Description

    H[enderson King] Yoakum. History of Texas, From Its First Settlement in 1685 to Its Annexation to the United States in 1846. New York: Redfield, 1856. Second issue. Two 8vo. volumes, with an extended appendix. 482, plus 11pp. of ads; 576pp. Three maps (2 folding). Folding facsimile. Four plates. Index. Full calf bindings. Gilt-stamped leather labels to spine: title on red leather label, author and volume number on black. Marbled endpapers. Binding on both volumes is scarred and rubbed; leather worn away completely at some extremities. Leather chipped at head of volume two. Pages have browned considerably in volume one; pages in volume two are heavily foxed. Dampstaining to fore-edge of volume one, with stains intruding onto pages. Wear to hinges of both volumes, not affecting overall soundness. All plates and maps present, but the folding map from volume one has become detached and is laid in. Good condition.

    "This was the first scholarly history of Texas written after annexation and remains one of the most important sources on Texas colonization, revolution, and republic. Although severely censured by its critics, most historians agree as to its merits. George P. Garrison praised its 'high degree of scholarship and research ... still recognized as one of the prime authorities.' Hubert H. Bancroft thought it 'one of the best, if not the best, history of Texas.' C. W. Raines, after a review of its faults, called it 'the accepted standard of authority of today.' Herbert Gambrell called Yoakum 'the first Texas historian to take his task seriously.'"

    Henderson King Yoakum (1810-1856), a West Point graduate and lawyer, moved to Texas from Tennessee in 1845, where he settled near the home of Sam Houston who became a life-long friend and confidant. At the outbreak of the Mexican War, he volunteered as a private under Jack Hays and eventually served as an officer under James Gillaspie. Around 1850 he began writing his History of Texas, his only published writing, and the two volume set was published by Redfield in 1855. A fire destroyed much of the first issue, and only a few sets survive with the publication date 1855.

    Volume one covers Texas history through 1835, and as Yoakum had little access to sources from archival collections regarding the period prior to the establishment of Austin's colony, his recounting of this period is described by Jenkins as "ill-proportioned, incomplete, and generally unsatisfactory. In the appendices to this volume, however, he includes the very valuable 'Memoir of Colonel Ellis P. Bean,' which is one of the most important resources on Texas history during the early part of the 19th century."

    In the second volume, covering the period of the revolution and republic, "its value lies [...] in those areas where [Yoakum] is relying upon primary source materials. Yoakum had the use of materials, many no longer extant, provided to him by Sam Houston, Thomas J. Rusk, Haden Edwards, Jesse Grimes, John Forbes, John Henry Brown, Charles Gayarre, and numerous others." The appendix contains many letters of Sam Houston, never before published.

    Upon publication, History of Texas was criticized for a number of historical inaccuracies and for its overall lack of literary style. Many condemned the book for being rather too biased in favor of Yoakum's close friend Sam Houston. Ashbel Smith called it "hasty, prejudiced and ignorant." But according to Jenkins, "[i]n spite of its detractors, Yoakum's history remains a necessary source. Modern historians rally to its support, with reservations. [...] Eugene Barker called the work 'the first history of Texas to meet the standards of professional historians. ... His book is still indispensable to a study of the period it covers.'"

    References: Basic Texas Books 224 (A).


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