Two months later, on 3 May, he received orders to take charge of one of the expeditions for the survey of a Pacific railroad route. He was to direct his party across the Rocky Mountains via the Herfano River, through Cochetopa Pass, and by way of the present Gunnison and Green rivers to the Sevier River. With Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith as assistant commander, the party left St. Louis on 9 June 1853 and, after an uneventful trip, by 18 October was at Manti, Utah Territory.
Then, in what was to become a tragic and controversial incident in western history, Captain Gunnison and eleven of his party encamped near the Sevier River were attacked by a band of Pahvant Indians on 26 October 1853. Only four of the men escaped, the bodies of Gunnison and the other six men being horribly mutilated by the Indians. Despite cries of outrage by some easterners that the Mormons had instigated the attack, Lieutenant Beckwith concluded, as a result of his investigation, that the Mormons were not involved and that the Pahvant Indians had acted in revenge for an earlier attack upon their people by a party of white emigrants. In extolling the career of Captain Gunnison, the Secretary of War especially emphasized his professional skill and sound judgment. Lieutenant Beckwith completed the survey that Captain Gunnison had begun.
Brigham D. Madsen