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More Zeal Than Discretion

The Westward Adventures of Walter P. Lane

By Jimmy L. Bryan Jr.

Publication Year: 2008

Walter P. Lane emigrated from Ireland as a young boy, fought in three wars, sailed the Texas coast with a privateer, and traveled to California and Arizona in search of gold. What drove this man, who in many ways typifies the adventurers who contributed to the westward expansion in the United States during the early nineteenth century? Through his mining of personal papers, memoirs, contemporary sources, and archived collections, Jimmy L. Bryan Jr. has produced a comprehensive portrait of the man who charged across the field at San Jacinto, aided in the removal of Indians and Tejano settlers from the East Texas Redlands, stormed Monterrey with the Texas Rangers during the U.S.-Mexican War, commanded a brigade of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, supported the return to white rule during the turbulent Reconstruction era, and served the State of Texas in various public capacities. Bryan shows how the adventurism of Lane and his comrades provided both ethos and impetus for the westward migration. More Zeal than Discretion will appeal to historians and readers interested in Texas and the West, the Civil War, and the culture of American manhood.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I have been working on this biography of Walter Lane for more years than I wish to admit. I owe debts to a great many people who contributed to the several versions of this work and to my development as a scholar. Attempting to name them all will inevitably lead to gross omissions...

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pp. 1-6

In the middle of May 1847, somewhere in the chaparral near Monterrey, Mexico, Capt. Walter P. Lane and his company of Texas Rangers spent a frustrating day searching for local partisans. One evening, while the rangers attended to their camp, two local rancheros approached...

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1. The Road to San Jacinto 1817-36

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pp. 7-23

On August 10, 1821, the merchant vessel Medford arrived at the busy port of Baltimore. In-bound from Cork, Ireland, the ship crossed the Atlantic in fifty days of uneventful sailing. Once the crew secured the moorings, its handful of passengers disembarked. Among their number, William and Olivia Lane...

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2. Los Piratas De Tejas, 1836-37

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pp. 24-32

Neither the battle of San Jacinto nor the treaties of Velasco settled the conflict between Mexico and Texas, and both sides understood this at the time. Texas authorities clamored for more volunteers to finish the war, while Mexican officials promised counterstrikes, and armed clashes did occur...

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3. Red Lander, 1837-44

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pp. 33-45

Aft er Walter Lane survived the storm of October 1837, he returned to San Augustine, but aft er swimming in the Trinity River, he contracted an illness. Fortunately, when he arrived in the Red Lands community, he found his old cavalry mate, Dr. Robert K. Goodloe, who secured room and board and nursed...

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4. Storming Monterrey, 1844-46

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pp. 46-58

In 1844, when he arrived in San Antonio, Walter Lane found the place in a state of uneasiness. Its inhabitants, Tejanos and Anglo-Texans, had endured Mexican border sorties and Comanche incursions. This disquiet created an environment that attracted men who embraced violence. In San Antonio...

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5. The Fault of All Texans, 1846-48

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pp. 59-76

Aft er his discharge in Monterrey in October 1846, Walter Lane returned to San Antonio. Despite his disappointment with Zachary Taylor’s armistice, he decided to raise his own company of Texas Rangers and rejoin the war. Advertising Lane’s call to arms, the...

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6. By Flood and Field, 1848-58

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pp. 77-95

Aft er his tour in Mexico, Walter Lane entered the most restless period of his life. The gold mania swept him away to California, where his fortunes waxed and waned. He traveled to Peru and Panama, and after a half-hearted attempt at the settled life, he organized an expedition to the Gadsden Purchase. During this time...

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7. Family, Community, and Secession, 1858-61

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pp. 96-106

The Texas to which Walter Lane returned in 1858 was far different than the one that he traveled to in 1836. After independence, and later, statehood, immigrants rushed in from the United States and Europe and inflated its population from an estimated fifty thousand in 1836 to over six hundred thousand by 1860...

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8. The Marshal Ney of Texas, 1861-62

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pp. 107-124

In his memoirs, Walter Lane stated that he joined the Civil War for no other reason than “wishing to have a finger in that pie.”1 Despite the frivolity of that phrase, it reiterated the importance of adventure in Lane’s life. Although family, community, and state allegiance determined on which side he would fight...

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9. Partisan Ranger, 1862-65

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pp. 125-144

After his first year in the Confederate Army, Walter Lane looked upon his contribution to the war effort with pride. He made up for the debacle at Wilson’s Creek with spectacular cavalry charges at Chustenahlah and Pea Ridge, and his performance at Corinth earned him a commendation from his commanding...

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10. Citizen Lane, 1865-87

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pp. 145-166

Although he wrote it in 1887, Walter Lane concluded his autobiography with the end of the Civil War. This choice suggests that he deemed the intervening twenty-two years as unworthy of recollection. Perhaps he did not wish to dwell upon his business failures or political disappointments...

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11. Recollections, 1874-91

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pp. 167-178

For Walter Lane, the decision to retire from the adventurer’s life was not a conscious one. Joining expeditions was very much a younger man’s business, but the old general occasionally felt that familiar yearning for the elsewhere. In 1877, at age sixty, Lane wrote to the state adjutant general...

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pp. 179-184

In the course of his long career, Gen. Walter P. Lane had suffered wounds inflicted by a Mexican lancer, Kickapoo warriors, and Yankee infantry, and survived them all, but defeating old age was a battle that no soldier could win. In October 1890, he suffered a lapse in his health. The Marshall...


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pp. 185-222


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pp. 223-240


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pp. 241-250

E-ISBN-13: 9781603444118
E-ISBN-10: 1603444114
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440707
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440704

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 680627823
MUSE Marc Record: Download for More Zeal Than Discretion

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Subject Headings

  • Texas -- History -- Revolution, 1835-1836.
  • Lane, Walter P. (Walter Paye), 1817-1892.
  • Veterans -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Generals -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Texas. Militia -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Mexican War, 1846-1848.
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