Predating the entry of Texas into the United States, the Texas Rangers came into being as a ragtag outfit of frontiersmen who battled a host of enemies, from Mexican soldiers to Comanche Indians to Anglo outlaws, and who were not often scrupulous about method--or the niceties of law. The Rangers were a controversial instrument of state justice throughout the 19th century, taming the frontier and borderlands with a hail of bullets and sometimes acting as little more than what historian Charles M. Robinson
calls "officially sanctioned lynch mobs" with an unfortunate habit of singling out nonwhite Texans for punishment.
Even with their sometimes flawed conception of right and wrong, the Rangers earned widespread fame a century and more ago for conducting well-publicized campaigns against such desperadoes as Sam Bass, John Wesley Hardin, and John Selman. Less inclined to seek the spotlight today, the Texas Rangers still operate as an effective law-enforcement unit. In 1997, for example, they figured prominently in the surrender of self-styled "ambassador of the Republic of Texas" Richard McLaren. Robinson examines the checkered career of the Rangers, acknowledging the organization's darker moments while maintaining that the lawmen also did much to lessen violence in a markedly violent time and place. He approvingly cites a Ranger saying of long ago: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'." --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of the old TV series The Lone Ranger and the current Walker, Texas Ranger (starring Chuck Norris) will love this history. Robinson (Bad Hand; A Good Year to Die) starts the tale in 1823, when the Mexican government allowed American settlers in Texas to form companies of border rangers to protect themselves from Indian raids. The Republic of Texas continued with the ranger companies and even formed entire regiments of them to serve alongside the American army during the Mexican War. The rangers continued to assist the American regular army in the later 1840s and '50s by patrolling both the frontier with Mexico and the northern and western settlements, keeping watch for marauding Indians. Rangers fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, then spent the remainder of the 19th century patrolling the Mexican border, fighting Indians (the last battle occurred in 1881) and running down criminals. After their horse-riding days were over, the rangers adapted and became part of the state's Department of Public Safety. Today, more than 100 men and women continue the proud tradition of their service. Robinson has written an engaging book that covers the Texas Rangers' major highlights, including their finest moments and their great officers--men like Jack Hays, John Ford and Leander H. McNelly. The author also delves into embarrassments, such as the Rangers' participation in the 1877 "Salt War." This fast-paced book sheds new light on an organization many have heard of but fewer know well. Maps and illus. not seen by PW.
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