They Rode for the Lone Star: The Saga of the Texas Rangers, Vol. 1, by Thomas Knowles, Taylor Publishing, Dallas, Texas, 1999, $29.95.
Byron A. Johnson, director of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum in Waco, Texas, writes in a pre-foreword note that his organization endorses this book as “the official history for the 175th anniversary of the Texas Rangers.” That anniversary was actually celebrated in 1998, based on Stephen F. Austin’s proposal in 1823 to use 10 mounted riders as “rangers.” But the Texas Ranger story is one worth considering any year.
Author Knowles covers the birth of the Rangers through the Texas Rangers of the Confederacy in this fully illustrated volume. Famous Rangers such as Samuel Walker, “Rip” Ford, Benjamin McCulloch, Noah Smithwick and Jack Hays all make appearances here. “In defeat as well as in victory,” Knowles writes in his chapter “Defenders of the Lone Star,” “the Rangers had proved themselves as worthy foes to the Comanche and the Mexicans.” During the Mexican War, many Rangers were eager to fight an old enemy, and they continued to fight Indians on the Texas frontier afterward.
During the Civil War, many Rangers joined the Regular Confederate service; the 8th Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry’s Texas Rangers, was one of the most famous units to serve in the war. Back home, a few Rangers remained to defend the frontier. The last major Indian battle the Texans fought in the Confederate period was at Dove Creek on January 8, 1865.
Johnson calls Knowles’ book the first comprehensive work on the Rangers since Walter Prescott Webb’s The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense came out in 1935. However, Texas author Frederick Wilkins has already come out with three of his four volumes on the Rangers’ rich history (see review in the October 1999 Wild West). In any case, there should be room on any Texan’s shelf (the shelves are all big in Texas, right?) for all of these fine books…and the rest of us can enjoy them nearly as much.