Sunday, July 20, 2014

Texas History: Spanish flag was lowered for the last time in San Antonio

On July 21, 1821, the flag of Spain was lowered for the last time in San Antonio, ending three centuries of Spanish involvement in Texas.

The successful independence movement in Mexico, led by Agustín de Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero, resulted in a treaty that brought Texas under the newly independent nation. The Mexican War of Independence marked the end of an era in which the Franciscan padres had founded and refounded missions at approximately forty different sites in Texas.

Ten presidios had extended from Central Texas eastward to the site of present Robeline, Louisiana, and southward to Chambers Country. Municipalities ranged from Laredo to San Antonio and Nacogdoches. Ranches and farms dotted the landscape. The majority of the population was probably a combination of European and Native Americans. After Mexican independence, Hispanics in Texas were soon outstripped in numbers by Americans. Modern Texas, however, reflects its Spanish origins in many ways.

Texas History: Bandit was born and died on this day 27 years apart

On July 21, 1851, notorious outlaw Sam Bass was born in Indiana; his short and violent life also ended on July 21, in 1878. Bass arrived in Texas in the fall of 1870 and, after trying his hand at a number of occupations, began robbing stagecoaches and trains in 1877.

In the spring of 1878, Bass and his gang robbed four trains within twenty-five miles of Dallas. They did not get much money, but the robberies aroused citizens, and the bandits were the object of a spirited chase across North Texas by posses and a special company of Texas Rangers headed by Junius Peak. Bass eluded his pursuers until one of his party turned informer.

In Round Rock on July 19 Bass and his men became engaged in a gun battle in which he was wounded. The next morning he was found lying helpless in a pasture north of town and was brought back to Round Rock. He died there on July 21, his twenty-seventh birthday. He was buried in Round Rock and soon became the subject of cowboy song and story.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

John Paul Jones dies in Paris

John Paul Jones, naval hero of the American Revolution, died in Paris on July 18, 1792. Born John Paul in Scotland on July 6, 1747, he apprenticed at age thirteen to a shipowner and sailed to Barbados. Owing to problems on another voyage to the West Indies (in 1773 he killed a sailor during a mutiny in Tobago, claiming self-defense), he fled to Virginia and changed his name—first to John Jones, and later to John Paul Jones.

Jones was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Continental Navy in December 1775 and the following year was commissioned a captain. His achievements at sea during the war were spectacular. Jones distinguished himself in action in the Atlantic Ocean during 1776 and 1777 in command of the naval ships the Alfred, the Providence, and the Ranger, taking many British ships as prizes.

On September 23, 1779, Jones achieved his most famous victory off the coast of England. With his flagship the Bonhomme Richard, which he had renamed in honor of his patron Benjamin Franklin, and accompanied by four other vessels, Jones engaged the British merchant fleet led by the Serapis in heavy combat for over three-and-one-half hours. During the battle, Jones answered the enemy's demand that he surrender with the immortal words, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

After heavy losses of life on both sides, the British surrendered. Jones and his crew left their sinking ship and transferred to the captured Serapis. Congress passed a resolution thanking Jones and he received a sword and the Order of the Military Merit from King Louis XVI of France.

John Paul Jones held no further appointments in the United States Navy, but he served as rear admiral in the Russian Navy under Empress Catherine II of Russia from 1788-90. After his discharge, he resided in Paris in obscurity until his death and was buried in an unmarked grave. More than a hundred years later, the remains of the Navy's first hero—lionized for his brilliant naval career, were identified and brought back to the United States with a full naval escort. His body is interred in a marble crypt, modeled on Napoleon's tomb, in the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Texas History: Texan receives Medal of Honor for heroic action in France

On July 18, 1918, Daniel R. Edwards of Mooresville, Texas, accomplished feats of valor near Soissons, France, that earned him the Medal of Honor. He was a member of Company C, Third Machine Gun Battalion, First Division.

After undergoing treatment for battle wounds and suffering from a shattered arm, he crawled alone into an enemy trench, where he killed four and took four prisoners. While he was returning to his own lines with his prisoners, his leg was shattered by an enemy shell. His bravery and gallant acts greatly inspired his comrades.

Edwards died on October 21, 1967, at Little Rock, Arkansas.

Texas History: "T-Patchers" mobilized by order of War Department

On July 18, 1917, the United States War Department issued orders mobilizing the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division (known as the "Texas Division" or the "T-Patchers") at Camp Bowie in Tarrant County. The division, initially composed mostly of Texas National Guard troops, fought in World War I and again in World War II.

During the latter conflict, one unit of the division, which became known as the "lost battalion," was captured at the fall of Java. The men of the battalion spent the war in Japanese prison camps, and many died building the Burma Railroad. When the War Department made national guard units available to the governors of the states in 1946, the Thirty-sixth Division was reactivated. The Thirty-sixth was called to active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but was eliminated by January 1968.

Texas History: Colonists meet to discuss grievances of Santa Anna's Mexican Government

The Lavaca-Navidad Meeting, also known as the Millican Gin Meeting, was an assembly of Jackson Municipality colonists who gathered to discuss the growing list of grievances against the Mexican government of Antonio López de Santa Anna. It occurred on July 17, 1835, at William Millican's gin house, located in the Job Williams league some four miles northeast of Edna.

The resolutions discussed, written, and ratified at the conclave in many ways anticipated the Texas Declaration of Independence the following March. James Kerr was elected to preside over the gathering, and Samuel C. A. Rogers was appointed secretary. Prominent among the participants were John McHenry, John Sutherland Menefee, Thomas Menefee, George Menefee, John Alley, Samuel Addison White, Francis Menefee White, William D. Sutherland, and George Sutherland.

The participants drew up a formal statement that Santa Anna was a threat to state sovereignty and the state constitution; that they would oppose any military force that entered Texas for any other than constitutional purposes; that, as there were 200 Mexican infantrymen on the march from Goliad to reinforce the Centralist garrison at San Antonio de Béxar, the political chief should intercept them and take steps to capture and hold San Antonio as a guarantee against invasion; that they supported a general consultation of delegates from all the municipalities of Texas; and that the militia of Jackson Municipality stood ready to march at a moment's warning.

According to Francis M. White, the articles of the Lavaca-Navidad document were to be kept secret until they could be ratified by the other municipalities. A Major McNutt was to take the declaration to San Felipe settlers, after which it was to be passed along to others American settlements until all had signed. En route to San Felipe, however, McNutt was intercepted by Mexican soldiers, and he destroyed the document to prevent its falling into enemy hands. Before he was released and the original document could be duplicated and distributed, the Texas Declaration of Independence, of March 2, 1836, had rendered the declarations of the Lavaca-Navidad meeting redundant. In 1936 the state of Texas erected a marker on the site of Millican's gin.

"Wrong Way" Corrigan flies across the Atlantic

Douglas Corrigan, the last of the early glory-seeking fliers, takes off from Floyd Bennett field in Brooklyn, New York, on a flight that would finally win him a place in aviation history on July 17, 1938.

Eleven years earlier, American Charles A. Lindbergh had become an international celebrity with his solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic. Corrigan was among the mechanics who had worked on Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, but that mere footnote in the history of flight was not enough for the Texas-born aviator. In 1938, he bought a 1929 Curtiss Robin aircraft off a trash heap, rebuilt it, and modified it for long-distance flight. In July 1938, Corrigan piloted the single-engine plane nonstop from California to New York. Although the transcontinental flight was far from unprecedented, Corrigan received national attention simply because the press was amazed that his rattletrap aircraft had survived the journey.

Almost immediately after arriving in New York, he filed plans for a transatlantic flight, but aviation authorities deemed it a suicide flight, and he was promptly denied. Instead, they would allow Corrigan to fly back to the West Coast, and on July 17 he took off from Floyd Bennett field, ostentatiously pointed west. However, a few minutes later, he made a 180-degree turn and vanished into a cloudbank to the puzzlement of a few onlookers.

Twenty-eight hours later, Corrigan landed his plane in Dublin, Ireland, stepped out of his plane, and exclaimed, "Just got in from New York. Where am I?" He claimed that he lost his direction in the clouds and that his compass had malfunctioned. The authorities didn't buy the story and suspended his license, but Corrigan stuck to it to the amusement of the public on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time "Wrong Way" Corrigan and his crated plane returned to New York by ship, his license suspension had been lifted, he was a national celebrity, and a mob of autograph seekers met him on the gangway.