Fun with the Flags of Texas

Texas Vexillology - Part of Six Different Nations

            

SPAIN -- Began exploration upon the North American continent soon after Christopher Colombus landed in the area in 1492. The lands of Texas were part of Spain from 1519 to 1821. Pedro Alvarez de Pineda and Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (translated: head of the cow) gets the credit for bringing the first flag onto Texas soil and claiming it for Spain. The fact that he was doing this at the behest of the governor of Jamaica who was looking for a route to Asia via the Gulf of Mexico seems less than relevant. It should also be noted that Spain virtually ignored this new possession for over a century and a half. Not unlike the U.S. flag on the moon really. First ones to plant the flag get the credit...regardless of whether anything is ever done with it. It wouldn't be until 1680 that a Spanish settlement began in El Paso. So who knows, in another hundred years the U.S.A-ians may do something on the moon. Essentially this all means the Spanish have had influence over Texas three times longer than the United States.

FRANCE -- The French occupation of Texas appears to have simply been a five year geographical mistake.  When the French explorer Robert de LaSalle established Fort Saint Louis on Matagorda Bay (about halfway betwixt Houston and Corpus Christi along the Gulf of Mexico) in 1684, he thought he was starting a settlement in the Louisiana Territory. The first 150 Saint Louisian Texians dwindled to 40 within two years. That part of Texas is famous for mosquitos, snakes and other humanity detrimental varmints. In 1687,  LaSalle was orderd by the French government to head to the Great Lakes region to reinforce troops there. LaSalle never made it out of Texas. A few days into the trek he was killed by his own men. As for the Fort Saint Louis settlement, it was literally eaten away by native cannibal Indians (the Karankawa) and ceased to exist in 1869. Events like this help us understand why there has never been, nor likely will ever be, any type of French empire on this planet.

MEXICO -- In 1810, Mexico began fighting for its independence from Spain. This independence was finally achieved eleven years later in 1821. As part and parcel with the victory came ownership of the northern region of the country known by then as Texas. In 1824, this new nation adopted a constitution patterned after that of the United States. They elected their government officials and even fought off more than one attempt by the Spanish to reclaim what had once been New Spain. Then in 1828, a general named Antonio de Padua Maria Severino Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez de Lebron (57 letters, 9 names, 4 prepositions and 3 inflection accents later - would more commonly be called Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna...or just "Santa Anna" for short) participated in a coup that ousted Mexico's sitting president. Inasmuch as his military prowess was most appreciated during the coup, it was quite scary for the newly seated government. He was reassigned to the eastern region of Mexico. Here Santa Anna soon devised a scheme to invade and conquer the Spanish held island of Cuba. These plans were quashed by those officials he'd helped seat, and Santa Anna was left to cool his heels on the beaches of Veracruz. That set of circumstances proved most beneficial when again, in 1829, Spain came calling to retake its former territory. Again Santa Anna proved he was the toughest hombre around and whipped the Spaniards quite handily, forcing their surrender, and sending the survivors back across the Atlantic Ocean sans weapons and food. Mexico City thereby, reluctantly, had to acknowledge their military hero and Santa Anna was allowed to return to the capital. On April Fool's Day, April 1, 1833, he was elected president of Mexico. Within two years he had dissolved the Congress, torn up the Mexican Constitution, and in 1835 declared himself dictator (i.e. "Grand Poobah"). All questions and concerns regarding his actions were thusly directed to the business end of a Mexican military musket. These transitory events, by the way, were the beginning of a whole lot of trouble for Texas.

          

BATTLE OF GONZALES -- U.S. history often cites the "Boston Tea Party" as the beginning of the American Revolution. Likewise, the Battle of Gonzales is traditionally seen as the start of the Texas Revolution. However, the events that instigated this first conflagration between Mexicans and Texians actually predates Santa Anna. Back in 1831, the then government of Mexico City bestowed upon the citizenry of Gonzales their very own cannon for the purpose of protecting themselves against a regular onslaught of Comanche Indian attacks. However, when Santa Anna learned of this Mexican cannon in Texas hands he ordered one of his general's to demand its return. The Gonzalians, however, refused to accommodate this, no doubt, kind request. Herein the Gonzalians adopted a phrase from the American Revolution, and the now famous flag bears the inscription "COME AND TAKE IT". That refusal did not sit well with Santa Anna and he indeed dispatched 100 soldiers to go to Gonzales and "TAKE IT" back. Arriving outside Gonzales in late September 1835, the Mexican troops were stalled for several days by a variety of excuses dreamed up by the city officials of Gonzales (Deja Poo? We're still getting that officialized crapola from politicos). In the meantime, 140 Texian militia reinforcements arrived to assist the Gonzolians against the Mexican soldiers. On October 2 these Texians mounted an attack against the Mexicans and subsequently forced their retreat back to Mexico City sans weapons or cannon. These soldier's ultimate fate, upon bringing this news to Santa Anna is not known. (My thinking is it didn't go well for any of them.) An interesting sidebar to this otherwise insignificant skirmish are the rumors that spread across the United States. The Battle of Gonzales was quickly touted as "the Lexington of Texas" among their northeastern neighbors. Furthermore, the cannon in question, was somehow "lost" to antiquity. Many still contend that it was buried to keep the Mexicans from finding and taking it...and then no one could remember where they had buried the dad-gum thing. Regardless, these circumstances likely serve as the beginning of the long-standing Texas tradition of  inventing and sharing a tall tale.

"REMEMBER THE ALAMO!" -- Following the Gonzales butt-kicking, Santa Anna was again stung by an alliance formed between Mexican Tejanos (wanting a return to the 1824 Constitution) and Anglo Texians. Since 1718 the Spanish had had Catholic missions along the San Antonio River. One mission in particular, Mision San Antonio de Valero (also known as Mission Alamo), was converted into a military compound in 1803. It was also used as a prison, and as San Antonio's first hospital. Troops continued to be housed at the Alamo after Mexico gained independence from Spain. But on December 9, 1835, Santa Anna's brother-in-law was forced to surrender the Alamo to Texian Revolutionaries. In his retreat he left behind 19 cannons. With the fall of the Alamo there were no more organized Mexican troop garrisons in Texas. The Texians felt the war was now over. Santa Anna, however, had other plans. He personally led 6,000 troops into Texas. Their mission was to put an end to this Texas Revolution once and for all. 1,500 Mexican soldiers were led into San Antonio de Bexar (Texas pronunciation: Bear), while the other troops were sent on to various parts along the Texas coastline. Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio on February 23, 1836. The first order of business was to surround the Alamo. When it was learned by Colonel William Barret Travis that no reinforcements would be sent from the Texas Army the 100 men inside made preparation for a final stand against Santa Anna. The bloody finale occurred on March 6, thirteen days after the Mexican Army (10 and a half times the size of the men in the Alamo) had first arrived in San Antonio. The last 11 Texian defenders perished in the chapel area (the only complete part of the Alamo that remains today). Santa Anna's Army suffered more than 500 casualties. Ironically, after the Mexicans retook the Alamo, the 1824 flag was once again lifted above the one time Catholic mission and hospital.

THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS -- As the Alamo lay under siege in San Antonio, 170 miles to the northeast, in Washington, Texas, the Declaration of Independence from Mexico was being crafted. Why Washington of all places, you ask? Well, the DOI was signed on March 2, four days before the inevitable fall of the Alamo. Washington is located on the navigable Brazos River which conveniently afforded a quick escape for all of the signees. The Army of Texas, led by General Sam Houston was a rag-tag bunch at best. With Santa Anna now hot on their heels, the Texians were eventually backed up against the Gulf of Mexico, near modern day Houston's Buffalo Bayou and San Jacinto Creek. Virtually trapped with no escape options available, Santa Anna caught up to the last vestige of Texian fighters on April 19, 1836. After traveling nearly 1700 miles from Mexico City to San Antonio, fighting a battle in which they lost over 500 compatriots and then marching on toward the Gulf, Santa Anna chose to wait until April 22 to annihilate what remained of the Texas Army. This delay cost Mexico dearly. On the afternoon of April 21, General Houston ordered an attack on the Mexicans. Within 20 minutes the Battle of San Jacinto was over and 900 enemy soldiers lay dead. As reasonable a man as he was, the Dictator of Mexico, Santa Anna, surrendered his sword to Sam Houston. Texas was free of Mexico's domination and would now require a new flag.

Despite numerous attempts to become part of the United States of America, from April 21, 1836, until December 29, 1845, Texas was its own sovereign nation. Sam Houston was elected the first president of the Repubic of Texas. In 1844 James K. Polk was elected as the new U.S. President and by the end of the next year the U.S. Congress voted, by an ever so narrow margin, that Texas should be admitted into the U.S.A. as a constituent state of the Union. That day, December 29, 1845, marked the beginning for the Lone Star State. The U.S. flag would now require 28 stars.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  (Part 1) -- Issues with Mexico were far from over after Texas obtained statehood. To begin with, Mexico severed diplomatic relations with the U.S.  Additionally, Mexico still claimed border rights north of the Rio Grande River. The U.S. held an entirely opposite view. President Polk sent General Zachary Taylor ("Old Hickory") to Texas to remedy the situation and exercise an appropriate attitude adjustment upon Mexico. The near result  only served to implement the Mexican - American war (1846 - 1847). The eventual outcome, however, made the Rio Grande the southern border of the U.S. and the northern border of Mexico, creating a clear demarcation for all future illegal immigration.

The preeminent concern behind the slim vote in favor of Texas statehood in the U.S. Congress of 1845 rested upon a substantial debt owed by the Republic of Texas. Inasmuch as the U.S. would be willing to absorb a significant amount of this debt, Texas would still be required to pay the balance due. Texas was wholly, and utterly, incapable to repay what it owed until, in a treaty of 1850, the new state agreed to cede lands under its control to the U.S. Those lands comprised large parts of what would eventually become Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming. So, in essence, one could argue that the Republic of Texas is actually responsible for 6 of the 50 stars in the U.S. flag. Following statehood, and with the threats of any major wars a part of its past, the population of Texas exploded. The primary cash commodities were cattle and cotton. Oil wouldn't be discovered for a few more decades. And, subsequently, a whole bunch of babies got born along the way.

CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA -- In 1861, Texas rescinded her U.S. statehood and joined the Confederate States of America. Even as over three-quarters of Texas voted to secede, many influential individuals did not favor leaving the United States. One of those was the current governor, and former president of Texas, Sam Houston. Suspicions are, he wasn't even in the state, having specifically gone to Washington D.C. to assure the U.S. that Texas would remain loyal to the Union. And his timing couldn't have been worse. While  away, he was ousted as governor, the vote to secede passed, and Sam Houston rode back home,  into another country...yet again. During the Civil War, no significant altercations occurred on Texas soil. As such the state served predominantly as a "supply state" for the Confederacy. Nevertheless, the distinction of the last battle of the Civil War did take place in Texas! It occurred at Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, a full three days AFTER General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. None of this is the proudest part of our history...yet part of our history nonetheless.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  (Part 2) -- Of all the Confederate states, support of the Confederacy was perhaps the weakest in Texas. Nevertheless, reconstruction efforts were difficult as both white landowners couldn't get their crops to market and former slaves had never learned how to be self-supportive. Can anyone sense tension? As hard as it may be to comprehend in the 21st century - humans are, and apparently always will be humans - and very ugly aspects of racial divisions continue to this day in parts of Texas. But, many racist Texans are equal opportunity bigots. They hate everybody who isn't like them. In all fairness though, this racism is evidenced equally on both sides. Primary among issues currently irritating Texas is illegal immigration from Mexico. Some Texas towns have already adopted Spanish as their official language. Quickly the dominance of the Caucasian population is dwindling in the major metropolitan areas of Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It has been estimated, that in the next 20 years, both the Black American and Mexican American populations of Texas will surpass the Anglos.