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ment, was originally used by the Canadian
French trappers and traders. It is made by
digging a hole in the ground, somewhat in
the shape of a jug, which is lined with dry
sticks, grass, or anything else that will pro-
tect its contents from the dampness of the
earth. In this place the goods to be conceal-
ed are carefully stowed away ; and the aper-
ture is then so effectually closed as to protect


them from the rains. In caching, a great deal
of skill is often required, to leave no signs
whereby the cunning savage might discover
the place of deposit. To this end, the exca-
vated earth is carried to some distance and
carefully concealed, or thrown into a stream,
if one be at hand. The place selected for a
cache is usually some rolling point, sufficient-
ly elevated to be secure from inundations.
If it be well set with grass, a solid piece of
turf is cut out large enough for the entrance.
The turf is afterward laid back, and taking
root, in a short time no signs remain of its
ever having* been molested. However, as
every locality does not afford a turfy site, the
camp fire is sometimes built upon the place,
or the animals are penned over it, which ef-
fectually destroys all traces of the cache.

This mode of concealing goods seems to
have been in use from the time of the earliest
French voyagers in America. Father Henne-
pin, during his passage down the Mississippi
river, in 1680, describes an operation of this
kind in the following terms : " We took up the
green Sodd, and laid it by, and digg'd a hole in
the Earth where we put our Goods, and cover d
them with pieces of Timber and Earth, and
then put in again the green Turf; so that
'twas impossible to suspect that any Hole had
been digg'd under it, for we flung the Earth
into the River." Returning a few weeks
after, they found the cache all safe and sound.


A Desert Plain Preparation for a 'Water-Scrape' Accident to
a French Doctor -Upsetting of a Wagon and its Consequences
A Party of Sioux Warriors The first real Alarm Confu-
sion in the Camp Friendly Demonstrations of the Indians
The Pipe of Peace Squaws and Papooses An Extemporary
Village Lose our Track Search after the JLost River Hor-
rible Prospective The Cimarron Found at last A Night of
Alarms Indian Serenade and Thieving Indian Diplomacy
Hail-stones and Hurricanes Position of the Captain of a Cara-
van His Troubles, his Powers and Want of Powers More
Indians Hostile Encounter Results of the Skirmish The
1 Battle-Ground' Col. Vizcarra and the Gros Ventres.

OUR route had already led us up the course
of the Arkansas river for over a hundred miles,
yet the earlier caravans often passed from fifty
to a hundred further up before crossing the
river ; therefore nothing like a regular ford
had ever been established. Nor was there a
road, not even a trail, anywhere across the
famous plain, extending between the Arkan-
sas and Cimarron rivers, a distance of over
fifty miles, which now lay before us the scene
of such frequent sufferings in former times for
want of water. It having been determined
upon, however, to strike across this dreaded
desert the following morning, the whole party
was busy in preparing for the ' water scrape/


as these droughty drives are very appropriately
called by prairie travellers. This tract of coun-
try may truly be styled the grand * prairie
ocean ;' for not a single landmark is to be seen
for more than forty miles scarcely a visible
eminence by which to direct one's course. All
is as level as the sea, and the compass was our
surest, as well as principal guide.

In view of this passage, as well as that of
many other dry stretches upon the route, the
traveller should be apprised of the necessity
of providing a water-cask holding at least five
gallons to each wagon, in which a supply for
drinking and cooking may be carried along to
serve in cases of emergency.

The evening before the embarking of a
caravan upon this plain, the captain's voice is
usually heard above the din and clatter of the
camp, ordering to " fill up the water kegs," a
precaution which cannot be repeated too
often, as new adventurers are usually ignorant
of the necessity of providing a supply suffi-
cient to meet every contingency that may be-
fal during two or more days' journey over this
arid region. The cooks are equally engrossed
by their respective vocations : some are mak-
ing bread, others preparing viands, and all
tasking their ingenuity to lay by such stores
as may be deemed expedient for at least two
days' consumption. On the following mom-
ing (June 14th), the words ' catch up' again
resounded through the camp, and the cara-
van was once more in motion.

For the first five miles we had a heavy pull


among the sandy hillocks ; but soon the broad
and level plain opened before us. We had
hardly left the river's side, however, when we
experienced a delay of some hours, in conse-
quence of an accident which came very nigh
proving fatal to. a French doctor of our com-
pany. Fearful lest his stout top-heavy dear-
born should upset whilst skirting the slope of
a hill, he placed himself below in order to
sustain it with his haVids. But, in spite of all
his exertions, the carriage tumbled over, crush-
ing and mashing him most frightfully. He
was taken out senseless, and but little hopes
were at first entertained of his recovery.
Having revived, however, soon after, we were
enabled to resume our march ; and, in the
course of time, the wounded patient entirely

The next day we fortunately had a heavy
shower, which afforded us abundance of
water. Having also swerved considerably to-
ward the south, we fell into a more uneven
section of country, where we had to cross a
brook swelled by the recent rain, into which
one of the wagons was unfortunately over-
set. This, however, was not a very uncom-
mon occurrence; for unruly oxen, when
thirsty, will often rush into a pool in despite
of the driver, dragging the wagon over every
object in their way, at the imminent risk of
turning it topsy-turvy into the water. We
were now compelled to make a halt, and all
hands flocked to the assistance of the owner
of the damaged cargo. In a few minutes

sioux VISIT. 73

about an acre of ground was completely
covered with calicoes, and other domestic
goods, presenting altogether an interesting

All were busily occupied at this work when
some objects were seen moving in the dis-
tance, which at first were mistaken for buffalo;
but were speedily identified as horsemen.
Anxiety was depicted in every countenance.
Could it be possible that the party of Capt.
Sublette, which was nearly a month ahead of
us, had been lost in these dreary solitudes ?
or was it the band of Capt. Bent, who was
expected to follow some time after us ? This
anxious suspense, however, lasted only for a
few minutes ; and the cry of " Indians !" soon
made the welkin ring. Still they appeared
to approach too slowly for the western prairie
tribes. A little nearer, and we soon perceived
that they carried a flag, which turned out to
be that of the United States. This welcome
sight allayed at once all uneasiness ; as it is
well known that most savages, when friendly,
approach the whites with a hoisted flag, pro-
vided they have one. It turned out to be a
party of about eighty Sioux, who were on a
tour upon the Prairies for the purpose of trad-
ing with, stealing from or marauding upon
the south-western nations. Our communica-
tions were carried on entirely by signs ; yet
we understood them perfectly to say, that there
were immense numbers of Indians ahead,
upon the Cimarron river, whom they described
by symbolic language to be Blackfeet and Co
' 7


manches ; a most agreeable prospect for the
imagination to dwell upon !

We now moved on slowly and leisurely,
for all anxiety on the subject of water had
been happily set at rest by frequent falls
of rain. But imagine our consternation and
dismay, when, upon descending into the valley
of the Cimarron, on the morning of the 19th
of June, a band of Indian warriors on horse-
back suddenly appeared before us from be-
hind the ravines an imposing array of death-
dealing savages! There was no merriment
in this ! It was a genuine alarm a tangible
reality ! These warriors, however, as we soon
discovered, were only the van-guard of a
c countless host,' who were by this time pour-
ing over the opposite ridge, and galloping
directly towards us.

The wagons were soon irregularly ' formed'
upon the hill-side : but in accordance with
the habitual carelessness of caravan traders, a
great portion of the men were unprepared for
the emergency. Scores of guns were ' empty/
and as many more had been wetted by the
recent showers, and would not ' go off.' Here
was one calling for balls another for powder
a third for flints. Exclamations, such as,
"I've broke my ramrod" "I've spilt my
caps" " I've rammed down a ball without
powder" "My gun is 'choked;' give me
yours" were heard from different quarters;
while a timorous ' greenhorn' would perhaps
cry out, " Here, take my gun, you can out-
shoot me !" The more daring bolted off io


encounter the enemy at once, while the timid
and cautious took a stand with presented rifle
behind the wagons. The Indians who were
in advance made a bold attempt to press upon
us, which came near costing them dearly ; for
some of our fiery backwoodsmen more than
once had their rusty but unerring rifles direct-
ed upon the intruders, some of whom would
inevitably have fallen before their deadly aim,
had not a few of the more prudent traders in-
terposed. The savages made demonstrations
no less hostile, rushing, with ready sprung
bows, upon a portion of our men who had gone
in search of water; and mischief would, per-
haps, have ensued,;had not the impetuosity
of the warriors been checked by the wise men
of the nation.

The Indians were collecting around us,
however, in such great numbers, that it was
deemed expedient to force them away, so as
to resume our march, or at least to take a
more advantageous position. Our company
was therefore mustered and drawn up in 'line
of battle ;' and, accompanied by the sound of a
drum and fife, we marched towards the main
group of the Indians. The latter seemed far
more delighted than frightened with this
strange parade and music, a spectacle they
had, no doubt, never witnessed before, and
perhaps looked upon the whole movement
rather as a complimentary salute than a hos-
tile array ; for there was no interpreter through
whom any communication could be convey-
ed to them. But, whatever may have been


their impressions, one thing is certain, that
the principal chief (who was dressed in a long
red coat of strouding, or coarse cloth) appear-
ed to have full confidence in the virtues of
Jiis calumet ; which he lighted, and came
boldly forward to meet our warlike corps,
serenely smoking the ' pipe of peace/ Our
captain, now taking a whiff with the savage
chief, directed him by signs to cause his
warriors to retire. This most of them did, to
rejoin the long train of squaws and papooses
with the baggage, who followed in the rear,
and were just then seen emerging from be-
yond the hills. Having slowly descended to
the banks of the stream, they pitched their
wigwams or lodges; over five hundred of
which soon bespeckled the ample valley be-
fore us, and at once gave to its recently
meagre surface the aspect of an immense
Indian village. The entire number of the
Indians, when collected together, could not
have been less than from two to three thou-
$and although some of our company insisted
that there were at least four thousand souls.
In such a case they must have mustered
nearly a thousand warriors, while we were
but little over two hundred strong. Still, our
superior arm and the protection afforded by
the wagons, gave us considerably the advan-
tage, even supposing an equality in point
of valor. However, the appearance of the
squaws and children soon convinced us, that,
for the present, at least, they had no hostile in-
tentions; so we also descended into the valley


and formed our camp a few hundred yards
below them. The ' capitanes/ or head men
of the whites and Indians, shortly after met,
and, again smoking the calumet, agreed to be

Although we were now on the very banks
of the Cimarron, even the most experienced
traders of our party, whether through fright
or ignorance, seemed utterly unconscious of
the fact. Having made our descent, far be-
low the usual point of approach, and there
being not a drop of water found in the sandy
bed of the river, it was mistaken for Sand
creek, and we accordingly proceeded without
noticing it. Therefore, after our 'big talk 5 was
concluded, aftd dinner dispatched, we again
set out southward, in search of the Cimarron.
As we were starting, warriors, squaws and
papooses now commenced flocking about us,
gazing at our wagons with amazement ; for
many of them had never, perhaps, seen such
vehicles before. A few chiefs and others fol-
lowed us to our next encampment ; but these
were sent away at night.

Our guards were now doubled, as a night
attack was apprehended; for although we
were well aware that Indians never commit
outrages with their families at hand, yet
it was feared that they might either send them
away or conceal them during the night A
little after dark, these fears seemed about to
be realized ; as a party of thirty or forty Indians
were seen coming up towards the encamp-
ment Immediate preparations were made


to attack them, when they turned out to be a
band of squaws, with merely a few men as
gallants all of whom were summarily turned
adrift, without waiting to speculate upon the
objects of their visit. The next morning a
few others made their appearance, which we
treated in precisely the same manner, as a
horse was missing, which it was presumed
the Indians had stolen.

We continued our march southward in
search of the ' lost river/ After a few miles'
travel we encountered a ledge of sand-hills,
which obstructed our course, and forced us to
turn westward and follow their border for the
rest of the day. Finding but little water that
night, and none at all the next d&y, we began
by noon to be sadly frightened ; for nothing is
more alarming to the prairie traveller than
a ' water-scrape.' The impression soon be-
came general that we were lost lost on that
inhospitable desert, which had been the thea-
tre of so many former scenes of suffering !
and our course impeded by sand-hills! A
council of the veteran travellers was called to
take our emergency into consideration. I*
was at once resolved to strike in a northwest-
erly direction in search of the ' dry ravine' we
had left behind us, which was now supposed
to have been the Cimarron.

We had just set out, when a couple of In-
dians approached us, bringing the horse we
had lost the night before ; an apparent demon-
stration of good faith which could hardly have
been anticipated. It was evidently an effort


to ingratiate themselves in our favor, and es-
tablish an intercourse perhaps a traffic. But
the outrages upon Major Riley, as well as
upon a caravan, not two years before, perpe-
trated probably by the same Indians, were
fresh in the memory of all ; so that none of
us were willing to confide in their friendly
professions. On inquiring by means of signs
for the nearest water, they pointed to the di-
rection we were travelling : and finally taking
the lead, they led us, by the shortest way, to
the valley of the long-sought Cimarron,
which, with its delightful green-grass glades
and flowing torrent (very different in appear-
ance from where we had crossed it below),
had all the aspect of an ' elysian vale/ com-
pared with what we had seen for some time
past. We pitched our camp in the valley,
much rejoiced at having again 'made a

We were not destined to rest long in
peace, however. About midnight we were
all aroused by a cry of alarm, the like of
which had not been heard since the day
Don Quixote had his famous adventure with
the fulling-mills; and I am not quite sure
but some of our party suffered as much from
fright as poor Sancho Panza did on that me-
morable occasion. But Don Quixote and
Sancho only heard the thumping of the mills
and the roaring of the waters; while we
heard the thumping of the Indian drums, ac-
companied by occasional yells, which our ex-
cited fancies immediately construed into notes
of the fearful war-song.


After the whole company had been under
arms for an hour or two, finding the cause of
alarm approached no nearer, we again retired
to rest. But a little before daylight we were
again startled by the announcement " The
Indians are corning ! they are upon the very
camp P In a moment every man was up in
arms; and several guns were presented to
'salute' the visitors, when, to our extreme
mortification, they were found to be but eight
or ten in number. They were immediately
dispatched, by signs, and directed to remain
away till morning which they did.

On the following day, we had been in mo-
tion but a few minutes, when the Indians be-
gan flocking around us in large numbers, and
by the time we encamped in the evening, we
had perhaps a thousand of these pertinacious
creatures, males and females, of all ages and
descriptions, about us. At night, every means,
without resorting to absolute violence, was
employed to drive them away, but without
entire success. At this time a small band of
warriors took the round of our camp, and
' serenaded' us with a monotonous song of
hee-o-hehs, with the view, I suppose, of gain-
ing permission to remain ; hoping, no doubt,
to be able to ' drive a fair business' at pilfer-
ing during the night. In fact, a few small
articles were already missing, and it was now
discovered that they had purloined a pig of
lead (between fifty and a hundred pounds
weight) from one of the cannon-carriages,
where it had been carelessly left. This in-


creased the uneasiness which already prevail-
ed to a considerable extent ; and many of us
would imagine it already moulded into bul-
lets, which we were perhaps destined to re-
ceive before morning from the muzzles of
their fusils. Some were even so liberal as to
express a willingness to pardon the theft,
rather than give the Indians the trouble of
sending it back in so hasty a manner. After
a tedious night of suspense and conjecture, it
was no small relief to those whose feelings
had been so highly wrought upon, to find, on
waking up in the morning, that every man
still retained his scalp.

We started at a much earlier hour, this
morning, in hopes to leave our Indian tor-
mentors behind; but they were too wide-
. awake for us. By the time the wagoners
had completed the task of gearing their teams,
the squaws had ' geared' their dogs, and load-
ed them with their lodge poles and covers,
and other light ' plunder,' and were travelling
fast in our wake. Much to our comfort, how-
ever, the greatest portion abandoned us before
night ; but the next day several of the chiefs
overtook us again at noon, seeming anxious
to renew the ' treaty of peace.' The truth is,
the former treaty had never been ' sealed'
they had received no presents, which form an
indispensable ratification of all their treaties 1
with the whites. Some fifty or sixty dollars'
worth of goods having been made up for them,
they now left us apparently satisfied; and al-
though they continued to return and annoy us


for a couple of days longer ; they at last en-
tirely disappeared.

It was generally supposed at the time that
there was a great number of Comanches and
Arrapahoes among this troop of savages ; but
they were principally if not altogether Blackfeet
and Gros Ventres. We afterward learned that
on their return to the northern mountains, they
'met with a terrible defeat from the Sioux and
other neighboring tribes, in which they were
said to have lost more than half their number.

We now encountered a great deal of wet
weather ; in fact this region is famous for cold
protracted rains of two or three days' dura-
tion. Storms of hail-stones larger than hen's
eggs are not uncommon, frequently accom-
panied by the most tremendous hurricanes.
The violence of the wind is sometimes so
great that, as I have heard, two road-wagons
were once capsized by one of these terrible
thunder-gusts ; the rain, at the same time,
floating the plain to the depth of several inch-
es. In short, I doubt if there is any known
region out of the tropics, that can ' head' the
great prairies in l getting up' thunder-storms,
combining so many of the elements of the
awful and sublime.

During these storms the guards were 'often
veiy careless. This was emphatically the
case with us, notwithstanding our knowledge
of the proximity of a horde of savages. In
fact, the caravan was subject to so little con-
trol that the patience of Capt. Stanley under-
went some very severe trials ; so much so


that he threatened more than once to resign.
Truly, there is not a better school for testing a
man's temper, than the command of a pro-
miscuous caravan of independent traders.
The rank of captain is, of course, but little
more than nominal. Every proprietor of a
two-horse wagon is apt to assume as much
authority as the commander himself, and to
issue his orders without the least consultation
at head-quarters. It is easy then to conceive
that the captain has anything but an enviable
berth. He is expected to keep order while
few are disposed to obey loaded with exe-
crations for every mishap, whether acciden-
tal or otherwise; and when he attempts
to remonstrate he only renders himself ridicu-
lous, being entirely without power to enforce
his commands. It is to be regretted that some
system of i maritime law' has not been intro-
duced among these traders to secure subordi-
nation, which can never be attained while the
commander is invested with no legal author-
ity. For my own part, I can see no reason
why the captain of a prairie caravan should
not have as much power to call his men to ac-
count for disobedience or mutiny, as the cap-
tain of a ship upon the high seas.

After following the course of the Cimarron
for two days longer, we at length reached a
place called the ' Willow Bar/ where we took
the usual mid-day respite of two or three
hours, to afford the animals time to feed, and
our cooks to prepare dinner. Our wagons
were regularly ' formed,' and the animals


turned loose to graze at leisure, with only a
' day-guard' to watch them. Those who had
finished their dinners lay stretched upon their
blankets, and were just beginning to enjoy
the luxury of a siesta when all of a sudden,
the fearful and oft-reiterated cry of " Indians !"
turned this scene of repose into one of bus-
tle and confusion.

From the opposite ridge at the distance of
a mile, a swarm of savages were seen coming
upon us, at full charge, and their hideous
whoop and yell soon resounded through the
ralley. Such a jumbling of promiscuous
voices I never expect to hear again. Every
one fancied himself a commander, and voci-
ferated his orders accordingly. The air was
absolutely rent with the cries of " Let's charge
'em, boys !" " Fire upon 'em, boys !" " Re-
serve! don't fire till they come nearer!"
while the voice of our captain was scarcely
distinguishable in his attempts to prevent such
rash proceedings. As the prairie Indians of-
ten approach their friends as well as enemies
in this way, Captain Stanley was unwilling to
proceed to extremities, lest they might be
peacefully inclined. But a ' popping salute/
and the whizzing of fusil balls over our heads,
soon explained their intentions. We returned
them several rifle shots by way of compli-
ment, but without effect, as they were at too
great a distance.

A dozen cannoniers now surrounded our
4 artillery,' which was charged with canister
Each of them had, of course, something to


say. "Elevate her; she'll ground," one
would suggest " She'll overshoot, now." re-
joined another. At last, after raising and
lowering the six-pounder several times, during
which process the Indians had time to retreat

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