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June

This webpage reproduces a section of
Uncle Sam's Camels

by
Lewis Burt Lesley


Harvard University Press,
Cambridge [Mass.], 1929
As republished by The Rio Grande Press, Inc.
Glorieta, NM 1970

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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August
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p49  The Journal of May Humphreys Stacey, supplemented by selections from the Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale

(continued: July 1857)

July 1. Wednesday. We took our departure from Fort Clark this morning at an early hour. Here we can consider ourselves fairly in the Indian Country, dependent upon ourselves alone for protection from the unrelenting hands of merciless savages. We were joined by Captain Leea of the U. S. A. who was returning to his post, Fort Davis, from a visit to San Antonio. He has in his train three heavy wagons and a light ambulance in which is carried his wife and child. His escort amounts to fifteen men. These numbered, with our party, fifty-five, a force entirely too formidable for Indians to attack unless they had great advantage. We encamped on the Piedras Puitados,b a most beautiful stream, but at present very low. Indeed, all the streams that we have passed have shown a great want of water. Men of our party who have traveled the road frequently, state that they have never seen the water so very low as at present.

July 2. Thursday. Nothing has occurred today of any importance. We have been speaking of home and how all our dear friends at home intend spending the "glorious Fourth." We wish that we could step home, and sit down to the board surrounded as usual by friends and family, and enjoy once more the good dinners prepared by our good mother and aunty. Captain Lee received a dispatch tonight saying that an Indian fight had taken place, and that four men had been killed. The Indians, as usual, were in the majority largely. Our camp was visited by a courier this evening who asked leave to remain with us throughout the night. He stated that he had come from California via El Paso, and having come through with the mail, the rapid rate at which the latter went wore down his animal, and  p50 he was compelled to remain behind, while the mail came on. Of course, we permitted him to remain.1

July 3. Friday. We geared up and made an early start this morning for the purpose of reaching Devil's River early in the morning. At about eight we stopped at the river and crossed to the opposite shore where we encamped.2 The scenery round the ford of this river is certainly the wildest we have seen in Texas, and it would be an apt place for an Indian ambuscade. Large mountains are on each side of the river, and the road on either side winds among them, affording splendid opportunities for an enemy to attack to advantage. We remained in camp until five when we started on our first evening journey towards the second ford, distant thirty-five miles with no water between. We continued marching until after ten when we stopped, all hands being sleepy and tired.

July 4. This day was not ushered in by the resounding of firearms and the shouts of apprentices, glad that a holiday had arrived once more on which they were expected to do pretty much as they pleased; but in the silence of the prairie with no sound disturbing the quiet, save the tramp of our sentinels, and the moaning of the  p51 breeze as it swept past, the Fourth of July dawned upon us. Our weary band were too glad to prolong their slumbers, to make any motion. At last the guard, finding the hour for arousing the camp rapidly slipping away, gave orders to wake the bugler. Soon the glorious old National Anthem "Hail, Columbia" awoke, probably, for the first time, the echo of the wilderness. Then followed the "Star Spangled Banner"; next "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," swelled on the air. None of the airs seemed to touch a chord in the heart of the slumberers, for they slept on, regardless of everything but the call of Nature. But one by one they commenced waking up, folding their blankets as they rose, and soon all were busy, harnessing up for an early start, to complete the twenty‑two miles remaining of the thirty-five. After daybreak we got underway, without breakfast, in the midst of a heavy rain. We traveled steadily but slowly for five hours; it was still raining very hard, and with everybody who was exposed, wet as water could make him, when we arrived in The Dead Man's Pass. This received its name from a melancholy incident which happened about five years ago. I have it from our wagon master who is well posted in regard to the whole road. A party of Californians returning to Texas by this, the lower route, got to quarrelling among themselves, and it ended in a separation fatal to the party which had the imprudence to make the first start. Five of them started for San Antonio in a six horse team. While coming down through the Pass three of them were lying asleep in the wagon, the fourth was driving, and the fifth was walking ahead with his rifle. The Indians surprised them, shot the first three in the wagon, shot down the other two, cut them to pieces,  p52 and took their animals. The next day, a man found the mutilated remains, and gave the alarm. The people at the upper ford turned out and buried the sad remains of a "quarrel among friends." A pile of stones marks the spot where they repose in the deep solitude of the mountains with no friend to look upon their tomb. It has been very hot and disagreeable all day until about four o'clock, when it slackened up. We, however, were all wet, and when riding suffered considerably from the cold.3 We are encamped in a very insecure spot. We are surrounded on all sides by large mountains rising perpendicularly over us. An enemy with any resolution could readily destroy the whole party, but we are obliged to remain, because in coming through the Pass the leading wagon broke its tongue short off, the road being so very bad. Another team in attempting to pass on the outside, bogged the two foremost mules, proving conclusively that we were for the present badly "stuck."

July 5. Sunday. Broke ground at twenty minutes of five, and started for the second crossing of the Devil's River. After traveling for about two hours, we had a repetition of yesterday's rain, only on a smaller scale. However, we had made rather better arrangements for the shower, and I for one rode into camp at the second ford, a distance  p53 of over ten miles, entirely dry. It seems strange to do just the same on one day as another. If we had not kept a reckoning the Sabbath would be the same as any other day. The birds do not have any church, neither do the deer, nor does even Nature give any sign, that this day is more holy than any other. It is only in the settlement, where you find that man pays his devotion to that Being who rules the destinies of all. In the afternoon we commenced crossing the river, and forded it upwards of ten times in going a distance of eleven miles. The road lay in the valley of the river and was very rough. This valley presents a singular appearance. It is about a half a mile wide, and the hills are divided by canyons into cone-shaped elevations, of very similar formation and height. We traveled today, notwithstanding the heaviness of the road, a distance of twenty‑one miles and three-quarters.4

July 6. Monday. We got out at last of the Valley of the Devil's River today, much to the satisfaction of every one of the party. When we entered Dead Man's Pass, a gloom seemed to settle on every one, and it was not to be wondered at. The day was cold and rainy, and the road heavy, and just at the entrance to the Pass we saw the graves of men who had been murdered by the Indians, and  p54 how did any of us know, but that the same fate awaited us? It would have been the easiest thing in the world for a concealed foe to exterminate every mounted man in the party with comparative impunity. We got clear of the place for good at about sunset, and rode forward into a beautiful prairie which stretched away as far as the eye could reach, in all the loveliness of a splendid garden, teeming with green grass and sweet flowers. The day had been a hard one on animals and men, especially the former. They were continually passing down one hill and up another over a very miserable road. Of course, they could not make very good time, and the time spent by the men in the saddle had tired them very much. The rain has benefited us very much. It gave us water in places where we should have been obliged to go without. It also freshened the grass up. We made twenty-three miles. It kept us until eight in the evening to accomplish the distance, however.

July 7. Tuesday. We made an early start this morning, and drove eleven miles, when we reached a water hole and fine grass. The water had been caught in a hollow of the rocks, and was there to refresh the weary and thirsty travelers. The animals were all turned out to seek the food they needed. It was impossible for us to remain as long as we wished, because the nearest water that we knew anything about was Howard's Spring, distant twenty miles, a good long drive for an afternoon. So we started at eleven — or, rather, the train of wagons started, but I, accompanied by Messrs. Porter and Bell, remainº behind to go with the camels. One of their men being sick and they not having sufficient force (they supposed) to travel through the very dangerous valley in which Howard's Spring is situated.  p55 There have been many murders, and trains have been frequently attacked. The camels being very hungry and the grass good, Mr. Beale ordered them to remain in the camp for an hour after the train left. The order was obeyed to the letter, and we started an hour after the rest had departed. The camels walked up better than they commonly do, and we got along quite well. In the afternoon Mr. Alexander got a shot at a deer, but missed. We could see the deer bound up the hill, like a black streak after the shot. We overtook our train encamped about fourteen miles from the last camp, in one of the most exquisite valleys that I ever beheld. Here they found a water hole made by indentations in the rocks, and concluded to remain all night. Total distance traveled this day twenty-five miles.5

July 8. Wednesday. We made a good start this morning and reached Howard's Spring at eight o'clock and got breakfast. This Spring is a bad place for Indians. It is the only water near, and they know that all large trains must stop for water, and again this is the Pass that they choose to connect with Eastern and Western Texas. Five months ago a bloody scene was here enacted. The mail party consisting of seven men was attacked and four out of the seven killed. They were coming through the valley towards the Spring, when the Indians rushed out upon them, on both sides of the road. The three men that were mounted alone  p56 escaped. The party was commanded by a Sergeant in the Army, and the whole party was composed of brave men. When they were attacked they commenced firing their revolvers and rifles, and did good execution. Presently the Sergeant and the other men were wounded. The mounted men picked him up and dashed ahead. They had not gone far before he was struck by another shot, and mortally wounded. He fell off his horse and when they attempted to put him back he besought them to leave him. They remounted and the last they saw of him alive was, he was sitting up with his revolver in his hand, waiting the approach of the Indians. Soon they heard two shots fired and then an expressive silence told them of the death of another brave man. Next day when they returned, accompanied by troops from Fort Lancaster, they found the bodies of the three drivers horribly mutilated and scalped. Not so with the Sergeant; the Indians had bound wreaths round his wrists and ankles, cut out his heart and laid it on his breast and placed a beautiful wreath around it. It was a barbarous tribute of admiration for true courage. Continuing our journey this afternoon, we passed over some rough places, but afterwards struck a beautiful natural road, which resembled more the well finished track of a race course than a pathway in the wilderness. Day's travel 26½ miles.6

 p57  July 9. Thursday. We made today Live Oak Creek, the only water between Howard's Spring and Fort Lancaster.7 We encamped within two miles of the fort, on excellent grass and plenty of water.8 This afternoon a very melancholy fact was communicated to us. Captain Lee, the officer second in command at Fort Davis, who had traveled with us from Fort Clark where we met him, had the misfortune to lose his little son fifteen months old. The poor little fellow has been very unwell for several days and gradually growing worse each day, notwithstanding our efforts to relieve him. The Captain had hardly reached the post before the mournful event occurred. We were all very sorry, and sympathized deeply with the Captain and his poor wife. For her our sympathy was particularly lively. There she was in the wilderness, or at a frontier post, with only two or three of her own sex, and they entire strangers. They could not feel and appreciate a mother's grief, like one who had an acquaintance with Mrs. Lee before.

July 10. Friday. We all received (the officers) an invitation  p58 to attend the funeral of Captain Lee's child. We rigged ourselves out in the best clothes we had, got underway from camp about ten and drove up to the post and alighted. We were introduced to the officers who appeared to be very clever young men. They are pretty gay and as usual drink their grog without winking. Our camels attracted much attention, the whole garrison turning out to see them. Captain Carpenter after being invited to try one, by Mr. Beale, mounted and took a short ride. He expressed himself much delighted at the gait and said that after one became used to the motion, he would prefer the camel to a mule. At two o'clock we attended the funeral, and after the ceremony Captain Carpenter invited us to take a bite with him. We availed ourselves of the invitation with an alacrity that was very amusing even to ourselves. The dinner consisted of ham and eggs, elegant rolls and butter, and claret, and I can say that I never tasted better in my life. The dessert took down anything of the kind that I have ever tasted. Peaches preserved, with cream, and fruit cake. To us who have been living on salt junk and hard biscuit it was a treat that we will always remember with lively feelings of pleasure. The Captain's wife was one of the cleverest little women that we have seen in Texas. After dinner we started after our wagons which had gone on to cross the Pecos. We overtook them just as they had crossed the stream which is narrow and deep. Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope9 in his report to the Secretary of War says it is navigable  p59 for steamboats for a great distance. The worthy Officer of Engineers made a slight mistake, because the stream, though deep enough to float a Mississippi steamer, has scarcely breadth for a man to row a large skiff. The Pecos takes its rise somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and empties into the Rio Grande after running a distance of eight hundred miles. It has few tributaries and most of them are waters impregnated with substances which give the Pecos a bad taste. At this point the water is very muddy, much thicker than the Mississippi, and so brackish that the mules will hardly drink it. We are so situated at present, however, that if they do not drink this water they will be obliged to go without. The officers of Fort Lancaster paid us a visit this evening, and took a smoke with those of the party who indulge in the luxury. They returned at ten after wishing us all kinds of good luck. Day's travel 12 miles.10

July 11. Saturday. Our road has been of the finest description. No one could wish to travel over a smoother and finer trak. It lies between two ranges of mountains, which form the valley through which the Pecos flows at the rate of eight miles an hour. They present all kinds of appearances. Just at sunset this evening, after the sun had sunk beneath the mountain, two formations were brought out in bold relief on the light background. One resembled a fort and the other an altar. As we rode towards it, we  p60 could almost see the flag descending and hear the rapid roll of the drum beating the retreat from evening drill. We are now about four hundred and ninety miles from Indianola, and we expect to be in El Paso in sixteen days. If we meet with no accident and continue to travel as rapidly as we have been doing, we will make it in less time. Today's travel 23 miles.11

July 12. Sunday. We spent our Sunday in "rolling" as Mr. Davis calls it. Ham and I as we rode along together amused ourselves in indulging in speculations as to how our friends were employed. We in imagination could see the girls getting ready to attend church in the morning. After service away they would go home to take their dinner. At about two, when everything would be boiling with the heat, they would retire and take their afternoon sleep, a luxury that we wished several times today that we might indulge in. Day's travel 26½ miles.12

 p61  July 13. Monday. Our friend Bell must have been very sleepy last night, because long before three the bugle awakened us from our profound slumbers. We have no watch, the camp watch being broken, and those who have private watches are too mean to let the officers of the watch look at the time. In consequence we often make mistakes. Sometimes a fellow gets waked up about an hour or half an hour, before his time. Well he, as a matter of course, never grumbles in the least. It happened that Bell, very fortunately, just hit the thing off exactly, as we had a long and tedious drive before us. The teams got started, and we went ten miles to breakfast, then rested until after twelve, when we went ahead again, and drove over twenty miles before sundown, making a drive of over thirty miles. Some of the animals exhibited considerable fatigue. The camels did not arrive until half an hour after the wagons had camped. Distance 30 miles and ¼.

July 14. Tuesday. Last evening we encamped on Comanche Creek,13 the great thoroughfare of the Comanche Indians, through which that tribe pass in their thieving expeditions into Mexico. Yesterday afternoon the trail of a large carear14 was discovered heading across the road in a northerly direction, and some of our party ahead in the light ambulance saw a solitary Indian, mounted, riding across the prairie. We made an excellent start this morning, and reached Leon Spring where we got breakfast. There is something very singular in regard to this spring.  p62 It empties into an immense hole, whose depth it was said had never been ascertained. Mr. Thorburn, assisted by several of the party, measured it, and discovered it to be, in the middle, twenty-four feet. The ground surrounding the water is extremely boggy making the approach to it by animals rather dangerous. Several of our officers bogged their animals by coming up on the wrong side. We saw plenty of deer and antelope in the immediate vicinity of the spring, but so wild that it was not possible to get within gunshot. The waters of this spring have a saline inky taste. The latter is given to it by the presence of iron. This afternoon we again got underway at about three and made camp, a dry one, at nine, having made a distance of eighteen miles. Total distance today 29 miles.

July 15. Wednesday. Very early this morning (at or before one) the whole camp was thrown into commotion by the stampede of our mules. All was perfectly still, when all of a sudden, the animals dashed off at full speed into the prairie and in the midst of the tumult and confusion two shots were fired. Everybody was roused up from sleep with the greatest rapidity, and each man snatched up his gun, expecting a charge of Indians every moment. I was among the first awakened and jumped into my boots and ran up to Mr. Beale's bed with my double barrel in my hand ready for anything. Mr. Beale sang out, "Let every man that can get a mule mount and follow the carear." I instantly seized one and put on my saddle and bridle, and was one of the first to leave camp with Mr. Beale. After going for about a mile we caught up with our animals and surrounded them. With the aid of the guard, who had pursued with all haste, we stopped all and turned them  p63 back toward the camp, where we were fortunate enough to get them after some difficulty. When we came to count our stock, we discovered the loss of two splendid grey trotting horses that Mr. Beale brought from Chester, and two bay horses with a very fine pony. We could do nothing toward recovering them at night, and after making preparations for an early start in the morning, all hands again sought their couches, and were soon lost in profound slumber. Before going to bed I was informed that I would be of the party who were to be detached from the main body, to go in pursuit of the lost horses. We got some biscuit, dried beef and water all ready, and went to bed. At three o'clock we were ordered to get ready and start the minute we could see the trail. We accordingly started and just as the sun rose, we made out some animals distant about five miles. We pushed on, and we were soon convinced that the animals were not far distant. As soon as they saw us they started and ran a mile very swiftly. One of our Mexicans was ordered to make a detour to the left and head them off. This he did in the course of an hour and caught the wildest one with his lasso. We drove them into camp safely. But it is indeed evident to the meanest understanding, that if Indians had really been there, they would have stolen every mule loose last night.

July 16. Thursday. We made within three miles of Fort Davis this afternoon and encamped. Our passage today has been through a most wild and romantic region called Wild Rose Pass. The views have been of a very superior character.15 Nothing of importance has occurred today. Captain Lee went on into the garrison.

 p64  Friday. We, this morning, did not get up so early as usual, Mr. Beale having given orders to let the men sleep late. About five all hands were called, and we got breakfast, geared up, and went within a half mile of the Fort. We will be detained until tomorrow afternoon awaiting some repairs upon our two "Francis Metallic Life Wagons." They are broken down, and we cannot proceed further without having them done up. In making the trip over I caught a young prairie dog. It was a beautiful little thing and resembled very much a ground squirrel. Mr. Davis and other western men told me it was one of the rarest things in the world to catch them. I gave mine to a soldier knowing that I could not hope to take it safely home.

July 18. Saturday. This morning I observed some of our young gentlemen coming into camp with a gait that denoted a slight indulgence in alcoholic stimulants. Subsequently I was informed that the whole party who were in the Fort after dark got very funny. It was highly amusing to see them popping their heads up when the bugle sounded. Distance traveled 26 miles.

July 19. Sunday. Water scarce and grass plenty. Turned loose the animals at Dead Man's Hole, a beautiful  p65 spring.16 It lies right in a gorge of the mountain and extending out from it is one of the most beautiful prairies that a man would wish to see. Mr. Davis says that it is one of the best places for a stock ranch that he knows, and were it not for the Indians it is probable that it would have been occupied long before this. The country has been very mountainous, but the road lying between the valleys is the best natural one I ever saw, and I never wish to ride over a better, or one more suited to make speed upon, than this. I struck out ahead this morning, and in company with Tucker our blacksmith and Alexander (the man who superintends the loading and unloading of the camels),c went forward to see if it were not possible to kill an antelope, among some live oak trees, which we passed through. After several fruitless endeavors, we settled down to a walk, and then for two hours I was compelled to listen to the complaints of these men. One said that he had not had bean soup three times since he had been on the expedition, and he had not had any rice at all. He had not tasted coffee fit to drink, and swore that it was enough to kill any man. The other said that eating so much fat pork without any vegetables would give us the scurvy sure, or "shore," as he pronounced it. All this was interlarded with oaths that would make your hair stand on end to hear. I never did, in such a short space of time, hear so many varieties of swearing. I listened, and when they had finished I very coolly told them that Mr. Beale was the man to hear their complaints, and he was the one that would give them full satisfaction, adding at the same time that they could draw the same rations that everybody else got if they chose. If  p66 they did not they could not complain of anyone but themselves. Distance, twenty-five miles.17

July 20. Monday. Today we are just two months from Cincinnati and, strange to say, that it rained there as well as here, although the rain today could not compare in copiousness with that of the 20th of May. Since we left Cincinnati, we have been making our way gradually towards California, where we will arrive, if we have success and travel as we have been traveling since leaving San Antonio. Today nothing has occurred of any consequence, so therefore I will close my mention by giving the distance that we made today which was 24 miles and a half.

July 21. Tuesday. Nothing today worthy of mention.

July 22. Wednesday. We reached Eagle Spring to breakfast. This place is considered the worst place on the road between San Antonio and El Paso.18 Many animals have been stolen, and several unfortunate individuals have lost their lives at this point. It is one of the best places for a stampede that anyone could wish to see. The spring lies up a canyon about five hundred yards, and on each side of the main canyon are many smaller gullies, where a foe  p67 could lie concealed without danger of discovery until the time came for them to show themselves, and then they could readily run a carear off, choosing their own positions to repel pursuers. Our men walked about among all the canyons and not even the track of an Indian was visible, but I am confident that some red devil was observing all our movements from a neighboring elevation. We made a late drive, going a distance of twenty miles. Total distance 29½ miles.

July 23. Thursday. Made the Rio Grande today about half after nine and encamped about a mile from the place where the river is first made. I was much disappointed in finding the stream so small in the first place (being only about a hundred yards wide) and so muddy in the second. The water is very sweet, and if filtered it would be equal to the waters of the Mississippi when filtered. It was a great relief to the eye, after passing through a dreary canyon, three miles long, without a tree, to come right out in view of the river, the bank lined with cottonwood of all sizes.

July 24. Friday. Mr. Beale with Bell left this afternoon for San Alesario,19 distant sixty miles from the place where they left us on the river. I have not learned what the object was in pushing on.20

July 25. Saturday. We reached a camping place on the Rio Grande, about a mile and a half from a Mexican town. The inhabitants came over the river, which is about four feet deep at the fording place, in crowds to see the camels. They came in all costumes, on all kinds of animals, and  p68 other conveyances, and in every variety of shape and size. As a whole, they were decidedly the meanest set of human beings that I ever had the misfortune of seeing.

July 26. Sunday. We reached San Elizario this morning early. We were met on the road by plenty of Greasers, anxious to get a sight of the great wonder, the camel. The wagon train came right through but Mr. Beale detained the camels for the purpose of allowing everyone to see what is to him a great curiosity. We camped five miles from town and got breakfast and about two we started and made a distance of 14 miles. El Paso, or rather Fort Bliss, is six miles from us. We procure supplies at this post to last until we reach Fort Fillmore. The weather has been for the past two or three days very good for traveling. It has been cloudy with rain occasionally. The valley of the Rio Grande, between Fort Bliss and the place where we first struck it on the San Antonio road, is superior to any that I have ever seen. The soil is naturally rich and it is further improved by the extensive irrigation which is carried on. Nearly any vegetable that can be cultivated elsewhere will bring forth abundantly here.

July 27. Monday. Fort Bliss is an open post built of adobe. This material makes a very comfortable dwelling as long as you keep the water out, but the moment it begins to leak your mansion is in danger. The country between San Elizario and Fort Bliss is very thickly settled; a continuous village, as it were, which only needs a Yankee hand to make them present a neat and beautiful appearance, but the country is so rich and yields so abundantly, that a lazy people naturally enough pay very little attention to what we call the decencies of life. We did not remain  p69 at Fort Bliss, but continued on our way eight miles further, where we camped. A serious difficulty nearly took place between our wagon master and the Captain of El Paso mail, by the name of Snyder, who visited us for the alleged purpose of recovering a mule in our carear with his brand upon it. He might have got it, but he went to putting on airs. Mr. Davis informed him that he could not get the mule unless Mr. Beale was in camp himself and chose to give it up. They had a good many words about the matter, and finally the Mail Agent went off in a great rage, threatening to put the sheriff on the train.

July 28. Tuesday. Nothing today worthy of mention.21

July 29. Wednesday. We reached Fort Fillmore22 this morning after a heavy drag through the sand. This place is like all the forts we have seen, nothing but an open post, and totally unfitted to resist an Indian attack. Timber in this region for building purposes is so scarce that they cannot throw up even an ordinary stockade. The wagons were detained a short time at the fort taking in corn. Afterwards we again started and camped one mile from Las Cruces. They, at the Fort, gave us very alarming accounts of the Apache and Navajo Indians. They have been committing great depredations, and recently whipped a Lieutenant with sixty men, and drove them into Fort Defiance. Our route lies right through the country of both these savage Indian tribes, and it is likely that we will have a brush with them. If they come in any great superiority of numbers  p70 we will have most likely a hard time, because we have at this time only about twenty-five men out of forty that are reliable. It is said that the Navajoes can turn out into the field at least two thousand warriors well armed and equipped. This expedition, which was at the start a very safe journey, has become one of the most dangerous upon which a man can be engaged. Since leaving home the whole aspect of Indian affairs has changed. All the accounts which came from the frontier bespoke a pleasant and safe journey. Now the case is widely different. For myself I have no desire to return. I came on this expedition prepared for the worst, and if it comes I shall not be disappointed; although very sorry that we cannot get along peaceably and quietly.

July 30. Thursday. Today we have passed through several New Mexican towns, all built of adobe, and all very mean looking dwellings. The inhabitants were no better than the habitations. I never saw a more squalid, ignorant and uglier set of people in my life before, and I hope I will never see such a set again. This afternoon we drank our last cupful of Rio Grande water for some time and struck out on what is called the "Jornada del Muerto," a journey of eighty-five miles or more without water.23 Shortly after getting underway a very severe shower came up, making the sand road extending from the river a distance of eight miles, very heavy dragging. We turned out about nine at night and I got under a wagon for protection against the storm. During the night the water somehow or other got under me, and I got slightly wet, but nothing to complain of.24

 p71  July 31. Friday. Called camp at the usual time, three o'clock. Owing to the neglect of the cook in not getting a supply of wood, we could not get any coffee this morning, although all hands needed it more than at other times. We had nothing to eat from about two yesterday until twelve today, giving us considerable of an appetite for breakfast. We very unexpectedly found a supply of water about twelve miles from the last camp. It was rain water caught in holes. This will enable us to cross this dry place without serious injury to the animals. It rained this evening again. It is nothing more than we can expect at this season, because it is about the time that the rainy season sets in. Just at dusk we struck an Indian trail heading straight across the road. I think that there must have been about ten in the party. We camped at eight and got some supper consisting of hard bread, coffee and bacon.


The Editor's Notes:

1 Camp was made at a water hole of the San Felipe Creek. Distance made that day twenty-four miles. "The camels are doing better today, and arrived shortly after wagons," records Beale. "I am very much encouraged to see how eagerly they seek the bushes for food instead of grass, which certainly indicates their ability to subsist much easier than horses and mules in countries where forage is scarce."

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2 "As our line of wagons ascended the hill the camels appeared on the further side, winding down the steep road, and made a picture well worthy the pen of a great artist. The steep, grey rocks, the beautiful green bottom, or meadow, the clear sparkling stream, the loose animals, the wagons and teams, and then old Mahomet, with the long line of his grave and patient followers, winding cautiously, picking step by step their way down the road on the opposite side, was a very interesting and beautiful scene." Beale Report, 18.

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3 Beale's account of the day is also graphic. "Blankets were rolled up and thrust into the wagons, and the men cursing their mules with unusual vigor, as if they were the cause of our discomfort. . . . All day long it rained and a cold relentless torrent, accompanied with gusts of wind which drove the chilled water through everything. Clothing and blankets offered no protection, and the party was soon thoroughly drenched. No emotions of patriotism availed to warm one against such a storm. The men sat shivering in dogged silence on their mules, which shivered and humped themselves in return. It was a terrible fourth of July, and the recollection of the jolly times our fellow-countrymen were enjoying at home made our toilsome and miserable day all the more so." Beale Report, 18. The camels apparently stood the storm as well as did the mules.

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4 Beale, recording the events of this day, says: "This morning we found at our camp, for the first time, a shrub, of which we are to see a great deal between this and the end of our journey, and in many places shall find no other wood. It is known as greasewood, and I was delighted to see the camels eagerly seek it, and eat it with the greatest apparent relish. It is certainly very gratifying to find these animals eating, by their own preference, the coarse and bitter herbs, hitherto of no value, which abound always in the most sterile and desolate parts of every road, so far as discovered, which traverse the broad extent of wilderness between the eastern States and our Pacific possessions." Beale Report, 19. Camp at Pecan Spring, on Devil's River.

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5 Beale was passed in the morning by the monthly El Paso Mail and found that he was the recipient of a large box sent on to him by some friends. The mailing charge on the box (two feet square) was twenty dollars. Commenting on this charge Beale writes: "The dangers of this road, however, justified any price for such matters. Scarcely a mile of it but has its story of Indian murder and plunder; in fact, from El Paso to San Antonio is but one long battle ground — a surprise here, robbery of animals there." Beale Report, 20. Encamped eleven miles south of Howard's Spring, Crockett County.

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6 Speaking of the camels at this point Beale shows in his Report that one great trouble was that no one know how to pack them. Many of the camels had sore backs, although the healing was more rapid than in other animals. "The more I see of them the more interested in them I become, and the more convinced of their usefulness. Their perfect docility and patience under difficulties renders them invaluable, and my only regret at present is that I have not double the number."

Beale interjects a brief commentary on the Indians which is amusing. "This evening many of our party have seen Indians, but for me, 'Ah, sinner that I am, I was not permitted to witness such a sight.' I encourage the young men, however, in the belief that deer, bushes, etc., which they have mistaken for Indians, are all veritable Comanches, as it makes them watchful on guard at night." Beale Report, 21.

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7 The Fort was near what is now Sheffield, Pecos County, Texas.

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8 Beale also comments on this spot. "Just before descending into the valley of the stream we came to a very steep, rocky hill, overlooking a valley of great beauty and graceful shape. The sides of the hills were covered with the most brilliant verdure and flowers, and our long train, as it wound down the steep descent, and became stretched out on the winding road through the valley, presented a scene of uncommon beauty. It was about sunrise when we arrived at the hill, and the view was so striking that Thorburn and I remained behind to enjoy it until the whole train had passed some distance into the valley." Beale Report, 22.

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9 The survey of the possibility of a railroad route in the Southwest was agitated by Jefferson Davis, and in the spring of 1853, he was authorized to send out a series of exploring expeditions, surveys known by the parallels of latitude they followed. The survey of the thirty-second parallel route was made by two parties during the early part of 1854. One covered the land from the Pacific to the Rio Grande, under the direction of Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. G. Parke, with a party of fifty‑six persons. John Pope commanded the other group who explored along the thirty-second parallel route east from the Rio Grande between January 16 and May 15, 1854. The survey began at Albuquerque and extended to Preston, Texas. Charles F. Coan, A History of New Mexico, I, 358.

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10 Camp made at Pecos Spring on the Pecos River.

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11 In his journal entry of July 11, Beale speaks of the remarkable endurance of the camels on the road, a road strewn with a fine sharp, angular flinty gravel. "The camel has no shuffle in his gait, but lifts his feet perpendicularly from the ground, and replaces them, without sliding, as a horse or other quadrupeds do. This, together with the coarsely granulated and yielding nature of his foot, which, though very tough, like gutta percha, yields sufficiently without wearing off, enables them to travel continuously in a country where no other barefooted beast would last a week." Beale Report, 23.

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12 During the day one of Captain Lee's men caught a catfish in the Pecos River, a fish that weighed fifty-seven pounds. This led to a fishing craze on the part of all of the group but not a single fish was caught. Beale was glad to leave the Pecos, for "a more stupid and uninteresting river cannot be imagined — rapid, muddy, brackish, timberless, and hard to get at." After leaving the river, Mr. Williams, the geologist, wandered off from the main party to pursue his scientific investigations when he suddenly found himself face to face with two Indians. The rule of the country was to shoot on first sight, but the Indians were so surprised at the antics of the "stone-breaker" that they fled in different directions; "the affair was thus settled honorably to both parties." Beale Report, 23.

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13 Near what is now Fort Stockton, Pecos County.

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14 Stacey probably refers to a Mexican corruption of the verb carear which is defined as follows: "to tend a drove of cattle or flock of sheep." (See Mariano Velásquez de la Cadena, A new dictionary of the Spanish and English languages.) It is possible that the verb was corrupted in the Mexican dialect into a noun meaning a herd of horses or a drove of cattle.

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15 Fort Davis was in Jeff Davis County, Texas; Wild Rose Pass, in the Apache Mountains. Beale records here: "The camels arrived nearly as soon as we did. It is a subject of constant surprise and remark to all of us, how their feet can possibly stand the character of the road we have been travelling over for the last ten days. It is certainly the hardest road on the feet of barefooted animals I have ever known. As for food, they live on anything, and thrive. Yesterday they drank water for the first time in twenty‑six hours, and although the day had been excessively hot they seemed to care little for it. Mark the difference between them and the mules; the same time, in such weather, without water, would set the latter wild, and render them useless, if not entirely break them down." Beale Report, 25.

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16 Ojo de las Muertasº (Spring of the Dead), known also as Muerto.

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17 Speaking of the camels, Beale writes: "The camels are traveling finely. It is worthy of especial note, and I mention it here, while it is fresh in my mind, that since our leaving San Antonio, where my experience commenced with them, I have never seen or heard of one stumbling, or even making a blunder." Beale Report, 26.

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18 Beale complains of the uninteresting character of the country in this region which is in Hudspeth County, at the base of Eagle Mountains. The mountains, destitute of wood, were stupendous masses of rock, with no water, and were "forbidding in the extreme." "We met two Mexicans on the road whom we supposed to be fleeing from justice. They had probably committed some rascality, and were in a hurry to get out of danger, as according to their story they had ridden nearly eighty miles since daybreak." Beale Report, 27‑28.

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19 San Elizario. Beale gives the distance as a trip of ninety‑six miles, and a journey of thirty‑six hours "in the saddle." In El Paso County, Texas.

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20 Beale does not state the reason for this hurried trip ahead of the camel brigade.

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21 Camp was made opposite a mountain twelve miles north of El Paso, in which was located a valuable silver mine belonging to "a Mr. Stephenson, who lives near El Paso. It is said the mine is yielding an abundant fortune to its proprietor." Beale Report, 29.

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22 Between what is now Las Cruces and Mesquite, Dona Ana County, New Mexico.

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23 Directly north of Las Cruces and Dona Ana.

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24 In his journal entry of this day Beale speaks of Organ Mountain which the party saw, seven miles distant, during the morning trip. This mountain contained "in its bosom a store of wealth in silver ore which its frowning aspect seems to guard from intrusion; ineffectually, however, as its bowels are being torn and rent by blasting and cutting, in search of the precious contents." Beale Report, 30.


Thayer's Notes:

a Arthur Tracy Lee: born in Pennsylvania, appointed from Pennsylvania. Second Lieutenant in the 5th Infantry 8 Oct 1838; transferred to the 8th Infantry 1 Nov 1838; First Lieutenant 4 Mar 1845; Captain 27 Jan 1848; Major in the 2d Infantry 26 Oct 1861; retired 20 Jan 1865; retired with rank of Colonel 28 Jul 1866; Brevet Lieutenant Colonel 2 Jul 1863 for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Gettysburg, Pa. Died 29 Dec 1879. (Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army)

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b So in the printed edition of Uncle Sam's Camels; I'd be inclined to call it a misreading by the editor of what Stacey actually wrote, but for the fact that the same error — for an error it is, a meaningless barbarism for the name of the creek, which is and always was Piedras Pintadas (i.e., "painted" or colored rocks) — appears in Beale's Report under the same date, not only in this edition of Uncle Sam's Camels, but also in the original Congressional Report (Vol. 959, p17) which this book reprints.

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c In this book — nominally about the great camel experiment — this is the man, rather than Stacey, whose diary one would want to read! I've found no indication anywhere online that he kept one, but have not researched any print resources.


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