We’re really excited about today’s story. Summer for us is always the most busy time of the year when we are out hiking endless miles to write our trail guides. A few weeks ago I read about Hugh Glass before a hike and I couldn’t stop thinking about his story the whole time I was hiking. Today’s podcast is about one of the most badass guy’s in American history, Hugh Glass.
Like most epic adventure stores, there are several versions and no one knows which version is historically accurate so with today’s podcast I’ll point out some discrepancies in his tale.
Our story begins in 1822 when Glass, who was a fur trapper, links up with other trappers such as William Sublette, Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith for a trip to what was to become Yellowstone. On the way there, Glass got into a little bit of trouble.
So Glass, who was an experienced frontiersman, was all alone when he accidentally surprised a Mama Grizzly with her two cubs.The bear charged Glass, lifted him up off of the ground and then threw him down. Glass grabbed his knife and started stabbing the bear, but the bear kept on attacking. Eventually some of the other trappers heard Glass, came to the rescue and together they killed the bear.
Glass, however, was in rough shape after the bear attack. His body was a bloody tangled and mauled mess from his scalp to his leg. He blacked out and his trapping partners did what they could to nurse him back to health. They had to move on so they carried him along for a few days and then decided that he was soling them down and he was going to die so they so they left two men, Jim Bridger and John Fitzgerald behind with him. For a week Bridger and Fitzgerald stayed Glass but he showed no signs of life. So when some hostile Indian warriors showed up Bridger and Fitzgerald took Glass’s rifle, knife and gear and bolted. Bridger and Fitzgerald eventually met up with the rest of their trapping party where they reported that Glass was dead.
Meanwhile, Glass had regained consciousness. When he came to he assessed his injuries realizing that most of the flesh on his body had been torn. He also had a broken leg and open wounds on his chest and back. Glass also realized that he didn’t have any weapons or equipment, nothing but the bear’s hide which he had been laying underneath. Glass knew that he was about 200 miles away from help. Now here’s where we see a few different versions of the story.
According to one account, he set his own leg, and started crawling toward help.
Another account says that before he began crawling for help he moved over to a rotting log to have maggots eat the infection from his back. And another claims that he killed a rattlesnake with a rock, and the meat from the snake gave him the strength he needed to start crawling toward Fort Kiowa.
Regardless, he knew that he was in rough shape and that he needed to get to help.
One story claims that at one point the gangrene on his wounded leg became so terrible that he stopped, put his leg into a rotting log and let maggots eat away his dead flesh. It doesn’t really matter what version of this story is true, or if maggots feasted on the rotting flesh of his back or leg, what matters is that Glass was no wimp.
To sustain himself while he crawled and eventually limped to civilization, Glass ate wild berries and roots. One time he chased two wolves away from a dead bison calf and feasted on the meat. He was also almost crushed in a buffalo stampede and barely missed being attacked by a hostile party of Indians.
One version of the story claims that eventually Glass met up with Cheyenne Indians who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover his wounds, gave him weapons and helped him make a raft to float down the Missouri river to reach Fort Kiowa.
Glass went on to heal but he wasn’t very happy about Bridger and Fitzgerald abandoning him in the wilderness, in fact he made a vow to kill both of them. Eventually he caught up with Bridger but spared his life, some say it’s because Bridger was young, only 17 or 18 at the time. When he found Fitzgerald he learned that he had joined the Army and the punishment for killing a soldier was death so Fitzgerald got to live.
I don’t know if Glass sustained any long term effects from his bear attack and cross-country crawl but I do know that he went on to continue trapping, having more adventures and run ins with Native American tribes, both hostile and friendly. Eventually he was killed by Indians by present day Billings Montana in 1833.
What do you you think about Glass and his bear encounter and survival? Do you agree, that he was a total badass?
History Channel (link)
History Net (link)
Badass of the Week (link)
Roadside America (link)