Ordeal by Hungerby George R. Stewart
Pub. Date: 01/28/1992
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The tragedy of the Donner party constitutes one of the most amazing stories of the American West. In 1846 eighty-seven peoplemen, women, and childrenset out for California, persuaded to attempt a new overland route. After struggling across the desert, losing many oxen, and nearly dying of thirst, they reached the very summit of the Sierras, only to be… See more details below
The tragedy of the Donner party constitutes one of the most amazing stories of the American West. In 1846 eighty-seven peoplemen, women, and childrenset out for California, persuaded to attempt a new overland route. After struggling across the desert, losing many oxen, and nearly dying of thirst, they reached the very summit of the Sierras, only to be trapped by blinding snow and bitter storms. Many perished; some survived by resorting to cannibalism; all were subjected to unbearable suffering. Incorporating the diaries of the survivors and other contemporary documents, George Stewart wrote the definitive history of that ill-fated band of pioneers; an astonishing account of what human beings may endure and achieve in the final press of circumstance.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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This book should be required reading for anyone interested in California history. The details are not pretty, but neither was their journey from Illinois to California. To make it even better, after you've read the book, drive from Reno to Sacramento, and along the way stop at the site of the Donner encampment. Look west (remember there was no interstate highway or even a dirt road back in the late 1840s) and realistically think about what your chances of survival would have been under the conditions they faced.
I couldn't put this book down. It was one of the most powerful I have ever read and almost unbelievable. The experience of the Donner Party is one that is impossible for most of us to imagine. There were passages that brought tears to my eyes. This book will leave you paralyzed with wonder and with horror. The Donner Party saga may be one of the greatest stories of all time that is both triumphant and terrible. The Donner Party was a group of 87 American pioneers who set out in a wagon train headed west for California, only to find themselves trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada. The subsequent casualties were extremely high, and many of the survivors cannibalized members of the party who had already died. I highly recommend this book.