Texas Declares Independence
In all my travels, I’ve met tons of folks who despise the mere mention of Texas. They hate our ego, our pride and most of all, they hate our Texas shaped waffles. Look Ethan, I’m sorry Georgia isn’t shaped perfectly to make an amazing breakfast item at a cheap motel, shit happens. But why is there so much pride among Texans? It’s easy, our founding fathers were a bunch of “Never Quit” attitude dudes. Were they perfect? Absolutely not, but they were great in many ways, and we can learn from their achievements and faults equally. I’m going to tell you a quick little story on how the greatest country came to be. Against the recommendations of some, I’m going to be frank and candid, so if a few curse words aren’t your style, I’d stop reading here. Also, let me lead off with, this is an overview and not a comprehensive description of the events of the Texas Revolution.
The history of Texas is vast, so we’ll fast forward to 1835. Known at the time as Texians, many had migrated from the southern US and believed firmly in smaller, more locally controlled government. Antonio López de Santa Anna, President of Mexico, had recently taken control and abolished all Mexican state legislatures and the constitution. This angered many Texans and Tejanos alike. Santa Anna was known to be a ruthless dictator and at the Battle of Zacatecas, he allowed his army to commit war crimes and loot the city after his overwhelming victory. With Texas being isolated and far from “real” government centers like Mexico City and Washington DC, coupled with racism, different views on slavery and Santa Anna’s brutality, conditions were ripe for a conflict.
Come and Take it
Over the years, many settlements had been issued cannons to protect themselves against Native American attacks. Now, uneasy with the potential turmoil brewing, Texas under General Martin Perfecto Cos, who happened to be Santa Anna’s brother-in-law and Colonel Domingo Ugartechea, the military commander at San Antonio, requested a nearby cannon be returned. Col. Ugartechea sent a small group of men to retrieve the cannon from Gonzales, Texas. Upon their arrival, the men were disarmed and detained. A letter from the local magistrate, Andrew Ponton was sent back to Col. Ugartechea explaining delicately that the town would not be retuning said cannon at this time. Col. Ugartechea responded by sending over 100 men to Gonzales with the orders to retrieve the cannon but with no confrontation.
On the night of October 1, 1835, the Mexican forces, led by Lieutenant Francisco Castaneda, made camp near the banks of the now swollen Guadalupe River. Late that evening, the Texian Militia, now numbering around 150 men started to cross the river, but were slowed due to the river’s condition and a dense fog that had rolled in. Around 0300 hrs, as the Texians neared the Mexican encampment, one of their dogs barked, causing the Mexican forces to awake and start firing. In the volley, one Texian was thrown from his horse and bloodied his nose. This was the only casualty on the Texian side. With both sides unaware of the location of the other, the Texians found themselves a watermelon patch to rest in and snacked until dawn.
At dawn, the Texians approached the Mexican encampment and opened fire. A mounted calvary unit of approximately 40 Mexicans charged but retreated due to thick vegetation and volley of shots from the Texians. Lt. Castaneda knew his orders were for no conflict and quickly called to meet with the Texians. Though he sympathized with their displeasure for Santa Anna’s reign, he was bound by honor to enforce his orders. With the Texians standing firm and not returning the cannon, the two sides ended negotiations and the Texians raised the 1835 version of “Fuck Around And Find Out”, the famous “Come And Take It” flag. The Texians fired scrap metal from the cannon at the Mexican forces which then withdrew back to San Antonio. In all, only two Mexican soldiers died and the military impact of the battle itself seemed meaningless, but the political impact was immense. Texians declared victory and days later Stephen F. Austin wrote in a letter, “War is declared…” and newspapers referred to the skirmish as the Lexington of Texas.
The Siege of San Antonio
The Texians, initially led by Austin and reinforced with men from other communities in Texas, began the siege of San Antonio. On October 28, 1835, they repelled an attack at Mission Concepción, and they were successful in a battle known as The Grass Fight in November of 1835. The Texians won the siege of San Antonio by taking it house-to-house, close quarters style and on December 11, 1835, Cos surrendered the city and its now historic mission, the Alamo. Cos was pardoned and withdrew his troops back to Mexico and south of the Rio Grande.
Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!
Santa Anna, in the cold of winter and the early days of 1836, marched an army of over 6,000 men north, dead set on retribution. Santa Anna, the self-proclaimed, “Napoleon of the West”, bypassed Goliad, where a majority of the Texian Army was, to enact revenge for Cos’ humiliating loss of San Antonio. The Texians, worked hard and reinforced the Alamo, a mission built in 1718. The mission was not a fort, but it gave the 250+ men and women there, the best chance at survival. The Texian Army was led by Colonel William B. Travis, but a large portion of the defenders were militia and led by Colonel James (Jim) Bowie. Side note, Bowie had been ordered by General Sam Houston to destroy the Alamo and join his forces with Houston’s. With a never quit attitude, Bowie refused. While dispatches asking for reinforcement were denied, around 30 men joined the defenders at the Alamo, bringing the fighting total to around 189 or so. One of these new additions was former Congressman of Tennessee, Davy Crockett.
Many a book have been written over the following days and there is a lot to try and pare down, but here’s a quick synopsis. On the morning of February 23, 1836, Texian scouts reported the Mexican Army was now 1.5 miles from the mission and by late afternoon, over 1,500 troops had poured into the city. Under Santa Anna’s orders, a blood-red flag was raised at San Fernando Church, signaling the defenders, no quarter would be given. Travis responded by firing off the 18-pound cannon. Skirmishes broke out over the next week, while the Mexicans bombarded the mission with cannon fire. The final day of the battle, March 6th, the Mexican forces finally breached the walls on their third attempt. Any man who surrendered was executed.
Once inside the walls, the Texians had zero chance. Over 2,000 Mexican troops participated in the final assault, the Texians were outnumbered 10 to 1. Slavery was not allowed in Mexico, so slaves were freed, and the women and children were spared and sent to Gonzales to spread the news of the battle. When the dust settled, reports state approximately 600 Mexicans lay dead with 182 defenders dead. News surfaced about Santa Anna’s brutality of those who surrendered, and the ranks of the Texian Army began to swell. General Houston knew he could not face Santa Anna in a conventional method and began what’s often referred to as the “Runaway Scrape”. Looking for the best location to battle, Houston and the Texian Army moved east across Texas.
After the Alamo, at the Battle of Coleto Creek, Colonel James Fannin formed a square in the middle of a prairie and held his own for a day. However, with not enough water for the men and no way to cool the artillery pieces, Fannin surrendered to General José de Urrea on March 20, 1836. Seven days later they would be lined up, shot, clubbed, and stabbed to death. Goliad, along with the Alamo became rallying cries for the Texians. It wasn’t a matter of IF anymore, it was a matter of where.
The Battle of San Jacinto
The battlefield was a marshy and wooded area essentially surrounded by water on three sides. Many have said that Santa Anna’s arrogance led to his crucial mistake of where he set camp. With a force of 783, General Houston had the Texian Twin Sisters fire off a single volley and at 1630hrs the battle began. Immediately, the Texian Calvary broke rank, launched themselves over the defensive breastworks and into hand-to-hand combat with the Mexican forces. Now, just minutes before these Mexicans troops were resting and bathing after a long march to join forces with Santa Anna. The battle has been described as one of the most lopsided victories ever. Though the battle lasted only 18 minutes, the killing went on for hours. The Mexican troops were said to be between 1,350 and 1,500 men in total. 11 Texians died with 30 more being wounded, including General Houston. The Mexican losses were immense, 650 killed, another 208 wounded and 300 captured, to include Santa Anna.
Weeks later, Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco and promised to have the Mexican Congress recognize the Republic of Texas as a sovereign nation.
Nine years later, in 1845, Texans allowed the United States to join Texas.
God Bless Texas!