Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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Appletons Biography - Kit Carson edited by Stanley L. Klos
CARSON, Christopher, better known as
"Kit Carson," soldier, born in Madison County, Kentucky, 24 December, 1809; died at Fort Lynn, Col., 23 May, 1868. While he was an infant his parents immigrated to what is now Howard County, Missouri, 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. Fremont, 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 dispatches, and was then appointed second lieutenant in the mounted rifles, United States
Army. This appointment, however, was negated 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
Taos, 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 United States 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, General
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).
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