Recollections of the Army Life by a New England Woman
by Martha Summerhayes
TO MY SON HARRY SUMMERHAYES WHO SHARED THE VICISSITUDES OF MY LIFE IN ARIZONA, THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
I have written this story of my army life at the urgent and ceaseless request of my children.
For whenever I allude to those early days, and tell to them the tales they have so often heard, they always say: "Now, mother, will you write these stories for us? Please, mother, do; we must never forget them."
Then, after an interval, "Mother, have you written those stories of Arizona yet?" until finally, with the aid of some old letters written from those very places (the letters having been preserved, with other papers of mine, by an uncle in New England long since dead), I have been able to give a fairly connected story.
I have not attempted to commemorate my husband's brave career in the Civil War, as I was not married until some years after the close of that war, nor to describe the many Indian campaigns in which he took part, nor to write about the achievements of the old Eighth Infantry. I leave all that to the historian. I have given simply the impressions made upon the mind of a young New England woman who left her comfortable home in the early seventies, to follow a second lieutenant into the wildest encampments of the American army.
Hoping the story may possess some interest for the younger women of the army, and possibly for some of our old friends, both in the army and in civil life, I venture to send it forth.
POSTCRIPT (second edition).
The appendix to this, the second edition of my book, will tell something of the kind manner in which the first edition was received by my friends and the public at large.
But as several people had expressed a wish that I should tell more of my army experiences I have gone carefully over the entire book, adding some detail and a few incidents which had come to my mind later.
I have also been able, with some difficulty and much patient effort, to secure several photographs of exceptional interest, which have been added to the illustrations.
CHAPTER I. GERMANY AND THE ARMY II. I JOINED THE ARMY III. ARMY HOUSE-KEEPING IV. DOWN THE PACIFIC COAST V. THE SLUE VI. UP THE RIO COLORADO VII. THE MOJAVE DESERT VIII. LEARNING HOW TO SOLDIER IX. ACROSS THE MOGOLLONS X. A PERILOUS ADVENTURE XI. CAMP APACHE XII. LIFE AMONGST THE APACHES XIII. A NEW RECRUIT XIV. A MEMORABLE JOURNEY XV. FORDING THE LITTLE COLORADO XVI. STONEMAN'S LAKE XVII. THE COLORADO DESERT XVIII. EHRENBERG ON THE COLORADO XIX. SUMMER AT EHRENBERG XX. MY DELIVERER XXI. WINTER IN EHRENBERG XXII. RETURN TO THE STATES XXIII. BACK TO ARIZONA XXIV. UP THE VALLEY OF THE GILA XXV. OLD CAMP MACDOWELL XXVI. A SUDDEN ORDER XXVII. THE EIGHTH FOOT LEAVES ARIZONA XXVIII. CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA XXIX. CHANGING STATION XXX. FORT NIOBRARA XXXI. SANTA FE XXXII. TEXAS XXXIII. DAVID'S ISLAND
CHAPTER I. GERMANY AND THE ARMY
The stalwart men of the Prussian army, the Lancers, the Dragoons, the Hussars, the clank of their sabres on the pavements, their brilliant uniforms, all made an impression upon my romantic mind, and I listened eagerly, in the quiet evenings, to tales of Hanover under King George, to stories of battles lost, and the entry of the Prussians into the old Residenz-stadt; the flight of the King, and the sorrow and chagrin which prevailed.
For I was living in the family of General Weste, the former stadt-commandant of Hanover, who had served fifty years in the army and had accompanied King George on his exit from the city. He was a gallant veteran, with the rank of General-Lieutenant, ausser Dienst. A charming and dignified man, accepting philosophically the fact that Hanover had become Prussian, but loyal in his heart to his King and to old Hanover; pretending great wrath when, on the King's birthday, he found yellow and white sand strewn before his door, but unable to conceal the joyful gleam in his eye when he spoke of it.
The General's wife was the daughter of a burgomaster and had been brought up in a neighboring town. She was a dear, kind soul.
The house-keeping was simple, but stately and precise, as befitted the rank of this officer. The General was addressed by the servants as Excellenz and his wife as Frau Excellenz. A charming unmarried daughter lived at home, making, with myself, a family of four.
Life was spent quietly, and every evening, after our coffee (served in the living-room in winter, and in the garden in summer), Frau Generalin would amuse me with descriptions of life in her old home, and of how girls were brought up in her day; how industry was esteemed by her mother the greatest virtue, and idleness was punished as the most beguiling sin. She was never allowed, she said, to read, even on Sunday, without her knitting-work in her hands; and she would often sigh, and say to me, in German (for dear Frau Generalin spoke no other tongue), "Ach, Martha, you American girls are so differently brought up"; and I would say, "But, Frau Generalin, which way do you think is the better?" She would then look puzzled, shrug her shoulders, and often say, "Ach! times are different I suppose, but my ideas can never change."
Now the dear Frau Generalin did not speak a word of English, and as I had had only a few lessons in German before I left America, I had the utmost difficulty at first in comprehending what she said. She spoke rapidly and I would listen with the closest attention, only to give up in despair, and to say, "Gute Nacht," evening after evening, with my head buzzing and my mind a blank.
After a few weeks, however, I began to understand everything she said, altho' I could not yet write or read the language, and I listened with the greatest interest to the story of her marriage with young Lieutenant Weste, of the bringing up of her four children, and of the old days in Hanover, before the Prussians took possession.
She described to me the brilliant Hanoverian Court, the endless festivities and balls, the stately elegance of the old city, and the cruel misfortunes of the King. And how, a few days after the King's flight, the end of all things came to her; for she was politely informed one evening, by a big Prussian major, that she must seek other lodgings—he needed her quarters. At this point she always wept, and I sympathized.
Thus I came to know military life in Germany, and I fell in love with the army, with its brilliancy and its glitter, with its struggles and its romance, with its sharp contrasts, its deprivations, and its chivalry.
I came to know, as their guest, the best of old military society. They were very old-fashioned and precise, and Frau Generalin often told me that American girls were too ausgelassen in their manners. She often reproved me for seating myself upon the sofa (which was only for old people) and also for looking about too much when walking on the streets. Young girls must keep their eyes more cast down, looking up only occasionally. (I thought this dreadfully prim, as I was eager to see everything). I was expected to stop and drop a little courtesy on meeting an older woman, and then to inquire after the health of each member of the family. It seemed to take a lot of time, but all the other girls did it, and there seemed to be no hurry about anything, ever, in that elegant old Residenz-stadt. Surely a contrast to our bustling American towns.
A sentiment seemed to underlie everything they did. The Emperor meant so much to them, and they adored the Empress. A personal feeling, an affection, such as I had never heard of in a republic, caused me to stop and wonder if an empire were not the best, after all. And one day, when the Emperor, passing through Hanover en route, drove down the Georgen-strasse in an open barouche and raised his hat as he glanced at the sidewalk where I happened to be standing, my heart seemed to stop beating, and I was overcome by a most wonderful feeling—a feeling that in a man would have meant chivalry and loyalty unto death.
In this beautiful old city, life could not be taken any other than leisurely. Theatres with early hours, the maid coming for me with a lantern at nine o'clock, the frequent Kaffee-klatsch, the delightful afternoon coffee at the Georgen-garten, the visits to the Zoological gardens, where we always took our fresh rolls along with our knitting-work in a basket, and then sat at a little table in the open, and were served with coffee, sweet cream, and butter, by a strapping Hessian peasant woman—all so simple, yet so elegant, so peaceful.
We heard the best music at the theatre, which was managed with the same precision, and maintained by the Government with the same generosity, as in the days of King George. No one was allowed to enter after the overture had begun, and an absolute hush prevailed.
The orchestra consisted of sixty or more pieces, and the audience was critical. The parquet was filled with officers in the gayest uniforms; there were few ladies amongst them; the latter sat mostly in the boxes, of which there were several tiers, and as soon as the curtain fell, between the acts, the officers would rise, turn around, and level their glasses at the boxes. Sometimes they came and visited in the boxes.
As I had been brought up in a town half Quaker, half Puritan, the custom of going to the theatre Sunday evenings was rather a questionable one in my mind. But I soon fell in with their ways, and found that on Sunday evenings there was always the most brilliant audience and the best plays were selected. With this break-down of the wall of narrow prejudice, I gave up others equally as narrow, and adopted the German customs with my whole heart.
I studied the language with unflinching perseverance, for this was the opportunity I had dreamed about and longed for in the barren winter evenings at Nantucket when I sat poring over Coleridge's translations of Schiller's plays and Bayard Taylor's version of Goethe's Faust.
Should I ever read these intelligently in the original?
And when my father consented for me to go over and spend a year and live in General Weste's family, there never was a happier or more grateful young woman. Appreciative and eager, I did not waste a moment, and my keen enjoyment of the German classics repaid me a hundred fold for all my industry.
Neither time nor misfortune, nor illness can take from me the memory of that year of privileges such as is given few American girls to enjoy, when they are at an age to fully appreciate them.
And so completely separated was I from the American and English colony that I rarely heard my own language spoken, and thus I lived, ate, listened, talked, and even dreamed in German.
There seemed to be time enough to do everything we wished; and, as the Franco-Prussian war was just over (it was the year of 1871), and many troops were in garrison at Hanover, the officers could always join us at the various gardens for after-dinner coffee, which, by the way, was not taken in the demi-tasse, but in good generous coffee-cups, with plenty of rich cream. Every one drank at least two cups, the officers smoked, the women knitted or embroidered, and those were among the pleasantest hours I spent in Germany.
The intrusion of unwelcome visitors was never to be feared, as, by common consent, the various classes in Hanover kept by themselves, thus enjoying life much better than in a country where everybody is striving after the pleasures and luxuries enjoyed by those whom circumstances have placed above them.
The gay uniforms lent a brilliancy to every affair, however simple. Officers were not allowed to appear en civile, unless on leave of absence.
I used to say, "Oh, Frau General, how fascinating it all is!" "Hush, Martha," she would say; "life in the army is not always so brilliant as it looks; in fact, we often call it, over here, 'glaenzendes Elend.'"
These bitter words made a great impression upon my mind, and in after years, on the American frontier, I seemed to hear them over and over again.
When I bade good-bye to the General and his family, I felt a tightening about my throat and my heart, and I could not speak. Life in Germany had become dear to me, and I had not known how dear until I was leaving it forever.
CHAPTER II. I JOINED THE ARMY
I was put in charge of the captain of the North German Lloyd S. S. "Donau," and after a most terrific cyclone in mid-ocean, in which we nearly foundered, I landed in Hoboken, sixteen days from Bremen.
My brother, Harry Dunham, met me on the pier, saying, as he took me in his arms, "You do not need to tell me what sort of a trip you have had; it is enough to look at the ship—that tells the story."
As the vessel had been about given up for lost, her arrival was somewhat of an agreeable surprise to all our friends, and to none more so than my old friend Jack, a second lieutenant of the United States army, who seemed so glad to have me back in America, that I concluded the only thing to do was to join the army myself.
A quiet wedding in the country soon followed my decision, and we set out early in April of the year 1874 to join his regiment, which was stationed at Fort Russell, Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory.
I had never been west of New York, and Cheyenne seemed to me, in contrast with the finished civilization of Europe, which I had so recently left, the wildest sort of a place.
Arriving in the morning, and alighting from the train, two gallant officers, in the uniform of the United States infantry, approached and gave us welcome; and to me, the bride, a special "welcome to the regiment" was given by each of them with outstretched hands.
Major Wilhelm said, "The ambulance is right here; you must come to our house and stay until you get your quarters."
Such was my introduction to the army—and to the army ambulance, in which I was destined to travel so many miles.
Four lively mules and a soldier driver brought us soon to the post, and Mrs. Wilhelm welcomed us to her pleasant and comfortable-looking quarters.
I had never seen an army post in America. I had always lived in places which needed no garrison, and the army, except in Germany, was an unknown quantity to me.
Fort Russell was a large post, and the garrison consisted of many companies of cavalry and infantry. It was all new and strange to me.
Soon after luncheon, Jack said to Major Wilhelm, "Well, now, I must go and look for quarters: what's the prospect?"
"You will have to turn some one out," said the Major, as they left the house together.
About an hour afterwards they returned, and Jack said, "Well, I have turned out Lynch; but," he added, "as his wife and child are away, I do not believe he'll care very much."
"Oh," said I, "I'm so sorry to have to turn anybody out!"
The Major and his wife smiled, and the former remarked, "You must not have too much sympathy: it's the custom of the service—it's always done—by virtue of rank. They'll hate you for doing it, but if you don't do it they'll not respect you. After you've been turned out once yourself, you will not mind turning others out."
The following morning I drove over to Cheyenne with Mrs. Wilhelm, and as I passed Lieutenant Lynch's quarters and saw soldiers removing Mrs. Lynch's lares and penates, in the shape of a sewing machine, lamp-shades, and other home-like things, I turned away in pity that such customs could exist in our service.
To me, who had lived my life in the house in which I was born, moving was a thing to be dreaded.
But Mrs. Wilhelm comforted me, and assured me it was not such a serious matter after all. Army women were accustomed to it, she said.
CHAPTER III. ARMY HOUSE-KEEPING
Not knowing before I left home just what was needed for house-keeping in the army, and being able to gather only vague ideas on the subject from Jack, who declared that his quarters were furnished admirably, I had taken out with me but few articles in addition to the silver and linen-chests.
I began to have serious doubts on the subject of my menage, after inspecting the bachelor furnishings which had seemed so ample to my husband. But there was so much to be seen in the way of guard mount, cavalry drill, and various military functions, besides the drives to town and the concerts of the string orchestra, that I had little time to think of the practical side of life.
Added to this, we were enjoying the delightful hospitality of the Wilhelms, and the Major insisted upon making me acquainted with the "real old-fashioned army toddy" several times a day,—a new beverage to me, brought up in a blue-ribbon community, where wine-bibbing and whiskey drinking were rated as belonging to only the lowest classes. To be sure, my father always drank two fingers of fine cognac before dinner, but I had always considered that a sort of medicine for a man advanced in years.
Taken all in all, it is not to be wondered at if I saw not much in those few days besides bright buttons, blue uniforms, and shining swords.
Everything was military and gay and brilliant, and I forgot the very existence of practical things, in listening to the dreamy strains of Italian and German music, rendered by our excellent and painstaking orchestra. For the Eighth Infantry loved good music, and had imported its musicians direct from Italy.
This came to an end, however, after a few days, and I was obliged to descend from those heights to the dead level of domestic economy.
My husband informed me that the quarters were ready for our occupancy and that we could begin house-keeping at once. He had engaged a soldier named Adams for a striker; he did not know whether Adams was much of a cook, he said, but he was the only available man just then, as the companies were up north at the Agency.
Our quarters consisted of three rooms and a kitchen, which formed one-half of a double house.
I asked Jack why we could not have a whole house. I did not think I could possibly live in three rooms and a kitchen.
"Why, Martha," said he, "did you not know that women are not reckoned in at all at the War Department? A lieutenant's allowance of quarters, according to the Army Regulations, is one room and a kitchen, a captain's allowance is two rooms and a kitchen, and so on up, until a colonel has a fairly good house." I told him I thought it an outrage; that lieutenants' wives needed quite as much as colonels' wives.
He laughed and said, "You see we have already two rooms over our proper allowance; there are so many married officers, that the Government has had to stretch a point."
After indulging in some rather harsh comments upon a government which could treat lieutenants' wives so shabbily, I began to investigate my surroundings.
Jack had placed his furnishings (some lace curtains, camp chairs, and a carpet) in the living-room, and there was a forlorn-looking bedstead in the bedroom. A pine table in the dining-room and a range in the kitchen completed the outfit. A soldier had scrubbed the rough floors with a straw broom: it was absolutely forlorn, and my heart sank within me.
But then I thought of Mrs. Wilhelm's quarters, and resolved to try my best to make ours look as cheerful and pretty as hers. A chaplain was about leaving the post and wished to dispose of his things, so we bought a carpet of him, a few more camp chairs of various designs, and a cheerful-looking table-cover. We were obliged to be very economical, as Jack was a second lieutenant, the pay was small and a little in arrears, after the wedding trip and long journey out. We bought white Holland shades for the windows, and made the three rooms fairly comfortable and then I turned my attention to the kitchen.
Jack said I should not have to buy anything at all; the Quartermaster Department furnished everything in the line of kitchen utensils; and, as his word was law, I went over to the quartermaster store-house to select the needed articles.
After what I had been told, I was surprised to find nothing smaller than two-gallon tea-kettles, meat-forks a yard long, and mess-kettles deep enough to cook rations for fifty men! I rebelled, and said I would not use such gigantic things.
My husband said: "Now, Mattie, be reasonable; all the army women keep house with these utensils; the regiment will move soon, and then what should we do with a lot of tin pans and such stuff? You know a second lieutenant is allowed only a thousand pounds of baggage when he changes station." This was a hard lesson, which I learned later.
Having been brought up in an old-time community, where women deferred to their husbands in everything, I yielded, and the huge things were sent over. I had told Mrs. Wilhelm that we were to have luncheon in our own quarters.
So Adams made a fire large enough to roast beef for a company of soldiers, and he and I attempted to boil a few eggs in the deep mess-kettle and to make the water boil in the huge tea-kettle.
But Adams, as it turned out, was not a cook, and I must confess that my own attention had been more engrossed by the study of German auxiliary verbs, during the few previous years, than with the art of cooking.
Of course, like all New England girls of that period, I knew how to make quince jelly and floating islands, but of the actual, practical side of cooking, and the management of a range, I knew nothing.
Here was a dilemma, indeed!
The eggs appeared to boil, but they did not seem to be done when we took them off, by the minute-hand of the clock.
I declared the kettle was too large; Adams said he did not understand it at all.
I could have wept with chagrin! Our first meal a deux!
I appealed to Jack. He said, "Why, of course, Martha, you ought to know that things do not cook as quickly at this altitude as they do down at the sea level. We are thousands of feet above the sea here in Wyoming." (I am not sure it was thousands, but it was hundreds at least.)
So that was the trouble, and I had not thought of it!
My head was giddy with the glamour, the uniform, the guard-mount, the military music, the rarefied air, the new conditions, the new interests of my life. Heine's songs, Goethe's plays, history and romance were floating through my mind. Is it to be wondered at that I and Adams together prepared the most atrocious meals that ever a new husband had to eat? I related my difficulties to Jack, and told him I thought we should never be able to manage with such kitchen utensils as were furnished by the Q. M. D.
"Oh, pshaw! You are pampered and spoiled with your New England kitchens," said he; "you will have to learn to do as other army women do—cook in cans and such things, be inventive, and learn to do with nothing." This was my first lesson in army house-keeping.
After my unpractical teacher had gone out on some official business, I ran over to Mrs. Wilhelm's quarters and said, "Will you let me see your kitchen closet?"
She assented, and I saw the most beautiful array of tin-ware, shining and neat, placed in rows upon the shelves and hanging from hooks on the wall.
"So!" I said; "my military husband does not know anything about these things;" and I availed myself of the first trip of the ambulance over to Cheyenne, bought a stock of tin-ware and had it charged, and made no mention of it—because I feared that tin-ware was to be our bone of contention, and I put off the evil day.
The cooking went on better after that, but I did not have much assistance from Adams.
I had great trouble at first with the titles and the rank: but I soon learned that many of the officers were addressed by the brevet title bestowed upon them for gallant service in the Civil War, and I began to understand about the ways and customs of the army of Uncle Sam. In contrast to the Germans, the American lieutenants were not addressed by their title (except officially); I learned to "Mr." all the lieutenants who had no brevet.
One morning I suggested to Adams that he should wash the front windows; after being gone a half hour, to borrow a step-ladder, he entered the room, mounted the ladder and began. I sat writing. Suddenly, he faced around, and addressing me, said, "Madam, do you believe in spiritualism?"
"Good gracious! Adams, no; why do you ask me such a question?"
This was enough; he proceeded to give a lecture on the subject worthy of a man higher up on the ladder of this life. I bade him come to an end as soon as I dared (for I was not accustomed to soldiers), and suggested that he was forgetting his work.
It was early in April, and the snow drifted through the crevices of the old dried-out house, in banks upon our bed; but that was soon mended, and things began to go smoothly enough, when Jack was ordered to join his company, which was up at the Spotted Tail Agency. It was expected that the Sioux under this chief would break out at any minute. They had become disaffected about some treaty. I did not like to be left alone with the Spiritualist, so Jack asked one of the laundresses, whose husband was out with the company, to come and stay and take care of me. Mrs. Patten was an old campaigner; she understood everything about officers and their ways, and she made me absolutely comfortable for those two lonely months. I always felt grateful to her; she was a dear old Irish woman.
All the families and a few officers were left at the post, and, with the daily drive to Cheyenne, some small dances and theatricals, my time was pleasantly occupied.
Cheyenne in those early days was an amusing but unattractive frontier town; it presented a great contrast to the old civilization I had so recently left. We often saw women in cotton wrappers, high-heeled slippers, and sun-bonnets, walking in the main streets. Cows, pigs, and saloons seemed to be a feature of the place.
In about six weeks, the affairs of the Sioux were settled, and the troops returned to the post. The weather began to be uncomfortably hot in those low wooden houses. I missed the comforts of home and the fresh sea air of the coast, but I tried to make the best of it.
Our sleeping-room was very small, and its one window looked out over the boundless prairie at the back of the post. On account of the great heat, we were obliged to have this window wide open at night. I heard the cries and wails of various animals, but Jack said that was nothing—they always heard them.
Once, at midnight, the wails seemed to be nearer, and I was terrified; but he told me 'twas only the half-wild cats and coyotes which prowled around the post. I asked him if they ever came in. "Gracious, no!" he said; "they are too wild."
I calmed myself for sleep—when like lightning, one of the huge creatures gave a flying leap in at our window, across the bed, and through into the living-room.
"Jerusalem!" cried the lieutenant, and flew after her, snatching his sword, which stood in the corner, and poking vigorously under the divan.
I rolled myself under the bed-covers, in the most abject terror lest she might come back the same way; and, true enough, she did, with a most piercing cry. I never had much rest after that occurrence, as we had no protection against these wild-cats.
The regiment, however, in June was ordered to Arizona, that dreaded and then unknown land, and the uncertain future was before me. I saw the other women packing china and their various belongings. I seemed to be helpless. Jack was busy with things outside. He had three large army chests, which were brought in and placed before me. "Now," he said, "all our things must go into those chests"—and I supposed they must.
I was pitifully ignorant of the details of moving, and I stood despairingly gazing into the depths of those boxes, when the jolly and stout wife of Major von Hermann passed my window. She glanced in, comprehended the situation, and entered, saying, "You do not understand how to pack? Let me help you: give me a cushion to kneel upon—now bring everything that is to be packed, and I can soon show you how to do it." With her kind assistance the chests were packed, and I found that we had a great deal of surplus stuff which had to be put into rough cases, or rolled into packages and covered with burlap. Jack fumed when he saw it, and declared we could not take it all, as it exceeded our allowance of weight. I declared we must take it, or we could not exist.
With some concessions on both sides we were finally packed up, and left Fort Russell about the middle of June, with the first detachment, consisting of head-quarters and band, for San Francisco, over the Union Pacific Railroad.
For it must be remembered, that in 1874 there were no railroads in Arizona, and all troops which were sent to that distant territory either marched over-land through New Mexico, or were transported by steamer from San Francisco down the coast, and up the Gulf of California to Fort Yuma, from which point they marched up the valley of the Gila to the southern posts, or continued up the Colorado River by steamer, to other points of disembarkation, whence they marched to the posts in the interior, or the northern part of the territory.
Much to my delight, we were allowed to remain over in San Francisco, and go down with the second detachment. We made the most of the time, which was about a fortnight, and on the sixth of August we embarked with six companies of soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Wilkins in command, on the old steamship "Newbern," Captain Metzger, for Arizona.
CHAPTER IV. DOWN THE PACIFIC COAST
Now the "Newbern" was famous for being a good roller, and she lived up to her reputation. For seven days I saw only the inside of our stateroom. At the end of that time we arrived off Cape St. Lucas (the extreme southern point of Lower California), and I went on deck.
We anchored and took cattle aboard. I watched the natives tow them off, the cattle swimming behind their small boats, and then saw the poor beasts hoisted up by their horns to the deck of our ship.
I thought it most dreadfully cruel, but was informed that it had been done from time immemorial, so I ceased to talk about it, knowing that I could not reform those aged countries, and realizing, faintly perhaps (for I had never seen much of the rough side of life), that just as cruel things were done to the cattle we consume in the North.
Now that Mr. Sinclair, in his great book "The Jungle," has brought the multiplied horrors of the great packing-houses before our very eyes, we might witness the hoisting of the cattle over the ship's side without feeling such intense pity, admitting that everything is relative, even cruelty.
It was now the middle of August, and the weather had become insufferably hot, but we were out of the long swell of the Pacific Ocean; we had rounded Cape St. Lucas, and were steaming up the Gulf of California, towards the mouth of the Great Colorado, whose red and turbulent waters empty themselves into this gulf, at its head.
I now had time to become acquainted with the officers of the regiment, whom I had not before met; they had come in from other posts and joined the command at San Francisco.
The daughter of the lieutenant-colonel was on board, the beautiful and graceful Caroline Wilkins, the belle of the regiment; and Major Worth, to whose company my husband belonged. I took a special interest in the latter, as I knew we must face life together in the wilds of Arizona. I had time to learn something about the regiment and its history; and that Major Worth's father, whose monument I had so often seen in New York, was the first colonel of the Eighth Infantry, when it was organized in the State of New York in 1838.
The party on board was merry enough, and even gay. There was Captain Ogilby, a great, genial Scotchman, and Captain Porter, a graduate of Dublin, and so charmingly witty. He seemed very devoted to Miss Wilkins, but Miss Wilkins was accustomed to the devotion of all the officers of the Eighth Infantry. In fact, it was said that every young lieutenant who joined the regiment had proposed to her. She was most attractive, and as she had too kind a heart to be a coquette, she was a universal favorite with the women as well as with the men.
There was Ella Bailey, too, Miss Wilkins' sister, with her young and handsome husband and their young baby.
Then, dear Mrs. Wilkins, who had been so many years in the army that she remembered crossing the plains in a real ox-team. She represented the best type of the older army woman—and it was so lovely to see her with her two daughters, all in the same regiment. A mother of grown-up daughters was not often met with in the army.
And Lieutenant-Colonel Wilkins, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word—a man of rather quiet tastes, never happier than when he had leisure for indulging his musical taste in strumming all sorts of Spanish fandangos on the guitar, or his somewhat marked talent with the pencil and brush.
The heat of the staterooms compelled us all to sleep on deck, so our mattresses were brought up by the soldiers at night, and spread about. The situation, however, was so novel and altogether ludicrous, and our fear of rats which ran about on deck so great, that sleep was well-nigh out of the question.
Before dawn, we fled to our staterooms, but by sunrise we were glad to dress and escape from their suffocating heat and go on deck again. Black coffee and hard-tack were sent up, and this sustained us until the nine-o'clock breakfast, which was elaborate, but not good. There was no milk, of course, except the heavily sweetened sort, which I could not use: it was the old-time condensed and canned milk; the meats were beyond everything, except the poor, tough, fresh beef we had seen hoisted over the side, at Cape St. Lucas. The butter, poor at the best, began to pour like oil. Black coffee and bread, and a baked sweet potato, seemed the only things that I could swallow.
The heat in the Gulf of California was intense. Our trunks were brought up from the vessel's hold, and we took out summer clothing. But how inadequate and inappropriate it was for that climate! Our faces burned and blistered; even the parting on the head burned, under the awnings which were kept spread. The ice-supply decreased alarmingly, the meats turned green, and when the steward went down into the refrigerator, which was somewhere below the quarter-deck, to get provisions for the day, every woman held a bottle of salts to her nose, and the officers fled to the forward part of the ship. The odor which ascended from that refrigerator was indescribable: it lingered and would not go. It followed us to the table, and when we tasted the food we tasted the odor. We bribed the steward for ice. Finally, I could not go below at all, but had a baked sweet potato brought on deck, and lived several days upon that diet.
On the 14th of August we anchored off Mazatlan, a picturesque and ancient adobe town in old Mexico. The approach to this port was strikingly beautiful. Great rocks, cut by the surf into arches and caverns, guarded the entrance to the harbor. We anchored two miles out. A customs and a Wells-Fargo boat boarded us, and many natives came along side, bringing fresh cocoanuts, bananas, and limes. Some Mexicans bound for Guaymas came on board, and a troupe of Japanese jugglers.
While we were unloading cargo, some officers and their wives went on shore in one of the ship's boats, and found it a most interesting place. It was garrisoned by Mexican troops, uniformed in white cotton shirts and trousers. They visited the old hotel, the amphitheatre where the bull-fights were held, and the old fort. They told also about the cock-pits—and about the refreshing drinks they had.
My thirst began to be abnormal. We bought a dozen cocoanuts, and I drank the milk from them, and made up my mind to go ashore at the next port; for after nine days with only thick black coffee and bad warm water to drink, I was longing for a cup of good tea or a glass of fresh, sweet milk.
A day or so more brought us to Guaymas, another Mexican port. Mrs. Wilkins said she had heard something about an old Spaniard there, who used to cook meals for stray travellers. This was enough. I was desperately hungry and thirsty, and we decided to try and find him. Mrs. Wilkins spoke a little Spanish, and by dint of inquiries we found the man's house, a little old, forlorn, deserted-looking adobe casa.
We rapped vigorously upon the old door, and after some minutes a small, withered old man appeared.
Mrs. Wilkins told him what we wanted, but this ancient Delmonico declined to serve us, and said, in Spanish, the country was "a desert"; he had "nothing in the house"; he had "not cooked a meal in years"; he could not; and, finally, he would not; and he gently pushed the door to in our faces. But we did not give it up, and Mrs. Wilkins continued to persuade. I mustered what Spanish I knew, and told him I would pay him any price for a cup of coffee with fresh milk. He finally yielded, and told us to return in one hour.
So we walked around the little deserted town. I could think only of the breakfast we were to have in the old man's casa. And it met and exceeded our wildest anticipations, for, just fancy! We were served with a delicious boullion, then chicken, perfectly cooked, accompanied by some dish flavored with chile verde, creamy biscuit, fresh butter, and golden coffee with milk. There were three or four women and several officers in the party, and we had a merry breakfast. We paid the old man generously, thanked him warmly, and returned to the ship, fortified to endure the sight of all the green ducks that came out of the lower hold.
You must remember that the "Newbern" was a small and old propeller, not fitted up for passengers, and in those days the great refrigerating plants were unheard of. The women who go to the Philippines on our great transports of to-day cannot realize and will scarcely believe what we endured for lack of ice and of good food on that never-to-be-forgotten voyage down the Pacific coast and up the Gulf of California in the summer of 1874.
CHAPTER V. THE SLUE
At last, after a voyage of thirteen days, we came to anchor a mile or so off Port Isabel, at the mouth of the Colorado River. A narrow but deep slue runs up into the desert land, on the east side of the river's mouth, and provides a harbor of refuge for the flat-bottomed stern-wheelers which meet the ocean steamers at this point. Hurricanes are prevalent at this season in the Gulf of California, but we had been fortunate in not meeting with any on the voyage. The wind now freshened, however, and beat the waves into angry foam, and there we lay for three days on the "Newbern," off Port Isabel, before the sea was calm enough for the transfer of troops and baggage to the lighters.
This was excessively disagreeable. The wind was like a breath from a furnace; it seemed as though the days would never end, and the wind never stop blowing. Jack's official diary says: "One soldier died to-day."
Finally, on the fourth day, the wind abated, and the transfer was begun. We boarded the river steamboat "Cocopah," towing a barge loaded with soldiers, and steamed away for the slue. I must say that we welcomed the change with delight. Towards the end of the afternoon the "Cocopah" put her nose to the shore and tied up. It seemed strange not to see pier sand docks, nor even piles to tie to. Anchors were taken ashore and the boat secured in that manner: there being no trees of sufficient size to make fast to.
The soldiers went into camp on shore. The heat down in that low, flat place was intense. Another man died that night.
What was our chagrin, the next morning, to learn that we must go back to the "Newbern," to carry some freight from up-river. There was nothing to do but stay on board and tow that dreary barge, filled with hot, red, baked-looking ore, out to the ship, unload, and go back up the slue. Jack's diary records: "Aug. 23rd. Heat awful. Pringle died to-day." He was the third soldier to succumb. It seemed to me their fate was a hard one. To die, down in that wretched place, to be rolled in a blanket and buried on those desert shores, with nothing but a heap of stones to mark their graves.
The adjutant of the battalion read the burial service, and the trumpeters stepped to the edge of the graves and sounded "Taps," which echoed sad and melancholy far over those parched and arid lands. My eyes filled with tears, for one of the soldiers was from our own company, and had been kind to me.
Jack said: "You mustn't cry, Mattie; it's a soldier's life, and when a man enlists he must take his chances."
"Yes, but," I said, "somewhere there must be a mother or sister, or some one who cares for these poor men, and it's all so sad to think of."
"Well, I know it is sad," he replied, soothingly, "but listen! It is all over, and the burial party is returning."
I listened and heard the gay strains of "The girl I left behind me," which the trumpeters were playing with all their might. "You see," said Jack, "it would not do for the soldiers to be sad when one of them dies. Why, it would demoralize the whole command. So they play these gay things to cheer them up."
And I began to feel that tears must be out of place at a soldier's funeral. I attended many a one after that, but I had too much imagination, and in spite of all my brave efforts, visions of the poor boy's mother on some little farm in Missouri or Kansas perhaps, or in some New England town, or possibly in the old country, would come before me, and my heart was filled with sadness.
The Post Hospital seemed to me a lonesome place to die in, although the surgeon and soldier attendants were kind to the sick men. There were no women nurses in the army in those days.
The next day, the "Cocopah" started again and towed a barge out to the ship. But the hot wind sprang up and blew fiercely, and we lay off and on all day, until it was calm enough to tow her back to the slue. By that time I had about given up all hope of getting any farther, and if the weather had only been cooler I could have endured with equanimity the idle life and knocking about from the ship to the slue, and from the slue to the ship. But the heat was unbearable. We had to unpack our trunks again and get out heavy-soled shoes, for the zinc which covered the decks of these river-steamers burned through the thin slippers we had worn on the ship.
That day we had a little diversion, for we saw the "Gila" come down the river and up the slue, and tie up directly alongside of us. She had on board and in barges four companies of the Twenty-third Infantry, who were going into the States. We exchanged greetings and visits, and from the great joy manifested by them all, I drew my conclusions as to what lay before us, in the dry and desolate country we were about to enter.
The women's clothes looked ridiculously old-fashioned, and I wondered if I should look that way when my time came to leave Arizona.
Little cared they, those women of the Twenty-third, for, joy upon joys! They saw the "Newbern" out there in the offing, waiting to take them back to green hills, and to cool days and nights, and to those they had left behind, three years before.
On account of the wind, which blew again with great violence, the "Cocopah" could not leave the slue that day. The officers and soldiers were desperate for something to do. So they tried fishing, and caught some "croakers," which tasted very fresh and good, after all the curried and doctored-up messes we had been obliged to eat on board ship.
We spent seven days in and out of that slue. Finally, on August the 26th, the wind subsided and we started up river. Towards sunset we arrived at a place called "Old Soldier's Camp." There the "Gila" joined us, and the command was divided between the two river-boats. We were assigned to the "Gila," and I settled myself down with my belongings, for the remainder of the journey up river.
We resigned ourselves to the dreadful heat, and at the end of two more days the river had begun to narrow, and we arrived at Fort Yuma, which was at that time the post best known to, and most talked about by army officers of any in Arizona. No one except old campaigners knew much about any other post in the Territory.
It was said to be the very hottest place that ever existed, and from the time we left San Francisco we had heard the story, oft repeated, of the poor soldier who died at Fort Yuma, and after awhile returned to beg for his blankets, having found the regions of Pluto so much cooler than the place he had left. But the fort looked pleasant to us, as we approached. It lay on a high mesa to the left of us and there was a little green grass where the post was built.
None of the officers knew as yet their destination, and I found myself wishing it might be our good fortune to stay at Fort Yuma. It seemed such a friendly place.
Lieutenant Haskell, Twelfth Infantry, who was stationed there, came down to the boat to greet us, and brought us our letters from home. He then extended his gracious hospitality to us all, arranging for us to come to his quarters the next day for a meal, and dividing the party as best he could accommodate us. It fell to our lot to go to breakfast with Major and Mrs. Wells and Miss Wilkins.
An ambulance was sent the next morning, at nine o'clock, to bring us up the steep and winding road, white with heat, which led to the fort.
I can never forget the taste of the oatmeal with fresh milk, the eggs and butter, and delicious tomatoes, which were served to us in his latticed dining-room.
After twenty-three days of heat and glare, and scorching winds, and stale food, Fort Yuma and Mr. Haskell's dining-room seemed like Paradise.
Of course it was hot; it was August, and we expected it. But the heat of those places can be much alleviated by the surroundings. There were shower baths, and latticed piazzas, and large ollas hanging in the shade of them, containing cool water. Yuma was only twenty days from San Francisco, and they were able to get many things direct by steamer. Of course there was no ice, and butter was kept only by ingenious devices of the Chinese servants; there were but few vegetables, but what was to be had at all in that country, was to be had at Fort Yuma.
We staid one more day, and left two companies of the regiment there. When we departed, I felt, somehow, as though we were saying good-bye to the world and civilization, and as our boat clattered and tugged away up river with its great wheel astern, I could not help looking back longingly to old Fort Yuma.
CHAPTER VI. UP THE RIO COLORADO
And now began our real journey up the Colorado River, that river unknown to me except in my early geography lessons—that mighty and untamed river, which is to-day unknown except to the explorer, or the few people who have navigated its turbulent waters. Back in memory was the picture of it on the map; here was the reality, then, and here we were, on the steamer "Gila," Captain Mellon, with the barge full of soldiers towing on after us, starting for Fort Mojave, some two hundred miles above.
The vague and shadowy foreboding that had fluttered through my mind before I left Fort Russell had now also become a reality and crowded out every other thought. The river, the scenery, seemed, after all, but an illusion, and interested me but in a dreamy sort of way.
We had staterooms, but could not remain in them long at a time, on account of the intense heat. I had never felt such heat, and no one else ever had or has since. The days were interminable. We wandered around the boat, first forward, then aft, to find a cool spot. We hung up our canteens (covered with flannel and dipped in water), where they would swing in the shade, thereby obtaining water which was a trifle cooler than the air. There was no ice, and consequently no fresh provisions. A Chinaman served as steward and cook, and at the ringing of a bell we all went into a small saloon back of the pilothouse, where the meals were served. Our party at table on the "Gila" consisted of several unmarried officers, and several officers with their wives, about eight or nine in all, and we could have had a merry time enough but for the awful heat, which destroyed both our good looks and our tempers. The fare was meagre, of course; fresh biscuit without butter, very salt boiled beef, and some canned vegetables, which were poor enough in those days. Pies made from preserved peaches or plums generally followed this delectable course. Chinamen, as we all know, can make pies under conditions that would stagger most chefs. They may have no marble pastry-slab, and the lard may run like oil, still they can make pies that taste good to the hungry traveller.
But that dining-room was hot! The metal handles of the knives were uncomfortably warm to the touch; and even the wooden arms of the chairs felt as if they were slowly igniting. After a hasty meal, and a few remarks upon the salt beef, and the general misery of our lot, we would seek some spot which might be a trifle cooler. A siesta was out of the question, as the staterooms were insufferable; and so we dragged out the weary days.
At sundown the boat put her nose up to the bank and tied up for the night. The soldiers left the barges and went into camp on shore, to cook their suppers and to sleep. The banks of the river offered no very attractive spot upon which to make a camp; they were low, flat, and covered with underbrush and arrow-weed, which grew thick to the water's edge. I always found it interesting to watch the barge unload the men at sundown.
At twilight some of the soldiers came on board and laid our mattresses side by side on the after deck. Pajamas and loose gowns were soon en evidence, but nothing mattered, as they were no electric lights to disturb us with their glare. Rank also mattered not; Lieutenant-Colonel Wilkins and his wife lay down to rest, with the captains and lieutenants and their wives, wherever their respective strikers had placed their mattresses (for this was the good old time when the soldiers were allowed to wait upon officers 'families).
Under these circumstances, much sleep was not to be thought of; the sultry heat by the river bank, and the pungent smell of the arrow-weed which lined the shores thickly, contributed more to stimulate than to soothe the weary nerves. But the glare of the sun was gone, and after awhile a stillness settled down upon this company of Uncle Sam's servants and their followers. (In the Army Regulations, wives are not rated except as "camp followers.")
But even this short respite from the glare of the sun was soon to end; for before the crack of dawn, or, as it seemed to us, shortly after midnight, came such a clatter with the fires and the high-pressure engine and the sparks, and what all they did in that wild and reckless land, that further rest was impossible, and we betook ourselves with our mattresses to the staterooms, for another attempt at sleep, which, however, meant only failure, as the sun rose incredibly early on that river, and we were glad to take a hasty sponge from a basin of rather thick looking river-water, and go again out on deck, where we could always get a cup of black coffee from the Chinaman.
And thus began another day of intolerable glare and heat. Conversation lagged; no topic seemed to have any interest except the thermometer, which hung in the coolest place on the boat; and one day when Major Worth looked at it and pronounced it one hundred and twenty-two in the shade, a grim despair seized upon me, and I wondered how much more heat human beings could endure. There was nothing to relieve the monotony of the scenery. On each side of us, low river banks, and nothing between those and the horizon line. On our left was Lower [*] California, and on our right, Arizona. Both appeared to be deserts.
* This term is here used (as we used it at Ehrenberg) to designate the low, flat lands west of the river, without any reference to Lower California proper,—the long peninsula belonging to Mexico.
As the river narrowed, however, the trip began to be enlivened by the constant danger of getting aground on the shifting sand-bars which are so numerous in this mighty river. Jack Mellon was then the most famous pilot on the Colorado, and he was very skilful in steering clear of the sand-bars, skimming over them, or working his boat off, when once fast upon them. The deck-hands, men of a mixed Indian and Mexican race, stood ready with long poles, in the bow, to jump overboard, when we struck a bar, and by dint of pushing, and reversing the engine, the boat would swing off.
On approaching a shallow place, they would sound with their poles, and in a sing-song high-pitched tone drawl out the number of feet. Sometimes their sleepy drawling tones would suddenly cease, and crying loudly, "No alli agua!" they would swing themselves over the side of the boat into the river, and begin their strange and intricate manipulations with the poles. Then, again, they would carry the anchor away off and by means of great spars, and some method too complicated for me to describe, Captain Mellon would fairly lift the boat over the bar.
But our progress was naturally much retarded, and sometimes we were aground an hour, sometimes a half day or more. Captain Mellon was always cheerful. River steamboating was his life, and sand-bars were his excitement. On one occasion, I said, "Oh! Captain, do you think we shall get off this bar to-day?" "Well, you can't tell," he said, with a twinkle in his eye; "one trip, I lay fifty-two days on a bar," and then, after a short pause, "but that don't happen very often; we sometimes lay a week, though; there is no telling; the bars change all the time."
Sometimes the low trees and brushwood on the banks parted, and a young squaw would peer out at us. This was a little diversion, and picturesque besides. They wore very short skirts made of stripped bark, and as they held back the branches of the low willows, and looked at us with curiosity, they made pictures so pretty that I have never forgotten them. We had no kodaks then, but even if we had had them, they could not have reproduced the fine copper color of those bare shoulders and arms, the soft wood colors of the short bark skirts, the gleam of the sun upon their blue-black hair, and the turquoise color of the wide bead-bands which encircled their arms.
One morning, as I was trying to finish out a nap in my stateroom, Jack came excitedly in and said: "Get up, Martha, we are coming to Ehrenberg!" Visions of castles on the Rhine, and stories of the middle ages floated through my mind, as I sprang up, in pleasurable anticipation of seeing an interesting and beautiful place. Alas! for my ignorance. I saw but a row of low thatched hovels, perched on the edge of the ragged looking river-bank; a road ran lengthwise along, and opposite the hovels I saw a store and some more mean-looking huts of adobe.
"Oh! Jack!" I cried, "and is that Ehrenberg? Who on earth gave such a name to the wretched place?"
"Oh, some old German prospector, I suppose; but never mind, the place is all right enough. Come! Hurry up! We are going to stop here and land freight. There is an officer stationed here. See those low white walls? That is where he lives. Captain Bernard of the Fifth Cavalry. It's quite a place; come out and see it."
But I did not go ashore. Of all dreary, miserable-looking settlements that one could possibly imagine, that was the worst. An unfriendly, dirty, and Heaven-forsaken place, inhabited by a poor class of Mexicans and half-breeds. It was, however, an important shipping station for freight which was to be sent overland to the interior, and there was always one army officer stationed there.
Captain Bernard came on board to see us. I did not ask him how he liked his station; it seemed to me too satirical; like asking the Prisoner of Chillon, for instance, how he liked his dungeon.
I looked over towards those low white walls, which enclosed the Government corral and the habitation of this officer, and thanked my stars that no such dreadful detail had come to my husband. I did not dream that in less than a year this exceptionally hard fate was to be my own.
We left Ehrenberg with no regrets, and pushed on up river.
On the third of September the boilers "foamed" so that we had to tie up for nearly a day. This was caused by the water being so very muddy. The Rio Colorado deserves its name, for its swift-flowing current sweeps by like a mass of seething red liquid, turbulent and thick and treacherous. It was said on the river, that those who sank beneath its surface were never seen again, and in looking over into those whirlpools and swirling eddies, one might well believe this to be true.
From there on, up the river, we passed through great canons and the scenery was grand enough; but one cannot enjoy scenery with the mercury ranging from 107 to 122 in the shade. The grandeur was quite lost upon us all, and we were suffocated by the scorching heat radiating from those massive walls of rocks between which we puffed and clattered along.
I must confess that the history of this great river was quite unknown to me then. I had never read of the early attempts made to explore it, both from above and from its mouth, and the wonders of the "Grand Canon" were as yet unknown to the world. I did not realize that, as we steamed along between those high perpendicular walls of rock, we were really seeing the lower end of that great chasm which now, thirty years later, has become one of the most famous resorts of this country and, in fact, of the world.
There was some mention made of Major Powell, that daring adventurer, who, a few years previously, had accomplished the marvellous feat of going down the Colorado and through the Grand Canon, in a small boat, he being the first man who had at that time ever accomplished it, many men having lost their lives in the attempt.
At last, on the 8th of September, we arrived at Camp Mojave, on the right bank of the river; a low, square enclosure, on the low level of the flat land near the river. It seemed an age since we had left Yuma and twice an age since we had left the mouth of the river. But it was only eighteen days in all, and Captain Mellon remarked: "A quick trip!" and congratulated us on the good luck we had had in not being detained on the sandbars. "Great Heavens," I thought, "if that is what they call a quick trip!" But I do not know just what I thought, for those eighteen days on the Great Colorado in midsummer, had burned themselves into my memory, and I made an inward vow that nothing would ever force me into such a situation again. I did not stop to really think; I only felt, and my only feeling was a desire to get cool and to get out of the Territory in some other way and at some cooler season. How futile a wish, and how futile a vow!
Dellenbaugh, who was with Powell in 1869 in his second expedition down the river in small boats, has given to the world a most interesting account of this wonderful river and the canons through which it cuts its tempestuous way to the Gulf of California, in two volumes entitled "The Romance of the Great Colorado" and "A Canon Voyage".
We bade good-bye to our gallant river captain and watched the great stern-wheeler as she swung out into the stream, and, heading up river, disappeared around a bend; for even at that time this venturesome pilot had pushed his boat farther up than any other steam-craft had ever gone, and we heard that there were terrific rapids and falls and unknown mysteries above. The superstition of centuries hovered over the "great cut," and but few civilized beings had looked down into its awful depths. Brave, dashing, handsome Jack Mellon! What would I give and what would we all give, to see thee once more, thou Wizard of the Great Colorado!
We turned our faces towards the Mojave desert, and I wondered, what next?
The Post Surgeon kindly took care of us for two days and nights, and we slept upon the broad piazzas of his quarters.
We heard no more the crackling and fizzing of the stern-wheeler's high-pressure engines at daylight, and our eyes, tired with gazing at the red whirlpools of the river, found relief in looking out upon the grey-white flat expanse which surrounded Fort Mojave, and merged itself into the desert beyond.
CHAPTER VII. THE MOJAVE DESERT
Thou white and dried-up sea! so old! So strewn with wealth, so sown with gold! Yes, thou art old and hoary white With time and ruin of all things, And on thy lonesome borders Night Sits brooding o'er with drooping wings.—JOAQUIN MILLER.
The country had grown steadily more unfriendly ever since leaving Fort Yuma, and the surroundings of Camp Mojave were dreary enough.
But we took time to sort out our belongings, and the officers arranged for transportation across the Territory. Some had bought, in San Francisco, comfortable travelling-carriages for their families. They were old campaigners; they knew a thing or two about Arizona; we lieutenants did not know, we had never heard much about this part of our country. But a comfortable large carriage, known as a Dougherty wagon, or, in common army parlance, an ambulance, was secured for me to travel in. This vehicle had a large body, with two seats facing each other, and a seat outside for the driver. The inside of the wagon could be closed if desired by canvas sides and back which rolled up and down, and by a curtain which dropped behind the driver's seat. So I was enabled to have some degree of privacy, if I wished.
We repacked our mess-chest, and bought from the Commissary at Mojave the provisions necessary for the long journey to Fort Whipple, which was the destination of one of the companies and the headquarters officers.
On the morning of September 10th everything in the post was astir with preparations for the first march. It was now thirty-five days since we left San Francisco, but the change from boat to land travelling offered an agreeable diversion after the monotony of the river. I watched with interest the loading of the great prairie-schooners, into which went the soldiers' boxes and the camp equipage. Outside was lashed a good deal of the lighter stuff; I noticed a barrel of china, which looked much like our own, lashed directly over one wheel. Then there were the massive blue army wagons, which were also heavily loaded; the laundresses with their children and belongings were placed in these.
At last the command moved out. It was to me a novel sight. The wagons and schooners were each drawn by teams of six heavy mules, while a team of six lighter mules was put to each ambulance and carriage. These were quite different from the draught animals I had always seen in the Eastern States; these Government mules being sleek, well-fed and trained to trot as fast as the average carriage-horse. The harnesses were quite smart, being trimmed off with white ivory rings. Each mule was "Lize" or "Fanny" or "Kate", and the soldiers who handled the lines were accustomed to the work; for work, and arduous work, it proved to be, as we advanced into the then unknown Territory of Arizona.
The main body of the troops marched in advance; then came the ambulances and carriages, followed by the baggage-wagons and a small rear-guard. When the troops were halted once an hour for rest, the officers, who marched with the soldiers, would come to the ambulances and chat awhile, until the bugle call for "Assembly" sounded, when they would join their commands again, the men would fall in, the call "Forward" was sounded, and the small-sized army train moved on.
The first day's march was over a dreary country; a hot wind blew, and everything was filled with dust. I had long ago discarded my hat, as an unnecessary and troublesome article; consequently my head wa snow a mass of fine white dust, which stuck fast, of course. I was covered from head to foot with it, and it would not shake off, so, although our steamboat troubles were over, our land troubles had begun.
We reached, after a few hours' travel, the desolate place where we were to camp.
In the mean time, it had been arranged for Major Worth, who had no family, to share our mess, and we had secured the services of a soldier belonging to his company whose ability as a camp cook was known to both officers.
I cannot say that life in the army, as far as I had gone, presented any very great attractions. This, our first camp, was on the river, a little above Hardyville. Good water was there, and that was all; I had not yet learned to appreciate that. There was not a tree nor a shrub to give shade. The only thing I could see, except sky and sand, was a ruined adobe enclosure, with no roof. I sat in the ambulance until our tent was pitched, and then Jack came to me, followed by a six-foot soldier, and said: "Mattie, this is Bowen, our striker; now I want you to tell him what he shall cook for our supper; and—don't you think it would be nice if you could show him how to make some of those good New England doughnuts? I think Major Worth might like them; and after all the awful stuff we have had, you know," et caetera, et caetera. I met the situation, after an inward struggle, and said, weakly, "Where are the eggs?" "Oh," said he, "you don't need eggs; you're on the frontier now; you must learn to do without eggs."
Everything in me rebelled, but still I yielded. You see I had been married only six months; the women at home, and in Germany also, had always shown great deference to their husbands' wishes. But at that moment I almost wished Major Worth and Jack and Bowen and the mess-chest at the bottom of the Rio Colorado. However, I nerved myself for the effort, and when Bowen had his camp-fire made, he came and called me.
At the best, I never had much confidence in my ability as a cook, but as a camp cook! Ah, me! Everything seemed to swim before my eyes, and I fancied that the other women were looking at me from their tents. Bowen was very civil, turned back the cover of the mess-chest and propped it up. That was the table. Then he brought me a tin basin, and some flour, some condensed milk, some sugar, and a rolling-pin, and then he hung a camp-kettle with lard in it over the fire. I stirred up a mixture in the basin, but the humiliation of failure was spared me, for just then, without warning, came one of those terrific sandstorms which prevail on the deserts of Arizona, blowing us all before it in its fury, and filling everything with sand.
We all scurried to the tents; some of them had blown down. There was not much shelter, but the storm was soon over, and we stood collecting our scattered senses. I saw Mrs. Wilkins at the door of her tent. She beckoned to me; I went over there, and she said: "Now, my dear, I am going to give you some advice. You must not take it unkindly. I am an old army woman and I have made many campaigns with the Colonel; you have but just joined the army. You must never try to do any cooking at the camp-fire. The soldiers are there for that work, and they know lots more about it than any of us do."
"But, Jack," I began—
"Never mind Jack," said she; "he does not know as much as I do about it; and when you reach your post," she added, "you can show him what you can do in that line."
Bowen cleared away the sandy remains of the doubtful dough, and prepared for us a very fair supper. Soldiers' bacon, and coffee, and biscuits baked in a Dutch oven.
While waiting for the sun to set, we took a short stroll over to the adobe ruins. Inside the enclosure lay an enormous rattlesnake, coiled. It was the first one I had ever seen except in a cage, and I was fascinated by the horror of the round, grayish-looking heap, so near the color of the sand on which it lay. Some soldiers came and killed it. But I noticed that Bowen took extra pains that night, to spread buffalo robes under our mattresses, and to place around them a hair lariat. "Snakes won't cross over that," he said, with a grin.
Bowen was a character. Originally from some farm in Vermont, he had served some years with the Eighth Infantry, and for a long time in the same company under Major Worth, and had cooked for the bachelors' mess. He was very tall, and had a good-natured face, but he did not have much opinion of what is known as etiquette, either military or civil; he seemed to consider himself a sort of protector to the officers of Company K, and now, as well, to the woman who had joined the company. He took us all under his wing, as it were, and although he had to be sharply reprimanded sometimes, in a kind of language which he seemed to expect, he was allowed more latitude than most soldiers.
This was my first night under canvas in the army. I did not like those desert places, and they grew to have a horror for me.
At four o'clock in the morning the cook's call sounded, the mules were fed, and the crunching and the braying were something to awaken the heaviest sleepers. Bowen called us. I was much upset by the dreadful dust, which was thick upon everything I touched. We had to hasten our toilet, as they were striking tents and breaking camp early, in order to reach before noon the next place where there was water. Sitting on camp-stools, around the mess-tables, in the open, before the break of day, we swallowed some black coffee and ate some rather thick slices of bacon and dry bread. The Wilkins' tent was near ours, and I said to them, rather peevishly: "Isn't this dust something awful?"
Miss Wilkins looked up with her sweet smile and gentle manner and replied: "Why, yes, Mrs. Summerhayes, it is pretty bad, but you must not worry about such a little thing as dust."
"How can I help it?" I said; "my hair, my clothes, everything full of it, and no chance for a bath or a change: a miserable little basin of water and—"
I suppose I was running on with all my grievances, but she stopped me and said again: "Soon, now, you will not mind it at all. Ella and I are army girls, you know, and we do not mind anything. There's no use in fretting about little things."
Miss Wilkins' remarks made a tremendous impression upon my mind and I began to study her philosophy.
At break of day the command marched out, their rifles on their shoulders, swaying along ahead of us, in the sunlight and the heat, which continued still to be almost unendurable. The dry white dust of this desert country boiled and surged up and around us in suffocating clouds.
I had my own canteen hung up in the ambulance, but the water in it got very warm and I learned to take but a swallow at a time, as it could not be refilled until we reached the next spring—and there is always some uncertainty in Arizona as to whether the spring or basin has gone dry. So water was precious, and we could not afford to waste a drop.
At about noon we reached a forlorn mud hut, known as Packwood's ranch. But the place had a bar, which was cheerful for some of the poor men, as the two days' marches had been rather hard upon them, being so "soft" from the long voyage. I could never begrudge a soldier a bit of cheer after the hard marches in Arizona, through miles of dust and burning heat, their canteens long emptied and their lips parched and dry. I watched them often as they marched along with their blanket-rolls, their haversacks, and their rifles, and I used to wonder that they did not complain.
About that time the greatest luxury in the entire world seemed to me to be a glass of fresh sweet milk, and I shall always remember Mr. Packwood's ranch, because we had milk to drink with our supper, and some delicious quail to eat.
Ranches in that part of Arizona meant only low adobe dwellings occupied by prospectors or men who kept the relays of animals for stage routes. Wretched, forbidding-looking places they were! Never a tree or a bush to give shade, never a sign of comfort or home.
Our tents were pitched near Packwood's, out in the broiling sun. They were like ovens; there was no shade, no coolness anywhere; we would have gladly slept, after the day's march, but instead we sat broiling in the ambulances, and waited for the long afternoon to wear away.
The next day dragged along in the same manner; the command marching bravely along through dust and heat and thirst, as Kipling's soldier sings:
"With its best foot first And the road a-sliding past, An' every bloomin' campin'-ground Exactly like the last".
Beal's Springs did not differ from the other ranch, except that possibly it was even more desolate. But a German lived there, who must have had some knowledge of cooking, for I remember that we bought a peach pie from him and ate it with a relish. I remember, too, that we gave him a good silver dollar for it.
The only other incident of that day's march was the suicide of Major Worth's pet dog "Pete." Having exhausted his ability to endure, this beautiful red setter fixed his eye upon a distant range of mountains, and ran without turning, or heeding any call, straight as the crow flies, towards them and death. We never saw him again; a ranchman told us he had known of several other instances where a well-bred dog had given up in this manner, and attempted to run for the hills. We had a large greyhound with us, but he did not desert.
Major Worth was much affected by the loss of his dog, and did not join us at supper that night. We kept a nice fat quail for him, however, and at about nine o'clock, when all was still and dark, Jack entered the Major's tent and said: "Come now, Major, my wife has sent you this nice quail; don't give up so about Pete, you know."
The Major lay upon his camp-bed, with his face turned to the wall of his tent; he gave a deep sigh, rolled himself over and said: "Well, put it on the table, and light the candle; I'll try to eat it. Thank your wife for me."
So the Lieutenant made a light, and lo! and behold, the plate was there, but the quail was gone! In the darkness, our great kangaroo hound had stolen noiselessly upon his master's heels, and quietly removed the bird. The two officers were dumbfounded. Major Worth said: "D—n my luck;" and turned his face again to the wall of his tent.
Now Major Worth was just the dearest and gentlest sort of a man, but he had been born and brought up in the old army, and everyone knows that times and customs were different then.
Men drank more and swore a good deal, and while I do not wish my story to seem profane, yet I would not describe army life or the officers as I knew them, if I did not allow the latter to use an occasional strong expression.
The incident, however, served to cheer up the Major, though he continued to deplore the loss of his beautiful dog.
For the next two days our route lay over the dreariest and most desolate country. It was not only dreary, it was positively hostile in its attitude towards every living thing except snakes, centipedes and spiders. They seemed to flourish in those surroundings.
Sometimes either Major Worth or Jack would come and drive along a few miles in the ambulance with me to cheer me up, and they allowed me to abuse the country to my heart's content. It seemed to do me much good. The desert was new to me then. I had not read Pierre Loti's wonderful book, "Le Desert," and I did not see much to admire in the desolate waste lands through which we were travelling. I did not dream of the power of the desert, nor that I should ever long to see it again. But as I write, the longing possesses me, and the pictures then indelibly printed upon my mind, long forgotten amidst the scenes and events of half a lifetime, unfold themselves like a panorama before my vision and call me to come back, to look upon them once more.
CHAPTER VIII. LEARNING HOW TO SOLDIER
"The grasses failed, and then a mass Of dry red cactus ruled the land: The sun rose right above and fell, As falling molten from the skies, And no winged thing was seen to pass." Joaquin Miller.
We made fourteen miles the next day, and went into camp at a place called Freeze-wash, near some old silver mines. A bare and lonesome spot, where there was only sand to be seen, and some black, burnt-looking rocks. From under these rocks, crept great tarantulas, not forgetting lizards, snakes, and not forgetting the scorpion, which ran along with its tail turned up ready to sting anything that came in its way. The place furnished good water, however, and that was now the most important thing.
The next day's march was a long one. The guides said: "Twenty-eight miles to Willow Grove Springs."
The command halted ten minutes every hour for rest, but the sun poured down upon us, and I was glad to stay in the ambulance. It was at these times that my thoughts turned back to the East and to the blue sea and the green fields of God's country. I looked out at the men, who were getting pretty well fagged, and at the young officers whose uniforms were white with dust, and Frau Weste's words about glaenzendes Elend came to my mind. I fell to thinking: was the army life, then, only "glittering misery," and had I come to participate in it?
Some of the old soldiers had given out, and had to be put on the army wagons. I was getting to look rather fagged and seedy, and was much annoyed at my appearance. Not being acquainted with the vicissitudes of the desert, I had not brought in my travelling-case a sufficient number of thin washbodices. The few I had soon became black beyond recognition, as the dust boiled (literally) up and into the ambulance and covered me from head to foot. But there was no help for it, and no one was much better off.
It was about that time that we began to see the outlines of a great mountain away to the left and north of us. It seemed to grow nearer and nearer, and fascinated our gaze.
Willow Grove Springs was reached at four o'clock and the small cluster of willow trees was most refreshing to our tired eyes. The next day's march was over a rolling country. We began to see grass, and to feel that, at last, we were out of the desert. The wonderful mountain still loomed up large and clear on our left. I thought of the old Spanish explorers and wondered if they came so far as this, when they journeyed through that part of our country three hundred years before. I wondered what beautiful and high-sounding name they might have given it. I wondered a good deal about that bare and isolated mountain, rising out of what seemed an endless waste of sand. I asked the driver if he knew the name of it: "That is Bill Williams' mountain, ma'am," he replied, and relapsed into his customary silence, which was unbroken except by an occasional remark to the wheelers or the leaders.
I thought of the Harz Mountains, which I had so recently tramped over, and the romantic names and legends connected with them, and I sighed to think such an imposing landmark as this should have such a prosaic name. I realized that Arizona was not a land of romance; and when Jack came to the ambulance, I said, "Don't you think it a pity that such monstrous things are allowed in America, as to call that great fine mountain 'Bill Williams' mountain'?"
"Why no," he said; "I suppose he discovered it, and I dare say he had a hard enough time before he got to it."
We camped at Fort Rock, and Lieutenant Bailey shot an antelope. It was the first game we had seen; our spirits revived a bit; the sight of green grass and trees brought new life to us.
Anvil Rock and old Camp Hualapais were our next two stopping places. We drove through groves of oaks, cedars and pines, and the days began hopefully and ended pleasantly. To be sure, the roads were very rough and our bones ached after a long day's travelling. But our tents were now pitched under tall pine trees and looked inviting. Soldiers have a knack of making a tent attractive.
"Madame, the Lieutenant's compliments, and your tent is ready."
I then alighted and found my little home awaiting me. The tent-flaps tied open, the mattresses laid, the blankets turned back, the camp-table with candle-stick upon it, and a couple of camp-chairs at the door of the tent. Surely it is good to be in the army I then thought; and after a supper consisting of soldiers' hot biscuit, antelope steak broiled over the coals, and a large cup of black coffee, I went to rest, listening to the soughing of the pines.
My mattress was spread always upon the ground, with a buffalo robe under it and a hair lariat around it, to keep off the snakes; as it is said they do not like to cross them. I found the ground more comfortable than the camp cots which were used by some of the officers, and most of the women.
The only Indians we had seen up to that time were the peaceful tribes of the Yumas, Cocopahs and Mojaves, who lived along the Colorado. We had not yet entered the land of the dread Apache.
The nights were now cool enough, and I never knew sweeter rest than came to me in the midst of those pine groves.
Our road was gradually turning southward, but for some days Bill Williams was the predominating feature of the landscape; turn whichever way we might, still this purple mountain was before us. It seemed to pervade the entire country, and took on such wonderful pink colors at sunset. Bill Williams held me in thrall, until the hills and valleys in the vicinity of Fort Whipple shut him out from my sight. But he seemed to have come into my life somehow, and in spite of his name, I loved him for the companionship he had given me during those long, hot, weary and interminable days.
About the middle of September, we arrived at American ranch, some ten miles from Fort Whipple, which was the headquarters station. Colonel Wilkins and his family left us, and drove on to their destination. Some officers of the Fifth Cavalry rode out to greet us, and Lieutenant Earl Thomas asked me to come into the post and rest a day or two at their house, as we then had learned that K Company was to march on to Camp Apache, in the far eastern part of the Territory.
We were now enabled to get some fresh clothing from our trunks, which were in the depths of the prairie-schooners, and all the officers' wives were glad to go into the post, where we were most kindly entertained. Fort Whipple was a very gay and hospitable post, near the town of Prescott, which was the capital city of Arizona. The country being mountainous and fertile, the place was very attractive, and I felt sorry that we were not to remain there. But I soon learned that in the army, regrets were vain. I soon ceased to ask myself whether I was sorry or glad at any change in our stations.
On the next day the troops marched in, and camped outside the post. The married officers were able to join their wives, and the three days we spent there were delightful. There was a dance given, several informal dinners, drives into the town of Prescott, and festivities of various kinds. General Crook commanded the Department of Arizona then; he was out on some expedition, but Mrs. Crook gave a pleasant dinner for us. After dinner, Mrs. Crook came and sat beside me, asked kindly about our long journey, and added: "I am truly sorry the General is away; I should like for him to meet you; you are just the sort of woman he likes." A few years afterwards I met the General, and remembering this remark, I was conscious of making a special effort to please. The indifferent courtesy with which he treated me, however, led me to think that women are often mistaken judges of their husband's tastes.
The officers' quarters at Fort Whipple were quite commodious, and after seven weeks' continuous travelling, the comforts which surrounded me at Mrs. Thomas' home seemed like the veriest luxuries. I was much affected by the kindness shown me by people I had never met before, and I kept wondering if I should ever have an opportunity to return their courtesies. "Don't worry about that, Martha," said Jack, "your turn will come."
He proved a true prophet, for sooner or later, I saw them all again, and was able to extend to them the hospitality of an army home. Nevertheless, my heart grows warm whenever I think of the people who first welcomed me to Arizona, me a stranger in the army, and in the great southwest as well.
At Fort Whipple we met also some people we had known at Fort Russell, who had gone down with the first detachment, among them Major and Mrs. Wilhelm, who were to remain at headquarters. We bade good-bye to the Colonel and his family, to the officers of F, who were to stay behind, and to our kind friends of the Fifth Cavalry.
We now made a fresh start, with Captain Ogilby in command. Two days took us into Camp Verde, which lies on a mesa above the river from which it takes its name.
Captain Brayton, of the Eight Infantry, and his wife, who were already settled at Camp Verde, received us and took the best care of us. Mrs. Brayton gave me a few more lessons in army house-keeping, and I could not have had a better teacher. I told her about Jack and the tinware; her bright eyes snapped, and she said: "Men think they know everything, but the truth is, they don't know anything; you go right ahead and have all the tinware and other things; all you can get, in fact; and when the time comes to move, send Jack out of the house, get a soldier to come in and pack you up, and say nothing about it."
"But the weight—"
"Fiddlesticks! They all say that; now you just not mind their talk, but take all you need, and it will get carried along, somehow."
Still another company left our ranks, and remained at Camp Verde. The command was now getting deplorably small, I thought, to enter an Indian country, for we were now to start for Camp Apache. Several routes were discussed, but, it being quite early in the autumn, and the Apache Indians being just then comparatively quiet, they decided to march the troops over Crook's Trail, which crossed the Mogollon range and was considered to be shorter than any other. It was all the same to me. I had never seen a map of Arizona, and never heard of Crook's Trail. Maps never interested me, and I had not read much about life in the Territories. At that time, the history of our savage races was a blank page to me. I had been listening to the stories of an old civilization, and my mind did not adjust itself readily to the new surroundings.
CHAPTER IX. ACROSS THE MOGOLLONS
It was a fine afternoon in the latter part of September, when our small detachment, with Captain Ogilby in command, marched out of Camp Verde. There were two companies of soldiers, numbering about a hundred men in all, five or six officers, Mrs. Bailey and myself, and a couple of laundresses. I cannot say that we were gay. Mrs. Bailey had said good-bye to her father and mother and sister at Fort Whipple, and although she was an army girl, she did not seem to bear the parting very philosophically. Her young child, nine months old, was with her, and her husband, as stalwart and handsome an officer as ever wore shoulder-straps. But we were facing unknown dangers, in a far country, away from mother, father, sister and brother—a country infested with roving bands of the most cruel tribe ever known, who tortured before they killed. We could not even pretend to be gay.
The travelling was very difficult and rough, and both men and animals were worn out by night. But we were now in the mountains, the air was cool and pleasant, and the nights so cold that we were glad to have a small stove in our tents to dress by in the mornings. The scenery was wild and grand; in fact, beyond all that I had ever dreamed of; more than that, it seemed so untrod, so fresh, somehow, and I do not suppose that even now, in the day of railroads and tourists, many people have had the view of the Tonto Basin which we had one day from the top of the Mogollon range.
I remember thinking, as we alighted from our ambulances and stood looking over into the Basin, "Surely I have never seen anything to compare with this—but oh! would any sane human being voluntarily go through with what I have endured on this journey, in order to look upon this wonderful scene?"
The roads had now become so difficult that our wagon-train could not move as fast as the lighter vehicles or the troops. Sometimes at a critical place in the road, where the ascent was not only dangerous, but doubtful, or there was, perhaps, a sharp turn, the ambulances waited to see the wagons safely over the pass. Each wagon had its six mules; each ambulance had also its quota of six.
At the foot of one of these steep places, the wagons would halt, the teamsters would inspect the road, and calculate the possibilities of reaching the top; then, furiously cracking their whips, and pouring forth volley upon volley of oaths, they would start the team. Each mule got its share of dreadful curses. I had never heard or conceived of any oaths like those. They made my blood fairly curdle, and I am not speaking figuratively. The shivers ran up and down my back, and I half expected to see those teamsters struck down by the hand of the Almighty.
For although the anathemas hurled at my innocent head, during the impressionable years of girlhood, by the pale and determined Congregational ministers with gold-bowed spectacles, who held forth in the meeting-house of my maternal ancestry (all honor to their sincerity), had taken little hold upon my mind, still, the vital drop of the Puritan was in my blood, and the fear of a personal God and His wrath still existed, away back in the hidden recesses of my heart.
This swearing and lashing went on until the heavily-loaded prairie-schooner, swaying, swinging, and swerving to the edge of the cut, and back again to the perpendicular wall of the mountain, would finally reach the top, and pass on around the bend; then another would do the same. Each teamster had his own particular variety of oaths, each mule had a feminine name, and this brought the swearing down to a sort of personal basis. I remonstrated with Jack, but he said: teamsters always swore; "the mules wouldn't even stir to go up a hill, if they weren't sworn at like that."
By the time we had crossed the great Mogollon mesa, I had become accustomed to those dreadful oaths, and learned to admire the skill, persistency and endurance shown by those rough teamsters. I actually got so far as to believe what Jack had told me about the swearing being necessary, for I saw impossible feats performed by the combination.
When near camp, and over the difficult places, we drove on ahead and waited for the wagons to come in. It was sometimes late evening before tents could be pitched and supper cooked. And oh! to see the poor jaded animals when the wagons reached camp! I could forget my own discomfort and even hunger, when I looked at their sad faces.
One night the teamsters reported that a six-mule team had rolled down the steep side of a mountain. I did not ask what became of the poor faithful mules; I do not know, to this day. In my pity and real distress over the fate of these patient brutes, I forgot to inquire what boxes were on the unfortunate wagon.
We began to have some shooting. Lieutenant Bailey shot a young deer, and some wild turkeys, and we could not complain any more of the lack of fresh food.
It did not surprise us to learn that ours was the first wagon-train to pass over Crook's Trail. For miles and miles the so-called road was nothing but a clearing, and we were pitched and jerked from side to side of the ambulance, as we struck large rocks or tree-stumps; in some steep places, logs were chained to the rear of the ambulance, to keep it from pitching forward onto the backs of the mules. At such places I got out and picked my way down the rocky declivity.
We now began to hear of the Apache Indians, who were always out, in either large or small bands, doing their murderous work.
One day a party of horseman tore past us at a gallop. Some of them raised their hats to us as they rushed past, and our officers recognized General Crook, but we could not, in the cloud of dust, distinguish officers from scouts. All wore the flannel shirt, handkerchief tied about the neck, and broad campaign hat.
After supper that evening, the conversation turned upon Indians in general, and Apaches in particular. We camped always at a basin, or a tank, or a hole, or a spring, or in some canon, by a creek. Always from water to water we marched. Our camp that night was in the midst of a primeval grove of tall pine trees; verily, an untrodden land. We had a big camp-fire, and sat around it until very late. There were only five or six officers, and Mrs. Bailey and myself.
The darkness and blackness of the place were uncanny. We all sat looking into the fire. Somebody said, "Injuns would not have such a big fire as that."