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Document Number: AJ-144c
Author: James, Edwin, 1797-1861
Title: Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819, 1820 [volume 3]
Source: James, Edwin. Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819, 1820. By Order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, under the Command of Maj. S.H. Long, of the U.S. Top. Engineers. Compiled from the Notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and Other Gentlemen of the Party, by Edwin James, Botanist and Geologist to the Expediton. In Three Volumes. (London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1823). Volume 3.
Pages/Illustrations: 358 / 3
Citable URL:

Author Note

Edwin James (1797-1861) was born Vermont, the youngest of thirteen children. He studied botany, geology, and medicine and at the age of 23 was appointed to be the botanist, geologist, and surgeon for the expedition commanded by Major Stephen H. Long. James published a full account of the expedition in 1822, focusing on Native American tribes and natural history. In 1823, James was appointed as scientist on the second Long expedition but did not receive notification in time to join the party.

In later life James studied Indian languages, assembled several Indian spelling books, and translated the New Testament into Ojibwa. After editing a newspaper in Albany, James settled in Iowa where he ran a station on the Underground Railroad, and died at the age of sixty-four.

Expedition Notes

Major Stephen H. Long was commissioned to ascend the Platte River and explore the headwaters of both the Red River and Arkansas River. The expedition followed the Platte River to the South Fork to the Colorado Rockies, where they discovered and named Long’s Peak. On July 5, 1820, they reached present day Denver and on July 12, Colorado Springs, from which three party members, including Edwin James, set out to climb Pike’s Peak.

The party continued south to the upper Arkansas River, where Long divided it into two groups. One group was instructed to continue the exploration of the Arkansas while the second group, which included both Long and James, went to explore the Red River. In early August the party followed the Canadian River, mistaking it for the Red. This mistake led the group into New Mexico and the Texas panhandle, where they suffered from a scarcity of food sources. The expedition also encountered a party of Kiowa-Apaches, the first recorded meeting between Anglo-Americans and Kiowa-Apaches. The group traveled through Oklahoma and finally reunited with the others at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

The expedition ended with neither of its main objectives met. Neither the source of Arkansas nor the Red River was found. The geographic details of the “Great American Desert” were hardly what an expansionist government wanted to hear about. But the Long Expedition was the first scientific survey of the region and dramatically increased the country’s geographical knowledge of the West.

Document Note

James compiled this account with the help of his journal, Major Long’s notes, and other party member’s observations. Long never published a full account and thus James’ publication became the official version. The first edition (Philadelphia: H.C. Carey and I. Lea, 1822-23) was published in two volumes and included an atlas. The London edition given here was published the same year and included a handful of paragraphs previously omitted as well as color plates. James’ text was not printed again until 1905.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The Handbook of Texas Online provides a helpful biography of Stephen H. Long and the expedition that is named for him at

For a portrait of Edwin James along with a brief description of his importance to American botany, visit “Who’s in a Name” at

Kansas State Library has a short and useful description of the expedition at longs_expedition.html

A 1907 biography of James in The Annals of Iowa, including his portrait, is available free at

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