Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend, and Legacy

Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend, and Legacy

by Bob Alexander, Donaly E. Brice


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Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend, and Legacy by Bob Alexander, Donaly E. Brice

Authors Bob Alexander and Donaly E. Brice grappled with several issues when deciding how to relate a general history of the Texas Rangers. Should emphasis be placed on their frontier defense against Indians, or focus more on their role as guardians of the peace and statewide law enforcers? What about the tumultuous Mexican Revolution period, 1910–1920? And how to deal with myths and legends such as One Riot, One Ranger?

Texas Rangers: Lives, Legend, and Legacy is the authors’ answer to these questions, a one-volume history of the Texas Rangers. The authors begin with the earliest Rangers in the pre-Republic years in 1823 and take the story up through the Republic, Mexican War, and Civil War. Then, with the advent of the Frontier Battalion, the authors focus in detail on each company A through F, relating what was happening within each company concurrently. Thereafter, Alexander and Brice tell the famous episodes of the Rangers that forged their legend, and bring the story up through the twentieth century to the present day in the final chapters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574416916
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Publication date: 08/03/2017
Pages: 656
Sales rank: 789,148
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

BOB ALEXANDER is the author of Rawhide Ranger, Ira Aten, Whiskey River Ranger, Six-Shooters and Shifting Sands, Bad Company and Burnt Powder, Riding Lucifer’s Line, and Winchester Warriors, all published by UNT Press. He lives in Maypearl, Texas. DONALY E. BRICE was Senior Research Assistant at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and is the author of The Great Comanche Raid and co-author of Texas Ranger N. O. Reynolds and The Governor’s Hounds. He lives in Lockhart, Texas.

Read an Excerpt


"Everythíng to make and nothíng to lose"

THE WORD INDIGENOUS IS A TRICKY TERM: in truth but a snapshot in time, in fact a moving target. Unfortunately — in certain quarters — shooting from the hip is commonplace. Sometimes the quick trigger assessments are wide of the mark. Particularly germane for the text in hand and standing as exemplar would be a signal fact: Europeans were traipsing about and settling in lands that would become the Lone Star State long before Comanche rode into history books as Lords of the South Plains. Within the context of the grand epochal schemas of cultural dispersion — and/or displacements — the Comanche were, actually, late comers to Texas, as would be Americans of Anglo extraction. However, the sociological struggles for supremacy would ultimately play in arenas understood by diverse rival interests: Martial might was crucial. Asserting dominion over vast areas of topography was easy, but actually holding the ground was not — a curdling gruel Spain and later an independent Mexico would be forced to swallow, as would in due time jittery secession-minded Texans. Sovereignty's landlords change. When unwillingly and unhappily pushed from their Rocky Mountain homelands between the Yellowstone and Platte Rivers, Comanche brashly invaded the Southern Plains, territory long inhabited and claimed by Apache and a not insignificant grouping of other Amerindian subsets. The militaristic hostility between Indians was brutal and pitiless — as all wars are. In the epochal sense, nomadic warlike Comanches were on the move. Quantifiable result of the migration was fierce and real. "For one hundred and fifty years they [Comanches] made forays against the red and white people along the border of their territory, and resisted the approach of all intruders." Absent a hint of exaggeration, it was a land grab of runaway proportion.

Equally ravenous with desire to claim dominance over a vast landscape that would in due time become Texas, were settlers and land speculators chasing capitalism's promise: Conquer the land and reap the righteous rewards. Though it might insensitively shatter grand delusions of politeness and/or political correctness in today's marketplace of enlightened thinking — for early nineteenth-century Texas — counterfeit would be coins of the realm minted from any idealistic notions of harmonious coexistence. Naked aggressiveness were not exotic currencies strange to warring societies, be they Indian or European — or Texians during the pre-Republic of Texas era. Or, even as a freestanding sovereign nation and/or even later subsequent to sanctioned statehood. Wholesale intransigence was unmistakably ubiquitous, ethnically predisposed, extraordinarily dangerous, bloody, and deadly — and reciprocal!

Collectively speaking, showing weakness was unacceptable for the Comanche, and they didn't. Succinctly a hardcore fact has been forged and hammered across the anvil of history's truths: "Neither the Americans or the Indians [Comanche and allies] they confronted along that raw frontier had the remotest idea of the other's geographical size or military power. Both, as it turned out, had for the past two centuries been busily engaged in the bloody conquest and near extermination of Native American tribes. Both had succeeded in the lands under their control. The difference was that the Comanches were content with what they had won. The Anglo-Americans, children of Manifest Destiny, were not." Figuratively breaking the spirit and literally breaking the back of enemies was culturally vital: "But by 1750 the Comanches in fact had carved out a militarily and diplomatically unified nation with remarkably preciseboundaries that were patrolled and ruthlessly enforced. They had done it with extreme violence, and that violence had changed their culture forever. In the decades that followed, the Comanches would never again be satisfied with hunting buffalo." Adroitly, hardcore reality has been distilled: "The Southern Plains Indians raided because raiding was what they did. ... The main purpose of a typical raid was horse gathering. The Comanches depended heavily on horses, not only for transport but also for currency. Raids were also rites of passage, the primary means which young men proved their prowess. ... Until he had returned from a raid with some horses, a captive, or a scalp, that he'd taken himself, no one would respect or ask for his advice. ... Murder wasn't the objective of most raids. Still, Mexican-Americans, European-Americans, and African-Americans who were unlucky enough to encounter a raiding party along the road or in a field might be killed for sport or practice, or perhaps as a precaution." "They had quickly evolved, like the ancient Spartans, into a society entirely organized around war, in which tribal status would be conveyed exclusively by prowess in battle, which in turn was invariably measured in scalps, captives, and captured horses."

Therein, in large part, is genesis for this treatment. Equitably portraying Texas Rangers by taking into account the context of time and place is vital. Unquestionably had there been an absence of hostility, empresario Stephen F. Austin would not have perceived any need for employing the service of ten "rangers" attached to the militia command of thirty-year-old Lieutenant Moses Morrison for a provisional, and short-lived, term of enlistment during 1823. Nevertheless, history affirms such was the case as far as Stephen F. Austin's proposal, but less charitably disposed to cough up an actual hard document confirming these "rangers" ever took to the field — as "rangers." Sometimes semantic interpretation is not so simple, not so precise as to render an incontrovertible absoluteness. There are, though, hardcore truths.

At the outset of Tejas (Texas) colonization by Texians in lower reaches of the Brazos and Colorado River watersheds where Anglo settlement was budding, it would not be Comanche triggering the headaches, heartaches, and headstones. That would come shortly — within historic framework, ever so shortly. However, in the interim, the initial conflict between Anglo settlers and local tribesmen centered about the bleeding contests between Karankawas — by some accounts purportedly cannibals — of seashore villages, the Wacos along the Brazos River, and the Tonkawas and Tehuacanies between the Brazos and the San Antonio Rivers. "All these tribes greeted their new neighbors [Texas colonists] ambiguously, sometimes as friends, sometimes as thieves, and sometimes as killers." Jettisoning idealism inspired by modernera atonement, in truth, during those earliest days of Austin's colonization the "... Indians saw the Anglo settlers not as neighbors but as an emerging natural resource: The white newcomers gave gifts, they had a willingness to trade, and they owned things worth stealing."

Assuredly, as history well records, despite maudlin romanticism the real bloodletting was not near one dimensional or singularly demonical: "... Tonkawas directed their malice at the Wacos, who had slaughtered some of their women and children while the warriors were away hunting." In what would soon become the Republic of Texas, as elsewhere, Indians had been warring with Indians long before any palefaces were a part of the equation. The liberal colonization of Tejas by new faces from lands faraway simply added to the mix of mankind's bizarre conflicts, material and geographical acquisitions and, in due course, the flowering of fresh and somewhat strange — but certainly expedient, alliances.

Early-day colonists banding together, forming impromptu posses and reacting to this or that perceived — or very real — Indian atrocity had its shortcomings. Likewise, although Mexican Governor José Félix Trespalacios had of necessity okayed the blueprinting of military districts for Tejas in 1822, and even though able-bodied males were compelled to step to the mark and do their part, civilian militias had decided drawbacks: "it was not a quick reaction force. ... when the militia took to the field most civilian activities ceased and the settlements were left unattended. The settlers were mostly farmers," and many, if not most, could have hardly even been properly mounted for an extended search and destroy campaign straddling work-stock typically harnessed for furrowing, not fighting.

True, during the Spring of 1823, settler Robert Kuykendall riding as headman for a dozen civilian volunteers and guided by an involuntarily drafted Tonkawas' chief, Carita, successfully overhauled and obdurately killed as many as twenty of a band of marauding Karankawas from the Gulf Coast. The Karankawas had uncharacteristically and unguardedly camped in a thicket along the banks of Skull Creek near present-day Eagle Lake in Colorado County, seemingly unconcerned or oblivious to the fact colonists would demand retribution — in blood — for the Indians killing two fellows and with seven arrows wounding a third. The miscalculation gave Andrew Castleman chance to take the grisly scalp of "one of the slain" Karankawas and his bow as trophies of war. Kuykendall's command had tasted victory, yes, but that was an ad hoc troupe poorly outfitted and understaffed — and damn lucky.

On 6 July 1823 near what is now Seguin in Guadalupe County, an allied band of Karankawas and Wacos attacked settlers John Jackson Tumlinson and Joseph Newman who were traveling to San Antonio de Béxar for the purpose of securing powder and ball for militiamen. Tumlinson was killed. Riding a first-class hot-blooded horse Newman made good his getaway, woefully sounding the alarm and rallying revenge. John Jackson Tumlinson Jr. jumped to the forefront, recruiting an eleven-man squadron, with his younger brother Joseph Tumlinson, yet a teenager, acting as the maddened corps's scout. One and all sallied forth to do damage. Quite proficiently, in due time, young Joseph located the suspected guilty Indians, numbering thirteen, camped in the shady timber overlooking the Colorado River's east bank near fifteen miles north of present-day Columbus in Colorado County. After picketing their mounts at a reasonably safe distance and surreptitiously drawing near the opposition's campground, the Texians concealed themselves, ostensibly to initiate an attack at sunrise. The plan went awry when an Indian at close range incautiously revealed himself to the no doubt wound-tight teenager. Young Joseph Tumlinson killed him outright. Quite expectedly the dying warrior's bloodcurdling scream and the gunshot snapped the two opposing factions into action, and the final scorecard netted a dozen dead Indians, while the Texians exited the field unscathed.

Nor were Indians the one and only irritant rubbing raw nerves of hard-working or otherwise conscientiously law-abiding settlers. There were real riffraff among them: Landlubbing pirates. Administration of justice — a perceived justice — in light of the Mexican government's lackluster implementation and less than timely dispensation punishment for offenders was an open doorway for infuriated Texians to take matters into their own hands — rightly or wrongly. And, sometimes the no-nonsense application of righteousness was brutal.

Meting out cutting lashes with a leather-plaited blacksnake whip was not uncommon for thieves, be they Anglo, Mexican, Frenchman, or Indian. And, as an old-timer remembered, one fellow, Dr. Lewis B. Dayton, was "fond of fishing in muddy waters," a euphemism for agitation and in this particular case one presumably bordering on treason: "he was arrested by William Hall and others, on the charge of uttering false and slanderous accusations against the Empresario and endeavoring to produce grave disturbances in the Colony. ... His head was besmeared with tar and the contents of a pillow emptied upon it. He was then released and ordered to depart the Colony forthwith. He, accordingly, did leave it immediately and never returned." Several other hardened fellows couldn't leave the colony, even had they wanted to. After committing several coldhearted murders and stealing horses the party of "Mexicans from the border of Louisiana" were at last overhauled on the western bank of the Brazos at the Coshattie crossing: "Two [or three] of them were killed and their [heads (?)] stuck on poles at the roadside. The horses were also retaken and restored to the owner. After these examples the 'border ruffians' ceased their depredations within the bounds of Austin's colony."

The aforementioned 1823 plea on the part of Stephen F. Austin to establish a ten-man corps of "rangers" to provide protection underneath the umbrella of more permanence than sporadic call-ups from particularized militia districts — eventually increased to six — is by some proponents assigned as birth-year of the Texas Rangers, an assertion that merits no meaningful argument herein. Advocates of a somewhat later date of origin, too, own a data bank of relevance. Terminology such as "ranger" did not originate in Mexican-Texas, nor did it even derive from an American usage. As early as the fourteenth century in Medieval England the term "Raungers" was in vogue to describe not the Royals' professional soldiers but hand-picked watchmen, exactingly governed by Laws of the Forest: Specifically tasked to protect open lands around forests from wild animals; to track, identify, and capture poachers — all the animals belonging to the Crown — and to bring horror-struck prisoners to the Monarch's court and/or remove them to dungeons/prisons.

By the time British immigrants arrived on the eastern coast of North America, the word "Raunger" had been ever so slightly tweaked, now it was "Rainger" and as on a Virginian Island in Chesapeake Bay the "Raingers" were to furnish protection "by scouting for enemies and engaging them when found." However, by the first trimester of the eighteenth-century and, for a time period thereafter, settlers in Georgia were well acquainted with the concept: "the practice migrated to the American colonies where as early as 1739 James Oglethrope raised a Georgia unit called the Troop of Highland Rangers," who could offer a modicum of protection by patrolling the woods and lowlands of the colony.

During the course of time, and certainly by the American Revolution, the term "Ranger" and his martial duties was used to describe a man from a specialized squadron of riflemen, capable of inflicting and extracting a horrific price from adversaries armed with distinctly inferior muskets. Traveling with a minimum of baggage, and acting as fast-moving spies and scouts, Rangers — with varying degrees of autonomy — could reconnoiter, work behind enemy lines, gather vital intelligence, and harass and/or kill their enemies sans the formalized marching and cumbersome logistical orders of regimental or brigade-level elements. Rangers brought to the strategic table their own brand of tactics, and continually honed them to razor sharpness. Perhaps crediting use of the term "Ranger" as it would later be applied in annals of Texas history could rightly be awarded to Major Robert Rogers, a veteran of the French and Indian War, a Loyalist and founder of the Queen's Rangers, a unit comprised of — at first — concurring Americans.

Although not specifically known as Rangers, Stephen F. Austin and his colonists could well have drawn on strategic ideas closer to home: the blending of an early Spanish model already in play. Well before Austin arrived on the scene, and decades before Mexico staked her claim winning independence, one enduring technique of the Spanish crown's dealing with troublemakers on New Spain's forlorn northern boundary, no matter ethnicity, was by tactical employment of the La Compañía Volante, the dreaded Flying Squadron. In a nutshell these quasi soldierly elements were in-the-field aggressors, taking the fight to the adversary. Armed with a lance, a single-shot carbine, and one or two pistols, while splendidly mounted with a string of as many as a dozen horses held in reserve as remounts, individuals of La Compañía Volante were not hamstrung with the nightmares of formal military logistics. Though nominally captained and trained by seasoned Spanish military officers, these hard-riding and hard-charging light cavalry troopers were actively recruited from the frontier settlements, men already familiar with the territory to be patrolled — and the enemy. They were a formidable force, one worthy of emulating on many fronts.

Practically speaking, then, subsequent to shattering England's initial hold, and following the War of 1812, eager Americans migrating to the promised richness of Brazos and Colorado River lands carried with them an unbridled optimism — and a workable understanding of the difference between fulltime soldiers, part-time militiamen, and very real notions about making use of Rangers to augment the appreciable deficiencies of either. Their introduction to — at least the overall concept — of La Compañía Volante cemented those ideas of warfare.


Excerpted from "Texas Rangers"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Bob Alexander and Donaly E. Brice.
Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
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Table of Contents

Preface & Acknowledgments,
1. "Everything to make and nothing to lose",
2. "Drove a lance through her heart",
3. "Baptized in her Precious Blood",
4. "It was Hell on the Home Front",
Photo Gallery 1,
5. Frontier Battalion, Company A,
6. Frontier Battalion, Company B,
7. Frontier Battalion, Company C,
8. Frontier Battalion, Company D,
9. Frontier Battalion, Company E,
10. Frontier Battalion, Company F,
Photo Gallery 2,
11. The Legend,
12. The Legacy,
13. Spiking the Legacy,
Photo Gallery 3,
14. Rangers Today,
Photo Gallery 4,
Photo Gallery 5,


Alexander - Maypearl, TX; Brice - Lockhart, TX

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