The recent moderate resurgence of interest in the Mexican War has produced several volumes of peripheral or specialized significance—such as these two. Campaign Sketches is a reprint of a book written during the war by an American captain who joined Zachary Taylor’s army before it had entered Texas and who remained with it until after the capture of Monterrey. He gives an eyewitness account of Taylor’s early marches and battles and adds a brief narrative covering the Battle of Buena Vista and a few other events based on official dispatches.

The book is part of a series, “The Far Western Frontier,” comprising reprints of early guides, journals, and other descriptions of the West. For its occasionally poetic depiction of Mexican scenes and for details on the actions of small units under fire, this one may have some value to readers interested in the war. It contains also an abundance of the amazing trivia so beloved of folklorists—for example, a man who survived being shot with five arrows, the horrible mutilations produced by a steamboat explosion, and the last-minute reprieve of a deserter from the firing squad. Captain Henry gives us an evocative reconstruction of the abortive Texan raid on Mier (1842) as he strolls through the nearly deserted streets of the city after its capture by the Americans. But no one should place much reliance on the military judgment of a man who can proclaim with a straight face that “history does not furnish a more striking battle than ‘Resaca de la Palma’” (p. 99).

There is considerably more justification in offering war buffs a collection of lithographs such as Tyler has brought together, although one may doubt that most of them give a more accurate overall picture of the fighting than Henry’s memoirs. What a world of difference exists between these heroic drawings à la Delacroix (one of whose pictures of the 1830 revolution in Paris is included for comparison) and the rumpled figures and dusty encampments of Matthew Brady less than 20 years later! To be sure, the Mexican mountains and foliage afforded exoticism not present in the Civil War. Nevertheless, the heroics must be taken with a grain of salt, and anyone with the slightest knowledge of Zachary Taylor can only laugh helplessly at the gorgeous spectacle of him in full, immaculate dress uniform, mounted on a snorting black charger (not even “Old Whitey”).

To give Tyler his full due, he supplies the necessary grain of salt in a careful, systematic commentary that points out inaccuracies and separates eyewitness from reconstructed drawings. (However, he should not have criticized another writer for misplacing his illustrations. Some pictures in his own volume are separated at least 20 pages from the accompanying text.) The black-and-white drawings are well reproduced but the illustrations in color seem to have a preponderance of greens and blues.