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Red Extra Gilt Presentation Binding


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397.     [MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR]. [GIDDINGS, Luther (attributed)]. Sketches of the Campaign in Northern Mexico in Eighteen Hundred Forty-Six and Seven. By an Officer of the First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers. New York: Published for the Author by George P. Putnam & Co., 10 Park Place, 1853. [i-v] vi-xii, [13] 14-336 pp. (p. 301 unnumbered). 12mo (19.5 x 12.5 cm), original presentation binding of red cloth, spine gilt lettered: Campaign Sketches—Maj. Giddings, beneath which is a gilt-stamped eagle, both covers with gilt-stamped allegorical vignette (eagle atop a circle or globe, star beneath, U.S. flags at sides, within very ornate gilt border), a.e.g. (expertly re-backed preserving original spine). Binding lightly shelf worn and with three small ink spots on upper cover, spinal extremities professionally restored, endpapers lightly browned, intermittent mild foxing to text (confined primarily to first and last few signatures), small ink rubber stamp of McKinney along lower hinge. A very good copy in the rare red gilt presentation binding, which is very bright.

     First edition. Connor & Faulk, North American Divided 177 (no map and plan). Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, p. 139 (map and plan). Haferkorn, p. 45 (map and plan). Howes G156 (map and plan). Kurutz & Mathes, The Forgotten War, pp. 139-140 (map and plan). Palau 3157 (no map and plan). Rader 1579 (map and plan). Tutorow 3387 (no map and plan). Sabin 27330 & 81574 (no map and plan). Some copies of this book are found with a map and plan. The absence or presence of those elements is possibly a valid issue point. The copy here, as is the case with many copies, lacks them but is in the presentation binding. We have appraised two presentation copies signed by the author to fellow Mexican-American War veterans. Neither had the map and plan, and as with the present copy, there was no physical evidence that they were ever bound in. It seems odd that the author would make a present of an imperfect copy to fellow Mexican-American War veterans. In light of their presence in other copies, however, it is possible that this is the first issue, published before the maps were ready. Variation in the presence vs. absence of certain cancels (pp. 201-202 and 249-250) and numbered vs. unnumbered p. 301 would be a beginning point for establishing a bibliographical sequence.

     Little seems to be known about Giddings apart from what he relates in this book. Apparently he was the “Major Luther Giddings” who died in Brooklyn, New York, in the winter of 1884 (Brooklyn Daily Eagle). He participated in the Mexican-American War from the point that troops were raised in Ohio shortly after the declaration of war until the war’s end. One Maskell E. Curwen, who is sometimes said to be the author (Howes), is listed on p. [ii] as the copyright holder. Edward Tanjore Corwin in Corwin Genealogy (Curwin, Curwen, Corwine) in the United States (New York: S.W. Green, 1872, p. xxxii) states: “M.E. Curwen wrote Sketches of the Campaign in Northern Mexico in 1846 and 1847.”

     This work, in addition to general comments about and description of the war, was written to document and to a certain extent glorify the Ohio volunteer troops of which Giddings was an officer and to whom it is dedicated. Several sections of the text deal specifically with them. One significant passage (pp. 275-277) deals with the traitorous San Patricio brigade, composed mainly of Catholics who had deserted from the American Army to the Mexican, the latter playing on their religious sense. Giddings notes with some pride of his regiment: “But was there one so faithless to his country, as to take up arms in the cause of faithless Mexico? Nearly a third of our regiment were Catholics; and among them were seventy or eighty gallant Irishmen, some of whom, I have reason to know, were proof against the fascinating lures of an insidious foe” (p. 276). He relates that his men even captured a Mexican who was trying to lure troops into desertion (p. 277).

     Giddings initially expresses great admiration for the Texas Rangers (pp. 97-98), but by the time they are discharged at San Domingo, he has seen enough of their rough side to merely wish them well with few regrets at their departure (pp. 221-222). Most choice are his comments (pp. 97-98), used by Walter Prescott Webb in his classic book on the Texas Rangers as the opening quotation for Chapter 1, as well as quoted by Smith and Judah (Chronicles of the Gringos), and others:

Many adventurous spirits who had failed to obtain desirable places in the Infantry, and who were determined to participate in the war even as privates, attracted by the loose discipline and hazardous service of the Texan Cavalry, had become Rangers…. Their knowledge of the character of the enemy and of the military frontier acquired in their long border struggle rendered them valuable auxiliaries in the invasion. Of this far-famed corps—so much feared and hated by the Mexicans—I can add nothing to what has already been written. The character of the Texas Ranger is now well known by both friend and foe. As a mounted soldier he has had no counterpart in any age or country. Neither Cavalier nor Cossack, Mameluke nor Mosstrooper are like him; and yet, in some respects, he resembles them all. Chivalrous, bold and impetuous in action, he is yet wary and calculating, always impatient of restraint, and sometimes unscrupulous and unmerciful. He is ununiformed (some wag…has described the Texian uniform as ‘a dirty shirt and five-shooter’), and undrilled, and performs his active duties thoroughly, but with little regard to order or system. He is an excellent rider and a dead shot. His arms are a rifle, Colt’s revolving pistol, and a knife…. Centaur-like, they seemed to live upon their horses; and, under firm and prudent leaders, were efficient soldiers, especially for scouts and advance post-service, where the necessity for unintermitting vigilance left them no opportunity for indulging in the mad-cap revels and marauding expeditions for which they are somewhat celebrated.

     Giddings’ account is a strong one for Texas and the Borderlands, including not only excellent Texas Ranger content but also Texas annexation as a trigger for the conflict, accounts of Texas battles, and his Company’s sojourn in Texas and crossing the border into Mexico. Sandweiss, et al., Eyewitness to War (p. 117-119) comment on the accuracy of Giddings’ eyewitness account of the Battle of Monterrey.

     Although Giddings sometimes has charitable words for the Mexican populace, his general view of the country, its people, its army, and its government is negative and hostile. Part of that view is surely colored by a mixture of Yankee conservatism and American pride. Part of the attitude is also fueled by his own personal sense of bigotry and of Manifest Destiny: “In contemplating the entire status of a people,—their political, religious, social, and intellectual condition—no attentive observer, even among themselves, has failed to foresee and lament the fate of the country. It must gradually sink, from its complication of fatal diseases, into the tomb of the Acolhuans and the Aztecs. And not only Mexico, but the whole of Spanish America, will probably pass from the dominion of the original conquerors into the possession of the enterprising blue-eyed Saxon…” (pp. 53-54).

     However, true to Yanqui form, Giddings praises Mexican women, especially the heroine of the Battle of Monterrey, Dona Maria Josefa Zozaya of the house of Garza Flores (“sublime as the heroines of Sparta and of Rome, and beautiful as the tutelar deities of Grecian sculpture”). Zozoya is a legendary Mexican heroine who while under fire ferried ammunition and other supplies to the besieged Mexican forces.


Sold. Hammer: $650.00; Price Realized: $780.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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