The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny, by Michael Wallis

The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny, by Michael Wallis

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In The Best Land Under Heaven,  Michael Wallis presents the ultimate cautionary tale of America’s westward expansion.

"WESTWARD HO! FOR OREGON AND CALIFORNIA!"

In the eerily warm spring of 1846, George Donner placed this advertisement in a local newspaper as he and a restless caravan prepared for what they hoped would be the most rewarding journey of a lifetime. In the following months, their jingoistic excitement would be replaced by desperate cries for help that would fall silent in the deadly snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada.

We know these early pioneers as the Donner Party, a name that has elicited horror since the late 1840s. Historian Michael Wallis has spent years retracing its ill-fated journey, uncovering hundreds of new documents that illuminate how a combination of greed, backbiting, and recklessness led the group to become hopelessly snowbound at the infamous Donner Pass in present-day California.  

“Wallis has delved into an extraordinary mass of original material ... and produced not only a definitive account of the Donner tragedy, but also a book so gripping it can scarcely be put down.” -  New York Times Book Review

“An even-handed, briskly written history of the party, destined to become the standard account of this horrid chapter of American history.” - Washington Post