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The Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Oregon and California by Brevet Col. J.C. Fremont

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* * * * *


No work has appeared from the American press within the past few years
better calculated to interest the community at large than Colonel J.C.
Fremont's Narrative of his Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains,
Oregon, and North California, undertaken by the orders of the United
States government.

Eminently qualified for the task assigned him, Colonel Fremont entered
upon his duties with alacrity, and has embodied in the following pages the
results of his observations. The country thus explored is daily making
deeper and more abiding impressions upon the minds of the people, and
information is eagerly sought in regard to its natural resources, its
climate, inhabitants, productions, and adaptation for supplying the wants
and providing the comforts for a dense population. The day is not far
distant when that territory, hitherto so little known, will be intersected
by railroads, its waters navigated, and its fertile portions peopled by an
active and intelligent population.

To all persons interested in the successful extension of our free
institutions over this now wilderness portion of our land, this work of
Fremont commends itself as a faithful and accurate statement of the
present state of affairs in that country.

Since the preparation of this report, Colonel Fremont has been engaged in
still farther explorations by order of the government, the results of
which will probably be presented to the country as soon as he shall be
relieved from his present arduous and responsible station. He is now
engaged in active military service in New Mexico, and has won imperishable
renown by his rapid and successful subjugation of that country.

The map accompanying this edition is not the one prepared by the order of
government, but it is one that can be relied upon for its accuracy.

July, 1847.

* * * * *


The dreams of the visionary have "come to pass!" the unseen El Dorado of
the "fathers" looms, in all its virgin freshness and beauty, before the
eyes of their children! The "set time" for the Golden age, the advent of
which has been looked for and longed for during many centuries of iron
wrongs and hardships, has fully come. In the sunny clime of the south
west--in Upper California--may be found the modern Canaan, a land "flowing
with milk and honey," its mountains studded and its rivers lined and
choked, with gold!

He who would know more of this rich and rare land before commencing his
pilgrimage to its golden bosom, will find, in the last part of this new
edition of a most deservedly popular work, a succinct yet comprehensive
account of its inexhaustible riches and its transcendent loveliness, and a
fund of much needed information in regard to the several routes which lead
to its inviting borders.

January 1849.

* * * * *





* * * * *

Washington, March 1, 1843.

To Colonel J.J. Abert, _Chief of the Corps of Top. Eng._

Sir: Agreeably to your orders to explore and report upon the country
between the frontiers of Missouri and the South Pass in the Rocky
Mountains, and on the line of the Kansas and Great Platte rivers, I set
out from Washington city on the 2d day of May, 1842, and arrived at St.
Louis by way of New York, the 22d of May, where the necessary preparations
were completed, and the expedition commenced. I proceeded in a steamboat
to Chouteau's landing, about four hundred miles by water from St. Louis,
and near the mouth of the Kansas river, whence we proceeded twelve miles
to Mr. Cyprian Chouteau's trading-house, where we completed our final
arrangements for the expedition.

Bad weather, which interfered with astronomical observations, delayed us
several days in the early part of June at this post, which is on the right
bank of the Kansas river, about ten miles above the mouth, and six beyond
the western boundary of Missouri. The sky cleared off at length and we
were enabled to determine our position, in longitude 90 deg. 25' 46", and
latitude 39 deg. 5' 57". The elevation above the sea is about 700 feet. Our
camp, in the mean time, presented an animated and bustling scene. All were
busily engaged in completing the necessary arrangements for our campaign
in the wilderness, and profiting by this short stay on the verge of
civilization, to provide ourselves with all the little essentials to
comfort in the nomadic life we were to lead for the ensuing summer months.
Gradually, however, every thing--the _materiel_ of the camp--men,
horses, and even mules--settled into its place; and by the 10th we were
ready to depart; but, before we mount our horses, I will give a short
description of the party with which I performed the service.

I had collected in the neighborhood of St. Louis twenty-one men,
principally Creole and Canadian _voyageurs_, who had become familiar
with prairie life in the service of the fur companies in the Indian
country. Mr. Charles Preuss, native of Germany, was my assistant in the
topographical part of the survey; L. Maxwell, of Kaskaskia, had been
engaged as hunter, and Christopher Carson (more familiarly known, for his
exploits in the mountains, as Kit Carson) was our guide. The persons
engaged in St. Louis were:

Clement Lambert, J.B. L'Esperance, J.B. Lefevre, Benjamin Potra, Louis
Gouin, J.B. Dumes, Basil Lajeunesse, Francois Tessier, Benjamin Cadotte,
Joseph Clement, Daniel Simonds, Leonard Benoit, Michel Morly, Baptiste
Bernier, Honore Ayot, Francois La Tulipe, Francis Badeau, Louis Menard,
Joseph Ruelle, Moise Chardonnais, Auguste Janisse, Raphael Proue.

In addition to these, Henry Brant, son of Col. J.B. Brant, of St. Louis, a
young man of nineteen years of age, and Randolph, a lively boy of twelve,
son of the Hon. Thomas H. Benton, accompanied me, for the development of
mind and body such an expedition would give. We were well armed and
mounted, with the exception of eight men, who conducted as many carts, in
which were packed our stores, with the baggage and instruments, and which
were drawn by two mules. A few loose horses, and four oxen, which had been
added to our stock of provisions, completed the train. We set out on the
morning of the 10th, which happened to be Friday, a circumstance which our
men did not fail to remember and recall during the hardships and vexations
of the ensuing journey. Mr. Cyprian Chouteau, to whose kindness, during
our stay at his house, we were much indebted, accompanied us several miles
on our way, until we met an Indian, whom he had engaged to conduct us on
the first thirty or forty miles, where he was to consign us to the ocean
of prairie, which, we were told, stretched without interruption almost to
the base of the Rocky Mountains.

From the belt of wood which borders the Kansas, in which we had passed
several good-looking Indian farms, we suddenly emerged on the prairies,
which received us at the outset with some of their striking
characteristics; for here and there rode an Indian, and but a few miles
distant heavy clouds of smoke were rolling before the fire. In about ten
miles we reached the Santa Fe road, along which we continued for a short
time, and encamped early on a small stream--having traveled about eleven
miles. During our journey, it was the customary practice to encamp an hour
or two before sunset, when the carts were disposed so as to form a sort of
barricade around a circle some eighty yards in diameter. The tents were
pitched, and the horses hobbled and turned loose to graze; and but a few
minutes elapsed before the cooks of the messes, of which there were four,
were busily engaged in preparing the evening meal. At nightfall, the
horses, mules, and oxen were driven in and picketed,--that is, secured by
a halter, of which one end was tied to a small steel-shod picket, and
driven into the ground; the halter being twenty or thirty feet long, which
enabled them to obtain a little food during the night. When we had reached
a part of the country where such a precaution became necessary, the carts
being regularly arranged for defending the camp, guard was mounted at
eight o'clock, consisting of three men, who were relieved every two hours
--the morning-watch being horse-guard for the day. At daybreak the camp was
roused, the animals turned loose to graze, and breakfast generally over
between six and seven o'clock, when we resumed our march, making regularly
a halt at noon for one or two hours. Such was usually the order of the
day, except when accident of country forced a variation; which, however,
happened but rarely. We traveled the next day along the Santa Fe road,
which we left in the afternoon, and encamped late in the evening on a
small creek, called by the Indians, Mishmagwi. Just as we arrived at camp,
one of the horses set off at full speed on his return, and was followed by
others. Several men were sent in pursuit, and returned with the fugitives
about midnight, with the exception of one man, who did not make his
appearance until morning. He had lost his way in the darkness of the
night, and slept on the prairie. Shortly after midnight it began to rain
heavily, and, as our tents were of light and thin cloth, they offered but
little obstruction to the rain: we were all well soaked, and glad when
morning came. We had a rainy march on the 12th, but the weather grew fine
as the day advanced. We encamped in a remarkably beautiful situation on
the Kansas bluffs, which commanded a fine view of the river valley, here
from four to five miles wide. The central portion was occupied by a broad
belt of heavy timber, and nearer the hills the prairies were of the
richest verdure. One of the oxen was killed here for food.

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

The velocity of the current, and the inconvenient freight, rendering it
difficult to be managed, Basil Lajeunesse, one of our best swimmers, took
in his teeth a line attached to the boat, and swam ahead in order to reach
a footing as soon as possible, and assist in drawing her over. In this
manner six passages had been successfully made, and as many carts with
their contents, and a greater portion of the party, deposited on the left
bank; but night was drawing near, and, in our anxiety to have all over
before the darkness closed in, I put upon the boat the remaining two
carts, with their accompanying load. The man at the helm was timid on
water, and in his alarm capsized the boat. Carts, barrels, boxes, and
bales, were in a moment floating down the current; but all the men who
were on the shore jumped into the water, without stopping to think if they
could swim, and almost every thing--even heavy articles, such as guns and
lead--was recovered.

Two of the men who could not swim came nigh being drowned, and all the
sugar belonging to one of the messes wasted its sweets on the muddy
waters; but our heaviest loss was a large bag of coffee, which contained
nearly all our provision. It was a loss which none but a traveler in a
strange and inhospitable country can appreciate; and often afterward, when
excessive toil and long marching had overcome us with fatigue and
weariness, we remembered and mourned over our loss in the Kansas. Carson
and Maxwell had been much in the water yesterday, and both, in
consequence, were taken ill. The former continuing so, I remained in camp.
A number of Kansas Indians visited us to-day. Going up to one of the
groups who were scattered among the trees, I found one sitting on the
ground, among some of the men, gravely and fluently speaking French, with
as much facility and as little embarrassment as any of my own party, who
were nearly all of French origin.

On all sides was heard the strange language of his own people, wild, and
harmonizing well with their appearance. I listened to him for some time
with feelings of strange curiosity and interest. He was now apparently
thirty-five years of age; and, on inquiry, I learned that he had been at
St. Louis when a boy, and there had learned the French language. From one
of the Indian women I obtained a fine cow and calf in exchange for a yoke
of oxen. Several of them brought us vegetables, pumpkins, onions, beans,
and lettuce. One of them brought butter, and from a half-breed near the
river, I had the good fortune to obtain some twenty or thirty pounds of
coffee. The dense timber in which we had encamped interfered with
astronomical observations, and our wet and damaged stores required
exposure to the sun. Accordingly, the tents were struck early the next
morning, and, leaving camp at six o'clock, we moved about seven miles up
the river, to a handsome, open prairie, some twenty feet above the water,
where the fine grass afforded a luxurious repast to our horses.

During the day we occupied ourselves in making astronomical observations,
in order to lay down the country to this place; it being our custom to
keep up our map regularly in the field, which we found attended with many
advantages. The men were kept busy in drying the provisions, painting the
cart covers, and otherwise completing our equipage, until the afternoon,
when powder was distributed to them, and they spent some hours in firing
at a mark. We were now fairly in the Indian country, and it began to be
time to prepare for the chances of the wilderness.

17th.--The weather yesterday had not permitted us to make the observations
I was desirous to obtain here, and I therefore did not move to-day. The
people continued their target firing. In the steep bank of the river here,
were nests of innumerable swallows, into one of which a large prairie
snake had got about half his body, and was occupied in eating the young
birds. The old ones were flying about in great distress, darting at him,
and vainly endeavoring to drive him off. A shot wounded him, and, being
killed, he was cut open, and eighteen young swallows were found in his
body. A sudden storm, that burst upon us in the afternoon, cleared away in
a brilliant sunset, followed by a clear night, which enabled us to
determine our position in longitude 95 deg. 38' 05", and in latitude 39 deg. 06'

A party of emigrants to the Columbia river, under the charge of Dr. White,
an agent of the government in Oregon Territory, were about three weeks in
advance of us. They consisted of men, women, and children. There were
sixty-four men, and sixteen or seventeen families. They had a considerable
number of cattle, and were transporting their household furniture in
large, heavy wagons. I understood that there had been much sickness among
them, and that they had lost several children. One of the party who had
lost his child, and whose wife was very ill, had left them about one
hundred miles hence on the prairies; and as a hunter, who had accompanied
them, visited our camp this evening, we availed ourselves of his return to
the States to write to our friends.

The morning of the 18th was very unpleasant. A fine rain was falling, with
cold wind from the north, and mists made the river hills look dark and
gloomy. We left our camp at seven, journeying along the foot of the hills
which border the Kansas valley, generally about three miles wide, and
extremely rich. We halted for dinner, after a march of about thirteen
miles, on the banks of one of the many little tributaries to the Kansas,
which look like trenches in the prairie, and are usually well timbered.
After crossing this stream, I rode off some miles to the left, attracted
by the appearance of a cluster of huts near the mouth of the Vermilion. It
was a large but deserted Kansas village, scattered in an open wood, along
the margin of the stream, chosen with the customary Indian fondness for
beauty of scenery. The Pawnees had attacked it in the early spring. Some
of the houses were burnt, and others blackened with smoke, and weeds were
already getting possession of the cleared places. Riding up the Vermilion
river, I reached the ford in time to meet the carts, and, crossing,
encamped on its western side. The weather continued cold, the thermometer
being this evening as low as 49 deg.; but the night was sufficiently clear for
astronomical observations, which placed us in longitude 96 deg. 04' 07", and
latitude 39 deg. 15' 19". At sunset, the barometer was at 28.845, thermometer
64 deg..

We breakfasted the next morning at half-past five, and left our encampment
early. The morning was cool, the thermometer being at 45 deg.. Quitting the
river bottom, the road ran along the uplands, over a rolling country,
generally in view of the Kansas from eight to twelve miles distant. Many
large boulders, of a very compact sandstone, of various shades of red,
some of them of four or five tons in weight, were scattered along the
hills; and many beautiful plants in flower, among which the _amorpha
canescens_ was a characteristic, enlivened the green of the prairie. At
the heads of the ravines I remarked, occasionally, thickets of _saix
longifolia_, the most common willow of the country. We traveled
nineteen miles and pitched our tents at evening on the head-waters of a
small creek, now nearly dry, but having in its bed several fine springs.
The barometer indicated a considerable rise in the country--here about
fourteen hundred feet above the sea--and the increased elevation appeared
already to have some slight influence upon vegetation. The night was cold,
with a heavy dew; the thermometer at 10 P.M. standing at 46 deg., barometer
28.483. Our position was in longitude 96 deg. 14' 49", and latitude 39 deg. 30'

The morning of the 20th was fine, with a southerly breeze and a bright
sky; and at seven o'clock we were on the march. The country to-day was
rather more broken, rising still, and covered everywhere with fragments of
silicious limestone, particularly on the summits, where they were small,
and thickly strewed as pebbles on the shore of the sea. In these exposed
situations grew but few plants; though, whenever the soil was good and
protected from the winds, in the creek bottoms and ravines, and on the
slopes, they flourished abundantly; among them the _amorpha_, still
retaining its characteristic place. We crossed, at 10 A.M. the Big
Vermilion, which has a rich bottom of about one mile in breadth, one-third
of which is occupied by timber. Making our usual halt at noon, after a
day's march of twenty-four miles, we reached the Big Blue, and encamped on
the uplands of the western side, near a small creek, where was a fine
large spring of very cold water. This is a clear and handsome stream,
about one hundred and twenty feet wide, running with a rapid current,
through a well-timbered valley. To-day antelope were seen running over the
hills, and at evening Carson brought us a fine deer. Longitude of the camp
96 deg. 32' 35", latitude 39 deg. 45' 08". Thermometer at sunset 75 deg.. A pleasant
southerly breeze and fine morning had given place to a gale, with
indications of bad weather; when, after a march of ten miles, we halted to
noon on a small creek, where the water stood in deep pools. In the bank of
the creek limestone made its appearance in a stratum about one foot thick.
In the afternoon, the people seemed to suffer for want of water. The road
led along a high dry ridge; dark lines of timber indicated the heads of
streams in the plains below; but there was no water near, and the day was
oppressive, with a hot wind, and the thermometer at 90 deg.. Along our route
the _amorpha_ has been in very abundant but variable bloom--in some
places bending beneath the weight of purple clusters; in others without a
flower. It seemed to love best the sunny slopes, with a dark soil and
southern exposure. Everywhere the rose is met with, and reminds us of
cultivated gardens and civilization. It is scattered over the prairies in
small bouquets, and, when glittering in the dews and waving in the
pleasant breeze of the early morning, is the most beautiful of the prairie
flowers. The _artemisia_, absinthe, or prairie sage, as it is
variously called, is increasing in size, and glittering like silver, as
the southern breeze turns up its leaves to the sun. All these plants have
their insect inhabitants, variously colored--taking generally the hue of
the flower on which they live. The _artemisia_ has its small fly
accompanying it through every change of elevation and latitude; and
wherever I have seen the _asclepias tuberosa_, I have always
remarked, too, on the flower a large butterfly, so nearly resembling it in
color as to be distinguishable at a little distance only by the motion of
its wings. Traveling on, the fresh traces of the Oregon emigrants relieve
a little the loneliness of the road; and to-night, after a march of
twenty-two miles, we halted on a small creek which had been one of their
encampments. As we advanced westward, the soil appears to be getting more
sandy; and the surface rock, an erratic deposite of sand and gravel, rests
here on a bed of coarse yellow and gray and very friable sandstone.
Evening closed over with rain and its usual attendant hordes of
mosquitoes, with which we were annoyed for the first time.

22d.--We enjoyed at breakfast this morning a luxury, very unusual in this
country, in a cup of excellent coffee, with cream, from our cow. Being
milked at night, cream was thus had in the morning. Our mid-day halt was
at Wyeth's creek, in the bed of which were numerous boulders of dark,
ferruginous sandstone, mingled with others of the red sandstone already
mentioned. Here a pack of cards, lying loose on the grass, marked an
encampment of our Oregon emigrants; and it was at the close of the day
when we made our bivouac in the midst of some well-timbered ravines near
the Little Blue, twenty-four miles from our camp of the preceding night.
Crossing the next morning a number of handsome creeks, with water clear
and sandy beds we reached, at 10 A.M., a very beautiful wooded stream,
about thirty-five feet wide, called Sandy creek, and sometimes, as the
Ottoes frequently winter there, the Otto fork. The country has become very
sandy, and the plants less varied and abundant, with the exception of the
_amorpha_, which rivals the grass in quantity, though not so forward
as it has been found to the eastward.

At the Big Trees, where we had intended to noon, no water was to be found.
The bed of the little creek was perfectly dry, and, on the adjacent sandy
bottom, _cacti_, for the first time made their appearance. We made
here a short delay in search of water; and, after a hard day's march of
twenty-eight miles, encamped, at 5 o'clock, on the Little Blue, where our
arrival made a scene of the Arabian desert. As fast as they arrived men
and horses rushed into the stream, where they bathed and drank together in
common enjoyment. We were now in the range of the Pawnees, who were
accustomed to infest this part of the country, stealing horses from
companies on their way to the mountains; and, when in sufficient force,
openly attacking and plundering them, and subjecting them to various kinds
of insult. For the first time, therefore, guard was mounted to-night. Our
route the next morning lay up the valley, which, bordered by hills with
graceful slopes, looked uncommonly green and beautiful. The stream was
about fifty feet wide, and three or four deep, fringed by cotton-wood and
willow, with frequent groves of oak, tenanted by flocks of turkeys. Game
here, too, made its appearance in greater plenty. Elk were frequently seen
on the hills, and now and then an antelope bounded across our path, or a
deer broke from the groves. The road in the afternoon was over the upper
prairies, several miles from the river, and we encamped at sunset on one
of its small tributaries, where an abundance of prele (_equisetum_)
afforded fine forage to our tired animals. We had traveled thirty-one
miles. A heavy bank of black clouds in the west came on us in a storm
between nine and ten, preceded by a violent wind. The rain fell in such
torrents that it was difficult to breathe facing the wind; the thunder
rolled incessantly, and the whole sky was tremulous with lightning--now
and then illuminated by a blinding flash, succeeded by pitchy darkness.
Carson had the watch from ten to midnight, and to him had been assigned
our young _compagnons de voyage_, Messrs. Brant and R. Benton. This
was their first night on guard, and such an introduction did not augur
very auspiciously of the pleasures of the expedition. Many things
conspired to render their situation uncomfortable; stories of desperate
and bloody Indian fights were rife in the camp; our position was badly
chosen, surrounded on all sides by timbered hollows, and occupying an area
of several hundred feet, so that necessarily the guards were far apart;
and now and then I could hear Randolph, as if relieved by the sound of a
voice in the darkness, calling out to the sergeant of the guard, to direct
his attention to some imaginary alarm; but they stood it out, and took
their turn regularly afterwards.

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

Mounted on a fine horse, without a saddle, and scouring bare-headed over
the prairies, Kit was one of the finest pictures of a horseman I have ever
seen. A short time enabled him to discover that the Indian war-party of
twenty-seven consisted of six elk, who had been gazing curiously at our
caravan as it passed by, and were now scampering off at full speed. This
was our first alarm, and its excitement broke agreeably on the monotony of
the day. At our noon halt, the men were exercised at a target; and in the
evening we pitched our tents at a Pawnee encampment of last July. They had
apparently killed buffalo here, as many bones were lying about, and the
frames where the hides had been stretched were yet standing. The road of
the day had kept the valley, which is sometimes rich and well timbered,
though the country generally is sandy. Mingled with the usual plants, a
thistle (_carduus leucographus_) had for the last day or two made its
appearance; and along the river bottom, _tradescantia_ (virginica)
and milk plant (_asclepias syriaca_) [Footnote: This plant is very
odoriferous, and in Canada charms the traveler, especially when passing
through woods in the evening. The French there eat the tender shoots in
the spring, as we do asparagus. The natives make a sugar of the flowers,
gathering them in the morning when they are covered with dew, and collect
the cotton from their pods to fill their beds. On account of the silkiness
of this cotton, Parkinson calls the plant Virginian silk.--_Loudon's
Encyclopaedia of Plants_.

The Sioux Indians of the Upper Platte eat the young pods of this plant,
boiling them with the meat of the buffalo.] in considerable quantities.

Our march to-day had been twenty-one miles, and the astronomical
observations gave us a chronometric longitude of 98 deg. 22' 12", and latitude
40 deg. 26' 50". We were moving forward at seven in the morning, and in about
five miles reached a fork of the Blue, where the road leaves that river,
and crosses over to the Platte. No water was to be found on the dividing
ridge, and the casks were filled, and the animals here allowed a short
repose. The road led across a high and level prairie ridge, where were but
few plants, and those principally thistle, (_carduus leucographus_,)
and a kind of dwarf artemisia. Antelope were seen frequently during the
morning, which was very stormy. Squalls of rain, with thunder and
lightning, were around us in every direction; and while we were enveloped
in one of them, a flash, which seemed to scorch our eyes as it passed,
struck in the prairie within a few hundred feet, sending up a column of

Crossing on the way several Pawnee roads to the Arkansas, we reached, in
about twenty-one miles from our halt on the Blue, what is called the coast
of the Nebraska, or Platte river. This had seemed in the distance a range
of high and broken hills; but on a nearer approach was found to be
elevations of forty to sixty feet into which the wind had worked the sand.
They were covered with the usual fine grasses of the country, and bordered
the eastern side of the ridge on a breadth of about two miles. Change of
soil and country appeared here to have produced some change in the
vegetation. _Cacti_ were numerous, and all the plants of the region
appeared to flourish among the warm hills. Among them the _amorpha_,
in full bloom, was remarkable for its large and luxuriant purple clusters.
From the foot of the coast, a distance of two miles across the level
bottom brought us to our encampment on the shore of the river, about
twenty miles below the head of Grand Island, which lay extended before us,
covered with dense and heavy woods. From the mouth of the Kansas,
according to our reckoning, we had traveled three hundred and twenty-eight
miles; and the geological formation of the country we had passed over
consisted of lime and sand stone, covered by the same erratic deposits of
sand and gravel which forms the surface rock of the prairies between the
Missouri and Mississippi rivers. Except in some occasional limestone
boulders, I had met with no fossils. The elevation of the Platte valley
above the sea is here about two thousand feet. The astronomical
observations of the night placed us in longitude 98 deg. 45' 49", latitude 40 deg.
41' 06".

27th.--The animals were somewhat fatigued by their march of yesterday,
and, after a short journey of eighteen miles along the river bottom, I
encamped near the head of Grand Island, in longitude, by observation, 99 deg.
05' 24", latitude 40 deg. 39' 32". The soil was here light but rich, though in
some places rather sandy; and, with the exception of scattered fringe
along the bank, the timber, consisting principally of poplar, (_populus
moniliefera_,) elm, and hackberry, (_celtis crassifolia_,) is
confined almost entirely to the islands.

28th.--We halted to noon at an open reach of the river, which occupies
rather more than a fourth of the valley, here only about four miles broad.
The camp had been disposed with the usual precaution, the horses grazing
at a little distance, attended by the guard, and we were all sitting
quietly at our dinner on the grass, when suddenly we heard the startling
cry, "Du monde!" In an instant, every man's weapon was in his hand, the
horses were driven in, hobbled and picketed, and horsemen were galloping
at full speed in the direction of the newcomers, screaming and yelling
with the wildest excitement. "Get ready, my lads!" said the leader of the
approaching party to his men, when our wild looking horsemen were
discovered bearing down upon them--"nous allons attraper des coups de
baguette." They proved to be a small party of fourteen, under the charge
of a man named John Lee, and, with their baggage and provisions strapped
to their backs, were making their way on foot to the frontier. A brief
account of their fortunes will give some idea of navigation in the
Nebraska. Sixty days since, they had left the mouth of Laramie's fork,
some three hundred miles above, in barges laden with the furs of the
American Fur Company. They started with the annual flood, and, drawing but
nine inches water, hoped to make a speedy and prosperous voyage to St.
Louis; but, after a lapse of forty days, found themselves only one hundred
and thirty miles from their point of departure. They came down rapidly as
far as Scott's bluffs, where their difficulties began. Sometimes they came
upon places where the water was spread over a great extent, and here they
toiled from morning until night, endeavoring to drag their boat through
the sands, making only two or three miles in as many days. Sometimes they
would enter an arm of the river, where there appeared a fine channel, and,
after descending prosperously for eight or ten miles, would come suddenly
upon dry sands, and be compelled to return, dragging their boat for days
against the rapid current; and at others, they came upon places where the
water lay in holes, and, getting out to float off their boat, would fall
into water up to their necks, and the next moment tumble over against a
sandbar. Discouraged at length, and finding the Platte growing every day
more shallow, they discharged the principal part of their cargoes one
hundred and thirty miles below Fort Laramie, which they secured as well as
possible, and, leaving a few men to guard them, attempted to continue
their voyage, laden with some light furs and their personal baggage. After
fifteen or twenty days more struggling in the sands, during which they
made but one hundred and forty miles, they sunk their barges, made a
_cache_ of their remaining furs and property in trees on the bank,
and, packing on his back what each man could carry, had commenced, the day
before we encountered them, their journey on foot to St. Louis. We laughed
then at their forlorn and vagabond appearance, and, in our turn, a month
or two afterwards, furnished the same occasion for merriment to others.
Even their stock of tobacco, that _sine qua non_ of a voyageur,
without which the night fire is gloomy, was entirely exhausted. However,
we shortened their homeward journey by a small supply from our own
provision. They gave us the welcome intelligence that the buffalo were
abundant some two days' march in advance, and made us a present of some
choice pieces, which were a very acceptable change from our salt pork. In
the interchange of news, and the renewal of old acquaintanceships, we
found wherewithal to fill a busy hour; then we mounted our horses and they
shouldered their packs, and we shook hands and parted. Among them, I had
found an old companion on the northern prairie, a hardened and hardly
served veteran of the mountains, who had been as much hacked and scarred
as an old moustache of Napoleon's "old guard." He flourished in the
sobriquet of La Tulipe, and his real name I never knew. Finding that he
was going to the States only because his company was bound in that
direction, and that he was rather more willing to return with me, I took
him again into my service. We traveled this day but seventeen miles.

At our evening camp, about sunset, three figures were discovered
approaching, which our glasses made out to be Indians. They proved to be
Cheyennes--two men, and a boy of thirteen. About a month since, they had
left their people on the south fork of the river, some three hundred miles
to the westward, and a party of only four in number had been to the Pawnee
villages on a horse-stealing excursion, from which they were returning
unsuccessful. They were miserably mounted on wild horses from the Arkansas
plains, and had no other weapons than bows and long spears; and had they
been discovered by the Pawnees, could not, by any possibility, have
escaped. They were mortified by their ill-success, and said the Pawnees
were cowards, who shut up their horses in their lodges at night. I invited
them to supper with me, and Randolph and the young Cheyenne, who had been
eyeing each other suspiciously and curiously, soon became intimate
friends. After supper we sat down on the grass, and I placed a sheet of
paper between us, on which they traced, rudely, but with a certain degree
of relative truth, the water-courses of the country which lay between us
and their villages, and of which I desired to have some information. Their
companions, they told us, had taken a nearer route over the hills; but
they had mounted one of the summits to spy out the country, whence they
had caught a glimpse of our party, and, confident of good treatment at the
hands of the whites, hastened to join company. Latitude of the camp 40 deg.
39' 51".

We made the next morning sixteen miles. I remarked that the ground was
covered in many places with an efflorescence of salt, and the plants were
not numerous. In the bottoms were frequently seen tradescantia, and on the
dry lenches were carduus, cactus, and amorpha. A high wind during the
morning had increased to a violent gale from the northwest, which made our
afternoon ride cold and unpleasant. We had the welcome sight of two
buffaloes on one of the large islands, and encamped at a clump of timber
about seven miles from our noon halt, after a day's march of twenty-two

The air was keen the next morning at sunrise, the thermometer standing at
44 deg., and it was sufficiently cold to make overcoats very comfortable. A
few miles brought us into the midst of the buffalo, swarming in immense
numbers over the plains, where they had left scarcely a blade of grass
standing. Mr. Preuss, who was sketching at a little distance in the rear,
had at first noted them as large groves of timber. In the sight of such a
mass of life, the traveler feels a strange emotion of grandeur. We had
heard from a distance a dull and confused murmuring, and, when we came in
view of their dark masses, there was not one among us who did not feel his
heart beat quicker. It was the early part of the day, when the herds are
feeding; and everywhere they were in motion. Here and there a huge old
bull was rolling in the grass, and clouds of dust rose in the air from
various parts of the bands, each the scene of some obstinate fight.
Indians and buffalo make the poetry and life of the prairie, and our camp
was full of their exhilaration. In place of the quiet monotony of the
march, relieved only by the cracking of the whip, and an "avance donc!
enfant de garce!" shouts and songs resounded from every part of the line,
and our evening camp was always the commencement of a feast, which
terminated only with our departure on the following morning. At any time
of the night might be seen pieces of the most delicate and choicest meat,
roasting _en appolas_, on sticks around the fire, and the guard were
never without company. With pleasant weather and no enemy to fear, an
abundance of the most excellent meat, and no scarcity of bread or tobacco,
they were enjoying the oasis of a voyageur's life. Three cows were killed
to-day. Kit Carson had shot one, and was continuing the chase in the midst
of another herd, when his horse fell headlong, but sprang up and joined
the flying band. Though considerably hurt, he had the good fortune to
break no bones; and Maxwell, who was mounted on a fleet hunter, captured
the runaway after a hard chase. He was on the point of shooting him, to
avoid the loss of his bridle, (a handsomely mounted Spanish one,) when he
found that his horse was able to come up with him. Animals are frequently
lost in this way; and it is necessary to keep close watch over them, in
the vicinity of the buffalo, in the midst of which they scour off to the
plains, and are rarely retaken. One of our mules took a sudden freak into
his head, and joined a neighboring band to-day. As we were not in a
condition to lose horses, I sent several men in pursuit, and remained in
camp, in the hope of recovering him; but lost the afternoon to no purpose,
as we did not see him again. Astronomical observations placed us in
longitude 100 deg. 05' 47", latitude 40 deg. 49' 55"


1st.--Along our road to-day the prairie bottom was more elevated and dry,
and the river hills which border the right side of the river higher, and
more broken and picturesque in the outline. The country, too, was better
timbered. As we were riding quietly along the bank, a grand herd of
buffalo, some seven or eight hundred in number, came crowding up from the
river, where they had been to drink, and commenced crossing the plain
slowly, eating as they went. The wind was favorable; the coolness of the
morning invited to exercise; the ground was apparently good, and the
distance across the prairie (two or three miles) gave us a fine
opportunity to charge them before they could get among the river hills. It
was too fine a prospect for a chase to be lost; and, halting for a few
moments, the hunters were brought up and saddled, and Kit Carson, Maxwell,
and I, started together. They were now somewhat less than half a mile
distant, and we rode easily along until within about three hundred yards,
when a sudden agitation, a wavering in the band, and a galloping to and
fro of some which were scattered along the skirts, gave us the intimation
that we were discovered. We started together at a hand gallop, riding
steadily abreast of each other; and here the interest of the chase became
so engrossingly intense, that we were sensible to nothing else. We were
now closing upon them rapidly, and the front of the mass was already in
rapid motion for the hills, and in a few seconds the movement had
communicated itself to the whole herd.

A crowd of bulls, as usual, brought up the rear, and every now and then
some of them faced about, and then dashed on after the band a short
distance, and turned and looked again, as if more than half inclined to
fight. In a few moments, however, during which we had been quickening our
pace, the rout was universal, and we were going over the ground like a
hurricane. When at about thirty yards, we gave the usual shout, (the
hunter's _pas de charge_,) and broke into the herd. We entered on the
side, the mass giving way in every direction in their heedless course.
Many of the bulls, less active and fleet than the cows, paying no
attention to the ground, and occupied solely with the hunter, were
precipitated to the earth with great force, rolling over and over with the
violence of the shock, and hardly distinguishable in the dust. We
separated on entering, each singling out his game.

My horse was a trained hunter, famous in the West under the name of
Proveau; and, with his eyes flashing and the foam flying from his mouth,
sprang on after the cow like a tiger. In a few moments he brought me
alongside of her, and rising in the stirrups, I fired at the distance of a
yard, the ball entering at the termination of the long hair, and passing
near the heart. She fell headlong at the report of the gun; and, checking
my horse, I looked around for my companions. At a little distance, Kit was
on the ground, engaged in tying his horse to the horns of a cow he was
preparing to cut up. Among the scattered bands, at some distance below, I
caught a glimpse of Maxwell; and while I was looking, a light wreath of
smoke curled away from his gun, from which I was too far to hear the
report. Nearer, and between me and the hills, towards which they were
directing their course, was the body of the herd; and, giving my horse the
rein, we dashed after them. A thick cloud of dust hung upon their rear,
which filled my mouth and eyes, and nearly smothered me. In the midst of
this I could see nothing, and the buffalo were not distinguishable until
within thirty feet. They crowded together more densely still as I came
upon them, and rushed along in such a compact body, that I could not
obtain an entrance--the horse almost leaping upon them. In a few moments
the mass divided to the right and left, the horns clattering with a noise
heard above every thing else, and my horse darted into the opening. Five
or six bulls charged on us as we dashed along the line, but were left far
behind; and, singling out a cow, I gave her my fire, but struck too high.
She gave a tremendous leap, and scoured on swifter than before. I reined
up my horse, and the band swept on like a torrent, and left the place
quiet and clear. Our chase had led us into dangerous ground. A prairie-dog
village, so thickly settled that there were three or four holes in every
twenty yards square, occupied the whole bottom for nearly two miles in
length. Looking around, I saw only one of the hunters, nearly out of
sight, and the long, dark line of our caravan crawling along, three or
four miles distant. After a march of twenty-four miles, we encamped at
nightfall, one mile and a half above the lower end of Brady's Island. The
breadth of this arm of the river was eight hundred and eighty yards, and
the water nowhere two feet in depth. The island bears the name of a man
killed on this spot some years ago. His party had encamped here, three in
company, and one of the number went off to hunt, leaving Brady and his
companion together. These two had frequently quarreled, and on the
hunter's return he found Brady dead, and was told that he had shot himself
accidentally. He was buried here on the bank; but, as usual, the wolves
tore him out, and some human bones that were lying on the ground we
supposed were his. Troops of wolves that were hanging on the skirts of the
buffalo, kept up an uninterrupted howling during the night, venturing
almost into camp. In the morning, they were sitting at a short distance,
barking, and impatiently waiting our departure, to fall upon the bones.

2d.--The morning was cool and smoky. Our road led closer to the hills,
which here increased in elevation, presenting an outline of conical peaks
three hundred to five hundred feet high. Some timber, apparently pine,
grows in the ravines, and streaks of clay or sand whiten their slopes. We
crossed, during the morning, a number of hollows, timbered principally
with box, elder, (_acer negundo_,) poplar, and elm. Brady's Island is
well wooded, and all the river along which our road led to-day, may, in
general, be called tolerably well timbered. We passed near the encampment
of the Oregon emigrants, where they appeared to have reposed several days.
A variety of household articles were scattered about, and they had
probably disburdened themselves here of many things not absolutely
necessary. I had left the usual road before the mid-day halt, and in the
afternoon, having sent several men in advance to reconnoitre, marched
directly for the mouth of the South fork. On our arrival, the horsemen
were sent in and scattered about the river to search for the best fording-
places, and the carts followed immediately. The stream is here divided by
an island into two channels. The southern is four hundred and fifty feet
wide, having eighteen or twenty inches water in the deepest places. With
the exception of a few dry bars, the bed of the river is generally
quicksands, in which the carts began to sink rapidly so soon as the mules
halted, so that it was necessary to keep them constantly in motion.

The northern channel, two thousand two hundred and fifty feet wide, was
somewhat deeper, having frequently three feet water in the numerous small
channels, with a bed of coarse gravel. The whole breadth of the Nebraska,
immediately below the junction, is five thousand three hundred and fifty
feet. All our equipage had reached the left bank safely at six o'clock,
having to-day made twenty miles. We encamped at the point of land
immediately at the junction of the North and South forks. Between the
streams is a low rich prairie extending from their confluence eighteen
miles westwardly to the bordering hills, where it is five and a half miles
wide. It is covered with a luxuriant growth of grass, and along the banks
is a slight and scattered fringe of cottonwood and willow. In the buffalo-
trails and wallows, I remarked saline efflorescences, to which a rapid
evaporation in the great heat of the sun probably contributes, as the soil
is entirely unprotected by timber. In the vicinity of these places there
was a bluish grass, which the cattle refuse to eat, called by the
voyageurs "herbe salee," (salt grass.) The latitude of the junction is 41 deg.
04' 47", and longitude, by chronometer and lunar distances, 100 deg. 49' 43".
The elevation above the sea is about two thousand seven hundred feet. The
hunters came in with a fat cow; and, as we had labored hard, we enjoyed
well a supper of roasted ribs and boudins, the chef d'oeuvre of a prairie
cook. Mosquitoes thronged about us this evening; but, by ten o'clock, when
the thermometer had fallen to 47 deg., they had all disappeared.

3d.--As this was to be a point in our homeward journey, I made a cache (a
term used in all this country for what is hidden in the ground) of a
barrel of pork. It was impossible to conceal such a proceeding from the
sharp eyes of our Cheyenne companions, and I therefore told them to go and
see what it was they were burying. They would otherwise have not failed to
return and destroy our cache in expectation of some rich booty; but pork
they dislike and never eat. We left our camp at nine, continuing up the
South fork, the prairie-bottom affording us a fair road; but in the long
grass we roused myriads of mosquitoes and flies, from which our horses
suffered severely. The day was smoky, with a pleasant breeze from the
south, and the plains on the opposite side were covered with buffalo.
Having traveled twenty-five miles, we encamped at six in the evening; and
the men were sent across the river for wood, as there is none here on the
left bank. Our fires were partially made of the _bois de vache_, the
dry excrement of the buffalo, which, like that of the camel in the Arabian
deserts, furnishes to the traveler a very good substitute for wood,
burning like turf. Wolves in great numbers surrounded us during the night,
crossing and recrossing from the opposite herds to our camp, and howling
and trotting about in the river until morning.

4th.--The morning was very smoky, the sun shining dimly and red, as in
thick fog. The camp was roused by a salute at daybreak, and from our
scanty store a portion of what our Indian friends called the "red fire-
water" served out to the men. While we were at breakfast, a buffalo-calf
broke through the camp, followed by a couple of wolves. In its fright, it
had probably mistaken us for a band of buffalo. The wolves were obliged to
make a circuit round the camp, so that the calf got a little the start,
and strained every nerve to reach a large herd at the foot of the hills,
about two miles distant; but first one and then another, and another wolf
joined in the chase, until his pursuers amounted to twenty or thirty, and
they ran him down before he could reach his friends. There were a few
bulls near the place, and one of them attacked the wolves and tried to
rescue him; but was driven off immediately, and the little animal fell an
easy prey, half devoured before he was dead. We watched the chase with the
interest always felt for the weak; and had there been a saddled horse at
hand, he would have fared better. Leaving camp, our road soon approached
the hills, in which strata of a marl like that of the Chimney rock,
hereafter described, made their appearance. It is probably of this rock
that the hills on the right bank of the Platte, a little below the
junction, are composed, and which are worked by the winds and rains into
sharp peaks and cones, giving them, in contrast to the surrounding level
region, something of a picturesque appearance. We crossed, this morning,
numerous beds of the small creeks which, in the time of rains and melting
snow, pour down from the ridge, bringing down with them, always, great
quantities of sand and gravel, which have gradually raised their beds four
to ten feet above the level of the prairie, which they cross, making each
one of them a miniature Po. Raised in this way above the surrounding
prairie, without any bank, the long yellow and winding line of their beds
resembles a causeway from the hills to the river. Many spots on the
prairie are yellow with sunflower, (_helianthus_.)

As we were riding slowly along this afternoon, clouds of dust in the
ravines, among the hills to the right, suddenly attracted our attention,
and in a few minutes column after column of buffalo came galloping down,
making directly to the river. By the time the leading herds had reached
the water, the prairie was darkened with the dense masses. Immediately
before us, when the bands first came down into the valley, stretched an
unbroken line, the head of which was lost among the river hills on the
opposite side; and still they poured down from the ridge on our right.
From hill to hill, the prairie bottom was certainly not less than two
miles wide; and, allowing the animals to be ten feet apart, and only ten
in a line, there were already eleven thousand in view. Some idea may thus
be formed of their number when they had occupied the whole plain. In a
short time they surrounded us on every side, extending for several miles
in the rear, and forward as far as the eye could reach; leaving around us,
as we advanced, an open space of only two or three hundred yards. This
movement of the buffalo indicated to us the presence of Indians on the
North fork.

I halted earlier than usual, about forty miles from the junction, and all
hands were soon busily engaged in preparing a feast to celebrate the day.
The kindness of our friends at St. Louis had provided us with a large
supply of excellent preserves and rich fruit-cake; and when these were
added to a macaroni soup, and variously prepared dishes of the choicest
buffalo-meat, crowned with a cup of coffee, and enjoyed with prairie
appetite, we felt, as we sat in barbaric luxury around our smoking supper
on the grass, a greater sensation of enjoyment than the Roman epicure at
his perfumed feast. But most of all it seemed to please our Indian
friends, who, in the unrestrained enjoyment of the moment, demanded to
know if our "medicine-days came often." No restraint was exercised at the
hospitable board, and, to the great delight of his elders, our young
Indian lad made himself extremely drunk.

Our encampment was within a few miles of the place where the road crosses
to the North fork, and various reasons led me to divide my party at this
point. The North fork was the principal object of my survey; but I was
desirous to ascend the South branch, with a view of obtaining some
astronomical positions, and determining the mouths of its tributaries as
far as St. Vrain's fort, estimated to be some two hundred miles farther up
the river, and near to Long's Peak. There I hoped to obtain some mules,
which I found would be necessary to relieve my horses. In a military point
of view, I was desirous to form some opinion of the country relative to
the establishment of posts on a line connecting the settlements with the
south pass of the Rocky Mountains, by way of the Arkansas and the South
and Laramie forks of the Platte. Crossing the country northwestwardly from
St. Vrain's fort, to the American Company's fort at the mouth of the
Laramie, would give me some acquaintance with the affluents which head-in
the mountain between the two; I therefore determined to set out the next
morning, accompanied by four men--Maxwell, Bernier, Ayot, and Basil
Lajeunesse. Our Cheyennes, whose village lay up this river, also decided
to accompany us. The party I left in charge of Clement Lambert, with
orders to cross to the North fork; and at some convenient place, near to
the _Coulee des Frenes_, make a cache of every thing not absolutely
necessary to the further progress of our expedition. From this point,
using the most guarded precaution in his march through the country, he was
to proceed to the American Company's fort at the mouth of the Laramie's
fork, and await my arrival, which would be prior to the 16th, as on that
and the following night would occur some occultations which I was desirous
to obtain at that place.

5th.--Before breakfast all was ready. We had one led horse in addition to
those we rode, and a pack-mule, destined to carry our instruments,
provisions, and baggage; the last two articles not being of great weight.
The instruments consisted of a sextant, artificial horizon, &c., a
barometer, spy-glass, and compass. The chronometer I of course kept on my
person. I had ordered the cook to put up for us some flour, coffee, and
sugar, and our rifles were to furnish the rest. One blanket, in addition
to his saddle and saddle blanket, furnished the materials for each man's
bed, and every one was provided with a change of linen. All were armed
with rifles or double-barrelled guns; and, in addition to these, Maxwell
and myself were furnished with excellent pistols. Thus accoutred, we took
a parting breakfast with our friends; and set forth.

Our journey the first day afforded nothing of any interest. We shot a
buffalo towards sunset, and having obtained some meat for our evening
meal, encamped where a little timber afforded us the means of making a
fire. Having disposed our meat on roasting-sticks, we proceeded to unpack
our bales in search of coffee and sugar, and flour for bread. With the
exception of a little parched coffee, unground, we found nothing. Our cook
had neglected to put it up, or it had been somehow forgotten. Tired and
hungry, with tough bull-meat without salt, (for we had not been able to
kill a cow,) and a little bitter coffee, we sat down in silence to our
miserable fare, a very disconsolate party; for yesterday's feast was yet
fresh in our memories, and this was our first brush with misfortune. Each
man took his blanket, and laid himself down silently; for the worst part
of these mishaps is, that they make people ill-humored. To-day we had
traveled about thirty-six miles.

6th.--Finding that our present excursion would be attended with
considerable hardship, and unwilling to expose more persons than
necessary, I determined to send Mr. Preuss back to the party. His horse,
too, appeared in no condition to support the journey; and accordingly,
after breakfast, he took the road across the hills, attended by one of my
most trusty men, Bernier. The ridge between the rivers is here about
fifteen miles broad, and I expected he would probably strike the fork near
their evening camp. At all events he would not fail to find their trail,
and rejoin them the next day.

We continued our journey, seven in number, including the three Cheyennes.
Our general course was southwest, up the valley of the river, which was
sandy, bordered on the northern side of the valley by a low ridge; and on
the south, after seven or eight miles, the river hills became higher. Six
miles from our resting-place we crossed the bed of a considerable stream,
now entirely dry--a bed of sand. In a grove of willows, near the mouth,
were the remains of a considerable fort, constructed of trunks of large
trees. It was apparently very old, and had probably been the scene of some
hostile encounter among the roving tribes. Its solitude formed an
impressive contrast to the picture which our imaginations involuntarily
drew of the busy scene which had been enacted here. The timber appeared to
have been much more extensive formerly than now. There were but few trees,
a kind of long-leaved willow, standing; and numerous trunks of large trees
were scattered about on the ground. In many similar places I had occasion
to remark an apparent progressive decay in the timber. Ten miles farther
we reached the mouth of Lodge Pole creek, a clear and handsome stream,
running through a broad valley. In its course through the bottom it has a
uniform breadth of twenty-two feet and six inches in depth. A few willows
on the banks strike pleasantly on the eye, by their greenness, in the
midst of hot and barren sands.

The _amorpha_ was frequent among the ravines, but the sunflower
(_helianthus_) was the characteristic; and flowers of deep warm
colors seem most to love the sandy soil. The impression of the country
traveled over to-day was one of dry and barren sands. We turned in towards
the river at noon, and gave our horses two hours for food and rest. I had
no other thermometer than the one attached to the barometer, which stood
at 89 deg., the height of the column in the barometer being 26.235 at
meridian. The sky was clear, with a high wind from the south. At 2 we
continued our journey; the wind had moderated, and it became almost
unendurably hot, and our animals suffered severely. In the course of the
afternoon, the wind rose suddenly, and blew hard from the southwest, with
thunder and lightning, and squalls of rain; these were blown against us
with violence by the wind; and, halting, we turned our backs to the storm
until it blew over. Antelope were tolerably frequent, with a large gray
hare; but the former were shy, and the latter hardly worth the delay of
stopping to shoot them; so, as the evening drew near, we again had
recourse to an old bull, and encamped at sunset on an island in the

We ate our meat with a good relish this evening, for we were all in fine
health, and had ridden nearly all of a long summer's day, with a burning
sun reflected from the sands. My companions slept rolled up in their
blankets, and the Indians lay in the grass near the fire; but my sleeping-
place generally had an air of more pretension. Our rifles were tied
together near the muzzle, the butts resting on the ground, and a knife
laid on the rope, to cut away in case of an alarm. Over this, which made a
kind of frame, was thrown a large India-rubber cloth, which we used to
cover our packs. This made a tent sufficiently large to receive about half
of my bed, and was a place of shelter for my instruments; and as I was
careful always to put this part against the wind, I could lie here with a
sensation of satisfied enjoyment, and hear the wind blow, and the rain
patter close to my head, and know that I should be at least half dry.
Certainly I never slept more soundly. The barometer at sunset was 26.010,
thermometer at 81 deg., and cloudy; but a gale from the west sprang up with
the setting sun, and in a few minutes swept away every cloud from the sky.
The evening was very fine, and I remained up to take astronomical
observations, which made our position in latitude 40 deg. 51' 17", and
longitude 103 deg. 07' 00".

7th.--At our camp this morning, at six o'clock, the barometer was at
26.183, thermometer 69 deg., and clear, with a light wind from the southwest.
The past night had been squally, with high winds, and occasionally a few
drops of rain. Our cooking did not occupy much time, and we left camp
early. Nothing of interest occurred during the morning. The same dreary
barrenness, except that a hard marly clay had replaced the sandy soil.
Buffalo absolutely covered the plain, on both sides of the river, and
whenever we ascended the hills, scattered herds gave life to the view in
every direction. A small drove of wild horses made their appearance on the
low river bottoms, a mile or two to the left, and I sent off one of the
Indians (who seemed very eager to catch one) on my led horse, a spirited
and fleet animal. The savage manoeuvred a little to get the wind of the
horses, in which he succeeded--approaching within a hundred yards without
being discovered. The chase for a few minutes was interesting. My hunter
easily overtook and passed the hindmost of the wild drove, which the did
not attempt to _lasso_; all his efforts being directed to capture the
leader. But the strength of the horse, weakened by insufficient
nourishment of grass, failed in a race, and all the drove escaped. We
halted at noon on the bank of the river, the barometer at that time being
26.192, and thermometer 103 deg., with a light air from the south and clear

In the course of the afternoon, dust rising among the hills, at a
particular place, attracted our attention; and, riding up, we found a band
of eighteen or twenty buffalo bulls engaged in a desperate fight. Though
butting and goring were bestowed liberally, and without distinction, yet
their efforts were evidently directed against one--a huge, gaunt old bull,
very lean, while his adversaries were all fat and in good order. He
appeared very weak, and had already received some wounds; and, while we
were looking on, was several times knocked down and badly hurt, and a very
few moments would have put an end to him. Of course, we took the side of
the weaker party, and attacked the herd; but they were so blind with rage,
that they fought on, utterly regardless of our presence although on foot
and on horseback we were firing, in open view, within twenty yards of
them. But this did not last long. In a very few seconds, we created a
commotion among them. One or two, which were knocked over by the balls,
jumped up and ran off into the hills; and they began to retreat slowly
along a broad ravine to the river, fighting furiously as they went. By the
time they had reached the bottom, we had pretty well dispersed them, and
the old bull hobbled off to lie down somewhere. One of his enemies
remained on the ground where we had first fired upon them, and we stopped
there for a short time to cut from him some meat for our supper. We had
neglected to secure our horses, thinking it an unnecessary precaution in
their fatigued condition; but our mule took it into his head to start, and
away he went, followed at full speed by the pack-horse, with all the
baggage and instruments on his back. They were recovered and brought back,
after a chase of a mile. Fortunately, everything was well secured, so that
nothing, not even the barometer, was in the least injured.

The sun was getting low, and some narrow lines of timber, four or five
miles distant, promised us a pleasant camp, where, with plenty of wood for
fire, and comfortable shelter, and rich grass for our animals, we should
find clear cool springs, instead of the warm water of the Platte. On our
arrival, we found the bed of a stream fifty to one hundred feet wide, sunk
some thirty feet below the level of the prairie, with perpendicular banks,
bordered by a fringe of green cottonwood, but not a drop of water. There
were several small forks to the stream, all in the same condition. With
the exception of the Platte bottom, the country seemed to be of a clay
formation, dry, and perfectly devoid of any moisture, and baked hard by
the sun. Turning off towards the river, we reached the bank in about a
mile, and were delighted to find an old tree, with thick foliage and
spreading branches, where we encamped. At sunset, the barometer was at
25.950, thermometer 81 deg., with a strong wind from S. 20 deg. E., and the sky
partially covered with heavy masses of cloud, which settled a little
towards the horizon by ten o'clock, leaving it sufficiently clear for
astronomical observations, which placed us in latitude 40 deg. 33' 26", and
longitude 103 deg. 30' 37".

8th.--The morning was very pleasant. The breeze was fresh from S. 50 deg. E.,
with few clouds; the barometer at six o'clock standing at 25.970, and the
thermometer at 70 deg.. Since leaving the forks our route had passed over a
country alternately clay and sand, each presenting the same naked waste.
On leaving camp this morning, we struck again a sandy region, in which the
vegetation appeared somewhat more vigorous than that which we had observed
for the last few days; and on the opposite side of the river were some
tolerably large groves of timber.

Journeying along, we came suddenly upon a place where the ground was
covered with horses' tracks, which had been made since the rain, and
indicated the immediate presence of Indians in our neighborhood. The
buffalo, too, which the day before had been so numerous were nowhere in
sight--another sure indication that there were people near. Riding on, we
discovered the carcass of a buffalo recently killed--perhaps the day
before. We scanned the horizon carefully with the glass, but no living
object was to be seen. For the next mile or two, the ground was dotted
with buffalo carcasses, which showed that the Indians had made a surround
here, and were in considerable force. We went on quickly and cautiously,
keeping the river bottom, and carefully avoiding the hills; but we met
with no interruption, and began to grow careless again. We had already
lost one of our horses, and here Basil's mule showed symptoms of giving
out, and finally refused to advance, being what the Canadians call
_reste_. He therefore dismounted, and drove her along before him; but
this was a very slow way of traveling. We had inadvertently got about half
a mile in advance, but our Cheyennes, who were generally a mile or two in
the rear, remained with him. There were some dark-looking objects among
the hills, about two miles to the left, here low and undulating, which we
had seen for a little time, and supposed to be buffalo coming in to water;
but, happening to look behind, Maxwell saw the Cheyennes whipping up
furiously, and another glance at the dark objects showed them at once to
be Indians coming up at speed.

Had we been well mounted and disencumbered of instruments, we might have
set them at defiance; but as it was, we were fairly caught. It was too
late to rejoin our friends, and we endeavored to gain a clump of timber
about half a mile ahead; but the instruments and tired state of our horses
did not allow us to go faster than a steady canter, and they were gaining
on us fast. At first, they did not appear to be more than fifteen or
twenty in number, but group after group darted into view at the top of the
hills, until all the little eminences seemed in motion; and, in a few
minutes from the time they were first discovered, two or three hundred,
naked to the breechcloth, were sweeping across the prairie. In a few
hundred yards we discovered that the timber we were endeavoring to make
was on the opposite side of the river; and before we reach the bank, down
came the Indians upon us.

I am inclined to think that in a few seconds more the leading man, and
perhaps some of his companions, would have rolled in the dust; for we had
jerked the covers from our guns, and our fingers were on the triggers. Men
in such cases generally act from instinct, and a charge from three hundred
naked savages is a circumstance not well calculated to promote a cool
exercise of judgment. Just as he was about to fire, Maxwell recognised the
leading Indian, and shouted to him in the Indian language, "You're a fool,
G---- damn you--don't you know me?" The sound of his own language seemed
to shock the savage; and, swerving his horse a little, he passed us like
an arrow. He wheeled, as I rode out towards him, and gave me his hand,
striking his breast and exclaiming "Arapaho!" They proved to be a village
of that nation, among whom Maxwell had resided as a trader a year or two
previously, and recognised him accordingly. We were soon in the midst of
the band, answering as well as we could a multitude of questions; of which
the very first was, of what tribe were our Indian companions who were
coming in the rear? They seemed disappointed to know that they were
Cheyennes, for they had fully anticipated a grand dance around a Pawnee
scalp that night.

The chief showed us his village at a grove on the river six miles ahead,
and pointed out a band of buffalo on the other side of the Platte,
immediately opposite us, which he said they were going to surround. They
had seen the band early in the morning from their village, and had been
making a large circuit, to avoid giving them the wind, when they
discovered us. In a few minutes the women came galloping up, astride on
their horses, and naked from their knees down and the hips up. They
followed the men, to assist in cutting up and carrying off the meat.

The wind was blowing directly across the river, and the chief requested us
to halt where we were for awhile, in order to avoid raising the herd. We
therefore unsaddled our horses, and sat down on the bank to view the
scene; and our new acquaintances rode a few hundred yards lower down, and
began crossing the river. Scores of wild-looking dogs followed, looking
like troops of wolves, and having, in fact, but very little of the dog in
their composition. Some of them remained with us, and I checked one of the
men, whom I found aiming at one, which he was about to kill for a wolf.
The day had become very hot. The air was clear, with a very slight breeze;
and now, at 12 o'clock, while the barometer stood at 25.920, the attached
thermometer was at 108 deg.. Our Cheyennes had learned that with the Arapaho
village were about twenty lodges of their own, including their own
families; they therefore immediately commenced making their toilette.
After bathing in the river, they invested themselves in some handsome
calico shirts, which I afterwards learned they had stolen from my own men,
and spent some time in arranging their hair and painting themselves with
some vermilion I had given them. While they were engaged in this
satisfactory manner, one of their half-wild horses, to which the crowd of
prancing animals which had just passed had recalled the freedom of her
existence among the wild droves on the prairie, suddenly dashed into the
hills at the top of her speed. She was their pack-horse, and had on her
back all the worldly wealth of our poor Cheyennes, all their
accoutrements, and all the little articles which they had picked up among
us, with some few presents I had given them. The loss which they seemed to
regret most were their spears and shields, and some tobacco which they had
received from me. However, they bore it all with the philosophy of an
Indian, and laughingly continued their toilette. They appeared, however,
to be a little mortified at the thought of returning to the village in
such a sorry plight. "Our people will laugh at us," said one of them,
"returning to the village on foot, instead of driving back a drove of
Pawnee horses." He demanded to know if I loved my sorrel hunter very much;
to which I replied, he was the object of my most intense affection. Far
from being able to give, I was myself in want of horses; and any
suggestion of parting with the few I had valuable, was met with a
peremptory refusal. In the mean time, the slaughter was about to commence
on the other side. So soon as they reached it, Indians separated into two
bodies. One party proceeded across the prairie, towards the hills, in an
extended line, while the other went up the river; and instantly as they
had given the wind to the herd, the chase commenced. The buffalo started
for the hills, but were intercepted and driven back towards the river,
broken and running in every direction. The clouds of dust soon covered the
whole scene, preventing us from having any but an occasional view. It had
a very singular appearance to us at a distance, especially when looking
with the glass. We were too far to hear the report of the guns, or any
sound; and at every instant, through the clouds of dust, which the sun
made luminous, we could see for a moment two or three buffalo dashing
along, and close behind them an Indian with his long spear, or other
weapon, and instantly again they disappeared. The apparent silence, and
the dimly seen figures flitting by with such rapidity, gave it a kind of
dreamy effect, and seemed more like a picture than a scene of real life.
It had been a large herd when the _cerne_ commenced, probably three
or four hundred in number; but, though I watched them closely, I did not
see one emerge from the fatal cloud where the work of destruction was
going on. After remaining here about an hour, we resumed our journey in
the direction of the village.

Gradually, as we rode on, Indian after Indian came dropping along, laden
with meat; and by the time we had neared the lodges, the backward road was
covered with the returning horsemen. It was a pleasant contrast with the
desert road we had been traveling. Several had joined company with us, and
one of the chiefs invited us to his lodge. The village consisted of about
one hundred and twenty-five lodges, of which twenty were Cheyennes; the
latter pitched a little apart from the Arapahoes. They were disposed in a
scattering manner on both sides of a broad, irregular street, about one
hundred and fifty feet wide, and running along the river. As we rode
along, I remarked near some of the lodges a kind of tripod frame, formed
of three slender poles of birch, scraped very clean, to which were affixed
the shield and spear, with some other weapons of a chief. All were
scrupulously clean, the spear-head was burnished bright; and the shield
white and stainless. It reminded me of the days of feudal chivalry; and
when, as I rode by, I yielded to the passing impulse, and touched one of
the spotless shields with the muzzle of my gun, I almost expected a grim
warrior to start from the lodge and resent my challenge. The master of the
lodge spread out a robe for me to sit upon, and the squaws set before us a
large wooden dish of buffalo meat. He had lit his pipe in the mean while,
and when it had been passed around, we commenced our dinner while he
continued to smoke. Gradually, however, five or six other chiefs came in,
and took their seats in silence. When we had finished, our host asked a
number of questions relative to the object of our journey, of which I made
no concealment; telling him simply that I had made a visit to see the
country, preparatory to the establishment of military posts on the way to
the mountains. Although this was information of the highest interest to
them, and by no means calculated to please them, it excited no expression
of surprise, and in no way altered the grave courtesy of their demeanor.
The others listened and smoked. I remarked, that in taking the pipe for
the first time, each had turned the stem upward, with a rapid glance, as
in offering to the Great Spirit, before he put it in his mouth. A storm
had been gathering for the past hour, and some pattering drops in the
lodge warned us that we had some miles to our camp. An Indian had given
Maxwell a bundle of dried meat, which was very acceptable, as we had
nothing; and, springing upon our horses, we rode off at dusk in the face
of a cold shower and driving wind. We found our companions under some
densely foliaged old trees, about three miles up the river. Under one of
them lay the trunk of a large cottonwood, to leeward of which the men had
kindled a fire, and we sat here and roasted our meat in tolerable shelter.
Nearly opposite was the mouth of one of the most considerable affluents of
the South fork, _la Fourche aux Castors_, (Beaver fork,) heading off
in the ridge to the southeast.

9th.--This morning we caught the first faint glimpse of the Rocky
mountains, about sixty miles distant. Though a tolerably bright day, there
was a slight mist, and we were just able to discern the snowy summit of
"Long's peak," ("_les deux oreilles_" of the Canadians,)
showing like a cloud near the horizon. I found it easily distinguishable,
there being a perceptible difference in its appearance from the white
clouds that were floating about the sky. I was pleased to find that among
the traders the name of "Long's peak" had been adopted and become familiar
in the country. In the ravines near this place, a light brown sandstone
made its first appearance. About 8, we discerned several persons on
horseback a mile or two ahead, on the opposite side of the river. They
turned in towards the river, and we rode down to meet them. We found them
to be two white men, and a mulatto named Jim Beckwith, who had left St.
Louis when a boy, and gone to live with the Crow Indians. He had
distinguished himself among them by some acts of daring bravery, and had
risen to the rank of chief, but had now, for some years, left them. They
were in search of a band of horses that had gone off from a camp some
miles above, in charge of Mr. Chabonard. Two of them continued down the
river, in search of the horses, and the American turned back with us, and
we rode on towards the camp. About eight miles from our sleeping-place, we
reached Bijou's fork, an affluent of the right bank. Where we crossed it,
a short distance from the Platte, it has a sandy bed about four hundred
yards broad; the water in various small streams, a few inches deep. Seven
miles further brought us to the camp of some four or five whites, (New
Englanders, I believe,) who had accompanied Captain Wyeth to the Columbia
river, and were independent trappers. All had their squaws with them, and
I was really surprised at the number of little fat, buffalo-fed boys that
were tumbling about the camp, all apparently of the same age, about three
or four years old. They were encamped on a rich bottom, covered with a
profusion of rich grass, and had a large number of fine-looking horses and
mules. We rested with them a few minutes, and in about two miles arrived
at Chabonard's camp, on an island in the Platte. On the heights above, we
met the first Spaniard I had seen in the country. Mr. Chabonard was in the
service of Bent and St. Vrain's company, and had left their fort some
forty or fifty miles above, in the spring, with boats laden with the furs
of the last year's trade. He had met the same fortune as the voyageurs on
the North fork; and, finding it impossible to proceed, had taken up his
summer's residence on this island, which he had named St. Helena. The
river hills appeared to be composed entirely of sand, and the Platte had
lost the muddy character of its waters, and here was tolerably clear. From
the mouth of the South fork, I had found it occasionally broken up by
small islands; and at the time of our journey, which was at a season of
the year when the waters were at a favorable stage, it was not navigable
for any thing drawing six inches water. The current was very swift--the
bed of the stream a coarse gravel. From the place at which we had
encountered the Arapahoes, the Platte had been tolerably well fringed with
timber, and the island here had a fine grove of very large cottonwoods,
under whose broad shade the tents were pitched. There was a large drove of
horses in the opposite prairie bottom; smoke was rising from the scattered
fires, and the encampment had quite a patriarchal air. Mr. C. received us
hospitably. One of the people was sent to gather mint, with the aid of
which he concocted very good julep; and some boiled buffalo tongue, and
coffee with the luxury of sugar, were soon set before us. The people in
his employ were generally Spaniards, and among them I saw a young Spanish
woman from Taos, whom I found to be Beckwith's wife.

10th.--We parted with our hospitable host after breakfast the next
morning, and reached St. Vrain's fort, about forty-five miles from St.
Helena, late in the evening. This post is situated on the South fork of
the Platte, immediately under the mountains, about seventeen miles east of
Long's peak. It is on the right bank, on the verge of the upland prairie,
about forty feet above the river, of which the immediate valley is about
six hundred yards wide. The stream is divided into various branches by
small islands, among which it runs with a swift current. The bed of the
river is sand and gravel, the water very clear, and here may be called a
mountain-stream. This region appears to be entirely free from the
limestones and marls which give to the Lower Platte its yellow and dirty
color. The Black hills lie between the stream and the mountains, whose
snowy peaks glitter a few miles beyond. At the fort we found Mr. St.
Vrain, who received us with much kindness and hospitality. Maxwell had
spent the last two or three years between this post and the village of
Taos; and here he was at home, and among his friends. Spaniards frequently
came over in search of employment; and several came in shortly after our
arrival. They usually obtain about six dollars a month, generally paid to
them in goods. They are very useful in a camp, in taking care of horses
and mules; and I engaged one, who proved to be an active, laborious man,
and was of very considerable service to me. The elevation of the Platte
here is five thousand four hundred feet above the sea. The neighboring
mountains did not appear to enter far the region of perpetual snow, which
was generally confined to the northern side of the peaks. On the southern,
I remarked very little. Here it appeared, so far as I could judge in the
distance, to descend but a few hundred feet below the summits.

I regretted that time did not permit me to visit them; but the proper
object of my survey lay among the mountains farther north; and I looked
forward to an exploration of their snowy recesses with great pleasure. The
piney region of the mountains to the south was enveloped in smoke, and I
was informed had been on fire for several months. Pike's peak is said to
be visible from this place, about one hundred miles to the southward; but
the smoky state of the atmosphere prevented my seeing it. The weather
continued overcast during my stay here, so that I failed in determining
the latitude, but obtained good observations for the time on the mornings
of the 11th and 12th. An assumed latitude of 40 deg. 22' 30" from the evening
position of the 12th, enabled me to obtain for a tolerably correct
longitude, 105 deg. 12' 12".

12th.--The kindness of Mr. St. Vrain enabled me to obtain a couple of
horses and three good mules; and, with a further addition to our party of
the Spaniard whom I had hired, and two others, who were going to obtain
service at Laramie's fork, we resumed our journey at ten, on the morning
of the 12th. We had been able to procure nothing at the post in the way of
provision. An expected supply from Taos had not yet arrived, and a few
pounds of coffee was all that could be spared to us. In addition to this
we had dried meat enough for the first day; on the next, we expected to
find buffalo. From this post, according to the estimate of the country,
the fort at the mouth of Laramie's fork, which was our next point of
destination, was nearly due north, distant about one hundred and twenty-
five miles.

For a short distance our road lay down the valley of the Platte, which
resembled a garden in the splendor of fields of varied flowers, which
filled the air with fragrance. The only timber I noticed consisted of
poplar, birch, cottonwood, and willow. In something less than three miles
we crossed Thompson's creek, one of the affluents to the left bank of the
South fork--a fine stream about sixty-five feet wide, and three feet deep.
Journeying on, the low dark line of the Black hills lying between us and
the mountains to the left, in about ten miles from the fort, we reached
_Cache a la Poudre_, where we halted to noon. This is a very
beautiful mountain-stream, about one hundred feet wide, flowing with a
full swift current over a rocky bed. We halted under the shade of some
cottonwoods, with which the stream is wooded scatteringly. In the upper
part of its course, it runs amid the wildest mountain scenery, and,
breaking through the Black hills, falls into the Platte about ten miles
below this place. In the course of our late journey, I had managed to
become the possessor of a very untractable mule--a perfect vixen--and her
I had turned over to my Spaniard. It occupied us about half an hour to-day
to get saddle upon her; but, once on her back, Jose could not be
dismounted, realizing the accounts given of Mexican horses and
horsemanship; and we continued our route in the afternoon.

At evening, we encamped on Crow creek, having traveled about twenty-eight
miles. None of the party were well acquainted with the country, and I had
great difficulty in ascertaining what were the names of the streams we
crossed between the North and South forks of the Platte. This I supposed
to be Cow creek. It is what is called a salt stream, and the water stands
in pools, having no continuous course. A fine-grained sandstone made its
appearance in the banks. The observations of the night placed us in
latitude 40 deg. 42', longitude 104 deg. 57' 49". The barometer at sunset was
25.231; attached thermometer at 66 deg.. Sky clear, except in the east, with a
light wind from the north.

13th.--There being no wood here, we used last night the _bois de
vache_, which is very plentiful. At our camp this morning, the
barometer was at 25.235; the attached thermometer 60 deg.. A few clouds were
moving through a deep-blue sky, with a light wind from the west. After a
ride of twelve miles, in a northerly direction, over a plain covered with
innumerable quantities of _cacti_, we reached a small creek in which
there was water, and where several herds of buffalo were scattered about
among the ravines, which always afford good pasturage. We seem now to be
passing along the base of a plateau of the Black hills, in which the
formation consists of marls, some of them white and laminated; the country
to the left rising suddenly, and falling off gradually and uniformly to
the right. In five or six miles of a northeasterly course, we struck a
high ridge, broken into conical peaks, on whose summits large boulders
were gathered in heaps. The magnetic direction of the ridge is northwest
and southeast, the glittering white of its precipitous sides making it
visible for many miles to the south. It is composed of a soft earthy
limestone and marls, resembling that hereafter described in the
neighborhood of the Chimney rock, on the North fork of the Platte, easily
worked by the winds and rains, and sometimes moulded into very fantastic
shapes. At the foot of the northern slope was the bed of a creek, some
forty feet wide, coming, by frequent falls, from the bench above. It was
shut in by high, perpendicular banks, in which were strata of white
laminated marl. Its bed was perfectly dry, and the leading feature of the
whole region is one of remarkable aridity, and perfect freedom from
moisture. In about six miles we crossed the bed of another dry creek; and,
continuing our ride over high level prairie, a little before sundown we
came suddenly upon a beautiful creek, which revived us with a feeling of
delighted surprise by the pleasant contrast of the deep verdure of its
banks with the parched desert we had passed. We had suffered much to-day,
both men and horses, for want of water; having met with it but once in our
uninterrupted march of forty miles; and an exclusive meat diet creates
much thirst.

"_Les bestias tienen mucha hambre_," said the young Spaniard,
inquiringly: "_y la gente tambien_," said I, "_amiago_, we'll
camp here." A stream of good and clear water ran winding about through the
little valley, and a herd of buffalo were quietly feeding a little
distance below. It was quite a hunter's paradise; and while some ran down
towards the band to kill one for supper, others collected _bois de
vache_ for a fire, there being no wood; and I amused myself with
hunting for plants among the grass.

It will be seen, by occasional remarks on the geological formation, that
the constituents of the soil in these regions are good, and every day
served to strengthen the impression in my mind, confirmed by subsequent
observation, that the barren appearance of the country is due almost
entirely to the extreme dryness of the climate. Along our route, the
country had seemed to increase constantly in elevation. According to the
indication of the barometer, we were at our encampment 5,440 feet above
the sea.

The evening was very clear, with a fresh breeze from the south, 50 deg. east.
The barometer at sunset was 24.862, the thermometer attached showing 68 deg..
I supposed this to be a fork of Lodge Pole creek, so far as I could
determine from our uncertain means of information. Astronomical
observations gave for the camp a longitude of 104 deg. 39' 37", and latitude
41 deg. 08' 31".

14th.--The wind continued fresh from the same quarter in the morning; the
day being clear, with the exception of a few clouds in the horizon. At our
camp, at six o'clock, the height of the barometer was 24.830, the attached
thermometer 61 deg.. Our course this morning was directly north by compass,
the variation being 15 deg. or 16 deg. easterly. A ride of four miles brought us
to Lodge Pole creek, which we had seen at the mouth of the South fork;
crossing on the way two dry streams, in eighteen miles from our encampment
of the past night, we reached a high bleak ridge, composed entirely of the
same earthy limestone and marl previously described. I had never seen any
thing which impressed so strongly on my mind a feeling of desolation. The
valley, through which ran the waters of Horse creek, lay in view to the
north, but too far to have any influence on the immediate view. On the
peak of the ridge where I was standing, some seven hundred feet above the
river, the wind was high and bleak; the barren and arid country seemed as
if it had been swept by fires, and in every direction the same dull ash-
colored hue, derived from the formation, met the eye. On the summits were
some stunted pines, many of them dead, all wearing the same ashen hue of
desolation. We left the place with pleasure; and, after we had descended
several hundred feet, halted in one of the ravines, which, at the distance
of every mile or two, cut the flanks of the ridge with little rushing
streams, wearing something of a mountain character. We had already begun
to exchange the comparatively barren lands for those of a more fertile
character. Though the sandstone formed the broken banks of the creek, yet
they were covered with a thin grass; and the fifty or sixty feet which
formed the bottom land of the little stream were clothed with very
luxuriant grass, among which I remarked willow and cherry, (_cerasus
virginiana_,) and a quantity of gooseberry and currant bushes occupied
the greater part.

The creek was three or four feet broad, and about six inches deep, with a
swift current of clear water, and tolerably cool. We had struck it too low
down to find the cold water, which we should have enjoyed nearer to its
sources. At two, P.M., the barometer was at 25.050, and the attached
thermometer 104 deg.. A day of hot sunshine, with clouds, and moderate breeze
from the south. Continuing down the stream, in about four miles we reached
its mouth, at one of the main branches of Horse creek. Looking back upon
the ridge, whose direction appeared to be a little to the north of east,
we saw it seamed at frequent intervals with the dark lines of wooded
streams, affluents of the river that flowed so far as we could see along
its base. We crossed, in the space of twelve miles from our noon halt,
three or four forks of Horse creek, and encamped at sunset on the most

The fork on which we encamped appeared to have followed an easterly
direction up to this place; but here it makes a very sudden bend to the
north, passing between two ranges of precipitous hills, called, as I was
informed, Goshen's hole. There is somewhere in or near this locality a
place so called, but I am not certain that it was the place of our
encampment. Looking back upon the spot, at the distance of a few miles to
the northward, the hills appear to shut in the prairie, through which runs
the creek, with a semicircular sweep, which might very naturally be called
a hole in the bills. The geological composition of the ridge is the same
which constitutes the rock of the Court-house and Chimney, on the North
fork, which appeared to me a continuation of this ridge. The winds and
rains work this formation into a variety of singular forms. The pass into
Goshen's hole is about two miles wide, and the hill on the western side
imitates, in an extraordinary manner, a massive fortified place, with a
remarkable fulness of detail. The rock is marl and earthy limestone,
white, without the least appearance of vegetation, and much resembles
masonry at a little distance; and here it sweeps around a level area two
or three hundred yards in diameter, and in the form of a half moon,
terminating on either extremity in enormous bastions. Along the whole line
of the parapets appear domes and slender minarets, forty or fifty feet
high, giving it every appearance of an old fortified town. On the waters
of White river, where this formation exists in great extent, it presents
appearances which excite the admiration of the solitary voyageur, and form
a frequent theme of their conversation when speaking of the wonders of the
country. Sometimes it offers the perfectly illusive appearance of a large
city, with numerous streets and magnificent buildings, among which the
Canadians never fail to see their _cabaret_--and sometimes it takes
the form of a solitary house, with many large chambers, into which they
drive their horses at night, and sleep in these natural defences perfectly
secure from any attack of prowling savages. Before reaching our camp at
Goshen's hole, in crossing the immense detritus at the foot of the Castle
rock, we were involved amidst winding passages cut by the waters of the
hill; and where, with a breadth scarcely large enough for the passage of a
horse, the walls rise thirty and forty feet perpendicularly. This
formation supplies the discoloration of the Platte. At sunset, the height
of the mercurial column was 25.500, the attached thermometer 80 deg., and wind
moderate from S. 38 deg. E. Clouds covered the sky with the rise of the moon,
but I succeeded in obtaining the usual astronomical observations, which
placed us in latitude 41 deg. 40' 13", and longitude 104 deg. 24' 36".

15th.--At six this morning, the barometer was at 25.515 the thermometer
72 deg.; the day was fine, with some clouds looking dark on the south, with a
fresh breeze from the same quarter. We found that in our journey across
the country we had kept too much to the eastward. This morning,
accordingly, we traveled by compass some 15 or 20 to the west of north,
and struck the Platte some thirteen miles below Fort Laramie. The day was
extremely hot, and among the hills the wind seemed to have just issued
from an oven. Our horses were much distressed, as we had traveled hard;
and it was with some difficulty that they were all brought to the Platte,
which we reached at one o'clock. In riding in towards the river, we found
the trail of our carts, which appeared to have passed a day or two since.

After having allowed our animals two hours for food and repose, we resumed
our journey, and towards the close of the day came in sight of Laramie's
fork. Issuing from the river hills, we came first in view of Fort Platte,
a post belonging to Messrs. Sybille, Adams & Co., situated immediately in
the point of land at the junction of Laramie with the Platte. Like the
post we had visited on the South fork, it was built of earth, and still
unfinished, being enclosed with walls (or rather houses) on three of the
sides, and open on the fourth to the river. A few hundred yards brought us
in view of the post of the American Fur Company, called Fort John, or
Laramie. This was a large post having more the air of military
construction than the fort at the mouth of the river. It is on the left
bank, on a rising ground some twenty-five feet above the water; and its
lofty walls, whitewashed and picketed, with the large bastions at the
angles, gave it quite an imposing appearance in the uncertain light of
evening. A cluster of lodges, which the language told us belonged to Sioux
Indians, was pitched under the walls; and, with the fine background of the
Black hills and the prominent peak of Laramie mountain, strongly drawn in
the clear light of the western sky, where the sun had already set, the
whole formed at the moment a strikingly beautiful picture. From the
company at St. Louis I had letters for Mr. Boudeau, the gentleman in
charge of the post, by whom I was received with great hospitality and an
efficient kindness, which was invaluable to me during my stay in the
country. I found our people encamped on the bank, a short distance above
the fort. All were well; and, in the enjoyment of a bountiful supper,
which coffee and bread made luxurious to us, we soon forgot the fatigues
of the last ten days.

16th.--I found that, during my absence, the situation of affairs had
undergone some change; and the usual quiet and somewhat monotonous
regularity of the camp had given place to excitement and alarm. The
circumstances which occasioned this change will be found narrated in the
following extract from the journal of Mr. Preuss, which commences with the
day of our separation on the South fork of the Platte:

"6th.--We crossed the plateau or highland between the two forks in about
six hours. I let my horse go as slow as he liked, to indemnify us both for
the previous hardship; and about noon we reached the North fork. There was
no sign that our party had passed; we rode, therefore, to some pine trees,
unsaddled the hoses, and stretched our limbs on the grass, awaiting the
arrival of our company. After remaining here two hours, my companion
became impatient, mounted his horse again, and rode off down the river to
see if he could discover our people. I felt so marode yet, that it was a
horrible idea to me to bestride that saddle again; so I lay still. I knew
they could not come any other way, and then my companion, one of the best
men of the company, would not abandon me. The sun went down--he did not
come. Uneasy I did not feel, but very hungry. I had no provisions, but I
could make a fire; and as I espied two doves in a tree, I tried to kill
one. But it needs a better marksman than myself to kill a little bird with
a rifle. I made a fire, however, lighted my pipe--this true friend of mine
in every emergency--lay down, and let my thoughts wander to the far east.
It was not many minutes after when I heard the tramp of a horse, and my
faithful companion was by my side. He had found the party, who had been
delayed by making their _cache_, about seven miles below. To the good
supper which he brought with him I did ample justice. He had forgotten
salt, and I tried the soldier's substitute in time of war, and used
gunpowder; but it answered badly--bitter enough, but no flavor of kitchen
salt. I slept well; and was only disturbed by two owls, which were
attracted by the fire, and took their place in the tree under which we
slept. Their music seemed as disagreeable to my companion as to myself; he
fired his rifle twice, and then they let us alone.

"7th.--At about 10 o'clock, the party arrived; and we continued our
journey through a country which offered but little to interest the
traveler. The soil was much more sandy than in the valley below the
confluence of the forks, and the face of the country no longer presented
the refreshing green which had hitherto characterized it. The rich grass
was now found only in dispersed spots, on low grounds, and on the bottom
land of the streams. A long drought, joined to extreme heat, had so
parched up the upper prairies, that they were in many places bald, or
covered only with a thin growth of yellow and poor grass. The nature of
the soil renders it extremely susceptible to the vicissitudes of the
climate. Between the forks, and from their junction to the Black hills,
the formation consists of marl and a soft earthy limestone, with granitic
sandstone. Such a formation cannot give rise to a sterile soil; and, on
our return in September, when the country had been watered by frequent
rains, the valley of the Platte looked like a garden; so rich was the
verdure of the grasses, and so luxuriant the bloom of abundant flowers.
The wild sage begins to make its appearance, and timber is so scarce that
we generally made our fires of the _bois de vache_. With the
exception of now and then an isolated tree or two, standing like a
lighthouse on the river bank, there is none to be seen.

"8th.--Our road to-day was a solitary one. No game made its appearance--
not even a buffalo or a stray antelope; and nothing occurred to break the
monotony until about 5 o'clock, when the caravan made a sudden halt. There
was a galloping in of scouts and horsemen from every side--a hurrying to
and fro in noisy confusion; rifles were taken from their covers; bullet
pouches examined: in short, there was the cry of 'Indians,' heard again. I
had become so much accustomed to these alarms, that they now made but
little impression on me; and before I had time to become excited, the
newcomers were ascertained to be whites. It was a large party of traders
and trappers, conducted by Mr. Bridger, a man well known in the history of
the country. As the sun was low, and there was a fine grass patch not far
ahead, they turned back and encamped for the night with us. Mr. Bridger
was invited to supper; and, after the _table-cloth_ was removed, we
listened with eager interest to an account of their adventures. What they
had met, we would be likely to encounter; the chances which had befallen
them, would probably happen to us; and we looked upon their life as a
picture of our own. He informed us that the condition of the country had
become exceedingly dangerous. The Sioux, who had been badly disposed, had
broken out into open hostility, and in the preceding autumn his party had
encountered them in a severe engagement, in which a number of lives had
been lost on both sides. United with the Cheyenne and Gros Ventre Indians,
they were scouring the upper country in war parties of great force, and
were at this time in the neighborhood of the _Red Buttes_, a famous
landmark, which was directly in our path. They had declared war upon every
living thing that should be found westward of that point; though their
main object was to attack a large camp of whites and Snake Indians, who
had a rendezvous in the Sweet Water valley. Availing himself of his
intimate knowledge of the country, he had reached Laramie by an unusual
route through the Black hills, and avoided coming into contact with any of
the scattered parties. This gentleman offered his services to accompany us
as far as the head of the Sweet Water; but the absence of our leader,
which was deeply regretted by us all, rendered it impossible for us to
enter upon such arrangements. In a camp consisting of men whose lives had
been spent in this country, I expected to find every one prepared for
occurrences of this nature; but, to my great surprise, I found, on the
contrary, that this news had thrown them all into the greatest
consternation; and, on every side, I heard only one exclamation, '_Il
n'y aura pas de vie pour nous_.' All the night, scattered groups were
assembled around the fires, smoking their pipes, and listening with the
greatest eagerness to exaggerated details of Indian hostilities; and in
the morning I found the camp dispirited, and agitated by a variety of
conflicting opinions. A majority of the people were strongly disposed to
return; but Clement Lambert, with some five or six others, professed their
determination to follow Mr. Fremont to the uttermost limit of his journey.
The others yielded to their remonstrances, and somewhat ashamed of their
cowardice, concluded to advance at least as far as Laramie fork, eastward
of which they were aware no danger was to be apprehended. Notwithstanding
the confusion and excitement, we were very early on the road, as the days
were extremely hot, and we were anxious to profit by the freshness of the
morning. The soft marly formation, over which we were now journeying,
frequently offers to the traveler views of remarkable and picturesque
beauty. To several of these localities, where the winds and the rain have
worked the bluffs into curious shapes, the voyageurs have given names
according to some fancied resemblance. One of these, called the _Court-
house_, we passed about six miles from our encampment of last night,
and towards noon came in sight of the celebrated _Chimney rock_. It
looks, at this distance of about thirty miles, like what it is called--the
long chimney of a steam factory establishment, or a shot tower in
Baltimore. Nothing occurred to interrupt the quiet of the day, and we
encamped on the river, after a march of twenty-four miles. Buffalo had
become very scarce, and but one cow had been killed, of which the meat had
been cut into thin slices, and hung around the carts to dry.

"10th.--We continued along the same fine plainly beaten road, which the
smooth surface of the country afforded us, for a distance of six hundred
and thirty miles, from the frontiers of Missouri to the Laramie fork. In
the course of the day we met some whites, who were following along in the
train of Mr. Bridger; and, after a day's journey of twenty-four miles,
encamped about sunset at the Chimney rock. It consists of marl and earthy
limestone, and the weather is rapidly diminishing its height, which is not
more than two hundred feet above the river. Travelers who visited it some
years since, placed its height at upwards of 500 feet.

"11th.--The valley of the North fork is of a variable breadth, from one to
four, and sometimes six miles. Fifteen miles from the Chimney rock we
reached one of those places where the river strikes the bluffs, and forces
the road to make a considerable circuit over the uplands. This presented
an escarpment on the river of about nine hundred yards in length, and is
familiarly known as Scott's bluffs. We had made a journey of thirty miles
before we again struck the river, at a place where some scanty grass
afforded an insufficient pasturage to our animals. About twenty miles from
the Chimney rock we had found a very beautiful spring of excellent and
cold water; but it was in such a deep ravine, and so small, that the
animals could not profit by it, and we therefore halted only a few
minutes, and found a resting-place ten miles further on. The plain between
Scott's bluffs and Chimney rock was almost entirely covered with drift-
wood, consisting principally of cedar, which, we were informed, had been
supplied from the Black hills, in a flood five or six years since.

"12th.--Nine miles from our encampment of yesterday we crossed Horse
creek, a shallow stream of clear water, about seventy yards wide, falling
into the Platte on the right bank. It was lightly timbered, and great
quantities of drift-wood were piled up on the banks, appearing to be
supplied by the creek from above. After a journey of twenty-six miles, we
encamped on a rich bottom, which afforded fine grass to our animals.
Buffalo have entirely disappeared, and we live now upon the dried meat,
which is exceedingly poor food. The marl and earthy limestone, which
constituted the formation for several days past, had changed, during the
day, into a compact white or grayish-white limestone, sometimes containing
hornstone; and at the place of our encampment this evening, some strata in
the river hills cropped out to the height of thirty or forty feet,
consisting of fine-grained granitic sandstone; one of the strata closely
resembling gneiss.

"13th.--To-day, about four o'clock, we reached Fort Laramie, where we were
cordially received. We pitched our camp a little above the fort, on the
bank of the Laramie river, in which the pure and clear water of the
mountain stream looked refreshingly cool, and made a pleasant contrast to
the muddy, yellow waters of the Platte."

I walked up to visit our friends at the fort, which is a quadrangular
structure, built of clay, after the fashion of the Mexicans, who are
generally employed in building them. The walls are about fifteen feet
high, surmounted with a wooden palisade, and form a portion of ranges of
houses, which entirely surround a yard of about one hundred and thirty
feet square. Every apartment has its door and window,--all, of course,
opening on the inside. There are two entrances, opposite each other, and
midway the wall, one of which is a large and public entrance; the other
smaller and more private--a sort of postern gate. Over the great entrance
is a square tower with loopholes, and, like the rest of the work, built of
earth. At two of the angles, and diagonally opposite each other, are large
square bastions, so arranged as to sweep the four faces of the walls.

This post belongs to the American Fur Company, and, at the time of our
visit, was in charge of Mr. Boudeau. Two of the company's clerks, Messrs.
Galpin and Kellogg, were with him, and he had in the fort about sixteen
men. As usual, these had found wives among the Indian squaws; and, with
the usual accompaniment of children, the place had quite a populous
appearance. It is hardly necessary to say, that the object of the
establishment is trade with the neighboring tribes, who, in the course of
the year, generally make two or three visits to the fort. In addition to
this, traders, with a small outfit, are constantly kept amongst them. The
articles of trade consist, on the one side, almost entirely of buffalo
robes; and, on the other, of blankets, calicoes, guns, powder and lead,
with such cheap ornaments as glass beads, looking-glasses, rings,
vermilion for painting, tobacco, and principally, and in spite of the
prohibition, of spirits, brought into the country in the form of alcohol,
and diluted with water before sold. While mentioning this fact, it is but
justice to the American Fur Company to state, that, throughout the
country, I have always found them strenuously opposed to the introduction
of spirituous liquors. But in the present state of things, when the
country is supplied with alcohol--when a keg of it will purchase from an
Indian every thing he possesses--his furs, his lodge, his horses, and even
his wife and children--and when any vagabond who has money enough to
purchase a mule can go into a village and trade against them successfully,
without withdrawing entirely from the trade, it is impossible for them to
discontinue its use. In their opposition to this practice, the company is
sustained, not only by their obligation to the laws of the country and the
welfare of the Indians, but clearly, also, on grounds of policy; for, with
heavy and expensive outfits, they contend at manifestly great disadvantage
against the numerous independent and unlicensed traders, who enter the
country from various avenues, from the United States and from Mexico,
having no other stock in trade than some kegs of liquor, which they sell
at the modest price of thirty-six dollars per gallon. The difference
between the regular trader and the _coureur des bois_, (as the French
call the itinerant or peddling traders,) with respect to the sale of
spirits, is here, as it always has been, fixed and permanent, and growing
out of the nature of their trade. The regular trader looks ahead, and has
an interest in the preservation of the Indians, and in the regular pursuit
of their business, and the preservation of their arms, horses, and every
thing necessary to their future and permanent success in hunting: the
_coureur des bois_ has no permanent interest, and gets what he can,
and for what he can, from every Indian he meets, even at the risk of
disabling him from doing any thing more at hunting.

The fort had a very cool and clean appearance. The great entrance, in
which I found the gentlemen assembled, and which was floored, and about
fifteen feet long, made a pleasant, shaded seat, through which the breeze
swept constantly; for this country is famous for high winds. In the course
of the conversation, I learned the following particulars, which will
explain the condition of the country. For several years the Cheyennes and
Sioux had gradually become more and more hostile to the whites, and in the
latter part of August, 1841, had had a rather severe engagement with a
party of sixty men, under the command of Mr. Frapp of St. Louis. The
Indians lost eight or ten warriors, and the whites had their leader and
four men killed. This fight took place on the waters of Snake river; and
it was this party, on their return under Mr. Bridger, which had spread so
much alarm among my people. In the course of the spring, two other small
parties had been cut off by the Sioux--one on their return from the Crow
nation, and the other among the Black hills. The emigrants to Oregon and
Mr. Bridger's party met here, a few days before our arrival. Divisions and
misunderstandings had grown up among them; they were already somewhat
disheartened by the fatigue of their long and wearisome journey, and the
feet of their cattle had become so much worn as to be scarcely able to
travel. In this situation, they were not likely to find encouragement in
the hostile attitude of the Indians, and the new and unexpected
difficulties which sprang up before them. They were told that the country
was entirely swept of grass, and that few or no buffalo were to be found
on their line of route; and, with their weakened animals, it would be
impossible for them to transport their heavy wagons over the mountains.
Under these circumstances, they disposed of their wagons and cattle at the
forts; selling them at the prices they had paid in the States, and taking
in exchange coffee and sugar at one dollar a pound, and miserable worn-out
horses, which died before they reached the mountains. Mr. Boudeau informed
me that he had purchased thirty, and the lower fort eighty head of fine
cattle, some of them of the Durham breed. Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose name and
high reputation are familiar to all who interest themselves in the history
of this country, had reached Laramie in company with Mr. Bridger; and the
emigrants were fortunate enough to obtain his services to guide them as
far as the British post of Fort Hall, about two hundred and fifty miles
beyond the South Pass of the mountains. They had started for this post on
the 4th of July, and immediately after their departure, a war party of
three hundred and fifty braves set out upon their trail. As their
principal chief or partisan had lost some relations in the recent fight,
and had sworn to kill the first whites on his path, it was supposed that
their intention was to attack the party, should a favorable opportunity
offer; or, if they were foiled in their principal object by the vigilance
of Mr. Fitzpatrick, content themselves with stealing horses and cutting
off stragglers. These had been gone but a few days previous to our

The effect of the engagement with Mr. Frapp had been greatly to irritate
the hostile spirit of the savages; and immediately subsequent to that
event, the Gross Ventre Indians had united with the Oglallahs and
Cheyennes, and taken the field in great force--so far as I could
ascertain, to the amount of eight hundred lodges. Their object was to make
an attack on a camp of Snake and Crow Indians, and a body of about one
hundred whites, who had made a rendezvous somewhere in the Green river
valley, or on the Sweet Water. After spending some time in buffalo hunting
in the neighborhood of the Medicine Bow mountain, they were to cross over
to the Green river waters, and return to Laramie by way of the South Pass
and the Sweet Water valley. According to the calculation of the Indians,
Mr. Boudeau informed me they were somewhere near the head of the Sweet
Water. I subsequently learned that the party led by Mr. Fitzpatrick were
overtaken by their pursuers near Rock Independence, in the valley of the
Sweet Water; but his skill and resolution saved them from surprise; and,
small as his force was; they did not venture to attack him openly. Here
they lost one of their party by an accident, and, continuing up the
valley, they came suddenly upon the large village. From these they met
with a doubtful reception. Long residence and familiar acquaintance had
given to Mr. Fitzpatrick great personal influence among them, and a
portion of them were disposed to let him pass quietly; but by far the
greater number were inclined to hostile measures; and the chiefs spent the
whole of one night, during which they kept the little party in the midst
of them, in council, debating the question of attacking them the next day;
but the influence of "the Broken Hand," as they called Mr. Fitzpatrick,
(one of his hands having been shattered by the bursting of a gun,) at
length prevailed, and obtained for them an unmolested passage; but they
sternly assured him that this path was no longer open, and that any party
of the whites which should hereafter be found upon it would meet with
certain destruction. From all that I have been able to learn, I have no
doubt that the emigrants owe their lives to Mr. Fitzpatrick.

Thus it would appear that the country was swarming with scattered war
parties; and when I heard, during the day, the various contradictory and
exaggerated rumors which were incessantly repeated to them, I was not
surprised that so much alarm prevailed among my men. Carson, one of the
best and most experienced mountaineers, fully supported the opinion given
by Bridger of the dangerous state of the country, and openly expressed his
conviction that we could not escape without some sharp encounters with the
Indians. In addition to this, he made his will; and among the
circumstances which were constantly occurring to increase their alarm,
this was the most unfortunate; and I found that a number of my party had
become so much intimidated, that they had requested to be discharged at
this place. I dined to-day at Fort Platte, which has been mentioned as
situated at the junction of Laramie river with the Nebraska. Here I heard
a confirmation of the statements given above. The party of warriors, which
had started a few days since on the trail of the emigrants, was expected
back in fourteen days, to join the village with which their families and
the old men had remained. The arrival of the latter was hourly expected;
and some Indians have just come in who had left them on the Laramie fork,
about twenty miles above. Mr. Bissonette, one of the traders belonging to
Fort Platte, urged the propriety of taking with me an interpreter and two
or three old men of the village; in which case, he thought there would be
little or no hazard in encountering any of the war parties The principal
danger was in being attacked before they should know who we were.

They had a confused idea of the numbers and power of our people, and
dreaded to bring upon themselves the military force of the United States.
This gentleman, who spoke the language fluently, offered his services to
accompany me so far as the Red Buttes. He was desirous to join the large
party on its return, for purposes of trade, and it would suit his views,
as well as my own, to go with us to the Buttes; beyond which point it
would be impossible to prevail on a Sioux to venture, on account of their
fear of the Crows. From Fort Laramie to the Red Buttes, by the ordinary
road, is one hundred and thirty-five miles; and, though only on the
threshold of danger, it seemed better to secure the services of an
interpreter for the partial distance, than to have none at all.

So far as frequent interruption from the Indians would allow, we occupied
ourselves in making some astronomical calculations, and bringing the
general map to this stage of our journey; but the tent was generally
occupied by a succession of our ceremonious visitors. Some came for
presents, and others for information of our object in coming to the
country; now and then, one would dart up to the tent on horseback, jerk
off his trappings, and stand silently at the door, holding his horse by
the halter, signifying his desire to trade. Occasionally a savage would
stalk in with an invitation to a feast of honor, a dog feast, and
deliberately sit down and wait quietly until I was ready to accompany him.
I went to one; the women and children were sitting outside the lodge, and
we took our seats on buffalo robes spread around. The dog was in a large
pot over the fire, in the middle of the lodge, and immediately on our
arrival was dished up in large wooden bowls, one of which was handed to
each. The flesh appeared very glutinous, with something of the flavor and
appearance of mutton. Feeling something move behind me, I looked round and
found that I had taken my seat among a litter of fat young puppies. Had I
been nice in such matters, the prejudices of civilization might have
interfered with my tranquillity; but, fortunately, I am not of delicate
nerves, and continued quietly to empty my platter.

The weather was cloudy at evening, with a moderate south wind, and the
thermometer at six o'clock 85 deg.. I was disappointed in my hope of obtaining
an observation of an occultation, which took place about midnight. The
moon brought with her heavy banks of clouds, through which she scarcely
made her appearance during the night.

The morning of the 18th was cloudy and calm, the thermometer at six
o'clock at 64 deg.. About nine, with a moderate wind from the west, a storm of
rain came on, accompanied by sharp thunder and lightning, which lasted
about an hour. During the day the expected village arrived, consisting
principally of old men, women, and children. They had a considerable
number of horses, and large troops of dogs. Their lodges were pitched near
the fort, and our camp was constantly crowded with Indians of all sizes,
from morning until night, at which time some of the soldiers generally
came to drive them all off to the village. My tent was the only place
which they respected. Here only came the chiefs and men of distinction,
and generally one of them remained to drive away the women and children.
The numerous strange instruments, applied to still stranger uses, excited
awe and admiration among them; and those which I used in talking with the
sun and stars they looked upon with especial reverence, as mysterious
things of "great medicine."

Of the three barometers which I had brought with me thus far successfully,
I found that two were out of order, and spent the greater part of the 19th
in repairing them--an operation of no small difficulty in the midst of the
incessant interruptions to which I was subjected. We had the misfortune to
break here a large thermometer, graduated to show fifths of a degree,
which I used to ascertain the temperature of boiling water, and with which
I had promised myself some interesting experiments in the mountains. We
had but one remaining, on which the graduation extended sufficiently high;
and this was too small for exact observations. During our stay here, the
men had been engaged in making numerous repairs, arranging pack-saddles,
and otherwise preparing for the chance of a rough road and mountain
travel. All things of this nature being ready, I gathered them around me
in the evening, and told them that "I had determined to proceed the next
day. They were all well armed. I had engaged the services of Mr.
Bissonette as interpreter, and had taken, in the circumstances, every
possible means to ensure our safety. In the rumors we had heard, I
believed there was much exaggeration; that they were men accustomed to
this kind of life and to the country; and that these were the dangers of
every-day occurrence, and to be expected in the ordinary course of their
service. They had heard of the unsettled condition of the country before
leaving St. Louis, and therefore could not make it a reason for breaking
their engagements. Still, I was unwilling to take with me, on a service of
some certain danger, men on whom I could not rely; and I had understood
that there were among them some who were disposed to cowardice, and
anxious to return; they had but to come forward at once, and state their
desire, and they would be discharged, with the amount due to them for the
time they had served." To their honor be it said, there was but one among
them who had the face to come forward and avail himself of the permission.
I asked him some few questions, in order to expose him to the ridicule of
the men, and let him go. The day after our departure, he engaged himself
to one of the forts, and set off with a party to the Upper Missouri. I did
not think that the situation of the country justified me in taking our
young companions, Messrs. Brant and Benton, along with us. In case of

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