Monday, July 26, 2010

They Rode for the Lone Star: The Saga of the Texas Rangers, Vol. 1: The Birth of Texas--The Civil War

The usual criteria on most sites that sponsor book giveaways, is that you have posted reviews of similar books in the past. This is good for the giveaway sponsors. They are assured that you have actually read the books and that you post reviews. But it’s frustrating for reviewers who wish to widen the type of book that they read and review. I find myself reading and writing reviews for the same type of book, over and over again.

Not so with the giveaways on GoodReads. They continually surprise me with their choices for me, starting with the very first book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I had no science fiction works in my "library". They Rode for the Lone Star is another surprise. I have no "westerns" in my library.

I signed up for this book on a whim. I know very little about Texas and thought that the whole Texas Ranger "mystique" was one of those "everything is bigger and better in Texas". I am happy to report that I was wrong. The Texas Rangers are, and were, much more than a state police force.

They have a long, proud history that dates back to the first settlement of Texas by colonists from the fledgling United States. Texas Rangers were initially a militia force, defending "Texians" from hostile Native Americans and Mexicans who also claimed Texas. Rangers fought in the battles for independence from Mexico, in the Mexican War after Texas achieved statehood and then in the Civil War, on both sides of the conflict. The author ends this, the first volume of his history, at the end of the Civil War.

The history of Texas and the Rangers is covered in detail, sometimes too much detail, and includes discussions of uniforms, weapons, tactics and seemingly every move in every battle fought by every ranger. And yet, despite all of that detail, a lot of knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader. I found myself wanting more information on important events like the fall of the Alamo, which admittedly fall outside of the scope of this book.

I was a little confused by the use of numerous watercolors by the artist Bruce Marshall. Since he is a contemporary artist and not someone living during the time period covered in this book, I was unsure why his imagined scenes of battles and equally imaginative depictions of Texas Rangers, their dress, weapons and horses were used in a serious historical work. Much better are the paintings, photos, daguerreotypes and woodcuts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries portraying the actual persons and scenes as they appeared at the time.

This is an excellent book for any student of Texas and Texas Ranger history. The narrative, which can be daunting, is broken up by sidebars with details on people, places, battles and weapons, mentioned in the text and by illustrations of same.

Happily for me, the book I was sent was autographed by the author. I collect books signed by their authors and am pleased to add this one to my collection.

Review copy courtesy of Lone Star Publishing

No comments: