History Mormon Battalion Chapter 20 Section A


The Apache Indians-Jerking Beef-Loading of Guns and Firing At Game Prohibited-Order Disregarded-Author Sick-Calomel and Arsenic As Medicine-Death of Elisha Smith-Howling of the Wolves-a Song

The commander expected to obtain some fresh animals of the Indians at the rancho, San Bernardino, but was disappointed.

We rested one-and-a-half days at this place, and the hunters brought in five days’ allowance of wild beef, which was issued as rations. Wild cattle abounded in that region. It is asserted that 80,000 head were driven to this rancho before it was abandoned.

Colonel Cooke mentions the Apaches as being “poor, dirty Indians.” They may be such, but those who visited our camp were, in my view, not as bad as represented. For a downtrodden race, they had quite an intelligent, dignified look, and were certainly much more cleanly and tidy in appearance than the Iowas, Poncas, Pottawatomies or Omahas.

We jerked beef until about 2 p. m., when we were ordered to take up the line of march. This order gave much dissatisfaction, as another day or even the remainder of this day and night, would have enabled us to dry much more meat without increasing the weight of our loads. Besides, the commander promised to lay in enough when we reached the wild cattle to do us through to California. As it was, considerable fresh beef had to be left on the ground.

Before breaking camp, the following orders were issued.



“Rations for six days have been wasted since leaving Santa Fe. Of the present allowance there is enough, allowing for no wastage or accident.

“Commanders of companies hereafter will give no permission to leave the column of march or the camp, and muskets will not be fired at game. The Battalion will be in readiness to march at one o’clock.

“By order


(Signed) P. C. MERRILL, Adjutant.”

A verbal order was also issued at this place to have no loaded guns in the command.

This last order concerning the firing at game, although doubtless well-meant, gave much dissatisfaction, and was disregarded; not on account of our short rations so much as the fact that we were about to go among thousands of wild cattle, ten-fold more dangerous than the buffalo. The Colonel thought that if the cattle were wounded there would be more danger of serious consequences, while the soldiers took the view that to stand and tamely suffer themselves to be gored to death was a cruel and unjust requirement. This was the only order not strictly obeyed.

On the 5th we traveled about twelve miles, crossing some low mountains. Many wild cattle were seen, amounting to hundreds, if not thousands. Several were killed, and the most of the carcasses left. In some cases, the best cuts were saved.

The next day we made twelve miles, cutting our way, a part of the distance, through mezquit brush. A cold rain and some snow fell. During that day’s journey the author was quite sick, but avoided making known his condition by hiding in the tall grass until the command had all passed by, and then slowly and painfully making his way to camp. He had not forgotten, nor, indeed, entirely recovered, from the effects of his previous drugging and dreaded having to take another dose of Dr. Sanderson’s calomel or arsenic. The fact that the doctor’s calomel had given out and arsenic was substituted, was no secret. Sanderson openly stated the fact long before we reached California.

Our camp, that night, was in a grove of ash, oak and black walnut. We called the stream Ash Creek, because that was the predominating timber.

While encamped here, Elisha Smith, not an enlisted soldier, but hired by Captain Davis as teamster, or servant, died, and the large wolves, probably scenting the corpse, made the night hideous with their howls. Their grum voices almost rent the air only a few feet from our camp.

He was buried in the wilderness, alone, and, like the others, without a coffin, or a slab, to mark his last resting place. Brush and billets of wood were piled upon his grave and there burned to conceal his remains from the Indians and wolves.

His wife had gone with one of the detachments to winter at Pueblo, hence she was not with him during his last, short illness and death. She subsequently married Thomas Burns, who claimed to be a descendant of the Scottish Bard, Robert Burns.

The following song, by Levi W. Hancock, is in memory of Mr. Smith’s death and burial:
Death and the Wolves


The Battalion encamped
By the side of a grove,
Where the pure waters flowed
From the mountains above.
Our brave hunters came in
From the chase of wild bulls-
All around ‘rose the din
Of the howling of wolves.

When the guards were all placed
On their outposts around,
The low hills and broad wastes
Were alive with the sound,
Though the cold wind blew high
Down the huge mountain shelves,
All was rife with the cry
Of the ravenous wolves.

Thus we watched the last breath
Of the teamster, who lay
In the cold grasp of death,
As his life wore away.
In deep anguish he moan’d
As if mocking his pain,
When the dying man groan’d
The wolves howl’d a refrain.

For it seem’d the wolves knew
There was death in our camp,
As their tones louder grew,
And more hurried their tramp.
While the dead lay within,
With our grief to the full,
O, how horrid a din
Was the howl of the wolves!

Then we dug a deep grave,
And we buried him there-
All alone by the grove-
Not a stone to tell where!
But we piled brush and wood
And burnt over his grave,
For a cheat, to delude
Both the savage and wolf.

‘Twas a sad, doleful night!
We by sunrise, next day,
When the drums and the fifes
Had performed reveille-
When the teams were brought nigh,
And our baggage arranged,
One and all, bid Good bye,
To the grave and the wolves.

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