Although this book is called "What I Saw in California", at least half of it covers the author's journey west from Missouri. That portion is an engrossing glimpse into the trials and tribulations of a wagon train. Bryant was a medical student, and he had several opportunities to test out his knowledge in the field. His descriptions of the changing landscape are detailed and fascinating.
However, once he reaches California he provides an invaluable portrait of a country in flux. The Mexicans were losing control of the state and American immigrants were pouring in. Bryant found himself caught up in General John C. Fremont's military expedition to take the town of Santa Barbara. It turned out the soldiers had a lot more to fear from the local geography and a truly nasty storm than from Santa Barbara's inhabitants themselves. Bryant's account of the rough, wet night in which horses, mules, and artillery tumbled down steep slopes is memorable.