Copyright
Everett McNeil.

Fighting with Fremont; a tale of the conquest of California online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryEverett McNeilFighting with Fremont; a tale of the conquest of California → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


FIGHTING
WITH FREMONT

A TALI Of mi COmpmCT Of CAUKMMU



RTI



nr

[ETT McM II




KtW YOtK
E. P. DUTTON * COMPANY



E...P. Pyy.TpN c COMPANY



TO ALL

WHO TAKE A LIVELY INTEREST IN THE WONDERFUL

WESTWARD GROWTH OF THE UNITED STATES

THIS STORY OF SOME OF THE MEN

WHO HELPED TO WIN CALIFORNIA

FOR THE UNION

IS APPRECIATIVELY

DEDICATED



979840



FOREWORD

At the beginning of the year 1846 California
was a sparsely-settled, poorly-governed province
of Mexico, with only a fringe of indolent Span-
ish settlers scattered at irregular intervals along
the coast and here and there a patriarchal ranchero
dwelling in the fertile interior valleys. The white
population at that time was estimated at about 10,-
(XX), of whom, possibly, 2,000 were foreigners, the
majority of these foreigners coming from the
United States and settling in the Sacramento Val-
ley in the vicinity of Sutter's Fort, then the Mecca
of all foreigners, especially if they were from the
United States, who came to California. This was
all that Spain and Mexico had done for California
during the more than three hundred years since the
Spanish explorer, Juan Cabrillo, first sailed along
its coast and took possession of the country in the
name of his sovereign. Then, in 1846, came the
war between the United States and Mexico, dur-
ing which the Conquest of California was achieved
and the country became a part of the United States.

The acquisition of California at this time meant

very much to the United States; for, two years

later, in January, 1848, James W. Marshall picked

up that historic bit of yellow metal, from the tail-

ix



x Foreword

race of the saw-mill recently built on the American
River near Slitter's Fort, that was to send the wor-
shipers of the yellow god, Gold, hurrying to Cali-
fornia from all parts of the civilized world and was
to pour a steady stream of gold into the pockets and
the treasury of the people of the United States for
many years to come gold that the United States,
alas ! was soon to need sadly, when, some fourteen
years later, began the terrible Civil War that
drained the resources of the nation almost to the
bottom of the pan. Indeed, many thoughtful his-
torians assert that the integrity of the Union could
never have been maintained, if the pockets of the
nation had not been filled with California gold, with
which to feed and equip and keep in the field for
four long years the great armies required to make
victory possible.

FIGHTING WITH FREMONT is a tale of this
Conquest of California, so valuable and far-reach-
ing in its after results to the United States, writ-
ten to tell the younger generations something of
the men and the events and the surrounding cir-
cumstances that made possible the winning of this
rich and beautiful country for the Union and to
give them a clearer comprehension of how one of
the great stones was laid in the massive foundation
on which the nation's present greatness has been
builded.

The adventures that befell Thure Conroyal all
might have happened to a boy living in California



Foreword xi

at that time and under similar circumstances.
Throughout the story the effort has been made to
have all the scenes and all the characters true to
the life and to the times. No unwarranted liberties
have been taken with the historic scenes and char-
acters depicted. But the history, it is hoped, has
been so woven into the thread of the tale itself, that
it will not tend in the least to lessen the interests of
the story, but, rather, to enhance it by giving to its
fiction the similitude of truth. It is also hoped that
the story will be of sufficient interest to its young
readers to induce them to turn to their histories in
order to learn more of these men who helped to
build their country's greatness.

No nation can safely forget the debt it owes to
its builders.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE WILDERNESS MESSENGERS i

II. Two COLUMNS OF SMOKE 14

III. THE HOOT OF AN OWL 27

IV. A WILDERNESS BURIAL 39

V. THE FIGHT AT THE VILLAGE 53

VI. THURE MAKES A FAMOUS SHOT 66

VII. LASSOING A GRIZZLY 81

VIII. A BRAVE INDIAN 97

IX. SHOOTING THE ANTELOPE 107

X. THE RINGING OF THE ALARM BELL 122

XI. IN THE DEVIL'S TRAIL 133

XII. IOLA , , . . 152

XIII. THE MAD STALLION 162

XIV. AN INTERRUPTED GALA 186

XV. AT THE BUTTES 210

XVI. THE CAPTURE OF THE HORSES 226

XVII. THE LONE RIFLE SHOT . . . .236

XVIII. SONOMA 254

XIX. THE BEAR FLAG 275

XX. PADILLA 289

XXI. KILLING OF COWIE AND FOWLER 298

XXII. THE LITTLE GROVE OF BRUSHWOOD 308

XXIII. IN THE CAVE OF THE DEAD 320

XXIV. THE MAN IN BUCKSKIN 335

XXV. THE STARS AND STRIPES 344



ILLUSTRATIONS

THURE SAW THAT HE WOULD BE TOO LATE TO SAVE

CARSON Frontispiece

PAGE

ALL IN THE CAMP, SAVE FREMONT, WERE NOW ASLEEP .... 32
THE GRIZZLY PLUNGED FORWARD ALMOST ON TOP OF THURE . . QO
THURE GENTLY WAVED THE RAMROD BACK AND FORTH . . . .118
FREMONT'S HAT WAS INSTANTLY BURIED DEEP IN THE PILE OF HATS 222



Fighting With Fremont

CHAPTER I

THE WILDERNESS MESSENGERS

44 \\7 HAT do you suppose Captain Fremont
* " would do, Rex, if he should hear that war
had broken out between the United States and Mex-
ico?" and Thure Conroyal looked up from the rifle
he was cleaning into the face of his cousin, Rex
Holt, who, seated on a log near by, was sharpening
his hunting-knife on his whetstone, his sun-bronzed
face glowing in the ruddy light of the camp-fire.

"Do !" and the blue eyes flashed like rapier points
in the direction of his young cousin. "He'd whirl
about and start back for California on the double-
quick. You don't suppose he'd leave the Ameri-
cans in California unprotected, or let such a splen-
did country be gobbled up by the English or the
French, without giving his American rifles a chance
to speak a word, do you? Not by the Eternal
Andrew Jackson ! Fremont is not that kind of an
American. California is about ripe to drop from
the old Mexican tree anyhow; and, if war should
shake her loose, he'll see that she drops into the
arms of Uncle Sam, where she belongs, and not
i



: A 'Fighting With Fremont

into the outstretched apron of good old Mother
England. I reckon," and he lowered his voice and
glanced knowingly around the little circle of men
gathered about the glowing camp-fire, "exploring
is not the only reason for Fremont's being here.
According to all reports, war with Mexico is al-
most certain; and, I calculate, Fremont has been
sent out here so as to be right on the job, when the
war breaks out. Leastwise that's how I read the
signs. What do you make out of them, Ham?"
and he turned to a huge broad-shouldered man,
seated on a rock by the side of Thure, meditatively
puffing on an old pipe, while his fingers were busy
sewing a deerskin patch on the knee of his already
well-patched deerskin trousers.

"Wai," and Hammer Jones, the giant addressed
as Ham, paused in his sewing and slowly took the
pipe from his mouth, "them's 'bout my readin' of
th' signs, Rex. It sart'in would be a mortal sin
for th' US tew let Johnny Bull git his grip on Cala-
forny; an' it don't seem reasonable that th' good
Lord made sech a beautiful country jest for Mex-
ies an' Ingines tew live in. Anyhow th' country
belongs tew us by right of situation; an', I reckon,
if thar's goin' tew be any droppin', Fremont's here
tew see that she drops right ; an', if thar's goin' tew
be any fitin', he'll sure see that we gits intew th'
scrimmage. By th' long-eared Ananias, I'd like tew
see Uncle Sam wallop th' Mexies out of their dirty
blankets!" and he brought one of his great hands



The Wilderness Messengers 3

down with a resounding slap on his broad knee.

"So would I," and Thure Conroyal half jumped
to his feet in boyish enthusiasm, his eyes glowing,
"because then California would be almost sure to
become a part of the United States; and it would
seem good to live under the old flag again; and I
know that half of the Californians would be glad
of the change. They don't like the Mexicans much
more than we Americans do. But," and his young
face clouded, "I don't see how Fremont or anybody
else way up here in Oregon, hundreds of miles from
any white settlement, would know it, even if war
should break out between the United States and
Mexico. Why, Mexico and the United States
might be fighting even now for all we know!" he
concluded a bit dramatically, dropping back on the
rock by the side of Ham. 1

"So they might be, but I reckon they ain't,"
Hammer Jones said, again picking up his needle
and resuming his patching, "or we wouldn't be
here. Fremont's got mighty sharp ears, an' news,
somehow, travels powerful fast, even in th' wilder-
ness. Now I'll bet a hoss ag'in a chaw of terbacker
that th' Captain is a-thinkin' of this same problem

1 Thure was right. Hostilities between the United States and
Mexico had already begun. About noon on this very day, May 8,
1846, General Taylor had fought and won the battle of Palo Alto,
the first battle of the war ; but, of course, Fremont and his men, at
that time in the wilderness of Oregon, could have no knowledge
of this fact, as they gathered around their camp-fires that night on
the shores of Lake Klamath.



4 Fighting With Fremont

right now," and he turned his eyes to where a tall,
spare, active-looking man was standing alone by
the side of his camp-fire, staring down moodily into
the ruddy coals. "Leastwise he looks as if he was
a-doin' a lot of powerful hard thinkin' 'bout some-
thin'. He's been a-standin' thar a-lookin' down
intew that fire for the last hour, without so much
as winking an eye."

"He certainly does look as if he was thinking
some," agreed Rex, turning his eyes in the direc-
tion of the solitary figure standing by the lonely
camp-fire. "And he has acted uneasy like ever
since we left the Sacramento Valley, as if he wasn't
half satisfied with himself for ever getting out of
California, even if Castro did threaten to shove him
out on the points of his bayonets."

"Mighty lucky for Castro that he didn't try that
bayonet-shovin' game," growled Ham. "We'd "

He stopped abruptly and his hand quickly
dropped the needle and swiftly caught up the rifle
that lay close by his side.

"I swun, what in nater is comin' now, Kit?" and
his eyes turned questioningly to Kit Carson, a
small compactly-built man, who, already alert, was
standing, his rifle held ready in his hands, bending
forward and listening intently.

"Horses," answered Kit Carson, a look of relief
passing over his rugged face ; "and with white men
on their backs," and he straightened up and stood
quietly resting on the long barrel of his rifle, his



The Wilderness Messengers 5

keen gray eyes searching the darkness of the sur-
rounding night in the direction of the sound of
horses' feet that now could be plainly heard ap-
proaching the camp.

By this time all of the little company were on
their feet, their eyes turned anxiously in the direc-
tion of the advancing sound, wondering greatly
who could be thus approaching their camp out of
the darkness and the wilderness, where only hostile
Indians and wild beasts lived. They knew that it
could be no enemy. The cracking limbs and the
sounds of the horses' hoofs, as they stumbled over
the rough ground in the darkness, told them this;
for no enemy would think of approaching an armed
camp thus noisily. And yet, what friends could
be seeking them in the depths of this wilderness?
and why ? For a couple of minutes all stood, tense
with excitement, awaiting they knew not what ; and
then two dark figures emerged from the surround-
ing blackness and moved slowly into the circle of
the firelight.

"Wai, I'll be durned, if 'tain't bosses and white
men!" ejaculated Ham. "Two on 'em, an' lookin'
'bout tuckered. Now, who can they be?"

"Neal and Seigler!" yelled Kit Carson, suddenly
hurrying toward the two men. "Captain, it's Sam
Neal and Seigler from Sutter's Fort," he called to
Fremont, who still stood by the camp-fire, his eyes
turned eagerly in the direction of the advancing
horsemen.



6 Fighting With Fremont

"Bring them to me at once, Carson," Fremont re-
plied. "They must bring news from the States,"
and his face lighted up and his eyes sparkled, as he
thought of what that news might be.

"Is this Captain Fremont's camp?" called one
of the horsemen, the moment they came within the
circle of the firelight.

"Yes," answered a dozen voices.

"Thank God ! Take us to Fremont at once," and
the men tumbled wearily out of their saddles.
"We've been trailing you as fast as horse legs could
take us. Must have come a hundred miles the last
two days ; and I reckon our horses are plumb tuck-
ered. Now, where' s Fremont? we've a message for
him that can't wait."

"Here I am," and Captain Fremont, whose anx-
iety had not permitted him to await the coming of
the men to him, pushed his way through the crowd
that now surrounded the two weary men and their
weary horses and, gripping a hand of each, shook it
heartily. "Now, Sam," and he turned to Samuel
Neal, "your message."

"Lieutenant Gillespie, of the United States Navy,
with a small party of men, is back there," and Sam
Neal jerked his thumb over his shoulder and pointed
into the darkness whence he had just come. "He
has orders to find you wherever you may be; and
we've been following hard on your trail for more
than a week. But, the Indians getting too threat-
ening for so small a party to feel safe in this wilder-



The Wilderness Messengers 7

ness, Lieutenant Gillespie mounted Seigler and me
on two of his best horses yesterday morning and
ordered us to hit the trail after you as fast as horse
legs could take us and let you know of his danger.
I reckon, Captain, if you take the back trail right
quick, you'll be in time to save Lieutenant Gillespie
and his men; but there'll be no time for loitering
along the way. The Klamaths were hanging round
his little party, like a pack of wolves round a lone
buffalo bull, and there's bound to be a killing soon.
Don't know what the Lieutenant's message is, but it
must be mighty important to send him trailing after
you through this wilderness."

"We will start on the back trail at dawn," Fre-
mont declared, the lines on his bronzed face tight-
ening, "and there will be no loitering. Carson,"
and, in his quick decisive way, he turned to Kit
Carson the little gray-eyed man was his chief of
scouts and guides, "have everything ready for us to
start as soon as it is light enough for us to see.
I'll take you and Basil Lajeunesse, Hammer Jones,
Rex Holt and his young cousin, Dick Owens, Godey,
and four of the Delawares, and hurry on ahead.
See that we have the best and freshest horses in the
troop. Now get into your blankets. You will
need all the rest you can get, for to-morrow will be
a hard day for all of you. See that the guards are
properly posted for the night, Lieutenant Peck.
Good night," and Captain Fremont, a light glow-
ing in his dark eyes that was not there before the



8 Fighting With Fremont

coming of the two men, returned to the camp-fire
burning in front of his tent.

For a few minutes after the departure of their
commander, the men lingered around their camp-
fires to talk over the coming of Neal and Seigler
and to speculate on what the message borne by
Lieutenant Gillespie might portend; and then, roll-
ing themselves up in their blankets, their saddles
for their pillows, their rifles by their sides to keep
them dry and to have them handy in case of need,
they stretched themselves out on the ground and
were soon sleeping soundly.

"I am glad that we are to go on ahead with Cap-
tain Fremont and Kit Carson," Thure Conroyal
said, as he lay down by the side of Rex. "You
know I have never seen Kit Carson in an Indian
fight, but I've heard so much about his skill and
bravery and his always knowing just what to do
no matter how great the danger, that I'd give
almost anything to see him in an Indian fight, and
now it looks as if we might have that fight. Oh,
but wouldn't it be terrible if we should get to Lieu-
tenant Gillespie too late and find that the Indians
had killed him and his men ?" and Thure shuddered
at the awful sight his vivid imagination conjured
up. "But, if we did," and his young lips came to-
gether grimly, "Kit Carson and Fremont would
make the Indians who did it wish they had never
seen Lieutenant Gillespie, wouldn't they, Rex?"

"Yes, and every man of us would help them, so



The Wilderness Messengers 9

long as there was a charge of powder in a horn or a
knife in a belt," answered Rex, glowering fiercely
out into the surrounding darkness. "Them
Klamaths have been hunting trouble for a long
time, and now it begins to look as if they were
a-going to get all they want. They sure will if
they have killed Lieutenant Gillespie, and Fremont
and Kit Carson get after them. I never had much
use for a Klamath anyhow. They have been a
constant menace ever since we settled in the Sac-
ramento Valley; and 'twould do them a powerful
lot of good to teach them a lesson with powder and
bullets that they wouldn't forget right away; and
Fremont's got the men with him who can do it.
There are no better Indian fighters in the Rockies
than Kit Carson, Dick Owens, Godey and Basil
Lajeunesse, and they've got the right sort of men
to back them up."

"That's right. Every word on it is right; but
jest plug up that word-spouter," growled Ham,
who had already rolled himself up in his blanket on
the other side of Thure, "or I'll jam my blanket
down it. It's sleep we're needin' now more'n word-
spoutin', if we're tew be up tew-morrer afore sun-
rise."

"Stop your growling then, you old bear," and
Rex flung a boot at Ham's head. "I'll be to sleep
now before you," and he rolled over in his blanket
and was soon snoring in unison with Ham.

But sleep did not come as easily to Thure's young



io Fighting With Fremont

eyes. He was only fifteen years old, and this was
his first venture into the depths of the wilderness,
and it was not to be expected that he would be as
indifferent to the wild life he was now living as
were these hardy men, to whom an Indian fight was
one of the commonplaces of their adventurous lives.
For a long time, indeed ever since his father
had moved his household goods and gods from New
Orleans to California, five years before, via the
Isthmus of Panama, and had settled down on a
large ranch in the beautiful Valley of the Sacra-
mento, where he now lived with his herds and flocks
like one of the patriarchs of old, Thure had longed
to go hunting and trapping in the mountains, as his
father had hunted and trapped in his early man-
hood, had longed to go out into the mystery of the
wilderness and hunt the grizzly bear and the deer
and trap the beaver and fight the Indian and learn
the craft of the woods and see the grandeur and
the beauty of the mountains and the forests and
the plains, even as his older brother, Dill, had done
until he was married two years ago and had settled
down on his father's ranch, and as his cousin, Rex
Holt, was still doing. From his earliest childhood
his blood had been thrilled and his ambition fired
with tales of the men of the rifle and the trap, with
stories of the exploits of Kit Carson, Jim Bridger,
Jedidiah Smith and the hundreds of other fearless
men, who with rifles and traps had defied the In-
dians and the wild beasts and the inclemency of



The Wilderness Messengers n

the weather and had roamed undaunted and un-
afraid over the vast wilderness of mountains and
plains and forests west of the Missouri River; and
always he had hoped, when he grew to manhood to
become one of these adventurous men, as a boy will
hope and dream of the future.

Then, with the ending of the year 1845, from out
this wilderness into the Valley of the Sacramento,
had come the explorer, John Charles Fremont, at
the head of his band of hardy mountaineers,
bronzed, weather-beaten, deerskin-dressed men,
armed with long-barreled rifles; and, to Thure's
great joy, with them had come his cousin, Rex Holt,
now one of Fremont's most valued men. This was
his opportunity; and, with all of a boy's eloquence,
he pleaded with his father for permission to go with
Rex, when Fremont again struck northward into
the wilderness, after General Castro had refused to
allow him and his men to remain in California ; and
to his great joy his father had offered no serious
objections.

"You can go," he said, "if Captain Fremont will
give his permission and Rex will take you. The
rough life will do you good. It will put grit and
courage and self-reliance into you. There is noth-
ing like the wilderness to get all there is in a boy or
a man out of him."

"You are too young," Rex at first had objected.

"Why, I am almost as old as you and Dill were
when you crossed the Rocky Mountains in search



12 Fighting With Fremont

of Kit Carson and found your father," Thure had
replied indignantly. "I am growing on sixteen;
and Dill was only sixteen years old and you were
but seventeen when you had all those adventures
with Captain Tom, shooting grizzly bears and buf-
falos and fighting Indians; and I've often heard
dad say the experience made men out of both of
you; and, I reckon, if that trip was good for you
then, this one will be good for me now. You will
let me go with you, won't you, Rex?" *

And Rex had laughed and yielded; and Captain
Fremont had at first frowned and then smiled and
yielded; and thus it had come about that young
Thure Conroyal was with Fremont, when the two
messengers from Lieutenant Gillespie rode into his
camp in the Oregon wilderness on that May night
in the year 1846.

For many minutes after the loud breathing of
Rex and Ham told him that they were sound asleep,
Thure lay with mind too excited over the sudden
coming of the two men from out the darkness of
the night and the wilderness, and the message they
bore, and Captain Fremont's commands for the
morrow for even the exhaustion of his body to bring
sleep. The thought of Lieutenant Gillespie's peril
that very moment the Indians might be attack-



1 The story of Rex's and Dill's perilous journey with Captain Tom
Roberts and his band of trappers, has been already narrated in the
first book of this series, entitled "WITH KIT CARSON IN THE
ROCKIES."



The Wilderness Messengers 13

ing him, of what his message to Fremont might
portend war with Mexico meant war in Califor-
nia, of the swift backward journey on the morrow
and its probable Indian fight, so stirred his young
and susceptible mind that, although he tried to go
to sleep, he could not still his uneasy thoughts and
sleep refused to come.

At length Thure partly arose, and, leaning on
one elbow, looked out into the silence and mystery
of the great wilderness. Above, through the dark
branches of the trees, twinkled the eternal stars.
There was no moon. Close around him, but scat-
tered at irregular intervals, the camp-fires of Fre-
mont's men glowed ruddily through the darkness,
the dim outlines of their sleeping bodies, stretched
out in their blankets on the ground, looking like the
black logs of trees. A little distance to his right,
in the dark shadows of a huge tree, the white tent
of the commander showed ; and, seated on a log be-
fore the fire burning near the tent's entrance, his
elbow resting on one knee, his chin in his cupped
hand, his eyes staring down into the glowing coals,
sleepless, thinking, pondering, planning, sat Fre-
mont. How long he sat thus, Thure never knew,
for, presently, awed and subdued and quieted by
the mystery and the silence of the wilderness and
the night, he sank back on his blanket and soon his
eyes had closed in sleep.



CHAPTER II

TWO COLUMNS OF SMOKE

JOHN CHARLES FREMONT at this date,
*J 1846, had already won world-wide renown as
an American explorer. In 1842, under the direc-
tion of the United States government, he had led
his first exploring expedition into the wilds of the
then unknown Rocky Mountains, passing through
the South Pass and going as far west as the Wind
River Mountains. In 1843 the government had
again sent him westward to continue his explora-
tions to the Pacific coast. This Second Expedi-
tion led him northwestward as far as Fort Van-
couver on the Columbia River, and thence, by a
wide southerly sweep, into California and down the
Sacramento Valley to Sutter's Fort. From Sut-
ter's Fort he went to San Francisco, and from there
down the Pacific coast to a point not far from Los
Angeles, where he turned northeast and, again
crossing the Sierras and the Rocky Mountains,


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryEverett McNeilFighting with Fremont; a tale of the conquest of California → online text (page 1 of 20)