Chapter I.


Forty Years Among the Indians.


Cross the Plains with Volunteers to Engage in War with Mexico

--Attacked by Mounted Comanches--Remain in Mexico About Three Years after the War--Indulge in Many of the Wild and Reckless Ways of the People, but Abstain from Strong Drink and the Worst Vices--Acquire a Knowledge of The Spanish Language

IN THE year 1847, I crossed the plains with the volunteers from St. Louis, Missouri, going out to take part in the war with Mexico. At that time the Comanche Indians were a power on the plains. The battalion I belonged to was attacked while in camp on the Arkansas River. On the opposite side of the river were sand hills. Wood was very scarce in the region and on arriving in camp, it was customary for a number of the most active young men to go out in search of fuel, generally "buffalo chips."

On looking across the river there were seen a few small piles of what looked like driftwood. This had been placed there by the Indians as a decoy; but no suspicion was felt at the time, as we had heretofore seen no Indians, neither was there anyone along who understood the Indians' "tricks."

Some thirty man started in haste for this wood. Only one man taking his gun, one other had a small pocket pistol. A few of the most active men secured the wood piled up, whilst the others remain gathering [18] the scattered sticks and picking berries that grew among the sand-hills. Suddenly there charged upon them about twenty-five mounted Comanches. Using their long, sharp spears they would ride a man down, spear him through, catch him by the hair, and scalp him without dismounting. They killed and scalped eight man, wounding and scalping another that recovered. Although there was a battalion of infantry and a company of cavalry in camp, this was done before help could reach the men. The men in camp rushed across the river, firing at the Indians, who retreated as soon as they were in danger. The cavalry company mounted and pursued for some time but could not overtake the Indians. This was my first introduction to Indians.

After this we were more watchful. Many attacks were made and men killed in those days in open daylight in what might be termed a fair field fight, while others were surprised, and sometimes whole parties murdered, as was the mail company at Wagon Mound in 1849. Some of them were personal friends of mine.

At that time, in common with white men generally, I looked upon all Indians as fit only to be killed.

After the war was over, I remained in Mexico until July, 1850. Of my stay in that country for some three years, I will give only a brief sketch and write that which has a bearing on my future life and actions, as will be given in this work. There are many things that have occurred in my experience which might be interesting to some but not to the general reader.

I will say this, and say it truly, I took part in many ways in the wild, reckless life that was common in that land, so much so that I often felt condemned, and longed for something to call me away from where I was, and lead me from the evils I was surrounded by. I had [19] much pride, always believing myself better than many others. This caused me to preserve myself from degradation. There was a feeling continually with me, that if I would keep my body pure and healthy, I would yet find a condition in life that would be satisfactory to me.

This spirit enabled me to abstain from strong drink and other worse vices that I could see were destroying the lives of my associates. Notwithstanding this, I found enough to practice in the way of gambling, swearing, fighting, and other rough conduct to feel heartily condemned in my own conscience.

While in Mexico I formed a kindly feeling toward many of the Mexican people, studied the Spanish language, so as to read and write it and act as interpreter.

My mind often reverts to those days. I had been left an orphan at eleven years of age. I then left all my friends and relatives and went out into the world alone, probably as willful a boy as ever lived. No one could control me by any other means than kindness, and this I did not often meet with. The result was, I found myself among rough people in a wild country among those who knew no law but the knife and pistol. The old Texas Rangers and many of the Missouri planters being the leading characters.

I often wonder how I got through, and I can only account for it in one way: I did not like this way of living. I felt condemned, and often asked God in all earnestness to help me to see what was right, and how to serve Him; telling Him I wanted to know positively, and not be deceived. I felt that the people of this age ought to have prophets to guide them, the same as of old, and that it was not a "square thing" to leave them without anything but the Bible, for that could not be sufficient or [20] the people would not dispute so much over it. These feelings grew upon me, and I began to be more careful of my conduct, and felt a greater desire to leave the country.

1 comment:

  1. My great great great great grandfather was a great man!