||A letter home from the Gold Rush frontier...||Don't go to the mines on any account. They are...loaded to the muzzle with vagabonds from every quarter of the globe, scoundrels from nowhere, rascals from Oregon, pickpockets from New York, accomplished gentlemen from Europe, interlopers from Lima and Chile, Mexican thieves, gamblers of no particular spot, and assassins manufactured in Hell for the express purpose of converting highways and byways into theaters of blood; then last, but not least, Judge Lynch with his thousand arms, thousand sightless eyes, and five hundred lying tongues, ready under the banner of justice to hang, half, and quarter any individual who may meet his disapprobation.||One moment the California creek beds glimmered with gold; the next, the same creeks ran red with the blood of men and women defending their claims or ceding their bags of gold dust to bandits. Packed with never-before-told tales of the American frontier, Gold Dust & Gunsmoke sends you galloping through the tumultuous California territory of the mid-nineteenth century, where disputes were settled with six-shooters and the lines of justice were in perpetual flux. Armed with meticulous research, John Boessenecker has a remarkable knack for finding the perfect details to capture all the color, excitement, and hullabaloo of the Gold Rush.||Gold fever drew a diverse group from around the world to California. San Francisco Bay became a virtual parking lot filled with abandoned vessels whose crews had headed for the hills of the new El Dorado. Remnants of the forces fighting in the Mexican War also got in on the action. These forces included transplanted Bowery Boys, the notorious New York City street gang with ties to Tammany Hall. The Sydney Ducks, a large contingent of new arrivals from Australia's penal colony, added a bit of outlaw innovation from down under.||With more than enough gold dust to go around early in the Gold Rush, crime was rare, but as the stakes rose and the easily panned gold dwindled, robbery and murder became a part of life on the frontier. Word of the San Miguel massacre rippled from mining camp to mining camp, retelling of the slaying of ten people, an entire family taken down by gunshot and ax. Settlers throughout the frontier followed the exploits of Joaquin Murrieta, the most famous Hispanic outlaw and the most notorious bandit of the Gold Rush. Bandits, highwaymen, and other desperadoes cruised the frontier looking for stakes. The stories of their crimes and their confrontations with justice are recounted here, many for the first time.||With virtually no police protection on the frontier, vigilance committees took justice into their own hands. Six penalties were traditionally handed down: hanging, whipping, ear-cropping, head shaving, branding, or banishment. Since few people in this transient society knew each other, vigilantes sought ways of physically marking criminals, cropping their ears or branding their cheek with an "R" for robber, or "H.T." for horse thief.||California's population swelled in these heady days, spawning dozens of saloons, gambling halls, fandango houses, and bordellos. The names of the rapidly sprouting mining camps reflected the rough society therein: Drunkard's Bar, Garrote, Hell's Delight, Whorehouse Gulch, Git Up and Git. Amusements paralleled the raucous cult of the masculinity of the West. Bare knuckle prizefighting, cockfights, bullfights, and the brutal bull and bear fights filled the hours not spent drinking, whoring, and gambling.||Published in tandem with the one hundred fiftieth anniversaries of the Gold Rush and California's statehood, these authentic stories of gunfighters, lawmen, vigilantes, and barroom brawlers comprise an important contribution to the rich lore of the American West.