The Texas Revolution


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The Texas revolution occurred as a result of a series of events that began long before the first shots fired in Gonzales on October 2, 1835, and finally ending at the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.  

The actual battle of San Jacinto lasted less than twenty minutes, but it was in the making for six years.  It had its prelude in the oppressive Mexican edict of April 6, 1830, prohibiting further emigration of Anglo-Americans from the United States to Texas; in the disturbance at Anahuac and in the battle of Velasco, in 1832; in the imprisonment of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas," in Mexico in 1834. Immediate preliminaries were the skirmish over a cannon at Gonzales
; the capture of Goliad; the "Grass Fight", and the siege and capture of San Antonio . . . all in late 1835 and early 1836. The Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, officially signalized the revolution.  

The Alamo, shrine of Texas liberty.  One can not speak of South Texas without mentioning the Alamo.  Approximately 180 - 190 men fought to their death at this site. 

The men defending the Alamo, under the command of William Barret Travis, defied orders from Sam Houston to retreat from San Antonio. 

Click on the photograph and visit The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library.

Right or wrong, the time bought by delaying the Mexican Army in San Antonio allowed General Sam Houston and the other delegates at the General  Convention in  Washington-on-the-Brazos time to complete the organization of the new Republic of Texas.  Without an organized Government, Texas may never have become a Republic.

February 23, 1836: The Mexican army under
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (President of Mexico, and Commander of the Mexican Army) reaches San Antonio.  The Texian (Texan) force retreats into the walled Alamo compound.

March 2, 1836:
The Texas Declaration of Independence is approved by delegates meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

March 6, 1836:  The final attack upon the fortified Alamo began before dawn (around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m.).   When the fighting ends (around 9:00 a.m.), all of its occupants other than women, children, and Travis' slave Joe, are dead.  Losses to the attacking Mexican army are estimated to be at least 600 dead and wounded.  There were so many wounded after the battle of the Alamo, that Santa Anna ordered the captured Texian medical staff from Goliad be spared from his ordered Palm Sunday massacre and sent immediately to San Antonio.

The Alamo was not strategic, since it was located along the western boundary of the  Texian colonies.  Santa Anna must have seen this as an opportunity to provide battle experience for some of his new troops who had never been in battle.  Whatever the reason, there was a heavy loss of life and many wounded Mexican soldiers during the thirteen day siege.  In the end, Santa Anna had to commit his best troops to finally overrun the Alamo.  As it turned out, the siege of the Alamo was only one of many tactical mistakes that Santa Anna would make.    

Additional Information About The Alamo

For an illustrated timeline of the history of the Alamo, I highly recommend George Nelson's book The Alamo - An Illustrated History.  The book has detailed paintings, with a bird's-eye view of the evolution of the Alamo.  Click HERE to visit George Nelson's web site.

More information about the Alamo from the Seguin family web site. 

Alamo Cam

Click on the image of the Alamo at right to see a live view of the Alamo.  The cam is located directly across from the Alamo in Greystone's American History Store at 321 Alamo Plaza.  For more information on the store, visit their Web site at greystonehistory.com

Read about the second battle of the Alamo.  Clara Driscoll, Adnia de Zavala, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.   And what a battle it was.

Click here to visit the San Antonio Express-News Alamo Cam

Once every year decedents of the defenders of the Alamo meet in a private ceremony in the Alamo chapel.  Charles M. Yates had the privilege of attending one ceremony.  Take a moment to read Reflections at the Alamo.  

Clara Driscoll - Savior of the Alamo.

Adnia de Zavala - Alamo Crusader.

Enrique Esparza witnessed the siege of the Alamo from within the walls of the fort.  His father fought and died in the Alamo, and his father's own brother an assailant of the Alamo.  From the San Antonio Light, Saturday, November 22, 1902.  At the time of the article, Mr. Esparza was 74 years old. 

Read another account of the fall of the Alamo by Jose Francisco Ruiz account as told in the San Antonio Light, on March 6, 1886.

One of the few survivors of the fall of the Alamo was Susana Dickinson, wife of Alamo defender Almaron Dickinson.  Her story began in Tennessee and ended with her death in Austin, Texas. 

Alamo Fortress

I get many messages asking if the chapel and long barracks were the only buildings during the battle of 1836.  The Alamo fortress was actually quite large (see painting, below right), making it difficult to defend with the small number of men available.

Click on the below left map to see where the original walls of the Alamo are located, compared to today's street layout.  The map was compiled and displayed by the Center for Archaeological Research web site, University of Texas at San Antonio. 

Click on the below right painting to visit the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Alamo web site.  The Alamo has been managed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas since 1905.  Located on Alamo Plaza in downtown San Antonio, Texas, the Alamo represents nearly 300 years of history.

Click here to view an overlay of the original Alamo with today's streets
Click Here To Visit The Dauthers Of The Republic Of Texas Alamo Web Site

Other Alamo related web sites:

Alamo de Parras web site:  Alamo de Parras is an extensive web site and includes the history of the Alamo prior to the 1836 siege.  It also includes many details and tactics used during the 1836 battle. 

Sons of DeWitt Colony Texas:  Another extensive web site dedicated to the preservation of the history of DeWitt Colony.  Includes many details of the battles of independence. 

Alamo Images: 
Changing Perceptions of a Texas Experience, organized by the DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University - Includes sketches, maps, and photographs.  Some sketches and maps were drawn in the 1830's and 1840's.  Well worth the visit.   

Who Fought At The Alamo, And Why Did They Fight?

"...One of the great tragedies of the Alamo story is that, until recently, the contributions of the Hispanics who fought for Texas Independence were forgotten or purposely omitted.  Forgotten or omitted by all except those families whose family members paid the ultimate price for their beliefs on that cold March morning when Santa Anna's men came over the walls.  The memory of those Tejano defenders has been kept alive and nurtured through the ensuing years by their families who remember with just pride and reverence what they did there that day.

Perhaps that is what makes the Alamo so special.  This was not a battle fought, as some would have us believe, over racial issues.  After all, there were Hispanics fighting for Texas and Anglos fighting for Santa Anna.  It was a battle fought over what men believed to be right.  Those beliefs of what is right and wrong transcend race to the point where men of different races and cultures will together lay aside their differences to fight and die for a higher cause; to plant the seed of a tree they will never sit under; to hold up a light to show the way for future generations..." 

The above from "Reflections at the Alamo", by Charles M. Yates.  The statement could be made for all the battles that took place during the Texas Revolution, as Hispanics and Anglos fought side-by-side for the Texian Army. 

Controlling The Citizens Of Mexico - The Government Knows Best

After Santa Anna was elected President of Mexico in free elections, he dissolved the Constitution and declared himself dictator for life in 1833.  One means of controlling the Mexican citizens of Texas was disarming them.  Today, we call it gun control in the U.S.  By disarming the law-abiding Mexican citizens of Texas, Santa Anna could be assured that no armed revolt could take place and his rule would not be disputed by anyone. 

To quote Thomas Jefferson, author of the of the U.S. Declaration of Independence; "When the government fears the people, there is liberty.  When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."  No doubt, the first step toward  tyranny had taken place at Gonzales, with the attempt to disarm loyal Mexican citizens and retrieve a barrowed cannon. 

President Santa Anna had become oppressive with all the citizens of Mexico, not just the Texians.  At the time of the Texas Revolution, his army had just completed a two year tour of putting down uprisings by other Mexican citizens in other parts of Mexico.  The army was highly trained, motivated, and professional. 

Santa Anna's Army

Some of Santa Anna's field commanders and soldiers had served in Napoleon's army in France.  This was why Santa Anna became known and enjoyed the title of "The Napoleon Of The West".  Other soldiers in Santa Anna's army had previously served in the United States army.  Santa Anna truly had a professional army and the military discipline required to assure victory against any armed uprising.  

Santa Anna became his own worst enemy by not listening to his field commanders.  He divided his army to the point that any one division may, or may not, be able to put up a decisive fight if they came face-to-face with the main force of the Texian army.  Santa Anna knew his army was well disciplined and equipped.  Therefore, any part of his army should be able to defeat any undisciplined, under equipped, or inexperienced army.  It was his lack of respect and understanding of the Texians that would eventually prove fatal for his army and him at San Jacinto. 

 

Click Here To Visit The City Of Goliad

Goliad

March 20, 1836:  Following a battle near Coleto Creek, the Texian force of approximately 350 men led by James W. Fannin is captured and held captive inside the small church at Presidio La Bahia for seven days.

March 27, 1836:  On the order of General Santa Anna, Fannin and a force of almost 350 men are executed near Presidio La Bahia, near Goliad.

Some Mexican army officers at Goliad did what the could to spare the lives of Fannin's men.  Remember, these field officers were true professional soldiers and did not believe in some of Santa Anna's tactics, such as massacring un-armed men.  The Mexican soldiers knew the risks they took would mean certain death.  However, these individuals took the risk and saved some lives. 

The medical staff of the Texian army was spared and sent immediately to San Antonio to tend to the wounded of the Mexican soldiers after the battle of the Alamo.  Other individuals such as Pacheta Alevesco must be mentioned, as she was known as "The Angel of Goliad".  The Mexican lady whose merciful heart, unyielding courage, and almost unbelievable exertions induced Urrea's officers to evade, and partially disobey, Santa Anna's orders to shoot all prisoners, and to mitigate the rigors of the prisoners' lot.  She is often referred to as the wife of Captain Telesforo Alavéz who was commander of Mexican Centralista forces in the Copano and Victoria region under Gen. José de Urrea's command until May 14 when the army retreated south to Matamoros after defeat at San Jacinto.  

A visit to Presidio La Bahia is a must.  The fort has been restored to its original condition as it was in 1836.  The chapel where Fannin's men were held for a week is still in use today.  Click HERE to read and view our visit to Goliad and Presidio La Bahia. 

San Jacinto

April 21, 1836:  After retreating eastward for more than a month, the Texian Army defeats the larger Mexican force at the Battle of San Jacinto, capturing General Santa Anna and securing Texas' independence.

The concluding military event of the Texas Revolution which took place on April 21, 1836. General Sam Houston, commanding a small force of Texans, routed a larger Mexican army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the president of Mexico.  The decisive 18-minute battle secured independence for Texas and ultimately led to major westward expansion of the United States.

Click Here To Learn More About The Battle Of San Jacinto

Santa Anna was captured after the battle of San Jacinto and his life spared by General Sam Houston, even though many of the soldiers in the Texian army wanted to execute him.  Santa Anna ordered his army out of Texas.  Just  exactly where the border Texas and Mexico was located was still in doubt.  Mexico said the border was the Nueces River, while Texas said the border was the Rio Grande.  The area between the two rivers was known as the Nueces Strip and the Wild Horse Desert.  It would take years and another war to resolve this issue.

Santa Anna was eventually transported to Washington D.C., where he returned to Mexico by ship.  When he arrived in Mexico, he denied that he agreed to anything with the Texians.  He would eventually regain the Presidency of Mexico.  

A Republic Is Born

After Texas gained independence, the first Congress of the Republic met at Columbia, and in December 1836, passed an act defining the boundaries of the Republic.  With this act, the Republic of Texas claimed 216,000,000 acres (about 350,000 square miles) of un-appropriated land - much of which was actually part of Mexico.  The western boundary of the claim followed the Rio Grande to its source and due north to the 42nd parallel, so that it included eastern New Mexico and parts of Colorado and Wyoming.  Although neither Spain nor Mexico had considered any land below the Nueces River as part of Texas, the Republic claimed its southern boundary extended to the Rio Grande.

On December 22, 1836, the Congress of the Republic passed an act establishing a general land office under the direction of a land commissioner who was to take charge of all land records.  In June 1837, the Congress passed an act consolidating previous land legislation.  It called for the General Land Office to open on October 1.  All vacant land was the property of the Republic, and all land titles, surveys and documents were now public property and were to be given to the Land Commissioner.

The Republic of Texas had neither money nor population enough to defend itself against the Mexicans and the Indians.  When the government was organized in 1836, it had only $55.68 in the treasury.  Land was the only resource Texas had, and it was used to reward soldiers, to promote settlement and to finance the operation of the government.  As a side note; The original chest that held all the money of the Republic of Texas is on display in the Long Barracks portion of the Alamo.  

In 1837, donation grants of 640 acres were issued to soldiers (or their heirs) who had fought at the Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto or the Siege of Bexar, or who had guarded the baggage train at Harrisburg. Men who participated in more than one of these engagements were entitled to only one allotment of 640 acres. Recipients of the donations were prohibited from selling the land (a provision which was later repealed).

There was great debate over whether the prohibition on citizenship meant that Blacks could not own land. In 1831, Greenbury Logan, a free Black man from Missouri, received a Mexican land grant under Stephen F. Austin for a third of an acre in Brazoria County. Logan served with James Fannin at the siege of Bexar during the Texas Revolution. In 1837, he petitioned Congress for land as a reward for service. Congress approved his request and he obtained a donation certificate for 640 acres and a bounty warrant for 320 acres. This set a precedent for giving donation land to other Blacks. William and Abner Ashworth, who had contributed money and supplies to the army, were given bounty land; and the widow of Peter Allen, a musician in Fannin's troops who had been taken prisoner and executed at Goliad, was given donation land in Bexar County. However, many other Blacks who petitioned Congress either were not heard or their petitions were rejected.

During its 10 years as a republic, Texas distributed approximately 41,570,733 acres of land.  By contrast, Spain and Mexico together had issued land titles to about 26,280,000 acres.

Because it had no money, the government depended on land to finance its operations, so land records were a significant part of the government.  The land commissioner, who was responsible for keeping the records and managing the distribution of the public domain, occupied an important position.

Austin became the capital of Texas in 1839.  After Sam Houston was again elected president in 1841, he attempted several times to have the government returned to Houston, his namesake city and the previous capital.  When the Mexican army invaded and captured San Antonio in 1842, he saw an opportunity to achieve his goal.  Enacting presidential emergency powers, he ordered the government and archives temporarily moved to the town of Washington-on-the-Brazos.  Residents of Austin, protective of their city, were outraged; they feared that the president's final destination for the government was Houston.

In October 1842, the government moved to Washington-on-the-Brazos.  In December, President Houston, stating that "the destruction of the national archives would entail immediate injury upon the whole people of Texas," sent a company of Texas Rangers to Austin to secretly remove the archives from the Land Office.  These archives were primarily land records, but also included maps, treaties and congressional papers.  During the night, the Rangers, under direction of Thomas Ward, loaded the archives onto three wagons.  Angelina Eberly, a woman who ran a nearby boarding house, noticed the activity and hurried outside to shoot off a cannon kept for ceremonial purposes.

Hearing the cannon, residents of Austin swarmed into the streets.  Ward later wrote that "much excitement prevailed here.  A howitzer loaded with grape was discharged at my residence.  After I heard the cry of 'blow the old house to pieces,' eight shots perforated the building."

The Rangers quickly drove the wagons out of town, with a vigilante committee in pursuit.  The vigilantes overtook the Rangers the next day at Kenney's Fort in Williamson County.  Because President Houston had ordered them to avoid bloodshed, the Rangers surrendered the archives, which were returned to Austin.  However, it was two years before the residents returned the records to the General Land Office.

Commissioner Ward closed the General Land Office for a year because the land records were essential to the Land Office and the land grant system.  Without them, it was impossible to determine if land was vacant and available to be granted.  And to survive, the government of the Republic had to be able to grant land-land supplied revenue to pay the Republic's debts, financed its operations and attracted the population vital to the Republic's survival.

Statehood

In 1844, Texas submitted a treaty of annexation to the United States Congress. Under its terms, Texas would have given 175,000,000 acres of public land to the United States government and the United States would have assumed Texas's debts of $10,000,000.  The United States Congress rejected the treaty on grounds that Texas public domain was not worth $10,000,000.

When Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845 by a joint resolution of Congress, Texas retained both its debts and its public land.  Texas was the only state, other than the original 13 colonies, to enter the Union with control over its public land.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War in 1848, confirmed Texas' southern boundary at the Rio Grande.  The western boundary remained unclear until the Compromise of 1850 ceded Texas' claim to 67,000,000 acres of land in what is now New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma to the United States in exchange for $10,000,000 in federal bonds.  This enabled Texas to pay its debts and retain 98,000,000 acres of public land.

As they say; "...and the rest is history." 

 

Last Update: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 09:50 AM