Throughout his long and lusty life, James P. Beckwourth epitomized much of the best and the worst of a fabulous breed, the mountain men of the early West. Trapper, hunter, guide, horse thief, Indian fighter, and Indian chief, he also took part in the Seminole and Mexican wars and the California gold rush before he dictated his memoirs to an itinerant newspaperman, Thomas D. Bonner. Beckwourth was the only black mountain man to record his story; his autobiography, first published in 1856, is a classic of its kind, the western adventure story par excellence. But because it mixes fact and fiction it has long been regarded with suspicion. This edition reproduces the original 1856 printing, and adds notes and an epilogue by Professor Delmont R. Oswald to assist the reader in sifting Beckwourth's life from the legend Beckwourth preferred to create.