On this day in 1779, Spain came to the aid of the rebelling American colonists by formally declaring war on Great Britain.The primary role played by Texas in the conflict was to supply Spanish forces mounting an assault on British territory from Louisiana. King Carlos III commissioned Bernardo de Gálvez to conduct a campaign against the British along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast. In order to feed his troops, Gálvez sent an emissary, Francisco García, to Texas governor Domingo Cabello y Robles requesting the delivery of Texas cattle to Spanish forces in Louisiana. Accordingly, between 1779 and 1782, 10,000 cattle were rounded up on ranches belonging to citizens and missions of Bexar and La Bahía. Rancho de la Mora was typical of these ranches, and escorts were provided from small posts like the Fuerte de Santa Cruz del Cíbolo. From Presidio La Bahía, the assembly point, Texas rancheros and their vaqueros trailed these herds to Nacogdoches, Natchitoches, and Opelousas for distribution to Gálvez's forces. Fueled in part by Texas beef, Gálvez and his men defeated the British in battles at Manchac, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mobile, Pensacola, and New Providence in the Bahamas. He was busy preparing for a campaign against Jamaica when peace negotiations ended the war.
On this day in 1902, Percy Eugene Foreman, one of the most famous trial lawyers in Texas history, was born in a log cabin near Cold Springs, Texas. Foreman, who was known for his unconventional trial strategies, handled society divorces, and in sixty years of practice defended more than 1,000 accused murderers, only one of whom was executed. Among his most famous clients were James Earl Ray, whom he persuaded to plead guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in exchange for a life sentence; socialite Candace Mossler's nephew Melvin Lane Powers, acquitted of a murder charge; Alvin Lee King, who killed five people in a Baptist church and committed suicide before his trial; and Charles Harrelson, sentenced to fifteen years for a contract killing and involved in the assassination of a federal judge in San Antonio. Foreman preferred cash as payment for his services, but if a client didn't have money, he would take property instead, including jewelry, real estate, boats, automobiles, furniture, and artwork. He became a multimillionaire before his death in 1988.
On this day in 1845, the Kate Ward, the first steamboat to operate on the Colorado River, was launched at Matagorda. She was owned by George Ward and a Mr. Robinson of Columbus, and was named for Ward's sister Kate. The vessel was a side-wheel steamer, 115 feet long and twenty-four feet wide at the beam, with two engines rated at seventy horsepower each and a draft of eighteen inches. From 1846 to 1848 she stayed above the Colorado River raft. In the summer of 1848 high water on the river cut a channel around the raft and the Kate Ward descended to Matagorda Bay. From about 1848 to 1850 she operated on the Guadalupe clearing drift and providing transportation from Victoria to the bay. In 1852, as a snag boat, she cleared twenty miles of channel upstream from the mouth. In 1853 the Kate Ward was sold to the United States government. What became of her later is unknown.