Friday, December 2, 2022

Texas Tales – A Peaceful Period

When the bluebonnets bloomed in Texas in 1837, the former Mexican province had been independent for a year.

On March 3, the day after the first anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos, President Andrew Jackson appointed a charge d’affaires to the newly U.S.-recognized Republic of Texas. 

The year before, Texans had fought hard and not always victoriously for their political freedom, but as one newspaper reported on March 17, “the utmost quiet prevails thorough the republic.” Beyond that, “the government is fully sustained by the people, and…the whole population appears to be satisfied.”

Of course, the republic’s small electorate had already voted to pursue annexation by the U.S., and most people in both nations considered it a done deal. What no one seemed to have anticipated was that it would take another eight years for Texas to join the union.

Back before development of the electromagnetic telegraph, news spread no faster than the fleetest horse, steam-powered vessel or locomotive. The report about Texas enjoying “the utmost quiet” that distant spring had originated with “a gentleman just from Texas” and was first published in the New Orleans True American. Eventually that story made it by riverboat up the Mississippi and via ship along the Eastern seaboard to the Northeast. With each port call, it appeared in other newspapers, including the Albany Argus in New York’s capital.

Here’s the rest of that brief dispatch from Texas:

“Families have returned to their farms, and preparations are being made for an immense corn crop. They [the government of the new republic] have established a line of ten block houses, the whole distance from the Trinity to San Antonio. To each block house is apportioned fifty mounted rangers. The people entertain no fears of the Indians, and apprehend nothing from their old foe [Mexico.] The emigration is unparallel.”

The peace that prevailed in Texas only a year after it had declared its independence from Mexico had not come cheaply. Another item in the same issue of the Albany sheet reflects the sentiments of one woman who lost a son to the Texas cause.

The newspaper reprinted a letter to Sam Houston, president of the republic, from Mrs. Ellen J. Main, who lived in Virginia. Her letter was a reply to a missive from Houston containing the worst possible news a mother could get.

She wrote:  Honorable Sir:–Your letter of…27th July…received August 30, I cannot express the gratitude I have to you. Your letter contained very distressful news, yet satisfactory to me. To think [my son] was so cruelly massacred, and not him alone, but many of our countrymen, by the merciless Mexicans, is almost more than I can bear; yet I must submit to the will of Heaven.

“Not withstanding all, I had rather he had died in such a cause than to have stood back as a coward, and said he was afraid! Who is he that values his life more than his country, or the cause of Liberty? This is enough to nerve the arm, and raise the heart of every free American. You have engaged in a good cause—prove valiant—trust in the God of battles, and the victory shall be yours!

“If you have heard any thing else respecting him write to me and let me know it.

“I am, your ever thankful and grateful, Ellen J. Main” 
Mrs. Main had named her son, born in 1807 in Virginia, in honor of the first American president. George Washington Main, having joined the Texan cause, had been badly wounded when Texas forces ran Mexican Gen. Martin Perfecto de Cos out of San Antonio in 1835 following the Battle of Bexar. Even so, the 29-year-old Main continued to hold the rank of second lieutenant in the Bexar Guards, an infantry company commanded by Capt. Robert White.

When Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio in February 1836 to put down the Texas rebellion, Main was still there, recuperating from his injury. Along with the other Texas combatants, he fell back to make a stand in the Alamo. 

As the “Handbook of Texas” points out, it isn’t known whether Main had been strong enough to take part in the defense of the old mission in the 13-day siege that followed, but he died along with all its other defenders on March 6, 1836. And a year later, when the spring wildflowers appeared, Texas was peaceful.

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