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throughout this period, but her reputation was not favorable
in American eyes after the rebellion in early 1847, and the
winters were milder and economic prospects brighter at
Albuquerque, which may have begun to grow more rapidly
than Taos. The total population of New Mexico was some-
where in the neighborhood of sixty thousand. 22

Johnny Gringo's critical remarks about the large and
small towns were a part of his general refrain on New Mexico
as a whole. "It is as near no country as ever was made," wrote
a typically exasperated campaigner, continuing, "one cannot
go out of his tent without getting his eyes most gloriously
filled with sand for mud is a stranger to this country." The
Santa Fe Republican went to work on this problem of attitude
in its second issue, with an editorial article entitled, "The
Wrong Idea" :

The opinion formed by people from the United States in regard
to New Mexico, is, generally, most erroneous. The men who
come here are farmers and mechanics, and expect to see here
what they see in the United States. . . . and because the appear-
ance and face of the country presents an aspect less attractive
than their fancies had painted for them, they denounce it with-
out stint. . . . These conclusions are very rational, but very
erroneous. . . . New Mexico is a vast labyrinth . . . compared
with which the annual products and luxuriant crops of any
of the States sink into insignificance. Put upon the resources
of this Territory the same labor that is bestowed on those of
any State of the Union, and a greater amount of wealth will be
realized here than there. 23

The editor was particularly interested in boosting mining
activity in New Mexico and extending irrigation and sheep-

21. Lansing B. Bloom, "New Mexico under Mexican Administration, 1821-1846,"
Old Santa Fe, I, 30; Gregg, Commerce, p. 271. The El Paso district was a part of
Chihuahua after 1824, not in any way linked to Coahuila, Nueva Leon or Texas under
Mexican administration.

22. Notes and Documents on population, below.

28. Thomas Edwards in Postscript to letter of M. B. Edwards to their brother,
Joseph, Oct. 7, 1846, Mexican War Envelope.


raising, but these were doubtful potentialities and Johnny
Gringo could usually find little more to praise in actualities
than the wonderfully salubrious climate. 24

Various objects caught the attention of the invaders as
they traveled through the country. Some of them noted that
the people seemed more prosperous, even "more intelligent,"
and the land more productive as they moved toward the
south, 25 an impression that was heightened if they went as
far as El Paso or Chihuahua. They were struck by the poise
and dignified carriage of New Mexican and Indian girls and
women who carried on their heads earthen jars and baskets
of water, fruit and other commodities. 26 They were interested
in the gold mines and mining techniques, south of Santa Fe,
as well as salt extraction from the salt lakes farther to the
south. 27 Occasionally they encountered and described such
things as the crib-work dam, twelve feet wide, eight feet high
and one-hundred feet long, along with a primitive mill, at
Manzano. 28

Since they were all more or less familiar with animals and
agriculture, the invaders commented often on farming tech-
niques and the use of burros (jackasses, they usually wrote) ,
mules, horses and oxen as they observed them everywhere.
Lieutenant Emory noticed that the burros were "usually
mounted from behind, after the fashion of leap-frog," and of
course that they could thrive where horses would starve.
Many Americans were shocked to observe that New Mexi-
can women rode astride, and in the case of a couple, the
woman rode in front of the man. "The lady is furnished with
a cudgel," Private Edwards wrote, "which she applies with
considerable force to the side of the animal's head opposite
the direction she wishes him to take." No-one in the period
being considered gave a better description of the loading and

24. "Bilious diseases," wrote the medical-minded Gregg, "are here almost unknown" ;
there was very little by way of fever, and people lived to be very old. Commerce, p. 105.

25. William E. Connelley, Doniphan's Expedition and the Conquest of New Mexico
and California (Topeka, 1907), p. 233; Bieber, ed., Marching, p. 167; Drumm, ed.,
Magoffin Diary, pp. 150, 158 ; Captain Henry S. Turner, Diary, Missouri Historical
Society, p. 22.

26. E. g., Abert, Report, p. 464 ; and Garrard, Wah-to-yah, pp. 247-48.

27. See especially Santa Fe Republican, Sep. 24 and Oct. 9, 1847; and Gregg,
Commerce, pp. 118-124.

28. Abert, Report, p. 485.


management of mules and mule-trains than Gregg had al-
ready given, but many commented on the surprisingly large
loads they could carry. The primitive native carts, or carretas,
which emitted wild creaks and screeches with every motion,
and the horn-yoked oxen which pulled them, often drew un-
favorable attention. But Private Hastings wrote,

I thought the Mexican manner of training cattle was at least in
one respect preferable to our own, since it saves all wear and
tear of human lungs. They seldom speak in driving, or if they
do they simply use the word "sho, sho" in a very soft tone,
which the animals readily obey and travel in a day as great a
distance as our horses. 29

Lieutenant Emory observed particularly colorful carreta-
loads at Tome, where people were gathering for a fiesta :

The man of the family usually seated himself on the tongue of
the wagon, his time divided between belabouring his beasts and
scratching his head. In one of these wagons a violin was being
played, and the women who were sitting on their feet, made
the most of the music by brandishing their bare arms and mov-
ing their heads to the cadence. 30

New Mexican agricultural implements were so crude as
to remind at least one of the invaders of those used by the
ancient Egyptians, a plow "being but the fork of a small tree,
with only one handle. The point entering the ground is some-
times shod with iron." But this man added that the soil was
easily cultivated and there was really little need for better
implements. Johnny Gringo was perhaps slow in comprehend-
ing that in New Mexico the owners of livestock were respon-
sible for keeping their animals out of the fields, rather than
the farmers being under obligation to maintain fences, the
custom in "the States." 31 The vital importance of the irriga-
tion systems was also a novelty to the invaders. They were
probably surprised at the vehemence of protests that resulted

29. Emory, Notes, p. 60. Bieber, ed., Marching, p. 169. Gregg, Commerce, pp. 127-
131. Hastings, Personal account, n. d. See Gregg's description of the carreta: Commerce,
p. 147.

30. Emory, Notes, pp. 70-71.

81. Garrard, Wah-to^yah, p. 246. Gregg observed that most of the peonies cultivated
only with the hoe. Commerce, p. 107.


from an officer's act near Abiquiu in breaking down an em-
bankment because he feared his tent might be flooded. 32

A further difference between the New Mexican country-
side and that to which Johnny Gringo was accustomed was
that here, in New Mexico, practically all of the people lived
in communities, and not on separate farms. An obvious rea-
son was for protection from the marauding Indians, chiefly
Navahos and Apaches. Young Lewis H. Garrard described
the typical temporary habitation of a northern New Mexico
shepherd an exception to the rule of community-dwelling:

two forked poles . . . are generally driven upright into the
ground . . . with four feet or about, visible. A pole is then laid
from one fork to the other, and other small ones, seven or eight
feet in length laid, the smaller ends on the cross pole, the butts
resting on the ground. On top of these, are spread raw hides of
beef, and the skins of game, and under the frame, the soft ends
of the pinyon and cedar branches, are spread to the depth of a
foot or more. On top of that, deerskins are laid, and then the
bedding surmounts that, which, altogether, makes a springy
mattress. . . , 33

But the generality of New Mexican homes were the unpre-
possessing adobe houses of the towns and villages. Johnny
Gringo's reaction on going inside was often unexpected. "I
was surprised on entering them," one man wrote, "I found
every thing verry neat and clean and furnished verry tasty."
Lieutenant Emory wrote, "Nothing can exceed the comfort
and convenience of the interior. The thick walls make them
cool in summer and warm in winter." 34

The houses of the common folk generally comprised only
one room. The entrance was sometimes covered with coarse
fabric or hides instead of a door, and there were sometimes
no windows, sometimes small windows protected by cloth or
isinglass windows the size of "the ventilator of a summer
hat," one man exaggerated. The walls inside were white-
washed, making the room appear better lighted than it would
otherwise have seemed, but since the powdery white gypsum

32. Richardson, Journal, pp. 40-41.

33. Garrard, Wah-to-yah, pp. 208-09.

34. T. J. Edwards to brother Joseph, Sep. 15, 1846, Mexican War Envelope. Emory,
Notes, p. 60.


easily rubbed off on one's clothes, those who could afford it
attached calico or wall-paper up to a height of five feet or
more. Chairs and tables were very rare in humble homes.
Earthen floors were the rule in homes of all classes, the differ-
ence being in the amount and quality of floor covering,
whether the "rags, tattered blankets, or old robes" so com-
monly seen, or the "handsome Brussles carpet" observed once
by Susan Magoffin. A sort of banquette, or built-in bench, ran
around all sides of the wall in even the finer homes, although
sometimes it was omitted and its place taken in the daytime
by rolled-up, blanket-covered mattresses, or by cushioned
benches. The ceiling consisted of the beams and cross-pieces
which supported the thick, flat, earth-covered roof. The
houses were almost fireproof, but it was not unknown for such
roofs to leak mud, as Susan Magoffin soon discovered, or for
plants to take root there. 35

Dwellings of all classes contained, as George Brewerton
described it,

a sort of family altar or chapel, where rude engravings of
saints, images intended to represent the Saviour, or "La Madre
de Dios," sacred relics, and consecrated rosaries, are displayed
around a huge crucifix, which occupies the centre of the wall
on that side of the apartment. These images, particularly upon
high fiestas and holidays, are decked out by the females of
the family with all sorts of tawdry ornaments; and on such
occasions it is by no means uncommon to see a doll representing
the Virgin Mary arrayed in a muslin frock, trimmed with arti-
ficial roses, and festooned with ribbons of the gayest hues.
Here and there are oil paintings ; a worse copy of a bad picture,
or, it may be, a veritable "Old Master," occupies the post of
honor. .

35. See especially: Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, pp. 103-04, 154, 166; Bieber, ed.,
Gibson Journal, pp. 209-210 (only mention of a fireplace: "small and illy-contrived") ;
Edwards, Campaign, pp. 48-49 ; Anna P. Hannum, ed., A Quaker Forty-niner; the Ad-
ventures of Charles Edward Pancoast on the American Frontier (Philadelphia, 1930),
p. 221 ("there were no Water Closets, and little Modesty was observed") ; Abert,
Report, p. 452 ; Emory. Notes, pp. 67-68 ; Bieber, ed., Marching, pp. 162-63 ; Brewerton,
Overland, pp. 150-51 ; George F. A. Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky
Mountains (London, 1847), pp. 184-85; Also Gregg, Commerce, pp. 144-46; Rufus B.
Sage, Wild Scenes in Kansas and Nebraska, the Rocky Mountains, Oregon, California,
New Mexico, Texas, and the Grand Prairies . . . ( Philadelphia, 1855 ) , pp. 174-75 ; and
James A. Bennett, Forts and Forays; ... a Dragoon in New Mexico, 1850-1856,
Clinton E. Brooks and Frank D. Reeve, eds. (Albuquerque, 1948), p. 14.


Lieutenant Abert regarded the oil paintings he saw more
favorably than Brewerton did, asserting that "one frequently
meets with fine specimens of art." He attempted to purchase
one from his landlady but was refused. Much more universal
were mirrors : "I have seen over a hundred looking-glasses of
all sizes in one house," Private M. B. Edwards stated. "They
[New Mexicans] have a great disposition to see themselves
. . . but cannot see themselves as others see them," he
added. 36

Two exceptions existed from the type of permanent dwell-
ing described above. In a few especially poor localities the
houses were partially dugout, with above-ground adobe walls.
At Chilili and Torreon, according to Lieutenant Abert, "the
walls of the houses are formed by placing logs upright in the
ground, and plastering them over with mud. The roofs of the
houses are flat, and composed of the same materials." He con-
sidered this to be "modern construction." 37

Lewis Garrard was the only visitor to New Mexico in the
late 1840's to describe the use of ovens. Many houses at Taos
had ovens in front of them, he said, shaped "like a cupping
glass," in which was baked "the whitest bread it has ever
been my fortune to taste. . . . The hard bread, biscoche, is
light, porous, and sweet a perfect luxury with a cup of
coffee. . . ," 38

But the blue tortilla, not the white biscoche, was the ordi-
nary breadstuff of New Mexico and Taos flour was notori-
ous with Johnny Gringo for being unbolted, apparently often
worse than the Graham flour that he was familiar with at
home. In addition to tortillas and rarely biscoche, Johnny
found many other commodities offered for his purchase, in-
cluding: eggs, milk, cheese, chickens, rarely a turkey or
pigeon, good mutton, goat-meat, rarely pork or beef, red and
green chile, corn, corn-sugar, molasses, musk melons, water-
melons, pumpkins, squash, frijoles, onions, flour, garlic,
salsify, pinon nuts, peaches, apples, apricots, pears, plums,
grapes, prickly pears, and also wine, aguardiente, Taos whis-

36. Brewerton, Overland, pp. 150-51. Abert, Report, p. 456. Bieber, ed., Marching,
P. 163.

37. Edwards, Campaign, p. 41 ; Gregg, Commerce, p. 146 ; Abert, Report, pp. 483-84.

38. Garrard, Wah-to-yah, p. 242.


key, and apparently some beer and mescal (the latter im-
ported from the south, distilled from pulque) . The milk and
cheese were ordinarily from goats, and they did not often
appeal to Johnny Gringo. The goats were generally milked, a
Mormon wrote, by boys "who sat at the rear of the animals,
and the milk pail caught frequent droppings of nanny-berries,
which were carefully skimmed out with the fingers. Possibly,
this may in some degree account for the extreme richness of
the goat's milk cheese." Susan Magoffin likened this cheese
to Dutch "smerecase, though very tough, mean looking, and
to me unpalatable." Milk, butter and perhaps cheese from
cows were available but very expensive. Mountain trout were
available in Santa Fe in the fall of 1847, and New Mexico-
grown potatoes were promised for the following year. 39

It was often a mutually trying experience for Johnny
Gringo to take a meal in a New Mexican's home. The invaders
were likely to be finicky in the matter of cleanliness, by New
Mexican standards, and they did not take chile and onions as
appreciatively as a polite guest should. New Mexicans were
ceremonious on such occasions, as Private Richardson
learned :

An old woman invited me in her house and set before me some
tortillas and cornstalk molasses, which were quite a treat. . . .
I was about to take leave, with many thanks for their hospi-
tality, when, to my great surprise and embarrassment, the old
lady and her daughter most affectionately embraced me. I
suppose it was a custom among these simple hearted mountain-
eers, but of which I was quite ignorant.

The hosts characteristically refused payment. Lieutenant
Richard S. Smith and his comrades ate heartily of a mutton
stew with tortillas in a small village, and got their New Mexi-
can host to accept payment only "after one of us who could
'habla' Spanish a little managed to make him understand

39. See especially: Gilmer to Captain George Welcker, Sep. 23, 1846, Lenoir Family
Papers, No. 2 ; Abert, Report, p. 448 ; Edwards, Campaign, p. 53 ; Connelley, Doniphan'a
Expedition, pp. 229-230, 269 ; Bieber, ed., Gibson Journal, pp. 211, 244 ; Garrard, Wah-to-
yah, pp. 271-72 ; Sergeant Daniel Tyler, A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in
the Mexican War, 1846-1847 ([Salt Lake City], 1881), p. 164; Drumm, ed., Magoffin
Diary,, p. 90 ; Santa Fe Republican, Nov. 13, 1847 ; and also Gregg, Commerce, pp. 111-12,
135-36, 273n. Gregg mentions chocolate but apparently with reference to northern Mexico,
not to New Mexico.


that if he wished to be regarded as a good 'Americano' he
must take everything he could get his hands on, honestly of
course." 40 The common forms of "Mexican food" with which
tourists and residents regale themselves today in New Mexico,
such as the tamale, taco, enchilada, chile relleno and sopai-
pilla, were apparently quite unknown to Johnny Gringo. 41
Atole was a concoction better suited to the time and place. As
described by Sergeant F. S. Edwards, atole was

prepared of various materials, mostly of the common meal.
However, to make it really good, it should be prepared in an
open vessel by heating a few quarts of milk or water; and
when it boils, stirring in a mixture of fine wheat flour mixed
with the meal of the small pinon nuts, obtained from a species
of the pine tree. After being boiled a short time, it becomes very
palatable, and a great satisfier of hunger. When made with
only water and corn meal, it is, of course, not so inviting,
although by no means bad. 42

Atole came to be prepared very commonly by the soldiers for
their own use. Tortillas, knives and fingers, rarely anything
else, were the tools of eating. New Mexican women ordinarily
did not eat with the men, at least in the presence of Ameri-
cans. Water, if served as a beverage, was placed in a large
cup from which all could drink, in turn, at the conclusion of
the meal. 43

Enough has been said here already to suggest that Johnny
Gringo and fellow American invaders exhibited strong feel-
ings, strong prejudices, in and about New Mexico. It will
be well to examine this matter further, at this point, before
studying the person-to-person relationships in New Mexico
between conqueror and conquered.

No mid-twentieth-century American, acquainted with the
record of American servicemen abroad in two great conflicts,

40. Richardson, Journal, p. 38. Richard S. Ellittt, Notes Taken in 60 Years (St.
Louis, 1883), p. 236.

41. The closest identifiable report of a tamale was at El Paso.

42. Edwards, Campaign, p. 54.

43. See especially : Abert, Report, p. 462 ; Bieber, ed., Marching, p. 323 ; Brewerton,
Overland, pp. 156, 165 ; Emory, Notes, pp. 68-69 ; Drumm, ed., Magoffin Diary, p. 94 ;
Richardson, Journal, pp. 50-51 ; and Gregg, Commerce, pp. 110-11.


retains any notion that a tour of duty in a foreign land will
often divest a soldier of the prejudices which he took into
that land. One should not expect more of Johnny Gringo. He
entered New Mexico with many preconceptions. Sometimes
he was aware of them, as in the case of a young Mormon who
admitted that he was "quite prejudiced" against Mexicans,
having heard since infancy that they were "a very savage and
unprincipled people." His mother had particularly cautioned
him against them when he enlisted. 44

More often than not, however, Johnny did not recognize
his bias or made no effort to take it into account. He invariably
tended to take the attitude toward Mexicans of the typical
Texan, and this was an attitude in which the Alamo and San
Jacinto and the almost equally well-known story of the Texan-
Santa Fe Expedition were vital and recent ingredients. This
was true in general. In particular, it is seen that the writings
of Gregg and George Wilkins Kendall had a large influence
on Johnny Gringo's descriptions of New Mexico. These men
were both excellent, educated observers who made honest ef-
forts at objectivity, but neither was entirely successful.
Gregg, for example, described Northern Mexicans as cruel,
intolerant, bigoted, intriguing, alternately cringing and arro-
gant. As he expanded on these points he made more of an im-
pression on his readers than he later did with this brief
qualification :

While such are the general features of the character of the
Northern Mexicans, however, I am fain to believe and ac-
knowledge, that there are to be found among them numerous
instances of uncompromising virtue, good faith and religious

Not only are Gregg and Kendall often cited by name in the
letters, diaries and accounts of the invaders of 1846-1849,
but it is evident that their influence, indeed their very phrase-
ology, affected many of the remaining documents. It is re-
freshing, then, to find an exception, a diarist who pointedly
rebuked their influence. Benjamin Hayes, a forty-niner,

44. William Coray in "The Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
Day Saints. 1846 and 1847," Oct. 10, 1846, Office of the Church Historian, Salt Lake City.


wrote that New Mexicans "are polite, kind, mild, well-mean-
ing people, respecting the laws, and eminently religious in
their feelings. Tis a contracted pedant who would blame them
for their want of education." 45

In addition to the biases created by previous writers and
by a natural sympathy for Texas in her war for independence,
the documents here used show much evidence of careless writ-
ing, particularly in accepting gossip for fact and in making
sweeping generalizations on the basis of slight experience.
Thus one appreciates Daniel Hastings' assurance in his jour-
nal that he did not write or imitate the views of other people
regretting at the same time that he decided, "Many hap-
enings on a campaign of this Kind in an enemies country
must necessarily be omited as being improper." In another
unpublished source, a journal by Captain Henry S. Turner,
a Catholic, a corrective is suggested with reference to the
common assertion by the invaders that all New Mexican
priests and women were grossly dissolute : "yet they may not
(be) so abandoned as they are said to be [said Turner] ; the
reports we receive are from ignorant Americans generally,
with whom, want of veracity and violent prejudice are the
conspicuous traits of character a truthful American is
rarely seen here." 46

That New Mexico was in a very backward condition in the
1840's is beyond cavil, of course, as Mexican sources clearly
reveal. 47 But its inhabitants were certainly not without fine
traits of humanity, as the experience of an Illinois volunteer
shows, who fell sick at Albuquerque :

I repaired to the House of a Mexican of whom I had bought
"Mais" [maize] for the Mules and Cattle, where I was kindly
received and made as comfortable as a soft bed and warm fire
could render me. Dr Perry visited me here and by timely pre-
scriptions successfully broke the disease. I remained here all

45. Gregg, Commerce, p. 155. Marjorie T. Wolcott, ed., Pioneer Notes from the
Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1849-1875 (Los Angeles, 1929), p. 29. Of course there
is a difference between describing a condition, the purpose of this paper, and denouncing
persons involved in it, which Johnny Gringo did rather freely.

46. Hastings to Justin Harvey Smith, May 4, 1907, J. H. Smith papers, VoL XV.
Turner, Diary, p. 19. Turner almost immediately forgot his skepticism, however: ibid.,
pp. 20-21.

47. See Carroll and Haggard, trans.. New Mexico Chronicles, passim.


day and night. ... I cannot too highly commend the disinter-
ested kindness of these people to myself during my sojourn in
their "Cosa"[.] A Brother an[d] Sister could not have shown
more solicitude or tenderness than was exhibited by these kind
hearted couple.

Every little delicacy which their stock afforded was kindely
pressed upon me. . . . When taking leave of them it was with
the utmost difficulty that I could prevail upon them to receive a
trifle in return for their kindness to me. 48

At the same time, it is notably ironic that devastating and
unjust criticism of New Mexicans should come from such per-
sons as the invaders proved themselves to be. "We are a great

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