The second day from Beaver creek we reached a little stream near the Goshoot village, this being the place where Uncle Kit finished buying furs to load his pack-train in 1848.
The next morning we reached the village. I had not seen any of these Indians for five years. Then I was a mere boy and now a grown man, but every one of the Goshoots knew me and were glad to meet me. We stopped that day and visited with them, and bought some venison and frigoles, or beans.
The next morning we resumed our journey to Los Angeles, crossing the extreme northeast part of Death Valley. From here on the country was all new to me, and had it not been for the kindness of the Goshoot Indians, we would have perished for the want of water.
When I told a good Indian in that village where we were going, he sat down and with his finger marked a diagram in the dust, showing the lay of the country that we must pass ever, every little blind spring near the trail, the different mountains and valleys, and made it so plain that we could scarcely have made a mistake on the trip.
On arriving at Los Angeles we found only one white man in the place, and he was the only person in the whole town that could speak the English language. He had arrived there some years before, married a Mexican woman and had got to be very wealthy. He tried to induce us to go farther up the coast, telling us if we started for San Francisco the country was full of Mexicans, and that they despised all Americans and would be sure to murder us on our way; but as we had started for San Francisco, we were determined to see that city if possible. After laying over one day with the old American we resumed our journey.
The next place we struck was Monterey, where is now the famous Hotel del Monte, about two hundred miles from Los Angeles. Here we did not find a man who could speak a word of English, and we found the Mexicans still more selfish than in Los Angeles.
We began to think that the old white man had told the truth, for we would not have been surprised at any time to have been attacked by a band of Mexicans.
While here I saw two persons that I thought to be curiosities. They were of Indian parentage, light complexion and had eyes of a pink color. One was a boy about twenty years old and the other a girl of sixteen, and were brother and sister. It was claimed that they could see well after night, but could not see their way on a bright, sunny day.
These Indians were said to be of the Mojave tribe, that inhabited a portion of the country some six hundred miles east of Monterey, near the Mojave desert. I have since learned that such freaks are called albinos.
The reader will no doubt wonder why we came this round-about away to get to San Francisco. The reason is that in coming a more direct course we would have passed through a country that was infested with wild tribes of Indians; that is, tribes hostile to the whites. There being only two of us the chances were it would have proved a very unhealthy trip for us at that time.
ROBBER GAMBLERS OF SAN FRANCISCO.—ENGAGED BY COL. ELLIOTT AS INDIAN SCOUT.—KILLS AND SCALPS FIVE INDIANS.—PROMOTED TO CHIEF SCOUT.
Arriving at San Francisco we found things very lively, this being about the time of the greatest gold excitement in California. Here was the first city of note that I had been in since leaving St. Louis; here also was the first time I had seen gambling going on on a large scale. There were all kinds of games and all kinds of traps to catch the honest miner and rob him of his money that he had labored hard to dig out of the ground.
That night Jim Beckwith and I took in the sights of the city. We went to the different gambling houses and had just finished our tour and were on our way back to the What Cheer house—that being the hotel at which we put up—the leading hotel in the city then. We were just passing one of the gambling dens, when we saw two men coming out of the door leading a man between them who was crying like a child, and exclaiming: "I am ruined! I am ruined!"
We learned from the two men that he had come to the city that day with eight hundred dollars in gold, had bought a ticket for New York, and it was his intention to sail for that city the following morning. But he had gone out that night to have a farewell spree with his friends, got too much booze, started in gambling, thinking he might double his money by morning; but like thousands of other miners in those days, he "played out of luck," as they termed it, and had lost every cent he had. We walked on down to the hotel, and in a few minutes the three came into the hotel also, the one still crying like a baby. The proprietor only laughed and said it was a common occurrence for men to come to the city with even twenty thousand dollars, gamble it off in less than a week and then return to the mines to make another stake. But he said he had never seen a man before that took it as hard as this one did.
It was all new to me, and a little of it went a long ways.
That night after Jim Beckwith and I had retired, I told him that I had seen all of San Francisco that I cared to, and was ready to leave. However, we stayed two days longer, after which we pulled out for the Sierra Nevadas, by the way of Hangtown, a little mining camp situated at the American Fork. Here we crossed over a pass that Jim had told me of more than a year previous, which led us to the headwaters of the Carson river.
I proposed we give it the name of Beckwith Pass; and from that day to this it has been known by that name, and since has been made a splendid stage road.
After traveling down the Carson river some distance, we met a party of miners who informed us that a few days previous a band of Indians down on the Humboldt had made an attack on an emigrant train, cut off a portion of the train, stampeded the teams, killed all the people of that part of the train and burned the wagons.
They also informed us that Col. Elliott was down on what was known as Truckee Meadows with a company of soldiers, but, so far, was having very poor success killing Indians.
Col. Elliott had been sent out there with four companies of cavalry to protect the emigrants against the Pah-Ute or Piute Indians, which were very numerous down on the Humboldt, and around the sink of the Carson and as far up the mountains as Lake Tahoe.
Jim being very well acquainted with Col. Elliott, proposed we go around that way, thinking that the Colonel might be able to assist materially in turning the tide of emigration through his pass, his object being to get as much travel that way this fall as possible, and the following spring he would establish a toll road through that pass.
Col. Elliott was pleased at meeting Jim, and in the conversation said: "Beckwith, I am very glad, indeed, to see you. You are just the man I have been wanting this long time, for I haven't a scout in my entire command that is worth a cent to scout for Indians. I don't believe there is one of them that would dare to leave headquarters fifteen miles alone, and I want to employ you as chief of scouts."
Jim thanked the Colonel kindly for the honor, but told him he could not accept the offer as he had another matter he wished to attend to, and told him of the scheme he had on hand. But, he said, he had a young man with him that he could recommend highly for that position, and he gave me a great send off as a scout.
The Colonel insisted on our going with him to his private quarters for supper, which we did, and after having a pleasant visit with him, we returned to our own camp for the night.
When we were ready to take our departure for the evening, Col. Elliott said: "Mr. Drannan, can I see you privately to-morrow morning at nine o'clock?"
I told him that I would call at his quarters at that hour.
After Jim and I had reached our camp I asked him why he had misrepresented me to Col. Elliott in the way he had, when he knew I had never scouted a day in my life, knew nothing of scouting and had done very little Indian fighting.
Jim said: "You are a young man and have been among the Indians long enough to be pretty well acquainted with their habits. There is not a single fellow in Elliott's outfit knows as much about scouting as my black horse, and if you ever intend starting in, now is your chance. That is the reason I gave you such a send off to the Colonel."
After thinking the matter over, I concluded that Jim was right in regard to it, and now was a good time to make a start.
After breakfast the next morning I met Col. Elliott at his quarters at the time appointed. He invited me in and set out a bottle of whiskey and a glass. I thanked him, but declined to drink.
"Where were you raised," said the Colonel, "that you do not drink whiskey? I thought you grew up in the Rocky Mountains."
I told him that I did, but was not raised to drink whiskey. I also told him that I had been brought up, since a boy fifteen years old, by Kit Carson.
The Colonel asked me many questions about Indians, their habits, my idea of fighting them and so on, after which he asked me if I would like a position as scout. I told him I would, provided there was enough in it to justify me.
The Colonel made me a proposition of one hundred dollars a month and rations, I to furnish my own horses. I could also turn my extra horses in with the Government horses and it would cost me nothing to have them herded. I accepted his proposition, agreeing to start in on the following morning. I also had an agreement with him that when I did not suit him, he was to pay me off and I would quit. Also, when he did not suit me, I was to have the privilege of quitting at any time, all of which was satisfactory to him, and I started in on the following morning as per agreement.
That evening about sunset three of Col. Elliott's scouts came in, and he gave me an introduction to them, telling them that I was going to be a brother scout. After supper I had a long talk with one of them, in which he posted me somewhat as to the different watering places, grass, etc.
From him I learned that they had not seen an Indian for three days, but had seen any amount of sign, every day, which was evidence that there were plenty of Indians in the country.
The following morning when I went for my orders I was much surprised at the Colonel saying: "Oh, damn it! I don't care. Go any way you please and as far as you please. The other boys say there is not an Indian in fifty miles of here, and if you find any you will do better than any man I have sent out, so far."
When I went to order my lunch, and told the negro cook to put up enough to last me until the next night, he looked at me and said: "Whar you going, boss?" Jim told him I was going out to get some cayote scalps. I now mounted Mexico—the horse that Mr. Reed had given me at the City of Mexico—and started off on my first scouting trip, taking an easterly direction until I had struck the old emigrant road.
After I had left camp the other scouts were talking among themselves, and none of them thought I would ever return. One of the scouts told Jim that I was the biggest fool that he had ever seen, to start out scouting in a strange region and not ask anything about the country, grass, water, Indians, or anything else.
"Don't be alarmed about that boy," said Jim, "he'll take care of himself in any man's country."
I had been taught by Uncle Kit that when I attempted to do a thing to carry it out at all hazards, if it was in my power to do so.
After I had ridden about twelve miles or so, and was just entering the mouth of a little ravine, on looking up the same ravine I saw three Indians who had just hove in sight over the hill. I dropped back from their view as quick as I could, which only took about two or three jumps of my horse.
The Indians having their backs toward me, I was confident they had not seen me. They were heading for the emigrant trail, that being what we called the wagon road across the plains in those days.
I rode around the point of a hill and tied my horse in a washout where he would be hid from view, climbed up the top of the hill and saw five warriors, riding direct for the trail. After watching them for a short time I hurried back to my horse, mounted him and rode as fast as Mexico could conveniently carry me over this sagebrush country—about a quarter of a mile in an opposite direction to which the Indians were traveling. Riding up to the head of a little ravine, where I could tie my horse in a place where he would not be discovered by the redskins, I dismounted, tied my horse and crawled up through the sagebrush to the top of the hill, where I could watch the movements of the Indians.
This was a rolling country, low hills covered with a heavy growth of sagebrush, and not a tree of any description to be seen anywhere.
I had discovered my game, but how to capture it was what puzzled me.
The reader can have a faint idea of the situation of a young man in a strange country and a sandy, sagebrush plain, who did not know where to find either water or grass. If I returned to headquarters they would escape me, and this being my first time out in the scouting business, I could not afford to let them get away. So, after holding a private council with myself, I decided these Indians were spies, who were scouting for a large party of Indians that were somewhere in this part of the country, and that they were looking for emigrants, and in case they did not see any such that day, they would no doubt go to water that night.
I laid there on the hill watching their movements and trying to devise some plan by which I could capture them then.
Could I only have had Jim with me, how easy it would have been to follow them to their camp that night, kill and scalp them and capture their horses.
In those days an independent scout was entitled to all the stock captured of the enemy by him.
I watched the Indians until they got to the emigrant trail, where they stopped and held a council, apparently in doubt as to which way they should go. After parleying for some five minutes they struck out on the trail. I watched them for about two miles, then they passed over a low range of hills and were out of sight.
I now mounted Mexico and rode as fast as I could, not directly after them, but as near as I could to keep out of their sight; and at the same time I felt confident that should they discover me, that there was not an Indian pony in that whole country that could catch Mexico, either in a short or long distance.
After riding some five miles or so, I dismounted and tied my horse to a sagebrush, and climbed to the top of the highest hill between me and where I supposed them to be. I discovered them about a mile away, and they were just leaving the trail, riding up a ravine that led to the north. They dismounted and put their ponies out to grass. There also appeared to be a little meadow where they stopped, and I concluded there must be water there, too. I took in the situation at a glance and could see that I would have to ride a long distance to get near them. Just immediately beyond them was a little hill that sloped off down to the meadow on which they were camped, but in any other direction a person could not ride without being discovered.
I went back to my horse, mounted and took a circuit of about ten miles, having to travel that distance in order to keep out of their sight. Coming in from the north, I rode almost to the top of the hill; here I dismounted, tied my horse, crawled to the top of the hill, and on looking down could see them almost under me, the hill was so small and steep. They were busily engaged in skinning a jack-rabbit, and about that time I felt as though I could eat a hind quarter of it myself if it had been cooked; for I had been too busily engaged that day to stop and eat a lunch.
Here I lay in the sagebrush trying to devise some plan by which I could do away with them and capture their horses.
It was now about four o'clock in the afternoon, and this being about twenty miles from headquarters, I would not have time to ride there and return with soldiers before they wold break camp in the morning.
For me to attack them alone looked like a big undertaking.
There being a little grass for their horses, I now concluded they would remain until morning. So I crept back to where my horse was tied, took out my lunch and sat down and ate it, at the same time debating in my mind the best course to pursue.
I remembered what Col. Elliott had told Jim, that he did not have a scout that dared go fifteen miles from camp and now if I should return to camp and report what I had seen, he would start soldiers out, and by the time they could reach the ground the Indians would be gone, and there would be nothing accomplished, consequently I would, no doubt, be classed with the balance of the scouts in the opinion of the Colonel. While on the other hand, should I be successful in laying a plan by which I could do away with the Indians and take their scalps to headquarters as evidence of my work, it would give me a reputation as a scout.
I was confident they had not seen me that day, and knowing, too, the Pah-Utes had not been disturbed by Col. Elliott's scouts, they would no doubt lie down when night came, and I might steal a march on them and amid their slumbers accomplish the desired deed.
Having been brought up by one of the bravest frontiersmen that traversed the plains at that time, and who always taught me to respect a brave man and hate a coward, I made up my mind to make the attack alone, provided the Indians did not put out guards that night.
After I had finished my lunch I examined both my single-shot pistols—I still having the one presented to me by my old friend Joe Favor, three years before at Bent's Fort, also the knife, which the reader will remember weighed two and one-fourth pounds— and creeping back to the top of the hill I watched them cook and eat the jack-rabbit. As it grew dark I drew nearer, and when it was about as dark as it was likely to be that night, I crept up to within a few yards of them. They had a little fire made of sagebrush and did not lie down until very late.
I was so near that I could hear them talking, but I could not understand their language, as I had never been among them, but I was confident they were Pah-Utes, because I was in their country.
After they had smoked and talked matters over, which I supposed was in regard to the next day's scouting, they commenced to make preparations to sleep. In the crowd, apparently, were three middle-aged warriors and two young ones, not yet grown. The three older ones laid down together, while the two young ones made their beds about fifteen feet away from the other three.
After they had become quiet I commenced crawling closer, as there was some fire yet and I wanted to get their exact location before I made the attack.
I felt confident that I could kill one of them the first blow with my knife, and then I could kill the other two with my pistols. But this would still leave two to one and I with nothing but a knife; however, after going this far I was determined to make the attack at all hazards.
When I had crawled up within a few feet of their bed, one turned over and muttered something in his own tongue, which I could not understand. I made sure I was not detected, and after lying still for some time I concluded they were all asleep, and I soon made up my mind that I had better make the attack at once and have the matter settled one way or the other. After taking in the entire situation I decided to make the attack with my knife. I took the pistol from my right holster in my left hand, thereby giving me a better chance after emptying the one pistol to easily grasp the other one with my left hand.
I knew that if I could get a fair lick at one of them with my big knife, which I always kept as sharp as a razor, that he would make little, if any, noise. My plan of attack being completed, I crawled up near their heads, and all appeared to be sound asleep.
I decided to take the one on my right first, so that in case the other two should attempt to arise I would be in a position to shoot the one on my left and at the same time cut the other one down with my heavy knife. But it was my intention to kill all three of them with my knife, if possible, in order to save both pistols for the two young ones, as I expected a hard fight with them, for I felt sure they would be on to me by the time I got through with the other three, at the very best I could do.
I now raised up on to my feet and aimed to strike the one on my right about the middle of the neck. I came down with all my might and killed him almost instantly. I served the second one the same way, but by this time the third one had raised to a sitting position, and I struck him in the shoulder and had to make a second lick to kill him. By this time the other two had been aroused, and, as near as I could tell in the darkness, one of them was crawling in the opposite direction on his hands and knees, while the other one was coming at me on all fours. I shot him with the pistol that I held in my left hand, and I then thought I was almost safe. Just at that moment the other young buck was on his feet, with bow in hand but no arrows. He dealt me a blow on the side of the head, which staggered me but did not knock me down, and before I had time to recover, he dealt me a second blow, but it did not stagger me so much as the first, but it brought the blood quite freely from my nose, at the same time I made a side stroke at him, but struck too low. I then drew my other pistol from the holster and fired, shooting him through the chest, and though he fell mortally wounded, he again raised to his feet and dealt me another blow, which was a great surprise to me, but just one stroke of my big knife severed his jugular and he yielded up the ghost.
Now my task was done. At the risk of my life I had accomplished the desired end, and my reputation as a scout would be established.
I knew the other scouts were having some sport at my expense while I was away, for I had overheard two of them in a conversation that morning make some remarks about Col. Elliott's tenderfoot scout.
I had said nothing to them, but this made me all the more determined in the undertaking, and now I had turned the joke on them, and, as the old saying goes, "he who laughs last laughs best."
I could see by the light in the east that the moon would be up in a short time, so I went and got my saddle-horse from where I had tied him, and who, by this time was very thirsty and hungry, as he had had nothing to eat and no water since morning. I watered him, then picketed him out for about two hours on the little meadow, by which time the moon had risen.
I then scalped the five Indians and tied their scalps to my belt. They would be good evidence of my day's work when I should meet the Colonel at his quarters. This being done, I tied the five Indian horses together and started for headquarters, arriving there about noon the next day.
Just as I had put the horses in the corral and before I had time to dismount, Col. Elliott's orderly came on the dead run, saying: "Col. Elliott wishes to see you at his quarters at once."
I turned about and rode over to the Colonel's tent, and when I had saluted him, he said: "Sir, whose horses are those you just turned into that corral?"
I said: "Sir, those are my horses, as I understand that any stock captured from the Indians by an independent scout, he is entitled to."
"Mr. Drannan, do you tell me that you captured those horses from an Indian?"
I said: "Col. Elliott, yes, sir; and here is something more I captured with them." At that I threw down the five scalps at his feet.
He looked amazed as he gazed at the scalps, but said nothing for a few moments.
About this time the orderly announced Jim Beckwith at the door. The Colonel said let him come in, and just as he entered the door, Col. Elliott said:
"Beckwith, where do you suppose this scout got those scalps?"
Jim picked up the scalps, examined them thoroughly, and said: "I'll bet my black horse that he took them from the heads of five Pah-Ute Indians."
The Colonel smiled and said: "Drannan, if you will tell us all about the whole affair, I will treat."
I related the adventure in brief. Dinner being ready, the Colonel set out the whiskey and cigars and told me to call on him that afternoon, as he wished to have a private conversation with me.
I picked up the five scalps and started to dinner, and as I passed by the kitchen I threw them under the negro cook's feet and told him to cook them for dinner for my friend and me—referring to Jim Beckwith. When he saw the scalps he exclaimed: "Laws a massa, boss! whar you git dem skelps? Marse Meyers said dey wasn't an Injun in fifty miles o' hyar."
While we were eating dinner, Jim said to me: "Don't you know them fellers didn't think you'd ever come back?"
I asked him what fellows, and he said: "Why, those scouts. One of them told me you was the d—est fool he ever saw in his life, to go out scouting alone in a strange country, and that the Pah-Utes would get you, sure."
I said I did not think it worth while to ask those scouts anything about Indians or anything else, for I didn't think they had been far enough from camp to learn anything themselves.
That afternoon when I was announced at the Colonel's tent, I was met in a somewhat different manner by him to what I had been that noon, for he raised the front of the tent and said: "Come right in Drannan, why do you hesitate?"
After having a social chat with him and rehearsing to some extent the fight which took place the night before between myself and the five Pah-Utes, he proposed to make me chief of his scouts. He said: "Now, Drannan, I will tell you what I wished to see you about. I have five scouts besides you, and I am going to make you chief of all my scouts, and you can handle them to suit yourself."
I told the Colonel that I did not desire any promotion whatever, for in the first place I would not be doing my self justice, and that it would not be doing justice to the other scouts, and I thought it would be of more benefit to both him and his other scouts, to go alone, as I had started out.
He asked me why I would prefer going alone. My reply was that a person in that business could not be too cautious, and I did not know what kind of men he had, and just one careless move would spoil the plans of the best scout in the world.
The Colonel admitted that I was right, but insisted on selecting one man from his five scouts to assist me, saying: "If he don't suit you, after trying him two or three days, report to me, and you may select any one from my scouts that you like." And to this I consented. I told him that I would be ready to start out the following morning, and if he had any orders to give me to give them now, as I would start very early. He said that he had no orders to give, but that he had selected Charlie Meyers to accompany me; and he proved to be a good man and a good scout.
A LIVELY BATTLE WITH PAH-UTES.—PINNED TO SADDLE WITH AN ARROW.— SOME VERY GOOD INDIANS.—A STUTTERING CAPTAIN.—BECKWITH OPENS HIS PASS.
The next morning I ordered three days' rations for two men, and Charlie Meyers desired to know if I was going to Salt Lake City or New York. I told him I was going out hunting, and if I struck fresh signs of game I proposed tracking it to wherever it went.
That day we took the divide between Carson and Humboldt, south of the emigrant trail, making a ride of forty miles that day, and then a dry camp—a camp without water. The following morning we rode about five miles, and came on to a big Indian trail that had been made the evening before. We pushed on as fast as we could, all the time keeping a sharp lookout, for we were now in the heart of the Pah-Ute country, and could not be too careful. About half past three o'clock we came to where the Indians had camped the night before, on a tributary of the Humboldt. At this camp three antelope had been devoured, so we knew that there had been a large band of the redskins at that feast. It was also evident that they were not very far ahead of us, as their fires had not entirely died out.
Continuing the pursuit we were now getting close to the emigrant trail, and it was plain that the Indians had headed west, which convinced me that they were looking for emigrants, and if so they would not go far before they would either go into camp or leave the trail. It proved that after following the emigrant train a short distance they had taken to the hills. The country was a sea of sagebrush, and frequently we would start a jack-rabbit or antelope that we would have been pleased to roast for supper, but dared not shoot.
When near the top of a hill I would dismount, and leaving my horse with Meyers, would crawl to the summit of the hill and peep over in order to discover whether or not the Indians were in sight, and then return, mount my horse and ride at a rapid gait until near the top of another hill, when the same maneuver would be repeated.
At last we came to a sharp ridge and I dismounted. I remarked that if we did not find those Indians soon we would have to make another dry camp that night. It was now nearly sunset, and on crawling to the top of the ridge and looking down on a nice little valley not more than a half-mile distant, I saw that they had just gone into camp and had not yet got all their ponies unpacked.
I had a good chance to make a rough estimate of their number, which I thought to be about two hundred warriors.
I rushed back to Meyers and told him that I had located them, and that one of us would have to ride back to headquarters that night and report, and asked him whether he would rather go or stay and watch the Indians.
"Why not both go," he asked.
I told him that by the time the cavalry could get there the Indians might be gone, and one of us must stay and see where they went to.
We were now, as near as we could tell, about thirty-five miles from camp, as that afternoon we had been traveling west, in the direction of headquarters.
After thinking the matter over, Meyers concluded that he would rather make the ride than stay. I told him to be off at once, but before starting, he said to me: "Suppose the Indians should discover you while I am away?"
I replied that I would like very much to have them discover me, when I knew the soldiers were in sight or within ten miles, for I would like to run them into such a trap, and that I was not afraid of any horse in their band catching Mexico in any distance.
I instructed Meyers not to spare horseflesh on the way, and to tell Col. Elliott to start two companies of cavalry as soon as possible.
We shook hands and he started, and that was once that he made good time. It being after seven o'clock when he started, he reached camp at fifteen minutes after eleven that night.
When he had gone I started in to lay my plans for the night.
It was yet so light that I could get a good view of the surrounding country, and about three miles from the Indians' camp I could see the highest hill anywhere around. I decided at once that if I were on that high hill I could see every move of the Indians, besides I could look up the Humboldt and see the soldiers, or at least the dust raised by them, while they were yet a long way off.
This peak lay north of the trail, and the trail ran east and west.
As soon as it was dark I mounted my horse and rode to the peak and tied him to a sagebrush in a sinkhole, that looked as though it might have been put there on purpose, for my horse was hidden from every direction.
I now went to the top of the hill, and there being a dense growth of sagebrush, I was perfectly safe from discovery when daylight should come.
I did not have to wait long after daylight, for just as the sun was creeping up over the hill and shedding its rays on the little valley where the two hundred braves had had such a pleasant night's rest, dreaming, perhaps, of emigrants, horses, provisions and other stuff that they would probably capture the following day, I looked up the Humboldt and saw the two companies of cavalry coming.
The Indians seemed in no hurry to leave, and were perhaps waiting for the five scouts to return and report, never thinking that they had been killed and scalped, and that the same paleface who did the deed was then watching their every movement and laying plans for their destruction.
I got my horse in about a minute, mounted and rode across the country to meet the cavalry, taking a route so that I would not be seen by the Indians.
I met the soldiers—who were commanded by Capt. Mills and Lieut. Harding—about four miles from the Indian camp, and they came to a halt.
I told them about the number I thought there were in the Indian band and the lay of the country, as nearly as I could. The Captain and Lieutenant stepped to one side and held a council, and after talking the matter over they called me and said they had about decided to attack the enemy from both above and below at the same time, and, as I had seen the ground, they asked my opinion in the matter. I told them I thought it an excellent plan, and then Capt. Mills turned to Lieut. Harding and said: "Which do you prefer, to make the upper or lower attack? Take your choice."
He then asked me if they could get to the head of the ravine that the Indians were camped on and not be seen by them. I told him that I could show them a ravine that led from the emigrant trail to the head of the valley on which they were camped, and marked out a plat of the country in the dust, showing the course each company would have to take, telling them that the company making the upper attack would have to travel about a mile farther than the one making the attack from below. He then asked me if the companies could see each other before the Indians could see them. I informed him that they could not, but that I could show him a hill where he could station a man and he would be able to see both companies, but the Indians could not see him, and when the company from above should reach the top of the hill that man could signal to the other company to charge.
At that time Lieut. Harding turned to Capt. Mills and said: "If the boy scout will go with me I will make the upper attack, as he has been over the country and knows the lay of the ground."
Of course I consented, and we marched to the mouth of the ravine just mentioned.
I pointed out the hill referred to, and the Lieutenant placed a man on top of it, and we proceeded.
Just before we reached the top of the other hill, Lieut. Harding halted and formed his men in line, placing them about ten feet apart, saying: "I have only a hundred soldiers, but I want it to appear that I have a thousand."
When we first came in sight of the Indians, some were lying stretched out in the sun, some were sitting down, while a few were out looking after their horses, everything indicating that they had just had their breakfast and were lounging around, not having the slightest idea of an enemy in twenty miles of them, and we took them wholly unawares.
When the Lieutenant formed his men in line before raising the top of the hill, he asked me to take charge of his left wing and he would take charge of his right. As soon as we came in sight of the Indians, he gave the order to charge.
This was the first thing of the kind I had ever witnessed, and when I cast my eyes down the line of soldiers I thought it the grandest sight I had ever seen. This was also the first engagement for either of the companies.
In all the scrimmages I had been in with the redskins, the one that made the most noise was the best Indian fighter; so when the Lieutenant gave the order to charge, I raised a yell, as I thought this to be one of the essential points of a charge, and wondered why the rest of the boys did not do the same. However, after hearing a few of my whoops they picked it up, and each began yelling at the top of his voice, and by this time we were among the Indians.
The two companies had about the same distance to run after sounding the charge, but Lieut. Harding was at the scene of conflict a few moments ahead of Capt. Mills, thereby giving the Indians time to scatter. This was attributed to the fact that Capt. Mills had to charge up grade while Lieut. Harding had down grade, which they had not thought of before making the arrangement, and the ground being mostly sand made a great difference in the speed of the horses.
Meyers and I made a rush for the Indians' horses, but the soldiers all stuck together, and seeing that a number of Indians were at their horses already and mounted, we abandoned the idea at once. Had one platoon made a dash for the horses and stampeded them, we would no doubt have got more Indians.
After emptying both of my single-shot pistols I drew my knife, and just at that moment an Indian shot Meyers through the arm with an arrow and he sang out to me that he was wounded. Another Indian then made a dash at Meyers with his bow and arrow in hand, so I charged after him and made a slash at him with my knife, but he saw me in time to slide off on the opposite side of his horse. I could not stop the blow so I struck his horse in the back and brought him to the ground, and the Indian ran for dear life.
About this time a soldier came riding along, and I knew from his actions that his pistol was empty (the soldiers had no firearms in this engagement except pistols), and I asked him why he did not draw his sabre and cut them down. He said he had no orders to do so.
To that I did not reply, but I thought this a queer way of fighting Indians, when a soldier had to stop in the midst of a battle, fold his arms and stand there to be shot down while waiting orders to draw his sabre. A moment later they received orders to use their sabres, and they went to hewing the Indians down.
I saw an Indian with two or three feathers in his hair, and I took him to be the war chief. He was coming direct for me with bow and arrow in hand, and I made a desperate rush for him and made a strike at him with my knife, but he threw up his arm and knocked off my lick, at the same time a measly redskin shot me through the calf of my leg, pinning me to the mochila of my saddle.
The mochila is a large covering for a saddle made of very heavy leather and comes low on the horse's side, thereby affording great protection to horses in cases like this. This shield is of Spanish origin, but they were used by all mountaineers as well as Mexicans.
I was leaning over when the arrow struck me and pinned me to the saddle, so that I could not straighten up, for I was almost on the side of the horse when I received the arrow.
Capt. Mills, seeing the predicament I was in, came to my rescue and cut the war chief down with his sabre, just in time to save me from getting another arrow.
The Captain pulled the arrow out of my leg, which had a very large spear made of hoop iron, and it tore a bad hole in my leg when he pulled it out. By this time the redskins were scattering in all directions, some on foot and some on horseback.
As soon as I was free I saw a band of about fifty horses not far away, and asked the Captain to detail some of his men to assist me in running them off. The Captain dashed off to his orderly who he told to take a platoon of men and go with the boy scout to take charge of those horses.
In this charge we got fifty-two horses and killed four Indians. We drove the horses out on the hill where they would be out of the way and where the Indians would not get them, and the Sergeant left his men to guard them until further orders.
As I rode back to the scene of battle I looked up the road and saw four wagons coming. I asked the Sergeant where those wagons were going, and he said they were ambulances, coming to haul the wounded to headquarters, saying they had started at the same time the cavalry did but could not keep up, consequently they did not arrive until after the battle was over.
About the time I returned to the battlefield the bugle sounded calling the soldiers in from the chase, and on looking over the ground, four dead soldiers and twenty-seven wounded were discovered. There were sixty-three dead Indians in sight, and more, no doubt, were scattered around in the sagebrush.
The battle being over we had our breakfast. I also had my horse put out to grass, as he was very hungry, not having had anything to eat since noon the day before, and not much then.
After breakfast was over the soldiers buried their four dead comrades and loaded the wounded into the ambulances and started for headquarters, arriving there about nine o'clock that night. Charlie Meyers had a wound in his arm that laid him up all summer, and I was not able to ride for two weeks; although I had the best of care.
From that time on I was known as the boy scout, and the next day after our return, Col. Elliott appointed me chief of scouts with rank and pay of captain, which was one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month. He also provided me with private quarters, my tent being pitched near his own, and notwithstanding that I was only a mere boy the other scouts all came to me for orders and counsel, and I often wondered why men who knew nothing of scouting nor the nature of Indians would stick themselves up as scouts.
Two weeks from the time I got wounded the Colonel asked me if I thought I was able to ride, saying that the news had just come to him that the Indians had attacked a train of emigrants, killed some of them and driven off their stock. This depredation he said had been committed in the Goose Creek mountain country about one hundred and twenty miles east of us. Col. Elliott said that he was going to send out a company of soldiers there, and if I felt able I might accompany them, which I did.
All being in readiness, I selected two scouts to assist me, and we pulled out, taking with us a pack-train with one month's provisions.
We had a rough and tedious trip, as not one of the entire crowd had been over the country and did not know a single watering place, so we had to go it blind, hit or miss. I had not gone far when I found that I had made a sad mistake, as notwithstanding my leg appeared quite well when I started out, yet, after one or two days' riding, it got quite sore and pained me severely, and the longer I rode the worse it got.
Five days' ride and we were at the place where the emigrants were camped. Another small train had pulled in with them as they were afraid to cross the desert alone.
That night Capt. Mills called the men of the train together to ascertain whether or not they wished to look after their stock, but they did not seem to know themselves what to do. They were quite sure that the Indians had driven the stock south, as they had tracked them some distance in that direction. Capt. Mills asked me what I thought of finding the stock, and I told him that if it was driven south, of which the emigrants seemed quite sure, it was more than likely that the Indians and stock were several hundred miles away, and that it would be next to impossible to get any trace of them, and in my opinion it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
After considering the matter the emigrants concluded that I was right.
Those of them who had lost all their stock were a pitiful sight indeed, women and children were weeping, and particularly those who had lost their husbands and fathers in the fight with the Indians.
There were no women and children killed, as the Indians did not attack the train, being apparently only bent on capturing the horses and cattle. They had killed the guards and also the men that ran out to protect the stock.
One who has never witnessed a like affair can scarcely comprehend the situation of a widow left out there with three or four children in this desolate region, utterly destitute. It was a gloomy situation, indeed, and a sight that would cause the hardest-hearted man to shed tears.
Those who had lost their stock made some kind of arrangements to ride with those that had come later.
The day before starting the emigrants rolled all their wagons together that they did not have teams to haul, also the harness, and in fact everything they could not haul, and burned them, so that the Indians would not derive any benefit from them.
I merely note a few of these facts to give the reader a faint idea of the trials, troubles and hardships that the early settlers of the "wild West" had to pass through, not only in crossing the plains, but, as will be shown later in this book, in many instances after settling in different parts of this western country.
The day before starting, Capt. Mills suggested that as my wound was giving me so much trouble, I should return to headquarters in company with the train of emigrants, and asked how many men I wanted to guard them through. I told him that I would not feel safe with less than twenty men. The Captain thought that twenty would not be sufficient, so he made a detail of twenty-five men and issued rations to last us eight days.
Capt. Mills and the men he had reserved remained in this section of country to guard emigrants that might be traveling westward, as the Indians were now working in this part of the country since our battle with them on the Humboldt.
Having completed all arrangements we pulled out with one hundred and twenty-five wagons, all told, in the train, but as some of the oxen were very tender footed we had to travel very slowly. I divided my men into squads of twelve each, and changed guards at morning, noon, evening and midnight.
I also started six guards ahead every morning, with instructions to keep from one to three miles from the train on either side, according to the lay of the country. The second day one of the scouts returned from the south and reported having seen six Indians southwest of the train; this was about ten o'clock in the forenoon. I turned and rode off with the scout, saying nothing to anyone in the train. He piloted me to where he had seen the Indians, and sure enough there were the tracks of their ponies in the sand. The scout returned to the train and I followed the trail of the Indian all day, but never got sight of an Indian. When dark came I turned about and rode to camp, arriving there at twelve o'clock that night.
The people in the train were very much pleased to see me return, for they had felt much uneasiness as to my safety, fearing that I might have fallen into the hands of the Pah-Utes. This ride, however, laid me up for two weeks, and I had to go the balance of the way in an emigrant wagon.
The captain of this train had a jaw breaking name that I never heard before or since. It was Sam Molujean, and I know he was the most excitable man that I ever saw. When Capt. Molujean got excited he could not talk at all for stuttering, so one day the guards concluded to have a little sport at the expense of the Captain. We were now nearly opposite where about a month previous a battle with the Pah-Utes had been fought, and the advance guards were riding back to the train—it now being time to corrall for dinner. They met Capt. Molujean, who asked if they had seen any Indians.
One of the guards informed him that there were sixty-odd up the ravine. This set the Captain wild. He wheeled around and rode back to where I was in the wagon and started in to tell me what the guard had said, but he could not utter a word.
After listening to him a minute or so I told him if he would get some one to tell what he wanted I would answer his question. I suppose I was somewhat impatient, as I was suffering from my wound. At this one of the guards rode up with a smile on his face, and I asked him if he could tell me what Capt. Molujean was trying to say to me. He related to me what they had told him in regard to the sixty-odd Indians up the ravine, referring to the Indians that had been killed in battle between the soldiers and Pah-Utes.
We had a good laugh at the Captain's expense, after which I told him the Indians the guard had reference to were all good Indians.
"Oh! is that so?" he exclaimed, and these were the first words he had been able to utter. "But," he continued, "I did not know there were any good Indians in this country; I thought all of them were savage." I told the Captain that those Indians were dead, and that all dead Indians were good ones. This was a stunner for the Captain, and I do not think that the joke has ever penetrated his massive skull.
We did not see any more Indians or any sign of them on the trip.
On reaching headquarters we found Jim Beckwith awaiting our arrival. He had been out with three other men whom he had hired to help him blaze a road across the mountains through his new pass. He had finished his work on the road and returned to Col. Elliott's camp, knowing that if he could get one train to go his way it would be a great help toward getting the tide of immigration turned in that direction the following season.
Here Beckwith took charge of the train, Col. Elliott recommending him very highly, and telling the emigrants that if they would only obey his orders he would pilot them through in safety.
Before starting, Jim asked me to come over and spend the winter with him, saying that he was going to build a cabin on the other side of the mountains, lay in a big supply of provisions, and as after that he was going to do nothing, he wanted me to help him.
I promised to go and winter with him if it was possible for me to do so, as at this time I did not know but what I might have to go to San Francisco to have my leg treated the coming winter.
From here the emigrants were to pay Jim to pilot them across the mountains to a little mining camp called Hangtown, which was about one hundred and twenty miles east of Sacramento. They made the trip without any trouble. I saw one of the emigrants the next spring and they spoke in very high terms of Jim Beckwith.
COL. ELLIOTT KILLS HIS FIRST DEER, AND SECURES A FINE PAIR OF HORNS AS A PRESENT FOR HIS FATHER.—BECKWITH'S TAVERN.—SOCIETY.
Two weeks after the incidents related in the previous chapter, Capt. Mills came in with another train of emigrants, not having seen an Indian on the trip, and from this time on there was no danger of such trains going from that region through Beckwith Pass, and as the road was now broken by the other train, these emigrants could cross the Sierra Nevadas without a guide.
About this time four men with pack animals came along who claimed to be from Salt Lake. They reported that they had seen Indians one day traveling east of headquarters. I took two men and started out and was gone about a week, but did not see an Indian, or a track or sign of one, and when we returned the Colonel concluded that he had been misled by the packers.
Col. Elliott now ordered me to take fifty men, with two weeks' provisions, and go as far as we could with that amount of rations, or until we should meet some emigrants. We were gone about three weeks, but did not see either Indians or emigrants. The fact is, that it was getting so late in the fall that the Indians had all gone south, and the emigrants were not moving on the desert at that season.
On our return the Colonel had everything ready and we pulled out for San Francisco. We camped the first night at Steamboat Springs, a place that has since grown to be a famous health resort. On the second day we passed over the country where now stands Carson City, the capital of Nevada. At that time, this region, like all of that country then, was a wild, unsettled, sagebrush desert, or mountain wilderness.
The morning we left Eagle Valley the Colonel rode in advance of the column with me, and I saw there was something on his mind. In a little while he said he would like to kill a deer with big horns, so that he could send it—the horns—to his father in New York, who had never seen a deer, and he added that notwithstanding he—the Colonel—had been on the Pacific coast two years, he had never killed a deer in his life. I told him that I would fix it for him to get one the very next day, and he was as pleased as a child.
That night we camped by a big spring at the mouth of a great canyon, and about the spring stood a number of large pine trees. Many persons who had passed that way had carved their names in the bark of the trees, and among the names were two that were quite familiar to me. One of these was the name of Capt. Molujean—I wondered how he had done it without stuttering—and the other was the name of James Beckwith. On the same tree was written with lead pencil: "Sixty miles to Beckwith's Hotel."
On my favorite horse, Pinto, I rode out with the Colonel for a deer hunt. While riding along the canyon about two miles from where the command had camped, I saw a large doe crossing the canyon and coming down the hill toward us. I signaled the Colonel to halt and I shot the doe, breaking her neck, while sitting on my horse. I then told the Colonel to secrete himself behind a tree and he would soon see the male deer, and he would stand a good show to get a fine pair of horns. In a few moments two deer came tracking the one I had shot.
"Be ready, now," said I, "and when he stops let him have it." So when the deer were within about fifty yards I gave a keen whistle and they stopped, stock still. The Colonel fired and brought the big buck to the ground. The other, which was a small one, started to run, but I sent a bullet after it that made more venison.
We now had plenty of meat, and the Colonel was as proud over killing that deer as I was over my first pair of boots.
We stopped here until the command came up, dressed the venison and went on our way rejoicing.
Soon we were ascending the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and about three o'clock we struck the snow-line.
To one who has never gone from comparative summer in a few hours' ride, to the depths of winter and a considerable depth of snow, the sensation is a strange one. Of course, I had often done that before. But having more leisure to think of it now, and having more to do with the snow, I thought of its strangeness, and I am reminded of a little girl whom I have become acquainted with long since those days, and the effect that the first sight of snow had upon her. She was born in San Francisco, and had not seen any snow up to the time when she was three years old. Her parents were coming east with her on a railroad train, which runs over about the same ground that we were on at the time I was there with Col. Elliott. Awakening in the morning in a sleeping-car on top of the Sierras, the little one looked out, and seeing the vast fields of whiteness, she exclaimed: "Do look, mamma; the world is covered with sugar."
As we ascended the mountains the snow became so deep in a little while that we were forced to camp. The next morning the herders were directed to take the stock ahead in order to tramp down the snow to make a trail, but in four miles it became so deep that it was impossible to proceed further in that manner, and then the Colonel detailed fifty men to shovel snow, but having only a few shovels, wooden ones were made that answered the purpose, and while we were shoveling, the horses were also frequently driven back and forth over the trail, and in three days we had a passable road for the wagons.
At the end of the three days we reached the edge of the snow on the opposite side of the mountains, and there being a beautiful camping ground and the first night out of the snow for some time, the luxury of it was fully appreciated by all hands.
On a pine tree here I again saw signs of my old friend, Jim Beckwith, for there was written: "Twenty miles to Beckwith's Hotel." So you see that even in that faraway country, and at that early day, even the pioneer had learned the uses of out-door advertising.
The next morning we took an early start and traveled hard all day, anticipating with much pleasure that at night we should enjoy all the luxuries of the season at Beckwith's Hotel. And we did, to the extent that this region and the markets of San Francisco could afford.
We reached [Transcriber's note: unreadable text] about sunset that evening, and the command went into camp and I went to Jim's new log house. He had built one and had started in to build the second, having two carpenters at work finishing them up.
After supper Col. Elliott and all his officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned, came to Jim's house, where, after a social chat and having cracked a few jokes, which latter was really a part of the business connected with this life, Col. Elliott pulled off his overcoat, laid it and his hat on a bed, stepped up near the table and said:
"Mr. Beckwith, I wish to say a few words to your friend, Mr. Drannan, in behalf of myself and the other officers present." Jim told him to go ahead, which he did, telling how faithful I had been and what valuable services I had rendered both to him and the emigrants. He went on and made quite a lengthy speech, in conclusion of which he said: "Mr. Drannan, as a slight token of our appreciation of your services while with us, I now present to you this pair of glasses," whereupon he handed me a fine pair of field glasses which he took from his overcoat pocket, "and here are two navy revolvers that Capt. Mills and Lieut. Harding wish to present to you as a token of their friendship."
This took me wholly by surprise, as I had not expected anything of the kind, and I was so dumbfounded that all I could say was to thank them for the presents, the thought never having entered my head that my services had been so highly appreciated by the officers of those four companies.
Col. Elliott said that in case he should go out on the plains the following summer, which in all probability he would, he wanted me to go with him without fail. I promised him that I would, provided I was in the country when he started out.
After Col. Elliott had closed his remarks and taken his seat, Jim Beckwith arose and made quite a speech in his plain, rude language, addressing his remarks principally to Col. Elliott, in which he said: "Colonel, I would not have recommended this boy to you so highly if I had not been with him long enough to know that when he starts in to do a thing he goes at it for all there is in him, and, as I told you, he has been with Kit Carson ever since he was a boy, and I knowed that if he didn't have the everlasting grit in him, Kit Carson wouldn't have kept him around so long. I am very glad indeed, Colonel, that he has filled the bill, and now the Injun fightin' is all over for this season and 'twill be some time before we all meet again, if we ever do. I have nothing of value to present to you, but such as I have is as free as the water in the brook."
At this he produced a gallon jug of whiskey, set it on the table, gave us some glasses and told us all to help ourselves. This wound up the evening's exercises, and after each had tipped the glass about three times we broke up the lodge and each went on his way rejoicing.
Before the Colonel left that night he told me that we would divide the captured horses the next morning. I told him that all I wanted was the five horses that I had captured from the five Indian scouts when I first started in to scout for him, but the next morning [Transcriber's note: unreadable text] out when the horses were brought in and made the division. There were sixty-three of them, and he left fifteen to my share.
I stayed at Jim Beckwith's for about two weeks, and his carpenters having the houses completed, we saddled up four horses and took them to Hangtown. It was a distance of twenty miles to Hangtown, which at that time was one of the loveliest mining towns in California. There were between four and five thousand inhabitants in and around the place. During the day it appeared dead, as there was scarcely a person to be seen on the streets; but at night it would be full of miners, who, it seemed, came to town for no other purpose than to spend the money they had earned during the day.
This winter passed off, apparently, very slowly, being the most lonesome winter I had put in since I struck the mountains.
Along about the middle of February our groceries were running short and Jim went to Hangtown for supplies. On his return he brought me a letter from Col. Elliott, asking me to come to San Francisco at once.
I asked him what he thought of it, and he told me by all means to go.
I told him I would have to stop in San Francisco and buy me a suit of clothes before going out to the fort to see Col. Elliott. He thought this was useless, saying: "Your buckskin suit that Kit Carson gave you is just what you want for a trip like that."
I thought that if I wore such a suit in civilization the people would make light of me, and I hated the idea of being the laughing stock for other people.
Jim said: "It is Col. Elliott you are going to see, and he would rather have you come that way than any other."
I took my suit down and looked at it, and it was a fine one of the kind. I had never worn it since Uncle Kit's wedding, so it was practically new. I decided to wear it, and the next morning I started for San Francisco, Jim accompanying me to Hangtown to take the horses back to his ranche.
At Hangtown I took the stage for Sacramento, which, by the way, was the first time I had ever ridden in a stage-coach.
We started from Hangtown at five o'clock in the morning and at twelve o'clock that night the driver drew rein at the American Exchange Hotel in Sacramento. The coach was loaded down to its utmost capacity, there being nine passengers aboard. The roads were very rough at this season of the year—being the latter part of February—and I would rather have ridden on the hurricane deck of the worst bucking mustang in California than in that coach.
This hotel was kept at that time by a man named Lamb.
That night when the proprietor assigned the passengers to their respective rooms he asked us if we wished to take the boat for San Francisco the next morning. I told him that I did, whereupon he asked me if I wanted my breakfast. I told him that I did, saying that I didn't want to go from there to San Francisco without anything to eat. This caused quite a laugh among the bystanders; but I did not see the point, for at that time I did not know that one could get a meal on a steamboat, for I had never been near one.
Just as I stepped on the boat next morning, a man rushed up to me with a "Hello there! how are you?" as he grasped me by the hand. Seeing that I did not recognize him, he said: "I don't believe you know me." I told him that he had one the best of me. He said: "You are the boy scout that was with Capt. Mill last summer, and you rode in my wagon." Then I recognized him. His name was Healey, and at the time was running a restaurant in San Francisco, and he insisted on my going to his place when I got to the city, which invitation I accepted. His establishment was known as the Miners' Restaurant.
Mrs. Healey and her little daughter, eleven years old, knew me as soon as I entered the door, and were apparently as glad to see me as though I had been a relative of the family.
The next morning when I offered to settle my bill they would not take a cent, but requested me while in the city to make my home with them.
That day I went out to the Fort, which was three miles from the city, and on arriving there the first man I met was Lieut. Harding, who at once conducted me to Col. Elliott's quarters.
That afternoon we made the rounds of the Fort, and Col. Elliott, when introducing me, would say: "This is the 'boy scout,' who was out with us last summer, and whom you have heard me speak of so often."
I made my home with Col. Elliott and his wife during my stay at the Fort, which was two weeks.
SOMETHING WORSE THAN FIGHTING INDIANS.—DANCE AT COL. ELLIOTT'S.— CONSPICUOUS SUIT OF BUCKSKIN.—I MANAGE TO GET BACK TO BECKWITH'S.
That night Mrs. Elliott had every lady that belonged around the Fort at her house, and she took the "boy scout" along the line and introduced him to every one of the ladies. This was something new to me, for it was the first time in my life that I had struck society, and I would have given all of my previous summer's wages to have been away from there. I did not know how to conduct myself, and every time I made a blunder—which seemed to me every time I made a move—I would attempt to smooth it over, and always made a bad matter worse.
Next morning at the breakfast table I told the Colonel and his wife that I was going back into the mountains as fast as I could get there. I knew I could track Indians, and fight them if necessary, but I did not know how to entertain ladies, especially when my best clothes were only Indian-tailored buckskin.
Mrs. Elliott assured me that she would not have had me come there dressed differently, had it been in her power to prevent it. "Dressed otherwise than you are," she said, "you would not be the same 'boy scout' that my husband has told us so much concerning."
Of course this was encouraging, and I concluded that I might not have been so painfully ridiculous as I had supposed. For, be it known, I had been scarcely able to sleep the night before for thinking of what an outlandish figure I had cut that night before all those high-toned ladies, and of the sport my presence among them must have created.
However, I felt much better after the pleasant way in which Mrs. Elliott declared she looked at it, and with renewed self- complacence proceeded to discuss with the Colonel his plans for the next summer's campaign.
He informed me that he intended to go out with four companies of soldiers, and would locate a short distance east of last year's quarters, at a place where the town of Wadsworth has since been built. Plenty of good water and an abundance of grass were there, and with two companies he would make his headquarters there. The other two companies he would send about one hundred miles further east, to the vicinity of Steen's Mountain, and it was his wish that I should take charge of the scouts and operate between the two camps.
Notwithstanding I had a good home with Col. Elliott and his wife as long as I wished to remain, it seemed to me that this was the longest and lonesomest week I had ever experienced. Everything being so different from my customary way of living, I could not content myself.
The day before I was to start back home it was arranged that I should return to Jim Beckwith's ranche and keep the Colonel posted by letter in regard to the snow in the mountains, and when he would be able to cross. Then I was to join him at Beckwith's.
The following evening Mrs. Elliott gave a party, which was attended by all the ladies and gentlemen of the garrison. There was to be a general good time, perhaps the last party of the season, as it was approaching the time for preparations for the next campaign against the Indians.
When all the guests had arrived and the spacious house was a blaze of light and happiness—fair women smiling and their musical voices fairly making a delightful hub-bub of light conversation, and the gentlemen, superb in their gold-trimmed uniforms, or impressive in full evening dress—the manager of the dance sang out for all to take partners for some sort of a bowing and scraping drill that is a mystery to me to this day. I had seen the fandango in Taos, and elsewhere in the Mexican parts of the southwest, but this was the first time I had seen Americans dance, and it was all appallingly new to me.
I sat in a corner like a homely girl at a kissing-bee, and had nothing to say.
After the crowd had danced about two hours, the floor-manager sang out, "Ladies' choice!" or something that meant the same thing, and to my surprise and terror, Mrs. Elliott made a bee-line for me and asked me to assist her in dancing a quadrille. I had no more idea of a quadrille than I had of something that was invented yesterday, and I begged her to excuse me, telling her that I knew nothing whatever of dancing. She declared, however, that I had looked on long enough to learn and that I would go through all right. I hung back like a balky horse at the foot of a slippery hill, but between Mrs. Elliott and the prompter I was almost dragged out on the floor.
The reader may be able to conceive a faint idea of my situation. I was now twenty-three years old, and this was the first time I had been in civilization since I had left St. Louis, a boy of fifteen. Here I was, among those swell people, gorgeous in "purple and fine linen," so to speak; ladies in silks, ruffles and quirlymacues, gentlemen in broadcloth, gold lace and importance, and I in only buckskin from head to foot. I would have freely given everything I possessed to have been out of that, but my excuses failed utterly, and finally I went into it as I would an Indian fight, put on a bold front and worked for dear life.
I found it quite different to what I had expected Instead of making light of me, as I feared they would, each lady in the set tried to assist me all she could.
When on the floor it seemed to me that every man, woman and child were looking at me, as indeed they were, or rather at my suit of buckskin, that, worked full of beads and porcupine quills, was the most beautiful suit of its kind I have ever seen. But it was so different from the dress of the others that it made me decidedly conspicuous. When on the floor and straightened up I felt as if I were about nine feet high, and that my feet were about twenty inches long and weighed near fifty pounds each.
The prompter called out, "Balance all!" and I forgot to dance until all the others were most through balancing, then I turned loose on the double-shuffle, this being, the only step I knew, and I hadn't practiced that very much. About the time I would get started in on this step the prompter would call something else, and thus being caught between two hurries I would have to run to catch up with the other dancers. However, with the assistance of Mrs. Elliott, the other good ladies, the prompter, and anybody else in reach, I managed to get through, but I had never gone into an Indian fight with half the dread that I went into that dance, and never escaped from one with more thankfulness.
The following morning, after bidding Col. Elliott, his wife and all the other of my new-found friends good-bye, I started on my return to Beckwith's ranche, perfectly willing to resign my high- life surroundings to go back to the open and congenial fields of nature and an indescribable freedom.
I found Beckwith suffering severely from an old arrow wound that he had received in a fight with the Utes near Fort Hall in 1848.
DRILLING THE DETAILED SCOUTS.—WE GET AMONG THE UTES.—FOUR SCOUTS HAVE NOT REPORTED YET.—ANOTHER LIVELY FIGHT.—BECKWITH MAKES A RAISE.
It was late spring when the snow began to melt, but it went away very fast when it once started. About the first of June I wrote to Col. Elliott that by the tenth of the month he could cross the mountains. He did not arrive until the 20th of June, then I joined him and we started across the mountains.
By direction of the Colonel each of the captains detailed four men from their respective companies to be my assistants, and at my suggestion young men were chosen, such as myself, who could ride forty-eight hours, if necessary, without stopping, and I asked for men who were not afraid to go alone, not afraid to fight, and, above all, men that would never allow themselves to be taken prisoner.
The command having been drawn up for dress parade, the orderly sergeants called their rolls, and whenever a man's name was called whom the captains wished to de-tail, he was directed to stand aside. Up to this time the men did not know and were wondering what was up. Col. Elliott informed them after the drill was over, and said to them:
"Soldiers, this man, Capt. Drannan, is now your chief, and you will act according to his orders at any and all times. He will instruct you when to meet him at his private quarters."
The next three days were spent in drilling the scouts to mount and dismount quickly, to shoot at some object when on the dead run, to lie on the side of the horse and shoot at an object on the opposite side while running at full speed, and a great deal of other work of that kind.
Three days later we started east, Capt. Mills and Lieut. Harding with their companies, expecting to go about one hundred miles before locating permanently for the summer. I started out in advance of the command with my entire force of scouts. We traveled about fifteen miles together, when we separated, four taking the north side of the emigrant trail, with instructions to keep from four to five miles from it; four keeping the trail and four, with myself, south of the trail. I gave the men north instructions in case they should find an Indian trail to follow it until they were sure the Indians were making for the emigrant trail, and then dispatch one man to notify the men on the trail, the other three follow the Indians, and at the end of three days all were to meet at a certain point on the trail where, we expected to meet the soldiers.
The second day out we struck an Indian trail south of the road, but it being an old one we did not follow it but made a note of the number we thought there were in the band, an that night we pulled for the emigrant trail, expecting to meet the soldiers there.
We did not meet the soldiers, but met the four scouts who had traveled on the emigrant trail.
We got no word that night from the men north, but according to agreement we went to a hill near by and built two fires of sagebrush, that they might know where we were, and if in need of assistance they could dispatch, but did not see nor hear anything of them.
The next morning I kept the emigrant trail myself, sending the other squad of men south, with instructions to meet me at Humboldt Wells, telling them about the distance it was from where we were then camped, and describing the place to them. There we would wait until the command came up, as we were now running short of rations. That day the party south struck the same trail that we had seen the day before; two of them followed it and the other two came to camp to report. The party that had started out north of the trail got into camp just at dusk, tired and hungry, and the following morning at daylight the other two from the south came into camp. From what I could learn from them the band of Indians they had been following were traveling along almost parallel with the emigrant trail, looking for emigrants, as it was now getting time that the emigrants were beginning to string along across the plains en-route for the gold fields of California.
Our provisions had run out, so we sat up late that night awaiting the arrival of the command, but we looked in vain.
The following morning, just as I could begin to see that it was getting a little light in the east, myself and one assistant scout crawled out quietly, without disturbing the other boys, to kill some game. We had not gone far from camp when we saw nine antelope; we both fired and both shot the same antelope. We dressed the game and took it to camp, arriving there just as the other two scouts came in from the south. The boys were all up in camp, and considerable excitement prevailed among them, they having heard two shots, and thought the Indians had attacked us. They were all hungry as wolves, so we broiled and ate antelope almost as long as there was any to eat.
Almost the entire scout force were from New York, and were new recruits who had never known what it was to rough it, and they said this was the first meal they had ever made on meat alone. After breakfast was over, it now being understood that we would lie over until the supply train should come up, my first assistant scout and two others took a trip to a mountain some two miles from camp, which was the highest mountain near us, taking my glasses along to look for the supply train. In about two hours one of the scouts returned to camp in great haste and somewhat excited, saying that about fifteen or twenty miles distant they had seen a band of Indians who were traveling in the direction of camp. We all saddled our horses, left a note at camp informing Capt. Mills where we had gone and for what purpose. We started for what has ever since been known as Look-out Mountain—of course not the famous Lookout Mountain of Tennessee—and there joined the other three scouts. From the top of this mountain we could get a good view of the Indians through the field glasses. We watched them until about one o'clock, when they went into camp in the head of a little ravine some five miles distant—This convinced us that there was water and that they had stopped for the night. We located them as well as we could, and the entire scout force, being thirteen all told, started across the country for their camp.
Seven of this number of scouts had never seen a wild Indian and were over anxious to have a little sport with the redskins. The Indians, being in a little ravine, we were able to get within a half a mile of them before they could see us. After advancing as far as we thought prudent, one of the scouts and myself dismounted and crept through the sagebrush within three hundred yards of them. Their fire was yet burning and the Indians were lounging around, everything indicating that they had just cooked and eaten their dinner. I counted them and made out twenty-one, my assistant scout made twenty-three, and instead of being Pah-Utes, as we expected, they were Utes. The boys all being anxious to try their hand, I decided to make the attack at once. Returning to where I had left the other scouts, I told them my plan of attack, telling them to bear in mind that one shot well calculated was worth three or four at random. I also told them as soon as I gave the war- whoop for each of them to make all the noise he could.
Now we all mounted, and by riding up a little ravine we were able to get within fifty rods of them before they could see us.
Before making the charge I told the boys to draw their pistols, and when the pistols were emptied to draw sabres and cut the savages down before they could get to their horses. We rode slowly and cautiously until almost in sight of the Indians, when I gave the word "Charge!" and all put spurs to their horses, raised the yell, and one minute later we were in their midst, arrows and bullets flying in all directions. I received an arrow wound in the calf of my right leg, the man immediately on my right got shot through the left or bridle arm, and one of the raw recruits got his horse shot from under him.
He did not wait for orders, but drew his sabre and went to work cutting them down as he came to them. When we first made the charge some of the Indians made a desperate attempt to get their horses, but the scouts shot and cut them down, not allowing one of them to mount. The Indians, much to my surprise, fought as long as there was one of them left standing. The battle lasted about fifteen minutes, and when it was over we counted the dead Indians and found the number to be nineteen, but there were twenty-one horses, so we were confident that two Indians either escaped or fell in the sagebrush where we could not find them.
We gathered up the horses and ropes that belonged to the Indians. The man that had his horse killed in the battle, caught the best horse in the band, threw the saddle on him and started for camp, considering we had done a good day's work. As we rode down the ravine in the direction of the emigrant trail some of the boys looked in that direction and saw the smoke curling up from a camp- fire.
"The command has arrived!" shouted one of the boys.
I proposed that we give the Captain a surprise. We all dismounted, and each fastened a scalp to the browband of his bridle, and when the Captain saw us coming and saw that each had a scalp, he said: "Boys, let's give them three cheers." At that the valley rang out with the yells.
This pleased the new recruits that had been engaged in the battle, and I can truthfully say that I never saw the same number of green men equal them in the first engagement, for every one of them fought like heroes.
We dismounted, turned our horses over to the herder and called for supper. This was the first square meal that it had been our pleasure to sit down to for four days, and this was where none of us shrunk from duty, in the least.
By this time the wound in my leg was beginning to pain me, and gave me more trouble than I anticipated. The next morning it was badly swollen, and I was not able to ride horseback for several days.
That morning we pulled for Steen's Mountain, which we supposed to be about forty miles from where we were camped.
Not being able to ride horseback, I rode in one of the ambulances.
From here we kept guards out on each side of the trail, with orders to keep from five to six miles from the train, and if any Indians were seen to report at once.
The second day in the afternoon Capt. Mills established his headquarters about one mile from the trail, in a beautiful spot; plenty of water, an abundance of good grass, and a few pine trees scattered here and there, making it an unusually pleasant place for quarters that summer.
Not being able to ride, I stayed in camp, but sent all the other scouts out. The second day my first assistant returned and reported having found the trail, as he thought, of about fifty Indians, traveling west, and about parallel with the emigrant trail.
The next morning I started my assistant and three scouts after the Indians, with orders to report as soon as they had the redskins located.
They were gone four days and no word came from them. I began to be very uneasy, as well as Capt. Mills, thinking something must have happened them or they would have returned, as they only took three days' rations with them. I took four other scouts and went on their trail.
The reader will understand that in this country the soil is somewhat sandy, and a horse is easily tracked. Our horses being shod, it was easy to distinguish their tracks from that of the Indians' horses. My wound gave me much trouble, but we followed the trail of the other scouts for some distance after striking the trail of the Indians, and their horses being shod, we could easily track them, but finally they became so obliterated that we could see no more trace of the shod horses. We sought in vain to get some sign of them, and came to the conclusion that while the scouts were trailing the Indians another band had stolen up behind them and either killed or taken them all prisoners, for we could get no trace of them, nor have they ever been heard of since. As soon as I returned to quarters, by the consent of Capt. Mills, I detailed two men of my scout force to carry a dispatch to Col. Elliott. As the Indians were now too far west for Capt. Mills to attempt to follow them, I sent the two best men I had to bear the message to the Colonel. They made the trip in two nights, riding at night and lying over in the daytime. The next day after the Colonel received the dispatch his scouts discovered the same band of Indians, and Col. Elliott sent one company of soldiers out at once after them. The soldiers overhauled them at Clover Valley, which was about forty miles south of the emigrant trail, and attacked the redskins, but they were too much for the soldiers. In the engagement the loss to the command was sixteen men killed, and I never knew just how many were wounded or how many Indians were killed. The soldiers had to retreat. All I ever learned from this battle I learned from the dispatch bearers, as they stayed at Col. Elliott's quarters until after the soldiers had returned from the engagement.
From this on I kept scouts out south of the trail continually.
One evening one of the scouts came in and reported having seen a little band of Indians some twelve or fifteen miles south of the trail. The other three scouts that were out with him remained to watch the Indians while he came to report. The scout was not able to tell just the number, as they were some distance away. The other three scouts secreted their horses, crawled to the top of the highest hill near by and lay there in the sagebrush and with glasses watched the Indians, who were traveling almost in the direction where the scouts lay, bearing a little south, so that the scouts did not have to change their hiding place. I mounted my horse for the first time since I had been laid up, and in company with five other scouts, including the one who had brought the message to me, started to investigate the matter.
We rode to where the other three scouts had been left, and they were awaiting our arrival. They had lain on the hill and watched the Indians go into camp and then returned to where the dispatch bearer had left them.
After holding a council for about five minutes we all mounted and rode as near the Indians as we considered safe, and dismounted. Taking another scout who had been watching them, I crawled as near as we dared to their camp to try to ascertain their number. We decided that there were about fifty. It was perilous to get very close for the reason that the Indians had a number of dogs, and when we would get too near the dogs would begin to bark, and three or four Indians would raise up and look about and every Indian in the band would listen. When we returned to where we had left the other scouts they were all prepared for an attack, but I told them there were too many for us to tackle alone. Besides, they were Utes, the worst Indians in the whole country to fight.
We were now about fifteen miles from headquarters, so I dispatched two men at once to Capt. Mills in all haste, requesting him to be there by daybreak, if it were within the bounds of possibility. This being a sandy, sagebrush country, one could not ride at full speed, but the scouts made good time, nevertheless, and Capt. Mills and his command were with us before daylight. We met him about a mile from where the Indians were camped, and I told him how the ground lay and the general surroundings as best I could, and I suggested that as on account of the dogs I had not been able to locate the horses of the Indians, it would be advisable to wait until daylight to make the attack.
We waited about an hour, when the Captain said he thought it was light enough to kill Indians. He gave orders to mount, drew his men up in line and rode back and forth, up and down the line, instructing them how to proceed, saying:
"When I give the word, 'charge!' every man draw his pistol, and when within fifty yards, begin to fire. Don't fire at random, but take good aim, and when your pistols are empty draw your sabres and cut them down. Don't let one escape. Don't wait for further orders; you have them, now carry them out."
Capt. Mills rode to the left wing and asked me to take the right. I told him I thought it best that myself and the scout force should make a dash for the Indian horses as soon as he made the charge, for if we could succeed in getting the horses we need not let one Indian escape.
It was now so light that we could see their ponies on the hill just beyond their camp. All being ready, and I having instructed my assistants, the Captain ordered them to charge. I made a dash to the right with my entire scout force. This was a great surprise to the redskins. They were nearly all abed yet, except a few of the earliest risers. Those who were up made a desperate rush for their horses, but unavailingly. We got there first and stampeded the herd. Some of the horses were picketed, but we cut the ropes as fast as we came to them, and before any of the Indians could get to their horses we had them on the dead run.
Taking a circuitous route we drove the horses around between the scene of battle and head-quarters. When about a mile distant my first assistant and myself returned to the battle ground leaving the other scouts to guard the horses. We arrived at the scene just in time to see the last Indian fall. When it was good light the Indians could be seen lying around in every direction. The orderly sergeant and two privates were looking around in the sagebrush, thinking there might be some of them hiding there, and all of a sudden two young bucks started up and began to run, and for about three hundred yards they had what I thought to be the prettiest race I had ever witnessed. The two Indians on foot and the soldiers on horseback, running through the sagebrush and every man in the crowd, from the Captain down, yelling at the top of his voice. Here I did the poorest shooting that I had ever done in my life, emptying one of my revolvers and not touching an Indian. But the soldiers finally got them.