Showing posts with label Texas Rangers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas Rangers. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Texas A & M ponders removal of the statue of its 7th president: Please don't throw Sul Ross into the ashcan of history

Texas A & M University is thinking about removing the statue of Sul Ross (Lawrence Sullivan Ross) from its campus. Ross served as the university's seventh president from1891 until 1898. What did Sul do to deserve having his statue pulled down?

Well, according to his critics, Sul was a naughty boy.  Although he was twice elected Governor of Texas and did a stellar job as president of Texas A & M, he also served in the Texas Rangers and was a general in the Confederate Army.

Let's look at Sul Ross's record with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have been discredited in recent years as brutal racists towards Mexicans and Native Americans. Indeed, the Rangers shocked fellow Union troops during the Mexican War by their ruthlessness.  In fact, General Zachary Taylor wrote his superiors and asked them not to send him any more Texas units.

But Ross didn't participate in the Mexican War. As a Texas Ranger, he fought the Comanche Indians. He first rode with the Rangers in 1858 when he was on a summer break from college. Quite a summer internship, wouldn't you say?

After graduating, Ross went back to the Rangers. In December 1860, he led an attack on a Comanche camp on the Pease River in West Texas. The battle was a small affair, but it became famous for the fact that the Rangers rescued Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been kidnapped by the Comanches in 1836 when she was a child.

By the time the Rangers repatriated Parker twenty-four years later, she had become the wife of  Peta Nocona, a renowned Comanche warrior. She was also the mother of Quanah Parker, who grew up to be the last Comanche war chief.

 Cynthia lived ten years after being rescued by the Rangers. According to legend, she starved herself to death. After almost a quarter-century with the Comanche, Cynthia felt no familial affection for the Parker family. She was, in truth, a Comanche.

Before dumping Sul Ross into the dustbin of history, we should remember that as a Ranger, he was part of a long blood feud between the Comanches and the Texans that lasted two generations. No matter what they are teaching at Brown University, the Comanche were not gentle vegans who lived in unity with nature and harmed no living thing.

They were, in fact, the Lords of the Plains (as their license plates proclaim to this day). They ranged from southeastern Colorado down through Texas and into Mexico. They typically raided Mexican and Texas settlements during the full moons of summer when there was grass for their horses, and their attacks included murder, torture, rape, and kidnapping--mainly women and children.

Why were the Comanche in the kidnapping business? Two reasons. First, they often held their captives for ransom, so they had an economic rationale for stealing white children and women. Second, the Comanche adopted some kidnapped children into their tribe, thus augmenting their numbers.

As a fighting force in the nineteenth century, the Comanche were virtually unbeatable. In fact, historian Walter Prescott Webb argued that the Comanche would never have been subdued had Samnual Colt not invented his famous six-shooter. Only the Colt revolver changed the balance of power between the Comanches and their chief foes, the Texas Rangers.

So as we scrutinize the life of Sul Ross, let us also ponder that long period in nineteenth-century Texas history when ruthless Texas Rangers fought the ruthless Comanche on the Great Plains. When Ross was a young man, Texans and the Comanche were in a fight to the death. It was "kill or be killed."

In my view, the statue of Sul Ross should remain on the Texas A & M campus to serve as a reminder of a time when the inhabitants of Texas--both Anglos and Natives--were not thinking about diversity and inclusion. Instead, white Texans and Native Americans were chiefly concerned with staying alive.

Cynthia Ann Parker