From the New York Spectator.
Letter from Washington Irving:- The friends of the distinguished writer will be well pleased to hear from him again, and still more to read the following sketch of his recent journeyings among the wild tribes beyond the verge of civilization; and we earnestly hope, that it will not be long before we have something more than a sketch of this interesting tour; although we believe he has as yet written nothing upon the subject for the press. The letter before us, it will be perceived, was written to a friend in Europe, during Mr. Irving's recent sojourn in Washington. It reaches us through the medium of the London Athenaeum.
Dec. 18, 1833 (sic)
I arrived here a few days since, from a tour of several months, which carried me far to the West, beyond the bounds of civilization.
After I wrote to you in August, from I think, Niagara, I proceeded with my agreeable fellow travelers, Mr. L. and Mr. P. * to Buffalo, and we embarked at Black Rock, on Lake Erie. On board of the steam-boat was Mr. E. one of the commissioners appointed by government to superintend the settlement of the emigrant Indian tribes, to the west of the Mississippi. He was on his way to the place of rendezvous, and on his invitation, we agreed to accompany him in his expedition. The offer was too tempting to be resisted; I should have an opportunity of seeing the remnants of those great Indian tribes, which are now about to disappear as independent nations, or to be amalgamated under some new form of government. I should see these fine countries of the 'far west' while still in a state of pristine wildness, and behold herds of buffaloes, scouring their native prairies, before they are driven beyond the reach of a civilized tourist.
We, accordingly, traversed the center of Ohio, and embarked in a steam-boat at Cincinnati, for Louisville, in Kentucky. Thence we descended the Ohio River in another steam-boat, and ascended the Mississippi to St. Louis. Our voyage was prolonged by repeatedly running aground, in consequence of the lowness of the waters and on the first occasion were nearly wrecked and sent to the bottom, by encountering another steam-boat coming with all the impetuous of a high pressure engine, and a rapid current. Fortunately we had time to shear a little so as to receive the blow obliquely, which carried away part of a wheel, and all the upper works on one side of the boat.
From St. Louis, I went to Fort Jefferson, about nine miles distant, to see Black Hawk, the Indian warrior, and his fellow prisoners-a forlorn crew, emaciated and dejected-the redoubtable chieftain himself, a meager old man upwards of seventy. He has, however, a fine head, a Roman style of face, and a prepossessing countenance.**** * *** ** ** ** *** ** ** * * * * * * * * * *
At St. Louis, we bought horses for ourselves, and a covered wagon for our baggage, tents, provisions, 'c. and travelled by land to Independence a frontier hamlet of log-houses, situated between two and three hundred miles up the Missouri, on the utmost verge of civilization.
From Independence, we struck across the Indian country, along the line of the Indian missions; and arrived on the 8th of October after ten or eleven days' tramp, at Fort Gibson, a frontier fort in Arkansas. Our journey lay most entirely through vast prairies, or open grassy plain diversified occasionally by beautiful groves and deep fertile bottoms along the streams of water. We lived in frontier and almost Indian style camping out at nights, except when we stopped at the Missionaries, scattered here and there in this vast wilderness. The weather was serene, and we encountered but one rainy night and one thunder storm, and I found sleeping in a tent a very sweet and healthy repose. It was now upwards of three weeks since I had left St. Louis, and taken to travelling on horse back, and it agreed with me admirably.
On arriving at Fort Gibson, we found that a mounted body of Rangers, nearly a hundred, had set off two days before to make a wide tour to the west and south, through the wild hunting countries; by way of protecting the friendly Indians, who had gone to the buffalo hunting, and to overawe the Pawnees, who are the wandering Arabs of the West, and continually on the maraud. We determined to proceed on the track of this party, escorted by a dozen or fourteen horsemen (that we might have nothing to apprehend from any straggling party of Pawnees), and with three or four Indians, as guides and interpreters, including a captive Pawnee woman. A couple of Creek Indians were dispatched by the commander of the Fort to overtake the party of Rangers, and order them to await our coming up with them. We were to travel in still simpler and rougher style, taking as little baggage as possible, and depending on our hunting for supplies; but were to go through a country abounding with game. The finest sport we had hither to had, was an incidental wolf hunt, as we were traversing a prairie; which was very animated and picturesque. I felt now completely launched in a savage life, and extremely excited and interested by this wild country, and the wild scenes, and people by which I was surrounded. Our rangers were expert hunters, being mostly from Illinois, Tennessee, 'c.
We overtook the exploring party of mounted Rangers in the course of three days, on the banks of the Arkansas; and the whole troop crossed that river on the 16th of October, some of rafts, some fording. Our own immediate party had a couple of half breed Indians as servants who understood the Indian customs. They constructed a kind of boat or raft out of a buffalo skin, on which Mr. E. and myself crossed the river and its branches, at several times, on the top of about a hundred weight of baggage-an odd mode of crossing a river a quarter of a mile wide.
We now led a true hunting life, sleeping in the open air, and living upon the produce of the chase, for we were three hundred miles beyond human habitation, and part of the time in a country hitherto explored.
We got to the region of buffaloes and wild horses; killed some of the former, and caught some of the latter. We were, moreover, on the hunting grounds of the Pawnees, the terror of that frontier; a race who scour the prairies on fleet horses, and are like Tartars or roving Arabs.
We had to set guards round our camp, and tie up our horses for fear of surprise; but, though we had an occasional alarm, we passed through the country without seeing a single Pawnee. I brought off, however, the tongue of a buffalo, of my own shooting, as a trophy of my hunting, and am determined to rest my renown as a hunter, upon that exploit, and never to descent to smaller game. We returned to Fort Gibson, after a campaign of about thirty days, well seasoned by hunter's fare and hunter's life.
* * * * * * * * * ** *
From Fort Gibson, I was about five days descending the Arkansas to the Mississippi, in a steam-boat, a distance of several hundred miles; and then continued down the latter river to New Orleans, where I passed some days very pleasantly.
New Orleans is one of the most motley and amusing place of the United States; a mixture of America and Europe. The French part of the cay is a counterpart of some French provincial towns; and the levee, or esplanade, along the river, presents the most whimsical groups of people of all nations, castes, ' colors. French, Spanish, Indian, Half-Breed, Creoles, Mulattoes, Kentuckians, 'c. I passed two days with M. on his sugar plantation just at the time when they were making sugar. * * * * * * * * * * * * *