The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

study of the documentation for each group of explorers. This attention to histor-
ical methodology and the importance of mapping and understanding how the
trail was envisioned by early explorers makes the book a valuable introduction
for an undergraduate course.
York University R.J. Gilmour
The Indian Wars in Stephen F. Austzn's Texas Colony, 1822-1835. By Allen G. Hat-
ley. (Austin: Eakin Press, 2001. Pp. xxii+146. Foreword, acknowledgments,
introduction, noteworthy documents, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 1-
57168-508-1. $19.95, paper.)
This provocative book is a study of the "organization, campaigns undertaken,
and leadership and strategy employed by Stephen F. Austin's militia against hos-
tile Indians in the 182os and 1830s" (p. xiii). Based on a careful examination of
relevant letters between Austin, his militia leaders, and Mexican officials, Hat-
ley's short book makes a valuable contribution to the military history of Austin's
The majority of the book concerns the period 1821-1826. During the first few
years of his colonial enterprise, Austin tried to avoid confrontations with neigh-
boring Indian groups while the small settler population steadily increased. The
empresario had to finesse his vision for colonial security past Mexican officials
interested in the broader defense of Texas as a whole, and individual settlers
who would sooner tend to their own interests than serve in the militia. More-
over, the colonists lacked adequate horses, horsemanship, weapons, or ammuni-
tion to keep a perpetual force in the field, and Hatley convincingly debunks the
notion that the tradition of the Texas Rangers began with Austin's militia.
While he initially tried to delay conflict until he had more men and guns at his
disposal, Austin was willing to launch punitive attacks against certain Indian
groups. In practical terms, this policy translated into several destructive cam-
paigns against the dwindling Karankawas, who had been accused of theft and
murder. By the mid-182os, the empresario felt his militia was strong enough to
send a campaign against the Wacos and Tawakonis, but the large Texan force was
unable to locate the Indians and nothing decisive came of the matter. Austin's
strategy of selective engagement served the colony well. By 1826, the settler pop-
ulation was increasing rapidly and "the Indian menace that just a few years before
looked to some as likely responsible for the destruction of any Anglo-American
settlement had largely been overcome" (p. 53). Hatley's book concludes with a
brief discussion of the militia and the Texas Revolution, and a fascinating ap-
pendix of documents bearing on the early years of the Texas militia.
Hatley's central thesis is that Austin's shrewd Indian strategy and the success
of the militia insured "the survival and eventual success of the Anglo-American
settlements in Texas" (p. xiii). This argument depends upon the venerable no-
tion that Austin's colonists were in constant danger of being annihilated by the
"hostile Indians arrayed against them" (p. 74). That there were important con-
flicts between Indians and colonists is beyond doubt. But to evaluate Hatley's
thesis, or indeed to understand "the Indian wars in Stephen F. Austin's Texas
colony," we would need some discussion of the origin, nature, and significance



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 29, 2016.

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