Book Review: The Journals of Patrick Gass: Member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (edited and annotated by Carol Lynn MacGregor) : WW

8/12/2001 • Lewis And Clark, Wild West Reviews

The Journals of Patrick Gass: Member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited and annotated by Carol Lynn MacGregor, Mountain Press Publishing Co., 1997, $36 cloth, $20 paper.

Lewis and Clark and Gass? No, Sergeant Patrick Gass will never be mentioned right up there with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Still, Gass did keep a continuous log of the famous expedition, and his journal was originally published in 1807, seven years before the accounts by Corps of Discovery leaders Lewis and Clark became available. Gass, writes editor Carol Lynn MacGregor, “proved to be a practical, flexible member of the expedition, serving as head carpenter, a boatsman in charge of a canoe, an occasional hunter, an experienced horseman, and one of seven known journalists.” Because Gass wrote in a straightforward style about the day-to-day aspects of the journey, MacGregor says his is the most readable of the journals. Gass certainly captured the optimistic spirit of the expedition members. A typical entry (Tuesday, April 30, 1805): “We embarked at sunrise; had a fine morning and went on very well. We passed through a handsome Country, with a rich soil, and the prairies rising beautifully on both sides of the river. We went 24 miles and encamped on the North side. Captain Lewis killed a large elk here.” Gass’ journal is enhanced by MacGregor’s endnotes that explain many of the missing details. As a bonus, readers get a glimpse into Gass’ personal life and record-keeping abilities with the inclusion of “The Account Book of Patrick Gass 1826-1837 and 1847-1848″ in the second part of this 447-page volume.