On the morning of the 11th, we were strangely surprised by the return of Messrs. D. Stuart, R. Stuart, R. M’Lelland, Crooks, Reed, and Farnham. This return, as sudden as unlooked for, was owing to an unfortunate adventure which befell the party, in ascending the river. When they reached the Falls, where the portage is very long, some natives came with their horses, to offer their aid in transporting the goods. Mr. R. Stuart, not distrusting them, confided to their care some bales of merchandise, which they packed on their horses: but, in making the transit, they darted up a narrow path among the rocks, and fled at full gallop toward the prairie, without its being possible to overtake them. Mr. Stuart had several shots fired over their heads, to frighten them, but it had no other effect than to increase their speed. Meanwhile our own people continued the transportation of the rest of the goods, and of the canoes; but as there was a great number of natives about, whom the success and impunity of those thieves had emboldened, Mr. Stuart thought it prudent to keep watch over the goods at the upper end of the portage, while Messrs. M’Lellan and Reed made the rear-guard. The last named gentleman, who carried, strapped to his shoulders, a tin box containing the letters and despatches for New York with which he was charged, happened to be at some distance from the former, and the Indians thought it a favorable opportunity to attack him and carry off his box, the brightness of which no doubt had tempted their cupidity. They threw themselves upon him so suddenly that he had no time to place himself on the defensive. After a short resistance, he received a blow on the head from a war club, which felled him to the ground, and the Indians seized upon their booty. Mr. M’Lellan perceiving what was done, fired his carabine at one of the robbers and made him bite the dust; the rest took to flight, but carried off the box notwithstanding. Mr. M’Lellan immediately ran up to Mr. Reed; but finding the latter motionless and bathed in blood, he hastened to rejoin Mr. Stuart, urging him to get away from these robbers and murderers. But Mr. Stuart, being a self-possessed and fearless man, would not proceed without ascertaining if Mr. Reed were really dead, or if he were, without carrying off his body; and notwithstanding the remonstrances of Mr. M’Lellan, taking his way back to the spot where the latter had left his companion, had not gone two hundred paces, when he met him coming toward them, holding his bleeding head with both hands.[N]
[Footnote N: We were apprized of this unfortunate rencontre by natives from up the river, on the 15th of April, but disbelieved it. [It is curious to observe the want of military sagacity and precaution which characterized the operations of these traders, compared with the exact calculations of danger and the unfailing measures of defence, employed from the very outset by Captains Lewis and Clarke in the same country.