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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For July 27:
Captain Lewis (current)
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This morning at daylight the Indians got up and crowded around the fire. J. Fields, who was on post, had carelessly laid his gun down behind him, near where his brother was sleeping. One of the Indians - - the fellow to whom I had given the medal last evening - - slipped behind him and took his gun and that of his brother, unperceived by him. At the same instant two others advanced and seized the guns of Drouilliard and myself.
J. Fields, seeing this, turned about to look for his gun and saw the fellow just running off with her and his brother's. He called to his brother, who instantly jumped up and pursued the Indian with him, whom they overtook at the distance of 50 or 60 paces from the camp, seized their guns and wrested them from him; and R. Fields, as he seized his gun, stabbed the Indian to the heart with his knife. The fellow ran about fifteen steps and fell dead. Of this I did not know until afterward. Having recovered their guns, they ran back instantly to the camp.
Drouilliard, who was awake, saw the Indian take hold of his gun and instantly jumped up and seized her and wrested her from him, but the Indian still retained his pouch. His jumping up and crying, "Damn you, let go my gun!" awakened me.
I jumped up and asked what was the matter, which I quickly learned when I saw Drouilliard in a scuffle with the Indian for his gun, I reached to seize my gun, but found her gone. I then drew a pistol from my holster and, turning myself about, saw the Indian making off with my gun. I ran at him with my pistol and bid him lay down my gun, which he was in the act of doing when the Fieldses returned and drew up their guns to shoot him, which I forbade as he did not appear to be about to make any resistance or commit any offensive act.
He dropped the gun and walked slowly off. I picked her up instantly. Drouilliard, having about this time recovered his gun and pouch, asked me if he might not kill the fellow, which I also forbade as the Indian did not appear to wish to kill us. As soon as they found us all in possession of our arms, they ran and endeavored to drive off all the horses.
I now hallooed to the men and told them to fire on them if they attempted to drive off our horses. They accordingly pursued the main party who were driving the horses up the river, and I pursued the man who had taken my gun, who, with another, was driving off a part of the horses which were to the left of the camp. I pursued them so closely that they could not take twelve of their own horses, but continued to drive one of mine with some others. At the distance of three hundred paces, they entered one of those steep niches in the bluff with the horses before them. Being nearly out of breath, I could pursue no further. I called to them, as I had done several times before, that I would shoot them if they did not give me my horse and raised my gun.
One of them jumped behind a rock and spoke to the other, who turned around and stopped at the distance of thirty steps from me, and I shot him through the belly. He fell to his knees and on his right elbow, from which position he partly raised himself and fired at me and, turning himself about, crawled in behind a rock, which was a few feet from him. He overshot me. Being bareheaded, I felt the wind of his bullet very distinctly.
Not having my shot pouch I could not reload my piece, and as there were two of them behind good shelters from me, I did not think it prudent to rush on them with my pistol, which had I discharged. I had not the means of reloading until I reached camp. I therefore returned leisurely toward camp. On my way, I met with Drouillard who, having heard the report of the guns, had returned in search of me and left the Fieldses to pursue the Indians. I desired him to hasten to the camp with me and assist in catching as many of the Indian horses as were necessary, and to call to the Fieldses, if he could make them hear, to come back - - that we still had a sufficient number of horses. This he did, but they were too far to hear him. We reached the camp and began to catch the horses and saddle them and put on the packs.
The reason I had not my pouch with me was that I had not time to return about fifty yards to camp, after getting my gun, before I was obliged to pursue the Indians or suffer them to collect and drive off all the horses. We had caught and saddled the horses and begun to arrange the packs when the Fieldses returned with four of our horses. We left one of our horses and took four of the best of those of the Indians.
While the men were preparing the horses, I put four shields, and two bows and quivers of arrows, which had been left on the fire, with sundry other articles. They left all their baggage at our mercy. They had but two guns, and one of them they left. The others were armed with bows and arrows and eyedaggs. The gun we took with us. I also retook the flag, but left the medal about the neck of the dead man that they might be informed who we were.
We took some of their buffalo meat and set out, ascending the bluffs by the same route we had descended last evening, leaving the balance of nine of their horses, which we did not want. The Fieldses told me that three of the Indians whom they pursued swam the river - - one of them on my horse; and that two others ascended the hill and escaped from them with a part of their horses; two I had pursued into the niche - - one lay dead near the camp; and the eighth we could not account for but suppose that he ran off early in the contest.
Having ascended the hill, we took our course through a beautiful level plain a little to the S. of east. My design was to hasten to the entrance of Maria's River as quick as possible, in the hope of meeting with the canoes and party at that place, having no doubt but that the Indians would pursue us with a large party. No time was therefore to be lost, and we pushed our horses as hard as they would bear.
By dark, we had traveled about 17 miles further. We now halted to rest ourselves and horses about two hours. We killed a buffalo cow and took a small quantity of the meat. After refreshing ourselves, we again set out by moonlight and traveled leisurely. Heavy thunderclouds lowered around us on every quarter but that from which the moon gave us light. We continued to pass immense herds of buffalo an night, as we had done in the latter part of the day. We traveled until 2 o'clock in the morning, having come, by my estimate, after dark about 20 miles. We now turned out our horses and laid ourselves down to rest in the plain, very much fatigued, as may be readily conceived. My Indian horse carried me very well - - in short, much better than my own would have done - - and leaves me with but little reason to complain of the robbery.
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.