June 2, 1864: Fresno City
[Today], to Fresno City. For the first ten miles the ground was entirely bare, but then we came on green plains, green with fine rushes, called wire grass, and some alkali grass. The ground is wetter and cattle can live on the rushes and grass. We now came on thousands of them that have retreated to this feed and have gnawed it almost into the earth.
The air is very clear this day—on the one side the Coast Range loomed up, barren and desolate, its scorched sides furrowed into canyons, every one of which was marvelously distinct; on the other side the distant Sierra, its cool snows glistening in the sun and mocking us on our scorching trail. We camped by a slough of stinking, alkaline water, which had the color of weak coffee. It smelt bad and tasted worse, and our poor animals drank it protesting. We drank well water which looked better and tasted better, but I think it smelt worse. But in this dry, hot, and dusty air we must drink, and drink much and often.
At Fresno City we got barley but no hay. I cannot conceive of a much worse place to live, unless it be the next place where we stopped; yet here a city was laid out in early speculative times, streets and public squares figure on paper and on the map, imaginary bridges cross the stinking sloughs, and pure water gushes from artesian wells that have never been sunk.