10 September 2012

Journal of a Missouri River Hunting Party

Journal of a Hunting Party,

Consisting of three Sergeants, two Corporals, and twenty-six Privates, under the command of Captains Martin and Shaler, who left Camp Council Bluffs, Oct. 13, 1820.

All things being in readiness, the little party moved off at 2 P.M., with those feelings of mirth, anticipated pleasure, and mutual good will, visible in the countenances of the silent, and difficult to restrain in the more noisy, which are only inspired by that thirst for novelty and love of adventure, which alone can induce the sportsman and explorer, so often, to incur hazards. Now wending over trackless prairies, now penetrating the unpathed forests, and now braving the current of the rapidly rushing stream — leaving the bed of down and pillow of sheltered repose, for a couch of leaves, deep in the wild woods over shadowed only by the blue celestial gauze of the canopy above, and unprotected from the peltings of the merciless storm save by the leaky thatch of the trees, or scanty covering of some hollow log — to encounter the wild howling of a hungry pack of wolves, the close hug of the dreaded bear, or some more fearful enemy, that they might recount their valorous conflicts, heroic exploits, and brilliant achievements, when surrounding in the years of after Life the more quiet domestic hearth; imbuing, perhaps, the minds of their children with a love and admiration of their prowess and encouraging to deeds of like daring, or by the relation of their hair breadth escapes striking sorrow and terror to their young and unsophisticated minds till it is seen in the glistening watery eye or tremulous shaking of the body. As I observed in the outset our party were of that good cheer; animated by that love of romance which only attends the footsteps of the hunstman, and which is so seldom satiated while in the pursuit of the chase.

Having a long journey before us, (designing an absence of some months) our purpose was to proceed slow and cautiously; not fretting at unavoidable delays and content to make the night, night, wherever its shaded wings over-spread us. Hence we quietly descended to an Indian trading establishment, a distance of seven miles, where we arrived at 4 o'clock and having some business of a private nature to transact, took up our abode until next morning, Saturday 14; when as early as the gilding of the eastern horizon by Aurora's harbinger, our little boat was again struggling amid the strong current, over which we had scarcely made eight miles before we were compelled to lay by for the remainder of the day, in consequence of high winds, which not unfrequently impeded our progress, as we afterwards found.

Sunday, 15. The wind still continuing to blow we determined not to leave our moorings, and detached a small party for game who returned in the evening, bringing in 2 deer, 1 turkey, 16 ducks and 4 plover.

Monday, 16. The morning being fine, all hands were once more in motion, and ere the setting of the sun, we had made eighteen miles.

17. After having increased our distance seventeen miles, the wind spring up, we came to at 3 P.M. and sent out four men who returned bringing in 8 turkies.

18. Wind being still high, we did not attempt to move. The day ended in the killing of 4 deer and 8 turkeys.

19. Left our encampment at the break of day and after running four miles on a host of snags and sawyers our boat struck one which lay concealed under the water with so much force as to spring a leak and render it quite difficult to reach the shore; so that this day ended with the killing of 1 deer, 3 turkeys — and only three miles additional distance on our journey.

20. Having got our boat again in a seaworthy condition we started about 8 o'clock, and the day being exceedingly fine cut off about forty-five miles and hauled up for the night.

21. This morning a dense fog, depressing our spirits by its gloomy mists, as an excess of ease and sleep overcomes the dull senses of an indolent, drowsy man, prevented our getting off later than our usual hour. After going, however, six miles, we halted for a late breakfast, and some of our men going out for a little recreation, by way of strengthening the palate, returned with 5 turkies — after which we proceeded on till we arrived about 2 P.M. at Targneo: where we had designed to remain for a few days. But being disappointed in the scarcity of game, with the intuitive perception of the sagacious sportsmen soon discovered that we should neither feather our bed with the down, clothe ourselves with the skins, or supply the hungry man of a gnawing appetite with wild game at this place.

Accordingly, on Monday 23, we dropped down four miles further; sent out all our men but ten, who returned after a short absence with the bountiful supply of 11 deer and 5 turkies. Nothing transpired here for several days except the taking of some additional game each day.

On Saturday, 28, we had again left our encampment, and were proceeding as usual on our way, filing off now to the left, then to the right, through and over snags and sawyers, as thick as they were dangerous, when we unfortunately, for the second time gave our little barque a most fearful wretching, and were saved from filling with water only by the redoubled effort of our men — who succeeded after much difficulty in getting it ashore, where we detained some hours in making good the damages; after which we again embarked and reached Nodaway without further vexations accidents. This was another intended point of temporary delay. We were here joined by a party of our men who had been left to proceed by land, and who came in well burthened with game.

29. Early this morning sent out two parties of five men each to explore the country, and to be absent 3 or 4 days. — Captains Martin and Shaler were here desirous of displaying their sportsmanship, and armed cap a pie, they sallied forth to test their skill in decoying the timid deer and still wilder turkey, but from their ill success, returned, evincing by trustful looks the conviction, that if better drilled in military discipline than their subordinates, they were at most not superior in the subtle craft of the huntsman. Game, however, seems very abundant and promises excellent sport to all whose organ of destructiveness takes pleasure in seeing the warm heart's blood flow. — As yet it is not determined whether we continue further on our journey or make this our winter quarters.

30. Capt. Shaler went out again this morning, and as if to redeem himself from the chagrin of yesterday, returned well laden with ducks, 7 of which he says were killed at one shot. — 2 deer were taken today.

31. The exploring parties detached a few days since, returned this evening with 18 deer. One of the parties report that a large company of Indians are approaching; we shall probably see them in the morning. This is their hunting ground, and we are under serious apprehensions that our occupancy of it will excite their jealousy.

Wednesday, November 1st, after due advisement we have concluded to establish ourselves here permanently for the winter, and have this day commenced the erection of Log Hunts on which our men will be employed until completed.

4. Our winter lodges are rapidly progressing and already begin to wear an air of comfort for which the courtly mansion and pampered appetite of its courtly lord might be well exchanged to engage in the buxom, healthful sport of the chase. This evening a scouting party sent out a few days since, returned with 17 deer — two other companies were ordered out this morning. The Indians of whom we received the report on the 31st, have not yet made their appearance.

7. The morning has dawned beautifully after a night in which was so fearfully exhibited the terrific grandeur of the angry elements. The thunder and lightning of last night spoke louder for the natural world, in a single hour, than all the artificial manufactured by the pelting officers of earth since its creation. 2 deer taken to-day.

9. The party that was sent out on the 4th inst. returned last night, burdened with 26 deer and one bear. An Indian of the Kanzas tribe accompanied them in, and says there are thirty of his tribe hunting on the opposite side of the river. He gives us every assurance of friendship. Reloaded our boat this morning, and with a part of our company descended the river for a short excursion — shall probably be absent for two or three days. Before leaving another party was sent up the Nodaway.

10. Last night snow fell to the depth of three or four inches and this morning the scene is as wintry as a Laplander could desire. The trees are festooned with icicles and snow covers the face of the land as ice in part does that of the waters, and every thing around and beneath us, seems so much like a northern winter, that the scenes of home and the society of neighbors, might be realized in part without a journey either to Norway or Sweden.

12. Returned back to camp this evening; the weather still continues of the frigid order.

13. An absent party brought us in an additional supply of 10 deer, and 3 others were killed during the day by Captains Martin and Shaler. The weather yet remains uncomfortably cold. Two other companies have gone out to-day.

15. Captain Shaler set out his morning, accompanied by two men, for Council Bluffs. A company who have been absent for a day or two returned with 18 deer, and 5 more were killed by Capt. Martin.

18. The two parties that went out on the 13th inst. returned to-day bringing 28 deer : a larger number than has been brought in at any one time before. Large herds of elk have been seen within the last few days, one of which was wounded by Corporal Wilson, but escaped.

Monday 20. Three lodges of Indians passing themselves for the Ottoes, arrived and encamped last night on the opposite of the Nodawa, they wish to make themselves very friendly, but the old proverb is, "a modest distrust is the parent of serenity." Their horses have been turned to pasture among the rushes on the island — this indicates a protracted stay, which it is feared will disparage our hunting pleasures — their intentions, however, toward us are yet to be known.

22. This morning our spying neighbors, the Indians, very unceremoniously struck their wigwams and decamped giving us indubitable evidence of the legerdemain, by leaving us minus several knives, tomahawks, &c. &c., in despite of the injunction which had been levied for the united vigilance of all hands. They even attempted to carry off Capt. Shaler's young and favorite dog, Nimrod, but being pursued this dog was secured, which is esteemed of no little value, but less from the celebrity of his name, than from his other general good qualities. Another of our hunting parties came in this evening, bringing a respectable portion of game, and report that like the fable of the hungry flies sapping poor Reynards best blood, we are about to be visited again by some of natures rude natured men, in whom the organ of truce and concretion, to call it by no harsher name, however defective in its development, is in no particular deficient in size, as we have already had ocular demonstration.

23. Another of our parties returned to-day with 11 deer, and say they have suffered the loss of one over-coat, two pairs of shoes, leggins, &c. &c., through the thieving propensities of the same band that had similarly visited us.

December 1. Nothing worthy of record has transpired for some days; we are in the daily receipt of a full supply of game. Last night 23 deer were brought in, and to-day our camp is stored with 29 more. Kerr and Rogers, two of our men, arrived yesterday from the Bluffs, and will depart in the morning for St. Louis. — We are receiving additional proof this evening that winter is upon us in good earnest; for while I write the aqueous particles congealed until their very substance is exhausted, are falling thick and fast, and I am not unwilling to admit that the ardor of our first pursuit is fast subsiding before the terrors of a dreary winter. Already has the longing for the more comfortable rooms of our proper military posts, as depicted in the countenances of our men taken the place of the first earnestness of the chase; and which plainly indicates that novelty interests only while new, and that too much of a good thing may lead to a surfeit, which is little better than to starve with nothing.

So by this time you are left to the conclusion that your journalist is

No Sportsman.
April 2, 1844. Green Bay Republican 3(25): 1. Written for the Green Bay Republican.

The bird records in this text were added to a bird database, using a historic, Lewis and Clark era map of the Missouri River to determine approximate locations. This article was an exiting find because of its date and place and since it has not been previously known for the chronicles associated with old-time bird history for Nebraska.

The first post created at what became the Engineer Cantonment was called Cantonment Martin, after Captain Wyly Martin.