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Chapter 13: at Lexington and Galena.

Galena lead mines.-recruiting service.-cholera in Lexington.-return to Fort Crawford.-Fort Gibson.-

Adventure with Indians.--Washington Irving and Eleazur Williams.-New regiment created.-promotion.--Smith T.

After the Black Hawk War closed in 1831 Lieutenant Davis was sent up to Galena on a tour of inspection to the lead mines, where he remained long enough personally to know some of the miners, and they had so many manly qualities that his relations with them were very kind, and his appreciation of them won their regard.

In the autumn of 1832, Lieutenant Davis was sent on recruiting service, and went to Louisville and Lexington, Ky. The cholera broke out while he was at the latter place, and people fled from it in numbers. True to his sense of duty, and fearless in the pursuit of it, he remained at his post, took care of his recruits, attended to their diet, and, as ever, did his best regardless of consequences. [146]

It was there he said he performed his first undertaker's duty, for a poor old negro man who, with a white man, lay dead alone in a “shanty.” He found, with much difficulty, a carpenter, who, with Lieutenant Davis's unskilled assistance, made two coffins, took the corpses to the cemetery, and buried them decently.

As soon as Lieutenant Davis secured the necessary number of men he returned with his recruits to Fort Crawford, the regimental Headquarters, and remained there until 1834, when he was ordered to the extreme frontier, which was then Fort Gibson, Iowa Territory. From there he went on an expedition to the Toweash villages, and was constantly engaged in reconnaissances involving many hardships and anxieties, with nights and days spent without food or shelter and drenched with the rain. But these are of no importance at this day to the general public, who travel in Pullman coaches through fields of smiling plenty, and by flourishing villages where law and order permit their happy citizens to lay them down “in peace and sleep,” instead of watching over their households in fear of midnight invasions by savages.

Lieutenant Davis was sent off to make a reconnaissance toward the Northwest, to find a detached force of warriors who had been trespassing [147] and committing murders, to whom he hoped to give battle. He grew tired of listening to a pow-wow going on between some Indians and whites and wandered off with an Indian who offered to guide him. He took the man up behind him on his horse and they rode off together among the rocks. They had come to one of the caftons of the Rocky Mountains where the cliffs rose like walls on either side, when the Indian, springing down, put his hands to his mouth and uttered a peculiar cry, evidently a signal to some of his friends. Lieutenant Davis, suspecting treachery, drew his pistol and pointed it at the guide. However, the other made signs of peace, and in a little while a rough kind of ladder was let down from one side of the cafton. They clambered up and discovered themselves in a village from which all the strong men had gone down to the pow-wow leaving nobody but the sick, the aged, and the women and children behind them. They had built themselves porch-like contrivances of twigs where they sat during the day. It was just the season when melons were commencing to ripen. They received the stranger kindly, and while he sat under one of these, brought him some melons to eat. He had become so browned by the exposure that his naturally fair skin was as dark almost as [148] theirs, and excited no attention. But when, the melon-juice running down his sleeve, he turned back his cuff and they discovered the white skin beneath it, the whole village was in excitement in a moment, as none of them had ever seen a white man before. They pulled open his shirt to see if his chest, too, was of this peculiar color, and everybody tumbled up out of wigwam and hut to take a look at this strange creature. However, being savage, their curiosity was well-bred, they troubled him no further, and he and the friendly villagers parted on the most kindly terms, his own Indian guide returning with him to the camp.

When Lieutenant Davis was on an expedition in the neighborhood of Fort Gibson once, he met Washington Irving and also Eleazur Williams, the person who believed himself to be the Dauphin of France.1 His impression of Washington Irving was that he was a most amiable and charming man, lamentably out of place on that frontier, and he suspected Mr. Irving of secretly coinciding with him. Of Mr. Williams he had only one memory, and that was that he looked like a preacher and had a measured cadence in his speech like one. [149] He said, “If I only had my books here I could read a great deal.”

After nearly a year's service at Fort Gibson many of the troops became ill, and as the cause was obscure, it was thought prudent to remove them from the Cherokee to the Creek Nation, and Lieutenant Davis was detailed to superintend the change. He gave the following account of his service in a letter written in 1878:

From Hon. Jefferson Davis to George W. Jones.

In the beginning of 1833 I was one of the two officers selected from the First Infantry for promotion into the newly created regiment of dragoons, and left Prairie du Chien under orders for recruiting service in Kentucky. As soon as the Kentucky company was raised I returned to Jefferson Barracks, the rendezvous of the regiment. The first field officer who joined was Major Mason, he being the other officer who, with me, was selected from the First Infantry for promotion in the dragoons, and by him I was appointed adjutant of the squadron, composed of the first companies which reported. After other companies had joined, the colonel, Henry Dodge, came and assumed command. He had known me when I served on the Upper Mississippi, and by him I was appointed adjutant of the regiment. In [150] 1834 Colonel Dodge, with a selected detachment, was sent by General Leavenworth in pursuit of Indians who had committed depredations on the Upper Red River, and I was one of that party.

I was stationed opposite Dubuque, charged to keep watch on the semi-hostile Indians west of the river, and to prevent white men from crossing into the Indian country. My orders required me to go frequently through the mines, and thus I was often the recipient of your hospitality at the Sinsinnewa Mound, and frequently in the town of Galena, where my particular associate was the venerable Captain Legate, of the United States Army, on duty as superintendent of the lead mines.

Some misrepresentations having in late years been made of Mr. Davis's Western service, he wrote the following letter to his friend General G. W. Jones:

Beauvoir, September 2, 1882.
My Dear Friend:
I have received your very gratifying letter of the 27th instant, and also numbers four and twelve of the early history of Dubuque. I have read the letter of —, contained in number four, with equal surprise and regret. I did not expect him to know that as far back as the administration of [151] Mr. Monroe the question had been definitely settled that the action of a secretary was that of the President, and to comprehend the peculiar features of the Indian treaty of 1804. . . . It is not true that those who claimed to own the mines as successors of Dubuque were a party to the removal of trespassers; the reverse is the fact, as I well remember, because of a threat which was made that John Smith T. 2 was to come with a large party of riflemen to drive off my small party, so as to allow the mines to be worked. You ask why I marked my letter to you “private.” The reason was that I did not wish to engage in newspaper controversy, [152] and if I wrote anything in regard to Dubuque and the Indian troubles of that period, I preferred that it should be fuller and in a different style from that of friendly correspondence. My connection with the matter was not of sufficient importance to make me anxious to call to it the attention of the public, and I am quite content on that, as in many other things, to permit a petty spite to exclude my name from the narrative. I have, however, always gratefully remembered the resolution of your legislature upon the receipt of the news that I had been mortally wounded at the battle of Buena Vista.

1 The original of the once famous article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Have we a Bourbon among us?”

2 John Smith T. was a noted duellist, had killed nine men outright. His unexpected presence at a little wayside tavern, where he was not recognized, produced an absurd effect. lie was considered invincible by the people of the West, his name struck terror into the hearts of the men of that day, and a brave and tried man related an anecdote of how Smith T.‘s name affected himself at the inn at Galena. He said the company were sitting on the gallery, talking of Smith T. after dinner, and he said he should like to see him; he thought he could not be terrorized. A quiet little man arose and announced, “I am Smith T., at your service.” The man went to the bannister and gave up his dinner, the instinctive terror made him sea-sick. Once General Dodge had a difficulty with Mr. Smith T., and the two exchanged a promise to fight at sight. The general saw Smith T. first at a crossing as he turned the corner in Galena, and his pistol covered Smith T. before he saw the general. Smith T. bowed coolly and said, “This time you have the advantage of me, general, but the next!” and passed on. The old Indian fighter was a match for anyone in the art of defence and offence. The two never met again. The general's eyes flashed as he told it, and he added, “he came very near getting me, sir-very near!

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