Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865

Article excerpt

Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865. By Nathan A. Jennings. American Military Studies. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2016. Pp. vi, 402. $32.95. ISBN 978-1-57441-635-0.)

Nathan A. Jennings's Riding for the Lone Star: Frontier Cavalry and the Texas Way of War, 1822-1865 tries to prove that, like the advertisement says, Texas is a whole other country. To do so, Jennings looks at what he calls the "Texas way of war," an interesting historiographical nod toward Russell F. Weigley's classic on U.S. war making. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy (New York, 1973). Jennings explores the impact of horses on Texas's mode of fighting and argues that horse culture permeated Texan society from its earliest days as a Spanish colony. This horse culture also allowed Texans to develop a unique style of fighting. In that sense, then, the Texas way of war is a hybrid of multiple traditions, though Jennings emphasizes the Anglo-European heritage and downplays the significance of Native American traditions adopted by Texans.

This book, though, is not a cultural history. It is military history, through and through--complete with twenty-first-century military jargon--that carefully explores military matters in Texas. National and then state leaders sought "a multi-faceted security posture" and "combined arms superiority" to protect their borders (pp. 72, 68). While such anachronistic phrases pepper the text and interrupt the flow of what is otherwise very readable prose, Jennings has written a thoughtfully organized and detailed account of warfare in early Texas. That detail can, at times, bog down a reader not as intimately familiar as the author with the location of certain blockhouses, forts, or other geographical features. Moreover, the narrative can obscure the larger points he tries to make about the emerging Texas way of war. After a very effective introduction, the succeeding chapters read more as a highlight reel of Texas military glory rather than as a concerted effort to piece together an overarching interpretive framework to tie all the detail together.

What comes across, though, is that by 1840 a distinct style of warfare had matured in Texas, and central to that maturation process was the reliance on the famed Texas Rangers. …

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