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Mr. Speaker, growing up in Houston, Texas, I always liked this day, April 21, because it was a school holiday. I believed there was no school because it was my mother's birthday. She never told me differently. I was proud to be the only kid that had a mother with a school holiday.
It was only later that I came to find out that the holiday also represented the most important military victory in Texas history, one that occurred near my hometown of Houston. It was a unique holiday for Texas called ``San Jacinto Day.''
It all started when Texas declared independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. Texans held off the invading Mexican army at a place called the Alamo. They were led by a commander by the name of William Barret Travis, a 27-year-old lawyer from South Carolina. The 187 volunteers held out for 13 days and inflicted vicious casualties on the invaders. But Santa Anna, dictator of Mexico, was able to storm over the Alamo walls on March 6, 1836, and killed all the remaining defenders. He went looking for the rest of the Texans that wanted independence from Mexico. General Sam Houston had been building the Texas army, and Santa Anna's three armies from Mexico were giving chase. The Texans and their families fled east in what historians call the ``runaway scrape.''
Finally, near the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou at Lynch's Ferry near Houston, Texas, they stopped to fight. Houston and his army of 700 faced Santa Anna and his army of twice that number on the marshy plains of San Jacinto. Scout Deaf Smith was ordered to burn the only bridge and trapped both armies on the peninsula between the river and the marshes.
It was April 21, 1836. General Sam wanted to charge into battle the next day at dawn, but after discussions with his troops, he decided not to wait any longer. So in the middle of the afternoon, General Sam and the boys marched in a single line in broad daylight with little cover toward the Mexican army.
The outnumbered Texans were an odd, terrifying-looking bunch. Without regular uniforms, they were dressed in buckskins, with pistols in their belts, bowie knives, long muskets, and tomahawks. They came from numerous States and foreign countries like Germany, England, Scotland, and Mexico. The Tejanos, Mexicans loyal for independence, were led by Captain Juan Sequin. So as not to confuse these Tejanos with Santa Anna's army, General Sam had Captain Sequin put a playing card in the headband of each Tejano so they could be easily recognized as Texans and not the invaders.
This was General Houston's first Texas battle. Santa Anna's veteran army had yet to lose any conflict after they invaded Texas. The Texans charged down the hill yelling ``Remember the Alamo,'' ``Remember Goliad.'' They carried a flag of a partially nude Miss Liberty, and the fife played a bawdy house song called ``Come to the Bower.''
Santa Anna's army was caught napping and was routed. Most of the enemy were killed or wounded. The rest were captured or disappeared. The victory was stunning. The Texans wanted Santa Anna hung because of the Alamo and for murdering Colonel Fannin and his 13 volunteers at Goliad after they had surrendered. Wise and politically astute, Sam Houston would have none of the lynching and spared Presidente Santa Anna for later bartering power.
Texas became a free and independent nation that day and claimed what is now Texas but also parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, and Idaho, all the way to the Canadian border. It was one of the largest land transfers in world history as a result of one battle. The latter land was sold to the United States to pay for Texas' war debts. But Texas was a free independent republic for 9 years and then was admitted into the United States in 1845 by one vote. A Louisiana Senator changed his mind and voted for admission for the State of Texas to become part of the Union. Some now wished the vote had gone the other way.
Texas still has the right, Mr. Speaker, to divide into five States. It also has the absolute right to fly the Texas flag at the same level of the United States flag because Texas was a country once. In 1936 Texans built the San Jacinto Monument in honor of the Texas War of Independence and General Sam's victory. It looks like the Washington Monument but it has a star on top. But, of course, Mr. Speaker, it's taller than the Washington Monument.
Today the bugles are silent and the battlefield is surrounded by petrochemical plants. Not much is said about Texas Independence or San Jacinto Day. It's not a school holiday anymore. But once again this year, proud Texans were at the San Jacinto battleground today to honor the few brave Texans and Tejanos that made Texas a free nation. We remember our past, knowing we were a nation once, and sometimes we still act like an independent country. I have a grandson who was named in honor of William Barret Travis and Sam Houston. His name is Barret Houston. I flew the Texas Lone Star flag today proudly on this San Jacinto Day. But, also, Mr. Speaker, I sent my mom a bunch of flowers remembering that this glorious day was a school holiday to celebrate her birthday.
And that's just the way it is.
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