cover image Unsettled Land: From Revolution to Republic, the Struggle for Texas

Unsettled Land: From Revolution to Republic, the Struggle for Texas

Sam W. Haynes. Basic, $35 (464p) ISBN 978-1-5416-4541-7

Historian Haynes (Unfinished Revolution) delivers an eye-opening if somewhat exaggerated revisionist history of the Texas revolution. Debunking myths and adding depth to the “familiar Texas story,” Haynes claims that before the Alamo, Tennessee congressman Davy Crockett was “famous simply for being famous.” Elsewhere, Haynes briskly recounts Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna’s 1836 defeat of the Alamo’s defenders—including Crockett, frontiersman Jim Bowie, and lawyer William Barret Travis—and pursuit of Sam Houston’s ragtag army of Anglo-Texans across southeast Texas. In Lynchburg, near the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River, Houston finally decided “to stand and fight,” scoring a lopsided victory that forced Santa Anna to recognize Texas independence. Throughout, Haynes convincingly chips away at nearly 200 years of hagiography that has elevated the role of white settlers in shaping Texas. He details how the displacement of the Cherokee and other eastern tribes affected Plains tribes, and delves into the role slavery played in colonial and republican Texas, though his claim that the Texas revolution was spurred in part by Anglo fears that the Mexican government would emancipate enslaved people in the Texian colonies overstates the available evidence. Still, this is a robust reconsideration of a crucial turning point in American history. (May)