The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 106

Southwestern Historzcal Quarterly

topics while major historical eras such as the Civil War and Mining receive only
fleeting and inaccurate coverage.
I would recommend the book to a general public that is searching for initial
background information on the American West. I believe that anyone who
is doing (or has done) research in this vast territory will be disappointed in
the quantity (and sometimes quality) of information given in the thumbnail
sketches of text. Caution would need to be exercised on the utility of the maps,
which exclude vast amounts of information and have numerous questions of
Southwest Institute, Universzty of New Mexico JERRY L. WILLIAMS
"Pecos Bzll": A Military Bzography of William R. Shafter. By Paul H. Carlson. (College
Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1989. Pp. xiii+225. Preface, illustra-
tions, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95.)
Paul H. Carlson's biography of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter is the first book-
length study of an American soldier too often remembered only for his im-
pressive corpulence. Shafter, who entered the Union army as a Michigan vol-
unteer in the Civil War, learned his profession through hard service rather
than formal education. He recruited, trained, and led black troops in the Civil
War and on the frontier, played a significant though unglamorous role in the
climactic western Indian campaigns, and in 1898 commanded American forces
in the only major land operation of the war with Spain.
Carlson, an associate professor of history at Texas Tech University, has done
thorough research in both manuscript and published sources, and he summa-
rizes adequately the facts of Shafter's career. Yet his book in many respects is
disappointing, less for what is in it than for what is not. The work suffers from
a lack of analysis and Interpretation. Perhaps due to limitations in the sources,
the author is at best tentative in his conclusions on Shafter's character and mo-
tives, for example for accepting assignments to black regiments. He makes only
limited efforts to place Shafter in the context of the organizational, technologi-
cal, and doctrinal changes that took place in the army during his years of active
The biography also lacks balance in coverage. Carlson, who is primarily a
frontier historian, devotes the better part of four chapters of a rather slim book
to Shafter's Texas activities but only one chapter to the conduct of the cam-
paign against Santiago de Cuba, the culmination of' Shafter's military career
and the only occasion when he exercised independent command of a large
force. Carlson suggests that the general did better at Santiago than most popu-
lar accounts would lead us to believe-a conclusion that has much to recom-
mend it. His treatment is too brief, however, and too dependent on standard
secondary works, to give his thesis the development and support it deserves.
In spite of these limitations, Carlson's workmanlike reconstruction of
Shafter's career will be of great interest and utility to historians of the Texas
frontier, the U.S. Army, and the Spanish-American War. At the very least,


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.