Historians today are far more aware of issues of race relations than previous generations, and recently a number of new works have contributed substantially to the historiography of the topic as it relates to the antebellum Southwest. While some of these works do not explore the issue of race directly, they all present significant advances furthering our understanding of race relations between peoples of Anglo, Mexican, and Native American descent. Political instability within the region exacerbated existing racial attitudes among the various populations, resulting in considerable violence throughout the period. The Texas Revolution represented one of the earliest manifestations of this violence. In fact, this event contributed substantially to the near constant bloodshed in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico during the mid nineteenth century.
Jay A. Stout’s Slaughter at Goliad explores the events culminating in the March 27, 1836, Mexican execution of more than four hundred Texas volunteers during the Texas Revolution. Stout argues that the mass execution of these soldiers resulted from poor leadership and negative racial attitudes on both sides. Through an examination of army records, government reports, and survivor accounts, Stout explores the individuals who played key roles in the executions and how the Mexican army put hundreds of American citizens to death with no resulting action [End Page 497] by the United States government. The captured soldiers came largely from the southern United States and did not hold Texas citizenship. They had enlisted in the army of Texas in support of their Anglo–American brethren, who had reportedly suffered under a corrupt and inept Mexican government. Conversely, Mexicans believed that Anglo Americans abused the good will of the Mexican people and sought to rob Mexico of its territory and resources. The situation in the region ultimately resulted in increasingly negative racial attitudes that fostered little quarter to be given by either side.
Slaughter at Goliad relies heavily on Internet-based sources, and the work is a testament to the usefulness of archival digitization for both researching a topic and evaluating the product of the research. The ability to find and quickly review the source an author used is extremely useful. Yet if the reader has the ability to access a primary source on a topic, it becomes all the more noticeable when there is no citation, as occurs in Stout’s book on occasion.
A more specialized reader may at times find Slaughter at Goliad frustrating because of its cursory style. Stout crafts his chapter on the effectiveness of shoulder-fired weapons during the mid nineteenth century well, but serious scholars of the Texas Revolution will find that Stout offers little, if anything, new on the topic. Additionally, in an effort to provide context for the massacre at Goliad, Stout belabors Texas history prior to March 1836. General readers will undoubtedly find these opening chapters helpful, but specialists can skip over these sections with ease.
Overall, Stout’s Slaughter at Goliad sheds light on a partially forgotten event in U.S. and Mexican history in a format accessible to a general audience. Moreover, the work provides an interesting guide for scholars to the plethora of materials now available in digital archives. While greater citation and a more streamlined construction would aid the work, Slaughter at Goliad certainly has enough to make it worthy for all students of history.
Michael L. Collins also contributes to the historiography of borderland interactions and race relations. Texas Devils: Rangers & Regulars on the Lower Rio Grande, 1846–1861 examines the role that Texas Rangers played in the tense political...