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This webpage reproduces a section of
Uncle Sam's Camels

Lewis Burt Lesley

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

The text is in the public domain.

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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

The Report of Edward Fitzgerald Beale to the Secretary of War concerning the Wagon Road from Fort Defiance to the Colorado River
April 26, 1858
35th Congress, 1st Session,
House of Representatives
Ex. Doc., No. 124

 p268  p80 February 1. Up at 4 and off at 6. Passed a rolling country in a direct line for Mount Sitgreaves, and so heavily covered with cedar and piñon that our progress was constantly retarded by the trees. The hills and valleys are covered with bunch and gramma grass. Crossing some fine valleys, the only places we found free of a dense growth of cedar, we came at 2 upon a dim trail almost invisible, which, from the occasional marks of a wheel tire having scraped a rock, and a bush here and there crushed and broken, I took to be Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Whipple's. Following this a short distance, we came to a tank in the rocks, which I supposed was the Lava spring of Whipple. The grass being excellent, and water and wood plenty, I encamped here. The day has been warm and bright.

 p269  Thermometer at noon, 71°.

I determined this morning to come in a direct line to San Francisco, and therefore shall leave Breckenridge spring to our left. From an elevation we saw Mount Thorburn in the plain far below us, and the most prominent object in that quarter, in fact, on the whole road, with the exception of Floyd's Peak and San Francisco. We saw very many deer and antelope tracks. Snow only occasionally in small patches where sheltered by the cedars and pine.

After noon the travelling generally became laborious from the softness of the ground, so that we make but short day's journeys.

February 2. Up at 4 and off at 6. After travelling a mile we came to a large tank in the rocky cañon, which, from the sign about it of camp fires, I knew to be Whipple's lava spring. From this point I determined to go south of Mount Sitgreaves, and by that means to Leroux's spring in a straight line. We passed over a fine country — rolling hills and timbered land — and found no snow until we reached the summit of the plateau at the greatest altitude over which we passed it last summer. Here, on the foot of the mountain, it had drifted for probably twelve inches in height. The travelling being laborious, I encamped near where we made our day camp, after leaving Leroux's springs, last summer. Shortly after leaving Lava spring, in which there was abundance of water, we came to New Year's spring, which was also full, and in a mile or two more entered the noble forest of San Francisco. The old mountain covered with snow, relieved by p81the dark green patches of pine, and the plain at its base, with its black forest of gigantic timber, presents a beautiful sight as the sun is setting this evening.

 p270  Thermometer at noon, 39°. At sundown under the shelter of the mountain, 46°.

Leaving the plain, which was covered with snow, we sought shelter under a spur of Sitgreaves' mountain for a camp and found a warm corner and plenty of grass and timber.

February 3. Up at 4 and off at 7. Found the snow from a foot on the level to eighteen inches in drifts. Put all men, excepting enough to drive the train, on foot ahead to break the road. The leader was changed every few hundred yards and came behind to the end of the line, nevertheless it was tedious work as the snow was just hard enough on top to break through at each step. This lasted for three miles, after which we had no trouble. After travelling all day through the beautiful forest of pine which covers the country, at four in the evening came to our old camp at Leroux's spring. At this pretty spring, which breaks out of the side of San Francisco mountain and runs four hundred yards into the valley, we found, as everywhere else, the southern exposure of the mountain entirely free of snow and covered with fine grass. Here we encamped for the night. At day break, thermometer, 29°; at noon, 36°; at sunset, 31°. A keen and cutting northwest wind all day, filling the air with fine snow, or what the Canadians call pondice.

February 4. My birth-day.

Up at 4, but did not get off before 8, the animals having good grass and the previous day's journey having been a fatiguing one.

Directly after leaving Leroux's spring the snow commenced getting lighter, and broad bare patches to appear  p271 by the time we had reached San Francisco spring, which we passed but did not go to. It had become so light and so little of it that the travelling became easy. After coming twelve miles we encamped at our old noon camp, the grass being excellent; and, moreover, I knew I could not go further than Walnut creek the next day, or between there and the Little Colorado; there is no wood, which is very necessary to one's comfort these cold nights. Our camp is a beautiful one this evening; a clear space of three miles around and skirted with lofty pine trees. We amused ourselves, as we strolled through the pine forest this morning, in shooting squirrels, which are abundant here and of a very beautiful species. Their ears are tufted and very long, the back a beautiful rich brown with silver gray on the sides and white on the belly.

At 4 A.M., thermometer 20°; at noon, 48°; at 3 P.M., 57°.

The day has been calm, cloudless, and very pleasant.

February 5. Up at 4 and off at 6.30. Still travelling through the forest we came at noon to Cosmino caves. The snow for the latter part of the morning scarce, and even in the drifts and patches where it did exist light and thin.

Encamped about a quarter of a mile below the caves, where we camped in travelling west last summer. If any one should ever follow our trail, it must be remembered that the water at this point is p82not that found at our wagon camp at the caves, although that is generally sufficient, but in an immense tank a quarter of a mile or so below. This singular tank in the rock is from eight to ten feet in depth, about twenty feet in width, and seventy feet  p272 in length at this time, and I presume is lower now than at any other season of the year. An excellent entrance for animals is found at its lower extremity. Cutting the ice, which was a foot thick on the surface, the sun only reaching it at noon for a moment or two, our animals drank plentifully, and after eating dinner we again started on our journey. The grass here is the best gramma and very abundant. Timber in the greatest abundance; cedar, pine, and piñon. The day very warm, calm, and clear. Indian horse and foot tracks seen on the trail all day and last night near camp. Entirely out of the snow, it being only visible on the distant hill tops.

Thermometer at midnight, 18°; at 4 A.M., 18°; at noon, 67°; at midnight 22°.

February 6. Up at 3 and off at 4.30 A.M. Shortly after sunrise came to Walnut creek, where we stopped for breakfast. Water not so plentiful as when we passed here outward bound. The grass very fine; no snow at all. The morning calm, clear, and cold. Walked from camp to Walnut creek. After breakfasting I determined to remain all day, as we found more water than we at first thought; more than sufficient for all our animals and camp purposes.

Examined the ancient ruins near here. We found one house in which the floor had been laid in adobe. The ground was covered for many acres with pottery, and some fine arrow heads were found near the ruins. Looking more closely we discovered that what we at first took for piles of loose stones and earth were the ruins of houses, in one of which we could trace five distinct rooms separated by what remained of the partition walls. Behind one of these the ground on stamping gave forth a hollow sound; but  p273 having no pickaxe with us, we could not investigate the cause.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 27°; at noon, 70°; at sundown, 37°.

February 7. Up at 4 and off at 5 A.M. We came to the Little Colorado at noon, and encamped a few miles above our old camp. We found the river very much lower than when we passed in September, though from the ground it was evident much rain had fallen lately.

The weather is warm and pleasant though a good breeze is blowing from the westward.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 33°; at noon, 67°.

February 8. Up at 4 and off at 5 A.M. Soon after starting we left the river and followed our old cut off, and passing the holes where we watered last fall, and which we found equally full today, we came soon after to the little stream which we found running when we passed it the first time. Here we found abundance of water, but not running as formerly. Crossing the playa, through which the water runs off, and leaving the road to our right hand, we entered a small cañon in which we found plenty of grass, shelter from the wind, and a considerable quantity of brush-wood, where we encamped.

The day has been rather disagreeable, and a stiff breeze (double reefed topsail) blowing in our faces, with an overcast sky, has made it the most uncomfortable day we have had on the road.

p83Thermometer at 4 A.M., 25°; at noon, 58°; at sundown, 45°.

February 9. Up at 4 and off at 6. After leaving camp a short distance we came upon a fresh trail of Indians, which  p274 we followed as far as Davis' creek — thirteen miles. Here I crossed the river. Davis' creek is much fuller than when we passed, and the river is rising.

Last night the wind blew half a gale, and though the morning was calm it is now blowing fresher than ever. Fortunately we have abundance of timber, and the cottonwood on the river makes a good lee for us.

Found some fine ducks in ponds near the river, of which I killed two.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 31°; at noon, 58°; at sundown, 45°.

February 10. Up at 4 and off at 7 A.M. Travelling up the river, and passing two of our old camps, we encamped near Cottonwood Fork, in sight of Mount Whipple, San Francisco mountain being hull down to the westward. Found a good camp, where some cedars and cottonwoods grow, near the river bank. The day has been cloudy, with rain this evening and a prospect of it all night long. Passed two old Indian trails — nothing fresh.

Thermometer at noon, 31°; at sundown, 45°.

February 11. Up at 5 and off at 7.30. It rained on us all night in drizzling showers, as well as some little this morning. The day raw and squally, with heavy clouds.

After travelling eight miles we left the river at the mouth of the Puerco. The more I see of the Little Colorado the better I like it. The stream is of the size of the Gila, but to be likened to that fresh water abomination in nothing else. The soil seems fertile and bears good meadow grass in all parts, while the plains, extending from its banks as far as one can see, are covered with rich gramma grass. The growth of timber in the bottom is in places very heavy  p275 and almost entirely cottonwood, but on the left bank, a mile or two from the river, cedar is abundant along the whole length of the stream. All who are with me, and who have been raised in the south, declare it to be excellent tobacco and cotton land. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the culture of these products to give an opinion, but for stock of all kinds I should say that a better country is not within the United States. We found Cottonwood Fork running a brisk but muddy stream, and also the Puerco. Travelling up the latter river we encamped, a mile from our old camp, in abundant and excellent gramma and bunch grass at a half mile distance from the river. The little lagoons between this and the mouth were filled with water.

Thermometer at midnight, 28°; at 4 A.M., 32°; at noon, 54°; at sundown, 45°.

In the evening strolled with Joe Bell over the hills, and found the remains of a house. At another point over­looking the river found quite a number of ruins; apparently all the wood used had become petrified; as usual, a large amount of broken pottery ware, painted in various shapes, was laying around.

February 12. It rained and snowed on us most of the night. This morning, shaking the snow from our blankets, we pursued our road p84at 8 o'clock, over the rolling plain, between the Puerco and the Xara. The snow passed off so rapidly, that by noon there was scarcely a trace of it to be seen, but the ground became so muddy that it made the travelling of today the hardest on our animals we have experienced during the voyage. At 2 o'clock we encamped on the Xara, having found a good lee under the cliffs, which  p276 bound the stream, and excellent grass and shelter for the animals. Our camp is about a mile below our former one, where we moored as we were going over. Weather squally, with rain, and occasionally spitting snow; wind blowing a gale from the northwest. Found the Xara twenty or thirty yards wide, and about two feet deep.

Thermometer at 5 A.M., 28°; at noon, 45°; at sundown, 42°.

February 13. Up at 4 and off at 7 A.M. Found the stream we had encamped on was not the Xara; crossed the divide, and struck our old trail, where it comes into the Xara, and at 2 o'clock encamped on the Carisso, at our old camp. The travelling very heavy from late rains; found nothing but mud to put our blankets on, but rendered it comfortable by putting down a layer of bushes first. The stream running, and grass good and abundant.

Thermometer at midnight, 31°; at 4 A.M., 28°; at noon, 55°; at sundown, 48°.

February 14 — Up at 4 and off at 6 A.M. Travelled towards Navajoe spring; found some Indian horses, which we at first thought were strays or lost, we captured them at the Little Cotton Wood creek, half-way to the spring. In the evening, as we approached the spring, we found that many Indians were about, and not knowing whether they were Garroteros or Navajoes, we prepared for war. Just before arriving at the spring, discovered a band of sheep, and from the Indians in charge heard that the large number of savages in the vicinity were Navajoes; watered our animals at the spring, and encamped a couple of miles from it in splendid grass, bunch and gramma. Cedar in abundance all over this country.

 p277 February 15. Up at 5 and off at 8 A.M. The Navajoes were in camp early, but unwilling to trade horses. We left them with the promise that they would come over to Jacob's well and trade, we promising to wait until evening for them. Jacob's well I have previously described. It is the greatest curiosity of the kind I have ever seen. A third of a mile in circumference, a hundred yards in depth, and at the bottom a pool of water about thirty yards across, and fringed with cedar trees, rushes, and willows. It is descended by a spiral trail leading down the sides, which are of soft, yellow clay. Thermometer at 4 A.M., 25°; at noon, 75°.

February 16. Up at 4 and off at 7 A.M. Met two Indians on the road, whom we supposed to be Garroteros. At noon came in sight of Zuñi, and encamped near the town.

Thermometer at midnight, 38°; at 4 A.M., 25°; at noon, 58°.

February 17. Up at 4 and off at 5 A.M. Passing the Pueblo of Zuñi, we went a few miles beyond and encamped. Here I bought corn, of which these Indians have plenty, for our mules. They were all in great trouble, the Navajoes having stolen one hundred and fifty of their horses.

p85Here I parted with Sergeant Armstrong and the soldiers who had been with me so long. They were all excellent men, and I parted with them with great regret. I sent them back from this place to Fort Defiance, having hired of the Indians burros for their transportation.

Thermometer at midnight, 39°; at 4 A.M., 27°; at noon, 52°.

February 18. Up at 4 and off at 5.30. Travelled by a very pretty valley to Ojo Pescada, which is one of the finest  p278 springs we have seen, and the land exceedingly fertile. The valley is reached by the trail from Zuñi, so gradually ascending as to seem a level road to the eye, though the elevation attained is considerable. The spring bursts a lively brook from under the rocks, and runs a bold stream at this season beyond Zuñi. Here the fine wheat of the Zuñians is principally raised, and the stubble remaining on the imperfectly cultivated patches, show clearly the natural resources of this beautiful valley.

Timber of both pine and cedar is abundant, and everywhere the richest grass covers the ground.

In the evening we came on by a beautiful, undulating country to the night camp, which we made in some cedars. The day has been warm and delightful, and the evening mild and clear.

There is a fine valley with a bold stream of water running through it, which may be reached by going three miles to the westward, across the mesa, at the Ojo Pescada. This whole country, with the exception of the valleys, which are clear and open, is covered with a dense growth of timber — cedar and pine.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 26°; at noon, 60°.

February 19. Up at 3 and off at 5 A.M. One would have to deal in superlatives altogether to describe the beauty of the country through which we have passed this morning. When at 9 A.M. we reached Inscription rock, I was tired of exclaiming, as every hundred yards opened some new valley, "how beautiful." The rock itself seems to be a centre from which radiates valleys in all directions, and of marvellous beauty. It rises grandly from the valley, and the tall pines growing at its base give out long before they reach  p279 the top of its precipitous face. Inscriptions, names, and hieroglyphics cover the base, and among the names are those of the adventurous and brave Spaniards who first penetrated and explored this country, with dates as far back as 1620. The race has long ago passed away, and left no representative of Spanish blood behind them. Those with us looked with listless indifference at the names of the great men of their nation, and who had made it famous centuries ago, cut by themselves upon this rock, and turned off to take charge of the mules, which is about all even the best of them are fit for.

The rock is some three or four hundred feet in height, and the spring almost hidden in the cavity of it; the face is perpendicular. The valley is ten miles in width, rolling but not hilly, and dotted over with clumps of pine and groves of cedar. A thick forest of pine covers the mountain, which defines the limits of the valley.

In the same valley with "Inscription rock" (as the name has been changed from the pretty old Spanish one of "El Moro") are, as I am informed by a Mexican of my party well acquainted with the country, p86four fine waters. The first, a large tank called El ojo delº Trinidad, bears north northeast from this spring, and is two leagues distant. The next is the rivulet of the Muertas, (so called because of some people having been killed by the Indians), bearing north northwest, or northwest, and ten miles distant. The next, the rivulet of La Savoya, bearing northwest by north, or west northwest, and twelve miles distant. The fourth is Los Nutinas, which is the largest, and bears west by north, and is fourteen miles distant.

On the summit of the rocks are ancient ruins, the walls  p280 of which are four feet in thickness. They are square, one hundred and seventeen yards in front. To the west the mouth of a natural inclosure opens into the heart of the rock, containing within its walls from twenty to thirty acres of level land, and growing in it the finest pine timber. The sides are from one to two hundred feet in height. The ground is covered with fine grass, and the whole may be closed by a wall or fence of thirty-five or forty yards length. Leaving this beautiful place with regret, we travelled up the valley some miles further, through a country of the same character, and encamped for the night.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 28°; at noon, 70°; at sundown, 32°.

February 20. Up at 4 and off at 5 A.M. All the morning passing through a fine open forest of tall pine, with extensive open glades and meadows at short distances. At noon we came to the beautiful valley of the Agua Frio.º It is not very large, but is the finest we have yet seen. Its length is about five miles by one and a half in width. The stream issuing out of the head of it is clear and cold, but does not run over a mile before it sinks. The soil is exceedingly rich, and the hills bounding it covered with pine, and among the trees, which are not thick or scrubby, the finest grass. We had at this point crossed the Rocky mountains, but our passage had been through a country of such beauty that we could scarcely recognize, in the fairy land we had been travelling in, these rugged barriers, as they have been considered, to our westward progress in civilization. The temperature of the weather at the summit was delightful. The sun clear and bright. The trees green and luxuriant, and nothing but here and there a patch of snow reminded us that the winter was not yet passed.

 p281  Descending gradually by a most pleasant trail through beautiful valleys, and without crossing a hill, we came to our night camp, in a fine grove, where we found a fine pool of water and abundance of grass. As for the latter, that may be found everywhere. In the evening a stiff breeze blew up from the westward. It was a free wind, however, and we bowled off before it handsomely. Thermometer at 4 A.M., 30°; at noon, 50°; at sundown, 30°.

For a better description of the country through which we have been passing for the last three days, I refer to the very interesting report of Captain Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Simpson, United States army.

February 21. Up at 4 and off at 5 A.M. Still descending gradually over a fine country we came to the Gallo. Crossed many streams of lava, which appear to have rolled in a fiery torrent just as a mountain stream from the hills. Crossing the rough face of this, we encamped at 10 near our old place on the Fort Defiance road, having been absent seven months. Here my labors ended; the main road to Fort p87Defiance being intersected at this point by that which I have explored and surveyed to Fort Tejon, California.

Thermometer at 4 A.M., 35°; at noon, 77°.

A year in the wilderness ended! During this time I have conducted my party from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, and back again to the eastern terminus of the road, through a country for a great part entirely unknown, and inhabited by hostile Indians, without the loss of a man. I have tested the value of the camels, marked a new road to the Pacific, and travelled 4,000 miles without an accident.

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