I was of the same opinion. There was a thick growth of woods just before us, with a stream running through them. Having crossed this, we found on the other side a fine level meadow, half encircled by the trees; and fastening our horses to some bushes, we sat down on the grass; while, with an old stump of a tree for a target, I began to display the superiority of the renowned rifle of the back woods over the foreign innovation borne by the captain. At length voices could be heard in the distance behind the trees.
“There they come!” said the captain: “let’s go and see how they get through the creek.”
We mounted and rode to the bank of the stream, where the trail crossed it. It ran in a deep hollow, full of trees; as we looked down, we saw a confused crowd of horsemen riding through the water; and among the dingy habiliment of our party glittered the uniforms of four dragoons.
Shaw came whipping his horse up the back, in advance of the rest, with a somewhat indignant countenance. The first word he spoke was a blessing fervently invoked on the head of R., who was riding, with a crest-fallen air, in the rear. Thanks to the ingenious devices of the gentleman, we had missed the track entirely, and wandered, not toward the Platte, but to the village of the Iowa Indians. This we learned from the dragoons, who had lately deserted from Fort Leavenworth. They told us that our best plan now was to keep to the northward until we should strike the trail formed by several parties of Oregon emigrants, who had that season set out from St. Joseph’s in Missouri.
In extremely bad temper, we encamped on this ill-starred spot; while the deserters, whose case admitted of no delay rode rapidly forward. On the day following, striking the St. Joseph’s trail, we turned our horses’ heads toward Fort Laramie, then about seven hundred miles to the westward.
“The big blue”
The great medley of Oregon and California emigrants, at their camps around Independence, had heard reports that several additional parties were on the point of setting out from St. Joseph’s farther to the northward. The prevailing impression was that these were Mormons, twenty-three hundred in number; and a great alarm was excited in consequence. The people of Illinois and Missouri, who composed by far the greater part of the emigrants, have never been on the best terms with the “Latter Day Saints”; and it is notorious throughout the country how much blood has been spilt in their feuds, even far within the limits of the settlements. No one could predict what would be the result, when large armed bodies of these fanatics should encounter the most impetuous and reckless of their old enemies on the broad prairie, far beyond the reach of law or military force. The women and children at Independence raised a great outcry; the men themselves were seriously