Yellowstone County MTGenWeb

Yellowstone County History

Exploration of the Yellowstone River – 1859

By Brevet Brigadier General W. F. Raynolds


Revised 4 March 2003


The report was released six years later, on 13 February 1866, following the end of the Civil War. Jim Bridger was guide for the trip into the Montana & Wyoming Territories that took them from Fort Pierre to the Platte River at Richard’s Bridge. Extracts of the periods of time during September and October 1859 when Jim Bridger guided them south from Fort Sarpy #2 follow. The report shows the difficulty of the terrain, routes traveled and the troubles and educational exchanges they had with the Crow Indians. After this route was created, portions of it became the baseline for the Bozeman Trail leading from the Platte River to the Big Horn River, and the crossing established at Spotted Rabbit, located about eight miles north of the Big Horn Canyon entrance. John Bozeman used these trail directions to reach the Big Horn River with his wagon train in 1864. [The report extraction was created from electronic conversion of the text, and may contain minor spelling conversion errors.]





Under clauses of the military appropriation acts, providing for' surveys for military defenses, geographical explorations and reconnaissance’s for military purposes,' I am directed by the Secretary of War to instruct you to organize an expedition for the exploration of the region of country through which flow the principal tributaries of the Yellowstone river, and of the mountains in which they, and the Gallatin and Madison forks of the Missouri, have their source. " The objects of this exploration are to ascertain, as far as practicable, everything relating to the numbers, habits and disposition of the Indians inhabiting the country, its agricultural and mineralogical resources, its climate and the influences that govern it, the navigability of its streams, its topographical features, and the facilities or obstacles which the latter present to the construction of rail or common roads, either to meet the wants of military operations or those of emigration through, or settlement in, the country. "' Particular attention should be given to determining the most direct and feasible routes: "


1. From the neighborhood of Fort Laramie to the Yellowstone, in the direction of Fort Union, on the Missouri.

2. From the neighborhood of Fort Laramie northwesterly, along the base of the Big Horn Mountains, towards Fort Benton and the Bitter Root valley.

3. From the Yellowstone to the South pass, and to ascertaining the practicability of a route from the sources of Wind river to those of the Missouri."


To accomplish these objects most effectually the expedition should proceed by the Missouri river to Fort Pierre. Here a large number of the Dakotas will be assembled to receive their annuities, and overtures should be made to obtain their assent to your proceeding to the source of Powder river by the Shayenne and its north fork, by which a new route leading west from the Missouri river should be examined. To aid you in accomplishing this object, the clothing, et cetera, to be given to the Dakotas by the government, under the treaty made with them by General Harney, will be turned over to you by the Indian Bureau for distribution. " From the source of Powder river the expedition should proceed down that stream to its mouth; thence along the Yellowstone to the mouth of Tongue river, up which a detachment should be sent to its source. The remainder of the party should continue on the Yellowstone to the mouth of Big Horn river, and ascend the latter stream to the point where it leaves the mountains. Here the two divisions of the party should be united. The approach of winter may require the expedition to pass that season in this neighborhood, or if time suffices, the expedition may ascend the Big Horn river to Wind river, where a favorable wintering place can be found. " The next season should be spent in examining the mountain region about the sources of the Yellowstone and Missouri, to ascertain the character of the routes leading south and west from the navigable parts of those rivers. On returning one party should descend the Missouri, using skin boats to Fort Benton, where a Mackinac boat should be in readiness. The other portion should descend the Yellowstone, in skin boats, to its mouth, where it should join the party with the Mackinac boat, and all proceed to the settlements. With a pack train it would not, perhaps, be practicable to carry more than three months' full supply of provisions, but the abundance of game in much of this region renders it unnecessary to provide the usual quantity of bread and bacon. " The following places are convenient as depots, and you should make your arrangements accordingly, viz: The Platte Bridge, Fort Laramie, and the American Fur Company's posts, Fort Alexander, Fort Sarpy, Fort Benton, and Fort Union. If the Dakotas should withhold their consent to the expedition proceeding up the valley of the Shayenne, and you should not deem it advisable to make that examination without their consent, the expedition will proceed to Fort Clark or Fort Union, and move to the Yellowstone near the mouth of Powder River. "You will use your own judgment in modifying the plan proposed in the event of any unforeseen circumstances or physical obstacles preventing an adherence to it. " You will endeavor by all the means in your power to conciliate and gain the friendship of the different Indian tribes you may meet, and will assure them of the good will of the government, and of its protection in all their rights. You are authorized to purchase Indian goods to be used in compensating the Indians for their services when required, and for purchasing from them such articles, as you may need. By thus securing their friendly co-operation you will not only be relieved from danger of interruption, but be enabled to obtain from them much valuable information which would be withheld if you were obliged to enter their country in a hostile attitude. "To aid you in the discharge of these duties, you are authorized to employ eight assistants as topographers, geologist and naturalist, astronomer, meteorologist, physician, &c., at an average salary not exceeding $125 per month, and to pay their actual traveling expenses to and from the field of operations, and to subsist them while in the field. You will procure your assistants, employees, equipment, supplies, &c., at those points, which seem to ensure the most economical and effective organization for the party. The sum of $60,000 will be set aside from the appropriations to defray the expenses of the expedition, which amount your expenditures must not exceed. "The colonel of topographical engineers will be directed to supply you with such instruments as you may require on your requisition. " The commanding General of the Department of the West will be directed to detail an escort of 30 picked men of the infantry, under the command of a lieutenant, who will report to you for duty. " Transportation for the provision and equipage of the escort, their subsistence and their necessary, ammunition, will be furnished respectively by the quartermasters', commissary, and ordnance departments. " The quartermasters', commissary, medical, and ordnance departments will be directed to furnish, as far as practicable, all necessary transportation, provisions, arms, and supplies, those required for the civil employees to be paid for at cost prices at the place of delivery, from the appropriation for the expedition. " All necessary transportation, provisions, arms, and supplies which you cannot obtain from those departments, and all minor instruments, books, and drawing materials, will be purchased out of the appropriation for the exploration. You will communicate with the department through this office, to which you will make the reports and returns required by regulations of an officer of engineers in charge of a work or operation, and such other reports, transmitted as often as the means of communication will allow, as will keep the department apprised of your various movements, and the progress of the expedition under your charge. On the completion of your field duty you will return, with your assistants to Washington, and prepare the maps and reports necessary to a full exposition of the results of the expedition. "Very respectfully, your obedient servant, "A. A. HUMPHREYS, "Captain Topographical Engineers in charge. "Captain W. F. RAYNOLDS, "Corps Topographical Engineers, Washington."


Wednesday, August 31. -

Some complications in the settlement of the provision account occasioned an unexpected delay this morning, and it was not until 10 o'clock that we finally left Fort Sarpy, around which, as we moved off, all Indians were collected receiving their annuities from Major Schoonover. We pushed up the valley of the Yellowstone for nine miles over a barren, dusty plain, with scarcely the semblance of vegetation upon it, the soil resembling the dry bed of a stream, and the dust rose by the train filling the air. Turning to the left, up a small valley, which looked as unpromising as any that could be imagined, we continued our journey three miles further, when we found a living spring and a tolerable supply of grass. The water was far from the best, but still was palatable, and we therefore encamped. The Yellowstone, for 10 or 15 miles above Fort Sarpy, flows entirely on the north side of the valley, having a wide plain on its right bank. The timber is confined entirely to the river's edge and is not very abundant.

Thursday, September 1. —

Our route this morning bore up the valley of the stream upon which we had encamped, and the traveling was detestable, although our previous experience has reconciled us to the worst roads and given confidence in our power to overcome all obstacles. The great obstruction today was sand, in which our newly laden wagons sank deeply and seriously tried the power of our animals. One of our teams stalled and, falling behind, caused a delay of an hour or more. We continued up the stream to the point at which it forked, and thence up the western fork, the valley of which soon becoming too narrow compelled us to cross the bed of the intervening stream, causing considerable labor, and to take to the hills. At this point I drove ahead with Bridger, and from a convenient ridge obtained a view of the country before us. The prospect was decidedly inauspicious, the whole surface of the adjacent hills being cut up into steep gorges, and the chances for passable roads appearing to steadily decrease. Under such circumstances, I ordered a search for water with a view to encamping, and ultimately an oozing spring was found in a neighboring valley, which by digging yielded enough for the men but left none for the animals. Bridger, however, was more successful, and found an abundance of water in a valley some two miles distant, to which the herds were driven. Bridger reports that our route tomorrow will be into and down the valley of Tullock's fork, a branch of the Big Horn, which we are approaching, and as I propose that Lieutenant Maynadier shall go up that stream, I gave him his orders that he may make his arrangement to leave us when we strike the creek.


Friday, September 2. —

The road this morning continued up the valley in which we had encamped, thence along the ridge for about a mile, and then turned down a small creek that flows into O’Fallon’s or Tullock's fork of the Big Horn. We reached the latter stream at about noon after a march of seven miles. At this point Lieutenant Maynadier and party separated from us, ascending the fork, while we continued down to the Big Horn, arriving at that river after a further advance of seven miles, and pitching our tents upon its right bank. The division of the party was a necessary step, and we separated in excellent spirits and with mutual and fervent good wishes. The road today has been very poor, and until we reached the valley of Tullock's creek the hills were so steep that it was barely possible to cross them. West of the ridge gully after gully intercepted our progress, and at times we were forced into the bed of the streams, where the sand or stones formed serious obstacles. These circumstances, added to the delay occasioned by the separation of the parties, made the day a very laborious one, and we were in the saddle between nine and ten hours, although the distance traveled was less than 15 miles. One of our horses escaped this morning, and was pursued by Mr. Wilson and one of the men, who have not as yet returned. In all probability they were compelled to return to Fort Sarpy, in which case they will have over 50 miles to travel, and cannot get back before tomorrow afternoon. Dark clouds have filled the sky in the northeast all day, and a cold north wind blowing this evening rendered a fire necessary for comfort, and eventually culminated in a storm, which has prevented observations and caused serious personal discomfort.


Saturday, September 3. -


The storm of last night had not abated this morning and did not cease until 10 a. m., leaving then a mud in which locomotion with loaded wagons is impossible. This fact and the non-arrival of Mr. Wilson led me not to move camp. Mr. Wilson ultimately returned about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, bringing with him the missing horse, which he had found at Fort Sarpy. He passed last night in the Indian village as the guest of Red Bear, the head chief. He reports that the whole village of 130 lodges is upon our trail, and that they propose accompanying us to the head of Powder River. This is decidedly overdoing the matter of amicable relations. A single guide would be of invaluable service, but the continual company of 500 savages of all ages and both sexes, devoid of any district ideas of property, expecting to be allowed free access to our stores, and with a general friendship for our portable articles rather than for our persons, can hardly be esteemed one of the leading advantages to be derived from amity with the aborigines. They have not shown themselves as yet, however, and I am in hopes that their usual lack of veracity will not fail in this instance, and that they will break the promise made Mr. Wilson, which, in this case, as far as we are concerned, is more to be honored in the breach than the observance. The guide states that the best route up the valley of the Big Horn will lie for some distance at least on the west side of the river. Search has therefore been made during the day for a good crossing, and one has been found above camp, which will answer, although rather deep. Our escort being now reduced to 14 men, one-half having been detailed for duty with Lieutenant Maynadier, we have not the force to post a guard of soldiers every night. I have therefore been obliged to make a detail from my teamsters and packers, and to use my assistants as officers of the guard. The chilly nights do not tend to render this service one of the luxuries of frontier life.


Sunday, September 4. –


I had desired to improve the first clear sky afforded for astronomical observations, to determine the position of our present camp and also of the mouth of the Big Horn River, but failed in this last night. The air this morning was quite cold, the thermometer standing at 34. After our usual religious services, I finally succeeded in getting morning and afternoon observations for time, and circummeridian observations of the sun for latitude, which will be enough to give the position of the camp with tolererable accuracy.


Monday, September 5. -


Some of the party having discovered a good ford below camp, our route this morning ran down the stream that we might take advantage of it. The ford proved to be excellent, and will be of importance when the valley of the Yellowstone becomes a route for emigrants. It is midway between Tullock's or O'Fallen's creek and the junction of the Big Horn with the Yellowstone, and probably three quarters of a mile or a mile above the latter point. In going from the east to the west side of the river the route inclines well up the stream, and at the present stage of the river we found the water not over the' axletrees of our wagons. In fifteen minutes from the time the first team entered the water the last was on the opposite bank, having passed over a firm, stony bottom. Some little clearing was required upon the west bank, and then the train moved rapidly up the valley. About ten miles from the ford a bend of the river compelled us to cross a ridge of hills for a mile or two, both the ascent and descent being accomplished with difficulty by reason of the steepness of the slope and the heavy loads in our wagons, but still the obstacles were slight compared with others previously overcome. After again reaching the valley, search was at once commenced for a camping ground, but the scarcity of grass compelled us to travel three or four miles further before halting. We at last selected a spot upon the river, furnishing on the low ground scanty pasturage for our animals, which we were compelled, however, to eke out with the bark of young cottonwood trees. Artemisia covered the ground over which we have traveled today, seriously inconveniencing the progress of our vehicles. This and the hills that we were compelled to cross, as mentioned above, were all, however, that marred the excellence of the road. We traveled 16 miles in all, or about 16 miles after crossing the river. Our course has been nearly magnetic south, or from 15 to 20 west of due south. The promise of our Indian friends to overtake and accompany us has not yet been fulfilled, and our grief thereat is not wholly inconsolable.


Tuesday, September 6. -


Our route today continued directly up the valley of the Big Horn, which at our last night's camp is not wide but cut into numerous islands by the river, the main portion of which here flows upon the eastern side, cutting the bluff and leaving the only practicable road upon the left bank, where we now are. About three miles from camp we entered a wide, open valley, perfectly level, but traveling being still embarrassed by the Artemisia. The hills upon each side sink and become less broken, and ahead seem to disappear entirely. The Big Horn mountains begin to be visible in the distance like faint blue clouds, and our prospects for rapid marching seem much more hopeful than for weeks past. About 11 o'clock a herd of buffalo was discovered, and Bridger's skill with the rifle soon added two cows to our larder, in which fresh meat had for some days been a rarity. About noon the (mouth of the "Little Big Horn" came in sight. Here the river takes a wide sweep off to the east, coming back again beyond, and as our route would thus naturally lead some distance from the stream, a halt was ordered, as we were in possession of the three great requisites for camping-wood, water and grass. Though we had been in the saddle but six hours, and in that time had stopped to butcher buffalo, the distance traveled today was 13.86 miles. Our camp is two or three miles below the mouth of the Little Big Horn. The Indian name of the Big Horn is Ets-pot-agie, or Mountain Sheep river, and of the Little Big Horn, Et-pot-agie-cate, or Little Mountain Sheep river-the trappers' names for most of the streams in this country being translations of the Indian titles.


Wednesday, September 7. –


Our route today continued up the Big Horn in the same broad valley traveled yesterday. Upon setting out in the morning we aimed directly for the distant bluffs, thus leaving the stream nearly two miles to the left. About two miles from camp we passed the mouth of the Little Big Horn, which flows through an apparently level valley of the same character as that of the main stream and of about half the width. About six miles from camp we crossed the bed of a stream, now dry, coming from the west, requiring some little labor with the shovel before it was passable. Ten miles from camp the river cut the bluff on the west side, but just at this point we came upon a good ford and crossed without difficulty. On the east bank we found fine grass, the best seen this season, but it does not extend over one fourth of a mile from the river, the balance of the valley being clay covered with the interminable Artemisia. Old corrals and the remains of lodges show that this is a favorite resort of the Indians. We encamped about three miles above the ford, having traveled 13.3 miles. The Big Horn Mountains are now in plain sight, apparently about 20 miles distant. After dark this evening a sudden gust of wind from the westward blew down a part of our tents, and set the whole party at work lengthening the cords and strengthening the stakes of our frail habitations. The gale was accompanied by a few drops of rain, but at 11 p. m. the sky was clear, giving promise of a pleasant day tomorrow.


Thursday. September 8. —


We continued up the valley of the Big Horn, and for the first nine miles over as fine a road as could be desired, being almost level and with very little sage to obstruct our progress. Nine miles from camp we crossed a small stream coming in from the east, which Bridger, who seems to know every square mile of this region, calls Grass Creek. Above this the road was a little rougher, but still good. About 15 miles from camp we crossed a small stream that Bridger calls " Soap creek," and two miles above this we pitched our tents for the night upon the banks of the river, where we had a plentiful supply of grass, though but little wood. The Big Horn Mountains, which in the clear morning air did not seem more than 10 miles distant, now appear but little nearer, notwithstanding our day's march of 17 miles. The more immediate topographical features of these mountains are very peculiar. From our camp we can distinctly trace the Big Horn up its valley to this immense wall, rising over 3,000 feet in height, and crossing the course of the stream at right angles. The river here is large, deep, and nearly 300 feet in width, and yet at this distance there are no evidences of its cutting its way through this rocky barrier, and nothing in the conformation of the hills and spurs in the remoter ranges indicates the course of its channel. Its remarkable canyon is famous throughout the west, and as from this point our route would bear off southwestward towards the Platte, it was decided to visit this great natural curiosity this afternoon. I was accompanied by Dr. Hayden, Mr. Schonborn, and Mr.Wilson, and we rode up the banks of the Big Horn until a bend compelled its abandonment. It was only after an hour's ride that the apparently smooth face of the lofty mountain wall afforded the slightest evidence of being broken, and two hours elapsed before we reached the foot of the canyon. During the latter portion of the ride we passed over luxuriant meadowland, whose rank and rich vegetation rose to our stirrups, while the soil was manifestly of extraordinary fertility, making this the garden spot of this entire region. This unusual productiveness is undoubtedly explained by the circumstance that in the vicinity of the mountains rain is more abundant, and this hypothesis is further strengthened by the fact, already noted, that the valley of the Big Horn continually improves in agricultural characteristics as it is ascended. This spot at the mouth of the canyon, however, is unsurpassed in this region, and I venture the prediction that not many decades will elapse before it shall become a thriving and important point on a road connecting the Platte with the three forks of the Missouri, and skirting in its course the Big Horn mountains. The canon is one of the most remarkable sights upon the continent. The river here narrows to a width of less than 150 feet, and bursts out through red dish tinted walls of perpendicular rock over 300 feet in height. Its current at this point is slow, but undoubtedly its course among the mountains is marked by successions of rapids and cascades. We pushed up its banks until we reached the impassable wall of perpendicular rock, and after affording time for sketching and geological observations returned to camp. Bridger claims to have descended the lower canyon of the Big Horn some years since upon a raft during his service as a trapper with the American Fur Company, and his descriptions of the grandeur of the scenery along its banks are glowing and remarkable. He portrays a series of rugged canyons, the river forming among jagged rocks between lofty overhanging precipices, whose threatening arches shut out all sunlight, interspersed with narrow valleys, teeming with luxuriant verdure, through whose pleasant banks the stream flows as placidly as in its broad valleys below. The conformation of the country —my measurements showing the mountains to be over 3,000 feet in height-render all these marvels natural, and if it were possible I should be glad to attempt the exploration of the canyon myself.


The Survey Maps for 1871 and 1872 identify the creeks and their locations somewhat differently from the current ones. Beauvais Creek & Rotten Grass Creek are in the same relative position; excepting the cartographers call it Grass Lodge Creek. The next one south is listed as Rotten Grass, but is presently called Soap. Soap as denoted on the map could be either War Man or Mountain Rocket Creek. However; the river crossing on the 7th is definitely just upstream Two Legging’s Creek. The distances traveled as reported by Raynolds reflect the same positions when plotted on current maps, as they do on the early map.


Friday, September 9. –


We this morning left the valley of the Big Horn and struck off to the southward, passing up' Soap creek," and hugging the foot of the mountains. The rain of last night had fallen in snow upon their summits, suggesting the approach of winter, and demonstrating their unusual altitude. The morning was cloudy and disagreeable, but the party seemed to regard this as a turning point in the expedition, and as we were now facing towards civilization jubilancy of spirits universally prevailed. The road, however, soon lost the excellence that characterized it yesterday, and became abominable. Short and deep ravines crossed it every half mile, not so abrupt as to require working, but, nevertheless, causing much delay. For the greater portion of the distance we kept between the creek and the mountain, in order to avoid the bad traveling in the narrow valley. About eight and a half miles from camp a deep ravine gave serious trouble, retarding us an amount nearly equal to a half day's march, as we were compelled to double our teams, and even then a portion of the loads were necessarily carried across by hand. We traveled only a single mile after this delay, and encamped upon the stream up which we had been advancing. Extensive fires have burned over much of this country, seriously injuring the grass, and as this seems to have been of recent occurrence, I imagine that it is the act of the Indians, who are thus seeking to impede our progress. This evening I read the angle of elevation to one of the prominent points of the mountain range under which we are traveling, using the sextant and artificial horizon. The height, as thus determined, of the mountain above our camp is 4,818 feet, or 8,318 feet above the ocean, the barometer showing our camp to be 3,500 feet above the ocean.


Saturday, September 10. -


We had this morning indubitable evidence of the immediate presence of Indians. Three of the picket ropes, with which our animals had been fastened, were found cut, and one of our mules was missing. An examination of the scene of the theft resulted in the discovery of the place of concealment of the culprit and of the tracks of the missing animal. The Indian had stolen into camp under cover of some thick low bushes growing upon the banks of a dry ravine, and had succeeded in driving off the mule without the knowledge of our sentinels. There was no hopes of recovering the missing animal without the loss of more time than we could spare at this season of the year, and it was, therefore abandoned to our Indian friends, (?) and we resolved to profit by the lesson taught by their amity. This occurrence vented an early start, and the dry bed of a stream near camp gave further trouble by causing one of our teams to stall, making further delay. After this, however, we ascended a ridge between the dry gully and Soap creek, and continued along it for three or four miles, when we crossed the main stream, which here is a clear mountain brook some five or six feet wide, flowing over a gravel bottom, and then passed, with much difficulty, over a steep hill dividing us from Grass creek, causing an additional delay of an hour or more. It was thus 2 o'clock before we reached the latter stream, though we had traveled only nine miles. We found that it was entitled to the name Bridger gave it, for the grass was excellent upon its banks, and the temptation to halt was difficult to resist. The necessity of advancing was, however, more potent than the luxury of a good camping ground, and we, therefore, continued over the next ridge hoping to find a suitable spot in the valley beyond, but upon reaching it no water could be discovered, and all the grass had been recently burned. A second valley, which proved to be in the drainage of the Little Horn, was at length reached, but with the same result. A third ridge having more gentle slopes was then crossed when we entered the valley of Grass Lodge creek, a branch of the Little Horn. I preceded the party over the hill and was sadly disappointed as I looked down into the valley to see the black marks of fire along the west side, but on reaching the opposite bluff we ultimately found an excellent camping ground, which we were glad to occupy at 4- o'clock, having traveled 14.2 miles. In my explorations in search of a camp, in advance of the party, I discovered in a thicket on the banks of the stream the finest elk I had ever seen, and after encamping informed Bridger of the fact. He started in search of the game, and just before dark returned and reported that he had shot the animal about a mile from camp, and declared it to be one of the largest he had ever met. The head and horns were cut off to enable them to put his body in the cart, and as it lay stretched on the grass it seemed longer than that of any mule in our herd. We had not the facilities for weighing the carcass whole, but after it had been dressed according to the requirements of the commissary department, with the necks and shanks off, the four quarters aggregated 640 pounds. The head, horns, and hide were also weighed, and the total showed that the live weight of the animal was over 1,000 pounds. This supply of fresh meat was very acceptable, as we have had less than usual of late. The evening was bright and unusually beautiful, filled with all the charming effects of a full moon and grand mountain scenery.


Sunday, September 11. -


The rest of the Sabbath was doubly acceptable after one of the hardest week's work we have had during the summer, the last two days having been especially trying on our animals. Dr. Hayden and Mr. Snowden wished to visit a bluff at the pass of the Little Horn this morning, but as Bridger was very decided as to the danger of parties going abroad alone while there were such evidences of the vicinity of the Indians, and, as I could not encourage unnecessary work upon the Sabbath, the project was abandoned. Simply as a question of physical advantage, the propriety of the observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest has been demonstrated to my satisfaction by the experience of the expedition thus far. The day is bright and beautiful and rather uncomfortably warm in a close tent, the thermometer standing at 70 in the open air.


Monday, September 12. -


The first two and a half miles of our route today was a continual ascent, tasking our teams severely, but after climbing about 500 feet above the stream we entered upon an almost perfectly flat open plain some two miles in extent. This terminated in an abrupt slope into the valley of the Little Horn, which occasioned us considerable difficulty, the vertical descent being full 700 feet. Upon reaching the valley we found a beautifully clear stream of about 20 yards in width, and, at the point at which we crossed it, 15 inches in depth. The valley is quite wide, and the immediate banks of the stream are bordered by a thick growth of bushes and briers. Leaving the valley of the Little Horn we ascended the hill on the eastern side where a deep gully intercepting our route caused considerable delay. A fine supply of wild plum was found upon its banks, and while the men were engaged in regaling themselves with the fruit, one of the party, James Stephenson, was suddenly attacked by a large she grizzly and knocked down. The wagon master hastened to his assistance and the brute retreated to a neighboring thicket. A grand hunt was at once commenced by almost every member of the party, but soon assumed a ludicrous phase. The sportsmen attempted to obtain a shot at the bear, but the moment they came in sight through the bushes she would make a vigorous charge and scatter the crowd, beating immediately a hasty retreat to her lair. After this alternate hunt of the bear by the hunters and the hunters by the bear had been repeated several times she failed to respond to another approach, and some of the more daring of the party crept into the edge of the bushes to reconnoiter. They failed to find her, and at this juncture she was discovered crossing the crest of a neighboring hill with three cubs, just out of rifle range. Inasmuch as she had justly earned her right of escape, her exit was heartily cheered. After finally reaching the top of this ridge we descended by an easy grade to the valley of Pass creek, where we encamped, having traveled 13 miles. The country passed through is the best seen on our whole route. The hills are high and rugged; but the soil is good, and both hills and valleys are covered with a luxuriant growth of bunch grass. All that the country needs to make it a desirable residence is a better climate and a larger supply of timber. The latter is, however, more abundant than in most localities in this region, the valleys affording a present supply of fuel, and the neighboring mountains an indifferent species of pine. A large portion of the grass has just been burned over, and the surface of the country is therefore black and forbidding; but it is evident that, in the spring, the prospect is most beautiful from the exuberance of verdure and foliage. The close proximity of the mountains not only adds beauty to the landscape, but they are the sources of numerous brooks of clear running water that fertilize the soil and teem with mountain trout. Bears are very numerous, more than a dozen having been seen in the course of the day's march, and one, a yearling cub, was brought down by Bridger's rifle. Elk, deer, and antelope have also been seen in abundance, and we can now understand why the Indians cling with such tenacity to their country. No buffalo have been seen today, but the number of skeletons visible upon all sides show that at times they are to be found here in large numbers.


Tuesday, September 13. –


We started this morning up the valley of the stream upon which we had encamped, and after crossing it found a good road to its source. We then crossed a low divide, reached a second branch of the same creek, and after ascending it to its head passed over a rather steeper hill, and arrived at the drainage of Tongue river, striking a branch which heads in a large hill to our left. In passing down this stream we encountered one or two difficult hills before reaching the river itself, upon the banks of which we encamped after a march of 14.1 miles. Several of the carts were upset in the course of the march, causing vexatious delays; but, as a general rule, the traveling was fine. The general aspect of the country remains unchanged, but a thick smoky atmosphere has prevented our enjoying the full benefit of the scenery through which we have passed today. As we gradually approach the mountains they are increasing in grandeur. While Bridger was in advance of the train today he discovered five or six Indians in the distance apparently watching our march. They are doubtless the fellows who stole the mule on Friday night, and are now seeking opportunities to commit other depredations. Our camp has, therefore, been selected with special reference to safety, the river protecting it in front, while, upon the other sides, we have an open prairie, which they will not probably be bold enough to cross with hostile intent.


Wednesday, September 14. -


Our precautions against Indian robberies prove not to have been thorough enough, and this morning we miss a number of minor portable articles (cups, axes, &c.,), which were left too near the riverbank. The Indians appear to have crept along in the shadows on its edge, and thus reached them. The boldness of the theft is noteworthy, especially after we consider the fact that two sentinels were upon duty last night-one of the escort and one of the citizen employees detailed specially to guard against possible dangers. I question, however, their vigilance, as I have found it very difficult to impress upon the party the necessity of incessant watchfulness. The labors of the day they discharge uncomplainingly, but the guard duty at night they seem inclined to neglect, even at the risk of personal safety. Our route today bore directly across Tongue river, (a beautiful mountain torrent about 40 feet wide and a foot or more in depth,) and thence over the hills in a southeast course, keeping nearly parallel to the mountains, but approaching them gradually. We crossed the heads of several small tributaries to Tongue River, the undulations of the surface being slight. A flat plateau separated the streams, the valleys of which were broad and beautiful. One narrow brook, flowing in a cut some eight or ten feet deep, was the only one that we experienced any difficulty in crossing. The last descent into the valley in which we encamped was long and steep, but level, and accomplished without special difficulty. Our camp is on the right bank of Goose Creek, the most eastern fork of Tongue River, and the stream at this point is 25 to 30 feet wide; and 8 or 10 inches in depth. Our camp is about six miles in a straight line from the summit of the mountains that tower sublimely above us at a height, which I find by angular measurement to be over 4,000 feet. The distance traveled today was 12.4 miles. Heavy clouds and a slight rain prevented observations at night.


Thursday, September 15. —


Our route today still bore to the southeast, gradually approaching the mountains, and crossing the heads of several small tributaries of Tongue River. Our proximity to the mountains soon rendered the road somewhat broken, all the small watercourses becoming deep ravines. The hills seemed rounded, and were covered with grass; but the traveling became so bad that we determined to leave the mountain edge, and in about six miles turned down a small stream, running nearly east, that seemed convenient for our purpose. The road was good, and I drove in advance, as was my custom, to ascertain the nature of the country. Observing that the train did not follow as I had expected, however, I waited until Lieutenant Smith, commanding the escort, came up and reported that one of his wagons had broken down, and that a halt was necessary to repair damages. Returning, I found the party in camp after a march of only about seven miles. While returning to the train my first view of the camp struck me as one of most singular beauty. The dark and varied outlines of the mountains formed the background to a landscape of wide extent and attractive features. In the center the circle of white tents and wagon covers reflected the bright rays of the sun, and the smoke of camp fires, the groups of men, and the grazing animals, added the charm of busy life to the scene; while, upon either hand, the striking contrasts were mellowed down by gently-sloping hills clad with verdure of all the picturesque tints of autumn. The canvass of the painter has perpetuated few finer scenes real or ideal. Upon parting with Lieutenant Maynadier it was mutually agreed that should either meet with misfortunes that demanded the assistance of the other we shall communicate by signals of smoke. I was, therefore, much troubled this evening at a large smoke visible to the north. Our compasses were brought into requisition, its position with reference to our route determined as accurately as possible, and, after careful consideration, it was concluded that it was so near to the route we have ourselves followed that it could not be the other party. Dr. Hayden came into camp this evening from a ride in the mountains, and reported that a snow clad peak is in sight from the top of the mountain ridge, along the base of which we have been for several days traveling. I at once planned a little side excursion for tomorrow to enable me to see, and, if possible, locate it. The country traversed today is good, but not as fine as that we have found during the last few days. A few miles to our left (apparently not over 10or 15) the hills stand out in all the naked deformity of " washed lands," showing that the belt of good land close under the foot of the mountains, and through which our route lies, is not more than 20 or 25 miles in width. A clear night enabled me to obtain good observations.


Friday, September 16. -


Soon after the train was in motion this morning I left it, and in company with Dr. Hayden, Mr. Schonborn, and Mr. Wilson, started for the mountains. We rode for over an hour before we reached their base, climbing rising ground the entire time. Selecting the most favorable point we dismounted, and leading our horses, as we were afraid to leave them, we commenced a long and tedious ascent, which lasted until about noon. We were repaid for our labors upon reaching the summit of the ridge, which, however, we found was very far from constituting the summit of the mountain. Far in the distance the rugged rocks were piled above us, several of the highest peaks being covered with snow. Looking to the left through a deep gorge the Clear fork of Powder river was seen sparkling in the sunlight, while in the distance Pumpkin Butte appeared putting up from the level prairie. The desire to visit the distant peaks was very great, and gladly would I have gratified it had it been practicable, but a single glance was enough to show that the attempt would require more time than I deemed it proper to spend at this season for this purpose. The journey would be a long and wearisome one; deep valleys and high ridges would have to be crossed and thick woods penetrated, all of which would not only consume time, but also horseflesh, neither of which can be spared just now. We were therefore compelled to content ourselves with visiting two well-defined points that we knew had been fixed by intersecting lines from our route, and by compass bearings from them established the position of the highest point, with a considerable degree of accuracy. While descending the mountain we discovered the train still on the march, though it was later than our usual hour for halting. When we reached the party at 5 p. m., they were hard at work ascending a hill, which proved to be the dividing ridge between the waters of Tongue and Powder Rivers. This hill was quite steep and about 200 feet high, with no level space at the top. The descent was also abrupt, but only about 40 or 50 feet, vertical measurement, before reaching the bank of the Clear fork of Powder river, the stream running literally upon the top of the hill, in such a manner that a cut of 200 or 300 yards would give a fall of about 150 feet and turn the water into Tongue river. This peculiarity in the topography was so striking that it was observed by every one in the party the moment the summit was reached, and the remark was generally made 1" what an excellent location for a water-power." The road today has severely tasked our animals, as it crossed a succession of steep ridges, rendering our progress very slow. One creek especially, caused delay, as nearly every wagon stalled in it. The elevation is getting to be so great that the mules fail to perform the labor they would be equal to in a less rarified atmosphere, and the barometer this evening reads only 24.8 inches, indicating a height of over 5,000 feet. We are tonight, for the first time, encamped among pines. All seem exhausted by the labors of the day, and as it was nearly dark before the wagons were all up, we were compelled to encamp at this point, though it was far from being secure from the visits of the Indians, whom we know to have been on our track for several days past. The result was that at about 11 o'clock we were startled by the report of a gun and the cries of one of our sentinels. I rushed from my tent but only to see the form of an Indian dodging into a neighboring clump of trees, and the alarmed guard, whom I found had been shot with two balls through the muscles of the upper portion of his arm. He stated that he had seen a man near him, whom he supposed to be one of the party walking about camp in his drawers, and instead of hailing the individual as he should have done in obedience to his orders, he walked towards him. The Indian did not perceive the sentinel's presence until he was but 10 paces distant, and then finding himself discovered, fired and ran. The wound received by the man proved to be slight, but the balls had passed on and struck one of our horses, which died from bleeding in a few minutes. The camp was of course greatly excited at this reencounter, and scouts were sent out in all directions but without finding any traces of the intruder or his comrades. It is not probable that the savages intended anything more than a plundering visit to camp, and this hypothesis is confirmed by the fact that several portable articles are missing from the cook's fire, their number being so large also as to induce the belief that the Indian who fired was simply one of a band. After the excitement had subsided, and additional. guards had been stationed, we returned to sleep, thankful that the adventure was without more serious results. The parties have now a forcible conviction of the imperative necessity of continual vigilance.


Saturday, September 17. —


A severe storm prevailing this morning would have prevented a change of camp today, had not the experience of last evening demonstrated the importance of such a step. About noon a temporary lull was therefore improved, and the train started. The Clear fork impinged upon the bluff just below our camp, making it necessary to cross at once. The stream at this point is quite wide and cut up into several channels. The bed is also filled with large boulders, many of which we were compelled to remove to make a passable road, and as a result of the consequent delay, we did not reach the opposite bank until 2 o'clock. Here we found a narrow bottom affording an excellent road, down which we moved rapidly for about four miles, to a point at which the valley widened sufficiently to furnish a camping ground away front any cover convenient for our Indian visitors. Rain commenced falling again as we halted, and has continued till this time, (10 p. m.) The wind is also blowing a gale from the north, and as we are upon an open plain, exposed to its fury, both men and animals must suffer severely. The moon does not rise until late and a better opportunity for a night attack could hardly be imagined. Our camp is, however, excellently placed and no necessary precautions have been neglected.


Sunday, September 18-


The night passed quietly, aside from the storm, and the morning is bright and beautiful, though the mountaintops are glistening with snow. The day has been spent as usual in camp. About noon a party of Indians were discovered approaching, headed by a Spaniard whom we had seen with them at Fort Sarpy, and they marched directly into camp. I was not disposed to give them a very cordial reception, as I deemed it probable that they are the fellows who have been tracking us for the past two weeks, and have been guilty of the thieving that has so annoyed us. They pretended, however, to be entirely ignorant of all these matters, but said that they had seen a Blackfoot trail, it being the custom of the Crows to place all rascality to the credit of the Blackfeet. Upon closer questioning, however, they admitted that a party of five young men had left the Crow camp the day after we did, and doubtless these are the ones who have paid us so many unwelcome visits. I have little doubt also that our guests of today were fully conversant with all that had happened, if not themselves the guilty parties, and that they have adopted this bold method of ascertaining the results of the shot of night before last, which was apparently fired, rather to secure escape than with any murderous intention. As, however, I had no proof of this I made a virtue of necessity, and ordered coffee to be given them. One of the parties carried a shovel that had been missed by my escort and reported stolen, but he claimed to have found it and made no objections to its return. The Indians located themselves on the bank of the river, and during the afternoon I had an opportunity of witnessing a curious spectacle, namely, an aboriginal sweat-bath taken by four of the savages. The modus operandi was as follows: They first erected a frame work some eight feet in diameter and five feet high, of long willows planted in the ground, bent in proper form and wattled together with great care and regularity, resembling a large open basket inverted, and having an entrance sufficiently large to admit one person. A hole 12 or 14 inches in diameter, and eight inches deep, was then excavated in the center and all the dirt carefully removed. Around this a shallow trench was dug, as also four small trenches entering it at right angles from the circumference. Willow boughs were also carefully laid around the hole, and the whole of the structure was thickly covered with buffalo robes and blankets. A fire was then kindled and a large number of stones heated. These preparations having been completed, four men entered the bath, the attendants passed in the stones and vessels of water, and then carefully closed the entrance. Steam was generated in this close apartment, by throwing water upon the stones, so effectually that its inmates were compelled to call three times for fresh air, which was supplied by the attendants making a small opening at the door. The men remained in this bath some 15 or 20 minutes, when they emerged dripping with steam and perspiration. Three went at once to the cold mountain stream and washed off, while the fourth contented himself with laying on the ground until he was cooled. A more effective method of taking a vapor bath could hardly be desired, and I learn it is a favorite remedy with the Crows for almost all the ills to which savage flesh is heir. In the afternoon an elk was seen some distance below camp, two of the Indians at once mounted their horses, and giving chase soon succeeded in bringing it down. As night approached the/savages moved back of our location, and after dark burned torches for some time on each side of their own campfires. These were undoubtedly intended as signals to others in the distance, and consequently excited considerable suspicion, but they insisted that it was only for amusement, and we of course were destitute of all power of proving the contrary. The Spaniard's explanation of his presence with the band is that he was sent by Richard at Platte bridge to bring the Crows there to trade, and that these 14 are all that he was able to induce to accompany him. His appearance is not especially in his favor, but I have entrusted him with a letter to be mailed at Platte Bridge. The night is bright and clear, and we obtained observations for time and latitude. The thermometer this evening stood at 42.


Monday, September 19. —


We left camp at 7 o'clock, our course continuing to the southeast and nearly parallel with the mountains. On climbing the hill from the valley of Clear fork, the highest peak of the Big Horn range came in sight. From our point of view it is a regularly shaped and rather flat cone, surrounded by several other peaks of nearly equal height, all crowned with snow which has apparently not yielded to the heat of summer. Passing over the ridge from the Clear fork of Powder River, we entered the valley of Lake De Smet, so called from a catholic priest, who has spent many years among the Indian tribes of this country. It is a small pond, some three or four miles long, lying between the branches of Clear fork. One or two small streams empty into it, but no outlet was discovered, and Bridger and Meldrum agree in saying that it has none. The barometer indicated that the pond was some feet lower than the streams upon either side, but this is not sufficiently marked to attract the attention of the casual observer, and I therefore attribute the frequency of its mention as something remarkable to the fact that it is the only sheet of water of the kind that we have met during our summer's wandering. We passed upon its southwestern side, leaving quite a ridge between it and our route. We soon reached the valley of a small creek flowing into the southeastern branch of the Clear fork of Powder river, down which we traveled for a mile or two, and then crossing the point of land near the junction, reached the stream itself upon the banks of which we encamped. The country through which we have been passing today is less attractive than that about the headwaters of Tongue River, the soil being poorer, and sage in large quantities replacing the grass. The reddish broken hills immediately upon our left also show that we are n6w upon the borders of a different, and more sterile geological formation. Our camp is located upon a small patch of fine grass, but it is all there is in sight in the valley, which is here a mile wide. The creek has little or no timber upon it, and the cheerless prospect is before us of again encountering our old enemy-the " washed lands." The Indians who encamped with us last night, left early in the morning, which was the occasion of our late start. We overtook them, however, at our camping ground this evening, but just as they were preparing to go on, which (much to our satisfaction) they did without their customary resort to promiscuous and importunate begging. Several of the highest peaks of the Big Horn range are visible from this camp and loom up grandly and boldly against the clear western sky. I cannot help constantly regretting my inability to visit them, but it is clearly impossible to spare the requisite time at this juncture. I have, however, located them by intersections from our line of route, and, reading the angles of elevation with the sextant and artificial horizon, I find the highest visible point to be over 7,000 feet above our camp, or about 11,500 feet above the sea level. The night is cloudy, and consequently observations were impossible. The distance-traveled today is 14.7 miles.


Tuesday, September 20. -


Our route today has still continued parallel with the mountains, but a change in the direction of the range has made our course almost exactly south. The road has been good though rather hilly, but the elevation, averaging over 5,000 feet, has told upon our animals by reason of the rarity of the atmosphere, and decidedly impaired their capacity for labor. We crossed one or two small streams, but the country is by no means as well watered, nor is the soil as good as that found before leaving the Big Horn. Sage covers much of the surface of the earth, and grass is becoming scarce. The mountain range on our right is also of less height, and the lofty peaks visible for some days past have disappeared. The country to our left and in front of us seems also much more level, and the hills on the other side of Powder river can now be seen in the distance. Far out on the plain " Pumpkin butte " is also visible-a long hill with a level summit, standing between Powder River and the headwaters of the Shayenne, and forming a marked feature in the landscape. The larger portion of our route today lay through valleys parallel with the mountains, the hills to our right rising to considerable heights, and a distinguishing characteristic of the topography being the fact that all the dividing ridges between the streams were lower at the foot of the mountains than at a distance of some miles. We crossed a small tributary of Powder River that Bridger calls Sandy creek, and continuing down it some three miles, encamped upon one of its lesser branches, having advanced nearly 16 miles. The day has been quite comfortable, the thermometer standing this afternoon at 79. One of our mules broke down and was necessarily abandoned, and all the animals reached camp with difficulty. The grass is here, to my regret, no better than at our last camp, and I can see but little opportunity for their recruiting. The only fuel here also is driftwood from the mountains, and buffalo chips, which are not very plenty. The early part of the evening was quite clear, but it soon clouded up.


Wednesday, September 21. -


We continued today nearly due south, still skirting the mountains and crossing several small streams flowing into Powder River. The country traveled over has differed in no essential respects from that through which we have passed in the last few days, consisting in the main of genre undulations that were traversed without difficulty, but occasionally varied with sharp, rocky hills. About five miles from camp we crossed a small brook only a foot or two wide, but very miry, giving on this account much trouble. In crossing it a member of the party, Mr. Wilson, refused to aid me in lifting one of the carts from the slough, upon the ground that he had not been assigned to this special class of duty by the Secretary of War. I promptly released him from duty of any kind by discharging him upon the spot, only permitting him to remain with us until we should reach the Platte road. This disagreeable occurrence was the legitimate, result of the presence of men who simply owe their connection with the party to the order of high authority and not to the needs of the expedition, and are therefore more guided by motives of selfishness than a sense of duty. While en route today we were joined by three Indians who came with us to camp, and were there reinforced by three others. They proved to be Arapahos, and among them were " Little Owl," one of their head chiefs, and " Friday," also a chief, who speaks English quite well, having spent some time while a boy in St. Louis. They told us that their whole village of 180 lodges was within six or seven miles; and they also brought some fresh meat, for which we exchanged bacon. This, with a cup of coffee and a few biscuits, seemed to make them well satisfied with their visit. Friday informs me that Major Swiss, the Indian agent on the Upper Platte, has letters for us, and this assurance is the nearest approach to news from our homes that we have enjoyed since leaving the Missouri. It is at least a gratification to know that there are letters for us somewhere, although weeks may elapse before they shall reach us. A warm south wind has prevailed all day, threatening rain, but about 8 p. m. the wind shifted to the, northeast, and it has become uncomfortably cold. This would be a bad place to encounter a storm of any duration, as there is no fuel excepting a little driftwood, and the grass is miserable. The distance traveled today is 10.7 miles. The Indians left at 8 p. m. to return to their village.

Thursday, September 22. -


The morning was dark and rainy, but our camp was so unsuitable, being almost destitute of grass or wood, that I determined to move, and accordingly we commenced our march in the middle of a heavy shower, though with fair prospects of the early return of clear weather. We crossed the first stream about two miles from camp, and would have stopped had there been an adequate supply of fuel and grass; but as these essentials were still lacking, and the day was not as yet very disagreeable, we pushed on in search of better quarters. The storm, however, did not abate, but settled down into a steady rain with a driving northeast wind. A thick fog also closed around us, shutting out all view of the country, and greatly embarrassing our selection of a route, even the mountains fading from our sight in the thick mist. Our guide, however, did not falter, but pointed out our course with every mark of complete self-confidence, and as coolly as if on a broad turnpike in clear weather, and amid familiar landmarks. The first part of our course was over high rolling ground, and the dividing ridge between Sandy and Willow creeks, being an elevated level plateau, gave us four or five miles of excellent traveling. The descent to the valley of Willow creek was quite abrupt, however, and here we again found ourselves surrounded with the " washed lands," which had before occasioned us so much trouble, and now compelled a long detour to the left before we could enter the valley, along which we passed to the bank of the creek, upon which we encamped, having traveled 14.7 miles. The march has been very trying to our animals, the cold rain and driving wind, with the bad roads, causing several to give out, and another mule had to be abandoned. We are tonight partially protected from the wind by a high bluff, which is a decided improvement upon encamping in the open plain. It is raining steadily now, and the darkness is intense.

Friday, September 23. -


The cold northeastern storm of yesterday has continued almost without intermission, and consequently we have not moved camp. The day has been spent in efforts at work, but it has been so exceedingly disagreeable that little has been accomplished. The rain has stopped this evening and a few stars are visible, giving " token of a goodly day to-morrow."


Saturday, September 24. -


The storm being over and the morning bright and clear, we struck our tents at an early hour and resumed our march. After following down the valley of Willow creek for some two or three miles, we crossed it and ascended the ridge between it and Powder river. The road was very heavy, the ground being saturated with rain, giving an idea of the difficulties that would attend traveling in this country in the wet season. At many points it was with the utmost labor that our animals could move, and our course had to be selected with great care. Wherever the surface of the ground was exposed by the absence of grass, it was about impossible to even ride upon horseback, but by following the ridges we made tolerable progress, and reached Powder river about 1 o'clock, having traveled I' miles. Powder river at this point possesses the same characteristics as nearer its mouth. The stream is, however, very muddy from the recent rain, and its bed is filled with mire and quicksand, rendering the selection of a crossing a matter of much care. The banks present that " washed " appearance with which we have become so familiar, although it is not quite as forbidding here as further down. There can be no doubt of the truth of Bridger's statement, that the same general features prevail though out the whole extent of the stream, and in this case the non-arrival of Lieutenant Maynadier and party is fully explained. I shall await them at this point, as per agreement, and hope that a rest will much improve the condition of our jaded animals. The night is clear, and we observed for time and latitude.


Sunday, September 25. —


The day has been spent in camp, with the customary services. The weather has been bright and beautiful, to the intense pleasure of every member of the party.


Monday, September 26. —


Mr. Snowden, Dr. Hayden, and Mr. Schonborn applied this morning for permission to visit a pass over the mountains that is visible from camp, each wishing to advance the interests of his own department. I gave my consent gladly, and with a single attendant they left camp to be absent until to-morrow night. Bridger and myself turned our faces down stream to try and obtain some information in regard to Lieutenant Maynadier. After a ride of about 15 miles we came to the ruins of some old trading posts, known as the " Portuguese houses," from the fact that many years ago they were erected by a Portuguese trader named Antonio Mateo. They are now badly dilapidated, and only one side of the pickets’ remains standing. These, however, are of hewn logs, and from their character it is evident that the structures were originally very strongly built. Bridger recounted a tradition that at one time this post was besieged by the Sioux for forty days, resisting successfully to the last alike the strength and the ingenuity of their assaults, and the appearance of the ruins renders the story not only credible but probable. I shaved off the pickets at two or three places, wrote on the bright surface information as to our whereabouts for the benefit of Lieutenant Maynadier, if he should chance to pass in this direction, and then, after an unsuccessful reconnaissance of the surrounding country from the summit of a convenient hill, returned to camp. During my absence Lieutenant Smith, in accordance with consent previously obtained, had moved camp about a mile further down stream for the purpose of securing better pasturage, and I found the party just settling themselves in their new quarters.


Tuesday, September 27. -


The day was spent in camp, still awaiting the arrival of Lieutenant Maynadier, concerning whom I am commencing to feel somewhat anxious. Bridger made a short excursion today towards the Platte to select a route, but returned with a rather unfavorable report. The course recommended I judge to be anything but direct, but as he strenuously insists upon its superior feasibility I shall follow his advice. The party returned from the mountains in good season and fine spirits, each having abundantly gratified his special tastes and pursuits. Mr. Snowden claims to have decidedly improved his acquaintance with the mountain ranges. Dr. Hayden found several new plants and many fossils, and Mr. Schonborn obtained a number of admirable sketches. They described a singular topographical feature of the country they visited. A small stream pierces through a low hill in its course, forming one of the canyons so common in this country, where the watercourses pay so little respect to the ridges crossing their paths. After emerging, however, it makes a sharp turn, and at a distance of but a few yards again flows through the hill, making thus a strange double canyon. A sketch of Mir. Schonborn's has well preserved this curious freak of nature. Bridger and Doctor Hayden will tomorrow make a second reconnaissance down stream in search of Lieutenant Maynadier, and if they are unsuccessful I have decided to push on with my detachment without further delay, sending a guide back to find and bring up the others, if it shall be possible.


Wednesday, September 28. -


A dark and lowering sky did not prevent the departure of the down-river party, consisting of Lieutenant Smith, Doctor Hayden, Bridger, and Stephenson. They left camp with the expectation of being absent three days. About noon the wind shifted to the northeast and rain set in, but about 4 p. m. it changed to snow, and for a time the flakes fell as thickly as I have ever seen them. It melted as rapidly, however, the thermometer not sinking below 36. About dark the fall of snow ceased, and there were indications of clearing up, the thermometer rising to 40.


Thursday, September 29. –


The morning was bright and clear, the thermometer standing at 7 a. m. at 28. Thick ice formed in camp last night, but the bright sun rapidly warmed the air, and at noon the thermometer had risen to 60 deg, with a south wind prevailing. The day was spent in camp, computing, making copies of notes, &c., &c. At 5 p. m. we were visited by a war party of 11 Indians on foot, who proved to be Arapahos on their way to join another band of their own tribe, or a body of Sioux, in a horse-stealing expedition among the Utes, with whom they are now at war. I may remark en passant that horse stealing appears to be one of the grand objective points of Indian campaigning. They were each armed with a rifle, and all carried lariats for the purpose of securing their plunder. As usual I furnished them with supper to avoid arousing any unnecessary ill will, and at its close they repaid us by one of their native concerts, the music of which may be soothing to the savage breast, but is decidedly irritating to the civilized ear. They formed a circle about the fire, standing shoulder to shoulder, and then sang in a species of aggravatingly-monotonous strain, marking time by a swaying motion of their bodies, at intervals enlivening the proceedings by ferocious yells, preceded by short, sharp barks like those of an angry dog. This entertainment having been closed, the Indians proceeded to comfortably locate themselves about our camp fires, where they now lie, to all external appearance, in a state of supreme content.


Friday, September 30. –


Our Indian guests left us this morning immediately after their breakfast, but not without characteristically begging a supply of provisions to take with them. The day was spent in camp awaiting the return of the reconnoitering party, who arrived about 5 p. m., without any tidings of Lieutenant Maynadier. They report that they reached a point not far from fifty miles from camp, and state that a train would be compelled to travel much further to pass over the same ground. This proves that if Lieutenant Maynadier is coming by Powder River, as he expected, he is so far behind that he cannot join us for several days, possibly for a week. I have, therefore, decided to push on myself to the Platte, and, if he is not heard from before, send after him from that point. My party is too small for another division, and my animals are too much exhausted for such a journey, even if I felt justified in sparing the men.


Saturday, October. 1


We left camp at 71 o'clock a. m., for the Platte, our route lying west of direct, the guide claiming that he knows the country perfectly, and that this course is indispensable to securing a good road. Following up the valley of Powder river we found our progress impeded by high sage and deep ravines, which compelled us to cross the stream repeatedly, the hills on either side being so high and steep as to forbid our venturing among them. About nine miles from camp we crossed the mouth of Red Canyon creek, as the stream very appropriately named, as it flows between high rocky banks of the brightest red, the water itself, also, taking on the same brilliant hue. After the crossing a bold point gave us some trouble, but we ultimately reached the valley of the Powder, upon which is located our camp tonight, in the midst of a small bottom, covered with tall, coarse grass and rushes, upon which our animals are faring sumptuously. The country we are now in is generally identical with that we have uniformly found about the course of Powder River, wherever we have met that stream. The geological formation of the opposite banks of the river is strikingly different. The right is of dark brown or slate color and of the setaceous formation, while the left is of the Jurassic, and consists of rugged rocks, up heaved and outcropping in all directions. The soil in the narrow valley cannot be regarded as good, the luxuriant growth of sage proving too plainly its sterility. The distance traveled today was 11 miles, to accomplish which wee were compelled to be moving eight hours and to use the shovel and pick freely.


Sunday, October 2. -


This is the only Sabbath of the season upon, which I have moved camp, but I have deemed it in this instance to be a case of absolute necessity, as it is of the utmost importance that we should reach the Platte at the earliest possible moment, in order that we may send back for Lieutenant Maynadier party, should not news from them reach us by that time. I was amused on the march at a discussion between two of the party in regard to the day of the week. One insisted that it was Sunday, but the other replied: "I tell you it ain't. Don't you know the captain never moves on Sunday?" This was conclusive at first, and until I explained the fact and the reason of our deviation from an established rule. Our route still bore up the valley of Powder river, or at least of one branch of it, and the stream we are on seems to be the main fork. As to the road it is only necessary to say that our progress was but about a mile an hour. A succession of deep gullies were crossed in the first part of the march, and after about four miles advance, we passed through the thickest undergrowth I have seen in this country. Willows, vines, and briers had to be cut out of the path, but at length we struck a wide Indian trail that brought us through with comparatively little further trouble. During our march the stream was also crossed and re-crossed several times. Our camp for tonight is at the "Red Buttes of Powder River," which constitute a very marked geological feature. One large butte, standing in the middle of the valley and seen from a distance, greatly resembles a crumbling castle. The towers and bastions are all complete, and the likeness to an old ruin is indeed extraordinary. Similar buttes extend up the right bank of the stream for miles above our camp, all preserving the ruin-like appearance, innumerable birds' nests clinging to their sides completing the picture. The rock is hard, indurate clay, and the red tinge it gives to the water proves it to be, easily soluble and therefore of no great economical value. The day has been bright and beautiful, and the evening is clear, but chilly.


Monday, October 3. —


Our route today still continued up the valley of Powder river, having on our left the remarkable red bluffs encountered yesterday, which are a constant source of admiration and amazement. A striking feature is their steep sides, which render them almost impassable. Dr. Hayden succeeded in reaching the summit some distance below camp, and after following the crest for some miles, all the time in sight of the train, he was obliged to retrace his steps before he could again descend into the valley. If these rocks were in an accessible region they undoubtedly would attract more attention from wonder-seeking tourists than the famous Palisades of the Hudson. Our road lay on the left bank of the stream for some distance, but deep gullies compelled us to make several crossings and necessitated the free use of the pick and shovel. Four miles from camp the valley becomes very narrow and our only feasible route led through the canon, with high, rocky banks upon either side. About six miles from camp we entered the canyon of a small branch coming in from the left, up which we passed for half a mile before we could emerge, when we crossed the point and again reached the stream, which we have since followed. The canyon above us is impassable, however, and we will be obliged to again abandon the stream at this point. As Bridger says we will not find water for nearly ten miles, I ordered the train to halt, although we had advanced only seven and a quarter miles.


Tuesday, October 4. —


Our route this morning was directly over the hills, and thence parallel to the stream. The first mile or two was a gradual ascent over hard ground and with good traveling then for five miles. The road ran along a level plateau, whence it at last descended by an abrupt hill into the valley. Here we encountered one of the few evidences of the existence of industry among the Indians. We were following a trail, which was plainly of much importance. The steep descent, which it here met, had been originally rendered nearly impassable by an immense number of boulders, but these had been carefully and systematically piled up in low pyramids on the side, leaving a road of comparative excellence. Bridger claims, however, that this was never finished as a single undertaking, as no Indians would have been guilty of such a sensible work, and his theory is that separate parties have consumed a long series of years in accomplishing this result. The valley reached over this highway is from one to two miles wide, and ten to twelve long, and, although it is 6,000 feet above the ocean, is closed on all sides by mountains. On the left are the Red Buttes before spoken of, while to the right laid the dark, frowning heights of the Big Horn mountains, cut by numerous canyons. The valley is so nearly level that, but for the stream flowing, gently through it; the slope would scarcely be perceptible. It is a bright gem in a rough mountain setting, and apparently fulfils all the conditions of the "happy valley" of Rascals, have the inhabitants. A single Indian grave, the body deposited on an elevated platform, was the only evidence of even the presence of Indians at any time within its rocky walls. We continued some eight miles further up this valley and encamped under a bluff on the right side, after a march of 15 miles. The day has been dark and dreary, and a old northeast wind has prevailed, making us fear a storm at any moment, and rendering the shelter of the rocks very desirable.


Wednesday, October 5. -


Our "happy valley," through which we yesterday traveled so pleasantly, proved, like a bad habit, exceedingly difficult to forsake. Our egress was barred by a succession of rugged spurs of the mountains, with deep ravines interlaying, and their steep sides blocked up by large and jagged boulders; the road being thus as bad as it could possibly be and yet be passable. The high red bluffs on our left still continue, and have compelled us to travel far to the westward of a direct route in order that we might avoid them. After severe labor until 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we found a small spring near the summit of the ridge bounding the valley on the southwest, and near this we encamped after a march of 11.3 miles. The country traversed has been exceedingly barren and destitute. No timber exists save stunted pines on the mountains, and a very thin growth of bunch grass upon some of the ridges, and the never failing sage (Artemisia) completes the vegetation. Our camp is immediately under a bluff, and a scattered growth of stunted cedars upon it, with driftwood in the gullies, constitutes our entire stock of fuel.


Thursday, October 6. -


A gradual ascent of about a mile and a half brought us easily this morning to the summit of a pass, leading into what we at first supposed to be the valley of the Platte. After traveling down a small stream for a few miles, however, it became evident that we were in the eastern drainage of the Big Horn. Leaving the stream we skirted the eastern edge of the Wind River Basin, passing over an almost level country without a stick of timber visible, and but little sage and still less grass. The excellence of the road was an advantage, as the nature of the country compelled us to make an unusually long march. About 12 miles from camp we found a small spring, which would have given us a scanty supply of water, but as there was no pasturage nor fuel it was thought advisable not to halt our mules. Further we entered the valley of the Platte. Flanking parties were thrown out to look for water, but we were compelled to travel until after sundown before any was found. The supply of grass was then most miserable, and not a stick of wood was visible. Sage and buffalo chips answered, however, for fuel, and we were glad to break a fast of over 13 hours. The country passed over today has been a barren desert, its soil being light clay, which is baked by the sun and produces absolutely nothing of value. To the right the level plain is as monotonously cheerless as can be imagined. A slight deviation from our route enabled us to look down the valley of Powder river, and the prospect in that direction was equally desolate, with the addition of the fact that the ground was much more broken, presenting all the disagreeable features that appear to uniformly mark the course of this river. Our animals are tonight crowded into the narrow bed of the stream, the only spot where grass is to be found.


Friday, October 7. –


Our mules and horses were too much exhausted by yesterday's labors for either an early start or a long march. We moved off about half past 8 o'clock, and after traveling over a barren, sandy plain for six miles, found some rainwater standing in pools in the old bed of a dried-up stream. There being no prospect of a better camping ground, and the condition of the animals being exceedingly reduced, I determined to halt and encamp. This country is the most barren yet seen, and except in the very narrow valleys the only vegetation is a sparse growth of grass, varied with clumps of very small sage. From a cursory inspection of the land adjacent to our line of march, I have roughly estimated that the vegetation of all kinds (sage, grass, &c.) only covers about one-fifth or one-sixth of its surface. The small valleys are our sole reliance for subsistence for our animals and for our supply of fuel. The soil when wet becomes a thick and clayey mud, clinging to the feet in large masses, and rendering locomotion almost impossible.


Saturday, October 8. -


On gaining the summit of the first hill encountered this morning, the mountains on the south side of the Platte came in view, and by their proximity encouraged us with the expectation of soon reaching the much-talked-of Platte road. Our route led southeast, leaving the stream upon which we had encamped, and crossing several valleys draining into it. The road was tolerably good, and our progress fair; but our animals are too much worn out for long marches, and we therefore encamped by a small pond of rainwater on the prairie, with no fuel but sage, after a journey of 11 miles. The hardships of the past week have been enormous, and a similar experience in the next seven days would compel the abandonment of our wagons.


Sunday, October 9. -


The day was spent in camp as usual, as notwithstanding my anxiety in regard to Lieutenant Maynadier's party, the exhaustion of both men and beasts renders rest indispensable.


Monday, October 10. -


From camp this morning our route bore across the hills, leaving the stream upon our left. After advancing three or four miles we reached the valley of another branch, down which we followed. It soon became wider, and contained far better grass than has been found for some time, though in several places the soil was covered to the depth of several inches with a white salt, or, as Bridger calls it, "alkali." This is an impure soda, although in some places it is found of sufficient purity to be used for culinary purposes. The stream where we first struck it was a running brook of palatable water; but five or six miles below it became very salty and the water was found only in holes. After we had traveled 15 miles we halted for the night at a point far less eligible for a camp than many localities we had passed. After encamping I rode in advance to ascertain our exact whereabouts, and soon came in sight of the valley of the Platte, the Red Buttes, and the Laramie hills. It was evident that another day's march would bring us to the Platte road.


Tuesday, October 11. -


As the train was leaving camp this morning, I started with Dr. Hayden and Wilson for the Platte Bridge. We followed down the stream, upon which we had been encamped some distance, finally turning to the right, and after riding for about six miles reached the Platte road, near the Red Buttes. Before starting I had in my ignorance asked Bridger if there was any danger of crossing the road without knowing it. I now understand fully his surprise, as it is as marked as any turnpike at the east. It is hard, dry, and dusty, and gave evidence of the immense amount of travel that passes over it. Indeed we had not followed it a mile before we came upon an ambulance with ladies in it, bound for the " States," and we were very seldom out of sight of some vehicle upon this great highway. The fact of again reaching a regular road appeared to impart new life even to our jaded horses, and we rode on at a rapid rate until we reached Richards’s trading post at the Platte Bridge, having traveled about 18 miles. Here I received the pleasing news that Lieutenant Maynadier was close at our heels, on our trail, some Indians having just arrived at the bridge who had seen his party near the head of Powder River. I was also so fortunate as to receive a single letter, which constituted our latest news from home, though it was four months old, I learned also that a mail was waiting for us at the Indian agency at Deer creek, and engaged Richard 0to send for it. I also made arrangements to get up our winter supplies from Fort Laramie; and after taking dinner under a roof, off from a table, and on a stool-luxuries we had not known since leaving Fort Pierre-returned to the Red Buttes, where my party was in camp, having reached that point about 1 o'clock. I found some evidences of our return' to "civilization" that were not so agreeable. Two neighboring houses were devoted to the sale of liquor, and a large number of the party were consequently in a state of uproariousness that had converted the camp into a bedlam, which it required great efforts upon my part to subdue. The commander of the escort was invisible, and had certainly made no efforts to maintain order or enforce discipline. My object was now to select a suitable place for winter quarters and detail a portion of the party for their preparation, while the others should be engaged in procuring provisions and making a reconnaissance in the direction of the headwaters of the Shayenne and Pumpkin Butte, to develop a district of country that had not been reached by either Lieutenant Warren or myself. I determined first to examine the valley of Carson's creek, which empties into the south side of the Platte above Red Buttes, and if that should not prove suitable for a winter residence, then go east until I found an eligible location, knowing that at the worst we could obtain a resting place at Fort Laramie.


Wednesday, October 12. —


I left the party in camp today, while I accompanied Bridger to look at the valley of Carson's creek, as previously determined. As I was about departing I observed that the escort were also making preparations for moving. I inquired of the officer in command that his purpose was, and learned that he intended taking his command to Carson's creek. I replied it was my wish that they should remain in camp, and accordingly gave him orders to that effect. He replied with an oath that he should do as he pleased, as I had no power to give him orders. Knowing that I certainly had not the means of enforcing my commands, I rode on to make the proposed examination, and was satisfied that the place was not such as was required, the grass being poor and the timber unsuitable for building huts. Upon my return I found my escort gone and Lieutenant Maynadier in camp, having come on in advance of his party. I wish here, to state the result of the disobedience of orders upon the part of the commanding officer of the escort. He was tried by court-martial for the offence, and acquitted; not for want of proof, but because the court held that I, as an engineer officer, could not command troops, basing their finding on the 63rd article of war, which provides that engineer officers shall not be put upon or assume duties out of the line of their profession, and paragraph 14 of the Army Regulations, which provides that engineers shall not assume the command of troops. If the finding in this case is correct, then an engineer officer, in discharge of his legitimate duty, requiring the co-operation of troops, is at the mercy of the line officer, who is not obliged to co-operate with him further than his own inclinations may prompt. It seems to me that such a conclusion is far from warranted by either the Articles of War or the regulations. An officer of engineers is regularly assigned to duty, in the line of his profession, by a common superior having the right to issue the order. If such duty cannot be performed without troops, I submit that he does not assume command of troops by exercising the authority due to his rank. The right to order on duty carries with it the right to order in command of the troops required to perform that duty, it being distinctly understood that the duty is such as legitimately pertains to the functions of the engineer officer. Any other construction involves the military absurdity of supposing a junior has the right to thwart the purposes of the officer giving the original order. I have stated my views in this case because I deem it a matter of vital importance to the engineer corps. In the discharge of their duties they are held fully responsible; and yet whenever these duties require co-operation of troops, they are placed at the mercy of the officer in charge of such troops without the slightest regard to relative rank. The arrival of Lieutenant Maynadier's party, followed by that of the mail towards evening, caused excitement enough, however, to divert our thoughts from other matters, and the close of the day was spent in acquainting ourselves with the first news from home and friends obtained since leaving St. Joseph. Lieutenant Maynadier, it was found, had traveled some 90 miles further than had we, and this fact accounts for the delay. He met with no accidents, however, and struck our trail near the selected point of meeting on Powder River. Lieutenant Maynadier's report of his expedition will be found in full herewith, marked Appendix A.


The period from October 13 to October 17 was consumed in search along the Platte road for a suitable location for winter quarters, and it is not necessary to describe our march over a route so well known. We finally settled upon some unfinished houses near the Indian agency of the Upper Platte, which the agent, Major Swiss, kindly invited me to occupy. The buildings had been commenced by the Mormons some years ago as a way station on the route to Salt Lake, and part of them had been finished and were now occupied by Major Swiss. The others were in a half-completed state, and by taking these we were saved considerable labor, and obtained far better quarters than otherwise would have been possible. On the 16th snow fell all day, but did not last long, the temperature being about 32 deg.


On October 18 I gave Mr. Snowden instructions to make a reconnaissance to the northward of our present location and determine the sources of both branches of the Shayenne. His report will be found herewith, marked Appendix B.


On the 18th, also, we commenced work on the corrals and shed for our animals, but found the day too windy for effective labor.

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Katy Hestand
Yellowstone County Coordinator

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