Carrying orders to collect information on the geography, geology, and topography " of the Country within the limits of the Territories belonging to the United States, between our frontier and the Pacific, " Captain James Bonneville set out for points west in 1832. He was gone nearly five years and was thought to be dead. But Bonneville had befriended a mountain man named Joseph Rutherford Walker, and the two made extensive journeys through the West, becoming the first white men to see Yosemite. Returning by a southern route across the Sierras, they discovered the Walker Pass and Utah' s Bonneville Salt Flats.
Captain Bonneville enjoyed half a decade of amazing escapades and discoveries. Upon his return to civilization, he met Washington Irving, by then already an internationally recognized writer. Irving was fascinated by Bonneville' s tales and details of life among the mountains, trappers, and Native Americans. Drawing from Bonneville' s personal journals, Irving created this celebrated volume of stories in 1837. With a new introduction by series editor Anthony Brandt and a National Geographic map of Bonneville' s journey, Irving' s masterful storytelling emerges as a fresh and immediate account of a long-lost era of American history. "The Adventures of Captain Bonneville is a valuable portrait of the wonders of the West and the remarkable men who first explored it.
When Captain James Bonneville left for California in May of 1832 his motives were mixed. Officially, the French-born officer was on a two-year leave of absence from the U. S. Army, but he carried orders to collect information on the geography, geology, and topography "of the Country within the limits of the Territories belonging to the United States, between our frontier, and the Pacific." No one heard from him for five years, and he was assumed he was dead, or AWOL. But Bonneville had befriended a mountain man named Joseph Rutherford Walker in 1833, and the two men became the first white men to see Yosemite. They returned by a more southern route, discovering Walker Pass, the southern route across the Sierras (the salt flats in Utah are named in Bonneville's honor). Upon Bonneville's return, Washington Irving, by then an internationally famous writer, met him in the home of John Jacob Astor, the fur baron. Washington was fascinated by Bonneville's tales of exploration, finding them full of interesting details of life among the mountains, and of mountain men and Native Americans that he had met. It bore, too, throughout, "the impress of his character, his bonhommie, his kindliness of spirit, and his susceptibility to the grand and beautiful," according to Irving. Bonneville's journals formed the backbone of Irving's work, which was widely lauded upon its publication in 1837. It has remained a classic ever since, capturing a long lost era of rugged mountain men and the thrill of being the first to view the expansive landscapes of the American West.