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The Whirlwind's people howled and gashed their arms to mourn Henry Chatillon's squaw, and killed her horse because she was lame and would need it to cross the prairies to the spirit land. But the warriors posed — motionless on horseback, arms crossed, or standing like statues in blacked robes, or sitting with robes draped in marble folds round their shoulders. Only in the Vatican had Francis Parkman seen "such faultless models of the human figure." Free and noble attitudes, bow in hand, quiver slung at the shoulder — Parkman knew why Benjamin West, on first seeing the Belvedere Apollo, had exclaimed, "By God, a Mohawk!" The Oglala looked beautiful and male to a young man so weakened by dysentery that he staggered when he tried to walk. Nothing would break the disease. When he grew stronger for a day or two, hope would come back; then a worse attack would stretch him racked and gasping on his robe.
Suddenly the Whirlwind's caprice was to hunt and he took his village beyond the Black Hills. Parkman would make one last attempt to see the savage in action and led his friends and hangers‑on to the mouth of La Bonte Creek, where the war parties were still supposed to rendezvous. They reached it and found no Indians there. Quincy Adams Shaw decided that he had taken enough frustration from Indians; he would go no farther. While Parkman lived, however, the will of his ancestors forbade him to relinquish a purpose. They sent Delorier back to Fort Laramie with the cart and baggage. With Henry Chatillon, Shaw headed for the Laramie Mountains to hunt, but the first night he slept in poison ivy and his aristocratic limbs swelled so badly that he had to head for the fort, where Parkman had arranged to join him on August 1. After a midnight attack of dysentery that seared his bowels, Parkman started out with Raymond, the cheerful nincompoop, to find the Oglala. Perhaps some of them might still take to the warpath. If not, there would be some solace in watching a hunt, in the Medicine Bow Mountains.
They traveled the desert for three days. The desert of Isaiah: the cormorant and the bittern possessed it, the owl also and the raven dwelt in it, p294 the satyr cried to his fellow and the line of confusion was stretched out on it, and the stones of emptiness. Under the sun's burning-glass, Parkman reeled in his saddle, all strength gone from his knees, his mind a spate of mirages. Raymond made all possible mistakes, let the horses escape, lost his rifle, saw many imaginary dangers but could not see the real ones — and the wonder is that the two of them did not die here of pure ineptness. New England kept rising into Parkman's feverish reverie: a green, cool land, a land of grass and trees and white-tabling waters. The Coos Meadows, the lakes of the Connecticut — how many lakes and rivers! — Winnepesaukee, Memphremagog, the Winooski, Otter Creek, and a hopeful, strong young man paddling down them while he planned to write of Pontiac, Major Rogers, the noble Montcalm. Remembered in alkali dust that turned the sun white, the stench of sage, dead earth crawling with black crickets, metallic whir of locusts — and that last sound meant childhood in the Medford Fells. Once he thought of his strong, hale friend Tom Crawford — at his notch in gentler mountains, near more fragrant pines. "I lay for some time, scarcely able to move a limb. . . . The whole scene seemed parched with a pitiless, insufferable heat . . . a man armed to the teeth but wholly unable to fight and equally so to run away, traversing a dangerous wilderness on a sick horse."
The Medicine Bows were cooler, shadier, more hopeful, but Raymond was scared for here they might meet Shoshoni, or Arapaho, or even Blackfoot. His partisan ordered him on, and on July 16 they came down the far slope and saw the lodges of the Oglala. "Never did the heart of wanderer more gladden at the sight of home than did mine at the sight of those wild habitations."
So, joining Big Crow's lodge and taking Red Water for his friend and adviser, Francis Parkman began his life as an Oglala Sioux. It lasted just seventeen days while the village killed buffalo, dried meat, turned back to the Laramie Mountains, and cut lodge poles, but it was the historian's one ecstasy. All his life it would remain a splash of color and desire, unbelievable but real, much more real than anything that occurred in the years of suffering and despair, blindness and unrelenting will, on Chestnut Street.
Through those years on the walls of that Chestnut Street study hung lance and pipes and medicine pouch, war feathers, arrows, a strung bow, the pitiful mementoes of '46. There were days when he could not walk at all for fear of bringing on the agitation that seemed to mean insanity. There were days when the use of his eyes was rationed at five minutes by the clock, or three minutes, or one minute. Days when he could not move his arthritic legs and would have himself taken in a wheel chair to his woodpile p295 and chop kindling till he was exhausted. Days when, blindfolded, he guided his pen along the wires of a frame to write his histories. Days when he listened to a secretary reading the archives of France or Quebec which he could not read. On such days Francis Parkman could touch the buckskin or the feathers with his fingers, smell sagebrush, taste alkali, and remember a young man's courage and exaltation among the Sioux.
But he was so sick!1 One afternoon, waking from an hour's sleep, he found that he could not stand and could not saddle Pauline, though he must ride on with the village. "Then for the first time it pressed upon me as a strong possibility that I might never leave these deserts." The historian might die among the Sioux. The code of his ancestors told him that it was better to die in the saddle than to "drag out life . . . in the helpless in action of lingering disease," and he had himself lifted to Pauline's back and kicked a spur into her flank. But he saw his Sioux through fever. A quality of phantasmagoria comes into this, the best section of his book, and Parkman on the Indians is Parkman in the shadow of death.
His admiration grew but at the same time he fell out of love, confessing disenchantment. They told such marvelous stories — and their minds were so pointless and absurd! They looked so magisterial, so antique Roman at the council fire — and they gabbled like old women, reasoning with an illogic it would have been kind to call infantile. Their ceremonies had a dignity of ancient tradition, of profound belief — and were incrusted with superstitions evil and abhorrent to a reasoning mind. Their cruelty was perhaps explicable but aimless, spasmodic, irrelevant. They had virtues, family virtues mainly and the affections of the hearth, which the Puritan must admire — but what must a Puritan make of their gluttony, their laziness, the coarseness and obscenity of their talk? They lacked purpose, they had no steadfastness — and that was worst of all. No intention held for them, their bright parrot minds were the thickness of film only, impulse dominating them, fad and whim and the moment's fancy overcoming even self-interest — and this was stupidity. They could not think, they had a culture but no character, they were helpless against the world and even in selfhood — and they must go down. They were, the realization phrased itself, and many of Parkman's successors down to now would have been wise to follow it, they were — savages. End of Rousseau for a young historian.
But how admirably fierce, strong, tireless, and male! How splendidly shaped to function! The Panther, a young buck, gallops his horse, pursuing an antilope while the village yelps its admiration — and here, existing absolutely in the moment, mastery of life reproaches the impaired historian. The Hail Storm, a mere boy, chases a plunging buffalo and turns to laugh p296 in pure ecstasy while the great beast's eyes glare red and blood gushes from his nostril . . . . Parkman watched the Hail Storm put away boyhood and become a brave in the course of a few weeks. He slew his buffalo, killed a deer, was admitted to hunting parties, learned to wear his blanket with a grace irresistible to maidens, strutted before squaws with an ear cocked to their admiration, made conquests in the bushes, found out how to be unperturbable and stern, needed only to count a coup in warfare. And, Parkman admiringly realized, would have counted coup on Parkman to become a man, if he had got a chance.
Here are the buffalo hunters, stripped to the G string, sitting bareback and lashing their unbridled horses to the gallop. The long line charges on the herd. The shock strikes Parkman's bared nerves. Under dust and clamor the dark beasts go down. Frenzied, the squaws and boys and unmounted braves cut up the carcasses, while the hunters move out of sight, still yelling, still shooting single arrows clear through a buffalo's forequarters. They rip out the liver, the gall bladder, portions of the intestines, the tripe, and gobble them. Blood, marrow, and grease drip from their chins, from their firearms, from their knees. Big Crow comes in from hunting, a male who has killed. His squaws take off his bloody moccasins and bring bowls of water to wash his bloody hands. They give him fresh-boiled buffalo to eat and the functional killer, the fulfilled warrior, sleeps.
By campfires, how their eyes glitter! What heroisms, cruelties, and violence they have wrought, undergone, and survived! Crawling through brush at midnight to stampede a herd, strutting in front of barricaded enemies to utter taunts, dueling with fleshed arrows shot under the necks of galloping horses, rushing unarmed into a melee to touch an enemy before the next-fleetest can come up. These talkers by the campfire have passed a knife under the topknot and ripped scalps from skulls. They have fought shrieking with Arapaho, Pawnee, Shoshoni, Cheyenne, Blackfeet. Big Crow himself, Parkman's uncle pro tem, is covered with scars truly received in war, has killed fourteen enemies and tells Parkman all his coups. Once, having killed a Shoshoni,2 he chased another one, wounded him, caught up with him, and scalped him alive. Then Big Crow and his companions made a fire and, first severing the tendons of the captive's wrists and feet, threw him into the flames, held him there with long poles, and watched him burn, screaming. . . . Horrible, but — good God! — how strong.
There is a good deal more than a trace too much of this. They were, you are to perceive, powerful, reckless, and not impaired. Their eyes were good and their bowels wholesome. Weakness did not enervate their knees, as objectless panic did not surge up in them, their minds had no depths of p297 self-suspicion, they felt no dread that they might not be whole. As far back as Francis Parkman could remember a dread of impairment had lurked on the margins of his mind. It was assuaged by these extremities of violence and his admiration masks a simple envy. Cruelty was abhorrent but an inability to inflict cruelty was even more abhorrent.a If the books he wrote in his maturity sometimes reveal too much gusto in scenes of torture, be sure he paid cash for it in detestation of the weakness he feared was his.
Yet even here the Sioux could let him down. White Shield rides about camp singing a war song and challenging the bravest to ride out with him to find the Shoshoni and avenge the wrong which the Oglala have forgotten. A valorous buck, the White Shield, yearning for glory, smarting under the communal injury, who cannot live unless it is avenged. But there prove to be reasons against valor. He has given away some war arrows, some of his young men have had bad dreams — and one morning White Shield comes down with a sore throat. He mopes round the village, sniffling, wailing, complaining, just any countinghouse clerk with a cold. No enemy scalps for White Shield.
In sum, they were savages, a neolithic people, an anachronism embedded in the eighteen-forties and being extinguished from that decade. Parkman came to accept them as spectacle. Always the fires, the tales, the pipe passing, the invocation to innumerable gods. Red Water, the admirer of the whites, telling how he had hidden in a beaver house and learned that the beaver, the wisest of animals, were also the white men. The squaws erecting lodges, waiting on their masters, instructing the children, making pemmican, giggling over smutty stories, scolding the dogs they were about to kill and cook. Love songs, medicine songs, war songs. Big Crow finding the buffalo herd after his little friend, a cricket, had told him where to look. Big Crow's lodge and everyone feasting everyone else, giving feasts for Parkman, Parkman giving feasts and making admirable orations while the connoisseurs of eloquence grunt their critical satisfaction. A fight boils up when Tall Bear does not repay Mad Wolf's present. Sudden shots and yelps split the camp, two lines of warriors form at once, shooting wildly, and here is Mad Wolf, "the most dangerous man in the village" with his bow bent and arrow "quivering close to the breast of his adversary" — and Tall Bear, not in the least scared, his knife dripping blood of the horse he had just killed, awaiting the attack. Parkman and Raymond run out of the line of fire. Old Red Water, the ancient, grabs bow and arrows with one hand and his knife with the other, runs out yelling to join the fight, trips over something, and sprawls peacefully in the dust. Shots pepper nothing in particular for a moment, then the village police end the riot.
p298 Or from a ridge high above a canyon, watch the village pour through the Black Hills toward the camp where it will get lodge poles. The travois bump over rocks and sagebrush, the squaws yelling. Pack horses in long files, the herds dimpling and stringing out, boys riding the flanks. White shield-covers catch the sun, lance feathers shake in clear air, bronze-yellow faces wear a powder of dust. Dogs howl and pant, horses snort, balk, plunge. A brass bracelet shines on a copper arm. Out on the plain again the poles rise and grunting squaws tug the skins over them. The herd dips over a hill to grazing land. The braves form their senate to smoke, counsel, and despise the squaws.
Or the village in midafternoon. The naked sun has softened the plain's nakedness with seven veils of mirage, but a skin lodge with an open flare at the top and raised dampers along the edge is, after all, an air conditioner. The whole tribe has withdrawn into the lodges to escape the bowl of fluid sun. The ramparts of the Laramie, black with the cedars that gave them their first name, are flattened and without substance. "A profound lethargy, the very spirit of indolence," has ended all activity and all but little sounds. Stretched on a robe in Big Crow's lodge, his shoulders cushioned in a net of rawhide, Parkman can hear the chirping of locusts or a tiny complaint of children, or some girl giggling at a whispered confidence in a near‑by lodge, or his uncle snoring in a dream of coups. He can smell hot sagebrush and juniper, hot dust, the nearness of cool water running through cottonwoods. Desert emptiness, desert hush. Parkman's mind is a panorama of things seen since he left Westport, moving before a backdrop of New England pines. The pictures merge, he succumbs to the desert and falls asleep. During many white nights on Chestnut Street when fear of "inflammation of the brain" will not let him sleep, he will remember drowsing to Big Crow's snores.
Parkman had found the West.
Time shortened, he was due at Fort Laramie, and he had as much as he could ever get of what he had come for. Before dawn he and Raymond rode ahead, young Hail Storm going along to guide them through the mountains. But a delay occurred and so they rode with the village for another day. They passed another Western spectacle, immense brush fires on the mountains. That smoke would make an impalpable haze over the sun hundreds of miles away and give the air a prickling pungency that, wherever encountered, means summertime to those born in the Rocky Mountains. A different Indian rode with them the second day, and was able to name all who had passed their old camp at the Chugwater, where they spent the night. The Indian left without ceremony while they slept, the sun came up copper p299 from the forest fires, and, breasting a hill, Parkman could see •ten miles away the whitewashed adobe of Fort Laramie. It was August 3.
Shaw, Chatillon, and Delorier came out to meet him. After the Oglala, they seemed tinted with qualities of the archangels. Parkman stretched out on buffalo robes in Papin's room; he had returned to civilization on Laramie Creek. Shaw, whose taste had coarsened in the wilds, complained that he had no "shongsha" (kinnikinnick, willow or dogwood bark, arrowroot, or similar aromatic herb) to mix with his tobacco.b Parkman had brought some, but for his part civilization was best. He spent the afternoon reading Childe Harold.
The next day they took the trail again, leaving Fort Laramie for good — Parkman, Shaw, Chatillon, Raymond, Delorier, and a couple of trappers who were joining Bisonette.º They traveled south, on the old trade route east of the main chain of the Rockies. They were making for Bent's Fort by way of Cherry Creek, Pike's Peak, and Pueblo. From Bent's Fort they would take the Santa Fe trail to Independence.
By circuitous paths Parkman had found the West and now he turned home by a circuitous path. Promptly his health improved.
* * *
Edwin Bryant's horseback party, with Hiram Miller taking Kirkendall's place, made excellent time from Fort Laramie. A Kentuckian named Buchanan joined them from a train which they met near the Red Buttes, and another recruit named McClary brought their strength to eleven. They hurried through fantasy land. They saw many dead oxen, Bryant treated invalids at the trains they passed, he himself fell ill with mountain fever. Independence Rock and Devil's Gate on July 8. Two days later on the Sweetwater they saw the snowy peaks of the Wind River chain and met a solitary horseman dangerously riding these wilds, a Mr. Bonney who was carrying a letter from Lansford Hastings to the emigration. They traversed South Pass and drank Pacific waters on July 12,c and it was Owl Russell's turn to be stricken by mountain fever. On to the Little Sandy, acres of lupine and clouds of mosquitoes, and to the Big Sandy on August 12, overtaking some Shoshoni who were going home from the buffalo range. They told the Indians that the Sioux were singing war songs against them, and the Indians boiled away westward. (Bryant notes a "very beautiful young female" in pantaloons, tastefully decorated, and expends an emotion on her face and figure. Phenomenon of bachelor life on the trail.) They reached Green River on July 15 and Black's Fork on the sixteenth. The next day p300 they went •a mile or so farther and pitched a tent for the first time since leaving Fort Laramie. They had reached Fort Bridger, and their tent went up beside the camp of Mr. Hastings and Mr. Hudspeth, who had just traveled a new route from California which shortened the distance •"from one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles." The partners were gathering a big wagon train to lead over that new route.
Fort Bridger had filled up since Jim Clyman passed it on June 7. Besides Hastings' party and the gathering emigrants, there were Taos traders and rival traders from near Bent's Fort, come to dicker with the emigrants and the Shoshoni. There were five hundred Shoshoni, who struck their lodges and swarmed westward as soon as Bryant's party repeated their information about the Sioux. Neither Bridger nor his partner Vasquez was there, but Bryant met another master mountain man. This was Joseph Walker, one of the canniest and most weathered of them all. He had had a miscellaneous, exhaustive experience in the trade, had been Bonneville's guide and lieutenant, and had broken one of the trails to California when Bonneville sent him there to look for beaver — or for routes of invasion. The presence of Carson, Fitzpatrick, Godey, and other favorites on Frémont's third expedition (of '45) has tended to obscure Walker's service to that expedition, as his slaughter of Diggers seems somehow to have overshadowed the importance of his early trail-breaking. But he was Frémont's real guide west of Great Salt Lake and may be given credit for the successful passage of the Salt Desert.d Also he headed the main party which Frémont sent over the Sierra by a southern pass, the party which the Pathfinder kept awaiting in his letters to Castro. He had stayed with Frémont till the episode of Gavilán Peak was finished, when he resigned, contemptuous of the heroics. Then he began his own conquest of California by rounding up a big herd of horses from the ranches. He drove them east, for sale to the emigration, and had reached Fort Bridger.3 The facts about "recent occurrences in California of considerable interest" which he told Bryant probably had to do with the siege of the Gavilán.
Joe Walker did not think highly of the cutoff which Hastings was selling to the companies that kept driving up to Fort Bridger. He said so, and made rather more headway than Jim Clyman had been able to. Mr. Curry and Mr. Holder resigned from Bryant's group, to take the Fort Hall route. Trains split up and regrouped, following their example, but Hastings went on making converts. Bryant thought hard.
"Circles of white-tented wagons may now be seen in every direction, and the smoke from campfires is circling upwards, morning, noon, and evening. An immense number of oxen and horses are scattered over the entire p301 valley, grazing upon the green grass. Parties of Indians, hunters, and emigrants are galloping to and fro, and the scene is one of almost holiday loveliness. It is difficult to realize that we are in a wilderness, a thousand miles from civilization. I noticed the lupin and a brilliant scarlet flower in bloom."
Hudspeth was to go ahead of the train that was forming, taking three men from it to familiarize them with the route. He agreed to accompany Bryant's party as far as the edge of the Salt Desert. So Bryant and his companions held to their decision to take the Hastings Cutoff. They would travel on horseback (or muleback) and they had no wagons, families, or responsibilities. But Joe Walker had at last convinced him, and so he wrote several letters to his friends in the train he had abandoned, advising them not to take the cutoff but to travel the old trail by Fort Hall. He addressed them and left them at Fort Bridger, for delivery when the train should come up. They were never delivered.
The train which Hastings was forming at Fort Bridger is known as the Harlan-Young party and the three members of it who went with Hudspeth were Kirkwood, Ferguson, and Minter. These scouts and Bryant's party left Fort Bridger on July 20. Six days later they had crossed the Wasatch and emerged in Great Salt Lake Valley. They had barely made it. Narrow, brush-choked, and boulder-filled canyons, precipitous divides, stretches many miles long of almost impenetrable brush, and above all the course of the Weber River between vertical mountain walls that rose straight from the water's edge, had almost defeated them. And they were on horseback, whereas Hastings' recruits would have to bring wagons and ox teams through.4
On July 26 Bryant's party camped in the valley of Uinta, where the Weber River breaks through the westernmost wall of the Wasatch. After detouring the upper canyon of the Weber, Hudspeth had gone back through it to determine whether wagons could be brought through. The others climbed mountains for the view, waiting for him to get back, and Hiram Miller caught trout in the Weber in stretches where the author of this book, who grew up there, was never able to. The oak brush on the mountains was on fire over wide areas and the sulphur-yellow smoke dulled the valley colors. Hudspeth was back on July 29 and they moved southward along the lake, making not too good time to the site of Salt Lake City. (July 30, a year less six days before Brigham Young.) The sagebrush plain was fantastically hot, ashes from the burning oakbrush sifted down on them, and Bryant marveled at the sunset colors of the lake. They headed round the southern end of the lake and on August 2 made what preparation they could for their worst hazard, the crossing of the Salt Desert. At dawn p302 Hudspeth pointed toward it and said, "Now, boys, put spurs to your mules and ride like hell." He turned back to pick up his companions. Bryant's party began their crossing.
They followed, roughly, the trail made by Hastings and Clyman this year and by Frémont the year before. They made the best crossing ever made. That fact is eloquent, for the crossing of the Salt Desert was a severe test of strength, intelligence, sanity, and character. . . . It still is. In a century men have learned that desert and, in small numbers, are at home there. But to this day carelessness or mistakes or the hazards of weather can produce catastrophe. . . . It was choppy and broken at first, then absolutely flat. The rising sun made it a white hell and produced violent mirages. Cities, forests, battlements, cathedrals, lakes, and fountains slid and undulated before their tortured eyes. Wraithlike objects rode parallel with them and later became a party of horsemen. These figures, they thought, might be Frémont coming back to the States, but they grew gigantic and eventually dissolved. Puffs of wind raised columns of pulverized salt and filled the sky's bowl with a white mist. They choked and gagged, could see nothing, strung out and began to straggle. The mule which carried all that was left of their provisions wandered away; Bryant found it and drove it on. Dark came up. They had had no food and their only drink was the two quarts of coffee made last night from brackish water which they carried in a powder keg. It was past ten o'clock when Bryant could see the crusted salt (a few inches thick, above a repulsive salt mud) beginning to yield to sagebrush and felt the ground beginning to slope upward underfoot. He rounded up his party and they kept on till they found — on Pilot Peak — a spring of celestially pure water. They had been half dead from thirst but, with water at hand, felt no great need of it. They made camp. Bryant estimated that they had traveled •seventy-five miles — and was five or ten miles short. They had made a two‑day journey in thirty‑one hours.
They had run their risk and survived the worst that the country could bring against them. There is no point in detailing the rest of their journey. It is true that the Nevada desert from Pilot Peak to the Humboldt is worse than the Wyoming deserts. It is true that the route down the Humboldt and on to the crossing of the Sierra was usually the most difficult stretch of the migration, made worse by the failure of stock and equipment, cumulative fatigue, the shortening of the season, and the end of human endurance. . . . As evidence. This was a small party, unencumbered, traveling much faster than a wagon train. They were friends, their association was voluntary and congenial, they had a common purpose and a common sense of p303 achievement. Yet four days after they crossed the Salt Desert two of these friends cocked rifles at each other "about a very trivial matter of dispute." Bryant got them stopped and invoked the desert law: anyone who made trouble would be forced to go it alone.
Back on the trail again, near the mouth of Bishop's Creek they met Lindsey Applegate and some companions, on an errand which we will pick up farther on. (Jesse Applegate, Black Harris, and others had ridden ahead of the party to Fort Hall.) Diggers hung round them, begging, stealing, awaiting a chance to make trouble. They went on through nightmare land and their provisions dwindled. They reduced the daily ration but seemed likely to fall at least a week short. They caught up with the very tip of the emigration, two Missouri wagons which had outdistanced their train. Messrs. Craig and Stanley, their proprietors, had little to spare but the trail's democracy held and Bryant's party replenished their supplies and were not permitted to pay for them. Later the wagons caught up with them for a while and one of the party had broken under the strain and gone crazy. They pushed on past Humboldt Sink and the hot springs where Clyman's spaniel had died, on to the Truckee and up that gallant river to a sudden stunning shock — forests, great tall pines and firs, leafy shade, perfumes of fertility, the high country, the Sierra. Then Truckee Lake and a cabin at its western end where fragments of old newspapers were strewn about, one of them a Philadelphia religious weekly. A letter written at Morristown, New Jersey; another one, franked by a Congressman to Dr. John Townsend, Bloomfield, Indiana. Truckee Lake would soon get a different name.
They crossed the divide on August 26 and were on westward-flowing waters, little brooks that drained into the Yuba. Bear Valley on August 27 (whence we saw Clyman and Hastings moving east), and the next day breakfast and supper each consisted of a cup of coffee. On August 30 they saw their first natives, who might be the bloodthirsty California army which Hastings had described but turned out to be only some Indians gathering acorns for flour. They went on and saw their first private house, Jackson's ranch, on the rim of the great Sacramento Valley. Two local trappers came up and they got news of the war which they had heard about on the bank of the Kansas River. General Taylor, they were told, had won four battles, had killed fifty thousand Mexicans, and was now dictating peace in Mexico City. Late in the afternoon Jackson himself — ex‑sailor and perennial conspirator — came in with the first issue of a new newspaper, the Californian, Bear Flag Captain Semple, editor.
So on September 1 nine men in rags came down to the American River, forded it and went on to New Helvetia. The Stars and Stripes floated from p304 its flagpole, Indian sentries were walking post, and the sally port was populous with men oddly costumed in buckskin breeches and blouses of the United States Navy. Sutter came out and explained that his fort was now a military post of the United States.
They must have been an odd sight to the army, or navy, of occupation. They were as skinny as their mules, whose ribs were sharp under slack hides. The fairer ones were burned red and their hair was bleached the color of new rope; the brunets were black as Mexicans. Their clothes were ragged and loathsome; their outfits were held together with twine, sinew, and willow withes. They were half starved, they smelled rancid, and their ways and manners showed a desert taint. But, nine villainous looking men, they were fulfilling a good many dreams — John C. Frémont's, Lansford Hastings', Thomas Hart Benton's, James K. Thoreau's, and Bill Bowen's.
For on September 1 the emigration of '46 had reached California.
* * *
Behind them the intending President of California staged his dress rehearsal of catastrophe. The train of sixty‑six wagons* which he formed at Fort Bridger is known as the Harlan-Young party, though Harlan and Young were the captains of only two of the four fragmentary trains that went into it. Some of these had originally been with the great Owl Russell train at Indian Creek. (On the Sweetwater, Stanton, of the Donner party, had noted five segments of that company camped within •five miles of one another.) Like the Donners, many of them were educated and well-to‑do — and one wonders if the intelligentsia were not especially sensitive to high-pressure advertising.
Hastings had told them that his new route was •four hundred miles shorter than the Fort Hall trail, that it was less mountainous and easier on man and beast, and that the Salt Desert was only •forty miles wide, just half its width. It is clear that he was not crazy, so he was lying. He now broke a wagon trail, and to the meadows west of Echo Canyon, where Bryant had detoured the upper Weber Canyon, the going proved no worse than Jim Clyman had foretold. Hastings got them through so far with not too much delay. Hudspeth and he had decided against the only route they knew, the one they had taken eastward from Great Salt Lake in early June. p305 Unlike Hudspeth, however, he blithely led his charges into Upper Weber Canyon.
First prophecy. The Weber is a commonplace mountain stream. Some of its stretches are more open than most of the rivers of the Wasatch. But through much of its two western canyons the present highway has been blasted through rock which, in '46, rose straight from the water. In some places the Harlan-Young party had to take their wagons down the bed of the stream — round great boulders, across slanting rock ledges, sometimes careening off the short bank, sometimes among willows and cottonwoods. In other places they had to cut a road through trees and along the edge of the canyon, •a hundred feet or more above the water, prying boulders downhill, leveling where they could, achieving a steep path the width of a wagon tread which the failing oxen must climb and descend as they could. Sometimes neither river bed nor bank nor canyon wall was possible and with ropes, windlass, men grabbing at spokes, women tugging at ropes, they had to go over a shoulder of mountain. When a mountain is better traveling than a canyon, you have reached the worst. Once, where the canyon makes a horseshoe curve exactly the width of the river, a place called Devil's Gate, they had to take their road high over sheer cliffs, and, seeing the scar today, no one can conceive how wagons made that passage and held together.
Oxen died. One wagon broke the ropes that held it and crashed down a cliff, killing its teams. They made •a mile some days, more days •a half mile, but they got through at last to the little valley of Uinta where Bryant had preceded them. They were the first emigrant wagons ever to reach Great Salt Lake Valley, the inheritance promised to the Mormons. They supposed that they had surmounted their difficulties now and, after repairing their wagons, held a feast. The music of frontiersmen, minstrel shows, the Scotch border, and the Methodist hymnbooks drifted through the cottonwoods in the valley of Uinta. It was premature.
Second prophecy. They went on, taking Bryant's trail to the point of the mountains at the southern end of Great Salt Lake, and here John Hargrave died, worn out by the crossing of the Wasatch. The promised land got its first emigrant grave, a Gentile's. Leaving a note in a cleft stick for his next batch of victims, the realtor led the party on to the Salt Desert. They crossed it in two days and a night.
Third prophecy. Many oxen died. Many wagons had to be abandoned in the salt. They merged outfits, forming teams of the survivors and salvaging what they could. Hastings had promised them water by the end of the first day. Some of them reached it, barely alive, toward the end of their second day. They carried water and grass back to the others, saved some p306 crazed oxen, and went into camp on Pilot Peak. They stayed there, going back into the salt to round up surviving teams, jettisoning their possessions, repairing wagons. After "many days" (Sam Young's phrase), they were ready to move on and try to reach the trail at the bend of the Humboldt — "with the loss of most of their stock, worn out, and greatly discouraged."
Hastings got them over the Sierra about October 5 (a little more than six weeks behind Bryant). Only one of them had died and not all of them had been bankrupted. Taking an average of the other trains, perhaps they had not lost more than three weeks on Hastings' fine new route. But while they labored in the Wasatch and across the salt, every California-bound wagon that took the Fort Hall trail came comfortably over the divide and down to the American River. They were the last ones in. The California emigration of '46 ended when those merged outfits creaked down the western slope. Too bad the California Republic had become history and there would be no empire for Lansford Hastings.
But he had played his dress rehearsal through. Now the curtain would go up in earnest.
* * *
Jessy Thornton left a bundle of tracts with Mr. Bordeau at Fort Laramie. The Sioux, very cocky now that they weren't going to fight the Shoshoni, bade the emigrants form large trains so that neither they nor the Indians whose hearts were bad would attack them. The emigrants didn't. They kept on dividing and regrouping while the wagons lurched past Independence Rock, Devil's Gate (which pulled the plug of Thornton's rhetoric again), and on up the Sweetwater. Mr. Bonney, the lone rider whom Bryant had met, came up with Hastings' letter just as they reached the river.5 Many of them were sick with mountain fever, Nancy was prostrated, and Thornton himself was spitting blood. Oxen were dying, the exhausted ones and those that had drunk too much alkali. Thornton had four yoke to pull his wagon and a spare yoke for replacements. He lost his first one here, just short of the divide, "Old Brady," who fell ill and could not rise. The next day Thornton plodded back to see if he had recovered but found his skeleton cleaned by wolves.
They crossed the divide a little before sunset on July 18, six days later than Bryant, and camped at Pacific Spring, where the waters of the western ocean begin. The next day many fragments of trains mingled in camp on the Little Sandy, and on the morning of July 20 the Thorntons said good‑bye to their California-bound friends. Since all other chroniclers quote p307 Thornton's words, they may be repeated here. "The Californians were generally much elated and in fine spirits, with the prospect of a better and nearer road to the country of their destination. Mrs. George Donner [Tamsen] was, however, an exception. She was gloomy, sad, and dispirited, in view of the fact that her husband and others could think for a moment of leaving the old road and confide in the statement of a man of whom they knew nothing but who was probably some selfish adventurer. (Mercury at sunrise 46°; sunset, 52°.)"
The Donners went on to Fort Bridger. The Oregon fragments took a route known as Greenwood's (for Caleb) or Sublette's (for Bill) Cutoff, which shortened the road by by‑passing Fort Bridger. With Boggs and other friends Thornton joined a company captained by Kirkendall, who had left Bryant's party and who was to be infinitely kind to the genteel invalids. Thornton had lost his drivers and had to manage the team himself. He was inept and grew weaker. Neighbors, the captain, sometimes Nancy, had to do the work. He found the Wyoming desert — it was really Oregon at last, now that they had passed the divide — unspeakably dreary. It remains an ugly desolation today, but it had more grass and eventually more water than any of the alternative routes they could have taken. They passed a train which was burying a Mr. Campbell, who had died of exhaustion. Along cliffs and across divides, Mr. Kirkendall or Mr. Perkins or Mr. Burns took the team for him. They reached Bear River, a beautiful stream, crossed it, and kept coming back to it till they struck it at the most famous oasis of the entire trail, Soda Springs.
A storage dam across the Bear has backed up water over many of the famous springs now, but that valley is still beautiful. In the years of the emigration it was life-giving. Deep grass, clear water, cottonwoods, timbered hillsides, made a living landscape in a country that had been dead for six weeks' travel. Less spectacular than the valley of Fort Bridger, it was always appreciated much more. Wagons were parked under the trees. Washing bloomed on the oak brush. Children whooped around the bubbling soda-water fountains, the miniature geysers, the springs of quaking mud. Horses and oxen could get back a little flesh; the river was deep enough for swimming, as none had been for weeks; though buffalo could not be found there was abundant game of other kinds. Everyone's spirits rose; it was suddenly realized that much was behind, that to reach here intact was a considerable achievement.
There was a new kind of mist in early morning, the powder blue that means approaching autumn in the mountains. Sunsets were smoky and with evening a chill wind came out of the hills. In early August they remembered p308 pumpkins on the stoop in New England, shocked corn in the prairie states, the feeling of harvest.
Then a soberer realization: how far, after all, it still was to the Willamette Valley.
The next leg was short, a four‑day haul through sage beginning to be broken by plains of black lava, to Fort Hall. Thornton's party reached it on August 7 and went on a few miles farther. The next day Jesse Applegate, an Oregon pioneer, came into camp at the head of a small party that included Jim Clyman's old messmate, Black Harris. Applegate also was in the road-shortening business — but with a difference. He had been sent out by the Oregon settlements to do the job which the War Department had ordered Frémont to do in '45. Nearly all the early Oregon emigrations had foundered on the last stretch of the trail, either in the Cascade Mountains or along the Columbia River. Applegate had just completed his survey and was recommending a route to the settlements that avoided this stretch altogether and entered the Willamette Valley from the south.
* * *
Lansford Hastings' letter was addressed, "At the Headwaters of the Sweetwater. To all California Emigrants Now on the Road." The burden of this famous letter was simple: that the Californians would probably try to keep the emigrants out, that the emigrants should form one large party for defense, and that they should save time, strength, and effort by uniting the new road, which was at least •three hundred and fifty miles shorter than the old.
As we have seen, most of the emigrants ignored the ad, exercising a hard-minded skepticism. That the Donner party acted on it appears to have been a triumph of literature. Hastings had written a book: he must be right.
The Donner party, which could as properly be called the James Frazier Reed party, really formed at the Little Sandy on July 20. We had better list it.
In Chapter 5 we described the nucleus, the families and retainers of George and Jacob Donner and of Reed, and also Patrick Breen and his family and his friend Dolan. Since then Reed's mother-in‑law, Mrs. Keyes, had died and Hiram Miller, one of George Donner's teamsters, had joined Bryant's party. There remained:
George Donner, his wife Tamsen, and five children.
Jacob Donner, his wife Elizabeth, and seven children.
p309 John Denton, a companion of the Donners, and Noah James and Samuel Shoemaker, teamsters for the Donners.
James Frazier Reed, his wife Margaret, and four children.
Baylis Williams, his sister Eliza, Milton Elliott, James Smith, and Walter Herron — all employes of Reed.
Patrick Breen, his wife Peggy, seven children, and their friend Patrick Dolan.
At the Little Sandy, a waif named Luke Halloran who was dying of tuberculosis joined the George Donners, having roused Tamsen's pity. Here also the train organized with George Donner as captain. Most of the additions had been in the original Indian Creek train or in trains it had neighbored with along the Platte. They were: —
William Eddy, from Illinois, his wife Eleanor, and two children.
Lavinia Murphy, a widow from Tennessee, and her four unmarried children. Also her two married daughters and their families. These were Sarah Murphy Foster and her husband William Foster and one child; and Harriet Murphy Pike and her husband William Pike and two children. Mrs. Murphy is supposed to have been a Mormon who left Nauvoo to seek employment in Warsaw, Illinois, and was working her way west as cook and laundress.6
Lewis Keseberg of Westphalia, Germany, his wife Phillipine, and two children.
Karl Burger from Germany, driver for Keseberg.
––––––––– Hardkoop, from Cincinnati but born in Germany, traveling with Keseberg.
Joseph Reinhardt and Augustus Spitzer, from Germany, partners, probably traveling with Keseberg.
––––––––– Wolfinger and his wife. Their Christian names are not known.
Charles T. Stanton, from New York State by way of Illinois.
"Antonine," a herder; it is not known whom he worked for.
At Fort Bridger, George Donner hired another teamster, Jean Baptiste Trubode. Also the train was joined by: —
William McCutchen, from Missouri, his wife Amanda, and one child.
This completes the party that left Fort Bridger. It consisted of twenty‑six men of eighteen or over; twelve women of eighteen or more; six boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen and four girls of similar age; six boys between six and twelve and three girls of similar age; eight boys and nine girls under six.
The Graves party, who joined them in the canyons of the Wasatch, may as well be listed here. This party consisted of Franklin Ward Graves (usually p310 called "Uncle Billy"), lately from Illinois but originally from Vermont, his wife Elizabeth, and eight unmarried children. Also their daughter Sarah Graves Fosdick, her husband Jay Fosdick, and a teamster named John Snyder. They had started west with the train mentioned in Chapter 6 as being scattered by the Pawnee; the Mr. Trimble whom the Pawnee killed had traveled with them. They had been associated with various companies on the way to Fort Bridger, where — incredibly — they pushed on alone, catching up with the Donners in the first stage of their disaster. Thirteen in all, they brought the total to eighty-seven. That completes the roster of the Donner party as history knows it, except for two luckless Indians who were brought up from California to meet it near the Sierra.
When the patriarch George Donner was elected captain at the Little Sandy, these people had comfortably survived the emigration so far. Mrs. Keyes had died at the Big Blue but since then they had experienced routine health and satisfaction and no more than routine hardship. They were entirely representative of the emigration, from the wealthy Reeds and Donners down to the invalid Halloran and the teamsters and hangers‑on. Note the earlier pioneering ventures of the Donners, Reed's European background, the Yankee strain in Graves and Tamsen Donner, the fact that the majority were from Illinois and Missouri, the fact that they included Irish, immigrant Irish, and immigrant Germans.
George Donner got his train to Fort Bridger on July 28, and on the way there from the Little Sandy had one final warning. Joe Walker, driving his stolen horses eastward, met them and repeated what he had told Bryant. They had become resentful of croakers, called him a Puke, and moved on. Arriving at the fort, they found that Hastings had broken the promise made in his grandiloquent letter. He was not here, would not personally conduct them to the Humboldt, had gone ahead with the Harlan-Young train. Bridger and his partner Vasquez had returned, however, and these two seasoned mountain men confirmed Hastings' advertisement. The new trail to the southern end of Great Salt Lake, he said emphatically, was open and easy and much shorter than the Fort Hall road. This is the heaviest sin charged against Old Gabe in his entire career. Also Bryant's letters of warning were not handed to them.7
They stayed at Fort Bridger for four days, a reckless delay justified only by Hastings' advertising. The stock needed rest after the Wyoming deserts and the wagons had been so wrenched and shaken that much blacksmithing was required. The McCutchens joined them here and the thirteen-year‑old Eddie Breen broke his leg in a fall from a horse. Frontier medicine prescribed amputation but his mother would not consent and the boy p311 could agonize in splints while the wagon careened through the canyons. He was walking again when they reached the Humboldt.
They left Fort Bridger on July 31, eleven days behind Bryant.8 On August 6 they came out of Echo Canyon to the valley of the Weber. (They had thus followed the route of the Harlan-Young party, which differed from that taken by Bryant, who had detoured Echo Canyon and all the stretch east of it from the Little Muddy.) So far the going had been difficult — more difficult than any they would have encountered on the Fort Hall road — but by no means impossible. They ought, however, to have made it in four or five days, instead of six and a half. Still, here they were and no damage done at the place which the Mormon emigrant route was to call "the crossing of the Weber." It is approximately the site of the present village of Henefer, Utah.
Here, thrust in a cleft stick, they found a letter from Hastings, directed to anyone who might be traveling his road. Hastings had apparently ridden back from the Harlan-Young company, which he was taking through Upper Weber Canyon, after Hudspeth rode back from Bryant's party at the mouth of Lower Weber Canyon to tell him what the last part of the new trail was like. The letter announced that the Weber route was bad, and directed the victims to camp at the crossing of the Weber and sent down a messenger ahead to find Mr. Hastings. Mr. Hastings would then come back and personally show them a better route through the Wasatch. His routes were always better.
So while the season shortened, while a richer purple got into the mountain shadows and frost crept farther down by night on the peaks, the Donners went into camp by the Weber River. They sent Reed, Stanton, and McCutchen ahead to find Hastings. Perhaps they spent their leisure factoring an equation which could express dwindling supplies, the approach of winter, and some wild x representing the country ahead of them.
Five days later, August 11, Reed came back. Stanton and McCutchen were not with him. Their horses had broken down — an omen of the Wasatch crossing. Lansford Hastings was not with him, either. Mr. Hastings had decided to hurry the Harlan-Young party over the Salt Desert. But in the kindest way he had accompanied Reed to the top of a divide east of Great Salt Lake and, tracing his finger across the blue space above the ridges that Coblenz from there, had sketched a route which he thought preferable to the Weber Canyons for the party he had promised to lead in person. It was the route which he, Hudspeth, and Clyman had traveled in June, though there was no way for Reed to know whether he was keeping to it. Reed had blazed some trees and set up markers on p312 the route he had taken, leaving his companions when their horses failed and pressing on. Maybe he had come by the sky map of Lansford Hastings, maybe not. At any rate, they would now try Reed's trail. In fact, they must.
* * *
When the money paid to the Mormon Battalion as commutation of clothing reached Israel on the Missouri River, Brigham Young wrote to his soldiers that it was "a peculiar manifestation of the kind providence of our Heavenly Father at this time." It would buy food for the winter and equipment for the Exodus. But the prophet found that the Battalion had privately forwarded part of their bonus to their families. This impeded the socialization of Israel's wealth. He secretly dispatched John D. Lee, his son by adoption in the mystical Temple relationships, to intercept the Battalion at or near Santa Fe. Brother John would collect the Battalion pay and turn it over to Brigham for consecration unto the Lord. Private generosity, the prophet thought, signified that some of the Battalion had not hearkened to counsel, and they would get into trouble.
They already had. Passing in apprehension down the western fringe of Missouri, the land of their enemies, they arrived at Fort Leavenworth on August 1 and were outfitted for the march down the Santa Fe trail. But they were still in the midst of the enemy. The War Department was beginning to understand the size of the proposed conquest of the West and had ordered reinforcements for Kearny and Doniphan. Missouri had raised another regiment of mounted volunteers and here it was at Fort Leavenworth, under command of Sterling Price. Price was a politician (lately in the House) with a voice as beautiful as Owl Russell's — and he had commanded the Missouri jail where the prophet Joseph Smith had been imprisoned. These troops, the Second Missouri, were to prove rowdier and less controllable than Doniphan's — or Price was less gifted at leadership — but they were just as chary of the Mormons as the Mormons were of them. The Saints could not understand that, however, a band of mostly unwilling conscripts far from Israel, still in the shadow of persecution, and commanded by their prophet to serve the nation which for years they had been commanded to despise. They were frankly afraid of the Pukes. They remained afraid of them till they had put Santa Fe behind them and taken the trail to California.
They spent their time at Leavenworth drilling, performing the ceremonies of the Church, and inhaling rumors. The greater part of Price's regiment took the trail ahead of them (some detachments were behind p313 them), and on August 13 the Battalion was ordered out. They marched without Lieutenant Colonel Allen, their commander, who had fallen ill at the fort, and in a few days they learned that he had died. Already there had been evidence that the Lord was displeased with them, for a good many had been taken sick and an old woman and her husband, traveling in the family of an officer, had died. It had been necessary to convene them as Saints and preach to them. A violent storm was evidence of Jehovah's anger, and they were bidden to "obey the word of the Lord and the counsel of His servants." The high priests laid their hands on the sick, anointing them with the sacred unguents, and then resumed their function as soldiers in the hope that the Lord would bless the work. But some of the brethren were buying whiskey from the sutlers at six dollars a gallon.
The death of Allen seemed a catastrophe. They had liked him, or now thought they had. He had been kind to them, had sanctioned the establishment of their families on the Indian lands, and had not interfered with their rites. Moreover, the prophet had acknowledged him as commander of the expedition, which deputized him in the authority of the priesthood, the succession of which was broken by his death. The prime source of the trouble his successors experienced was the fact that they held commissions only from James K. Polk, not from Brigham Young.
Now the Battalion was alone in the wilderness and counsel was far away. A very troubled soldiery tried to solve the problem by oracle. The Battalion knew in its heart that the priesthood should lead, but the officers, who were lower in the sacred hierarchy than some of their command, took thought of worldly things. They sent word to Polk in Washington — and the War Department ordered Captain Jacob Thompson from Jefferson Barracks to take command, but he never caught up with them. They also notified Brigham Young, who was too far away. When Allen died the commandant at Fort Leavenworth sent Lieutenant Andrew J. Smith of the First Dragoons to, in the words of Saints, "tender his services to lead the Battalion to Santa Fe," with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.
As captain of Company A, Jefferson Hunt was senior among the officers of the Lord, and Lieutenant Dykes had been consecrated adjutant. Hunt was a sagacious man and a good soldier, who later was to become one of the best frontiersmen in Zion's deserts. With Dykes he prevailed against the judgment of the priesthood, who were for keeping U. S. officers out of the Lord's military forces. They pointed out the principal threat that Price, just a few days ahead, might try to bring the brethren under p314 his command, if the new commander was not received — and Price was a Puke and an enemy. Furthermore, if the brethren did not accept government leadership, they might have trouble getting rations — and even, Hunt pointed out, pay. That settled it and after a formal negotiation with the new commander, Hunt telling Smith exactly the terms on which they would recognize him, the priesthood yielded to the secular arm. For a moment Smith seemed to justify their abdication, for he requisitioned from Price twelve days' rations which, Hunt was convinced, the Pukes would not otherwise have given up.
Most of the Battalion, however, felt that this yielding to authority was a kind of betrayal. They kicked openly and rebelled secretly, generating the aggrieved and righteous obstinacy which the Mormons have always known how to put to the best use. When Brigham Young learned what had happened, he was furious. They had had a chance to escape Gentile control, and they had muffed it. They might have conducted their affairs according to the Lord's leading — and the prophet's orders. They might have ended their year's service at Bent's Fort, and Brigham began to convince himself that they were not obliged to go farther than that. (As a matter of fact, the Battalion did not go near Bent's Fort. At the Arkansas crossing Smith took it down the shorter, thirstier route to Santa Fe, the Cimarron branch of the trail. Price's Second Missouri also took this route.) At Bent's Fort, of course, they would have been in a position to assist the Exodus next spring, compared to which their contract to conquer California amounted to nothing. Young sent a rebuke southward with Lee. But he saw also that he now had an alibi; so he used it. If any of the Battalion should suffer hardship or disease, if the holy union suits should fail to protect them from Mexican bullets, let them not cite the prophet's promise. They had disobeyed counsel: be the punishment on their heads.
They began hungry, and in fact were not often to be well fed till they got to Santa Fe. Mr. Polk's expeditionary forces were always in advance of their commissaries, though the War Department had by now organized a prodigious freightage. The garrison at Santa Fe was not to be satisfactorily supplied till the late spring of '47, and the Mormons, Kearny, and Doniphan were never to get supplies in satisfactory quantities. The Saints blamed their half-rations on their commander, who was a Gentile and there must be conspiring against the children of God. He joined the enormous corps of specters who, in Mormon belief, have inflicted malign cruelties on the chosen. From the beginning up to now all Mormons have always been able to discover a plot to bankrupt, harry, and kill them in p315 the most innocent conversation or facial expression of the most complete nobodies. Theirs is the world's most hair-trigger martyr complex. The events that first begot it were real enough, God knows, but its survival in our time gives the archaeologist a kind of living fossil to marvel at. The peaceful towns of Utah are, in Mormon fantasy, likely to erupt at any moment with the gunfire of Gentiles sworn to put God's people to death. The Saints cannot understand the complete indifference of the world to the forms and content of their religion: the inability is perhaps a compensation for that religion's essential dullness.
So there was martyrdom in every order that Lieutenant Smith gave, and the Saints made their daily march in a fever of suspicion and mulish antagonism, employing Israel's talent for insubordination against him and against their own officers, who, they thought, were toadying to him when they wanted his orders obeyed. Nothing on the record shows that Andrew Jackson Smith was anything but a good man trying to do a hard job in difficult circumstances. He was a first-rate man, a first-rate soldier. His Civil War service was brilliant. He had four years of hard and various action, rose to command a corps, and once defeated Nathan Bedford Forrest — which, it will be recalled, few others ever contrived to do.
But remember that the Mormons were lately from a genuine persecution and that they suffered a daily apprehension of the Missourians ahead of them on the trail. Alone in the desert, far from the warm security of a dictator's will, they naturally cherished the mania of persecution. The snare of the fowler, the digged pit of the enemy, was forever at their feet. But even if Smith had been able to understand this communal neurosis, he would have found his job no easier. He was a West Pointer and had had eight years' service with the army's crack regiment, the regiment of Stephen Watts Kearny and Philip St. George Cooke. Orders were to be obeyed, not referred to a priesthood for interpretation in the light of gospel and debated according to private inspiration. Military duties were to be performed as they arose, and he but vaguely understood the offense when they sometimes interfered with ordinances and ceremonies related to the eternal glories. He took this to be a detachment of the United States Army, and did not understand that it marched under a canopy of revelation, that prophetic dreams and signs from Heaven took priority over the regulations of the high command. He did not understand that he himself was without claim to their obedience, a man outside the law, one of the tribe marked for destruction — as John D. Lee called him, "a poor wolfish tyranicle Gentile who was a second Nero." He was Nero when he told them to close ranks, mend their pace, or pitch their tents in p316 a place which he thought proper. So daily and hourly he butted into either the voluble argument or the mute refusal to obey orders of a secret society of very righteous men. They had no drill, no sense of military function, no knowledge of how to march — and when he tried to teach them, elders, priests, high priests, Seventies, and men gifted in the interpretation of the holy languages of Heaven invoked either prophecy or the writings of the martyred Joseph to put him in the wrong.
Moreover, he was marching not only soldiers but some daughters in Israel as well. Seven large families and a miscellany of gaffers had been sent on to Pueblo when the Battalion turned south at the crossing of the Arkansas. About twenty-five women remained. Army regulations permitted the enlistment of four laundresses per company. In peacetime frontier garrisons this euphemism looked to the comfort of single men in barracks. But the regulation had enabled some of the officers to bring their wives — and their wives' mothers — and a few of the enlisted men had contrived to do likewise. The comfort, whims, and prudery of these females had to be considered on the march, and the unhappily wifeless had an additional envy and regret. Clearly the War Department ought to have considered the scheme of celestial marriage and, like the Mexican army, permitted soldiers the assuagements of the marital couch.
Furthermore, prayer, counsel, and confession of sins had not amended all the impiety of the Battalion: they continued to get sick. In fact they got sicker, especially with mumps, as they traveled the desert trail in violent heat, drank bad water, and neglected their hygiene. The few wagons and ambulances filled with the disabled. And Gentile tyranny had put a murderer in a position of power. this was Assistant Surgeon George W. Sanderson, christened "Captain Death" by the Battalion and so known in Mormon history ever since. In fact, Mormon history has always treated the march of the Battalion (when not treating it as a desperate adventure which saved the United States) as primarily an episode in attempted poisoning. Sanderson appears to have been a good doctor as doctors went in that, the darkest age in American medicine, and Edwin Bryant, whose judgment was excellent, spoke of his scientific attainments with great respect. But he had no faculty of command or persuasion. With considerable justice, he felt that the Saints were sabotaging the expedition, and he interpreted most of their illnesses as malingering. His prescriptions were the familiar ones of army medicine: give him a CC pill or paint him with iodine and mark him duty. And he had no leverage for obedience except a military one. The Saints found themselves assailed with a profanity such as they had heard only from the mouths of Pukes. p317 Whereas, they well knew, God had reserved cursing as a prerogative of the faithful.
In the light of science, they were right to refuse Sanderson's calomel. But the light they refused it in was the doctrine of healing oils and the laying‑on of hands. Sickness was a jurisdiction of the priesthood, medicine was precisely the mortal error which Mary Baker Eddy was later to make of it, and the elders would "minister" to their flock. Army regulations made no allowance for such exorcisms, however, and Sanderson, bawling his oaths, made them line up and swallow calomel by the spoonful. When they spat it out, Lieutenant Smith had no recourse but to call them insubordinate and to assess penalties — which was further evidence that the Gentiles were conspiring against them. Those who recovered had been cured by the priesthood; those who died, mostly the grandsires but a few enlisted men, had clearly been murdered.
This fear of murder and this holy resentment of tyranny chiefly occupy the journals that have survived. One gets from them, besides, only the daily sense of miracle; the rest is Sanderson or his conspiring master, Smith. The countryside went all but unnoticed and they took strangeness in their stride. (Though Private Bliss notes a proof of the Book of Mormon when they pass through Pecos pueblo, the ruins of an "old Nephite city.") But, considering how many of them should never have been enlisted, how many were frail, how many elderly — they made a pretty good march of it.
Before the middle of September they caught up with most of Price's Second Missouri, thus demonstrating, as Kearny's infantry had done, the superiority of footmen to horse soldiers on such a march. They were, however, on the verge of mutiny, and before long John D. Lee arrived from the prophet, with his faithful friend Pace and his fellow avenger Howard Egan. They learned with pleasure that Young would uphold them in rebellion, and they filled Lee's ears with their intolerable injuries. (They had acquired a new fear, that the wives and grandams might not be allowed to go on with them from Santa Fe.) Lee gave them counsel and then, as representative of God's representative, rebuked Smith, their commander, bidding him mend his intolerable ways. Lee was a Seventy (just below the high priesthood in the organization) and he was also one of the Sons of Dan, one of the prophet's Gestapo. In both capacities he informed Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Sanderson that if they did not "cease to oppress my brethren" he would cut their throats. The lieutenant had to take it, but that night Jefferson Hunt, who was scandalized and better informed about the power of the United States, told Lee that he would order him under p318 guard if he did not stop counseling mutiny. Lee saved that up to report to Brigham, Hunt's future in the Church was damaged, and Howard Egan was diligent to steal Sanderson's two skinny mules when he started home. (Somehow that theft shocked Lee.)
Still wearing his shoulder straps, however, Smith kept them going. Beyond Las Vegas, he separated the healthy from the sick and the halt, and hurried them ahead. The rest had to march ignominiously in and out of the company of the Missourians. The advance got to Santa Fe on October 9, the rest three days later. No mutiny. But some of Price's command were there ahead of them.
An old friend of the Mormons was in command of the town, Colonel Doniphan. Private Hess among other things appealed to him not to violate the sanctity of marriage by sending the private's wife home. The saintly Doniphan at last agreed, though even Adjutant Dykes was disgusted by the plea, and permitted Hess to accompany his wife to the Pueblo. However, the Battalion's malingering was going to end abruptly now, for it came under a different kind of officer. Kearny, en route to California, had called on his best captain to command the Mormons and had advanced him to a lieutenant colonelcy. From now on the Battalion would take orders from Philip St. George Cooke. Also it would obey them.
* * *
No Battalion diarist reports visions, dreams, or signs in the heavens on September 17. But on that day the valorous wolf-hunters of Illinois finished their job at Nauvoo.
Less than a thousand Saints were left in the City of Joseph. All spring and summer the families had been crossing the Mississippi and taking to the trail, as fast as they could sell their property at five cents on the dollar and buy outfits. Class lines established themselves: the wealthiest and those highest in the priesthood went first, others followed in the order of salability of their real estate. By July so few remained that the mobbers felt secure. They began to fill the little newspapers with threats and indignation again. They rode by night and sometimes even by day, little gangs of armed thugs brave enough to raid outlying farms and kill a widow's chickens under her very eyes. They had deputies arrest Saints under all the old accusations. Here and there they shot someone who didn't have his friends with him. Finally they decided that it was safe to hold the wolf hunt.
No reason. Governor Ford says they were afraid that Mormon votes might turn the Congressional election again. Such Mormons as dared to p319 exercise the franchise did in fact vote Democratic in August, in understandable if unjustified gratitude to James K. Polk. But August was over and, besides, there were not enough of them for any politician to hear.
That is exactly the point. Nobody was afraid of the Mormons any more. The thugs could abuse anyone they cared to. An aroused savagery does not soon abate and years of anarchy had sanctioned some questionable gratifications. Responsible citizens were cowed, public leaders were absorbed in politics or absent with the volunteer army. It is possible to explain the earlier mobbings of the Nauvoo Mormons: there was reason for them, they grew out of things past, they were probably inevitable. But the September climax can be even more easily explained: these mobs were just swine. It had come to be fun to torture a Mormon, so they had fun.
We need not detail the weeks of terrorism. It began to intensify. What the swine called posses grew into sizable mobs. They increased in daring, coming nearer and nearer Nauvoo, with heavier armament, louder noise, and more spectacular riding. Finally, with various pieces of small artillery, they attacked the city itself, producing in these all but deserted streets such scenes as the army of the United States was about to produce in the formally attacked, formally defended enemy city of Monterrey.
Apart from some committees of high-ranking Saints delegated to sell real estate and direct the migration, there were left only the sick and the very poor. They were joined in the defense by the "New Citizens," the thrifty who had bought the Mormons out and intended to take a profit on their foresight. Thus Bill Hickman, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main, found himself fighting side by side with a Methodist parson who had been one of the most tireless agitators of hate but now had property here. Hickman, whose taste was experienced, admired the divine's profanity as he loaded and fired at the attackers, prominent among whom was a Campbellite minister. . . . No census is reliable, but probably the entire garrison of Nauvoo, including women and children, numbered less than a thousand and none of them were warriors. The mob has no census, either, but there were fifteen hundred or twenty-five hundred hard, tough, loud-mouthed gunmen, all of them, in the circumstances, brave. By discretion of the attackers, the battle was maintained at fairly long range. It lasted several days and a number were killed on both sides. Back of the mob various peace-lovers organized and finally an armistice was arranged — on the Mormons' promise to forget the contract signed with them ten months ago and to get out now, all of them, at once.
The mobbers whooped into the city and began to amuse themselves p320 with the terrified. They stole what they wanted, broke what was breakable, converted the Temple floors into latrines (and, Kane says, vomitories), yelled at children, and flourished guns at women. It was their pleasure to beat up some Saints and to baptize others in parodies of the sacred ordinances. They had an enjoyable time and the Saints hauled their sick into the brush to escape lynching, gathered what possessions they could, pleaded unavailingly for time and mercy, and got out. Some died of fright, others of shock and injury, others still in premature childbirth.
Most of them got out in crowded boats during the afternoon and night of September 17. The next day the victors made a good job of it by expelling the New Citizens too.
Some six hundred and forty huddled on the Iowa shore, in the marshes, with the rains coming and the chills-and‑fever season at hand. They built brush shelters, made tents of sheets and wagoncovers. The brethren at Garden Grove, Mount Pisgah, and Winter Quarters hurried to send what help they could — it was little enough. "I came to the camp of the poor, sick, and persecuted Saints," says Luman Shurtliff, who led one of the relief parties. "Many places where there had been camps were now desoluteº and without inhabitant. [At] Others a raged blanket or quilt laid over a few sticks or brush comprised all the house a whole family owned on earth. [Some] Among the occupants lay stretched on the ground either sick or dying, others perhaps a little better off had a few boards laid up on something and had [were] more sick than well. . . . I was not a little surprised to hear them relate the blessings of God in the deliverance from disease, death, and starvation."
In the course of ten weeks, they were all moved out to various way stations on the trail, where they fared a little better. Meanwhile there was never enough food, never enough shelter, and never any comfort at all. They ate what they had brought with them, what they could find, what they could beg or buy in the vicinity, what the succoring wagons could haul to them. Ague, typhoid, dysentery, pneumonia, ravaged them. But, of course, beyond them in the sunset somewhere was Israel's inheritance.
In the Mormon memory this swampy pest hole is known as "The Poor Camp," and no wonder. They died like flies.
* * *
At Santa Fe Susan Magoffin had her own house, a very foreign one with floors of hard-packed clay and adobe walls covered with gay calico. Susan found herself the belle of the occupation. Brother James Magoffin p321 had, of course, arranged a final dinner for her before he hurried on to Chihuahua to set up another Trojan Horse. He had hunted up oysters and unlimited champagne, and his and her husband's friend paid extravagant court to her. Some were New Mexican gentlemen, some were American gentlemen with New Mexican wives, and the women loved Susan but had the strangest manners and dismayed her with the most intimate curiosity when they called in state.e General Kearny, who seemed very much like dear Papa, paid her courtly compliments and squired her in public with staff and retinue. The general was a Kentucky gentleman and behaved not only toward her but toward his conquered province, Susan thought, with admirable courtesy. He took her to Fort Marcy, the stronghold which his engineers were building above the town. He took her riding through the parched, outlandish country, Susan's skirt falling in a great curve from her sidesaddle while the scabbards of the general's aides made a brave sound. He donned a full-dress uniform and took her to church, to stand holding a lighted candle while the priest muttered a heathen ritual. Susan's pious, evangelical heart revolted from the abysmal superstition of these kneeling peasants. She was sure that the priest did not understand the Latin he mouthed, and she was shocked to find the same little orchestra playing the offertory (and playing it rather like a hoedown) that had played waltzes and boleros at a ball a few nights before.
That was the general's ball, too, and Susan could not approve the abandon of those dances in which the women were so fervently embraced. She was not reconciled to the native costumes which, though prettily colored, were not reticent about a woman's limbs and exposed so much of the bosom that Susan turned her eyes away from what she considered open incitation of the baser instincts. All the women smoked corn-shuck cigarettes, too, and fat priests drank wines and aguardientef and displayed an unclerical mirth that distinguished them sharply from the parsons she knew. But worst of all La Tules was there, Doña Gertrudes Barcelo, a handsome, urbane female. Everyone seemed to like her although she owned and personally managed the town's biggest gambling hall. She had, the distressed Susan wrote down, "that shrewd and fascinating manner necessary to allure the wayward, inexperienced young to the hall of final ruin."
There was the officers' ball for their general, a mixture of fandango and regimental hop in the big hall of the Governor's Palace. A native artist had painted a mural in which Stephen Watts Kearny was handing to an Orozco peasant the scroll of a constitution lettered libertad, before a background of plow, cross, and cannon. They draped the flag in front of p322 it and at least five hundred people danced to the languor and melancholy of the native tunes. The demobilized native officers in their effulgent uniforms quite dimmed our own. But the Americans admired the displayed "forms" of the native women, were sure that they lacked chastity, and poeticized Susan as purity added unto loveliness. The enormous Doniphan spun her in a frontier waltz — she must have been •sixteen inches shorter than he — and Captain Moore was intoxicated but complimentary. Volunteer or regular, they gave her a rush.
They kept on giving her a rush. A beautiful, well-born girl holding open house in a sun‑baked village of foreigners, she realized in rosy flesh the phantasy of soldiers far from home. She smiled over her embroidery, she patiently instructed the little maids who did her housework, her white fingers hovered above a table of chocolate and confections, and they adored her. Major Swords, Major Clark, Captain Moore, Captain Johnston, Captain Burgwin, Captain Turner, Lieutenants Emory, Hammond, Gilmer, Peck — all of them, in procession. They brought her word of the occupation, the patrols, the new fort, Taos, the Indians of the frontier. They discussed the native food, superstitions, customs, industries. They sang for her and paraded their gentilities in learned conversations about Literature and Foreign Thoughts. They bowed over her hand and some of them could be deplorably in liquor — Susan remote of course, disapproving, forgiving, calling on Samuel to intercept the noisier ones. To a man they openly envied Samuel Magoffin, the proprietor of these charms when the door shut behind them.
The merchants called too, and the grandees, their enormous wives swathed in priceless laces, who instructed her in domestic economy and, too much, in the decorum of privacies. They gave dinners for her, beginning at two o'clock and lasting through the afternoon, with Susan collecting recipes as the courses multiplied. She did not like the severe separation of sexes at table and all the meats were strange. She would not smoke cigarettes, naturally, but Samuel Magoffin had taken care to tutor her in wines and she found these excellent. The general rose: "The United States and Mexico — They are now united, may no one think of separating!" Translation by one of the omnipresent Robidous, and, traders and grandees, they were on their feet shouting "Viva!" The ladies withdrew to one of the big rooms that always had benches but never a rocking chair for Susan.
Admiration could not altogether protect purity from its equivalent on a lower plane. One day a stranger tapped at the door. Susan thought him a teamster seeking employment from her husband and so admitted him. p323 Alas, he was in liquor and, her frozen horror discovered, mistook this for a different kind of house and her lovely self for a kind of female whose existence she had heard whispers about. Righteousness faced the inconceivable with a terrible dignity and the venturer got out somehow, but that night doubtless she wept in Samuel's arms.
It was a crowded, gay, strange month, September in Santa Fe, with those amazing colors at their best and pageantry outside her door all day long. The Flag was flying over the Plaza and she had forgotten the agony and heartbreak of Bent's Fort. Then suddenly the visits of officers redoubled, they called in twos, threes, half-dozens, and they were making their farewells. They fervently pressed that small hand, made their best speeches, and bowed out with a jingle of spurs. The army was moving on.
* * *
It had done a good job and, on the whole, had enjoyed itself.
A lot of them were sick, to be sure, and there was never a time when all of them had enough to eat. Scurvy kept breaking out and they had brought the measles down from the Raton to this conquered capital. So the measles spread among the children who, the first peacemakers, crowded the camps and drills. A long series of funerals followed, a little uncoffined corpse dressed in such cheap finery as its parents could afford carried through the streets behind Popish symbols, with a fiddle planning gay tunes while mothers sobbed under their shawls and fathers stolidly told their rosaries. The Missourians got a lesson in broad-mindedness.
Other lessons followed. Few had any awareness of the past, Great Spain, or the glory that Nuevo Mejico had been in many minds. They could summon up no ghosts of hard, desirous, noble, brave, or cruel men who had lived, fought, and died to hold these uplands for Christ and the King. Coronado, de la Cruz, Oñate, Benavides, Peñalosa, de Vargas, Escalante, Dominguez — they did not even know those names and could not have pronounced them. They were wholly ignorant of that older and far bitterer conquest. If they had known of it, they lacked the sense of sword and cross and they would not have seen a war of gods as well as men. They had heard of Zebulon Pike and would meet Kit Carson — and such names were comfortable, such a conquest was adapted to their understanding.
But they began to shed some of the indurated provincialism they had brought here. At first they just gaped at the unfamiliar. It was laughable but it was nicely colored. The town was full of Indians, some of familiar p324 types, others very strange. There were the Pueblo people, fat, docile, and tamed — or, as at Santo Domingo, warlike, haughty, bearing themselves with an ineffable contempt. Ute, Apache, Navajo, came in to investigate the conquerors and calculate the chances. All these in scarlet, green, purple — and the New Mexicans also violent in color. Men in breeches slit to show their drawers, operatic with cloaks, musical with spurs and silver ornaments. Women also in primary colors, barelegged, short-skirted, low‑waisted. The Missourians were shocked by the paint on their faces, their familiarity and easy laughter, and, the truth is, by the charm they gave to what had to be considered vice. They showed their breasts and, it was believed, in fact it was soon proved, they could be easily possessed — for pay, for kindness, or for mere amenity. An instructed prudery showed itself: sex ought not to be decorative.
New Mexico did not experience such sexual terrorism as Taylor's volunteers were by now inflicting on their northern provinces. The Army of the West had a gift for international goodwill. But propitiation took time and a few of the boys were violent. They learned, however. This was a simple, childlike, gay people, given to fandangos, feasts, parades. One joined them at first derisively, then with the simplicity of boys on a holiday. So the frail girls could be frail charmingly, and Inez glancing over her shoulder at Mass turned out to be much like Betsy when the fiddles were playing a hoedown at a corn husking back home.
Similarly with things. The farm boys began by laughing at an alien way of life but pretty soon were taking to it with the readiness of all Yankee armies. They were lofty toward alien agriculture — irrigation, intensive cultivation, a French valuation of manure and waste. It was comic of the foreigners to work their women in the fields, of the women to carry baskets on their heads. The jackasses no larger than St. Bernards, with produce piled high on their backs, were funny. The communal herds were funny, goat's milk was funny, the children herding the goats with hugs and kisses were funny. Then they weren't funny any longer. The Missourians decided that they would never understand these people and no matter. They crowded the Plaza with them, evenings and Sundays, shot dice and played monte with them, were rolling cigarettes and learning to eat chili without tears. They played with the children, dropped in on Juan or Jesús of an evening and jabbered with him and his wife and his aunts and aunts-in‑law in a mixed jargon which no one understood. They swarmed to innumerable fandangos. They learned some good addresses.
While thus getting a little Mexican gloss themselves, they busily p325 Americanized the town. In some things, too much so. Food was not easily come by but the liquor supply never gave out. They learned to drink the coarse wines of the district, resinous and sharp, much inferior to the superb vintages that were still being produced at the haciendas of Chihuahua. They never liked mescal or tequila, though willing to take them if nothing else was offered. The brandies of the region were something else, and the legendary voltage of Taos Lightning, they found, had not been exaggerated. Santa Fe began to roar more than a little. When the boys seemed to be getting out of hand Kearny shifted them to horseherd duty miles away or found marches for them to make. Doniphan cracked down too. They beefed at their officers, pulled down their tents, went AWOL and made orations when guards rounded them up. There were some knifings and a couple of shootings. Summary courts followed; offenders were drummed out of camp; some were laid by the heels. Kearny gave them more work to do.
They hauled a huge, antique press down from Taos and began to publish a newspaper. They organized debating societies, legislatures, glee clubs. The city slickers of the Laclede Rangers set up a theatrical company — and the New Mexicans could now raise their eyebrows at a barbarian morality which dressed up blond young lieutenants in women's clothes.
Stephen Watts Kearny was a good soldier and a good conqueror. He was organizing the conquest and preparing the future. His proclamation was hardly dry when he began reducing the taxes that had sweated these people for two centuries. He made every possible demonstration of peace, courted the fat, powerful priests, was brisk and kind to the humble. He took half his force on a rapid tour of the Rio Abajo, the southern settlements of New Mexico. He was ceremonious with the Pueblo people. The Santo Domingo charged down on him in their complimentary mock warfare, then feasted him in the pueblo, where he avoided offending a single god. On to Tomé, , Isleta, Peralta, Albuquerque. There was a great fiesta at Tomé. Kearny was punctilious at Mass, fireworks flamed in the violet sky, and the Doniphesias were badly outridden by the natives in mounted games. Kearny broke bread, made speeches, granted privileges, accepted the kindly honors heaped on him, commanded the presence of raiding Indians whom he ordered to make treaties, memorized the protocol and details of local administration. He came back from his tour convinced that the conquest was complete, that the conquered had accepted their new estate and would make no trouble. Probably they would have made none if Kearny or Doniphan could have stayed.
p326 Kearny had delegated to Doniphan a task which Polk had imposed, of organizing the civil law. A frontier lawgiver, Doniphan could create a state offhand. Whatever help he might need was at hand in his own regiment. He called on Francis P. Blair, Jr., the amateur scout, Captain Waldo the trader, the historian John T. Hughes,g and a private of Captain Moss's Company C who had successfully stumped Missouri for Mr. Polk, against Doniphan, in '44. This last was a twenty‑six-year‑old genius named Willard P. Hall, a yale man removed from Baltimore to Missouri. Eventually he would lead the stormy "provisional" government of Missouri during the Civil War, half bolstering and half hindering A. Lincoln's involved manipulations in that vital, tortured state. Now he sat with Blair and Doniphan in a sunny room of the Governor's Palace and practised the peculiarly American art of making a government. They produced a constitution and a code, which Kearny proclaimed the law of the commonwealth. Later, in the chaos that headed up in 1850, Congress would find that Polk, through Kearny, had exceeded his authority and would rescind part of them, thus giving Boanerges Bentonh another shot at the man who punctured his son-in‑law Frémont. But, in their essentials, they governed New Mexico up to statehood, and large parts of them govern New Mexico today.
Not a bad achievement for soldiers taken from barracks duty to build a state — and another way in which this conquest was strange to a much conquered people. One day while Hall worked in his low‑ceilinged room, Colonel Doniphan came in with news that the folks back home had elected Hall to Congress. His discharge from the army followed, but he had no taste for abandoning a job. He attached himself to Philip St. George Cooke as an unofficial aide and went on to California with the Mormon Battalion.
The New Mexican sun gentled with September. In the high peaks willows and popple put on the bright yellow of autumn. The fierce colors of the mesas grew fiercer in leached air, the nights sharpened, and the aromatic smoke of piñons hung above the town. The army had learned to like the grapes and melons and even the outlandish breads and stews. It was badly fed by its government, which had as yet got no paymaster this far and was unable to keep supplies coming in. The horseguards — up on the hills where there was grass — got scurvy. They, the outlying patrols, and the garrison all howled a healthy complaint continuously. Lacking money, the army found its brass buttons worth from ten cents to two bits as currency and used them, having long since exhausted its credit with the sutlers. (It could not commandeer supplies from the New Mexicans. p327 They were Americans now and must be paid in coin. No coin was sent but only Treasury checks which no one would honor. Part of the expedition was financed by a loan from La Tules, the faro dealer, whom Captain Johnston squired prodigiously at a fandango.)
They had lost their contempt of the ingratiating, poor folk whom they had invaded. Six weeks proved enough to reconcile them to the furriners, though they would never understand Catholicism and the frontier plenty they were accustomed to blinded them to the simple fact that a universal poverty had organized this way of life. They had come to like the furriners, who liked them in turn and would have gone on liking the gringo conquerors if Price's troops had behaved as well as Kearny's. When Price entered Santa Fe he fired a wonderful artillery salute, which broke most of the few windowpanes in town. It furnished a good symbol of what was to come.
Kearny's last business in New Mexico was to do something about the Indians. The Navajo had been raiding the frontier settlements and almost up to Santa Fe. The Apache, too far away to be handily admonished, had not interrupted their vocational theft and murder. Both tribes professed to understand that the American war on New Mexico had sanctioned their destruction of a common enemy. Both sent representatives to look over the Long Knives in Santa Fe. Kearny warned them and sent out a force to bring in the Ute, who were accustomed to raid from the north. He told them to behave themselves and sent them home. But the Indian problem had to be left to Doniphan.
For Kearny had to go on to the other conquest required of him. He named a civil government of New Mexico, with Charles Bent as governor and young Frank Blair attorney general. Then on September 25, with three hundred of his Dragoons and with Tom Fitzpatrick for guide, he took the lower trail to California.
The next day, September 26, hundreds of miles away, General Wool's army left San Antonio to begin Mr. Polk's map‑calculated conquest of Chihuahua. It was this invasion that Kearny ordered Doniphan to converge on at the city of Chihuahua.
Doniphan, Kearny's order read, was to turn over the command of Santa Fe to Price, as soon as the Second Missouri should arrive. But first he must clean up the unfinished business. He must round up the Indians, exhort them, and make treaties with them. It sounded simple enough: he was just to pacify the overlords of New Mexico.
The Army of the West had finished its holiday. The farm boys would now do some campaigning.
1 We badly need a competent clinical study of Parkman's ailments. A chapter in George M. Gould's Biographic Clinics presents all the details of the physical and mental symptoms. But Dr. Gould wrote at a time when such terms as "migraine" had little specific meaning, he lacked psychiatric understanding, and he was a monomaniac on the subject of "asymmetrical compound astigmatism." Obviously Parkman had a severe neurosis and a neurotic element is discernible in all his symptoms. A professor of ophthalmology whom I have consulted dismisses all his eye troubles as neurotic, pointing out that he was treated by the best specialists of the time. Yes: and some of the treatments they used are horrible to read about. But that the best specialists could not remove his symptoms by correcting errors of refraction does not prove that his eye trouble was wholly neurotic — as Dr. Gould has no trouble showing. Much of it probably was neurotic, and this element increased for many years, but also there was certainly some organic difficulty which the science of his age could not diagnose. The Dartmouth Eye Clinic, which specializes in aniseikonia, quite properly will not bring in a finding that he had it, and says merely that he suffered from severe and complex eyestrain — which is exactly where Dr. Gould left off in 1904. Nevertheless aniseikonia may well have been the basis of his trouble. Apart from the neurotic element in his anxiety about his eyes, Parkman also suffered from hypochondria, depressions, and periodic anxiety-storms. A competent psychiatrist ought, for history's sake, to try to chart the pattern of these symptoms. There remain other questions to be considered by a psychiatrist in collaboration with an internist. Was there a neurotic element in his arthritis? Was his heart trouble real? How much of his endless suffering would modern medicine or psychiatry undertake to cure?
Parkman attributed much of his later sickness to the exposure and hardship of his summer on the trail. Possibly his eyes were permanently injured by the desert sun, but I do not think so. All his later symptoms seem, in some degree, to have shown themselves before he went west. He recovered rapidly and completely from his dysentery and none of his later trouble can be attributed to it. The "general exhaustion" to which he sometimes referred his symptoms has no standing in modern medicine and should have had none in the nineteenth century, in relation to a young man of twenty-four. Let the interested psychiatrist observe how often bad attacks of dysentery and prostration follow some spectacular activity of the Oglala. My text hazards other suggestions about the roots of his neurosis.
2 The notebook says a Ute.
3 He must have found the trading slow for he took his time on the trail. Abert reports him on August 26 in camp a few miles from Bent's Fort with a small, residual herd of mules waiting to sell them to Price (who was not coming that way). If he had come to Bent's Fort direct from the trail, then he traveled a few days behind Parkman.
4 Mr. J. Roderic Korns has worked out Bryant's route through the Wasatch with a fair degree of certainty. By the courtesy of Mr. Korns and Mr. Dale L. Morgan I print it here for, I believe, the first time. From Fort Bridger he followed the course of the present U. S. Highway 30S (approximately) to •about 12 miles east of Evanston, Wyoming, where it strikes the Little Muddy. Thence west to Sulphur Creek and down Sulphur Creek to the Bear River. Thence north up the Bear River •about 8 miles. Thence west •about 6 miles and southwest •about 3 miles to Seleratus Creek. Thence up Seleratus Creek •about 5 miles and over a divide to Spring Creek, and down that to Lost Creek. Down Lost Creek to the valley of Croyden. Here the canyon by which Lost Creek makes for Weber River discouraged the party and they turned northeast and circled round to the Weber from that end of the valley. They started down the Weber but were deterred by Upper Weber Canyon (which contains Devil's Slide). They returned to the valley of Croyden and tried to get through the mountains north of Weber Canyon but parallel to it. This was impossible and they turned eastward again, all the way to Henefer this time. Here they started up Little East Canyon (as an Indian had previously advised them to do) and traveled up it to its head and over the divide and down into Dixie Hollow. Reaching the narrows in Dixie Hollow and thinking it impassable, they took an Indian trail up its west wall and down into East Canyon. They struck East Canyon at approximately the site of the present dam, and, still using the Indian trail (which held to the hillside, not the bottom of the canyon) followed it northeast to where it debouches in the valley meadows at Morgan. From here they followed the Weber River. They had detoured Upper Weber Canyon (Devil's Slide), but west through Lower Weber Canyon (Devil's Gate) to Great Salt Lake Valley.
Hastings took the Harlan-Young party through both Upper and Lower Weber Canyon. The route which Bryant followed from Henefer, up Little East Canyon, Dixie Hollow, and over the divide to East Canyon, was the one followed by the Donner party. Instead of turning northwest at the site of the dam and going down East Canyon, as Bryant did, the Donner party, however, turned south up East Canyon.
Note that Clyman, Hastings, and Hudspeth, on their way east, had traveled Dixie Hollow and Little East Canyon in reverse. They had reached Dixie Hollow from Great Salt Lake Valley by way of Parley's Canyon and East Canyon. Thus both Hudspeth and Hastings were so dubious of anyone being able to get wagons through it that, unquestionably by mutual agreement in advance, they led the scouts of the Harlan-Young party and the party itself by different routes which neither of them had ever seen before. Then, having traveled the Weber Canyon route in person, Hastings thought it even worse than the route he had taken eastward and warned the Donners away from it, directing Reed to follow his own eastward route. He had, however, taken the Harlan-Young wagons through the mountains by the Weber Canyon route. The decisions were extremely hard to make but there can be no question that Hastings ended by making the wrong ones. His judgment was just no good.
* Apparently about forty wagons went with Hudspeth. Others followed up to the sixty‑six mentioned in the text — the number usually given. One account makes the total eighty wagons.
5 Hastings' letter was dated "At the headwaters of the Sweetwater," that is, east of the continental divide, and Thornton, who makes the most positive statement, says that Hastings had "proceeded as far as the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and encamped at a place where the Sweetwater breaks through a canyon, at the point where the emigrants leave that river to enter the South Pass," and then returned to Fort Bridger. This is the statement usually repeated in the literature. But Thornton made it, not in his daily journal, but in his recital of the Donner tragedy, which was written more than a year later. It is not clear to me that Hastings came as far east as the divide, and both the known dates and the probabilities are against it. He may have come no farther than the Little Sandy.
6 There are contradictions, absurdities, or impossibilities in every account of the Murphys I have seen. My text repeats the commonest statement of Mormon historians, though the size of the Murphy outfit clearly rebuts it. The most factual statement, as well as the longest, is that of Daniel Tyler's pious Concise History of the Mormon Battalion, which is demonstrably wrong in practically everything it says and refers to Mrs. Murphy throughout as "Mrs. Murray." Later in my text, various rumors about the Murphys which were believed by the Mormons are repeated.
7 The presence of Bridger and Vasquez is established by a letter which Reed wrote home from Fort Bridger and which was printed in the Sangamo Journal of November 5, 1846. Reed calls them "very excellent and accommodating gentlemen" and says they "are the only fair traders in these parts." The other "independent trappers, who swarm here during the passing of the emigrants, are as great a set of sharks as ever disgraced humanity, with few exceptions. Let the emigrants avoid trading with them."
This letter concisely states the expectation which Hastings had produced. "The new road, or Hastings' Cut‑off, leaves the Fort Hall road here, and is said to be a saving of •350 or 400 miles in going to California, and a better route. There is, however, or thought to be, one stretch of •40 miles without water; but Hastings and his party are out ahead examining for water, or for a route to avoid this stretch. [It could be avoided only by way of Bear Lake or Fort Hall.] I think that they cannot avoid it, for it crosses an arm of the Eutaw [Great Salt] Lake, now dry. . . . There is plenty of grass which we can cut and put into the wagons for our cattle while crossing it. We are now only •100 miles from the Great Salt Lake by the new route — in all •250 miles from California; while by way of Fort Hall it is •650 or 700 miles — making a great saving in favor of jaded oxen and dust. On the new route we will not have dust as there are but 60 waggons ahead of us. . . . Mr. Bridger informs me that the route we design to take is a fine level road, with plenty of water and grass, with the exception before stated."
8 There are no journals and only very brief reminiscences by the members of the Harlan-Young party, and I cannot determine the exact date when they left Fort Bridger.
a La Rochefoucauld's maxim springs to mind:
Nul ne mérite d'être loué de bonté s'il n'a pas la force d'être méchant. Toute autre bonté n'est le plus souvent qu'une paresse ou une impuissance de la volonté.
No one deserves to be praised for goodness if he doesn't have the strength to be bad. Any other goodness is most often just laziness or impotence of will.
b Not to miss an opportunity to present useful information; and for what it's worth, of course: When I was in my twenties and smoked a pipe — and even unlit, a pipe in my mouth at meetings of a board of directors of which I was a member prevented me from making any number of impulsive comments which I would later have regretted — I spent a month trying out the contents of my spice cabinet; the only herb worth repeating was basil, about one part basil to four parts tobacco. (A word to the wise: chives are not a good idea.)
c The unwary reader shouldn't take this to mean they had reached the Pacific; DeVoto's irritatingly mannered style has got the best of him. What he means is that South Pass marked the continental divide: now the rivers no longer flow to the Gulf of Mexico but to the Pacific.
e My father was posted as American consul to Veracruz, Mexico in 1955. At the first function my parents went to, the usual shindig to greet a new member of the consular corps, my mother was introduced to the leading women of Veracruz: where she was not only the guest of the day, but an interesting bird to pique local curiosity, since at 5′2″ (1m57) and 102 pounds (46 kg), with her auburnish-brown hair, she was something like a tall thin blonde — as she would wistfully recall for the rest of her life. At any rate, one woman asked her what kind of girdle she wore to keep her figure so slim; her answer that no, she didn't wear a girdle, unleashed the little gaggle of women surrounding her, who promptly lifted her skirt to check, and gabble excitedly — "Ramona! Lupe! Chole! Look, no girdle!" — or at least so would my mother repeat this story very frequently in after years (with relish and good humor, since we quickly grew to be fond of Veracruz, a place of nothing but happy memories for us all in the family). Allowing for her taste for exaggeration when telling a good story, I still have no doubt the basic facts were true.
f The name covers several very strong raw spirits, here probably distilled of mezcal. See Ralph Bieber's note on Webb's Adventures in the Santa Fé Trail 1844‑1847.
g John Taylor Hughes, Doniphan's Expedition (1848). His diary is also online, preceded by a good biographical sketch, in William Elsey Connelley, Doniphan's Expedition and the Conquest of New Mexico and California. He would eventually rise to the rank of Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army.
h For those landing here from a search engine and thus mercifully unfamiliar with our author's style, Senator Thomas Hart Benton is meant; "Boanerges" = "sons of thunder" (Hebrew or Aramaic as transcribed into Greek — not a singular by the way, but a plural), via the Bible, Mark 3:17.
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