IN adding another to the list of works which have already been published, appearing to bear more or less directly upon the subject matter of these volumes, I am aware that my labors make their appeal to the public under serious disadvantages. Topics which have occupied the pens of Irving and Murray and Hoffman, and more recently, of Kendall, the graphic historiographer of the “Texan Santa Fe Expedition," may fairly be supposed to have been so entirely exhausted, that the entrance of a new writer in the lists, whose name is wholly unknown to the republic of letters, and whose pretensions are so humble as mine, may be looked upon as an act of literary hardihood, for which there was neither occasion nor excuse. In view of this ‘foregone conclusion,’ I trust I may be pardoned for prefacing my literary offering with a few words in its justification , — which will afford me an occasion to explain the circumstances that first led to my acquaintance with life upon the Prairies and in Northern Mexico.
For some months preceding the year 1831, my health had been gradually declining under a complication of
chronic diseases, which defied every plan of treatment that the sagacity and science of my medical friends could devise. This morbid condition of my system, which originated in the familiar miseries of dyspepsia and its kindred infirmities, had finally reduced me to such a state, that, for nearly a twelvemonth, I was not only disqualified for any systematic industry, but so debilitated as rarely to be able to extend my walks beyond the narrow precincts of my chamber. In this hopeless condition, my physicians advised me to take a trip across the Prairies, and, in the change of air and habits which such an adventure would involve, to seek that health which their science had failed to bestow. I accepted their suggestion, and, without hesitation, proceeded at once to make the necessary preparations for joining one of those spring Caravans which were annually starting from the United States, for Santa Fe.
The effects of this journey were in the first place to re-establish my health, and, in the second, to beget a passion for Prairie life which I never expect to survive. At the conclusion of the season which followed my first trip, I became interested as a proprietor in the Santa Fe Trade, and continued to be so, to a greater or less extent, for the eight succeeding years. During the whole of the above periods I crossed the Prairies eight different times ; and, with the exception of the time thus spent in travelling to and fro, the greater part of the nine years of which I speak, were passed in Northern Mexico.
Having been actively engaged and largely interested in the commerce of that country and across the Prairies, for so long a period, I feel that I have at least had oppor-
tunities for observation, upon the subjects of which I have ventured to treat, superior to those enjoyed by any writers who have preceded me. But not even an attempt has before been made to present any full account of the origin of the Santa Fe Trade and modes of conducting it; nor of the early history and present condition of the people of New Mexico; nor of the Indian tribes by which the wild and unreclaimed regions of that department are inhabited. I think I may also assure my readers that most of the facts presented in my sketch of the natural history of the Prairies, and of the Indian tribes who inhabit them, are now published for the first time. As I have not sought to make a treatise upon these subjects, I have not felt compelled, for the purpose of giving my papers symmetry and completeness, to enter to any extent upon grounds which have already been occupied by other travellers; but have contented myself with presenting such matters and observations as I thought least likely to have come before under the notice of my readers.
I am perfectly sensible, however,that, in the selection of matter, and in the execution of my work, it is very far from being what it should be, and what, in more capable hands, it might have been. I only trust, that, with all its imperfections, it may be found to contain some new and not unimportant facts, which may be thought, in some measure, to justify my appearance for once in the capacity of a bookmaker; for which vocation, in all other respects, I am free to confess myself very poorly qualified.
This work has been prepared chiefly from a journal which I have been in the habit of keeping from my youth
upward, and in which I was careful to preserve memoranda of my observations while engaged in the Santa Fe Trade, — though without the remotest intention of ever appropriating them to the present purpose. In addition, however, I have embraced every opportunity of procuring authentic information through others, upon such matters as were beyond my own sphere of observation. From materials thus collected I have received much assistance in the preparation of the chapters from the sixth to the fifteenth inclusive, of the first volume, which are chiefly devoted to the early history of New Mexico, and the manners, customs and institutions of its people. For favors thus conferred, I beg in particular to make my acknowledgments to ELISHA STANLEY, Esq., and Doctors SAMUEL B. HOBBS and DAVID WALDO, whose names have been long and favorably associated with the Santa Fe Trade.
Though myself cradled and educated upon the Indian border, and familiar with the Indian character from my infancy, I am yet greatly indebted, for information upon that subject, to many intelligent Indian traders, and others resident upon our border, with whose ample experience I have been frequently favored.
Yet, while I recognize my indebtedness to others, I feel bound, in self-defence, to reclaim in a single case, at least, the waifs of my own pen, which have been dignified with a place in the pages of a cotemporary writer. During the years 1841 and 1842, I contributed a number of letters upon the history and condition of the Santa Fe Trade, etc., to the Galveston “Daily Advertiser” and the “Arkansas Intelligencer,” under the signatures of “J. and “G.,”
portions of which I have had occasion to insert in the present volumes. In Captain Marryat’s recent work, entitled “Monsieur Violet,” I was not a little annoyed (when I presume I ought to have been flattered) to find large portions of this correspondence copied, much of it verbatim, without the slightest intimation or acknowledgment whatever, of the source from whence they were procured. The public are already so familiar with the long series of literary larcenies of which that famous work was the product, that I should not have presumed to emphasize my own grievance at all here, but that the appearance of the same material, frequently in the same words, in these volumes, might, unless accompanied by some explanation, expose me to a charge of plagiarism myself, among those who may never have seen my original letters, or who are not yet aware that “Monsieur Violet” was an offering which had evidently been intended for the altar of Mercury rather than of Minerva.
In my historical sketches of New Mexico, it might have been naturally expected that some notice would be taken of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition of 1841, the events of which are so closely connected with the history of that country. I declined, however, to enter upon the topic; for I considered that none who bad seen Mr. Kendall’s account of that ill-fated enterprise, would have any inducement to consult these pages upon the subject; and for those who had not, I felt sure the best thing I could do,was to direct their attention at once to its attractive pages.
The maps which accompany the present work will be found, I believe, substantially correct; or more so, at 1east,
than any others of those regions which bave been published. They have been prepared, for the most part, from personal observations. Those portions of the country which I have not been able to observe myself, have chiefly been laid down from manuscript maps kindly furnished me by experienced and reliable traders and trappers, and also from the maps prepared under the supervision of United States surveyors.
The arrangement I have adopted seems to require a word of explanation. That the reader may the better understand the frequent notices, in the course of my personal narrative, of the Santa Fe Trade, the first chapter has been devoted to the development of its early history. And, though the results of my observations in Northern Mexico and upon the Prairies, as well as on the border, are sometimes interspersed through the narrative, I have, to a great degree, digested and arranged them into distinct chapters, occupying from the sixth to the fifteenth inclusive, of the first volume, and the seven last chapters, of the second. This plan was resorted to with a view of giving greater compactness to the work, and relieving the journal, as far as possible, from cumbrous details and needless repetitions.
J. G.New York, June 12, 1844.