Overland Travel by 1860

“By 1860 overlanders did not even need to travel in the traditional manner: they could bounce from Missouri to California as passengers in the stagecoaches specified in the government mail contracts. If, as most continued to do, they chose to travel in the customary covered wagons or by pack train, they did so on trails that had been surveyed, shortened, graded, and improved by government employees. Overlanders even enjoyed the luxury of crossing bridged streams and watering their stock at large reservoirs. For the injured or ill there were army hospitals along the route, and sutlers, blacksmiths, and generous commanding officers standing ready to distribute provisions to destitute travelers. There were even post offices where letters were mailed and received. More important, there were troops to escort overlanders along dangerous portions of the trail, and Indian agents to negotiate with chiefs and buy or bribe native acquiescence to overland travel. the government had transformed the trail into a road.