COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill

Texas Heritage

T he American Civil War (or, as many of us call it, the ‘War of Northern Aggression’) was fought, mostly, over states’ rights. Southern states wanted to secede from the union, and Northern states objected, causing the deaths of about 620,000 soldiers. To put that number in perspective, roughly 644,000 American soldiers have died in all other U.S. wars combined.

Now there’s a group called the Texas Nationalist Movement, comprised of Texans who want the Lone Star State to secede from the union.

Honestly, I don’t know whether that’s good or bad. I know the United States needs Texas more than Texas needs the United States, but I’m against secession unless there is no other choice. The move might not start another civil war, but it would definitely cause a lot of trouble.

During polarizing times such as these, I think it’s a good idea to pause and remember our heritage, and consider how we got here. And there’s no reason we can’t have fun at the same time.

So . . .

Texas was colonized by Stephen “Moses” Austin, who put up flyers all over Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Virginia, and Germany, to advertise the cheap land here. He did this because 1) he was a genuinely good guy who wanted to help his fellow man; and 2) he needed to get enough immigrants down here to fight against Mexico in the battle of the Alamo, the battle of San Jacinto, and the Milagro Bean Field War.

He did pretty well, managing to recruit some very good actors, such as John Wayne, Ken Curtis, Denver Pyle, and Richard Widmark. These guys, along with a bunch of extras from Tennessee (the “Shoot Me State”) on March 6, 1836, unsuccessfully defended the Alamo.

Actually, the Spanish mission’s real name was the Mission de San Antonio de Valero. After the battle, the Texans tried to encourage more people to join their army by shouting, “Remember the Mission de San Antonio de Valero!” but it just didn’t flow. So, they decided to call it the Alamo instead.

Though many people don’t realize it, the Alamo changed hands several times during the months leading up to the 13-day siege in late February and early March of 1836, when the movie cameras were finally set up. The Mexican army would take the mission, and the Texans would take it back, and it went back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

It got so confusing that, at one point, the Mexican army decided to take a break and spend a couple of weeks on the coast. While they were gone, the Texans took the mission away from themselves three times.

But the defenders of the Alamo had bought the Texas army some valuable time, time it needed to prepare to defend itself, time it needed to organize its forces and plan its strategy, time it needed to figure out which way to run from the Mexican army. For the answer, the Texans turned to their colorful and enigmatic leader, General Sam Houston State University.

After conferring with his colonels, his lieutenants, and a fairly reliable podiatrist, Gen. University declared that the Texans would run east, because of the Mexican army being to the west, the Gulf of Mexico being to the south, and Comanches being to the north

Everyone agreed this was a good choice, since they had to go that way to get to the site of the Battle of San Jacinto anyhow, which was scheduled for April 21, barring bad weather. The Runaway Scrape was on.

Texans abandoned their homes, leaving hot food on their tables, hot coals in their hearths, and hot footprints on the roads. The new Texas government relocated several times, with the army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (the “Napoleon of the West”) hot on their tail. They ended up in Galveston, where they buried what was left of the national treasury (three dimes and a quarter) on the beach. Their voting machines were all damaged by salt water, so President David G. Burnet decided to send them to Broward County, Florida. They’re still in use today.

The Texas army, meanwhile, kept going east, looking over its shoulder once in a while, but seldom slowing down. Gen. University finally called a halt when he got to the San Jacinto River. He consulted his program to find that his men were to be deployed to the north side of the battlefield, but were not yet allowed to bathe.

When Santa Anna arrived, he was not happy that the only seats left were on the south side, near the picturesque, mosquito-laden swamp. He complained, and was allowed to bring in some reinforcements as compensation. Partially mollified, he decided to take a nap.

Which, of course, was when Gen. University decided to attack. His 910 men ran across the meadow, charged into the 1,265 Mexican soldiers, killed 630 of them, wounded 208, and routed the rest. Nine Texans were killed and 30 wounded. The country of Texas was born.

We finally joined the union in 1846, but for ten years Texas was a nation. It could become a nation again, maybe without bloodshed, but not without a lot of pain, problems, and resentment. I think we should stay in the union as long as we can stand it.

Besides, with the quality of the actors we could scrape together for a remake, the movie just wouldn’t be the same.




Email Kendal Hemphill at contactus@fishgame.com


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