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The Land of Fire A Tale of Adventure   By: (1818-1883)

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The Land of Fire, by Captain Mayne Reid.

As we are told in the Preface, this is the last book Reid wrote before his death in 1883. A young farm boy walks down to Portsmouth, a port not too far away, and eventually gets taken on as a hand on an American barque, trading with the Pacific. Four years later he has risen to be second mate. But when rounding Cape Horn a severe storm overwhelms the vessel, and she is lost after springing a very bad leak. All on board take to the boats, but the pinnace gets separated from the gig, on which our heroes have made their escape. The ship's carpenter, an old and experienced seaman, a former whaler, has an extraordinary amount of knowledge of the natives of Tierra del Fuego the Land of Fire for that is where they are. Without that knowledge the party would not have survived. Unfortunately this great seaman (somewhat after the style of Masterman Ready) does not speak in educated English, but you will just have to get used to that.

There are various encounters with the tribes of the region, all very well told. Eventually, shortly after their most serious brush with the locals, they reach a large vessel at anchor, and the pinnace alongside her, so that they are saved.

Reid, being a good naturalist, tells us a good deal about the local flora and fauna. We also learn how to make fire in a land where it rains five days in six. His account of the local tribes, their skills and their shortcomings, will give you much food for thought. And the book makes a very nice audiobook.



This tale is the last from the pen of Captain Mayne Reid, whose stories have so long been the delight of English boys. Our readers may, perhaps, like to know something of the writer who has given them so much pleasure; especially as his own life was full of adventure and of brave deeds.

Mayne Reid was born in the north of Ireland in 1819; his father was a Presbyterian minister, and wished that his son should also be a clergyman; but the boy longed for adventure, and to see the world in its wildest places, and could not bring himself to settle down to a quiet life at home.

When he was twenty years old he set out on his travels, and, landing at New Orleans, began a life of adventure in the prairies and forests of America good descriptions of which were given by him in his books.

In 1845 a war broke out between the United States and Mexico, and young Reid instantly volunteered his services to fight on the United States' side.

He received the commission of lieutenant in a New York regiment, and fought all through the campaign with the most dauntless courage. He received several wounds, and gained a high reputation for generous good feeling.

The castle of Chapultepec commanded the high road to the city of Mexico, and as it was very strongly defended, and the Mexicans had thirty thousand soldiers to the American six thousand, to take it was a work requiring great courage.

Reid was guarding a battery which the Americans had thrown up on the south east side of the castle, with a grenadier company of New York volunteers and a detachment of United States' marines under his command. From thence he cannonaded the main gate for a whole day. The following morning a storming party was formed of five hundred volunteers, and at eleven o'clock the batteries ceased firing, and the attack began.

Reid and the artillery officers, standing by their guns, watched with great anxiety the advance of the line, and were alarmed when they saw that half way up the hill there was a halt.

"I knew," he said in his account, "that if Chapultepec was not taken, neither would the city be; and, failing that, not a man of us might ever leave the Valley of Mexico alive... Continue reading book >>

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