Christopher Houston Carson, better known as Kit Carson, was born near Richmond, Kentucky, on December 24, 1809, and grew up in Missouri. He joined a Santa Fe trading caravan when he was 16 and, from 1827 to 1842, lived in the Rocky Mountains as a fur trapper and mountain man. In 1842, Carson served John C. Fremont as a guide in Oregon and California and, during the Mexican War, carried dispatches for him. After the war, Carson settled in Taos, New Mexico, where he served from 1853 to 1861 as Indian agent to the Utes, earning a reputation as one of very few genuinely competent, honest, and compassionate officials.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Carson became colonel of the First New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry, where he distinguished himself in repelling the Confederate invasion of New Mexico and in combat against the Apache and Navajo. Although he became—in the popular phrase—a legend in his own time, especially for his role as an Indian fighter, Carson was deeply moved by the plight of the Indians, with whom he had a strong fellow feeling. Carson died on May 23, 1868, at Fort Lyon, Colorado.