In September, McCulloch returned home, and soon after his arrival, called on Colonel David Crockett, who was making up an expedition to go to Texas, to take part in the revolution that had then broken out in Mexico; the whole south-west at that time was alive with feelings of sympathy for the Texians, and were daily flocking to their standard. McCulloch agreed to accompany Colonel Crockett to Texas. Unfortunately, however, McCulloch did not arrive until early in January, and finding the party was gone, he proceeded on by himself to the river Brazos, where he was taken very ill, and did not recover until after the fall of the Alamo.
McCulloch's disappointment was very great at not being able to join the gallant band of patriots at the time, but which afterwards proved very fortunate for him; for Colonel. Travis, after having sustained a siege for thirteen days with only one hundred and eighty Texians against Santa Anna's army, fell with his brave little band, having previously killed nine hundred of the enemy! After his recovery, he descended the Brazos river in a boat to Gross Plant, where the Texian army had assembled under General Houston, and was induced to join the artillery by their making him captain of a gun.
This he gallantly served at the battle of San Jacinto, where Santa Anna was made prisoner, and his army of killed or captured. He also distinguished himself in a fight with the Indians, who burnt Linnville, called the battle of Plum Creek. He was likewise at the taking of Mier, but not agreeing with the plans of the The regulars were encamped along the banks of the river, which here makes a circling bend, about a quarter of a mile from the town; while opposite, from Fort Brown upwards, was the encampment of the first brigade of the Louisiana Volunteers.
The long lines of tents on each side of the river looked most beautiful; it was a new scene to us, as we had never beheld such a large encampment. The evening parades of the companies of the different regiments made a fine display. The bands of the regiments generally played until tattoo, the music of which produced the most delightful sensations, being so near the water. The battle-fields of "Palo Alto" and "Resaca de la Palma" were still fresh, and the incidents green in the memory of the officers, and many were the interesting stories which were related to us, as having occurred at the time.
Martin Scott: "As you well know," said he, "Scott never was without his favourite dogs; and as we were ordered to charge the battery in command of Gen. Scott, thought that he was after game, when running ahead, they let out in full blast, and were close on to the heels of the Mexicans, when one of them was unfortunately shot by the enemy. On the 4th of July, the day broke with all the glory and splendour worthy of the commemoration of American liberty.
A national salute was fired at sunrise, noon, and sunset, from the different batteries, in honour of the day; and as peal after peal of cannon burst upon the air, the reverberation seemed to echo across the plains of Mexico the shout of liberty. The soldiers of the late battles felt as it were a congeniality of feeling with our forefathers, only that they were freemen , but fighting to free the slaves and serfs of Mexico from the hands of tyrants and oppressors, as well as to avenge the insult to our national honour.
The "stars and stripes' waved on high from the surrounding battlements, and the plazas of Matamoras; and the Mexicans themselves joined in the gladness of freedom's anniversary. This was the first time of such an occurrence in a foreign, as well as an enemy's country. The volunteers gave a sumptuous dinner, in honour of the day.
Night closed the day of festivity with a fandango, given by the Mexican ladies, and many an impression was made by the American cavaliers upon the dark-eyed daughters of Mexico. The next day, our company left for Reynoso, but lying ill at the time, we were prevented from accompanying it. In a few days after, our first-lieutenant, John McMullen, came down with despatches, and in the mean time the river having risen very high, from the recent heavy rains overflowing the banks, the roads were rendered impassable.
Steamers now, however, were actively employed in transporting military and commissary stores to Comargo, which had lately been garrisoned by a part of the troops of the second division, and we would thus be enabled to go up by the river. Calling on the commanding general soon after our recovery, to ascertain the chances of transportation, he remarked, after some pleasant conversation, that he was perfectly deluged with letters, and that much of his time was occupied in making replies. Taylor, smiling, as he handed us two letters, "to show you the diversity of subjects that I am called upon to respond to, you may look at these.
The other was from an Irish woman, who wanted to know if her son Mike was killed , as she had not heard from him since the late battles. We feel sure that such letters would not have received attention at Washington , but both of them were answered by the general, carrying out the maxim that nothing is beneath the attention of a great man ; and we left him, impressed with the great goodness of his heart. In Matamoras, there lives an old Frenchman, who keeps a bakery. Many years ago, he lived in New Orleans, and on entering into conversation with him, he told us he had married in Matamoras, and now had grandchildren.
We saw one of his married daughters, who was well educated, and far superior to any Mexican woman we had yet met. She was rather pretty and quite engaging. They owned a very large garden opposite, filled with fruits and flowers which were most beautiful. The lady took us over, and showed us through the garden, and took evident pleasure in explaining to us the names of them in Spanish.
She said, that next to her children she thought of her flower-garden; that she had often heard of our fine gardens in the United States, and had longed to see them. She picked a large white double rose, which she said was called the "Queen of Spain," and presented it to us, remarking, as she looked up at the green oranges, "When our fruit gets ripe you must come to see us, for I hope by that time the war will be over.
On Sunday, the 12th of July, we attended mass with some officers, and returning from the chapel, we fell in with two surgeons Departure for Reynoso on the Steamer "J. WE had long been waiting most anxiously for a boat to take us to Reynoso, in order to join our company, which we were fearful would go out on a scout before we could reach it. An opportunity At night we stopped at Gen. Smith's camp of the volunteers, which was then some fifteen miles from Matamoras, on the same side of the river. Several of the volunteer officers came on board to see us, and after landing a few stores, we kept on our way again.
The Rio Grande is certainly one of the most crooked rivers in all North America. It partakes very much of the character of our own Mississippi, and is in fact very much like it, only not so wide or deep. The river being very high, a quantity of trees and drift-wood were running down with a sweeping current of about six knots per hour. The wood piles on the banks were quite numerous for the short time our boats had been running, as steamers never before ran so high up the river. The corn fields were one sheet of water, and the Mexicans were gathering the ears in canoes!
The huts on the banks were made of mud and cane, with no order or neatness about them. The farms generally were very fine, and we passed some most beautiful places for the opening of plantations. We made but little headway at night, on account of the strong current frequently forcing the boat into the banks, in turning the bends of the river, and so violent were the concussions, that we were often alarmed for our safety. On we sped, however, invading the enemy's country without opposition; and it was the subject of remark, that we were thus permitted to proceed without resistance.
For, had the enemy chosen, small parties might have lain in ambush, and injured and harassed our boats very much; certain it is, that no enemy could take such a liberty with us in our country.garmausanbuta.ga/1557-fin-de.php
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At 10, A. Here we stopped to wood, and learning that our company had gone to Comargo, we remained on board. The road to the town was up a long and steep hill, and it was so extremely hot, that we could not be induced to venture its ascent. Having received our complement of wood, we pursued our course. At 2, P. After many ineffectual efforts to get off, the soldiers were The next morning we spent in ineffectual attempts to get over the bar.
The weather was intensely hot, and there was but a slight chance of success. In the mean time, the soldiers were brought over in the yawl. We were sitting out on the boiler deck, after dinner, when Capt. McMullen was at the battle of Mier, and had been made a prisoner, drew out of him the following story. As the battle is a matter of history, we will omit that part of his narrative, although it was most graphically described at the time, and proceed from where the Texians surrendered. But this we did not know till afterwards. It was put to vote, and as our men were badly cut up, it was thought most prudent to do so, on conditions that we should be honourably treated as prisoners of war.
On coming out into the streets, however, we saw the terrible havoc that our rifles had made. The tops of their houses were covered with the dead, and the gutters on the roofs streamed with their blood. Had we but held out, the day would have been our own. Here we were imprisoned for some time. Previous to being locked up, Col. Ortice, who was more kind to us than any other officer, marched us around and showed us the town and the plaza.
We were evidently the greatest curiosity that the inhabitants had ever seen, for they flocked in numbers to see us. Our garments were soiled and tattered, and our condition most wretched. As we passed the doors of the houses, the women pitied us very much, and after we were locked up, the Mexican girls came and threw cakes and other eatables over the walls to us, though it was strictly forbidden at the time. On our arrival at Tacubaya, near the city of Mexico Madame Tobias, and other French ladies, determined to give us a The walls were beautifully painted, resembling our papered walls at home; the furniture was very costly, and every thing else was in accordance with it.
There were many young ladies present, one of whom played on the piano, and sang a song for us. The song caused a great deal of merriment and hearty laughter. But there was no getting off; no excuse would do, and I was forced to take a stand by a fair girl upon the floor. My bashfulness was extreme, and the mischievous girls discovering the cause, for I was not the only one in the scrape, enjoyed the fun to the utmost.
After the dance was over, and we had partaken of some refreshment, what was our surprise to find that our noble host had procured any quantity of clothing for us! I was shown into a room where a bath had been prepared for me, and shortly after, while making my toilet, several of the ladies came in and insisted upon aiding to dress me. They combed my hair with their own hands, arranged my fine linen collar for me, and showed me how to tie the silk sash about my waist. All this time they seemed to take evident delight at my confusion, and their conversation was continually interrupted with roars of laughter.
Having completed my toilet for me, they brought me a looking-glass, and I assure y [ I could only express my gratitude by kissing their hands; and one of my most gr [ It was now about 5, P. To give one an idea of the serpentine bends of the river, although we were fifteen miles from Reynoso by water, yet the town was only one mile and a half off by land, and we could plainly see the spire of the church, and the tops of the houses! McMullen and ourself determined to ride back to town, and if it was practicable, to go up by land. So we took our horses on shore, and saddled up.
The town is quite neat, and is prettily laid off; the houses are principally built of a gray stone, many of which had been injured by the late flood; the church stands out in bold relief on the river side of the plaza, fronting towards it. Here we found the 1st infantry encamped, the officers of which kindly asked us to stay to supper, which we did. After talking over the news, and partaking of some of Mr.
Murphey's "whisky toddy," having concluded to remain on the boat, we started to return, Lieut. It was now late, and the night very dark, and after riding about a mile or so, we found that we had taken the wrong read. We then turned back, and discovering a light, we rode up to it, and found two little shepherd boys, miserably clad, lying by a fire, whom we obtained to show us the road to the steamboat. After paying them, seeing that the poor boys trembled with the cold night air, we offered them a drink of liquor, which the eldest seemed to relish very much.
One could not help but pity the little fellows; they were used to hardships, however, for a roof seldom or never covered their heads. Having discharged a large portion of our freight, which was left in charge of Capt. Chapman and his company, we got under weigh at daylight, on the morning of the 17th, and succeeded in getting over the bar, and were once more on our way for Comargo, which is about miles from Reynoso. The afternoon was cloudy, with rain, and as the navigation was difficult, we lay by all night. The next day, at 3, P. The scenery here is wild and rugged, the banks being very high and steep, for the river had fallen very much since we left Matamoras.
Three miles from the mouth, we stopped at Clay Davis's place, on the east bank of the Rio Grande, called the "City cf the Rio Grande," a beautiful situation, and the best point on the river. Whatever the city is to be, time will tell; it now, however, contained only a few huts. Some two miles above the city of Rio Grande, on the left bank of the San Juan, is situated the town of Comargo, which but a few weeks ago was one of the finest built towns in this section of country, and contained a population of nearly three thousand.
Here we were welcomed by many friends, and were soon conducted to the camp of the Rangers, which lay at the upper end of the town. Our mess, in company with three others, occupied a long tent open at both ends, formerly used for an hospital, an old concern which had served to keep out the sun and rain; while the rest occupied the vacant and ruined huts around. Many of the men had just come in from grazing their horses, and were now occupied in grooming them; others were cooking over fires, and preparing supper.
At sundown we were invited by our mess to take a cup of coffee, out of a tin pot, and was reminded by them, after our hearty meal, that our cook-day would come on Monday. It was a fine evening, and the Rangers sat round in groups listening to the songs and stories of their comrades. There is no place like camp for studying character. Men are there seen in their true light, and from the intimate association, every trait which is noble and good, or otherwise, is sure to manifest itself.
There can be no deceit or affectation practised there to advantage. And whatever may be the rank or station of men in life, in camp all find their level. The aristocracy of wealth which governs in large cities among On Sunday, the 19th, at daylight, a party of us went out about a mile and a half to graze our horses. The morning was beautiful, and as is always the case when we meet with new scenery, it elevated the soul, and one became more impressed with the grandeur of God's works. The country around looked bright and cheerful, the birds were singing their morning carols, and the green fields and forests of chaparral were pleasing to the eye.
We carried our arms with us, and on arriving at the pasturage, we slipped our horses' bridles around their necks, and merely unbuckled the girths without taking off the saddle, so that in case of surprise, we would be ready for a fight or flight. We then untied our cabaristas or Mexican halters, which are about some twenty or thirty feet long, and holding the end in our hands, lay down and let our horses graze at will.
The grass here was only tolerable, owing to the late overflow. On returning, we met several small parties of Mexicans on horseback, some of whom were carrying women before them, instead of behind them, as is the custom in our country. On reaching camp we rode down to the river, and watered our horses. They did not mind our presence at all, and swam with great ease and activity. After feeding and grooming our horses we went to breakfast. To have seen the different messes sitting round their meal, one would have thought, from the savage-looking mien of the men, with their long matted hair and beards, and their singular costumes, that we were a band of brigands.
After breakfast, having determined to go to church, we completed our toilet by greasing our boots, which came up over the caps of our knees, instead of blacking them. I was surprised, however, to see with what neatness they did up the clothes. The houses were generally miserably furnished. Some, however, were quite neat. They have very pretty worked cushions, which, on entering a house, they always place in a chair for you to sit on. They generally treated us kindly, but were very suspicious and distrustful: and whenever there were Mexican men about, they would refuse to converse with us.
The women keep the money and the treasure of their husbands. Steamers were daily arriving with subsistence, stores, and munitions of war. There might have been frequently seen four or five steamers at a time at the landing, besides the ferry boats which were constantly crossing and recrossing the river.
The banks were crowded with barrels and boxes, and teams rattled along at as dangerous a rate as in one of our great cities. The whole of the Second Division of the army, under Gen. Worth, had arrived, and every thing told that great preparations were making for stirring events, the character of By James T. As soon as the intelligence of the critical situation of the American army on the Rio Grande reached Texas, and Gen. Taylor's call for volunteers was heard throughout the boundaries of the new state, the spirit of patriotism and martial glory which had burned so brightly and so long during the darkest periods of the "Star Republic's" history, burst forth anew to gleam as brightly as in the days of its infant liberty.
In thirty-six hours after the express arrived, Capt. Ben McCulloch had raised a choice company on the banks of the Guadaloupe, and set out for the seat of hostilities. This company was perhaps the best mounted, armed, equipped, and appointed corps that was out in the ranging service; and from the time of its arrival at head-quarters until after its disbandment at Monterey, enjoyed more of the trust and confidence of the commanding general than any other volunteer company of the invading army.
To this company we had the honour to belong; and in venturing to give a detail of some of the expeditions in which it was engaged, we shall make the account most faithful and true. On the 13th of May we arrived at San Patricio, and received the news, much to our chagrin and disappointment, of the engagements of the 8th and 9th. We had hoped to have reached the army before a battle would be fought, but the distance we had to ride, although making forced marches, rendered it impossible for us to have done so.
But although we were not able to participate in and share the glories of the 8th and 9th, we joyed to learn that Walker and his men had won imperishable renown. With the hope of still being in time to join in the pursuit of the defeated army, we hurried on to Corpus Christi, and the next day took up the line of march down Padre's Island to Point Isabel. Our way, after leaving Corpus Christi, lay along the sea-shore of the main land, until we came to the ford, which we were compelled to cross The Laguna del Madre, an arm of the sea which separates the island from the main, is here about five miles wide, and it really looks like going to sea on horseback when you wade off from the land, and direct your course for the dimly seen shores of the island.
The waves beat up against our horses' sides, and it was only with much difficulty that we could preserve our fire-arms from contact with the salt water. The water was so deep that it reached almost to our saddle-bows, and several of our horses narrowly escaped being bogged in the quicksands, which lie in dangerous proximity to the course of the ford.
We waded across, however, without any serious mishap, and encamped near nightfall on the extreme northern point of the island. The next morning, by the dawn of day, we were on the march along the sea-beaten coast. The island is uninhabited save by one old man, who follows the business of a wrecker, and lives not far from Point Isabel, in a wild-looking place, which he calls, after himself, "Tilley's Camp.
Starting early in the morning, and riding until mid-day, we would stop to noon it, i. This monotonous course was pursued from day to day, and never were a set of men or horses more heartily tired of any one portion of this earth's surface, than we and our steeds were of Padre's Island. The island is one hundred and twenty-five miles long, and averages only a mile in width, containing no sign of vegetation, save a species of sour wiry grass, which our horses would only eat when compelled by hunger.
There is not a single tree throughout its whole extent. On all sides is to be seen sand hillocks and sand wastes; and, taken altogether, it is one of the most gloomy and desolate looking places which it has ever been our bad fortune to visit. It seemed to us to be a long slice from the western coast of the desert of Sahara, detached by some convulsion of nature, and floated over and anchored on the eastern shore of Mexico.
How any human being could ever voluntarily choose it as a place of residence, we cannot conceive. Yet old "Uncle Tilley" lives there, and employs himself in gathering the wrecks of cargoes with which the beach is strewn, seeming perfectly happy in his loneliness, the undisputed lord of this desert isle. About 12 o'clock on the morning of the 19th of May, we came in sight of the shipping lying at Point Isabel; and never was the sight of masts and yards more welcome to a land-sick mariner, than were these signs of life and civilization to eyes which had for nearly a week gazed upon nothing but one dreary waste of sand and sea.
We found on the point of the island several tents which were occupied by boatmen, who ferried passengers over to Point Isabel, and by one of these ferrymen, we informed the officers at the fort of our arrival, and signified our desire to cross immediately. Taking advantage of the departure of the boat, several of us left our horses in the care of our messmates, and embarked at once for the Point. The little craft, favoured by a fair wind, sped merrily over the smooth waters of the bay, and soon landed us at the long wished-for place of destination.
Fort Polk, Frontone, or Point Isabel, has already been described. We found every thing in a state of excitement, and everybody apparently busy. Everywhere bustle and business prevailed, but the movements of every one were controlled by strict order and discipline. Every thing was pleasant to look upon. But more pleasant to our eyes than gay uniforms or glittering arms, snow-white tents, or banners fluttering in the breeze, was the sight of some old familiar faces, which we had not gazed upon for years, but which were the first to welcome us with smiles to the soil of Mexico, and greet us warmly in a The sea breeze, hard riding, and short rations, are wonderful aids to the appetite, and we had enjoyed all these so long that we possessed one so keen and importunate, that it would not have disgraced a Comanche gourmand.
But good things, like the pleasant times of this world, have only a short duration, and our enjoyments at Point Isabel lasted only a few short days. We threw out our line of sentinels, and spread our blankets under some of the bushes , expecting to obtain rest and sleep; but whether it was the woful reflections conjured up by our thoughts running upon the terrible scenes of bloodshed and slaughter, so lately enacted here, or that the musquitoes and gallinippers, rendered pugnacious by association, continued their bloody attacks and incessant charges upon us, biting us intolerably from dark until day, that prevented us from closing our eyes in sleep that night, we do not know.
It might have been our reflections on the battle-ground, but we rather think from the way the old campaigners grumbled, that it was the musquitoes. General Worth and staff passed our camp at midnight on their way to Matamoras. The next day, as early as possible, we were in our saddles, and marching to the same point. At about 12 o'clock, we arrived at Resaca de la Palma, which still bore the fresh signs of recent and terrible conflict.
Strewn about on every side were the hats, cartridge-boxes, belts, broken bayonets, and torn and bloody garments of the Mexican soldiery; while the free fresh air of heaven was tainted by the horrible effluvia arising from the dead bodies of horses, mules, and oxen which lay on every side.
To avoid inhaling the "horrid incense" of the battlefield, we rode on, leaving the wolves and carrion birds to gorge And far in the distance, with its white walls and turrets gleaming in the sunlight, with the American flag floating proudly over it, we beheld the first Mexican town captured by American arms.
Mexican towns are all magnificent at a distance; but you must not approach too closely, unless you wish to find, in many of them, all your beautiful dreams of Moorish palaces and Oriental gardens, orange groves, and shady avenues immediately fade away, and in their place, cherish recollections of rude mud-built houses, plastered and whitewashed; windows without glass, hot dusty streets, and a dirty, lazy, and most unpoetical-looking set of inhabitants.
As we approached the river bank, drums were beating and fifes blowing, and on all sides were noise and excitement; flags fluttering, arms gleaming, teamsters cursing at their unruly animals: soldiers drilling, dogs barking, and Mexican hucksters bawling their goods at their voices' tops. Pursuing our way through the various groups which lined the road side, we r [ Whether it was because they thought the Texian troops were accustomed to, and could endure more hardships than any other troops in the field, we do not know.
One thing is certain, they gave us as ample an opportunity to evince our greatest powers of endurance and fortitude as the disciples of Diogenes could have desired, had they been placed in our room and stead. We were left to shift for ourselves, wholly unprovided with tents, camp equipage, or cooking utensils. Had we been allowed to appropriate to our own use the unoccupied houses of the enemy, we would have asked no favours from friend or foe; but while the strictest injunctions were laid upon us, in regard to the property of the Mexicans, we were charitably left Much rejoiced at this prospect of active service, we saddled up with light hearts and willing hands; and in a few hours after the order was received, we were ready for the journey.
On the morning of the 12th, we were busily engaged in transporting ourselves and horses across the Rio Grande to the Matamoras side. At 12 o'clock, had crossed the whole command, and we moved through the town of Matamoras, to commence our scout. To throw upon the wrong scent any Mexican spies who might be watching our movements, Capt. McCulloch took the direct road to Reynoso, as if he intended to join Col. Wilson's command, which was stationed at that post.
Accordingly, we encamped that night, at the Rancho de Guadeloupe, and feasted on roasting-ears, water-melons, musk-melons, and every vegetable luxury that the rancho afforded. The most of us had a little pocket-change, and we drove a lively trade with the Mexicans, for all the eatables they could bring to our camp. Our orders were most strict as regarded our intercourse with the Mexicans, and we were enjoined to take nothing without giving an adequate compensation. Our government was wise enough to suppose that they could conquer the Mexicans by kindness, and force them to a speedy cessation of hostilities, by affording them a ready market for every thing they could raise, and paying enormous prices for every thing we obtained at their hands.
The policy of the government was to conciliate the people. This reduced our party to thirty-five, all told, for we had only selected forty of the best mounted men in the company for this expedition. Kendall, who was one of our party, "to picture the astonishment and alarm at the different ranchos, as the Rangers entered them; or the consternation of those upon whom we came suddenly upon the road. By forced night marches, our commander frequently got upon the other side of some of the settlements, and rode into them, as if direct from Monterey or Linares, and going towards Matamoras.
By doubling and twisting about, they were thrown completely off the scent, and were willing to answer any questions with a readiness which showed that they thought life or death depended upon their alacrity. At El Ebonilla, we procured a supply of corn, sufficient to last our horses for two days.
We here also received the unwelcome intelligence, that there were no more ranchos on the road at which this important article could be obtained. We pushed on as far as we could make the supply last, and on the road met many parties of Mexicans, whose evident alarm and surprise convinced us that we were unlooked-for travellers in this part of the country. We passed several of the camps where Arista had rested his army, during its rapid retreat to Linares. Our camp, on the night of the 20th of June, was in a pleasant musquit-grove, while the ground around it afforded ample pasturage for our horses.
We had learned the day before, from some Mexican shepherds, that there was no water to be found on the road, from this point to Linares, a distance of about sixty miles. McCulloch thought it advisable to ascertain this fact, before he proceeded farther, and accordingly despatched Lieut. McMullen with ten men, to a water-hole about ten miles ahead, that was marked as unfailing, to discover if our informants or our map of the country were wrong. McMullen pushed on to the water-hole, and found it dry, and then riding within thirty miles of Linares, returned with the unwelcome intelligence to camp.
This was the first instance in which we had discovered a mistake in our chart, it being for the most part admirably correct. The map was furnished to Capt. McCulloch by Gen. Taylor, being an accurate copy of the one found in Gen. Arista's military chest, captured at the battle of Resaca de la Palma. It was a most minute and accurate picture of the face of the country, between the Rio Grande and the "Sierra del Madre," and every rancho and village, every road or mountain path, every water-pond and insignificant streamlet were marked down with a truthfulness and precision, which we found but rarely at fault, and which, considering the vast extent of country it represented, was really astonishing.
The map was common property in camp, and we all studied it so well that we soon had a thorough knowledge of the face and bearing of the whole country, stretching from the mountain ridges to the waters of the Rio Grande. This knowledge was of much importance to all of us; as frequently during our scouts a separation of the command was unavoidable, and often a single man would have to depend upon his own knowledge and skill, to pilot himself through many miles of a wilderness into camp.
Finding it impossible to proceed much farther in this direction, and having ascertained that this route was impracticable as a line of march for a large division of our army, on account of the scarcity of water, our captain determined to leave the Linares road, and strike across to the main road, leading from Matamoras to Monterey. Secondly, that Arista had removed the greater portion of his forces from Linares to Monterey, leaving a garrison in the former place of infantry, and a few squadrons of cavahy; and, lastly, that Gen. Canales wa [ On the morning of the 21st, then, our course was changed, and we rode off at a right angle from our former route.
A Mexican shepherd whom we forced to accompany us as a guide, warned us, that in the direction we were going we would find no water, and advised us to follow another course, which he said would lead to the same point, and that though the way was longer, still it was plentifully supplied with water-holes. The road he pointed out did not lead in exactly the direction we thought we ought to travel, and not having implicit confidence in the honesty of his intentions he was ordered peremptorily to lead us on the first-named course.
On we vamosed over high rocky hills and immense level plains, through thicket and brake, over dingle and dell; sometimes passing along hill sides thickly covered with wesatchee bushes, the acacia, which were all in full bloom, and the modest little yellow flowers gave to the morning air a fragrance which was delightful to inhale.
Sometimes we followed the trail of innumerable droves of wild horses that roamed in freedom over this immense range of waste country. Sometimes we travelled for miles, without a single sign to guide us over the untrodden hills, but the position of the sun in the heavens, and a knowledge of the course we wished to pursue.
The 21st of June, we shall long remember as a day of great suffering and fatigue. It was the longest day in the year, and by far the hottest we ever experienced; to add, too, to our misery, there was not a single breath of air to fan our burning brows, or cool our fevered cheeks. A vertical sun poured down his fiery rays upon us the live-long day, without even once veiling his fierce glare by the shadow of a passing cloud.
The weather was so unmercifully hot, that to prevent our horses' backs from scalding, we had frequently to dismount, and unsaddle, and rub them dry before we could proceed. The poor beasts seemed to feel the heat more sensibly, if possible, than we did. The tardy step, the half-closed eye, the drooping head, and the panting and expanded nostril, plainly manifested the degree and extent of their sufferings. Water was demanded on every side.
We had emptied our gourds and canteens of their contents early in the day, and were now suffering intolerably from thirst. The order was promptly obeyed, and the men rode off in all directions to prosecute the search. The sun was about half an hour high, when a horseman came galloping up with the joyful news that he had found a water-hole about half a mile to the right. Helter-skelter, without order the party scampered off to reach the quenching nectar of their burning thirst.
It was a wild, hard race, but McCulloch reached it first, and dismounting, threatened to shoot the first man that rode into the pond. The water-hole was a mere mud-puddle at best. For man and beast had suffered so much for want of water, that when they did reach it, they were inclined to rush into the middle of the pond, which would have rendered it unfit, even for the animals. The order was now given for every man to dismount and fill his canteen and gourd, and drink sufficient to satisfy himself; afterwards the horses were led up to the edge, and allowed to drink without muddying the water.
Notwithstanding it was stagnant and lukewarm, it was drunk with avidity. The pack-mules' turn came next, but they were not so easily managed, for in spite of our exertions, two or three broke away, and after running into the middle of the little pond, and taking their fill, they rolled over and over into the mud, seeming to enjoy extremely the pleasures of the bath. Luckily for them, we had all drunk as much as we wanted, or the poor beasts would have paid dearly for their pleasure. Several of the men, who had wandered about during the day in search of water, had eaten large quantities of the ripe prickly pear, which grows in great abundance all over the country.
The fruit is much in shape like a pear, of a blood red colour, very. The guard was posted, and as we spread our blankets down that night, after the severe day's travel, we congratulated each other on the pleasant night we would pass after all our fatigue. In truth it was a peerless night; there was not a single cloud to mar the deep blue of the boundless sky, and the moon's bright orb, like some vast silver shield hung midway in the vault of heaven, shedding a world of light upon the quiet scene.
It chanced that we had spread our blanket down by the side of one of our messmates, who was a veteran of the Texas wars. Major R. He had commanded a company at San Jacinto; fought through the Federal war, was Lieutenant-colonel at the "Parbon fight," and now, with the unasking modesty and unambitious zeal of a true Texian, had, when his country needed his services, come out at her call, as a simple private in a ranging corps.
The Major was a fine companion, and a specimen of the gallantry and chivalry of "olden days. The Major readily accepted the proposition, and we "spooned" up together as affectionately as possible. About midnight we were awakened by a tremendous thunder peal, and found that a storm had been brewing during our sleep; the sky was as black as ink, and the rain coming down in torrents; we drew our head under the water-proof, and were piously engaged in praying for those poor fellows who were exposed to the fury of the storm, without any shelter whatever, when we suddenly felt a little rivulet commence its meanderings under the very spot where our b [ The "windows of heaven were opened," and the flood still continued to rise higher and higher.
The under blanket was now completely saturated, and the water still continued to rise. We discovered that we were lying in a little gully which was rapidly filling, but bore our affliction as quietly as possible, and without murmuring, being ashamed to grumble while the Major slept so soundly. But it was past endurance, for the water had now risen half way up our side, filling our powder-horn, which was unfortunately unstopped, and The ground is getting damp too. Let's move to some dryer place. Don't you see that we have got this puddle of water warm now, by the heat of our bodies, and if we move, we shall only get into another, and take cold.
So lie down, 'Jim,' and go to sleep; it's nothing when you get used to it. We could not but admire the Major's philosophy, but, notwithstanding, we had not yet become a sufficient convert of hydropathy as to sleep in the warm puddle! So taking up our blanket, much against the Major's will, we sat down at the foo [ That a man can sleep, and soundly too, half immersed in water, may seem strange to those who have never spent much time in the woods; but to those who are well acquainted with a frontier life, it appears natural enough, and we can assure the skeptical, that the foregoing anecdote is literally true.
The next morning, as soon as our blankets were sufficiently dry, we mounted, and again advanced towards the Monterey road. Our way now lay for the most part across bald and rocky hills. About noon we came upon a little pond in the hills, which was stagnant, the surface covered with a green scum, and the water itself almost warm enough to make coffee. Yet as none better was to be had, we were obliged to drink it, and notwithstanding its nauseousness, it served to quench our thirst.
Shortly after leaving this pond we came in sight of the Monterey road, and by our sudden descent from the hills, alarmed a merchant very much, who was carting his goods to Monterey. That we were a band of robbers he was quite sure at first, from our appearance, and great was his delight when he found out his mistake.
We purchased some corn from his carts, and also procured a supply of dried beef. While "nooning it" at the carts, a solitary horseman turned the angle of the road, about a quarter of a mile ahead of us, and halted in evident alarm, when he saw the bad company he was about to fall in with on his road.
He was about to urn and fly, when he perceived about a dozen of the boys mou [ As the horseman rode up, his salute was returned, and before [ We were unable to gain any farther information about Canales, only that he had been on this road about a week ago; but of his present whereabouts we could not gain the slightest clew.
So finding it useless to follow a cold trail, Captain McCulloch, in pursuance of his orders, turned his course towards Reynoso. As we drew near the town, which was yet in the distance, we could plainly hear the beating of the drums marshaling the garrison to arms. The flat-house tops were covered with men and officers; the latter were spying with their glasses and endeavouring to make out our character and number. To see a body of armed men approaching from the very quarter in which they expected the enemy, was enough to excite apprehensions of an attack.
And as we rode into town as if direct from Monterey, the garrison very naturally mistook us for the advance guard of a Mexican force. We enjoyed their mistake very much, and as we dismounted in the plaza, the officers came out to greet us, saying that having at first mistrusted us, they were preparing to give us a warm welcome , instead of a hearty greeting.
A few days after this, we learned that Canales had, at one time, been within a few miles of us, with a force of several hundred men. Kendall, in one of his letters, "of Capt. McCulloch being in his neighbourhood, there is but little doubt; but whether he was unable to catch up with the hurried and complicated movements of the Texians, or fearful of giving them battle, is more than this deponent can say.
I say hurried and complicated movements of the Texians, because, from the time of our leaving Matamoras, to our reaching this place, the men never took off their coats, boots, or spurs; not an extra or second shirt was carried by one of them; and although the weather was rainy much of the time, and two heavy northers visited We encamped under some shade trees, on the outskirts of the village of Reynoso, and thus ended the first scout in which our company was engaged. THE first few days that we were encamped near Reynoso, our ears were constantly assailed with rumours of contemplated night attacks, and horrible accounts of the weight of Mexican vengeance which was about to be visited upon our heads, for having dared to take possession of this pompous little village.
Juan Seguin, with all his valiant followers, would pounce upon us that very night; yes, that very night, and as sure as fate, cut all our throats from ear to ear. The next day, it was not Juan Seguin, but Gen. Canales, with his gallant rancheros who was to exterminate us; and when neither of these made his appearance, it was some other redoubtable champion of Mexican liberty that was to sweep us from the face of the earth, and destroy our whole force effectually and entirely.
But finding that their dreadful accounts of threatened attacks, and their confidential statements of the number and force of the overwhelming army that was shortly to extirpate us, produced no other effect in camp than to increase our merriment; and their prudential advice, so far from causing us to double our precautions, or place an extra man on duty, was received only with derision and contempt, they determined to abandon us to our fate as a set of So deep and inveterate was the hatred cherished by the people of this place against the Americans, that they resorted to these means as a plan to harass and annoy our troops, when they found no other mode left them to gratify their spite and ill-will.
From all we could learn of its history, its population, and its reputation, we were disposed to consider the town of Reynoso as the most rascally place in all Mexico. It was here that the Mier prisoners were treated so inhumanly, as they were marched through on their way to the Castle of Perote; the men cursing and stoning them, as they moved through the streets, and the women spitting on them, with all the malice of she-wolves.
It was this place, too, that many of the robbing parties which ravaged the Texian frontier acknowledged as their head-quarters. And some of the scoundrels who were engaged in the "Rogers' massacre," lived here in peace and security. Yet, such was the mild forbearance, and gentle conciliatory policy of our government towards this people, that we were not allowed to apprehend and punish these villains as they deserved, or visit upon them the speedy and terrible vengeance they so richly merited from Texian hands.
Our orders were most strict not to molest any unarmed Mexican, and if some of the most notorious of these villains were found shot, or hung up in the chaparral, during our visit to Reynoso, the government was charitably bound to suppose, that during some fit of remorse and desperation, tortured by conscience for the many evil deeds they had committed, they had recklessly laid violent hands upon their own lives!
The steamboat "Aid" having arrived, and discharged her cargo When we have no positive data to go upon, we are obliged to resort to guess-work. Well, these rascally whelps barked away the hours until a rain-storm came up, and then we had a thunder gust for an accompaniment. Pleasant country, this! Do you know that I sometimes think of the St.
McCulloch's Last Stand
I could not help laughing at a young Ranger, whose blanket was within good hearing distance of mine. After the departure of Capt. McCulloch, the command of our party devolved upon Lieut. McMullen, and upon a better officer it could not have fallen. A few days after, two officers of the Mexican army were apprehended in Reynoso, and detained as spies, until the commands of Gen. Taylor in regard to them could be obtained.
McMullen was called upon by Col. Wilson to furnish We remained in our miserable quarters, which were now partially overflowed, for another day and night, and which we christened "Camp Nasty," when the men became mutinous, and swore they would remain there no longer to please Col. Wilson, or anybody else. McMullen went up again to the colonel to inform him that there was a large and comfortable cotton-gin shed on the opposite side of the town, which belonged to a colonel in the Mexican army, which was at that time unoccupied, and capable of giving ample shelter to ourselves and horses.
Wilson replied that "he could not think of allowing us to take possession of any thing that belonged to the Mexicans, unless they consented to it, as it was directly contrary to the policy of the government. This he said was too hazardous, as we might be cut off; besides, he wanted our services in case the town should be attacked.
After, however, a formal demand, in writing, for quarters, the cotton-gin shed was reluctantly granted to us. We marched into it in triumph, and a few days afterwards we had the pleasure of swimming our horse over the very spot where we were formerly encamped. A three weeks' rain continued to deluge the earth; the Rio Grande overflowed its banks, and the country around Reynoso was one vast sheet of water. But we cared very little for the rain, as we were now posted in the most comfortable quarters that had been enjoyed by any Texian troops since the commencement of the campaign.
The gin-shed was large, dry, and commodious, and amply sufficient to shelter us from sun and rain; and during We had been encamped in the old "cotton-gin shed" about two weeks, when Lieut. McMullen told us, one evening, about sundown, that he wanted twenty men to saddle up for special and secret service. The horses were ready in a twinkling, and we were all eager to learn what the object of this night expedition could be.
All was anxiety and expectation until about 8 o'clock, when we were ordered to move in silence. Not a word was spoken as we filed out of the yard, and took our position in the line. We followed without uttering a word. When we had rode on in this manner for about a mile, and were entirely clear of all the houses of the town, we were halted, and Lieut. McMullen explained to us the nature of the duty he wished us to perform. My object is to capture them, if possible. To insure success, silence and caution are necessary.
When we approach the rancho, it will be necessary for some of you to dismount, and hold the horses of the others while the rest surround the house. Commence counting there in front! It was now necessary to procure a guide, as none of us knew the rancho at which the fandango was held, except by name.
Fortunately, we picked up a little Mexican boy on the road, who agreed to be our pilot for the consideration of one dollar, paid in hand. The money was given to him, and he jumped up behind one of the men, to direct us in the route we wished to pursue. Splashing onward through mud and water, for five miles farther, we came in sight of the lights of the rancho. The boy here requested to be put down, as he did not wish his people to know that he had guided their enemies upon them. The little fellow slipped off in the darkness of the night, and we hastened on to the place of the merry-making.
The scene which presented itself as we approached was unique and beautiful. The dance was held in the open air; and the bright fires kindled at different points, the candles and torches moving to and fro, the animated groups of revellers clustered on every side, the white robes of the girls prettily contrasting in the fire-light with the dusky apparel of their partners; while gay Our places were quickly taken, and before the revellers dreamed of danger, they found their scene of festivity suddenly surrounded with a ring of Texian rifles.
Never was a scene of rejoicing more quickly turned into one of dismay and confusion. If you're going to write an epic, write an epic. A total missed opportunity. The women are mostly narrow, and essentially serve as sexual vessels in one form or another. This is a man's book, for sure, and I get what the overall project is here, re: creation myths and the American west and so on. It's a good Western. It is not Don't get me wrong, Meyer is very talented, but this book is not nearly as good as the "buzz" suggests. And I'm probably wrong on this, and it's just me, but ugh, not my cup of tea.
I feel like I'd rather read Michener. View all 6 comments. I had loved Meyer's American Rust when I read it during a holiday in Pennsylvania a couple of years back; a trip to Texas last week seemed like a good excuse to read his follow-up, which showed every sign of being a culmination of his many talents. The Son is a sprawling, multigenerational family tale, not a million miles away from the kind of AGA-saga that people like Joanna Trollope have been writing for years, though because the author is male and American the book — which in alternating chap I had loved Meyer's American Rust when I read it during a holiday in Pennsylvania a couple of years back; a trip to Texas last week seemed like a good excuse to read his follow-up, which showed every sign of being a culmination of his many talents.
The Son is a sprawling, multigenerational family tale, not a million miles away from the kind of AGA-saga that people like Joanna Trollope have been writing for years, though because the author is male and American the book — which in alternating chapters follows the members of three different generations from the s to the present day — has been lauded as some kind of revolution in narrative structure.
The earliest storyline, which is by far the most compelling there's problem one , consists of a first-person account by the family patriarch, who was abducted by Comanches and brought up first as a slave and eventually as an accepted member of the tribe. Here Meyer is in fine deadpan Western mode, channelling Faulkner and — especially — inviting risky comparisons with Cormac McCarthy, in relation to whom Meyer occasionally seems almost to be a pasticheur: By sundown the walls of the canyon looked to be on fire and the clouds coming off the prairie were glowing like smoke in the light, as if this place were His forge and the Creator himself were still fashioning the earth.
Meyer's prose style is not as distinctive as McCarthy's, and he doesn't have quite the same bleakness of vision Meyer reacts to man's violence with weariness and sympathy, while McCarthy reacts with pure horror , but he does have a stronger sense of plot and incident. Following Eli McCullough's early life as a Comanche captive is totally compelling from a purely narrative point of view, the inside portrayal of Comanche life is impressively convincing, and interleaving the stories of Eli's descendants makes it very clear how this violence was handed down to future generations.
There is a practical point being made here, which appealed to me: it's not anything high-flown about the metaphysics of conflict and death, but rather about the sober realities of how the American West was built on constant cycles of killing — whether of animals, Native Americans, Mexicans or neighbours — and how these cycles do not just replay endlessly in place but are also even exported notice how later generations of McCulloughs, heavily involved in the oil industry, discuss creating further opportunities in Iran and Iraq.
On the ranch they had found points from both the Clovis and the Folsom, and while Jesus was walking to Calvary the Mogollon people were bashing each other with stone axes. They were all wiped out by the Apaches. Who were in turn wiped out, in Texas anyway, by the Comanches. Who were finally wiped out by the Americans. The book's title, then, doesn't refer to any son in particular. Rather, it brings to mind Biblical warnings about where the sins of the father will be visited: that sense of retribution, unfairness, and cyclical violence is what the novel is finally about.
The cycles have not stopped and they show every sign of continuing to play out until we're all long gone. The question is, do you need six hundred pages to illustrate that point? I felt that you didn't, and the book overstayed its welcome slightly for me; from around the halfway mark, I was silently urging, yes, yes, we get it and battling a growing sense that the more modern strands of narrative were underdeveloped and contributing little — they wouldn't stand on their own two feet and only worked as adjuncts to the richer story of the s.
This practical problem, I suspect, is what motivated the novel's structure. Nevertheless, there are passages in here, of Comanche raids and southwestern hoodoos, that I wouldn't have missed for anything; and as a man-hands-on-misery-to-man family drama, it's full of gruff charm, emotional resonance, and pointed reflections on what lies behind the making of America.
View all 12 comments. Jul 05, Howard rated it it was amazing Shelves: american-west , texas , favorite , american-history , fathers-and-sons , coming-of-age , tall-woman , fathers-and-daughters , war , western-fiction. This is a review that I originally posted in July, For some inexplicable reason it vanished without leaving any explanation.
Since it is a favorite book of mine, I am re-posting it. Eli McCullough. The Declaration of Independence that bore the Republic of Texas out of Mexican tyranny was ratified March 2, , in a humble shack at the edge of the Brazos. I was the first male child of this new republic. He has not only seen it all, he has lived it.
In his lifetime, he was a Comanche captive, Texas Ranger, Confederate colonel, cattle baron, and oil tycoon. Obviously, it had to be a long life -- and it was — one hundred years. How a young helpless boy at the mercy of his Comanche captors eventually became a wealthy tyrant wielding almost absolute power is at the heart of the novel. Today, without the help of any whiskey, I have reached the conclusion: I am no one.
Looking back over my forty-five years I see nothing worthwhile — what I had mistaken for a soul appears more like a black abyss — I have allowed others to shape me as they pleased. To ask the Colonel I am the worst son he has ever had…. There is no reward for such views. In fact, most people see him as a weak man -- and that includes his father. She had grown up knowing that if a drought went on another year, or the ticks got worse, or the flies, if any single thing went wrong, the family would not eat.
Of course, they had oil by then; it was an illusion. But her father had acted as if it was true, and she had believed it, and so it was. Her family had owned the town. People made no sense to her. There had never been a place for a person like her. If the Colonel had a soul mate, it was his great-granddaughter, Jeanne Anne.
As far as the Colonel was concerned, Peter was too soft and idealistic and in his own way, so was Charles, who was too tied to cattle and the land. The Colonel understood that down through the ages through war and conquest the land had been won and lost many times and he believed that it was subject to occurring again, that historical progress was a matter of destroying what had come before. Therefore, one should extract what one could from the land while one could. Charles wanted only to be a cattleman, but cattle ranching was a losing proposition.
Despite his capture as a boy by the Comanches and their initial cruel treatment of him, the Colonel learned not only to respect them, but also to view them as family. They were practically the only people that he held in esteem. He viewed the poor Mexicans of the area as people whose labor was to be exploited.
But he also believed that the prosperous Mexicans who owned land were to be exploited as well. He believed that their time had passed and he viewed their property as fair game for the taking -- and he took. His opinion of most of the whites in the area wasn't much higher either, with one exception. He had good things to say about the German settlers living around the town of Fredericksburg: "Before the Germans came, it was thought impossible to make butter in a southern climate. It was also thought impossible to grow wheat. A slave economy does that to the human mind, but the Germans, who had not been told otherwise, arrived and began churning first-rate butter and raising heavy crops of the noble cereal, which they sold to their dumbfounded neighbors at a high profit.
If, upon passing some field, you noticed the soil was level and the rows straight, the land belonged to a German. If the field was full of rocks, if the rows appeared to have been laid by a blind Indian, if it was December and the cotton had not been picked, you knew the land was owned by one of the local whites, who had drifted over from Tennessee and hoped that the bounties of Dame Nature would, by some witchery, yield him up a slave.
View all 14 comments. Jun 14, Darwin8u rated it it was amazing Shelves: aere-perennius , Its narrative strength, however, is equaled by its detail and its multi-generational epic arc. This is a novel that is a pure descendant of Melville, Faulkner, Cather and McCarthy perhaps, not quite up to their snuff, but a valiant effort.
These authors set the stage that allowed Meyer to carve his novel out of the rich soil of the Texas and to shoot another Western myth into the the innumerable stars in the sky. View all 13 comments. Jul 05, Amanda rated it really liked it Shelves: blog. Their stories are inextricably bound to the violent birth and coming of age of Texas. Through his exploration of the chains of familial duty and legacy, Meyer is depicting more than just the turbulent years of our country's pioneering past. Texas serves as a microcosm through which Meyer skillfully explores the cyclical rise and fall of empire: the success of a tribe or a country or a family is written in the blood of another, one generation crashes into the next, a king must fall before "the son" can take his place.
And yet it's more than that--when men build empires, they stare into the abyss of their own mortality and try to leave their mark on a world and a history so vast, so infinite that even the most significant of lives will eventually be consumed and forgotten. Passing the torch to the next generation becomes the only form of immortality one can hope for. But what happens when the next generation wants to build their own legacy, or can't make peace with the sins committed in their family's past?
This is particularly evident in the chapters following Peter McCullough, a man defined by a guilt that's not his own, and also in the chapters about Jeannie McCullough, a woman who has to blaze her own trail to keep the family name alive. The chapters about Eli McCullough are the most engrossing and Meyer doesn't pick sides in presenting the ensuing conflicts between pioneers and the Native Americans. There is no noble savage here; the Comanche are capable of stomach-churning violence raping and mutilating Eli's mother and sister before his eyes, torturing enemies in their camp, raping and brutalizing captives , but they are also compassionate and funny in their relationships with one another.
The same is true of the pioneers--engaging in unspeakable acts of cruelty against the Comanche and other tribes, they are not monsters entire. Instead, both sides are all human with "Something of the reptile in us yet, the caveman's allegiance to the spear. An overall excellent novel, the only reason I'm giving it a 4 out of 5 star is because it is grim reading, which made me long for a bit of Larry McMurtry's ability to balance grim reality with the humor in life. Also, I found the presentation of the three differing narratives perplexing.
The Eli and Peter chapters are told in first person, while Jeannie's are told in third which may be to show her struggle for "voice". Eli's chapters are originally presented as the result of an interview done at the end of his life, but do not read as an interview. Peter's chapters are told in the form of a diary, which reads like no diary ever kept by anyone in human existence. Instead, they read just like novel narrative, continuing for pages with exact dialogue and lengthy descriptions with little to designate them as diary entries other than the occasional insertion of a date.
These conventions, the interview and the diary, seemed unnecessary and were at times off-putting. There was little to differentiate the voices of Eli, Peter, and Jeannie, but maybe that's the point--that theirs is the voice of history relating a story that will be told time and time again with no one learning its lessons. Jul 06, Trish rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-novel , western , fiction , gritty. This is a big summer blockbuster of a novel—a huge book that can keep one occupied for days.
The world looks a little different after a session with it—we feel wonder and regret in equal shares: wonder at human diversity and commonality evident at the same time; regret at our inability to comprehend this and share our bounty until it is too late. Three generations of Texans represented by Eli, Peter, and Jeanne struggle through Comanche raids and the discovery of oil from the mid-nineteenth throu This is a big summer blockbuster of a novel—a huge book that can keep one occupied for days.
Three generations of Texans represented by Eli, Peter, and Jeanne struggle through Comanche raids and the discovery of oil from the mid-nineteenth through the twentieth centuries. Eli is the "son" about whom the others revolve, and his life is the most finely described and keenly felt.
But the time and distance we readers enjoy as the generations play out is what brings the book to fruition: life lessons and realizations about the human condition result. Comparisons have been made of Philipp Meyer with Cormac McCarthy and I can see why: the country is that same hard, brutal, violent landscape that McCarthy paints so memorably. Meyer has his own style, however.
Sentences are longer and in this novel the timeline is far longer. The threads come together at the end, and we see who sired whom, and which family is still standing. What is remarkable as the story unfolds, is how the large scope of the story smooths out the individual agonies and gives us instead a kind of justice—what we like to call divine justice—but it is really no more than human history to date. If it went on a little longer, perhaps, the wheel would have turned once again.
There may be some in the future who have actually learned from our past, but judging from the folks that survive in this book, the hope is a faint one. Jeanne : "But the slackening. By five she and her brothers were throwing loops. By ten she was at the branding fire. Her grandchildren were not good at anything and did not have much interest in anything either. She wondered if the Colonel would even recognize them as his descendants, felt briefly defensive for them, but of course it was true.
Something was happening to the human race. That is what all old people think, she decided… When the first men arrived, she told them, there were mammoths, giant buffalo, giant horses, saber-toothed tigers, and giant bears. The American cheetah—the only animal on earth that could outrun a pronghorn antelope.
Her grandsons … went inside to watch television. But at what point was it not better at all? People needed something to worry about or they would destroy themselves, and she thought of her grandchildren and all the grandchildren yet to come. A single man can make a difference. You could butcher and pillage, but as long as you did it for people you loved, it never mattered…there is a myth about the West, that it was founded and ruled by loners, while the truth is just the opposite; the loner is a mental weakling, and was seen as such, and treated with suspicion.
You did not live long without someone watching your back and there were very few people, white or Indian, who did not see a stranger in the night and invite him to join the campfire. Had to do it, acted on instinct , the sheriff just nodding away, sipping our whiskey, my father refilling his glass. Considered interrupting them to note that the entire history of humanity is marked by a single inexorable movement—from animal instinct toward rational thought, from inborn behavior toward acquired knowledge.
A half-grown panther abandoned in the wilderness will grow up to be a perfectly normal panther. But a half-grown child similarly abandoned will grow up into an unrecognizable savage, unfit for normal society. Yet there are those who insist the opposite: that we are creatures of instinct, like wolves.
You really do not want to miss this big, absorbing saga. Meyer has written another novel, American Rust , which was likewise memorable, about living in the Rust Belt in Pennsylvania. These are, for the most part, books about men. But that is fine—he does this with great skill. I think I will always have Meyer on my list of must-reads.
View all 15 comments. Jul 10, Elizabeth rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction. As is often the case, his review hits it out of the park. This book. I disappeared for a few days while reading it! I was late picking up a child. I passed on a night out with a friend. I kept my eyes down whilst walking my dog. Real life? That's all I've got for now. View all 10 comments. Jan 29, Justin Sorbara-Hosker rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. I wasnt halfway through before I knew this would be a favourite, as long as he didnt screw up the end he doesn't.
By the end, I thought that the Great American novel is alive and well - and this novel is an instant classic. Any of the three storylines could be a novel on their own, but the fact that there are three, woven together, and the timing on the POV switches is what makes this a great thing. Entertain me, take me off this boring streetcar, take me somewhere. This book does that — and as a bonus, it offers all the insights and questions about people and relationships that the literary novel does.
And Meyer still has passages and sentences that make you put the book down for a second in admiration, though he's not showing off at all. This is a five star, and I'm not sure the last time I assigned that to a novel. Probably The Sisters Brothers, and that may have been too generous. This is one, no doubt. I will be re-reading it, and that's probably my benchmark.
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That gets a book on the 'favourites' shelf. He does alter his pacing near the last third, and at first it's jarring, but its soon apparent - tension is ramping up. But perhaps this isn't fair'; if the three characters share equal 'screen time' in the book, the primary female character is just as well drawn and conceived as the males, perhaps even more so. The other characters being his son, and his great granddaughter. You know you have a thing when you are considering calling in sick to stay home with your book.
I am curious right now two months away from publication how much it will break out. I would bet my hat it will get a National nomination, but I am so close to this kind of thing that I wonder about my judgment. It deserves to sell by the boatload, and every American nomination that its eligible for. If you're a fan of muscular, gritty fiction, you should get on this right away. A beautifully written family saga I listened to via audiobook. Set in Texas and seen through the eyes of three generations, this story about the rise of Texas and the early frontier in America is a not-to-miss book.
My favorite character was Eli McCullough. Starting with his capture at 13 years old by the Comanches, and bringing him through to his old age. What a larger-than-life character. A definite 5 stars! View all 7 comments. Feb 27, Rebecca rated it it was amazing Shelves: historical-fiction , dirty-realism , reviewed-bookbag , door-stoppers.
This momentous American story ranks among the best novels of the new century. See my full review at The Bookbag. Well, I finished. I read it through to the end.
- Back on the Wool Track.
- The Palace in the Garden [Illustrated].
- Daniel Webster.
- September Girls.
I have to apologize to my friend Diane for giving her the bad advice to snap up the ARC of this that we saw at a book event because I had already snapped up my ARC at a previous event. This novel has had so much buzz! I listened to and read so many, many positive reviews and I can say that for the most part, I can understand all the buzz.
This novel is epic. The subject matter is very interesting the settlement of Texas and there were two chara Well, I finished. The subject matter is very interesting the settlement of Texas and there were two characters that I found sympathetic. But it's a dude book. Again, I picked a dude book. Not just because it is astonishingly vulgar but this author doesn't have a good sense of what it's like to be a woman.
I have new appreciation for male authors that can inhabit their female characters. The characters and their relation to each other was so confusing. If I had a dollar for every time I had to page to the front to double-check the family tree I'd be wearing Louboutins right now. Mar 25, JanB rated it really liked it Shelves: audiobook. I listened to the audiobook and Will Patton and Kate Mulgrew were phenomenal. They definitely increased my enjoyment of the story. And what a story it is. After a very strong start, I thought it would easily be a 5 star read, but the middle felt a little bloated and my interest flagged a bit.
Not 3. Not uncommon for a book that is pages long and nearly 18 hours of listening time. I would still highly recommend the book. Eli is definitely the star of the book - but not likable - and it will be interesting to see how Brosnan interprets the character. View all 16 comments. Jun 06, switterbug Betsey rated it it was amazing Shelves: pulitzer-material. Like his predecessors, Meyer illustrates the ruthless, violent forms of blood-spilling murder it takes to build the future of a land.
Death begets life. People are conditioned to believe in their rights of land possession, and history point fingers at those who stole land from those that used to occupy it. Wars are fought over territory, and a Epic, savage, surly, and brimming with ideas, Philipp Meyer's sweeping historical tale of Texas demands shelf space with Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurty. Wars are fought over territory, and arguments continue on the authority of the privileged. But, as Meyer blazingly illuminates, the rights of possession were stolen from others, who scalped it from others, who poached it from others And the Indians from whom his people had stolen it had themselves stolen it from other Indians.
They thought that simply because they had stolen something, no one should be allowed to steal it from them. The legacies of fathers to sons and one narrator, a daughter are tough and soul scorching.
The prose is as muscular and sinewy as a prized thoroughbred, the story as pitiless as a rattlesnake in a desert. And yet, there's an undulating tenderness, a tremendous amount of empathy that is elicited from the reader. Who were destroyed by the Spanish and Portugese. You did not need Hitler to see that it was not a pleasant story May 13, Laura rated it it was amazing. I loved this book immediately. The characters pull you in and keep you interested from beginning to end.
Thankful that the author included the family tree, I frequently reminded myself who was who. Highly recommend this read! Nov 14, Abby rated it it was amazing Shelves: , recent-favorites. I have no particular affinity for Texas. I don't know and don't care to know the difference between a llano and a barranca or a shotgun and a rifle. But I just spent two weeks with ranchers, Rangers, braves, drillers, riggers, vaqueros and several generations of a fabulously wealthy and powerful family and had a perfectly wonderful time.
This isn't the picturesque Old West of saloon brawls, gunfights and fallen women. Nor are there heroes and villains. In this Texas, most everyone kills when nec I have no particular affinity for Texas. In this Texas, most everyone kills when necessary and steals as a matter of course. That's how you gain property and get rich. Eli McCullough, the first of the book's narrators, was born in on the day Texas became a republic.
As an adolescent, he kills Indians when they raid his family's home, kills whites after he is captured by Comanches and assimilated into the tribe, and later kills Indians again as a Texas Ranger. In a pivotal and brutal episode, the McCulloughs, on the pretext of some stolen horses, massacre and appropriate property from their neighbors, Mexicans who generations earlier had taken the land from the Indians.
Eli's son, Peter, the second narrator, has a conscience and is scorned as weak by his ruthless father. Peter's granddaughter, Jeannie, takes us to the present day. Patronized as a young woman, she eventually runs the family's cattle and oil empire, is one of the wealthiest women in the world and, in old age, reflects on her life and her family's legacy. The most riveting sections of the book narrate Eli's capture and years with the Comanches. Less dramatic but equally vivid is the only meaningful stretch of the novel that takes place outside Texas: Jeannie's short-lived sojourn at an elite New England boarding school, a doomed attempt to make her a proper helpmate in the ruling class to which her family aspires.
This is one of those books that didn't bear the weight of my expectations. It is a multi-generational saga, "epic" for sure but never quite feeling "sweeping" or grand. And finally, and certainly no fault of Meyer's and returning to those above-mentioned expectations , I could not "un-read" the comparisons to James Michener and Cormac McCarthy.
I should know better by now that these tend to be tossed around: It's epic, so it's Michener. It's violent, so it's McCarthy. And honestly, I wish this novel was more of either of those two authors. So, a whole lot of good ingredients that ultimately just did not come together in a totally satisfying final dish. But despite what seems to be some clear criticisms above, I was left with an overwhelming hazy feeling of a missed connection -- characters and stories that seemed to be held an arm's length away and wished I could have "felt" more.
Aug 13, Robert rated it it was ok. I started off enjoying the book and was not surprised to learn that Philipp Meyer is influenced by James Michener. I had great hopes that the book would develop into that type of sweeping saga. However by halfway through I was forcing myself to finish it. This multi-generational saga is recounted by three members of the family, but the author does not succeed in really giving them individual voices.
Texas Ranger Division
The style of all three is very similar and a lot of the writing is done in a trance like style. P I started off enjoying the book and was not surprised to learn that Philipp Meyer is influenced by James Michener. Peter's chapters could have done with some vicious editing. The story line was thin and his character was not developed. With the exception of Eli, none of the characters develop properly. The JA that emerges from the pages is just not credible as the hard-driving, highly intelligent person she must have been to achieve what she did.
Other than Eli's time with the Comanche, none of the characters develop any real relationships with another human being. On the positive side, I really enjoyed learning about 19th century Texas and the lives and customs of the Comanche. Although I suspect his description of the sexual habits of the Comanche are wishful thinking. It is not clear to me how Eli could have been a decent man among the Comanche, developing real relationships and loyalty, yet not be able to achieve that in his later life with his wife or any other family member or friend.
This is certainly not the Great American Novel, although it did have potential. I give this 3. I finished this a few days ago but wasn't sure how I wanted to rate it. I loved the story of Eli, especially when he is with the Indians. Jeannie and Peter's stories I also liked they just weren't as captivating. I'm not sure why maybe it's my "olderish" brain but I had trouble keeping track of who was who in the family but luckily there is a family tree at the beginning of the book.
I feel the author does a great job describing Texas in that time period. I could really I give this 3. I could really picture it in my mind. The ending of both Peter and Jeannie's storyline I did not see coming. The only reason I did not give this 4 stars is that I thought it was a bit long winded. I am recording the tv series to see how they play out this massive tale.
He seems too polished. Meyer's book is a sprawling family chronicle told through the eyes of four members of the McCullough family spanning from the s to modern times. Only one of the characters, family patriarch Eli has a story that is compelling enough to keep me wanting more.
Kidnapped as a boy and raised by Comanches, he later goes on to become a Texas Ranger and Confederate officer before starting his family empire. I liked his character so much that all others were pale caricatures by comparison. I do love stories with early Americana themes. Still, it took a while to finish and review this novel…partly because of interruptions but mostly because I never managed to fully engage with this family enough to stay absorbed in the story.
I found them unlikeable with unremitting amoral judgment. Even in the end, as each reached their old age, they still lacked credible feelings of remo I do love stories with early Americana themes. Even in the end, as each reached their old age, they still lacked credible feelings of remorse, shame or any redeeming insightful reflections that might have made me a more sympathetic reader. The Son is epic in theme and epic in book-length. The novel rotates between three generations of the McCullough family starting in to the present day.
By far, the most interesting narrator is Eli McCullough. Born in , Eli is captured by a Comanche tribe as a child and forced to live with the tribe for a few years before assimilating to some degree back into his people. His life with the Comanche was harsh with much graphic violence but also fascinating; and the details of the Indian culture seemed meticulously researched by the author. Those years shaped him into the conflicted, often callous and brutal man that he became. He is more sympathetic than his father but pathetic and ineffectual as he witnesses the slaughter of their neighbors, the Garcia family, whose land they confiscated.
Although her personality more closely parallels the unyielding qualities of her great grandfather, her story is the weakest link in the novel.
Not one of these three main characters is likeable. With such an ambitious time span, they lacked a certain depth in their character development except maybe for Eli. The writing is first rate; but, for me the novel lacks a heart. I never felt enough attachment to anyone in the family to care if the dynasty survived. Even so, it held my interest all the way to its karmic conclusion. Mar 11, Sharon rated it really liked it. It premieres April 8th! I don't have AMC, which is probably why I just discovered this. Oh man. Will Patton is the Clint Eastwood of audiobook performers.
Loved his take on Eli McCullough. Be forewarned: This book is violent. Indians yep, in this book the Comanche are referred to as "indians," , arrows, scalpings, torture It's all in here if that stuff puts you off. But Philipp Meyer can most certainly write, and he uses his skills to pull you in to frontier Texas, and his take on how the West was "won. The novel spans generations and focuses mainly on Eli McCullough who at the age of 13, is kidnapped by the Comanche. After years living with the tribe and assimilating, circumstances force him to return to "his people.
He kills Indians, whites, and children over the course of The Son 's pages. He also wears many hats: a respected member of the Comanche, a Texas Ranger, a cattle rancher, an oil tycoon, and all around sonofabitch. He is also, by far, the novel's most engrossing narrator. Other narrators include Eli's son Peter, a meek man, conflicted about the violence he sees around him, yet unsure how to change it; and Jeanne Anne, Peter's granddaughter, who inherits the oil business.
The Son tackles big themes: identity, legacy, myth, and revisionist history: How was the great frontier of Texas really settled? And at what price? How glorious were the cowboys, really? Who were the heroes? It's like what Unforgiven did to the Western movie, but with more pages. What's most interesting about The Son is that there are no likable characters. Everybody does really shitty stuff. And I think that's the point Meyer tries to convey: there were no innocents in Texas history. Everyone: the Anglos, the Mexicans, and the Native Americans--had blood on their hands at some point.
It's an epic read, at times, awe-inspiring. I couldn't help being disappointed at the lack of characters to root for. And while I was flipping pages fast and furious whenever the narration turned to Eli especially his time with the Comanche , I found my attention waning whenever Peter or Jeanne Anne was up. This had all the ingredients to be "the read" of for me, yet--other than some of early chapters--it ended up a solid 4 star. May 24, Jason Coleman rated it liked it Shelves: greatest-hits. For a guy from Baltimore, Meyer gets Texas pretty well. The historical arc feels about right, and I'm mostly sold on his vision of animal determination, brutality, and chronic injustice—as well as the lingering bad feelings, which I recognize from growing up there.
My own family dabbled in ranching and was heavily involved in the oil biz. Reading The Son I kept coming upon county names Refugio, Kleberg, Nueces where we once owned land, and still own some mostly worthless mineral rights. The For a guy from Baltimore, Meyer gets Texas pretty well. The book helped explain sentiments and prejudices that I've encountered there all my life. Meyer, a real grind, says he threw thousands of pages away while writing this thing and read books during his prep sometimes the research is nicely integrated; other times it lies on top of the story like oil on water.
There is little poetry in his writing, and he is not a very original storyteller, but he's a quick study—the book is to an extent a pastiche—and his novel is alert and disciplined. The Indian abduction of the white boy Eli and his initiation into Comanche society is consistently good—unsentimental towards both whites and Indians, vivid, deeply felt—and kind of overwhelms the rest of the book. The two other threads do have their moments.
Eli's son witnesses, and stands alone in condemning, a grand lynching that throws a door open on a pervasive white-on-Mexican violence that's as shocking as it's meant to be. His granddaughter attends school up north; she encounters the leisure class, anti-Semitism, lawns that are wet under your feet in the morning. The contrasts, as they filter through her mind, say a lot about what Texas does to you. But these other two narratives—and I think many readers of the book will agree with me here—are not nearly as good as Eli's story, and grow distinctly weaker as they go along.
The final stretch is extremely heavy-handed; the struggle between Natural Man and Evolved Man is laid on too thick, and the characters start bumping up against history like a bunch of Forrest Gumps. The book drags on, attempting to encompass too much, and you sense Meyer getting tired. The lost loves, vendettas, sudden deaths, and comings-out that clog up the final chapters are closer to soap opera than myth. By the end, we're in the same neighborhood as The Thorn Birds.
Meyer has spoken in interviews of being influenced by modernists like Joyce and Woolf. Somehow Larry McMurtry's books about Texas, at least as good as Meyer's book, didn't need those kinds of comparisons in their marketing. Chris Cleave's gift-wrapped quote on the back cover may be the single dumbest blurb I've ever read. Immerse yourself in that world for awhile and you'll never be able to go back to any of your old ideas about the old America. You'll feel a grave respect for the Indians, but because Meyer does not idealize them—locating them instead on a long continuum of warfare, opportunism, and sheer survival—you might feel a little stranded in your search for a perfect society.
There's truly no one for us to turn to. View all 8 comments. Jan 03, Angela M rated it really liked it Shelves: cgca In the broader sense, this novel is described as epic in scope and in many ways it is. But it is also the story of a family staking their claim in Texas and creating a dynasty involved in cattle ranching and later in oil. The novel, though, spoke to me on a different level.
It is the story of the three people whose individual narratives comprise the novel. Unlike man In the broader sense, this novel is described as epic in scope and in many ways it is. Unlike many epic novels, the story of the McCullough family is not told as one chronological story. It unfolds in three separate narratives of three of the family members at different times and while the individual stories are chronological, they are interspersed with each other.
Each of the stories is equally compelling and for me were superb character studies. Young Eli 's journey after being kidnapped and assimilated into the Comanche tribe and the Comanche way of life, was the most fascinating. In many ways these chapters were my favorite part of the story. I did not like Eli , as the patriarch of the family in his later years. He epitomizes the violence of the times -seeking revenge when not warranted, taking land when it is not yours and killing people along the way.
She was a woman before her time , yet she succeeds in the business , at the cost of the relationships with her children. Peter , Jeanne's grandfather possessed a moral aptitude that was missing in the other men in the book and that is why I liked him most. He was not of the same mind set as his father and the others who had settled there and he seemed out of place in an era when men sought power and land , rightfully theirs or not , by any means , mostly through violence.
He was the only character that I could connect with maybe in part because of the love story we find in his sections of the book. There was so much violence in the earlier parts of the book but this was the way at this time in history : violent acts of the Comanche's as well as violent acts of the McCullough family and others against their Mexican neighbors.