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In the Heart of the Sierras by James M. Hutchings (1888)



Ill news is winged with fate, and flies apace.
        Over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.
Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
        Peace hath higher tests of manhood
Than battle ever knew.
Whittier’s The Hero.

Intelligence of the utter discomfiture of so large a force of their best warriors and ablest chiefs, by “a mere handful” of white men, flew with inexpressible rapidity to all the disaffected Indians; and, with the news, carried dismay and sadness to many hearts; not, however, to accelerate their conversion to honest traits, or peaceful paths. Memories of the rich harvests of booty and of pillage, so recently gathered through spoilation and carnage, still held them in irresistible bondage. Wrong-doing, therefore, to them was only a question of convenience and opportunity. It is true their recent and terrible disasters became forcibly suggestive of others still in reserve, should they defiantly persist in repeating their marauding and murderous exploits. The temporary withdrawal of the whites from further present pursuit, while it gave the Indians favorable opportunity for binding up their wounds, and for recuperating their wasted energies and lost courage, also supplied them with leisure to brood over their losses, and to weigh the contingent results, to themselves, of their flagitious courses. Leaving them, therefore, to their self-criminating reflections, it may not be inopportune, at this juncture, to recur to the protective measures in active preparation at the settlements.

Ribbon Falls—Lung-oo-too-koo-yah.
Photo by Taber.Photo-Typo by Britton & Rey, S. F.
Ribbon Falls—Lung-oo-too-koo-yah.
(See page 398.)

While the volunteers were enjoying the sweet repose that generally follows successful physical and mental labor, and in their case its attendant convivialities, a new excitement made its advent among them, and came almost like an inspiration or revelation; it was an order from His Excellency, Gov. John Mc Dougal, bearing date January 13, 1851, to Maj. James Burney, Sheriff of Mariposa County, to enlist one hundred men, which, by a subsequent order of January 24, 1851, was increased to


“And to organize them at the earliest practicable moment into independent companies, not to exceed four; and, under officers of their own selection, to proceed at once to punish the offending tribes."* [* See Journals of the California Legislature for 1851, page 670.] This inspiriting mandate was not only a recognition and indorsement of the past, but an encouraging augury for the future, to those who had so recently borne the brunt of victorious battle with the foe; and became a strong incentive for their immediate re-enlistment. And it is but an act of well merited honor to those brave men here to make emphatic declaration, that much of the success attending the rapid mustering into service of the required quota, was largely attributable to the chivalric zeal and energy, of both officers and men, forming the pioneer company of Mariposa volunteers.


The full complement of volunteers authorized, numbering two hundred and four, rank and file, reported to Maj. James Burney, at Savage’s old store—then in partial ruins—near Agua Fria, February 10, 1851, equipped, mounted, and ready for service. Here the Mariposa Battalion was organized. It was formed into three companies: A, with seventy men; B, with seventy-two; and C, with fifty-five, exclusive of surgeons, quartermaster, etc. When the time arrived for the election of officers Major Burney, to whom the honor of commanding the battalion naturally belonged, magnanimously declined to be a candidate, partially owing to the pressing duties of his office as Sheriff of so large a county, but mainly for the purpose of insuring harmony, by avoiding all jealous and ambitious rivalries.


In this emergency James D. Savage was elected Commander, not only on account of his soldierly qualities, but for his knowledge of the habits, customs, haunts, and language of the Indians, as well as of the country to be traversed. The following is the muster-roll of the battalion:* [* “Elliott’s History of Fresno County,” pages 177, 178.] Major, James D. Savage; Adjutant, M. B. Lewis; Surgeon, Dr. A. Bronson, who afterwards resigned and was succeeded by Dr. Lewis Leach; Assistant Surgeons, Drs. Pfifer and Black; Sergeant-Major, Robt. E. Russell. Captains—Co. A, seventy men, John I. Kuykendall; Co. B, seventy-two men, John Bowling; Co. C, fifty-five men, William Dill; First Lieutenants, John I. Scott, Co. A; Reuben T. Chandler, Co. B; Hugh W. Ferrell, Co. C. Thus officered,


The troops supplied their own horses and equipments, and the State the provisions and baggage wagons. Owing to the uncertainty of payment at that early day, and other untoward circumstances, almost fabulous prices were charged for articles purchased in the mining districts.

A large grassy meadow, located on Mariposa Creek, some fifteen miles below the village of Mariposa, was made the first head-quarters of the battalion, where drilling, manoeuvering, and other preparatory exercises necessary for efficient military service, were duly put into practice. Occasional scouting parties would sally out for short distances in search of the enemy, known to be amazingly near, from the numerous thefts committed in cattle and horses; but these seemed to have had no more decisive result than the cultivation of watchfulness, and exercise, and the retirement of the Indians farther into the mountains. Meanwhile,


While all these warlike tactics were progressing, potential humanitarian influences were giving birth to a nobler policy than a mere conflict of races, and more in consonance with the enlightened spirit of the age. Communications, glistening with enlarged views and generous impulses on this question, began to flow in a steady stream to the Executive, and from persons of high official position, such as, for instance, that indicated in the following extract from the


[* See Journals of the Legislature of California for 1851, page 770.]

The Indians have been more “sinned against than sinning” since the settling of California by the whites, is the opinion of many old inhabitants, as well as miners, who have lived in their midst, and watched the rise and progress of the many disturbances that have occurred; they are naturally inoffensive, and perhaps less warlike than any other tribes on the continent; indeed, they have not even the resources necessary for defense; the bow and arrow are their only arm; they are destitute of animals even for transportation purposes; they have no means of support within them selves, save the transitory fruits of the seasons, some few esculent plants and acorns, the latter being garnered up for their winter supplies, by which they must stay or starve; they are to a man, almost in a state of nature, without a single comfort in the way of clothing, and during the cold months huddle together in their holes, as their only protection against the inclemency of the weather; in fact, all their habits are peaceful, and in their whole character it is not discoverable that naturally they possess the first element of a warlike people; but the germ of a hostile spirit has been created in them, that, without some prompt and decisive action on the part of the General Government, will grow and spread among them a deadly hate towards the whites, which erelong may cause our frontier to be marked with lines of blood. If they are apt scholars they will not only be taught how to fight, but in time will muster many warriors, each with his firelock and butcher-knife, taken from the bodies of murdered white men.

I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s obedient servant,

Thomas B. Eastland
Brig. Gen. 1st. Division, Cal. Ma. comm’g.

Such well-timed and considerate sentiments carried with them the force of conclusive argument, and gave full strength to the moulding of a more generous future for the campaign. At this important juncture, such was Governor McDougal’s anxiety lest every possible contingency should not be anticipated and provided for, that he invited earnest conferences with other State officers, and with all the most influential members of both Senate and Assembly, upon this all-absorbing question, regardless of any political differences whatsoever. Moreover, upon the eve of Colonel Johnson’s departure, His Excellency issued the following


San Jose,* January 25, 1851.

[*Then the seat of State Government.]

The force provided may or not be sufficient; the difficulties of communication with the scene of the disturbances are so great as to render it almost if not quite impracticable to be perfectly advised of the exact state of affairs. I am left, therefore, to act as the emergency seems to require, and without that degree of particular and minute information so important to the prompt and efficient suppression of Indian hostilities. Such being the case, and being desirous to do all in my power to afford our citizens protection in life and property, I have deemed it advisable to dispatch an officer of the staff to the scene of the disturbances, with the view to ascertain, collect, and report all facts respecting them, which are or may be required to direct intelligently the further operations of the State authorities. You have been selected for this purpose.

You will proceed at once, and by the most expeditious route, to the county of Mariposa, where you will communicate with the officer in command of the forces which have been recently ordered out. If possible, let the Indians be conciliated. Indian war is at all times to be deprecated, but especially so by us now, in the infancy of our career as a State, and before the General Government has provided us with the necessary means of protection and defense. We are in no condition to be harassed by expensive and protracted disturbances, which, when the best provision has been made for them, prove seriously detrimental to the best interests of the people among whom they exist. I cannot, therefore, too strongly impress upon you, and through you upon our citizens, to avoid studiously the commission of any act calculated to excite and exasperate unnecessarily the Indian tribes.

While the measures it may become necessary to adopt shall be firm, let them be tempered with kindness and forbearance, manifesting at all times a disposition to restore relations of friendship, and perpetuate a mutual good understanding. The great object is to effect a peace with the least bloodshed, and at the least expense, and no means should be left untried to bring it about. In this connection I would suggest that, before leaving San Francisco, an interview be had by you with the United States Commissioners on this subject, who will, no doubt, cordially cooperate with you in whatever shall serve to effect an object so desirable. You will also assure them that every facility within your power will be extended to them, in the execution of their mission; and for this purpose, if they deem it necessary, you will order out such force as will securely protect their persons and property. If the Indians are still found to be obstinate and intractable after your endeavors, as well as the endeavors and means used by the Commissioners, to bring about an amicable adjustment of the existing difficulties, it will then become your duty to decide upon the line of offensive policy to be pursued. Where pacific measures fail, a vigorous prosecution of the war is our most efficient remedy. As before remarked, the force already ordered out may be sufficient for all purposes, but this is a matter which I have not the means of determining; it must be left to your discretion and better judgment after you shall have clearly ascertained, by personal observation, the actual exigency. Should an emergency exist now, or arise hereafter, requiring an additional number of troops, which will not admit of the delay necessary to communicate with me, you are authorized to call out such additional numbers as may be necessary. But it is to be hoped this will not be required; and unless absolutely demanded by circumstances, of which you must be the judge, the call will not of course be made. We have every reason to believe that as soon as at all practicable, the General Government will take steps to afford us adequate protection; at present, however, efficient aid need not be expected. There are but few United States troops in the State, and those few are stationed at points distant from each other, and remote from the scene of disturbances, requiring time to collect and fit them for actual service; time, too, which may be all-important in speedily terminating our difficulties with the Indians, and thus saving many valuable lives, as well as preserving much valuable property.... Further advice, if it is deemed necessary, will be sent to you by express.

I have the honor to be, &c.,

John McDougal.

The tendency of these well-timed and comprehensive instructions to Colonel Johnson gave assurance of a two-fold advantage: first, in giving him the power to augment the State forces commensurately with the strength developed by the enemy; and second, in securing to the Indian Commissioners the ability to compel obedience should their pacific labors become ineffectual.

Conferences between the Governor of the State and the Indian Commissioners sent out by the General Government became both frequent and effectual, and superinduced the adoption of a more just and more benignant policy toward the Indians. Finally, an agreement was made between the Executive of California, Governor McDougal, and the U. S. Indian Commissioners, Messrs. Wozencraft, McKee, and Barbour, that the latter, in the interests of humanity, should take full command of the State troops, then in the field near Mariposa. Accordingly, instructions were dispatched immediately to Major Savage, informing him of this arrangement, and ordering him to suspend all active hostile demonstrations against the enemy, until further directed.

Thus provided, therefore, against all possible contingencies, the Commissioners lost no unnecessary time in making


Stores of many kinds, adapted to Indian tastes and wants, as well as to their own, had to be selected and dispatched. And, for conferring more readily with the mountain tribes, the services of a few peaceful mission Indians were secured, as messengers and interpreters, so that through these they could the more readily find access to the hearts and prejudices of the hostile Indians. Much anxious care and intelligent inquiry were needed in this, to insure such material as was best adapted to the work; because success or failure might largely depend upon their efficiency and adaptability to the important task. All things being in readiness, the U. S. Indian Commissioners, under the escort of Colonel Johnson, and a small detachment of State troops, repaired as rapidly as possible to the camp of the Mariposa Battalion.

After a cordial though informal welcome, Colonel Johnson introduced himself, the Commissioners, and the subject in the following explanatory


[* Reported by Dr. L. H. Bunnell.]

Soldiers and Gentlemen: Your operations as a military organization will henceforth be under the direction of the United States Commissioners. Under their orders you are now assigned to the duty of subduing such Indian tribes as could not otherwise be induced to make treaties with them, and at once cease hostilities and depredations. Your officers will make all reports to the Commissioners. Your orders and instructions will hereafter be issued by them. Your soldierly and manly appearance is a sufficient guarantee that their orders will be conscientiously carried out. While I do not hesitate to denounce the Indians for the murders and robberies committed by them, we should not forget that there may perhaps be circumstances which, if taken into consideration, might to some extent excuse their hostility to the whites. They probably feel that they themselves are the aggrieved party, looking upon us as trespassers upon their territory, invaders of their country, and seeking to dispossess them of their homes. It may be that they class us with the Spanish invaders of Mexico and California, whose cruelties in civilizing and Christianizing them are still traditionally fresh in their memories. As I am soon to leave you I will now bid you “good-bye,” with the hope that your actions will be in harmony with the wishes of the Commissioners, and that in the performance of your duties, you will in all cases observe mercy where severity is not justly demanded.


The mission Indians, so called, who acted so important a part at this crisis in preliminary peace negotiations, were those who had been gathered into the fold of the Catholic Church, established by the Spanish missionaries between the years 1768 and 1780, under the able leadership of Junipero Serra—who also discovered and named the bay of San Francisco, in October, 1769. These Indians, under a rude kind of both religious and secular civilization, having shared its advantages, had taken no part whatsoever in the hostilities of the times. Many had formerly belonged to the mountain tribes, and could speak their language, yet had no sympathy with the hostiles. Among these there seems to have been one named Russio, who was pre-eminently qualified for the service of messenger and interpreter; and who, owing to his discriminating apprehension of the good intentions and motives of the Commissioners, his superior intelligence, and convincingly persuasive manners, became an invaluable auxiliary in the establishment of peace relations.

With a less intelligent Indian named Sandino, and other assistants, Russio set out for the nearest Indian villages, where, by his graphic pictures of the invincible power of the whites, and the utter folly of resisting and fighting them; the liberal supplies of blankets, provisions, and ornaments for their women and children, to be most generously distributed among them; with assurances of kindly treatment and protection, he induced many to visit the Commissioners, converse with them (through Russio), and finally to accept the proffered conditions. It is true some were very shy, and, being conscience-smitten for the culpable part they had previously taken, were suspiciously doubtful of results; but the lavish distribution of presents, and the uniform good treatment received by those who had submitted, eventually charmed others into satisfied acquiescence.

At this time the California Indians numbered, according to Major Savage’s representation,* [* “Elliott’s History of Fresno County,” page 181.] as follows: San Joaquin River, and its tributaries, 6,500; Tuolumne, 2,100; Merced, 4,800; King’s River, 2,000; Kern, 1,700; Tulare, 1,000; Umas, 5,000; on the east side of the Sierra Nevada—embracing Owen’s Lake and River, Walker, Carson, and Truckee—31,000; Klamath, Trinidad, Sacramento, and branches, 30,000; Clear Lake, Trinidad Bay, and Russian River, 6,000; making a total of 90,100. Of these the San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Merced, King’s, Kern, Tulare, and Umas of Tulare Lake, numbering some 23,000, not only sympathized with the hostile Indians, but, for the most part, took active measures against the miners and settlers of Mariposa County.

Among the earliest arrivals was Kee-chee, whom Dr. Bunnell calls Vow-ches-ter, but whose Christian name, given him at the missions probably, was Baptista, according to Dr. Wozencraft, one of the Indian Commissioners, and was pronounced Beauteesta, who was the recognized leader of all the Mariposa bands. Kee-chee had been generally friendly to the whites, but, through the influence of Jose Rey, he had united his fortunes with the unfriendly Indians. It is reasonably presumable, however, to suppose, that the havoc made among his people, at almost their first encounter, had not been without its impressive lesson; inasmuch as, when assured of forgiveness, safety, and beneficent treatment, he not only submitted willingly to the policy of the Commissioners but promised to bring in as many of his people as he possibly could. But, according to Dr. Bunnell, when questioned about the mountain Indians, he made answer: “The mountain tribes would not listen to any terms of peace involving the abandonment of their territory; that in the fight near the north fork of the San Joaquin, Jose Rey had been badly wounded and would probably die; that his tribe was very angry, and would not make peace.”


Russio said:* [* Dr. Bunnell.] “The Indians in the deep rocky valley on the Merced River do not wish for peace, and will not come in to see the chiefs sent by the great father to make treaties. They think the white man cannot find their hiding-places, and that there fore they cannot be driven out!” The other Indians of the party confirmed Russio’s statements. Vowchester [Kee-chee] was the principal spokesman, and he said: “In this deep valley spoken of by Russio, one Indian is more than ten white men. The hiding places are many. They will throw rocks down on the white men, if any should come near them. The other tribes dare not make war upon them, for they are lawless like the grizzlies, and as strong. We are afraid to go to this valley, for there are many witches there!”

In the earnest and hopeful expectation of peacefully gathering in the disaffected tribes and permanently providing for their comfort and safety, the Indian Commissioners established


On the Fresno River—a few miles easterly of where the present town of Madera is situated, and now known as the Adobe Ranch, owned by Mr. J. G. Stitt—to which all pacifically disposed Indians could resort, and find shelter and protection. This became the place of general rendezvous for both soldiers and Indians. yet, notwithstanding these timely and humane preparations, and their acceptance by some, the many still hesitated, doubtingly, of the ultimate intentions of the whites, and kept them selves hidden in their silent retreats. The positive statements of Russio and Kee-chee placed it beyond peradventure that the Yo Semites had not abated their hostile feelings and determinations one iota; to which their failure in response to the many invitations sent, became additional proof.

Therefore, being weary with waiting, and annoyed constantly with depredations committed upon the cattle and horses of the miners and settlers, as well as those belonging to the command, the Commissioners resolved upon aggressive movements, and ordered


This was delightful music to the ears, and great joy to the hearts of the volunteers, who had been impatiently chafing at their prolonged inactivity, so that when the injunction was given to “mount,” every saddle was filled, with alacrity.

The entire absence of roads in those days compelled them to March in Indian, or single, file, and over the most indifferent of trails. Notwithstanding this, and the evidence of a gathering storm, the order, “Forward, march,” was cheerfully obeyed. Under the directions of Major Savage, the advance was made in silence; “For,” said he, “we must all learn to be still as Indians, or we shall never find them.” Braving with becoming unanimity the heavy rain, that was now coming down in torrents, their fearlessness was rewarded by the welcome discovery of “Indian signs.” They were then on the south fork of the Merced River, about two miles below where Wawona Station (Clark’s) now is. As night was advancing, and the rain was turning into snow, they went quietly into camp. At daylight the following morning, after leaving their animals and encampment in charge of a strong guard, two of the companies under Captains Boling and Dill, with one of Savage’s Indians named “Bob” as guide, advanced without any hesitation, or effort at concealment, to the Indian village.

“On discovering us,” Dr. Bunnell remarks, “the Indians hurriedly ran to and fro, as if uncertain what course to pursue. Seeing an unknown force approaching, they threw up their hands in token of submission, crying out at the same time in Spanish, ‘Pace! pace!’ (peace! peace!). We were at once ordered to halt, while Major Savage went forward to arrange for the surrender. The Major was at once recognized, and cordially received by such of the band as he desired to confer with officially. We found the village to be that of Pon-wat-chee, a chief of the Noot-chü tribe, whose people had formerly worked for Savage under direction of Cow-chit-ty, his brother, and from whose tribe Savage had taken Ee-e-ke-no, one of his former wives. The chief professed still to entertain feelings of friendship for Savage, and expressed himself as now willing to obey his counsels.

“Savage at once told the chief the object of the expedition, and his requirements. His terms were promptly agreed to, and before we had time to examine the captives or their wigwams, they had commenced packing their supplies, and removing their property from their bark huts. This done, the torch was applied by the Indians themselves, in token of their sincerity in removing to the reservation on the Fresno.”

After this bloodless victory, the captured chief, Pon-wat-chee, volunteered the information to Savage of a camp of the Po-ho-no-chees on the opposite side of the river, not far below his old village. Messengers were immediately dispatched there; and as the Po-ho-no-chees, through their runners, had already learned of the surprise, and peaceful abduction of the Noot-chüs, and of their kindly treatment by the whites, they timidly, yet unhesitatingly, gave themselves up.

Messengers and runners were now sent out in all directions to discover the hiding-places of other Indian bands, with instructions to promise safety, protection, food, and clothing, if they surrendered, and extermination if they refused. This significant mandate had its desired effect; and although their movements were characterized by timidity and fear, all found in this immediate vicinity quietly surrendered.

These encouraging auguries gave measurable promise of like successes with the defiant Yo Semites, and other Indians, still hidden in their mountain fastnesses. Similar messages to the above had been conveyed to the Yo Semites; but, as yet, not a single Indian had consented to present himself, and accept the proffered conditions. To avoid compulsory measures and possible slaughter, it was deemed desirable to send a special courier to Ten-ie-ya, the chief of the Yo Semites, bearing a kindly, yet decided, ultimatum. To this the old chief concluded it best to respond at once, and in person, on the following day.


From Dr. Bunnell’s graphic picture of the conference, as an eye-witness, the chief of the Yo Semites had the courage to go alone, and to present himself in dignified silence to the guard, there to remain standing until motioned to enter Savage’s tent. He was immediately recognized and respectfully greeted by Pon-wat-chee as the chief of the Yo Semites. Both officers and men received him kindly, and most cordially tendered him the hospitalities of their camp:—

“After which, with the aid of the Indians, the Major informed him of the wishes of the Commissioners. The old sachem was very suspicious of Savage, and feared he was taking this method of getting the Yo Semites into his power, for the purpose of revenging his personal wrongs. Savage told him that if he would go to the Commissioners and make a treaty of peace with them, as the other Indians were doing, there would be no more war. Ten-ie-ya cautiously inquired the object of taking all the Indians to the plains of the San Joaquin, and said: ‘My people do not want anything from the Great Father you tell me about. The Great Spirit is our father, and he has always supplied us with all that we need. We do not want anything from white men. Our women are able to do our work. Go, then; let us remain in the mountains where we were born; where the ashes of our fathers have been given to the winds. I have said enough!’

“This was abruptly answered by Savage in Indian dialect and gestures. ‘If you and your people have all you desire, why do you steal our horses and mules? Why do you rob the miners’ camps? Why do you murder the white men, and plunder and burn their houses?’

“Ten-ie-ya sat silent for some time; it was evident he understood what Savage had said, for he replied: ‘My young men have sometimes taken horses and mules from the whites. It was wrong for them to do so. It is not wrong to take the property of enemies who have wronged my people. My young men believed the white gold-diggers were our enemies; we now know that they are not, and we will be glad to live in peace with them. We will stay here and be friends. My people do not want to go to the plains. The tribes who go there are some of them very bad. They will make war upon my people. We cannot live on the plains with them. Here we can defend ourselves against them.’

“In reply to this, Savage very deliberately and firmly said: ‘Your people must go to the Commissioners and make terms with them. If they do not, the young men will again steal our horses; your people will again kill and plunder the whites. It was your people who robbed my stores, burned my houses, and murdered my men. If they do not make a treaty, your whole tribe will be destroyed, not one of them will be left alive.’ At this vigorous ending of the Major’s speech, the old chief replied: ‘It is useless to talk to you about who destroyed your property and killed your people. If the Chow-chillas do not boast of it, they are cowards, for they led us on. I am old, and you can kill me if you will, but what use to lie to you who know more than all the Indians, and can beat them in their big hunts of deer and bear. Therefore I will not lie to you, but promise that if allowed to return to my people I will bring them in.’ He was allowed to go. The next day he came back, and said his people would soon come to our camp; that when he had told them they could come with safety, they were willing to go and make a treaty with the men sent by the Great Father who was so good and rich. Another day passed, but no Indians made their appearance from the ‘deep valley,’ spoken of so frequently by those at our camp. The old chief said the snow was so deep that they could not travel fast; that his village was so far down (gesticulating, by way of illustration, with his hands) that when the snow was deep on the mountains they would be a long time climbing out of it. As we were at the time having another storm, Ten-ie-ya’s explanation was accepted, but he was closely watched.”

As each returning day brought with it no tangible evidence of the arrival of the Yo Semites, it was resolved that they should be sought after in their boasted stronghold; and, notwithstanding the discouraging pictures so graphically painted, in both language and gesture, by Ten-ie-ya, of the difficulties and dangers to be encountered on the way, coupled with assurances of the early arrival of his people,


When volunteers were called for, according to the usual custom of the battalion, the entire command stepped to the front. Here a new dilemma became strikingly apparent. As the Indian captives, as well as baggage, had to be protected, a camp-guard was as essential as an advancing cohort. A call for this duty was then made, but as very few responded, the officers decided to provide for it by a good-natured piece of strategy—a foot race—the fleetest to be the favored ones for the expedition, and the slowest to form the camp-guard. This novel method of selection was greeted with hilarious applause, as it made provisions for both emergencies, without hurtful discrimination.

Amid many jocular allusions at the possible value of their fleet-footedness (on a retreat?) when they met the enemy, the troops on the following morning made an early start, with Major Savage in the advance, accompanied by Ten-ie-ya as guide. Deep snow, attended with the usual difficulties of making a trail through it, was soon encountered and overcome, by the rider in advance frequently falling out of line, and the next taking his place. By this old-fashioned method a passably good horse-trail was made over it, especially considering the rough and rocky country being traveled over.


About midway between camp and the valley seventy-two of the Yo Semites were met, forcing their way flounderingly through the snow, loaded down with children and wares, yet, on their route to the place of general rendezvous, at the south fork of the Merced. This was at least partial proof that Ten-ie-ya was acting in good faith, by carrying out his promises. But, as his band was estimated to number over two hundred, the question very naturally arose, where could be the remainder? Ten-ie-ya, by way of apology for his limited following, contended that many of his people had intermarried with distant tribes, and gone away; that these were all that were willing to leave their mountain homes and move to the plains; that some few were sick and unable to come now, but would join them in the future, and other similar excuses. Such unsatisfactory statements, implying as they did at best, that only a portion of the Yo Semites was here represented, the troops determined upon advancing. As Ten-ie-ya was a reluctant, if not an unwilling guide, one of his young “braves” was selected in his place, and the old chief allowed to accompany his people to the camp.


After separating from the Indians, and before advancing many miles, the great valley opened before them like a sublime revelation.* [* This was on May 5 or 6, 1851, although Dr. Bunnell incorrectly gives the latter part of March as the date. See dispatches of Maj. James D. Savage, in “Elliott’s History of Fresno County,” pages 179,180. ] [Editor’s note: Mr. Hutchings correction is incorrect. The correct date is March 25, 1851 (from a diary entry of Pvt. Robert Eccleston). The dates in May refer to a second expedition to Yosemite Valley.—dea.] ] But here Dr. Bunnell, an eye-witness and participant in the honor, must be allowed to express his own sensations, and to paint the graphic picture.† [† "Discovery of the Yosemite,” page 54.]

It has been said that “it is not easy to describe in words the precise impressions which great objects make upon us.” I cannot describe how completely I realized this truth. None but those who have visited this most wonderful valley, can even imagine the feelings with which I looked upon the view that was there presented. The grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley—light as gossamer—and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and, as I looked, a peculiarly exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion.

To obtain a more distinct and quiet view, I had left the trail and my horse, and wallowed through the snow alone to a projecting granite rock. So interested was I in the scene before me, that I did not observe that my comrades had all moved on, and that I would soon be left indeed alone. My situation attracted the attention of Major Savage—who was riding in the rear of the column—who hailed me from the trail below with, “You had better wake up from that dream up there, or you may lose your hair; I have no faith in Ten-ie-ya’s statement that there are no Indians about here. We had better be moving; some of the murdering devils may be lurking along this trail to pick up stragglers.” I hurriedly joined the Major on the descent, and as other views presented themselves, I said with some enthusiasm: “If my hair is now required, I can depart in peace, for I have seen the power and glory of a Supreme Being; the majesty of His handy-work is in that ‘Testimony of the Rocks.’”

To the Mariposa Battalion, then, commanded by Major Savage, is to be accorded the honor of first entering the Yo Semite Valley, May 5th or 6th, 1851. [Editor’s note: March 25, 1851—see above.] It is true the writer has heard of various persons having visited it, when prospecting for gold, as early as 1849, but no responsible data to establish the fact has yet come to his knowledge. Still, if this were proven beyond peradventure, their neglect to publish so marvelous a discovery to the world, is presumable evidence of a lack of appreciation, or of an absorbed attention to other pursuits that utterly diverted it from this sublime theme. And while discussing this question I hope to be forgiven for expressing surprise that so little was said or written upon it by its discoverers at the time. Even Dr. L. H. Bunnell, to whom the public is so largely indebted for his interesting narrative, "The Discovery of the Yosemite,” only published his description of it in 1880. Extenuating mention should, however, be made of the fact that, at that time, nearly everyone’s thoughts and energies were mainly centralized upon the acquisition of wealth, or in combatting the too frequent disappointments that followed in its train, for a moment to permit such a divertisement as an intellectual banquet on scenery, or in the preparation and serving up of one for others.

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