William A. Wallace (1816–1899) went from his native Virginia to Texas in 1836, shortly after the battle of San Jacinto, "for the purpose . . . of taking pay out of the Mexicans for the murder of his brother and cousin." His experiences as a hunter, Indian fighter, member of the Mier Expedition (1842–1844), defender of the "old Republic" in the Mexican War, and Texas Ranger were chronicled by his comrade John C. Duval in this free-hand biography, first published in 1870.
Because Duval, as the editors note, felt free to adapt his materials in order to make the book more interesting and used many novelistic devices, "in his own way he achieves something of the effect of the twentieth-century school of biographers. He makes his characters live." Although Part I, dealing with Big-Foot's adventures as a hunter and Indian fighter, is a mixture of fact and fiction, Part II, the account of his role in the Mier Expedition, is unretouched, told from the point of view of an actual participant, and "stands as the most realistic straight narrative of this dramatic chapter in Texas history. [It] is the heart of the biography. The Indian adventures are a prologue for it; and Part III, the final comedy of Big-Foot in the settlements, makes an epilogue."
In this classic of early Texas, the reader will recognize three literary traditions of the nineteenth century: the journals and memoirs of the pioneers; the romantic adventure story; and the broadly humorous yarn of the American frontier.