Texas Insights - October 2015

Volume VI, Issue 2

What’s New?

Texas Talks

As the newest educational initiative from the TSHA, Texas Talks, include webinars and digital broadcasts that occur throughout the year. Texas Talks allow TSHA members to engage with preeminent Texas history scholars, who provide relevant historical information on a variety of topics in an interactive platform, ideal for general audiences, educators, and students on the go who love Texas history. Upcoming presentations include: Dr. Rick McCaslin's "Mending Fences: The Marques de Rubi in 1767 and the Spanish in Texas" on October 14th at 6 pm and Dr. Caroline Castillo Crimm in November and December. For more, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Encountering Texas History Conference

The Texas State Historical Association and the Region 4 Education Service Center are proud to present the Encountering Texas History Conference, November 5-6, 2015 at the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston. This event, for 4th and 7th grade Texas history educators, will focus on the history of Texas from 1836-1900 with keynote speaker Bill O’Neal, State Historian, and featured speaker Stephen Hardin. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.   


The Portal to Texas History

The Portal to Texas History and their companion site Resources 4 Educators offer My Texas History Notebook Lessons, designed to engage students through activities and group-oriented projects. The activities include creating maps, conducting debates, and role playing. Some of the lessons bridge contemporary issues with historical events, such as the lessons Branches of State Government and Immigration to Texas. For more, visit TeachingTexas.org.   Visit

Featured Institution

The Alamo
By Amelia White, Program Development Specialist

Established in 1718 as Mission San Antonio de Valero, today the Alamo, a new UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracts around two million visitors a year.  The mission, which moved to its present location in 1724, was founded by Father Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares to create Spanish frontier communities using local Coahuiltecan Indians.  Together the founding of the mission and the ensuing town San Antonio de Bexar are one of the few successful example of Spain's attempts to colonize Texas.  The mission closed in 1793 and the site sat vacant until 1803 when presidial troops the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras, also known as "The Alamo Company” because of its hometown of Alamo de Parras located south of the Rio Grande, were stationed there beginning a new era of Alamo history.  It is from this company that the Alamo gets its name.

Military troops were present at the Alamo from this point through the Texas Revolution of 1835 - 1836.  By the summer of 1836 the situation in San Antonio had become dangerous owing to the continued threat of Comanche raids and Mexican Army incursion.  Not until the Mexican War (1846-47) would San Antonio begin to recover, mainly to the arrival of the US Army.  Army quartermasters took up residence at the Alamo turning the church and the old friary into a military warehouse.  The US Army continued using the Alamo until 1877 - except from 1861 - 1865 when the Confederate Army controlled the site - when they relocated to the newly built Fort Sam Houston.  After the army left, the friary or Long Barrack was sold into private hands and was turned into a general store.  The church - still the property of the Catholic Archdiocese - was rented out as a warehouse for the store.  Remaining portions of the walls and other historic buildings were demolished and replaced with a plaza and commercial buildings.  In 1883 the state of Texas purchased the church and dedicated it as a Shrine in honor of the men who had died there in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo.  The Long Barrack was purchased in 1903 by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and then donated the building to the state.

In July 2015 the Alamo and the other four Spanish era missions in San Antonio were designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The San Antonio missions were granted this designation, in part, in recognition of the role of the mission system in interweaving of the cultures of the Spanish and the indigenous population.  The sites also comprise one of the largest groupings of Spanish colonial architecture in the United States.  The San Antonio missions are the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Texas.  Other World Heritage Sites in the United States include the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and Independence Hall.  

The main attraction for most visitors is the church, the iconic building that symbolizes the historic Alamo, as well as Texas itself.  The Alamo Complex also includes the Long Barrack - another original structure from the mission period - which houses our permanent museum exhibit.  Visitors enjoy listening to a free history talk in the Cavalry Courtyard, reading our Wall of History timeline and walking around in our extensive gardens.  We also offer an audio tour for purchase, as well as guided tours of the battlefield.  Interactive living history days are held regularly on the first Saturday of every month, as well as in October for our annual "Fall at the Alamo" event and in February and March during the anniversary of the 1836 siege and battle.

The Alamo's collection includes documents, artwork, photographs and artifacts.  Our collection grew in 2014 with the addition of the Phil Collins Texana Collection, a collection of over 400 documents and artifacts related to the Battle of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution donated to the site by musician Phil Collins.  Plans for displaying the collection are in development.

Our education department has developed many resources for teachers, including regular workshops where educators can earn continuing education credits.  Our website (thealamo.org) has lessons plans available to download and an interactive map and virtual tour that can be used to take your students inside the Alamo if you're too far away to take a field trip to the site.  And speaking of field trips, we have a variety of offerings from free self-guided tours to living history demonstrations that bring Texas history alive for your students.  Visit our website or call 210-225-1391 x124 to begin planning your field trip.

Entrance to the Alamo Complex is free and we are open 363 days of the year (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  Visit our website to find out about upcoming events and subscribe to our email list.  Our monthly newsletter, The Alamo Messenger, contains informative articles about Texas history, news about Alamo events, resources for educators and much more.  For the 2015 - 2016 school year, our newsletter focus is on Mexico's Early National Period and life in Texas from 1810 - 1835.

Historian's Corner

The Mexican Army in the Sea of Mud: A Forgotten but Significant Incident in the Texas Revolution
By Gregg J. Dimmick, MD and author of Sea of Mud

On the 22nd of April, 1836, General Vicente Filisola, second in command of the Mexican army in Texas, was encamped with the army’s rearguard near Thompson’s Crossing on the Brazos River.  That evening he received a note, scratched in pencil, that the vanguard of the Mexican Army, under the command of His Excellency, Don Antonio López de Santa Anna, had suffered a great defeat at the hands of General Sam Houston and his Texians at San Jacinto.  The fate of Santa Anna was unknown as was that of the nearly 600 soldiers captured [and approximately 600 killed].

Filisola decided to immediately unite all the Mexican forces in surrounding area at the habitation of Madam Powell [Elizabeth Powell], on the banks of Turkey Creek, near present day Kendleton in western Fort Bend County.  By the 25th of April the divisions of Filisola and General José Urréa were gathered at the Powell home site with nearly 2500 soldiers, 1500 women and children, 120 wagons, 8 artillery pieces and 1500 mules.  A meeting of the generals was held to decide the course of action.  All in attendance, including Urréa, who would later deny it, voted to regroup and form a line of defense near Victoria.  They would repass the Colorado River and await orders from the Government on Mexico City.

They left Powell’s on the morning of the 26th but as they were crossing the San Bernard River a tremendous storm commenced.  They were able to cross the San Bernard but by the next day the West Bernard River was flooded and they were stuck between the San Bernard and the West Bernard Rivers.  While encamped on the West Bernard, notices were received from Santa Anna that told of his capture and ordered the Mexican army to retreat.  In response to the news another meeting of the generals was held and it was decided that they would continue with the original plan.  They also determined to send Gen. Adrian Woll to San Jacinto, to give the impression that they would follow Santa Anna’s orders.  Filisola decided not to wait for the rivers to subside and proceeded NW toward the Atascosito Crossing of the Colorado River.

As it turned out the decision to head NW was a disastrous one, as the army entered a terrible bog that Filisola described as “un mar de lodo”, or a sea of mud.  Due to the rain and hip-deep mud, the army took 10-11 days to traverse the 15 miles or so to the Atascosito Crossing. Filisola reported that the mud was so deep that soldiers had to carry the mules’ loads to high points and then go back and almost carry the mules as well.  By the time they finished crossing the Colorado on the 9th of May, they were no longer a viable fighting force, and never seriously entertained ideas of confronting the Texians again.  It is apparent from all the research that the Sea of Mud was a major factor in the defeat of the Mexican forces.  

For two-three years members of the Houston Archeological Society conducted excavations in the Sea of Mud.  Both at Madam Powell’s and for about five miles along the Middle Bernard River, hundreds of artifacts have been located and mapped with GPS readings.  Two archeological reports have been published by the HAS and The Texas State Historical Society was kind enough to publish my book: “The Seas of Mud: The retreat of the Mexican Army After San Jacinto, An Archeological Investigation.” 

Some of the most exciting and rare artifacts have been put on display at the Alamo in the Long Barracks Museum.   One of the biggest surprises were six bronze howitzer shells that were loaded with gunpowder and still had their wooden fuses in place.  Each weighed about 26 pounds and was 6.5 inches in diameter.  Further research has shown that the Mexican Army probably had two such howitzers in the retreat.  Several other solid cannon balls, both iron and brass have been found.

In his memoirs, Col. José Enrique de la Pena tell of items being strewn all over the prairie.  He says that cans of canister for the cannons, were so mixed into the mud that they could not be seen.  Three of these canister cans, with some of the fragments of the tin can and wooden stopper (sabot) have been located nearly intact.  They each contain about 40 lead balls that are ¾ inch in diameter and were shot from a cannon simulating a shot gun blast.  

Uniform pieces have been unearthed as well.  These include two, octagonal, brass plates that the soldiers wore on their chests.  Each has a fancy scrolled “M” engraved on its front, which is thought to signify the Morelos Battalion.  There is also a brass plate that could have been from a helmet, called a shako, or from a cartridge box, that is engraved with “Btn. 1 Granaderos”.  These were the grenadier or veteran troops of the army.  Multiple buttons have been located, including several with eagles and one with an exploding bomb emblem, which was the emblem of the grenadiers.

Many personal items have been located, including a pocket knife, a fork, several spoons, spurs, candle holders, and a wax stamp with the letter “G”.  Multiple coins have been located as well, even one from Mexico dating to about 1750.  These items have given a small glimpse into camp life on the 1836 Mexican army.
This long forgotten trek through the Sea of Mud was a major factor in Mexico’s eventual loss of Texas.  There were still about 4,000 Mexican troops in Texas, other than those killed or captured at San Jacinto and the final result of the Texas Revolution was far from determined.  After the Mexican army was able to extract itself from the mud of what is now Wharton County, there was no realistic chance of the Mexicans regrouping and going on the offensive.  

As a result of our work in the Sea of Mud multiple archeological projects have been undertaken under the auspices of profession archeologists and The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.  The San Jacinto Battleground, The Fannin Battleground and the surrender site of Col. Juan Almonte near the San Jacinto Battleground have been investigated.  The San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy is continuing this work.  A huge amount of work remains to be done to discover these fascinating stories but at least we have started the process. 

GREGG J. DIMMICK is a pediatrician with the South Texas Medical Clinics in Wharton, Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Texas A&M University and received his M.D. in 1977 from the University of Nebraska Medical School. He was born and raised in Wyoming. He has worked closely with the Houston Archeological Society in the research for this book and has coauthored two previous monographs, published by the Society, on the Mexican Army’s retreat in the 1836 campaign.

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on the Texas Revolution and Republic, check out the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's Notable Texas Landmarks, with footage presenting the history and geography of the Alamo, the Mission at Yselta, Liendo Plantation, Falcon Dam, Spindletop, the Governor's Mansion, and the San Jacinto Monument, among others. Students will use the lesson to research and develop a presentation about an additional Texas landmark that is mentioned in the TEKS to enrich their understanding of Texas history by exploring significant eras, individuals, events, and issues.

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

The Texas State Historical Association is accepting nominations for the Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan Award.  This annual award is to recognize and honor the outstanding history teacher in Texas. This award is open to any teacher who teaches history in Texas. The winner is presented with a cash award of $5,000. For more, visit TeachingTexas.org. Nomination deadline is December 11, 2015. 


Jane Long Festival would like to invite you to join, Imprisoned on the Frontier: The 8th US Infantry at Fort McKavett, Texas. This event is a semi-immersion event in the Texas Hill Country commemorating the six months during the winter of 1861 to spring 1862 that Fort McKavett was used as a Civil War prisoner-of-war camp. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 

Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. This award is open to any teacher who teaches a Texas History course. The winner is presented with a $5,000 cash award and an additional $500 for their school to purchase instructional materials. Nominations deadline is December 11, 2015. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org  


The Pearce Museum at Navarro County offers Hunter Gatherers of the Blackland Prairie with inquiry-based interactive displays teaching students about hunters and gatherers during the Ice Age in the area now know as Navarro County. The museum also has one of the largest archaeological collections of locally found arrowheads and projectile points in the state. To learn more, visit TeachingTexas.org.

The TSHA's Texas Quiz Show, the is back! To join the most exciting game in the history of Texas history, have 4th - 8th grade students login individually or enroll your entire class at TexasQuizShow.org. Practice rounds include Texas Geography, Native Americans and Spaniards, and the Alamo and Texas Revolution through February. Competition rounds begin in March - students need to pass these rounds to advance and qualify for the final LIVE championship, hosted by a special guest, is held at the Bullock Museum in Austin this spring. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more.


On October 29, 2015, Humanities Texas will hold a FREE workshop in San Antonio for Texas history teachers covering Texas history in the nineteenth century. Curriculum and alignment Content will be TEKS aligned. Faculty lectures will address Texas under the Republic of Mexico, Mexican Americans in the Texas Revolution, slavery and the coming of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and nineteenth-century Texas art. Eligibility The workshop is open to all Texas history teachers. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information on how to join.

The Texas State Historical Association in partnership with Texas A&M University-Commerce invite you to take a walk and experience history in the making. On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 witness the unveiling of the state’s first Chinese-language historical marker to commemorate the birthplace of Lieutenant-General Claire Lee Chennault, World War II aviator, war hero, and founder of the legendary Flying Tigers. For additional informatoin, visit TeachingTexas.org.
  Teachers planning on taking your classes on field trips to various archeological sites to visit across Texas covering 4th and 7th grade TEKS from Prehistory, Spanish Texas, Mexican Texas, Texas Revolution, Republic of Texas, Antebellum Texas, Civil War, Reconstruction, to the Late Nineteenth-Century, can use the list of Texas historic and prehistoric archeological sites from the Texas Historical Commission. Learn more at TeachingTexas.org.

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of Texas at Austin.

Texas State Historical Association
3001 Lake Austin Blvd., Suite 3.116
Austin, TX 78703

Stephen Cure - Editor
Caitlin McColl - Associate Editor


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