Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to The Rocky Mountains Performed in the Years 1819, 1820. By Order if the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, Under the Command of Maj. S.H. Long, of the U.S. Top.Engineers.
By: Edwin James
Date: 1823 (Published) London
Major Stephen H. Long’s expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains was an effort to fill in the gaps of cartographic and scientific knowledge not obtained with certainty from the prior expeditions of Lewis and Clark and Zebulon Pike as they explored the regions north and south (respectively) of the route taken by Major Long. The expedition consisted of Major Long, the commander; Captain J.R. Bell, official recorder; Thomas Say, zoologist; Edwin James, botanist, geologist, and surgeon; Titian R. Peale, assistant naturalist; Samuel Seymour, landscape painter; a corporal with six army privates, and assorted interpreters, hunters, and baggage men.
Long and fellow scientists traveled across the Great Plains beginning at the Missouri River near present Omaha, Nebraska, along the Platte River to the Front Range, and east along the Arkansas and Canadian Rivers of Colorado and Oklahoma. The expedition terminated at Fort Smith in Arkansas. They recorded many new species of plants, insects, and animals. The map from this expedition “Map of the Country Drained by the Mississippi,” Offered an updated understanding of the trans-Mississippi Western Frontier from the Rocky Mountains in the West to the Allegheny (Appalachian) Mountains in the East. It included a vertical profile of the country from end to end of the map showing elevation changes and noting rivers, mountains, high tablelands, and areas of extensive plains.
The Great American Desert
The most noteworthy aspect of Long’s map is applying the name ‘Great Desert’ to the section of country now known as eastern Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle. This nickname would surface in many subsequent maps for decades following and is today regarded as a cartographic myth. However, many 19th century travelers, military personnel, fur trappers, and emigrants would describe much of the central plains as a desert or ocean of grass that lacked any notable physical features such as trees, large rocks, or bluffs that could aide in establishing a point of direction or decisive location. Much of the area today is farm land, but geographically referred to as a high desert.
Long’s expedition ranks among the expeditions of Lewis and Clark as one of the earliest attempts by the U.S. Government to explore and understand the vast country that would undergo decades of westward expansion, be the subject of Manifest Destiny, and site of innumerable battles and skirmishes between Plaines Tribes and the United States Military for decades throughout much of the 19th century.
This three volume set of books consists of 1 map, 1 vertical diagram, and 7 prints, two of which are landscape views, four of Native American portraits council meetings, and a war dance, and one very interesting facsimile print of a depiction of a battle between the Pawnee and Konzas tribes on the rawhide of a Bison as observed by the members of the expedition.
Condition: The books and contents within are all in very fine condition, with original spines minimal soiling and no torn or lose contents.
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