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September 8, 1861: Fremont

September 8, 2011

Mission 09

Mission San Jose, church interior; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 50

It [was] a lovely, warm, quiet day. I have been to Mass at the Mission, have done my Sunday’s allowance of “plain sewing,” and will now drop a few more lines….

Mission 02

Mission San Jose, museum; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

All are in bed. I cannot sleep as much as the rest do, so go to bed later, and have a quiet hour when all is still. We all sleep outside now. Here, near the bay, the nights are much cooler, the sky is clear, with sometimes a fog in the morning, and a heavy dew falls every night. Often our blankets are quite wet. We are in a cooler region than we have been in most of the time for the last two months.

This is a little old mission town—a large dilapidated church, old adobe houses with tile roofs, a few dilapidated walls and gardens, and new American buildings springing up around and among them. The very houses show the decay and decline of one race and the coming in of a superior one.

Mission 11

Mission San Jose, cemetery; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

The old church is large, gaudily painted on the inside, but dilapidated; the congregation a mixture of Indian, Spanish, mixed breeds, Irish, with a few German, French, and American. There are a few stores here—it is a little village, one that will never be a large one. As we work north the decay of the native and Spanish element becomes more and more marked.

A camp incident this morning: We had just finished breakfast when we saw walking leisurely along the road the largest kind of a gentleman skunk. Peter started with revolver, but fired at such a respectful distance that he missed four shots, all he had loaded, and his skunkship started up the hill. Pete got the shotgun and Mike and Hoffmann joined pursuit. Hoffmann shot five revolver balls at him—all missed. I got my revolver from under my pillow—four barrels were loaded—but I ran so hard that my shots met with like success. Then an Irishman and dog joined in the pursuit, and something might have been smelt for some distance.

striped skunk

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis); by randomtruth, on Flickr

I was mending my stocking at the breaking out of the mêlée. I returned and finished the work while the battle raged over the hill. I had just loaded up my revolver when the party returned, the skunk still ahead, coming into the field near our tent. I again rushed to the battle, drove him from the field into the road to get him away from camp, then finished his career with two balls through him. We covered him with earth. A fragrance pervaded the valley, decidedly rank, but the hot sun and fine breeze entirely dissipated it in a few hours. Thus ended the tragedy. It made ten times the excitement of yesterday’s rattlesnake adventure.

We all sleep with loaded revolvers here, and Mike and Pete sleep with the mules in the corral, with a double-barrel shotgun extra, for horse thieves are thick and bold. A fine horse was stolen from this very spot last week, valued at two hundred dollars. We have been fortunate with our mules thus far, considering their value. But then we have been vigilant, and loiterers who come into camp can easily ascertain that each man has a navy revolver handy and is expert in its use. This may seem to many a superfluous caution, but I am convinced that it is judicious, considering our occupation and mode of life. It insures the “respect” of the class of gentry most likely to covet our property.

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