In the chill night Kit Carson and Dick Owens lay wrapped in their saddle blankets next to one of the three campfires. Aroused by a thumping sound nearby, Carson called to ask what was the matter. He saw at once, and he and Owens jumped up and shouted, "Indians!" Everyone rolled out and scrambled for their [sic] weapons. One of the Delawares [friendly Indians—kbj] seized an unprimed rifle and tried to fire into the darkness as five arrows smashed into his chest.
Led by a chief brandishing a tomahawk, Klamaths charged into the camp circle. Carson fired his pistol, but the ball only severed the cord holding the tomahawk. Maxwell fired and hit the chief in the leg, and as he turned Stepperfeldt sent a ball through his back and into his heart. Their chief dead, the rest of the attackers hastily retreated. "He was the bravest Indian I ever saw," said Carson.
For the rest of the night, the Klamaths shot arrows into the camp, most of which were deflected by blankets hung for the purpose. Owens had run out and driven the mules within rifle range, and the warriors left them alone. Several times, however, they tried to retrieve the body of their chief, but each time fell back before the rifle fire of the defenders.
By dawn the Klamaths had vanished, and the whites counted their casualties—three killed and one wounded. The most grievous loss was Basil Lajeunesse, veteran of all three Frémont expeditions, skilled mountaineer, and valued friend of all. The sound of an axe splitting his skull had awakened Carson to give the alarm. Enraged, Carson seized the chief's tomahawk and smashed in his head, while the Delaware chief Sagundai ripped off his scalp.
"The event cast an angry gloom over our little camp," wrote Frémont. "For the moment I threw all other considerations aside and determined to square accounts with these people before I left them."
He did. Retracing the trail to the base camp, Frémont mobilized his little army and circled around the north shore of Klamath Lake, heading for the principal Klamath town. It lay on the lakeshore across a river entering from the north. Approaching on the morning of May 13, Frémont sent Carson and Owens with nine men to reconnoiter. The warriors already waited in defensive positions as this advance guard forded the river. A storm of arrows greeted them, and they could not respond because they had got their powder wet in the river. Frémont and the main command, however, charged into the fray. Arrows proved no match for the rifles, and soon the warriors ran from the field, leaving fourteen dead behind. The victors fired the village and food stocks of the Klamaths.
In the afternoon, the Frémonters made camp on the east side of Klamath Lake. Someone reported Indians in the nearby forest. Frémont took Carson, Sagundai, and three others to investigate. In a grove of timber, they came suddenly on a Klamath warrior. He stood with a poison-tipped arrow drawn tautly in his bow and aimed directly at Carson's chest. Carson drew down on the Indian, but his rifle snapped. Frémont fired but missed. Instantly the captain's renowned white horse, Sacramento, leaped on the Indian and threw him to the ground. The arrow went wild. Sagundai slipped swiftly off his horse and clubbed the Klamath to death. "It was the work of a moment," wrote Frémont, "but it was a narrow chance for Carson. The poisoned arrow would have gone through his body."
(Robert M. Utley, After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific [Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2004], 238-9 [endnote omitted])