John Wesley Powell
Native cultures knew of the Grand Canyon for millennia, but it was the explorations of Major John Wesley Powell that opened up the area for European Americans. His cadre of artists, writers and mapmakers gave the American public its first glimpse of the canyon.
Powell enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 as a private. Within two months, he was promoted to second lieutenant, and five months later he was captain. During the Battle of Shiloh, in 1862, Powell's right forearm was shattered. He remined on active duty as an artillery officer, eventually serving under Grant, Sherman, and Thomas. He resigned in 1865, and went on to teach natural history, and lead field trips into the West.
Powell launched his first expedition in May of 1869. Funded mostly by private donations, he and his crew set out to explore the thousands of miles of canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Only five of his nine men would complete the journey.