Francis Parkman was a 23-year-old scion of a prominent Boston family when he decided to write the history of the struggle of French and English for domination of the North American continent. In order to learn firsthand about the Indians of the Plains, he prepared himself with guides, supplies, and information, setting out from Westport, Missouri, in spring 1846 and returning that September. From that trip emerged one of the seminal books of American literature, The Oregon Trail.