A Comprehensive Guide to Texas’ History

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From its early Native American history to its involvement in the Civil War, Texas tells a remarkable story of persistence and resilience.

Texas began as a native territory, before becoming a Spanish colony. Mexican forces seized the state following wars. The state then earned Republic status after its independence from Mexico.

Afterward, Texans yearned for Union status. After nine years, the state achieved it before secession and joining the Confederate front.

One civil war later, Texas was readmitted to the Union and entered its Reconstruction era.

Stick around for a comprehensive guide to the Lone Star State’s extensive history.

Texas Birthday

Texas’ independence day falls on the 2nd of March, 1836. Before that, Spanish missionaries conquered the state, establishing San Antonio in 1718.

The area hosted hostile Native Americans and was stationed further from the other Spanish colonies. In turn, the region held few residents.

After the Revolutionary War and the War of Mexican Independence, Texas was part of Mexican territory gained from Spain in 1821.

The area still hosted few citizens. In turn, residents encouraged settlers from the U.S. to populate the region and promote growth.

Moses Austin requested a grant from Spain to settle 300 Anglo families on 200,000 acres of land.

By 1831, Moses and his son, Stephen Fuller Austin, were responsible for settling over 25,000 Anglo-Americans in Texas.

Early History of Texas

Native American camps occupied Western Texas over 37,000 years ago. They primarily hunted game using flint-pointed darts and spears.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern end, Natives thrived in well-established farms with religious and political systems in place. These groups became known as the Caddo confederacies.

In 1528, the first European settlers colonized the state, despite having few inhabitants. In the 1730s, over 30 Spanish expeditions were sent to Texas.

In 1718, the settlers established San Antonio as the administrative center.

They branched further into eastern, southern, and western territories in Nacogdoches, Goliad, and El Paso, respectively.

Aside from Spanish settlements, French explorers also made their way into the city.

An exploration led by Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle colonized Matagorda Bay in Eastern Texas.

Texas state flag

When Did Texas Become a State?

Texas became a state after its U.S. annexation in 1845.

What Year Did Texas Become a State?

Texas became the 28th U.S. state on December 29th, 1845. Before that, Texas had been an independent county since 1836.

How Texas Became a State

The annexation of the Republic of Texas by the U.S. took almost a decade because of political concerns.

Initially, the Texas citizens voted in favor of U.S. annexation in 1836, after the county’s independence.

Why Was Texas Not Added to the Union?

Due to the instability between pro and anti-slavery oppositions within Congress, Texas was still on the back burner in terms of annexation.

The U.S. also had concerns regarding border issues with Mexico.

Why Was Texas Not Admitted as a State for 9 Years?

Most of the political disagreement came from the U.S. The country was concerned about the legal slave trade in the region.

The refusal came during the Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren administrations. President Jackson and Van Buren were against the annexation to prevent anti-slavery concerns.
Around that time, Texas had a population of about 125,000 people, and 30,000 of them were slaves of African descent.

Abolitionists in the U.S. worried about integrating a slave state since it could cause a political imbalance in Congress.

Besides that, the U.S. also had concerns about annexing a region bordering Mexican territory, especially with the recently fought war over a decade earlier.

In addition, Great Britain was in favor of the no-annexation route. It decreased the U.S. threat level of further expansion.

Why the U.S. Annexed Texas

Despite these concerns, President Polk, elected in 1845, believed that the advantages of having Texas as a state outweighed the cost. The prime benefit was extending U.S. territory.

Other than that, Polk believed that Texas should have originally been U.S. land as per the Louisiana Purchase.

Nevertheless, the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819 allowed Spain to give up Florida and Oregon country in exchange for Texas.

By December 1845, the U.S. Congress officially integrated Texas as a state. Afterward, U.S.-Mexican relations became hostile.

How Texas Was Acquired

Texas was acquired by the U.S. after much conflict at the Mexican border. President Polk sent representative commissioners to Mexico for land discussions and purchase offers.

He wanted to settle U.S. borders on the Rio Grande. Nonetheless, the Mexican government responded with hostility. In 1946, war was on both sides’ minds.

Mexican-American War

Disputes emerged over the Rio Grande and the Nueces River border. That catalyzed the Mexican-American war.

It began with Mexican army groups attacking the U.S. in the disputed area. The cavalry was responsible for over a dozen U.S. soldier deaths.

A mid-day scene of a garden and buildings in Central Texas

The group took Fort Texas, which was by the Rio Grande. Nevertheless, General Zachary Taylor sent U.S. reinforcements to the region.

The army’s superior weaponry bested the Mexicans in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma and the Battle of Palo Alto.

The U.S. Declaration of War Against Mexico

On May 13th, 1846, the U.S. officially declared war against Mexico after the battles in the Rio Grande.

Only 75,000 Mexicans resided in the northern part of the Rio Grande, making the takeover seamless on the U.S. end.

Colonel Steven Watts Kearny and Commodore Robert Field Stockton led the U.S. victory attack.

Meanwhile, General Taylor continued his attacks and seized Monterrey in September. In response, Mexican forces sent General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

The General managed to convince President Polka that if he returned to Mexico, the war would end on Mexico’s side.

Nevertheless, Santa Anna double-crossed Polka and reassumed his army’s control. He fought in the Battle of Buena Vista in Angostura Pass.

Even though Mexican troops outnumbered their American foes by almost 10,000 troops, the latter won the battle led by General Zachary in February 1847.

Despite the loss, General Santa Anna became the Mexican president in March 1847.

During the previous month, Polka dispatched U.S. troops to Veracruz. American army officer Winfield Scott seized the city.

Then, he approached Mexico City in September of the same year. The Battle of Cerro Gordo took place with the U.S. garnering victory.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On February 2, 1848, Mexico and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty stipulated U.S. control over land.

The 525,000 square mile-region takeover constituted Texas, Utah, California, Arizona, Nevada, western Colorado, and New Mexico.

The disputed territorial conflict between the Rio Grande and Nueces River ended. The agreement limited the U.S.-Mexican border to the Rio Grande region.

The treaty was signed after President Santa Anna resigned and a new government assumed the position. Additionally, Mexico received a $15 million payout for the takeover.

The U.S. also agreed to deal with over $3 million worth of damage claims from its citizens against Mexico.

Implications of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty

Although the treaty ended the war between the U.S. and Mexico, more conflict arose within both regions.

It triggered civil wars in the countries. Mexico’s independence and autonomy were crippled by the aftermath of the war, perpetuating a civil war in 1857.

The expansion of U.S. territory led to more concerns about sectional conflict over the slave trade among states.

Civil War and Texas

Texas put in lots of effort to join the Union in 1845. Sectional differences surrounding pro and anti-slavery positions put the newly-adjoined state in a tough spot.

At the time, one in every four Texan families owned slaves. The citizens believed the trade was critical to their economic growth.

Texans saw the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 as a threat to their slave trade. Afterward, the state called for a convention from Governor Sam Houston.

Nevertheless, Houston didn’t want issues of secession to rise and didn’t follow his citizens’ requests.

Meanwhile, other states like State Carolina called for a state succession convention. Delegates of the convention ordered a succession based on votes, which resulted in 166 to 8.

After an assembly in February 1861, Texas was officially out of the Union and joined the Confederate States of America.

Top view of San Antonio, Texas

With Governor Houston unwilling to recognize the newly formed government, Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark took his place.

Abraham Lincoln offered Houston army support if he disassembled the convention. Nonetheless, he didn’t agree to avoid increasing civil tension.

Effects of Civil War on Texas

Texas witnessed a few battles during the Civil War. The surrounding borders were primarily affected. A Union siege in the port at Galveston halted transportation in the region in 1862.

Confederate soldiers were able to take back the city the following year. In terms of economic effects, northern factories stopped imports to Texas.

Cotton plantations were unable to export their goods due to surrounding Union blockades. Subsequently, transportation routes were challenging to navigate.

Even though trade with Mexico continued, the profits weren’t enough and left Texans with supply shortages.

That said, Texas was seen as a refugee area for Confederates in surrounding states. Multiple people fled to the state along with their slaves.

Opposition of Confederacy

Political ideologies were far from shared among Texans. Multiple groups opposed the Confederacy and were called Union Sympathizers.

They consisted of German immigrants, northern Texas county residents, Mexican Texans, and Tejanos. These oppositions were met with violence.

Over 36 of them, mostly German immigrants, were massacred as they attempted to escape to Mexico in 1862.

The state constructed a limestone obelisk to honor them in 1866 known as the Treue Der Union monument.

The End of War

The Civil War ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865 at the Appomattox Court.

Two months later, the news reached Texas, and citizens commemorated the event currently referred to as Juneteenth.

The Union arrived in Texas and ordered the state’s emancipation and abolishment of slavery. Texans had to declare their secession as illegal and pledge to the U.S.

The Reconstruction era in Texas and other Confederate states was met with resistance to changes. Citizens still opposed African American rights.

Despite these concerns, Texas became a Union member once again in 1870.

The Modern Age of Texas

After readmittance to the Union, Texas experienced economic developments from various facets.

The cattle industry in West Texas’s plains expanded. The state’s population increased after the extensive circulation of immigrants.

In 1900, the population reached over three million. Texas witnessed railroad and shipping construction developments, providing solid links to the rest of the country.

Despite reaching a hitch in the 1930s from the Great Depression, World War II propelled the state’s industrial growth.

The postwar age catalyzed Texas into population increase and economic development. The state relied on oil refining, petrochemicals, and, eventually, high-tech components.

Texas Bill of Rights

The Texas Bill of Rights are the state’s constitution building on the U.S Bill of Rights. They include added liberties. The bill was established by lawmakers in 1876.

For instance, in section 3a, citizens aren’t allowed to discriminate based on sex, race, creed, color, and national origin.

In section 7, citizens are banned from creating establishments or religion. Besides that, the Texas and federal Bill of Rights have similarities.

Both detail a representative democratic government, giving authority to the people. The constitution contains laws protecting its citizens’ liberties from the government.

To Conclude

Texas history is filled with stories of defeat, perseverance, and victory.

The state has gone through multiple transitions and events, from the Mexican-American War to the Texas Declaration of Independence.

These events have shaped the state’s cultural identity, people, and political ideologies. Texas’ history is well-documented by six flags.

These are the ruling systems that dominated Texas including France, Spain, the U.S., the Republic of Texas, Mexico, and the Confederacy.

Each flag emphasizes a historic premise in Texas’s long history of settlements.

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