The ‘Father of Texas’ is born, 225 years ago today

 

Stephen F. Austin

The ‘Father of Texas,’ Stephen F. Austin

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1793, Stephen F. Austin is born. He would come to be known as the “Father of Texas.”

Perhaps there is a twist of irony in that title? When Austin first heard of an opportunity to set up a settlement in Texas, he wasn’t so crazy about the idea.

To the contrary, it was Stephen’s father who originally wanted to go to Texas. Moses Austin’s personal finances had suffered following the Panic of 1819, and he was looking for new opportunities. He decided to seek land grants in Texas. Unfortunately, Moses passed away in the middle of the process. Thus, it was left to Stephen to take over where his father had left off.

It wasn’t easy! Ownership of Texas had changed. Although Moses had worked out a deal with Spain, the Mexican government did not want to honor it at first. Stephen traveled to Mexico City and lobbied in person, and he was eventually given permission to move forward. He was an “empresario,” with civil and military authority over the first Anglo-American settlements in Texas. More empresarios would follow, but Austin was the most successful of them, bringing as many as 1,500 families to the area. He was well-respected, and other empresarios sought his advice. As such, he found himself constantly mediating between Texan settlers and the Mexican government. You can imagine this got tricky! For instance, when Mexico banned further Anglo-American immigration into Texas in 1830, settlers were unhappy. Many had long thought that Texas would be purchased by the United States, but such a move now seemed less likely. They wanted the ban lifted. In fact, they generally felt that they should have a bigger say in their own governance. They wanted Texas to be its own state.

By 1833, matters were getting serious. Settlers wrote a list of grievances and a proposed Constitution for a new state of Texas; they elected Austin to take these items to Mexico City. Austin was worried that the move was too aggressive, but he went anyway. He ended up getting arrested for suspicion of trying to incite an insurrection. (Oops!) He wasn’t freed until July 1835.


‘War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country and our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.’


Austin was slow to get on board with the cause of Texas independence (he preferred conciliation with Mexico), but once he was on board, he did not turn back. As chairman of a Committee of Safety, he wrote: “War is our only resource. There is no other remedy but to defend our rights our country & our selves by force of arms. To do this we must be united.”

Austin commanded Texan forces during the Siege of Bexar, but he spent much of the (relatively short) 6-month Texas Revolution in the United States, seeking support for the “Texian” cause. When Austin returned home, he discovered that his influence had been eclipsed by that of Sam Houston, the victor at the Battle of San Jacinto. Both men were candidates in the first presidential election. Houston won. Austin came in a distant third.

Austin died only 8 months after Texas had won her independence, possibly weakened by a disease that he’d contracted during his imprisonment in Mexico. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, President Sam Houston declared: “The father of Texas is no more. The first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.”

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Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 

 

Anniversary of USS CONSTITUTION Launch

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Here is the story of America’s oldest warship, still serving on the commissioned rolls of the US Navy after 321 years: the USS CONSTITUTION, as told by historian and writer Tara Ross.

By Tara Ross

On this day in 1797, Old Ironsides is launched!

“Old Ironsides” is the nickname that was given to the USS Constitution, one of the first six frigates built for the U.S. Navy during the early years of our country. Initially, the frigate was used in the Quasi War with France and the Barbary Wars, but it is perhaps most famous for its performance during the War of 1812. The USS Constitution defeated four English warships!

A former captain of USS Constitution, Tyrone G. Martin, later wrote a history of the ship. He describes the effect of these victories: “The losses suffered by the Royal Navy were no more than pinpricks to that great fleet: They neither impaired its battle readiness nor disrupted the blockade of American ports. . . . What Constitution and her sister [ship] did accomplish was to uplift American morale spectacularly and, in the process, end forever the myth that the Royal Navy was invincible.”

The ship earned its nickname during a battle fought on August 19, 1812.

On that day, the USS Constitution encountered the HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. The two ships got within about 50 yards of each other and began firing their cannons. The Constitution was causing great damage to the British ship, even as the British cannon balls were bouncing off the hard oak sides of the Constitution. One of the American crewmen saw what was happening and was heard to yell: “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!”

The nickname “Old Ironsides” was born!

The British surrendered roughly one hour after the attack began. The Guerriere was badly damaged and had to be sunk after the battle. The British captain later reported: “The Guerriere was so cut up, that all attempts to get her in would have been useless. As soon as the wounded were got out of her, they set her on fire; and I feel it my duty to state that the conduct of [American] Captain Hull and his Officers to our Men has been that of a brave Enemy.”

If the victory provided a psychological boost to Americans, it seems that it was equally demoralizing to the British. The London Times mournfully reported: “Never before in the history of the world did an English frigate strike to an American.”

Old Ironsides has been preserved and can still be seen at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Massachusetts. It’s well worth the visit!
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If you enjoy these history posts, please know that it is important to LIKE, SHARE & COMMENT. This site’s algorithm will weed these posts out of your newsfeed if you do not interact with them. (I don’t make the rules! Just following them.) 

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2018 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

Permalink: http://www.taraross.com/…/this-day-in-history-old-ironsides…

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An Incredible Website

I came across an incredible website tonight.  It’s called Taylor Talks.  It can be found at:

https://www.taylor-foster.info/taylor-talks

This is a new blog by Taylor Foster, a 22-year old budding actress, working hard to make it as an actress and dancer in Los Angeles.  I have known her since she was a toddler in Allen, Texas.

For the reason I am calling this an “incredible website,” go to her blog entry:  The Wound:

https://www.taylor-foster.info/copy-of-the-little-insecurity-1

Remember this young woman’s name:  Taylor Foster.  You’re going to hear a lot more of it one day.

 

Remembrances of 09-11

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Today, we remember those 2,977 men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Also on this date in 2012, four brave Americans and an unknown number of Libyans died in the terrorist attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Let us resolve to never forget those we lost on those two dates.

 

 

Alamo Defenders to No Longer Be Called ‘Heroic’

 

 

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This is just such a sad state of affairs that something like this would occur in 2018 in our great state of Texas. If the defenders of the Alamo were not “heroic,” where would you be justified in calling anyone heroic? What is next, Mt Suribachi on Iwo Jima, those who fought and died at Gettysburg, the heroic defenders at Valley Forge? This takes offending someone too far. Much, much too far.

By Tara Ross  (Historian, Texan, Wife, Mother, and Retired Lawyer)

https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/

From the article: “The concept of defenders of the Alamo being heroic is engrained in the history of this state—and in the psyche of most Texans. . . . But a committee streamlining the state’s history curriculum standards has removed the word ‘heroic’ from a proposed revision of the curriculum because it is ‘a value-charged word.'”

From me: I write daily history stories in part because I hope to remind people that we have so much to be proud of in this great country of ours. And I am also a proud Texan! Needless to say, this leaves me just speechless.

Many thanks to The History List for the link.

#RememberTheAlamo #GodBlessTexas #DontMessWithTexas

 

 

 

John S. McCain III: US Senator, US Naval Aviator, and Vietnam Prisoner of War dies at 81

 

 

John S. McCain III, senior Republican Senator from Arizona, passed away today from brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Just yesterday, his family and he announced he had decided to cease taking his medications for the cancer. He must have known then that the end was near.

Senator McCain came from a line of distinguished naval officers. His father and his grandfather were both Admirals in the US Navy. Senator McCain also served in the Navy, flying A-1 Skyraiders on the aircraft carriers USS INTREPID (CV 11) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6). Later, he requested a combat assignment and flew A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and USS ORISKANY (CV 34). It was while serving in FORRESTAL that his aircraft was involved in a shipboard fire that resulted in 134 Sailors dying in the fire. He was transferred to ORISKANY soon afterward. It was on October 26, 1967, while flying combat missions as a Lieutenant Commander from ORISKANY that he was shot down over Vietnam, captured, and held as a Prisoner of War. He was ultimately released from imprisonment in North Vietnam after five and a half years on March 14, 1973. He retired from the United States Navy on April 1, 1981, at the rank of Captain after 22 years of service.

Senator McCain was elected to Congress as a Republican US Representative from Arizona in 1983. Senator McCain advanced to serving in the US Senate in January, 1987, after his election in November, 1986. He frequently referred to himself as a “maverick Republican” during his time in the Senate.

He published his memoir, Faith of My Fathers, in August, 1999. He ran against Texas Governor George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, losing to Governor Bush who would go on to win the presidency in 2000. Senator McCain ran again in 2008, as the Republican standard bearer, but lost the presidency to President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain served six terms as the Republican Senator from Arizona. He last cast a vote in the US Senate in December, 2017, after which, he returned to Arizona to continue treatment for brain cancer.

He and his family announced yesterday that he would no longer undergo cancer treatment. He died today, August 25, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. local time, surrounded by his wife, Cindy (Hensley) McCain, and his family.

Rest In Peace, Shipmate. We have the Watch.

 

 

 

Another Momentous Day in the US Navy

 

Today is a momentous day in the US Navy.   It was on this day, August 3, 1945, that the last of the survivors of the sinking of the USS INDIANAPOLIS (CA 35), were pulled from the waters of the Pacific Ocean.  They had floated there since the sinking of their ship, four days before on July 30, 1945, by a Japanese submarine.

The INDIANAPOLIS had been on a secret mission to deliver the parts for Little Boy, the first atomic bomb, to Tinian Island in the Pacific Ocean.  The bomb would be dropped on August 6, 1945, on Hiroshima, Japan, leading to the unconditional surrender of the Japanese and the end of World War II.

After delivering the bomb parts, the ship departed for Guam and then on to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, but was sunk en route.  Of the 1,200 Sailors aboard the INDIANAPOLIS, about 900 survived the initial torpedoes and went into the water.  Of those 900 men only 316 Sailors would survive the next four days, floating in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific before being rescued.

Here is Texas historian and author Tara Ross’ account of the rescue of these brave men as the last survivors are pulled from the water at dusk on August 3, 1945.  May they all Rest In Peace.

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By Tara Ross (c)

On this day in 1945, the last survivors of the USS Indianapolis are pulled from the Pacific Ocean. They’d been there since a Japanese submarine had torpedoed and sunk Indianapolis on July 30.

They had just finished delivering parts for the Little Boy atomic bomb to American bombers! Now, because of communication gaffes, their ship was missing, but no one knew it. (See July 29 history post.)

Survivors were waiting for a rescue that was not coming.

The men were floating in small groups, strewn out across the last miles of Indianapolis’s journey. Survivors were covered in oil. Some were wounded. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Haynes, tried to care for his boys as best he could, but he knew some would not make it. Some hadn’t even survived the initial disaster.

As dead men were found in the water, Haynes later reported, “[w]e would then laboriously take off their life jacket and give it to men who didn’t have jackets. In the beginning I took off their dogtags, said The Lord’s Prayer, and let them go. Eventually, I got such an armful of dogtags I couldn’t hold them any longer. Even today, when I try to say The Lord’s Prayer or hear it, I simply lose it.”

Shark attacks were another problem. “They were continually there, mostly feeding off the dead bodies,” survivor Loel Cox later reported. But then the sharks began attacking men who were still alive. “We were losing three or four each night and day,” Cox said. “You were constantly in fear because you’d see ‘em all the time. Every few minutes you’d see their fins—a dozen to two dozen fins in the water.”

As the days wore on, the men became dehydrated. Some of them began to hallucinate. “[T]hey were goin bezerk,” survivor Woody Eugene James later testified. “They’d tell you big stories about the Indianapolis is not sunk, its’ just right there under the surface. I was just down there and had a drink of water . . . .” At other times, the hallucinations caused hysteria and fighting. Haynes spoke of men who would think “[t]here’s a Jap here and he’s trying to kill me.’ And then everybody started to fight. They were totally out of their minds.”

When help finally arrived, it was completely by chance.

Lt. Chuck Gwinn happened to be patrolling the area from the air, looking for Japanese submarines. He saw an oil slick! He thought perhaps it was a disabled Japanese submarine, so he prepared for a bombing run. As he got closer, he realized that there were people in the water. They needed help.

He still didn’t know if these people were friend or foe, but he began dropping life vests out of his plane. He radioed a message back to his base. It was then 11:25 a.m. on August 2.

The ordeal was far from over. Official rescue efforts were beginning, but it was a slow process.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking pilot with access to an amphibious plane heard one of Gwinn’s radio messages. Acting on his own initiative, Lt. Adrian Marks took off for Gwinn’s location. When he and his crew arrived hours later, he could see sharks circling in the water. The crew watched as multiple men were attacked, right in front of their eyes. They had to act!

Marks decided to act against standing orders. He would attempt a dangerous open sea landing. He knew that his plane could capsize, but he had to try.

Thankfully, he made it, and his crew began pulling survivors out of the water. They even tied survivors to the plane’s wings so they could get more people aboard! By nightfall, Marks had rescued 56 men from the water.

The first rescue ship arrived hours later, just before midnight.

The last men wouldn’t be found and pulled from the water until dusk on August 3. These men had been in the water for 112 hours, and they’d drifted more than 120 miles from Indianapolis’s original location.

The Little Boy bomb would be dropped on Hiroshima only 3 days later. Most of the heroes aboard Indianapolis would never know that they helped bring an end to World War II.

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If you enjoy these history posts, please know that it is important to LIKE, SHARE & COMMENT. This site’s algorithm will weed these posts out of your newsfeed if you do not interact with them. (I don’t make the rules! Just following them.) 😉

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2018 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the Facebook “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

Permalink: http://www.taraross.com/2018/08/tdih-uss-indianapolis-rescue

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Editor’s Note:  I was privileged to know one of these survivors: the late LT (Junior Grade) Charles McKissick.  Mr. McKissick was a retired optician, living in McKinney, Texas, when I met him there in 1991.  Every year, he would travel to Indianapolis, IN, to attend the USS Indianapolis Survivors Reunion there.  He was a fascinating man who collected USS Indianapolis memorabilia and talked of that tragedy as if it was yesterday.  May he and his other Shipmates Rest In Peace.  

 

 

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