In this volume Professor Gardiner attempts to provide a “long deserved literary monument” to Gonzalo de Sandoval whom he evaluates as “the second greatest, perhaps the greatest figure” in the conquest of Mexico. To quote the author again:
Sandoval led men and exhibited personal bravery in a manner that marked him as Cortés most dependable captain. After the fall of the Aztec capital, with Cortés immersed in administration, Sandoval became the most reliable executor of his commander’s policies, founding a town here, quelling a rebellion there, extending Spanish dominion everywhere. Of Cortés’ three captains . . . only Sandoval remained loyal to the end.
Professor Gardiner has obviously done a thorough job of research; as in his previous books on the conquest of Mexico, he has made a serious and commendable effort to endow his narrative with life, movement and style; it would be difficult to quarrel with his apt characterization of Sandoval as “The Constant Captain.” Yet the problem is, as the author admits, a scarcity of sources on Sandoval the man. Intimate details of his life as recorded by himself and his contemporaries and which provide the raw materials of rich biography are lacking. Consequently, Professor Gardiner has had to use the device of recounting the story of the conquest of Mexico with emphasis on Sandoval’s role when accounts are available. And most of these accounts are bare narratives of action. In filling gaps and particularly when dealing with the conqueror’s motivations, the author had to rely heavily on speculation as evidenced by frequent recourse to such expressions as “perhaps,” “surely by then,” “quite possibly,” “for some reason,” and the like. In view of this difficulty it might have been more economical for Professor Gardiner to have written a shorter evaluative essay rather than yet another book on the conquest of Mexico.