Professor H.W. Brands has utilized excellent resources to support the accuracy of the content in Lone Star Nation, and he has provided detailed references and quotations for each segment of his story. I
enjoyed reacquainting myself with some historical facts that, once known, have not been used for
a while, and I enjoyed learning new detail about historical persons either unknown to me or faintly
familiar from college history courses.
The author's style presents an impediment to a high ranking for the book. First, Brands
introduces the reader to the land mass that comprises Texas in a way that appears similar to the
way Michener has opened many of his books. Brands, however, fails to provide the same smooth,
flowing descriptions as does Michener, and the overall effect falls short of his purpose of
providing an exciting beginning to his story. Second, Brands fails to focus the story on the words
in the title of his book. Brands organizes his tale of Texas chronologically, and develops the
settlement of the land in great detail. However, he fails to focus on any specifics of the "ragged"
army or the battles that he refers to in his title. He also fails to focus on battles that made a
difference in the winning of independence, or how America was changed by the efforts of these
individuals. Third, the extreme use of detail and lack of organization within the chronological
presentation results in a lack of continuity. It often appears that the author feels it necessary to
use every piece of research material he has uncovered, whether applicable to the book's focus or
not, rather than focus on the story he said he was telling in his book's title. There is nothing
wrong with using detail; however, the minute detail and switching back and forth between the
characters does not add to the readability of the book. Fourth, the characters are not memorable.
Even in a nonfiction presentation, the characters can be described in ways to implant a lasting
memory in the reader's mind. That is not the situation with this book. Sam Houston, Stephen
Austin, and all the historical figures are presented in such a straight forward way that readers will
have difficulty recalling any of them.
A lack of meaningful focus and lack of cohesion are two major weaknesses of the book. Brands
appears to be trying to introduce too much material in a book that has been mistitled. If the
book's title had indicated the book was a story of the development and settlement of Texas, the
title would have been truer to what the reader uncovered on each page. If the story were really a
story of a "ragged army" that "changed America", then the focus should have been (and could
have been) on the army and what changes occurred. Improved descriptions of the various
personalities could have set the stage beautifully for the impact on America (rather than the
region) and on what Brands was trying to convey.
This book will probably have limited regional appeal. Readers who are interested in Texas or
specific historically important individuals connected with the development of the state will find the
book worthwhile. Readers who are interested in attitudes of some of the presidents during the
time of the Texas settlement and annexation may also find the book interesting. The book may
also be of value to college students taking a course in Texas history. For the general reader with
interest in our nation's history and development, however, the book will be a tedious read and will
not be remembered as organized, nor will the reading experience be memorable.