04 Feb 1833
1831-1840 To the Editor of the Daily Advocate.
Sir. You are perhaps aware, that a company of men left this neighbor-hood in the early part of last spring, with the intention of proceeding by land to the Columbia river.
I chanced lately to meet with a young man, who had made one of the party, and who, after having accomplished the greater part of the journey, was deterred by the snowy cliff-of the Rocky Mountains, and in company with several others, retraced the wild and weary way to his distant home. A brief recital of some of the adventures and disasters incident In (his arduous undertaking, may afford some amusement to your readers. It was, if I remember rightly, about the middle of April, that they left the last while settlements on the Missouri, and began to traverse those immense prairies where the Indian and the buffalo find an almost boundless range. Here it was necessary to be vigilant and wary; for the Indian inhabitants of these regions entertain a deadly hatred towards the whites, and are ever lying in wait to cut them off. The company (which was under the command of Capt. Wyeth) being only 60 strong, it was thought best to push forward with all possible expedition; lest by delaying in any one place, they should give the Indians an opportunity of concentrating their forces, and overpowering them by numbers. “Sauve qui peut” (a general stampede, panic, or disorder) was the word of command; and wo to him who lacked strength to keep up with the main body. The scalping knife was already whetted for him. There were two poor fellows who became sickly, and who, after struggling some days to keep their places in the ranks, at last fell back in despair, and were, in all probability, sacrificed to the vengeance of the savages. Two victims were alas! too many, but you would wonder there were no more, if you knew how destitute the party was of all fitting provision for such an expedition. Not a morsel of bread, nor biscuit, nor any thing in the shape of bread stuff did they carry along with them. Buffalo meat was their sole food, and their only drink, not generally the crystal well but more frequently the muddy stream or pond from which they had just driven a herd of buffaloes. Another of their privations was the want of fuel, unless under that term you will be pleased to include the excrements of the buffalo; for believe me, sir, as the flesh of the buffalo was their only food, so its excrement was their only fuel for the purposes of cooking. There was, however, one species of provision, which fortunately had not been overlooked; I mean powder and shot, of which every man had an ample stock, so that, as buffaloes were generally met with on their march, they ran little risk of starving, Yet they kept a fast day occasionally not a pious fast originating in the fear of God; but r physical fast originating in the fear of the Indians. The company divided into messes of six men each, and each mess being obliged to forage for itself, if it was known that Indians were hovering about, so small a party as a mess were afraid to leave the main body to go in quest of food; so that unless buffalo were met with directly on the line of march, they might travel a whole day without taking victuals. It was on the evening of one of these fast days, when the company had chosen a spot for their bivouac, that my young friend’s mess first became acquainted with a new delicacy in the way of eating. As they were gazing round in search of buffalo, they spied, within gun-shot, one of these dogs, a numerous pack of which is always attacked, as live stock, to an Indian encampment; and instantly, if every shot told, half a dozen bullets passed through his body. In hungry haste he was flayed and broiled; and my young adventurer assures me, that next to a buffalo steak done on buffalo dung, the whole science of gastronomy can offer nothing comparable to the spare-rib of an Indian dog, cooked exactly in the same style. His asseverations on this point, though very strong, did not succeed in exciting in me any great longing for dog-meat, to be eaten as they ate it, not only without bread or vegetables, but even without salt, of which not a grain had they; but it certainly convinced me that though epicures may consult Dr. Ditchener to advantage, there are means, not dreamt of in his philosophy, of giving the richest relish to the poorest food. So much for their board now for their bed.
THE EVENING POST
New York, New York June 27 1835
FROM THE ST LOUIS COMMERCIAL REPUBLICAN
PETRIFIED BUFFALO.- This extraordinary curiosity was discovered about two years since by some trappers belonging to Capt. Bent’s company, lying on the side of one of the beaver dams of the Rio Grande of the North (a stream emptying itself into the Gulf of California) whose waters it is said, possesses the petrifying qualities to and eminent degree, it’s shores abounding in specimens of animal and vegetable productions in a petrified state. The petrified buffalo is described by those who have seen it, to be as perfect in its petrifadnon as when living, with the exception of a hole in one of the sides, about four inches in diameter, around which the hair has been worn off, probably by the friction of the water, in which it must have lain for ages past, to have produced such a phenomenon. The tale, though concreted into almost a smooth surface, may be easily discerned. The horns, eyes, nostrils, mouth and legs, are as perfect in their stone as in their pristine state.
The country in which this rare specimen was found, is in inhabited by the Euteaux, a roving tribe of savages, who subsist a great portion of their lives on insects, snakes, toads, roots, etc. etc. This tribe being particularly hostile to the whites, rendered the acquisition of this curiosity and undertaking not a little hazardous. Notwithstanding this, and many other difficulties, to be surmounted, such as distance, expense, etc. Our enterprising citizens, Capt. Charles Bent, contemplates procuring and bringing it to the United States with him on his return home from Santa Fe, during the ensuing autumn. We heartily wish him success in his praiseworthy undertaking.
The Belmont Gazette
Belmont, Wisconsin March 15, 1837
A highly intelligent friend who served for some time, as an officer of Dragoons on the far Western frontier has kindly placed in our possession portions of a journal kept during his campaigns, from which we propose to present our readers with a vocational extracts. The following description of a Buffalo hunt will, we feel assured, be read with a very lively interest, and furnishes not an unfair specimen of the descriptive power of the writer. The notes were made at the termination of each day’s march, when the impression of the incidents was still fresh upon the mind of the author, and are clothed in all the vividness of feeling which a participation in the scenes described could alone impart:
“As we were moving on slowly and doggedly, and still within three or 4 miles of Lake Hahawa, the advanced described about a dozen buffalo. Quickly the excitement spreads throughout the column: the horses prick their ears, sniff the wind, and paw the ground: the men rise in their stirrups, and lean forward, as if to catch a nearer view of the __-famed animals; half of them charge their carbines, to be ready for the sport, without waiting for orders, or even thinking of them. The Colonel orders a halt, to give time for the Indian in rear to come up to the front. They soon pass the column at a gallop, and bear swiftly down upon the buffalo, whilst they are still grazing. Away they go on their crooked Little ponies, at a rate which would do honor to Long Island Course. Their blankets are thrown aside, their rifles are in hand, and their crested head dresses are streaming to the wind. Onward, in emulous strife, they rush, each emulous of feeling the first victor. “Speed, Prichway! your pony loses ground.” As he runs, he slips his saddle from his home, which now, less burdened, gains rapidly upon his fellows. On they dash: now one, now another, takes the lead; and all soon disappear behind a gentle swell in this un-easy ocean. And horses were at their speed when they sunk line the hill: and now every eye is strained to see where they will again appear. Anon, a little black specks is seen on a distant billow: another and another appear. “They come, they come.” Resounds from rank to rank. As they near us, they become more and more distinct: and at length a horsemen appears in full chase. Every man becomes intensely excited: some because they had never before seen any, and others because they and often before seen many. Away with discipline! It is in vain to cry, “Steady men, steady!´ The old soldiers obey mechanically: but as for your recruits, they will not hear the order, and they scatter in all directions after the struggling buffalo. As the chase approached, each Then sent out a few picked men to secure a part of the spoil, for well we knew that the raw hunters would come much nearer killing their horses than the buffalo. The herd bears right down upon us, and at the distance of half a mile, scatters in all directions. Now spur away! There’s noble game to chase! See, on that ridge a mile to the right Francois, the interpreter, pressing closely upon a panting bull. Closer and closer he gathers: now he aims his rifle at his full broadside. The smoke rises from the pan: and the un-echoed sound falls dead upon the ear. The furious bull reels, falls to his knees, rolls his fiery eyes upon his pursuer, recovers his footing, and again bounds along with increased fleetness. Now, wild in the chase! Here a party attempt to surround the larger part of the herd – there a single horsemen pursues a single buffalo: and here a Paugh! Paugh!! They gun tell of their whereabouts in all directions. There goes a bouncing cow close by the rear of the column. Her pursuer, mounted on a fine bay horse, has almost run her down, and yet she seems loths to give up the prize: as he passes by Lieutenant S. dash my gallant bay, and show your mottle: never give up, though your competitor the fresh! Ah, ‘twill not do: the stoutest sinews will give way in this entangling grass. Away goes the sorrel in advance: and the bay reins up. Fleetly the sorrel moves: and his rider is already among a fatal shot at the cow, when he sinks to his knees in the mud, rolls upon his side, and turns his writers face towards the heavens whilst the reprieved cow is rolling off through the waving grass like a porpoise in the sea. But though she has the eluded two of her pursuers, yet she is not free from enemies. Her course bears right toward the ground designated for the hunters whom I sent out this morning. They see her approach and crouch in the grass until she has come with and rifle shot: then they mount, pursue her, place themselves on either side, and in the tragedy by driving each a ball through her lungs. Now the field is clear save here and there a party engaged in butchering their game. Pack courses and a wagon are detached for the purpose of bringing forward such portions of the beef as may we wanted, whilst the main body moves forward. We had proceeded but a few hundred yards, when a huge bull comes doggedly toward us. He had been left, as dead by the Indians: but rising again and trotting up to us, desperate and blind with pain and rage, he seemed resolved to pass through the column, and to overturn all opposition. Being met by four or five horsemen from the leading troop, he changed his course, but still within view, and moved steadily along, receiving shot after shot without flinching, till at length he came to bay, stood firm, and received sixteen balls the size of twenty four to the pound, before he fell a second time. I rode up to the huge carcass as it lay extended in the grass. His small green eyes peered venomously through his shaggy brow. His face and neck were covered with course and shaggy hair, six or eight inches long, whilst all the rest of his body was destitute of covering. His rough but wrinkled skin gave little promise of covering such savory beef, as I have just proved that it did.
As the sun was setting we descended from the highlands separating the water: of the Des Moines from those of the Ioway, and winding down a long steep descent, all clothed in long and luxuriant grass, and overlooking tributaries of three rivers running in directions widely different we at length came to a beautiful meadow on the banks of the Bison river. The river, after running along the bluff for seven miles, suddenly turns off, and at that distance of about three hundred yards from the bluff, again turns parallel to it, thus leaving a delightful little recess for a camp ground, dry, level, grassy, and fringed with trees. Our tents are pitched, our horses are grazing, our fires are blazing around, the packs and wagons have arrived with the products of the chase, we have broiled are steaks and roasted our marrow bones, and have feasted upon them and now we are happy.”
The Times Picayune NOLA Jan 30 1838
The Buffalonian. – We received , a dew days since, the first number of a new paper published at Buffalo, N.Y. It measures, in inches, about 8 by 12, and bears the title of ” Buffalonian,” with an engraving of a most ferocious-looking bison between the “Buffa” and the “Lonian.”
The Times Picayune New Orleans Dec 9 1838
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Nov 23, 1878
(written in 78, about the 1838 times)
THE DOOM OF THE BUFFALO
Wiping out the Shaggy Monsters that Roam on the Plains – The Butchery in Northern Texas – An Englishman’s Experience – Killing the Bison For His Hide – The Life of a Professional Buffalo Hunter – Three Seasons on the Plains – How the Hides are Cured – Pickling the Tongues – Fearful Fate of a Horse Thief.
[New York Sun.]
Forty years ago (1838) the trappers of the Western plains sold the pelts of beavers, otters and _____ and killed the bison only for food. Myriads of these shaggy monsters roamed the prairies. Washington Irving, in his “Tour on the Prairies,” sought a herd boundless and undulating as an ocean, all surging northward. They were two days and nights in crossing the Smokey Hill River. There was then a limited market for buffalo hides, and the herds were hunted by the Indians only. They dried the meat for winter use, and use the skins for tepees and blankets. Uncounted millions of the animals wintered in the parks of the Rocky Mountains and on the fertile plains of northern Texas. The cows calved in April and by the 1st of May the shaggy _____ were headed for the Missouri. They advanced northward with the season, browsing upon the sprouting, juicy grasses. They crossed the Missouri River and ran away up into British America. With the approach of winter they swept back into the sunny parts of the Rocky Mountains and spread themselves over the plains of Texas. (The complete story is on Texas History page)
Milwaukee News June 18th 1839
OUR COUNTRY- one clear bracing morning last autumn, as we were stepping in the Schenectady cars at Albany, whom should we meet but a New York friend, in his shooting jacket, accoutered with poach and gun, in the act of putting his dogs in an adjoining compartment.
“So ho, friend! Wither are you bound?” We inquired.
“I am only going for a few days’ shooting in the country.”
“Upon a fine Prairie in Michigan – only about 300 miles from Detroit. I am told there is fine shooting their.”
This single incident, which is literally true, speaks volumes upon the extent of our country, and the spirit and habits of our people, and the facilities every where enjoyed for intercommunication. Detroit is 800 miles from New York, and our friend was bound for the prairies, a long way beyond. And yet he was starting forth for a shooting excursion, with as little care of the distance, as an English fox hunter would experience in going upon a chase to a neighboring county.
Our friend had find sport during his excursion, as we happen to know, as one of our firm, who was himself wandering the prairies at the same time, fell in with him in the hey-day of his frolic. The sportsman informed us the other day, that having procured the best ‘fly’ that he ever say, he was going down to the Kennebec for a day or two on a fishing excursion!
Nor is the spirit of dashing enterprise and exclusive characteristic of Americans. Foreigners coming hither soon have their dens expanded by the broad expanse of our country, elevated by the height of our mountains, and inspirited by the chase of bears and buffaloes. For instance, in the case of Sir William Stewart, whose pictures of bear and buffalo hunts amid the stupendous peaks and glens of the Rocky Mountains, have been exhibited for a few days at the Apollo gallery -the Baronet, as we are told, having spent five years among the scenes described, started on his return to England, and reached New York on his way. Lingering here a few days his mind reverted to the wild sports of the west. It was asking too much to leave them so soon: so back he started, twenty-five hundred miles into the wilderness, for the pleasure of one more buffalo hunt before he should finally embark for the shores of Albinion.-He went, and plunged again into the wild pleasures of the Snake Indians, and hunted buffaloes and grizzly bears for another two years, and is now once more on his way to his own land.-N.Y. Adv.