The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie. Introduction by William H. Goetzmann. Reprint Edition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. Map, Appendices. 269 Pages. $6.95 Paperback.
Few early visitors to San Diego have interested local historians as much as Sylvester Pattie, the mountainman who died here in a Mexican prison. Much of our information about him comes from his son’s account, The Personal Narrative published in 1831. Although reprinted as recently as 1962, the book has long been difficult to locate. This makes the University of Nebraska Press’ reprint with an introduction by William Goetzmann most welcome. The account was written by twenty-six year old James Pattie upon his return from an excursion from St. Louis to Santa Fe to Chihuahua to Yuma, across Baja California to San Diego, up the coast to San Francisco, and home by sea and Mexico. The party underwent encounters with nature, Indians and Mexican officials-all of which Pattie described with verve. Unfortunately, many scholars have clearly shown that Pattie’s account was more of a tall tale than an historical account of the trip; such scholarship is treated in Goetzmann’s very useful introduction, The reprint of Pattie’s Narrative, then, is perhaps more important in bringing back into print a rousing good story, than in the reissue of a major historical document.