A lot of people have seen The Revenant by now and wonder how accurate the film is compared to what actually happened to Hugh Glass? The film was based on the novel The Revenant by Michael Punke but Hugh Glass lived in the 1800’s so many of the facts and stories about him were passed down through word-of-mouth making them less reliable. But don’t worry,we’ve collected everything there is to know about the real Hugh Glass and it’s much crazier then the film portrayed. If you haven’t seen the Revenant, and are worried about spoilers, I suggest you do not proceed.
Glass was born in 1783 in Pennsylvania to Scottish-Irish parents who immigrated to the U.S. There are many rumours about his life before the bear attack and as his legend grew in his later years so did his backstory. Some of these rumours included: Glass being captured by Indians for several years where he fell in love with an Indian woman, Glass getting kidnapped byFrench-American pirates who he escaped from after a few years by jumping ship, and many more elaborate stories.
We do know that he was a great frontiersman, fur trapper, and known as a mountain man. In Eric Jay Dolin’s Fur, Fortune, & Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, he explained that mountain men would spend their springs and autumns trapping animals and getting their furs ready. In the winter, these men often camped in groups with their wives and families. While living in the wild, they adapted to what we would call a super intense paleo diet and consumed approximately ten pounds of meat each day and replaced bread with smoked strips of buffalo fat. Yummy! Now summers were the best time of year for them because it was when they would sell their furs and spend all their earnings on some really good times.
Apparently, Glass had a pivotal role in the westward expansion of the fur trade. In 1823, he would sign up for an expedition lead by General William Henry Ashley and Major Andrew Henry that would change his life forever and create the legend we now know.
Already the expedition was not going well for Glass. In a battle with the Arikara tribe on the shores of the Missouri River, he was shot in the leg. The loss from that battle was so great for them that they changed course to head back to their main camp. The Arikara had killed more then half of their men and took most of their furs. On the way back, Glass went ahead of the small group to desperately hunt for more fur to make up for their losses. Here in the Grand River Valley was where Hugh Glass encountered a female grizzly bear with her two cubs.
According to Dolin’s book, it all happened very quickly and Glass didn’t have time to prepare his rifle. The fight was brutal! The momma bear reared up on Glass, “grabbed him by histhroat and shoulder, slammed him on the ground, and bit off a chunk of his flesh, and turned to feed it to her cubs.” She ripped his scalp, punctured his throat, broke his leg, and left him with numerous gashes. Luckily, his group was able to hear his screams and cries for help. They killed the bear but only after Glass had been almost literally ripped to shreds. The men attempted to bandage and stitch Glass where needed. They used branches to carry him for a few days when the group’s leader, Andrew Henry, realized he was jeopardizing everyone’s lives.
Henry offered a reward worth several month’s wages if anyone volunteered to stay behind with Glass until he passed away. John Fitzgerald and 19-year-old James Bridger volunteered for the job and would give Glass a proper burial when the time came. After five days, Glass hadn’t died and the men’s frustration grew. John Fitzgerald eventually convinced James Bridger to abandon Glass and return to camp claiming that he had died. To support their lie, the two men took Glass’s tomahawk knife, flint, and hunting rifle with them since a dead man would have no need for them.
In the meantime, Glass was on the mend and recovering his strength. It’s believed he fed on berries and insects while hydrating from spring water for about ten days. Afterwards, he found a pack of wolves eating a buffalo calf and scared them away which gave him the strength to make it to the nearest trading post. This was approximately 350 miles away from where he started. The men who abandoned him weren’t there so he continued on his journey to find them once he recovered. The overall distance Glass traveled on his six-week journey has grown along with the legend from 80 to 100 to 200 miles. In Frederick Manfred’s 1954 biography Lord Grizzly, he said this:
“Not only had Hugh done a great thing in crawling back to safety after he was almost killed, but after he had figured out who had deserted him, he chased them down, caught them, and then… let them go. That was an act that put him above Achilles. In fact, Hugh Glass had performed his heroics while completely alone. Achilles always had a contingent of Greek warriors nearby.”
It’s crazy to think that after all that Glass didn’t take his revenge and kill the men who had left him for death. It just goes to show how amazing this mountain man really was. There’s little known about him in his later years but we do know that he was employed by Fort Union as a hunter at the mouth of the Yellowstone River. This is where Glass would enevtually die. A report in The Milwaukee Journal said,
“a visitor at Fort Union shared such an account of Hugh Glass’s death. Old Glass with two companions had gone to Fort Cass to hunt bear on the Yellowstone, and as they were crossing theriver on the ice, all three were shot and scalped by a war party of 30 Aricaras.”
Wow, what a way to go! At least this strong warrior went in a battle!
The story of Glass’s bear attack first appeared in an 1825 Philadelphia literary journal by a local lawyer hoping for success and his hopes were granted. The story spread like wildfire across the U.S. and quickly became a Frontier legend.
THE REVENANT, starring Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for best picture. So lets see if they will win the Oscar because this video will be up before then. Ad lets see if Leowill finally be known as Academy Award Winner Leonardo DiCaprio, because he is also nominated for best Actor in a Leading Role.