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Tracking the Texas Rangers, The Nineteenth Century

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Tracking the Texas Rangers is an anthology of sixteen previously published articles, arranged in chronological history, covering key topics of the intrepid and sometimes controversial law officers named the Texas Rangers. Determining the role of the Rangers as the state evolved and what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the state is a difficult challenge--the actions of the Rangers fit no easy description. There is a dark side to the story of the Rangers; during the war with Mexico, for example, some murdered, pillaged, and raped. Yet these same Rangers eased the resultant United States victory. Even their beginning and the first use of the term "Texas Ranger" have mixed and complex origins. Tracking the Texas Rangers covers topics such as their early years, the great Comanche Raid of 1840, and the effective use of Colt revolvers. Article authors discuss Los Diablos Tejanos, Rip Ford, the Cortina War, the use of Hispanic Rangers and Rangers in labor disputes, and the recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker and the capture of John Wesley Hardin. The selections cover critical aspects of those experiences--organization, leadership, cultural implications, rural and urban life, and violence. In their introduction, editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss, Jr., discuss various themes and controversies surrounding the 19th-century Rangers and their treatment by historians over the years. They also have added annotations to the essays to explain where new research has shed additional light on an event to update or correct the original article text.

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In Pursuit of the Texas Rangers: The Nineteenth Century


In Pursuit of the

Texas Rangers: The

Nineteenth Century

Bruce A. Glasrud and Harold J. Weiss, Jr.

The Rangers have both a black side and a white side but mostly, like all institutions composed of people, a range of grays separating the two. Sound history records the range as well as the poles.1


n Texas mythical history the Rangers exist as the saviors and protectors of Texas society. According to this story, the Rangers wore the white hats. They protected Anglo Texas from American

Indians and from Mexican nationals, from peoples of color. They served as runaway slave catchers. They enforced white supremacy and Jim Crow laws and traditions. They made a stand against feudists. They arrested the bad guys. The task of determining the role of the Rangers as the state evolved and what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the state is a more difficult challenge. The actions of the Rangers fit no easy description. There is a dark side to the story of the Rangers; during the war with Mexico, for example, some murdered, pillaged, and raped. Yet these same Rangers eased the resultant United States victory. Even their beginning and the first use of the term “Texas Ranger” have mixed and complex definitions. It is not lack of interest that complicates the unveiling of the mythical force. With the possible exception of the Alamo, probably more has been written about the Texas Rangers than any other aspect of Texas history.


Encomium: Bad Day at Round Rock


Encomium: Bad Day at Round Rock

Bob Boze Bell and Rick Miller

July 19, 1878 am Bass has a bold plan. He and his outlaw band will case the bank in Round Rock, Texas, one more time and then strike tomorrow (Saturday) when the surrounding farmers make their weekly deposits.

The air is hot and muggy as three of the gang, including Bass, rein up in an alley behind the bank, tie off, and walk around to the main street (Georgetown Ave.) for one more look around. A fourth outlaw, Jim Murphy, has stopped at a store on the way into town, supposedly to quiz locals about the presence of lawmen. He is actually an informant and has warned the Rangers of the gang’s plans.

It’s about 4:00 p.m. as Bass, Seaborn Barnes, and Frank Jackson walk west along the north sidewalk, making mental notes as they survey the town. Two of the men carry saddlebags. Hoping to avoid suspicion, they cross the street and approach Koppel’s store to buy tobacco.

Two local lawmen, “Caige” Grimes and Maurice Moore, spot what they believe to be concealed weapons on the Bass boys and start following the trio (although officials had received advance warning from gang-member Murphy, it is unclear whether these two lawmen suspected the trio of being members of the Bass Gang).


The Texas Rangers Revisited: Old Themes and New Viewpoints


The Texas Rangers Revisited: Old Themes and New Viewpoints

★ 25

ther gave nor asked for quarter; and were an irregular force with no uniforms, some privately supplied equipment and provisions, and a noticeable lack of military discipline. This rough-and-ready image, which first appeared in the fight for Texan independence and the

Mexican War, left its imprint on the imagination of those writers who have recorded the exploits of outlaws and lawmen.

Although tradition played an important part in Ranger affairs, different eras in Texas history produced different types of Rangers.

Through the decades of settlement, revolution, and statehood; the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction; the growth of agriculture and industry; the rise of urban Texas; and American involvement in two world wars, the operations of the Texas Rangers can be divided into three distinct periods:

1. 1823–1874: the heyday of the Rangers as citizen soldiers.

Within this time frame ranging companies and other volunteer units engaged in a military struggle with Indian tribes and Mexicans for control of the land.


“Valor, Wisdom, and Experience”: Early Texas Rangers and the Nature of Frontier Leadership



“Valor, Wisdom, and

Experience”: Early Texas

Rangers and the Nature of Frontier Leadership

Stephen L. Hardin


purred by Napoleonic notions of glory, Luther Giddings followed General Zachary Taylor into Mexico in 1846. As an officer in the First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, he was no spitand-polish regular. The Ohioan nonetheless shared a number of assumptions with West Pointers. Giddings believed, for example, that a soldier identified himself by wearing an assigned uniform; a soldier observed a code that demanded obedience to superiors; a soldier belonged to a fellowship of arms, and members of that exclusive fraternity—even the enemy—deserved respect and professional courtesy. Finally, Giddings held that a soldier was an agent of the state, protecting his nation’s interest, at his country’s beck and call. Although he had not read the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, Giddings would have endorsed his oft-misquoted dictum, “War is the continuation of political intercourse with the intermixing of other means.”


The Great Comanche Raid of 1840



The Great Comanche

Raid of 1840

Donaly E. Brice


he Great Comanche Raid of 1840 was the boldest and most concerted Indian depredation in the history of Texas. It embodied two of the bloodiest Indian battles Texas has ever witnessed.

More significantly, it represented a turning point in Texas history, marking the end of the Indian threat to frontier expansion, the decline in Mexico’s ability to exploit Indians as agents in its schemes to re-conquer Texas, and the rise of Texans’ military prowess in defending their frontiers. After a brief review of relations between

Texans and Indians preceding the raid, the paper will explore the

Great Comanche Raid in each of its facets.

To understand the reasons for this destructive raid upon the settlers of the Texas frontier it is necessary to look back to the early years of the Republic of Texas. During the first administration of Sam Houston, practically no Indian trouble existed because of Houston’s understanding and benevolent action toward the Indians. Houston realized that to establish a stable government, it was necessary to make and keep peace with the Indians and the


The Deadly Colts on Walker’s Creek



The Deadly Colts on

Walker’s Creek

Stephen L. Moore


he key Indian agent in Texas from the U.S., Pierce Butler, had more resources and thus more negotiating power than Sam

Houston’s appointed agents. He found the Indians receptive when he called for a meeting of all Plains Indians to be held at

Cache Creek of the Red River in December 1843. Butler arrived with an escort of 30 U.S. dragoons and a large store of gifts.1

Butler spent 18 days with the Comanches and their associate tribes speaking of peace. He advised his superiors that the Indians would eventually need help in surviving as game became more scarce for hunting and the better farmlands were taken over by the

Anglo Texas settlers, Butler took great interest in documenting the demographics of the Indian tribes he met with. In his report of January 31, 1844, Butler counted 1,500 people in the two main Wichita towns on the upper Trinity River. He found that another 500 or

600 lived in two Wichita communities near the Wichita mountains.


Los Diablos Tejanos!



Los Diablos Tejanos!

Stephen B. Oates


n the sweltering twilight of May 22, 1846, a company of sunburned, grim-faced Texas Rangers, the advance unit of a newly organized Texas regiment, rode into Fort Brown, the farthest southern outpost of Anglo-American civilization in Texas and combat headquarters of General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready”

Taylor, commander of the Army of the Rio Grande. The war with

Mexico over the disputed Texas boundary and ultimate control of the American Southwest had begun less than a month before, but

Taylor’s troops had already won two decisive victories over a demoralized Mexican army and sent it in headlong retreat for Monterrey, some one hundred fifty miles southwest of Fort Brown. The possibilities of crushing this army and ending the war in northern

Mexico were bright indeed, and Taylor was already moving his veterans across the placid waters of the Rio Grande when the Texans, who had seen no action yet, halted on the weed-infested parade grounds and reported to the general. Taylor promptly sent them along to scout the hostile lands ahead of his advancing columns. As the Rangers splashed across the river into a Mexican sunset, they broke into their celebrated “Texas Yell.” At last—at long last—they could shoot Mexicans legitimately and shoot to kill.


The Callahan Expedition



The Callahan Expedition

Michael L. Collins


n the summer of 1855, Lipan Apaches, reportedly aided by

Seminoles, conducted some of their most daring raids yet. They crossed into Texas and struck settlements as far north as the

Blanco and Guadalupe rivers, taking horses, cattle, and scalps along the way. News of these depredations stirred the governor of Texas,

Elisha M. Pease, to action. Aware that Texas frontiersmen were frustrated with the inadequate defense afforded by the few federal garrisons scattered along the border, Pease authorized the formation of a company of Rangers to protect the frontier and punish the marauders. Pease apparently feared that, should he fail to respond decisively to the situation, Texas minutemen might take matters into their own hands and march off to Mexico.1

Ironically, Pease turned to one such impulsive Texas leader,

James Hughes Callahan. A native of Georgia, Callahan had come to

Texas during the revolution of 1836, a twenty-four-year-old volunteer in the Georgia Battalion of the Texian army assigned to Colonel


“Rip” Ford’s Indian Fight on the Canadian



“Rip” Ford’s Indian Fight on the Canadian

W. J. Hughes


hroughout the year 1856, settlers on the northwest frontier of

Texas found it possible to till their fields and graze their herds with comparatively little interference from Indian attack. So tranquil appeared the situation that the War Department began a series of transfers of the Regular Army contingents from the northwest garrisons, dispatching them to Utah, Kansas, and other territories where graver problems seemed to threaten.

Into the defensive void thus created the Comanche horsemen swept during 1857, and the reeking casualty lists and tolls of vanished or destroyed property again began to mount. The whites fought back desperately, but so futilely that the entire year witnessed not one successful punitive expedition against the painted marauders.1 Frontier people, for several years irritated at the federal government’s policy of placing part of the Penateka (Honey Eater)

Comanches and the remnants of other tribes on two northwest reservations, now were vociferously angry, as incidents seemed to implicate the reservation Indians in collusion with the hostile bands.2


Photo Gallery


Photo Gallery

Rangers and Popular Images

But one thing seems clear to everyone who returns from field work: other people are other. They do not think the way we do. And if we want to understand their way of thinking, we should set out with the idea of capturing otherness.

—Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and

Other Episodes in French Cultural History.

Some Lone Star scholars insist that Texas, with its heritage of slavery, segregation, and historic dependence upon cotton, is southern. Another group of historians argue that Texas is western, as evidenced by its cowboys, cattle drives, mountains, and desert. Still others say that the Lone Star State is unique, winning its independence from

Mexico during the Texas Revolution and existing as an independent republic for ten years prior to joining the Union.

—Glen Sample Ely, Where the West

Begins: Debating Texas Identity.

He must have courage equal to any, judgment better than most, and physical strength to outlast his men on the longest march or hardest ride.


Rangers, “Rip” Ford, and the Cortina War



Rangers, “Rip” Ford, and the Cortina War

Richard B. McCaslin


he greatest border challenge for newly elected Texas Governor

Sam Houston came on the Rio Grande, when Juan N. Cortina, a rancher and accused cattle rustler who was a folk hero to some local Tejanos, shot the Brownsville marshal and fled into Mexico.

Cortina returned to occupy Brownsville with a small force in September 1859, intending to murder those who had secured an indictment against him. He and his followers did kill several people before Jose Maria de Jesus Carvajal, the commander of the garrison in

Matamoros, convinced his cousin Cortina to stop. Cortina retired to

Rancho del Carmen, his mother’s ranch upriver, where he gathered more men by declaring that he would fight for the rights of Mexican

Texans. The federal units at Brownsville and other posts along the lower Rio Grande had been removed due to the relative peace that had fallen over the region, as well as a general decline in the town after the creation of a free trade zone in northern Mexico, so Brownsville militia had to battle with Cortina’s men. Cortina could not take


Hispanic Texas Rangers Contribute to Peace On the Texas Frontier, 1838 to 1880



Hispanic Texas Rangers

Contribute to Peace On the

Texas Frontier, 1838 to 1880

David E. Screws


n the last decades of the twentieth century, historian Rodolfo

Acuna accused earlier writers of being apologists for the crude, and sometimes brutal, manners of the Texas Rangers during the days of the Texas frontier (Acuna 1981: 25). For most of the nineteenth century much of Texas was nothing more than a frontier, and the methods of enforcing peace and order on frontiers were often as violent as the crimes. Acuna also expressed the belief that all rangers were Anglos, “recruited gunslingers who burned with a hatred of Mexicans” who were sent to the border to “maintain a closed social structure that excluded Mexicans” (Acuna 1981: 27).

Montejano believed that a Frontier Battalion was established to represent “the armed force of the Anglo-Texas order” (Montejano

1987: 33–36).

An examination of history reveals that many Hispanics served the Republic of Texas and the state of Texas as rangers. There is evidence as early as 1848 that they performed well and were highly respected by their Anglo counterparts. Several Anglo rangers, camped in Mexico in 1848 during the Mexican War, were discussing which race of people made the best ranger spies. One ranger


The “Battle” at Pease River and the Question of Reliable Sources in the Recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker



The “Battle” at Pease River and the Question of Reliable

Sources in the Recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker

Paul H. Carlson and Tom Crum


will venture to say that there have been more different erroneous stories written and printed about Cynthia Ann Parker than any person who ever lived in Texas,” wrote Araminta

McClellan Taulman, a member of the famous Quanah Parker family, to Frontier Times editor J. Marvin Hunter in 1929. She may have been right—especially about the December 19, 1860, “battle” along

Mule Creek near Pease River and the taking of Naudah (Cynthia

Ann Parker) from her Comanche family and friends. Because the

Comanches at Mule Creek were caught by surprise, were running away, put up no resistance except when cornered, and all but a few of them were killed in the village, the “battle” perhaps more accurately should be considered a massacre, as several historians have called it.1

Eyewitness reports of the fight—or more properly, “massacre”—and the recapture of Parker are often suspect and unreliable.


Capturing the Grand Mogul (John Wesley Hardin)



Capturing the Grand Mogul

(John Wesley Hardin)

Leon Metz


s late as June 17, 1874, the Texas Rangers suspected John Wesley Hardin still considered Comanche home. Ranger W.  J.

Maltby wrote Major John B. Jones from Brownwood, and said the local people are still “severely threatened by the notorious outlaw John Hardin and a band of desperadoes that he has enlisted under his banner.” Maltby believed Hardin was still in the county and “seeking the lives of the best citizens.” For the next three years, newspapers frequently reported Hardin activity in Texas when he actually was in Alabama and Florida.1

Hardin considered vanishing into Mexico as well as Great Britain, but a Hardin on the run needed funds. Joe Clements and Neill

Bowen were in Kansas where their cattle remained unsold, awaiting a favorable market. A desperate John Wesley dispatched his younger brother Jefferson to Kansas with instructions to sell regardless of price. Jeff returned with five hundred dollars. Neill Bowen followed shortly thereafter, and he and Hardin settled accounts. Hardin said he had considerable money when he left the state.2


Rangers and Mounties Defending the Cattleman’s Empire



Rangers and Mounties

Defending the

Cattleman’s Empire

Andrew R. Graybill


ith passage of the 1884 fence cutting legislation, state leaders in Austin had demonstrated their resolve to protect private property and to defend an industry of unquestioned economic value to the state. Officials charged the Texas Rangers with eradicating fence destruction, which became the primary mission of the force in the spring of 1884. This was not, however, the first time the Rangers had been considered for such a job. Two years before,

Adjutant General W. H. King had proposed to use the force—albeit in a relatively nonconfrontational way—to mediate range conflicts before they reached the boiling point.1 If such a plan was put into effect by King before the 1883 troubles, though, it did little good in bringing about tranquility between large and small ranchers on the cattleman’s frontier: Rangers were investigating fence cutting cases less than six months after the adjutant general had filed his report.

There are at least two reasons why King and Governor John Ireland enlisted the Rangers to suppress fence cutting. First, the police had already proven their usefulness to the cattle industry by driving Native Americans from the state and dispossessing South Texas


Rangers of the Last Frontier of Texas



Rangers of the Last

Frontier of Texas

James M. Day


new era began in 1881, an era when most of the Ranger force turned from chasing Indians to hunting and arresting outlaws. The death in that year of Major John B. Jones marked a new era for the Texas Rangers and the Frontier Battalion which had been organized in 1874 and which existed until 1900 when the opinion of an attorney general took its power. No longer was a frontier line clearly evident in Texas. Farms and ranches, cities and towns, and railroads and roads that would become highways were everywhere in evidence, and they were prominent features over the entire state except in the Trans-Pecos country.

In the Trans-Pecos, civilization existed only in pockets scattered among the rugged mountains and canyons and the vast dry expanses. West Texas was an arid stretch where man had to adapt or die, ruggedly beautiful and charming, yet so deadly. By 1882, a railroad ran through its mid-section and stagecoach and wagon roads meandered through its mountain passes and across its deserts. The ranches were big of necessity and the towns and farms were small for the same reason. Far to the west lay the step-child of Texas—El


The Jesse Evans Gang and the Death of Texas Ranger George R. Bingham



The Jesse Evans Gang and the Death of Texas Ranger

George R. Bingham

Chuck Parsons

The other three desperadoes were captured and lodged in jail at

Fort Davis. Among those captured is Jesse Evans, one of the most notorious highwaymen now living. He operated in Colorado and

New Mexico, and was known by all as a brave, daring robber, who defied the officers and took possession of whole towns when it suited his purpose. This was his first trip to Texas, and to be gobbled up by Gen. Jones’ men, has no doubt disgusted him with

Texas in general and the alert wide-awake Texas rangers in general.1


estern buffs readily recognize Jesse Evans, the desperado whose name will be forever linked with that of Billy the Kid.

Virtually every book dealing with the Kid devotes some space to Evans. We are concerned here not only with the Texas crimes of Jesse Evans, but also the man whose death placed him behind the unforgiving walls of Huntsville State Prison: George R.

Bingham, a Texas Ranger of Company D, Frontier Battalion, who was killed in action.


The Struggle for the Individual and the Union, 1888–1903


296 ★

Tracking the Texas Rangers: The Nineteenth Century

and Palo Pinto counties some time before Hunter even invested in the mining industry there. Their mining experience dated to their childhoods, and from an early age they understood the usefulness of the strike, organization, negotiation, solicitation of help from local and distant allies, and emigration as tools of protest. Using such traditional resistance tactics, they laid the basis for a movement in

Thurber that ultimately bridged ethnic and racial differences and assumed mass proportions in 1903.1

Ironically, their actions won success during William K. Gordon’s tenure as general manager in Thurber. From the time Gordon went to work for Hunter in 1889, the civil engineer and self-taught geologist earned a reputation for fairness among the miners as he rose through company ranks as mining engineer, superintendent, assistant general manager, and then vice-president and general manager. He lived in the camp with his family and encouraged or at least quietly tolerated the residents’ customs, as alien as they must have seemed. He continued and extended Hunter’s attempt at welfare capitalism and gave every indication of being an enlightened and benevolent manager.2



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