Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Texas History: The Civil War and Beyond

The Lone Star
The Civil War was undoubtedly one of the darkest chapters in the history of the United States. The war's effect on Texas was quite different than its effects on other states in the Confederacy and the Union. While 70,000 Texans served in the Confederate Army and participated in just about every major battle in the conflict, no major battles were fought on Texas soil. The main role of Texas at this time was as a supply state to the Confederacy. Other than manpower, beef, ammo and cotton were the most vital contributions made by the state during the war. When Union troops blockaded Galveston and other Texas ports, cotton was traded with European countries and Mexico for supplies to aid the Confederate Army in its war effort.

While the overwhelming majority of Texans supported secession from the Union, there was significant opposition to such a move, spearheaded by none other than Sam Houston his own self. From Wikipeadia , "Houston was probably the premier "Unionist" in Texas. Like most of the same in the South, he strongly believed in the doctrine of states rights, and even assured his fellow Texans he would personally lead the state out of the Union should matters justify such. However, he thought secession at the moment in time was "rash action," and certain to lead to a conflict sure to favor– in the long run– the industrial and populated North. He predicted: "Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. The North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery impulsive people as we are...but once they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum of a mighty avalanche, and what I fear is that they will overwhelm the South with ignoble defeat." Houston was clairvoyant with his words.

Texas, of course, rejoined the Union.However, her rise to prominence on the national stage lay ahead of her. She had survived a war for independence, a stint as her own country, Civil War and Yankee Carpetbaggers during Reconstruction, but she would rise to meteoric heights in the future with the same dogged determination and courage her people had displayed during the toughest of times. She is, after all, "the damnedest lady you ever saw". She is Texas. Long may she live!

Texas History: The Alamo

The third nation to fly its flag over Texas was the most notorious of the six - Mexico. This is an era in Texas History that more people are familiar with than any other. The War for Texas Independence has been memorialized in books, films, TV shows, and text books. However, it is a single battle of the War that is world famous and is seen as an act of courage, patriotism and man's yearning to be free that will forever remind all generations that freedom demands constant sacrifice and vigilance, lest it be wrested away by tyranny.The battle of which I speak is the Battle of the Alamo, a military engagement that set in stone the meaning of sacrifice and a desire to be free of dictatorial rule in the face of overwhelming odds. The defenders of the Alamo numbered about 200. Their Mexican adversaries, several thousand. Yet, the men at the Alamo waged a fierce defense of their position, knowing that surely each of them would die at the hands of General Santa Ana. Perish they did, but the courage displayed by these men remains unparalleled in the history of warfare, in my opinion. From February 23, 1836 to March 6, 1836, facing insurmountable odds, they fought with the resolve that has since been a trademark characteristic of Texans throughout the last 174 years.

Some five and a half weeks later, the men at the Alamo were no less present in the hearts and minds of a ragtag Texan Army under the command of the larger than life Sam Houston, when they revenged their fellow Texans by routing the powerful Mexican Army and it's leader General Santa Ana on the bayou at San Jacinto. The Republic of Texas was born.

Texas History: The First Europeans Visit Texas

First of the Six Flags
The first Europeans to land in Texas did so in 1519, while on a voyage to find a passage from the Gulf of Mexico to Asia. Alonso Alvarez de Pineda and his men landed in Texas while on the previously mentioned mission for the Governor of Jamaica ( read Spain). Alvarez de Pineda mapped the northern Gulf Coast of Texas, thus writing the first recorded document in the history of Texas.

One of the survivors of this expedition was a man named Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. Between 1528 and 1535, Cabeza de Vaca and another survivor of the Pineda expedition spent six and a half years in Texas as slaves to local Indians and as traders. Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to explore the interior of Texas. Thus began the European exploration of Texas. Spain would then lay claim to Texas for well over a century and a half.

In 1685, France would be the second European country to declare Texas as one of its colonies. The French rule lasted only five years when Spain reclaimed Texas for the Spanish Throne. The Spanish would maintain control of Texas until 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain and Texas became a state of Mexico.

We know where the story goes from here, and that's what we'll look into on our next post later this afternoon as we celebrate the annexation of Texas into the United States on December 29, 1845. Hasta la vista!

Texas History: The People of Texas - Just Wired Different

Just Wired Different
 I wanted to begin our series of posts on Texas History with something that is a must read, especially for non-Texans. I bring this to your attention because many people don't understand how Texans can be so fiercely proud of their home state. Texans are extremely proud people, no doubt. It's something that is natural to us. To understand that feeling, a non-Texan must peer into the heart of a Texan and see something that is as much a part of us as is our soul. We (Texans) are just wired different than other folks, not better than or more important than, just wired different. Kind of like a PC vs. a Mac. Same kind of machine doing the same things to get to the same place, but in a different way. Just wired different.

Texas. It's like a whole other country, as the saying goes. Or, as John Wayne said, "Texas is the damnedest lady I ever saw." Both of those observations are bullseye accurate. Willie Nelson once told me during an interview, "I could be dead ass asleep on the bus and when we cross that Texas line, I can feel it." That Willie sure has a way with words, doesn't he? Being a Texan in a land far away, like I am, in Maine, gives me, perhaps a different perspective than many still-in-Texas Texans. Don't get me wrong, I love Maine. It's a great place to live and raise a family. The scenery here is very much like East Texas, pine trees everywhere, lots of lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers and good, down-to-Earth, proud people that talk funny. I miss Texas. A lot. It's home. It's like my Mother, a part of me that is eternal and undeniable. A piece of my soul, a blessing from God. Something that nobody can ever take away from me. Texas is me. And you. And your kids and neighbors and fellow parishiners at church. Texas is Us. Even the Yankees that call Texas  'home", they are Texas and Texans, and  like James Bowie, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Stephen F. Austin, once foreigners, now us, Texans. You know, American by birth, Texan by the Grace of God. The following link is to a piece written by legendary Texan and football coach, Bum Phillips. Bum, like Willie, has a way with words. Take a few minutes to read it, alone if you can, think about it, then pass it on to your kids or grandkids, your friends (especially if they live in another part of the country), whomever. As Texans, when we talk about Texas, we don't brag, we do so with a deep-rooted pride and reverence. Because we are forged of a hotter fire.

Texas History - An Introduction

The Lone Star
The history of Texas is as varied and colorful as the land itself. Many people don't know that the history of Texas as we know it, began less than thirty years after Columbus landed in the New World. From the time of the first Europeans setting foot in Texas in 1519, to 1836 when Texas won its independence from Mexico through the Civil War years, the flags of six countries would fly over the Lone Star State.

Today, in a series of short posts, we will celebrate this extraordinary place called Texas. Our journey will begin in 1519 and take us through the centuries on a historical adventure that is second to none in its diverse, yet unique path through time... a journey that will explore the land, the people and events that shaped this magnificent place into what it is today, almost 500 years after the the footsteps of the first Europeans were fresh in the sand.

It was on this date in 1845 that , after nine years as the Republic of Texas, that Texas became the 28th state to join the Union, by treaty with the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Texans and citizens of all lands, it is with great pride that I humbly present to you..."the damnedest lady you ever saw"...


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All Original Material © Toby Shoemaker