Autobiographical narrative by Parkman, serialized in The Knickerbocker Magazine (1847) and issued in book form as The California and Oregon Trail (1849). The original title was resumed in later editions.
This account of the author's trip over the eastern part of the Oregon Trail, with his cousin, Quincy Adams Shaw (April–Aug. 1846), tells of their travels from St. Louis by steamboat and horseback to Fort Laramie, Wy., in company with guides and occasional other travelers. They encounter typical adventures in storms, buffalo hunts, and meetings with Indians, soldiers, sportsmen, and emigrants. At Fort Laramie, then a trading post, they find an encampment of Sioux and learn of a war party that is being sent against the Snake Indians. Attempting to join this party, they meet difficulties, and Parkman goes on alone with a guide, promising to rejoin Shaw later. After a dangerous mountain journey, he finds the Sioux band and lives with them for several weeks, sharing their food and shelter and taking part in buffalo hunts and ceremonials, although he sees no battles. Parkman was in ill health, and only managed by strenuous and painful activity to keep the respect of his untrustworthy hosts. After gaining much information and insight into Indian character, which influenced his writings and made this a classic description of Indian life, Parkman rejoined Shaw, and returned east.