Texas Ranger History: Rangers of the Republic of Texas
After the Revolution, "Texians" (as they were called) were more reliant on the Rangers than ever. The "Ranging men" organized by Moses Morrison and Stephen F. Austin in 1823, served as needed through the War of Independence. However, the end of the war brought an empty Texas treasury and the Texian Army was disbanded by 1838. Texas Rangers were often the only force protecting the frontiers of the new republic.
Ranger companies were called by various names: mounted volunteers, mounted gunmen, mounted riflemen, spies and minutemen. Although the names varied, these militia units were similar and performed the same function. These militiamen furnished their own equipment and subsistence. Their mission was to range the frontier, protecting settlers from Indian raids and lawlessness. Periods of service varied from a few days to several months, pay was poor and often consisted of promissory notes and next-to-worthless Republic of Texas paper money.
Surveying and Ranging
The new Republic needed surveyors to document and plat the uncharted land. The Texas Congress elected a surveyor for each county who appointed deputy surveyors.
Several Rangers and former Rangers were uniquely qualified to survey the land. Maj. George B. Erath had come to central Texas in the 1830s as a Texas Ranger and returned as a surveyor. Famous Capt. John Coffee "Jack" Hays, knew the southwest frontier well and surveyed enormous tracts during the 1840s.
Single-Shot Firearms Tactics
In the early days of the Republic, Texas Rangers were usually armed with muzzle-loading single-shot rifles and pistols. When met by a larger force, Rangers dismounted and fought as a unit from a defensible position.
Their main adversaries, the Comanches, were carried bows, arrows, lances, war clubs, and at extra horses. By changing horses, the Comanches could strike without warning and easily outrun the Rangers.
A favorite Comanche battle tactic was the feint: the leader sent a few warriors ahead of the main body as decoys to lure the Rangers into an ambush. They would wait until the Rangers were within range, then strike from concealment showering them with arrows.
A warrior could shoot several arrows in the time that it took a Ranger
to reload a single-shot weapon. Inexperienced Rangers often discharged
their weapons too soon, allowing the Comanches to ride close and fire
arrows before the Rangers could reload. To combat this tactic, experienced
Rangers adopted the tactic of firing in relays—one group
reloaded while the others fired.
Repeating Firearms Tactics
In May of 1844, Captain John Coffee "Jack" Hays acquired Colt Paterson five-shot revolvers and revolving rifles, some sources indicate these came from from the stores of the decommissioned Republic of Texas Navy. Colt had envisioned his revolver as a military sidearm for officers and a gentleman's pocket pistol. Aside from the Republic of Texas Navy, and some officers who used them in the Seminole War, there were few buyers for the delicate .36 caliber pistol and Colt went bankrupt.
In June of 1844, the Texas Rangers and the Comanche fought a pivotal battle that forever changed the history of Indian warfare in the West. After drilling his men in marksmanship, Hays fielded a company of 15 men who patrolled the area around Walker Creek northwest of San Antonio. They encountered a large raiding party. Instead of dismounting and finding a defensible location, the Rangers rode toward into the Comanches, attacking them on their flank.
Wave after wave of Comanche warriors attacked the Rangers. Each time the warriors were repulsed, suffering heavy casualties. The war chief was perplexed by the Rangers' ability to continue firing without reloading after each shot.
The five-shot revolver allowed the Rangers to fight an offensive war against the Comanche, tripling the firepower of each man by 300%. For the first time, a small detachment could successfully oppose a larger force.
Despite the advantages of the Colt revolver, it had many drawbacks. The pistol used a small powder charge firing a round ball of limited destructive potential. The weapon could not be reloaded in battle because it had to be disassembled in three pieces to reload. The first models had no loading levers to tamp down the powder charges. And it was impossible to repair a broken Paterson in the field.
An act passed of the Texas legislature dated June 12, 1837, authorized Ranger companies to employ members of "friendly" tribes -- usually including the Choctaw, Cherokee, Shawnee, and Delaware -- as scouts and spies. Detachments of Indians served alongside Anglo and Hispanic Ranger companies. Their knowledge of the land and fighting tactics of other tribes proved highly valuable to the Texans.
The Lipan Apaches and Tonkawas frequently accompanied Ranger companies
into the field. For the Lipan, an alliance with the Texans was important
in protecting them from their main enemy, the Comanches. Castro and Flacco,
Lipan chiefs, became valued leaders and captains of their own companies.
Apaches on a Scout
Placido, a Tonkawa chief, often served with the Rangers as a scout from
the days of the Republic through the 1850s, including at the battle of
Plum Creek in 1840. However, as the tribes relocated or were removed from
Texas, Indian involvement in the Rangers decreased.
Hispanos faced a major dilemma during and after the war for Texas Independence. Both Texas and Mexico demanded their allegiance. They were forced to choose between defending their homeland and defending those who shared the Mexican culture. Hispanics were sometimes forced to change loyalties for the protection of their families and livelihood. When Mexican General Adrian Woll invaded San Antonio in 1842, many families returned to Mexico with him. These strained relations between Anglos and Hispanics led to a decline in Hispanic membership in the Rangers.