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Kit Carson An over-glossed look at a bloody encounter ...

The Life and Adventures of Kit Carson

(the Nestor of the Rocky Mountains, from Facts Narrated by Himself)

Author: De Witt C. Peters - 1858

Chapter VIII.

Kit Carson and his favorite horse On their homeward-bound journey, the party followed up the valley of the San Joaquin crossing over the Sierra Nevada and coast range of mountains at a point where they join and form a beautiful low pass. They continued on from here close under the coast range until they struck the Spanish Trail. This they followed to the Mohave River. That stream, it will be recollected, was an old friend of Kit Carson's. The reader will recall the many times he had caught beaver out of its waters. They followed the trail up the course of the river to where it leaves it. At this point an event occurred which somewhat retarded their progress, relieving the monotony of the route and somewhat changing their plans.

Soon after the camp had been formed, they were visited by a Mexican man and boy; the one named Andreas Fuentes, the other Pablo Hernandez. They informed Fremont that they belonged to a party of Mexican traders which had come from New Mexico. They said that six of them, including in this number two women who acted as cooks, had been left by their friends in charge of a band of horses. The rest of the party were absent trafficking. The party of six thus left to watch the horses, consisted of Santiago Giacome, Andreas Fuentes and wife, and Pablo Hernandez, together with his father and mother. They were endeavoring to find better grazing for their animals. For this purpose they had penetrated the country as far as they dared; and, at about eighty miles from the camp of Fremont, had resolved to wait for their friends. Fuentes and the boy Pablo were on guard over the animals when their camp was attacked by hostile savages. The attacking band was about thirty in number.

Their principal object was to seize the horses. To effect this the more easily, they saluted the little band with a flight of arrows as they advanced. Fuentes and Pablo now heard Giacome warning them to start the horses and run for it. Both were mounted. They obeyed the directions of Giacome and with the entire band of horses charged boldly into the midst of the Indians regardless of their weapons. The charge succeeded in breaking their line, through which Fuentes and Pablo boldly dashed after their animals. The Indians deferred the chase to attend to a more bloody purpose. Having put sixty miles between them and the site of the attack, they left their horses and started in search of their main body. This search led them into Fremont's camp. Fuentes feared that the worst had overtaken his wife. Pablo already looked upon himself as an orphan boy. He doubted not that the bloody savages had murdered both his father and mother. It was a sad picture to witness their grief. But Kit Carson could not do so unmoved. The heart of such grief has ever awakened his earnest sympathy. His sympathy, too, has never been of a wordy nature. He volunteered to go with Fuentes and make an attempt to deliver the captives, if such they should prove, or to avenge their death, if that became the sad alternative.

Fuentes had left the horses at a spring of water, well known to Carson. There he had found signs of white men which had led him into Fremont's camp. There was no difficulty for Carson to find the spring. The whole company therefore traveled to the spring, which they reached early the next morning, distant about thirty miles from their last camp. The horses were not to be seen. A short examination of signs soon revealed to Carson and Godey that the two Mexicans had been followed by the Indians and that they had come upon the horses shortly after they had left them. Of course therefore they had captured and driven them off.

Carson and Godey were determined to make one effort to punish the rascals. They started, taking Fuentes with them, upon the trail of the Indians. The chase was a severe one, as, in the judgment of the mountaineers, the Indians would not make a short trail after acquiring so much booty. The horse which Fuentes rode, most unfortunately, gave out after a short ride. There was no time to be lost and no means at hand to supply this important deficiency. To turn back to camp would supply it, but that course would also lose them their game. Fuentes, therefore, was requested to return to Fremont's camp, and there await the return of Kit Carson and Godey. These two had been the only men in the entire command who had volunteered in this chase. The loss of Fuentes therefore made their task literally a Don Quixotic adventure. Two men against thirty. But Kit Carson was not the man to turn his back upon an adventure as soon as the difficulties began to present themselves. He well knew that he had one man on whom he could rely. Richard Godey was his tried and trusty friend, his kindred spirit and a noble hearted man. Leaving the Mexican to find his way back to camp, a distance of about twenty miles, they gave him their word that they would finish the business. The following night was very dark, and in order to keep on the right scent Carson and Godey were obliged to lead their horses and frequently to follow the trail by the sense of feeling. It was seldom, however, that they lost the path, and never for more than a few moments at a time. Gradually the signs grew fresher as they advanced, which gave them the assurance that they were rapidly gaining on the pursuit. Finally, they concluded that only a few hours separated them from the savages. Having accomplished a considerable part of their journey during the night, and finding that both themselves and their horses required rest, they concluded to halt. Having unsaddled their animals and turned them out to graze, they wrapped themselves up in their wet blankets and laid down to sleep. The weather, however, was too cold to permit sleeping in comfort without a fire. That they dare not make, fearing it would prove a warning signal to the savages. Having worried through the remainder of this cold and cheerless night, they arose early in the morning and went to the bottom of a deep ravine where they kindled a small fire and succeeded in warming themselves. At daybreak they re-saddled their jaded horses and once more started upon the trail. Just as the sun was rising they discovered the Indians. When first seen they were encamped two miles in advance, and were enjoying a breakfast on horse steaks, having already killed five of the stolen animals. Kit Carson and his friend dismounted, and, concealing their horses near by, held a council of war. They decided to crawl in among the herd of stolen animals which were grazing, without guard, at a short distance from the camp of the savages. Upon reaching the horses, they agreed to be guided by circumstances. First divesting themselves of all useless apparel, they commenced their task. After much cautious labor they gained their point and stood among the animals. As soon, however, as they arrived, one of the young horses of the band became frightened at the grotesque figures cut by the two creeping men and exhibited his fear by snorting and kicking up his heels. This alarmed the remainder of the horses and caused quite a commotion among them, which had the effect to alarm the savages, who sprang for their arms. With a yell, Carson and Godey instantly turned towards the savages. As soon as they were all fairly in view the two white men saw that they had thirty warriors before them to deal with. When they had advanced within rifle range Kit Carson halted and, aiming his rifle at the stoutest looking brave, fired. The fierce savage fell with a cry of anguish. Godey had also halted and fired, but he missed his aim. Instantly reloading, he made the second attempt and this time brought down a warrior. While these events were taking place the red men were running about in great confusion. Occasionally they returned a few arrows, but they all proved but harmless missiles. The fact was the Indians were puzzled what to think of the audacity of the two men. Evidently they considered them to be an advance party of some strong force, acting with a view of decoying them into a close fight. Acting upon this they began to fly in every direction except that from which danger impended. Kit and Godey, as they had calculated, were thus, quite unceremoniously, left masters of the enemy's camp. Besides the recaptured horses, they had two trophies lying upon the ground in the shape of a brace of stalwart warriors. In order to show their companions on their return that they were not given to boasting, they followed the example and practice of the savages and scalped the two Indians. The common expression now in use is that they proceeded to "take the hair" of their victims. The performance of this act was a matter of choice and fell to the lot of Godey, while Kit Carson, with the two rifles, ascended an eminence near at hand for the double purpose of standing guard over his companion and also to reconnoitre. Godey commenced his operations on the savage which he himself had shot. Having finished with him, he started for the other Indian hit by Kit Carson. But this fellow after he had fallen had crawled quite out of view among some rocks. Being only wounded, he raised up and sent an arrow at Godey as he approached which pierced his shirt collar. The Indian had already lost a large amount of blood. His last act so exhausted him that he sank back upon the ground and expired. They next proceeded to collect the horses. Upon counting them they found the number stated by the Mexican to be correct with the exception of five killed by the Indians for their feast. The animals were now driven to the spot where their own horses had been left.. Here they held another council and determined to seek out the fate of the remainder of the Mexican party. They therefore bent their steps towards the late camp of the Mexicans. There they found the bodies of the two men terribly mangled. The savage ferocity of the rascally savages had here had full play as soon as they found that the two who were on guard had broken through their line and escaped with the horses. Their bodies were naked and full of arrows. The women were not to be found. The remains were decently interred by Carson and Godey, and then they set about looking for the women. After a long search they could discover nothing of them, and concluded that they had been reserved for a worse fate. The remains of these two poor captives were afterwards found by some of Fremont's men. The Indians, not satisfied with killing them, had staked their bodies to the ground. Kit Carson and Godey having now accomplished, on this errand of mercy, all that lay in the power of man to do, set out to return and soon rejoined their friends, whom they found anxiously waiting for them. Col. Fremont concludes his account of this affair in the following words:

"Their object accomplished, our men gathered up all the surviving horses, fifteen in number, returned upon their trail, and rejoined us at our camp in the afternoon of the same day. They had rode about one hundred miles in the pursuit and return, and all in thirty hours. The time, place, object, and numbers considered, this expedition of Carson and Godey may be considered among the boldest and most disinterested which the annals of western adventure, so full of daring deeds, can present. Two men, in a savage desert, pursue day and night an unknown body of Indians into the defiles of an unknown mountain—attack them on sight, without counting numbers—and defeat them in an instant—and for what? To punish the robbers of the desert, and to avenge the wrongs of Mexicans whom they did not know. I repeat: it was Carson and Godey who did this—the former an American, born in Kentucky; the latter a Frenchman by descent, born in St. Louis; and both trained to western enterprise from early life."

The stolen property was restored to the Mexicans without one cent being demanded or received by either Carson or Godey.

It was not for the love of Indian fighting as many may suppose, that Kit Carson was moved to take part in such expeditions; but, when the life of a fellow-creature is exposed to Indian barbarities, no living man is more willing, or more capable of rendering a lasting service than Christopher Carson. A name that, wherever it is known, is ranked among the "bravest of the brave."

Soon after the two volunteers came in, Fremont resumed his journey and continued it without anything transpiring to disturb the equanimity of the party until they reached a point on the Virgin River where the Spanish Trail leaves it. It became necessary to change camps here, in order that the animals might take advantage of better grass. As the party were enjoying a day's rest, one of the men, a Canadian by birth, missed his riding mule from the herd. Without informing any of his friends of his intentions, he started out in quest of the animal. His absence, at first, was not noticed; but, soon, inquiries were made for him, and when an unusual length of time had passed without his return, Fremont became anxious for his safety. He directed Kit Carson to take three men and go in search of him. On arriving at their last camp, Kit found a spot where, undoubtedly, the man had fallen from his horse wounded, as, about the place, there were pools of coagulated blood. It was now believed that their companion was dead. Kit immediately ordered the party to search for his body, but they could not find it. They then followed the trail of the Canadian's horse, which it was very evident he had caught and mounted before being shot. It led to where the animal had crossed the river. There, all signs disappeared. After a faithful search for the trail, Kit returned to camp, and informed his commander of the result of his day's work. The next morning the search was renewed by all of the company. They discovered Indian signs, yet could not trace them to where the body was. After looking in every conceivable hiding-place in the neighborhood of the signs, they gave up the hunt. Kit Carson was much affected by the loss of this man. He had been his friend. They had been associated in many trapping expeditions, and knew each other most intimately. He felt assured that, if the Canadian had not been surprised by any enemy in ambuscade, he would have killed one or two Indians before he himself fell; for, besides being a very brave man, he was well versed in Indian mode of warfare, and was considered a fine marksman.

The party now proceeded on their journey, returning to and keeping on the Spanish Trail, which was not left until they reached the "Vega of Santa Clara."

Resting Springs

"... the site of an Indian massacre in 1844, avenged by Kit Carson and Alexander Godey of Fremont's expedition."

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