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  • Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Nineteenth Century ed. by Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss Jr.
  • Richard Duncan
Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Nineteenth Century. Edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss Jr. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2012. Pp. 370. Illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9781574414790, $29.95.)

Editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss Jr. have compiled a selection of articles relating the early history of the Texas Rangers and the origins of Texas Ranger legend. The editors identify two types of historiography—the traditional view that the Rangers were always the good guys protecting settlers form Indian raiders and Mexican bandits, and the revisionist [End Page 219] view that Rangers were the primary tool of Anglo expansion into land formerly occupied by Indians and Mexicans. The editors succeed in presenting a third, more balanced approach to the Ranger legend, including both positive and negative examples of Ranger activities from 1823 to 1900. Many of the articles also provide examples of the difficulty in separating facts from fiction in the construction of the Ranger legend.

Co-editor Harold J. Weiss Jr. leads off with an overview of Texas Ranger history, breaking it down into three eras: 1823-1874, the formative years of defense against Indian and Mexican raiders; 1874-1935, the years of transition into a law enforcement agency; and 1935-present, the years of the Rangers' reorganization into the Department of Public Safety and transformation into modern crime investigators. The rest of the book focuses on nineteenth-century Ranger activities and highlights specific topics to show how the Ranger legend developed. The next article explains how good leadership from the beginning set the course for creating the Ranger legend. Three more articles provide early examples of the Rangers' frontier Indian defense.

Several articles are critical of the Rangers, describing how they earned the Mexican term "los diablos Tejanos" (the Texas devils) during the U.S.-Mexico War, and give other examples of activities that contributed to their negative reputation among border Mexicans. However, one article is an accounting of significant contributions by Hispanic Rangers, diluting some of the negative impression that Rangers had a special animus toward Mexicans. Another critical article describes how one Ranger used his service in the recapture of Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker as a steppingstone to his own political advancement.

The next grouping of chapters is a discussion of the Ranger transformation into a law enforcement agency. Rangers are compared to the Canadian Mounties as protectors of the cattle barons. Other articles provide additional examples of Ranger crime-fighting prowess in the late nineteenth century, including the cases of outlaws Sam Bass, Jesse Evans, and John Wesley Hardin. The last chapter is an example of Rangers acting as peacekeepers during labor unrest in the Texas coal-mining town of Thurber.

Tracking the Texas Rangers is a valuable resource for Ranger enthusiasts and scholars for several reasons. The articles provide a good overview of nineteenth-century Ranger development from their earliest mission of frontier Indian defense, through legend building as a hard-fighting counter-guerrilla force during and after the U.S.-Mexico War, to their transformation into a law enforcement agency in the last quarter of the century. All of the articles were previously independently published, making this book a convenient collection of these articles in one place, and presented in a way that presents a logical evolution of the Ranger experience. Finally, Tracking the Texas Rangers is a treasure map leading to additional sources [End Page 220] for nineteenth-century Ranger history. All article authors provide excellent notes and sources for further study of early Texas Ranger history. In addition, the editors include a good selected bibliography of secondary sources that provides a range of detailed accounts of early Ranger activities and biographies.

Richard Duncan
Texas State University-San Marcos


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pp. 219-221
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