The Big Blue

“It was at the Big Blue, about ten days out of St. Joe, that the emigrants felt the first flick of the Elephant’s tail. Here was a chance to repair and to reorganize, but here also, where the St. Joe and Fort Leavenworth caravans converged, rode three sinister Horsemen—death by epidemic, death by drowning, and violence at the hands of the Pawnee. At low water the Blue was fordable, but in the emigrant season it was more often on the rampage, and the blockaded trains accumulated into a sizable city of tents and wagons, ‘like the descent of locusts in Egypt,’ without a trace of sanitation. Cholers and other ailments such as measles and smallpox felled the emigrants like a giant scythe, and both banks of the Blue became a cemetary. Uncounted deaths also resulted accidental drownings; but the Pawnee menace at this point was over-advertised.”