Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why?...the Hallelujah Chorus

As a lover of classical music, one of my greatest joys during the holidays is to listen to Handel's Messiah. Once upon a time I was a choir member and singing selections from this great work were incorporated into powerful Christmas and Easter programs.  Learning the selections have hightened my Bible reading, because much of it (if not all) is based on Scripture.  Sadly churches today don't do the choir thing...don't do the Handel's Messiah thing...and that is a huge loss.  Churches are so afraid of imparting any classical traditional elements lest they scare away contemporaries, yet if done properly, it will be fun and uplifting and meaningful. Messiah is a beautiful traditional piece rich with meaning that can balance out any worship program.  Perhaps a bit of background will inspire more people to consider Handel's Messiah.

Commissioned to write a piece of music for charity, the great composer Frederick Handel, who was about to face debtor's prison himself, shut himself in a room for 24 focused days, resulting in a 240 page manuscript, today known as Messiah. Startled by a waiter bringing food that would be mostly untouched, Handel cried out, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself." A friend who visited him during the process caught the emotional composer in tears.  Reflecting upon the experience Handel said, "Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it I know not."

However, would the public accept it?  In Handel's previous musical scores about the Bible,  Esther and Israel in Egypt, the Church of England criticized Handel for putting Bible drama in theaters. 

Messiah was first performed in 1742, resulting in 142 men being freed from debtor's prison. A year later Messiah performed in London. When open-hearted and worshipfully listening to the words of the majestic music, one can't help but be overcome with emotion.  The King of England, George II, head of the Church of England, was in attendance. What would be his reaction? So overcome with emotion of the greatness of God and the work of His Son and on hearing the entrance of heaven in the opening triumphal strains of "The Hallelujah Chorus," King George stood up. Due to royal protocol, the rest of the audience stood as well, setting the tradition that has endured for over 200 years...until today.  In every choir I have ever sung in, we have always been taught that to stand for "The Hallelujah Chorus" shows respect for the glory and greatness of our God, as exemplified for us by King George II.

When in attendance at a performance even today, one cannot help but be overcome by the passages of Scripture that point to the Messiah and culminate in grand splendour so that like Handel, if we are open to the meaning and power of the words we can say, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself."

Sadly this grand performance, if played, has become background enjoyment in some places as the audience is ushered out.  That happened to us today. We chose to stand and sing for God, along with a few others in the crowd, as everyone else milled out to go home.

Won't we take a stand for God today, like King George II did in his day?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Les Miserables-Romantic Era Literature

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Whether one agrees or disagrees with the ideals of Napoleon, he moved the world.  We must take notice to see how he influenced history.  Our world today would look completely different if he had never existed.  Without him the pages of history would turn differently.

Always annotating, I wrote the above in the front cover of my copy of Les Miserables a few weeks ago when  my son and I finished reading this grand epic which has haunted bookshelves, stages and movie houses for years.  In my research on the literary aspects of the book, I kept stumbling on confusion over the setting of the stage and screen versions.  Because Les Miserables is set during the French Revolution, everyone assumes that it refers to the late 18th century revolution, when the Reign of Terror guillotined the King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette including tens of thousands of others.  Not so. Since French history is so little taught in America, let's clarify the setting. There are actually multiple revolutions in France. Les Miserables is about the revolution set in 1830.

Liberty, equality, and fraternity did not come easily to France. The lower classes rose against the nobility and clergy in 1789.  The Reign of Terror raged out of control. Somewhat tempered after the execution of the guillotine driven Robespierre, several governments ineffectually ruled France until many asked Napoleon to take charge of the country in 1799.  After seeing the depravity of the poor during the French Revolution, Napoleon sought to bring rights to the lower classes once he became Consul and then to all countries he conquered (as a defensive move against the coalitions against him)  through Code Napoleon. Under Napoleon's reign, there was 0% unemployment (you read that correctly), food was finally on the table of the lower classes, freedom for religion was given to Catholics, Protestants and Jews, unheard of in Europe and many other rights were given. All of this is central in understanding Les Miserables. Read Code Napoleon for yourself! Then read Vincent Cronin's book, Napoleon Bonaparte, based on primary source documents.

In 1815 Napoleon was exiled, and King Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. He ruled in typical monarchial fashion, returning France to the days of inequality for the masses, destroying the freedoms that Napoleon had brought to the commoners. The unemployment rate rose, food became scarce, the economy favored the elite...again, just as it had been under King Louis XVI. When Louis XVIII later dies, another Bourbon, Charles X, takes the throne. Life for the lower classes continues to be difficult.  This is when Les Miserables is set in the opening chapters. The impoverished Jean Valjean is imprisoned to nineteen years of hard labor for stealing bread due to starvation. The author, Victor Hugo, had a political statement to make and effectively grips the readers heart through the sufferings of starvation and the unjust treatment of the miserables, the key characters in the book. This poignant story has captured the hearts of readers, and then audiences around the world, in book, theater and movie format. 

The sufferings of the miserables is described in great detail.  Hunger. Poverty. Lives destroyed by hopeless choices. Such was life for the lower classes under the rule of the Bourbons.  This book is Victor Hugo's political statement.  Midway through we meet Marius, whose father fought under Napoleon years before. In a flashback scene we are taken to the Battle of Waterloo where we meet Marius' father and the despicable Thenadier.  It is this man whom the reader previously met in angry outburts from the depths of the soul as he plots against the desperate Fantine, as he abuses her sweet Cosette, starves her sweet Cosette, deprives her sweet Cosette for his own wicked gain, sending Fantine to utter desolation and depravity of body, soul and spirit. Meanwhile we learn that Marius' father was rewarded by Napoleon for his valour in battle.  Marius had been raised by his wealthy monarchist grandfather. It is not until after his father's death that Marius learns more of his father whom he once scorned.  Marius's newfound esteem of his father and Napoleon turns his grandfather against him. Marius leaves home disinherited, living off meager earnings. Little does he know that his neighbor is the despicable Thenadier.

Eventually the lives of Marius, Cosette, Jean Valjean and the Thenadiers converge as another revolution erupts in France.  The barricades.  Dissatisfied with the Bourbons, Charles X is replaced as a result of the The Revolution of Three Glorious Days (July 27-29, 1830) by the citizen-king, Louis Phillippe.  He had been exiled once himself, lived the life of a commoner, knew and understood the life of the commoner. Surely he would rule equitably and justly.

Throughout the story, we learn of Valjean's struggles with the past and opportunity to accept God.  This turning point charts his course in his transformation, which develops throughout the book.  As I read, I highlighted all the points in the book that referenced Valjean's spiritual journey.  When my son picked up the book to read, he could see the theme easily. This is the hope in the book fueled by the light of God's love, God's agape love that loves not "because of" but "despite of." 

We read the abridged version, Enriched Classic, complete with notes to explain details and context. This is about as large a version one can read in the abridged format, at 595 pages.  My son wants the unabridged version which includes the complete scene of the Battle of Waterloo, which a noted historian assured us is 100% accurate. Our unabridged version only shares the aftermath.

To further understand a book, one must seek to further understand the author.  Victor Hugo's father was himself a general in Napoleon's army, although his mother was a royalist.  His parents separated and Hugo, heavily influenced by his mother, became a royalist as well. Later, after her death, Hugo spent much more time with his father who helped him to see Napoleon in a more positive light. Hugo's passion of writing reflected the change, first in his poems, comparing Napoleon to Charlemagne and other reknown French leaders who contributed to the greatness of France.

Through his writings Hugo became one of the key leaders in the Romantic era of literature which is characterized by nature, darkness and the supernatural. Not afraid to juxtapose the grotesque alongside the beautiful, he wrote the Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831. Not only was Hugo passionate about writing, but his passion of helping the underprivileged gain liberty, justice and rights fueled his presence in politics. Having opposed Napoleon III's coup detat in 1851, Hugo was exiled from France.

During the exile Hugo wrote the satire, The Little Napoleon in 1852.  "What! after Augustus are we to have Augustulus? Because we have had Napoleon the Great, must we have Napoleon the Small!"
Apparently in the satire, Hugo expounds on the greatness of Napoleon I juxtaposing him against the inferiority of Napoleon III. Later in his exile, Hugo pulled out a previous work which he completed and published under the title, Les Miserables.

Some notes from the well written introduction of the Enriched Classic, by Margaret Brantley, will perhaps further entice avid movie and theater buffs of Les Miserables to also enjoy the book where one can soak in even deeper into the tug of the human heart.

"Les a grand romance, a history lesson, a sociopolitical treatise, and a touching human drama in one epic novel." -pix

"Les Miserables is a love letter to France as much as it is an indictment-it has become the source of fierce national pride. Though Les Miserables may have universal appeal, it never quite loses its unique Frenchness. It grants all its readers the license to cry, 'Vive l'amour! Vive la France!'"-px

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Visiting the Silversmith at Colonial Williamsburg

During President's Day weekend events last week we had time to visit the silversmith. Actually we popped in on a visit on Monday morning after all the events, in a mighty quiet historic area.  We were supposed to be driving home but I told my son we could take the long way, via a walk through the historic area!  One of our stops, after the milliner, was to the silversmith.  Although it was a bitterly cold and windy day, we delighted in the warmth of the crackling fire while watching the tradeswomen at their work.


The formation os spoons was explained to us...

Photobucket well as the precision technique of cutting out filigree. I asked about that as I was admiring a piece. I adore filigree, and that is my term, not necessarily their term.  In response to my question, she pulled out this piece to show exactly how she cut out the pieces.  Brilliant!


Monday, March 25, 2013

More Snow in March!

Woke up this morning to find more snow!

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This is our third or fourth snow storm this month.  All wintr the snow has fallen mostly during above freezing temperatures.  By afternoon everything is melted. Then the next week it happens all over again.  Between the snow and the rain, we have hopes of a gorgeous spring this year. Last year spring was hot.  The cherry blossoms barely lasted a week and did not even last into April.  Summer began in the spring and we had hardly any rain.  The parched ground must have accumulated over a foot of snow this month  alone and several inches of rain. One night we had a gully washer that flooded our creek. I know melted snow doesn't amount to as much water, but when the snow melts from the roof, it has been gushing out of the gutter downspout all day long into the yard.  Every bit helps.

Today we got about 4" of snow.  After the snow stopped at lunch time, it started raining all the day long.  Our rain gauge couldn't collect all the snow, but whatever it did catch totaled to an inch. Spring is just around the corner.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Napoleon...Master and Commander

Napoleon said, "To France the Fates have decreed the empire of the land; to England the empire of the sea."

Against that backdrop, we watched Master and Commander, set in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars from the English perspective.  The setting is almost entirely aboard ship.  At one point an exotic island with fascinating animal species becomes a fresh venue.  For the most part the story is about life aboard ship, the struggles of maintaining order, the struggles of maintaining humanity and dignity while at war, and of course pursuing the French and battling them.  Various scenes bring escape from the tense job of war with the ship's commander and doctor playing soothing classic music on stringed instruments...renewing sanity after a round of battling, death and gruesome medical procedures, all part of life and death during war. Here is a great review by Roger Ebert.

This highly researched movie/book is based on historical research into the bigger than life heroes, the strength of the ship, and the gruesome medical procedures...all portrayed in the movie. Here's some information on that with videos at the Smithsonian Channel.

Here is some more information on the movie from the Discovery Channel, including how the movie is different from the 20 books in the series and why.

I highly recommend this movie for high school students of the French Revolution.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Discovering Blog Lovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Google Reader will be going away this summer.  Lots of bloggers are talking about Blog Lovin. I visited them today and read I should claim my blog, (not sure exactly what that means) so I'm trying that out...

Blog Lovin is another blog reader like Google Reader.  I quite easily imported all the blogs from my reader list over to Blog Lovin.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Research on my Texas Pioneer Gown

Our latest homeschool history costumes were to portray Texas history in 1836.  That meant Romantic Era gowns (1830's) for myself and my daughter, and a William Barret Travis outfit (1836) for my son.


I even sewed the Republic of Texas flag to make a nice backdrop for our presentations, but this story is about my yellow gown which I decided to submit to the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #5: Peasants and Pioneers, due March 11. Although I understood that the whole idea was to make something more simple in attire, I'd like to present the case for this particular gown from my study over the years of pioneers and Texas history. I am from Texas, having lived there most of my life until a few years ago, so this is near and dear to my heart.

I agree that this gown would not have been worn for daily work by pioneer women. Oh no, this is meant to be a party dress, which is historically accurate for some, though admittedly not all, pioneers.  I have many interesting items on this point that I would like to share.

I began my research for a Texas 1836 gown by researching extant gowns of the era. I portrayed an actual Texas pioneer, Peggy Rabb, who was one of the Old Three Hundred, the first group of Americans to settle in Texas in 1824.  Yet I decided to focus on the 1830's, because the Alamo fell and Texas gained her independence from Mexico in 1836.

How would a pioneer get fabric or the newest fashion news?

Civilization was as close as New Orleans, less than 500 miles and most of that could be traveled by boat. The Old Three Hundred settled in East Texas on the Colorado River, which feeds into the gulf.
I knew it would be realistic to assume that Rabb's husband might bring home some fabric for a new gown with one of the latest fashion plates of 1830. Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote about her girlhood as a pioneer in the 1870's and 1880's, wrote about Pa going away for a few days to civilization to shop for supplies.  He often brought home a few lengths of fabric for Ma to sew into gowns and to make shirts for him.  Sometimes there'd even be something rather fashionable for special occasions. As a pioneer, Peggy would have indeed worn rather plain and simple clothes without all the frills in order to do chores around the house and farm. Life was not easy, as there were also Indian raids. Yet there would be times of merriment.

How could a pioneer have time to dance? Weren't they always working?

In all cultures in all lands, the common people, lower sorts and even slaves found time to dance.  We all need a bit of merriment in our lives to break the monotony and refresh ourselves to set back to work.  The Texians had to make concessions to live in Texas under Mexican law, yet they were content in return for the land they received.   Pioneers knew how to throw a party like Easterners in the big cities.  There were often dances where pioneers, yearning for fun and socialization, would travel as far as fifty or a hundred miles to attend a dance. Even Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Little House in the Big Woods, set in Wisconsin, about the yearly Sugaring Off each February at Grandfather's house. It was a grand time when the entire family from miles around gathered to help collect and cook down the maple syrup.  There would be a big dance and everyone wore their best. Whatever their best was,  that is what they wore. Laura breathtakingly describes Ma pulling out her Delaine, a gown of dark green with a lovely print of tiny strawberries scattered about. Delaine is a fine wool. Laura had never seen it before, so certainly this dance was a special event. It might not have as many frills as the ladies back East wore, but it was set apart from the pioneer daily wear by it's loveliness and style. 

Also the Alamo defenders celebrated George Washington's birthday on February 22 with a Fandango, a Mexican dance, which included members of the nearby community. The Americans brought their English Country dances to the Fandangos and everyone had fun. That was the night the Mexicans arrived in San Antonio de Bexar to lay seige against the Alamo. The seige lasted 12 days. During that time there was another Fandango. In a world before the internet and media devices, there were dances, music and storytelling.

Such is what my gown was to be. I chose yellow because I was especially taken by the yellow 1830's gown on my pinterest page.  It seemed so Texan to me. I could easily see an 1836 pioneer lady wearing that gown to a dance. 

How did I simplify the 1830's gown to make it "pioneerish?"

Gowns of the 1830's were partially distinctive in the piping. I decided to skip that step, to make this gown more simple.  Piping would take extra self-fabric cut on the bias, and extra time...neither of which a pioneer would likely have.

I decided on the puffy sleeves, to mark the gown as 1830 and be a bit old-fashioned. The main storyline we represented was 1836, the time of the Texas Revolution.  Admittedly dancing gowns would have remained packed away, if they weren't used for other purposes.  The first battle of the revolution was in Gonzales, where the residents were determined to keep their cannon. A wedding gown was used to make the Come and Take It banner, which continues to be a symbol of Texas liberty today.

What did Texians wear to inaugurations?

General Sam Houston won Texas Indepdence and was elected the first president of the Republic.  Here is a great description of what was worn to his inauguration in the very young land of Texas, full of pioneers and soon after battle with Mexico.

The battle of San Jacinto was from the first observed as an anniversary, and its celebration by a ball at Houston on April 21, 1837, was an event of great social importance... On the completion of the capitol the next year, a ball was given in the Senate chamber. Dresses elegant in texture and design, comprising velvets, satins, laces, and mulls, were worn by ladies whose grace and beauty would have been admired in any assembly...Ladies and gentlemen, accompanied by their retinue of colored servants, came in parties on horseback fifty and sixty miles...The ball tickets were printed on white satin, and a description of the San Jacinto ball, written by a participant, attests that it was marked by refinement becoming a society largely composed not only of good families but of many who bore names of distinction in their former homes. The music of violins, bass-viol, and fife heralded the grand entry with the air "Hail to the Chief," and General Houston accompanied by one of the most distinguished ladies led the march. The following account of General Houston's evening dress was obtained from the same authority: "Being the President elect, he was of course the hero of the day, and his dress on this occasion was unique and somewhat striking his ruffled shirt, scarlet cashmere waistcoat, and suit of black silk velvet, corded with gold, was admirably adapted to set off his fine, tall figure; his boots, with short red tops, were laced and folded down in such a way as to reach but little above the ankles, and were finished at the heels with silver spurs. The spurs were, of course, quite a useless ornament, but they were in those days so commonly worn as to seem almost a part of the boots. The weakness of General Houston's ankle, resulting from his wound, was his reason for substituting boots for the slippers then universally worn by gentlemen for dancing." (Texas A&M University)
Here is a picture of one of Houston's green velvet hats from one of his inaugurations when Texas was still wild and only lightly settled with pioneers. The Austin Post continues...

Known as a snappy dresser, Sam Houston intended to return to the presidency in style. Long before the election he ordered his inaugural outfit from French ChargĂ© de Affaires Alphonse de Saligny. To be made of green velvet embroidered in gold, the suit would be complemented by a plumed hat and embroidered velvet cape. Startled, Saligny wrote, “It is in this strange outfit that the future Head of the Republic of Texas intends to take his seat in the Presidential armchair." (Austin Post)
What did a Texian pioneer woman wear in 1837? 

The costume described below was a young lady's holiday suit at the capital, in 1837. A black silk dress with very full skirt reached to the ankles, a low-necked waist had long leg-of-mutton sleeves, tight fitting below the elbow, but puffed out very full at the arm-holes, a double shoulder cape of white embroidered mull called a Vandyke was trimmed with lace, and concealed the neck and shoulders. This out-door costume was completed by a pink satin bonnet, with brim of eight or ten inches projecting over the face, and a crown three or four inches high towering above the head. Close to the face inside was a double rushing of tulle, with minute bows of pink satin and sprigs of flowers interspersed. Fastened by a ribbon around the crown and hanging over the face was a white blond veil a yard wide and about a yard and a quarter long; this was elaborately wrought in flowers, all in white, and furnished at the lower end with a rich border. White silk stockings and black slippers were worn with this suit. A dress strangely out of keeping with the life in the woods, propriety seems to say, but feminine love of dress manifests itself wherever there are human eyes to see and admire. (Texas A&M University, boldface mine) 
I love that final quote and that is the essence of my gown.  I used the above description of the leg of mutton sleeves to help me settle on more simple gigot sleeves for myself. They are still a bit over the top, but certainly a few ladies of the era liked that sort of thing and would be their one indulgence in life. Fashions change slowly for most pioneers. Some stayed on top of the fashions and others kept to a modest change in fashion.  In Little House on the Prairie, Nellie Olson always had the latest fashion whereas Laura and her sisters had more simple attire. When Laura grew into a young lady and took on teaching jobs, her parents encouraged her to keep some of the money for herself. Even though she lived in De Smet, South Dakota in the 1880's, she scoured the catalog and  ordered some of the latest fashions, like the latest version of hoops or poke bonnet. She still might not have compared to a young lady of New York City, but she was quite fashionable in DeSmet and won the eye  of Almanzo.

Final Decisions:

I took my character of Peggy Rabb into 1837 to show how Texas continued to develop soon after independence.  Her husband helped to find the town of La Grange in Fayette County, both named after the Marquis de Lafayette. Ancestors had fought with him in the American Revolution and the Rabb family brought this memory to Texas.  Today La Grange is about midway between the cities of Austin and Houston. Surely there was a dance, and I was wearing the dance gown for the grand event, simple, a bit old fashioned, but fun and cheerful. A nice departure from the everyday simple clothes that pioneers had to wear to do the daily chores and survive to carve out civilization.

Set against the Republic of Texas flag I had sewn, with bluebonnets (the state flower of Texas) on the mantle.  I kept everything about me simple, like hairstyle, no jewelry. I had only a simple pretty gown



Now for the HSF details!

HSF  2013

The Challenge: #5 Peasants and Pioneers

Fabric: cotton

Pattern: Butterick 5832 and analysis of extant gowns

Year: 1836

Notions: thread

How historically accurate is it? as much as possible

Hours to complete: lots

First worn: history presentation

Total cost: $20

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Milliner of a Million Things

After Colonial Williamsburg's President's Day weekend events, we found some quiet moments to visit with the milliner at the Margaret Hunter Shop, one whom I've recently met in a fashion workshop! We compared notes on our projects, then as the guests filtered in, she shared the many millions of delights of a milliner shop! Listening to her was great fun, as she wove a fascinating tour of fashionable delights in such a fun way that exceeded any that I recall!


The adorable doll house in the corner...


Some proper hoops for a lady...


The gown!  


The delightful pink gown  that is currently being featured in a CW vodcast.  The story behind the fabric is exquisite!


More of each please!


Um, yes, most definitely!


The milliner shared with me her secret project for the going away party for another colleague, which was finally revealed on the Margaret Hunter facebook a few weeks ago!


And that gown! I kept coming back to it!


And a furry muff!


Choices, choices...


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


We woke up to snow!


The birds were fun to watch playing in the snow.











The view from the basement...



Bird seed from above falls down here. There are always birds and squirrels down here too.





The snow continued throughout the day, and by 3pm I walked out here (house to my right), with snow above my ankles and snow wildly smacking my face...


Uh oh!


Not looking forward to tomorrow. I may need to drive my daughter to college in ice. =(

Oh yes, Washington DC named this the Snowquester storm, except it turns out their sNOw was a disappointment, if you can read between the letters. We are an hour west of DC.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Texas Independence Rhetoric History Presentation...with Tocqueville, Lafayette and Napoleon

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.