Texas is the name historically given to the area of land concentrated north of the Rio Grande, west of the Sabine River, south of the Red and Colorado rivers, and east of the south Rocky Mountains. It presently exists as a member of the United States of America.

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The history of Texas can be divided into seven distinct phases: Amerindian, Early Spanish, French, Late Spanish, Mexican, Independent, and American.


Before Western explorers first reached the grassy area we now know as Texas, it was occupied by about a dozen Amerindian tribes spread from the eastern Piney Woods to the desert of the Panhandle. The most culturally developed of these were the Caddo tribe, who lived just south of where the city of Dallas is today. They were highly successful farmers who lived peacefully in permanent cities. Their tribal word for "friend," Tejas, was given to Spanish missionaries, and is said to be the origin of the state's name. Also of note were the Karankawa, a primitive but populous fishing people who occupied most of the Gulf Coast.

The west side of Texas was the domain of the Apache (no, not the server) and Comanche (no, not the helicopter) tribes. The Apache had been settled in central Texas and the surrounding plains for hundreds of years. The Comanche were concentrated in north Texas, having domain over much of the land to the north, right up to the Sioux lands. Both of these tribes were the rough riding, buffalo-hunting, mobile type one associates with the North American natives. They were also historical enemies, with the Apache often allying themselves with the various Western settlers, who feared the Comanche above all other savages.

Other, lesser tribes included the nomadic Tonkawa of Central Texas, the Lipan, an offshoot of the Apache who actually fought for Texas in several later wars, and the Coahuiltecans, hunter-gatherers who lived in the extreme southern desert along the Rio Grande.

Early Spanish

The first encounter with Texas was made by Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, who in 1519 explored and mapped much of the Gulf Coast, including the Texas coastline.

The first land expedition of Texas soil was led accidentally by Cabeza de Vaca, second-in-command of the ill-fated Narvaez fleet, whose ship wrecked on the Galveston coastline on November 6, 1528. De Vaca and his fellow castaways drifted among the Karankawa tribe for nearly four years before wandering inward and encountering several more minor tribes along the Rio Grande. They finally returned to Mexico City in 1536, giving glowing accounts of the fair land and potential wealth to be found.

Northern Texas was also visited by the famous journey of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, while in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola.


Texas' first permanent settlement, however, came from the French. Determined to control the area surrounding the Mississippi Valley and get an edge in the growing trade markets in the new world, Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, was sent by France in 1684 to try and gain a foothold at the mouth of the Mississippi to complement their holdings in the Illinois. After a disastrous journey in which more than half his ships and men were lost, he established Fort St. Louis on Garcitas Creek, in what is now Victoria County. He then traveled westward, perhaps reaching the Rio Grande, and realized he had set up his fort too far West. La Salle then went east to try to get his bearings, but was murdered by his disenchanted men before he could make contact with France. The southern Fort St. Louis was captured by the Amerindians in 1688, sparing only five children who were adopted into the tribe. Only six of La Salle's followers made it to French Canadian soil after his death.

Late Spanish

The Spanish, having learned of La Salle's expedition from some pirates (who were actualy La Salle's defectors), immediately moved to colonize Texas and solidify their claim. The now-abandoned Ft. St. Louis was reclaimed by Alonso de Leon in 1689. Throughout the 18th century, numerous Spanish missions were established, forming the basis for many of today's Texas cities, such as San Antonio and Nacogdoches.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris seceded the Louisiana Territory to Spain, which led to further solidifcation of Spanish presence as New Spain used Texas as a base point for its expeditions to the new northwestern frontier. Since it was ideal cattleground, Texas became a huge asset to Spain. When Spain threw its hat in the political ring on the side of American independence in 1779, Viceroy Bernardo de Galvez engaged British naval forces all along the Gulf Coast and used Texas' vast resources to push Spanish involvement in the war throughout the South, forcing the British into a two-front war and diverting considerable British forces from the American and French stages in the northeast.

Incidentally, to feed the soldiers, Galvez organized what is believed to be the first major Texas cattle drive. Over 15,000 head of Texas Longhorns kept Spanish forces across the continent fed from 1779-1782.

When the appointment of King Joseph as a puppet king by Napoleon Bonaparte sparked the first attempt at a Mexican revolution, Texas was suddenly thrown into political chaos. After his Amerindian army was defeated in Mexico, Father Miguel Hidalgo fled north, hoping to find refuge. Coahuilan Governor Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamant was ordered to march against the rebels, but instead a large chunk of his army defected. In Texas, Governer Manuel Salcedo lost power on January 22, 1811, to a mutiny led by Juan Bautista de las Casas, an oppurunistic militaman who proceeded to declare Texas independent. However, when their rebel forces took the Nacogdoches garrison, the hotheaded las Casas took full credit for the attack, refusing to recognize the efforts of his lieutentants. Two of these indignant lieutenants then split off and allied their forces with the remaining royalists, led by Colonel Juan Manuel Zambrano. They overpowered las Casas' forces and arrested him for treason in March of that year, restoring Spanish rule to Texas.

It was not over yet. While in power, the rebels sent Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara as an envoy to Washington, D.C. in the hopes of gaining American recognition. Not anxious to return after his cause failed, Gutierrez enlisted the aid of Lt. Augustus Magee to attempt to retake Texas for the United States. Their forces crossed the Sabine in August of 1812 and and took Nacogdoches. By April of 1813 they had taken San Antonio. However, Gutierrez's harsh treatment of captured Royalists and arrogant behavior led to his abandonment by most of the American troops. The remaining forces of the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition were routed by Spanish troops under Gen. Joaquin de Arredondo at the Battle of Medina. Arredondo then began a series of purges across the province to squash any further revolutions.

At the end of all this upheval, Texas was a shambles, returning to its 17th century status as an unoccupied wilderness punctuated with the occasional farm or missionary/garrison town.


In 1820, the Spanish government gave Moses Austin permission to establish a colony of Anglo-Americans in Texas. When he died the following summer, the task fell to his son, Stephen F. Austin. However, this was interrupted by the Mexican Revolution, which was largely fought off Texas soil. Austin went to Mexico City, and convinced Agustín de Iturbide to carry over his agreement with the Spanish viceroy to his provisional legislature. Austin announced his venture in New Orleans that year, and from there word spread across the continent of the new colonization venture. Homes and farms across the South were left abandoned, the letters G-T-T (Gone to Texas) carved in the door-frame. Boatloads of Irish immigrants began to flock to Austin's colonies along the Brazos. The city of Austin began to sprawl out. Mexico employed immigration agents called empresarios to oversee the settlement of the Anglos. Austin himself brought 300 families, the "Old Three Hundred," into the new Mexican province of Coahuila y Texas. Each married man received 4,428 acres of land for the cost of $30 per 6 years to the Mexican government.

Unfortunately, the 1824 Mexican Constitution was quite vague on the subject of states' rights. Until 1827, Texas was largely a state of peaceful minarchy, where many local courts and militias sprung up to handle local issues, all under the nominal authority of Mr. Austin. When the Constitution went into effect in 1827, Austin gladly relieved himself of the authority, although he continued to exert a large influence on the ayuntamiento, or local bureaucracy. Although Austin himself disliked slavery, he recognized its necessity in order to foster more immigration and often looked the other way when Southerners brought their slaves along with them, in clear violation of Mexican law.

Mexico, however, nervous at the increasing concentration of American and Irish settlers versus native countrymen, halted all immigration in the Law of April 6, 1830. This sparked increasing unrest between the colonists and the empresarios. The Anahuac Disturbances, a series of minor revolts against Mexican troops, came about when the government refused to grant deeds to families who had settled in the state in 1828 or 1829 but had neglected to formally register with the government. Austin and several high-ranking families met in the Convention of 1833, to organize and present several demands to the Mexican government, including a repeal of the Law and reformation of the local government. Around this time, Sam Houston, a protege of Andrew Jackson and former governor of Tennessee, arrived in Texas and quickly embroiled himself into local politics.

Austin presented the colonists' demands to Mexico City in the winter of that year to President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Santa Anna, being one of history's notable bastards, promised reforms and limited self-government for the independent-minded Texans. He then proceeded to arrest Austin on his way back to Texas for attempting to incite a rebellion, and jailed him at Saltillo for twenty-eight months.

While Austin was away, treatment of the colonists grew increasingly harsh under the empresarios. Firebrands such as Houston and the newly immigrated Davy Crockett called for independece, and the Consultation of 1835 met that fall at San Felipe. Austin, having just returned from jail via New Orleans, had finally abandoned his loyalty to Mexico and gave the Consultation his full sanction, and was elected emissary to the United States from the provisional Texas government. Sam Houston was made major general of the Texas Volunteers.

War officially broke out in the small garrison of Gonzales in October of 1835. Mexican troops entered the city to take back a cannon which had been given to the city to defend against the Comanche. The townsfolk dared the troops to "come and take it," and the resulting skirmish finally touched off war. The provisional government in Washington-on-the-Brazos acted quickly. The Texas Rangers were appointed as civil law enforcement by Mr. Austin. The Volunteers at Gonzales marched down and initiated the Siege of Bexar under the command of Austin. George Collingsworth and another divsion took the fortress at Goliad. Nearly all of the local Mexican forces were routed at the Battle of Concepcion in October by a much smaller Texas force under Jim Bowie. A second convention in March of 1836 resulted in the Texas Declaration of Independence.

However, Santa Anna was not about to roll over and concede his biggest province to a bunch of hot-blooded gringos with muskets and machetes. The Mexican Army proper, totaling some 6,000 men, crossed the Rio Grande in the spring of 1836, and proceeded to lay siege to San Antonio. The Volunteer garrison under Col. William Travis made their final stand at the abandoned Mission San Antonio de Valero de Bejar, now know as The Alamo. Travis' men, including pioneer legends Crockett and Bowie, finally fell after a two-week siege. There were no survivors. Hearing of the defeat, Houston immediately retreated his forces from their stronghold in Gonzales to regroup. Santa Anna proceeded to take Fannin's forces at Goliad, and then ordered the cold-blooded execution of all 350 prisoners. Realizing it was do-or-die time, Houston pulled all the remaining Volunteers from eastern Texas and made a final stand at San Jacinto on the morning of April 21, 1936.

Santa Anna expected the Texans to take refuge and assume a defensive position whereby he could win another easy battle of attrition. Accordingly, he had camped his forces on a relatively flat plain, expecting to resume pursuit the next day. In a surprise afternoon movement, the Volunteers mounted a single massive charge across the grass, shouting "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" and caught the Mexican Army with their pants down. A defeated Santa Anna was hauled into Houston's tent and forced to sign a copy of the Texas Delcaration of Independece, ending the rule of Mexico in that area for good.


Texas was immediately recognized as an independent nation by the United States, and also by France, Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The first Texas Congress convened at Columbia in October, where Sam Houston was elected President, with Lorenzo de Zavala serving as Vice-President. Voters also overwhelmingly approved a referendum to request annexation by the United States, however, Martin van Buren was afraid it would upset the balance between free and slave states, and also unwilling to fight a war with Mexico over border issues. The Treaty of Velasco was signed by Santa Anna on his way out of the country, in hopes of establishing some kind of peace between Texas and Mexico. Unfortunately, the treaty was violated heavily by both sides. In 1842, Mexican forces made two attempts to retake Texas, under the command of Rafael Vasquez and Adrian Woll, respectively. Both efforts got as far as San Antonio before being quickly repulsed by the Volunteers. In retaliation, two raids were organized into Mexico, the Sommerville Expedition, and the Mier Expidition. They got as far as capturing the border towns of Laredo and Guererro before disbanding due to lack of support.

In 1839, Mirabeau Lamar was elected the new President, since the Texas Constitution prevented a President from serving consecutive terms. Lamar took a much stronger stance on independence than Houston, who was in favor of American annexation. Under his command, Texas attempted to take Santa Fe in the Snively Expedition, but was stopped by American intervention. Lamar also provoked the Comanche, who viewed the new American settlers much less favorably then they did the Spanish missionaries. When Texas invited several Comanche chiefs to a peace conference in 1840, they took them prisoner in an attempt to free several white prisoners being held by the Amerindians. The Comanche attempted to escape, killing 7 Texas officials in the ensuing Council House Fight. In retaliation, the Comanche began a spree of destruction and looting throughout central Texas. A band of Texas Rangers finally defeated the bulk of Comanche forces at the Battle of Plum Creek on August 11 of that year.

By 1841, Houston was back in power. He stressed domestic and economic stability, cutting back on government and avoiding war with Mexico after the invasions of 1842. By 1844, Texas had matured to the point where U.S. President James K. Polk felt he could follow through on a campaign promise to annex the country, with the Oregon Territory to be admitted to the Union soon after to preserve the free/slave balance. The proposal cleared the legislature of each country, and Texas officially became the 28th state of America on December 29, 1845.


Almost immediately, the U.S. and Mexico started disputing the boundaries of Texas, and this soon snowballed into the Mexican-American War. The Battle of Palo Alto in Brownsville, Texas on May 8, 1846 kicked off the fighting. General Zachary Taylor and the American Army swept down through Texas and made short work of the Mexican Army. The Bear Flag revolt in California, coupled with the capture of Mexico City in 1847, finally assured Texas safety from the harassment of Mexican forces. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in February of 1848, fixing the boundary at the Rio Grande. To pay off the American debt it had incurred as a free nation and state during the wars, Texas gave up nearly 1/3 of its lands (what we now know as half of New Mexico and portions of Colorado and Wyoming), in return for $10 million in Federal money, as part of the larger post-war agreement which came to be known as the Compromise of 1850. Sam Houston served as governor of the new state until 1861.

Texas seceded from the Union on March 2, 1861, and joined the rebel Confederate States of America. Although a large majority of citizens favored the move, several prominent civic figures, including the aging Houston, denounced the actions of the Secession Convention. Houston resigned as governor and withdrew from politics in protest. Texas served mainly as a supplier to the armies in the central and east South, seeing very little military action. Most of the fighting in Texas settled around the port of Galveston, which fell under Federal occupation early in the war, but was finally liberated at the Battle of Galveston on New Year's Day 1863. It is worth noting that the last battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, occurred in south Texas because word of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox had not yet reached Texas.

Texas was readmitted to the Union in 1870, and resumed existence as a rather backward agricultural Southern state during Reconstruction. The cattle drives originally organized by Viceroy Galvez became an integral part of Texas lifestyle, as droughts and depression in the central plains of America led to a lucrative livestock trade in Texas based on growing huge herds and then marching them north and east. Texas also established its first major public college, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, in 1876 at College Station, followed by the University of Texas at Austin in 1883.

The major breakthrough in the industrialization and modernization of Texas came in 1901, when mining engineer A.F. Lucas struck a major oil repository, or gusher, oustide of Beaumont. The Texas oil industry exploded in the first half of the century, and its attraction of various manufacturing companies led to more and more technological development for Texas. Jack Kilby, of Texas Instruments in Dallas, developed the integrated circuit, sparking the computer revolution of the late 20th century. NASA decided to establish its base of operations in Houston. These two cities immediately became epicenters of Southern consciousness in the same way that San Fransisco and Los Angeles are to the west. Texas has also become famous for its education, being the first state to introduce the no-pass, no-play rule for high school and college athletics. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and George Bush all served terms as President. Dubya is in there as well, but how proud we Texans are of him is a matter best left to individual taste.

More subjective and specialized info on Texas and its modern culture can be found here:

In addition to being one of the United States of America, Texas is also a pop group from Scotland. Fronted by Sharleen Spiteri whose beautiful voice always reminds me of Annie Lennox, they've been putting out melodic, attractive (although admittedly fairly unchallenging) songs since 1989. I'm not sure how well they've done in the US market but in Britain they regularly create successful albums and singles.


Texas Flags

Six Flags Over Texas

Six flags have flown over the state of Texas since the Europeans first arrived in the 16th Century:
  1. Spanish : 1519-1685 & 1690-1821.
  2. French : 1685-1690.
  3. Mexican : 1821-1836.
  4. Republic of Texas : 1836-1845.
  5. Confederate States : 1861-1865.
  6. United States : 1845-1861 & 1865 to the present

Texas State Flag

The state flag of Texas is the Lone Star flag, which was adopted in 1839. It consists of a blue vertical stripe occupying the one-third of the flag, with a white star in the stripe's centre. The remaining two-thirds are occupied by two, equal-sized, horizontal stripes; white over red.

The colours of the Lone Star flag have the same significance as in the Stars and Stripes:

The pledge to the Lone Star flag is:

"Honour the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

Some facts about the state of Texas:

As my learned friend notes above, Texas became the twenty-eighth state of the United States in 1845. It's easy to learn this fact and simply see it as a logical extension of the spread of the United States across the North American continent, an almost natural process which requires no special explanation and is simply part of the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny; and this does indeed highlight one aspect of the truth. Americans certainly did not want to be competing with another white-dominated society for control of the North American continent; unlike Mexicans, Texans could - according to prevalent racial beliefs - compete with white Americans on their own terms, and they had their own expansionist aims. The U.S. had worked hard to liquidate its European rivals in North America, and it had no desire to see them replaced by Texans. This is all part of a familiar story.

But there were slightly more complex factors at play, as well. The fact Texas was a white republic and a slave-holding society complicated the situation, and introduced additional reasons for Americans to favour the annexation of Texas beyond the general push for expansion that marked American policy in this period.

Slavery was at the core of the matter. The issue was a divisive one in 1840s America, with southern planters ranged against radical northern abolitionists and everyone else straddling the line between. The issue had a practical as well as a moral dimension, with even those who considered slavery abhorrent and wished to end it worried about the consequences of doing so. If slavery were abolished and millions of blacks suddenly gained social, economic and political freedom, then popular opinion had it that the result would be a civil war pitting the races against each other as the bitter former slaves tried to seize by force the power that white society would surely not give up gladly. Northerners worried about a sudden influx of liberated slaves pushing down wages, while southerners saw their whole way of life threatened. All of this meant that even most abolitionists sought a way to end slavery gradually, avoiding sudden shocks to American society.

This was where Texas came in. It presented both a threat and an opportunity. The opportunity lay in its sparsely-populated territory and its location next to Mexico. One theory on the future of slavery held that the best way to ensure it died out gradually was to encourage it to become geographically dispersed across an ever-expanding amount of territory; the international slave trade itself had stopped by this point, so more territory available to slave-holders would not necessarily lead to a quantum leap in the total number of slaves, but instead would weaken the grip of the slave-owners. Texas potentially provided just such a territory for slave-holders in the American South to move into. Even better, slave-owners might move away from the states bordering non-slave states in the south and hence separate northerners from an institution they found abhorrent.

There was another reason that those opposed to slavery might see the annexation of slave-holding Texas as a good way to hasten the end of slavery in an acceptable manner. Being next to Mexico, Texas would provide a land route for freed slaves to migrate to Mexico and Latin America, which was thought to be a better solution for everyone as these lands were already occupied by coloured people and so blacks would be more able to integrate into society there. The climate was also thought to be more conducive to them. If you wanted to end slavery while minimizing the impact on American society, the annexation of Texas hence seemed to provide the best of both worlds.

And there was another reason why annexation seemed urgent in the 1840s. Seen from this angle, Texas played the role of threat, not opportunity. There were increased concerns throughout the United States that Texas would itself abolish slavery completely in exchange for a commercial treaty with the British. Such a sudden move was seen as having the potential to have a dramatic impact on American slaves, and possibly precipitate slave insurrections; it also seemed likely it would transform Texas into a socio-economic wasteland, much as had happened to Haiti after its slave revolt in 1793. It would not do to have a Haiti on America's southern border - a Haiti in the Caribbean had been bad enough, which is why the U.S. had sent money and arms to try and suppress the revolt there. To keep the Texans out of Britain's clutches, with this disastrous result soon to follow, it seemed best to embrace them.

So, to summarize, the annexation of Texas was supposed to accomplish three inter-related goals: to stop the Texans from freeing all their own slaves and entering into an alliance with the hated British; to encourage the dispersion of slavery across more territory, there to die; and to provide a route by which slaves could eventually escape towards the Equator, which was assumed to be much more to their tastes and certainly suited northerners who had no desire to see millions of black Africans upsetting their established order. Slavery would be vanquished and society preserved. If this delicate balancing act sounds fantastical, then that's because it was; as every student can tell you, it didn't quite work out that way.

Tex"as (?), n.

A structure on the hurricane deck of a steamer, containing the pilot house, officers' cabins, etc.

[Western U.S.]



© Webster 1913.

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