Fortunes of War

While Captain Boling was engaged in capturing the Indians we had
“treed” on the north side of the valley, scouting parties were sent
out by Lieut. Chandler. They spread over the valley, and search was
made in every locality that was accessible. Discovering fresh signs
on a trail I had unsuccessfully followed on my first visit, I pursued
the traces up to a short distance below Mirror Lake. Being alone I
divided my attention between the wonders of the scenery and the tracks
I was following, when suddenly I was aroused by discovering a basket of
acorns lying by the trail. Seeing that it was a common carrying basket,
such as was generally used by the squaws in “packing,” I at first came
to the conclusion that it had been thrown off by some affrighted squaw
in her haste to escape on my approach. Observing another on a trail
leading toward the Talus, I felt confident that I had discovered the
key to the hiding-place of the Indians we were in search of. Securing
my mule with the “riata” I continued the search, and found several
baskets before reaching the walls of the cliff, up which, in a kind
of groove, the trail ascended. By this time I began to be suspicious,
and thought that there was too much method in this distribution of
acorns along the trail for frightened squaws to have made, and it
now occurred to me what Sandino had said of acorns being hulled for
transportation up the cliffs; and these _had not been hulled_!

Before reaching the Talus, I observed that the foot-prints were large,
and had been made by the males, as the toes did not turn in, as was
usual with the squaws; and it now began to appear to me, that the
acorns were only left to lead us into some trap; for I was aware that
“warriors” seldom disgraced themselves by “packing,” like squaws.
Taking a look about me, I began to feel that I was venturing too
far; my ambitious desire for further investigation vanished, and I
hastened back down the trail. While descending, I met Lt. Gilbert of
C company, with a few men. They too had discovered baskets, dropped
by the “_scared Indians_,” and were rushing up in hot pursuit, nearly
_capturing_ me. I related my discoveries, and told the Lieutenant of
my suspicions, advising him not to be too hasty in following up the
“_lead_.” After I had pointed out some of the peculiarities of the
location above us, he said with a sigh of disappointment, “By George!
Doc. I believe you are right–you are more of an Indian than I am any
way; I reckon we had better report this to the Captain before we go
any further.” I replied, “I am now going in to report this strategy
to Captain Boling, for I believe he can make some flank movement and
secure the Indians, without our being caught in this trap.” But while
we were descending to the trail, I seriously thought and believed, that
Lt. Gilbert and his men as well as myself, had had a narrow escape.
The bit of history of the rear guard of Charlemagne being destroyed
by the Pyrenians flashed through my mind, and I could readily see how
destructive such an attack might become.

After taking the precaution to secrete the baskets on the main trail,
Lt. Gilbert, with his scouts, continued his explorations in other
localities, saying as he left that he would warn all whom he might
see “not to get into the trap.” I mounted my mule and rode down the
valley in search of Captain Boling, and found him in an oak grove near
our old camp, opposite a cliff, now known as “Hammo” (the lost arrow).
I here learned the particulars of his successful capture of the five
scouts of Ten-ie-ya’s band, and at his request asked them, through
Sandino, who had come over with the “_kitchen mules_,” why they had so
exposed themselves to our view. They replied that Ten-ie-ya knew of our
approach before we reached the valley. That by his orders they were
sent to watch our movements and report to him. That they did not think
we could cross the Merced with our horses until we reached the upper
fords; and therefore, when discovered, did not fear. They said that
Ten-ie-ya would come in and “have a talk with the white chief when he
knows we are here.”

After repeated questioning as to where their people were, and where the
old chief would be found if a messenger should be sent to him, they
gave us to understand that they were to meet Ten-ie-ya near To-co-ya,
at the same time pointing in the direction of the “North Dome.” Captain
Boling assured them that if Ten-ie-ya would come in with his people he
could do so with safety. That he desired to make peace with him, and
did not wish to injure any of them. The young brave was the principal
spokesman, and he replied: “Ten-ie-ya will come in when he hears what
has been said to us.”

Having acquired all the information it was possible to get from
the Indians, Capt. Boling said that in the morning he would send a
messenger to the old chief and see if he would come in. When told
this the young “brave” appeared to be very anxious to be permitted to
go after him, saying: “He is there now,” pointing towards the “North
Dome,” “another day he will be on the ‘Skye Mountains,’ or anywhere,”
meaning that his movements were uncertain.

Capt. Boling had so much confidence in his statements, that he decided
to send some of the scouts to the region of the North Dome for
Ten-ie-ya; but all efforts of our allies and of ourselves, failed to
obtain any further clue to Ten-ie-ya’s hiding-place, for the captives
said that they dare not disclose their signals or countersign, for
the penalty was death, and none other would be answered or understood
by their people. I here broke in upon the captain’s efforts to obtain
_useful knowledge_ from his prisoners, by telling him of the discovery
of baskets of acorns found on the trail; and gave him my reasons for
believing it to be a design to lead us into an ambush–that the Indians
were probably on the cliff above. I volunteered the suggestion that a
movement in that direction would surprise them while watching the trap
set for us.

Captain Boling replied: “It is too late in the day for a job of that
kind; we will wait and see if Ten-ie-ya will come in. I have made up
my mind to send two of our prisoners after him, and keep the others as
hostages until he comes. To make a sure thing of this, Doctor, I want
you to take these two,” pointing to one of the sons and the son-in-law
of Ten-ie-ya, “and go with them to the place where they have said a
trail leads up the cliff to Ten-ie-ya’s hiding place. You will take
care that they are not molested by any of our boys while on this trip.
Take any one with you in camp, if you do not care to go alone.”

Taking a small lunch to break my fast since the morning meal, I
concluded to make the trip on foot; my mule having been turned loose
with the herd. Arming myself, I started alone with the two prisoners
which Capt. Boling had consigned to my guardianship. I kept them ahead
of me on the trail, as I always did when traveling with any of that
race. We passed along the westerly base of the North Dome at a rapid
gait, without meeting any of my comrades, and had reached a short
turn in the trail around a point of rocks, when the Indians suddenly
sprang back, and jumped behind me. From their frightened manner, and
cry of terror, I was not apprehensive of any treachery on their part.
Involuntarily I cried out, “Hallo! what’s up now?” and stepped forward
to see what had so alarmed them. Before me, stood George Fisher with
his rifle leveled at us. I instantly said: “Hold on George! these
Indians are under my care!” He determinedly exclaimed without change of
position, “Get out of the way, Doctor, those Indians have got to die,”
Just behind Fisher was Sergeant Cameron, with a man on his shoulders.
As he hastily laid him on the ground, I was near enough to see that his
clothing was soiled and badly torn, and that his face, hands and feet
were covered with blood. His eyes were glazed and bloodshot, and it
was but too evident that he had been seriously injured. From the near
proximity of the basket trail, I instantly surmised they had been on
the cliff above. The scene was one I shall long remember.

It seemed but a single motion for Cameron to deposit his burden and
level his rifle. He ordered me to stand aside if I valued my own
safety. I replied as quietly as I could, “Hold on, boys! Captain Boling
sent me to guard these Indians from harm, and I shall obey orders.”
I motioned the Indians to keep to my back or they would be killed.
Cameron shouted: “They have almost killed Spencer, and have got to
die.” As he attempted to get sight, he said: “Give way, Bunnell, I
don’t want to hurt you.” This I thought _very condescending_, and I
replied with emphasis: “These Indians are under my charge, and I shall
protect them. If you shoot you commit murder.” The whole transaction
thus far seemingly occupied but a moment’s time, when to the surprise
of us all, Spencer called my name. I moved forward a little, and said
to them, “Throw up your rifles and let me come into to see Spencer.”
“Come in! _you_ are safe,” replied Fisher–still watching the Indians
with a fierce determination in his manner. Spencer raised himself in a
sitting position, and at a glance seemed to take in the situation of
affairs, for he said: “Bunnell is right; boys, don’t shoot; mine is but
the fortune of war;” and telling Cameron to call me, he again seemed to
fall partly into stupor. As I again moved towards them with the Indians
behind me, they with some reluctance, put up their rifles. Fisher
turned his back to me as he said with sarcasm, “Come in with your
friends, Doctor, and thank Spencer for their safety.” They relieved
their excitement with volleys of imprecations. Cameron said that I
“was a —- sight too high-toned to suit friends that had always been
willing to stand by me.”

This occurrence did not destroy good feeling toward each other, for we
were all good friends after the excitement had passed over.

I examined Spencer and found that, although no bones were broken,
he was seriously bruised and prostrated by the shock induced by his
injuries. Fisher started for camp to bring up a horse or mule to carry
Spencer in. I learned that they had fallen into the trap on the “basket
trail,” and that Spencer had been injured while ascending the cliff as
I had suspected. He had, unfortunately, been _trailed in_, as I had
been. The particulars Cameron related to me and in my hearing after we
had arrived in camp. As the Indians represented to me that the trail
they proposed to take up the cliff was but a little way up the north
branch, I concluded to go on with them, and then be back in time to
accompany Spencer into camp. Speaking some cheering words to Spencer
I turned to leave, when Cameron said to him: “You ain’t dead yet, my
boy.” Spencer held out his hand, and as he took it Cameron said, with
visible emotion, but emphatic declaration: “We will pay them back for
this if the chance ever comes; Doc. is decidedly too conscientious in
this affair.” I escorted the Indians some way above “Mirror Lake,”
where they left the trail and commenced to climb the cliff.

On my return I found that Cameron had already started with Spencer;
I soon overtook them and relieved him of his burden, and from there
carried Spencer into camp. We found Fisher vainly trying to catch his
mule. The most of the horses were still out with the scouts, and all
animals in camp had been turned loose. Sergt. Cameron, while Fisher
was assisting me in the removal of Spencer’s clothing aid dressing
his wounds, had prepared a very comfortable bed, made of boughs, that
the kind-hearted boys thoughtfully brought in; and after he was made
comfortable and nourishment given him, the Sergeant related to Captain
Boling the details of their adventure, which were briefly as follows:
Cameron and Spencer while on their way back to camp discovered the
baskets on the trail. Feeling certain that they had discovered the
hiding-place of the Indians, as we had done, they concluded to make
a reconnoissance of the vicinity before making a report of their
discovery. Elated at their success, and unsuspicious of any unusual
danger, they followed the trail that wound up the cliff, along jutting
rocks that in places projected like cornices, until the converging
walls forced them to a steep acclivity grooved in the smooth-worn rock.
Not daunted by the difficult assent, they threw off their boots and
started up the slippery gutter, when suddenly a huge mass of granite
came thundering down towards them. But for a fortunate swell or
prominence just above they would both have been swept into eternity;
as it was, the huge rock passed over their heads; a fragment, however,
struck Spencer’s rifle from his hand and hurled him fifty feet or more
down the steep wall, where he lay, entirely senseless for a time, while
a shower of rocks and stones was passing over him, the shape of the
wall above sending them clear of his body.

Cameron was in advance, and fortunately was able to reach the shelter
of a projecting rock. After the discharge, an Indian stretched himself
above a detached rock, from which he had been watching his supposed
victims. Cameron chanced to be looking that way, and instantly firing,
dropped his man. No doubt he was killed, for the quantity of blood
found afterward on the rock, was great. The echoing report of Cameron’s
rifle, brought back howls of rage from a number of rocks above, as if
they were alive with demons. Anticipating another discharge from their
battery, Cameron descended to the spot where Spencer had fallen, and
taking him in his arms, fled out of range.

After supper, the explorers having all come in, the boys gathered
around the Sergeant and importuned him to give the history of his
adventures. After reflectively bringing up the scene to view, he began:
“We got into mighty close quarters! Come to think of it, I don’t see
how we happened to let ourselves be caught in that dead-fall. I reckon
we must have fooled ourselves some. The way of it was this. We went up
on the south side as far as we could ride, and after rummaging around
for a while, without finding anything, Spencer wanted to go up the
North Cañon and get a good look at that mountain with one side split
off; so I told the boys to look about for themselves, as there were no
Indians in the valley. Some of them went on up the South Cañon, and the
rest of us went over to the North Cañon. After crossing the upper ford,
Spencer and I concluded to walk up the cañon, so we sent our animals
down to graze with the herd. Spencer looked a good long while at that
split mountain, and called it a ‘half dome.’ I concluded he might
name it what he liked, if he would leave it and go to camp; for I was
getting tired and hungry and said so. Spencer said ‘All right, we’ll go
to camp.’

On our way down, as we passed that looking-glass pond, he wanted to
take one more look, and told me to go ahead and he’d soon overtake
me; but that I wouldn’t do, so he said: “No matter, then; I can come
up some other time.” As we came on down the trail below the pond, I
saw some acorns scattered by the side of the trail, and told Spencer
there were Indians not far off. After looking about for a while Spencer
found a basket nearly full behind some rocks, and in a little while
discovered a trail leading up towards the cliff. We followed this up a
piece, and soon found several baskets of acorns. I forgot about being
hungry, and after talking the matter over we decided to make a sort of
reconnoissance before we came in to make any report. Well, we started
on up among the rocks until we got to a mighty steep place, a kind
of gulch that now looked as if it had been scooped out for a stone
battery. The trail up it was as steep as the roof on a meeting-house,
and worn so slippery that we couldn’t get a foot-hold. I wanted to see
what there was above, and took off my boots and started up. Spencer did
the same and followed me. I had just got to the swell of the steepest
slope, where a crack runs across the face of the wall, and was looking
back to see if Spencer would make the riffle, when I heard a crash
above me, and saw a rock as big as a hogshead rolling down the cliff
toward us. I sprang on up behind a rock that happened to be in the
right place, for there was no time to hunt for any other shelter.

I had barely reached cover when the bounding rock struck with a crash
by my side, and bounded clear over Spencer, who had run across the
crevice and was stooping down and steadying himself with his rifle. A
piece of the big rock that was shattered into fragments and thrown
in all directions, struck his rifle out of his hands, and sent him
whirling and clutching down a wall fifty feet. He lodged out of sight,
where in going up we had kicked off our leathers. I thought he was
killed, for he did not answer when I called, and I had no chance then
to go to him, for a tremendous shower of stones came rushing by me. I
expected he would be terribly mangled at first, but soon noticed that
the swell in the trail caused the rocks to bound clear over him onto
the rocks in the valley. I looked up to see where they came from just
as an Indian stuck his head above a rock. My rifle came up of its own
accord. It was a quick sight, but with me they are generally the best,
and as I fired that Indian jumped into the air with a yell and fell
back onto the ledge. He was hit, I know, and I reckon _he went west_.
Every rock above was soon a yelling as if alive. As I expected another
discharge from their stone artillery, I slid down the trail, picked up
Spencer, and “vamoosed the ranche,” just as they fired another shot
of rocks down after us. I did not stay to see where they struck after
I was out of range, for my rifle and Spencer took about all of my
attention until safely down over the rocks. While I was there resting
for a moment, Fisher came up the trail. He heard me fire and had heard
the rocks tumbling down the cliff. Thinking some one was in trouble, he
was going to find out who it was.

“We concluded at first that Spencer was done for; for his heart beat
very slow and he was quite dumpish. We had just started for camp with
him, and met Bunnell going out with the two Indians. I reckon we would
have sent them on a trip down where it is warmer than up there on the
mountains, if Spencer hadn’t roused himself just then. He stopped
the game. He called for the Doctor; but Bunnell was as stubborn as
Firebaugh’s mustang and would not leave the Indians. We had to let
them pass, before he would take a look at Spencer. Doc. is generally
all right enough, but he was in poor business to-day. When I told him
it was his own messmate, he said it didn’t matter if it were his own
brother. If Captain Boling will make a shooting match and put up the
other three, I’ll give my horse for the first three shots. Shooting
will be cheap after that.”

I have given the substance only of Sergt. Cameron’s talk to the group
around him, though but poorly imitating his style, in order to show the
feeling that was aroused by Spencer’s misfortune. Spencer’s uniformly
quiet and gentlemanly manners, made no enemies among rough comrades,
who admired the courageous hardihood of “the little fellow,” and
respected him as a man. Many expressions of sympathy were given by the
scouts who gathered around our tent, on learning of his injury. For
some days after the event, he could scarcely be recognized, his face
was so swollen and discolored. But what Spencer seemed most to regret,
was the injury to his feet and knees, which had been cruelly rasped by
the coarse granite in his descent.

The injury from this cause was so great, that he was unable to make
those explorations that footmen alone could accomplish. He was an
enthusiastic lover of nature, an accomplished scholar and man of the
world. Having spent five years in France and Germany in the study of
modern languages, after having acquired a high standing here in Latin
and Greek.

We thought him peculiarly gifted, and hoped for something from his
pen descriptive of the Yosemite that would endure; but he could never
be induced to make any effort to describe any feature of the valley,
saying: “That fools only rush in where wise men stand in awe.” We were
bed-fellows and friends, and from this cause chiefly, perhaps, all the
incidents of his accident were strongly impressed on my memory. After
his full recovery his feet remained tender for a long time, and he made
but one extended exploration after his accident while in the battalion.

During the camp discussion regarding my course in saving the two
captives, Captain Boling and myself were amused listeners. No great
pains were taken as a rule to hide one’s light under a bushel, and we
were sitting not far off. The Captain said that he now comprehended
the extreme anxiety of the captives to see Ten-ie-ya, as doubtless
they knew of his intentions to roll rocks down on any who attempted to
follow up that trail; and probably supposed we would kill them if any
of us were killed. As he left our tent he remarked: “These hostages
will have to stay in camp. They will not be safe outside of it, if some
of the boys chance to get their eyes on them.”

Although our camp was undisturbed during the night, no doubt we were
watched from the adjacent cliffs, as in fact all our movements were.
The captives silently occupied the places by the camp fire. They
were aware of Spencer’s mishap, and probably expected their lives
might be forfeited; for they could see but little sympathy in the
countenances of those about them. The reckless demonstrations of the
more frolicksome boys were watched with anxious uncertainty. The sombre
expressions and _energetic_ remarks of the sympathizers of Spencer
induced Captain Boling to have a special guard detailed from those
who were not supposed to be prejudiced against the Indians, as it was
deemed all-important to the success of the campaign that Ten-ie-ya
should be conciliated or captured; therefore, this detail was designed
as much for the protection of the hostages as to prevent their escape.
The messengers had assured the Captain that Ten-ie-ya would be in
before noon, but the hostages told Sandino that possibly the messengers
might not find him near To-co-ya, where they expected to meet him,
as he might go a long distance away into the mountains before they
would again see him. They evidently supposed that the chief, like
themselves, had become alarmed at the failure of his plan to draw us
into ambush, and had fled farther into the Sierras; or else doubted
his coming at all, and wished to encourage the Captain to hope for the
coming of Ten-ie-ya that their own chances of escape might be improved.

Sandino professed to believe their statement, telling me that
they–the five prisoners–expected to have trailed us up to the scene
of Spencer’s disaster; failing in which–owing to our having forced
them to hide near the “Frog Mountains”–they still expected to meet
him on the cliff where the rocks had been rolled down, and not at
To-co-ya. In this conversation, the fact appeared–derived as he said
indirectly from conversations with the prisoners–that there were
projecting ledges and slopes extending along the cliff on the east
side of Le-hamite to To-co-ya, where Indians could pass and re-pass,
undiscovered, and all of our movements could be watched. The substance
of this communication I gave to Captain Boling, but it was discredited
as an impossibility; and he expressed the belief that the old chief
would make his appearance by the hour agreed upon with his messengers,
designated by their pointing to where the sun would be on his arrival
in camp. Accordingly the Captain gave orders that no scouts would be
sent out until after that time. Permission, however, was given to those
who desired to leave camp for their own pleasure or diversion.

A few took advantage of this opportunity and made excursions up the
North Cañon to the “basket trail,” with a view of examining that
locality, and at the same time indulging their curiosity to see the
place where Cameron and Spencer had been trailed in and entrapped by
the Indians. Most of the command preferred to remain in camp to repair
damages, rest, and to amuse themselves in a general way. Among the
recreations indulged in, was shooting at a target with the bows and
arrows taken from the captured Indians. The bow and arrows of the
young brave were superior to those of the others, both in material
and workmanship. Out of curiosity some of the boys induced him to
give a specimen of his skill. His shots were really commendable. The
readiness with which he handled his weapons excited the admiration
of the lookers on. He, with apparent ease, flexed a bow which many
of our men could not bend without great effort, and whose shots were
as liable to endanger the camp as to hit the target. This trial of
skill was witnessed by Captain Boling and permitted, as no trouble was
anticipated from it.

After this exercise had ceased to be amusing, and the most of those in
camp had their attention engaged in other matters, the guard, out of
curiosity and for pastime, put up the target at long range. To continue
the sport it was necessary to bring in the arrows used, and as it
was difficult to find them, an Indian was taken along to aid in the
search. The young brave made a more extended shot than all others. With
great earnestness he watched the arrow, and started with one of the
guard, who was unarmed, to find it. While pretending to hunt for the
“lost arrow,” he made a dash from the guard toward “Indian Cañon,” and
darted into the rocky Talus, which here encroached upon the valley. The
guard on duty hearing the alarm of his comrade and seeing the Indian
at full speed, fired at him, but without effect, as the intervening
rocks and the zig-zag course he was running, made the shot a difficult
one, without danger of hitting his comrade, who was following in close

This aggravating incident greatly annoyed Capt. Boling, who was
peculiarly sensitive on the subject of escaped prisoners. The verdant
guard was reprimanded in terms more expressive than polite; and
relieved from duty. The remaining Indians were then transferred to the
special care of Lt. Chandler, who was told by Capt. Boling to “keep
them secure if it took the whole command to do-it.” The Indians were
secured by being tied back to back, with a “riata” or picket rope,
and then fastened to an oak tree in the middle of the camp, and the
guard–a new one–stationed where they could constantly watch. The
morning passed, and the hour of ten arrived, without Ten-ie-ya. Capt.
Boling then sent out Sandino and the scouts to hunt for him, and if
found, to notify him that he was expected. Sandino soon came back, and
reported that he had seen Ten-ie-ya and talked with him; but that he
was unable to reach him from below, on account of the steepness of the
ledge. Sandino reported that Ten-ie-ya was unwilling to come in. That
he expressed a determination not to go to the Fresno. He would make
peace with the white chief if he would be allowed to remain in his own
territory. Neither he nor his people would go to the valley while the
white men were there. They would stay on the mountains or go to the

When this was communicated to Capt. Boling, he gave orders for a select
number of scouts to make an effort to bring in the old malcontent,
_alive if possible_. Lt. Chandler, therefore, with a few Noot-chü
and Po-ho-no-chee scouts, to climb above the projecting ledge, and a
few of our men to cut off retreat, started up the Ten-ie-ya branch,
led by Sandino as guide. After passing the “Royal Arches,” Sandino
let Chandler understand that he and his scouts had best go up by the
Wai-ack or Mirror Lake trail, in order to cut off Ten-ie-ya’s retreat;
while he went back to the rock he pointed out as the place where he
had seen and talked with Ten-ie-ya; and which commanded a view of our
camp. This was distasteful to Chandler; but after a moment’s reflection
said: “Let the converted knave go back to camp; I’ll act without him,
and catch the old chief if he is on the mountain, and that without
resorting to Indian treachery.”

While in camp Sandino had seemed to convey some message to the
hostages, and when asked the purport of it had answered evasively.
This had prejudiced Chandler, but it had not surprised me, nor did it
appear inconsistent with Sandino’s loyalty to Captain Boling; but the
Indian was unpopular. As to his code of honor and his morality, it was
about what should have been expected of one in his position, and as a
frequent interpreter of his interpretations and sayings, I finally told
the Captain and Chandler that it would be best to take Sandino for what
he might be worth; as continued doubt of him could not be disguised,
and would tend to make a knave or fool of him. On one occasion, he was
so alarmed by some cross looks and words given him, that he fell upon
his knees and begged for his life, thinking, as he said afterward, that
he was to be killed.

During the night, and most of the time during the day, I was engaged in
attendance on Spencer. Doctor Black understood it to be Spencer’s wish
that I should treat him. I gave but little attention to other matters,
although I could see from our tent everything that was going on in
camp. Not long after the departure of Chandler and his scouts, as I was
about leaving camp in search of balsam of fir and other medicinals, I
observed one of the guard watching the prisoners with a pleased and
self-satisfied expression. As I glanced toward the Indians I saw that
they were endeavoring to untie each other, and said to two of the
detail as I passed them, “That ought to be reported to the officer of
the guard. They should be separated, and not allowed to tempt their
fate.” I was told that it was “already known to the officers.” I was
then asked if I was on guard duty. The significance of this I was fully
able to interpret, and passed on to the vicinity of “The High Falls.”

On my return an hour afterwards, I noticed when nearing camp, that the
Indians were gone from the tree to which they were tied when I left.
Supposing that they had probably been removed for greater security, I
gave it no further thought until, without any intimation of what had
occurred during my short absence, I saw before me the dead body of old
Ten-ie-ya’s youngest son. The warm blood still oozing from a wound in
his back. He was lying just outside of our camp, within pistol range of
the tree to which he had been tied.

I now comprehended the action of the guard. I learned that the other
Indian had been fired at, but had succeeded in making his escape
over the same ground and into the cañon where the other brave had
disappeared. I found on expressing my unqualified condemnation of
this cowardly act, that I was not the only one to denounce it. It was
a cause of regret to nearly the whole command. Instead of the praise
expected by the guard for the dastardly manner in which the young
Indian was killed, they were told by Captain Boling that they had
committed murder. Sergeant Cameron was no lover of Indians, but for
this act his boiling wrath could hardly find vent, even when aided by
some red hot expressions. I learned, to my extreme mortification, that
no report had been made to any of the officers. The Indians had been
permitted to untie themselves, and an opportunity had been given them
to attempt to escape in order to fire upon them, expecting to kill them
both; and only that a bullet-pouch had been hung upon the muzzle of one
of the guard’s rifles while leaning against a tree (for neither were
on duty at the moment), no doubt both of the captives would have been

[Illustration: YOSEMITE FALLS.

(2,634 feet in height.)]

Upon investigation, it was found that the fatal shot had been fired
by a young man who had been led by an old Texan sinner to think that
killing Indians or Mexicans was a duty; and surprised at Captain
Boling’s view of his conduct, declared with an injured air, that
he “would not kill another Indian if the woods were full of them.”
Although no punishment was ever inflicted upon the perpetrators of
the act, they were both soon sent to coventry, and feeling their
disgrace, were allowed to do duty with the pack-train. Captain Boling
had, before the occurrence of this incident, decided to establish his
permanent camp on the south side of the Merced. The location selected
was near the bank of the river, in full view of, and nearly opposite,
“The Fall.” This camp was head-quarters during our stay in the valley,
which was extended to a much longer time than we had anticipated. Owing
to several mountain storms, our stay was prolonged over a month. The
bottoms, or meadow land, afforded good grazing for our animals, and we
were there more conveniently reached by our couriers and supply-trains
from the Fresno.

From this point our excursions were made. All Indians attach great
importance to securing the bodies of their dead for appropriate
ceremonials, which with these was “cremation.” They with others of
the mountain tribes in this part of California, practiced the burning
of their dead in accordance with their belief in a future state of
existence, which was that if the body was burned, the spirit was
released and went to “the happy land in the west.” If this ceremony
was omitted, the spirit haunted the vicinity, to the annoyance of the
friends as well as the enemies of the deceased. Knowing this, Captain
Boling felt a desire to make some atonement for the unfortunate killing
of the son of Ten-ie-ya, the chief of the tribe with whom he was
endeavoring to “make peace,” and therefore made his arrangements to
take advantage of this custom to propitiate the Indians by giving them
an opportunity to remove the body of the youth. Accordingly, the order
was at once given to break camp.

While the pack animals were being loaded, Lt. Chandler with his party
brought in Ten-ie-ya. The Indian scouts, who were first sent out with
Sandino and who knew where the talk with the chief had been held,
passed on in advance and saw that he was still at his perch, watching
the movements below him. Some of those out on leave discovered him
also, seated on a ledge that appeared only accessible from above. The
Pohonochee scouts, thinking to capture him by cutting off his retreat,
followed an upper trail and reached the summit of the wall, while a
few of Chandler’s men, who were apprized of the situation by some
of the pleasure-seekers whom they met, took a lower trail, and thus
were in advance of the Indian scouts when Ten-ie-ya’s retreat was
reached. To their disappointment, the old chief could not be found,
though at intervals fresh signs and heaps of stones were seen along the
south-western slope of the mountain.

The sequel to the disappearance of Ten-ie-ya, as explained by Sandino,
was simply as follows: When sent back by Chandler, Sandino resolved
to make another effort to induce Ten-ie-ya to come in, lest Chandler
should kill him if found. Accordingly he again climbed to the foot of
the old chief’s perch, and was talking with him, when some small loose
stones came rolling down towards them. Seeing that his retreat above
had been cut off, Ten-ie-ya at first ran along westerly, on the slope
of the mountain towards Indian Cañon; but finding that he was cut off
in that direction also, by the Neut-chü and Po-ho-no-chee scouts, he
turned and came down a trail through an oak tree-top to the valley,
which Sandino had by this time reached, and where he had been attracted
by the noise made in the pursuit. Lt. Chandler had not climbed up the
trail, and hearing Sandino’s cry for help, and the noise above him, he
was able to reach the place when Ten-ie-ya descended, in time to secure
him. Ten-ie-ya said the men above him were rolling stones down, and
he did not like to go up, as they broke and flew everywhere; for that
reason he came down.

Ten-ie-ya accompanied his captors without making any resistance,
although he strongly censured the Indians for being instrumental in
his capture. They did not reach the valley in time to take part in the
capture, but as Ten-ie-ya had said: “It was their cunning that had
discovered the way to his hiding place.”

None of the party of explorers or those under Chandler were aware of
the event that had occurred during their absence. As Ten-ie-ya walked
toward the camp, proudly conscious of being an object of attention from
us, his eye fell upon the dead body of his favorite son, which still
lay where he had fallen, without having been disturbed. He halted for a
moment, without visible emotion, except a slight quivering of his lips.
As he raised his head, the index to his feelings was exhibited in the
glaring expression of deadly hate with which he gazed at Capt. Boling,
and cast his eyes over the camp as if in search of the remains of the
other son, the fellow captive of the one before him. Captain Boling
expressed his regret of the occurrence, and had the circumstances
explained to him, but not a single word would he utter in reply; not a
sound escaped his compressed lips. He passively accompanied us to our
camp on the south side of the river. It was evident that every movement
of ours was closely scrutinized. Sandino was instructed to notify the
chief that the body could be taken away. This permission was also
received in silence.

Upon riding over to the camp ground the next morning, it was found that
the body had been carried up or secreted in Indian Cañon; as all of
the tracks led that way. This ravine became known to _us_ as “Indian
Cañon,” though called by the Indians “Le-Hamite,” “the arrow wood.” It
was also known to them by the name of “Scho-tal-lo-wi,” meaning the
way to “_Fall Creek_.” The rocks near which we were encamped, between
“Indian Cañon” and “The Falls,” were now called by the Po-ho-no-chee
scouts who were with us, “Hammo” or “Ummo” “The Lost Arrow,” in
commemoration of the event. On the morning following the capture of
Ten-ie-ya, Capt. Boling tried to have a talk with him; but he would not
reply to a question asked through the interpreter; neither would he
converse with Sandino or the Indians with us. He maintained this moody
silence and extreme taciturnity for several days afterwards.

Finding that nothing could be accomplished through the old chief,
Captain Boling gave orders to re-commence our search for his people.
Scouting parties were started on foot to explore as far as was
practicable on account of the snow. Although it was now May, the snow
prevented a very extended search in the higher Sierras. On the first
day out these parties found that, although they had made a faithful and
active search, they had not performed half they had planned to do when
starting. Distances were invariably under-estimated. This we afterward
found was the case in all of our excursions in the mountains, where we
estimated distance by the eye; and calling attention to the phenomena,
I tried to have the principle applied to heights as well. The height of
the mountainous cliffs, and the clear atmosphere made objects appear
near, but the time taken to reach them convinced us that our eyes had
deceived us in our judgment of distance. To avoid the severe labor
that was imposed upon us by carrying our provisions and blankets, an
attempt was made to use pack-mules, but the circuitous route we were
compelled to take consumed too much time; besides the ground we were
desirous of going over was either too soft and yielding, or too rocky
and precipitous. We were compelled to leave the mules and continue our
explorations on foot. Later in the season there would have been no
difficulty in exploring the mountains on horse-back, if certain well
established routes and passes were kept in view; but aside from these
our Indian guides could give us little or no information. This we
accounted for upon the theory that, as there was no game of consequence
in the higher Sierras, and the cold was great as compared with the
lower altitudes, the Indians knowledge of the “Higher Sierras” was
only acquired while passing over them, or while concealed in them from
the pursuit of their enemies. All scouting parties were, therefore,
principally dependent upon their own resources, and took with them
a supply of food and their blankets for a bivouac. In this way much
time and fatigue of travel was saved. Some were more adventurous
than others in their explorations. These, on returning from a scout
of one or more days out, would come in ragged and foot-sore, and
report with enthusiasm their adventures, and the wonders they had
seen. Their descriptions around the camp fire at night were at first
quite exciting; but a few nights’ experience in the vicinity of the
snow-line, without finding Indians, soon cooled down the ardor of all
but a very few, who, from their persistent wandering explorations, were
considered somewhat eccentric.

Through our Indian scouts, we learned that some of the Yosemites had
gone to the Tuolumne. These were Tuolumne Indians who had intermarried
with the Yosemites, and had been considered as a part of Ten-ie-ya’s
band. Taking their women and children, they returned to the Tuolumne
tribe as soon as it was known that Ten-ie-ya had been captured; fearing
he would again promise to take his band to the Fresno. Our orders
prohibited us from disturbing the Tuolumne Indians; we therefore
permitted them to return to their allegiance without attempting to
follow them.

Ten-ie-ya was treated with kindness, and as his sorrow for the loss of
his son seemed to abate, he promised to call in some of his people, and
abide by their decision, when they had heard the statements of Capt.
Boling. At night he would call as if to some one afar off. He said his
people were not far from our camp and could hear his voice. We never
heard a reply, although the calls were continued by order of Capt.
Boling for many nights.

Although he was closely watched by the camp guard, he made an attempt
to escape while the guard’s back was momentarily turned upon him.
Sergt. Cameron, who had especial charge of him at the time, saw his
movement, and as he rushed from his keeper, Cameron dashed after and
caught him before he was able to plunge into and swim the river.

As Ten-ie-ya was brought into the presence of Capt. Boling by Sergt.
Cameron, after this attempt to escape, he supposed that he would now he
condemned to be shot. With mingled fear of the uncertainty of his life
being spared, and his furious passion at being foiled in his attempt
to regain his liberty, he forgot his usual reserve and shrewdness. His
grief for the loss of his son and the hatred he entertained toward
Capt. Boling, who he considered as responsible for his death, was
uppermost in his thoughts, and without any of his taciturn, diplomatic
style he burst forth in lamentations and denunciations, given in a loud
voice and in a style of language and manner of delivery which took
us all by surprise. In his excitement, he made a correct use of many
Spanish words, showing that he was more familiar with them than he had
ever admitted even to Sandino; but the more emphatic expressions were
such as may often be heard used by the muleteers of Mexico and South
America, but are not found in the Lexicons. As he approached Capt.
Boling, he began in a highly excited tone: “_Kill me_, sir Captain!
Yes, _kill me_, as you killed my son; as you would kill my people if
they were to come to you! You would kill all my race if you had the
power. Yes, sir, American, you can now tell your warriors to kill the
old chief; you have made me sorrowful, my life dark; you killed the
child of my heart, why not kill the father? But wait a little; when I
am dead I will call to my people to come to you, I will call louder
than you have had me call; that they shall hear me in their sleep,
and come to avenge the death of their chief and his son. Yes, sir,
American, my spirit will make trouble for you and your people, as you
have caused trouble to me and my people. With the wizards, I will
follow the white men and make them fear me.” He here aroused himself
to a sublime frenzy, and completed his rhapsody by saying: “You may
kill me, sir, Captain, but you shall not live in peace. I will follow
in your foot-steps, I will not leave my home, but be with the spirits
among the rocks, the water-falls, in the rivers and in the winds;
wheresoever you go I will be with you. You will not see me, but you
will fear the spirit of the old chief, and grow cold.[13] The great
spirits have spoken! I am done.”

Captain Boling allowed the old orator to finish his talk without
interruption. Although he did not fully understand him, he was amused
at his earnest style and impetuous gestures. On hearing it interpreted,
he humorously replied: “I comprehended the most of what he said. The
old chief has improved. If he was only reliable he would make a better
interpreter than Sandino. As for speech-making, Doc., I throw up. The
old Pow-wow can beat me all hollow.” Ten-ie-ya earnestly watched the
countenance of the good natured Captain, as if to learn his decision in
the matter. The Captain observing him, quietly said: “Sergeant Cameron!
the old sachem looks hungry, and as it is now about supper time, you
had better give him an extra ration or two, and then see that he is so
secured that he will not have a chance to escape from us again.”

I watched the old incorrigible while he was delivering this eloquent
harangue (which, of course, is necessarily a free translation) with
considerable curiosity. Under the excitement of the moment he appeared
many years younger. With his vigorous old age he displayed a _latent_
power which was before unknown to us. I began to feel a sort of
veneration for him. My sympathies had before been aroused for his
sorrow, and I now began to have almost a genuine respect for him;
but as I passed him half an hour afterwards, the poetry of his life
appeared changed. He was regaling himself on fat pork and beans from
a wooden dish which had been brought to him by order of Cameron. This
he seemed to enjoy with an appetite of a hungry animal. His guard had
provided his wooden bowl and ladle by chipping them out of an alder
tree, but failing to finish them smoothly, they could not be _properly_
washed; but this fact seemed not to disturb his relish for the food.
As I looked at his enjoyment of the loaded dish, I now saw only a
dirty old Indian. The spiritual man had disappeared. I addressed him
in Spanish, but not a word of reply; instead he pointed to his ear,
thereby indicating that he was deaf to the language. Afterwards he even
repudiated his “_Medicineship_.”

Considerable hilarity has been exhibited by modern visitors when told
that the Yosemite and its environs were once the favorite resort of
the grizzly bear. After these visitors have returned to New York or
Boston, they tell the public not to be afraid of bears, as they were
quite harmless; rather inclined to become domestic, etc. That is well
enough now, perhaps, although grizzlies may yet be found; but at the
date of the discovery; their trails were as large and numerous, almost,
as cow-paths in a western settlement. Several bears were seen by us,
and one was killed. The Yo-sem-i-tes used to capture these monsters
by lying in wait for them on some rock or in some tree that commanded
their thoroughfare, and after the bear had been wounded, all the dogs
in the village were turned loose upon him. After being brought to bay,
he was dispatched with arrows or the spear. A medium sized terrier
or two will so annoy a large grizzly, keeping out of his way in the
meantime, that he is apt to become stubborn and stand his ground.

In such cases, there is less danger to the hunter. I have known of two
being killed in this way at short range. The approach of the hunter
was disregarded by the bear. Their hams had been so bitten by the
dogs that they dared not run, for fear of a fresh attack. I killed a
large one as he came out of the Merced river, a little above where
the town of Merced has since been built, and the same day, being in
a whale-boat, I had to back from an old she-bear and her two cubs,
encountered in a short turn of the river. I tried to kill these also,
but my rifle had got soaked in the rain that was pouring at the time;
as for the pistol shots, fired by some of the oarsmen, they only seemed
to increase her speed, and that of her cubs, as they reached the shore
and plunged through the willows. I had, previous to the killing of
the grizzly, killed a large black bear with a rifle of small calibre,
and gaining confidence, I attacked the grizzly, and was fortunate in
cutting a renal-artery, from which the bear soon bled to death; but
upon viewing the huge monster, I fully realized the folly of an open
attack upon this kind of game, and ever afterwards, so far as I could,
when alone, avoided their noted haunts. With all my caution and dread
of an unexpected encounter with them, I met several face to face during
mountain explorations; but invariably, they seemed as anxious to get
away from me as I was that they should do so. Once while manœuvering to
get a shot at a deer, a grizzly came out in full view but a few yards
in advance of me. I was tempted to give him a shot, but as I had no
refuge of dog or tree, if I made a poor shot, and knowing that I was
not seen by the bear, I did not molest him, but felt relieved as he
entered a chinquepin thicket, and if there had been _fifty of them_, no
doubt they might have all gone without my _saying a word_.

I have seen a good deal of nonsense in print about bears, but will
venture to give these incidents. Joel H. Brooks and John Kenzie,
ex-members of “The Battalion,” were the least susceptible to fear
of them, of any persons I ever knew. Their skill as marksmen, was
something wonderful. They used to go through a drill on foot, firing
at some imaginary grizzly, then with a representative shot, the bear
was wounded, and pursuing them; they would turn and flee, loading their
rifles as they ran, and then turn and fire with deliberation at the
imaginary bear in pursuit.

This theory of bear hunting, they determined to put into practice, and
after the close of the Indian war, and the disbanding of the battalion,
they established themselves in a camp near the Tehon Pass, a locality
even more famous for bears than the Yosemite. They were successful,
killed a number, and were daily acquiring more confidence in the
practicability of their theory and plans of attack; when one day, while
Kenzie was out hunting by himself, he unexpectedly met a huge grizzly
face to face; both were for a moment startled.

Contrary to the usual, and almost invariable, habit of the bear when
surprised or about to attack, he did not rise upon his hind feet; but
instead of affording Kenzie the advantage of the usual opportunity
to aim at the small, light-colored spot on his neck, which, if
centered, is instant death to the animal, the bear made a direct dash
for the hunter. Seeing his peril, Kenzie at once fired with all the
deliberation the urgency of the occasion would permit. The shot proved
a fatal one, but before Kenzie could avoid the furious charge of the
animal, he was fatally injured by blows from the terrible monster. His
bowels were literally torn out; he was unfortunate in being tripped
by the tangled brush, or he might have escaped, as the bear fell dead
with his first charge, Kenzie succeeded in dragging himself to their
camp. He described the locality of the adventure, and requested Brooks
to go and bring in the liver of the bear. He said it would afford him
some consolation to eat more of the bear than the bear had been able
to eat of him. Brooks brought in and cooked some of the liver, fully
gratifying Kenzie’s whim; but it was the hunter’s last poor triumph–he
died soon after. Brooks swore off from this method of hunting, at least
for a season, and accepted a position offered him at the Indian Agency.

Another member of our battalion killed a grizzly that for a time
made him quite famous as a bear-fighter. As this man was an Indian,
an attempt has been made to weave the incident into a legend, giving
the honor of the combat to one of the Yosemites. The truth is, that
a full-blooded Cherokee, known as “Cherokee Bob,” or Robert Brown,
wounded a grizzly, and to keep the bear from entering a thicket, set
his dog on the game. While “Bob” was re-loading his rifle, and before
he could get the cap on, the bear, disregarding the dog, charged upon
Bob, and bore him to the ground. The dog instantly attacked the bear,
biting his hams most furiously. The grizzly turned from Brown and
caught the dog with his paw, holding him as a cat would hold a mouse.
By this means Bob was released, and but slightly bruised. In an instant
he drew his hunting knife and plunged it to the heart of the bear, and
ended the contest. The dog was seriously injured, but Bob carried him
in his arms to camp, and attended his wounds as he would a comrade’s
or as he might have done his own. As “Cherokee Bob’s” bear fight was a
reality known to his comrades, I have noticed it here.

The various routes to the Yosemite are now so constantly traveled that
bears will rarely be seen. They possess a very keen scent, and will
avoid all thoroughfares traveled by man, unless very hungry; they are
compelled to search for food. Strange as it may appear to some, the
ferocious grizzly can be more reliably tamed and domesticated than
the black bear. A tame grizzly at Monterey, in 1849, was allowed the
freedom of the city. Capt. Chas. M. Webber, the original proprietor
of the site of Stockton, had two that were kept chained. They became
very tame. One of these, especially tame, would get loose from time to
time and roam at will over the city. The new inhabitants of Stockton
seemed not to be inspired by that faith in his docility and uprightness
of character that possessed the owner, for they found him ravenously
devouring a barrel of sugar that belonged to one of the merchants,
and refused to give up any portion of it. This offended the grocer,
and he sent word to Mr. Webber to come and remove his truant thief.
The Captain came, paid for the damaged sugar, and giving him, like a
spoiled child, some of the sweets he had confiscated to induce him to
follow, led the bear home. But bruin remembered his successful foray,
and breaking his chain again and again, and always returning to the
merchant’s premises for sugar, Mr. Webber rid himself and the community
of the annoyance by disposing of his grizzlies.

During a hunt in company with Col. Byron Cole, Messrs. Kent, Long and
McBrien of San Francisco, I caught a good sized cub, and Mr. Long, with
a terrier dog, caught another; the mother of which was killed by the
unerring aim of McBrien. These cubs were taken by Cole and McBrien to
San Francisco on their return, and sent to New York. I was told that
they became very tame. I hope they did, for the comfort and security
of their keepers; for in my first efforts to tame a grizzly, I became
somewhat prejudiced against bear training as an occupation. Not long
after my experience, I heard of poor Lola Montez being bitten by one
she was training at Grass Valley for exhibition in Europe; and I now
lost all faith in their reported docility and domestic inclinations.
The California lion, like the wolf, is a coward, and deserves but
little notice. Among the visitors to the Yosemite, some will probably
be interested in knowing where to find the game: fish, birds and
animals, that may yet remain to gratify the sportsmen’s love of the rod
and the chase. Most of the game has been killed or driven off by the
approach of civilization. Deer and occasionally a grizzly, cinnamon or
black bear may be found on the slopes of the Tuolumne, Merced, Fresno
and San Joaquin, and on all the rivers and mountains south of these
streams. The cinnamon bear of California is much larger than the common
brown bear of the Rocky Mountains.

The _blue_ black-tailed deer of California are distinct from the black
tuft-tailed deer of the eastern ranges; a very marked difference will
be observed in their horns and ears. This distinction has been noticed
by naturalists; but the species are often confounded in newspaper
correspondence. The habits of the California deer are more goat-like;
they are wilder, and more easily startled than the “mule-eared” deer
of the Rockies, and when alarmed, they move with the celerity of the
white-tailed Virginia deer. The bare, tuft-tailed and big-eared Rocky
Mountain deer, seem but little alarmed by the report of a gun; and
their curiosity is nearly equal to that of the antelope.

The California deer are still abundant upon the spurs of the Sierras
during their migrations to and from the foot-hills. These migrations
occur during the Autumn and Spring. As the rainy season sets in, they
leave the higher mountains for the foot-hills and plains, keeping
near the snow line, and as the Spring advances, they follow back the
receding snow to the high Sierras and the Eastern Slope, but seldom or
never descend to the plain below. On account of these migratory habits,
they will most likely endure the assaults of the sportsmen. The haunts
of the grizzly are the same as those of the deer, for they alike prefer
the bushy coverts to the more open ground, except when feeding. The
deer prefer as food the foliage of shrubs and weeds to the richest
grasses, and the bear prefers clover, roots, ants and reptiles; but
both fatten principally on acorns, wild rye and wild oats.

California grouse are found in the vicinity of the Yosemite. During
the months of July and August they were formerly found quite numerous
concealed in the grass and sedges of the valley and the little
Yosemite; but as they are much wilder than the prairie chicken, they
shun the haunts of man, and are now only found numerous in mid-summer
upon or bordering on the mountain meadows and in the timber, among the
pine forests, where they feed upon the pine seeds and mistletoe, which
also afford them ample concealment. Their ventriloquial powers are
such that while gobbling their discordant notes, they are likely to
deceive the most experienced ear. It is almost impossible to feel quite
sure as to which particular tree the grouse is in without seeing it.
He seems to throw his voice about, now to this tree and now to that,
concealing himself the while until the inexperienced hunter is deluded
into the belief that the trees are full of grouse, when probably there
is but one making all the noise. His attention having been diverted,
the hunter is left in doubt from sheer conflicting sounds as to which
particular tree he saw a bird alight in. It is generally pretty sure to
“_fetch the bird_,” if you shoot into the bunch of mistletoe into which
you _supposed_ you saw the grouse alight.

Beside the mountain grouse and mountain quail, among the most beautiful
of birds, that afford the sportsman a diversity of sport, an occasional
flock of pigeons, of much larger size than those of the Atlantic
States, will attract attention; though I have never seen them in very
large flocks. In most of the mountain streams, and their branches,
brook trout are quite abundant. They are not, however, so ravenously
accommodating, as to bite just when they are wanted. I learned from
the Indians that they would bite best in foaming water, when they
were unable to see the angler, or the bait distinctly; their curiosity
stimulating their appetites. It is important that the trout do not see
the angler, and when very wary, the rod even should not be conspicuous.
Below the cañon of the Yosemite, young salmon were once abundant. The
Indians used to catch fish in weirs made of brush and stones; but
during the extensive mining operations on the Merced and other rivers,
the salmon seemed to have almost abandoned their favorite haunts, for
the mud covered spawn would not hatch. Large salmon were speared by the
Indians in all the rivers, with a curious bone spear of but one tine,
while the smaller fry were caught in their weirs. In the Tulare lakes
and in the San Joaquin, King’s, Kern and other rivers, fish, frogs and
turtle are abundant, and water fowl literally swarm during the winter
months in many parts of California.

Among the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada, as well as in all the lesser
mountain ranges, may be found the common California blue quail, and a
very curious brush or chapparel cock, known to the Spanish residents
of California and Mexico as “El Paisano” (The Countryman), and as the
“Correo Camino” (Road-runner), and to ornithologists as the _Geo-coc
cyx Californicus_.[14] They have received the name of “_countryman_”
because of their inclination to run like country children at the sight
of strangers, and that of “road-runner” from the habit of frequenting
roads and trails, for the purpose of wallowing in the dust, and when
alarmed darting off along the road with the speed of an ostrich or wild
turkey. The object they have in wallowing in the dust is like that
of the ruffled grouse, which indulge in the same practice–they sun
themselves and at the same time are rid of vermin. Trusting to their
legs to escape when alarmed, they take the open ground–the road–until
outrunning pursuit they hide in the chapparel, and thus acquire the
name of “road-runner” or “chapparel cock.”

I have never seen any ruffled grouse in the Sierra Nevada, but
a species of these fine birds, are quite abundant in Oregon and
Washington territory. I have been able to solve a question regarding
them, upon which naturalists have disagreed, that is, as to how they
drum. Whether the sound is produced by the wings in concussive blows
upon their bodies, the air, logs or rocks? I am able to say from
personal and careful observation, that the sound of “_drumming_,” is
made, like the sound of the “_night jar_,” exclusively by a peculiar
motion of the wings _in the air_. It is true, the American “pheasant”
or American “partridge,” commonly stands upon a log while drumming, but
I have watched them while perched upon a dry small branch or twig, drum
for hours most sonorously, calling upon their rivals to encounter them,
and their mistresses to come and witness their gallantry. Darwin has
aptly said: “The season of love, is that of battle.” Notwithstanding
the acuteness of observation of Mr. Darwin, he has been led into error
in his statement that wild horses “do not make any danger signals.”
They snort and paw the earth with impatience, when they cannot discover
the cause of their alarm, and almost invariably circle to the leeward
of the object that disturbs them. A mule is the best of sentinels to
alarm a camp on the approach of danger. Deer and elk whistle and strike
the earth perpendicularly with their feet when _jumping up_ to discover
the cause of alarm. Deer and antelope are both so inquisitive, that
if the hunter has not been seen, or has been but imperfectly seen, by
dropping into the grass or brush, and raising some object to view and
suddenly withdrawing it, the deer or antelope will frequently come up
within a few feet of the object. Antelope are especially curious to
know what disturbs them.

The coyotes, or small wolves, and the grey or tree climbing foxes of
California, make a kind of barking noise, more like the bark of a small
dog than the howl of a wolf; and therefore barking is not so much of
“_an acquired_” art as has been supposed, though the “laughter” of dogs
is more or less acquired.

The whistle of the elk is as complete a call to his mistress, and is
as well understood, as though the female had said, “Whistle and I’ll
come to you.” Elk and antelope are still to be found in California,
as well as wild horses, but they are now quite timid, and resort to
unfrequented ranges. The best hunting now to be found in California,
except for water-fowl, is in the region of Kern River. Near its source
big-horn or mountain sheep may be killed, and from along the base of
the eastern slope, antelope range into the desert. Deer and bear may be
found on either slope of the range, and among the broken hills south of
the head of Tulare valley.

Wolves, foxes, badgers, coons, and other fur-clothed animals, are also
quite numerous. I have _dared_ to question some of Mr. Darwin’s facts,
and as I expect this to be my last literary effort (oh, ye reviewers!),
I wish to remind the publishers of Webster’s Dictionary that a beaver
is not an “_amphibious_” animal, neither is a muscalonge “an overgrown

A few days after we had moved camp to the south side of the Merced,
Captain Boling was prostrated with an attack of pneumonia. From
frequent wettings received while crossing the ice-cold torrents, and a
too free use of this snow-water, which did not agree with many, he had
for some days complained of slight illness, but after this attack he
was compelled to acknowledge himself sick. Although the severe symptoms
continued but a few days, his recovery was lingering, and confined him
to camp; consequently he knew but little of his rocky surroundings.
Although regular reports were made to him by the scouting parties, he
had but an imperfect conception of the labors performed by them in
clambering over the rocks of the cañons and mountains. He would smile
at the reports the more enthusiastic gave of the wonders discovered;
patiently listen to the complaints of the more practical at their
want of success in, what they termed, their futile explorations; and
finally concluded to suspend operations until the fast-melting snow had
so disappeared from the high mountain passes as to permit our taking
a supply-train, in order to make our search thorough. The winter had
been an unusually dry and cold one–so said the Indians–and, as a
consequence, the accumulations of snow in the passes and lake basins
had remained almost intact. A succession of mountain storms added to
the drifts, so that when the snow finally began to melt, the volume of
water coming from the “High Sierras” was simply prodigious–out of all
proportion to the quantity that had fallen upon the plains below.

Sandino persisted in trying to make the Captain believe that most of
the Yosemites had already gone through the Mono Pass, and that those
remaining hidden, were but the members of Ten-ie-ya’s family. This
theory was not accepted by Capt. Boling, and occasional scouting
parties would still be sent out. A few of us continued to make short
excursions, more for adventure and to gratify curiosity, than with the
expectation of discovering the hiding places of the Indians; although
we kept up the form of a search. We thus became familiar with most of
the objects of interest.

The more practical of our command could not remain quiet in camp during
this suspension of business. Beside the ordinary routine of camp
duties, they engaged in athletic sports and horse-racing. A very fair
race track was cleared and put in condition, and some of the owners of
fast horses were very much surprised, to see their favorites trailing
behind some of the fleet-footed mules. A maltese Kentucky blooded mule,
known as the “Vining Mule,” distanced all but one horse in the command,
and so pleased was Capt. Boling with its gracefully supple movements,
that he paid Vining for it a thousand dollars in gold.

For a change of amusement, the members of our “Jockey Club” would
mount their animals and take a look at such points of interest as had
been designated in our camp-fire conversations as most remarkable.
The scenery in the Yosemite and vicinity, which is now familiar to so
many, was at that time looked upon with varied degrees of individual
curiosity and enjoyment, ranging from the enthusiastic, to almost a
total indifference to the sublime grandeur presented. It is doubtful
if any of us could have given a very graphic description of what we
saw, as the impressions then received were so far below the reality.
Distance, height, depth and dimensions were invariably under-estimated;
notwithstanding this, our attempts at descriptions after our return to
the settlements, were received as exaggerated “yarns.”

While in Mariposa, upon one occasion not very long after the discovery
of Yosemite, I was solicited by Wm. T. Whitachre, a newspaper
correspondent from San Francisco, to furnish him a written description
of the Valley. This, of course, was beyond my ability to do; but I
disinterestedly complied with his request as far as I could, by giving
him some written details to work upon. On reading the paper over, he
advised me to reduce my estimates of heights of cliffs and waterfalls,
at least fifty per centum, or my judgment would be a subject of
ridicule even to my personal friends. I had estimated El Capitan at
from fifteen hundred to two thousand feet high; the Yosemite Fall at
about fifteen hundred feet, and other prominent points of interest in
about the same proportion.

To convince me of my error of judgment, he stated that he had
interviewed Captain Boling and some others, and that none had estimated
the highest cliffs above a thousand feet. He further said that he
would not like to risk his own reputation as a correspondent, without
considerable modification of my statements, etc. Feeling outraged at
this imputation, I tore up the manuscript, and left the “newspaper man”
to obtain where he could such data for his patrons as would please him.
It remained for those who came after us to examine scientifically,
and to correctly describe what we only observed as wonderful natural
curiosities. With but few exceptions, curiosity was gratified by but
superficial examination of the objects now so noted. We were aware
that the valley was high up in the regions of the Sierra Nevada, but
its altitude above the sea level was only guessed at. The heights
of its immense granite walls was an uncertainty, and so little real
appreciation was there in the battalion, that some never climbed above
the Vernal Fall. They knew nothing of the beauties of the Nevada Fall,
or the “Little Yosemite.” We, as a body of men, were aware that the
mountains, cañons and waterfalls were on a grandly extensive scale, but
of the proportions of that scale we had arrived at no very definite

During our explorations of the Sierras, we noticed the effects of the
huge avalanches of snow and ice that had in some age moved over the
smooth granite rocks and plowed the deep cañons. The evidences of
past glacial action were frequently visible; so common, in fact, as
hardly to be objects of special interest to us. The fact that glaciers
in motion existed in the vast piles of snow on the Sierras, was not
dreamed of by us, or even surmised by others, until discovered, in
1870, by Mr. John Muir, a naturalist and most persistent mountain
explorer, who by accurate tests verified the same, and gave his facts
to the world. Mr. Muir has also brought into prominent notice, by
publications in “Scribner’s Monthly Illustrated Magazine,” some of the
beautiful lakes of the Sierras, having discovered many unknown before.
Mr. Muir’s descriptions combine the most delightful imagery with the
accuracy of a true lover of nature. His article upon the water-auszel,
“The humming-bird of the California waterfalls,” in the same magazine,
proves him a most accomplished observer.

All of the smaller streams that pour their tribute into the valley
during the melting of the snow, become later in the season but dry
ravines or mere rivulets, but the principal tributaries, running up,
as they do, into the lake and snow reservoirs, continue throughout
the dry season to pour their ample supply. After returning from my
mountain explorations, I freely questioned Ten-ie-ya of the places we
had visited. The old chief had gradually assumed his customary manner
of sociability, and if convinced by outline maps in the sand that we
were familiar with a locality, he would become quite communicative, and
give the names of the places described in distinct words. Our English
alphabet utterly fails to express the sounds of many of them, for they
were as unpronounceable as Apache. This difficulty is owing more or
less to the guttural termination given by the Indians.

Another important fact which causes a confusion of these names is, that
owing to the poverty of their language, they use the same word, or what
seems to be the same, for several objects, which by accent, comparison
and allusion, or by gestures, are readily understood by them, but which
it is difficult for one not familiar with the dialect to comprehend,
and still more difficult to illustrate or remember. This I shall
endeavor to demonstrate in giving the names applied to different
localities in the valley and vicinity.

While I was endeavoring to ascertain the names of localities from
Ten-ie-ya, he was allowed some privileges in camp, but was not
permitted to leave his guard. The cunning old fellow watched his
opportunity, and again made an attempt to escape by swimming the
river; but he was again foiled, and captured by the watchfulness and
surprising strength of Sergeant Cameron.

From this time Ten-ie-ya was secured by a rope which was fastened
around his waist. The only liberty allowed was the extent of the rope
with which he was fastened. He was a hearty feeder, and was liberally
supplied. From a lack of sufficient exercise, his appetite cloyed, and
he suffered from indigestion. He made application to Captain Boling
for permission to go out from camp to the place where the grass was
growing, saying the food he had been supplied with was too strong; that
if he did not have grass he should die. He said the grass looked good
to him, and there was plenty of it. Why then should he not have it,
when dogs were allowed to eat it?

The Captain was amused at the application, with its irony, but surmised
that he was meditating another attempt to leave us; however, he good
humoredly said: “He can have a ton of fodder if he desires it, but I
do not think it advisable to turn him loose to graze.” The Captain
consented to the Sergeant’s kindly arrangements to _tether_ him, and
he was led out to graze upon the young clover, sorrel, bulbous roots
and fresh growth of ferns which were then springing up in the valley,
one species of which we found a good salad. All of these he devoured
with the relish of a hungry ox. Occasionally truffles or wood-mushrooms
were brought him by Sandino and our allies, as if in kindly sympathy
for him, or in acknowledgment of his rank. Such presents and a slight
deference to his standing as a chief, were always received with grunts
of satisfaction. He was easily flattered by any extra attentions to his
pleasure. At such times he was singularly amiable and conversational.
Like many white men, it was evident that his more liberal feelings
could be the easiest aroused through his stomach.

Our supplies not being deemed sufficient for the expedition over the
Sierras, and as those verdureless mountains would provide no forage for
our animals, nor game to lengthen out our rations unless we descended
to the lower levels, Capt. Boling sent a pack train to the Fresno
for barley and extra rations. All of our Indians except Sandino and
Ten-ie-ya were allowed to go below with the detachment sent along as
escort for the train. While waiting for these supplies, some of the
command who had been exploring up Indian Cañon, reported fresh signs
at the head of that ravine. Feeling somewhat recovered in strength,
Captain Boling decided to undertake a trip out, and see for himself
some of our surroundings. Accordingly, the next morning, he started
with some thirty odd men up Indian Cañon. His design was to explore the
Scho-look or Scho-tal-lo-wi branch (Yosemite Creek) to its source, or
at least the Southern exposures of the divide as far east as we could
go and return at night. Before starting, I advised the taking of our
blankets, for a bivouac upon the ridge, as from experience I was aware
of the difficult and laborious ascent, and intimated that the excursion
would be a laborious one for an invalid, if the undertaking was
accomplished. The Captain laughed as he said: “Are your distances equal
to your heights? If they correspond, we shall have ample time!” Of
course, I could make no reply, for between us, the subject of heights
had already been exhausted, although the Captain had not yet been to
the top of the inclosing walls.

Still, realizing the sensitive condition of his lungs, and his
susceptibility to the influences of the cold and light mountain air, I
knew it would not be prudent for him to camp at the snow-line; and yet
I doubted his ability to return the same day; for this reason I felt
it my duty to caution him. A few others, who had avoided climbing the
cliffs, or if they had been upon any of the high ridges, their mules
had taken them there, joined in against my suggestion of providing
for the bivouac. I have before referred to the Texan’s devotion to
the saddle. In it, like Comanche Indians, he will undergo incredible
hardships; out of it, he is soon tired, and waddles laboriously like
a sailor, until the unaccustomed muscles adapt themselves to the
new service required of them; but the probabilities are against the
new exercise being continued long enough to accomplish this result.
Understanding this, I concluded in a spirit of jocularity to make light
of the toil myself; the more so, because I knew that my good Captain
had no just conception of the labor before him. By a rude process of
measurement, and my practical experience in other mountains in climbing
peaks whose heights had been established by measurements, I had
approximately ascertained or concluded that my first estimate of from
fifteen hundred to two thousand feet for the height of El Capitan, was
much below the reality. I had so declared in discussing these matters.
Captain Boling had finally estimated the height not to exceed one
thousand feet. Doctor Black’s estimate was far below this. I therefore
felt assured that _a walk up_ the cañon, would practically improve
their judgments of height and distance, and laughed within myself in
anticipation of the fun in store. On starting, I was directed to take
charge of Ten-ie-ya, whom we were to take with us, and to keep Sandino
near me, to interpret anything required during the trip. As we entered
Indian Cañon, the old chief told the Captain that the ravine was a bad
one to ascend. To this the Captain replied, “No matter, we know this
ravine leads out of the valley; Ten-ie-ya’s trail might lead us to a
warmer locality.”

Climbing over the wet, mossy rocks, we reached a level where a halt was
called for a rest. As Doctor Black came up from the rear, he pointed to
a ridge above us, and exclaimed, “Thank God, we are in sight of the top
at last.” “Yes, Doctor,” said I, “that is one of the first tops.” “How
so?” he inquired; “Is not that the summit of this ravine?” To this I
cheerfully replied, “You will find quite a number of such tops before
you emerge from this cañon.” Noticing his absence before reaching
the summit, I learned he took the trail back, and safely found his
weary way to camp. Captain Boling had over-estimated his strength and
endurance. He was barely able to reach the table land at the head of
the ravine, where, after resting and lunching, he visited the Falls, as
he afterwards informed me. By his order I took command of nine picked
men and the two Indians. With these I continued the exploration, while
the party with the Captain _explored_ the vicinity of the High Fall,
viewed the distant mountains, and awaited my return from above.

With my energetic little squad, I led the way, old Ten-ie-ya in front,
Sandino at his side, through forest openings and meadows, until we
reached the open rocky ground on the ridge leading to what is now known
as Mt. Hoffman. I directed our course towards that peak. We had not
traveled very far, the distance does not now impress me, when as we
descended toward a tributary of Yosemite creek, we came suddenly upon
an Indian, who at the moment of discovery was lying down drinking from
the brook. The babbling waters had prevented his hearing our approach.
We hurried up to within fifty or sixty yards, hoping to capture him,
but were discovered. Seeing his supposed danger, he bounded off, a
fine specimen of youthful vigor. No racehorse or greyhound could have
seemingly made better time than he towards a dense forest in the valley
of the Scho-look. Several rifles were raised, but I gave the order
“don’t shoot,” and compelled the old chief to call to him to stop. The
young Indian did stop, but it was at a safe distance. When an attempt
was made by two or three to move ahead and get close to him, he saw the
purpose and again started; neither threatening rifles, nor the calls of
Ten-ie-ya, could again stop his flight.

As we knew our strength, after such a climb, was not equal to the chase
of the fleet youth, he was allowed to go unmolested. I could get no
information from Ten-ie-ya concerning the object of the exploration;
and as for Sandino, his memory seemed to have conveniently failed him.
With this conclusion I decided to continue my course, and moved off
rapidly. Ten-ie-ya complained of fatigue, and Sandino reminded me that
I was traveling very fast. My reply to both cut short all attempts to
lessen our speed; and when either were disposed to lag in their gait, I
would cry out the Indian word, “We-teach,” meaning hurry up, with such
emphasis as to put new life into their movements.

We soon struck an old trail that led east along the southern slope
of the divide, and when I abandoned my purpose of going farther
towards the Tuolumne, and turned to the right on the trail discovered,
Ten-ie-ya once more found voice in an attempt to dissuade me from this
purpose, saying that the trail led into the mountains where it was very
cold, and where, without warm clothing at night, we would freeze. He
was entirely too earnest, in view of his previous taciturnity; and I
told him so.

The snow was still quite deep on the elevated portions of the ridge and
in shaded localities, but upon the open ground, the trail was generally
quite bare. As we reached a point still farther east, we perceived
the trail had been recently used; the tracks had been made within
a day or two. From the appearances, we concluded they were made by
Ten-ie-ya’s scouts who had followed down the ridge and slope west of
the North Dome to watch our movements. The tracks were made going and
returning, thus showing a continued use of this locality. As the tracks
diverged from the trail at this point, they led out of the direct
line of any communication with the valley, and after some reflection,
I was satisfied that we had struck a clue to their hiding place, and
realizing that it was time to return if we expected to reach the valley
before dark, we turned about and started at once on the down grade.

We found the Captain anxiously awaiting our return. He was pleased
with our report, and agreed in the conclusion that the Indians were
encamped not very far off. Captain Boling had suffered from fatigue and
the chill air of the mountains. In speaking of a farther pursuit of
our discoveries, he said: “I am not as strong as I supposed, and will
have to await the return of the pack train before taking part in these

I told Captain Boling that upon the trip, Sandino had appeared
willfully ignorant when questioned concerning the country we were
exploring, and my belief that he stood in fear of Ten-ie-ya; that
as a guide, no dependence could be placed upon him, and that his
interpretations of Ten-ie-ya’s sayings were to be received with caution
when given in the old chief’s presence, as Ten-ie-ya’s Spanish was
about equal to his own. Captain Boling instructed me to tell Sandino,
that in future, he need only act as interpreter. He seemed satisfied
with this arrangement, and said that the country appeared different
from what it was when he was a boy and had been accustomed to traverse

When we commenced our descent into the valley Ten-ie-ya wanted us to
branch off to the left, saying he was very tired, and wanted to take
the best trail. Said he, “There is a good trail through the arrow-wood
rocks to the left of the cañon.” I reported this to the Captain, and
expressed the opinion that the old chief was sincere for once; he had
grumbled frequently while we were ascending the cañon in the morning,
because we were compelled to climb over the moss covered bowlders,
while crossing and re-crossing the stream, and he told Sandino that
we should have taken the trail along the cliff above. Captain Boling
replied: “Take it, or it will be long after dark before we reach
camp.” Accordingly I let Ten-ie-ya lead the way, and told him to
travel fast. He had more than once proved that he possessed an agility
beyond his years. As his parole was at a discount, I secured a small
cord about his chest and attached the other end to my left wrist to
maintain _telegraphic_ communication with him; but as the hidden trail
narrowed and wound its crooked way around a jutting point of the cliff
overlooking the valley and ravine, I slipped the loop from my wrist and
ordered a halt.

Captain Boling and the men with him came up and took in the view before
us. One asked if I thought a bird could go down there safely. Another
wanted to know if I was aiding “Old Truthful” to commit suicide.
The last question had an echo of suspicion in my own thoughts. I
immediately surmised it possible the old sachem was leading us into
another trap, where, by some preconcerted signal, an avalanche of rocks
would precipitate us all to the bottom. I asked Ten-ie-ya if this trail
was used by his people; he assured me it was, by women and children;
that it was a favorite trail of his. Seeing some evidences of it having
been recently used, and being assured by Sandino that it was somewhere
below on this trail that Ten-ie-ya had descended to the valley when
taken a prisoner, a few of us were shamed into a determination to make
the attempt to go where the old chief could go.

Most of the party turned back. They expressed a willingness to fight
Indians, but they had not, they said, the faith requisite to attempt
to walk on water, much less air. They went down Indian Cañon, and some
did not reach camp until after midnight, tired, bruised and footsore.
We who had decided to take our chances, re-commenced our descent. I
told Ten-ie-ya to lead on, and to stop at the word “halt,” or he would
be shot. I then dispatched Sandino across the narrow foot-way, which,
at this point was but a few inches in width, and which was all there
was dividing us from Eternity as we passed over it. Telling them both
to halt on a projecting bench in view, I crossed this yawning abyss,
while Sandino, aided by a very dead shot above, held the old man as if
petrified, until I was able once more to resume my charge of him.

This I found was the only really dangerous place, on what was
facetiously called, by those who were leaving us, “a very good trail.”
The last fifty or sixty feet of the descent was down the sloping side
of an immense detached rock, and then down through the top of a black
oak tree at the south-westerly base of the vast cliff or promontory
known as the “Arrow-wood Cliff.” The “Royal Arches,” the “Washington
Column,” and the “North Dome,” occupy positions east of this trail, but
upon the same vast pile of granite.

I sometime afterward pointed out the trail to a few visitors that I
happened to meet at its foot. They looked upon me with an incredulous
leer, and tapped their foreheads significantly, muttering something
about “Stockton Asylum.” Fearing to trust my amiability too far, I
turned and left them. Since then I have remained cautiously silent.
Now that the impetuosity of youth has given place to the more
deliberative counsels of age, and all dangers to myself or others are
past, I repeat, for the benefit of adventurous tourists, that on the
southwesterly face of the cliff overlooking the valley and Indian
Cañon, there is a trail hidden from view, that they may travel if they
will, and experience all the sensations that could ever have been felt,
while alive, by a Blondin or LaMountain.

This portion of the cliff we designated as Ten-ie-ya’s Trail, and it
accords well with the scene in the Jungfrau Mountains, where Manfred,
alone upon the cliffs, says:

“And you, ye craigs, upon whose extreme edge
I stand, and on the torrent’s brink beneath
Behold the tall pines dwindled as to shrubs,
In dizziness of distance; when a leap,
A stir, a motion, even a breath, would bring
My breast upon its rocky bosom’s bed
To rest forever–wherefore do I pause?
I feel the impulse–yet I do not plunge;
I see the peril–yet do not recede;
And my brain reels–and yet my foot is firm:
There is a power upon me which withholds,
And makes it my fatality to live.”

During our long stay in the Yosemite, I discovered that almost every
prominent object and locality in and about it, had some distinctive
appellation. Every peak and cliff, every cañon or ravine, meadow,
stream and waterfall, had a designation by which it could be
distinguished by the Yosemites. I made considerable effort to acquire
these names in their native purity. Although I did not at that time
learn all of them, I did in subsequent visits to the valley and to
the camps of the remnants of the tribes, acquire, as I then believed,
a very nearly correct pronunciation of most of them. I used all the
advantages afforded by my position as one of the Spanish interpreters,
and applied myself perseveringly to the task of preserving these names;
for even at that early day I realized that public interest would, in
time, be attached to that wonderful locality. I was ridiculed for
the idea, or at least for the supposition that it probably would be
awakened during my life-time.

I obtained many of the names of objects and locations from old
Ten-ie-ya himself, whenever I could find him in a communicative mood.
As he was reputed to be quite a linguist, speaking, besides his
native Ah-wah-ne-chee, the Pai-ute, and other dialects, I regarded
his authority as superior to that of either the Po-ho-no or Noot-chü
Indians, who differed from him in the pronunciation of some of the

I was unable to converse with Ten-ie-ya except through an interpreter,
but the words I noted down from the old chief’s lips as they sounded
to my ear at the time, getting the signification as best I could, or
not at all. There is really no more sentiment or refined imagery of
expression among Indians than will be found among ignorant people of
any kind. But living as they do in close affinity with nature, natural
objects first attract their attention, and the dominant characteristics
of any object impress themselves upon their language. Hence many of
their words are supposed to be representative of natural sounds. Our
Po-ho-no-chee and Noot-chü scouts were familiar with the dialect in
common use by the Yosemites, and they also aided me, while at times
they confused, in acquiring the proper names. The territory claimed by
the Po-ho-no-chees, joined that of the Yosemites on the south. During
the Summer months, they occupied the region of the Po-ho-no Meadows,
and the vicinity of the Pohono Lake. Their territory, however, extended
to the right bank of the South Fork of the Merced. It was there we
found a little band on our first expedition. Some of this band were
quite intelligent, having with the Noot-chüs, worked for Major Savage.
It was from them that the Major first learned that the Yosemites were a
composite band, collected from the disaffected of other bands in that
part of California, and what is now Nevada; and as the Major said, the
dialect in common use among them was nearly as much of a mixture as the
components of the band itself, for he recognized Pai-ute, Kah-we-ah and
Oregon Indian words among them.

Major Savage was intimately familiar with the dialects of his
Indian miners and customers, and was probably at that time the best
interpreter in California of the different mountain dialects.

I consulted him freely as to the pronunciation of the names, and
learned his interpretation of the meaning of them. These names, or most
of them, were first given for publication by myself, as received from
the Yosemites and Po-ho-no-chees; together with English names which had
been given to some of the same points by the battalion. I purposely
avoided all attempts at description, giving instead, a few estimates of
heights. The data then furnished by myself was published in editorials,
and has been mostly preserved, though in an imperfect state, from some
fault in my writing or that of the proof-reader. Reference to old files
of the “California Chronicle,” “Sacramento Union,” “California Farmer”
and the Mariposa papers, will show a somewhat different orthography
from that now in use.[15]

While in the valley I made memoranda of names and important events,
which I have preserved, and which, with interpretations kindly
furnished me by Mr. B. B. Travis, an excellent _modern_ interpreter,
I am now using to verify my recollections and those of my comrades.
While acquiring these names, I employed every opportunity to make
them familiar, but this proved to be a thankless task, or at least
it was an impossible one. The great length of some of the names, and
the varied pronunciations, made the attempt an impracticable one. I
then gave attention to the substitution of suitable English names
in place of the Indian words, and to supersede the fantastic and
absurd ones already suggested and affixed by some of the command. It
is so customary for frontiersmen to give distinctive names of their
own coinage, that we had great difficulty in getting any of the
Indian names adopted; and considerable judgment had to be exercised
in selecting such English names as would “stick”–as would displace
such names as the “Giant’s Pillar,” “Sam Patch’s Falls,” “The Devil’s
Night-Cap,” etc., etc. Many English names were given because they
were thought to be better than the Indian names, which could not be
remembered or pronounced, and the meaning of which was not understood.
The English names agreed upon and adopted at that time have since
been retained, notwithstanding some adverse criticisms and efforts
to supersede them by some fancied Indian or mythological substitute.
Some of these names were the selection of my comrades–“Cloud’s Rest,”
for one; because upon our first visit the party exploring the “Little
Yosemite” turned back and hastened to camp upon seeing the clouds
rapidly settling down to rest upon that mountain, thereby indicating
the snow storm that soon followed.

The most of the names were however, selected by myself, and adopted by
our command. This deference was awarded to my selections because I was
actively interested in acquiring the Indian names and significations,
and because I was considered the most interested in the scenery.

I have related in a previous chapter the incident of selecting the
name “Yosemite” for the valley, not then knowing its Indian name.
As the “High Fall,” near which we were encamped, appeared to be the
principal one of the Sierras, and was the fall _par excellence_, I
gave that the name of “Yosemite Falls,” and in so naming it I but
followed out the idea of the Indians who called it “Choolook” or
“Scholook,” which signifies in this case “The Fall.” A comparison of
the Yosemite Falls with those known in other parts of the world, will
show that in elements of picturesque beauty, height, volume, color
and majestic surroundings, the Yosemite has no rival upon earth. The
Zambesi and Niagara are typical of volume, but the Yosemite is sixteen
times greater in height than Niagara, and about eight times that of
the Victoria Falls. The upper part of the Yosemite is more than twice
the height of the Svoringvoss, of Norway, and lacks but thirty feet of
being twice as high as the highest of the Southerland waterfalls, of
New Zealand. The three falls of the Southerland aggregate but 1,904
feet, 730 less than the Yosemite.

The Ribbon Fall of the El Capitan has a sheer descent of 2,100 feet,
but its beauty disappears with the melting snow. The other falls
were only designated by the names of the streams upon which they are
situated. The river Merced was spoken of as the river of Ah-wah-ne;
but the three principal branches were variously designated; the main,
or middle, up to the Vernal Fall, as “Yan-o-pah,” the “Water Cloud”
branch, and above the Vernal, as “Yo-wy-we-ack,” “the twisting rock

The north and south branches had their distinctive names; the north,
Py-we-ack, meaning the branch of the “Glistening Rocks,” and the
south, Too-lool-we-ack, or more definitely, Too-lool-lo-we-ack. The
modern interpretations of some of these names may be regarded as quite
fanciful, though Major Savage would declare that Indian languages were
so full of figures of speech that without imagination they could not be

The strictly literal interpretation of this name would be inadmissable,
but it is well enough to say, that to the unconscious innocence of
their primitive state, the word simply represented an effort of nature
in the difficult passage of the water down through the rocky gorge.
It is derived from Too-lool and We-ack, and means, ὁ ποταμὸς, ὃς
διὰ πέτρας οὐρεῖ. This name has been published as if by authority to
signify. “_The Beautiful_”–how beautiful, the learned in Greek may

This really beautiful fall was visited by few of our battalion, and
owing to the impracticability of following up the cañon above the
fall, and the great difficulty of access to it, it was left neglected;
the command contenting itself with a distant view. In view of the
discoveries of Mr. Muir that there were glaciers at its source, and
that the cliff now known as “Glacier Point” may be said to mark the
entrance to this “South Cañon,” a name often confounded with “South
Fork,” and especially because of the impropriety of translating this
Indian name, I think it advisable to call this the Glacier Fall, and,
therefore, give it that name in this volume. The name of “Illeuette” is
not Indian, and is, therefore, meaningless and absurd. In accordance
with the customs of these mountain people of naming their rivers
from the most characteristic features of their source, the North or
Ten-ie-ya branch of the Merced, which comes down the North Cañon from
the glistening glacial rocks at its source, was called Py-we-ack,
“the river of glistening rocks,” or more literally, perhaps, “the
river-smoothed rocks.” Whether from Pai, a river, or from Py-ca-bo, a
spring, I am in doubt. If the first syllable of the name Py-we-ack be
derived from Py-ca-bo, then, probably, the name signified to them “the
glistening rock spring branch,” as the ice-burnished rocks at the head
of Lake Ten-ie-ya stand at the source of the river.

I have never been satisfied with the poetical interpretation given the
name, nor with its transfer to “Yan-o-pah,” the branch of the “little
cloud,” as rendered by Mr. Travis. But as Py-we-ack has been displaced
from Lake Ten-ie-ya and its outlet, it is proper and in accordance with
the custom to call the branch Ten-ie-ya also. The name of Ten-ie-ya
was given to the lake at the time of its discovery. It was there we
captured the remnant of the Yosemite band, as will be explained in
the next chapter. The name of Ten-ie-ya Cañon, Ten-ie-ya Fork and
Lake Ten-ie-ya, has for this reason superseded the original name of
Py-we-ack; but in naming the lake, I preserved an Indian name that
represented the central figure in all of our operations.

Wai-ack was the name for “Mirror Lake,” as well as for the mountain it
so perfectly reflected. The lake itself was not particularly attractive
or remarkable, but in the early morning, before the breeze swept up
the cañon, the reflections were so perfect, especially of what is now
known as Mt. Watkins, that even our scouts called our attention to it
by pointing and exclaiming: “Look at Wai-ack,” interpreted to mean the
“Water Rock.” This circumstance suggested the name of “Mirror Lake.”
The name was opposed by some, upon the ground that all still water was
a mirror. My reply established the name. It was that other conditions,
such as light and shade, were required, as when looking into a well,
the wall of the Half Dome perfecting the conditions, and that when
shown another pool that was more deserving, we would transfer the name.
Captain Boling approved the name, and it was so called by the battalion.

The middle or main branch was designated by the Yosemites–from the
fork of the Glacial Branch up to the Vernal Fall–as Yan-o-pah, because
they were compelled to pass through the spray of the Vernal, to them
a “little cloud,” while passing up this cañon. The Indian name of the
Nevada Fall, “Yo-wy-we,” or Yo-wy-ye, and that of Too-lool-lo-we-ack,
afforded innumerable jests and amusing comments, and when the
suggestion of naming these falls was made, it was received with rude
hilarity. Names without number were presented as improvements on
the originals. These names were indeed more than my own gravity would
endure; Yo-wy-we being represented at first to signify the “wormy”
water, from the twist or _squirm_ given to the water in falling upon an
obstructing rock; and therefore, after consultation with a few of my
personal friends, I suggested Vernal, as an English name for Yan-o-pah,
and Nevada, for that of Yo-wy-we. The Nevada Fall was so called because
it was the nearest to the Sierra Nevada, and because the name was
sufficiently indicative of a wintry companion for our spring.


It would be a difficult task to trace out and account for all of our
impressions, or for the forms they take; but my recollection is that
the cool, moist air, and newly-springing Kentucky blue-grass at the
Vernal, with the sun shining through the spray as in an April shower,
suggested the _sensation_ of spring before the name of Vernal occurred
to me; while the white, foaming water, as it dashed down Yo-wy-we from
the snowy mountains, represented to my mind a vast avalanche of snow.
In concluding my advocacy of these names, I represented the fact that
while we were enjoying the vernal showers below, hoary-headed winter
was pouring his snowy avalanches above us. Then, quoting from Byron, I

The Vernal “… mounts in spray the skies, and thence again
Returns in an unceasing shower, which round
With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,
Is an eternal April to the ground,
Making it all one emerald.”

These names were given during our long stay in the valley, at a time

“The fragrant strife of sunshine with the morn
Sweeten’d the air to ecstasy!”

It is agreeably complimentary for me to believe that our motives in
giving English names were comprehended, and our action in the matter
appreciated by others. Mr. Richardson, in “Beyond the Mississippi,”
shows an almost intuitive perception of our reasons for adopting
the English names given to the principal falls in the Yosemite. He
says: “These names are peculiarly fitting–Bridal Veil indeed looks
like a veil of lace; in summer when Bridal Veil and Yosemite dwarf,
Vernal still pours its ample torrent, and Nevada is always white
as a snow-drift. The Yosemite is height, the Vernal is volume, the
Bridal Veil is softness, but the Nevada is height, volume and softness
combined. South Fork cataract, most inaccessible of all, we did not
visit. In spring each fall has twenty times as much water as in summer.
On the whole Yosemite is incomparably the most wonderful feature on
our continent.” Speaking of the Vernal Fall, Mr. Richardson says: “I
saw what to Hebrew prophet had been a vision of heaven, or the visible
presence of the Almighty. It was the round rainbow–the complete
circle. There were two brilliant rainbows of usual form, the crescent,
the bow proper. But while I looked the two horns of the inner or lower
crescent suddenly lengthened, extending on each side to my feet, an
entire circle, perfect as a finger ring. In two or three seconds it
passed away, shrinking to the first dimensions. Ten minutes later it
formed again and again, and again as suddenly disappeared. Every sharp
gust of wind showering the spray over me, revealed for a moment the
round rainbow. Completely drenched, I stood for an hour and a half
and saw fully twenty times that dazzling circle of violet and gold
on a ground-work of wet, dark rocks, gay dripping flowers and vivid
grasses. I never looked upon any other scene in nature so beautiful and
impressive.” Mr. Richardson has with a great deal of enthusiasm given
a vivid description of what appeared to me as a glowing representation
of youthful spring; and to which the name of “vernal” was, I think,
consistently and appropriately applied.

Mr. Hutchings, in criticising the name Vernal, has mis-stated the
Indian name for this fall, furnished him by myself, and published in
his magazine and his “Scenes of Wonder;” and while neglecting to speak
in terms of the vivid green of the yielding sod that “squirts” water,
he eloquently describes the characteristics of a _vernal_ shower; or
the Yosemites “little water cloud,” Can-o-pah; or, if it pleases him
better, Yan-o-pah. The name given by the Yosemites to the Ten-ie-ya
branch of the Merced was unmistakably Py-we-ack. This name has been
transferred from its original locality by some _romantic_ preserver of
Indian names. While passing over to Yan-o-pah, it was provided with an
entirely new signification. It is indeed a laughable idea for me to
even suppose that a worm and acorn-eating Indian would ever attempt
to construct a name to mean “_a shower of sparkling crystals_;” his
diet must have been improved by _modern_ intelligent culture. The
signification is certainly poetical, and is but _one step_ removed
from the sublime. One objection only can be raised against it; it is
a little too romantic; something after the style of the tradition
furnished Mr. Bancroft.[16]

Names were given to the numerous little streams that poured into the
valley during the melting of the snow, and formed many beautiful
water-falls and cascades, but I shall not attempt to describe them, as
it would serve no useful purpose to give the common-place, and in some
instances, very _primitive_ names of these ephemeral streams. In any
other mountains, in any other country, great interest would attach to
them; but in the Yosemite, they are but mere suggestions to the grander
objects that overshadow them.

Another witness to the propriety of the English names is Professor J.
D. Whitney, State Geologist. In his admirable “Yosemite Guide Book” he
says: “The names given by the early white visitors to the region, have
entirely replaced the native ones; and they are, in general, quite
sufficiently euphonious and proper, some of them, perhaps slightly
inclined to sentimentality; for if we recognize the appropriateness of
the ‘Bridal Veil’ as a designation for the fall called Po-ho-no by the
Indians, we fail to perceive why the ‘Virgin’s Tears’ should be flowing
on the opposite side of the valley.”

This criticism is undoubtedly just. It seems as if some one had made
an enormous stride across from the poetically sublime to ridiculous
sentimentality. It is fortunate that the fall dries up early in the

The name of “Bridal-Veil” was suggested as an appropriate English name
for the Fall of the Pohono by Warren Bær, Esq., at the time editor of
the “Mariposa Democrat,” while we were visiting the valley together.
The appropriateness of the name was at once acknowledged, and adopted
as commemorative of his visit. Mr. Bær was a man of fine culture, a son
of the celebrated Doctor Bær of Baltimore.

The Pohono takes its rise in a small lake known as Lake Pohono, twelve
or fifteen miles in a southernly direction from the Fall. The stream is
fed by several small branches that run low early in the season.

The whole basin drained, as well as the meadows adjacent, was known to
us of the battalion, as the Pohono branch and meadows.

The band who inhabited this region as a summer resort, called
themselves Po-ho-no-chee, or Po-ho-na-chee, meaning the dwellers in
Po-ho-no, as Ah-wah-ne-chee was understood to indicate the occupants of
Ah-wah-nee. This delightful summer retreat was famous for the growth
of berries and grasses, and was a favorite resort for game. The black
seeds of a coarse grass found there, were used as food. When pulverized
in stone mortars, the meal was made into mush and porridge. I found it
impossible to obtain the literal signification of the word, but learned
beyond a doubt that Po-ho-no-chee was in some way connected with the
stream. I have recently learned that Po-ho-no means a daily puffing
wind, and when applied to fall, stream, or meadow, means simply the
fall, stream, or meadow of the puffing wind, and when applied to the
tribe of Po-ho-no-chees, who occupied the meadows in summer, indicated
that they dwelled on the meadows of that stream.

Mr. Cunningham says: “Po-ho-no, in the Indian language, means a belt
or current of wind coming in puffs and moving in one direction.” There
is such a current, in its season, on the Old Millerton Road, where
the dust is swept off clean. The Chow-chilla Indians call that the
Po-ho-no. The Po-ho-no of the Yosemite makes its appearance where the
two cascade creeks enter the canon, and this air current is daily swept
up the canon to the Bridal Veil Fall, and up its stream, in puffs of
great power. The water is thrown back and up in rocket-like jets, far
above the fall, making it uniquely remarkable among the wonders of the

Mr. Hutching’s interpretation is entirely fanciful, as are most of his
Indian translations.”

The name for the little fall to which the name of “Virgin’s Tears” has
been applied, was known to us as “Pigeon Creek Fall.” The Indian name
is “Lung-yo-to-co-ya”; its literal meaning is “Pigeon Basket,” probably
signifying to them “Pigeon Nests,” or _Roost_. In explanation of the
name for the creek, I was told that west of El Capitan, in the valley
of the stream, and upon the southern slopes, pigeons were at times
quite numerous. Near the southwest base of the cliff we found a large
_caché_. The supplies were put up on rocks, on trees and on posts.
These granaries were constructed of twigs, bark and grass, with the
tops covered in and rounded like a large basket.

If this _caché_ had any connection with the name of “Pigeon Baskets,”
Lung-yo-to-co-ya would probably designate “The Pigeon Creek _Caché_.”

After a reverential salutation, “El Capitan” must now receive my

It has been stated in print that the signification of
Tote-ack-ah-noo-la was “Crane Mountain,” and that the name was
given because of the habit sand-hill cranes had of entering the
valley over this cliff. I never knew of this habit. Many erroneous
statements relating to the Yosemite have appeared–some in Appleton’s
Encyclopædia, and one very amusing one in Bancroft’s Traditions–but
none appear to me more improbable.

During our long stay at our second visit, this cliff was invariably
called by our scouts Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, and with some slight
difference in the terminal syllable, was so called by Ten-ie-ya. This
word was invariably translated to mean the “Rock Chief,” or “The

Upon one occasion I asked, “Why do you call the cliff
Tote-ack-ah-noo-la?” The Indian’s reply was, “Because he looks like
one.” I then asked, “What was meant by _he_?” at the same time saying
that the cliff was not a man, to be called “he.” His reply was, “Come
with me and see.” Taking Sandino with me, I went, and as the Indian
reached a point a little above and some distance out from the cliff,
he triumphantly pointed to the perfect image of a man’s head and face,
with side whiskers, and with an expression of the sturdy English type,
and asked, “Does he not look like Tote-ack-ah-noo-la?” The “Rock
Chief,” or “Captain,” was again Sandino’s interpretation of the word
while viewing the likeness.

This was the first intimation that any of us had of the reason why the
name was applied, and it was _shown_ in response to the question asked,
why the rock had been personified.

To-tor-kon, is the name for a sand-hill crane, and ni-yul-u-ka, is
the Pai-ute for head; but “crane-head” can scarcely be manufactured
out of Tote-ack-ah-noo-la. It appears to me most probable that
Tote-ack-ah-noo-la is derived from “ack,” a rock, and To-whon-e-o,
meaning chief. I am not etymologist enough to understand just how
the word has been constructed, but am satisfied that the primates of
the compound are rock and chief. If, however, I am found in error, I
shall be most willing to acknowledge it, for few things appear more
uncertain, or more difficult to obtain, than a complete understanding
of the _soul_ of an Indian language; principally because of the
ignorance and suspicion with which a persistent and thorough research
is met by the sensitively vain and jealous savages.

In leaving this subject, I would say that before it be too late, a
careful and full collection of vocabularies of _all_ the tongues should
be made. I am aware of what has already been done by the labors of
Schoolcraft, and the officers of the army in more modern times; but
there is yet left a large field for persistent labor, that should be
worked by the Smithsonian Institute or ethnological societies.

In adopting the Spanish interpretation, “El Capitan,” for
Tote-ack-ah-noo-la, we pleased our mission interpreters and conferred
upon the majestic cliff a name corresponding to its dignity. When this
name was approved it set aside forever those more numerous than belong
to royal families. It is said by Mr. Hutchings that a profile likeness
is readily traced on the angle of the cliff. The one pointed out to
me was above the pine tree alcove on the southern face of the cliff,
half way up its wall. It appeared to have been formed by the peculiar
conformation of the rock and oxidation. The chemical stain of iron, or
other mineral substance, had produced this representation, which was
looked upon with superstitious awe.

“The Fallen Rocks,” “The Frog Mountains,” or “Three Brothers,” the
“Yosemite Falls,” “The Lost Arrow,” “Indian Cañon” and “The Arrow-wood
Rocks” have already been noticed in these pages. It remains for me
to briefly notice a few more objects and close this chapter. The
names “North Dome,” “South Dome” and “Half Dome” were given by us
during our long stay in the valley from their localities and peculiar
configuration. Some changes have been made since they were adopted.
The peak called by us the “South Dome” has since been given the name
of “Sentinel Dome,” and the “Half Dome,” Tis-sa-ack, represented as
meaning the “Cleft Rock,” is now called by many the “South Dome.”[17]
The name for the “North Dome” is To-ko-ya, its literal signification
“The Basket.” The name given to the rocks now known as “The Royal
Arches” is Scho-ko-ya when alluding to the fall, and means the “Basket
Fall,” as coming from To-ko-ya, and when referring to the rock itself
it was called Scho-ko-ni, meaning the movable shade to a cradle, which,
when in position, formed an arched shade over the infant’s head. The
name of “The Royal Arch” was given to it by a comrade who was a member
of the Masonic Fraternity, and it has since been called “The Royal
Arches.” The “Half Dome” was figuratively spoken of as “The Sentinel”
by our mission Indians, because of its overlooking the valley. The
present “Sentinel” they called “Loya,” a corruption of Olla (Oya),
Spanish for an earthen water-pot. The mountain tribes use, instead, a
long-pointed basket, shaped somewhat like that rock, which the basket
is supposed to resemble.

[Illustration: SENTINEL ROCK.

(3,043 feet in height.)]

The name of “Glacier Point” is said to be Pa-til-le-ma, a translation
of which I am unable to give. Ho-yas, and not Lo-ya, as has been
stated by some, referred to certain holes in detached rocks west of
the Sentinel, which afforded “milling privileges” for a number of
squaws, and hence, the locality was a favorite camp ground. “The
Sentinel” or “Loya,” simply marked the near locality of the Ho-yas or
mortars, or “_The_ camp ground;” as it does now _The Hotels_. It was
a common practice for visitors to confer new names on the objects of
their enthusiastic admiration, and these were frequently given to the
public through letters to newspapers, while others may be found in the
more enduring monuments of literature. It is a matter of no surprise
that so few of them ever _stuck_. But little change has really been
made in the English names for the more important objects within the
valley and in its immediate vicinity. The Cathedral Rocks and spires,
known as Poo-see-na-chuc-ka, meaning “Mouse-proof Rocks,” from a
fancied resemblance in shape to their acorn magazines or _cachés_, or
a suitability for such use, have been somewhat individualized by their
English names.

Of Ko-sü-kong, the name of the “Three Graces,” I never learned the
meaning. Ta-pun-ie-me-te is derived from Ta-pun-ie, meaning the toes,
because of walking on tip-toes across, and referred to the “stepping
stones” that were at the lower ford. Mr. Travis’ “succession of rocks”
simply indicated the _turning-off_ place. There are other names that it
appears unimportant for me to notice. They have been sufficiently well
preserved in Professor Whitney’s valuable Guide Book.

Some romantic believers in the natural tendencies of the Indians to
be poetical in their expressions, twist the most vulgar common-place
expressions and names into significations poetically refined, and of
devotional sincerity.

Others have taken the same license in their desire to cater to the
taste of those credulous admirers of the NOBLE RED MAN, the ideal
of romance, the reality of whom is graded low down in the scale
of humanity. Mr. Hutchings, who, were it not for his exuberant
imagination, might have learned better, gives the signification of
“Lung-oo-to-koo-ya” as “Long and Slender,” and applies it to what he
calls the Ribbon Fall. His name is better than his interpretation.
Mr. H. also says that the signification of To-toc-ah-nü-la is “a
Semi-Deity;” that of “Tissa-ack” “Goddess of the Valley,” and that
Po-ho-no means “The Spirit of the Evil Wind.”

These interpretations, like the “sparkling shower of crystals” are
more artistically imaginative than correct. The Pai-ute for wind, is
Ni-gat, and the Kah-we-ah, is Yah-i, one or the other of which tongues
were used by the Yosemites; though the Pai-ute, or a dialect of it, was
given the preference.

The savages _have_ a crude, undefinable idea of a Deity or Great
Spirit, a Spirit of Good, who never does them harm, and whose home is
in the happy land they hope to reach after death. This happy hereafter,
is supposed by most on the western slope of the Sierras to be located
in the West, while those on the eastern slope or within the Colorado
Basin, in Arizona and in Mexico, locate it in the East. They all have a
superstitious fear of evil spirits, which they believe have the power
to do them great harm, and defeat their undertakings.

They do not as a rule look to the Great Spirit for immediate protection
from evil, but instead, rely upon amulets, incense and charms, or
“_medicine_” bags. Through these and certain ceremonies of their
priests or “mediums,” they endeavor to protect themselves and their
families from the evil influence of spirits in and out of the flesh.

They believe that the spirits of the dead who have not, through proper
ceremonies, been released from the body and allowed at once to go to
the happy land, were evil spirits that were doomed to haunt certain
localities. They looked with superstitious awe upon objects and
localities, which to them were of mysterious character. Even familiar
objects were sometimes looked upon as having been taken possession of
by spirits. These spirits it was supposed could do injury to those
who might venture near them without the protection afforded by their
charms, or certain offerings to their priests for indulgences from the
spiritual inhabitants. Streams were often said to be controlled by
spirits, and for this reason, offerings of tobacco and other substances
were at times thrown in as a propitiation for past offenses, or as an
offering for something in expectancy. They believe that the elements
are all under control, or may be used by the more powerful spirits,
and, owing probably to its infrequency in California, lightning seemed
to be an especial object of awe and wonder to them.

Waterfalls seemed not to engage their attention for their beauty, but
because of the power they manifested; and in none of their objections
made to the abandonment of their home, was there anything said to
indicate any appreciation of the scenery. Their misfortunes, accidents
and failures were generally believed to have resulted from evil
spiritual interference, and to insure success in any undertaking, these
dark or evil spirits must first be conciliated through their “medicine
men,” from whom they obtain absolution.

All spirits that had not been released and taken their flight to their
happy Western spirit-land were considered as evil; and only the Great
Spirit was believed to be very good. The Indians of the Yosemite
Valley did not look upon Tote-ack-ah-nü-lah as a veritable Deity or
“semi-Deity.” They looked upon this cliff, and the representation
of the likeness of a human face, with the same mysterious awe and
superstitious feeling that they entertained for some other objects;
though perhaps their reverence was in a somewhat higher degree
stimulated by this imposing human appearance; and their ability,
therefore, the better to personify it. They regarded this vast mountain
as an emblem of some mysterious power, beyond their comprehension.
From my knowledge of their _religious belief_, I have come to the
conclusion that their ideas in this direction are wholly spiritual,
without material representation, except as stated, through symbolic
ideas, growing out of their superstitious ignorance, like some ignorant
Christians. They have in imagination peopled the rocks and mountains,
woods and valleys, streams and waterfalls with innumerable spiritual
occupants, possessed of supernatural or spiritual powers, none of which
are believed by them to equal the power of the Great Spirit whose home
is in the West, and who prohibits the return of the evil ones, until a
probationary existence here upon this earth shall have given them such
knowledge of and disgust with evil as will fit them for the enjoyment
of good.

The special inconsistency of this belief seems to be, that if one
of these demons can lure any one to destruction, the victim will be
compelled to take the place and occupation of the evil spirit, who
is at once liberated and takes its flight to join its family or such
members of it, as are already with the blessed. This idea seemed to be
based upon the natural selfishness of human nature, that would gladly
fix its responsibilities and sufferings upon another. A writer in
his descriptions of the Yosemite says: “The savage lowers his voice
to a whisper, and crouches tremblingly past Po-ho-no, while the very
utterance of the name is so dreaded by him, that the discoverers of the
valley obtained it with difficulty.” These statements were prefaced
by the assertion that “Po-ho-no is an evil spirit of the Indians’
mythology.” On our second visit to the valley, it will be remembered,
we found huts built by the Yosemites not far from the Po-ho-no Fall.

I never found any difficulty in learning the name of this fall, or
observed any more fear of spirits exhibited at this fall than at the
Yosemite fall; but in later years, for causes that will appear in the
course of this narrative, the little meadow and detached rocks west of
Po-ho-no, and near to the foot of the Mariposa trail; became haunted
ground to the remnant of the band, for disaster and death followed the
commission of crime at that locality.

Savages are seldom able to trace to themselves the cause of misfortune,
and hence evil spirits must bear the burden of their complaint. For
this service they are well paid through their representatives, the
“medicine men.” I have often been amused, and agreeably entertained
while listening to their traditionary literature.

Among the Chippewa and Dahcota tribes, my likeness to a brother,
who was a trader, was recognized, and many times I was honored by a
prominent place being given me in their lodges and at their dances.
Some of their mysteries I was not permitted to witness, but the
consecration of the ground for the dance, which is performed with great
ceremony, I have several times seen, and had its signification fully
explained to me. The ceremony differs but little among the different
tribes, and consists of invocations, burning incense, scattering
down, feathers and evergreens upon the pathway or floor of the dance,
lighting of the sacred fires with their ancient fire-sticks, which are
still preserved among the priests, and repeating certain cabalistic
words, the meaning of which they do not even pretend to understand,
but which are supposed to have a most potent influence. They also
have their pantomimes and romances, which they repeat to each other
like children. This legendary literature is largely imaginative, but
I found the California Indians less poetical in thought and feeling
than eastern tribes, and less musical, though perhaps as primitively
figurative in expression.

Though seemingly unimpressed by their sublime surroundings, their
figures and comparisons, when not objectionable, were beautiful,
because natural. The Pai-ute and Mono Colony originally established
by Ten-ie-ya, was the result of a desire to improve their physical
condition. They were attached to this valley as a home. The
instinctive attraction that an Indian has for his place of nativity
is incomprehensible; it is more than a religious sentiment; it is a
passion. Here, sheltered in a measure from the storms of winter, and
the burning heat of summer, they met as in an earthly paradise, to
exchange the products of either side of the Sierras, to engage in a
grand hunt and festival offer up religious sacrifices, and awaken the
echoes of the valley with their vociferous orations. Should their skill
fail them in the chase, and the mountain or brook refuse their luscious
offerings, they had a never-failing resource in the skill with which
they could dispossess the native Californian, or the newly arrived
immigrant of his much prized herds, and _translate_ them to their
mountain home. Nor was there need of herd-men to guard their fleecy
flocks or roving herds, for the prancing horse or gentle kine, having
once been slid over the slippery gateway, avoided the obstruction ever
after; and remained contented in their fields of blue grass and clover.

[Illustration: THE INDIAN BELLE.]

But, when the influence of the “golden era” finally reached this once
blissfully ignorant people, and wants were created that their belles
and beaux had never known before, their imaginations excited by the
superfluities of civilization, their natural cunning came at once to
their aid, and lo! the “honest miner” or timid Chinaman contributed
from their scanty stores and wardrobes, or the poorly sheltered goods
of the mountain trader opened their canvas walls to the keen arguments
of their flinty knives, and wants real or fancied were at once supplied.

What then was there lacking, to make the Yosemites a happy people,
removed as they were from the bad influences of whiskey and the white
man’s injustice? Only this: “the whites would not let them alone.” So
Ten-ie-ya had said, as if aggrieved. Like all his race, and perhaps
like all ignorant, passionate and willful persons, he appeared
unconscious of his own wrong-doing, and of the inevitable fate that he
was bringing upon himself and his people.

In his talk with Major Savage, he had spoken of the verdure clothing
the valley, as sufficient for his wants, but at the time, knowing that
acorns formed the staple of their food, and that clover, grass, sorrel
and the inner bark of trees were used to guard against biliousness
and eruptive diseases, little heed was given to his declaration. Now,
however, that we saw the valley clothed with exquisite and useful
verdure, for June was now at hand, Ten-ie-ya’s remarks had a greater
significance, and we could understand how large flocks and herds had
been stolen, and fattened to supply their wants. The late claimants to
this lovely locality, “this great moral show,” have been relieved of
their charge by act of Congress, and fifty thousand dollars given them
for their claims. It will probably now remain forever free to visitors.
The builders of the toll roads and trails should also receive fair
compensation for their pioneer labors in building them, that they may
also be free to all. When this is done, this National Park will be
esteemed entirely worthy of this great republic and of the great golden
State that has accepted its guardianship.[18]

Perhaps no one can better than myself realize the value of the labors
performed by the early pioneers, that has made it possible for tourists
to visit in comfort some of the most prominent objects of interest; but
“_a National Park_” should be entirely free. In suggesting a new name
for the fall of Too-lool-lo-we-ack, or the absurd “Illiluette,” I wish
to honor Mr. Muir for his intelligent explorations and discoveries, and
at the same time feel that the word glacier is the most appropriate. Of
this, however, the residents of the valley will judge.

The names of the different objects and localities of especial interest
have now become well established by use. It is not a matter of so
much surprise that there is such a difference in the orthography of
the names. I only wonder that they have been retained in a condition
to be recognized. It is not altogether the fault of the interpreters
that discrepancies exist in interpretation or pronunciation, although
both are often undesignedly warped to conform to the ideality of the
interpreter. Many of the names have been modernized and adorned with
_transparencies_ in order to illuminate the subject of which the
parties were writing. Those who once inhabited this region, and gave
distinctive appellations, have all disappeared. The names given by
them can be but indifferently preserved or counterfeited by their camp
followers, the “California Diggers;” but June is now with us, and we
must hasten on to our work of following up the trail.

Continue Reading

A Line of Battle

Major Savage now advised a vigorous campaign against the Chow-chillas.
The stampeding of our captives was one of the incentives for this
movement; or at least, it was for this reason that Captain Boling and
his company most zealously advocated prompt action. The commissioners
approved of the plan, and decided that as the meddlesome interference
of these Indians prevented other bands from coming in, it was
necessary, if a peace policy was to be maintained with other tribes,
that this one be made to feel the power they were opposing; and that
an expedition of sufficient strength to subdue them, should be ordered
immediately to commence operations against them. Accordingly, a force
composed of B. and C. companies, Boling’s and Dill’s, numbering about
one hundred men, under command of Major Savage, started for the San
Joaquin River. The route selected was by way of “Coarse Gold Gulch,” to
the head waters of the Fresno, and thence to the North Fork of the San

The object in taking this circuitous route, was to sweep the territory
of any scattered bauds that might infest it. We made our first camp on
the waters of “Coarse Gold Gulch,” in order to allow the scouts time to
explore in advance of the command. No incident occurred here to claim
especial notice, but in the morning, while passing them, I made a hasty
examination of one of the “Figured Rocks” to the left of the trail.

I saw but little of interest, for at the time, I doubted the antiquity
of the figures. Subsequently, in conversation with Major Savage he said
that the figures had probably been traced by ancient Indians, as the
present tribes had no knowledge of the representations. I afterwards
asked Sandino and other Mission Indians concerning them, but none
could give me any information. The scouts sent out were instructed to
rendezvous near a double fall on the north fork of the San Joaquin in a
little valley through which the trail led connecting with that of the
north fork, as grass would there be found abundant.

Major Savage was familiar with most of the permanent trails in this
region, as he had traversed it in his former prospecting tours. As we
entered the valley selected for our camping place, a flock of sand-hill
cranes rose from it with their usual persistent yells; and from this
incident, their name was affixed to the valley, and is the name by
which it is now known.

The scouts, who were watching on the trail below, soon discovered and
joined us. “It is a little early for camping,” the Major said; “but at
this season, good grass can only be found in the mountains in certain
localities. Here there is an abundance, and soap root enough to wash a

We fixed our camp on the West side of the little valley, about half
a mile from the double falls. These falls had nothing peculiarly
attractive, except as a designated point for a rendezvous.

The stream above the falls was narrow and very rapid, but below, it ran
placidly for some distance through rich meadow land. The singularity
of the fall was in its being double; the upper one only three or four
feet, and the lower one, which was but a step below, about ten or
twelve feet. In my examination of the locality, I was impressed with
the convenience with which such a water-power could be utilized for
mechanical purposes, if the supply of water would but prove a permanent

From this camp, new scouts were sent out in search of Indians and their
trails; while a few of us had permission to hunt within a mile of camp.
While picketing our animals, I observed the flock of sand-hill cranes
again settling down some way above us, and started with Wm. Hays to get
a shot at them. We were not successful in getting within range; having
been so recently alarmed, they were suspiciously on the look out, and
scenting our approach, they left the valley. Turning to the eastward,
we were about entering a small ravine leading to the wooded ridge on
the Northwest side of the Fork, when we discovered two deer ascending
the slope, and with evident intention of passing through the depression
in the ridge before us.

They were looking _back_ on their trail, assurance enough that we had
not been seen. We hurriedly crept up the ravine to head them off,
and waited for their approach. Hays became nervous, and as he caught
a glimpse of the leader, he hastily said, “Here they come–both of
them–I’ll take the buck!” Assenting to his arrangement, we both fired
as they rose in full view. The doe fell almost in her tracks. The
buck made a bound or two up the ridge and disappeared. While loading
our rifles Hays exclaimed, as if in disgust, “A miss, by jingoes!
that’s a fact.” I replied, “not so, old fellow, you hit him hard; he
switched his tail desperately; you will see him again.” We found him
dead in the head of the next ravine, but a few rods off. Hanging up
our game to secure it until our return with horses, we started along
the slope of the ridge toward camp. Hays was in advance, stopping
suddenly, he pointed to some immense tracks of grizzlies, which in the
soft, yielding soil appeared like the foot prints of huge elephants,
and then hastily examining his rifle and putting a loose ball in his
mouth (we had no fixed ammunition in those days, except the old paper
cartridges), started on the tracks. At first I was amused at his
excited, silent preparations and rapid step, and passively accompanied
him. When we had reached a dense under-growth, into which the trail
led, and which he was about to enter, I halted and said: “I have
followed this trail as far as I design to go. Hays, it is madness for
us to follow grizzlies into such a place as that.” Hays turned, came
back, and said in an excited manner, “I didn’t suppose you would show
the white feather with a good rifle in your hands; Chandler gives you
a different character. You don’t mean to say you are afraid to go in
there with me; we’ll get one or two, sure.”

I was at first inclined to be angry, but replied, “Hays, I am much
obliged to you for the good opinion you have had of me, but I know what
grizzlies are. _I am afraid of grizzlies unless I have every advantage
of them_; and don’t think it would be any proof of courage to follow
them in there.” Hays reached out his hand as he said: “If that is
your corner stake, we will go back to camp.” We shook hands, and that
question was settled between us. Afterwards Hays told of his experience
among Polar bears, and I rehearsed some of mine among cinnamon and
grizzly bears, and he replied that after all he thought “we had acted
wisely in letting the latter remain undisturbed. When in the brush they
seemed to know their advantage, and were more likely to attack, whereas
at other times, they would get out of your way, if they could.” I
replied by asking: “Since you know their nature so well, why did you
want to follow them into the brush?” He retorted, “Simply because I was
excited and reckless, like many another man.”

Taking the back trail, we soon reached camp, and with our horses
brought in the game before dark. While entering camp, several of our
men rushed by with their rifles. Looking back across the open valley on
our own trail, I saw a man running toward us as if his life depended
on his speed. His long hair was fairly streaming behind as he rushed
breathless into camp, without hat, shoes or gun. When first seen,
the “boys” supposed the Chow-chillas were after him, but no pursuers
appeared in sight. As soon as he was able to talk, he reported that
he had left the squad of hunters he had gone out with, and was moving
along the edge of a thicket on his way to camp, when he struck the
trail of three grizzlies. Having no desire to encounter them, he left
their trail, but suddenly came upon them while endeavoring to get out
of the brush.

Before he could raise his rifle, they rushed toward him. He threw his
hat at the one nearest, and started off at a lively gait. Glancing
back, he saw two of them quarreling over his old hat; the other was so
close that he dare not shoot, but dropped his gun and ran for life.

Fortunately, one of his shoes came off, and the bear stopped to examine
and tear it in pieces, and here no doubt discontinued the chase, as he
was not seen afterwards, though momentarily expected by the hunter in
his flight to camp.

The hero of this adventure was a Texan, that was regarded by those who
knew him best as a brave man, but upon this occasion he was without
side arms, and, as he said, “was taken at a disadvantage.” The Major
joked him a little upon his _continued_ speed, but “Texas Joe” took it
in good part, and replied that the Major, “or any _other_ blank fool,
would have run just as he did.” A few of us went back with Joe, and
found his rifle unharmed. The tracks of his pursuers were distinctly
visible, but no one evinced any desire to follow them up.

We considered his escape a most remarkable one.

A little after dark all the scouts came in, and reported that no
Indians had been seen, nor very fresh signs discovered, but that a few
tracks were observed upon the San Joaquin trail.

The news was not encouraging, and some were a little despondent, but as
usual, a hearty supper and the social pipe restored the younger men to
their thoughtless gayety. My recollections bring to mind many pleasant
hours around the camp-fires of the “Mariposa Battalion.” Many of the
members of that organization were men of more than ordinary culture and
general intelligence; but they had been led out from civilization into
the golden tide, and had acquired a reckless air and carriage, peculiar
to a free life in the mountains of California.

The beauty of the little valley in which we were camped had so
attracted my attention, that while seated by the camp-fire in the
evening, enjoying my meal, I spoke of it in the general conversation,
and found that others had discovered a “claim” for a future rancho,
if the subjection of the Indians should make it desirable. The scouts
mentioned the fact of there being an abundance of game as far as they
had been, but that of course they dare not shoot, lest the Indians
might be alarmed. These men were provided with venison by Hays and
myself, while many a squirrel, jack rabbit, quail and pigeon was
spitted and roasted by other less fortunate hunters. Our deer were
divided among immediate friends and associates, and Captain Boling
slyly remarked that “the Major’s appetite is about as good as an
Indian’s.” Major Savage seemed to enjoy the conversation in praise
of this region, and in reply to the assertion that this was the best
hunting ground we had yet seen, said: “Where you find game plenty, you
will find Indians not far off. This belt of country beats the region
of the Yosemite or the Poho-no Meadows for game, if the Indians tell
the truth; and with the exception of the Kern River country, it is the
best south of the Tuolumne River. It abounds in grizzlies and cinnamon
bears, and there are some black bears. Deer are very plenty, and a
good variety of small game–such as crane, grouse, quail, pigeons,
road-runners, squirrels and rabbits–besides, in their season, water
fowl. This territory of the Chow-chillas has plenty of black oak acorns
(their favorite acorn), and besides this, there are plenty of other
supplies of bulbous roots, tubers, grasses and clover. In a word, there
is everything here for the game animals and birds, as well as for the

I now thought I had a turn on the Major, for he was quite enthusiastic,
and I said: “Major, you have made out another Indian Paradise; I
thought you a skeptic.” With a smile as if in remembrance of our
conversation in the Yosemite, he replied: “Doc, I don’t believe these
Chow-chilla devils will leave here without a fight, for they seem to
be concentrating; but we are going to drive them out with a ‘flaming
brand.’ I think we shall find some of them to-morrow, if we expect good
luck.” Turning to Captain Boling he continued, “Captain, we must make
an early move in the morning; and to-morrow we must be careful not to
flush our game before we get within rifle-shot. You had better caution
the guards to be vigilant, for we may have a visit from their scouts
to-night, if only to stampede our horses.”

Taking this as a hint that it was time to turn in, I rolled myself in
my blankets. My sleep was not delayed by any thoughts of danger to the
camp,–though I would have admitted the danger of loss of animals–but
I was awakened by a stir in camp, and from hearing the Major called.

Sandino, the Mission Indian interpreter, had just come in from
head-quarters, guiding an escort that had been sent for the Major. The
Sergeant in command handed a letter to Savage, who, after reading it at
the camp fire, remarked to Captain Boling, “the commissioners have sent
for me to come back to head-quarters; we will talk over matters in the
morning, after we have had our sleep.” He was snoring before I slept

In the morning Major Savage stated that he had been sent for by the
Commissioners to aid in treating with a delegation of Kah-we-ah Indians
sent in by Capt. Kuykendall, and regretted to leave us just at that
time, when we were in the vicinity of the game we were after. That
we would now be under the command of Captain Boling, etc. The Major
made us a nice little speech. It was short, and was the only one he
ever made to us. He then drew an outline map of the country, and
explained to Captain Boling the course and plans he had adopted, but
which were to be varied as the judgment of the Captain should deem to
his advantage. He repeatedly enjoined the Captain to guard against
surprise, by keeping scouts in advance and upon flank.

He then said he should leave Sandino with us, and told me that Spencer
and myself would be expected to act as interpreters, otherwise Captain
Boling could not make Sandino available as a guide or interpreter, as
he cannot speak a word of English.

“As surgeon to the expedition, I will see that you are paid extra.
The endurance of those appointed, has been tried and found wanting;
therefore I preferred to leave them behind.” The Major then left us for
head-quarters, which he would reach before night.

Captain Boling crossed the North Fork below the falls, but after a
few horses had passed over the trail, the bottom land became almost
impassable. As I had noticed an old trail that crossed just above
the falls, I shouted to the rear guard to follow me, and started for
the upper crossing, which I reached some little distance in advance.
Spurring my mule I dashed through the stream. As she scrambled up the
green sod of the slippery shore I was just opening my mouth for a
triumphant whoop, when the sod from the overhanging bank gave way under
the hind feet of the mule, and, before she could recover, we slipped
backwards into the stream, and were being swept down over the falls.
Comprehending the imminent peril, I slipped from my saddle with the
coil of my “riata” clasped in hand (fortunately I had acquired the
habit of leaving the rope upon the mule’s neck), and, by an effort, I
was able to reach the shore with barely length of rope enough to take
one turn around a sappling and then one or two turns around the rope,
and by this means I was able to arrest the mule in her progress, with
her hind legs projecting over the falls, where she remained, her head
held out of the water by the rope. I held her in this position until my
comrades came up and relieved me, and the mule from her most pitiable
position. This was done by attaching another rope, by means of which
it was drawn up the stream to the shore, where she soon recovered her
feet and was again ready for service. Not so my medicines and surgical
instruments, which were attached to the saddle.

While Captain Boling was closing up his scattered command, I took the
opportunity to examine my damaged stores and wring out my blankets.
Being thus engaged, and out of sight of the main column, they moved on
without us. I hastily dried my instruments, and seeing that my rifle
had also suffered, I hastily discharged and reloaded it. We passed
over the stream below the falls, and were galloping to overtake the
command, when I discovered a detachment with Captain Boling at the
head, riding rapidly up the trail toward us. As we met, the Captain
returned my salutation with “Hallo, Doc., what the devil is the
matter?” I explained the cause of our delay and the reason for the
discharge of my rifle, when the Captain said: “We heard the report of
your rifle, and I thought you were about to have a quilting party of
your own, for I knew you would not waste lead foolishly, so came back
to have a hand in the game.” I apologized for firing without orders and
for causing anxiety; but said, that to be frank, I had thought that my
rifle being so wet, would only “squib.” He good humoredly replied, “I
am glad I found nothing worse, for you have had a narrow escape, and I
think we had now better keep closed up.”

We soon overtook the command which was following the main trail to
the upper San Joaquin. Crossing the affluent tributaries of the North
Fork, we finally reached a branch now known as the Little San Joaquin.
Here we again camped for the third time since leaving head-quarters.
Lieutenant Chandler and a few of our most experienced scouts were
detailed and sent out on duty. Captain Boling with a small guard
accompanied Chandler for some distance out on the trail, and after
exploring the vicinity of the camp and taking a look at “Battle
Mountain” to the westward of us, returned without having discovered
any fresher signs than had been seen by the scouts. That night the
camp-guard was strengthened and relieved every hour, that there might
be no relaxation of vigilance. A little before daybreak, Lieutenant
Chandler and his scouts came in, and reported that they had discovered
a number of camp fires, and a big pow-wow, on the main San Joaquin
river. Satisfied that Indians were there assembled in force, and that
they were probably holding a war-dance, they returned at once to report
their discovery.

The camp was quietly aroused, and after a hasty breakfast in the early
dawn, we mounted. Before giving the order to march, Captain Boling
thought it advisable to give us a few words of caution and general
orders in case we should suddenly meet the enemy and engage in battle.
Thinking it would be more impressive if delivered in a formal manner,
he commenced: “Fellow citizens!” (a pause,) “fellow soldiers!” (a
longer pause,) “comrades,” tremulously; but instantly recovering
himself, promptly said: “In _conclusion_, all I have to say, boys, is,
that I hope I shall fight better than I speak.” The Captain joined with
his “fellow citizens” in the roar of laughter, amidst which he gave the
order “march,” and we started for the San Joaquin at a brisk trot.

No better or braver man rode with our battalion. His popularity was
an appreciation of his true merit. On this occasion he was conscious
of the responsibility of his position, and, for a moment his modesty
overcame him. Although his _speech_ lacked the ready flow of language,
it eloquently expressed to his men the feelings of their Captain, and
we comprehended what he designed to say.[11] A short ride brought us
in sight of the main river. As we drew near to it a party of about one
hundred Indians were discovered drawn up as if to give us battle, but
we soon found their line had been established on the _opposite_ side of
the stream! while the swelling torrent between us seemed impassable.
Our scouts discovered a bark rope stretched across the river, just
above the mouth of the South Fork, which had been quite recently used.
Their scouts had undoubtedly discovered our rapid approach, and in
their haste to report the fact, had neglected to remove this rope, by
means of which, the crossing was made. The Indians of Northern climes
are equally expert in crossing streams. In winter, they sprinkle
sand upon the smooth ice, in order to cross their unshod ponies. The
discovery of the rope being reported to Captain Boling, he proposed to
utilize it by establishing a temporary ferry of logs. On examination,
the rope was found to be too slender to be of practical use, but was
employed to convey across a stronger one, made from our picket ropes or
“riatas,” tied together and twisted.

Two of our best swimmers crossed the river above the narrows, and
pulled our rope across by means of the bark one. To protect the men on
the opposite side, Captain Middleton, Joel H. Brooks, John Kenzie and
a few other expert riflemen, stood guard over them. A float was made
of dry logs while the rope was being placed in position, and this was
attached to the one across the stream by means of a rude pulley made
from the crotch of a convenient sapling. By this rude contrivance, we
crossed to and fro without accident. The horses and baggage were left
on the right bank in charge of a small but select camp guard. As we
commenced the ascent of the steep acclivity to the table above, where
we had seen the Indians apparently awaiting our approach, great care
was taken to keep open order. We momentarily expected to receive the
fire of the enemy. The hill-side was densely covered with brush, and
we cautiously threaded our march up through it, until we emerged into
the open ground at the crest of the hill. Here, not an Indian was in
sight to welcome or threaten our arrival. They had probably fled as
soon as they witnessed our crossing. Captain Boling felt disappointed;
but immediately sent out an advance skirmish line, while we moved in
closer order upon the village in sight, which we afterwards found to
be that of Jose Rey. Arrived there, we found it forsaken. This village
was beautifully situated upon an elevated table lying between the South
Fork and the main river. It overlooked the country on all sides except
the rear, which could have only been approached through the rugged
cañons of the forks. It would therefore have been impossible for us to
surprise it. We found that the Indians had left nothing of value but
the stores of acorns near by. Captain Boling’s countenance expressed
his feelings, with regard to our lack of success. He ordered the lodges
to be destroyed with all the supplies that could be discovered.

While entering the village, we had observed upon a little knoll,
the remnant of what had been a large fire; a bed of live coals and
burning brands of manzanita-wood still remained. The ground about it
indicated that there had been a large gathering for a burial-dance and
feast, and for other rites due the departed; and therefore, I surmised
that there had been a funeral ceremony to honor the remains of some
distinguished member of the tribe. I had the curiosity to examine the
heap and found that I was correct. On raking open the ashes of the
funeral-pyre, the calcined bones were exposed, along with trinkets and
articles of various kinds, such as arrow-heads of different shapes
and sizes, for the chase and for warfare; a knife-blade, a metal
looking-glass frame, beads and other articles melted into a mass. From
these indications–having a knowledge of Indian customs–I inferred
that the deceased was probably a person of wealth and distinction in
Indian society. Calling Sandino to the spot, I pointed out to him
my discoveries. Devoutly crossing himself, he looked at the mass I
had raked from the ashes, and exclaimed: “Jose Rey, ah! he is dead!”
I asked how he knew that it was the body of Jose Rey that had been
burned. He said: (picking up the knife-blade) “This was the knife of
Jose Rey.” He then told me “that a chief’s property was known to all of
his people and to many other tribes. That many had been here to take
part in the funeral ceremonies, and only a great chief would have so
many come to do honor to his remains; besides we have known for a long
time that he would die.” I reported this statement to Captain Boling,
who thought it was correct. It was afterwards confirmed by some of the
followers of the dead chief.

Sandino was or had been a Mission Indian, and prided himself on being
a good Catholic. I asked him why the Indians burnt the bodies of their
dead. He replied after devoutly crossing himself, for no Indian will
willingly speak of their dead. “The Gentiles (meaning the wild Indians)
burn the bodies to liberate the spirit from it.” After again crossing
himself, “We being Christians by the favor of God, are not compelled
to do this duty to our dead. They enter into the spirit-world through
the virtue of the blood of Christ;” then with his face gleaming with
religious fervor, he said, “Oh! is not this a great blessing–_no
labor, no pain, and where all have plenty_.” On a more intimate
acquaintance with Sandino, I found that he had an implicit belief in
all the superstitions of his race, but that the saving grace of the
blood of Christ was simply superior to their charms and incantations.

My experience among other Indians, particularly the Sioux, Chippewa,
and other tribes that have long had missionaries among them, leads me
to the conclusion that Sandino’s views of Christianity will not be
found to differ materially from those of many others _converted_. I
afterwards had a much more satisfactory conversation with “Russio,”
who verified Sandino’s statement concerning their belief, and object
in burning their dead. This Chief also gave me in detail some of
their traditions and mythologies, which I shall reserve for future

Our scouts reported that the fresh trails followed by them led to the
main trail up the cañon of the river. Everything having been set on
fire that would burn, we followed in pursuit toward the “High Sierras.”
Before starting the scouts that had gone up the South Fork cañon were
called in, and we lightened our haversacks by taking a hasty but
hearty lunch. We followed the trail continuously up, passed a rocky,
precipitous point, that had terminated in a ridge at the rear of the
village, and pursuing it rapidly for several miles, we suddenly found
that the traces we had been following disappeared. We came to a halt,
and retracing our steps, soon found that they had left the trail at
some bare rocks, but it was impossible to trace them farther in any
direction. Sandino expressed the opinion that the Indians had crossed
the river; and pointing across the foaming rapids said: “They have gone
there!” He was denounced by the scouts for this assertion, and they
swore that “an otter would drown if he attempted to swim in such a
place.” Captain Boling asked: “Is he a coward afraid of an ambush, or
is he trying to shield his people by discouraging our advance?” After
Spencer and myself had talked with him a few moments, we both expressed
our faith in his loyalty, and told the Captain that we thought he was
sincere in the opinion expressed, that the Indians had crossed to the
other side. I stated that I did not think it impossible for them to do
so, as they were all most excellent swimmers. That I had seen the Yumas
of the Colorado river dive, time after time, and bring up fish caught
with their bare hands, and perform other seemingly impossible feats. I
would not, therefore, denounce Sandino without some proof of treachery.
Captain Boling was not convinced, however, by my statements. It was
decided that the Chow-chil-las had not crossed the river, and that we
should probably find their trail further on.

With scouts in advance, we resumed our march up the cañon. The trail
was rough, and, in places, quite precipitous; but we followed on until
reaching a point in the cañon where we should expect to find “_signs_,”
for there was no choice of routes, but this only trail up the cañon
had not been used by any one; and the advance were found awaiting the
Captain’s arrival at the gorge. The Captain was puzzled, and ordered a
halt. A council was held, about as satisfactory as the other had been,
but all agreed in the conclusion that the Indians had beaten us in wood
craft, and had artfully thrown us from their trail; though their signal
fires were still to be seen at intervals on the high rocky points of
the river. This was a common mode of communication among them. By
a peculiar arrangement of these fires during the night, and by the
smoke from them during the day, they are able to telegraph a system of
secret correspondence to those on the look out. An arrow, shot into the
body of a tree at a camp ground, or along a trail; or the conspicuous
arrangement of a bent bush or twig, often shows the direction to be
traveled. A bunch of grass, tied to a stick and left at the fork of a
stream or trail, or at a deserted camp, performed the same service.
Upon the treeless deserts or plains, a mark upon the ground, by camp or
trail, gave the required information; thus proving that these people
possess considerable intelligent forethought.

After looking at the signal fires for some time, Captain Boling said:
“Gentlemen, there is one thing I can beat these fellows at, and that
is in building fires. We will go back to the crossing, and from there
commence a new campaign. We will build fires all over the mountains, so
that these Indians will no longer recognize their own signals. We will
make ours large enough to burn all the acorns and other provender we
can find. In a word, we are forced into a mode of warfare unsuited to
my taste or manhood, but this campaign has convinced me of the utter
folly of attempting to subdue them unless we destroy their supplies of
all kinds. Gentlemen, you can take my word for it, they do not intend
to fight us, or they would have tried to stop us at the crossing, where
they had every advantage.”

There is no point in the mountains more easy to defend than their
village. It was located most admirably. If they had the fight in them,
that was claimed by Major Savage and the Indians at head-quarters,
we could never have crossed the river or approached their village.
Their courage must have died with Jose Rey. His courage must have
been supposed to be that of the tribe. They have become demoralized,
being left without the energy of the chief. Their warlike nature is
a humbug. Talk about these Indians defeating and driving back the
Spanish Californians, after raiding their ranches, as has been told! If
they did, they must have driven back bigger cowards than themselves,
who have run away without even leaving a trail by which they can be
followed. I don’t believe it.” The Captain delivered this serio-comic
discourse while seated on a rock, with most inimitable drollery; and
at my suggestion that they might perhaps yet show themselves, he
replied rather impatiently: “Nonsense, they will not exhibit themselves
to-day!” and with this convincing remark, he ordered our return.

As we filed away from the narrow gorge, those left in rear reported
“Indians!” Instinctively turning, we discovered on the _opposite_
side of the river, a half dozen or more, not encumbered with any kind
of garment. A halt was called, and Chandler and a number of others
instantly raised their rifles for a shot. They were within range, for
the cañon was here quite narrow, but the Captain promptly said: “No
firing, men! I am anxious for success, but would rather go back without
a captive, than have one of those Indians killed, unless,” he added
after a moment’s pause, “they are fools enough to shoot at us.” Just
at the conclusion of this order, and as if in burlesque applause of
the sentiment expressed by the Captain, the savages commenced slapping
their naked swarthy bodies in a derisive manner.

The laugh of our men was parried by the Captain, and although annoyed
by this unexpected demonstration, he laughingly remarked that he had
never before been so _peculiarly_ applauded for anything he had ever
said. The absurdity of the scene restored us all to a better humor.
Again the order was given to march, and we resumed our course down
the cañon, with the renewed demonstrations of the Indians. The orders
of the Captain alone prevented a return _salute_, which would have
promptly checked their offensive demonstrations.

At the precipice, which we had so guardedly passed on our way up the
cañon, we came near losing our Captain. In passing this locality he
made a mis-step, and slipped towards the yawning abyss at the foot
of the cliff; but for a small pine that had been “moored in the
rifted rock,” no earthly power could have saved him from being dashed
to the bottom. He fortunately escaped with some severe bruises, a
lacerated elbow and a sprained wrist. This accident and our tired and
disappointed condition, gave a more serious appearance to our line,
and a more sombre tone to our conversations than was usual. We reached
camp in a condition, however, to appreciate the supper prepared by our

It was not until after we had partaken of a hearty supper and produced
our pipes, that the lively hum of conversation and the occasional
careless laughter indicated the elastic temperament of some of the
hardy, light-hearted, if not light-headed, “boys,” while in camp. The
guard was duly detailed, and the signal given to turn in, but not
authoritatively; and tired as we were, many of us sat quite late around
the camp-fires on that evening. The excitements and disappointments
of our recent excursion did not prove to be promoters of sleep; some
of us were too tired to sleep until we had somewhat rested from our
unusual fatigue. The events of the day–the _true method of subduing
Indians_, and the probable results of the plans proposed by Captain
Boling for future operations in this vicinity, were the general topics
of conversation among the different groups. This general inclination
to discuss the “peace policy” of the commissioners and the plans of
our officers, did not arise from anything like a mutinous disposition,
nor from any motives having in view the least opposition to any of the
measures connected with the campaign in which we were then engaged.

We had expected that this tribe would resist our invasion of their
territory and show fight. In this we had been disappointed. The
self-confident and experienced mountain men, and the ex-rangers
from the Texan plains, felt annoyed that these Indians had escaped
when almost within range of our rifles. Our feelings–as a military
organization–were irritated by the successful manner in which they
had eluded our pursuit, and thrown us from their trail. _We had been
outwitted by these ignorant Indians_; but as individuals, no one seemed
inclined to acknowledge it; our lack of success was attributed to the
restraints imposed on the free movements of our organization by orders
of the commissioners. Although none designed to censure our Captain
for his failure, the free speech intimations, that we might have been
successful, if Major Savage had remained to aid us with his knowledge,
was not soothing to the Captain’s already wounded pride. The popularity
of Captain Boling was not affected by our camp-fire discussion. Had
a charge, or intimation even, been made by any one of incapacity or
neglect of duty in our free expressions, the personal safety of the
individual would have been immediately endangered; although no excess
of modesty was observed in expressing opinions. Lieut. Chandler was at
our own fire, and our officers talked over the solution of the enigma
in a quiet conversational tone. The usual cheerful countenance of
the Captain had a more serious expression. His attention was as much
attracted to the groups around us, as to the remarks of Lt. Chandler.

The energetic Lieutenant was our most rigid disciplinarian when on
duty. His fearless impetuosity in the execution of all his duties,
made him a favorite with the more reckless spirits; his blunt and
earnest manner excited their admiration; for, though possessed of a
sublime egotism, he was entirely free from arrogance. Instead of his
usual cheerful and agreeable conversation, he was almost morosely
taciturn; he refilled his capacious mouth with choice Virginia, and
settled back against the wood-pile. After listening to us for a while,
he said: “I am heartily sick of this Quaker-style of subduing Indians.
So far,–since our muster-in–we have had plenty of hard work and
rough experience, with no honor or profit attending it all. We might
as well be armed with clubs like any other police.” There was none in
our group disposed to dispute the assertion of Chandler. As a body, we
were anxiously desirous of bringing the Indian troubles to a close as
soon as it could be practically accomplished. Many of us had suffered
pecuniarily from the depredations of these Mountain tribes, and had
volunteered to aid in subduing them, that we might be able to resume
our mining operations in peace. Many of us had left our own profitable
private business to engage in these campaigns for the public good,
expecting that a vigorous prosecution of the war would soon bring it to
a close. I will here say that some sensational newspaper correspondents
took it upon themselves to condemn this effort made by the settlers
to control these mountain tribes, which had become so dangerous;
charging the settlers with having excited a war, and to have involved
the government in an unneccessary expense, for the purpose of reaping
pecuniary benefits; and that our battalion had been organized to afford
occupation to adventurous idlers, for the pay afforded. Knowing the
ignorance that obtains in regard to real Indian character, and the
mistaken philanthropy that would excuse and probably even protect and
lionize murderers, because they were _Indians_; but little attention
was at first paid to these falsely slanderous articles, until one was
published, so personally offensive, and with such a false basis of
statement, that Captain Boling felt it his duty to call for the name of
its author. His name was given by the editor of the paper on a formal
demand being made. The Captain then _intimated_ through a friend, that
a public retraction of the article was desirable. In due time, the
Captain received a very satisfactory apology, and a slip of a published
retraction of the offensive correspondence. The investigation developed
the fact that the writer–who was an Eastern philanthropist–had been
played upon by certain parties in Stockton, who had failed to get the
contract to supply the battalion.

At an adjoining fire a long-haired Texan was ventilating his professed
experience in the management of Indians “down thar.” Observing that
Captain Boling was within hearing of his criticism, he turned, and
without any intentional disrespect, said: “Cap., you orter a let me
plunk it to one o’ them red skins up in the cañon thar. I’d a bin good
for one, sure; and if I’d a had my way o’ treatin’ with Injuns, Cap., I
reckon I’d a made a few o’ them squawk by this time.”

Captain Boling was suffering from his bruises and sprained wrist, and
he evidently was not pleased to hear these liberal criticisms, but
knowing the element by which he was surrounded, he did not forget
the policy of conciliating it in order to prevent any feelings of
discontent from arising so soon after having assumed full command.
He therefore quickly replied: “I have no especial regard for these
Chow-chillas; you are probably aware of that, Jack; but the orders and
instructions of the Commissioners will have to be disregarded if we
shoot them down at sight. It would have been almost like deliberate
murder to have killed those naked Indians to-day, because, Jack, you
know _just_ what you can do with that rifle of yours. If you had fired
you knew you was sure to kill; but the Indians did not know the danger
there was in coming inside your range. It was lucky for the cowards
that you did not shoot.” This allusion to the Texan’s skill with
his rifle disposed of the subject as far as he was concerned, for he
“turned in,” while a broad grin showed his satisfaction as he replied,
“I reckon you’re about on the right trail now, Cap,” and disappeared
under his blanket.

Captain Boling sat for some time apparently watching the blazing logs
before him. He took no part in the discussion of Indian affairs, which
continued to be the engrossing subject among the wakeful ones, whose
numbers gradually diminished until Spencer and one or two others beside
myself only remained at our fire. The Captain then said: “I do not
despair of success in causing this tribe to make peace, although I
cannot see any very flattering prospects of our being able to corral
them, or force an immediate surrender. They do not seem inclined to
fight us, and we cannot follow them among the rocks in those almost
impassable cañons with any probability of taking them. Bare-footed they
rapidly pass without danger over slippery rocks that we, leather-shod,
can only pass at the peril of our lives. My mishap of to-day is but a
single illustration of many that would follow were we to attempt to
chase them along the dizzy heights they pass over. Being lightly clad,
or not at all, they swim the river to and fro at will, and thus render
futile any attempt to pursue them up the river, unless we divide the
force and beat up on both sides at the same time. I have thought this
matter over, and have reached the conclusion that, unless some lucky
accident throws them into our hands, I see but one course to pursue,
and that is to destroy their camps and supplies, and then return to

After having had the bandages arranged on his swollen arm he bade
us good night, and sought such repose as his bruised limbs and
disappointed ambition would permit. Having ended our discussions,
we came to the sage conclusion that Captain Boling was in command,
and duty required our obedience to his orders. Satisfied with this
decision, we readily dropped off to sleep.

The next morning the usual jocular hilarity seemed to prevail in camp.
A refreshing slumber had seemingly given renewed vigor to the tired
explorers of the rough trail up the cañon. The camp guard assigned
to duty at “our ferry” were on duty during the night, so that the
breakfast call was promptly responded to with appetites unimpaired.
Captain Boling’s arm was dressed and found to be somewhat improved in
appearance, though very sore. He would not consent to remain in camp,
and ordered his horse to be saddled after breakfast. Before the morning
sun had risen we were in our saddles, endeavoring to explore the region
north of the San Joaquin. Small detachments were detailed from both
companies to explore, on foot, up the South Fork, and the territory
adjacent. Upon the return of this command, their report showed that
quite a large number of Indians had passed over that stream, though
none were seen. A considerable supply of acorns was found and destroyed
by this expedition; but after they left the oak table-land, near the
fork, they reported the country to the east to be about as forbidding
as that on the main river. Captain Boling detailed a few footmen to
scatter over the country on the north side, to burn any _cachés_ they
might find, while we on horseback swept farther north, towards the
Black Ridge. We found the soil soft and yielding, and in places it
was with difficulty that our weak, grass-fed animals could pass over
the water-soaked land, even after we had dismounted. I thought this
boggy ground, hard enough later in the season, another obstacle to a
successful pursuit, and so expressed myself to the Captain. I told him
that in ’49 I stayed over night with Mr. Livermore of the Livermore
Pass, and that now I fully comprehended why he thought the mountain
tribes could not be entirely subdued, because, as he said, “they will
not fight except sure of victory, and cannot be caught.”

Mr. Livermore said he had followed up several raiding parties of
Indians who were driving off stock they had stolen from the Ranchos,
but only upon one occasion did they make a bold stand, when his party
was driven back, overcome by numbers. Captain Boling was silent for
some time, and then said: “Perhaps after all I have done these Indians
injustice in calling them cowards; probably they feel that they are not
called upon to fight and lose any of their braves, when by strategy
they can foil and elude us. Human nature is about alike in war as in
other things; it is governed by what it conceives to be its interest.”


There were in the country we passed over, some beautiful mountain
meadows and most luxuriant forests, and some of the sloping table lands
looked like the ornamental parks of an extensive domain. These oak-clad
tables and ridges, were the harvest fields of the San Joaquin Indians,
and in their vicinity we found an occasional group of deserted huts.
These, with their adjacent supplies of acorns, were at once given to
the flames. The acorns found and destroyed by the scouting parties,
were variously estimated at from eight hundred to one thousand
bushels; beside the supply of Piñon pine-nuts and other supplies
hoarded for future use. The pine-nuts were not all destroyed by fire;
most of them were confiscated, and served as a dessert to many a roast.

From the total amount of acorns estimated to have been destroyed, their
supplies were comparatively small, or the number of Indians on the San
Joaquin had been, as in other localities, vastly overrated. Our search
was thoroughly made–the explorations from day to day, extending from
our camps over the whole country to an altitude above the growth of
the oaks. During these expeditions, not an Indian was seen after those
noticed on the upper San Joaquin; but fresh signs were often discovered
and followed, only to be traced to the rocky cañons above where, like
deceptive “_ignes fatui_,” they disappeared.

Being allowed the largest liberty as surgeon to the expedition, I had
ample time to examine the various things found in their camps, and
obtain from Sandino all the information I could concerning them. The
stone arrow-heads and their manufacture, especially interested me. I
found considerable quantities of the crude material from which they
were made, with many other articles brought from other localities,
such as resin, feathers, skins, pumice-stone, salt, etc., used in the
manufacture of their implements of war, and for the chase as well as
for domestic uses.

At this time but few guns were in the possession of these mountain
tribes. Their chief weapons of war and for the chase were bows and
arrows. With these they were very expert at short range, and to make
their weapons effective were disposed to lay in ambush in war, and
upon the trails of their game. Their bows were made from a species of
yew peculiar to the West, from cedar and from a spinated evergreen
tree, rare in Southern California, which, for want of scientific
classification, I gave the name of “nutmeg pine.” It bears a nut
resembling in general appearance that agreeable spice, while the
covering or pulpy shell looks very much like mace. The nut is, however,
strongly impregnated with resin. The leaves are long, hard, and so
sharp that the points will pierce the flesh like sharp steel. The wood
is stronger and more elastic than either the yew, cedar or fir. It is
susceptible of a fine polish. I made a discovery of a small cluster
of this species of tree at the foot of the cascades in the cañon, two
miles below the Yosemite valley, while engaged in a survey of that

The shafts of their arrows are made of reeds, and from different
species of wood, but the choicest are made of what is called Indian
arrow-wood (Le Hamite). This wood is only found in dark ravines and
deep rocky cañons in the mountains, as it seems to require dampness and
shade. Its scarcity makes the young shoots of a proper growth a very
valuable article of barter between the mountain tribes and those of the
valleys and plains. A locality in the Yosemite valley once famous for
its supply of this arrow-wood, was the ravine called by the Yosemites
“Le Hamite,” (as we might say “the oaks,” or “the pines,”) but which is
now designated as “Indian Cañon.”

Their arrow-shafts are first suitably shaped, and then polished between
pieces of pumice stone. This stone was also used in fashioning and
polishing their bows, spear-shafts and war clubs. Pumice stone is
found in abundance in the volcanic regions of California and Oregon,
and east of the Sierra Nevada. The quality of the best observed by me,
was much finer and lighter than that seen in the shops as an article
of commerce. The arrow heads are secured to the shaft by threads of
sinew, and a species of cement used for that and other purposes. The
arrow-heads made and in most common use by the California Indians, as
well as by many other tribes in the mountain ranges of the West and
Southwest, are of the same shape and general appearance, and of similar
material, with the exception of obsidian and old junk bottles, as the
arrow heads found in all parts of the United States. They have been
generally supposed to have been made and used by the pre-historic races
that once inhabited this continent. The bow and arrows were in common
use by the aborigines when America was first discovered, and their use
has been continued to the present time among the tribes whose limited
territories were not to any extent intruded upon by the whites.

The Indians of California, unlike those of Southern Mexico and South
America, who use the woorara (strychnos toxifera), poison their
arrow-heads with the poison of the rattlesnake. Some animal’s liver is
saturated with the poison and left until it reaches a state of thorough
decomposition, when the barbs are plunged into the festering mass,
withdrawn and dried. The gelatinous condition of the liver causes the
poison to adhere to the stone, and the strength of the poison is thus
preserved for some days. Only those arrow-heads that are inserted into
a socket, and held in place by cement, are thus poisoned. These are
easily detached after striking an object (the concussion shattering the
cement, and the play of the shaft loosening the barb), and are left to
rankle in the wound.

According to Russio, however, this practice is now seldom resorted to,
except in revenge for some great or fancied injury, or by the more
malignant of a tribe, Indian policy seeming to discountenance a former

The introduction of fire arms among them, has been from the frontiers
of civilization. The “_flint_,” or more properly cherty rock, when
first quarried, is brittle and readily split and broken into the
desired shapes required, even with the rude implements used by the
Indians; though it is not probable that any but themselves could use
them, as considerable skill seems to be required. The tool commonly
used in the manufacture of arrow-heads, is a species of hammer or pick,
made by fastening the sharp prong of a deer’s horn to a long stick.

With these instruments of various sizes laminated pieces of rock are
separated, such as slate, with quartz in filtrations, and scales
are chipped from rocks, volcanic and other glass, with a skill that
challenges admiration. Stone hammers, or pieces of hard stone, were
secured by withes and used in some of the processes of flaking; and
I have been assured that steel implements have been stolen from the
miners and used for the same purpose, but I never saw them used.
Arrow-heads were found, made from bones, from chert, obsidian or
volcanic glass, and even old junk bottles, obtained for the purpose,
during their gushing days, from the deserted camps of the libative

The most approved fire-arms are now found among many of the western
tribes, where but a few years ago bows and arrows were in common use.
Although these hereditary implements of war and of the chase are almost
wholly discarded, occasionally an old-fashioned Indian may be seen,
armed with his bow and arrows, his fire-stick a foot long, occupying
the hole punctured in the lobe of one ear, and his reed-pipe filling
the like position in the other, while his skunk-skin pouch contained
his kin-ne-kin-nick, a piece of spunk and dry charred cedar, on which a
light was obtained by rapid friction with his fire-stick. This method
of procuring fire, has, even among the Indians, been superseded by the
flint and steel, and they in turn by the labor-saving friction matches.

I have, however, recently witnessed the process of lighting a fire by
this primitive process, among the priests of the Winnebago and other
eastern tribes, who still use and preserve the fire-stick in making
fire for their sacred rites, during which they chant in a traditionary
Indian dead language, an interpretation of which they do not pretend
they are able to make. The priests told me that bad spirits would
interfere with their ministrations if they did not preserve the customs
of their fathers, and that the dead language made their ceremonies all
the more impressive and awe-inspiring to their auditors.

During our explorations up the San Joaquin and branches, the rapidly
melting snow on the mountains above flooded the streams which we were
required to cross in our excursions, and we were often compelled from
this cause to leave our horses and proceed on foot; hence our work was
toilsome and slow.

[Illustration: FIRE STICK AS USED.]

As soon as Captain Boling was satisfied that we had accomplished, in
this locality, all that could be expected of his command, we started
for head-quarters. The route selected for our return was by way of
“Fine Gold Gulch,” and down the San Joaquin to a camp opposite the site
of Fort Miller, that was about being established for the protection of
the settlers. This was done upon recommendation of the commissioners.

A few days after our return from the campaign against the
Chow-chil-las, a small delegation from a Kah-we-ah band on King’s river
was sent in by Captain Kuykendall, whose energy had subdued nearly
all of the Indians in his department. The chief of this band informed
Major Savage that Tom-kit and Frederico, successors in authority to
Jose Rey, had visited his camp, and had reported that they were very
hungry. They came, they said, to hold a council. The chief told the
Major that he had advised them to come in with him and make a treaty,
but they refused. They said the white man’s “medicine” was too powerful
for them; but if their great chief had not died, he would have driven
the white men from the mountains, for he was “a heap wise.” The white
soldiers had killed their great chief; they had killed many of their
best warriors; they had burned up their huts and villages and destroyed
their supplies, and had tried to drive their people from their
territory, and they would kill their women and children if they did not
hide them where they could not be found; and much more in a similar

A small supply of acorns had been given these fugitives, and when the
chief left, they had promised to return and hear what the commissioners
had said. Major Savage reported this, and with the commissioners’
approval, decided to return with the Kah-we-ah chief and meet in
counsel with the Chow-chil-las. He took with him sufficient “beef” on
foot to give the Indians a grand feast, which lasted several days;
during which time arrangements were completed for treaties with all of
the remaining bands of the Kah-we-ah tribe, and with the Chow-chillas.
The result of the Major’s negotiations were in the highest degree
satisfactory. Captain Boling, however, claimed some of the honor, for,
said he, I defeated the Chow-chillas by _firing at long range_.

This once turbulent and uncompromising tribe became the most tractable
of the mountain Indians. They were superior in all respects to those of
most other tribes. They had intimate relations with the Monos, a light
colored race as compared with the Valley or Kah-we-ah tribe, and were
very expert in the manufacture and use of the bow and arrow. The Mono’s
had intermarried with the Chow-chil-las, and they aided them in their
intercourse with the Pah-u-tes in their barter for salt, obsidian, lava
and other commodities. The Chow-chil-las now being disposed of, and a
treaty signed by the other tribes, it was decided by the commissioners
that our next expedition should be against the Yo-sem-i-tes. This
had been recommended by Major Savage as the only practical method of
effecting any terms with their old Chief. Every inducement had been
offered them that had been successful with the others; but had been
treated with contempt. The liberal supplies of beef they refused,
saying they preferred horse-flesh. The half-civilized garbs and gaudy
presents tendered at the agency were scorned by Ten-ie-ya as being no
recompense for relinquishing the freedom of his mountain home. Major
Savage announced that the expedition would start as soon as the floods
had somewhat subsided, so that the streams could be crossed. As for
ourselves, we had learned to take advantage of any narrow place in a
stream, and by means of ropes stretched for feet and hands, we crossed
without difficulty streams that we could not ford with horses. As this
delay would allow an opportunity for some of the battalion to see to
such private business as required their attention, short furloughs were
granted to those most anxious to improve this occasion.

While the companies of Captains Boling and Dill were exploring the
vicinities of the Merced and San Joaquin in search of Indians, Captain
Kuykendall, with the able support of his Lieutenants and his company,
were actively engaged in the same duties south of the San Joaquin.
Captain Kuykendall vigorously operated in the valleys, foot-hills and
mountains of the King’s and Kah-we-ah rivers, and those of the smaller
streams south. The Indians of Kern river, owing to the influence of a
mission Chief, “Don-Vincente,” who had a plantation at the Tehon pass,
remained peaceful, and were not disturbed. The success of Captain
Kuykendall’s campaigns enabled the commissioners to make treaties with
all the tribes within the Tulare valley, and those that occupied the
region south of the San Joaquin river.

Owing to lapse of time since these events, and other causes, I am
unable to do justice to him, or the officers and men under him. My
personal recollections of the incidents of his explorations, were
acquired while exchanging stories around camp fires. Operating as they
did, among the most inaccessible mountains in California, with but one
company, they successfully accomplished the duties assigned them.

It was supposed that some of the tribes and bands among whom they
were sent were extremely hostile to the whites, and that they would
combine and resist their approach; but after a single engagement on
King’s river, the Indians were put to flight without the loss of a
man, and could not be induced to hazard another like encounter. The
plans of operation were similar to those of Captains Boling and Dill:
the destruction of the camps of all who refused to come in and have a
talk with the commissioners. Captain Kuykendall’s company found these
people almost without fire-arms and civilized clothing of any kind, and
depending wholly on their bows and arrows. Except in the vicinity of
King’s and Kah-we-ah rivers, the savages were scattered over a large
range of country. Their camps were generally in the valleys and among
the foot-hills; when alarmed, they fled to the rocky cañons among the
mountains. In one of our conversations, during a visit of Captain
Kuykendall to the Fresno, he said: “When we first started out, we
learned from our scouts and guides, that a large body of Indians had
collected well up on King’s river. Making a rapid march, we found, on
arriving in sight, that they were inclined to give us battle. We at
once charged into their camp, routed and killed a number, while others
were ridden down and taken prisoners. We followed the fugitives, making
a running fight, until compelled to leave our horses, when they eluded
pursuit. Not yet discouraged, we followed on toward the head waters
of the Kah-we-ah, seeing occasionally, upon a ridge just ahead of us,
groups of Indians; but upon our reaching _that_ locality, they were
resting on the _next ridge_; and as we came into view, turned their
backs upon us, applauding our efforts to overtake them, in a very
_peculiar_ manner. They fled into a worse country than anything before
seen in our explorations, and I soon perceived the folly of attempting
to follow them longer. As to this region east and southeast of the
termination of our pursuit, I have only this to say, that it is simply
indescribable. I did not see any ‘_dead Indians_’ after leaving the
village, and during the pursuit, although some of the boys were sure
they had ‘fetched their man.’ It is certain that a number were killed
in the assault, but how many, we were unable to ascertain, for upon our
return, as usual, the dead had been carried off. We lost no men in the
fight, and had but one wounded. The wound was very painful, having been
inflicted by one of the glass arrow-heads that it is designed shall be
left rankling in the wound; but after that was extracted, the wound
soon healed without serious results.”

After this chase on foot into the “High Sierras,” the operations of
Capt. Kuykendall were more limited, for, as he had stated, he regarded
it as the height of folly to attempt to follow the lightly-armed
and lighter clad “hostiles” with cavalry, into their rocky mountain
retreats. In the saddle, except a few sailors in his company, his men
felt at home, and were willing to perform any amount of severe duty,
however dangerous or difficult it might be, but on foot, the Texans,
especially, were like “Jack ashore, without anything to steer by.”
When required to take a few days, provisions and their blankets on
their backs, their efforts, like those of our command, were not very
effective, so far as catching the natives was concerned. These foot
expeditions were designed by the officers to keep the enemy alarmed,
and in the cold regions, while their supplies were being destroyed by
the mounted force ranging below. By this strategy, Captain Kuykendall
kept his men constantly occupied, and at the same time displayed his
genius as a soldier.

His foot expeditions were generally made by a few enthusiastic scouts,
who were as much induced to volunteer to perform this duty from a love
of nature as from a desire to fight. Here were found

“The palaces of Nature, whose vast walls
Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps,
And throned eternity in icy halls
Of cold sublimity, where forms and falls
The avalanche–the thunderbolt of snow!
All that expands the spirit, yet appals,
Gather around these summits, as to show
How earth may pierce to Heaven, yet leave vain man below.”

The stories told by the men in Kuykendall’s command were received with
doubts, or as exaggerations. Their descriptions represented deeper
valleys and higher cliffs than had been seen and described by scouts
of the other companies. It was intimated by us, who had previously
described the region of the Yosemite, “that the man who told the first
story in California stood a poor chance.” Having read Professor J. D.
Whitney’s reports of that region, I can better appreciate the reports
of Captain Kuykendall and those under him, of the character of the
mountain territory to which they had been assigned. Mr. Whitney, State
Geologist, in speaking of the geological survey of this vicinity, says:
“Of the terrible grandeur of the region embraced in this portion of
the Sierra, it is hardly possible to convey any idea. Mr. Gardner,
in his notes of the view from Mount Brewer, thus enumerates some of
the most striking features of the scene: ‘Cañons from two to five
thousand feet deep, between thin ridges topped with pinnacles sharp as
needles; successions of great crater-like amphitheatres, with crowning
precipices, over-sweeping snow-fields and frozen lakes, everywhere
naked and shattered granite without a sign of vegetation, except where
a few gnarled and storm-beaten pines … cling to the rocks in the
deeper cañons; such were the elements of the scene we looked down upon,
while cold gray clouds were drifting overhead.’”

This description applies more properly to the territory east of any
point reached by Captain Kuykendall, but it verifies the statements
made by him and those of some of his men.

While on our second expedition to the Yosemite, some of Captain
Kuykendall’s company, who had come to headquarters and had been
allowed the privileges, volunteered to accompany our supply train,
as they said: “To see what kind of a country we were staying in.”
One, an enthusiastic lover of nature, said on his return: “The King’s
river country, and the territory southeast of it, beats the Yosemite
in terrific grandeur, but in sublime beauty you have got us.” As the
furloughs granted to the members of B. and C. companies expired, all
promptly reported for duty, and preparations were completed for another
campaign against the Yosemites.

Captain Dill, with part of his company, was retained on duty at
headquarters, while Lt. Gilbert with a detachment of C. Company, was
ordered to report for duty to Captain Boling. Dr. Pfifer was placed in
charge of a temporary hospital, erected for the use of the battalion.
Surgeon Bronson had resigned, preferring the profits received from
his negro slaves, who were then mining on Sherlock’s creek to all
the romance of Indian warfare. The doctor was a clever and genial
gentleman, but a poor mountaineer. Doctor Lewis Leach was appointed to
fill the vacancy. Doctor Black was ordered to duty with Captain Boling.
Major Savage offered me a position, and it was urged upon me by Captain
Boling, but having a number of men engaged in a mining enterprise, in
which Spencer and myself were interested, we had mutually agreed to
decline all office. Beside this, when Mr. Spencer and myself entered
into service together, it was with the expectation that we would soon
be again at liberty. But once in the service, our personal pride
and love of adventure would not allow us to become _subordinate_ by
accepting office.

As it was the design of Major Savage to make a thorough search in the
territory surrounding the Yosemite, if we failed in surprising the
inhabitants in their valley, a few scouts and guides were provided
for the expedition to aid in our search among the “High Sierras,” so
distinctively named by Prof. Whitney. Among our ample supplies ropes
were furnished, by order of Major Savage, suitable for floats, and for
establishing bridges where needed. These bridges were suggested by
myself, and were useful as a support while passing through swift water,
or for crossing narrow but rushing torrents. This was accomplished
expeditiously by simply stretching “_taut_” two ropes, one above the
other, the upper rope, grasped by the hands, serving to secure the safe
passage of the stream. Where trees were not found in suitable position
to make the suspension, poles were lashed together so as to form
_shears_, which served for trestles. I also suggested that snow-shoes
could probably be used with advantage on our mountain excursions. The
use of these I found entirely unknown, except to Major Savage and a
few other eastern men. My experience favored their use, as I had often
found it easier to travel _over_ deep snow than to wallow through it.
My suggestion caused a “_heap_” of merriment, and my friend Chandler
laughed until he became “_powerful weak_,” and finally “I was assailed
by so many shafts of witty raillery from my southern comrades, that I
was willing to retreat, and cry out, ‘hold, enough!’”

The services of Major Savage being indispensable to the Commissioners,
it was decided that the expedition would be under the command of
Captain Boling. In making this announcement, the Major said: he
expected Ten-ie-ya and his people would come in with us if he was
formally invited, and a sufficient escort provided. Captain Boling
very seriously assured the Major, that if the Yosemites accepted the
invitation, he should endeavor to make the trip a _secure_ one; there
should be no neglect on the part of the escort if suitable _supplies_
were provided for subsistence. Major Savage laughingly replied that as
the expedition would be under the especial command of Captain Boling,
he had no fears that ample supplies would not be provided.

Our preparations being made, we again started for the Merced in search
of the Yosemites. It was the design of Capt. Boling to surprise the
Indians if possible, and if not, to cut off the escape of their women
and children, the capture of whom, would soon bring the warriors to
terms. With this plan in view, and leaving Chandler virtually in
command of the column, we made a rapid march direct for their valley,
crossing the streams without much difficulty, and without accident.

The advance, consisting of Captain Boling with a small detachment,
and some of the scouts, quietly entered the valley, but no Indians
were seen. A few new wigwams had been built on the south side near
the lower ford, to better guard the entrance as was supposed. Without
halting, except to glance at the vacant huts, the advance rode rapidly
on, following a trail up the south side, which our Pohonochee guide
informed the captain was a good trail.

On entering the valley and seeing the deserted wigwams I reached the
conclusion that our approach had been heralded. As my military ardor
subsided, my enthusiastic love of the beautiful returned to me, and I
halted a moment to take a general view of the scenery; intending also
to direct the column up the south side. While waiting for Chandler, I
examined the huts, and found several bushels of scorched acorns that
had been divested of their covering, as if for transportation. I knew
that the natives had no more fondness for burnt acorns than Yankees
have for burnt beans, and the interpreter Sandino, who was with me at
this moment, muttered in Indian Spanish, “Yosemite very poor–no got
much eat; acorns, fire burn–pull ’em out.” In one of the huts we found
a young dog, a miserable cur that barked his affright at our approach,
and fled into the brush near by. I told Lt. Chandler of the directions
left for his guidance, and as he expressed his intention to bring up
the rear of the column into closer order, I received permission to move
slowly on with his advance, consisting of Firebaugh, Spencer, French,
Fisher, Stone, a few others and myself. We were soon overtaken by
Chandler, who had given his orders to the rear-guard. As we rode along,
I reported the conclusions of Sandino and my knowledge of the fact that
nearly all the acorns had been burnt. I also told him what Sandino
had previously said, that the Indians took the shells off the acorns
they carried over the mountains, and from this cause, thought the
hulled acorns found were designed for a distant transportation. Again
referring the matter to Sandino, who was called up for the purpose,
he said, “No fire when take off skin; no like ’em; Yosemite close by,
want ’em acorn.” Upon telling Chandler that Sandino’s opinion was that
the acorns found were saved from some of the burning supplies fired at
our first visit, and that the Yosemites were transporting them to some
mountain retreat, the Lieutenant could not credit it, and said that
“Sandino’s opinions are unreliable.”

Sandino was not popular, either with our officers or with the “boys.”
Captain Boling doubted his integrity, while Chandler said he was a most
arrant coward and afraid of the wild Indians. Chandler was right; but,
nevertheless, Sandino told us many truths. At times his timidity and
superstition were very annoying; but if reproved, he became the more
confused, and said that many questions made his head ache; _a very
common answer to one in search of knowledge among Indians_. Sandino
had been sent along by the Major as our interpreter, but a Spanish
interpreter was necessary to make him of any use. As a scout he was
inferior–almost useless. We afterwards found that Sandino’s surmises
were true. It was evident that the fire had been extinguished at
some of the large heaps, and many acorns saved, though in a damaged

As we rode on up the valley, I became more observant of the scenery
than watchful for signs, when suddenly my attention was attracted by
shadowy objects flitting past rocks and trees on the north side, some
distance above El Capitan. Halting, I caught a glimpse of Indians
as they passed an open space opposite to us. Seeing that they were
discovered, they made no further efforts to hide their movements, but
came out into open view, at long rifle range. There were five of them.
They saluted us with taunting gestures, and fearlessly kept pace with
us as we resumed our march. The river was here a foaming impassable
torrent. The warriors looked with great indifference on our repeated
efforts to discover a fording place. As we approached a stretch of
comparatively smooth water, I made known to Chandler my intention
of swimming the stream to capture them. His answer was: “Bully for
you, Doc; take ’em, if you can, alive, but take ’em _anyhow_.” I
started with Spencer, Firebaugh, French, young Stone and two others,
for a sloping bank where our animals would most willingly enter the
stream; but Stone spurred passed me as we reached the bank, and when
Firebaugh’s mulish mustang refused the water, though given the spur,
and all the other mules refused to leave the horse, Stone backed his
mule over the bank, and we swam our mules after the “boy leader” across
the Merced.




(3,850 feet in height.)]

The Indians, alarmed by this unexpected movement, fled up the valley
at the top of their speed. By the time we had crossed, they had nearly
reached a bend in the river above on the north side. We followed
at our best gait, but found the trail obstructed by a mass of what
then appeared to be recently fallen rocks. Without hesitation, we
abandoned our mules, and continued the pursuit on foot, up to the rocky
spur known as the “Three Brothers,” where entering the Talus, they
disappeared. Find them, we could not. The obstructing rocks on the old
north side trail were known as “We-äck,” “The Rocks,” and understood
to mean the “fallen rocks,” because, according to traditions they
had fallen _upon_ the old trail. The modern trail for horses crossed
the stream a short distance below, where there was a very good ford
in a lower stage of water, but at this time, the early part of May,
the volume of water rushing down the Merced was astonishing. We had
crossed readily enough in the heat of excitement; but it was with
feelings of reluctance that we re-entered the cold water and swam our
mules back to where a few of our comrades had halted on the south side.

Mr. Firebaugh, having failed to get his mustang to follow us, had run
him up on the south side as if to cut off the fugitives, and saw them
hide behind a ledge of rocks.

When informed of the situation, Capt. Boling crossed to the north
side and came down to the ledge where the scouts were hidden; but the
Captain could scarcely at first credit Firebaugh’s statement, that he
had seen them climb up the cliff. Our Indian scouts were sent up to
hunt out the hidden warriors, and through the means of fair promises,
if they came down voluntarily, Captain Boling succeeded in bringing in
the five Indians. Three of the captives were known to us, being sons of
Ten-ie-ya, one of whom was afterwards killed; the other two were young
braves, the wife of one being a daughter of the old chief. The Indian
name for the three rocky peaks near which this capture was made was not
then known to any of our battalion, but from the strange coincidence
of three brothers being made prisoners so near them, we designated the
peaks as the “Three Brothers.” I soon learned that they were called by
the Indians “Kom-po-pai-zes,” from a fancied resemblance of the peaks
to the heads of frogs when sitting up _ready to leap_. A fanciful
interpretation has been given the Indian name as meaning “mountains
playing leap-frog,” but a literal translation is not desirable.

They hear the plaintive bull-frog to his mistress trilling sweet;
They see the green-robed sirens plunge down in waters deep.
But leap these mountains may not; they watch, with clouded brow,
Return of young Ten-ie-ya–heard not his death’s pow-wow.

Continue Reading


My devout astonishment at the supreme grandeur of the scenery by which
I was surrounded, continued to engross my mind. The warmth of the fires
and preparations for supper, however, awakened in me other sensations,
which rapidly dissipated my excitement. As we rode up, Major Savage
remarked to Capt. Boling, “We had better move on up, and hunt out the
“Grizzlies” before we go into camp for the night. We shall yet have
considerable time to look about this hole before dark.” Captain Boling
then reported that the young guide had halted here, and poured out a
volley of Indian lingo which no one could understand, and had given a
negative shake of his head when the course was pointed out, and signs
were made for him to move on. The Captain, not comprehending this
performance, had followed the trail of the Indians to the bank of the
stream near by, but had not ventured further, thinking it best to wait
for Major Savage to come up. After a few inquiries, the Major said
there was a ford below, where the Indians crossed the Merced; and that
he would go with the guide and examine it. Major Savage and Captains
Boling and Dill then started down to the crossing. They soon returned,
and we were ordered to arrange our camp for the night. Captain Boling
said the Merced was too high to ford. The river had swollen during the
day from the melting of the snow, but would fall again by morning.

The guide had told the Major there was no other way up the valley, as
it was impossible to pass the rocks on the south side of the stream.
From this, it was evident the Major had never before seen the valley,
and upon inquiry, said so. One of our best men, Tunnehill, who had been
listening to what the Captain was saying, very positively remarked: “I
have long since learned to discredit everything told by an Indian. I
never knew one to tell the truth. This imp of Satan has been lying to
the Major, and to me his object is very transparent. He knows a better
ford than the one below us.” A comrade laughingly observed: “Perhaps
you can find it for the Major, and help him give us an evening ride; I
have had all the exercise I need to-day, and feel as hungry as a wolf.”
Without a reply, Tunnehill mounted his little black mule and left at a
gallop. He returned in a short time, at the same rapid gate, but was
in a sorry plight. The mule and rider had unexpectedly taken a plunge
bath in the ice-cold waters of the Merced. As such mishaps excited but
little sympathy, Tunnehill was greeted with: “Hallo! what’s the matter,
comrade?” “Where do you get your washing done?” “Been trying to cool
off that frisky animal, have you?” “Old Ten-ie-ya’s Cañon is not in as
hot a place as we supposed, is it?” “How about the reliability of the
Indian race?” To all these bantering jokes, though in an uncomfortable
plight, Tunnehill, with great good nature, replied: “I am all right!
I believe in orthodox immersion, but this kind of baptism has only
_confirmed_ me in previous convictions.” The shivering mule was rubbed,
blanketed, and provided for, before his master attended to his own
comfort, and then we learned that, in his attempt to explore a way
across the Merced, his mule was swept off its feet, and both were
carried for some distance down the raging torrent.

[Illustration: BRIDAL VEIL FALL.

(630 feet in height.)]

After supper, guards stationed, and the camp fires plentifully provided
for, we gathered around the burning logs of oak and pine, found near
our camp. The hearty supper and cheerful blaze created a general good
feeling. Social converse and anecdotes–mingled with jokes–were
freely exchanged, as we enjoyed the solace of our pipes and warmed
ourselves preparatory to seeking further refreshment in sleep. While
thus engaged, I retained a full consciousness of our locality; for
being in close proximity to the huge cliff that had so attracted my
attention, my mind was frequently drawn away from my comrades. After
the jollity of the camp had somewhat subsided, the valley became the
topic of conversation around our camp fire. None of us at that time,
surmised the extreme vastness of those cliffs; although before dark,
we had seen El Capitan looking down upon our camp, while the “Bridal
Veil” was being wafted in the breeze. Many of us _felt_ the mysterious
grandeur of the scenery, as defined by our limited opportunity to study
it. I had–previous to my descent with the Major–observed the towering
height above us of the old “Rock Chief,” and noticing the length of the
steep descent into the valley, had at least some idea of its solemn

It may appear _sentimental_, but the coarse jokes of the careless,
and the indifference of the practical, sensibly jarred my more devout
feelings, while this subject was a matter of general conversation; as
if a sacred subject had been ruthlessly profaned, or the visible power
of Deity disregarded. After relating my observations from the “Old Bear
Valley Trail,” I suggested that this valley should have an appropriate
name by which to designate it, and in a tone of pleasantry, said to
Tunnehill, who was drying his wet clothing by our fire, “You are the
first white man that ever received any form of baptism in this valley,
and you should be considered the proper person to give a baptismal name
to the valley itself.” He replied, “If whisky can be provided for such
a ceremony, I shall be happy to participate; but if it is to be another
cold water affair, I have no desire to take a hand. I have done enough
in that line for to-night.” Timely jokes and ready repartee for a time
changed the subject, but in the lull of this exciting pastime, some one
remarked, “I like Bunnell’s suggestion of giving this valley a name,
and to-night is a good time to do it.” “All right–if you have got one,
show your hand,” was the response of another. Different names were
proposed, but none were satisfactory to a majority of our circle. Some
romantic and foreign names were offered, but I observed that a very
large number were canonical and Scripture names. From this I inferred
that I was not the only one in whom religious emotions or thoughts had
been aroused by the mysterious power of the surrounding scenery.

As I did not take a fancy to any of the names proposed, I remarked
that “an American name would be the most appropriate;” that “I could
not see any necessity for going to a foreign country for a name for
American scenery–the grandest that had ever yet been looked upon. That
it would be better to give it an Indian name than to import a strange
and inexpressive one; that the name of the tribe who had occupied it,
would be more appropriate than any I had heard suggested.” I then
proposed “that we give the valley the name of Yo-sem-i-ty, as it was
suggestive, euphonious, and certainly _American_; that by so doing,
the name of the tribe of Indians which we met leaving their homes in
this valley, perhaps never to return, would be perpetuated.” I was
here interrupted “Devil take the Indians and their names! Why should
we honor these vagabond murderers by perpetuating their name?” Another
said: “I agree with Tunnehill;—-the Indians and their names. Mad
Anthony’s plan for me! Let’s call this Paradise Valley.” In reply, I
said to the last speaker, “Still, for a young man with such _religious
tendencies_ they would be good objects on which to develop your
Christianity.” Unexpectedly, a hearty laugh was raised, which broke up
further discussion, and before opportunity was given for any others to
object to the name, John O’Neal, a rollicking Texan of Capt. Boling’s
company, vociferously announced to the whole camp the subject of our
discussion, by saying, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! A vote will now be
taken to decide what name shall be given to this valley.” The question
of giving it the name of Yo-sem-i-ty was then explained; and upon
a _viva voce_ vote being taken, it was almost unanimously adopted.
The name that was there and thus adopted by us, while seated around
our camp fires, on the first visit of a white man to this remarkable
locality, is the name by which it is now known to the world.

At the time I proposed this name, the signification of it (a grizzly
bear) was not generally known to our battalion, although “the
grizzlies” was frequently used to designate this tribe. Neither was it
pronounced with uniformity. For a correct pronunciation, Major Savage
was our best authority. He could speak the dialects of most of the
mountain tribes in this part of California, but he confessed that he
could not readily understand Ten-ie-ya, or the Indian guide, as they
appeared to speak a Pai-ute jargon.

Major Savage checked the noisy demonstrations of our “Master of
Ceremonies,” but approvingly participated in our proceedings, and
told us that the name was Yo-sem-i-ty, as pronounced by Ten-ie-ya, or
O-soom-i-ty, as pronounced by some other bands; and that it signified a
full-grown grizzly bear. He further stated, that the name was given to
old Ten-ie-ya’s band, because of their lawless and predatory character.

As I had observed that the different tribes in Mariposa County differed
somewhat in the pronunciation of this name, I asked an explanation of
the fact. With a smile and a look, as if he suspected I was quizzing
him, the Major replied: “They only differ, as do the Swedes, Danes and
Norwegians, or as in the different Shires of England; but you know
well enough how similar in sound words may be of entirely different
meaning, and how much depends on accent. I have found this to be the
greatest difficulty a learner has to contend with.”

After the name had been decided upon, the Major narrated some of his
experiences in the use of the general “sign language”–as a Rocky
Mountain man–and his practice of it when he first came among the
California Indians, until he had acquired their language. The Major
regarded the Kah-we-ah, as the parent language of the San-Joaquin
Valley Indians, while that in use by the other mountain tribes in their
vicinity, were but so many dialects of Kah-we-ah, the Pai-ute and more
Northern tribes. When we sought our repose, it was with feelings of
quiet satisfaction that I wrapped myself in my blankets, and soundly

I consider it proper, to digress somewhat from a regular narrative of
the incidents of our expedition, to consider some matters relative to
the name “Yosemity.” This was the form of orthography and pronunciation
originally in use by our battalion. Lieutenant Moore, of the U. S. A.
in his report of an expedition to the Valley in 1852, substituted
_e_ as the terminal letter, in place of _y_, in use by us; no doubt
thinking the use of _e_ more scholarly, or perhaps supposing Yosemite
to be of Spanish derivation. This orthography has been adopted, and is
in general use, but the proper pronunciation, as a consequence, is not
always attainable to the general reader.

Sometime after the name had been adopted, I learned from Major Savage
that Ten-ie-ya repudiated the name for the Valley, but proudly
acknowledged it as the designation of his band, claiming that “when he
was a young chief, this name had been selected because they occupied
the mountains and valleys which were the favorite resort of the Grizzly
Bears, and because his people were expert in killing them. That his
tribe had adopted the name because those who had bestowed it were
afraid of ‘the Grizzlies’ and feared his band.”

It was traditionary with the other Indians, that the band to which the
name Yosemite had been given, had originally been formed and was then
composed of outlaws or refugees from other tribes. That nearly all were
descendants of the neighboring tribes on both sides of “Kay-o-pha,” or
“_Skye Mountains_;” the “High Sierras.”

Ten-ie-ya was asked concerning this tradition, and responded rather
loftily: “I am the descendant of an Ah-wah-ne-chee chief. His people
lived in the mountains and valley where my people have lived. The
valley was then called Ah-wah-nee. Ah-wah-ne-chee signifies the
dwellers in Ahwahnee.”

I afterwards learned the traditional history of Ten-ie-ya’s ancestors.
His statement was to the effect, that the Ah-wah-ne-chees had many
years ago been a large tribe, and lived in territory now claimed by
him and his people. That by wars, and a fatal black-sickness (probably
smallpox or measles), nearly all had been destroyed. The survivors
of the band fled from the valley and joined other tribes. For years
afterward, the country was uninhabited; but few of the extinct tribe
ever visited it, and from a superstitions fear, it was avoided. Some of
his ancestors had gone to the Mono tribe and been adopted by them. His
father had taken a wife from that tribe. His mother was a Mono woman,
and he had lived with her people while young. Eventually, Ten-ie-ya,
with some of his father’s tribe had visited the valley, and claimed it
as their birth-right. He thus became the founder of the new tribe or
band, which has since been called the “Yosemite.”

It is very probable that the statement of Major Savage, as to the
origin of the name as applicable to Ten-ie-ya’s band; was traditional
with his informants, but I give credit to Ten-ie-ya’s own history of
his tribe as most probable.

From my knowledge of Indian customs, I am aware that it is not uncommon
for them to change the names of persons or localities after some
remarkable event in the history of either. It would not, therefore,
appear strange that Ten-ie-ya should have adopted another name for
his band. I was unable to fix upon any definite date at which the
Ah-wah-ne-chees became extinct as a tribe, but from the fact that some
of the Yosemites claimed to be direct descendants, the time could not
have been as long as would be inferred from their descriptions. When
these facts were communicated to Captain Boling, and Ah-wah-ne was
ascertained to be the _classical_ name, the Captain said that name
was all right enough for history or poetry, but that we could not
now change the name Yosemite, nor was it desirable to do so. I made
every effort to ascertain the signification of Ah-wah-ne, but could
never fully satisfy myself, as I received different interpretations
at different times. In endeavoring to ascertain from Ten-ie-ya his
explanation of the name, he, by the motion of his hands, indicated
depth, while trying to illustrate the name, at the same time plucking
grass which he held up before me. From these “_signs_” I inferred that
it must mean the deep grassy valley. Still, it may not mean that.
Sandino was unable to give its true signification, saying by way of
explanation that Ah-wah-ne was a name of the old tribe, that he did
not know how to translate. Major Savage also said that Ten-ie-ya and a
few of the old Indians in his band used words which he did not fully
understand, and which the others could neither use nor explain.

The dialect of the Yosemites was a composite of that of almost every
tribe around them; and even words of Spanish derivation were discovered
in their conversations.

It is not uncommon for the mountain men and traders, to acquire a mixed
jargon of Indian dialects, which they mingle with Spanish, French or
English in their talk to an extent sometimes amusing. The Indians
readily adopt words from this lingo, and learn to Anglicize Indian
names in conversation with “Americans.” This, when done by the Mission
Indians, who perhaps have already made efforts to improve the Indian
name with Mission Spanish, tends to mislead the inquirer after _“pure”
Indian names_.

The Mission Indians after deserting, introduced and applied Spanish
names to objects that already had Indian designations, and in this way,
new words are formed from corrupted Mission Spanish, that may lead to
wrong interpretations. I learned from Russio, the chief interpreter,
that sometimes more than one word was used to express the same object,
and often one word expressed different objects. As an illustration of
corrupted Spanish that passes for Indian, the words Oya (olla) and
Hoya, may be taken. Oya signifies a water pot, and Hoya, a pit hole.
From these words the Mission Indians have formed “Loya,” which is used
to designate camp grounds where holes in the rocks may be found near,
in which to pulverize acorns, grass seeds, &c., as well as to the
“Sentinel Rock,” from its fancied resemblance to a water pot, or long
water _basket_. Another source of difficulty, is that of representing
by written characters the echoing gutteral sounds of some Indian words.
While being aware of this, I can safely assert that Yosemite, is purer
and better Indian than is Mississippi, (“Me-ze-se-be,” the river that
runs every where; that is, “Endless river”) or many other names that
are regarded as good if not _pure Indian_.[9]

Our interpreters were, or had been, Mission Indians, who rendered
the dialects into as good Spanish as they had at command, but rather
than fail in their office, for want of words, they would occasionally
insert one of their own coining. This was done, regardless of the
consequences, and when chided, declared it was for our benefit they had
done so.

Attempts were made to supersede the name we had given the valley, by
substituting some fancied improvements. At first, I supposed these to
be simply changes rung on Yosemite, but soon observed the earnestness
of the sponsors in advocating the new names, in their magazine and
newspaper articles. They claimed to have acquired the _correct name_
from their Indian guides, employed on their visits to the Yosemite.

In 1855 Mr. J. M. Hutchings, of San Francisco, visited the Yosemite,
and published a description of it, and also published a lithograph of
the Yosemite Fall. Through his energetic efforts, the valley was more
fully advertised. He ambitiously gave it the name of Yo-Hamite, and
tenaciously adhered to it for some time; though Yosemite had already

The Rev. Doctor Scott, of San Francisco, in a newspaper
article–disappointing to his admirers–descriptive of his travels and
sojourn there, endeavored to dispossess both Mr. Hutchings and myself
of our names, and _named_ the valley Yo-Amite: probably as a _peace_
offering to us both.

I did not at first consider it good policy to respond to these
articles. I had no desire to engage in a newspaper controversy with
such influences against me; but after solicitations from Mr. Ayers, and
other friends, I gave the facts upon which were based editorials in
the “California Chronicle,” “Sacramento Union,” the Mariposa and other

By invitation of Mr. Hutchings, I had a personal interview with him in
San Francisco, relative to this matter, and at his request furnished
some of the incidents connected with our expedition against the
Indians, as hereinbefore narrated. These he published in his magazine,
and afterwards in his “Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California.”

This statement of facts was signed by myself, and certified to by
two members of the State legislature–James M. Roan and George H.
Crenshaw–as follows: “We, the undersigned, having been members of
the same company, and through most of the scenes depicted by Doctor
Bunnell, have no hesitation in saying that the article above is

Mr. Hutchings says: “We cheerfully give place to the above
communication, that the public may learn how and by whom this
remarkable valley was first visited and named; and, although we have
differed with the writer and others concerning the name given, as
explained in several articles that have appeared at different times in
the several newspapers of the day, in which Yo-Hamite was preferred;
yet as Mr. Bunnell was among the first to visit the valley, we most
willingly accord to him the right of giving it whatsoever name he

Mr. Hutchings then goes on to explain how he obtained the name
Yo-Hamite from his Indian guide Kos-sum; that its correctness was
affirmed by John Hunt, previous to the publication of the lithograph
of the great falls, etc., and during this explanation, says: “Up to
this time we have never heard or known any other name than Yosemite;”
and farther on in a manly way says: “Had we before known that Doctor
Bunnell and his party were the first whites who ever entered the valley
(although we have the honor of being _the first in later years to
visit it and call public attention to it_), we should long ago have
submitted to the name Doctor Bunnell had given it, as the discoverer of
the valley.”

After my interview with Mr. Hutchings–for I had never heard the
word Yo-Hamite until it was published by him–I asked John Hunt, the
Indian trader referred to, where he had got the word furnished to Mr.
Hutchings. John, with some embarrassment, said, that “Yo-Hem-i-te was
the way his Indians pronounced the name.” I asked what name? “Why,
Yosemite,” said John. But, I replied, you know that the Indian name
for the valley is Ah-wah-ne! and the name given by us was the name
of Ten-ie-ya’s band? “Of course, (said John,) but my Indians now
apply the word Yo-Hemite to the valley or the territory adjacent,
though their name for a bear is Osoomity.” John Hunt’s squaw was
called, and asked by him the meaning of the word, but confessed her
ignorance. Mr. Cunningham was also consulted, but could give us no
certain information; but surmised that the word had been derived from
“Le-Hamite ‘The Arrowwood.’” Another said possibly from “Hem-nock,” the
Kah-we-ah word for God. As to Yo-Amite, insisted on by Doctor Scott, I
made no effort to find an interpretation of it.

The date of our discovery and entrance into the Yosemite was about
the 21st of March, 1851. We were afterward assured by Ten-ie-ya and
others of his band, that this was the first visit ever made to this
valley by white men. Ten-ie-ya said that a small party of white men
once crossed the mountains on the North side, but were so guided as not
to see it; Appleton’s and the People’s Encyclopedias to the contrary

It was to prevent the recurrence of such an event, that Ten-ie-ya had
consented to go to the commissioner’s camp and make peace, intending to
return to his mountain home as soon as the excitement from the recent
outbreak subsided. The entrance to the Valley had ever been carefully
guarded by the old chief, and the people of his band. As a part of its
traditionary history, it was stated: “That when Ten-ie-ya left the
tribe of his mother and went to live in Ah-wah-ne, he was accompanied
by a very old Ah-wah-ne-chee, who had been the great ‘medicine man’ of
his tribe.”

It was through the influence of this old friend of his father that
Ten-ie-ya was induced to leave the Mono tribe, and with a few of
the descendants from the Ah-wah-nee-chees, who had been living with
the Monos and Pai-Utes, to establish himself in the valley of his
ancestors as their chief. He was joined by the descendants from the
Ah-wah-ne-chees, and by others who had fled from their own tribes to
avoid summary Indian justice. The old “medicine man” was the counselor
of the young chief. Not long before the death of this patriarch, as
if endowed with prophetic wisdom, he assured Ten-ie-ya that while he
retained possession of Ah-wah-ne his band would increase in numbers
and become powerful. That if he befriended those who sought his
protection, no other tribe would come to the valley to make war upon
him, or attempt to drive him from it, and if he obeyed his counsels he
would put a spell upon it that would hold it sacred for him and his
people alone; none other would ever dare to make it their home. He then
cautioned the young chief against the horsemen of the lowlands (the
Spanish residents), and declared that, should they enter Ah-wah-ne, his
tribe would soon be scattered and destroyed, or his people be taken
captive, and he himself be the last chief in Ah-wah-ne.

For this reason, Ten-ie-ya declared, had he so rigidly guarded his
valley home, and all who sought his protection. No one ventured to
enter it, except by his permission; all feared the “witches” there, and
his displeasure. He had “made war upon the white gold diggers to drive
them from the mountains, and prevent their entrance into Ah-wah-ne.”

The Yo-sem-i-tes had been the most warlike of the mountain tribes in
this part of California; and the Ah-wah-ne-chee and Mono members of
it, were of finer build and lighter color than those commonly called
“California Digger Indians.” Even the “Diggers” of the band, from
association and the better food and air afforded in the mountains, had
become superior to their inheritance, and as a tribe, the Yosemites
were feared by other Indians.

The superstitious fear of annihilation had, however, so depressed the
warlike ardor of Ten-ie-ya, who had now become an old man, that he
had decided to make efforts to conciliate the Americans, rather than
further resist their occupancy of the mountains; as thereby, he hoped
to save his valley from intrusion. In spite of Ten-ie-ya’s cunning,
the prophecies of the “old medicine” man have been mostly fulfilled.
White horsemen have entered Ah-wah-ne; the tribe has been scattered and
destroyed. Ten-ie-ya was the last chief of his people. He was killed by
the chief of the Monos, not because of the prophecy; nor yet because of
our entrance into his territory, but in retribution for a crime against
the Mono’s hospitality. But I must not, Indian like, tell the latter
part of my story first.

After an early breakfast on the morning following our entrance into the
Yosemite, we equipped ourselves for duty; and as the word was passed to
“fall in,” we mounted and filed down the trail to the lower ford, ready
to commence our explorations.

The water in the Merced had fallen some during the night, but the
stream was still in appearance a raging torrent. As we were about to
cross, our guide with earnest gesticulations asserted that the water
was too deep to cross, that if we attempted it, we would be swept down
into the cañon. That later, we could cross without difficulty. These
assertions angered the Major, and he told the guide that he lied;
for he knew that later in the day the snow would melt. Turning to
Captain Boling he said: “I am now positive that the Indians are in the
vicinity, and for that reason the guide would deceive us.” Telling the
young Indian to remain near his person, he gave the order to cross at

The ford was found to be rocky; but we passed over it without serious
difficulty, although several repeated their morning ablutions while
stumbling over the boulders.

The open ground on the north side was found free from snow. The trail
led toward “El Capitan,” which had from the first, been the particular
object of my admiration.

At this time no distinctive names were known by which to designate the
cliffs, waterfalls, or any of the especial objects of interest, and
the imaginations of some ran wild in search of _appropriate_ ones.
None had any but a limited idea of the height of this cliff, and but
few appeared conscious of the vastness of the granite wall before us;
although an occasional ejaculation betrayed the feelings which the
imperfect comprehension of the grand and wonderful excited. A few of us
remarked upon the great length of time required to pass it, and by so
doing, probably arrived at more or less correct conclusions regarding
its size.

Soon after we crossed the ford, smoke was seen to issue from a cluster
of manzanita shrubs that commanded a view of the trail. On examination,
the smoking brands indicated that it had been a picket fire, and we
now felt assured that our presence was known and our movements watched
by the vigilant Indians we were hoping to find. Moving rapidly on, we
discovered near the base of El Capitan, quite a large collection of
Indian huts, situated near Pigeon creek. On making a hasty examination
of the village and vicinity, no Indians could be found, but from
the generally undisturbed condition of things usually found in an
Indian camp, it was evident that the occupants had but recently left;
appearances indicated that some of the wigwams or huts had been
occupied during the night. Not far from the camp, upon posts, rocks,
and in trees, was a large _caché_ of acorns and other provisions.




(4,737 feet in height.)]

As the trail showed that it had been used by Indians going up, but a
short halt was made. As we moved on, a smoke was again seen in the
distance, and some of the more eager ones dashed ahead of the column,
but as we reached the ford to which we were led by the main trail
leading to the right, our dashing cavaliers rejoined us and again took
their places. These men reported that “fallen rocks” had prevented
their passage up on the north side, and that our only course was to
cross at the ford and follow the trail, as the low lands appeared too
wet for rapid riding. Recrossing the Merced to the south-side, we found
trails leading both up and down the river. A detachment was sent down
to reconnoitre the open land below, while the main column pursued its
course. The smoke we had seen was soon discovered to be rising from
another encampment nearly south of the “Royal Arches;” and at the forks
of the Ten-ie-ya branch of the Merced, near the south-west base of the
“Half Dome,” still another group of huts was brought to view.


(3,568 feet in height.)]

These discoveries necessitated the recrossing of the river, which
had now again become quite swollen; but by this time our horses and
ourselves had become used to the icy waters, and when at times our
animals lost their footing at the fords, they were not at all alarmed,
but vigorously swam to the shore.

Abundant evidences were again found to indicate that the huts here
had but just been deserted; that they had been occupied that morning.
Although a rigid search was made, no Indians were found. Scouting
parties in charge of Lieutenants Gilbert and Chandler, were sent out
to examine each branch of the valley, but this was soon found to be an
impossible task to accomplish in one day. While exploring among the
rocks that had fallen from the “Royal Arches” at the southwesterly
base of the North Dome, my attention was attracted to a huge rock
stilted upon some smaller ones. Cautiously glancing underneath, I was
for a moment startled by a living object. Involuntarily my rifle was
brought to bear on it, when I discovered the object to be a female; an
extremely old squaw, but with a countenance that could only be likened
to a vivified Egyptian mummy. This creature exhibited no expression of
alarm, and was apparently indifferent to hope or fear, love or hate. I
hailed one of my comrades on his way to camp, to report to Major Savage
that I had discovered a peculiar living ethnological curiosity, and to
bring something for it to eat. She was seated on the ground, hovering
over the remnants of an almost exhausted fire. I replenished her supply
of fuel, and waited for the Major. She neither spoke or exhibited any
curiosity as to my presence.

[Illustration: CATHEDRAL ROCKS

(2,660 feet in height.)]

Major Savage soon came, but could elicit nothing of importance from
her. When asked where her companions were, she understood the dialect
used, for she very curtly replied “You can hunt for them if you want
to see them”! When asked why she was left alone, she replied “I am
too old to climb the rocks”! The Major–forgetting the gallantry
due her sex–inquired “How old are you?” With an ineffably scornful
grunt, and a coquettish leer at the Major, she maintained an indignant
silence. This attempt at a smile, left the Major in doubt as to her
age. Subsequently, when Ten-ie-ya was interrogated as to the age
of this old squaw, he replied that “No one knows her age. That when
he was a boy, it was a favorite _tradition_ of the _old_ members of
his band, that when she was a child, the peaks of the Sierras were
but little hills.” This free interpretation was given by the Major,
while seated around the camp fire at night. If not _reliable_, it was
excessively amusing to the “Boys,” and added to the Major’s popularity.
On a subsequent visit to the Valley, an attempt was made to send the
old creature to the commissioner’s camp; she was placed on a mule and
started. As she could not bear the fatigue, she was left with another
squaw. We learned that she soon after departed “to _the happy land in
the West_.”

The detachment sent down the trail reported the discovery of a small
rancheria, a short distance above the “Cathedral Rocks,” but the huts
were unoccupied. They also reported the continuance of the trail down
the left bank. The other detachments found huts in groups, but no
Indians. At all of these localities the stores of food were abundant.

Their _cachés_ were principally of acorns, although many contained
bay (California laurel), Piñon pine (Digger pine), and chinquepin
nuts, grass seeds, wild rye or oats (scorched), dried worms, scorched
grasshoppers, and what proved to be the dried larvæ of insects, which
I was afterwards told were gathered from the waters of the lakes in
and east of the Sierra Nevada. It was by this time quite clear that
a large number of Ten-ie-ya’s band was hidden in the cliffs or among
the rocky gorges or cañons, not accessible to us from the knowledge
we then had of their trails and passes. We had not the time, nor had
we supplied ourselves sufficiently to hunt them out. It was therefore
decided that the best policy was to destroy their huts and stores, with
a view of starving them out, and of thus compelling then to come in and
join with Ten-ie-ya and the people with him on the reservation. At this
conclusion the destruction of their property was ordered, and at once
commenced. While this work was in progress, I indulged my curiosity
in examining the lodges in which had been left their home property,
domestic, useful and ornamental. As compared with eastern tribes, their
supplies of furniture of all kinds, excepting baskets, were meagre

These baskets were quite numerous, and were of various patterns and
for different uses. The large ones were made either of bark, roots of
the Tamarach or Cedar, Willow or Tule. Those made for gathering and
transporting food supplies, were of large size and round form, with
a sharp apex, into which, when inverted and placed upon the back,
everything centres. This form of basket enables the carriers to keep
their balance while passing over seemingly impassable rocks, and along
the verge of dangerous precipices. Other baskets found served as water
buckets. Others again of various sizes were used as cups and soup
bowls; and still another kind, made of a tough, wiry grass, closely
woven and cemented, was used for kettles for boiling food. The boiling
was effected by hot stones being continually plunged into the liquid
mass, until the desired result was obtained.

The water baskets were also made of “wire-grass;” being porous,
evaporation is facilitated, and like the porous earthen water-jars of
Mexico, and other hot countries, the water put into them is kept cool
by evaporation. There were also found at some of the encampments, robes
or blankets made from rabbit and squirrel skins, and from skins of
water-fowl. There were also ornaments and musical instruments of a rude
character. The instruments were drums and flageolets. The ornaments
were of bone, bears’ claws, birds’ bills and feathers. The thread used
by these Indians, I found was spun or twisted from the inner bark of
a species of the asclepias or milk-weed, by ingeniously suspending a
stone to the fibre, and whirling it with great rapidity. Sinews are
chiefly used for sewing skins, for covering their bows and feathering
their arrows. Their fish spears were but a single tine of bone, with a
cord so attached near the centre, that when the spear, loosely placed
in a socket in the pole, was pulled out by the struggles of the fish,
the tine and cord would hold it as securely as though held by a barbed

There were many things found that only an Indian could possibly use,
and which it would be useless for me to attempt to describe; such,
for instance, as stag-horn hammers, deer prong punches (for making
arrow-heads), obsidian, pumice-stone and salt brought from the eastern
slope of the Sierras and from the desert lakes. In the hurry of their
departure they had left everything. The numerous bones of animals
scattered about the camps, indicated their love of horse-flesh as a

Among these relics could be distinguished the bones of horses and
mules, as well as other animals, eaten by these savages. Deers and
bears were frequently driven into the valley during their seasons
of migration, and were killed by expert hunters perched upon rocks
and in trees that commanded their runways or trails; but their chief
dependence for meat was upon horseflesh.

Among the relics of stolen property were many things recognized by
our “boys,” while applying the torch and giving all to the flames.
A comrade discovered a bridle and part of a riata or rope which was
stolen from him with a mule _while waiting for the commissioners to
inquire into the cause of the war with the Indians_! No animals of any
kind were kept by the Yosemites for any length of time except dogs, and
they are quite often sacrificed to gratify their pride and appetite, in
a dog feast. Their highest estimate of animals is only as an article
of food. Those stolen from the settlers were not kept for their
usefulness, except as additional camp supplies. The acorns found were
alone estimated at from four to six hundred bushels.

During our explorations we were on every side astonished at the
colossal representations of cliffs, rocky cañons and water-falls which
constantly challenged our attention and admiration.

Occasionally some fragment of a garment was found, or other sign of
Indians, but no trail could be discovered by _our_ eyes. Tired and
almost exhausted in the fruitless search for Indians, the footmen
returned to the place at which they had left their horses in the
cañons, and in very thankfulness caressed them with delight.

In subsequent visits, this region was thoroughly explored and names
given to prominent objects and localities.

While searching for hidden stores, I took the opportunity to examine
some of the numerous sweat-houses noticed on the bank of the Merced,
below a large camp near the mouth of the Ten-ie-ya branch. It may
not be out of place to here give a few words in description of these
conveniences of a permanent Indian encampment, and the uses for which
they are considered a necessity.

The remains of these structures are sometimes mistaken for Tumuli.
They were constructed of poles, bark, grass and mud. The frame-work of
poles is first covered with bark, reeds or grass, and then the mud–as
tenacious as the soil will admit of–is spread thickly over it. The
structure is in the form of a dome, resembling a huge round mound.
After being dried by a slight fire, kindled inside, the mud is covered
with earth of a sufficient depth to shed the rain from without, and
prevent the escape of heat from within. A small opening for ingress
and egress is left; this comprises the extent of the house when
complete, and ready for use. These sweat-baths are used as a luxury, as
a curative for disease, and as a convenience for cleansing the skin,
when necessity demands it, although the Indian race is not noted for

As a luxury, no Russian or Turkish bath is more enjoyed by civilized
people, than are these baths by the Mountain Indians. I have seen a
half dozen or more enter one of these rudely constructed sweat-houses,
through the small aperture left for the purpose. Hot stones are taken
in, the aperture is closed until suffocation would seem impending,
when they would crawl out reeking with perspiration, and with a shout,
spring like acrobats into the cold waters of the stream. As a remedial
agent for disease, the same course is pursued, though varied at times
by the burning and inhalation of resinous boughs and herbs.

In the process for cleansing the skin from impurities, hot air alone is
generally used. If an Indian had passed the usual period for mourning
for a relative, and the adhesive pitch too tenaciously clung to his no
longer sorrowful countenance, he would enter, and re-enter the heated
house, until the cleansing had become complete.

The mourning pitch is composed of the charred bones and ashes of their
dead relative or friend. These remains of the funeral pyre, with the
charcoal, are pulverized and mixed with the resin of the pine. This
hideous mixture is usually retained upon the face of the mourner until
it wears off. If it has been well compounded, it may last nearly a
year; although the young–either from a super-abundance of vitality,
excessive reparative powers of the skin, or from powers of will–seldom
mourn so long. When the bare surface exceeds that covered by the pitch,
it is not a scandalous disrespect in the young to remove it entirely;
but a mother will seldom remove pitch or garment until both are nearly
worn out.

In their camps were found articles from the miners’ camps, and from the
unguarded “ranchman.” There was no lack of evidence that the Indians
who had deserted their villages or wigwams, were truly entitled to the
_soubriquet_ of “the Grizzlies,” “the lawless.”

Although we repeatedly discovered fresh trails leading from the
different camps, all traces were soon lost among the rocks at the
base of the cliffs. The debris or talus not only afforded places for
temporary concealment, but provided facilities for escape without
betraying the direction. If by chance a trail was followed for a while,
it would at last be traced to some apparently inaccessible ledge, or to
the foot of some slippery depression in the walls, up which we did not
venture to climb. While scouting up the Ten-ie-ya cañon, above Mirror
Lake, I struck the fresh trail of quite a large number of Indians.
Leaving our horses, a few of us followed up the tracks until they were
lost in the ascent up the cliff. By careful search they were again
found and followed until finally they hopelessly disappeared.

Tiring of our unsuccessful search, the hunt was abandoned, although we
were convinced that the Indians had in some way passed up the cliff.

During this time, and while descending to the valley, I partly realized
the great height of the cliffs and high fall. I had observed the
height we were compelled to climb before the Talus had been overcome,
though from below this appeared insignificant, and after reaching the
summit of our ascent, the cliffs still towered above us. It was by
instituting these comparisons while ascending and descending, that I
was able to form a better judgment of altitude; for while entering the
valley,–although, as before stated, I had observed the towering height
of El Capitan,–my mind had been so preoccupied with the marvelous,
that comparison had scarcely performed its proper function.

The level of the valley proper now appeared quite distant as we looked
down upon it, and objects much less than full size. As night was fast
approaching, and a storm threatened, we returned down the trail and
took our course for the rendezvous selected by Major Savage, in a grove
of oaks near the mouth of “Indian Cañon.”

While on our way down, looking across to and up the south or Glacier
Cañon, I noticed its beautiful fall, and planned an _excursion_ for
the morrow. I almost forgot my fatigue, in admiration of the solemn
grandeur within my view; the lofty walls, the towering domes and
numerous water-falls; their misty spray blending with the clouds
settling down from the higher mountains.

[Illustration: GLACIER FALL.

(550 feet in height.)]

The duties of the day had been severe on men and horses, for beside
fording the Merced several times, the numerous branches pouring over
cliffs and down ravines from the melting snow, rendered the overflow
of the bottom lands so constant that we were often compelled to splash
through the water-courses that later would be dry. These torrents
of cold water, commanded more especial attention, and excited more
_comment_ than did the grandeur of the cliffs and water-falls. We
were not a party of tourists, seeking recreation, nor philosophers
investigating the operations of nature. Our business there was to
find Indians who were endeavoring to escape from our _charitable_
intentions toward them. But very few of the volunteers seemed to have
any appreciation of the wonderful proportions of the enclosing granite
rocks; their curiosity had been to see the stronghold of the enemy, and
the _general_ verdict was that it was gloomy enough.

Tired and wet, the independent scouts sought the camp and reported
their failures. Gilbert and Chandler came in with their detachments
just at dark, from their tiresome explorations of the southern
branches. Only a small squad of their commands climbed above the
Vernal and Nevada falls; and seeing the clouds resting upon the
mountains above the Nevada Fall, they retraced their steps through
the showering mist of the Vernal, and joined their comrades, who had
already started down its rocky gorge. These men found no Indians, but
they were the first discoverers of the Vernal and Nevada Falls, and the
Little Yosemite. They reported what they had seen to their assembled
comrades at the evening camp-fires. Their names have now passed from my
memory–not having had an intimate personal acquaintance with them–for
according to my recollection they belonged to the company of Capt. Dill.

While on our way down to camp we met Major Savage with a detachment
who had been burning a large _caché_ located in the fork, and another
small one below the mouth of the Ten-ie-ya branch. This had been held
in reserve for possible use, but the Major had now fired it, and the
flames were leaping high. Observing his movements for a few moments
we rode up and made report of our unsuccessful efforts. I briefly,
but with some enthusiasm, described my view from the cliff up the
North Cañon, the Mirror Lake view of the Half Dome, the Fall of the
South Cañon and the view of the distant South Dome. I volunteered a
suggestion that some new tactics would have to be devised before we
should be able to corral the “Grizzlies” or “smoke them out.” The Major
looked up from the charred mass of burning acorns, and as he glanced
down the smoky valley, said: “This affords us the best prospect
of any yet discovered; just look!” “Splendid!” I promptly replied,
“Yo-sem-i-te must be beautifully grand a few weeks later, when the
foliage and flowers are at their prime, and the rush of water has
somewhat subsided. Such cliffs and water-falls I never saw before, and
I doubt if they exist in any other place.”

[Illustration: VERNAL FALL.

(350 feet in height.)]

I was surprised and somewhat irritated by the hearty laugh with which
my reply was greeted. The Major caught the expression of my eye and
shrugged his shoulders as he hastily said: “I suppose that is all
right, Doctor, about the water-falls, &c., for there are enough of them
here for one locality, as we have all discovered; but my remark was not
in reference to the scenery, but the _prospect_ of the Indians being
starved out, and of their coming in to sue for peace. We have all been
more or less wet since we rolled up our blankets this morning, and this
fire is very enjoyable, but the prospect that it offers to my mind of
_smoking out_ the Indians, is more agreeable to me than its warmth or
all the scenery in creation. I know, Doc., that there is a good deal of
iron in you, but there is also considerable sentiment, and I am not in
a very sentimental mood.” I replied that I did not think that any of us
felt very much like making love or writing poetry, but that Ten-ie-ya’s
remark to him about the “Great Spirit” providing so bountifully for
his people, had several times occurred to me since entering here, and
that no doubt to Ten-ie-ya, this was a veritable Indian paradise.
“Well,” said the Major, “as far as that is concerned, although I have
not carried a Bible with me since I became a mountain-man, I remember
well enough that Satan entered paradise and did all the mischief he
could, but I intend to be a bigger devil in this Indian paradise than
old Satan ever was; and when I leave, I don’t intend to _crawl_ out,
either. Now Doc. we will go to camp but let me say while upon the
subject, that we are in no condition to judge fairly of this valley.
The annoyances and disappointments of a fruitless search, together with
the certainty of a snow-storm approaching, makes all this beautiful
scenery appear to me gloomy enough. In a word, it is what we supposed
it to be before seeing it, a h—- of a place. The valley, no doubt,
will always be a wonder for its grouping of cliffs and water-falls, but
hemmed in by walls of rock, your vision turned in, as it were, upon
yourself–a residence here would be anything but desirable for me. Any
one of the Rocky Mountain parks would be preferable, while the ease
with which buffalo, black-tail and big-horn could be provided in the
“Rockies” would, in comparison, make your Indian paradise anything but
desirable, even for these Indians.”

[Illustration: NEVADA FALL.

(600 feet in height.)]

The more practical tone and views of the Major dampened the ardor of my
fancy in investing the valley with all desirable qualities, but as we
compared with each other the experiences of the day, it was very clear
that the half had not yet been seen or told, and that repeated views
would be required before any one person could say that he had seen the
Yosemite. It will probably be as well for me to say here that though
Major Savage commanded the first expedition to the valley, he never
revisited it, and died without ever having seen the Vernal and Nevada
Falls, or any of the views belonging to the region of the Yosemite,
except those seen from the valley and from the old Indian trail on our
first entrance.

We found our camp had been plentifully supplied with dry wood by the
provident guard, urged, no doubt, by the threatening appearances of
another snow-storm. Some rude shelters of poles and brush were thrown
up around the fires, on which were placed the drying blankets, the
whole serving as an improvement on our bivouac accomodations. The night
was colder than the previous one, for the wind was coming down the
cañons of the snowy Sierras. The fires were lavishly piled with the dry
oak wood, which sent out a glowing warmth. The fatigue and exposure of
the day were forgotten in the hilarity with which supper was devoured
by the hungry scouts while steaming in their wet garments. After supper
Major Savage announced that “from the very extensive draft on the
commissary stores just made, it was necessary to return to the ‘South
Fork.’” He said that it would be advisable for us to return, as we were
not in a condition to endure delay if the threatened storm should prove
to be a severe one; and ordered both Captains Boling and Dill to have
their companies ready for the march at daylight the next morning.

While enjoying the warmth of the fire preparatory to a night’s rest,
the incidents of our observations during the day were interchanged.
The probable heights of the cliffs was discussed. One _official_
estimated “El Capitan” at 400 feet!! Capt. Boling at 800 feet; Major
Savage was in no mood to venture an opinion. My estimate was a sheer
perpendicularity of at least 1500 feet. Mr. C. H. Spencer, son of Prof.
Thomas Spencer, of Geneva, N. Y.,–who had traveled quite extensively
in Europe,–and a French gentleman, Monsieur Bouglinval, a civil
engineer, who had joined us for the sake of adventure, gave me their
opinions that my estimate was none too high; that it was probable that
I was far below a correct measurement, for when there was so much
sameness of height the judgment could not very well be assisted by
comparison, and hence instrumental measurements alone could be relied
on. Time has demonstrated the correctness of their opinions. These
gentlemen were men of education and practical experience in observing
the heights of objects of which measurement had been made, and quietly
reminded their auditors that it was difficult to measure such massive
objects with the eye alone. That some author had said: “But few persons
have a correct judgment of height that rises above sixty feet.”

I became somewhat earnest and enthusiastic on the subject of the
valley, and expressed myself in such a positive manner that the
“_enfant terrible_” of the company derisively asked if I was given to
exaggeration before I became an “Indian fighter.” From my ardor in
description, and admiration of the scenery, I found myself nicknamed
“Yosemity” by some of the battalion. It was customary among the
mountain men and miners to prefix distinctive names. From this hint
I became less _expressive_, when conversing on matters relating to
the valley. My self-respect caused me to talk less among my comrades
generally, but with intimate friends the subject was always an open
one, and my estimates of heights were never reduced.

Major Savage took no part in this camp discussion, but on our
expressing a design to revisit the valley at some future time, he
assured us that there was a probability of our being fully gratified,
for if the renegades did not voluntarily come in, another visit would
soon have to be made by the battalion, when we could have opportunity
to measure the rocks if we then desired. That we should first escort
our “captives” to the commissioners’ camp on the Fresno; that by the
time we returned to the valley the trails would be clear of snow, and
we would be able to explore to our satisfaction. Casting a quizzing
glance at me, he said: “The rocks will probably keep, but you will not
find all of these immense _water-powers_.”

Notwithstanding a little warmth of discussion, we cheerfully wrapped
ourselves in our blankets and slept, until awakened by the guard; for
there had been no disturbance during the night. The snow had fallen
only to about the depth of an inch in the valley, but the storm still

By early dawn “all ready” was announced, and we started back without
having seen any of the Indian race except our useless guide and the
old squaw. Major Savage rode at the head of the column, retracing our
trail, rather than attempt to follow down the south side. The water was
relatively low in the early morning, and the fords were passed without
difficulty. While passing El Capitan I felt like saluting, as I would
some dignified acquaintance.

The _cachés_ below were yet smouldering, but the lodges had disappeared.

At our entrance we had closely followed the Indian trail over rocks
that could not be re-ascended with animals. To return, we were
compelled to remove a few obstructions of poles, brush and loose rocks,
placed by the Indians to prevent the escape of the animals stolen and
driven down. Entire herds had been sometimes taken from the ranches or
their ranges.

After leaving the valley, but little difficulty was encountered. The
snow had drifted into the hollows, but had not to any extent obscured
the trail, which we now found quite hard. We reached the camp earlier
in the day than we had reason to expect. During these three days of
absence from headquarters, we had discovered, named and partially
explored one of the most remarkable of the geographical wonders of the

On our arrival at the rendezvous on the South Fork the officer in
charge reported; “We are about out of grub.” This was a satisfactory
cause for a hurried movement; for a short allowance had more terrors
for men with our appetites than severe duties; and most of us had
already learned that, even with prejudice laid aside, our stomachs
would refuse the hospitalities of the Indians, if it were possible
for them to share with us from their own scanty stores. The Major’s
experience prompted him at once to give the order to break camp and
move on for the camp on the Fresno.

Our mounted force chafed at the slowness of our march; for the Indians
could not be hurried. Although their cookery was of the most primitive
character, we were very much delayed by the time consumed in preparing
their food.

While traveling we were compelled to accommodate our movements to the
capacities or inclinations of the women and children. Captain Dill,
therefore, with his company was sent on ahead from the crossing of the
South Fork, they leaving with us what food they could spare. When Dill
reached the waters of the Fresno about one hundred “_captives_” joined
him. These Indians voluntarily surrendered to Captain Dill’s company,
which at once hurried them on, and they reached the commissioners at
the Fresno.

Captain Boling’s company and Major Savage remained with the “Grand
Caravan,” keeping out scouts and hunters to secure such game as might
be found to supply ourselves with food. We had no anxiety for the
safety or security of our “captives;” our own subsistence was the
important consideration; for the first night out from Bishop’s camp
left us but scanty stores for breakfast. Our halting places were
selected from the old Indian camping grounds, which were supplied
with hoyas (holes or mortars). These permanent mortars were in the
bed-rock, or in large detached rocks that had fallen from the cliffs or
mountains. These “hoyas” had been formed and used by past generations.
They were frequent on our route, many of them had long been abandoned;
as there was no indications of recent uses having been made of them.
From their numbers it was believed that the Indians had once been much
more numerous than at that date.

By means of the stone pestles with which they were provided, the squaws
used these primitive mills to reduce their acorns and grass seeds to
flour or meal. While the grists were being ground, others built the
fires on which stones were heated.

When red hot, these stones were plunged into baskets nearly filled
with water; this is continued until the water boils. The stones are
then removed and the acorn meal, or a cold mixture of it, is stirred
in until thin gruel is made; the hot stones are again plunged into
the liquid mass and again removed. When sufficiently cooked, this
“Atola” or porridge, was poured into plates or moulds of sand, prepared
for that purpose. During the process of cooling, the excess of
water leaches off through the sand, leaving the woody fibre tannin
and unappropriated coarse meal in distinctive strata; the edible
portion being so defined as to be easily separated from the refuse
and sand. This preparation was highly prized by them, and contrary to
preconceived ideas and information, all of the Indians I asked assured
me that the _bitter_ acorns were the best when cooked. This compound
of acorn meal resembles corn starch blanc mange in color, but is more
dense in consistency. Although it was free from grit, and comparatively
clean, none of us were able to eat it, and we were quite hungry. From
this, I was led to conclude that to relish this Indian staple, the
taste must be acquired while very young.

Old Ten-ie-ya’s four wives, and other squaws, were disposed to be
quite hospitable when they learned that our supply of provisions was
exhausted. None of the command, however, ventured to sample their
acorn-jellies, grass-seed mush, roasted grasshoppers, and their other
delicacies; nothing was accepted but the Piñon pine nuts, which were
generally devoured with a relish and a regret for the scarcity.

Certain species of worms, the larvæ of ants and some other insects,
common mushrooms and truffles, or wood-mushrooms, are prized by the
Indian epicure, as are eels, shrimps, oysters, frogs, turtles, snails,
etc., by his white civilized brother. Are we really but creatures of

The _baskets_ used by the Indians for boiling their food and other
purposes, as has been before stated, are made of a tough mountain
bunch-grass, nearly as hard and as strong as wire, and almost as
durable. So closely woven are they, that but little if any water can
escape from them. They are made wholly impervious with a resinous
compound resembling the vulcanized rubber used by dentists. This
composition does not appear to be in the least affected by hot water.
The same substance, in appearance at least, is used by Mountain Indians
in attaching sinews to bows, and feathers and barbs to arrows.

I endeavored to ascertain what the composition was, but could only
learn that the resin was procured from small trees or shrubs, and
that some substance (probably mineral) was mixed with it, the latter
to resist the action of heat and moisture. I made a shrewd guess that
pulverized lava and sulphur (abundant east of the High Sierras) was
used, but for some cause I was left in ignorance. The Indians, like all
ignorant persons, ascribe remarkable virtues to very simple acts and to
inert remedies. Upon one occasion a doctor was extolling the virtues
of a certain root, ascribing to it almost miraculous powers; I tried
in vain to induce him to tell me the name of the root. He stated that
the secret was an heir-loom, and if told, the curative power of the
plant would disappear; but he kindly gave me some as a preventive of
some imaginary ill, when lo! I discovered the famous remedy to be the

After a delayed and hungry march of several days, we halted near
sundown within a few miles of the Commissioner’s headquarters, and
went into camp for the night. The Indians came straggling in at will
from their hunts on the way, their trophies of skill with their bows
being the big California squirrels, rabbits or hares and quail. Our
more expert white hunters had occasionally brought in venison for our
use. We had ceased to keep a very effective guard over our “captives;”
none seemed necessary, as all appeared contented and satisfied, almost
joyous, as we neared their destination on the Fresno.

The truth is, we regarded hostilities, so far as these Indians were
concerned, as ended. We had voted the peace policy a veritable success.
We had discussed the matter in camp, and contrasted the lack of spirit
exhibited by these people with what we knew of the warlike character
of the Indians of Texas and of the Northwestern plains. In these
comparisons, respect for our captives was lost in contempt. “The noble
red man” was not here represented. The only ones of the Pacific Slope,
excepting the Navahoes, Pimas and Maricopahs, that bear any comparison
with the Eastern tribes for intelligence and bravery, are the You-mahs
of the Colorado river, the Modocs, and some of the Rogue and Columbia
river tribes, but none of these really equal the Sioux and some other
Eastern tribes.

Hardly any attention had been paid to the captives during the preceding
night, except from the guard about our own camp; from a supposition
that our services could well be spared. Application was therefore
made by a few of us, for permission to accompany the Major, who had
determined to go on to the Fresno head-quarters. When consent was
given, the wish was so generally expressed, that Captain Boling with
nine men to act as camp guard, volunteered to remain, if Major Savage
would allow the hungry “boys” to ride with him. The Major finally
assented to the proposition, saying: “I do not suppose the Indians
can be driven off, or be induced to leave until they have had the
feast I promised them; besides, they will want to see some of the
commissioner’s finery. I have been delighting their imaginations with
descriptions of the presents in store for them.”

When the order was passed for the hungry squad to fall in, we mounted
with grateful feelings towards Captain Boling, and the “boys” declared
that the Major was a trump, for his consideration of our need. With the
prospect of a good “square” meal, and the hope of a genial “smile” from
our popular commissary, the time soon passed, and the distance seemed
shortened, for we entered the Fresno camp before our anticipations were
cloyed. Head-quarters was well supplied with all needful comforts,
and was not totally deficient in luxuries. Our Quarter-Master and
Commissary was active in his duties, and as some good women say of
their husbands, “He was a good provider.” We had no reason to complain
of our reception; our urgent requirements were cheerfully met. The
fullness of our entertainment did not prevent a good night’s rest,
nor interfere with the comfortable breakfast which we enjoyed. While
taking coffee, the self denial of Captain Boling and his volunteer
guard was not forgotten. Arrangements were made to furnish the best
edible and potable stores, that could be secured from our conscientious
and prudent commissary. We were determined to give them a glorious
reception; but–the Captain did not bring in his captives! Major Savage
sent out a small detachment to ascertain the cause of the delay.
This party filled their haversacks with comforts for the “Indian
guard.” After some hours of delay, the Major became anxious to hear
from Captain Boling, and began to be suspicious that something more
serious than the loss of his animals, was the cause of not sending in a
messenger, and he ordered out another detachment large enough to meet
any supposed emergency. Not far from camp, they met the Captain and his
nine men (the “_Indian guard_”) and _one_ Indian, with the relief party
first sent out. Our jovial Captain rode into “Head-quarters” looking
more crest fallen than he had ever been seen before. When asked by the
Major where he had left the Indians, he blushed like a coy maiden and
said: “They have all gone to the mountains, but the one I have with me.”

After Captain Boling had made his report to the Major, and made all
explanations to the commissioners, and when he had refreshed himself
with an extra ration or two of the potable liquid, that by special
stipulation had been reserved for the “Indian Guard,” something of
his old humor returned to him, and he gave us the details of his
annoyances by the breach of trust on the part of “our prisoners.”

The Captain said: “Soon after you left us last night, one of my men,
who was out hunting when we camped, came in with a deer he had killed
just at the dusk of the evening. From this we made a hearty supper,
and allowed the youth who had helped to bring in the deer to share
in the meat. The Indian cooked the part given to him at our fire,
and ate with the avidity of a famished wolf. This excited comment,
and anecdotes followed of the enormous appetites displayed by some
of them. The question was then raised, ‘how much can this Indian eat
at one meal?’ I suggested that a fair trial could not be had with
only one deer. Our hunter said he would give him a preliminary trial,
and when deer were plenty we could then test his full capacity, if
he should prove a safe one to bet on. He then cut such pieces as we
thought would suffice for our breakfast, and, with my approval, gave
the remainder to his boy, who was anxiously watching his movements. I
consented to this arrangement, not as a test of his capacity, for I
had often seen a hungry Indian eat, but as a reward for his services
in bringing in the deer on his shoulders. He readily re-commenced his
supper, and continued to feast until every bone was cracked and picked.
When the last morsel of the venison had disappeared he commenced a
doleful sing-song, ‘Way-ah-we-ha-ha, Wah-ah-we-ha-ha’ to some unknown
deity, or, if I was to judge from my ear of the music, it must have
been his prayer to the devil, for I have heard that it is a part of
their worship. His song was soon echoed from the camp where all seemed
contentment. After _consoling_ himself in this manner for some time he
fell asleep at our fire.

“The performance being over, I told my men to take their sleep and
I would watch, as I was not sleepy; if I wanted them I would call
them. I then thought, as Major Savage had declared, the Indians could
scarcely be driven off, until they had had their feast and the presents
they expected to have given them. I sat by the fire for a long time
cogitating on past events and future prospects, when thinking it
useless to require the men to stand guard, I told them to sleep. Moving
about and seeing nothing but the usual appearance, I decided it to be
unneccessary to exercise any further vigilance, and told one of the
men, who was partially aroused by my movements, and who offered to get
up and stand guard, that he had better lie still and sleep. Toward
morning I took another round, and finding the Indian camp wrapped in
apparently profound slumber, I concluded to take a little sleep myself,
until daylight. This now seems unaccountable to me, for I am extremely
cautious in my habits. Such a breach of military discipline would have
subjected one of my men to a court-martial. I confess myself guilty of
neglect of duty; I should have taken nothing for granted.

“No one can imagine my surprise and mortification when I was called and
told that the Indian camp was entirely deserted, and that none were
to be seen except the one asleep by our camp fire. My indifference to
placing a guard over the Indian camp will probably always be a mystery
to me, but it most likely saved our lives, for if we had attempted to
restrain them, and you know us well enough to believe we would not have
let them off without a fight; they would probably have pretty well used
us up. As it was, we did not give them up without an effort. We saddled
our horses and started in chase, thinking that as while with us, their
women and children would retard their progress, and that we would soon
overtake them. We took the young brave with us, who had slept by our
fire. He knew nothing of the departure of his people, and was very much
alarmed, as he expected we would at once kill him. I tried to make him
useful in following their trail; he by signs, gave me to understand
he did not know where they had gone, and seemed unwilling to take the
trail when I pointed it out to him. He evidently meant to escape the
first opportunity. I kept him near me and treated him kindly, but gave
him to understand I should shoot him if he tried to leave me.

“We pursued until the trail showed that they had scattered in every
direction in the brushy ravines and on the rocky side of a mountain
covered with undergrowth, where we could not follow them with our
animals. Chagrined and disgusted with myself for my negligence, and my
inability to recover any part of my charge, and considering farther
pursuit useless, we turned about and took the trail to head-quarters
with our one captive.”

Major Savage took the youngster under his charge, and flattered him by
his conversations and kindly treatment. The Commissioners lionized him
somewhat; he was gaily clothed and ornamented, loaded with presents
for his own family relations, and was given his liberty and permitted
to leave camp at his leisure, and thus departed the last of the “grand
caravan” of some three hundred and fifty “captives,” men, women and
children, which we had collected and escorted from the mountains.

The sight of the one hundred brought to them by Captain Dill, and his
report that we were coming with about three hundred and fifty more,
aroused sanguine hopes in the commission that the war was over, and
that their plans had been successful. “Now that the _prisoners_ have
fled,” we asked, “What will be done?”

To a military man, this lack of discipline and precaution–through
which the Indians escaped–will seem unpardonable; and an officer
who, like our Captain, should leave his camp unguarded, under any
circumstances, would be deemed disgracefully incompetent. In
palliation of these facts, it may not occur to the rigid disciplinarian
that Captain John Boling and the men under him–or the most of them,
had not had the advantages of army drill and discipline. The courage of
these mountain-men in times of danger was undoubted; their caution was
more apt to be displayed in times of danger to others, than when they
themselves were imperiled.

In this case Captain Boling was not apprehensive of danger to those
under his charge. His excessive good nature and good will toward his
men prompted him to allow, even to command them, to take the sleep and
rest that an irregular diet, and the labor of hunting while on the
march, had seemed to require. No one had a keener sense of his error
than himself. The whole command sympathized with him–notwithstanding
the ludicrous aspect of the affair–their finer feelings were aroused
by his extreme regrets. They determined that if opportunities offered,
he should have their united aid to wipe out this stigma. Major Savage
was deceived by the child-like simplicity with which the Indians had
been talking to him of the feast expected, and of the presents they
would soon receive from the commissioners. He did not suppose it
possible that they would make an attempt to escape, or such a number
would not have been left with so small a guard. We had men with us
who knew what discipline was, who had been trained to obey orders
without hesitation. Men who had fought under Col. Jack Hays, Majors Ben
McCullough and Mike Chevallia, both in Indian and Mexican warfare, and
they considered themselves well posted. Even these men were mistaken in
their opinions. The sudden disappearance of the Indians, was as much a
surprise to them as to our officers.

With a view to solving this mystery Vow-ches-ter was sent for from his
camp near by, where all the treaty tribes were congregated, and when
questioned the Chief said that during the night Chow-chilla runners
had been in the camp, and to him in person with their mouths filled
with lies; they had probably gone to the camp of those who were coming
in, and they were induced to leave. Evidently he felt assured of the
fact; but until questioned, his caution, Indian-like, kept him silent.
Vow-ches-ter’s sincerity and desire for peace was no longer doubted.
Those who were suspicious of his friendship before were silenced, if
not convinced, when he volunteered to go out and bring in such of the
fugitives as he could convince of the good will of the commissioners.
The young Indian had not yet left the camp, but was found relating his
adventures and good fortune, and was directed to accompany Vow-ches-ter
on his mission of good will. The Chief was instructed to give positive
assurances of protection against hostilities, if any were threatened
by the Chow-chillas. He was also instructed to dispatch runners to
aid his efforts, and was told to notify all that the commissioners
would not remain to be trifled with; if they wished peace they must
come in at once. That if the commissioners should go away, which they
soon would do on their way south, no further efforts for peace would
be made. That the mountain men and soldiers of the whites were angry,
and would no longer take their word for peace, but would punish them
and destroy their supplies. After a few days Vow-ches-ter came back
with about one hundred of the runaways; these were followed by others,
until ultimately, nearly all came back except Ten-ie-ya and his people.
All then in camp expressed a readiness to meet for a grand council and

The reasons given by those who returned for their flight, were that
just before daylight on the morning of their departure Chow-chilla
runners (as had been surmised by Vow-ches-ter) came to their camp with
the report that they were being taken to the plains, where they would
all be killed in order to evade the promises to pay for their lands,
and for revenge.

In reply to the statements that they had been treated by the whites
as friends, the Chow-chillas answered sneeringly that the whites were
not fools to forgive them for killing their friends and relatives,
and taking their property, and said their scouts had seen a large
mounted force that was gathering in the foot-hills and on the plains,
who would ride over them if they ventured into the open ground of the
reservation, or encampment at the plains. This caused great alarm. They
expected destruction from the whites, and in the excitement caused by
the Chow-chillas, threatened to kill Captain Boling and his men, and
for that purpose reconnoitered the Captain’s camp. The Chow-chillas
dissuaded them from the attempt, saying: “The white men always sleep
on their guns, and they will alarm the white soldiers below by their
firing, and bring upon you a mounted force before you could reach a
place of safety.”

The young fellow that was asleep in Boling’s camp was not missed
until on the march; his appearance among them gaily clothed, after
being kindly treated, very much aided Vow-ches-ter in his statement
of the object of the council and treaty to be held. The runaways told
the commissioners that they felt very foolish, and were ashamed that
they had been so readily deceived; they also expressed a wish that we
would punish the Chow-chillas, for they had caused all the trouble.
The reception they received soon satisfied them that they had nothing
to fear. They were given food and clothing, and their good fortune
was made known to other bands, and soon all of the tribes in the
vicinity made treaties or sent messengers to express their willingness
to do so, excepting the Chow-chillas and Yosemites. Even Ten-ie-ya
was reported to have ventured into the Indian quarter, but taking a
look at the gaudy colored handkerchiefs and shirts offered him in
lieu of his ancient and well-worn guernsey that he habitually wore,
he scoffingly refused the offers. Turning towards his valley home,
he sorrowfully departed; his feelings apparently irritated by the
evidences of vanity he saw in the gaudy apparel and weak contentment
of those he was leaving behind him. Major Savage, who it was supposed
would be the Indian agent at the end of the war, was absent at the time
of Ten-ie-ya’s visit, but “the farmer” showed the old chief all proper
respect, and had endeavored to induce him to await the Major’s return,
but failed.

Major Savage, though still in command of the battalion, now devoted
most of his time to the commissioners; and the energy with which our
campaigns had opened, seemed to be somewhat abating. The business
connected with the treaties was transacted principally through his
interpretation, though at times other interpreters were employed. The
mission interpreters only translated the communications made in the
Indian dialects into Spanish; these were then rendered into English by
Spanish interpreters employed by the commission.

A pretty strong detail of men was now placed on duty at head-quarters
on the Fresno, principally drawn from Captain Dill’s Company. Adjutant
Lewis had really no duties in the field, nor had he any taste or
admiration for the snowy mountains–_on foot_. His reports were written
up at head-quarters, as occasion required, and often long after the
events had transpired to which they related. I was an amused observer
upon one occasion, of Major Savage’s method of making out an _official_
report, Adjutant Lewis virtually acting only as an amanuensis.

Continue Reading

A Discussion

During the winter of 1849-50, while ascending the old Bear Valley trail
from Ridley’s ferry, on the Merced river, my attention was attracted
to the stupendous rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevadas. In the distance
an immense cliff loomed, apparently to the summit of the mountains.
Although familiar with nature in her wildest moods, I looked upon
this awe-inspiring column with wonder and admiration. While vainly
endeavoring to realize its peculiar prominence and vast proportions,
I turned from it with reluctance to resume the search for coveted
gold; but the impressions of that scene were indelibly fixed in my
memory. Whenever an opportunity afforded, I made inquiries concerning
the scenery of that locality. But few of the miners had noticed any
of its special peculiarities. On a second visit to Ridley’s, not long
after, that towering mountain which had so profoundly interested me was
invisible, an intervening haze obscuring it from view. A year or more
passed before the mysteries of this wonderful land were satisfactorily

During the winter of 1850-51, I was attached to an expedition that made
the first discovery of what is now known as the Yosemite Valley. While
entering it, I saw at a glance that the reality of my sublime vision
at Ridley’s ferry, forty miles away, was before me. The locality of
the mysterious cliff was there revealed–its proportions enlarged and

The discovery of this remarkable region was an event intimately
connected with the history of the early settlement of that portion of
California. During 1850, the Indians in Mariposa county, which at that
date included all the territory south of the divide of the Tuolumne
and Merced rivers within the valley proper of the San Joaquin, became
very troublesome to the miners and settlers. Their depredations and
murderous assaults were continued until the arrival of the United
States Indian commissioners, in 1851, when the general government
assumed control over them. Through the management of the commissioners,
treaties were made, and many of these Indians were transferred to
locations reserved for their special occupancy.

It was in the early days of the operations of this commission that the
Yosemite Valley was first entered by a command virtually employed to
perform the special police duties of capturing and bringing the Indians
before these representatives of the government, in order that treaties
might be made with them. These wards of the general government were
provided with supplies at the expense of the public treasury: provided
that they confined themselves to the reservations selected for them.

My recollections of those early days are from personal observations
and information derived from the earlier settlers of the San Joaquin
valley, with whom I was personally acquainted in the mining camps, and
through business connections; and also from comrades in the Indian war
of 1850-51. Among these settlers was one James D. Savage, a trader,
who in 1849-50 was located in the mountains near the mouth of the South
Fork of the Merced river, some fifteen miles below the Yosemite valley.

At this point, engaged in gold mining, he had employed a party of
native Indians. Early in the season of 1850 his trading post and mining
camp were attacked by a band of the Yosemite Indians. This tribe,
or band, claimed the territory in that vicinity, and attempted to
drive Savage off. Their real object, however, was plunder. They were
considered treacherous and dangerous, and were very troublesome to the
miners generally.

Savage and his Indian miners repulsed the attack and drove off the
marauders, but from this occurrence he no longer deemed this location
desirable. Being fully aware of the murderous propensities of his
assailants, he removed to Mariposa Creek, not far from the junction
of the Agua Fria, and near to the site of the old stone fort. Soon
after, he established a branch post on the Fresno, where the mining
prospects became most encouraging, as the high water subsided in that
stream. This branch station was placed in charge of a man by the name
of Greeley.

At these establishments Savage soon built up a prosperous business. He
exchanged his goods at enormous profits for the gold obtained from his
Indian miners. The white miners and prospecting parties also submitted
to his demands rather than lose time by going to Mariposa village. The
value of his patrons’ time was thus made a source of revenue. As the
season advanced, this hardy pioneer of commerce rapidly increased his
wealth, but in the midst of renewed prosperity he learned that another
cloud was gathering over him. One of his five squaws assured him that
a combination was maturing among the mountain Indians, to kill or
drive all the white men from the country, and plunder them of their
property. To strengthen his influence over the principal tribes, Savage
had, according to the custom of many mountain men, taken wives from
among them, supposing his personal safety would be somewhat improved by
so doing. This is the old story of the prosperous Indian trader. Rumor
also came from his Indian miners, that the Yosemites threatened to come
down on him again for the purpose of plunder, and that they were urging
other tribes to join them.

These reports he affected to disregard, but quietly cautioned the
miners to guard against marauders.

He also sent word to the leading men in the settlements that
hostilities were threatened, and advised preparations against a

At his trading posts he treated the rumors with indifference, but
instructed the men in his employ to be continually on their guard in
his absence. Stating that he was going to “_the Bay_” for a stock of
goods, he started for San Francisco, taking with him two Indian wives,
and a chief of some note and influence who professed great friendship.

This Indian, Jose Juarez, was in reality one of the leading spirits in
arousing hostilities against the whites.

Notwithstanding Juarez appeared to show regard for Savage, the trader
had doubts of his sincerity, but, as he had no fears of personal
injury, he carefully kept his suspicions to himself. The real object
Savage had in making this trip was to place in a safe locality a large
amount of gold which he had on hand; and he took the chief to impress
him with the futility of any attempted outbreak by his people. He hoped
that a visit to Stockton and San Francisco, where Jose could see the
numbers and superiority of the whites, would so impress him that on his
return to the mountains his report would deter the Indians from their
proposed hostilities.

The trip was made without any incidents of importance, but, to Savage’s
disappointment and regret, Jose developed an instinctive love for
whiskey, and having been liberally supplied with gold, he invested
heavily in that favorite Indian beverage, and was stupidly drunk nearly
all the time he was in the city.

Becoming disgusted with Jose’s frequent intoxication, Savage expressed
in emphatic terms his disapprobation of such a course. Jose at once
became greatly excited, and forgetting his usual reserve, retorted in
abusive epithets, and disclosed his secret of the intended war against
the whites.

Savage also lost his self-control, and with a blow felled the drunken
Indian to the ground. Jose arose apparently sober, and from that time
maintained a silent and dignified demeanor. After witnessing the
celebration of the admission of the State into the Union–which by
appointment occurred on October 29th, 1850, though the act of admission
passed Congress on the 9th of September of that year–and making
arrangements to have goods forwarded as he should order them, Savage
started back with his dusky retainers for Mariposa. On his arrival
at Quartzberg, he learned that the Kah-we-ah Indians were exacting
tribute from the immigrants passing through their territory, and soon
after his return a man by the name of Moore was killed not far from
his Mariposa Station. From the information here received, and reported
murders of emigrants, he scented danger to himself. Learning that the
Indians were too numerous at “Cassady’s Bar,” on the San-Joaquin, and
in the vicinity of his Fresno Station, he at once, with characteristic
promptness and courage, took his course direct to that post. He found,
on arriving there, that all was quiet, although some Indians were
about, as if for trading purposes. Among them were Pon-wat-chee and
Vow-ches-ter, two Indian chiefs known to be friendly. The trader had
taken two of his wives from their tribes.

Savage greeted all with his customary salutation. Leaving his squaws to
confer with their friends and to provide for their own accommodations,
he quietly examined the memoranda of his agent, and the supply of goods
on hand. With an appearance of great indifference, he listened to the
business reports and gossip of Greeley, who informed him that Indians
from different tribes had come in but had brought but little gold. To
assure himself of the progress made by the Indians in forming a union
among themselves, he called those present around him in front of his
store, and passed the friendly pipe. After the usual silence and delay.
Savage said: “I know that all about me are my friends, and as a friend
to all, I wish to have a talk with you before I go back to my home on
the Mariposa, from which I have been a long distance away, but where I
could not stop until I had warned you.

“I know that some of the Indians do not wish to be friends with the
white men, and that they are trying to unite the different tribes for
the purpose of a war. It is better for the Indians and white men to be
friends. If the Indians make war on the white men, every tribe will be
exterminated; not one will be left. I have just been where the white
men are more numerous than the wasps and ants; and if war is made and
the Americans are aroused to anger, every Indian engaged in the war
will be killed before the whites will be satisfied.” In a firm and
impressive manner Savage laid before them the damaging effects of a
war, and the advantages to all of a continued peaceful intercourse. His
knowledge of Indian language was sufficient to make his remarks clearly
understood, and they were apparently well received.

Not supposing that Jose would attempt there to advocate any of his
schemes, the trader remarked, as he finished his speech: “A chief
who has returned with me from the place where the white men are so
numerous, can tell that what I have said is true–Jose Juarez–you all
know, and will believe him when he tells you the white men are more
powerful than the Indians.”

The cunning chief with much dignity, deliberately stepped forward,
with more assurance than he had shown since the belligerent occurrence
at the bay, and spoke with more energy than Savage had anticipated.
He commenced by saying: “Our brother has told his Indian relatives
much that is truth; we have seen many people; the white men are very
numerous; but the white men we saw on our visit are of many tribes;
they are not like the tribe that dig gold in the mountains.” He then
gave an absurd description of what he had seen while below, and said:
“Those white tribes will not come to the mountains. They will not help
the gold diggers if the Indians make war against them. If the gold
diggers go to the white tribes in the big village they give their gold
for strong water and games; when they have no more gold the white
tribes drive the gold-diggers back to the mountains with clubs. They
strike them down (referring to the police), as your white relative
struck me while I was with him.” (His vindictive glance assured Savage
that the blow was not forgotten or forgiven.) “The white tribes will
not go to war with the Indians in the mountains. They cannot bring
their big ships and big guns to us; we have no cause to fear them. They
will not injure us.”

To Savage’s extreme surprise, he then boldly advocated an immediate
war upon the whites, assuring his listeners that, as all the territory
belonged to the Indians, if the tribes would unite the whole tribe
of gold-diggers could be easily driven from their country; but, if
the gold-diggers should stay longer, their numbers will be too great
to make war upon, and the Indians would finally be destroyed. In
his speech Jose evinced a keenness of observation inconsistent with
his apparent drunken stupidity. Savage had thought this stupidity
sometimes assumed. He now felt assured that the chief had expected
thereby to learn his plans. To the writer there seems to be nothing
inconsistent with Indian craft, keenness of observation and love of
revenge in Jose’s conduct, though he was frequently drunk while at
“the bay.” While Jose was speaking other Indians had joined the circle
around him. Their expressions of approval indicated the effects of his
speech. During this time Savage had been seated on a log in front of
the store, a quiet listener. When Jose concluded, the trader arose,
and stepping forward, calmly addressed the relatives of his wives and
the Indians in whom he still felt confidence. The earnest and positive
speech of the cunning chief had greatly surprised him; he was somewhat
discouraged at the approval with which it had been received; but with
great self-possession, he replied, “I have listened very attentively to
what the chief, who went with me as my friend, has been saying to you.
I have heard all he has said. He has told you of many things that he
saw. He has told you some truth. He has told of many things which he
knows nothing about. He has told you of things he saw in his dreams,
while “strong water” made him sleep. The white men we saw there are
all of the same tribe as the gold-diggers here among the mountains.
He has told you he saw white men that were pale, and had tall hats on
their heads, with clothing different from the gold-diggers. This was
truth, but they are all brothers, all of one tribe. All can wear the
clothing of the gold-diggers; all can climb the mountains, and if war
is made on the gold-diggers, the white men will come and fight against
the Indians. Their numbers will be so great, that every tribe will be
destroyed that joins in a war against them.”

Jose observing the effects of these statements, excitedly interrupted
Savage by entering the circle, exclaiming: “He is telling you words
that are not true. His tongue is forked and crooked. He is telling lies
to his Indian relatives. This trader is not a friend to the Indians.
He is not our brother. He will help the white gold-diggers to drive
the Indians from their country. We can now drive them from among us,
and if the other white tribes should come to their help, we will go to
the mountains; if they follow after us, they cannot find us; none of
them will come back; we will kill them with arrows and with rocks.”
While Jose was thus vociferously haranguing, other Indians came into
the grounds, and the crisis was approaching. As Jose Juarez ended his
speech, Jose Rey, another influential chief and prominent leader,
walked proudly into the now enlarged circle, followed by his suite of
treacherous Chow-chillas, among whom were Tom-Kit and Frederico. He
keenly glanced about him, and assuming a grandly tragic style, at once
commenced a speech by saying: “My people are now ready to begin a war
against the white gold-diggers. If all the tribes will be as one tribe,
and join with us, we will drive all the white men from our mountains.
If all the tribes will go together, the white men will run from us, and
leave their property behind them. The tribes who join in with my people
will be the first to secure the property of the gold-diggers.”

The dignity and eloquent style of Jose Rey controlled the attention of
the Indians. This appeal to their cupidity interested them; a common
desire for plunder would be the strongest inducement to unite against
the whites.

Savage was now fully aware that he had been defeated at this impromptu
council he had himself organized, and at once withdrew to prepare for
the hostilities he was sure would soon follow. As soon as the Indians
dispersed, he started with his squaws for home, and again gave the
settlers warning of what was threatened and would soon be attempted.

These occurrences were narrated to me by Savage. The incidents of
the council at the Fresno Station were given during the familiar
conversations of our intimate acquaintanceship. The Indian speeches
here quoted are like all others of their kind, really but poor
imitations. The Indian is very figurative in his language. If a literal
translation were attempted his speeches would seem so disjointed and
inverted in their methods of expression, that their signification could
scarcely be understood; hence only the substance is here given.

The reports from Savage were considered by the miners and settlers as
absurd. It was generally known that mountain men of Savage’s class
were inclined to adopt the vagaries and superstitions of the Indians
with whom they were associated; and therefore but little attention was
given to the trader’s warnings. It was believed that he had listened
to the blatant palaver of a few vagabond “Digger Indians,” and that
the threatened hostilities were only a quarrel between Savage and
his Indian miners, or with some of his Indian associates. Cassady, a
rival trader, especially scoffed at the idea of danger, and took no
precautions to guard himself or establishment. The settlers of Indian
Gulch and Quartzberg were, however, soon after startled by a report
brought by one of Savage’s men called “Long-haired Brown,” that the
traders’ store on the Fresno had been robbed, and all connected with
it killed except himself. Brown had been warned by an Indian he had
favored, known as Polonio-Arosa, but notwithstanding this aid, he had
to take the chances of a vigorous pursuit.

Brown was a large man of great strength and activity, and as he said,
had dodged their arrows and distanced his pursuers in the race. Close
upon the heels of this report, came a rumor from the miners’ camp on
Mariposa creek, that Savage’s establishment at that place had also been
plundered and burned, and all connected with it killed. This report was
soon after corrected by the appearance of the trader at Quartzberg.
Savage was highly offended at the indifference with which his cautions
had been received at Mariposa, and by the county authorities, then
located at Agua-Fria. He stated that his wives had assured him that a
raid was about to be made on his establishment, and warned him of the
danger of a surprise. He had at once sought aid from personal friends
at Horse Shoe Bend–where he had once traded–to remove or protect
his property. While he was absent, Greeley, Stiffner and Kennedy had
been killed, his property plundered and burned, and his wives carried
off by their own people. These squaws had been importuned to leave
the trader, but had been faithful to his interests. The excitement of
these occurrences had not subsided before news came of the murder of
Cassady and four men near the San Joaquin. Another murderous assault
was soon after reported by an immigrant who arrived at Cassady’s
Bar, on the upper crossing of the San Joaquin. His shattered arm and
panting horse excited the sympathies of the settlers, and aroused the
whole community. The wounded man was provided for, and a party at once
started for the “Four Creeks,” where he had left his comrades fighting
the Indians.

The arm of the wounded man was amputated by Dr. Lewis Leach, of St.
Louis, Mo., an immigrant who had but just come in over the same
route. The name of the wounded man was Frank W. Boden. He stated that
his party–four men, I believe, besides himself–had halted at the
“Four Creeks” to rest and graze their horses, and while there a band
of Indians (Ka-we-ahs) came down from their village and demanded
tribute for crossing their territory. Looking upon the demand as a new
form of Indian beggary, but little attention was paid to them. After
considerable bantering talk, some tobacco was given them, and they went
off grumbling and threatening. Boden said: “After the Indians left we
talked over the matter for a while; none regarded the demand of the
‘Indian tax-gatherers’ but as a trivial affair. I then mounted my horse
and rode off in the direction in which we had seen some antelopes as we
came on. I had not gone far before I heard firing in the direction of
our halting-place.

“Riding back, I saw the house near which I had left my comrades was
surrounded by yelling demons. I was discovered by them at the same
instant, and some of them dashed toward me. Seeing no possibility of
joining my party, I turned and struck my horse with the spurs, but
before I could get beyond range of their arrows, I felt a benumbing
sensation in my arm, which dropped powerless. Seeing that my arm was
shattered or broken, I thought I would give them one shot at least
before I fell into their hands. Checking my horse with some difficulty,
I turned so as to rest my rifle across my broken arm, and took sight on
the nearest of my pursuers, who halted at the same time.”

At this point in his story the hardy adventurer remarked with a twinkle
of satisfaction in his bright, keen eye: “I never took better aim in my
life. That Indian died suddenly. Another dash was made for me. My horse
did not now need the spurs, he seemed to be aware that we must leave
that locality as soon as possible, and speedily distanced them all. As
soon as the first excitement was over I suffered excruciating pain in
my arm. My rifle being useless to me, I broke it against a tree and
threw it away. I then took the bridle rein in my teeth and carried the
broken arm in my other hand.”

The party that went out to the place of attack–Dr. Thomas Payn’s, now
Visalia, named for Nat. Vice, an acquaintance of the writer–found
there the mangled bodies of Boden’s four companions. One of these, it
was shown by unmistakable evidence, had been skinned by the merciless
fiends while yet alive.

These men had doubtless made a stout resistance. Like brave men they
had fought for their lives, and caused, no doubt, a heavy loss to their
assailants. This, with their refusal to comply with the demand for
tribute, was the motive for such wolfish barbarity.

It now became necessary that some prompt action should be taken
for general protection. Rumors of other depredations and murders
alarmed the inhabitants of Mariposa county. Authentic statements of
these events were at once forwarded to Governor John McDougall, by
the sheriff and other officials, and citizens, urging the immediate
adoption of some measures on the part of the State for the defense
of the people. Raids upon the miners’ camps and the “Ranch” of the
settlers had become so frequent that on its being rumored that the
Indians were concentrating for more extensive operations, a party,
without waiting for any official authority, collected and started
out to check the ravages of the marauders that were found gathering
among the foothills. With but limited supplies, and almost without
organization, this party made a rapid and toilsome march among the
densely wooded mountains in pursuit of the savages, who, upon report of
our movements, were now retreating. This party came up with the Indians
at a point high up on the Fresno. In the skirmish which followed a Lt.
Skeane was killed, William Little was seriously wounded and some others
slightly injured.

This engagement, which occurred on January 11th, 1851, was not a very
satisfactory one to the whites. The necessity of a more efficient
organization was shown. The Indians had here taken all the advantages
of position and successfully repulsed the attack of the whites, who
withdrew, and allowed the former to continue their course.

Some of the party returned to the settlements for supplies and
reinforcements, taking with them the wounded.

Those who remained, reorganized, and leisurely followed the Indians to
near the North Fork of the San Joaquin river, where they had encamped
on a round rugged mountain covered with a dense undergrowth–oaks and
digger pine. Here, protected by the sheltering rocks and trees, they
defiantly taunted the whites with cowardice and their late defeat. They
boasted of their robberies and murders, and called upon Savage to come
out where he could be killed. In every possible manner they expressed
their contempt. Savage–who had joined the expedition–became very
much exasperated, and at first favored an immediate assault, but wiser
counsels prevailed, and by Captain Boling’s prudent advice, Savage kept
himself in reserve, knowing that he would be an especial mark, and as
Boling had said, his knowledge of the Indians and their territory could
not very well be dispensed with. This course did not please all, and,
as might have been expected, then and afterwards disparaging remarks
were made.

The leaders in exciting hostilities against the whites were Jose Juarez
and Jose Rey. The bands collected on this mountain were under the
leadership of Jose Rey, who was also known by his English name of “King
Joseph.” The tribes represented were the Chow-chilla, Chook-chan-cie,
Noot-chu, Ho-nah-chee, Po-to-en-cie, Po-ho-no-chee, Kah-we-ah and
Yosemite. The number of fighting men or warriors was estimated at about
500, while that of the whites did not exceed 100.

It was late in the day when the Indians were discovered. A general
council was held, and it was decided that no attack should be made
until their position could be studied, and the probable number to be
encountered, ascertained. Captain Kuy-ken-dall, Lieutenants Doss and
Chandler, and others, volunteered to make a reconnoissance before night
should interfere with their purpose.

The scouting party was not noticed until on its return, when it was
followed back to camp by the Indians, where during nearly the whole
night their derisive shouts and menaces in broken Spanish and _native
American_, made incessant vigilance of the whole camp a necessity.
A council was again called to agree on the plan to be adopted. This
council of war was general; official position was disregarded except
to carry out the decisions of the party or command. The scouts had
discovered that this rendezvous was an old Indian village as well as

The plan was that an attack should be undertaken at daylight, and
that an effort should be made to set fire to the village, preliminary
to the general assault. This plan was strongly advocated by the more
experienced ones who had seen service in Mexico and in Indian warfare.

Kuy-ken-dall, Doss and Chandler, “as brave men as ever grew,” seemed to
vie with each other for the leadership, and at starting Kuy-ken-dall
seemed to be in command, but when the assault was made, Chandler’s
_elan_ carried him ahead of all, and he thus became the _leader_ indeed.

But thirty-six men were detached for the preliminary service.
Everything being arranged the attacking party started before daylight.
The Indians had but a little while before ceased their annoyances
around the camp. The reserve under Savage and Boling were to follow
more leisurely. Kuy-ken-dall’s command reached the Indian camp
without being discovered. Without the least delay the men dashed in
and with brands from the camp fires, set the wigwams burning, and
at the same time madly attacked the now alarmed camp. The light
combustible materials of which the wigwams were composed were soon in
a bright blaze. So rapid and so sudden were the charges made, that the
panic-stricken warriors at once fled from their stronghold. Jose Rey
was among the first shot down. The Indians made a rally to recover
their leader; Chandler observing them, shouted “Charge, boys! Charge!!”
Discharging another volley, the men rushed forward.

The savages turned and fled down the mountain, answering back the
shout of Chandler to charge by replying, “Chargee!” “Chargee!” as they

The whole camp was routed, and sought safety among the rocks and brush,
and by flight.

This was an unexpected result. The whole transaction had been so
quickly and recklessly done that the reserve under Boling and Savage
had no opportunity to participate in the assault, and but imperfectly
witnessed the scattering of the terrified warriors. Kuy-ken-dall,
especially, displayed a coolness and valor entitling him to command,
though outrun by Chandler in the assault. The fire from the burning
village spread so rapidly down the mountain side toward our camp as to
endanger its safety. While the whites were saving their camp supplies,
the Indians under cover of the smoke escaped. No prisoners were taken;
twenty-three were killed; the number wounded was never known. Of the
settlers, but one was really wounded, though several were scorched
and bruised in the fight. None were killed. The scattering flight of
the Indians made a further pursuit uncertain. The supplies were too
limited for an extended chase; and as none had reached the little army
from those who had returned, and time would be lost in waiting, it was
decided to return to the settlements before taking any other active
measures. The return was accomplished without interruption.

The State authorities had in the meantime become aroused. The reports
of Indian depredations multiplied, and a general uprising was for a
time threatened.

Proclamations were therefore issued by Gov. McDougall, calling for
volunteers, to prevent further outrages and to punish the marauders.
Our impromptu organization formed the nucleus of the volunteer force
in Mariposa county, as a large majority of the men at once enlisted.
Another battalion was organized for the region of Los Angelos. Our new
organization, when full, numbered two hundred mounted men. This was
accomplished in time, by Major Savage riding over to the San Joaquin,
and bringing back men from Cassady’s Bar.

The date from which we were regularly mustered into the service was
January 24th, 1851. The volunteers provided their own horses and
equipments. The camp supplies and baggage trains were furnished by
the State. This military force was called into existence by the State
authorities, but by act of Congress its maintenance was at the expense
of the general government, under direction of Indian commissioners.
Major Ben McCullough was offered the command of this battalion, but
he declined it. This position was urged upon him with the supposition
that if he accepted it the men who had once served under him would be
induced to enlist–many of the “Texan Rangers” being residents of
Mariposa county.

Major McCullough was at that time employed as Collector of “Foreign
Miners’ Tax,” a very lucrative office. As a personal acquaintance,
he stated to me that the position was not one that would bring him
honor or pecuniary advantages. That he had no desire to leave a good
position, except for one more profitable.

The officers, chosen by the men, recommended to and commissioned
by Governor McDougall, were James D. Savage, as Major; John J.
Kuy-ken-dall, John Boling, and William Dill, as Captains; M. B. Lewis,
as Adjutant; John I. Scott, Reuben T. Chandler, and Hugh W. Farrell,
as First Lieutenants; Robert E. Russell, as Sergeant Major; Dr. A.
Bronson, as Surgeon, and Drs. Pfifer and Black as Assistant Surgeons. A
few changes of Lieutenants and subordinate officers were afterward made.

Upon the resignation of Surgeon Bronson, Dr. Lewis Leach, was appointed
to fill the vacancy.

While writing up these recollections, in order to verify my dates,
which I knew were not always chronologically exact, I addressed letters
to the State departments of California making inquiries relative to
the “Mariposa Battalion,” organized in 1851. In answer to my inquiry
concerning these known facts, the following was received from Adj.
General L. H. Foot. He says: “The records of this office, both written
and printed, are so incomplete, that I am not aware from consulting
them that the organization to which you allude had existence.” It is a
matter of regret that the history of the early settlement of California
is, to so great an extent, traditionary, without public records of many
important events. It is not deemed just that the faithful services of
the “Mariposa Battalion,” should be forgotten with the fading memory
of the pioneers of that period. There is in the State, an almost
entire absence of any public record of the “Indian war,” of which the
discovery of the Yosemite valley was an important episode.

Until the publication of Mr. J. M. Hutching’s book, “In The Heart of
The Sierras, Yo Semite, Big Trees, etc.,” which contains valuable
public documents, the author of “Discovery of The Yosemite” was, as
stated on page 30, unable to obtain any official records concerning the
operations of the Mariposa battalion, or of the events which preceded
and caused the Indian War of 1851. Now that Mr. Hutching’s persistent
industry has brought light from darkness, I interrupt my narrative to
make clear the origin of the war, and to justify the early Pioneers
engaged in it. As a sample, also, of many obstructions encountered, I
insert a few extracts from letters relating to the “Date of Discovery,”
furnished the _Century_ Magazine.

The attack made upon Savage on the Merced river in 1850, had for its
object plunder and intimidation, and as an invasion of Ten-ie-ya’s
territory was no longer threatened after the removal of Mr. Savage to
the Mariposa, the Yo Semities contented themselves with the theft of
horses and clothing, but a general war was still impending, as may be
seen by reference to page 31 of “In The Heart of The Sierras,” where
appears: Report of Col. Adam Johnston, a special agent, to Gov. Peter
H. Burnett, upon his return from Mariposa county to San Jose, then the
Capital of California, and which I here present: San Jose, January 2,
1851. Sir: I have the honor to submit to you, as the executive of the
State of California, some facts connected with the recent depredations
committed by the Indians, within the bounds of the State, upon the
persons and property of her citizens. The immediate scene of their
hostile movements are at and in the vicinity of the Mariposa and
Fresno. The Indians in that portion of your State have, for some time
past, exhibited disaffection and a restless feeling toward the whites.
Thefts were continually being perpetrated by them, but no act of
hostility had been committed by them on the person of any individual,
which indicated general enmity on the part of the Indians, until
the night of the 17th December last. I was then at the camp of Mr.
James D. Savage, on the Mariposa, where I had gone for the purpose of
reconciling any difficulty that might exist between the Indians and the
whites in that vicinity. From various conversations which I had held
with different chiefs, I concluded there was no immediate danger to be
apprehended. On the evening of the 17th of December, we were, however,
surprised by the sudden disappearance of the Indians. They left in a
body, but no one knew why, or where they had gone. From the fact that
Mr. Savage’s domestic Indians had forsaken him and gone with those of
the rancheria, or village, he immediately suspected that something of a
serious nature was in contemplation, or had already been committed by

The manner of their leaving, in the night, and by stealth, induced Mr.
Savage to believe that whatever act they had committed or intended
to commit, might be connected with himself. Believing that he could
overhaul his Indians before others could join them, and defeat any
contemplated depredations on their part, he, with sixteen men, started
in pursuit. He continued upon their traces for about thirty miles, when
he came upon their encampment. The Indians had discovered his approach,
and fled to an adjacent mountain, leaving behind them two small boys
asleep, and the remains of an aged female, who had died, no doubt
from fatigue. Near to the encampment Mr. Savage ascended a mountain
in pursuit of the Indians, from which he discovered them upon another
mountain at a distance. From these two mountain tops, conversation was
commenced and kept up for some time between Mr. Savage and the chief,
who told him that they had murdered the men on the Fresno, and robbed
the camp. The chief had formerly been on the most friendly terms with
Savage, but would not now permit him to approach him. Savage said to
them it would be better for them to return to their village–that with
very little labor daily, they could procure sufficient gold to purchase
them clothing and food. To this the chief replied it was a hard way to
get a living, and that they could more easily supply their wants by
stealing from the whites. He also said to Savage he must not deceive
the whites by telling them lies, he must not tell them that the Indians
were friendly; they were not, but on the contrary were their deadly
enemies, and that they intended killing and plundering them so long as
a white face was seen in the country. Finding all efforts to induce
them to return, or to otherwise reach them, had failed, Mr. Savage and
his company concluded to return. When about leaving, they discovered a
body of Indians, numbering about two hundred, on a distant mountain,
who seemed to be approaching those with whom he had been talking.

Mr. Savage and company arrived at his camp in the night of Thursday in
safety. In the mean time, as news had reached us of murders committed
on the Fresno, we had determined to proceed to the Fresno, where the
men had been murdered. Accordingly on the day following, Friday, the
20th, I left the Mariposa camp with thirty-five men, for the camp on
the Fresno, to see the situation of things there, and to bury the dead.
I also dispatched couriers to Agua Fria, Mariposa, and several other
mining sections, hoping to concentrate a sufficient force on the Fresno
to pursue the Indians into the mountains. Several small companies of
men left their respective places of residence to join us, but being
unacquainted with the country they were unable to meet us. We reached
the camp on the Fresno a short time after daylight. It presented a
horrid scene of savage cruelty. The Indians had destroyed everything
they could not use or carry with them. The store was stripped of
blankets, clothing, flour, and everything of value; the safe was
broken open and rifled of its contents; the cattle, horses and mules
had been run into the mountains; the murdered men had been stripped of
their clothing, and lay before us filled with arrows; one of them had
yet twenty perfect arrows sticking in him. A grave was prepared, and
the unfortunate persons interred. Our force being small, we thought
it not prudent to pursue the Indians farther into the mountains, and
determined to return. The Indians in that part of the country are quite
numerous, and have been uniting other tribes with them for some time.
On reaching our camp on the Mariposa, we learned that most of the
Indians in the valley had left their villages and taken their women
and children to the mountains. This is generally looked upon as a sure
indication of their hostile intentions. It is feared that many of the
miners in the more remote regions have already been cut off, and Agua
Fria and Mariposa are hourly threatened.

Under this state of things, I come here at the earnest solicitations of
the people of that region, to ask such aid from the state government as
will enable them to protect their persons and property. I submit these
facts for your consideration, and have the honor to remain,

Yours very respectfully,

To his excellency Peter H. Burnett.

The report of Col. Johnston to Gov. Burnett had the desired result,
for immediately after inauguration, his successor, Gov. McDougal,
on January 13, 1851, issued a proclamation calling for one hundred
volunteers, and this number by a subsequent order dated January 24th,
1851, after receipt of Sheriff James Burney’s report, bearing the same
date of the governor’s first call for one hundred men, was increased to
“two hundred able bodied men, under officers of their own selection.”

To insure a prompt suppression of hostilities, or a vigorous
prosecution of the war, on January 25th, 1851, Gov. McDougal appointed
Col. J. Neely Johnson of his staff a special envoy to visit Mariposa
county, and in an emergency, to call out additional forces if required,
and do whatever seemed best for the interests and safety of the people

Col. Adam Johnston, before leaving for San Jose, had, as he reported,
“dispatched couriers to Agua Fria, Mariposa, and several other mining
sections, hoping to concentrate a sufficient force on the Fresno to
pursue the Indians into the mountains. Several small companies of
men left their respective places of residence to join us, but being
unacquainted with the country they were unable to meet us.”

The same apparent difficulties beset Sheriff Burney, as he was able to
collect but seventy-four men, but want of knowledge of the country was
not the sole cause of delay. The Indians of the mountains at that time
having been accustomed to the occupation for many years of despoiling
the Californians, were the most expert bare back riders and horse
thieves in the world, and when many of us who had horses and mules
herding in the valley ranches of the foot-hills and Merced bottoms,
sent for them to carry us into the distant mountains of the Fresno,
where we had heard the Indians were concentrating, our messengers in
many instances found the animals stolen or stampeded, and hence the
delay in most instances, though some of the mining population who had
arrived in California by water, never seemed able to guide themselves
without a compass, and would get lost if they left a beaten trail. As
for myself, I could scarcely become lost, except in a heavy fog or snow
storm, and upon two occasions in the mountains was compelled to leave
my comrades, who were utterly and wilfully lost, but who, finding me
the most persistent, finally called to me and followed out to well
known land marks.

It will appear by the letter of Major Burney that “The different squads
from the various places rendezvoused not far from this place (Agua
Fria), on Monday, 6th, and numbered but seventy-four men.” I was at
Shirlock’s Creek on the night before, Jan. 5th, 1851, and had promised
to join the Major in the morning; but when the morning came, my animals
were gone, stolen by Indians from my Mexican herdman.

Mr. C. H. Spencer had sent his servant “Jimmy,” to Snelling’s ranche,
on the Merced River, for his animals, and after a delay of perhaps two
or three days, they were brought up for use. Mr. Spencer kindly loaned
me a mule for temporary use, but upon his having his saddle mule stolen
a few nights after, I gave back his mule and bought a fine one of Thos.
J. Whitlock, for whom Whitlock’s Creek was named. I had previously been
able to start with a small squad on the trail of Major Burney and his
brave men, but met some of them returning after the fight, among whom
I remember, were Wm. Little, shot through the lungs, but who finally
recovered, a Mr. Smith, known as “Yankee Smith,” sick, as he said,
“from a bare-footed fool exposure in the snow,” and Dr. Pfifer, who had
been given the care of the wounded and sick men. There were several
others unknown to me, or whose names I have now forgotten.

The different accounts I received from the men engaged in the fight,
were so conflicting, that in referring to it in previous editions, on
page 25, I could only say that it “was not a very satisfactory one to
the whites.” I could only state the general impression received from
Mr. Little’s account, which was that the men had been unnecessarily
exposed to cold and danger, and that only by the dash and bravery of
the officers and men engaged in the affair were they able to withdraw
into a place of temporary safety, until joined by re-inforcements.

Indian fighting was new to most of the men engaged, and, like the
soldiers on both sides at the outbreak of the Rebellion, they had been
led to expect a too easy victory.

But we have now the report of Major Burney to Gov. McDougal, and also
a letter from Mr. Theodore G. Palmer, of Newark, New Jersey, to his
father, written five days after the battle, and which has been kindly
placed at my disposal. Military men will readily perceive and enjoy the
entire artlessness and intended truthfulness of Mr. Palmer’s letter,
as well as his modest bravery. The two letters read in connection
with that of Col. Adam Johnston, are most valuable in fixing dates
and locations for any one with a knowledge of the topography of the
country, and of the events they narrate. They set at rest forever the
absurd claim that the first battle of the Indian War of 1851 was fought
in the Yosemite valley, for the battle was fought on a mountain. Mr.
Hutchings, to whose industry so much is due, has strangely overlooked
the fact, that the reference to “Monday 6th,” in Major Burney’s letter,
could only have reference to Monday, January 6th, 1851, the month in
which the letter was written, and not to December, 1850, as given by
Mr. Hutchings, in brackets. The 6th of December, 1850, occurred on
a Friday; on Tuesday, December 17, 1850, the three men were killed
on the Fresno river station of James D. Savage; on Friday, December
20th, 1850, they were buried; on Monday, January 6th, 1851, Major
Burney, sheriff of Mariposa County, assembled a strong _posse_ to
go in pursuit of the Indian murderers, and coming up with them on a
mountain stronghold on Jan. 11th, 1851, destroyed their villages, and
then retreated _down_ the mountain some four miles to _a plain_ in
the Fresno valley, where he erected a log breastwork for temporary
defense. Nothing but the most vivid imagination, coupled with an entire
ignorance of the region of the Yosemite, could liken the two localities
to each other. The Hetch Hetchy valley of the Tuolumne river and some
of the cliffs of the Tuolumne and of the King’s river, bear a general
resemblance to some of the scenery of the Yosemite, but when the
Yosemite valley itself has been seen, it will never be forgotten by the


AGUA FRIA, January 13, 1851.

SIR: Your Excellency has doubtlessly been informed by Mr. Johnston and
others, of repeated and aggravated depredations of the Indians in this
part of the State. Their more recent outrages you are probably not
aware of. Since the departure of Mr. Johnston, the Indian agent, they
have killed a portion of the citizens on the head of the San Joaquin
river, driven the balance off, taken away all movable property, and
destroyed all they could not take away. They have invariably murdered
and robbed all the small parties they fell in with between here and
the San Joaquin. News came here last night that seventy-two men were
killed on Rattlesnake Creek; several men have been killed in Bear
Valley. The Fine Gold Gulch has been deserted, and the men came in here
yesterday. Nearly all the mules and horses in this part of the State
have been stolen, both from the mines and the ranches. And I now, in
the name of the people of this part of the State, and for the good of
our country, appeal to your Excellency for assistance.

In order to show your Excellency that the people have done all that
they can do to suppress these things, to secure quiet and safety in the
possession of our property and lives, I will make a brief statement of
what has been done here.

After the massacres on the Fresno, San Joaquin, etc., we endeavored
to raise a volunteer company to drive the Indians back, if not to
take them or force them into measures. The different squads from the
various places rendezvoused not far from this place on Monday, 6th, and
numbered but seventy-four men. A company was formed, and I was elected
captain; J. W. Riley, first lieutenant; E. Skeane, second lieutenant.
We had but eight day’s provisions, and not enough animals to pack our
provisions and blankets, as it should have been done. We, however,
marched, and on the following day struck a large trail of horses that
had been stolen by the Indians. I sent forward James D. Savage with
a small spy force, and I followed the trail with my company. About
two o’clock in the morning, Savage came in and reported the village
near, as he had heard the Indians singing. Here I halted, left a
small guard with my animals, and went forward with the balance of my
men. We reached the village just before day, and at dawn, but before
there was light enough to see how to fire our rifles with accuracy, we
were discovered by their sentinel. When I saw that he had seen us, I
ordered a charge on the village (this had been reconnoitered by Savage
and myself). The Indian sentinel and my company got to the village
at the same time, he yelling to give the alarm. I ordered them to
surrender, some of them ran off, some seemed disposed to surrender, but
others fired on us; we fired and charged into the village. Their ground
had been selected on account of the advantages it possessed in their
mode of warfare. They numbered about four hundred, and fought us three
hours and a half.

We killed from forty to fifty, but cannot exactly tell how many, as
they took off all they could get to. Twenty-six were killed in and
around the village, and a number of others in the chaparrel. We burned
the village and provisions, and took four horses. Our loss was six
wounded, two mortally; one of the latter was Lieutenant Skeane, the
other a Mr. Little, whose bravery and conduct through the battle cannot
be spoken of too highly. We made litters, on which we conveyed our
wounded, and had to march four miles down the mountain, to a suitable
place to camp, the Indians firing at us all the way, from peaks on
either side, but so far off as to do little damage. My men had been
marching or fighting from the morning of the day before, without sleep,
and with but little to eat. On the plain, at the foot of the mountain,
we made a rude, but substantial fortification; and at a late hour those
who were not on guard, were permitted to sleep. Our sentinels were (as
I anticipated they would be) firing at the Indians occasionally all
night, but I had ordered them not to come in until they were driven in.

I left my wounded men there, with enough of my company to defend the
little fort, and returned to this place for provisions and recruits.
I send them to-day re-inforcements and provisions, and in two days
more I march by another route, with another re-inforcement, and intend
to attack another village before going to the fort. The Indians are
watching the movements at the fort, and I can come up in the rear of
them unsuspectedly, and we can keep them back until I can hear from
Your Excellency.

If Your Excellency thinks proper to authorize me or any other person to
keep this company together, we can force them into measures in a short
time. But if not authorized and commissioned to do so, and furnished
with some arms and provisions, or the means to buy them, and pay for
the services of the men, my company must be disbanded, as they are not
able to lose so much time without any compensation.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

In a subsequent letter of Major Burney, addressed to Hon. W. J. Howard,
occurs the following passage:

“The first night out you came into my camp and reported that the
Indians had stolen all your horses and mules–a very large number; that
you had followed their trail into the hill country, but, deeming it
imprudent to go there alone, had turned northward, hoping to strike my
trail, having heard that I had gone out after Indians. I immediately,
at sunset, sent ten men (yourself among the number) under Lieutenant
Skeane–who was killed in the fight next day–to look out for the
trail, and report, which was very promptly carried out.”

Page 35, “In Heart of S. and Legislative Journal” for 1851, page 600.

It is only required of me to say here that re-inforced by such leaders
of men as Kuykendall, Boling, Chandler and Doss, there was no delay,
and the campaign was completed at “Battle Mountain,” a water shed of
the San Joaquin.

I now introduce a letter of great value, to me, as it fixes the date
of the first battle, and disproves assertions made in the _Century_


MY DEAR FATHER: When I wrote my last letter to you I had fully
determined to take a Ranch near Pacheco’s Pass, as I informed you, but
before three days had passed the report of Jim Kennedy’s murder on the
Fresno was confirmed, and I started for the mountains in pursuit of
the Indians who were committing depredations all through the country
and had sworn to kill every white man in it. Four hundred men had
promised to go, but at the appointed time only seventy-seven made their
appearance. With these we started under the command of Major Burney,
Sheriff of Mariposa County, guided by Mr. Jas. D. Savage, who is
without doubt the best man in the world for hunting them out.

From his long acquaintance with the Indians, Mr. Savage has learned
their ways so thoroughly that they cannot deceive him. He has been one
of their greatest chiefs, and speaks their language as well as they can
themselves. No dog can follow a trail like he can. No horse endure half
so much. He sleeps but little, can go days without food, and can run a
hundred miles in a day and night over the mountains and then sit and
laugh for hours over a camp-fire as fresh and lively as if he had just
been taking a little walk for exercise.

With him for a guide we felt little fear of not being able to find them.

On Friday morning about ten o’clock, our camp again moved forward
and kept traveling until one that night, when “halt! we are on the
Indians,” passed in a whisper down the line. Every heart beat quicker
as we silently unsaddled our animals and tied them to the bushes around
us. Commands were given in whispers and we were formed in a line. Sixty
were chosen for the expedition, the balance remaining behind in charge
of camp.

Savage said the Indians were about six miles off; that they were
engaged in a feast. He pointed out their fires, could hear them sing
and could smell them, but his eyes were the only ones that could see;
his ears alone could hear, and his nose smell anything unusual. Still,
there was such confidence placed in him that not one doubted for an
instant that everything was as he said.

About two o’clock we started in Indian file, as still as it was
possible for sixty men to move in the dark, for the moon had set. For
three long hours did we walk slowly and cautiously over the rocks and
bushes, through the deepest ravines and up steep and ragged mountain,
until within a half mile of the enemy.

Here every one took off his boots, when we again pushed forward to
about two hundred yards from the camp. Another halt was called to wait
for daylight, while Savage went forward to reconnoitre. He succeeded
in getting within ten paces of the Rancharia, and listened to a
conversation among them in which his name was frequently mentioned.
He found that it was a town of the Kee-chees, but that there were
about one hundred and fifty of the Chow-chil-la warriors with them and
several of the Chu-chan-ces. Had he found only the Kee-chees as he
expected, we were to surround the Rancharia and take all prisoners,
but the presence of so many Chow-chil-las, the most warlike tribe in
California, made a change of plan necessary.

Daylight by this time began to appear. We had been lying in our
stocking-feet on the ground on the top of a mountain within a few paces
of the snow for more than an hour, almost frozen by the intense cold,
not daring to move or speak a word.

It was not yet light enough to see the sight of our rifles, when an
Indian’s head was seen rising on the hill before us. For a moment his
eyes wandered, then rested on us, and with a yell like a Coyote he
turned for the Rancharia. Never did I hear before such an infernal
howling, whooping and yelling, as saluted us then from the throats
of about six hundred savages, as they rushed down the hill into the
gim-o-sell bushes below.

Our huzzahs could, however, hardly have sounded more pleasant to them,
as when finding we were discovered, we charged on their town. Fifty
rifles cracked almost instantaneously; a dozen Indians lay groaning
before their huts, and many supposed we had undisturbed possession.
Our firing had ceased and we were looking around for plunder, when
a rifle fired from the bushes below, struck a young Texan, Charley
Huston, standing by my side. He fell with a single groan, and we all
supposed him dead. My first impression was that I was shot, for I
plainly heard the ball strike and almost felt it. This was a surprise
that almost whipped us, for not knowing that the Indians had fire-arms,
we were only expecting arrows. Before that shot was fired, I had always
entertained the idea that I could run about as fast as common men (and
I was one of the first in the charge), but by the time I had collected
my wandering senses, I was nearly alone; the majority of the party some
thirty paces ahead, and running as if they never intended to stop.

Captain Burney and Mr. Savage were on top of the hill using every
exertion to make the company halt and form. He had partly succeeded,
when a pistol ball struck a man in the face, he fell, but raising
himself up said, “if we stay here we will be all shot” and a break was
made for the trees.

Still some few remained in rank and others slowly answered to the
orders to form, when our Second Lieutenant fell mortally wounded. He
was carried off, and every man took his tree.

The Indians had again possession of their Rancharia, and of a slight
eminence to the left, and were sending showers of bullets and arrows
upon us from three sides. These two points had to be gained even if it
cost half our men. Leaving then, enough to guard our present position,
the rest of us charged on the hill, took it, stormed the Rancharia,
took and burnt it, and returned to our former position with only one
man wounded, Wm. Little, shot through the lungs.

The close fighting was now over, for we could not give chase and were
forced to lie behind trees and rocks and pick out such as exposed
themselves. It was about half past ten when, finding it useless to
remain longer, litters were made for the wounded and we started for
camp. Then again we had warm work, for all down the pass, the Indians
had stationed themselves to fire on us, forcing us to charge on them
several times, for while we were in plain sight, they were completely
hid behind the gim-o-sell brush.

In our march back, the rear guard was kept at work about as hard as at
any time during the morning, but not a single man was hurt, and only
one mule was killed.

We moved our camp that night, six miles lower down, where we laid the
foundations of a fort and left thirty men to guard it and take care of
the wounded.

The rest of us started below the next morning, after burying Lieutenant
Skeane, who died in the night.

The Indians acknowledged to eleven men killed, though fifty killed
and wounded would be a moderate estimate. Our loss was seven
wounded–two mortally (as we then supposed, but Mr. Little finally

The force of the Savages consisted of, as near as could be ascertained,
four hundred warriors. We burned a hundred wigwams, several tons of
dried horse and mule meat, a great number of bows and arrows, and took
six mules.

Several amusing incidents occurred during the fight and others of the
most heroic bravery on the part of the Indians. One old squaw was
wounded accidentally at the first charge, and was unable to get off.
One of our men was going to finish her with his knife, but seeing it
was a woman he left her. No sooner had he gone than she picked up a bow
and lodged three arrows in another man. I believe she was not touched
after that.

The whole body of Indians seemed bent on killing Mr. Savage, partly
because he would not be their chief and lead them against the whites,
and partly because he was, they knew, our greatest dependence as guide,
and their particular dread. To kill him, many of them sacrificed their
own lives. They would come one at a time and, standing in open ground,
send arrows at him until shot down; and one old chief who used to cook
for Savage, would ask him after every shot where he had hit him. They
would talk to him to find out where he was, and as soon as he would
answer, the balls and arrows would fly thick around his head: but he
escaped unhurt; but as he said, worse frightened than he ever was
before. He did not fancy such partiality.

A large party has started on a second expedition, but I believe I am
perfectly satisfied with Indian fighting.


NOTE.–It will have been observed that especial reference has twice
been made to Gim-o-sell brush, a shrub that grows only on warm slatey
soil, on Southern exposures, sought by Indians for winter quarters,
and not on the granite cliffs and mountains of the Yosemite. I had
not thought it necessary to draw upon nature for testimony, but a new
generation has sprung into existence, and the eternal hills may speak
to them.

The mining camp or village of Agua Fria, at the date of the
organization of the battalion, was the county seat of Mariposa County,
and the residence of the Sheriff, Major James Burney. Whittier’s
Hotel was the head-quarters for enlistment. Finding the number called
for incomplete, while yet in daily expectation of the arrival of the
mustering officer, James D. Savage made a rapid ride to the San Joaquin
diggings, and returned with men enough to complete the organization.

We were formally reported for duty, and went into camp about two miles
below Agua Fria, on about the 10th of Feb., 1851, but when mustered
in, the rolls were dated to include service from Jan. 24th, 1851, the
date of the last order of enlistment. An informal ballot was taken to
show the preference of the men for officers to command us, Major Burney
having previously declined, and when that had been demonstrated, other
aspirants were withdrawn by their friends, a formal ballot was taken
and a regular organization of three companies completed. The Governor
was duly notified of our proceedings, and in a few days the commissions
were received by our respective officers.

After a few days in camp on Agua Fria Creek, we moved down to a camp in
the foot hills, known afterwards as Lewis Ranch, where we had abundant
grass and good water, and there was established our head-quarters,
while waiting for Col. J. Neely Johnson and the U. S. Indian
Commission, as stated in this chapter.

After instructions were given us by Col. Johnson, and the Commission
had exhausted its eloquence upon the “Children of the Great Father at
Washington,” and had started for the Fresno, we were allowed to go in
pursuit of some very sly marauders who had stolen into our camp in the
night, loosened and run off some of our animals, and taken some others
herded in the foot hills, but no extended operations were allowed, as
Major Savage ordered us to be in readiness for a campaign against the
Yosemities, when the first big storm should come, that would prevent
their escape across the Sierra Nevada. After a few days’ delay the
storm did come with continued violence, as recorded.

In view of the facts and dates here given how absurd the statement
that we did not go to the Yosemite “until about the 5th or 6th of May,
1851.” Our idleness in camp from Feb. 10th and the patient indulgence
of the Commissioners, while waiting for the results of our first
operations, surpass belief.

And now I reluctantly notice an error of statement by Mr. Julius N.
Pratt in the _Century_ Magazine for December, 1890.

Had the usual courtesy been extended of allowing me to see and answer
Mr. Pratt’s erroneous impressions in the same number, I am convinced
that he would have kindly withdrawn his article. I am led to this
belief, not alone from letters received, but from the _internal
evidence_ of an upright character conveyed by Mr. Pratt’s graphic
account of “A Trip to California by way of Panama in 1849,” in the
_Century_ for April 1891.

The _Century_ Magazine is a most powerful disseminator of truth, or
error, and though I cannot hope for a complete vindication through this
volume, its readers shall have the facts of “The Date of Discovery”
set before them, “for a truthful regard for history” and my own
self-respect require it.

In the _Century_ Magazine for September, 1890, page 795, is an article
from my pen which gives the date of discovery of the Yosemite as
March, 1851. Mr. Pratt, in the December number following, assumes,
with “a truthful regard for history,” that I was in error, and gives
about “January 10th, 1851, as the approximate, if not exact date of
discovery.” Many of the men whom Mr. Pratt supposed to have been the
discoverers, were, or became, my own comrades. When Mr. Pratt’s article
appeared, I at once sent a reply, but it received no recognition.

Knowing that Mr. Theodore G. Palmer, of Newark, New Jersey, was in
the only engagement occurring with Indians in Mariposa county at the
time given by Mr. Pratt as the date of his supposed discovery of the
Yosemite, I wrote, requesting Mr. Palmer to call on the editor of the
_Century_ in my behalf.

In a letter of January 9th, 1891, Mr. Palmer wrote: “It is the
unexpected which always happens, and your communication to the
_Century_ in response to Pratt’s ‘California,’ was never received. Mr.
Johnson, the associate editor, received me very pleasantly. He assured
me that although he sent you an advance copy of Pratt’s article,
nothing had been received in the office from you since in reply, and he
presumed you had given up the case in default.

“I so completely satisfied him that Mr. Pratt is in error, that he
requested me to express my reasons in the _Century_, and to assure you
that any communication from you will always have respectful attention.”

On January 24th, 1891, Mr. R. W. Johnson, associate editor, wrote
me, saying: “Since telling your friend, Mr. Palmer, that we had not
received an article from you in reply to Mr. Pratt, we have discovered
the manuscript. We have in type a short note from Mr. Palmer which will
be acceptable to you.”

A few days after Mr. Johnson kindly sent me the proof. On March 12th,
1891, Mr. Johnson wrote me: “Mr. Pratt, after examination of the
subject, has written us a short letter, withdrawing his contention of
your claim to the discovery of the Yosemite, the publication of which
we trust will be satisfactory to you and also to Mr. Palmer. Will you
now tell us whether there is anything in this new claim that Walker was
the discoverer of the Valley?”

I at once saw that if Mr. Pratt’s retraction was published there would
be no need of the publication of Mr. Palmer’s communication. About this
time a letter of earlier date, January 28, 1891, was sent me by Mr.
Palmer, received from Mr. Pratt, in which the latter gentleman says:
“I enclose a letter which seems to prove that the party about which I
wrote to the _Century_ was not your party. One went to the North fork,
the other (yours) to the South.” That statement left no base whatever
for Mr. Pratt’s imaginary “fight at the Yosemite, and thus of the
discovery,” for the North Fork affair was not a battle at all, but “a
scare” on a fork which enters the Merced river thirty-five miles below
the Yosemite, and as for the battle fought on the 11th of January,
1851, by Major Burney’s company, in which Mr. Palmer was engaged, it
was not fought on the South fork or in any valley, but upon a high
mountain of the Fresno river.

Mr. Palmer now felt that his note to _The Century_ was too long
delayed, and wrote asking for its withdrawal or its publication. Mr. R.
U. Johnson replied: “_The Century_ is made up two months in advance,”
but that he intended inserting it in the April number, &c. Mr. Palmer
added in his letter to me, “I think he will.”

The matter had now become not only interesting, but amusing to me;
for very soon Mr. Palmer wrote, “whether my answer to Pratt will be
published or not, is doubtful. I infer (from a letter) that Pratt will
not rest quiescent under my contradiction.” Again Mr. Palmer wrote,
enclosing copy of letter to Mr. Johnson of March 14th, 1891, answering
Mr. Johnson’s Statement, “that Mr. Pratt, while being convinced of his
injustice to Dr. Bunnell and being ready himself to withdraw his former
statement, takes issue with you as to the identity of the two parties,”
and then Mr. Johnson asks, “would it not be just as well and more
effective if we were simply to print from Mr. Pratt that he is ‘pleased
to withdraw all contention of the claim made by Dr. Bunnell that he was
the original discoverer?’” Let me here say, in passing, that I never
made such a claim.

Mr. Palmer very properly objects to becoming the “scapegoat” for me or
any one else, and replying to Mr. Johnson, says: “Whether my letter is
printed or not, is a matter of entire indifference to me, (personally)
… it was only at your desire, and to please Dr. Bunnell, that I wrote
the little I did. I left you under the impression that you desired to
get at the exact facts and would be glad to rectify the injustice done
to the doctor by the publication of Mr. Pratt’s communication…. I
believe that the publication of my letter would not only gratify him,
but also place the _Century_ right upon the record, where it surely
desires to stand.”

Mr. Palmer could say no more, but to his great chagrin, but not
surprise, on March 17th, he received a letter of _thanks_ from the
associate editor of the _Century_, in which Mr. Johnson says: “Please
accept our thanks for your letter of the 14th, and for your obliging
attitude in the matter.” Whether any retraction from Mr. Pratt will
ever appear in the _Century_ is now, in view of the long delay, a
matter of great indifference to me.[7]

Now a few facts in regard to the Discovery of the Yosemite Valley by
Capt. Joseph Reddeford Walker, for whom Walker’s river, Lake and Pass
were named. It is not a new claim, as supposed by Mr. R. U. Johnson,
but appears in the _Peoples Encyclopædia_ and was set up in the _San
Jose Pioneer_ soon after Capt. Walker’s death, and answered by me in
the same paper in 1880.

I cheerfully concede the fact set forth in the _Pioneer_ article
that, “_His were the first white man’s eyes that ever looked upon the
Yosemite_” above the valley, and in that sense, he was certainly the
original white discoverer.

The topography of the country over which the Mono trail ran, and
which was followed by Capt. Walker, did not admit of his seeing
the valley proper. The depression indicating the valley, and its
magnificent surroundings, could alone have been discovered, and in
Capt. Walker’s conversations with me at various times while encamped
between Coultersville and the Yosemite, he was manly enough to say so.
Upon one occasion I told Capt. Walker that Ten-ie-ya had said that,
“A small party of white men once crossed the mountains on the north
side, but were so guided as not to see the valley proper.” With a smile
the Captain said: “That was my party, but I was not deceived, for the
lay of the land showed there was a valley below; but we had become
nearly bare-footed, our animals poor, and ourselves on the verge of
starvation, so we followed down the ridge to Bull Creek, where, killing
a deer, we went into camp.”

The captain remained at his camp near Coultersville for some weeks,
and disappeared as suddenly as he came. He once expressed a desire to
re-visit the region of the Yosemite in company with me, but could fix
no date, as he told me he was in daily expectation of a government
appointment as guide, which I learned was finally given him.

Captain Walker was a very eccentric man, well versed in the vocal
and sign languages of the Indians, and went at his will among them.
He may have visited the Yosemite from his camp before leaving. I was
strongly impressed by the simple and upright character of Captain
Walker, and his mountain comrades spoke in the highest praise of his
ability. Fremont, Kit Carson, Bill Williams, Alex Gody, Vincenthaler
(not Vincent Haler, as erroneously appeared in the March number of
the _Century_), Ferguson and others, all agreed in saying that as a
mountain man, Captain Walker had no superior.

Rev. D. D. Chapin, of Maysville, Kentucky, formerly rector of Trinity
Church, San Jose, and of St. Peter’s Church, San Francisco, as well as
editor of _Pacific Churchman_, kindly called my attention to a seeming
neglect of the claim for Captain Walker as the discoverer of the
Yosemite. All that I have ever claimed for myself is, that I was _one_
of the party of white men who first _entered_ the Yosemite valley, as
far as known to the Indians.

The fact of my naming the valley cannot be disputed. The existence of
some terribly yawning abyss in the mountains, guarded at its entrance
by a frightful “Rock Chief,” from whose head rocks would be hurled down
upon us if we attempted to enter that resort of demons, was frequently
described to us by crafty or superstitious Indians. Hence the greater
our surprise upon first beholding a fit abode for angels of light. As
for myself, I freely confess that my feelings of hostility against
the Indians were overcome by a sense of exaltation; and although I
had suffered losses of property and friends, the natural right of the
Indians to their inheritance forced itself upon my mind.

The Mariposa Battalion, was assigned by Governor McDougall to the duty
of keeping in subjection the Indian tribes on the east side of the
San Joaquin and Tulare valleys, from the Tuolumne river to the Te-hon
Pass. As soon as the battalion was organized, Major Savage began his
preparations for an expedition. There was but little delay in fitting
out. Scouting parties were sent out, but with no other effect than
to cause a general retreat of the Indians to the mountains, and a
cessation of hostilities, except the annoyances from the small bands
of thieving marauders. No Indians were overtaken by those detachments,
though they were often seen provokingly near. When about to start on
a more extended expedition to the mountains, Major Savage received an
order from the Governor to suspend hostile operations until he should
receive further instructions. We learned at about the same time through
the newspapers, as well as from the Governor’s messenger, that the
United States Commissioners had arrived in San Francisco. Their arrival
had for some time been expected.

Up to this period the Indian affairs of California had not been
officially administered upon. Public officers had not before been
appointed to look after the vast landed estates of the aboriginal
proprietors of this territory, and to provide for their heirs. After
some delay, the commissioners arrived at our camp, which was located
about fifteen miles below Mariposa village. Here the grazing was
most excellent, and for that reason they temporarily established
their head-quarters. These officials were Colonels Barbour and McKee,
and Dr. Woozencroft. They were accompanied by Col. Neely Johnson,
the Governor’s aid, and by a small detachment of regulars. The
commissioners at once proceeded to make a thorough investigation into
the cause of the war, and of the condition of affairs generally. Having
secured the services of some of the Mission Indians, these were sent
out with instructions to notify all the tribes that the commissioners
had been directed by the President to make peace between them and the
white settlers; and that if they would come in, they should be assured

The so-called Mission Indians were members of different tribes who
had been instructed in the belief of the Catholic Church, at the old
Spanish Missions. These Indians had not generally taken part in the war
against the white settlers, although some of them, with the hostiles,
were the most treacherous of their race, having acquired the vices and
none of the virtues of their white instructors.

During this period of preliminaries a few Indians ventured in to have
a talk with the commissioners. They were very shy and suspicious, for
all had been more or less implicated in the depredations that had been
committed. Presents were lavishly distributed, and assurances were
given that all who came in should be supplied with food and clothing
and other useful things. This policy soon became generally known to the

Among the delegations that visited the commissioners were
Vow-ches-ter,[8] chief of one of the more peaceful bands, and Russio,
a Mission Indian from the Tuolumne, but who in former years had
belonged to some of the San Joaquin tribes. These chiefs had always
appeared friendly, and had not joined in the hostile attitude assumed
by the others. At the outbreak on the Fresno, Vow-ches-ter had been
temporarily forced into hostilities by the powerful influence of Jose
Rey, and by his desire to secure protection to his relative, one of
Savage’s squaws. But with the fall of Jose Rey, his influence over
Vow-ches-ter declined, and he was once more left free to show his
friendship for the whites. As for Russio, his intelligent services
were secured as peace-maker and general Indian interpreter by the
commissioners, while a much less competent Mission Indian, Sandino,
served in the capacity of interpreter during expeditions into the

Having been assured of safety, these two chiefs promised to bring in
their people and make peace with the whites. All that came in promised
a cessation, on the part of their tribes, of the hostilities begun, for
which they were rewarded with presents.

Vow-chester when questioned, stated “that the mountain tribes would
not listen to any terms of peace involving the abandonment of their
territory; that in the fight near the North Fork of the San Joaquin,
Jose Rey had been badly wounded and probably would die; that his tribe
were very angry, and would not make peace.” We had up to this time
supposed Jose Rey had been killed at “Battle Mountain.” Russio said:
“The Indians in the deep rocky valley on the Merced river do not wish
for peace, and will not come in to see the chiefs sent by the great
father to make treaties. They think the white men cannot find their
hiding places, and that therefore they cannot be driven out.” The other
Indians of the party confirmed Russio’s statements. Vow-chester was the
principal spokesman, and he said: “In this deep valley spoken of by
Russio, one Indian is more than ten white men. The hiding places are
many. They will throw rocks down on the white men, if any should come
near them. The other tribes dare not make war upon them, for they are
lawless like the grizzlies, and as strong. We are afraid to go to this
valley, for there are many witches there.”

Some of us did not consider Vow-chester’s promise of friendship as
reliable. We regarded him as one of the hostile mountain Indians. He,
however, was never again engaged in hostilities against the whites.
I afterwards learned that Vow-chester and Savage had once professed a
strong friendship for each other. The trader at that time had taken a
bride who was closely allied to the chief. After the destruction of
Savage’s trading posts, in which Vow-chester had taken an active part
in procuring a forcible divorce and division of property (though the
murders were ascribed to the Chow-chillas), all forms of friendship
or relationship had ceased. At this interview no sign of recognition
passed. After listening to this parley between the Commissioners and
the Indians, I asked Major Savage, who had been acting as interpreter,
if he had ever been into the deep valley the Indians had been speaking
of. He at first replied that he had, but on a subsequent conversation
he corrected this statement by saying, “Last year while I was located
at the mouth of the South Fork of the Merced, I was attacked by the
Yosemites, but with the Indian miners I had in my employ, drove them
off, and followed some of them up the Merced river into a canon, which
I supposed led to their stronghold, as the Indians then with me said
it was not a safe place to go into. From the appearance of this rocky
gorge I had no difficulty in believing them. Fearing an ambush, I did
not follow them. It was on this account that I changed my location
to Mariposa creek. I would like to get into the den of the thieving
murderers. If ever I have a chance I will smoke out the Grizzly Bears
(the Yosemites) from their holes, where they are thought to be so

No peace messengers came in from the mountain Indians, who continued
to annoy the settlers with their depredations, thieving from the
miner’s camps, and stealing horses and mules from the ranches. While
we were awaiting the action of the commissioners, we lost some horses
and mules, which were stolen from the vicinity of our camp. After
the commissioners had decided upon the measures to be adopted, our
battalion was ordered into line and we were then officially informed
by Col. Johnson, that our operations as a military organization, would
henceforth be under the direction of the United States Commissioners.
That by their order we were now assigned to the duty of subduing such
Indian tribes as could not otherwise be induced to make treaties
with them, and at once cease hostilities and depredations. “Your
officers will make all reports to the commissioners. Your orders and
instructions will hereafter be issued by them.” The colonel then
complimented the soldierly appearance of the battalion (very customary
in later years) and then said: “While I do not hesitate to denounce
the Indians for the murders and robberies committed by them, we should
not forget that there may perhaps be circumstances which, if taken
into consideration, might to some extent excuse their hostility to
the whites. They probably feel that they themselves are the aggrieved
party, looking upon us as trespassers upon their territory, invaders of
their country, and seeking to dispossess them of their homes. It may
be, they class us with the Spanish invaders of Mexico and California,
whose cruelties in civilizing and christianizing them are still
traditionally fresh in their memories,” etc. In conclusion the colonel
said: “As I am about to leave, I will now bid you ‘good bye,’ with
the hope that your actions will be in harmony with the wishes of the
commissioners, and that in the performance of your duties, you will in
all cases observe mercy where severity is not justly demanded.”

Colonel Johnson gave us a very excellent little speech; but at that
time we were not fully impressed with the justness of the remarks which
had been made from kindness of heart and sincerely humane feelings.
Many of us had lost–some heavily–by the depredations of the Indians.
Friends and relatives had been victims of their atrocities. Murders and
robberies had been committed without provocations then discernible to
us. Many of us would then have been willing to adopt the methods of the
old Spanish missionaries, who, it was said, sometimes brought in their
converts with the lasso. However, these orders and the speech from Col.
Johnson were received with cheers by the more impatient and impulsive
of the volunteers, who preferred active service to the comparative
quiet of the camp.

The commissioners selected a reservation on the Fresno, near the
foot-hills, about eighteen or twenty miles from our camp, to which the
Indian tribes with whom treaties had been made were to be removed,
and at this locality the commissioners also established a camp, as

The deliberative action on the part of the commissioners, who were very
desirous of having the Indians voluntarily come in to make treaties
with them, delayed any active co-operation on the part of our battalion
until the winter rains had fully set in. Our first extended expedition
to the mountains was made during the prevailing storms of the vernal
equinox, although detachments had previously made excursions into
the country bordering upon the Sierras. This region, like parts of
Virginia, proved impassable to a mounted force during the wet season,
and our operations were confined to a limited area.

It was at last decided that more extended operations were necessary
to bring in the mountain tribes. Although there was no longer unity
of action among them, they refused to leave their retreats, and had
become even suspicious of each other. The defeat of Jose Rey, and the
desertion of the tribes who had made, or had promised to make, treaties
with the commissioners, and had ceased from all hostile demonstrations,
had caused jealousies and discontent to divide even the most turbulent
bands. For the extended operations of the battalion among the
mountains, it was decided that Major Savage, with the companies of
Captains Boling and Dill, should make expeditions which would require
him to traverse the regions of the San Joaquin and Merced rivers.
Captain Kuy-ken-dall with his company were to be detached to operate
for the same purpose in the regions of the Kings and Kah-we-ah rivers.
The Indians captured were to be escorted to the commissioners’ camp on
the Fresno. Notwithstanding a storm was gathering, our preparations
were cheerfully made, and when the order to “form into line” was given,
it was obeyed with alacrity. No “bugle call” announced orders to us;
the “details” were made quietly, and we as quietly assembled. Promptly
as the word of command “mount,” was given, every saddle was filled.
With “forward march,” we naturally filed off into the order of march so
readily assumed by mounted frontiersmen while traveling on a trail.

We left our camp as quietly and as orderly as such an undisciplined
body could be expected to move, but Major Savage said that we must all
learn to be as still as Indians, or we would never find them.

This battalion was a body of hardy, resolute pioneers. Many of them had
seen service, and had fought their way against the Indians across the
plains; some had served in the war with Mexico and been under military

Although ununiformed, they were well armed, and their similarities of
dress and accoutrements, gave them a general military appearance.

The temperature was mild and agreeable at our camp near the plain,
but we began to encounter storms of cold rain as we reached the more
elevated localities.

Major Savage being aware that rain on the foot-hills and plain at
that season of the year indicated snow higher up, sent forward scouts
to intercept such parties as might attempt to escape, but the storm
continued to rage with such violence as to render this order useless,
and we found the scouts awaiting us at the foot of a mountain known
as the Black Ridge. This ridge is a spur of the Sierra Nevada. It
separates the Mariposa, Chow-chilla, Fresno and San Joaquin rivers on
the south from the Merced on the north. While halting for a rest, and
sipping his coffee, Savage expressed an earnest desire to capture the
village he had ascertained to be located over the ridge on the south
fork of the Merced. He was of the opinion that if it could be reached
without their discovery of us, we should have no fighting to do there,
as that band would surrender at once rather than endanger their women
and children, who would be unable to escape through the snow. Toward
this village we therefore marched as rapidly as the nature of the
steep and snow-obstructed trail would permit us to travel. An Indian
that answered to the name of “Bob,” an _attaché_ of the Major, serving
as guide. Climbing up this steep black mountain, we soon reached the
region of snow, which at the summit, was fully four feet deep, though
the cold was not intense. By this time, night was upon us. The trail
led over the ridge at a point where its tabled summit was wooded with
a forest of pines, cedars and firs, so dense as almost to exclude the
light of the stars that now and then appeared struggling through the

We laboriously followed our guide and file leader, but this trail
was so indistinctly seen in the darkness, that at intervals deep
mutterings would be heard from some drowsy rider who missed the beaten
path. As we commenced the descent of the ridge, the expressions became
more forcible than polite when some unlucky ones found themselves
floundering in the snow below the uncertain trail. If left to their own
sagacity, a horse or mule will follow its leader; but if a self-willed
rider insists upon his own judgment, the poor animal has not only
to suffer the extra fatigue incurred by a mis-step, but also the
punishment of the spur, and hear the explosive maledictions of the
master. The irritating responses of his comrades that “another fool has
been discovered,” was not then calculated to sooth the wrath that was
then let loose.

With short halts and repeated burrowings in the deep, damp snow, the
South Fork of the Merced was at length reached about a mile below what
is now known as Clark’s, or Wah-wo-na, from Wah-ha wo-na, a Big Tree.
We here made a halt, and our weary animals were provided with some
barley, for the snow was here over a foot deep. The major announced
that it was but a short distance below to the Indian village, and
called for volunteers to accompany him–it might be for a fight or
perhaps only a foot-race–circumstances would determine which. The
major’s call was promptly and fully answered, although all were much
fatigued with the tedious night march. The animals were left, and a
sufficient number was selected to remain as a reserve force and camp
guard. At daylight we filed away on foot to our destination, following
the major who was guided by “Bob.”

There was a very passable trail for horses leading down the right bank
of the river, but it was overlooked on the left bank by the Indian
village, which was situated on a high point at a curve in the river
that commanded an extensive view up and down. To avoid being seen, the
Major led us along down the left bank, where we were compelled, at
times, to wade into the rushing torrent to avoid the precipitous and
slippery rocks, which, in places, dipped into the stream. Occasionally,
from a stumble, or from the deceptive depths of the clear mountain
stream, an unfortunate one was immersed in the icy fluid, which seemed
colder than the snow-baths of the mountain. With every precaution, some
became victims to these mischances, and gave vent to their emotions,
when suddenly immersed, by hoarse curses, which could be heard above
the splash and roar of the noisy water. These men (headed by Surgeon
Bronson) chilled and benumbed, were sent back to the camp to “dry their
ammunition.”(?) After passing this locality–our march thus far having
alternated in snow and water–we arrived, without being discovered, in
sight of the smoke of their camp-fires, where we halted for a short

Major Savage gave some orders to Captain Boling which were not then
understood by me. On again resuming our march, the Major, with “Bob,”
started at a rapid step, while the others maintained a slow gait.

I followed the Major as I had been accustomed during the march. I soon
heard an _audible smile_, evidently at my expense. I comprehended that
I had somehow “sold” myself, but as the Major said nothing, I continued
my march. I observed a pleased expression in the Major’s countenance,
and a twinkle of his eyes when he glanced back at me as if he enjoyed
the fun of the “boys” behind us, while he increased his speed to an
Indian jog-trot. I determined to appear as unconscious, as innocent
of my blunder, and accommodate my gait to his movements. My pride or
vanity was touched, and I kept at his heels as he left the trot for a
more rapid motion. After a run of a mile or more, we reached the top
of a narrow ridge which overlooked the village. The Major here cast a
side glance at me as he threw himself on the ground, saying: “I always
prided myself on my endurance, but somehow this morning my bottom
fails me.” As quietly as I could I remarked that he had probably been
traveling faster than he was aware of, as “Bob” must be some way behind
us. After a short scrutiny of my unconcerned innocence, he burst into
a low laugh and said: “Bunnell, you play it well, and you have beaten
me at a game of my own choosing. I have tested your endurance, however;
such qualifications are really valuable in our present business.”
He then told me as I seated myself near him, that he saw I had not
understood the order, and had increased his speed, thinking I would
drop back and wait for the others to come up, as he did not wish to
order me back, although he had preferred to make this scout alone with
“Bob,” as they were both acquainted with the band and the region they
occupy. While we were resting “Bob” came up. The Major gave him some
direction in an Indian dialect I did not understand, and he moved on to
an adjoining thicket, while the Major and myself crawled to the shelter
of a bunch of blue brush (California lilac), just above where we had

After obtaining the desired information without being seen, Bob was
sent back to Captain Boling to “hurry him up.” While awaiting the
arrival of our command, I, in answer to his inquiries, informed the
Major that I had come to Detroit, Michigan, in 1833, when it was
but little more than a frontier village; that the Indians annually
assembled there and at Malden, Canada, to receive their annuities. At
that time, being but nine years of age, and related to Indian traders,
I was brought in contact with their customers, and soon learned their
language, habits and character, which all subsequent attempts to
civilize me had failed entirely to eradicate. This statement evidently
pleased the Major, and finding me familiar with frontier life, he
continued his conversation, and I soon learned that I was acquainted
with some of his friends in the Northwest. I have related this incident
because it was the beginning of an intimate friendship which ever
afterward existed between us.

On the arrival of Captains Boling and Dill with their respective
companies, we were deployed into skirmish line, and advanced toward
the encampment without any effort at concealment. On discovering us
the Indians hurriedly ran to and fro, as if uncertain what course
to pursue. Seeing an unknown force approaching, they threw up their
hands in token of submission, crying out at the same time in Spanish,
“_Pace! pace!_” (peace! peace!) We were at once ordered to halt while
Major Savage went forward to arrange for the surrender. The Major was
at once recognized and cordially received by such of the band as he
desired to confer with officially. We found the village to be that of
Pon-wat-chee, a chief of the Noot-chü tribe, whose people had formerly
worked for Savage under direction of Cow-chit-ty, his brother, and
from whose tribe Savage had taken Ee-e-ke-no, one of his former wives.
The chief professed still to entertain feelings of friendship for
Savage, saying that he was now willing to obey his counsels. Savage, in
response, lost no time in preliminary affairs.

He at once told the chief the object of the expedition, and his
requirements. His terms were promptly agreed to, and before we had time
to examine the captives or their wigwams, they had commenced packing
their supplies and removing their property from their bark huts. This
done, the torch was applied by the Indians themselves, in token of
their sincerity in removing to the Reservations on the Fresno.

By the Major’s orders they had at once commenced their preparations for
removal to a rendezvous, which he had selected nearly opposite this
encampment, which was accessible to horses. This plateau was also the
location designated for our camp. This camp was afterwards used by an
employé at the agency, whose name was Bishop, and was known as Bishop’s
Camp. It is situated on an elevated table, on the right side of the
valley of the South Fork.

While the Indians were preparing for their transfer to the place
selected, our tired and hungry men began to feel the need of rest and
refreshments. We had traveled a much longer distance since the morning
before than had been estimated in expectation of a halt, and many of
the men had not tasted food since the day before.

John Hankin told Major Savage that if a roast dog could be procured,
he would esteem it an especial favor. Bob McKee thought this a capital
time to learn to eat acorn bread, but after trying some set before him
by “a young and accomplished squaw,” as the Major cynically termed
her, concluded he was not yet hungry enough for its enjoyment.

A call was made for volunteers to go back to bring up the reserve
and supplies, but the service was not very promptly accepted. McKee,
myself and two others, however, offered to go with the order to move
down to the selected rendezvous. Three Indians volunteered to go with
us as guides; one will seldom serve alone. We found the trail on the
right bank less laborious to travel than was expected, for the snow
had mostly disappeared from the loose, sandy soil, which upon this
side of the river has a southwesterly exposure. On our arrival in camp
preparations were begun to obey the order of the Major. While coffee
was being prepared Doctor Bronson wisely prescribed and most skillfully
administered to us a refreshing draught of “_Aqua Ardente_.”

After a hasty _breakfast_, we took to our saddles, and taking a supply
of biscuits and cold meat, left the train and arrived at the new camp
ground just as our hungry comrades came up from the Indian village. The
scanty supplies, carried on our saddles, were thankfully received and
speedily disposed of. The Indians had not yet crossed the river. We
found that we had traveled about twelve miles, while our comrades and
the captives had accomplished only three.

From this camp, established as our headquarters, or as a base of
operations while in this vicinity, Major Savage sent Indian runners
to the bands who were supposed to be hiding in the mountains. These
messengers were instructed to assure all the Indians that if they
would go and make treaties with the commissioners, they would there be
furnished with food and clothing, and receive protection, but if they
did not come in, he should make war upon them until he destroyed them

Pon-wat-chee had told the Major when his own village was captured,
that a small band of Po-ho-no-chees were encamped on the sunny slope
of the divide of the Merced, and he having at once dispatched a runner
to them, they began to come into camp. This circumstance afforded
encouragement to the Major, but Pon-wat-chee was not entirely sanguine
of success with the Yosemites, though he told the Major that if the
snow continued deep they could not escape.

At first but few Indians came in, and these were very cautious–dodging
behind rocks and trees, as if fearful we would not recognize their
friendly signals.

Being fully assured by those who had already come in, of friendly
treatment, all soon came in who were in our immediate vicinity. None
of the Yosemites had responded to the general message sent. Upon a
special envoy being sent to the chief, he appeared the next day in
person. He came alone, and stood in dignified silence before one of
the guard, until motioned to enter camp. He was immediately recognized
by Pon-wat-chee as Ten-ie-ya, the old chief of the Yosemites, and was
kindly cared for–being well supplied with food–after which, with the
aid of the other Indians, the Major informed him of the wishes of the
commissioners. The old sachem was very suspicious of Savage, and feared
he was taking this method of getting the Yosemites into his power for
the purpose of revenging his personal wrongs. Savage told him that
if he would go to the commissioners and make a treaty of peace with
them, as the other Indians were going to do, there would be no more
war. Ten-ie-ya cautiously inquired as to the object of taking all the
Indians to the plains of the San Joaquin valley, and said: “My people
do not want anything from the ‘Great Father’ you tell me about. The
Great Spirit is our father, and he has always supplied us with all we
need. We do not want anything from white men. Our women are able to do
our work. Go, then; let us remain in the mountains where we were born;
where the ashes of our fathers have been given to the winds. I have
said enough!”

This was abruptly answered by Savage, in Indian dialect and gestures:
“If you and your people have all you desire, why do you steal our
horses and mules? Why do you rob the miners’ camps? Why do you murder
the white men, and plunder and burn their houses?”

Ten-ie-ya sat silent for some time; it was evident he understood what
Savage had said, for he replied: “My young men have sometimes taken
horses and mules from the whites. It was wrong for them to do so. It is
not wrong to take the property of enemies, who have wronged my people.
My young men believed the white gold-diggers were our enemies; we now
know they are not, and we will be glad to live in peace with them.
We will stay here and be friends. My people do not want to go to the
plains. The tribes who go there are some of them very bad. They will
make war on my people. We cannot live on the plains with them. Here we
can defend ourselves against them.”

In reply to this Savage very deliberately and firmly said: “Your people
must go to the Commissioners and make terms with them. If they do not,
your young men will again steal our horses, your people will again kill
and plunder the whites. It was your people who robbed my stores, burned
my houses, and murdered my men. If they do not make a treaty, your
whole tribe will be destroyed, not one of them will be left alive.”
At this vigorous ending of the Major’s speech, the old chief replied:
“It is useless to talk to you about who destroyed your property and
killed your people. If the Chow-chillas do not boast of it, they are
cowards, for they led us on. I am old and you can kill me if you will,
but what use to lie to you who know more than all the Indians, and can
beat them in their big hunts of deer and bear. Therefore I will not
lie to you, but promise that if allowed to return to my people I will
bring them in.” He was allowed to go. The next day he came back, and
said his people would soon come to our camp; that when he had told them
they could come with safety they were willing to go and make a treaty
with the men sent by the “Great Father,” who was so good and rich.
Another day passed, but no Indians made their appearance from the “deep
valley,” spoken of so frequently by those at our camp. The old chief
said the snow was so deep that they could not travel fast, that his
village was so far down (gesticulating, by way of illustration, with
his hands) that when the snow was deep on the mountains they would be
a long time climbing out of it. As we were at the time having another
storm Ten-ie-ya’s explanation was accepted, but was closely watched.

The next day passed without their coming, although the snow storm had
ceased during the night before. It was then decided that it would be
necessary to go to the village of the Yosemites, and bring them in; and
in case they could not be found there, to follow to their hiding-places
in the deep cañon, so often represented as such a dangerous locality.
Ten-ie-ya was questioned as to the route and the time it would take his
people to come in; and when he learned we were going to his village,
he represented that the snow was so deep that the horses could not
go through it. He also stated that the rocks were so steep that our
horses could not climb out of the valley if they should go into it.
Captain Boling caused Ten-ie-ya’s statements to be made known to his
men. It was customary in all of our expeditions where the force was
divided, to call for volunteers. The men were accordingly drawn up
into line, and the call made that all who wished to go to the village
of the Yosemites were to step three paces to the front. When the
order to advance was given, to the surprise of Captains Boling and
Dill, each company moved in line as if on parade. The entire body had
volunteered. As a camp-guard was necessary, a call was then made for
volunteers for this duty. When the word “march” was again repeated, but
a limited number stepped to the front. Captain Boling, with a smile on
his good-natured face, said: “A camp-guard will have to be provided
in some way. I honor the sentiment that prompted you all to volunteer
for the exploration, and I also appreciate the sacrifice made by those
who are willing to stay; but these are too few. Our baggage, supplies
and Indian captives must be well guarded. I endeavored to make the
choice of duty voluntary, by representing the difficulties that might
reasonably be expected, and thus secure those best suited for the
respective duty of field and camp. I am baffled, but not defeated, for
I have another test of your fitness; it is a foot-race. You know it has
been represented to us by Ten-ie-ya that the route to his village is an
extremely difficult one, and impassable for our horses. It may not be
true, but it will be prudent to select men for the expedition who have
proved their endurance and fleetness. I now propose that you decide
what I have found so difficult.”

This proposition was received with shouts of laughter, and the
arrangements for the contest were at once commenced, as it afforded a
source of frolicsome amusement. A hundred yards were paced off, and the
goal conspicuously marked. A distance line was to determine who should
constitute the camp-guard. I doubt if such boisterous hilarity and
almost boyish merriment was ever before seen while making a detail from
any military organization.

The Indians were at first somewhat alarmed at the noisy preparations,
and began to be fearful of their safety, but on learning the cause
of the excitement, they, too, became interested in the proceedings,
and expressed a desire to participate in the race. Two or three were
allowed to join in as proxies for the _“heavy ones”_ who concluded not
to run, though willing to pay the young Indians to represent them in
the race, provided they came out ahead. One young Indian did beat every
man, except Bob McKee, for whom he manifested great admiration. Many
anxious ones ran bare-footed in the snow. The Indian’s motions were
not impeded by any civilized garments; a modest waist cloth was all
they had on. In subsequent races, after a long rest, several of our
men demonstrated that their racing powers were superior to the fastest
of the Indian runners. Captain Boling’s racing scheme brought out the
strong points of the runners. Enough were distanced in both companies
to secure an ample camp-guard. The envious guard raised the point that
this method of detail was simply a proof of legs, not brains. It was
reported in camp that Captain Boling had kept a record of the speedy
ones which he had filed away for future use in cases where fleetness of
foot would be required for extra duties.

Preparations were made for an early start the next morning. The officer
to be left in charge of the camp was instructed to allow the Indians
all liberty consistent with _safety_, and to exercise no personal
restraint over them unless there should be an evident attempt to
leave in a body; when, of course, any movement of the kind was to
be defeated. The Major said: “I deem the presence of the women and
children a sufficient hostage for the peaceful conduct of the men,
but do not allow _any of them_ to enter our tents, or we may lose

This last injunction was to guard against annoyance from vermin. The
_pediculi_ of the Indian race have an especial affinity for them. White
people have but little to fear from Indian vermin except the temporary
annoyance that is experienced from some species that infest animals and
birds. They do not find the transfer congenial, and soon disappear.
This fact may not be generally known, but I believe it to be a normal
arrangement for the exclusive _comfort_ of the Indian.

To me this is quite suggestive, when considered as evidence of a
diversity of origin of the races. I have been very particular in
my observations in this matter, and have compared my own with the
experiences of others, and have been led to the conclusion that each
separate race has parasites indigenous to that race, although the genus
may be common to each.

This reluctant adaptability of these “entomological inconveniences”
saved us from one of the curses of the ancient Egyptians, when contact
was unavoidable.

As no information had been received from the camp of the Yosemites,
after an early breakfast, the order was passed to “fall in,” and when
the order “march” was given, we moved off in single file, Savage
leading, with Ten-ie-ya as guide.

From the length of time taken by the chief to go and return from his
encampment, it was supposed that with horses, and an early start, we
should be able to go and return the same day, if for any cause it
should be deemed desirable, although sufficient supplies were taken, in
case of a longer delay.

While ascending to the divide between the South Fork and the main
Merced we found but little snow, but at the divide, and beyond, it was
from three to five feet in depth, and in places much deeper. The sight
of this somewhat cooled our ardor, but none asked for a “_furlough_.”

To somewhat equalize the laborious duties of making a trail, each man
was required to take his turn in front. The leader of the column was
frequently changed; no horse or mule could long endure the fatigue
without relief. To effect this, the tired leader dropped out of line,
resigning his position to his followers, taking a place in the rear,
on the beaten trail, exemplifying, that “the first shall be last, and
the last shall be first.” The snow packed readily, so that a very
comfortable trail was left in the rear of our column.

Old Ten-ie-ya relaxed the rigidity of his bronze features, in
admiration of our method of making a trail, and assured us, that,
notwithstanding the depth of snow, we would soon reach his village. We
had in our imaginations pictured it as in some deep rocky canon in the

While in camp the frantic efforts of the old chief to describe the
location to Major Savage, had resulted in the unanimous verdict among
the “boys,” who were observing him, that “it must be a devil of a
place.” Feeling encouraged by the hope that we should soon arrive
at the residences of his Satanic majesty’s subjects, we wallowed
on, alternately becoming the object of a joke, as we in turn were
extricated from the drifts. When we had traversed a little more than
half the distance, as was afterwards proved, we met the Yosemites on
their way to our rendezvous on the South Fork.

As they filed past us, the major took account of their number, which
was but seventy-two. As they reached our beaten trail, satisfaction
was variously expressed, by grunts from the men, by the low rippling
laughter from the squaws, and by the children clapping their hands in
glee at the sight. On being asked where the others of his band were,
the old Sachem said, “This is all of my people that are willing to
go with me to the plains. Many that have been with me are from other
tribes. They have taken wives from my band; all have gone with their
wives and children to the Tuolumne and to the Monos.” Savage told
Ten-ie-ya that he was telling him that which was not true. The Indians
could not cross the mountains in the deep snow, neither could they go
over the divide of the Tuolumne. That he knew they were still at his
village or in hiding places near it. Ten-ie-ya assured the major he was
telling him the truth, and in a very solemn manner declared that none
of his band had been left behind–that all had gone before his people
had left. His people had not started before because of the snow storm.

With a belief that but a small part of Ten-ie-ya’s band was with
this party, Major Savage decided to go on to the Indian village and
ascertain if any others could be found or traces of them discovered.
This decision was a satisfactory one and met with a hearty approval as
it was reported along the line.

This tribe had been estimated by Pon-wat-chee and Cow-chit-tee,
as numbering more than two hundred; as about that number usually
congregated when they met together to “_cache_” their acorns in the
valley, or for a grand annual hunt and drive of game; a custom which
secured an abundant supply for the feast that followed.

At other times they were scattered in bands on the sunny slopes of the
ridges, and in the mountain glens. Ten-ie-ya had been an unwilling
guide thus far, and Major Savage said to him: “You may return to camp
with your people, and I will take one of your young men with me. There
are but few of your people here. Your tribe is large. I am going to
your village to see your people, who will not come with you. They
_will_ come with me if I find them.”

Savage then selected one of the young “braves” to accompany him.
Ten-ie-ya replied, as the young Indian stepped forward by his
direction, “I will go with my people; my young man shall go with you to
my village. You will not find any people there. I do not know where
they are. My tribe is small–not large, as the white chief has said.
The Pai-utes and Mono’s are all gone. Many of the people with my tribe
are from western tribes that have come to me and do not wish to return.
If they go to the plains and are seen, they will be killed by the
friends of those with whom they had quarreled. I have talked with my
people and told them I was going to see the white chiefs sent to make
peace. I was told that I was growing old, and it was well that I should
go, but that young and strong men can find plenty in the mountains;
therefore why should they go? to be yarded like horses and cattle. My
heart has been sore since that talk, but I am now willing to go, for it
is best for my people that I do so.”

The Major listened to the old Indian’s volubility for awhile, but
interrupted him with a cheering “Forward march!” at which the impatient
command moved briskly forward over the now partly broken trail, leaving
the chief alone, as his people had already gone on.

We found the traveling much less laborious than before, and it seemed
but a short time after we left the Indians before we suddenly came
in full view of the valley in which was the village, or rather the
encampments of the Yosemities. The immensity of rock I had seen in
my vision on the Old Bear Valley trail from Ridley’s Ferry was here
presented to my astonished gaze. The mystery of that scene was here
disclosed. My awe was increased by this nearer view. The face of the
immense cliff was shadowed by the declining sun; its outlines only had
been seen at a distance. This towering mass

“Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great,
Defies at first our Nature’s littleness,
Till, growing with (to) its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of that they contemplate.”

That stupendous cliff is now known as “El Capitan” (the Captain), and
the plateau from which we had our first view of the valley, as Mount

[Illustration: EL CAPITAN.

(3,300 feet in height.)]

It has been said that “it is not easy to describe in words the precise
impressions which great objects make upon us.” I cannot describe how
completely I realized this truth. None but those who have visited
this most wonderful valley, can even imagine the feelings with which
I looked upon the view that was there presented. The grandeur of the
scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley,–light as
gossamer–and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs
and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with
which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed
to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion.

During many subsequent visits to this locality, this sensation was
never again so fully aroused. It is probable that the shadows fast
clothing all before me, and the vapory clouds at the head of the
valley, leaving the view beyond still undefined, gave a weirdness to
the scene, that made it so impressive; and the conviction that it
was utterly indescribable added strength to the emotion. It is not
possible for the same intensity of feeling to be aroused more than once
by the same object, although I never looked upon these scenes except
with wonder and admiration.

Richardson, in his admirable work, “Beyond the Mississippi,” says:
“See Yosemite and die! I shall not attempt to describe it; the subject
is too large and my capacity too small…. Painfully at first these
stupendous walls confuse the mind. By degrees, day after day, the
sight of them clears it, until at last one receives a just impression
of their solemn immensity…. Volumes ought to be and will be written
about it.”

Mr. Richardson has expressed in graphic language the impressions
produced upon nearly all who for the first time behold this wonderful
valley. The public has now, to a certain degree, been prepared for
these scenes.

They are educated by the descriptions, sketches, photographs and
masterly paintings of Hill and Bierstadt; whereas, on our first visit,
our imagination had been misled by the descriptive misrepresentations
of savages, whose prime object was to keep us from their safe retreat,
until we had expected to see some terrible abyss. The reality so little
resembled the picture of imagination, that my astonishment was the more

To obtain a more distinct and _quiet_ view, I had left the trail and my
horse and wallowed through the snow alone to a projecting granite rock.
So interested was I in the scene before me, that I did not observe that
my comrades had all moved on, and that I would soon be left indeed
alone. My situation attracted the attention of Major Savage,–who was
riding in rear of column,–who hailed me from the trail below with,
“you had better wake up from that dream up there, or you may lose
your hair; I have no faith in Ten-ie-ya’s statement that there are no
Indians about here. We had better be moving; some of the murdering
devils may be lurking along this trail to pick off stragglers.” I
hurriedly joined the Major on the descent, and as other views presented
themselves, I said with some enthusiasm, “If my hair is now required,
I can depart in peace, for I have here seen the power and glory of a
Supreme being; the majesty of His handy-work is in that ‘Testimony of
the Rocks.’ That mute appeal–pointing to El Capitan–illustrates it,
with more convincing eloquence than can the most powerful arguments of
surpliced priests.” “Hold up, Doc! you are soaring too high for me; and
perhaps for yourself. This is rough riding; we had better mind this
devilish trail, or we shall go _soaring_ over some of these slippery
rocks.” We, however, made the descent in safety. When we overtook the
others, we found blazing fires started, and preparations commenced to
provide supper for the hungry command; while the light-hearted “boys”
were indulging their tired horses with the abundant grass found on the
meadow near by, which was but lightly covered with snow.

Mr. J. M. Hutchings has recently cited Elliott’s History of Fresno
County and dispatches from Major Savage as proof that it was May 5th
or 6th, 1851, that the Mariposa Battalion first entered the Yosemite.
As a matter of fact, our adjutant was not with us when the discovery
was made in March, nor was there ever but two companies in the Yosemite
at any time, Boling’s and part of Dill’s. Captain Dill himself was
detailed for duty at the Fresno, after the expedition in March, as
was also the adjutant. In making out his report, Mr. Lewis must have
ignored the first entry of the valley by the few men who discovered it,
and made his first entry to appear as the date of the discovery. This
may or may not have been done to give importance to the operations of
the battalion. I have never seen the report.

Continue Reading

Worship of Trees and Springs

Mr. J. M. Barrie is a true interpreter of the youthful mind when he
says, in the “Little Minister,” “Children like to peer into wells
to see what the world is like at the other side.” Grown-up people
are also alive to the mystery of a spring. “Look into its depth,”
observes Mr. E. H. Barker in his “Wayfaring in France,” “until the
eye, getting reconciled to the darkness, catches the gleam of the
still water far below the ferns that hang from the gaping places in
the mossy wall, and you will find yourself spellbound by the great
enchantress, Nature, while understanding nothing of the mysterious
influence.” In days of less enlightenment “the weight of all this
unintelligible world” was even more felt than now, and the minds
of men were ever on the outlook for the marvellous. What is to us
a source of not unpleasing mystery was then a cause of dread. We
marvel and make poetry. Our far-off ancestors trembled and sought
refuge in magical rites. We still speak of the charms of nature,
but the phrase has to us an altered meaning. When we remember how
little science there was at one time, we need not be surprised that
the phenomena of the outer world were misinterpreted, and hence gave
rise to fallacies. This was markedly so in the case of springs. While
quenching thirst–a natural function to perform–they became endowed
with virtues of an exceptional character, and were esteemed as the
givers of health. Even amid the darkness of those distant days we
can detect a glimmering of light, for such ideas were not wholly
false. Erroneous ideas seldom are. Springs have indeed a health-giving
power. Whether or not we accept the full-blown doctrines of modern
hydropathy, we must allow that cold water is an excellent tonic. As an
acute writer has remarked, “Cold braces the nerves and muscles, and,
by strengthening the glands, promotes secretion and circulation, the
two grand ministers of health.” Allusion has been made to the mineral
waters of Peterhead. The secret of their power is well described by
Cordiner in his “Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland,”
where he says:–“A mineral well in the summer months gives great
gaiety to the place; its salutary virtues have been long, I believe,
justly celebrated. The salt-water baths adjoining are much frequented
in nervous disorders: their effect in strengthening the constitution
is often surprising. Owing to the open peninsulated situation, the air
of this place is esteemed peculiarly pure and healthful; even the fogs
rising from the sea are thought to be medicinal; the town is therefore
much enlivened by the concourse of company who frequent it on these
accounts. Without derogating anything from the merits of the baths and
mineral, one may reasonably conclude that the custom of walking several
hours before breakfast, and meeting the morning breezes from the sea
along these cool and refreshing shores, the probability of meeting
with choice of companions as an inducement to these early rambles,
the perpetual cheerfulness indulged by society entirely disengaged
from business and care, and their various inventions to chase away
languor, probably contribute no less to the health of the company
than the peculiar virtues of the healing spring.”

Truth can commonly be found underlying superstition. The power,
possessed by certain aspects of external nature to soothe the troubles
of the mind, is one of the commonplaces of modern poetry. This thought,
when rendered into folklore, becomes the idea that certain spots
are “places of safety from supernatural visitants.” Such was the
belief connected with Our Lady’s Well, at Threshfield, near Linton,
in Craven, Yorkshire. Whoever took refuge there was free from the
power of magical spells. When sailing among the sea-lochs of Lewis,
MacCulloch had an experience which he thus describes in his “Western
Islands”:–“On one occasion the water was like a mirror, but black
as jet, from its depth and from the shadow of the high cliffs which
overhung it. The tide, flowing with the rapidity of a torrent, glided
past without a ripple to indicate its movement, while the sail aloft
was filled by a breeze that did not reach the surface. There was a
death-like silence while the boat shot along under the dark rocks like
an arrow; to a poetical imagination it might have appeared under a
supernatural influence: like the bark of Dante, angel-borne.” If such
were the reflections of an educated man like MacCulloch, what must
have been the thoughts of our ignorant forefathers when confronted
by the ever-recurring marvels of the outer world! Nature is still
misinterpreted by credulous people through a lack of knowledge of her
laws. A good example of this, bearing, not, however, on water, but on
tree-worship, is given by Dr. J. Fergusson, in his “Tree and Serpent
Worship.” A god was said to have appeared in a certain date-palm
in a village a few miles from Tessore, and the tree was promptly
adorned by the Brahmins with garlands and offerings. Dr. Fergusson
observes:–“On my inquiring how the god manifested his presence,
I was informed that, soon after the sun rose in the morning, the
tree raised its head to welcome him, and bowed it down again when he
departed. As this was a miracle easily tested, I returned at noon and
found it was so. After a little study and investigation, the mystery
did not seem difficult of explanation. The tree had originally grown
across the principal pathway through the village, but at last hung
so low that, in order to enable people to pass under it, it had been
turned aside and fastened parallel to the road. In the operation the
bundle of fibres which composed the root had become twisted like the
strands of a rope. When the morning sun struck on the upper surface
of them, they contracted in drying, and hence a tendency to untwist,
which raised the head of the tree. With the evening dews they relaxed,
and the head of the tree declined.”

In the chapter on “Some Wonderful Wells,” we glanced at the mysterious
origin of certain springs. In ancient times, no less than in the
present, strange sights must have been witnessed. We have not a
monopoly of thunderstorms, earthquakes, landslips, or deluges of
rain. The same phenomena prevailed in early times. The difference is,
that we have science to keep them in their proper place. During the
heavy rains of January 1892, a spring near the house of Rurach, at
Kintail, in Ross-shire, suddenly burst its bounds and became a raging
torrent. Usually the surplus water from the spring flowed away in the
form of a trickling stream, but on the occasion in question it rushed
on with such force and volume that it scooped out a channel twenty
feet deep and forty feet broad. The event not unnaturally caused a
good deal of wonder in the neighbourhood. Had it happened several
centuries earlier, some malignant water-spirit would doubtless have
been reckoned the active agent. During the operations connected
with the formation of the railway tunnel through Moncrieff Hill,
close to Perth, the water of a certain spring in the neighbourhood
suddenly failed. It happened that a clergyman, whose manse stood not
far from the spring, sent, when in the extremity of illness, for a
draught of its water. It was his last draught. He died immediately
after; and at the same time, the spring dried up. The coincidence did
not pass without remark in the district, but whether or not it gave
rise to a superstition we do not know. In the dark ages it certainly
would have done so. In the annals of hagiology, the early saints were
associated in a special way with water. They had, for instance, the
power of allaying storms. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors,
exercised this power more than once. Adamnan records the same miracle
in connection with Columba, abbot of Iona; and Cainneck, abbot of
Aghaboe. According to a Shropshire legend, Milburga, when followed by
a certain prince, was saved from her unwelcome pursuer by the river
Corve rising in flood after she had crossed.

The superstition that water, under certain circumstances, assumed
the hue of blood, as in the case of St. Tredwell’s Loch in Orkney,
&c., claims special attention. We call this belief a superstition,
inasmuch as a special miracle was thought to be involved in the matter;
but we nowadays know, that such appearances show themselves without
any miracle at all, except the constant miracle without which there
would be no natural law. Modern bacteriology has proved the existence
of a certain microscopic plant, technically styled Hæmatococcus
Pluvialis and popularly known in Germany as Blutalge. In “Notes and
Queries” for 12th March, 1892, Dr. G. H. F. Nuttall of Baltimore,
observes:–“In Central Europe it has been found in pools formed
by the rain in rocky hollows and stone troughs, &c. Hæmatococcus
often becomes intimately mixed with the pollen of conifers and
minute particles of plants which are known to be carried hundreds of
miles by occasional currents of air. The rain drops in the heavens
condense about such minute particles, and in falling, carry them
down to the earth’s surface, where, under proper conditions, these
little plants multiply with enormous rapidity.” Dr. Nuttall adds,
“Besides the Hæmatococcus Pluvialis, we have a Bacterium which
has often deceived people into the belief that they were dealing
with bona-fide blood. This Bacterium is easily cultivated in the
laboratory. It is one of the so-called chromogenic or colour-producing
Bacteria, and bears the name Bacillus Prodigiosus, on account of its
exceedingly rapid growth. This very minute plant has undoubtedly been
the cause of terror among superstitious people. The organism will only
produce its colour in the presence of oxygen, and, as a consequence,
red spots appear only on the surface of the moist nutrient medium on
which it may fall.” Undoubtedly some such explanation would account
for certain red spots, alluded to by Mr. Hunt, which appeared from
time to time on the stones in the churchyard of the Cornish parish
of St. Denis. According to the belief of the district, the spots were
marks of blood, and their appearance foretold the occurrence of some
untoward event in English history.

We have spoken of the guardian spirits of lochs and springs. That such
spirits should have been thought to exist is not surprising. Since
water is one of the necessaries of life for man and beast, animals
had to frequent pools and rivers. What more natural than that, in
days of ignorance, these animals should have been regarded as in some
mysterious way connected with the spots they frequented. In the same
way, fish darting about in the water would be considered its indwelling
spirits. It may not seem to us at all needful, that lochs and springs
should have guardian spirits at all. But man, in a certain stage of
development, thinks of nature, organic and inorganic alike, as having
a life akin to his own, with powers superior to his own. From a belief
in guardian spirits, to a belief in the necessity of offering gifts
to them is an easy transition. A present is sometimes an expression
of good-will, sometimes of a desire to obtain benefits to the
giver. Offerings at lochs and springs were undoubtedly of the latter
class, and were intended either to avert evil or to procure good.

In ancient times in India, when a dragon presided over a spring, the
people of the district were in the habit of invoking his aid, when
they wanted rain or fine weather. Certain ceremonies were necessary to
procure the boon. “The chief characteristic of the serpents throughout
the East in all ages,” remarks Dr. Fergusson, “seems to have been
their power over the wind and the rain, which they exert for either
good or evil as their disposition prompts.” As we have seen, certain
wells in our own land could control the weather. This was so, even
when the guardian spirit of the spring assumed no definite shape. The
rites required to obtain the desired object were nothing less than an
acknowledgment of the spirit’s existence. The origin of the connection
between weather and wells can only be guessed at. It appears that
the splashing of a spring when an object was thrown into it, or the
sprinkling of the water over the neighbouring ground, was thought
to cause rain, through what may be called a dramatic representation
of a shower. Why this should have been so, cannot be determined
with certainty. Probably accidental acts of the kind described were
followed, in some instances, by a fall of rain, and the belief may
have sprung up that between the two there existed the relation of cause
and effect. There was thus a confusion between what logicians call the
post hoc and the propter hoc. The same explanation may perhaps account
for the belief that a favourable breeze could be obtained, as in the
case of the Gigha Well, by the performance of certain definite rites.

Few circumstances in life have more power to arrest attention
than coincidences. Two events occur about the same time, and we
exclaim, “What a singular coincidence!” that is, if we are not of
a superstitious temperament. If we are, we talk mysteriously about
omens and such like direful topics. To some minds, an omen has a
peculiar fascination. It lifts them above the level of their ordinary
daily life. The postman rings the bell, and letters are handed in. A
message boy is seen at the door, and a parcel is delivered. These,
and many more such, are incidents of frequent occurrence. They are
reckoned commonplace. We know all about them. But let anything unusual
happen, anything that stirs the sense of awe within us, we, at least
some of us, instantly conclude that there is magic in the matter. An
unprepossessing old woman takes a look at a child when passing. The
child ceases to thrive. There are whispers about “the evil eye.” Yes,
there is no doubt about it. The child must have been bewitched. Is
it not probable that the prophetic power ascribed to wells may be
accounted for on this principle? Certain appearances were observed,
and certain events followed. Water gushed freely from a spring, when
drawn for the use of an invalid. The invalid recovered. Of course
he did, for the omen was favourable. As in private, so in public
matters. Pools of water were observed to have something peculiar about
them. Some crisis in the history of our nation soon succeeded. What
sensible person could fail to discern a connection between the two
sets of circumstances? So men, even some wise ones, have argued.

Wishing-wells, from their very nature, have a special claim on
popular credulity. When a desire is eagerly cherished, we leave no
stone unturned to bring about its fulfilment. There is something, be
it what it may, that we eagerly covet. How are we to get it? In the
stir and pressure of our day’s work, we do not see any avenue leading
to the fulfilment of our wish. In the quiet morning or evening, when
the birds are singing overhead, we go alone to some woodland well,
and there, by the margin, gather our thoughts together. One particular
thought lies close to our heart, and on it we fix our attention. In
the still moments, while we listen to the bubbling spring, our mind
lights on a clew, and our thoughts follow it into the future. We
brace ourselves up for following it in reality. We see how our design
may be accomplished. We take the road that has been revealed to our
inward eye, and finally reach the goal of our desire. How does this
come about? We may have stooped over the spring, and with certain
accompanying rites, have breathed our wish. We return to our daily
work with the desire still lying close to our heart. Days, or weeks,
or months pass, and at last, behold, what we were so anxious for,
is ours! The charm has been successful. Of course it has. But what
of the impulse towards definite action that came to us, when we
were free from the touch of our ordinary troubles, and quiet-voiced
Nature was our teacher and our own soul our prophet? At any rate,
we went to the wishing well, and the boon we sought we can now call
our own. The question remains, are all desires granted, either through
visits to wishing-wells or in any other way? The experiences of life
give a definite answer in the negative. How then are believers in
the power of wishing-wells to account for such failures? The rites
were duly attended to, yet there was no result. Why was the charm
not effectual? Any sincere answer to the question ought to be an
acknowledgment of ignorance.

In thus attempting to explain the philosophy of wishing-wells, we
do not imply that the subjective element is the secret of success
in every case. We are merely pointing out that it may be so in some
cases. In other cases, according to the principle mentioned above,
an explanation will be supplied by the theory of coincidences. When
trees and springs were alike reckoned divinities, it was natural
enough to conclude, that any tree, overshadowing a spring, was somehow
mysteriously connected with it. Belief in such mysterious relations
continued, as we have seen, even after tree-worship ceased as a
popular cult. Certain superstitions, still in vogue in the west,
are undoubtedly relics of tree-worship. In India and some other
Eastern lands, the cult still nourishes vigorously. A writer in the
“Cornhill Magazine” for November, 1872, remarks:–“The contrast between
the acknowledged hatred of trees as a rule by the Bygas (an important
tribe in Central India), and their deep veneration for certain others
in particular, is very curious. I have seen the hillsides swept clear
of forests for miles, with but here and there a solitary tree left
standing. These remain now the objects of the deepest veneration;
so far from being injured, they are carefully preserved, and receive
offerings of food, clothes, and flowers, from the passing Bygas,
who firmly believe that tree to be the home of a spirit.”

We need not linger over the consideration of charm-stones in their
connection with wells. In some instances, like that of the Lee Penny,
they gave efficacy to water as a healing agent; but in others,
as in the case of the Loch Torridon Spring, water gave efficacy to
them. Indeed, they acted and reacted on each other in such a way that,
in some instances, it is difficult to determine whether the talisman
brought healing virtue to the water, or vice versa. To find the
solution of the problem, we should have to carry our thoughts back
to the remote days when stones and wells had a life of their own,
and were thus qualified to act independently.

One can understand why holy wells retained their popularity. Even
though they did not always effect a cure, people continued to believe
in them and to seek their aid. Consecrated springs might throw cold
water (metaphorically) on many a cherished hope; but, for all that,
they remained, as of old, objects of reverence. The secret of their
power lay in their appeal to the imagination. Understanding might
say, it is absurd to expect that my ailment can be removed in this
way; but imagination protested that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamed of in my philosophy. The rites to be gone
through–the choice of the fitting season, the keeping of silence, the
leaving of a gift–all conduced to throw a halo of romance around the
practice. There was thus an appeal to the unknown and mysterious, that
gave to well-worship a strange charm. It stirred up any latent poetry
in a man’s nature, and linked him to something beyond himself. Springs
have a double charm. They are interesting for their own sake, and for
the sake of the folklore that has gathered round them. They are “like
roses, beautiful in themselves, that add to their own perfection the
exquisite loveliness of a mossy dell.” In conclusion, take away what is
distinctively mediæval in well-worship, and paganism is left. We find
this paganism entering like a wedge into the substance of a Christian
civilisation. It may have changed its colour, but it is paganism
notwithstanding. Well-worship has a definite value as a survival. It
serves to unite our own age of science with one in the far past, when
laws of nature, as we understand them, were unknown. As a cult it has
forsaken the busy haunts of men, but lingers still in quiet places,
especially among the mountains. Superstitions die hard. The epitaph
of this one has still to be written. Those who are waiting for its
last breath need not be surprised if they have to wait yet a while.

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