John Joel Glanton was a former Texas Ranger, veteran of the Mexican-American War, and leader of the infamous Glanton Gang of scalphunters.
He was born in Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1819. He was said to have been an outlaw in Tennessee, where his family had moved, before they moved to Texas. In 1835, Glanton was living with his parents at Gonzales, Texas. Some accounts claim Glanton was engaged but his fiancée was killed that year by Lipan Apaches. He was involved in the fight for Texas independence, and later in the Mexican-American War. While a member of Walter P. Lane’s San Antonio Company of Texas Rangers in the Mexican-American War, he is reported to have murdered a Mexican civilian. Forced to flee from the American military police sent to arrest him, Glanton later re-enlisted in Jack Hays’ second regiment of the First Texas Mounted Rifles, and fought alongside Winfield Scott’s army in central Mexico.
After the war in summer 1849, Glanton (in order to finance his passage to the gold fields of California) was leading a gang of mercenaries hired by the Mexican state of Chihuahua to track down and kill bands of Apache that had been terrorising the region. This is the period in which Glanton enters Blood Meridian, and the events that will later unfold are generally true to history. As such, further biographical details here would contain significant plot spoilers. A full biography of John Joel Glanton can be found at The Handbook of Texas Online. Click here.
Chamberlain’s illustration of Glanton can also be viewed here.