The Texas Military Tradition
Texas has enjoyed a strong military tradition since its establishment as a state. This most probably stemmed from the fact that Texan culture demands males to be fighters (PILKINGTON 80). The cowboy, in fact, is the epitome of Texan masculinity – the strong, silent, gun-totting male hero (ROSSIDES 432). At best, the cowboy is depicted as a man who dutifully protects his honor and the safety of his family and nation. At worst, he is presented as a trigger-happy thug who shoots first and asks questions later (PILKINGTON 80).
Fighting men view every battle – from personal feuds to concerted military action – as an opportunity to display their courage and hardiness. Therefore, it is no longer surprising if Texans have never been slow to volunteer for conscription (PILKINGTON 80). Majority of those who fought for the United States army during the Spanish-American War were Texans and Southwesterners. Texans likewise constituted a large percentage of American troops that served in the Vietnam War (PILKINGTON 81). In the process, organized military campaigns became venues for Texans to assert their credentials as tough fighters.
Texas War of Independence
Ultra-conservative politician and soldier Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna became the self-appointed dictator of Mexico in 1834. Once in power, he focused solely on crushing insurgencies in Texas and in surrounding areas. This despotism resulted in the outbreak of the Texas War of Independence. Stephen Fuller Austin, a colonist who was imprisoned by the Mexicans from 1834 to 1835, was nominated leader of the revolution (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
In October 1835, soldiers were sent to Gonzalez to retrieve a cannon the Mexican army had loaned Texas years before. About 160 Texan settlers assembled to protect the cannon, unfurling a sign which read “Come and Take It.” Despite limited reinforcements, they succeeded in driving the Mexican army away. By November 1835, the colonists had set up a provisional state government and elected a governor and a council (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
Austin’s forces rapidly increased, winning a series of battles throughout the fall of 1835. In 1836, however, they were defeated at the Alamo, a former mission in San Antonio. Despite this loss, it was already clear that Texan independence was already on its way. A convention of Anglo Texans declared independence from Mexico at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836. The delegates appointed Sam Houston as the commander-in chief of all Texas forces and named David G. Burnet as provisional president. They also adopted a constitution that protected the institution of slavery (prohibited under Mexican law) (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
The victory of the Texans at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 eliminated their final obstacle to sovereignty – Santa Anna. His defeat and subsequent capture forced Santa Anna to finally recognize Texan independence. He signed the Treaty of Velasco on May 14, 1836. Furthermore, the Mexican government publicly agreed to recall all troops beyond the Rio Grande and release all Texan prisoners. Texas was annexed into the US by 1845 (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
The Texas Republic Era: Warfare between the Whites and the Native Americans
After winning themselves autonomy, the Texans were now struggling to maintain it. One of the main factors behind this dilemma was the hostilities between the whites and the Native Americans. Shortly after the annexation, European settlers flocked to Texas in search of cheap land. As a result, Indian territories in the state were inevitably trespassed upon (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
Houston was able to keep this problem to a minimum during his regime, as he granted the Indians titles to the lands upon which they lived. But his successor, Mirabeau Lamar, believed that “Indians had no rights to the land on which they lived” (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.). Lamar, consequently, launched a bloody takeover campaign against the Indians. This left the Indians with no other choice but to give up their lands or be killed (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
The Indian tribes who attempted to rise against Lamar learned the aforementioned consequence the very hard way. The Cherokees tried to forge an anti-Texas alliance with Mexico but were vanquished, with the survivors driven into Oklahoma. The Comanches, meanwhile, were pushed into extreme West Texas after staging a futile revolt against the Texan government. Although Lamar’s Indian policy was very effective – it secured East Texas and greatly expanded the frontier – it cost $2.5 million and scores of Indian lives (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
The Role of Texas in the Mexican War
The role of Texas in the Mexican War was that it was one of the causes of this hostility. The respective governments of Texas and Mexico fought over the parameters of the Texas-Mexican border. Texas maintained that the Rio Grande separated the two nations (in accordance to the Treaty of Velasco). Mexico, on the other hand, insisted that the Nueces River should be the dividing line (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
Desperate to win the above-mentioned dispute, the US government sent agent John Slidell to purchase from Mexico the New Mexican Territory ($5 million) and California ($25 million). Slidell failed, prompting the US to send troops to the borders of California, New Mexico and the disputed border region of Texas. Mexico responded by sending its own soldiers to the said locations, but these eventually had to retreat due to heavy casualties and prolonged lack of supplies. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848, granting the US clear title to about one-half of all Mexican territories – Texas all the way to the Rio Grande, New Mexico, California and parts of Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
The Military Role of Texas in the Civil War
Majority of the soldiers who fought during the Civil War were Texans. About 2,500 fought for the Union. The Confederacy, on the other hand, had about 80,000 Texan soldiers. Terry’s Texas Rangers were well-known for bravery and daring during the war. Highly impressed with the prowess of the Texas soldier, Jefferson Davis said: “The troops from other states have their reputations to gain. The sons of the defenders of the Alamo have theirs to maintain” (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
Furthermore, Texas was a strategic region for the Confederacy. It had a great reservoir of men with military experience and at least 400 miles of shoreline and was the most westerly of the Confederate states. Thus, Texas could provide important ports and was instrumental to expansion in the West. The Confederates likewise detained Northern prisoners of war and slaves of the other southern states in Texas (LECTURE NOTES n. pag.).
World War I
Many Texans overwhelmingly supported World War I. Nearly 200,000 Texans enlisted for military services during the war, which included at least 400 women who served as nurses. In addition, a military-industrial complex was built in Texas in this period. Several key military bases were opened in the state, with those in San Antonio remaining in operation even after the end of the war (MSN ENCARTA n. pag.).
Most Texans, as a result, prospered during and after the war. The aforementioned bases provided steady employment and regular wages. These perks, in turn, stimulated the growth of the Texan economy through increased consumption. Seeing that the state’s consumers have high purchasing powers, businesses started offering a wider range of goods and services to them.
World War II
Texas was able to support the US during World War II by being one of the centers of wartime activity. The region’s clear skies, available land and huge oil reserves rendered it conducive to the construction of military bases. These bases, in turn, brought prosperity to Texas by providing jobs for many Texans. Several military bases in Texas remained open even after World War II due to the involvement of the US in the Cold War (MSN ENCARTA n. pag.).
Consequently, the continued operation of these bases spelled the further industrialization of Texas. The higher demand for oil and petrochemicals, for instance, meant more refineries and chemical processing plants. In the process, more jobs are created. More jobs, in turn, means higher incomes and consumption.
The Texan military tradition slowly evolved from the display of courage and hardiness to the rise of a military-industrial complex that serves as economic lifeblood. Seeing the impressive prowess of the Texan soldier, leaders of various wars in American history recruited Texans into their fold. But these leaders gradually realized that they can also use the abundant natural resources of Texas to their advantage. Thus a military-industrial complex emerged in the region. In the process, Texans remain heavily involved in warfare even if they are not in the frontlines.
[Lecture notes supplied by client]
Pilkington, Tom. State of Mind: Texas Literature and Culture. College Station, Texas: Texas
A&M University Press, 1998.
Rossides, Daniel W. American Society: An Introduction to Macrosociology. Dix Hills, New
York: General Hall, Inc., 1993.
“Texas.” 2009. MSN Encarta. 2 August 2009