The Texas Revolution began with the battle of Gonzales in October 1835 and ended with the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836; but there were earlier clashes between official forces and groups of colonists. This is a brief history of the Texas Revolution.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE TEXAS REVOLUTION
The basic differences between the national habits and experiences of Mexican rulers and the Anglo American settlers in early-day Texas initially led to problems between the two groups. Misunderstanding was aggravated in the minds of Mexicans by their conviction that the United States government wan making use of the colonists to cause trouble in the hope of acquiring Texas by purchase or revolution.
Military incidents occurred in 1826, 1832, and 1835 preceding the decisive march to war in the fall of 1835.
FREDONIAN REBELLION (1826-1827)
The Fredonian Rebellion was a relatively short-lived dispute between the Mexican government and the Edwards brothers, Haden and Benjamin. Haden Edwards received an empresarial grant on April 14, 1825 that entitled him to settle as many as 800 families in a broad area around Nacogdoches in eastern Texas.
However, because of his threatening behavior and attempt to turn the settlers against the Mexican government and create a separate Republic called Fredonia, Haden Edward's grant was overturned (forfeited) in 1826. Edwards was outraged, and he found support in the settlers he had brought. On November 22, 1826, Martin Parmer, John S. Roberts, and Burrell J. Thompson led a group of thirty-six men from the Ayish Bayou to Nacogdoches, where they seized Norris, Haden Edwards, José Antonio Sepulveda, and others and tried them for oppression and corruption in office.
As soon as Mexican authorities heard of the incident, Lt. Col. Mateo Ahumada, principal military commander in Texas, was ordered to the area. He left San Antonio on December 11 with twenty dragoons and 110 infantrymen.
Haden Edwards and Parmer began preparations to meet the Mexican force in the name of an independent republic they called Fredonia. Since they planned to include the Cherokees in their move for independence, the flag they designed had two parallel bars, red and white, symbolizing Indian and white. In fact, although a treaty was signed with the Indian leaders, Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter, that support never materialized. The flag was inscribed "Independence, Liberty, Justice." The rebels signed it and flew it over the Old Stone Fort. Their Declaration of Independence was signed on December 21, 1826.
Haden Edwards designated his brother Benjamin commander in chief and appealed to the United States for help. Ahumada enlisted Stephen F. Austin, who sided with the Mexican government, and Peter Ellis Bean, the Mexican Indian agent, headed for Nacogdoches. When the Mexican officers and militia and members of Austin's colony reached Nacogdoches on January 31, 1827, the revolutionists fled and crossed the Sabine River. The Indians killed Hunter and Fields for involving them in the venture.
ANGLO AMERICAN ATTACKS AGAINST THE MEXICAN GARRISONS (1832)
A series of attacks by the anglo Texians in 1832 resulted in the withdrawal of Mexican garrisons from Anahuac, Velasco, Nacogdoches, and Tenoxtitlán. In the Anahuac disturbances, the Anglo American attack was led by John Austin and commander, John (Juan) Davis Bradburn. Fighting was determined at Velasco, where Col. Domingo de Ugartechea was attempting to prevent reinforcements and artillery from sailing to Anahuac, and both he and the insurgents suffered severely.
BATTLE OF NACOGDOCHES (1832)
The battle of Nacogdoches in 1832 resulted in the Mexican garrison's evacuation after only nominal resistance; and Col. José Francisco Ruiz, a native of San Antonio, abandoned Fort Tenoxtitlán without being attacked.
Antonio López de Santa Anna was leading a revolution against President Anastacio Bustamante at the time of these disturbances in Texas, and the colonists who participated in them declared that they were cooperating with him by expelling Bustamante's garrisons from Texas. Actually, the great mass of the colonists had no quarrel with Mexico or Mexicans and adopted resolutions assuring the authorities of their loyalty-at least, they wanted no war with Mexico.
Texans Hold Conventions and Ask Mexico for Separation (1832, 1833)
The colonists held the Conventions of 1832 and 1833 and asked for an extension of the tariff exemptions and to make Texas an independent state. However, the Mexican government was very apprehensive over heavy AngloA merican colonization so they passed the Law of April 6, 1830, forbidding immigrants to settle in territory adjacent to their native country. Though this law was subsequently interpreted to permit continued settlement in the colonies of Austin and Green DeWitt, it remained a menace to the development of Texas, and the conventions petitioned for its repeal.
Stephen Austin Arrested and Held in Mexico City (1933-1835)
Resolutions of the Texian Convention of 1832 were never delivered to Mexico but instead, Stephen F. Austin was sent to Mexico City to present the petitions of 1833. On his way home, Austin was arrested and held as a prisoner in Mexico until July 1835.
Anahuac- the Spark Leading to the Texas Revolution
Santa Anna sent a contingent of soldiers to Anahuac in January 1835 and in June of 1835, a mail courier brought news that Mexican federal troops had arrested the governor and that a large number of Santa Annas reinforcements would soon strengthen the standing garrison at San Antonio. William B. Travis then commanded a group of Texian volunteers and led a successful march against Anahuac. Capt. Antonio Tenorio surrendered the post without a contest. In October, Stephen F. Austin returned from being held in the Mexican prisons for three years.
From this time forward, only a spark was necessary to set off an explosion. At Copano Bay, Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos landed at the head of 500 men, formed his troops, and moved on San Antonio. Austin's committee called for the immediate formation of military units to offer armed resistance.
General Cos announced his intention to punish those who led the uprising at Anahuac, and in his proclamation was the hint that he would drive the American settlers out of Texas. The day after Cos arrived in San Antonio on October 9, Texans seized Goliad, the location of a Mexican constabulary on the road from Copano to San Antonio. There, at the battle of Gonzales, what is regarded as the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired. Because of growing unrest, the military commandant of Coahuila and Texas, Col. Domingo de Ugartechea, whose headquarters were also in San Antonio, demanded of the citizens of Gonzales the return of a cannon that had been presented, or at the least lent, to them in 1831 for defence against Indians.Alcalde Andrew Ponton not only refused the demand but also called to other Texans for help. Annoyed by Ponton's refusal, Ugartechea sent about 100 dragoons under the command of Lt. Francisco Castañeda to seize the cannon, forcibly if necessary. Originally, only eighteen men constituted the Gonzales defense, but by October 2 the ranks had increased to about 160 volunteers. Commanded by John Henry Moore and Joseph W. E. Wallace, the Gonzales Texans stood their ground, and the dragoons returned emptyhanded to San Antonio.
Austin, Bowie and Fannin Lead the Texian Revolution
Texians Reach Point of No Return-October, 1835
Austin, at this time in command of the newly formed Texan "army" and in the Gonzales vicinity, realized that Texas had reached the point of no return. In early October he therefore led his command, all volunteers, toward San Antonio. Two others shared the command, James Bowie and James W. Fannin, Jr. On the night of October 27 Bowie, in general command, staked out a solid defensive position on the San Antonio River not far from Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepcíon de Acuña Mission.
Battle of Concepción (October 27, 1835)
On the following morning at the battle of Concepción, the Texians defeated a combined force of Mexican foot and horse soldiers supported by artillery, with the Mexicans losing sixty men to the Texans' one.
The Grass Fight (Nov. 26, 1835)
On November 26 the Texans again faced the Mexicans at the Grass Fight. Once again Bowie was in command, but this time with Edward Burleson, who assumed Austin's command, the latter having been made commissioner to the United States by the provisional government. The Texans forced the Mexicans to retreat, killing fifty of them in the process, while losing three men.
The climax of the siege of Bexar came on December 5, when, learning that Burleson was considering withdrawal to Goliad, Benjamin R. Milam raised the defiant cry, "Who will go to San Antonio with old Ben Milam?" and he and Frank (Francis W.) Johnson led 300 volunteers into the heart of the city. After three days of house-to-house fighting, Milam was dead and San Antonio was the prize of the Texans. Ironically, Cos's final stand was at the Alamo. Forced to surrender, the Mexican commander was compelled to take his troops beyond the Rio Grande.
Santa Anna and Troops Return to Fight the Texians (January 1836)
Taking advantage of the divided Texan army , Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande shortly in January of 1836 on a punitive expeditionto crush the Texian uprising. His plan was to treat anyone in arms against his government as mere pirates. The quelling of piracy, after all, required no mercy. At the beginning of his campaign, it seemed apparent that he would do just that, for Texan fortunes took a decided turn for the worse in early 1836.
Independence Convention-Washington on the Brazos (March 2, 1836)
By March 2 the Convention of 1836, meeting at Washington on-the Brazos, formally voted for independence and appointed Sam Houston major general of the Texas army and commander of the forces at Gonzales. After crossing the Rio Grande with 6,000 troops, Santa Anna's command eventually grew to more than 8,000.
Possible Targets: Goliad with over 400 Texians and the Alamo with less than 150 Defenders
Goliad with approximately 500 insurgents under the command of Fannin stood at the door to East Texas, with its heavy American population. San Antonio, however, even reinforced, could not offer a real threat to Santa Anna or even to his line of communication. However the general was determined to march on San Antonio, in part because of the humiliation visited upon his family through defeat of his son-in-law, Cos.
Unfortunately for Santa Anna's army, his logistical support was spare. He apparently had hoped to supplement his supplies by living off the land, but the area south of San Antonio could not sustain him. Furthermore, the weather that spring was unusually cold and wet. Some of Santa Anna's troops, recruited from the Yucatán, died of hypothermia. Meanwhile, in San Antonio, the few Texans were drawn into the confines of San Antonio de Valero Mission, in time known simply as the Alamo.
Santa Anna's Men Begin Arriving at the Alamo (Feb. 23, 1836)
On February 23, Santa Anna's advance force arrived in San Antonio. For thirteen days the Texans held their position behind the mission walls, waiting for reinforcements to arrive from Fannin's men at Goliad.
Battle of the Alamo (Feb. 23, 1836-March 6, 1836)
In one final onslaught to take the Alamo occurred on March 6, 1836. The Texans were overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. In bitter hand to hand combat, all of the soldiers were killed, while some thirty Alamo noncombatants-women, children, and blacks-were spared. Santa Anna lost some 600 of his men, or roughly a third of his assault force.
Gen. José de Urrea Led a Mexican Army to Capture Goliad
As Santa Anna's men fought at the Alamo, Gen. José de Urrea and his troops crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros with the destinatio of capturing Goliad. Urrea captured San Patricio and was victorious at the battle of Agua Dulce Creekand descended upon Lt. Col. William Ward's party who had been sent out from Goliad to help the settlers at Refurigo.
Battle of Goliad (March 20, 1836)
Fannin, the Texan commander at Goliad, had gathered men to attack Matamoros, despite Houston's opposition. When he heard that Urrea already had consolidated that position, he changed his mind and fell back to Goliad. Houston ordered him to relieve the men at the Alamo but by March 14 rescinded that order and issued a new one. Fannin was to proceed with his entire command to Victoria, where a linking of forces would occur. However, learning that Ward and Aaron King and all their men had been defeated by Urrea, Fannin vacillated between defending Goliad and retreating to Victoria. Finally, on March 19, he decided too late to leave Presidio La Bahía and move toward Houston. Urrea immediately set out in pursuit. Fannin, fearing the exhaustion of his men and animals, halted after a march of only six miles. The Texans were not far from Coleto Creek with its water and protective treeline when Urrea's cavalry appeared, blocked Fannin's path, and seized the creek. When Urrea's main body arrived, Fannin could only form a square and wait. The next morning Urrea received reinforcements, including artillery. As Mexican cannons leveled their guns on the Texans, and as Mexican infantry formed attack columns, Fannin accepted the inevitable and asked for terms. He received what he, at least, regarded as an assurance that his army would be treated honorably as prisoners of war. The Texans were marched back to Goliad, imprisoned, and assured of their release. Upon hearing the terms of surrender, Santa Anna countermanded them and ordered the execution of the Texans, an order that was carried out on March 27, 1836.
The Runaway Scrape(Mid March 1836)
Houston arrived in Gonzales around the middle of March in a desperate attempt to gather volunteers at Gonzalez and go to the assistance of the men at the Alamo.However, Susanna Dickinson, widow of Almeron Dickinson, told Houston of the fall of the Alamo and that Santa Anna's army was pressing toward Gonzalez. Realizing that the revolution was in serious jeopardy, Houston chose to sink his cannons in the Guadalupe River and the town, and retreat northeast toward the Colorado River. The inhabitants of Gonzales, Refurigo, and area settlements were in full panic knowing about Santa Anna's approaching death squads. from all over East Texas in what became known as the Runaway Scrape.
With the fall of the Alamo and Goliad, Santa Anna presumed that the Texians were defeated and that the war was over. However, his officers convinced him that he still had to run down Houston and the remaining Texan forces. Santa Anna then planned a three-pronged offensive through East Texas.
Gen. Antonio Gaona was initially to take a northerly route via Bastrop toward Nacogdoches, but shortly thereafter Santa Anna ordered him instead to proceed from Bastrop toward San Felipe.
Gen. Joaquín Ramírez y Sesma was also ordered to San Felipe, whence he would strike in an easterly direction with the probable destination of Anahuac. Ramirez y Sesma's troops were to act as the spearhead of the thrust.
Finally, Urrea was to secure the right flank of these movements while maintaining a northerly route in the hope of joining the main forces should a mass formation be necessary. Houston was thus to be snared, his army crushed or captured, and the rebellion finished.
On March 20, Ramirez y Sesma and some 800 troops, reached the Colorado. Houston's army at this time probably outnumbered the Mexicans, but Sam Houston refused to fight, for several reasons. He realized that although his army was patriotically motivated, it was poorly trained. Furthermore, his enemy had artillery, and he did not. Finally, Santa Anna's plan allowed for rapid communication and consequent quick reinforcement. Houston thought that he could not risk it, for if he lost, there would be nothing to stop Santa Anna from marching unimpeded across Texas. This last consideration became all the more important after March 2, the date on which the convention approved the Texas Declaration of Independence. In Houston's mind, nothing less was at stake than independent nationhood. Nevertheless, disappointed that he did not attack, a number of his troops began to question his leadership, and a discipline problem developed that lasted all the way to San Jacinto.
At some point, Houston learned of the execution of Fannin's destruction and turned his army in full retreat northward toward the Brazos River and Jared Groce's plantation. He went by way of San Felipe de Austin, which he torched. By now, Houston's disgruntled force had shrunk to no more than 800 men. Some allege that he wanted to retreat as far as the Trinity River, others that he merely intended to teach his little army the fundamentals of the drill while waiting for reinforcement. In either event, captains Wyly Martin and Moseley Baker balked, claiming that they would fight the enemy on their own. Houston solved the problem by ordering these men and their followers to establish a rear guard to hold up a Mexican advance. But discontent came not only from the ranks but from the government. Houston was strongly criticized by President David G. Burnetqv as well. In the meantime, Burnet and the cabinet fled New Washington, the most recent capital of the new government, for Harrisburg. Time passed slowly at Groce's plantation, but the troops did receive the rudiments of battlefield drill and formation. The weather stayed bad, and disease became a problem. In these troubles, Houston's command was buttressed by two loyal supporters, Col. Thomas J. Rusk and Col. Edward Burleson.
Upon hearing of Burnet's flight, Santa Anna also decided to move on Harrisburg. Because of this error he lost sight of his objective, Houston's army. In addition, this pursuit meant that he would be required to divide his force further. Nevertheless, Santa Anna decided on the chase and personally led the advancing force. When he arrived in Harrisburg, he discovered that the Texas government had fled again, so he ordered Col. Juan N. Almonte ahead. Almonte nearly succeeded in capturing the escaping officials. By now, however, Houston was on the move again, this time to the east. At the fork between the road to Nacogdoches and that to Harrisburg, the army swung toward the latter, and the character of the campaign changed. Houston, who had been slow and deliberate in his manner, now became swift and animated, and his strike toward Harrisburg resembled a forced march. On the way, he intercepted Mexican couriers, from whom he learned the location and size of Santa Anna's force. Gathering his men around him, Houston eloquently addressed them and called upon them to remember the Alamo and Goliad.
By now, both Houston and Santa Anna, on separate roads, were headed for Lynch's Ferry on the San Jacinto River. Still concerned about reinforcement, for he knew that Cos would soon join his adversary, Houston crossed and then destroyed Vince's Bridge. During the remainder of the campaign, the possibility of Mexican reinforcement was never far from his mind. The Texans reached Lynch's Ferry, at the confluence of the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou, first. On the banks of both bodies of water, was marshland flanked by heavy foliage, mostly live oak, spread laterally. In the tree line beside Buffalo Bayou Houston aligned his force on April 20. Later on the same day, Santa Anna's force, surprised by the Texan presence, also arrived. In the late afternoon, there was a brief but sharp clash between elements of the two armies, but nothing serious developed. Apparently, Santa Anna decided to await reinforcements, which arrived the following morning in the form of Cos's command. Meanwhile, Houston held his first council of war, wherein the merits of an offensive or a defensive battle were debated. On the afternoon of April 21, Houston ordered his small force of perhaps 900 men forward. Santa Anna's army, numbering somewhere around 1,300 men, was resting. Santa Anna had concluded that the Texans were on the defensive, and he had decided to attack them the next day. Because of this costly miscalculation, Houston surprised and completely overran the enemy; the battle took only eighteen minutes. Shouts of "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" filled the air, and in this charged atmosphere the killing continued for an hour after the issue was resolved. Virtually the entire Mexican army was killed, scattered, or captured, including Santa Anna, who managed to escape but was captured the following day. In effect, the Mexicans lost everything, and the Texans, by comparison, lost nine men. On Houston's command, Santa Anna ordered his secondincommand, Gen. Vicente Filisola, to withdraw all his troops from Texas, and the order was obeyed. If the Mexican army had remained in Texas, it is probable that the war would have continued. Many Texans wanted Santa Anna's life, but Houston, aware of the Mexican general's value alive, spared him.
The war was concluded by the two treaties of Velasco, one public, the other secret. The first was published as soon as possible, and its contents held conditions very favorable to Texas. By its terms, Texas independence was recognized, hostilities were ended, the Mexican army was retired beyond the Rio Grande, confiscated property would be restored, and prisoners would be exchanged. The secret treaty agreed to Santa Anna's release in exchange for his promise that he would do all he could to secure within the Mexican government all the provisions of the public treaty without exception, as well as the enforcement of them. Santa Anna agreed, as was his perceived prerogative, since by destroying the Constitution of 1824 he had assumed authority over Mexican foreign policy. The remaining Mexican government refused to accept these terms, however. Nevertheless, Texas became not only a de facto state but also a de jure state in the eyes of many nations. See also GOLIAD CAMPAIGN OF 1835, GOLIAD CAMPAIGN OF 1836, REPUBLIC OF TEXAS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1949; New York: AMS Press, 1970). William C. Binkley, The Texas Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1979). Stephen L. Hardin, Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994). Marquis James, The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1929; rpts., New York: Paperback Library, 1967, Atlanta: Mockingbird Books, 1977). Paul D. Lack, The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992). James W. Pohl, The Battle of San Jacinto (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1989). James W. Pohl and Stephen L. Hardin, "The Military History of the Texas Revolution: An Overview," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 89 (January 1986). Ben H. Procter, The Battle of the Alamo (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986). Antonio López de Santa Anna et al., The Mexican Side of the Texan Revolution, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda (Dallas: Turner, 1928; 2d ed., Austin: Graphic Ideas, 1970). David M. Vigness, The Revolutionary Decades: The Saga of Texas, 1810-1836 (Austin: Steck-Vaughn, 1965).
Texas Declaration of Independence- 1835
The Texas Declaration of November 7, 1835, passed by the Consultation announced that the Texan war against Mexico principally intended to restore the Mexican Constitution of 1824, abrogated by the actions of President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and to achieve separate Mexican statehood for Texas. The members of the Consultation had hoped to attract popular support for the Texan cause from the other Mexican states.
Declaration of Independence by the Republic of Texas, 1836