HILDRETH, James (b. ?1813) as “A Dragoon.” Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains. New-York: Wiley & Sons, 1836.

$ 1,800.00

8vo., (7 7/8 x 5 inches). (Repaired tear to final page of appendix; some spotting and browning). Contemporary purple cloth faded to brown, the smooth spine decorated and lettered in gilt (generally faded, extremities worn with some loss, some staining).

Provenance: With the manuscript ownership inscription of A. T. Richardson July 17, 1901, and S. ?Bogardus to front free endpaper. Ross Valley Book Company, 9/91. PBA Galleries, December 3, 2005, Lot 28.

First edition. The FIRST book in English to mention a poker game in print, featuring a footnote explanation of the term on p. 128: “a favorite game of cards at the south and west.” The narrator describes the scene of a poker game between a Major and Captain, as the Major “lost some cool hundreds”:

“‘I'll stake you another ten,’ cried the M-----. ‘Done,’ said Captain -----. ‘Twenty more,’ said the M-----. ‘Fifty more’ said the M-----. ‘Done,’ said the Captain. The M----- hesitated; the coolness of the Captain threw him off his guard; at last he struck his fist upon the table and roared at the top of his voice, ‘I'll stake you another hundred.’ ‘Done,’ said the Captain. The M----- dared not risk more, and throwing down his cards exclaimed, ‘There’s four kings! What have you got?’ ‘Only four aces!’ said the Captain coolly, as he began to scrape the money together. ‘D---m----n!’ roared the M-----, at the same time splitting the pine table with a blow of his fist.”

“U.S. Army regiment first organized in 1833 and then in 1836 reorganized and expanded into two dragoon regiments (later the 1st and 2nd Cavalry). In the U.S. system, the dragoons were basically medium cavalry, expected to use horses for mobility and speed but usually to fight dismounted, although they were certainly capable of mounted fighting. With the westward expansion of the United States, it became evident that mounted troops were required to cover the vast stretches of territory and compete with Native American warriors. Thus, despite a traditional fiscal aversion to regular mounted troops, in 1833 the U.S. Regiment of Dragoons was formed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and included many veterans of the battalion of Mounted Rangers authorized by Congress a year earlier. The regiment, commanded by a colonel, originally Henry Dodge, and comprised of a headquarters and 10 companies, totaled 34 officers and 714 enlisted men.

“In 1836 Congress authorized a second dragoon regiment, commanded initially by Colonel David Twiggs. The two regiments were now designated the 1st U.S. Dragoons and the 2nd U.S. Dragoons. No sooner was it established than much of the 2nd Dragoons was employed, both mounted and dismounted, in Florida in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). Following that war, the 2nd Dragoons was reorganized as the Regiment of Riflemen but was remounted as dragoons the following year, rejoining its fellow regiment in the West…

“Until the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) began, the 1st Dragoon Regiment was employed in scouting Native American warriors along the 1,000 miles of western frontier and from Missouri to the Rocky Mountains. There were numerous expeditions associated with the Cherokee, Iowa, Kansas, Pawnee, Pottawatomi, Osage, Otoe, Sauk, and Sioux nations. Particularly notable were the 1834 Pawnee Expedition and the 1845 expedition to the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains. During these years, however, there was little fighting, and most disturbances were settled with a show of force, notably with the Osages in 1837 and 1838 and the Cherokees in 1839 and 1840. Dragoons were also engaged in exploration and in building roads and bridges” (The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607-1890, p. 244).

Wagner-Camp suggests that Hildreth was just the person who brought the manuscript to the publisher, while the real author of the narrative may have been an Englishman named William L. Gordon Miller. Howes 471. Wagner-Camp 59. Graff 1885. Sabin 31769; Streeter 1800.

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