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Entries For May 11:
Captain Lewis (current)
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About 5 P.M. my attention was struck by one of the party running at a distance toward us, and making signs and hallooing as if in distress. I ordered the pirogues to put to, and waited until he arrived. I now found that it was Bratton, the man with the sore hand whom I had permitted to walk on shore. He arrived so much out of breath that it was several minutes before he could tell what had happened. At length he informed me that in the woody bottom on the larboard side, about 1 1/2 miles below us, he had shot a brown bear which immediately turned on him and pursued him a considerable distance, but he had wounded it so badly that it could not overtake him.
I immediately turned out with seven of the party in quest of this monster. We at length found his trail and pursued him about a mile, by the blood, through very thick brush of rosebushes and the large-leafed willow. We finally found him concealed in some very thick brush, and shot him through the skull with two balls.
We proceeded to dress him as soon as possible. We found him in good order. It was a monstrous beast, not quite so large as that we killed a few days past but in all other respects much the same. The hair is remarkably long, fine, and rich, though he appears partially to have discharged his winter coat.
We now found that Bratton had shot him through the center of the lungs, notwithstanding which, he had pursued him near half a mile and had returned more than double that distance, and with his talons had prepared himself a bed in the earth about 2 feet deep and five long, and was perfectly alive when we found him, which could not have been less than two hours after he received the wound.
These bears, being so hard to die, rather intimidate us all. I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen and had rather fight two Indians than one bear. There is no other chance to conquer them by a single shot but by shooting them through the brains, and this becomes difficult in consequence of two large muscles which cover the sides of the forehead, and the sharp projection of the center of the frontal bone, which is also of a pretty good thickness. The fleece and skin were as much as two men could possibly carry.
By the time we returned, the sun had set, and I determined to remain here all night, and directed the cooks to render the bear's oil and put it in the kegs, which was done. There was about eight gallons of it.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.