On Mar. 2, we celebrate Texas Independence Day. But how much do your students know about it? Have you ever visited Goliad?
Around the turn of the 19th century, the international zeitgeist was freedom.
- In 1776, American colonists declared independence from oppressive British rule.
- From 1789-1799, French citizens threw off an aristocratic king, only to see him replaced by Napoleon, who sold France’s territory in the New World to raise money for his empire.
- Mexican colonists fought from 1810-1821 to end the rule of Spain in Mexico.
- Finally, on March 2, 1836, Texans declared their independence from Mexico.
The Backstory of Texas Declaring Independence from Mexico
After Mexico won independence, they modeled their Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 on the ideals of freedom contained in the U.S. Constitution. Colonists began to flood into Texas. It’s important to note that all of these colonists—whether Hispanic or Anglo—became legal citizens of Mexico. They agreed to follow Mexican laws and trusted Mexico’s constitutional government to protect them.
In 1833, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was elected president. In 1834, he dissolved the Congress, tossed the 1824 Constitution, and ordered Mexican citizens to disarm. He had become a dictator with the military to back him.
Eleven Mexican states rebelled, but none so boldly as Texas. Isolated far from the aid of the central government in Mexico City, Texans needed their guns to hunt and defend themselves. They resented Santa Anna’s rising taxes. Anglo colonists accustomed to the constitutional freedoms they enjoyed in the United States objected to discriminatory restrictions on how they must worship and what language they must speak in their homes. They petitioned the Mexican government for leniency and chose Stephen F. Austin to present their petition in Mexico City, to no avail.
Austin was arrested for sedition and thrown into prison, where he remained for over two years. To punish Texas, Santa Anna imposed stricter laws. When Texans objected, he sent troops to occupy San Antonio and arrest his critics.
The Texas Revolution
Texans sent them packing.
Santa Anna was furious. He mustered his army and marched north to force Texas into submission.
Under cold, gray skies, his army arrived in San Antonio on Feb. 23, 1836.
He found the Texans encamped in the Alamo mission and laid siege to it on Feb. 24.
Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis, 26-year-old commander of the Alamo’s handful of defenders, sent out a passionate appeal for reinforcements. “I shall never surrender or retreat…come to our aid, with all dispatch…victory or death.” A messenger slipped through enemy lines to carry Travis’ letter to General Sam Houston in Gonzales, but Houston realized that the Alamo was indefensible. His soldiers were not prepared. The newly-formed Texas Army retreated to a more strategic position, but the town of Gonzales sent 32 volunteers. The “Immortal 32” arrived on Mar. 1, sacrificing their lives to buy time.
On that same day, 59 delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos intent on another purpose. They no longer petitioned for tax relief or constitutional rights. On March 2, 1836, they declared independence. Texas became a nation.
You know what happened next…
On the morning of March 6, Santa Anna’s army breached the Alamo walls and slaughtered every defender.
Next, they massacred about 350 Texas soldiers at Goliad.
Many Texans panicked and fled, but some were righteously angry. They resolved to stand.
At San Jacinto on Apr. 21, Houston’s army of volunteers defeated Mexico’s much larger army in just 18 minutes. Their stunning victory literally changed the world!
The Battle of San Jacinto was one of the most decisive battles in world history. Mexico lost not only Texas, but also parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Weakened, they soon lost Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California as well. Now the United States spanned nearly a million square miles from coast to coast, making it one of the most influential countries in history.
The Battle Continues: Keeping Texas Families Free
As a lover of history, this heroic tale would be enough to capture my attention, but as a Christian homeschooler, I have an added appreciation.
These volunteers, who represented less than 10 percent of the population, stood their ground to secure freedom for their families. It was the zeitgeist of their time—but it is also the spirit of our time. Our freedoms are still threatened: freedoms of religion, speech, self-defense, and even the freedom to live out our convictions in our own homes.
Sometimes the efforts of so few seem daunting in the face of such opposition, but then I remember the Alamo.
I remember Goliad.
And I remember the great victory that came at San Jacinto.
The actions of those heroes give me courage to stand firm like the volunteers at the Alamo and Goliad, the Texan Army at San Jacinto, and the delegates at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
I’m grateful for those who stand with us to continue Keeping Texas Families Free.
Texas History Day
Students choose their topic within the framework of Texas history and present their findings in the form of a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary or a website. In the process, they gain excellent experience in research skills, reading, critical thinking, problem-solving, and oral and written communication. Putting everything together requires teamwork and develops project management skills, plus students acquire self-confidence and stage presence as they present their work at various levels.
The Texas History Day program not only teaches students about history—it encourages them to participate in history!
Learn more about how Texas works with THSC’s “Lone Star Study”—one of the many benefits of THSC Membership. Join today!
Lynn Dean was a reluctant historian. Bored with schoolbooks that chronicled battle dates and dead people, she feared inflicting mind-numbing data on her own students. Fortunately, she discovered the classic appeal of storytelling–adventure sagas about real people who struggled to overcome obstacles while pursuing their dreams. For more than a decade Lynn has combined unit studies, field trips, and quality literature to create unique and memorable experiences in discovery learning.