Carson took the lead, piloting over party after party in safety. Arriving on the shore, they found a bold perpendicular bluff several hundred feet high confronting them. Pursuing a zigzag trail around the eminence, the top was at last reached, and they emerged into a rough country, broken by ravines and hills. Passing a day at a small Mexican village, they set off, the next morning, in search of the Apaches. Carson’s keen, quick eye caught the trail, and rapidly they pursued their way for a couple of days, when they overtook the Indians, leisurely resting in one of their small villages. The horses of the savages were fresh, and remembering the death-dealing rifle of the white man, most of the Indians saved themselves by flight. The steeds of the soldiers were too weary for pursuit. Yet many Indian warriors were struck down by the bullets of their pursuers, and the horses and camp furniture of the savages, such as it was, fell into the hands of Colonel Cook’s party. Mr. Carson describing these events says:
“To Captain Sykes, who commanded the infantry, is due the greatest amount of praise for the part he acted in our adventures. When his men were almost broken down with sore feet, long and difficult marches, want of provisions, the coldness of the weather, and with their clothing nearly worn out, and when they were on the point of giving up in despair, they were prevented from so doing by witnessing the noble example set them by their captain. He showed them what a soldier’s duty really was, and this so touched their pride that they hobbled along as if determined to follow him until death relieved them from their sufferings.
“Although this officer had a riding animal at his disposal, yet never for once did he mount him; but instead lent the horse to some deserving soldier who was on the point of succumbing to overwork. When the Indian village was discovered, he cheered his men from a limping walk into a sort of run, and dashing through a swollen mountain stream, which was nearly up to their armpits, and full of floating ice, he was, with his company, the foremost in the attack.”
Night put a stop to the pursuit. The next morning, at an early hour, Colonel Cook’s dragoons were again in motion, following, under the guidance of Mr. Carson, the fresh trail of the routed Indians. On and still on they pressed for many weary leagues, through valleys and over snow-clad mountains, until they found that it was impossible to overtake the red men. The sagacious Indians broke up their party into small squads of two and three and scattered in all directions. To continue the pursuit would be like chasing “a flea upon the mountains.”
The Indians had manifested a great deal, not of cunning only, but of intelligence in their flight. It was their manifest object to lead their pursuers through the most difficult paths, that both men and horses might be worn out by the ruggedness of the way. Very often they would pursue a route so circuitous, through wild gorges and over mountain torrents, that Colonel Cook would often find himself bivouacking at night, but a short distance from the spot which he had left in the morning. The Indians were perfectly familiar with the country and could travel with much greater ease than could the white men.