John Woodhouse Audubon, son of the famous painter John James Audubon and an artist in his own right, joined Col. Henry Webb’s California Company expedition in 1849. From New Orleans the expedition sailed to the Rio Grande; it headed west overland through northern Mexico and through Arizona to San Diego, California. Cholera and outlaws decimated the group. Many of them turned back, including the leader. Audubon assumed command of those remaining and they pushed on to California, although he was forced to abandon his paints and canvases in the desert…. Throughout the whole of this long journey Mr. Audubon took notes of scenes and occurrences by the way. In his descriptions he exhibits the keen observation of the naturalist and the trained eye of the artist. The result is a remarkable picture of social conditions in Mexico, of birds and trees, of sky and mountains and the changing face of nature, of the barrenness of the desert and the difficulties of the journey, of the ruined missions of California, of methods of mining, and of the chaos of races and babel of tongues in the gold fields. It was manifestly impossible to keep a daily journal, and the entries were made from time to time as opportunity occurred. Considering the circumstances under which they were taken, the notes are remarkable for their accuracy. Because it was not edited by Audubon, the text (and this recording) ends abruptly.
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