Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • History Saturday – The Two Samuels

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    (OK, so I am late with the my usual History Friday segment. Stuff to work on in the real world, you know.)

    The annexation of Texas to the United States – the culmination of nearly a decade of mostly-back-stairs campaigning by Sam Houston – kicked off a war with Mexico, which had never really gotten over the loss of Coahuila-Tejas. Nearly half the Mexican states had rebelled violently when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had abrogated the Mexican constitution of 1824 and established himself as dictator. Santa Anna put down the resulting rebellion with particular brutality, but thanks to the luck and skill of Sam Houston, and Santa Anna’s own miscalculations, Texas slipped from his grasp, maintaining a precarious state as an independent republic. Mexico threatened war, if annexation was accomplished and when it was, practically everyone directly involved was spoiling for a fight. (Although many Americans were anti-war in this particular case, including many northern Whigs like soon-to-be statesman Abraham Lincoln, and abolitionists, all of whom detested the addition of a slave-state to the union.)

    Among those most keen to have it done and get it over with were the volunteer Texas Rangers. Jack Hays had recruited a Texas force to serve along with Zachary Taylor’s command as spies and scouts. Two veterans of Jack Hays’ legendary Big Fight were along with him – Samuel Walker and Robert Addison ‘Ad’ Gillespie – when Taylor’s army took Matamoros and Camargo, and converged in several columns on Monterray. That city-stronghold was protected by fortified heights; Independence Hill, Fort Soldado, the Bishop’s Palace – and there the U.S. Army fought a savage battle at the gates of the city and in the surrounding heights, until the Mexican commanders offered an 8-week long truce. They would surrender the city, if they would allow the American army to allow them to evacuate their surviving troops. At the start of the siege, the Rangers were reported to have amused themselves by riding out to the walls, making flamboyant demonstrations of their horsemanship, provoking the Mexican gunners into firing, and then skillfully dodging the resulting cannon-balls aimed at them. By the time the truce was over, many of the Rangers’s limited enlistments were up, and they returned home to Texas. (So did Ad Gillespie – fatally wounded in the assault on the Bishop’s Palace fortifications. His body was returned for burial in a cemetery in San Antonio; Gillespie County, in the Texas Hill Country, is named for him.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History | 4 Comments »

    History Friday: The Great Adventure of Captain McNelly

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd November 2013 (All posts by )

    (I’m off to a book event today – the Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt, at the conference center in New Braunfels, for the launch of The Quivera Trail. In the mean time, another thrilling frontier adventure. The details and the quotes are taken from Walter Prescott Webb’s history of the Rangers, which is so powerfully testosterone-laden that I have to keep it sectioned between a couple of … milder-themed books which have a sedating effect.)

    After the debacle of the Civil War, the Texas Rangers barely existed as an entity – either in Indian-fighting, or law-enforcing. The Federal government would not countenance the organization of armed bodies of volunteers for any purpose. Combating Indians or cross-border bandits was the business of the regular Army; interested semi-amateurs need not apply. But a Reconstruction-Republican governor, E. J. Davis, did institute a state police force in 1870, the existence of which was lauded as necessary for the preservation of law and order – such as it was. The state police under Davis was relatively short-lived and unadorned by laurels during its brief term, being dissolved at the end of his administration – but one of their officers had such a sterling reputation that when the Texas Rangers were formally reorganized, he was charged with heading one of the two divisions. One was the Frontier Battalion, dedicated to the Ranger’s traditional mission of fighting hostile Indians. The other – the Special Force – was charged with generally upholding law and order, shortly to become the Ranger’s modern raison d’être. Leander Harvey McNelly served for only a brief time in the interim of the change from Indian fighting to upholding law and order – but his leadership inspired many of those Rangers who took note of his personal example to heart.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, History, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    Rebooting the Lone Ranger

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st July 2013 (All posts by )

    Well, the early critical reviews are out and the knives are in: the latest movie remake of The Lone Ranger looks to be tanking like the Titanic,(the original ship, not James Cameron’s movie fantasy) although the some of the reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes are favorable, most of them are entertainingly vicious. Jerry Bruckheimer again goes over the top from the high-dive with a half-gainer and a jackknife on the way down, all with the noisy special effects, Johnny Depp was promised that he could wear bizarre hair and a lot of makeup and it appears as if the ostensible lead character is just there…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Film, History | 6 Comments »

    History Friday: Jack Hays’ Big Fight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st June 2013 (All posts by )

    Jack Hays holds an outsized place in the history of the Texas Rangers, who began as a sort of heavily-armed and mounted Neighborhood Watch, metamorphosed into frontier protection force, and only much, much later into a law-enforcement body. But he was one of the earliest Ranger commanders; a surveyor by profession, born in Tennessee and raised in Mississippi, who would live to a ripe old age as a politician and lawman in California. Quiet, modest, self-effacing, Jack Hays became the very beau ideal of a captain of Rangers. He came to Texas at the very end of the fight for independence from Mexico in 1836, and worked as a surveyor and alternately as a soldier volunteer. He had been among the Texans in the Plum Creek fight, but made his name in the decade afterwards, astounding people who knew only his reputation upon meeting him for the first time. He was slight, short and refined in appearance and manner, and looked about fourteen years old. But he was also a gifted leader of irregular fighters and possessed an iron constitution. His fearlessness and daring became a byword among his fellow Rangers and his Tonkawa Indian allies and scouts. Chief Placido of the Tonkawa exclaimed admiringly, “Me and Red Wing not afraid to go to hell together. Captain Jack heap brave; not afraid to go to hell by himself.” The Texas historian T.H. Fehrenbach noted, “He mauled Indians from the Nueces to the Llano, and never with more than fifty men.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 14 Comments »

    History Friday: The Man Who Nearly Cleaned Up El Paso

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st May 2013 (All posts by )

    El Paso, on the Rio Grande and border with Mexico, halfway between San Antonio and San Diego, was a lawless, corrupt and violent place in the last quarter of the 19th century, like practically every other western boomtown had been at some time in its development. However, lawlessness hung on a bit more tenaciously in El Paso, and the responsible members of the city council were nearly at wits’ end. In the space of a mere eight months in 1881, they had run through half a dozen city marshals. Violent factionalism ruled the streets of the city, and enthusiastic cross-border cattle rustling ruled elsewhere. In desperation, the city fathers sought a capable outsider, a fearless lawman with experience and a reputation sufficiently impressive to overawe potential lawbreakers. A local restaurant owner, Stanley “Doc” Cummings came up with the name of just such a man; his brother-in-law and good friend, Dallas Stoudenmire.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – Renaissance Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th January 2013 (All posts by )

    Among those brawling, restless borderers drawn to Texas like a trout going upstream during the tumultuous decade of the 1830s was a tall, ambitious and somewhat eccentrically skilled young man from Tennessee named John Salmon Ford. Like fellow adventurers, James Bowie, William Barrett Travis, and Sam Houston, his personal life was already fairly checkered, including one divorce. Unlike the first two, Ford would live through the tumultuous affair that was the Republic of Texas. Like Sam Houston, he would survive all the vicissitudes that an active life on the Texas frontier could throw at him, and die in bed at the ripe old age (for the 19th century) of 82. I assume he was mildly surprised by this happy chance. He had survived the usual accidents and epidemics of an age which predated antibiotics and germ theory in general, any but the crudest of surgeries, and routine vaccination for nothing but smallpox. He had also survived service in two wars and innumerable campaigns along the borders and against various hostile Indian tribes, several rounds of frontier exploration, election to public office, and as a newspaper editor in the days when public discourse was conducted metaphorically with a set of brass knuckles.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History, North America | 2 Comments »