2.2 Craft and Structure


The passages that follow are two accounts of the same topic: the Oregon Trail. One is a firsthand account and one is a secondhand account. Read each and then see how to compare and contrast them.

The Oregon Trail
In 1843, thousands of people began traveling across America to the open lands of the West. Most of these people followed a path known as the Oregon Trail. Pioneers set out from towns along the Missouri River in the Midwest. They made a 2,000-mile trek to their new homes in California and Oregon. Some traveled in covered wagons. Others were on foot or horseback. The route was filled with danger and hardship.


from Across the Plains in 1844
August 1st we nooned in a beautiful grove on the north side of the Platte [River]. We had by this time got used to climbing in and out of the wagon when in motion. When performing this feat that afternoon, my dress caught on an axle helve. I was thrown under the wagon wheel, which passed over and badly crushed my leg before my father could stop the team. He picked me up and saw the extent of the injury … The news soon spread along the train and a halt was called. A surgeon was found and the limb set …


Click below to see which passage is the firsthand account and which is the secondhand account.

|Firsthand Account|

|Secondhand Account|

Now click to compare and contrast the two accounts.

|Compare and Contrast|

Why read both?

  • From the secondhand account, the reader gets more background information about what the Oregon Trail was.
  • From the firsthand account, the reader gets a better understanding why it was so dangerous.

Click below to practice comparing perspectives on your own.