Tar Heels played big role in Texas history

C. David Pomeroy Jr.



With the help of North Carolina native sons on April 21, 1836 the Republic of Texas won her independence from Mexico. The consequence of that event are the present day states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

When the colonists in the Mexican province of Tejas appealed to their fellow Americans for support against the oppressive leader of Mexico, North Carolinians responded. Most came in response to the call for volunteers. Some had arrived earlier to establish residency in the region. Land grants for military service drew others. But all were committed to the cause and were willing to die to defend the rights of the Texan settlers to govern themselves. Nine counties in Texas are named for North Carolinians: Anderson, Burleson, Carson, Crockett, Floyd, Grimes, Henderson, Potter and Robertson. Markers, monuments and cemeteries throughout the state honor many others.

Eleven North Carolina natives attended the Texas General Convention in March, 1836 and drafted its Declaration of Independence and the new Constitution of the Republic of Texas. Samuel Price Carson of Burke County had served in the North Carolina State Senate, represented North Carolina in the Federal Congress and participated in the N.C. Constitutional Convention before he headed to Texas to participate in its General Convention. Robert Potter of Granville County served in the North Carolina House of Commons before he headed to Texas and was also elected to the General Convention. These two men brought much needed legislative experience and were looked upon to lead the Texas effort. In the new Republic Carson was elected Secretary of State and Potter Secretary of the Navy.

Other North Carolinians who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic were Jesse B. Badgett, William Clark, Jr., William Carrol Crawford, Jesse Grimes, Edwin Oswald LeGrand, Sterling Clack Robertson, George Washington Smyth and John Turner. After the adjournment of the convention, LeGrand and Robertson expanded their commitment by joining the army to fight.

Many North Carolinian sons chose to support the cause on the battlefield. Nine died at the Alamo and more with Colonel Fannin at Goliad. Another 38 joined General Sam Houston and participated in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 where Texas won its independence. North Carolina leaders in the Texas Army included Ed Burleson (Buncombe County) who commanded the 1st Regiment of Texan Volunteers. James Clinton Neil (Rowan County) commanded the Artillery Company. John Leander Smith (Buncombe County) transported the famous "Twin Sisters" cannon to the Texas Army and was second in command of the artillery company. Alexander Horton (Halifax County) was aide-de-camp to General Sam Houston.

Texas remained a Republic for nine years. The final transition of Texas to statehood was facilitated by North Carolinian Kenneth Lewis Anderson (Orange County) who served as the last vice president of the Republic and presided over the Texas Senate as it approved annexation. Fellow North Carolinian J. Pinckney Henderson (Lincoln County) served as the Attorney General and the Secretary of State of the new Republic, then was appointed minister to England and France to negotiate their recognition of Texas. He was sent to Washington, D. C. to secure congressional ratification of annexing Texas to the United States and then was elected the first governor of the State of Texas. As a result of that annexation, the United States completed its westward expansion to the Pacific Ocean by adding approximately one million square miles to the nation.

It is no surprise that sons of North Carolina were instrumental in securing Texas independence because of their ancestors' role in the American Revolution. The North Carolina parliament was the first to object to the taxation imposed upon the colony by the British Crown. And North Carolina was the first to authorize their delegates to the Constitutional Convention to vote for independence from Britain. The passion for independence certainly knew no state boundaries for the sons of North Carolina.

C. David Pomeroy, Jr. lives in Asheville.

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