Paul Calore. The Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexican War: A Concise History. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2014. Maps. 188 pp. $24.99 (e-book), ISBN 978-1-4766-1485-4; $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-7864-7940-5.
Reviewed by Nick Roland (University of Texas Austin)
Published on H-War (October, 2015)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
As Paul Calore notes in his introduction, the United States’ conquest of northern Mexico is often overshadowed in American historical memory by the Civil War it helped spawn a mere thirteen years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This process of territorial conquest is often characterized by the shorthand term “Manifest Destiny,” a phrase that conveys a sense of inevitability. Careful students of history recognize that the shape and scope of Anglo-American territorial expansion between 1836 and 1848 in fact represent a series of highly contingent events. For instance, at least one historian argues that a different outcome in the closely contested election of 1844 might have blocked the US seizure of northern Mexico and prevented the American Civil War entirely. I posit that the sometimes tragicomic military campaigns of the Texas Revolution provide ready examples of the contingency principle as well. When one allows for counterfactuals it becomes apparent that the interconnected Texas Revolution and Mexican-American War are worthy of close examination in their own right. Calore aims to provide popular audiences with an accessible history of American expansion into Texas and beyond in this slim volume.
Calore’s account begins in 1820 with the efforts of Moses Austin to spearhead Anglo-American colonization in Texas. Internal politics in Texas and Mexico are described in some detail, especially the various intrigues and successive political regimes in Mexico. A straightforward account of the main military actions of the Texas Revolution follows. Calore then moves into the period of the Republic of Texas and the political battle over the annexation of Texas. The military campaigns of the war between the United States and Mexico are covered in the same concise manner as the Texas Revolution, including the US seizure of New Mexico and California. The book closes with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, and the departure of US forces from Mexico City in June of that year.
The book does some things well. Ample maps help the reader understand the military movements and territorial boundaries that were at stake. Another interesting section of the book is the ten-page epilogue, which contains biographical entries explaining the eventual fate of many of the major characters. Calore’s attention to internal Mexican politics also helps to make readers aware of exactly why Mexico’s hold on its northern provinces became so tenuous. On the whole, the style is purely narrative rather than analytical, and the book may serve as a starting point for readers who are unfamiliar with the Texas Revolution or the Mexican-American War.
Unfortunately the book is marred by a number of defects. The most obvious problem is that the work requires major editing. Calore’s diction is verbose to the point that the meaning of some passages becomes uncertain. Readers will also likely be irritated by the author’s apparently ethnocentric attitude toward the events of 1836-48. For instance, the californio uprising against the American occupiers of Los Angeles in September 1846 is explained as being driven by the inability of californios to contain “their pent-up Latin emotions” (p. 131). Overall, Calore comes off as an apologist for American imperialism and seems to blame the outbreak of the Mexican-American War on Mexico. In the same vein, Texian revolutionaries are described as being motivated simply by their reverence for states’ rights and constitutional government. Why they viewed greater autonomy for Texas as desirable is left unstated. A number of factual errors also appear, ranging from the description of Mexican soldiers as “Spanish,” to the assertion that the Texas Revolution lasted for three years, to the claim that Point Isabel is located “just over a hundred miles north of the Rio Grande” (pp. 73, 76, 95). (It is approximately ten miles from the mouth of the Rio Grande.) Similar errors appear elsewhere in the work.
Readers will find the notes to be scant, and, though the bibliography contains many of the standard works, the accumulated scholarship on the topic is not effectively distilled into Calore’s narrative. As a result, the work offers unfortunately little for the military historian. Calore does not attempt to analyze such issues as the American record of tactical success against Mexican numerical superiority during the Mexican-American War. Well-tread ground, such as the capabilities and limitations of Texian infantry and the superiority of Mexican mounted forces during the Texas Revolution, are also left untouched. Instead, Calore resurrects the myth of the superior American rifleman without mentioning any of the drawbacks of slow-loading rifles. The guerilla warfare aspect of the Mexican-American War is completely ignored. I cannot recommend this work to readers interested in serious scholarship on this significant period in American and Mexican history.
. Gary J. Kornblith, “Rethinking the Coming of the Civil War: A Counterfactual Exercise,” The Journal of American History 90 (June 2003): 76-103.
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Nick Roland. Review of Calore, Paul, The Texas Revolution and the U.S.-Mexican War: A Concise History.
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