Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Carson, Christopher

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CARSON, Christopher, better known as “Kit Carson,” soldier, b. in Madison co., Ky., 24 Dec., 1809; d. at Fort Lynn, Col., 23 May, 1868. While he was an infant his parents emigrated to what is now Howard co., Mo., but was then a wilderness. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to a saddler, with whom he continued two years, and then he joined a hunting expedition, thus beginning the adventurous life that made him one of the most picturesque figures of western history. For eight years he was on the plains, leading the life of a trapper, until he was appointed hunter for the garrison at Bent's Fort, where he remained eight years more. After a short visit to his family he met, for the first time, General (then Lieutenant) John C. Frémont, by whom his experience in the backwoods was at once appreciated, and by whom, also, he was engaged as guide in his subsequent explorations. In this capacity he was eminently useful, and to him is probably due much of the success of those explorations. He was perhaps better known to a larger number of Indian tribes than any other white man, and from his long life among them learned their habits and customs, understood their mode of warfare, and spoke their language as his mother tongue. No one man did more than he in furthering the settlement of the northwestern wilderness. In 1847 Carson was sent to Washington as bearer of despatches, and was then appointed second lieutenant in the mounted rifles, U. S. army. This appointment, however, was negatived by the senate. In 1853 he drove 6,500 sheep over the mountains to California, a hazardous undertaking at that time, and, on his return to Laos, was appointed Indian agent in New Mexico. Under this appointment he was largely instrumental in bringing about the treaties between the United States and the Indians. He was an instinctive judge of character, and, knowing the Indians so thoroughly, his cool judgment and wisdom in dealing with them, even under the most trying circumstances, enabled him to render important services to the U. S. government. During the civil war he repeatedly rendered great service to the government in New Mexico, Colorado, and the Indian territory, and was brevetted brigadier-general for his meritorious conduct. At its close, he resumed his duties as Indian agent. In this relation to the Indians he visited Washington, in the winter and early spring of 1868, in company with a deputation of the red men, and made a tour of several of the northern and eastern states. Unlike most of the trappers and guides, Gen. Carson was a man of remarkable modesty, and in conversation never boasted of his own achievements. See “Life of Kit Carson, the Great Western Hunter,” by Charles Burdett (Philadelphia, 1869).