- Texas Ranger John B. Jones and the Frontier Battalion, 1874-1881 by Rick Miller
Rick Miller uses an impressive collection of primary sources to reconstruct the history of the Frontier Battalion and the role of John B. Jones in it from its creation until his untimely death. As told by Miller, Jones was selected over others with more frontier experience due to management skills that he demonstrated during his Confederate service. Among the many rules and standards he established was the requirement to keep detailed records of daily events. Miller successfully uses Jones's words from these records to explain how he overcame constant budget deficits to develop and sustain an organization that dealt with Indians, bandits, and disagreements with Mexicans. Drawing from many other sources, primary [End Page 218] and secondary, Miller also attempts to provide a serious biography of Jones, stating that none was previously available.
For the historian of Ranger history, this volume provides a thoroughly detailed examination of events in chronological order. It will serve as a resource for previously overlooked activities as well as a springboard for events that need further research. Miller's purpose for covering all of these activities is to examine Jones's administration style and procedures, which he believes were crucial to the development of the Frontier Battalion. By including the many strategic and sensible decisions that Jones made for the battalion, Miller conclusively supports his objectives of writing a full history of the force and a biography of Jones.
Miller aptly demonstrates how the Frontier Battalion filled the need for an organization that could be utilized for multiple purposes. In a time when local law enforcement was inreliable, this force helped provide needed security and reinforcement in multiple situations. Jones faced challenges that were made even more difficult due to limited communication and manpower over a vast region. During his time as the battalion commander and subsequently as adjutant general, his forces had a successful record and substantially contributed to law enforcement efforts and frontier security.
While it will be an asset for some, the plethora of information can be distracting to those who are not Ranger historians. Some incidents covered in the book, such as the Salt War, the Dick Dublin and Sam Bass stories, and the Pegleg holdups, were developed in detail, while many others were merely mentioned in passing. Much of the content lacks analysis and is simply a record of the events as they happened. Many of the chapters lack cohesion, and some information does not have sources. The photographs of different characters were a wonderful addition, but a map would have been extremely helpful, especially considering the multiple locations mentioned.