Brigham Young letter to John Smith, 4 May 1847.
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Bank Platt[e] River, May 4, 1847
President John Smith & the Saints at Winter Quarters.
Beloved Brethren. We have stopped to write you a few words by Mr Charley Barkum one Mr Sarpyes [sic] Traders who is passing on the south Bank, with others, and has come over to see us, and kindly offer[e]d to carry letters.
We are about 250 mi. from Winter Quarters, according to our Reckoning, and from 5 to 10 above the head of Grand Island. Have had but 3 slight showers of rain, but plenty of wind & dust. The earth is dry, and we are getting out of the growthe of grass, which in some spots has been very good, but, we have come to the Buffalo grass, which is good, what there is of it. The old and new mixed together; but this day, we have come upon the prairie, which the Indians are burning ahead of us, to injure us, and we understand by Mr Barkum that the feed is good on the South Bank, and that the River is fordable at almost any point, and we think of crossing over soon.
We crossed the Loup fork about a mile below old Pawnee village, which is now in ruins. The Pawnees are a few miles below. They come out to see us, and were dissatisfied that we made no larger Presents. Three days after they stole two of our horses, while feeding, at about sunset. Dr. Richards & Bro Littles. from that time to this they have not troubled us, only to keep near enough to occasionally let us know that they were near, to make us watch as well as pray.
We usually travel single file, sometimes double, & when danger is apprehended, each company of 10 men or 5 waggons by platoons. We have a general & staff, Col & staff, & capts of 10s and Artilery in the rear. Horsemen front, rear & Picket gaurd [guard]. Teamsters carrying guns, & extra men on the right with guns. Cont [sic] might fire the cannon at 10 & at 4 this morning. We rested yesterday, to recruit our teams, & our pickets discovered some 2 or 300, Indians 10 or 15 miles ahead. We rest on the sabbath, unless compelled to move for grazing. No man is allowed to leave camp without orders from his officers, & his arms always ready for action. as we have but one cannon, it faces the rear, we have this day removed the box & carry it openly. Had we Two we would form a front & rear.
Discharge of guns is no alarm to the camp, but the Bugle or bell. We have Kill[e]d 4 Buffalo, 10 Calves, 4 Antelopes. Bugle sounds at 5 AM, when all rise to prayer. Also at 8 1/2 P.M. for prayer and all retire, & put out fires.
The Emigration companies will notice Boards and marked Trees, at our company plans. If the feed is good on this side the Platt[e], the next company may continue further up on this side if they choose, and to Ft Leramie [Laramie] if the feed is good and after they get above Ft Leramie [Laramie] they can easily follow our trail by watching for signs, for we shall take the most southern route to the Salt Lake that we can find.
The brethren are well, and never was a company more united in the best of feelings. Prest Young had one horse strayed, & Col Markham 1 horse shot by accident cows & oxen all alive.
Organize, & keep up strict discipline, bring all the cannon and take care of yourselves. [blank space] for the council