Page 31. " The war's over "
Fall of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War (1851), by Carl Nebel
Public DomainFall of Mexico City during the Mexican-American War (1851), by Carl Nebel - Credit: The War Between the United States and Mexico

The war being referred to is the Mexican-American War (April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848).

The roots of the conflict lay in the Texas Revolution when Anglo settlers in Mexican Texas declared their independence from Mexico, and defeated Mexican President Santa Anna's army at the Battle of the San Jacinto. Texan independence was recognised by the USA, but not by Mexico.

In 1845 U.S. congress voted to annex Texas, and President Polk demanded further Mexican territory. That led, in 1846, to the Mexican-American War. U.S. troops invaded Mexico and, within two years, captured Mexico City, effectively securing victory for the Americans.

At the end of the war, by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), Mexico was forced to cede over 55% of its territory and resources to the USA.



Page 35. " What do you think of the treaty? "
Cover of the exchange copy of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Public DomainCover of the exchange copy of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo - Credit: National Archives and Records Administration

This is a reference to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United States to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico City, that ended the Mexican-American War on February 2, 1848.

Under the terms of the treaty, Mexico ceded to the United States Upper California and New Mexico. This was known as the Mexican Cession and included all of present-day California, Nevada and Utah as well as most of Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of the United States.

Page 35. " You werent with the Volunteers at Monterrey were you? "
Depiction of fighting in the city during the Battle of Monterrey
Public DomainDepiction of fighting in the city during the Battle of Monterrey - Credit: Henry Montgomery

When the Mexican-American War broke out in 1846, American troop strength was too low to even consider fielding a foreign occupation force, necessitating the recruitment of volunteer fighters. Tennessee confirmed its reputation as the ‘Volunteer State’ after the secretary of war’s request for 2,800 Tennesseans to join the ranks was met by 30,000 men eager to enlist.

The Battle of Monterrey (September 21–24, 1846) was a significant battle fought during the Mexican-American War. Under the command of Zachary Taylor, the U.S. army, combined with volunteers from Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, took the city of Monterrey after defeating General Pedro de Ampudia and the Mexican Army of the North.

Page 36. " Did you know that when Colonel Doniphan took Chihuahua City he inflicted over a thousand casualties on the enemy and lost only one man and him all but a suicide? "
Alexander William Doniphan (July 9, 1808 – August 8, 1887)
Public DomainAlexander William Doniphan (July 9, 1808 – August 8, 1887) - Credit: Library of Congress

Alexander William Doniphan was an American attorney, soldier and politician, who gained fame for his military leadership during the 1838 Mormon War and then later during the Mexican-American War.

During the war with Mexico, he led American troops to victory in the Battle of Sacramento, enabling the capture of the city of Chihuahua. Although Captain White is exaggerating the true extent of the Mexican casualties, it was nonetheless a remarkable victory. Despite the Americans being outnumbered by more than four to one in troops, and nearly two to one in artillery, Doniphan’s army lost only one dead and eleven wounded to the Mexican loss of 320 dead, 560 wounded and 72 prisoners.

Page 36. " We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That’s right. Others come in to govern for them. "
Spirit of the Frontier (1872), painted by John Gast , portrays settlers moving west, guided and protected by the goddess-like figure of Columbia and aided by technology (railways, telegraphs) as they drive Native Americans and bison into obscurity
Public DomainSpirit of the Frontier (1872), painted by John Gast , portrays settlers moving west, guided and protected by the goddess-like figure of Columbia and aided by technology (railways, telegraphs) as they drive Native Americans and bison into obscurity - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Captain White has just given a succinct definition of Manifest Destiny, the 19th century American belief that the United States was destined to expand eastwards across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. The ideology was also used by Democrats in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico.

The concept of American expansion is much older, but the phrase itself was coined by the influential journalist John L. O’Sullivan in 1845. The term would fall out of favour by the 1860s and by the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, territorial expansion ceased to be promoted as being part of America’s destiny. Instead, expansionism was replaced with interventionism, with America effectively positioning itself as an ‘international police power’.

Many critics of American foreign policy continue to use the phrase Manifest Destiny to characterise interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere, interpreting it as the underlying cause of what some describe as ‘American imperialism.’

Page 36. " Paredes is already calling for secession from the Mexican government. "
José Mariano Epifanio Paredes y Arrillaga
Public DomainJosé Mariano Epifanio Paredes y Arrillaga (circa 7 January 1797 – 7 September 1849) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga was a conservative general who came to power in an 1846 coup d’etat to become president of Mexico at the start of the Mexican-American War.

After the Americans invaded and Mexico descended into chaos, Paredes decided the best way to preserve the country was to return to a monarchy with a Spanish sovereign. In opposition to this, revolts broke out and Paredes was deposed and exiled to France.

He would return to Mexico in 1848, in time to oppose the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the war with the United States. He died in poverty in Mexico City in September 1849, having failed the previous year in a second attempt to seize power.

Page 36. " Right now they are forming in Washington a commission to come out here and draw up the boundary lines between our country and Mexico. "
1856 Mitchell Map including the territory acquired following the Mexican American War and by the 1854 Gadsden Purchase
Public Domain1856 Mitchell Map including the territory acquired following the Mexican American War and by the 1854 Gadsden Purchase - Credit: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

Followng the Mexican-American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo set the boundary between Mexico and the United States and provided for the establishment of a Mexican-United States Boundary Commission to survey and mark that boundary. On July 6, 1849, the United States commission met formally for the first time with the Mexican commission. Six years later, on October 15, 1855, the commission finished its surveying work, establishing a United States-Mexico borderline that remains virtually unchanged to this day.

The new boundary line placed on the American side the lands already ceded by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (modern Texas, California, Utah, Colorado, and most of New Mexico and Arizona) as well as the remaining bits of New Mexico and Arizona which the Santa Anna government had sold to the U.S. in the Gadsen Purchase of 1853.

Page 37. " We have the tacit support of Governor Burnett of California. "
Peter Hardeman Burnett (November 15, 1807– May 17, 1895)
Public DomainPeter Hardeman Burnett (November 15, 1807– May 17, 1895) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Peter Hardeman Burnett was an American politician and the first state Governor of California, serving from December 20, 1849 to January 9, 1851.*

His most significant political contribution was in helping to facilitate a number of racist and xenophobic policies, including the exclusion of African Americans from the state (lasting until 1926) and various federal and state Californian laws disenfranchising foreign labourers, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

With regards to the local indigenous peoples of California, Burnett made his position clear in his Inaugural Address: ‘That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected...’ This policy would continue with successive administrations, where the state offered $25 to $50 for evidence of dead Indians.



* The reference to Governor Burnett is made somewhat anachronistic by references in the same chapter to Paredes and to General Worth. Paredes died in September, 1849, and Worth died in May of that same year. Peter Hardeman Burnett did not assume the role of Governor of California until December 1849.

Page 37. " Monroe Doctrine or no. "
Newspaper cartoon from 1912 about the Monroe Doctrine
Public DomainNewspaper cartoon from 1912 about the Monroe Doctrine - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Monroe Doctrine is a United States policy introduced on December 2, 1823, which stated that any efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention.

The doctrine was issued by President James Monroe at a time when many Latin American countries were on the verge of becoming independent from the Spanish Empire. Aiming to prevent European powers from taking over Spain’s colonies, the Monroe Doctrine prohibited further colonization of the Americas by European countries with the promise that the United States would refrain from interfering with existing European colonies or the internal concerns of European countries.

A defining moment in U.S. foreign policy, the Monroe Doctrine would be invoked by many of the nation’s statesmen and several presidents in the years to come, including Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and others.

Page 39. " There are monte games at tables by the wall "
Monte in the Mines (1851), by J. D. Borthwick
Public DomainMonte in the Mines (1851), by J. D. Borthwick - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monte is a Spanish card game, usually used in gambling where the dealer/banker pays out on matching cards.

The national card game of Mexico, monte became popular in the United States, especially Texas, after it was brought back by troops returning from the Mexican-American War.

Page 40. " and Lipan indians "
Lipan warrior on horseback (c. 1854-57)
Public DomainLipan warrior on horseback (c. 1854-57) - Credit: Library of Congress

The Lipan are an Apachean tribal group, who once ranged over present-day Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.

The Lipan Apache population was estimated at 6,000 in 1700, but in 1764 their numbers were decimated by a smallpox epidemic, followed by a policy of extermination carried out by the Spanish. From 1869 to 1881, the Lipan also faced persecution from the Mexican Army assisted by United States Army troops.

Present-day Lipan mostly live throughout the U.S. Southwest, in Texas, New Mexico and the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, as well as with the Mescalero tribe on the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico.

Page 40. " deputations of Karankawas tall and austere, their faces dyed blue and their hands locked about their sixfoot spears, all but naked savages who with their painted skins and their whispered taste for human flesh seemed outrageous presences even in that fabled company. "
Karankawas as depicted by Lino Sánchez y Tapia (c. 1828-1829)
Public DomainKarankawas as depicted by Lino Sánchez y Tapia (c. 1828-1829) - Credit:

The Karankawa were an indigenous people, now extinct as a tribal group, who inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas. Exposure to new infectious diseases and conflict with the newly arrived Europeans brought them to extinction before 1860.

Karankawa men were very tall, described as between six and seven feet. They tattooed and painted their bodies, and pierced each nipple, as well their lips, with small pieces of cane. They also practiced head flattening.

Rumours of Karankawa cannibalism may have arisen from early explorers confusing the tribe with the Atakapa, who were similar in appearance and also inhabited the Gulf Coast. The Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca refuted the notion that the Karankawa were cannibals after living with them, and described the Karankawa’s shock after de Vaca and his fellow conquistadors were forced into cannibalising their own dead after shipwrecking off Galveston Bay.

Page 41. " twilight down in the Laredito. Bats fly forth from their roostings in courthouse and tower and circle the quarter "
The Military Plaza at San Antonio showing the courthouse and tower (1857)
Public DomainThe Military Plaza at San Antonio showing the courthouse and tower (1857) - Credit: William H. Emory

The Laredito was an old barrio in San Antonio, located west of San Pedro Creek on the road to Laredo. It was populated primarily by Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent).

The Courthouse and Jail Building was located on the north-west corner of the Military Plaza in San Antonio. Construction began in 1850 on the two-story building which housed the Marshal and City Jail until the new City Hall was completed in 1892. It became known as the ‘Bat Cave’ on account of the huge number of bats that roosted there.


Thousands of bats made their homes between the roof and the whitewashed canvas ceiling of the courthouse. It was necessary, whenever court convened, to drive the bats out by using two long poles and a cross-piece of timber, which was bumped against the canvas ceiling.

(Charles Herff, The Charles Adelbert Herff Reminiscences)

Page 42. " mennonite "

A mennonite is a member of an evangelical Protestant sect, originating in Europe in the 16th century, that opposes violence and infant baptism. Mennonites only baptize believers as adults; they restrict marriage to members of the denomination, oppose war and bearing arms, and are noted for their simplicity of living and plain dress.


Page 42. " The United States Army. General Worth. "
William Jenkins Worth (March 1, 1794 – May 7, 1849)
Public DomainWilliam Jenkins Worth (March 1, 1794 – May 7, 1849) - Credit: Matthew B Brady

William Jenkins Worth was a United States general who fought in many of the critical battles of the Mexican-American War. When U.S. forces entered Mexico City towards the end of the war, Worth personally climbed the roof of the National Palace to replace the Mexican flag with the Stars and Stripes.

He assumed command of the Military Departments of Texas and New Mexico on December 26, 1848, and established his headquarters at San Antonio. He died during the cholera epidemic of that winter and spring on May 7, 1849.

Page 43. " Do ye cross that river with yon filibuster armed ye’ll not cross it back. "
Filibusterers under William Walker during his occupation of Nicaragua (1856)
Public DomainFilibusterers under William Walker during his occupation of Nicaragua (1856) - Credit: Library of Congress
The filibuster William Walker's execution by a Honduran firing squad
Public DomainThe filibuster William Walker's execution by a Honduran firing squad (1860) - Credit: R.M. Devens

The term filibuster was predominantly used to describe United States citizens who engaged in unauthorised military expeditions into foreign countries, either to foment insurrections or usurp that country’s government.

The high watermark of filibuster activity was around the mid 19th century when a number of expeditions were launched aiming to take control of various Caribbean, Mexican, and Central-American territories, including John Quitman in Cuba, William Walker in Baja California, Sonora, and Nicaragua, and Henry Alexander Crabb in Sonora.

Although strictly prohibited by the Neutrality Act of 1794, the filibusters were rarely prosecuted by the American government. On the rare occasions when U.S. authorities did press charges, the filibusters were usually acquitted by American juries intoxicated by the idea of Manifest Destiny.

The age of filibustering eventually came to an end as Manifest Destiny fell out of favour with the coming of the American Civil War.

Page 44. " Pursued by cholera "
1831 lithograph depiction of cholera pandemic
Public Domain1831 lithograph depiction of cholera pandemic - Credit: Robert Seymour

Cholera is a disease transmitted primarily through consuming contaminated drinking water or food. The main symptoms are profuse and violent cramps, diarrhea and vomiting, with dehydration so rapid and severe the blood thickens and the skin become deathlike and blue. If not aggressively treated, cholera victims can die within a matter of hours.

Cholera became one of the most widespread and deadly diseases of the 19th century, killing an estimated tens of millions of people worldwide. The second cholera pandemic, also known as the reign of King Cholera, caused more than 150,000 deaths in America from 1832 to 1873.

Page 44. " Attacked by Comanches. "
Various Comanche portraits
Public DomainVarious Comanche portraits - Credit: Robfergusonjr
Comanche warriors (ca. 1867-74)
Public DomainComanche warriors (ca. 1867-74) - Credit: The University of Texas at Austin

The Comanche are a Native American group whose historic range (the Comancheria) consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas.

The Comanche may have numbered around 45,000 in the late 18th century, but by the mid-19th century they were on the verge of annihilation as a result of Eurasian diseases brought to the New World by European settlers. Outbreaks of smallpox (1817, 1848) and cholera (1849) caused the Comanche population to fall from an estimated 20,000 in mid-century to just a few thousand by the 1870s.

Today, the Comanche Nation consists of 14,700 members, about half of whom live in Oklahoma. 

Page 46. " 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.

Page 47. " Now wolves had come to follow them, great pale lobos with yellow eyes that trotted neat of foot or squatted in the shimmering heat to watch them where they made their noon halt. "
Mexican Grey Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMexican Grey Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) - Credit: Eric Kilby

Up until the 1900s, the Mexican Grey Wolf (sometimes known as El Lobo) ranged throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts from central Mexico to western Texas, southern New Mexico, and central Arizona.

Around the turn of the 20th century, reduction of deer and elk numbers by human hunters forced Mexican Wolves into attacking domestic livestock. This led to intensive efforts to eradicate the Mexican Grey Wolf, and by the 1950s, private trappers and government agencies had virtually wiped out the subspecies in the United States.

Today, only an estimated 340 Mexican Wolves survive in captivity.

Page 48. " like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a nameless wheeling in the night. "

Anareta (deriving from the Greek, meaning ‘destroyer’) is an astrological term for any planet that acts as a harbinger of doom, roughly translating as ‘the planet which destroys life’.

In astrology, the anareta specifically refers to the planet in the eighth house of a person’s horoscope and is used in predicting the manner of a person’s death. When malefic planets have agency in so-called anaretic places it portends a violent death.

Page 49. " a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men "
Illustration of St. Elmo’s Fire appearing on masts of ship at sea
Public DomainIllustration of St. Elmo’s Fire appearing on masts of ship at sea - Credit: The Aerial World

This is a description of a weather phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s Fire, a bright blue or violet glowing light, sometimes resembling fire in appearance, caused by the ionization of the air during thunderstorms inside of a strong electric field.

It is usually spotted upon tall, sharply pointed structures such as lightning rods, masts, spires and chimneys, as well as on aircraft wings. It has also been recorded appearing upon leaves, grass, and even at the tips of cattle horns.

It is named after the patron saint of sailors Erasmus of Formiae (also known as St. Elmo) since the phenomenon sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms.