New York. Jan. 29, 1849. p. of a bifolium, docketed on verso of second bifolium leaf. Mailing folds, slight edge discoloration, else fine. Item #WRCAM49949
An intriguing note regarding life insurance for a forty- niner traveling to California in 1849 with Henry Webb and John Woodhouse Audubon. The note reads, "Langdon H. Havens wants a [life insurance] permit for California to go over the Overland Route in company with persons bearing dispatches from our Government, in a Company of 100 or more. He wants to leave for Washington immediately...." Perhaps the twenty-six-year-old Haven (sometimes spelled Havens) originally intended to join a safe government-sponsored expedition from Washington, but he was in fact among the 100 Forty-Niners who embarked on a famously ill-fated overland expedition, led by Army Colonel Henry Webb, with John Woodhouse Audubon, son of the famous ornithologist, as his second in command, which left New York on Feb. 8. The company proceeded by ship, train, stagecoach and riverboat to New Orleans and from there by steamer across the Gulf of Mexico to the mouth of the Rio Grande, where they arrived on March 13 - an odd overland route dictated by Webb, a veteran of the Mexican War. There disaster struck. A dozen men died of cholera, the company's money was stolen, and leadership conflict led Webb to leave the company with a dozen followers. Some of the remaining stalwarts, including Haven followed Audubon onward, trekking for seven months through Mexico and Arizona, the survivors finally reaching San Diego in November. Some then took a boat to San Francisco; others continued overland to the gold fields. As meticulously recorded by Audubon, a naturalist and painter in his own right, the entire venture has gone down in history as "one of the most poorly-planned" Forty-Niner expeditions "on record." Haven, though nearly dying en route, was one of the fortunate few who "made it to California." An appealing note, dated in the famous year of the California Gold Rush, that eerily anticipates the dangers inherent in overland travel in America in the 19th century.