Peace Commission on the March

Missouri Democrat/October 19, 1867

Arrival at Harker—Salute and Serenade—March to Camp—Glorious Times—Charactersitics of the Gentiles—Business—A Letter—The March—Another Letter—Very Interesting—Arrival at Larned

Fort Larned, Oct. 13, 1867

Reception at Fort Harker

You have already received in a former letter of mine the gracious reception we met at Harker. Did I tell you of the thundering salute that greeted our awaking in the morning? Have I already informed you how they serenaded us up to a late hour? How the ladies at Harker—bless them—did their utmost for our comfort? If so then I will not repeat the tale.

A Picture

Just one mile away to the northward across the river, stands Fort Harker, looking this evening like a city with its row of tents dwindling down to the size of head stones laid with regularity by an experienced sexton. A tall, strong flagstaff towers above all the buildings, and even from here the beautiful American flag can be seen waving and flapping protectingly from its peak. A low ridge intervening between the fort and our camp prevents us from seeing the garrison moving about, but along the road which ascends the hill come trooping some cavalry advancing towards us. They halt at the river and allow their horses to drink, and then retire with the same steady gait and discipline as they advanced. Well, our camp is situated on the brow of the hill looking lovingly across the river, and into the old fort, now dilapidated, and only distinguishable from where we stand by two solitary adobe chimneys which last winter saw a group of exiled soldiers begging them for the friendly warmth of their homely hearths. At the west end of our camp are the tents of three companies of the 7th cavalry under the command of Major Allen. The wagons of their regiment are clustered near loaded with green, red and blue blankets, gaudy printed calico, blue cloth, work-house hats, beads and silver medals for the friendly chiefs that we intend to visit. Then comes the artillery, two catlin guns belonging to batter B. 4th artillery commanded by Capt. Parsons. The tents of the artillerists flank the north side of the battery and therefore were parallel with the other tents. Eastward are ranged the ambulances, ten in number. These, while on the march, contain the commissioners and the members of the press. The whole camp is flanked at the eastern end by the tents of the commissioners. Those exposed to the everlasting shrieking wind sway like drunken beings, their flaps like human arms beating to the fierce whistling gusts which threaten momentarily to give way before its power. Like the impetuous Provencal Mistraon or the Levanter this American simoom comes down upon this exposed spot without a warning, sometimes leveling every forward object to the ground. It is the first thing the residents at Fort Harker will complain of.

The Commissioners in Council

Fronting their tent in a social circle, even while the wind is making such a terrible racket, the commissioners, now composed of Henderson, Taylor, Harney, Tappan, Terry and J.B. Hardie, discuss the long mooted and most detested Indian question. Like philosophers, like astute geometricians do these gentlemen look the question in the face patiently and kindly. Though their efforts fall in perfecting a peace between the white and red men, no person catching a glance at this extemporaneous council would attach blame to them. This knotty enigma, which grew more knotty and warty day by day, is gradually being unraveled, and now bare lines, straight facts easy to be satisfied are all that is left. Just look with me between the wheels of the wagon, at the circle, examine each feature and tell me what you see.

Symposium

But the council is ended now, and they all adjourn for supper. The press-gang follow and enter the tent. The cook, Ernest Michael, formerly employed at the Southern Hotel, has spread himself out. Why, here are excellent viands, food fit for the gods—delicious ham, unctuous sardines, assorted pickles, loaf sugar and ranch butter, Switzer cheese and light bread, tea and coffee, cakes and pies, excellent cooked and temptingly provided. Crimini! Cri! Here is a feast spread out in the most recherché manner in the most heaven-forsaken spot of Kansas. Annoyances vanish; smiles reign instead. Jokes and repartees are freely exchanged through the exhilarating influence of hot Bohea and strong Java coffee. I say Java because it was so good, even excelling in my opinion the best Mocha I ever drank in an Egyptian kahn. Who would not sell a farm and become a reporter?

–Henry Stanley

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