Love Letter to Texas On Independence Day

Happy Texas Independence Day!

Texas Independence Day is a legal holiday in the state, celebrated every March 2. 

Many towns have parades and festivals. 

The large metropolitan areas once had parades too, but those urban centers have gone "big city" and conduct business as usual.

Texas is the only state of the Union that was once an independent nation. Perhaps that's why Texans are uniquely proud of their state and love it so much.

Second only to the refrigerator state of Alaska in size, Texas is  about 1,000 miles across from the piney woods of East Texas to the mountainous desert area of El Paso, and 1,000 miles from top to bottom—from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast. 

Why Settlers Came to Texas 

When Spain acquired Louisiana, Americans were allowed and encouraged to apply for land grants in the northern province of the Louisiana Territory in an area called Texas. As early as 1803, Americans settled there.

In 1824, Mexico rebelled from Spain. The new republic of Mexico needed settlers to protect it from foreign invasion so they offered liberal land grants to anyone who would become citizens, accept the Catholic faith, and settle in the area.

A huge migration began with settlers coming from Missouri to Texas in the 1820s with many of them coming from Tennessee. It was the same kind of east to west migration that had brought people from Ohio into Iowa and Nebraska.

Stephen Austin, known as the Father of Texas, arrived in Texas in 1821 and was the holder of a land grant of thousands of acres. He was the leader of most of the English-speaking settlers. Other American-born grant holders came along with squatters who had no legal claim to the land.

Common to see Texas flags on rooftops
Break Away From Mexico

When Mexico became independent of Spain, everything changed. Restrictions under Mexican rule created conflict. 

For several years, settlers had petitioned for changes. The Mexican government ignored and/or refused. 

The settlers became more vocal about their displeasure and were branded rebels.

In December 1835, in the early stages of the Texas war for independence from Mexico, a group of Texan, aka Texian, volunteers led by George Collinsworth and Benjamin Milam overwhelmed the Mexican garrison at the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission located near the present-day city of San Antonio, and captured the fort, seizing control of San Antonio.

General Antonio López de Santa Anna, a Mexican general tasked with keeping Spain from recapturing Mexico, led his army of thousands to crush the insurrection. On February 23, 1836, they surrounded the Alamo.

Within the Alamo were 200 defenders commanded by William Travis and James Bowie. The defenders included famed frontiersman and folk hero Davy Crockett who famously told his  political foes, "You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas." Crockett had arrived in Texas just  a couple of weeks before the Batte of the Alamo.

It took the thousands in the Mexican army 13 days to defeat the 200 in the Alamo. Battle casualties on the Mexican side were estimated to be anywhere from 600 to 1600. 

On the morning of March 6, 1836, Mexican forces broke through a breach in the outer wall of the courtyard and overpowered them.

Santa Anna ordered his men to take no prisoners, but a few were spared including Susannah Dickinson, the wife of Captain Almaron Dickinson who was killed, and her infant daughter Angelina.

They were sent to Sam Houston’s camp in Gonzalez with a warning that what happened at the Alamo would happen to all of the Texans if they continued their revolt.

New Republlic Is Born

Instead of quelling the revolt, Santa Anna's action had the opposite effect. A month later on March 2, 1836, 59 men met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and wrote a document proclaiming Texas was freeing itself from rule by Mexico. 

That was 185 years ago, and that's what we call  Texas Independence Day. Historians believe the original and five copies of the declaration were made and signed by those 59 men. With their declaration of independence from Mexico, the Republic of Texas was born, led by interim-President David G. Burnet until the election of President Sam Houston later that year.

Remember the Alamo

Santa Anna wasn't finished with the Texas rebels. The second battle in the war for independence was fought at Goliad. 

After the Battle of Goliad, he personally ordered the execution of 400 Texan prisoners.

Remember the Alamo became the rallying cry in the Texax struggle for independence. On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston and about 800 Texans met Santa Anna in battle again at San Jacinto, near the present-day city of Houston. Houston's 800 men fought a Mexican force of 1,500 men. 

They defeated the Mexican army and took Santa Anna prisoner. The defeated general came to terms with Sam Houston to end the war.

Things You May Not Know About Texas

1. Sam Houston always intended for Texas to be part of the United States. Nine years after becoming a republic, Texas was annexed by the U.S. in 1845, making it the 28th state of the Union.

2. Texas, the name of the state derives from the Caddo word thecas, meaning “allies” or “friends.” (The Spanish spelled the word tejas or texas and used it to describe the area where the Caddo tribe lived. 

3. The men defending the Alamo probably never knew that Texas had declared independence.The battle took place from February 23 - March 6, 1836 and word probably never reached them that the vote to declare independence had succeeded.

4. Only 1 of the original 5 copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence remains. It was found at the U.S. State Department in 1896 and now resides in the Texas State Archives in Austin.

5. The Republic of Texas had five other capital cities before settling on Austin. In order, they were: Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Velasco, and West Columbia. 

6. Texas is the only state to enter the Union by treaty. The most common misconception about that treaty is that Texas is the only state to fly its flag at the same height as the American flag. That is not true. The Texas flag, like all the other state flags, is flown below the U.S. flag. 

Takeaway Truth

Although I wasn't born in Texas, like many others, I got here as soon as I could. I love you, Texas!

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