It’s Texas Time: A Tale of One City

Here’s a lovely poem from our second week of Summer Camp at The Bryan Museum about the main character of today’s blog post. It’s an ‘I Am’ poem, a form which the campers were taught in one of several writing lessons.  

I am brave and adventurous.​
I wonder if the New World will ever be conquered.  
I hear the sound of waves hitting the shore.​ 
I see sand and water.​  
I want to gain fame and fortune. ​ 
I am brave and adventurous. ​ 

You might have heard of the legendary Galvez Hotel, an elegant hotel dating back to 1911. But do you know who it was named for? 

This Galveston establishment was named in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez, a Spanish colonial governor born on July 23, 1746, in Macharaviaya, near Málaga, Spain. He was first posted on the northern frontier of New Spain in 1769, as a commandant of troops fighting against the Apaches.  

He was promoted to governor of Spanish Louisiana in 1777, and during the American Revolution, Gálvez stockpiled gunpowder, lead, clothing, and other supplies (he even accumulated a massive intelligence-gathering network) for rebel colonists in Louisiana. He corresponded with Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Henry Lee.  

Using this knowledge and these supplies, Gálvez armed his troops for war, which was formally declared on June 21, 1779. King Carlos III of Spain commissioned Gálvez to campaign against the British on the Gulf Coast. Gálvez requested that the governor of Texas deliver cattle to troops in Louisiana, and sure enough, between 1779 and 1782, over 10,000 Texas cattle were driven to Presidio La Bahía, Texas.  

Gálvez led his troops to victory at Manchac, Baton Rouge, and Natchez in the fall of 1779. In March 1780, he captured Fort Charlotte located in Mobile, Alabama. A few months after these wins, Gálvez commanded 7,000 soldiers in a siege on Fort George; he commanded the first ship to cross over a sandbar after his commanders had warned him against it, yelling “Yo Solo!” (I alone), which became his personal motto. The British surrendered Pensacola to Gálvez in May of 1781. Gálvez returned to his position as governor after the Revolution.  

Above is the Gálvez Coat of Arms, granted to Bernardo de Gálvez in recognition of his having seized the capital of Pensacola, Florida, from the British. Gálvez’s coat of arms is an example of a popular trend in Spain at the time where coats of arms were “quartered,” showing all four of the bearer’s grandparents’ families on the centerpiece of the graphic to prove nobility. His heraldry depicts his Madrid, Cabrera, and Marques ancestry in addition to his paternal heritage. It also depicts his namesake military vessel, a golden Fleur de Lis on a blue field to show his service as governor of Louisiana, and his motto “Yo solo.” 

Gálvez went on to serve as captain-general and governor of Cuba, viceroy of New Spain (succeeding his father, Matias), and commander of public works projects against disease, destruction, and famine in Mexico City.  

Of course, you know how Galveston was named if you saw our TikTok! Explorer José de Evia, sent to chart the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico by Gálvez, found a bay in the Gulf of Mexico and named it Galvez-Town, or Galveston, for his ruler.