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.

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