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Republic of Texas (Canton Madness)

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The Republic of Texas is an independent nation bordering the United States and Mexico, founded in 1836 by American colonists. From 1842 until the late 1850s, the Republic of Texas waged war in some form against Mexico.

Founding and the Annexation Question

Texas was founded in 1836 out of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas as a result of the Texas Revolution. After several provisional capitals, Austin was selected as the final (and current) capital of the Republic.

Since its founding, the question of Annexation into the United States had played through Texan legislature. Texas was founded largely by American colonists and volunteers. Despite multiple propositions, the annexation was always shot down in the Texan Congress; finally, in 1846, the United States itself refused to accept annexation by the Texans.

The Dying Time in Texas

Until late 1842, Canton Madness did not directly affect Texas. The appearance of the plague in southern Mexico in 1841 drew much of the Mexican Army away from the rebellious northern border regions. As the infection spread, Texas President Sam Houston mobilized the Army of the Republic of Texas fully (partial mobilization had already occurred that March against a Mexican Expeditionary Force) and deployed them along the Mexico-Texas border in anticipation of the invasion. Interestingly, the Texan government formed an alliance with the Comanche Indians, promising to give the Comanches partial citizenship in return for aid against the plague.

The first few infected in Texas were not the anticipated waves of madmen, but rather were wild animals thjat slipped over the border from Mexico. The Texas pork industry was the first victim of the Canton Madness in the new republic; believed to have resulted from an infected coyote biting a domestic pig, the disease spread
Boartuskercloseup-LR

A photograph of an infected feral hog in in southern Texas 1915. Note the large tusks.

rapidly through the entire industry and even feral populations. Pig farmers across Texas found themselves suddenly attacked by ultra-violent pigs; the Texas Army and the Comanches quickly had to rush back into the country to combat not only the several hundred infected humans, but the hundreds of thousands of now-loose domestic pigs carrying the virus. Texas president Sam Houston foresaw in January 1843 the future calamity the collapse of the pig industry would cause, predicting economic depression and famine across Texas. Indeed, the thriving Texan cattle industry was also decimated by infected coyotes, cougars, and pigs.

In February of 1843, the city governments of Houston, San Antonio, and Austin organized to build massive earthworks and fortifications around their cities; many black slaves were brought across the American border from Louisiana to be used as labor. Many towns and ranches across Texas adopted similar practices, building tall walls out of adobe around the main area of settlement. In Austin, San Antonio, and many towns in the south and west of Texas, large underground complexes called rabbit dens or prairie dog cellars were dug. These so-called rabbit dens' were a network of underground rooms, cellars, and passageways that were connected to the surface via larger openings scattered in defensible locations and smaller openings that were connected to residences and businesses. These rabbit dens grew from dirt-walled tunnels built for survival into comfortable, dry subsurface dwellings. The walls and ceilings were often paneled; the cool subterranean temperatures during the day made them hubs for business and recreation. Shops and other businesses often had two sales floors; one below the earth, and one above. In the more rural rabbit dens, the town saloon would often transfer completely to the below-ground portion, renting out the above-ground portion to businesses. Despite the amenities offered by a well-used prairie dog cellar, they were above all survival shelters; towns had frequent drills and kept store rooms below ground full of dried and salted meats, flour, and other essential foodstuffs, ammunition, lamp oil, wool, firewood, and other essentials. All private entrances to the rabbit den systems had to be approved by the local officials and be kept locked whenever not in use.

The Shep Thomas Account

As the Infection moved through the Texas countryside, numerous accounts of the horrors made it into both
Ripford

Shep Thomas in 1858, after being promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Texan Army.

American and Texan newspapers. The most famous of these accounts was that of twenty year old Shep Thomas, militiaman and ranch hand near the settlement of Ratheburne. The Shep Thomas Account was first published in April, 1843 in the Austin Chronicle newspaper of Austin, Texas and was soon published in newspapers across Texas. In June, 1843, the Account was published in several New York City and Boston-based papers. With the wide-spread publishing of the story across the United States, panic erupted, prompting local, state, and federal government preparations for what was feared to be the end of the world. Indeed, the Shep Thomas Account is credited with spurring the neighboring United States into mobilizing the armed forces in preparation for the disease and the flood of volunteers to Texas and Mexico. Below is an excerpt from the Shep Thomas Account.

" ... we crossed the Brazos around mid-day, with still no sign of man or beast, Plague-maddened or not ... however, we did find footprints in the dust, booted and bare. We continued riding south in the afternoon. We encountered several Buffalo around four-thirty in the afternoon... gored, in ragged condition. Our company captain, a tough olde [sic] veteran of both the Revolution and the wars against the redskins, forbade us to shoot the animals, for many of us were fond of the taste of the meat, and one man, Clifton Ledbetter, suggested we put them out of their misery...for the animals were in such pitiful shape. I have never in my days seen such severely wounded creatures stand on four legs, let alone flee at the rate these poor beasts did. Great, gaping lacerations ran across their ribs, exposing wet, pink meat and white bone... their legs and paws looked chewed and bitten... and their great dark heads were matted with blood. Our scout, Clifton Ledbetter, watched them flee using his scope and swore that several of the animals' horns had been snapped off.

Near sundown, we finally encountered our first victim of the Kanton [sic] Madness. He was, or once was, a tall, broad man, probably a Mexican ... His gait was slow and at first we thought him to be a refugee, separated from his band. We approached him to within thirty yards and hailed him, slowing our horses to a stop. He seemed not to comprehend our cries, for he stood stock-still for over a minute staring dully. Ledbetter watched him with his scope and voiced his concerns to the captain; the man, he said, had a swollen jaw, as if of mumps, and appeared to be smeared with blood. As Ledbetter finished his observation, we heard a frightful roar from the man and saw, in horror, as he charged us. He was hit by a volley of musket balls at fifteen yards and yet he seemed not to feel it ... he rammed one of our horses, throwing the rider perhaps ten yards into the brush...[the horse] was overwhelmed, screaming and kicking about as the monster set upon it with gusto. It took two more volleys to subdue the beast...and only then because the captain dismounted and ran at the creature, firing his scatter gun at point-blank range into the side of the Goliath's skull. In the time it took the captain to dispatch the beast, it had devoured nearly half of the horse. We elected not to camp for the night and to ride on to Ratheburne.

As we rode towards Ratheburne, we encountered several more victims of the Madness, thankfully much easier to dispatch than the brute we encountered at first ... although one could scarcely be described as human. The creature, for it moved on all fours through the brush as a spider, came at us frightfully fast. We fired a volley and the beast stumbled, tumbling head-over-heels and released a hideous squeal, as of a pig. It scrabbled to its feet and reversed direction, taking off into the brush.

Ratheburne was a madhouse. Half of the town was burning, overwhelmed by screeching and howling beasts, mostly men and women changed by the ... illness, but with the monstrous brutes and the howling ghouls scattered into the mix. The surviving townspeople were clustered on the rooftop of the Saloon, shooting at the beasts as they might. Across town there was, clustered upon the Undertaker's roof, several Mexican troops, fighting the swarm as they might. The captain rallied us, and we drew our sabres and charged through the town, cutting down the monsters with blade and trampling them below our horses' hooves. We found our heroic charge to be...the highest folly. While we were successful in destroying a few of the beasts, we found many of our horses mauled, torn and killed by the creatures as we passed ... mine included. I found myself in the bloody street as my horse collapsed below me, gored by a howling, four-legged ghoul. I managed to make it through the shattered glass of the General Store and up to the rooftop, where I barricaded myself.

It was three days before the Comanches arrived and rescued we few survivors from the swollen horde of the infected. The Redskins harried the creatures from afar with arrows and muskets, drawing them and weakening them before dispatching them summarily with tomahawks and blunt weapons. Despite their own quick elimination of the horde, the Comanche leader, a half-blood Brave named Abraham Jones, gave us his sympathies, as his own technique was hard-won ..."

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