“Let Us Acquit Ourselves Like Men”: President Burnet to the (Male) Citizens of Texas
The above proclamation was issued 175 years ago today by interim president of the Republic of Texas David G. Burnet, who served in that capacity from March 16 until October 22, 1836.
When the president issued this statement, Sam Houston‘s army had abandoned Gonzales and was in retreat to the Colorado River and many civilians had “Runaway fever” and were fleeing eastward in fear. The day before, on March 17, the Texan government had hurriedly evacuated the town of Washington and headed to Harrisburg.
In the document, Burnet instructed his “fellow-citizens” to ignore the rumors “[running] trumpet-tongued throughout the country” and to resist letting fear lead to inaction. Rather, Burnet asserted, men should rally to the defense of Texas by joining the army.
By an unbroken unanimity of voices, you have declared that Texas shall be “FREE, SOVEREIGN and INDEPENDENT.” Let us with equal unanimity resolve to sustain that declaration; to ratify it with our hearts; and if need be to seal it with our blood.
Additionally, Burnet reminded Texas’s male citizens of their “sacred duty” to protect their wives and children. “While the army is between your families and the enemy, they are safe,” he wrote. “Reinforce and sustain that army, and our wives and children are secure from pollution.”
Also interesting in this document is Burnet’s description of the siege and battle of the Alamo, which had occurred two weeks before. News of the fate suffered by William Barret Travis and his men created panic among the settlers and triggered a mass exodus known as the Runaway Scrape. However, Burnet declared in the March 18 proclamation that “we have sustained no reverse,” continuing by explaining that:
The fall of the Alamo is the surest guarantee of our ultimate success. The Spartan band who so nobly perished there, have bequeathed to us an example, which ought and will be imitated; and have inflicted on the enemy a terror and a loss that are equivalent to a defeat.