Welcome to La Escualita de Dee. Today, we are discussing the History of Southern Texas. Everyone thinks they know this, however, most do not.
The Republic of Texas, which existed for almost ten years before becoming part of the United States, was beset by many problems, principally financial ones. Although Texas had much land, until it was farmed by settlers little money would be available. To farm the land, however, white settlers would have to remove the native inhabitants by force. The first Texas election took place in September 1836, and Sam Houston defeated Stephen Austin to become the first president of the new Republic of Texas. Although the new republic was recognized by the United States and by several European countries, Mexico refused to recognize it, arguing that the treaty signed by Santa Anna claimed territory that was not part of the original state of Tejas. The republic asserted that the Río Grande from its mouth to its source was the western boundary of the new country, which would have given Texas parts of present-day New Mexico and Colorado. Mexico maintained that the southern boundary of Texas should be the Nueces River and not the Río Grande. In 1841 a trading expedition of Texans was sent to Santa Fe as the first step in a plan to secure the western boundaries of Texas. The group was captured by Mexican troops, and the captives were forced to march to Mexico City, where the survivors of the march were imprisoned. Mexican soldiers also periodically crossed into Texas and for short periods occupied San Antonio, Goliad, and Refugio. Finally, in February 1844, the Republic of Texas and Mexico signed an armistice. Difficulties with Mexico did not prevent more land grants to those who settled in the Republic of Texas. The population increased from an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 in 1821 to between 125,000 and 150,000 in 1836. German immigrants settled in central Texas, and other Europeans also established colonies. Most of the settlers had come from the United States to get the free land Texas was offering. Most of these new settlers joined Houston and his political supporters, who wanted the United States to annex the republic. As the land was settled, Native Americans were forced out. During the Texas Revolution, Houston had negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee that reserved lands in east Texas for the Cherokee. Texans had not approved the agreement, and now the republic refused to honor it. As settlers moved in, some Cherokee took matters into their own hands. Perhaps as many as 300 Cherokee joined about 100 Mexicans led by Vicente Cordova to camp on an island in east Texas and announced that they did not support the republic. A Texas army attacked and arrested all the leaders, and distrust between the Cherokee and whites increased. In December 1838 the Georgia-born soldier and politician Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected president of the republic. Lamar had no sympathy for Native Americans. He ordered the Cherokee out of the country. The Cherokee resisted, but at the Battle of the Neches in 1839 they were defeated and forced to go north to what is now Oklahoma, clearing east Texas for white settlement.
The United States Senate rejected a treaty to annex Texas in 1844, but it reversed that decision the following year, and Texas joined the Union on December 29, 1845. Under the treaty of annexation, Texas was responsible for all debts incurred by the republic. Mexico immediately broke off diplomatic relations with the United States. U.S. General Zachary Taylor was ordered to the Río Grande to enforce it as the Texas boundary. Mexico, however, held that the boundary was the Nueces River and considered Taylor’s advance a provocation. Mexico sent troops across the Río Grande. Congress responded by declaring war on Mexico on May 13, 1846. Many Texans participated in the Mexican War. Members of the Texas Rangers, a group formed on the eve of the Texas Revolution by Austin to protect Anglo-Americans from attacks by Comanche and Apache, acted as scouts for U.S. troops. Mexico was not defeated until troops under General Winfield Scott invaded Mexico City, which fell on September 14, 1847. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, Mexico relinquished its claims to Texas, and the United States acquired land that would become the states of California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Among the notable aspects of the treaty, it set the Texas border at the Rio Grande. It provided for the protection of the property and civil rights of Mexican nationals who would now be living on U.S. soil.
Southern immigrants to Texas had brought their slaves with them after 1820, but the plantation system for growing cotton had not penetrated much farther than east Texas in 1861, when the American Civil War began. Pro-Union sentiment was strong in west Texas, because of the proximity to Mexico and because west Texans needed federal protection against the attacks of Native Americans, and in central Texas, where German settlers opposed slavery. Houston, who had been elected governor in 1859, was a staunch Unionist and strongly opposed secession. Nevertheless, at a convention held in February 1861, delegates voted to secede and join the Confederate States of America. Houston, despite his long service to Texas, was removed from office. The majority of Texans supported the Confederacy once secession took place. General John B. Hood’s Texas Brigade and Benjamin Franklin Terry’s Texas Rangers made notable contributions to Confederate forces. Early in 1862 an expedition of Texas troops, under General Henry H. Sibley, captured Santa Fe, New Mexico, but they were later forced to withdraw.
After the Civil War, Texas grew rapidly. Between 1870 and 1900 the population of Texas increased from 19th in the country (818,579) to sixth (3,048,710). In the 1880s railroads opened new lands on the Great Plains and across Texas, and farmers flocked to those areas and planted staple crops—wheat, corn, and cotton—encouraged by new mechanical reapers, barbed wire (which helped control wandering cattle), and better farming techniques. In 1868 a reservation in the Indian Territory was set aside for the Comanche and the Kiowa, but they continued raiding across the border into Texas, and the Apache left reservations in New Mexico to raid into Texas. In the early 1870s, U.S. troops, which included the all-black 10th and 11th units known as Buffalo Soldiers, began a vigorous campaign to keep Native Americans on the land set aside for them. Federal forces also fought Native Americans with the assistance of the Texas Rangers. The most effective weapons against Native Americans on the Plains were the decision to exterminate the buffalo by General William Tecumseh Sherman and the expansion of the railroad into the West. These actions destroyed Native American food supplies and forced them onto reservations. It is estimated that almost ten million bison were killed between 1871 and 1880 for sport, for food to feed people laying tracks for the railroad, and for the animals’ hides. The cattle industry also grew after the Civil War. Since the days of the Spanish missions, there had been cattle in Texas, but because of the long distance to markets, the cattle had little value. Ranching had been neglected during the Civil War, and vast herds of wild cattle roamed southwestern Texas, where the famed longhorn breed originated. Before the Civil War, cowboys riding horses had rounded up the cattle and driven them from East Texas to Louisiana markets, but after railroads were built from Chicago to Kansas it was possible to send beef to the large Chicago market. The first major cattle drive all the way from Texas to Kansas took place in 1866. As the railroads pushed farther west, the cowboys drove their herds to the railroad terminal points, called cow towns. The cow towns Wichita, Dodge City, and Abilene became identified with cowboys and the cattle trails from Texas.
By 1890 Texas produced more than 33 percent of the cotton grown in the United States. The crop financed the growth of Texas cities, especially Dallas and Houston.
Among the few Civil War battles fought in Texas were the Confederate victory at the Battle of Sabine Pass along the Texas-Louisiana border, and the capture of Galveston by Union forces, and its recapture by the Confederates. Because soldiers had not yet heard the news that the war had ended, the last battle of the Civil War occurred near Brownsville more than a month after Confederate General Robert E. Lee had surrendered in Virginia. Black people in Texas did not hear of the Emancipation Proclamation—which President Abraham Lincoln had issued in 1863, to free the slaves in Confederate states—until June 19, 1865, when the Union Army landed in Galveston. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the Southern states that had seceded from the Union were governed by a combination of appointed federal officials and the army until Congress readmitted them to the union. Ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, was among the requirements for readmission of the states. These amendments, respectively, prohibited slavery, gave citizenship to all born or naturalized in the United States while prohibiting political activity by those who had supported secession, and gave all citizens, regardless of color, the right to vote. The former slaves, or freedmen, were enfranchised (given the right to vote) by the 15th Amendment and, because the Democrats had led the South into the Civil War, blacks joined the Republican Party. Blacks, who could vote and hold office in Texas until they were disfranchised in the early 20th century, were the major source of Republican voting strength. They joined with Northern immigrants to the state and long-time opponents of Texas secession to elect Republican Edmund Davis as governor in 1870. The early success of the Republican Party in Texas was due primarily to a lack of unity on the part of white voters. Most whites objected to enfranchising blacks and joined the Democratic Party. When white Democrats did unite, they defeated Davis in 1874 but he refused to concede the election. He argued that organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, a secret terrorist organization that was dedicated to white supremacy, had intimidated black and other potential Republican voters. Angry whites armed themselves and went to the capital in Austin to force Davis to leave office. When he found no support from the federal government, Davis stepped down.
Next Time: Volume 1, Chapter 2: Mexican Sharecroppers in Texas and the Southern Border