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As It Was: Fremont Kills Indians, Saves Kit Carson’s Life

On his third Western expedition in 1845-46, military explorer John C. Fremont and legendary frontier scout Kit Carson led a raid on a Klamath Lake Indian village in retaliation for a night ambush that had killed three expedition members.

Fremont’s memoirs say 10 raiders, including four Delaware Indians, attacked the village on May 10, 1846, killing 14 Indians and burning village huts and wooden scaffolds laden with drying fish. Historians say more died, including women and children.

Later that day Fremont saved Carson’s life.

Fremont wrote, “ … we came suddenly upon an Indian scout. He was drawing his arrow to its head … and Carson attempted to fire, but his rifle snapped, and as he swerved away the Indian was about to let his arrow go into him; I fired, … failed to kill the Indian, but [my horse] Sacramento … was not afraid of anything and I jumped him directly upon the Indian and threw him to the ground. His arrow went wild.” A Delaware clubbed him to death.

At day’s end, Fremont wrote, “I had now kept the promise I made to myself and had punished these people well for their treachery.”

Sources: "John C. Fremont." New World Encyclopedia. N.p., 16 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 May 2015. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/John_C._Fremont; Fremont, John C. Memoirs of My Life and Times. First ed. New York, N.Y.: Cooper Square Press, 2001. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.