The Making of the Texan Citizen Soldier,
MARK E. NACKMAN*
WHAT LATER BECAME KNOWN TO MOST AMERICANS AS THE ANTE-
bellum years were to the people of Texas years of incessant warfare.
As early as the middle I83os Texan settlers touched the Great Plains and
encountered a fearsome adversary in the nomadic native buffalo hunters.
These mounted Indians were determined to resist white settlement and did
so with a vengeance for the next three decades. South of the Rio Grande
the Mexicans remained implacable enemies of the Texans following the
revolution of I835-1836. For the next quarter-century Anglo-Texans con-
tended against both Indians and Mexicans in what Walter P. Webb has
called a three-cornered fight for Texas.?
The heroes of Texas would be her citizen soldiers. There seldom were any
illusions that Texas, either as a republic or a state, could turn to other than
her own settlers for defense. They, as individuals protecting their home-
steads or in hastily gathered groups, comprised the state's police, its militia,
its army-in short, its forces of security and order. The emergence of the
Texan citizen soldier in the I83os and I84os was a natural consequence
of the young nation's sparse manpower relative to the aggregate strength
of its hovering enemies. "We are few in numbers, and the very nature of
our situation and habits makes every man a soldier," a congressional com-
mittee observed. Government officials uniformly expressed the fullest con-
fidence in the willingness of the people "to surrender every thing, even life
itself, for the defence of the country & the preservation of her honor." The
republic's secretary of state calculated in i838 that I o,ooo Texans could
be concentrated upon the shortest notice of a declaration of war, which
meant at that time just about every available man in the country. As one
veteran ranger affirmed, "every settler was a minuteman . .. ready to start
at a moment's warning." Whenever the Mexicans or Indians launched an
attack, another volunteer recalled, "runners were sent all over the country
*Mr. Nackman is consultant to Columbia University Oral History Research Office.
1Walter P. Webb, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense (Cambridge,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/. Accessed July 10, 2014.