Texas Rangers, The [Laws A8]
DESCRIPTION: The singer has left family and girlfriend to join a troop that finds itself fighting Indians. Many of the whites are killed; the singer describes the fight and what he left behind.
EARLIEST DATE: 1874
KEYWORDS: battle Indians(Am.) warning army Civilwar fight violence war mother sister soldier
July 21, 1861 - First battle of Bull Run/Manasses fought between the Union army of McDowell and the Confederates under Johnston and Beauregard. (There was a second Bull Run battle a year later, but "Come All Ye Southern Soldiers" probably refers to this one, since it's the soldier's first battle)
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,NW,Ro,SE,So) Canada(Newf,Ont)
REFERENCES (36 citations):
Laws A8, "The Texas Rangers" (sample text in NAB, pp. 37-38)
Belden, pp. 336-339, "Texas Rangers" (3 texts plus plus mention of 5 more, 1 tune)
Randolph 177, "The Texas Rangers" (3 texts plus 2 fragments, 2 tunes)
AbrahamsRiddle, pp. 14-15, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Moore-Southwest 150, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard, #155, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bronner-Eskin1 34, "Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Eddy 130, "Come, All Ye Roving Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering 95, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text plus mention of 2 more)
Stout 84, p. 106, "The Texas Rangers" (1 fragment)
FSCatskills 20, "The Texas Rangers" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Flanders-NewGreen, pp. 226-228, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text plus 1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Leach-Labrador 105, "Western Ranger" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 138-139, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
McNeil-SFB1, pp.44-46, "Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 234, "The Texas Ranger" (2 texts plus mention of 2 more; the "B" text is a Civil War adaption)
BrownSchinhanIV 234, "The Textbook Ranger" (1 excerpt, 1 tune)
Hudson 96, pp. 227-228, "The Texas Cowboy" (1 text)
Morris, #8, "Longstreet's Ranger" (1 text, 1 tune); #17, "The Texas Rangers" (2 text, tune referenced)
Fuson, pp. 191-192, "The Roving Ranger" (1 text)
Brewster 73, "The Texas Ranger" (1 text, 1 tune)
SharpAp 179, "Come all ye Southern Soldiers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Thomas-Makin', p. 45, (no title) (1 text)
Lomax-Singing, pp. 245-247, "Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FSNA 169, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Tinsley, pp. 62-67, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 134-135, "Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ohrlin-HBT 53, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text, 1 tune)
LPound-ABS, 73, pp. 163-164, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text)
Welsch, pp. 31-32, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text)
JHCox 63, "War Song" (1 text)
Cohen-AFS2, pp. 518-519, "Remember the Alamo" (1 text plus a Wehman broadside)
Darling-NAS, pp. 161-162, "The Texas Rangers" (1 text)
Silber-FSWB, p. 274, "Texas Rangers" (1 text)
Saffel-CowboyP, pp. 180-181, "Texas Rangers" (1 text)
DT 363, TEXRANG*
Cartwright Brothers, "Texas Ranger" (Victor V-40198, 1930; Montgomery Ward M-4460, 1934; rec. 1929; on AuthCowboys, WhenIWas1)
Leo Gooley, "The Texas Rangers" (on ONEFowke01)
Paul Joines, "Roving Ranger" (on Persis1)
Sloan Matthews, "The Texas Rangers" (AFS, 1940s; on LC28)
Harry "Mac" McClintock, "The Texas Rangers" (Victor 21487, 1928)
Lester McFarland & Robert Gardner, "The Texas Rangers" (Vocalion 5177/Brunswick 168 [as Robert Gardner], 1927)
New Lost City Ramblers, "Texas Rangers" (on NLCR02)
Ernest Stoneman, "The Texas Ranger" (OKeh 45054, 1926); Ernest Stoneman [and Eddie Stoneman], "Texas Ranger" (Vocalion 026320)
cf. "Come All Ye Southern Soldiers" (words, structure, plot)
The Texas Soldier
NOTES: Laws lists this as a native American ballad, and in its current form, it certainly is. Belden and others, however, note many similarities to British ballads; it is likely an extensive reworking of some earlier piece. - RBW
Digital Tradition notes, "Probably a rewrite of a Civil War song." Bingo; it's almost word-for-word identical to "Come All Ye Southern Soldiers," with only names, places and enemies changed. - PJS
This particular case is rather a conundrum. Paul Stamler supplies this description of "Come All Ye Southern Soldiers," known primarily from collections by Sharp in the North Carolina mountains: "Singer joins the 'jolly band' to fight for the South; their captain warns that before they reach Manassas they'll have to fight. Singer hears the Yankees coming and fears for his life; the battle is bloody and several of his comrades are lost. Singer invokes mothers, sisters, and sweethearts, and warns prospective soldiers that 'I'll tell you by experience you'd better stay at home.'"
That this is recensionally different from "Texas Rangers" is clear; I would normally agree with Paul in splitting the two. Laws, however, explicitly lumps them, and throws in Morris's "Longstreet's Rangers" (another song I would split if it were just me) and of course Roud lumps them also. Given how rare "Southern Soldiers" and "Longstreet's Rangers" are, I decided to do the same, although I would explicitly note that these texts are deliberate rewrites (Morris, for instance, splits "Longstreet's Rangers" from his two "Texas Rangers" versions).
To add to the fun, Welsch, p. 31, says of this that it is "Said to be the first important ballad of the Far West, 'Texas Rangers' became current about the time of the Battle of the Alamo (March 6, 1836) and made a great impression upon the whole country." But that's based on a Lomax story, so its reliability is dubious.
The "Longstreet's Rangers" version is especially interesting. It is clearly another Civil War version; not only does it mention "Longstreet" (Lt. General James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee's second-in-command for most of the time Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia), but it also says that the troops marched "from the Rappahannock Unto the Rapidan." This clearly places the song in the Civil War, probably in the period from late 1862 (Battle of Fredericksburg, when Ambrose Burnside failed to cross the Rappahannock) to early 1864 (Battle of the Wilderness, when Lee was finally forced from the Rapidan/Rappahannock region). Both the Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of the Wilderness were fought between the Rapidan and the Rappahannock, and there were countless raids in the region as well.
But there are a number of problems with this text (which Morris says originated in Ohio). One is the mention of "Longstreet's Rangers" itself. "Rangers," in a Civil War context, surely means cavalry (very possibly irregular cavalry), and James Longstreet served entirely with infantry, from the time he commanded a brigade at First Bull Run to the time he surrendered his corps at Appomattox. Nor did he raise a unit of rangers; he went directly from being a Union paymaster to being a Confederate Brigadier (Boatner, p. 490).
So what unit might be meant? The first thing that came to my mind was "Mosby's Rangers." It scans like, and has the same vowels as, "Longstreet's Rangers" -- and "Mosby's Rangers" were a real unit, which fought on the Virginia front; John S. Mosby, a former lawyer, organized a group of partisans who came together to raid, then vanished back to their home (HTIECivilWar, p. 514). They were so effective that a part of Virginia came to be called "Mosby's Confederacy" (Boatner, p. 571), and fought off repeated attempts to destroy them -- they fought so well that Grant authorized the use of terror tactics to suppress them (HTIECivilWar, p. 514), but it didn't work. (It is ironic to note that Mosby and Grant later became friends, and Mosby supported Grant for President). Fans of Mosby have claimed that he prolonged the war by months by siphoning off so many troops who would otherwise have been able to attack Lee (Boatner, p. 571).
The problem with the Mosby theory is that Mosby operated mostly in the Loudoun Valley area (Boatner, p. 571), far from the Rappahannock front; it's actually north and west of Washington, D.C., in the area around Leesburg. His command was not organized until January 1863, and although it had some part in the Gettysburg campaign, it was not involved in the later stages (DAB, volume VII, p. 272; entry on John Singleton Mosby); its activities in that year are not a good fit for the battle in the song.
Another possibility is that the troops were called "Longstreet's Rangers" because, although they were infantry, they were actual Texas troops fighting in Longstreet's corps. Possibly the best single unit in Lee's army was the so-called "Texas Brigade," whose most famous commander was John Bell Hood. (McPherson, pp. 118-119, tells how Hood's division, "perhaps the hardest fighting outfit in the Army of Northern Virginia," was forced to halt their first decent meal in three days to save the day at Antietam. Save the day they did -- and were almost destroyed in the process; the First Texas is thought to have taken 80% casualties in the fight). The Texans also came close to winning the Battle of Gettysburg on the second day, and they were at the heart of Longstreet's great breakthrough at Chickamauga. And they were part of Longstreet's Corps from the day that unit was created.
Finally, John D. Imboden's cavalry brigade was composed mostly of rangers -- one of its regiments was, in fact, the Virginia Partisan Rangers, Imboden's own organization (Sears, p. 57). Unlike Mosby's rangers, it did go into Pennsylvania -- but it didn't fight much, and it's hard to see how "Imboden" could have been turned into "Longstreet." If this is in fact the unit involved, it might make more sense to refer to its action during Jubal A. Early's 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign (Boatner, p. 423).
None of these fits very well with the description of the battle in the song, which is said to have lasted nine hours. Cavalry fights tend to be short. The one major exception was the Battle of Brandy Station (June 9, 1863), fought at a time when the Confederate army was starting the move north that would end at the Battle of Gettysburg. Some units were in action for close to twelve hours; the battle itself lasted for sixteen (Sears, p. 72)
To sum up, we have no good fit for the unit of this song. Mosby's Rangers, Imboden's rangers, and the Texans weren't at Brandy Station; no partisan battle lasted nine hours; and the Texans weren't infantry. But they all might have contributed parts. Which is just what one would expect from an adaption of an older song. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Boatner: Mark M. Boatner III, The Civil War Dictionary, 1959 (there are many editions of this very popular work; mine is a Knopf hardcover)
- DAB: Dumas Malone, editor, Dictionary of American Biography, originally published in 20 volumes plus later supplementary volumes; I use the 1961 Charles Scribner's Sons edition with minor corrections which combined the original 20 volumes into 10
- HTIECivilWar: Patricia L. Faust, editor, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Harper & Row, 1986 (I use the 1991 Harper Collins edition)
- McPherson: James M. McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom (The Oxford History of the United States: The Civil War Era), Oxford, 1988
- Sears: Stephen W. Sears, Gettysburg, Houghton Mifflin, 2003
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