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  • Savage Frontier, Volume IV, 1842–1845: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas
  • Jody Edward Ginn
Savage Frontier, Volume IV, 1842–1845: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas. By Stephen L. Moore. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2010. Pp. 263. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9781574412932, $34.95, cloth.)

This is the final book in a four-volume series focusing on the activities of the Rangers and other military forces in Texas from 1835 to 1845, then a frontier zone where multiple cultures converged. The late, venerable historian David J. Weber once wrote, “it is the power of frontiers to transform cultures that gives them special interest” (The Spanish Frontier In North America, 13), and Moore’s work chronicles how these dynamics played out in Texas during the Republic era. Concentrating on such a limited time period throughout almost fifteen hundred pages has allowed Moore to plumb the depths of this era of Ranger history. His immersion in the minutiae of the period has resulted in a very narrow focus where perspective and context is concerned, and Moore makes no secret of his admiration for the men who served as Texas Rangers during this period.

Volume IV covers the final period of the Republic of Texas, picking up in 1842 just after Sam Houston reentered the office of President of the Republic of Texas and began the difficult task of attempting to mend fences with Texas Indians who had suffered under the Lamar administration. While Houston actively approached tribal leaders in an effort to make amends and negotiate for peace, Rangers were still needed at times (though much less frequently and in far fewer numbers than during Lamar’s term). They engaged in combat with Indians who chose to continue hostilities and against occasional Mexican military incursions. Moore traces those activities to the end of the Republic era and closes with the transition of the Rangers from an independent national force into an arm of the United States military during the Mexican War. Once again Moore’s focus is on the activities of the Texan military forces, not the policies driving them. Nevertheless, in Volume IV, Moore does demonstrate a heightened (compared to past volumes) awareness of and sensitivity to the perspectives and circumstances of the Rangers’ adversaries.

In addition to providing detailed narratives of battles, Moore painstakingly documents the creation and dissolution of each Ranger unit of the period, making use of tables with rosters. Moore also analyzes the Rangers’ application of weapons and tactics, demonstrating how each contributed to their various successes and failures. Despite Moore’s acknowledged sympathy for the cause of the Texas Rangers, he does not propagate longstanding legends of their invincibility, instead debunking such myths through specific examples of their defeats. The afterword further explains that many supposed battles, particularly some allegedly involving the indomitable Jack C. Hays, never actually occurred. Much of this information was derived from the contemporary muster rolls, reports, and other primary documents on file in the Texas State Library and Archives, the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the Texas Land Office, and other sources.

This volume, and the entire series, is directed primarily toward a general audience. But scholars studying related topics would be remiss to forgo a thorough [End Page 218] examination of the Savage Frontier series, particularly due to the in-depth research documenting exactly who served, when, and (often) under what circumstances. It is these particulars that reveal the unexpected diversity of the early Ranger companies.

The racial and cultural diversity of early Texan forces may be the most significant contribution Moore has made to Texas Ranger historiography. Before his efforts, the concept of an Indian or Tejano Ranger during the Republic period was at most mentioned in passing and largely unknown to the general public and to many scholars. Moore’s research has established that Ranger service was definitely not the exclusive province of Anglos, though they did make up the majority of the manpower in most instances during the period studied. The diversity and multiethnic cooperation documented by Moore allows for a more nuanced understanding of the inter-ethnic cultural dynamics of nineteenth-century Texas.

Jody Edward Ginn


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