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The Greatest Survivor, Hugh Glass

BY Tanuj Kasana April 24, 2018
Hugh Glass: Illustration published in the newspaper

Hugh Glass: Illustration published in the newspaper at the time of the incident. (Wikimedia Commons)

Humans are all built from the same materials. While a few might have a golden tooth or two, we are all made up of flesh and bones. There is something in all of us that makes us equally similar and different from one another. Though, some of these qualities seem to be quite rare. Not everybody can weather the extreme conditions of the Himalayas to scale Mt. Everest, swim across the freezing cold English Channel, or survive a solo boat trip around the world. You can have all the necessary skills to achieve any of these feats but is that ever enough? These people are driven by a burning desire to etch their names in the pages of history. Their will to endure and survive whatever comes their way is unparalleled.

But not everybody does such extraordinary things just for the fame. Sometimes, making it out alive in a near-fatal situation is the only driving force for people to keep fighting. At least that was the case with the mountain man Hugh Glass, born in Pennsylvania in 1783, Hugh was an animal trapper and fur trader.  He was left to die by the members of his group of explorers after being severely wounded by a grizzly bear.

For most people who have watched Leonardo di Caprio starrer The Revenant, Hugh Glass is a familiar name. The legendary explorer will be an inspiring story for generations to come.

A series of unfortunate events

This story of human spirit, unformidable will to live and sheer compassion began with an advertisement in Missouri Gazette and Public Advertiser by General William Henry Ashley. This advertisement invited a crowd consisting of 100 men to “ascend the river Missouri” for a fur-trading venture. This venture began in 1822, but Glass became a part of it in 1823 and the group of people later came to be known as “Ashley’s Hundred”.

When ascending the river Missouri in June 1823, this group was attacked by an Indian tribe called Arikara warriors during which Glass was shot in the leg. After this attack, the party decided to return to Fort Kiowa. The party then disbanded into several groups and headed west.

One of these groups, that Glass was a part of, was led by Andrew Henry and had set out to the Yellowstone River. When hunting for food for the expedition somewhere in present-day South Dakota, Glass accidentally ended up disturbing a grizzly bear with two cubs. The mother bear overcome with motherly instincts attacked Glass and wounded him badly, biting and lacerating his flesh.

Although Glass had managed to kill the bear with the help of his friends, the wounds left by the bear were severe enough for others in the group to believe that he will not make it back alive. Assuming Glass would die soon, Andrew Henry asked for two volunteers to stay back with Glass until he died and then conduct the last rituals and bury him. Two people, a young man called “Bridger” and a man by the name of John Fitzgerald, agreed to stay back as the party moved on. They had begun digging a grave for Glass, but citing an attack by Arikara, they both fled with the rifle, knife and other equipment belonging to Glass. They met with the rest of the party wrongly informing them of Glass’s death.

Another illustration of Hugh Glass

Another illustration of Hugh Glass being attacked by a bear from the Milwaukee Journal. (The Milwaukee Journal / Wikimedia Commons)

Against all odds

The gravely injured Glass lay there alive in his half-dug grave covered in the bear hide, eventually regaining consciousness only to find himself alone and abandoned without any weapons and equipment. His wounds had begun to fester, his ribs had been exposed due to the deep cuts on his back and he was rendered motionless by the fractures to his limbs. The nearest American settlement was 200 miles from where Glass lay dying.

Would you believe if you were told Glass made it out of there alive on his own? We wouldn’t be telling this story if he had not, but it is still shocking and surprising to hear that he did. He crawled back to Fort Kiowa, even built a rag-tag raft to float in the Cheyenne River. It took him a total of 6 weeks, surviving on wild berries and roots, to crawl to Fort Kiowa. He put maggots in his wounds to eat dead infected flesh to survive. The things he had to endure would have made most people just give up and accept their fate.

Upon his recovery, Glass set out to find the two men who left him to die and stole his rifle and equipment, Bridger and Fitzgerald, in order to avenge being left behind without his rifle. But interestingly, when he did find them, he decided to forgive them. He decided not to kill Bridges owing to his young age. Fitzgerald had gone on to join the army, Glass asked him to stay in the army or he would kill him. In the end, Glass did at least get his rifle back from Fitzgerald and a 300$ compensation.

Glass, presumably the greatest survivor on this planet, was eventually killed in an attack by Arikara during another expedition in 1833.

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “Andrée’s Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897: A Peek into the Doomed North Pole Flight“.

Recommended Read:
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge | By Michael Punke

Recommended Watch:
The Revenant (2015)

Recommended Visit:
Museum of the Mountain Man | Pinedale, Wyoming (U.S)

Fact Analysis:
STSTW Media strives to deliver accurate information through careful research. However, things can go wrong. If you find the above article inaccurate or biased, please let us know at [email protected]


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