The Frontier Battalion

As early as 1835 local militia were organized into ranging companies by Stephen F. Austin to aid in the common defense of early colonists in what would become the Republic of Texas. Their designation as Rangers derived from the vast areas over which they were required to “range” in the performance of their duties.

Following Texas’ independence from Mexico in 1836 and its entry into the Union in 1845 the Rangers fame continued to spread, with names like John Coffee “Jack” Hays, “Big Foot” Wallace, and John “Rip” Ford recognized well beyond its borders. However, there was still no formal organization as such. These ranging companies banded together for days or months in response to Indian raids or the lawlessness that was brought on by Reconstruction at the end of the Civil War and then disbanded just as quickly as soon as the immediate threat was addressed.

The term “Texas Rangers” first appeared officially in May 1874 when Governor Richard Coke and the Texas Legislature appropriated funds and authorized the organization of six companies of 75 men each to maintain law and order on the Texas frontier. These Ranger companies became known as the Frontier Battalion and were commanded by Major John B. Jones.

John Jones sure didn’t look like the man to exercise the mandate given to him by the governor. At 5’8″, slightly built and soft-spoken, he was hardly of a stature to intimidate anyone, but he commanded respect and volunteers came from all over Texas to sign on the dotted line and serve under his leadership with unwavering loyalty. His creed, which they would all adopt, was “no man in the wrong can stand up to a man in the right who just keeps a-comin’.” And keep a-comin’ they did. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

The Apache Wars

The Apache made a distinction between raids and wars; the U.S. government did not. Raids were considered a right of passage for the young Apache warriors allowing them to gain status within their respective bands by counting coup or killing their enemies and capturing both horses and slaves. Their methodology was one of ambush on lone individuals or small groups, or quick strikes against isolated homesteads that allowed them to attack without warning, satisfy their blood lust, and then scatter before the cavalry, the Texas Rangers, or Mexican forces could retaliate. Vanishing into the deserts and mountains of the southwestern United States the Apache were elusive. Pitched battles against superior numbers and munitions were rare and avoided. There was no way the Apache could muster the numbers required to confront organized resistance or sustain the loss of warriors resulting from prolonged confrontations with an enemy that was better armed. Their survival depended on the ability to attack and disappear.

The Army garrisoned troops all along the frontier to respond to reports of rape, kidnapping, depredations, and indescribable mutilation and torture. However, neither infantry nor mounted patrols were adequate to the task at hand. Post duties and the distance between garrisons tied their hands.

Texas Rangers, free of the constraints of military life, offered greater flexibility in pursuing the Apache, but escape into Mexico and Arizona afforded sanctuary. International borders tied the hands of both the Rangers and U.S. government troops. Mexican forces fought the Apache on their side of the Rio Bravo and into the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, but the lack of coordination across borders frequently hampered their effectiveness as well.

As a result, the “Apache Wars” lasted from 1861 to 1890, a span of almost thirty years.

As early as 1864, the Plains Apache had participated in the “1st Battle of Adobe Walls” in Texas; and, though they considered it a victory, had actually been repulsed by Kit Carson and his New Mexico soldiers. Ranald Mackenzie had scattered the Lipan and  Mescalero by 1873. A few of the Plains Apache had joined their Indian brothers in the ill-fated “2nd Battle of Adobe Walls” in 1874, but by the early months of 1875 both the Kiowa and Comanche had surrendered. That year also saw the Chiricahua, notably the Mimbreno division of the Central Apache led by Victorio (Bidu-ya) in New Mexico forcibly subdued and moved onto the San Carlos Indian Reservation.

By the summer of 1866, only a small band  of Chiricahua Apache still held out against the United States government. The Army found the few remaining renegades elusive. Though it employed upwards of five thousand soldiers to capture or kill the Apache, they continued to escape into Arizona and Mexico.

The hunt for the Apache transformed its leader, Geronimo (Goyaate) into a legend. – excerpts from Palo Duro.

Frontier Forts

Fort Martin Scott was one of several forts built by the Army to protect settlers from Indian raids. Established in 1848, it was the very first frontier outpost established in Texas. Units garrisoned there patrolled the area contiguous to the Fredericksburg-San Antonio Road and included at various times forces belonging to the 1st Infantry, the 2nd Dragoons, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry.

Today Fort Martin Scott is a historic site operated by the City of Fredericksburg. It  is located two miles west of the city on Baron’s Creek. Although the only surviving structure is the limestone guardhouse, the site has been restored to its original design and now includes the post commander’s quarters, sutler’s store, laundry, military hospital, enlisted men’s barracks, quartermaster’s warehouse, a stable with barn, and a blacksmith shop. The site is open to the public and hosts historical reenactments twice yearly. Its mission is to “preserve, protect, and promote” the State while opening dialogue and debate about its multicultural heritage and the historic significance of these frontier forts to the development of Texas.

The Army’s string of frontier forts extending into the Panhandle and New Mexico were believed to have been a major factor in subduing the Southern Plains Indians. In reality, they were too widely dispersed and poorly manned to be much of a deterrent to their raids. They did, however, significantly enhance the country’s economic growth and settler’s expansion into Indian lands. – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Adobe Walls

The 2nd Battle of Adobe Walls was fought in June 1874. The Southern Plains Indians hoped to use a triumph there as a springboard towards total victory in their Messianic War to finally drive the white man from sacred lands.

Though the outpost in West Texas would be abandoned after the attack, the Indians suffered a defeat that would herald their eventual subjugation and movement onto reservations.

The town, such as it was, consisted of the saloon, two stores owned by Leonard & Meyers and Charles Rath & Company, a blacksmith shop owned by Tom Keif, and a large corral for the horses. Though the annual buffalo migration could bring upwards of two to three hundred hunters into the area, at the moment there were only twenty-eight men and one woman present.

Most of them were not hunters. In fact, they were mainly the merchants who supplied the buffalo hunters with their provisions, the saloon keepers who made sure they didn’t go thirsty, and the cook and his wife who provided their meals. – excerpt from Palo Duro. 

Today visitors to the battle site will find little to mark the historic location. A few granite headstones have been erected and enclosed by protective barriers, but there is minimal evidence to suggest the importance of the 1874 confrontation.

The site does, however, remind visitors of the loneliness and isolation of the outpost/town as it existed at the turn of the nineteenth century. Cattle have replaced the buffalo that once roamed these same grounds, but otherwise not much has changed. The plains remain vast and flat with little in the way of trees or distinguishing landmarks to provide a sense of direction. It is only when you stumble across the granite markers that the battle site’s existence even becomes evident.

On the one  hand the memorial at Adobe Walls evokes feelings of neglect and lost significance. On the other, it serves as a symbolic reminder that the Plains Indians way of life disappeared not long after their defeat here.

The Promise

This past week millions of the faithful all over the world celebrated the holiest period in the Christian calendar – Easter week – Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem followed by his betrayal, trial, execution, and resurrection.

This earthly existence will end for all of us; sometimes tragically or unexpectedly, and inexorably as we age and progress towards completing the circle that began at birth. Christ’s victory over sin and death opened the door to eternal life and should have erased our fear of the grave. Yet we tenaciously cling to this life and many either reject Him as the Son of God or question whether an afterlife truly exists.

My book Silver Taps is a personal memoir that examines death in the aftermath of my Dad’s passing. It looks at our indifference when we confront death in the abstract and our profound grief when it occurs to someone we love, and it asks why faith consoles, comforts, and gives hope to some but only results in anger and unanswered questions in others.

It was written to elicit thought by my children and grandchildren. Hopefully, it also evokes thoughts and reactions from my readers.

Ironically, we marvel at the miracle of birth. We embrace life with all its ups and downs, triumphs, and tragedies. It is only death, the last leg of the this circle that we both fear and mourn. We fear the unknown. What lies beyond? Anything? Or is this the sum of our existence? We mourn because in embracing life we formed tangible bonds and attachments and feelings that in death are no longer present. The dead are still there in our hearts and minds. But we can no longer see them, hear them, reach out to them, touch them, and feel them. We wish we could. We wish with all our hearts that it was possible. That is why we have faith. In faith there is hope of reunification with everyone that we ever loved who’ve preceded us in death. That is the promise. – excerpt from Silver Taps.

 

Preferences & Promotions

How we choose to read a book is determined by our own personal likes and dislikes. I tend to be “traditional” in the sense that I prefer a hardbound copy of a book. I like the weight, texture and even the smell of a book, the ability to mark a passage so I can go back to it later, its durability, and its place within the collection of titles that I own.

There are pros and cons to every format; hardcover, paperback, e-book, or audio book. In addition to the reasons cited above, I prefer hardcover books for their stand alone utility (no electronic devices are required.) The same can be said for paperbacks, with the added advantages of lower cost and less cumbersome packaging.

However, as this blog proves, we live in a digital age where computers, tablets and smart phones provide instantaneous access to the latest releases; there is no requirement to go to a bookstore to buy a copy or wait on its delivery from some retail outlet. Downloading an e-book is quick, certainly more economical than a physical copy, fonts and print sizes even lighting can be adjusted, switching between titles is easy, and, should your Kindle, Nook, or iPhone need replacement, your book collection is backed up and stored in the “cloud.”

Perhaps the fastest growing medium is the audio book. Seasoned narrators bring stories to life and all the “reader” need do is listen. Technological advances have unquestionably changed behaviors, and many consumers would much rather allow someone else to interpret the written word for them. Additionally, audio books open up the literary world to those with vision impairment, learning, or other physical disabilities who otherwise have limited access to the art form.

My two books, Silver Taps and Palo Duroare currently available  in hardcover and e-book formats, with the latter soon to be released as a paperback. Additionally, I’m initiating a limited promotion via Amazon and Barnes & Noble to make the e-book version available at a reduced cost. Beginning April 15th it will be on sale for $6.99 (the regular retail price is $9.99). The promotion will run for two weeks.

What are your preferences regarding format? Do you prefer a book in hand, availability via electronic media, or listening to a recording? Do author promotions influence your decision to make a purchase? Retailers and book publishers collect data of this type, but it’s also important for the writer to receive direct feedback because of it’s potential impact on future releases.

So, what are your thoughts? Send me your comments. They most certainly will be appreciated and factored into publishing decisions for my next book!

 

Book Promotions

One of the promotional tools available to authors to market their books is a book signing, either to targeted audiences or the public at large. Sometimes these events are accompanied by readings of selected passages followed by question and answer sessions. At others they involve greeting potential buyers as they visit libraries or book stores where the author has received approval to display and sell his or her latest work. In the latter, the encounters with book enthusiasts may elicit brief discussions but no formal presentation.

Signings may involve nothing more than affixing a signature to the title page or book jacket or, at the discretion of the buyer, may include a short message or dedication personalized with the recipient’s name. In either scenario, the buyer weighs the potential benefit of owning a signed copy of any given work should it later become a best seller or the author gain literary recognition. And sometimes, it’s just nice to own a copy with the author’s signature.

Besides increasing readership, such signings can also be used to support specific organizations. As a proud graduate of Texas A&M University my writing has allowed me to give back to my alma mater in coordination with organizations that support fellow Aggies. The Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets Association graciously allowed me to participate in their annual “Rally to the Guidons” that brings together former Corps members to relive their days as a cadet, and the San Antonio A&M Club also hosted me at one of their weekly luncheons when Silver Taps was released.

Similar promotions are underway to promote Palo Duro. Though I don’t have exact dates yet, when I do, I’ll be posting them here and I hope to see you at one of these future functions.