|Who is it?||Explorer & Soldier|
|Birth Day||December 24, 1809|
|Birth Place||Madison County, United States|
|Age||210 YEARS OLD|
|Died On||May 23, 1868(1868-05-23) (aged 58)\nFort Lyon, Colorado|
|Resting place||Kit Carson Cemetery Taos, New Mexico|
|Residence||Taos, New Mexico|
|Occupation||Mountain man, frontiersman, guide, Indian agent, United States Army officer|
|Known for||Opening the American West to European settlement Carson City, Nevada namesake|
|Spouse(s)||Waanibe Making-Out-Road Josefa Jaramillo|
|Allegiance||United States of America Union|
|Rank||Brevet Brigadier General|
|Commands held||1st New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry Regiment|
|Battles/wars||Mexican-American War Battle of San Pasqual Jicarilla War Battle of Ojo Caliente Canyon American Civil War Battle of Valverde Navajo Wars Battle of Canyon de Chelly Plains Indian Wars First Battle of Adobe Walls|
In respect to his actual exploits and his actual character, however, Carson was not overrated. If history has to single out one person from among the Mountain Men to receive the admiration of later generations, Carson is the best choice. He had far more of the good qualities and fewer of the bad qualities than anyone else in that varied lot of individuals.
Carson was born in Kentucky on Christmas Eve, 1809. His parents were Lindsay (or Lindsey) Carson and his second wife, Rebecca Robinson. Lindsay had had five children by his first wife Lucy Bradley, and ten more children by Rebecca. Kit was their sixth, making him the eleventh of Lindsay's offspring.
The Carson family moved to Boone's Lick, Howard County, Missouri, when Kit was about one year old. The family settled on a tract of land owned by the sons of Daniel Boone, who had purchased the land from the Spanish. The Boone and Carson families became good friends, working and socializing together, and intermarrying. Lindsay's oldest son william married Boone's grand-niece, Millie Boone, in 1810. Their daughter Adaline became Kit's favorite playmate.
Carson lived with Mathew Kinkead, a trapper and Explorer who had served with Carson's older brothers during the War of 1812. Carson was mentored by Kinkead in learning the skills of a trapper, while learning the necessary languages for trade. Eventually he became fluent in Spanish and several Indian languages.
In 1818 Lindsay Carson died instantly when a tree limb fell on him while clearing a field. Kit was about 8 years old. Despite being penniless, his mother took care of her children alone for four years. She then married Joseph Martin, a widower with several children. Kit was a young teenager at the time and did not get along with his stepfather. The decision was made to apprentice him to David Workman, a saddler in Franklin, Missouri. Kit wrote in his Memoirs that Workman was "a good man, and I often recall the kind treatment I received."
In August 1826, against his mother's wishes, Kit ran away from his apprenticeship. He went west with a caravan of fur trappers, tending their livestock. They made their trek over the Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe, the capital of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, reaching their destination in November 1826. Kit settled in Taos.
Between 1827 and 1829, Carson worked as cook, translator, and wagon driver in the southwest. He also worked at a copper mine near the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico. In later life, Carson never mentioned any women from his youth. There are only three specific women mentioned in his writing: Josefa Jaramillo, his third and last wife; a comrade's mother in Washington, DC; and Mrs. Ann White, a victim of Indian atrocities.
At the age of nineteen, Carson began his career as a mountain man. He traveled through many parts of the American West with famous mountain men like Jim Bridger and Old Bill Williams. He spent the winter of 1828–1829 as a cook for Ewing Young in Taos. He joined Young's trapping expedition of 1829. The leadership of Young and the experience of the venture are credited with shaping Carson's early life in the mountains.
Carson was nineteen when he set off with Ewing Young's expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1829. In addition to furs and the company of free-spirited, rugged mountain men, Carson sought action and adventure. He found what he was looking for in killing and scalping Indians. Carson probably killed and took the scalp of his first Indian when he was nineteen years old, during Ewing Young's expedition.
Carson left home in rural present-day Missouri at age 16 to become a mountain man and trapper in the West. In the 1830s, he accompanied Ewing Young on an expedition to Mexican California and joined fur trapping expeditions into the Rocky Mountains. He lived among and married into the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes.
Carson joined a wagon train rescue party after entering Taos, and although the perpetrators had fled the scene of atrocities Young had the opportunity to witness Carson's horsemanship and courage. Carson joined another expedition led by Thomas Fitzpatrick and william Levin in 1831. Fitzpatrick, Levin and his trappers went north to the central Rocky Mountains. Carson would hunt and trap in the West for about ten years. He was known as a reliable man and a good fighter.
Carson's Memoirs are replete with stories about hostile Indian encounters with the Memoirist. In January 1833, for Example, warriors of the Crow tribe stole nine horses from Carson's camp. Carson and two other men sprayed the Crow camp with gunfire, killing almost every Crow. Carson wrote in his Memoirs: "During our pursuit for the lost animals, we suffered considerably but, the success of having recovered our horses and sending many a redskin to his long home, our sufferings were soon forgotten."
Grizzly bears were one of the mountain man's greatest enemies. A particular incident involving the animals happened to Carson in 1834 as he was hunting an elk alone. Two bears crossed paths with him and quickly chased him up a tree. One of the bears tried to make him fall by shaking the tree, but was not successful and eventually went away. Carson returned to his camp as fast as he could. He wrote in his Memoirs that: "[The bear] finally concluded to leave, of which I was heartily pleased, never having been so scared in my life."
In 1836, Carson met an Arapaho woman named Waanibe (Singing Grass, or Grass Singing) at a mountain man rendezvous held along the Green River in Wyoming. Singing Grass was a lovely young woman, and many mountain men were in love with her. Carson was forced to fight a duel with a French trapper named Chouinard for Waanibe's hand in marriage. Carson won, but he had a very narrow escape. The French trapper's bullet singed his hair. The duel was one of the best known stories about Carson in the 19th century.
Carson had several encounters with the Blackfeet. His last battle with the Blackfeet took place in spring 1838. He was traveling with about one hundred mountain men led by Jim Bridger. In Montana territory, the group found a teepee with three Indian corpses inside. These three had died of smallpox. Bridger wanted to move on, but Carson and the other young men wanted to kill the Blackfeet.
The last rendezvous was held in 1840. At that time, the fur trade began to drop off. Fashionable men in London, Paris, and New York wanted silk hats instead of beaver hats. In addition, beaver populations across North America were declining rapidly from over-exploitation. Carson knew it was time to find other work. He wrote in his Memoirs that "Beaver was getting scarce, it became necessary to try our hand at something else."
In 1841, Carson married a Cheyenne woman named Making-Out-Road. They were together only a short time. Making-Out-Road divorced him in the way of her people by putting Adaline and all of Carson's property outside their tent. Making-Out-Road left Carson to travel with her people through the west.
In 1842, Carson guided Frémont across the Oregon Trail to South Pass, Wyoming. This was their first expedition into the West together. The purpose of this expedition was to map and describe the Oregon Trail as far as South Pass. A guidebook, maps, and other paraphernalia would be printed for westward-bound migrants and settlers. After the five-month, trouble-free mission was accomplished, Frémont wrote his government reports. These reports made Carson's name known across the United States, and spurred a migration of settlers westward to Oregon via the Oregon Trail.
About 1842, Carson met Josefa Jaramillo. She was the daughter of a wealthy and prominent Mexican couple living in Taos. In order to marry her, Carson left the Presbyterian Church for the Catholic Church. He married 14-year-old Josefa on February 6, 1843. They had eight children.
In 1845, Carson guided Frémont on their third and last expedition. They went to California and Oregon. Frémont made scientific plans, but the expedition appeared to be political in nature. Frémont may have been working under secret government orders. President Polk wanted the province of Alta California for the United States. Once in California, Frémont started to rouse the American settlers into a patriotic fever. The Mexican government ordered him to leave. Frémont went north to Oregon, though not before instigating the Sacramento River massacre, in which at least 150 Indians were killed in an unprovoked attack. The party moved up along the Sacramento River, continuing to kill Indians as they went, then camped near Klamath Lake. Messages from Washington, DC made it clear that President Polk wanted California.
One of Carson's best known adventures took place during this war. In December 1846, Carson was ordered by General Stephen W. Kearny to guide him and his troops from Socorro, New Mexico to San Diego, California. Mexicans Soldiers attacked Kearny and his men near the village of San Pasqual, California.
In 1847, General william Tecumseh Sherman met Kit Carson in Monterey, California. Sherman wrote: "His fame was then at its height, ... and I was very anxious to see a man who had achieved such feats of daring among the wild animals of the Rocky Mountains, and still wilder Indians of the plains ... 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."
In 1849, Carson guided Soldiers on the trail of Mrs. Ann White and her baby daughter. They had been captured by Apaches. No one paid attention to Carson's advice about a rescue attempt, and Mrs. White was found dead with an arrow in her heart. She had been horribly abused, and may have been passed among her captors as a camp prostitute. Her child had been carried away, and was never found.
Under Fremont's command, Carson participated in the conquest of Mexican California at the beginning of the Mexican-American War. Later in the war, Carson was a scout and courier, celebrated for his rescue mission after the Battle of San Pasqual and for his coast-to-coast journey from California to Washington, DC to deliver news of the conflict in California to the U.S. government. In the 1850s, he was appointed as the Indian agent to the Ute Indians and the Jicarilla Apaches.
Carson joined Freemasonry in the Santa Fe Territory of New Mexico petitioning in Montezuma Lodge No. 101. He was initiated an Entered Apprentice on April 22, 1854, passed to the degree of Fellowcraft June 17, 1854, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason December 26, 1854, just two days after his forty-fifth birthday. Kit, together with several other Freemasons in Taos, petitioned to Charter Bent Lodge No. 204 (now Bent Lodge # 42) from the Grand Lodge of Missouri AF&AM, a request which was granted on June 1, 1860, with Kit elected Junior Warden of the lodge.
Carson was illiterate. He was embarrassed by this, and tried to hide it. In 1856, he dictated his Memoirs to another and stated then: "I was a young boy in the school house when the cry came, Injuns! I jumped to my rifle and threw down my spelling book, and thar it lies."
Carson's life as a mountain man was too hard for a little girl so he took Adaline to live with his sister Mary Ann Carson Rubey in St. Louis, Missouri. Adaline was taught in a school for girls called a seminary. Carson brought her West when she was a teenager. She married a George Stilts of St. Louis, and divorced. In 1858, she went to the California goldfields. Adaline died in 1860 or after 1862, probably in Mono County, California.
Carson's fame spread throughout the United States with government reports, dime novels, newspaper accounts, and word of mouth. The dime novels celebrated Carson's adventures, but were usually colored with exaggeration. A factual biography was attempted by DeWitt C. Peters in 1859, but has been criticized for inaccuracies and exaggerations. Carson became the hero of Juvenile fiction not just in the United States, but also published in French, German, Portuguese, Gujarati, Hindi, Singhalese, Arabic and Japanese.
In April 1861, the American Civil War broke out. Carson left his job as an Indian agent and joined the Union Army as a lieutenant. He led the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Infantry and trained the new men. In October 1861, he was made a colonel. The Volunteers fought the Confederate forces in the Battle of Valverde in New Mexico, in February 1862. The Confederates won this battle but were later defeated in June and retreated to Texas.
During the American Civil War, Carson led a regiment of mostly Hispanic volunteers from New Mexico on the side of the Union at the Battle of Valverde in 1862. When the Confederate threat to New Mexico was eliminated, Carson led forces to suppress the Navajo, Mescalero Apache, and the Kiowa and Comanche peoples by destroying their food sources.
Carson wanted to take a winter break from the campaign. Major General Carleton refused. Kit was ordered to invade the Canyon de Chelly. It was here that many Navajos had taken refuge. Historian David Roberts writes, "Carson's sweep through the Canyon de Chelly in the winter of 1863–1864 would prove to be the decisive action in the Campaign."
On November 25, 1864, Carson led his forces against the southwestern tribes at the First Battle of Adobe Walls in the Texas panhandle. Adobe Walls was an abandoned trading post blown up by its inhabitants to prevent a take-over by hostile Indians. Combatants at the First Battle were the United States Army and Indian scouts against Kiowas, Comanches, and Plains Apaches. It was one of the largest engagements fought on the Great Plains.
Soon after his return, his wife Josefa died from complications after giving birth to their eighth child. Her death was a crushing blow to Carson. He died a month later at age 58 on May 23, 1868, in the presence of Dr. Tilton and his friend Thomas Boggs in the surgeon's quarters at Fort Lyon, Colorado. His last words were "Goodbye, friends. Adios, compadres". The cause of death was abdominal aortic aneurysm. His resting place is Taos, New Mexico.
The Masonic fraternity continued to serve him and his family, well after his death. In 1908, the Grand Lodge of New Mexico erected a wrought iron fence around his family burial plot. The following year, the Grand Lodge challenged Bent Lodge to purchase and preserve Kit's home. More than a century later, the Kit Carson Home & Museum is still managed by the lodge today.
Jon Hall played Carson in the 1940 Western film Kit Carson.
Carson has been widely depicted in film and television series. In 1966, the actor Phillip Pine played Carson with Michael Pate as fellow Fremont scout Frenchy Godey in the episode "Samaritans, Mountain Style" of the syndicated series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. In the story line, Carson and Godey stop to help a settler in dire straits.
Rip Torn played Carson in the 1986 miniseries Dream West.
Some journalists and authors during the last 25 years presented an alternative view of Kit Carson. For instance, Virginia Hopkins stated in 1988 that "Kit Carson was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Indians".
In 2014 there was a petition to rename Kit Carson Park in Taos, NM Red Willow Park. Despite the support of the Taos Pueblo and the residents of Taos Valley the park was not renamed and still bears the Kit Carson moniker.