I could probably just post this guy's picture with no description at all and nobody would even question the fact that he was a total badass. Look at this fucking guy! He looks like the kind of man that would pound a bottle of Jack or eat an alligator while skinning a human being alive for looking at him cross-eyed on a Tuesday. And he pretty much was.
Now early 19th Century America was awesome because you could be hired by the government to be what was called a "mountain man", which was essentially the official way of saying "professional badass". Basically a mountain man would get hired on by an expedition to scout out territory, kill bears, play the banjo and give people the evil eye. Well that's what Hugh Glass did for a living. Hugh was an Irishman raised by Pawnee Indians who wandered the countryside lending his services to various expeditions that required a crazy bastard capable of busting bears' heads together, collecting furs, frightening the city-folk and being a hardass.
In 1822 Hugh Glass signed on to go on a fur-hunting expedition into the northern Missouri River area. One day while he was out alone hunting for food, he was surprise attacked by a bigass angry grizzly bear. The bear knocked the rifle out of Glass' hands, bodyslammed him Bill Goldberg-style and started clawing the shit out of him. Since he was a hardass Davy Crockett motherfucker though, Glass just started punching the thing back and hacking at it with his bigass mountain man combat knife. There was this huge battle, and when his friends finally got there to see what was going on, they found a half-conscious Glass pinned down underneath the body of a big dead bear.
But the badassitude of Hugh Glass doesn't solely reside in his ability to take a grizzly bear in hand-to-hand combat. The battle had left Glass half-dead, with a broken leg and huge scratches all over his body. Basically, he was so fucked up that the commander of the mission left two guys behind and was like, "wait until he dies, bury him, and then catch up with us". So these two guys threw a bearskin coat over Glass' badly maimed body, dug him a grave and waited around for him to die.
A little while later though, some hostile Native American warriors showed up, so the two guys grabbed Glass' equipment and bolted. Well it turned out that Glass wasn't about to die after all. He regained consciousness to find that he had been left for dead with no food, weapon or equipment.
Hugh Glass re-set his broken leg, climbed out of his shallow grave, cleaned out his infected wounds, and headed out for the nearest trace of civilization. His trek would take him through hostile territory where he was at risk of being attacked by Indians and wild animals alike. With only his bear fur, Hugh Glass crawled, walked, limped and rafted 600 miles to Fort Kiowa on the Missouri River.
This is probably one of the most badass survival stories I've ever heard. The guy's half-dead, he can't even walk and he manages to make it 200 miles through the treacherous American wilderness to safety. Not only that but once he's recovered he hunts down the two guys who took his gear and left him for dead, kills one of them and lets the other one (Jim Bridger) go when he begs for his life and sincerely apologizes for ditching his comerade.
Hugh Glass went on to travel with pirates, go on more expeditions and continue to be awesome. In true badass mountain man fashion, he was killed in 1833 by hostile Indians.
Update 6/16/06: Thanks to Joe in Dallas for sending me this link that does a great job of accurately detailing the life of one of America's toughest frontiersmen.