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5 The Telegraph Trail The writing of the last half of my Grant biography demanded a careful study of war records, therefore in the autumn of ’97 I took lodgings in Washington, and settled to the task of reading my way through the intricacies of the Grant Administrations. Until this work was completed I could not make another trip to the Northwest. The new Congressional Library now became my grandiose work-shop. All through the winter from nine till twelve in the morning and from two till six in the afternoon, I sat at a big table in a special room,turning the pages of musty books and yellowed newspapers,or dictating to a stenographer the story of the Reconstruction Period as it unfolded under my eyes. I was for the time entirely the historian,with little time to dream of the fictive material with which my memory was filled. I find this significant note in my diary.“My Grant life is now so nearly complete that I feel free to begin a work which I have long meditated.I began to dictate,to-day,the story of my life as boy and man in the West.In view of my approaching perilous trip into the North I want to leave a fairly accurate chronicle of what I saw and what I did on the Middle Border.The truth is,with all my trailing about in the Rocky Mountains I have never been in a satisfying wilderness. It is impossible, even in Wyoming, to get fifty miles from settlement. I long to undertake a journey which demands hardihood,and so,after careful investigation,I have decided to go into the Yukon Valley by pack train over the British Columbian Mountains, a route which offers a fine and characteristic New World adventure.” To prepare myself for this expedition I ran up to Ottawa in February to study maps and to talk with Canadian officials concerning the various trails which were being surveyed and blazed.“No one knows much about that country,” said Dawson with a smile. 47 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 47 I returned to Washington quite determined on going to Teslin Lake over a path which followed an abandoned telegraph survey from Quesnelle on the Fraser River to the Stickeen, a distance estimated at about eight hundred miles,and I quote these lines as indicating my mind at the time: The way is long and cold and lone— But I go! It leads where pines forever moan Their weight of snow— But I go! There are voices in the wind which call There are shapes which beckon to the plain I must journey where the peaks are tall, And lonely herons clamor in the rain. One of my most valued friends in Washington at this time was young Theodore Roosevelt,who had resigned his position as Police Commissioner in NewYork City to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy. His life on a Dakota ranch had not only filled him with a love for western trails and sympathy with western men,but had created in him a special interest in western writers.No doubt it was this regard for the historians of the West which led him to invite me to his house; for during the winter I occasionally lunched or dined with him. He also gave me the run of his office, and there I sometimes saw him in action,steering the department toward efficiency. Though nominally Assistant Secretary he was in fact the Head of the Navy, boldly pushing plans to increase its fighting power. This I know,for one day as I sat in his office I heard him giving orders for gun practice and discussing the higher armament of certain ships. I remember his words as he showed me a sheet on which was indicated the relative strength of the world’s navies. “We must raise all our guns to a higher power,” he said with characteristic emphasis. John Hay,Senator Lodge,Major Powell and Edward Eggleston were among my most distinguished hosts during this winter and I have many pleasant memories of these highly distinctive personalities . Major Powell appealed to me with especial power by reason of his heroic past. He had been an engineer under Grant hamlin garlan d 48 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 48 at Vicksburg and was very helpful to me in stating the methods of the siege, but his experiences after the...


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