A Line of Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We considered his escape a most remarkable one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: FIRE STICK AS USED.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




(3,850 feet in height.)]

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

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

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

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

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