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Kit Carson was an American frontiersman, trapper, soldier and Indian agent who made an important contribution to the westward expansion of the United States.
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Kearny's men clashed with Mexican forces near San Pasqual, California, but they were outmatched in the fight. Carson slipped past the enemy to secure aid from American troops in San Diego. After the war, Carson returned to New Mexico, where he lived as a rancher.
In 1853, Carson took on a new role, agreeing to serve as federal Indian agent for northern New Mexico, primarily working with the Utes and the Jicarilla Apaches. He saw the impact of Western migration of the white settlers on the Native Americans, and he believed that attacks on whites by Native Americans were committed in desperation. To prevent these peoples from becoming extinct, Carson advocated for the creation of reservations.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Carson joined for the First New Mexico Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served as its colonel and fought in support of the Union cause. In 1862, Carson and his men clashed with Confederate soldiers at the Battle of Valverde. He also led campaigns against some of the Native American tribes in the region. Part of his work was to relocate the Navajos to Bosque Redondo, a reservation located at Fort Sumner in New Mexico, by any means necessary. Starving and exhausted, the Navajo finally surrendered and were forced to march about 300 miles to the reservation. The journey, known as the Long Walk, proved to be brutal, costing the lives of hundreds of Navajos.
Named a brigadier general in 1865, Carson moved to Colorado after the war. There he became the commander of Fort Garland the following year. One of his accomplishments during this time was negotiating a peace treaty with the Utes in the area. Carson's tenure proved to be short-lived, however. He resigned in 1867 because of his declining health. After a trip to the East Coast in early 1868, he returned to his Colorado home in terrible condition. Carson died on May 23, 1868, at Colorado's Fort Lyon. His final words were, "Doctor, compadre, adios!"
Carson is still remembered for his many roles—trapper, explorer, Indian agent and soldier. With his tremendous life experiences, he has come to symbolize the American West.
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