Title Thumbnail

With Sam Houston in Texas

A Boy Volunteer in the Texas Struggles for Independence, when in the Years 1835-1836 the Texas Colonists Threw off the Unjust Ru

281 pages
Library of Alexandria
The toiling little steamboat “Arkansas” was stuck harder than ever, as seemed, on a mud-bar far up the shallow Arkansas River, in the old “Indian Country,” which is present Oklahoma. “Back her! Back her!” were bawling a half-dozen voices, from her passengers. “Go ahead! Give her steam! Push her over!” were bawling a half-dozen others. “No! Swing her!” The paddle-wheel astern threshed vainly; the red-shirted pilot in the pilot-house continually jangled the engine-bell; from the upper deck the captain yelled himself hoarse; on the lower deck the mate stumped around in cowhide boots and swore horridly; the negro roustabouts, ranged along the flat open bows and the guard-rails, to shove with poles, grunted and panted, and now and then one fell overboard when his pole slipped; the passengers advised and criticized; the many dogs barked; and young Ernest Merrill, scampering upstairs and down, so as to be certain to see everything that happened, could not feel that the boat budged forward or backward an inch. “We’re rooted fast, this time,” spoke a pleasant voice in his ear, as from the forward rail of the upper deck he was sighting on the shore, to see whether they really did move. “There’s scarcely water enough under her here to float a peanut shell.” It was his friend Lieutenant Neal, in charge of the army recruits bound, like Ernest, for Fort Gibson of the Indian Country. A fine young man was Lieutenant Neal; not much more than a boy himself. Ever since he and Ernest had got acquainted, on the first day up the Arkansas from where it emptied into the Mississippi, he had rather taken Ernest under his wing. He and his recruits were from New Orleans; and Ernest was from Cincinnati, in the other direction. “She is stuck, isn’t she!” agreed Ernest. “But they’ll get her off, won’t they? They always have.” For the “Arkansas” to be aground was nothing new. Through almost two weeks she had been threshing and thumping and snorting on her noisy crooked way, stemming the tricky current and dodging (when she could) the numerous bars and snags half-exposed by the falling water. But every now and again she struck. Such was steamboat travel on the Arkansas River in this early fall of 1832. That was a long trip, anyway, 640 miles by steamboat up to Fort Gibson amidst the Cherokees in the Indian Country. The Arkansas River had proved to be a lonely stream, winding amidst cane brakes and bayous and timber and wide flowery prairies, peopled chiefly by bear and deer and horses and wild fowl. At Little Rock, the first town of any consequence, and the capital of Arkansas Territory, about half the passengers left, and a dozen others came aboard. At Fort Smith, 300 miles further, on the line between Arkansas Territory and the Indian Country, a half of the remaining passengers (including some Texas emigrants and the most of the army recruits) filed ashore. When Fort Smith was left behind, the passengers on board were, with the exception of Lieutenant Neal and Ernest, a rather tough set: reckless hunters and adventurers, each accompanied by several black-and-tan or yellow hounds, and all apparently bound as far as they could go into the Indian Country. But it did not look as though they were to get much farther, by steamboat! “By gracious!” fidgeted the lieutenant, mopping his brow under his stiff-visored forage-cap. “This is bad, to be held up so, when we’re almost there. I could better have gone overland from Smith. How far is it to Gibson now, captain?” The captain was tired and hot and cross. “Less’n fifty miles by land, if you know the trail. Those who are in a tearing hurry can get out and walk. I’d no business trying this end of the river. I told all you fellows I probably couldn’t make it. Little Rock is as high as a boat should go, after July; and here we are, 300 miles beyond. Pretty soon we’ll be navigating in dew.” And the captain stalked indignantly away.