February 23, 2007
March 2nd is my favorite day in Texas history, Texas Independence Day. On this day, Texas declared independence from Mexico and its evil dictator, Santa Anna, and Texas became a free nation.
In 1836, in a small farm village of Washington-on-the-Brazos, 54 ``Texians,'' as they called themselves in those days, gathered to do something bold and brazen: They gathered to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence and to ``declare that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, sovereign, and independent republic.''
As these determined delegates met to declare independence, Santa Anna and 6,000 enemy troops were marching on an old, beat-up Spanish mission that we now call the Alamo. This is where Texas defenders stood defiant and determined. They were led by a 27-year-old lawyer by the name of William Barrett Travis. The Alamo and its 186 Texans were all that stood between the invaders and the people of Texas. And behind the dark, dank walls of that Alamo, William Barrett Travis, the commander, sent a fiery, urgent appeal requesting aid.
His defiant letter read in part: ``To all the people of Texas and America and the world, I am besieged by a thousand or more of the enemy under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannon fire for the last 24 hours, but I have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded surrender at its discretion; otherwise, the fort will be put to the sword. I have answered that demand with a cannon shot, and the flag still waves proudly over the wall. I shall never surrender or retreat. I call upon you in the name of liberty and patriotism and everything that is dear to our character to come to my aid with all dispatch. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself for as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. Victory or death, signed William Barrett Travis, commander of the Alamo.
After 13 days of glory at the Alamo, Commander Travis and his men sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom. The date was March 6, 1836.
Those lives would not be lost in vain. Their determination for the cause paid off, and because heroes like William Barrett Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and others held out for so long, Santa Anna's forces took such great losses they became battered, demoralized and diminished. Travis said in his last letter, ``Victory will cost the enemy more dearly than defeat.'' He was right.
General Sam Houston, in turn, had devised a strategy to rally other Texas volunteers to ultimately defeat Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The war was over. The Lone Star flag was visible all across the bold, brazen, and broad plains of Texas. Texas remained an independent nation for over 9 years.
The Alamo defenders were from every State in the United States. They were mavericks, revolutionaries, farmers, shopkeepers, and freedom fighters. They came together to fight for something they believed in, Liberty. And, they were all volunteers.
In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States by only one vote. Some have said they wished the vote had gone the other way. Be that as it may, we all know that freedom has a cost. It always has. It always will. We pause to remember those who lost their lives so that Texas could be a free nation. And as we do so, we remember the brave Americans in our military that are fearlessly fighting to preserve and uphold freedom from a new world threat of terrorism. In Colonel Travis' final letter and appeal for aid, he signed off with three words, ``God and Texas.'' And the rest, as they say, is Texas history.