Having remained in Oregon, as long as I had originally designed, I now, proceeded to make preliminary arrangements, for an over land tour to California, to visit which country, was also among my original purposes. But traveling from Oregon to California, like traveling from the States to Oregon, is attended with imminent danger, from innumerable hostile Indians; hence it became necessary to obtain a party of armed men, sufficient in numbers, to secure our protection. I, therefore, visited the different neighborhoods, with that view, when I soon found, that there would be no difficulty in obtaining a party, ample in numbers, to insure our entire safety. Upon designating a place of rendezvous, on the Wallammette river, about twenty miles above the falls, we soon had fifty-three emigrants, of whom, twenty-five were armed men, when myself having been again honored with command, on the 30th day of May, 1843, we were outward-bound for the second and last paradise of the west, California. As the presumption is, that many of the Oregon emigrants will, eventually, emigrate to California, and that too, by the same route which I traveled; I have deemed it proper, to give some of the principal scenes and incidents, of this party of California emigrants. This I do, in order to put the future emigrants upon their guard, and thereby, to enable them, to avoid the innumerable dangers and difficulties, which we encountered, and of which, we were wholly unadvised.
Leaving our place of rendezvous, as above stated, nothing of importance occurred, until we arrived at Rogue's river, which we were under the necessity of crossing, by the aid of the Indians, who soon appeared with their canoes, and proffered their aid, which we were under the necessity of accepting; but we proceeded with the utmost caution, for as we were well advised, several parties had been robbed at this place, under quite similar circumstances. In view of the peculiarity of our perilous situation, I directed twelve men to cross the river, in advance, in order to receive and guard the baggage, as it should be sent across. The residue of the men, remained, in order to protect the women and children, and to guard the horses and baggage, previous to their being sent across. During all the time, which was occupied in crossing the river, great numbers of Indians thronged around us, on each side of the river, frequently rushing upon us, in such a manner, that it became necessary for us to draw our forces out, in battle array, against them, when we were under the necessity, of discharging a gun or two occasionally, in the open air, in order to deter them from any further hostile movements. Upon discharging a gun, they would, invariably, fall back, and flee in every direction, with the greatest confusion; but after the lapse of a very few minutes, they would again, crowd and huddle around us, in increased numbers, when we would again dispel them as before. Their object in crowding upon us, in this manner, was to intermingle with our people, to such an extent, as to produce general confusion and disorder, when they designed to steal and plunder; and if they could produce disorder and tumult, to the extent that they desired, they, no doubt, intended to make a direct attack upon us, not only with the view of stealing and robbing, but also, with a determination to effect our indiscriminate extermination. By the above system of caution, however, we finally, succeeded in crossing the river, in perfect safety, and were enabled to leave them, to enjoy the wild howlings of their timid confusion, without the loss to ourselves, of either life or property. Upon emerging from the boisterous confusion, of these more than barbarous beings, we continued our journey, for several days, without any thing worthy of remark, until we met a company of cattle drovers and emigrants, who were on their way from California to Oregon, the former, with cattle for the Oregon market, and the latter, designing to locate in Oregon, where they hoped to find refuge, from the oppression, which they had suffered, in California, of which I shall speak more fully hereafter.
Upon meeting, this party, both parties immediately encamped, where we remained together, all that day and night, as well as a part of the ensuing day, which time was spent, in discussing the comparative advantages, and disadvantages, of our respective places of destination. We, of course, had nothing very favorable to say of Oregon, for we were then in search of a desirable place of abode, which in our view, could not be found in Oregon; nor had they much to say in favor of California. They all concurred in the opinion, that California was beyond any doubt, one of the most delightful countries in the known world, both in point of mildness of climate, and fertility of soil; but they remarked, that they had been seriously oppressed there, and that they would seek refuge, for the time being, in Oregon. This discussion terminated in very disastrous consequences to us; for about one third of our party, was prevailed upon to return to Oregon. This reduced our number, of armed men to sixteen, and that too, in a region where our full forces, were more than any where else required; in a country where we were everywhere surrounded by a numerous and hostile foe; where our "sixteen" were, at anytime, liable to be attacked by thousands of unrestrained, and barbarous Indians. But the most distressing circumstance, at this particular juncture, was that our guide also left us, with a view of returning to Oregon, contrary to our wishes, and repeated solicitations to remain. This left us, not only without a force sufficient for our future protection, but also, without any knowledge of the route, or any means of obtaining that knowledge; and also, without any knowledge of the haunts and prowess of the countless savages, with whom we were now everywhere surrounded. The time of our separation had now arrived, when we proceeded to take our leave, of these our friends of long standing, with whom we had traversed the great western prairies, immersed in doubt, and surrounded with fearful dangers innumerable; and with whom, we had penetrated the deep, wild recesses of Oregon, amid the howls of beasts of prey, the yells off frantic savages, and desolation and death, in all their various and varied forms. We were sad, sad indeed, and grieved too, even to the shedding of tears. Much did we regret the necessity, which impelled our separation, and as much, did we dread the danger, attendant upon that separation; but to accomplish our purpose, we were determined, regardless of all consequences. So leaving our friends, we traveled on, silently and solemnly, contemplating the cheerless past and the fearful future.
As I moved on, in this mood of mind, a half or three quarters of a mile, in advance of the party, my meditations were interrupted by the sudden appearance of two Indians, who were in close pursuit of a fine fat cow, which had strayed from the party to which I have just alluded. I immediately gave chase to these intruders upon my solitude, without being observed by them, until I had approached within about thirty yards of them, when I fired upon them, but whether I wounded either of them, I could not ascertain; but at all events, I so alarmed one of them, that he yelled most furiously, and with tremendous leaps, soon reached a deep ravine, which afforded him a secure retreat, as its banks were thickly studded, with willows. Turning to the other, I found him still in hot pursuit of his intended prey; but as he saw that I had turned my attention to him, he also fled with unusual rapidity, and took refuge with his comrade, among the same willows, near to which, I had no inclination to approach, as willows are thought by mountaineers to be "dangerous things." The party soon came up, and the cow very soon fell a victim to our returning appetites; but we saw no more of our noble competitors. Perhaps the one was engaged, in some secluded place, extracting buckshot, from the lower limbs of his fellow. As we continued our journey, we frequently saw the Indians, far upon the mountain's height, viewing us as we wound our serpentine way, through low, deep valleys, up high, towering hills, or over beautiful, expansive plains. Thus, remaining upon the extreme height of the surrounding mountains, they always kept their eyes fixed upon us, until we had encamped at night, when they would approach us, with a view of stealing or killing our horses. We, however, met with no serious difficulty with the Indians, until we arrived at a small tributary of Rogue's river, called the Chasty river, where we encamped, for the night. About midnight, we were attacked by them, the first indication that we had of which, was the cry, by one of the guards, of "Indians," "Indians," which soon brought the men "to arms," when a brisk, random fire commenced, in all directions from the camp, which soon dispelled our midnight assailants, not, however, until they had severely wounded one man and two horses. The man who was wounded, was a Mr. Bellamy, who happened to be posted as guard, at the most vulnerable part of the camp, and near the river. He was the guard who gave notice of the attack, which however, he did not do, until several arrows had been thrown. The first knowledge which he had, of the presence of the Indians, was the reception of an arrow in his back, which, I suppose, he thought to be "striking proof," "pointed evidence," of their presence, if not of their omnipresence. The arrow was immediately extracted, but from the intensity of the pain, which it appeared to produce, it was feared, by some, that it would be attended with fatal consequences. In the morning, it was thought, from the increased pain, that in all probability, the spinal marrow was affected, and hence, that it would be unsafe to move that day; but we determined to make the attempt, which we accordingly did, and were happy to find, that it was not attended with serious consequences.
From this encampment, we now moved on, without any thing worthy of remark, until we arrived at the Sacramento river, in California, about one hundred and fifty miles above the bay of St. Francisco. Here, we were just on the point of encamping, when we were surprised by the sudden appearance, of several hundred Indians, who appeared to have been advised of our approach, and to have remained there, in ambush, with a view of attacking us, upon our arrival. Upon observing our peculiarly unfavorable position, I immediately altered my purpose, and directed four of the men, to take the women and children, as well as the horses, into the plains, and there remain. Myself, and the residue of the party, dismounted, and at the same time, turned our horses loose, which were also driven into the plains, while we held our position, for the purpose of receiving the enemy, whose numbers, during this time, had increased to about four hundred. They continued to advance, with most terrific and frantic yells, which together with their fiendish gestures, and demoniac grins, too clearly indicated their hostile designs. They now, rapidly advanced, with increased yelling, gesticulating, and grinning, as though mere frantic gesticulations, wild noises, and demoniac grins, constituted irresistible weapons of warfare. They were now, within about thirty yards of us, and every moment seemed to indicate, nothing but an immediate attack, yet, as it was possible, that I might mistake their design, I paused for a few moments; but every moment only confirmed our suspicions; every moment showed most conclusively, that they were preparing for a desperate and death-like attack. Still, hoping to deter them, from their hostile purpose, I discharged a gun, in the open air, upon which, they all fell to the ground, while, at the same time, the chief was heard, haranguing them, at the top of his voice, while the men were everywhere seen, stringing their bows, and preparing for the charge. They were now rising, to make their deadly onset; the arrows from their rear, were already falling thickly among, and around us; there could be no further doubt, as to their designs, nor could there be any further delay; we fired, and fourteen of them fell, victims to their own ignorance and insolence. The residue, now fled, in every direction, taking refuge behind trees, shrubs, and in ravines; but they continued to throw their arrows, in increased numbers, and with increased violence, for about two hours, when finally, from some cause, their fury and violence were abated. Our men had, in the mean time, cut them off occasionally, as they would venture to emerge,. from their temporary hiding places. Their loss was about twenty killed, besides many, who were mortally wounded, and whom we saw, either crawling away, upon the ground, or being dragged away by their friends.
Now finding, that they were inclined to abandon the contest, we proceeded to make our arrangements, to join that portion of our party, which remained in the plains; but, as we commenced our march, they renewed their charge, which they continued, until they arrived at the point, where the attack was made, and where the ground was still, strewed with the dead. Upon arriving at this place, and perceiving for the first time, that their companions in arms, were actually dead; they commenced a most tremendous howling and yelling, which plainly indicated that this was the first knowledge, which they had, of the desolating ravages, that death had made in their ranks. This was further evinced, from their throwing down their bows and arrows, and falling upon the dead bodies, of their companions, and their most piteous howling and lamentation, with which they now rent the air. They paid no further attention to us but continued to howl and yell most furiously, falling upon their dead, and pulling and hauling them about, in every direction, evidently, so utterly confused, that they knew not what they did; entirely insensible, of all surrounding circumstances. Perceiving their indisposition to molest us further, we now left them, when their howlings and lamentations increased, to such an extent, that they were distinctly heard, at the distance of three miles. We traveled that evening, but about five or six miles, from the "field of battle," where we encamped with the strictest regard, to our successful defence, in case of an attack, which we had some grounds to anticipate. As fortune would have it, however, we were not attacked; but upon examining the country, in the vicinity of our camp, we found that they had, during the night, approached within a few hundred rods of us, in increased numbers, and clearly, with the view of attacking us; but upon perceiving our peculiarly favorable position, and profiting by the sore and deadly chastening, which they had, so recently received, they no doubt, thought it the part of prudence, if not of bravery, to abandon their dangerous enterprise. So concluding, they left us, and in the morning, we left them, to enjoy their degraded solitude, sincerely hoping, never to be so unfortunate, as to meet again, any where this side of eternity; and no doubt, they had as little anxiety, to renew our acquaintance.
We, afterwards, neither met with them, nor any other hostile Indians, but continued our journey without any serious difficulty or interruption, other than the loss, for the time being, of two of our men, who were lost and absent from the party, for several days, without ammunition, and hence, without food; but after having suffered extremely, both from hunger and thirst, they both arrived, on the fourth or fifth day, in the settlements of California. One of them arrived at Capt. Sutter's fort, on the Sacramento, and the other, at a farm about forty miles above that place, about the same time, that the main body of the party, arrived at the Sacramento, opposite New Helvetia. the whole company, received every possible attention, from all the foreigners in California, and especially, from Capt. Sutter, who rendered every one of the party, every assistance in his power; and it really appeared, to afford him the greatest delight, to be thus enabled, to render important aid, to citizens of his former, adopted country. All those who went with me to California, as well as all other foreigners, who are residing there, are extremely delighted with the country; and determined to remain there, and make California the future home, not only of themselves, but also, of all their friends, and relatives, upon whom, they can possibly prevail, to exchange the sterile hills, bleak mountains, chilling winds, and piercing cold, of their native lands, for the deep, rich and productive soil, and uniform, mild and delightful climate, of this unparalleled region. This delightful country, will form the subject of several successive chapters, which it is believed, will fully show, that the casual allusions, heretofore made to this country, are, by no means, mere, gratuitous exaggerations.
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