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Audubon's Western Journal

John Woodhouse Audubon

Book Overview: 

John Woodhouse Audubon, son of the famous painter John James Audubon and an artist in his own right, joined Col. Henry Webb's California Company expedition in 1849. From New Orleans the expedition sailed to the Rio Grande; it headed west overland through northern Mexico and through Arizona to San Diego, California. Cholera and outlaws decimated the group. Many of them turned back, including the leader. Audubon assumed command of those remaining and they pushed on to California, although he was forced to abandon his paints and canvases in the desert…. Throughout the whole of this long journey Mr. Audubon took notes of scenes and occurrences by the way. In his descriptions he exhibits the keen observation of the naturalist and the trained eye of the artist. The result is a remarkable picture of social conditions in Mexico, of birds and trees, of sky and mountains and the changing face of nature, of the barrenness of the desert and the difficulties of the journey, of the ruined missions of California, of methods of mining, and of the chaos of races and babel of tongues in the gold fields. It was manifestly impossible to keep a daily journal, and the entries were made from time to time as opportunity occurred. Considering the circumstances under which they were taken, the notes are remarkable for their accuracy. Because it was not edited by Audubon, the text (and this recording) ends abruptly.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . and perhaps she was parting with them for the last time. We chatted together in rather a forced conversation, until the "General Scott" for New Orleans came by, and then went on board paying eight dollars for each man and five dollars each for Col. Webb's three horses; so much for Cairo, I don't care ever to see it again. 48

I found my uncle, W. G. Bakewell, on board making the trip to New Orleans, and my journey was as agreeable as it could be, where all my associations were of a melancholy nature. I thought of past joys and friends dead and scattered since the days when I knew this country so well.

The river was very high, and the desolation of the swamps, the lonely decaying appearance of the clay bluffs, picturesque as they are, added to the eternal passing on of this mighty stream towards its doom, to be swallowed in earth's great emblem of eternity, the ocean, told only of the passing of all things.

February 18th. Four. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The author was the younger son of the renowned John James Audubon, and the younger Audubon was a capable naturalist and painter in his own right. This journal covers an expedition to California he organized in the Gold Rush year of 1849, ostensibly to gather specimens for sketching and description.

Cholera, solitude, weary desert travel, racial tension, of the early gold rush days and settlement of california. some beutiful descriptions of the landscape.