Part 5 out of 6
of the violin. They then requested the Indians to dance.
With this they readily complied; and the whole assemblage,
amounting, with the women and children of the village,
to several hundred, stood up, and sang and danced at the same time.
The exercise was not, indeed, very violent nor very graceful;
for the greater part of them were formed into a solid column,
round a kind of hollow square, stood on the same place,
and merely jumped up at intervals, to keep time to the music.
Some, however, of the more active warriors entered the square and
danced round it sideways, and some of our men joined in with them,
to the great satisfaction of the Indians. The dance continued
till ten o'clock."
By the thirtieth of April the expedition was equipped with
twenty-three horses, most of which were young and excellent animals;
but many of them were afflicted with sore backs. All Indians are cruel
masters and hard riders, and their saddles are so rudely made that it
is almost impossible for an Indian's horse to be free from scars;
yet they continue to ride after the animal's back is scarified
in the most horrible manner.
The expedition was now in what we know as Walla Walla County, Washington,
and they were travelling along the river Walla Walla, leaving
the Columbia, which has here a general direction of northerly.
The course of the party was northeast, their objective point
being that where Waitesburg is now built, near the junction
of Coppie Creek and the Touchet River. They were in a region
of wood in plenty, and for the first time since leaving the
Long Narrows, or Dalles, they had as much fuel as they needed.
On the Touchet, accordingly, they camped for the sake of having
a comfortable night; the nights were cold, and a good fire
by which to sleep was an attraction not easily resisted.
The journal, April 30, has this entry:--
"We were soon supplied by Drewyer with a beaver and an otter,
of which we took only a part of the beaver, and gave the rest
to the Indians. The otter is a favorite food, though much inferior,
at least in our estimation, to the dog, which they will not eat.
The horse is seldom eaten, and never except when absolute necessity
compels them, as the only alternative to dying of hunger.
This fastidiousness does not, however, seem to proceed so much from
any dislike to the food, as from attachment to the animal itself;
for many of them eat very heartily of the horse-beef which
we give them."
On the first day of May, having travelled forty miles from
their camp near the mouth of the Walla Walla, they camped
between two points at which are now situated the two towns
of Prescott, on the south, and Waitesburg, on the north.
Their journal says:--
"We had scarcely encamped when three young men came up from the Wollawollah
village, with a steel-trap which had inadvertently been left behind,
and which they had come a whole day's journey in order to restore.
This act of integrity was the more pleasing, because, though very rare
among Indians, it corresponded perfectly with the general behavior
of the Wollawollahs, among whom we had lost carelessly several knives,
which were always returned as soon as found. We may, indeed, justly affirm,
that of all the Indians whom we had met since leaving the United States,
the Wollawollahs were the most hospitable, honest, and sincere."
Overland east of the Columbia
It was now early in May, and the expedition, travelling eastward
along Touchet Creek, were in the country of their friends,
the Chopunnish. On the third, they were agreeably surprised
to meet Weahkootnut, whom they had named Bighorn from the fact
that be wore a born of that animal suspended from his left arm.
This man was the first chief of a large band of Chopunnish,
and when the expedition passed that way, on their path to the Pacific,
the last autumn, he was very obliging and useful to them, guiding them
down the Snake, or Lewis River. He had now heard that the white men
were on their return, and he had come over across the hills to meet them.
As we may suppose, the meeting was very cordial, and Weahkootnut
turned back with his white friends and accompanied them to the mouth
of the Kooskooskee, a stream of which our readers have heard before;
it is now known as the Clearwater.
Captain Lewis told Weahkootnut that his people were hungry,
their slender stock of provisions being about exhausted.
The chief told them that they would soon come to a Chopunnish
house where they could get food. But the journal has this entry:--
"We found the house which Weahkootnut had mentioned, where we
halted for breakfast. It contained six families, so miserably
poor that all we could obtain from them were two lean dogs and a
few large cakes of half-cured bread, made of a root resembling
the sweet potato, of all which we contrived to form a kind of soup.
The soil of the plain is good, but it has no timber.
The range of southwest mountains is about fifteen miles above us,
but continues to lower, and is still covered with snow to its base.
After giving passage to Lewis' [Snake] River, near their
northeastern extremity, they terminate in a high level plain
between that river and the Kooskooskee. The salmon not having
yet called them to the rivers, the greater part of the Chopunnish
are now dispersed in villages through this plain, for the purpose
of collecting quamash and cows, which here grow in great abundance,
the soil being extremely fertile, in many places covered
with long-leaved pine, larch, and balsam-fir, which contribute
to render it less thirsty than the open, unsheltered plains."
By the word "cows," in this sentence, we must understand that
the story-teller meant cowas, a root eaten by the Indians and white
explorers in that distant region. It is a knobbed, irregular root,
and when cooked resembles the ginseng. At this place the party
met some of the Indians whom Captain Clark had treated for
slight diseases, when they passed that way, the previous autumn.
They bad sounded the praises of the white men and their medicine,
and others were now waiting to be treated in the same manner.
The Indians were glad to pay for their treatment, and the white
men were not sorry to find this easy method of adding
to their stock of food, which was very scanty at this time.
The journal sagely adds, "We cautiously abstain from giving them
any but harmless medicines; and as we cannot possibly do harm,
our prescriptions, though unsanctioned by the faculty, may be useful,
and are entitled to some remuneration." Very famous and
accomplished doctors might say the same thing of their practice.
But the explorers did not meet with pleasant acquaintances only;
in the very next entry is recorded this disagreeable incident:
"Four miles beyond this house we came to another large one, containing
ten families, where we halted and made our dinner on two dogs and a small
quantity of roots, which we did not procure without much difficulty.
Whilst we were eating, an Indian standing by, looking with great
derision at our eating dogs, threw a poor half-starved puppy almost
into Captain Lewis' plate, laughing heartily at the humor of it.
Captain Lewis took up the animal and flung it with great force into
the fellow's face; and seizing his tomahawk, threatened to cut him
down if he dared to repeat such insolence. He immediately withdrew,
apparently much mortified, and we continued our repast of dog very quietly.
Here we met our old Chopunnish guide, with his family; and soon afterward
one of our horses, which had been separated from the rest in charge
of Twisted-hair, and had been in this neighborhood for several weeks,
was caught and restored to us."
Later in that day the party came to a Chopunnish house which was
one hundred and fifty-six feet long and fifteen feet wide.
Thirty families were living in this big house, each family
having its fire by itself burning on the earthen floor,
along through the middle of the great structure.
The journal says:--
"We arrived very hungry and weary, but could not purchase any provisions,
except a small quantity of the roots and bread of the cows.
They had, however, heard of our medical skill, and made many applications
for assistance, but we refused to do anything unless they gave us
either dogs or horses to eat. We soon had nearly fifty patients.
A chief brought his wife with an abscess on her back, and promised
to furnish us with a horse to-morrow if we would relieve her.
Captain Clark, therefore, opened the abscess, introduced a tent,
and dressed it with basilicon. We also prepared and distributed some doses
of flour of sulphur and cream of tartar, with directions for its use.
For these we obtained several dogs, but too poor for use,
and therefore postponed our medical operations till the morning.
In the mean time a number of Indians, besides the residents of the village,
gathered about us or camped in the woody bottom of the creek."
It will be recollected that when the expedition was in this region (on the
Kooskooskee), during the previous September, on their way westward, they left
their horses with Chief Twisted-hair, travelling overland from that point.
They were now looking for that chief, and the journal says:--
"About two o'clock we collected our horses and set out,
accompanied by Weahkoonut, with ten or twelve men and a man
who said he was the brother of Twisted-hair. At four miles
we came to a single house of three families, but could not
procure provisions of any kind; and five miles further we
halted for the night near another house, built like the rest,
of sticks, mats, and dried hay, and containing six families.
It was now so difficult to procure anything to eat that our
chief dependence was on the horse which we received yesterday
for medicine; but to our great disappointment he broke the rope
by which be was confined, made his escape, and left us supperless
in the rain."
Next day they met an Indian who brought them two canisters of powder,
which they at once knew to be some of that which they had buried last autumn.
The Indian said that his dog had dug it up in the meadow by the river,
and he had restored it to its rightful owners. As a reward for his honesty,
the captains gave him a flint and steel for striking fire; and they regretted
that their own poverty prevented them from being more liberal to the man.
They observed that the Rocky Mountains, now in full sight,
were still covered with snow, and the prospect of crossing them
was not very rosy. Their Chopunnish guide told them that it would
be impossible to cross the mountains before the next full moon,
which would be about the first of June. The journal adds:
"To us, who are desirous of reaching the plains of the Missouri--
if for no other reason, for the purpose of enjoying a good meal--
this intelligence was by no means welcome, and gave no relish
to the remainder of the horse killed at Colter's Creek, which formed
our supper, as part of which had already been our dinner."
Next day, accordingly, the hunters turned out early in the morning,
and before noon returned with four deer and a duck, which,
with the remains of horse-beef on hand, gave them a much more
plentiful stock of provisions than had lately fallen to their lot.
During the previous winter, they were told, the Indians suffered
very much for lack of food, game of all sorts being scarce.
They were forced to boil and eat the moss growing on the trees,
and they cut down the pine-trees for the sake of the small nut
to be found in the pine-cones. Here they were met by an old friend,
Neeshnepahkeeook and the Shoshonee, who had acted as interpreter
for them. The journal says:--
"We gave Neeshnepahkeeook and his people some of our game and horse-beef,
besides the entrails of the deer, and four fawns which we found
inside of two of them. They did not eat any of them perfectly raw,
but the entrails had very little cooking; the fawns were boiled whole,
and the hide, hair, and entrails all consumed. The Shoshonee was offended
at not having as much venison as he wished, and refused to interpret;
but as we took no notice of him, he became very officious in the course
of a few hours, and made many efforts to reinstate himself in our favor.
The brother of Twisted-hair, and Neeshnepahkeeook, now drew a sketch,
which we preserved, of all the waters west of the Rocky Mountains."
They now met Twisted-hair, in whose care they had left their
horses and saddles the previous fall, and this was the result
of their inquiries:--
"Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon we set out,
in company with Neeshuepahkeeook and other Indians, the brother
of Twisted-hair having left us. Our route was up a high steep
hill to a level plain with little wood, through which we
passed in a direction parallel to the [Kooskooskee] River
for four miles, when we met Twisted-hair and six of his people.
To this chief we had confided our horses and a part of our
saddles last autumn, and we therefore formed very unfavorable
conjectures on finding that he received us with great coldness.
Shortly afterward he began to speak in a very loud, angry manner,
and was answered by Neeshnepahkeeook. We now discovered
that a violent quarrel had arisen between these chiefs,
on the subject, as we afterward understood, of our horses.
But as we could not learn the cause, and were desirous
of terminating the dispute, we interposed, and told them
we should go on to the first water and camp. We therefore
set out, followed by all the Indians, and having reached,
at two miles' distance, a small stream running to the right,
we camped with the two chiefs and their little bands,
forming separate camps at a distance from each other.
They all appeared to be in an ill humor; and as we had already heard
reports that the Indians had discovered and carried off our saddles,
and that the horses were very much scattered, we began to be uneasy,
lest there should be too much foundation for the report.
We were therefore anxious to reconcile the two chiefs as soon
as possible, and desired the Shoshonee to interpret for us while we
attempted a mediation, but be peremptorily refused to speak a word.
He observed that it was a quarrel between the two chiefs,
and he had therefore no right to interfere; nor could all
our representations, that by merely repeating what we said he could
not possibly be considered as meddling between the chiefs,
induce him to take any part in it.
"Soon afterward Drewyer returned from hunting, and was sent to invite
Twisted-hair to come and smoke with us. He accepted the invitation,
and as we were smoking the pipe over our fire he informed us that according
to his promise on leaving us at the falls of the Columbia, he had
collected our horses and taken charge of them as soon as he reached home.
But about this time Neeshnepahkeeook and Turmachemootoolt (Broken-arm), who,
as we passed, were on a war-party against the Shoshonees on the south
branch of Lewis' River, returned; and becoming jealous of him,
because the horses had been confided to his care, were constantly
quarrelling with him. At length, being an old man and unwilling to live
in perpetual dispute with these two chiefs, he had given up the care
of the horses, which had consequently become very much scattered.
The greater part of them were, however, still in the neighborhood;
some in the forks between the Chopunnish and Kooskooskee,
and three or four at the village of Broken Arm, about half a day's
march higher up the river. He added, that on the rise of the river
in the spring, the earth had fallen from the door of the cache,
and exposed the saddles, some of which had probably been lost;
but that, as soon as be was acquainted with the situation of them,
he had them buried in another deposit, where they now were.
He promised that, if we would stay the next day at his house,
a few miles distant, he would collect such of the horses as were
in the neighborhood, and send his young men for those in the forks,
over the Kooskooskee. He moreover advised us to visit Broken Arm,
who was a chief of great eminence, and he would himself guide us
to his dwelling.
"We told him that we would follow his advice in every respect;
that we had confided our horses to his care, and expected
he would deliver them to us, on which we should cheerfully
give him the two guns and the ammunition we had promised him.
With this he seemed very much pleased, and declared
he would use every exertion to restore the horses.
We now sent for Neesbnepahkeeook, or Cut Nose, and, after smoking
for some time, began by expressing to the two chiefs
our regret at seeing a misunderstanding between them.
Neeshnepahkeeook replied that Twisted Hair was a bad old man,
and wore two faces; for, instead of taking care of our horses,
he had suffered his young men to hunt with them, so that they
had been very much injured, and it was for this reason
that Broken Arm and himself had forbidden him to use them.
Twisted Hair made no reply to this speech, and we then told
Neeshnepahkeeook of our arrangement for the next day.
He appeared to be very well satisfied, and said he would
himself go with us to Broken Arm, who expected to see us,
and had TWO BAD HORSES FOR US; by which expression we understood
that Broken Arm intended to make us a present of two horses."
Next day, the party reached the house of Twisted-hair, and began
to look for their horses and saddles. The journal gives this
account of the search:--
"Late in the afternoon, Twisted-hair returned with about half the saddles
we had left in the autumn, and some powder and lead which were buried
at the same place. Soon after, the Indians brought us twenty-one
of our horses, the greater part of which were in excellent order,
though some had not yet recovered from hard usage, and three had sore backs.
We were, however, very glad to procure them in any condition.
Several Indians came down from the village of Tunnachemootoolt
and passed the night with us. Cut-nose and Twisted-hair seem now
perfectly reconciled, for they both slept in the house of the latter.
The man who had imposed himself upon us as a brother of Twisted-hair
also came and renewed his advances, but we now found that he was
an impertinent, proud fellow, of no respectability in the nation,
and we therefore felt no inclination to cultivate his intimacy.
Our camp was in an open plain, and soon became very uncomfortable,
for the wind was high and cold, and the rain and hail, which began
about seven o'clock, changed in two hours to a heavy fall of snow,
which continued till after six o'clock [May 10th], the next morning,
when it ceased, after covering the ground eight inches deep
and leaving the air keen and cold. We soon collected our horses,
and after a scanty breakfast of roots set out on a course S. 35'0 E."
They were now following the general course of the Kooskooskee,
or Clearwater, as the stream is called, and their route lay in what is
now Nez Perce County, Idaho. They have passed the site of the present
city of Lewiston, named for Captain Lewis. They have arrived in a region
inhabited by the friendly Chopunnish, or Nez Perce, several villages
of which nation were scattered around the camp of the white men.
The narrative says:
"We soon collected the men of consideration, and after smoking,
explained how destitute we were of provisions. The chief spoke to
the people, who immediately brought two bushels of dried quamash-roots,
some cakes of the roots of cows, and a dried salmon-trout; we thanked
them for this supply, but observed that, not being accustomed to live
on roots alone, we feared that such diet might make our men sick,
and therefore proposed to exchange one of our good horses, which was
rather poor, for one that was fatter, and which we might kill.
The hospitality of the chief was offended at the idea of an exchange;
he observed that his people had an abundance of young horses,
and that if we were disposed to use that food we might have as many
as we wanted. Accordingly, they soon gave us two fat young horses,
without asking anything in return, an act of liberal hospitality much
greater than any we have witnessed since crossing the Rocky Mountains,
if it be not in fact the only really hospitable treatment we have
received in this part of the world. We killed one of the horses,
and then telling the natives that we were fatigued and hungry,
and that as soon as we were refreshed we would communicate freely
with them, began to prepare our repast.
"During this time a principal chief, called Hohastillpilp,
came from his village, about six miles distant, with a party
of fifty men, for the purpose of visiting us. We invited him into
our circle, and he alighted and smoked with us, while his retinue,
with five elegant horses, continued mounted at a short distance.
While this was going on, the chief had a large leathern tent
spread for us, and desired that we would make it our home
so long as we remained at his village. We removed there,
and having made a fire, and cooked our supper of horseflesh
and roots, collected all the distinguished men present,
and spent the evening in making known who we were, what were
the objects of our journey, and in answering their inquiries.
To each of the chiefs Tunnachemootoolt and Hohastillpilp we
gave a small medal, explaining their use and importance as
honorary distinctions both among the whites and the red men.
Our men were well pleased at once more having made a hearty meal.
They had generally been in the habit of crowding into
the houses of the Indians, to purchase provisions on the best
terms they could; for the inhospitality of the country
was such, that often, in the extreme of hunger, they were
obliged to treat the natives with but little ceremony;
but this Twisted Hair had told us was very disagreeable.
Finding that these people are so kind and liberal, we ordered
our men to treat them with the greatest respect, and not to throng
round their fires, so that they now agree perfectly well together.
After the council the Indians felt no disposition to retire,
and our tent was filled with them all night."
As the expedition was here in a populous country, among many bands of Indians,
it was thought wise to have a powwow with the head men and explain to them
what were the intentions of the United States Government. But, owing to
the crooked course which their talk must needs take, it was very
difficult to learn if the Indians finally understood what was said.
Here is the journal's account of the way in which the powwow was conducted:--
"We collected the chiefs and warriors, and having drawn a map
of the relative situation of our country on a mat with a piece
of coal, detailed the nature and power of the American nation,
its desire to preserve harmony between all its red brethren,
and its intention of establishing trading-houses for their relief
and support. It was not without difficulty, nor till after nearly
half the day was spent, that we were able to convey all this
information to the Chopunnish, much of which might have been
lost or distorted in its circuitous route through a variety
of languages; for in the first place, we spoke in English
to one of our men, who translated it into French to Chaboneau;
he interpreted it to his wife in the Minnetaree language;
she then put it into Shoshonee, and the young Shoshonee
prisoner explained it to the Chopunnish in their own dialect.
At last we succeeded in communicating the impression we wished,
and then adjourned the council; after which we amused them
by showing the wonders of the compass, spy-glass, magnet, watch,
and air-gun, each of which attracted its share of admiration."
The simple-minded Indians, who seemed to think that the white men
could heal all manner of diseases, crowded around them next day,
begging for medicines and treatment. These were freely given,
eye-water being most in demand. There was a general medical powwow.
The journal adds:--
"Shortly after, the chiefs and warriors held a council among themselves,
to decide on an answer to our speech, and the result was, as we
were informed, that they had full confidence in what we had told them,
and were resolved to follow our advice. This determination having
been made, the principal chief, Tunnachemootoolt, took a quantity
of flour of the roots of cow-weed [cowas], and going round
to all the kettles and baskets in which his people were cooking,
thickened the soup into a kind of mush. He then began an harangue,
setting forth the result of the deliberations among the chiefs,
and after exhorting them to unanimity, concluded with an invitation
to all who acquiesced in the proceedings of the council to come and eat;
while those who were of a different mind were requested to show their
dissent by not partaking of the feast. During this animated harangue,
the women, who were probably uneasy at the prospect of forming
this proposed new connection with strangers, tore their hair,
and wrung their hands with the greatest appearance of distress.
But the concluding appeal of the orator effectually stopped
the mouths of every malecontent, and the proceedings were ratified,
and the mush devoured with the most zealous unanimity.
"The chiefs and warriors then came in a body to visit us as we were
seated near our tent; and at their instance, two young men, one of whom
was a son of Tunnachemootoolt, and the other the youth whose father
had been killed by the Pahkees, presented to us each a fine horse.
We invited the chiefs to be seated, and gave every one of them a flag,
a pound of powder, and fifty balls, and a present of the same
kind to the young men from whom we had received the horses.
They then invited us into the tent, and said that they now wished
to answer what we had told them yesterday, but that many of their people
were at that moment waiting in great pain for our medical assistance."
It was agreed, therefore, that Captain Clark, who seems to have
been their favorite physician, should attend to the sick and lame,
while Captain Lewis should conduct a council with the chiefs
and listen to what they had to say. The upshot of the powwow
was that the Chopunnish said they had sent three of their warriors
with a pipe to make peace with the Shoshonees, last summer,
as they had been advised to do by the white men. The Shoshonees,
unmindful of the sacredness of this embassy, had killed the young
warriors and had invited the battle which immediately took place,
in which the Chopunnish killed forty-two of the Shoshonees,
to get even for the wanton killing of their three young men.
The white men now wanted some of the Chopunnish to accompany them
to the plains of the Missouri, but the Indians were not willing
to go until they were assured that they would not be waylaid
and slain by their enemies of the other side of the mountains.
The Chopunnish would think over the proposal that some of
their young men should go over the range with the white men;
a decision on this point should be reached before the white
men left the country. Anyhow, the white men might be sure
that the Indians would do their best to oblige their visitors.
Their conclusion was, "For, although we are poor, our hearts are good."
The story of this conference thus concludes:--
"As soon as this speech was concluded, Captain Lewis replied at some length;
with this they appeared highly gratified, and after smoking the pipe,
made us a present of another fat horse for food. We, in turn,
gave Broken-arm a phial of eye-water, with directions to wash the eyes
of all who should apply for it; and as we promised to fill it again
when it was exhausted, he seemed very much pleased with our liberality.
To Twisted-hair, who had last night collected six more horses, we gave a gun,
one hundred balls, and two pounds of powder, and told him he should
have the same quantity when we received the remainder of our horses.
In the course of the day three more of them were brought in, and a
fresh exchange of small presents put the Indians in excellent humor.
On our expressing a wish to cross the river and form a camp, in order to hunt
and fish till the snows had melted, they recommended a position a few
miles distant, and promised to furnish us to-morrow with a canoe to cross.
We invited Twisted-hair to settle near our camp, for he has several
young sons, one of whom we hope to engage as a guide, and he promised
to do so. Having now settled all their affairs, the Indians divided
themselves into two parties, and began to play the game of hiding a bone,
already described as common to all the natives of this country,
which they continued playing for beads and other ornaments."
As there was so dismal a prospect for crossing the snow-covered mountains
at this season of the year, the captains of the expedition resolved to
establish a camp and remain until the season should be further advanced.
Accordingly, a spot on the north side of the river, recommended to them
by the Indians, was selected, and a move across the stream was made.
A single canoe was borrowed for the transit of the baggage, and the horses
were driven in to swim across, and the passage was accomplished without loss.
The camp was built on the site of an old Indian house, in a circle about
thirty yards in diameter, near the river and in an advantageous position.
As soon as the party were encamped, the two Chopunnish chiefs came down
to the opposite bank, and, with twelve of their nation, began to sing.
This was the custom of these people, being a token of their friendship
on such occasions. The captains sent a canoe over for the chiefs, and,
after smoking for some time, Hohastillpilp presented Captain with a fine
gray horse which he had brought over for that purpose, and he was perfectly
satisfied to receive in return a handkerchief, two hundred balls, and four
pounds of powder.
Here is some curious information concerning the bears which they found
in this region. It must be borne in mind that they were still west
of the Bitter Root Mountains:--
"The hunters killed some pheasants, two squirrels, and a male
and a female bear, the first of which was large, fat, and of a
bay color; the second meagre, grizzly, and of smaller size.
They were of the species [Ursus horribilis] common to the upper
part of the Missouri, and might well be termed the variegated bear,
for they are found occasionally of a black, grizzly, brown, or red color.
There is every reason to believe them to be of precisely the same species.
Those of different colors are killed together, as in the case of these two,
and as we found the white and bay associated together on the Missouri;
and some nearly white were seen in this neighborhood by the hunters.
Indeed, it is not common to find any two bears of the same color;
and if the difference in color were to constitute a distinction
of species, the number would increase to almost twenty.
Soon afterward the hunters killed a female bear with two cubs.
The mother was black, with a considerable intermixture of white hairs
and a white spot on the breast. One of the cubs was jet black,
and the other of a light reddish-brown or bay color. The hair
of these variegated bears is much finer, longer, and more abundant
than that of the common black bear; but the most striking differences
between them are that the former are larger and have longer tusks,
and longer as well as blunter talons; that they prey more on other animals;
that they lie neither so long nor so closely in winter quarters;
and that they never climb a tree, however closely pressed by the hunters.
These variegated bears, though specifically the same with those we
met on the Missouri, are by no means so ferocious; probably because
the scarcity of game and the habit of living on roots may have
weaned them from the practices of attacking and devouring animals.
Still, however, they are not so passive as the common black bear,
which is also to be found here; for they have already fought with
our hunters, though with less fury than those on the other side
of the mountains.
"A large part of the meat we gave to the Indians, to whom it
was a real luxury, as they scarcely taste flesh once in a month.
They immediately prepared a large fire of dried wood,
on which was thrown a number of smooth stones from the river.
As soon as the fire went down and the stones were heated,
they were laid next to each other in a level position,
and covered with a quantity of pine branches, on which were placed
flitches of the meat, and then boughs and flesh alternately
for several courses, leaving a thick layer of pine on the top.
On this heap they then poured a small quantity of water,
and covered the whole with earth to the depth of four inches.
After remaining in this state for about three hours, the meat
was taken off, and was really more tender than that which we
had boiled or roasted, though the strong flavor of the pine
rendered it disagreeable to our palates. This repast gave them
much satisfaction; for, though they sometimes kill the black bear,
they attack very reluctantly the fierce variegated bear;
and never except when they can pursue him on horseback over
the plains, and shoot him with arrows."
Camping with the Nez Perces
Soon after they had fixed their camp, the explorers bade farewell
to their good friend Tunnachemootoolt and his young men,
who returned to their homes farther down the river.
Others of the Nez Perce, or Chopunnish, nation visited them,
and the strangers were interested in watching the Indians
preparing for their hunt. As they were to hunt the deer,
they had the head, horns, and hide of that animal so prepared
that when it was placed on the head and body of a hunter,
it gave a very deceptive idea of a deer; the hunter could move
the head of the decoy so that it looked like a deer feeding,
and the suspicious animals were lured within range of the Indians'
bow and arrow.
On the sixteenth of May, Hohastillpilp and his young men also
left the white men's camp and returned to their own village.
The hunters of the party did not meet with much luck in their
quest for game, only one deer and a few pheasants being
brought in for several days. The party were fed on roots
and herbs, a species of onion being much prized by them.
Bad weather confined them to their camp, and a common entry
in their journal refers to their having slept all night in a pool
of water formed by the falling rain; their tent-cover was a
worn-out leathern affair no longer capable of shedding the rain.
While it rained in the meadows where they were camped,
they could see the snow covering the higher plains above them;
on those plains the snow was more than a foot deep, and yet
the plants and shrubs seemed to thrive in the midst of the snow.
On the mountains the snow was several feet in depth.
The journalist says: "So that within twenty miles of our camp
we observe the rigors of winter cold, the cool air of spring,
and the oppressive heat of midsummer." They kept a shrewd lookout
for the possibilities of future occupation of the land by white men;
and, writing here of country and its character, the journalist says:
"In short, this district affords many advantages to settlers,
and if properly cultivated, would yield every object
necessary for the comfort and subsistence of civilized man."
But in their wildest dreams, Captains Lewis and Clark could not
have foreseen that in that identical region thrifty settlements
of white men should flourish and that the time would come when
the scanty remnant of the Chopunnish, whom we now call Nez Perces,
would be gathered on a reservation near their camping-place.
But both of these things have come to pass.
In describing the dress of the Chopunnish, or Nez Perces,
the journal says that tippets, or collars, were worn by the men.
"That of Hohastillpilp," says the journal, "was formed of human
scalps and adorned with the thumbs and fingers of several men
slain by him in battle." And yet the journal immediately adds:
"The Chopunnish are among the most amiable men we have seen.
Their character is placid and gentle, rarely moved to passion,
yet not often enlivened by gayety." In short, the Indians
were amiable savages; and it is a savage trait to love to
destroy one's enemies.
Here is an entry in the journal of May 19 which will give the reader
some notion of the privations and the pursuits of the party while shut
up in camp for weary weeks in the early summer of 1806:--
"After a cold, rainy night, during a greater part of which we lay
in the water, the weather became fair; we then sent some men to a
village above us, on the opposite side, to purchase some roots.
They carried with them for this purpose a small collection of awls,
knitting-pins, and armbands, with which they obtained several
bushels of the root of cows, and some bread of the same material.
They were followed, too, by a train of invalids from the village,
who came to ask for our assistance. The men were generally afflicted with
sore eyes; but the women had besides this a variety of other disorders,
chiefly rheumatic, a violent pain and weakness in the loins, which is
a common complaint among them; one of them seemed much dejected,
and as we thought, from the account of her disease, hysterical.
We gave her thirty drops of laudanum, and after administering
eye-water, rubbing the rheumatic patients with volatile liniment,
and giving cathartics to others, they all thought themselves
much relieved and returned highly satisfied to the village.
We were fortunate enough to retake one of the horses on which we
[Captain Lewis] had crossed the Rocky Mountains in the autumn,
and which had become almost wild since that time."
A day or two later, the journal has this significant entry:
"On parcelling out the stores, the stock of each man was found
to be only one awl, and one knitting-pin, half an ounce of vermilion,
two needles, a few skeins of thread, and about a yard of ribbon--
a slender means of bartering for our subsistence; but the men have been
so much accustomed to privations that now neither the want of meat nor
the scanty funds of the party excites the least anxiety among them."
To add to their discomfort, there was a great deal of sickness in the camp,
owing to the low diet of the men. Sacajawea's baby was ill with mumps
and teething, and it is suggested that the two captains would have been
obliged to "walk the floor all night," if there had been any floor
to walk on; as it was, they were deprived of their nightly rest.
Here is an example of what the doctors would call heroic treatment
by Captain Clark, who conducted all such experiments:--
"With one of the men [Bratton] we have ventured an experiment
of a very robust nature. He has been for some time sick,
but has now recovered his flesh, eats heartily, and digests well,
but has so great a weakness in the loins that he cannot walk or even
sit upright without extreme pain. After we had in vain exhausted
the resources of our art, one of the hunters mentioned that he had
known persons in similar situations to be restored by violent sweats,
and at the request of the patient, we permitted the remedy to be applied.
For this purpose a hole about four feet deep and three in diameter was
dug in the earth, and heated well by a large fire in the bottom of it.
The fire was then taken out, and an arch formed over the hole
by means of willow-poles, and covered with several blankets
so as to make a perfect awning. The patient being stripped naked,
was seated under this on a beach, with a piece of board for
his feet, and with a jug of water sprinkled the bottom and sides
of the hole, so as to keep up as hot a steam as he could bear.
After remaining twenty minutes in this situation, he was taken out,
immediately plunged twice in cold water, and brought back to the hole,
where he resumed the vapor bath. During all this time he drank copiously
a strong infusion of horse-mint, which was used as a substitute
for seneca-root, which our informant said he had seen employed
on these occasions, but of which there is none in this country.
At the end of three-quarters of an hour he was again withdrawn
from the hole, carefully wrapped, and suffered to cool gradually.
This operation was performed yesterday; this morning he walked
about and is nearly free from pain. About eleven o'clock a canoe
arrived with three Indians, one of whom was the poor creature
who had lost the use of his limbs, and for whose recovery
the natives seem very anxious, as he is a chief of considerable
rank among them. His situation is beyond the reach of our skill.
He complains of no pain in any peculiar limb, and we therefore think
his disorder cannot be rheumatic, and his limbs would have been
more diminished if his disease had been a paralytic affection.
We had already ascribed it to his diet of roots, and had recommended
his living on fish and flesh, and using the cold bath every morning,
with a dose of cream of tartar or flowers of sulphur every third day."
It is gratifying to be able to record the fact that Bratton and the Indian
(who was treated in the same manner) actually recovered from their malady.
The journal says of the Indian that his restoration was "wonderful."
This is not too strong a word to use under the circumstances, for the chief
had been helpless for nearly three years, and yet he was able to get
about and take care of himself after he had been treated by Captain
(otherwise Doctor) Clark. Two of his men met with a serious disaster about
this time; going across the river to trade with some Indians, their boat was
stove and went to the bottom, carrying with it three blankets, a blanket-coat,
and their scanty stock of merchandise, all of which was utterly lost.
Another disaster, which happened next day, is thus recorded:--
"Two of our men, who had been up the river to trade with the Indians,
returned quite unsuccessful. Nearly opposite the village, their horse
fell with his load down a steep cliff into the river, across which
he swam. An Indian on the opposite side drove him back to them;
but in crossing most of the articles were lost and the paint melted.
Understanding their intentions, the Indians attempted to come over to them,
but having no canoe, were obliged to use a raft, which struck on
a rock, upset, and the whole store of roots and bread were destroyed.
This failure completely exhausted our stock of merchandise;
but the remembrance of what we suffered from cold and hunger during
the passage of the Rocky Mountains makes us anxious to increase our
means of subsistence and comfort, since we have again to encounter
the same inconvenience."
But the ingenuity of the explorers was equal to this emergency.
Having observed that the Indians were very fond of brass buttons,
which they fastened to their garments as ornaments, and not
for the useful purpose for which buttons are made, the men now
proceeded to cut from their shabby United States uniforms those
desired articles, and thus formed a new fund for trading purposes.
To these they added some eye-water, some basilicon, and a few small
tin boxes in which phosphorus had been kept. Basilicon, of which
mention is frequently made in the journal, was an ointment composed
of black pitch, white wax, resin, and olive oil; it was esteemed as a
sovereign remedy for all diseases requiring an outward application.
With these valuables two men were sent out to trade with the Indians,
on the second day of June, and they returned with three bushels
of eatable roots and some cowas bread. Later in that day,
a party that had been sent down the river (Lewis') in quest of food,
returned with a goodly supply of roots and seventeen salmon.
These fish, although partly spoiled by the long journey home,
gave great satisfaction to the hungry adventurers, for they were
the promise of a plenty to come when the salmon should ascend
the rivers that make into the Columbia. At this time we find
the following interesting story in the journal of the expedition:--
"We had lately heard, also, that some Indians, residing at
a considerable distance, on the south side of the Kooskooskee,
were in possession of two tomahawks, one of which had been left
at our camp on Moscheto Creek, and the other had been stolen
while we were with the Chopunnish in the autumn. This last we
were anxious to obtain, in order to give it to the relations of our
unfortunate companion, Sergeant Floyd, to whom it once belonged.
We therefore sent Drewyer, with the two chiefs Neeshnepahkeeook
and Hohastillpilp (who had returned to us) to demand it.
On their arrival, they found that the present possessor
of it, who had purchased it of the thief, was at the point
of death; and his relations were unwilling to give it up,
as they wished to bury it in the grave with the deceased.
The influence of Neeshnepahkeeook, however, at length prevailed;
and they consented to surrender the tomahawk on receiving two
strands of beads and a handkerchief from Drewyer, and from each
of the chiefs a horse, to be killed at the funeral of their kinsman,
according to the custom of the country."
 See page 23.
The Chopunnish chiefs now gave their final answer to the two
captains who had requested guides from them. The chiefs said
that they could not accompany the party, but later in the summer
they might cross the great divide and spend the next winter
on the headwaters of the Missouri. At present, they could only
promise that some of their young men should go with the whites;
these had not been selected, but they would be sent on after
the party, if the two captains insisted on starting now.
This was not very encouraging, for they had depended upon
the Indians for guidance over the exceedingly difficult and
even dangerous passages of the mountains. Accordingly, it was
resolved that, while waiting on the motions of the Indians,
the party might as well make a visit to Quamash flats, where they
could lay in a stock of provisions for their arduous journey.
It is not certain which of the several Quamash flats mentioned
in the history of the expedition is here referred to;
but it is likely that the open glade in which Captain Clark
first struck the low country of the west is here meant.
It was here that he met the Indian boys hiding in the grass,
and from here he led the expedition out of the wilderness.
For "quamash" read "camass," an edible root much prized
by the Nez Perces then and now.
While they lingered at their camp, they were visited
by several bands of friendly Indians. The explorers traded
horses with their visitors, and, with what they already had,
they now found their band to number sixty-five, all told.
Having finished their trading, they invited the Indians
to take part in the games of prisoners' base and foot-racing;
in the latter game the Indians were very expert, being able
to distance the fleetest runner of the white men's party.
At night, the games were concluded by a dance. The account
of the expedition says that the captains were desirous of
encouraging these exercises before they should begin the passage
over the mountains, "as several of the men are becoming
lazy from inaction."
On the tenth of June the party set out for Quamash flats, each man
well mounted and leading a spare horse which carried a small load.
To their dismay, they found that their good friends, the Chopunnish,
unwilling to part with them, were bound to accompany them
to the hunting-grounds. The Indians would naturally expect
to share in the hunt and to be provided for by the white men.
The party halted there only until the sixth of June, and then,
collecting their horses, set out through what proved to be
a very difficult trail up the creek on which they were camped,
in a northeasterly direction. There was still a quantity of snow
on the ground, although this was in shady places and hollows.
Vegetation was rank, and the dogtooth violet, honeysuckle,
blue-bell, and columbine were in blossom. The pale blue flowers of
the quamash gave to the level country the appearance of a blue lake.
Striking Hungry Creek, which Captain Clark had very appropriately
named when he passed that way, the previous September,
they followed it up to a mountain for about three miles,
when they found themselves enveloped in snow; their limbs
were benumbed, and the snow, from twelve to fifteen feet deep,
so paralyzed their feet that further progress was impossible.
Here the journal should be quoted:--
"We halted at the sight of this new difficulty. We already knew
that to wait till the snows of the mountains had dissolved,
so as to enable us to distinguish the road, would defeat
our design of returning to the United States this season.
We now found also that as the snow bore our horses very well,
travelling was infinitely easier than it was last fall,
when the rocks and fallen timber had so much obstructed our march.
But it would require five days to reach the fish-weirs at the mouth
of Colt [-killed] Creek, even if we were able to follow the proper
ridges of the mountains; and the danger of missing our direction
is exceedingly great while every track is covered with snow.
During these five days, too, we have no chance of finding either
grass or underwood for our horses, the snow being so deep.
To proceed, therefore, under such circumstances, would be to hazard our
being bewildered in the mountains, and to insure the loss of our horses;
even should we be so fortunate as to escape with our lives,
we might be obliged to abandon all our papers and collections.
It was therefore decided not to venture any further; to deposit here
all the baggage and provisions for which we had no immediate use;
and, reserving only subsistence for a few days, to return while our
horses were yet strong to some spot where we might live by hunting,
till a guide could be procured to conduct us across the mountains.
Our baggage was placed on scaffolds and carefully covered,
as were also the instruments and papers, which we thought it safer
to leave than to risk over the roads and creeks by which we came."
There was nothing left to do but to return to Hungry Creek. Finding a
scanty supply of grass, they camped under most depressing circumstances;
their outlook now was the passing of four or five days in the midst of snows
from ten to fifteen feet deep, with no guide, no road, and no forage.
In this emergency, two men were sent back to the Chopunnish country
to hurry up the Indians who had promised to accompany them over
the mountains; and, to insure a guide, these men were authorized
to offer a rifle as a reward for any one who would undertake the task.
For the present, it was thought best to return to Quamash flats.
Crossing the Bitter Root Mountains
Disasters many kept pace with the unhappy explorers on their
way back to Quamash flats after their rebuff at the base
of the Bitter Root Mountains. One of the horses fell
down a rough and rocky place, carrying his rider with him;
but fortunately neither horse nor man was killed. Next, a man,
sent ahead to cut down the brush that blocked the path,
cut himself badly on the inside of his thigh and bled copiously.
The hunters sent out for game returned empty-handed. The fishermen
caught no fish, but broke the two Indian gigs, or contrivances
for catching fish, with which they had been provided.
The stock of salt had given out, the bulk of their supply having
been left on the mountain. Several large mushrooms were brought
in by Cruzatte, but these were eaten without pepper, salt, or any kind
of grease,--"a very tasteless, insipid food," as the journal says.
To crown all, the mosquitoes were pestilential in their
numbers and venom.
Nevertheless, the leaders of the expedition were determined to press on
and pass the Bitter Root Mountains as soon as a slight rest at Quamash flats
should be had. If they should tarry until the snows melted from the trail,
they would be too late to reach the United States that winter and would
be compelled to pass the next winter at some camp high up on the Missouri,
as they had passed one winter at Fort Mandan, on their way out.
This is the course of argument which Captain Lewis and Clark took to persuade
each other as to the best way out of their difficulties:--
"The snows have formed a hard, coarse bed without crust, on which the horses
walk safely without slipping; the chief difficulty, therefore, is to
find the road. In this we may be assisted by the circumstance that,
though generally ten feet in depth, the snow has been thrown off by
the thick and spreading branches of the trees, and from round the trunk;
while the warmth of the trunk itself, acquired by the reflection of the sun,
or communicated by natural heat of the earth, which is never frozen under
these masses, has dissolved the snow so much that immediately at the roots
its depth is not more than one or two feet. We therefore hope that
the marks of the baggage rubbing against the trees may still be perceived;
and we have decided, in case the guide cannot be procured, that one of us will
take three or four of our most expert woodsmen, several of our best horses,
and an ample supply of provisions, go on two days' journey in advance,
and endeavor to trace the route by the marks of the Indian baggage on
the trees, which we would then mark more distinctly with a tomahawk.
When they should have reached two days' journey beyond Hungry Creek,
two of the men were to be sent back to apprise the rest of their success,
and if necessary to cause them to delay there; lest, by advancing too soon,
they should be forced to halt where no food could be obtained for the horses.
If the traces of the baggage be too indistinct, the whole party is to return
to Hungry Creek, and we will then attempt the passage by ascending the main
southwest branch of Lewis' River through the country of the Shoshonees,
over to Madison or Gallatin River. On that route, the Chopunnish inform us,
there is a passage not obstructed by snow at this period of the year."
On their return to Quamash flats the party met two Indians who,
after some parley, agreed to pilot them over the mountains;
these camped where they were, and the party went on to the flats,
having exacted a promise from the Indians that they would
wait there two nights for the white men to come along.
When the party reached their old camp, they found that one of
their hunters had killed a deer, which was a welcome addition
to their otherwise scanty supper. Next day, the hunters met with
astonishing luck, bringing into camp eight deer and three bears.
Four of the men were directed to go to the camp of the two Indians,
and if these were bent on going on, to accompany them and so mark,
or blaze, the trees that the rest of the party would have no
difficulty in finding the way, later on.
Meanwhile, the men who had been sent back for guides returned,
bringing with them the pleasing information that three Indians
whom they brought with them had consented to guide the party
to the great falls of the Missouri, for the pay of two guns.
Accordingly, once more (June 26), they set out for
the mountains, travelling for the third time in twelve days
the route between Quamash flats and the Bitter Root range.
For the second time they ran up against a barrier of snow.
They measured the depth of the snow at the place where they
had left their luggage at their previous repulse and found
it to be ten feet and ten inches deep; and it had sunk
four feet since they had been turned back at this point.
Pressing on, after they reached their old camp, they found
a bare spot on the side of the mountain where there was a little
grass for their horses; and there they camped for the night.
They were fortunate in having Indian guides with them;
and the journal says:--
"The marks on the trees, which had been our chief dependence,
are much fewer and more difficult to be distinguished than we
had supposed. But our guides traverse this trackless region
with a kind of instinctive sagacity; they never hesitate,
they are never embarrassed; and so undeviating is their step,
that wherever the snow has disappeared, for even a hundred paces,
we find the summer road. With their aid the snow is scarcely
a disadvantage; for though we are often obliged to slip down,
yet the fallen timber and the rocks, which are now covered,
were much more troublesome when we passed in the autumn.
Travelling is indeed comparatively pleasant, as well as more rapid,
the snow being hard and coarse, without a crust, and perfectly hard
enough to prevent the horses sinking more than two or three inches.
After the sun has been on it for some hours it becomes softer
than it is early in the morning; yet they are almost always
able to get a sure foothold."
On the twenty-ninth of June the party were well out of the snows
in which they had been imprisoned, although they were by no means
over the mountain barrier that had been climbed so painfully during
the past few days. Here they observed the tracks of two barefooted
Indians who had evidently been fleeing from their enemies,
the Pahkees. These signs disturbed the Indian guides,
for they at once said that the tracks were made by their friends,
the Ootlashoots, and that the Pahkees would also cut them
(the guides) off on their return from the trip over the mountains.
On the evening of the day above mentioned, the party camped at
the warm springs which fall into Traveller's-rest Creek, a point
now well known to the explorers, who had passed that way before.
Of the springs the journal says:--
"These warm springs are situated at the foot of a hill on the north
side of Traveller's-rest Creek, which is ten yards wide at this place.
They issue from the bottoms, and through the interstices of a gray
freestone rock, which rises in irregular masses round their lower side.
The principal spring, which the Indians have formed into a bath by
stopping the run with stone and pebbles, is about the same temperature
as the warmest bath used at the hot springs in Virginia. On trying,
Captain Lewis could with difficulty remain in it nineteen minutes,
and then was affected with a profuse perspiration.
The two other springs are much hotter, the temperature being equal
to that of the warmest of the hot springs in Virginia. Our men,
as well as the Indians, amused themselves with going into the bath;
the latter, according to their universal custom, going first into
the hot bath, where they remain as long as they can bear the heat,
then plunging into the creek, which is now of an icy coldness,
and repeating this operation several times, but always ending
with the warm bath."
Traveller's-rest Creek, it will be recollected, is on the summit
of the Bitter Root Mountains, and the expedition had consequently
passed from Idaho into Montana, as these States now exist on the map;
but they were still on the Pacific side of the Great Divide,
or the backbone of the continent. Much game was seen in this region,
and after reaching Traveller's-rest Creek, the hunters killed six deer;
great numbers of elk and bighorn were also seen in this vicinity.
On the thirtieth of July the party were at their old camp of September
9 and 10, 1805, having made one hundred and fifty-six miles from
Quamash flats to the mouth of the creek where they now camped.
Here a plan to divide and subdivide the party was made out as follows:--
"Captain Lewis, with nine men, is to pursue the most direct
route to the falls of the Missouri, where three of his party
[Thompson, Goodrich, and McNeal] are to be left to prepare carriages
for transporting the baggage and canoes across the portage.
With the remaining six, he will ascend Maria's River to explore
the country and ascertain whether any branch of it reaches as far north
as latitude 50'0, after which he will descend that river to its mouth.
The rest of the men will accompany Captain Clark to the head
of Jefferson River, which Sergeant Ordway and a party of nine men
will descend, with the canoes and other articles deposited there.
Captain Clark's party, which will then be reduced to ten men
and Sacajawea, will proceed to the Yellowstone, at its nearest approach
to the Three Forks of the Missouri. There he will build canoes,
go down that river with seven of his party, and wait at its mouth till
the rest of the party join him. Sergeant Pryor, with two others,
will then take the horses by land to the Mandans. From that nation
he will go to the British posts on the Assiniboin with a letter
to Mr. Alexander Henry, to procure his endeavors to prevail on some
of the Sioux chiefs to accompany him to the city of Washington.
. . . . . . . . .
The Indians who had accompanied us intended leaving us in order
to seek their friends, the Ootlashoots; but we prevailed on them
to accompany Captain Lewis a part of his route, so as to show him
the shortest road to the Missouri, and in the mean time amused
them with conversation and running races, on foot and with horses,
in both of which they proved themselves hardy, athletic, and active.
To the chief Captain Lewis gave a small medal and a gun,
as a reward for having guided us across the mountains; in return
the customary civility of exchanging names passed between them,
by which the former acquired the title of Yomekollick,
of White Bearskin Unfolded."
The Expedition Subdivided
On the third of July, accordingly, Captain Lewis, with nine of his men
and five Indians, proceeded down the valley lying between the Rocky and
the Bitter Root ranges of mountains, his general course being due northwest
of Clark's fork of the Columbia River. Crossing several small streams that
make into this river, they finally reached and crossed the Missoula River from
west to east, below the confluence of the St. Mary's and Hell-gate rivers,
or creeks; for these streams hardly deserve the name of rivers.
The party camped for the night within a few miles of the site of the present
city of Missoula, Montana. Here they were forced to part from their good
friends and allies, the Indians, who had crossed the range with them.
These men were afraid that they would be cut off by their foes, the Pahkees,
and they wanted to find and join some band of the Indian nation with whom they
were on terms of friendship. The journal gives this account of the parting:--
"We now smoked a farewell pipe with our estimable companions,
who expressed every emotion of regret at parting with us;
which they felt the more, because they did not conceal their
fears of our being cut off by the Pahkees. We also gave them
a shirt, a handkerchief, and a small quantity of ammunition.
The meat which they received from us was dried and left
at this place, as a store during the homeward journey.
This circumstance confirms our belief that there is no route
along Clark's River to the Columbian plains so near or so good
as that by which we came; for, though these people mean to go
for several days' journey down that river, to look for the
Shalees [Ootlashoots], yet they intend returning home by the same
pass of the mountains through which they have conducted us.
This route is also used by all the nations whom we know west
of the mountains who are in the habit of visiting the plains
of the Missouri; while on the other side, all the war-paths
of the Pahkees which fall into this valley of Clark's River
concentre at Traveller's-rest, beyond which these people have
never ventured to the west."
During the next day or two, Captain Lewis kept on the same
general course through a well-watered country, the ground
gradually rising as be approached the base of the mountains.
Tracks of Indians, supposed to be Pahkees, became more
numerous and fresh. On the seventh of July, the little
company went through the famous pass of the Rocky Mountains,
now properly named for the leaders of the expedition.
Here is the journal's account of their finding the Lewis
and Clark Pass:--
"At the distance of twelve miles we left the river, or rather
the creek, and having for four miles crossed two ridges in a
direction north fifteen degrees east, again struck to the right,
proceeding through a narrow bottom covered with low willows
and grass, and abundantly supplied with both deer and beaver.
After travelling seven miles we reached the foot of a ridge, which we
ascended in a direction north forty-five degrees east, through a
low gap of easy ascent from the westward; and, on descending it,
were delighted at discovering that this was the dividing ridge between
the waters of the Columbia and those of the Missouri. From this gap
Fort Mountain is about twenty miles in a northeastern direction.
We now wound through the hills and mountains, passing several
rivulets which ran to the right, and at the distance of nine
miles from the gap encamped, having made thirty-two miles.
We procured some beaver, and this morning saw tracks of buffalo,
from which it appears that those animals do sometimes penetrate
a short distance among the mountains."
Next day the party found themselves in clover, so to speak.
Game was plenty, and, as their object now was to accumulate
meat for the three men who were to be left at the falls
(and who were not hunters), they resolved to strike the Medicine,
or Sun, River and hunt down its banks. On that river the journal,
July 10, has this to say:--
"In the plains are great quantities of two species of
prickly-pear now in bloom. Gooseberries of the common red kind
are in abundance and just beginning to ripen, but there are
no currants. The river has now widened to one hundred yards;
it is deep, crowded with islands, and in many parts rapid.
At the distance of seventeen miles, the timber disappears
totally from the river-bottoms. About this part of the river,
the wind, which had blown on our backs, and constantly put
the elk on their guard, shifted round; we then shot three of
them and a brown bear. Captain Lewis halted to skin them,
while two of the men took the pack-horses forward to seek
for a camp. It was nine o'clock before he overtook them,
at the distance of seven miles, in the first grove of cottonwood.
They had been pursued as they came along by a very large bear,
on which they were afraid to fire, lest their horses,
being unaccustomed to the gun, might take fright and throw them.
This circumstance reminds us of the ferocity of these animals,
when we were last near this place, and admonishes us to be
very cautious. We saw vast numbers of buffalo below us,
which kept up a dreadful bellowing during the night.
With all our exertions we were unable to advance more than
twenty-four miles, owing to the mire through which we are obliged
to travel, in consequence of the rain."
The Sun, or Medicine, River empties into the Missouri just above the great
falls of that stream; and near here, opposite White Bear Islands,
the expedition had deposited some of their property in a cache
dug near the river bank, when they passed that way, a year before.
On the thirteenth of the month, having reached their old
camping-ground here, the party set to work making boat-gear and
preparing to leave their comrades in camp well fixed for their stay.
The journal adds:--
"On opening the cache, we found the bearskins entirely destroyed
by the water, which in a flood of the river had penetrated to them.
All the specimens of plants, too, were unfortunately lost:
the chart of the Missouri, however, still remained unhurt, and several
articles contained in trunks and boxes had suffered but little injury;
but a vial of laudanum had lost its stopper, and the liquid had run
into a drawer of medicines, which it spoiled beyond recovery.
The mosquitoes were so troublesome that it was impossible even to
write without a mosquito bier. The buffalo were leaving us fast,
on their way to the southeast."
One of the party met with an amusing adventure here, which is thus described:--
"At night M'Neal, who had been sent in the morning to examine
the cache at the lower end of the portage, returned; but had
been prevented from reaching that place by a singular adventure.
Just as he arrived near Willow run, he approached a thicket
of brush in which was a white bear, which he did not discover till
he was within ten feet of him. His horse started, and wheeling
suddenly round, threw M'Neal almost immediately under the bear,
which started up instantly. Finding the bear raising himself
on his hind feet to attack him, he struck him on the head with
the butt end of his musket; the blow was so violent that it broke
the breech of the musket and knocked the bear to the ground.
Before he recovered M'Neal, seeing a willow-tree close by,
sprang up, and there remained while the bear closely guarded
the foot of the tree until late in the afternoon. He then went off;
M'Neal being released came down, and having found his horse,
which had strayed off to the distance of two miles, returned to camp.
These animals are, indeed, of a most extraordinary ferocity,
and it is matter of wonder that in all our encounters we have had
the good fortune to escape. We are now troubled with another enemy,
not quite so dangerous, though even more disagreeable-these
are the mosquitoes, who now infest us in such myriads that we
frequently get them into our throats when breathing, and the dog
even howls with the torture they occasion."
The intention of Captain Lewis was to reach the river sometimes
known as Maria's, and sometimes as Marais, or swamp. This stream
rises near the boundary between Montana and the British possessions,
and flows into the Missouri, where the modern town of Ophir is built.
The men left at the great falls were to dig up the canoes and baggage
that had been cached there the previous year, and be ready to carry around
the portage of the falls the stuff that would be brought from the two
forks of the Jefferson, later on, by Sergeant Ordway and his party.
It will be recollected that this stuff had also been cached at the forks
of the Jefferson, the year before. The two parties, thus united,
were to go down to the entrance of Maria's River into the Missouri,
and Captain Lewis expected to join them there by the fifth of August;
if he failed to meet them by that time, they were to go on down the river
and meet Captain Clark at the mouth of the Yellowstone. This explanation
is needed to the proper understanding of the narrative that follows;
for we now have to keep track of three parties of the explorers.
Captain Lewis and his men, having travelled northwest about twenty
miles from the great falls of the Missouri, struck the trail of a
wounded buffalo. They were dismayed by the sight, for that assured
them that there were Indians in the vicinity; and the most natural
thing to expect was that these were Blackfeet, or Minnetarees;
both of these tribes are vicious and rascally people, and they would
not hesitate to attack a small party and rob them of their guns,
if they thought themselves able to get away with them.
They were now in the midst of vast herds of buffalo, so numerous that the
whole number seemed one immense herd. Hanging on the flanks were many wolves;
hares and antelope were also abundant. On the fourth day out, Captain Lewis
struck the north fork of Maria's River, now known as Cut-bank River,
in the northwest corner of Montana. He was desirous of following up
the stream, to ascertain, if possible, whether its fountain-head was below,
or above, the boundary between the United States and the British possessions.
Bad weather and an accident to his chronometer prevented his accomplishing
his purpose, and, on the twenty-sixth of July, he turned reluctantly back,
giving the name of Cape Disappointment to his last camping-place.
Later in that day, as they were travelling down the main stream
(Maria's River), they encountered the Indians whom they had hoped to avoid.
Let us read the story as it is told in the journal of the party:--
"At the distance of three miles we ascended the hills close
to the river-side, while Drewyer pursued the valley of the river
on the opposite side. But scarcely had Captain Lewis reached
the high plain when he saw, about a mile on his left,
a collection of about thirty horses. He immediately halted,
and by the aid of his spy-glass discovered that one-half
of the horses were saddled, and that on the eminence above
the horses several Indians were looking down toward the river,
probably at Drewyer. This was a most unwelcome sight.
Their probable numbers rendered any contest with them of
doubtful issue; to attempt to escape would only invite pursuit,
and our horses were so bad that we must certainly be overtaken;
besides which, Drewyer could not yet be aware that the Indians
were near, and if we ran be would most probably be sacrificed.
We therefore determined to make the most of our situation,
and advance toward them in a friendly manner. The flag which we
had brought in case of any such accident was therefore displayed,
and we continued slowly our march toward them. Their whole attention
was so engaged by Drewyer that they did not immediately discover us.
As soon as they did see us, they appeared to be much alarmed
and ran about in confusion; some of them came down the hill
and drove their horses within gunshot of the eminence,
to which they then returned, as if to await our arrival.
When we came within a quarter of a mile, one of the Indians
mounted and rode at full speed to receive us; but when within
a hundred paces of us, he halted. Captain Lewis, who had alighted
to receive him, held out his hand and beckoned to him to approach;
he only looked at us for some time, and then, without saying a word,
returned to his companions with as much baste as be had advanced.
The whole party now descended the hill and rode toward us.
As yet we saw only eight, but presumed that there must
be more behind us, as there were several horses saddled.
We however advanced, and Captain Lewis now told his two men
that he believed these were the Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie,
who, from their infamous character, would in all probability
attempt to rob us; but being determined to die rather than
lose his papers and instruments, he intended to resist to
the last extremity, and advised them to do the same, and to be
on the alert should there be any disposition to attack us.
When the two parties came within a hundred yards of each other,
all the Indians, except one, halted. Captain Lewis therefore
ordered his two men to halt while be advanced, and after shaking
hands with the Indian, went on and did the same with the others
in the rear, while the Indian himself shook hands with the two men.
They all now came up; and after alighting, the Indians asked
to smoke with us. Captain Lewis, who was very anxious for
Drewyer's safety, told them that the man who had gone down
the river had the pipe, and requested that as they had seen him,
one of them would accompany R. Fields, to bring him back.
To this they assented, and Fields went with a young man
in search of Drewyer."
Captain Lewis now asked them by signs if they were Minnetarees of the north,
and he was sorry to be told in reply that they were; he knew them to be
a bad lot. When asked if they had any chief among them, they pointed
out three. The captain did not believe them, but, in order to keep on good
terms with them, he gave to one a flag, to another a medal, and to the third
a handkerchief. At Captain Lewis' suggestion, the Indians and the white
men camped together, and in the course of the evening the red men told
the captain that they were part of a big band of their tribe, or nation.
The rest of the tribe, they said, were hunting further up the river,
and were then in camp near the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The captain,
in return, told them that his party had come from the great lake
where the sun sets, and that he was in hopes that he could induce
the Minnetarees to live in peace with their neighbors and come and trade
at the posts that would be established in their country by and by.
He offered them ten horses and some tobacco if they would accompany his
party down the river below the great falls. To this they made no reply.
Being still suspicious of these sullen guests, Captain Lewis made his
dispositions for the night, with orders for the sentry on duty to rouse
all hands if the Indians should attempt to steal anything in the night.
Next morning trouble began. Says the journal:--
"At sunrise, the Indians got up and crowded around the fire near
which J. Fields, who was then on watch, had carelessly left
his rifle, near the head of his brother, who was still asleep.
One of the Indians slipped behind him, and, unperceived, took his
brother's and his own rifle, while at the same time two others seized
those of Drewyer and Captain Lewis. As soon as Fields turned,
he saw the Indian running off with the rifles; instantly calling
his brother, they pursued him for fifty or sixty yards;
just as they overtook him, in the scuffle for the rifles
R. Fields stabbed him through the heart with his knife.
The Indian ran about fifteen steps and fell dead. They now ran
back with their rifles to the camp. The moment the fellow touched
his gun, Drewyer, who was awake, jumped up and wrested it from him.
The noise awoke Captain Lewis, who instantly started from the ground
and reached for his gun; but finding it gone, drew a pistol
from his belt, and turning saw the Indian running off with it.
He followed him and ordered him to lay it down, which he did
just as the two Fields came up, and were taking aim to shoot him;
when Captain Lewis ordered them not to fire, as the Indian did not
appear to intend any mischief. He dropped the gun and was going
slowly off when Drewyer came out and asked permission to kill him;
but this Captain Lewis forbade, as he had not yet attempted to shoot us.
But finding that the Indians were now endeavoring to drive off all
the horses, he ordered all three of us to follow the main party,
who were chasing the horses up the river, and fire instantly upon
the thieves; while he, without taking time to run for his shot-pouch,
pursued the fellow who had stolen his gun and another Indian,
who were driving away the horses on the left of the camp.
He pressed them so closely that they left twelve of their horses,
but continued to drive off one of our own.
"At the distance of three hundred paces they entered a steep niche
in the river-bluffs, when Captain Lewis, being too much out of breath
to pursue them any further, called out, as he had done several
times before, that unless they gave up the horse he would shoot them.
As he raised his gun one of the Indians jumped behind a rock and
spoke to the other, who stopped at the distance of thirty paces.
Captain Lewis shot him in the belly. He fell on his knees and
right elbow; but, raising himself a little, fired, and then crawled
behind a rock. The shot had nearly proved fatal; for Captain Lewis,
who was bareheaded, felt the wind of the ball very distinctly.
Not having his shot-pouch, be could not reload his rifle; and, having only
a single charge also for his pistol, he thought it most prudent
not to attack them farther, and retired slowly to the camp.
He was met by Drewyer, who, hearing the report of the guns,
had come to his assistance, leaving the Fields to follow the
other Indians. Captain Lewis ordered him to call out to them to desist
from the pursuit, as we could take the horses of the Indians in place
of our own; but they were at too great a distance to hear him.
He therefore returned to the camp, and while he was saddling the horses
the Fields returned with four of our own, having followed the Indians
until two of them swam the river and two others ascended the hills,
so that the horses became dispersed."
The white men were gainers by this sad affair, for they had now in their
possession four of the Indians' horses, and had lost one of their own.
Besides these, they found in the camp of the Indians four shields,
two bows and their quivers, and one of their two guns.
The captain took some buffalo meat which be found in the camp,
and then the rest of their baggage was burned on the spot.
The flag given to one of the so-called chiefs was retaken;
but the medal given to the dead man was left around his neck.
The consequences of this unfortunate quarrel were far-reaching.
The tribe whose member was killed by the white men never forgave
the injury, and for years after there was no safety for white men
in their vicinity except when the wayfarers were in great numbers
or strongly guarded.
A forced march was now necessary for the explorers, and they set out as
speedily as possible, well knowing that the Indians would be on their trail.
By three o'clock in the afternoon of that day they had reached
Tansy River, now known as the Teton, having travelled sixty-three miles.
They rested for an hour and a half to refresh their horses,
and then pushed on for seventeen miles further before camping again.
Having killed a buffalo, they had supper and stopped two hours.
Then, travelling through vast herds of buffalo until two o'clock
in the morning, they halted again, almost dead with fatigue;
they rested until daylight. On awaking, they found themselves
so stiff and sore with much riding that they could scarcely stand.
But the lives of their friends now at or near the mouth of Maria's River
were at stake, as well as their own. Indeed, it was not certain
but that the Indians had, by hard riding and a circuitous route,
already attacked the river party left at the falls.
So Captain Lewis told his men that they must go on, and, if attacked,
they must tie their horses together by the head and stand together,
selling their lives as dearly as possible, or routing their enemies.
The journal now says:--
"To this they all assented, and we therefore continued our route
to the eastward, till at the distance of twelve miles we came near
the Missouri, when we heard a noise which seemed like the report of a gun.
We therefore quickened our pace for eight miles farther, and,
being about five miles from Grog Spring, now heard distinctly
the noise of several rifles from the river. We hurried to the bank,
and saw with exquisite satisfaction our friends descending the river.
They landed to greet us, and after turning our horses loose,
we embarked with our baggage, and went down to the spot where we
had made a deposite. This, after reconnoitring the adjacent country,
we opened; but, unfortunately, the cache had caved in,
and most of the articles were injured. We took whatever was still
worth preserving, and immediately proceeded to the point, where we
found our deposits in good order. By a singular good fortune,
we were here joined by Sergeant Gass and Willard from the Falls,
who had been ordered to come with the horses here to assist in procuring
meat for the voyage, as it had been calculated that the canoes
would reach this place much sooner than Captain Lewis's party.
After a very heavy shower of rain and hail, attended with violent
thunder and lightning, we started from the point, and giving a final
discharge to our horses, went over to the island where we had left
our red pirogue, which, however, we found much decayed, and we had
no means of repairing her. We therefore took all the iron work out
of her, and, proceeding down the river fifteen miles, encamped near
some cottonwood trees, one of which was of the narrow-leafed species,
and the first of that kind we had remarked in ascending the river.
"Sergeant Ordway's party, which had left the mouth of Madison River
on the thirteenth, had descended in safety to White Bear Island,
where he arrived on the nineteenth, and, after collecting the baggage,
had left the falls on the twenty-seventh in the white pirogue and
five canoes, while Sergeant Gass and Willard set out at the same time
by land with the horses, and thus fortunately met together."
Sergeant Ordway's party, it will be recollected, had left
Captain Clark at the three forks of the Missouri, to which they
had come down the Jefferson, and thence had passed down
the Missouri to White Bear Islands, and, making the portage,
had joined the rest of the party just in time to reinforce them.
Game was now abundant the buffalo being in enormous herds;
and the bighorn were also numerous; the flesh of these animals
was in fine condition, resembling the best of mutton in flavor.
The reunited party now descended the river, the intention being
to reach the mouth of the Yellowstone as soon as possible,
and there wait for Captain Clark, who, it will be recalled,
was to explore that stream and meet them at the point of its
junction with the Missouri. The voyage of Captain Lewis and his men
was without startling incident, except that Cruzatte accidentally
shot the captain, one day, while they were out hunting.
The wound was through the fleshy part of the left thigh,
and for a time was very painful. As Cruzatte was not in sight
when the captain was hit, the latter naturally thought he had been
shot by Indians hiding in the thicket. He reached camp as best
he could, and, telling his men to arm themselves, he explained
that he had been shot by Indians. But when Cruzatte came into camp,
mutual explanations satisfied all hands that a misunderstanding
had arisen and that Cruzatte's unlucky shot was accidental.
As an example of the experience of the party about this time,
while they were on their way down the Missouri, we take this
extract from their journal:--
"We again saw great numbers of buffalo, elk, antelope, deer,
and wolves; also eagles and other birds, among which were geese
and a solitary pelican, neither of which can fly at present,
as they are now shedding the feathers of their wings.
We also saw several bears, one of them the largest, except one,
we had ever seen; for he measured nine feet from the nose
to the extremity of the tail. During the night a violent storm
came on from the northeast with such torrents of rain that we had
scarcely time to unload the canoes before they filled with water.
Having no shelter we ourselves were completely wet to the skin,
and the wind and cold air made our situation very unpleasant."
On the twelfth of August, the Lewis party met with two traders
from Illinois. These men were camped on the northeast side
of the river; they had left Illinois the previous summer,
and had been coming up the Missouri hunting and trapping.
Captain Lewis learned from them that Captain Clark was below;
and later in that day the entire expedition was again united,
Captain Clark's party being found at a point near where
Little Knife Creek enters the Missouri River. We must now
take up the narrative of Captain Clark and his adventures
on the Yellowstone.
Adventures on the Yellowstone
The route of Captain Clark from the point where he and Captain Lewis
divided their party, was rather more difficult than that pursued
by the Lewis detachment. But the Clark party was larger,
being composed of twenty men and Sacajawea and her baby.
They were to travel up the main fork of Clark's River
(sometimes called the Bitter Root), to Ross's Hole, and then
strike over the great continental divide at that point by way
of the pass which he discovered and which was named for him;
thence he was to strike the headwaters of Wisdom River, a stream
which this generation of men knows by the vulgar name of Big Hole River;
from this point he was to go by the way of Willard's Creek to
Shoshonee Cove and the Two Forks of the Jefferson, and thence down
that stream to the Three Forks of the Missouri, up the Gallatin,
and over the divide to the Yellowstone and down that river to its
junction with the Missouri, where he was to join the party of
Captain Lewis. This is the itinerary that was exactly carried out.
The very first incident set forth in the journal is a celebration
of Independence Day, as follows:--
"Friday, July 4. Early in the morning three hunters were
sent out. The rest of the party having collected the horses
and breakfasted, we proceeded at seven o'clock up the valley,
which is now contracted to the width of from eight to ten miles,
with a good proportion of pitch-pine, though its low lands,
as well as the bottoms of the creeks, are strewn with large stones.
We crossed five creeks of different sizes, but of great depth,
and so rapid that in passing the last several of the horses
were driven down the stream, and some of our baggage was wet.
Near this river we saw the tracks of two Indians, whom we supposed
to be Shoshonees. Having made sixteen miles, we halted at an hour
for the purpose of doing honor to the birthday of our early
country's independence. The festival was not very splendid,
for it consisted of a mush made of cows and a saddle of venison;
nor had we anything to tempt us to prolong it. We therefore
went on till at the distance of a mile we came to a very
large creek, which, like all those in the valley, had an immense
rapidity of descent; we therefore proceeded up for some distance,
in order to select the most convenient spot for fording.
Even there, however, such was the violence of the current that,
though the water was not higher than the bellies of the horses,
the resistance made in passing caused the stream to rise over their
backs and loads. After passing the creek we inclined to the left,
and soon after struck the road which we had descended last year,
near the spot where we dined on the 7th of September .
Along this road we continued on the west side of Clark's River,
till at the distance of thirteen miles, during which we passed
three more deep, large creeks, we reached its western branch,
where we camped; and having sent out two hunters, despatched some
men to examine the best ford across the west fork of the river.
The game to-day consisted of four deer; though we also saw a herd
of ibex, or bighorn."
Two days later they were high up among the mountains, although the
ascent was not very steep. At that height they found the weather
very cool, so much so that on the morning of the sixth of July,
after a cold night, they had a heavy white frost on the ground.
Setting out on that day, Captain Clark crossed a ridge which proved
to be the dividing line between the Pacific and the Atlantic watershed.
At the same time he passed from what is now Missoula County, Montana,
into the present county of Beaver Head, in that State. "Beaver Head,"
the reader will recollect, comes from a natural elevation in that
region resembling the head of a beaver. These points will serve
to fix in one's mind the route of the first exploring party that ever
ventured into those wilds; descending the ridge on its eastern slope,
the explorers struck Glade Creek, one of the sources of the stream
then named Wisdom River, a branch of the Jefferson; and the Jefferson
is one of the tributaries of the mighty Missouri. Next day the journal
has this entry:--
"In the morning our horses were so much scattered that, although we
sent out hunters in every direction to range the country for six or
eight miles, nine of them could not be recovered. They were the most
valuable of all our horses, and so much attached to some of their
companions that it was difficult to separate them in the daytime.
We therefore presumed that they must have been stolen by some roving Indians;
and accordingly left a party of five men to continue the pursuit,
while the rest went on to the spot where the canoes had been deposited.
We set out at ten o'clock and pursued a course S. 56'0 E. across the valley,
which we found to be watered by four large creeks, with extensive
low and miry bottoms; and then reached [and crossed] Wisdom River,
along the northeast side of which we continued, till at the distance
of sixteen miles we came to its three branches. Near that place
we stopped for dinner at a hot spring situated in the open plain.
The bed of the spring is about fifteen yards in circumference,
and composed of loose, hard, gritty stones, through which the water
boils in great quantities. It is slightly impregnated with sulphur,
and so hot that a piece of meat about the size of three fingers was
completely done in twenty-five minutes."
Next day, July 8, the party reached the forks of the Jefferson River,
where they had cached their goods in August, 1805; they had now travelled
one hundred and sixty-four miles from Traveller's-rest Creek to that point.
The men were out of tobacco, and as there was some among the goods
deposited in the cache they made haste to open the cache.
They found everything safe, although some of the articles were damp,
and a hole had been made in the bottom of one of the canoes.
Here they were overtaken by Sergeant Ordway and his party with the nine
horses that had escaped during the night of the seventh.
That night the weather was so cold that water froze in a basin to a
thickness of three-quarters of an inch, and the grass around the camp
was stiff with frost, although the month of July was nearly a week old.
The boats taken from the cache were now loaded, and the explorers
were divided into two bands, one to descend the river by boat and
the other to take the same general route on horseback, the objective
point being the Yellowstone. The story is taken tip here by the journal
in these lines:--
"After breakfast [July 10] the two parties set out, those on shore
skirting the eastern side of Jefferson River, through Service [-berry]
Valley and over Rattlesnake Mountain, into a beautiful and extensive
country, known among the Indians by the name of Hahnahappapchah,
or Beaverhead Valley, from the number of those animals to be found in it,
and also from the point of land resembling the head of a beaver.
It [the valley] extends from Rattlesnake Mountain as low as
Frazier's Creek, and is about fifty miles in length in direct line;
while its width varies from ten to fifteen miles, being watered
in its whole course by Jefferson River and six different creeks.
The valley is open and fertile; besides the innumerable quantities
of beaver and otter with which its creeks are supplied, the bushes
of the low grounds are a favorite resort for deer; while on the higher
parts of the valley are seen scattered groups of antelopes,
and still further, on the steep sides of the mountains, are observed
many bighorns, which take refuge there from the wolves and bears.
At the distance of fifteen miles the two parties stopped to dine;
when Captain Clark, finding that the river became wider and deeper,
and that the canoes could advance more rapidly than the horses,
determined to go himself by water, leaving Sergeant Pryor with six men
to bring on the horses. In this way they resumed their journey after dinner,
and camped on the eastern side of the river, opposite the head of
Three-thousand-mile Island. The beaver were basking in great numbers
along the shore; there were also some young wild geese and ducks.
The mosquitoes were very troublesome during the day, but after sunset
the weather became cool and they disappeared."
Three-thousand-mile Island was so named by the explorers, when they
ascended these streams, because it was at a point exactly three thousand
miles from the mouth of the Missouri. But no such island exists now;
it has probably been worn away by the swift-rushing current of the river.
The route of Captain Clark and his party, up to this time had been a few
miles west of Bannock City, Montana. As the captain was now to proceed
by land to the Yellowstone, again leaving the canoe party, it is well
to recall the fact that his route from the Three Forks of the Missouri
to the Yellowstone follows pretty nearly the present line of the railroad
from Gallatin City to Livingston, by the way of Bozeman Pass. Of this
route the journal says:--
"Throughout the whole, game was very abundant. They procured deer
in the low grounds; beaver and otter were seen in Gallatin River,
and elk, wolves, eagles, hawks, crows, and geese at different parts
of the route. The plain was intersected by several great roads
leading to a gap in the mountains, about twenty miles distant,
in a direction E.N.E.; but the Indian woman, who was acquainted
with the country, recommended a gap more to the southward.
This course Captain Clark determined to pursue."
Let us pause here to pay a little tribute to the memory of "the
Indian woman," Sacajawea. She showed that she was very observant,
had a good memory, and was plucky and determined when in trouble.
She was the guide of the exploring party when she was in a
region of country, as here, with which she was familiar.
She remembered localities which she had not seen since her childhood.
When their pirogue was upset by the carelessness of her husband,
it was she who saved the goods and helped to right the boat.
And, with her helpless infant clinging to her, she rode with
the men, guiding them with unerring skill through the mountain
fastnesses and lonely passes which the white men saw for
the first time when their salient features were pointed out
to them by the intelligent and faithful Sacajawea. The Indian
woman has long since departed to the Happy Hunting-Grounds
of her fathers; only her name and story remain to us who follow
the footsteps of the brave pioneers of the western continent.
But posterity should not forget the services which were rendered
to the white race by Sacajawea.
On the fifteenth of July the party arrived at the ridge that divides
the Missouri and the Yellowstone, nine miles from which they reached
the river itself, about a mile and a half from the point where it issues
from the Rocky Mountains. Their journey down the valley of the Yellowstone
was devoid of special interest, but was accompanied with some hardships.
For example, the feet of the horses had become so sore with long travel
over a stony trail that it was necessary to shoe them with raw buffalo hide.
Rain fell frequently and copiously; and often, sheltered at night
only by buffalo hides, they rose in the morning drenched to the skin.
The party could not follow the course of the river very closely,
but were compelled often to cross hills that came down to the bank,
making the trail impassable for horses. Here is the story of July
18 and 19:--
"Gibson, one of the party, was so badly hurt by falling on a sharp point
of wood that he was unable to sit on his horse, and they were obliged to form
a sort of litter for him, so that he could lie nearly at full length.
The wound became so painful, however, after proceeding a short distance,
that he could not bear the motion, and they left him with two men,
while Captain Clark went to search for timber large enough to form canoes.
He succeeded in finding some trees of sufficient size for small canoes,
two of which he determined to construct, and by lashing them together hoped
to make them answer the purpose of conveying the party down the river,
while a few of his men should conduct the horses to the Mandans. All hands,
therefore, were set busily to work, and they were employed in this
labor for several days. In the mean time no less than twenty-four
of their horses were missing, and they strongly suspected had been stolen
by the Indians, for they were unable to find them, notwithstanding they
made the most diligent search."
"July 23. A piece of a robe and a moccasin," says the journal,
"were discovered this morning not far from the camp.
The moccasin was worn out in the sole, and yet wet, and had
every appearance of having been left but a few hours before.
This was conclusive that the Indians had taken our horses, and were
still prowling about for the remainder, which fortunately escaped
last night by being in a small prairie surrounded by thick timber.
At length Labiche, one of our best trackers, returned from a
very wide circuit, and informed Captain Clark that he had traced
the horses bending their course rather down the river towards
the open plains, and from their tracks, must have been going
very rapidly. All hopes of recovering them were now abandoned.
Nor were the Indians the only plunderers around our camp;
for in the night the wolves or dogs stole the greater part of
the dried meat from the scaffold. The wolves, which constantly
attend the buffalo, were here in great numbers, as this seemed
to be the commencement of the buffalo country. . . .
"At noon the two canoes were finished. They were twenty-eight
feet long, sixteen or eighteen inches deep, and from sixteen
to twenty-four inches wide; and, having lashed them together,
everything was ready for setting out the next day, Gibson having
now recovered. Sergeant Pryor was directed, with Shannon
and Windsor, to take the remaining horses to the Mandans,
and if he should find that Mr. Henry [a trading-post agent] was
on the Assiniboin River, to go thither and deliver him a letter,
the object of which was to prevail on the most distinguished
chiefs of the Sioux to accompany him to Washington."
On a large island near the mouth of a creek now known as
Canyon Creek, the party landed to explore an extensive Indian
lodge which seems to have been built for councils, rather than
for a place of residence. The lodge was shaped like a cone,
sixty feet in diameter at the base and tapering towards the top.
The poles of which it was constructed were forty-five feet long.
The interior was strangely decorated, the tops of the poles being
ornamented with eagles' feathers, and from the centre hung a stuffed
buffalo-hide. A buffalo's head and other trophies of the chase
were disposed about the wigwam. The valley, as the explorers
descended the river, was very picturesque and wonderful.
On the north side the cliffs were wild and romantic, and these
were soon succeeded by rugged hills, and these, in turn, by open
plains on which were descried herds of buffalo, elk, and wolves.
On the twenty-seventh of July, having reached the Bighorn,
one of the largest tributaries of the Yellowstone, the party
have this entry in their journal:--
"They again set out very early, and on leaving the Bighorn took
a last look at the Rocky Mountains, which had been constantly
in view from the first of May. The [Yellowstone] river now
widens to the extent of from four hundred to six hundred yards;
it is much divided by islands and sandbars; its banks are
generally low and falling in; it thus resembles the Missouri
in many particulars, but its islands are more numerous,
its waters less muddy, and the current is more rapid.
The water is of a yellowish-white, and the round stones,
which form the bars above the Bighorn, have given place to gravel.
On the left side the river runs under cliffs of light,
soft, gritty stone, varying in height from seventy to one
hundred feet, behind which are level and extensive plains.
On the right side of the river are low extensive bottoms,
bordered with cottonwood, various species of willow,
rose-bushes, grapevines, redberry or buffalo-grease bushes,
and a species of sumach; to these succeed high grounds
supplied with pine, and still further on are level plains.
Throughout the country are vast quantities of buffalo, which,
as this is the running-season, keep up a continued bellowing.
Large herds of elk also are lying on every point, so gentle that they
may be approached within twenty paces without being alarmed.
Several beaver were seen in the course of the day; indeed, there is
a greater appearance of those animals than there was above
the Bighorn. Deer, however, are by no means abundant,
and antelopes, as well as bighorns, are scarce."
It is noticeable that the explorers, all along their route,
gave to streams, rocks, mountains, and other natural features of
the country many names that appear to us meaningless and trifling.
It would appear that they used up all the big names,
such as Jefferson, Gallatin, Philosophy, Philanthropy, and the like,
and were compelled to use, first, the names of their own party,
and then such titles as were suggested by trifling incidents.
For example, when they reached a difficult shoal on the
Yellowstone River, they named that Buffalo Shoal because they found
a buffalo on it; and Buffalo Shoal it remains unto this day.
In like manner, when they reached a dangerous rapid, twenty miles
below that point, they saw a bear standing on a rock in the stream;
and Bear Rapid the place was and is named. Bear and buffalo
were pretty numerous all the way along that part of the river
which they navigated in July. They had now rejoined the boats,
and on the last day of July, when camped at a point two miles
above Wolf Rapid (so called from seeing a wolf there), the buffalo
were continually prowling about the camp at night, exciting much
alarm lest they should trample on the boats and ruin them.
In those days, buffalo were so numerous that they were a
nuisance to travellers; and they were so free from fear of man
that they were too familiar with the camps and equipage.
On the first of August we find this entry in the journal
of the party:--
"The buffalo now appear in vast numbers. A herd happened to be on their
way across the river. Such was the multitude of these animals that,
though the river, including an island over which they passed,
was a mile wide, the herd stretched, as thickly as they could swim,
from one side to the other, and the party was obliged to stop for an hour.
They consoled themselves for the delay by killing four of the herd;
and then having proceeded for the distance of forty-five miles [in
all to-day] to an island, below which two other herds of buffalo,
as numerous as the first, soon after crossed the river."
Again, on the very next day, we find this entry:--
"The river was now about a mile wide, less rapid, and more
divided by islands, and bars of sand and mud, than heretofore;
the low grounds, too, were more extensive, and contained a greater
quantity of cottonwood, ash, and willows. On the northwest was a low,
level plain, and on the southeast some rugged hills, on which we saw,
without being able to approach them, some bighorns. Buffalo and elk,
as well as their pursuers, the wolves, were in great numbers.
On each side of the river there were several dry beds of streams,
but the only one of any considerable size was one to which they
gave the name of Ibex River, on the right, about thirty yards wide,
and sixteen miles from their encampment of the preceding night.
The bear, which had given them so much trouble at the head of
the Missouri, they found equally fierce here. One of these animals,
which was on a sand-bar as the boat passed, raised himself
on his hind feet, and after looking at the party for a moment,
plunged in and swam towards them; but, after receiving three balls
in the body, he turned and made for the shore. Towards evening
they saw another enter the water to swim across; when Captain Clark
directed the boat towards the shore, and just as the animal landed
shot it in the head. It proved to be the largest female they had
ever seen, and was so old that its tusks were worn quite smooth.
The boats escaped with difficulty between two herds of buffalo that
were crossing the river, and came near being again detained by them.
Among the elk of this neighborhood they saw an unusual number of males,
while higher up the herds consisted chiefly of females."
It is almost incredible that these wild animals should have been
so nearly exterminated by hunters and other rovers of the plains,
very soon after travel set in across the continent. The writer of
these lines, who crossed the plains to California so lately as 1856,
saw buffalo killed for the sake of their tongues, or to give rifle
practice to the wayfarers. After the overland railroad was opened,
passengers shot buffalo from the car-windows, well knowing that they could
not get their game, even if they should kill as they flew by a herd.
There are no buffalo nor elk where millions once roamed almost unmolested.
Early in the afternoon of August 3, the party reached the junction
of the Yellowstone and the Missouri, and camped on the same spot
where they had pitched their tents on the 26th of April, 1805.
They were nearing the end of their long journey.
But their troubles thickened as they drew near the close of their many miles
of travel. The journal for August 4 has this record:--
"The camp became absolutely uninhabitable in consequence of the multitude
of mosquitoes; the men could not work in preparing skins for clothing,
nor hunt in the timbered low grounds; there was no mode of escape,
except by going on the sand-bars in the river, where, if the wind
should blow, the insects do not venture; but when there is no wind,
and particularly at night, when the men have no covering except their
worn-out blankets, the pain they suffer is scarcely to be endured.
There was also a want of meat, for no buffalo were to be found;
and though elk are very abundant, yet their fat and flesh is more
difficult to dry in the sun, and is also much more easily spoiled
than the meat or fat of either deer or buffalo.
"Captain Clark therefore determined to go on to some spot which should
be free from mosquitoes and furnish more game. Having written a note to
Captain Lewis, to inform him of his intention, and stuck it on a pole at the
confluence of the two rivers, he loaded the canoes at five in the afternoon,
proceeded down the river to the second point, and camped on a sand-bar;
but here the mosquitoes seemed to be even more numerous than above.
The face of the Indian child was considerably puffed up and swollen with
their bites; the men could procure scarcely any sleep during the night,
and the insects continued to harass them next morning, as they proceeded.
On one occasion Captain Clark went on shore and ascended a hill after one
of the bighorns; but the mosquitoes were in such multitudes that he could
not keep them from the barrel of his rifle long enough to take aim.
About ten o'clock, however, a light breeze sprung up from the northwest,
and dispersed them in some degree. Captain Clark then landed on a
sand-bar, intending to wait for Captain Lewis, and went out to hunt.
But not finding any buffalo, he again proceeded in the afternoon;
and having killed a large white bear, camped under a high bluff exposed
to a light breeze from the southwest, which blew away the mosquitoes.
About eleven o'clock, however, the wind became very high and a storm
of rain came on, which lasted for two hours, accompanied with sharp
lightning and loud peals of thunder.
"The party rose, next day, very wet, and proceeded to a sand-bar below
the entrance of Whiteearth River. Just above this place the Indians,
apparently within seven, or eight days past, had been digging
a root which they employ in making a kind of soup. Having fixed
their tents, the men were employed in dressing skins and hunting.
They shot a number of deer; but only two of them were fat,
owing probably to the great quantities of mosquitoes which annoy
them while feeding."
On the eleventh of August the Clark party came up with the two
white traders from Illinois, of whom we have already made mention
as having been met by the Lewis party on their way down the river.
These were the first white men they had seen (except themselves)
since they parted with the three French trappers, near the Little Missouri,
in April, 1805, From them the wayworn voyagers received the latest news
from the United States. From them they also had some unfavorable tidings.
The journal says:--
"These men had met the boat which we had despatched from Fort Mandan, on board
of which, they were told, was a Ricara chief on his way to Washington;
and also another party of Yankton chiefs, accompanying Mr. Durion
on a visit of the same kind. We were sorry to learn that the Mandans
and Minnetarees were at war with the Ricaras, and had killed two of them.
The Assiniboins too are at war with the Mandans. They have, in consequence,
prohibited the Northwestern Company from trading to the Missouri, and even
killed two of their traders near Mouse River; they are now lying in wait
for Mr. McKenzie of the Northwestern Company, who has been for a long time
among the Minnetarees. These appearances are rather unfavorable to our
project of carrying some of the chiefs to the United States; but we still
hope that, by effecting a peace between the Mandans, Minnetarees, and Ricaras,
the views of our Government may be accomplished."
Next day, August 12, 1806, the party, slowly descending the river, were
overjoyed to see below them the little flotilla of Captain Lewis and his men.
But they were alarmed when they discovered that Lewis was not with them;
as the boats landed at the shore, the captain was not to be seen.
Captain Clark's party, on coming up with their friends, were told
that Lewis was lying in the pirogue, having been accidentally wounded.
The whole party were now happily reunited, and they were soon joined by
the two Illinois traders whom they had met up the river; these men wished
to accompany the expedition down the river as far as the Mandan nation,
for the purpose of trading; they were more secure with a large party
of white men than they would be if left to themselves.
The End of a Long Journey
The reunited party now set out for the lower river and proceeded rapidly
down-stream, favored with a good wind. They made eighty-six miles on
the first day, passing the mouth of the Little Missouri early in the forenoon,
and camping at Miry River, on the northeast side of the Missouri. On the
second day they arrived at the principal village of the Minnetarees,
where they were received with cordial welcome by their old friends.
The explorers fired their blunderbuss several times by way of salute,
and the Indian chiefs expressed their satisfaction at the safe return
of the white men. One of the Minnetaree chiefs, however, wept bitterly
at the sight of the whites, and it was explained by his friends that their
coming reminded him of the death of his son, who had been lately killed
by the Blackfoot Indians.
Arriving at the village of the Mandans, of which Black Cat
was the chief, a council was called, and the chiefs of
the expedition endeavored to persuade some of the leading
men of the tribe to accompany them to Washington to see "the
Great Father." Black Cat expressed his strong desire to visit
the United States and see the Great Father, but he was afraid
of the Sioux, their ancient enemies, through whose territory
they must pass on their way down to the white man's country.
This chief, it will be recollected, was given a flag and
a medal by the two captains when they passed up the river
on their way to the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific coast.
The flag was now brought on and hoisted on the lodge of
Black Cat. On that occasion, also, the commanders of the
expedition had given the Indians a number of useful articles,
among them being a portable corn-mill. But the Indians had other
uses for metal, and they had taken the mill apart and used
the iron for the purpose of making barbs for their arrows.
From the Omahas, who were located here, the white men
received a present of as much corn as three men could carry.
Black Cat also gave them a dozen bushels of corn.
Their days of starvation and famine were over. They were next visited
by Le Borgne, better known as One-eye, the head chief of all the Minnetarees,
to whom Lewis and Clark also extended an invitation to go to Washington
to see the Great Father. The journal says:--
"Le Borgne began by declaring that he much desired to visit
his Great Father, but that the Sioux would certainly kill
any of the Mandans who should attempt to go down the river.
They were bad people, and would not listen to any advice.
When he saw us last, we had told him that we had made peace
with all the nations below; yet the Sioux had since killed
eight of his tribe, and stolen a number of their horses.
The Ricaras too had stolen their horses, and in the contest
his people had killed two of the Ricaras. Yet in spite
of these dispositions he had always had his ears open to
our counsels, and had actually made a peace with the Chayennes
and the Indians of the Rocky Mountains. He concluded by saying,
that however disposed they were to visit the United States,
the fear of the Sioux would prevent them from going with us."
The truth was that One-eye had no notion of going to Washington;
he was afraid of nobody, and his plea of possible danger
among the Sioux was mere nonsense to deceive the white men.
Captain Clark visited the village of Black Cat, and that worthy
savage made the same excuse that Le Borgne (One-eye) had already
put forth; he was afraid of the Sioux. The journal adds:--
"Captain Clark then spoke to the chiefs and warriors of the village.
He told them of his anxiety that some of them should see their
Great Father, hear his good words, and receive his gifts; and requested
them to fix on some confidential chief who might accompany us.
To this they made the same objections as before; till at length
a young man offered to go, and the warriors all assented to it.
But the character of this man was known to be bad; and one
of the party with Captain Clark informed him that at the moment