A veteran of the Mexican War, W. W. H. Davis returned to New Mexico in 1853 to become United States Attorney for the territory. He soon thought of himself as El Gringo, the stranger, who had much to learn about his new home and its people. Equipped with a few changes of clothes, a two-book law library, and a ravenous curiosity, Davis recorded in his diary all that impressed him on his thousand-mile trip to Santa Fe and his thousand-mile court circuit. In 1856 he ransacked the diary to write El Gringo, selecting those features of custom, language, landscape, and history most likely to interest general readers. El Gringo caught on quickly. His duties took him far and wide, to ramshackle jails locked with twine and to the homes of the rich and powerful. His legal training intensified his interest in and understanding of the longstanding quarrels between Indians and whites, between New Mexicans and Texans, between the established Spanish-speaking population and the influx of new settlers and traders from the United States. His description of New Mexico is one of the earliest full-length accounts to appear in English and provides a stunning picture of a newly conquered land.