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The Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman, Jr.

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This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada.


by Francis Parkman, Jr.































Last spring, 1846, was a busy season in the City of St. Louis. Not
only were emigrants from every part of the country preparing for the
journey to Oregon and California, but an unusual number of traders
were making ready their wagons and outfits for Santa Fe. Many of the
emigrants, especially of those bound for California, were persons of
wealth and standing. The hotels were crowded, and the gunsmiths and
saddlers were kept constantly at work in providing arms and
equipments for the different parties of travelers. Almost every day
steamboats were leaving the levee and passing up the Missouri,
crowded with passengers on their way to the frontier.

In one of these, the Radnor, since snagged and lost, my friend and
relative, Quincy A. Shaw, and myself, left St. Louis on the 28th of
April, on a tour of curiosity and amusement to the Rocky Mountains.
The boat was loaded until the water broke alternately over her
guards. Her upper deck was covered with large weapons of a peculiar
form, for the Santa Fe trade, and her hold was crammed with goods for
the same destination. There were also the equipments and provisions
of a party of Oregon emigrants, a band of mules and horses, piles of
saddles and harness, and a multitude of nondescript articles,
indispensable on the prairies. Almost hidden in this medley one
might have seen a small French cart, of the sort very appropriately
called a "mule-killer" beyond the frontiers, and not far distant a
tent, together with a miscellaneous assortment of boxes and barrels.
The whole equipage was far from prepossessing in its appearance; yet,
such as it was, it was destined to a long and arduous journey, on
which the persevering reader will accompany it.

The passengers on board the Radnor corresponded with her freight. In
her cabin were Santa Fe traders, gamblers, speculators, and
adventurers of various descriptions, and her steerage was crowded
with Oregon emigrants, "mountain men," negroes, and a party of Kansas
Indians, who had been on a visit to St. Louis.

Thus laden, the boat struggled upward for seven or eight days against
the rapid current of the Missouri, grating upon snags, and hanging
for two or three hours at a time upon sand-bars. We entered the
mouth of the Missouri in a drizzling rain, but the weather soon
became clear, and showed distinctly the broad and turbid river, with
its eddies, its sand-bars, its ragged islands, and forest-covered
shores. The Missouri is constantly changing its course; wearing away
its banks on one side, while it forms new ones on the other. Its
channel is shifting continually. Islands are formed, and then washed
away; and while the old forests on one side are undermined and swept
off, a young growth springs up from the new soil upon the other.
With all these changes, the water is so charged with mud and sand
that it is perfectly opaque, and in a few minutes deposits a sediment
an inch thick in the bottom of a tumbler. The river was now high;
but when we descended in the autumn it was fallen very low, and all
the secrets of its treacherous shallows were exposed to view. It was
frightful to see the dead and broken trees, thick-set as a military
abatis, firmly imbedded in the sand, and all pointing down stream,
ready to impale any unhappy steamboat that at high water should pass
over that dangerous ground.

In five or six days we began to see signs of the great western
movement that was then taking place. Parties of emigrants, with
their tents and wagons, would be encamped on open spots near the
bank, on their way to the common rendezvous at Independence. On a
rainy day, near sunset, we reached the landing of this place, which
is situated some miles from the river, on the extreme frontier of
Missouri. The scene was characteristic, for here were represented at
one view the most remarkable features of this wild and enterprising
region. On the muddy shore stood some thirty or forty dark slavish-
looking Spaniards, gazing stupidly out from beneath their broad hats.
They were attached to one of the Santa Fe companies, whose wagons
were crowded together on the banks above. In the midst of these,
crouching over a smoldering fire, was a group of Indians, belonging
to a remote Mexican tribe. One or two French hunters from the
mountains with their long hair and buckskin dresses, were looking at
the boat; and seated on a log close at hand were three men, with
rifles lying across their knees. The foremost of these, a tall,
strong figure, with a clear blue eye and an open, intelligent face,
might very well represent that race of restless and intrepid pioneers
whose axes and rifles have opened a path from the Alleghenies to the
western prairies. He was on his way to Oregon, probably a more
congenial field to him than any that now remained on this side the
great plains.

Early on the next morning we reached Kansas, about five hundred miles
from the mouth of the Missouri. Here we landed and leaving our
equipments in charge of my good friend Colonel Chick, whose log-house
was the substitute for a tavern, we set out in a wagon for Westport,
where we hoped to procure mules and horses for the journey.

It was a remarkably fresh and beautiful May morning. The rich and
luxuriant woods through which the miserable road conducted us were
lighted by the bright sunshine and enlivened by a multitude of birds.
We overtook on the way our late fellow-travelers, the Kansas Indians,
who, adorned with all their finery, were proceeding homeward at a
round pace; and whatever they might have seemed on board the boat,
they made a very striking and picturesque feature in the forest

Westport was full of Indians, whose little shaggy ponies were tied by
dozens along the houses and fences. Sacs and Foxes, with shaved
heads and painted faces, Shawanoes and Delawares, fluttering in
calico frocks, and turbans, Wyandottes dressed like white men, and a
few wretched Kansas wrapped in old blankets, were strolling about the
streets, or lounging in and out of the shops and houses.

As I stood at the door of the tavern, I saw a remarkable looking
person coming up the street. He had a ruddy face, garnished with the
stumps of a bristly red beard and mustache; on one side of his head
was a round cap with a knob at the top, such as Scottish laborers
sometimes wear; his coat was of a nondescript form, and made of a
gray Scotch plaid, with the fringes hanging all about it; he wore
pantaloons of coarse homespun, and hob-nailed shoes; and to complete
his equipment, a little black pipe was stuck in one corner of his
mouth. In this curious attire, I recognized Captain C. of the
British army, who, with his brother, and Mr. R., an English
gentleman, was bound on a hunting expedition across the continent. I
had seen the captain and his companions at St. Louis. They had now
been for some time at Westport, making preparations for their
departure, and waiting for a re-enforcement, since they were too few
in number to attempt it alone. They might, it is true, have joined
some of the parties of emigrants who were on the point of setting out
for Oregon and California; but they professed great disinclination to
have any connection with the "Kentucky fellows."

The captain now urged it upon us, that we should join forces and
proceed to the mountains in company. Feeling no greater partiality
for the society of the emigrants than they did, we thought the
arrangement an advantageous one, and consented to it. Our future
fellow-travelers had installed themselves in a little log-house,
where we found them all surrounded by saddles, harness, guns,
pistols, telescopes, knives, and in short their complete appointments
for the prairie. R., who professed a taste for natural history, sat
at a table stuffing a woodpecker; the brother of the captain, who was
an Irishman, was splicing a trail-rope on the floor, as he had been
an amateur sailor. The captain pointed out, with much complacency,
the different articles of their outfit. "You see," said he, "that we
are all old travelers. I am convinced that no party ever went upon
the prairie better provided." The hunter whom they had employed, a
surly looking Canadian, named Sorel, and their muleteer, an American
from St. Louis, were lounging about the building. In a little log
stable close at hand were their horses and mules, selected by the
captain, who was an excellent judge.

The alliance entered into, we left them to complete their
arrangements, while we pushed our own to all convenient speed. The
emigrants for whom our friends professed such contempt were encamped
on the prairie about eight or ten miles distant, to the number of a
thousand or more, and new parties were constantly passing out from
Independence to join them. They were in great confusion, holding
meetings, passing resolutions, and drawing up regulations, but unable
to unite in the choice of leaders to conduct them across the prairie.
Being at leisure one day, I rode over to Independence. The town was
crowded. A multitude of shops had sprung up to furnish the emigrants
and Santa Fe traders with necessaries for their journey; and there
was an incessant hammering and banging from a dozen blacksmiths'
sheds, where the heavy wagons were being repaired, and the horses and
oxen shod. The streets were thronged with men, horses, and mules.
While I was in the town, a train of emigrant wagons from Illinois
passed through, to join the camp on the prairie, and stopped in the
principal street. A multitude of healthy children's faces were
peeping out from under the covers of the wagons. Here and there a
buxom damsel was seated on horseback, holding over her sunburnt face
an old umbrella or a parasol, once gaudy enough but now miserably
faded. The men, very sober-looking countrymen, stood about their
oxen; and as I passed I noticed three old fellows, who, with their
long whips in their hands, were zealously discussing the doctrine of
regeneration. The emigrants, however, are not all of this stamp.
Among them are some of the vilest outcasts in the country. I have
often perplexed myself to divine the various motives that give
impulse to this strange migration; but whatever they may be, whether
an insane hope of a better condition in life, or a desire of shaking
off restraints of law and society, or mere restlessness, certain it
is that multitudes bitterly repent the journey, and after they have
reached the land of promise are happy enough to escape from it.

In the course of seven or eight days we had brought our preparations
near to a close. Meanwhile our friends had completed theirs, and
becoming tired of Westport, they told us that they would set out in
advance and wait at the crossing of the Kansas till we should come
up. Accordingly R. and the muleteers went forward with the wagon and
tent, while the captain and his brother, together with Sorel, and a
trapper named Boisverd, who had joined them, followed with the band
of horses. The commencement of the journey was ominous, for the
captain was scarcely a mile from Westport, riding along in state at
the head of his party, leading his intended buffalo horse by a rope,
when a tremendous thunderstorm came on, and drenched them all to the
skin. They hurried on to reach the place, about seven miles off,
where R. was to have had the camp in readiness to receive them. But
this prudent person, when he saw the storm approaching, had selected
a sheltered glade in the woods, where he pitched his tent, and was
sipping a comfortable cup of coffee, while the captain galloped for
miles beyond through the rain to look for him. At length the storm
cleared away, and the sharp-eyed trapper succeeded in discovering his
tent: R. had by this time finished his coffee, and was seated on a
buffalo robe smoking his pipe. The captain was one of the most easy-
tempered men in existence, so he bore his ill-luck with great
composure, shared the dregs of the coffee with his brother, and lay
down to sleep in his wet clothes.

We ourselves had our share of the deluge. We were leading a pair of
mules to Kansas when the storm broke. Such sharp and incessant
flashes of lightning, such stunning and continuous thunder, I have
never known before. The woods were completely obscured by the
diagonal sheets of rain that fell with a heavy roar, and rose in
spray from the ground; and the streams rose so rapidly that we could
hardly ford them. At length, looming through the rain, we saw the
log-house of Colonel Chick, who received us with his usual bland
hospitality; while his wife, who, though a little soured and
stiffened by too frequent attendance on camp-meetings, was not behind
him in hospitable feeling, supplied us with the means of repairing
our drenched and bedraggled condition. The storm, clearing away at
about sunset, opened a noble prospect from the porch of the colonel's
house, which stands upon a high hill. The sun streamed from the
breaking clouds upon the swift and angry Missouri, and on the immense
expanse of luxuriant forest that stretched from its banks back to the
distant bluffs.

Returning on the next day to Westport, we received a message from the
captain, who had ridden back to deliver it in person, but finding
that we were in Kansas, had intrusted it with an acquaintance of his
named Vogel, who kept a small grocery and liquor shop. Whisky by the
way circulates more freely in Westport than is altogether safe in a
place where every man carries a loaded pistol in his pocket. As we
passed this establishment, we saw Vogel's broad German face and
knavish-looking eyes thrust from his door. He said he had something
to tell us, and invited us to take a dram. Neither his liquor nor
his message was very palatable. The captain had returned to give us
notice that R., who assumed the direction of his party, had
determined upon another route from that agreed upon between us; and
instead of taking the course of the traders, to pass northward by
Fort Leavenworth, and follow the path marked out by the dragoons in
their expedition of last summer. To adopt such a plan without
consulting us, we looked upon as a very high-handed proceeding; but
suppressing our dissatisfaction as well as we could, we made up our
minds to join them at Fort Leavenworth, where they were to wait for

Accordingly, our preparation being now complete, we attempted one
fine morning to commence our journey. The first step was an
unfortunate one. No sooner were our animals put in harness, than the
shaft mule reared and plunged, burst ropes and straps, and nearly
flung the cart into the Missouri. Finding her wholly uncontrollable,
we exchanged her for another, with which we were furnished by our
friend Mr. Boone of Westport, a grandson of Daniel Boone, the
pioneer. This foretaste of prairie experience was very soon followed
by another. Westport was scarcely out of sight, when we encountered
a deep muddy gully, of a species that afterward became but too
familiar to us; and here for the space of an hour or more the car
stuck fast.



Both Shaw and myself were tolerably inured to the vicissitudes of
traveling. We had experienced them under various forms, and a birch
canoe was as familiar to us as a steamboat. The restlessness, the
love of wilds and hatred of cities, natural perhaps in early years to
every unperverted son of Adam, was not our only motive for
undertaking the present journey. My companion hoped to shake off the
effects of a disorder that had impaired a constitution originally
hardy and robust; and I was anxious to pursue some inquiries relative
to the character and usages of the remote Indian nations, being
already familiar with many of the border tribes.

Emerging from the mud-hole where we last took leave of the reader, we
pursued our way for some time along the narrow track, in the
checkered sunshine and shadow of the woods, till at length, issuing
forth into the broad light, we left behind us the farthest outskirts
of that great forest, that once spread unbroken from the western
plains to the shore of the Atlantic. Looking over an intervening
belt of shrubbery, we saw the green, oceanlike expanse of prairie,
stretching swell over swell to the horizon.

It was a mild, calm spring day; a day when one is more disposed to
musing and reverie than to action, and the softest part of his nature
is apt to gain the ascendency. I rode in advance of the party, as we
passed through the shrubbery, and as a nook of green grass offered a
strong temptation, I dismounted and lay down there. All the trees
and saplings were in flower, or budding into fresh leaf; the red
clusters of the maple-blossoms and the rich flowers of the Indian
apple were there in profusion; and I was half inclined to regret
leaving behind the land of gardens for the rude and stern scenes of
the prairie and the mountains.

Meanwhile the party came in sight from out of the bushes. Foremost
rode Henry Chatillon, our guide and hunter, a fine athletic figure,
mounted on a hardy gray Wyandotte pony. He wore a white blanket-
coat, a broad hat of felt, moccasins, and pantaloons of deerskin,
ornamented along the seams with rows of long fringes. His knife was
stuck in his belt; his bullet-pouch and powder-horn hung at his side,
and his rifle lay before him, resting against the high pommel of his
saddle, which, like all his equipments, had seen hard service, and
was much the worse for wear. Shaw followed close, mounted on a
little sorrel horse, and leading a larger animal by a rope. His
outfit, which resembled mine, had been provided with a view to use
rather than ornament. It consisted of a plain, black Spanish saddle,
with holsters of heavy pistols, a blanket rolled up behind it, and
the trail-rope attached to his horse's neck hanging coiled in front.
He carried a double-barreled smooth-bore, while I boasted a rifle of
some fifteen pounds' weight. At that time our attire, though far
from elegant, bore some marks of civilization, and offered a very
favorable contrast to the inimitable shabbiness of our appearance on
the return journey. A red flannel shirt, belted around the waist
like a frock, then constituted our upper garment; moccasins had
supplanted our failing boots; and the remaining essential portion of
our attire consisted of an extraordinary article, manufactured by a
squaw out of smoked buckskin. Our muleteer, Delorier, brought up the
rear with his cart, waddling ankle-deep in the mud, alternately
puffing at his pipe, and ejaculating in his prairie patois: 'Sacre
enfant de garce!" as one of the mules would seem to recoil before
some abyss of unusual profundity. The cart was of the kind that one
may see by scores around the market-place in Montreal, and had a
white covering to protect the articles within. These were our
provisions and a tent, with ammunition, blankets, and presents for
the Indians.

We were in all four men with eight animals; for besides the spare
horses led by Shaw and myself, an additional mule was driven along
with us as a reserve in case of accident.

After this summing up of our forces, it may not be amiss to glance at
the characters of the two men who accompanied us.

Delorier was a Canadian, with all the characteristics of the true
Jean Baptiste. Neither fatigue, exposure, nor hard labor could ever
impair his cheerfulness and gayety, or his obsequious politeness to
his bourgeois; and when night came he would sit down by the fire,
smoke his pipe, and tell stories with the utmost contentment. In
fact, the prairie was his congenial element. Henry Chatillon was of
a different stamp. When we were at St. Louis, several gentlemen of
the Fur Company had kindly offered to procure for us a hunter and
guide suited for our purposes, and on coming one afternoon to the
office, we found there a tall and exceedingly well-dressed man with a
face so open and frank that it attracted our notice at once. We were
surprised at being told that it was he who wished to guide us to the
mountains. He was born in a little French town near St. Louis, and
from the age of fifteen years had been constantly in the neighborhood
of the Rocky Mountains, employed for the most part by the Company to
supply their forts with buffalo meat. As a hunter he had but one
rival in the whole region, a man named Cimoneau, with whom, to the
honor of both of them, he was on terms of the closest friendship. He
had arrived at St. Louis the day before, from the mountains, where he
had remained for four years; and he now only asked to go and spend a
day with his mother before setting out on another expedition. His
age was about thirty; he was six feet high, and very powerfully and
gracefully molded. The prairies had been his school; he could
neither read nor write, but he had a natural refinement and delicacy
of mind such as is rarely found, even in women. His manly face was a
perfect mirror of uprightness, simplicity, and kindness of heart; he
had, moreover, a keen perception of character and a tact that would
preserve him from flagrant error in any society. Henry had not the
restless energy of an Anglo-American. He was content to take things
as he found them; and his chief fault arose from an excess of easy
generosity, impelling him to give away too profusely ever to thrive
in the world. Yet it was commonly remarked of him, that whatever he
might choose to do with what belonged to himself, the property of
others was always safe in his hands. His bravery was as much
celebrated in the mountains as his skill in hunting; but it is
characteristic of him that in a country where the rifle is the chief
arbiter between man and man, Henry was very seldom involved in
quarrels. Once or twice, indeed, his quiet good-nature had been
mistaken and presumed upon, but the consequences of the error were so
formidable that no one was ever known to repeat it. No better
evidence of the intrepidity of his temper could be wished than the
common report that he had killed more than thirty grizzly bears. He
was a proof of what unaided nature will sometimes do. I have never,
in the city or in the wilderness, met a better man than my noble and
true-hearted friend, Henry Chatillon.

We were soon free of the woods and bushes, and fairly upon the broad
prairie. Now and then a Shawanoe passed us, riding his little shaggy
pony at a "lope"; his calico shirt, his gaudy sash, and the gay
handkerchief bound around his snaky hair fluttering in the wind. At
noon we stopped to rest not far from a little creek replete with
frogs and young turtles. There had been an Indian encampment at the
place, and the framework of their lodges still remained, enabling us
very easily to gain a shelter from the sun, by merely spreading one
or two blankets over them. Thus shaded, we sat upon our saddles, and
Shaw for the first time lighted his favorite Indian pipe; while
Delorier was squatted over a hot bed of coals, shading his eyes with
one hand, and holding a little stick in the other, with which he
regulated the hissing contents of the frying-pan. The horses were
turned to feed among the scattered bushes of a low oozy meadow. A
drowzy springlike sultriness pervaded the air, and the voices of ten
thousand young frogs and insects, just awakened into life, rose in
varied chorus from the creek and the meadows.

Scarcely were we seated when a visitor approached. This was an old
Kansas Indian; a man of distinction, if one might judge from his
dress. His head was shaved and painted red, and from the tuft of
hair remaining on the crown dangled several eagles' feathers, and the
tails of two or three rattlesnakes. His cheeks, too, were daubed
with vermilion; his ears were adorned with green glass pendants; a
collar of grizzly bears' claws surrounded his neck, and several large
necklaces of wampum hung on his breast. Having shaken us by the hand
with a cordial grunt of salutation, the old man, dropping his red
blanket from his shoulders, sat down cross-legged on the ground. In
the absence of liquor we offered him a cup of sweetened water, at
which he ejaculated "Good!" and was beginning to tell us how great a
man he was, and how many Pawnees he had killed, when suddenly a
motley concourse appeared wading across the creek toward us. They
filed past in rapid succession, men, women, and children; some were
on horseback, some on foot, but all were alike squalid and wretched.
Old squaws, mounted astride of shaggy, meager little ponies, with
perhaps one or two snake-eyed children seated behind them, clinging
to their tattered blankets; tall lank young men on foot, with bows
and arrows in their hands; and girls whose native ugliness not all
the charms of glass beads and scarlet cloth could disguise, made up
the procession; although here and there was a man who, like our
visitor, seemed to hold some rank in this respectable community.
They were the dregs of the Kansas nation, who, while their betters
were gone to hunt buffalo, had left the village on a begging
expedition to Westport.

When this ragamuffin horde had passed, we caught our horses, saddled,
harnessed, and resumed our journey. Fording the creek, the low roofs
of a number of rude buildings appeared, rising from a cluster of
groves and woods on the left; and riding up through a long lane, amid
a profusion of wild roses and early spring flowers, we found the log-
church and school-houses belonging to the Methodist Shawanoe Mission.
The Indians were on the point of gathering to a religious meeting.
Some scores of them, tall men in half-civilized dress, were seated on
wooden benches under the trees; while their horses were tied to the
sheds and fences. Their chief, Parks, a remarkably large and
athletic man, was just arrived from Westport, where he owns a trading
establishment. Beside this, he has a fine farm and a considerable
number of slaves. Indeed the Shawanoes have made greater progress in
agriculture than any other tribe on the Missouri frontier; and both
in appearance and in character form a marked contrast to our late
acquaintance, the Kansas.

A few hours' ride brought us to the banks of the river Kansas.
Traversing the woods that lined it, and plowing through the deep
sand, we encamped not far from the bank, at the Lower Delaware
crossing. Our tent was erected for the first time on a meadow close
to the woods, and the camp preparations being complete we began to
think of supper. An old Delaware woman, of some three hundred
pounds' weight, sat in the porch of a little log-house close to the
water, and a very pretty half-breed girl was engaged, under her
superintendence, in feeding a large flock of turkeys that were
fluttering and gobbling about the door. But no offers of money, or
even of tobacco, could induce her to part with one of her favorites;
so I took my rifle, to see if the woods or the river could furnish us
anything. A multitude of quails were plaintively whistling in the
woods and meadows; but nothing appropriate to the rifle was to be
seen, except three buzzards, seated on the spectral limbs of an old
dead sycamore, that thrust itself out over the river from the dense
sunny wall of fresh foliage. Their ugly heads were drawn down
between their shoulders, and they seemed to luxuriate in the soft
sunshine that was pouring from the west. As they offered no
epicurean temptations, I refrained from disturbing their enjoyment;
but contented myself with admiring the calm beauty of the sunset, for
the river, eddying swiftly in deep purple shadows between the
impending woods, formed a wild but tranquillizing scene.

When I returned to the camp I found Shaw and an old Indian seated on
the ground in close conference, passing the pipe between them. The
old man was explaining that he loved the whites, and had an especial
partiality for tobacco. Delorier was arranging upon the ground our
service of tin cups and plates; and as other viands were not to be
had, he set before us a repast of biscuit and bacon, and a large pot
of coffee. Unsheathing our knives, we attacked it, disposed of the
greater part, and tossed the residue to the Indian. Meanwhile our
horses, now hobbled for the first time, stood among the trees, with
their fore-legs tied together, in great disgust and astonishment.
They seemed by no means to relish this foretaste of what was before
them. Mine, in particular, had conceived a moral aversion to the
prairie life. One of them, christened Hendrick, an animal whose
strength and hardihood were his only merits, and who yielded to
nothing but the cogent arguments of the whip, looked toward us with
an indignant countenance, as if he meditated avenging his wrongs with
a kick. The other, Pontiac, a good horse, though of plebeian
lineage, stood with his head drooping and his mane hanging about his
eyes, with the grieved and sulky air of a lubberly boy sent off to
school. Poor Pontiac! his forebodings were but too just; for when I
last heard from him, he was under the lash of an Ogallalla brave, on
a war party against the Crows.

As it grew dark, and the voices of the whip-poor-wills succeeded the
whistle of the quails, we removed our saddles to the tent, to serve
as pillows, spread our blankets upon the ground, and prepared to
bivouac for the first time that season. Each man selected the place
in the tent which he was to occupy for the journey. To Delorier,
however, was assigned the cart, into which he could creep in wet
weather, and find a much better shelter than his bourgeois enjoyed in
the tent.

The river Kansas at this point forms the boundary line between the
country of the Shawanoes and that of the Delawares. We crossed it on
the following day, rafting over our horses and equipage with much
difficulty, and unloading our cart in order to make our way up the
steep ascent on the farther bank. It was a Sunday moming; warm,
tranquil and bright; and a perfect stillness reigned over the rough
inclosures and neglected fields of the Delawares, except the
ceaseless hum and chirruping of myriads of insects. Now and then, an
Indian rode past on his way to the meeting-house, or through the
dilapidated entrance of some shattered log-house an old woman might
be discerned, enjoying all the luxury of idleness. There was no
village bell, for the Delawares have none; and yet upon that forlorn
and rude settlement was the same spirit of Sabbath repose and
tranquillity as in some little New England village among the
mountains of New Hampshire or the Vermont woods.

Having at present no leisure for such reflections, we pursued our
journey. A military road led from this point to Fort Leavenworth,
and for many miles the farms and cabins of the Delawares were
scattered at short intervals on either hand. The little rude
structures of logs, erected usually on the borders of a tract of
woods, made a picturesque feature in the landscape. But the scenery
needed no foreign aid. Nature had done enough for it; and the
alteration of rich green prairies and groves that stood in clusters
or lined the banks of the numerous little streams, had all the
softened and polished beauty of a region that has been for centuries
under the hand of man. At that early season, too, it was in the
height of its freshness and luxuriance. The woods were flushed with
the red buds of the maple; there were frequent flowering shrubs
unknown in the east; and the green swells of the prairies were
thickly studded with blossoms.

Encamping near a spring by the side of a hill, we resumed our journey
in the morning, and early in the afternoon had arrived within a few
miles of Fort Leavenworth. The road crossed a stream densely
bordered with trees, and running in the bottom of a deep woody
hollow. We were about to descend into it, when a wild and confused
procession appeared, passing through the water below, and coming up
the steep ascent toward us. We stopped to let them pass. They were
Delawares, just returned from a hunting expedition. All, both men
and women, were mounted on horseback, and drove along with them a
considerable number of pack mules, laden with the furs they had
taken, together with the buffalo robes, kettles, and other articles
of their traveling equipment, which as well as their clothing and
their weapons, had a worn and dingy aspect, as if they had seen hard
service of late. At the rear of the party was an old man, who, as he
came up, stopped his horse to speak to us. He rode a little tough
shaggy pony, with mane and tail well knotted with burrs, and a rusty
Spanish bit in its mouth, to which, by way of reins, was attached a
string of raw hide. His saddle, robbed probably from a Mexican, had
no covering, being merely a tree of the Spanish form, with a piece of
grizzly bear's skin laid over it, a pair of rude wooden stirrups
attached, and in the absence of girth, a thong of hide passing around
the horse's belly. The rider's dark features and keen snaky eyes
were unequivocally Indian. He wore a buckskin frock, which, like his
fringed leggings, was well polished and blackened by grease and long
service; and an old handkerchief was tied around his head. Resting
on the saddle before him lay his rifle; a weapon in the use of which
the Delawares are skillful; though from its weight, the distant
prairie Indians are too lazy to carry it.

"Who's your chief?" he immediately inquired.

Henry Chatillon pointed to us. The old Delaware fixed his eyes
intently upon us for a moment, and then sententiously remarked:

"No good! Too young!" With this flattering comment he left us, and
rode after his people.

This tribe, the Delawares, once the peaceful allies of William Penn,
the tributaries of the conquering Iroquois, are now the most
adventurous and dreaded warriors upon the prairies. They make war
upon remote tribes the very names of which were unknown to their
fathers in their ancient seats in Pennsylvania; and they push these
new quarrels with true Indian rancor, sending out their little war
parties as far as the Rocky Mountains, and into the Mexican
territories. Their neighbors and former confederates, the Shawanoes,
who are tolerable farmers, are in a prosperous condition; but the
Delawares dwindle every year, from the number of men lost in their
warlike expeditions.

Soon after leaving this party, we saw, stretching on the right, the
forests that follow the course of the Missouri, and the deep woody
channel through which at this point it runs. At a distance in front
were the white barracks of Fort Leavenworth, just visible through the
trees upon an eminence above a bend of the river. A wide green
meadow, as level as a lake, lay between us and the Missouri, and upon
this, close to a line of trees that bordered a little brook, stood
the tent of the captain and his companions, with their horses feeding
around it, but they themselves were invisible. Wright, their
muleteer, was there, seated on the tongue of the wagon, repairing his
harness. Boisverd stood cleaning his rifle at the door of the tent,
and Sorel lounged idly about. On closer examination, however, we
discovered the captain's brother, Jack, sitting in the tent, at his
old occupation of splicing trail-ropes. He welcomed us in his broad
Irish brogue, and said that his brother was fishing in the river, and
R. gone to the garrison. They returned before sunset. Meanwhile we
erected our own tent not far off, and after supper a council was
held, in which it was resolved to remain one day at Fort Leavenworth,
and on the next to bid a final adieu to the frontier: or in the
phraseology of the region, to "jump off." Our deliberations were
conducted by the ruddy light from a distant swell of the prairie,
where the long dry grass of last summer was on fire.



On the next morning we rode to Fort Leavenworth. Colonel, now
General, Kearny, to whom I had had the honor of an introduction when
at St. Louis, was just arrived, and received us at his headquarters
with the high-bred courtesy habitual to him. Fort Leavenworth is in
fact no fort, being without defensive works, except two block-houses.
No rumors of war had as yet disturbed its tranquillity. In the
square grassy area, surrounded by barracks and the quarters of the
officers, the men were passing and repassing, or lounging among the
trees; although not many weeks afterward it presented a different
scene; for here the very off-scourings of the frontier were
congregated, to be marshaled for the expedition against Santa Fe.

Passing through the garrison, we rode toward the Kickapoo village,
five or six miles beyond. The path, a rather dubious and uncertain
one, led us along the ridge of high bluffs that bordered the
Missouri; and by looking to the right or to the left, we could enjoy
a strange contrast of opposite scenery. On the left stretched the
prairie, rising into swells and undulations, thickly sprinkled with
groves, or gracefully expanding into wide grassy basins of miles in
extent; while its curvatures, swelling against the horizon, were
often surmounted by lines of sunny woods; a scene to which the
freshness of the season and the peculiar mellowness of the atmosphere
gave additional softness. Below us, on the right, was a tract of
ragged and broken woods. We could look down on the summits of the
trees, some living and some dead; some erect, others leaning at every
angle, and others still piled in masses together by the passage of a
hurricane. Beyond their extreme verge, the turbid waters of the
Missouri were discernible through the boughs, rolling powerfully
along at the foot of the woody declivities of its farther bank.

The path soon after led inland; and as we crossed an open meadow we
saw a cluster of buildings on a rising ground before us, with a crowd
of people surrounding them. They were the storehouse, cottage, and
stables of the Kickapoo trader's establishment. Just at that moment,
as it chanced, he was beset with half the Indians of the settlement.
They had tied their wretched, neglected little ponies by dozens along
the fences and outhouses, and were either lounging about the place,
or crowding into the trading house. Here were faces of various
colors; red, green, white, and black, curiously intermingled and
disposed over the visage in a variety of patterns. Calico shirts,
red and blue blankets, brass ear-rings, wampum necklaces, appeared in
profusion. The trader was a blue-eyed open-faced man who neither in
his manners nor his appearance betrayed any of the roughness of the
frontier; though just at present he was obliged to keep a lynx eye on
his suspicious customers, who, men and women, were climbing on his
counter and seating themselves among his boxes and bales.

The village itself was not far off, and sufficiently illustrated the
condition of its unfortunate and self-abandoned occupants. Fancy to
yourself a little swift stream, working its devious way down a woody
valley; sometimes wholly hidden under logs and fallen trees,
sometimes issuing forth and spreading into a broad, clear pool; and
on its banks in little nooks cleared away among the trees, miniature
log-houses in utter ruin and neglect. A labyrinth of narrow,
obstructed paths connected these habitations one with another.
Sometimes we met a stray calf, a pig or a pony, belonging to some of
the villagers, who usually lay in the sun in front of their
dwellings, and looked on us with cold, suspicious eyes as we
approached. Farther on, in place of the log-huts of the Kickapoos,
we found the pukwi lodges of their neighbors, the Pottawattamies,
whose condition seemed no better than theirs.

Growing tired at last, and exhausted by the excessive heat and
sultriness of the day, we returned to our friend, the trader. By
this time the crowd around him had dispersed, and left him at
leisure. He invited us to his cottage, a little white-and-green
building, in the style of the old French settlements; and ushered us
into a neat, well-furnished room. The blinds were closed, and the
heat and glare of the sun excluded; the room was as cool as a cavern.
It was neatly carpeted too and furnished in a manner that we hardly
expected on the frontier. The sofas, chairs, tables, and a well-
filled bookcase would not have disgraced an Eastern city; though
there were one or two little tokens that indicated the rather
questionable civilization of the region. A pistol, loaded and
capped, lay on the mantelpiece; and through the glass of the
bookcase, peeping above the works of John Milton glittered the handle
of a very mischievous-looking knife.

Our host went out, and returned with iced water, glasses, and a
bottle of excellent claret; a refreshment most welcome in the extreme
heat of the day; and soon after appeared a merry, laughing woman, who
must have been, a year of two before, a very rich and luxuriant
specimen of Creole beauty. She came to say that lunch was ready in
the next room. Our hostess evidently lived on the sunny side of
life, and troubled herself with none of its cares. She sat down and
entertained us while we were at table with anecdotes of fishing
parties, frolics, and the officers at the fort. Taking leave at
length of the hospitable trader and his friend, we rode back to the

Shaw passed on to the camp, while I remained to call upon Colonel
Kearny. I found him still at table. There sat our friend the
captain, in the same remarkable habiliments in which we saw him at
Westport; the black pipe, however, being for the present laid aside.
He dangled his little cap in his hand and talked of steeple-chases,
touching occasionally upon his anticipated exploits in buffalo-
hunting. There, too, was R., somewhat more elegantly attired. For
the last time we tasted the luxuries of civilization, and drank
adieus to it in wine good enough to make us almost regret the leave-
taking. Then, mounting, we rode together to the camp, where
everything was in readiness for departure on the morrow.



The reader need not be told that John Bull never leaves home without
encumbering himself with the greatest possible load of luggage. Our
companions were no exception to the rule. They had a wagon drawn by
six mules and crammed with provisions for six months, besides
ammunition enough for a regiment; spare rifles and fowling-pieces,
ropes and harness; personal baggage, and a miscellaneous assortment
of articles, which produced infinite embarrassment on the journey.
They had also decorated their persons with telescopes and portable
compasses, and carried English double-barreled rifles of sixteen to
the pound caliber, slung to their saddles in dragoon fashion.

By sunrise on the 23d of May we had breakfasted; the tents were
leveled, the animals saddled and harnessed, and all was prepared.
"Avance donc! get up!" cried Delorier from his seat in front of the
cart. Wright, our friend's muleteer, after some swearing and
lashing, got his insubordinate train in motion, and then the whole
party filed from the ground. Thus we bade a long adieu to bed and
board, and the principles of Blackstone's Commentaries. The day was
a most auspicious one; and yet Shaw and I felt certain misgivings,
which in the sequel proved but too well founded. We had just learned
that though R. had taken it upon him to adopt this course without
consulting us, not a single man in the party was acquainted with it;
and the absurdity of our friend's high-handed measure very soon
became manifest. His plan was to strike the trail of several
companies of dragoons, who last summer had made an expedition under
Colonel Kearny to Fort Laramie, and by this means to reach the grand
trail of the Oregon emigrants up the Platte.

We rode for an hour or two when a familiar cluster of buildings
appeared on a little hill. "Hallo!" shouted the Kickapoo trader from
over his fence. "Where are you going?" A few rather emphatic
exclamations might have been heard among us, when we found that we
had gone miles out of our way, and were not advanced an inch toward
the Rocky Mountains. So we turned in the direction the trader
indicated, and with the sun for a guide, began to trace a "bee line"
across the prairies. We struggled through copses and lines of wood;
we waded brooks and pools of water; we traversed prairies as green as
an emerald, expanding before us for mile after mile; wider and more
wild than the wastes Mazeppa rode over:

"Man nor brute,
Nor dint of hoof, nor print of foot,
Lay in the wild luxuriant soil;
No sign of travel; none of toil;
The very air was mute."

Riding in advance, we passed over one of these great plains; we
looked back and saw the line of scattered horsemen stretching for a
mile or more; and far in the rear against the horizon, the white
wagons creeping slowly along. "Here we are at last!" shouted the
captain. And in truth we had struck upon the traces of a large body
of horse. We turned joyfully and followed this new course, with
tempers somewhat improved; and toward sunset encamped on a high swell
of the prairie, at the foot of which a lazy stream soaked along
through clumps of rank grass. It was getting dark. We turned the
horses loose to feed. "Drive down the tent-pickets hard," said Henry
Chatillon, "it is going to blow." We did so, and secured the tent as
well as we could; for the sky had changed totally, and a fresh damp
smell in the wind warned us that a stormy night was likely to succeed
the hot clear day. The prairie also wore a new aspect, and its vast
swells had grown black and somber under the shadow of the clouds.
The thunder soon began to growl at a distance. Picketing and
hobbling the horses among the rich grass at the foot of the slope,
where we encamped, we gained a shelter just as the rain began to
fall; and sat at the opening of the tent, watching the proceedings of
the captain. In defiance of the rain he was stalking among the
horses, wrapped in an old Scotch plaid. An extreme solicitude
tormented him, lest some of his favorites should escape, or some
accident should befall them; and he cast an anxious eye toward three
wolves who were sneaking along over the dreary surface of the plain,
as if he dreaded some hostile demonstration on their part.

On the next morning we had gone but a mile or two, when we came to an
extensive belt of woods, through the midst of which ran a stream,
wide, deep, and of an appearance particularly muddy and treacherous.
Delorier was in advance with his cart; he jerked his pipe from his
mouth, lashed his mules, and poured forth a volley of Canadian
ejaculations. In plunged the cart, but midway it stuck fast.
Delorier leaped out knee-deep in water, and by dint of sacres and a
vigorous application of the whip, he urged the mules out of the
slough. Then approached the long team and heavy wagon of our
friends; but it paused on the brink.

"Now my advice is--" began the captain, who had been anxiously
contemplating the muddy gulf.

"Drive on!" cried R.

But Wright, the muleteer, apparently had not as yet decided the point
in his own mind; and he sat still in his seat on one of the shaft-
mules, whistling in a low contemplative strain to himself.

"My advice is," resumed the captain, "that we unload; for I'll bet
any man five pounds that if we try to go through, we shall stick

"By the powers, we shall stick fast!" echoed Jack, the captain's
brother, shaking his large head with an air of firm conviction.

"Drive on! drive on!" cried R. petulantly.

"Well," observed the captain, turning to us as we sat looking on,
much edified by this by-play among our confederates, "I can only give
my advice and if people won't be reasonable, why, they won't; that's

Meanwhile Wright had apparently made up his mind; for he suddenly
began to shout forth a volley of oaths and curses, that, compared
with the French imprecations of Delorier, sounded like the roaring of
heavy cannon after the popping and sputtering of a bunch of Chinese
crackers. At the same time he discharged a shower of blows upon his
mules, who hastily dived into the mud and drew the wagon lumbering
after them. For a moment the issue was dubious. Wright writhed
about in his saddle, and swore and lashed like a madman; but who can
count on a team of half-broken mules? At the most critical point,
when all should have been harmony and combined effort, the perverse
brutes fell into lamentable disorder, and huddled together in
confusion on the farther bank. There was the wagon up to the hub in
mud, and visibly settling every instant. There was nothing for it
but to unload; then to dig away the mud from before the wheels with a
spade, and lay a causeway of bushes and branches. This agreeable
labor accomplished, the wagon at last emerged; but if I mention that
some interruption of this sort occurred at least four or five times a
day for a fortnight, the reader will understand that our progress
toward the Platte was not without its obstacles.

We traveled six or seven miles farther, and "nooned" near a brook.
On the point of resuming our journey, when the horses were all driven
down to water, my homesick charger, Pontiac, made a sudden leap
across, and set off at a round trot for the settlements. I mounted
my remaining horse, and started in pursuit. Making a circuit, I
headed the runaway, hoping to drive him back to camp; but he
instantly broke into a gallop, made a wide tour on the prairie, and
got past me again. I tried this plan repeatedly, with the same
result; Pontiac was evidently disgusted with the prairie; so I
abandoned it, and tried another, trotting along gently behind him, in
hopes that I might quietly get near enough to seize the trail-rope
which was fastened to his neck, and dragged about a dozen feet behind
him. The chase grew interesting. For mile after mile I followed the
rascal, with the utmost care not to alarm him, and gradually got
nearer, until at length old Hendrick's nose was fairly brushed by the
whisking tail of the unsuspecting Pontiac. Without drawing rein, I
slid softly to the ground; but my long heavy rifle encumbered me, and
the low sound it made in striking the horn of the saddle startled
him; he pricked up his ears, and sprang off at a run. "My friend,"
thought I, remounting, "do that again, and I will shoot you!"

Fort Leavenworth was about forty miles distant, and thither I
determined to follow him. I made up my mind to spend a solitary and
supperless night, and then set out again in the morning. One hope,
however, remained. The creek where the wagon had stuck was just
before us; Pontiac might be thirsty with his run, and stop there to
drink. I kept as near to him as possible, taking every precaution
not to alarm him again; and the result proved as I had hoped: for he
walked deliberately among the trees, and stooped down to the water.
I alighted, dragged old Hendrick through the mud, and with a feeling
of infinite satisfaction picked up the slimy trail-rope and twisted
it three times round my hand. "Now let me see you get away again!" I
thought, as I remounted. But Pontiac was exceedingly reluctant to
turn back; Hendrick, too, who had evidently flattered himself with
vain hopes, showed the utmost repugnance, and grumbled in a manner
peculiar to himself at being compelled to face about. A smart cut of
the whip restored his cheerfulness; and dragging the recovered truant
behind, I set out in search of the camp. An hour or two elapsed,
when, near sunset, I saw the tents, standing on a rich swell of the
prairie, beyond a line of woods, while the bands of horses were
feeding in a low meadow close at hand. There sat Jack C., cross-
legged, in the sun, splicing a trail-rope, and the rest were lying on
the grass, smoking and telling stories. That night we enjoyed a
serenade from the wolves, more lively than any with which they had
yet favored us; and in the morning one of the musicians appeared, not
many rods from the tents, quietly seated among the horses, looking at
us with a pair of large gray eyes; but perceiving a rifle leveled at
him, he leaped up and made off in hot haste.

I pass by the following day or two of our journey, for nothing
occurred worthy of record. Should any one of my readers ever be
impelled to visit the prairies, and should he choose the route of the
Platte (the best, perhaps, that can be adopted), I can assure him
that he need not think to enter at once upon the paradise of his
imagination. A dreary preliminary, protracted crossing of the
threshold awaits him before he finds himself fairly upon the verge of
the "great American desert," those barren wastes, the haunts of the
buffalo and the Indian, where the very shadow of civilization lies a
hundred leagues behind him. The intervening country, the wide and
fertile belt that extends for several hundred miles beyond the
extreme frontier, will probably answer tolerably well to his
preconceived ideas of the prairie; for this it is from which
picturesque tourists, painters, poets, and novelists, who have seldom
penetrated farther, have derived their conceptions of the whole
region. If he has a painter's eye, he may find his period of
probation not wholly void of interest. The scenery, though tame, is
graceful and pleasing. Here are level plains, too wide for the eye
to measure green undulations, like motionless swells of the ocean;
abundance of streams, followed through all their windings by lines of
woods and scattered groves. But let him be as enthusiastic as he
may, he will find enough to damp his ardor. His wagons will stick in
the mud; his horses will break loose; harness will give way, and
axle-trees prove unsound. His bed will be a soft one, consisting
often of black mud, of the richest consistency. As for food, he must
content himself with biscuit and salt provisions; for strange as it
may seem, this tract of country produces very little game. As he
advances, indeed, he will see, moldering in the grass by his path,
the vast antlers of the elk, and farther on, the whitened skulls of
the buffalo, once swarming over this now deserted region. Perhaps,
like us, he may journey for a fortnight, and see not so much as the
hoof-print of a deer; in the spring, not even a prairie hen is to be

Yet, to compensate him for this unlooked-for deficiency of game, he
will find himself beset with "varmints" innumerable. The wolves will
entertain him with a concerto at night, and skulk around him by day,
just beyond rifle shot; his horse will step into badger-holes; from
every marsh and mud puddle will arise the bellowing, croaking, and
trilling of legions of frogs, infinitely various in color, shape and
dimensions. A profusion of snakes will glide away from under his
horse's feet, or quietly visit him in his tent at night; while the
pertinacious humming of unnumbered mosquitoes will banish sleep from
his eyelids. When thirsty with a long ride in the scorching sun over
some boundless reach of prairie, he comes at length to a pool of
water, and alights to drink, he discovers a troop of young tadpoles
sporting in the bottom of his cup. Add to this, that all the morning
the hot sun beats upon him with sultry, penetrating heat, and that,
with provoking regularity, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, a
thunderstorm rises and drenches him to the skin. Such being the
charms of this favored region, the reader will easily conceive the
extent of our gratification at learning that for a week we had been
journeying on the wrong track! How this agreeable discovery was made
I will presently explain.

One day, after a protracted morning's ride, we stopped to rest at
noon upon the open prairie. No trees were in sight; but close at
hand, a little dribbling brook was twisting from side to side through
a hollow; now forming holes of stagnant water, and now gliding over
the mud in a scarcely perceptible current, among a growth of sickly
bushes, and great clumps of tall rank grass. The day was excessively
hot and oppressive. The horses and mules were rolling on the prairie
to refresh themselves, or feeding among the bushes in the hollow. We
had dined; and Delorier, puffing at his pipe, knelt on the grass,
scrubbing our service of tin plate. Shaw lay in the shade, under the
cart, to rest for a while, before the word should be given to "catch
up." Henry Chatillon, before lying down, was looking about for signs
of snakes, the only living things that he feared, and uttering
various ejaculations of disgust, at finding several suspicious-
looking holes close to the cart. I sat leaning against the wheel in
a scanty strip of shade, making a pair of hobbles to replace those
which my contumacious steed Pontiac had broken the night before. The
camp of our friends, a rod or two distant, presented the same scene
of lazy tranquillity.

"Hallo!" cried Henry, looking up from his inspection of the snake-
holes, "here comes the old captain!"

The captain approached, and stood for a moment contemplating us in

"I say, Parkman," he began, "look at Shaw there, asleep under the
cart, with the tar dripping off the hub of the wheel on his

At this Shaw got up, with his eyes half opened, and feeling the part
indicated, he found his hand glued fast to his red flannel shirt.

"He'll look well when he gets among the squaws, won't he?" observed
the captain, with a grin.

He then crawled under the cart, and began to tell stories of which
his stock was inexhaustible. Yet every moment he would glance
nervously at the horses. At last he jumped up in great excitement.
"See that horse! There--that fellow just walking over the hill! By
Jove; he's off. It's your big horse, Shaw; no it isn't, it's Jack's!
Jack! Jack! hallo, Jack!" Jack thus invoked, jumped up and stared
vacantly at us.

"Go and catch your horse, if you don't want to lose him!" roared the

Jack instantly set off at a run through the grass, his broad
pantaloons flapping about his feet. The captain gazed anxiously till
he saw that the horse was caught; then he sat down, with a
countenance of thoughtfulness and care.

"I tell you what it is," he said, "this will never do at all. We
shall lose every horse in the band someday or other, and then a
pretty plight we should be in! Now I am convinced that the only way
for us is to have every man in the camp stand horse-guard in rotation
whenever we stop. Supposing a hundred Pawnees should jump up out of
that ravine, all yelling and flapping their buffalo robes, in the way
they do? Why, in two minutes not a hoof would be in sight." We
reminded the captain that a hundred Pawnees would probably demolish
the horse-guard, if he were to resist their depredations.

"At any rate," pursued the captain, evading the point, "our whole
system is wrong; I'm convinced of it; it is totally unmilitary. Why,
the way we travel, strung out over the prairie for a mile, an enemy
might attack the foremost men, and cut them off before the rest could
come up."

"We are not in an enemy's country, yet," said Shaw; "when we are,
we'll travel together."

"Then," said the captain, "we might be attacked in camp. We've no
sentinels; we camp in disorder; no precautions at all to guard
against surprise. My own convictions are that we ought to camp in a
hollow square, with the fires in the center; and have sentinels, and
a regular password appointed for every night. Besides, there should
be vedettes, riding in advance, to find a place for the camp and give
warning of an enemy. These are my convictions. I don't want to
dictate to any man. I give advice to the best of my judgment, that's
all; and then let people do as they please."

We intimated that perhaps it would be as well to postpone such
burdensome precautions until there should be some actual need of
them; but he shook his head dubiously. The captain's sense of
military propriety had been severely shocked by what he considered
the irregular proceedings of the party; and this was not the first
time he had expressed himself upon the subject. But his convictions
seldom produced any practical results. In the present case, he
contented himself, as usual, with enlarging on the importance of his
suggestions, and wondering that they were not adopted. But his plan
of sending out vedettes seemed particularly dear to him; and as no
one else was disposed to second his views on this point, he took it
into his head to ride forward that afternoon, himself.

"Come, Parkman," said he, "will you go with me?"

We set out together, and rode a mile or two in advance. The captain,
in the course of twenty years' service in the British army, had seen
something of life; one extensive side of it, at least, he had enjoyed
the best opportunities for studying; and being naturally a pleasant
fellow, he was a very entertaining companion. He cracked jokes and
told stories for an hour or two; until, looking back, we saw the
prairie behind us stretching away to the horizon, without a horseman
or a wagon in sight.

"Now," said the captain, "I think the vedettes had better stop till
the main body comes up."

I was of the same opinion. There was a thick growth of woods just
before us, with a stream running through them. Having crossed this,
we found on the other side a fine level meadow, half encircled by the
trees; and fastening our horses to some bushes, we sat down on the
grass; while, with an old stump of a tree for a target, I began to
display the superiority of the renowned rifle of the back woods over
the foreign innovation borne by the captain. At length voices could
be heard in the distance behind the trees.

"There they come!" said the captain: "let's go and see how they get
through the creek."

We mounted and rode to the bank of the stream, where the trail
crossed it. It ran in a deep hollow, full of trees; as we looked
down, we saw a confused crowd of horsemen riding through the water;
and among the dingy habiliment of our party glittered the uniforms of
four dragoons.

Shaw came whipping his horse up the back, in advance of the rest,
with a somewhat indignant countenance. The first word he spoke was a
blessing fervently invoked on the head of R., who was riding, with a
crest-fallen air, in the rear. Thanks to the ingenious devices of
the gentleman, we had missed the track entirely, and wandered, not
toward the Platte, but to the village of the Iowa Indians. This we
learned from the dragoons, who had lately deserted from Fort
Leavenworth. They told us that our best plan now was to keep to the
northward until we should strike the trail formed by several parties
of Oregon emigrants, who had that season set out from St. Joseph's in

In extremely bad temper, we encamped on this ill-starred spot; while
the deserters, whose case admitted of no delay rode rapidly forward.
On the day following, striking the St. Joseph's trail, we turned our
horses' heads toward Fort Laramie, then about seven hundred miles to
the westward.



The great medley of Oregon and California emigrants, at their camps
around Independence, had heard reports that several additional
parties were on the point of setting out from St. Joseph's farther to
the northward. The prevailing impression was that these were
Mormons, twenty-three hundred in number; and a great alarm was
excited in consequence. The people of Illinois and Missouri, who
composed by far the greater part of the emigrants, have never been on
the best terms with the "Latter Day Saints"; and it is notorious
throughout the country how much blood has been spilt in their feuds,
even far within the limits of the settlements. No one could predict
what would be the result, when large armed bodies of these fanatics
should encounter the most impetuous and reckless of their old enemies
on the broad prairie, far beyond the reach of law or military force.
The women and children at Independence raised a great outcry; the men
themselves were seriously alarmed; and, as I learned, they sent to
Colonel Kearny, requesting an escort of dragoons as far as the
Platte. This was refused; and as the sequel proved, there was no
occasion for it. The St. Joseph's emigrants were as good Christians
and as zealous Mormon-haters as the rest; and the very few families
of the "Saints" who passed out this season by the route of the Platte
remained behind until the great tide of emigration had gone by;
standing in quite as much awe of the "gentiles" as the latter did of

We were now, as I before mentioned, upon this St. Joseph's trail. It
was evident, by the traces, that large parties were a few days in
advance of us; and as we too supposed them to be Mormons, we had some
apprehension of interruption.

The journey was somewhat monotonous. One day we rode on for hours,
without seeing a tree or a bush; before, behind, and on either side,
stretched the vast expanse, rolling in a succession of graceful
swells, covered with the unbroken carpet of fresh green grass. Here
and there a crow, or a raven, or a turkey-buzzard, relieved the

"What shall we do to-night for wood and water?" we began to ask of
each other; for the sun was within an hour of setting. At length a
dark green speck appeared, far off on the right; it was the top of a
tree, peering over a swell of the prairie; and leaving the trail, we
made all haste toward it. It proved to be the vanguard of a cluster
of bushes and low trees, that surrounded some pools of water in an
extensive hollow; so we encamped on the rising ground near it.

Shaw and I were sitting in the tent, when Delorier thrust his brown
face and old felt hat into the opening, and dilating his eyes to
their utmost extent, announced supper. There were the tin cups and
the iron spoons, arranged in military order on the grass, and the
coffee-pot predominant in the midst. The meal was soon dispatched;
but Henry Chatillon still sat cross-legged, dallying with the remnant
of his coffee, the beverage in universal use upon the prairie, and an
especial favorite with him. He preferred it in its virgin flavor,
unimpaired by sugar or cream; and on the present occasion it met his
entire approval, being exceedingly strong, or, as he expressed it,
"right black."

It was a rich and gorgeous sunset--an American sunset; and the ruddy
glow of the sky was reflected from some extensive pools of water
among the shadowy copses in the meadow below.

"I must have a bath to-night," said Shaw. "How is it, Delorier? Any
chance for a swim down here?"

"Ah! I cannot tell; just as you please, monsieur," replied Delorier,
shrugging his shoulders, perplexed by his ignorance of English, and
extremely anxious to conform in all respects to the opinion and
wishes of his bourgeois.

"Look at his moccasion," said I. "It has evidently been lately
immersed in a profound abyss of black mud."

"Come," said Shaw; "at any rate we can see for ourselves."

We set out together; and as we approached the bushes, which were at
some distance, we found the ground becoming rather treacherous. We
could only get along by stepping upon large clumps of tall rank
grass, with fathomless gulfs between, like innumerable little quaking
islands in an ocean of mud, where a false step would have involved
our boots in a catastrophe like that which had befallen Delorier's
moccasins. The thing looked desperate; we separated, so as to search
in different directions, Shaw going off to the right, while I kept
straight forward. At last I came to the edge of the bushes: they
were young waterwillows, covered with their caterpillar-like
blossoms, but intervening between them and the last grass clump was a
black and deep slough, over which, by a vigorous exertion, I
contrived to jump. Then I shouldered my way through the willows,
tramping them down by main force, till I came to a wide stream of
water, three inches deep, languidly creeping along over a bottom of
sleek mud. My arrival produced a great commotion. A huge green
bull-frog uttered an indignant croak, and jumped off the bank with a
loud splash: his webbed feet twinkled above the surface, as he jerked
them energetically upward, and I could see him ensconcing himself in
the unresisting slime at the bottom, whence several large air bubbles
struggled lazily to the top. Some little spotted frogs instantly
followed the patriarch's example; and then three turtles, not larger
than a dollar, tumbled themselves off a broad "lily pad," where they
had been reposing. At the same time a snake, gayly striped with
black and yellow, glided out from the bank, and writhed across to the
other side; and a small stagnant pool into which my foot had
inadvertently pushed a stone was instantly alive with a congregation
of black tadpoles.

"Any chance for a bath, where you are?" called out Shaw, from a

The answer was not encouraging. I retreated through the willows, and
rejoining my companion, we proceeded to push our researches in
company. Not far on the right, a rising ground, covered with trees
and bushes, seemed to sink down abruptly to the water, and give hope
of better success; so toward this we directed our steps. When we
reached the place we found it no easy matter to get along between the
hill and the water, impeded as we were by a growth of stiff,
obstinate young birch-trees, laced together by grapevines. In the
twilight, we now and then, to support ourselves, snatched at the
touch-me-not stem of some ancient sweet-brier. Shaw, who was in
advance, suddenly uttered a somewhat emphatic monosyllable; and
looking up I saw him with one hand grasping a sapling, and one foot
immersed in the water, from which he had forgotten to withdraw it,
his whole attention being engaged in contemplating the movements of a
water-snake, about five feet long, curiously checkered with black and
green, who was deliberately swimming across the pool. There being no
stick or stone at hand to pelt him with, we looked at him for a time
in silent disgust; and then pushed forward. Our perseverence was at
last rewarded; for several rods farther on, we emerged upon a little
level grassy nook among the brushwood, and by an extraordinary
dispensation of fortune, the weeds and floating sticks, which
elsewhere covered the pool, seemed to have drawn apart, and left a
few yards of clear water just in front of this favored spot. We
sounded it with a stick; it was four feet deep; we lifted a specimen
in our cupped hands; it seemed reasonably transparent, so we decided
that the time for action was arrived. But our ablutions were
suddenly interrupted by ten thousand punctures, like poisoned
needles, and the humming of myriads of over-grown mosquitoes, rising
in all directions from their native mud and slime and swarming to the
feast. We were fain to beat a retreat with all possible speed.

We made toward the tents, much refreshed by the bath which the heat
of the weather, joined to our prejudices, had rendered very

"What's the matter with the captain? look at him!" said Shaw. The
captain stood alone on the prairie, swinging his hat violently around
his head, and lifting first one foot and then the other, without
moving from the spot. First he looked down to the ground with an air
of supreme abhorrence; then he gazed upward with a perplexed and
indignant countenance, as if trying to trace the flight of an unseen
enemy. We called to know what was the matter; but he replied only by
execrations directed against some unknown object. We approached,
when our ears were saluted by a droning sound, as if twenty bee-hives
had been overturned at once. The air above was full of large black
insects, in a state of great commotion, and multitudes were flying
about just above the tops of the grass blades.

"Don't be afraid," called the captain, observing us recoil. "The
brutes won't sting."

At this I knocked one down with my hat, and discovered him to be no
other than a "dorbug"; and looking closer, we found the ground
thickly perforated with their holes.

We took a hasty leave of this flourishing colony, and walking up the
rising ground to the tents, found Delorier's fire still glowing
brightly. We sat down around it, and Shaw began to expatiate on the
admirable facilities for bathing that we had discovered, and
recommended the captain by all means to go down there before
breakfast in the morning. The captain was in the act of remarking
that he couldn't have believed it possible, when he suddenly
interrupted himself, and clapped his hand to his cheek, exclaiming
that "those infernal humbugs were at him again." In fact, we began
to hear sounds as if bullets were humming over our heads. In a
moment something rapped me sharply on the forehead, then upon the
neck, and immediately I felt an indefinite number of sharp wiry claws
in active motion, as if their owner were bent on pushing his
explorations farther. I seized him, and dropped him into the fire.
Our party speedily broke up, and we adjourned to our respective
tents, where, closing the opening fast, we hoped to be exempt from
invasion. But all precaution was fruitless. The dorbugs hummed
through the tent, and marched over our faces until day-light; when,
opening our blankets, we found several dozen clinging there with the
utmost tenacity. The first object that met our eyes in the morning
was Delorier, who seemed to be apostrophizing his frying-pan, which
he held by the handle at arm's length. It appeared that he had left
it at night by the fire; and the bottom was now covered with dorbugs,
firmly imbedded. Multitudes beside, curiously parched and shriveled,
lay scattered among the ashes.

The horses and mules were turned loose to feed. We had just taken
our seats at breakfast, or rather reclined in the classic mode, when
an exclamation from Henry Chatillon, and a shout of alarm from the
captain, gave warning of some casualty, and looking up, we saw the
whole band of animals, twenty-three in number, filing off for the
settlements, the incorrigible Pontiac at their head, jumping along
with hobbled feet, at a gait much more rapid than graceful. Three or
four of us ran to cut them off, dashing as best we might through the
tall grass, which was glittering with myriads of dewdrops. After a
race of a mile or more, Shaw caught a horse. Tying the trail-rope by
way of bridle round the animal's jaw, and leaping upon his back, he
got in advance of the remaining fugitives, while we, soon bringing
them together, drove them in a crowd up to the tents, where each man
caught and saddled his own. Then we heard lamentations and curses;
for half the horses had broke their hobbles, and many were seriously
galled by attempting to run in fetters.

It was late that morning before we were on the march; and early in
the afternoon we were compelled to encamp, for a thunder-gust came up
and suddenly enveloped us in whirling sheets of rain. With much ado,
we pitched our tents amid the tempest, and all night long the thunder
bellowed and growled over our heads. In the morning, light peaceful
showers succeeded the cataracts of rain, that had been drenching us
through the canvas of our tents. About noon, when there were some
treacherous indications of fair weather, we got in motion again.

Not a breath of air stirred over the free and open prairie; the
clouds were like light piles of cotton; and where the blue sky was
visible, it wore a hazy and languid aspect. The sun beat down upon
us with a sultry penetrating heat almost insupportable, and as our
party crept slowly along over the interminable level, the horses hung
their heads as they waded fetlock deep through the mud, and the men
slouched into the easiest position upon the saddle. At last, toward
evening, the old familiar black heads of thunderclouds rose fast
above the horizon, and the same deep muttering of distant thunder
that had become the ordinary accompaniment of our afternoon's journey
began to roll hoarsely over the prairie. Only a few minutes elapsed
before the whole sky was densely shrouded, and the prairie and some
clusters of woods in front assumed a purple hue beneath the inky
shadows. Suddenly from the densest fold of the cloud the flash
leaped out, quivering again and again down to the edge of the
prairie; and at the same instant came the sharp burst and the long
rolling peal of the thunder. A cool wind, filled with the smell of
rain, just then overtook us, leveling the tall grass by the side of
the path.

"Come on; we must ride for it!" shouted Shaw, rushing past at full
speed, his led horse snorting at his side. The whole party broke
into full gallop, and made for the trees in front. Passing these, we
found beyond them a meadow which they half inclosed. We rode pell-
mell upon the ground, leaped from horseback, tore off our saddles;
and in a moment each man was kneeling at his horse's feet. The
hobbles were adjusted, and the animals turned loose; then, as the
wagons came wheeling rapidly to the spot, we seized upon the tent-
poles, and just as the storm broke, we were prepared to receive it.
It came upon us almost with the darkness of night; the trees, which
were close at hand, were completely shrouded by the roaring torrents
of rain.

We were sitting in the tent, when Delorier, with his broad felt hat
hanging about his ears, and his shoulders glistening with rain,
thrust in his head.

"Voulez-vous du souper, tout de suite? I can make a fire, sous la
charette--I b'lieve so--I try."

"Never mind supper, man; come in out of the rain."

Delorier accordingly crouched in the entrance, for modesty would not
permit him to intrude farther.

Our tent was none of the best defense against such a cataract. The
rain could not enter bodily, but it beat through the canvas in a fine
drizzle, that wetted us just as effectively. We sat upon our saddles
with faces of the utmost surliness, while the water dropped from the
vizors of our caps, and trickled down our cheeks. My india-rubber
cloak conducted twenty little rapid streamlets to the ground; and
Shaw's blanket-coat was saturated like a sponge. But what most
concerned us was the sight of several puddles of water rapidly
accumulating; one in particular, that was gathering around the tent-
pole, threatened to overspread the whole area within the tent,
holding forth but an indifferent promise of a comfortable night's
rest. Toward sunset, however, the storm ceased as suddenly as it
began. A bright streak of clear red sky appeared above the western
verge of the prairie, the horizontal rays of the sinking sun streamed
through it and glittered in a thousand prismatic colors upon the
dripping groves and the prostrate grass. The pools in the tent
dwindled and sunk into the saturated soil.

But all our hopes were delusive. Scarcely had night set in, when the
tumult broke forth anew. The thunder here is not like the tame
thunder of the Atlantic coast. Bursting with a terrific crash
directly above our heads, it roared over the boundless waste of
prairie, seeming to roll around the whole circle of the firmament
with a peculiar and awful reverberation. The lightning flashed all
night, playing with its livid glare upon the neighboring trees,
revealing the vast expanse of the plain, and then leaving us shut in
as by a palpable wall of darkness.

It did not disturb us much. Now and then a peal awakened us, and
made us conscious of the electric battle that was raging, and of the
floods that dashed upon the stanch canvas over our heads. We lay
upon india-rubber cloths, placed between our blankets and the soil.
For a while they excluded the water to admiration; but when at length
it accumulated and began to run over the edges, they served equally
well to retain it, so that toward the end of the night we were
unconsciously reposing in small pools of rain.

On finally awaking in the morning the prospect was not a cheerful
one. The rain no longer poured in torrents; but it pattered with a
quiet pertinacity upon the strained and saturated canvas. We
disengaged ourselves from our blankets, every fiber of which
glistened with little beadlike drops of water, and looked out in vain
hope of discovering some token of fair weather. The clouds, in lead-
colored volumes, rested upon the dismal verge of the prairie, or hung
sluggishly overhead, while the earth wore an aspect no more
attractive than the heavens, exhibiting nothing but pools of water,
grass beaten down, and mud well trampled by our mules and horses.
Our companions' tent, with an air of forlorn and passive misery, and
their wagons in like manner, drenched and woe-begone, stood not far
off. The captain was just returning from his morning's inspection of
the horses. He stalked through the mist and rain, with his plaid
around his shoulders; his little pipe, dingy as an antiquarian relic,
projecting from beneath his mustache, and his brother Jack at his

"Good-morning, captain."

"Good-morning to your honors," said the captain, affecting the
Hibernian accent; but at that instant, as he stooped to enter the
tent, he tripped upon the cords at the entrance, and pitched forward
against the guns which were strapped around the pole in the center.

"You are nice men, you are!" said he, after an ejaculation not
necessary to be recorded, "to set a man-trap before your door every
morning to catch your visitors."

Then he sat down upon Henry Chatillon's saddle. We tossed a piece of
buffalo robe to Jack, who was looking about in some embarrassment.
He spread it on the ground, and took his seat, with a stolid
countenance, at his brother's side.

"Exhilarating weather, captain!"

"Oh, delightful, delightful!" replied the captain. "I knew it would
be so; so much for starting yesterday at noon! I knew how it would
turn out; and I said so at the time."

"You said just the contrary to us. We were in no hurry, and only
moved because you insisted on it."

"Gentlemen," said the captain, taking his pipe from his mouth with an
air of extreme gravity, "it was no plan of mine. There is a man
among us who is determined to have everything his own way. You may
express your opinion; but don't expect him to listen. You may be as
reasonable as you like: oh, it all goes for nothing! That man is
resolved to rule the roost and he'll set his face against any plan
that he didn't think of himself."

The captain puffed for a while at his pipe, as if meditating upon his
grievances; then he began again:

"For twenty years I have been in the British army; and in all that
time I never had half so much dissension, and quarreling, and
nonsense, as since I have been on this cursed prairie. He's the most
uncomfortable man I ever met."

"Yes," said Jack; "and don't you know, Bill, how he drank up all the
coffee last night, and put the rest by for himself till the morning!"

"He pretends to know everything," resumed the captain; "nobody must
give orders but he! It's, oh! we must do this; and, oh! we must do
that; and the tent must be pitched here, and the horses must be
picketed there; for nobody knows as well as he does."

We were a little surprised at this disclosure of domestic dissensions
among our allies, for though we knew of their existence, we were not
aware of their extent. The persecuted captain seeming wholly at a
loss as to the course of conduct that he should pursue, we
recommended him to adopt prompt and energetic measures; but all his
military experience had failed to teach him the indispensable lesson
to be "hard," when the emergency requires it.

"For twenty years," he repeated, "I have been in the British army,
and in that time I have been intimately acquainted with some two
hundred officers, young and old, and I never yet quarreled with any
man. Oh, 'anything for a quiet life!' that's my maxim."

We intimated that the prairie was hardly the place to enjoy a quiet
life, but that, in the present circumstances, the best thing he could
do toward securing his wished-for tranquillity, was immediately to
put a period to the nuisance that disturbed it. But again the
captain's easy good-nature recoiled from the task. The somewhat
vigorous measures necessary to gain the desired result were utterly
repugnant to him; he preferred to pocket his grievances, still
retaining the privilege of grumbling about them. "Oh, anything for a
quiet life!" he said again, circling back to his favorite maxim.

But to glance at the previous history of our transatlantic
confederates. The captain had sold his commission, and was living in
bachelor ease and dignity in his paternal halls, near Dublin. He
hunted, fished, rode steeple-chases, ran races, and talked of his
former exploits. He was surrounded with the trophies of his rod and
gun; the walls were plentifully garnished, he told us, with moose-
horns and deer-horns, bear-skins, and fox-tails; for the captain's
double-barreled rifle had seen service in Canada and Jamaica; he had
killed salmon in Nova Scotia, and trout, by his own account, in all
the streams of the three kingdoms. But in an evil hour a seductive
stranger came from London; no less a person than R., who, among other
multitudinous wanderings, had once been upon the western prairies,
and naturally enough was anxious to visit them again. The captain's
imagination was inflamed by the pictures of a hunter's paradise that
his guest held forth; he conceived an ambition to add to his other
trophies the horns of a buffalo, and the claws of a grizzly bear; so
he and R. struck a league to travel in company. Jack followed his
brother, as a matter of course. Two weeks on board the Atlantic
steamer brought them to Boston; in two weeks more of hard traveling
they reached St. Louis, from which a ride of six days carried them to
the frontier; and here we found them, in full tide of preparation for
their journey.

We had been throughout on terms of intimacy with the captain, but R.,
the motive power of our companions' branch of the expedition, was
scarcely known to us. His voice, indeed, might be heard incessantly;
but at camp he remained chiefly within the tent, and on the road he
either rode by himself, or else remained in close conversation with
his friend Wright, the muleteer. As the captain left the tent that
morning, I observed R. standing by the fire, and having nothing else
to do, I determined to ascertain, if possible, what manner of man he
was. He had a book under his arm, but just at present he was
engrossed in actively superintending the operations of Sorel, the
hunter, who was cooking some corn-bread over the coals for breakfast.
R. was a well-formed and rather good-looking man, some thirty years
old; considerably younger than the captain. He wore a beard and
mustache of the oakum complexion, and his attire was altogether more
elegant than one ordinarily sees on the prairie. He wore his cap on
one side of his head; his checked shirt, open in front, was in very
neat order, considering the circumstances, and his blue pantaloons,
of the John Bull cut, might once have figured in Bond Street.

"Turn over that cake, man! turn it over, quick! Don't you see it

"It ain't half done," growled Sorel, in the amiable tone of a whipped

"It is. Turn it over, I tell you!"

Sorel, a strong, sullen-looking Canadian, who from having spent his
life among the wildest and most remote of the Indian tribes, had
imbibed much of their dark, vindictive spirit, looked ferociously up,
as if he longed to leap upon his bourgeois and throttle him; but he
obeyed the order, coming from so experienced an artist.

"It was a good idea of yours," said I, seating myself on the tongue
of a wagon, "to bring Indian meal with you."

"Yes, yes" said R. "It's good bread for the prairie--good bread for
the prairie. I tell you that's burning again."

Here he stooped down, and unsheathing the silver-mounted hunting-
knife in his belt, began to perform the part of cook himself; at the
same time requesting me to hold for a moment the book under his arm,
which interfered with the exercise of these important functions. I
opened it; it was "Macaulay's Lays"; and I made some remark,
expressing my admiration of the work.

"Yes, yes; a pretty good thing. Macaulay can do better than that
though. I know him very well. I have traveled with him. Where was
it we first met--at Damascus? No, no; it was in Italy."

"So," said I, "you have been over the same ground with your
countryman, the author of 'Eothen'? There has been some discussion
in America as to who he is. I have heard Milne's name mentioned."

"Milne's? Oh, no, no, no; not at all. It was Kinglake; Kinglake's
the man. I know him very well; that is, I have seen him."

Here Jack C., who stood by, interposed a remark (a thing not common
with him), observing that he thought the weather would become fair
before twelve o'clock.

"It's going to rain all day," said R., "and clear up in the middle of
the night."

Just then the clouds began to dissipate in a very unequivocal manner;
but Jack, not caring to defend his point against so authoritative a
declaration, walked away whistling, and we resumed our conversation.

"Borrow, the author of 'The Bible in Spain,' I presume you know him

"Oh, certainly; I know all those men. By the way, they told me that
one of your American writers, Judge Story, had died lately. I edited
some of his works in London; not without faults, though."

Here followed an erudite commentary on certain points of law, in
which he particularly animadverted on the errors into which he
considered that the judge had been betrayed. At length, having
touched successively on an infinite variety of topics, I found that I
had the happiness of discovering a man equally competent to enlighten
me upon them all, equally an authority on matters of science or
literature, philosphy or fashion. The part I bore in the
conversation was by no means a prominent one; it was only necessary
to set him going, and when he had run long enough upon one topic, to
divert him to another and lead him on to pour out his heaps of
treasure in succession.

"What has that fellow been saying to you?" said Shaw, as I returned
to the tent. "I have heard nothing but his talking for the last

R. had none of the peculiar traits of the ordinary "British snob";
his absurdities were all his own, belonging to no particular nation
or clime. He was possessed with an active devil that had driven him
over land and sea, to no great purpose, as it seemed; for although he
had the usual complement of eyes and ears, the avenues between these
organs and his brain appeared remarkably narrow and untrodden. His
energy was much more conspicuous than his wisdom; but his predominant
characteristic was a magnanimous ambition to exercise on all
occasions an awful rule and supremacy, and this propensity equally
displayed itself, as the reader will have observed, whether the
matter in question was the baking of a hoe-cake or a point of
international law. When such diverse elements as he and the easy-
tempered captain came in contact, no wonder some commotion ensued; R.
rode roughshod, from morning till night, over his military ally.

At noon the sky was clear and we set out, trailing through mud and
slime six inches deep. That night we were spared the customary
infliction of the shower bath.

On the next afternoon we were moving slowly along, not far from a
patch of woods which lay on the right. Jack C. rode a little in

The livelong day he had not spoke;

when suddenly he faced about, pointed to the woods, and roared out to
his brother:

"O Bill! here's a cow!"

The captain instantly galloped forward, and he and Jack made a vain
attempt to capture the prize; but the cow, with a well-grounded
distrust of their intentions, took refuge among the trees. R. joined
them, and they soon drove her out. We watched their evolutions as
they galloped around here, trying in vain to noose her with their
trail-ropes, which they had converted into lariettes for the
occasion. At length they resorted to milder measures, and the cow
was driven along with the party. Soon after the usual thunderstorm
came up, the wind blowing with such fury that the streams of rain
flew almost horizontally along the prairie, roaring like a cataract.
The horses turned tail to the storm, and stood hanging their heads,
bearing the infliction with an air of meekness and resignation; while
we drew our heads between our shoulders, and crouched forward, so as
to make our backs serve as a pent-house for the rest of our persons.
Meanwhile the cow, taking advantage of the tumult, ran off, to the
great discomfiture of the captain, who seemed to consider her as his
own especial prize, since she had been discovered by Jack. In
defiance of the storm, he pulled his cap tight over his brows, jerked
a huge buffalo pistol from his holster, and set out at full speed
after her. This was the last we saw of them for some time, the mist
and rain making an impenetrable veil; but at length we heard the
captain's shout, and saw him looming through the tempest, the picture
of a Hibernian cavalier, with his cocked pistol held aloft for
safety's sake, and a countenance of anxiety and excitement. The cow
trotted before him, but exhibited evident signs of an intention to
run off again, and the captain was roaring to us to head her. But
the rain had got in behind our coat collars, and was traveling over
our necks in numerous little streamlets, and being afraid to move our
heads, for fear of admitting more, we sat stiff and immovable,
looking at the captain askance, and laughing at his frantic
movements. At last the cow made a sudden plunge and ran off; the
captain grasped his pistol firmly, spurred his horse, and galloped
after, with evident designs of mischief. In a moment we heard the
faint report, deadened by the rain, and then the conqueror and his
victim reappeared, the latter shot through the body, and quite
helpless. Not long after the storm moderated and we advanced again.
The cow walked painfully along under the charge of Jack, to whom the
captain had committed her, while he himself rode forward in his old
capacity of vedette. We were approaching a long line of trees, that
followed a stream stretching across our path, far in front, when we
beheld the vedette galloping toward us, apparently much excited, but
with a broad grin on his face.

"Let that cow drop behind!" he shouted to us; "here's her owners!"
And in fact, as we approached the line of trees, a large white
object, like a tent, was visible behind them. On approaching,
however, we found, instead of the expected Mormon camp, nothing but
the lonely prairie, and a large white rock standing by the path. The
cow therefore resumed her place in our procession. She walked on
until we encamped, when R. firmly approaching with his enormous
English double-barreled rifle, calmly and deliberately took aim at
her heart, and discharged into it first one bullet and then the
other. She was then butchered on the most approved principles of
woodcraft, and furnished a very welcome item to our somewhat limited
bill of fare.

In a day or two more we reached the river called the "Big Blue." By
titles equally elegant, almost all the streams of this region are
designated. We had struggled through ditches and little brooks all
that morning; but on traversing the dense woods that lined the banks
of the Blue, we found more formidable difficulties awaited us, for
the stream, swollen by the rains, was wide, deep, and rapid.

No sooner were we on the spot than R. had flung off his clothes, and
was swimming across, or splashing through the shallows, with the end
of a rope between his teeth. We all looked on in admiration,
wondering what might be the design of this energetic preparation; but
soon we heard him shouting: "Give that rope a turn round that stump!
You, Sorel: do you hear? Look sharp now, Boisverd! Come over to
this side, some of you, and help me!" The men to whom these orders
were directed paid not the least attention to them, though they were
poured out without pause or intermission. Henry Chatillon directed
the work, and it proceeded quietly and rapidly. R.'s sharp brattling
voice might have been heard incessantly; and he was leaping about
with the utmost activity, multiplying himself, after the manner of
great commanders, as if his universal presence and supervision were
of the last necessity. His commands were rather amusingly
inconsistent; for when he saw that the men would not do as he told
them, he wisely accommodated himself to circumstances, and with the
utmost vehemence ordered them to do precisely that which they were at
the time engaged upon, no doubt recollecting the story of Mahomet and
the refractory mountain. Shaw smiled significantly; R. observed it,
and, approaching with a countenance of lofty indignation, began to
vapor a little, but was instantly reduced to silence.

The raft was at length complete. We piled our goods upon it, with
the exception of our guns, which each man chose to retain in his own
keeping. Sorel, Boisverd, Wright and Delorier took their stations at
the four corners, to hold it together, and swim across with it; and
in a moment more, all our earthly possessions were floating on the
turbid waters of the Big Blue. We sat on the bank, anxiously
watching the result, until we saw the raft safe landed in a little
cove far down on the opposite bank. The empty wagons were easily
passed across; and then each man mounting a horse, we rode through
the stream, the stray animals following of their own accord.



We were now arrived at the close of our solitary journeyings along
the St. Joseph's trail. On the evening of the 23d of May we encamped
near its junction with the old legitimate trail of the Oregon
emigrants. We had ridden long that afternoon, trying in vain to find
wood and water, until at length we saw the sunset sky reflected from
a pool encircled by bushes and a rock or two. The water lay in the
bottom of a hollow, the smooth prairie gracefully rising in oceanlike
swells on every side. We pitched our tents by it; not however before
the keen eye of Henry Chatillon had discerned some unusual object
upon the faintly-defined outline of the distant swell. But in the
moist, hazy atmosphere of the evening, nothing could be clearly
distinguished. As we lay around the fire after supper, a low and
distant sound, strange enough amid the loneliness of the prairie,
reached our ears--peals of laughter, and the faint voices of men and
women. For eight days we had not encountered a human being, and this
singular warning of their vicinity had an effect extremely wild and

About dark a sallow-faced fellow descended the hill on horseback, and
splashing through the pool rode up to the tents. He was enveloped in
a huge cloak, and his broad felt hat was weeping about his ears with
the drizzling moisture of the evening. Another followed, a stout,
square-built, intelligent-looking man, who announced himself as
leader of an emigrant party encamped a mile in advance of us. About
twenty wagons, he said, were with him; the rest of his party were on
the other side of the Big Blue, waiting for a woman who was in the
pains of child-birth, and quarreling meanwhile among themselves.

These were the first emigrants that we had overtaken, although we had
found abundant and melancholy traces of their progress throughout the
whole course of the journey. Sometimes we passed the grave of one
who had sickened and died on the way. The earth was usually torn up,
and covered thickly with wolf-tracks. Some had escaped this
violation. One morning a piece of plank, standing upright on the
summit of a grassy hill, attracted our notice, and riding up to it we
found the following words very roughly traced upon it, apparently by
a red-hot piece of iron:


DIED MAY 7TH, 1845.

Aged two months.

Such tokens were of common occurrence, nothing could speak more for
the hardihood, or rather infatuation, of the adventurers, or the
sufferings that await them upon the journey.

We were late in breaking up our camp on the following morning, and
scarcely had we ridden a mile when we saw, far in advance of us,
drawn against the horizon, a line of objects stretching at regular
intervals along the level edge of the prairie. An intervening swell
soon hid them from sight, until, ascending it a quarter of an hour
after, we saw close before us the emigrant caravan, with its heavy
white wagons creeping on in their slow procession, and a large drove
of cattle following behind. Half a dozen yellow-visaged Missourians,
mounted on horseback, were cursing and shouting among them; their
lank angular proportions enveloped in brown homespun, evidently cut
and adjusted by the hands of a domestic female tailor. As we
approached, they greeted us with the polished salutation: "How are
ye, boys? Are ye for Oregon or California?"

As we pushed rapidly past the wagons, children's faces were thrust
out from the white coverings to look at us; while the care-worn,
thin-featured matron, or the buxom girl, seated in front, suspended
the knitting on which most of them were engaged to stare at us with
wondering curiosity. By the side of each wagon stalked the
proprietor, urging on his patient oxen, who shouldered heavily along,
inch by inch, on their interminable journey. It was easy to see that
fear and dissension prevailed among them; some of the men--but these,
with one exception, were bachelors--looked wistfully upon us as we
rode lightly and swiftly past, and then impatiently at their own
lumbering wagons and heavy-gaited oxen. Others were unwilling to
advance at all until the party they had left behind should have
rejoined them. Many were murmuring against the leader they had
chosen, and wished to depose him; and this discontent was fermented
by some ambitious spirits, who had hopes of succeeding in his place.
The women were divided between regrets for the homes they had left
and apprehension of the deserts and the savages before them.

We soon left them far behind, and fondly hoped that we had taken a
final leave; but unluckily our companions' wagon stuck so long in a
deep muddy ditch that, before it was extricated, the van of the
emigrant caravan appeared again, descending a ridge close at hand.
Wagon after wagon plunged through the mud; and as it was nearly noon,
and the place promised shade and water, we saw with much
gratification that they were resolved to encamp. Soon the wagons
were wheeled into a circle; the cattle were grazing over the meadow,
and the men with sour, sullen faces, were looking about for wood and
water. They seemed to meet with but indifferent success. As we left
the ground, I saw a tall slouching fellow with the nasal accent of
"down east," contemplating the contents of his tin cup, which he had
just filled with water.

"Look here, you," he said; "it's chock full of animals!"

The cup, as he held it out, exhibited in fact an extraordinary
variety and profusion of animal and vegetable life.

Riding up the little hill and looking back on the meadow, we could
easily see that all was not right in the camp of the emigrants. The
men were crowded together, and an angry discussion seemed to be going
forward. R. was missing from his wonted place in the line, and the
captain told us that he had remained behind to get his horse shod by
a blacksmith who was attached to the emigrant party. Something
whispered in our ears that mischief was on foot; we kept on, however,
and coming soon to a stream of tolerable water, we stopped to rest
and dine. Still the absentee lingered behind. At last, at the
distance of a mile, he and his horse suddenly appeared, sharply
defined against the sky on the summit of a hill; and close behind, a
huge white object rose slowly into view.

"What is that blockhead bringing with him now?"

A moment dispelled the mystery. Slowly and solemnly one behind the
other, four long trains of oxen and four emigrant wagons rolled over
the crest of the declivity and gravely descended, while R. rode in
state in the van. It seems that, during the process of shoeing the
horse, the smothered dissensions among the emigrants suddenly broke
into open rupture. Some insisted on pushing forward, some on
remaining where they were, and some on going back. Kearsley, their
captain, threw up his command in disgust. "And now, boys," said he,
"if any of you are for going ahead, just you come along with me."

Four wagons, with ten men, one woman, and one small child, made up
the force of the "go-ahead" faction, and R., with his usual
proclivity toward mischief, invited them to join our party. Fear of
the Indians--for I can conceive of no other motive--must have induced
him to court so burdensome an alliance. As may well be conceived,
these repeated instances of high-handed dealing sufficiently
exasperated us. In this case, indeed, the men who joined us were all
that could be desired; rude indeed in manner, but frank, manly, and
intelligent. To tell them we could not travel with them was of
course out of the question. I merely reminded Kearsley that if his
oxen could not keep up with our mules he must expect to be left
behind, as we could not consent to be further delayed on the journey;
but he immediately replied, that his oxen "SHOULD keep up; and if
they couldn't, why he allowed that he'd find out how to make 'em!"
Having availed myself of what satisfaction could be derived from
giving R. to understand my opinion of his conduct, I returned to our
side of the camp.

On the next day, as it chanced, our English companions broke the
axle-tree of their wagon, and down came the whole cumbrous machine
lumbering into the bed of a brook! Here was a day's work cut out for
us. Meanwhile, our emigrant associates kept on their way, and so
vigorously did they urge forward their powerful oxen that, with the
broken axle-tree and other calamities, it was full a week before we
overtook them; when at length we discovered them, one afternoon,
crawling quietly along the sandy brink of the Platte. But meanwhile
various incidents occurred to ourselves.

It was probable that at this stage of our journey the Pawnees would
attempt to rob us. We began therefore to stand guard in turn,
dividing the night into three watches, and appointing two men for
each. Delorier and I held guard together. We did not march with
military precision to and fro before the tents; our discipline was by
no means so stringent and rigid. We wrapped ourselves in our
blankets, and sat down by the fire; and Delorier, combining his
culinary functions with his duties as sentinel, employed himself in
boiling the head of an antelope for our morning's repast. Yet we
were models of vigilance in comparison with some of the party; for
the ordinary practice of the guard was to establish himself in the
most comfortable posture he could; lay his rifle on the ground, and
enveloping his nose in the blanket, meditate on his mistress, or
whatever subject best pleased him. This is all well enough when
among Indians who do not habitually proceed further in their
hostility than robbing travelers of their horses and mules, though,
indeed, a Pawnee's forebearance is not always to be trusted; but in
certain regions farther to the west, the guard must beware how he
exposes his person to the light of the fire, lest perchance some
keen-eyed skulking marksman should let fly a bullet or an arrow from
amid the darkness.

Among various tales that circulated around our camp fire was a rather
curious one, told by Boisverd, and not inappropriate here. Boisverd
was trapping with several companions on the skirts of the Blackfoot
country. The man on guard, well knowing that it behooved him to put
forth his utmost precaution, kept aloof from the firelight, and sat
watching intently on all sides. At length he was aware of a dark,
crouching figure, stealing noiselessly into the circle of the light.
He hastily cocked his rifle, but the sharp click of the lock caught
the ear of Blackfoot, whose senses were all on the alert. Raising
his arrow, already fitted to the string, he shot in the direction of
the sound. So sure was his aim that he drove it through the throat
of the unfortunate guard, and then, with a loud yell, bounded from
the camp.

As I looked at the partner of my watch, puffing and blowing over his
fire, it occurred to me that he might not prove the most efficient
auxiliary in time of trouble.

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