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(voyage icon)1835

At 8 A.M. I bade adieu to the officers of the garrison, and turning my back upon the waters that flow into the Atlantic, I crossed the portage, and advanced to those that empty themselves into the Gulf of Mexico. The portage was a dead flat of black mud and sand, measuring exactly 2650 paces: it took me exactly twenty-eight minutes to walk across it. The canoe and luggage were conveyed to the shore of the Wisconsin in an ox-cart, and launched upon the river as soon as we reached it. It was a powerful black-looking stream, resembling the Arkansa, with broad sand-beaches, the whole breadth not appearing at the point where we struck it, on account of some islands which masked it; but it soon exhibited a breadth of 250 yards. After struggling so many days as we had against the current of Fox River, an exertion requiring so much care and labour as to keep down a great deal of enjoyment, it was exceedingly gratifying to find ourselves, on one of the most lovely mornings imaginable, carried down stream by a strong current of about three miles an hour, independent of our paddles; and all very much exhilarated, we went joyously and noisily down the waters that are tributary to the Mississippi, roaring out our chansons as we shot rapidly past the picturesque islands and graceful banks of a noble river I had never been upon before, a feeling of peculiar enjoyment to me. The banks at first were low and verdant, with overhanging foliage, as were the beautiful islands which frequently presented themselves; whilst often the river expanded into an uninterrupted sheet of water, of a reddish colour, marking the quality of the soil it had passed through. The river, however, was so shallow in many places, that our canoe frequently grazed the bottom, and, going with unusual velocity, we more than once got so fast in the sand, that we found it difficult to force it back into deeper water. Upon such occasions, or at any difficult passes, the men never hesitated to jump out, knowing what frail vessels birch-bark canoes are, and that no time is to be lost. I never had men in my service more to be depended upon in emergencies of this kind. ...

... The day at length becoming cold and rainy, our musical propensities became dormant, and we went silently on anticipating the evening encampment and its comfortable fires, when we discovered that we had not exclusive possession of the country, a small canoe heaving in sight from below. On coming up with it we found it contained an old-looking Indian, his squaw and two young children: the squaw had some clothes on, but the man and the children were quite naked. They looked uncomfortable enough to be sure, but Indians are so accustomed to suffer in this manner, that they never complain. They are only really unhappy when they cannot procure food. I gave this poor family a few biscuits, and the woman seemed grateful.

At 4 P.M. we passed a picturesque-looking mass of horizontal sandstone, extending with some interruptions for about a mile, distant probably about forty miles from the portage; and at half-past five, observing a comfortable place, near to an ancient abandoned Indian village, I made, to the great joy of the men, the signal for landing. Whilst they were pitching my tent, I attempted to walk to an elevated ridge that appeared not very far from us, to get a look at the country, but I found it excessively fatiguing; the distance was greater than I supposed; the wild grass was wet and often up to my chin; night was coming on; I was alone and unarmed, and when I reached the foot of the ridge, and looked at the ascent, I began to think the wisest thing I could do was to return without delay, and I did return, but be-draggled in a most extraordinary manner. After regaling myself with dry clothes, a comfortable repast, and a lounge at the cheerful fire, I shut myself in the tent for the night.

My rest was a good deal disturbed by the mosquitoes, who had taken possession of the tent; and although I was up early, we could not start for a dense fog that was upon the river. I therefore amused myself with looking at the deserted wigwams near us. They were formed with nine poles, about twelve feet high, fixed into the ground in a circle, about two feet apart from each other, and their tops bent to a point and fastened together. These poles were strengthened with others interwoven round them, and the whole covered with birch bark. An Indian house of this kind costs but very little labour, and with a small fire in the middle, is comfortable in the coldest weather, the smoke escaping through a hole where the poles meet. The fog began to clear away at 7 A.M., and we resumed our voyage. At 9 A.M. We reached a shot-tower belonging to Mr. Whitney, on the left bank of the river, and landed there to breakfast. Mr. Whitney had entrusted to my care a large bag of silver money, with some other funds he wished to remit to his nephew and agent here. I had been very reluctant to receive it, as it not only brought me under a responsibility I was desirous of avoiding, but was an object that might have roused the cupidity of my men, and got me into a serious scrape with them. Indeed, I positively declined the proposition at first, but he had shewn so much obliging zeal in my service, that, upon his pressing me with some urgency a short time before my departure, I consented; and the treasure being put into the middle of one of my carpet bags, which contained some heavy fossils, was embarked. The men were so accustomed to see me bagging fossils and minerals of one kind or another, that they had no suspicion of this "sacré sac," as they called it, containing money. I had put this carpet bag under L'Amirant's care; it was his business to put it in the tent, and to stow it away again in the canoe. Upon these occasions, whenever he was about to lift it up, he always used to apostrophise it with, "Sacrè vilain matin, que tu est lourd."