Thursday, May 25, 2023

A Younger Kit Carson Gets His Close-up

 May 25, 2023

   I am proud and excited to report we are publishing a very cool original article based on a chapter in Paul Andrew Hutton's next book. As we were prepping this issue for press we realized that most of the photographs of the legendary—and now controversial—scout and frontiersman, show him in old age, pained and a tad weather beaten and emaciated. 

First mockup from Dan The Man

   And, yet, at the time of the events covered in Paul's masterful story which you will read in the next issue about the so-called Bear Flag Revolt, Carson was 36- years-old, and in the prime of his life.

   Fortunately for me, our editor, Stuart Rosebrook, found this photo which I had never seen before of Carson.

A Much Younger Kit Carson

So we scrapped that original cover and I took a swing at a cover painting that skewed more towards his younger visage.

Daily Whip Out:
"Kit Carson In Fighting Form"

Kit Carson's Conflicted Descriptions
   As large as Kit Carson looms on the American frontier it's interesting how those who knew him described him. Here is John C. Fremont' description: "He was a man of medium height, broad-shouldered, and deep chested, with a clear steady blue eye and frank speech and address: quiet and unassuming." Contrast that with General William Tecumseh Sherman's description, who met the famous scout in Monterrey in 1847: "I cannot express my surprise at beholding such a small, stoop-shouldered man, with reddish hair, freckled face, soft blue eyes, and nothing to indicate extraordinary courage or daring. He spoke but little and answered questions in monosyllables." Either way, Carson made his mark on the West.
   Let's take a short look at a legendary life:

Kit Carson & The Conquest of California
   When he was a mere lad of 15, Kit Carson ran away from home in Missouri and joined a caravan of traders on the Santa Fe Trail. He fell in with a group of mountain men and for the next 15 years he learned the ropes on fur trapping and trading. He also got into a horseback duel with a French-Canadian bully named Joseph Chouinard, who was on a drunk tear at the annual trapper's rendezvous on the upper Green River in Wyoming. This was in August of 1835, when the two mountain men shot it out on horseback at close range. Carson severely wounded Chouinard. It's unclear whether his adversary was killed, but Carson  received a bullet crease on his neck and the spent power burns damaged Carson's eye and singed his hair.

   After witnessing the collapse of the fur trade, Carson had a chance encounter with explorer John C. Fremont, in 1842, that allowed him to act as a guide and fighter before he joined the fight in the 1846-48 Mexican-American War which became known as the Bear Flag Revolt. In 1849, he moved to Taos, New Mexico; five years later, he became an Ute Indian agent.

   By 1861, he was back in battle, in this case, fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Carson joined the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry where he served as its colonel. After clashing with Confederates at the 1862 Battle of Valverde, he defeated the Navajos and rounded them up for a forced march to the Fort Sumner reservation.

   A year after being named a brigadier general in 1865, Carson moved to Colorado to serve as commander at Fort Garland. While there, he negotiated a peace treaty with the Utes.

   Carson left the Army in 1867 because of declining health. He died at Fort Lyon on May 23, 1868. His final words were, “Doctor, compadre, adios!”

Paul Andrew Hutton's Next Book

The Undiscovered Country is an epic history of the frontier movement and the struggle for the American West from colonial times through 1900, using seven lives —Daniel Boone, Red Eagle, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Mangas Coloradas, Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Cody—to tell the story. It will be published late next year by Penguin Random House/Dutton.

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