- File Size: 2281 KB
- Print Length: 542 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publication Date: September 11, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00NIUCSMW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,052 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth : Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians (1856) Kindle Edition
|Length: 542 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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So feel free to believe the current blither about how the white people destroyed some kind of Indian utopia situation (this is not to excuse what the whites did do). The eyewitness autobiography of Beckwourth reveals that they were flawed people just like everyone else. After reading this, I wondered how there could have been hardly any Indians around for the whites to dispossess. They were killing so many of each other.
The book reads easy. It is not "old fashioned" writing. However, it is not comforting evening reading. It is graphic, but very interesting. Read it if you want to get a first hand account of life in the early 1800's.
I find it interesting that Beckwourth doesn't refer to himself as a black man. He seems to include himself in with the whites. One of the reasons I bought this book was the fact that this is one of the only accounts of a black mountain man's life. That aspect plays little role in Beckwourth's account. Don't buy this book if you want someone referring to black pride. He doesn't do it.
As to whether or not the stories are Beckwourth's or Bonner's, it is worth reading the affidavit Beckwourth gave to the US Military in the investigation of the Sand Creek Massacre. The rhythms and word choices are the same. Bonner might have diddled the numbers, but there's no evidence to say who did. Early historians reacted to the exaggerations and condemned Beckwourth as a liar. This is unfair. To the extent that there were independent witnesses for the events, they tend to confirm the stories, but not the numbers nor all of the acts of personal heroism. The tales told seem to be the kind of tales a aging mountain man might tell sitting in the bar on a winter night in the 1850s.
Beckwourth was born a slave to the scion of one of the first families in Virginia in 1798 or 1800. In the entire autobiography Beckwourth never mentions his mother nor does he mention himself being a slave. They migrated to Missouri when he was still an infant and he was raised in the milieu of Hucklberry Finn but with many more indians. When Beckwourth was in his teens his father took him to court three different times to file letters of manumission. Wilson, cited above, documented these. The reason given was that courthouses had a tendency to burn down and Daddy Beckwith wanted to be sure the record would remain.
Beckwourth was apprenticed to a St. Louis craftsman, but he took off a runaway, and from then on he saw more 19th century western history than even Kit Carson. He was a mountain man with Ashley, he was a trader out of Bent's Fort, he responded to the Taos rebellion, he married into the Crow tribe (twice). He fought alongside the Spanish colonials to put down uprisings in California and was later run out of the country, but as he left he drove a massive herd of horses before him. He fought for the US in the Mexican American war, in the Seminole wars, and in the civil war. He was a truly remarkable man, born a slave but living about as free as it is possible to be.
I came away with the impression that Mr Beckworth actually enjoyed the killing and butchery he claims to have participated in. Stealing horses and scalping rivals seemed like a great way to pass the time for this man. Perhaps that's what was required back in those days under those conditions. But as a White man I feel he should have known better. Overall the book was a good read and it's sad to say that many of Beckworths predictions regarding the Indians proved all to true.