TRAIL TO CALIFORNIA by David M. -- Ed. Potter


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One of the Yale Historical Publications -- which ordinarily would indicate a highly specialized market, largely a scholarly one. In this instance, however, the book should capture some of the ever live interest in actual records of the , of the first caravans to cross the continent, of the many times told tale which always offers something new regarding the famous ""trail to California"". The editor has made a real contribution to the literature of the Trail in selecting this double diary of a company that made the trip in good time and with extraordinarily few of the mishaps that some of the less intelligently planned expeditions fell heir to. A comparison of the Geiger and Bryarly diaries, jointly covering the journey from the arrival of the company in St. Joseph to the successful windup near Sacramento, with some thirty odd other expedition records shows that this adhered most successfully to a collectivist organization -- a form of spontaneous self-government. The size of the company, the limitations of their equipment, supplies, number of wagons, the use of mules and their intelligent care -- all bear witness to soundness of judgment -- and to the wisdom of their guide, Frank Smith. The actual diary records the day by day progress, the little human incidents, the pattern of life, the occasional difficulties and how they were met. Geiger's section is rather dry; Dr. Bryarly had a more lively sense of incident and personality. He even had an occasional quip as when he commented on an Indian group, -- ""saw but one good looking squaw"". One amusing episode was recorded by Geiger -- the wolf and bear hunt, when the ""bear"" turned out to be a buffalo calf. Bryarly, in his fuller descriptions, gives a real feel of the beauties as well as the rigors of the trip. All in all -- complete, authentic, vigorous -- a real contribution to the record. The California sale will be its major market, but there should be substantial interest in libraries the country over. The appendix includes valuable source material, the Constitution of the Company, (the Charlestown Co.) -- its roster, comparative travel schedules --and the editor's contribution of further and subsequent biographical details of the diarists' contrasting ends, -- the one as a respected doctor, who returned ultimately to his native Maryland, the other dying a fugitive from justice after killing a man in the passion of his advocacy of the cause of the Confederacy in a California strong for the Union.

Publisher: Yale Press