Pedro Vial, and The Roads to Santa Fe by Noel M. Loomis and Abraham Nasatir, and: Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail by Leo E. Oliva (review)
- Western American Literature
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 2, Number 4, Winter 1968
- pp. 313-314
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- Additional Information
Reviews 313 Pedro Vial, and The Roads to Santa Fe. By Noel M. Loomis and Abraham Nasatir. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967. xxv + 569 pages, 18.95.) Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail. By Leo E. Oliva. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967. viii + 226 pages, $4.50.) The books and articles on the Santa Fe Trail fill many shelves in any comprehensive library, yet here are two new books which extend the pioneer ing period of the Trail by several decades and also add individual explorers hitherto little known or discussed. The book by professors Loomis and Nasatir carries the story back to the years 1792-93 when a Frenchman named Vial travelled from the capital of New Mexico to St. Louis in less than ten weeks, during six of which he was held captive by Indians. In 1786, the same man had been ordered by the Spanish authorities to proceed from San Antonio to Santa Fe in order to provide the governor of New Mexico with maps and other data about his route there from Texas. Between these two journeys, Vial had travelled from Santa Fe to San Antonio by a more northeastern route and had been to Nacogdoches. He returned to Santa Fe in 1793 and served the Spanish authorities there as interpreter on trips to the Indian country. It is difficult to sum up the achievements of such an intrepid man as Pedro Vial. He left Santa Fe in 1793 and lived in Missouri for a number of years, but he was again living in Santa Fe by 1797 and that locality was his home until he died in 1814. However, as a trapper, hunter, soldier, and adventurer, he was away from the provincial capital on military forays, trail surveys, and other trips recorded in journals as carefully kept as any other of the notebooks by military or civilian travelers in the uncharted Southwest. Vial was the forerunner of William Becknell, whose pack train was to in augurate the steady flow of commercial, immigrant, and army expeditions which were to tie the western United States to northern Mexico in a way that could not be dissevered. Professor Oliva, in his book, tells the story of how the Army helped to tie the Southwest to the United States. We learn that as early as 1825, the Congress authorized a survey of the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Osage, Missouri, to Taos, New Mexico. The survey was completed a year later. The length of the distance from Independence to Santa Fe was 770 miles and such spots as Council Grove, Pawnee Rock, and Fort Dodge, in Kansas, Bent’s Fort, on the north route in Colorado, and Point of Rocks, Wagon Mound, and Fort Union, in New Mexico, became as well known to the military forces as they had been to the traders. The Indians began to harass the Trail after 1828. Army escorts were provided in 1829, 1833, 1834, spring and autumn of 1843, 314 Western American Literature and in 1845. Nevertheless, serious attacks by Kiowas occurred in 1833 and by Cherokees in 1834. As a result of the Mexican War in 1846, additional forts were built in the occupied territory, such as Ft. Mann, 1847, east of Cimarron Crossing, and Ft. Marcy, 1846, in Santa Fe. Descriptions of the routine life of a soldier, the sports, religious services, and diversions make up much of the detail in the book. Such Army posts could have made the Trail a safe place for travel if they had been adequately garrisoned and fully com mitted to the task for which they were constructed, but recommendations by the Army were ignored in the immediate post-Mexican War years, and the Army was slow in devising a system of protection for the mail routes over the Trail. By the decade of the 1870’s, the troops provided protection for the building of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad. The book concludes with the statement that the Santa Fe Trail was truly a military road, as well as a route of commerce and emigration, and the troops who served on it made significant and valuable contributions to the westward expanse...