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Emmitsburg's Civil War Soldiers

(Company C, Cole’s Cavalry)

John Sponceler: Letter From the Klondyke Trail

(Originally Published in the Tipton Mo. Times)

Submitted by Gary Zeller


John Sponceler Writes From the Klondyke trail This is a copy of a letter recently received by the family of John Sponceler , who is enroute to the Yukon goldfields:

September 10, 1897


These few lines leave all well. I would like to see you all but many miles part us. This day finds me between the summit of Skaguaway and Lake Bennet. It is on the White Pass trail. We have been 16 days going 14 miles. It a hell for horse or man, but men can crawl on hands and knees but horses can't. We have four head of horses. We have not lost any yet, but don't know how soon our turn will come. the trail is red with the blood of horses. What I have seen I think at least one hundred head of horses have been killed. Some go down over the mountain with their packs on, 5 thousand feet below. Four men have drowned and two died of overwork. Now, as far as I can tell we have 8 miles yet to go up the mountain to the summit. I think it will take us from 12 to 16 days to make it, so you can see at a glance how hard it is to travel in such a country. One half the men have turned back home.

We have not been out of sight of snow for three weeks, and we haven't had any water to drink , but snow and ice water for three weeks, we are 28 or 30 miles from the lake. There we will build our boat and sail down the lake to Steward river then to Dawson City down the river. I don't think that we will get to Klondyke this winter, but I ain't going to back out, as I am going to see the gold country. We have passed through some rich minning country but did not stop to prospect. I must close for this time but will write again soon.

John Sponceler