The Red River in Southwestern History. By Carl Newton Tyson. (Nor-
man: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981. Pp. xii+222. Preface,
illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $14.95.)
"This volume," Carl N. Tyson states in his preface, "is the history of
a river; only events that took place because of the river's presence are
chronicled" (pp. xi-xii). While the author's rationale is not open to
question, his narrow interpretation of the self-imposed limits is. Not
only is the romance of the river eclipsed, but also much of its history.
The Red River's importance in history is threefold: as transporta-
tion route, political boundary, and physical barrier. The author treats
the second role quite thoroughly, in chapters dealing with attempts to
establish the limits of the Louisiana Purchase and Texas's court battles
with the United States over the state's territorial claims. The river's
significance as a thoroughfare in the post-Civil War era is well covered,
but its prior role as a conduit for Texas settlers and their goods is
The physical barrier posed by the river-for cattle drovers, soldiers
pursuing Indians, and assorted travelers-is wholly neglected; there is
nothing of the ferries that served or the bridges built, often in contro-
versy, to succeed them.
Broad generalizations in background presentation have allowed sev-
eral inaccurate implications and outright errors to creep in. Armadillos
did not "skitter" (p. 8) on the banks of the Red River until about the
time of World War II. To say that the river empties into the Missis-
sippi (p. 9) is partially correct; but at times it also has considerable dis-
charge into the Atchafalaya Basin, making the Atchafalaya River vir-
tually an extension of the Red. The Spanish attempts to missionize the
Comanches (implied on p. 12) were never made, and the stated Spanish-
Apache alliance in the early eighteenth century (pp. 37-39) existed
only in the French imagination. The date of Vicksburg's surrender to
Union forces, July 4, 1863, is confused (p. 1 19). Such miscues, as well
as erratic use of accents and orthography of Spanish and French names,
pose a distraction for the reader.
While the book has some interesting chapters-such as those dealing
with the destruction of the Great Raft and Randolph B. Marcy's explo-
ration of the upper Red River-this reviewer would have preferred a
more comprehensive narrative, with greater focus on man's experience
with the river.
ROBERT S. WEDDLE
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed December 19, 2013.