The Texas Revolution is one of the most interesting but also dramatic pages in the US history. There is a considerable amount of literature on the revolution. However, the majority of such literature has a greater focus on Texians rather than on Mexicans. Stephen Hardin in his book Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution attempts to tell the story in an objective manner. His book represents a comprehensive overview of the Texas Revolution. The author starts from September 1835 and goes through till the end of the revolution.
Hardin begins the first chapter with the description of the battle of Gonsalez. First, the author describes the negotiation process between Texian and Mexican camps. Hardin introduces Doctor Launcelot Smither from Gonzales, who tried to prevent the bloodshed. Dr. Smither met Castaneda, who claimed that he had not wished to fight settlers and wanted merely to talk to the commander of Texians (Hardin 9). Captain Caldwell assured Dr. Smither that Castaneda will have the communication he requested (Hardin 9). At the same time, Texians still were preparing for the battle. The Mexican camp also was making arrangements for the battle (Hardin 10). Mexicans had an impression that Texians broke their word because they came closer to the frontline. Therefore, Castaneda ordered to attack (Hardin 11). When the Mexican cavalry moved forward, Texians fell back to the riverside and fired, wounding one of the Mexican civilians (Hardin 11). Mexican cavalry was unable to penetrate the wood line and, thus, turned back. It was the beginning of the battle of Gonzalez. This battle, in its turn, marked the beginning of the Texas Revolution. Then, Castaneda sent Dr. Smither to the Texian camp. Upon his arrival at the Texian camp, Dr. Smither was arrested because Texians assumed that he might be spying for Mexicans.
In the second chapter, Hardin describes the battle of Concepcion. Hardin reveals that, after the battle of Gonzalez, Texians were in a better position compared to Mexicans (25). Mexicans experienced supply problems and shortage of manpower. Meanwhile, Texians elected Stephen Austin as their commander. Austin created Texian Army, which then moved towards Bexar. Since Texians experienced weapon shortage, they did their best to shoot as accurately as it was possible. Such shooting proved to be effective: Mexican ranks thinned quickly (Hardin 31). Mexicans attempted to strengthen their attack but could not move through the open field towards Texians because of shots coming from the latter (Hardin 32). Finally, demoralized Mexicans were forced to fall back (Hardin 33).
The following chapters are devoted to the siege of Bexar and the subsequent battles. Hardin continues to describe various arrangements in both camps and preparations for the battles. The author describes a small battle which is known as the Grass Fight. In the fourth chapter, Hardin introduces Erastus “Deaf” Smith, who was seemingly an “unlikely soldier” (78). On November 26, 1835, the “unlikely soldier” came to the Texian camp and told that he saw a train of horses and mules accompanied by Mexicans near Bexar. Texian soldiers fought for free and they wanted at least to get the loot. Therefore, it was decided that Colonel Bowie together with several soldiers will go for expedition. At the beginning, Texians were not going to attack. They intended to attack only in case of necessity. However, when Texians noticed Mexican soldiers near Bexar, they attacked. Mexicans attempted to counterattack but did not succeed. Despite this, occasional success spirit of Texians continued to worsen. At the beginning of December, Texian soldiers were ready to destroy their camp, leave the siege, and return into winter quarters (Hardin 77). Nevertheless, it was decided to stay and continue the siege. On December 5, Texians started storming Bexar. At the same time, Mexicans also experienced great hardships. On December 9, a Mexican commander General Cos asked officers to discuss the possibility of surrender (Hardin 89). The decision to surrender was taken. This five day battle was the bloodiest battle of the Texas Revolution: more than hundred Mexican soldiers were killed. Texians won.
Hardin impresses by his accurate descriptions of soldiers’ positions, weaponry, and tactics. The author comprehensively describes problems both camps experienced: lack of supplies, lack of weaponry, low moral of soldiers, disagreements within camps. In a word, Hardin goes beyond the description of purely strategic or tactical aspects. Another thing which impresses in Hardin’s books is the variety of primary sources he refers to. Thus, the author cites numerous letters of Texian commanders and officers. Furthermore, he attempts to outline the events of the Texas Revolution in an objective manner. In particular, Hardin consults not only American sources but also Mexican ones. He cites the positions of both camps. For instance, while describing the defeat of Mexicans in the battle of Concepcion, he draws attention to differences in perception of the battle in different camps. Texians reported that Mexicans were so stunned by their riffles that they ran from the battlefield very quickly. Texians claimed that Mexicans were desperate. However, General Filisola reported that soldiers who received “several bullets” were nevertheless brave and continued to counterattack Texians (Hardin 31).
Overall, one may observe that Hardin’s book offers very detailed descriptions of events which constitute the Texas Revolution. Hardin can be praised for maximum objectivity. He familiarizes the reader with the positions of both camps. He does not discuss whether belligerents fought for right or wrong ideas. He simply tells a story, but does it in an exciting manner.