The Story

“The Certainty of Death”

In April of 1863, Sam Houston filed his last will and testament. The hero of San Jacinto would be dead within four months. The American Civil War, a conflict Sam had worked hard to prevent, had raged for two years with no end in sight. Two years earlier, Texas Governor and staunch Unionist, Sam Houston had defiantly refused to pledge loyalty to the newly-created Confederate States of America, and was removed from office. Exiled and out of the spotlight (and out of favor with many of his former friends) the man who had served the United States, the Republic of

Read More »

“Darling”

The author used this word a lot in this letter to his girlfriend. My early hunch was that he really liked her.   In 1938, Onnie E. Clem, Jr., a Dallas native, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to see the world, and got a lot more than he bargained for. In the fall of 1944,  Onnie was rescued from an island in the Philippines after a harrowing and horrifying several years. He had survived the Battle of Bataan in the Spring of 1942, and was subsequently captured by the victorious Japanese and forced marched at bayonet along with

Read More »

“The Water Rose Higher And Higher…”

September 8, 2022, marks the one hundred and twenty-second anniversary of the worst natural disaster in American history -The Galveston Storm of 1900. Sources say that somewhere between six and twelve thousand people lost their lives, literally overnight. Over time the tragedy distilled into singular stories of horror and grief. One eyewitness told of seeing the body of a woman hanging by her hair in a tree, her lifeless body beaten and torn by flying debris. Even those buried long before were not spared the indignity of nature’s wrath. Torrential rain created soft, malleable, water-logged soil that allowed the receding

Read More »

“We won’t stand it.”

A cursory glance at the photograph of the author, T.C. Neel, offers little insight into the fire-breathing secessionist we know him to be.  Neel came to Texas in the mid-1850s from Georgia with his wife, Willia (whom I’ll highlight later),  a daughter, and eighty enslaved persons, who worked Neel’s burgeoning plantation located near Waxahachie in Ellis County. College educated, Neel quickly became a member of both the Texas House and Senate and eventually was elected to represent Ellis county at the Texas Secessionist Convention, convening in Austin, in January, 1861, where its members voted overwhelmingly to secede from the United

Read More »

He loves flattery he is indeed a man of Texas

“He lovs flattery he is indeed a man of texas” Felix Huston and about six hundred volunteers, mostly from Mississippi and Tennessee, arrived in Texas on July 4th, 1836. Huston (pronounced, Huss’ tun) and his men arrived too late to join the fight at San Jacinto and Texas independence. With little to do but drill, march, wait, and get in trouble, some of the men managed to spend their time more productively. One of them was a lively letter writer from Shelbyville, Tennessee named J. D. Cannon. Like a lot of correspondence written during the era, Cannon’s letter is almost

Read More »

The Saga of Sam McCulloch

The Saga of Sam McCulloch In June of 1837, a disabled veteran of the Texas Revolution petitions the Congress of the Republic of Texas for citizenship and the promise of land grants he believed were rightfully his. But according to the Constitution adopted nine months earlier in September, 1836, he doesn’t qualify.  Why? African blood runs through his veins. His petition was ignored. The document highlighted this month is the draft of Sam’s response to his circumstances. Written by a lawyer, the petition details Sam’s arguments  against his denial of land and citizenship by the government. Housed at the Texas

Read More »

John C. Logan

“John C. Logan” I recently finished a book on the American Civil War. It’s a memoir about the author’s experiences as an artillery officer in the Army of Northern Virginia. On balance it’s a really good book, full of personal insights and observations but it follows the same pattern as many others I’ve read before. Lee did that, Grant did this, etcetera. Readers of the Civil War know these leaders lives and exploits through bestsellers and high-profile lectures, but few (including me) rarely bother with stories of ordinary soldiers as a significant portion of our reading. Maybe we should. Gary

Read More »

Texas Is Lost

“Texas is lost”Excerpt of letter from Mier y Teran to his friend, Lucas Alamán, July 2, 1832. In 1828 Mexican General Mier y Teran had seen enough to convince him that strict measures were needed to stem American immigration (legal and otherwise) and its influence in Texas. If nothing is done to address the problem, Teran believed, the United States will take Texas. In 1829, Teran submitted his recommendations in a report to the Mexican government. The next year, under the leadership of President Anastasio Bustamante, the  Mexican legislature passed a law that included Mier y Teran’s recommendations, the Law

Read More »

The Hate They Bear Us

By 1825, American settlers were arriving in Texas in impressive numbers. The offer of cheap, abundant land lured many to seek new opportunities in Mexican Texas. Though not always successful, Stephen F. Austin toiled in good faith to ensure Mexican laws were obeyed before issuing land grants in his colony. Not so in neighboring Nacogdoches. By 1826, confusion and frustration over land titles led to the Fredonian Rebellion, a hasty, ill-advised attempt by a few influential American settlers to create a republic independent of Mexico. Although the rebellion was quickly suppressed (with the support of Stephen Austin and other colonists)

Read More »

Devote the Greatest Care

“Devote the Greatest Care” Letter, Governor Martinez to Stephen F. Austin, dated, Aug 14, 1821. The author of this letter, Governor Antonio Maria Martinez, had been a decorated soldier in the service of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. He had come to New Spain (soon to be the Republic of Mexico) in search of a new life. Given his distinguished background and experience he was soon appointed governor of Spanish Texas. It would prove to be as daunting a challenge as the battlefield in Europe. Incursions from Comanches, wayward American adventurers, and general lawlessness would keep him busy and up

Read More »