Texas and her boundary. Army of the West and the author'svolunteering at St. Louis. A coup d'oeuil. The prairies. Indian woman and her child. A rainstorm. The son of themurdered Chavis. Swarm of annoying insects. Buffaloes andbuffalo meat. Fish in the prairies. A volunteer buried. Sand-hills and their appearance owing to sunlight. Gusts of hotwind. Wolves. A volunteer in a fit likely to have been shot. Indian fear of cannon. Dead Indian chief in a tree. The driedbody of an Indian walking. Prairie-dog towns and rattlesnakes.

WHEN the Texian revolutionary army, after their many victoriesunder the command of General Sam Houston, halted on the banks ofthe Rio Grande, a council of officers was called, to determinewhat should be the boundary of the new republic. All theofficers present, with the single exception of Houston, advisedthat the chain of mountains, lying about one hundred miles westof the Rio Grande, should be adopted as the western boundaryline: thus em-


page 18.

bracing the rich and thickly-settled valley of the river; butHouston overruled their decision, and insisted that the riveritself should be the line, from its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico,as far north as the 39 of longitude, thence directly southward toRed River, and, after following the windings of which for somedistance, to run along the western boundary of Louisiana to theGulf. The line proposed by the junior officers of the councilwould have embraced the whole of the states of New Mexico andCoahuila, as well as Texas -- while that insisted on by Houston,and which was finally adopted, divided each of the former aboutthe middle. The object of carrying the line so far north at thewestern corner of the Territory, was in order to include the richvalley of Taos, which contains, among other places, the city ofSanta Fe, well known as the headquarters for the immense tradewhich is carried on, by means of caravans, between the northernparts of Mexico and the United States. This trade is principallymanaged by citizens of Missouri, where all these tradingexpeditions are fitted out and dispatched. The Texian governmenthad enough to occupy them in resisting the incursions of Mexicoin the south and, therefore, could not find time to subjugate themore northern part of their territory. So that this partremained, until the year one thousand eight hundred andforty-six, in the possession and under the dominion of theMexican government; and although, when Texas was received as oneof the United


page 19. ARMY OF THE WEST.

States, it was accepted with the boundary which I have stated,yet, not until the numerous annoyances of the Mexicans had forcedour government to post, on the banks of the Rio Grande, the "Army of Occupation," was the important trade carried on betweenMissouri and Santa Fe considered worthy of protection, and, then,only in connection with the plan already determined upon for theopening campaign in Mexico. The governor of New Mexico, ManuelArmijo, had subjected the American traders to numerousextortions; for instance, collecting a duty of five hundreddollars on each wagon load of goods. Now this, as the goodsmostly sold by them were the coarser kinds, was a seriousimposition. To remedy this state of things, and also to carryout a very important part of the plan of operations resolved uponby our government in its then warlike position against Mexico,the President of the United States ordered General Kearney, anold and tried officer, whose achievements in Florida are known,to raise a sufficient number of volunteers, although not toexceed three thousand, which, being united with such regulars asmight then ???? iver called FortLeavenworth, were to form an army to be called the "Army of theWest." With this small body he was to cross the western prairiesand take possession of New Mexico, making Santa Fe, which is thecapital, the centre of his operations. This expedition was notunfraught with danger: not only were the troops to cross nearlyone thousand miles of uninhabited prairie, subject to annoyancefrom hostile Indians,


page 20.

and run the chance of starvation should their supplies of foodbe, by any means, cut off, but they were ordered to hold thecountry, after they had conquered it, well assured that noreinforcements would be sent out. General Kearney was alsoempowered to proceed to California after subjugating theMexicans. He, in obedience to these orders, called upon theGovernor of Missouri for one thousand volunteers, to be raisedfrom the different river counties of the state. One battalion,to consist of two companies, was to serve as light artillery andthe rest as mounted riflemen. The Governor, in apportioning outthis requisition, called on the county of St. Louis to furnishthe separate battalion of artillery, dividing the rest of thedraft among the several counties north of it. Perhaps no placecould be found which would so readily respond to such a call asSt. Louis: for, it being the point where the Santa Fe tradersprocure their goods, it is a common thing to observe theirarrival with numerous packages of specie, which they freely usein making their purchases. This naturally gives the idea of vastmines of gold and silver at Santa Fe; and the young men of allclasses were eager to go -- indeed, it became a question who must beleft; as, besides gold and silver and visions of floweryprairies, buffalo hunting and Indian skirmishing, General Kearneywas well known to be a kind officer to his men, although a strictdisciplinarian -- and Richard H. Weightman, a gentleman of St. Louis, who had received his education at West Point, although hehad never yet seen service, no sooner declared his inten-



tion to form a company, than his list was filled by some of thefirst young men in the city. Happening to be at St. Louis, andmy time hanging heavily on my hands from unusual inactivity, Iobtained an introduction to Mr. Weightman, and was so muchpleased with his frank open countenance and gentlemanly bearingthat I speedily enrolled myself in his corps. The service was tobe for one year or for a less period if found expedient. Eachsoldier was to furnish himself with a good horse, saddle,clothing -- in short, everything except arms. Although we were notabsolutely required to uniform ourselves, it was recommended thata suitable uniform would be desirable, so we provided a neatdress, somewhat similar to the fatigue dress of the regulars. Wealso got our Spanish saddles all made of one pattern. The commonbut good article we procured could hardly, strictly, be called asaddle, as it consisted of nothing but the skeleton or tree ofone, with the girth and stirrups attached. The object of thissimplicity was to render it as light and cool as possible to thehorse; and, by putting a good Mackinaw blanket above as well asbeneath, it made a comfortable seat -- the blankets forming our bedsat night. Our horses were good, being principally Illinoisgrass-fed animals, just suited to the service for which they werenow wanted. Mine carried me more than two thousand miles in theMexican country, and he was, at last, stolen from me at Saucillo,about eighty miles below Chihuahua, and I almost felt I couldhave cried when, after long search, "Old Tom" could not befound. An important part of our equipment was a stout leathernwaist belt, supporting a good butcher-knife, to which many of usadded


page 22.

a revolving pistol, a weapon we found very useful. And knowingthat we should be obliged to go over long distances withoutfinding water, we all provided ourselves with tin canteensholding half a gallon: -- these, covered with a piece of blanket,kept wet to cool the water, are a very necessary article.

Numerous stories of Indian massacres and eases of starvation onthe prairies were told to us by our friends, in the hope to deterus from going; and all this was increased by an old Canadianhunter named Antoine, one of our company. He was a genuinespecimen of a Rocky Mountain hunter, and nothing seemed to pleaseAntoine better than to get a knot of us "green-horns" aroundhim, questioning about prairie life, and to give us the mostdiscouraging answers. It was not done from a bad motive, but,seemingly, in a kind and considerate manner; and yet he didevidently delight to paint everything to the inexperienced in theworst possible view. However, Antoine had been a greattraveller, and, so, was privileged.

When we arrived at Fort Leavenworth, we were received into theservice of the United States. We were detained at the fort untilthe end of the month of June, by the non-arrival of our cannon,which were daily expected from Springfield. For some timeprevious and during our stay, every second or third day wouldwitness the departure of long trains of government wagons, which,loaded with provisions, were dispatched with orders to push on asfast as possible to Bent's Fort, a trading post about fivehundred miles on the road, there to await our arrival.


page 23. A COUP D'OEUIL

After numerous delays, on the 30th of June, 1846, we started onour long journey; and not very encouragingly, for we left ourcaptain ill at the fort, and, therefore, went under the commandof the first lieutenant. This cast a shadow on our spirits, asWeightman was a great favorite. The first day's journey wasuninteresting, as we only marched eleven miles, and much of thiswas through the farm attached to the fort. Our whole battery,embracing the pieces of the company commanded by Captain Fisher,consisted of eight long brass six-pounders and two twelve-poundhowitzers; and to each of these, as well as to the caissons, wereharnessed four fine dragoon horses. But many of these had neverfelt harness before, and, at first particularly, gave us muchtrouble; and, on the second day, when we came to and forded abeautiful stream, running through a narrow belt of timber, wefound it almost impossible to get our teams to pull together, andit was, at last, found necessary to dismount the men and havethem drag the cannon up the muddy bank.

From where I stood, on the opposite side, my attention was drawnto one of the prettiest coups d'oeil I ever saw. Below me,plunging and kicking, were the horses attached to the pieces,surrounded by the men, and, on the opposite side, seen throughthe trees and shrubbery, were the rest of our company in theirbright and gay uniforms, grouped around their shining cannon,appearing along the winding path which led down the high steepbank of the stream. The sun was almost totally excludedoverhead, and the warmth of coloring thus given to the scenerendered it truly beautiful.


page 24.

When we emerged from this belt of trees, the first prairies metour view. The grass was as high as the backs of our horses, andgrew so rank as to render it almost impossible to make our waythrough it, except just in the road. We found it sprinkled withflowers which, although neither so beautiful nor so abundantas I had anticipated, gave it a pleasing appearance which we missedin the prairies that we afterwards passed.

Perhaps it is one ofthe most beautiful sights in nature to see a puff of wind sweepover these grassy plains, turning the glistening sides of thegrass to the sun, and seeming to spread a stream of light along the surface of the wave-like expanse. And a sight of theseprairies would often cause Bryant's beautiful lines to rise to mylips, and I would picture to myself the magnificent plainspeopled by the almost extinct red man -- his leaving for a widerhunting ground -- and fancy, with the poet and his murmuring bee-

"The sound of that advancing multitude
Which soon shall fill these deserts.
From the ground
Come up the laugh of children, the soft voice
Of maidens and the sweet solemn hymn
Of Sabbath worshippers."

Here, by a mistake of our guide, we lost the Californiaemigrants' path; but, on crossing a high roll in the prairie, wefound out our mistake, and, after much difficulty, got into theright road again.

About forty miles from the Fort, the Kansas or Kaw river crossesthe road, and, on reaching it, we found a regular ferryestablished by government and managed by two Indians. This is one of the most beautiful rivers I ever beheld; and


page 25.

although but a quarter of a mile across, it is very deep in someplaces, but clear as crystal, sweeping rapidly along between highrocky banks, and, at last, emptying itself into the Missouri, afew miles above Independence.

On its banks, near our camp, in a bark cabin, I saw a beautifuland noble-looking Indian woman -- a beauty of that order which might commandadmiration rather than affection. Her fine black eye shone asshe observed our admiring gaze; but she continued swinging herchild, which, tied to a piece of bark, hung from the roof by athong of deer's hide, without deigning to return our notice ofher. By the side of the cabin, on a freshly-barked tree, weredrawn, with charcoal, several Indian hieroglyphics. The wholescene, cabin, woman and papoose staring at us with its largeeyes, realized one of Cooper's life-like Indian sketches.

We had hitherto been travelling what is known as the militaryroad, and only struck the great Santa Fe road on the fourth ofJuly, at what is called Elm Grove. We now considered ourselves fairly on the great prairies.

How discouraging the first sight of these immense plains is toone who has read the numerous glowing accounts of them! How farshort they fall of these descriptions, none can imagine who havenot seen them! -- only covered with a short poor grass in some parts, and, in others, producing nothing but adry bushy plant or wild sage; they may be travelled over for miles and miles,without your finding bush or tree to obstruct or break the view. In many places it is so perfectly level, that you appear, whenpassing over them, to be travelling in the hollow of a mighty bowl; on all sides,


page 26.

the surface, although flat, appears to swell at the horizon,while you are apparently climbing up the side towards that edgewhich you never approach. But, oh, the breath of the prairies!When the breeze, which always rises at sundown, fans your cheekafter a hot day's ride, you sink quietly to sleep, feeling thatthat soft delicious air is bringing health and strength to yourweary body. How much I felt this can only be known to myself. Oneof my reasons for going on this expedition was, to obtain therestoration of my health, which had been, for some time, verymuch impaired; and when I bade adieu to St. Louis, I hardlyexpected to get across the prairies alive. But I had not been aweek upon them before I felt that my whole being was changed, andere I reached the settlements, I was one of the most robust ofthe whole company.

At the Cotton-wood forks of the Neosho, where we encamped on theninth, we were visited by a tremendous rainstorm, which soonflooded the bottom in which we were encamped. I can hardlyimagine a more woe-begone looking set of men than we were the daywe remained here. All the morning the rain poured down intorrents; not a particle of anything could we cook, but sat,wrapped in our soaking blankets, in our little six feet squaretents, which by no means kept out the rain, but rather sifted itand made it more penetrating, while around each tent we hadthrown up a small embankment, which prevented the entrance of thewater. About noon the sun shone; and we, heroes, might be seen,crawling, one after the other, out of our canvas dwellings. Atnight, we lay down in our wet blankets on the muddy



ground, and, in spite of the exposure, there were no coldscomplained of in the morning. We, of the city, had beenconsiderably sneered at by the country volunteers, who called us"The City Pets," prophesying that the effect of our previousindoor lives would now be seen, but I can affirm that we, who hadpreviously led what would be called by many a delicate life, hadfewer cases of sickness, and less shirking of duty, than occurredamongst those young farmers whose whole lives had been spent inthe open air, and of whom the other companies were formed.

The place we were now at is the same where the trader Chavis wasso brutally murdered in 1848, by a party of land pirates. Hisgrave lies just outside the belt of timber which skirts thestream. I, afterwards, while in Mexico, met with a young son ofChavis, about eleven years old, who had come to our camp to getmedical advice for an uncle. In the course of conversation weasked him, knowing that he had been educated at St. Louis, howhe liked Americans? His little eyes glittered, as he exclaimed, "When I am a man, I shall be a soldier; and then I'll kill everyAmerican I can. They murdered my father, and I'll pay them forit!"*

Captain Weightman arrived the night before we left thisencampment. We passed on the 8th, the Lost Spring, so

* How true to nature is Walter Scott. After writing the above, Icame across the following passage in "The Monastery." "Thetrembling mother, half fearing as he spoke, drew the childrentowards her, one with either hand, while they both answered thestranger. 'I will not go with you,' said Halbert, boldly; 'foryou are a false-hearted southron; and the southrons killed myfather, and I will war on you to the death when I can draw myfather's sword.'"


page 28.

called on account of a remarkable difficulty in finding the exactspot where it rises. As we were moving out of camp in themorning, a light rain, which had been falling for some time, ceased, and the sun shone brightly out. The heat of its rays seemed to engender, from every blade of thewet grass, countless myriads of a small insect, bearing someresemblance to a gnat, which covered us and our horses so thicklythat the original color of whatever they alighted upon could notbe distinguished. Without biting, they got into the nostrils,eyes, and ears, creating a singularly pricking sensation, and making our horsesalmost frantic with pain. After an hour's annoyance, a lightbreeze arose and swept them away.

We arrived at Pawnee Forks on the fifteenth of July; and foundthe stream so high that we were forced to wait until the next day for it to subside.This stream runs very rapidly, between high, steep banks, and anyslight rain on the mountains will make it rise so high in sixhours that the traders are not infrequently detained several daysbefore it falls sufficiently to allow them to pass. Here, Ifirst tasted buffalo meat. Our hunters, who were selected fromthe companies each morning, had been successful in killing threeout of an immense herd which we had seen crossing a roll of theprairies during the day. There must have been three or four thousand in the herd, and, from thedistance, they resembled a shadow east upon the earth from ablack cloud as it passes across the sun. The buffaloes killed consisted of two old tough bulls and anice young cow -- the latter of which, Antoine, our hunter, hadtaken; but, in the general



arrangement of making all buffalo taken form common stock, we hadto run the chance of our meat and only part of one of the oldbulls fell to us, which made Antoine so angry, that he went toGeneral Kearney and told him he would in future hunt for none but his own company; -- as this was not allowed, hehunted no more.

On account of the entire absence of wood here, we had to use the drydung of the buffalo, called by the hunters bois de vache orbuffalo chips, for fuel. There was plenty of it around our camp,and it had one advantage over wood, it requiring no chopping. Itmakes a good and hot fire without flame, but has a strongammoniacal odor, which is imparted to everything cooked by it.

Our buffalo meat, which we simply roasted on the live embers, of coursepartook largely of this flavor, supplying the want of pepper,which our mess was out of. The part most esteemed by hunters isthe small entrails, about a foot in length, and called by thedelectable term, "marrow guts." These, although highly relishedby the old hunters, never looked very inviting to me! To tell thetruth, I was much disappointed in the flavor of buffalo-meat, and would rather havea piece of good beef.

The buffaloes, themselves, have the ammoniacal smell I havementioned. This may, probably, arise from the earth whichadheres to them after rolling in the mud where they stop, as thesoil of the prairies is strongly impregnated with differentsalts. The mud-holes where they roll or wallow, become,sometimes, of very large size, from these living mud-scowscarrying off, one after another, considerable quantities of themoist soil. The hunters call them "buffalo


page 30.

wallows." The rain forms them into ponds, and fish arefrequently found in them -- where do these fish come from?

A volunteer from one of the St. Louis companies was drownedduring our stay at Pawnee Forks. He received a prairie burial;wrapped in his blanket and clothes, he was placed in his grave,and, without any form, it was filled up and covered over withstones, to prevent the wolves from meddling with the body.

We found the Arkansas River, which we struck on the nineteenth ofJuly, very shallow; and this is frequently the case with itstributaries. They are sometimes dry; and then resort is had to digging a well in the bed of the river, in order to get water enough for cooking. It can thus always be found in abundance, by going down two or three feet, and it is always clear and cold.

Although the northern bank of the Arkansas is well covered withgrass, and scattering groves of trees are not unfrequent, yet thesouthern bank consists of nothing but huge sand-hills, entirelydestitute of vegetation. We had been travelling within sight ofthese hills for several days before we came to the river, andcould hardly believe that we did not see large cities on thebanks -- indeed, we could plainly distinguish gilded domes ofchurches and roofs of houses, -- the deception was caused by therays of the sun upon the pointed sand hills.

While on our march along the banks of the river a singularphenomenon occurred. Towards the middle of the day, while nobreeze was stirring, we were met by successive blast of heatedair, so hot as to scorch the skin and make it



exceedingly painful to breathe; and these continued upwards oftwo hours. The sky, at the time, was entirely cloudless; butthese gusts bore no resemblance to an ordinary current of wind,but rather to a blast from a furnace.

Although we had, by this time, arrived at the principal buffalorange, we saw but very few herds. The first sight of one ofthese animals at once shows him to be no easy customer to manage.The little glittering eye shines through the immense mass of longhair which covers the head and neck, giving the creature anexceedingly vicious appearance; while the contrast in size whichis afforded between its hind and fore quarters adds materially toits hideousness, for he appears to be all head and shoulders,tapering off to the very point of the tail.

Their pace, which is called by the hunters loping, is verysingular, being a clumsy sort of gallop, but having thepeculiarity of both fore feet being lifted off the ground at thesame time and then both hind feet the same -- giving the animal themotion of a ship in a heavy sea, first bows up, then stern. However, they manage to leave the ground behind them at a veryrapid rate, and will frequently outrun a good horse. The bestmode of hunting them is on horseback and with pistols. A horsethat has been used to the chase will bring you close enough toalmost touch the side of the buffalo, when you easily kill him bya well-directed shot behind the shoulder blade. At first a horsecannot be induced to approach one of these animals, and willexhibit the utmost terror when brought within scent of them; butafter a few essays he is as fond of the sport as his master. Asmuch depends on the truth of the first shot, a horse


page 32.

must know his business, for, by swerving at a wrong moment, hewill cause the buffalo to receive only an irritating wound, and,in that ease, the character of the chase is changed -- the creatureat once becomes a dangerous assailant, losing immediately all hisprevious fear of man and rushing to the attack with frightfulbellowings.

Large gray wolves abound in all parts of the prairies and inMexico, but particularly about the buffalo range. They aregenerally seen in packs, and will scent fresh meat or blood at agreat distance; and being exceedingly cowardly they never attackman -- and unless driven by hunger will not kill any animal,preferring dead carcasses. It was almost impossible to get anysleep during the night after we had killed any cattle, asthese animals would assemble around our camp and, sitting upontheir haunches, howl in the most mournful manner all night long. Captain Fisher having been obliged to leave a sick horse behindone morning, sent back two men to kill him about an hourafterwards, his feelings for his tried steed making him wish tospare him further suffering. When the two men reached the spotwhere he had been left, a few picked bones, surrounded by a packof snarling wolves, were all they found.

One night, while standing as sentinel on the outer side of ourhorses at the Big-timber on the Arkansas, I observed a man comingrapidly towards me, tossing his arms wildly in the air. Iimmediately levelled my gun at and challenged him; and receivingno answer I was on the point of firing, when it occurred to methat it could not be an enemy, as no Indian would have actedthus, so I cautiously approached



the man, who was now but a few steps off. I discovered it to beone of our own men, only partly dressed, and who had been seizedwith a fit, and was thus rambling unconsciously about. He had atruly narrow escape, as, had I acted strictly by my orders, Ishould have fired. I had hardly got him to his tent and againtaken my post when daylight began to show itself. I was leaningupon my carbine, with my back to a small ravine along the edge ofwhich my post extended and my mind in a quiet reverie, when,suddenly, from behind a bush, not three feet from me, a big graywolf set up his dismal cry unconscious of my presence. It,annoyingly, took me by surprise; -- snatching up a stone, I hurledit after his howling wolfship as he dashed precipitately down theravine. I would have given something to have been allowed toshoot him, but as orders were to shoot nothing of less size thanan Indian, I dared not alarm the camp by a shot.

In one of the country companies, called by us Grass-eaters orDoniphesians, two horses were shot by some frightened sentinelwho had mistaken them for Indian warriors.

We saw but few Indians, and they carefully avoided us. All thosebands that roam over the prairies have a great dread of cannon. This will account for their avoidance of us. They consider andcall artillery thunder and lightning instruments. A band ofthem, a few years ago, attacked a party of traders who, besidestheir rifles, were armed with a small two-pounder cannon, whichwas fired with terrible execution upon their assailants. Thistaught them to respect artillery, and their fear has notsubsided.

One evening, after encamping in a patch of timber, what


page 34.

was, apparently, a huge nest, was observed in the top of a hightree, from which all the lower boughs had been cut. This, onclose examination, proved to be a room constructed of buffalorobes among the branches, inside of which was laid in state thedead body of an Indian chief, while, under and around him werethe finest skins and embroidered dresses, together with his armsand pipes. The air is so pure and dry in these plains thatIndian bodies, thus deposited, do not putrify. On Choteau'sIsland, two of our men found a dead Indian lying on the ground,which, by means of sticks, they made to stalk about the Island tothe surprise and terror of some who were not aware of the motivepower.

We passed by and over several prairie dog towns. One of thesewas very extensive, being three or four miles in circumference,and the ground shook under us as we crossed it, with a hollowsound, as if we were passing over a bridge. Although the name ofdog is applied to these little animals, they bear no possibleresemblance to our dogs, even their cry is most like a bird'schirp. They are much smaller than generally represented, being atrifle less in size than the common rabbit, and far superior tothe latter in flavor. Between the skin and the flesh is a thicklayer of fat which is a celebrated cure for rheumatism whenapplied as an ointment. We used it upon the sores on the backsof our horses occasioned by the chafing of the saddle, and itcured them at once. The old story of the rattlesnake and prairiedog associating together is now exploded, it having been provedthat the former devours the pups of the latter, and that directlya snake takes possession of a hole it is, at once, deserted byits former inhabitant.

It was, by no means, an unusual occurrence for us, after a heavydew, to kill, in the morning, within a quarter of a mile of camp,more than twenty rattlesnakes, which, having come out to imbibethe dew, had become benumbed by the cool night air and, so, werean easy prey. Our Major awoke one morning with one of thesereptiles coiled up against his leg, it having nestled there forwarmth. He dared not stir until a servant came and removed theintruder. I had now as opportunity of testing the truth of whatI had heard, but never before believed: in the month of Augustonly, these snakes are doubly venomous, but totally blind. Anold hunter will tell you that the poison then is so virulent asto deprive the reptile of sight.

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