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The Advance-Guard, or The Military Sacrifice (The Ambush), 1890

Frederic Remington

The Art Institute of Chicago, George F. Harding Collection

In Frederic Remington’s West, heroes confronted death on a daily basis, as the artist described in stark terms: “Instant and awful death overtakes the punch. . . . A horse in a gopher hole, a mad steer, a chill with a knife, a blue hole where the .45 went in, a quicksand closing overhead, and a cross on the hillside are all.” The Advance Guard portrays the moment of death for a cavalry scout, shot by the unseen but ever-present enemy, the Indian. Slumped over his bloodstained horse, the scout has dropped his gun. As the alternate title implies, however, the sacrifice of one man could save the remaining troops, as his companions race off to save themselves and others from ambush.

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