Wagon road – Fort Smith to Colorado River. Letter of the Secretary of War, transmitting the report of Mr. Beale relating to the construction of a wagon road from Fort Smith to the Colorado river.

Washington, DC: 1860. 8vo. 91 pp. FIRST EDITION. Very long folding map of the route taken by Beale from Fort Smith, Ark. to Albuquerque, N.M., 1858-9. Contemporary diced calf, spine repaired, covers ruled in gilt, “Beale’s Exploration” in gilt on front cover; text leaves spotted and browned. The author’s own copy, with his signature on the fly-leaf and a few annotations and corrections in the text, plus the bookplate of the America geologist William Phipps Blake (1826-1910) on the paste-down.

Bound in, preceding the text is Beale’s printed five-page preliminary report of his expedition from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the western borders of California. Item #16992

First edition. In 1857, President James Buchanan appointed Beale to survey and build a 1,000-mile wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico to the Colorado River, on the border between Arizona and California. A second survey to extend the first from Fort Smith, Arkansas to the Colorado River was accomplished between 1858 and 1859. Both trips were of importance for the use of camels as pack animals, a concept first proposed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. This work “begins with Beale’s journal of the journey from Fort Smith to Albuquerque, thence to the Colorado River, and the return to North Fork Town on the Canadian River. It also include F.E. Engle’s diary of the march from the Colorado River to Albuquerque” (Wagner-Camp). Of particular interest is the detailed itinerary of the route from Fort Smith to the Colorado River at the end of the book, stating the location and the character of the country in the vicinity of the camp made by the expedition on each specific date as well as describing the territory traversed each day, including location of water, prominent landmarks, game observed and Indians encountered.

The wagon road first laid out by Beale went from Fort Defiance west through northern Arizona and then crossing the Colorado River into California, then west through Southern California, became popular because of the favorable geography, it being the shortest, most level and most well-watered route. Ultimately it was supplanted by the railroads in the late nineteenth century, then became US Route 66, and thereafter Interstate 40.

Beale (1822-1893) was from Washington DC, the son of a Navy Paymaster. He was naval officer, military general, explorer, frontiersman, Indian affairs superintendent, California rancher, diplomat, and friend of Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody and Ulysses S. Grant. He fought in the Mexican–American War, emerging as a hero of the Battle of San Pasqual in 1846. He achieved national fame in 1848 in carrying to the east the first gold samples from California, contributing to the gold rush. After leaving the Navy in 1851, Beale returned to California as a property manager. Between 1853 and 1856, Beale was the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, helping to charter a humanitarian policy toward Native Americans. California Governor John Bigler appointed Beale a Brigadier General in the California state militia to give Beale additional authority to negotiate peace treaties between the Native Americans and the U.S. Army. In 1861, Beale was appointed by President Lincoln as Surveyor General of California and Nevada. He also founded the Tejon Ranch in California, the largest private landholding in the United States, and became a millionaire several times over. His final appointment by President Grant was as Ambassador to Austria–Hungary.

Graff, 214; Howes, B272; Wagner-Camp, 350.

Price: $1,500.00

See all items by