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Savage Frontier Volume I 1835-1837

Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas

Stephen L. Moore

Publication Year: 2002

This first volume of the Savage Frontier series is a comprehensive account of the formative years of the legendary Texas Rangers, focusing on the three-year period between 1835 and 1837, when Texas was struggling to gain its independence from Mexico and assert itself as a new nation. Stephen L. Moore vividly portrays another struggle of the settlers of Texas to tame a wilderness frontier and secure a safe place to build their homes and raise their families. Moore provides fresh detail about each ranging unit formed during the Texas Revolution and narrates their involvement in the pivotal battle of San Jacinto. New ranger battalions were created following the revolution, after Indian attacks against settlers increased. One notorious attack occurred against the settlers of Parker's Fort, which had served as a ranger station during the revolution. By 1837 President Sam Houston had allowed the army to dwindle, leaving only a handful of ranging units to cover the vast Republic. These frontiersmen endured horse rustling raids and ambushes, fighting valiantly even when greatly outnumbered in battles such as the Elm Creek Fight, Post Oak Springs Massacre, and the Stone Houses Fight. Through extensive use of primary military documents and first-person accounts, Moore documents the organization of the early ranger units and their activities. Of particular interest to the reader will be the various rosters of the companies, which are found throughout the book. Many of these muster rolls have been compiled from multiple sources and not published together previously. For the exacting historian or genealogist of early Texas, the Savage Frontier series will be an indispensable resource on early nineteenth-century Texas frontier warfare.

Published by: University of North Texas Press


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pp. iii-v

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pp. vii-xiii

President Houston’s message before the First Congress of the Republic of Texas stressed that the government should pursue a conciliatory policy towards the Indians to help prevent depredations on Texas settlers. His successor, President Lamar, adopted a far less tolerant Indian policy upon taking leadership of Texas and ...

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1. Attack and Counterattack

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pp. 1-13

The campground was ominously quiet as the first rays of sunlight filtered through the trees along Sandies Creek. The dawn air was cool on the mid-April morning in South Texas. The tranquility was violently interrupted by the sudden report of rifles and resounding war whoops as more than five dozen Comanche ...

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2. The Original Ranger Battalion

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pp. 14-30

Indian encounters began to accelerate throughout 1835 in the wake of the Rio Blanco battle. Noted Texas Ranger George Bernard Erath wrote in 1844 that, “The war with the Indians began in 1835.”1 While battles with Indians had occurred since the first white settlers arrived many years before, Erath was correct in noting that 1835 was a true turning point in “the war.” The ...

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3. Frontiersmen of the Texas Revolution

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pp. 31-60

Freshly returned from their Indian campaign, Colonel John Moore’s volunteers immediately became engaged in a confrontation that ignited the opening shots of what became known as the Texas Revolution. This action would serve as a uniting force to enlist thousands into the effort to gain Texas ...

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4. "Loathsome Trophy”

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pp. 61-87

During early December, the new ranging corps under Major Willie Williamson was still in the early stages of organizing. There were only two companies of the previously approved regional rangers in the field, those of captains Daniel Friar and Eli Hillhouse. The company of Hillhouse continued to operate from Fort ...

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5. The Alamo’s “Immortal Thirty-Two”

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pp. 88-94

By February 23, the Texan forces in San Antonio were aware that something big was up. San Antonio citizens slipped out of town, having been warned by a Mexican courier that General Santa Anna’s advance cavalry was only eight miles away. Lieutenant Colonel Travis, Dr. John Sutherland and scout John W. Smith left ...

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6. The Road to San Jacinto

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pp. 101-123

The message of Alamo courier John Smith was read before the Convention at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 6, 1836. The delegates had declared the independence of Texas on March 1 and had worked non-stop writing and signing their formal Declaration of Independence for Texas. The convention would then spend the ...

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7. Parker’s Fort and Little River Depredations

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pp. 124-147

Lieutenant Colonel Griffin Bayne’s rangers arrived on the San Jacinto battlefield one day after the historic conflict. The group included Captain Wilson’s company and a ranger detachment that had been commanded by Captain Tumlinson prior to the Runaway Scrape. Noah Smithwick, who had recently joined Bayne’s party, later ...

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8. Burleson’s Battalion

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pp. 148-173

Sprawled in the dunes hugging the coast of Copano Bay, the sentinels studied the outline of the silent Watchman as day broke. The two-masted schooner had slipped into the key deep-water Texas seaport and was awaiting a signal to begin offloading its valuable cargo, provisions to supplement the retreating Mexican Army. ...

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9. A Chain of Frontier Forts

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pp. 174-210

By the fall of 1836, the corps of Texas Rangers was at an all-time high in terms of number of men enrolled and number of companies. Colonel Edward Burleson had at his disposal the companies of captains Billingsley, Hill, Lockhart, McGehee, York and Robertson. The original corps, now under Major Burton, included the companies of Captain Putnam and Lieutenant Smith by late August. ...

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10. Elm Creek and Trinity River Fights

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pp. 211-229

The sweeping changes to the ranger forces dictated by the First Congress took several weeks to complete. Colonel Robert Coleman remained in command of his ranger battalion during December 1836, although the process was already in progress for his own removal. Major William H. Smith, based initially from Nashville-on-the- Brazos, would eventually command this mounted rifleman ...

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11. Spring Setbacks for Smith’s Battalion

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pp. 230-252

By the time Abram Anglin was discharged from service with Captain Haggard’s Fort Houston area rangers on March 19, he was already an old hand with the Texas Rangers. He had previously served under captains Hillhouse, Seale and Parker during the Texas Revolution. Anglin had survived the Parker’s Fort Massacre in ...

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12. Stone Houses Fight

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pp. 253-278

The killings near Nashville in May and the recent furloughing of the regular army required action on the part of the Texas Congress. President Sam Houston officially excused himself from government business for thirty days on June 7, 1837. By means of a joint resolution, he provided himself a month to help organize the ...

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pp. 279-280

The Stone Houses conflict was just one of many tough lessons for the rangers and riflemen in 1837. They had also been overwhelmed at Erath’s fight in January, at the Trinity River the same month, at the Post Oak Springs Massacre in May, and twice in April had their horses stampeded by Indians near their own ...

Appendix: Roster of Texas Rangers: Coleman/Smith Battalion

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pp. 281-285

Chapter Notes

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pp. 286-306


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pp. 307-314


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pp. 315-335

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413823
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412352

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 34 b&w illus., 5 maps
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- Texas.
  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1836-1846.
  • Indians of North America -- Texas -- Government relations.
  • Texas Rangers -- History.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas -- History.
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