Antoine of Oregon - James Otis

Colonel Kearny's Dragoons

Among the foremost of the horsemen who came up and halted near us, was Colonel Stephen W. Kearny who, with three hundred dragoons, nineteen wagons drawn by mules, fifty head of cattle, and twenty-five sheep, was making the first military campaign into the Far West, in order properly to impress the Indians with the strength and power of the Great Father at Washington.

Colonel Kearny would not permit his train to halt where we were encamped, but he remained with us a full half hour, taking his due share of the newly made butter, and eating heartily of our poor store.

It was a most pleasing break in the journey, and to me it was indeed something to be remembered, for never before had I seen or heard of such a number of soldiers so far away from the frontier.

When we set off again all our teamsters pressed forward eagerly, hoping to overtake the dragoons, who had already no less than two hours' start of us.

Perhaps I ought to have checked them, knowing they were forcing our stock at too rapid a pace; but yet I did not, and when next we halted thirty-two miles had been traversed since morning. This, though the way was smooth and the crossings easy, I allowed was a good day's work.

It was on the twenty-sixth day of May, after we had traveled ten miles, that we came to the bank of Little Sandy River, where was already encamped a company of emigrants bound for the Oregon country. They had thirty-two wagons, and, in addition to the other stock, ninety cows, having started from Independence with a hundred.

Susan Mitchell laughed with glee when we arrived at this camp and, when I asked the reason for her high spirits, told me our people could spend the evening visiting these strangers even as they visited their neighbors at home. Indeed, I saw that all the members of the company were prinking and pluming like a party of savages making ready for a war dance.

Men whose clothing had been wellnigh in rags suddenly appeared decked out in finery, and as for the women and the girls, a garden of flowers could hardly have compared with them for variety of colors.