Texas Longhorns in the American Revolution

If you’re a history buff, you probably know that the American Revolution didn’t just happen in New England and Virginia. The Southern states played a big role as well. 

The first “tea party,” for instance, happened in South Carolina, not Boston. And the losses of the British and victories of the armies in the Southern states are what led to Cornwallis surrendering at Yorktown. So yeah – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia – sure, those Southern states played a big part in winning the war. 

But did you know that TEXAS played a part too? Along with Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida!

But wait, you say. Most of those states (which weren't even states then) weren’t part of the British empire, nor were they claimed by the newly minted United States. How could they influence the war? 

The answer includes Texas longhorns and the British navy.

Great Britain's Navy Is Busy

When America declared her independence from Great Britain in 1776, the territory covering Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Florida belonged to Spain – the area was called “New Spain.” Spain had originally owned all of Florida, but traded part of it to Great Britain in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. And that’s where the American Revolution comes in. 

As Americans and British fought over whether we would remain independent, Britain also became embroiled in war with France, Spain and Holland. Since all of these countries had colonies around the world, Britain’s navy became stretched exceedingly thin. And British ships that could have been fighting Americans on the east coast were instead defending Pensacola, Florida against a siege. 

If you’ve only ever read basic American history textbooks, you may be confusedly thinking, “Who in tarnation was besieging the British at Pensacola?” And therein lies a totally amazing and fascinating tale. 

Bernardo de Galvez by José Germán de Alfaro

Galvez on the Warpath

A young Spanish 31-year-old named Bernardo de Galvez had been appointed Governor of "Luisiana" (Louisiana) in 1777. He already had an illustrious military career under his belt, starting at age 16, which included not only famous battles in Europe but also some Apache fighting in Mexico and Texas! 

Galvez, under instructions from his government, proceeded to provide covert help and assistance to American troops fighting the British. 

When Spain officially declared war on Britain in 1779, Galvez was given the chance to fight openly with the British at their outposts along the Gulf coast. He fought a masterful campaign through 1779-1781, with victories at Fort Bute, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Baton Rouge again, and Mobile… and finally wound up with a major victory at Pensacola! 

By the time Galvez defeated the British at Pensacola, he had 7000 troops (by comparison, Cornwallis surrendered 8000 men at Yorktown). How did those victorious troops survive during that long campaign, stretching from Louisiana to Florida? 

They lived on Texas longhorns!

Yes, the first cattle drives from Texas began, not in the Wild West of the mid-1800s, but in 1779! Though records are still being discovered, it’s estimated that from 1779 to 1782, somewhere between 9,000 and 15,000 head of cattle were sent to Galvez’s army from ranchers in Texas. And that’s the army that kept the British tied up – and defeated - all along the Gulf coast. 

So that’s how the Texas longhorn helped save American independence!

Pierre Georges Rousseau, an officer in the Gulf Coast theater,
sporting his alliance cockade

Cockades of the Gulf Coast Theater

In honor of both Spain and France’s contribution to the American Revolution, I’ve created a “Triple Alliance” cockade of red (Spain), white (France) and black (United States). These are based on actual accounts, drawings and paintings of soldiers’ cockades in the Gulf coast theater of war. 

Naturally, I had to create a cockade to honor the legacy of Bernardo de Galvez. (Did you know that Galveston was named after him?)

And I’ve also created a special cockade just to celebrate the contribution of that imminently American icon: the Texas Longhorn!

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