Trail Mixers Read: ‘Gone for Soldiers’

I’ve long wanted to feature the occasional book review by Trail Mixers. Here’s an offering from eProf2. I welcome others. — Craig

A Book Review of “Gone for Soldiers: A Novel of the Mexican War” by Jeff Shaara and published by Ballantine Books (2000, 448 pages)

By eProf2 for Trail Mix.

Lately, I’ve taken an interest in historical novels about the fusion culture of the southwest. There are a great many to choose from. One of my favorites, Gone for Soldiers: A Novel of the Mexican War, was a very good historical read about America’s almost forgotten war.

US history textbooks, generally, spend less than two or three pages on how the United States expanded its territory in the southwest to include California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Utah all in one fell swoop from 1846 to 1848.

Here in Arizona, Mexican American history courses for the Tucson School District were banned; thus, removing any opportunity for students of all backgrounds to delve into and appreciate the very history of a fusion culture and an understanding of a policy of “Manifest Destiny” devised by President James Polk.

Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
While American textbooks limit any discussion on the war between our two nations, Mexican history books on the other hand can spend up to a third of their content on General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and the loss of so much Mexican territory. Santa Anna presided over Mexico for many years during this tumultuous time after Independence from Spain in 1821, including the years of the Mexican American War. Mexicans have not forgotten the war of 1846-1848 as one of the biggest events in their history, while few Americans even remember it.

Jeff Shaara’s novel sticks to the actual events fairly closely only adding dialogue to the main characters, Winfield Scott, Robert E. Lee, and so many other military figures who became so prominent in the American Civil War thirteen years later. The Mexican American War, among other outcomes, was almost a proving ground for these famous men of American history.

I was glad to see Shaara include events surrounding the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish Catholics who enlisted in the American army but later deserted to Mexico when they were denied access to their religious ceremonies and the mass. Shaara describes quite accurately how many of them were hung or shot as deserters just a few minutes after the US flag was raised at Chapultepec replacing the Mexican flag and effectively bringing the war to an end in favor of the United States.

Shaara, unfortunately, doesn’t even mention Los Ninos Heroes, the six young Mexican cadets (13-17) who lost their lives at Chapultepec trying to resist the American onslaught to their academy. Mexicans celebrate El Dia de Los Ninos Heroes every year as they also lay a wreath at the historic plaque dedicated to the San Patricio Battalion in Mexico City.

This historical novel of the Mexican American War and the loss of so much territory, due mostly to the ineptitude of Santa Anna, is just one of the reasons Mexicans like to say, “so far away from God and so close to the United States.”

This was a good read for those interested in the flesh and blood of an otherwise historical skeleton.

Also on this topic:

38 thoughts on “Trail Mixers Read: ‘Gone for Soldiers’”

  1. Reposting Jamie’s Oscar list from last thread (it’s tomorrow, folks!)

    And don’t to forget to visit our own movie blog — Blank & White On Film by Jamie and DaveB.

    Jamie says:
    02/23/2013 at 8:08 AM

    Here are the candidates for the top six awards. Make you picks with a tie breaker which picture will win the most awards overall.

    Best Picture

    “Amour” Nominees to be determined
    “Argo” Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
    “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
    “Django Unchained” Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
    “Les Misérables” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
    “Life of Pi” Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
    “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
    “Silver Linings Playbook” Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
    “Zero Dark Thirty” Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

    “Amour” Michael Haneke
    “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Benh Zeitlin
    “Life of Pi” Ang Lee
    “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg
    “Silver Linings Playbook” David O. Russell

    Actor in a Leading Role
    Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”
    Hugh Jackman in “Les Misérables”
    Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master”
    Denzel Washington in “Flight”

    Actor in a Supporting Role
    Alan Arkin in “Argo”
    Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master”
    Tommy Lee Jones in “Lincoln”
    Christoph Waltz in “Django Unchained”

    Actress in a Leading Role
    Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
    Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
    Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

    Actress in a Supporting Role
    Amy Adams in “The Master”
    Sally Field in “Lincoln”
    Anne Hathaway in “Les Misérables”
    Helen Hunt in “The Sessions”
    Jacki Weaver in “Silver Linings Playbook”

  2. Eprof,

    Great review. never heard of this book. Will be finding it soon.

    Will also pass it along to my son who is always looking for unusual books for his personal history collection.

  3. Thanks for the Book Review. A close family friend, Thomas Kailbourn, co-authored a book called Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary 1840-1865 (also available on Amazon, btw). A number of Mexican War era pics are included.

  4. I have not seen all of the movies nominated this year, but more than I usually do. Based on those here are my picks.

    Best Pic.-Argo

    Directing-Silver linings play book

    Best Actor- Daniel Day-Lewis

    Supporting Actor- Alan Arkin

    Best Actress- Jessica Chastaine

    Supporting actress- Anne Hathaway

    Just some notes. I am glad to see Denzel Washington nominated, I thought his performance in ‘Flight’ was amazing. If Jennifer Lawrence wins so be it, just saw Silver Linings” last week and she had me from the moment she appeared on screen, and I would say the same for Bradley Cooper. In another year Hugh Jackman should win,seldom has a screen character been as compelling. Had Sally Field had a larger role in Lincoln, she would have found that Hollywood really does like her, again.

  5. “Here in Arizona, Mexican American history courses for the Tucson School District were banned…..”

    That is despicable.

  6. Just a random after thought.

    Is there anyone here beside myself who still longs for the 90 minute movie and the 2 hour baseball game? :-)

  7. For those who want to buy the book eProf2 reviews today, click the Amazon link above his review (or any Amazon link on our pages) and Trail Mix gets a few pennies!

    By the way I discovered the reason for today’s slowdown. YouTube is painfully slow today, so I switched from an embed to a direct link for the video in the last thread. That seemed to help.

  8. Should you get a chance:


    “John Riley” from Tim O’Brien’s 1999 CD The Crossing, cowritten by O’Brien and the redoubtable Guy Clark; not to be confused with the folksong of the same title. This one is a mini-history of the San Patricios.

    I was on the road to Maryville one day, intent on going to a bookstore–was listening to the Americana station out of Norris TN when the DJ played this cut. First time I ever heard O’Brien. Fell in love with the music and haven’t looked back since. :)

  9. My Picks for Oscars:
    Best Picture: Argo
    Best Director: Steven Spielberg
    Best Actor: Denzel Washington
    Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
    Best Actress: Quvenzhane Wallis
    Best Supporting Actress: Sally Field

  10. Jace – It depends upon the movie and the Baseball teams, who are playing.

    I have only seen Argo from this Oscar list myself.

  11. Faire. So thankful for the Tim O’Brien video. There is also a film on San Patricio Battalion, which was ok but rated with only one star out of five. I’m looking for an Internet photo of the Mexico City plaque honoring the SPB so that I can see all the Irish names. Has anyone come across one? Did you know that the name O’Brien has been Spanishified (new word) to Obregon? Again, thanks, Faire.

  12. Thank you, Chloe. I’ve always thought there were more names on it than what wikipedia shows. I was hoping to find the name, Moran, on any list of SPB members. There are no Morans on the wiki list. Still, I appreciate your research. Thanks.

  13. True love can manifest itself in so man wonderful and touching ways.

    Tonight it comes in the form of lemon meringue pie. :-))

  14. Queer Talk: LGBT Protections Stripped from VAWA by House Republicans
    by Joyce Arnold

    Earlier this month, the Violence Against Women Act was passed by the Senate, 78 to 22. According to a HuffPo report, the bill had 62 cosponsors, and actually picked up “additional support from a handful of Republicans.”

    So, the next move was in the House, and yesterday, February 22, the House Republicans once again revealed their, what, disdain for women? Or at least for women of certain groups. Whatever it is, they removed protections for women who are lesbian, bisexual and transgender, and to a lesser but still significant extent, for Native American women.

    At the end of 2012, VAWA expired because House Republicans wouldn’t accept protections in the Senate bill for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims.

  15. eprof,

    I did check to see if I could find something elsewhere, but the one on Wiki was the only one that was really legible (and enlargeable).

    I’m glad you brought this piece of history to our attention and your doing so originally led me to this site I’m linking below. It’s well done, with several links…. but probably adds nothing new to what you know. But I have more to learn about it (now that you’ve sparked my interest) and therefore bookmarked it to go to later (when I have more time).

    By Rose Mary Salum

  16. Great review eprof –
    Those Irish deserters deserve a book themselves. I mean the famine in Ireland was really getting going at the time. I have seen a PBS program that detailed their story, they fought like hell.

    I am pretty sure they were wondering how they ended up on some strange hill in Mexico, fighting for their lives.

  17. Tony,
    I found my way back over here because Carol had brought your last link over to her site, and we all appreciate how well informed you keep us with all you share here.

    I guess you know how much we all love you and thank you for… well, for being you. :)


  18. I agree with you, Jace.
    True love can manifest itself in so many ways, and it’s usually all the little things that count most. It’s amazing what you end up with when you add them all together.

    Hope you both enjoy your lemon meringue pie!

  19. eprof-
    Speaking of tales of the Southwest , and Irishmen, they just reran the American Experience on ‘Billy the Kid’ .
    An Irish orphan from New York .
    He was at war with a ruthless gang called “The House” run by two Irishmen named Murphy, and Dolan.

    Born to impoverished Irish immigrants, Henry McCarty left the slums of New York City with his mother, Catherine, to join the wave of humanity heading west following the end of the Civil War. Lured by the promise of silver, they settled in a remote outpost in southeastern New Mexico, a place on the edge of civilization where Latino, Native American and Anglo cultures mixed freely. Henry embraced this mestiza culture and within a few months was speaking Spanish fluently, wearing sombreros and moccasins, and courting senoritas in the evening. When Catherine remarried, the family fortunes improved.

  20. Tony,
    I like the Rainbow Flag illustrating the story you posted, especially the last two lines:

    I am like you
    I’m human

    For a Party that prides itself on the sanctity of life, the Republicans are pretty particular about just who is entitled to all the rights and privileges surrounding that life. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  21. The Irish were treated as bad as empires treat people, and when they got here.
    They hated everybody, they were ruthless .

    If only those potatoes had not rotted in the ground.

  22. Tony,

    Nice to see your old familiar gravatar back.

    That egg thing just wasn’t working for me. Good egg though you be. :-)


  23. Speaking of rotten potatoes….

    British farming in crisis as crop losses from ‘relentless’ floods pile up woes

    Watkins is stoical. Bad weather happens and farmers shoulder the burden, but the past 12 months has seen his mettle tested to new limits. His fields have flooded four times in the past four months. “Absolutely unheard of,” he said. In 2011 his land had 17 inches of rain. Last year 39 inches fell. Even this was potentially surmountable as some of his crops can survive the odd short flood. “But not the constant flooding,” Watkins said. “The land has never really been allowed to drain properly.”

    And in the Rockies –

    Lakes are half full and mountain snows are thin, omens of another summer of drought and wildfire. Complicating matters, many of the worst-hit states have even less water on hand than a year ago, raising the specter of shortages and rationing that could inflict another year of losses on struggling farms.

    Reservoir levels have fallen sharply in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The soil is drier than normal. And while a few recent snowstorms have cheered skiers, the snowpack is so thin in parts of Colorado that the government has declared an “extreme drought” around the ski havens of Vail and Aspen.

  24. I watched Lee Marvin win his Award today on TCM, he always said his horse should have been given one as well.
    ‘Cat Ballou’
    Not true, Lee was at the peak of his powers . And when he fell out of the back of that stage coach, he was one of the great clowns of the screen. He got the Award for’Cat Ballou’ , he was making the “Dirty Dozen”.

    Watch his hands, the little finger, and the ring finger. In every film he made.
    As an actor’s trick , it’s why we watch him.
    He did that in every movie .
    Steve Mcqueen did something close to that, on top of the stage coach to upstage Yule Brenner.

    He took the shot gun shells and shook them at his ear.
    Then he said . “Let er’ Buck”.
    Yule Brenner hated his guts, after that.

  25. Chloe and CBob. Thanks for the leads.

    CBob, Billy the Kid’s home was in Silver City, NM. Three years ago we stayed in the Rose Valley RV Park just north and east of SC. To our south, about 200 yards, is one of the old cemeteries where Billy the Kid’s mother is buried. Didn’t hear any strange noises or her footsteps but it was an interesting experience knowing of her fame, with no one making a fuss over her or her grave in Silver City.

    Chloe, I’m particularly glad that my review turned you on to digging deeper into this fascinating chapter of American, Irish, and Mexican history. If you haven’t seen it already, follow the Tim O’Brien video until you find the two part, 12 minutes each, Saol John Riley video on a songwriters journey to discover exactly who John Riley was and what became of him after the M/A war. Fascinating video.

    Thanks all for the comments and feedback as I continue to look for the Moran family of Mexico and later in Arizona. I am still hoping there is a connection between my wife’s father’s family and the San Patricio Battalion; thus, my research and interest continues.

  26. eprof –
    The best soundtrack ever written for a movie –
    Every Saturday I played it. I had 2 rules , No politics, no religion.
    We all got along fine.


  27. eprof –
    After that entire soundtrack, I went Chris Isaak, and then Ms. Crow.
    Chris Isaak, Think of Tomorrow

  28. Published on Aug 29, 2012

    The Convention is where delegates are meant to cast votes for the nominee, yet the Tampa Bay Times Forum was already plastered with embedded Romney banners, and additional ‘Mitt’ signs for people to hold were also smuggled in to make it appear that many are behind him. All Ron Paul material was promptly confiscated.

    Six states filed to put Ron Paul into nomination while the rules still said it only took five states. Realizing this, the RNC met early Tuesday morning to change the rules in order to make the minimum needed as eight states, which Ron also would have had if the RNC had not decided to take the Ron Paul delegates away from LA and ME. One bus of delegates on the way to the RNC was essentially kidnapped for two hours, and arrived too late to vote on the matter said the RNC.

    Rather than taking proper vote counts or listening to objections, several votes were clearly not unanimous, but this didn’t stop the RNC “leaders” from ignoring the dissent. Video surfaced just after this video published, but a link is in the video showing that the teleprompter already had pre-approved results before the public vote was taken. Ron Paul’s name and delegate totals were not allowed to be mentioned officially on the stage, even when he won the specific state.

    The Republican Party has lost all hope, and the disrespect Paul supporters received will eventually be replied with “I told you so.”

    from a youtube write-up
    Tried to watch a couple of videos on the subject but they both froze my computer. black ops

  29. Excellent review. I am still reading Paul Horgan’s Great River. I am reading of Pershing and his ‘Cadillac’ army during the war with Mexico. A hybrid of car and cavalry!

    A most interesting slice of history. Today the richest man in the world is from Mexico, Carlos Slim. Mexico always gets a bad rap, but ‘Old Mexico’ is a wonderful country. They have an advanced earthquake warning system for their citizens. Today, things are calmer than from a few years ago when murders were an everyday occurrence.

Comments are closed.