Spotlight: Muster Rolls and Oath of Enlistment

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A muster roll is one of the most fundamental military records as it provides a glimpse into a person’s military history.  It is a list of all the officers and men in a military unit or company at a given time.   Typically, the information captured on a muster roll stated the name of the individual, rank, and date of service along with a brief identification of the company, usually located at the top.  

The Texas State Archives holds approximately 8,000 individual military rolls: over 600 date from the Republic and over 7,000 from statehood (about 1,500 from the Civil War).

This case contains a 1844 muster roll for Captain John ‘Jack’ Coffee Hays’ company of Rangers on the NW and SW frontier, which served during the Republic of Texas era and a 1914 muster roll for Ranger Force Company A under Captain John R. Hughes, one of the longest serving Texas Rangers (1887-1915).

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  • Note the size of the Republic Ranger company compared to the 1914 Ranger Company:  41 individuals in 1844 and 11 in 1914.  
  • Hays was one of 145 “militia” captains during the Republic period, compared to the four small Ranger Force companies that served during the early 20th Century (A, B, C, and D). Travel was slower and more dangerous in that early period, so Rangers did not “range” as far.
  • During the Republic, terminology was fluid. Terms such as “rangers,” “mounted volunteers,” or “mounted gunmen” were synonymous.

One way a person identified as a Texas Ranger was by carrying an enlistment paper or an oath of service.  This form contained information about the Ranger in question including a physical description.  This document served as a precursor to the identification and badges carried by Rangers today.

The Texas State Archives holds approximately 1,400 of these service records for the Ranger Force, 1901-1935.  

Below is the 1911 enlistment paper for Captain John R. Hughes.  He was described as a 56-year-old man, 5 ft. 11 in., with dark complexion, brown eyes, brown hair, born in Illinois, and single.

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Items in this exhibit

The links shown below to the items displayed in this exhibit will open in PDF format in a separate window or tab. The documents are shown here in their entirety so some of the files contain multiple pages.

Muster Roll of Captain John C. Hays’ Company of Rangers on NW and SW Frontier, June 27 through August 27, 1844. Adjutant General Department, Military Rolls, Republic of Texas Militia Military Rolls, 401-718.

Pay Roll of Company A under Captain John R. Hughes ending August 31, 1914. Adjutant General Department, Military Rolls, Ranger Force Military Rolls, 401-782.

Enlistment, Oath of Service, and Description, Ranger Force – John R. Hughes, October 4, 1911. Adjutant General Department, Ranger Force Service Records, 401-57.

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Page last modified: May 20, 2016