Texan Rangers organization dates back to spring of 1836 – here is part of their history

(Please consider the language of the time in this transcription)


The Formation of the Body Dates Back to 1836, When the Texans Were Having Trouble with Mexicans—Sam Houston Organized a Body of Sixteen Hundred Mounted Riflemen—Their Doings in the War Between the States—Good Riders and Hard Fighters— Some of the Encounters in Which They Have Been Engaged. (Transcribed from the San Francisco Chronicle ca. 1946 exactly as written)

Dates back to 1836

The Texas Rangers as an organization dates from the spring of 1836. The hardy Texans were at war with Mexico for the freedom of the Republic of Texas from Mexican rule. When the Alamo had fallen and the frightful massacre there had occurred, General Sam Houston organized among the settlers in the territory a troop of 1,600 mounted riflemen. They were the original Texas Rangers. They did wonders in the face of the army under General Santa Ana in the battle of San Jancinto.

When the Republic of Texas was organized in December, 1837, the Rangers were retained as a sort of standing army for the frontier of the unique republic. During the seven years before Texas was admitted as a state in the Union the Rangers repelled a horde of murderous Mexican marauders from beyond the Rio Grande, fought into submission the fierce Apaches, Comanches and Kiowas dozens of times, and administered justice on a wholesale plan to a great number of the red-handed outlaws and ruffians who flocked into the new republic from all parts of the United States.

William Jesse McDonald, known as Captain Bill McDonald (1852-1918), a Texas Ranger who served as a bodyguard for presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and William Howard Taft (Library of Congress)

1200 hundred became mounted police along the Mexican border

The Texas Rangers became so much of an institution for the protection of life and property of the settlers and lonely ranchmen of the territory that when Texas became a state 1,200 of the Rangers were retained as mounted police along the Mexican border and for holding in check the almost intractable Indian tribes of the Southwest.

Until the Civil War broke out the Texas Rangers were kept constantly in the field. At times there were reserve Rangers to the number of 3,000 among the frontiersmen, who were called out many times to aid in quelling an Indian outbreak and to drive out or slay a band of Mexican marauders.

After the war the Rangers were gradually reduced from 1,000 to 300 men, and for some ten years there has been no legally constituted force of Rangers.

Old-time Rangers designated the Frontier Battalion

The men who occupy to some degree the places of the old-time Rangers are officially designated the Frontier Battalion. Up to 1879 the battalion was composed of six companies. Companies A and C were disbanded about five years ago. There were then forty men in a company, officered by a captain, a lieutenant, a sergeant and a corporal.

The present organization provides for only captains and sergeants, and the force was cut down in 1896 from fourteen men in each company to seven, “a mere handful,” says an old Ranger, “but they are all aces.”

Still there are in the office of the Adjutant General at Austin a list of 1,800 equipped and experienced men who are amenable to calls for immediate duty as Rangers by the governor. The list is revised every year and only the most hardy may serve. There is also a list of reserve Rangers to the number of 6,000. The stock men and owners of the big Texas ranchers all employ some men belonging to the Rangers on their own account.

In the Civil War

When the Civil War broke out General Con Terry, an old ranger, organized the famous body of men known as Terry’s Texas Rangers, composed almost entirely of former rangers and frontiersmen. They fought from Bull Run to Appomattox, and lost seventy-five per cent of their original muster roll. General Sherman’s memoirs comment upon the bravery of the Rangers at Shiloh. Soon after the close of the Civil War the Texas legislature provided for calling out 1,200 Rangers to protect the frontiers against hostile Indians. They were what would have been known five hundred years ago as wardens of the marches. It was a formidable little army thus provided, and for some years thereafter the Rangers formed a strong body of troops.

As late as 1873 there were organized and armed along the frontier of Texas twenty-eight minute companies of Rangers, and four more companies were mustered into service late that year or early the next.

History cannot be fully written

Senator Roger Q. Mills has said that it is unfortunate for the glory of the West that a history of the Texas Rangers cannot be written with any satisfaction. The chief actors are participants in the history-making days of that wonderful body are all dead, and they have left no material for a correct account of their deeds of cold heroism. Then, too, the achievements and acts of the Rangers—their supremest tests of valorous duty occurred away out on the plains of Texas, many miles remote from the border of civilization, and the homely, everyday heroes had no idea they were doing things as sublimely brave as any Theban band or Spartans or six hundred at Balaklava ever did.

It is only by piecemeal that one can get an idea nowadays of the dangers the Texas Rangers have faced as easily as daily duty.

Battles with Mexicans and Indians

In the summer of 1847 the Rangers followed the Comanches, numbering over 3,000, ceaselessly for two months. Seven times there were engagements of several hours’ length. Then when the Comanches had been temporarily subdued the even more hostile Apaches on the west had to be attended to for three months more, but in this the United States troops were the leaders.

In October a half-dozen bands of Mexican bandits, who had burned, murdered and marauded along the Rio Grande while the Rangers were engaged with the Indians three hundred miles away, had to be searched out amid vast stretches of arid wastes and trackless foothills, and fought under all imaginable hazardous circumstances.

In one week twenty-two Rangers were killed by the intrenched half-breed bandits to the number of three hundred. Altogether the campaigning against Comanches, Apaches and marauders lasted ten months, and there was not a rest day—-no time when the Rangers felt secure from danger— in all those months. In that campaign of 1847 fourteen out of every hundred Rangers were killed.

Seventeen per cent more were wounded by poisoned arrows and bullets so that they became invalids for life. No danger was too severe, no duty too risky for the Texans. Little squads of Rangers had no thought of the fearful chances they were taking in going for miles into a hostile Indian region where hundreds of braves might be concealed for massacre at any moment.

“I have heard from the lips of reliable Rangers,” said General Miles, when the Rangers were enlisting in the Rough Riders’ troop for Cuba, “tales of daring by the Texas Rangers that are incomparable. It is indeed too bad that the world knows so little about those marvelous men. There have been hosts of men among the Texas Rangers who were just as nervy as Davy Crockett, Travis or Bowie were at the Alamo.”

Statistics of campaigns along the Texan frontier

Statistics are kept in the office of the Adjutant General of Texas regarding the Rangers, and they give something of an idea of the constant dangers and the almost constant campaigning that these hardy men have experienced along the Texan frontier. In 1852 600 Rangers were engaged in a fight with over 2,000 Cherokees. The latter were intrenched near where Denison, Texas, now flourishes.

Scouts reported the size of the Indian body to the Rangers, and said that if a certain hill seven miles off to the left could be gained in the face of the terrible odds against such a movement the Rangers would master the situation. The desperate chance was accepted.

With a whoop of defiance to the Indians the Texans’ rode forward. Exactly 137 men fell dead in the charge. But the hill was taken and held until the United States troops come a few hours later to take the brunt of the battle.

Hon. James Francis Miller of Texas. (Private Co. I. 8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers)

Fights with Indians

From 1865 until 1883 the Texas Rangers effectually followed 128 parties of Indians marauders, had 84 fights with Indians and1 Mexicans, killed 82 Indians, wounded 62 and captured 6; killed 27 Mexicans and wounded 5; recovered nearly 6,000 stolen horses, mules and cattle, three citizens carried off by Indians and desparadoes. During those years 396 citizens were killed and 81 carried off by Mexicans or Indians; 12 rangers were killed and 21,600 horses and mules, 43,400 cattle and 2,400 sheep and goats were stolen.

There were in addition homes of settlers burned, prairie fires purposely started, many people lynched and a vast number of minor outrages which the Rangers were called upon to redress. Conditions had so far changed in Texas by the year 1889 that the Rangers were no longer needed for defense against hostile Indians, as Indian raids had ceased. But the force, now reduced in numbers, was still active in the suppression of desperadoes along the border, some of them raiding Mexicans, others native products, and all made troublesome from the fact that increased vigilance on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande tended to confine the operations of such persons to Texas.

The rangers made in the years 1889-90 579 arrests, mostly of desperate criminals, among them 76 murderers, 160 cattle thieves and 25 robbers and burglars.

Although Mexican outrages had decreased in numbers and the Indians had utterly disappeared from the state, the rangers, from December, 1890, to November 30, 1892, made more than 900 arrests.

The story of the rangers service is one long record of unwavering fidelity to duty during all the sixty years and more in which its members have guarded the lives, liberties and property of their fellow citizens. No gaudy trappings nor gay equipment have any place in their outfit; no bugle calls them, and no flag floats above them in their swift and silent rides, yet none the less surely has this remarkable organization ever shown itself admirably adapted to the times and conditions under which it has developed. In all the elements of true courage and earnestness, in ready obedience, efficiency and patriotic devotion, its record has been surpassed by that of no body of constabulary ever mustered.

Requisites of a Ranger

Any unmarried man over eighteen years of age is eligible as a ranger, but it is an exceedingly difficult matter to get into the organization. Courage, physical soundness, first-rate horsemanship, precision with firearms and steady habits are the requisites for membership. The term of enlistment is one year. The ranger furnishes his horse, accoutrements and arms, while the state furnishes food for the men, forage, ammunition, medicine and medical attendance. The pay of captains is $100 a month, of sergeants $50 a month, and of privates $30 a month. The force is made up of young men, sober, well ordered, and, as a rule, fairly well educated. The rangers of today attend to business in the same thorough fashion as their predecessors, and in small bands of six or eight men they pursue and capture the worst desperadoes of the border counties.

In the equipment of its men and officers but scant regard is paid to military law and precedent. Each ranger dresses as he pleases, experience having taught him the best outfit for utility and comfort on his unending round of duty. He usually wears a corduroy coat, with reversible waterproof lining, heavy riding trousers and boots well spurred, a flannel shirt, buckskin gloves and a big hat. For arms, he carries a short carbine, a bowie knife and a Colt’s six-shooter, which is not strapped close to his body, but hangs almost to his knee, it having been found that thus suspended there is less risk of the weapon catching when drawn in a hurry. In his belt are his cartridges. And, so accoutred, he is always ready to mount and ride. “We live in the saddle, and the sky is our roof,” say the rangers, and this is almost literally true, for the greater part of their time is passed in active pursuit of criminals. The raiding ranger takes a horse where he will, and may arrest or search in any part of Texas.

Held in deep respect

A veteran ranger is held in deep respect all over Texas. Every town that is the home of a very old ranger—one who fought under Sam Houston or went through the rebellion—gives first honor always to the aged ranger. A veteran ranger is naturally the most popular man in the precinct. His foibles are overlooked and his old clothes are hallowed. An old ranger may have almost anything that the border counties have to bestow, and it is from retired rangers that sheriffs and other county officers are usually chosen. In Waco there is a club of ex-rangers, and when the members assemble and are in a mood a visitor may have some of the most thrilling anecdotes and stories he ever heard or read.

Active rangers, when in camp, employ their time cleaning their arms and training their horses. There is very little of what an army officer would call military drill. A ranger is expected simply to be a good rider and a quick and accurate shot. Every one of them is all that and more. No crack cavalryman in any army in all Europe can mount a horse quicker and dash in pursuit of an enemy with greater celerity than a Texas ranger. He can keep a constant blaze of fire pouring out of a Winchester when his horse is going at the top of his speed, and his bullets will hit the mark nine times out of ten. His Winchester empty, he seizes the bridle reins between his teeth, and, with a revolver in either hand, he can rain bullets into a man’s body at a distance of 100 yards. Should he drop anything or see anything on the ground that he wants, he does not even check the speed of his horse, but, bending from the saddle as if he were made of India rubber, he picks the object from the ground.

Though a little suspicious of strangers, the rangers are very clever and hospitable to gentlemen who come into their camp armed with the proper credentials. At night, around their campfires, they are constantly telling stories of their own or some comrade’s adventures. Many of them are men of superior education, and since they are constant readers of newspapers no class of frontier people are more entertaining. In listening to the history of their many battles and hardships one wonders that they would continue in such dangerous service for so little pay. With them there is no such thing as peace. Constant vigilance day and night and war more than half the time is demanded of them by the citizens of the border.

Some of Their Exploits

Out of hundreds of extraordinary deeds of bravery two will give some idea of what the Texas Rangers have been doing in smoothing the paths in the Southwest for advancing civilization. In July, 1870, the rangers were making the last of many campaigns against the Comaches. Quanah was the new chief then, and a great warrior. He was living a few years ago, when he described the last battle in 1870 with the rangers as follows:

“Heap bunch of rangers rode out on the prairie, tied their horses to the saddle horns by their bridges and opened fire on us. My men fell fast. We fired and tried to kill horses. Then the rangers lay behind their dead horses and killed us like grass; we tried to rush them; twice we tried, and failed. After much time they did not fire so fast. We thought powder and bullets all gone Then, as we were going to charge again, they all stood up. They took off their hats and yelled. We were much locoed (deceived). At last we charged, but you rangers don’t fight like pale faces, but like devils. We killed thirty-four, but you killed us like grass. Comanches had heap more men in that battle than rangers had.”

Bill Cook gang

Several years ago the rangers accomplished the capture of the famous band of outlaws and cutthroats known as the Bill Cook gang. For eleven years that gang had murdered, robbed, pillaged and had wrecked railroad trains and burned the homes of settlers. Detectives, sheriff’s posses and bands of outraged farmers and cowboys had pursued the bandits again and again. The Cook gang had always fought shy of Texas, especially localities where remnants of rangers were yet in force. Captain Watson, formerly of Company D of the rangers, tells of the final capture of the terrifying gang in the following words:

“One evening we received a telegram worded: ‘Bring boys and saddles; hot work. This came from Bellevue, Texas, on the Fort Worth and Denver road, 290 miles southeast of Amarillo. We packed up our saddles, put our guns in good order and took the train. We left the train just before reaching our destination, so as to prevent suspicion of our movements.”

“The man that sent the call for help met us, and said that he had located out in the country a bunch of men that had been acting strangely. We waited till dark, and sent to the livery stable for horses. Then we rode off toward the place where the strangers were.”

“We lay near the house until daylight, and captured one of the desperadoes, who was acting as sentinel. He not wish to go with us to the house, as he said there was to be a tremendous fight; so we tied him to a tree and advanced. The outlaws did not know we were near until we rapped on the door and asked them to come out and see how pretty the weather was. Their reply to this polite invitation was several shots through the door. We then opened fire, and those within replied. Finally a ball from one of our guns struck the magazine of a Winchester in the hands of one of the outlaws, and a piece pf the broken magazine cut a deep gash in the outlaw’s chin. They all then retreated upstairs, and kept up the firing. We broke in the door and fired into the room above through the ceiling, when the outlaws decided it was time to ring down the curtain, and surrender. They came down stairs with their empty hands in front of them and we gave each of them a pair of bracelets. It was four out of Bill Cook’s gang of six, and we had six men on our side. Among those captured was ‘Skeeter,’ Cook’s right bower. I keep as a memento of the affair Skeeter’s leather coat, a pair of huge spurs taken from the dead body of one of the outlaws, and Cook’s belt of cartridges found in the house, though Cook himself was absent and thus escaped capture.”


Faith and Courage: A Novel of Colonial America Inspired by real people and actual events, the family saga of colonial America continues with Ambrose Dixon’s family. Faith and Courage presents the religious persecution of Quakers in Pre-Revolutionary War days of America intertwined with a love story.

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She cohost the Podcast: Alabama Grist Mill and developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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