Sunday, April 25, 2010

Army Scouts – Jim Bridger

Beginning with this post, I am going to do a series on Army Scouts of the Old West. I am interested in this as I am a former Army Range Rider; my Grandfather was in the U.S. Cavalry from 1878 to 1880; and, my Uncle was in the U.S. Cavalry in 1913 through 1917. These Army Scouts had to be good Horsemen as they often rode alone in very dangerous country trusting their lives by relying on their skills and their horses.

Born in March 1804 in Virginia, Jim Bridger had several successful careers one of which was that of an Army Scout overshadowed by his exploits as an explorer, fur trapper and Mountain Man.

Bridger was credited with numerous accomplishments enabled by his courage to explore the untamed West on horseback. He was the first to discover the Great Salt Lake in 1824 as well as the steam geysers in what we now know as Yellowstone National Park.

He first explored the West in 1822 at the age of 18, trapping beaver before he ventured further West. He established Fort Bridger on the Green River in then Wyoming Territory where he based an operation to guide prospectors to the Gold fields in Montana and surveyed stage routes to the West.

He eventually scouted and guided General Dodge establishing route for freight wagons, stage coach lines and for what would become the Overland route, Pony Express routes and eventually railroad lines for the Union Pacific.

In 1867 due to failing eyesight, Jim Bridger left the West and returned to Missouri where he died in July 1881.


  1. Jim Bridger was a consummate liar. The Yellowstone area was first discovered and explored by John Colter. It was known for many years as "Colter's Hell". Colter was intrigued by accounts of the area when the Lewis & Clarke expedition he was a member of in 1806 skirted the area to the north on their trip west. Coulter returned immediately to investigate after the expedition returned to the St. Louis area in 1807. Jim Bridger is the only person to say he "discovered" Yellowstone... and it was a lie that seems to persist today.

  2. Johnny, you are right that John Colter first explored the Yellowstone in 1806 soon after he was released from his duties as a scout and hunter from the Lewis & Clarke expedition. From 1806 to 1812 (a six year time span) Colter went back and forth between the West and civilization in St Louis. He enlisted in the Army for the War of 1812 dying as a soldier from disease. John Colter is mostly well known for “Colter’s Run” where he was captured by Blackfeet, given a chance to run, and he was able to escape covering some 200 miles until he reached safety. Jim Bridger on the other hand spent over 40 years in the West, scouting, guiding, surveying and mapping not just for the Army but for gold miners, wagon trains, railroads and even the Pony Express, as short lived as it was.

    I am not taking anything away from Colter. His escape from the Blackfeet is legendary. I had planned on writing a post about him as well. But I am prone not to judge historical features too closely as all we know of them is through the fog of time.

  3. Hi, I realize that this link was posted two years ago, but does anyone know who owns the picture of Jim Bridger?

    Please e-mail at bretonfilms at