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Texas Rangers

"A Ranger is an officer who is able to handle any given situation without definite instructions from his commanding officer or higher authority. This ability must be proven before a man becomes a Ranger."

Ranger Captain Bob Crowder

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The Texas Rangers had their genesis in the 1820's as Stephen F. Austin's "Ranging Companies" of Indian fighters. On August 5, 1823, on the back of a proclamation issued by Land Commissioner Baron de Bastrop, Austin wrote that he would "...employ ten men...to act as rangers for the common defense...the wages I will give said ten men is fifteen dollars a month payable in property..."

These men, not soldier, not even militia, "ranged" the area of Austin's colony, protecting settlers from Indians. When no threat seemed evident, the men returned to their families and land. The Rangers very early earned the hall mark that would follow them throughout the future-they were always out numbered. As time passed and the reputation of the Rangers spread, this mystique became a source of strength.

A frequently repeated story featuring the revered Ranger Captain W.J. McDonald goes along way toward describing this Ranger mystique. The often cited "One Riot, One Ranger" appears to be based on several statements attributed to Captain McDonald by Albert Bigelow Paine in his classic book, Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger. When sent to Dallas to prevent a scheduled prize-fight, McDonald supposedly was greeted at the train station by the city's anxious mayor, who asked: "Where are the others?"

To that, McDonald is said to have replied, "Hell! ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!"

And on the title page of Paine's 1909 book on McDonald are 19 words labeled as Captain McDonald's creed: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin." Those words have evolved into the Ranger creed.

Fighting only a handful at a time against foes that numbered in the scores or hundreds, Rangers adopted a policy that would hold them in good stead for a century of frontier fighting. Always attack; audacity nearly always pays off.

One of the best known Rangers was John S. "Rip" Ford, whose nickname stood for "Rest in Peace." Ford--medical doctor, newspaper editor, and politician--lived up to his nickname in 1859, when Juan Nepomuceno Cortina took over the border city of Brownsville. The bandit had in mind retaking, in the name of Mexico, all of Texas below the Nueces River.

The Texas government saw it differently, and dispatched Ford and a company of Rangers to mitigate the matter. Cortina was defeated in a running fight that cost the lives of 151 of his men and 80 to 90 Texas citizens, including some Rangers.

In his memoirs, Ford later described the kind of men who served under him as Rangers:

"A large proportion...were unmarried. A few of them drank intoxicating liquors. Still, it was a company of sober and brave men. They knew their duty and they did it. While in a town they made no braggadocio demonstration. They did not gallop through the streets, shoot, and yell. They had a specie of moral discipline which developed moral courage. They did right because it was right."

Each time a small band of Rangers vanquished a larger opponent, the legend of the Rangers grew, making it that much easier the next time for Rangers to gain a crucial morale edge over their enemies.

The legends of Ranger Captains Jack Hays, Samuel Walker, Ben McCulloch, "Rip" Ford, Bigfoot Walker, and Leander McNelly set continually higher standards that both raised the espirit de corps of the Rangers and elevated the fear with which their enemies regarded them. The Rangers were known for a ruthlessness that bordered on racism against their Indian and Mexican enemies. An outnumbered force like the Rangers could not sit defensively; it had to pursue, dominate, subdue, and set examples. Among the Mexicans the Rangers became known as "Los Diablos Tejanos"- The Texas Devils. But this fearsome reputation often allowed the Ranger to accomplish his task with force of will alone, with few men and without recourse to bloodshed.

Following the Civil War this tradition was carried on as well against their fellow Texans-the Rangers closed down the wild frontier. Their assignment was to first restore order, and then restore the law. This period saw the Rangers use the ley de fuga: Many criminals in this chaotic period were recorded as "killed trying to escape" or "shot while resisting arrest."

Entering the 20th century, the Rangers were moving more and more into the status of state police rather than their former role as state army, cavalry, police and peace keepers. By the end of the 23rd century the Rangers retained their late 20th century organization: Ranger Companies were defined by geographical regions, each commanded by a Captain with the assistance of an Lieutenant, with a total of perhaps 20 privates. A colony might have more than one company depending upon its area, with the senior Ranger officer for a planet holding the rank of Major.

The only changes to their role of peace officers was introduced immediately after an abortive Mexican coup in 2230. The successful civilian defense of Austin convinced the Texas military of their vulnerability to Mexican attack and harassment. A special company of Rangers was authorized and trained with help from America. This unit was organized around the American concept of Green Beret A-Teams and B-Teams. Each Team was composed of a lieutenant and 3-4 privates, and was directly under the command of a Ranger Captain.

The teams were specialists in training civilian or paramilitary forces in insurgency techniques. The idea behind this unit was in the event of a Mexican or American occupation of Texas, Ranger Company G would blend into the civilian population, training insurgent cells and carrying out an effective guerrilla war.

By 2278, Company G had been downsized and was trained exclusively as a special forces strike team. Two to three teams of Company G exist and are used as hostage rescue and commando forces by the Texas government.


This page was completed with material from GDW's "Ranger" and

Silver Stars and Sixguns: the Texas Rangers



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Last modified: Sunday, March 12, 2000 06:11 PM