By F. S. Brereton, Illustrated by Cyrus Cuneo
Frederick Sadleir Brereton (1852-1957) was a prolific author of children’s books, writing over forty tales of heroism. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I. Brereton wrote a variety of stories, such as With Rifle and Bayonet: A Story of the Boer War (1900) and Under the Star-Spangled Banner: A Tale of the Spanish-American War (1905), most of which focused on conflicts around the world. Indian and Scout is his imagining of the California Gold Rush.
The California Gold Rush really was a bonanza. Between 1849 and 1855 the miners gathered more than $400 million dollars; once adjusted, it is a sum today reaching into the trillions. It was a social phenomenon marked by the carnivalesque. In his work Roughing It (1872) Mark Twain’s protagonist remarks as his brother heads West, “Pretty soon he would be hundreds and hundreds of miles away on the great plains and deserts, and among the mountains of the Far West, and would see buffaloes and Indians, and prairie dogs, an antelopes, and have all kinds of adventures, and may be get hanged or scalped, and have ever such a fine time, and write home and tell us all about it, and be a hero…And by and by he would become very rich, and return home by sea, and be able to talk as calmly about San Francisco and ocean, and ‘the isthmus’ as if it was nothing of any consequence to have seen those marvels face to face.”
Go they did to the Land of Golden Dreams, in the largest internal migration in American history, and the adventures and tragedies have created a large and memorable literature.