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Chapter 16:

  • The Texas citizen soldier
  • -- his education as a soldier -- Indian fights -- early combats in Texas and Mexico -- the Texas yell -- its effect -- a Statue of a Texas soldier -- the significance of the war between the States -- the two Reconstructions -- the present National government -- how another war May be Averted.

Much has been said of the Texas officers, and the names and rank of many have been given. They are representatives of the soldiers commanded by them, who are too numerous to be separately named in the history of a great war. What, then, is to be said generally of the Texas soldiers? It is not proper to state that they have been more distinguished in battles than their brother soldiers of other States. It is enough to assert that they have stood equal to the most distinguished in every battle where they fired a gun or made a charge. A common spirit of chivalric valor inspired them as soldiers of Texas. That spirit was formed and fastened by example and practice for more than half a century. Texas was settled over sixty years ago by a bold, fearless American people, who fought against savage foes year by year from the eastern to the western edge of the State —the last combat being in 1881. They learned in those fights the merits of strategy in preparation, intrepidity in attack, and desperation in charge.

Theirs was an education in war derived from the necessity of defeating the superior numbers of a wily enemy. This was exhibited in 1832 at Nacogdoches, which place was defended by 300 Mexican cavalry and was captured by the assembled citizens of Eastern Texas, supporting [145] Santa Ana, who had declared in favor of the Mexican constitution of 1824. It was exhibited in the fall of 1835, when the Texas citizens stormed and took San Antonio, then defended by General Cos, who had proclaimed that Texas should be content with any government that the Mexicans established. It was exhibited at the Alamo, when about 180 Texans, surrounded by Santa Ana's army, fought until there was only a woman and her child (Mrs. Dickinson) left alive in the fort to tell how bravely they had all fought to the death. It was exhibited at San Jacinto, where Gen. Sam Houston's small force, not half of that of the fortified enemy under Santa Ana, charged with the war cry, ‘Remember the Alamo!’ broke the enemy's line and put them to rout in twenty minutes. Although the general was wounded in the charge, the line rushed on, every man knowing what to do without further orders. It was exhibited at Monterey in the Mexican war, where the Texas soldiers, aided by volunteers from other States, entered the town, fought through the houses, from the housetops, through the streets, and drove the Mexicans into the grand plaza, when the Texans had to be called off to allow General Taylor to shell the huddled forces of the enemy, which soon brought out the white flag of surrender.

All these events gave martial education; education to those at home who beard and read and were inspired; education that taught the Texas soldier how to fight in the battles of the great war between the States. How well they practiced their lesson was reported by every officer who commanded them. Whoever led them in two or three hard battles secured promotion, so that the advancement of their commanders was a public compliment to the Texas soldiers prowess in arms.

The Texas soldiers in line of battle, with their attention intensely alive to what they were doing and how they should act, were cool enough and intelligent enough to pass the word along the whole line like an electric current; [146] and when the command was given, ‘Forward, charge!’ it, too, would be rapidly passed, and then simultaneously the Texas ‘rebel yell’ burst out from the whole line, as all together they dashed at double quick toward the enemy. The effect of that yell was marvelous. It was in effect the earnest voice of each man to every other in the line for united action as one man. Such yells exploded on the air in one combined sound have been heard distinctly three miles off across a prairie, above the din of musketry and artillery.

In the city of Austin, sixty yards in front of the magnificent granite capitol, there has been erected a monumental column thirty feet high, on which stands erect the stalwart figure of a man in bronze, draped in homemade garb, holding up in his hands a long rifle gun, representing the Texas citizen soldier. There he will stand to tell in expressive pantomime throughout the ages to come the high appreciation by the Texas people of the Texas citizen soldier, as the honored defender of their homes and their country.

All great events in the transactions of mankind have a significance exhibited in the permanent results attained by them, which become a part of their history. What, then, was the significance of this great struggle, of more than a million men marshaled under arms to kill each other, in one of the most stupendous wars of modern times, which like an earthquake shook the American continent from the Atlantic ocean to the great plains of the West, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northern lakes? What was the significance of the facts that the Northern people, under the direction of their government, waged a terrible war against the people of the South during four years and overpowered them to submission; for four years longer spread their armed soldiers over all parts of the Southern States, abolishing their State governments and placing the people under the administration of five military districts; and before admitting the Southern States into [147] the Union again, had the negroes made citizens, disfranchised every man that had previously held office under the Confederate States or had in any way participated in the Confederate war, and required the Southern States to consent to the new amendments of the constitution which changed the Federal government fundamentally, as a condition precedent to their full admission to the Union?

What was, on the other hand, the significance of the actions of the people of the Southern States, in seceding from the Union, establishing a Confederate government and fighting the Northern armies as long as they were able? To answer these questions it is only necessary to state the objects attained.

The negroes set free and given full equality as citizens, in obedience to the demand of one wing of the party that elected President Lincoln, the Abolitionists; the freedom of the negroes, preventing the extension of slavery, as demanded by another wing, the Free Soilers; and the conversion of the central government from a federal to a national government, so shaped as to contribute to the pecuniary interests and build up the wealth of the commercial and manufacturing pursuits of the Northern people, as demanded by the Federalists—such, in short, is the government of this country whenever the distinctively sectional and federalistic principle is enforced.

The patriotic purpose of the Southern people in secession was to prevent such a government from being established over them to the forcible destruction of their domestic institutions, in which their social affairs had been long involved, and the depression of their agricultural interest and the breaking down of constitutional safeguards—all of which was plainly foreshadowed to their view by the expressed sentiments of the leading statesmen of the North who had gained control of the government. That national government, with its centralizing power and its vast expenditure of much more than a [148] million of money a day, so shaped as to contribute to Northern sectional interest, is exactly the kind of government from whose power the Southern States sought first to save the Union, and failing there, then appealed to secession to save themselves. The Southern people protested against sectional oppression, and as soon as they could legally declare their independence, they established Democratic constitutional government in protest against all Federal aggression. Their protest was answered by a terrible invasion which they resisted with all their might, and in defeat by greater force they still protest by ballot against all attempts to destroy constitutional government.

For sixty years before the war the Federal government was administered so as not to be the adversary of the agricultural interests of the Southern people, and, as claimed by the Northern people, prejudicial to their commercial and manufacturing interests, which made them dissatisfied and caused a political contention. That difference culminated in the war between the sections, North and South. Since the war for thirty years the national government has been administered in a way to result in promoting the commercial, manufacturing and general moneyed interests of the Northern people, and, as claimed by the Southern people, prejudicial to their agricultural interest, which makes them dissatisfied and causes a continued political contention. The annual expenses of the government before the war never exceeded $60,000,000; since the war they have amounted to over $400,000,000, which is a fair test in determining the character of the government at the two periods.

This seesawing in the policy of the government, with the almighty dollar used as the fulcrum by which to raise up one section and depress the other, with sectional party leverage, is not complimentary to American statesmanship. True patriotism in a republic demands that the productive wealth of every kind, of the whole country, [149] produced by honest and useful efforts, should be equitably distributed and enjoyed by all producers, irrespective of favoritism to persons, irrespective of pursuits in life, and irrespective of sections of country. That is the problem for the present and for the future, worthy of the patriotic ambition of the eminent statesmen of the country. This genuine Union once accomplished, there would be no more wars of sections; there would be no political slavery to induce another proclamation for freedom, and the example set by the United States would cause it to be heralded over the world that a democratic republic was the best government for mankind.

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