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The Hughes Report
Monday, April 21, 2008
Happy San Jacinto Day!
Topic: Texana
Happy San Jacinto Day!  On this day in 1836, 800 or so Texas volunteers, including a band of Tejanos under Juan Seguin and some Louisiana militia, defeated a superior force of the Mexican Army under dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Knowing his army only had one good fight in it, Sam Houston lured Santa Anna to the plain of San Jacinto, a well-known spot east of Harrisburg on the way to Lynch's Ferry, near the estates of Lorenzo de Zavalla and David G. Burnet.  The site is bounded on the west by Vince's Bayou, on the north by Buffalo Bayou, and on the south and east by swamp adjacent to the confluence of the San Jacinto River with Trinity/Galveston Bay.

After Houston's army had escaped the pursuing Mexicans at the Brazos crossing, Santa Anna heard that the Texas government had fled from Washington-on-the-Brazos to Harrisburg.  Santa Anna led a light force to Harrisburg, too late to capture the government, then burned the town.  Houston took up the heavy floorboards of a farm house near present-day Clinton to build a raft to ferry his army to the south side of Buffalo Bayou in order to reach San Jacinto.

Houston camped his men under the trees on Buffalo Bayou, near where the Battleship Texas is now moored.  Santa Anna encamped on the next low ridge to the south, and was joined by reinforcements.  The first day, there were some skirmishes and cannon exchanges between the two sides.  Houston sent Deaf Smith with a patrol to destroy Vince's Bridge, so that the Mexican Army would have no ready escape.

The next day, in broad daylight, Houston marched his men in a broad front through tall grass up the ridge, rolling along their two cannon, the "twin sisters" donated by the citizens of Cincinnati.  Some distance from the Mexican rampart, with the cries, "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad," they loosed several volleys of musket fire, then charged.  Houston, on horseback, had two horses shot from under him, one of the musket balls shattering his ankle.  The battle quickly turned to hand-to-hand fighting.  The main battle lasted about 18 minutes.  Overnight, Santa Anna was captured, having shed his general's uniform, and was forced to sign a document promising to relinquish Texas.

There were two other Mexican armies in Texas, however, which might have overturned the results, had they been better organized.  That of General Urrea became mired in the Spring mud, and barely limped back to Matamoros.

The battle, which may be considered a work of Divine Providence, secured the independence of Texas, eventual statehood, and after the Mexican War, led to the acquisition of much of the western United States.  Those who criticize the Mexican War should realize that Texas continued to be threatened by Mexico, in spite of Santa Anna's promise.  Mexican armies occupied San Antonio twice in 1842, and the war was directly sparked by General Arista's invasion across the Rio Grande and attack of a U.S. Army patrol in 1846.

Copyright 2008 The Hughes Report.  May be freely shared for non-commercial purposes if this notice remains attached.

Posted by hughes at 1:04 PM CDT
Saturday, October 7, 2006
The Devilish Symbol
Topic: Texana

The Devilish Symbol 

Jenna Bush flashed the "Hook 'em Horns" symbol and ignited a Norwegian tempest. During the televised Black Tie and Boots gala at the presidential inaugural festivities, while a band played "The Eyes of Texas," the Bush daughter held up the hand sign for her alma mater, the University of Texas.

Contrary to propaganda, by the way, "The Eyes of Texas" is NOT the Texas state song, but a UT ditty based on the tune, "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The state song is "Texas, Our Texas." 

"Sjokkhilsen fra Bush datter," read the headline on Nettavisen, a Norwegian news website. In Norway, the horn sign is associated with Satanism, or more particularly, the Death Metal music movement, which in the 1980s was shocking, violent, anti-Christian, and sometimes deadly.

The same hand sign is also known to have been used by homosexuals to identify themselves. 

The "Hook 'em" sign is attributed to Harley Clark, now a retired district judge. Clark was a UT cheerleader in 1955 when originating the sign to counter the "Gig 'em" sign used by the archrival Texas A&M Aggies.

Commenting on the hand signs, Clark betrays considerable animus. "Surely everybody in the world takes offense at the Aggie Gig 'Em sign. I can't think of anything more repulsive than that hand gesture." 

The "Gig 'Em" sign is probably based on the "thumbs up" sign prevalent in the military in World War II or earlier. A pilot, for instance, would give the signal from the cockpit to mean, "Go ahead" or "All systems go."

So why the acrimony? Texans would understand. Texas is divided between Aggies and Horns, like Democrat versus Republican or Liberal versus Conservative. They coexist in two different worldviews. Wherever one went to college, or not at all, everyone has an opinion, and everybody chooses sides. 

UT was the state university written into the Texas Constitution of 1876, but Texas A&M was the first to hold classes, that same year. UT has been the elite school, located in the state capitol, claiming to represent the state, and receiving the lion's share of state funding.

A&M was a land grant college established under the Morrill Act to provide a place for the children of farmers and the working class to go to school. A&M was a military school until after World War II, when it allowed veterans to return out of uniform. Its Corps of Cadets continues to be the heart and soul of the university, and to provide the largest number of military officers outside the official military academies. 

Female students were allowed in the 1960s. Because of phenomenal growth, A&M has been forced to keep raising entrance requirements, since it is required by law to admit all qualified students. Consequently, A&M has often been unjustly accused of limiting minority enrollment for racist reasons.

UT is a liberal school, located in the state's most liberal city. A&M is conservative, located in a small town that grew up around the campus. Austin was the hotbed of anti-Vietnam protest in Texas, there were no major protests at A&M. The same people who hate A&M tend to be the same left-wingers who, in Bill Clinton's words, "loathe the military." 

So the difference is ideological. Hmm, maybe the UT handsign is evil, after all.

[Source: Andrew Dansby, "Norway Reads Something Sinister in 'Hook 'Em' Sign," Houston Chronicle, January 22, 2005, pp. A1, A10; and the author, with an A&M degree and 30 years of personal experience.]

©2005 Paul A. Hughes

Posted by hughes at 6:47 PM CDT

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