Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman


Text to Speech

getting breakfast; but he was not at the fire at all. Getting up,

I discovered that he had converted a tule-bolsa into a sail boat,

and was sailing for the gold-mines. He was astride this bolsa,

with a small parcel of bread and meat done up in a piece of cloth;

another piece of cloth, such as we used for making our signal-

stations, he had fixed into a sail; and with a paddle he was

directing his precarious craft right out into the broad bay, to

follow the general direction of the schooners and boats that he

knew were ascending the Sacramento River. He was about a hundred

yards from the shore. I jerked up my gun, and hailed him to come

back. After a moment's hesitation, he let go his sheet and began

to paddle back. This bolsa was nothing but a bundle of tule, or

bullrush, bound together with grass-ropes in the shape of a cigar,

about ten feet long and about two feet through the butt. With

these the California Indiana cross streams of considerable size.

When he came ashore, I gave him a good overhauling for attempting

to desert, and put him to work getting breakfast. In due time we

returned him to his ship, the Ohio. Subsequently, I made a bargain

with Mr. Hartnell to survey his ranch at Cosnmnes River, Sacramento

Valley. Ord and a young citizen, named Seton, were associated with

me in this. I bought of Rodman M. Price a surveyor's compass,

chain, etc., and, in San Francisco, a small wagon and harness.

Availing ourselves of a schooner, chartered to carry Major Miller

and two companies of the Second Infantry from San Francisco to

Stockton, we got up to our destination at little cost. I recall an

occurrence that happened when the schooner was anchored in

Carquinez Straits, opposite the soldiers' camp on shore. We were

waiting for daylight and a fair wind; the schooner lay anchored at

an ebb-tide, and about daylight Ord and I had gone ashore for

something. Just as we were pulling off from shore, we heard the

loud shouts of the men, and saw them all running down toward the

water. Our attention thus drawn, we saw something swimming in the

water, and pulled toward it, thinking it a coyote; but we soon

recognized a large grizzly bear, swimming directly across the

channel. Not having any weapon, we hurriedly pulled for the

schooner, calling out, as we neared it, "A bear! a bear!" It so

happened that Major Miller was on deck, washing his face and hands.

He ran rapidly to the bow of the vessel, took the musket from the

hands of the sentinel, and fired at the bear, as he passed but a

short distance ahead of the schooner. The bear rose, made a growl

or howl, but continued his course. As we scrambled up the

port-aide to get our guns, the mate, with a crew, happened to have

a boat on the starboard-aide, and, armed only with a hatchet, they

pulled up alongside the bear, and the mate struck him in the head

with the hatchet. The bear turned, tried to get into the boat, but

the mate struck his claws with repeated blows, and made him let go.

After several passes with him, the mate actually killed the bear,

got a rope round him, and towed him alongside the schooner, where

he was hoisted on deck. The carcass weighed over six hundred

pounds. It was found that Major Miller's shot had struck the bear

in the lower jaw, and thus disabled him. Had it not been for this,

the bear would certainly have upset the boat and drowned all in it.

As it was, however, his meat served us a good turn in our trip up

to Stockton. At Stockton we disembarked our wagon, provisions, and

instruments. There I bought two fine mules at three hundred

dollars each, and we hitched up and started for the Coaumnes River.

About twelve miles off was the Mokelumne, a wide, bold stream, with

a canoe as a ferry-boat. We took our wagon to pieces, and ferried

it and its contents across, and then drove our mules into the

water. In crossing, one mule became entangled in the rope of the

other, and for a time we thought he was a gone mule; but at last he

revived and we hitched up. The mules were both pack-animals;

neither had ever before seen a wagon. Young Seton also was about

as green, and had never handled a mule. We put on the harness, and

began to hitch them in, when one of the mules turned his head, saw

the wagon, and started. We held on tight, but the beast did not

stop until he had shivered the tongue-pole into a dozen fragments.

The fact was, that Seton had hitched the traces before he had put

on the blind-bridle. There was considerable swearing done, but

that would not mend the pole. There was no place nearer than

Sutter's Fort to repair damages, so we were put to our wits' end.

We first sent back a mile or so, and bought a raw-hide. Gathering

up the fragments of the pole and cutting the hide into strips, we

finished it in the rudest manner. As long as the hide was green, the

pole was very shaky; but gradually the sun dried the hide,

tightened it, and the pole actually held for about a month. This

cost us nearly a day of delay; but, when damages were repaired, we

harnessed up again, and reached the crossing of the Cosumnes, where

our survey was to begin. The expediente, or title-papers, of the

ranch described it as containing nine or eleven leagues on the

Cosumnes, south side, and between the San Joaquin River and Sierra

Nevada Mountains. We began at the place where the road crosses the

Cosumnes, and laid down a line four miles south, perpendicular to

the general direction of the stream; then, surveying up the stream,

we marked each mile so as to admit of a subdivision of one mile by

four. The land was dry and very poor, with the exception of here

and there some small pieces of bottom land, the great bulk of the

bottom-land occurring on the north side of the stream. We

continued the survey up some twenty miles into the hills above the

mill of Dailor and Sheldon. It took about a month to make this

survey, which, when finished, was duly plotted; and for it we

received one-tenth of the land, or two subdivisions. Ord and I

took the land, and we paid Seton for his labor in cash. By the

sale of my share of the land, subsequently, I realized three

thousand dollars. After finishing Hartnell's survey, we crossed

over to Dailor's, and did some work for him at five hundred dollars

a day for the party. Having finished our work on the Cosumnes, we

proceeded to Sacramento, where Captain Sutter employed us to

connect the survey of Sacramento City, made by Lieutenant Warner,

and that of Sutterville, three miles below, which was then being

surveyed by Lieutenant J. W. Davidson, of the First Dragoons. At

Sutterville, the plateau of the Sacramento approached quite near

the river, and it would have made a better site for a town than the

low, submerged land where the city now stands; but it seems to be a

law of growth that all natural advantages are disregarded wherever

once business chooses a location. Old Sutter's embarcadero became

Sacramento City, simply because it was the first point used for

unloading boats for Sutter's Fort, just as the site for San

Francisco was fixed by the use of Yerba Buena as the hide-landing

for the Mission of "San Francisco de Asis."

I invested my earnings in this survey in three lots in Sacramento

City, on which I made a fair profit by a sale to one McNulty, of

Mansfield, Ohio. I only had a two months' leave of absence, during

which General Smith, his staff, and a retinue of civil friends,

were making a tour of the gold-mines, and hearing that he was en

route back to his headquarters at Sonoma, I knocked off my work,

sold my instruments, and left my wagon and mules with my cousin

Charley Hoyt, who had a store in Sacramento, and was on the point

of moving up to a ranch, for which he had bargained, on Bear Creek,

on which was afterward established Camp "Far West." He afterward

sold the mules, wagon, etc., for me, and on the whole I think I

cleared, by those two months' work, about six thousand dollars. I

then returned to headquarters at Sonoma, in time to attend my

fellow aide-de-camp Gibbs through a long and dangerous sickness,

during which he was on board a store-ship, guarded by Captain

George Johnson, who now resides in San Francisco. General Smith

had agreed that on the first good opportunity he would send me to

the United States as a bearer of dispatches, but this he could not

do until he had made the examination of Oregon, which was also in

his command. During the summer of 1849 there continued to pour

into California a perfect stream of people. Steamers came, and a

line was established from San Francisco to Sacramento, of which the

Senator was the pioneer, charging sixteen dollars a passage, and

actually coining money. Other boats were built, out of materials

which had either come around Cape Horn or were brought from the

Sandwich Islands. Wharves were built, houses were. springing up

as if by magic, and the Bay of San Francisco presented as busy a

scene of life as any part of the world. Major Allen, of the

Quartermaster's Department, who had come out as chief-quartermaster

of the division, was building a large warehouse at Benicia, with a

row of quarters, out of lumber at one hundred dollars per thousand

feet, and the work was done by men at sixteen dollars a day. I

have seen a detailed soldier, who got only his monthly pay of eight

dollars a month, and twenty cents a day for extra duty, nailing on

weather-boards and shingles, alongside a citizen who was paid

sixteen dollars a day. This was a real injustice, made the

soldiers discontented, and it was hardly to be wondered at that so

many deserted.

While the mass of people were busy at gold and in mammoth

speculations, a set of busy politicians were at work to secure the

prizes of civil government. Gwin and Fremont were there, and T.

Butler King, of Georgia, had come out from the East, scheming for

office. He staid with us at Sonoma, and was generally regarded as

the Government candidate for United States Senator. General Riley

as Governor, and Captain Halleck as Secretary of State, had issued

a proclamation for the election of a convention to frame a State

constitution. In due time the elections were held, and the

convention was assembled at Monterey. Dr. Semple was elected

president; and Gwin, Sutter, Halleck, Butler King, Sherwood,

Gilbert, Shannon, and others, were members. General Smith took no

part in this convention, but sent me down to watch the proceedings,

and report to him. The only subject of interest was the slavery

question. There were no slaves then in California, save a few who

had come out as servants, but the Southern people at that time

claimed their share of territory, out of that acquired by the

common labors of all sections of the Union in the war with Mexico.

Still, in California there was little feeling on the subject. I

never heard General Smith, who was a Louisianian, express any

opinion about it. Nor did Butler King, of Georgia, ever manifest

any particular interest in the matter. A committee was named to

draft a constitution, which in due time was reported, with the

usual clause, then known as the Wilmot Proviso, excluding slavery;

and during the debate which ensued very little opposition was made

to this clause, which was finally adopted by a large majority,

although the convention was made up in large part of men from our

Southern States. This matter of California being a free State,

afterward, in the national Congress, gave rise to angry debates,

which at one time threatened civil war. The result of the

convention was the election of State officers, and of the

Legislature which sat in San Jose in October and November, 1849,

and which elected Fremont and Gwin as the first United States

Senators in Congress from the Pacific coast.

Shortly after returning from Monterey, I was sent by General Smith

up to Sacramento City to instruct Lieutenants Warner and

Williamson, of the Engineers, to push their surveys of the Sierra

Nevada Mountains, for the purpose of ascertaining the possibility

of passing that range by a railroad, a subject that then elicited

universal interest. It was generally assumed that such a road

could not be made along any of the immigrant roads then in use, and

Warner's orders were to look farther north up the Feather River, or

some one of its tributaries. Warner was engaged in this survey

during the summer and fall of 1849, and had explored, to the very

end of Goose Lake, the source of Feather River. Then, leaving

Williamson with the baggage and part of the men, he took about ten

men and a first-rate guide, crossed the summit to the east, and had

turned south, having the range of mountains on his right hand, with

the intention of regaining his camp by another pass in the

mountain. The party was strung out, single file, with wide spaces

between, Warner ahead. He had just crossed a small valley and

ascended one of the spurs covered with sage-brush and rocks, when a

band of Indians rose up and poured in a shower of arrows. The mule

turned and ran back to the valley, where Warner fell off dead,

punctured by five arrows. The mule also died. The guide, who was

near to Warner, was mortally wounded; and one or two men had arrows

in their bodies, but recovered. The party gathered about Warner's

body, in sight of the Indians, who whooped and yelled, but did not

venture away from their cover of rocks. This party of men remained

there all day without burying the bodies, and at night, by a wide

circuit, passed the mountain, and reached Williamson's camp. The

news of Warner's death cast a gloom over all the old Californians,

who knew him well. He was a careful, prudent, and honest officer,

well qualified for his business, and extremely accurate in all his

work. He and I had been intimately associated during our four

years together in California, and I felt his loss deeply. The

season was then too far advanced to attempt to avenge his death,

and it was not until the next spring that a party was sent out to

gather up and bury his scattered bones.

As winter approached, the immigrants overland came pouring into

California, dusty and worn with their two thousand miles of weary

travel across the plains and mountains. Those who arrived in

October and November reported thousands still behind them, with

oxen perishing, and short of food. Appeals were made for help, and

General Smith resolved to attempt relief. Major Rucker, who had

come across with Pike. Graham's Battalion of Dragoons, had

exchanged with Major Fitzgerald, of the Quartermaster's Department,

and was detailed to conduct this relief. General Smith ordered him

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