The Saga of Hugh Glass

Since I brought up Hugh Glass, you might as well get this retro review from September 2, 2013.

Review: The Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man, John Myers Myers, 1963.Hugh Glass

Crawling for hundreds of miles, near naked and armed only with a razor, to take revenge on the men who left him for dead after he was mauled by a grizzly bear, the story of Hugh Glass is a classic story of survival. It very well might be, as Myers maintains, unique in all the history and legends of the world.

It was a story doubted for a long time. The existence of Hugh Glass is certainly documented. We even have a letter in his hand. But no sources actually verifying the attack seemed to exist until one came to light in 1957. Myers spends the first part of this brief book outlining the historiography behind the Glass story and its developments and corruptions by various sources.

It’s a uniquely fascinating life. Glass was a ship’s captain and captured by Jean Lafitte’s pirate gang sometime around 1816. Given the choice to take up piracy or die, Glass seems to have spent about a year as a pirate before escaping Lafitte’s base around Galveston Bay. However, during that escape, he was captured by Pawnee Indians. His companion in the escape was burned alive by the Pawnee, and Glass lived with the tribe, a combination captive and foster son of its chief, until 1822. In 1823, he joined the Rocky Mountain Fur Company expedition up the Missouri River and participated in its somewhat farcical battle with the Arikara Indians a few weeks before his legendary encounter with the bear. Seemingly affected by his many traumatic experiences, Glass preferred a solitary life even by mountain man standards, and he met his end in 1833, aged somewhere in the fifties, fighting Indians.

Myers covers all this in somewhat eccentric prose. A sample sentence: “While Hugh was winning his doctorate in wild country philosophy, much was politically afoot which bore upon the West.” Still, he moves the story along while quoting freely from his primary sources and points out their inconsistencies. An index and maps would have been nice though they probably weren’t in the original edition of this book, a popular history published in 1963 and reprinted by Bison Books.

Still, it’s quite readable and good introduction to the Glass legend.


The Old West page.

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