Hugh Glass being attacked by a grizzly bear, from an early newspaper illustration of unknown origin.
|Died||1833 (aged c. 50)
United States Unorganized Territory, near present-day Williston, Williams County, North Dakota
|Cause of death||Killed in battle by Native Americans|
|Other names||Old Hugh|
|Occupation||frontiersman, trapper, fur trader, hunter, explorer|
|Employer||Rocky Mountain Fur Company, Jean LaFitte, self-employed|
|Known for||Having survived a grizzly bear mauling.|
Hugh Glass (c. 1783 – 1833) was an American frontiersman, fur trapper, fur trader, hunter, and explorer. Born in Pennsylvania to Scots-Irish parents, Glass became an explorer of the watershed of the Upper Missouri River, in present-day Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the Platte River area of Nebraska. Glass is best known for his story of survival and retribution, after being left for dead by companions when he was mauled by a grizzly bear.
The life of Glass has been adapted into two feature-length films: Man in the Wilderness (1971) and The Revenant (2015), in the latter of which, Glass was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in a performance that earned him an Academy Award, BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The retellings portray Glass, who in the best historical accounts made his way crawling and stumbling 200 miles (320 km) to Fort Kiowa, in South Dakota, after being abandoned without supplies or weapons by fellow explorers and fur traders during General Ashley's expedition of 1823.
Despite the story's popularity, its accuracy has been disputed. It was first recorded in 1825 in The Portfolio, a Philadelphia literary journal, as a literary piece and later picked up by various newspapers. Although originally published anonymously, it was later revealed to be the work of James Hall, brother of The Porfolio's editor. There is no writing from Hugh Glass himself to corroborate the veracity of it. Also, it is likely to have been wildly embellished during the years as a legend.
Hugh Glass was born in Pennsylvania, to Scots-Irish parents who had emigrated from Ulster in present-day Northern Ireland. Glass' life before the bear attack was uncertain. His frontier story contained numerous embellishments. He was reported to have been captured by privateers under the command of the Gulf of Mexico pirate chief Jean Lafitte off the coast of Texas in 1816 and forced to become a pirate for up to two years. Glass allegedly escaped by swimming to shore near what is present-day Galveston, Texas. Hugh Glass was later rumored to have been captured by the Pawnee tribe, with whom he lived for several years. He eventually wed a Pawnee woman. Glass traveled to St. Louis in 1821, accompanying several Pawnee delegates invited to meet with United States authorities.
General Ashley's 1823 expedition
In 1822, Glass responded to an advertisement in the Missouri Gazette and Public Advertiser placed by General William Henry Ashley, which called for a corps of 100 men to "ascend the river Missouri" as part of a fur-trading venture. Many others, who later earned reputations as famous mountain men, also joined the enterprise, including James Beckwourth, John Fitzgerald, David Jackson, Giles Roberts, William Sublette, Jim Bridger, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and Jedediah Smith. These men and others would later be known as "Ashley's Hundred".
The expedition was attacked in June 1823 by Arikara warriors, and Glass was apparently shot in the leg. Fearing that continuing up the Missouri would make them vulnerable to further attack, some of the party, including Glass, chose to travel overland towards the Yellowstone River.
Glass wrote a letter to the parents of John S. Gardner, killed on June 2, 1823:
Dr Sir: My painful duty it is to tell you of the death of your son who befell at the hands of the Indians 2nd June in the early morning. He died a little while after he was shot and asked me to inform you of his sad fate.
We brought him to the ship when he soon died. Mr. Smith a young man of our company made a powerful prayer who moved us all greatly and I am persuaded John died in peace. His body we buried with others near this camp and marked the grave with a log. His things we will send to you. The savages are greatly treacherous.
We traded with them as friends but after a great storm of rain and thunder they came at us before light and many were hurt. I myself was shot in the leg. Master Ashley is bound to stay in these parts till the traitors are rightly punished. Yr Obt Svt Hugh Glass
Grizzly bear mauling
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Near the forks of the Grand River, near present-day Shadehill Reservoir, Perkins County, South Dakota, while scouting for game for the expedition larder, Glass surprised and disturbed a grizzly bear with two cubs. The bear charged, picked him up, bit and lacerated his flesh, severely wounding him, and forced him to the ground. Glass nevertheless managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, John S. Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unconscious. General Ashley, who was also with them, became convinced Glass would not survive his injuries.
Ashley asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died and then bury him. Fitzgerald and Bridger stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave. Later, claiming that they were interrupted by attacking Arikara, the pair grabbed the rifle, knife, and other equipment belonging to Glass, and took flight. Bridger and Fitzgerald later caught up with the party and incorrectly reported to Ashley that Glass had died. There is a debate whether Bridger was one of the men who abandoned Glass.
Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness, but found himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment. He had festering wounds, a broken leg, and deep cuts on his back that exposed his bare ribs. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement, at Fort Kiowa, on the Missouri River. Glass set the bone of his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling back to Fort Kiowa. To prevent gangrene, Glass allowed maggots to eat the dead, infected flesh in his wounds.
Using Thunder Butte as a navigational landmark, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River where he fashioned a crude raft and floated downstream to Fort Kiowa. The journey took him six weeks. He survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion, he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and feast on the raw meat. Glass was aided by friendly Native Americans who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds and provided him with food and weapons.
Pursuit of Fitzgerald and Bridger
After recovering from his wounds, Glass set out again to find Fitzgerald and Bridger. He eventually traveled to Fort Henry, on the Yellowstone River, but found it deserted. A note indicated that Andrew Henry and company had relocated to a new camp at the mouth of the Bighorn River. Arriving there, Glass found Bridger, but apparently forgave him because of his youth, and then re-enlisted with Ashley's company.
Glass later learned that Fitzgerald had joined the army and was stationed at Fort Atkinson, in present-day Nebraska. He traveled there as well, where Fitzgerald returned his stolen rifle. Glass reportedly spared Fitzgerald's life because he would be killed by the army captain for killing a soldier of the United States Army. However the captain asked Fitzgerald to return the stolen Hawken rifle to Glass, and before departing Glass warned Fitzgerald never to leave the army, or he would still kill him. According to Yount's story, Glass also obtained $300 as compensation.
Further explorations for General Ashley in 1824
In the period intervening, between finding Bridger and finding Fitzgerald, Glass and four others were dispatched in February 1824 with mail for Fort Atkinson. They traveled up the Powder River, then across to the Platte River. There they constructed skin boats and traveled down the Platte River to the lower end of the Black Hills. Glass and his party discovered a settlement of 38 lodges of Arikara. Their leader, who was known by Glass, declared the tribe to be friendly and invited them in so the men went ashore. While smoking with him in his lodge, Glass noticed their equipment being taken by the residents and realized it was a trap. The men quickly fled but two were killed by the pursuing war party. Glass managed to hide behind some rocks until the Arikara gave up their search, but was separated from the two other survivors. He was relieved to find his knife and flint in his shot pouch and traveled to Fort Kiowa surviving off the land.
Later years and death
Hugh Glass was killed, along with two of his fellow trappers, in early spring of 1833 on the Yellowstone River, in an attack by the Arikara. Like many of his fellow mountain men, including Jedediah Smith, his life ended violently.
In book, film, and television
Glass' survival odyssey has been recounted in numerous books and dramas. A monument to Glass now stands near the site of his mauling on the southern shore of the present-day Shadehill Reservoir, in Perkins County, South Dakota, at the forks of the Grand River.
- "The Song of Hugh Glass" (1915) is the second part of the sequence of epic poems Cycle of the West by John G. Neihardt.
- Western writer Frederick Manfred penned Lord Grizzly (1954), an account of Glass' ordeal nominated for a National Book Award.
- In the 1966 episode "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear" of the syndicated television series, Death Valley Days, the British actor John Alderson played Glass. Morgan Woodward was cast as Thomas Fitzpatrick and Victor French as Louis Baptiste.
- Richard Harris starred in Man in the Wilderness (1971), an action film loosely based on the Glass story.
- Dewitt Lee plays Sam Glass in a film called Apache Blood (1975), a story loosely based on that of Glass.
- "The Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man" An historical account by John Myers Myers. University of Nebraska Press. 1976
- Roger Zelazny and Gerald Hausman meshed the stories of John Colter and Glass in the 1994 novel Wilderness.
- The song "Six Weeks" by Of Monsters and Men is "inspired by the true tale of American frontiersman Hugh Glass, seemingly left for dead after killing a bear that attacked him."
- Michael Punke's 2002 novel, The Revenant, is a fictional retelling of Glass's encounter with the bear and search for revenge.
- A 2014 episode of podcast The Dollop features Glass as its main subject of discussion.
- The May 27, 2015 episode of the History Channel's Monument Guys, "Tesla and the Unbreakable Glass," features the construction of a Glass sculpture.
- Leonardo DiCaprio played a largely fictionalized version of Glass in the 2015 film The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The film is based in part on Punke's novel, and was met with critical acclaim. It earned 12 Academy Award nominations and won three. For his portrayal of Glass, DiCaprio won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
- Hugh Glass appears in World of Warcraft as a merchant in Grizzly Hills alongside his "pet" bear Griselda.
- Keys, Jim. "Hugh Glass: Mountain Man". The History Herald. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- "Hugh Glass, mountain man: 'Revenant' tale intertwines with Montana history". The Montana Standard. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- "Biographical Notes: Hugh Glass". Wandering Lizard California. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
- "Hugh Glass: American frontiersman Biography". Britannica. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- "Best served cold: the terrifying true story behind The Revenant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
- Todd, Edgeley W (Winter 1955). "James Hall and the Hugh Glass Legend" (PDF). American Quarterly. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 7 (4): 362–370. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
- "Hugh Glass – Fact vs Fiction – The True Story of Hugh Glass". The Real Story of Hugh Glass. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
- "Biographical Notes – Hugh Glass". Wandering Lizard History. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- Thrapp, Dan L. (1991-08-01). Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: G-O. U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803294190.
- Monumental Mysteries
- "Did Jim Bridger Abandon Hugh Glass". Hugh Glass – The Real Story. Museum of the Mountain Man. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
- Dennie, Joseph; Hall, John Elihu (1 January 1825). "The Port Folio". Harrison Hall.
- "Hugh Glass Later Life". Hugh Glass – The Real Story. Museum of the Mountain Man. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
- "Hugh Glass Meets the Bear on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. March 24, 1966. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- Hilmarsdóttir, Nanna Bryndís. "Of Monsters and Men Biography". Of Monsters and Men. 2011
- "Monument Guys (TV Series 2015– )".
- Ben Child. "Leonardo DiCaprio will make his return in The Revenant". the Guardian.
The Saga of Hugh Glass, Pirate, Pawnee, and Mountain Man, a book by John Myers Myers, University of Nebraska Press, 1976
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hugh Glass.|
- Jon T. Coleman. Here Lies Hugh Glass: A Mountain Man, a Bear, and the Rise of the American Nation (2013) ISBN 0809054590 ISBN 978-0809054596
- Morgan, Dale L. (1964) . Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the American West. Lincoln, London: Bison Book University of Nebraska Books. ISBN 0-8032-5138-6.
- "Hugh Glass", Bruce Bradley (1999) ISBN 0-9669005-0-2
- "Lord Grizzly", Fredrick Manfred (1954) ISBN 0-8032-8118-8
- "Saga of Hugh Glass: Pirate, Pawnee and Mountain Man", John Myers Myers (1976) ISBN 0-8032-5834-8
- "Hugh Glass, Mountain Man", Robert M. McClung (1990) ISBN 0-688-08092-8
- "The Song of Hugh Glass" (part of "A Cycle of the West"), John G. Neihardt (1915)