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Arrival of the Spread Eagle from the Head Waters of the Missouri.


July/August 1860

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 11, 1860.

Arrival of the Spread Eagle from the Head Waters of the Missouri.


The steamer Spread Eagle, the “flag ship” of the Mountain Fleet which left here for the Rocky Mountains on the 3rd of May last, arrived in port at an early hour yesterday morning. The Spread Eagle succeeded in going beyond the highest point in the Missouri ever visited by a side-wheeled boat, being some three hundred miles about Port Union, at the mouth of the Yellow Stone, and some miles farther than the point reached by the El Paso some years since. The other boats of the expedition proceeded on with the troops, &c., to Fort Benton, and as much higher as they could get. They will be due here in the course of a week or two. The Spread Eagle brought down no passengers. Her cargo consists principally of buffalo robes, all consigned to Pierre Chouteau, Jr. Among the live freight, was a good specimen of one of the natives of the Rocky Mountains, a very decidedly ugly looking Bruin, together with a young antelope, a fox, and a couple of wolves.

Capt. Bob Wright came down in command of the Spread Eagle, Capt. Labarge having transferred his command to the Key West and Chippewa.

We are indebted to Mr. Jos. A. Hull for the following “log” of the trip. Mr. H. had carefully prepared a much longer and detailed account of the voyage for the benefit of the press, but before reaching here some person appropriated it to this own use obliging him to prepare the following brief summary of the cruise, which must answer for the present:

The mountain fleet arrived at mouth of Milk river, Friday, June 22d, fifty days out, and as the river had commenced falling it was thought advisable to send the “flag-ship” back. Accordingly we transferred the balance of our freight to the Chippewa and Key West. Mr. P. W. Chouteau then proposed that the Spread Eagle should make a pleasure trip above the point where the El Paso landed several years since. And with the officers of the army, and most of the officers of the boats, we ran about fifteen miles above El Paso point. The Spread Eagle has now been higher up the Missouri river than any other side-wheeled boat, and Capt. LaBarge has the honor of being her commander. On our arrival at the Point two guns were fired, a basket of champagne was drank by the officers and guests, and one bottle buried on the Point. I suppose any one who goes after it can have it.

The Spread Eagle could very easily have got higher up-indeed, it was thought at one time she would be able to reach Fort Benton, the river rose so rapidly, but Captain Chouteau did not wish to risk so much merely for glory. The river above the Yellow Stone was about eight feet higher than it has been for several years. The little boats anticipated no trouble in getting to the Fort. They are probably on their way down by this time. After we got through with our pleasure trip, we returned to where the smaller boats of the fleet were lying, when P. M. Chouteau, Captain LaBarge and our friends left to continue their trip on the Chippewa and Key West, Captain LaBarge transferring his command to them. After bidding them adieu, and firing a parting salute, which was answered by both boats, we started down the river, homeward bound; Capt. Bob Wright in command. We lay all night at the mouth of the White river. 24th, lost six hours aground; lay all night at Fort Kipp. 25th, arrived at Fort Union, where we remained all night. 26th, lay all night at Big Bend. 27th, arrived at Fort Berthold; lay at Red Springs. 28th, arrived at Fort Clark; lay at Square Hills. 29th, ran 20 miles and grounded; after 12 hours hard sparring we go off, ran to a wood pile, where we remained all night. Here we were visited by a war party of Rees Indians on their way with their bull boats to steal horses, and take a few scalps from the Sioux, with whom they are at war. Indeed all the tribes from the Yellow Stone to this point are at war with them. They complain bitterly of Uncle Sam not protecting them, and say the Sioux are a stronger tribe than any other. However, they are always dissatisfied and complaining, give them what you will. I never saw one who would not ask for more. It is characteristic of the race. We gave them some coffee and biscuits, after which they sang us a war song, I presume out of compliment, and quickly departed. But we kept a strict watch all night, not knowing what might be their intentions. Nothing occurred, however, and in the morning we resumed our journey, glad enough to get away from them. Lay all night at Little Soldiers’ Camp. July 1st—Ran to the mouth of Little Chienn river. 2d—Arrive at Ft. Pierre; lay all night at Farm Island. 3d—At Bijou Hills, the highest on the Missouri this side of Milk river. 4th—Fired the national salute of thirteen guns in honor of the day. Arrived at Fort Randall, where they honored us with a salute. Aside from this, we spent the Fourth rather quietly. Lay all night at Red Camp. 5th—Made our first cut wood pile, which was hailed with delight from the men below. Arrived at Sioux City, where it began to appear evident that we were approaching a civilized country again. Lay above Decatur. 6th—Met Florence at Florence. Lay opposite Sonora. 7th, passed Emilie at Brownsville; met Omaha just below; Tutt above Palermo; lay all night above Jacksville. 8th, met Gaty and Hannibal at Lexington; lay at Boonville all night. 9th, met Rowena at mouth of Moro; Ryland at Bennett’s, January at mouth of Osage. The river is falling all the way down from Fort Randall, but above there rising, probably in consequence of heavy rains which have extended all along the upper river for a month past. On the night of the first, just above Fort Pierre it rose eight inches. I don’t think the lower river will be much higher this year than it is at present.

JOS. A. HULL, Clerk Spread Eagle.