Nathan Jennings has given us a fascinating, well-researched, and detailed account of the evolution of the “Texas Way of War” from the beginnings of Anglo settlement through the Civil War with appropriate details about how their predecessors, the Spanish/Mexicans and Indians, fought.
The “Texas Way of War” was, succinctly, skilled citizen soldiers, serving for short periods, aggressively engaging the enemy utilizing superior firepower and, when possible, mounted. In other words, they destroyed the enemy by fire and shock. Other reviews give the impression that Jennings claims that this was unique to Texans. It is more correct to say that this was “characteristic,” of Texans as he acknowledged that other soldiers at other times used similar tactics.
Such a work could be one brain numbing fight, campaign, and stratagem after another, but Jennings wove those details together with analysis and interpretation to make a comprehensible story—one that explains how and why Texas military doctrine evolved and differed from the norm in other parts of North America.
Alas, this book is marred by numerous small errors and some word usage that should have been caught by peer reviewers and editors. Some of the phrasing is so strange that it would have seemed to be translated from a foreign language by a none-too-talented interpreter. For instance, he repeatedly referred to the State Legislature as the Texas Congress. And, in discussing Mexican artillery during the 1836 campaign, he described the pieces as “12- caliber” and “8-caliber guns.” “Pounder,” then and now, is the common term.
Errors include referring to Juan Almonte as a general when he was a colonel during the San Jacinto campaign. More seriously, General Urrea marched upon Goliad from Matamoras, not Bexar. Finally, the index is so skimpy as to be almost useless. In a more perfect world, a second edition would soon appear to correct these deficiencies but for the foreseeable future, this is the one we have.
Despite surface level imperfections, Riding for the Lone Star should be in the library of anyone interested in Texas military or social history.