Dorothy Sloan – Books

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<p>Plate at p. 344</p>


[HISTORIES]. SMITH, S. Compton. Chile Con Carne; Or, The Camp and the Field. By S. Compton Smith, M.D., Acting Surgeon with General Taylor’s Division in Mexico. New York: Miller & Curtis, 321 Broadway; Milwaukee: Ford & Fairbanks; Dyer & Pasmore, 1857. [i-v] vi-xvi, [1] 2-404, [1-12], [4] pp., 8 wood-engraved plates (including frontispiece and map). 12mo (19.5 x 14 cm), original plum cloth blind-embossed covers with representation of a soldier bearing a flag, gilt pictorial spine. Light rubbing and shelf wear (especially corners and extremities), spine & covers faded, lower hinge rubbed, upper hinge cracked, upper cover stained. Interior is fine. Generally a better copy than usually found.


[1] The Race With The Lancers.—Page 180. [In image area] Dallas sc. Richardson—Cox. 8.5 x 12 cm. Frontispiece.

[2] The Kangaroo Club.—Page 32. [In image area] Richardson—Cox. Dallas Del. 8.5 x 12 cm.

[3] Brian O’Linn’s Lion Hunt.—Page 47. [In image area] Dallas Richardson—Cox. 8.3 x 11.5 cm.

[4] The Lieutenant’s Return.—Page 132. [In image area] Dallas del. Richardson—Cox sc. 8.5 x 11.5 cm.

[5] Aunt Hannah.—Page 175. [In image area] Richardson—Cox. 8.5 x 11.5 cm.

[6] Plan Of The Battle Of Buena Vista, Fought February 22nd. & 23rd. 1847. Page 253. 8.8 x 8.2 cm.

[7] The Piney Woods Volunteers.—Page 305. [In image area] Dallas del. Richardson—Cox. 9 x 12.2 cm.

[8] Charging Through The Guerrilla Camp.—Page 344. [In image area] Dallas del Richardson—Cox. 9 x 11.6 cm.

First edition. This work is advertised in the August 1, 1857, “New Works” ad inserted at the end of this copy as available for $1.25 in muslin. The author’s Introduction is dated New York, July, 1857. AII, Wisconsin Imprints, 1855-1858 342. Connor & Faulk 534. Garrett & Goodwin, p. 253. Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 567 & I, pp. 100-101. Palau 315255. Sabin 83970. Tutorow 3237.

Almost nothing seems to be known about the author except what he here reveals about himself. He was in Louisiana in the winter of 1846 when he decided to take the Sabine River down to the coast. After spending a short while near the mouth of that river, he went to Galveston, where he joined Colonel Joseph Bennett’s company of riflemen. After numerous adventures, including a shipwreck, he arrived at Point Isabel, where he joined General A. Sidney Johnson’s First Regiment of Texas Rifles, which was promptly mustered out because their enlistments were for only six months instead of twelve. He was subsequently appointed surgeon in another volunteer company. After he was discharged in the winter of 1847-1848, he made his way to Saint Louis, where the book ends. He apparently spoke some Spanish (p. 59).

If one expects a history filled with medical observations, this book will disappoint. Despite the fact he is supposedly a physician, Smith spends almost no ink on that aspect of the War. For example, he describes selecting a building and setting up a hospital in Cerralvo; the description, however, is general and lacking any significant details of medical practice. His description of curing rattlesnake and tarantula bites by inebriating the victim is, however, a classic description of conventional medical wisdom at the time (pp. 270-275). Much of his other material is anecdotal or borrowed, such as his description of the Battle of Monterrey, for which he does nothing but quote a description written by Dr. E.K. Chamberlain in a letter to his relative S. C. West of Milwaukee (p. 82).

His work is often mined for observations on Texas Rangers, and this, ironically, seems to be the book’s principal value for later generations. He is terribly unkind to Mabry B. Gray but, on the other hand, quite flattering about the civility some unspecified Rangers showed one hospitable citizen of Monterrey, who became friends with them (pp. 93-95). He is also quite sympathetic to their sometimes impossible mission of finding and defeating Mexican guerrillas, who often are elusive and may have numbers so large as to overwhelm the relatively small Ranger companies. He pays thrilling respect to their bravery in his description of their attack on the notorious El Mocho, who is felled by a Ranger with a single shot “into the very centre of his forehead” (p. 291). He also humorously describes how a few Rangers under the command of Texas Colonel Louis P. Cook daringly tore at night through a large body of guerrillas camped across the road the Texans needed to go down (pp. 339-345), which incident is illustrated with a plate (p. 344).

Painter and book illustrator Jacob A. Dallas (1825-1857), one of the early Harper’s Magazine artists who helped establish a native school of book illustration in the United States, created the vivacious, humorous illustrations which delightfully complement Smith’s text. F.O.C. Darley’s influence on Dallas is apparent; Weitenkampf remarks, “The swing and vigor of his [Darley’s] style find a certain reflection in the drawings, somewhat exaggerated in strength, of Jacob A. Dallas” (Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers I, p. 100; see also Groce and Wallace, p. 162). James H. Richardson and Thomas Cox, Jr. engraved Dallas’ original art work (Groce & Wallace, p. 536).


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