Recently, since the release of The Revenant, I’ve experienced a renewed interested in the amazing story of Hugh Glass.
My 6th grade teacher, the late great Mr. Philip Leonard, introduced our class to the stories of several mountain men. Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, George Yount and, of course, Hugh Glass. The legend of Hugh Glass is fascinating: mauled by a Grizzly Bear, then left for dead by his fellow trappers, he crawls back to civilization and seeks revenge on those who not only left him but took his horse, rifle and “possibles”.
So, I’ve been aware of the story for years but I never really knew just exactly where all these events took place; and I didn’t have a timeline, either. My most recent interest in the story led me to search out a good book that would add detail to the bits and pieces I already knew. The search led me to a novelized version of the legend entitled Lord Grizzly.
Written by Frederick Manfred and a finalist for the 1954 National Book Award I’ve found the book to be highly enjoyable. The author describes, in great detail, the land through which Hugh Glass traveled on the way to his fateful mauling, his crawl back to “civilization” and his journey of revenge.
The book goes into great detail regarding the names of the rivers that Hugh Glass crossed, floated and otherwise made his travels possible. It also names the Forts and Outposts integral to the story. Still, though I had a rough idea, I wasn’t positive of all the locations.
Hugh Glass met his less than hospitable Grizzly at the Forks of the Grand River which, as it happens, is near Lemon, SD. Many years ago a monument was erected near the location.
After he recovered sufficiently to crawl he decided to head back to Fort Kiowa. Whatever may remain of the fort is currently underwater but the land on which it stood is occupied by Oacoma and Chamberlain, SD.
The story of his journey, literally crawling, from the location of his mauling back to Fort Kiowa is incredible and fantastically described in the pages of Lord Grizzly.
After he arrived back at Fort Kiowa Hugh Glass spent some time recovering from both the Grizzly attack and the ordeal of his journey. Once recovered, he set out on his journey of revenge. Revenge on the two men responsible for abandoning him to the wolves and buzzards: Jim Bridger and John S. Fitzgerald.
He found Jim Bridger at the newly relocated Fort Henry, on the banks of the Big Horn River, near Hardin, MT. The previous Fort Henry, to which Hugh first traveled, had been located at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers (near present day Williston, ND).
Hugh then set out on the trail of Thomas Fitzpatrick who, he had been told, was last known to be at Fort Atkinson which had long been established on the banks of the Missouri near present Fort Calhoun, NE.
The travels and travails of Hugh Glass are filled with close calls and adventure; well worth your time to discover. In fact it seems Hugh’s entire life was nothing but close calls and adventure; it certainly makes good reading. If you, like me, enjoy knowing the history behind the towns and cities through which you drive you can find a rough map at HughGlass.org, a website worth exploring.
I also intend to read a couple other highly recommended books. First on the list is The Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man. Not overly well reviewed on Amazon, primarily because of the author’s writing style, but highly recommended as the most likely account to be historically accurate.
After that, Hugh Glass by Bruce Bradley. It seems to be a little more stylized than some of the others but the Hugh Glass legend is just that: a legend. Facts are somewhat limited and require a little “filling in” to make a readable story.
Finally, rather than see the movie, I intend to listen to the audio-book version of The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. The movie, or at least what I’ve heard about it, is a bit too politically correct for me (not an issue with the decidedly politically incorrect Lord Grizzly). Besides, I love listening to a good book when I’m truckin’ down the highway!
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