4.GuideandScout

Carson: He was a brave Indian, deserved a better
fate, but he had placed himself on the wrong path.
Harvey L. Carter, “Dear Old Kit”

… the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread
the continent allotted by Providence for the free
development of our yearly multiplying millions.
John L. O’Sullivan, Democratic Review, 1845


KIT AND THE PATHFINDER

Carson’s trip back to Missouri in the spring of 1842 was fateful. At that point in his life he was thoroughly obscure, an illiterate trapper who had spent his entire life in the backcountry settlements of Missouri or their New Mexican counterparts, or in Indian country far beyond the AngloAmerican settlement frontier. He had been mentioned briefly in one published book, as a leading figure in a brawl. His principal employment through his adult life was becoming economically obsolete. He had two children to support and a limited number of possibilities for doing so. There were hundreds of men very much like him in the West, scattered from Missouri to California, either looking for new opportunities or trying to cling to the old way of life. There was no particular reason to assume that Kit Carson would not end up like many of them, eking out some kind of living in northern New Mexico, remembered by his neighbors and descendants and receiving perhaps the briefest mention in some fur trade histories, completely overshadowed by such figures as Jedediah Smith, Tom Fitzpatrick, Joseph Walker, and Jim Bridger.

What happened instead was that Carson became the most famous of the mountain men, the one whose name was instantly recognizable, so that Herman Melville, just seven years after that return to Missouri, could describe him as the model of that whole “class of men.” He would become famous, not just for the statutory fifteen minutes, but for the

-85-

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Kit Carson and the Indians
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • 1- Will the Real Kit Carson Please Stand Up? 1
  • 2- Backcountry 24
  • 3- Mountain Man 37
  • 4- Guideandscout 85
  • 5- Indian Agent 148
  • 6- Soldier 228
  • 7- Peacemaker 343
  • 8- Conclusion 418
  • Notes 461
  • Index 509
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