A Candid Account of Cavalry Life in West Texas
122. McCONNELL, H. H. Five Years a Cavalryman; or, Sketches of Regular Army Life on the Texas Frontier, Twenty Odd Years Ago. Jacksboro, Texas: J. N. Rogers & Company, 1889. 319 [1 blank] pp. (printed on “Brooks Brothers pink” paper). 8vo, original rust pebble cloth ruled in blind on covers, title stamped in gilt on upper cover and spine, and in blind on lower cover. Very light shelf wear, otherwise very fine.
First edition. Adams, Guns 1393: “Scarce.” Adams, Herd 1380: “The appendix concerns cowboys and cattle thieves.” Basic Texas Books 131: “This is the most lively and authentic account of cavalry life in West Texas after the Civil War. McConnell was a private in the 6th Cavalry who arrived in Galveston with the Reconstruction occupiers in November, 1866. He served at Fort Belknap and Fort Richardson on the Texas frontier until 1871, then settled at Jacksboro. Throughout his service, he kept a journal from which he frequently quotes verbatim. During this period he also issued a post newspaper, ‘The Flea,’ from which he also quotes liberally. McConnell gives us the best surviving account of what it was like to be an ordinary cavalryman in occupied Texas as well as of life on the frontier outposts after the war. He does not at all glorify his officers or fellow soldiers; he reports on their heavy drinking, their general disorganization, their boredom, their thievery-neither with moral judgments nor rationalization. McConnell's acute insights into human nature appear repeatedly... Also gives an excellent description of Texas cowboys on a spree in Kansas after a cattle drive.” Braislin 1212. Campbell, p. 66. Dobie, p. 52: “Bully.” Graff 2579. Holliday 715. Howes M59. Littell 673. Rader 2280. Raines, p. 142. Tate, Indians of Texas 2809: “A valuable primary account of soldiering at Ft. Richardson, Texas, during some of the most important confrontations between Comanches and Kiowas of the late 1860s and early 1870s.”
McConnell relates interesting material on ranching and cattle, such as his discussion of the inseparability of the cowman and his horse (“he was a veritable centaur”) and the lingo of the Texas range (cow-hunter, cattleman vs. cowman, cow-brute, etc.). Regarding the system of Texas brands, he comments: “The complicated system of marks and brands was as unintelligible to me as the marks on an Egyptian monument, but was so plain to the native that ‘he who ran might read,’ and this literally, for as the cowman dashed over the prairie at full speed the marked ears and the often obscure brand was as an open book.” Chapter 31 includes a section on the “Colored Troops.” The appendix contains “Cattle Thieving in Texas” (previously published by Perry Mason & Co. in the popular periodical Youth’s Companion), relating the scouting and capture of the most extensive gang of cattle rustlers in Texas at the time. The gang of thirty operated near Whaley’s Ranch near Fort Sill, and two thousand cattle were recovered. The other report in the appendix is Lt. R. G. Carter’s “The Cowboy’s Verdict” relating the capture of Kiowa chief Satanta and his subsequent suicide at the Huntsville Penitentiary. ($200-400)
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