Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Indian and Mexican Troops


This photo, titled Indian Soldiers, was taken by Lala Deen Dayal around 1880. It depicts nineteen Sikh Indian soldiers standing and sitting next to a large wall. They are all dressed in matching uniforms consisting of a collared shirt, pants, socks, and shoes, as well as a belt and turban. I hypothesize that these soldiers may be in a fort, as they are all holding guns, and because the wall has holes in it, perhaps to fire a rifle though. Because many soldiers are talking to each other and sit on the ground, they seem to believe they are not in any immediate danger.

Compared to their Mexican counterparts in the Horne photo, these soldiers appear better trained and organized, as they all have the same uniform, and many soldiers stand at attention for the photographer. Clearly, they are also better armed than the Mexican troops, as each soldier holds a rifle. Their position seems more secure than that of the Mexicans, as a wall surrounds them. These deductions leave me to believe that the war they are fighting is more formal than the Mexican Revolution.

This photo leaves me with a few questions. First, because the soldiers seem relaxed I would like to know if these men think they will be fighting soon, or if they have been involved in a battle at all. Next, I would like to know in which part of India these soldiers are stationed. Lastly, I am would like to know what the men on the ground are talking about. Are they happy to be in the army, or are they lamenting their positions?

This photo, titled Mexican Troop Train, was taken by Walter H. Horne around 1915 (during the Mexican Revolution). It depicts a large group of people gathered around three or four train cars. A group of men, likely soldiers, stand in front of the train, and many other people stand and sit on top of the train. It is unclear who the people are on top of the train. Almost everyone in the photograph is wearing a hat and a poncho. Everyone seems busy talking to each other, and this makes the group of soldiers appear much unorganized. Because the picture depicts such a large group of people around the train, I can hypothesize that trains were an important means of transportation during the Mexican Revolution.

Compared to the soldiers in the soldiers in the Dayal photo, this group appears to be very disordered. The men are not wearing the same uniform, seem to lack a leader, and most importantly, do not all hold weapons. These deductions lead me to think the Mexican Revolution was a less formal war than the one the Indian troops are prepared for, as it may have been more of a guerrilla war.

The photo leaves me with many questions. First, who is the boy in the bottom right of the photo? He does not look like a soldier, but he is interacting with the soldiers in some way. What is he doing? Next, who are the people on the top of the train? Are they also soldiers, or are they friends and family members traveling with the army? Lastly, I would like to know if these men have arrived at their destination, and in which part of Mexico they are located.

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