Book Review Assignment #5Utley, Robert. Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2003
The book Lone Star Justice: The First Century of the Texas Rangers written byRobert M. Utley is more than a history of the Texas Rangers; it is the story about therise of Texas. What is so compelling about this work is that the author tells the story ofthe Rangers from their humble beginnings as a part time militia to their rise as thepreeminent defenders of the Texas frontier. Mr. Utley dissects the Ranger story in orderto separate fact from fiction and talks about the men who founded the unit. He writesconvincingly about their virtues and triumphs as well as their defeats and moralsetbacks. The history of the Texas Rangers begins with how the Mexicans encouragedAnglo settlers to come in to the region and colonize it, for this provided badly neededtax revenue that the fledgling Mexican government needed. After Texas’ independencefrom Mexico, more Anglo settlers came into the region; men such as Jack Hays came tothe state to seek their fame and fortune. Texas just like most of the nation during the1830’s still had a very large Indian population for Comanche’s, Cherokees and Kiowa’sroamed the Texas plains and hill country. As more and more settlers moved in, conflictbetween both groups was inevitable; furthermore, Mexico had not been prepared to giveup their northern territory to the Anglos. It was because of all the above mentionedthreats that men such as Jack Hayes formed the San Antonio based mountedvolunteers. These men were notable because they were independent thinkers andcould fight as small independent units; second, these men loved the outdoors and werenot afraid to spend time in the elements; third, they knew their foes and they wereexcellent marksmen with the rifle and pistol.
Much of Jack Hayes early career focused on his wars with the Comanche’sincluding his victory at Walker Creek and the introduction of new weapons to combatthe Indian menace. Within 10 years of Texas Independence, the United States enteredinto open conflict with Mexico. It was during this time (1846-1848) that the Rangerscapabilities increased as a large fighting force capable of supporting sustained combatoperations. Generals Taylor and Scott utilized the Rangers as their cavalry units,cavalry scouts and baggage train rear detachment. At the conclusion of American Warwith Mexico, the Rangers went back home and continued their duties fighting both theIndians and occasional Mexicans. During the Civil War Years (1861-1865), many of theRanger units continued to act as the state militia as well as border defense. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the Ranger mission remained the same:Frontier Defense and Indian Fighter. In 1874, Governor Coke institutionalized theRangers and made the Rangers Texas’ official state militia capable of being called outby the Governor for any state emergency. During the 1870s and early 1880s theRangers continued to fight the Indians until 1881 when the Indian raids finally subsided.For the Rangers thus began the transition from Indian fighters to lawmen capable ofarresting outlaws and enforcing the laws of Texas. During the late 1880’s the size andscope of the Ranger mission focused on law enforcement as the state began to settleand external threats began to subside. In the years leading up to 1910, the Rangers numbers became smaller as theirbudgets decreased. Lastly, the quality of the individual Ranger varied during theselatter times. The Texas Rangers had a lasting impact and took both the credit andblame for some of Texas’ ills during this growth period.
The thesis of Robert M Utley’s book was that the Rangers were not in the mold ofthe Lone Ranger television show or folk legend; on the other hand, they were a highlymobile and well armed organized force that helped protect Texas’ frontier from externalattack and protect the interior form all sorts of outlaws. The evidence that the authorpresents is overwhelming because he provides detailed analysis of the Ranger’sleadership, tactics, weapons, organizational structure and political structure as well astheir role as a state militia and partner to the U.S. Army Regulars. For the purpose ofhis research, the author was able to access hundreds of reputable documents throughthe Texas state archives, Law Enforcement organizations and multiple universitiesincluding the Center for American History at the University of Texas. When readingthrough the authors sources, he may have made a more compelling picture had hebeen able to procure as many Mexican and Indian sources as possible in order tocorroborate historical events. Nonetheless, Mr. Utley’s research accomplished itsoriginal objective of telling the true story of the Texas Rangers as well as their overallimpact on the state. It is because of Robert Utley’s well thought out research and attention to detail,that his work portrays the realistic challenges of the Rangers in securing their state. Inaddition, throughout the book the author sheds light on some the Rangers setbacks,including their atrocities during the Mexican and Indian Wars. Furthermore, the authormentions that many of the Rangers had a disdain for Indians, Blacks and Mexicans andoccasionally these darker passions would lead to unnecessary violence. Robert Utley’swork not only explains the psyche of the Texas Ranger, but it also ties it in with the coreof what made Texas the most unique state in the union.