Louis E. Brister

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Professor Emeritus of German, Department of Modern Languages, Texas State University, was the author of several journal articles and books, including In Mexican Prisons: The Journal of Eduard Harkort, 1832–1834.


Publications

Inside the Texas Revolution: The Enigmatic Memoir of Herman Ehrenberg


  • Edited by James E. Crisp, with the assistance of Louis E. Brister.
  • Translated by Louis E. Brister, with the assistance of James C. Kearney.

Herman Ehrenberg wrote the longest, most complete, and most vivid memoir of any soldier in the Texan revolutionary army. His narrative was published in Germany in 1843, but it was little used by Texas historians until the twentieth century, when the first—and very problematic—attempts at translation into English were made. Inside the Texas Revolution: The Enigmatic Memoir of Herman Ehrenberg is a product of the translation skills of the late Louis E. Brister with the assistance of James C. Kearney, both noted specialists on Germans in Texas. The volume’s editor, James E. Crisp, has spent much of the last 27 years solving many of the mysteries that still surrounded Ehrenberg’s life. It was Crisp who discovered that Ehrenberg lived in the Texas Republic until at least 1840, and spent the spring of that year as ranger on the frontier.

Ehrenberg was not a historian, but an ordinary citizen whose narrative of the Texas Revolution contains both spectacular eyewitness accounts of action and almost mythologized versions of major events that he did not witness himself. This volume points out where Ehrenberg is lying or embellishing, explains why he is doing so, and narrates the actual relevant facts as far as they can be determined. Ehrenberg’s book is both a testament by a young Texan “everyman” who presents a laudatory paean to the Texan cause, and a German’s explanation of Texas and its “fight for freedom” against Mexico to his fellow Germans—with a powerful subtext that patriotic Germans should aspire to a similar struggle, and a similar outcome: a free, democratic republic.

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John Charles Beales's Rio Grande Colony: Letters by Eduard Ludecus, a German Colonist, to Friends in Germany in 1833–1834


This collection of letters, written by a young German colonist in Dr. John Charles Beales's ill-fated colony Dolores, provides an almost daily account of the colonists' journey to the Rio Grande from New York City harbor and their labors to establish a settlement there on Las Moras Creek. Ludecus recounts in his letters the colonists' efforts to provide protection from Indian attacks by constructing around the settlement a high, thorny barrier of mesquite branches and cactus cleared from the land they wished to plant. He narrates how the carpenters among the colonists fashioned a cannon of oak which they successfully fired once to warn off hostile Indians in the area. His record of life in the colony emphasizes the deprivation suffered by the colonists. From the day of their arrival at the colony site to the day most of the colonists abandoned the settlement in desperation, Ludecus's letters are filled with descriptions of the colonists’ hardships and frustration as they tried to cope with an almost total lack of stone and timber in the vicinity of Dolores for constructing houses, outbuildings, and fencing around their young crops.Eduard Ludecus's letters are also an important source of valuable information about life and culture in pre-revolutionary Texas. His letters are but one of a handful of eyewitness reports about the early Texas frontier. His observations are those of a young, well-educated German merchant who had traveled from the urbane environment of Weimar, the center of art and literature in Germany in the early nineteenth century, to the raw, hostile environment of Texas. As a result, many of his remarks seem to have been recorded in wide-eyed awe of his new environment.Ludecus's letters are written with a vivid directness often lacking in the recollections of such well-known narrators as John C. Duval, Noah Smithwick, and John Holland Jenkins. Ludecus's narrative style is so vivid, so lively that the reader often feels as if he were sharing the narrator's experiences and observations not as a reader, but as a companion.
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