The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
Dated April 8, 1859, and barely 50 words in length, the letter from President Buchanan's Secretary of War would change the life of a young German-born American artist forever. Its bearer, read the letter from John B. Floyd, was to be given the “courtesy and kind attention of the commanders of such military posts as he may visit” in his capacity as an official artist accompanying the surveying party of Colonel Frederick Lander to the Nebraska Territory. Lander's mission was to repair and improve the existing road and to find a wagon route across the Rocky Mountains more passable than the Oregon Trail currently in use. Moreover, the mission was urgent: thousands of emigrants were streaming westward, still lured by the promise of gold or adventure or simply change; other thousands were straggling eastward after having found the land not as promising as hoped. In either direction the travelers needed food, water, firewood, forage for cattle, often in short to nonexistent supply, as well as a passable road and army protection.
Southgate MT. The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak. JAMA. 2007;298(8):840. doi:10.1001/jama.298.8.840