History Mormon Battalion Chapter 35 Section A
Travels of General Kearny’s Escort to Monterey-Kearny’s Arrival-Fremont under Arrest-Overland Journey Commenced-Incidents of Travel-Costume of Digger Indians-Losses in Fording a River-Visits From Brethren-Sacramento Valley-Remains of the Ill-Fated Emigrants-a Horrible Scene-Bury the Bones-Accidental Shooting-Nude Indians-Boiling Springs-Pass Soda Springs and Bear Lake Valley-Meet Companies of the Saints-Arrival At Fort Leavenworth and Discharge-Fremont Put in Irons
Leaving this company now for awhile, as well as the balance of the discharged Battalion, we will follow the fortunes of General Kearny and his escort.
General Kearny left Los Angeles on the 13th of May, 1847, accompanied by Colonel Cooke and three men of the escort chosen, to proceed by water to Monterey. The other nine men of the escort, under Lieutenant Stoneman, were left to proceed overland and meet them at Monterey.
The party traveling by land, made twenty miles the first day and encamped by two springs, which were about six feet apart, one of which was hot and the other cold. The fifth day out, they arrested a soldier, and the next day another, both deserters from Monterey. On the 18th, they ascended a mountain through a rain cloud to fair weather above. No other incidents of importance occurred during the journey to Monterey, at which place they arrived about noon on the 25th. They were immediately quartered in a building formerly occupied by Colonel Stevenson’s regiment. They found that General Kearny and party who sailed from San Diego, and who expected to reach Monterey before them, had not yet arrived, and that Colonel Fremont was held there under arrest, though not in confinement, for disobedience to the orders of his superiors, and assuming the title of commander-in-chief and governor of California.
Sergeant Jones, one of the party, mentions in his diary an instance of the sagacity of goats, that came under his observation during his stay in Monterey. While walking along the wharf, he noticed two of these animals, which ran bleating from vessel to vessel until they reached their own boat, which they appeared to recognize at once.
To pass away the time, the detachment went on board of the man-of-war, Columbus, which carried seventy-four guns and seven hundred sailors and mariners. The frigate, Congress, arrived there on the 27th, as did also the sloop Lexington, bearing among her passengers, General Kearny and Colonel Cooke.
The next day the detachment drew seventy-five days’ rations, and on the 31st took up its line of march. The journey, during the first few days, lay through beautiful valleys, abounding with luxuriant grass, including the varieties known as timothy and clover, in their wild state, also wild oats. Numerous bands of wild horses were found, and many streams difficult to cross were encountered. In some instances, the men carried their packs on their heads while crossing the rivers to keep them from getting wet. In other cases, they rowed the luggage across the streams in a rawhide boat, which they carried along for the purpose, packing it upon a mule between the streams. As they advanced, they found the grass become more scant and dry, in consequence of the drought. While traveling, on the 9th of June, they learned of a company of Saints, some of those who sailed on the ship Brooklyn, being located only six miles from their line of travel, but the men did not have time to visit them. The Digger Indians abounded in the region through which they traveled, and they saw many of them. These natives lived mainly on seeds and roots, and their only clothing consisted of a wisp of grass fastened around the loins.
While crossing a river on the 11th, Colonel Cooke lost everything he had except the clothing he wore, including a journal of five hundred pages, containing a diary of the travels of the Battalion from Sant Fe to Los Angeles, one hundred dollars in gold and his entire outfit of rations. One of his men also lost everything. The Colonel’s journal was subsequently found by an Indian.
The next day, they entered the most beautiful valley they had seen in California, where a few American families were located, and where they found the first field of corn they had seen in the country. They learned that an express from the Church to the Saints in that country, had arrived in Upper California. The few Saints referred to, had sailed around Cape Horn from New York, on the ship Brooklyn. It was also learned that Samuel Brannan had started east across the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains to meet the Pioneers and pilot them through to California. A Brother Rhodes, who emigrated to California the previous October, from Missouri, visited the General’s camp in the evening.
On nearing the Sacramento river, on the 13th, they were also visited by another brother. A number of American settlers were located in the Sacramento valley. Sutter’s Fort, at which about twenty-five soldiers were stationed, was about one mile and a half from the crossing of the river.
On the 14th, they received one additional horse each for the journey. During that day and the next they also dried some beef and baled some flour and pork. The Sacramento valley, at that time, had a very inviting appearance, and the soil appeared as good as any in the world. Mechanical and other labor was very high-priced and scarce. Good land could be obtained for twenty-five cents per acre under Mexican title, and a great proportion of the land was open to squatters. Wheat was worth one dollar per bushel.
On the 20th, while traveling over mountains which, in many places, were covered with snow they found vegetation just starting upon patches of bare ground. Passing through Bear valley, they found a deserted cabin which had been built by Missouri emigrants the previous fall, and in which they had left many of their goods.
On the 21st, they traveled through snow from two to twelve feet deep and over rough mountains before reaching the Truckee river. There a small lake was found about one mile wide and three miles long, now called Lake Tahoe. In the vicinity of this lake were several cabins built by that portion of Captain Hastings’ company, which was snowed in the previous fall. Their numbers were estimated at about eighty souls, who all perished except about thirty.
The General ordered a halt and detailed five men to bury the dead that were lying upon the ground. One of the men was said to have lived four months on human flesh and brains. Their bodies were mangled in a horrible manner. This place is known as Cannibal Camp. Colonel Fremont passed the General and party at this place. It was the first time the party had seen him since leaving Sutter’s Fort. After they had buried the bones of the dead, which were sawed and broken to pieces for the purpose of obtaining the marrow, they set fire to the cabin and left the horrible place.
From that point the party traveled seven miles farther, and encamped within one mile of another cabin, where more dead bodies were found. The General did not, however, order them buried.
On the 22nd,igley, one of the party, accidentally shot himself through the arm, inflicting a severe wound.
On the 26th, the party encamped by an Indian village, which consisted of wigwams of brush. The Inhabitants numbered about two hundred, some of whom fled to the mountains and others skulked in the brush. Some of them came to the camp a short time afterwards. Both men and women were naked.
The next day, after traveling a considerable distance over a sandy desert, a hot spring was reached, which threw up a column of boiling water from four to six feet high. The water boiled up and ran off at the rate of about one barrel per minute. The ground underneath seemed to be hollow, and the sound of the water was as if poured upon red-hot rocks; it could be heard for a considerable distance. The ground was more or less heated for about a half mile from the spring in each direction. A mule broke through the surface, nearly half a mile from the spring, and steam immediately issued forth from the hole made. The rocks and sand for miles around, as well as the ashes, all looked as though they had undergone the action of fire. After leaving these springs, great scarcity of good water, feed for the animals, and wood, was experienced. Most of the water found was either salty or bitter, and much of the country was a barren waste. Some of the mules gave out from hunger, thirst and fatigue.
On the 7th, while traveling up the Humboldt, or St. Mary’s river, another boiling spring was passed, the steam from which could be seen for several miles.
The next day, four horses were stolen from the party by the Snake Indians. Colonel Fremont was at this time traveling in the rear of the General and his party, but the next day he overtook them, and they afterwards journeyed together.
On the 14th, emigrants on their way to Oregon were met and the next day the party reached Fort Hall, where a supply of bacon was obtained.
July 16th, one year from the day of the Battalion’s enlistment, found the party a short distance from Soda Springs, which place they reached and nooned at on the 17th.
Following up Bear River, very cold nights were experienced, there being considerable frost. Emigrants, bound for Oregon, were occasionally seen, and, on the 19th, a man named Smith, who had come from California with Samuel Brannan, was met, and from him the party obtained much valuable information concerning the migrating Saints, etc. That night they encamped near an Indian village consisting of twenty lodges, and the next day traveled twenty-five miles across the mountains and found another Indian village, where a number of fresh horses were obtained.
Green river was reached on the 22nd, and the Big Sandy the next day, and during that day the party was overtaken by a thunder shower, the first, according to the diary of Brother N. V. Jones, one of the party, which he had seen for nearly a year.
While encamped on the Platte river on the 29th, they met the first company of Saints they had seen on the road, and obtained their first reliable information with regard to their families and the Church. John Binley, one of the General’s escort, stopped with the company met, on account of ill health.
On the 3rd of August, having learned that a company of the Saints, journeying westward, would soon be met, the General gave permission to N. V. Jones and two other brethren of his escort, to go on in advance of him and meet it. They accordingly proceeded with all practicable haste, and met the company on the 4th. They found many acquaintances, spent a happy time with them before the General overtook them, and Brother Jones received a letter from his wife, the first he had seen from her from the time he had left Fort Leavenworth-almost a year. It had only been written about two months previously, and was therefore considered quite fresh for that age of slow transit.
During the journey from this place to Fort Leavenworth, very little of interest occurred. On arriving at the latter post, the mules and other public property were turned over to the proper officers, and the men received $8.60, each as payment for the time which they had served in excess of the year for which they had enlisted. On receiving their discharge, they proceeded immediately to join their families in the region of Kanesville (now Council Bluffs City), Iowa.
At Fort Leavenworth, General S. F. Kearny, "Commander of the Army of the West," ordered Colonel J. C. Fremont put in irons, and, in that condition, took him to the national capital for trial, which resulted in his conviction upon the charges alleged against him, and in depriving him of his office. The disabilities thus incurred were, however, subsequently removed, owing to his many hardships as an explorer and, probably, on account of benefits which the nation had derived from his services. His trial, which was quite lengthy, created much excitement, and was a subject of national interest.