When brothers William and John Wright arrived in the United States from Ireland in 1850 and could find no other suitable employment, they joined the U.S. Army's Regiment of Mounted Rifles, which served on the Texas frontier. Their description of their experiences is unusual on several counts: it is a view of Texas in the 1850s, when personal accounts were rare, and it is written from the point of view of visitors to this nation. And because the Wrights published their book in 1857, only three years after they left the army, their story has an immediacy lacking in many memoirs.
He was a man in the prime of life, tall and slender, with black plaited hair descending all the way down his back, and a countenance, whose handsome, intelligent, and dignified expression, was scarcely concealed by the red streaks of war-paint that covered it. . . . Little mercy is shown to an Indian in war, and especially by the Texan rangers, who are scarcely, if at all, advanced beyond the savage state themselves. So the prisoner was immediately tied to a tree, and a number of men were selected to shoot him. On ascertaining his fate, he instantly commenced singing his death-song . . . which vibrated like the notes of a clarion on the air of early night . . . until his voice was lost in the fatal volley, and all was over.
This softcover facsimile of the Book Club of Texas's 1995 fine limited edition of 300 copies makes this classic firsthand account available to a broad audience for the first time since 1857. It is illustrated with wood engravings from William H. Emorys Report of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey.
Robert D. Wooster is professor of history and chair of the Department of Humanities, Texas A&M University, Corpus Cristi. He is author of three books on the U.S. Army in the West.