Monday, December 7, 2020

Booknotes: The Old Army in Texas, Second Edition

New Arrival:
The Old Army in Texas: A Research Guide to the U.S. Army in Nineteenth Century Texas, 2nd Edition by Thomas T. Smith (TSHA, 2020).

I am always on the watch for Trans-Mississippi reference books, but I nevertheless missed the 2000 publication of the first edition of Thomas Smith's The Old Army in Texas and didn't even know of its existence until news of an upcoming second edition arrived. Also published by the Texas State Historical Association, The Old Army in Texas: A Research Guide to the U.S. Army in Nineteenth Century Texas, 2nd Edition is "a comprehensive and authoritative single-source reference for the activities of the regular army in the Lone Star State during the nineteenth century."

The publisher's description offers a nice rundown of its contents:
"Beginning with a series of maps that sketch the evolution of fort locations on the frontier, Smith furnishes an overview with his introductory essay. The second part of this guide lists the departmental commanders, the location of the military headquarters, and the changes in the administrative organization and military titles for Texas. Part III provides a dictionary of 223 posts, forts, and camps in the state. The fourth part gives a year by year snapshot of total army strength in the state, the regiments assigned, and the garrisons and commanders of each major fort and camp. Supplying the only such synopsis of its kind, the guide's Part V offers a chronological description of 224 U.S. Army combat actions in the Indian Wars with vivid details of each engagement. The 900 entries in the selected bibliography of Part VI are divided topically into sections on biographical sources and regimental histories, histories of forts, garrison life, civil-military relations, the Mexican War, and frontier operations."

I obviously don't have a copy of the first edition to make any kind of direct comparison, but the preface notes the content of the second edition is the beneficiary of large-scale source digitization projects of the past two decades and the bibliography is greatly enhanced. Presumably, new and revised information from those sources is integrated throughout the text. As a broad historical survey of the period, the new edition still contains the author's SHQ journal article "U.S. Army Combat Operations in the Indian Wars of Texas, 1849-1881."

"(I)llustrated with a number of maps and rare photographs of the U.S. Army in nineteenth century Texas," Thomas Smith's The Old Army in Texas remains a strong reference tool for both specialists and avocational students "interested in Texas history, especially military history and local and regional studies."

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