The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999

In Pursuit of Herman Ehrenberg:
A Research Adventure
JAMES E. CRISP*
IT IS ONE OF THE GREAT IRONIES OF THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE
Texas Revolution that the longest and most vivid eyewitness account of
the revolt by a Texan soldier has never existed in a complete and reli-
able edition in the English language. Nor has the kaleidoscopic life of
Herman Ehrenberg, the author of this memoir, ever received adequate
(or even generally accurate) biographical treatment. This sad situation
has not come about, however, because of a lack of effort. Many have pur-
sued Herman Ehrenberg, but none have yet succeeded in catching him.1
My own pursuit of Ehrenberg began in December 1992, when I real-
ized that this young Prussian was the probable author of a racist anti-
Mexican speech that modern scholarship had attributed to Gen. Sam
Houston. When further investigation revealed that Ehrenberg's author-
ship of the offending remarks had been obscured by the systematic cen-
sorship of what was then the only published English translation of his
memoir, I sensed (correctly, as it turned out) that I was on the verge of a
long, difficult, and yet rewarding relationship with Herman Ehrenberg.2
* The research that made this article possible was conducted with the generous assistance of
the Rockefeller Foundation, the Summerlee Foundation, and the College of Humanities and
Social Sciences at North Carolina State University, where James E. Crisp is an associate professor
of history.
'The Prussian-born Hermann Vollrath Ehrenberg shortened the spelling of his first name to
"Herman" after coming to North America in the 1830s, and generally retained this spelling for
the rest of his life. Even when writing from the German states, where he lived briefly in the early
1840s before returning to the United States, Ehrenberg employed the spelhng "Herman." "Jahr
1816. Geborne und Getaufte Im Monat September und Oktober," Kirchenbuch Steuden
1815-1860, Pfarramt [Parish Office], Steuden; Herman Ehrenberg to Ashbel Smith, Feb. 9,
1844, Ashbel Smith Papers (Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin).
His memoir of the Texas Revolution, however, bore the name "Hermann Ehrenberg" when it
was published as Texas und seine Revolution (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1843). The same publisher
brought out two subsequent editions of the memoir, each bearing a different title, but with no
substantive alterations of the text: Der Freiheztskampf in Texas imJahre r836 (1844) and Fahrten und
Schicksale emnes Deutschen in Texas (1845).
2 See James E. Crisp, "Sam Houston's Speechwriters: The Grad Student, the Teenager, the
Editors, and the Historians," Southwestern Hstorical Quarterly, 97 (Oct., 1993), 202-237 (cited

SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

VOL. CII, NO. 4

APRIL, 1999

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed August 30, 2014.