Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Hesitant Martyr of the Texas Revolution: James Walker Fannin. By Gary Brown.
(Plano: Republic of Texas Press, 2ooo. Pp. vi+266. Preface, epilogue, bibli-
ography, index. ISBN 1-55622-778-7. $18.95, paper.)
Of all the major participants in the Texas Revolution, James Walker Fannin,
the ill-fated commander of Goliad, lacked a stand-alone biographical study. Au-
thor Gary Brown has attempted to fill the gap in the form of a popular-history
study of Fannin; this may fill the gap but leaves one wanting much more.
Brown's biography of Fannin centers on his actions during the Texas Revolu-
tion, in particular the Goliad campaign. Like most biographies of this style, it
quickly glosses over the early years, which in Fannin's case may have been critical
to his future demeanor. While Brown does discuss Fannin's brief career at West
Point, he misses the opportunity to delve into the structured environment and
social status of that institution. These factors would have greatly helped the read-
er to discover Fannin's failure at that institution. Fannin's early, pre-Texas life is
consigned to a brief fourteen-page summary.
The overall work is well written, but draws too much from secondary material.
Other than the Papers of the Texas Revolution, there is little reference to prima-
ry documents. Oddly enough, none of the Mexican accounts or sources of the
Goliad campaign show up in the brief bibliography. There is apparently no men-
tion of the Tornel Decree or discussion of its enforcement. This is particularly
lacking, for this was the instrument that Santa Anna used to justify shooting Fan-
nin and his men. The surrender at the Coleto is taken at face value, and avoids
the possibility of two different sets of terms being discussed and presented to the
Texans by Fannin.
The book is nicely illustrated as Brown went to some length to photograph the
few historical markers left to Fannin's memory in Texas.
James Fannin and the Goliad campaign need a fresh look based on archival
research. Brown's biography of Fannin may help the popular audience but falls
short as far as being fresh for the historian.
Landmark Inn State Historical Park Kevin R. Young
Tornel and Santa Anna: The Writer and the Caudillo, Mexzco, 1795-i853. By Will
Fowler. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing, 2000. Pp. xi+3o8. Pref-
ace, acknowledgments, glossary, selected bibliography, index. ISBN 0-313-
30914-0. $69.50, cloth.)
Based on outward appearances alone, it would be hard to choose a less ap-
pealing subject for a biography than Jos6 Maria Tornel y Mendivil. A well-off
Creole who hitched his wagon to the rising star of Gen. Antonio L6pez de Santa
Anna, Tornel made a career as the caudillo's personal secretary, speechwriter,
and political alter ego in Mexico City. While Tornel comes across as a competent
and loyal bureaucrat (presumably the very qualities that Santa Anna valued and
sought out), he also could be ruthless, vindictive, and highly manipulative. In-
deed, Will Fowler in the acknowledgments gingerly admits that at least one fel-
low academic described the subject of his intended biography as "a rat."
Fortunately, the author persevered and went beyond appearances to shed light
on a crucial but poorly understood figure in Mexico's early political landscape.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed December 26, 2014.