Hunting Bear and Panther in the Old South: The Writings of Dr. Henry J. Peck of
The bear and panther that populated the woods and canebrakes of the lower Mississippi Valley in the 1800s left a permanent mark on the collective memory of that region. Unfortunately only a relatively small number of writings from that time have survived that provide real insight into the habits of those creatures and how the early settlers of that region hunted them. Writer James T. McCafferty has added richly to that scant body of Southern lore by collecting some wonderful but previously overlooked articles by an antebellum cotton planter and physician and presenting them in his new book, Hunting Bear and Panther in the Old South: The Writings of Dr. Henry J. Peck of Sicily Island, Louisiana. McCafferty, author of The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebrakes of the Old South, and numerous articles on hunting history, introduces Peck’s writings with a brief biography of Dr. Peck (1803-1881) and an overview of the works collected. The book contains not only Peck’s writing on the life cycles and the hunting of the animals named in the title, but also includes articles on hog and deer hunting in his day. The book is relatively short – at 20,000 words, about a third or less the length of a standard 60,000 to 80,000 word book – but priced accordingly and is nonetheless fascinating for its length. Readers will find in Peck’s articles rarely encountered details concerning the weapons and methods used by his contemporary sportsmen, such as his descriptions of the “fire hunting” of deer, the making of the knives used by bear hunters, and accounts of dangerous—and even deadly—encounters with panther and bear. One of the two appendices to the book adds Peck’s personal investigations and opinions concerning early 18th century battles between the French and the Natchez Indian tribe that took place on or near his appropriately named Battleground Plantation. Hunters and lovers of Southern history will not be disappointed in this book.