Texas (1994) TV

 

 

Director:   Richard Lang.

Cast:   Stacy Kean (Sam Houston), Patrick Dufy (Stephen Austin), John Schneider (Davy Crockett), David Keith (Jim Bowie), Maria Conchita Alonso (Lucia), Benjamin Bratt (Benito Garza), Chelsea Field (Mattie Quimper), Anthony Michael Hall (Yancey Quimper), Grant Show (Travis), Randy Travis (Capt. Sam Garner), Rick Schroder (Otto MacNab).

Republic Pictures

 

This is a good movie based on the best-seller by Pulitzer Prize-winner James A. Michener.  It illuminates Texas history by following the interwoven lives of some key figures in Texas and Mexican history.  The time period is from the beginning of white settlement in what later became Texas to Texas independence from Mexico and, finally, to Texas statehood. 

Fall of 1821.  Stephen Austin arrives in what became Texas.  There were 5,000 Hispanics, 20,000 Anglos and 30,000 Indians, mostly Comanche.  The Mexican government has given Austin a mandate to populate and tame this wild land.  Austin starts recruiting settlers.  Mattie Quimper and her step-son Yancey are the first to step into his office.  (She is a recent widow, her husband Jubal Quimper having recently died.)

Others include Jim Bowie, the famous knife fighter with his specially made Bowie knife.  Zave Campbell arrives and behind him his friend Finlay MacNab and his son Otto.

Coming later is the two time governor of Tennessee, Sam Houston.  He says that Andrew Jackson himself had given him a directive to pow-wow with the Comanches (even though Austin does not really believe this). 

Already living in the area is Benito Garza, a Mexican mustanger, that is, one who brings in wild mustangs to be broken and then sold.  Benito soon falls in love with Mattie.  (A problem for Benito, however, is that Matties has taken a shine to Austin.)  Benito has two sisters, one who marries Zave Campbell and the other marrying Finlay MacNab. 

William Barrett Travis, who would later fight at the Alamo, arrives. 

The settlers have to swear an oath of loyalty to Mexico.  And they must convert to Catholicism if they are not already Catholics.  But even though the Texicans have sworn their loyalty to Mexico, they really want to be Americans.  Many of these men do not care for Austin.  He is seen as too loyal to Mexico and gutless because he would not stand up to the Mexicans.  Austin accuses Sam Houston of coming to the future Texas in order to start a rebellion. 

But Austin has an epiphany, doubtless the result of a stint in a Mexican prison ordered by Mexican General Santa Anna. He is only let out of prison when Santa Anna calls for a general amnesty.  But Santa Anna wants something from Austin: espionage as to what the Texicans are planning to do.  Austin figures that since Santa Anna is going to resort to war against the Texicans, then he may as well call for a war against the Mexicans.   

Benito Garza heads off to join the forces of Santa Anna. 

These characters keep popping up through the key events of the fight for Texas independence and the struggle for Texas statehood. Some of these events were:

September 19, 1833.  Stephen Austin issues a call to arms in every small village in Texas. 

October 28, 1933.  The Battle of Concepcion wherein a Mexican cavalry surprise attack outside San Antonio ends up with a victory for the Texicans. 

First convention to form a constitution and government for the Republic of Texas.

The massacre of Texas prisoners after the fight at Goliad.

The Battle of San Jacinto.

Election of the first president of the Republic of Texas.

The formation of the Texas Rangers to fight the Comanches and Mexican bandits.

The election of James K. Polk as president of the United States and statehood for Texas. 

Based on the historical novel by James Michener the film does cover the main events of independence and statehood for Texas.  There are a lot of characters and that does not leave much room for character development.  We don't learn much about the motivations of the key players beyond excitement, free land and new growth opportunities.  What were the primary motivations for Stephen Austin and Sam Houston.  They made Austin appear a bit of a weakling, but in 1813 Austin had been commissioned an ensign in the Missouri militia and later served with the First Regiment of Mounted Militia working his way up from private to quartermaster sergeant.  He also was the one who created the Texas Rangers.  His general approach, however, was a cautious one and probably was interpreted as weakness by the settlers. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

 

1821 -- Stephen F. Austin received a grant from the Mexican government and began colonization in the region of the Brazos River.  He advertised the settlement opportunities in New Orleans for land available along the Brazos and Colorado rivers. A family (husband, wife and two children) would receive 1,280 acres at twelve and a half cents per acre.

1821 (December)  --  the first U.S. colonists settled on the Brazos River in today's Fort Bend County, Texas.

1823 (April)  --  Austin is given a contract to bring 300 families into Texas.

1823  --  Austin unofficially creates the Texas Rangers.

Mid-1824 -- The Constitution of 1824 gives Mexico a republican form of government. It failed, however, to define the rights of the states within the republic, including Texas.

late 1825  --  Austin brings in the first 300 families. 

6 April 1830--Relations between the Texans and Mexico reach a new low when Mexico forbids further emigration into Texas by settlers from the United States.

26 June 1832--The Battle of Velasco resulted in the first casualties in Texas' relations with Mexico. After several days of fighting, the Mexicans under Domingo de Ugartechea were forced to surrender for lack of ammunition.

1832-1833 -- The Convention of 1832 and the Convention of 1833 in Texas were triggered by growing dissatisfaction among the settlements with the policies of the government in Mexico City.

1834 (January 2)  --  at Saltillo, Austin is arrested and charged with insurrection for having written to all the town halls of Texas to unite to organize independent local governments.

1835  --  Texas Rangers formally constituted.

1835 (August)  --  Austin finally released from prison. 


Section 2: Revolution and the Republic

2 October 1835 -- Texans repulses a detachment of Mexican cavalry at the Battle of Gonzales. The revolution begins.

9 October 1835 -- The Goliad Campaign of 1835 ends when George Collingsworth, Ben Milam, and forty-nine other Texans storm the presidio at Goliad held by a small detachment of Mexican defenders.

28 October 1835 -- Jim Bowie, James Fannin and 90 Texans defeated 450 Mexicans at the Battle of Concepcion, near San Antonio.

3 November 1835 -- The Consultation meet to consider options for more autonomous rule for Texas. A document known as the Organic Law outlines the organization and functions of a new Provisional Government.

8 November 1835 -- The Grass Fight near San Antonio is won by the Texans under Jim Bowie and Ed Burleson. Instead of silver, however, the Texans gained a worthless bounty of grass.

11 December 1835 -- Mexicans under Gen. Cos surrender San Antonio to the Texans following the Siege of Bexar. Ben Milam is killed during the extended siege.

2 March 1836 -- The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed by members of the Convention of 1836. An ad interim government is formed for the newly created Republic of Texas.

ALAMO  -- The Alamo was built by the Spaniards in the early 1700s. In the Alamo there is a church, corrals, barracks, storage rooms, along with a blacksmith shop. It had walls that were 12 ft. high and 3 ft. wide. It was a large mission. The Texas defenders gathered in the Alamo in the year of 1835-1836 and were prepared to fight. Mexicans are busy at the Alamo, and Sam Houston organizes his army.

6 March 1836 -- Texans under Col. William B. Travis ar overwhelmed by the Mexican army after a two-week siege at the Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio. The Runaway Scrape begins --  the flight of Aglo settlers from their homes when Santa Anna began his march through eastern Texas after the fight for the Alamo.  

10 March 1836 -- Sam Houston abandoned Gonzales in a general retreat eastward to avoid the invading Mexican army.

27 March 1836 -- James Fannin and nearly 400 Texans are executed by the Mexicans at the Goliad Massacre, under orders of Santa Anna.

21 April 1836 -- Texans under Sam Houston route the Mexican forces of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto. Thus, independence was won in one of the most decisive battles in history.   They took Santa Anna prisoner. The Mexican general bought his freedom by signing a treaty recognizing Texas independence. Within the Texas revolution, all restrictions on slavery were removed. The response was a large influx mainly from the Gulf Coastal Plain states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.

1836 (December 27)  --  death of Stephen Austin of pneumonia. 

November 1839 -- The Texas Congress first meets in Austin, the frontier site selected for the capital of the Republic.

11 August 1840 -- The Battle of Plum Creek, near present-day Lockhart, ends the boldest and most penetrating Comanche challenge to the Texas Republic.

June 1841 -- The Texan Santa Fe Expedition set out for New Mexico. Near Santa Fe, they are intercepted by Mexican forces and marched 2000 miles to prison in Mexico City.

5 March 1842 --A Mexican force of over 500 men under Rafael Vasquez invades Texas for the first time since the revolution. They briefly occupy San Antonio, but soon head back to the Rio Grande.

11 September 1842 -- San Antonio is again captured, this time by 1400 Mexican troops under Adrian Woll. Again the Mexicans retreat, but this time with prisoners.

Fall 1842 -- Sam Houston authorizes Alexander Somervell to lead a retaliatory raid into Mexico. The resulting Somervell Expedition dissolved, however, after briefly taking the border towns of Laredo and Guerreo.

20 December 1842 -- Some 300 members of the Somervell force set out to continue raids into Mexico. Ten days and 20 miles later, the ill-fated Mier Expedition surrenders at the Mexican town of Mier.

29 December 1842 -- Under orders of Sam Houston, officials arrive in Austin to remove the records of the Republic of Texas to the city of Houston, touching off the bloodless Archives War.

25 March 1843 -- Seventeen Texans executed in what became known as the Black Bean Episode.  It resulted from the Mier Expedition, one of several raids by the Texans into Mexico.

27 May 1843 -- The Texan's Snively Expedition reaches the Santa Fe Trail, expecting to capture Mexican wagons crossing territory claimed by Texas. The campaign stalls, however, when American troops intervene.

29 December 1845 -- U. S. President James Polk follows through on a campaign platform promising to annex Texas, and signs legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States.

The war with Mexico soon followed.

 

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