Iconic Phrases and the Texas Revolution

Today’s post was written by our volunteer Pat Hazlett

“Come and Take It!” “Remember the Alamo!” “Remember Goliad!” What Texan is not familiar with these phrases?  Phrases to stir the soul, inspire courage, and incite rebellion. Each phrase is associated with a pivotal point on Texas’ road from revolution to independence.

 “Come and Take it Cannon”
On display in Texas!

On October 2, 1835 the Mexican commander at San Antonio ordered the people of Gonzales to surrender their small brass cannon. Local officials refused and sent runners into the surrounding areas to gather armed men. The Mexican colonel ordered about 100 soldiers to take the cannon by force.  Buried until reinforcements arrived, the cannon was then mounted on a wagon and decorated with a white flag proclaiming, “Come and Take It.” The Mexican soldiers arrived to confront 160 armed Texans and a brief battle ensued. One Mexican soldier was killed, but no Texans. The Mexicans withdrew to San Antonio.  News of the “battle” spread and ignited fervor among Texans.

By early 1836 the Texans in San Antonio occupied the abandoned mission, San Antonio de Valero. The old mission had once housed a Spanish company from Alamo de Parras in Mexico. So, most people referred to it as the Alamo. Colonel James Bowie and his men joined Colonel James C. Neill, commander, in January 1836. In February, William B. Travis and his men joined them. Bowie was chosen commander of the volunteers, Travis of the regular army.  However, Bowie became ill and passed the entire command to Travis. Although the Alamo was a fairly good defensive position, Travis knew they had too few men (less than 200). There were also gaps in the Alamo walls, closed only with sticks and dirt. Regardless, Travis was determined to hold the Alamo, which had come to symbolize much for its defenders. This would also tie up Santa Anna’s army and give Sam Houston more time to raise a Texas army. Despite written appeals for help, help did not arrive in time. As Mexican troops encircled the Alamo, Travis explained that remaining would mean certain death. According to legend, he drew a line in the sand with his saber, asking those who wished to stay to cross over the line.  All but one stepped across.  At about 5:00 a.m. on March 6, 1836, the battle began. Mexican buglers played the notes of “El Deguello,” an ancient chant indicating that no mercy would be shown. The Texans put up a stubborn fight, but the third assault by the Mexican troops successfully breached the walls. By 8:00 a.m. the battle for the Alamo was over. Bowie, Travis, and volunteer Davy Crockett were all killed. “Remember the Alamo!” became a battle cry for Sam Houston’s army.

May24#63
Creative Commons License photo credit: travelswiss

Also by 1836, the Spanish presidio, La Bahia, near the town of Goliad was under Texas control, commanded by Colonel James W. Fannin. General Sam Houston had ordered Fannin to retreat to Victoria, but Fannin delayed and found himself surrounded by Mexican forces at the Battle of Coleto. He and his men surrendered and were imprisoned inside the presidio at Goliad. Many Texans believed they were prisoners of war and would be treated fairly by their Mexican captors. Though the surrender document, in Mexican archives, shows no such promise, eyewitnesses testified that Mexican general Urrea assured Fannin that he and his men would be treated fairly. General Urrea even wrote to Santa Anna, requesting that the lives of the prisoners be spared. Santa Anna replied with immediate execution orders. On March 27, 1836, Palm Sunday, Fannin, his men and other Texan captives were divided into columns and marched out onto the prairie. They believed they were going on work detail; some even assumed they were going home. Upon a signal, Mexican soldiers opened fire on them, killing them all. Colonel Fannin was the last to be shot, forced to watch the execution of his own men. “Remember Goliad” joined “Remember the Alamo” as the battle cry of Sam Houston’s army, soon to be victorious at San Jacinto. 

Don’t miss your chance to see Texas! The Exhibition, on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science through September 7.

Bibliography:      

Anderson, Adrian N., et al. Texas and Texans. Columbus, Ohio: Glencoe/McGraw Hill. 2003.

Barkley, Roy R. and Mark F. Odintz. The Portable Handbook of Texas.  Austin: Texas State Historical Association. 2000.

The Women of Texas! The Exhibition

When studying history, even a female like me becomes comfortable surrounded by male heroes. In Texas history, we were taught from an early age that Stephen F. Austin is the “Father of Texas,” that Davy Crockett and William B. Travis fought and died heroically at the Alamo, and  that James Fannin and his men were surrounded and gave their lives in the Goliad Massacre.

We know this great state of Texas was once its own republic lead by strong men such as its first President – the hero of San Jacinto – Sam Houston. History is chock full of great, notable men. So what about the women? Surely remarkable females were around?

Certainly women suffered and persevered like the men we are all familiar with. In Texas! The Exhibition we highlight a few women who helped build and shape Texas as it grew from a Spanish owned territory to a thriving state in the Union.

Women were not expected to play pivotal rolls in early Texas history. They were seen as venerable, delicate creatures that should be protected. Those who made their mark, despite these prejudices, were undeniably extraordinary!

Jane Long
Jane Long, for example, garnered such an incredible reputation for survival and determination that she was dubbed the “Mother of Texas.”

Jane and her husband, James Long, moved to the Bolivar peninsula while Texas was under Spanish rule.  James left a very pregnant Jane and their young daughter at a fort on the peninsula to fight for the cause of freeing Texas from Spanish rule. Jane, her daughter, and a slave girl fended off Indian attacks by making the fort look as if it was inhabited by military protection.  On December 21, 1821 Jane gave birth to another daughter.

Jane would later discover that she was widowed and would move to one of Stephen F. Austin’s colonies. She opened a hotel that became a center for gatherings and celebrations. When Stephen F. Austin returned from his imprisonment in Mexico, the hotel hosted a ball in his honor.

Though Jane would live out the rest of her life as a widow she did not lack for suitors. It is said that she was pursued by Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and even William B. Travis. Jane died in 1880 and was buried in Richmond Texas. Her gravestone reads: “Mrs. Jane H. Long, The Mother of Texas.”

Jane Hughes
Another lady of Texas, while only briefly highlighted in the exhibition, is Jane Hughes.

We don’t know a lot about Ms. Hughes. We know she was a widow with a large family. We also know she received a land grant– in her name– from “Estevan F. Austin.” Looking at the grant, there are a couple amazing thoughts that come to mind. First of all, a woman was given a land grant. This was almost unheard of during this time in history. Also, the grant is written in Spanish. Does this mean Jane was bilingual or a native of Mexico who only spoke Spanish? This paper is solid proof that women were making their way in the rugged Texas land.

Land grant for Jane Hughes

Ann Chase
Mexico has … shed American blood on American Soil.”  -James K. Polk

With these words in 1846, Mexico and the United States went to war over a “slice” of disputed land in southern Texas. At the start of the war, Americans living in Mexico were required to leave the country. Ann Chase, a British subject, was allowed to stay even though her American husband was forced to leave their home in Tampico, Mexico.

So, why would a woman want to stay in Mexico during the war?

Hold on to your socks….she was a SPY! Being a woman, she had the perfect cover for covert operations. Ann reported back to the U.S. government on daily life in Mexico, but most important on the movement of Mexican forces and ships. When you visit  Texas! the exhibition, you’ll have the opportunity to check out her journal and a Presentation Pitcher given to her in 1848 for her service to the United States.

Allie Townsend’s Lady Smith .22 gun

Allie Townsend
A group of brave men protected Texas’ open range. This group was initially started by Stephen F. Austin, and they would later be known as the Texas Rangers.

Contrary to what you might think this was NOT an all boys club. Allie Townsend shoots down that theory in Texas! The Exhibition by allowing us to display her holster belt and Lady Smith .22 gun. Allie was an honorary member of the Texas Rangers and helped guard the west with her husband E.E. Townsend, father of Big Bend National Park. It is nice to see that some organizations were a step above the rest by allowing women to be among their ranks. I guess the Texas Rangers were progressive before progressive was cool.

So despite the preconceptions of the day, women were working as hard as some of the men to shape this great Texas land. Their roles may seem minor, but they had a long and lasting impact. Come and see some of their personal items in Texas! The Exhibition.

A Nod to the Ladies (Other items of interest in the Texas! exhibit.)
1950 Rodeo Suits
Turkey Feather Dress (1939)
Mardi Gras Gown (w/ San Jacinto appliqué)
Macquette for The “Spirit of the Centennial” Statue of 16 Year old Georgia Carroll Kyser

Interested in learning more about Texas? Check out our other blog posts and don’t miss your chance to see Texas! The Exhibition, on display until September 5.

Texas Exhibition! Spotlight on David Crockett

As we prepare for the opening of our new exhibition Texas! Making History Since 1519, we are dedicated to helping you learn more about the great Lone Star State. So today, Amanda Norris and Pat Dietrich, youth educators at the museum, write to you about David Crockett. Just in case you missed it, check out last week’s post on Stephen F. Austin.

This Alamo defender was born in Tennessee on August 17, 1786.  Crockett spent the early part of his life in several small towns in Tennessee, helping his father at the family owned tavern. At the age of 20, he married Polly Finley and later moved with his family to a farm near the border of Alabama.

In September of 1813, Crockett joined the local militia to avenge an Indian attack in nearby Alabama. He reenlisted in 1814. When he returned from service in Pensacola in 1815, is wife became ill and passed away. He remarried a few months later and traveled to Alabama to look for land for his family. However, he returned to Tennessee and decided to live there. He became a Justice of the Peace, but then resigned to become a town commissioner.

Tennessee Legislator

During the next 13 years, Crockett served terms in the Tennessee legislature, returned to private practice, served two terms in the United State House of Representatives, but was defeated in 1835.  By this time he was nationally known as a storyteller, sharpshooter and hunter. Several books were published relating his tall tales.

When he lost another election to a man with a wooden leg, David Crockett set out for the Texas frontier to see if he should move his family there. At this time, he made his famous remark, “Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

In February of 1836, David Crockett arrived in San Antonio de Bexar. Sam Houston had ordered that his army retreat from the Alamo, but Colonel William B. Travis disregarded the order. Crockett sided with Travis, ready for a good fight. Mexican Army General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had arrived at San Antonio on February 20, ready to seize the Alamo.

With no reinforcements arriving, the thirteen day siege of the Alamo ended on March 6, 1836. In less than two hours, David Crockett, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis and between 185 and 255 other defenders lost their lives.   “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad” became the battle cry at the successful Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, when Sam Houston’s army defeated Santa Anna in a savage 18-minute battle.

“The Fall of the Alamo” by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk

Silver Screen Adaptations

Davy Crockett’s life has been depicted in Hollywood for decades, a topic ripe for the silver screen. There have been several movies about the famous Alamo battle in two of these, the character of Davy Crockett has been played by the likes of John Wayne and Billy Bob Thornton. In the famous 1955 Walt Disney series Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, the title character of Davy Crockett was played by Fess Parker.

Davy Crockett’s efforts to free Texas from Mexico have made him a Texas Legend admired by historians and school children alike!

Learn even more about Texas in our new exhibition, opening to the public on March 6, 2011. Get a sneak peak at the exhibition during our Texas VIP Nite, March 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. And stay tuned to the blog as we highlight other important people and events throughout the run of the show.

Hey Texan! What do YOU know about the Lone Star State?

I recently saw Carol Burnett on an episode of Glee. I’ve always adored her, but this time I felt especially close to her because I just learned that she’s from Texas. Who knew? I’m a native Texan too. And I discovered our relation while taking a quiz to test my knowledge on Texas.

No, I’m not secretly a 4th or 7th grade student (all of whom are required by the state to take Texas history!) But I am excited to announce the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s next special exhibition, Texas! Making History Since 1519 on Sunday, March 6.

As you are undoubtedly aware, Texas has a history as large as the state itself! This exhibit will explore the unique roles that Texas has played: as a Spanish colony, as part of the Mexican Frontera, as an independent Republic, and as the 28th state to join the Union. Visitors will explore Texas’ rich legacy of perseverance, determination, diverse heritage and unique spirit through the stories of its central events and famous icons.

As it happens, we have an outstanding former Texas history teacher here at the Museum, Amanda Norris, who developed a quiz that we could put online for people to see how much they know about our great state. Then, I thought it would be fun to test my own knowledge and asked my colleagues to join me.

Texas Quiz!
Here we go!

We gathered around the table in the Marketing office on a Friday afternoon and took the test. If you’re a native Texan, or even just “got here as soon as you could,” you might think you’d pass this quiz with flying colors. We certainly did! Out of 11, eight of us were born and raised in Texas (and presumably completed the required 2 years of Texas history required by state education standards) and we’re proud of it!

But when Amanda passed out the quiz and gave us the thumbs up to begin answering the questions, some us looked puzzled immediately after the first question. I didn’t recall learning some of the information presented on the quiz in Texas History class. Or maybe I just missed the day we covered “famous Texan entertainers.” Needless to say, this is when I learned Carol Burnett is a native Texan, amongst many other things.

Texas Quiz!
Amanda calls out the questions.

With deep sadness in my Texas sized heart, I admit I didn’t do well on the quiz.

However, there’s always, always someone who has to get a perfect score and ruin the grading curve. That would be Vanessa Garcia from our group. She made a perfect 100. Now when I see her I call out, “Little Miss Perfect!”

Texas Quiz!
Vanessa holds up her perfect score!

But I learned that Texas has centuries of rich history I never knew about – even after living here for decades! Which made me wonder…how much do you know about Texas? We headed into the Grand Hall at the Museum to find out.

Can’t see the video? Click Here.

Very surprising results! Now – I challenge you to take our quiz to see how much you know!

Then, come to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to meet legendary Texas icons such as Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston and Davy Crockett and bask in the glory of fascinating Texas artifacts, including the “Come and Take It” cannon; the Juneteenth Order; Battle Standard #4, the flag that flew over the decisive Battle of San Jacinto and Sam Houston’s report on the Battle, which includes the phrase “Remember the Alamo,” dated April 25, 1836.

Texas! The Exhibition opens Sunday March 6!