With a background possibly nautical and even piratical, Hugh Glass had come to the frontier by way of a Pawnee village where he learned wilderness skills. His exploits justified the appraisal of one who trapped with him: "In point of adventures dangers & narrow escapes & capacity for endurance, & the sufferings which befel him, this man was preeminent—He was bold, daring, reckless & eccentric to a high degree; but was nevertheless a man of great talents & intellectual as well as bodily power—But his bravery was conspicuous beyond all his other qualities for the perilous life he led."
Proceeding apart from the column as his defiant independence usually dictated, Glass and another man, Moses "Black" Harris, entered a thicket and surprised a grizzly sow and her cubs. The bear reared on her hind feet to attack as Glass sent a rifle ball into her chest. The wound proved fatal, but not quickly enough. As Glass clambered up a tree, she seized him and threw him to the ground, lacerating him from head to foot with two swipes of the razorlike talons of her paws. Pursued by one of the yearling cubs, Harris ran from the thicket, then turned and brought down the smaller animal. [Andrew] Henry's men raced to the scene. The sow sprawled dead atop Glass. They pulled off the carcass. He lay on his back, bleeding from gashes in his scalp, face, chest, back, shoulder, arm, hand, and thigh. With each gasp, blood bubbled from a puncture in his throat. As Daniel Potts remarked, Hugh Glass had been "tore nearly to peases."
He should have been dead by now. The men bandaged his wounds but could do little else. By the next morning he still had not died. Henry could tarry no longer. At any moment he could encounter Arikaras. Fashioning a crude litter, the men hoisted Glass on their shoulders and resumed the march. They made agonizingly slow progress. Finally, after several days, Henry resolved that he could no longer risk the entire party for a man certain to die. He offered an enticing sum to anyone who would volunteer to stay behind and care for Glass until he died. John S. Fitzgerald and nineteen-year-old Jim Bridger stepped forward.
Shortly after Henry reached his fort, Fitzgerald and Bridger came in with Glass's rifle and other possessions and reported him dead and buried. He was not. Though feverish and prostrated, he burned with a will to live and seek vengeance on the men who had abandoned him. He could not walk, but he could crawl. Berries and a torpid rattlesnake smashed with a stone provided his first nourishment. The Grand River supplied water. He dug edible roots with a sharp rock. Chance turned up a dead buffalo with marrow still rich in the bones. Later wolves brought down a buffalo calf that he succeeded in seizing. In a six-week demonstration of incredible strength, fortitude, luck, and determination, Glass crawled back to Fort Kiowa, nearly two hundred miles. He then set forth to track down those who had deserted him.
(Robert M. Utley, After Lewis and Clark: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific [Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2004], 57-8 [endnotes omitted])