Excerpt from Chapter XXXVIII The Life of Kit Carson online book by Edward S. Ellis (1840-1916)

A Letter From General Sherman

"Carson then had his family with him -- wife and half a dozen children, boys and girls as wild and untrained as a brood of Mexican mustangs. One day these children ran through the room in which we were seated, half clad and boisterous, and I inquired, 'Kit, what are you doing about your children?'

"He replied: 'That is a source of great anxiety; I myself had no education,' (he could not even write, his wife always signing his name to his official reports). 'I value education as much as any man, but I have never had the advantage of schools, and now that I am getting old and infirm, I fear I have not done right by my children.'

"I explained to him that the Catholic College, at South Bend, Indiana, had, for some reason, given me a scholarship for twenty years, and that I would divide with him -- that is let him send two of his boys for five years each. He seemed very grateful and said he would think of it.

"My recollection is that his regiment was mustered out of service that winter, 1866-7, and that the following summer, 1867, he (Carson) went to Washington on some business for the Utes, and on his return toward New Mexico, he stopped at Fort Lyon, on the upper Arkansas, where he died. His wife died soon after at Taos, New Mexico, and the children fell to the care of a brother in law, Mr. Boggs, who had a large ranche on the Purgation near Fort Lyon. It was reported of Carson, when notified that death was impending, that he said, 'Send William, (his eldest son) to General Sherman who has promised to educate him.' Accordingly, some time about the spring of 1868, there came to my house, in St. Louis, a stout boy with a revolver, Life of Kit Carson by Dr. Peters, United States Army, about $40 in money, and a letter from Boggs, saying that in compliance with the request of Kit Carson, on his death bed, he had sent William Carson to me. Allowing him a few days of vacation with my own children, I sent him to the college at South Bend, Ind., with a letter of explanation, and making myself responsible for his expenses. He was regularly entered in one of the classes, and reported to me regularly. I found the 'Scholarship' amounted to what is known as 'tuition,' but for three years I paid all his expenses of board, clothing, books, &c., amounting to about $300 a year. At the end of that time, the Priest reported to me that Carson was a good natured boy, willing enough, but that he had no taste or appetite for learning. His letters to me confirmed this conclusion, as he could not possibly spell. After reflection, I concluded to send him to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to the care of General Langdon C. Easton, United States Quartermaster, with instructions to employ him in some capacity in which he could earn his board and clothing, and to get some officer of the garrison to teach him just what was necessary for a Lieutenant of Cavalry. Lieutenant Beard, adjutant of the Fifth Infantry did this. He (William Carson) was employed, as a 'Messenger,' and, as he approached his twenty-first year, under the tuition of Lieutenant Beard, he made good progress. Meantime I was promoted to General in Chief at Washington, and about 1870, when Carson had become twenty-one years of age, I applied in person to the President, General Grant, to give the son of Kit Carson, the appointment of Second Lieutenant Ninth United States Cavalry, telling him somewhat of the foregoing details. General Grant promptly ordered the appointment to issue, subject to the examination as to educational qualifications, required by the law. The usual board of officers was appointed at Fort Leavenworth and Carson was ordered before it. After careful examination, the board found him deficient in reading, writing and arithmetic. Of course he could not be commissioned. I had given him four years of my guardianship, about $1,000 of my own money, and the benefit of my influence, all in vain. By nature, he was not adapted to 'modern uses.' I accordingly wrote him that I had exhausted my ability to provide for him, and advised him to return to his uncle Boggs on the Purgation to assist him in his cattle and sheep ranche.

"I heard from him by letter once or twice afterward, in one of which he asked me to procure for him the agency for the Utes. On inquiry at the proper office in Washington, I found that another person had secured the place of which I notified him, and though of late years I have often been on the Purgation, and in the Ute country, I could learn nothing of the other children of Kit Carson, or of William, who for four years was a sort of ward to me.