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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  The American Plainsmen Society (Moderators: Caleb Hobbs, Tsalagidave)  |  Topic: News in the west of the outbreak of the Civil War 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: News in the west of the outbreak of the Civil War  (Read 2616 times)
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« on: June 08, 2017, 12:59:08 pm »

(Yeah, I signed up to post this, after being gone for 20 years.)

Re-reading Larpenteur's Forty years a fur trader on the upper Missouri for the umptieth-time, I ran across something I thought a few folks here might find interesting.  Larpenteur spent the winter of 1860-61 establishing a trading post about 25 miles upriver of Fort Stewart.  (Fort Stewart was near the site of present-day Blair MT.) 

On the 19th of June, 1861, we learned by an Indian who came from Union that Mr. Chouteau had arrived there with two steamers, and, on making further inquiries, found that Mr. Lemon was on board one of them. The second day after that an individual by the name of Louis Dauphin a renowned hunter made his appearance, and from him I learned that Mr. Lemon was coming up on the Chippewa, that the other steamer, the Spread Eagle, had turned back from Union, and that the Chippewa would be up this far to-morrow or next day. On reaching Dauphin houses, about six miles below my place by land, but double that distance by water, Mr. Lemon got off to come ahead of the boat to give me the news. After the greetings usual on such arrivals were passed, he remarked: "Larpenteur, I have bad news to give you. In the first place, I came up with Mr. Chouteau, having made arrangements with him to take down our returns, but the boat is burned up. I had been off her but a little while when I saw her all on fire, and immediately heard the report of the explosion. In the second place, war is declared; the United States are in a great revolution, and there is no sale for anything. In the third place, old Smith has deserted us, and won't let us have his robes. I have other news, but I hate to tell it to you." On my insisting, he said, "All your improvements are burned down. Your house caught fire in the middle of the night, and not even a stitch of clothing was saved." On saying this he paused, and I exclaimed, "Is there any more?" "Is that not enough?" said he. "Yes," I replied, "it is more than enough to lose my home at Little Sioux. But it is no use to cry over spilt milk, and it is under such circumstances that a man is tried." . . .

Lots of stuff going on there.  We have the steamboat burning up (meaning Larpenteur wouldn't be shipping his robes downstream the easy way), the war (making access to his market even more difficult, and with unknown effects on prices and returns), one of his business partners had deserted the partnership (and absconded with an unknown part of the year's potential profits, as well as everything else could get his hands on), and oh yeah--his farmstead caught fire, burned to the ground (and no news about his family who was occupying that farmstead). 

What's a man to do? 

Not expecting any steamer to take down our returns I had pushed work on the boat so well that, six days after Lemon's arrival, it was completed; she was 65 feet in length and 11 feet in breadth of beam, being thus large enough to take my returns and those of Smith. The bursting of the Chippewa set my men almost crazy, thinking they would get a fortune out of the wreckage. They did not like the idea of rowing my boat down, although they were engaged to do so; and besides, they feared the draft, on account of the rebellion in the United States. I was therefore forced to give $100 for the trip. I had engaged a pilot for $300, but he at last refused to go. At last I succeeded in getting a crew, consisting of four to row and one pilot, and on the 2d of July, 1861, we left Poplar River.

Build a boat, pay outrageous rates to put a crew together, and get the robes to market.

We remained at Union about two hours, and pushed off again. On the fourth day out from this place we landed at Berthold. We called on Smith for the robes, but failed, after all our efforts, having been able to get nothing more than the buffalo tongues. Without any accident we went on well, and a little below Nebraska City met the steamer Emilie, Captain Nicholas Wall, bound for Omaha. We made arrangements with him to take down our robes, and waited for his return. It was still considered dangerous to travel down the river, though not nearly so much so as it had been, and when the boat returned there was a company of soldiers on board from Omaha, bound for St. Louis; but no bushwhackers were seen, and on the 4th of August we reached the port of St. Louis, all safe.

That last paragraph is the kicker.  Take a look at a map.  Larpenteur spent a month travelling roughly a thousand miles downriver, with an unreliable crew through an area populated by sometimes-hostile tribes, only to enter the fringes of a war-zone.

Different times. . . . 


In my book a pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.  Charles M. Russell
Ben Beam
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« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2017, 02:19:30 pm »

Thanks for posting this! These days it would seem the forum is primarily focused on the shooting aspect of CAS, but I love going through the old history posts, and am always excited to see new ones.

Ben Beam & Co. -- Bringing You a New Old West -- Reproduction Old West Ephemera for re-enactors, living historians, set dressing, chuckwagons, props, or just for fun!
dusty texian
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Dusty Texian

« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2017, 06:35:10 am »

Like Ben ,   I thank you for posting this. One of my favorite type of reading is a day to day look into the past . Definitely a different time . ,,,DT
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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  Special Interests - Groups & Societies  |  The American Plainsmen Society (Moderators: Caleb Hobbs, Tsalagidave)  |  Topic: News in the west of the outbreak of the Civil War « previous next »
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