Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic, by William C. Davis
One of the aspects of this book that is particularly interesting is the context that this book provides to the Texan Revolution. In fact, this book can roughly be divided into two parts (although the author does not do so). The first half of the book provides the history of Texas going from the late 18th century and looking at the long-term issues of Texas’ peripheral status within New Spain and the internal disorder present between centralist and federalist tendencies, and then, especially after 1803, the growing pressure from American elements. The second half of the book then contains an account of the Texan Revolution itself, which itself can be divided into three periods, an initial period of Texan success against the overmatched forces of Mexico within Texas, the massive and bloody retaliation of Mexico under Santa Anna, and then the sudden and shocking victory at San Jacinto that ends up securing Texas’ brief independence. The author does a good job at examining not only Texas’ uprising but also the complex and troubling aspects of the context of that revolution and what it meant for Texas’ future. In doing so, the author places Texas in a context that not only includes Latin America and the United States but also in terms of Texas’ on fragile identity in being American but not entirely so, seeking their own freedom but crushing the freedom of their slaves, seeking to set up a legal order but not being able or willing to be a part of Mexico’s admittedly corrupt order.
This book is about 300 pages long and is divided into twelve chapters and various supplemental material. The book begins with a chronology as well as an introduction that points to Texas as an immigrant land. After that comes a look at the state of Texas at the end of the 1700’s (1), which is followed by several chapters that detail the bad causes and bad men that tried to filibuster for Texas independence (2), or caused trouble and vexation for themselves and others (3). There is a discussion of the fate of Texas and how it was faring at the first part of the 19th century when there was a decisive change between internal revolt among the local Tejano population being the main issue to that of Americans, mostly Southerners, from the outside (4). this is followed by more confusion (5) and violence (6), as well as the dangerous imprisonment of Austin (7) and the dark schemes of Texan and Mexican leaders after the outbreak of the revolt (8). This is followed by the struggle for victory or death by outnumbered Texas (9), the dark atmosphere after the fall of the Alamo and the massacre of the Goliad (10), the question of whether Sam Houston would fight (11), and the success of San Jacinto (12) as well as the future of Texas, in an epilogue, after which the book closes with endnotes, a bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index.
The author writes about this subject matter with the approach of a Greek tragedy. The reader knows that Texas won its independence and later became an American state and likely knows something about Texas’ complex identity within the United States. Yet the story of Texas’ revolution is full of drama, drama that includes the long-term problems of Spanish imperialism that made Texas an empty buffer area inhabited mostly by Commanche and other tribes, until their own small population became intensely frustrated at the lack of development and Spain’s class system and general incompetence, and invited in Americans. It was at that point, the author believes, that the Texas Revolution became inevitable for cultural and demographic reasons, something which I consider basically correct if not always pleasant as a view. The rest of the history, including the paranoia on all sides and the consequences of Mexico’s lack of cohesion as a nation, flows along entirely naturally as one would expect, and the war itself is told with a dramatic flair that emphasizes the incompetence of the political leadership on both the Texas and Mexican side. Those who are fond of the Texan founding leaders, other than the Austins, are likely to be a bit irritated at this volume.