So Rugged and Mountainous
Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812–1848
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
While many previous authors have told parts of this story, Bagley has recast it in its entirety for modern readers. Drawing on research he conducted for the National Park Service’s Long Distance Trails Office, he has woven a wealth of primary sources—personal letters and journals, government documents, newspaper reports, and folk accounts—into a compelling narrative that reinterprets the first years of overland migration.
Illustrated with photographs and historical maps, So Rugged and Mountainous is the first of a projected four-volume history, Overland West: The Story of the Oregon and California Trails. This sweeping series describes how the “Road across the Plains” transformed the American West and became an enduring part of its legacy. And by showing that overland emigration would not have been possible without the cooperation of Native peoples and tribes, it places American Indians at the center of trail history, not on its margins.
“Using a wealth of primary sources, Will Bagley's carefully researched and well-written history is, in a word, magisterial. . . . He notes that the year 1846 was a watershed, and his chapter devoted to it represents some of the finest western geopolitical history ever written.”—Richard Francaviglia, Pacific Historical Review
“This large-scale work is a detailed description of the great overland migrations in response to the California gold discoveries. It is a vast canvas, commensurate with the numbers of people and the landscape across which they moved. The panorama of moving stories, superbly told in the words of the participants, develops as a corrective to the history of the overland trails as a heroic epic of progress. Bagley’s account, in contrast, gives full attention to the dark side of these experiences, summed up as “untold suffering, sacrifice, and sorrow.” With Golden Visions Bright Before Them will become the new standard for historians of the great overland trails at mid-century.” —Malcolm Rohrbough, author of Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation