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attack the foremost men, and cut them off before the rest could come up.”
“We are not in an enemy's country yet,” said Shaw; “when we are, we'll travel together."
“Then,” said the Captain, “we might be attacked in camp. We've no sentinels; we camp in disorder; no precautions at all to guard against surprise! My own convictions are that we ought to camp in a hollow square, with the fires in the center; and have sentinels, and a regular password, appointed for every night. Besides, there should be videttes, riding in advance, to find a place for the camp and give warning of an enemy. These are my convictions. I don't want to dictate to any man. I give advice to the best of my judgment, that's all; and then let people do as they please.”
We intimated that perhaps it would be as well to postpone such burdensome precautions until there should be some actual need of them; but he shook his head dubiously. The Captain's sense of military propriety had been severely shocked by what he considered the irregular proceedings of the party; and this was not the first time he had expressed himself upon the subject. But his “convictions” seldom produced any practical results. In the present case, he contented himself, as usual, with enlarging on the importance of his suggestions, and wondering that they were not adopted. But his plan of sending out videttes seemed particularly dear to him; and as no one else was disposed to second his views on this point, he
took it into his head to ride forward that afternoon, himself.
“Come, Parkman,” said he,“ will you go with me?"
So we set out together, and rode a mile or two in advance. The Captain, in the course of twenty years' service in the British army, had seen something of life; one extensive side of it, at least; he had enjoyed the best opportunities for studying; and being naturally a pleasant fellow, he was a very entertaining companion. He cracked jokes and told stories for an hour or two; until, looking back, he saw the prairie behind us stretching away to the horizon, without a horseman or a wagon in sight.
“Now," said the Captain, "I think the videttes had better stop till the main body comes up.”
I was of the same opinion. There was a thick growth of woods just before us, with a stream running through them. Having crossed this, we found on the other side a fine level meadow, half encircled by the trees; and fastening our horses to some bushes, we sat down on the grass, while, with an old stump of a tree for a target, I began to display the superiority of the renowned rifle of the backwoods over the foreign innovation borne by the Captain. At length voices could be heard in the distance behind the trees.
“There they come!” said the Captain:"let's go and see how they get through the creek.”
We mounted and rode to the bank of the stream, where the trail crossed it. It ran in a deep hollow, full of trees: as we looked down, we saw a confused
crowd of horsemen riding through the water; and among the dingy habiliments of our party glittered the uniforms of four dragoons.
Shaw came whipping his horse up the bank, in advance of the rest, with a somewhat indignant countenance. The first word he spoke was a blessing1 fervently invoked on the head of R., who was riding, with a crestfallen air, in the rear. Thanks to the ingenious devices of the gentleman, we had missed the track entirely, and wandered, not toward the Platte, but to the village of the Iowa Indians. This we learned from the dragoons, who had lately deserted from Fort Leavenworth. They told us that our best plan now was to keep to the northward until we should strike the trail formed by several parties of Oregon emigrants, who had that season set out from St. Joseph in Missouri.
In extremely bad temper, we encamped on this illstarred spot; while the deserters, whose case admitted of no delay, rode rapidly forward. On the day following, striking the St. Joseph trail, we turned our horses' heads toward Fort Laramie, then about seven hundred miles to the westward. 4
THE “ BIG BLUE"
Everything here bites, stings, or bruises; every second of your existence you are wounded by some piece of animal life that nobody has ever seen before except Swammerdam and Meriam. An insect with eleven legs is swimming in your tea-cup. A nondescript with nine wings is struggling in the small-beer, or a caterpillar with several legs in his belly is hastening over the bread and butter.
The great medley of Oregon and California emigrants, at their camps around Independence, had heard reports that several additional parties were on the point of setting out from St. Joseph farther to the northward. The prevailing impression was that these were Mormons, twenty-three hundred in number; and a great alarm was excited in consequence. The people of Illinois and Missouri, who composed by far the greater part of the emigrants, have never been on the best terms with the "Latter Day Saints”; and it is notorious throughout the country how much blood has been spilt in their feuds, even far within the limits of the settlements. No one could predict what would be the result, when large armed bodies
of these fanatics' should encounter the most impetuous and reckless of their old enemies on the broad prairie, far beyond the reach of law or military force. The women and children at Independence raised a great outcry; the men themselves were seriously alarmed; and, as I learned, they sent to Colonel Kearney, requesting an escort of dragoons as far as the Platte. This was refused; and as the sequel proved, there was no occasion for it. The St. Joseph emigrants were as good Christians and as zealous Mormon-haters as the rest; and the very few families of the “Saints' who passed out this season by the route of the Platte remained behind until the great tide of emigration had gone by; standing in quite as much awe of the “gentiles” as the latter did of them.
We were now, as I before mentioned, upon this St. Joseph trail. It was evident, by the traces, that large parties were a few days in advance of us; and as we too supposed them to be Mormons, we had some appprehension of interruption from this horde of fanatics.
The journey was somewhat monotonous. One day we rode on for hours, without seeing a tree or a bush; before, behind, and on either side, stretched the vast expanse, rolling in a succession of graceful swells, covered with the unbroken carpet of fresh green grass.
Here and there a crow, or a raven, a turkey-buzzard, relieved the uniformity.
“What shall we do to-night for wood and water?" we began to ask of each other; for the sun was within