Chapter XXIII.


Difficulty in Finding the Trail--The Character of Our Commanding

Officer--My Discharge as Guide--A Proposition to Kill Stith--Rejected by Moore and Myself--Arrival at Santa Fe --The Confidence of the Quartermaster in Me

ON ARRIVING at Grand river, Stith's outfit was prepared and we were sent across the river into a place entirely unknown to me. I did not even know whether the Dolores river was above or below me, and so told the officer. There was a point known as the bend of Dolores where I had been, but from where we were to that point the country was new to me. I had no definite idea of the distance but knew it must be several days' journey. This country, as the name of the river implies, was about the worst country I ever traveled through.

While we were prospecting to see if we could get any sight of the river, I found a lone Indian. He had been out all alone on a stealing expedition to the Navajo Indians, had got a few horses and was on his way home to Uintah. After much persuasion and some pay, I induced him to go a day's travel and show me the river and put me on the trail if there was any.

We were about thirty miles above the Dolores where it empties into Grand river. On arriving at the river, we found a trail leading up to it for only a short distance. My Indian friend described the country and trails to me so that I felt pretty sure of getting to a place with which I was acquainted.

We were ten days reaching the bend of the Dolores where the old Spanish trail strikes it, but does not cross. We only struck the river twice the whole distance. It runs through box canyons most of the way, and is unapproachable; so the wagon-road ordered explored I do not think will be made yet awhile.

By this time we had learned the character of our commanding officer. He was simply a ruffian of the worst type. I had to watch him daily, as he was suspicious of being led into ambush.

We had met one party of Indians, an old man and family. My brother-in-law was acquainted with him, he having been one of the Grand valley company that was driven away by the Indians. This old man was of the peace party, and told Mr. Moore all about what had happened, after they were driven away. Seeing Moore friendly and talking with the old Indian made Stith more suspicious of us. He often hinted that it would be dangerous for us if we ever came across Indians in any number. This was not very pleasant, for we were in a country where a great many Indians roamed and we were liable to run across a lot at any time, but as good luck would have it, we never did. We always believed that if we had run into an Indian camp that Stith would have attempted to take our lives.

The soldiers did not like him, neither did they think as he did, but they all feared him as he had shot down some of his company. This same officer had shot and killed one man, who had given out and could not travel. This occurred on a Texas desert.

My intention was to take care of myself, and if we had met any Indians to see that I was not harmed if a good rifle could protect me. Moore and myself watched him all the time.

We arrived at the Dolores bend at eleven o'clock a. m. I recommended camping. Stith said he had not made a day's march and would not camp. I said, "Then let's noon."

"No, it lacks an hour of noon; we must travel an hour yet."

I told him I wanted time to get my reckoning as I had not been here for some time and had come in a different direction from what I had done before and that there were many trails leading from this point further north. It was twenty miles to the next water. All this would not induce him even to noon, but he ordered the march to continue.

After going a few miles he asked me where the water was for noon. I told him that all the water we would get would take till after night to reach. He then notified Moore and myself that we were discharged, and that there was a Mexican along who knew the road better than we did. I told him allright, to pay us and we would turn back. This he refused to do, saying that he intended to keep us along in case the Mexican did not know the country; that we would be better than no guides.

We had guided this company 210 miles, through a country entirely unknown to us, and ten days' time, and the infantry with packs had never been lost or failed to get good camps. Now, after getting, for the first time, on a good trail, we were discharged for not finding water for noon on a dry desert and, as before stated, leaving water at about half-past eleven. So much for West Point discipline.

After discharging us, as he supposed, Stith put his Mexican guide to lead, Moore and myself following along and taking it easy. We were in no way concerned about our discharge, for the quartermaster had told me to get along the best we could with Stith, but if we wanted, when we got into Santa Fe, to come back and meet Canby's command, and that we need not take a discharge from Stith unless we so desired.

They now left the trail, at night taking to the left over a dry mesa; but no water was found. There was considerable suffering among the soldiers, as there was no water for coffee or cooking and but little to drink. Here the company planned to kill Stith, nearly all the company agreeing. They sent their committee to Moore and myself with the proposition that Stith and the Mexican guide be killed together with all that would not sustain the move, and that we were to guide them out of the country. This was fully determined upon and we had much trouble in persuading them out of the notion, but finally succeeded.

Next day we continued our journey, arriving at the Mancos river much later than we would have done had we kept the trail. Stith soon learned that the Mexican knew but little about the country. After crossing the river we struck a big trail where it ascended a hill. On getting on this trail Stith made some very insulting remarks saying that now we had a guide who knew something.

On reaching the top of the hill they found that the trail scattered, being a hunting trail and not a route. This puzzle the guide, who was the one that had taken the wrong direction. I hear got my ideas clear, and for the soldiers' sake, they having treated us kindly, I told Stith's lieutenant where the trail was. He informed Stith, who was now willing to listen, having lost faith in his Mexican. We soon struck the old trail. We could now have regained our positions had we wished to, but we agreed with Lieut. Bristol, who was a real good fellow, to tell him every morning, when necessary, and about the trail and distance; but not to speak to Stith about anything, and go along as though we cared nothing about the road.

After this Moore and I had a pretty good time, riding along without any responsibility; hunting when we liked and taking it easy. We had many a good laugh at Stith's expense, for if we started out of a morning ahead he was afraid to lose sight of us for fear his guide would get lost.

One morning, while traveling on a nice, plain trail, up a wide, smooth flat, Moore and I started up a steep mountain side, intending to follow along the mountain ridge and kill some game. We had gone but a short distance, without any trail whatever, when, on looking back, we saw the Mexican guide and Stith had left the trail and started to follow us. Bristol was in the rear with the pack train.

At first we felt like letting them follow, but it seemed too hard on the poor foot soldiers to play them such a trick, so Steve Moore turned round and called out, "What in the h--- are you following us for?" Stith wanted to know if we were not on the trail. Moore told him his guide out to know where the trail was--that it was down on the flat; to go back and not be following us up the mountain.

We traveled along the mountain ridge in sight of the trail most of the day watching the company. They often seemed lost and would stop and look to see if they could see us. We finally came into the trail and traveled along with the command.

On arriving at the first settlement Stith got drunk and gambled off a lot of money that he expected to cover by the vouchers I would sign before drawing any pay from him.

We were seventy miles from Santa Fe, the headquarters were we were to report to Colonel Fontleroy, the commander.

Stith continued his spree several days, so Moore and I saddled up and went on to Santa Fe alone. On reaching that place I found many old friends, among the rest, Manuel Woods, keeping hotel. He was an old hotel keeper for whom I had kept bar during my first stay in Santa Fe. I explained our situation to him, stating that we intended to wait till the main command came in. He told us to make his house our home as long as we desired, and we could have all the money we wanted besides.

My old friends, John Phillips, H. Stevens, F. Redmond, and many others, expressed themselves ready to assist us in any way possible.

We turned our mules into the government corral and went to stop at the hotel.

Colonel Fontleroy, on hearing that some one had arrived from Utah, sent for us to come to his office the next day. There had been some uneasiness felt about the company we had traveled with, and a party had been sent out to meet them. The party had gone as far as the Dolores and returned.

We had seen their tracks; I wanted to follow the trail, knowing it to be white men's tracks. Stith took them for Indians' and refused to follow me.

On meeting the colonel, he, in a very pompous manner, asked me who I was.

I replied, "Daniel W. Jones."

"Where you from?"

"Salt Lake City, Utah."

"How did you come here?"

"On a mule."

"What is your business--in what capacity have you come?" He was now much excited and asked a series of questions before stopping.

I then told him I was a guide in government employ.

He asked, "Where are the troops; where is the command you are guiding?"

"The last I saw of them they were about seventy miles back. The commander and most of the company drunk."

"Why are you not with them?"

"I don't like whisky," was my answer.

I felt insulted by his manner in first speaking so abruptly to me, and was determined not to give him any satisfaction until he spoke to me in a respectable manner. This he seemed to see and commenced asking his questions more politely. I gave him all the information I could about the moves of the troops on the road. He now approved of my coming ahead.

When Stith arrived he made out my account and asked me to sign the vouchers. I thanked him, telling him that I did not need any money and did not wish my discharge just then. He flew into a terrible passion, saying that he could not settle his accounts unless I signed the vouchers. I replied that I had nothing to do with settling his accounts, all I wanted was my transfer back to the command. This he refused me, so we went and bought two mules on credit and went back to the command.

We met them at Taos. The quartermaster was glad to see us, as he needed our services. I took the position of both guide and interpreter, Moore continuing as assistant.

We got into the farming district about harvest time. There was no forage to be had except fields of grain. These were bought at high prices when animals were turned in over night and a guard placed around them. Often the animals would get into other fields doing some damage. The Mexicans made great complaint, often asking several hundred dollars for damages.

The pasturage generally cost from $150 to $200 per night. The quartermaster would generally hand me $500 and tell me to settle. Sometimes I would be two or three hours settling, as the damage sometimes was on various patches.

The people were at times unreasonable in their demands. When I could not get a reasonable settlement would refer to the authority. I made the people understand that they could not get anything only what was just and reasonable. When they found that I understood them they became much easier to deal with.

In that country what you do today always gets to the camping place before you do.

When all my accounts were settled for the day I would hand what money was left to the quartermaster, sometimes it would be over $100.

One day on handing him the money he said, "Jones, you're a d----d fool."

"Why?" I asked.

"That money is already accounted for."

I did not take the hint as he expected I would, but continued to return the overplus.

This remark to me was made in kindness, as the quartermaster was a great friend of mine and wanted me to keep the money for myself, but I did not think it right. It would never had done me any good.

When we arrived in Santa Fe, we were paid off in full up to date, and mileage allowed; but no protection was furnished for our return home. The Navajoes had just broken out and the troops had been ordered to chastise them. The good of the service now required that we get home the best we could. Aside from this we were treated in the best manner possible; provisions being given us by the quartermaster and some valuable presents by other officers.

We knew that our chances were slim for getting back safely. To make things as safe as possible, however, we bought a good wagon and four first class mules; loaded up with Mexican and Navajo blankets and other goods believing that we would be less liable to get robbed of these goods than if we carried our money with us. We were also informed by some friends, who had lately come in from Denver that blankets of this kind were in good demand at that place. There was a great rush for Pike's Peak and miners and prospectors wanted these blankets.

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