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Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest


10
Fighting Texians

THE TEXAS PEOPLE belong to a fighting tradition that the majority of them are proud of. The footholds that the Spaniards and Mexicans held in Texas were maintained by virtue of fighting, irrespective of missionary baptizing. The purpose of the Anglo-American colonizer Stephen F. Austin to "redeem Texas from the wilderness" was accomplished only by fighting. The Texans bought their liberty with blood and maintained it for nine years as a republic with blood. It was fighting men who pushed back the frontiers and blazed trails.

The fighting tradition is now giving way to the oil tradition. The Texas myth as imagined by non-Texans is coming to embody oil millionaires in airplanes instead of horsemen with six-shooters and rifles. See Edna Ferber's Giant (1952 novel). Nevertheless, many Texans who never rode a horse over three miles at a stretch wear cowboy boots, and a lot of Texans are under the delusion that bullets and atomic bombs can settle complexities that demand informed intelligence and the power to think.

As I have pointed out in The Flavor of Texas, the chronicles of men who fought the Mexicans and were prisoners to them comprise a unique unit in the personal narratives and annals of America.

Many of the books listed under the headings of "Texas Rangers," "How the Early Settlers Lived," and "Range Life" specify the fighting tradition.

BEAN, PETER ELLIS

Memoir, published first in Vol. I of Yoakum's History of Texas; in 1930 printed as a small book by the Book Club of Texas, Dallas, now OP. A fascinating narrative.

BECHDOLT, FREDERICK R.

Tales of the Old Timers, New York, 1924. Forceful retelling of the story of the Mier Expedition and of other activities of the "fighting Texans." OP.

CHABOT, FREDERICK C.

The Perote Prisoners, San Antonio, 1934. Annotated diaries of Texas prisoners in Mexico. OP.

DOBIE, J. FRANK

The Flavor of Texas, Dallas, 1936. OP. Chapters on Bean, Green, Duval, Kendall, and other representers of the fighting Texans.

DUVAL, JOHN C.

Adventures of Bigfoot Wallace, 1870; Early Times in Texas, 1892. Both books are kept in print by Steck, Austin. For biography and critical estimate, see John C. Duval: First Texas Man of Letters, by J. Frank Dobie (illustrated by Tom Lea), Dallas, 1939. OP. Early Times in Texas, called "the Robinson Crusoe of Texas," is Duval's story of the Goliad Massacre and of his escape from it. Duval served as a Texas Ranger with Bigfoot Wallace, who was in the Mier Expedition. His narrative of Bigfoot's Adventures is the rollickiest and the most flavorsome that any American frontiersman has yet inspired. The tiresome thumping on the hero theme present in many biographies of frontiersmen is entirely absent. Stanley Vestal wrote Bigfoot Wallace also, Boston, 1942. OP.


John C. Duval and Bigfoot Wallace, by Tom Lea, from
John C. Duval: First Texas Man of Letters, by J. Frank Dobie

ERATH, MAJOR GEORGE G.

Memoirs, Texas State Historical Association, Austin, 1923. Erath understood his fellow Texians. OP.

GILLETT, JAMES B.

Six Years with the Texas Rangers, 1921. OP.

GREEN, THOMAS JEFFERSON

Journal of the Texan Expedition against Mier, 1845; reprinted by Steck, Austin, 1936. Green was one of the leaders of the Mier Expedition. He lived in wrath and wrote with fire. For information on Green see Recollections and Reflections by his son, Wharton J. Green, 1906. OP.

HOUSTON, SAM

The Raven, by Marquis James, 1929, is not the only biography of the Texan general, but it is the best, and embodies most of what has been written on Houston excepting the multivolumed Houston Papers issued by the University of Texas Press, Austin, under the editorship of E. C. Barker. Houston was an original character even after he became a respectable Baptist.

KENDALL, GEORGE W.

Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1844; reprinted by Steck, Austin, 1936. Two volumes. Kendall, a New Orleans journalist in search of copy, joined the Santa Fe Expedition sent by the Republic of Texas to annex New Mexico. Lost on the Staked Plains and then marched afoot as a prisoner to Mexico City, he found plenty of copy and wrote a narrative that if it were not so journalistically verbose might rank alongside Dana's Two Years Before the Mast. Fayette Copeland's Kendall of the Picayune, 1943 but OP, is a biography. An interesting parallel to Kendall's Narrative is Letters and Notes on the Texan Santa Fe Expedition, 1841-1842, by Thomas Falconer, with Notes and Introduction by F. W. Hodge, New York, 1930. OP. The route of the expedition is logged and otherwise illuminated in The Texan Santa Fe Trail, by H. Bailey Carroll, Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, Canyon, Texas, 1951.

LEACH, JOSEPH

The Typical Texan: Biography of an American Myth, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1952. At the time Texas was emerging, the three main types of Americans were Yankees, southern aristocrats, Kentucky westerners embodied by Daniel Boone. Texas took over the Kentucky tradition. It was enlarged by Crockett, who stayed in Texas only long enough to get killed, Sam Houston, and Bigfoot Wallace. Novels, plays, stories, travel books, and the Texans themselves have kept the tradition going. This is the main thesis of the book. Mr. Leach fails to note that the best books concerning Texas have done little to keep the typical Texan alive and that a great part of the present Texas Brags spirit is as absurdly unrealistic as Mussolini's splurge at making twentieth-century Italians imagine themselves a {illust. caption = John W. Thomason, in his Lone Star Preacher (1941)} reincarnation of Caesar's Roman legions. Mr. Leach dissects the myth and then swallows it.

LINN, JOHN J.

Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, 1883; reprinted by Steck, Austin, 1936. Mixture of personal narrative and historical notes, written with energy and prejudice.

MAVERICK, MARY A.

Memoirs, 1921. OP. Mrs. Maverick's husband, Sam Maverick, was among the citizens of San Antonio haled off to Mexico as prisoners in 1842.

MORRELL, Z. N.

Fruits and Flowers in the Wilderness, 1872. OP. Morrell, a circuit-riding Baptist preacher, fought the Indians and the Mexicans. See other books of this kind listed under "Circuit Riders and Missionaries."

PERRY, GEORGE SESSIONS

Texas, A World in Itself, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1942. Especially good chapter on the Alamo.

SMYTHE, H.

Historical Sketch of Parker County, Texas, 1877. One of various good county histories of Texas replete with fighting. For bibliography of this extensive class of literature consult Texas County Histories, by H. Bailey Carroll, Texas State Historical Association, Austin, 1943. OP.

SONNICHSEN, C. L.

I'll Die Before I'll Run: The Story of the Great Feuds of Texas -- and of some not great. Harper, New York, 1951.

SOWELL, A. J.

Rangers and Pioneers of Texas, 1884; Life of Bigfoot Wallace, 1899; Early Settlers and Indian Fighters of Southwest Texas, 1900. All OP; all meaty with the character of ready-to-fight but peace-seeking Texas pioneers. Sowell will some day be recognized as an extraordinary chronicler.

STAPP, WILLIAM P.

The Prisoners of Perote, 1845; reprinted by Steck, Austin, 1936. Journal of one of the Mier men who drew a white bean.

THOMASON, JOHN W.

Lone Star Preacher, Scribner's, New York, 1941. The cream, the essence, the spirit, and the body of the fighting tradition of Texas. Historical novel of Civil War.

WEBB, WALTER PRESCOTT

The Texas Rangers, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1935. See under "Texas Rangers."

WILBARGER, J. W.

Indian Depredations in Texas, 1889; reprinted by Steck, Austin, 1936. Narratives that have for generations been a household heritage among Texas families who fought for their land.




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