Skip to comments.A darker picture of frontier heroes emerges
Posted on 11/07/2004 5:26:23 AM PST by Max Combined
Scholars detail Rangers' violence in a border war against Mexicans
WACO - Back east, for social cachet there is nothing like an ancestor on the Mayflower. In Texas, it is a Texas Ranger in the family tree.
Here at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, some of the most avid visitors come in search of connections to the men who won the West and, it was said, would charge hell with a bucket of water.
But Southern Methodist University in Dallas says new historical accounts are casting the long-revered fighters of outlaws and Indians in a decidedly darker light.
The scholarship being gingerly acknowledged at the Hall of Fame involves investigations into massacres committed in an obscure border war against Mexican bandits and insurrectionists in 1915, a quagmire of its time. "Not a bright period in the history of the Rangers," concedes the museum's director, Byron Johnson, in a film seen by many of its 80,000 visitors a year.
A recent book by an assistant history professor at Southern Methodist and other accounts exploiting archives on both sides of the border, including a damning but little-known Texas legislative investigation of 1919, link the Rangers to the "evaporations" of up to 5,000 Mexican insurgents and Tejanos Texans of Mexican origin whose lands in the Rio Grande Valley were coveted by Anglo settlers.
"People are still coming across skeletons," said the professor, Benjamin Heber Johnson, 32, whose book, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans, published late last year by Yale University Press, offers one of the fullest accounts to date of the violence. In the end, he said, the repression led the Mexican-Americans to secure their rights with organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens.
'Bullet in the back' The university's communications director, Meredith Dickenson, in material promoting the book as a "bullet in the back" to conventional, laudatory accounts of the Texas Rangers, wrote: "Here's an episode unlikely to ever be on Walker, Texas Ranger."
In addition, a new documentary, Border Bandits, based on the memoirs of a Texas rancher, offers a firsthand account of the killings of two unarmed Tejanos by a carload of Texas Rangers driven by a legendary Ranger, William Warren Sterling, who later led the force as adjutant general and mythologized his exploits (but not his shootings) in a popular 1959 memoir, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger.
"I thought the killings were an isolated incident," said the director of the documentary, Kirby F. Warnock, a Dallas writer whose grandfather, Ronald A. Warnock, had tape-recorded his recollections of coming upon the victims and burying the bodies. After recounting the tale in a 1992 memoir, Texas Cowboy, Kirby Warnock said, "I got lots of calls saying, 'The Rangers killed my granddad.' "
Another book just published, The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade 1910-1920, by Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler, history professors emeritus at New Mexico State University, also recounts the cruelty of both sides.
Reopening old wounds
The disclosures have bruised some feelings at the museum, which has a half-million items of Ranger memorabilia. "You can't put current values on past times," said Johnson, the director, who is an anthropologist.
In recent weeks, showings of Border Bandits and forums on Benjamin Johnson's book have reopened wounds nearly a century old in the heavily Hispanic borderland, where the graves of the two Tejanos can still be found. "I think the real bandits were the Texas Rangers," said Jon Bazan, a grandson of one of the victims, who spoke at a screening in Harlingen in early October. "They were just like James Bond a license to kill."
The museum cites Ranger "aggressions" against Mexicans but treats with reverence icons like Frank Hamer, who tracked down Bonnie and Clyde years after accumulating a fearsome reputation not acknowledged in the exhibits for terrorizing Mexicans.
A focus of the recent scholarship is an enigmatic plot that served as the backdrop to the violence. In January 1915, with Mexico in a revolutionary uproar and world war raging in Europe, a Mexican rebel named Basilio Ramos was stopped in McAllen with a manifesto calling for an armed uprising to reclaim Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California for Mexico, and other lands for Indians and blacks. Prisoners and Anglo men age 16 and older were to be executed.
Confusion continues to surround the origins and seriousness of the scheme, called the Plan de San Diego, for the small Texas town where it was supposedly hatched, but its exposure at a time of bandit raids from Mexico panicked the settlers. In one attack, Mexican raiders captured a U.S. soldier, cut off his head and stuck it on a pole.
Texas Rangers, first recruited in the 1820s by the early settler Stephen F. Austin to control the Indians, responded with a wave of shootings and lynchings what one local newspaper called a "war of extermination." Johnson's book quotes witness accounts of mass hangings of prisoners and innocent Mexicans and Tejanos, some of the bodies desecrated "with empty beer bottles stuck in their mouths."
After an attack on the giant King Ranch, three of the dead raiders were lassoed and dragged by Rangers on horseback, who proudly posed for a photograph later made into postcards. Elsewhere, bodies, dead and alive, were thrown on flaming pyres or left to rot, with relatives too terrorized to bury the remains.
A Brownsville lawyer, J.C. George, said, "There have been lots who have evaporated."
Good job, Rangers.
A dark time.
I'm SO glad we can trust the law enforcement organizations on BOTH sides of the border, now.
I'm so glad we're looking at history in an objective way now.
It's the left's agenda of deconstructing American history.
Why don't they spend their time deconstructing the failures of liberalism and communism?
Texas Rangers are heroes.
The Comanche's and Mexican Bandits were not Saints Ether. both sides played pretty rough
New York Times News Service - any questions?
The author, Ralph Blumenthal, has been working at the New York times since the nineteen sixties. In the last election he was given the assignment of sliming George Bush, and tried his hardest to give life to the CBS phoney documents story. Five will get you ten he is a New Yorker born and bred, a red diaper baby, and one of those East Coast liberals committed to the extirpation of any aspect of America's past that is viewed with some reverence.
I have a real problem with dredging up muck about men long dead and no longer here to defend themselves.
I guess the Texas Rangers wouldn't pass the Kerry "Global Test"
How un PC of them to think an armed revolution across the border was a big problem for Texas, since a large portion of Texas was Hispanic.
The SwiftVets have presented boat-loads of evidence, a gazillion eyewitnesses, and reams of documents proving their case . . . and nary a historian in sight is interested YET the Texas Rangers are being slammed because of eyewitness testimony related by a great-grandson. Or was it just a grandson? Regardless . . . one could hardly be called unbiased if family was involved.
Did the Texas Rangers do some things wrong? I'm sure they did . . . but bringing the law to lawless areas isn't a job for the faint of heart -- see Iraq. I'm sure some Iraqi terrorists have been shot in the back too . . . but only after they've fired off an RPG at a schoolbus of Iraqi children and turned tail to run.
It's just not in our physical and cultural makeup for there to be wholesale executions of our enemies . . . THAT is and what will always be what separates us from most other countries on Earth. And that's why we're the greatest country the world has ever known.
More politically correct BS to distort history.
Same news cycle
Bush wins big. Too early to start smearing him again, so smear his state.
Same thing happened in 2000.
A bunch of anti - Texas news items hit the MSM
Folks weren't PC back then -- it hadn't been invented, thank God.
It was called kill or be killed. Or -- He who shoots last is dead.
Dead Mexican Banits - Date unknown
Postcard: "Permanent Headquarters of Mexican Bandits in Hidalgo Co.".
Ah yes, time to return to the good ol' liberal tradition of re-writing history to tear down the dead white guys".
In the eyes of the liberal intelligentzia, America thrived not because of these frontiersmen and statesmen, rather, it thrived in spite of them.
The frontier was brutish and nasty. They did what they had to do. Period.
DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS.
Following the Civil War, a Union officer traveling through the Comancheria of northwest Texas found less people living there than he found long before the war. That didn't change until 1874 when the last Comanche band was forced onto the Fort Sill reservation. Yep, there were good reasons the Rangers played rough, then and later.
Some say, with good reason, the old Rangers need to be resurrcted and placed on the border to clean out the smugglers and drug dealers in South Texas. Yep, bring back William Warren Sterling!
Don't Mess With Texas. Seriesly.
Quagmire: "a difficult or inextricable position."
Seems the MSM and leftist, revisionist academics got it wrong again. Difficult. Yes sir. Inextricable? I think not. The Rangers saw that it wasn't, didn't they?
Leftists interpret our history like Dan Rather interprets our news.
via the Houston Chronicle. Any more questions?
Way to go Rangers! Thank G D there was no UN to ask if we could respond to attacks.
No it's not. Rangers killed lots of folks in South and West Texas. Vaqueros and Tejanos still sing songs about "los pinches Rinches". Many of the ballads that they sing tell sad stories about what happened. It's the Indian oral tradition. Gotta go to church. Be back later.
Oh by the way...the songs are called corridos.
The Rangers have NEVER whitewashed their history. The details of their fight againgst Mexican bandits and Indian raiders are well known. The Rangers gave as good as the got. PC girly-men can wring their hands at the harsh treatment applied by both sides. But life and death struggle was (and remains) a fact of life - you can't negotiate a compromise with someone committed to killing you - you either win or die. Thank God the Rangers fought to win. NE is lousy with people who can't conceive of anythihng they would die for (think of our liberal Jewish friends who willingly sacrifice the women and children of Israel) - how pathetic are they.
In the next intallment, Mr Blumenthal will expose the atrocities of the citizens of Columbus NM.
Those who are politically correct can't grasp the brutality of the days or the region. Rangers have served their commission honorably, and I thank God for 'em. My home is a safe place to live because of them.
I am fed up with the protrayal of pioneers and 19th century soldiers as dirty ignorant fools. It took more balls than any historian has to cross this frontier and fight savage Indians who would cut you and your family to pieces! I am sick of present day a-holes judging the actions of people 130 years ago and labling them as bad people. Finally, if I have to see another account on the History Channel where Indians raise some white child they had stolen at an early age and how the child wanted to remain in the Indian culture 20 years later, I am gonna really get mad.
No questions. It's about twenty miles, or so, from the Museum to the Western White House.
'xactly. Many people living in the Northeast are descendants of people who owe their lives to these gentlemen when their land was the frontier:
Rogers Rangers circa 1759.
yeah. What you said. Post 30.
Thankfully GWB is still president and seems to have learned those lessons well.
Where are such men today, now that we need them?
Quite true. An investigation, demanded by state representative Jose Canales, into Ranger abuse against Mexican Americans resulted in the reduction of the Ranger force. What was considered stricter qualifications for Ranger recruits was also instituted.
The investigation, with all its gory details, produced over a thousand pages of testimony . . . all of which has been available to the public since the day it was published.
The Rangers also get blamed for abuses they did not commit. Dusing the 1917-1919 border scares another organization, the Loyalty Rangers, certainly instilled fear among some Texans. Anyone from any ethnic group with perceived questionable allegiance might have their actions looked at. But, Loyalty Rangers, created by the Hobby Loyalty Act, were not Texas Rangers.
As a former owner of the Texas Rangers this is no doubt...
They are where they need to be. Look at Rumsfeld and the anectodal stories about our soldiers bravery and yes even compassion that manage to slip through the MSM. Many of these brave men's exploits have been posted by Freepers.
Why doesn't the Left try debunking some of ITS heros?
A few more terrorist attacks and so-called peaceful Muslims could face the same fate. It's not right or wrong - just the way things work when crime and brigandage are considered acceptable by an identifiable population and is therefore not amenable to a law enforcement solution because everyone is a suspect.
This author is fit to clean the boots of any Ranger that ever wore the badge.
OH yea the Natives were treated with respect and held in high honor in New England. Any Mohicians around that want to talk about that?
And this means what to a Texas Ranger between, say, 1836 and 1920?
When you lose an election, it's time to go back to the ol' tried and true - culture wars and revisionism. Deconstructing the society you hate. Why no trendy research on the 150-200 million dead by the hand of Marxism?