The author who would become famous as Mark Twain started out in life as Samuel Clemens. Born and raised along the Mississippi River, Clemens would start out in life as a steamboat pilot.
This book, which was written after he was a famous writer, tells the story of his life on the river. In the first part, he is a cub pilot under his mentor, Horace Bixby, who teaches him how to navigate the treacherous river. Then he gets his own license and starts to pilot on his own, experiencing many adventures and meeting many interesting people. The very very wordy Twain mixes it up in this part of the book, describing both the river, steamboats, steamboating, etc., and what happens to him as a pilot. In May of 1861, his career will end because of the Civil War. By chance he will pilot the last steamboat from New Orleans to St. Louis. Afterwards, it's used by the Union Army to transport troops.
In the second part of the book, Twain describes a trip he takes back to the Mississippi in 1882. Boarding in St. Louis, he takes steamships down to New Orleans and then all the way back up the river to Minnesota. This is an interesting part of the book because it includes a fair amount of commentary about life in America after the Civil War, reflecting on the differences between the North and the South.
This report prepared by Ann Gaines