On this day in 1836, Texas became a republic. On March 1 delegates from the seventeen Mexican municipalities of Texas and the settlement of Pecan Point met at Washington-on-the-Brazos to consider independence from Mexico. George C. Childress presented a resolution calling for independence, and the chairman of the convention appointed Childress to head a committee of five to draft a declaration of independence. In the early morning hours of March 2, the convention voted unanimously to accept the resolution. After fifty-eight members signed the document, Texas became the Republic of Texas. The change remained to be demonstrated to Mexico.
On this day in 1867, the United States Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act, thereby dividing the defeated South into five military districts, of which Louisiana and Texas, under Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan at New Orleans, constituted the Fifth Military District. Under the leadership of Sheridan, Charles Griffin, Winfield Scott Hancock, Joseph Mower, Joseph Reynolds, and Edward Canby, the military district presided over Congressional Reconstruction in Texas. The constant turnover in commanders and the relatively small number of troops in the state made the army more annoying than effective. Military officials intervened intermittently in political matters by controlling voter registration and by removing office holders who impeded Reconstruction efforts. With the notable exception of Hancock, most commanders favored the Republican party. In April 1870 Texas was readmitted to the Union and the Fifth Military District ceased to exist.
On this day in 1886, the Semicentennial of Texas Independence celebrations began. Scattered meetings included orations at Brenham, a ball in Fort Worth, and a small gathering of Galveston County veterans. The major events occurred on April 21--San Jacinto Day--in most Texas towns. Parades, picnics, and speeches were typical. Waco and Belton used the occasion to break ground for new college buildings. Militia drills and athletic contests were frequent attractions. The Texas Veterans Association met in Dallas for the most important single celebration of the semicentennial. More than 200 old soldiers received an elaborate welcome, which added musical presentations to the other forms of entertainment. Semicentennial speakers drew several comparisons between the Texas Revolution and the American Revolution, such as the relation of both to the growth of liberty and stable government. Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and others were compared to the Founding Fathers. The emphasis remained, however, on honoring the living veterans.