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ASTORIA; OR, ANECDOTES OF AN ENTERPRISE BEYOND THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS

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one presented himself. If offers were made to any, they were
listened to with a shake of the head. Should any one seem
inclined to enlist, there were officious idlers and busybodies,
of that class who are ever ready to dissuade others from any
enterprise in which they themselves have no concern. These would
pull him by the sleeve, take him on one side, and murmur in his
ear, or would suggest difficulties outright.

it was objected that the expedition would have to navigate
unknown rivers, and pass through howling wildernesses infested by
savage tribes, who had already cut off the unfortunate voyageurs
that had ventured among them; that it was to climb the Rocky
Mountains and descend into desolate and famished regions, where
the traveller was often obliged to subsist on grasshoppers and
crickets, or to kill his own horse for food.

At length one man was hardy enough to engage, and he was used
like a "stool-pigeon," to decoy others; but several days elapsed
before any more could be prevailed upon to join him. A few then
came to terms. It was desirable to engage them for five years,
but some refused to engage for more than three. Then they must
have part of their pay in advance, which was readily granted.
When they had pocketed the amount, and squandered it in regales
or in outfits, they began to talk of pecuniary obligations at
Mackinaw, which must be discharged before they would be free to
depart; or engagements with other persons, which were only to be
canceled by a "reasonable consideration." It was in vain to argue
or remonstrate. The money advanced had already been sacked and
spent, and must be lost and the recruits left behind, unless they
could be freed from their debts and engagements. Accordingly, a
fine was paid for one; a judgment for another; a tavern bill for
a third, and almost all had to be bought off from some prior
engagement, either real or pretended.

Mr. Hunt groaned in spirit at the incessant and unreasonable
demands of these worthies upon his purse; yet with all this
outlay of funds, the number recruited was but scanty, and many of
the most desirable still held themselves aloof, and were not to
be caught by a golden bait. With these he tried another
temptation. Among the recruits who had enlisted he distributed
feathers and ostrich plumes. These they put in their hats, and
thus figured about Mackinaw, assuming airs of vast importance, as
"voyageurs" in a new company, that was to eclipse the Northwest.
The effect was complete. A French Canadian is too vain and
mercurial a being to withstand the finery and ostentation of the
feather. Numbers immediately pressed into the service. One must
have an ostrich plume; another, a white feather with a red end; a
third, a bunch of cock's tails. Thus all paraded about, in
vainglorious style, more delighted with the feathers in their
hats than with the money in their pockets; and considering
themselves fully equal to the boastful "men of the north."

While thus recruiting the number of rank and file, Mr. Hunt was
joined by a person whom he had invited, by letter, to engage as a
partner in the expedition. This was Mr. Ramsay Crooks, a young
man, a native of Scotland, who had served under the Northwest
Company, and been engaged in trading expeditions upon his
individual account, among the tribes of the Missouri. Mr. Hunt
knew him personally, and had conceived a high and merited opinion
of his judgment, enterprise, and integrity; he was rejoiced,
therefore, when the latter consented to accompany him. Mr.
Crooks, however, drew from experience a picture of the dangers to
which they would be subjected, and urged the importance of going
with a considerable force. In ascending the upper Missouri they
would have to pass through the country of the Sioux Indians, who
had manifested repeated hostility to the white traders, and
rendered their expeditions extremely perilous; firing upon them
from the river banks as they passed beneath in their boats, and
attacking them in their encampments. Mr. Crooks himself, when
voyaging in company with another trader of the name of M'Lellan,
had been interrupted by these marauders, and had considered
himself fortunate in escaping down the river without loss of life
or property, but with a total abandonment of his trading voyage.

Should they be fortunate enough to pass through the country of
the Sioux without molestation, they would have another tribe
still more savage and warlike beyond, and deadly foes of white
men.

These were the Blackfeet Indians, who ranged over a wide extent
of country which they would have to traverse. Under all these
circumstances, it was thought advisable to augment the party
considerably. It already exceeded the number of thirty, to which
it had originally been limited; but it was determined, on
arriving at St. Louis, to increase it to the number of sixty.

These matters being arranged, they prepared to embark; but the
embarkation of a crew of Canadian voyageurs, on a distant
expedition, is not so easy a matter as might be imagined;
especially of such a set of vainglorious fellows with money in
both pockets, and cocks' tails in their hats. Like sailors, the
Canadian voyageurs generally preface a long cruise with a
carouse. They have their cronies, their brothers, their cousins,
their wives, their sweethearts, all to be entertained at their
expense. They feast, they fiddle, they drink, they sing, they
dance, they frolic and fight, until they are all as mad as so
many drunken Indians. The publicans are all obedience to their
commands, never hesitating to let them run up scores without
limit, knowing that, when their own money is expended, the purses
of their employers must answer for the bill, or the voyage must
be delayed. Neither was it possible, at that time, to remedy the
matter at Mackinaw. In that amphibious community there was always
a propensity to wrest the laws in favor of riotous or mutinous
boatmen. It was necessary, also, to keep the recruits in good
humor, seeing the novelty and danger of the service into which
they were entering, and the ease with which they might at anytime
escape it by jumping into a canoe and going downstream.

Such were the scenes that beset Mr. Hunt, and gave him a
foretaste of the difficulties of his command. The little cabarets
and sutlers' shops along the bay resounded with the scraping of
fiddles, with snatches of old French songs, with Indian whoops
and yells, while every plumed and feathered vagabond had his
troop of loving cousins and comrades at his heels. It was with
the utmost difficulty they could be extricated from the clutches
of the publicans and the embraces of their pot companions, who
followed them to the water's edge with many a hug, a kiss on each
cheek, and a maudlin benediction in Canadian French.

It was about the 12th of August that they left Mackinaw, and
pursued the usual route by Green Bay, Fox and Wisconsin rivers,
to Prairie du Chien, and thence down the Mississippi to St.
Louis, where they landed on the 3d of September.

CHAPTER XIV.

St. Louis.- Its Situation.- Motley Population.- French Creole
Traders and Their Dependants.- Missouri Fur Company- Mr. Manuel
Lisa. - Mississippi Boatmen. - Vagrant Indians. - Kentucky
Hunters - Old French Mansion- Fiddling- Billiards- Mr. Joseph
Miller - His Character- Recruits- Voyage Up the Missouri. -
Difficulties of the River.- Merits of Canadian Voyageurs.-
Arrival at the Nodowa.- Mr. Robert M'Lellan joins the Party- John
Day, a Virginia Hunter. Description of Him.- Mr. Hunt Returns to
St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS, which is situated on the right bank of the Mississippi
River, a few miles below the mouth of the Missouri, was, at that
time, a frontier settlement, and the last fitting-out place for
the Indian trade of the Southwest. It possessed a motley
population, composed of the creole descendants of the original
French colonists; the keen traders from the Atlantic States; the
backwoodsmen of Kentucky and Tennessee; the Indians and half-
breeds of the prairies; together with a singular aquatic race
that had grown up from the navigation of the rivers - the
"boatmen of the Mississippi;- who possessed habits, manners, and
almost a language, peculiarly their own, and strongly technical.
They, at that time, were extremely numerous, and conducted the
chief navigation and commerce of the Ohio and the Mississippi, as
the voyageurs did of the Canadian waters; but, like them, their
consequence and characteristics are rapidly vanishing before the
all-pervading intrusion of steamboats.

The old French houses engaged in the Indian trade had gathered
round them a train of dependents, mongrel Indians, and mongrel
Frenchmen, who had intermarried with Indians. These they employed
in their various expeditions by land and water. Various
individuals of other countries had, of late years, pushed the
trade further into the interior, to the upper waters of the
Missouri, and had swelled the number of these hangers-on. Several
of these traders had, two or three years previously, formed
themselves into a company, composed of twelve partners, with a
capital of about forty thousand dollars, called the Missouri Fur
Company; the object of which was, to establish posts along the
upper part of that river, and monopolize the trade. The leading
partner of this company was Mr. Manuel Lisa, a Spaniard by birth,
and a man of bold and enterprising character, who had ascended
the Missouri almost to its source, and made himself well
acquainted and popular with several of its tribes. By his
exertions, trading posts had been established, in 1808, in the
Sioux country, and among the Aricara and Mandan tribes; and a
principal one, under Mr. Henry, one of the partners, at the forks
of the Missouri. This company had in its employ about two hundred
and fifty men, partly American and partly creole voyageurs.

All these circumstances combined to produce a population at St.
Louis even still more motley than that at Mackinaw. Here were to
be seen, about the river banks, the hectoring, extravagant
bragging boatmen of the Mississippi, with the gay, grimacing,
singing, good-humored Canadian voyageurs. Vagrant Indians, of
various tribes, loitered about the streets. Now and then a stark
Kentucky hunter, in leathern hunting-dress, with rifle on
shoulder and knife in belt, strode along. Here and there were new
brick houses and shops, just set up by bustling, driving, and
eager men of traffic from the Atlantic States; while, on the
other hand, the old French mansions, with open casements, still
retained the easy, indolent air of the original colonists; and
now and then the scraping of a fiddle, a strain of an ancient
French song, or the sound of billiard balls, showed that the
happy Gallic turn for gayety and amusement still lingered about
the place.

Such was St. Louis at the time of Mr. Hunt's arrival there, and
the appearance of a new fur company, with ample funds at its
command, produced a strong sensation among the I traders of the
place, and awakened keen jealousy and opposition on the part of
the Missouri Company. Mr. Hunt proceeded to strengthen himself
against all competition. For this purpose, he secured to the
interests of the association another of those enterprising men,
who had been engaged in individual traffic with the tribes of the
Missouri. This was a Mr. Joseph Miller, a gentleman well educated
and well informed, and of a respectable family of Baltimore. He
had been an officer in the army of the United States, but had
resigned in disgust, on being refused a furlough, and had taken
to trapping beaver and trading among the Indians. He was easily
induced by Mr. Hunt to join as a partner, and was considered by
him, on account of his education and acquirements, and his
experience in Indian trade, a valuable addition to the company.

Several additional men were likewise enlisted at St. Louis, some
as boatmen, and others as hunters. These last were engaged, not
merely to kill game for provisions, but also, and indeed chiefly,
to trap beaver and other animals of rich furs, valuable in the
trade. They enlisted on different terms. Some were to have a
fixed salary of three hundred dollars; others were to be fitted
out and maintained at the expense of the company, and were to
hunt and trap on shares.

As Mr. Hunt met with much opposition on the part of rival
traders, especially the Missouri Fur Company, it took him some
weeks to complete his preparations. The delays which he had
previously experienced at Montreal, Mackinaw, and on the way,
added to those at St. Louis, had thrown him much behind his
original calculations, so that it would be impossible to effect
his voyage up the Missouri in the present year. This river,
flowing from high and cold latitudes, and through wide and open
plains, exposed to chilling blasts, freezes early. The winter may
be dated from the first of November; there was every prospect,
therefore, that it would be closed with ice long before Mr. Hunt
could reach its upper waters. To avoid, however, the expense of
wintering at St. Louis, he determined to push up the river as far
as possible, to some point above the settlements, where game was
plenty, and where his whole party could be subsisted by hunting,
until the breaking up of the ice in the spring should permit them
to resume their voyage.

Accordingly on the twenty-first of October he took his departure
from St. Louis. His party was distributed in three boats. One was
the barge which he had brought from Mackinaw; another was of a
larger size, such as was formerly used in navigating the Mohawk
River, and known by the generic name of the Schenectady barge;
the other was a large keel boat, at that time the grand
conveyance on the Mississippi.

In this way they set out from St. Louis, in buoyant spirits, and
soon arrived at the mouth of the Missouri. This vast river, three
thousand miles in length, and which, with its tributary streams,
drains such an immense extent of country, was as yet but casually
and imperfectly navigated by the adventurous bark of the fur
trader. A steamboat had never yet stemmed its turbulent current.
Sails were but of casual assistance, for it required a strong
wind to conquer the force of the stream. The main dependence was
on bodily strength and manual dexterity. The boats, in general,
had to be propelled by oars and setting poles, or drawn by the
hand and by grappling hooks from one root or overhanging tree to
another; or towed by the long cordelle, or towing line, where the
shores were sufficiently clear of woods and thickets to permit
the men to pass along the banks.

During this slow and tedious progress the boat would be exposed
to frequent danger from floating trees and great masses of drift-
wood, or to be impaled upon snags and sawyers; that is to say,
sunken trees, presenting a jagged or pointed end above the
surface of the water. As the channel of the river frequently
shifted from side to side according to the bends and sand-banks,
the boat had, in the same way, to advance in a zigzag course.
Often a part of the crew would have to leap into the water at the
shallows, and wade along with the towing line, while their
comrades on board toilfully assisted with oar and setting pole.
Sometimes the boat would seem to be retained motionless, as if
spell-bound, opposite some point round which the current set with
violence, and where the utmost labor scarce effected any visible
progress.

On these occasions it was that the merits of the Canadian
voyageurs came into full action. Patient of toil, not to be
disheartened by impediments and disappointments, fertile in
expedients, and versed in every mode of humoring and conquering
the wayward current, they would ply every exertion, sometimes in
the boat, sometimes on shore, sometimes in the water, however
cold; always alert, always in good humor; and, should they at any
time flag or grow weary, one of their popular songs, chanted by a
veteran oarsman, and responded to in chorus, acted as a never-
failing restorative.

By such assiduous and persevering labor they made their way about
four hundred and fifty miles up the Missouri, by the 16th of
November, to the mouth of the Nodowa. As this was a good hunting
country, and as the season was rapidly advancing, they determined
to establish their winter quarters at this place; and, in fact,
two days after they had come to a halt, the river closed just
above their encampment.

The party had not been long at this place when they were joined
by Mr. Robert M'Lellan, another trader of the Missouri; the same
who had been associated with Mr. Crooks in the unfortunate
expedition in which they had been intercepted by the Sioux
Indians, and obliged to make a rapid retreat down the river.

M'Lellan was a remarkable man. He had been a partisan under
General Wayne, in his Indian wars, where he had distinguished
himself by his fiery spirit and reckless daring, and marvelous
stories were told of his exploits. His appearance answered to his
character. His frame was meagre, but muscular; showing strength,
activity, and iron firmness. His eyes were dark, deep-set, and
piercing. He was restless, fearless, but of impetuous and
sometimes ungovernable temper. He had been invited by Mr. Hunt to
enroll himself as a partner, and gladly consented; being pleased
with the thoughts of passing with a powerful force through the
country of the Sioux, and perhaps having an opportunity of
revenging himself upon that lawless tribe for their past
offenses.

Another recruit that joined the camp at Nodowa deserves equal
mention. This was John Day, a hunter from the backwoods of
Virginia, who had been several years on the Missouri in the
service of Mr. Crooks, and of other traders. He was about forty
years of age, six feet two inches high, straight as an Indian;
with an elastic step as if he trod on springs, and a handsome,
open, manly countenance. It was his boast that, in his younger
days, nothing could hurt or daunt him; but he had "lived too
fast," and injured his constitution by his excesses. Still he was
strong of hand, bold of heart, a prime woodman, and an almost
unerring shot. He had the frank spirit of a Virginian, and the
rough heroism of a pioneer of the west.

The party were now brought to a halt for several months. They
were in a country abounding with deer and wild turkeys, so that
there was no stint of provisions, and every one appeared cheerful
and contented. Mr. Hunt determined to avail himself of this
interval to return to St. Louis and obtain a reinforcement.

He wished to procure an interpreter, acquainted with the language
of the Sioux, as, from all accounts, he apprehended difficulties
in passing through the country of that nation. He felt the
necessity, also, of having a greater number of hunters, not
merely to keep up a supply of provisions throughout their long
and arduous expedition, but also as a protection and defense, in
case of Indian hostilities. For such service the Canadian
voyageurs were little to be depended upon, fighting not being a
part of their profession. The proper kind of men were American
hunters, experienced in savage life and savage warfare, and
possessed of the true game spirit of the west.

Leaving, therefore, the encampment in charge of the other
partners, Mr. Hunt set off on foot on the first of January
(1810), for St. Louis. He was accompanied by eight men as far as
Fort Osage, about one hundred and fifty miles below Nodowa. Here
he procured a couple of horses, and proceeded on the remainder of
his journey with two men, sending the other six back to the
encampment. He arrived at St. Louis on the 20th of January.

CHAPTER XV.

Opposition of the Missouri Fur Company.-Blackfeet Indians.-
Pierre Dorion, a Half-Breed Interpreter.- Old Dorion and His
Hybrid Progeny- Family Quarrels.- Cross Purposes Between Dorion
and Lisa. - Renegadoes From Nodowa.- Perplexities of a
Commander.- Messrs. Bradbury and Nuttall Join the Expedition.-
Legal Embarrassments of Pierre Dorion.- Departure From St.
Louis.- Conjugal Discipline of a Half-Breed.- Annual Swelling of
the Rivers.-Daniel Boone, the Patriarch of Kentucky.-John
Colter.-His Adventures Among the Indians.-Rumors of Danger
Ahead.-Fort Osage.-An Indian War-Feast.-Troubles in the Dorion
Family.- Buffaloes and Turkey-Buzzards.

0N this his second visit to St. Louis, Mr. Hunt was again impeded
in his plans by the opposition of the Missouri Fur Company. The
affairs of that company were, at this time, in a very dubious
state. During the preceding year, their principal establishment
at the forks of the Missouri had been so much harassed by the
Blackfeet Indians, that its commander, Mr. Henry, one of the
partners, had been compelled to abandon the post and cross the
Rocky Mountains, with the intention of fixing himself upon one of
the upper branches of the Columbia. What had become of him and
his party was unknown. The most intense anxiety was felt
concerning them, and apprehensions that they might have been cut
off by the savages. At the time of Mr. Hunt's arrival at St.
Louis, the Missouri Company were fitting out an expedition to go
in quest of Mr. Henry. It was to be conducted by Mr. Manuel Lisa,
the partner already mentioned.

There being thus two expeditions on foot at the same moment, an
unusual demand was occasioned for hunters and voyageurs, who
accordingly profited by the circumstance, and stipulated for high
terms. Mr. Hunt found a keen and subtle competitor in Lisa, and
was obliged to secure his recruits by liberal advances of pay,
and by other pecuniary indulgences.

The greatest difficulty was to procure the Sioux interpreter.
There was but one man to be met with at St. Louis who was fitted
for the purpose, but to secure him would require much management.
The individual in question was a half-breed, named Pierre Dorion;
and, as he figures hereafter in this narrative, and is, withal, a
striking specimen of the hybrid race on the frontier, we shall
give a few particulars concerning him. Pierre was the son of
Dorion, the French interpreter, who accompanied Messrs. Lewis and
Clark in their famous exploring expedition across the Rocky
Mountains. Old Dorion was one of those French creoles,
descendants of the ancient Canadian stock, who abound on the
western frontier, and amalgamate or cohabit with the savages. He
had sojourned among various tribes, and perhaps left progeny
among them all; but his regular, or habitual wife, was a Sioux
squaw. By her he had a hopeful brood of half-breed sons, of whom
Pierre was one. The domestic affairs of old Dorion were conducted
on the true Indian plan. Father and sons would occasionally get
drunk together, and then the cabin was a scene of ruffian brawl
and fighting, in the course of which the old Frenchman was apt to
get soundly belabored by his mongrel offspring. In a furious
scuffle of the kind, one of the sons got the old man upon the
ground, and was upon the point of scalping him. "Hold! my son,"
cried the old fellow, in imploring accents, "you are too brave,
too honorable to scalp your father!" This last appeal touched the
French side of the half-breed's heart, so he suffered the old man
to wear his scalp unharmed.

Of this hopeful stock was Pierre Dorion, the man whom it was now
the desire of Mr. Hunt to engage as an interpreter. He had been
employed in that capacity by the Missouri Fur Company during the
preceding year, and conducted their traders in safety through the
different tribes of the Sioux. He had proved himself faithful and
serviceable while sober; but the love of liquor, in which he had
been nurtured and brought up, would occasionally break out, and
with it the savage side of his character.

It was his love of liquor which had embroiled him with the
Missouri Company. While in their service at Fort Mandan, on the
frontier, he had been seized with a whiskey mania; and, as the
beverage was only to be procured at the company's store, it had
been charged in his account at the rate of ten dollars a quart.
This item had ever remained unsettled, and a matter of furious
dispute, the mere mention of which was sufficient to put him in a
passion.

The moment it was discovered by Mr. Lisa that Pierre Dorion was
in treaty with the new and rival association, he endeavored, by
threats as well as promises, to prevent his engaging in their
service. His promises might, perhaps, have prevailed; but his
threats, which related to the whiskey debt, only served to drive
Pierre into the opposite ranks. Still he took advantage of this
competition for his services to stand out with Mr. Hunt on the
most advantageous terms, and, after a negotiation of nearly two
weeks, capitulated to serve in the expedition, as hunter and
interpreter, at the rate of three hundred dollars a year, two
hundred of which were to be paid in advance.

When Mr. Hunt had got everything ready for leaving St. Louis, new
difficulties arose. Five of the American hunters from the
encampment at Nodowa, suddenly made their appearance. They
alleged that they had been ill treated by the partners at the
encampment, and had come off clandestinely, in consequence of a
dispute. It was useless at the present moment, and under present
circumstances, to attempt any compulsory measures with these
deserters. Two of them Mr. Hunt prevailed upon, by mild means, to
return with him. The rest refused; nay, what was worse, they
spread such reports of the hardships and dangers to be
apprehended in the course of the expedition, that they struck a
panic into those hunters who had recently engaged at St. Louis,
and, when the hour of departure arrived, all but one refused to
embark. It was in vain to plead or remonstrate; they shouldered
their rifles and turned their backs upon the expedition, and Mr.
Hunt was fain to put off from shore with the single hunter and a
number of voyageurs whom he had engaged. Even Pierre Dorion, at
the last moment, refused to enter the boat until Mr. Hunt
consented to take his squaw and two children on board also. But
the tissue of perplexities, on account of this worthy individual,
did not end here.

Among the various persons who were about to proceed up the
Missouri with Mr. Hunt, were two scientific gentlemen; one Mr.
John Bradbury, a man of mature age, but great enterprise and
personal activity, who had been sent out by Linnaean Society of
Liverpool to make a collection of American plants; the other, a
Mr. Nuttall, likewise an Englishman, younger in years, who has
since made himself known as the author of Travels in Arkansas,
and a work on the Genera of American Plants. Mr. Hunt had offered
them the protection and facilities of his party, in their
scientific research up the Missouri River. As they were not ready
to depart at the moment of embarkation, they put their trunks on
board of the boat, but remained at St. Louis until the next day,
for the arrival of the post, intending to join the expedition at
St. Charles, a short distance above the mouth of the Missouri.

The same evening, however, they learned that a writ had been
issued against Pierre Dorion for his whiskey debt, by Mr. Lisa,
as agent of the Missouri Company, and that it was the intention
to entrap the mongrel linguist on his arrival at St. Charles.

Upon hearing this, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Nuttall set off a little
after midnight, by land, got ahead of the boat as it was
ascending the Missouri, before its arrival at St. Charles, and
gave Pierre Dorion warning of the legal toil prepared to ensnare
him.

The knowing Pierre immediately landed and took to the woods,
followed by his squaw laden with their papooses, and a large
bundle containing their most precious effects, promising to
rejoin the party some distance above St. Charles. There seemed
little dependence to be placed upon the promises of a loose
adventurer of the kind, who was at the very time playing an
evasive game with his former employers; who had already received
two-thirds of his year's pay, and his rifle on his shoulder, his
family and worldly fortunes at his heels, and the wild woods
before him. There was no alternative, however, and it was hoped
his pique against his old employers would render him faithful to
his new ones.

The party reached St. Charles in the afternoon, but the harpies
of the law looked in vain for their expected prey. The boats
resumed their course on the following morning, and had not
proceeded far when Pierre Dorion made his appearance on the
shore. He was gladly taken on board, but he came without his
squaw. They had quarreled in the night; Pierre had administered
the Indian discipline of the cudgel, whereupon she had taken to
the woods, with their children and all their worldly goods.
Pierre evidently was deeply grieved and disconcerted at the loss
of his wife and his knapsack, whereupon Mr. Hunt despatched one
of the Canadian voyageurs in search of the fugitive; and the
whole party, after proceeding a few miles further, encamped on an
island to wait his return. The Canadian rejoined the party, but
without the squaw; and Pierre Dorion passed a solitary and
anxious night, bitterly regretting his indiscretion in having
exercised his conjugal authority so near home. Before daybreak,
however, a well-known voice reached his ears from the opposite
shore. It was his repentant spouse, who had been wandering the
woods all night in quest of the party, and had at length descried
it by its fires. A boat was despatched for her, the interesting
family was once more united, and Mr. Hunt now flattered himself
that his perplexities with Pierre Dorion were at an end.

Bad weather, very heavy rains, and an unusually early rise in the
Missouri, rendered the ascent of the river toilsome, slow, and
dangerous. The rise of the Missouri does not generally take place
until the month of May or June: the present swelling of the river
must have been caused by a freshet in some of its more southern
branches. It could not have been the great annual flood, as the
higher branches must still have been ice-bound.

And here we cannot but pause, to notice the admirable arrangement
of nature, by which the annual swellings of the various great
rivers which empty themselves into the Mississippi, have been
made to precede each other at considerable intervals. Thus, the
flood of the Red River precedes that of the Arkansas by a month.
The Arkansas, also, rising in a much more southern latitude than
the Missouri, takes the lead of it in its annual excess, and its
superabundant waters are disgorged and disposed of long before
the breaking up of the icy barriers of the north; otherwise, did
all these mighty streams rise simultaneously, and discharge their
vernal floods into the Mississippi, an inundation would be the
consequence, that would submerge and devastate all the lower
country.

On the afternoon of the third day, January, 17th, the boats
touched at Charette, one of the old villages founded by the
original French colonists. Here they met with Daniel Boone, the
renowned patriarch of Kentucky, who had kept in the advance of
civilization, and on the borders of the wilderness, still leading
a hunter's life, though now in his eighty-fifth year. He had but
recently returned from a hunting and trapping expedition, and had
brought nearly sixty beaver skins as trophies of his skill. The
old man was still erect in form, strong in limb, and unflinching
in spirit, and as he stood on the river bank, watching the
departure of an expedition destined to traverse the wilderness to
the very shores of the Pacific, very probably felt a throb of his
old pioneer spirit, impelling him to shoulder his rifle and join
the adventurous band. Boone flourished several years after this
meeting, in a vigorous old age, the Nestor of hunters and
backwoodsmen; and died, full of sylvan honor and renown, in 1818,
in his ninety-second year.

The next morning early, as the party were yet encamped at the
mouth of a small stream, they were visited by another of these
heroes of the wilderness, one John Colter, who had accompanied
Lewis and Clarke in their memorable expedition. He had recently
made one of those vast internal voyages so characteristic of this
fearless class of men, and of the immense regions over which they
hold their lonely wanderings; having come from the head waters of
the Missouri to St. Louis in a small canoe. This distance of
three thousand miles he had accomplished in thirty days. Colter
kept with the party all the morning. He had many particulars to
give them concerning the Blackfeet Indians, a restless and
predatory tribe, who had conceived an implacable hostility to the
white men, in consequence of one of their warriors having been
killed by Captain Lewis, while attempting to steal horses.
Through the country infested by these savages the expedition
would have to proceed, and Colter was urgent in reiterating the
precautions that ought to be observed respecting them. He had
himself experienced their vindictive cruelty, and his story
deserves particular citation, as showing the hairbreadth
adventures to which these solitary rovers of the wilderness are
exposed.

Colter, with the hardihood of a regular trapper, had cast himself
loose from the party of Lewis and Clarke in the very heart of the
wilderness, and had remained to trap beaver alone on the head
waters of the Missouri. Here he fell in with another lonely
trapper, like himself, named Potts, and they agreed to keep
together. They were in the very region of the terrible Blackfeet,
at that time thirsting to revenge the death of their companion,
and knew that they had to expect no mercy at their hands. They
were obliged to keep concealed all day in the woody margins of
the rivers, setting their traps after nightfall and taking them
up before daybreak. It was running a fearful risk for the sake of
a few beaver skins; but such is the life of the trapper.

They were on a branch of the Missouri called Jefferson Fork, and
had set their traps at night, about six miles up a small river
that emptied into the fork. Early in the morning they ascended
the river in a canoe, to examine the traps. The banks on each
side were high and perpendicular, and cast a shade over the
stream. As they were softly paddling along, they heard the
trampling of many feet upon the banks. Colter immediately gave
the alarm of "Indians!" and was for instant retreat. Potts
scoffed at him for being frightened by the trampling of a herd of
buffaloes. Colter checked his uneasiness and paddled forward.
They had not gone much further when frightful whoops and yells
burst forth from each side of the river, and several hundred
Indians appeared on either bank. Signs were made to the
unfortunate trappers to come on shore. They were obliged to
comply. Before they could get out of their canoe, a savage seized
the rifle belonging to Potts. Colter sprang on shore, wrestled
the weapon from the hands of the Indian, and restored it to his
companion, who was still in the canoe, and immediately pushed
into the stream. There was the sharp twang of a bow, and Potts
cried out that he was wounded. Colter urged him to come on shore
and submit, as his only chance for life; but the other knew there
was no prospect of mercy, and determined to die game. Leveling
his rifle, he shot one of the savages dead on the spot. The next
moment he fell himself, pierced with innumerable arrows.

The vengeance of the savages now turned upon Colter. He was
stripped naked, and, having some knowledge of the Blackfoot
language, overheard a consultation as to the mode of despatching
him, so as to derive the greatest amusement from his death. Some
were for setting him up as a mark, and having a trial of skill at
his expense. The chief, however, was for nobler sport. He seized
Colter by the shoulder, and demanded if he could run fast. The
unfortunate trapper was too well acquainted with Indian customs
not to comprehend the drift of the question. He knew he was to
run for his life, to furnish a kind of human hunt to his
persecutors. Though in reality he was noted among his brother
hunters for swiftness of foot, he assured the chief that he was a
very bad runner. His stratagem gained him some vantage ground. He
was led by the chief into the prairie, about four hundred yards
from the main body of savages, and then turned loose to save
himself if he could. A tremendous yell let him know that the
whole pack of bloodhounds were off in full cry. Colter flew
rather than ran; he was astonished at his own speed; but he had
six miles of prairie to traverse before he should reach the
Jefferson Fork of the Missouri; how could he hope to hold out
such a distance with the fearful odds of several hundred to one
against him! The plain, too, abounded with the prickly pear,
which wounded his naked feet. Still he fled on, dreading each
moment to hear the twang of a bow, and to feel an arrow quivering
at his heart. He did not even dare to look round, lest he should
lose an inch of that distance on which his life depended. He had
run nearly half way across the plain when the sound of pursuit
grew somewhat fainter, and he ventured to turn his head. The main
body of his pursuers were a considerable distance behind; several
of the fastest runners were scattered in the advance; while a
swift-footed warrior, armed with a spear, was not more than a
hundred yards behind him.

Inspired with new hope, Colter redoubled his exertions, but
strained himself to such a degree, that the blood gushed from his
mouth and nostrils, and streamed down his breast. He arrived
within a mile of the river. The sound of footsteps gathered upon
him. A glance behind showed his pursuer within twenty yards, and
preparing to launch his spear. Stopping short he turned round and
spread out his arms. The savage, confounded by this sudden
action, attempted to stop and hurl his spear, but fell in the
very act. His spear stuck in the ground, and the shaft broke in
his hand. Colter plucked up the pointed part, pinned the savage
to the earth, and continued his flight. The Indians, as they
arrived at their slaughtered companion, stopped to howl over him.
Colter made the most of this precious delay, gained the skirt of
cotton-wood bordering the river, dashed through it, and plunged
into the stream. He swam to a neighboring island, against the
upper end of which the driftwood had lodged in such quantities as
to form a natural raft; under this he dived, and swam below water
until he succeeded in getting a breathing place between the
floating trunks of trees, whose branches and bushes formed a
covert several feet above the level of the water. He had scarcely
drawn breath after all his toils, when he heard his pursuers on
the river bank, whooping and yelling like so many fiends. They
plunged in the river, and swam to the raft. The heart of Colter
almost died within him as he saw them, through the chinks of his
concealment, passing and repassing, and seeking for him in all
directions. They at length gave up the search, and he began to
rejoice in his escape, when the idea presented itself that they
might set the raft on fire. Here was a new source of horrible
apprehension, in which he remained until nightfall. Fortunately
the idea did not suggest itself to the Indians. As soon as it was
dark, finding by the silence around that his pursuers had
departed, Colter dived again and came up beyond the raft. He then
swam silently down the river for a considerable distance, when he
landed, and kept on all night, to get as far as possible from
this dangerous neighborhood.

By daybreak he had gained sufficient distance to relieve him from
the terrors of his savage foes; but now new sources of inquietude
presented themselves. He was naked and alone, in the midst of an
unbounded wilderness; his only chance was to reach a trading post
of the Missouri Company, situated on a branch of the Yellowstone
River. Even should he elude his pursuers, days must elapse before
he could reach this post, during which he must traverse immense
prairies destitute of shade, his naked body exposed to the
burning heat of the sun by day, and the dews and chills of the
night season, and his feet lacerated by the thorns of the prickly
pear. Though he might see game in abundance around him, he had no
means of killing any for his sustenance, and must depend for food
upon the roots of the earth. In defiance of these difficulties he
pushed resolutely forward, guiding himself in his trackless
course by those signs and indications known only to Indians and
backwoodsmen; and after braving dangers and hardships enough to
break down any spirit but that of a western pioneer, arrived safe
at the solitary post in question. * (* Bradbury, Travels in
America, p. 17.)

Such is a sample of the rugged experience which Colter had to
relate of savage life; yet, with all these perils and terrors
fresh in his recollection, he could not see the present band on
their way to those regions of danger and adventure, without
feeling a vehement impulse to join them. A western trapper is
like a sailor; past hazards only stimulate him to further risks.
The vast prairie is to the one what the ocean is to the other, a
boundless field of enterprise and exploit. However he may have
suffered in his last cruise, he is always ready to join a new
expedition; and the more adventurous its nature, the more
attractive is it to his vagrant spirit.

Nothing seems to have kept Colter from continuing with the party
to the shores of the Pacific but the circumstances of his having
recently married. All the morning he kept with them, balancing in
his mind the charms of his bride against those of the Rocky
Mountains; the former, however, prevailed, and after a march of
several miles, he took a reluctant leave of the travellers, and
turned his face homeward.

Continuing their progress up the Missouri, the party encamped on
the evening of the 21st of March, in the neighborhood of a little
frontier village of French creoles. Here Pierre Dorion met with
some of his old comrades, with whom he had a long gossip, and
returned to the camp with rumors of bloody feuds between the
Osages and the loways, or Ayaways, Potowatomies, Sioux, and
Sawkees. Blood had already been shed, and scalps been taken. A
war party, three hundred strong, were prowling in the
neighborhood; others might be met with higher up the river; it
behooved the travellers, therefore, to be upon their guard
against robbery or surprise, for an Indian war-party on the march
is prone to acts of outrage.

In consequence of this report, which was subsequently confirmed
by further intelligence, a guard was kept up at night round the
encampment, and they all slept on their arms. As they were
sixteen in number, and well supplied with weapons and ammunition,
they trusted to be able to give any marauding party a warm
reception. Nothing occurred, however, to molest them on their
voyage, and on the 8th of April they came in sight of Fort Osage.
On their approach the flag was hoisted on the fort, and they
saluted it by a discharge of fire-arms. Within a short distance
of the fort was an Osage village, the inhabitants of which, men,
women, and children, thronged down to the water side to witness
their landing. One of the first persons they met on the river
bank was Mr. Crooks, who had come down in a boat, with nine men,
from their winter encampment at Nodowa to meet them.

They remained at Fort Osage a part of three days, during which
they were hospitably entertained at the garrison by Lieutenant
Brownson, who held a temporary command. They were regaled also
with a war-feast at the village; the Osage warriors having
returned from a successful foray against the loways, in which
they had taken seven scalps. They were paraded on poles about the
village, followed by the warriors decked out in all their savage
ornaments, and hideously painted as if for battle.

By the Osage warriors, Mr. Hunt and his companions were again
warned to be on their guard in ascending the river, as the Sioux
tribe meant to lay in wait and attack them.

On the 10th of April they again embarked their party, being now
augmented to twenty-six, by the addition of Mr. Crooks and his
boat's crew. They had not proceeded far, however, when there was
a great outcry from one of the boats; it was occasioned by a
little domestic discipline in the Dorion family. The squaw of the
worthy interpreter, it appeared, had been so delighted with the
scalp-dance, and other festivities of the Osage village, that she
had taken a strong inclination to remain there. This had been as
strongly opposed by her liege lord, who had compelled her to
embark. The good dame had remained sulky ever since, whereupon
Pierre, seeing no other mode of exorcising the evil spirit out of
her, and being, perhaps, a little inspired by whiskey, had
resorted to the Indian remedy of the cudgel, and before his
neighbors could interfere, had belabored her so soundly, that
there is no record of her having shown any refractory symptoms
throughout the remainder of the expedition.

For a week they continued their voyage, exposed to almost
incessant rains. The bodies of drowned buffaloes floated past
them in vast numbers; many had drifted upon the shore, or against
the upper ends of the rafts and islands. These had attracted
great flights of turkey-buzzards; some were banqueting on the
carcasses, others were soaring far aloft in the sky, and others
were perched on the trees, with their backs to the sun, and their
wings stretched out to dry, like so many vessels in harbor,
spreading their sails after a shower.

The turkey-buzzard (vultur aura, or golden vulture), when on the
wing, is one of the most specious and imposing of birds. Its
flight in the upper regions of the air is really sublime,
extending its immense wings, and wheeling slowly and majestically
to and fro, seemingly without exerting a muscle or fluttering a
feather, but moving by mere volition, and sailing on the bosom of
the air, as a ship upon the ocean. Usurping the empyreal realm of
the eagle, he assumes for a time the port and dignity of that
majestic bird, and often is mistaken for him by ignorant crawlers
upon the earth. It is only when he descends from the clouds to
pounce upon carrion that he betrays his low propensities, and
reveals his caitiff character. Near at hand he is a disgusting
bird, ragged in plumage, base in aspect, and of loathsome odor.

On the 17th of April Mr. Hunt arrived with his party at the
station near the Nodowa River, where the main body had been
quartered during the winter.

CHAPTER XVI.

Return of Spring.- Appearance of Snakes.- Great Flights of Wild
Pigeons.- Renewal of the Voyage.- Night Encampments.- Platte
River. - Ceremonials on Passing It.- Signs of Indian War
Parties.- Magnificent Prospect at Papillion Creek.- Desertion of
Two Hunters.An Irruption Into the Camp of Indian Desperadoes.-
Village of the Omahas.-A necdotes of the Tribe.- Feudal Wars of
the Indians.-Story of Blackbird, the Famous Omaha Chief.

THE weather continued rainy and ungenial for some days after Mr.
Hunt's return to Nodowa; yet spring was rapidly advancing and
vegetation was putting forth with all its early freshness and
beauty. The snakes began to recover from their torpor and crawl
forth into day; and the neighborhood of the wintering house seems
to have been much infested with them. Mr. Bradbury, in the course
of his botanical researches, found a surprising number in a half
torpid state, under flat stones upon the banks which overhung the
cantonment, and narrowly escaped being struck by a rattlesnake,
which darted at him from a cleft in the rock, but fortunately
gave him warning by his rattle.

The pigeons, too, were filling the woods in vast migratory
flocks. It is almost incredible to describe the prodigious
flights of these birds in the western wildernesses. They appear
absolutely in clouds, and move with astonishing velocity, their
wings making a whistling sound as they fly. The rapid evolutions
of these flocks wheeling and shifting suddenly as if with one
mind and one impulse; the flashing changes of color they present,
as their backs' their breasts, or the under part of their wings
are turned to the spectator, are singularly pleasing. When they
alight, if on the ground, they cover whole acres at a time; if
upon trees, the branches often break beneath their weight. If
suddenly startled while feeding in the midst of a forest, the
noise they make in getting on the wing is like the roar of a
cataract or the sound of distant thunder.

A flight of this kind, like an Egyptian flight of locusts,
devours everything that serves for its food as it passes along.
So great were the numbers in the vicinity of the camp that Mr.
Bradbury, in the course of a morning's excursion, shot nearly
three hundred with a fowling-piece. He gives a curious, though
apparently a faithful, account of the kind of discipline observed
in these immense flocks, so that each may have a chance of
picking up food. As the front ranks must meet with the greatest
abundance, and the rear ranks must have scanty pickings, the
instant a rank finds itself the hindmost, it rises in the air,
flies over the whole flock and takes its place in the advance.
The next rank follows in its course, and thus the last is
continually becoming first and all by turns have a front place at
the banquet.

The rains having at length subsided, Mr. Hunt broke up the
encampment and resumed his course up the Missouri.

The party now consisted of nearly sixty persons, of whom five
were partners, one, John Reed, was a clerk; forty were Canadian
"voyageurs," or "engages," and there were several hunters. They
embarked in four boats, one of which was of a large size,
mounting a swivel, and two howitzers. All were furnished with
masts and sails, to be used when the wind was sufficiently
favorable and strong to overpower the current of the river. Such
was the case for the first four or five days, when they were
wafted steadily up the stream by a strong southeaster.

Their encampments at night were often pleasant and picturesque:
on some beautiful bank, beneath spreading trees, which afforded
them shelter and fuel. The tents were pitched, the fires made,
and the meals prepared by the voyageurs, and many a story was
told, and joke passed, and song sung round the evening fire. All,
however, were asleep at an early hour. Some under the tents,
others wrapped in blankets before the fire, or beneath the trees;
and some few in the boats and canoes.

On the 28th, they breakfasted on one of the islands which lie at
the mouth of the Nebraska or Platte River - the largest tributary
of the Missouri, and about six hundred miles above its confluence
with the Mississippi. This broad but shallow stream flows for an
immense distance through a wide and verdant valley scooped out of
boundless prairies. It draws its main supplies, by several forks
or branches, from the Rocky Mountains. The mouth of this river is
established as the dividing point between the upper and lower
Missouri; and the earlier voyagers, in their toilsome ascent,
before the introduction of steamboats, considered one-half of
their labors accomplished when they reached this place. The
passing of the mouth of the Nebraska, therefore, was equivalent
among boatmen to the crossing of the line among sailors, and was
celebrated with like ceremonials of a rough and waggish nature,
practiced upon the uninitiated; among which was the old nautical
joke of shaving. The river deities, however, like those of the
sea, were to be propitiated by a bribe, and the infliction of
these rude honors to be parried by a treat to the adepts.

At the mouth of the Nebraska new signs were met with of war
parties which had recently been in the vicinity. There was the
frame of a skin canoe, in which the warriors had traversed the
river. At night, also, the lurid reflection of immense fires hung
in the sky, showing the conflagration of great tracts of the
prairies. Such fires not being made by hunters so late in the
season, it was supposed they were caused by some wandering war
parties. These often take the precaution to set the prairies on
fire behind them to conceal their traces from their enemies. This
is chiefly done when the party has been unsuccessful, and is on
the retreat and apprehensive of pursuit. At such time it is not
safe even for friends to fall in with them, as they are apt to be
in savage humor, and disposed to vent their spleen in capricious
outrage. These signs, therefore, of a band of marauders on the
prowl, called for some degree of vigilance on the part of the
travellers.

After passing the Nebraska, the party halted for part of two days
on the bank of the river, a little above Papillion Creek, to
supply themselves with a stock of oars and poles from the tough
wood of the ash, which is not met with higher up the Missouri.
While the voyagers were thus occupied, the naturalists rambled
over the adjacent country to collect plants. From the summit of a
range of bluffs on the opposite side of the river, about two
hundred and fifty feet high, they had one of those vast and
magnificent prospects which sometimes unfold themselves in those
boundless regions. Below them was the Valley of the Missouri,
about seven miles in breadth, clad in the fresh verdure of
spring; enameled with flowers and interspersed with clumps and
groves of noble trees, between which the mighty river poured its
turbulent and turbid stream. The interior of the country
presented a singular scene; the immense waste being broken up by
innumerable green hills, not above eight feet in height, but
extremely steep, and actually pointed at their summits. A long
line of bluffs extended for upwards of thirty miles parallel to
the Missouri, with a shallow lake stretching along their base,
which had evidently once formed a bed of the river. The surface
of this lake was covered with aquatic plants, on the broad leaves
of which numbers of water-snakes, drawn forth by the genial
warmth of spring, were basking in the sunshine.

On the 2d day of May, at the usual hour of embarking, the camp
was thrown into some confusion by two of the hunters, named
Harrington, expressing their intention to abandon the expedition
and return home. One of these had joined the party in the
preceding autumn, having been hunting for two years on the
Missouri; the other had engaged at St. Louis, in the following
March, and had come up from thence with Mr. Hunt. He now declared
that he had enlisted merely for the purpose of following his
brother, and persuading him to return; having been enjoined to do
so by his mother, whose anxiety had been awakened by the idea of
his going on such a wild and distant expedition.

The loss of two stark hunters and prime riflemen was a serious
affair to the party, for they were approaching the region where
they might expect hostilities from the Sioux; indeed, throughout
the whole of their perilous journey, the services of such men
would be all important, for little reliance was to be placed upon
the valor of the Canadians in case of attack. Mr. Hunt endeavored
by arguments, expostulations, and entreaties, to shake the
determination of the two brothers. He represented to them that
they were between six and seven hundred miles above the mouth of
the Missouri; that they would have four hundred miles to go
before they could reach the habitation of a white man, throughout
which they would be exposed to all kinds of risks; since, he
declared, if they persisted in abandoning him and breaking their
faith, he would not furnish them with a single round of
ammunition. All was in vain; they obstinately persisted in their
resolution; whereupon, Mr. Hunt, partly incited by indignation,
partly by the policy of deterring others from desertion, put his
threat into execution, and left them to find their way back to
the settlements without, as he supposed, a single bullet or
charge of powder.

The boats now continued their slow and toilsome course for
several days, against the current of the river. The late signs of
roaming war parties caused a vigilant watch to be kept up at
night when the crews encamped on shore; nor was this vigilance
superfluous; for on the night of the seventh instant, there was a
wild and fearful yell, and eleven Sioux warriors, stark naked,
with tomahawks in their hands, rushed into the camp. They were
instantly surrounded and seized, whereupon their leader called
out to his followers to desist from any violence, and pretended
to be perfectly pacific in his intentions. It proved, however,
that they were a part of the war party, the skeleton of whose
canoe had been seen at the mouth of the river Platte, and the
reflection of whose fires had been descried in the air. They had
been disappointed or defeated in the foray, and in their rage and
mortification these eleven warriors had "devoted their clothes to
the medicine." This is a desperate act of Indian braves when
foiled in war, and in dread of scoffs and sneers. In such case
they sometimes threw off their clothes and ornaments, devote
themselves to the Great Spirit, and attempt some reckless exploit
with which to cover their disgrace. Woe to any defenseless party
of white men that may then fall in their way!

Such was the explanation given by Pierre Dorion, the half-breed
interpreter, of this wild intrusion into the camp; and the party
were so exasperated when appraised of the sanguinary intentions
of the prisoners, that they were for shooting them on the spot.
Mr. Hunt, however, exerted his usual moderation and humanity, and
ordered that they should be conveyed across the river in one of
the boats, threatening them however, with certain death if again
caught in any hostile act.

On the 10th of May the party arrived at the Omaha (pronounced
Omawhaw) village, about eight hundred and thirty miles above the
mouth of the Missouri, and encamped in its neighborhood. The
village was situated under a hill on the bank of the river, and
consisted of about eighty lodges. These were of a circular and
conical form, and about sixteen feet in diameter; being mere
tents of dressed buffalo skins, sewed together and stretched on
long poles, inclined towards each other so as to cross at about
half their height. Thus the naked tops of the poles diverge in
such a manner that, if they were covered with skins like the
lower ends, the tent would be shaped like an hour-glass, and
present the appearance of one cone inverted on the apex of
another.

The forms of Indian lodges are worthy of attention, each tribe
having a different mode of shaping and arranging them, so that it
is easy to tell, on seeing a lodge or an encampment at a
distance, to what tribe the inhabitants belong. The exterior of
the Omaha lodges have often a gay and fanciful appearance, being
painted with undulating bands of red or yellow, or decorated with
rude figures of horses, deer, and buffaloes, and with human
faces, painted like full moons, four and five feet broad.

The Omahas were once one of the numerous and powerful tribes of
the prairies, vying in warlike might and prowess with the Sioux,
the Pawnees, the Sauks, the Konsas, and the Iatans. Their wars
with the Sioux, however, had thinned their ranks, and the small-
pox in 1802 had swept off two thirds of their number. At the time
of Mr. Hunt's visit they still boasted about two hundred warriors
and hunters, but they are now fast melting away, and before long,
will be numbered among those extinguished nations of the west
that exist but in tradition.

In his correspondence with Mr. Astor, from this point of his
journey, Mr. Hunt gives a sad account of the Indian tribes
bordering on the river. They were in continual war with each
other, and their wars were of the most harassing kind;
consisting, not merely of main conflicts and expeditions of
moment, involving the sackings, burnings, and massacres of towns
and villages, but of individual acts of treachery, murder, and
cold-blooded cruelty; or of vaunting and foolhardy exploits of
single warriors, either to avenge some personal wrong, or gain
the vainglorious trophy of a scalp. The lonely hunter, the
wandering wayfarer, the poor squaw cutting wood or gathering
corn, was liable to be surprised and slaughtered. In this way
tribes were either swept away at once, or gradually thinned out,
and savage life was surrounded with constant horrors and alarms.
That the race of red men should diminish from year to year, and
so few should survive of the numerous nations which evidently
once peopled the vast regions of the west, is nothing surprising;
it is rather matter of surprise that so many should survive; for
the existence of a savage in these parts seems little better than
a prolonged and all-besetting death. It is, in fact, a caricature
of the boasted romance of feudal times; chivalry in its native
and uncultured state, and knight-errantry run wild.

In their most prosperous days, the Omahas looked upon themselves
as the most powerful and perfect of human beings, and considered
all created things as made for their peculiar use and benefit. It
is this tribe of whose chief, the famous Wash-ing-guhsah-ba, or
Blackbird, such savage and romantic stories are told. He had died
about ten years previous to the arrival of Mr. Hunt's party, but
his name was still mentioned with awe by his people. He was one
of the first among the Indian chiefs on the Missouri to deal with
the white traders, and showed great sagacity in levying his royal
dues. When a trader arrived in his village, he caused all his
goods to be brought into his lodge and opened. From these he
selected whatever suited his sovereign pleasure; blankets,
tobacco, whiskey, powder, ball, beads, and red paint; and laid
the articles on one side, without deigning to give any
compensation. Then calling to him his herald or crier, he would
order him to mount on top of the lodge and summon all the tribe
to bring in their peltries, and trade with the white man. The
lodge would soon be crowded with Indians bringing bear, beaver,
otter, and other skins. No one was allowed to dispute the prices
fixed by the white trader upon his articles; who took care to
indemnify himself five times over for the goods set apart by the
chief. In this way the Blackbird enriched himself, and enriched
the white men, and became exceedingly popular among the traders
of the Missouri. His people, however, were not equally satisfied
by a regulation of trade which worked so manifestly against them,
and began to show signs of discontent. Upon this a crafty and
unprincipled trader revealed a secret to the Blackbird, by which
he might acquire unbounded sway over his ignorant and
superstitious subjects. He instructed him in the poisonous
qualities of arsenic, and furnished him with an ample supply of
that baneful drug. From this time the Blackbird seemed endowed
with supernatural powers, to possess the gift of prophecy, and to
hold the disposal of life and death within his hands. Woe to any
one who questioned his authority or dared to dispute his
commands! The Blackbird prophesied his death within a certain
time, and he had the secret means of verifying his prophecy.
Within the fated period the offender was smitten with strange and
sudden disease, and perished from the face of the earth. Every
one stood aghast at these multiplied examples of his superhuman
might, and dreaded to displease so omnipotent and vindictive a
being; and the Blackbird enjoyed a wide and undisputed sway.

It was not, however, by terror alone that he ruled his people; he
was a warrior of the first order, and his exploits in arms were
the theme of young and old. His career had begun by hardships,
having been taken prisoner by the Sioux, in early youth. Under
his command, the Omahas obtained great character for military
prowess, nor did he permit an insult or an injury to one of his
tribe to pass unrevenged. The Pawnee republicans had inflicted a
gross indignity on a favorite and distinguished Omaha brave. The
Blackbird assembled his warriors, led them against the Pawnee
town, attacked it with irresistible fury, slaughtered a great
number of its inhabitants, and burnt it to the ground. He waged
fierce and bloody war against the Ottoes for many years, until
peace was effected between them by the mediation of the whites.
Fearless in battle, and fond of signalizing himself, he dazzled
his followers by daring acts. In attacking a Kanza village, he
rode singly round it, loading and discharging his rifle at the
inhabitants as he galloped past them. He kept up in war the same
idea of mysterious and supernatural power. At one time, when
pursuing a war party by their tracks across the prairies, he
repeatedly discharged his rifle into the prints made by their
feet and by the hoofs of their horses, assuring his followers
that he would thereby cripple the fugitives, so that they would
easily be overtaken. He in fact did overtake them, and destroyed
them almost to a man; and his victory was considered miraculous,
both by friends and foe. By these and similar exploits, he made
himself the pride and boast of his people, and became popular
among them, notwithstanding his death-denouncing fiat.

With all his savage and terrific qualities, he was sensible of
the power of female beauty, and capable of love. A war party of
the Poncas had made a foray into the lands of the Omahas, and
carried off a number of women and horses. The Blackbird was
roused to fury, and took the field with all his braves, swearing
to "eat up the Ponca nation"- the Indian threat of exterminating
war. The Poncas, sorely pressed, took refuge behind a rude
bulwark of earth; but the Blackbird kept up so galling a fire,
that he seemed likely to execute his menace. In their extremity
they sent forth a herald, bearing the calumet or pipe of peace,
but he was shot down by order of the Blackbird. Another herald
was sent forth in similar guise, but he shared a like fate. The
Ponca chief then, as a last hope, arrayed his beautiful daughter
in her finest ornaments, and sent her forth with a calumet, to
sue for peace. The charms of the Indian maid touched the stern
heart of the Blackbird; he accepted the pipe at her hand, smoked
it, and from that time a peace took place between the Poncas and
the Omahas.

This beautiful damsel, in all probability, was the favorite wife
whose fate makes so tragic an incident in the story of the
Blackbird. Her youth and beauty had gained an absolute sway over
his rugged heart, so that he distinguished her above all of his
other wives. The habitual gratification of his vindictive
impulses, however, had taken away from him all mastery over his
passions, and rendered him liable to the most furious transports
of rage. In one of these his beautiful wife had the misfortune to
offend him, when suddenly drawing his knife, he laid her dead at
his feet with a single blow.

In an instant his frenzy was at an end. He gazed for a time in
mute bewilderment upon his victim; then drawing his buffalo robe
over his head, he sat down beside the corpse, and remained
brooding over his crime and his loss. Three days elapsed, yet the
chief continued silent and motionless; tasting no food, and
apparently sleepless. It was apprehended that he intended to
starve himself to death; his people approached him in trembling
awe, and entreated him once more to uncover his face and be
comforted; but he remained unmoved. At length one of his warriors
brought in a small child, and laying it on the ground, placed the
foot of the Blackbird upon its neck. The heart of the gloomy
savage was touched by this appeal; he threw aside his robe; made
an harangue upon what he had done; and from that time forward
seemed to have thrown the load of grief and remorse from his
mind.

He still retained his fatal and mysterious secret, and with it
his terrific power; but, though able to deal death to his
enemies, he could not avert it from himself or his friends. In
1802 the small-pox, that dreadful pestilence, which swept over
the land like a fire over the prairie, made its appearance in the
village of the Omahas. The poor savages saw with dismay the
ravages of a malady, loathsome and agonizing in its details, and
which set the skill and experience of their conjurors and
medicine men at defiance. In a little while, two thirds of the
population were swept from the face of the earth, and the doom of
the rest seemed sealed. The stoicism of the warriors was at an
end; they became wild and desperate; some set fire to the village
as a last means of checking the pestilence; others, in a frenzy
of despair, put their wives and children to death, that they
might be spared the agonies of an inevitable disease, and that
they might all go to some better country.

When the general horror and dismay was at its height, the
Blackbird himself was struck down with the malady. The poor
savages, when they saw their chief in danger, forgot their own
miseries, and surrounded his dying bed. His dominant spirit, and
his love for the white men, were evinced in his latest breath,
with which he designated his place of sepulture. It was to be on
a hill or promontory, upwards of four hundred feet in height,
overlooking a great extent of the Missouri, from whence he had
been accustomed to watch for the barks of the white men. The
Missouri washes the base of the promontory, and after winding and
doubling in many links and mazes in the plain below, returns to
within nine hundred yards of its starting-place; so that for
thirty miles navigating with sail and oar the voyager finds
himself continually near to this singular promontory as if spell-
bound.

It was the dying command of the Blackbird that his tomb should be
on the summit of this hill, in which he should be interred,
seated on his favorite horse, that he might overlook his ancient
domain, and behold the barks of the white men as they came up the
river to trade with his people.

His dying orders were faithfully obeyed. His corpse was placed
astride of his war-steed and a mound raised over them on the
summit of the hill. On top of the mound was erected a staff, from
which fluttered the banner of the chieftain, and the scalps that
he had taken in battle. When the expedition under Mr. Hunt
visited that part of the country, the staff still remained, with
the fragments of the banner; and the superstitious rite of
placing food from time to time on the mound, for the use of the
deceased, was still observed by the Omahas. That rite has since
fallen into disuse, for the tribe itself is almost extinct. Yet
the hill of the Blackbird continues an object of veneration to
the wandering savage, and a landmark to the voyager of the
Missouri; and as the civilized traveller comes within sight of
its spell-bound crest, the mound is pointed out to him from afar,
which still incloses the grim skeletons of the Indian warrior and
his horse.

CHAPTER XVII.

Rumors of Danger From the Sioux Tetons.- Ruthless Character of
Those Savages.- Pirates of the Missouri.- Their Affair with
Crooks and M'Lellan.- A Trading Expedition Broken Up.- M'Lellan's
Vow of Vengeance.- Uneasiness in the Camp.- Desertions.-
Departure From the Omaha Village.- Meeting With Jones and Carson,
two Adventurous Trappers.- Scientific Pursuits of Messrs.
Bradbury and Nuttall. - Zeal of a Botanist.- Adventure of Mr.
Bradbury with a Ponca Indian. -Expedient of the Pocket Compass
and Microscope.- A Messenger From Lisa.- Motives for Pressing
Forward.

WHILE Mr. Hunt and his party were sojourning at the village of
the Omahas, three Sioux Indians of the Yankton Alma tribe
arrived, bringing unpleasant intelligence. They reported that
certain bands of the Sioux Tetons, who inhabited a region many
leagues further up the Missouri, were near at hand, awaiting the
approach of the party, with the avowed intention of opposing
their progress.

The Sioux Tetons were at that time a sort of pirates of the
Missouri, who considered the well freighted bark of the American
trader fair game. They had their own traffic with the British
merchants of the Northwest, who brought them regular supplies of
merchandise by way of the river St. Peter. Being thus independent
of the Missouri traders for their supplies, they kept no terms
with them, but plundered them whenever they had an opportunity.
It has been insinuated that they were prompted to these outrages
by the British merchants, who wished to keep off all rivals in
the Indian trade; but others allege another motive, and one
savoring of a deeper policy. The Sioux, by their intercourse with
the British traders, had acquired the use of firearms, which had
given them vast superiority over other tribes higher up the
Missouri. They had made themselves also, in a manner, factors for
the upper tribes, supplying them at second hand, and at greatly
advanced prices, with goods derived from the white men. The
Sioux, therefore, saw with jealousy the American traders pushing
their way up the Missouri; foreseeing that the upper tribes would
thus be relieved from all dependence on them for supplies; nay,
what was worse, would be furnished with fire-arms, and elevated
into formidable rivals.

We have already alluded to a case in which Mr. Crooks and Mr.
M'Lellan had been interrupted in a trading voyage by these
ruffians of the river, and, as it is in some degree connected
with circumstances hereafter to be related, we shall specify it
more particularly.

About two years before the time of which we are treating, Crooks
and M'Lellan were ascending the river in boats with a party of
about forty men, bound on one of their trading expeditions to the
upper tribes. In one of the bends of the river, where the channel
made a deep curve under impending banks, they suddenly heard
yells and shouts above them, and beheld the cliffs overhead
covered with armed savages. It was a band of Sioux warriors,
upwards of six hundred strong. They brandished their weapons in a
menacing manner, and ordered the boats to turn back and land
lower down the river. There was no disputing these commands, for
they had the power to shower destruction upon the white men,
without risk to themselves. Crooks and M'Lellan, therefore,
turned back with feigned alacrity, and, landing, had an interview
with the Sioux. The latter forbade them, under pain of
exterminating hostility, from attempting to proceed up the river,
but offered to trade peacefully with them if they would halt
where they were. The party, being principally composed of
voyageurs, was too weak to contend with so superior a force, and
one so easily augmented; they pretended, therefore, to comply
cheerfully with their arbitrary dictation, and immediately
proceeded to cut down trees and erect a trading house. The
warrior band departed for their village, which was about twenty
miles distant, to collect objects of traffic; they left six or
eight of their number, however, to keep watch upon the white men,
and scouts were continually passing to and fro with intelligence.

Mr. Crooks saw that it would be impossible to prosecute his
voyage without the danger of having his boats plundered, and a
great part of his men massacred; he determined, however, not to
be entirely frustrated in the objects of his expedition. While he
continued, therefore, with great apparent earnestness and
assiduity, the construction of the trading house, he despatched
the hunters and trappers of his party in a canoe, to make their
way up the river to the original place of destination, there to
busy themselves in trapping and collecting peltries, and to await
his arrival at some future period.

As soon as the detachment had had sufficient time to ascend
beyond the hostile country of the Sioux, Mr. Crooks suddenly
broke up his feigned trading establishment, embarked his men and
effects, and, after giving the astonished rear-guard of savages a
galling and indignant message to take to their countrymen, pushed
down the river with all speed, sparing neither oar nor paddle,
day nor night, until fairly beyond the swoop of these river
hawks.

What increased the irritation of Messrs. Crooks and M'Lellan, at
this mortifying check to their gainful enterprise, was the
information that a rival trader was at the bottom of it; the
Sioux, it is said, having been instigated to this outrage by Mr.
Manuel Lisa, the leading partner and agent of the Missouri Fur
Company, already mentioned. This intelligence, whether true or
false, so roused the fiery temper of M'Lellan, that he swore, if
ever he fell in with Lisa in the Indian country, he would shoot
him on the spot; a mode of redress perfectly in unison with the
character of the man, and the code of honor prevalent beyond the
frontier.

If Crooks and M'Lellan had been exasperated by the insolent
conduct of the Sioux Tetons, and the loss which it had
occasioned, those freebooters had been no less indignant at being
outwitted by the white men, and disappointed of their anticipated
gains, and it was apprehended they would be particularly hostile
against the present expedition, when they should learn that these
gentlemen were engaged in it.

All these causes of uneasiness were concealed as much as possible
from the Canadian voyageurs, lest they should become intimidated;
it was impossible, however, to prevent the rumors brought by the
Indians from leaking out, and they became subjects of gossiping
and exaggeration. The chief of the Omahas, too, on returning from
a hunting excursion, reported that two men had been killed some
distance above, by a band of Sioux. This added to the fears that
already began to be excited. The voyageurs pictured to themselves
bands of fierce warriors stationed along each bank of the river,
by whom they would be exposed to be shot down in their boats: or
lurking hordes, who would set on them at night, and massacre them
in their encampments. Some lost heart, and proposed to return,
rather than fight their way, and, in a manner, run the gauntlet
through the country of these piratical marauders. In fact, three
men deserted while at this village. Luckily, their place was
supplied by three others who happened to be there, and who were
prevailed on to join the expedition by promises of liberal pay,
and by being fitted out and equipped in complete style.

The irresolution and discontent visible among some of his people,
arising at times almost to mutiny, and the occasional desertions
which took place while thus among friendly tribes, and within
reach of the frontiers, added greatly to the anxieties of Mr.
Hunt, and rendered him eager to press forward and leave a hostile
tract behind him, so that it would be as perilous to return as to
keep on, and no one would dare to desert.

Accordingly, on the 15th of May he departed from the village of
the Omahas, and set forward towards the country of the formidable
Sioux Tetons. For the first five days they had a fair and fresh
breeze, and the boats made good progress. The wind then came
ahead, and the river beginning to rise, and to increase in
rapidity, betokened the commencement of the annual flood, caused
by the melting of the snow on the Rocky Mountains, and the vernal
rains of the upper prairies.

As they were now entering a region where foes might be lying in
wait on either bank, it was determined, in hunting for game, to
confine themselves principally to the islands, which sometimes
extend to considerable length, and are beautifully wooded,
affording abundant pasturage and shade. On one of these they
killed three buffaloes and two elks, and halting on the edge of a
beautiful prairie, made a sumptuous hunter's repast. They had not
long resumed their boats and pulled along the river banks when
they descried a canoe approaching, navigated by two men, whom, to
their surprise, they ascertained to be white men. They proved to
be two of those strange and fearless wanderers of the wilderness,
the trappers. Their names were Benjamin Jones and Alexander
Carson. They had been for two years past hunting and trapping
near the head of the Missouri, and were thus floating for
thousands of miles in a cockle-shell, down a turbulent stream,
through regions infested by savage tribes, yet apparently as easy
and unconcerned as if navigating securely in the midst of
civilization.

The acquisition of two such hardy, experienced, and dauntless
hunters was peculiarly desirable at the present moment. They
needed but little persuasion. The wilderness is the home of the
trapper; like the sailor, he cares but little to which point of
the compass he steers; and Jones and Carson readily abandoned
their voyage to St. Louis, and turned their faces towards the
Rocky Mountains and the Pacific.

The two naturalists, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Nuttall, who had
joined the expedition at St. Louis, still accompanied it, and
pursued their researches on all occasions. Mr. Nuttall seems to
have been exclusively devoted to his scientific pursuits. He was
a zealous botanist, and all his enthusiasm was awakened at
beholding a new world, as it were, opening upon him in the
boundless prairies, clad in the vernal and variegated robe of
unknown flowers. Whenever the boats landed at meal times, or for
any temporary purpose, he would spring on shore, and set out on a
hunt for new specimens. Every plant or flower of a rare or
unknown species was eagerly seized as a prize. Delighted with the
treasures spreading themselves out before him, he went groping
and stumbling along among the wilderness of sweets, forgetful of
everything but his immediate pursuit, and had often to be sought
after when the boats were about to resume their course. At such
times he would be found far off in the prairies, or up the course
of some petty stream, laden with plants of all kinds.

The Canadian voyageurs, who are a class of people that know
nothing out of their immediate line, and with constitutional
levity make a jest of anything they cannot understand, were
extremely puzzled by this passion for collecting what they
considered mere useless weeds. When they saw the worthy botanist
coming back heavy laden with his specimens, and treasuring them
up as carefully as a miser would his hoard, they used to make
merry among themselves at his expense, regarding him as some
whimsical kind of madman.

Mr. Bradbury was less exclusive in his tastes and habits, and
combined the hunter and sportsman with the naturalist. He took
his rifle or his fowling-piece with him in his geological
researches, conformed to the hardy and rugged habits of the men
around him, and of course gained favor in their eyes. He had a
strong relish for incident and adventure, was curious in
observing savage manners, and savage life, and ready to join any
hunting or other excursion. Even now, that the expedition was
proceeding through a dangerous neighborhood, he could not check
his propensity to ramble. Having observed, on the evening of the
22d of May, that the river ahead made a great bend which would
take up the navigation of the following day, he determined to
profit by the circumstance. On the morning of the 23d, therefore,
instead of embarking, he filled his shot-pouch with parched corn,
for provisions, and set off to cross the neck on foot and meet
the boats in the afternoon at the opposite side of the bend. Mr.
Hunt felt uneasy at his venturing thus alone, and reminded him
that he was in an enemy's country; but Mr. Bradbury made light of
the danger, and started off cheerily upon his ramble. His day was
passed pleasantly in traversing a beautiful tract, making
botanical and geological researches, and observing the habits of
an extensive village of prairie dogs, at which he made several
ineffectual shots, without considering the risk he ran of
attracting the attention of any savages that might be lurking in
the neighborhood. In fact he had totally forgotten the Sioux
Tetons, and all the other perils of the country, when, about the
middle of the afternoon, as he stood near the river bank, and was
looking out for the boat, he suddenly felt a hand laid on his
shoulder. Starting and turning round, he beheld a naked savage
with a bow bent, and the arrow pointed at his breast. In an
instant his gun was leveled and his hand upon the lock. The
Indian drew his bow still further, but forbore to launch the
shaft. Mr. Bradbury, with admirable presence of mind, reflected
that the savage, if hostile in his intents, would have shot him
without giving him a chance of defense; he paused, therefore, and
held out his hand. The other took it in sign of friendship, and
demanded in the Osage language whether he was a Big Knife, or
American. He answered in the affirmative, and inquired whether
the other were a Sioux. To his great relief he found that he was
a Ponca. By his time two other Indians came running up, and all
three laid hold of Mr. Bradbury and seemed disposed to compel him
to go off with them among the hills. He resisted, and sitting
down on a sand hill contrived to amuse them with a pocket
compass. When the novelty of this was exhausted they again seized
him, but he now produced a small microscope. This new wonder
again fixed the attention of the savages, who have more curiosity
than it has been the custom to allow them. While thus engaged,
one of them suddenly leaped up and gave a war-whoop. The hand of
the hardy naturalist was again on his gun, and he was prepared to
make battle, when the Indian pointed down the river and revealed
the true cause of his yell. It was the mast of one of the boats
appearing above the low willows which bordered the stream. Mr.
Bradbury felt infinitely relieved by the sight. The Indians on
their part now showed signs of apprehension, and were disposed to
run away; but he assured them of good treatment and something to
drink if they would accompany him on board of the boats. They
lingered for a time, but disappeared before the boats came to
land.

On the following morning they appeared at camp accompanied by
several of their tribe. With them came also a white man, who
announced himself as a messenger bearing missives for Mr. Hunt.
In fact he brought a letter from Mr. Manuel Lisa, partner and
agent of the Missouri Fur Company. As has already been mentioned,
this gentleman was going in search of Mr. Henry and his party,
who had been dislodged from the forks of the Missouri by the
Blackfeet Indians, and had shifted his post somewhere beyond the
Rocky Mountains. Mr. Lisa had left St. Louis three weeks after
Mr. Hunt, and having heard of the hostile intentions of the
Sioux, had made the greatest exertions to overtake him, that they
might pass through the dangerous part of the river together. He
had twenty stout oarsmen in his service and they plied their oars
so vigorously, that he had reached the Omaha village just four
days after the departure of Mr. Hunt. From this place he
despatched the messenger in question, trusting to his overtaking
the barges as they toiled up against the stream, and were delayed
by the windings of the river. The purport of his letter was to
entreat Mr. Hunt to wait until he could come up with him, that
they might unite their forces and be a protection to each other
in their perilous course through the country of the Sioux. In
fact, as it was afterwards ascertained, Lisa was apprehensive
that Mr. Hunt would do him some ill office with the Sioux band,
securing his own passage through their country by pretending that
he, with whom they were accustomed to trade, was on his way to
them with a plentiful supply of goods. He feared, too, that
Crooks and M'Lellan would take this opportunity to retort upon
him the perfidy which they accused him of having used, two years
previously, among these very Sioux. In this respect, however, he
did them signal injustice. There was no such thing as court
design or treachery in their thought; but M'Lellan, when he heard
that Lisa was on his way up the river, renewed his open threat of
shooting him the moment he met him on Indian land.

The representations made by Crooks and M'Lellan of the treachery
they had experienced, or fancied, on the part of Lisa, had great
weight with Mr. Hunt, especially when he recollected the
obstacles that had been thrown in his way by that gentleman at
St. Louis. He doubted, therefore, the fair dealing of Lisa, and
feared that, should they enter the Sioux country together, the
latter might make use of his influence with that tribe, as he had
in the case of Crooks and M'Lellan, and instigate them to oppose
his progress up the river.

He sent back, therefore, an answer calculated to beguile Lisa,
assuring him that he would wait for him at the Poncas village,
which was but a little distance in advance; but, no sooner had
the messenger departed, than he pushed forward with all
diligence, barely stopping at the village to procure a supply of
dried buffalo meat, and hastened to leave the other party as far
behind as possible, thinking there was less to be apprehended
from the open hostility of Indian foes than from the quiet
strategy of an Indian trader.

CHAPTER XVII.

Rumors of Danger From the Sioux Tetons.- Ruthless Character of
Those Savages.- Pirates of the Missouri.- Their Affair with
Crooks and M'Lellan.- A Trading Expedition Broken Up.- M'Lellan's
Vow of Vengeance.- Uneasiness in the Camp.- Desertions.-
Departure From the Omaha Village.- Meeting With Jones and Carson,
two Adventurous Trappers.- Scientific Pursuits of Messrs.
Bradbury and Nuttall. - Zeal of a Botanist.- Adventure of Mr.
Bradbury with a Ponca Indian. -Expedient of the Pocket Compass
and Microscope.- A Messenger From Lisa.- Motives for Pressing
Forward.

WHILE Mr. Hunt and his party were sojourning at the village of
the Omahas, three Sioux Indians of the Yankton Alma tribe
arrived, bringing unpleasant intelligence. They reported that
certain bands of the Sioux Tetons, who inhabited a region many
leagues further up the Missouri, were near at hand, awaiting the
approach of the party, with the avowed intention of opposing
their progress.

The Sioux Tetons were at that time a sort of pirates of the
Missouri, who considered the well freighted bark of the American
trader fair game. They had their own traffic with the British
merchants of the Northwest, who brought them regular supplies of
merchandise by way of the river St. Peter. Being thus independent
of the Missouri traders for their supplies, they kept no terms
with them, but plundered them whenever they had an opportunity.
It has been insinuated that they were prompted to these outrages
by the British merchants, who wished to keep off all rivals in
the Indian trade; but others allege another motive, and one
savoring of a deeper policy. The Sioux, by their intercourse with
the British traders, had acquired the use of firearms, which had
given them vast superiority over other tribes higher up the
Missouri. They had made themselves also, in a manner, factors for
the upper tribes, supplying them at second hand, and at greatly
advanced prices, with goods derived from the white men. The
Sioux, therefore, saw with jealousy the American traders pushing
their way up the Missouri; foreseeing that the upper tribes would
thus be relieved from all dependence on them for supplies; nay,
what was worse, would be furnished with fire-arms, and elevated
into formidable rivals.

We have already alluded to a case in which Mr. Crooks and Mr.
M'Lellan had been interrupted in a trading voyage by these
ruffians of the river, and, as it is in some degree connected
with circumstances hereafter to be related, we shall specify it
more particularly.

About two years before the time of which we are treating, Crooks
and M'Lellan were ascending the river in boats with a party of
about forty men, bound on one of their trading expeditions to the
upper tribes. In one of the bends of the river, where the channel
made a deep curve under impending banks, they suddenly heard
yells and shouts above them, and beheld the cliffs overhead
covered with armed savages. It was a band of Sioux warriors,
upwards of six hundred strong. They brandished their weapons in a
menacing manner, and ordered the boats to turn back and land
lower down the river. There was no disputing these commands, for
they had the power to shower destruction upon the white men,
without risk to themselves. Crooks and M'Lellan, therefore,
turned back with feigned alacrity, and, landing, had an interview
with the Sioux. The latter forbade them, under pain of
exterminating hostility, from attempting to proceed up the river,
but offered to trade peacefully with them if they would halt
where they were. The party, being principally composed of
voyageurs, was too weak to contend with so superior a force, and
one so easily augmented; they pretended, therefore, to comply
cheerfully with their arbitrary dictation, and immediately
proceeded to cut down trees and erect a trading house. The
warrior band departed for their village, which was about twenty
miles distant, to collect objects of traffic; they left six or
eight of their number, however, to keep watch upon the white men,
and scouts were continually passing to and fro with intelligence.

Mr. Crooks saw that it would be impossible to prosecute his
voyage without the danger of having his boats plundered, and a
great part of his men massacred; he determined, however, not to
be entirely frustrated in the objects of his expedition. While he
continued, therefore, with great apparent earnestness and
assiduity, the construction of the trading house, he despatched
the hunters and trappers of his party in a canoe, to make their
way up the river to the original place of destination, there to
busy themselves in trapping and collecting peltries, and to await
his arrival at some future period.

As soon as the detachment had had sufficient time to ascend
beyond the hostile country of the Sioux, Mr. Crooks suddenly
broke up his feigned trading establishment, embarked his men and
effects, and, after giving the astonished rear-guard of savages a
galling and indignant message to take to their countrymen, pushed
down the river with all speed, sparing neither oar nor paddle,
day nor night, until fairly beyond the swoop of these river
hawks.

What increased the irritation of Messrs. Crooks and M'Lellan, at
this mortifying check to their gainful enterprise, was the
information that a rival trader was at the bottom of it; the
Sioux, it is said, having been instigated to this outrage by Mr.
Manuel Lisa, the leading partner and agent of the Missouri Fur
Company, already mentioned. This intelligence, whether true or
false, so roused the fiery temper of M'Lellan, that he swore, if
ever he fell in with Lisa in the Indian country, he would shoot
him on the spot; a mode of redress perfectly in unison with the
character of the man, and the code of honor prevalent beyond the
frontier.

If Crooks and M'Lellan had been exasperated by the insolent
conduct of the Sioux Tetons, and the loss which it had
occasioned, those freebooters had been no less indignant at being
outwitted by the white men, and disappointed of their anticipated
gains, and it was apprehended they would be particularly hostile
against the present expedition, when they should learn that these
gentlemen were engaged in it.

All these causes of uneasiness were concealed as much as possible
from the Canadian voyageurs, lest they should become intimidated;
it was impossible, however, to prevent the rumors brought by the
Indians from leaking out, and they became subjects of gossiping
and exaggeration. The chief of the Omahas, too, on returning from
a hunting excursion, reported that two men had been killed some
distance above, by a band of Sioux. This added to the fears that
already began to be excited. The voyageurs pictured to themselves
bands of fierce warriors stationed along each bank of the river,
by whom they would be exposed to be shot down in their boats: or
lurking hordes, who would set on them at night, and massacre them
in their encampments. Some lost heart, and proposed to return,
rather than fight their way, and, in a manner, run the gauntlet
through the country of these piratical marauders. In fact, three
men deserted while at this village. Luckily, their place was
supplied by three others who happened to be there, and who were
prevailed on to join the expedition by promises of liberal pay,
and by being fitted out and equipped in complete style.

The irresolution and discontent visible among some of his people,
arising at times almost to mutiny, and the occasional desertions
which took place while thus among friendly tribes, and within
reach of the frontiers, added greatly to the anxieties of Mr.
Hunt, and rendered him eager to press forward and leave a hostile
tract behind him, so that it would be as perilous to return as to
keep on, and no one would dare to desert.

Accordingly, on the 15th of May he departed from the village of
the Omahas, and set forward towards the country of the formidable
Sioux Tetons. For the first five days they had a fair and fresh
breeze, and the boats made good progress. The wind then came
ahead, and the river beginning to rise, and to increase in
rapidity, betokened the commencement of the annual flood, caused
by the melting of the snow on the Rocky Mountains, and the vernal
rains of the upper prairies.

As they were now entering a region where foes might be lying in
wait on either bank, it was determined, in hunting for game, to
confine themselves principally to the islands, which sometimes
extend to considerable length, and are beautifully wooded,
affording abundant pasturage and shade. On one of these they
killed three buffaloes and two elks, and halting on the edge of a
beautiful prairie, made a sumptuous hunter's repast. They had not
long resumed their boats and pulled along the river banks when
they descried a canoe approaching, navigated by two men, whom, to
their surprise, they ascertained to be white men. They proved to
be two of those strange and fearless wanderers of the wilderness,
the trappers. Their names were Benjamin Jones and Alexander
Carson. They had been for two years past hunting and trapping
near the head of the Missouri, and were thus floating for
thousands of miles in a cockle-shell, down a turbulent stream,
through regions infested by savage tribes, yet apparently as easy
and unconcerned as if navigating securely in the midst of
civilization.

The acquisition of two such hardy, experienced, and dauntless
hunters was peculiarly desirable at the present moment. They
needed but little persuasion. The wilderness is the home of the
trapper; like the sailor, he cares but little to which point of
the compass he steers; and Jones and Carson readily abandoned
their voyage to St. Louis, and turned their faces towards the
Rocky Mountains and the Pacific.

The two naturalists, Mr. Bradbury and Mr. Nuttall, who had
joined the expedition at St. Louis, still accompanied it, and
pursued their researches on all occasions. Mr. Nuttall seems to
have been exclusively devoted to his scientific pursuits. He was
a zealous botanist, and all his enthusiasm was awakened at
beholding a new world, as it were, opening upon him in the
boundless prairies, clad in the vernal and variegated robe of
unknown flowers. Whenever the boats landed at meal times, or for
any temporary purpose, he would spring on shore, and set out on a
hunt for new specimens. Every plant or flower of a rare or
unknown species was eagerly seized as a prize. Delighted with the
treasures spreading themselves out before him, he went groping
and stumbling along among the wilderness of sweets, forgetful of
everything but his immediate pursuit, and had often to be sought
after when the boats were about to resume their course. At such
times he would be found far off in the prairies, or up the course
of some petty stream, laden with plants of all kinds.

The Canadian voyageurs, who are a class of people that know
nothing out of their immediate line, and with constitutional
levity make a jest of anything they cannot understand, were
extremely puzzled by this passion for collecting what they
considered mere useless weeds. When they saw the worthy botanist
coming back heavy laden with his specimens, and treasuring them
up as carefully as a miser would his hoard, they used to make
merry among themselves at his expense, regarding him as some
whimsical kind of madman.

Mr. Bradbury was less exclusive in his tastes and habits, and
combined the hunter and sportsman with the naturalist. He took
his rifle or his fowling-piece with him in his geological
researches, conformed to the hardy and rugged habits of the men
around him, and of course gained favor in their eyes. He had a
strong relish for incident and adventure, was curious in
observing savage manners, and savage life, and ready to join any
hunting or other excursion. Even now, that the expedition was
proceeding through a dangerous neighborhood, he could not check
his propensity to ramble. Having observed, on the evening of the
22d of May, that the river ahead made a great bend which would
take up the navigation of the following day, he determined to
profit by the circumstance. On the morning of the 23d, therefore,
instead of embarking, he filled his shot-pouch with parched corn,
for provisions, and set off to cross the neck on foot and meet
the boats in the afternoon at the opposite side of the bend. Mr.
Hunt felt uneasy at his venturing thus alone, and reminded him
that he was in an enemy's country; but Mr. Bradbury made light of
the danger, and started off cheerily upon his ramble. His day was
passed pleasantly in traversing a beautiful tract, making
botanical and geological researches, and observing the habits of
an extensive village of prairie dogs, at which he made several
ineffectual shots, without considering the risk he ran of
attracting the attention of any savages that might be lurking in
the neighborhood. In fact he had totally forgotten the Sioux
Tetons, and all the other perils of the country, when, about the
middle of the afternoon, as he stood near the river bank, and was
looking out for the boat, he suddenly felt a hand laid on his
shoulder. Starting and turning round, he beheld a naked savage
with a bow bent, and the arrow pointed at his breast. In an
instant his gun was leveled and his hand upon the lock. The
Indian drew his bow still further, but forbore to launch the
shaft. Mr. Bradbury, with admirable presence of mind, reflected
that the savage, if hostile in his intents, would have shot him
without giving him a chance of defense; he paused, therefore, and
held out his hand. The other took it in sign of friendship, and
demanded in the Osage language whether he was a Big Knife, or
American. He answered in the affirmative, and inquired whether
the other were a Sioux. To his great relief he found that he was
a Ponca. By his time two other Indians came running up, and all
three laid hold of Mr. Bradbury and seemed disposed to compel him
to go off with them among the hills. He resisted, and sitting
down on a sand hill contrived to amuse them with a pocket
compass. When the novelty of this was exhausted they again seized
him, but he now produced a small microscope. This new wonder
again fixed the attention of the savages, who have more curiosity
than it has been the custom to allow them. While thus engaged,
one of them suddenly leaped up and gave a war-whoop. The hand of
the hardy naturalist was again on his gun, and he was prepared to
make battle, when the Indian pointed down the river and revealed
the true cause of his yell. It was the mast of one of the boats
appearing above the low willows which bordered the stream. Mr.
Bradbury felt infinitely relieved by the sight. The Indians on
their part now showed signs of apprehension, and were disposed to
run away; but he assured them of good treatment and something to
drink if they would accompany him on board of the boats. They
lingered for a time, but disappeared before the boats came to
land.

On the following morning they appeared at camp accompanied by
several of their tribe. With them came also a white man, who
announced himself as a messenger bearing missives for Mr. Hunt.
In fact he brought a letter from Mr. Manuel Lisa, partner and
agent of the Missouri Fur Company. As has already been mentioned,
this gentleman was going in search of Mr. Henry and his party,
who had been dislodged from the forks of the Missouri by the
Blackfeet Indians, and had shifted his post somewhere beyond the
Rocky Mountains. Mr. Lisa had left St. Louis three weeks after
Mr. Hunt, and having heard of the hostile intentions of the
Sioux, had made the greatest exertions to overtake him, that they
might pass through the dangerous part of the river together. He
had twenty stout oarsmen in his service and they plied their oars
so vigorously, that he had reached the Omaha village just four
days after the departure of Mr. Hunt. From this place he
despatched the messenger in question, trusting to his overtaking
the barges as they toiled up against the stream, and were delayed
by the windings of the river. The purport of his letter was to
entreat Mr. Hunt to wait until he could come up with him, that
they might unite their forces and be a protection to each other
in their perilous course through the country of the Sioux. In
fact, as it was afterwards ascertained, Lisa was apprehensive
that Mr. Hunt would do him some ill office with the Sioux band,
securing his own passage through their country by pretending that
he, with whom they were accustomed to trade, was on his way to
them with a plentiful supply of goods. He feared, too, that
Crooks and M'Lellan would take this opportunity to retort upon
him the perfidy which they accused him of having used, two years
previously, among these very Sioux. In this respect, however, he
did them signal injustice. There was no such thing as court
design or treachery in their thought; but M'Lellan, when he heard
that Lisa was on his way up the river, renewed his open threat of
shooting him the moment he met him on Indian land.

The representations made by Crooks and M'Lellan of the treachery
they had experienced, or fancied, on the part of Lisa, had great
weight with Mr. Hunt, especially when he recollected the
obstacles that had been thrown in his way by that gentleman at
St. Louis. He doubted, therefore, the fair dealing of Lisa, and
feared that, should they enter the Sioux country together, the
latter might make use of his influence with that tribe, as he had
in the case of Crooks and M'Lellan, and instigate them to oppose
his progress up the river.

He sent back, therefore, an answer calculated to beguile Lisa,
assuring him that he would wait for him at the Poncas village,
which was but a little distance in advance; but, no sooner had
the messenger departed, than he pushed forward with all
diligence, barely stopping at the village to procure a supply of
dried buffalo meat, and hastened to leave the other party as far
behind as possible, thinking there was less to be apprehended
from the open hostility of Indian foes than from the quiet
strategy of an Indian trader.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Camp Gossip.- Deserters.- Recruits.- Kentucky Hunters.- A Veteran
Woodman.- Tidings of Mr. Henry.-Danger From the Blackfeet. -
Alteration of Plans.- Scenery of the River.- Buffalo Roads.- Iron
Ore.- Country of the Sioux.- A Land of Danger.-apprehensions of
the Voyageurs.- Indian Scouts.- Threatened Hostilities.- A
Council of War.- An Array of Battle.-A Parley.- The Pipe of
Peace.- Speech-Making.

IT was about noon when the party left the Poncas village, about a
league beyond which they passed the mouth of the Quicourt, or
Rapid River (called, in the original French, l'Eau Qui Court).
After having proceeded some distance further, they landed, and
encamped for the night. In the evening camp, the voyageurs
gossiped, as usual, over the events of the day; and especially
over intelligence picked up among the Poncas. These Indians had
confirmed the previous reports of the hostile intentions of the
Sioux, and had assured them that five tribes, or bands, of that
fierce nation were actually assembled higher up the river, and
waiting to cut them off. This evening gossip, and the terrific
stories of Indian warfare to which it gave rise, produced a
strong effect upon the imagination of the irresolute; and in the
morning it was discovered that the two men, who had joined the
party at the Omaha village, and been so bounteously fitted out,
had deserted in the course of the night, carrying with them all
their equipments. As it was known that one of them could not
swim, it was hoped that the banks of the Quicourt River would
bring them to a halt. A general pursuit was therefore instituted,
but without success.

On the following morning (May 26th), as they were all on shore,
breakfasting on one of the beautiful banks of the river, they
observed two canoes descending along the opposite side. By the
aid of spy-glasses, they ascertained that there were two white
men in one of the canoes, and one in the other. A gun was
discharged, which called the attention of the voyagers, who
crossed over. They proved to be the three Kentucky hunters, of
the true "dreadnought" stamp. Their names were Edward Robinson,
John Hoback, and Jacob Rizner. Robinson was a veteran
backwoodsman, sixty-six years of age. He had been one of the
first settlers of Kentucky, and engaged in many of the conflicts
of the Indians on "the Bloody Ground." In one of these battles he
had been scalped, and he still wore a handkerchief bound round
his head to protect the part. These men had passed several years
in the upper wilderness. They had been in the service of the
Missouri Company under Mr. Henry, and had crossed the Rocky
Mountains with him in the preceding year, when driven from his
post on the Missouri by the hostilities of the Blackfeet. After
crossing the mountains, Mr. Henry had established himself on one
of the head branches of the Columbia River. There they had
remained with him some months, hunting and trapping, until,
having satisfied their wandering propensities, they felt disposed
to return to the families and comfortable homes which they had
left in Kentucky. They had accordingly made their way back across
the mountains, and down the rivers, and were in full career for
St. Louis, when thus suddenly interrupted. The sight of a
powerful party of traders, trappers, hunters, and voyageurs, well
armed and equipped, furnished at all points, in high health and
spirits, and banqueting lustily on the green margin of the river,
was a spectacle equally stimulating to these veteran backwoodsmen
with the glorious array of a campaigning army to an old soldier;
but when they learned the grand scope and extent of the
enterprise in hand, it was irresistible; homes and families and
all the charms of green Kentucky vanished from their thoughts;
they cast loose their canoes to drift down the stream, and
joyfully enlisted in the band of adventurers. They engaged on
similar terms with some of the other hunters. The company was to
fit them out, and keep them supplied with the requisite
equipments and munitions, and they were to yield one half of the
produce of their hunting and trapping.

The addition of three such staunch recruits was extremely
acceptable at this dangerous part of the river. The knowledge of
the country which they had acquired, also, in their journeys and
hunting excursions along the rivers and among the Rocky Mountains
was all important; in fact, the information derived from them
induced Mr. Hunt to alter his future course. He had hitherto
intended to proceed by the route taken by Lewis and Clarke in
their famous exploring expedition, ascending he Missouri to its
forks, and thence going, by land, across the mountains. These men
informed him, however, that, on taking that course he would have
to pass through the country invested by the savage tribe of the
Blackfeet, and would be exposed to their hostilities; they being,
as has already been observed, exasperated to deadly animosity
against the whites, on account of the death of one of their tribe
by the hand of Captain Lewis. They advised him rather to pursue a
route more to the southward, being the same by which they had
returned. This would carry them over the mountains about where
the head-waters of the Platte and the Yellowstone take their
rise, at a place much more easy and practicable than that where
Lewis and Clarke had crossed. In pursuing this course, also, he
would pass through a country abounding with game, where he would
have a better chance of procuring a constant supply of provisions
than by the other route, and would run less risk of molestation
from the Blackfeet. Should he adopt this advice, it would be
better for him to abandon the river at the Arickara town, at
which he would arrive in the course of a few days. As the Indians
at that town possessed horses in abundance, he might purchase a

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