Find out how Texas beef (partially) helped win the US War of Independence

In June 1779, the region that would become Texas was plunged into the American Revolutionary War.

On June 21, 1779, Spain (then occupying Texas) officially declared war on Great Britain, coming to the aid of rebel American colonists. The Spaniards used ranches in the area that would become the Lone Star State to help keep its fighting forces full of beef as they fought the British in Louisiana.

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Even then, Texas beef played a small but essential role in world politics, about two centuries before Lyndon B. Johnson used the barbecue to entertain guests at his Hill Country ranch.

During the war, the Spanish forces of King Carlos III, led by Bernardo de Gálvez, needed supplies to help fight the British along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.

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Gálvez requested through an emissary that the governor of Texas, Domingo Cabello y Robles, provide the Spanish forces with Texan cattle so that they can eat and fight. In addition to meat, Gálvez also helped supply gunpowder, lead, and additional clothing to US forces via the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. It would also force the British to spend manpower and resources to fight the Spaniards.

According to a 2014 episode of the University of Texas “15 Minute History” podcast On Texas’ role in the American Revolution, having a mobile food source was a key military strategy.

“You’re talking about a mobile food source, a food source that can more or less feed on the way from A to B, a food source that, for all intents and purposes until it is slaughtered, is refrigerated, and it’s also a growing food source, ”Briscoe Center for American History spokesperson Ben Wright told host Joan Neuberger.

From 1779 to 1782 more than 10,000 head of cattle came from ranches linked to the Bexar and La Bahia missions. The rancheros and vaqueros followed the herds to Nacogdoches, Natchitoches and Opelousas where they then distributed them to Gálvez’s men.

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We can only hope that they had a traveling pit boss who could turn cattle into delicious breasts, steaks and other delicacies for Gálvez’s 1,400 soldiers.

“I think it’s worth taking a moment to think about how difficult it is to walk from San Antonio to New Orleans,” Wright said. “To walk that distance with thousands of animals, to herd them, is a task that is not easy to achieve. In fact, these are the first herds of cattle organized outside of Texas. It is a feat. impressive.”

Spanish soldiers would beat the British in locations in Louisiana, Florida and the Bahamas. Jamaica was to be the next theater of war when the word of peace negotiations ended the fighting.

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“Often times we think of the Texas connection as being early 19th century Anglo settlers coming from the United States and bringing these revolutionary ideas and bringing their way of doing things, which we will and will not accept from our government, and transplant that to the western part of North America, ”Wright said.

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“In fact, we see that there is an earlier connection, and it is a connection with the Spanish settlers in North America assisting the Spanish governor of Louisiana, who is an active agent in the Revolutionary War.”

As for Gálvez, he gave his name to the town of Galveston and the popular (and possibly haunted) Hotel Galvez along the sea wall. In 1986, 200 years after his death, a bronze plaque was placed in his crypt honor his deeds in the American Revolution.

Wright mentions that in the archives of his center, there is a letter that one of the American patriotic heroes wrote to Gálvez thanking him for his role in the revolution.

One of the treasures of the Briscoe Center is this letter written by Jefferson to Bernardo de Gálvez saying, by and large, thank you very much for what you do. The weight of your empire has tipped the scales and we expect a happy ending to this contest, ”said Wright.

Craig Hlavaty is a reporter for and

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