On this day in 1876, on the recommendation of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Thomas S. Gathright became the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (the future Texas A&M University). On the same day, the initial class of 106 students began to attend classes. In the fall of 2000, with 44,026 students, Texas A&M University was the fourth-largest university in the nation.
On this day in 1898, doctors in Laredo began noticing an outbreak of smallpox among the city’s children. The first death occurred in late October, and by January 1899 physicians reported more than 100 cases. Texas health officer W. T. Blunt advocated strict measures to control the epidemic, including house-to-house vaccination and fumigation and the establishment of a field hospital to function as a quarantined area. When some Laredo residents resisted the vaccinations, Blunt requested that the Texas Rangers assist with the health care measures. Friction between some of the residents and the rangers culminated in a gunbattle and ensuing riot in March 1899, and the Tenth United States Cavalry was called in to help maintain the peace. By May the quarantine was lifted.
On this day in 1862, on the second day of the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Confederate general Earl Van Dorn called for a series of headlong frontal attacks against a heavily fortified federal position. Col. William Peleg Rogers of the Second Texas Infantry was ordered to lead the vanguard of the assault on Battery Robinett, a small fort anchoring the center of the Union line. After one bloody repulse, Rogers led a second desperate charge. Remaining on horseback in the face of a barrage of cannon and musket fire, and finally carrying the regimental colors himself, Rogers reached the deep trench fronting Battery Robinett, dismounted, and led several hundred Texans and Alabamans down into the trench, up the steep embankment, and into the fort. Suddenly federal reinforcements closed in from both flanks. Rogers shouted, "Men, save yourselves or sell your lives as dearly as possible." A few seconds later he was struck by multiple rifle shots and died instantly. Scores of others fell with him, and the battle soon ended. The Second Texas Infantry had lost more than half its numbers in casualties. The failure of Rogers's attack sealed Van Dorn's defeat at Corinth. In a remarkable tribute to Rogers's personal bravery, Union general William S. Rosecrans ordered his burial attended with full military honors, a ceremony normally reserved only for Confederate general officers.