- Hardcover: 326 pages
- Publisher: Texas State Historical Assn (June 30 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0876112378
- ISBN-13: 978-0876112373
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 703 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
Peg Leg: The Improbable Life of a Texas Hero, Thomas William Ward, 1807-1872 Hardcover – Jun 30 2009
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"Rich in high drama and exceptionally well written--one of the most compelling and forceful pieces of research I have read in years." --Jerry Thompson, Regents Professor of History, Texas A&M International University
About the Author
|5 star (0%)|
|4 star (0%)|
|3 star (0%)|
|2 star (0%)|
|1 star (0%)|
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Times were hard after Texas' war of independence and even harder for a man with one arm and one leg. But Pegleg was able to persevere and amass large holdings of land and distinguish himself in service to his country and his state. Politically some despised him for his integrity, and his loyalty to Sam Houston. Others despised him because of his obstinence in doing things the way he thought best and having little flexibility to accommodate other's point of view. He was proud and he was stubborn, both good qualities for a Texan of that era.
Good read if you are interested in history or politics. Politically things were the same then as they are now, which is to say wretched! Makes you realize some things have not changed much.
Humphrey, in his fascinating biography of "Peg Leg", brings to life the contributions of Ward to his adopted countries - the Republic of Texas, the United States and the Confederacy. Ward rose to national prominence and counted Sam Houston, Thomas J. Rusk and Anson Jones among his closest friends. Even so, his was not an enviable life. Following the additional loss of his right arm to cannon misfire in celebration of Texas' independence, Ward's physical injuries were largely overcome by sheer determination and perseverance. At the same time, the author reminds us that overcoming the odds of death by infection from these severe wounds was nothing short of miraculous. As Humphrey takes the reader through the complicated procedural and political maze of "Peg Leg's" administration of the General Land Office, Ward emerges as a man who made significant contributions to the Texian cause. Humphrey does a masterful job of separating facts from fiction - he diplomatically refers to the origins of several "legends" regarding Ward's escapades, which undoubtedly muddied the biographical waters for earlier historians. The author's coverage of the Archive War (a standoff between President Houston and Austin residents over the relocation of the national archives and land records in 1842), is a dramatic account of hardball Texas politics, and the resulting ruinous impact on the administration of land grants and patents for the citizens. One of the book's many strengths is Humphrey's ability to place the reader at the epicenter of the story, which at times is filled with intrigue, action and a heavy dose of political drama, culled from his masterful use of contemporary public accounts and the voluminous private letters of Ward's family.
Yet those same letters and documents revealed another side of Ward and his life after the Republic of Texas - his stormy marriage to Susan Bean, his relationships with his four children and his appointment as U.S. consul to Panama in 1853 are described in intimate detail. At the time Ward resided in Panama, the isthmus was a booming transportation hub, with the first transoceanic railroad line completed during his tenure. These chapters chronicle the violence, riots, scandalous behavior and diplomatic rifts during his tenure, and follows Ward as his career is taken down an unexpected and somewhat inglorious path, due in large part to the political fallout from his strong willed and combative personality.
One of the more surprising revelations in the book is the intimate account of Ward's emotionally draining and tumultuous relationship with his wife. Susan Bean enters the story in 1844 as a twenty-six year old widow with two children living in Austin. She soon falls in love with Ward, who is a pillar of the community but also with a reputation for a lack of patience and violent temper. Humphrey follows Susan and Peg Leg's rocky relationship in graphic detail, and shatters any perceptions of a loving marriage. Humphrey vividly describes the allegations of violence and spousal abuse on Peg Leg's part and the coldness and alleged infidelity on Susan's part. These descriptions take root and grow into a bitter, salacious and surprisingly entertaining account of a knock down, drag out nineteenth-century divorce which played out in the public forum in both New York and Austin. Complete with scorching allegations on both sides, Susan's legal and emotional vendetta against Ward lasted over seven years, and was inconveniently put on hold for four of those years by the interruption of the Civil War, during which time Ward was elected as the Mayor of Austin.
This isn't a biography for the faint of heart, as Peg Leg's life was anything but glamorous. His career in public service was riddled with physical, political, financial and emotional obstacles. Yet Ward's strength and perseverence were a strong reflection of his commitment to serve both the Texas and the U.S. in a variety of important roles despite the tremendous physical handicaps that he had to overcome. Humphrey has created a highly entertaining read on this oft overlooked central figure of the Republic of Texas which will resonate with many of us for a variety of reasons and broaden our understanding of the legendary Texas hero, Thomas William Ward.
By James P. Bevill, author of The Paper Republic, The Struggle for Money, Credit and Independence in the Republic of Texas.