« AnteriorContinuar »
behind the mountain, and object after object became shrouded in its shadow.
Bidding farewell to Mr. Hudspeth and the gentleman with him, (Mr. Ferguson) we commenced the descent of the mountain. We had scarcely parted from Mr. H. when, standing on one of the peaks, he stretched out his ong arms, and with a voice and gesture as loud md impressive as he could make them, he Milled to us and exclaimed, "Now, boys, put purs to your mules and ride like h—!" The lint was timely given and well meant, but carcely necessary, as we all had a pretty just ppreciation of the trials and hardships before is.
The descent from the mountain on the .estern side, was more difficult than the asent; but two or three miles, by a winding nd precipitous path, through some straggling, unted, and tempest-bowed cedars, brought us i the foot and into the valley, where, after uue search, we found a blind trail, which we lpposed to be that of Captain Fremont, made at year. Our course for the day was nearly le west; and following this trail where it as visible, and did not deviate from our course, id putting our mules into a brisk gait, we ossed a valley some eight or ten miles in idth, sparsely covered with wild sage (arteisia) and grease-wood. These shrubs display themselves and mainin a dying existence, a brownish verdure, on 3 most arid and sterile plains and mountains the desert, where no other vegetation shows elf. After crossing the valley, we rose a ge of low volcanic hills, thickly strewn with irp fragments of basalts and a vitreous ivel resembling junk-bottle glass. We 5sed over this ridge through a narrow gap, ! walls of which are perpendicular, and combed of the same dark scorious material as the >hb strewn around. From the western ternus of this ominous-looking passage we had /ew of the vast desert-plain before us, which, far as the eye could penetrate, was of a iwy whiteness, and resembled a scene of ■try frosts and icy desolation. Not a shrub abject of any kind rose above the surface the eye to rest upon. The hiatus in the nal and vegetable kingdoms was perfect. /as a scene which excited mingled emotions '/miration and apprehension. 'assingr a little further on we stood on the v of a steep precipice, the descent from the e of hills immediately below and beyond ch a. narrow valley or depression in the sur
of the plain, about five miles in width, dised Bo perfectly the wavy and frothy appear; of highly agitated water, that Colonel sell and myself, who were riding together » distance in advance, both simultaneously limed,: "We must have taken a wrong 30, and struck another arm or bay of the .t Salt Lake." With deep concern we
were looking around, surveying the face of the country to ascertain what remedy there might be for this formidable obstruction to our progress, when the remainder of our party came up. The difficulty was presented to them; but soon, upon a more calm and scrutinizing inspection, we discovered that what represented so perfectly the " rushing waters" was moveless, and made no sound! The illusion soon became manifest to all of us, and a hearty laugh at those who were the first to be deceived was the consequence; denying to them the merit of being good pilots or pioneers, etc.
Descending the precipitous elevation upon which we stood, we entered upon the hard, smooth plain we had just been surveying with so much doubt and interest, composed of bluish clay, incrusted, in wavy lines, with a white saline substance, the first representing the body of the water, and the last the crests and froth of the mimic waves and surges. Beyo:id this we crossed what appeared to have been the beds of several small lakes, the waters of which have evaporated, thickly incrusted with salt, and separated from each other by small moundshaped elevations of a white, sandy, or ashy earth, so imponderous that it has been driven by the action of the winds into these heaps, which are constantly changing their positions and their shapes. Our mules waded through these ashy undulations, sometimes sinking to their knees, at others to their bellies, creating a dust that rose above and hung over us like a dense fog.
From this point, on our right and left, diagonally in our front, at an apparent distance of thirty or forty miles, high isolated mountains rise abruptly from the surface of the plain. Those on our left were as white as the snowlike face of the desert, and may be of the same composition, but I am inclined to the belief that they are composed of white clay, or clay and sand intermingled.
The mirage, a beautiful phenomenon I have frequently mentioned as exhibiting itself upon our journey, here displayed its wonderful illusions in a perfection and with a magnificence surpassing any presentation of the kind I had previously seen. Lakes, dotted with islands and bordered by groves of gently waving timber, whose tranquil and limpid waves reflected their sloping banks and the shady islets in the ir bosoms, lay spread out before us, inviting us, by their illusory temptations, to stray from our path and enjoy their cooling shades and refreshing waters. These fading away as we advanced, beautiful villas, adorned with edifices, decorated with all the ornaments of suburban architecture, and surrounded by gardens, shaded walks, parks, and stately avenues, would succeed them, renewing the alluring invitation to repose by enticing the vision with more than Calypsan enjoyments or Elysian pleasures. These melting from our view as those before, in another place a vast city, with countless columned edifices of marble whiteness, and studded with domes, spires, and turreted towers,, would rise upon the horizon of the plain, astonishing us with its stupendous grandeur and sublime magnificence. But it is in vain to attempt a description of these singular and extraordinary phenomena. Neither prose or poetry, nor the pencil of the artist, can adequately portray their beauties. The whole distant view around, at this point, seemed like the creations of a sublime and gorgeous dream, or the effect of enchantment. I observed that where these appearances were presented in their most varied forms, and with the most vivid distinctness, the surface of the plain was broken, either by chasms hollowed out from the action of the winds, or by undulations formed of the drifting sands.
About eleven o'clock we struck a vast white plain, uniformly level, and utterly destitute of vegetation or any sign that shrub or plant had ever existed above its snow-like surface. Pausing a few moments to rest our mules and moisten our mouths and throats from the scant supply of beverage in our powder-keg, we entered upon this appalling field of sullen and hoary desolation. It was a scene so entirely new to us, so frightfully forbidding and unearthly in its aspects, that all of us, I believe, though impressed with its sublimity, felt a slight shudder of apprehension. Our mules seemed to sympathize with us in the pervading sentiment, and moved forward with reluctance, several of them stubbornly setting their faces for a countermarch.
For fifteen miles the surface of this plain is so compact, that the feet of our animals, as we hurried them along over it, left but little if any impression for the guidance of the future traveller. It is covered with a hard crust of saline and alkaline substances combined, from onefourth to one-half of an inch in thickness, beneath which is a stratum of damp whitish sand and clay intermingled. Small fragments of white shelly rock, of an inch and a half in thickness, which appear as if they once composed a crust, but had been broken by the action of the atmosphere or the pressure of water rising from beneath, are strewn over the entire plain and imbedded in the salt and sand.
As we moved onward a member of our party in the rear called our attention to a gigantic moving object on our left, at an apparent distance of six or eight miles. It is very difficult to determine distances accurately on these plains. Your estimate is based upon the probable dimensions of the object, and unless you know what the object is, and its probable size, you are liable to great deception. The atmosphere seems frequently to act as a magnifier; so much so, that I have often seen a raven perched upon a low shrub or an undulation of the plain, answering to the outlines of a man
on horseback. But this object was w earmously large, considering its apparent dsaan. and its movement forward, parallel with «n so distinct, that it greatly excited our Kids and curiosity. Many and various wet tke conjectures, serious and facetious, of theism as to what it might be, or portend. Sea thought it might be Mr. Hudspeth, woo 1x1 concluded to follow us; others that it *» some cyclopean nondescript animal, lost ajai the desert; others that it was the ghost el i mammoth or Megatherium wandering on "B» rendezvous of death;" others that it snot d—1 mounted on an ibis, &c. It wa»tbtf» eral conclusion, however, that no animal «• posed of flesh and blood, or eveB a Wis; ghost, could here inhabit. A partner of eea. size soon joined it, and for an honr aim they moved along .as before, parallel to a when they disappeared, apparently behind fe horizon.
As we proceeded, the plain gradually becia softer, and our mules sometimes sank to ikeknees in the stiff composition of salt, aud.«» clay. The travelling at length became»e> ficult and fatiguing to our animals, that astral of the party dismounted, myself amoof» number, and we consequently slackened « hitherto brisk pace into a walk. About t»< o'clock, v. M., we discovered through the**' vapor the dim outlines of the mountains info' of us, at the foot of which was to term* our day'B march, if we were so fortmatf u to reach it. But still we were a long uJ weary distance from it, and from the T-r and water" which we expected there Waal. A cloud rose from the south soon aAem?'-accompanied by several distant peals of tic der and a furious wind, rushing sera* fj plain, and filling the whole atmosphere aroeJ us with the fine particles of salt, andinfutti in heaps like the newly fallen snow. Owe* became nearly blinded and our throats daW with the saline matter, and the very tr fl breathed tasted of salt.
During the subsidence of this tempest *fl appeared upon the plain one cf the most tt> ordinary phenomena, I dare to assert, eier* nessed. As I have before stated, I 1*1[" mounted from my mule, and turning it i» a" the caballada, was walking several roda » *•* of the party, in order to lead in a direct «<• to the point of our destination. Wagon.?J front, to the right, our course being we* ^ appeared the figures of a number of Bw •*■ horses, some fifteen or twenty. Sob* of U* figures were mounted and others daw*!* and appeared to be marching on foot 1^* faces and the heads of the horses were w*"towards us, and at first they appeared as ii't^ were rushing down upon us. Their apf«r-:1 distance, judging from the bori*on,was&* three to five miles. But their si* wa» •" correspondent, for they seemed nearly u I*-1*5 * our own bodies, and consequently were of rigantic stature. At the first view 1 supposed hem to be a small party of Indians (probably he Utahs) marching from the opposite side of he plain. But this seemed to me scarcely irobable, as no hunting or war party would be ikely to take this route. I called to some of ur party nearest to me to hasten forward, as here were men in front, coming towards us. "ery soon the fifteen or twenty figures were multiplied into three or four hundred, and apeared to be marching forward with the greatest ction and speed. I then conjectured that they light be Capt. Fremont and his party with there, from California, returning to the United Itatea by this route, although they seemod to e too numerous even for this. I spoke to Irown, who was nearest to me, and asked him F he noticed the figures of men and horses in ront 1 He answered that he did, and that he ad observed the same appearances several ii"- previously, but that they had disappeared, nd he believed them to be optical illusions imilar to the mirage. It was then, for the first ime, so perfect was the deception, that I conxtured the probable fact that these figures 'ere the reflection of our own images by the tmosphere, filled as it was with fine particles of rystallized matter, or by the distant horizon, overed by the same substance. This induced more minute observation of the phenomenon, i order to detect the deception, if such it were, noticed a single figure, apparently in front in dvance of all the others, and was struck with a likeness to myself. Its motions, too, I lought, were the same as mine. To test the ypoihesis above suggested, I wheeled suddenly round, at the same time stretching my arms ut to their full length, and turning my face idewise to notice the movements of this figure. t went through precisely the same motions, then marched deliberately and with long tridea several paces; the figure did the same, 'o test it more thoroughly, I repeated the xperiment, and with the same result. The ict then was clear. But it was more fully erified still, for the whole array of this umerous shadowy host, in the course of an our, melted entirely away, and was no more sen. The phenomenon, however, explained nd gave the history of the gigantic spectres rhich appeared and disappeared so mysteriously t an earlier hour of the day. The figures were ur own shadows, produced and reproduced by le mirror-like composition impregnating the Imojphere and covering the plain. I cannot ere more particularly explain or refer to the ubject. But this phantom population, springig out of the ground as it were, and arraying .self before us as we traversed this dreary and eaven-condemned waste, although we were ntirely convinced of the cause of the apparition, xcited those superstitious emotions so natural i all mankind.
Many views of scenery in the region of the desert are splendidly painted. The author's fondness for giving the changes of the sky, such as sunrises, sunsets, moonlight scenes, thunder-gusts and rainbows, is very apparent; as is also the ability with which he draws them :—
"The night was perfectly serene. Not a cloud, or the slightest film of vapor, appeared on the face of the deep blue canopy of the heavens. The moon and the countless starry host of the firmament exhibited their lustrous splendor in a perfection of brilliancy unknown to the nightwatchers in the humid regions of the Atlantic; illuminating the numberless mountain peaks rising, one behind the other, to the east, and tho illimitable desert of salt that spread its wintry drapery before me, far beyond the reach of vision, like the vast winding-sheet of a dead world! The night was cold, and kindling a fire of the small, dead willows around the spring, I watched until the rich, red hues of the morning displayed themselves above the eastern horizon, tinging slightly at first, and then deepening in color, the plain of salt, until it appeared like a measureless ocean of vermilion, with here and there a dark speck, the shadow of some solitary butles, representing islands, rising from its glowing bosom. The sublime splendors of these scenes cannot be conveyed to the reader by language."
The dangers attending the journey across these desolate regions, may be imagined from the fate of a part of the emigrant company with whom our author originally set out. These lost time in exploring a new road through the Great Desert Basin, and did not arrive at the Pass of the Sierra Nevada until the snow was too deep to admit their crossing. Many of our readers will remember the accounts of the awful extremities to which they were reduced, which appeared about a year since in the newspapers. Mr. Bryant visited the scene of their sufferings and saw some of the survivors. The chapter which contains his account is one of the most terrible in all the history of human sorrow. We extract a portion of it:—
"At the time the occurrronces above related took place, I was marching with the California battalion, under the command of Col. Fremont, to Ciudud de los Angelos, to assist in suppressing a rebellion which had its origin in that quarter. After my return from that expedition, I saw and conversed with several of the survivors in the above list. The oral statements made to me by them in regard to their sufferings, far exceed in horror the descriptions given in the extracts. Mr. Fallon, who conducted the last relief party over the mountains, made a statement, in regard to what he saw upon his arrival at the ' cabins,' so revolting that I hesitate before alluding to it. The parties which had preceded him had brought into the settlements all the living sufferers except three. These were Mr. and Mrs. George Donner, and
Keysburg. At the time the others left,
Mr. George Donner was unable to travel from debility, and Mrs. D. refused to leave him. VVhy Keysburg remained, there is no satisfactory explanation. Mrs. Donner offered a reward of $500 to any party that would return and' rescue them. I knew the Donners well. Their means in money and merchandise, which they had brought with them, were abundant. Mr. Donner was a man of about sixty, and was at the time of his leaving the United States, a highly respectable citizen of Illinois—a farmer of independent circumstances. Mrs. D. was considerably younger than her husband, and an active, energetic woman of refined education.
"Mr. Fallon and his party reached (he ' cabins' some time in April. The snow in the valley, on the eastern side of the Pass, had melted so as in spots to expose the ground. He found the main cabin empty, but evidences that it had not long been deserted. He and his party commenced a search, and soon discovered fresh tracks in the snow leading from it. These they followed some miles, and by pursuing them they returned again to the cabin. Here they now found Keysburg. He was reclining upon the floor of the cabin, smoking his pipe. Near his head a fire was blazing, upon which was a camp kettle filled with human flesh. His feet were resting upon skulls and dislocated limbs denuded of their flesh. A bucket, partly filled with blood, was standing near, and pieces of human flesh, fresh and bloody, were strewn around. The appearance of Keysburg was haggard and revolting. His beard was of great length; his finger-nails had grown out until they resembled the claws of beasts. He was ragged and filthy, and the expression of his countenance ferocious. He stated that the Donners were both dead. That Mrs. Donner was the laRt to die, and had expired some two days previously. That she had left her husband's camp, some eight miles distant, and come to this cabin. She attempted to return in the evening to the camp, but becoming bewildered she came back to the cabin, and died in the course of the night. He was accused of hav
ing murdered her, for her flesh and the cicn? the Donners were known to possess, but £■nied it. When questioned in regard to t • money of the Donners, he denied all kno*W? respecting it. He was informed that if U ii not disclose where he had secreted tlte nwhe would immediately be hung to a tree. S£ persisting in his denial, a rope, after tnucii itsi stance from him, was placed around hU ted and Mr. Fallon commenced drawing him u: i the limb of a tree, when he stated that if ur would desist from this summary execution, i would disclose all he knew about (be n»»Being released, he produced 8517 in gold H; was then notified that he must accompany * party to the settlements. To this he was frinclined, and he did not consent, until the ate was so peremptory that he was cnmpeliK • obey it. The body of George Donner «■ found dead in his tent. He had been curt-f^ laid out by his wife, and a sheet was wr»^« around the corpse. This sad office wtsfr > bly the last act she performed before n>'*; the cabin of Keysburg. This is briefly » A^" ment of particulars as detailed to me by lb Fallon, who accompanied Gen. Kearney o.v.return to the United Slates in the captcr.T guide.
"When the return party of Gen. Kesnr (which I accompanied) reached the sen* a these horrible and tragical occurrences, oeri 22d of June, 1847, a halt was ordered for » purpose of collecting and interring the remttsNear the principal cabins I saw two boift entire with the exception that the abdc*-had been cut open, and the entrails e> tracted. Their flesh had been either wttui by famine or evaporated by exposure to tfc dry atmosphere, and they presented tneanpri* ance of mummies. Strewn around die C*jcwere dislocated and broken bones—skulk (• some instances sawed asunder with are w the purpose of extracting the brains,)—bmrt skeletons, in short, in every variety of ana* tion. A more revolting and appalling spew I never witnessed. The remains were, by >t order of Gen. Kearney, collected and b-iirf under the superintendence of Major S^ik They were interred in a pit which bad b* dug in the centre of one of the cabin* >J • cache. These melancholy duties to the ati being performed, the cabins, by order of Hmjm Swords, were fired, and with everything ** rounding them connected with this homd J melancholy tragedy were consumed. TVwf of George Donner was found at his cama,«»t* eight or ten miles distant, wrapped in t sie* He was buried by a party of men detailed S* that purpose."
Whit-mokdat, June 12th, being a regular loliday among the working classes in England, vas appointed by the Chartists for a grand dismay, and meetings were advertised to be held it various places. In London large preparaions were made for preventing any breach of he peace, but the projected meetings were ibandoned, and the same occurred in Bristol. In Manchester an open-air meeting was chang'■I to an in-door assembly. In Birmingham ibout six hundred met out of doors, and about welve thousand were gathered in the West liding of Yorkshire, and having been informd by the magistrates that no interruption vould be made, if the parties present dispersed luietly, without forming processions, with baners, the meeting passed off without disturbnce. Seventeen Chartists charged with riotng and offences against the peace on previous cessions, have been convicted in London, and entenced to imprisonment with hard labor, for erms varying from two years to three months, ccording to the nature and extent of their ffences.
In Ireland the accounts of the crops, particuirly the potato, are highly satisfactory. EmiTation continues from that country on a large cale. The formation of clubs in Dublin and droughout the provinces is progressing rapid(: in the former place, there are not less than i>rty clubs, containing in the aggregate twelve fiousand members. The "Repeal Association," nd the "Irish Confederation," (the " Young reland" party,) are to be dissolved, the memore uniting in a body, to be called the "Irish .eague," of which Repealislobe the object; but le mode of its attainment, whether by physical r moral force, is to be left to the judgment of ach member individually. This amalgamation as not the approval of many moral force men. Ir. John O'Connell, to whom the leadership ■•as bequeathed by his late father, disapproves f the change and refuses to join the new asocialion; part of the Catholic clergy are dis-ustful and cautious, some declining to commit lemselves to the new movement, but the vioint partisans and the younger members of that rofession have readily given in their adhesion, 'he "Irish Felon" has made its appearance as
successor to Mitchel's paper; its tone is raid, but lacks the point which distinguished its jrerunner: the writers affix their signatures to le contributions. One of them disapproves of te Repeal leaders' policy, and thinks a blow Qght to have been struck at the time of Mithel's removal: the physical force men have,
however, postponed insurrection until the harvest shall have been gathered in. Protestant Repeal Associations are forming, but on the other hand the Orangemen are dismissing Repealers from their ranks, and addresses of confidence and loyalty, numerously signed, have been presented to the Lord Lieutenant. A younger brother of Mitchel has arrived at New York, and Meagher, who was some time since tried for sedition, is said to be on his way here. An association with a large capital, for extending and improving the Irish Fisheries, is in progress.
A bill for repealing the obsolete statutes, and other disabilities, affecting Roman Catholics, has been introduced into the House of Commons. Discussions have taken place in both Houses of Parliament, relative to the relations between Great Britain and Spain. The former country having been mainly instrumental in suppressing the civil war in Spain, and placing its present sovereign on the throne, under assurances of the adoption of a more liberal line of policy, Sir Henry Bulwer, the British Minister at Madrid, was instructed by Lord Palmerston to advise the Spanish government against the arbitrary line of policy pursued in that country. Sir Henry Bulwer was forthwith violently attacked in the Ministerial Newspaper at Madrid, and ordered by the government to quit the country, on the grounds, proved to be false, that he had promoted certain outbreaks of the people, and that his person was not safe from popular fury. A special minister was sent to England, where his reception was refused, and the Spanish Ambassador there was provided with a pasport and sent home. All parties in England agree that there was nothing blameable in the conduct of Sir Henry Bulwer, but no hostile measures seem at present probable, and the matter is left in the hands of the British government for adjustment.
At present the great object of European interest is centred in France, where the Socialist doctrines, introduced and fostered by the Provisional Government, have commenced their work, the effect of which it is not possible at present to foresee. On the 3d June, the National Assembly by a small majority refused leave to prosecute Louis Blanc, for participation in the events of the 15th May, on which subject much difference of opinion prevailed in Paris. On the division, Ci euiieux, Minister of Justice, voted in the majority, in consequence of which M. Portalis, Attorney General of the Republic, and M. Landoin, Advocate General