Mr. Speaker, today is April 21, 2015. April 21 is an important day . It is an important day not only in Texas history, but I think in world history. But it is more important to my mother. Because today, Mr. Speaker, my mother is 90 years young.
When I was growing up in Texas, April 21 was a holiday. We did not go to school on April 21 in Houston. And my mother told me the reason we did not go to school was because it was her birthday and everybody got off from school on her birthday.
Of course, I believed her--and she still says that is the reason we get off--but it wasn't until I took fourth-grade Texas history that I learned there was another reason why April 21 was an important day and a holiday. It is called San Jacinto Day , Mr. Speaker.
San Jacinto Day is based upon Texas history that occurred on April 21, 1836--179 years ago. That was the day that the Battle of San Jacinto took place on the marshy plains where Buffalo Bayou meets the San JacintoRiver, near the Gulf of Mexico, in a place that we now call Harrisburg, which is near Houston, Texas. It was a battle that was successful for liberty and freedom for people who lived in Texas.
The Battle of San Jacinto was won by Sam Houston defeating the invading Mexican army led by Santa Anna. And I will get back to that in a moment. I think it is important, though, we have a little history lesson so we understand why this battle for freedom is so important to all people who believe in freedom.
Texas, Mr. Speaker, was wanted by a lot of folks. The French claimed Texas. Of course, the Comanches, the Apaches, and a lot of other Native American tribes claimed Texas--and wanted Texas.
But Spain controlled Texas for a great number of years. From 1690 to about 1821, Texas as we know it was part of Spain. In fact, we still have Spanish land grants in Texas, where people own land that they can trace back to the Spanish when they controlled Texas.
In about 1821, a portion of Spain--Spanish Texas and Spanish Mexico, if you will--decided they wanted independence from Spain. So, Mexico as we now know it had their war of independence from the European power of Spain, and they were successful in defeating the Spanish and declaring independence and becoming a democratic republic south of the border called the Republic of Mexico. That was 1821. Texas was a part of that revolution and that rebellion. Texans fought in those battles.
And all went well until about 1835, when a person by the name of Santa Anna took over the Presidency of Mexico--a republic, a democracy--and made himself a military dictator. He abolished the Constitution--dictators have a habit of doing that, even to this day --dismissed the assembly or Congress, and he was in total control of Mexico.
Now, this did not set well with people in Mexico, which includes what we now know as Texas.
Here is a map of the region in about the time of 1821 to 1836. This portion here was Texas. It was part of another state in Mexico called Coahuila.
When dictator Santa Anna took control of this entire area, 11 of the states rebelled. They wanted their own independence from their dictator, who destroyed the democracy, or the democratic Republic of Mexico.
Several of the states rebelled. In fact, some were somewhat successful. The Republic of Yucatan lasted for a while, went back to Mexico, gained independence again, and was a republic for about 7 years in the 1840s, and then joined Mexico again.
There were several other states--and I will put in the Record the names of those states--that wanted independence from Mexico, to go their own way, and some were more successful than others.
And what Santa Anna did is assemble his army. He went through Mexico, retaking this land, putting down the rebellion of all of the individuals who were trying to be independent from the Mexican dictator.
After he had successfully done that, he moved across the Rio Grande River, where those Texans were causing the same type of controversy of wanting freedom and independence. And what started the actual fighting between the people of Texas--and they were of all races. Tejanos is a special unique name of Texans of Spanish or Mexican birth. Tejanos, Anglos, and Blacks in that area wanted independence. Not all, but many of them did. And there was a controversy, and there were political disputes with the Mexican government. But what set it all off occurred in a small, little town of Gonzales, Texas.
In Gonzales, Texas, they had a cannon. It wasn't really much of a cannon, but it was a cannon. And it was to protect themselves from the Karankawas, the Apaches, and other folks.
The Mexican Government decided they were going over to take that cannon away from the settlers. The settlers objected. They said, You can't have it. They made themselves a flag that said, ``Come and take it.'' We still have that flag. ``Come and take it.'' It had a cannon with the words ``Come and take it.''
So the Mexican military shows up. The settlers have a skirmish with the Mexican military. Shots were fired. I don't think anybody was really hurt too bad, but the Mexican Army retreated. They left Gonzalez, but they left without the cannon.
It is an interesting note that the Texas war of independence started because government tried to take the firearms, the weapons, the guns of the people. If you recall American history, Mr. Speaker, which I know you know quite well, there is a little place called Lexington and Concord, up in Massachusetts, where the British tried to take the guns from the colonists, to take the guns from the armory at Lexington and Concord. The colonists objected.
The shot heard around the world started the American war of independence, successful just like the Texas war of independence was successful, but the fighting started when the government showed up to take the weapons of the settlers.
In any event, the Battle of Gonzalez took place. The fighting was on. Texans moved into Bexar, which is now San Antonio, which was the central city in the Republic, or in Texas, and took that away from the Mexican military that was there, ran them out of town, and that was toward December of 1835.
Then we get to early part of 1836, and this part of history is what most Americans are aware of: Santa Anna now is coming across the Rio Grande River with his three armies to retake Texas and make it part of Mexico again, as he had done with these other rebellious states in Mexico.
He showed up at a little place, a beat-up old Spanish church that was over 100 years old at the time, in February of 1836. We call it the Alamo, the cradle of Texas liberty.
Assembled at the Alamo, in Bexar--San Antonio, if you will, same place--were 187 Texas volunteers. Now, most of them were not from Texas. In fact, the only natives there were the Tejanos. Eleven Tejanos fought in the Texas revolution at the Alamo, but they were from all the States, 13 foreign countries, and of all races, volunteers, led by my favorite person--William Barret Travis, a South Carolina lawyer--came to Texas; and he is 27, the commander of the Alamo.
Santa Anna's army, historians disagree on how many thousands there were, but there were a lot of them; and, after 13 days --we all know the rest of the story. After 13 days of holding the Mexican Army at bay and Santa Anna, Santa Anna was able to breach the walls and kill all of the defenders, all the volunteers at the Alamo.
After that occurred, people who lived in Texas started moving from that direction of central Texas towards the east, towards Louisiana. It is called the Runaway Scrape.
Why were they running? Because the Mexican armies have invaded Texas and are coming after the settlers in that portion of the State, that portion of Texas--so Sam Houston, who had already come to Texas, was building an army to fight and defend the State of Texas and to fight and defend, from the invaders, Texas liberty. He was building this army.
It is interesting how he got to Texas. Sam Houston was famous in his own right before he made it to Texas. He was from Tennessee. He was an attorney general, Member of Congress--twice elected to Congress--and Governor of Tennessee.
He eventually left the Governorship and came back to Washington, Mr. Speaker, and advocated on behalf of the Cherokee Indians who he was living with in what is now Oklahoma.
He got into a dispute with an Ohio Congressman named Stanbery. Stanbery had impugned the integrity of Sam Houston, and Sam Houston didn't like that. That conversation, apparently, by Stanbery occurred on this House floor.
One morning, Sam Houston is coming out of his home, his dwelling over here on Pennsylvania Avenue, and he sees Stanbery. Sam Houston carried a cane. You may see the pictures of Sam Houston with his cane. Sam Houston comes upon--I get all choked up telling the story, Mr. Speaker.
Sam Houston comes up on Stanbery. He is walking down the street. Sam Houston, remembering the bad things that Stanbery said about him on the House floor, and he starts to thrash Stanbery with his cane, beats him pretty bad.
Stanbery had a pistol. He pulls it out of his vest. He pokes the pistol in Sam Houston's chest and pulls the trigger. The gun misfired; and, therefore, Sam Houston lived. He was tried on this House floor for demeaning a Member of Congress. The Supreme Court sat in judgment of him. The trial lasted a month. Sam Houston took the House floor and talked over a full day , defending himself.
After the trial was over, Sam Houston was found guilty, ordered to pay a $500 fine for demeaning a Member of Congress. Sam Houston was represented by Francis Scott Key--yes, the same lawyer that wrote our Star-Spangled Banner.
Rather than pay the fine, rather than deal with Congress anymore and Mr. Stanbery, he left Washington and ended up in Texas and became a political figure there. They loved Sam Houston when he came to Texas. They didn't care about his troubles here in Washington, D.C., and he was made general of the Texas Army.
So the Alamo takes place. William Barret Travis, the commander, they were all killed. Sam Houston builds his army, and he is ready to defend Texas against the invading army from Santa Anna.
That brings us to April 21. Sam Houston did not engage Santa Anna quickly. In fact, he kept moving east. He got as close as he could to Louisiana, and then he moved south, down towards the Gulf of Mexico. Santa Anna is chasing him.
Finally, Sam Houston stopped on those marshy plains of San Jacinto , where Buffalo Bayou meets the San Jacinto River--Santa Anna's army, about 1,800; Houston's army, 700, 800--outnumbered.
Remember, Santa Anna's armies had yet to be defeated, in all those battles in Mexico, Alamo, a place called Goliad, where Santa Anna killed all the Texas defenders, yet to be defeated. Sam Houston has yet to fight a battle.
They assemble there, April 19, 1836. Most battles, even today, are fought when the sun comes up, sunrise; and they were then. They were for thousands of years. Everybody expected battle on April 22 at sunrise, but the Texas Army did not want to wait, so on the afternoon of April 21, there was a council of war. Sam Houston decided that now is as good a time as any.
Well, less than a mile away was Santa Anna's army, but it is in the afternoon. Many of the soldiers in Santa Anna's army were taking a siesta.
Legend has it that Santa Anna was occupied with a mixed-race lady by the name of Emily Morgan. She was keeping him busy during this time. I don't know if that is true or not. We believe it is true. We named buildings after Emily Morgan. We call her the Yellow Rose of Texas. We still honor ladies in Texas by calling them the yellow rose.
But anyway, so he is busy. The Texans line up in one column. There weren't a lot of them; there were only 700 or 800 of them. They didn't have uniforms. They were wearing buckskins and frontier clothes. They have bowie knives and pistols in their belts, tomahawks, rifles.
Juan Seguin, Hispanic Tejano, his cavalry are riding the flanks, protecting the flanks, also didn't have uniforms. So that the Texans would not mistake them for the enemy, Juan Sequin had all of his cavalry put in their sombreros, their hats, a playing card so they would know that these are the good guys and they wouldn't mistake them for the enemy.
They are marching in a single file, if you can imagine this, this odd-looking bunch of folks. Leading them was a fife guy--a fifer, on a fife--another person carrying a flag. It was Miss Liberty that they were carrying the flag of.
Miss Liberty was a partially nude female with the word ``liberty'' written across her. The fifer, he only knew one song. It was called ``Come to the Bower.'' The Bower was a house of ill repute, so he is playing this house of ill repute song on his fife, and the Texas Army is marching down the hill, ready.
The Mexican Army, not prepared, no scouts, no lookouts, no one is watching; and they charge in broad daylight in the middle of the afternoon, when battles are never fought.
Santa Anna was caught napping. The Mexican Army was caught by surprise. In 18 minutes, a lot shorter time than I have already talked, Mr. Speaker, the battle started, and it was ended. Half the Mexican Army was killed, the other half captured. More were captured than were in the Texas Army. Texas casualties, nine were killed. The enemy was caught by total surprise. They were caught fleeing.
Santa Anna changed his clothes, took off his fancy general, Presidential uniform and put on the uniform of a Mexican private, but he was caught, and he was brought to Sam Houston, who happened to be one of the few that were wounded. He was shot in the ankle off his horse.
The Texans wanted to hang Santa Anna right there from the closest oak tree. Sam Houston was not about to have a lynching of the enemy leader, and he held him for bargaining power later, to get a better deal for Texas independence.
The Texans at San Jacinto , like at the Alamo, all volunteers, they came from every place. They were of all races. They came from several foreign countries. They came from many of the States. One was from Rhode Island, another from Vermont; several were from New York.
In fact, several New Yorkers helped in Texas' independence, at the Alamo and at San Jacinto , but from most of the States and, as I said, foreign countries as well.
They succeeded in defeating Santa Anna.
Texas declared independence earlier that year, on March 2, 1836, about 6 weeks before the Battle of San Jacinto , declared independence from Mexico. And it was won. It was successful on April 21, 1836, which we callSan Jacinto Day today.
After that battle was over with, military historians say it was one of the most decisive battles in Western Hemisphere history because of the massive amount of land that changed hands because of one battle.
After the Battle of San Jacinto , you can see what modern-day Texas looks like right through here, this area. Texas not only claimed what is now modern-day Texas, but it claimed parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, and all the way up to Wyoming.
This was the Republic of Texas in April of 1836. This land was all claimed by Texas. Texas established a constitution, a government, and became an independent, free nation that lasted for 9 years. Sam Houston, of course, was the President of the Republic of Texas and got elected twice to the Republic of Texas.
The Republic of Texas, as I said, lasted for 9 years, and then the majority of Texans wanted to join the United States. It was not an easy task. Many people in the United States didn't want Texas in the Union.
Primarily the way for Texas to get into the Union was a treaty because Texas was a country. The United States is a country. There would be a treaty, and Texas would come in as a State. As we know, those folks down the hallway in the Senate, it takes two-thirds of them to approve a treaty.
Two-thirds of the States in the United States would never have approved Texas coming into the Union, so how did Texas become a part of the Union? They changed it to a joint resolution. It just takes a majority vote to get a joint resolution passed in the Senate. So Texas came into the Union after several tries unsuccessfully when, apparently, a Louisiana Senator changed his vote from ``no'' to ``yes,'' and Texas came in under a joint resolution. Thus, the Republic of Texas was no more and became a State in the Union in 1845, in December of 1845.
When it came into the Union, Texas was allowed to fly its flag at the same height as the United States flag. If you come to Texas, you will notice there are a lot of Texas flags flying at the same level as the American flag.
Texas is allowed to divide into five States. We are not going to do that. People would debate who would be called Texas and what would the other four be called. So we are not going to divide into five States. But we have the ability, and we have the right to decide and to divide into five States.
But going back to Texas and the way it was when it came into the Union, what happened to all this land? Well, Texas had mounted a lot of debt and, to pay off its debt to the United States and to its creditors, sold this land to the Federal Government and wiped the slate clean. Therefore, Texas now looks like what we all know it looks like. The rest of that land went to the Union.
I mentioned and talked to you tonight, Mr. Speaker, about San Jacinto Day , not so much because it is really San Jacinto Day , but about the people who were there 179 years ago. I mentioned there were all types of folks. But similar to our ancestors in the colonial days who said ``no'' to oppression, they weren't going to tolerate it. We still have oppression throughout the world. We have governments and dictators, military dictators oppressing their people. A lot of times, they can't do anything about it, those people. They would like to be free and independent, but they are not.
Those folks back in 1836 made a decision that it was more important to them to be free than it was to be safe, secure in their own personal life. So they were willing to give their life for freedom. That is not a trite statement. We have had people from all over the United States who have done that since then, have fought for America, fought for liberty, fought for freedom, even for other people. They have sacrificed their lives so that other people can enjoy those words that most people have never enjoyed, ``freedom'' and ``liberty.''
And when a dictator or any other powerful government shows up, some people have the ability to step up and say: I am not going to take it. I will give up my life so that there can be a free nation.
So we are grateful for those folks in 1836, on San Jacinto Day , and the ones at the Alamo who all died and the others who died and the ones that fought and lived, sacrificed their land to make sure that freedom rings in our State.
Texans are proud of their history. I mentioned that I learned about San Jacinto Day in Texas history. Kids growing up in Texas today have to take Texas history twice, in the fourth grade and the seventh grade, where they learn about the history of our State.
Our history is different than the Thirteen Colonies' history. It received its independence, but it was not from England; it was from a Mexican dictator.
And we appreciate that. We appreciate those folks--Sam Houston, William Barret Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie--all those many men and women who sacrificed life and their well-being so that we could be an independent nation that tyrants will not rule. They will not be successful. They will be defeated. And we should admire people like that. I think we do here in the House of Representatives and in the United States. We have had people like that in all of our history. That is what makes us a unique nation, because we can go all the way back to the American War for Independence and trace all of the history; and in much of it, the United States was at war and fighting for our liberty, and we thank those people.
We are still involved in war throughout the world today, the people fighting for America. So we are grateful for them, and we are grateful for those folks--Sam Houston and all of his boys of summer and boys of spring--that fought at the Battle of San Jacinto .
One hundred years after the battle, Texans built a monument similar to the one down the street, the Washington Monument. We have all seen the Washington Monument. If you come to the battlefield of San Jacinto , you will see a similar monument, but it has a big star on the top of it. It is taller than the Washington Monument because it is in Texas, and the star makes it taller than the Washington Monument.
As a side note, the Texas State capitol is also taller than this Capitol. That was built later.
And we honor those folks with that monument. We honor them on San Jacinto Day , today. It is not a holiday anymore. Kids don't get out of school.
But it is still my mother's birthday. I don't know if she is watching or not, but she is certainly celebrating her birthday down in Texas.
So on behalf of those of us here, we commend those folks at the Battle of San Jacinto . And I also want to wish my mom a happy birthday on this April 21, 2015.
And that is just the way it is.