FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 28, 2006
In celebrating our country's independence on July Fourth, we remember its rich history. While we in South Texas celebrate our country's anniversary, we can remember our region's history and its role in shaping the United States.
At the Battle of Palo Alto, now a national historic site in Brownsville, United States and Mexican troops fought the first major battle of a two-year war on May 8, 1846. General Zachary Taylor sent 2,300 U.S. soldiers there to end the Mexican bombardment of Fort Texas, constructed in disputed territory across the river from the city of Matamoros. Although the United States was victorious, Palo Alto is considered a positive legacy for both countries whose soldiers fought with valor and honor.
Fort Texas, later renamed Fort Brown, was created when Zachary Taylor and the United States forces of occupation arrived on the Rio Grande on March 26, 1846, to establish the river as the southern boundary of Texas. For a time it protected the community from Indian raids, and later was occupied by Robert E. Lee and by Union forces. From World War I to February 1941, Fort Brown was headquarters for the Twelfth Cavalry. This group of soldiers was replaced by the 124th Cavalry, which trained there until May 1944, when the fort was deactivated. In 1945 the War Department granted the fort to army engineers; it was certified to the War Assets Administration for disposal on May 15, 1946, and assigned to the Federal Works Agency on July 7. The agency then turned the land over to the Federal Land Bank for farming purposes. In the early 1990s, much of what was left of the Fort Brown buildings and land were used by the University of Texas-Pan American at Brownsville (now University of Texas at Brownsville) and Texas Southmost College.
South Texas housed Confederate and Union soldiers at varying times during the Civil War. On May 13, 1865, more than a month after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, and the last land action of the Civil War, occurred near Brownsville between Union and Confederate soldiers, which terminated the Confederate stronghold in the area.
These battles and occupations demonstrate that South Texas played a vital role in shaping this country's government and protecting the rights that our forefathers earned. Not only have battles been waged on this soil by soldiers who were patriotic to their country, even when divided during the Civil War, but the region has produced brave men and women who have served their country in World War I and II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam war, the Gulf War, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq. The men and women of later years have served with the same valor and dedication to preserve America's liberty as those patriots did to establish it when overthrowing England's rule.
On July 4th, 1776, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared America's independence from England. Although the Declaration of Independence was not completely signed until August of that year, independence celebrations started forming shortly thereafter in colonial cities such as Williamsburg, Va., and Philadelphia. Having celebrations on July 4 became commonplace after the War of 1812, but the Fourth of July was not declared a legal holiday until 1941.
But Independence Day is about more than picnics and fireworks. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for everyone in the Declaration of Independence. As your state Senator, I believe it is my duty to protect and enhance these ideals. I am proud to be a South Texan and to work for the betterment of this hub of growth and economic activity of the United States.
I am equally proud to be the son of a World War II veteran who fought to preserve our freedom, and who to this day at the age of 89 continues to honor and love his country. Despite very lean years in which he and my mother sacrificed money and convenience to teach and educate 10 children, my father saw the promise of opportunity for all of us. He was right!
I plan to celebrate the Fourth of July with my family and hope every South Texan and every visitor to South Texas will be able to do the same.
I extend condolences to the families and friends of the soldiers who have recently lost their lives while serving this great country. I honor them and those who are fighting, as well as serving throughout the United States and overseas.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.