To the Vast and Beautiful Land

By Light Townsend Cummins

Texas A&M University Press

$45, hardcover

“To the Vast and Beautiful Land” gathers 11 essays written by Light Townsend Cummins, a foremost authority on Texas and Louisiana during the Spanish colonial era, and traces the arc of the author’s career over a quarter of a century.

Each essay includes a new introduction linking the original article to current scholarship and forms the connective tissue for the volume. A new bibliography updates and supplements the sources cited in the essays.

From the “enduring community” of Anglo-American settlers in colonial Natchez to the Galvez family along the Gulf Coast and their participation in the American Revolution, Cummins shows that mercantile commerce and land acquisition went hand-in-hand as dual motivations for the migration of English speakers into Louisiana and Texas.

Mercantile trade dominated by Anglo-Americans increasingly tied the Mississippi valley and western Gulf Coast to the English–speaking ports of the Atlantic world, bridging two centuries and shifting it away from earlier French and Spanish commercial patterns.

As a result, Anglo-Americans moved to the region as residents and secured land from Spanish authorities, who often welcomed them with favorable settlement policies.

This steady flow of settlement set the stage for families such as the Austins — first Moses and later his son, Stephen, to take root and further “Anglocize” a colonial region.

Taken together, “To the Vast and Beautiful Land” makes a new contribution to the growing literature on the history of the Spanish borderlands in North America.

In the preface to his book, Cummins writes that the essays included were written between 1988 and 2015, and appeared in various academic journals and one book.

Cummins, who lives in Denton, is professor emeritus of history at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.

Between 2009 and 2012 he wrote or edited a dozen books, including “Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas,” and was appointed by the governor to serve as the state historian of Texas.

Small Boats and Daring Men

By Benjamin Armstrong

University of Oklahoma Press

$34.95, cloth

Two centuries before the daring exploits of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders captured the public imagination, the U.S Navy and Marine Corps were already engaged in similarly perilous missions: raiding pirate camps, attacking enemy ships in the dark of night, and striking enemy facilities and resources on shore.

In this account of those operations, subtitled “Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy,” Benjamin Armstrong includes the stores of some well-known and a number of unheralded heroes.

Even John Paul Jones, father of the American navy, saw such irregular operations as critical to naval warfare, Armstrong writes.

With his experience as a starting point, the author sets out to take irregular naval warfare out of the shadow of the blue water battles that dominate naval history.

This book, the first historical study of its kind, makes a compelling case for raiding and irregular naval warfare as a key element in the story of American sea power.

Beginning with the Continental Navy, “Small Boars and Daring Men” traces maritime missions through the wars of the early republic, from the coast of modern-day Libya to the rivers and inlets of the Chesapeake Bay.

At the same time, he examines the era’s conflicts with non-state enemies and threats to American peacetime interests along Pacific and Caribbean shores.

He brings a uniquely informed perspective to his subject. His work – with reference to original naval operational reports, sailors’ memoirs and diaries, and officers’ correspondence – is at once an exciting narrative of danger and combat at sea and a thoroughgoing analysis of how these events fit the concepts of American sea power.

A critical new look at the naval history of the Early American era, the book also raises fundamental questions for naval strategy in the twenty-first century.

Armstrong is Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is editor of “21st Century Mahan” and “21st Century Sims” and the author of numerous articles on naval history, national security and strategy.

Marie Beth Jones is a published author and freelance writer based in Angleton. Contact her at 979-849-5467 or

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