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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 19.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Crippled Condition of the Party—Mr. Oliver Fuller—Mr. Egloffstien—Mr. Fuller gives out—His Inability to Proceed—Mr. Egloffstien and the Author continue on to Camp for Assistance—Col. Fremont sends Frank Dixon after him—Sorrow of the Camp—Mr. Fuller's Non-Appearance—Delawares sent out to Bring the Men in—Return of Frank Almost Frozen—Restoration of Mr. Fuller—Joy of the Men—Serious Thoughts—The Author Prepared to Remain on the Road—His Miraculous Escape.

MR. EGLOFFSTIEN, Mr. Fuller, and myself were generally at the end of the train, our scientific duties requiring us to stop frequently on the road. Mr. Fuller had been on foot several days before any of the rest of the party, his horse having been the first to give out. On this occasion, we started out of camp together. We were all suffering from the privations we had endured, and, of the three, I was considered the worst off. One of my feet became sore, from walking on the flinty mountains with thin moccasins, and I was very lame in consequence. Mr. Fuller's feet were nearly wholly exposed. The last pair of moccasins I had, I gave him a week before; now his toes were out, and he walked with great difficulty over the snow. He never complained when we started in the morning, and I was surprised when he told me he had "given out."

"Nonsense, man," I said; "let us rest awhile, and we will gather fresh strength." We did so, and at every ten steps he had to stop, until he told us that he could go no further.

Mr. Fuller was the strongest and largest man in camp when we left Westport, and appeared much better able to bear the hardships of the journey than any man in it. I was the weakest, and thought ten days before that I would have given out, yet I live to write this history of his sufferings and death, and to pay this tribute to his memory.

The main body of the camp had preceded us, and. they were at least four miles a-head. Both Mr. Egloffstien and myself offered our personal assistance; Mr. Fuller leaned upon us, but could not drag one foot after the other—his legs suddenly becoming paralyzed. When we realized his condition, we determined to remain with him; to this he decidedly objected—"Go on to camp," said he, "and if possible, send me assistance. You can do me no good by remaining, for if you do not reach camp before night, we shall all freeze to death."

He luckily had strapped to his back his blue blankets, which we carefully wrapped around him. In vain we hunted for an old bush or something with which to make a fire—nothing but one vast wilderness of snow was visible. Bidding him an affectionate farewell, and promising to return, we told him not to move off the trail, and to keep awake if possible.

Limping forward, Egloffstien and myself resumed our travel; the sun had passed the meridian, and dark clouds overhung us. The night advanced apace, and with it an increase of cold. We stopped often on the road, and with difficulty ascended a high hill, over which the trail led; from its summit I hoped to see our camp-fires; my vision was strained to the utmost, but no friendly smoke greeted my longing eyes. The trail lost itself in the dim distance, and a long and weary travel was before us. Nothing daunted, and inspired by the hope of being able to render succor to our friend, we descended the mountain and followed the trail.

It now commenced to snow. We travelled in this manner ten long hours, until we came upon the camp.

Mr. Egloffstien and self both informed Col. Fremont of the circumstance, and we were told that it was impossible to send for Mr. Fuller.

Overcome with sorrow and disappointment, I fell weeping to the ground. In my zeal and anxiety to give assistance to my friend, I never for a moment thought in what manner it was to be rendered. I had forgotten that our few remaining animals were absolutely necessary to carry the baggage and scientific apparatus of the expedition, and that, with a furiously—driving snow-storm, it was almost folly to attempt to find the trail.

While we were speaking at our scanty fire of the unfortunate fate of our comrade, Col. Fremont came out of his lodge, and gave orders that the two best animals in camp should be prepared, together with some cooked horse-meat. He sent them with Frank Dixon, a Mexican, back on the trail, to find Mr. Fuller. We supposed him to have been at least five miles from camp.

There was not a dry eye in camp that whole night. We sat up anxiously awaiting the appearance of Mr. Fuller. Col. Fremont frequently inquired of the guard if Mr. Fuller had come in?

Day dawned, and cold and cheerless was the prospect. There being no signs of our friend, Col. Fremont remarked that it was just what he expected.

Col. Fremont had allowed his humanity to overcome his better judgment.

At daylight, Col. Fremont sent out three Delawares to find the missing men; about ten o'clock one of them returned with Frank Dixon, and the mules; Frank had lost the trail, he became bewildered in the storm, and sank down in the snow, holding on to the mules. He was badly frozen, and became weaker every day until he got to the settlements. Towards night, the two Delawares supporting Mr. Fuller, were seen approaching; he was found by the Delawares awake, but almost senseless from cold and starvation; he was hailed with joy by our whole camp. Col. Fremont as well as the rest of us, rendered him all the assistance in our power; I poured out the last drop of my alcohol, which I mixed with a little water, and administered it to him. His feet were frozen black to his ankles, if he had lived to reach the settlements, it is probable he would have had to suffer amputation of both feet.

Situated as we were, in the midst of mountains of snow, enervated by starvation and disease, without animals to carry us, and a long uncertain distance to travel over an unexplored country; could any blame be attached to a commander of an expedition, if he were to refuse to send back for a disabled man? I say, no, none whatever. Twenty-seven of our animals had been killed for food, and the rest were much reduced, and without provender of any kind in view. If this event had occurred six days later, there would have been no animal strong enough to carry Mr. Fuller into camp.

But suppose he had been disabled while in camp, and unable to proceed, could blame attach to his comrades if he were deserted, and left to die alone? This frightful situation was nearly realized on several occasions. I again answer, no, not any-the safety of the whole party demanded their immediate extrication from the dangers which surrounded them; every hour, every minute , in these mountains of snow, but increased their perils; on foot, with almost inaccessible rugged mountains of snow to overcome, with no prospects of food except what our remaining animals might afford-to stop, or remain an indefinite time with a disabled comrade, was certain death to the whole party, without benefiting him; his companions being so weak, that they could not carry him along. I made up my mind on one occasion, not to leave camp, my exhausted condition reminded me of the great difficulty and bodily pain which I endured, to reach camp the night before. I was fully prepared to remain by myself, and await my fate. I probably should have done so, but for the fond links which bound me to life, exercising a magic influence which inspired me with fresh courage, and determination. If such had been the case, might not my friends, in the excess of their grief have exclaimed, "Alas! for my poor son, who was left by his companions to perish in the mountains of snow." It would have been difficult to have persuaded my old parents, of the utter impossibility of preventing it. They would have attached cruelty, and neglect, to the whole party, and laid their son's death at the door of their leader.

How is it in war, when the superior force of the enemy demands an immediate retreat by the opposing army, without permitting time to carry the wounded off the field? How is it with a man who falls overboard during a storm, when imminent peril to the vessel and crew would follow an attempt to rescue him? The life of one must be sacrificed for the safety of the whole.

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