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"Thought-provoking, highly original...a most distinctive chapter of American and Southern history." -- Virginia Quarterly Review
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
T. R. Fehrenbach,a native Texan, is the author of several books, including Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico and Comanches: The Destruction of a People, both available from Da Capo. He lives in San Antonio.
Marvelous! This is the book I've been looking for about Texas History since I first moved here 10 years ago. Fehrenbach not only makes individual characters like Stephan F. Austin and John "Rip" Ford come alive with interest and passion, but he does a first rate job with the larger historical currents such as the westward movement of the "anglo-celts" across the continent or the economic and social impact of the Spanish Mustang on the Native Americans. The scope of the book is vast and it is almost too long and involved for an amateur like me with limited time. However the story is so compelling and even riveting that at times I could hardly put it down. It almost reads like a good novel. The narrative overflows the strict confines of what might be considered "Texas History." The author ventures far afield in time, distance and circumstance to weave the various historical threads together into the drama of Texas. It is a work for those interested in American, Southern, Southwestern, Native American or Mexican History. It is a good reference. The book was written some time ago (1968) and has been updated (2000). It is relatively free of sterile "correct" language which I think allows it to be wonderfully original and more credible. It is not a whitewash. The author is sometimes unapologetic and he can offend. He does criticize but also gives admiration, credit and praise where I did not expect it. This is a man who wants to get to the heart and soul of the matter. He knows these colorful people and their setting and through his perceptive narrative you interact with them, too. You can almost see and touch them. This is just dog-gone interesting stuff! This book is a keeper. It has found a permanent spot on my shelf even if I move far away from Texas. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.
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This is by far the best history of Texas I've ever read. I am a fith generation Texan whose family arrived here from Georgia in the 1830's and 40's. Feherenbach is neither romantic nor aplogetic about the State's raucous and turbulent past. His discussion of the frontier wars is especially helpful in understanding why Spain and Mexico could never gain a firm foothold in Texas, the critical factor that led Mexico to legitimize and encourage Anglo-American emigration in the 1820's. The historical ramifications of this odd and little understood policy and the subsequent Anglo Texas/Comanche wars on the Texas frontier are largely responsible for the State's distictive social and political character. This is the one book that should be read by anyone having a serious interest in Texas history.
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My volume is the original 1968 version, so my comments do not emcompass whatever changes have been introduced in the recent edition. Nonetheless, Fehrenbach's book is simply the best of the breed with respect to a single volume history of Texas and its people.
If you are politically correct, you will not like the historical accuracy of this book. The author clearly gives the Scotch-Irish (Anglo-Celts) their due for pushing the frontier westwards, settling Texas, and giving it its "Texas" tradition. One reviewer speaks of the absence of the Hispanic contribution, but it must be remembered that at the time of the Texas Revolution, Anglos outnumbered Mexicans ten to one in Texas. Indeed, the growth of Mexican population figures in Texas is a post World War II phenomenon, and the current ethnic composition is of recent vintage. The author is historically correct to limit his coverage of Mexicans in Texas to south of the Nueces, San Antonio, the Rio Grande valley and Ybarbo's group until after World War II. Had the Mexicans been able to defeat the Lipan Apaches and Comanches, the history would have been different.
Another reviewer pans the book due to the author's leaving out a reference to a diary's author and then proceeds to allege the meeting in question was fictional. Based on this single case, he relegates the entire book to fictional status. It seems to me that there must be something else at work here.
The author tells it like it was. Attitudes such as the Indians losing their land because they didn't develop it were normal in the time period involved, and the choice to fight for the Confederacy did revolve more around fighting with and for kin and neighbors rather than an abstract idea like states rights or anything else.Read more ›
In a crisp, authoritative and compellingly readable style Fehrenbach wraps the history of Texas up like no other. Beginning with this part of the continent's emergence from pre-history, Fehrenbach introduces us to its earliest inhabitants. We travel with the peaceful Indians who migrated from Wyoming through Nebraska and New Mexico into Texas, afoot and gathering their food from wild plants. The "lowly gatherers", they were called, confined to the ground they could cover on foot, and little match for the fleet game that abounded on every hand. But when they encountered horses brought in by the Spanish they became obsessed with horsemanship. Large numbers of horses were stolen in nighttime raids on Spanish remudas and the "gatherers" were transformed into the fiercest Indians on the North American continent: the Comanches. With their new mobility they could appear from nowhere, strike the Spanish settlements and disappear into nowhere like the passing wind. Better horsemen have never lived, and horses have never been used as instruments of war with such expertness as they were used by the Comanches. The Spanish incursion was pushed back, and further back. So when Stephen F. Austin applied to the Mexican authorities to settle eastern Texas he was seen as added defenses against the marauding Comanches. Houston was given huge grants of land and he brought in settlers. Spanish soldiers -- fighting for they knew not what -- were one thing. Men fighting the Comanches to protect their homesteads were something else, and they fought back blow for blow. So the Comanches were encouraged to occupy west Texas, leaving the settlers the eastern part of the land pretty much alone.Read more ›