Percival G. Lowe spent nearly twenty years traveling the Great Plains, first as a dragoon recruit, then as a master of transportation, and finally as the operator of a freighting company. His recollections cover the period between the Mexican War and the Civil War when the frontier army was concerned with establishing outposts in the vast new territory in the West.
The author’s experiences were many and varied. He was one of 270 soldiers assigned to a meeting of sixty thousand Indians near Fort Laramie in August, 1851, arranged by the Indian Office to promote peace among the tribes and between the tribes and the government. He was in charge of securing supplies for building Fort Riley, Kansas, when a cholera epidemic one of the worst in the history of the army broke out. The first job of his freighting company was to transport mining equipment to the Pikes Peak area during the gold rush.
Lowe’s accounts, which vividly portray the life of a recruit and a civilian during a stirring period of national development, have often been quoted by historians writing of the mid-nineteenth century. Long out of print and almost unknown (it was published originally in 1906), the book has been issued on this new edition so that it may be read, not merely referred to.
Don Russell’s introduction sets the stage for the narrative, including a description of the United States Army between 1848 and 1861. His notes identify the places and persons mentioned and underscore their significance for today’s reader. Worth noting is the fact that nearly sixty officers whom Lowe met became generals in either the Union or the Confederate armies.