Texas Rising: The Epic True Story of the Lone Star Republic and the Rise of the Texas Rangers, 1836–1846, by Stephen L. Moore, William Morrow, New York, 2015, $27.99
This nonfiction companion to the 2015 History channel series Texas Rising rises to the occasion and provides the kind of narrative history that should please even those readers not already into the heroism and horror of early Texas. The fallen Alamo heroes are all here, as is General Sam Houston, who ultimately became the hero at San Jacinto after much controversy and delayed engagement with the Mexican enemy. Challenges still remained after Texians won their independence, and the Texas Rangers gained a new level of importance as they dealt with Indian trouble in the pioneer settlements.
The biggest hero among the Rangers, as detailed by sixth-generation Texan Stephen Moore (see Interview), was revered frontier fighter Captain Jack Hays. “Those who had encountered Devil Jack on the plains knew better than to discount the baby-faced ranger,” Moore writes in his “Triumph at Walker’s Creek” chapter. “Hays’ 1844 company was better equipped than ever. His men were now fully furnished with the deadly five-shot Colt revolvers.” According to Hays, the Indians under Comanche Chief Yellow Wolf put up a “magnificent fight,” but they had underestimated the Rangers’ new firepower. “The rules of the game had changed in Texas,” Moore writes. “Frontier warfare would never be the same.”
Not that Moore, author of the critically acclaimed Eighteen Minutes: The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence Campaign, is into hero worship. He provides a lively but evenhanded account that does not try to hide the flaws and defeats Texians suffered during their rise (and indeed during the decade-long existence of the Republic of Texas, which the United States annexed as its 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845). For instance, in 1842 Mexican General Adrián Woll invaded Texas and ran into trouble but “managed to escape the area due to a complete breakdown of control among the Texans.”
Moore’s fine narration makes the book an easy read, giving even such well-known events as the siege of the Alamo a fresh spin. It is a concise history that will please those not wanting to get bogged down in details.