'A Nation in Transit' on the Oregon Trail

In the May 1910 issue of The Atlantic, Charles M. Harvey described a thrilling scene from 173 years ago today: A rifle-reveille from the sentinels at four o’clock in the morning on June 1, 1843, awoke the camps on the Kaw [River near Westport, Missouri], and the bustle of preparation for the march [to Oregon] began. Fires were lit, breakfast cooked and eaten, the cattle and horses at the outskirts collected, and the oxen yoked. At seven o’clock the bugle sounded the advance, the various divisions filed into the positions which had been assigned to them, and the column, stretching itself to several miles in length, broke away from Westport and the Missouri, and headed for the sunset. … Men, women, and children were there, to the number of nearly a thousand, with two hundred wagons drawn by oxen. With them were several thousand horses and cattle, and also household furniture, ploughs, and seeds. It was the kind of army that never retreats. It was a nation in transit.

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