Reviews - What do customers think about Prairie Traveler?
The westward-ho pioneer's survival guide Feb 9, 2008
It's impossible for us today to imagine what a frightening proposition it must've been in the mid-19th century to sell your eastern farm or business and prepare to head west to start a new life. Maps were unreliable, distances were staggering, and stories about wild animals and Indians sobering. It wasn't quite like stepping off the edge of the world, but it probably seemed like it to many greenhorns.
So in 1859, Captain Randolph Marcy, under orders from the Department of War, wrote The Prairie Traveler. Marcy, who would later serve as a Brigadier in the Civil War, was an accomplished traveler in the west, and his guidebook was packed with useful information for the determined but inexperienced pioneer taking either the northern overland trail to Oregon or the southern Sante Fe one to California.
The book is great reading--and, not infrequently, helpful even today for the camper when it comes to advice about improvising shelter or lighting a fire from damp wood. For the mid-19th century reader, it provides essential tips on provisions, wagon-packing and animal-care, first aid (large doses of whiskey are the best remedy for rattlesnake bite), identifying good water (alkaline ponds are surrounded by yellow-reddish grass), improvisation (red willow bark is a good substitute for tobacco), collapsible camp furniture, and gun safety. The food section is especially interesting. Marcy recommends carrying lots of dried vegetables (one ounce of dry vegetables, when wettened, equals an entire ration), "cold flour," a concoction of flour, cinammon, and sugar which, when mixed with a bit of water, provides a pick-me-up (not unlike today's energy bar), and jerked meat (no need for salt; the prairie sun will dry buffalo strips in short order). He also provides a rather gruesome recipe for pemmican (powdered buffalo meat saturated in raw buffalo fat, sown up in a hide bag with the hair turned outwards).
Marcy distrusts and indeed actively dislikes Plains Indians, although he admires Delawares and Shawnees, and writes quite warmly of a Delaware friend of his named Black Beaver. So he spends a fair number of pages warning prairie travelers to be wary of approaching Indians. To better prepare them, he teaches the rudiments of sign language, teaches how to track Indians (scattered mustang manure rather than whole mustang manure indicates Indians on the move rather than just a wild mustang herd), and gives detailed instructions on how to sleep with cocked and primed rifles. It never seems to occur to Marcy that Plains Indians were a diverse group, or that their animosity might've had more to do with the white pioneers' presence than with the natural meanness he attributes to them.
A fascinating read!
Time Travel to 1859 Frontier America Jan 25, 2007
Read this book and you will view things a bit differently on your next drive. As you effortlessly drive across a bridge over a river at 65 MPH, your thoughts may well travel back to Captain Marcy's advice on how to cross a river with wagons pulled by mule-team.
This book is essential to any author, movie director or Living Historian who wants to "get it right". THE PRAIRIE TRAVELER is chock-full of information about overland travel in the mid-19th century, and covers almost any possible, practical, useful subject related to wilderness travel. Although it is written in 1850's American English, it is actually a fairly easy read with very little "culture shock".
For those of you with the cerebral agility to remove the mental straight-jacket of "Political Correctness", THE PRAIRIE TRAVELER will accurately picture the Frontier society as it existed at the time. It was a very good society in most ways, with the limitations that 19th century people were born into and educated with. Those pioneers did advance themselves, bit-by-bit, away from the limitations they were born into, and the result is the 21st Century America we live in today. We stand on their shoulders, advanced as far as we are today, because of the small advances they made in their generation.
A 21st century man condemning a 19th century man for being the product of his times reflects the mental and educational limitations of the 21st century man.
Gain a new understanding Aug 7, 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and bought some for friends who like history. The reading is easy, though you will find a dictionary helpful with some of the archaic words. I have relatives who crossed the prairie in 1848 to California; I have a much better understanding of what the trip must've been like. For those who love American history, esp. the old west I highly recommend this book
Eye opener to westward emigrant survival Jun 9, 2003
A fascinating assemblage of facts and information for the overland emigrant of the mid-1800's to successfully complete the long, arduous journey to the west coast. Captain Marcy includes everything one can possibly imagine: from types of wagons, livestock, food, provisions and medicines to fording rivers, selection of campsites, types of saddles, packing, tracking, guides, guards, etc. and habits of Indians. The itineraries at the end of the book detail the mileages, availability of water, grass, wood, road conditions, etc. along several different routes to the Pacific. With our many modern day conveniencies traveling across the country, we tend to dismiss the hardships and sacrifices our pioneers endured while traversing the continent. This little book puts it all into focus.
Wordy but informative Oct 16, 2002
A good insight into the mind of an inhabitant of the new world in the 1800s. Very unpolitically correct to the point of being amusing (section on 'Indians'). I read this book on a long camping tour and liked in a lot. There are some sections that are more like lists, and arenot as interesting, but you can skip over them.