I MARRIED A SOLDIER (part 8)

We had traveled along the Arkansas for  several days before we forded it. There was once an old trading-post on the river known as “Bent’s Fort.” I recollect seeing a man about the place who had been more than scalped by the Indians. It was seldom that one survived that operation, but this fellow was an exception, and was lively enough, although his head was still bandaged. His recovery was almost miraculous, for the whole skin had been torn from his head, from ear to ear, back and front.  I take it he hoped to live to meet his red brethren again, that he might do unto them as they had done unto him. There was not much love in those days between a frontiersman and an Indian, and there is not a great deal even now. As we approached New Mexico a certain unrest seemed to take hold of everybody, and there was a good deal of excitement visible as the old, well-known points of interest rose up before us. Fisher’s Peak was one that I loved, and is near the now flourishing town of Trinidad, Colorado. We remember when there was but one house in the place. Our recollections of that little Mexican jacal are vivid, for my husband had occasion to go into it, and when he returned to camp I found something crawling on his coat which I will not name. Our tents were pitched in full view of Fisher’s Peak in 1866, and we remained a day in the pretty camp. A soldier drew a picture of it for one of the children, which is still in my possession. Our own tents, wagons, ambulance, and buggy made a little village by themselves, and I have a feeling of homesickness when I look at my picture. There was certainly something fascinating in the roving life we led that exactly suited me, but I am confident many of our companions on that journey congratulated themselves when it was over; and as it was their first experience in that kind of traveling, it was not remarkable they were somewhat weary, and looked forward with pleasure to the day when we should arrive at Fort Union. Many of those with whom we crossed the Plains in 1866, and knew so well, are long since dead; some I never heard of again, while others we meet occasionally. Among the officers and families were General Sykes, in command, Colonel ” Pinky” Marshall and wife, Colonel Henry Bankhead and wife, Lieutenant Newbold and wife, Lieutenant James Casey and wife, Lieutenant Ephraim Williams, Lieutenant Granville Lewis, and ma_!1y others whose names have escaped my memory. XXIV We were much amused at a-speech made by a pretty bride when the march was done. We were talking it over, when she remarked that she thought her father would enjoy such a trip, and added, “He is an older man than you, Colonel Lane.” Such a speech was like a dash of cold water in your face, if you were not old and did not consider yourself so. She evidently thought Colonel Lane almost too in­ firm to travel so great a distance, But he had his revenge. He met her, a gray­ haired matron, a few years ago in Washington. His remaining locks were untouched by Father Time, and were still brown. He reminded her of her speech, and they had a hearty laugh about it and other incidents of the journey. At Fort Union we remained several weeks, camping in a house, and awaiting assignment to a station. Great anxiety was displayed by the new arrivals regarding the posts in New Mexico,-where they were, if pleasant, etc. One day several of the ladies who had just crossed the Plains were at our quarters, when General Pope called. Of course they asked him where he was going to send their husbands. He, without answering, inquired of each one separately where she would like to go, and they told him, selecting, of course, the posts of which they had heard the best accounts. When he asked me, knowing how useless it was to make a choice, I replied, indifferently, it made no matter where we were stationed. I was not going to say which post I preferred, for it was not probable we would be sent anywhere near it. When orders came for Colonel Lane to proceed to Santa Fe and take command of Fort Marcy, my friends were mad with envy, and one of them remarked, “That is your reward for keeping your mouth shut.” Of course the likes and dislikes of the wives were not taken into consideration, nor even remembered, when their husbands were assigned for duty at a post. The four days we spent on the road between Fort Union and Santa Fe were very depressing and disagreeable : it rained without intermission, and camping on the wet ground was most uncomfortable. Our bedding was far from dry, and there was a damp, chilly feel in the tent that made us shiver. A quantity of fresh, clean hay laid over the canvas floor-covering helped matters somewhat, and a pan of hot coals warmed the air a little. The tent was one left over from the war, and by no means water-tight. A dismal little stream trickled through it onto the foot of the bed, over which was laid a rubber blanket, to prevent it from being saturated and to turn the rivulet from the bed· to the ground. It was, indeed, a miserable experience, and my powers of patience and endurance were taxed to the utmost. I think I would then have sold at a low rate any future chance I might have to camp out. The day before we reached Santa Fe our baby became ill suddenly. It was fortunate for us that a ranch was not far from camp, where we were able to rent a room for the night. The house was famous at that time as a stopping-place in the beautiful ” Glo­ rietta Canon,” where we could be quite comfortable. Any house was better than a tent in such a rain­ storm, and with a very sick baby to be cared for we were grateful for the refuge. As he seemed a little better next day, we decided to continue on to Santa Fe, where we arrived early in the afternoon, going at once to Fort Marcy. The fort was very small, and just on the outskirts of the town. The quarters, built of adobe, were miserable, leaky, and in a tumble-down condition generally. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could be in such a poor house, but we were so anxious about the baby that there was no time to worry over trifles. There were two excellent army doctors at Fort Marcy, who were untiring in their attention to him; he was ill unto death for days, but, through their watchful care, he was given back to us from the brink of the grave. It is only necessary to add that the doctors were J. Cooper McKee and David L. Huntington, and hundreds of their patients will understand that there was nothing left undone that could afford the child relief or assist us in our care of him. Our housekeeping at Santa Fe was an up-hill business; only one of the servants we had taken out with us remained.  The cook, ugly as she was, won the hand I cannot say the heart-of a stone-mason at Fort Union, almost immediately,-how, I never understood. She was old as well as ugly, and not at all pleasant-tempered, and, to crown all, a wretched cook. When she was disagreeable, she always showed it by reading her Bible,-always a sure sign of ill temper with her. The man must have needed a housekeeper badly to marry old Martin. The nurse took her place in the kitchen, and I had to teach her everything. I was more capable then than when I undertook to instruct Mike, the Irish­ man, in the art of cooking. We managed not to starve. We had cows which gave us all the milk and butter we required, I did all the butter-making myself. A great deal of the milk I gave to the soldiers stationed at Marcy, and also sent it to my neighbors, who had none. I remember my indignation when an officer, who had not been long in the army, asked me to sell him some, and the wife of an officer, whose baby I had supplied with new milk, sent to me for her bill I I was very fond of Santa Fe, and enjoyed living there,-the old place was so far behind the times. The strange customs of the people and the funny sights we saw would amuse you, but I cannot well go into particulars. Fandangos and balls were of nightly occurrence. I had heard so much, and been told so often, of the great beauty of the Mexican belles who graced the dances with their presence that I was determined to see them.  We made up parties of ladies occasionally, and under the escort of several officers went to look o_n ; but we were always unfortunate, and never succeeded in seeing the beauties. They were unavoidably absent when we were there, and I have the first really pretty Mexican woman yet to see. I think much of their beauty lay in their dark eyes, which they knew how to use on the poor deluded men, while in talking to a woman they kept them modestly cast down. The sweet voices, whispering soft Spanish nothings, completed the conquest, and by the time the party was over every man there, married and single, was willing to swear to the exquisite beauty of Senorita Blanco and the bewitching grace of Senorita Dulce. When their raptures were coldly received by us,­ the women critics,-they were amazed at our indifference, and thought it was due to our jealousy of the Mexican belles. In January, Colonel Lane was ordered to leave Sant; Fe and return to Fort Union, to command that post. His rank then was major of the Third Cavalry and brevet lieutenant-colonel. The Third Cavalry was originally the Mounted Rifles, and I never could understand why it and the two dragoon regiments-first and second-were not allowed to retain their ancient and most honorable names, instead of calling them all “cavalry.” Colonel Charles Whiting relieved Colonel Lane at Fort Marcy, and we proceeded to Fort Union, where we found new quarters awaiting us. Their appearance was imposing, but there was no comfort in them. The house we occupied, built for the commanding officer, consisted of eight rooms, four on each side of an unnecessarily wide hall for that dusty, windy country. They were built of adobe, and plastered inside and out, and one story high, with a deep porch in front of the house.  There was not a closet nor a shelf in the house, and, until some were put up in the dining-room and kitchen, the china, as it was unpacked, was placed upon the floor After great exertion and delay the quartermaster managed to have some plain pine shelves made for us, which, though not ornamental, answered the purpose. There was no one to have such things done but the quartermaster, no towns in the . neighborhood where workmen lived and could be hired. You may be sure the quartermaster’s life was a burden to him, pestered as he was from morning until night by every woman at the post, each one wanting something done, and ” right away,” too.  But I have yet to hear of a quartermaster dying because his burdens were too heavy to bear. They are almost all hale and hearty men. We were quite at home in a short time, and, with the addition of a young Mexican man and little Mexican girl to our establishment, we were comfortable. The man milked cows, brought wood and water, scrubbed floors, etc., besides telling the children the most marvelous tales ever invented. When a little boy he had been captured by the Indians, and, if he could have spoken English better, would have had many a blood-curdling story to relate. The children understood his jargon better than I did, and adored him. Jose (pronounced Hosay) was his name.  My maid, being English, called him ‘Osay. She was an endless source of amusement to him, and he torr;iented her beyond endurance. The Mexican child, Haney, was a fine playmate for the children ; she was good-natured, and suffered in consequence, and when the play became too rough she ran to ” Mama,” as she called me, to complain. Their language was a wonderful mixture of Spanish, English, signs, and nods, but each understood it perfectly. XXV COLONEL LANE, as commanding officer, seemed to feel obliged to entertain everybody who came to the post; and as our servants were inefficient and there was no market at hand, it was very difficult to have things always to please us, and, I fear, to the satisfaction of our guests. The cook was useless half the time with rheumatism, so that I had not only all the work to do, but her to attend to besides. I took Jose into training when the maid was laid up, and he helped me in many ways, washing dishes, preparing vegetables for cooking, etc. His appearance in the kitchen would have been against him in the eyes of the fastidious. His lank black hair fell over his shoulders, and he was never without his hat, but I did not interfere.  I could not cultivate manners and the culinary art at the same time in a savage way, and just then the latter was more important to me than the former, and I said nothing. Early one morning I found him in the kitchen, deeply interested in preparing something for breakfast; his white shirt was outside of his trousers and hung far below his short blue jacket, which was ornamented with brass buttons. His high black felt hat was on his head as usual, and below it streamed the coarse hair. I smiled at his absurd appearance, of which he was unconscious, going steadily on with his work.  I had gone into the kitchen in anything but a gay mood, with the prospect before me of cooking breakfast for a number of strange people, but at the sight of Jose my spirits rose. The only cook I could find to replace my sick one was a colored woman whose right hand was deformed. I tried her, but that hand, with her lack of cleanliness, was too much for me, and I concluded I would prefer to do all the work than have her about me, and sent her off. As the plaster dried in our new quarters the ceilings fell one by one. At least a bushel came down one night on my maid as she slept, and she nearly roused the garrison with her wild shrieks, although she was not hurt the least bit. One day I cooked dinner for a family of seventeen, including children. It was on the table, and I was putting the last touches to it preparatory to retiring to the kitchen. I could not sit down with my guests and attend to matters there at the same time. I was stooping over to straighten something when I heard an ominous crack above my head, and, before I could move, down fell half the ceiling on my back and the table, filling every dish with plaster to the top. The guests had just reached the dining­ room door in time to see the catastrophe, and finding I was unhurt they retired until the debris was cleared away and a second dinner prepared. Fortunately, I had plenty of food in reserve, and it was soon on the table and disposed of by my friends with apparent relish. I, in the solitude of my kitchen, could not do justice to the subject, so kept quiet. You will see, from the foregoing, house-keeping on the frontier had its drawbacks. We had plenty to eat, such as it was, but we thought it was not always dainty enough to set before our visitors. Our friends appreciate our efforts on their behalf; but we entertained many people we never had seen before and never met again. Some were so situated that they could have returned our hospitality later, but they never did, nor did they even seem aware of our existence. We are told to take in the stranger, as by doing so we ” may entertain an angel unawares.” I do I do not think that class of guests often traveled in Texas and New Mexico, at least while I was out there; if they did, their visits were few and far between, and their disguise was complete. My efforts to entertain an old friend at Fort Union cost me dear. I became overheated in the kitchen and had an attack of pleurisy, which left me with a cough and so weak the doctor advised me to go to Santa Fe for a rest and change. The children and cook were to go with me; the latter was better and able to work, but her exertions were not sufficient to cause a relapse. We took some bedding and the mess-chest with us, and rented rooms during our stay. As Colonel Lane could not go with us, we left Union with a cavalry escort, stopping at a house every night. The escort of a sergeant and six or eight men were tried and trusty soldiers, in whose care we were perfectly safe, and who would have stood by us in any emergency. After a stay of a month or six weeks in Santa Fe, I was quite well, and we returned to Fort Union. I made two visits to Santa Fe in the summer of 1867, but remained only a few days each time. It required eight days to go and return, four each way, so that a two weeks’ leave from home soon passed. The drive was always delightful to me, taken in an ambulance, with a team of four fine mules, which were quite equal to performing all the duties required of them, seeming fully to understand the necessity of making a certain number of miles daily before they could have their supper of corn and hay. The escort rode in front at a moderate gait; the road generally was excellent, the scenery beautiful, and at times grand. The breeze, filled with the odor of pine-trees, was exhilarating and delicious,-you seemed to take in health with every breath of the pure air. One morning our departure from the town where we passed the night was delayed. An ambulance mule was reported sick. Remedies were given him, and, as he seemed to improve, the sergeant thought he was able to travel, and for a while we bowled over the hard road at a lively rate, when, without the least warning, the poor little mule fell dead; he never stirred, seeming to die instantly. When it was found his work in this world was indeed done, it required but a few moments to cut him loose from the harness, push his body off the road, hitch up a ” spike team,” which means three instead of four animals, one in the lead instead of two, and start again, leaving the remains of our faithful servant to feed the coyotes and vultures, which were always at hand. The death of a mule is to me like the death of a friend, and I do not believe half the bad tales told of him. Once, when going from Santa Fe to Fort Union, no less a person than Kit Carson-then having the rank of general-made one of the party. To see the quiet, reticent man, you never would dream that he was the hero of so many romances. I believe he would rather have faced a whole tribe of hostile Indians than one woman, he was so diffident. But had she required assistance, he would have shed his last drop of blood in her defense. We traveled and ate at the same table together for three or four days, and I never met a planer, more unpretentious man in my life. One morning we were having breakfast in a room which had been occupied the night before by several very rough men. The tin basins which held water for their morning ablutions still stood about, and the scanty supply of towels adorned the chairs and tables. We had boiled eggs for breakfast, and I asked the Mexican girl who waited upon us to bring me a cup. Without the least hesitation she took up a glass the men had used, seized one of their soiled towels, and began to polish the tumbler with it. I found my appetite had gone, and I ate no more that morning, and Kit Carson smiled quietly at my look of disgust, no doubt wondering that such a trifle could prevent one from enjoying a hearty breakfast. I never saw him again after we reached Fort Union. We had a pleasant garrison at Fort Union in the summer of 1867. There was a chaplain and his family, besides other charming people. Every Sunday services were held in a room called a chapel, by the chaplain, and several ladies, I among them, made the music, which perhaps was not the finest, but was not bad. The small melodeon I owned was sent over regularly for the use of the choir. As we wanted extra good music for Easter, we met frequently to practice, and to one chant particularly we gave much attention, singing it over and over many times. When Easter Sunday came we acquitted ourselves well, until the chant we had practiced so assiduously was to be sung. While our young friend at the melodeon was playing, and it was time to begin, the soprano whispered to me that she had forgotten her part. We had no note-books, but the words were before her, and she warbled, unfalteringly, sweetest music to suit both them and the chords of the melodeon. I followed her lead, and do not believe the congregation knew she was not singing as it was written. She, and one other who sang that day, have long since joined the heavenly choir. Late in the summer I spent much time making pickles and plum-jam of the wild fruit that grew abundantly in New Mexico. Delicious as they were, it was decreed we were not to eat them. Colonel Lane’s health, which had not been good, became worse, and the doctor told him he must apply for a leave and go East. It was a great surprise to us that the doctor took such a serious view of the case, but, as he said go, we obeyed. XXVI WE had not been particularly comfortable at Fort Union, but we were sorry to leave. We liked the old log quarters, up towards the hills, much better than the new adobe houses, planted right down on the plain, which was swept by the winds all summer long. How they howled! About ten o’clock every morning they woke up, and whistled and moaned, and rose to wild shrieks, doing everything wind ever does in the way of making a noise. The fine, impalpable dust worked its way into every crack and crevice, lodging round the windows and doors in little yellow mounds, so that we could sweep up a good-sized dust-pan full after the wind lulled, which it usually did at sun-down. Sometimes it blew all night, beginning with fresh vigor at the usual time the next morning. Another unpleasant trick the breezes had was darting playfully down the chimney, sending the fire and ashes half-way across the room, so that we had to be on guard to prevent a conflagration. As soon as it was decided we must leave, we made preparations for a sale of such things as we did not require for the road. My house was usually in pretty good order, but I hired a man to come daily to scrub and scour until everything shone. I was well aware how all the articles would be examined by my army sisters for spots and specks, and I was determined they should find neither. When one of the ladies called to see me and take notes, I was quite indignant when she whispered to me to remember how much better things sold” when dean!” We had no cause to complain of the prices realized at the sale. In several instances things brought far more than they were worth.  Several officers began in a joke to bid for eleven white china soup-plates, and they were knocked down to one of them for twenty-two dollars ! Imagine his wife’s disgust when she heard of it. All bills were paid promptly, except where some citizens, who lived a long distance off, bought a few articles, took them away, but forgot to return and settle for them. We needed all the money we could raise for the expensive journey before us. It required a great deal to travel to and from a country as far away as New Mexico, and to have such an expense twice in one year was a serious drain on our finances. It is almost impossible for an army officer to save money. His pay barely suffices for his monthly expenses, and he feels much gratified if after his bills are settled he has anything left over. As a rule, he does not often run in debt, going ‘without things for which he cannot pay. There are exceptions, of course, but I am speaking of those whom I know and officers in general. Occasionally a station is found where living is comparatively cheap, and he enjoys the prospect of putting part of his pay in the village bank every month.  But before he becomes entirely accustomed to the pleasure of being “a bloated bondholder,” an order comes sending him from Maine to California, or from Oregon to Florida. With a sigh he draws his year’s savings from the bank, knowing how far short it will fall when traveling expenses are paid out of the amount and provision made for Jimmie, Margaret, baby, and nurse, not to mention Mrs. Second Lieutenant Napoleon Smith. Poor Second Lieutenant Napoleon Smith can only hope ” the Lord will provide,” and he does seem to, for we almost always find the lieutenant and family there on time, however it is accomplished. His expenses are not yet ended: the change of climate necessitates a change of clothing, and by the time each member of the family is fitted out, the exchequer is more than exhausted, and he is obliged to go in debt for a while. But the smiling members of Ketchem & Cheatham, where all the necessary purchases are made, assure the nearly demented head of the family they are always ready to give credit to army officers, and will cheerfully await his convenience to settle his bill, and there is nothing for him to do but accept their offer, much as the debt disturbs him. Then begins a system of economy and pinching until the last dollar is paid, and Second Lieutenant Napoleon Smith walks proudly away, a free man once more. The day came at last when all was ready for us to leave Fort Union,-trunks packed and locked, the last screws put into the lids of the great wooden chests, the wagons loaded, and the ambulance at the door. We bade our motley crowd of domestics” Adios.” None were going with us. Our many kind friends came to wish us “hon voyage,” and we were off. My sixth journey across the Plains was over a new route to us, and I was glad of any variation of the scene which was so familiar to me. Our escort was small, considering the danger we ran into going through a country full of Indians, but though the party was not large, it was exceedingly wary and ever on the lookout. My eyes, from long practice, were as keen as a frontiersman’s, and nothing escaped them. I saw everything unusual, near or far. A dust, a little smoke, an animal off the road, all came in for its share of investigation through the field-glass. Next to my fear of Indians, I dreaded crossing rivers more than anyl:hing else. Some of the fords were reached by a steep and dangerous road, leading from the top of a bank to the water’s edge, down which the cautious driver guided his sure-footed team. Sometimes there was a drop of a foot or two from the bank into the swift-running stream. Then I clasped my hands and shut my eyes tight, but never a sound escaped me. The children were too absorbed with what was going on to notice me. With shouts and yells the mules were rushed through the water, men on horseback riding beside them to keep them in the track; the air was blue with the profanity thought necessary when driving mules. The last agony was in the effort made to reach the top of the wet and slippery straight-up-and-down bank on the other side, and this feat was accomplished with even more noise than before, the shouts and cracking of whips making an appalling din. The mules seemed to enjoy the uproar, and could hardly have done their work without it. I think they understood perfectly what was said to them, they looked so knowing and sensible: the teamsters always talked to them as if they were human, and the mule intimated he was aware of what was said and would act accordingly. Have you ever seen a team in which there was not Pete or John, Bet, Jane, or Kate? When the ambulance stopped at the top of the opposite bank, which the mules, panting and half drowned, managed at last to reach, I opened my eyes with a feeling of gratitude that one stream, at least, had been safely crossed. It had been decided that our best route East would be via Denver. The road tan through Trinidad, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs, all small settlements at that time. The scenery in Colorado was magnificent, but it takes a more gifted pen than mine to tell of the wonderful things all around us. I was far more interested just then in avoiding Indians, and having a comfortable place where we could pass the night, than in the glories of Pike’s Peak or Garden of the Gods. We usually found a substantial log house at the end of our day’s travel, where we were allowed to stay by paying for the room. It was not a “one­ price” country then, for the rates charged by one man were no guide as to what we would be called upon to pay next night. We paid fifty cents for lodgings at a very nice house, while the following day six dollars was not thought to be too much to ask for quarters not as good. Of course these charges were for a room and fire only,-we provided our own beds and meals. The surroundings of the houses where we spent the nights were most picturesque,-groves of trees and gigantic rocks of singular formation were to be found everywhere, to the great delight of the children, who were tired after being shut up in the ambulance so many hours daily, and quite ready when we stopped to have a good romp before bedtime. We found them, late one evening, high up on an enormous pulpit-shaped rock, playing church. We reached Denver in a blinding snow-storm, and drove to the best hotel in the city.  No one thought it the least curious to see us arrive in a four-mule ambulance, followed by a military escort and several big wagons. As I remarked before, such sights were common out West. After resting a day or two in Denver we started again, making for the end of the railroad, which was somewhere between Cheyenne and Julesburg. The prospect of exchanging the ambulance and tents for a Pullman car was most agreeable, especially as the weather was cold and we were liable to have snow­ storms any day. XXVII WE were greatly disappointed when we reached Cheyenne, not to find some kind of hotel or lodging­ house where we could be accommodated. Any shelter from the wintry blast would have been a luxury,-anything more substantial than a tent to keep out the bitter cold. There was every prospect of a blizzard by night, but I believe that name had not been coined then to suit the storm. The only thing in the way of an hotel or a restaurant in the town was a long building of boards, ten or twelve feet high, surmounted by sloping rafters covered with canvas, which formed the roof. It had been used originally for a theater, but I suppose a restaurant was more necessary, and it became an eating-house.

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