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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For July 15:
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Dispatched McNeal early this morning to the lower part of the portage in order to learn whether the cache and white pirogue remained untouched or in what state they were. The men employed in drying the meat, dressing deer skins, and preparing for the reception of the canoes. At 1 P.M., Drouilliard returned without the horses and reported that, after a diligent search of 2 days, he had discovered where the horses had passed Dearborn's River, at which place there were 15 lodges that had been abandoned about the time our horses were taken. He pursued the tracks of a number of horses from these lodges to the road which we had traveled over the mountains, which they struck about 3 miles south of our encampment of the 7th inst., and had pursued this road westwardly.
I have no doubt but they are a party of the Tushepaws, who have been on a buffalo hunt. Drouilliard informed that their camp was in a small bottom on the river of about 5 acres enclosed by the steep and rocky and lofty cliffs of the river, and that so closely had they kept themselves and horses within this little spot that there was not a track to be seen of them within a quarter of a mile of that place. Every spire of grass was eaten up by their horses near their camp, which had the appearance of their having remained here some time. His horse being much fatigued with the ride he had given him and finding that the Indians had at least two days the start of him, he thought it best to return. His safe return has relieved me from great anxiety. I had already settled it in my mind that a white bear had killed him, and should have set out tomorrow in search of him, and if I could not find him to continue my route to Maria's River. I knew that if he met with a bear, in the plains even, he would attack him; and that, if any accident should happen to separate him from his horse in that situation, the chances in favor of his being killed would be as 9 to 10. I felt so perfectly satisfied that he had returned in safety that I thought but little of the horses, although they were seven of the best I had.
This loss, great as it is, is not entirely irreparable or at least does not defeat my design of exploring Maria's River. I have yet 10 horses remaining, two of the best and two of the worst of which I leave, to assist the party in taking the canoes and baggage over the portage, and take the remaining six with me. These are but indifferent horses, most of them, but I hope they may answer our purposes. I shall leave three of my intended party - - Gass, Frazer, and Warner, and take the two Fieldses and Drouilliard. By having two spare horses, we can relieve those we ride.
Having made this arrangement, I gave orders for an early departure in the morning. Indeed, I should have set out instantly, but McNeal rode one of the horses which I intend to take and has not yet returned. A little before dark, McNeal returned with his musket broken off at the breach, and informed me that on his arrival at Willow Run (on the portage) he had approached a white bear within ten feet without discovering him, the bear being in the thick brush.
The horse took the alarm and, turning short, threw him immediately under the bear. This animal raised himself on his hind feet for battle, and gave him time to recover from his fall, which he did in an instant, and with his clubbed musket he struck the bear over the head and cut him with the guard of the gun and broke off the breach. The bear, stunned with the stroke, fell to the ground and began to scratch his head with his feet. This gave McNeal time to climb a willow tree which was near at hand and thus fortunately made his escape. The bear waited at the foot of the tree until late in the evening before he left him.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.