Sunday, February 7, 2010
An Ascent of the Exploits River in Diplomatic Hopes
In the name of His Majesty, King George the Third.
WHEREAS the Native Indians of this Island have by the ill treatment they have received from mischievous and wicked Persons been driven from all communication with His Majesty's subjects and forced to take refuge in the woods and have continually resisted all efforts that have since been made to invite them to a friendly intercourse, and Whereas it is His Majesty's gracious pleasure that every exertion should still be used to accomplish an end so desirable, for the sake of humanity. All persons are hereby enjoined and required on meeting with any of these Indians or of those who may resort to Newfoundland to treat them with kindness so as to conciliate their affections, and induce them to come among us and live in friendship with us, And as a reward to any Person who shall zealously and meritoriously exert himself as to bring about and establish on a firm and settled footing an intercourse so much to be desired he shall for the great service which he will thereby have rendered to His Majesty and to the cause of humanity receive the sum of One Hundred Pounds and shall moreover be honourably mentioned to His Majesty and shall find such countenance from the Governor and such further encouragement as it may be in his power to give. Or if the exertions of any person shall so far only succeed as to afford the probable means of effecting this object and as inducing a single Indian to communicate with us, through whom something more might be accomplished, or if any one shall discover their place of resort so as that an attempt may be made to treat with them, such person shall receive such lesser reward as the Governor shall deem adequate, and his services shall be acknowledged as they may deserve. And all Officers and Magistrates are commanded and enjoined to maintain and support good order and behaviour towards the said Indians, and in case any Person or Persons shall murder or commit any outrage upon them to use their utmost endeavours to apprehend such offenders and bring them to justice.
Given at Fort Townshend, St. John's, Newfoundland, this first day of August, 1810.
J. T. DUCKWORTH.
By Command of His Excellency,
R. C. Sconce.
When the above proclamation was issued by the Governor of Newfoundland, Sir John Thomas Duckworth, the situation of the large island’s indigenous people was already dire.
Apparently, recognizing the gravity of the situation, Duckworth also authorized an expedition under the command of Lieutenant David Buchan to travel aboard the schooner Adonis to the Bay of Exploits and the Exploits River area. The goal of the expedition would be to establish communication with the Beothuk. After meeting with no success in the Bay of Exploits, Lieut. Buchan waited for the onset of winter and for the Exploits River to freeze over before proceeding along it. After securing the Adonis near where the river enters the bay, they embarked on foot pulling sledges loaded with supplies and presents. What follows is Lieut. Buchan’s narrative, as reported to the Admiralty, of that difficult endeavor. Both the proclamation and the narrative are from James P. Howley’s book The Beothucks or Red Indians written in 1915. Some of the terms used by Buchans have a different meaning today. He uses the word deer for what are today called caribou and when he mentions Canadians it is believed he’s referring to Mi’kmaq Indians or other tribes from the continent. Rather than provide a link, I cut and pasted the text of his January 1811 trip. It is a bit long but, none the less, held my attention throughout.
Narrative of Lieut. Buchan's Journey up the Exploits River In search
of the Red Indians, in the winter of 18l0-1811.
Saturday, January 12th, 1811. -- On the eve of this date my arrangements were closed, and every necessary preparation made to advance into the interior, for the purpose of endeavouring to accomplish the grand object of your orders, relative to the Native Indians of this Island. For this service I employed William Cull and Mathew Hughster as guides, attended by twenty three men and a boy of the crew of his Majesty's schooner, and Thomas Taylor, a man in Mr. Miller's employ, and well acquainted with this part of the country.
The provisions, arms and other requisite articles, together with presents for the Indians, were packed on twelve sledges, and consisted of as follows: -- bread 850 lbs., sugar 100 lbs., cocoa 34 lbs., pork 660 lbs., salt fish 30 lbs., spirits 60 gals., equal to 480 lbs., rice 30 lbs., tea 6 lbs., tare of casks and packages 500 lbs., ships muskets, seven; fowling pieces, three; pistols, six; cut lasses, six; with cartouch boxes and ammunition equal to 270 lbs.; ten axes, and culinary utensils, forty pounds. Presents for the Indians; blankets, 30, woollen wrappers nine; flannel shirts eighteen; hatchets twenty six; tin pots, ten; with beads, thread, knives, needles, and other trifles, equal to 180 lbs. The sledges with their lashings and drag ropes are estimated at 240 lbs. One lower studding sail and painted canvas covers for the sledges, 120 lbs., spare snow shoes, Buskins, vamps, cuffs and 28 knapsacks, eighty pounds; making independent of a small quantity of baggage allowed to each individual, 3,620 pounds.
Jan. 13th. -- Wind NW., blowing strong; at 7 A.M. commenced our march; in crossing the arm from the schooner to Little Peter's Point which is two miles, we found it extremely cold, and the snow drifting, and the sledges heavy to haul from the sloppiness of the ice, but having rounded the Point we became sheltered from the wind until reaching Wigwam Point, which is two miles further up on the north side; here the river turns to the northward; a mile farther on is Mr. Miller's upper salmon station; the winter crew have their house on the south shore. 3 P.M., having reached the remains of a house occupied by Wm. Cull last winter we put up for the night, our distance made good being but eight miles in as many hours travelling. The night proved so intensely cold, with light snow at times, that none of our party could refresh themselves with sleep.
Jan. 14th. -- Wind NW., with sharp piercing weather. Renewed our journey with dawn, not sorry to leave a place in which we had passed so intolerable a night. Having proceeded on two miles, we came to the Nutt Islands, four in number, situated in the middle of that river, a mile above these is the first rattle or small waterfall, as far as the eye could discern up the river, nothing but ridgy ice appeared, its aspect almost precluded the possibility of conveying the sledges along; but determined to surmount all practicable difficulties, I proceeded on with the guides to choose among the hollows those most favorable. 3 P.M. put /73/ up on the north side, and fenced round the fireplace for shelter. This day's laborious journey I computed to be seven miles; the crew, from excessive fatigue, and the night somewhat milder than last, enjoyed some sleep. Left a cask with bread, pork, cocoa and sugar for two days, to be used on our return.
Jan. 15th. -- Blowing fresh from WNW. to NNW. with snow at times; the river winding from W. to NW. At 3 P.M. stopped on the north bank for the night, one mile above the Rattling Brook, which empties itself into this river. On the south side, on the western bank of its entrance, we discovered a canoe which I observed to be one that belonged to the Canadians who had resided at Wigwam Point. This day's journey exhibited the same difficulties as yesterday, having frequently to advance a party to cut and level, in some degree, the ridges of ice to admit the sledges to pass from one gulf to another, and to fill up the hollows to prevent them from being precipitated so violently as to be dashed to pieces; but notwithstanding the utmost care, the lashings, from the constant friction, frequently gave way; and in the evening, most of the sledges had to undergo some repair and fresh packing. Fenced the fire-place in; at supper the people appeared in good spirits; the weather milder; fatigue produced a tolerable night's rest. The day's distance is estimated to be seven miles.
Jan. 16th. -- Strong breezes from NNW. with sharp frost. Began our journey with the day. Several of the sledges gave way, which delayed us a considerable time. At 11 A.M. discovered two old wigwams on the north bank of the river; although they did not appear to have been lately inhabited, yet there were some indications of the natives having been here this fall. 2 P.M. Having reached the lower extremity of the great waterfall, we put up on the north side. While the party were preparing a fire and fence, I proceeded on, with Cull and Taylor, in search of an Indian path, through which they convey their canoes into the river above the overfall. Taylor, not having been here for many years, had lost all recollection where to find it; after a tedious search we fortunately fell in with it; there were evident signs of their having passed this way lately, but not apparently in any great number. Evening advancing, we retraced our steps, and reached our fire place with the close of day. The night proved more mild than any hitherto, and our rest proportionably better. Here I left bread, pork, cocoa and sugar for two days, and four gallons of rum.
Jan. 17th. -- South-westerly winds, with sleet, and raw cold weather. Began this day's route by conducting the sledges in a winding direction amongst high rocks, forming the lower extremity of the waterfall; having proceeded half a mile, we had to unload and parbuckle the casks over a perpendicular neck of land, which projecting into the rapid prevented the ice attaching to its edge, having reloaded on the opposite side, and turned the margin of coves for a third of a mile, we arrived at the foot of a steep bank, where commenced the Indian path; here it was also necessary to unload. Leaving the party to convey the things up the bank, I went on with Cull and Taylor, to discover the further end of the path; having come to a marsh, it was with difficulty we again traced it; at length we /74/ reached the river above the overfall, its whole extent being one mile and a quarter; having gone on two miles beyond this, we returned. At noon, the wind having veered to the SE. it came on to rain heavily; sent a division on to the further end of the path to prepare a fire &c. 3 P.M. All the light baggage and arms being conveyed to the fire-place, the sledges were left for the night halfway in the path, so that after eight hours fatigue, we had got little farther than one mile and a half. It continued to rain hard until 9 P.M. when the wind shifted round to the westward, and cleared up, the crew dried their clothes, and retired to rest.
Jan. 18th. -- Wind WNW. and cold weather. Leaving the party to bring on the sledges to the Indian Dock, and to repack them, I and the guides having advanced a mile, it was found requisite to cut a path of a hundred yards to pass over a point which the sledges could not round for want of sufficient ice being attached to it.
10 A.M. We now rounded a bay leaving several islands on our left; the travelling pretty good, except in some places where the ice was very narrow, and water oozing over the surface; most of us got wet feet. 2.30 P.M. Put up in a cave on the north shore as we should have been unable to reach before dark another place where good fire-wood was to be found; here the river forms a bay on either side, leaving between them a space of nearly one mile and a half, in which stood several islands, from the overfall up to these, the river in its centre was open. Having given directions for a fire-place to be fenced in, and the sledges requiring to be repaired, Cull and myself went on two miles to Rushy Pond Marsh, where he had been last winter, two wigwams were removed which he stated to have been there. The trees leading from the river to the marsh were marked, and in some places a fence-work thrown up; the bushes in a particular line of direction through a long extent of marsh had wisps of birch bark suspended to them by salmon twine(10), so placed as to direct the deer down to the river; we killed two partridges and returned to the party by an inland route; we reckon the distance from Indian Dock to this resting-place to be six miles.
Jan. 19th. -- Westerly wind and moderate, but very cold. Most of this day's travelling smooth, with dead snow, the sledges consequently hauled heavy, having winded for two miles amongst rough ice to gain a green wood on the south shore, that on the north being entirely burnt down, we put up at 4 P.M. A little way on the bank of a brook, where we deposited a cask with bread, pork, cocoa and sugar for two days consumption. In all this day's route the river was entirely frozen over; we passed several islands; saw a fox and killed a partridge, estimated distance ten miles; rested tolerably during night.
Sunday Jan. 20th. -- Wind WNW. and cold. Renewed our journey with the first appearance of day; at first setting out the sledges, in passing over a mile of sharp pointed ice, broke two of them repairing and packing delayed some time. At noon the sun shone forth, the weather warm, and a fine clear sky.
/75/ 4 P.M. -- Halted on an island situated two miles above Badger Bay Brook, which falls into this; on the north side; it appears wide, with an island in its entrance, and the remains of a wigwam on it. From this brook upwards, as also on the opposite side of the river, are fences of several miles, and one likewise extended in a westerly direction, through the island on which we halted, and is calculated to be twelve miles from the last sleeping place, and twenty miles from the Indian Dock: Hodge's Hills bearing from this ESE.
Jan. 21st, -- Wind westerly, with bleak weather. At dawn proceeded on. At noon several difficulties presented themselves in crossing a tract of shelvy ice, intersected with deep and wide rents, occasioned by a waterfall: the sledges were, however, got over them, as also some steps on the north bank. Having ascended the waterfall, found the river open and faced with ice sufficient on the edge of its banks to admit the sledges. At 4.30 P.M. put up for the night, and fenced in the fire-place. This day's distance is estimated at eleven miles, allowing seven from the island on which we slept last night up to the overfall, and from thence four miles to this.
From the waterfall upwards, on either side of the river where the natural bank would have been insufficient, fences were thrown up to prevent the deer from landing, after taking to the water, by gaps left open for that purpose. Repacked the sledges, two of them being unfit to go on farther, deposited a cask with bread, pork, cocoa and sugar, for two days. The party slept well.
Jan. 22nd. -- SW. winds with mild hazy weather. Having advanced two miles, on the south side, stood a store-house: Wm. Cull stated that no such building was there last winter; it appeared newly erected and its form circular, and covered round with deer skins, and some carcases left a little way from it; two poles were stuck in the ice close to the water, as if canoes had lately been there. Four miles from this, passed an Island, and rounded a bay, two miles beyond its western extremity, on a projecting rock, were placed several stag's horns. Wm. Cull now informed me that it was at this place he had examined the store-houses (mentioned in his narrative), but now no vestige of them appeared: there was, however, ample room cleared of wood for such a building as described to have stood, and at a few hundred yards off was the frame of a wigwam still standing; close to this was a deerskin hanging to a tree, and further on a trope with the name of "Rousell"; the Rousells live in Sops Arm and in New Bay. On the south bank, a little lower down, also stood the remains of a wigwam, close to which Cull pointed out the other store to have been; a quarter of a mile below on the same side, a river, considerable in appearance, emptied itself into this; directly against its entrance stands an Island well wooded. We continued on four miles, and then the party stopped for the night. Cull accompanied me two miles farther and we returned at Sunset. During this day's journey, at intervals, we could discern a track which bore the appearance of a man's foot going upwards. One of the sledges fell into the water, but it fortunately happened to be a shoal part, nothing was lost. Our distance made good today we allow to be twelve miles, and the river open from the last overfall with scarcely /76/ enough of ice attached to the bank to admit the sledges to pass on, and there are banks and fences in such places as the natives find necessary to obstruct the landing of the deer, some of these extending two or three miles, others striking inland. Divided the party into three watches, those on guard, under arms during the night.
Jan. 23rd. -- Wind westerly, wild cold weather. At daylight renewed our journey: the river now shoaled and ran rapidly; I wished to have forded it, conceiving that the Indians inhabited the other side; but found it impracticable. At 10 A.M., having advanced six miles, and seeing the impossibility of proceeding farther with the sledges, I divided the party, leaving one half to take care of the stores, whilst the other accompanied me, and taking with us four days' provisions, we renewed our route, the river now winded more northerly. Having proceeded on about four miles we observed on the south side a path in the snow where a canoe had evidently been hauled across to get above a rattle, this being the only sure indication that we had discovered of their having passed upwards from the store on the south side. The river narrowed, ran irregular, and diminished in depth very considerably. Having passed several small rivers on this side, we came abreast of an island, opposite to which, on the south side, was a path in the snow, from the water, ascending a bank where the trees were very recently cut, clearly evincing the residence of the natives to be at no great distance; but it being impossible to ford the river at this place, we continued on, but had not gone more than a mile, when turning a point, an expansive view opened out, and we saw before us an immense lake extending nearly in a NE. and SW. direction, its surface a smooth sheet of ice. We saw tracks but could not be certain whether of deer or men. We had lost for some miles the trace seen yesterday. On approaching the pond or lake we discovered on its NW. side two bodies in motion, but were uncertain if men or quadrupeds, it being nearly three o'clock. I drew the party suddenly into the wood to prevent discovery, and directed them to prepare a place for the night, I went on to reconnoitre. Having skirted along the woods for nearly two miles, we posted ourselves in a position to observe their motions; one gained ground considerably on the other: we continued in doubt of their being men until just before loosing sight of them in the twilight, it was discernible that the hindermost dragged a sledge. Nothing more could be done until morning; as it would have been impossible to have found their track in the dark; observing, on our return, a shovel in a bank of snow, we found that venison had been dug out, we however, found a fine heart and liver; this made a good supper for the party, whom we did not rejoin till dark. One third of the party were successively under arms during the night which proved excessively cold and restless to all.
Jan. 24th. -- Wind NE. and intensely cold. Having refreshed ourselves with breakfast and a dram to each at 4 A.M. commenced our march along the east shore with the utmost silence; beyond the point from whence I had the last view of the two natives, we fell in with a quantity of venison, in carcases and quarters, close to which was a path into the wood. Conjecturing that the Indians' habitations were here, we advanced in, but found /77/ it to be an old one; the party complained much of the cold, and occasionally sheltered themselves under the lee of the points. It at length became necessary to cross the pond in order to gain the track of their sledge; this exposed us entirely to the bitterness of the morning; all complained of excessive cold. With the first glimpse of morn, we reached the wished-for track, this led us along the western shore to the NE., up to a point, on which stood an old wigwam; then struck athwart for the shore we had left. As the day opened it was requisite to push forth with celerity to prevent being seen, and to surprise the natives whilst asleep. Canoes were soon descried, and shortly wigwams two close to each other, and the third a hundred yards from the former. Having examined the arms, and charged my men to be prompt in executing such orders as might be given at the same time strictly charging them to avoid every impropriety, and to be especially guarded in their behaviour towards women. The bank was now ascended with great alacrity and silence, the party being formed into three divisions, the wigwams were at once secured. On calling to the people within, and receiving no answer, the skins which covered the entrance were then removed, and we beheld groups of men, women and children lying in the utmost consternation; they remained absolutely for some minutes without motion or utterance. My first object was now to remove their fears, and inspire confidence in us, which was soon accomplished by our shaking hands, and showing every friendly disposition. The woman embraced me for my attentions to their children; from the utmost state of alarm they soon became curious, and examined our dress with great attention and surprise. They kindled a fire and presented us with venison steaks, and fat run into a solid cake, which they used with lean meat. Everything promised the utmost cordiality; knives, handkerchiefs, and other little articles were presented to them, and in return they offered us skins, I had to regret our utter ignorance of their language and the presents at a distance of at least twelve miles, occasioned me much embarrassment; I used every endeavour to make them understand my great desire that some of them should accompany us, to the place where our baggage was, and assist bringing up such things as we wore, which at last they seemed perfectly to comprehend. Three hours and a half having been employed in conciliatory endeavours, and every appearance of the greatest amity subsisting between us; and considering a longer tarry useless, without the means of convincing them farther of our friendship, giving them to understand that we were going, and indicating our intention to return, four of them signified that they would accompany us. James Butler, corporal, and Thomas Bouthland, private of marines, observing this, requested to be left behind in order to repair their snow shoes; and such was the confidence placed by my people in the natives that most of the party wished to be the individuals to remain among them, I was induced to comply with the first request from a motive of showing the natives a mutual confidence, and cautioning them to observe the utmost regularity of conduct, at 10 A.M., having myself again shook hands with all the natives, and expressed, in the best way I could, my intentions to be with them in the morning, we set out. They expressed satisfaction by /78/ signs on seeing that two of us were going to remain with them, and we left them accompanied by four of them. On reaching the river head, two of the Indians struck into our last night's fire place. One of these I considered to be their chief; finding nothing there for him, he directed two of them to continue on with us, these went with cheerfulness, though at times they seemed to mistrust us. Parts of the river having no ice it was difficult to get along the banks occasioning at times a considerable distance between me and the hindermost Indian. Being under the necessity of going single, in turning a point one of the Indians having loitered behind, took the opportunity, and set off with great speed calling out to his comrade to follow. Previous precautions prevented his being fired at. This incident was truly unfortunate as we were nearly in sight of our fire place. It is not improbable but he might have seen the smoke, and this caused his flight, or actuated by his own fears as no action of my people could have given rise to his conduct. He had however, evidently some suspicions, as he had frequently come and looked eagerly in my face, as if to read my intentions. I had been most scrupulous in avoiding every action and gesture that might cause the least distrust. In order to try the disposition of the remaining Indian he was made to understand that he was at liberty to go if he chose, but he showed no wish of this kind. At 3 P.M. we joined the rest of our party, when the Indian started at seeing so many more men; but this was of momentary duration, for he soon became pleased with all he saw; I made him a few presents and showed the articles which were to be taken up for his countrymen consisting of blankets, woollen wrappers, and shirts, beads, hatchets, knives and tin pots, thread, needles and fish hooks, with which he appeared much satisfied, and regaled himself with tea and broiled venison, for we brought down two haunches with us in the evening. A pair of trousers and vamps, being made out of a blanket, and a flannel shirt being presented to him he put them on with sensible pleasure, carefully avoiding any indecency; being under no restraint, he occasionally went out, and he expressed a strong desire for canvass, pointing to a studding sail which covered us in on one side. He laid by me during the night, still my mind was somewhat disturbed for it occurred to me that the natives on the return of their comrade who deserted us, might be induced from his misrepresentation dictated by fear to quit the wigwams, and observe our motions, but I was willing to suppress any fear for the safety of our men, judging that they would not commit any violence, until they should see if we returned and brought their companion; I was moreover satisfied that the conduct of our men would be such as not to give occasion to any animosity, and in the event of their being removed they would see the impossibility of safety in any attempt to escape.
Friday the 25th of Jan. -- Wind NNE. and boisterous with sleet. At 7 A.M. set out leaving only eight of the party behind. On coming up to the river head, we observed the tracks of three men crossing the pond in a direction for the other side of the river. The violence of the wind with the sleet and drift snow rendered it laborious to get on, and so thick was it at times that all the party could not be discerned, although at no great /79/ distance from each other. When within half a mile of the wigwams, the Indian, who walked sometimes on before, at others by my side, pointed out an arrow sticking in the ice; we also perceived a recent track of a sledge. At 2 P.M. we arrived at the wigwams, when my apprehensions were unfortunately verified; they were left in confusion, nothing of consequence remaining in them but some deer skins. We found a quantity of venison packs conveyed a little way off, and deposited in the snow; a path extended into the wood, but to no distance. Perceiving no mark of violence to have been committed, I hoped that my former conjectures would be realized, and that all would yet be well. The actions of the Indian however, were indicative of extreme perplexity and are not describable. Having directed the fire to be removed from the wigwam we were now in to one more commodious; one of the people taking up a brand for that purpose, he appeared terrified to the last degree, and used his utmost endeavour to prevent its being carried out. He either apprehended that we were going to destroy the wigwams and canoes, (of which latter there were six) or that a fire was going to be kindled for his destruction. For sometime he anxiously peeped through the crevices to see what was doing, for he was not at liberty. Perplexed how to act, and evening drawing on, anxiety for the two marines, determined me to let the Indian go, trusting that his appearance and recital of our behaviour would not only be the means of our mens' liberation, but also that the natives would return, with a favourable impression. After giving him several things, I showed a wish that his party should return, and by signs intimated not to hurt our people. He smiled significantly, but he would not leave us. He put the wigwam in order, and several times looked to the west side of the pond and pointed. Each wigwam had a quantity of deers' leg bones ranged on poles (in all three hundred). Having used the marrow of some of these opposite that we occupied, the Indian replaced them with an equal number of others signifying that these were his; he pointed out a staff and showed that it belonged to the person that wore the high cap, the same that I had taken to be the chief; the length of this badge was nearly six feet, and two inches at the head, tapering to the end, terminating in not more than three quarters of an inch; it presented four plain equal sides, except at the upper end, where it resembled three rims one over the other, and the whole stained red(11). The day having closed in, it blew very hard, with hail, sleet and rain. It became necessary to prepare against any attack that might be made upon us. The following disposition was made for the night, the wigwam being of a circular form, and the party formed into two divisions, they were placed intermediately, and a space left on each side of the entrance so that those on guard could have a full command of it; the doorway was closed up with a skin, and orders given for no one to go out. The rustling of the trees, and the snow falling from them would bave made it easy for an enemy to advance close to us without being heard. I had made an exchange with the Indian for his bow and arrows, /80/ and at 11 o'clock laid down to rest; but had not been asleep more than ten minutes, when I was aroused by a dreadful scream, and exclamation of "O Lord" uttered by Mathew Hughster. Starting at the instant in his sleep, the Indian gave a horrid yell, and a musket was instantly discharged. I could not at this moment but admire the promptness of the watch, with their arms presented, and swords drawn. This incident, which had like to prove fatal, was occasioned by John Guieme, a foreigner going out. He had mentioned it to the watch. In coming in again, the skin covering of the doorway made a rustling noise. Thomas Taylor, roused by the shriek, fired direct for the entrance, and had not Hughster providentially fallen against him at the moment, which moved the piece from the intended direction Guieme must inevitably have lost his life. The rest of the night was spent in making covers of deer skin for the locks of the arms.
Saturday 26th Jan. -- Wind ENE., blowing strong, with sleet and freezing weather. As soon as it was light the crew were put in motion, and placing an equal number of blankets, shirts and tin pots in each of the wigwams, I gave the Indian to understand that those articles were for the individuals who resided in them. Some more presents were given to him, also some articles attached to the red staff, all of which he seemed to comprehend. At 7 A.M. we left the place intending to return the Monday following. Seeing that the Indian came on, I signified my wish for him to go back; he however continued with us, sometimes running on a little before in a zigzag direction, keeping his eyes to the ice as having a trace to guide him, and once pointed to the westward, and laughed. Being now about two-thirds of a mile from the wigwams, he edged in suddenly, and for an instant halted; then took to speed. We at this moment observed that he had stopped to look at a body lying on the ice, he was still within half a musket-shot, but as his destruction could answer no end, so it would have been equally vain to attempt pursuit; we soon lost sight of him in the haze. On coming up we recognised with horror the bodies of our two unfortunate companions lying about a hundred yards apart; that of the corporal being first, was pierced by one arrow in the back; three arrows had entered that of Bouthland. They were laid out straight with their feet towards the river, and backs upwards; their heads were off, and carried away, and no vestige of garments left. Several broken arrow lying about and a quantity of bread, which must have been emptied out of their knapsacks; very little blood was visible. This melancholy event naturally much affected all the party; but these feelings soon gave way to sensations of revenge. Although I had no doubt as to the possibility of finding out the route they had taken, yet prudence called on me to adopt another line of conduct. As I could have no doubt that our movement had been watched, which the cross track, observed in coming up, evinced, my mind consequently became alarmed for the safety of those left with the sledges, and hence made it of the utmost moment to join them without loss of time. Prior to entering the river the people were refreshed with some rum and bread, and formed into a line of march, those having fire arms being in the front and rear, those with cutlasses remaining in the /81/ centre, and all charged to keep as close together as the intricacies would permit. On opening the first point of the river head, one of the men said he observed an Indian look round the second point, and fall back; on coming up, we perceived that two men had certainly been there, and retreated; we afterwards saw them at times at a good distance before us; the tracks showed that they had shoes on; this caused considerable perplexity; the guides (and indeed all the party) were of opinion that the Indians had seen the sledges, and that those two were returning down the river to draw us into a trammel; for they supposed a body of them to be conveniently posted to take advantage of us in some difficult pass. These conjectures were probable. They strongly urged my taking to the woods as being more safe; although this was certainly true, it would have been attended with great loss of time, for from the depth and softness of the snow, we could not possibly perform it under two days; and as the immediate joining my people was paramount to every other consideration -- for our conjectures might be erroneous -- and I was in this instance fain to suspect that curiosity had predominated over the obligations of duty, and that want of consideration had led our men up to view the pond, I therefore continued on by the river side. On seeing excrement recently evacuated it was found on examination to contain particles of bread, this relieved the mind for the Indians do not use this diet. At noon we arrived at the fireplace, and found all well after having spent four hours in unutterable anxiety for their fate. The two men that had acted so imprudently were easily discovered by the sweat that rolled down their faces; being made acquainted with the uneasiness they had occasioned, contrition for their misconduct was manifest. Whilst the party dined on pork, bread and rum, I pondered on the late events, and what in the present juncture was best to be done; my thoughts often wandered to the pond, but after half an hour's reflection, the following considerations fixed me in the resolution of proceeding down the river: -- 1st, it appeared to me next to a certainty that a numerous body of natives resided in the environs and outlets of the pond; taking this for granted, the hazard would have been greater than prudence would justify, for, after their perpetration, was it not to be supposed they would anticipate our conduct according to their diabolical system? I could not therefore entertain any hope of securing their persons without bloodshed, which would frustrate all future expectation of their reconciliation and civilization, the grand object in view. It will not be considered improper to remark that the very nature of the service intrusted to my care required the test of faith, and the danger increased by the sincere wish of rendering acts of friendship on our part whilst a malignant inveteracy subsists in the hearts and actuates the natives to deeds most horrid. 2nd, the state of the weather promising a rapid thaw, which would render our retreat down the river mpracticable; this, with the local situation of this part of the Exploits, were cogent reasons to follow the plan of descending the river. The thawing of the ice and snow, and waters from the interior causing the ice already to founder from the banks, so as to render it impossible to conduct the sledges, the knapsacks were filled with as much provisions as /82/ they could contain, and, taking with us rum for three days, we commenced our return, obliged to leave everything else behind. On reaching the point on which the old store has been stated to have stood, we observed on the island situated on this part of the river (as described on Jan. 22nd) nearly at its western end, the frame of an extensive store, apparently erected last summer, and not yet covered in; this island being well wooded, had obstructed our seeing it in passing upwards, and so surrounded with trees as to prevent our having a full view of it; this is a strong corroboration of Cull's statement. We continued our journey until dark, when we reached the fireplace occupied on the 21st; thus having performed four days' route, making in distance thirty-two miles, between this and where we left the sledges; the ice had become so much weakened as to give way several times, leaving some of the party for a short period on detached pieces from that bound to the banks.
Jan. 27th. -- Wind ESE. with small rain. At daylight renewed our journey, taking with us the provisions that had been left here. Having descended the upper waterfall, we found the river open in many places, that we had passed over in coming up, and the water flooded considerably over the ice, indeed we were under apprehension of the river breaking up, as the drift ice under us made a great noise. We reached our fireplace of the 19th and halted for the night, having performed two days' journey, a distance of twenty-three miles. Here we had deposited two days' provisions in a cask well headed, and placed fifty yards in from the west bank of the brook (the fire-place being on the east) and covered over with bushes and snow, insomuch as to consider it perfectly secure from any beast. I was therefore much surprised to find the bushes removed, the head taken out, seven pieces of pork missing, and some of the bread lying by the cask. The rapid thaw obliterated any track that might have formed our judgment as to its having been done by men or beast. I am inclined to attribute it to the former. One of the pieces of pork was found about two hundred yards from the spot. Some of the party complained of swollen legs.
Jan. 28th. -- Light winds from the SE., with rain during the night. The legs of several more of the party began to swell. The thaw still continued very rapid, with prospect of an immediate change. This circumstance, and the great probability of the river's bursting, from the likelihood of the drift ice becoming pent amongst the shoals, determined me, notwithstanding our fatigue and pain, to push forward, and if possible, to reach our fireplace of the 16th immediately below the great overfall, as the depth of the river below this would make it less subject to break up, and should it become necessary to undertake the laborious and slow travelling in the woods, our distance would become considerably diminished. By dark my wish was accomplished, after a most harassing and uncomfortable march of eighteen miles, the greater part of this distance being nearly knee deep in water, in all the days route we found the river opened in the middle.
All those with swollen legs had the parts effected rubbed with rum and pork fat.
Jan. 29th. -- Fresh winds from the SE. with rain. At dawn renewed /83/ our journey, the river still continuing to flood and open. On coming to the Rattling Brook, in addition to the canoe mentioned on the 15th we now found another. I knew them both to have belonged to the Canadians before spoken of, and as these were all they had, I supposed them to have travelled by land to St George's Bay. Halted at our fireplace of the 14th and refreshed ourselves; and took with us the provisions that had been left, and at 4 p.m. reached Cull's old house, where we had spent so intolerable a night on the 13th. Although my people were much fatigued and several of them with their legs much swollen and inflamed, yet they all solicited to proceed to the schooner, thinking they might get to her in a few hours. They were too sanguine, for I was sensible that many of them were in a state unable to perform what they so eagerly asked. I had also strong objections to approach the schooner by night, so we put up, having travelled this day twenty-two miles. It froze a little during the night.
Jan. 30th. -- Wind E. with fresh gales and rain; at 7 a.m. proceeded for the schooner, all hearts elated. We found it extremely tiresome; the waters that had flooded over the ice being partially frozen, but insuffficient to bear our weight, made it painful to all, but particularly to those with inflamed ankles; indeed, from the wet state our feet had been in for the last four days, no one escaped being galled. Abreast of Wigwam Point the river was considerably opened. At noon we arrived on board and found all well. (January section of narrative ends)
After reading Lieutenant Buchan’s narrative, I found him of admirable character and could sense his frustration at things going so badly. With only a few kinder twists of fate his mission could have resulted in possibly saving a people from extinction. Both he and they deserved better in my opinion. The simple inability of either group to communicate their intentions to the other was most tragic.
Narratives such as this are, without a doubt, my favorite form of history and often result in my later visiting the locales where such pivotal events took place. If I am fortunate enough to visit Newfoundland again, I hope to paddle into the Exploits River and retrace some, or perhaps all, of their route to Red Indian Lake. Now, to get my hands on some red ochre!