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Uncle Sam

TEXAS, REPUBLIC OF. The first European settlement made in Texas was by La Salle, in 1685, by accident. In 1689 Captain De Leon, a Spanish officer, was sent to drive out the French. He found them scattered, and the next year he returned with 110 men and some friars, and on the site of a fort built by La Salle, on Matagorda Bay, established a Spanish mission. A Spanish governor, with troops, was sent their in 1691, but Indian hostilities and menaces of famine caused the settlement to be abandoned in 1693. In 1714 the French again attempted to plant settlements in Texas, under the direction of Crozat, of Louisiana. Soon afterwards (1715) Spanish missions were planted at various points in the present domain of Texas; the name of " New Philippines " was given to the country, and a governor-general was appointed.  The Indians slaughtered the people at some of the missions, and in 1765 there were not more than 750 white inhabitants in Texas.

Sam Houston

General Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas

Texas was a part of the Spanish province of Mexico which had declared itself independent of Spain. In 1824, when a considerable number of colonists from the United States were there, the Mexican government united Coahuila, previously a separate state, with Texas, and placed a Mexican as governor over the united states. He treated the Americans there with great injustice, and some of them, engaged in a revolution (SEE THE FREDONIAN REVOLUTION), were Texas Mapcompelled to retreat into the United States in 1827. In 1830 Bustamente, who had made himself dictator of Mexico, issued a decree forbidding the people of the United States to enter Texas as colonists. The American settlers in Texas then numbered about 20,000, and in 1833 they held a convention, determined to separate Texas from Coahuila, prepared a State constitution, and requested Santa Anna, then at the head of the government of Mexico, to admit them as a separate State of the republic. COL. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN, representing the American colonists, went to Mexico, where Santa Anna detained him until 1835; during which time—keeping the Texans quiet by promises of compliance with their desires—he prepared to occupy the country with his troops. A committee of safety was created in Texas, which assumed governmental powers. The people armed. A skirmish took place with some Mexicans, near Gonzales (Battle of Gonzales), Oct. 2, 1835, and other battles followed. On Nov. 9 a provisional government was formed in a delegate convention, called the " Consultation," and a governor and lieutenant-governor were chosen.

The Alamao

The Alamo

At the same time SAM HOUSTON, of Tennessee, who had settled in Texas, was chosen commander-in-chief of the forces, and Austin was sent as commissioner to the United States. After San Antonio de Bexar was captured (Dec. 10), the entire Mexican force was driven out of Texas, and on the 20th a declaration of independence was adopted, and issued at Goliad, by Capt. Philip Dimitt and others. Santa Anna, with a well-provided army of 7,500 men, set out for the recovery of Texas. He invested the ALAMO, a strong fort near San Antonio, with 4,000 men, and, after bombarding it eleven days, carried it by storm. It was garrisoned by about 170 men, under Capt. W. B. Travis. The whole garrison was massacred (March 6) by order of Santa Anna—only one woman, a child, and a servant were saved. " Remember the Alamo!" was a Texan war cry after that. The Mexicans lost, in the attack, 1,600 men.

San Jacinto Battle Map

Map of the Battle of San Jacinto

On March 1 a convention issued a declaration of independence, and a provisional president (David G. Burnet) was chosen. On the 27th the command of Colonel Fannin, at Goliad, were massacred in cold blood, and successive defeats of the Texans produced a panic. Houston, meanwhile. in order to scatter the Mexican forces, continually fell back, until he reached San Jacinto. There, at the head of a force of 800 troops, he gave battle (April 21, 1836) to about twice that number of Mexicans, and in the pursuit of them killed 630, wounded 208, and took 730 prisoners. Among the latter, captured the next day, was President Santa Anna. His force was annihilated. The survivors fled westward in terror. The war was practically at an end. The Mexicans did not again invade Texas. Houston was elected president of the republic (September, 1836). The independence of Texas was acknowledged by the United States in March, 1837, but Mexico did not give up her claim to it. See WESTWARD EXPANSION; BENTON, THOMAS HART.

On July 4, 1845 Texas was annexed to the United States. This activity was favored by southerners, since Texas would expand the ranks of the Slave States.  For this same reason, the Annexation of Texas was generally opposed in the North.

Seeds of Conflict With Mexico

After the cession of Louisiana to the United States a controversy arose about its western boundary, which was amicably settled, in 1806, by General Wilkinson and the Spanish commander, establishing the territory between the Sabine River and Arroya Honda as neutral ground. In 1806 revolutionary movements, incited by those of AARON BURR, began in that region, and many skirmishes and battles occurred, chiefly by invasions of Americans. In conflicts in 1813 the Spanish lost about 1,000 men; and in a conflict the same year, a force of about 2,500 Americans and revolted Mexicans was nearly destroyed. Only about 100 escaped. The Spaniards murdered 700 of the peaceable inhabitants of San Antonio. After the close of the War of 1812—15 Lafitte made Galveston Island his headquarters, established there a town named Campeachy, and remained there until 1821, when the settlement was broken up by United States forces. In 1819 the Sabine was established as the eastern boundary of Texas, but dissatisfaction caused disturbances to continue, and the territory was almost deserted. In 1820 Moses Austin, then living in Missouri, received from the Spanish authorities of Mexico a grant of land in Texas, and dying, his son, Stephen F., received a confirmation of the grant in 1823. Emigrants from the United States flocked into Texas. A thousand families were soon there. Spanish rule was harsh towards the American colonists, and they were so oppressed that, in 1833, they took the measures to obtain the independence of the State already described. The annexation of Texas to the United states led to a war with Mexico (see MEXICO, WAR WITH), begun in 1846, and ended by treaty in February, 1848. It then embraced an area of 376,163 square miles. In 1850 the State ceded to the United States its claims to all territory beyond its present limits (274,356 square miles), in consideration of $10,000,000 in bonds, with the proceeds of which the State debt was paid.

Secession of Texas

In 1860 politicians began to move for secession. The venerable governor, Samuel Houston, opposed the movement with all his might; but members of the KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE were working secretly and effectively. Among the Knights were many members of the legislature, and active politicians all over the State. Sixty of these irresponsible persons, early in January, 1861, called a State convention, to meet at Austin on the 28th of that month; and a single member of the legislature issued a call for the assembling of that body at the same time and place. When they met, the legislature, by a joint resolution, declared the convention a legally constituted body. Governor Houston protested against the assumption of any power by the convention, except to refer the matter of secession to the people. The convention assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives, on the appointed day, under the chairmanship of JUDGE JOHN H. REAGAN. A commissioner from South Carolina (McQueen) was there to assist. Not one-half of the 122 counties in the State were represented. On Feb. 1, 1861, an ordinance of secession was adopted by a vote of 166 against 7. It declared that the national government had failed " to accomplish the purpose of the compact of union between the States," and the chief grievance complained of was that the national government would no longer uphold the slave system. They therefore abrogated, in the name of the people of Texas, the ordinance of annexation adopted July 4, 1845. They talked of a " resumption of sovereign powers " with some plausibility, for Texas was the only State in the Union that had ever possessed them, as an absolutely independent State. They decreed that the ordinance should be submitted to the people, but the day named (Feb. 23) was so early that no opportunity was afforded the people for discussion.

The convention appointed a committee of safety to carry out its decision before the people could think or act upon the ordinance of secession. The committee was immediately organized, and appointed two of their number (Devine and Maverick) commissioners to treat with General David E. Twiggs, then in command of the National troops in Texas, for the surrender of his army and the public property under his control to the authorities of Texas. Twiggs performed that act. In counting the votes cast on Feb. 23 concerning the ordinance of secession there seemed to be fully 23,000 majority in favor of the ordinance, when it is asserted that really a very large proportion of the people of Texas were opposed to it.

Sam Houston's Position on Secession and the Civil War

Sam Houston During the Civil WarGovernor Houston, in his address to the people of his State, early in March, 1861, revealed what he called its usurpations. He had denounced the convention as an illegal body, gathered through fraud and violence. " To enumerate all its usurpations," he said, " would be impossible, as a great portion of its proceedings were in secret. This much has been revealed: It has elected delegates to the provisional council of the Confederate States at Montgomery before Texas had withdrawn from the Union; and also, on the 2d day of March, annexed Texas to the Confederate States and constituted themselves members of Congress, when it was not officially known by the convention until the 4th of March that a majority of the people had voted for secession. While a portion of these delegates were representing Texas in the Congress of the Confederate States, two of them, still claiming to be United States Senators, have continued to represent Texas in the United States Senate, under the administration of Mr. Lincoln—an administration which the people of Texas have declared odious and not to be borne. Yet Texas has been exposed to obloquy and forced to occupy the ridiculous attitude, before the world, of attempting to maintain her position as one of the United States, and, at the same time, claim to be one of the Confederate States. It has created a committee of safety, a portion of which has assumed the executive power of the government, and, to supplant the executive authority, have entered into negotiations with federal officers. This committee, and commissioners acting under it, have caused the Federal troops to be removed from posts in the country exposed to Indian depredations, and had them located, with their arms and field-batteries, on the coast, where, if their desire is to maintain a position in the country, they cannot only do so successfully, but destroy the commerce of the State. They have usurped the power to withdraw these troops from the frontier; but though in possession of ample stores, munitions of war, and transportation, have failed to supply troops in place of those removed. As a consequence, the wail of women and children is heard upon the border. Devastation and ruin have thus come upon the people; and though the convention, with all the means in its power, has been in session two weeks (adjourned session), no succor has been sent to a devastated frontier.... The convention has assumed to appoint agents to foreign States, and created offices, civil and military, unknown to the laws, at its will, keeping secret its proceedings. It has deprived the people of a right to know its doings. It has appointed officers and agents under its assumed authority." " It has declared," he said, " that the people of Texas ratify the provisional government of the Confederate States, requiring all persons then in office to take an oath of allegiance to the same or suffer the penalty of removal." It had changed the State constitution and established a test-oath of allegiance to the Confederate States, and, " in the exercise of its petty tyranny," had required the governor and other officers to appear at its bar at a certain time to take the oath. It had assumed to create organic laws, and to put the same into execution. " It has overthrown," he said, " the theory of free government by combining in itself all the departments of government and exercising the powers belonging to each." The governor concluded by saying: " I have refused to recognize this convention. I believe it has received none of the powers it has assumed either from the people or the legislature. I believe it guilty of a usurpation which the people cannot suffer tamely and preserve their liberties. I am ready to lay down my life to maintain the rights and liberties of Texas. I am ready to lay down office rather than yield to usurpation and degradation."

Texas in the Civil War

In 1863 General Banks sent General Franklin, with 4,000 troops, accompanied by four gunboats, under Lieutenant Crocker, to seize the Confederate post at Sabine Pass, on the boundary-line between Louisiana and Texas, preparatory to an attempt to recover the latter State from Confederate control. The expedition sailed from New Orleans Sept. 5. A premature attack was made by the gunboats on the garrison at Sabine Pass (Sept. 8) , and the expedition was a disastrous failure. Two of the gunboats were captured, and the tra nsports, with Franklin's troops, fled back to New Orleans, the Nationals having lost 200 men made prisoners and fifty killed and wounded; also two gun-boats and fifteen heavy rifled cannon. The garrison attacked consisted of about 200 men, and only forty were present. Banks now concentrated his forces on the Atchafalaya, for the purpose of penetrating Texas by way of Shreveport, on the Red River; but this design was abandoned for a time (see RED RIVER EXPEDITION), and it was determined to attempt to seize and hold the coast harbors of Texas. To mask this movement, Gen. C. C. Washburne, with a considerable body of troops, advanced from Brashear City to Opelousas, to give the impression that a march upon Alexandria and Shreveport was again begun. When, in obedience to orders, he began falling back, he was suddenly and furiously struck by Confederates under General Richard Taylor, and a regiment (23d Wisconsin) on which the blow fell was reduced from 226 men to ninety-eight, most of them made prisoners. Meanwhile about 6,000 National troops, under General Dana, with some war-vessels, had sailed for the Rio Grande. Banks, in person, accompanied the expedition. The troops debarked (Nov. 2) at Brazos Santiago, drove a small Confederate cavalry force stationed there, and followed them to Brownsville, opposite Matamoras, which Banks entered on Nov. 6. At the close of the year the National troops occupied all the strong positions on the Texan coast excepting Galveston Island and a formidable work at the mouth of the Brazos River, and the Confederates had abandoned all Texas west of the Colorado River.

State Capitol


Notwithstanding the downfall of the civil and military power of the Confederacy east of the Mississippi, the insurgents west of it, under the command and influence of General E. Kirby Smith, were disposed to continue the conflict longer. He addressed his soldiers on April 21, 1865, telling them that upon their prowess depended " the hopes of the [Confederate] nation." He assured them that there were hopes of succor from abroad. " Protract the struggle," he said, "and you will surely receive the aid of nations who already deeply sympathize with you." Public meetings were held in Texas, where resolutions to continue the contest were adopted. To meet this danger, General Sheridan was sent to New Orleans with a large force, and made preparations for a vigorous campaign in Texas. His appearance dismayed the trans-Mississippi insurgents, and they refused to longer follow their leaders in the hopeless struggle. General Smith formally surrendered his whole command to General Canby (May 26), but exhibited " the bad faith," said Grant in his report, " of first disbanding most of his army, and permitting an indiscriminate plunder of the public property." So ended the Civil War in the field.

Andrew J. Hamilton was appointed by the President provisional governor in the summer of 1865, and measures were taken for the reorganization of civil government there. Under the reconstruction acts of 1867, Texas, with Louisiana, was made a military district, and subjected to military rule under General Sheridan. A convention assembled Dec. 7, 1868, adopted a constitution, which was ratified at an election (Nov. 30 to Dec. 3) in 1869, and a governor and legislature were chosen at the same time. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the national Constitution were ratified (Feb. 23, 1870), and on March 30, by act of Congress, the State was entitled to representation in Congress. On April 16 the government was transferred to the civil authorities. Population in 1890, 2,235,523; in 1900, 3,048,740. See BENTON, THOMAS H.


From Harper's United States History (Content edited for style and length)

History of Texas, Henderson Yoakum

Harper's Weekly 1861 Volume V.




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