In February 1852, Carleton was sent with a contingent of dragoons to follow with precision where the Pecos led, and to learn whether there might be a place, somewhere downriver, to build an army fort.
Carleton and his men traced the river for nearly a hundred unappealing miles, through stingy country of mesquite and cholla cactus, occasionally glimpsing buffalo in the grasslands to the east. They moved across a hard yellow plate of dirt that lay beneath a pitiless sky prone to weird weather, abrupt storms, leveling gusts. He was not far from the border of Texas and the swallowing hopelessness of the Staked Plains, a place so featureless and vast that early Spanish explorers, Theseus-like, were said to hammer stakes into the ground every league they crept along to mark a sure path for their safe return.
Blood and Thunder