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3 3433 08044675 4



WINTER IN THE WEST.



BY A NEW-YORKER.



Where can I journey to your secret springs,
Eternal Nature ? Onward still I press,
Follow thy windings still, yet sigh for more.



Itoy i5'i-^



L-



in



' - Act of Congress, in the year 1835,byCHARLis
'" *he Clerk of the Southern District



A WINTER IN THE WEST.



VOL. II.



WINTER IN THE WEST.



LETTER XXIII.



Prairie du Chien, Upper Miss., Feb. 12th, 1834.

The shadows of its western bluffs had deepened
far over the broad surface of the ice-bound Mis-
sissippi, though a flood of yellow light still bathed
the gray walls of Fort Crawford, as its extensive
barracks lay in the form of an isolated square on
the level meadow beneath us ; while, farther to
the north, a number of dingy wooden buildings,
which showed like a fishing hamlet,* on the imme-
diate bank of the river, were momentarily growing
more indistinct in the advancing twilight as we
approached their purlieus, and drove up to a cabaret
about half a mile from the garrison.

It was within pistol-shot of the river ; a com-

♦ See note A.
VOL. II. A



^ A WINTER IN THE WEST,

fortable fraroe-building, with a stockade fence
around it, made with pickets, some ten or fifteen
feet high; a voyageur or two, with a few half-
breed-looking residents, were loitering about the
door ; and a tall Menomone Indian, with a tuft of
drooping feathers on his crown, was standing with
folded arms apart from the rest.

A portly soldier-like German, who had for-
merly been a non-commissioned officer in the
infantry, proved to be the landlord, and bowed
me, like a master of his business, into a room heated
to suffocation by a large Canadian stove, placing
at the same time a strip of newly-written paper
in my hands. Imagine my surprise when I dis-
covered it to be a playbill ! " The public'^ were
respectfully informed, that the sterling English
comedy of " Who Wants a Guinea ?" and Field-
ing's afterpiece of "Don Quixote in England,"
with songs, recitations, &c., would be presented
that evening, by the soldiers of the First Regiment
at Fort Crawford. Nothing could be more apro-
pos. I had just ascertained that on account of the
present deep snows, with the prospect of an early
thaw, it would be almost impossible to get up to
the Falls of St. Anthony, whither my ambition led
me, at this season ; and having now no further
plans to arrange during the evening, and being



A WINTER IN THE WEST. ^

wholly unprovided with letters to the officers of
the garrison, I was really rejoiced at such an
opportunity of entering its walls incognito.

The sleigh in which I had conne carried me in
a few minutes within the sally-port, and handing
the ticket with which mine host had provided me to
a soldier who acted as door-keeper, I entered a
large barrack-room, fitted up very neatly as a
theatre by the sojdiers themselves ; the scenery,
quite cleverly done, being all painted by them, and
the lights, ingeniously placed in bayonets, prettily
arranged, — a contrivance suggested by their own
taste. The seats, rising like the pit of a theatre,
were so adjusted as to separate the audience into
three divisions : the officers, with their families,
furnished one, the soldiers another, and " gumboes,"
Indians, and a negro servant or two made up the
third. A superb-looking squaw of the Sauk and
Fox* tribe attracted my attention as I entered the
room, and prevented me from advancing beyond
the worshipful part of the assemblage last men-
tioned, as she sat between two pretty but plainly-
dressed Menomonet girls, in a more rich and beau-

* " The united bands of the Saukies and Ottigaumies, the
French nicknamed, according to their wonted custom, Des Sacs
and Des Renards — the Sacks and the Foxes." — Carver.

t The Me-no-mo-ne, or wild-rice-eaters, is a broken band that
served with effect against the Sauks and Foxes in the Indian dif-



4 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

tiful costume than I ever saw at a fancy balL
The curtain rose while I was studying her noble
features and tasteful finery, and contrasting the
striking and somewhat voluptuous character of
both with the simple attire and less mature charms
of the two nut-brown beauties beside her. Every
eye was then directed to the stage, and I remained
standing against the door-post till the act was con-
cluded ; and then, just as I was wishing for some
one to whom to express my surprise at the degree
of skill and judgment with which the soldiers
played, considering they were but amateurs, an
officer made his way up to me, and very politely
insisted upon my taking his seat in the more
favoured part of the house. The ordinary inter-
change of commonplaces between gentlemen who
are strangers to each other ensued, and then, with-
out his knowing my name or the slightest circum-
stance in relation to me, an invitation to take up

ficulties of 1832. They are a finely shaped people, of a much
lighter complexion than the other North-western tribes, and exhibit
a great deal of taste in preparing, and neatness in wearing, the
various articles of Indian dress — ornamented belts, gaiters,
sheaths for knives, moccasins, &c. In Long's Expedition they
are mentioned as *' The White Indians," and are supposed not to
belong to the Algonquin stock. It is said that few white men
have ever been able to learn their language ; and in their inter-
course they use the melange of the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pot-
tawattamie dialects, which is the common medium of communi-
cation on the frontier, — See Long^s Expedition^ Charlevoixy kc^



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 5

my quarters in the garrison followed. I declined
the invitation, but we exchanged cards ; and I had
hardly got through breakfast in the morning, when
my new and gentleman-like acquaintance, ac-
companied by Colonel T., the commandant, and
a young subaltern, called to repeat the invitation
of the evening before ; bringing a soldier with a
sled to transport my baggage, and a led horse to
carry myself over to the garrison. It would have
been absurd to meet such cordial and unfeigned
proffers of hospitality with further ceremony ; and
an hour after found me with a handsomely-fur-
nished room of my own, a fine saddle-horse placed
at my disposal, and a servant at my call, sitting
down to the mess with as fine a set of young fel-
lows as I ever met with. I have been particular
in describing my initiation into this agreeable and
accomplished circle, merely to give you some idea
of the gentleman-like courtesy and frank hospital-
ity which distinguish the officers of the army,
wherever I have been fortunate enough to meet
with them.

I have now been here nearly two weeks. The
w^eather has been mild and beautiful, and my time,
in such congenial society, passes delightfully, — so
much so, indeed, that when I wake each morn at
reveille, it is with a kind of sad feeling I remem-
a2



6 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

ber, that the twenty-four hours just past bring me
nearer to the time when I must start again on my
solitary tour, through regions where fortune can
hardly throw me a second time among such com-
panions.

The garrison here consists of five companies of
infantry, under the command of a lieutenant-colo-
nel. They are well quartered in very handsome
barracks, built by the soldiers themselves of cut
stone ; the buildings being arranged in the form of
a square, and enclosing an area large enough for a
battalion to drill in. The parade is nicely grav-
elled, and a colonnade, which extends around three
sides of the parade, gives a cheerful aspect to the
whole. The hospital stands by itself on a slight
knoll about a hundred yards from the barracks,
and both are pleasantly situated near the banks of
the Mississippi. The place, as it now stands,
Avould be easily tenable against hordes of Indians,
should they be mad enough to assail it. There is
not a tree around it, and it is furnished with a park
of artillery, which, from an open interval left at
each angle of the parallelogram, could sweep the
whole prairie. But these openings, which are
flanked by no works whatsoever, by breaking the
unity of the square, destroy even the appearance
of a fortification ; and the place, if not carried by



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 7

an assault from a regular force, would easily fall
before its formal approaches. Such an attack was
indeed never contemplated when Fort Crawford
— which was only intended to overawe the Indians
— was erected ; but even in a collection of bar-
racks, one likes to see them so disposed as to pre-
serve a military air. There is a small but well-
chosen library belonging to the post, and several
of the companies have quite good miscellaneous
libraries of their own, — a fact exceedingly credit-
able to the private soldiers. The amusements of
the place, so far as society is concerned, are of
course limited. The officers' families do indeed
make a small circle; and for those who like to
study life in all its phases, there is the little village
of Prairie du Chien about half a mile from the
garrison, with its antique-looking timber-built
houses, containing an amphibious population of
voyageurs and hunters, half French and half In-
dian. Here the officers sometimes amuse them-
selves in getting up what is called a gumbo ball,
which, from the descriptions I have had of them,
must be a kind of harlequinade I would very
much like to see. Sporting, however, — when the
resources of the library are exhausted, or a pipe
of kinnekinic ceases to charm, — is the great source
of amusement at Prairie du Chien. The grouse



8^ A WINTER IN THE WEST.

now keep in large packs near the garrison ; snipe,
too, I am told, are abundant when in season, and
of ducks I am assured it is easy to kill a canoe-
load, when they begin to fly along the Mississippi.
Elk, bear, and wolves are the game of those who
are more ambitious in their sport, and choose to
go farther to seek it. The meat of the first I have
not yet tasted, but I made a capital dinner yester-
noon from a sirloin of the second at the command-
ant's quarters. Bruin was served up in handsome
style, and some old wine from Colonel T.'s hospit-
able cellar relished in this latitude.

The scenery around Prairie du Chien would
please you much. The snow has now entirely
left the bosom of the prairie, though it still hangs
like flakes of morning mist around the rocky brows
of the adjacent bluffs. The singular landscape
created by these bold heights has been called
monotonous ; but I do not find it so. Not a day,
not an hour passes, but they present some new
appearance. Each shifting cloud brings out some
new angle of the gigantic blocks ; and, whether
the rosy tints of dawn warm their steep sullen
brows, or the glare of noon settles on their round
summits, and tries to pierce the deep ravines which
block them out from each other, or sunset, with its
mellow hues, lingers among the long grass which



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 9

paints their " umbered face," where they first swell
from the plain, — to me they are always lovely,
grand, and peculiar. I ascended one of them,
accompanied by an officer on horseback, the other
day, by winding up a ravine in the rear, which
brought us on a round, bold, grassy height, about
one hundred feet above the prairie ; to which the
bluff descended by two sheer precipices of rock,
of about a hundred feet each, with alternate slopes
of soil, covered with long yellow grass — the whole
having the appearance of some vast fortress —
an enormous bastion thrown up in huge layers of
earth and stone. On the very summit was one of
those ancient fortifications, the mysterious memen-
toes of an unknown race, whose gigantic and en-
during works are scattered over thousands of
leagues of this continent, to puzzle the curious and
set at naught the surmises of the antiquarian.* I
trod each winding of the turf- covered rampart, and
counted what appeared to be the embrasures for
artillery, as my military friend commented upon
the position, and described a number of similar
remains which he had examined in different parts
of the Western country : While we alike dis-
sented with the unsatisfactory conclusions of
those closet theorists who would attribute the

♦ See note B,



10 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

fortified appearances of this tall elevation, — the
enormous mounds in the vicinity of St. Louis,
— the sunken remains on the alluvial bot-
toms of Illinois, — the perfect forms which give
its name to Circleville in Ohio, and the deep
intrenchments which channel the rocky hills
of eastern Kentucky, alike to the action of wa-
ter : suppositions upon a par for ingenuity with
those which account for the existence of the prairies
by the sudden withdrawal of the same element from
what was formerly the beds of a chain of vast in-
land lakes. The same prairies, in every instance
that I have yet seen, except the single one of Prairie
du Chien, being high table-land, some sixty or a
hundred feet above the streams and groves which
occasionally checker them. I forget whether I
have before mentioned that the Indian name for
prairie (scutay), which means also j^re, would ac-
count for their origin with any one who had had
an opportunity of observing how the action of
that element extends these grassy domains every
season in one direction, while it leaves them to
shoot up into a luxuriant growth of young forest in
another.

But turn with me to yonder view of the Missis-
sippi, where a hundred wooded islets of every
possible form repose upon the glistening ice that



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 11

silvers its broad bosom. How grandly does the
bold promontory of " Pike's Hill," interlocked as
it seems with the gray crags of the Ouisconsin,
shut in the lordly stream on the south ; and there,
where the blue water has broken its white fetters,
and those diminutive figures are leaping from one
ice-cake to another, as they sparkle in the sun
along the smooth eastern shore, how beautifully the
tall brown grass bends over the pebbly margin !
You may look now, though it is two miles off, into
the very centre of Fort Crawford, where the
gleam of arms flashing over the sanded parade
tells of troops in motion, though the sound of their
drums can hardly reach your ears. What a point
would this be from which to view the meeting
of hostile forces ! The armies of Europe might
manoeuvre on the smooth prairie below, and not a
guide could indicate a position without its being
manifest to your eye long before a battalion could
attain it.

There are a great many high-bred dogs kept at
this place, — shooting and hunting of all kinds, as I
have mentioned, forming the chief amusements
of the officers of the post. Indeed, if an enumera-
tion of the setters,greyhounds,and Newfoundlands,
which are severally kept for grouse, wolves, and
ducks, were made, without counting the curs and



12 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

Indian dogs kept by the gumboes and Indians
around, the place, as I have heard it observed,
might rather be called Prairie des Chiens, than left,
as at present, in the singular number. A very suc-
cessful experiment has been made here in crossing
the greyhound and Newfoundland ; the offspring,
I am told, being highly sagacious, and a match for
a full-grown bear. If the race be continued, they
ought to be dubbed elkhounds, from their adapta-
bility to the pursuit of that fine game, which abounds
over the river. I was on a wolf-hunt by moonlight
several hours before dawn a few mornings since ;
and though we were not fortunate enough to start
any game, I, for my own part, had a very good
chase. Among the other dogs of the pack was a
greyhound of the wolf species, a breed which Sir
Walter Scott says is so rare in the British do-
minions that I had no idea there was one of
the blood on our continent. This long-haired rascal
I mistook, by the doubtful light of the moon, for a
real wolf; and my horse, the hero of a hundred
wolf-hunts — (if I am not mistaken, he has been
honourably mentioned in the Sporting Maga-
zine), — seemed to share the blunder. I came upon
the dog suddenly in some long grass, and spurring
upon him, he made at once for the bluff on the
other side of the plain, thinking, doubtless, from



A WINTER IN THE WEST, 13

the eager bounds of my horse that there was game
in view. Convinced of my good fortune, from the
course he took, I shouted to my companions, while
the rest of the pack broke out into full cry, and
away we went together. We ran more than a
mile before the experienced nag I rode seemed to
discover the blunder, and checked his gait. The
officers, after enjoying a tolerable laugh at my ex-
pense, relieved my chagrin by mentioning that the
same dog had several times narrowly escaped being
shot by some of the oldest hunters of the country,
who, in broad day, had, as they expressed it,
"mistrusted him for some wild varmint,"

I have amused myself somewhat here in study-
ing the Indian languages, though I cannot say with
much industry; the amount of my exertions con-
sisting in learning some eight or ten phrases in the
morning, and then strolling off to repeat them in
the afternoon at the straggling lodges which may
be found within a mile of the garrison. To one of
these, where an old Menomone squaw was making
a pair of embroidered moccasins for me, I went last
night several hours after nightfall. The wigwam
was formed of mats of woven rushes, subtended
around a frame-work of osiers, in the form of a
hemisphere, with an opening at the top, to let out
the smoke. Approaching this primitive abode, I

VOL. II. — B



14 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

heard the shrill voice of the hag within in what
sounded like high altercation with some one who
answered in a different language from herself;
and, raising the dirty blanket which formed a
door, while I crawled on all-fours within the low
threshold, I found that the lady of the castle was
only gambling amicably with an old Winnebago
Indian, who sat cross-legged on a mat opposite to
her. A finger-ring belonging to the squaw lay
upon the mat between them, and they were trying
which of the two could throw the scalping-knife of
the Indian most often within the golden circle ; a
score being in the mean time kept by each on the
edge of the mat, where sundry marks, made with
a dead coal, supplied the place of the ordinary
pearl-counters used by card-players. The squaw
briefly answered my inquiries about the moccasins,
while I raked the embers of her fire together and
dried my boots by its cheerful blaze ; and then,
while she tossed the long elf-locks from her high
cheek-bones, and the upper part of her loosely-
arrayed person swept the ground while bending
low to view the mark of the knife which gleamed
aloft in her shrivelled hand, I glanced from her
weird features and squat-form to the calm but
piercing ken and still erect figure of her savage
companion ; and raising the blanket, left them once
more alone together.



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 15

Let me conclude this letter by furnishing you
with an Indian serenade, which you are at liberty
to consider genuine or not : it is written in a sort
of Lingua-Fran(;a, or mongrel tongue, much used
on the frontier, made up of words taken alike from
the Ottawa and Ojiboai or Chippewa,* and possibly
other languages.

* The Chippowa tongue, as is elsewhere remarked, is the com-
mon medium of communication between the whites and Indians on
this part of our extensive frontier. The Chippewa, or Ojibboai,
(or Ojibbeway, as written by Mr. Schoolcraft and Dr. James of
the army, to whom, with the venerable Mr. Duponceau, the world
is so much indebted for the light which their researches have
thrown upon Indian customs and language), is generally consid-
ered the court language of our North-western tribes. The Otta-
wa, Pattowattamie, &c., being apparently only dialects of the
same, and the Ojibboai being readily acquired by all the neigh-
bouring tribes.

With regard to the verses above given, the original copy, fur-
nished the wa-iter by a young officer having been mislaid, he has
found it impossible to supply the loss in time to correct the proof-
sheet without seriously retarding the progress of the work through
the press. The reader who is curious in such matters is referred
to Schoolcraft's Travels for some interesting observations, ac-
companied by authentic translations, attesting the existence of
imaginative tales and oral poetry among our native tribes. In
Mackenzie's Tour to the Lakes there is also a song given, with
the music of an original air annexed.

The above collection of sentences, which is rather offered
as a specimen of Indian phraseology than as a complete and au-
thentic production of the aboriginal muse, is meant to be pro-
nounced exactly as the words are written. The following, in
which the French pronunciation is given to the letters, will be



16 A WINTER IN THE WEST,

From the manner in which it was taken down^
I do not hold myself answerable for its correct-
ness ; but, uncouth and jaw-breaking as the words
may look upon paper, they really sound musical
from the silver tongue of an Indian girl.

INDIAN SERENADE.

Onaiweh ! Paikesai meteequen, quonadhj cuskonosd musco-
taiwenin.
^ Awake I flower of the forest ; beautiful bird of the prairie.

Onaiweh ! Onaiweh 1 kepahshoshe moscaishecon.

Awake ! awake I thou with the eyes of the fawn.

Taupai kaisainopemayan, mannenatuk azhenah pahkesaikew
taupai cotainen ai won.



found perhaps more satisfactory. It is the Lord's Prayer, ia
Chippewa : —

" Cau-ci-nane au-wei-nene iche-pi-mine-ga ein-date, m^-nau-
ti echi-wa-beute wa-i-chi-wau-bi-tau-i-eune. Ca-ta-pa-piche
gineda-gime, ma-nau-bige na-ga-eune na-ga-meuke sa-ni-goque ;
mi-gi-chi-nan-ga ca-mi-gi-ane nane-^goume gui-gi-keute, mi-gi-
ch^-nan-ga au-mei-zi-na-wau-mau-nan-ga eigi-cau-ti-bama-tine-
que, cai-gau i-gi-wi-gise gi-can-gaine mia mi-a-na-teuke keun-
ni-wa-nau mi-che-nan-ga mi-a-na-touke, na-ga-ni-zitetei-be-ni-
meute, gai-a-meiche-ca-i-zite ca-gui-nique."

The following literal translation of the above is given in the
Appendix of" Tanner's Narrative," by the accomplished editor of
that work : —

" Our Father who above liveth, what you wish to be done, let
it be done ; let us not play with thy name ; let thy great power
come. Give us our food this day — give us our debts as we give
our debtors — do not lead us into bad things — keep us firom bad
things — power belongs to thee and strength^ — For ever."



A WINTER IN THE WEST. 17

When you look at me, I am happy ; like the flowers when they
feel the dew.

Nodin keokeneta waikon azhenah menoqut paike saiwen os-
kenega kezhecut — waikon azhenah menoquten pahwepemuk-
kazho nahgoosing.

The breath of thy mouth is as sweet as the fragrance of flowers
in the morning ; sweet as their fragrance at evening in the moon
of the fading leaf.

Nekaugewahnahtahsee neshainonen ahchewaukee, azhenah
mokkeetchewun kezhis ahchew au wahseekoseekazho T

Does not the blood of my veins spring towards thee like the
bubbling springs to the sun in the moon of the bright nights ?
(April.)

Nemeetah nuggahmo taupai keeshiah payshoo azhenah oske-
noga metecquen weneemenin nodin otaihaiminkazho.

My heart sings to thee when thou art near ; like the dancing
branches to the wind in the moon of strawberries. (June.)

Taupai niscaudizze saugittewun, nemeetah muccuddauwah
azhenah wahbiskah sebewun taupai nahcut endosh wainje ish-
peming.

When thou art not pleased, my beloved, my heart is darkened
like the shining river when shadows fall from the clouds above.

Ketiyahnim geozhetone menoanedum, nemeetah sunnuggeze-
win azhenah kezhis geozhetone azhenah azauwahshoneah te-
gowugainse kissenah nodin wainjenetahhahwajink.

Thy smiles cause my troubled heart to be brightened as the
Bun makes to look like gold the ripples which the cold wind has
created.

Neahwena, wahhundummo, keshainon nemeetah pokkaumenin.

Myself! behold me ! blood of my beating heart.

Ah ke tahyahnin, nepeesh tahyahnim, ishpeming tahyahnim —
kooshah nenah — Nenah kaukekendun raekunnuh tahyahnah
mokeshee taupai kaukeeshiah — Onaiweh ! Onaiweh ! nenah
saugittewun !

The earth smiles — the waters smile — the heavens smile, but
I — I lose the way of smiling when thou art not near — awake !
awake ! my beloved.

B 2



18 A WINTER IN THE WEST.

This literal prose translation seems very bald,
but I don't know that I have bettered it in the fol-
lowing versification.

Fairest of Flowers, by fountain or lake,


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