This book contains all of Bartram's journeys around North America in the late 18th century, through much of what was then Native American territory.
In the 1790s when this book was first published, the United States was newly formed and was expanding beyond its original thirteen colonies. However, American settlement into the distant lands beyond the Appalachians was limited and gradual. The vast expanse of land was unknown, and much was inhabited by Native American tribes.
Determined to traverse and discover the lands of North America, William Bartram set out from the city of Philadelphia, making his way toward the south of the continent. Along his way he describes the wilderness terrain, rivers, landscape and peoples he meets. Many of the Native American tribes he encountered were welcoming, viewing Bartram as a strange curiosity. He would join the natives to eat at feasts, observing their lives and customs, learning their dialects and eventually gaining their trust and friendship.
Several passages of this book are focused upon the unique plant and animal life which Bartram observed on his journeys. Unusual and dangerous occurrences, such as an alligator attacking his camp at night, are also related to the reader. Frequently, Bartram compares the beautiful landscapes of the Appalachians, Florida and the westerly plains to places of Greek mythology such as the Elysian fields.
A classic travelogue of substantial historical value, The Travels of William Bartram is an illustrative history of both the Native American tribes of southern North America, and the virgin landscapes of the continent.