CHAPTER V. EXPLORATIONS AND SURVEYS.
In the spring of 1867 the Kansas Pacific Railway Company organized a very extensive surveying expedition to determine upon the best route for a southern railway to the Pacific Coast through Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and the southern part of California. Until the Rio Grande del Norte, about equidistant from the Mississippi and the Pacific, was reached, three separate surveying parties were employed, but between that river and the Pacific coast there were no less than five parties, each equipped to make an accurate instrumental survey across that part of the continent by different routes on different parallels of latitude. For this expedition the United States Government furnished escorts and transportation and other assistance, without which the undertaking, at that time, would have been impossible, for most of the Indian tribes were at war with the whites.
These expeditions were under the general charge of General W. W. Wright, who continued in personal charge of them until they reached the Rio Grande, when he returned to Denver to make reports to his principals, and
At Fort Craig the several parties were reorganized, their numbers increased, and their escorts doubled preparatory to exploring the difficult country lying to the westward. From the Rio Grande to the Colorado of the West, and thence across the desert, or Great Basin, as it was commonly called, into California, the parties surveyed and examined two entirely different districts, lying parallel to each other but separated by lofty mountains and tablelands, and distant from each other only about two degrees. One party, consisting of three bodies of surveyors, passed into California through the Moqui country and northern Arizona, a country famous for its wild and beautiful scenery and studded over with the ruins of an extinct population. This was along the 35th parallel and had been explored by Whipple, in 1854–5, and afterwards by Lieutenant Beale in 1858. It is known as the 35th parallel route across the continent, and the survey made by these parties was afterwards used in the construction of the Santa Fe and Atlantic & Pacific Railroads through Arizona.
The other part of the expedition, consisting of two surveying parties, descended the Rio Grande valley for a distance of seventy-two miles below Fort Craig before turning westward. They then explored the barren districts lying between the Rio Gila and the boundary of Mexico, this route being known as the 32d parallel route. The route laid out by this expedition was somewhat changed in the construction
An account of these surveys is contained in a book printed in London, England, in 1870, entitled New Tracks in North America, by William A. Bell, who started out as photographer for one of the parties and afterwards became physician and surgeon for the party.
The story of Mr. Bell is one of absorbing interest. It gives in detail many camp scenes and also tells of the difficulties encountered in prosecuting the survey at that time. His account of the arrival of the expedition at Fort Bowie, and what happened there is as follows:‘‘
Fort Bowie is situated about six miles up the pass. It consists of a small collection of adobe houses, built on the summit of a hill, which rises as a natural lookout station in the centre of the defile, and commands the road both ways for two or three miles of its length. The only officers at the time of our visit were Lieutenant Carrol, Lieutenant Hubbard, and the resident surgeon; the only troops, one small company of forty men. The officers insisted upon Lawson, Colton, and myself sharing their quarters; they had not had a visitor of any kind for months, and had almost forgotten that the world was inhabited.
After luncheon I strolled out upon a higher hilltop to choose a good position for taking a photograph of the fort and pass. The view was a very beautiful one, for we were hemmed in on all sides by lofty mountains, the most conspicuous of which is Helen's Dome. Some two miles distant in the pass, the sheep and oxen belonging to the fort were peacefully grazing, when suddenly I perceived a commotion amongst the garrison. All were hurrying to the highest part and looking towards the cattle, from which direction I heard a few shots fired. It appeared on inquiry that the mail carrier, going west to Tucson, had only gone on his way a short distance past the cattle, just beyond the turning in the road which hid him from the fort, when he suddenly came upon two Indians who were stealthily creeping up towards the stock. Shots were exchanged, and he immediately turned back to give the alarm to the men guarding the cattle, and to the sentinels at the fort. The Indians showed themselves two or three times in the open, and then disappeared. It was useless for us, with our wearied horses, to join in the chase after a couple of naked red men, so we remained behind.
Apache Pass from Fort Bowie in 1868.
So poorly supplied was this little fort, if such a term may be applied to a collection of mud huts, that two horses represented the entire stock. It was customary to keep one of them with the herd and the other in the stable, and the favorite chestnut of the lieutenant's, a high mettled, splendid creature, happened this day to be at home. It was immediately saddled. Carrol was quite young; he had only seen eighteen summers, and looked even younger, for his hair was very fair, and he had not the least tinge of whisker on his smooth cheeks. I remember watching him spring with one bound from the ground into his saddle, wave his hand merrily to us, and then dash down the steep winding road which led from the fort to the pass below.
As the afternoon went by most of the infantry returned by twos and threes, and we were just sitting down to dinner when Lieutenant Lawson and his men rode into the fort. They had hunted about all over the mountain and through the ravines, but had encountered no savages, nor even caught a glimpse of a redskin. Carrol, to our surprise, was not with them. We made inquiries, and found that all had reported themselves except the lieutenant and the mail carrier. We questioned those who
Then we spread out in line, nine in number; for there was no enemy in sight, and our only hope was to strike the trail; for we knew they must have passed somewhere in this direction. Every eye was fixed on the ground, every blade of grass was closely scanned; our souls were in our eyes. At last one marked 'pony tracks'; then another called out, 'This way they lead'; not two, three or four tracks, but many; perhaps a dozen. The white men had evidently followed too far in pursuit, and falling into an ambuscade, had been cut off from their comrades. Most of the hoofprints were naked, but two set were shod. These were certainly those of the missing horses. We could not hurry on very rapidly without losing the trails, and yet
We could not stop a moment; but, dragging up two huge maguay plants to mark the spot, we followed the pony tracks. The sun sank, and it was only by the red glare thrown up from behind the horizon, and reflected by the bare mountains of rock to the east of us, that we were able to track our way. So difficult was it at last that we began to despair of ever learning the fate of poor Carrol. We longed to see his dead body; for the idea of his being taken alive to be tortured and roasted over a slow fire, whilst the fiends danced around him, and exulted over his agony, was the one dread consummation which made our blood run cold. No one spoke, for we all knew that such would be his fate if that sun had not shone upon his corpse.
But for the moon we should not have found the spot where the mail carrier lay. We placed him also on another horse, and then turned our faces towards the pass. The wolves were already gathering around the spot, and the night winds were blowing up cold and chill. The night before, that same beautiful moon which now shone peacefully down upon us, had lighted us through the noble gorge in the Peloncello Mountains, while we sang choruses and enjoyed the grandeur of the scene. This night she lighted us through another gorge, in another range of mountains—Apache Pass—but how different were our feelings as slowly we marched in mournful silence over the nine miles which led up to the fort! Thus ended the 5th of November.
Next morning we buried the poor fellows in the little graveyard amongst the mountains. The doctor read the burial service, and Lieutenants Hubbard, Colton, Lawson, and myself were the chief mourners. When the final volley had been fired over our two poor comrades, and I turned to glance at the tablets of their companions, I read on the wooden crosses over every grave but one, the same sad story of their fate—
After climbing and scrambling among these mountains for more than two weeks since leaving Prescott, endeavoring to find a route eastward to the Colorado Chiquito without passing over San Francisco Mountain, I have at last reached the valley of that river, and am waiting here in camp this pleasant December Sunday for the return of Hinchman, whom I have sent down the river to get news if possible of Greenwood's whereabouts. Hinchman will probably find a mound there with a letter buried, containing an account of Greenwood's movements, and stating where we can find him. We have two signal fires burning on the highest points overlooking our camp to guide Hinchman to us, and from this we have called the tributary of Canyon Diablo in which we are encamped, 'Signal Canyon.' I have called it a camp, but it is only a 'high toned' bivouac, as we parted
Last Monday, for instance, at the close of the day, while following an old Indian trail across one of the Mogollon ranges, suddenly, without the least previous indication, there yawned at our feet one of those fearful chasms—the terror of all tired travelers, when they think a few more miles of gentle march will bring them to a good camping spot—which are here one of the great characteristics of the country. If 'unexpectedness' be one of the elements of romantic grandeur in scenery, this gulf of brown and grey rock has high claims for preminence in this respect, with its precipitous sides, 500 feet deep, and apparently so narrow that it is first difficult to appreciate fully the hard fact that, before you can continue your march, it is absolutely necessary to descend to the very bottom, and then, if you can, to ascend on the other side. Perhaps days would have to be consumed in heading the inexorable channel. There is no help for it, and although the tall spruce trees in the bed look like saplings, and the stream of water rushing along among great boulders resembles a thread, and your head swims as you gaze down from the brink, the course lies east—northeast; and where none but the Apache has ever gone down before, and he on foot, you have to lead your horse, jumping out of his way when he slips and slides on the
It is assumed in this country that wherever an Indian has made a foot trail a pack mule can follow. We expected to come across many such paths, and, after our previous experience, would have been much surprised had we not met some of the trail makers as well as their trails. In the ascent of this canyon by which we are camped there was considerable difficulty. One strong mule, having nearly reached the top, slipped and rolled over and over till he reached the bottom—dead. Another tumbled nearly as far, but must have had a very steady and well ordered brain, as the moment he struck the river bed below, he stood upon his feet, and has made a day's march with us since; but we had to shoot him yesterday. A third tumbled half-way down, and is an ugly spectacle, with his gashed eye and flank, but is marching along all right now, doing regular service.
But very few days have passed since leaving Prescott in which we did not meet recent signs of Indians; the rude wigwams of bunch grass and branches, which the Arizonians call 'wicky-ups'; the moccasin tracks, the mescal heaps, where the Indian has been roasting his supply of winter subsistence, composed almost entirely of this root; the sweating house or earth oven, which he gets into when sick, and which is almost his sole remedy for disease; the fresh trail, and the 'rancheria,' or village of a greater or less number of wigwams.
If he wanted to have this mistake corrected, he should have done as we did; he should have gone down into a canyon and traveled along its bed for a few miles, until he had reached a place where you can look up on either side and not discover the remotest chance of getting out—where ahead, and in the rear, as far as you can see, it looks like a deep grey coffin. Then suddenly he would hear a war-whoop that would make him think that all the savages in the Rocky Mountains, from Fort Bridger to Apache Pass, were within bow and arrow range.
A week or two ago, on an occasion very similar to the above, General Gregg was with me. We were hunting for a route from the Val de Chino, eastward to the Colorado Chiquito, by crossing the headwaters of the streams flowing into the Rio Verde close up to where they emerged from the high rocky wall at the base of the San Francisco Mountains, when we came to the canyon of Sycamore Fork. We succeeded in descending the gorge; but the ascent was so exceedingly steep, that we thought the pack train could not climb up out of it; and concluded, in spite of its violating the fundamental rule of Indian warfare in these mountains, to return to the bed of the canyon and follow it to its mouth.
It was strewn with fragments of red sandstone, from the size of a church to that of a pebble, over which we dragged our footsore animals very slowly. We had made some eight miles when, as it seemed, at the roughest part of the whole way, where nature had made a sort of waste closet at random for all the shapeless blocks and sharp-cornered masses of rock and washed out boulders that she had no time to work up and wished to hide from sight, we suddenly heard a shot from the brink of the canyon at our rear, and the dreaded war-whoop burst upon us. Then we looked up to the right and left, ahead and to the rear; but the walls seemed everywhere as tall as a church-steeple, with scarcely a foot hold from top to base. They had looked high before, and the chasm narrow, but now it seemed as though we were looking up from the bottom of a deep well or a tin mine, and no bucket to draw us up by. Soon the shots were repeated, and the yells were followed by showers of arrows. We staggered and stumbled, about as fast as a very slow ox team, along the rocky bed, till we came to some bushes, and then stopped.
Some of the Indians had got on the edge of the canyon ahead of us, whose yells answered those from the rear; and the whole concatenation of sounds echoed among the cliffs till it seemed to us that every rancheria in Arizona had poured out its dusky warriors to overwhelm us.
We moved close up to the foot of the wall, from the top of which the shots came, thinking it would be too steep for them to hit us; but the great rocks that came rolling down upon us, resounding almost like heavy ordnance through the canyon, drove us away from the slight shelter. Here was a new danger, and a very serious one, since there was no hope that this kind of ammunition would give out, and the Indians evidently knew how to use it.
‘‘Now, officers, be quick and sharp in giving your orders! Throw away precedent and drill, and come down to native common sense!’’ ‘‘Now, soldiers, be prompt, and jump at the word of command, and don't get disheartened! And, you, muleteers; scatter out your animals, keep them sheltered as much as possible, and avoid all disorder. Now, everybody keep cool, for every man's life hangs upon a single movement here; and if a panic breaks out, all is lost, and the latest tragedy in the great Apache war, which they say has been waging against the Spaniards and Americans for over two hundred years, will have been enacted!’’ Soon the sharp clear voice of the adjutant rang out from behind a huge rock in the channel, his carbine at a 'ready,' and without moving his eyes from the cliff—‘‘Sergeant, send six men to scale that side of the canyon!’’
I gave the next order to the little escort I had brought from New Mexico: ‘‘Sergeant Miller, station five men on this side of the canyon to cover that scaling party with their fire. Let them take shelter behind the rocks.’’ This was done, and the devoted little band began slowly to ascend what seemed an almost vertical wall of sandstone.
Until now, although the yells had rung all around us, the firing was confined to the west side of the canyon, but at this moment a very close shot was fired from the other side, and our plans could not be carried out unless this was stopped. Another scaling party of six men was accordingly detailed, of which I took command, and began ascending the eastern cliff, covered by the fire of a second small party in the canyon. This disposed of all our fighting force, the remainder being required to take care of the animals. How we got up, God knows; I only remember hearing a volley from below, shots from above, Indian yells on all sides, the grating roar of tumbling boulders as they fell, and the confused echoing of calls and shouts from the canyon. Exhausted, out of breath, and wet with perspiration, boots nearly torn off, and hands cut and bleeding, I sat down on the summit and looked around. Across the narrow chasm I saw the other scaling party. Everything was as quiet as death, the Indians had disappeared—melting away as suddenly and mysteriously as they had at first appeared. They had gone to their hidden lairs, cowed by our determined approach.
It had been hurriedly arranged before we ascended, that the scaling parties should move on down stream at the brink of the canyon, covering the pack train and animals which would march along the bed. Accordingly we moved on towards the Rio Verde; but, in consequence of side canyons, were compelled to keep back at least half a mile nearer to the foot of the mountain than the course of the canyon.
Six miles further, while skirting a ridge which projected from the mountain, the Indians from the top began yelling again like demons, and firing at us, but the range was too long to do any harm. They were too cowardly to attack even our small party, and now that we were no longer engulfed in a canyon, we laughed at their whoops. They followed us, however, hoping to catch us in a ravine, but we always sent three men across first to cover the rest and be covered by them in turn.
Just as the sun was setting we recognized from a high point the mouth of the Sycamore and the valley of the Rio Verde. We had not been able, from the roughness of the country, to approach the side of the canyon in which we supposed the rest of the party were moving, and could not, therefore, ascertain their whereabouts. But at last, toward dark, we descended a second time, by a deep side gorge, into the canyon, dropping down fully 2,000 feet in the space of half an hour. It was just light enough when we reached the bed of the main canyon to discover that our party had not passed down it, and although fearful lest the Apaches should
That night's march up the canyon, over the broken rocks and through the tangled thickets, was worse, if anything, than the attack. Every pebble in the darkness was magnified to a boulder, and every boulder seemed as large as a house; fording the rapid stream twenty times, we shivered with cold and wet when we halted for a brief rest; expecting every moment to meet our party encamped, we yet wondered how they would dare to stop in such a place. Finally, near midnight, we halted under some sheltering rocks, and concluded to take some sleep; but the guides protested against having a fire, saying the Indians would detect and shoot into it. To sleep without one, however, was impossible. At last I concluded that it was better to die from an Indian arrow than to freeze to death in the darkness, and ordered a small one to be lighted, beside which we sat and slept and shivered until a little before daylight, when we took another smoke for breakfast and pushed out into the darkness to continue our march up the stream.
During the night a great rock had either become dislodged or had been rolled down by Indians, but it fell into the canyon with a report like thunder. I started up and found I had not dreamt it. I would give something to have a faithful picture of that little party, with the expression of each as they stood or leaned, staring out into the pitch dark canyon, and wondering what would come next.
By daybreak we had got well on our way; when we heard shots in the rear, which we presumed to be Indians firing into our abandoned camp. We commended ourselves for early rising and pushed on, wondering what could have become of General Gregg's party. Finally, the guides insisted on getting out of the canyon and striking towards Prescott, but I ordered them to keep ahead, feeling confident that we should soon meet the party or its trail.
At last all hope seemed to be gone, and I agreed to climb out up the western cliff. It was as much as we could do to reach the top, and imagine our feelings on arriving there to find that we were merely on a vertical ledge of rock, and that immediately on the other side was the same canyon we had come along an hour before. We scrambled along the narrow ledge, however, faint from hunger and fatigue, having come nearly twenty miles on foot, up and down canyons and steep ravines, climbing through mountain passes and stumbling over the rocky bed of the streams—equivalent to at least sixty miles, as we thought, on a level road. We had had nothing to eat for over twenty-four hours, and very little sleep; the night was bitterly cold, our overcoats were left behind when we scaled the cliff during the Indian attack, and we had nothing to comfort us but a 'Tucson blanket' each, which scant covering can scarcely be interpreted in genteel society.
Now, if we had not seen camp, I could have walked as many miles as we had already gone without giving up, but when I came within two miles of camp, and felt certain of succor, and could talk with General Gregg across a deep canyon, only half a mile distant, my legs, somehow, or other, refused to carry me further, and I came to the conclusion that infantry service was disagreeable on an empty stomach. So I made a fire and laid down to sleep, and sent for rations, which my faithful servant, George, brought out to me in the rain, with a flask of whisky from General Gregg, and strict injunctions to be sure to drink it all—a command I promptly obeyed. I hope the Temperance Society will forgive me, as I could have drunk a demijohn under the circumstances without being affected by it.
It was by no means a short walk even from where we were to General Gregg's camp, as we had to head the deep side canyon, and to cross several others near their sources. It was raining, and the ground and rocks were slippery; but at last we arrived and received the gratulations of the party, who had heard the Indian shots and shouts, and feared we had met too many of the 'noble reds.'
My noble gray horse, Signor, is gone. He had helped to carry me faithfully from Santa Fe through New Mexico, and thus far into Arizona, but he has fallen a martyr to the topography of the sources of the Rio Verde. While George was leading him up a precipitous path he lost his footing in jumping over a rock, and tumbled to the bottom of the canyon, 100 feet, killing himself instantly. My other valuable horse, Don, whom I intend to take home if I get him safely to the Pacific, had just scrambled over the same obstruction without stumbling. It was nothing less than a miracle that nobody was hurt. These Indians are poor shots, which, with the scarcity of guns among them, must account for our escape. They are afraid also of our 'heap firing guns' as they call the Spencers.
A little experience of this sort, occasionally, is not without use. It enables you to determine a number of nice problems which otherwise might never have been solved, to say nothing of the new phases in which it exhibits the character of your comrades; the test of their true heartedness, their pluck, perseverance, and generosity. There are also some important minor questions to which it supplies accurate solutions. For instance, how would a man ever know whether a smooth boulder of lava or a flat sandstone slab would make the best pillow, until