June 10 & 11, 1841

Thursday, 10th.  This morning the most of the oxen were again at large, owing to the neglect of the owners to the great danger of losing them by the Indians and by their mingling with buffalo, or  by straying so far that it would be impossible to track them on account of the innumerable tracks of the buffalo. Making therefore a rather late start, we continued to ascend the river on the N side. We traveled about 14 miles and encamped on the river. Buffalo were seen in countless thousands on the opposite side of the river; from the time we began our journey this morning till we ceased to travel at night, the whole south side of the stream was completely clouded by these huge animals, grazing in the valley and on the hills, ruminating upon the margin of the river, or crowding down its banks for water.

bisonherd

Through the remissness of the sentinels, the guard last night was nearly vacant; and as this was considered dangerous ground on account of the warlike Pawnees, Chiennes etc., a court martial was called to force those to their duty on guard, who were so negligent and remiss.

This is an interesting example of how the emigrants organized and disciplined themselves. At the outset of their expedition, being Americans, they elected a president and a recording secretary, and also a captain. So it was both a democratic association  and a semi-military organization.

When a problem arose, they consulted together in a trial, or court martial, of the offenders. Bidwell doesn’t indicate any punishment given. I imagine the men who were found guilty were given extra guard duties for a time.

Friday 11th. The oxen had wandered about 1/2 mile from the camp this morning, when a man was sent to bring them in; he soon came running back in great haste, crying “the Indians are driving the oxen off!!” In less than half an hour the oxen were at camp and not an Indian seen–all this is easily accounted for when we consider how timidity and fear will make every bush, or stone, or stump an Indian, and 40 Indians, thousands. Vast herds of buffalo continued to be seen on the opposite side of the river. Distance today about 20 miles.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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