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  • History Saturday – The Two Samuels

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    (OK, so I am late with the my usual History Friday segment. Stuff to work on in the real world, you know.)

    The annexation of Texas to the United States – the culmination of nearly a decade of mostly-back-stairs campaigning by Sam Houston – kicked off a war with Mexico, which had never really gotten over the loss of Coahuila-Tejas. Nearly half the Mexican states had rebelled violently when General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had abrogated the Mexican constitution of 1824 and established himself as dictator. Santa Anna put down the resulting rebellion with particular brutality, but thanks to the luck and skill of Sam Houston, and Santa Anna’s own miscalculations, Texas slipped from his grasp, maintaining a precarious state as an independent republic. Mexico threatened war, if annexation was accomplished and when it was, practically everyone directly involved was spoiling for a fight. (Although many Americans were anti-war in this particular case, including many northern Whigs like soon-to-be statesman Abraham Lincoln, and abolitionists, all of whom detested the addition of a slave-state to the union.)

    Among those most keen to have it done and get it over with were the volunteer Texas Rangers. Jack Hays had recruited a Texas force to serve along with Zachary Taylor’s command as spies and scouts. Two veterans of Jack Hays’ legendary Big Fight were along with him – Samuel Walker and Robert Addison ‘Ad’ Gillespie – when Taylor’s army took Matamoros and Camargo, and converged in several columns on Monterray. That city-stronghold was protected by fortified heights; Independence Hill, Fort Soldado, the Bishop’s Palace – and there the U.S. Army fought a savage battle at the gates of the city and in the surrounding heights, until the Mexican commanders offered an 8-week long truce. They would surrender the city, if they would allow the American army to allow them to evacuate their surviving troops. At the start of the siege, the Rangers were reported to have amused themselves by riding out to the walls, making flamboyant demonstrations of their horsemanship, provoking the Mexican gunners into firing, and then skillfully dodging the resulting cannon-balls aimed at them. By the time the truce was over, many of the Rangers’s limited enlistments were up, and they returned home to Texas. (So did Ad Gillespie – fatally wounded in the assault on the Bishop’s Palace fortifications. His body was returned for burial in a cemetery in San Antonio; Gillespie County, in the Texas Hill Country, is named for him.)
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    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History | 4 Comments »

    History Friday – The Tireless Mr. Colt

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th September 2013 (All posts by )

    (Part the second, first part here.)
    The redesigned and improved revolver – the Walker Colt – turned out to be a nearly five-pound brute of a weapon, and returned Sam to the arms-manufacturing business with renewed zest. He subcontracted production of them first with Eli Whitney Blake (nephew of Eli Whitney) at Blake’s Whitneyville armory. The contract specified that the machinery used would revert back into Colt’s ownership at completion of the contract – for Sam had set up shop in a former cotton mill in Hartford, Connecticut. He incorporated the company as Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company. He held most of the shares; trusted friends and relatives held the remainder.
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    Posted in Business, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, History | 1 Comment »

    History Friday – The Tireless Mr. Colt

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1814, Samuel “Sam” Colt was an innovator and inventor, single-minded, energetic to the point of hyperactivity, and the very epitome of a self-made man – of which there were a great many in 19th century America. At the age of seven years, his mother died. She was the daughter of a fairly well-to-do family; his father was a farmer turned minor industrialist, having gone into the business of manufacturing textiles with the aid of his in-laws. When Sam was eleven, his father went bankrupt. While the senior Colt attempted to regain his economic footing, Sam and his five brothers and sisters were farmed out to relatives and neighbors. Sam was apprenticed to a farmer, with the understanding that he attended school regularly. Which Sam Colt did, but likely did not learn anything beyond what he was really interested in – his handwriting was lamentable and his spelling a matter best left unmentioned. But he read widely and voraciously; his favorite was a then-popular scientific encyclopedia called the Compendium of Knowledge, and sometime in his early teens he resolved to be an inventor. At fifteen, he left school and went to work in his father’s mill, a splendid venue for tinkering – and indulging in a taste for showing off. On July 4th, 1829, he gained a degree of local notoriety by blowing up a raft in a local shallow pond, detonating a large quantity of gunpowder with a galvanic cell which he had built himself. He had advertised the event beforehand, by having handbills printed and distributed – so there was a substantial crowd gathered for the show. But the raft with the battery and gunpowder on it had drifted from position – and the resulting mighty blast showered the crowd with mud.
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    Posted in Americas, Business, History, RKBA | 4 Comments »