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Major Carleton Orders Colonel Willis to Go Into Southwestern Indian Territory and "Clean Out the Indians." Kit Carson Volunteers to Go With Colonel Willis as Scout and Protector.

In June, 1865, two or three settlers coming from the border of the Indian Country along the Texas and Arizona line, into Santa Fe, planned to hunt and kill all the game on the reservation without consulting the Indians. This occasioned trouble and one white man was killed. General Carleton, in command of all the Southwestern country, stationed at Santa Fe, heard about the killing, and without attempting to understand the position the Indians held, or in any way to find out the cause of trouble, sent an order to Colonel Willis, who was stationed at Fort Union, to take his 300 California Volunteers to this reservation and to "Clean out the Indians." His order was imperative. It did not say for him to endeavor to find out the cause of the death of this white man, but to go at once into their camp and to massacre, confiscate anything of value, and have no mercy on the Redskins, who had slaughtered a white man who was "only hunting" on the Indian reservation.

When Colonel Willis got this order he said to me that he knew absolutely nothing about the Indian mode of warfare, and that he was fearful of getting his soldiers all killed, and he wished that Kit Carson would go with him, but that he would not ask him to do so because he knew that Carson would disapprove of the orders he had from Colonel Carleton.

President Polk appointed Kit Carson to a second lieutenancy and his official duty was to conduct the fifty soldiers under his command through the country of the Comanches, but for some reason the Senate refused to confirm the appointment, and he consequently had no connection with the regular army.

When Colonel Willis had his soldiers all in trim and was about to leave Fort Union, Kit Carson, who had been watching him from a nail keg upon which he was sitting, came up to him and slapped Willis' horse on the hip, saying: "Willis, I guess I had better go with you; if you go down there alone, them red devils will never let you return." "Kit," said Colonel Willis, "That is what I want you to do, and we will wait for you." But Kit Carson needed no time to prepare, he threw his saddle on and told Colonel Willis that he was ready without any delay. At about 10 o'clock in the forenoon the company left Fort Union, carrying one cannon and plenty of ammunition. At about daybreak on their second day out, they came upon a village of 100 or more tents camped on about the line of New Mexico and Arizona. There were Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, Utes, Arapahoes and some Apaches in this village. Colonel Willis said to Kit Carson that it was about time to "try their little canon," but Kit Carson told Col. Willis "No." Kit asked Col. Willis to show him his orders, which by the way he had not seen before volunteering to come with Willis. When Carson read the order he was startled. It had never occurred to him that a man of Col. Carleton's reputation would be so unjust. Now said Kit Carson to Col. Willis, "Suppose we send out some runners and bring the chiefs to us and see what occasioned all this trouble that caused Gen. Carleton to give such orders." Col. Willis said he had no such orders as that from Carleton, and the only thing he could do was to "beard the lion in his den" because his orders were strict, they said to go and kill the Indians wherever he found them and he would be compelled to obey orders. The consultation between Col. Willis and Brevet Kit Carson almost amounted to an argument. Kit Carson declared that his orders should have read "in your discretion, etc.," and that it was not advisable to take life in this manner, "but since you must obey orders," Brevet Gen. Kit Carson said, "Fire away, if every mother's son of you lose your scalp."

At daybreak Col. Willis' soldiers fired into the Indian camp, where dwelt something like 1500 Indians, mostly old squaws and papooses with a few able-bodied warriors. Few escaped with their lives and those who did escape were entirely destitute for the soldiers set fire to their tents after loading their wagons to the hilt with whatever they considered might be of value, buffalo robes, moccasins, blankets and other assets, together with all the provisions from the camp. There were several tons of the latter--buffalo meat, antelope, venison, goat, bear and dried jack rabbit. When Kit Carson found that all this provision was confiscated he demanded that it be unloaded and left for the consumption of the few remaining Indians scattered over the plains who were without food or shelter.

After this raid they started for the Indian Territory and over into Texas, hunting for more Indians. Kit Carson kept surveying the landscape with a view to securing suitable places to fortify against the formidable foe whom he knew might at any time steal upon them and ambush them. Col. Willis had been watching him for several days and was totally unable to make out from his deportment what he was looking for. When Kit Carson told him that he was hunting for safe camping places Col. Willis asked him if he thought they might be attacked. Kit Carson told him that he knew that before many "moons" they would be surrounded by Indians, and that they must begin their preparations for defense. Col. Willis was unused to Indian signs, but Kit Carson knew them well. He had already seen the Indian smokes. An Indian's telegraphic means were by smokes placed at intervening points. These smokes denote place, number, etc., known to all Indians and "path-finders." Kit Carson with his field glass inspecting the country had noticed these smokes and knew that a large band was being called together. He informed Col. Willis that they must travel back to a certain place he had selected, a stone ridge with a spring gushing out of the side of a cliff. This was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. They reached the stone ridge about dusk. "Carson," said Willis, "tell us what to do, I know nothing about fighting these wild devils." Kit Carson told him to put his soldiers to piling stone and make a breastwork to hide behind. He told Willis to send some of the soldiers to the spring and build up a wall several feet all around it and put some of the soldiers in there for protection and at the same time have a place to get water. The soldiers had not a minute to lose. The Indians bore down upon them and sent arrows into their midst, but did no damage. Kit Carson told a soldier to put a hat on a pole and lift it up, that he believed some Indians were hidden in a wild plum thicket close by; if so, they would shoot at the hat. This hat trick was tried several times. Kit Carson had located the Indians pretty well by this time and told Col. Willis to set his cannon so it would shoot very low, to barely miss the ground, and then he thought they would have a chance to snatch a "piece of sleep" before daylight. When the cannon exploded the Indians retreated, taking with them their dead and wounded and did not come back any more that, night. An Indian will risk his life rather than leave a dead member of his band in the white man's possession. It is an old superstition that if a warrior loses his scalp he forfeits his hope of ever reaching the "happy hunting ground." Col. Willis and Kit Carson camped there until two o'clock in the morning when they went down off of the stone ridge out onto the open prairie twenty miles distant, where they again camped. After dark they again started out on the trail. Indians hardly ever attack at night. Nevertheless, the Indians began to congregate until they numbered several thousand and chased Col. Willis and Kit Carson 300 miles. Under the clever management of Kit Carson's Indian tricks Col. Willis and his soldiers all escaped without a loss of a man or getting one injured. Kit Carson told me that he was "mighty thankful that the gol-derned grass was too green to burn."

My Position in Reference to the Treatment of Indians.

It has been my endeavor in writing this book to relate incidents as they actually occurred and of my own personal knowledge and observation. My experience with the Indians and my observations with their natural traits and characteristics convinces me that the white man has not, in most instances, been willing to do him justice and has subjected him to a great deal of unmerited abuse and persecution. The outbreaks by the Indians in all instances that came under my observation were brought about by the ill treatment of the whites. The Indians were always very reluctant to avenge themselves upon the whites for the wrongs done them.

The Indians have been driven from their hunting grounds until many times they were unable to secure food and were upon the verge of starvation. Naturally, then, they would approach the wagons of the white men, go to their settlements or follow the stage coaches and emigrant trains in the hope of securing something to eat. The whites would often become unnecessarily alarmed and attempt to frighten them away by killing one or more of their number. As a result of this the Indians would be aroused and take to the warpath and attempt to avenge the death of their lost warrior by killing a white man wherever he chanced to find one.

I have known such instances as this to occur many times and had I not exercised every care to avoid hostilities and establish peaceful relations between myself and my passengers and the Indians I would no doubt have met with a similar experience in some of my trips along the Santa Fe Trail.