The Life & Times of Nathaniel Hale Pryor

nathaniel-haleMuch of the frenzied publishing of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial has been the retelling of a fairly familiar story.

But this book is a welcome rescue operation; it’s the first biography of the man who was, probably, the most trusted non-commissioned officer of the Expedition, yet is the least known. Unlike his fellow non-coms, Floyd, Gass and Ordway, he left us no journal to read. Nor did he later write a book, as Sgt. Gass did. And, of course, he did not die dramatically on the Missouri River, like his kinsman, Floyd, the Expedition’s only fatality. But Meriwether Lewis was “high” on Pryor—“a man of character and ability.” When many of his comrades drifted into near-oblivion, Pryor had a long career in the army and as a trader and Indian sub-agent to the Osage tribe, into which he married. This later career is well-detailed by the author. His work paints Pryor as an intelligent spokesman for the Osages, who were being pressured in Indian Territory by the Five Civilized Tribes, dumped on their land by an uncaring American government.

 

 

—Richard H. Dillon

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