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FOOLING STAGE ROBBERS.
 
 
 
 The Wagon Mound, so called from its resemblance to a covered army-wagon,
 is a rocky mesa forty miles from Point of Rocks, westwardly.
 The stretch of the Trail from the latter to the mound has been
 the scene of some desperate encounters, only exceeded in number
 and sanguinary results by those which have occurred in the region of
 Pawnee Rock, the crossing of the Walnut, Pawnee Fork, and Cow Creek.
 
 One of the most remarkable stories of this Wagon Mound country dealt
 with the nerve and bravery exhibited by John L. Hatcher in defence
 of his life, and those of the men in his caravan, about 1858.
 
 Hatcher was a noted trader and merchant of New Mexico.  He was also
 celebrated as an Indian fighter, and his name was a terror to the
 savages who infested the settlements of New Mexico and raided the Trail.
 
 He left Taos, where he then resided, in the summer, with his caravan
 loaded with furs and pelts destined for Westport Landing; to be
 forwarded from there to St. Louis, the only market for furs in the
 far West.  His train was a small one, comprising about fifteen wagons
 and handled by about as many men, including himself.  At the date
 of his adventure the Indians were believed to be at peace with
 everybody; a false idea, as Hatcher well knew, for there never was
 such a condition of affairs as absolute immunity from their attacks.
 While it might be true that the old men refrained for a time from
 starting out on the war-path, there were ever the vastly greater
 number of restless young warriors who had not yet earned their eagle
 feathers, who could not be controlled by their chiefs, and who were
 always engaged in marauding, either among the border settlements
 or along the line of the Trail.
 
 When Hatcher was approaching the immediate vicinity of Wagon Mound,[66]
 with his train strung out in single column, to his great astonishment
 there suddenly charged on him from over the hill about three hundred
 savages, all feather-bedecked and painted in the highest style of
 Indian art.  As they rode toward the caravan, they gave the sign
 of peace, which Hatcher accepted for the time as true, although he
 knew them well.  However, he invited the head men to some refreshment,
 as was usual on such occasions in those days, throwing a blanket
 on the ground, on which sugar in abundance was served out.
 The sweet-toothed warriors helped themselves liberally, and affected
 much delight at the way they were being treated; but Hatcher, with
 his knowledge of the savage character, was firm in the belief that
 they came for no other purpose than to rob the caravan and kill him
 and his men.
 
 They were Comanches, and one of the most noted chiefs of the tribe
 was in command of the band, with some inferior chiefs under him.
 I think it was Old Wolf, a very old man then, whose raids into Texas
 had made his name a terror to the Mexicans living on the border.
 
 While the chiefs were eating their saccharine lunch, Hatcher was
 losing no time in forming his wagons into a corral, but he told his
 friends afterward that he had no idea that either he or any of his
 men would escape; only fifteen or sixteen men against over three
 hundred merciless savages, and those the worst on the continent,
 and a small corral--the chances were totally hopeless!  Nothing but
 a desperate action could avail, and maybe not even that.[67]  Hatcher,
 after the other head men had finished eating, asked the old chief
 to send his young warriors away over the hill.  They were all sitting
 close to one of the wagons, Old Wolf, in fact, leaning against the
 wheel resting on his blanket, with Hatcher next him on his right.
 Hatcher was so earnest in his appeal to have the young men sent away,
 that both the venerable villain and his other chiefs rose and were
 standing.  Without a moment's notice or the slightest warning,
 Hatcher reached with his left hand and grabbed Old Wolf by his
 scalp-lock, and with his right drew his butcher-knife from its
 scabbard and thrust it at the throat of the chief.  All this was
 done in an instant, as quick as lightning; no one had time to move.
 The situation was remarkable.  The little, wiry man, surrounded by
 eight or nine of the most renowned warriors of the dreaded Comanches,
 stood firm; everybody was breathless; not a word did the savages say.
 Hatcher then said again to Old Wolf, in the most determined manner:
 "Send your young men over the hill at once, or I'll kill you right
 where you are!" holding on to the hair of the savage with his left
 hand and keeping the knife at his throat.
 
 The other Indians did not dare to make a move; they knew what kind of
 a man Hatcher was; they knew he would do as he had said, and that if
 they attempted a rescue he would kill their favourite chief in a second.
 
 Old Wolf shook his head defiantly in the negative.  Hatcher repeated
 his order, getting madder all the time: "Send your young men over
 the hill; I tell you!"  Old Wolf was still stubborn; he shook his
 head again.  Hatcher gave him another chance: "Send your young men
 over the hill, I tell you, or I'll scalp you alive as you are!"
 Again the chief shook his head.  Then Hatcher, still holding on the
 hair of his stubborn victim, commenced to make an incision in the
 head of Old Wolf, for the determined man was bound to carry out his
 threat; but he began very slowly.
 
 As the chief felt the blood trickle down his forehead, he weakened.
 He ordered his next in command to send the young men over the hill
 and out of sight.  The order was repeated immediately to the warriors,
 who were astonished spectators of the strange scene, and they quickly
 mounted their horses and rode away over the hill as fast as they
 could thump their animals' sides with their legs, leaving only five
 or six chiefs with Old Wolf and Hatcher.
 
 Hatcher held on like grim death to the old chief's head, and immediately
 ordered his men to throw the robes out of the wagons as quickly as
 they could, and get inside themselves.  This was promptly obeyed,
 and when they were all under the cover of the wagon sheets, Hatcher
 let go of his victim's hair, and, with a last kick, told him and his
 friends that they could leave.  They went off, and did not return.
 
 Some laughable incidents have enlivened the generally sanguinary
 history of the Old Santa Fe Trail, but they were very serious at
 the time to those who were the actors, and their ludicrousness came
 after all was over.
 
 In the late summer of 1866, a thieving band of Apaches came into the
 vicinity of Fort Union, New Mexico, and after carefully reconnoitring
 the whole region and getting at the manner in which the stock
 belonging to the fort was herded, they secreted themselves in the
 Turkey Mountains overlooking the entire reservation, and lay in wait
 for several days, watching for a favourable moment to make a raid
 into the valley and drive off the herd.
 
 Selecting an occasion when the guard was weak and not very alert,
 they in broad daylight crawled under the cover of a hill, and,
 mounting their horses, dashed out with the most unearthly yells and
 down among the animals that were quietly grazing close to the fort,
 which terrified these so greatly that they broke away from the herders,
 and started at their best gait toward the mountains, closely followed
 by the savages.
 
 The astonished soldiers used every effort to avert the evident loss
 of their charge, and many shots were exchanged in the running fight
 that ensued; but the Indians were too strong for them, and they were
 forced to abandon the chase.
 
 Among the herders was a bugler boy, who was remarkable for his bravery
 in the skirmish and for his untiring endeavours to turn the animals
 back toward the fort, but all without avail; on they went, with the
 savages, close to their heels, giving vent to the most vociferous
 shouts of exultation, and directing the most obscene and insulting
 gesticulations to the soldiers that were after them.
 
 While this exciting contest for the mastery was going on, an old
 Apache chief dashed in the rear of the bold bugler boy, and could,
 without doubt, easily have killed the little fellow; but instead of
 doing this, from some idea of a good joke, or for some other
 incomprehensible reason, his natural blood-thirsty instinct was
 changed, and he merely knocked the bugler's hat from his head with
 the flat of his hand, and at the same time encouragingly stroked his
 hair, as much as to say: "You are a brave boy," and then rode off
 without doing him any harm.
 
 Thirty years ago last August, I was riding from Fort Larned to Fort
 Union, New Mexico, in the overland coach.  I had one of my clerks
 with me; we were the only passengers, and arrived at Fort Dodge,
 which was the commencement of the "long route," at midnight.
 There we changed drivers, and at the break of day were some
 twenty-four miles on our lonely journey.  The coach was rattling
 along at a breakneck gait, and I saw that something was evidently
 wrong.  Looking out of one of the doors, I noticed that our Jehu was
 in a beastly state of intoxication.  It was a most dangerous portion
 of the Trail; the Indians were not in the best of humours, and an
 attack was not at all improbable before we arrived at the next
 station, Fort Lyon.
 
 I said to my clerk that something must be done; so I ordered the
 driver to halt, which he did willingly, got out, and found that,
 notwithstanding his drunken mood, he was very affable and disposed
 to be full of fun.  I suggested that he get inside the coach and
 lie down to sleep off his potations, to which he readily assented,
 while I and my clerk, after snugly fixing him on the cushions,
 got on the boot, I taking the lines, he seizing an old trace-chain,
 with which he pounded the mules along; for we felt ourselves in a
 ticklish predicament should we come across any of the brigands of
 the plains, on that lonely route, with the animals to look out for,
 and only two of us to do the fighting.
 
 Suddenly we saw sitting on the bank of the Arkansas River, about
 a dozen rods from the Trail, an antiquated-looking savage with his
 war-bonnet on, and armed with a long lance and his bow and arrows.
 We did not care a cent for him, but I thought he might be one of
 the tribe's runners, lying in wait to discover the condition of the
 coach--whether it had an escort, and how many were riding in it, and
 that then he would go and tell how ridiculously small the outfit was,
 and swoop down on us with a band of his colleagues, that were hidden
 somewhere in the sand hills south of the river.  He rose as we came
 near, and made the sign, after he had given vent to a series of
 "How's!" that he wanted to talk; but we were not anxious for any
 general conversation with his savage majesty just then, so my clerk
 applied the trace-chain more vigorously to the tired mules, in order
 to get as many miles between him and the coach as we could before
 he could get over into the sand hills and back.
 
 It was, fortunately, a false alarm; the old warrior perhaps had no
 intentions of disturbing us.  We arrived at Fort Lyon in good season,
 with our valorous driver absolutely sobered, requesting me to say
 nothing about his accident, which, of course, I did not.
 
 As has been stated, the caravans bound for Santa Fe and the various
 forts along the line of the Old Trail did not leave the eastern end
 of the route until the grass on the plains, on which the animals
 depended solely for subsistence the whole way, grew sufficiently to
 sustain them, which was usually about the middle of May.  But a great
 many years ago, one of the high officials of the quartermaster's
 department at Washington, who had never been for a moment on duty
 on the frontier in his life, found a good deal of fault with what he
 thought the dilatoriness of the officer in charge at Fort Leavenworth,
 who controlled the question of transportation for the several forts
 scattered all over the West, for not getting the freight caravans
 started earlier, which the functionary at the capital said must and
 should be done.  He insisted that they must leave the Missouri River
 by the middle of April, a month earlier than usual, and came out
 himself to superintend the matter.  He made the contracts accordingly,
 easily finding contractors that suited him.  He then wrote to
 headquarters in a triumphant manner that he had revolutionized the
 whole system of army transportation of supplies to the military posts.
 Delighted with his success, he rode out about the second week of May
 to Salt Creek, only three miles from the fort, and, very much to his
 astonishment, found his teams, which he had believed to be on the
 way to Santa Fe a month ago, snugly encamped.  They had "started,"
 just as was agreed.
 
 There are, or rather were, hundreds of stories current thirty-five
 years ago of stage-coach adventures on the Trail; a volume could be
 filled with them, but I must confine myself to a few.
 
 John Chisholm was a famous ranchman a long while ago, who had so many
 cattle that it was said he did not know their number himself.  At one
 time he had a large contract to furnish beef to an Indian agency
 in Arizona; he had just delivered an immense herd there, and very
 wisely, after receiving his cash for them, sent most of it on to
 Santa Fe in advance of his own journey.  When he arrived there,
 he started for the Missouri River with a thousand dollars and
 sufficient small change to meet his current expenses on the road.
 
 The very first night out from Santa Fe, the coach was halted by a
 band of men who had been watching Chisholm's movements from the time
 he left the agency in Arizona.  The instant the stage came to a
 standstill, Chisholm divined what it meant, and had time to thrust
 a roll of money down one of the legs of his trousers before the door
 was thrown back and he was ordered to fork over what he had.
 
 He invited the robbers to search him, and to take what they might
 find, but said he was not in a financial condition at that juncture
 to turn over much.  The thieves found his watch, took that, and then
 began to search him.  As luck would have it, they entirely missed
 the roll that was down his leg, and discovered but a two-dollar bill
 in his vest.  When he told them it was all he had to buy grub on
 the road, one of the robbers handed him a silver dollar, remarking
 as he did so: "That a man who was mean enough to travel with only
 two dollars ought to starve, but he would give him the dollar just
 to let him know that he was dealing with gentlemen!"
 
 One of the essentials to the comfort of the average soldier is
 tobacco.  He must have it; he would sooner forego any component part
 of his ration than give it up.
 
 In November, 1865, a detachment of Company L, of the Eleventh Kansas
 Volunteers, and of the Second Colorado were ordered from Fort Larned
 to Fort Lyon on a scouting expedition along the line of the Trail,
 the savages having been very active in their raids on the freight caravans.
 
 In a short time their tobacco began to run low, and as there was no
 settlement of any kind between the two military posts, there was no
 chance to replenish their stock.  One night, while encamped on the
 Arkansas, the only piece that was left in the whole command, about
 half a plug, was unfortunately lost, and there was dismay in the
 camp when the fact was announced.  Hours were spent in searching for
 the missing treasure.  The next morning the march was delayed for
 some time, while further diligent search was instituted by all hands,
 but without result, and the command set out on its weary tramp,
 as disconsolate as may well be imagined by those who are victims to
 the habit of chewing the weed.
 
 Arriving at Fort Lyon, to their greater discomfort it was learned
 that the sutler at that post was entirely out of the coveted article,
 and the troops began their return journey more disconsolate than ever.
 Dry leaves, grass, and even small bits of twigs, were chewed as a
 substitute, until, reaching the spot where they had lost the part of
 a plug, they determined to remain there that night and begin a more
 vigorous hunt for the missing piece.  Just before dark their efforts
 were rewarded; one of the men found it, and such a scramble occurred
 for even the smallest nibble at it!  Enormous prices were given for
 a single chew.  It opened at one dollar for a mere sliver, rose to
 five, and closed at ten dollars when the last morsel was left.