Our great column, made up of more than one hundred wagons, was divided into platoons of four, each platoon leading for a day, then falling behind to take the bitter dust of those in advance. At noon we parted our wagons in platoons, and at night we drew them invariably into a great barricade, circular in form, the leading wagon marking out the circle, the others dropping in behind, the tongue of each against the tail-gate of the wagon ahead, and the last wagon closing up the gap. Our circle completed, the animals were unyoked and the tongues were chained fast to the wagons next ahead; so that each night we had a sturdy barricade, incapable of being stampeded by savages, whom more than once we fought and defeated. Each night we set out a guard, our men taking turns, and the night watches in turn rotating, so that each man got his share of the entire night during the progress of his journey. Each morn we rose to the notes of a bugle, and each day we marched in order, under command, under a certain schedule. Loosely connected, independent, individual, none the less already we were establishing a government. We took the American Republic with us across the Plains!
This manner of travel offered much monotony, yet it had its little pleasures. For my own part, my early experience in Western matters placed me in charge of our band of hunters, whose duty it was to ride at the flanks of our caravan each day and to kill sufficient buffalo for meat. This work of the chase gave us more to do than was left for those who plodded along or rode bent over upon the wagon seats; yet even for these there was some relaxation. At night we met in little social circles around the camp-fires. Young folk made love; old folk made plans here as they had at home. A church marched with us as well as the law and courts; and, what was more, the schools went also; for by the faint flicker of the firelight many parents taught their children each day as they moved westward to their new homes. History shows these children were well taught. There were persons of education and culture with us.
Music we had, and of a night time, even while the coyotes were calling and the wind whispering in the short grasses of the Plains, violin and flute would sometimes blend their voices, and I have thus heard songs which I would not exchange in memory for others which I have heard in surroundings far more ambitious. Sometimes dances were held on the greensward of our camps. Regularly the Sabbath day was observed by at least the most part of our pilgrims. Upon all our party there seemed to sit an air of content and certitude. Of all our wagons, I presume one was of greatest value. It was filled with earth to the brim, and in it were fruit trees planted, and shrubs; and its owner carried seeds of garden plants. Without doubt, it was our mission and our intent to take with us such civilization as we had left behind.