The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 130
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130 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
T. Michael Parrish. (Austin: W M Morrison, 1994. Pp. xviii+io6.
Acknowledgments, introduction, bibliography, appendices, index. ISBN o-
Lawrence Sullivan (Sul) Ross, Texas Ranger, military leader, popular gover-
nor, and early president of Texas A&M University, remains one of the legendary
leaders of Texas. Ross's family moved to McLennan County in 1839, and
although his services carried him far beyond the county's boundaries, it
remained his home base. Educated at Baylor University and at Wesleyan
University in Florence, Alabama, he manifests concern in these letters for the
education of his children as well, often urging them to write to him with a prac-
ticed hand and an eye toward spelling and grammar.
Ross became widely known as a Texas Ranger for leading the group that res-
cued Cynthia Ann Parker from her Comanche captors, although the subsequent
story of her life makes one wonder if this was a kindness. After Texas seceded
from the Union, Ross declined Governor Sam Houston's offer of high command
in the Rangers and married Elizabeth Dorothy Tinsley. Soon afterwards, he mus-
tered with other volunteers from Central Texas in the Sixth Texas Cavalry, with
which he rose to brigade command by virtue of his previous reputation, popular-
ity, and competence.
These letters from the Civil War years, plus some from the postwar period,
excluding Ross's tenure as governor, have merit and interest largely because of
the identity of their author. Otherwise, they are similar to the letters of thou-
sands of other Civil War soldiers who wrote of their life in service, including day-
to-day struggles for food and with equipment, complaints about the incompe-
tence of commanders or colleagues, and the horrible wounds or deaths of oth-
ers, while downplaying the dangers they faced.
Ross reveals a good deal about his ambitions for higher command in letters to
his wife and to his father-in-law, Dr. D. A. Tinsley, alternately urging them to
"publish" or to keep secret his activities. He also reveals a sense of humor, as
when he describes for Dr. Tinsley his activities at Elkhorn Tavern: "It then
became my time to 'advance backwords' [sic] all of which I did in very good
order, under the circumstances I did not run Doctor, but I walked very fast" (p. 24).
Ross seemed to enjoy teasing his bride about the fair women he met during
his wandering service, then reassuring her that he had not "married" yet, by
which he presumably meant that he had not entered into a wartime romance.
The concluding letters treat Ross's efforts to develop his reputation as a war
leader by supporting others who sought to write the history of his brigade's mili-
Shelton notes a problem with the preservation of the letters. Fire and/or
water damage along the natural folds of the letters have left some passages so
sketchy as to be unintelligible. Nevertheless, Shelton included what remained.
This is a nagging problem for the reader, of course, but under the circum-
stances is the best that could be done. The annotation of persons and events
mentioned in the letters could have been developed further. These problems
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/158/: accessed May 27, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.