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A Texas Ranger

In 1874, Napoleon Augustus Jennings moved to Texas to become a prominent member of the Texas Rangers tasked with border patrol under the command of L.H. McNelly.

South Texas was overrun by thieves and outlaws, and over three thousand Mexican guerrillas raided settlers on both sides of the border.

McNelly’s Rangers became famous for their often violent and murderous campaigns. Maintaining strict law in the anarchic area was not easy and they quickly gained a reputation as “fire-eating, quarrelsome daredevils”.

During this period they made over eleven hundred arrests and killed many more. McNelly ordered them “to have fun, and to carry out a set policy of terrorizing the Mexicans at every opportunity,”

Jenning’s memoir includes many accounts of these clashes with Mexican guerrillas and records well-known incidents involving McNelly — his battles with the US government and the fight at Las Cuevas with Cortuna and his raiders.

Jennings also provides first-hand accounts of scrapes with King Fisher’s outlaw band, John Wesley Hardin, and the families involved in the Taylor-Sutton feud.

In an era of cattle thieving and terror, A Texas Ranger follows Jennings through the southern border of Texas and finds a vivid first-hand portrayal of life in the late 19th century in one of the most lawless and violent places in the United States.

“If any time of the past was ever vivid and vital enough to live on through mere reporting… it was the time when McNelly’s rangers rode the bloody border of Texas. Hence it is exceedingly fortunate that a man who was to become a skilled reported rode with them and later saw reason for putting down some of the things he had been part of.” — J. Frank Dobie

Napoleon Augustus Jennings was born in Philadelphia, the son of a wealthy merchant, on January 11, 1856, and graduated from St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. He moved to Texas in 1874 and became a ranger, that years chronicled in this book. When his father died in 1878 he returned to Philadelphia and attempted to run the family business, but was smothered by city life. He returned to the West in 1881 as a prospector, miner, stagecoach driver, and sign painter in Colorado. Jennings died in New York on December 15, 1919.

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2 Responses

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  1. Sam B. Wagner says

    A fascinating and well-written first-hand account of the early and very dangerous days of the Texas Rangers

  2. Eliza says

    Great Read Aloud!

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