Like many involved in the fighting, the day before had been George’s first time in battle and if anyone would have asked him, he would say without reservation that he had been afraid. His father had told him that only a fool was not afraid in battle, and after the first day George could see why and felt no shame.
The second battle was more difficult then the first. 1,700 Ame ricans against 4,000 Mexican soldiers with enough noise, heat and terrifying scenes that might drive a man away from ordinary thoughts, it wasn’t long before the opposing forces were fighting hand to hand. Punching, stabbing, kicking and killing at close range. It was sickening. After what seemed an eternity, it was over. Fires burned and smoke rose up in the air. Bodies were strewn about the battlefield. It was an ugly sight.
It took some time for George to understand it was over. He was surrounded by the dead and dying and after seeing, really seeing some of the carnage that he was partially responsible for, he vomited. The next few days were spent clearing the battlefield, burying the dead and picking up the wounded. Animals that could not stand were of no use and consequently shot. When it was time to move out, they did.
Along the way, they fought some minor skirmishes. George was able to prove his worth as a frontiersman and soldier. By August he’d been promoted to sergeant and through it all began to gain a better understanding of his father.
From September 21 through 23, 1846, “Old rough and ready” Taylor and his men fought against the forces of General Pedro de Ampudia in the Battle of Monterrey and after three days, triumphed over the Mexican army and putting George into a hastily improvised field hospital, wounded in both legs. He was in pain, his legs burned by exploding powder. As it was, he was placed into a comfortable position to await his turn for treatment. From what he could see, there were large numbers of wounded, many worse off than he was, so he waited. He thought about his father and mother (who had died when he was ten), his two older sisters, both married with their own families. He remembered the old farm, wine and bread, good French cheese. After several hours, an overworked army surgeon made his way to George and took a look at his wounds. After a quick examination he told George he probably wouldn’t lose his legs but he would have to remain still and see how they healed in time. George remained in bed for four months. By mid December, he was able to move, though to do so was painful. At that time George accepted a medical discharge from the state militia and General Taylor’s thanks. He was free to roam again.
The year 1847 saw George doing ranch work again. Roping, branding and pushing cattle across the land, well, it was alright for some people and though George was only twenty-four, his war wounds still bothered him. The work was long, in the saddle all day was hard on the ass, throwing rope with rough calloused hands, tugging reins and spurring horses.
There still wasn’t a big demand for beef in the east and the biggest drive George worked on was 500 head. As a general rule, a herd was never pushed more than 10 to 15 miles a day. Twenty five miles a day was possible, but the longhorns, lean as they were, might lose so much weight they might be hard to sell when they reached their final destination. So, they moved slowly, short distances, allowing for periods of rest and grazing at midday and the evening. It was constant work, 8 Cowhands with three horses each and a “wrangler” to handle the spare horses or remuda. During the day they kept the cattle moving in the right direction, collecting the strays. At night they worked in shifts watching for rustlers and God forbid, a stampede which, if it did happen, the men did their damnedest to turn the moving cattle into itself so that it ran in circles.
The cook, who was also in charge of the medical supplies, drove the chuck wagon pulled by oxen. Beans, salt meat, sourdough biscuits and coffee were enough. It filled their bellies and kept the men lean as the animals they were in charge of. It was a hard life, of that no one would deny.