Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1989 Page: 36
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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B. P. Gallaway, The Ragged Rebel: A Common
Soldier in W. H. Parson's Texas Cavalry,
1861-1865 (Austin: University of Texas, 1988,
186 pp., $19.95)
The Ragged Rebel, a biography of David
Carey Nance, is an excellent piece of historical
reconstruction, based upon sound and extensive
research of primary source material, and can be
recommended without reservation.
By referring to Nance in the subtitle of his
book as a "common soldier," B. P. Gallaway has
in mind that his hero was nothing like a military
officer, but a man of the rank and file of the Confederate
Army, except that as a cavalryman of
the South he owned his own horse and provided
his own arms, which of course set him apart
from those who were foot soliders. On other
grounds, however, Nance, who lived in the
southern sector of Dallas County most of his life,
was most uncommon. For example, his mother
was thrilled to see her son in uniform and urged
him into a war to which his father was adamantly
opposed. Nance eventually came round to his
father's views on the war and regarded his enlistment
in military service against his father's
counsel the greatest mistake of his life.
In keeping with the historiographic fashion
that appears to dominate our university presses,
Gallaway sticks closely to the facts and contents
himself with telling the story as it happened with
little speculation and not much comment on the
larger issues. The author's stated purposes were
threefold: 1) to provide insight into the personal
life of Nance; 2) to add significantly to our
knowledge of the role of mounted troops in the
Western Confederacy; and 3) to shed new light
on Parson's Brigade. To the extent that a book
should be judged in terms of the author's stated
goals, The Ragged Rebel can be judged to be an
unqualified success of all three counts.
It is noted that during the fourteen years
Gallaway spent researching and writing this
book, he engaged in extensive surface exploration
of all the battle sites relevant to his story.
While his prose may fail to move the reader emotionally
even in the midst of his description of
the most emotion laden moments, his narrative
still rings true with the authority that comes from
in depth imaginative investigation of the facts.
The book is well documented with one small
but interesting exception. There are a few times
when Gallaway makes statements about Nance
which are not documented and can only, as far
as can be seen, have come from his numerous
conversations with Nance's grandson, Don
Heath Morris, to whom he dedicates his work.
Since Morris spent endless hours as a child and
youth with David Nance and received from his
grandfather a vast knowledge of earlier family
history, Gallaway's unlimited access to Morris's
memories of David Nance must be reckoned as
one of his most important sources of
The Ragged Rebel is a good story, well told,
and worth reading. But for the Dallas historian
it is more than that. It authoritatively illuminates
in many ways a formative period in the social
history of our city and county. It may well be
the best biography we have of any of our nineteenth
century Dallas County forebears.
- W. H. Farmer
Southern Methodist University
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 1, Number 1, Spring, 1989, periodical, 1989; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35122/m1/38/: accessed June 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.