*The Dead March*

The author is Peter Guardino and the subtitle is A History of the Mexican-American War.  This book brought the War to life for me as no other book has, most of all by considering issues of morale, organization, and how hard did the Mexicans really fight back (more than many sources claim).  Here is one good “fact of the day”:

Between 1829 and 1860 around 14 percent of regular army soldiers deserted every year.

That’s for the American army, not the Mexicans.  This one is good enough to make my best of the year list, so it will be on the addended version.


"Between 1829 and 1860 around 14 percent of regular army soldiers deserted every year."
Compare and contrast with the Brazilian Army, where desertion is almost unheard of and being outnumbered tens to one by enemies (rebelled natives, Paraguayans, Argentinians, etc.) was commonplace. According to experts, Brazilian resistence in Dourdos (twelve men agains thousands of Paraguayans) and the Retreat of Laguna were more impressive than the Battle of Thermopylae and the Long March.

None of that s true

That sort of goes without saying, but this entry is sort of exceptional as these go. It has a certain strange beauty and purity to it, Like a villain in a Richard Harding Davis novel declaiming on the glorious history of San Theodoros or Borduria.

You must be jealous.

All of that is true. Cowardice is unheard of in Brazil!!



Thanks for the recommendation, I had missed its release. I have read a lot on the war and US expansion and Guardino has a very good reputation, so I am really looking forward to reading it.

America between 1805 and 1845 is one of the strangest societies in history, and while everyone claims to be into Tocqueville, surprisingly few seem all that curious as what he was actually describing. Just now I am reading Theodore Catton’s “Rainy Day House” which is about a single instant on the Northwestern frontier in the 1820s that was recorded by well documented and famous American, Indian, and Canadian perspectives. It is a truly fantastic book that beautifully integrates them together into a single story, and it is well enough done that it engrosses the expert while surely not taxing the casual reader. It has a lot of the same qualities on a much smaller scale as Charles Mann’s new book which I am also now reading.

“Rainy Lake House”

What would Americans do without its myths. I know: create them. And so it is with Mexico. From the Mexican American War to the Wall, little has changed. The far-flung myth is the Spanish American War to free the Philippines from the Spanish (which became the Philippine American War to make the Philippines an American colony). America is a nation of myths. Is there any part of American history that's not myth? From old myths (a Christian nation based on equality) to more recent myths (making the world, or at least the middle east, safe for democracy). I have no problem with myths; indeed, children need myths, and we are a nation of children. We get a daily dose of libertarian myths at this blog.

That being said, Vince Vaughn, who looks like a libertarian but who cares, still has time (another 10 years or so) to star as a lovable updated version of middle-aged dad Herman Munster. Viva Mockingbird Lane!

I speak several languages, most of them in a rather old-fashioned way: in my limited experience with hundreds of foreigners out of the billions of people on this world who are foreigners, Americans are less childish than the people I have met from all the English-speaking nations I am familiar with except Canada and Australia and New Zealand, and are far less childish than the French, the Sicilians, the Italians, the Haitians, and all the South Americans except the Cubans, who are not in South America anyway. And to tell the truth the only Cubans I know are very bright people, probably a selection effect from the results of Communist viciousness towards bright people (I have never been to Cuba and all the Cubans I know were Cubans I met off-island).

That being said, I met a couple Belgians, they were not childish, and if Burgundy were still a country, I would have to say the Burgundians I know are not childish.

This is not said often enough on the internet, but I for one would like to wake up tomorrow in a world where Burgundy was still a country and not remember this current world, where Burgundy is not a country.

It is interesting to see how often a facade of sophistication hides a deep and profound provincialism. Like those monoglot English speakers who insist that the French handle their public life so much better than the Americans or the British. If you happen to like having child molesters and Nazi collaborators in power I suppose.

The West is unique in that public myths are exposed to debate and testing. America is not a country like China which is built on lies. Lies that are enforced with massive censorship of everything down to tweets involving hundreds of thousands of state censors. America is not like Saudi Arabia which is built on a religion that, to be honest, is built on lies - to the extent that the Saudis are destroying all the evidence of pre-Islamic Arabia they can find.

But myths do have a place in America. Hands Up Don't Shoot for instance. Hillary is still trying to sell the Great Right Wing Conspiracy.

Excellent 2nd paragraph.

Adding to that last one, other American myths: tax cuts pay for themselves (that one is front and center these days), The War on Christmas, the "homosexual agenda"....I'm sure you can come up with a few more.




You see how it works? It matters, globally. It isn't just "goofy" or harmless.

Are you denying that there exists a homosexual agenda or just saying we shouldn't use the phrase?

My favorite American myth, at this moment, is the tenuous myth, about which almost nobody cares but which is still a real myth, that even us conservatives (well actually I am not conservative, I am more of what you would call a Jerusalem-Athenian meliorist) do not care that there are only 10 years or so left where Vince Vaughan, whether or not he is a libertarian or a liberal, can persuasively carry the burden of acting the role of "Herman Munster, likable middle aged dad". We care! Not all that much, of course, but still, we care.

Also, I agree with the commenter with the MSG prefix: that was an excellent second paragraph, So Much For Subtlety. I remember David Brin saying something like that once, at a book reading for one of his novels, but you said it just as well or better.

If you do not like China, maybe you shouldn't beg their money. You do take the king's shilling, you do what he says.

I like China. Sha Cha beef is one of the most interesting dishes among all the dishes of all the cuisines in our beautiful world.

Li Po and Tu Fu are sort of like Mozart and Beethoven but sort of less expensive: everything they wrote is always free!

I like China. Li Po, Tu Fu, and, to take it down a register, all those Song dynasty paintings!

To tell the truth, I think from now on, as much as I like Sha Cha beef ....

I will only cook vegetarian Chinese recipes.

Because: some day

we will never want

to ever again

enjoy a day

without love

for all who

were once

like us


I must not get out much. I never heard the one about the Spanish-American War being about freeing the Philippines from the Spanish. In High School history we were taught the main reason was the suspected blowing up of the USS Maine by the Spanish and a general “war fever”.

Wasn't the primary purpose to sell more papers for Joseph Pulitzer's and William Randolph Hearst's newspapers?

I thought that the Philippine attack was more the brain child of Secretary of the Navy Long and Assistant Secretary Roosevelt who sent orders to Dewey (Commander Asiatic Fleet) to grab the Philippines once war was declared

They wanted a base for the Asiatic Fleet which up to that point had to use Chinese, British, French and Japanese bases for support.

They wanted to increase China trade which with its cheap workers and goods was a goal of the merchant traders and thought they needed not only a fleet in the area but also a base to support it

I remember reading somewhere once, that the US Military suffered their highest casualty rate of all wars in the Mexican-American War.

The blurb claims "Mexicans were shocked by the scope of America’s expansionist ambitions ...".

That seems to me to be a claim that Mexicans (Meaning who? The political class?) were amongst the most naive people in history. Is the accusation lazy racism?

Considering that a major driver of Mexican policy was the fear of losing large amounts of territory to the US, that is a statement I would hope would be heavily qualified. But blurbs are largely useless for academic titles

It's clear that the Mexican-American War led to an unjust land grab, but I am less clear on the military side of this illegal and immoral war, so I'm going to add this book to my holiday reading list!

I was amazed when I read the forward to one of James McPherson's books on Civil War history that the fight over Texas independence was really a fight for Texans to hold slaves as Mexico had outlawed the practice. Many attribute the Mexican-American war to a land grab that would create more states than would insure continued majorities of pro-slavery votes in the Senate. Those Democrats sure tried everything to keep slavery. I know that both Ulysses Grant and Abraham Lincoln thought the war troublesome and brutal. If we had paid a million more, we could have gotten Baja California too.

And Baja California would have been better off under the Americans.

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