Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hi Ho Silver

Viv loves cowboy movies and TV shows so when I saw that the Texas Rangers Museum was sited in Waco, some 100 miles north of Austin and en route to Dallas, our final destination, we had to go there.

6 Texas Rangers rode out in pursuit of some desperados who ambushed them, killing 5.  The last one was left for dead but was saved by an Indian named Tonto and cut a black mask from his dead ranger brother's shirt to conceal his identity.  The 'lone' ranger left alive of course became the Lone Ranger.

Waco's population is 120,000 but is home to a couple of universities (Baylor and another) and some big medical facilities so I do wonder how many actual people of Waco there are for when you walk downtown, there are large empty car parks, a couple of towers and not much else.  There are many nice buildings and some apartment conversions looking to be in the offing so there is the possibility that this may change in the near future.  I hope so.

The Texas Rangers Museum is right next to the Visitor Centre and close to the Brazos River and downtown and is a terrific look back in time.

The rangers were created by Sam Austin in 1823 to combat Indian incursions into his new Anglo settlement.  Only 20 to start with and equipped with single shot fire arms, they were under heavy pressure from the more lightly armed but more maneuverable opponents, mainly Cherokee and Commanche Indians.  The Indians would send in a couple of scouts to encourage the rangers to fire their weapons and when they were busy reloading in would come the main body.

This wasn't their only problem either.  The Mexicans were just as pesky.

It took about 10 years before the settlers increased in number to 55,000 in Tejas and about that time they became sick and tired of their Mexican masters too.  The revolt began in 1835 but ended in 1836 after the loss at the Alamo and great victory at San Jacinto when the Mexican president Santa Anna was captured thus creating the Republic of Texas.

Battle of San Jacinto (from the Capitol in Austin)

However the Mexicans weren't slow to try to renege on the deal so incursions into the border country were constant.  The rangers were kept very busy as a result.

It was the invention of repeating hand guns and rifles that turned the tables.  Where before a ranger armed with 2 hand guns and a rifle could fire only 3 shots before reloading, now they could shoot 20 or more.  Given the disparity in numbers between Indian raiding parties and the few rangers that could assemble at any given point in time, this was a massive technological step forward.

The guns that won the west
At the Battle of Plum Creek in 1840, this new leap was demonstrated to massive success at a stroke changing the strategy entirely.  Formerly defensive, now the rangers could take the attack to their opponents.

Painting of the Battle of Plum Creek

In 1845 Texas agreed to be annexed to the USA becoming the 28th state of the union.  Almost at once the US found itself at war with Mexico over the border territories won from them by the Californian and Texan rebellions.  And to start with they found themselves losing.  The Mexicans had been training with German advisors and it showed.

The rangers were co-opted into the US army and their presence at the forefront of most action even if in small numbers turned the tables.  Their dynamic tactics learned the hard way in their Indian wars took the Mexicans completely by surprise.  As did their new repeating fire arms.

The war over and borders secured, the next challenge was the Civil War when Texas seceded from the union to join the Confederacy and called up all the rangers into the Confederate Army.  This left the borders with Mexico and the frontier with the Indians open and both took advantage pushing settlement back all over the west, nearly to Fort Worth in fact.  It took 15 years to restore the pre-war situation after which time the rangers found themselves changing from a simple para-military organization into peace keepers and lawmen too.

Weaponry used to take down Bonnie and Clyde

These days there are less then 200 Texas Rangers, all selected from Texan lawmen of the highest calibre.  They have morphed from being action men to being investigators.

But they still wear their big white cowboy hats!

The rangers today

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