Primary Source

Excerpt from Ledyard's Journal


This is an excerpt from John Ledyard’s journal of his travels along the North American coast in the late 18th century. Ledyard, born a British subject, became an American citizen after Independence. He traveled with the British explorer Captain Cook to Alaska, Siberia, and the Pacific Islands. Along the way he encountered many cultures—indigenous and Russian—and left behind an entertaining account of his travels. Journals such as Ledyard’s often tell us as much about the traveler himself as they do about the places visited.

This source is a part of the Analyzing Travel Narratives methods module.


On the 7th of March we fell in with the coast of America in lat. 49 degrees North long. 233 East. A little below Cape Blanco, and tracing it notherly until the 28th we entered an inlet in 49 degrees North. From the 7th to the 28th we had the ruggedest weather we had yet experienced. The weather was cold, the gales of winds were successive and strong, and sometimes very violent. Our ships complained. We were short of water and had an unknown coast to explore. And the very day we purposed to reconnoitre for a harbour, the wind veered to the Northeast and forced us off the coast a full week...

It was a matter of doubt with many of us whether we should find any inhabitants here, but we had scarcely entered the inlet before we saw that hardy, that intriped, that glorious creature man approaching us from the shore. As we advanced into the inlet we found it still more favorable, and perceived several small islands between the two shores. Night approaching we came to an anchor between one of those islands and the eastern shore about one quarter of a mile from each.

In the evening we were visited by several canoes full of the natives; they came abreast our ship within two rods of us and there staid the whole night, without offering to approach nearer or to withdraw farther from us, neither would they converse with us. At the approach of day they departed in the same reserve and silence....

On the 1st of April we were visited by a number of natives in their boats, which resemble our batteaux

I had no sooner beheld these Americans than I set them down for the same kind of people that inhabit the opposite side of the continent. They are rather above the middle stature, copper-coloured, and of an athletic make. They have long black hair, which they generally wear in a club on the top of the head, they fill it when dressed with oil, paint, and the downe of birds. They also paint their faces with red, blue, and white colours, but from whence they had them or how they were prepared they would not inform us, nor could we tell. Their cloathing generally consists of skins, but they have two other sorts of garments, the one is made of the inner rind of some sort of bark twisted and united together like the woof of our coarse cloaths, the other very strongly resembles the New Zealand Togo, and is also principally made with the hair of their dogs, which are mostly white and of the domestic kind....

In their manners they resemble the other aborigines of North America, they are bold and ferocious, sly and reserved, not easily provoked but revengeful; we saw no signs of religion or worship among them, and if they sacrifice it is to the God of liberty.

How to Cite This Source

"Excerpt from Ledyard's Journal," in World History Commons, [accessed October 4, 2022]