Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas! ~ United States Congressman David Crockett at a farewell party after loosing his re-election to Adam Huntsman, a Tennessee lawyer with a wooden leg.
By Gary P Jackson
On March 2, 1836 General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna, the maniacal ruler of Mexico, learned the true meaning of the phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas.”
With tensions between Texians and the Mexican government at an all time high, the first engagement in the Texas Revolution took place on October 2, 1835, when Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, the commander of all Mexican troops in Texas, sent a detachment of 100 dragoons, led by Francisco de Castañeda, to the City of Gonzales to retrieve an old [and rather outdated] cannon once left by the military so the townsfolk could defend themselves from Indian attacks. On September 10, 1835 a Mexican soldier had bludgeoned a Gonzales resident, which led to widespread outrage and public protests. Mexican authorities felt it unwise to leave the settlers with such a weapon.
The Mexican Government had previously sent folks to ask the people of Gozales to hand over the cannon, claiming the government meant no harm to them, and only wanted to retrieve the cannon. [sound familiar?] The Texians weren’t buying it!
As news of the approaching Mexican army’s imminent arrival reached Gonzales, residents sent out word to neighboring towns and villages. 140 Texians came to their aid. In the absence of cannon balls, the volunteers gathered up scraps of metal to fire at the Mexicans. James C. Neill, who had served in an artillery company during the War of 1812, was given command of the cannon, which had been mounted on a makeshift cart. He gathered several men, including Almaron Dickinson, together to form the first artillery company of Texians. A local Methodist minister, W. P. Smith, blessed their activities in a sermon which made frequent reference to the American Revolution.
Texian militias generally elected their own leaders. John Henry Moore of Fayette was the leader of the Texians in Gonzales.
The actual battle was somewhat a comedy of errors. The Mexican army had camped outside town, on October 1st. So the Texans took the battle to them. Around 3 am, a dog in the Mexican camp started barking, alerting the troops, who began firing. The noise from the gunfire spooked one of the Texian’s horses, who threw the rider, giving him a bloody nose! Moore and his men hid amongst the thick trees until dawn. It was reported that some, while they waited, raided a local watermelon patch, for a light breakfast!
As dawn approached, there was a thick fog rolling in. The Mexican soldiers knew they were surrounded, but had no idea by how many men, so they withdrew to a nearby bluff. The Texians came out of the trees and started firing. Lieutenant Gregorio Pérez counterattacked with 40 mounted soldiers. As the Texians fell back into the trees, under the cover of fog, they kept firing, hitting and injuring a Mexican private. It’s been said the old cannon fell out of the wagon it was being hauled in, as it was fired! Unable to maneuver among the trees, Pérez withdrew.
As the fog lifted, the Mexicans attempted a negotiation, again stating all they wanted was the cannon. After some back and forth, Moore met with Castañeda, and told him, in no uncertain terms, they did NOT recognize the rogue government of Santa Anna [the Barack Obama of his time, who had all but tore up Mexico’s constitution, in favor of “ executive orders” from on high.] Moore stated he and his Texians remained faithful the The Mexican Constitution of 1824! It was then Castañeda revealed that he shared their “federalist” leanings, but that he was honor-bound to follow orders.
As Moore returned to camp, the Texians raised a homemade white banner with an image of the cannon painted in black in the center, over the words “Come and Take It”
A replica of the original Battle of Gonzales Flag
Texians then fired the old cannon at the Mexican camp. Realizing that he was outnumbered and outgunned, Castañeda led his troops back to San Antonio de Béxar. The troops were gone before the Texians finished reloading! In his report to Ugartechea, Castañeda wrote “since the orders from your Lordship were for me to withdraw without compromising the honor of Mexican arms, I did so“.
During the battle two Mexican soldiers were killed. The only casualty among the Texians was the bloody nose suffered by the fellow thrown from his horse!
The die was cast, and the battle for Texas Independence began in earnest.
The major hostilities came to a head in San Antonio de Béxar, at an old, never completed mission, known as The Alamo. Not much in the way of strategic significance, The Alamo was, however, the best armored fortress west of the Mississippi, with numerous cannon.
We all know the story of the 13 day siege of The Alamo that began on February 23, 1836, when Santa Anna arrived with 3000 of his elite troops. What you may not know, is on the eighth day, a group of 32 Texian volunteers arrived from Gonzales, reportedly with their old cannon in tow! Neither they nor anyone else would survive, as Santa Anna ordered the slaughter of all defenders of The Alamo. Accounts vary, with some saying everyone died in battle, and others saying some, including David Crockett survived, only to be executed.
Either way, unable to relieve his fellow Texians, General Sam Houston made demands of the provisional Texas government, including being made Commander-in-Chief of all Texas armies, militia and volunteer. First and foremost though, Houston demanded that Independence be formally declared with a document that could be recognized world wide. Remember, all of these Texians were American immigrants, all with an understanding [and inspiration] of the American Revolution. Though it should be noted, a large number of Mexicans, who had also settled Texas, were equally angered by Santa Anna’s “shredding” of their constitution, and eagerly joined the Anglos in the fight for Liberty and Freedom.
Texas Independence was thus Declared on March 2, 1836.
History Tells us Sam Houston headed east, toward what is now the City of Houston. He used this strategic retreat to build and train his army. He also knew by retreating, he would lure Santa Anna into battle, a battle he could not win. The Battle of San Jacinto took place on April 21, 1836. In a surprise attack, Sam Houston’s army went after the Mexican army with a vengeance seldom seen in battle. Shouting “Remember the Alamo” it took the Texians eighteen minutes to soundly defeat Santa Anna’s elite Mexican army.
Henry Arthur McArdle’s 1895 painting, The Battle of San Jacinto
During the battle, Santa Anna, the self styled “Napoleon of the West” ran like a coward. He was later found, dressed as a common soldier, among captured troops. He was found out when the troops started whispering [and pointing] “el Presidente.” As one can imagine, after the murders of their fellow Texians at The Alamo, few were in a hospitable mood towards Santa Anna! They wanted to execute him on the spot. General Houston, however, knew that wouldn’t attain the goal of Texas Independence, and instead, traded Santa Anna his life back, for Texas. Though hostilities between Mexico and Texas would continue for nearly 100 years [some say we are STILL at war with Mexico, including yours truly … though it’s more of a cold war now ….] they were of little consequences, and The Republic of Texas was born.
Texas Independence a painting by G. Harvey
Texans have a strong Independent streak born of hard fought Freedom. From the blood of patriots and tyrants alike. We are born with this Independence, it is ingrained in our very soul. Texas is the promised land.
Excepted from a Certificate signed by Texas State Representative James T. Cox and handed to my mother and father on the occasion of my birth, and kept, along with my original Certificate of Birth:
To all whom these Presents shall come
this Document shall forever Certify that into The Citizenship of Texas
Gary Preston Jackson
with the full heritage of hardwon freedom, with the fine tradition of noble service and with the firm belief in greater progress, was born. A new Texan destined to take a place beside the heroes of peace and war.
In the year A.D. 1959
We Texans take or Freedom and our heritage seriously.
God Bless Texas.