According to Miller, the caravan did not make a habit of carrying drinking water with it, instead moving from source to source, because to do so “would have been an innovation on established custom. Nobody did any such thing,–it was looked on as effeminate, to say nothing of the ridicule and rough jests with which the reformer would be pelted.”
By the time the caravan had traversed South Pass, the Continental Divide, they had been without water for hours. Miller depicts them as they approached what is probably Pacific Springs on the west side of the divide. The men were quite thirsty and some of them made a mad dash for the spring water. Miller described the moment:
The time is near sunset,–squads are leaving the main band, and rushing for water,–thirst is overpowering, and human nature can stand it no longer;–there is a general stampede among the horsemen;–the team drivers being compelled to remain, headed by our Captain [Stewart], who would not move a jot from his usual walk, although he had been smoking for the last 3 hours to relieve this inexorable craving;–no savage could be more stoical in his behavior. (Ross, 1968, text accompanying plate 132)
In addition to the stoical captain, lost amid the tiny figures at the head of the caravan, Miller depicted a group of Indians in the foreground on a nearby ledge who watch the display with what appears to be contempt that would have done the captain proud.