Abraham P. Nasatir has devoted a full, rich scholarly career to borderland history. This book makes still another contribution to that field.

The work is in two parts. In the first section Nasatir narrates the course of Spanish military and naval activities on the Mississippi, 1792-1796. In the second he has translated and annotated four documents written by participants in the events of the period. The first of these is the diary of Pedro Rousseau, who commanded a squadron of Spanish galleys plying the Mississippi from Natchez to New Madrid in late winter and early spring 1793. The second is the diary of Captain Juan Barnó y Ferrúsola of the Spanish galiot, La Flecha, sailing up river from Natchez to New Madrid and back to Nogales, 1793-1794. Governor Gayoso de Lemos’ long account of his expedition to the Illinois country, April-December 1795, and his report concerning Spanish outposts on the northern reaches of the Mississippi conclude this section.

All of these have been published before. Lawrence Kinnaird translated the first in the American Historical Review in 1945; Jack D. L. Holmes published the other three in Spanish in his Documentos inéditos para la historia de Luisiana, 1792-1810. Why do them again? Nasatir argues that Kinnaird was not literal enough in his translation of the Rousseau diary, and that Holmes left out lines or corrected the original texts. Thus he has set the record scrupulously straight with his exact, literal translations and copious annotations. For Nasatir history is objective reality, the narrative record of what actually happened. In this work his careful, meticulous scholarship, which at times borders on the pedantic, comes close to achieving his conception of the historian’s craft.

Unfortunately—and this is a subjective judgment—the documents hardly seem worth Nasatir’s efforts. All hut the short Gayoso report are dull and tedious. Rousseau and Barnó y Ferrásola were more concerned with the weather (as well they might be) than with the overall course of events on the Mississippi. Gayoso’s diary is a bit more interesting, especially his description of St. Louis, but in the end it is only Nasatir’s straightforward narrative introduction which rescues the documents.

Two minor criticisms seem warranted. The texts of both the narrative and the diaries mention a host of geographical sites. Without maps it is almost impossible to follow the movement of the various Spanish fleets, even with the author’s long footnoted descriptions. Second, drawings of the different types of Spanish ships and launches on the Mississippi would have better fulfilled the expectations explicit in the title of the book. The only illustration is of Gayoso’s galiot of 1798. In sum, while Nasatir’s narrative and translations do not provide vital new perspectives, they correct old errors concerning Spanish activities on the Mississippi at the end of the eighteenth century.