My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bowies Along the Border

From page 54 of Samuel Sydney's Emigrant's Journal, second series, published in 1850.
I 
crossed the San Antonio by a bridge of some twenty yards' 
span — the water below bright, limpid, and running with 
great velocity — and rode up through the principal street 
of the town. The Mexican houses presented a very novel 
aspect, by their more substantial and somewhat antiquated 
look, as compared with American cities in the west, 
which seem like the wooden structures of strolling players, 
always ready to be moved to a new locality. The street 
was crowded with a mixed population — bronzed Mexicans 
in a bandit-looking costume, descendants of the Indians 
of unmixed race, and much darker than their northern 
brethren; Mexican girls, many of them having considerable 
pretensions to beauty, and more or less tinged with 
Indian blood; several Negroes; and, congregated about 
the doors of bar-rooms and drinking shops, were Texan 
rangers, returned Mexican volunteers, Mississippi gamblers, 
and others of the scum of American society, carrying rifles, 
pistols, and bowie-knives, and attired in costume partly 
military, partly Mexican, partly in the skins and accoutrements 
of the savage. Passing from the street into the 
public square, I halted at a most wretched looking inn, 
filled with a most unpalatable modicum of western vagabonds. 
Here I found my Virginian friends in a state of 
inexpressible disgust at the moral condition of San Antonio. 
All that we had ever heard or met with in the administration 
of the "wild-justice" of the bowie-knife and repeating 
pistol appeared to be here intensified and concentrated. 
Murders were so common that they were scarcely subjects of 
comment. The latest amusement of this nature was shooting 
three bullets through the hat of a dissenting minister, 
as he walked down the street, because the Texan did not — 
as he declared with many oaths — admire the shape of it. 
Fortunately the marksman was good, and the hat only suffered. 
One "gentleman" was said to have slain three men 
in the course of a year. The last was of recent occurrence, and originated in a quarrel which took place in a store
close, where an officer of the returned volunteers from 
Mexico — a notorious scoundrel, and the leader of a gang of 
desperadoes — rode in on horseback and presented his pistol
 amidst a group assembled there. A scuffle ensued, which 
resulted in his own death, being stabbed through the heart 
with a bowie-knife. The successful combatant, with the 
prudent intention of preventing any further danger from 
his adversary, stabbed him six several times after he had 
fallen. The victor was "bound over to keep the peace." 
My comrades and myself had been sufficiently familiar with 
the darker features of the Far West, but here we found a "lower deep;" our imaginations had ventured to picture 
somewhat of this remote corner of the Union, but we found 
the colouring paled before the reality. They determined to 
shake the dust of this iniquitous city off their feet, and the 
next morning saw them on their way to Lavarra, leaving 
me to make my comments at my leisure upon this strange 
state of society. 
I should not readily be persuaded that any town in the 
universe, of like extent, could have furnished forth so many 
utterly depraved and absolutely reckless scoundrels as San 
Antonio exhibited every day in her streets. The whole place 
was in the hands of these desperadoes, and every iniquity 
practised with the utmost impunity. They were the law, 
and they were the public opinion. It was with a similar 
interest to that with which we inspect a menagerie of wild 
beasts, that I strolled through the town amongst those white 
savages, as they drank, swore, quarrelled, and gambled together. 


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