Gerald Curtis's Reviews > Ordeal by Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party

Ordeal by Hunger by George R. Stewart
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Mar 22, 2012

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Read in March, 2012

I’m really glad I read this detailed historical account, because I found out I had a lot of ignorant, naïve conceptions. For example, I had assumed the gist of their story and difficulties were when they got snowed in before they could make the pass to California. But I found out they had many life-threatening difficulties along the way, which were so serious that they almost didn’t even make it to the mountains where they became the famous “Donner Party.”

I also assumed that they and their tragedy were not known or discovered until the next spring, when, in fact, they were known and several rescue attempts were made over the pass. (With the snow as much as thirty feet deep) So devastating were these attempts that men died in the attempt, and those that did finally make it through were so exhausted and starved themselves, that they proved to be of little aid to the stranded pioneers. This story was way more complex than I had imagined. I was also surprised to learn that the cannibalism did not start at the stranded camp, but in the attempt of one of the rescue parties to return over the pass back to California.

This was an excellent account, not just relating the history, but detailing the character and personalities of the people involved and helping to account for choices made.
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