The Birth of Texas is a multi-part series of feature length documentaries that chronicle the journey from Mexican Texas, along the road to Revolution, through the days of the Republic and on to statehood. The videos not only explore the complete stories of the famous military actions at the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto including recent breakthroughs in scholarship and archaeology, but also the roles played by Tejanos, American settlers, filibusterers, enslaved African-Americans, European immigrants and foreign governments in shaping the story of our state.
Noted author and historian, Stephen Hardin, leads a tour of locations that serves as the backbone of this documentary series. Interviews with other scholars, snippets of contemporary journals, photographs, maps, music and graphics makes this an engaging way to learn about the beginnings of Texas.
Texas Media Award Winner from Texas Daughters of the American Revolution in 2013
When Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, they also inherited a Spanish legacy that remains an integral part of Texas to this day. We still find Spanish influence in our language, laws, ranches, place names and food. The system of Spanish missions, towns and presidios was established not only to bring the native inhabitants of Texas into the fold of Catholicism, but also to keep the French out of an area that Spain found frankly unattractive since it contained no gold or silver. Solid settlement clusters were in place at San Antonio, Nacogdoches and in the area around Victoria, Goliad and Refugio all connected by a very rudimentary network of roads. Ports existed at Velasco, Copano and Anahuac, and an illicit trading establishment was operating at Galveston Island. The years just prior to 1821 had seen filibusters making their way into Texas for profit and adventure in wide open Texas.
San Felipe and American Settlement
Stephen F. Austin took over for his father in the enterprise of bringing Anglo colonists to settle under-populated Texas and provide a buffer zone for the Mexican interior. Colonists came
not only from the United States, where the economy was in crisis, but also from areas in Europe. With them, they brought new customs and attitudes, new ways of agriculture and the contentious institution of slavery, something that was supported by wealthy Mexicans who had invested in Texas cotton. Relationships were established with the Tejanos, but much of Texas became an extension of American lifestyle in a Mexican nation. Communities rose up in Austin's Colony and in those lands controlled by several other empresarios. Life centered around the headquarters of his colony, complete with amenities such as a newspaper, on land that today is a county bearing his name.
Washington-on-the-Brazos:the Politics of Revolution
Citizens of Mexican Texas grew used to living under the Constitution of 1824, but when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna came to power, and switched sides to the conservative faction, people all over Mexico were drawn into a battle between Federalism and Centralism. Complications continued in the Mexican-Texans' relations with the Mexican government and the United States, as well as interests from Europe. Mexico sent Manuel Mier y Teran on an inspection tour of Texas which led to major administrative changes and brought disturbances at Anahuac. The road to revolution was filled with various factions and personalities that would eventually lead to shots fired at Gonzales and a declaration of Texas independence.
San Antonio and the Alamo
San Antonio de Bexar, the largest and most important city in Mexican Texas, became the object of a siege by emboldened Texian forces in late 1835. The Mexican garrison under General Cos was defeated in house to house combat through the streets of the town, making Ben Milam the first major martyr of the Texas Revolution in the process. A small group of Texian rebels held San Antonio through the winter, but in the early spring of 1836, Santa Anna himself returned to Texas with a large army and laid siege to the old mission known as the Alamo. Hoping and scrambling for reinforcements, the small Texian garrison held on defiantly, but was finally overrun on the morning of March 6th, and Travis, Bowie, Crockett and the others joined the ranks of lost Texas heroes. The aftermath of battle brought funeral pyres and unmarked mass graves, and from that was born a battle cry that would make the Alamo the most famous of Texas legacies.
Though West Point trained, Colonel James Fannin was ill suited to leadership in battle, even by his own account. On the other hand, his Mexican counterpart in the Goliad campaign, General Jose Urrea, was never defeated in battle during the Texas Revolution. At Coleto, Fannin squandered a chance to retreat and was ultimately defeated. With the Texian captives never expecting anything less than parole, orders were sent to Goliad by Santa Anna to execute the prisoners. Urrea, wanting to distance himself from the brutality, left the task to his second in command, and over 300 Texians were marched from the fort and massacred. Amid the thick musket smoke and the confusion, 28 prisoners escaped, bringing tales of the summary executions. With only the forces under Sam Houston remaining to fight the centralist army, civilians hastily fled east toward the Sabine River and the imagined safety of the United States in a dangerous free-for-all known as the Runaway Scrape.
It is one of the most pivotal battles in history, but the road to San Jacinto was anything but a sure thing for Sam Houston and the Texian forces. The provisional President of Texas had ordered him to fight, some of his men were almost mutinous, but still General Houston pressed east with Santa Anna in close pursuit. Finally Houston veered south to grassy prairie and marshes along the upper reaches of Galveston Bay. There the two armies would meet in the famous eighteen minutes of battle. The Texians, looking to avenge the massacres of their compatriots, ran the Mexican soldiers into the marshes, hunting and slaughtering them long after the battle itself had ended. Many of those captured would remain held in Texas for over a year. The rest of the Mexican forces in Texas undertook a brutal retreat through a sea of mud as they headed south toward the Rio Grande.
Houston: A Nation’s Capitol
The Platinum Award Winner in Documentary at the 2011 WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival
For two hurly-burly years, the Bayou City was the capital of the Republic of Texas, promoted by the Allen Brothers even while one of them represented Nacogdoches. As Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar and others squabbled over the direction in which they would lead the fledgling nation, scores of drunken, furloughed, knife-wielding soldiers battled in makeshift saloons, on the town’s muddy streets and at the dueling grounds which was located south of Texas Avenue, and therefore away from the city limits. The new port bustled with commerce where urban slaves worked as stevedores. Meanwhile, the Masonic Lodge, the Texas Philosophical Society and missionary churches sought to provide social uplift for Houston, though vice stubbornly held its own. The forces seeking to keep the capital in Houston finally lost out to Austinites in the episode known as the Archives War.
Austin: From Republic to Statehood
Texas President Mirabeau Lamar got his wish and moved the capital of the Republic to a frontier community on the Colorado River now renamed Austin. The new nation was faced with a wealth of problems, financial difficulties chief among them. Mexican army incursions continued into Texas with them reaching San Antonio twice. The newly formed Texas Rangers battled with Comanche raiders who ventured as far as the Gulf of Mexico, waters patrolled by the Texas Navy. Lamar, harboring visions of an independent Texas that stretched to the Pacific, sent a disastrous expedition to Santa Fe. Meanwhile Texas ventured into the realm of foreign relations, and all the while politicians in the United States haggled over the politics of statehood. In 1845, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution admitting Texas to the Union, and the transfer of power took place the following February.