Seven Days of the Life of a Soldier

Thompson, Alexander Ramsay, 1793-1837
“Seven Days of the Life of a Soldier, or, Journal of a Tour from Green Bay to Mackinac in a Bark Canoe,” 1831, Edward E. Ayer Manuscript Collection, Newberry Library.

Manuscript account by Major Alexander Thompson of a canoe journey from Green Bay to Mackinac Island, between June 1 and June 23, 1831. Accompanied by William Holiday, proprietor of an American Fur Company trading house in the interior, who was returning to headquarters in Mackinac to settle his accounts, and by eight French voyageurs or “pork-eaters,” Thompson left Green Bay on June 1, 1831 in a 30-foot bark canoe owned by the Company. As the travelers made their way around the Bay, he commented on the forests, wildlife, and the customs and legends of the Menomonee, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Winnebago Indians. Weather-bound by strong winds to their camp near Vermilion Island, Thompson hiked along some Indian trails, observing the abundant wild strawberries, roses, peas, grapes, currants, and gooseberries, and moccasin flowers, as well as bear, deer, bald eagle, and sturgeon. Strong winds were a constant hindrance throughout the trip, but finally, at Louse Island, they entered Lake Michigan, paddling at night in the moonlight to take advantage of the calm waters. They arrived at Mackinac Island on June 23rd, and were greeted by Company official Robert Stuart.

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