- Tejanos in the 1835 Texas Revolution
In spite of its rather misleading title, this book is a thoroughly traditional account of the Texas Revolution, albeit augmented by the author's special attention to the numerous Tejanos who took part in the revolt against the Mexican government in 1835 and 1836. (The Tejano "tories," however, are virtually ignored).
Unfortunately, MacDonald mars his analysis at the outset by engaging in an endlessly confusing discussion of the proper nomenclature for the people of Hispanic and Anglo-American origins who together made up the rebel forces in this contest. After finally landing on a definition of Tejanos as "Texas-born descendants of Latino heritage" (21), he contradicts himself by applying this label to Lorenzo de Zavala (136), the native of Yucatán who became the Vice-President of the Texas Republic. [End Page 95]
The book is further marred by errors of fact and geography: the author conflates the separate incidents at Anahuac in 1832 and 1835 (105); he twice claims that Zacatecas was the home town of the Jalapa-born Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna (46, 64); and he incorrectly locates the Orozimbo plantation where Santa Anna was held captive by the Texans after the Battle of San Jacinto (281).
Far more serious than these lapses, however, is MacDonald's apparent ignorance of both key source documents and important recent scholarship. For instance, his claim that the Mexican army under General Filisola was obediently following the orders of Santa Anna in retreating from Texas in April and May of 1836 is thoroughly undercut by Gregg Dimmick's Sea of Mud (Texas State Historical Association, 2004). Moreover, during his discussion of David Crockett's controversial death at the Alamo (213-214), MacDonald cites sources that are both dubious and contradictory, while failing to mention the important Dolson letter, which is arguably the very best evidence as to just "how Davy died."
This book's difficulties with regard to sources are exacerbated by a bizarre system of documentation which, when combined with the author's frequent use of the passive voice, obfuscates more than it reveals, and renders most of the author's endnotes virtually worthless to the reader. Most damning in terms of shoddy use of sources is a twice-quoted phrase (20, 239) from Herman Ehrenberg's memoir of the Texas Revolution which simply does not exist, either in the original German or in the four extant translations into English. MacDonald has inserted Irishmen and Tejanos into Ehrenberg's declaration that the German, English, and American soldiers held captive by the Mexicans at Goliad had all become Texans. MacDonald further taints his use of Ehrenberg's memoir by stating that the young Prussian came to Texas with "Bonham's Mobile Greys" (229). Ehrenberg entered Texas with Breece's company of the New Orleans Greys.
This book is not all bad. MacDonald writes with a great love of his subject, which often brings immediacy to his descriptions of the tribulations of the Texans (though sometimes with invented dialogue). His analysis of Sam Houston's qualities as a commander is generally sound, and his elaboration of the role of Tejanos in the Texas Revolution is commendable.
The greatest testimony to MacDonald's deep love of his subject comes from the book's many illustrations, which are all photographs of the author's own creations, in tooled leather, of maps, portraits, and architectural details. It is a shame that these are so dimly reproduced in many instances that the text is virtually illegible.