NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library


To-day antelope were seen running over the hills, and at evening ['Kit'] Carson brought us a fine deer."
     "June 22.--Our midday halt was at Wyeth's Creek, in the bed of which were numerous boulders of dark, ferruginous sandstone, mingled with others of the red sandstone already mentioned, and at the close of the day we made our bivouac in the midst of some well-timbered ravines near the Little Blue, twenty-four miles from our camp of the preceding night. Crossing the next morning a number of handsome creeks, with clear water and sandy beds, we reached, at 10 A. M., a very beautiful wooded stream, about thirty-five feet wide, called Sandy Creek, and sometimes (as the Otoes are frequently there) the Otoe Fork. The country has become very sandy, and the plants less varied and abundant, with the exception of the amorpha, which rivals the grass in quantity, though not so forward as it has been to the eastward.
     "At the Big Trees, where we had intended to noon, no water was found. The bed of the little creek was perfectly dry, and, on the adjacent sandy bottom, cacti, for the first time, made their appearance. We made here a short delay in search of water, and, after a hard day's march of twenty-eight miles, encamped, at 5 o'clock, on the Little Blue, where our arrival made a scene of the Arabian Desert. As fast as they arrived, men and horses rushed into the stream, where they bathed and drank together in common enjoyment. We were now in the range of the Pawnees who were accustomed to infest this part of tie country, stealing horses from companies on their way to the mountains, and, when in sufficient force, openly attacking and plundering them, and subjecting them to various kinds of insult. For the first time, therefore, guard was mounted tonight. Our route the next morning lay up the valley, which, bordered by hills with graceful slopes, looked uncommonly green and beautiful. The stream was about fifty feet wide and three or four deep, fringed by cottonwood and willow, with frequent groves of oak, tenanted by flocks of turkeys. Game here, too, made its appearance in greater plenty. Elk were frequently seen on the hills, and now and then an antelope bounded across our path, or a deer broke from the groves. The road in the afternoon was over the upper prairies, several miles from the river, and we encamped at sunset on one of its small tributaries. where an abundance of prele (equisetum) afforded fine forage to our tired animals. We had traveled thirty-one miles. A heavy bank of black clouds in the west came on us in a storm between 9 and 10, preceded by a violent wind. The rain fell in such torrents shat (sic) it was difficult to breathe facing the wind; the thunder rolled incessantly, and the whole sky was tremulous with lightning, now and then illuminated by a blinding flash, succeeded by pitchy darkness. Carson had the watch from 10 to midnight, and to him had been assigned our young compaquons de voyage, Messrs. Brant and R. Benton. This was their first night on guard, and such an introduction did not augur very auspiciously of the pleasures of the expedition.
     "The next morning, we had a specimen of the false alarms to which all parties in these wild regions are subject. Proceeding up the valley, objects were seen on the opposite hills which disappeared before a glass could be brought to bear on them. A man who was a short distance in the rear came spurring up in great haste, shouting, "Indians! Indians!" He had been near enough to count them, according to his report, and had made out twenty-seven. I immediately halted; arms were examined and put in order, the usual preparations made, and Kit Carson, springing upon one of the hunting horses, crossed the river and galloped off into the opposite prairies to obtain some intelligence of their movements. Mounted on a fine horse, without a saddle, and scouring, bareheaded, over the prairies, Kit was one of the finest pictures of a horseman I have ever seen. A short time enabled him to discover that the Indian war party of twenty-seven consisted of six elk, who had been gazing curiosly (sic) at our caravan as it passed by, and were now scampering off at full speed. This was our first alarm, and its excitement broke agreeably on the monotony of the day. At our noon halt, the men were exercised at a target; and in the evening we pitched out tents at a Pawnee encampment of last July. They had apparently killed buffalo here, as many bones were lying about, and the frames where the hides had been stretched were yet standing.
      "Our march to-day had been twenty-one miles, and the astronomical observations gave us a chronometric longitude of 98 degrees, 22 minutes, 12 seconds, and latitude 40 degrees, 26 minutes, 50 seconds. We were moving forward at seven in the morning, and in about five miles reached the fork of the Blue, where the road leaves the river and crosses over to the Platte. No water was to be found on the dividing ridge, and the casks were filled and the animals here allowed a short repose. The road led across a high and level prairie ridge, where were but few plants, and those principally thistle and a kind of a dwarf artemisia. Antelope were seen frequently during the morning, which was very stormy. Squalls of rain, with thunder and lightning, were around us in every direction: and while we were enveloped in one of them, a flash, which seemed to scorch our eyes as it passed, struck in the prairie within a few hundred feet, sending up a column of dust.
     "Crossing on the way several Pawnee roads to the Arkansas, we reached, in about twenty-one miles from our halt on the Blue, what is called the coast of the Nebraska or Platte River. This had seemed, in the distance, a range of high and broken hills; but, on a nearer approach, was found to be elevations of forty to sixty feet, into which the wind had worked the sand. They were covered with the usual fine grasses of the country, and bordered the eastern side of the ridge on a breadth of about two miles. Change of country and soil appeared here to have produced some change in the


vegetation. Cacti were numerous, and all the plants of the region appeared to flourish among the warm hills. The amorpha, in full bloom, was remarkable for its large and luxuriant purple clusters. From the foot of the coast, a distance of two miles across the level bottom brought us to our encampment on the shore of the river, about twenty miles below the head of Grand Island, which lay extended before us, covered with dense and heavy woods,
      "June 27.--The animals were somewhat fatigued by their march of yesterday, and, after a short journey of eighteen miles along the river bottom, I encamped near the head of Grand Island, in longitude, by observation, 99 degrees, 5 minutes, 24 seconds; latitude 40 degrees, 39 minutes, 32 seconds. The soil here was light but rich, though in some places rather sandy; and, with the exception of a scattered fringe along the bank, the timber, consisting principally of poplar, elm, and hackberry, is confined almost entirely to the islands.
     "June 28.--We halted to noon at an open reach of the river, which occupies rather more than a fourth of the valley, here only about four miles broad. The camp had been disposed with the usual precaution, the horses grazing at a little distance, attended by the guard, and we were all sitting quietly at our dinner on the grass, when suddenly we heard the startling cry, 'du monde!' In an instant, every man's weapon was in his hand, the horses were driven in, hobbled and picketed, and horsemen were galloping at full speed in the direction of the new comers, screaming and yelling with the wildest excitement. 'Get ready, my lads!' said the leader of the approaching party to his


men, when our wild looking horsemen were discovered bearing down upon them; 'nous allons attraper des corps de dagnettes.' They proved to be a small party of fourteen, under the charge of a man named John Lee, and, with, their baggage and provisions strapped to their' backs, were making their way on foot to the frontier. A brief account of their fortunes will give some idea of navigation in the Nebraska [Platte] :
     "Sixty days since, they had left the mouth of Laramie's Fork, some three hundred miles above, in barges laden with furs of the American Fur Company. They started with the annual flood, and, drawing but nine inches of water, hoped to make a prosperous a speedy voyage to St. Louis, but, after a lapse of forty days, found themselves only a 130 miles from their point of departure. They came down rapidly as far as Scott's Bluffs, where their difficulties began. Sometimes they came upon places where the water was spread over a. great extent, and here they toiled from morning until night, endeavoring to drag their boat. through the sands, making only two or three miles in as many days. Sometimes they would enter the arm of the river, where there appeared a fine channel, and, after descending prosperously eight or ten miles, would come suddenly upon dry sands, and be compelled to return, dragging their boat for days against, the rapid current, and at others they came' upon places where the water lay in holes, and, getting out to flood off their boat, would fall into water up to their necks, and the next moment tumble over against a sand bar. Discouraged at length, and finding the Platte

 Prior page
General index
Next page

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller