"for the pale sutler who pursued them drives unseen and his lean horse and his lean cart leave no track upon such ground or any ground. By a thousand fires in the iron blue dusk he keeps his commissary and he’s a wry and grinning tradesman good to follow every campaign or hound men from their holes in just those whited regions where they’ve gone to hide from God."
Sutler's tent at the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War (1864)
Public DomainSutler's tent at the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War (1864) - Credit: Library of Congress

A sutler, or victualer, is a merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp or in quarters. They were common during the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, where they sold their wares from the backs of wagons or temporary tents, allowing them to travel along with an army or to remote military outposts.

The word is of Dutch origin, where it appears as soetelaar or zoetelaar, and originally meant ‘one who does dirty work, a drudge, a scullion’.

McCarthy's 'pale sutler' is, of course, Death personified, as cholera preys upon Captain White's men.