Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 26
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A private's pay was $13 a month, rising to
$16 by the end of a five-year hitch. As a
deterrent against desertion, a dollar a
month was withheld from the enlisted
man's pay. He got it back, at 4% interest, if
he finished his hitch. As inducement to reenlist,
he received a $2 a month boost in
salary the first time he re-upped, with an
extra buck for subsequent renewals. Money
could be made by moonlighting. Extra
work as a carpenter got you 20 a day, while
a mason or wagonmaster could receive the
princely day-wage sum of 35 whole cents.
One may laugh, but remember that the
iniquity of income tax had not visited the
land, and there wasn't much on which a
man could spend his money.
The text, accompanied by delightfully
informative illustrations by Jack Johnson,
romps through Life in the Field. You see the
disaster of the Camel Corps, a brilliant idea
shot down before it had a chance because it
was, after all, the brain child of the grayleg
scoundrel, Jefferson Davis.
Experience the last of the Indian troubles.
Troopers often survived by pure dumb
luck rather than any excess of brains or
talent among their commanders. Encounter
the chicanery of forked-tongue federal
agencies in their dealings with the Indians.
Go through the campaigns as if you had a
ringside seat, which you do thanks to
Wooster's talent for stringing words together.
The sound of a hand-organ echoes
down the years-the laughter and the
fiddle-saw of a post dance. "Cultural activities
and entertainment" come to the farflung
forts as the people tried to lighten the
tedium of their days. Schools were set up as
these pioneers strove for a semblance of
normalcy in their lives. And, in spite of
everything, "...we managed to exist and to
enjoy ourselves," wrote Infantry Colonel
Charles J. Crane.
You will look at post life as life in a very
small town, isolated and building its own
society, bound by necessity and a common
mission. And finally, you will participate in
the passing of the military frontiers, as
settlers moved in to plant their roots and
tame the land, and civilization began its
westward march across that land.
Wooster has given a series of glimpses at
a way of life that is no more. It lasted a brief
span of years and disappeared, leaving
memories both rich and bitter. The author
has harvested those memories, and set
before us one of the easiest-reading historical
accounts I've ever had the pleasure of
This work belongs on your shelf of favorite
books, the ones you pick up to read
time and time again, finding something
new, with a fresh sense of enjoyment every
time you turn a page.
Alex Apostolides is an archaeologist and the
writer and producer of The Edge of Texas
radio show in El Paso.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988, periodical, Summer 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434/m1/26/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.