Letter: 'Draw those wagons up in a circle, men'

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Sir: May I recommend Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey, by Lillian Schlissel, to Bill Bryson 'How the West wasn't won', 2 July). He will find there real stories as to how the West was won, including this extract from the diary of Catherine Haun, who left Iowa on 24 April 1849 to trek to California:

Each week seven Captains were appointed to serve on 'Grand Duty'. They were to protect the camps and animals at night. One served each night and in case of danger gave the alarm. When going into camp the 'leader wagon' was turned from the road to the right, the next wagon turned to the left, the others following close after and always alternating to right and left. In this way a large circle or corral, was formed within which the tents were pitched and the oxen herded . . . the camp fires (were) started by the side of the wagons outside the corral.

Mr Bryson is right, of course, to say that it wouldn't be possible to do this after hearing that Indians might be going to attack, but not right to say that they didn't form defensive circles.

Yours sincerely,




6 July