On this day in 1968, a crowd of nearly 10,000 watched as Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson, dedicated Padre Island National Seashore. It is the longest seashore in the national park system and encompasses a portion of the largest barrier beach in the United States. The history of the park was long and contentious. Efforts to establish a state park on Padre Island began in 1936, but proved unsuccessful due to a struggle between public and private interests over ownership of the land. In 1958 Texas senator Ralph Yarborough introduced a bill to establish a national park on the island, and the proposal was finally signed into law in 1962. The dedication of the park followed five years of condemnation proceedings. Today the park is a popular tourist destination, with attractions including a wide, sandy beach for swimming and fishing; a plethora of shore birds and migratory waterfowl; and a variety of legends involving pirates and hidden treasure.
On this day in 1893, ten Texas women, mostly members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, issued a call for a statewide woman suffrage convention. The Texas Equal Rights Association, the first such statewide organization, was chartered at the ensuing three-day convention in Dallas. Internal dissension plagued the TERA, which had been organized as a branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and it ceased to operate by 1896. In 1903 Annette Finnigan helped organize a successor organization, the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, which helped lead the long and ultimately successful fight for woman suffrage. Texas women were finally granted the right to vote in primary elections in 1918, and in June 1919 Texas became the ninth state (and the first in the south) to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which extended full suffrage to women.
On this day in 1864, Confederate forces under Richard Taylor defeated a much larger Union force at the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana. Union general Nathaniel Banks had gathered an army of some 17,000 Federal troops to advance up the Red River to Alexandria and Shreveport, hoping to cut off the flow of supplies from Texas and to capture large quantities of cotton. General Taylor, commanding a Confederate force of Texas and Louisiana units, attacked the long, 12,000-man Union column three miles south of Mansfield with an army of 8,800 men. Taylor's force killed or wounded 700 Union soldiers, captured 1,500, and took 20 Union cannons and 200 wagons. About 1,000 Confederates were killed or wounded. It was one of the most humiliating Union defeats of the war. The following day Taylor's army was repulsed when it attacked the Union army at Pleasant Hill. Nevertheless, stung by his defeat on the 8th and convinced that Taylor's army was much larger than it was, Banks gave the order to retire on the night of April 9.