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Book Review: I Fought a Good Fight, by Sherry Robinson

By HistoryNet Staff 
Originally published by Wild West magazine. Published Online: January 31, 2014 
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I Fought a Good Fight: A History of the Lipan Apaches, by Sherry Robinson, University of North Texas Press, Denton, 2013, $32.95

When it comes to Apaches on the frontier, the Chiricahuas—thanks in no small part to such notable warriors and chiefs as Geronimo, Cochise, Mangas Coloradas and Victorio—are by far the best known. Lacking the Chiricahuas' highly publicized individuals and notoriety, Mescaleros, Jicarillas, Western Apaches, Plains Apaches (formerly the Kiowa-Apaches) and Lipans often fall under the historical radar. The last group finally gets its due in this book by Sherry Robinson, who previously wrote Apache Voices and is interviewed in the April 2014 issue of Wild West. She meticulously covers the Lipans from their interaction with the Spanish to their present-day effort to reclaim their identities (and receive federal recognition). "For a small group they had an outsized impact through three centuries and were often described as the second most powerful tribe in Texas after the Comanches," she writes in her introduction. "Lipans were as clever, fearless and resourceful as their better publicized cousins [Chiricahuas] to the west, and as a group far more diverse."

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The warlike Comanches, as noted in most histories of the Southwest, stymied Spanish ambition, but Robinson argues the Lipans did their part to frustrate viceroys and generals. Lipans and their allies (many whose names would disappear; sorting them all out was no small task) also battled the Comanches. The Lipans, usually outnumbered by their enemies, survived in Texas by becoming not only guerrilla fighters but also guerrilla traders and guerrilla hunters. "Historians have often written that the Comanches drove Lipans from their territory, and thereafter the Lipans were inconsequential," Robinson writes. "Subsequent records reveal bitter conflict between Lipans and Comanches; farther along the time line chroniclers describe an alliance between the two, followed by warfare. And so on. Snapshots in time aren't reliable."

The greatest of the 18th century chiefs in the area was Picax-andé of the Lipiyans (affiliated with the Lipans but not part of the tribe proper). The viceroy gave him a formal commission as head chief of the Lipiyans, Lipans, Mescaleros and three other groups, but later the Spanish withheld their support, and he died in battle with the Comanches in 1801. "Picax-andé should take his place alongside Cochise, Geronimo and Victorio as one of the greatest Apache leaders in history—possibly the greatest," suggests Robinson. The Lipans had their share of notable chiefs, including two friends of the Texians and the Texas Rangers—Castro, captain of his own Lipan Ranger company, and Flacco, a reliable scout and spy during the Texas Revolution. Later, Lipans and Texans didn't get on so well. But during the Red River War in 1874 the Lipan known as Johnson served under Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie (see "Indian Life" in the April 2014 issue of Wild West). In the appendices of her book, Robinson lists all the Lipan chiefs whose names she uncovered.

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