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Monday, February 22, 2016



Hugh Glass
Hugh Glass News Article.jpg
An illustration of Hugh Glass being savagely attacked by a grizzly bear in 1823, from a 1922 Milwaukee Journal article.
Bornc. 1783
Province of Pennsylvania
Died1833 (aged c. 50)
United States Unorganized Territory, near present-dayWilliston, North Dakota
Cause of deathKilled in battle by Native Americans
Other namesOld Hugh
Occupationfrontiersman, trapper, fur trader, hunter, explorer
Known forHaving survived a savagegrizzly bear mauling.

Hugh Glass (c. 1783 – 1833) was an American frontiersmanfur trapper, fur trader, hunter, and explorer. 

Born in Pennsylvania to Scotch-Irishparents, Glass became an explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River, in present-day MontanaNorth DakotaSouth Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska.[not verified in body] 

Glass is best known for his story of survival and retribution, after being left for dead by companions, following his mauling by a grizzly bear

Not unlike the experience of his fellow mountain menJedediah Smith and Grizzly Adams, he lived to tell the tale of his near-death bear attack. 

The life of Glass has been adapted into two feature-length films: Man in the Wilderness (1971) and The Revenant (2015). 

The retellings portray Glass, who in the best historical accounts made his way crawling and stumbling 200 miles (320 km) to Fort Kiowa, in South Dakota, after being abandoned without supplies or weapons by fellow explorers and fur traders during General Ashley's expedition of 1823.

Some mountain men maintained a close relationship with the Native American tribes. (Painting by Alfred Jacob Miller)

Glass was born c. 1783 in Pennsylvania, to Scots-Irish parents who had immigrated from Ulster in present day Northern Ireland. It is often noted that the native Scots were extremely hardy and ruggedly built in order to cope with their native environment, hence partially explaining the survival of Glass.[1][4]

His life before the bear attack is uncertain.

His life story is noted for its frequent embellishment.

He was reported to have been captured by privateers under the command of Jean Lafitte off the coast of Texas in 1816 and forced to become a pirate for up to two years.[5] He allegedly escaped by swimming to shore, near what is today Galveston, Texas. Glass is later rumored to have been captured by Pawnee Native Americans with whom he lived for several years. He eventually wed a Pawnee woman. He traveled to St. Louis in 1821, accompanying several Pawnee delegates invited to meet with United States authorities.[6]

General Ashley's 1823 expedition[edit]

In 1822, Glass responded to an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Advertiser placed by General William Henry Ashley,[7] which called for a corps of 100 men to "ascend the river Missouri" as part of a fur-trading venture. Many others who later earned reputations as famous mountain men also joined the enterprise, including James BeckwourthThomas FitzpatrickDavid JacksonWilliam SubletteJim Bridger, and Jedediah Smith. These men would later be known as "Ashley's Hundred".
The expedition was attacked in June 1823 by Arikara warriors, and Glass was apparently shot in the leg. Fearing that continuing up the Missouri would make them vulnerable to further attack, at least some of the party, including Glass, chose to travel overland towards the Yellowstone River.
Glass wrote a letter[8] to parents of John S. Gardner, killed on June 2, 1823:
Dr Sir: My painful duty it is to tell you of the death of your son who befell at the hands of the Indians 2nd June in the early morning. He died a little while after he was shot and asked me to inform you of his sad fate.
We brought him to the ship when he soon died. Mr. Smith a young man of our company made a powerful prayer who moved us all greatly and I am persuaded John died in peace. His body we buried with others near this camp and marked the grave with a log. His things we will send to you. The savages are greatly treacherous.
We traded with them as friends but after a great storm of rain and thunder they came at us before light and many were hurt. I myself was shot in the leg. Master Ashley is bound to stay in these parts till the traitors are rightly punished. Yr Obt Svt Hugh Glass

Grizzly bear mauling[edit]

Near the forks of the Grand River, near present-day Shadehill ReservoirPerkins County, South Dakota, while scouting for game for the expedition larder, Glass surprised and disturbed a grizzly bear with two cubs.

The bear charged, picked him up, bit and lacerated his flesh, severely wounding him, and forced him to the ground.

Glass nevertheless managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, John S. Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unconscious.

General Ashley, who was also with them, became convinced Glass would not survive his injuries.
Ashley asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died, and then bury him. Fitzgerald and Bridger stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave.[9][10]Later, claiming that they were interrupted by attacking Arikara, the pair grabbed the rifle, knife, and other equipment belonging to Glass, and took flight. Bridger and Fitzgerald later caught up with the party and incorrectly reported to Ashley that Glass had died.

There is a debate whether Bridger was one of the men who abandoned Glass.[11]

The 200 mile route of the 1823 odyssey by Glass

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness, but found himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment.

He had festering wounds, a broken leg, and deep cuts on his back that exposed his bare ribs.

Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 320 km from the nearest American settlement, at Fort Kiowa, on the Missouri River. 

Glass set the bone of his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling back to Fort Kiowa. To prevent gangrene, Glass allowed maggots to eat the dead, infected flesh in his wounds.
Using Thunder Butte as a navigational landmark, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River where he fashioned a crude raft and floated downstream to Fort Kiowa. The journey took him six weeks. He survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion, he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and feast on the raw meat. Glass was aided by friendly Native Americans who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds and provided him with food and weapons.

Pursuit of Fitzgerald and Bridger[edit]

After recovering from his wounds, Glass set out again to find Fitzgerald and Bridger.

He eventually traveled to Fort Henry, on the Yellowstone River, but found it deserted.

A note indicated that Andrew Henry and company had relocated to a new camp at the mouth of the Bighorn River.

Arriving there, Glass found Bridger, but apparently forgave him because of his youth, and then re-enlisted with Ashley's company.[6]
Glass later learned that Fitzgerald had joined the army and was stationed at Fort Atkinson, in present-day Nebraska.

He traveled there as well, where Fitzgerald returned his stolen rifle.

Glass reportedly spared Fitzgerald's life because of the heavy penalty for killing a soldier of the United States Army.[according to whom?]

Further explorations for General Ashley in 1824[edit]

In the period intervening, between finding Bridger and Fitzgerald, Glass and four others were dispatched by Ashley in 1824 to find a new trapping route: up the Powder River, then across and down the Platte River to the bluffs.[clarification needed]

 The party set off in a bull boat, and near the junction of the Laramie River,[clarification needed] they discovered a settlement of some 38 lodges, with several Native Americans on the shore. The Natives appeared to be friendly, and the trappers initially believed them to be Pawnees. After going ashore and dining with the residents, they realized the population to be Arikara[citation needed]. The men quickly got in the bull boat and paddled for the far shore, the ensuing chase ending with both parties landing simultaneously. Two of the men, Marsh and Dutton, escaped and reunited later with the trapping party, but two other men, More and Chapman, were quickly overtaken and killed by the pursuing war party. Glass managed to hide behind the river rocks. Glass also found his knife and flint in his shot pouch after the ordeal. He fell in with a party of Sioux and traveled with them back to Fort Kiowa.

Lower Yellowstone Falls

Later years and death[edit]

Glass returned to the frontier as a trapper and fur trader. He was later employed as a hunter for the U.S. Army garrison at Fort Union, near Williston, North Dakota.
Glass was killed, along with two of his fellow trappers, in early spring of 1833 on the Yellowstone River in an attack by the Arikara. Like many of his fellow mountainmen, including Jedediah Smith, his life ended violently.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

Glass' survival odyssey has been recounted in numerous books and dramas. A monument to Glass now stands, near the site of his mauling, on the southern shore of Shadehill Reservoir, at the forks of the Grand River.


  1. Jump up to:a b Keys, Jim. "Hugh Glass: Mountain Man"The History Herald. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  2. Jump up^ "Hugh Glass, mountain man: ‘Revenant’ tale intertwines with Montana history"The Montana Standard. Retrieved23 January 2016.
  3. Jump up^ "Biographical Notes: Hugh Glass"Wandering Lizard California. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  4. Jump up^ Szasz, Ferenc Morton (2000). Scots in the North American West, 1790–1917. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 32.ISBN 978-0-8061-3253-2.
  5. Jump up^ "Hugh Glass – Fact vs Fiction – The True Story of Hugh Glass"The Real Story of Hugh Glass. Retrieved2016-01-05.
  6. Jump up to:a b "Biographical Notes – Hugh Glass"Wandering Lizard History. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
  7. Jump up^ http://www.mtmen.org/mtman/html/ads.html
  8. Jump up^http://history.sd.gov/archives/forms/news/2016/Hugh%20Glass%20Letter%20APPROVED.pdf
  9. Jump up^ Thrapp, Dan L. (1991-08-01). Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: G-O. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803294190.
  10. Jump up^ Monumental Mysteries
  11. Jump up^ "Did Jim Bridger Abandon Hugh Glass"Hugh Glass – The Real Story. Museum of the Mountain Man. RetrievedDecember 18, 2015.
  12. Jump up^ "Hugh Glass Later Life"Hugh Glass – The Real Story. Museum of the Mountain Man. Retrieved December 18,2015.
  13. Jump up^ "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear on Death Valley Days".Internet Movie Data Base. March 24, 1966. RetrievedSeptember 9, 2015.
  14. Jump up^ Hilmarsdóttir, Nanna Bryndís. "Of Monsters and Men Biography". Of Monsters and Men. 2011
  15. Jump up^ "Monument Guys (TV Series 2015– )".
  16. Jump up^ Ben Child. "Leonardo DiCaprio will make his return in The Revenant"the Guardian.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jon T. Coleman. Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation (2013)
  • Dale L. Morgan. Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the American West (1952)
  • "Hugh Glass", Bruce Bradley (1999) ISBN 0-9669005-0-2
  • "Lord Grizzly", Fredrick Manfred (1954) ISBN 0-8032-8118-8
  • "Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee and Mountain Man", John Myers Myers (1976) ISBN 0-8032-5834-8
  • "Hugh Glass, Mountain Man", Robert M. McClung (1990) ISBN 0-688-08092-8
  • "The Song of Hugh Glass" (part of "A Cycle of the West"), John G. Neihardt (1915)

External links[edit]

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