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The Wilderness Westwards

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The Wilderness Westwards
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Osborne Russell & Nathaniel J. Wyeth
Date Published: 2014/09
Page Count: 304
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-348-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-347-6

Two accounts of early western exploration

This special Leonaur edition has been created for those readers interested in the lives of the American trappers and explorers of the early nineteenth century. Leonaur’s editors have brought together two related accounts for good value and to give most readers the most detailed and expansive insights into the subject. The first work is a well known and highly regarded personal account by the trapper Osborne Russell. It is joined here by Captain Nathaniel Wyeth’s own journal of his expedition into the Oregon country. Russell took part in Wyeth’s expedition and these two works enable the reader to view their principal characters activities from different perspectives. This is an essential addition to the libraries of all those interested in the mountain men and trappers of the undiscovered west at the time when the ‘the beaver shined.’
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.

24th—Crossed the mountain, twelve miles easterly course, and descended into the southwest extremity of a valley called Pierre’s Hole, where we staid the next day. This valley lies north and south in an oblong form, about thirty miles long and ten wide, surrounded except on the north by wild and rugged mountains; the east range resembles mountains piled on mountains and capped with three spiral peaks which pierce the clouds.
These peaks bear the French name of Tetons or Teats. The Snake Indians called them “The Hoary Headed Fathers.” This was a beautiful valley, consisting of a smooth plain intersected by small streams and thickly clothed with grass and herbage and abounding with buffalo, elk, deer, antelope, etc..
On the 27th we travelled to the north end of the valley and encamped on one of the numerous branches which unite at the northern extremity and forms a stream called Pierre’s Fork, which discharges its waters into Henry’s Fork of Snake River. The stream on which we encamped flows directly from the central Teton and is narrowly skirted with cottonwood trees, closely intermingled with underbrush on both sides. We were encamped on the south side in a place partially clear of brush, under the shade of the large cottonwoods.
On the 28th about nine o’clock a. m. we were aroused by an alarm of “Indians.” We ran to our horses. All was confusion, each trying to catch his horses. We succeeded in driving them into camp, where we caught all but six, which escaped into the prairies. In the meantime the Indians appeared before our camp to the number of sixty, of which fifteen or twenty were mounted on horseback and the remainder on foot, all being entirely naked, armed with fusees, bows, arrows, etc. They immediately caught the horses which had escaped from us and commenced riding to and fro within gunshot of our camp with all the speed their horses were capable of producing, without shooting a single gun, for about twenty minutes, brandishing their war weapons and yelling at the top of their voices.
Some had scalps suspended on small poles which they waved in the air, others had pieces of scarlet cloth with one end fastened round their heads while the other trailed after them. After securing my horses I took my gun, examined the priming, set the breech on the ground and hand on the muzzle, with my arms folded, gazed at the novelty of this scene for some minutes, quite unconscious of danger, until the whistling of balls about my ears gave me to understand that these were something more than mere pictures of imagination and gave me assurance that these living creatures were a little more dangerous than those I had been accustomed to see portrayed upon canvas.
The first gun was fired by one of our party, which was taken as the signal for attack on both sides, but the well directed fire from our rifles soon compelled them to retire from the front and take to the brush behind us, where they had the advantage until seven or eight of our men glided into the brush and concealing themselves until their left wing approached within about thirty feet of them before they shot a gun, they then raised and attacked them in the flank. The Indians did not stop to return the fire, but retreated through the brush as fast as possible, dragging their wounded along with them and leaving their dead on the spot. In the meantime myself and the remainder of our party were closely engaged with the centre and right.
I took advantage of a large tree which stood near the edge of the brush between the Indians and our horses. They approached until the smoke of our guns met. I kept a large German horse pistol loaded by me in case they should make a charge when my gun was empty. When I first stationed myself at the tree I placed a hat on some twigs which grew at the foot of it and would put it in motion by kicking the twigs with my foot in order that they might shoot at the hat and give me a better chance at their heads, but I soon found this was no joke for the poor horses behind me were killed and wounded by the balls intended for me. The Indians stood the fight for about two hours, then retreated through the brush with a dismal lamentation. We then began to look about to find what damage they had done to us.
One of our comrades was found under the side of an old root, wounded by balls in three places in the right and one in the left leg below the knee, no bones having been broken. Another had received a slight wound in the groin. We lost three horses killed on the spot and several more were wounded, but not so bad as to be unable to travel. Towards night some of our men followed down the stream about a mile and found the place where they had stopped and laid their wounded comrades on the ground in a circle. The blood was still standing congealed in nine places where they had apparently been dressing the wounds.