Friday, November 17, 2017

Biographical Sketch of James Bridger: Mountaineer, Trapper, and Guide

“While Bridger was not an educated man, still any country that he had ever seen he could fully and intelligently describe, and could make a very correct estimate of the country surrounding it. He could make a map of any country he had ever traveled over, mark out its streams and mountains and the obstacles in it correctly, so that there was no trouble in following it and fully understanding it. He never claimed knowledge that he did not have of the country, or its history and surroundings, and was positive in his statements in relation to it. He was a good judge of human nature. His comments upon people that he had met and been with were always intelligent and seldom critical. He always spoke of their good parts, and was universally respected by the mountain men, and looked upon as a leader, also by all the Indians. He was careful to never give his word without fulfilling it. He understood thoroughly the Indian character, their peculiarities and superstitions. He felt very keenly any loss of confidence in him or his judgment, especially when acting as guide, and when he struck a country or trail he was not familiar with he would frankly say so, but would often say he could take our party up to the point we wanted to reach. As a guide I do not think he had his equal upon the plains.”

This brief eulogy written in 1905 by a man who knew Bridger well, General Grenville Dodge, was his attempt to remind a forgetful populace of the debt that was owed to Jim Bridger.

Dodge’s military bearing comes through as he takes a “just the facts” approach to his subject, and the volume may be better for it. We have in Dodge’s own words, as well as that of many other military men just how valuable a scout Bridger was.

This can be read in half-an-hour, but Bridger and Dodge’s estimation of him will linger long after.

Do they even make men like this anymore?

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