On March 2, 2013, we commemorated March 2, 1836, the day that delegates of the Constitutional Convention met in Washington County declared "that people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent Republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations."
After studying all these books about the time from 1826 to 1861, including Romantic era literature, the French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, the Mexican War, the Missouri Compromises of 1820 and 1850, the battle of the admission of slave states, we also studied about the Texas Revolution. We spent the least time on that since it was a review, but my son said he had forgotton much. (gasp) I did my best to give him a quick synopsis one afternoon. Even better, he chose for his historical character someone from the Alamo. What a perfect way to find time to study Texas history. Four years ago my son portrayed Davy Crockett. Who would he choose this time?
Presenting Colonel William Barret Travis. Wanting to get involved in the Texas fight for independence, this lawyer participated in the amphibious attack on Anahuac, just missed the "Come and Take It" battle of Gonzales, then arrived at the Alamo, which is likened to the Battle of Thermopylae.
Presenting Charlotte Bronte who journeyed from England to tell us about her book, Jane Eyre.
Presenting Peggy Rabb, of the newly formed Texan town La Grange in Fayette County.
Opening the program, Col. Travis set the stage. February 24, 1836. "To the people of Texas and to all Americans in the world..."
Fellow citizens & compatriots------
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna ----- I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24
hours & have not lost a man ----- The enemy has demanded a Surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if
the fort is taken ----- I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the wall ----- I shall never Surrender or retreat
Then, I can on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & every thing dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with an dispatch ----- The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this can is neglected, I am deter mined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country ----- Victory or Death
William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt
P. S. The lord is on our side-When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn--- We have since found in deserted houses 80
or 90 bushels & got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves---
Then Travis gave the message to Albert Martin). None of us knew this was going to happen. Martin took the note, saluted the colonel, and galloped away.
For dinner we had the type of food that Texians might eat: chili, cornbread and cobbler. Did you know that chili originated in San Antonio, Texas? Well, that's what they say. New Mexico and California claim the spicy concoction as well, but never does Mexico claim it! They scorn this dish. However there are writings of combinations of the key ingredients in journals and such of the Canary Islanders, who were the only Spanish settlers to Texas, specifically San Antonio. I read once that the chili queens served chili to the Mexican soldiers on Military Plaza across from the Governor's Palace in today's downtown San Antonio. Now there are huge chili cook-offs, like Chilympiad.
I forgot to take pictures of the dinner table, but we used blue plates and this platter similar to one that Laura Ingalls Wilder (of Little House on the Prairie) had in the 1880's.
During dinner my daughter shared about Charlotte Bronte and about Romantic literature which is creepy, dark, emotional, irrational, and nature based. We all agreed that her book, Jane Eyre, wasn't as creepy as her sister's book, Wuthering Heights. My daughter is busy with college, but she wanted to participate. She chose an author that she remembered from previous studies then did a quick review to refresh her memory.
My son and I had fun batting our research against each other in our first person interpretations. We hadn't shared anything we had learned with each other, but were surprised to find ourselves on the same path.
I told Travis that I understood he fit the image that Tocqueville has of an American. (I wanted to bring in Tocqueville because of his famous trip to America and book he wrote, Democracy in America, which is a classic today. We studied about him.) My son choked on his chili. I explained that I had heard that Tocqueville descibed Americans patriotism as being quite zealous, even beginning with personal greed before moving to patriotism. Travis explained he looked hard for a battle in which to fight, and now that he was at the Alamo, he was determined not to surrender.
Then I asked if Jim Bowie was Napoleonic. Travis looked at me oddly. Well, I had heard that a Frenchman had entered the garrison (the Alamo) and while listening to Bowie's depiction of certain doom, the Frenchman gave him such a look that caused Bowie to ask if he seemed Napoleonic. Apparently Bowie knew that this Frenchman had fought under Napoleon. The Frenchman declared that Napoleon would never have gotten himself into such a position.
Travis asked me if I was referring to Rose. "Yes," I declared, wondering how he knew that! Travis explained that they have much ammunition (and they did. My son was amazed at how much gunpowder was left after the seige.) Also Travis said they had excellent sharp shooters, like Davy Crockett, picking off the Mexican army one by one. (This was indeed a huge asset. After the seige, Santa Anna gloated over the victory to which his generals pretty much muttered, "Another victory like that and we'll all be dead."
Then I had all join me in a toast to Texas Independence, on this second day of March, 1836.
As we left the dinner table and mingled a bit, Travis whispered some quick stage directions in my ear. "Hurry!" I told everyone. "Meet with Travis quickly!" We all came running to hear his story and to be given a challenge.
The day was now March 5, 1836.
Travis arrived in Texas like the other pioneers, who were willing to abide by the terms of their contract with Mexico. The only residents of Texas were Indians ravaging the land. French tried a few times to sneak in through Louisiana. The Spanish only managed to bring in one group of colonists, the Canary Islanders to settle in San Antonio de Bexar.
Then Moses Austin contracted with the Spanish government for him to become an empresario, or land agent where he would bring in families to settle and work the land in East Texas. Shortly thereafter he died and his son, Stephen Austin, took over. By that time Mexico was in charge and a new contract was negotiated. The settlers would be given so much land per person in each family, counting slaves. They would be tax exempt for several years (as I recall but can't find), but they must take on the Catholic faith.
Three hundred families agreed to these terms and they were the first American settlers in Texas. Others, like Travis, later followed. At this time Texas had some independence. Through the 1820's, the Texians were content with the Mexican laws and with their Texas opportunity.
Then Santa Anna took over power in Mexico and took away the rights of the Texian settlers (American settlers were called Texians, the Hispanic settlers from Mexico where called Tejanos. There were many great Tejanos.) Of all the rights that were taken away, the one thing that angered the pioneers the most was that more Americans were not allowed to enter Texas. Austin traveled to Mexico City to negotiate, which was fruitless after many months. When he left for Texas, he was captured on the road and returned to Mexico City, where he was thrown into prison for many months. The Texians and Tejanos joined forces and formed conventions to settle the matter. Santa Anna was angered. War began.
While Travis reviewed a bit of his story of being given leadership at the Alamo and of Santa Anna's arrival, 32 men from Gonzales arrived to help defend the Alamo. That was not enough. Nearly 200 defenders of the Alamo against nearly 5000 of Santa Anna's army? The fate of the Alamo was obvious.
Travis took his sword and drew a line in the sand (yes this is legend....but is is a good legend) and declared that despite the obvious fate of all who remain, he was determined to fight to the end. Who else would join him? We all joined him...everyone that is, but that Frenchman, Rose. He left. He died a couple of years later.
Peggy Rabb was, along with her husband Andrew, one of the original Three Hundred families to settle in East Texas on the Colorado River. They had endured much hardship, basically seeking survival fromt he maurading Indians. During the Revolution, her husband was delegate to the Convention of 1833 for Fayette County (more on that below). Her sister-in-law, married to one of the other Rabb brothers, wrote a journal of their experiences of hardship and running away from Santa Anna.
A year later in 1837 Peggy and her husband's beloved plot of land, midway between the cities of Austin and Houston, officially became part of the town of La Grange in the county of Fayette. Not only this, but Andrew helped to make this happen. Peggy's husband's family had come from Pennsylvania. During the Amerian Revolution, her husband's grandfather had served under Mad Anthony Wayne, and thereby under the Marquis de Lafayette, of whom the family was quite fond. When Lafayette arrived in America in 1825 for his grand tour of each of the states, the Rabb family was beginning to settle in Texas.
Since Texas was not part of America, Lafayette did not visit. Yet the Rabb family knew of Lafayette's journeys through America and were thrilled. Truely "Lafayette Fever" spread through each state he visited...and then some. Lafayette died in 1834. Emotions ran high in America...and in Texas. To honor this great man of whom the Rabb family had great memories, they named their county after Lafaeytte, and they named their town, La Grange, after Lafayette's home. The streets of the town were named after the American heroes: Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette, and Madison, and after the Texan heroes: Crockett, Milam and Fannin. Later Andrew served two different terms in the Republic of Texas Congress.
The state flag of Texas which we all know today, was the flag of the Republic of Texas. We were once our own sovereign nation, then in 1846 when we became part of America, we became the Lone Star State.