How did Alexander Doniphan, a Missouri lawyer, win command of the 1st Missouri Volunteers in the Mexican War? In the custom of the day, his men elected him. A gifted amateur, Colonel Doniphan led his one thousand volunteers to victories from Santa Fe to Chihuahua. Doniphan provides much more than military leadership in this excellent historical Western. He also provides a moral compass for two fictional characters that joined the army for adventure, profit and romance. Nate and Kirby Hatcher have more than Mexicans to fight when they both fall in love with Inez Torreón, a Santa Fe noblewoman.
The Mexican Army provided only one of Doniphan’s challenges. His volunteer force resisted army discipline. Traders, anxious to exploit new markets like Santa Fe and El Paso, schemed to sneak around the U.S. advance. Consequently, Doniphan had to restrain the traders’ wagons to his rear, quell dissension in his ranks and fight a numerically larger foe to his front.
The way Doniphan’s Thousand made it into print is a historical tale of its own. Les Savage, Jr. wrote this novel more than fifty years ago. However, the editors of the day thought a mixed race marriage was inappropriate for audiences of the 1950s. Happily, the editors of Five Star have brought us his original manuscript for Doniphan’s Thousand, and a number of other Savage novels. Unfortunately, Savage died at the age of thirty-five—the same age as Alexander Doniphan when he commanded one thousand Missouri volunteers in the Mexican War.