The Secret War for Texas.
By Stuart Reid. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007. 235 pp. Acknowledgements, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-58544-565-3 (1-58544-565-7) cloth Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest http://www.tamu.edu/upress/
What if the Texas Revolution were not quite the straightforward contest between embattled American farmers and Mexican oppressors that has come down to us in myth?
What if the British plotted for a dozen years to keep Texas out of U.S. hands?
What if a Scottish doctor by the name of James Grant, an elusive figure in the Texas Revolution, had really been a British agent (perhaps one of several) in Mexico to thwart U.S. dreams of building a nation from sea to sea?
What if Grant’s expedition to Matamoros had stopped Santa Anna’s drive into Texas?
What if Grant’s aim in leading the Texan fighters to Matamoros was to turn the revolution away from dependence on the U.S. and toward a greater dependence on the Federalists of northern Mexico.
What if the democratic-minded Mexican Federalists (and others) had formed a Confederacy of the Northern Mexican States & Texas (or the Republic of Greater Texas, or whatever) that covered the whole of what eventually would become the southwestern U.S. as well as northern Mexico?
What if that confederacy happened to encompass most of Mexico’s rich silver mining districts (where Grant happened to own large properties)—not to mention a major port at the mouth of the Rio Grande?
Stuart Reid has masterfully fleshed out the surprising answers to these questions in The Secret War for Texas, a well-documented, well-written book that reads like an espionage thriller. As Grant’s great-great-great grandson, he had access to family papers. As a Scot, he drew on Colonial and Foreign office references in the UK National Archives--plus many Texas and U.S. sources. Reid is a historical consultant to the National Trust for Scotland for the Culloden Moor Memorial Project.
The Secret War for Texas places the Texas Revolution into the context of the “great game,” as Reid puts it, being played out in the first half of the nineteenth century between Washington and London over mastery of the North American continent.
Reid will be a speaker at the San Jacinto Symposium, “Expanding the Horizons of Texas History,” on Saturday, April 19, 2008. The day-long meeting will be held at the University of Houston’s Hilton Hotel & Conference Center. More information is available at www.friendsofsanjacinto.org
Review by Barbara Eaves, an avocational historian on the San Jacinto Symposium planning committee, serves on the Harris County Historical Commission. She also is a director of Houston History magazine.