Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the Year 1852

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Author: Marcy, Randolph Barnes (1812-1887)

Year: 1854

Publisher: A O P Nicholson, Public Printer

Place: Washington, DC


2 volumes. Text volume: xv+[1]-286 pages. Illustrated with 65 plates including 12 lithographed views; 10 engraved geological sections including 1 hand-colored and folding (numbered 1-11, no No. 2, as issued); 6 lithographed paleontology plates; 18 lithographed zoology plates; & 19 lithographed botany plates (numbed I-XX, no No. XVIII, as issued). Atlas volume with the 2 maps Senate issue. Octavo (8¾" x 5½"), original blind-stamped cloth. Executive House Document, 33d Congress, 1st session. Assisted by George B. McClellan. Map folder dark brown blind stamped cloth with same decorations and title "Maps. Marcy's Report" lettered in gilt on the front board. (Howes: 275) Text third issue, map volume first issue.

Five years before the perilous winter march in which he led his troops safely through the Rocky Mountains, Captain Randolph Marcy, who served in Zachary Taylor's army during the Mexican War, commanded a groundbreaking expedition to locate the source of the Red River, which flows across some 1300 miles of the south-central United States. "No American explorer was known to have hitherto explored the headwaters" and all known maps were inaccurate. The annexation of Texas [in 1845], and the consequent necessity of establishing a verified northern border with the Indian territory [i.e., present-day Oklahoma], made the expedition even more significant. [Marcy and his second-in-command, General George B. McClellan] were joined by five Delaware guides, among them the noted John Bushman and Jim Ned, the latter of whom Marcy called "the bravest warrior and the most successful horse thief in the West." The whole party consisted of about 70 men. Between May 2 and July 28, 1852, they explored about a thousand miles going and coming in Texas and Oklahoma, under orders to "collect and report everything that may be useful or interesting." This they did. Marcy found gold samples, a new type of copper (named Marcylite in his honor), coal and gypsum. They identified 25 new species of mammals and ten species of snakes, as well as a prairie dog town which covered 400,000 acres. Marcy found both branches of the Red River and the source of each. He was the first Anglo-American to discover and explore Palo Duro Canyon and Tule Canyon. Marcy described in detail the little-known Wichita tribe and compiled the first Wichita dictionary. When the expedition completed its journey, Marcy learned that his whole command had been reported to have wiped out by Comanches. The whole country thought he was dead, and Marcy said later that "I had the novel satisfaction of reading obituary articles upon [my] death." He and McClellan received heroes' welcome. (Jenkins, 366-67). Marcy's 1852 expedition has been called the most significant of his career and the best organized, best conducted and most successful venture into the region to that date [and this report] quickly became a classic of Western Americana (Handbook of Texas). Not only the first adequate account of the region but one of the most valuable and interesting descriptions of our western frontier to be found in government annals (Grant Foreman). Preceded by the Senate issue (1853). Sabin 44512.


Intermittent browning and light foxing spots, book plate removed from front paste down, corners bumped, re-cased overall a very copy.

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