. One of their enterprises was that of sending a
train of wagons belonging to the two to the States. Carson took charge,
and, jogging along at a comfortable rate, they reached in due time the
Missouri, where he went by steamboat to St. Louis. There he purchased
a large amount of merchandise which was taken up stream on the boat,
transferred to his wagon train, and the faces of all were then turned
toward New Mexico.

Everything went well until they approached the fording of the Arkansas,
when they came upon a large village of Cheyenne Indians. Unfortunately
some days before, a company of recruits had shown such cruelty toward
several warriors belonging to that tribe, that they were roused to the
highest point of fury, and were only waiting an opportunity to visit
punishment on the first whites that came in their way.

Carson knew nothing of the occurrence nor did he know of the bitter
hostility of the Cheyennes, but when they went into council, and he
overheard some expressions, he saw that something was wrong. He warned
his men to be ready for instant attack, never permitting the Indians to
catch them off their guard for a single moment.

The warriors fell behind, but after awhile, a number rode up on
horseback. They were in their war paint and there could be no doubt of
their hostility. Carson spoke in a conciliating manner and invited them
into his camp to have a smoke and talk. The invitation was accepted.
The hypocritical ceremony continued some time, when the warriors began
talking among themselves.

They spoke in Sioux at first, their purpose being to lay the impending
massacre against those people, but in their excitement, they dropped
back to their own tongue and the whole appalling truth became speedily
known to Carson and through him to his companions.

He sat on the ground with the furious warriors, and heard them agree
that at the moment the leader (as they recognized Carson to be), laid
down his arms to take the pipe in his mouth, they would leap upon and
kill him. They would then massacre all the rest. Inasmuch as they were
powerful enough to carry out this diabolical plan, it will be admitted
that Carson's nerves were pretty thoroughly tested, when the pipe
passing from one to the other was within a few minutes of reaching him.

Most of the men with the mountaineer were Mexicans, very deficient in
courage and in a hand to hand encounter, the Cheyennes could overcome
the party in the space of a few minutes.

It was in such crises as these that the remarkable fertility of
resources possessed by Kit Carson displayed themselves. He seemed to
perceive by intuition the wisest course to adopt and that perception
came to him the instant the demand for it appeared.

Rising to his feet and grasping his weapons, he strode to the middle of
the group and astounded them by beginning his address in their native
tongue. He reminded them that that was proof he comprehended every word
uttered by them. He spoke as if grieved by their course, for he insisted
he had never wronged any one of their tribe, but on the contrary had
been their friend. He then commanded them to leave the camp without
delay or they would be riddled with bullets.

Carson's blue eyes flashed and his face was like a thunder cloud. It was
the Cheyennes who were surprised and they could but obey orders, though
from their manner, it was clear the trouble was not yet ended. They
withdrew and went into council, while Carson and his friends pushed
rapidly forward.

The peril in which this little command was placed could not be
overestimated. There were not twenty men all told and except two or
three, were Mexicans who in no respect were the superiors if indeed
they were the equals of the Cheyennes. Had Carson been absent a score of
warriors could have charged into camp and slain every one. Instead of
a score there were several hundred of them: if they chose to make the
attack he knew there was no escape.

The horses, therefore, were lashed to do their utmost. The train pushed
forward with all speed, while the apprehensive leader continually
glanced back over the prairie, almost certain of seeing the Cheyennes
galloping toward them. When night came, there was little sleep in camp.
Nearly every one stood on guard, but the night and the following day
passed without molestation.

Convinced beyond question that the attack would be made unless some
extraordinary means was taken to avert it, Carson took one of the
fleetest footed Mexican boys outside the camp, and, pointing in the
direction of the ranche of himself and Maxwell, nearly three hundred
miles away, told him he must make all speed thither, and tell the
soldiers that unless they hurried to his help he and all his companions
were doomed to certain death at the hands of an overwhelming war party
of Cheyennes. Everything depended on the quickness with which the
Mexican youth brought assistance. The latter being promised a liberal
reward, bounded away with the fleetness of a deer, and quickly vanished
in the gloom. He went on foot because he could travel faster and last
longer than could any animal in camp that he might ride.

Carson went back to his friends and kept watch until morning. As soon
as it came to light, the animals were hitched to the wagons and urged
forward again to the fullest extent of their ability.

Some hours later, several Cheyenne horsemen were seen riding rapidly
toward them. When a hundred yards distant, Carson compelled them to
halt. Then he allowed them to come closer and told them he had lost
patience with their annoyances, and the night before had sent an express
to Rayado (where his ranche was built), asking the troops to see that
the persecution was stopped. Should it so happen that the soldiers
came and found the party massacred, they would take the trail of the
Cheyennes and punish them for what they had done.

The cunning Indians, before accepting the statement of the leader, said
they would examine the prairie for the trail of the messenger. Carson
assisted them in the search, and it did not take long to find the
moccasin tracks. A brief scrutiny also satisfied the warriors he had
started so many hours before, that it was useless to try to overtake

The result was the attack and massacre were not made, and, though the
assistance which was asked was sent, yet it was not needed. One of
the two experienced mountaineers with Carson on that eventful journey,
declared afterward, that had any other living man than he been at the
head of the party not one would have escaped. The achievement certainly
ranks among the most extraordinary of the many performed by a most
extraordinary man.

It would be thought that after such an experience, Carson would be
content to settle down and give his entire attention to his ranche.
While it cannot be said that he neglected his duties as a farmer, yet
he loved the mountains and prairies too well ever to abandon them

He and Maxwell, his old friend, determined on having one more old
fashioned beaver hunt, such as they were accustomed to a score of years
before. They did not mean it should be child's play and they admitted no
amateur hunters and trappers: all were veterans of years' standing, and,
when the party was fully made up, they numbered about a score.

The expedition was a memorable one. They fixed upon one of the longest
and most dangerous routes, which included many Rocky Mountain streams
and involved every possible kind of danger.

In one respect, the party were pleasantly disappointed. Years before the
beavers had been so effectively cleaned out that they expected to find
very few if any; but because the business had been so little followed
for so long a time, the animals had increased very fast and therefore
the trappers met with great success.

They began operation on the South Fork of the Platte and finally ended
on the Arkansas. They were gone many weeks and when they returned to
their homes, nearly if not all felt that they had engaged on their last
trapping expedition.

Carson had not wrought very long on his ranche, when he learned of the
scarcity and high prices of sheep in California. He at once set about
collecting several thousand, hired a number of men and drove the herd
to Fort Laramie: thence he made his way by the old emigrant trail to
California where he disposed of the sheep at prices which brought him a
profit of several thousand dollars.

While in San Francisco, he visited a prominent restaurant where he
ordered a good substantial dinner for six persons. When it was ready he
surveyed it for a moment with satisfaction, and, seating himself at the
table, disposed of it all. His journey across the plains had given him a
somewhat vigorous appetite.


 In San Francisco--The Return Homeward--The Mormon Delegate Gives Carson
 Some Interesting Information--Carson's First Stirring Duties as Indian
 Agent--The Affection of the Red Men for Father Kit.

Kit Carson's old friend, Maxwell, who had been his companion in so
many stirring adventures, joined him in San Francisco, whose marvellous
growth even at that remote day was a continual surprise and delight. As
the two veteran mountaineers made their way through the streets, where
but a few years before all was a wild, untrodden wilderness, they paused
and indulged in many wondering exclamations as though they were a couple
of countrymen visiting the metropolis for the first time in their lives.

The couple concluded to make their way home by the southern route,
passing in the neighborhood of the Gila; but the distance could be
shortened so much by taking the steamer to Los Angeles that Maxwell
decided to adopt that course. When he asked Carson to join him the
mountaineer shook his head.

"I got enough of that in 1846," he said, alluding to his brief voyage,
when serving under Fremont in California, at the beginning of the
Mexican war; "I never was so sick in all my life."

"You ain't likely to be sick again," plead Maxwell; "and, if you are,
it don't last long. You'll save two or three weeks in time and enjoy
yourself much more."

But it was no use: Carson said he never would venture upon salt water
again, and he would rather ride a thousand miles on the back of a mule
than to sail a hundred in a ship. Accordingly, the party separated for
the time and Maxwell took steamer to Los Angeles, where he arrived fully
two weeks in advance of Carson, who rode into the quaint old town on the
back of a somewhat antiquated mule.

They were soon ready for their long ride, when they struck a leisurely
pace and all went well until they reached the Gila. There they entered
a region which had been visited by one of those droughts which continue
sometimes for many months. The grass was so dry and parched that it
contained scarcely any nourishment, and the friendly Pimos told them
if they pushed on their animals were sure to die of starvation. It was
impossible to doubt these statements and Carson therefore proposed a
new route, which though very rough and difficult in some places, would
furnish all the forage that was required.

The course led them along the Gila to the mouth of the San Pedro, and
finally with little difficulty they reached the copper mines of
New Mexico. Shortly after Carson encountered the Mormon delegate to
Congress. During the exchange of courtesies, the gentleman conveyed the
interesting information that he--Carson--had been made Indian Agent for
New Mexico.

The news was a surprise and a great pleasure to the mountaineer. He had
no thought of any such honor and with all his modesty could not but feel
that he was eminently fitted for the performance of its duties. No
one had travelled so extensively through the west, and no one could
understand the nature of native Americans better than he. A hundred
tribes knew of "Father Kit," as he soon came to be called, and they
referred to him as a man who never spoke with a "double tongue," and who
was just toward them at all times. He had ventured among the hostiles
more than once where the bravest white man dared not follow him, and
had spent days and nights in their lodges without being offered the
slightest indignity. Kit Carson was brave, truthful, kind and honest.

Aside from the gratification which one naturally feels, when receiving
an appointment that is pleasant in every respect, and which he holds
thoroughly "in hand," as may be said, the honest mountaineer was
especially delighted over the thought that his government conferred it
without any solicitation on his part.

But the man who accepts the position of Indian Agent and conscientiously
attends to its duties has no sinecure on his hands. Many of them use
it as such while others do still worse, thereby sowing the seeds which
speedily develop into Indian outrages, massacres and wars.

When Carson reached Taos, he had his official bond made out, and sent
it with his thanks and acceptance of his appointment to the proper
authorities in Washington.

The Indian Agent for New Mexico had scarcely entered upon his new
duties, when trouble came. A branch of the Apaches became restless and
committed a number of outrages on citizens. Stern measures only would
answer and a force of dragoons were sent against them. They dealt them
a severe blow, killing one of their most famous chiefs, besides a
considerable number of warriors.

Instead of quieting the tribe, it rather intensified their anger, though
they remained quiescent for a time through fear. Not long after, Carson
was notified that a large party of the tribe were encamped in the
mountains, less than twenty miles from Taos. He decided at once to
supplement the work of the sword with the gentle arguments of peace.

This proceeding on the part of the Indian Agent is one deserving of
special notice, for it shows no less the bravery of Carson than it does
the philanthropic spirit which actuated him at all times in his dealings
with the red men. Alas, that so few of our officials today deem his
example worth their imitation.

The venture was so dangerous that Carson went alone, unwilling that any
one else should run the risk. When he arrived at their encampment,
he made his way without delay to the presence of the leaders, whom he
saluted in the usual elaborate fashion, and then proceeded to state the
important business that took him thither.

Nearly every warrior in camp recognized the short, thickset figure and
the broad, pleasant face when they presented themselves. They knew he
was one of the most terrible warriors that ever charged through a camp
of red men. He had met them many a time in fierce warfare, but he always
fought warriors and not papooses and squaws. He was the bravest of the
brave and therefore they respected him.

But he was a truthful and just man. He had never lied to them, as most
of the white men did, and he had shown his confidence in them by walking
alone and unattended into the very heart of their encampment. They were
eager to rend to shreds every pale face upon whom they could lay hands,
but "Father Kit" was safe within their lodges and wigwams.

Carson made an admirable speech. He at first caused every serpent-like
eye to sparkle, by his delicate flattery. Then he tried hard to convince
them that their hostility to the whites could result only in injury
to themselves, since the Great Father at Washington had hundreds and
thousands of warriors whom he would send to replace such as might lose
their lives. Then, when he made known that the same Great Father had
appointed him to see that justice was done them, they grinned with
delight and gathering around, overwhelmed him with congratulations.

The Agent insisted that they should prove their sincerity by pledging to
follow the line of conduct he had lain down, and they did so with such
readiness that a superficial observer would have declared the mission a
complete success.

But Kit Carson thought otherwise. He knew the inherent treachery of the
aboriginal nature, and his estimate of Apache loyalty was the true
one. The most that he was warranted in feeling was the hope that those
furious warriors would be less aggressive than had been their custom.
Though they had expressed a willingness to make any agreement which he
might propose, yet it was their very willingness to do so which caused
his distrust. Had they been more argumentative and more tenacious of
their rights, their sincerity might have been credited.

The Agent could have secured their consent almost to any agreement, but
the sagacious official asked as little as he could.

"And I don't believe they mean to keep even that agreement," he
muttered, as he bade the effusive sachems and warriors goodbye and made
his way back to Taos.


 Trouble With the Apaches--Defeat of the Soldiers--Colonel Cook's
 Expedition Against Them--It Meets With Only Partial Success--Major
 Brooks' Attempt to Punish the Apaches--A Third Expedition.

Just as Carson suspected, the Apaches were insincere in their
professions of good will toward the settlers. He had scarcely reached
home, when they renewed their outrages. The sinewy horsemen, as daring
as the Crusaders who invaded the Holy Land, seemed to be everywhere.
We have already referred to those extraordinary warriors, who, for many
years have caused our Government more trouble in the southwest than all
the other tribes combined, and it is not necessary, therefore, to
say that when any branch of the Apaches went on the war path the most
frightful scenes were sure to follow.

Carson knew when to be gentle and when to be stern. If the former
measures failed, he did not hesitate to use the latter. Coercive means
were taken, but, in the first encounter between the red men and the
United States troops, the latter were decisively defeated.

As a consequence, the Apaches became more troublesome than ever. Colonel
Cook of the Second Regiment of United States Dragoons, was sent against
them. He selected Kit Carson for his guide. The Agent's wish, it may
be said, was to learn whether any other tribe was concerned in the
outrages, and in no way could he do it as well as by accompanying the
expedition, which was fully organized by the selection of a number of
Pueblo Indians to act as scouts and spies. These were placed under the
immediate command of the well known James H. Quinn, who died some time

The force proceeded northward from Taos to the stream known as the
Arroya Hondo. This was followed to the Rio del Norte, which being very
high, was crossed with much difficulty. As an illustration of the rugged
work which such expeditions were called upon to undergo, Dr. Peters
says that when they struggled to the other shore, they found themselves
confronted by a mass of solid and almost perpendicular rocks, fully six
hundred feet high. This was ascended, after the most exhausting labor,
by means of a zigzag trail, and the journey was pushed over a rough
and diversified country. Grass and water could not be found until they
reached a small Mexican town where they were enabled to buy what was so
sadly needed. Men and animals were so worn out that they rested for an
entire day.

The next morning the line of march was taken up, and they had not gone
far when Carson discovered a trail. This was followed with renewed vigor
and a couple of days later the Indians were overtaken. They did not
attempt any stand against such a strong force, but took to flight at
once. The Apaches used their utmost endeavors to get away and they
were helped by the roughness of the country. They were pressed so hard,
however, that they lost most of their horses and plunder besides a
number of warriors.

Two Americans were wounded, one of whom shortly died; but the soldiers
having "located" the Indians, as may be said, did not give over their
efforts to punish them. Pursuit was resumed at earliest daylight and men
and animals did everything possible. Over mountains, through ravines,
around rocks, up and down declivities, the chase continued, until the
cunning Apaches resorted to their old tricks: they dissolved, as may
be said, into their "original elements"--that is, they began separating
until there were almost as many different trails as there were warriors.
Then in their flight, they selected the worst possible ground. Being
familiar with the country and possessing far more endurance than the
ordinary Indian, it soon became clear that the marauders were beyond

Accordingly Colonel Cook ordered the pursuit discontinued and they
headed toward the nearest Mexican village, where forage and rest could
be secured for the animals. When the place was reached, Colonel Cook
learned of a serious mistake made by the party who were transporting
the soldier wounded several days before. They discovered an Indian whom,
after some difficulty, they captured. His horse and arms were taken from
him under the supposition that he was one of the hostile Apaches. He
was not treated very gently and watching his opportunity, he made his
escape. It was afterwards learned that the warrior was a Utah, with whom
the white men were at peace.

The Utahs were of a war-like nature and Colonel Cook was apprehensive
they would use the occurrence as a pretext for joining the Apaches
in their attack upon the settlers. He therefore sent Carson to the
headquarters of his agency to do what he could to explain the matter and
make all the reparation in his power.

As soon as he arrived at Taos, Carson sent a messenger with a request
that the Utah chiefs would come and have a talk with him. They were
always glad to meet Father Kit face to face. The agent told how the
mistake was made, expressed the regret of himself and Colonel Cook and
ended by restoring the property and by distributing a few presents among
the chiefs. The business was managed with such tact that the sachems
expressed themselves perfectly satisfied and their affection and
admiration for Father Kit became greater than before.

Colonel Cook was unwilling to return without striking a more effective
blow against the Apaches. Pausing only long enough, therefore, to rest
and recruit his men and horses, he resumed the hunt. He had not gone
far, when he struck another trail which was followed with great vigor;
but before anything of the Indians could be discovered, it began
snowing. In a few minutes the flakes were eddying all around them, the
wind blowing so furiously that the men could hardly see each other, as
they bent their heads and rode slowly against it. This rendered pursuit
out of the question, because the trail was entirely hidden. Much against
his will Colonel Cook was forced to give up the pursuit.

He made his way to a small town lying on his route, where he met Major
Brooks, who was marching to his help with reinforcements. The latter
officer instead of returning with Colonel Cook, decided to take up the
hunt himself for the hostiles.

With little delay, a fresh trail was found and an energetic pursuit
began. It was plain the Indians were making for the Utah country,
and they were pursued without difficulty; but, when that section was
reached, the soldiers came upon so many trails, which crossed and
recrossed so many times that all individuality was lost. The most
skilful scouts in the company were unable to identify or follow any one
with certainty.

The situation was exasperating, but there was no help for it and the
command was compelled to turn about and make their way home, having been
in the field more than two weeks without accomplishing anything at all.

But it was known that the Apaches would speedily reorganize and the
soldiers had but to wait a short while, when an opportunity would be
presented for striking an effective blow. When a sufficient period had
elapsed, another expedition was sent out under the command of Major
Carleton, of the First Regiment of United States Dragoons. He engaged
Kit Carson to act as his guide.

The force marched northward about a hundred miles to Fort Massachusetts,
where all the arrangements were completed. The party was divided, the
spies under Captain Quinn being sent to examine the country on the west
side of the White Mountains, while the Major decided to inspect the
territory to the eastward of the range.

Captain Quinn with his skilful trailers moved up the San Luis Valley
until he reached the famous Mosco Pass, which was often used by the
Apaches when hard pressed. They were perfectly familiar with all its
diverse and peculiar windings, and, when they once dashed in among the
rocks, they felt safe against any and all pursuers.

Making their way through this pass, Captain Quinn and his scouts reached
Wet Mountain Valley, where he had promised to meet and report to his
superior officer.


 Discovery of the Trail--Prairie Detectives.

Meanwhile, Kit Carson, who was with Major Carleton, had discovered a
trail made by three of the enemy. Carefully following it up, it was
found to join the principal path, a short distance away. When Quinn
arrived he had also some discoveries to report, and the scouts held a
consultation over the question. It was agreed by all that they were on
the track of the enemy they were seeking.

The general reader is not apt to appreciate the skill, patience and
intelligence shown by the scouts and hunters in tracing the flight of
an enemy through a wild and desolate country. As an evidence of the
wonderful attainments of border men in woodcraft, the following letter
may be given, written by the surgeon at Fort Randall in Dacotah in 1869:

"The most extraordinary skill that is exhibited in this part of the
country, either by the white man, or red native, is in the practice of
trailing. Here it may be accounted an art as much as music, painting
or sculpture is in the East. The Indian or trapper that is a shrewd
trailer, is a man of close observation, quick perception, and prompt
action. As he goes along, nothing escapes his observation, and what he
sees and hears he accounts for immediately. Often not another step is
taken until a mystery that may present itself in this line is fairly
solved. The Indian trailer will stand still for hours in succession, to
account for certain traces or effects in tracks, and sometimes gives to
the matter unremitting attention for days and weeks.

"The trailer is not a graceful man. He carries his head much inclined,
his eye is quick and restless, always on the watch, and he is practising
his art unconsciously, hardly ever crossing the track of man or animal
without seeing it. When he enters a house, he brings the habits he
contracted in the practice of his art with him. I know a trailer as soon
he enters my room. He comes in through the door softly, and with an air
of exceeding caution. Before he is fairly in, or at least has sat down,
he has taken note of every article and person. Though there may be a
dozen vacant chairs in the room, he is not used to chairs, and, like
the Indian, prefers a more humble seat. When I was employed by General
Harney last summer to take charge temporarily of the Indians that were
gathered here to form a new reservation, one day a guide and trailer
came into the General's headquarters. I told him to be seated. He sat
down on the floor, bracing his back against the wall. The General saw
this, and in vexation cried out, 'My God, why don't you take a chair
when there are plenty here not occupied?' The man arose and seated
himself in a chair, but in so awkward and uncomfortable a manner that he
looked as if he might slip from it at any moment. But when this uncouth
person came to transact his business with the General, he turned out to
be a man of no ordinary abilities. His description of a route he took as
guide and trailer for the Ogallalas in bringing them from the Platte
to this place was minute, and to me exceedingly interesting. Every
war party that for the season had crossed his trail, he described with
minuteness as to their number, the kinds of arms they had, and stated
the tribes they belonged to. In these strange revelations that he made
there was neither imposition nor supposition, for he gave satisfactory
reasons for every assertion he made.

"I have rode several hundred miles with an experienced guide and
trailer, Hack, whom I interrogated upon many points in the practice of
this art. Nearly all tracks I saw, either old or new, as a novice in the
art, I questioned him about. In going to the Niobrara River crossed the
track of an Indian pony. My guide followed the track a few miles and
then said, 'It is a stray, black horse, with a long, bushy tail, nearly
starved to death, has a split hoof of the left fore foot, and goes
very lame, and he passed here early this morning.' Astonished and
incredulous, I asked him the reasons for knowing these particulars by
the tracks of the animal, when he replied:

"'It was a stray horse, because it did not go in a direct line; his tail
was long, for he dragged it over the snow; in brushing against a bush he
left some of his hair which shows its color. He was very hungry, for, in
going along, he has nipped at those high, dry weeds, which horses seldom
eat. The fissure of the left fore foot left also its track, and the
depth of the indentation shows the degree of his lameness; and his
tracks show he was here this morning, when the snow was hard with

"At another place we came across an Indian track, and he said, 'It is
an old Yankton who came across the Missouri last evening to look at his
traps. In coming over he carried in his right hand a trap, and in his
left a lasso to catch a pony which he had lost. He returned without
finding the horse, but had caught in the trap he had out a prairie wolf,
which he carried home on his back and a bundle of kinikinic wood in
his right hand.' Then, he gave his reasons: 'I know he is old, by the
impression his gait has made and a Yankton by that of his moccasin. He
is from the other side of the river, as there are no Yanktons on this
side. The trap he carried struck the snow now and then, and in same
manner as when he came, shows that he did not find his pony. A drop of
blood in the centre of his tracks shows that he carried the wolf on his
back, and the bundle of kinikinic wood he used for a staff for support,
and catching a wolf, shows that he had traps out.' But I asked, 'how do
you know it is wolf; why not a fox, or a coyote, or even a deer?' Said
he: 'If it had been a fox, or coyote or any other small game he would
have slipped the head of the animal in his waist belt, and so carried it
by his side, and not on his shoulders. Deer are not caught by traps but
if it had been a deer, he would not have crossed this high hill, but
would have gone back by way of the ravine, and the load would have made
his steps still more tottering.'

"Another Indian track which we saw twenty miles west of this he put
this serious construction upon: 'He is an upper Indian--a prowling horse
thief--carried a double shot gun, and is a rascal that killed some white
man lately, and passed here one week ago; for,' said he, 'a lone Indian
in these parts is on mischief, and generally on the lookout for horses.
He had on the shoes of a white man whom he had in all probability
killed, but his steps are those of an Indian. Going through the ravine,
the end of his gun hit into the deep snow. A week ago we had a very warm
day, and the snow being soft, he made these deep tracks; ever since it
has been intensely cold weather, which makes very shallow tracks.' I
suggested that perhaps he bought those shoes. 'Indians don't buy shoes,
and if they did they would not buy them as large as these were, for
Indians have very small feet.'

"The most noted trailer of this country was Paul Daloria, a half breed,
who died under my hands of Indian consumption last summer. I have spoken
of him in a former letter. At one time I rode with him, and trailing was
naturally the subject of our conversation. I begged to trail with him an
old track over the prairie, in order to learn its history. I had hardly
made the proposition, when he drew up his horse, which was at a ravine,
and said, 'Well, here is an old elk track. Let us get off our horses and
follow it.' We followed it but a few rods, when he said, it was exactly
a month old, and made at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. This he knew, as
then we had our last rain, and at the hour named the ground was softer
than at any other time. The track before us was then made. He broke up
here and there clusters of grass that lay in the path of the track, and
showed me the dry ends of some, the stumps of others, and by numerous
other similar items accounted for many circumstances that astonished me.
We followed the trail over a mile. Now and then we saw that a wolf, a
fox, and other animals had practised their trailing instincts on the
elk's tracks. Here and there, he would show me where a snake, a rat, and
a prairie dog had crossed the track. Nothing had followed or crossed the
track that the quick eye of Daloria did not detect. He gave an account
of the habits of all the animals that had left their footprints on the
track, also of the state of the weather since the elk passed, and the
effect of sunshine, winds, aridity, sand storms, and other influences
that had a bearing on these tracks."


 The Pursuit and Attack--Two O'clock.

When Kit Carson and the other scouts found the main trail, they eagerly
took up the pursuit. They had not gone far when all doubt was removed:
they were upon the track of a large hostile body of warriors and were
gaining steadily; but so rapid was the flight of the marauders that it
was not until the sixth day that the first glimpse of the Indians was
obtained. They were encamped on a mountain peak, devoid of trees, and
seemingly beyond the reach of danger; but such was the energy of the
attack that they reached camp before the Indians could collect their
animals and make off. The fight was a hot one for a few minutes during
which quite a number of warriors were killed and wounded.

When night came a squad of men hid themselves near the camp, from which
the Indians had fled, in the expectation that some of them would steal
back during the darkness to learn what had been done. The dismal hours
passed until near midnight, when one of the soldiers made the call which
the Apaches use to hail each other. The sound had hardly died out, when
two squaws and two warriors appeared and began groping silently around
in the gloom. The soldiers were cruel enough to fire upon the party, but
in the darkness only one was killed.

Dr. Peters states that on the morning of the day when the Apache
encampment was discovered Kit Carson, after diligently studying the
trail, rode up to Major Carleton and told him that if no accident
intervened, the Indians would be overtaken at two o'clock in the
afternoon. The officer smiled and said if the Agent proved a genuine
prophet, he would present him with the finest hat that could be bought
in the United States.

The pursuit continued for hours, and, when the watches in the company
showed that it was two o'clock, Carson triumphantly pointed to the
mountain peak, far in advance where the Indian encampment was in plain
sight. He had hit the truth with mathematical exactness.

Major Carleton kept his promise. To procure such a hat as he felt he had
earned, required several months; but one day the Indian Agent at Taos
received a superb piece of head gear within which was the following




Dr. Peters adds that a gentleman who was a member of the expedition
subjected Carson some years later to a similar test, and he came within
five minutes of naming the precise time when a band of fugitives was

Having done all that was possible, Major Carleton returned with his
command to Taos and Carson resumed his duties as Indian Agent. Some
months later, another expedition was organized against the Apaches but
it accomplished nothing. In the latter part of the summer Carson started
on a visit to the Utahs. They were under his especial charge and he held
interviews with them several times a year, they generally visiting him
at his ranche, which they were glad to do, as they were sure of being
very hospitably treated.

This journey required a horseback ride of two or three hundred miles,
a great portion of which was through the Apache country. These Indians
were in such a resentful mood towards the whites that they would have
been only too glad to wrench the scalp of Father Kit from his crown; but
he knew better than to run into any of their traps. He was continually
on the lookout, and more than once detected their wandering bands in
time to give them the slip. He was equally vigilant and consequently
equally fortunate on his return.

Carson found when he met the Indians in council that they had good
cause for discontent. One of their leading warriors had been waylaid
and murdered by a small party of Mexicans. The officials who were
with Carson promised that the murderers should be given up. It was the
intention of all that justice should be done, but, as was too often the
case, it miscarried altogether. Only one of the murderers was caught and
he managed to escape and was never apprehended again.

To make matters worse, some of the blankets which the Superintendent had
presented the Indians a short while before, proved to be infected with
small pox and the dreadful disease carried off many of the leading
warriors of the tribe. More than one Apache was resolute in declaring
the proceeding premeditated on the part of the whites. The result was
the breaking out of a most formidable Indian war. The Muache band of
Utahs, under their most distinguished chieftain, joined the Apaches in
waylaying and murdering travellers, attacking settlements and making off
with the prisoners, besides capturing hundreds and thousands of cattle,
sheep, mules and horses. For a time they overran a large portion of
the territory of New Mexico. Matters at last reached such a pass, that
unless the savages were checked, they would annihilate all the whites.

The Governor issued a call for volunteers. The response was prompt, and
five hundred men were speedily equipped and put into the field. They
were placed under charge of Colonel T. T. Fauntleroy, of the First
Regiment of United States Dragoons. He engaged Kit Carson as his chief

The campaign was pushed with all possible vigor, but for a time nothing
important was done. The weather became intensely cold. On the second
campaign, Colonel Fauntleroy surprised the main camp of the enemy and
inflicted great slaughter. A severe blow was administered, but the
reader knows that the peace which followed proved only temporary. The
Apaches have been a thorn in our side for many years. General Crook has
shown great tact, bravery and rare skill in his dealings with them and
probably has brought about the most genuine peace that has been known
for a generation.

It would not be worth while to follow Kit Carson on his round of duties
as Indian Agent. He had to deal with the most turbulent tribes on the
continent, and enough has been told to prove his peerless sagacity
in solving the most difficult questions brought before him. He rode
thousands of miles, visiting remote points, conferred with the leading
hostiles, risked his life times without number, and was often absent
from home for weeks and months. While it was beyond the attainment of
human endeavor for him to make an end of wars on the frontiers, yet he
averted many and did a degree of good which is beyond all calculation.

"I was in the insignificant settlement of Denver, in the autumn of
1860," said A. L. Worthington, "when a party of Arapahoes, Cheyennes
and Comanches returned from an expedition against the tribe of mountain
Indians know as the Utes. The allied forces were most beautifully
whipped and were compelled to leave the mountains in the greatest hurry
for their lives. They brought into Denver one squaw and her half dozen
children as prisoners. The little barbarians, when the other youngsters
came too near or molested them, would fight like young wild cats. The
intention of the captors, as I learned, was to torture the squaw and her
children to death. Before the arrangements were completed, Kit Carson
rode to the spot and dismounted. He had a brief, earnest talk with
the warriors. He did not mean to permit the cruel death that was
contemplated, but instead of demanding the surrender of the captives, he
ransomed them all, paying ten dollars a piece. After they were given up,
he made sure that they were returned to their tribe in the mountains."

This anecdote may serve as an illustration of scores of similar duties
in which the agent was engaged. It was during the same year that Carson
received an injury which was the cause of his death. He was descending a
mountain, so steep that he led his horse by a lariat, intending, if the
animal fell, to let go of it in time to prevent being injured. The steed
did fall and though Carson threw the lariat from him, he was caught by
it, dragged some distance and severely injured.

When the late Civil War broke out and most of our troops were withdrawn
from the mountains and plains, Carson applied to President Lincoln for
permission to raise a regiment of volunteers in New Mexico, for the
purpose of protecting our settlements there. Permission was given, the
regiment raised and the famous mountaineer did good service with his
soldiers. On one occasion he took 9,000 Navajo prisoners with less than
600 men.

At the close of the war, he was ordered to Fort Garland, where he
assumed command of a large region. He was Brevet Brigadier General and
retained command of a battalion of New Mexico volunteers.

Carson did not suffer immediately from his injury, but he found in time
that a grave internal disturbance had been caused by his fall. In the
spring of 1868, he accompanied a party of Ute Indians to Washington. He
was then failing fast and consulted a number of leading physicians and
surgeons. His disease was aneurism of the aorta which progressed fast.
When his end was nigh, his wife suddenly died, leaving seven children,
the youngest only a few weeks old. His affliction had a very depressing
effect on Carson, who expired May 23, 1868.


 Letter from General W. T. Sherman, and from General J. F. Rusling.

In closing the life of Kit Carson, it will be appropriate to add two
letters, which were furnished at our request:


"Kit Carson first came into public notice by Fremont's Reports of the
Exploration of the Great West about 1842-3. You will find mention of
Kit Carson in my memoirs, vol. I, p. 46, 47, as bringing to us the first
overland mail to California in his saddle bags. I saw but little of him
afterwards till after the Civil War, when, in 1866, I was the Lieutenant
General commanding the Military Division of the Missouri, with
headquarters in St. Louis, and made a tour of my command, including what
are now Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Reaching Fort Garland, New
Mexico, in September of October, 1866, I found it garrisoned by some
companies of New Mexico Volunteers, of which Carson was Colonel or
commanding officer. I stayed with him some days, during which we had a
sort of council with the Ute Indians, of which the chief Ouray was the
principal feature, and over whom Carson exercised a powerful influence.

"Carson then had his family with him--wife and half a dozen children,
boys and girls as wild and untrained as a brood of Mexican mustangs. One
day these children ran through the room in which we were seated, half
clad and boisterous, and I inquired, 'Kit, what are you doing about your

"He replied: 'That is a source of great anxiety; I myself had no
education,' (he could not even write, his wife always signing his name
to his official reports). 'I value education as much as any man, but I
have never had the advantage of schools, and now that I am getting old
and infirm, I fear I have not done right by my children.'

"I explained to him that the Catholic College, at South Bend, Indiana,
had, for some reason, given me a scholarship for twenty years, and that
I would divide with him--that is let him send two of his boys for five
years each. He seemed very grateful and said he would think of it.

"My recollection is that his regiment was mustered out of service that
winter, 1866-7, and that the following summer, 1867, he (Carson) went to
Washington on some business for the Utes, and on his return toward New
Mexico, he stopped at Fort Lyon, on the upper Arkansas, where he died.
His wife died soon after at Taos, New Mexico, and the children fell to
the care of a brother in law, Mr. Boggs, who had a large ranche on the
Purgation near Fort Lyon. It was reported of Carson, when notified that
death was impending, that he said, 'Send William, (his eldest son) to
General Sherman who has promised to educate him.' Accordingly, some time
about the spring of 1868, there came to my house, in St. Louis, a stout
boy with a revolver, Life of Kit Carson by Dr. Peters, United States
Army, about $40 in money, and a letter from Boggs, saying that in
compliance with the request of Kit Carson, on his death bed, he had sent
William Carson to me. Allowing him a few days of vacation with my own
children, I sent him to the college at South Bend, Ind., with a letter
of explanation, and making myself responsible for his expenses. He was
regularly entered in one of the classes, and reported to me regularly. I
found the 'Scholarship' amounted to what is known as 'tuition,' but
for three years I paid all his expenses of board, clothing, books, &c.,
amounting to about $300 a year. At the end of that time, the Priest
reported to me that Carson was a good natured boy, willing enough,
but that he had no taste or appetite for learning. His letters to
me confirmed this conclusion, as he could not possibly spell. After
reflection, I concluded to send him to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to the
care of General Langdon C. Easton, United States Quartermaster, with
instructions to employ him in some capacity in which he could earn his
board and clothing, and to get some officer of the garrison to teach him
just what was necessary for a Lieutenant of Cavalry. Lieutenant Beard,
adjutant of the Fifth Infantry did this. He (William Carson) was
employed, as a 'Messenger,' and, as he approached his twenty-first year,
under the tuition of Lieutenant Beard, he made good progress. Meantime
I was promoted to General in Chief at Washington, and about 1870, when
Carson had become twenty-one years of age, I applied in person to the
President, General Grant, to give the son of Kit Carson, the appointment
of Second Lieutenant Ninth United States Cavalry, telling him somewhat
of the foregoing details. General Grant promptly ordered the appointment
to issue, subject to the examination as to educational qualifications,
required by the law. The usual board of officers was appointed at Fort
Leavenworth and Carson was ordered before it. After careful examination,
the board found him deficient in reading, writing and arithmetic. Of
course he could not be commissioned. I had given him four years of
my guardianship, about $1,000 of my own money, and the benefit of my
influence, all in vain. By nature, he was not adapted to 'modern uses.'
I accordingly wrote him that I had exhausted my ability to provide for
him, and advised him to return to his uncle Boggs on the Purgation to
assist him in his cattle and sheep ranche.

"I heard from him by letter once or twice afterward, in one of which he
asked me to procure for him the agency for the Utes. On inquiry at the
proper office in Washington, I found that another person had secured
the place of which I notified him, and though of late years I have often
been on the Purgation, and in the Ute country, I could learn nothing of
the other children of Kit Carson, or of William, who for four years was
a sort of ward to me.

"Since the building of railroads in that region, the whole character of
its population is changed, and were Kit Carson to arise from his grave,
he could not find a buffalo, elk or deer, where he used to see millions.
He could not even recognize the country with which he used to be so
familiar, or find his own children, whom he loved, and for whose welfare
he felt so solicitous in his later days.

"Kit Carson was a good type of a class of men most useful in their day,
but now as antiquated as Jason of the Golden Fleece, Ulysses of Troy,
the Chevalier La Salle of the Lakes, Daniel Boone of Kentucky, Irvin
Bridger and Jim Beckwith of the Rockies, all belonging to the dead past.

"Yours Truly,


"TRENTON, N. J., June 23, 1884.

"In accordance with your request to give my recollections of Kit Carson,
I would say that I met and spent several days with him in September,
1866, at and near Fort Garland, Colorado, on the headwaters of the Rio
Grande. I was then Brevet Brigadier General and Inspector United States
Volunteers, on a tour of inspection of the military depots and posts in
that region and across to the Pacific. General Sherman happened there at
the same time, on like duty as to his Military Division, and our joint
talks, as a rule, extended far into the night and over many subjects.
'Kit' was then Brevet Brigadier General United States Volunteers, and
in command of Fort Garland, and a wide region thereabouts--mostly
Indian--which he knew thoroughly. Fort Garland was a typical frontier
post, composed of log huts chinked with mud, rough but comfortable, and
in one of these Kit then lived with his Mexican wife and several half
breed children.

"He was then a man apparently about fifty years of age. From what I had
read about him, I had expected to see a small, wiry man, weather-beaten
and reticent; but found him to be a medium sized, rather stoutish, and
quite talkative person instead. His hair was already well-silvered, but
his face full and florid. You would scarcely regard him, at first sight,
as a very noticeable man, except as having a well knit frame and full,
deep chest. But on observing him more closely, you were struck with
the breadth and openness of his brow, bespeaking more than ordinary
intelligence and courage; with his quick, blue eye, that caught
everything at a glance apparently--an eye beaming with kindliness and
benevolence, but that could blaze with anger when aroused; and with
his full, square jaw and chin, that evidently could shut as tight as
Sherman's or Grant's when necessary. With nothing of the swashbuckler
or Buffalo Bill--of the border ruffian or the cowboy--about him, his
manners were as gentle, and his voice as soft and sympathetic, as a
woman's. What impressed one most about his face was its rare kindliness
and charity--that here, at last, was a natural gentleman, simple as a
child but brave as a lion. He soon took our hearts by storm, and the
more we saw of him the more we became impressed with his true manliness
and worth. Like everybody else on the border, he smoked freely, and at
one time drank considerably; but he had quit drinking years before, and
said he owed his excellent health and preeminence, if he had any, to
his habits of almost total abstinence. In conversation he was slow and
hesitating at first, approaching almost to bashfulness, often seemingly
at a loss for words; but, as he warmed up, this disappeared, and
you soon found him talking glibly, and with his hands and fingers as
well--rapidly gesticulating--Indian fashion. He was very conscientious,
and in all our talks would frequently say: 'Now, stop gentlemen! Is this
right?' 'Ought we to do this?' 'Can we do that?' 'Is this like human
nature?' or words to this effect, as if it was the habit of his mind
to test everything by the moral law. I think that was the predominating
feature of his character--his perfect honesty and truthfulness--quite as
much as his matchless coolness and courage. Said Sherman to me one day
while there: 'His integrity is simply perfect. The red skins know it,
and would trust Kit any day before they would us, or the President,
either!' And Kit well returned their confidence, by being their
steadfast, unswerving friend and ready champion.

"He talked freely of his past life, unconscious of its extraordinary
character. Born in Kentucky, he said, he early took to the plains and
mountains, and joined the hunters and trappers, when he was so young he
could not set a trap. When he became older, he turned trapper himself,
and trapped all over our territories for beaver, otter, etc., from the
Missouri to the Pacific, and from British America to Mexico. Next he
passed into Government employ, as an Indian scout and guide, and as such
piloted Fremont and others all over the Plains and through the Rocky and
Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fremont, in his reports, surrounded Kit's name
with a romantic valor, but he seems to have deserved it all, and more.
His good sense, his large experience, and unfaltering courage, were
invaluable to Fremont, and it is said about the only time the Pathfinder
went seriously astray among the Mountains was when he disregarded his
(Kit's) advice, and endeavored to force a passage through the Rockies
northwest of Fort Garland. Kit told him the mountains could not be
crossed at that time of the year; and, when Fremont nevertheless
insisted on proceeding, he resigned as guide. The Pathfinder, however,
went stubbornly forward, but got caught in terrible snowstorms, and
presently returned--half of his men and animals having perished outright
from cold and hunger. Next Kit became United States Indian Agent, and
made one of the best we ever had. Familiar with the language and customs
of the Indians, he frequently spent months together among them without
seeing a white man, and indeed became a sort of half Indian himself. In
talking with us, I noticed he frequently hesitated for the right English
word; but when speaking bastard Spanish (Mexican) or Indian, with
the Ute Indians there, he was as fluent as a native. Both Mexican and
Indian, however, are largely pantomime, abounding in perpetual grimace
and gesture, which may have helped him along somewhat. Next, when the
rebellion broke out, he became a Union soldier, though the border was
largely Confederate. He tendered his services to Mr. Lincoln, who
at once commissioned him Colonel, and told him to take care of the
frontier, as the regulars there had to come East to fight Jeff Davis.
Kit straightway proceeded to raise the First Regiment of New Mexico
Volunteers, in which he had little difficulty, as the New Mexicans knew
him well, and had the utmost confidence in him. With these, during the
war, he was busy fighting hostile Indians, and keeping others friendly,
and in his famous campaign against the Navajos, in New Mexico, with only
six hundred frontier volunteers captured some nine thousand prisoners.
The Indians withdrew into a wild canyon, where no white man, it was
said, had ever penetrated, and believed to be impregnable. But Kit
pursued them from either end, and attacked them with pure Indian
strategy and tactics; and the Navajos finding themselves thus
surrounded, and their supplies cut off, outwitted by a keener fighter
than themselves, surrendered at discretion. Then he did not slaughter
them, but marched them to a goodly reservation, and put them to work
herding and planting, and they had continued peaceable ever since.

"Kit seemed thoroughly familiar with Indian life and character, and
it must be conceded, that no American of his time knew our aborigines
better--if any so well. It must be set down to their credit, that he
was their stout friend--no Boston philanthropist more so. He did not
hesitate to say, that all our Indian troubles were caused originally by
bad white men, if the truth were known, and was terribly severe on the
brutalities and barbarities of the border. He said the Indians were very
different from what they used to be, and were yearly becoming more so
from contact with border ruffians and cowboys. He said he had lived for
years among them with only occasional visits to the settlements, and
he had never known an Indian to injure a Pale Face, where he did not
deserve it; on the other hand, he had seen an Indian kill his brother
even for insulting a white man in the old times. He insisted that
Indians never commit outrages unless they are first provoked to them by
the borderers, and that many of the peculiar and special atrocities
with which they are charged are only their imitation of the bad acts
of wicked white men. He pleaded for the Indians, as 'pore ignorant
critters, who had no learnin', and didn't know no better,' whom we were
daily robbing of their hunting grounds and homes, and solemnly asked:
'What der yer 'spose our Heavenly Father, who made both them and us,
thinks of these things?' He was particularly severe upon Col. Chivington
and the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, which was still fresh in the public
mind, said he; 'jist to think of that dog Chivington, and his dirty
hounds, up thar at Sand Creek! Whoever heerd of sich doings 'mong

"'The pore Indians had the Stars and Stripes flying over them, our old
flag thar, and they'd bin told down to Denver, that so long as they kept
that flying they'd be safe enough. Well, then, one day along comes that
durned Chivington and his cusses. They'd bin out several day's huntin'
Hostiles, and couldn't find none nowhar, and if they had, they'd have
skedaddled from 'em, you bet! So they jist lit upon these Friendlies,
and massacreed 'em--yes, sir, literally massacreed 'em--in cold blood,
in spite of our flag thar--yes, women and little children, even! Why,
Senator Foster told me with his own lips (and him and his Committee come
out yer from Washington, you know, and investigated this muss), that
that thar durned miscreant and his men shot down squaws, and blew the
brains out of little innocent children--pistoled little papooses in
the arms of their dead mothers, and even worse than this!--them durned
devils! and you call sich soldiers Christians, do ye? and pore Indians

"'I tell you what, friends; I don't like a hostile Red Skin any more
than you do. And when they are hostile, I've fit 'em--fout 'em--and
expect to fight 'em--hard as any man. That's my business. But I never
yit drew a bead on a squaw or papoose, and I despise the man who would.
'Taint nateral for men to kill women and pore little children, and none
but a coward or a dog would do it. Of course when we white men do sich
awful things, why these pore ignorant critters don't know no better than
to foller suit. Pore things! Pore things! I've seen as much of 'em as
any man livin', and I can't help but pity 'em, right or wrong! They
once owned all this country, yes, Plains and Mountains, buffalo and
everything, but now they own next door to nuthin, and will soon be

"Alas, poor Kit! He has already 'gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds.' But
the Indians had no truer friend, and Kit Carson would wish no prouder
epitaph than this. In talking thus he would frequently get his grammar
wrong, and his language was only the patois of the Border; but there
was an eloquence in his eye, and a pathos in his voice, that would
have touched a heart of stone, and a genuine manliness about him at all
times, that would have won him hosts of friends anywhere. And so, Kit
Carson, good friend, brave heart, generous soul, hail and farewell!

"Hoping these rough recollections may serve your purpose, I remain

"Very respectfully,

"Your obedient servant,


The following tribute to the matchless scout, hunter and guide is from
the Salt Lake Tribune:

He wrote his own biography and left it where the edition will never
grow dim. The alphabet he used was made of the rivers, the plains, the
forests, and the eternal heights. He started in his youth with his face
to the West; started toward where no trails had been blazed, where there
was naught to meet him but the wilderness, the wild beast, and the still
more savage man. He made his lonely camps by the rivers, and now it is
a fiction with those who sleep on the same grounds that the waters in
their flow murmur the great pathfinder's name. He followed the water
courses to their sources, and guided by them, learned where the
mountains bent their crests to make possible highways for the feet
of men. He climbed the mountains and "disputed with the eagles of the
crags" for points of observation; he met the wild beast and subdued
him; he met the savage of the plains and of the hills, and, in his own
person, gave him notice of his sovereignty in skill, in cunning and
in courage. To the red man he was the voice of fate. In him they saw a
materialized foreboding of their destiny. To them he was a voice crying
the coming of a race against which they could not prevail; before which
they were to be swept away.

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