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San Patricio deserters face court-martial
August 23, 1847

On this day in 1847, the first court-martial for the San Patricio Battalion convened in Tacubaya, Mexico. Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna formed the San Patricio Battalion in 1846 from Irish Catholic deserters from the United States army and other foreigners in Mexico to fight the "Protestant tyrants" in the Mexican War. The battalion was led by the Irish-American John Riley, formerly a member of the Fifth United States Infantry, and was praised for its actions in battle at Monterrey, Saltillo, and Buena Vista. Santa Anna eventually gathered enough deserters and foreigners to organize two San Patricio Battalions of 100 men each. At the battle of Churubusco, Mexican soldiers reportedly tried three times to raise the white flag, but the San Patricios, desperate because of their fate if captured, tore it down. After the Mexican surrender, the court-martial at Tacubaya and a second court-martial convened three days later at San Angel condemned all but two of the seventy-two deserters to death. After appeals from the archbishop of Mexico, the British minister to Mexico, and a number of foreign citizens resident in Mexico City (including United States citizens), the sentences were reevaluated and only fifty men were hanged; fourteen others remained prisoners until after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1848 Mexico formed two more companies from original San Patricios and new deserters. These new companies patrolled areas of Mexico to protect the people from bandits and Indians but were dissolved later that year after becoming involved in revolts within Mexico.

Loyalist warns governor of anti-Mexican sentiment in Nacogdoches
August 23, 1835

On this day in 1835, less than two months before the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Mexican loyalist Antonio Menchaca wrote to Governor Leona Vicario informing him that Texans in Nacogdoches were determined to oppose Antonio López de Santa Anna and planned to "disarm all the Mexicans so that they cannot help defend the Government." José Antonio Menchaca was born in Texas around 1795 and served as síndico procurador, or city attorney, of Nacogdoches. In 1838, while serving as a captain in the Texas militia, Menchaca was arrested and charged with treason for his alleged role in the Córdova Rebellion. He was sentenced to death, but pardoned by President Mirabeau B. Lamar on the condition that he leave the republic. Some years later, however, he returned to Nacogdoches, where he evidently remained until his death around 1870.

Carl Crane, aviation pioneer, makes first automated landing
August 23, 1937

On this day in 1937, Texan Carl Joseph Crane made the world's first fully automated landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This aviation pioneer and inventor had witnessed the birth of aviation in Texas when, at Fort Sam Houston, Capt. Benjamin Foulois first flew the only airplane owned by the United States government. Crane graduated from the United States Army Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field in 1925, and in 1929 he teamed with William C. Ocker to devise revolutionary flying systems and to write the world's first manual for instrumental flight, Blind Flight in Theory and Practice (1932). He designed the instruments for the first automated landing in 1937, and he held more than 100 patents when he died in 1982.