Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Ravens, Republics, and Revolutions

175 years ago today, Texas became a free and independent nation (in theory, cause Santa Anna and his armies were swarming around, paying particular attention to our boys bottled up at the Alamo). We had no real army, no great store of munitions, very little wealth, no constitution, and not even a real flag. But we had our declaration, damn it (if you doubt me, just peek over to the right—see it? Reckon you won't be so quick to crowd me next time, will you?)

The great document was signed at a mudhole on the Trinity River, re-named, thereafter, with the usual Texas flair for understatement, as Washington-on-the-Brazos. The most auspicious deed performed that day, though, was the re-appointment of Sam Houston as Commander of all Armed Forces (all 12 of em).

Houston was quite a guy, as you may have heard. Great soldier, and statesman. Lived among the Cherokee on several occasions (it was they who tagged him as Colonneh, or The Raven), and advocated for them in Washington, beating a yankee-weasel congressman damn near to death along the way, which would justify a career for most guys. Sam was just gettin started though, arriving in Texas in 1833, fashioning an army from the ragtag bunch of malcontents and hotheads at his disposal to beat the far superior forces of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, before becoming Texas first elected president. He also served as Senator, once Texas joined the union, and as Governor (he was once Governor of Tennessee, as well, but that's a long story for another day).

Yeah, you might say that Sam and Texas are inextricably linked—you cannot delve into the essence of either without discovering the other. How fitting, then, that on this day, the birthday of Texas, we also celebrate the birth of the man who made it so. Sam Houston was born this day, in 1793.

Depicted atop his famous steed, Saracen, at right, Sam was a fighter to the end. As Governor during the build-up to war and secession, he was nearing seventy years old, but was often known to scrap in the streets of Austin in defense of the Union. He warned em all what would happen, but they didn't listen, of course. Lincoln offered him 50,000 Federal troops to quell the rebellion, but Sam reluctantly refused. While he couldn't fight against the union, he couldn't shed his own people's blood, either.

Deposed from his office, he retired to Huntsville, dying in 1893, with Texas on his lips. His last words are reported to be "Texas! Texas! Margaret..."

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