Read CHAPTER II of The Prairie Traveler A Hand-book for Overland Expeditions , free online book, by Randolph Marcy, on

Marching. Treatment of Animals. Water. Different methods of finding and purifying it. Journadas. Methods of crossing them. Advance and Rear Guards. Selection of Camp. Sanitary Considerations. Dr. Jackson’s Report. Picket Guards. Stampedes. How to prevent them. Corraling Wagons.


The success of a long expedition through an unpopulated country depends mainly on the care taken of the animals, and the manner in which they are driven, herded, and guarded. If they are broken down or lost, every thing must be sacrificed, and the party becomes perfectly helpless.

The great error into which inexperienced travelers are liable to fall, and which probably occasions more suffering and disaster than almost any thing else, lies in overworking their cattle at the commencement of the journey. To obviate this, short and easy drives should be made until the teams become habituated to their work, and gradually inured to this particular method of traveling. If animals are overloaded and overworked when they first start out into the prairies, especially if they have recently been taken from grain, they soon fall away, and give out before reaching the end of the journey.

Grass and water are abundant and good upon the eastern portions of all the different overland routes; animals should not, therefore, with proper care, fall away in the least before reaching the mountains, as west of them are long stretches where grass and water are scarce, and it requires the full amount of strength and vigor of animals in good condition to endure the fatigues and hard labor attendant upon the passage of these deserts. Drivers should be closely watched, and never, unless absolutely necessary, permitted to beat their animals, or to force them out of a walk, as this will soon break down the best teams. Those teamsters who make the least use of the whip invariably keep their animals in the best condition. Unless the drivers are checked at the outset, they are very apt to fall into the habit of flogging their teams. It is not only wholly unnecessary but cruel, and should never be tolerated.

In traveling with ox teams in the summer season, great benefit will be derived from making early marches; starting with the dawn, and making a “nooning” during the heat of the day, as oxen suffer much from the heat of the sun in midsummer. These noon halts should, if possible, be so arranged as to be near grass and water, where the animals can improve their time in grazing. When it gets cool they may be hitched to the wagons again, and the journey continued in the afternoon. Sixteen or eighteen miles a day may thus be made without injury to the beasts, and longer drives can never be expedient, unless in order to reach grass or water. When the requisites for encamping can not be found at the desired intervals, it is better for the animals to make a very long drive than to encamp without water or grass. The noon halt in such cases may be made without water, and the evening drive lengthened.


The scarcity of water upon some of the routes across the plains occasionally exposes the traveler to intense suffering, and renders it a matter of much importance for him to learn the best methods of guarding against the disasters liable to occur to men and animals in the absence of this most necessary element.

In mountainous districts water can generally be found either in springs, the dry beds of streams, or in holes in the rocks, where they are sheltered from rapid evaporation. For example, in the Hueco tanks, thirty miles east of El Paso, New Mexico, upon the Fort Smith road, where there is an immense reservoir in a cave, water can always be found. This reservoir receives the drainage of a mountain.

During a season of the year when there are occasional showers, water will generally be found in low places where there is a substratum of clay, but after the dry season has set in these pools evaporate, and it is necessary to dig wells. The lowest spots should be selected for this purpose when the grass is green and the surface earth moist.

In searching for water along the dry sandy beds of streams, it is well to try the earth with a stick or ramrod, and if this indicates moisture water will generally be obtained by excavation. Streams often sink in light and porous sand, and sometimes make their appearance again lower down, where the bed is more tenacious; but it is a rule with prairie travelers, in searching for water in a sandy country, to ascend the streams, and the nearer their sources are approached the more water will be found in a dry season.

Where it becomes necessary to sink a well in a stream the bed of which is quicksand, a flour-barrel, perforated with small holes, should be used as a curb, to prevent the sand from caving in. The barrel must be forced down as the sand is removed; and when, as is often the case, there is an undercurrent through the sand, the well will be continually filled with water.

There are many indications of water known to old campaigners, although none of them are absolutely infallible. The most certain of them are deep green cottonwood or willow trees growing in depressed localities; also flags, water-rushes, tall green grass, etc.

The fresh tracks and trails of animals converging toward a common centre, and the flight of birds and water-fowl toward the same points, will also lead to water. In a section frequented by deer or mustangs, it may be certain that water is not far distant, as these animals drink daily, and they will not remain long in a locality after the water has dried up. Deer generally go to water during the middle of the day, but birds toward evening.

A supply of drinking water may be obtained during a shower from the drippings of a tent, or by suspending a cloth or blanket by the four corners and hanging a small weight to the centre, so as to allow all the rain to run toward one point, from whence it drops into a vessel beneath. India-rubber, gutta-percha, or painted canvas cloths answer a very good purpose for catching water during a rain, but they should be previously well washed, to prevent them from imparting a bad taste.

When there are heavy dews water may be collected by spreading out a blanket with a stick attached to one end, tying a rope to it, dragging it over the grass, and wringing out the water as it accumulates. In some parts of Australia this method is practiced.

In traversing the country upon the head waters of Red River during the summer of 1852, we suffered most severely from thirst, having nothing but the acrid and bitter waters from the river, which, issuing from a gypsum formation, was highly charged with salts, and, when taken into the stomach, did not quench thirst in the slightest degree, but, on the contrary, produced a most painful and burning sensation, accompanied with diarrhoea. During the four days that we were compelled to drink this water the thermometer rose to 104 deg. in the shade, and the only relief we found was from bathing in the river.

The use of water is a matter of habit, very much within our control, as by practice we may discipline ourselves so as to require but a small amount. Some persons, for example, who place no restraint upon their appetites, will, if they can get it, drink water twenty times a day, while others will not perhaps drink more than once or twice during the same time. I have found a very effectual preventive to thirst by drinking a large quantity of water before breakfast, and, on feeling thirsty on the march, chewing a small green twig or leaf.

Water taken from stagnant pools, charged with putrid vegetable matter and animalculae, would be very likely to generate fevers and dysenteries if taken into the stomach without purification. It should therefore be thoroughly boiled, and all the scum removed from the surface as it rises; this clarifies it, and by mixing powdered charcoal with it the disinfecting process is perfected. Water may also be purified by placing a piece of alum in the end of a stick that has been split, and stirring it around in a bucket of water. Charcoal and the leaves of the prickly pear are also used for the same purpose. I have recently seen a compact and portable filter, made of charcoal, which clarifies the water very effectually, and draws it off on the siphon principle. It can be obtained at 85 West Street, New York, for one dollar and a half. Water may be partially filtered in a muddy pond by taking a barrel and boring the lower half full of holes, then filling it up with grass or moss above the upper holes, after which it is placed in the pond with the top above the surface. The water filters through the grass or moss, and rises in the barrel to a level with the pond. Travelers frequently drink muddy water by placing a cloth or handkerchief over the mouth of a cup to catch the larger particles of dirt and animalculae.

Water may be cooled so as to be quite palatable by wrapping cloths around the vessels containing it, wetting them, and hanging them in the air, where a rapid evaporation will be produced. Some of the frontier-men use a leathern sack for carrying water: this is porous, and allows the necessary evaporation without wetting.

The Arabs also use a leathern bottle, which they call zemsemiyah. When they are en route they hang it on the shady side of a camel, where the evaporation keeps the water continually cool.

No expedition should ever set out into the plains without being supplied with the means for carrying water, especially in an unknown region. If wooden kegs are used they must frequently be looked after, and soaked, in order that they may not shrink and fall to pieces. Men, in marching in a hot climate, throw off a great amount of perspiration from the skin, and require a corresponding quantity of water to supply the deficiency, and unless they get this they suffer greatly. When a party makes an expedition into a desert section, where there is a probability of finding no water, and intend to return over the same track, it is well to carry water as far as convenient, and bury it in the ground for use on the return trip.

“Captain Sturt, when he explored Australia, took a tank in his cart, which burst, and, besides that, he carried casks of water. By these he was enabled to face a desert country with a success which no traveler had ever attained to. For instance, when returning homeward, the water was found to be drying up from the country on all sides of him. He was at a pool, and the next stage was 118 miles, at the end of which it was doubtful if there remained any water. It was necessary to send to reconnoitre, and to furnish the messenger with means of returning should the pool be found dry. He killed a bullock, skinned it, and, filling the skin with water (which held 150 gallons), sent it by an ox dray 30 miles, with orders to bury it and to return. Shortly after he dispatched a light one-horse cart, carrying 36 gallons of water; the horse and man were to drink at the hide and go on. Thus they had 36 gallons to supply them for a journey of 176 miles, or six days at 30 miles a day, at the close of which they would return to the ox hide sleeping, in fact, five nights on 36 gallons of water. This a hardy, well-driven horse could do, even in the hottest climate."


In some localities 50 or 60 miles, and even greater distances, are frequently traversed without water; these long stretches are called by the Mexicans “journadas,” or day’s journeys. There is one in New Mexico called Journada del Muerto, which is 78-1/2 miles in length, where, in a dry season, there is not a drop of water; yet, with proper care, this drive can be made with ox or mule teams, and without loss or injury to the animals.

On arriving at the last camping-ground before entering upon the journada, all the animals should be as well rested and refreshed as possible. To insure this, they must be turned out upon the best grass that can be found, and allowed to eat and drink as much as they desire during the entire halt. Should the weather be very warm, and the teams composed of oxen, the march should not be resumed until it begins to cool in the afternoon. They should be carefully watered just previous to being hitched up and started out upon the journada, the water-kegs having been previously filled. The drive is then commenced, and continued during the entire night, with 10 or 15 minutes rest every two hours. About daylight a halt should be made, and the animals immediately turned out to graze for two hours, during which time, especially if there is dew upon the grass, they will have become considerably refreshed, and may be put to the wagons again and driven until the heat becomes oppressive toward noon, when they are again turned out upon a spot where the grass is good, and, if possible, where there are shade trees. About four o’clock P.M. they are again started, and the march continued into the night, and as long as they can be driven without suffering. If, however, there should be dew, which is seldom the case on the plains, it would be well to turn out the animals several times during the second night, and by morning, if they are in good condition, the journada of 70 or 80 miles will have been passed without any great amount of suffering. I am supposing, in this case, that the road is firm and free from sand.

Many persons have been under the impression that animals, in traversing the plains, would perform better and keep in better condition by allowing them to graze in the morning before commencing the day’s march, which involves the necessity of making late starts, and driving during the heat of the day. The same persons have been of the opinion that animals will graze only at particular hours; that the remainder of the day must be allowed them for rest and sleep, and that, unless these rules be observed, they would not thrive. This opinion is, however, erroneous, as animals will in a few days adapt themselves to any circumstances, so far as regards their hours of labor, rest, and refreshment. If they have been accustomed to work at particular periods of the day, and the order of things is suddenly reversed, the working hours changed into hours of rest, and vice versa, they may not do as well for a short time, but they will soon accustom themselves to the change, and eat and rest as well as before. By making early drives during the summer months the heat of the day is avoided, whereas, I repeat, if allowed to graze before starting, the march can not commence until it grows warm, when animals, especially oxen, will suffer greatly from the heat of the sun, and will not do as well as when the other plan is pursued.

Oxen upon a long journey will sometimes wear down their hoofs and become lame. When this occurs, a thick piece of raw hide wrapped around the foot and tied firmly to the leg will obviate the difficulty, provided the weather is not wet; for if so, the shoe soon wears out. Mexican and Indian horses and mules will make long journeys without being shod, as their hoofs are tough and elastic, and wear away very gradually; they will, however, in time become very smooth, making it difficult for them to travel upon grass.

A train of wagons should always be kept closed upon a march; and if, as often happens, a particular wagon gets out of order and is obliged to halt, it should be turned out of the road, to let the others pass while the injury is being repaired. As soon as the broken wagon is in order, it should fall into the line wherever it happens to be. In the event of a wagon breaking down so as to require important repairs, men should be immediately dispatched with the necessary tools and materials, which should be placed in the train where they can readily be got at, and a guard should be left to escort the wagon to camp after having been repaired. If, however, the damage be so serious as to require any great length of time to repair it, the load should be transferred to other wagons, so that the team which is left behind will be able to travel rapidly and overtake the train.

If the broken wagon is a poor one, and there be abundance of better ones, the accident being such as to involve much delay for its repair, it may be wise to abandon it, taking from it such parts as may possibly be wanted in repairing other wagons.


A few men, well mounted, should constitute the advance and rear guards for each train of wagons passing through the Indian country. Their duty will be to keep a vigilant look-out in all directions, and to reconnoitre places where Indians would be likely to lie in ambush. Should hostile Indians be discovered, the fact should be at once reported to the commander, who (if he anticipates an attack) will rapidly form his wagons into a circle or “corral,” with the animals toward the centre, and the men on the inside, with their arms in readiness to repel an attack from without. If these arrangements be properly attended to, few parties of Indians will venture to make an attack, as they are well aware that some of their warriors might pay with their lives the forfeit of such indiscretion.

I know an instance where one resolute man, pursued for several days by a large party of Comanches on the Santa Fe trace, defended himself by dismounting and pointing his rifle at the foremost whenever they came near him, which always had the effect of turning them back. This was repeated so often that the Indians finally abandoned the pursuit, and left the traveler to pursue his journey without farther molestation. During all this time he did not discharge his rifle; had he done so he would doubtless have been killed.


The security of animals, and, indeed, the general safety of a party, in traveling through a country occupied by hostile Indians, depends greatly upon the judicious selection of camps. One of the most important considerations that should influence the choice of a locality is its capability for defense. If the camp be pitched beside a stream, a concave bend, where the water is deep, with a soft alluvial bed inclosed by high and abrupt banks, will be the most defensible, and all the more should the concavity form a peninsula. The advantages of such a position are obvious to a soldier’s eye, as that part of the encampment inclosed by the stream is naturally secure, and leaves only one side to be defended. The concavity of the bend will enable the defending party to cross its fire in case of attack from the exposed side. The bend of the stream will also form an excellent corral in which to secure animals from a stampede, and thereby diminish the number of sentinels needful around the camp. In herding animals at night within the bend of a stream, a spot should be selected where no clumps of brush grow on the side where the animals are posted. If thickets of brush can not be avoided, sentinels should be placed near them, to guard against Indians, who might take advantage of this cover to steal animals, or shoot them down with arrows, before their presence were known.

In camping away from streams, it is advisable to select a position in which one or more sides of the encampment shall rest upon the crest of an abrupt hill or bluff. The prairie Indians make their camps upon the summits of the hills, whence they can see in all directions, and thus avoid a surprise.

The line of tents should be pitched on that side of the camp most exposed to attack, and sentinels so posted that they may give alarm in time for the main body to rally and prepare for defense.


When camping near rivers and lakes surrounded by large bodies of timber and a luxuriant vegetation, which produces a great amount of decomposition and consequent exhalations of malaria, it is important to ascertain what localities will be the least likely to generate disease, and to affect the sanitary condition of men occupying them.

This subject has been thoroughly examined by Dr. Robert Johnson, Inspector General of Hospitals in the English army in 1845; and, as his conclusions are deduced from enlarged experience and extended research, they should have great weight. I shall therefore make no apology for introducing here a few extracts from his interesting report touching upon this subject:

“It is consonant with the experience of military people, in all ages and in all countries, that camp diseases most abound near the muddy banks of large rivers, near swamps and ponds, and on grounds which have been recently stripped of their woods. The fact is precise, but it has been set aside to make way for an opinion. It was assumed, about half a century since, by a celebrated army physician, that camp diseases originated from causes of putrefaction, and that putrefaction is connected radically with a stagnant condition of the air.

“As streams of air usually proceed along rivers with more certainty and force than in other places, and as there is evidently a more certain movement of air, that is, more wind on open grounds than among woods and thickets, this sole consideration, without any regard to experience, influenced opinion, gave currency to the destructive maxim that the banks of rivers, open grounds, and exposed heights are the most eligible situations for the encampment of troops. They are the best ventilated; they must, if the theory be true, be the most healthy.

“The fact is the reverse; but, demonstrative as the fact may be, fashion has more influence than multiplied examples of fact experimentally proved. Encampments are still formed in the vicinity of swamps, or on grounds which are newly cleared of their woods, in obedience to theory, and contrary to fact.

“It is prudent, as now said, in selecting ground for encampment, to avoid the immediate vicinity of swamps and rivers. The air is there noxious; but, as its influence thence originating does not extend beyond a certain limit, it is a matter of some importance to ascertain to what distance it does extend; because, if circumstances do not permit that the encampment be removed out of its reach, prudence directs that remedies be applied to weaken the force of its pernicious impressions.

“The remedies consist in the interposition of rising grounds, woods, or such other impediments as serve to break the current in its progress from the noxious source. It is an obvious fact, that the noxious cause, or the exhalation in which it is enveloped, ascends as it traverses the adjacent plain, and that its impression is augmented by the adventitious force with which it strikes upon the subject of its action.

“It is thus that a position of three hundred paces from the margin of a swamp, on a level with the swamp itself, or but moderately elevated, is less unhealthy than one at six hundred on the same line of direction on an exposed height. The cause here strikes fully in its ascent; and as the atmosphere has a more varied temperature, and the succussions of the air are more irregular on the height than on the plain, the impression is more forcible, and the noxious effect more strongly marked. In accord with this principle, it is almost uniformly true, coeteris paribus, that diseases are more common, at least more violent, in broken, irregular, and hilly countries, where the temperature is liable to sudden changes, and where blasts descend with fury from the mountains, than in large and extensive inclined plains under the action of equal and gentle breezes only.

“From this fact it becomes an object of the first consideration, in selecting ground for encampment, to guard against the impression of strong winds on their own account, independently of their proceeding from swamps, rivers, and noxious soils.

“It is proved by experience, in armies as in civil life, that injury does not often result from simple wetting with rain when the person is fairly exposed in the open air, and habitually inured to the contingencies of weather. Irregular troops, which act in the advanced line of armies, and which have no other shelter from weather than a hedge or tree, rarely experience sickness never, at least, the sickness which proceeds from contagion; hence it is inferred that the shelter of tents is not necessary for the preservation of health. Irregular troops, with contingent shelter only, are comparatively healthy, while sickness often rages with violence in the same scene, among those who have all the protection against the inclemencies of weather which can be furnished by canvas. The fact is verified by experience, and the cause of it is not of difficult explanation. When the earth is damp, the action of heat on its surface occasions the interior moisture to ascend. The heat of the bodies of a given number of men, confined within a tent of a given dimension, raises the temperature within the tent beyond the temperature of the common air outside the tent. The ascent of moisture is thus encouraged, generally by a change of temperature in the tent, and more particularly by the immediate or near contact of the heated bodies of the men with the surface of the earth. Moisture, as exhaled from the earth, is considered by observers of fact to be a cause which acts injuriously on health. Produced artificially by the accumulation of individuals in close tents, it may reasonably be supposed to produce its usual effects on armies. A cause of contagious influence, of fatal effect, is thus generated by accumulating soldiers in close and crowded tents, under the pretext of defending them from the inclemencies of the weather; and hence it is that the means which are provided for the preservation of health are actually the causes of destruction of life.

“There are two causes which more evidently act upon the health of troops in the field than any other, namely, moisture exhaled direct from the surface of the earth in undue quantity, and emanations of a peculiar character arising from diseased action in the animal system in a mass of men crowded together. These are principal, and they are important. The noxious effects may be obviated, or rather the noxious cause will not be generated, under the following arrangement, namely, a carpet of painted canvas for the floor of the tent; a tent with a light roof, as defense against perpendicular rain or the rays of a vertical sun; and with side walls of moderate height, to be employed only against driving rains. To the first there can be no objection: it is useful, as preventing the exhalations of moisture from the surface of the earth; it is convenient, as always ready; and it is economical, as less expensive than straw. It requires to be fresh painted only once a year.”

The effect of crowding men together in close quarters, illy ventilated, was shown in the prisons of Hindostan, where at one time, when the English held sway, they had, on an average, 40,000 natives in confinement; and this unfortunate population was every year liberated by death in proportions varying from 4000 to 10,000. The annual average mortality by crowded and unventilated barracks in the English army has sometimes been enormous, as at Barrackpore, where it seldom fell far short of one tenth; that is to say, its garrisons were every year decimated by fever or cholera, while the officers and other inhabitants, who lived in well-ventilated houses, did not find the place particularly unhealthy.

The same fact of general exemption among the officers, and complete exemption among their wives, was observed in the marching regiments, which lost by cholera from one tenth to one sixth of the enlisted men, who were packed together at night ten and twelve in a tent, with the thermometer at 96 deg.. The dimensions of the celebrated Black Hole of Calcutta where in 1756, 123 prisoners out of 140 died by carbonic acid in one night was but eighteen feet square, and with but two small windows. Most of the twenty-three who survived until morning were seized with putrid fever and died very soon afterward.

On the 1st of December, 1848, 150 deck passengers of the steamer Londonderry were ordered below by the captain and the hatches closed upon them: seventy were found dead the next morning.

The streams which intersect our great prairies have but a very sparse growth of wood or vegetation upon their banks, so that one of the fundamental causes for the generation of noxious malaria does not, to any great extent, exist here, and I believe that persons may encamp with impunity directly upon their banks.


When a party is sufficiently strong, a picket guard should be stationed during the night some two or three hundred yards in advance of the point which is most open to assault, and on low ground, so that an enemy approaching over the surrounding higher country can be seen against the sky, while the sentinel himself is screened from observation. These sentinels should not be allowed to keep fires, unless they are so placed that they can not be seen from a distance.

During the day the pickets should be posted on the summits of the highest éminences in the vicinity of camp, with instructions to keep a vigilant lookout in all directions; and, if not within hailing distance, they should be instructed to give some well-understood telegraphic signals to inform those in camp when there is danger. For example, should Indians be discovered approaching at a great distance, they may raise their caps upon the muzzles of their pieces, and at the same time walk around in a circle; while, if the Indians are near and moving rapidly, the sentinel may swing his cap and run around rapidly in a circle. To indicate the direction from which the Indians are approaching, he may direct his piece toward them, and walk in the same line of direction.

Should the pickets suddenly discover a party of Indians very near, and with the apparent intention of making an attack, they should fire their pieces to give the alarm to the camp.

These telegraphic signals, when well understood and enforced, will tend greatly to facilitate the communication of intelligence throughout the camp, and conduce much to its security.

The picket guards should receive minute and strict orders regarding their duties under all circumstances, and these orders should be distinctly understood by every one in the camp, so that no false alarms will be created. All persons, with the exception of the guards and herders, should after dark be confined to the limits of the chain of sentinels, so that, if any one is seen approaching from without these limits, it will be known that they are strangers.

As there will not often be occasion for any one to pass the chain of pickets during the night, it is a good rule (especially if the party is small), when a picket sentinel discovers any one lurking about his post from without, if he has not himself been seen, to quietly withdraw and report the fact to the commander, who can wake his men and make his arrangements to repel an attack and protect his animals. If, however, the man upon the picket has been seen, he should distinctly challenge the approaching party, and if he receives no answer, fire, and retreat to camp to report the fact.

It is of the utmost importance that picket guards should be wide awake, and allow nothing to escape their observation, as the safety of the whole camp is involved. During a dark night a man can see better himself, and is less exposed to the view of others, when in a sitting posture than when standing up or moving about. I would therefore recommend this practice for night pickets.

Horses and mules (especially the latter), whose senses of hearing and smelling are probably more acute than those of almost any other animals, will discover any thing strange or unusual about camp much sooner than a man. They indicate this by turning in the direction from whence the object is approaching, holding their heads erect, projecting their ears forward, and standing in a fixed and attentive attitude. They exhibit the same signs of alarm when a wolf or other wild animal approaches the camp; but it is always wise, when they show fear in this manner, to be on the alert till the cause is ascertained.

Mules are very keenly sensitive to danger, and, in passing along over the prairies, they will often detect the proximity of strangers long before they are discovered by their riders. Nothing seems to escape their observation; and I have heard of several instances where they have given timely notice of the approach of hostile Indians, and thus prevented stampedes.

Dogs are sometimes good sentinels, but they often sleep sound, and are not easily awakened on the approach of an enemy.

In marching with large force, unless there is a guide who knows the country, a small party should always be sent in advance to search for good camping-places, and these parties should be dispatched early enough to return and meet the main command in the event of not finding a camping-place within the limits of the day’s march. A regiment should average upon the prairies, where the roads are good, about eighteen miles a day, but, if necessary, it can make 25 or even 30 miles. The advance party should therefore go as far as the command can march, provided the requisites for camping are not found within that distance. The article of first importance in campaigning is grass, the next water, and the last fuel.

It is the practice of most persons traveling with large ox trains to select their camps upon the summit of a hill, where the surrounding country in all directions can be seen. Their cattle are then continually within view from the camp, and can be guarded easily.

When a halt is made the wagons are “corraled,” as it is called, by bringing the two front ones near and parallel to each other. The two next are then driven up on the outside of these, with the front wheels of the former touching the rear wheels of the latter, the rear of the wagons turned out upon the circumference of the circle that is being formed, and so on until one half the circle is made, when the rear of the wagons are turned in to complete the circle. An opening of about twenty yards should be left between the last two wagons for animals to pass in and out of the corral, and this may be closed with two ropes stretched between the wagons. Such a corral forms an excellent and secure barricade against Indian attacks, and a good inclosure for cattle while they are being yoked; indeed, it is indispensable.


Inclosures are made in the same manner for horses and mules, and, in case of an attempt to stampede them, they should be driven with all possible dispatch into the corral, where they will be perfectly secure. A “stampede” is more to be dreaded upon the plains than almost any disaster that can happen. It not unfrequently occurs that very many animals are irretrievably lost in this way, and the objects of an expedition thus defeated.

The Indians are perfectly familiar with the habits and disposition of horses and mules, and with the most effectual methods of terrifying them. Previous to attempting a stampede, they provide themselves with rattles and other means for making frightful noises; thus prepared, they approach as near the herds as possible without being seen, and suddenly, with their horses at full speed, rush in among them, making the most hideous and unearthly screams and noises to terrify them, and drive them off before their astonished owners are able to rally and secure them.

As soon as the animals are started the Indians divide their party, leaving a portion to hurry them off rapidly, while the rest linger some distance in the rear, to resist those who may pursue them.

Horses and mules will sometimes, especially in the night, become frightened and stampeded from very slight causes. A wolf or a deer passing through a herd will often alarm them, and cause them to break away in the most frantic manner. Upon one occasion in the Choctaw country, my entire herd of about two hundred horses and mules all stampeded in the night, and scattered over the country for many miles, and it was several days before I succeeded in collecting them together. The alarm occurred while the herders were walking among the animals, and without any perceptible cause. The foregoing facts go to show how important it is at all times to keep a vigilant guard over animals. In the vicinity of hostile Indians, where an attack may be anticipated, several good horses should be secured in such positions that they will continually be in readiness for an emergency of this kind. The herdsmen should have their horses in hand, saddled and bridled, and ready at an instant’s notice to spring upon their backs and drive the herds into camp. As soon as it is discovered that the animals have taken fright, the herdsmen should use their utmost endeavors to turn them in the direction of the camp, and this can generally be accomplished by riding the bell mare in front of the herd, and gradually turning her toward it, and slackening her speed as the familiar objects about the camp come in sight. This usually tends to quiet their alarm.