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Pingenot Auction, Lot 4

4. [ALLEN, G. N.]. Mexican Treacheries and Cruelties. Incidents and Sufferings in the Mexican War; With Accounts of Hardships Endured; Treacheries of the Mexicans; Battles Fought, and Success of American Arms; Also, an Account of Valiant Soldiers Fallen, and the Particulars of the Death and Funeral Services in honor of Capt. George Lincoln, of Worcester. By a Volunteer Returned from the War. Boston & New York, 1847. [32] pp., wood engravings. 8vo, original tan printed upper wrapper within ornamental borders and illustration of the ‘Heroine of Fort Brown’ (The Great Western). Lacking lower wrapper, edge wear to upper wrap, loose and somewhat worn. Preserved in a brown cloth folding box.
        First edition. Christensen & Christensen, The U.S.-Mexican War, p. 72: "One hero of the bombardment of Fort Texas was a laundress and cook named Sara Borginnis, a large, capable woman whom the soldiers nicknamed ‘The Great Western’ after the world’s largest steamship. Borginnis set up a tent in the middle of Fort Texas and doled out food and coffee. She nursed the wounded and fearlessly carried water to the soldiers." Connor & Faulk, North America Divided 131 (citing the 1848 edition). Garrett, The Mexican-American War 4. Graff 39 (1848 edition). Haferkorn, p. 9 (1848 edition). Howes A140. Tutorow 3186. Pingenot: A jingoistic account of the experiences of a Massachusetts Volunteer, along with a summary of the various battles with Mexicans, anecdotal stories, and a detailed description of the funeral procession of Captain George Lincoln who was killed in the Battle of Buena Vista. Rare in the first edition.
This lurid, flagrantly racist pamphlet contains several engravings of scenes from the Texas theatres of the war, most notably the cover illustration (repeated in text) of The Great Western. There is scant documentation on women’s experiences in the war, and this is one of the few, albeit popular in approach. The Handbook of Texas Online (Sarah Bowman) article on the The Great Western (ca. 1816-1866?) discusses the various names by which she is known: "She acquired several husbands during the course of her travels, many without benefit of clergy, so there is considerable confusion about her surname. In various sources and at different times she is referred to as Mrs. Bourjette, Bourget, Bourdette, Davis, Bowman, Bowman-Phillips, Borginnis, and possibly Foyle." The Great Western deserves more than passing mention; therefore, following is a longer quotation from the excellent New Handbook article.

        The legends surrounding her exploits grew during the bombardment of Fort Brown in May 1846, when she refused to join the other women in an underground magazine but calmly operated her officers’ mess uninterrupted for almost a week, despite the fact that a tray was shot from her hands and a stray shell fragment pierced her sunbonnet. Her fearlessness during the siege earned her another nickname, the Heroine of Fort Brown. She traveled with the army into the interior of Mexico and opened a hotel in Saltillo, the American House, where she again demonstrated her bravery during the battle of Buena Vista by loading cartridges and even carrying some wounded soldiers from the battlefield to safety. During this period she was married to her second husband, known variously as Bourjette, Bourget, and Bourdette, a member of the Fifth Infantry. Sarah apparently remained in Saltillo as a hotelkeeper until the end of the war, but in July 1848 she asked to join a column of dragoons that had been ordered to California. By this time her husband was probably dead, and she was told that only married women could march with the army. Undaunted, she rode along the line of men asking, "Who wants a wife with fifteen thousand dollars and the biggest leg in Mexico? Come, my beauties, don’t all speak at once. Who is the lucky man?" After some hesitation a dragoon named Davis, probably David E. Davis, stepped forward, and the Great Western once again marched with the army.

In 1849 Sarah arrived in El Paso and briefly established a hotel that catered to the flood of Forty-niners traveling to the gold fields. She leased the hotel to the army when she left for Socorro, New Mexico, with a new husband, Albert J. Bowman, an upholsterer from Germany. When Bowman was discharged on November 30, 1852, the couple moved to Fort Yuma, where Sarah opened another restaurant. She lived first on the American, then the Mexican, side of the river, to protect her adopted children. By the mid-1860s she was no longer married to Bowman, but she served as company laundress and received an army ration. In 1856 she traveled to Fort Buchanan to set up a hotel ten miles below the fort. She had returned to Fort Yuma by 1861. Although Sarah was well known as a hotelkeeper and restaurateur, she probably had other business interests as well. One chronicler referred to her as "the greatest whore in the West," and Lt. Sylvester Mowry, a soldier stationed at Fort Yuma in 1856, wrote of Sarah that "among her other good qualities she is an admirable ‘pimp.’" The date of Sarah’s death, reportedly caused by a tarantula bite, is unclear, though one contemporary source indicates that she died in 1863. She was buried in the Fort Yuma post cemetery on December 23, 1866, with full military honors.