The author has written a fascinating and scholarly history of the San Sabá mission and presidio, which were located in the area near the present town of Menard, Texas. In writing this history he chose a difficult task which required sifting through voluminous records, manuscripts, letters, and other historical materials.
This volume is worthy of the attention of both laymen and historians who are interested in the early history of the Texas area. For the layman the author summarizes the purposes of the mission as Christianizing the Indians, teaching them customs and habits and educating them in various trades and processes, whereby they would in time be able to manage their local affairs in a civilized manner. The nearby presidio was established for the purpose of aiding the mission priests, protecting the mission and its settlement from hostile Indians, and holding the frontier against aggressors. The historian will find the account of these efforts informative, written in detail, and adequately footnoted.
The friction and strife between the priests of the mission, led by Father Terreros, and Colonel Parrilla, commander of the presidio, is depicted vividly. The reader can readily visualize the tragedy being enacted when the priests insist on the mission’s being established across the river, almost three miles away from the presidio. This forced the presidio commander to split his meager forces in order to place a detachment at the mission, since the presidio was too far away to give defense when needed.
Although this volume has few shortcomings, some will bear mentioning. Some footnotes are too abbreviated and vague in reference, leaving the reader puzzled, until he goes back and checks the original citation. In the opinion of the reviewer, the author has been too liberal in his views as to the thoughts of long-deceased individuals. The lack of dates is confusing; the reviewer never did find a positive statement concerning the exact date on which the mission of San Sabá was attacked by the Comanches. In the description of the attack the author speaks of several hundred Comanche Indians and their allies. If there were that many Indians, why were some survivors of the attack able to escape?
While the above errors have been noted, the positive aspects of the book far exceed the few errors. Throughout the work are meaningful but finely woven trends of events which surrounded the meeting of the French, English, Indians, and Spanish in the San Sabá area. Details of garrison life in a presidio are fascinating and revealing. One can readily realize some of the frightening aspects of frontier life, understand the magnitude of some of the graft in the presidio system, and comprehend that this particular mission and presidio were doomed by events and pressures even before they were founded.
The author has done an excellent job in presenting, for our use, this very informative volume on the San Sabá mission and presidio. It is coherently written and contains a wealth of documentation.