Infomotions, Inc.The Life of Kit Carson Hunter, Trapper, Guide, Indian Agent and Colonel U.S.A. / Ellis, Edward S. (Edward Sylvester), 1840-1916



Author: Ellis, Edward S. (Edward Sylvester), 1840-1916
Title: The Life of Kit Carson Hunter, Trapper, Guide, Indian Agent and Colonel U.S.A.
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): carson; kit carson; trappers; kit; fremont; indians; camp; indian
Contributor(s): Evelyn-White, Hugh G. (Hugh Gerard), -1924 [Translator]
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THE LIFE OF KIT CARSON,

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

by Edward S. Ellis.







INTRODUCTION


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 engaged.

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.



CHAPTER I.


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 guide.

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.



CHAPTER II.


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 terms.

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.



CHAPTER III.


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 massacred."

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.



CHAPTER IV.


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 himself:

"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 chose.

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.



CHAPTER V.


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 distance.

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 along.

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 Indian.

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.



CHAPTER VI.


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 other.

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 departed.

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 peltries.

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 lives.

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.



CHAPTER VII.


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 companions.

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.



CHAPTER VIII.


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 horses.

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.



CHAPTER IX


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 requirements.

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.



CHAPTER X.


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 him.

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.



CHAPTER XI.


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

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 occasion.

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 before.

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 forward.

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.



CHAPTER XII.


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 west.

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 you!"

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.



CHAPTER XIII.


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.



CHAPTER XIV.


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 idle.

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 death.

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 ended.

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 ever.

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.



CHAPTER XV.


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 him.

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 leader.

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 annihilation.

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 minutes.

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.



CHAPTER XVI.


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 time.

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 marksmen.

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 mountaineers."



CHAPTER XVII.


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 beavers.

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 ended.

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.



CHAPTER XVIII.


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 Missouri.

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 explorer.

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 ground.

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."



CHAPTER XIX.


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 foot.

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.



CHAPTER XX


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 spears.

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.



CHAPTER XXI.


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 thither.

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 peril.

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 staying."

"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 others.

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.



CHAPTER XXII.


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 realize.

"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 iron.

"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 expedition.

"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."



CHAPTER XXIII.


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 Account.

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 provisions.

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 lament.

"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 mountains.

"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 eye.

"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."



CHAPTER XXIV.


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 anxiety."

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.



CHAPTER XXV.


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 massacred.

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 left.

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 services.



CHAPTER XXVI.


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 themselves.

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.



CHAPTER XXVII.


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 rescue.

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
mountaineers.

"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 presents.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


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.



CHAPTER XXIX.


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

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 Diego.

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 watchful.

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 Diego --"

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 named.

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 wounds.

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.



CHAPTER XXX.


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 Angeles.

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 destroy.

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.



CHAPTER XXXI.


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 river.

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 cyclone.

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 battle.

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 saved.



CHAPTER XXXII.


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 down.

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 spoken.

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 name."

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 gift.

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.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


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 him.

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 altogether.

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.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


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.



CHAPTER XXXV.


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 later.

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 reach.

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.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


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 frost.'

"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."



CHAPTER XXXVII.


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 inscription:

AT 2 O'CLOCK.

KIT CARSON, FROM

MAJOR CARLETON.

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 overtaken.

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 guide.

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.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


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:

912 GARRISON AVENUE,
ST. LOUIS, MO., JUNE 25, 1884.


"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 children?'

"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,

"W. T. SHERMAN."

"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 Christians!'

"'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 savages!'

"'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 gone.'

"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,

"JAMES F. RUSLING."

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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