Evans begins the book by "setting the stage," putting the Long Expedition into historical context. This is the Evans main power for the rest of the book. He tells you of the past events leading to the expedition, the events that occurred on the expedition, and the future significance of these events. These anecdotal narratives are sometimes depressing as Evans points out that many of the spectacular areas described by the explorers are now strip malls and golf courses.
The main body of the text tells the story of the expedition in chronological order. Evans effectively uses direct excerpts from the explorers journals to provide first-hand insight to the life and hardships of early 19th century naturalists. The excerpts allow the reader to feel the explorers exhilaration of reaching Pikes Peak, the trepidation of meeting unfriendly natives, and the fear of starvation and dehydration. The book does not end upon the completion of the expedition. Instead, Evans provides a brief history summarizing the future exploits of each member of the expedition.
While Evans prose could easily stand by itself, he does not leave the reader wanting for other forms of visual stimulation. The text is periodically interrupted with the sketches of Titian Peale, the expeditions assistant naturalist who often doubled as their artist. The author also peppers the text with black and white photographs of various insects and plants to which the text refers. These sketches combined with periodic maps allow the reader to visually keep up with the expedition and their discoveries. The biological discoveries of the expedition are also arranged into three appendices. One appendix contains a list of plants discovered on the Long Expedition. The other two appendices contain systematic lists of insects and other animals that Thomas Say described from the Long Expedition. These appendices are a testament to importance of this expedition in the Midwests biological history.
The Natural History of the Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains (1819-1820) distills mountains of historical information into a format that will be of particular interest to professional and amateur natural historians. This book would be especially interesting to biologists from the region that the expedition covers, and anyone interested in the adventuresome spirit of Americas pioneer days. As usual, Evans style of writing makes this book easily accessible to any reader, and is recommended to all. - Michael A. Wall, Department of Botany and Microbiology, Auburn University, Alabama
Goodman, G.J., and C.A. Lawson. 1995. Retracing Major Stephen H. Long's 1820 Expedition: The Itinerary and Botany. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. (see PSB 44(1): 23-24 for a review)