Independence: The Lone Star Spirit

By:
Susan Yerkes and Trisha Doucette
Photography
Courtesy of the Alamo

Texas pride is more than a slogan — it is the spirit of the state and its residents, whether they were born here, or just “got here as fast as they could.” This fierce independence once sparked a revolution and a republic. Texas history is the stuff of legends, and its stories are preserved in many places across the state.

March 2 is Texas Independence Day, an official state holiday. On that date 187 years ago, the Republic of Texas was born. Did you know that Texas was “a whole other country” to the south of the United States, with its own Constitution, elected leadership and laws for a decade before it joined the Union? Fun fact: that is why in Texas, U.S. law gives us the right to fly the Lone Star flag of the state at the same height as the United States’ star-spangled banner.  

Never Surrender Retreat
Evening with Heroes

The Alamo

The Alamo is the holy grail of Texas heritage, and by far the most famous battle of Texas’ War of Independence against Mexico. On March 6, 1836, more than 2,000 Mexican soldiers under General Santa Anna’s command overran the Alamo after a 13-day siege. Between 182 and 257 Texian and Tejano defenders, including Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis, were killed outright or taken prisoner and executed. Between Thursday, February 23 and Monday, March 6, Alamo history comes alive with several free memorial events featuring solemn ceremonies and costumed re-enactors.

Commemoration Opening Ceremony, February 23, 10:00am 

February 23 was the first day of the 13-day siege leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and an opening ceremony in Alamo Plaza will commemorate the battle. There will also be living history demonstrations from 9:00am to 4:00pm. 

Never Surrender or Retreat, February 24, 10:00am: Colonel William Travis’ call for reinforcements is depicted with a reading of this important moment. Students are also invited to learn about life in the 1830s.

The Immortal 32 Arrive!, March 1, 11:00am to noon: Honoring the 32 men from Gonzales who rode through enemy lines in response to Travis’ plea, a ceremony will feature descendants of the brave men.

Texas Independence Day 

Celebration, March 2, 9:00am to 4:00pm: Celebrate at the Alamo with music and living history demonstrations. At 6:30 a fundraiser benefitting the Remember the Alamo Foundation will include food, drink and live entertainment along with a viewing of the Alamo Collections Center. Fundraiser tickets are $250.

The Alamo Observance, March 4, 1:00 to 2:30pm 

The Grand Lodge of Texas will honor the freemasons who died at the Alamo by laying a wreath in front of the chapel and speaking on the history of freemasonry in Texas. That evening beginning at 6:00pm, the 16th annual Evening With Heroes after-hours theatre is a guided tour of nine scenarios where guests can witness the events and conversations that took place the evening before the final attack. Timed tours are $40.

Dawn at the Alamo
Alamo Collections Center

Other Battles in Texas’ Fight for Independence 

Concepción

On the grounds on Mission Concepción, a band of Texian rebels led by James Fannin and Jim Bowie won a skirmish with Santa Anna’s men in the first major conflict of the Texas Revolution. 

Gonzales: Come and Take It

It was not a battle, but the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired in the little town of Gonzales. In October 1835, as full-scale war approached, a small Mexican force was dispatched to Gonzales to reclaim a cannon that had been given to the settlers to defend against marauding Indians. The defiant town leaders refused. They made a flag showing a cannon, a star and the slogan “Come and Take It.” They fired the cannon to make their point, and won the day. Don’t miss the Gonzales Memorial Museum, featuring the original “Come and Take It” cannon. 

Goliad, Fannin Battleground and Fort Defiance 

Near the town of Goliad, Colonel James Fannin and his men made a stand in an old Spanish fort called Presidio La Bahia, which Fannin re-named Fort Defiance. Three weeks after the fall of the Alamo, Fannin’s outnumbered, outgunned troops surrendered to the Mexican army. Some 350 Texians were executed at Santa Anna’s orders. Today the nearby Fannin Battleground State Historic Site includes a memorial that marks the mass grave of the martyred rebels. 

San Jacinto Battleground

In April 1836, General Sam Houston and his men decisively defeated Santa Anna’s armies at this battlefield near Houston, shouting “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad.” The fight lasted just 18 minutes, and when the smoke cleared and Santa Anna surrendered, Texas was free. Today, the San Jacinto Museum of History and the 567-foot-tall San Jacinto Monument draw nearly 250,000 visitors a year. 

Washington-On-the-Brazos

This historic site is called “Where Texas Became Texas.” On March 2, 1836, 59 delegates adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence. The little town with the big name was the national capital of Texas from 1842 to 1845. The small, humble Independence Hall, the modern Star of the Republic Museum and the restored Barrington Plantation offer a full schedule of events and programs to visitors. The founding fathers of Texas hammered out a constitution for the new republic here — an independent nation that ruled itself from 1836 to 1846, when Texas joined the United States. But the Texas spirit of independence still reigns today. 

The Texas Historical Commission’s Independence Trail maps out the places where the history of the Republic of Texas was forged and where the legendary moments are still recalled, honored and re-enacted. Today, revisionist historians debate the causes and characters of the Texas Revolution, but the stories are woven deep into the spirit of the Lone Star State.   

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